The Consequence of Seduction
“Hmm.” The guy unzipped my bag. “It just seems you have some liquids in here, so let me just—” He froze, his cheeks blushing crimson. “Um.”
“What?” Was my swimsuit that daring? Damn you, Reid! I said black!
“Uh.” The guy swallowed and looked away, then very slowly pulled out a bottle of KY, and note that I said bottle. It wasn’t one of those tiny things you could easily keep hidden in your back jeans pocket. No, no, it was huge, as in bigger than my water bottle. It was like someone went to the Costco of sex stores and decided, hey, just in case we run out . . .
“That’s not mine!” I blurted.
“It was in your bag,” he countered. “Are you saying this isn’t your bag?”
I sighed. “It’s my bag, but—”
“Because if this isn’t your bag, then you need to tell me now. Did someone tell you to carry this bag through security?” He reached for his walkie-talkie.
“It’s mine,” I blurted.
He nodded, then looked down. “All of it?”
Max waltzed toward us along with the rest of the gang. “Problem?”
“Nope.” I clenched my teeth. “It just seems bringing twenty-four ounces of KY through security is frowned upon.”
“Twenty-four, huh?” Reid chuckled.
He stopped laughing.
“Ma’am, this is going to have to go too.” The guy picked up a giant bottle of Her Pleasure massage oil.
I felt myself turn bright red. But I couldn’t say it’s not mine again! He’d confiscate my bag and I really would be walking around Vegas nude like Reid joked!
“And this.” A black whip dangled from his hand. “This is technically a weapon.”
“I’m sure she’s well aware of how hazardous a weighted whip can be.” Max nodded solemnly. “Hell, that handle could be a club.”
The agent sighed.
All in all, two sets of handcuffs were pulled out.
Pink zip ties.
A bottle of flavored nipple cream.
“Well.” The agent stuffed everything back in. “It looks like I’ll only have to confiscate the whip and the liquids.”
“Swell,” I croaked.
“Have fun in . . .” He tilted his head.
“Vegas,” Max said helpfully. “Gotta pay the bills somehow.” He laughed.
The agent joined in.
And I was left wondering just how much of a weapon that whip could really be, especially if I wrapped it around Max’s neck and waited for a popping sound.
I grabbed my bag and walked slowly toward Reid.
He winced with my every stomp.
“Max,” I hissed. “Not funny.”
Milo and Becca crossed their arms with me and took a stance on either side, while Max, Jason, Colt, and Reid stood opposite us. Already we were divided, guys against girls, yet all of us were against Max as he stood helplessly in the middle.
“Don’t start a war you can’t finish, Emory.” I jabbed my finger in his direction. “I know you’re behind the sex toys.”
“Aw.” Max chuckled. “How cute. If you think those are sex toys, no wonder I’ve never heard Reid yell your name.”
“Let me at him!” Becca held me back.
“Not the face.” Max covered up. “It’s my best feature.” He laughed at his own joke, then sobered. “Actually, it’s one of many, feel me?”
“Okay!” Reid stepped between us. “Max, no more practical jokes. All right? This trip is supposed to be relaxing, and we can’t do that if Jordan kills you, then asks us to help bury the body.”
Max held up his hand. “I hereby solemnly swear to stop putting toys in your girl’s bag.”
I tried to keep my heart from fluttering at the words your girl. It felt good to belong to him.
“Good,” Reid huffed, then wrapped an arm around me. “Now, let’s find our damn gate so Jordan can drink those images away.”
“Hear, hear,” I grumbled.
“So.” Max turned around in his seat, whiskey in hand. “What’s the story, Jordan?”
The airplane dipped, almost sending me careening into Reid’s arm, not that it would have been a bad thing. Touching his arm. It had been distracting me since takeoff. All bronzed and muscled sitting innocently within inches of mine.
I was even fascinated with his light-colored arm hair. Like a total freak.
“Uh.” I sipped my white wine and cleared my throat. “Story?” I shared a glance with a confused Reid. “I don’t think I understand the question.”
Max nodded. “Everyone has a story . . . a few choice words that describe their past woes.” He took two long sips of his drink and then said, “Take Jason, for example.”
“Oh, hell.” Jason’s expression went from relaxed to straight-up hostile.
“Home skillet can’t make it through a twenty-four-hour period without a Little Mermaid Band-Aid.” Max shook his head. “Also, he almost got married last year to a total bitch named Jayne, who I’m not entirely convinced wasn’t an actual vampire, because when I put garlic under her mattress she made a really loud screeching sound.”
“Because you scared the shit out of her,” Milo added. “Not because she bites.”
“Oh, she bit.” Jason shuddered. “Hard.”
“Can story time be over now?” Colt asked.
“Colton and Milo are best friends to lovers. It’s romantic, really.” Max said wistfully. “She’s wanted his man package since she knew what it was, though to be fair I’m not entirely sure she knew what it was until about a year ago, when he showed her.”
Milo groaned and covered her face with her hands.
“Becca’s and my story was freaking televised. No need to rehash that round of awesome, though here’s a few hashtags just in case you didn’t TiVo every episode: #zombies, #hades, #beccakissesmaxhard, #sevendwarves, #bachelorislandwhereeveryonegoestodie.” Max smacked a loud kiss on Becca’s cheek and turned. “And Reid.” Max chuckled. “I think we all know his story . . . it involves dear old sweet Grandma, dentures, Bengay, and what I’m hoping was a very thorough bout of therapy.”
“Don’t forget the drugs,” Colton piped up. “And climbing the roof.”
“Or jumping out of that tree.” Milo nodded.
“And the ChapStick,” Max said in a hollow voice.
“Okay!” Reid held up his hands. “Maybe we should all rest before we land, yeah?”
Max eyed Reid suspiciously. “You don’t know, do you?”
“Know?” Reid repeated. “Know what?”
Reid gaped. “Of course I do!”
Max sat back and held out his hand. “Then be my guest.”
“Er . . .” Reid rubbed his lips together. “Jordan likes chocolate.”
“Colt’s allergic, and you can find that shit out on Facebook.” Max yawned. “Next.”
“She’s . . . driven.” Reid nodded. “And rarely lets her hair down.”
“And I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for keeping that mess contained.” Max pointed at my head while I self-consciously patted down my mane. Thankfully, it was still in place and hadn’t yet chosen to pop out of its constraints or give the nice old man behind us a surprise heart attack, at which point I’m sure Max would say something like, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this, I’m a doctor.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, taking a long, long, very long sip of my wine.
Max eyed Reid. “Still waiting.”
“She’s a . . . shrew.”
I rolled my eyes. “Good one, Reid.”
“See!” Max’s ice nearly launched itself in Jason’s face as he thrust his cup into the air. “You don’t know her story . . .” All eyes turned to me while Max said in a quiet voice, “Start at the beginning.”
“I was born,” I said dryly.
“Wrong beginning.” Max cracked a smile. “We all know you’re the girl who gets food on everyth
“Thanks, man.” Reid covered his face with his hands and let out a groan.
“Got your back, son!” Max nodded seriously. “So Jordan . . . story? You keep a plant alive for how many years? And why? You live alone? Why? Fear of commitment? Snakes? Sharks? Holy shit, you like women!”
“Stop.” I held up my empty glass. “Fine, I’m . . . invisible.”
“Neat trick.” Max grinned. “Explain.”
I shrugged tightly, irritated he was pulling the information out of me so easily—then again, it could be the alcohol. “Well, in my class picture it actually says, ‘Jordan Litwright. Not pictured.’”
“That’s what they do,” Max said slowly, “when you miss picture day.”
“Right.” I nodded. “But I was there.”
“Oh,” they all said in unison.
“In a red shirt.”
Max patted my hand. “This happen on multiple occasions?”
Max pressed the call button. Once the attendant arrived, he ordered a whiskey on the rocks for everyone. Double for me.
I opened my mouth to continue talking, but Max held up his hand. “We need whiskey for sad stories.”
We waited ten more minutes in tense silence. I prayed Max would get bored and forget. But he refused to turn around.
Though Becca tried, bless her heart. I’m pretty sure she was thinking about flashing him.
Then our drinks came.
“You may continue,” Max said.
“Fine.” I gripped my plastic cup, the condensation making my hand a little sweaty. “I went to prom with my cousin . . .”
“Aw, that’s sweet!” Becca gushed.
“He was twenty-seven and had two kids.”
“Even though I had tickets and a student ID card, the girl at the door, the same one who had gone to school with me basically my whole life, asked me my name, and when I told her, she said, and I quote, ‘She doesn’t go here anymore. She died.’”
My cup was empty.
Max gave me Reid’s.
“So yeah.” I exhaled. “Invisible. That’s me. But it makes me good at my job. I can be in the background while the stars get all the attention.”
“Bullshit,” Reid spat.
“What?” I jerked around to look at him. “What do you mean?”
“That’s bullshit. You’re lying.”
“Reid.” Max’s tone was warning, almost like he was being protective of me.
“No!” Reid shook his head. “I don’t believe it. You’re absolutely stunning. Invisible, my ass! A person would have to be blind or just really, really stupid to not see you. I mean, look at you!”
It’s official. Reid was my new hero.
I was going to get Reid Emory sheets and sleep in them every night.
My cheeks heated as I ducked a bit under his intense stare.
Those aqua eyes refused to let me look down. Instead, he tilted my chin toward him and didn’t look away. “You. Are. Stunning.”
I could have sworn I heard one of the girls sigh.
Or maybe it was just Max.
“Thanks, but you don’t have to make me feel better.” I licked my lips. “I’m happy with who I am. Really.”
“You should be.” Reid nodded. “Damn proud of who you are.”
He was doing it again. Casting one of those magic spells with his hypnotic eyes, making me think that a girl like me could really be with a guy like him. Making me believe that the words he’d said to me back at his apartment before he crushed my plant . . . were actually true.
That he wanted me.
Enjoyed touching me, kissing me . . .
“This is your captain speaking,” a loud voice interrupted. “I’ve turned on the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign, as we’ve gotten word that there’s some rough air up ahead. Sit tight.”
The turbulence wasn’t holy shit, we’re going down bad, but it wasn’t pleasant either. Max whimpered from the front seat, then begged to hold Becca’s hand, only his hand grabbed her breast instead.
The guy was copping a feel all while having everyone believe he was afraid of flying.
I, however, was.
Maybe it was because when I was in high school as a way to get back at me for being born first—Max’s words, not mine—Max told me that whenever a plane hit turbulence it meant that the engine was locking up.
He paid my science teacher to back up his story.
He said this the day before we flew into the Denver airport from New York.
And anyone who’s ever flown into Denver just flinches in his seat and winces a little. Turbulence flying in and out of Denver is the stuff of legends.
Max got it on camera.
And that, my friends, is how I lost my prom queen girlfriend to an eighth grader with a mind for evil.
I think it’s also the first moment I realized Max wasn’t like other humans . . .
Or really any species known to mankind.
“Need a distraction?” Jordan’s smile was kind. Her perfect pout formed over pretty white teeth.
“Oh, I don’t know.” I gripped the armrest. “Care to throw Max out of the plane? That may help my mood.”
“He’s kinda heavy.”
“Muscle.” Max coughed ahead of us, then turned around and grinned. “Reid, it was a joke. You know turbulence is normal.”
“You classically conditioned me, you bastard!” The plane dipped again. I glanced out the window, just to be sure I didn’t see smoke or anything that pointed to the fact that we were going down.
Jordan placed her hand on my arm, her fingernails drawing slight circles around my skin. It felt good. I started breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth while she talked. “I’m guessing Max is the reason behind your fear.”
“You’d guess right.” I glared at Max. “Turn around before I throat punch you.”
Max rolled his eyes. “Adults don’t use such language.”
My eyebrows shot up as I waited.
“Bitch,” he finished, then turned back around.
“There it is,” I mumbled.
Jordan patted my arm. “At least you had a brother or someone to hang out with you at school. I would have done anything to have a sibling.”
“Only child?” I frowned. “How did I not know that?”
“You gotta ask,” Max said from the front seat.
“Could you not?” I smacked him on the head. “Pay attention to your fiancée.”
Max glanced back. “She fell asleep.”
“Wake. Her. Up.”
“Waking up someone while they’re in a deep sleep is rude, besides, why would I want to deter her from dreaming of me? Naked? That’s just cruel, man. Have you no heart?”
“Earphones,” Jordan interjected. “Put them on so your brother and I can have adult time. I’ll set my watch for a half hour, and when that’s done you can turn around and I’ll give you some fruit snacks.” Jordan pulled some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fruit snacks from her bag and dangled them in the air. Max’s eyes went back and forth, back and forth.
“Those are the best kind.” His eyes narrowed. “Damn you for finding my kryptonite!” He gasped. “You read my blog!”
Jordan grinned. “I figured the easiest way to learn the ways of a homicidal maniac was to get inside his head, see how he ticks. I may have browsed it this last week while trying to uncover any of the five hundred skeletons in your closet to make sure you wouldn’t be any more of a PR nightmare for Reid.”
Max nodded his approval. “We’ll keep you.”
“Oh, good, I’m going to a good home then. There’s that.” Jordan snatched the fruit sna
“Everything . . . really is awesome.” Max sighed. “Fine, turning around now, but I want two packs, not one.”
“And—” He thrust his finger in the air. “If they’re old and not chewy, no deal. Don’t go opening the pack just so air gets in. I want them untampered with.”
Jordan put a hand over her heart. “Like I would drug you.”
“Jezebel,” he grumbled. “Don’t betray my trust.”
“Says the man who put a whip in my bag.”
“Turning around.” Max shrugged. “Because I want to and because I want the fruit snacks, not because you’re forcing me to.”
“Right.” Jordan smiled.
Max put on his headphones, leaving us in peace.
“You’re so good with him.” I leaned my head against the headrest and smiled.
“Yeah, well . . .” Jordan shrugged. “I have cousins.”
“Aw, how old?”
“Five and seven.”
“So about the same age then.” I nodded.
“Yup.” She let out a low laugh that had me licking my lips and focusing way too hard on her mouth. “Sounds about right.”
“So.” Why was I suddenly nervous? Max, he was irritating as hell, but he was a damn good buffer, and probably the best person to have on your side if you needed to keep the conversation going, even if it went in really inappropriate directions. “No siblings . . . nobody to sit with you on the bus?”
“Nope.” Jordan lifted a shoulder in a haphazard shrug. “It always made me so angry when people would trash-talk their brothers or sisters when I would have killed to have some big brother beat up my first boyfriend for cheating on me.”
“Your first boyfriend cheated on you?” I wasn’t able to keep the anger from my voice.
“He was seven.” Jordan patted my shoulder. “Back down, cowboy. And he only cheated because my mom forgot to pack me a MoonPie.”
“Yeah, well”—Jordan’s eyes narrowed slightly—“I moved on and so did he . . . It seems I wasn’t the only one who brought MoonPies to school. He and Kristin dated for three whole days until he moved on to greener pastures.”
“Nah, he went on to the hard stuff, like Snickers and Twix bars. Is it wrong that I laughed when he announced to the class he had three cavities?”