‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 19

Blaring music drifted into Sage’s kitchen, floating through her large home from the backyard where the band was splashing in her pool. Her neighbors were going to call the cops this time, she was sure of it. The small gathering of band members and significant others, or playthings for the night in Hunter’s case, would get shut down before Cadeau had the chance to show up. Sage glanced at the clock above her stove and sighed, dropping the last tray of sliced veggie toppings for the burgers on her counter. The rest of the band had shown up, made demands over their preferred burger ornamentation, and gotten comfortable, and Cadeau still wasn’t there. Sage even had time to carefully prepare every single vegetable.

Where was she? Planning on being fashionably late? Debating on not showing up at all? Trying on every bathing suit in her possession to pick the most suitable?

Sage paused at the last possibility, then nodded her head in accession. She could forgive Cadeau’s tardiness if she was painstakingly going through swimsuits, modeling each of them in front of a mirror or friend so she could pick the right one. The “right one” being the one that showed the most skin, of course.

Sage did need something to stare at all night, something to add a little reality to the dreams that plagued her at night, since she wasn’t going get close to recreating her dreams anytime soon. She would eventually, she was sure she would, but not yet.

Because she had to follow her usual plan of action.

She really did need to employ Blake’s old policy of “fuck everything with a vagina.” Her life would easier.

But the monogamy was essential. She needed it, the relationship that, for a little while, would make her feel normal, like she hadn’t been broken beyond repair. She thrived on the hope each new relationship sparked. She could be cared for in the very way her foster parents taught her she couldn’t, and she could care for someone else in the way she never believed she could.

The sharp ring of her doorbell over the music cut into her self-deprecating thoughts. She shot to attention, a burst of nervous energy fluttering through her stomach. She left her mindless task of prepping food trays and nearly ran through her home to the front door, adjusting the top of her bikini to better prop up her breasts in the most alluring way she could manage. Taking a deep breath and throwing on a careless smile, she pulled the door open, greeted by the party’s smiling guest of honor.


“Hey,” Sage said, voice full of warmth. “You made it.”

“I didn’t think I had a choice,” Cadeau said, but she didn’t sound or appear upset over being forced to go to a pool party that she clearly hadn’t wanted to attend when Sage invited her. Good-humored, smiling, happy, hardly upset.

“Saylor would have shown up at you house with an Uzi if you bailed.” Her joke was rewarded with a pretty laugh. She grinned, pleased she could make Cadeau laugh, and moved to the side to allow her room to enter the house. “Come in.”

“Thank you.”

She stepped past Sage, walking only a small distance into the front hallway. Eyes on Cadeau, Sage shut and locked her front door. She looked nice in her short shorts. The frayed edges of the hem hit just barely below her ass, and the jean fabric stretched in a way that accentuated the perfect curve. And in minutes, she would be wearing far less. A swimsuit, which was close enough to lingerie in Sage’s opinion.

Cadeau turned, forcing Sage’s eyes to dart away from her bottom. She didn’t seem to notice where Sage’s attention had been, still smiling happily. She lifted the tray in her hands.

“I made brownies,” Cadeau said.

Sage’s eyebrows drew together. She eyed the container, then met Cadeau’s happy gaze. “Special brownies?”

She didn’t seem the type to know anything about making pot brownies. Barbie and pot didn’t really go together.

Cadeau snorted and rolled her eyes. “Sorry, lifestyles of the rich and famous, they’re normal.”

Right, people still made brownies sans the pot.

“Oh, that’s good. Hayden’s trying to cut back.”

Not really. Hayden’s fix included mass amounts of energy drinks and sugar. In fact, no one in the band had touched marijuana. Since high school… Well, maybe a couple years after that… Since they could legally drink, really. It had been something fun and rebellious to do, until they got older.

Sage doubted Cadeau had ever done the same thing or anything in an attempt to rebel against authority. Yet another life experience separating her from the rest of the band.

“Such a family friendly band,” Cadeau joked.

At least she wasn’t easily upset or offended.

Sage chuckled and took the container of brownies from Cadeau’s hands. “I’ll put these in the kitchen. If you want to change…” she trailed off, taking notice of the plain white, halter strap clinging to her neck. “You already have your bathing suit on,” she mumbled to herself. “Of course, you came prepared.”

Looked like there would be no chance of accidentally walking in on Cadeau changing. Sage’s loss. She didn’t expect to get that lucky anyway. Hoped, but didn’t think it would actually happen. And it wouldn’t because Cadeau didn’t need to change.

“You can strip down in the living room,” Sage said, nodding toward the room in question. “Just leave your stuff in there. Bathroom’s that way if you’d feel more comfortable.” She pointed down the hall.

“Thanks.” And Cadeau slipped into the living room.

Mentally praising herself for her performance, Sage turned and walked back to the kitchen. She had done good, joking around with Cadeau and making her feel comfortable in her home and just interacting in a more friendly way. Baby steps.

She placed the brownies on the counter, where they would sit for a short period of time now that Cadeau had shown up and the band could begin discussing the contract over their meal, and left her kitchen. Again. She had been in and out of her kitchen, running around her house like a chicken with its head cut off, more times than she could count today. In preparation for this party. In preparation for Cadeau’s first glimpse of her home. In preparation to slowly woo Cadeau. It was stressful, and her day still wasn’t over. There was so much to do, to keep in mind and control, so this party ended the way Sage wanted it to. And that started with escorting Cadeau to the backyard, making sure to keep conversation going and letting their arms casually brush while they walked to show Sage was comfortable enough to let physical contact happen.

Prepping herself for her flawless plan, Sage rounded the corner into the living room, opened her mouth to speak, and—


Cadeau’s ass, to be specific, up in the air while she bent over to grab her shorts from the living room floor. The sight skewed Sage’s thoughts and halted her movements, and all she could think was that this was a very nice angle of Cadeau.

Cadeau straightened, placing her folded shorts over the arm of the couch where her tank top rested, and turned around, forcing Sage’s eyes to make the excruciating journey up her bikini-clad body to meet her eyes. And Cadeau would have noticed Sage’s appreciating gaze this time had she not been looking around her living room in awe. Thank goodness for small miracles.

This was getting embarrassing. Sage knew she could feign social ability better than this, even when flustered by a pretty girl or strangers or people in general. She’d proven as much every day of her life. She’d perfected the talent. She perfected every one of her talents. But Cadeau, who she only decided to pursue days ago, was reducing her to complete idiocy. Ridiculous.

“Your house is gorgeous,” Cadeau marveled.

Her house was perfect, like her fake social skills used to be.

“Thank you,” Sage said. She let her gaze drop to Cadeau’s body again. “Nice bathing suit.”

Cadeau’s eyebrows slammed down. She glanced at her bikini. It was plain white with no ornamentation to add flare to the bland color. The cut was normal and not meant to make the bikini anything more than a simple bikini. Years of use must have worn the fabric. There was nothing special about it, aside from the body it covered.

Amusement sparkled in Cadeau’s blue eyes, as if she knew where Sage’s thoughts had turned. And she probably did know. It shouldn’t have been too hard to guess.

“I mean…” Sage opened and closed her mouth a few times, searching for the right words. Finally, she settled on, “Nice body to fill your bathing suit…?” She paused, the words she stupidly spoke rolling around in her head. Wow. She groaned and ran her hands over her face and through her bright blue hair in frustration. She had been doing so well, too. “I am such an idiot,” she mumbled. She smiled apologetically at Cadeau and tried again, “You look nice.”

Cadeau laughed, but the pretty jingle was different from the teasing laughs Sage had gotten throughout high school. It was nice. Like Cadeau.

“You look nice, too,” Cadeau said.

And she didn’t say any more than that. She didn’t fumble over goofy additions, didn’t stutter or flush. She left it at “You look nice, too.” Unfortunately. Sage wanted more than that. A secret smile meant just for her, shameless eyes roving her body, compliments on how her bathing suit pushed up her breasts.

She’d have to settle for “nice,” she supposed. For now.

“We should go out back,” Sage said, “Everyone’s waiting.”

Cadeau’s eyes widened. “You were waiting up for me? I’m so sorry. You guys didn’t have to do that.”

Of course, she would apologize for being late for a party where being on time was only necessary to keeping Sage sane.

“Had to make sure Hayden didn’t eat all the food before you got here,” Sage said with a flippant shrug. No one else cared that Cadeau had been late, and Blake was still cooking burgers anyway. “Come on.”
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Dakota Ray