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07.03.2019

I cross my arms. “You think so?”

“I know so. You’re having this whole conversation with yourself about why I would buy new underwear and who I’m going to let see it. Then you’re thinking, why am I putting on flavored lip gloss? Why not just plain lip gloss—unless I want someone to taste it?”

God, she’s good.

“But the truth is, I bought the underwear for me. Because having bras and underwear that match make me feel more put together. And you should know, Mr. I See Everything, that the flavored lip gloss is the only gloss I use. Every day.”

“You sound awfully defensive, Kate.”

“This isn’t defensive. This is a natural reaction to having to deal with the twisted way you view the world.”

We stare at each other for a few seconds, arms crossed, not giving an inch. Until Kate does. She plucks a tissue from the box on the back of the toilet and wipes the gloss off her lips. With a ring of sarcasm in her tone she asks, “There. Happy now?”

I should be. I mean—I won, right? But it’s kind of hard to be happy when you’re acting like a douche.

“And since the underwear concerns you so much”—she slides the scrap of silk and lace down her legs and tosses it to me—“I won’t wear any.”

She moves to exit the bathroom, but I step in front of her. “Whoa! Wait up—let’s pause the crazy talk for a second.”

I hold Kate’s gaze for a few seconds. Then—thoroughly contrite—I sink to my knees in front of her.

Her arms are still folded, but her eyes soften. Kate likes me on my knees.

“Your point is well taken.”

Her eyebrows rise in feigned innocence. “What point is that?”

I smile. “That I should trust you. That I do trust you.” I pick up one foot and kiss her light-pink-painted toes, before sliding it through the leg of the underwear. Kate drops her arms, using my shoulders for balance, as I repeat the action with the other foot. I slide the panties up her legs, kissing each thigh reverently as I go. “Every flavored-lip-gloss-slathered, f**k-hot-panty-covered inch of you, I trust.”

She smiles forgivingly as I retrieve the gloss and replace it on those flawless lips. She rubs them together, then she sighs. “I already told you this bachelorette-party thing is not worth it if it’s going to cause problems between us. Be honest if you can’t handle it. Do you want me to tell Delores to call tonight off?”

Doesn’t that just make me feel like the biggest insecure pu**y that ever walked the face of the earth? But we should examine this moment more closely for a second. Because in life, we make choices—ones that seem completely harmless and totally insignificant.

Until they play out.

Only in hindsight do we realize the monumental effect our decisions have. It’s the businessman who decides to go in to work a few minutes late and misses a fatal collision by seconds. The teenager who chooses to hold a grudge against her mother, and it turns out to be the last conversation they ever have. The guy on the street who finds a dollar and uses it to buy a winning lottery ticket.

Small choices can lead to huge consequences.

I was trying to be unselfish. I wanted to do the right thing.

You can bet your ass I won’t be making that mistake again.

“No one’s calling anything off,” I say confidently. “I had a jealous-dickhead seizure—completely temporary. The green-eyed monster will stay in his cage the rest of the weekend. The one-eyed monster will want to play with you later on.”

She laughs and takes my face in her hands. “My panties are for your eyes only.”

“I know.”

Kate stretches up and kisses me. And I taste strawberry. “You’re going to go out with the guys and be assaulted by money-hungry strippers—and I’m okay with that.”

I nod. “And you’re going to go out with the girls and be surrounded by horny, half-naked men—and it won’t bother me.”

“We’re the stable couple in the group now.”

“We’ll have a good time—no problems.”

When I told her that? I honestly believed it.

Chapter 10

Some men wear expensive suits because they want to feel as if they have money, even if they don’t. Others wear them because they want to show people how much money they have. For me, it’s all about the mind-set. The attitude. I’ve never had a problem with confidence, but for guys who do, a custom-fitted suit makes you walk taller, stand straighter. It makes your balls bigger and gives off that GoodFellas, don’t-fuck-with-me kind of vibe.

I unbutton the jacket of my charcoal Ermenegildo Zegna and pour myself three fingers of Scotch from the wet bar in the living room. Jack, Matthew, and Steven share my affinity for a well-made suit and are decked out in their own Gucci, Newman, and Armani respectively. Our stud quotient is high—any female within a twenty-foot radius is bound to get caught in our tractor beam.

Then Warren walks out of his room. Wearing a wrinkled green T-shirt, tan carpenter shorts, and sandals. Yes—frigging sandals.

I take a sip of my drink and stare at him. “If I’d known we were going to the skate park, I would’ve brought my board.”

He’s perplexed. Then he looks at the rest of us and back at his own attire. He shrugs. “I like to be comfortable. You guys look like you’re going to a funeral. I look relaxed.”

“You look like a loser,” I argue. “And that’s unacceptable for tonight. My guidance will only get you so far. If you wanna attract quality snatch? You need to step up your game. That means a half-decent suit, or at least a pair of pressed slacks—preferably ones not made from the same material as prison jumpsuits.” I toss back the rest of my drink. “And what the hell is with your hair?”

Warren’s wavy, light brown locks are less tamed than usual. They’re higher—poofier—like an old lady fresh from the hairdresser. He pats the top of his head self-consciously. “I forgot my gel. But it’s cool—chicks dig the curls.”

“Yeah, if it’s 1998 and your name is Justin Timberlake.”

Jack intervenes. “I’ll hook you up, dude. I always bring my buzzer along. We’ll trim the mop-top, slick it back—your own mother won’t recognize you.”

Steven sets his Scotch down on a coaster. Then he taps his chin thoughtfully. “And I’ll call the concierge—have them send over something from the Armani boutique near the lobby.” He eyes Warren up and down. “You’re a thirty, maybe a thirty-two waist, with a slim-cut jacket. A light blue tie will really bring out the color of your eyes.”

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