THERE ARE FEW things I can resist in life. This is probably why I got into so much trouble during my younger years. Control is everything—and that is the one thing I’ve learned from my bastard of a father. You gain nothing by letting yourself go, by revealing your emotions, by becoming vulnerable.
If you’re unable to resist the things that draw you in, it’s a surefire way to ask for unwanted chaos. I’ve had enough of that in my personal life growing up. Hell, in my professional life too, though I’ve finally turned that corner these last few years.
But the few things I can’t resist? A challenge. A bet.
“He’s an absolute sucker to get married,” Gage says, his disgust-filled voice pulling me from my thoughts. Gage Emerson is my best friend. Matt DeLuca is too. I’ve known them both since high school. We’re standing together at our college buddy Jeff Lewiston’s wedding reception, lurking in a dark corner of the crowded ballroom and muttering over the so-called sanctity of marriage.
Marriage represents a noose around my neck that tightens with every miserable day. My parents are a shining example of the worst marriage in the history of marriages. They hate each other. They cheat on each other. They fight. Yet they’re still together.
Makes no damn sense.
“He seems happy,” Matt, the more optimistic of us three, starts, and both Gage and I shoot him a look that shuts him up.
“His wife is attractive, I’ll give her that,” Gage concedes, sipping from his glass of champagne. “But the moment they come back from the Tahitian honeymoon, she’ll turn into the biggest bitch on the planet, I guarantee it.”
“You don’t even know her,” Matt mutters, shaking his head.
“Don’t have to. They all do it. Sexy and beautiful and sweet when you first meet them, you don’t know what to think. The sex is amazing and you’re having it constantly. They’ll drop to their knees whenever you ask and give you a grade-A blowjob. Next thing you know, you’re buying them a ring.” Gage pauses, takes another swig of his champagne, draining the glass.
We’ve talked about this before. We’ve watched our friends go down one by one like fallen soldiers to marriage, especially this last year.
“You get that ring on their finger, go through this whole marriage ceremony bullshit and then you’re left with nothing but a nagging wife and a limp dick in the aftermath. Always giving you shit because you’re never home and you work too much.” I grimace because holy hell, that sounds like my worst nightmare.
“They sure as hell never complain when they’re spending your money, though.” Gage gestures with his empty glass.
“Hear, motherfucking-hear,” I say, returning the gesture with my glass before I finish it off.
“You guys are such cynics. Both of you act like you’ve done this sort of thing before.” Matt crosses his arms in front of his chest. “When was the last time either of you had a girlfriend.” He doesn’t phrase it as a question because he already knows the answer.
“Never,” I sneer. Serious girlfriends aren’t a consideration. None of them interested me enough to want to keep them around.
With the exception of one woman and I absolutely cannot touch her. She’s too young, too sweet, too good, too everything I’m not. She’s so f**king tempting and so completely off limits, I’d be a damn fool to attempt anything with her.
But I want to. Desperately.
“All this talk about how a woman is nothing but shackles and chains like some sort of lifetime prison sentence. I can’t wait to see you both fall and fall f**king hard.” Matt laughed.
Gage and I both glare. “I have no plans of falling any time soon,” Gage mutters.
“More like never in this lifetime,” I add.
“Please.” Matt snorts. “You’ll both eventually realize you don’t want to do this thing called ‘life’ without a woman by your side. Then you’ll be scrambling at some ungodly age, like forty-five, the eternal bachelors looking for some hot piece to be your bride. None of those young babes in their twenties will look at you unless you flash some cash their way.”
“Now who’s the cynic,” I retort, earning a glare from Matt.
“I speak the truth,” he says with a shrug. “And you know it.”
“You bag on us for being single, yet you’re single too,” Gage points out. “Why haven’t you settled down yet?”
Gage’s question earns another shrug from Matt. “Haven’t found the right woman yet.”
His answer is so simple and sounds so damn logical I want to smack him.
“There is no right woman,” I say, wanting to burst Matt’s happily-ever-after bubble. “You’ll eventually settle. Trust me.”
“And you won’t,” Gage says, though I know he’s not disagreeing with me. “I know I don’t plan on settling. I don’t plan on tying myself down whatsoever.”
“Neither do I,” I agree. “Settling is for pussies.”
“Absolutely,” Gage says grimly.
Matt focuses his attention solely on me. “I’ll bet big money you’ll be the first to go down.”
“Go down how? On a woman?” This earns a laugh from Gage. “Go down in flames? What the hell are you talking about?”
“You’ll be the first to fall in love with a woman and beg her to marry you,” Matt says.