“A pleasure to meet you, Josh. Congratulations on the wedding! I’m honored to be here.”
A strawberry blonde with soft curls and a knee-length white eyelet dress walked up to them. Alexa had pegged her as the bride as soon as she’d walked into the room—who else would wear white to a rehearsal dinner? At her approach, Alexa moved closer to Drew. He picked up his drink and sipped it, but she knew he noticed, too, because he slid his arm around her waist. Damn, there was that tingle again.
“Drew, is this Alexa? Alexa, I’m Molly. It’s so nice to meet you.”
Molly gave her a huge smile that felt genuine, and not for the first time, Alexa wondered what the whole story was between the Molly and Drew breakup. Did Josh and Molly feel guilty for what they’d done to Drew? Did they ask him to be in the wedding to assuage their guilt?
She wasn’t going to get an answer to that question right now (if ever), so her job was just to stand here next to Drew and turn on the charm. Luckily, she worked in politics; “charm” was her middle name.
Alexa increased the wattage of her smile by at least fifty percent.
“Molly, thank you so much for having me. Everything is lovely. What a wonderful choice for a rehearsal dinner. I can only imagine that the wedding will be just as beautiful.”
Drew’s thumb traced circles around her hip as she and Molly exchanged bright pleasantries about the wedding, the perfect weather in the Bay Area this time of year, and Josh and Molly’s upcoming honeymoon in Hawaii. Between the sensuous feel of his touch and her now-finished martini, she was almost distracted enough not to wonder if he could detect the Spanx underneath her dress. Almost.
After a few minutes, Molly glanced to the corner of the room and sighed.
“My mom is signaling me; I think I have to go talk to one of my aunts. I hope to get to talk to you more later, Alexa. And you, too, Drew. Oh, and don’t forget! The hashtag is jollymosh.” Molly smiled and glided away.
They only had a few seconds before a tall blond woman in a tight green dress came up to the three of them. She could feel Drew tense up next to her. She reached back to find his hand and interlaced their fingers, and he held on. She didn’t have long to wonder who this woman was.
“Josh, there you are. Your mom was looking for you. She had a question about what time we should sit down to eat.” As Josh scurried away, her smile at Drew showed all of her blindingly white teeth. “I saw my sister over here. I hope everyone’s being nice to her.”
Drew squeezed Alexa’s hand.
“I hope so, too. Amy, I’d like to introduce you to my girlfriend, Alexa. Alexa, this is Amy, Molly’s sister and the maid of honor.”
Amy raised her eyebrows at her and immediately turned back to Drew.
“I hope you both have a good time at the wedding this weekend.”
Amy’s attitude annoyed Alexa just enough that she couldn’t resist putting on a show.
“I’m sure we will! It’s already been pretty great, hasn’t it, Drew?” She winked at Drew and squeezed his hand.
His eyes widened and his smile grew smug. “It sure has, Monroe.” He pulled her close. “Amy, great to see you. We were just heading to the bar for another drink. Can we get you anything?”
Her eyes narrowed briefly, then her smile came back.
“No, thanks.” She looked at Drew and glanced in Alexa’s direction before turning to go. “Nice to meet you,” she flung over her shoulder.
As Drew and Alexa walked, still hand in hand, back to the bar, she leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I can’t tell whether she hates you or wants to fuck you.”
His bark of laughter made a few people look in their direction.
“She definitely hates me,” he said against her ear, “but she’s also been acting weird all day. You see why I needed you here?”
Her breasts against his chest and her lips against his ear made him want to pull her even closer, but they were in a room full of people.
Oh, and right, she wasn’t really his girlfriend.
“I do see,” she said. “I think I need another drink after that interaction. I’d better switch to champagne; I can’t chug martinis all night or I’ll be useless tomorrow.”
He wondered if she’d noticed that he was taking every opportunity to touch her all night. Some of it wasn’t even conscious; he just liked the feel of her smooth skin, the warmth of her body next to his, the softness of her hand in his.
“I should have said . . . if I do anything that bothers you tonight, you know, with the pretending-you’re-my-girlfriend thing, just let me know, okay? Step on my foot or something?”
She turned and grinned at him, her lips so close to his that he could kiss her with just one slight movement. Just as he started to make that move, she stepped back.
“Don’t worry, I will,” she said. “But you’re good so far. Plus, I’d be a pretty shitty fake girlfriend if I didn’t let you touch me.”
He put his arm back around her waist.
“I would never say such a thing about the best fake girlfriend I’ve ever had,” he said.
As he handed her a glass of champagne, she said, “Oh, and by the way, when did you start calling me ‘Monroe’?”
He looked up from his bourbon. “Well, I thought about ‘Lexie,’ but you don’t strike me as much of a Lexie.”
She smiled at him over her champagne glass in a way that made him step closer.
“Excellent instincts there. Only my sister can call me that. I’ll allow ‘Monroe’ for the time being.”
He stepped closer to her. “I promise I won’t do anything you don’t like. Cross my heart. Deal?”
She looked at him for a long moment, and he felt the tension between them heat up again. What exactly had he meant by that? Whatever she wanted it to mean, he guessed. Finally, she reached for his hand.
“Deal. Now, let’s find some food to soak up all of this alcohol so that you don’t have to pour me in a cab at the end of the night.”
They followed a waiter to the corner of the room where they loaded up plates of puff pastry pockets and crostini with prosciutto. As soon as their hands were full and they couldn’t move, they were surrounded. By bridesmaids.
Though the bridesmaids circling them all had perfect pink lip-glossed smiles, their hostility to Drew and curiosity about Alexa was very clear. She got it, though—if any of her girlfriends’ exes had showed up at their weddings, she probably would have smiled big while dropping poison in their drinks. Not enough to kill them, mind you. Just enough to make them humiliate themselves.
At that thought, she glanced down at Drew’s drink, but he’d already drained it. Probably for the best.
For the next ten minutes she smiled and chatted and asked questions about their bridesmaid dresses and shared her own bridesmaid-ing stories while Drew never let go of her hand.
Her shoulders relaxed when Josh’s dad beckoned everyone to the tables, and Drew’s hand moved up and down her bare arm.
“You see why I needed you?” he said in her ear as they sat down. She turned to him and nodded.
“You’d have a peanut butter and egg salad sandwich right about now.”
He made a gagging face and she laughed.
Luckily, the rest of the night was less fraught, mostly because they were sitting with two other groomsmen and their dates. As they lingered over dessert, Alexa glanced at the time and sighed at how little sleep she’d be getting that night.
“Something wrong?” Drew asked her, turning from his conversation with one of the other guys about basketball.
“Not exactly,” she said in a low voice. “It’s just that I have to help my boss build this playground tomorrow, which means my alarm is going off altogether too early for a Saturday, so . . .”
Before she’d even finished talking he had stood up.
“Let’s go. You have to get your beauty sleep, though it’s clear that you don’t need it.” She made that gagging face back at him and he laughed. “Too much? Can’t you just enjoy the compliment?”
“Thank you, Dr. Drew, you’re a sweetheart.” She turned to pick up her coat but stopped when she saw him violently shaking his head.