For the first stop on the “What Happened in Vegas??” Blog Hop, I want to highlight my favorite LGBT-focused charity: Lost-N-Found Youth. Based here in Atlanta, LNFY focuses on providing housing and support services to homeless LGBT youth, many of whom have been kicked out by their parents over sexuality. Even if you don’t live near enough to participate in any of their fundraising events, you can support LNFY’s efforts by donating through the website.
Thank you also to Sarah M. Anderson for the beta!
I Married the Best Man
By Shae Connor
The pillow smelled wrong.
When I started to wake up, that was my clue that things were off. I had my face smushed sideways into a wad of cotton, as usual, but instead of the soft scent of lilac from the fabric softener I loved, I smelled bleach and alcohol.
Then I realized the alcohol fumes were coming from me.
I pried one eye open and squinted against the light cutting through the dimness of the room. A hotel room, that much I figured out. But where? And how did I get here?
Something—or someone—moved on the other side of the bed, and before I could form a thought, I was on my feet, back against the wall, eyes wide open.
And, as I realized a second later, butt-ass naked.
“Jesus Christ.” I scrambled to the bathroom and grabbed a towel to wrap around my waist while I tried to find clothes and figure out what the hell happened. My head pounded and my mouth was dry, in the way they usually were the night after I’d had too much to drink, but it didn’t feel like I’d had sex. That usually came with a fairly obvious set of body aches and twinges the morning after. But if I didn’t fuck the guy, then why was I in bed with him?
It wasn’t until I went to grab a pair of slacks off the floor—I hoped they were mine—that a glint of metal on my left hand caught my eye.
I froze and stared at the silver band around my ring finger.
“What. The. Hell!”
My screech roused the person in the bed, who grunted as he rolled over and lifted his head. It took me a moment to make the connection. Holden Burrell had been the best man at the wedding last night, the one that had been my last as wedding planner before a hard-earned two-week vacation. I’d been booked solid since Nevada legalized same-sex marriage late last year, and the Supreme Court decision in June had only ramped up my already packed schedule.
So that explained who he was. No idea how he ended up here. And especially not what happened for me to end up with what looked a hell of a lot like a wedding ring on my finger.
Holden coughed. “Neal?” He rasped out the question. “What’s going on?”
“You…. I….” I sputtered helplessly, no clue where to begin. Thankfully, Holden came to the same realization I did, because his shoulders jerked, and then he stared down at his hand.
“Did we get married last night?”
After his outburst, Holden blinked at the ring on his finger for a good thirty seconds before he lifted his head. “I’m gonna need coffee before we deal with this.”
Two quick showers, a trip downstairs (by Holden, doing a walk of shame in last night’s suit pants and shirt), and two Ventis from the Starbucks in the lobby later, we were back to the whole marriage question.
“There’s gotta be a license,” I told him as he walked back in. “I mean, quickie weddings may be a Vegas specialty, but you still have to do the paperwork. And I can’t find anything.”
Holden handed over my quad-shot latte and surveyed the room, eyebrows drawn together, as he took a long drag from his cup. Then his expression cleared and he headed for the tiny closet next to the bathroom. I had glanced in during my frantic search and didn’t see anything, but apparently I hadn’t looked far enough. Holden reached in and pulled out his suit jacket from the night before.
He set down his coffee and slid his hand into an inside pocket, coming back out with a folded piece of paper. He flipped it open one-handed.
“Well,” he said, tone flat. “I guess congratulations are in order, Mr. Samson-Burrell.”
I snatched the paper out of his hand and studied the form. Our names, signatures, yesterday’s date, various other personal information (apparently he’s six months younger than me), and the name and autograph of the person who performed the ceremony.
Complete, legal, and too fucked up for words.
“This isn’t a problem.” I hadn’t spent the last seven years getting couples happily hitched without learning a few behind-the-scenes shortcuts. “I’ll call a judge I know. We’ll get the annulment paperwork filed first thing—”
My mouth snapped shut. Dammit. He was right. And that meant no matter what, we’d have to stay married for at least another twenty-four hours.
Holden pulled up another chair and sat. “Look. I know this is insane. But we’re stuck for the day. Why not make the most of it?”
Against my will, my eyes flicked back to the bed and then to him. He laughed. “Not that.” He lifted an eyebrow and ran his gaze over my body like a touch. “Not that I’d object, you understand. I just mean, since we’re stuck with what amounts to a one-day honeymoon, let’s have fun with it. Play tourist. Eat too much at a buffet, lose some money in a casino, see a show.” He nudged my arm with an elbow. “When’s the last time you did any of that?”
“I….” I didn’t know what to say. He was right, of course. Again. I hadn’t done any of the kitschy touristy stuff in Vegas for years. Probably the last time my sister visited from Minneapolis, when we saw Cirque du Solei and she learned to play craps—badly.
But I’d taken a week off, and while I hadn’t planned anything in particular to do—doing nothing was kind of the point—I didn’t have an objection. I could have some silly fun, call the judge in the morning, and then get on with my life.
And maybe I could have some of that other kind of fun too.
My mouth suddenly dry at the thought, I swallowed. “Um, sure, I guess.” I shrugged. “I…. Are you staying here?” I looked around. “I mean, I don’t know whose hotel room this is….”
“Neither do I.” Holden frowned at the institutional-chic design. “I assume we checked in last night. I guess we should check out first, then go home to change and meet back up?”
I glanced over at the alarm clock on the bedside table. “Is an hour enough time? It’s just ten, so we could have an early lunch.”
“Perfect.” He pushed to his feet, and I followed suit automatically. “How about Caesars? I mean, if we’re going for the touristy buffet thing.”
I snorted out a laugh. “That certainly fits the bill.”
An hour later, out of my oh-so-wrinkled suit and into a much more reasonable pair of cropped pants and a v-neck t-shirt, I stepped out of the wilting heat and through the front doorway of Caesars Palace. I shoved my sunglasses on top of my heat and took a left toward the restaurant, one of several inside the huge casino-slash-hotel but probably the one that got the most foot traffic from visitors. This early on Sunday morning—relatively speaking, considering how late Vegas nightlife ran—the crowds would be minimal.
I saw Holden waiting next to the restaurant entrance. He looked… hot. Jeans, loafers, a snug-fitting black v-neck t-shirt with his sunglasses hooked into the neckline. He saw me approaching and smiled wide enough to make me stumble.
Damn. If I was going to wake up married to someone, at least I’d picked someone who looked like that.
“I don’t know about you,” he said as he waved me inside, “but I am freaking starving.”
And just like that, it was easy. Almost too easy. We chatting about nothing over lunch, hit the casino floor for a while to blow some cash on the slot machines, and then headed across to the Bellagio to watch the fountains while we debated which show to see. With my instruction, Holden bought tickets through a last-minute discount site for the showgirl revue at Bally’s. Longest-running Vegas show, after all, and what could be more touristy than that?
Didn’t hurt that it had showboys, too.
Evening plans decided, we wandered the Strip, people-watching and pointing out random window displays. We hopped on a tour bus and took it north so we could walk through the Fremont Street Experience, which I’d only done once before, mostly by accident. We stopped for bottles of water a few times, paying far too much but mindful as only desert residents are of how quickly the heat can dehydrate.
Late in the afternoon, back in the heart of the Strip, Holden stopped in front of a random building and gave me a huge grin. “What do you think?”
I looked in the direction he nodded and rolled my eyes at the flashing sign. “Madame Tussad’s? Really?”
“C’mon,” he wheedled, nudging my arm with his elbow. “It’s totally goofy and completely a touristy thing to do. Let’s go pose with some fake celebs.”
So we did. As locals, we got cheap tickets—relatively speaking, at least—and we laughed our way through the museum. I took shots with wax-Rhianna and wax-Gaga, Holden with wax-Muhammad Ali, and we both posed, sneers at the ready, with wax-Elvis-in-leather.
By the time we spilled back onto the sidewalk, my stomach hurt from laughing. I hadn’t had that much fun in… well, I didn’t know how long.
Holden pulled out his phone and lifted his sunglasses to squint at the display. “Almost six,” he proclaimed. “Just enough time to grab a drink before the show.”
“Lead the way.” I waved an arm, but instead of just heading off, Holden cocked his head to one side, grinned, and reached for my hand.
“So I was thinking,” he said as we started walking, his manner completely nonchalant, as if the feel of his fingers entwined with mine wasn’t doing all sorts of weird things to my body. “After the show, we should pick up some greasy burgers somewhere and take them back to my place for dinner. I’ve got a six-pack of Shock Top, and you can either crash there after, or I’ll spring for a cab to get you home.”
I attempted to sound cool and collected when I replied. “Sounds good. But I’ll get the cab. No biggie.”
I was suddenly hoping that the cab wouldn’t be needed.
The show was typical Las Vegas over-the-top glitz, with lots of jiggling breasts—I might be gay, but I can appreciate a nice rack—and some pretty hot guys to ogle. We filed out with the rest of the crowd afterward, shooting innuendo-laden comments back and forth until we couldn’t hold back the giggles any longer.
“Okay, so I parked right down the block,” Holden finally managed once we were on the sidewalk. He pointed away from the Strip. “Where are you?”
“Grabbed a shuttle, actually.” I shrugged. “There’s a stop less than a block from my place that drops off at the Bellagio. Pretty handy for getting down here.”
“Niiiiice.” Holden reached for my hand again and started in the direction he’d pointed. “Any preferences for dinner?”
Right then, I would’ve been fine with skipping dinner and going right to bed, but I refrained. “Since we’re playing tourist,” I said, “In-N-Out seems appropriate.”
“Perfect.” He squeezed my hand. “Double-doubles and fries and shakes and enough calories for a week and a half, coming right up!”
“Ugh.” I pushed away the last of my fries—all four of the ones I had left—and leaned back in my chair. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
Holden snorted. “That’s what he said.”
I grabbed one of the fries and lobbed it at his head. “Bad. Just bad.”
He grinned around his straw and took one last noisy slurp. “So,” he said after swallowing. “We’ve hit most of the tourist highlights. It’s almost eleven at night, and the courthouse doesn’t open for another nine hours. Any other ideas?”
We stared at each other for a few long moments. I had plenty of ideas, but I wasn’t all that sure how well they’d be received.
Then Holden pushed his chair back, spread his legs a little, and lifted an eyebrow at me.
I took the invitation. I stood and strolled over to stand between his knees. “I don’t know about you,” I murmured, “but I can get a lot done in nine hours.”
He grinned and reached for me with both hands.
When I woke up the next morning, the pillow smelled unfamiliar, but I knew exactly whose warm weight lay against my back. I didn’t want to consider just how good it felt to have Holden wrapped around me, bare skin pressed together, his soft breath ruffling the hair behind my ear.
I didn’t want to get out of bed. I knew once we started the day, we’d have to deal with reality, not the little fantasy honeymoon we’d carved out of our messed-up marriage. We’d have to call the judge, fill out paperwork, probably answer embarrassing questions….
“Quit thinking so hard.”
Holden’s gravely voice sent shivers down my body. “It’s morning,” I pointed out in reply, though I didn’t move. “Our honeymoon is over.”
“Mmph.” Holden buried his mouth in the crook between my neck and shoulder and mumbled something equally unintelligible.
“What?” I tried to twist to face him, but he tightened his arm around me.
“What if we don’t?”
I frown. “Don’t what? Get out of bed? We kind of have to at some point.”
He huffed out a breath. “I mean…. What if we don’t get an annulment?”
He rushed the question out so fast it took me a few seconds to parse it. My eyes widened. “You mean—stay married?” My voice squeaked a little at the end.
I felt him nod against my shoulder. “We know we like each other. We got along great yesterday, even though things were kind of weird. And, well….” He slid his fingers lower, so they brushed the top edge of my pubic hair. “The chemistry’s pretty good.”
Understatement of the century there. But I couldn’t believe he was actually proposing what I thought he was proposing.
“So you think we should…?”
“Stay married,” he finished. He shifted on the bed, pushing me gently onto my back so he could look down at me. “I mean, I’d date you anyway. I should’ve asked you out sooner, but we were both so busy with the wedding planning stuff. So why not just… date now? See how things go? If they go well, we’ll already be married.”
My heart pounded at the implications. “And what if they don’t?”
He let out a breath again. “Then we get the annulment and move on with our lives.”
I stared up at him, studying his face, looking for any hint of insincerity. I didn’t see it. He looked curious, cautious, maybe even a little…hopeful?
What the hell.
I lifted my head until our mouths were a bare inch apart.
One year later…
“And now, by the power invested in me by the state of Nevada, I pronounce you married.” Our officiant, Elise, grinned and winked at us. “You may kiss to seal your vows.”
Holden bent to bring our mouths together in a soft but lingering kiss, and I let my eyes fall shut at the familiar taste of him. The three of us—Elise, who’d performed the actual marriage a year earlier, plus Holden and I—were the only ones who knew the ceremony we’d just finished was mostly for show. The day was officially our one-year anniversary, but I wasn’t the only one who wanted the full package deal, so we kept our little secret so we could have the big wedding.
Though I imagine some wondered why we’d chosen to get married on a Sunday.
Our audience clapped and cheered, and holding hands, we turned to face them, looking sharp as hell, if I do say so myself, in our matching gray suits and complementary shirts and ties (medium and dark blues for him, dark and light pinks for me). We’d kept things relatively small, at least by the standards my clients tend to set, but we still had a good hundred people in attendance.
We headed down the aisle to more cheers and a few comments and laughter, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. We’d be spending the next three nights at the hotel—in a honeymoon suite, no less—but the next few hours would be pure celebration.
The year had been interesting, that’s for sure. I hadn’t been going around recommending to my clients that they put the cart before the horse like we did, but starting out married gave us a pretty strong incentive to make things work. We knew we had the raw ingredients for a good relationship. Knowing we’d have to do more than just break up to end it gave us focus.
Being married also took some of the pressure off. I’d read an article once about how you could create love, or speed it along, by practicing certain intimate gestures. Not sexual things, but things like looking into each other’s eyes for long periods of time. We didn’t do anything that, but because we were already committed—on paper, at least—we focused on learning about each other beyond the usual early-relationship getting-to-know-you stuff.
It took us less than four months for us to fall in love. Madly, deeply, forever love.
One year down. As many as we can squeeze in still to go.
I really did marry the best man.
About the Author: Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at shaeconnorwrites.com.