When I went to search for Griffin, I found him in the bathroom, scrubbing at his face with a hotel washcloth.
“I hate it when eyeliner runs,” he muttered as I came in and perched on the edge of the bathtub.
“Actually, I think that when a guy wears it, it’s called guy-liner,” I corrected. Griffin looked back at me skeptically.
“Well, should I wear guy-liner to the wedding?” Griffin asked as he turned back to the mirror. I stood and came to stand beside him, sliding my arms around his thin waist.
“I think so,” I replied. “I think it makes you look kinda… sexy.”
Griffin turned to face me with raised eyebrows. Our bodies were pressed together in every possibly place. Desire coursed through my veins- not only physical, but also mental. I longed to heal him, and in turn to have myself pieced back together.
“Do you, now?” I nodded once. “Well, then, I suppose, whatever makes you happy.”
The washcloth was back over his eyes, so I was sure that he couldn’t see my smile.
“We have to leave in a half-hour,” Griffin stated. “So you may want to get ready.”
When I stepped through the French doors into the ballroom, I was thrown into a chaotic whirlwind. For one thing, I had never seen so much pink before in my life. Pink decorations, pink flowers, even the bridesmaid dresses were pink.
“It’s a bit overboard, don’t you think?” Griffin said in amusement.
But I hardly heard him. Because my eyes had fallen on a man wearing a finely cut black tux with a bright pink tie to match. My father.
Either this girl was really good in bed or my dad was head over heels.
Or maybe he had just finally lost it.
He was seated at the head-table with a very pretty, very young bleach blonde I assumed was Julia Myles. He looked nice enough, with his light brown hair slicked back. And he was staring right at me.
Without a word, I began to weave through the crowds toward him, Griffin in tow. I watched as he excused himself from the table and closed the distance between us in a few long strides.
“Arielle!” My dad cried, taking me up in a huge, bone-crushing hug and spinning me around like I was five. Between Griffin and my dad, I would never grow up. “You came.”
I bit my bottom lip, avoiding Griffin’s curious expression. “Yeah,” I mumbled. Thanks dad, I added in my head. Now I would have to explain that one to Griffin too.
“You must be Arielle.” A new voice pulled me out of my thoughts. It was high and girly and could only belong to Julia. “Joshua has told me so much about you!”
I took a step back, re-linking arms with Griffin. “You must be Julia. I’ve heard some things about you too.” Griffin casually elbowed me in the side, so I added, “Congratulations, by the way.”
Julia absolutely beamed. “Thank you! And thank you both for coming!” Then, as though she had just realized Griffin’s existence, she turned to him and said, “Hello, I’m Julia My- I mean, Julia Kemp.” She looked at my father lovingly.
“Griffin Barrett,” he replied formally. “Congratulations.” The next words were meant just for Joshua. “You have a wonderful daughter, sir.”
My father looked at me, one eyebrow raised. “Did he just call me sir? I think this one’s a keeper.” Then, he looked around and sighed. “Well, I didn’t think you were coming, so I didn’t save you a seat, but I’m sure there’ll be room for you at one of the back tables. You always liked being in the back anyways,” he added jokingly.
After a few more hugs and kisses, I was finally free to find some empty seats.
“Well, I got my yearly dose of pep,” I muttered sarcastically as we found a place to sit.
Griffin took his seat beside me and glanced at me sidelong. “They just got married, Arielle. Normal people get excited over romantic stuff.”
Now it was my turn to glare. “Well, I’m sorry you find me so abnormal,” I sneered. Then, after a moment of thought, I said, “I think that I can be very romantic when I try.”
Griffin rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes. Terribly.” His voice was so heavy on the sarcasm it was actually amusing. “So, if I asked you to dance with me, you’d be perfectly okay with that?”
I frowned in confusion. “What does dancing have anything to do with this?” I watched as the corners of Griffin’s mouth curled up slightly.
“We were talking about being romantic. Dancing is very romantic.”
I tapped my index finger on my chin, pretending to be lost in thought. “I suppose I could dance, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be too good at it,” I answered finally.
Griffin nodded slowly. “Well, later tonight, then, I’ll have to teach you how.”
I let out a deep breath. “You can dance, too? Is there anything that you can’t do?”
There was a long silence, and I was sure that Griffin was about to announce that, no, he was capable of absolutely everything life had to offer, when he suddenly muttered, “Swim.”
Before I could restrain myself, I let out a tiny giggle. Griffin seethed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered honestly. “It’s just, that, well, I just didn’t…”
Thankfully, our food was served, and I was able to pop a tiny potato in my mouth instead of replying.
Griffin really was a wonderful dancer, as I found out when he led me onto the dance-floor immediately following the wedding party dances. He twirled me gracefully, his perfect composure making up for my complete lack of self-confidence. And I allowed him to lead me where he would, spinning in and out of his arms and almost letting out a scream when he dropped me into what I was sure Cordelia would have found an extremely risqué dip.
When I told him that I needed a breather, he led me to one of the side doors and we slipped out into the cool November air. A steady breeze was blowing in from off the Pacific Ocean, and the salt-scented air plus stars above us made for a very romantic atmosphere.
“You can’t see the stars back in New York,” Griffin said in a relaxed voice, his warm fingers running lightly across the bare skin between my shoulder blades. “I could see them like this in Nevada, too.”
I nodded, turning my body into his chest and looking up at him from under mascara-laden eyelashes. “I’m glad that I came to the city though,” I whispered shyly.
Griffin absent-mindedly moved his hand to my head, where he began to stroke my hair. It didn’t stop the shivers from running up and down my spine, though. “And why is that?”
“Because, I never would’ve met you.”
“Arielle, is that you out there, Sweetie?”
My dad’s voice shattered the moment; I twisted out of Griffin’s arms to get a better look at him.
He definitely looked partied out, his tie nearly undone and his hair sticking out on end.
“Hey, dad,” I mumbled awkwardly. “What’s up?”
My dad smiled a crooked half-smile, not unlike the one I loved so much on Griffin. “Just needed a break from all the dancing. You know I never was a big partier.” He paused for a moment. “But what about you?”
I shrugged. “We were just catching our breath,” I told him.
My dad’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Well, baby girl, sometimes, around certain people, you can never catch your breath.”
Cordelia was still up when we returned to the suite, although I knew her well enough by now to know that it was no accident.
“How was the wedding?” She asked nonchalantly as we came into the hotel room.
Griffin began untying his tie. “It was fun. We had a great time, right, Arielle?” Griffin eyed me in almost a scolding manner, but I ignored it and turned back to Cordelia. “It was fun,” I assured her. “I’m happy for him.”
Cordelia nodded. “Arielle, let me help you out of your dress,” she said, rising from the couch and starting down the hall to my room.
I was awoken the next morning by my phone blaring out Avenged Sevenfold. Tossing back the covers, I rolled out of bed and picked it up just in time. I mumbled a shaky hello into the receiver.
“Arielle Elizabeth Kemp, you have no idea how much trouble you are in at the moment! The punishment you will be receiving will be so harsh, it will make Alcatraz look like a day spa!”
It took my still-sleeping brain a second to comprehend the voice and who it belonged to, and when I did, I regretted not just letting the phone ring.
She cut me off. “I called your father’s house to check up on you,” she stated, her tone almost hinting at irony. “He said that he didn’t even know you were coming until you showed up at his wedding last night with some boy!”
I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and willed everything to just go away and leave me and Griffin alone in the world.
My mom continued. “Who is he, Arielle? And where in God’s name are you!”
Trying to remain calm, I explained everything. How Griffin had made me promise to go, but I hadn’t told my dad so that I could blow it off, and then how Cordelia had offered to pay, so we had all gone together.
For once, my mom was silent when I was done. I almost thought that the call had dropped when she abruptly said, “I’ll see you when you get back. Bring Griffin- or whatever his name is- over to the house.”
I hung up my cell, suddenly feeling wide awake. Of all the ways for my mom to find out about Griffin, I’d never thought of this one. Making myself look somewhat presentable, I went to break the news to Griffin.
“They want to meet me?” I asked skeptically, but there was a gleam in my eyes. “As in, tonight?”
“Did they even know you were dating?” Cordelia interjected.
I resisted the urge to cringe at the word. What Arielle and I had together went so far beyond the casual trysts of the average high school students
“Well…” Arielle’s soft voice trailed off. Cordelia pursed her thin lips and I tightened my grip around the handle of my coffee cup. My grandmother despised deception, it was the eighth deadly sin, I supposed.
A blanket of tension had settled across the room, suffocating me. I needed to get out. I locked eyes with Arielle, and I knew she felt the same. She stood, leaving her own mug on the table and leaving the kitchen with me.
As soon as I’d shut the bedroom door, Arielle surprised me by all but throwing herself at me. I braced herself against the wall behind me. Our lips collided, desperate, blind anger and frustration seeping from us as we lost ourselves for the briefest of moments.
“Good morning to you too,” I chuckled, wrapping my arms around her tiny frame securely. She buried her head in my shoulder, her arms shaking from how tightly she was holding me. “Did I miss something?”
She shook my head, trying to figure out a way to tell me… something. I myself wished I could tell her how safe I felt in her arms. Wished I could tell her that nowadays she seemed to be the one holding me together “I’ve just, well, never felt this way about anyone,” She whispered finally. Surprising even myself, I took her chin in my hand and tilted it up to press my lips to her own.
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” I said slowly when I eventually pulled away. “You give me faith, Arielle. I’ve never believed in anything besides here and now, but, well, being with you makes me question that.”
A blush spread itself across her pale cheeks as she kissed me again, this time on the cheek.
“Having faith in something is better than having faith in nothing,” she said quietly. “If I’ve learned anything from Cordelia, it’s that there’s always something to believe in.”
I gave her the brightest smile I could manage. “I believe in you,” I told her. “I believe that you are the most perfect, beautiful creature in existence. And I believe in us. I believe that we can prove them all wrong. I believe that we can prove to them that there is such a thing as forever.”