Risky Play (Red Card #1)

Risky Play (Red Card #1)

Rachel Van Dyken


“Mackenzie Allistar DuPont.” Alton drew out my name like it was part of me, the most important part. My gut twisted as he held my hands between his, squeezing my fingers so tightly they lost feeling, all before he leaned over my hand and whispered, “I can’t do this.” A sense of foreboding trickled down my spine. I swayed on my feet. It was wrong, the way he said my name like I was a thing and not a person. The way he looked at me like I was a stranger.

Blood rushed to my face as a choking sensation wrapped around my neck until I was afraid something was going to pop. I must have heard him wrong.

My head began pounding as whispers of outrage floated around the winery.

The very exclusive Prosser Winery.

The chocolate-brown hair that I’d so often run my fingers through at the nape of his neck provided no comfort like it used to. My eyes soaked in his features, his dark eyebrows looked like angry slashes across his forehead as he looked down at our hands in confusion like he wasn’t sure how we got to this point, but I knew. We were here because of our parents’ expectations. This moment had been bred into us since we could talk. It was a foregone conclusion.

He gave his head a shake and stood to his full height, released my hands, and simply turned around and began walking. My jaw dropped. He was walking away.

From me.

One step. Two.

My breath caught. The choking sensation around my throat worsened to a painful degree.

His sigh had said more than it should. It said all the things that hadn’t been spoken about. It said this was wrong. It said we were wrong.

My eyes filled with tears as my bridesmaids huddled around me in a flurry of swear words and cryptic comments like “I knew he would do this.”

Guests stood.

Dad started yelling obscenities.

His groomsman Jagger ran after him, most likely to punch him then talk some sense into what used to be his close friend.

But I was frozen.

Because I had done this to myself.

We’d done it to ourselves.

Partners. We were supposed to be partners.

And even though I hadn’t loved him the way I knew I should.

It still felt right.

Didn’t it?

My bouquet seemed to fall apart in slow motion as it hit the floor. The petals scattered around my perfectly pink pedicured feet, and I wondered if this was the ending I deserved after doing everything right. After being the perfect daughter. Perfect student. Perfect fiancée.

I started walking along the same aisle I’d just marched down seconds earlier with a bright smile and a wink in Alton’s direction.

I squeezed my eyes shut as my feet carried me farther away from the beckoning calls of my parents and the people that called themselves my friends. I knew the truth, though. Alton had been my best friend, my only friend, my one ally within the circle of people who wanted me only for my name, for my money. Friends? Now I had none.

I walked.

And wondered why my tears weren’t spilling onto my cheeks as I finally made my way to the first car I could find, hopped in the passenger side, and said, “Drive.”


Six months later

“What do you mean you’re on a plane?” Mom’s worried tone only made my decision more resolute. I chugged the first-class champagne like water and held out my glass for more, hands shaking around the tiny stem.

“Mom, I need a break from all of this. From everything . . .” My throat squeezed so tight I almost broke down and burst into tears. I hadn’t shed one yet, and I wasn’t about to now that I was sitting in first class on my way to Puerto Vallarta all by myself.

On the honeymoon I’d purchased as a surprise for Alton.

The bright-red reminder was on my calendar. It had been staring me down for months. I’d picked up the phone to cancel a dozen times, only to hang up. Was it because it was the last remaining thing that connected me to the life I thought we were going to have? Was I still holding out hope? After seeing him at work and being on the receiving end of more than one of his “bless your heart” smiles, I’d decided to use the trip as a show of independence and a “my life isn’t over, it’s just begun” sort of thing. Only now? Now I was clearly realizing I wasn’t okay, not by a long shot. When you’re okay you don’t chug champagne and hold tears back in first class.

It wasn’t just that I missed us.

I missed him.

My best friend.

We’d been inseparable since birth.

Our first baths had been side by side, as awkward and weird as that sounds, and our moms had been best friends.

We belonged to the same country club.

We attended the same high school, where as a cheerleader, I cheered for him. Alton Davis, star quarterback and the hottest guy to ever hit West Valley High. God, I could still see my dad’s face after Alton proposed, it was like the son he’d always wanted was finally going to become part of our family. I’d been so proud to flash that ring to anyone who asked. I’d finally succeeded in having it all, right? I was finally worthy of my parents’ dynasty.

I had said yes to the man I’d been glued to since I could talk.

The man who took me to prom every year.

The man who waited to sleep with me out of respect.

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