No Way in Hay’ll Chapter One – Ali Parker

No Way in Hay’ll Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

Jess

My boobs were not built for bras without straps. When God had been handing out attributes before my birth, I was pretty sure I’d hit the line for breasts twice and I had skipped the line for patience altogether.

A popular song blared loudly over the speakers, the wedding reception in full swing. The lights had been dimmed, the cake had been eaten, and it was time for us to let our inner party animals out to play. 

Yet I was hanging at the bar while the other bridesmaids took to the dance floor—and it wasn’t because my inner party animal had curled up and died. It was because the uncomfortable strapless bra I’d had to wear was digging into places no underwire belonged. 

As I fidgeted with it discreetly, I bopped my head to the beat of the music and kept a lazy smile on my face. I was trying to blend in while seriously considering just going to the restroom and taking the damn thing off. 

Unfortunately, my boobs also had not been built for no bra, and as uncomfortable as this one was, I suspected going without would be the only thing worse. Sighing, I managed to hook a finger under the strap around my body, readjusting it and hoping for the best. 

Meanwhile, the party continued to gain momentum around me. Logan and Mira sure knew how to throw a wedding. I’d give them that. 

The only people who didn’t seem to be loving every moment was the maid of honor, Anya, and the best man, Slate. He was Logan’s friend and Mira’s brother. I would have thought he’d go one of two ways on this shindig, either boycotting it completely in protest of his friend breaking the precious bro code, or supporting the couple fully, loving that they would all be one big, happy family from now on. 

It looked like I’d been wrong, though. Slate had seemed happy before. He’d even made a toast to the happy couple, but now, he sure looked like he wished he’d boycotted instead. 

I’d known Mira a long time. We’d met years ago at an agricultural event where her father had been speaking about oil rigs and Mira herself had taken the stage to discuss how to make ocean rigs greener.  

Of course, she’d been greeted by groans and eye rolls from most of the people in the room, who had been ninety percent old men, but a few of us had appreciated her thoughts. Even if I’d thought at the time they were nothing more than castles in the sky. 

I’d approached her after the speeches had been done, interested in her ideas and eager to chat to her about them, and we’d been friends ever since. We hardly ever saw each other, our relationship mostly consisting of texts and the occasional video call, but we had enough in common that the bond we’d forged had endured. 

In all this time, however, I’d never met her brother. I’d never even seen a picture of him. Not that I remembered anyway, and I would’ve remembered because the man was hot. 

NoHe’s more than just hot. He was a tall drink of water with a smoldering stare and shoulders meant for digging one’s nails into. 

I blushed at the thought and glanced into my nearly empty glass of champagne. Scrunching up my nose, I wondered how many of these I’d had. And why did nobody warn me that this stuff is so much stronger than beer?

At least it was providing a good distraction from the underwire attack, though. I lifted my gaze back to the bride’s brother standing near me at the bar, admiring the way he filled out that suit he had on. When a man could wear a suit the way he did instead of having it wear him, a girl knew there was a body worth licking underneath all that expensive fabric. 

Okay, or maybe it’s just this girl who knows it, but still. Slate had tossed my mind into the gutter, and for now, it was happy there. 

Six feet of defined muscle and a jaw sharp enough to cut through my uncomfortable bra strap, I was perfectly okay with giving him all my attention. Add in the short, light brown hair and that dark, brooding stare, and he was giving me GI Joe vibes. 

And I’ve always loved the GI Joe thing.

Other girls Barbies had married preppy, pretty Ken, but not mine. At a young age, I’d realized that the Kens of the world did not appeal to me and I’d kidnapped my brother’s army men for the wedding instead. 

As I sighed dreamily at the thought of those good old days, the spat between Anya and Slate intensified until she was bright red and practically foaming at the mouth. I’d only met the girl a couple of times when I’d come to New York for business and met up with Mira for dinner or drinks at night, but I’d never seen her best friend like this. 

Anya was generally friendly, a happy-go-lucky, carefree blonde with a bit of a wild streak and a heart of gold. I wouldn’t have gotten that from her tonight, though. Tonight, she looked just plain mean. 

As I watched, she tossed her arms out to her sides and shook her head at him. Then she stomped off, marching away with fury zapping across her features. 

Slate watched her go too, looking altogether unbothered by the whole situation. He blew out a breath and turned to the bartender, leaning a little closer to the counter and ordering a beer. 

“I’ll take one of those,” I said above the music, abandoning my glass of room temperature champagne on my end of the bar as I slid to his. 

The bartender dropped his chin in a nod, reached back into the under-counter fridge, and pulled out another bottle, uncapping it before he handed it over. After taking my first sip and relishing the familiarity of something I knew wouldn’t mess with my head, I glanced at Slate. He was already looking back at me. 

“That seemed intense,” I said conversationally, inclining my head in the direction Anya was storming off. “I don’t know what it was about, but she’s a good person. She’s just, uh, very particular.”

“You can say that again,” Slate said, his voice deep and smooth. 

It sent a shiver skating down my spine and I gripped my beer tighter, trying to convince it to chase away the champagne-induced reactions in my body. Slate was blissfully unaware of all this, taking a long sip of his beer before he rolled his eyes. “She’s been manhandling me ever since Logan and Mira started planning this wedding.”

Well, I wouldn’t mind manhandling you, either. I can’t blame Anya for trying. On the other hand, their argument had seemed like pure annoyance. Neither one of them had given off any chemistry that I’d seen. 

“She’s the maid of honor,” I said. “It’s her job to manhandle the rest of the wedding party. She has to make sure all the bride’s wishes come true on the day.”

“Yeah, I know, and it was my job as the best man to make sure I didn’t murder the maid of honor before the big day. At least there’s that. She made it through and so did I.”

He turned to me fully, his elbow on the bar and his eyes finally landing smack bang on my own. I smiled, trying not to bite my lower lip when I saw him giving me a slow onceover. His gaze dropped away from mine to rake over every inch of my body. 

It was insane, but just the way he was looking at me made goosebumps rise on my skin. Holy hell. Why didn’t Mira tell me her brother was sex on a stick?

As the thought flew into my head, I realized it was probably because that would be a super weird thing for a sister to say about her brother. My own big brother was pretty popular with the ladies, and I’d never understood why. It stood to reason Mira didn’t understand it about her brother either. But damn.

The man did things to me that were not appropriate to think about in a public place. 

When his gaze finally landed on mine again, I saw a certain curiosity creeping into them. “Where’s your date?”

And there it is. “I’m lookin’ at him,” I joked, trying to ease the sudden tension in the air between us. 

If I didn’t do something about it, I was likely to start stripping for him. The bra was coming off first.  

I didn’t get out of my hometown much, and around there, I was practically seen as a guy. Having hips and an ass that didn’t ever want to stay in my jeans or boobs that tried breaking off all my buttons should have helped but it didn’t seem to. 

I was a farmer. A mechanic. A car enthusiast who loved adrenaline rushes. Most of the boys steered clear of me because I’d kicked their ass at some point—either in a race or at something else. 

On the rare occasion that I got to flaunt my femininity, I enjoyed being looked at the way Slate was looking at me now. I got a rush out of it, and since there had been no other rushes to be had at the wedding so far, I was planning on leaning into this one. 

A smirk ghosted across Slate’s full lips as he lowered his chin, those eyes never leaving mine. “Good to know. I thought I was flying solo tonight.”

“So did I, but I’ve been looking for someone who wants to push me around the dance floor a time or two. Interested?”

“I might be.” He took a small step closer to me, long fingers winding around his beer. He brought it to his lips and took another long sip. “What was your name again?”

“Jess,” I said simply. “Friend of the bride.”

“Right. The bridesmaid dress gave that away.” His head cocked slightly, those eyes still boring into mine. “Why have I never met you before?”

“I’m from out of town.” And that’s all you need to know, big guy. “You’re Slate. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“That’s funny. I’ve barely heard anything about you.”

I shrugged and pumped my eyebrows at him. “That’s because I’m Mira’s dirty little secret. Her twin in female badassery. It’s like a Fight Club, and you know the first rule of Fight Club.”

“Don’t talk about it?” Slate groaned. “In that case, maybe I’ll let you push me around the dance floor a time or two.”

I laughed. “That works.”

His eyes moved from one of mine to the other before they lowered again, but this time, I didn’t get the feeling that he was checking me out. It was more like he was measuring me up, wondering what I did for a living and how a girl with my curves could be anything like his sister. 

Mira was pretty curvy herself, though. She liked to hide her natural shape beneath drab clothing when she worked on the rig, or at least, she used to. Now that she was with Logan, she’d told me she’d become more open to embracing her whole self instead of hiding to make the boys more comfortable working with her. 

See? Total badass. 

Feeling coy, I licked my lips and even did a little twirl, holding my arms out to let him get a good look at the merchandise. He laughed. “What a way to call me out. Okay, Jess. I get it. You’re sassy. Like my sister. Maybe you really are her twin.”

As I turned back to him, I caught Anya from the corner of my eye, stomping out of the bathroom with her sights set on Slate again. Holding out my hand, I set my beer down on the bar and motioned for him to follow me. “It’s now or never, Mr. Best Man.”

He tried to brush me off by holding up his almost full beer. I grabbed his hand and dragged him onto the dance floor with me. “It’s for your own good. Trust me.”

Obviously confused, he glanced over his shoulder, spotting Anya watching from the mingling crowd like a lioness stalking a zebra in tall grass. He swallowed, slid his palm into mine, and spun me away before bringing me back to him. 

I landed with a gentle brush of my chest against his. My arms looped around his neck as I tipped my head back to look into his eyes. “Don’t worry about her, City Boy. I’ll protect you.”

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