The sound of thumping in my head continues and I roll over, throwing my hand over my face before it suddenly stops. I groan. Thank God. But then it starts up again, and though it takes me a minute, I realize it’s not actually coming from my head.
I push up on my elbows, and though the sound might not be coming from inside my head, the throbbing sure as hell is. I look at the unfamiliar room, and it takes me a second to remember that I’m in Vegas for my cousin’s bachelor party.
I push up off the bed and trudge to the door. When I swing it open, I find my youngest brother, Carm, in the hallway.
“Jesus, bro, I don’t wanna see your dick. Although I am happy to know mine’s bigger.”
I glance down to find that I am indeed naked. Ducking into the bathroom, I grab a towel and wrap it around my waist.
“Fuck off. What’s going on?” My voice is rough, and I realize now that my mouth tastes like ass.
“You’re late for bungee jumping. Everyone is waiting. Where’d you disappear to last night anyway? One minute you’re sulking at the bar and the next you text us to say you’re out.”
I stare at him for a moment, trying to figure out the answer to his question. He uses the opportunity to slide to the side to look inside the room. I run a hand through my hair and down my face, blowing out a breath and trying to get myself together.
“What the fuck is that?” Carm points at my finger.
I lower my hand, staring at a silver ring around… shit… my left ring finger.
What the actual fuck?
“Holy shit!” Carm laughs hysterically.
I cough on the bile shooting up my throat.
Carm weaves to the side of me to look behind me at the bed and the woman who might be my… God, I can’t even say the word. There’s absolutely no way I got married last night, no matter what’s on my hand.
I take my brother by the shoulders. “You can go.”
He fights me, his head swiveling to try to catch another glimpse.
I don’t know why I got married last night, but I do know who I hooked up with and Carm cannot find out unless I want a call from Mama. Everyone knows that out of my two brothers, he’s the last one to trust with a secret. He doesn’t mean any harm. He just can’t help himself.
“What about bungee jumping?” he asks.
We’re in Vegas for my cousin Luca’s bachelor party, which was supposed to be a fun weekend away—something I rarely allow myself. Instead it’s turning into a colossal fuck up.
“Make up an excuse for me. And do not tell anyone what you saw. Just say you can’t find me, or I’m puking, or—I don’t really care. You’re a good liar, do what you do best.”
His feet halt on the carpet. “Low blow. I don’t lie about stupid shit anymore, just ask Bella.”
His pitiful tone, the one he’s used his entire life when the truth hurts, says I’ve hit a sore spot. Usually I’d smooth over my comment, but today I’ve got more pressing shit to do than make sure Carm’s ego stays intact. “Go.”
“Bye.” I click the door in place softly, though I want to slam it.
But the last thing I want is to wake the woman sleeping in my bed. I need a minute to sort this out and try to figure out what it means, what the repercussions are. I don’t need to worry about our lack of a prenup because she’s not the kind of woman who’s after me for my money. Quite the opposite actually. Most of the time, I think she resents it.
I strip off the towel and pull on my boxers before sitting in the chair by the window.
What the hell have we done?
I weave my fingers through my hair and blow out a breath, looking at the bed.
Her long tan legs from half a summer spent in the Hamptons only brings back memories of last year. But last year hurt like a bitch. I had to say goodbye to her then, so why would I have willingly gotten together with her now?
Grabbing my phone, I pull up her alias, Marge, (just in case my brothers ever saw) and check what happened last night. Damn, I initiated the conversation.
Me: Hope the dance competition is going well.
Then the memory floods in like a tidal wave. The innocent text exchanges once I saw her dance studio was in town for a competition. Each of us mentioning where we were staying. Her asking me out for a drink and my stupid horny ass accepting. Going to her hotel bar, gambling at blackjack, drinking some more. Her studio won the competition and she was excited to celebrate, and I, of course, took any excuse to be with her.
I’m an idiot.
She stirs under the sheets, her dark wavy hair sprawled on the pillow. I examine her while her eyes are still closed and see the matching silver band on her left hand. Then I spot a few crumpled up papers on the floor near the edge of the bed. I must’ve taken them out of my jacket or pants last night when we returned.
When I open them, the reality of the situation comes crashing down on me like a crumbling building.
One of those papers is a marriage license, and the two names listed have me squeezing the bridge of my nose.
Dominic Anthony Mancini and
Valentina Daniella Sommerland
I can’t help the small smile that forms on my face when I think of how we all used to make fun of her name when she was younger. No one said her first name without also using her middle and her last—though it was Cavallo back then. To the grade school kids, using her whole name was fun, and it stuck all through high school.
Now, she’s Valentina Daniella Mancini, though I don’t hold my breath—she’d probably expect me to become Dominic Anthony Cavallo. Doesn’t matter that Cavallo isn’t even legally her last name anymore.
Why the hell is my mind heading in a direction this situation is never gonna go?
As I’m wondering whether we’ll qualify for an annulment, her eyes pop open. She smiles at me, her naked body sliding across the sheets. She’s always been slow to wake up, though I only know that from the rare occasions she let me sleep in bed with her.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hi.” She wiggles up to rest her back on the headboard, making sure to keep the sheet over her.
“No need to be shy. I am your husband, after all.” I raise my hand, the stream of light coming through the curtains making the silver band shine.
Her breath leaves her in one rush and her mouth hangs open. She snaps her head down to look at her perfectly manicured hand, with red polish that matches her toes and plucks the cheap wedding band we must’ve gotten along the way as though it’s a piece of foil. But it’s not foil. It’s the real deal.
I pick up the marriage license from the side table and toss it on the bed next to her. “Do you want breakfast, Mrs. Mancini, or should we each call our attorneys first?”
No sense in pretending this situation is anything other than what it is—a mistake.
Her plump pink lips that have always turned me on dip, and she twists the sheet in her fingers.
Yeah, figured as much. Attorneys it is.
“I’ll let you get dressed,” I say, walking around the bed, and picking up my pants and shirt from last night. Anything goes in Vegas, no one will give me a second look.
“Dom,” she sighs.
But I put up my hand, hurrying to get the hell out of here before I ask more questions like why, drunk or not, she’d agree to marry me. “No worries. Not sure how we got ourselves in this predicament, but I’ll handle it.”
I slide the ring off my finger and put it on the nightstand. Then I walk out the door, and this time, I do let it slam shut.
Valentina isn’t meant to be mine. She’s always belonged to someone else. This time, I’m determined to remember it.
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