The Family Simon Boxed Set (Books 1-3)By: Juliana Stone
Tucker Simon hadn’t been to a wedding in five years and damned if he was going to this one alone.
At least, not if he could help it.
With a grimace, he slid onto the barstool and tossed his crumpled invitation in front of him. He used his index finger to push the offending invite a couple inches away and glared at it. If he was Superman, his X-ray vision would have sent the damn thing up in smoke.
Sure, the pale pink paper, the bold gold lettering, and the stinking scent of something way too girly for a man to sniff was enough to get him worked up. But it was the thought of walking into that church and reception without his plus one that had him on edge.
Jesus. H. Christ.
His mother had been on his back for months about his dating—or lack there of—and had made it clear she expected him to show up with someone. Anyone. According to her, people were starting to talk. According to her, they were worried.
According to her, he was too young to be alone. As if thirty-one was the magic number for lost causes.
He believed her exact words were, “I don’t care if you have to hire someone. In fact, I’ll make some inquiries. Your third cousin on your father’s side was arrested a few years back for getting caught with a prostitute, but we’d be willing to overlook that.”
First off, the fact that his mother was willing to troll for prostitutes was alarming, especially considering the political aspirations of the oldest Simon, Jack.
Secondly, Tucker Simon had never paid anyone for sex—ever—and he had no intention of doing it now. Sure, he’d had a long dry spell after Marley went missing—he still refused to say died—but that was behind him.
Christ, was it behind him.
If his mother knew the truth—that over the last year he’d had a shit-ton of meaningless sex with faceless women he didn’t care to know—her tune would be a little different. Or maybe not. Maybe in her mind, a connection—any kind of connection—was better than nothing.
As it was, she hadn’t even blinked when he’d told her he was bringing his current lady-friend to the wedding and he’d thought for sure it would at least be cause for his mom’s imperious raised eyebrow. The one he’d seen way too many times to count.
So, he’d thrown Sonya Devonish at her.
Of the European Devonishes.
They were the ones who’d made their billions from the black market in Russia. The ones rumored to have ties to organized crime. And the ones who had spawned a generation of young women who were famous for being infamous. And loose. And kind of tactless.
Sonya Devonish was a trust fund baby with a wild past, an even wilder reputation—the general public didn’t know the half of it—and apparently no qualms about cancelling on him at the last minute.
Now he was stuck attending his cousin’s wedding, with the entire damn Simon family along for the ride.
If his twin brother was coming back for the big event, Tucker would have been fine. He would have hung out with Teague and they would have devoured a couple bottles of Gray Goose, danced with a few Aunties and called it a night.
But Teague was still in Africa, his older brother Jack always had a woman in hand, and Beau—as in his movie star brother—was a lost cause and officially off the market.
Damn that Betty Jo Barker.
A genuine smile crossed his face when he thought of her. The fiery triplet was good for Beau—more than good for him—his brother had been ready to meet the one for a while now. And as much as Tucker was happy for Beau, there was a part of him that was bitter. Jealous even.
Because Tucker had had it all. Once.
“What can I get ya?”
Tucker glanced up and blinked, a little confused. It was seven o’clock on a Wednesday evening and his tall, frosty draft was usually waiting for him seconds after he sat down.
“Ah,” he mumbled, running a hand through his hair and tugging on his tie. Shit. What was his beer of choice?
The burly bartender crossed his arms over a massive chest, cocked his head to the side and waited while Tucker tried to see around him. Where the hell was—
“I’ve got this, Pete.”
A tall, slender brunette handed him a cold mug and planted her hands on the bar-top. “Just so you know, Tucker, you’ve been drinking Guinness every Wednesday for the last year.”
Tucker grabbed the mug, held it aloft with a grin, and then took a long drink before settling back onto his stool.
The Black Dog was a pub not far from Times Square, between 7th Avenue and 9th Avenue. It wasn’t some high class kind of joint. Instead, it was a family-owned bar with entertainment on the weekends, and it had the best wings in the city. Abby’s family had owned the place for several generations, and she and her six brothers took their turns helping out her folks.
Tucker liked the place because of the laid back atmosphere, and there was something about the Mathews brood that reminded him of his own family, complete with an over abundance of testosterone and the one lone sister to keep them real.
A sister who was damn fine to look at, with all that dark mahogany hair, creamy skin and huge hazel/brown eyes.
But she was a sister who was off limits.
Tucker had been warned away by her older brother Mick a few weeks after he’d started to frequent The Black Dog. He’d been told in no uncertain terms that Abby Mathews wasn’t for public consumption, and she certainly wasn’t the kind of girl who fooled around with guys like Tucker Simon.
Guys who were looking for a diversion, because they just wanted to forget.
Guys who weren’t looking for anything serious.
And Tucker sure as hell wasn’t looking for anything close to serious.
So, he’d taken Mick’s warning under advisement, and over the course of the last year, he and Abby had become friends. He liked her. He liked her a lot, but it was a platonic kind of thing. Not exactly sisterly—she was way too hot to go there—but it was a friendship nonetheless.
Besides, Abby was dating some useless musician with no money who was constantly coming into The Black Dog looking for cash. He wondered why the Mathews boys hadn’t gotten rid of him, because if he was dating Tucker’s sister, he would have taken care of it himself.
Personally, Tucker thought the guy was a loser with minimal talent—he’d seen the guy perform at the bar—and Abby was wasting her time with him. He didn’t get it—didn’t understand what she saw in the guy—but ultimately it was none of his business.
“What’s this?” Abby scooped up the invitation.
“Wedding,” Tucker replied, his mood dark again. “Family wedding.”
“Oh,” she said, as she put it back in front of him. “You don’t seem real excited about it.”
Tucker shrugged and took another sip of beer. The place was hopping—Wednesday was their half priced wing night—and it was loud. Did he want to get into it right now?
“I thought you and your family were close. That you all got along great,” Abby said as she grabbed a drink for the guy on the stool beside Tucker.
She took the cash from the man, deftly avoiding his lingering fingers and leaned against the bar, eyebrows raised as she stared at Tucker.
“Then what’s the problem?”
Tucker rested his elbows on the bar. Screw it. He needed to talk to someone and right now, Abby was all he had.
“I don’t want to go alone.”
He winced as the words came out, because, shit, could he sound any more pathetic? But it was a simple truth that led to the bigger, broader picture.
“I get that,” she said softly.
And for a second, Tucker stared into perfect brown eyes that knew about his past. That knew about his pain.
Hell, who didn’t? For a while there, he’d been in the tabloids every other week. The Simon family had always been ripe for the picking—with Beau being a bona fide superstar and Jack well on his way to the White House—the comparisons to the Kennedys had dogged them for generations.
When Tucker’s young wife had gone missing, his family had done their best to shield him from the endless CNN coverage, or the half-truths printed in the trashy gossip rags. Eventually it had blown over—three years between then and now would do that—and he’d been able to live in relative anonymity in New York City.
Oh, there were still moments when the paparazzi interfered, nabbing pictures of him jogging in Central Park, grabbing groceries at the market around the corner from his apartment, or eating a bagel for Christ sake. He knew they were trying to snap pictures of him with a woman and he took great pains to keep out of the public eye when he was with one. But for the most part, they left him alone and he supposed he could thank the insatiable appetite the public had for new scandal or tragedy.
Tucker Simon—the tragic one—was yesterday’s news.
His family, however, was another thing altogether. His mother was on a mission to find him some kind of happiness, and it killed him to know that it just wasn’t out there for him. It had gone down with Marley’s plane.
He was sick and tired of putting on that mask, the one his family needed to see in order for them to get off his back. The one that said he was all right with the world. The one that said he was halfway to happy.