The Honorable Kendra McLaren, Attorney At Law and general pain in the ass to those she didn’t like, shook her head at the sharp line of satin cutting across her best friend’s ample and perky breasts. There was nothing at all honorable about a bride’s breasts being made to disappear by too tight fabric. What were these designers thinking?
“No, definitely not that one. It flattens your boobs too much. Your breasts and hair are the only visible signs that you’re female. We will have wedding hair down and breasts served up perfectly… no squashed boobs allowed.”
She grinned at Megan’s glare when the zipper on the rejected dress was released by their sales attendant. Her best friend’s irritation about trying on dresses made her mouth twitch, but she gallantly fought the humor off. Outright laughter might end this shopping trip and she couldn’t risk it. They were running out of time. A society wedding-worthy dress had to be found today.
“Quit sighing, Megan. That’s only the third dress you’ve tried on and we’re not settling. When you find the right one, we’re both going to know it. We bargained for you to try on twenty, and damn it… I want every one you promised me.”
“Up to now, I’ve thought my brother was stupid for letting you go. Did you use great sex to talk him into doing stupid stuff like this?” Megan asked, as she stepped into what she considered to be crazy bride dress number four.
“Of course I used sex. Just like every other red-blooded woman in a long term relationship. It’s as American as apple pie,” Kendra answered.
The next zipper went up. Both she and Kendra looked in the mirror at two white, stiff satin triangles pointed at her chin. Kendra tried to outlast her friend’s disgusted expression, but she couldn’t.
“Why do I have giant white arrows pointing at my face?” Megan asked.
Kendra sputtered and finally laughed. “Okay… I admit I picked a few dresses for their drama.”
“Drama?” Megan exclaimed. “I’ve agreed to wear freaking heels. That’s enough drama. I have to practice wearing them at home just so I won’t fall over when I have to walk down the aisle in them.”
“I bet Nicholas likes you practicing in them,” Kendra said, trying not feel envious. She had caught them mid-grope so many times now that she was finally believing Megan’s stories about Nicholas being perfect.
Megan shrugged. “It’s hard to tell since he never lets me wear them long. But they do produce a nice effect by the time he wrestles them off my feet.”
Kendra rolled her eyes. Megan had no filters about her sex life and no idea how lucky she was to have such an enthusiastic man. “I get the visual honey. It’s just my brain has trouble believing you would wear high heels under any circumstances simply to please the man in your life.”
“I only have to wear them to bed. Nicholas always makes stuff like that worth my time. You should see the outfits he’s bought me. I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around the house in them.”
Kendra sighed and rubbed the two lines forming between her brows. “Okay. Okay. I get it. Your geeky future husband is a stud with you. Stop bragging.”
She looked at the attendant and shook her head. “Not this one either. Let’s try something full and princess-y on her. Something with lots of layers to slow the stud—I mean, groom—down when he tries to get under it.”
“You’re wasting your time. Nothing slows Nicholas down.” Megan laughed at Kendra’s snarky term. “Princess-y? How about something knee length so I can get to my gun if I need to?”
Kendra failed to choke back a wicked giggle when the attendant’s startled gaze flew to her busty friend in her lacy, blue boycut undies and matching bra filled to overflowing. It didn’t help matters when Megan held up her hand in a pretend shooting gesture and grinned at her. She mock-glared at Megan for the attendant’s sake, even as she was secretly pleased Nicholas encouraged her friend to remain her true self.
For the benefit of those listening, Kendra glared to show her disgust. “Megan Lynx—why in the world would you come armed to your own wedding? Are you afraid Nicholas will try to cut and run?”
Megan chuckled as the now nervous-acting attendant directed her to step into the middle of a giant pile of fabric. “No—but I am sort of worried about his mother trying to stop it. I think I scare her, Kendra. Are you sure this lake of white fluffiness is really a dress?”
Kendra covered her smile with a hand as she watched Megan lift one leg high and step into the open center. The attendant walked to the front, bent and lifted the miles of fabric up. Kendra bit her lip when the woman slipped the small cap sleeves over Megan’s well-developed biceps.
Like a trooper, her best friend bent forward and deftly inserted her firmly-toned, large breasts into the molded, lace-covered cups. When the dress finally got zipped up in the back, the fit was absolutely stunning. To her astonishment, Megan laughed, twirled, and smiled at her reflection. It wasn’t quite the perfect dress yet, but at least they were on the right track with the style.
“I think Nicholas would love to see me in something like this,” Megan said softly.
Kendra nodded. “I agree. And it looks very nice on you.”
She smiled when Megan nodded and happily turned to their attendant.
“We want to try more like this one,” Megan said.
They both watched the woman’s head bob in relief as she scurried away to fetch another round of four or five dresses.
Kendra turned back to watch Megan again and sighed at the twirling woman covered in lacy white.
“This is what he does for you, isn’t it? Our favorite geek somehow puts you in touch with your inner girlie-girl. I already know you bring out the macho in him. I heard him rip David’s ass over teasing you even while he was trussed up in the hospital. I think he actually might have climbed out of the bed to try something if David hadn’t backed down.”
Megan giggled and nodded. “Nicholas is like that guy every girl talks about wanting to find. He says he’s never felt this way about anyone but me. I think he and I just… well, we click right… or something. I don’t know what it is. I just hope it never goes away. That would make me really sad. I honestly do want to marry him. He’s fun to live with and understanding of who I am. I know I got lucky to find someone who wants me for me.”
Kendra smiled at Megan’s declaration—not because her own love life hadn’t taken a giant nosedive into the toilet, because it had—but she smiled today because she needed to believe that true love had happened for Megan. Every woman deserved a prince who was going to wrestle high heels off her and make her want to wear swirly, lacy, princess dresses for him.
She drew in a deep breath to stifle the more ragged sigh of frustration working to escape. She’d vowed not to let her own sad love life affect her friend’s happiness. That just wouldn’t do.
“Making each other better never goes away when you’re with the right person,” Kendra said. “You and Nicholas are definitely right for each other. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people more in love.”
Megan stopped her twirling. “You and David used to be like this too. I remember.”
Kendra shrugged, but she also nodded tightly. David might never have felt about her the way Nicholas did about Megan, but she definitely had felt that way about him back then. Part of her felt that way still even though she’d locked that crazy woman side of her in the stupid box.
“Maybe David and I were like you and Nicholas when we started out, but eventually we turned into people who weren’t right for each other. I changed a lot after my sister died of cancer. Or at least what I wanted from your brother changed.”
“Bad things change people. There’s no way around it. Getting shot and leaving the military changed me. Trauma always does that to a person, doesn’t it?” Megan offered.
Kendra didn’t answer the rhetorical question. Her mind was on her sister and all that had been lost.
“Lila died before she got to do anything. She never got married, never had children, never did any of the things a woman usually assumes she has her whole life to do. I don’t want to turn forty and still be wondering why I’m living in a bachelor pad with a man who doesn’t want a real house.”
“What you want doesn’t sound like anything outside of normal, Kendra. Plus, it’s not like any of us are kids anymore. My brother is an idiot. It’s not like you’re asking for the world. I say it’s his loss,” Megan declared.
Kendra smiled wistfully, as the attendant had Megan step into another full skirted dress.
“No… David’s not an idiot… he’s just not interested. I knew almost from the beginning that David didn’t want to get married or have kids or buy a mini-van to drive to soccer games. He just wanted a warm body to come home to after he gave all his energy to his work. There’s nothing illegal about what he wants either, Megan. We just don’t mesh with our goals.”
Megan sighed as she got zipped up.
“I repeat—his loss. Some guys want that stuff. Nicholas says he wants all those things, and he very specifically wants them with me. I guess I’m a little reluctant… okay maybe scared is a better word… but I know I want him to be happy. And I know I’ll figure it all out eventually. If I’d lost my older sister to cancer, I’d probably be trying to do everything in a week to make it up for both of us. I know how close you two were. Lila was an amazing person.”
“Yes, she was,” Kendra said, coming close so she could fluff her friends shoulder length hair. A fairytale princess dress usually looked best with an updo, but maybe there was a compromise. “I’d like to blame David’s issues on David alone, but the truth is I was okay with being his warm body while I was in law school. I didn’t have time for a real life then either. I brought this situation on myself by rarely complaining and never forcing any discussions about the future until I was desperate. We might never have broken up if reality hadn’t bitten me on the ass so hard. I don’t think I handled it so well.”
“So you do still care about him, don’t you?”
Kendra shrugged and reluctantly met her friend’s compassionate stare. “Yes… but I’ve learned the hard way that loving someone doesn’t change their true nature. David wants me to be someone I will never be again. We stopped working as a couple years before I left him. Cutting your brother loose was the right thing for both of us, Megan.”
Megan frowned and ran her hands through her hair in frustration. “It’s hard for me to be completely happy when you and David aren’t.”
Kendra smiled as she met her best friend’s gaze. “That’s incredibly sweet of you, but totally a waste of time. If you’re worried about me being lonely or alone, don’t be. What happened between me and your brother doesn’t have to be what happens to you and Nicholas, and it won’t be if you two keep wanting the same things. I think you and Nicholas are much better suited to each other. I can’t see him ever letting you down.”
“I hate this. I mean, I REALLY hate this. What if my turdknocker of a brother changed his mind about things? Would you take him back then?”
Kendra laughed at Megan’s questions, not commenting on the insult to David. One of them needed to stay in adult mode today. “What do you mean ‘changed’? Into what… like a completely different man? That’s never going to happen. It took a year of us fighting every day before I finally tossed in the towel. There’s no more common ground to reach between us, honey. Everything’s already been said dozens of time. We’re in friend-zone—or rather somewhat friendly-acquaintance-zone. Permanently.”
Megan shrugged. “Maybe seeing me get married on Valentine’s Day will inspire my brother to get his shit together about you.”
Kendra belly laughed and hugged Megan’s lace covered body. “The only thing seeing you getting married is going to inspire in your brother is a drinking binge. David still thinks of you as a kid. The idea of Nicholas sleeping with you gives him all kinds of nightmares.”
“Good,” Megan declared. “Cause he’s a been a real pain in the ass to Nicholas.”
“I’m sure David will stop torturing your lover eventually. It might help if you stopped over- sharing with your brother every ten seconds.”
“It’s not over-sharing if it’s true… and it’s always true,” Megan said with a giggle.
“Then tell Mr. Stud to toughen up because your brother is nothing but persistent.”
Sighing, Megan rolled her eyes. “I was right. Men are stupid. Why do we want to marry them?”
“Because we’re stupid?” Kendra suggested.
Megan looked at herself in the mirror and groaned. “I look like I’m auditioning for a reality TV show. I think you’re right.”
Kendra laughed because it was impossible not to.
David glared at his friend even though he knew it would do no good. “Two men alone is not a bachelor party. Strippers don’t like to do solo performances. It makes their handlers nervous.”
Nicholas rolled his eyes and shook his head. “No nervous handlers… and absolutely no strippers. The risk is too high. My future wife has a jealous streak and wears a gun. Get real.”
“Megan would never shoot another woman over you.”
Nicholas smiled. He wasn’t quite as sure about that as David was. “Probably not… but I don’t want her punching one out either. She doesn’t exactly hit like a girl. Trust me—I know. I playfully pinched her ass one day and she beat the crap out of me for it. I had bruises for a week.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, man. It’s bad enough I have to hear you talk about pinching Megan’s ass. My appetite has been gone for weeks. Stop trying to convince me my sister is a violent person—I know this, I grew up with her. Why are you giving me such a hard time over planning a freaking party for you?”
Nicholas tilted his head. “This party isn’t for me. This party is your lame attempt to fix your problem. It’s not my fault you’re desperate enough to actually pay to see a naked woman. While I know this pains you on many levels, the only naked woman I want to see is your sister. What would Kendra have done to you if she’d caught you fooling around with a stripper at some guy’s bachelor party?”
David squirmed in his chair. “Once upon a time she might have killed me—or cut me off—or cut something off. Now Kendra doesn’t care what I do. Her potential jealousy is a moot point since she won’t even talk to me.”
“Grow up and marry the woman, David. Marry her and buy her a freaking house to prove you want to keep her. She lived with you for eight years and never asked for anything but your company. Stop being a proud asshole, apologize for real, and get your woman back. You know you still love her. I can’t stand seeing you this way. Neither can Megan.”
David sighed and slumped down in his chair. “And what if I can’t give Kendra what she wants? Most days the business takes everything. On good nights, I go home to take-out and a beer. I crash early and do it all over again the next day. I don’t have a life worth sharing with anyone—must less one of Cincinnati’s up-and-coming district attorneys.”
Nicholas shook his head. “Listen… any business will take what you give to it. You’ll have to figure out a balance. I took time off from work to take your sister to therapy. It was worth every moment, and nothing bad happened at work. You’re just having a growing-up crisis. Love isn’t a responsibility… or at least not a bad one. Frankly, loving your sister is the only thing in my life that makes it worthwhile. Being with Megan has changed everything for me.”
David huffed. “Are you freaking cupid now? It’s bad enough I have to hear this Megan all the time.”
Nicholas laughed. “I’m a man about to be happily married to the woman I want to grow old with. Can you imagine Megan going to parent-teacher meetings and soccer games? Our children will be brilliant and kick ass. It’s every geek’s dream come true. I don’t think life gets any better than I have it.”
David rubbed his face. “North… you need help. But please use a different therapist than my sister.”
“I don’t need therapy. I’m in love, David,” Nicholas announced , leaning back in his office chair. “I can see you’ve shut down already, so let’s change the subject. Want to know what I’d really like to do for my bachelor party?”
David snorted. “Since you don’t want a stripper like a normal man, I can’t even imagine what you think might constitute a good time for your last night as a bachelor.”
Nicholas grinned. “I want you to take me shooting. I’ve never been. I’m scared of Megan’s guns and that’s not healthy for either of us. It might one day become a problem for our relationship.”
David stared in amazement—blinking several times. There was love, and then there was Nicholas asking him to teach him about guns. Damn it, he liked the man. Always had.
“Okay. Sure. We could go to the range and squeeze off a few. Maybe we could grab dinner and some drinks afterwards. That’s at least half a bachelor party.”
Nicholas nodded. “Great. That sounds good to me. If I choke though, you can never tell your sister. I don’t want to worry her worrying about my issue with her guns until I figure out how to handle it better.”
David snorted. “You’re not going to choke. But even if you did, of course I would take it to my grave. That shit is in the man code.”
“Appreciate it. So what do you need me to wear?”
“Wear?” David repeated the word, belly laughing in disbelief. “It’s not cocktails downtown at the Capital Grille, Dr. North. The gun club doesn’t really care about clothes so long as you’re wearing real shoes and have your dick tucked away safely. Their rules run more along the lines of people not leaving with any less parts than they entered with.”
“So like jeans would be okay?” Nicholas asked. “I have a couple pairs.”
David laughed. “Want me to take you real jeans shopping before our shooting date?”
“No. I just said I owned jeans,” Nicholas shot back, grinning at his friend’s smirk. “Maybe I don’t wear them often, but I own them.”
“My God… you’re not even trying to be cool. You really are a geek,” David said.
Nicholas shrugged. “Maybe. At least I’m going home to hot woman in my bed. Beats being a desperately lonely, macho guy who can’t get laid because he’s a stubborn jackass.”
David rubbed his chin. “That was almost a perfectly constructed insult. I do believe my sister is rubbing off on you. Why are you smiling? That was not a pun. Get your mind out of the gutter, North.”
Nicholas laughed. “I can’t. Megan drags me down there kicking and screaming all the time. You’ve just forgotten how much fun it is.”
David sighed, shook his head, and rolled his eyes. “Fuck… you’re probably right. I can’t even remember what it was like to have fun with a woman.”
“As your future brother-in-law, I have two words of wisdom for you about your situation,” Nicholas declared.
David snorted. “Let me guess. Are the two words—stop whining?”
Nicholas chuckled as he shook his head. Then he met his friend’s steady gaze. “Fixable problem.”
David sighed as he nodded. But suddenly he did wonder how fixable the problem he had with Kendra was.