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His Firm Guidance by Constance Masters – Sample

His Firm Guidance by Constance Masters (Post 200x300)Chapter One

Tyler didn’t feel like partying with the wedding crew, so he decided to go out. He had a lot of time to fill until his flight—like a whole day—and he could still go for a walk and take in the sights of Vegas.

When he was a kid, Vegas had been his dream place. The place he built up in his mind to be so much more. Now that he’d been away for a time, he’d finally come to understand the pull of home. He’d been watching and hoping and he’d finally gotten a job in his home town, but he was starting to wish he hadn’t come here first.

After dropping a few coins into a slot machine and circling the roulette and card tables, Tyler had already had enough of Vegas. The bright lights were too bright and the constant chatter from too many people was driving him crazy. It was hard to even assemble a thought.

His reaction to Vegas had been a shock. When he thought of Vegas when he was young, he thought of the lights and the buzz of the crowd as being exciting. He imagined the wheels of a slot machine spinning and spinning until dollar signs all lined up in a row. There he’d be, suddenly in a white suit with smiling faces all around him as he celebrated winning his fortune. The imagination has no limits when all it has to do is embellish the positive illusions that are splashed across the screens wide and small in movies and on television. When you’re young, everything looks like a better place to be than where you are at that time.

He left the hotel casino and wandered along the strip. The traffic here was unbelievable. He’d never seen anything like the backup of cars. The noise on the street rivaled the noise inside the hotel, only it was car horns and music from the street performers. Now they were something.

He passed a restaurant with tables outside and decided to get something to eat so he could watch the assortment of people walking by.

The hookers confused him. Some were really young and some seemed well past their prime, but they all seemed to have the same dress sense. What was it, a uniform? High shoes and short skirts and shiny, everything was shiny. Not to mention faces full of thick makeup and big eyelashes.

Tyler ate his meal with a couple of beers and then decided to keep looking around a while, maybe find a bar with good music.

Another short walk through myriad eccentrics and he found himself at the doorway of a bar with the dulcet tones of Elvis coming from within. It was a good a place as any, he thought, to fill in a few hours—couldn’t go to Vegas without seeing an Elvis impersonator, right? He sat on a bar stool with a barely touched beer in front of him. He didn’t even know why he’d ordered it. The night before had been a big one and he didn’t have any inclination to repeat it, and he’d already had a couple with dinner. The groom and the other guys had gone on another round of strip clubs and heavy drinking, but he’d decided against it. This whole bachelor party scene wasn’t really his thing. Tyler had only come to celebrate his cousin’s upcoming nuptials because he’d felt he had to, and they’d done plenty of celebrating the night before. He did finish that beer though, and as the place started to fill and the atmosphere warmed up, he found himself ordering another.

* * *

Whitney strapped on her best red shoes and then zipped herself into her favorite bar-hopping dress. She wasn’t going to let any of this get to her or ruin what had ended up being a very expensive weekend.

Armed with the last of her cash and Mark’s spare pack of cigarettes, she took herself downstairs for some gambling fun. If she was lucky, she might be able to get some knight in shining armor to buy her a drink, or two, or three. As she passed a maid’s trolley, she scrunched up the cigarette packet and dumped it before stepping into the elevator.

Whitney closed one eye as the reels spun at a blistering pace. The combination of the spinning, the sound of simulated coins dropping, bells ringing, music playing, and the swirl of cigarette smoke was starting to make her feel a little dizzy. Time to get out and get a little air.

Whitney clomped along the brightly lit street, uncomfortable in her new shoes. She’d bought them specially for this trip and was determined to wear them. Unfortunately, they were the most uncomfortable pieces of crap ever. It would have been easier to walk with slippers full of razor blades. She felt like crying and not just because of her sore feet. This place was full of people: weird people, normal people, and everything in between, but the people who were highlighted for her were the couples. They seemed to be everywhere. Holding hands, kissing, talking to each other like they were the only ones in the world. That’s what she had thought Vegas would be for her. Instead she was alone again and wandering the streets by herself in her brand new sky-high red patent heels. She needed a drink to numb the pain.

She took a deep breath, narrowed her eyes to improve her ability to focus, and she was ready to navigate her way through the door of the bar. She’d been drinking wine, but a stronger drink might just make things seem not such a hot mess. As uncomfortable as her shoes were, she’d left the hotel room in what she was wearing and didn’t get her other stuff. So a night on the town it was—there wasn’t a lot of choice. She wasn’t exactly dressed to go to the movies. Besides, drinking was where it was at for her tonight. She needed to forget. The fact that the last few drinks hadn’t done anything to erase any of the memories of the last few days—all the planning and the hoping, all the expectations—didn’t seem to matter. The next drink could be the one to make the difference.

Her six-inch heels clicked their way crookedly over to the bar, doing their best to hold her upright.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked.

Whitney pursed her lips. Today was a new start. She needed to make changes. She was going to make changes. She’d already decided on something stronger, but she had no idea what to choose. She scanned the upside-down liquor bottles and chose the one closest to her. “Bourbon, please,” she found herself saying as she rattled through her purse for some money. “On the rocks.” When the bartender pressed her glass under the bottle for a measured squirt, she winced. “Is that all you get?” she asked.

“You want a double?” the man asked with amusement.

“I want more,” she said. There was no way a little tiny drink like that was gonna numb a damn thing. She tossed a handful of change onto the bar and picked up her drink. She didn’t even notice the bartender shaking his head as he gathered up her pile of coins.

Her forehead creased and her nose wrinkled with distaste as the amber liquid scalded the back of her throat.

* * *

A shiver ran through Tyler as recognition pinged in his brain. If asked, he couldn’t have said what it was that he recognized first. Her voice? Her scent? The electricity that charged the air between them was almost palpable. Who knew what it was? The one thing he did know without a doubt, before he even turned around to face her, was that the slightly tipsy young woman beside him was none other than Whitney Green, his long-lost friend from high school.

“Whit?” he said, now looking into familiar eyes.

“Tyler?” she asked, squinting in disbelief. “Tyler Jackson?”

“In the flesh,” he said, trying to take in everything about her all at once. She was still pretty and her hair was still long. He’d always loved her red hair, how it hung thick and shiny over her shoulders and down her back. When he was younger, he’d often wondered, fantasized even about what it would feel like to have that soft hair spill all around them while their naked bodies rocked together in the back of his car. His balls tightened at the memory. It wasn’t even a memory. It was a long-forgotten fantasy.

Much as he’d always wanted to date Whitney, it had never happened. There’d always been a queue of boyish losers who fought for his friend’s attentions. While Tyler was slogging away at his job in the auto repair shop and saving for college, Whitney had chosen to be with the guys who were more fun. He’d never had the heart to compete for someone who he knew didn’t want him for more than a friend.

Whitney took a sip of her drink. “You live here now?”

“No,” Tyler said emphatically. “Just here for my cousin Mike’s bachelor party. You?”

“Not exactly,” she said. “I was here with my boyfriend for the weekend.”

“Was?”

“Long story,” she said sadly before taking another sip of the amber anesthetic in her glass.

“I have time. Want to get a table?”

“Why not,” she said with a smile.

Tyler held out her chair and waited for her to sit before taking his own. A wave of déjà vu hit him as he stared across the table. How often had they sat like this opposite each other when they were in their teens? Although then, there were milkshakes and fries between them and the chatter was free and easy, if not always happy.

“Wow,” he said. “It feels a bit like we’ve just been dropped back into the past.”

“Kind of,” Whitney said with a wink, waving her glass in the air. “Refreshments have improved.”

She obviously wasn’t enjoying her drink if the distasteful look she gave each time she swallowed was any indication. “Freshen your drink?” he asked. “I’m going to get a new one.”

“Yeah. Please.”

“You don’t like that drink, do you?” he asked with a slight hint of humor.

“What makes you say that?”

“The god-awful look on your face every time you take a sip.”

“Sore throat,” she muttered, downing the remains of the glass in one gulp while doing her best to look happy about it. She failed.

Something told him that life might not have been kind to Whitney. Her eyes were sad and she was too thin. It WAS nice to know that some things hadn’t changed. She was still as stubborn as she always had been, not to mention she was still creative with the truth. “Ok. I’ll get you another,” he said, calling her bluff. He raised his hand to attract a waitress.

“You know, I think I’ll join you in a beer, might be more refreshing,” she added quickly.

“Good idea,” he said with a grin.

A good while and quite a few beers later, Tyler took Whitney’s hand across the table. “You wanna tell me now what’s going on?”

Whitney’s eyes filled and she sniffed. “I, I’m fine.”

“Nah uh, nope. You’re not,” he said. “You know, you mayn’t have not liked…” he said, thinking hard on whether the start of his sentence had made sense. “Sometimes you got mad when I yelled at you when we were younger…but you trusted me anyway.”

“I know that,” she agreed, nodding her head overzealously. “I don’t know what I would have done, you know, without you after m-my folksh died.”

“SOMEONE had to take up nagging duty. Your grandparents were too soft.”

“Whhat can I ssay? They loved me.”

I loved you too, he thought. “You used to listen to me then. You didn’t ALWAYSH do what I said.” He took a long thoughtful pause and almost forgot what he was saying. “Oh, yeah, but you trusted me. You used to tell me EFFERTHING.”

“That wass then,” Whitney said dismissively, waving her arms around and managing to knock over an ashtray.

“Whast changed?” he asked her with a glazed expression.

With the back of her hand, Whitney scrubbed the tear that had escaped and was running down her face. “Nothing, I guessh. That’sh the problem.”

Tyler frowned. “I don’t undershtand.”

“You went away to shchool. You made something of yourshelf,” she slurred sadly, suddenly noticing her glass was empty. “My drink ish gone.”

“Are you ssshure you haven’t had enough?”

“Me?” Whitney scoffed. “Wha’ about you?”

“Me? I’m feeling GREAT!” He was feeling great. He was in Vegas and he was home at the same time. The place suddenly looked as exciting as he thought it would. The lights inside and out were glittering like diamonds and he could have sworn that the crooner was singing slow Elvis songs just for them.

“Me too, ssseee?” she said, convincing him that they were ok to keep partying.

“Ok, more drinksh.”

* * *

After wobbling back from the bar with two beers, Tyler sat quietly for a minute while he remembered what they’d been talking about and what he had to say about that. Suddenly a light bulb lit up in his head. “I’m not sssorry I went to school, Hon. I tried to get you to shtudy. It was hard enough through high school, after that you d-didn’t want to at all.”

“I know!” she said testily. “Ssooo you were right, ok? If that’ssh what you’ve been waiting all these years to hear. You were right! I’m still in the same place. Sstill a sscrew-up! Sstill dating losers and I’m sstill a nobody with nothing to offer anyone besidessss a piece of ass.” She waved one hand about wildly while the other tried to escape Tyler’s hold.

His hand inadvertently tightened around the slim fingers that were trying to pull out of his grasp. “Don’t,” Tyler said, shaking his head. He hated to see her so down. “Don’t talk about y-yourself like that.”

“Why would you care?”

Tyler sighed. “Tell me.”

“What? Tell you what?”

“What happened thish weekend.” He may have had a little too much to drink, but he could still recognize her pain. It was raw and new.

Fresh tears burned Whitney’s eyes and she blew out a breath, trying to control her emotions. “I th…ought…it was different thish time,” she said through hitched breaths.

Tyler said nothing but held her hand warmly, silently urging her to continue.

“W-when he planned thish weekend, he said I couldn’t come. Then he changed hhis mind. I thought hhe was going to propose,” she said. “We’d been together almossht two yearsh,” she managed to blurt out. “I thought he LOVED me!”

“He didn’t?”

She shook her head sadly. “I napped…and when I wwoke up, he washhn’t there. I wwent lllooking for him, downstairsh in the hotel bar…” Her hitched breaths morphed into loud sobs.

“Shh, Honey.” Tyler said, trying to comfort her. He got up and pulled his chair next to hers so he could wrap his arms around her. “It’s ok.” It was so familiar.

“No, it’ss not!” she wailed. “He gotsh me ttto pay for thishh weekend and then ran downshtairss and ffound another ggirl to make out with.”

“He’s a loser. Whit, he doesn’t know what he’sh lost.”

“I ddon’t even have anywhere to sstay,” she sniffled. “I w-walked out. I didn’t even getsh my shtuff.”

“You can shtay with me.”

Whitney looked at him through smeared mascara eyes. “I can?”

“COURSE you can.” Tyler was trying to mentally add up how that was going to happen, seeing as how he was staying with twelve other guys in three rooms. What the hell, he’d get another room. Tyler nodded silently and hugged her tighter. Yep, they’d come full circle. “Did you love him?” he asked.

Whitney shrugged. “I ddon’t know. I loved what I th-thought he was offering. Mmarriage, a home, babies.”

“Why would you want THAT with someone you didn’t love?” Tyler wasn’t even sure he wanted an answer to that question, which was lucky because it hung in the air unanswered. The question and the thread of hope he’d always carried from the day he’d left for college, that one day she might actually want him.

“Y-you know whatsh we need?” Whitney asked. “Another drink.”

“You know, I haven’t been that lucky in love myself,” Tyler drawled as he took another swig of his beer.

“Yeah, right.” she said, slamming the table with the flat of her hand to make a point. “You don’t have to try to make me feel betterer. I know wha’ you think of me.” She poked him in the chest.

“Oh, and what’s that?” he challenged.

“That I was a pain in your assh that you were glad to leaf behind when you went away to school.”

“That’s not true,” he said. “Believe me, I’ve really shtruggled to find a real relationship. Jusht about EVERY woman I’ve met hash been after just one thing or they don’t want to be sherioush. I’m done with all that,” he said, knocking over a glass with a sweep of his hand. “Sorry. So sorry,” he mumbled to the waitress who came to pick it up. “I want shomeone who’s my best friend and I want it to at least have a chance of leading to marriage.”

“All rightie then,” she quipped. “Let’s chelebrate.”

“Celebrate what?” he chuckled. “Haven’t we just dishcussed how we’re both alone?”

“I needs the little girlsh room.” she said suddenly, standing with great difficulty.

“Are we shtill celebrating?”

“When I comesh back.”

Tyler thought they should move on when Whitney got back, find somewhere else to stay. She’d had too much to drink. He almost fell asleep while he was waiting. Then she was there again.

“Hey, Tyler!” she called drunkenly from a couple of tables away.

By the time he turned to her and smiled, she was nearly at their table.

“I thoughts of what we can celebrate…” She tried to make it to her chair, but tripped and fell into his lap. “Finding old friendsh.”

“Yeah. Let’sh celebrate that. To old friendsh and hope.” Tyler held her snugly on his lap. He’d wanted to have her this close for so long. His inhibitions finally squashed with the alcohol, he did what he’d always wanted to do. Their eyes locked and he knew this was his chance. As he ran his hand down her long hair, he leaned in for the first passionate kiss they’d ever shared.

* * *

A buzz saw ground through Whitney’s very soul and she winced in her sleep. Lights, lots of bright lights flashed past. It was like a movie playing, but there were no voices, no sound. Lots of bright colors and splotches of white. The hand. There was large hand holding hers as she walked towards something. A building. A hotel. Larger than the hotel she’d stayed in. Nicer. More colorful, and loud. She turned her head and smiled. It wasn’t Mark. She narrowed her eyes to clear her blurry vision. It couldn’t be. It was! It was Tyler!

Visions swirled and she saw him again, sitting at the bar opposite her. They’d had drinks. LOTS of drinks.

The white again. It was in front of her. White lace and roses. They weren’t hers. They belonged to someone else. It wasn’t her turn. Her turn? Oh, God, her turn. Their turn! They’d been waiting in the chapel for their turn!

Whitney sat bolt upright and looked down at the occupant in the bed beside her. Her hand loomed before her eyes waiting to confirm the vision that was now clear in her mind. There it was. It hadn’t been a dream and the ring on her finger was ugly but real. Somewhere, somehow last night, she had married the best friend she’d ever had, Tyler Jackson. The piece of paper on the floor next to the bed made the situation even clearer. She bent to pick it up and examine it more closely. It was as she suspected—a marriage certificate.

She tapped the shoulder of the man next to her with a tentative finger. Nothing. “Tyler,” she said in gravelly voice. “Tyler.”

“Huh?” Tyler croaked. His eyes widened. “Oh. Ah, Whit.” he said with a tone that she almost thought held some small hint of relief. “I thought it was a dream.”

“Nope. It’s true,” she said, holding up her finger and then the marriage certificate she’d just found. “We’re hitched. We must have been really hammered.”

He took the certificate from her and tried to examine it through bleary eyes. “My eyes won’t focus.”

“I sort of remember the chapel. They sold us the ring. I didn’t do it on purpose. You know I wouldn’t trap you like that, Tyler,” she said. “Honest.”

“I know,” he said. “I don’t know why I thought it was such a great idea to drink so much. I’m really not much of a drinker.”

“Do you think we, you know…?”

“Consummated?”

She giggled. “Such a formal word for two drunks who barely remember the night before.”

He almost laughed himself, but his head hurt. “It is, a bit.” he said. “What were we thinking?”

Whitney pushed back the hurt that bubbled up into her throat. “I don’t expect you to stay married to me, even if we did do it.”

“I doubt that we did,” Tyler said. “I doubt whether, I don’t think it would have happened anyway. Not that that would be terrible. I mean, it would be way better than terrible.”

“Of course not.” She nodded. “I’ll have a shower and get my things together and then we’ll see what we have to do to get you out of this.”

* * *

Whitney closed the bathroom door and leaned against it, a smile creeping onto her face. She couldn’t help it. She never would have planned this and there was no telling what would happen now. Maybe Tyler didn’t want to be married to her. For now though, even if it was only for an hour or a week, she was married to Tyler. It made her shiver with anticipation of what that meant.

The almost scalding water coursed overhead and down her back taking with it all the old makeup and stress. She could hear Tyler in the next room and the sound of him was so familiar. He was always so bossy. It was interesting, but what she found bossy back then, she found positively titillating now. What if her mindset had been different back then? She was suddenly thrown back into the past to an earlier occasion when Tyler had actually threatened to SPANK her…

“Are you really only eighteen years old, Tyler? ‘Cause sometimes I feel like you’re like forty or something. You are NOT my Daddy!”

“No, I’m not,” Tyler said. “Someone has to look out for you, though. I’m just trying to get you to understand. You’re seventeen years old and you want to mark your body with something that you’re probably going to hate in a few years’ time.”

“You just said it. MY body. Stop being such a busybody old man. Why don’t you come with us and get one too? Live a little, be a teenager instead of a boring stuffed shirt.”

“No. This is my last week here before I go away to school. My money isn’t for wasting on an expensive and useless tattoo. Yours shouldn’t be either. You should be saving for your education as well.”

“Um, do you even know me? School and me don’t mix. We’re like oil and water.”

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time roaming around with that idiot Jock. It’s like talking to a wall sometimes, you know?”

“Yeah, I do know. You’re just no fun.”

“Maybe, but I will be able to have fun one day when I finish school and get a good job.”

“You’re saying the same stuff again, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah.”

“You’re a brat.”

“Maybe, but I’m a brat who likes a good time, not a boring time.”

Whitney’s soapy fingers skimmed her beaded nipples. She could almost hear Tyler’s stern voice as he called her a brat. Her bottom tingled as she imagined his mouth again, forming the words. “You’re a brat.”

She hadn’t listened, just for something completely different, and she’d gone with Jock anyway. As Tyler had predicted, it hadn’t ended well.

When the deputy handed her his phone to call someone to come get her after he’d arrested Jock for driving under the influence, there was only one number etched in her mind. Her hand shook as she punched in the numbers. “Can you pick me up at the station? I need you.”

After his initial gasp of shock, he’d asked. ”Are you ok?”

“Jock is kind of in trouble.” Tyler had said nothing. He didn’t have to; he’d be on his way. She knew he was pissed at her and she knew he’d come anyway. He was her rock.

What if he’d acted on those feelings? What if he HAD actually spanked her? Her pussy twitched with excitement at the thought. The thought, the word. The boy Tyler spanking her hadn’t made her hot back then, but the thought of the man in the other room tossing her over his knee was certainly having an effect. Her hands soaped her belly and slipped down over the neatly trimmed line of curls as the memory of that night filled her mind…

“Will you just say something?”

“What exactly would you like me to say? Did you have a good time?”

“Not in the end.”

Tyler gritted his teeth. “I don’t really want to talk about this anymore. It’s useless. You just don’t listen and you just don’t care. You are honestly the most selfish, disrespectful brat that I’ve ever met.”

“Why do you think I should respect you? You’re not even that much older than me.”

“I don’t know, Whitney, let me think. Oh, yes. I just got dragged out of my bed when I have to go to work in four hours, to pick you up from the station because YET AGAIN you made a thoughtless choice.”

“Here we go; another lecture.”

“No lecture, there’s no point. I feel like hauling you out of this car and bending you over the hood. You don’t listen to words. Maybe a good old-fashioned spanking would open your ears.”

There it was… the threat. An exquisite burst of pleasure opened her eyes and the rhythmic throbbing that followed forced her fingers between her swollen lips to find relief.

She said nothing the rest of the way home. Tears stung her eyes and she felt like her face was on fire. “Do you want to come in?”

“No.”

“I’ll get to see you before you leave…?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, if you’re gonna be like that, I don’t want to see you anyway.”

She’d jumped out of the car and slammed the door behind her. She didn’t see him again until just last night when she met him in the bar. When he’d been gone a month, she finally had to give in to the thought that he’d actually done it; he’d gone away and left her all alone. Well, alone with her grandparents, but without him. She’d been so hurt and angry that she’d finally done what she’d been on her way to doing the night it had all gone wrong. The butterfly she’d planned hadn’t happened, but there was another design in its place.

Whitney glided her hand back over the silky wet skin of her ass cheek. What if things had gone differently that night? What if Tyler had followed through with his threat?

The hard pebbles of her nipples tingled and she could feel the pressure building between her legs as her imagination ran wild. Her body may have been on hyper alert, but her mind wasn’t; it was back there in the car with Tyler. This time, she was writing her own ending. She closed her eyes, barely aware of the hot water that ran off her shivering body.

“Here we go; another lecture.”

“No lecture. There’s no point.” Her bottom clenched with anticipation as the car suddenly pulled off the road.

“Wha, what are you doing?”

“Out.”

“No. I don’t want to.”

“I didn’t ask you what you wanted, Whitney. I asked you to get out of the car.”

“Are you going to leave me here?” She knew he would never do that, but it was better than asking him flat out if he was going to spank her.

“Come on! Do you really think I came out here at this time of night to pick you up so I could dump you by the side of the road?”

“I guess not.”

“You guess not? You KNOW that I’d never do that. That just proves to me that you DO need a wake-up call. I care about you, Whitney, and I care what happens to you.”

She tried to tug out of his grasp but he was too strong. He undid her seatbelt and tugged her out of the car. “Stop!” she hissed. Before she knew what was happening, she was bent over the hood of the car.

“This skirt barely even covers your panties.”

Her eyes were wide with disbelief as the short skirt was raised, leaving her skimpy panties on display for anyone who might drive past. “Stop, Tyler! Someone will see!” Her only answer was a hard smack that exploded in the center of her right cheek. She yelped with surprise at the sudden sting, but Tyler ignored her and slapped the other side just as hard.

“You’re worried about someone seeing your panties?”

“Yes, yes.” She danced up and down trying to dodge the sharp spanks that were landing without warning wherever Tyler’s hand connected with the wriggling target. The pain stopped, there was silence for a second, and she took a deep breath, only to splutter it back out again in outrage when she felt the cool breeze float across her bare bottom as her panties were yanked to her knees.

“Now no one can see them,” Tyler said. His hard hand smacked her poor naked bottom over and over as she desperately searched up and down the road for cars through tear-filled eyes.

Whitney’s hand moved rapidly, spreading her pouty lips and rubbing circles on her swollen clit. She could feel her own imagined embarrassment and it thrilled her.

“I’m sorry, Tyler.” She tried to turn around, but he placed a hand between her shoulder blades and pushed her firmly back over the hood. She could feel the warm metal beneath her unprotected belly. So much heat. The warmth from the car, the hot pain from the spanking, and the warmth that was building deep inside her.

Intense energy pumped through Whitney and she pressed herself against the tiles. They felt so warm from being pelted with the hot shower spray. A rush of scalding heat pulsed through her and she had to clamp her lips together to keep from yelling out as her body stiffened and rocked with pleasure.

When she opened her eyes, she was back to reality with Tyler in the next room and she realized she had never really ended the altered memory. As she toweled her sated body dry, she wondered if both their reactions would have changed history…

She said nothing the rest of the way home, too embarrassed for the way she’d reacted and from the unusual act of intimacy. Tyler had spanked her bare bottom and she’d kind of deserved it, so it was pretty hard to be mad. Tears stung her eyes and she felt like her face was on fire. She didn’t want Tyler to be mad. “Do you want to come in?”

“No. I have work early.”

“I’ll get to see you before you leave…?”

“Of course.”

“I’m gonna miss you, Tyler. Promise me you’ll come back?”

“I promise.”

Then he would have kissed her. Not one of the sloppy kisses where the boy shoves his tongue awkwardly down the girl’s throat while his hand fumbles for the catch on her bra. A real kiss like she meant something. That’s how she’d like to think that it would end anyway. She brushed away an annoying tear. Maybe she wouldn’t have ended up making so many mistakes.

* * *

Tyler picked up the marriage certificate that Whitney had dropped on the bed. There it was on the bottom, the county clerk’s signature and seal. Whitney Jackson. He couldn’t help but smile. Maybe this was fate. Though they hadn’t chosen it with a clear mind, it was what he at least had always wanted. The bathroom door opened and he jumped.

“Hi,” he said with a smile. This was the closest to HIS Whitney that he’d seen so far. Her face was scrubbed free of makeup and she wore a pair of his sweatpants and a T-shirt. Her long red hair looked darker and longer now that it was wet. She wasn’t making eye contact though; her face was flushed and he could have sworn she’d been crying. “Whit?”

“I’ll see if I can get my suitcase back today and then I’ll return your clothes.”

“No need, he said. “We have to figure things out though. Why don’t we spend the day together?”

Whitney smiled. “I’d like that, but the only clothes I have are those,” she said, pointing to the small untidy pile of discarded clothes and the red shoes. “And to tell you the truth, I couldn’t walk far in those shoes unless I was too drunk to feel my feet.”

“I bet,” Tyler said. He had no idea how women balanced on those things.

“We don’t have to go out. We can order in and spend the day in here.”

“Figuring out how to get free of each other,” she said sadly.

“I’ll order breakfast,” Tyler said, picking up the phone. He didn’t know why, but getting free of her was the last thing on his mind at that moment.

* * *

Whitney flopped onto the bed and closed her eyes. What if she really were to stay Mrs. Whitney Jackson? This would technically be her honeymoon. Her heart skipped a beat and her tummy flipped. Tyler was still so much like her old Tyler and yet so much more. In some ways he was the same caring friend she’d known since childhood, but he was also a mature man. His once untamed curls were now short-cropped and tidy. His face was the same, but bigger and older. His five o’clock shadow was darker than she remembered. Everything about him seemed to be on a larger scale, and firmer. He obviously worked out.

Images of Mark drifted through her mind. What HAD she been thinking? How could she have even let marriage and Mark share the same thought in her mind? He was nothing but an overgrown child. Not once in the last two years had he ever opened her door as Tyler had done. Pulling out her chair for her? She scoffed aloud to the empty room. Never. He didn’t even know when her birthday was and she had never bothered to tell him. He celebrated his own birthday by having her wait on him and his buddies while they watched a game and drank beer. He had been a man of simple tastes. If she were to be honest, he had been just plain simple. A carbon copy of nearly all the men she’d been with since she’d started dating.

She twisted the ring around on her finger and her tummy flipped again. She was actually married. This could be a mistake, especially for Tyler, He had it together and he didn’t really deserve to be saddled with a fuck-up. There was no way to explain her feelings, except to say she was confused but happy, really happy.

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