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Fearless Kiss
Author: Amelia Wilde

Chapter 1

 

 

Kennedy

 

 

“Have a drink, Leah. No—not that one. Water.”

My best friend, one Leah Morgan, dramatically rolls her eyes at me and readjusts the sparkling tiara she has perched on the pile of dark curls circling her head. “I didn’t come here to drink water. I came here to get you to dance!” I hold out the glass of water to her, a steely glare dominating my eyes, and she sticks her tongue out at me petulantly. Still, she snatches the glass out of my hands, and a little of the ice water sloshes over the top. “You’ve been guarding the table all night. I swear, it’s going to be fine.”

I shoot her my best martyr expression as she takes a long sip of water, and then I hold out my hand to take the glass. “How are you feeling? Ready for another round? I still think we might want to wait until—”

“Kennedy.” She puts her hands on her hips and cocks her head to the side. “We are all adults here. You don’t have to tend to everyone like a mother hen.”

“I look nothing like a mother hen,” I snort. “You made sure of that.” Leah dedicated an hour’s worth of her own getting-ready time convincing me to wear a barely-there little black dress and sky-high stilettos instead of the sensible ballet flats I had my heart set on. You never know when a disaster might happen in a club—and Lord knows there have been enough nightclub tragedies reported in the news lately—and the last thing anyone wants is to be caught wearing high heels that make it all but impossible to escape during an emergency.

Except for Leah. “Just for one night, Kennedy,” she’d begged, dangling them from her fingers in front of my face. “For my bachelorette party. It’s a special occasion. You can’t say no.”

I’d given her a long look before shaking my head in defeat and taking the fuck-me heels from her hands. “Ok, but just this one time.”

She’d clapped her hands like a toddler and let out a whoop. “I’m going to get you out on the dance floor. This is just the beginning.”

I’d rolled my eyes. “You’re revealing your whole strategy, and the limo isn’t even going to be here for another forty-five minutes.”

“I’m going to make sure that Kennedy Carlisle dances at my bachelorette party if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Unlikely…” I whispered under my breath, but she was already flitting off to get her makeup bag to amp up my look.

Never let it be said that I’m a bad friend, because here I am, four hours later, willing my feet to stop aching while making sure she’s not in imminent danger of succumbing to alcohol poisoning.

Leah shifts and sashays to the beat of the thrumming club music, the white sash she’s wearing across the front of her outfit glimmering vibrantly under the multicolored lights. As if on cue, the rest of her bridal party emerges from the dance floor, their sequined dresses each flashing a little light show.

“Come on!” The one shrieking at Leah right now is named…Cassidy? Cassandra? She’s been drinking at an incredible pace all night, but seemed to cut herself off about forty-five minutes ago. “This DJ is incredible.”

Leah takes my hand in hers, dancing toward me from around the table with a come-hither look in her eyes, and I can’t help but laugh. Dancing, though? That’s another story.

“Come with us, Kennedy!”

We’ve scored a private booth toward the back of the club, and the rest of the women’s purses are stacked toward the back of it hidden among a pile of light jackets and wraps I insisted that they bring, even if it was eighty-five degrees in the shade this afternoon. The way it is in New York City, if just one August thunderstorm rolls in, we’ll all be glad to have something to wrap around our shoulders on the way home.

“Maybe in a few minutes.” I glance at the crowded booth. My own purse is right on top, so if somebody gets it into their heads that we’re easy targets, my wallet and ID will be the first to go missing.

Leah pouts, dropping my hand limply, and the others hover around her like a swarm of bees. The flash of sequins sparkles under the colored lights rotating above the dance floor as they encircle her on their way back to the center of the dance floor. I keep my eyes focused on them as they go, watching Leah and the other four women for any sign that they might have had too much to drink and need to down another glass of water before they do any more shots. They’ve probably hidden a few from me while they were out on the floor, so I’m including those in my running calculation of exactly how much risk we’re taking.

You’re letting it get the best of you, Kennedy, I tell myself after five minutes, when all of them still seem to be fine. We’re four years out of college. It’s not like binge-drinking is a regular pastime anymore—not that it ever was, not since the graduation party. In my mind, it’s the “Graduation Party”—before that party, everything was perfect, and after it? Well, nothing was ever the same.

Maybe that’s being a little dramatic, but it is what it is.

That’s what I’m debating in my mind, my hand curled around a fresh glass of Diet Coke, when the bachelorette returns to the booth with her other attendants in tow.

“Tequila shots!” Lily, one of the other girls we went to college with, cries out.

“No.” Cassandra shakes her head. “Let’s do Fireball!” She looks over at Leah with eyebrows raised, and my best friend throws her head back and laughs uproariously, her curls shaking.

“Ladies, ladies…” She holds her hands out between the two of them like she’s stopping a fight. “There’s room for both at this party!”

The rest of them let out a chorus of whoops and yeahs, but there’s a prickling in the pit of my gut, and the muscles start tightening across my shoulders. I press my lips together in a firm, thin line. Don’t say anything. They can handle it. They can make their own decisions—

But when they start looking around for the cocktail waitress who has been assigned to our table, I can’t keep my mouth shut a second longer.

“I don’t know if this is such a good idea…”

“Don’t worry so much, Kennedy.” Leah throws her arms around my neck and leans her head into my shoulder. “You’re my best friend in the entire world. I’m not going to let our little party do anything too dangerous, and you know it.”

The twist of anxiety curls up into my chest. “Maybe it would be best to just…space them out a little.” I give my most winning smile to the girls gathered around Leah, but I notice Cassandra rolling her eyes at Lily. “Or maybe we could just take a break for a little bit—we’ve got this amazing booth—”

I wriggle my shoulders in the direction of the booth, but nobody makes a move.

“Shots!” Jessica shouts out, and the rest of them start laughing and nodding in agreement. Lily starts up a chant. “Shots! Shots! Shots!”

“Guys—”

“It’s my bachelorette party, Kennedy! Loosen up!”

“Yeah,” a voice chimes in from somewhere just off my elbow—a smooth, resonant voice that sends a shiver running down my spine. “It’s her bachelorette party. The next round is on me.”

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