Time has no meaning. Apparently the brain cells are dying off so f**king fast, only short, disjointed moments make it into my actual memory. Like pictures taken with an old Polaroid camera.
As far as I can tell, most of the patrons at Paradise have taken their leave—and my bachelor party has more or less taken over the club.
There’s Jack’s face, just inches from mine, his mouth open, tongue hanging out, yelling, “Waaaassssuuuuuppppppp?!” There are Steven and Matthew, behind the bar, throwing bottles to one another, pretending to be Tom Cruise doing the Hippy Hippy Shake. There’s Warren, getting striptease lessons from a dancer—trying to swing around the pole and falling.
Like that guy needs another blow to the head.
Then there’s all of us—onstage—my arm thrown around Warren’s shoulder as we belt out “Making Love out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply, while Steven, Matthew, and Jack sing backup.
When the fog clears next, I’m at the bar, my cheek resting sloppily on my hand. Sitting next to me is the dark-haired stripper who rode me onstage. I know I should know her name, but I can’t remember it. She’s talking animatedly—her hands moving as fast as her mouth. I only hear every third word or so.
I look at the bottle that’s on the bar next to me. It’s about three-quarters empty. I shrug—bring the bottle to my lips—and just manage to take a drink. A little of the red liquid trickles down my chin and soaks into my shirt. That’s embarrassing—I’ve never been a sloppy drunk.
“. . . so, you’re okay with that, right, Drew?”
Hearing my name gets my attention, and I turn toward the sound. Like a dog. “Huh?”
She smiles. “I don’t usually do this, but you guys are a lot of fun.”
I agree. “Yeps . . . tha’s usss. We’re the GT . . . yeah . . .”
With a compassionate smile, she hops off her barstool. “Take it easy with that stuff, handsome.”
I try to hold up two thumbs—the universal sign for It’s all good—but my fingers don’t cooperate. I hold up all ten instead.
She laughs, gives me a high five, and walks away. I sit for a moment. Then—because that’s the f**king genius I am—I decide I want to play darts. I drag myself off the bar stool in search of a game.
This won’t end well.
Sometime later—could be three hours or thirty minutes—I realize I’m sitting in a chair, at one of the back poker tables. Five cards are in my hand and a stack of chips is next to me.
I can’t feel my face—and for a moment, I fear it might have fallen the f**k off. I slap my cheeks.
Still there. Awesome.
Across the table, Matthew holds his own cards in his hand. Behind him, a statuesque blonde in a black mesh body stocking is rubbing his shoulders, giving him a massage while he plays. Next to Matthew is Steven. He also has cards in his hand . . . and a hot Asian chick on his lap.
Both seem to be at shitfaced level, so . . . that explains a lot.
On the stage, Billy Warren strums a guitar he must have pulled out of his ass, singing “Mandy” by Barry Manilow.
My phone vibrates, but when I try to fish it out of my pocket, it jumps out of my hands and onto the floor. I push my chair back and get on my knees under the table to look for it. I find the slippery bastard, but when I start to stand back up, my eyes land on the bar.
And there is the one of the most glorious sights I have ever seen.
She’s in jeans and a T-shirt and her back’s to me, but I still know—I’m certain—it’s her. I’m so f**king relieved, I kind of get a little choked up. I can’t explain why, but it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve seen her—goddamn ages. Like so much has happened.
I’ve missed her. And now she’s here.
They must have come here to surprise us. What a great surprise! I pull myself up and stumble forward. I wrap my arms around her from behind, pulling her close against my chest. I bury my face in her neck, in her hair, and breathe her in—enjoying the soothing wonder of being surrounded by all things Kate.
Somewhere, in my Pandora-marinated brain, I recognize that Kate smells . . . different.
But I brush it off. Because I’m too stupidly happy to give a shit about something so trivial.
I lick my lips and put all my energy into not slurring my words as I whisper in her ear, “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s just . . . leave. You and me. They won’t notice we’re gone. I don’t care about any of this stuff—I just want to be with you. I want to go back to the hotel and invent new ways to make you come.”
My eyes close, and I skim my nose against her cheek. My hand finds Kate’s chin and I turn her face toward me. So I can taste her, so I can press my lips to hers and show her how badly I want her—how much I need her.
But before our lips meet . . .
There’s a crashing sound in the distance. A commotion. And a Bitchy-sounding voice calls out, “Oh, hell no . . .”
My eyes are still closed, and without warning my equilibrium does a 180. Then I’m falling. Into total darkness.
Do you see that guy on the bed? The one with the grayish, clammy skin, wearing last night’s wrinkled clothes? Nope, it’s not a corpse. That’s me—Drew Evans.
Not my best look, I admit. But it’s the morning after. The time when the piper gets paid. Someone should take my picture—it’d make a great antidrinking billboard. “This is what stupid looks like, kids.”