“You almost ready?” My roommate, Liam, stands in the doorway of my bedroom chugging a beer. Both dressed in suits, we’re ready to go to the wedding reception our friend Hunter invited us to. His brother, Hayden, is finally getting married to his high school sweetheart, Savannah, and that’s definitely something to celebrate. Plus, free booze.
I straighten my tie, then look at him through the mirror. “Yeah, gimme two minutes.”
He nods and walks off with his nearly empty bottle. I hear the glass clank into the trash can in the kitchen. I sit on the bed and slide on my dress shoes before running my fingers through my hair. I scrub a hand over my face as I yawn, needing to wake up, though I’m exhausted from a long ass week. Between working for my dad at the District Attorney’s office and training in the testing lab, I have minimal free time, but it’ll be well worth it when I’m officially a forensic investigator in the fall.
After tucking my wallet into my back pocket, I meet Liam in the living room where he’s lounging on the couch. Once he notices me and I nod at him that I’m good to go, he stands to follow me, then locks the front door.
“Think Sophie will even talk to us tonight?” Liam asks, frowning. When we met her three years ago, she and Liam became instant friends. Hunter’s engaged to one of her sisters, and they’ve both been in our inner circle for years. I wish I could say our friendship has been great, but the only way to describe it would be rocky and unpredictable, which is mostly my fault for how I treated her.
We’re both a bit tense about seeing everyone tonight. Our group of friends hasn’t hung out in a while, mostly because Sophie’s been avoiding everyone. She didn’t appreciate the way Liam and I tried to warn her about Weston, her douchebag boyfriend, over a month ago and has pretty much written us off. The guy is a maniac who I’d punch out again if the situation presented itself. Love has blinded her from seeing his manipulative ways. I care a lot about her, but she doesn’t see that. She hates me right now.
Soon, we’re across town and pulling into the parking lot at the reception hall. It’s early evening, and the party’s supposed to last all night. Though I’d rather be in my bed, recovering from this long ass week, I’ve been looking forward to seeing everyone and celebrating.
“Think she’ll bring that fuckwad?” I ask since she and Liam are always texting each other. If she wasn’t with Weston, I’d assume they were secretly dating, but I know he really has a thing for Maddie, Sophie and Lennon’s youngest sister, though he’d never admit it. Most days, he acts as if she doesn’t exist, which drives her insane.
“Well, he didn’t come to Hunter and Lennon’s proposal so who knows. He’ll probably be ‘working’ again. After you punched him out last month, I really don’t know what to expect. Sophie hasn’t been responding to my text messages lately,” he admits, which worries me even more.
We head toward the entrance where the music’s already blaring. As soon as we walk in, I see Hunter across the room smiling. Almost instantly, Liam gets distracted by a tall blonde and leads her to the bar. The dude is a chick magnet, always has been.
Shaking my head, I walk over to where everyone is sitting and smile when I meet up with Hunter and Lennon who’s holding Alison, their six-month old baby. Maddie forces a grin, but I can tell she’s annoyed. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it’s probably because she’s spotted Liam at the bar flirting with Blondie. I hold back a chuckle, knowing it all stems from jealousy, and settle for a smirk, which causes her to groan. Subtle is not her strong suit. She’s made it known she wants Liam, yet he continues to ignore her at all costs.
Deciding I need a drink, I order a beer from the bar, then look around. “So where’s the third musketeer?” I ask Lennon and Maddie when I don’t see Sophie.
Lennon glances down at her phone and shrugs, her smile slightly faltering. It’s not lost on me that she’s supposed to be here right now. Her phone dings moments later, and Lennon announces Sophie’s finally on her way, and she is going to wait for her in the hallway. Lennon hands the baby off to Maddie, then Hunter follows Lennon out of the room. Sipping my beer, I narrow my eyes on Maddie, knowing I’ll get the truth from her.
“Has Sophie talked to you lately?” I’m being direct, but I noticed the way Lennon tensed when I asked where she was. If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that these Corrigan sisters are terrible liars.
“Not much, honestly. She’s been avoiding us. But you already know that.” Maddie puts her attention back on the baby, and I can tell she wants to change the subject. They’re all being strange and walking on eggshells, which gives me a bad feeling.
I grind my teeth, holding back what I really want to say about Weston. All I’ve ever wanted is for Sophie to be happy and in a relationship she deserves. Something I can’t give her regardless of our past. When we met, I was still too damaged and needed more time to heal. Sophie’s a forever girl, but I could only give her one night. Now she’s taken, and while I miss her being around, I’m concerned about her well-being more than anything.
The moment Sophie started dating him, things changed. She moved in with him only three months into their relationship, and that’s when s**t got worse. I didn’t trust him, and rightfully so, but instead of listening, she accused me of being jealous. Though I wish I could’ve been what she needed, that wasn’t my reason for snooping into this guy’s background.
Before I can ask Maddie more questions, Liam walks over and joins us, the blonde long gone, which Maddie notices. Though Liam tries to act like a hard-ass most of the time, I notice how his face softens when he sees Maddie holding Allie.
A moment later, my eyes land on Weston as he forcefully drags Sophie into the ballroom. My nostrils flare as I watch the scene unfold in front of me. The way he jerks her around infuriates the f**k out of me. After confronting him a month ago, and the way he responded, I know how bad this guy is for her, dangerous even.
Hunter and Lennon walk back to our table as I keep my eyes on Weston and watch him pull Sophie to the bar. The greedy asshole orders two drinks for himself as Sophie keeps her head down. She doesn’t order anything, and that alone is strange because we’ve partied with the girls dozens of times, and she usually has at least one. Sophie turns toward us and briefly makes eye contact with me long enough for me to see straight through her façade. My chest aches at her expression, all happiness gone from her soul.
I notice her eye is swollen and red though she’s tried to cover it with makeup. My jaw clenches at the thought of him hitting her. Hunter glances at me, and I stiffen, causing Liam to zero in on Sophie and Weston, who are having a not-so-quiet argument. Her voice is hushed while his is loud, and I can tell she’s embarrassed by the attention he’s bringing to them. She frowns, and it’s obvious she’s trying to ignore him, but he’s not having it.
Eventually, Sophie comes over to our table, leaving her dickhead boyfriend at the bar. As soon as she’s away from him, Lennon takes the opportunity to grab Sophie and takes Allie and Maddie with her to the ladies’ bathroom, knowing damn well Weston wouldn’t be ballsy as f**k to follow them there.
“Lennon’s going to get her to open up. Don’t worry,” Hunter tells me, but I barely hear him. I’m microfocused on Weston, who’s snarling at me before he chugs a beer. He may not be saying a damn word, but his body language is screaming to test him, and I want to get in his face the way he got in Sophie’s.
Liam crosses his arms over his chest and warns me. “Don’t, Mason. Not the time or place.”
“Did you see Sophie’s face?” I hiss, looking back and forth between the two of them. “He f*****g hit her.” My jaw clenches, remembering the threat he promised when Liam and I got in his face last time.
Hunter frowns with a short nod.
“I’ve seen way too many domestic cases, and she has the signs written all over her. The way he jerked her toward the bar and how she cowered around him makes it more than obvious,” I say, my voice shaking with anger. Manipulation combined with a controlling personality can lead to abuse or even worse.
Her boyfriend orders another beer before stumbling over to the table. “What are you looking at, you p***y ass b***h?” His voice is wrapped in arrogance. “Wanna try me again?”
My brows shoot up. The f*****g audacity. He’s goddamn lucky we’re in a public place right now, or I’d lay him flat on his back.
Liam steps in the way, hovering over Weston like a statue to put space between us. Considering he’s built like the Hulk and was a bouncer through college, he’s the last person anyone wants to fight.
The music in the room seems to fade away, and all I can hear is my heart pumping blood through my body. Hunter tries to calm the situation, but it’s already been escalated. The last thing I want to do is ruin Hayden and Savannah’s reception, so I step back.
Weston lets out a maniacal laugh and raises his voice, garnering the attention of some of the guests. He’s intoxicated and insane. “Where’s my w***e at? I’m ready to get the f**k out of this lame ass party.”
Hunter stiffens, and I can tell he’s ready to kick him out. When Weston looks at me again, I see how bloodshot his eyes are. The fact that he’s already shit-faced makes me fear what Sophie has already dealt with today. Sophie’s reclusion and not acting like herself makes so much sense. She’s afraid of him, of what he’ll do, and the bruises on her face and swollen eye are proof of that. My nostrils flare, and I clench my teeth, anger mixing with my adrenaline. Balling my hands into fists, I try to calm down, but I want to kick this motherfucker’s face inside out.
“Did you hit her?” I ask flat out. I’m not gonna play games with him.
“What the f**k is it to you?” He steps around Liam and gives me an evil grin. Then he steps closer, lowering his voice. “And I’ll do it again if she gets in my way.” Then he slams his palms against my chest, causing me to stumble back slightly before he walks out of the room, laughing. Though I shouldn’t allow my emotions to take over, I stalk after him. Hunter and Liam follow me into the hallway.
“Hey!” I shout from behind Weston as he exits the main doors that lead outside. Once I’m outside, I continue, “Don’t you ever lay another f*****g hand on her,” I warn him with Hunter and Liam standing behind me.
“Or what?” He spins around and faces us. “What are you assholes really gonna do about it? Push me around again, you p***y? Pfft. You should mind your own damn business or else...” Weston sizes me up and straightens his shoulders as if he’s ready for a brawl. Unfortunately for him, I know how to fight, having had a boxing trainer for years. I may be slender, but my hands and body are weapons.
“You like punching so much, why don’t you actually punch someone your own size?”
“That all you got?” He stumbles as he takes a step closer.
“Don’t make me have to tell you again. This is your official warning: you touch her again, and you’ll be dealing with me.”
“With all of us,” Liam adds, stepping to my side with his arms crossed over his broad chest. He wasn’t a bar bouncer all through college for nothing.
Weston scoffs, rolling his eyes as if our threats mean nothing to him. He moves closer again, and the smell of alcohol oozes from him. “Keep it up, and she’ll be dead before you even have the chance to save her,” he says with zero emotion in his voice. His words immediately cause me to see red, and I lose control of my actions. My anger guides me forward, closing the gap between us, daring him to throw the first punch.