Home > Isn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club #4)(2)

Isn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club #4)(2)
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

   The door swung open, and Colton walked in, mug in his outstretched hand and a napkin tied around his face like a mask. “Here’s your peppermint poop tea.”

   Vlad scowled and took the mug from Colton’s hands. “Liam,” he said calmly. “I am leaving some tea on the counter for you to drink. It will soothe your gut.”

   “Mack,” Liam groaned. “What am I going to do about the toast?”

   “You can give it later, if you feel up to it.”

   “Yeah, about that,” Colton said, his voice muffled through the napkin. “Liv is outside. She wants to know what’s up.”

   Mack and Vlad tensed in unison. Liv was Mack’s bride—an amazing, badass woman who scared the shit out of every man in the group. Mostly Liam, apparently.

   Mack clapped his hands on either side of Vlad’s shoulders. “You feel like giving a toast?”

   Vlad’s stomach seized. “M-me?”

   “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have fill in for my brother, man.”

   “I—I haven’t written anything,” he said, voice thick as tears turned his vision blurry. It was the other thing he was known for in the group—spontaneous displays of emotion. It was the Russian in him. He couldn’t help it, and there was no medicine or diagnosis that could cure it. He cried at weddings, books, songs, commercials, cute animals. But this? Giving a toast at Mack’s wedding? He’d never make it through.

   Mack looped his hand around the back of Vlad’s neck and squeezed. “I’d be honored to have you say whatever comes to mind. No one has a heart like you.”

   Vlad wiped a tear away. “I am the one who is honored.”

   Liam squeezed out a noise that brought an abrupt end to the tender moment.

   “Maybe we should continue this outside,” Mack suggested.

   Vlad nodded, and Mack called out to Liam, “We’ll be back to check on you later, okay?”

   “Love you, big brother,” Liam groaned.

   “Love you too—”

   Another noise sent them scurrying for the door.

   Outside, Liv was pacing in her wedding gown, arms crossed. “Finally,” she said, throwing her hands up. “I was about to come in there. Is he okay?”

   “He will be,” Vlad said, “but not for a while.”

   Mack patted his back. “Vlad is going to give the first toast so we can keep things moving.”

   Liv’s face softened into the kind of smile that he knew was the reason Mack fell in love with her. Beneath her tough exterior, she was as soft as a baby chick. She hugged her arms around Vlad’s chest. “I’m going to cry.”

   “So am I,” he said, squeezing her back.

   “I hate crying,” she said.

   “I know you do. I will cry for us both.”

   Mack tugged her away and plopped a heavy kiss on her upturned lips. “Let’s get this party started.”

   Back in the ballroom, the DJ made a quick announcement that there was going to be a minor change in the night’s festivities. Everyone accepted a flute of champagne from the serving staff who wandered through the crowd, and then Vlad took the microphone.

   He scanned the room, and a different kind of emotion washed over him, one he’d become too familiar with lately. Envy. His best friends nuzzled their wives and girlfriends as they waited for him to impart a bit of wisdom for the new couple, but Vlad had none to give. He was a fraud. He’d joined the book club because Mack had said “the manuals,” as they called the romance novels they read, would help him be the best husband he could be to his wife, Elena, but, of course, he had failed.

   Because his marriage had never been real.

   And though he hated deceiving his friends, the idea of telling them after all this time that Elena had only married him to find a way out of Russia and to attend university in America was too humiliating to consider.

   He’d learned one important thing, however, from the manuals. He’d learned that he deserved more than this one-sided relationship. He wanted love. He wanted a family. He wanted the grand gesture and the happy ever after. So, one month ago, he’d finally taken a step toward a new story for his life. He’d done the scariest thing he’d ever done. Scarier than his decision to leave Russian professional hockey to play for the NHL. Scarier than his hasty proposal to Elena. Scarier than his decision to let her leave him for school in Chicago after they’d moved to Nashville.

   One month ago, he’d mustered every lesson he’d learned from the manuals and told Elena that when she was done with school next spring, he wanted them to have a real marriage.

   He had hoped she would throw her arms around him and kiss him. Tell him she had loved him all along and just never knew how to tell him. Instead, she’d just quietly told him she needed time to think about what he’d said. And though that broke his heart, he felt more hopeful than he had in a long time. He’d finally done something to push beyond the state of limbo he’d been living in for nearly six years.

   “My friends,” he finally started. Everyone quieted and turned their smiles his way. “I am Russian—”

   “No shit?” one of his friends shouted.

   He held up his hand appreciatively. “I am Russian, so I will not make it through this without crying. I must warn you of that. When I came to America, I did not know what to expect, and the first few months were . . . they were lonely.”

   He looked to his right, where Liv and Mack had their arms around each other as they listened to him speak. “But then I met Mack. He is very, how do I say this, annoying.”

   A collective burst of laughter filled the ballroom.

   “That is not what I mean. Confident is what I mean. He is very confident. I myself was not.”

   This time, the crowd said, “Aww,” together.

   “Mack was the first person who made me feel like leaving my country and coming here was a good idea. He was my first friend in America and my best. But he was really, really bad with women, you know.”

   More laughter.

   “He was, as Americans say, all talk. Big confidence but no game, like, like the sportswriters who say they play hockey better than us, but then they get on skates and break their faces.”

   He looked at Mack again in time to see Liv kiss his cheek as the crowd roared with laughter. Mack was scowling playfully in his direction.

   “But Mack, he was lonely too. He never found the right woman, until he met Liv. And we all knew the first time they met, we knew, she was going to be the one for him because she did not like him at first. She thought he was annoying. And I do not mean confident. Annoying.”

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