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“Fine. I’ve already sent in for Tessa’s passport, so I assume you’ll be fine without her while she enjoys visiting England for the first time as Kim’s companion?”

I drop the bottle to the floor. It can stay there this time.

“You what?” I stare at him. He’s fucking with me—he has to be.

He leans against the island and crosses his arms. “I sent in her application and paid for it the moment I found out about the wedding. She’ll have to go downtown to finalize it and get her picture taken, but I’ve done the rest.”

I’m fuming. I can feel myself heating up. “Why would you even do that? That’s not even legal.” Like I give a fuck if it’s legal . . .

“Because I knew you’d be a stubborn asshole about the entire thing, and I also knew that she was the only shot I had to get you to go. This is important to your mum, and she’s been worried that you won’t go.”

“She’s right to be worried. You two think you can use Tessa to bully me into going to fucking England? Fuck both you and my mum.” I open his refrigerator to grab another bottle of water just to be a dick, but he kicks it closed with his foot.

“Look, I know you’ve had a shit life, okay? So did I, so I get it. But you won’t be talking to me the way you talk to your parents.”

“Then stop trying to meddle in my goddamned life the way they do.”

“I’m not meddling. You know damn well that Tessa would love to go to that wedding, and you also know that you’ll feel like an asshole if you deprive her of the opportunity for your own selfish reasons. You may as well get over being mad at me and thank me for making your week much easier.”

I stare at him for a few moments to take in what he is saying. He’s half right: I’ve already started to feel bad for not wanting to go to the wedding. The only reason being that I know how much Tessa would love to go. She’s already pouted about it enough tonight, and it’s been wearing on my mind.

“I’ll take your silence as a thank-you.” Vance smirks, and I roll my eyes.

“I don’t want this to become a thing.”

“What? The wedding?”

“Yeah. How can I take her to another wedding and watch her eyes get all doelike and watery only to have to remind her that she won’t ever have that?”

Christian’s fingers tap against his chin. “Ahh, I see.” His smile grows. “That’s what this is about, then? You don’t want her getting any ideas?”

“No. She already has the ideas. The woman’s mind is full of ideas—that’s the problem.”

“Why would it be a problem? You don’t want her to make an honest man out of you?” Though he’s taunting me, I’m glad to see that he isn’t holding a grudge against me for my rude remarks only minutes ago. This is why I sort of like Vance: he’s not as touchy as my father.

“Because it’s not going to happen, and she’s one of those crazy women who bring the shit up like a month after dating. She literally broke up with me because I said I wouldn’t marry her. She’s batshit crazy sometimes.”

Vance chuckles and takes a sip of the water meant for his Kimberly. Tessa is waiting on me to bring her water, too; I need to tie this conversation up. It’s already been too long, too personal, for my liking.

“Consider yourself lucky that she wants that with you. You aren’t exactly the easiest guy to be around. And if anyone knows that, it’s her.”

I begin to ask him what the fuck he even knows about my relationship, but then I quickly remember that he’s engaged to the biggest mouth in Seattle. Scratch that, the entire state of Washington . . . perhaps even the entire United States of—

“Am I right?” He interrupts my thoughts about his obnoxious woman.

“Yes, but still. It’s ridiculous to think about marriage at all, especially when she’s not even twenty.”

“This is coming from the man who doesn’t want her more than three feet away from him at any given time?”

“Asshole,” I gripe.

“It’s true.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re not an asshole.”

“Perhaps. I do find it amusing, though, that you don’t intend on marrying her but you can’t seem to control your temper or anxiety when it comes to losing her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I don’t think I want to know the answer to this question, but it’s too late now.

Vance’s eyes meet mine. “Your anxiety . . . it’s at its highest when you’re worried about her leaving you or when another man pays any attention to her.”

“Who says I have anxie—”

But the stubborn goat ignores me and continues on. “You know what helps a hell of a lot when it comes to both of those things?”

“What’s that?”

“A ring.” He holds up his hand and touches the bare finger where a wedding band will soon rest.

“Oh my fuck—she’s gotten to you, too! What did she do, pay you off?” I laugh at the idea. It’s not exactly too far-fetched, considering Tessa’s obsession with marriage and her charm.

“No, you twat!” He throws the cap of the water bottle at me. “It’s the truth. Imagine being able to say she’s yours and have it be true. Now it’s only words, an empty boast to other men who will want her—and trust me, they will—but when Tessa’s your wife, it’s real. That’s when it’s fucking real, and it couldn’t be more satisfying, especially for overly paranoid men like you and me.”