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The Best Man (Alpha Men Book 2)

By:Natasha Anders

CHAPTER ONE

“Thirty-two is not old,” Daffodil McGregor muttered under her breath while pasting a simpering smile on her face for the benefit of her elderly, “well-meaning” hag of an aunt. The one who had just told her that being cute and spunky lost its charm once you left your twenties behind. Horrible crone. If Daffodil were younger, she would slip some laxatives into the old girl’s tea and gleefully watch her desperately dodder her way to the toilet. Being a responsible adult could be so boring at times.

“Daff, I need your advice, please.” Her youngest sister, Daisy, wrapped an arm around her waist and turned her away from Aunt Ivy, who was still lecturing Daff about her waning charms. “Sorry, Auntie, I just need to borrow her for a few seconds.”

Daisy hurriedly dragged her away from Ivy, and Daff frowned at her shorter sister.

“What advice?”

“None.” Daisy grinned. “Auntie Ivy looked like she needed rescuing from the impending Daffsplosion.”

“She was pissing me off, harping on and on about how old I was getting. Why are they even here? Who invited them?”

“Daff, I can’t not have the aunties at my engagement party,” Daisy admonished, and Daff rolled her eyes.

“It’s just an engagement party, not a wedding or anything.” Daff scowled, and Daisy dimpled at her adorably.

“It’s still a big deal,” she said. Daff sighed and tucked one of Daisy’s errant curls behind her ear.

“I can’t believe my baby sister is getting married,” she said, and Daisy grinned.

“I know, right? And to such a stud.” Daff’s eyes drifted over to where Daisy’s frankly gorgeous fiancé, Mason, was earnestly conversing with his older brother, Spencer. She had to admit, Mason Carlisle did fantastic things for a three-piece suit. Her attention shifted to the man standing beside him. Spencer didn’t look as comfortable in a suit. In fact, he looked too big, too rough, and too damned barbaric to do the Alexander McQueen suit any justice. He kept tugging at the tie, which—added to his overly long hair and dark stubble—gave him a generally disheveled appearance.

Mason—always aware of where Daisy was in a room—glanced over and graced her with a very hot, very intimate smile. Daff rolled her eyes when her sister sighed and practically melted in pleasure. Seriously, these two were perpetually horny. It was downright embarrassing to be in their company at times.

Spencer also looked over, and his stormy dark-green eyes clashed with Daff’s for a second before she deliberately looked away. She couldn’t stand the man. She had once harbored a smidgen of affection for him, but that was before he hurt Daisy in a misguided attempt to get closer to Daff. She peered over at her flushed sister, who was still eye-fucking Mason, and sighed. Okay, so everything had worked out in the end and Daisy had forgiven and forgotten because the whole debacle had won her Mason. But Daff was made of sterner stuff and Spencer had pissed her off. She didn’t forgive as easily.

Still, Daff was the maid of honor and Spencer was the best man, so for the sake of harmony it was probably better to declare a truce. The last McGregor wedding hadn’t ended well—her middle sister, Lia, had thankfully called the whole thing off—so Daff wanted to be sure this one was without any drama. Establishing some kind of peace with Spencer would probably go a long way toward making things easier for Daisy.

Mason was coming over, looking like a lovestruck fool floating on a sea of pheromones. The guy was practically drooling, for God’s sake.

“Hey, angel. Miss me?” His voice was pitched low and clearly intended for the only person currently in his field of vision. Daff might as well not have existed.

“Always.” Daisy smiled. Jesus, they lived together, spent every spare moment in each other’s company, and had been dancing together less than five minutes ago. Daff couldn’t fathom this kind of yearning for anybody. Once, long ago when she had been little more than a naïve, foolish girl, it might have been something she aspired to. Now, hard-earned experience had taught her that those innocent dreams of romance and love were not for her, and she hoped never to actually feel anything remotely similar. How terrifying that would be. And yet . . . sometimes it physically hurt Daff to see them together. She was pleased for Daisy—her sister deserved all the happiness in the world and Mason made her ecstatic—but looking at them made Daff feel . . . lonely. The thought made her uncomfortable, and she just wanted to get away from them.

“Anyway, thanks for the rescue, Deedee,” she said. No response. “I’ll just be heading . . . over there somewhere.” No response. “To, you know, dance on the tables. Naked, probably. Haven’t decided yet.” No response. All righty, then.

She turned away, grabbing a glass of bubbly from one of the tables on the way. She looked around the crowded room. Her parents were hosting this party in their own home. It was early days yet, but Daisy had opted to do her entire wedding at home. The ceremony would be in the huge backyard, beneath the weeping willows out by the large duck pond. The farm was really an ideal setting for this wedding, and for veterinarian Daisy, who had always been happy to run around with the geese and ducks and cows, it was a perfect fit.

Daff circled the room restlessly, feeling out of sorts and a little bit moody, like a shark circling the shallows looking for a potential victim. She spotted her prey just a couple of meters away and made her way to his side. He was a big bastard, topping her five foot seven by at least seven inches. He was massively built with shoulders that could block out the sun; he was easily twice her size, but all muscle. She knew he kept fit, always out playing sports, swimming, cycling, and surfing. While Mason had a lean elegance to his gorgeous body, Spencer was all brute force.

“Stop fiddling with that tie,” she said when he tugged at the length of fabric again. “You’ve done enough damage.”

“What do you care?” he sneered, glaring at her from beneath that fall of black hair. He looked like a beast, hulking, menacing . . . His hair fell over his eyes, a wild, sleek mane. It was kind of thrilling how savage he seemed at times. Barely civilized. No wonder he always messed up flirting with her—he had all the finesse of a stampeding bull.

“Fine, if you want to continue looking like an absolute primitive, then by all means, fiddle away.” She continued to stand beside him, sipping her bubbly, while he wavered for a few seconds before his hand discreetly went up to touch the knot of his tie, obviously checking if it was as bad as she’d said. She glanced at the dance floor, where Daisy and Mason were now dancing together, still completely wrapped up in each other.

“So your brother finally popped the question,” she said.

“I think he started asking her about six months ago. She finally said yes,” Spencer corrected, and Daff grinned. The younger couple’s relationship had been anything but ordinary, so the news didn’t surprise her in the slightest.

“And you’re the best man?” She framed it as a question, despite already knowing the answer, and he nodded. “Well, since I’m the maid of honor, we’ll be partnered and expected to do stuff together. I just wanted to be sure you were okay with that.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“We haven’t really been on good terms.”

“I hadn’t noticed. You don’t exactly feature prominently in my life.” Ouch. That hurt.

“Right. Anyway. Bygones?”

“If you say so.” He shrugged, clearly not caring less. Feeling foolish, Daff walked away and wished she’d never approached him in the first place. She was annoyed with herself for allowing him to get the better of her. He wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Years of repeatedly getting thumped on the head couldn’t be good for the brain, and Spencer typified the term dumb jock. She chose not to acknowledge the fact that he was a successful businessman with a highly lucrative sporting goods business. He had capitalized on the minor fame his short-lived rugby career had generated, and it had resulted in the right doors opening at the right time. He was still that big, sulky brute who had been two years ahead of her in high school. The bad boy with the seemingly delinquent tendencies. A causeless rebel who—she initially believed—had seen her as yet another trophy to be won.

She tossed back her drink and looked around for another tray of the stuff. Finding nothing close by, she put the glass on the closest surface and indulged in one—or several—of the delicious canapés instead.

“Why are you hiding back here?” her middle sister’s light voice asked from behind her, and Daff guiltily turned to face Lia—cheeks stuffed with tiny canapés.

“Hey.”

“Jeez, Daff, hungry?” Lia asked playfully, handing her a napkin. “You have cream cheese on your face.”

Daff took the napkin with a nod and swallowed down the delicious little treats before wiping her mouth. Lia’s finger indicated left, and Daff swiped the napkin across her cheek.

“Got it?” she asked and Lia nodded with a sweet smile. Her middle sister was always sweet and too damned nice for her own good. Just over a year ago, she’d nearly allowed herself to be railroaded into marriage with a guy who was entirely wrong for her, but she had thankfully come to her senses at the eleventh hour.

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