Sugar rush, p.1
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       Sugar Rush, p.1
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         Part #3 of Friend-Zoned series by Belle Aurora  
Sugar Rush


  Sugar Rush

  by Belle Aurora

  Content

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Epilogue

  Prologue

  Helena

  I weep openly. A high-pitched whimper leaves my mouth that is so high I think I hear a dog howl somewhere in the distance. I alternate whimpering and bawling, snorting every now and again. Tears drench my cheeks. Boogers almost run into my mouth. I’m a hot mess.

  When the celebrant smiles happily and utters, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride,” my sister, Natalie, throws her bouquet behind her. Without flinching, Mimi snatches up the flowers mid-air before winking to the crowd. Nat stands on her tiptoes and kisses her husband, Asher, through a smile. He gently hooks a hand around the back of her neck and holds her close, deepening the kiss and refusing to let her end it. They smile lip-to-lip.

  It’s beautiful. And so I howl. I look across to the middle-aged man sitting next to me. He watches me with a mixture of concern and fear, backing up just a little. I try to speak through my hitching breaths and sobbing, “Izz juzz so beautafoo.” Hitch. “So beautafoo.”

  I break down again, louder this time. Sinking down into my chair in the most unladylike way, I let out a long, keening cry. I hear someone say an annoyed, “Will someone please get her out of here?”

  Wet mascara makes my eyelashes stick together. When I realize the annoyed person is my sister, I lift my face heavenward and cry harder. Nat glares at me and hisses only loud enough for me to hear, “Seriously, shut the eff up and stop with the crying. You’re bringing everyone down, skank!”

  I weakly reach a hand out to her, body shaking with silent sobs and try to speak. “I lubb ewe. Ewe look beautafoo. So beautafoo.” I sit up and wail, “I’m juzz happy. So happy.”

  My sister. She speaks my language. So when I see her eyes fill with tears and her lip quivers, I know it’s not long before this solo turns into a duet. She looks at me and whispers, “Aww.” The first of her tears fall, and before I know it, we’re clutching each other and sobbing openly, wailing, sounding something like a couple of chimps fighting in a turf war.

  If you couldn’t tell, I don’t do weddings well. They get me. They always get me. It’s the same thing every time. I give myself a firm pep-talk. I don’t bother packing tissues, as if somehow that’ll stop the tears, and usually, before the cake is even cut, my makeup is all over my face and my eyes are swollen shut.

  But today is worse. Today it’s my sister’s special day. Well, my sister’s second special day. She and Asher eloped. They got hitched in Vegas, married by Elvis. They said at the time it felt right, but when they got home, it felt wrong, that it felt like something was missing. And what was missing was family.

  They organized another small celebration to be held in the best man, Nik, and maid of honor, Tina’s, backyard. I have known Tina Tomic all my life. She grew up with us. Her parents and mine were the best of friends, meaning, naturally, we all developed a special bond. Not quite close enough to be sisters, but too close to be called just friends.

  We became soul sisters.

  When Tina lost her mom and daughter, she left California and moved to New York. She opened a very successful boutique called Safira’s, and Nat followed close behind. Nik and Tina met, developed a friendship and fell in love. A special kind of love. One for the ages. The type of love poets write about.

  Nik owns the club across the street from Safira, The White Rabbit. And with Nik comes his posse—his younger brother, Max, his best friend, Asher or Ghost, as the boys call him, and their cousin, Trick. Tina, having her own posse, her worker girls, Mimi and Lola, and my sister, Nat, decided to merge the two groups to form one. And they did.

  They formed a family.

  Not all families are bonded through blood. Some have been sewn together by love and laughter.

  Now, Nat and Asher, they didn’t always like each other. In fact, they despised one another. They fought their attraction to each other for a long time…until it became unavoidable. When they finally came together, they collided with a bang. Literally. Heads were butted. Hooves were bucked. It wasn’t pretty. Not your typical romance, for sure. They fought until it hurt to fight anymore. You know the saying, ‘There’s a thin line between love and hate’? Well, they severed the line and the emotions merged. They realized their love for each other was too strong to ignore.

  And here they are, happily married. I smile shakily.

  I can’t believe it.

  My sister is married.

  Someone pries my Kung-Fu death grip off of Nat and ushers my sobbing ass away. I peer out of a swollen eye to find my older sister, Nina, shushing me and rubbing my back soothingly. She tries not to make eye contact, knowing it’ll only make things worse, but in a moment of confusion, her eye meets mine.

  We both still.

  Her eyes widen.

  So do mine.

  Her wide-set gaze darts from side-to-side in panic, looking for a quick out. But it’s too late. My lip quivers, I lift my face and I let out a wail so strong it sounds like an animal has made it—namely, a moose—and etiquette tells me that alarming noise has no place at a wedding.

  But I just can’t stop it!

  Nina’s steps quicken, in turn, quickening my own. She pulls me along, and then we’re inside. “Jesus C, kid. Buck the fuck up,” she utters in exasperation. “I seriously don’t know how we’re related sometimes. It’s a wedding, not a funeral! No more tears. Capisce?”

  My breathing hitches so much that my face jerks to the side with every heavy breath. “I.” Hitch. “Can’t.” Hitch. “Help.” Hitch. “It.”

  She takes some tissue and wipes my face gently. “God, you’ve made a mess. C’mon. I have to redo your face. You look like a bee stung you. And the bee was on crack.”

  Away from the music and sounds of the wedding, Nina leads me into the bathroom, carrying her makeup kit. She sits me on the edge of the tub while she sits on the closed lid of the toilet. She attacks me with a powder brush. It tickles my nose and I want to sneeze and laugh all at once, but I don’t dare interrupt Nina while she does her thing. I take a moment to slow my breathing and calm my erratic emotions.

  Being a hairdresser, Nina has been assigned hair and makeup duties today. She really did an amazing job. Nat looks positively stunning. Nina was careful with her, took her time, and her time paid off. Nat looks like an angel.

  When we arrived last week, Nat shocked us all by making an announcement. Flicking her fire-engine red hair, she admitted,
I’m done with this color.” Smiling at Nina, she asked, “Feel like making me a brunette?” It had been years since I had seen Nat in her natural shade of chocolate brown, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how Ash would take it. It’s not like she warned him or anything. In typical Nat style, she cornered him.

  Nina had just finished styling the newly dyed hair when Ash came home. Nat stood with her cape still on and strode over to him. Once she was toe-to-toe with him, she placed her hands on her hips, widened her eyes, shook her head lightly and asked expectantly, “Well?”

  But the tall, strapping, ash-blonde didn’t move. He just looked down at his wife, his warm brown eyes following the length of her now-brown hair. I could tell the exact moment Nat went into panic mode. I knew this, because she started rambling, “It’s just that I’m not getting any younger and I wanted you to see me. You know, me me. Not hiding-behind-bright-hair-and-boobs Nat. But I can change it—”

  Her words were cut short when she was tugged into his arms. Legs splayed, Ash held Nat tight in his hold, lightly rocking her. I don’t know what he said to her, because his words were whispered, but as his lips met her ear and started moving, I caught her expression. Her eyes closed slowly and her mouth parted in relief before she smiled softly.

  Asher is not a man of many words, but he’s getting better. The thing with men who don’t talk much is they make the words they say count.

  Poor guy never stood a chance.

  You can’t exactly stay quiet in our family. In order to be heard, you need to yell over the other four people talking.

  Nina applies more powder. “So, you seeing anyone, kid?”

  Eyes closed, I respond quietly, “Nah.” I gesture weakly to my body. “Who could handle all this?”

  She huffs out a laugh through her nose. She remains silent a moment, but I can feel it. She wants to say something. And before I know it, she does. Nina is not the type to hold back. She liked to speak what’s on her mind, but she doesn’t talk about herself. Her private life has always been just that—private. Her tone is gentle, but serious. “Take it from me; don’t wait too long.” My eyes open at the wistful note in her voice. She smiles sadly. “Don’t want you to regret putting it off.”

  I understand what she’s saying, but it doesn’t change the way things are. “It’s a little hard dating right now, you know? I just finished my studies, and I’m about to be offered a placement God knows where. I think I need to concentrate on my career. The thought of having a boyfriend right now,” I cringe, “it’s exhausting.”

  Firm fingers grip my chin. Blazing eyes meet mine. “Excuses.”

  “What?”

  Nina loosens her grip on me and applies a little blush. “You’re making excuses.” Her voice gentles once more. “What if you found the person who’s right for you and you turned them away, because of your so-called career. Then, when it came time to settle down, you realize that person didn’t wait for you. And they shouldn’t have, because you were selfish. That career you did it all for, you’ll resent. They’ll always be the one who got away, and those kinds of things play on your mind.”

  I take my sister’s hand, pausing her mid-brushstroke and ask gently, “Who was yours?”

  Her face voids of expression. She quickly dips her chin and clears her throat. When she looks up again, all I see is sadness. Sadness so cutting, my chest aches. She mutters a hoarse, “Doesn’t matter. They’ll always be one who got away, and I can only blame myself.”

  Nina carefully adds the last of the makeup, restoring my puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks to near perfection. I stand and pull her close. Her arms wrap around me and hold me tight, and for the first time in forever, I think Nina needs this hug more than I do. “Thank you, Neens. I love you.”

  She responds on a squeeze. “Love you too. Now, go talk up some guys. There’re some real Johnny’s out there.” When my sisters and I talk about guys, the hotter they are, the more Johnny-like they are. In fact, I still have a Johnny Depp poster in my room. He sets a high standard.

  I love you, Johnny. They’ll never be you!

  Pulling apart, I smirk. “Are you telling me I should hook up or somethin’?”

  Nina smirks right back. “No harm in a little diddle here and there.”

  I chuckle and shake my head, but she’s right. I mentally roll my eyes at myself. Here I am, crying and pouting, when I could be talking to a Johnny. And Lord knows, I haven’t diddled in a while.

  Where are my priorities?

  I leave Nina to pack away her things and head back outside into the open courtyard. As soon as the fresh air hits me, I close my eyes and breathe it in. When I open my eyes, I smile.

  The courtyard looks stunning. Nat hadn’t wanted anything too complicated, going for the less-is-more approach. Always a win, if you ask me. All she wanted was white and apricot sheeting gathered and lining the inner border of the yard. The only extra she asked for was color coordinated Chinese lanterns that will be lit after dark. Finger food was indeed a better choice in this warmer weather, and with no need for tables, people are up talking and laughing together, while the hired waiters bring around trays of food.

  My eyes scan everything around me. I look to the left to see a pregnant Tina holding hands with her husband, Nik. A waiter passes them, and Tina’s eyes follow the tray of food. Nik, being Nik, follows her gaze to the retreating waiter’s back before letting go of her hand and walking away. Not ten seconds later, Nik returns with the entire tray of hors d'oeuvres, smiling down at her. Tina looks from the tray to Nik. She takes a tiny morsel from the tray he holds for her, her face turns soft, and with a gentle smile, I see her mouth form the words ‘I love you’. Nik doesn’t respond, but wraps his free arm around her and leans down to kiss her forehead. As his lips touch her, his eyes close and he allows his kiss to linger.

  My heart aches, and that bitch Jealousy rears her head for a single second. I want a love like that. One day, hopefully I’ll have it.

  Nat and Ash come to stand by Nik and Tina. A smiling Nat hands Tina a small bottle of apple juice before she lowers herself to a crouch in front of Tina’s belly.

  I feel a pang in my chest.

  Nat splays her hands on the protruding melon that is Tina’s baby bump as she talks to it. Ash reaches over to squeeze Tina’s shoulder. With an understanding smile, Tina smiles before lifting her hand to rest on his. It takes true friends to do what Tina and Nik are doing for Nat and Ash.

  You see, Tina is pregnant, but the babies aren’t hers. They’re Nat and Ash’s babies. Tina is acting as a surrogate for them, because Nat can’t carry babies to full term, and that’s just the kind of person she is. To see people unhappy makes her unhappy. She would do anything for the people she cares about. We recently found out there are two babies, but don’t yet know the sexes. Truthfully, Nat doesn’t care what the babies are, as long as they’re healthy.

  Holding hands, Lola and Trick make their way over to the group closely followed by a severe Johnny. A Johnny I have never been able to take my eyes off for more than a minute, because he’s so Johnny that my Johnny poster weeps at night, struck by jealousy. Max Leokov slides up behind Nat, smiling a dangerously naughty smile. Without warning, he pulls her up from her kneeling position by her underarms and turns her to face Ash. I can’t help but chuckle at the look and Asher’s face. His jaw tics, any ounce of friendliness quickly replaced by anger.

  But Max doesn’t care. He wraps his arms around Nat’s middle in an intimate embrace, lowers his face to her neck, and begins to pepper her with kisses. Ash steps forward, scowling, jaw tight, but Max simply steps back with Nat in his hold. I can’t hear what’s being said from here, but from the sly smile on Max’s face as he speaks and the way the others start laughing, I can tell he’s being a smartass and clearly has a death-wish for winding Ash up the way he is.

  Clearly.

  I’ve seen what Ash can do when he’s pushed. It’s not pretty.

  Ash leaps forward, and like a coward, Max releases Nat,
but quickly moves in front of Tina, arms open expectantly. Tina, being the sucker she is, moves into his embrace, laughing while he smacks wet kisses on her cheek.

  A split second before Nik’s fist moves to punch him, Max dodges it, reaches out, and takes Lola’s hand. He pulls her to him, and rolling her eyes, she smiles, allows him to hold her close—almost too close—and dances a slow dance in the middle of their circle of friends. Trick, not liking this, pulls her away from him and tucks her close to his side. She sighs and happily wraps an arm around him.

  Max opens his arms to his friends and shakes his head slowly. I see him mouth, ‘You’re no fun’. As he walks over to the bar and finds Mimi, he wraps his arms around her from behind. She stiffens a moment, turns, then relaxes back into him. He whispers something into her ear, and swatting him away, she laughs loudly. He holds a hand to his heart, wearing a mock-wounded expression.

  And for a moment, I’m jealous. They truly are a family. A part of me craves to be a part of it. I feel like a geek looking into the cool group at school. Still, I look around for a Johnny I like, and there are more than a few hotties in the crowd, but my eyes keep moving towards the tall, dark, and handsome man with golden eyes and the magic dimple.

  Max.

  I’ve lost count of the amount of women I have seen him flirting with, and—let’s face it—he’s almost as Johnny as the man himself.

  Dare I say, he’s more Johnny than Johnny?

  Sacrilege!

  If there ever was a Johnny I’d want for the night, it’d be him. He meets all the check boxes. Gorgeous. Funny. Intelligent. Sweet. And from the way he’s been throwing himself around, he’s a sure thing.

  I spend the next ten minutes watching Max flirt with every woman within arms-reach, including my mom, before I pep myself up enough to talk to him. I don’t really like men who flirt, but I like that he’s an equal opportunity flirt. No woman is safe from him. Old, young, thick and thin, he’s all over it, and I see he’s moved on to Nina, who isn’t left unaffected. As he takes her hand and kisses it over and over again, she lifts her free hand to cover her mouth as she fights a smile.

 
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