CharlotteWhat was Liam McCarthy doing at a bachelorette party, dressed as a—
Liam was the “talent,” as Bridget had called the stripper team coming at 9 p.m. I’d done plenty of sex toy parties, and bachelorette soirees were top on the list for buying all sorts of devices. Especially fortysomething third-time brides, because their friends weren’t, um…shy. Get a group of twentysomethings together to go through the catalogue and you get loads of snickers and self-conscious giggles.
Gather them twenty years later and you get stories, reviews, and evaluations. These women knew their battery-powered love.
Liam. Just looking at him made my heart pound so hard it could be a pulse setting on a shower spray. Jesus. I hadn’t seen Liam in five years.
My hand went instinctively to my belly. I snatched it away like it was on fire. Five years ago Liam McCarthy got me pregnant and dumped me the moment I told him.
Over the phone.
And now I was seeing him for the first time since that pivotal call, the second-worst moment of my life.
When I miscarried in my dorm bathroom at college five weeks later.
“Charlotte!” Sybil McCarthy’s shout pierced the air. This party was the first time she’d spoken to me in five years. Too much of my past was roaring forward right now. The buzz of vibrators on the kitchen linoleum faded as she dipped her perfectly coiffed head and hissed in my ear.
“Did you and Liam plan this?”
“Plan what?” My voice dripped with contempt. I couldn’t help it. My hands started to shake, and a thick wall of white rage filled my chest. She’d never called. Never said a word. Shunned me if we walked past each other at the grocery store or at a town event.Me. The woman who’d carried her grandchild for a short time. All too short.
A wave of pain shot through my belly, almost folding me in half. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction, though. I forced myself to stand even taller, dwarfing her by a good half foot. Liam had loved that about me—the freakish, six-foot-tall girl was a perfect match for Mr. Nordic.
Sybil seemed taken aback. She expected meek little Charlotte from years ago, didn’t expect to be challenged. Tough shit, lady. I bled your grandchild out into a toilet in a 1920s dorm on campus without any help. You don’t get any respect from me.
“Plan…this. It’s quite…” She chuckled without mirth, searching for the right words. “… unorthodox for you to be selling dildos while Liam is the beefcake.”
“Sybil,” I said coldly, flashing a smile and giving another partygoer my index finger, asking her to hang on, “I haven’t seen Liam in five years. You’ve treated me like a piece of radioactive dog shit every time I got within one hundred feet of you in town. I hardly think I’m about to sabotage one of the biggest parties I’ve had in this business so I can ogle a man who did what he did to me.”
I walked three steps before she yanked, hard, on my hand. I stumbled, my eyes catching Liam’s just as she pulled me back.
“What he did to you?” she said hoarsely. “What you did to him was so disgusting. A high school senior who—”
Liam’s voice cut through her rant just as my hand itched, pulled up nice and tight to deck her.
“Let her go, Mom.”
Titters rippled through the crowd. “Mom?” they whispered.
“I will not let her rewrite history, Liam," she hissed.
His cold eyes took us both in, and he took a deep breath. Thirty sets of female eyes were on him now, and even in my white wall of rage I could see how amazing he was. The boy with so much promise from five years ago had filled out into a giant, cut-marble statue of a man. He exuded masculinity, and even my shallow breaths infused me with his musk, a mixture of soap, aftershave, sweat, and something else that made every part of my body want to press against his.
He reached up to his neckline and a ragged ripping sound filled the room as his uniform peeled off and he stood there in a g-string that was so tiny it might as well have been Rob Ford’s chances of becoming prime minister.
And then Liam McCarthy showed me just how much of a man he’d become.
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