The Lost Darling
Three drinks down and I am convinced this bartender has magic hands. She’s found a way to mix rum and a dozen other concocktables together until it tastes like a liquid dessert. Her sweet, pineapple slice of heaven is exactly what I need to forget the utter shit-storm my life has become in the last six months.
I pull the mini umbrella out of its ice bath and place the Maraschino cherry between my teeth and pop the stem. I close my eyes and suck on the little round fruit until all the flavor has faded away, then bite down. The cherry alone is a treat but paired with whatever else is in my cocktail, chef’s kiss.
A few more rounds, mixed with the spritzers I drank earlier, and I might be able to forget that I walked in on my sister six months ago, legs spread, my boyfriend’s hands cupped around her perky double-d’s, while she bounced on his cock. Unlikely, but with every ounce of alcohol I swallow I get that much closer to temporary peace.
“You okay there, Wens?”
The simple answer? No, but life hasn’t been simple for a long time. I open my eyes and smile at Kierra, my sister’s maid of honor, the liquor lifting my lips even though I’m beyond pissed.
My sister broke her pinky promise. That was supposed to be my job. I should be the number two in command.
I was supposed to help plan this weekend’s festivities, picking which booze cruises we went on during the day and which bars we bounced to after dark. I would have made sure she had a spotlight dance at the strip club we went to last night and kept boobs-McGee from drinking too much and causing a scene because that’s the maid of honor’s job.
Instead, I’m just the sister of the bride. Not even a bridesmaid in the wedding or a ridiculed adult flower girl. I’m a guest with a pity invite to the bachelorette party.
I’m the reject.
The girl the bride was forced to bring along that pretty much everyone ignores.
Tyle—said sister…twin sister…who is getting married in two weeks to my ex-boyfriend—and I have been planning our weddings since we were innocent, star-eyed ten-year-olds who found Leonardo DiCaprio back in his Titanic days on cable tv. That man was fine as sand during the late nineties and has only gotten better with age. He made me realize I had a thing for the preppy, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, heart-throbs.
And my sister had a thing for what was mine.
“I. Am. Peachy.” I take another sip through the paper straw in my cup (hate those) and frown when I pull more air than yummy goodness. I feel like my glass is broken, possibly with a hole in the bottom.
So was the one before that.
And the one before that one too.
I hold the empty drink up, signaling the wizard behind the bar that I’m ready for another round of her signature drink, a kiss me on the lips.
I have no shame in ordering it, but I wonder how many guests our bartender has honored with its name. I bet her drink makes for some great tips and even better stories.
If I were working behind the bar, I’d be kissing every hottie that ordered one. Male. Female. Unicorn. It doesn’t matter anymore. A broken heart has made me open to all sorts of things I never thought I’d do. If it’s not illegal and will make me forget the searing pain in the center of my chest, I’ll try it.
Right now, our bartender has her eyes set on a tall drink of broody goodness, probably deciding if he’s worth a little lip-locking. I vote yes, but there’s no telling what this chick is into. For all I know, she may have a vag badge. Not hating that prospect, she’s a gorgeous girl.
I fight a smile. Tyle would have a fit if I kissed a girl this weekend. She’s still living in the past when it comes to relationships.
As much as she deserves to have her perfect weekend ruined (in her eyes kissing the wizard would cause waves) I’m trying to be good.
That’s what family does. They respect each other. Even if my sister doesn’t know what it means to leave well enough alone, I know my place.
Kierra takes the scalloped glass from me and sets it on the bar top, a concerned frown on her face. She stares at me for an uncomfortably long amount of time. I don’t know what she expects to come out of my mouth.
Venom about the wedding?
Curses to her name for stealing my job?
If that’s the case, she’s going to be sorely disappointed because the one thing I’m not gonna do is give Tyle a story by making waves. That’s the ocean’s job. Mine is to cruise through this weekend in a drunken haze and make it to Monday morning.
I hiccup and cover my mouth with my hand, laughing in between each breath of air.
“You should go back to the boat and get some rest.” Kierra took on the role of mom for the group this weekend. I should be grateful. Without her intervention last night, I would have ended up with so much more than another tattoo on my forearm. Nipple rings were this close to happening. I’m grateful for her presence, but I’m still mad at her.
She helped my sister not pick oleanders for the table decorations.
She didn’t suggest the sweetheart, A-line gown that hugged Tyle’s curves in all the right ways.
And she didn’t talk my sister out of sleeping with my boyfriend.
Or marrying him.
Although, if I’m being fair, by the time Kenny proposed to Tyle, I couldn’t claim him as mine anymore. Whatever. It’s all semantics. Either way, my sister is marrying my ex six months after our breakup and it’s fucked.
“I’m fine.” I hiccup. “I just need another one of these.” Hiccup. I reach for my glass, but Kierra slides it out of reach. I frown at her, ready to give her a piece of my mind, when the wizard appears again.
“Here you go, honey.” Our bartender sets another delicious piece of heaven in front of me.
I snatch my drink before Kierra can steal it away. I don’t know how the bar babe saw me, but I don’t care. I’m grateful. Memories I’d rather not relive are burning through this haze of alcohol and I need to extinguish them. “What do I owe you?”
“Nothing.” The chick steps back and tilts her head, signaling down the bar. “That gentleman bought it for you.”
“Oh!” I say as Kierra murmurs my name—Wednesday—in a warning tone.
The bartender steps away, turning her attention back to paying customers. A temporary moment of disappointment that she wasn’t the one who noticed me is replaced by a flicker of excitement. This whole weekend, all eyes have been on Tyle.
This is the first drink someone outside the wedding party has bought me. I’m not gonna waste it or an opportunity to talk to a hot guy.
Tall, dark, and broody stares at the flat screen above the bar. There’s a football game playing, probably a re-run, but he seems interested in it. Tattooed fingers curl around a tumbler of amber liquor, bringing the glass to his lips as he studies the screen.
I take a sip of my yellowy-orange-goodness and smile against the straw. It’s heaven in my mouth. Just like the other three. Or was it four? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. My goal is to stay numb this weekend, and this man is helping me reach the finish line. The fact that he’s eye-candy is an added bonus.
Kierra grabs my arm as I slide out of the stool. The sheer white cover-up I have over my bright red bikini slides down my shoulder, exposing sun-kissed freckles. Tyle took after our mom. Her natural brown hair, before she bleached it, was four shades lighter than mine, her lips fuller, waist smaller. I look like our dad. Darker. Thicker and just… more.
“What are you doing?”
I shrug and back-step away from Kierra. She doesn’t try to stop me, probably because she knows the effort is futile. Considering all the things I’ve almost done this weekend, me talking to a guy is the least of her worries, but it doesn’t keep her from scowling as I creep away.
“It’s only polite for me to thank the sexy stranger.” I flash Kierra a grin we both know too well. It was Tyle’s go-to back in the day when she was up to no good. I don’t know what my plans are for this dude. Probably nothing more than a little shameless flirting, but knowing that Kiera will tell Tyle and that Tyle will be jealous makes me happy.
A few tiny waves won’t hurt anyone.
“Wens…” Kierra warns again.
“Relax, Mom. I’m just gonna say thank you. Maybe chat him up and get some more free booze. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Which is stupid because the guy who bought my drink isn’t even that hot.
Okay. That’s a lie.
He’s kind of gorgeous.
Tattoos of twisting designs and symbols I’ve never seen before cover his arms, chest, and down to the band of his black bathing shorts, while his defined back has a giant map of a tropical-looking island. There’s not a spec of color in the art. Just shades of gray and black against copper skin and deep-set muscles.
He’s got a nineties-style fringe, where the hair is short in the back but falls over his brows in a sexy just-been-fucked kind of way. His eyes, a blue that parallels the deepest parts of the ocean, hold mine as I approach. He knew I’d come. A quick upturn of his lips against his glass confirmation of my suspicion. He doesn’t look at me. His gaze is fixed on the flatscreen above a shelf of liquor, but I can feel static building between us the closer I get.
I lean against the bar and try not to puke as I smile. My nerves are running rampant, like a teenage girl with a crush in my system. It’s been years since my heart stuttered this fast. If this dude was blonde, it would be game over. I wouldn’t even try to fight my needy lady bits. I’d give in, right now, in the single-stall girl’s bathroom down by the pool and screw him until my legs don’t work right. But his hair is dark and I haven’t had that much to drink yet. So logic still has some say in my life.
“Hi.” My head spins from the rush of adrenaline. I take a sip of my drink, using the cool liquid to ground my body. From afar, he was beautiful, but up close, he’s an anomaly cut from marble. This man is too pretty to be real.
And he’s looking at me.
My sister wasn’t far, just six seats down the bar chatting with a random man she met on the boat. It would have been nothing for tall, dark, and broody to look past my plain brown hair and boring hazel eyes. Tyle’s bleached blonde strands and big blues have a way of luring men into conversation. Mr. Broody wouldn’t have been the first to buy her a drink today, which could be why the cocktail was sent to me.
I push back the fear sneaking into my thoughts. Guys have always noticed Tyle first and used me to be by her side.
My ex—Kenny—was the only man I knew to choose me over her. She could have had him in high school, when she threw herself at him. Literally. Naked on the trampoline at a party after graduation. But he left her there, sloppy and crying (because she lives for the drama), to come find me.
Tyle had always been everything I wasn’t, even when we were younger, but when Kenny and I were together, I was more than enough. Someone noticed me. Wanted me. I was on cloud nine until my world came crashing down. In what felt like an instant, I wasn’t good enough for him anymore.
I wonder if that’s the predicament Tyle is in now. If Kenny has grown tired of her but is in too deep to let go. If so, I don't feel bad. Karma is a bitch and her retribution is more than deserved.
It would explain why Kenny and Tyle gave each other a hall pass this weekend. They decided that what happens at the bachelor and bachelorette party stays there.
One last hoorah.
I take another sip of my drink. The mental image of Tyle ruining my brand new couches creeps into my mind again. Only this time, Kenny’s scarlet hair is as dark as night, his face replaced by my new friend’s.
I feel sick again, but this isn’t a nervous kind of sick. It’s a heart hurts, gut-retching, reminder that the man I loved chose my sister kind of sick, mixed with the dark thoughts that I will never be good enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still pissed at both of them for the betrayal, but I know I did nothing wrong.
Outside of never granting backdoor access, I gave Kenny anything he wanted. I was everything a girlfriend should be, sometimes even more, but the insecurity of not being good enough has embedded itself in my DNA. It’s morphed into a passing thought every time someone looks at me. Most days I can silence the clamor with a drink. Others I can barely look at myself in the mirror.
Today I’m choosing to drown the voices.
Today I refuse to let Tyle win. This may be her weekend, but it’s my life. If I want to get blackout drunk and hook up with a stranger I will because I am enough! Cheers to me!
My hand moves faster than my mouth is ready for and some of my drink spills over the rim of the glass and onto my chest. It’s cold and the flimsy coverup does nothing to keep the sticky liquid from dripping between the girls.
“Shit,” I mumble.
Tall, dark, and broody chuckles. The rumble of his voice vibrates deep in his chest and somehow has a direct connection with my lady bits. The poor girl has finally woken up after a temporary celibacy streak and set her eyes on this unfortunate soul.
“Allow me.” He grabs a handful of bar-squares and presses the small white napkins to my chest.
Sober, pre-broken hearted Wednesday would have taken a step back to excuse herself, clean herself up, take a mini bath in the sink, then dry her tits under the hand dryers. She would be embarrassed and probably sneak away when no one was looking, then go home and fantasize about what could have happened had the stars aligned.
That version of me disappeared one heartbreak and two drinks ago.
This newer, freer me likes the heat burning through the napkin from Mcbroody’s touch. And she ain't stopping him. He runs his fingers across my collar bone, between the peaks of my breasts, and down near my belly button, until his rough calluses grip my hips.
I forget how to breathe, every fiber in my body is set alight with need, and I let out a laugh I banished when I hit puberty.
“I missed a spot.” He leans closer, oblivious to the embarrassing noise I made. His tongue swipes against the sensitive skin at my neck, nowhere near where my drink spilled.
I’m not complaining.
Desire spreads from my center, lighting me up from head to toe. It’s exhilarating. I haven’t felt this good since… no. I’m not thinking about the dickhead who broke my heart right now. Not when this man is making me feel So. Good.
“I think I got it,” Mcbroody whispers in my ear. He pulls his lips away, just far enough for me to turn and look at him.
There’s a brief moment between us, one where static bounces and electricity cracks. It’s barely a second. Just long enough for me to back away if I don’t want this.
But I do.
Oh, god. I do.
I see it in his eyes the moment he gives in. The man without a name growls, the feral sound deep in his throat, then devours me. His lips find mine, hungrily taking everything I have to offer and then some. Our tongues dance together, roaming, exploring, fighting for dominance. One hand cups the back of my neck. The other fists the sheer material of my cover-up. He pulls me closer, onto his lap, pressing our bodies together until there’s not even enough room for a bead of sweat to drip between us. My hips rock against him.
I close my eyes, lost in his lips. The world tilts on its axis, spinning fast enough for me to feel the rush but slow enough that I’m not sick. This feeling, this exhilarating, life-changing, lust-falling sensation has nothing to do with the alcohol I’ve been drinking. It’s him and the way my body’s reacting to the hardness pressing against my center through his shorts.
He fists my hair, wrapping the sea-sprayed locks that are more knots than loose waves around thick fingers, and pulls my mouth from his. My roots scream, not used to the tingle of pain vibrating through my scalp. But I like it. It pours gasoline on the wave of heat in my belly, making me powerless to the man who thinks I’m something more than what life has let me be.
“Do you want to get out of here?”
Yes! A hundred times yes… but I shouldn’t. The old version of me liked to play it safe, driving just under the speed limit and checking twice for motorcycles. I never trusted dating sites because of the MTV show Catfish and up until a few months ago I’d never had a one-night stand. I’ve always been a go slow and feel the guy out kind of girl.
Then, six weeks after Kenny broke my heart, I let loose. I got my first tattoo, drank my heartache away, and found new friends to numb the pain. I realized that, at twenty-one, I was barely living. I existed to make a paycheck and to keep my ex happy.
But I didn’t like who I was becoming so I took a break from the sleeping around part. I swore I wouldn’t give myself to someone who didn’t care about me, and I’ve been searching for someone who fits that bill for the last two months.
But this is vacation, and I like the way this man’s eyes trailing over my body makes me feel. Maybe it’s the alcohol, but I doubt I will regret hooking up with this dude when I sober up.
Still, there are some necessities a girl needs to know before riding a new love stick. Like Mcbroody’s name, his relationship status, what he does for a living, etcetera. Might as well start with the easy stuff. “Maybe. You got a name?”
“Peter,” he breathes, those perfect lips drifting to the side of my neck again.
Peter. I smile, letting myself linger in the moment instead of thinking. I feel Peter’s hand slide to my hip and up my back, fingers toying with the strings of my top. I feel his hardness protest against the thin fabric keeping us apart. I feel like I don’t care if I’ll regret my next move in the morning.
“Wens!” Kierra yells.
I clench my teeth and groan.
Peter’s laugh vibrates my skin. He sinks his teeth in my shoulder, pulling a squeal of delight from my lips, then leans back and swallows what's left of his drink. I try to relish the moment and ignore Kierra, but she calls my name again, making it impossible for me to ignore her. It figures she’d be a cock-block.
Just not for my sister because, you know, that would have been helpful.
I force a smile and look her way. Kierra’s waving like a maniac to get my attention. “The boat leaves in five!” She gives two thumbs up and waits for me to acknowledge her before walking away.
“Cute nickname.” Peter’s hand slides down my arm. I shiver as he leans his elbows against the bar. “Is it short for Wendy?”
I don’t like the space between us, it makes me anxious. I inch closer until my arm touches his. The thread of tension in my chest thins. He smirks and uses his other hand to sip from his glass.
“No,” I say through a laugh.
Although that would have been perfect. Peter and Wendy, like the fairy tale. Destined to have our lives intertwined in adventurous harmony. If starlight wishes came true and book boyfriends were real, I’d be in a magical land with a morally gray prince that gives orgasms just as often as he gives glaring side glances. But my life isn’t a story book and I’m not anything special.
“That’s a name I could get behind, but no. I drew the short end of the stick.”
Peter watches me, waiting for more of an explanation. I don’t know why but I feel like I need to tell him the long-standing history of my name. It’s an urge, a desperate ache I fear I won’t quench if I don’t explain.
I don’t have a lot of time left, and missing the boat isn’t an option. I'm not sure which island we’re on or how far we are from the hotel. So, I give Peter the gist of our family's stupidity in one big breath.
“There’s a long-standing family tradition of picking a name that starts with a W. Well at least the firstborn girls have a W. It’s open season for everyone else. I’m sure there’s a Wendy somewhere in the family, but my mom was a hippie without a creative bone in her body and named me Wednesday.”
Peter grins a deliciously dark grin that makes me wish I had more time with him. But again… not lucky. He takes my hand and kisses my knuckles. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Wednesday.”
“Wens!” Kierra calls again. She taps her wrist and then throws her hands in the air.
I guess my time is up.
“I’ve got to go.” I press a quick kiss to his lips, one I wish was longer, and ended with our clothes on some crappy motel floor.
Fate would throw a beautiful weekend savior in my face only to take him away before any actual saving could be done.
Tyle would lose her mind if I stole her thunder by hooking up with someone before she could. Last night had a strict no dick rule. It was our first night in town, and Tyle wanted to make sure we had at least one whole evening together.
Tonight, however, is fair game and Peter would have been perfect. A distraction from my thoughts. Bragging rights that I hooked up first. A more than decent memory of this trip to look back on. If only time was on my side.
At least I got a kiss out of him.“It was nice to meet you, Peter. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Count on it, Darling.”