But he’s there. The Declan I know is there.
“We’re not married yet.” He picks up my ring finger and fondles the three-carat diamond set in platinum that he gave me nearly a year ago. His mother’s engagement ring. The one that could double as the camera on a colonoscope. “And you didn’t escape the wedding for nothing, like you said earlier. You walked away from a situation where you weren’t being respected.”
The afterglow fades quickly as his words sink in.
“This isn’t over.”
“Not by a long shot.”
I groan. It’s not a sound of passion. “I thought fleeing the wedding would solve our problems!”
Hot skin rubs against my shivering form as my blood reacts to the reality, Declan’s long, muscled body enveloping mine. The enormity of the situation sends ice water through me. The abyss of nuptial dysfunction that my mother has created is a cataclysmic Armageddon. It’s all too much.
“I think escaping the wedding did solve one problem, but...” His voice trails off into skepticism.
“I think we’ve underestimated Marie.”
I sit up. “What?” That almost sounds complimentary, coming from Declan.
He shrugs, one shoulder lifting, face impassive. A flicker of contemplation shines in his eyes. His jaw shifts slightly, muscles working hard as he becomes progressively tenser. “She’s really not going to give up.”
“And I’m never going to let you down, Declan,” I say, struggling to stay deadpan.
His eyes dart to me, and suddenly I’m being tickled, Declan on top of me, pinned between his knees as he hisses, “Your mother can get away with rickrolling you, but you do it to me, and I’ll punish you.”
Between gasps of laughter and the sensitive, almost-pukey feeling I get when tickled, I say, “Punish? Obey is bad enough and I won’t say it in the vows. But punish?”
“You look like a woman who could use a good spanking.”
“What about a bad spanking?” I rasp, one hand sliding up his thigh.
His eyes go dark. “I’m so glad we have another fifty or so years to get to know each other.”
“Your mother is shortening my life. Stress will do that.”
“You feel stress?”
He gives me a look.
“You’d never guess. Your idea of stress seems to be going thirty-six hours without sex.”
“That is, most firmly, my idea of stress, Shannon.”
I seek out something else that’s most firm, Declan’s eyes smoldering, his hands working the buckle of his kilt.
“We had quick. Time for slow.”
“Slow and bad?” I ask, perking up.
“Slow and very, very good.”
An intercom squawks. “Mr. McCormick? Your brother is trying to contact you. He says you need to answer your phone. Takeoff is in five minutes.” The woman’s voice is like smooth jazz and a perfect White Russian all rolled into one scent you savor.
Declan’s nuzzling my neck now, frozen on top of me. He groans, the vibration digging deep into my hips. “Damn it,” he mutters, climbing off me, leaving me in a puddle of torn petticoats and tartan. He walks to the small bedroom door, then looks down, realizing he is pantless. Kiltless.
“That would be quite an entrance,” I say with a giggle.
“My plane. My body. My rules.”
I flick my wrist at him. “I know, I know, Mr. Nude Model. Whatever. If you want to couch your exhibitionism under some macho alpha-male billionaire posturing, go for it.”
His shoulders hunch and one hand reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Declan’s back is turned to me, but I still know that’s what he’s doing.
“I’m so punishing you when I come back,” he mutters under his breath as he snatches his kilt from the floor and twists the cloth in the barest of coverings, storming out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
It’s a playful slam.
Declan’s phone is outside, currently melting into the asphalt, so that must be me. It buzzes five times before I finally locate it, realizing it’s been buried in my bouquet, which has—yes, oh yes, it does—a special case for holding the bride’s smartphone.
Why? I dunno. I guess in case you want to order dinner on your Chipotle app? Mom ordered the bouquets with these ridiculous features. For once, I’m grateful.
The screen says it’s Amanda.
“OMIGOD SHANNON HELP US MARIE IS MAKING ANDREW FLY EVERYONE TO LAS VEGAS INCLUDING JOSH AND GREG AND I THINK SHE’S BRINGING HER YOGA CLASS AND THAT ELEPHANT WE TALKED HER OUT OF.”
Huh. I was wrong. It’s not Amanda. It’s the sound of shattered glass come to life.
If I pretend that didn’t just happen, it didn’t happen. Right?
My heart hammers in my chest as the phone rings again. Once. Twice. I sigh, and answer it again, bracing myself for the onslaught of Amanda’s screech.
“Shannon? This is Andrew.”
“Andrew! So nice to hear from you. How are you?” I put the call on speakerphone and reach for a chocolate-covered strawberry the size of one of the dogs Amanda saved earlier today at the pool.
“Shannon, you realize we just saw you ninety minutes ago, when you fled the wedding in the chopper Declan appropriated from Anterdec without my permission and left a thousand confused guests here to be terrorized by your mother?”