The Mistletoe Pact by Jo Lovett
Now – Christmas Eve 2021
Dan stared at himself in one of the twin heart-shaped mirrors above the twin heart-shaped basins in the pinkest bathroom he’d ever been in.
He turned the, yes, heart-shaped tap on and splashed cold water onto his face.
He put his head down under the tap. Still didn’t help.
He lifted his head and shook water out of his eyes.
This was a very, very bad morning after.
He and Evie had definitely got married last night. Married,for God’s sake.
What a nightmare. Despite some phenomenal hangover brain-fog, he could still see that unravelling even a one-night marriage would involve a lot of hassle.
Also: sex. He’d had sex with Evie. And it had been amazing. Like he’d always known it would be.
But Evie was Sasha’s best friend. He and Evie were friends too. They’d had moments, but nothing physical had happened between them since that kiss years ago when they’d made their stupid pact, which had led to where they were this morning.
It wasn’t a good idea to sleep with your friends, especially a friend who you really liked and whose friendship you didn’t want to lose. He couldn’t see himself sustaining a serious relationship, even with someone as amazing as Evie; he messed up too often. He’d definitely rather stay single than end up like his parents several years down the line, with all the hurt that entailed. He didn’t want Evie to get hurt and he didn’t want to get hurt himself and he didn’t want to jeopardise his friendship with her any further, so it was a no-brainer. Nothing more should happen between them.
Actually, he was probably flattering himself. Evie probably wouldn’t be interested anyway.
He shook his head again. Quite painful. He could do with a couple of paracetamol.
Right. So. He and Evie needed to get an annulment or a divorce. And maybe then pretend that this had never happened. Should they talk about it first? Hard to know, because he didn’t normally sleep with old friends who he really liked.
It felt like this was the culmination of years of attraction and it felt a lot bigger than your average one-night stand.
He splashed more water on his face.
Oh, shit. It was Evie’s birthday today. Her thirtieth birthday. Not a great day for it given that she was going to be seriously hungover and clearly full of regret. She hadn’t looked at all happy just now.
He really wished he’d said no to Sasha’s offer of joining them on this trip. At least he was only here for another couple of days because the friend he’d replaced had had to get back for work earlier than everyone else. It felt like it was going to be a long couple of days, though.
Okay. He needed to do something. Have his shower. Get dressed. Leave the room so that Evie could get dressed. The longer he just stood here, thinking, the longer she’d be waiting out there.
Okay. Quick shower.
The (heart-shaped) shower was good. Powerful and hot. Until he was just about to get out and the water turned tepid. He turned the temperature knob as high as he could. Didn’t help. The water was getting colder.
Bloody hell. He hoped Evie wasn’t going to have to have a cold shower.
He dried himself fast, with one of the pink towels hanging on the refreshingly non-heart-shaped – just your bog-standard rectangular ladder-shaped – towel rail, and started to sort through his clothes. Jeans. Shirt. Socks. Jacket. No boxers. Jeans. Shirt. Socks. Jacket. Definitely no boxers.
Two choices. Go back out into the room wrapped in his towel and hunt around for his pants while Evie lay in the bed, if that’s what she was still doing. Or go commando.
Commando it was.
He’d literally never worn jeans without boxers before, and it wasn’t that comfortable. It was nothing compared to his mounting headache, though, and really nothing compared to the cock-up of currently being married.
He ran his tongue around his mouth over his teeth – it wasn’t great not being able to brush your teeth, although, again, that was a tiny issue compared to everything else – and put his hand on the doorknob.
He should knock. Let Evie know he was leaving the bathroom.
He knocked hard a couple of times, and then again, and heard Evie say, ‘Um, come out?’
He opened the door and saw that she was lying where he’d left her, straight as a rod in the bed, on her back, with the sheets pulled up to her chin and tucked in. Her lovely corkscrew curls were spread out on the Pepto-Bismol-coloured pillow and her beautiful dark-brown eyes looked huge in her unsmiling face. No sign of her dimple this morning.
‘Morning again,’ he said, aiming for cheery, but pretty sure that he’d landed on over-friendly-children’s-TV-presenter mode. When you’d essentially had a thing for someone for years and then finally slept with them, and it had been out of this world, but you didn’t want a repeat of it, and you weren’t sure how the other person felt, it was really bloody awkward. ‘I’m so sorry but I’m worried that I used all the hot water. You might end up having a cold shower. Or it might be re-heating now. Maybe they have an immersion heater-type system. You never know.’
‘Never mind,’ said Evie. ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ Yeah, she probably didn’t want to chat about hot water. Her voice sounded a lot thinner than usual and she wasn’t totally meeting his eye.
‘So I’ll get going then. I’ll probably see you later.’ Well, of course he would unless he avoided everyone for the rest of his stay. ‘I’ll find out about the annulment or divorce today. Probably easy to get it sorted out on the grounds of extreme drunkenness. Hopefully.’
‘Yep. Great. Thank you.’ No smile. This was horrible. Maybe he should try to make a joke out of it.
‘I think we took “having the full Vegas experience” a little too far. And the fallback pact thing,’ he said. ‘What a pair of muppets.’
‘Yep.’ Evie wasn’t raising a smile. Maybe it was too soon to laugh about it. Maybe she was regretting the sex and not just the marriage. Maybe she hadn’t enjoyed the sex. Maybe she’d never liked him as much as he liked her.
Probably better if he didn’t stay and look for his boxers now, on balance.
‘Okay, so I’ll see you later.’ He opened the door to the room and said, ‘Happy birthday,’ as he went out, and then immediately regretted it.
The cold air that hit him when he got outside the hotel helped his head at least.
He pulled his phone out to google the annulment question. Maybe he should also try to change his flight home, pretend there was a work emergency; maybe that would be the best thing for both him and Evie. Give them both a bit of space and then they could hopefully laugh this off next time they saw each other with Sasha or in Melting.
Ten minutes on his phone told him a few things:
A lot of people knew about the wedding because they’d taken some photos of themselves and posted them on Facebook. It was going to take a long time to wade through all the congratulations and set everyone straight. He’d better do it this morning – clearly it was a the-sooner-the-better matter.
It looked like if you got married in Nevada there was a fair chance you could get your marriage annulled if you stated that you were suffering at the time of the wedding from a ‘want of understanding’, which included being intoxicated. If not, it’d be the divorce route. Whichever, they were going to have to appoint an attorney and sign some forms together and fork out way more cash than you’d normally spend on even a seriously big night out.
And he wasn’t going to be able to change his flight at all given that he didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spare for a first-class Christmas Eve flight. Well, now he thought about it, that was probably for the best. In fact, it definitely was. What had he been thinking? Evie would probably have felt mortified if he’d just scarpered. Far better to stay here and laugh the whole thing off with her as soon as possible. And he was going home on Boxing Day anyway. Only forty-eight hours to go.