“Thank you for that. Did you . . . I mean how was everything with the wedding?” Alexa asked him, crossing her arms in front of her chest and wishing she had that drink.
He shrugged, his hands at his side.
“Mostly fine. Josh was so excited it was almost cute,” Drew said, itching to touch her again. He had to keep reminding himself that she wasn’t really his girlfriend, or even his real date. She hadn’t signed up for him to be all over her tonight, even though he could barely keep his hands off her in that dress. Even though his blood pressure had skyrocketed the second he’d seen Bill with his hand on her. “Want to go find Lauren and Dan now that we got rid of Bill?”
“Now that you got rid of Bill, you mean.” She smiled up at him, and it took everything he had not to pull her back against him. But she’d stepped away as soon as he’d relaxed his arm; she probably didn’t want that. They walked together toward the bar, close but not touching.
“There you guys are!” Dan said. Lauren and Dan met them halfway, each with two drinks in their hands.
“The bar is swamped, but Dan cut to the front of the line,” Lauren said.
“Please, take your drinks. People keep looking at us like we’re lushes.” Dan handed Alexa her drink. “And I didn’t cut! I’m a groomsman. We get front-of-the-line privileges at the bar, didn’t you know that?” He laughed. “Plus, I tip well. It’s the only way to guarantee a heavy pour at an open bar.”
“Oh, you guys were telling me the story of how you met,” Lauren said. Oh good, now he had an excuse to touch Alexa.
“Right here in this hotel,” he said as he reached for her hand. “We were stuck in the elevator for a while together, and she made me laugh the whole time, even though she openly refused to share the snacks in her purse with me.”
She interrupted. “Okay, he says that like I was sitting there eating and ostentatiously not giving him any, which was not the case! He looked in my purse—without my permission, mind you—saw that I had snacks, and tried to sweet-talk me into giving them to him instead of to my sister.”
“Probably the first time anyone has ever said no to our Drew. No wonder he was intrigued.” Amy. Just who he needed right now.
Alexa gave Amy one of those big, bright smiles like people gave toddlers. “Amy, you certainly won the maid of honor lottery with that dress, didn’t you? You all look so darling in that pale pink.”
Amy’s eyes narrowed at the compliment. The night before, one of the bridesmaids had mentioned that Amy had pushed hard for black dresses, but Molly and their mom had insisted on pink, even though Amy claimed the color was juvenile and that it clashed with her hair. Drew squeezed Alexa’s fingers since he couldn’t laugh out loud. She squeezed back.
Amy’s hand was resting on the table right by Drew’s. Was that her pinky finger rubbing against his? Yep, yep, it was. He put his arm around Alexa to move closer to her and away from Amy.
“Your dress is great, too,” Amy said to Alexa. “I almost bought a dress like that for a wedding I went to last month, but I realized I was just too skinny for it. So glad you can make a dress like that work.”
Drew felt Alexa stiffen. He ran his hand up and down her back, not sure if he was trying to calm her or himself down. Probably both, because Amy’s words had gotten his blood pressure up again.
“Thanks so much!” Alexa said, lifting up her champagne glass and taking a sip. “I always figure, if you’ve got them, flaunt them.” She gestured to her breasts, causing him—and, he quickly realized, their whole group—to stare at them for a second. Okay, maybe longer than a second. When he eventually raised his eyes to hers, she smirked at him. He grinned back.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” someone said over the microphone. “Please welcome Josh and Molly Rogers!”
They all dutifully turned to the entryway and clapped as the bride and groom entered. Amy disappeared to the other side of the room, but he didn’t move his hand from around Alexa, and she didn’t move away this time.
Okay, fine. She had to admit to herself that she was smitten with him. It was past time for talking sense into herself. At this point she just had to ride it out for the rest of the night. She knew it was all fake—she knew because she’d been reminding herself of that—but it didn’t matter. Not when he was touching her like that.
At first, she’d tried to give him space—after Bill had moved away, Drew obviously hadn’t wanted to keep up the pretense, so she’d backed away. But they told their real/fake story to Lauren and Dan, and he introduced her to a million people, and all of those things necessitated them holding hands at a minimum. Or so at least he seemed to think, and it’s not like she was going to disagree with him there. So she kept her hand in his and her smile aimed at him, and boy did it feel good, fake or not.
At dinner, they were at one end of the huge wedding party table, along with Amy, a few bridesmaids, and creepy Bill, with Lauren and Dan all the way at the far end. Well, at least she’d had lots of practice eating food with people who were hostile to her. She’d discovered tonight that working in politics had given her a lot of skills useful for being a pretend girlfriend. Drew was talking to Amy, who was on the other side of him, so Alexa chatted away with the bridesmaid sitting next to her.
While they ate their entrées—pork chop encrusted with chopped almonds for her, chicken cordon bleu for him—he turned back to her while Amy complained to the waiter about something or other.
“How’s your food?”
“Good, actually,” she said after swallowing. “Better than your typical wedding food. Want some?” She cut a piece and held out her fork to him.
He recoiled. Was this too familiar for someone she’d just met two days before? Did he forget he was supposed to be her boyfriend in this scenario? Or maybe he hated sharing food?
Whatever it was, it didn’t make her feel great.
Amy leaned around Drew to laugh at Alexa.
“You trying to kill Drew already? What did he do now?”
Alexa raised her eyebrows at Drew. Now she was pretty sure what the problem was, but she was interested to hear how he was going to play this one off.
“Oh.” Drew leaned forward and put his hand on her shoulder. “I guess this hasn’t come up yet, but I’m allergic to nuts.”
He hated himself for that hurt feeling that had crossed her face before that very bright (and, he suspected, very fake) smile had flashed back on. He rubbed his hand down her arm, trying to apologize with his touch in the way he couldn’t with words, not with all of these people listening.
“Weird, because that was one of the first things you told Molly,” Amy said. “I remember her telling me that.” Was Amy actually suspicious, like he’d wondered last night, or was she just being a bitch?
“Molly and I were in med school at the time. Things like that were more at the front of our minds.” He turned halfway to Amy, his hand still on Alexa’s arm. “Alexa and I have been busy with other things, but I figured it would come up. And look, it has.”
The conversation around them moved on to how good the mashed potatoes were, Josh’s stepfather’s faux pas at the ceremony, whether people thought the DJ would be good or not. As soon as Amy pontificated loudly about how she’d told Molly to get a band instead, he moved his chair closer to Alexa and turned so his lips were almost against her ear.
“That was all my fault. I’m so sorry. Probably should have let you know about my deathly allergy before we ate a meal together.”
“It’s okay.” He could hear the smile in her voice. “Almost killing my date makes a wedding exciting.”
He laughed. Okay, good, she wasn’t mad at him.
“No chance of that. We’re surrounded by doctors, remember? I bet at least ten people have EpiPens on them, just for kicks.”
Did she realize her hand was resting on his thigh? It was probably just because of the way he was sitting right against her so he could whisper. Her hand was probably on his thigh by default. He didn’t care. He just wished there was a way to keep it there.