Part 3: I Want You All to Myself
"You didn't need to tell them that."
"Tell them what?"
"Don't play dumb, Derek. You know what I'm talking about." Chloe wasn't even glancing over in my direction, but I knew an eye roll when I heard one. There seemed to be a lot of eye rolling today. Especially around me.
She was referring to the way I stood up in front of all those people out in the garden. The way I held up my hands, redirecting everyone's attention to me and my announcement. Someone called out that objections to the marriage didn't happen until the bride was at the altar. I thanked him graciously (see: sarcastically) for the reminder before telling everyone the wedding had to be halted so I could hit the restroom. If that hadn't already shocked the crowd enough, when I strode on to the back of the aisle and dragged the bride away with me sure did.
I wasn't about to think about a smoother way to remove her from where she stood, not when it was obvious she was frozen to the spot. Soon, the wedding guests would start to wonder why she wasn't moving an inch. Some might have chalked it up to nerves, but after a long time of just watching Chloe stand there, they'd begin to realize something was up. Which is why I had to stop them from thinking that. Place the blame on the rude guy who forced the bride to follow him into the bridal suite. It was tricky to get involved with someone who had no clue what a supernatural was, let alone a whole parade of people who witnessed a necromancer seeing a ghost and having no idea that's what they were seeing.
It was a good thing Chloe had someone like me doing damage control, and I told her that before asking who she saw at the end of that aisle.
Blowing out a huff of air, Chloe reached up and tugged a tiny silver tiara out of her hair. I didn't tell her a lock of blond hair had come loose with it, only because it fell on her forehead in a pleasant way that made me want to push it back. That was dangerous thinking territory, but I kept my mouth shut, when what I should do is tell her before I got the urge to do something stupid, like touch her.
"Marcie. Her fiance killed her in this room years ago on the night before their wedding, and she's been haunting it ever since. She's been following me around all week." In an effort to better prepare for the day, Chloe and her gang of wedding followers had stationed here the entire week. "Just let me talk to her real quick.
To give her a moment of privacy with the ghostly bride, I took another look around the room, something better to fix my eyes on other than that incredibly soft-looking piece of hair. It was called a bridal suite, but was basically only two hotel rooms stuck together with a door between them. The room we were standing in held a couple of tables, a desk with fancy stationary, an abundance of chairs, and a couch. A full-length mirror stood in one corner of the room, a hanger clinging to its top where the dress had probably been placed before Chloe chose to finally put it on. Vases of flowers matching Chloe's color scheme were littered about the room, the scent irritating my nose.
Under all that flowery smell was Chloe, though. The entire room smelled like her, like some intoxicating aroma I couldn't get enough of. I took deep lungfuls of air, reminded of times when I'd hold her close and bury my nose in her hair. I looked past the door leading to the adjoining room, seeing the corner of a queen-sized bed, a pair of pajama pants hanging off the side. The covers were unmade from when Chloe had undoubtedly rolled out of them. I tried not to think of Chloe, of that bed, of adding those two things together with that man standing outside in the gardens. Of nights years ago when it was just me and her and quiet woods—
I needed another drink. Turning away from the door, I walked over to the coffee table in front of the couch. A bowl of melting ice holding a bottle of champagne was hidden behind a vase of white roses. I picked up the bottle, the condensation cooling my palm and getting my fingers wet. Tissues were nowhere to be seen, I wiped the water off on my pant leg, sure that no one would care. As soon as Chloe got done talking to her ghost, I could take her back to the gardens and maybe slip out before the ceremony. Someone—Tori, I imagined—had already opened the bottle, so finding a glass on the table, I poured some for myself and took a large gulp.
"Derek," Chloe was coming towards me, all finished with her necromancer duty. I handed my glass to her in offering, and she took it, drinking the rest. "Thanks."
"For what?" I took the glass out of her hand and filled it up again. There was still half a bottle to go through.
"For this." She pointed at the bottle, then waved her hands in the direction of the gardens. "For that."
"Just being a friend." I gave the glass back to her, lifting the bottle in a toast. She followed suit with the glass. "To this and that."
She drank the champagne so quickly, I had to put a hand on her arm. "Not too fast. Or you'll be stumbling down that aisle."
Brushing past me, Chloe sat down on the couch, patting the spot next to her. I stayed where I was, not trusting myself to be in her proximity at the moment. Being in the same room as her right now was pushing it.
"Shouldn't you be getting back out there? It is your wedding, after all."
"What do you think they're thinking out there?"
"They're thinking I ruined a perfectly good wedding with my potty break." She gave me a look, and I set my teasing aside. Sinking down into the couch next to her because I was sure this would be the last time I'd probably get to be so close to her, I shrugged. "They're thinking you're nervous, doing what normal people do. Thinking of something normal and not supernatural. They're not going to figure out that you saw the ghost of some dead woman."
"I should have just ignored her. But Marcie's been bugging me all week. I couldn't take it anymore." She reached down and undid the straps on her shoes, kicking them away before bringing her legs under her and resting her head on my shoulder. "You want to know what she kept bothering me about?"
"Okay, so she was murdered by her fiance, right? Except it wasn't her actual fiance. It was the man she promised to run away with." Chloe pressed the glass against her lips, smudging her lipstick as she took another sip. "He thought she had decided to get back with the other guy, so he strangled her before the wedding. What he didn't know was that she was getting ready to run away, to elope, with him."
"They couldn't just talk it out?"
"From what Marcie told me, he might have been a bit drunk." Now more of her hair was falling out, sliding along my neck. "And he was consumed with jealousy, so that didn't help matters."
I made a sound in my throat in understanding, when all I could think about was that it looked like she was about to fall asleep right on my shoulder. As if there wasn't this monumental event going on outside.
"She wanted me to write a letter to the guy and explain that he killed her for nothing. I told her I'd do it first thing tomorrow morning." Of course. Over the years, she'd helped more ghosts than I could count on my fingers and toes. That still hadn't mad it any easier for her when it came to seeing some of the ghosts. To comfort her, and because my shoulder was starting to numb, I shifted so that I could wrap my arm around her waist, both of us sinking back further into the couch cushions.
"Derek, you'd never get that jealous, would you?"
"I might, but it depends."
On if I was a normal human or in the form of a wolf that wouldn't take a second thought to sinking its teeth into another living being. But that was a bit too grotesque for this conversation, so I went with the next best thing. "On if I had a chance with her."
"And if you had a chance?"
"Well, I wouldn't kill her, that's for sure." The guy, on the other hand...
I sat up, putting the bottle back with one last sip and standing up. "Come on, Chloe. Put your shoes back on. I gotta take you back now."
Chloe got up, but only to move onto the arm of the couch and drag me back to sit down again. I went willingly, not because her grip on my sleeve was strong, but because I still wasn't ready to go back out into all of that. I'm not sure if I would ever be ready for it. Surprising me, Chloe settled on my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck in a hug. Feeling like we were teenagers again, like I would break her if I held too tightly, I hesitantly rested my hands on her back and hugged her back.
A half-hearted chuckle escaped me, as I said, "Simon told me to hug you after the wedding. Then tell you how happy I am for you."
"Well, don't," came back her muffled voice from where it was hiding in the crook of my neck.
Her arms stiffened, then relaxed. "Don't be happy for me." Moving back, she held my head in both hands and looked me right in the eye. "Y-you're my voice of reason, Derek. Tell me I'm doing something stupid."
"You're doing something stupid."
Chloe smiled, leaning in, but I grabbed hr shoulders and held her back. If my will was stronger, I would have removed her completely from me and walked out of the room. But it wasn't, and she stayed seated on my lap. "You're going to make a lot of people angry if you don't put on your shoes and walk down that aisle in the next five minutes."
"Stop telling me what to do, Derek."
"We've always had that problem, Chloe."
We were glaring at each other now, neither wanting to back down or back away. I took a deep breath, taking in another drag of her fragrance, so much stronger now that she was so close. "We've always had that problem, Chloe. It's not going to go away. It hasn't in all the years we've known each other."
"So? We can work on—"
"No, we can't. Because we have other problems. More problems than just that. It didn't work the first time. How do you know it'll work now?"
"I just do. Look, it's been on my mind for awhile—"
"And we conveniently have to talk about it now, on today of all days? Face it, Chloe, you're getting cold feet. You just want an excuse to get out of—"
"For years, Derek! I've been thinking about this for years!" Her hands left my face, shaking in the air to add emphasis. Parts of my jaw were still warm from where she'd been holding it, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss her touch. "It's just convenient today because I know I'm making a mistake! A stupid mistake, as you'd be the first person to tell me if you had the guts."
I opened my mouth to protest that statement, but she slapped her hand over the bottom half of my face before I could. "We can make this—us!—work if we tried. We never tried last time. We never took a chance. And you don't want to take a chance now. You want to, though, or else you wouldn't want to be running away into that forest right now."
Well, she had me there. Even now, I could see the tops of tree branches out of the window and longed to be out there, away from this situation, this conversation. "You and I—we—how do I know that down the road in five years, it won't just happen again? That we run our course again? That you..."
"Might dump you again?" I cringed at the words. It always sounded so harsh when people put it in those terms. Like getting rid of garbage.
A deep exhale from Chloe seemed to expel the tension in her limbs, and she pressed her forehead against mine. Her eyes half-closed, she whispered, "We don't know. It might happen. Or it might not. We're older now, wiser now, maybe..." But she didn't sound so sure herself.
"I want to," I mouthed, not even sure if she could hear me. "I want to, but..."
"We could do this. I want to do this. I miss you," her lips tickled along my cheek before coming into contact with mine. It was a light touch, barely moving her mouth against mine. It was a ploy, a question, an unspoken agreement that I only had to respond to with one movement.
I pulled away, her eyes springing open as I cleared my throat to bring up another argument, something else to stop her. When I knew inside that I didn't want to stop her. Couldn't, really, because Chloe had never listened to me anyway.
My hand lifted to cup the back of her neck and bring her forward, capturing her mouth with mine. She tasted like champagne and lipstick and exactly how I remembered her tasting. Nothing about this, about us, had changed, and I felt myself feel glad for that. My hand curled into her hair, untangling the rest of that ridiculous up-do as my other arm pushed against the small of her back in an attempt to bring us closer together. Flattening her body along mine, Chloe bent her head and deepened the kiss.
This is the point where I had to stop her, fearing that any longer and I'd be picking her up and carrying her off past that door. Chloe was smiling, hair mussed and lips a deep red. An involuntary grin smoothed along my mouth and I figured I probably looked the same. Catching sight of the clock on the side wall, Chloe asked, "How long have we been in here?"
"Long enough to piss some people off, I bet." I glanced back at the door to the suite. "Someone's bound to come looking for you soon."
"Let's get out of here then."
"Dressed in that?" I nodded my chin toward her dress, where more than a few wrinkles had appeared. Observing her from head to toe, it was most likely obvious what exactly she had been doing. My guess was that there would be quite a lot of people who wouldn't like that.
"Then let's stay in here for the rest of the day."
"They'll get someone to open the door."
"As much as I'd love to, Chloe, there's a whole wedding about to take place outside that forest."
"My voice of reason." Chloe sighed and sat up straight before a thought caused her shoulders to drop. "I have to tell Harvey. That's not going to be easy."
"I'll say. You did wait until today to get back together with your ex."
She shoved my arm. "You're not helping matters."
"I tried that, and then you seduced me."
"I'll seduce you into being quiet if I have to."
"Hmm, you might have to."
Her lips hovered close to mine. "Derek, it'll be okay. We're going to make it work this time. I love you, and I always have."
I didn't respond. Didn't need to. She was already kissing me.
Tori's phone buzzed, causing those around her to glare at her. The witch gave them the stink eye back. What did they care if her cell went off? It's not like anything interesting was happening away. Taking the phone out her cleavage, much to the shock of Harvey's ancient mother, she walked away from the altar, shoving the bridesmaid next to her in the process because it just so happened to be the groom's cousin, who had worn the same dress as her at the bachelorette party. It wasn't as powerful as some of the spells she'd like to cast on the bitch, but it would do for now.
"It's Tori. What do you want?" she answered the phone as soon as she was far enough away.
"Other than for you to go to hell?"
"That's cute, Wolf Boy. Where's the bride?"
"Nowhere near the wedding. We've taken the limo and left."
Tori groaned. "You know people are getting restless here? Now you've gone and given them a reason to get totally pissed off. Thanks a lot. Where are you guys going?"
"Why do you need to kn—"
"Oh my god, put Chloe on the phone this instant!" There was static on the other end as the phone was switching hands. Chloe's voice came through the speakers and Tori stomped her foot on the ground, even though the necromancer couldn't see it. "Chloe Saunders, are you eloping with Derek?"
"Ow! Tori!Don't yell. And what's with that? We tell you we left, and your first thought is to ask if we're eloping?"
"Uh, yeah. Which would be a stupid thing to do, Chloe, because I wouldn't be there to help with your hair or your make-up. And what would you do without a maid of—?"
"Not to mention, your dress!"
"Tori! Calm down!"
The witch held the phone away from her ear. "You don't need to yell at me. Damn, Chloe, bailing on your wedding day. That's a bold move."
"Yeah, I know. Look, Derek and I...we just need to be alone with each other for awhile."
"Ohhh, yeah, I can imagine."
"Tori!" Tori rolled her eyes. She was only kidding. "Look, I'll explain it all to you in a couple of days—"
"Don't worry. I don't want any of the dirty details."
An aggravated sound came from Chloe's end of the line, just as someone's hand gripped Tori's elbow and spun her around. "Tori, can you just...just tell Harvey and everyone..."
A flood of faces met Tori's startled eyes. The groom, smile long gone and looking as white as the flowers scattered about the place. The groom's cousin, mouth ajar in shock. His mother, mouths trembling and waving a handkerchief in her face. Aunt Lauren, not exactly looking at Tori, but trying to calm down the outraged whispers from those around her. Kit Bae, shoulders shaking in a contained, satisfied chuckle. Simon, standing in front of Tori as he shook his head. "You and your damn big mouth."
Tori held up the phone to her mouth again, stopping the necromancer from asking her favor. "Don't worry, Chloe. They already know."
Authoress's Notes: And that's a wrap! Yayyy! It's all over! I hope everyone was filled with Chlerek-y goodness.
This would have been up on Tuesday, but I got distracted and kept forgetting. And then yesterday I was at a friend's having the most ultimate water balloon war ever. And so I finally remembered to put it up now. So, sorry for the slight wait!
No one seemed to notice, but as I was rereading, I realized I made Tori have a deal with the groom's sister, only to later state he was an only child. So I changed that sister to a cousin. Yay for goof-ups!
Thanks for reading/reviewing!