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Powerless: Chapter 3


Jasper: Vi, have you heard from Harvey? I haven’t seen him or Beau yet.

Violet: No. But things just went to hell in here.

Jasper: What’s wrong?

Violet: Sterling Woodcock is a piece of shit. That’s what.

Jasper: What the fuck did he do to her?

“Who invented ties anyway?” Cade bites out from beside me. “They’re fucking uncomfortable.” He’s the oldest of the Eaton boys, the grumpiest, and one of my biggest supporters.

“You look ridiculous in one too.” Rhett laughs with a shake of his head, always harassing his older brother.

But it’s the middle brother, Beau—who I’m closest with—that I’m really looking around for. The fact he isn’t here yet is making me antsy.

He tried to request his time to line up with the wedding. He’s supposed to have a few weeks off at home before he ships back out. But he hasn’t shown up yet and neither has our dad, Harvey.

“Fuck you, Fabio,” is Cade’s agitated retort as he fiddles with the tie around his neck. Making fun of Rhett’s long hair isn’t new territory. I’ve been watching this exchange for years.

“Where are the girls?” I ask, trying to get them both on track. The harpist is playing. People are mingling in front of the imposing church. It’s gray and cold and depressing outside. And all I want to do is run away.

“If you call Willa a girl, she’ll castrate you,” Cade grumbles, yanking the tie off and shoving it into his suit coat pocket.

“She’s going to castrate you for not wearing the tie she picked out.” Rhett chuckles.

“She’ll get over it when I tie her up with it later.” Cade inspects the front doors of the church—his radar is that perfectly honed—as Willa pushes the door open, hand slung protectively over the small bump she’s sporting. Her eyes search for Cade in the sea of people. She smiles softly when they land on him, but it slips away quickly.

Then Summer, her best friend and Rhett’s fiancée, is there too. They move toward us and both look a little chagrined.

“That was quite the bathroom break,” Rhett announces when they get near enough to hear us.

Summer snuggles up under his arm while Willa regards us with a wary expression.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, gaze bouncing between the women. Because I can tell something is up, and they’re not saying it.

“Willa is a nosy little eavesdropper,” Summer says. “That’s what’s wrong.”

“Shut up, Sum. It’s not eavesdropping when you can hear a person yelling from the other side of a closed door.”

“I think that might still technically be called eavesdropping,” Cade says as he pulls Willa toward him.

My brain is stuck back on one word. “Sorry. Who is yelling?”

Summer’s lips roll together, dark eyes wide and concerned. “It would seem the bride and groom are having a disagreement. And the groom has no volume control.”

“He’s a slimy little prick,” Willa adds simply. “I can tell just by looking at him,”.

Before anyone says more, I’m in motion through the heavy door, checking left and right to get my bearings, and picking a hallway that appears to have several doorways leading off of it. I take long strides in that direction until I can hear the raised voice.

Violet is standing outside the door, doing an excellent imitation of a deer in the headlights, while her massive husband, Cole, towers behind her like he’s ready to murder someone. He always looks like that though.

“You’ll embarrass yourself more than me,” Sterling’s scolding tone assaults my ears from the other side of the door.

I peek at Violet and her husband. His lips are flat, and he cants his head at me as if to say, Are you going in there or am I?

I’d happily let him put Sterling in his place. But I’d be even happier to do it myself.

“Are you kidding me?” Disbelief resonates in Sloane’s voice. “You fuck a stripper nights before our wedding and I’m the embarrassing one?”

Other people in the church appear to be staring—listening—which is why I open the door into whatever maelstrom is taking place. Sloane needs backup. And she needs to know everyone is privy to their dirty laundry right now.

At least I tell myself that’s why I’m marching into this room unannounced. It has nothing to do with the fact that Sterling has me seeing red.

“It was my stag party! A last hurrah!” I catch sight of Sterling’s back, his arms held out wide as Sloane sits on a dainty antique stool, looking impossibly small, while he stands over her, yelling at her.

Protectiveness courses through me.

“Get out and shut up!” I bark, slamming the door behind me. “Everyone out there can hear you.”

Sterling spins on me, eyes narrowing, venom spewing. “Fuck off, Gervais. I don’t need a dumb jock’s advice. This is between my wife and me.”

I cross my arms and stand my ground. I’m officially done being nice to Sterling Woodcock. “She’s not your wife. And I’m not going anywhere.”

He’s not as tall as I am, and the only reason he rivals me in weight is because he’s a little thick around the middle. Soft, like he sits at his desk all day long and drinks too much at night.

“Excuse me?” He’s completely turned to me now and taking aggressive steps in my direction. His soft, shaved cheeks are all puffed up and red, contrasting against the white and black of his tuxedo.

“I said I’m not leaving. But you need to.”

From beyond him, Sloane stares at me wide-eyed. I expected to find her crying, but there isn’t a single tear on her immaculately made-up face.

Sterling rushes me, arms outstretched and ready to shove. Like a fucking kid having a temper tantrum. But I press my palm into his damp forehead and straight-arm him before he can lay a finger on me. He lands a few lame blows on my arms, but he’s too fucking soft to know what he’s doing. Too short. Too weak.

“Raise your voice at that woman one more time and I will drop you like a stone, Woodcock.”

“Fuck you! I’d like to see you try.” He’s really losing his cool now, but I grab him by his silky, little bowtie and march him toward the door, wishing—not for the first time—I could give him one swift smack with my blocker. But I tamed this temper long ago and won’t let someone as insignificant as Sterling Woodcock be the one to bring it back out.

With my left hand, I yank the door open, and with all my strength, I shove him out of the room, waiting a beat to watch him stumble backward before succumbing to gravity and hitting the burgundy rug in the hallway. He lands in an unceremonious pile of limbs, and I commit the image to memory because it’s just too damn good to forget.

I close the door and lock it.

Within moments I hear banging and cussing and totally empty death threats, but I ignore them because my attention is on Sloane, who has her elbows propped on her knees, face tipped down into her hands, shoulders shaking.

I take sure steps across the room toward the vanity where she’s seated, ready to comfort her when I hear her gasp.

At first I think it’s a sob. But then I realize it’s a laugh.

Sloane is laughing uncontrollably, and I don’t know what to do other than stand here and stare at how her body is poured into the tight, starched satin of her dress. At her hair slicked back into some painful looking twist. At the thin crystal studded straps of her sandals that I can see digging into her already scarred feet.

Uncomfortable from head to toe.

And now I am too because I just tossed her fiancé out on her wedding day and she can’t stop laughing.

“Are you . . . okay?” I ask, like a total idiot, fingers clenching and releasing at my sides.

“Never better,” she wheezes and laughs even harder. “You tossed him out there like a rag doll!” She collapses right down into her lap, head between her knees, trying to suck in breaths as she trails pale pink manicured nails across the carpeted floor for a moment before sitting up straight.

“He cheated on you,” I bite out.

“Yeah. There’s a video and everything. Someone sent it to me anonymously. Right in the nick of time.” She wipes daintily at the tears in the corners of her eyes.

“Why are you laughing?”

She chuckles again and shrugs before hitting me with a look that’s strong, but I recognize the sadness in her eyes. I’ve seen that look in the mirror. “What else is there to do?”

“You’re not marrying him.” I swipe a hand over my mouth and gaze around the ornate room. The crown moldings. The over-the-top chandeliers. I feel frantic. I repeat the only thing that’s running through my head. “Over my dead body, are you marrying him.”

She swallows, and I watch the slender column of her throat work. “I’m sorry I said what I said the other night.” Her voice is softer, her body language less hysterical and more devastated. “Outside of the restaurant.”

I wave her off. “It’s okay.”

“No.” She shakes her head and stares down at her feet. “It’s not. I was lashing out. And after all the times you’ve been there for me, you didn’t deserve it. I know you were just looking out for me. You were being . . .” She glances up at me now, a pinch at the corners of her eyes. “You were being a good friend.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, hating the look of helplessness on her face. Hating this entire thing for her.

Hating that word.


We’ve been friends for so damn long . . .

. . . I startle when small blonde head pops out of the window behind me.

“Are you okay?”

It’s Beau’s little cousin, the same girl who was staring at me out the window this morning. Her eyes are wide, and the expression of concern on her face tugs at my heart. She almost reminds me of Jenny. I’m not okay, but I don’t tell her that. “Yeah. Fine.”

I turn back to look out over the shadowy ranch. I love sitting up on this rooftop in the quiet, dark night. It’s peaceful. Just me and my demons.

“Want some company?”

I sigh and drop my head. I don’t want any company. But I don’t tell her that either.

She’s crawling out before I can even answer, but I offer her a, “Sure,’’ anyway.

The roof is still dark, but it’s no longer quiet. A girl I barely know monologues about her life, and I just listen. She talks so much that even my demons can’t compete.

Tonight and every summer night after, she sits with me. I don’t invite her. She’s just there.

And sitting with her is peaceful . . .

I clear my throat to push away the emotion clogging it. “If I was going to be a good friend to you right now, what would I do?”

Sloane sighs, relief painting every inch of her body. Like I just posed her the one question she so desperately needed someone to ask.

“Jas. Get me the fuck out of here. I wanna go to the ranch.”

I stare at her for a beat, hands shoved in my pockets, thinking I’d do anything she asked in this moment.

And then I reach my hand out to her with a firm nod. “Let’s go, Sunny.”


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