I backtrack through the house and go out the back door to meet them. They park and dismount, pulling their helmets off.
“Wondered how long it’d take before you found the place.” I smile. “I hope to God you brought beer.”
Red Dog grins, pulls a twelve-pack out of his saddlebag, and holds it up. “Like American Express . . . don’t leave home without it.”
I fold my arms. “Okay, you’re allowed in. What about the rest of you? Do you come bearing gifts?”
Wolf pulls a bottle of Jack out of his saddlebag. “Does this get me inside?”
“You also may enter.”
I look at Cole and Crash and arc a brow. “Well?”
Cole scoffs. “You’re lucky we hauled our asses over the mountains to come see the place.” They both shoulder past me.
Crash slugs me in the chest as he tromps up the steps. “Let’s see this Tyrolean Haunted House you’re livin’ in, Green.”
Boots trudge inside, and four leather-clad men plus myself take up most of the space in the kitchen.
Red Dog hands me the case of cans. “Don’t say I never gave ya nothin’.”
I tear it open and pass them each a beer.
They wander around the house, checking each room.
“Christ, Green, what are you going to do with a place this big?” Cole asks.
“I know who’s having the next Christmas party,” Wolf says. “Bet you could fit a ten-foot tree in this entryway.” He stares up.
“Look at that staircase, man. How old is this place?” Red Dog asks.
“1889,” I reply.
Red Dog looks up the stairs. “How many rooms you got in this place?”
“Some rich guy build it?”
“Railroad baron or so I’ve been told.” I shrug. “Never really researched it.”
Crash looks over at me, resting his elbow on the banister post. “Seriously, Green, how are you gonna pay to heat and cool a place this big, not to mention the upkeep and repairs?”
“Gram left me some insurance money. If it gets to be too much, guess I’ll sell it.”
We move to the dining room and sit around the big table.
Cole slouches back in the chair at the head of the table, one arm hooked over the back. I sit on the opposite end. Wolf and Crash sit in the middle, while Red Dog leans a hip against the buffet.
“You movin’ in probably lowered the home values of everybody in the neighborhood,” Crash jokes.
“Drive over wasn’t as far as I thought,” Cole says.
“Nope, just twenty minutes from the clubhouse.”
“How you likin’ it so far?” Cole asks.
“Better than where I was,” I reply, and wait for the jokes. My brothers don’t fail me.
“Anything’s better than that trailer, Green.” Crash grins at me.
I can’t argue with him, so I don’t bother.
Wolf leans his elbows on the table. “So you gonna hire a maid to keep the place clean?”
I know he’s only half-joking. “Yeah. Gonna make her dress in one of those little skimpy French maid outfits.”
Red Dog chuckles. “Good luck with that. Maybe you can get one of the strippers from the club to come and play house with you, Green.”
Wolf swivels to him. “Haven’t you heard, bro? Our boy here has sworn off strippers.”
“Nah, can’t be true. Say it ain’t so, Green.” Red Dog laughs and props a hand on the buffet. It lands on the invitation. He glances down, frowns, then picks it up and reads it. “What’s this? You’re cordially invited to the class of 2001 twenty-year reunion. Damn, Green, you’re gettin’ old.”
I nod and take a hit off my beer.
“Wait, you graduated high school? And you’re still that dumb?” Wolf teases.
“He probably paid someone to take the test.” Crash grins at me.
“Or slept with the teacher.” Cole joins in.
“You goin’?” Red Dog asks.
“You’re kiddin’ me. Why would you go to something like that?” Wolf asks. “We have better parties at the clubhouse any day of the week.”
“I made a promise to this girl that I would.” That gets all their attention.
“You got a high school sweetheart, Green?” Wolf teases, making kissy faces.
“Grow up,” I snap.
“What kind of promise?” Crash asks.
Cole arcs a brow. “So you made a promise to show up at this thing, and if you’re both single, you’ll date this chick whom you haven’t seen in twenty years?”
“I keep my promises, especially to Sara.”
“You mean you suckered some high school girl into this pact? I think we need to rescue her.”
“Ha ha. You guys are hilarious. I said I’d go, and I’m going.”
Red Dog huffs a laugh. “No kidding? You’re really gonna get all dressed up and go to this fancy ball?”
“It’s not a ball,” I argue.
“Says here it’s in the ballroom of the Fife Estate. Sounds like a ball to me,” he says, scanning the invitation. “Dude, did you even read this thing?” He proceeds to read aloud. “We’re recreating the magic of our Fairytale Prom at the ballroom and gardens of the Fife Estate . . . a night of enchantment under the stars . . . Black Tie required. That’s a ball, bro.”
“Fife Estate? Where’s that?” Wolf asks.
“Says here its thirty miles south of San Francisco, nestled on the slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains . . . blah, blah, blah . . . built in 1917 . . .”
“Will you shut up about that,” Wolf grabs it out of Red Dog’s hands and looks at me. “Green, are you serious about this stuff?”
“This pact or promise or whatever you made with this girl.”
“Yeah. I’m serious.”
“You realize this is like in two weeks?”
“Yeah. Couple days ago.”
“What were you plannin’ on wearing?”
Laughter breaks out around the table.
“Dude, do you even own a suit?” Crash asks.
“Crap, hadn’t thought of that.”
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
Wolf grins. “You. You’re like a reverse Cinderella. What you need is a fairy godmother.”
“He needs like a pack of ‘em,” Crash adds, finishing off his beer, and crushing the can in his hand.
“I think this calls for a run to the nearest tux shop,” Wolf says, looking not at me, but at Cole who grins and nods.
“I think you’re right, brother.”
“Oh, no,” I protest, but they’re already standing. Red Dog grabs me by the underarms and hauls me up.
“Oh, yes. Come on.”
Wolf is already pulling up the nearest location on his phone. “Ten minutes from here.”
And so, in no time at all, I find myself standing in front of a mirror in a black tux, with some old man measuring my inseam.
“While you got that tape measure out—” Red Dog starts to joke, staring at my crotch.
“Shut up,” I tell him.
The man ignores him and measures my arm and shoulders. “Very good, sir. We’ll have it ready for pickup on Thursday, next week.”
I slip the jacket off into his waiting arms. “Thanks.”
The guys all move out to the street, while I pay at the counter and get my receipt. I shove it in my pocket and head outside where my brothers wait by the bikes parked at the curb. They’ve given me hell for the last hour, and no doubt won’t be letting up until the big day, but for a chance to see Sara again, I’ll put up with whatever they dish out.
Cole is sitting sideways on the seat of his bike, smoking a cigarette. He grins up at me when I come through the door. “Remember, Cinderella, you turn back into a pumpkin at midnight.”
“Green, what if she’s a dog?” Wolf asks.
“She wasn’t a dog.”
“Been twenty years, dude,” he reminds me, and it gives me pause.
“There’s that deer-in-the-headlight look of panic I’ve been waitin’ for,” Crash says, chuckling.
“Crap,” I whisper the word, wondering if I haven’t thought this through. “I have no idea what I’m getting myself into, do I? What if she’s not my style?”
“Your style? You mean fast and easy?” Crash snipes.
“He means a stripper,” Wolf clarifies, laughing.
“Just look her up on social media,” Cole suggests.
“Do I look like a person who uses social media? Besides her name is very common, and there’s like a thousand people who pop up.”
“Maybe you need to bring a date,” Wolf suggests.
“A date? Green?” Red Dog laughs.
Cole chuckles, meeting my eyes. “I’m sure he could pay one of the girls down at the strip club to go with him.”
“Let’s go. Any excuse to stop by there is a good one in my book,” Wolf says, waggling his brows.
“F that,” I protest.
“Come on, Green. We have to nail this down today. You gotta be fair and give the girl time to come up with a dress for this shindig, don’t you?”
I roll my eyes.
“Mount up, Green,” my VP orders with a grin.
I jam my helmet on my head, and swing my leg over my seat, lifting it off the kickstand. “I hate you all.”
I drowned out their round of laughter with the roar of my Harley.