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Doppelbanger: EXTENDED EPILOGUE

SAVAGE - AGE 16 (12 YEARS LATER)

“WE’D LIKE TO ask that everyone please clear the dance floor as we welcome our bride and groom, Landon and Evangeline Tate, for their first dance as husband and wife!”

The lights in the reception hall dim, and everyone moves to make a circle around the newlyweds. Gigi and Mom—and pretty much every woman in attendance and even some of the men—are dabbing at tears in their eyes, and I’m just ready to get this thing over with so I can get out of this damn tux. It’s not like it’s any surprise these two tied the knot. They’ve been together forever. People are so strange.

“Don’t they look amazing?” Willow whispers, all dreamy-like, as she suddenly appears at my side. “We’re practically related now. Isn’t that weird?”

“We’re not related,” I snap, trying not to stare at her boobs in the tight pink bridesmaid dress that’s been giving me heart palpitations since I watched her step out of that limo two hours ago. She looks different—she looks hot. Her blonde hair is all curly and styled, and she’s wearing makeup.

“Grouchy much?” she asks, nudging me with her elbow. “What’s wrong, Kyle?”

“Nothing. I’m just ready to take this bowtie off.”

Her hands move to straighten it, and my heart starts beating a little faster. She smells like perfume. Willow never wears perfume. I’m starting to feel a little dizzy. Her being this close, Smelling so fucking good and looking like she belongs in a magazine. “There.” She pats her hands on my chest a few times and turns back to watch the couple. “Should be looser now. Is it better?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Willow beams, then her eyes start to glisten as she watches our siblings make out on the dance floor, swaying to the tune of “I Love the Way You Love Me” by John Michael Montgomery.

“Oh, God. Not you too?”

“What?” she says, sniffling.

“Don’t you fucking cry, Lo.” She knows I can’t stand it when she acts like a wuss. Really, I just hate to see her cry. I can’t handle that shit, and she knows it. No matter how much she gets on my nerves, I feel like I have to find a way to fix it. It’s probably her damn dad’s fault for always making me feel responsible for her.

“Don’t tell me what to do, asshole. I’ll cry if I wanna.”

Before I can respond, everyone’s clapping and cheering, and the D.J. comes back over the mic, inviting the wedding party to the floor.

“Guess that’s us,” I say linking my arm through hers. “Come on crybaby.”

We reach the middle of the floor just as the song begins. “You Look Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton drifts from the speakers. My best friend’s arms curl around my neck as I wrap mine around her tiny waist, and we sway side to side to the beat of the music. I sing the chorus into her ear, and it sort of freaks me out how much I actually mean what I’m saying. As the song goes on, I start to panic, because I don’t want it to end. Don’t want Willow’s boobs to leave my chest. And God, I want to keep feeling the heat of her breath on my neck. It’s making me dizzy in the best possible way.

“Lo?” I rasp, barely recognizing my own voice. Why do I sound nervous? I don’t get nervous, especially not with Willow.

“Yeah?”

“You really do look beautiful.”

Even in the dim lighting I can see her cheeks turning pink. “Thanks, Savage.”

“I think I wanna kiss you,” I blurt out, and immediately I wish I could take the words back, because this is my fucking best friend. What am I even thinking? Her dad will kill me.

Willow’s body tenses in my arms, and she pulls back a little, looking me right in the eyes. “You do?”

Fuck it. I might as well finish what I’ve just started. “Yeah. I think I do.”

“Our parents are watching,” she whispers into my ear, her voice shaking.

“Come walk with me by the lake? When we finish pictures and all that bullshit.”

Her arms tighten to the point that she’s nearly choking me. “Okay.” She nods. “But I’ve never kissed anyone before, Kyle. I—I might not be good at it.”

Something tells me she’ll be better than good. “It’s not hard, Lo. I’ll show you.”

She nods just as the song finishes, and we’re whisked apart and drug over to the cake table. The photos are seemingly endless. And the time is multiplied because I know what awaits when we finish.

§

“You cold?” I ask, feeling her hand start to tremble in mine.

She nods, curling into my side as we navigate the rocky path leading down to the wrought iron bench that sits near the lake.

Slipping out of my jacket, I place it over her shoulders. “Here.”

Willow dips her face down into the collar and inhales. “Mmm,” she moans. “Smells like you.” Hah. My mom would argue that’s not a good thing.

“Come closer, Lo,” I rasp when she sits almost a foot away from me on the bench.

Hesitantly she scoots in. “Kyle?”

“Yeah?”

“Is this…Is this gonna change things with us?” How have I never noticed how beautiful this girl is?

I think for a moment before answering, because this is Willow, not just some chick from school. “Probably.”

Nodding, she leans in closer. “I’m ready.”

With one arm wrapped around her back and the hand of the other cupping the side of her face, I lean in, pressing my lips to hers. I don’t use my tongue until she’s loosened up a little. Until her hands are gripping my shirt and she’s climbing into my lap. Then I dive in, swirling my tongue around with hers.

“Kyle,” she murmurs into my mouth as her fingers knot in my hair.

“Hmm?”

“Are you still gonna kiss Riley?” she asks, her eyes welling up again.

“No,” I answer, nipping at her lips, her chin, her neck. “Just you, Lo.”

“Good. Then, I won’t kiss anyone else either.”

“Damn right you won’t,” I growl before sucking her bottom lip into my mouth. We’re all tongues and teeth and panting breaths.

“There you two a—”

Oh, shit. It’s the CEO.

Willow hops out of my lap like her ass is on fire, both of us wiping our wet lips on the backs of our hands.

“Dammit,” her father huffs, shaking his head in disappointment. “Here we go again.”


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