The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(7)

By: Christina Elle


“Stop,” Kenna said, shifting away from the now uncomfortable wall. “We promised. I still want you to wear it, and that’s final.”

“But—”

Kenna cut her off with a sharp look.

When they were girls, Sam and Kenna had made a pact that whoever got married first would wear her mom’s sapphire ring as their something blue. Since Kenna and Bear had been together as teens and seemed most likely to tie the knot first, it hadn’t seemed like a big deal to agree to the innocent accord. But then Kenna and Tyke’s relationship crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, and Sam got engaged, and it suddenly became a huge deal.

That ring was Kenna’s only tie to the woman she loved and lost. She used to lie awake staring at it, wishing it were her mom with her instead. Every time that beautiful blue stone caught the light and sent shimmering streams across her bedroom walls, she knew her mom was there. Giving her strength. Telling Kenna she was loved.

For that reason, she desperately wanted a piece of her mom at Sammie’s wedding. But—and it was a very large but—the ring also symbolized the future she and Bear had planned but would never have. And seeing that reminder, even on her best friend’s finger, was going to jolt her into the past where forever, babies, and never-ending love were nothing but pipe dreams for Kenna.

Nonetheless she had to hold up her end of the deal, even if it killed her.

“Mom would’ve wanted it this way,” Kenna said, knowing Sam wouldn’t argue that point. “She loved you. It would mean so much knowing she was here on your special day.”

Sam wanted to rebut, Kenna could see it in the way her mouth twisted as if she was physically holding the words back. But Sam didn’t let go, instead she dropped her chin with a sharp nod.

Aunt Estelle reclined onto the teak bench, her artificially tanned, wrinkled cleavage deep and noticeable above the towel. “So this whole time, Bear was right under my nose, within nuts-kicking reach, and I didn’t know.”

Apparently Bear had been in Baltimore for more than a year, working with Ash and his DEA teammates to track down a dangerous drug supplier. He and Estelle had met more than once and had even tossed a few drinks back together.

“He hurt my girl,” Estelle said with a shake of her dyed-brown head, “and I had a chance to get him. Still can’t get over that. If I’d known…”

“What?” Kenna asked. “What would you have done?”

Estelle’s lips twitched. “Probably would’ve snapped his osenteller off.”

Eyebrows of the other women sank as they put the meaning together. Once they realized what Estelle meant, their brows shot in the opposite direction and loud echoes of laughter filled the room.

“I’ve never heard it called that before,” Sam said through a chuckle. “That’s funny. I can’t wait to say that to Ash tonight.”

Kenna also laughed at the ridiculous name Estelle had invented when Kenna had questioned the birds and the bees as a young girl. It was the first of many inappropriate Estelle-esque vocabulary words she’d learned throughout her childhood.

Celia cleared her throat and sat forward, primly folding her hands in her lap. “Excuse me. What’s an os…osenteller?”

“Oh, Cee.” Estelle brushed the question away with a wave of her wrinkled hand. “Think about it. His willy. Weiner. Pecker.”

“Penis,” Kenna supplied.

“Doo-hickey!” Sam said.

“Man meat!” Kenna said.

“Tallywacker,” Rose said.

The women continued to go down the long list of synonyms until the laughter made it difficult to hear what they were saying.

When the humor in the room eventually died down, the women exchanged a look, then turned a sympathetic gaze on Kenna.

“Forgive me, dear,” Rose said, sliding her wire-frame glasses down her nose to blot them on her towel. “I don’t want to bring up bad memories for you, but I’m curious. Bryan never told you why he didn’t come back?”

Kenna shook her head. “Nope.”

The sadness and sympathy in the other women’s eyes made Kenna’s heart ache. After what Bear did to her, she’d seen enough pity and ridicule from acquaintances and neighbors in their hometown. She didn’t need it here, too.

“I’m fine, though,” she went on. “It was so long ago. I can barely remember what it was that I loved about him in the first place.”

Thought it wasn’t love?

“Wanted,” she said quickly. “I don’t remember what it was about him that I wanted.” Her voice wasn’t as strong as she’d practiced, and given the other ladies’ expressions, they’d heard it, too.

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