Leanne Delavan had loved Joey Duduka for as long as she could remember. And she was certain he loved her, too. But Joey preferred a woman that wasn't as wild and unpredictable as Leanne, which was why he decided to marry plain, old Bobbie Clemson, instead.
No one was more surprised than Leanne when Joey and Bobbie invited her to their wedding. It was there that she first laid eyes on Joey's older brother, Kevin. Leanne was shocked; she hadn't even known that Joey had a brother. At twenty-five, Kevin was three inches older than Joey, with the same corn-clored hair and sparkling blue eyes, long, sharp nose, and clean, square jaw as his gorgeous younger brother. Leanne thought they looked enough alike to be twins. During the ceremony, she batted her long, dark lashes at him and smiled a seductive smile. He grinned back at her, obviously interested.
During the reception, which was held at the VFW in Monotoning, Kevin rose from his chair to toast his brother and his new bride. When he raised his glass in salute, he winked at Leanne over the rim of his glass.
After all the toasts had been made and everyone had settled down to their chicken and steak dinners, Kevin migrated from the bride and groom's table to where Leanne sat with a boring couple she didn't know, named Harmony and Robert Lockett.
Soon, it was time for Joey and Bobbie to cut their wedding cake.
"Oh, how sweet," Leanne grumbled sourly under her breath. She almost felt herself melt with unfulfilled desire when Joey wiped a fat dollop of frosting from the round tip of Bobbie's nose and stuck his finger in his mouth.
Someone dragged a chair onto the dance floor and a blushing Bobbie sat on it. Joey knelt before her. He lifted the heavy hem of his wife's white gown up past her knee. The band immediately struck up a bawdy rendition of The Stripper. Joey slid Bobbie's lacy, white gartr half-way down her thigh...He stopped...He drew the garter back up Bobbie's leg, again.
The males in the audience clapped their hands and stamped their feet, and whistled through their teeth; there were even a few mildly lewd remarks. As one, all the bachelors in the crowd---and there were quite a few of them, Leanne noted with glee--leapt from their chairs and rushed like a pack of hungry wolves to form a tight semi-circle, not far from Joey and Bobbie. All except for Kevin, who appeared content to remain where he was, seated next to Leanne.
Joey glanced over his shoulder. He waved at Kevin. "Yo, bro', what's the problem? You shy or something? Haul your butt over here."
Kevin hesitated long enough to offer Leanne an apologetic shrug. Then he rose from his chair and ambled onto the floor, with his hands stuffed deep inside the pockets of his shiny, black trousers and an amused smirk on his handsome face, to join his lusty contemporaries.
Joey wiggled the garter down Bobbie's thick ankle and over her shoe. He flung his right hand over his shoulder, sending the garter sailing high into the air. The drummer executed an intense and serious roll. Men and boys crowded together, their bodies colliding with each other, and their hands stretched upward, as they attempted to grab the flimsy ringlet out of the air. One guy Leanne didn't know jumped up on the balls of his feet and managed to grab the garter before the kid standing next to him could snatch it from his hand. He waved the garter for everyone in the room to see and admire.
Kevin sauntered back to their table, that amused grin still on his face. "You didn't try very hard," Leanne taunted him in a teasing, playful manner.
"Maybe I didn't want it," he said. "And come to think of it, I don't remember you trying very hard to catch the bride's bouquet back at the church."
"Maybe I didn't want it," she flung his words back at him.
They shared their first laugh together. Leanne tilted her head toward Kevin, lightly touching his broad shoulder with her fingertips.
The bandleader spoke into his microphone. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, dancing together for the first time and wife, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Duduka."
For just a second, Leanne's heart clenched like an angry fist inside her chest as she watched the man of her dreams and his new wife glide like a pair of graceful swans across the smooth, varnished floor. After another second, her body relaxed again and she smiled. Somehow, the sight of Joey and Bobbie dancing together didn't hurt half as bad as she'd thought it would---now that she'd found Kevin. She actually felt happy for the new couple.
That night, Leanne danced with wild abandon. Her auburn hair swirled around her frecked shoulders and she made it a point to jiggle the tops of her big, round breasts in Kevin's face. Whenever the band played a slow song, she wrapped her arms around his rugged torso and hugged herself close to him.
They left the floor and returned to their table.
Kevin looked at her with inquiring eyes; he smiled. She smiled back at him, her face and eyes aglow with glorious anticipation. Kevin inclined his face toward hers. Leanne closed her eyes. Their lips met.
She heard herself moan. "Mmmm..." Her breath left her body in a rush.
Somewhere in the darkness, she heard Robert Lockett groan. "Oh, Geeze, Louise, you two, get a room."
Her hand sought Kevin's lap underneath the table. Kevin's strong hand explored the silken smoothness of her thigh. She experienced a warm, electric tingling sensation there and in several other significant portions of her body.
She was happy but sad when Kevin pulled away from her. Opening her eyes, she was not surprised to discover that Robert and Harmony had moved to another table.
Kevin looked deep into Leanne's sharp, brown eyes. In a casual, almost conversational tone of voice, he said, "So, what are you doing here?"
Leanne was so taken aback by his question that it was a second before she could reply. "Your brother invited me."
He laughed. "I know. You should've heard the fight they had when Joey brought up your name. I thought for sure she was going to rip him in half. She doesn't like you very much."
"Well, I can't say the feeling isn't mutual."
"I figured as much. Bobbie doesn't like any woman who even looks at my brother. Her problem is she's way too sincere. Joey was nice to her, the way he is to everyone he meets. She opened her legs for him, and then she became afaid that some other woman like you would come along and try and take him away from her, before she could get him to put a ring on her finger. But that's not the reason they're getting married. I'll let you in on a little secret. She claims she's pregnant."
"Claims? You don't think she's pregnant?"
"No, not at all. Now, I'm no man of the world, but I have been around the horn a few times, as they say. The night they broke the good news to our parents, there was something in her face and eyes, and in her voce that just didn't ring right to me. I have this funny feeling that in about three months from now, when she doesn't start to show, she's going to have an awful lot of explaining to do. I just wish she'd had enough steel in her spine to confess to Joey before tonight. She could've saved us all alot of grief.
"You're the kind of woman my little brother likes the most," Kevin went on in his smooth, slow, unhurried drawl. "I think if you're patient and you're willing to hang in there a little while longer, you just might get what you want."
"I guess this means you're not going to sleep with me, tonight," Leanne said.
"Oh, I'll sleep with you, all right, if that's what you want. There's no problem there. It's not like you'd be cheating on Joey. He's married---at least, for the moment. I just thought I should be fair and let you know what might or might not happen if we did sleep together." He leaned closer to her on his chair. "So, how about it? You still game."
Leanne sighed. Her heart slammed like a hammer against the inner wall of her chest and she felt as if she had a fever. Almost against her will, her gaze strayed to Joey and Bobbie dancing together on the crowded floor. Joey's beautiful eyes gleamed like two pieces of polished blue topaz in the stark glare of the overhead lights and he was smiling at Bobbie, grinning, that easy, affable, mischievous, little-boy smile, which Leanne thought was cute and adorable, and made him look totally irresistible. There was no use denying that the attraction she felt for Joey was still there and that it was stronger than ever. She still wanted Joey Duduka worse than she had ever wanted any other man in her young life, and now, it looked like she could never have him.
She shook her head. "I don't know..."
And then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bobbie storm off the floor, forcing her body like a battering ram through the crowd. Her gown swirled around her feet and her high heels clomped like a pair of horse's hooves against the wooden floor. Bobbie had a pinched look around her eyes and her puffed-out lower lip trembled uncontrolably. A lone tear streamed down her porcine cheek.
Joey stood all alone in the middle of the crowd and watched his wife walk away from him, his arms flung outward at his sides, looking lost, bewildered, and helpless.
Chloe Mulligan, Bobbie's maid of honor and best friend, hurried after Bobbie, who had just passed the bar and was heading down the dark hallway to the ladies' room.
"Damn," Kevin swore softly under his breath. "I didn't think she had it in her." He rose from his chair and made his way to his abandoned brother.
Kevin and Joey exchanged a few words. Then Kevin hurried over to the bride and groom's table and whispered in his father's ear. The three of them, Kevin and Mr. and Mr.s Duduka, joined Joey on the dance floor. They were joined several minutes later by Mr. and Mrs. Clemson. Mrs. Duduka and Mrs. Clemson both wore anguished expressions on their pallid faces. Their men looked like they wanted to fight each other. Leanne saw their lips move, but she couldn't hear a word they said.
The band stopped plaing. An uneasy tension flooded the hall. Everyone stopped dancing. Couples backed away from Kevin and Joey and their parents, and Bobbie's parents, and drifted back to their tables, mumbling and shaking their heads.
Kevin placed a hand on Joey's shoulder. Joey broke free of his brother's tenuous grasp and strode across the room, to the hallway leading to the ladies' room. He looked like a man going to his own execution.
Leanne's heart leapt in her throat, and for a moment, she thought she was going to cry. She felt hopeful, then happy, then angry and defiant, like a spoiled, willful child. She rummaged through her purse, until she unearthed her pack of cigarettes and lighter. Clutching her props in her hand, she rose from her chair and moved as quickly, quietly, and unobtrusively as she could to the ladies' room.
The bathroom door was closed, but there was a thin thread of bright, white light underneath it. On the other side of the door, as if from far away, she heard the muffled sound of someone softly sobbing. Bobbie. "I am so very sorry!"
Then Joey's voice. "But why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
"Because I was afraid."
"Afraid? Afraid of what?"
"I was afraid that if I did tell you the truth, you'd get mad and hate me, and you wouldn't want to marry me, and you'd marry someone pretty, like that damn Leanne Delavan, instead."
"Oh, baby doll. Leanne's nice and all, but I don't love her. I love you."
"After all the mess I've made, are you sure you still want to be married to me?"
"Of course I do."
Leanne fled like a burglar down the dark hallway.
Kevin was back in his chair when she returned to their table. "Come on," she commanded, grabbing his hand and attempting to drag him out of his chair.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"To the closest motel," she said.