I stood in the hallway and watched the door slam shut.
Flinching as it crashed home with a bang, I turned away, feeling awful for what I’d just done. Breaking up with my on-again, off-again fighter boyfriend, Hamish McBride, in the middle of my best friend’s wedding was the lowest thing I’d pulled in a long time.
Today of all days? You’re real switched on, Josie Cunningham. Real switched on.
Pivoting on my heel, I shifted my gaze to the patio, and the moment the assembled wedding guests saw I was looking, they all went back to their dancing and drinking, pretending like they hadn’t been listening in.
What was I thinking about that switch in the on position?
Hamish was such a good guy, but he wasn’t the one. Our lives were pulled in different directions—mine to Sydney and the AUFC and Hamish to The Underground in Melbourne—and neither of us felt strongly enough about the other to want to change. Breaking up for good was the only way.
We’d called it quits so many times, but now this was it. I’d told him there was someone else, and there was, but not really.
I turned at the sound of Dean Hayes’s deep, sexy voice and sighed.
“Smashing,” I drawled, smoothing my dress down. It was a red silk number I’d picked for Hamish because I knew he liked the color against my hair and skin.
“Was he a jerk to you?”
I shook my head. “I dumped him. He has every right to be mad.”
I grimaced as I caught sight of Ren through the glass door. She looked like she was about to pound somebody into the ground, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch considering she was the female version of her hulking fighter husband, Ash Fuller.
“Ren isn’t a ball of sunshine right now,” Dean said, glancing back at the patio.
“Yeah, well, I could’ve picked a better time to drop the bomb on Hamish,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “Her wedding will forever be known as the day ‘that girl’ had a very public break up.”
“It could’ve been worse.”
“Yeah, like a hole in the head.”
I frowned and turned my attention back onto the twin. The same twin I’d used as an excuse to get out of my merry-go-round relationship with Hamish. Partly true since I did harbor a little crush for the guy. Dean Hayes was part bad boy and part nicest guy on the planet. He’d have to be with a brother like Lincoln. Bad boys were my thing.
The only way I could tell the Twins apart these days was by the full sleeve tattoo Dean had gotten the year before. It snaked up his arm and over his shoulder, ending right at the crook of his neck. It was a tribal design that flowed with the muscles in his arm, but it wasn’t the white trash kind of tribal. It was reminiscent of the designs etched on the skin of Pacific Island warriors—New Zealand, Polynesia, and Tahiti—and for those in the know, it told a story about courage, sacrifice, and status.
It was all a little deep for a guy like Dean, but he seemed to know a lot about it, picking carefully before he even let a needle close to him. Though the guy was an easy mark, so I tried not to tease. But I did. Mercilessly.
I was pretty sure the main reason he’d gotten tattooed was so people stopped mistaking him for Lincoln. The Twins were pro MMA fighters and had been lumped together from the beginning even though the sport was very much a solo affair. They trained together and rode the PR train side by side, but when it came time to step into the octagon for a fight, they were their own men. I could understand why Dean wanted to be set apart. The constant comparison would grate after a while.
And that’s where I came into the equation.
A few years ago, after becoming friends with Ren Miller, her dad, Coach Andrew Miller, hired me to work PR for the Twins. I was more than happy to leave behind my stuffy admin job in Melbourne for the bright lights of the Australian Ultimate Fighting Championship, or the AUFC as it was known. Hot men and testosterone, TV cameras and media scrums…it was the life I didn’t even know I’d wanted—and damn, I was good at it.
I just didn’t count on developing a crush on the one guy it was inappropriate to fixate on…considering I took my job extra super serious, and Dean took his womanizing to the extreme. His brother had settled, but Dean? I couldn’t see it happening anytime soon, which was why I pushed my attraction into the crush column.
Then there was the scene that had just played out with Hamish.
So many reasons why tangling tongues with fighters wasn’t the greatest plan in the playbook.
“Do you want a drink?” Dean asked, pulling my attention back. “You might need a little liquid courage.”
I snorted. “I needed it ten minutes ago.”
“You haven’t spoken to Ren yet,” he said with a chuckle.
“And I’ll avoid it for a long as possible.” I grabbed his hand and dragged him through the house back out to the patio.
“Where are we going in such a hurry?” Dean asked, trying not to laugh.
“You’re dancing with me.”
“I’m using you as a human shield.” Half-truth, half lie. I just wanted to dance with the guy and pump up my deflated ego.
I opened the patio door and delighted in the fact I had Dean Hayes off-kilter. “Don’t sound so panicked. You just sway from side to side. Surely a fighter who knows how to duck and weave can handle a little two-step.”
I felt eyes beginning to fix on me, but I ignored every single pair as I turned Dean around to face me. A slow song was playing, and couples around us were wound tightly together, including Dean’s brother, Lincoln, and his girl, Violet.
“Here,” I said, as the twin hesitated.
Curling my fingers around his wrists, I guided his hands to my waist and his big hands settled in place. All at once, I was aware that he was touching me like Hamish had only moments before. Dean looked awkward, but I was fairly sure it was because of the dancing part of the equation. He wasn’t trying to get out of it, so I took it to be a good thing. He wanted to touch me.
A shiver traveled down my spine, and I resisted the urge to close the space between us. That’d be poor form five minutes after Hamish, Ash’s best man, left after I’d smashed his heart.
Sliding my hands over his shoulders, I smiled as he turned his gaze away.