Authors: Amy Matayo
The Wedding Game
Love Gone Wild
by Amy Matayo
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locations or persons living or dead is completely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Amy Matayo
Okay Creations Cover Designs © Sarah Hansen
Cover photo by Todd Moncrief Photography
Author photo by Amber Lanning Photography
Represented by Jessica Kirkland of The Blythe Daniel Agency
This book is dedicated to my kids.
The four of you sacrifice the most in order for me to achieve my dreams, and I will forever love and adore you.
I would like to thank my readers for coming back for my third book. It was a humbling and thrilling experience every time anyone bought my first two, especially when someone would take the time to give a nice review or sweet face-to-face comment. I appreciated every single one, and I’m forever grateful for you.
A huge thank you to my fantastic agent, Jessica Kirkland. Without your guidance I would still be staring at a screen, wondering what the heck to do with the finished manuscript stored inside my computer. Thankfully you always know what comes next. You’re savvy when I am clueless, sharp when I am dull, excited when I am lifeless, a marketing genius when I am not (which is always since I hate marketing). I’m eternally blessed by you.
Thank you to my awesome editors—Taryn Albright, Kristin Avila, and Jenny B. Jones—for your willingness to read this book and for taking my very rough manuscript and turning it into something (hopefully) worth publishing. Your selflessness means the world to me, and you girl’s rock.
To Nicole Deese for every encouraging word you’ve ever spoken. If words came to life and I tried to stack them in a room, all your kind ones wouldn’t fit inside. You cheer me up when I’m down and eagerly volunteer to slap me when I’m filled with self-doubt. Only a real friend would do something so sweet. God made a great person when He made you, and I am privileged to know you.
To Stacy Henagan, Joy Francoeur, and Nicole Deese for reading this unedited manuscript and offering advice on how make the story better. It’s not an easy thing to read a first or second or third draft, but you always volunteer and never complain. At least not to my face.
To Zoie Piazza for your awesome selfie-taking skills, because if they didn’t exist, where would I be now? With a boring book cover, that’s where. Thanks for being so pretty.
To Alec Stockton for sharing my love of creating things from nothing but imagination and a computer. It’s nice to know someone who shares my weirdness. Or coolness, as I prefer to call it.
To my sisters, Tracy and Emily, for being my best friends and for not giving up on me when I’m under a deadline or going through last-minute freak outs. I love you both. Thank you for loving me.
To my awesome family—both the Millsap side and the Matayo side. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to belong to.
To my husband, Doug, for loving me, sticking with me, and encouraging me through the craziness.
And to Jesus Christ, for saving my life. I’m messy and ridiculous and constantly screwing up, but your grace makes all the difference.
“A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You”
here’s something inherently pure about the sound of a needle on vinyl—the crackle, the static, the rich undertones of music playing in its most basic, unprocessed form—especially rare vinyl that only a handful of people own. Which is precisely what I was thinking an hour ago while thumbing through the latest issue of
in my apartment.
The Million Dollar Disc
, the headline proclaimed, the article outlining in detail the rarest vinyl in today’s market—from Lennon and Ono’s
to Elvis Presley’s
to The Quarrymen’s
That’ll Be the Day—
each worth a minimum of twenty-five thousand dollars. For a moment, I lost myself in the dream of owning just one of those albums. Just one.
Now, I’m stuck in a Starbucks drive thru at nine o’clock on a Tuesday morning, dreaming about nothing but getting out of this stupid line.
I hate Starbucks. More than that, I hate Tuesdays. I hate staff meetings and dress shirts and endless mounds of paperwork. I hate traffic and stoplights and horns blaring at the slightest hesitation. Of course people hesitate, because Tuesdays make people jittery. Nervous. Filled with dread and apprehension and skin-crawling regret. Even history hates Tuesdays. Normandy was bombed on a Tuesday. Nine-eleven happened on a Tuesday. Johnny Cash was thrown in jail on a Tuesday.
I was thrown in jail on a Monday, as if I need the reminder. But I’ll take a Monday over a Tuesday any day of my life. Tuesdays come with memories. And memories come with nightmares.
I hate the nightmares worst of all.
Shifting in my seat, I flip on the radio, cringing when the chorus of Katy Perry’s
blares back at me like a taunt—jabbing at me, poking, as if even she knows that I didn’t sleep again last night.
It’s Friday night and I, Caleb Stiles, have completely lost my mind. I knew this ten seconds after walking through the door—the dumbest move I’ve had in the five years since I started my job. Then again, my other ideas didn’t involve alcohol, mosh pits, and women dressed in nothing more than belts and well-positioned triangles.
It’s the triangles that have me questioning my sanity, because they’re the hardest to ignore. I would try to figure out a way if I could think straight, but the woman to my left keeps rubbing against me as she orders a drink, her skin pressing so close I can almost feel her pores. Among other things.
I shift in my seat, turning my back on a desire that still comes more natural than breathing. But the desire won’t undo me. Nowadays, thanks to a whole lot I can’t even begin to list, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much that will. That’s the way I want it.
I upend my Coke and take a long pull, ignoring the way the carbonation nearly chokes me, wishing for a split second it actually would. Whiskey. With its strong bite and powerful burn, it would be smoother going down, and I find myself longing for a glass. It’s that old wish that has me setting my tumbler back on the counter and raising my finger for water.
“What can I do you for?” The female bartender flashes a sultry grin and leans across the bar, propping her arms under her chest. This classic move gives me a personal invitation to ogle her ample cleavage, though I’m fairly certain most of it was bought and paid for. In all my time spent getting familiar with the opposite sex, I’ve never come across one who looked like her that money didn’t buy. God makes things perfectly, but He darn well didn’t make those.
I force my eyes upward and answer.
“Water, please.” The control it takes to keep my eyes locked on her blue irises and not dip south is ridiculous. You’d think I would have conquered this by now. Apparently not. I push my empty soda glass across the countertop.
She raises an amused eyebrow. “You came into this bar on a Friday night for water?” Her red fingernails grab hold of my empty tumbler. She dumps out the ice and scoops in a fresh batch. “Pardon me for saying so, but you don’t look like the water-drinking type.” She slides the water toward me.
I stir the ice with my straw and look up at her face. Only her face.
“What type do I look like?” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I want to kill my own stupidity with a quick stab to its invisible side. The question is only a curious one, but even I hear the flirtatious undertones. From her slow smile that promises hours of pleasure in its lilting curve, it’s clear she hears it too.
“You look like a man that needs some company.” Reaching for a square bar napkin, she scribbles a few numbers in blue ink and tucks the paper in my front pocket, giving my chest a pat that sends my pulse reeling. “I get off at midnight,” she purrs. “Call me and we’ll work something out.”
My voice goes dry. When I say nothing, she gives me a slow wink and moves on to the next customer. I take the napkin from my pocket, crumple it, and let it fall to the floor, wondering how I still manage to get myself into these situations. Thankfully, in an answer straight from heaven itself, Scott sits down on the stool next to me looking even more on edge than I am.
With mousy brown hair that needed a scrub two days ago and his polo shirt tucked too tight into his Levi’s to be considered cool, he isn’t as pretty as the woman. But he’s a whole lot safer. And safe, for me, is what keeps me accountable. It’s what keeps me on the path I’ve chosen.
“Tell me again why we’re still here,” Scott says, eyeing the woman next to me with a look best described as distain. Scott was a sheltered kid. Scott did church on Sundays and Wednesdays and any other day the door was open. Scott pot-lucked with old women. Scott didn’t do bars. “The kids didn’t show like you thought they might, so now would be a great time to leave. You know, since we could have ditched this place nearly an hour ago.”
Sarcasm doesn’t become Scott. And if the way his gaze keeps darting around the room is any indication, neither does nervousness.
“It’s early—they still might. Besides, we’re also here to get to know people. It’s a good experience for all of you. Life doesn’t only happen at the center, you know.” I look around at the other guys we came with. Matt, Jordon, Kimball…all playing a game of pool in the back of the room. All, I notice with a pang of disappointment, keeping to themselves. I’m not sure any of them have acknowledged anyone but each other, and I’m
the art of mentoring was lost on them three rounds ago.
This was definitely a bad idea. Obviously Scott agrees.
“It’s good for us.” He says with a raised eyebrow. “A bar. With barely-dressed women. And majorly drunk people. Is good for us?” He fingers the corner of a napkin. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather be at the center.”
Of course he would. “Tell me, Scott.” I drain my water and eye him over the rim. “Besides the guys we came here with, who have you talked to tonight?” I spent the evening talking to a group of guys from Tulsa going to the university on scholarship. Nice guys, the sort I might have been friends with in another life, but they left nearly an hour ago. It’s that one conversation that keeps me from feeling like a hypocrite. I set my glass down and silently thank God I didn’t completely keep to myself all night.
The way Scott’s mouth hangs open, and the way his eyes dart away tells me everything I need to know. They’ve talked to no one, making this night pointless. A waste of time. One that will probably garner all kinds of complaints by nine o’clock in the morning.
I stand and cuff him on the shoulder, intending to see if the other guys want to leave. “Yes, it’s good for you. But from the looks of things, I can see none of you agree with me. So what do you say we pack up and go?” There isn’t much here anyway. None of the kids showed up, and the band playing off to the side is giving me a headache. A throng of heavily-tattooed devotees are screaming around the make-shift stage, and the cheap spotlights and cheesy smoke machines make it hard to see.
A blast of cool air hits me in the back as a door slams behind me. I turn to seek out the source and eye a leggy blonde standing at the entrance. She shrugs out of her jacket, her
jacket—an awful cotton-candy hue with a ring of fur around the collar. It covers her outfit except for a tiny strip of black material sneaking out of the hem. A skirt in the most liberal term, since it barely covers her butt.