Mad Jack Prologue- Coming 8/28

Mad Jack©2023 Ahren Sanders


One Month Ago


“Dude, you’re being a dud.”

I lower my eyes to Addie, who’s dancing in place with a full glass of wine. My other sister, Carson, joins in, hip-bumping her and sending the liquid splashing.

“Try to behave yourselves. This isn’t a frat social.”

“Blah, blah, blah… When did you start acting like Dad?”

“When you two began acting like fools.”

“It’s a wedding, Ford. A par-tee. Let loose, have fun, and enjoy the union of your best friends.”

“I’m enjoying myself plenty.” I sip my bourbon, scanning the area.

Ace and Harley are back on the dance floor, swaying slowly, even though it’s an upbeat song. He’s staring at her like she’s the only wonder of the world. In their own little sphere, blocking out the hundreds of people here to celebrate them.

My eyes coast over the dance floor to the high-top table on the edge of the patio. More so, to the blonde standing there sipping champagne, watching the crowd.

Rowan Ellis.

Shy, sweet, selfless, and absolutely stunning.

Her expression is reflective, sadness haunting her baby-blue eyes.

Completely opposite of the woman who was cheering and laughing uncontrollably an hour ago. That woman was happy and carefree.

This woman is retreating into herself.

My pulse races and the familiar burn boils low in my gut.

If I could go back in time, I’d kill the motherfucker who hurt her.

“You should ask her to dance,” Addie suggests cheerily.

“I don’t dance.”

“Well then, prance your surly, stubborn ass over and talk to her.”

“I don’t prance either.”

“Seriously, Ford. Go talk to her.”

“She’s with her parents.”

So, go talk to them, too. Jesus, it’s exhausting dealing with you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’d have to be blind not to see the heat between Rowan and you.”

“She just got out of a relationship.”

“Her relationship ended eons ago, and it was a hoax. That guy was nothing to her.”

“She told you that?” I raise an eyebrow, wondering how much my sisters know.

“Yes, she also said—”

“Addie!” Carson cuts her off. “Ford needs to talk to her himself. We’re not doing the work for him.”

“You don’t think it makes me a dick to hit on her after the shit she just went through?”

“Do you hear yourself? She got through it. Rowan’s strong, Ford. She’s resilient and brilliant. Some dickwad of nuclear proportions isn’t knocking her down.”

“I know she’s strong, Carson. But you didn’t see what I saw. She needs time.”

“Time… yeah. That’s what she needs. You deserve to lose your shot.”

Her words sting, hitting close to home.

“Enjoy grinding your teeth and sipping your bourbon. I’m relishing in this fabulous reception.” Addie floats off.

“Seriously, Ford. Look around. Ace and Harley. Major and Jewls. Rowan could be your chance for all this.” Carson gestures around us.

“Don’t need all this, just her.”

“Finally, he admits it.” She jumps in a circle with her hands waving triumphantly.

The movement gets Rowan’s attention, her eyes meeting mine. The desolation fades slightly as she gives me a small smile.

My gut burns for a different reason.

So fucking beautiful.

“My work here is done. I’m claiming my victory and leaving the rest to you.”

I don’t tear my gaze away from Rowan—memorizing the way her eyes sparkle, the way the tip of her tongue darts across her lip before she pulls it between her teeth, the blush creeping up her neck.

All of it tempting and torturous.

She has no idea how enticing and incredible she is.

A guy steps up beside her, diverting her attention, and breaking our trance.

Would you like to dance?

I make out his words and my blood pressure spikes. Who the hell is this fucker?

Talon swoops in, taking her hand and whisking her to the dance floor. She laughs, the melodic sound making its way straight to my chest.

“He will not save the day forever.” Ace appears at my side, Major flanking the other.

My two friends are here for the same reason as my sisters.

“I can’t control who she dances with.”

“No, but the poor guy works with Harley and has no clue she’s taken. Don’t want any bloodshed today.”

“I’m not sure Rowan knows she’s taken,” Major adds.

“You two enjoying this?”

“As much as I like to see you sweat, she will not wait around forever.”

“She’s still healing.”

They nod, understanding where I’m coming from. Under her green dress, her broken rib is still wrapped.

Should have killed him repeats in my head.

“We get it.”

“If you get it, then you know I’m giving her time.”

The last six months have been hell on Rowan. My intentions aren’t casual or fleeting. I want more from her. Coming on too strong will only push her away.

“Take it from experience, don’t delay too long.”

“Says the man who denied his feelings for twelve years.”

I dip my chin to Ace.

“I didn’t deny them, just kept them from her.”

“And today, she’s your wife.”

His dark eyes light up in that damn twinkle Talon always catches. “Today, she’s my wife.”

Talon whirls her around the dance floor, her smile radiating. I want that smile in my life every day. I move to go to her, but my subconscious stops me.

I swallow the rest of my liquor, making a deal with myself.

Give her a little more time.

Because once I make my move, I plan to give Rowan Ellis everything.

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