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Unexpected Ever After by Silla Webb

Unexpected Ever After by Silla Webb PDF

Author: Silla Webb

Publisher: Masque of the Red Pen


Publish Date: September 13, 2022

ISBN-10: B0BFC824H8

Pages: 1148

File Type: EPub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

“Speech! Speech! Speech!” Liam chants, and the fellas follow suit.

I pull my attention from the unread text message I sent Laney an hour ago and look up at the celebration happening around me.

I plaster a fake smile on my face and set my phone on the bar, then stand as Liam makes his way toward me. He pulls me into a backslapping hug, the whiskey in his tumbler sloshing over the side and splattering against my shirt, but he’s none the wiser. If he keeps at this pace, he’ll be three sheets to the wind before the party’s over.

“Let’s have it, best man. What words of wisdom do you have to bestow upon me on my final night as a bachelor?” Liam boasts, not a lick of slur to his speech.

“I thought the speech was for your wedding day, not the bachelor party?”

“Now it’s time for the real speech,” he chides. “Not the speech about all the sunshine and rainbows, mushy shit; I want the raw, gritty shit.”

It sounds like he wants me to give him a pep talk to either prevent or encourage his ass from making a break for it–I’m not sure which one. Hell, given my current relationship predicament, I couldn’t tell you which I’d be in favor of: the departure or the follow-through.

I sigh loudly and turn back to the bar, motioning to the bartender to pour me a shot. Her smile reaches her eyes, and she grabs a bottle from the top shelf, pouring a double shot. Her eyes burn with challenge as she slides the glass across the bar to me. She’s been looking at me like that all night, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. I break her intense stare and turn my attention to the groom and the rest of these assholes. I thrust the shot glass in the air and call out a quick “Cheers,” before consuming the drink.

I’m not much on hard liquor, although I only need to stand within a foot of Liam for a minute, and I’ll be buzzed due to the amount of whiskey seeping through his pores already.

“Only prepared one speech, but what I can tell you is this… There is no way in hell you’re gonna watch Layla walk down that aisle tomorrow if you don’t slow down on the alcohol and stuff some bread in your system to soak that shit up.”

Liam nods and sets the rocks tumbler on the bar and takes a step back. “Only if you promise to put Laney in your rearview and live up the night, man. It’s my bachelor’s party. Let’s celebrate.”

“Come on, Liam. Don’t bring her into this,” I plead.

Liam pulls me closer and says, “How long’s it been? Three weeks? A month? No phone calls, no texts. She’s gone, Carter. You know the chances of her showing up for our wedding tomorrow are slim to none. Layla has accepted that, so when will you? You don’t always have to be the good guy, Car.”

My eyes flicker toward the bar like a magnet is pulling my focus to the bartender. My heart is telling me not to give up on Laney, to not accept her silence as the finality of our relationship. But Liam is right. Laney has run more times than I can count, and I’m done chasing after her.

“It’s alright, man. The night is young. Plenty of time for a little sin.”

Liam nods over his shoulder with a chuckle. He grabs his drink off the bar, and then he leads me toward where the rest of the guys are waiting for the dancers to take the stage. Of course it’s a failed attempt to get him to pace himself with the liquor.

The lights dim as glass shattering rends the air, and my eyes instinctively turn to the bar. The bartender’s laser focused on polishing a glass, and as the club fills with a thick haze of fake smoke, I realize it was a sound effect meant to grab your attention and pull you toward the stage. However, I can’t seem to pull my eyes away from the breathtaking beauty behind the bar. There’s just something about her. Maybe it’s the fact that at first glance she almost looks ordinary, she isn’t overly made up, but this woman needs none of that. She is absolutely stunning in her natural state.

The distinct sound of a woman’s heels echoes around the room, almost as if being played through the sound system, then they emerge through the thick gray haze. Three scantily clad dressed women crawl toward the center of the stage to give Liam the attention he deserves in true bachelor party fashion. The fellas are all enamored by the dancers’ presence, but I’m not. It’s taking all the willpower I have to not immediately turn my attention back to the bar.

Stealthily making my escape, I head toward the bar, needing something cold to drink to wash the taste of whiskey out of my mouth.

The bartender is still polishing glasses as I take a seat, but she notices me immediately and makes her way toward me.

“What can I get you?”

“Can I get a glass of water please?”

Her brow wrinkles as she smirks. I immediately know that look of judgment, but I don’t call her out on it.

“Sure…” she draws, her smirk suddenly replaced with a megawatt smile.

She slides the glass across the bar top then asks, “Need anything else?”

“No thanks.”

I reach into my back pocket to pull out my phone, but it isn’t there. As I stand to go in search of it, the bartender grabs my attention. “Hey, looking for this?” She waves my phone in the air. I extend my hand to claim it, but she pulls it back out of reach.

“You know the party is out there, right?”

“Yeah, and…” I question, clearly confused.

“Because you’re an attractive man at a bachelor’s party, with hot dancers on the floor as we speak. But you, however, are acting more like a babysitter rather than a best man.”

Ouch. She doesn’t hold back, and that is hot as hell.

“That may be true, but my liver and kidneys will appreciate my efforts tomorrow while the rest of these assholes are dying in the sweltering heat. I’m not stupid. I left hangovers behind in my college days.”

“That’s rather noble of you,” she comments, handing me my phone. “I’m sure your wife appreciates the effort too.”

Double ouch.

“Not married, honey.”

“Okaaayyy…” she draws out, her face twisted in concentration, lifting her finger to her lip as she tries to figure me out. “Girlfriend, then?”

“Nope. Completely single.” I smirk before taking a drink of water.

She leans her elbows on the counter and props her chin, studying me. “Okay, then. What’s her name?”

And the third time’s a damn charm. I school my features and ask, “Who?” nonchalantly.

She’s quick with her reply. “The woman who has you on your knees with your heart on your sleeve.”

I look down then back up, and reply, “I’m currently on my ass, but I can be on my knees if the moment calls for it.” I wink and pull back another swig of water in a pathetic attempt to calm my racing heart. Why the hell did I just say that to her? Out of habit, I flip the screen of my phone on and look down at the screensaver, Laney’s face smiling back at me. And there’s that familiar ache I momentarily lost.

When did I start to lose her?

“And what would she have to say about it, babysitter?”

Shrugging I just let it fly because hell, why not.

“I couldn’t tell you because she stopped answering my messages and calls weeks ago, the same day she left.”

“What did you do to warrant her silence?” she asks.

Now if that ain’t the million dollar question. With Laney, the wind could blow in her direction and mess up her hair, and I’d be under fire. I love her more than my next breath, but maybe we aren’t meant to be. I’ve always imagined she’s the one I’d spend the rest of my life with, a house full of rowdy kids making her even crazier. I thought that’s what we both wanted. Until one day a month ago when she left without a word, and she hasn’t answered any of my calls or text messages since.

“What makes you think I’m to blame?”

“She left for a reason, right?”

“You’d have to know Laney for anything she did to make sense. She marches to the beat of her own drum, does things her way.”

She claps her hands together in celebration of her progress. “And yet, he finally opens up.”

“Well, you’re nothing if not persistent.”

“Eh, I’m an Appalachian woman; we’re born strong and stubborn, but however you Southern gentlemen call it will suit me just fine. Y’all are known for proper etiquette and all.” And just like that I see an opening to change the topic.

“Appalachia, huh. So you’re a ways from home. What brought you to Hilton Head?”

She spreads her arms out wide as if her next statement should be on showcase. “Chasin’ the American dream.”

I look around the classy gentleman’s club and ask, “And this is just a stepping stone along your pursuit?”

She shrugs and offers a small roll of the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen. “Maybe. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.”

“Let me guess, you were the rebel without a cause?”

She giggles, and the sound makes my heart beat faster.

“Yeah, with a cheer skirt on. But you know what they say about a preacher’s daughter–they’re wild enough to shoot at, but too free to be tamed.”

“Well…” I search for her name tag hanging on the hem of her tiny tank top. “Emersyn, you didn’t go and break the quarterback’s heart now, did ya? You know those small-town romances have a way of mending into second chances, no matter how fast and far you run?”

She smirks and pulls two shot glasses from the top rack. “I see what you did there, best man. You turned the tables on me. If you want to play hard ball, have at it.”

Emersyn turns the glasses bottoms down and pours a shot of whiskey into each.

“Let’s play Twenty Questions… For every question you refuse to answer, you have to take a shot.”

“And you?” I challenge her.

“Oh honey, I’m an open book.” She winks. “Plus, I can’t get too drunk that I don’t remember the fun I have planned for you.”


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