106,119
07.03.2019

We raise out glasses and laughingly drink to Jack’s unconventional—yet extremely accurate—toast.

Next up is Steven. He wobbles a little as he stands. He takes a big breath, holds it a moment. “Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today.”

All of us laugh, except for Jack. I don’t think he’s seen The Princess Bride. It’s Kate’s favorite movie, so I’ve sat through it a few times. Definitely a chick flick—although that Inigo Montoya guy was pretty badass.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva . . .” Steven grins and clears his throat. “But seriously, being the most married guy here—it’s my job to warn you. Women change after marriage. It’s not all candlelight dinners and lingerie, no matter what Vogue says. And the sex changes too. Sometimes it’s routine, sometimes it’s nonexistent . . . and sometimes it’s freakier than you would have ever thought possible.”

I cover my ears. Because usually Steven keeps his and my sister’s bedroom activities to himself. And I absolutely f**king prefer it that way.

“And when you get married, the most important thing isn’t being in love. It’s making sure you marry your best friend. A partner—the person you want to share the good times, the shitty times, and everything in between with. You’ve found that partner in Kate. You’re my best friend, Drew—and I love you, man. But now? I get to be proud of you too. And I am—damn proud. Congratulations.”

I raise my glass back at Steven. “Thanks, man. It means a lot.” And it does.

Finally, Matthew takes center stage. “I am probably more grateful than anybody that Drew and Kate got together. Because of Kate, I met my angelic wife, Dee. And although sometimes she’s a pain in the ass, more than anything . . . she completes me.” Matthew glances down at his glass a moment, spinning the liquid around, before looking back up. “I’ve known Drew my whole life. We were like . . . best friends before we were born. So I’ve seen him have a lot of successes. I’ve been there when he scored the best grades, landed the biggest clients, nailed the hottest girls. And through all those times, Drew looked . . . satisfied, but unsurprised. Like all those accomplishments were just . . . expected. He worked hard for them—he always deserved them—and he knew it.”

Matthew’s eyes meet mine and he speaks to me directly. “But when you look at Kate? You look . . . grateful. Thankful. Like even though you know you’re the shit, you still can’t quite believe that you get to be the lucky bastard who has her. And . . . it’s a really good look for you, man.” Matthew raises his glass. “I’m not gonna wish you happiness, ’cause you’ve already got that. So I’ll just say, may the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live. May there be a generation of children on the children of your children. May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent. And may the saddest day of your and Kate’s future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.”

By the time Matthew finishes his speech, I’m choked the f**k up. I down the rest of my drink to hide it. Then I stand up and hug him. A drunk, backslapping, lift-his-feet-off-the-floor kind of hug.

Good times . . .

After the brandy and the cigars are exhausted, we head outside. Matthew wants a cigarette; apparently the cigars didn’t increase our chances of developing lung cancer enough for his liking. We hang on the corner while he lights up. Across the street is a sleek, trendy-looking bar. Loud, raucous music seeps out through the frosted, neon-framed windows, and its parking lot is filled to capacity with high-end, souped-up sports cars. Next to the bar’s door, on a sidewalk bench, sits a short-haired platinum blonde with a killer body. A black tank top, denim skirt, and ankle-length, black boots show it off well. She’s hot and she’s alone. It’s a prime opportunity for Dipshit to test out the skills I’m benevolently trying to teach him. Maybe wiggle his way under her skirt. Or possibly get Maced.

Either scenario would be a win-win in my book.

“Hey, Warren,” I call. “Check it out. Lonely girl, at night, on the Vegas streets—a regular damsel in distress. Maybe you should go ask her if she needs a hand, strike up a conversation?”

Jack agrees. “The chivalry card works every time.”

“Behaving like a gentleman is actually very important to me,” I tell him.

“Yeah—you’re a regular white knight, dude.” Jack snorts.

With liquid courage flowing through his system, Warren struts across the street. He stops a few feet away from her, which is smart. Don’t want to make her nervous by invading her personal space. He starts with the direct approach. “You’re beautiful.”

She glances up quickly, then giggles and looks away just as fast. “Thank you.”

Warren inches closer. “So . . . you need a ride? We’re not serial killers or anything. Just a few guys, hanging out. And we have a limo. You could hang with us or I could give you a lift, wherever you wanted to go.”

Her head turns toward the bar, just a bit nervously. “I’m supposed to wait here for my boyfriend.”

Warren sits beside her on the bench. “I don’t know what kind of man leaves a gorgeous woman like you sitting out on the street. If you were my girl, I’d never do that.”

Good boy. I feel that I should throw him a treat or pat his head.

And then . . .

“What the f**k did you just say?”

That little tidbit was growled by a beefy, blond-haired guy who just walked out from the side of the bar, with four other equally large men behind him. What they lack in height, they make up for in solid girth—the type my mother would have called “big boned.” They’re probably early to mid-twenties; one has a University of Nevada hat on, another wears a sweatshirt with Greek lettering.

Frat boys.

Although I was one of them once, I never realized how f**king obnoxious and annoying this particular breed can be, until after I graduated. They epitomize the phrase young, dumb, and full of cum. Because they travel in groups, they have that mob mentality—emboldened, loud, and constantly trying to impress each other how far up the dick-o-meter their actions are.

And Billy Warren is in their crosshairs. Not good.

Warren begins to respond, “I said—”

I jog over, with Jack, Matthew, and Steven hot on my heels, to make sure Warren doesn’t get killed. Kate would not be pleased.

❮❯