Lost In You - Chapter 3
Chapter 12 Preview: Impulsive and insecure Cooper Jackson accompanies her cousin to a wedding where she meets Sound Wave, a famous boy band.

Cooper escorted Joyce’s last client out of the house.  She glanced at the time, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.  She was flying out to Georgia that night for Ryan and Danielle’s wedding.  Her stomach was in knots the entire day.  She went back to her desk and started cleaning up before shutting down the computer.  She dropped a stack of papers and cursed herself before bending down to retrieve them.  Joyce bent down to help her gather the papers.

“I’ve been a klutz all day,” Cooper sighed.

She went to stand up, and hit her head on the desk.

“Ooh…” Joyce chuckled, as Cooper rubbed her head.  “Why are you so jumpy today?”

“I’m just trying to get everything done before I leave tonight.”

“Cooper, it’s fine.  Things are under control here.”

Joyce searched Cooper’s expressive face for a moment.  She had been thinking about what Matt had hinted at on New Year’s Eve.

“Are you sure there’s not something else bothering you?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know.  Are you and JT okay?”

“Oh, we’re fine,” she grinned.

“Is it Ryan?”

Cooper’s throat went dry.

“R¾Ryan?” she stuttered, trying to get the saliva back in her mouth.

“I know you two had a problem in the past.  You were interested in him, weren’t you?”

Cooper began straightening up the already neat desk, all the while tucking the same piece of hair behind her ear.

“Come here,” Joyce grabbed her wrist.  “Talk to me.”

She sat down on the couch, and pulled Cooper down next to her.

“JT knows you liked Ryan,” Joyce reminded her, remembering JT mentioning Ryan misleading Cooper.

“I know, but I don’t want him to think I still have a thing for Ryan.”

“Do you?”

“Uh¾no,” Cooper answered.  “No,” she said more confidently, “I love JT.”

Cooper never said those words aloud, but she was sure of them.  She cared for JT more than any man she had ever been with.

Joyce nodded, “Well, just be true to your feelings.  JT’s more understanding than you realize.”

All Cooper could do was nod.  Joyce was definitely like her own mother.  She couldn’t get anything by her.  Joyce knew there was something more going on with her; she also knew not to push her, though.

 

d

 

The sun spilled into the room through the open blinds.  Ryan’s almond-shaped eyes appeared closed still as he opened them.  He sat up in bed, and looked around the room.  His dachshund, Squirt, wiggled around the bed, excited his master was finally awake.

“Where’s Mommy?” he asked the dog.  Ryan always woke up later than Danielle, and hated the fact that she got up so early.  Sometimes he just wanted to wake up, and hold her in his arms, or fool around before the day started.

He glanced out the window for a moment, marveling at the sight of an elderly woman walking her dog in a winter coat, scarf and mittens.  It had been an unusually cold winter for Blue Ridge, Georgia.  Although, they did receive snow on occasion, with the mountains being near; it was never much of anything though, and there was never a need to bundle up.  This winter, however, brought on a fluke cold front.

Ryan didn’t bother putting a shirt on as he made his way down the stairs.  He walked into the kitchen, and Danielle was on the phone, talking in a rather snippy tone.  Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, and her outfit made her appear more like a business woman, rather than an elementary school teacher.

“Morning, baby.”

He went to kiss Danielle’s cheek, but she held her index finger up to him, and continued her phone conversation.  Ryan sighed, and sat on a stool.  He picked up a piece of bacon and nibbled on it.

“Don’t pick,” Danielle whispered.

Ryan rolled his eyes, and took another piece of bacon spitefully.  Danielle scowled at him as only a mother would.  Ryan received that look from her often, and usually he felt he didn’t deserve it.

“Who are you talking to at nine-am?”

“The bakery.”

“Baby, you called them twice this week.  Leave them alone.”

“Shh…” she silenced him before continuing to speak on the phone.

There was at least five minutes of her reiterating the cake details before Danielle finally hung up.

“Good morning,” Ryan said sarcastically, waiting for a greeting or a kiss of some sort.

“Would you stop picking and make yourself a plate?”

“Is there any coffee made?” Ryan asked getting up, and ignoring her comment.

“Coffee is bad for you.  Have some green tea.”

“I don’t like green tea,” he sighed.  “Do we have Earl Grey?”

“No, I read green tea¾”

“I don’t care what you read.  I don’t like green tea,” he gritted.

“My, aren’t we nasty this morning.”

“Me?  I’m nasty, Dani?” Ryan pointed at himself.  “I can’t believe my future wife won’t even say good morning to me.”

“I was on the phone!” Danielle screeched.

“I don’t care who you were on the phone with.  You could have given me a kiss or something.”

“Fine,” Danielle stuck her cheek out for Ryan to kiss.

Ryan just shook his head and grabbed another piece of bacon.

“Do I have to make a plate for you myself?” she yelled.

“I already have a mother.  I don’t want to marry her,” Ryan retorted before storming out of the kitchen.

 

d

 

The alarm clock went off in the hotel room in Blue Ridge.  JT and Cooper groaned simultaneously.  Their limbs stuck out of the blanket, and Cooper lifted her head.  JT pulled the blanket back from his head and busted out laughing.

“What?”

“Your hair!” he roared in laughter.

Cooper matted her hair down, hating that it was always a tangled mess in the morning.  She groaned before laying her head down on JT’s chest.  He ran his hand through her messy strands, and he caught a knot between his fingers.

“Ouch!”

“Sorry,” JT laughed harder as he carefully removed his hand from her hair.

“I’m going to take a shower and wash this hair,” she decided.

“Good.”

Cooper sat up in bed and put a t-shirt on.  JT just looked at her.

“Why do you always put clothes on when you get out of bed?”

She shrugged, “I feel naked.”

“Show it off, girl,” he winked.

Cooper laughed before going into the bathroom.  He is good for my ego, she thought.  She turned the shower on, and took the t-shirt off.  Once she was under the spray, she let the hot water run over her body.  She wondered how Ryan was feeling.  Was he nervous?  Was he confident?  Cooper sighed aloud.  Stop worrying about Ryan! She scolded herself.  Suddenly, the shower door opened and JT stepped inside.  She jumped, and he pulled her against him immediately.

JT found something in Cooper he hadn’t found in a long time.  He was comfortable with her.  He knew he could say or do just about anything, and she would laugh or think he was strange.  She made him feel good in every way possible.  JT needed that romantically, especially since Anna broke up with him.  He ruined his relationship only months before his wedding.  JT still kept in touch with Anna, though.  He couldn’t lose her completely.  With Cooper, he felt like he was getting another shot at a real relationship.

“I love you,” he said before kissing her so passionately that she held onto the shower wall as she kissed him back.

It was the first time JT said the words.  When their mouths released, Cooper grabbed his neck and backed him into the wall, kissing him again with the same amount of passion and lust.

Cooper never experienced such great sex with anyone else.  She never felt unsatisfied with JT, and she thought their relationship was like a sleazy romance novel most of the time.  He was forceful and tender when needed.  He was a true romantic, and any girl would get wrapped up in his charms.  He had a big heart, and Cooper knew he was someone special.  That was good enough for her.

“I love you, too.”

 

d

 

The country club bustled with waiters and waitresses setting places.  Ryan sipped a mimosa as he stared out at the golf course through the French doors to the balcony.  Thankfully the snow held out.  Blue Ridge didn’t receive snow too often, but the forecast called for it the next couple of days.  The trees were barren, and the air was chilled, but not quite winter’s strength.  Ryan always enjoyed Georgia’s mild winters.  Hot chocolate, tents and campfires were fond memories from his childhood.  He shut his eyes and allowed his mind to take him back there for just a second.

“Honey…” Danielle called to him.

He whirled around.

“This is my dearest friend, Samantha.”

A brunette that Ryan recognized from pictures Danielle had shown him stood there.

“Hello, it’s nice to finally meet you,” he smiled cheekily at her.

“You too.  Dani’s told me all about you,” Samantha returned his smile.

Danielle escorted Samantha away babbling something about showing her what she wants to do with the house.  Ryan looked down at his drink and took another sip.  Sometimes he felt as if Danielle weren’t really in love with him, but the idea of him.  He had the right religion, money, image, and values.  Sometimes he even wondered if he would really love Danielle if she were missing some of those things as well.

Do I still have doubts? Ryan wondered.

“There’s my favorite baby brother!” John cheered.

Ryan downed his drink before hugging John happily.  His wife, Kristin stood next to him.  Ryan kissed her cheek.

“Johnny, I’m glad you’re here.”

“Going crazy yet?” John laughed.

“Uh…I don’t know,” Ryan just smiled.

“I’m going to say hello to Danielle,” Kristin excused herself.

“No one’s here yet?”

“Mom and Dad are on their way.  Bobby is around somewhere.”

John nodded, “So, Matt’s still holding a grudge against me.”

“Ah, don’t worry about him.  He’s just being Matt,” Ryan waved him off.

More guests arrived, filling the large room up quickly.  The schedule for the day consisted of an early dinner at the country club followed by Ryan’s bachelor party and Danielle’s bachelorette party.  JT and Cooper arrived a little bit late.  JT brought Cooper right over to Ryan.  He had his arm around her and only dropped it to hug Ryan.  Cooper smiled at Ryan and he swallowed.  She looked genuinely happy.  He kissed her cheek, and she could feel his hand on her hip.  She tensed, but tried to ignore the physical contact just as Ryan did.

“Man, I can’t believe you’re getting married in two days,” JT shouted.

“I know,” he smiled softly.

“When are you going to tie the knot, JT?” Danielle asked, coming up behind Ryan, and wrapping her arms around him.

“Who knows?” JT smirked, and squeezed Cooper tighter.

Ryan’s stomach twisted and Danielle held out her hand to Cooper.

“Hi, I’m Danielle.”

“Cooper.”

She forced a smile, though she was secretly investigating Danielle.  A blonde, typical, she thought.  She’s pretty, Cooper admitted to herself, though she felt quite a bit of jealousy.

“I’m sure we’ll get to know each other at my bachelorette party,” Danielle grinned.

“What?” Ryan asked.

“Excuse me?” Cooper wondered.

“Well, you’re coming, right?  After dinner?” Danielle asked.

“I was just going to bring her with us,” JT laughed.

“Oh no, you don‘t want to hang around with these pigs.  Come on, I’ll introduce you to the girls,” Danielle insisted.  She led Cooper away from JT.

Ryan watched and knew how uncomfortable Cooper probably felt.  He felt uneasy himself.  Cooper would have preferred to go to Ryan’s bachelor party instead.  She knew more of the guys than girls in the room, and at least she’d have JT by her side to take the edge off.

“R-R-Rizz!” JT jumped on Ryan.

“J, you’re too excited about me getting married,” he laughed.

“Well, my friend, I think it’s because of that girl right there,” JT pointed toward Cooper, who was shaking Danielle’s friends’ hands.  She glanced toward JT and Ryan, and smiled.

“You really like her, huh?” Ryan asked, and was afraid of the answer.

“I love her.”

He looked at JT blankly, not believing him.

“Whoa man, you love her?”

“It’s crazy, but I do.  If you got to know her better, you’d understand…”

“I get it.  She’s great, I know that,” he interrupted.

“You think I’m just dicking around, bro?” JT wondered.

“J, I think you’re rushing things a bit.”

“Whatever.  I never knew Mister True Love was such a cynic,” JT rolled his eyes.

“Hey, I’m not a cynic,” he sighed.  “Just don’t be so quick to throw around feelings.”

JT sighed in return and shrugged.

“Trust me, I know,” Ryan finished his thought before grabbing another drink from a passing waiter.

JT looked at him strangely.  Ryan wasn’t really a huge drinker and JT knew that he already had more than a few mimosas.  The day was still young and he was sure the bachelor party would consists of drinks much harder than champagne.

 

d

 

The crowd from dinner started to disperse.  Ryan’s mother walked over to him and kissed his cheek.

“Have fun tonight, but not too much fun,” she warned.

“Thanks Mom,” he smiled.

“Where’s JT?” Lynda asked.

“I think he went out to have a cigarette.”

“That boy still smokes?” she rolled her eyes.  “Where’s Cooper?  She’ll set him straight,” Lynda winked.

“Oh, you met Cooper?”

“I love her,” Lynda gushed.  “She’s adorable.  Don’t you just love her?”

“Yeah, of course.  It seems everyone does.”

Cooper was great at first impressions.  She had a warm smile and a welcoming attitude.  People instantly felt like they knew her already and were comfortable around her.  It was the long-lasting relationships Cooper was bad at.  Being someone who changed her life drastically so often, friends and romances ended quickly, or took a backseat for a while.

Ryan looked around the room and saw Cooper talking with Laura and Kelly.  She appeared in slow motion to him.  She tucked her hair behind her ear as she laughed.  Her make-up was soft, and her auburn hair now had blonde highlights—giving the strands a strawberry blonde effect.  The new shades suited her skin tone and hazel eyes perfectly.  Ryan glanced at her corset top, clinging to her breasts, and his mouth went dry.  His eyes followed her legs down to her feet.  She had open-toed shoes on, even though it was cold outside.  She is a true Floridian now, he thought and snickered to himself.

Cooper glanced around the room and made eye contact with Ryan.  She lifted her drink to him and smiled.  Was she really at peace with this situation? he wondered, knowing he definitely wasn’t.  Maybe he should have told her not to come.

“Are you ready?” Bobby asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan nodded.

“Let the fun begin!” Matt shouted.

John patted Matt’s back, and he shrugged him off.

“Matt, are you going to be mad at me forever?”

“No, just for a little while longer, and until you say you were wrong about me.”

“I wasn’t wrong about you,” John laughed.

“Oh jeez,” Mike muttered and rolled his eyes.

“What!?” Matt yelled, causing people to stare.

“Matt!” Laura warned embarrassed by the outburst going on.

“Yes, I am wrong about your feelings for Laura.  And I’m sorry to the both of you,” John explained.

“Apology accepted,” Laura agreed, but Matt wasn’t backing down.

Cooper stood next to JT, looking to see if he was worried, but he remained calm.  Ryan and Mike didn’t seem too affected either.  She assumed these fights were routine for them.

“No, apology not accepted,” Matt argued.

“Look, I love you little bro, and I’m happy you and Laura are working things out.  I like this guy a lot more than I like the guy who broke hearts,” John smiled.

Matt softened, “Well, don’t spread that around.  I have a reputation to protect.”

Everyone laughed as John and Matt shook hands with half a hug thrown in.

The girls started to say their goodbyes to the men.  Danielle kissed Ryan as she normally would: short and sweet, no tongue.  Ryan looked over at Matt and Laura, who were going in for a deeper kiss.  He then looked at John and Kristin, who were stealing small, romantic kisses.  Finally, Ryan turned toward JT and Cooper.  They were in a full blown make-out session, and it angered him.

“Now that’s ridiculous,” Ryan commented to Matt.

“What is?”

“Them two.”

Matt glanced over at JT and Cooper.

“Let them be happy.”

“What?” Ryan looked at him.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” Matt stared at him.

“All right, let’s get this party started!” JT shouted, interrupting their stare.

JT then continued out the door with the same energy.  Cooper laughed, and waved goodbye to the rest of the guys as they walked out of the room.  Ryan looked over at her as he passed.  She tucked her hair behind her ear.

“I like it.”

“What?” Cooper asked.

“The color,” he pointed to her head.

“Oh, thanks!” she smiled.

“Have fun,” Ryan winked.

“You too.”

Danielle watched Ryan pass Cooper, and something didn’t feel right.  Who was this girl anyway? she wondered.  She was pretty, Danielle thought, but she didn’t like how Cooper dressed.  Her top was too low cut for her taste.

Ryan never said much about Cooper to Danielle, which surprised her.  He was always close to the rest of the band’s girlfriends.  Danielle could see Kelly and Laura knew her on a personal level and felt a little left out.  She didn’t know much about Laura either, but she was sure they wouldn’t get along since she never got along with Matt.  Danielle walked over to Kelly after the guys left.

“How do you know Cooper?”

“Oh, she’s my ex-boyfriend’s cousin.”

“Were you close to her when you dated him?”

“No,” Kelly shook her head.  “We never met while Dave and I dated,” she laughed.

“So, you don’t really know her?” Danielle asked.

“Well, I got to know her the past few months,” Kelly shrugged.  “She’s a lot of fun.”

“She’s not after JT for money, is she?”

“What?” Kelly looked at her strangely.

She had to laugh at the irony, considering when Danielle and Ryan first met, Mike was skeptical of Danielle for the same reason.  Danielle had obvious superficial tendencies.

“You never know with these girls…”

“I don’t think Cooper cares about that stuff.  She’s great.  We all like her,” Kelly said matter-of-factly before walking away.

 

d

 

The sound of pins being knocked down filled the bowling alley.  Ryan took a swig of his beer, and watched as John bowled a strike.  He turned around with a thin-lipped smile, and told Mike he was up.  Mike picked up a bowling ball, and shuffled his feet against the slippery floor, as he commented on the horrible shoes that were too big for him.

Ryan glanced around at his family and friends absently.  He felt like he wasn’t in the room.  Everyone was happy in relationships with their girlfriends or wives, or at least from what he knew.  His father and mother had the perfect marriage, and rarely fought.  There was a time when Ryan imagined he and Danielle could be like that.  Now, every time he pictures his life with Danielle, they have a marriage in name only: a few kids, and a large house that they seem to constantly be renovating or moving out of.  Ryan was starting to realize that’s not what he wanted.  That’s not what marriage was about to him.

Ryan wanted someone to be his everything, and still understand that separate lives were important as well.  He wanted a woman who was independent and warm.  She would be his best friend and not afraid to be honest with him.  She had morals, but not judgmental.  She was affectionate and passionate, and enjoyed life to the fullest.  Ryan wanted a woman like…

He paused in his thoughts, as JT called his name signaling that it was his turn.  Ryan stood, and looked back at JT.

“You okay, man?”

“I think I’m feeling the booze,” Ryan laughed.

This can’t be happening, he thought.  I can’t do this to JT or Danielle.

After Ryan bowled two gutter balls, he was teased unmercifully.  Ryan asked Matt to go to the bar with him.  Once they were there, Ryan stopped walking and turned toward Matt.

“I can’t do this.”

“You have to piss?  I’ll get the beers,” Matt offered.

Ryan shook his head, “I can’t get married.”

“What?” Matt laughed.

He saw the expression on Ryan’s face, and saw he was serious.

“Ryan, you’re beet red.”

“I can’t marry Danielle,” Ryan repeated.

Matt wasn’t sure what to think.  Ryan was the last person he expected to have cold feet.  He’s spoken about getting married for as long as Matt knew him.

“Are you feeling alright?”

“I’m out of my mind.”

“It’s just the alcohol,” Matt laughed again.  “I’ll get you another one.”

“Matt, what do I do?”

“You’re asking me?” Matt looked at him wide-eyed.

He’s never seen Ryan like this.  He was usually the one Matt went to for advice, not the other way around.

“Ry, one, I don’t like your fiancée, so I can’t give honest advice.  And two, you’d probably tell me to stop being a coward and get married.”

“Okay.  And what if you didn’t love your fiancée anymore?  What would I tell you then?”

“Ryan!” Matt yelled.  “You don’t love Danielle?”

Ryan looked at Matt for a long moment.

“I do, I do,” Ryan let out a deep breath of air.  “Right?”

“Huh,” Matt said not knowing why he was asking him.

“No, I know I do.  It’s just…”

Ryan stopped talking, and Matt just glared at him.

“It’s fucking Cooper, isn’t it?”

“Shh…” he quieted Matt.  “No, it’s not Cooper.”

“It’s not?  Funny, you never expressed any doubts until you met her.”

“Look, it’s not about Cooper.  Maybe she made me realize what I really want in a girl.  Maybe I was just settling.”

“And is that what you think Cooper’s doing?  Settling for JT because she can’t have you?”

Although Ryan was Matt’s best friend in the world, JT was a close second, and he did not want Cooper to come between them.

“Matt, can you stop getting angry and help me?”

“No one can help you.  You want to screw up your life, do it.  Don’t drag JT into it,” Matt went up to the bar, ordered four beers, and handed two of them to Ryan.  “Cheers, bro.”

He walked past Ryan, leaving him standing at the bar alone.

 

d

 

Squirt lay at Cooper’s feet as she glanced around Ryan and Danielle’s house.  Laura sat next to Cooper, and was telling her about her new classes next semester.  Cooper tried to listen; she couldn’t help but to study the house, though.

So far Danielle’s bachelorette party consisted of opening gifts, which took over an hour already.  They were taking an intermission, as Danielle’s mother called it.  Danielle seemed to be drinking wine most of the day, and was stumbling as she walked.

Cooper talked to a couple of Danielle’s friends, and they seemed nice.  Even Danielle seemed nice in parts.  Maybe it was Cooper’s imagination, but she was a little stuck up, and not meant for Ryan at all.  Cooper’s phone beeped and she glanced down at it.  She received a picture from JT.  Immediately, she began laughing loudly.

“Look!”

Cooper showed Laura the picture of JT with no shirt on as he pretended to give Matt a lap dance.  For his part, Matt was making like he was going to slap JT’s behind.

Laura giggled, “The stripper they got is hot!”

“What stripper!?” Danielle freaked out.

She immediately grabbed the phone out of Cooper’s hand.  Laura and Cooper shared an annoyed look.

“Oh.  They’re so gross,” Danielle rolled her eyes, handing the phone back to Cooper.  “Honestly, how do you put up with them?”

“Excuse me?” Laura asked.

“Well, JT’s a fun guy.  He’s better than Matt at least, now that he’s sober anyway.”

“What?” Cooper asked appalled.

“I mean, I didn’t really know him when he was an alcoholic, but… I can tell you Ryan would not be bringing him into my home if he was still¾”

“JT is a wonderful person, and Ryan is the first person to say that,” Cooper said, not believing her ears.

“Of course.  I have known JT longer than you,” Danielle said matter-of-factly before looking at Laura and hiccupping.  “…And Matt.  Trust me; you’ll get sick of him.  Everyone does.”

Cooper and Laura both gasped.

“You know, I’m surprised Ryan hasn’t gotten sick of you,” Laura spoke up.

“Girls,” Kristin interfered.  “Just cool it.”

Kristin didn’t like drama.  She was like John in that way.  They were considered the “uptight” couple too often for her taste, but she rather be mature than childish.

“I don’t think Ryan would appreciate you speaking about any of his friends this way,” Cooper spoke.

“Who are you to say what my husband would appreciate?” Danielle said, leaning down into Cooper’s face as she sat on the couch.

“Danielle, you’re drunk,” Kelly warned.

“Well, what’s her excuse?” she asked, pointing down at Cooper as she stood over her.  “Can your boobs be hanging out any more?”

“Oh please, lady.  You know what?  I’m out of here.  Anyone want to come with me?” Cooper asked, jumping up.

“I’d love to,” Laura stood up as well.

Danielle didn’t try to stop them.  She watched them leave as she sipped her wine and received glares from Kristin and Kelly.

Cooper and Laura walked outside.  They both looked at each other, and shook their heads.

“What was that?” Laura asked.

“I have no clue.  How can Ryan be with her?”

“No idea.  So what do we do now?”

 

d

 

Matt dunked the basketball in the hoop, and rubbed it in John’s face.  The bachelor party had moved to a public park.  A casual game was taking place when Cooper and Laura showed up.

“The strippers are here!” JT shouted.

The girls laughed as the guys made cat calls.  Cooper had called JT and explained the situation before she and Laura took a cab to meet up with the bachelor party.  JT wrapped Cooper into a hug, and squeezed her tight.

“What are you guys doing here?” Matt asked, kissing Laura.

“Our party was lame,” she said, but her face showed more than that.

“What happened?”

“You mean besides Danielle going on about all the things she wants to change about the house?  And how so and so should have spent more money on the gift they sent?” Laura asked.

“Or how she can’t wait to get pregnant?” Cooper added.  “…And how her third cousin is a tramp because she got pregnant out of wedlock?”

Matt and JT still looked at the girls suspiciously.

“Okay, we got into a small tiff with Danielle,” Laura pouted.

Matt laughed, “I love you.”

He kissed her forehead, and she shook her head at him.

“Wha’d you fight about?”

“Um…” Cooper didn’t want to answer.

“She said something about me?” Matt wondered, not surprised.

Laura just nodded.

“Both of you,” Cooper said, softly.

“What?” JT asked, taken back by it.

Danielle always seemed to like him.

“It’s no big deal.  She feels stupid I’m sure,” Laura brushed it off.

Cooper saw Ryan approaching.  He looked confused as to why they were there.

“I don’t want to talk about it right now, okay?”

Cooper didn‘t want to upset Ryan.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Cooper smiled.  “Are you guys having fun?”

Ryan didn’t answer, and just took another sip of beer.

“Ryan sucks at basketball when he’s drunk,” Matt laughed.

“I’m not drunk.”

He stared at Cooper, and she tried to look elsewhere, feeling uncomfortable.

“Only Ryan would want to play basketball in January,” JT laughed, wrapping his arms around Cooper, noticing she was shivering.

“It’s not normally this cold in Blue Ridge.  Besides, the alcohol warms me up,” Ryan said, and held out his bottle to Cooper.

He was still staring at her, but Cooper just shook her head, and smiled.

“All right, Ry, let’s get back in the game,” Matt said trying to kill the stare he had on Cooper.

He put his arm around Ryan, and led him over to the court.

“How did I know you should have stayed with us?” JT laughed.

“Because obviously you know more about Danielle than you let on.”

JT remembers liking Danielle when he first met her.  Even Matt didn’t mind her.  She was reserved around the band, at times, awkward.  Danielle was always polite, but demanding and wanted Ryan all to herself.  Ryan was to blame for devoting most of his free time to her.  Even John felt neglected by his own brother for a girl.

JT shook his head, “She’s a nice girl.  She just has her priorities screwed up,” he sighed.

“How can you let him go through with this?”

Cooper didn’t want to say those words, but they just fell out.  JT looked down into Cooper’s eyes, and saw pools of concern.

“How can I stop him?”

“Shit!”

Everyone turned their attention to the basketball game.  Ryan was on the ground laughing hysterically.  JT and Cooper walked over.

“Rizz, are you okay?”

“He’s a sloppy drunk,” Matt sighed.

“I hurt my knee,” Ryan complained, as Mike and JT helped him up.  “I think I’m bleeding.”

Cooper knelt down, and rolled up Ryan’s pant leg.

“You just skinned it,” she assured him.

“We’ll get you a band-aid at our next destination,” Bobby smirked.

 

d

 

After stopping at a drug store, the bachelor party wound up at the Cat’s Meow, a gentlemen’s club on the outskirts of town.  The men cheered approvingly, some more than others upon walking though the door.  Cooper and Laura just laughed, not surprised, and somewhat amused.  They checked their coats before walking in.

“Are you still okay we showed up?” Laura asked Matt and JT; they both nodded.

“Hey, threesome?” Matt asked, raising his eyebrows at her, and motioning to a girl on stage.

“Uh, no?” she laughed.

Cooper and JT laughed as well.

“I’ll buy you a lap dance,” JT winked.

“Only if she doesn’t touch me or you,” Cooper warned.

JT laughed, “Deal, but only if you touch me.”

This time, Cooper laughed.

“I’m bleeding through my pants,” Ryan sighed.

Cooper turned to look at him.

“Here’s the band-aids and stuff,” Mike said, handing a bag to Ryan.

“I think you should help me, Cooper,” Ryan said.

“Yeah, he’s too drunk,” JT agreed.  “And I can’t stand the sight of blood.”

“It’s only fair since I took care of you when you hurt your ankle,” Ryan teased.

Cooper laughed as Ryan stumbled backward.  She took his hand in hers, and walked him into the men’s room.  She didn’t see a ladies’ room anywhere.

“Coop, you’re not supposed to be in here,” Ryan said falling back against the wall.

“Oh well.  I don’t think they’ll mind.”

She smiled as she took out the bottle of peroxide and some cotton balls.

“JT might mind.”

“Nah, he’s JT,” Cooper said as she rolled up Ryan’s pant leg.

The gash in his knee didn’t look too bad once it was cleaned, but she could tell an awful scab would form.

Ryan looked down at her as she cleaned his cut.  He could see her cleavage even more from the angle she was at.  Cooper blew on his knee lightly, as he winced.

“Would JT mind if I kissed you?” Ryan asked.

Cooper stood up immediately.

“Yes.  I’d mind.  Danielle would mind,” she gulped.

Ryan pulled her up against his body, and his lips hovered over hers.

“Why are you doing this?” she whispered, feeling weak in his arms.

“I love you.”

“You’re drunk,” Cooper told him, pulling out of his grasp.

She placed the band-aid on his knee with an annoyed slap.  Ryan grimaced in pain.

Cooper walked out of the bathroom quickly, and leaned against the wall for a minute.  What a weird day, she thought.  She felt sick to her stomach thinking of everything that was wrong with it.  Danielle was not meant for Ryan.  Ryan is not acting like Ryan.  And her heart was torn in two different directions.  She looked back at the bathroom door before choosing to find JT.

The guys were standing off to the side watching the dancer on stage take off her top.  Cooper laughed seeing Laura attempt to cover Matt’s eyes teasingly.  She whispered something into his ear, and he grinned before kissing her, obviously excited by whatever she said.

“Hey baby, you gonna get up there?” a guy asked as Cooper passed him.

“Not tonight,” she laughed before she finally reached JT.

“What was that about?”

“He wants me to dance,” Cooper shrugged.

“Did you tell him for my eyes only?”

“Mmm, kiss me,” Cooper placed her arms around his neck.

JT kissed her, and she deepened it.  She needed to feel something other than guilt and confusion.  Ryan saw them kissing as he made his way over, and his heart wrenched.  Their party had started to thin out, and by the time they got to the VIP room, it was just Sound Wave, Bobby, and the two girls left.

“This is fun.  I’ve never been to a strip club,” Laura beamed.

Everyone laughed at her, including Cooper.

“It is kind of cool, despite the naked chicks,” Cooper shrugged.

“See, that’s kinda why we like it,” Matt laughed.

“Oh, you mean you don’t watch for the amazing dancing?” Laura asked, jokingly.

“Who’s the bachelor?”

A dancer walked into the room wearing a thong and a bra.  Everyone pointed to Ryan, and she immediately started dancing for him.  They all cheered.  Cooper sat on JT’s lap protectively, as Laura did the same with Matt.  The dancer became more aggressive, and Ryan glanced over at Cooper, immediately feeling awkward, and sick.  The dancer removed her bra, and turned to Ryan before sitting in his lap.  He felt even more uncomfortable as the girl rubbed against him.

Between the alcohol, the mix of emotions coursing through him, and the sheer fact that strip clubs went against every moral he had, he felt sick to his stomach.

“He doesn’t look too good…” Mike mumbled.

Before anyone knew what was happening, Ryan was vomiting on the stripper.  She screamed, and Ryan ran to the bathroom as fast as he could.

“Oh my God!” Matt and JT laughed in disbelief.

The stripper started crying.  Cooper grabbed a stack of napkins and handed them to her.  Taking the napkins, the stripper ran out of the room.  Everyone just stared at each other for a second before cracking up laughing.

“Someone should check on Ryan,” Laura suggested.

“I’ll go,” JT decided.

He walked out of the room followed by John, who wanted to give the stripper a large tip for her troubles.

“I’m going to call Kelly.  Hopefully she didn’t have any issues with Danielle,” Mike winked at the girls.

“What a night…” Cooper sighed.

 

 

d

 

JT walked inside the bathroom, and heard Ryan’s vomiting from the stall.  He glanced at himself in the mirror before knocking softly on the door.

“Rizz, are you okay?”

“No¾” Ryan began vomiting again.

“God, this is one thing I don’t miss,” JT sighed, thinking of the many times he felt sick due to alcohol.

Once Ryan stopped throwing up, he flushed the toilet, and unlocked the door.  JT pushed the door open, and Ryan was crouched on the floor.  His face was sweaty and pale.

“Dude, you look like shit.”

“I feel like it.”

“Come on,” JT grabbed him.  “Up we go.”

Ryan supported his weight on JT, as they walked over to the sink together.  He splashed cold water on his face.

“I can’t believe I feel this way.”

“Ah, you’ll be as good as new in time for the wedding,” JT patted his back.

Ryan shut the water off.

“I don’t know, man.”

“Ry, you’re smashed.  It will pass,” JT laughed.

“Why do you love Cooper?” Ryan asked him, looking directly at his face.

JT looked at him oddly before answering.

“She’s beautiful,” he said slowly with a smile.

“Anyone can see that.  I saw that the first night I met her,” Ryan said, almost annoyed with his answer.

JT again looked at him oddly.  Ryan was hunched over the sink still looking at him.

“Why do you love her?” he repeated the question.

“She’s fun.  She makes it easy.  I don’t have to try hard with her.  She’s down-to-earth, and…deep.  She’s quirky and complex, and I always find myself learning something new about her,” JT said with that same smile from a moment earlier.

Ryan smiled back at him, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

JT was confused for a moment.  Was he talking about Danielle or Cooper?

“You know why else I love her?”

Ryan just stared at him, wondering what he was going to say.

“She’s great in bed.  Do you know that, too?” JT asked purposely.

Ryan looked at him blankly.

“I can’t believe…”  JT clenched his fists and paced the bathroom once before getting in Ryan’s face.  “You…you’re hot for Cooper.”

Ryan didn’t respond.

“Well, say something.”

“I like her, okay?”

“No, it’s not okay!  It’s not okay, Ryan!  She’s my girlfriend!” JT yelled, poking himself in the chest.

“I know!”

“How long¾you’ve liked her since Mikie’s wedding, haven’t you?”

Ryan nodded.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me!?”

“I didn’t think it would go anywhere between you two.  I didn’t think either of us would see her again!”

“And what were you hoping for with her?”

“Nothing!” Ryan said quickly.

“That’s why you didn’t tell her you were engaged…you were hoping to score with her?”

“JT, you know me better than that,” Ryan sighed.

“You still should have told me you felt any kind of attraction toward her!”

“I’m sorry.  After Cooper kissed me, I figured she wouldn’t go out with you¾”

“What!?”

“Oh God—this is why I don’t get drunk!” Ryan huffed, not looking at JT any longer.

“You kissed?”

“Before you two got together.  Before she found out about Dani,” Ryan looked toward him again.

“Whoa, why didn’t either of you tell me?”

“There was no reason to.  I’m engaged.”

“Ryan, is that the only reason you’re not with Cooper?”

JT looked him dead in the eyes, seemingly calm.  Maybe that’s why Ryan felt the words fall from his lips so freely.

“I love her, J.”

Ryan returned the stare into JT’s eyes.  Before he knew what was happening, a fist came into contact with his eye.

“I can’t even look at you right now!” JT screamed.

 

d

 

The party was outside the club waiting for JT and Ryan.  John decided to wait in the lobby for them.  He spotted JT storming over, and he stopped him.

“Are you okay?”

“Go get your fucking brother.”

JT walked outside as John rushed into the bathroom.  The temperature dropped significantly, and JT felt it instantly.  Cooper quickly handed JT his coat.  He put it on before staring at her.

“How’s Ryan?”

“He’s got a black eye.”

“Who punched him?” Cooper asked.

“You want to go in there and ice it up for him?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Not here,” JT closed his eyes for a second.

Worry shot through Cooper, and even more when she saw John helping Ryan out of the club.

“What happened?” Mike asked.

No one answered.  John gave Cooper an icy glare as he helped Ryan into the car.  John’s assumptions were right, and he knew Ryan deserved a lot of the blame, but he held more contempt for Cooper.  The limo ride was silent, and cold, but not due to the weather.

“Who punched you?” Bobby finally asked, seeing no one wanted to ask that.

“I hit a wall,” Ryan answered.

Bobby, along with everyone else, noticed JT’s bruised knuckles.  Witnessing the dwindled affection between JT and Cooper, the pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place for everyone in the limo.

 

d

 

JT walked ahead of Cooper up to their hotel room.  She took off her shoes right away and began to undress immediately.  She knew JT wanted to talk, but felt the need to get out of her outfit first.  It was becoming more and more uncomfortable by the minute.  She unzipped her corset top, and stood in her bra and jeans as she took her earrings out.  JT pulled off his shirt, and went into the bathroom.  Cooper changed into a flimsy cotton nightgown.  He came out of the bathroom in just his boxers, and stared at her as she placed her outfit in her suitcase.

He walked up behind Cooper, and ran his hands up her sides.  He began kissing her neck, and she turned to putty in his arms.  He kissed his way up to her ear and whispered in it.

“Do you want him?”

Cooper turned around in his arms.

“I want you.”

“But you wanted him first?”

“JT, you knew I was attracted to him.  I was attracted to you right away, too.”

“You kissed him.”

“God, he told you…” Cooper sighed.  “Look, it was before you and I were serious, and¾”

“What?” JT asked slightly confused by her choice of words.

Before they were serious was different than before they got together.

“You had come to visit for the first time since I moved¾”

JT nodded with an incredulous laugh, the anger building once more.  He dropped his arms from around Cooper.

“Ryan told me you kissed before you and I even went out.  Now you’re telling me after I was sharing the same bed with you, and falling for you, you were making out with my best friend?”

“It wasn’t like that.”

“Then what was it like, Cooper?”

“We were both confused.”

“God, I’m so stupid!  How far did this go?”

“That was it.  I swear.”

“Ryan says he loves you.”

“He doesn’t mean it.”

“Oh, I think he means it.”

“He was just drunk tonight,” Cooper said.

She felt drained and afraid.  She was afraid she’d lose JT, and she was angry at Ryan for the drama he created tonight.  She didn’t believe he loved her.  If he was still having doubts about marrying Danielle, he shouldn’t have waited until the weekend of the wedding to back out.

“Cooper…” JT sighed.  “I just…I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either.”

“If you love him¾”

“I don’t love him.”

Cooper was almost sure of that statement.  She knew she could love him though, very easily.

“If you want to be with him, go.  He’s not going through with this wedding.  That’s for sure.”

Cooper walked closer to JT, never breaking eye contact.

“I’m not going anywhere.  I love you.”

She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.

JT welcomed her into his arms, and wanted nothing more than for Cooper to show him how much she loved him.  After they made love, Cooper laid in JT’s arms.  They both thought the other was asleep, but neither one could seem to fall under.

 

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*Legal Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by Sandy Lo.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

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About the Author

Sandy Lo ()

Sandy Lo’s personal story is inspiring. She started, StarShine Magazine, an online publication in 2001, at the age of 18. She wrote her first novel in 2009, “Lost In You,” followed by the “Dream Catchers” Series. She was the first person ever to professionally interview Taylor Swift and has received personal endorsements for her books from members of boy bands Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Recently, she has been seeing some tremendous momentum in book sales on Kindle. She has been included on the “50 Writers You Should Be Reading” list by The Authors Show, and “Dream Catchers”, “Breaking The Moon” and “Indigo Waters” reached the Top 100 Best Selling Coming of Age novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. What makes this even more unique, is that Sandy relocated from NY to Nashville in order to write “The Watch Dog,” which is set in a fictional town outside of Music City. “The Watch Dog” reached the Top 10 Ghost Stories on Amazon. Aside from her writing projects, Sandy is also a freelance digital strategist.

Website: http://sandylo.com

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