~ Miles ~
Attending the wedding for my best friend's little brother was the last thing I wanted to do, but a chance encounter made me think that the situation might not be the happy occasion it seemed. Sam is in trouble and I may be the only one able to help him. I would never refuse him. Sam is the man I've been fantasizing about for the last few years after all. If I can keep him safe, I might be able to keep him. If I don't, I could lose him forever.
~ Sam ~
I'm in trouble and no one will listen to me, no one will help me, not until Miles arrives and takes control of the situation. Before I can blink, I find myself married and whisked away, but the woman I was set to marry is still after me and I don't know if I will ever get away. Miles swears he will protect me, but I'm not sure he truly understands how evil this woman is. There's no telling what she would do to get her own way, especially when she brings in my mother.
~ Miles ~
I smiled as I passed another person running around trying to get everything set up perfectly for the forthcoming wedding. There was a lot of activity. It was giving me a headache, and the ceremony hadn't even started.
Honestly, if I had a choice, I wouldn't even be in the same state right now let alone the same church. This was seriously the last place I wanted to be. It was like attending the death knell of all my fantasies.
Still, I kept that smile plastered on my face as I casually walked through the doorway that led to the back of the hotel and then up the stairs to the third floor.
I wasn't a member of the wedding party, but the groom's older brother was one of my best friends and a university frat brother. I guess that gave me some sort of connection to the couple getting married.
My smile grew into a real one when I spotted the man I was looking for stepping out of a room a little farther down the corridor.
"Joe," I called out.
Joseph Navarro glanced up and then smiled when he saw me, happiness clear on his face. "Hey, man, I'm glad you could make it. I didn't think you'd be here for a couple of more hours."
"I flew in with Jake and Jai."
Joe's smile grew bigger. "Yeah? I wasn't sure they were going to make it at all. I hear things got pretty hairy there for awhile."
"Oh, they did." My eyes widened comically. "Jai's family is a freaking nightmare. You don't even know. They are certifiably insane. Thankfully, they are all behind bars now."
Joe squinted at me for just a moment. "I thought Jake told me that his Uncle Rudy turned out to be Jai's father."
"He did," I replied. "I meant the family Jai grew up with, the one that had been abusing him for so long." My jaw clenched for a moment as I remembered all they had put poor Jai through. "If Jake hadn't had them arrested, I'd probably be hiring a hit-man right about now. They were really horrible people."
And, in my line of work, I knew some real assholes.
I glanced toward the door Joe had come out of when I first saw him. "How's the groom? Nervous?"
Joe snorted and rolled his eyes. "Sam's about to jump out of his bowtie. Dad's inside right now talking him off the cliff edge."
Well, that wasn't good.
"I can't believe little Sammy is getting married." It was something I didn't even want to think about. His young age and the fact that he was my best friend's little brother had always given me a measure of distance from Sam that was thinning by the second.
Now that Sam was officially getting married, every fantasy I'd ever had about the guy seemed to be hounding me like missed opportunities that I would never realize again.
"Dude, he'll be twenty-five next week. He's not so little anymore." Joe chuckled. "Well, he is. He's still shorter than shit, but he's all grown up now."
That's what I was afraid of.
"Where's the blushing bride?" I asked even if I didn't really want to know. I could easily go the rest of my life without ever laying eyes on the woman.
Joe's eyes rolled again.
"What?" I asked.
There had to be a story here.
"Man, I know Sam says he loves her, and he says she's really sweet and all, but I don't see it. Darla is a fucking nightmare. I hope she isn't normally like this or his marriage is doomed before he even gets married."
Joe snorted his disgust. "I doubt there is a single thing about this wedding that Sam had any input on. He wasn't even able to pick his own best man."
"I thought you were the best man."
"Nope." Joe shook his head. "Bridezilla picked her brothers to stand up with Sam."
"Wait." I wasn't sure I was connecting the dots here. "Isn't your father paying for the wedding?"
"Every damn cent of it. Her parents didn't contribute a single penny."
That didn't sound right, but it wasn't my money, so it wasn't my place to say anything. This wasn't my wedding, and I wasn't even related to the bride or groom, not really. None of it was my business.
"Then how come Sam doesn't get a say?" I asked.
Joe shrugged. "Darla wanted her brothers in the ceremony. Sam said it was just easier to give in to her and let her have the wedding that she wanted."
"But it's his wedding, too?"
Joe huffed. "You'd think so, wouldn't you? But no, this is the Darla Wilson Show. Sam is just a supporting actor in this circus."
"Why would he marry a woman like that?" I might not know Sam that well—I hadn't even seen him in the last couple of years—but I didn't think he'd allow himself to be run roughshod over like that.
"You got me," Joe replied. "I've been asking myself that since he first introduced her to the family."
"Have you asked Sam?"
"I tried, man, but Sam keeps changing the subject. He won't talk about it at all."
That did not give me the warm and fuzzies.
"You want me to talk to him?"
"Naw, it probably wouldn't do any good anyway. Sam seems determined to marry Darla." Joe's frown made my stomach clench. "He's been all sorts of weird the last few months. I feel like there is something going on with him, but damned if I can figure it out."
"Do you think he's feeling rushed into this marriage?"
"I'm not sure. They dated for about six weeks before becoming engaged, and that was just three months ago. We tried to talk them into having a longer engagement, but they wouldn't go for it. Darla just about had a stroke when we mentioned it."
"Has work been going okay for him?" I asked. "Is he still doing his art?"
"Oh, no, he gave up the art right after they became engaged and went to work for Darla's father's shipping company." Joe shrugged as if he hadn't just dropped a bombshell in my lap. "I guess he's being groomed to take over for Darla's father when he retires."
"But Sam loves his art." He'd had a paintbrush in his hand for as long as I'd known him and that was a pretty long time. Why would he stop?
"I don't know what to tell you, man. Sam told Dad that he needed to get out into the real world and be a grownup."
That didn't make sense at all.
"Do you think Darla made him quit?" It was the only thing I could think of. I didn't see Sam stopping his art on his own. The guy was practically born with a paintbrush in his hand.
Joe snorted. "I wouldn't put it past her."
I was liking this woman less and less, and I'd disliked her in the beginning just on principle because she was marrying Sam. Now, I was starting to hate her. Funny thing was, it was starting to have less to do with her marrying Sam and more with the way she was treating him.
Sam had always been a bit of a free spirit. I think that was part of what drew me to him in the first place. My life was very regimented, very organized.
Sam was not.
His life was in living color, literally. Ever since I'd met him when he'd been a young kid of twelve years old, he'd had paint on him in some manner, usually in his hair or on his hands. There were always colorful splotches.
While he created what I considered masterpieces, his workspace looked like a warzone. Granted, I had only been allowed in into his artistic world once, but I'd walked away with paint in places I didn't even want to think about.
It had totally been worth it.
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