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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, until you marry your best friend’s brother!
When my best friend asked me to be her maid of honor, I said yes. When she asked me to join her for a weekend in Vegas before a destination wedding in Hawaii, I said yes. When I saw her brother again, I said yes, yes yes!
Ryan has been the star of my dreams since I first saw him. His winning smile, powerful tight muscles, strong hands… I can’t think about him without breaking into a sweat. I can’t talk to him without stammering. All I want to do is get my hands on his belt and yank him into bed with me.
I was expecting him to be too cool for me, but when I got roped into ‘chaperoning’ the bachelor party and things got a little too wild, Ryan came to the rescue and carried me off to a limo ride that turned wild, and my dreams came true in a night of passion I’ll never forget.
Then the next thing I know, I wake up next to him and we’re both wearing wedding bands. When my best friend finds out…
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There are moments that just completely pull a person apart. I knew this was coming, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I haven’t seen Ryan, my best friend’s brother, in about ten years. When he steps off the elevator, trumpets should blare to announce his arrival. Flights of angels should appear holding up a big banner that says, “RYAN!”
My heart skips a beat. Excitement seizes my throat, a rush so intense it borders on nausea. The gaudy lobby of the casino-hotel blurs into the background. He swallows up everything around him, like he has his own gravity.
He shot up at an early age, so he was tall the last time I saw him, but he seems even larger now, compact muscle bunching and flexing gracefully under khaki pants and a polo shirt. The elastic of the sleeves strains around his biceps and the front is too tight over his powerful chest and too loose over a stomach as hard as a stone wall. Just setting eyes on him again after all this time is like diving into freezing water. My legs actually quiver beneath me when he starts toward us.
It would not be wrong to say that Ryan shaped my entire concept of the opposite sex. He’s not a man, he’s the man, the model against which all others are compared.
Karen, my best friend, is his younger sister. She hasn’t seen him in a long time, either. He walks over, takes her arms in his hands, and lightly plants a kiss on her cheek. It’s a simple gesture of brotherly affection, rife with unspoken tension between the two, but I’d peel the skin off my feet for him to do that to me. I try desperately not to stare at him, but his presence draws my eyes back again and again, so I shift awkwardly and play with my little clutch purse, a gift from Karen so I wouldn’t lug my messenger bag everywhere on this trip.
“Karen,” he says, his voice casual in a tightly controlled, tense way.
“Ryan,” she says. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, awkwardly. “It has.”
Yes, he’s awkward, but it’s cute awkward, romantic comedy movie awkward, endearing awkward. It makes me want to pet him.
“Honestly, I’m a little surprised that you came.”
“I knew you would be,” he says, pulling away from her. “Can we skip this? I don’t want to fight. I’m not here to make this about me.”
Karen cocks her head, and the tension between them is like a physical force. Karen has told me in great detail how she feels about her brother, and not much of it is good. They used to be close.
I wanted to be close, but I wasn’t, not with him. I was just the help. That’s how I know her—I was the housekeeper’s daughter.
Ryan looks at her and says, “Truce?”
She considers him for a moment and then says, “Truce. For now.”
“That’s good enough. I’m tired of fighting.”
Karen studies him skeptically for a moment, then glances at me. Ryan’s eyes follow her gaze.
Still, when he looks at me, I hope for some moment of recognition. Something to flutter behind his eyes the way it does in his dreams, for him to sweep forward the way he does in my fantasies and purr my name from that deep chest of his and just melt me with a look. I’d do anything for him. Or to him. I should have worn something that shows more leg, or boob, or something. Karen told me we were going casual for the bachelor-bachelorette party and to me that meant a hoodie, so here I am, standing here in a shapeless frumpy bag while the man of my dreams stands two feet away not looking at me.
I sidle up next to Karen, tension between them be damned.
“Hi, Ryan,” I say.
He looks at me with that confused look of someone who’s trying to figure out if they’re supposed to remember a name.
My heart turns to paper and crumples in on itself. I throw my gaze to the floor so he won’t see me tear up, if it comes to that. My eyes are already burning.
“Hello, Julia,” he says.
I feel like I just stuck my fingers in a pair of electrical sockets. My head shoots up and I grin like an idiot, only to suppress it a moment later by faking a cough into my fist.
“Not surprised to see you here,” he says. “You still follow my sister around?”
I swallow. “I guess.”
“We’re sharing a place, actually,” Karen says, smoothly.
Ryan smirks at her. “I’m surprised you can stand her.”
“We’re attached at the hip,” Karen says. “I won’t lie, Julia is the brains of the outfit. I’m just the money.”
I start to protest, trying to fumble together a few sentences to explain that I’m really just a graphic designer and Karen does all the real work for our little company, but Ryan stops me.