Four Weddings And A Fireman(8)

By: Jennifer Bernard


“Don’t be such a Nosy Nellie. I don’t need you guys getting in the middle of anything.”

She stalked out of the ancient Mercedes she’d converted to run on veggie diesel. Nick slouched after her.

“Oh, believe me, I don’t want to get in the middle. I hear the noise you freaks make at night. I’m not touching that.”

Cherie felt her face go pink. Despite her six years in California, her strict upbringing still made her blush over certain things. Nick followed after her. “Seriously, what is it with you two? You ought to either cut him loose or marry him.”

“Excuse me? You’re telling me to marry Vader? I thought you hated him.”

Cherie hurried toward the entrance of Move Me. Of her many jobs—she had a patchwork quilt of them around town—teaching tango was her guilty pleasure. She loved the provocative music and the way the dance suggested all sorts of naughtiness without ever getting too blatant about it. Move Me had become a haven to her, a place where she could lose herself in music. She also practiced her self-defense moves here, the one thing that gave her a small sense of security.

“You don’t get a vote. Vader and I are none of your business,” she told Nick over her shoulder. “So how about you guys back off?”

“Can’t. Jacob told us to—”

“Well, I’m firing you from whatever Jacob thought he was telling you to do. Vader and I . . . we’re cool. We understand each other.” She opened the glass studio door, knowing that if Vader were there, he would have opened it for her. Cool, lemon-scented air rushed past her face. The cleaning people must have come in last night.

Nick followed her down the hall to Studio A, where her class would take place. “What I don’t get is why you’re so different with him.”

Cherie frowned as she struggled with the persnickety studio door. Lord forbid that Nick help her for one second. “Different how?”

“Normally you’re like everyone’s mom. You know, a sexy mom. MILF type. The young, hot mother of the kid next door, who makes cookies for you and gives you haircuts and always smells nice. And spreads a blanket over you when you’re cold, and lets you pick the movie, and doesn’t mind if you play your music a little loud and—”

“Is there a point in here somewhere?” Cherie finally got the door open and plopped her dance bag in the corner of the studio. Light glowed from the freshly polished hardwood floor and bounced off the wall of mirrors. Her students would be arriving any second. She needed to focus on preparing for the class, not listen to Nick babble.

She searched through her bag, looking for the twirly, parrot-print skirt she’d brought to teach in. Maybe if she ignored him, Nick would stop talking.

No such luck. “The point is, you’re not so motherly with him. You don’t seem like super earth mother with her hand on the pulse of the universe anymore. You’re more like a regular girl. You get kind of flirty and fluttery around him. And you forget about everyone else.”

Cherie straightened up, her hands filled with her dance outfit. “Let me get this straight. You don’t like Vader because when I’m with him, I forget to cut your hair and rub your feet?”

Nick smirked, hands in the pockets of his tight black jeans. “You’ve never rubbed my feet, and Vader’d probably rip my throat out if I asked you to, and that’s my point. He acts like he owns you. So that’s why Optimal Doom is taking a stand. If you’re not getting married, and he doesn’t own you, then why doesn’t he hit the road, toad? Don’t look back, Jack.”

Cherie felt the tips of her ears burn. Uh oh, not a good sign. She took a deep breath, but it was too late. A wave of heat traveled from her ears all the way down to her toes. She threw her dance clothes onto the floor. A student opened the door, but Cherie put up a commanding finger that made the girl snatch her head back and close the door.

“First of all,” she told Nick furiously, “you have no ‘stand’ to take. It’s my life. I do what I want. I’ve come too far to let any man, even a pretend one in a lame black T-shirt that says ‘Suck My Blood,’ tell me what to do.”

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