The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(4)

By: Christina Elle


Her chin shot backward. “Excuse me? Like you have a right to order me around?” She slapped her palms against his hard chest and tried to give him a firm shove. She’d never been able to do it in the past, so she didn’t know what made her think she could move him now. Frustrating man. “What are you doing here?”

His hands closed around her wrists like steel bands, holding her palms against him. He stepped forward, pressing his body to hers. Bold, she’d give him that. He was well within range where she could get a knee into an important part of his anatomy.

He must have seen the deadly gleam in her eyes and remembered that her stubbornness rivaled his, because he released her.

He sighed, stepping back. “Ash and Luke are my best friends. I’m here for them.”

“Friends from the Army?”

“No. We’re in the DEA together.”

“DEA?” she nearly shrieked. “So you’re not in the Army anymore? When did you get out?” She couldn’t explain her surprise. It had been more than a decade after all. He could’ve done anything in that time. But her last real memory had been sending him off to basic training. He’d made it clear he was going to make a career out of the military. It’s all he’d wanted to do.

I’ll be back, Kenna, he’d told her. I’ll come back for you, and we’ll build a life together. No matter where the Army sends me, we’ll be together.

“I left the Army years ago,” he said with a confused expression.

He was just full of leaving, wasn’t he?

“Why? I thought you—”

“I just did, okay?” he snapped. “It doesn’t matter why.”

Obviously a sore subject but fine. It wasn’t her concern anymore.

She shifted her weight and placed a hand on her forehead. “So does this mean you’re not only here to attend the wedding, but that you’re in the wedding, too?”

He eyed her with an unreadable expression. “That’s right.”

She huffed a laugh. “Great.”

“Why?”

“Do you remember me telling you about the summers I spent with my great-aunt in Baltimore?”

He nodded, his eyes blank for a second before morphing into recognition. “Ah, shit. Which one?”

“Which one what?”

“The grannies. Which one is your aunt? Maybel? Rose?”

“Estelle.”

Bear barked out a laugh. “The batshit one. Of course.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Un-fucking-believable. So that’s your connection? You’re here as what? Estelle’s date?”

“No. I’m here for Sammie.” She’d spent summers as a young girl, staying with Great-Aunt Estelle. She looked forward to it every year because it gave her a chance to see Samantha Harper, her childhood best friend.

As if summoned, Sammie sprinted in their direction, distraught expression in place. Trailing was her fiancé, Ash Cooper.

Sam stopped in front of them, sucking in air like it was going out of style. Sam’s long blond hair was pulled into a high ponytail, and she wore an adorable white tank top and white tennis skort ensemble that showed off her athletic build.

Ash slammed to a halt next to Sam, a worried look on his rugged face. His five o’clock shadow was more I forgot to shave than it was I wanna look badass. Though, he definitely did look badass with his high-and-tight military haircut, slim-fitting T-shirt across wide shoulders and thick biceps, and cargo shorts.

“What’s going on here? Why is she punching you?” Sam asked Bear, then swung her concerned blue eyes on Kenna. “Why are you punching him?”

“I want a new badminton partner,” Kenna said, giving Bear her back.

“Okay,” Sam said slowly, sliding a quick, cryptic look at her fiancé. She came back to Kenna, and said, “Is there a reason you don’t like your current partner? Or, you know, why you’d punch him in the face after just meeting him?”

“Well, it is Tyke,” Ash said, lips twitching. “There’re days I wanna punch him, too.”

Bear gave his friend the finger.

She glanced down at her navy flip-flops, brand-new baby-pink nail polish on her toes, and the hot sand beneath them. God, what she wouldn’t give for a huge batch of quicksand right now. Please swallow me up and save me from having to confront all of this, in front of an audience no less.

Sam was staring at her, waiting for a response.

Kenna groaned, knowing her next statement was going to blow open the door she’d kept firmly locked for most of her adult life. “I didn’t just meet him.”

The other couple getting married this week, Luke Calder and Cassandra Stone, joined them.

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