Rory hates that she had to tell Zwyk her sister has run away instead of marrying him. Well, she hates the pain her sister caused. She can’t exactly say she’s sorry the wedding is off. Maybe now she can make Zwyk see what’s been right under his nose this entire time -- her.
ABOUT THE STORYWe've all read jilted groom or jilted bride stories before. Usually the maid of honor, a bridesmaid, best friend, or best friend's sister ends up making it all better and they ride off into the sunset. So what makes this story different from any of those? Besides the purple aliens...
Zwyk has always wanted one thing. To have his own family. A mate, children. Maybe a family pet. And he thinks he's well on his way to achieving his dreams when he proposes to Brittany, only to be left stranded at the altar without so much as a goodbye. He decides love is too painful and gives up on his dream, determined to keep his heart from ever breaking. Enter Rory...
She's spunky, quirky, and just what Zwyk needs. He's always felt like he had to hide who he is when he's with a woman. None of them have ever been impressed with his paper-pushing job, nor his love of Xbox. But Rory isn't like the others. She's a hardcore gamer with a degree in finance, every bit as geeky as he is, and she may be just the cure that Zwyk needs. And Rory is determined to get what she wants...
EXCERPTHis poor game system was hidden away in the hall closet, banished there by Brittany along with two boxes of his games. He hauled everything out and started hooking it back up, petting the console and whispering words of contrition to it for his poor treatment the past few months. When it booted right up, he took that to mean he was forgiven for his transgression. Looking in the boxes of games was akin to opening presents on Christmas -- a human tradition he’d embraced wholeheartedly -- and he had trouble deciding what to play first.
There wasn’t a better way to dive back into things than to play Gears of War 4. His Xbox Live membership had lapsed and his account had been deleted, so he’d have to enjoy one-player mode for now. Hell, he didn’t even know if his gaming buddies were still around, assuming he could find them online after he made a new account. He’d just up and vanished on them three months ago. It was an asshole move, but Brittany had grabbed him by the balls. Well, figuratively, because she’d never gotten close enough to actually touch his balls. They’d kissed, but she’d always shied away when he tried to take things further, saying she wanted to wait for their wedding night. Now he had to wonder how much of that was bullshit. Had she detested him so much that she couldn’t stand to be touched by him?
The game had just finished loading when there was a knock at his front door. Zwyk set his controller aside and went to answer, almost dreading who might be on the other side. If word had already spread about his failed wedding, any number of his friends could be on the other side with an “I told you so” ready on their lips, or worse, a pitying look in their eyes. He almost didn’t answer, but something made him pull open the door.
His eyebrows rose when he saw who stood on the other side.
She grinned and held up two pizza boxes while she pushed her glasses further up her nose. “I thought you might need sustenance after your trying day. It’s your favorite. Sausage and onion.”
His stomach rumbled and he stepped back to let her in. It wasn’t the first time she’d been to his house, but it was the first time they’d been alone. Was she feeling sorry for him? He’d have thought she’d be with her parents, trying to figure out where Brittany went. But then Rory had always seemed to follow her own rhythm. What was that Earth saying? Marching to the beat of her own drum?
He shut the door and followed her into the living room, where she set the boxes on the coffee table. He grinned a little, thinking about Brittany’s head exploding if she saw such a travesty. It gave him the sudden urge to leave rings and scuff marks on the pristine surface. Juvenile perhaps, but refreshing. It was like he’d been freed from a prison sentence, and if that wasn’t a sobering thought, he didn’t know what was.
“Whatever you just thought, stop thinking it,” Rory said as she opened the first box. “I figure we can just eat out of the box, but we probably should grab some drinks before I kick your ass on the Xbox.”
He blinked at her. Did she just say…
“Drinks?” she prompted then shook her head. “Never mind, I’ll get them.”
He watched, bemused, as she helped herself to his kitchen. She returned a moment later with a disgusted look on her face and two soda cans in her hands.
“Please tell me this is another Brittany travesty and you don’t actually drink diet.”
He coughed to cover his laugh, but he couldn’t deny that she amused him. “I’ll go to the store later and pick up some regular soda.”
“You should get grape too. It’s my favorite.”
He scratched his neck and wondered if that meant she planned to hang out for a while. Zwyk wasn’t quite sure what to make of Rory, but he was just going to go with it for the time being. He couldn’t really think of anything else to do. Retaking his seat on the couch, he grabbed a slice of pizza and took a huge bite before downing half the can she’d placed in front of him. The intro to the game blared from the TV speakers and Rory wiggled her fingers at him, snatching the controller from his hand.
“You eat. I’m going to play.” She grinned at him before turning her focus to the game on the screen.
Zwyk devoured almost an entire pizza by himself as he alternated between watching the comical expressions on Rory’s face and her annihilation of everything in her path on the screen. Her skill was rather impressive and her maniacal laugh as she took out the opposing force was amusing. Who knew such a pint-sized female could be so bloodthirsty?
“All right, killer. It’s my turn,” he said holding out his hand for the controller. “You’re pretty good, but it’s time to show you how the pros do it.”
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child. Her first stories may have been written in crayon, but now she's a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and spills over from her professional life into her personal one. When she went out on that first date with her husband, she never expected to hear the words "marry me" pop out of his mouth -- and judging by the shocked look on his face, he hadn't meant to say them either. But, being the hopeless romantic that she is, Jessica said yes and they've been married since 2000.