He’d questioned the lack of exclamation points in both texts—women, in his experience, tended to use a lot of exclamation points. Did that mean she was feeling like she should have backed out?
He was certainly feeling like he should have backed out. Not from the date with Alexa—no, that was the only part of the weekend that he was one hundred percent glad was happening. He should have backed out from the rest of it. Josh and Molly were being so welcoming and friendly that he felt like even more of an asshole for hating every second of this. Molly’s mother, who had always been so nice to him, was noticeably chilly. Molly’s sister, Amy, who had always been kind of a bitch to him, kept looking him up and down and smiling at him in a way that disconcerted him.
When they left the church, he jumped in a cab with Dan, the only other groomsman he knew well, and Dan’s girlfriend. He looked down at his phone as the cab pulled up to the restaurant, hoping that maybe he’d missed a vibration and she’d texted to say that she was close, but there was nothing, not even an errant exclamation point.
“Guys, my girlfriend is getting here any second, so I’m going to wait outside for her.” He hoped that at least one part of that statement was true. “See you in there, okay?”
His tension rose as other cabs full of the wedding party pulled up and he kept having to explain why he was standing there. He looked down at his phone again and fought the urge to send her a “you almost here???” text.
“Drew?” Alexa was standing in front of him. At just the sight of her, his shoulders relaxed. Without even thinking about it, he pulled her into a hug.
“You have no idea how happy I am to see you,” he said into her ear.
“That bad already?” Her head rested on his chest for a second until she pulled away.
“Not terrible,” he said, looking down at her. “Just not great. You, however, look fantastic.” She was wearing a silky pink dress that flattered her golden brown skin . . . and the rest of her body.
“Keep looking at me like that, and we’ll have no problem convincing people we’re dating.” She grinned up at him.
Oh God, he was such an asshole.
“Oh, I . . . I’m sorry.” He dropped his hands from where they’d been resting on her shoulders.
She patted him on the arm. “Don’t worry about it. Just getting into character, right?”
Not exactly, but if that’s how she wanted to play it . . .
“Right.” He smiled at her and hoped he hadn’t made this girl hate him already. “What can I say? I’m delighted that you’re my sandwich tonight.”
She smiled. “Well, isn’t that one of the loveliest things a man has ever said to me.”
He leaned back against the restaurant window.
“I hope that isn’t true.”
She shrugged. A big group of guys pushed past them on the sidewalk, and he pulled her closer to him.
“Hey, Drew?” she said. “We ever going to go inside?”
He stood up straight and slid his hand into hers. Despite the chill of the San Francisco evening, her hand was warm.
She stopped on the stairs on the way down to the private room where the rehearsal dinner was being held.
“Before we walk in there,” she said, “is there anything I need to know so we don’t look ridiculous?”
He moved closer to her so no one would overhear them. Hopefully, if anyone walked by it would look like they were just having a moment on the stairs.
“I told Josh that we’d been dating a month, so if anyone asks that, that’s the story.”
“Got it. Wow, only a month and I’m your girlfriend already. Moving fast, aren’t you?”
“I’m a smart guy, I make quick decisions, and I know a good thing when I see it,” he said.
She smiled up at him for a moment before her smile dimmed. “And now I have a question for you . . .”
Oh God, was she going to ask how long she had to stay? If they could have a fake breakup tonight so she wouldn’t have to go to the wedding? He couldn’t face this wedding alone. Ugh, maybe she wanted to know the real story behind his breakup with Molly?
“Ask me anything.” He didn’t really mean it.
“Am I going to be the only black person at this party?” She looked at his chest, his chin, and finally straight into his eyes.
“Oh.” He paused. “Huh. I don’t know. I didn’t think about that.”
Her lips curved upward, but she wasn’t really smiling.
“Yeah, I figured you didn’t. That’s why I was asking.”
He could hear the murmuring and laughter from the restaurant in the silence between them. He knew she was black, obviously, but he hadn’t realized until now that the entire wedding party was white.
Not that he didn’t know they were all white; he just hadn’t thought about it like that.
“Okay.” He thought for a second. “I’m pretty sure that this woman Samantha from our med school class will be there, at least for the wedding, and she’s black. She and Molly were friends. Oh! And Dan—he’s another groomsman—his girlfriend is Asian. Wait, that’s not what you asked, is it? Um . . .”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. Did she really mean it, though? He couldn’t tell. He’d only met her yesterday. He didn’t know her “don’t worry about it” nuances yet.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I should have thought about this and asked Josh, is it going to be . . .”
She held a finger to his lips and smiled.
“Really, don’t worry about it, Drew. I didn’t get through Berkeley Law School without being the only black person in the room a few hundred times. I just wanted to know what I was in for before I walked in.”
“We’re okay?” When she nodded, he pulled her in for a hug.
“Oh shit, I think I got lipstick on you.” She rubbed her thumb against his chest to try to get it out. After enjoying the sensation for a few seconds, he reached for her wrist to stop her.
“It’s okay,” he said. “It would look pretty out of character if my new girlfriend and I walked in there after standing around outside for so long and I didn’t have her lipstick on me somewhere.”
Her smile made him grateful all over again that she was there with him. He wished the two of them could stay here in this stairwell all night. Actually, even better: instead of going to this dinner, they could go back to their elevator and eat cheese and crackers and drink wine and laugh together. And also maybe . . .
She pulled back and took a step down the stairs. There went his fantasy.
“Okay, then, are we ready?” she asked.
He reached for her hand and sighed.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Boy, was it nice when this guy touched her. The hand-holding was particularly great. She felt like she was back in high school, except instead of the nerdy girl that everyone liked in that generic way, she was the girl holding hands with the hot guy at the party. She’d always wondered how that had felt.
News flash: it felt awesome.
She fought back her smile before she remembered that she was supposed to be besotted with Drew, so she let it beam as they walked through the party and up to the bar.
“Full bar, thank God. What’s your drink of choice?” He gestured to the bottles of alcohol along the bar with a flourish.
“Tonight? Let’s start with a gin martini, please.”
Drew handed over her drink and clinked it with his bourbon. They each took long sips of their drinks without breaking eye contact. Alexa glanced at an empty table in the corner and raised her eyebrows to Drew; he nodded and took her arm to steer her over there. As Drew set his glass down, a tall blond guy came over and slapped him on the back before he turned to Alexa.
“So this is Alexa? So glad you’re here with Drew for the wedding,” he said, holding out his hand for her to shake.
Drew put his hand on the small of her back.
“Alexa, I’d like to introduce you to Josh Rogers, the groom. Josh, my girlfriend, Alexa Monroe,” Drew said, his hand stroking the small of her back in a way that made her whole body tingle. Or maybe that was the gin hitting her bloodstream. She ignored whatever it was and smiled at Josh as she shook his hand.