The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(5)

By: Christina Elle

“Shit,” Bear grumbled. “Calder, really? Let’s just invite the whole goddamn party over here.”

Luke slid his free hand into the front pocket of his flat-front shorts, grinning like he’d won some sort of prize. “Come on, Tyke. You think I’d give up the chance to meet the woman who just decked you? Hell, I want to buy her a drink.”

“Drinks are free this week,” Bear muttered.

“Then I’ll at least shake her hand.” He extended an arm to Kenna. She accepted and shook.

In a white, slim-fit T-shirt, pressed khaki shorts, dazzling smile, and aviators, Luke looked every bit the pretty boy Sam had described him as. His fiancée fit neatly under his arm, looking approachable in a simple sundress, flat sandals, and her brunette hair pulled into a bun. Her eyes were gentle and patient, skills no doubt acquired from years working as a guidance counselor in inner-city schools.

Kenna took in the sight of Bear’s friends, seeming so big and superhuman, and she couldn’t help but compare them. Ash was smack in the middle of Luke and Bear in terms of looks. He wasn’t pretty boy or dashing like Luke, but he wasn’t a beastly animal of a man like Bear, either. It was evident Ash demanded authority and could probably snap a man’s neck with a simple twist of his large, shapely arms. Luke, although much leaner in build, had something in the set of his shoulders that told Kenna he was agile. Quick. He didn’t need bulk muscle like his friends. He could handle himself at a moment’s notice if needed. It was overwhelming. Being surrounded by the triple power.

“So you two have met before?” Ash asked with an amused gleam in his eyes.

Bryan’s cheeks colored, which caused Ash’s eyebrows to lift to his hairline. “Holy shit,” Ash said. “You’ve done more than just meet.”

Bear’s jaw worked, and he looked away.

“This is freaking awesome.” Luke clapped his hands. “Do tell.”

Sam glanced at Kenna for an explanation. Which in turn caused the rest of the faces to turn her way. Crap. She’d kill for one of those drinks Luke offered a minute ago. A double, in fact.

Kenna chewed on the inside of her cheek. She and Bear were stuck together for seven whole days. Seven. An entire week. She’d spent twelve years burying their past so she’d never have to think about it again. And now she had to face him every day on this small private island.

Kenna had seen the schedule for the week. It was jam-packed with activities. They were expected to attend as much as possible. It would be rude to skip out just because she was trying to avoid the one person who single-handedly broke her heart and stole her future.

“Sammie,” she said. “You remember me telling you about Bear…” She trailed off, knowing her friend would remember. They’d talked for hours on the phone, Sammie offering every consoling word in the English language, after Kenna realized Bryan wasn’t coming back.

The other woman nodded. “Of course.”

Kenna pulled her lips inward and nodded right along with Sam.

Anytime, quicksand. Anytime.

Sammie glanced at Bryan, then at Kenna. “Wait, you mean…?”

Biting her bottom lip, Kenna closed her eyes and dropped her chin once.

Sam turned her attention to Bryan. “You’re Bear?”

“Who?” Ash and Luke asked at the same time.

Luke snorted a laugh. “Like…teddy bear?”

Kenna’s gaze journeyed Bryan’s tall frame all the way down to his black combat boots and back up. “No. Like grizzly bear.”

“It’s him,” Sam said through a gasp. “Oh, honey. I had no idea. If I’d known, I would’ve never…”

“Known what?” Ash asked. “What’s going on?”

Sam placed her hand on Ash’s chest. “He and Kenna were engaged. He’s the one who got away.”

Bear’s eyes went wide like saucers.

Kenna nearly suffocated on her saliva. “Wrong. He’s the one who went away. There’s a difference. And engaged implies love. It wasn’t love. It was—” She groaned. “Ugh, I don’t know what it was. But it wasn’t love, okay?”

It couldn’t have been. She’d given him everything. Every single piece of her, and he’d crushed it in his bare hands without any remorse. That’s not what real love should feel like.

Bear recovered and stared at her, his jaw working.

“Well, it’s the truth,” she told him, then turned to their audience. The last thing she needed was their pity or invasive questions. She’d dealt with that enough over the last decade. No more. It was his turn. She connected with Sam’s interested gaze, taking note of the woman’s slight smile. Kenna cleared her throat, pushing aside the uncomfortable feeling of being under a microscope. “He proposed to me one day and then never came back. Left me wondering for years where he was and what he was doing. Sent me some quick bullshit email about me needing to move on without him.”