A mushroom cloud worthy of Los Alamos testing goes off in my chest.
“Whatever he’s seeing right now, he’s probably live-tweeting. And I don’t want your mother finding us—”
“Forget about my mother finding us. Jessibitch Coughsalot is being fed information from that guy back there?” I spin on my heel and start to go back into the building, ready to rip the guy’s head off.
All the day’s guilt, all my worry and regret and general confusion, the sum total of all the overwhelm and fury that my mother triggered in me coalesces into a thing of horrible beauty.
And that guy in there is about to experience every ounce of wrath I have in me.
“No.” Declan’s arms encircle my waist, and not in a gentle, loving way. I feel like a seven-year-old being held back from her nineteenth time down the bouncy slide at the town fair by a parent who has run out of tickets.
In fact, I think I’m having a flashback to a time Dad had to do exactly that...
“Let me go!”
“No.” His arms are bands of steel. His tone is even and while I can hear him breathing hard, he’s back to showing no emotion. The inflection that normal humans use in their voices is absent.
I have narrowly escaped marrying a cyborg.
A Russian-speaking cyborg.
“If that asshole in there is documenting everything we do and feeding it to Jessica, then...then...I just escaped my own wedding for nothing!”
The arms around me loosen like Declan’s been teleported. Poof! Instantly free. I’ve been struggling against him and pulling so hard that the sudden lack of resistance makes me pitch forward, falling on my face, tipped over by the weight of my stupid dress.
Instead of turning over, I just rest my cheek against the pebbly ground.
“I give up,” I whisper.
In an instant, I’m in the air, my face pitched toward the sky, the blue expanse bouncing slightly as Declan picks me up off the ground and carries me away from the building.
People in the distance clap. I don’t even struggle, because at this point I’ve gone pretty primal. It’s been a little more than an hour since we got on that helicopter. A little more than that since Amanda jumped into the pool to rescue the dog and Chuckles—and Andrew came speeding out of his hiding place behind the glass and rescued her right back. An hour and a half since I learned Mom invited Jessica Twatter...I mean, Twitterhead Coffin to come to my wedding.
“My mom invited my ex to my own wedding,” I groan into Declan’s pec. It doesn’t answer.
Three hours ago I was putting on makeup and drinking giant lattes and trying not to throw up from a case of nerves so big they make my ass look small.
And now I am being carried away from the fanciest airport I’ve ever seen, a crowd behind us clapping and cheering.
I twist in Declan’s arms and see the plane he’s aimed for. I start to breathe rapidly, a deep hum inside me turning up volume, a sound only I can hear. Except, I can’t actually hear it. I feel it. It’s warm and burning, and as Declan’s thighs push up against my butt, I realize he’s walking up a set of stairs. A wall of white-painted steel flashes before me. Carpeting. Fabric. The muted silence of stepping out of a loud environment into a cocoon.
I’m dumped, unceremoniously, on a soft surface, Dec’s body stretched out over mine like he has one job.
And he’s going to do it very well.
Declan reaches between us, plucks his phone out of his sporran, and tosses it out the open plane door. As his mouth takes mine I hear shattering glass, then the murmur and shout of workers outside.
I reach under his kilt and he groans, the sound full of more thank yous than an Oscar acceptance speech. He might be shut down on the outside, rational and commanding, laser-focused and intimidating, but on the inside he’s falling apart in his own way.
And this bed? This bed will go a long way toward some much-needed centering. One part of him is centered over one part of me as he slides my layered skirts up, and snap!—there goes the tartan thong.
Soon my moan joins his groan and the thank yous passed between us are multiple. Wet and wild, welcome and frenzied, so hot and quick, our coupling is like doing a fireball shot. Declan bites my earlobe and plants an open-mouthed kiss on my neck as he slows, my own release so welcome. The few minutes of focusing on our bodies, on the rush of release and connection, feels like the best set of vows we could ever write.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, stroking my hair.
“That was...quick. And not befitting our wedding night.”
“That was hot. It’s not about how long something is. It’s about how good the shortness is.”
He smiles against my neck.
“Er, I mean—”
“You can quit while you’re ahead, Shannon. Let’s just leave it at ‘That was hot.’”
“And this isn’t our wedding night,” I add, trying desperately to make up for...something. “I’ll forgive the quickness if you make it up to me later,” I say, stroking his back, my fingers crawling under his jacket and shirt, finding skin. As my palm flattens against the coiled strength in the back muscles along his spine, I relax. Finally. I melt into the coverlet on what I now realize is a king-size bed on this airplane.
“That’s right,” he says, shifting just enough to be on his side. I curl and turn to face him, my lips twitching with amusement as his green eyes glitter in the light. Too many emotions swirl in those misty irises. What was barren by choice moments ago is now a storm, cloudy and with purpose.