I turned around in his arms and kissed the man who gave me my fairy tale. I had never expected a Marcus Hardy in my life. I’d had a friend in Cage York and I had thought that was all I would need. Cage had been my protector. But I had found out that I needed all-consuming, wild, magical love. And that’s what I got with Marcus.

My fairy tale wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

Amanda and Preston from Just for Now


When I was sixteen years old, I was positive that I would never love anyone as much as I loved Preston Drake. Sure, he was my brother’s best friend and only saw me as a kid, but I loved him. Every daydream I had was of Preston. Even though he was a major player and he flirted with all females, I loved him. Not once did I think I could love a man as much as I loved Preston Drake.

And I was right. Even at sixteen I was so very right.

In three days I was supposed to be marrying the man I had loved for the past seven years.

Tears burned my eyes as I ran my fingers over the white satin of the dress I’d had made specially for me. For our special day. The day I had dreamed of long before Preston Drake loved me.

“Amanda?” Willow asked as the door to my bedroom opened. “Are you okay?”

I started to nod, then said, “No.”

Her hand rested on my shoulder. “What you saw . . . I think that text message was something that he needs to have a chance to explain. Once Marcus finds him, if he lives through that, then you should talk to him, sweetie. Don’t call it all off just yet. Give him a chance, if he isn’t in the hospital, to explain himself.”

I didn’t want Marcus to hurt him. Even after seeing that text on Preston’s phone. He’d left his cell in the car when I had dropped him off this afternoon after we’d had his final fitting for his tux.

Greg: Same place. Ready to be f**ked just as hard as you did it last time. My pu**y is all wet.

I had sat in my car, staring at the text message from Greg, who I knew he worked with. And was, the last time I checked, a guy. Twice I had almost dialed the number, but I hadn’t been able to. Checking his other contacts, I found another Greg but it was a different number. The only explanation was that he was using Greg’s name to save some . . . some . . . slut’s phone number. I felt ill again.

“I just can’t believe this. I thought . . . I mean, he acts like he loves me. He is always with me. He never once gave me any hint . . .” I trailed off, staring at my wedding dress.

“He adores you. That’s why this text makes no sense. So just take a deep breath. Let’s have a glass of wine. You can come back to my place if you don’t want to stay here.”

I had stayed in the apartment I lived in with Preston, waiting on him to come home. He had to work tonight. Marcus had gone after him immediately. Willow had called Dewayne and Rock and warned them to go after Marcus. She was afraid he’d kill Preston.

“I just don’t see how there can be an explanation for this,” I said, sitting down on the chaise beside me.

“If you called the number, maybe that would answer your question. Maybe Greg was . . . joking . . .” She trailed off.

That wasn’t believable. But neither was the fact that Preston was cheating on me. He loved me.

“I’m calling the number. There has to be an explanation. We need to figure it out before your brother kills your groom,” Willow said, taking the phone off the bed, where I had dropped it and left it.

She pressed the number and held it to her ear. I watched her, holding my breath. When her eyes went wide, my stomach dropped and my chest felt like it had exploded.

“Who is this?” she asked, going from surprised to angry. “Jill who? . . . Willow Hardy. Now answer my question.” Willow was scowling. “How do you know Preston Drake?” Willow closed her eyes and swore. “She hung up.”

I couldn’t talk. Or breathe. Or talk. I bent over and grabbed my knees, wanting to wake up from this nightmare. That had to be it—this had to be a nightmare. An awful one.

“Her name is Jill Vick. She was at the club. I heard Jackdown playing in the background.”

Jill Vick. It wasn’t Greg. It was Jill Vick.

I didn’t know a Jill Vick. I didn’t know anyone with the last name of Vick.

Oh God, I wanted to scream but I couldn’t breathe enough to scream.

“I was trying to stay positive about this, but now I hope Marcus beats his ass,” Willow said, throwing the phone back on the bed.

“We’re getting married,” I said, looking up at Willow. “Saturday. We were going to promise forever to each other. I don’t understand.”

A sob burst out of me, and I curled up on the chaise lounge and let the pain in my chest free. I had to do something before I completely broke in two.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m so sorry.” Willow sat beside me, trying to soothe me, but it didn’t help. Nothing would ever help. I couldn’t get through this. I would be broken for life.


After the crew Dewayne had working on the condo going up on the east beach left, I went through and made sure things were unplugged and expensive shit was locked up. It was Dewayne’s night off from doing this.

When he brought me on a couple of months ago, I had agreed to take over some of his responsibilities so he could get home to his family. Soon I would be taking off for a week for my honeymoon, so I owed him extra time this week. He didn’t demand it, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. He’d hired me as soon as he could give me a job that paid what my bouncer job had paid.

I hated working nights, and he knew it. This had fixed my problem. I had a fiancée at home I wanted to be snuggled up to na**d in my bed. And f**king. Lots and lots of f**king. Grinning, I picked up the trash that had been left behind, then headed down to the Dumpster. These guys were pigs. They left empty Coke bottles and chip bags all over the place. What was the big deal with cleaning that shit up?

Headlights lit up the empty parking lot, followed by a second set of headlights and then a third. What the hell? Was there a parking lot party about to go down that I had to put a stop to? I just wanted to get home to Manda.

Stupid teenagers.

Closing the lid of the Dumpster, I turned and started walking toward the headlights when a car door slammed and I heard Marcus yell my name. Confused, I stopped in my tracks.

“You motherfucker, I’m going to KILL YOU,” Marcus roared, and I realized something was seriously wrong. Marcus was my best friend and would be my brother-in-law in a couple of days. Was this a joke?

“Preston, back the hell up! Marcus, stop and ask him first before you commit a murder.” Rock’s voice came out of the darkness.

“He’s right, Marcus. Let him talk first. If he’s f**king around, we’ll all beat him to hell,” Dewayne called out.

I heard a scuffle and Marcus yelling as Rock demanded he calm down.

Moving out of the headlights that were blinding me, I walked toward them. Once I had the lights out of my eyes, I could see my three best friends in what looked like a argument. Marcus was swinging his arms and yelling about killing me, and Rock and Dewayne were holding him back.

“Can I ask why the hell you want to kill me?” I asked, trying to figure out what had brought this level of anger out in normally levelheaded Marcus.

“Are you f**king around on Amanda?” Dewayne asked with a snarl.

What the f**k? “No! Fuck NO! Why would you even think that? Is that why he’s lost his mind? He thinks I f**ked around on Manda? My Manda, who I adore more than my own life? Are you shitting me?”

“I told you he didn’t do it. There’s an explanation, Marcus. Calm down, dammit, and let him talk,” Rock said, jerking Marcus’s arms back as Marcus glared at me. Some of his rage had cooled as he studied me.

“Let me go. I’ll let him talk first. But he better have f**king proof! Do you understand me? FUCKING PROOF!”

Dewayne eased up on him. But Rock didn’t let go.

“Promise you’ll let him talk. Amanda is gonna want him alive if he didn’t do anything wrong,” Rock said.

“I swear. Let go,” Marcus snapped, jerking free of Rock’s loosened hold on him.

Then he started toward me, and Rock was back on him.

“I just want to ask him!” Marcus roared.

“Then do it with several feet between you,” Rock replied calmly.

“Fine,” he yelled, jerking free again, his eyes so full of pain and fury that it wasn’t even Marcus. I’d never seen him like this. Not even the time he had found out I was seeing Amanda.

“You left your phone in Amanda’s car today. You got a text from Greg,” Marcus said in disgust. “But Greg doesn’t have a pu**y that you can get wet. So Amanda was confused about that and found out that the Greg you used to work with is in your phone but with another number.”

“Wait . . . what?” He was talking about wet pussies and Greg from work. None of this made sense.

“Do you have a woman’s number that you’re disguising as Greg’s in your phone because you’re f**king her behind Amanda’s back?” Dewayne asked.

“HELL NO!” I yelled, furious that they would even think this.

“I knew he wasn’t cheating on her,” Dewayne said, throwing up his hands like he was always right. This time he was. Very f**king right.

“You’ve got some serious explaining to do, then, because I just got a text from Willow. She called that number on your phone, and a girl named Jill Vick answered. She was at Live Bay. Willow could hear Jackdown playing in the background. When she asked her how she knew Preston Drake, the girl hung up on her,” Marcus said, not sounding as angry, but more like he needed proof.

“Does Manda think I’ve cheated on her?” I asked, looking at the three of them.

“Of course she does! She’s a f**king mess!” Marcus replied, raising his voice again like he was about to go off. This all made sense now. Amanda . . . I had to get to her. Holy f**k. She’d be crushed.

“I gotta go talk to Manda. Now,” I said, stalking past them.

“NO! You’re going to Live Bay with us first. We’re finding this Jill Vick and figuring out why the hell her name is in your phone under ‘Greg,’” Marcus said, reaching out and grabbing my arm.

I loved the guy, but he was not going to make me let Amanda think for one more goddamn minute that I had cheated on her. Fuck that! “I. AM. GOING. TO. AMANDA.”

“Okay, look. I’ll go to Live Bay with you,” Dewayne told Marcus. “I know you’re angry because Amanda is so torn up, but he needs to get to her to fix this. She needs him to fix this. We will go figure out who the hell Jill Vick is.”

I pulled free of Marcus and ran to my Jeep. When I jerked open my door, I remembered where I had heard that name before. “Jill Vick is that brunette at Live Bay with the big fake tits and the pink tips in her hair. She’s been coming on to me for months. I just ignore her and she goes away.”

“I know her! You asked for another server last week because of her,” Dewayne said, snapping his fingers.

I nodded. “Yeah. That’s how I know her name. Rick told it to me when I went and asked him to keep her away from my table for the rest of my life.”


“Hey,” Willow said, standing up when her phone rang and putting it to her ear. “He didn’t. I knew he didn’t. . . . Stop it, Marcus. . . . You’re too emotional about this. Calm down. Do Dewayne and Rock believe him?” She was pacing back and forth, and I was hanging on her every word. “See! They believe him. . . . I’m only staying until she tells me to leave. I won’t stay here until I hear from you if she wants me to go.” Willow looked at me and rolled her eyes. “Go figure this out and leave us alone. She’s going to be fine. He’s telling the truth. You know in your gut he is. . . . Love you, too,” she said, then hung up.

“Preston is on his way here. Marcus said he’s desperate to get to you. He swears he’s never touched anyone. And Jill Vick is the waitress at Live Bay with the pink tips in her hair, who Preston asked Rick to move from his table last week. Apparently, she was flirting with him.”

I remembered her. She had really big boobs. I was jealous, and Preston got pissed when she wouldn’t take a hint. I didn’t know he’d had Rick move her, though. “She kept showing Preston her cle**age, or trying to. He wouldn’t look at her, and he kept pulling me closer to him until he was behind me, wrapping his arms around me. But I have big-boob envy, and hers made me feel self-conscious.”

Willow sat down beside me and patted my knee. “I think we have a case of someone setting Preston up. He’s on his way right now. When he gets here, do you want me to stay or go?”

I didn’t want to talk about all this in front of my sister-in-law. “You can go,” I told her. “Thank you for coming, though.”

She nodded. “It ain’t over yet. If Marcus doesn’t get some proof, he’s going for Preston’s throat. Dewayne and Rock are still with Marcus, though, so they should keep your fiancée alive and your brother out of prison.”

If she wasn’t being serious, I would have laughed.

The door to our apartment flew open. “Manda!” Preston called out.

“He’s here,” Willow said, then stood up. “I’ll let y’all talk.”

Willow was walking to the bedroom door when Preston called my name again, sounding panicked.

“She’s in here,” Willow replied, and just as she walked out, Preston came barreling in, looking like a man on a mission.

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