Lucas enters the dimly lit alcove that is Snug Corner. Immediately his senses are assaulted by flowery décor. Hmmm. Love is in the air, he thinks with a shudder. But, to each his own.
His family is already seated. Arlington Bright would not be happy that he’d skipped out on the ceremony, but a third cousin’s wedding is not on his list of priorities and certainly not today, his twenty third birthday. Not that he celebrates birthdays either. He shakes his head ruefully as his father’s disappointed, accusatory glare slices through him.
“You’re late, Lucas, exceptionally so.” Still his father rises to embrace him in a fond hug. “Happy birthday my boy,” he says patting Lucas soundly on the back.
Lucas goes around the table to place a kiss on his stepmother’s brown cheek, while wondering what the consensus would be if they knew the reason for his tardiness.
“Happy Birthday, Lucas,” Shanice offers warmly, patting his hand while he pulls out his chair.
His father’s wife is a lovely lady, pleasant and motherly, but he has a mother. Albeit not the best but a mother nonetheless. “Thank you Shanice,” he responds with perfunctory appreciation.
His siblings are gathered as well, all three of them, waiting for him to sit before they take their turns to wish him a happy birthday.
And so it begins. Presents that he did not need nor want, wrapped handsomely in dark decorative gift paper, suddenly appear and he has to harden his heart. This really isn’t something he wants to celebrate.
The festivities wear on. Lucas is bored out of his mind. There is nothing remotely stimulating about this gathering. Why do people deliberately subject themselves to this torture?
He observes the bride and groom on the dance floor with mild interest. They are smiling happily at each other. Lucas wonders if it could be a façade. His mother smiles with Kurt in public all the time but they get along as well as matter and antimatter behind closed doors. There’s a depressing thought. One from which he needs to divert with haste.
His only hope for survival would be to find a willing skirt in some darkened corner before the end of the night, but pickings seem to be slim. It’s a small affair, which is regretful. He will not be able to sneak away unseen. The cheapskate. Although the waitresses aren’t bad.
The reception is being catered by one of his favourite Manhattan restaurants. They always hire the choicest of women in New York City and tonight they do not disappoint. Blondes, redheads, brunettes, and his eyes wander.
A pixie vision with hair the colour of midnight and skin that glows like fine honey emerges from the back with her serving tray held up over her shoulder. Please be our waitress. But she cuts a hard right, serving dessert to a table too far away from him to do any real damage.
She serves with a pretty smile. Practiced, but pretty while responding to whatever banalities its occupants try to ply her with.
A good looking gentleman reaches out to touch her small hand while she sets pecan berry pie and ice cream before him. She doesn’t rebuff but Lucas can read on her tight features that she doesn’t appreciate the very informal gesture.
He is momentarily transfixed by her. She looks up as if aware that he is watching. Their eyes collide across the room. His intent, once he’d captured her attention, is to engage her but his reaction is delayed. He cannot muster a smile. There is no falling away of the rest of the room, only recognition of something beautiful. Lucas is stunned by it. He is even more stunned by the way his heart lurches against his ribs, like it’s happy to see her.
She’s so beautiful. A most peculiar thought. His eyes narrow because of it. Usually he thinks of women in two categories - doable or not. But with her, all he can do is stare as the rest of the room slowly disappears and there is only her.
She doesn’t smile either. She gives no acknowledgement to his open perusal of her. There is no coyness, no blush to promise of clandestine meetings on her break, only impassivity. Her features are schooled into placidity as she turns and walks back the way she came.
He is distracted by her for the duration of the event, his eyes finding her unintentionally. Silently, he wishes that by a small miracle she might end up in close proximity with him. But once the feasting is over and dancing begins all hope of that would be lost. She would pack up and leave. Or maybe he could seek her out. But he’s not the type to be hung up on a woman so he dismisses the idea. Had she been assigned to his table he would have flirted openly.
Lucas sees that his two brothers, one half and one step, are eyeing her as well. His eyes narrow again. They are both better men than him. She isn’t paying attention to any of them though. How strangely baffling. Doesn’t she know who they are? Who he is? Impossible.
He can’t help but look at her whenever she comes back into the reception hall, but she blatantly and purposefully avoids looking his way. For some inexplicable reason her valiant and successful efforts make him smile.
Small miracle. The little fairy serves a table right next to them. Her blatant bid to ignore his attention is humorous as she does it with her back toward him. He chuckles helplessly. It’s an attempt to further avoid eye contact of course. Only she’s given him a delicious view of a round and firm posterior and a generous flare of hips, which he stares at openly. No one can seem to avert their eyes, not even his stepmother.
Lucas whistles deliberately, long and slow. Her spine stiffens. His shoulders shake with quiet laughter. Something warm trickles into him. Turn around, little fey.
He expects it. For her to turn around and rake him over the coals. He wouldn’t mind it. He’d love to see those eyes up close and personal, but she doesn’t. How sickeningly disappointing.
Dutifully, without a backward glance, she does her job and disappears to fulfill the guests’ requests.
“I’m sure I raised you better than that boy,” his father scolds frowning.
“But you didn’t raise me,” Lucas says unabashed. His head is buried in his phone, distracted by a new finance app he is testing out, so he misses the hurt in his father’s eyes.
He loves women. He would certainly love to love this particular one, but he can tell, that is a lost cause. He prefers his women ready and willing with no strings attached.
“You’re so lucky.”
Alaine turns around at the voice, while removing her apron. It’s been a long day, a long night. She shrugs on her coat and slips her hand through the straps of her bag, ready to make her exit.
“Me?” Alaine questions. Surely Bethany can’t be serious. A broke, sleep-deprived college student, who works at a flower shop and picks up weekend shifts at a restaurant and works the occasional private event to pick up extra cash? Lucky? Where’s the luck in that?
“You can’t say you did not see Lucas Bright ogling you since he got here,” Bethany replies.
Alaine scoffs and rolls her eyes.
“Are you serious?” Her pretty young, blonde and blue-eyed colleague on tonight’s shift, asks incredulously. She is so much like Alaine’s older sister, both in appearance and demeanor.
At the thought, a sadness fills Alaine’s heart and she tries unsuccessfully to shake it off. Delah. She hasn’t seen or heard from her in almost a year. With a sigh, she continues to ignore Bethany and her questions while they both prepare to take their leave.
“The most eligible bachelor in New York City has been eye fucking you all night long and you can’t muster the interest? Are you betrothed or something?”
Alaine cringes at her use of language. Or something. “Most eligible?” she questions while replacing her respectable heels with flats. If she has to go train chasing tonight, she needs to be practical.
“Yes,” Bethany continues, incredulous, with her always-chipper attitude. “Do you know another Lucas Bright? That’s the Lucas Bright of Bright Industry and Technology. I don’t know what that means but he is dreamy and rich.”
“That’s Lucas Bright?” Alaine says pensively. “How old is that guy? Twenty-one? I thought he’d be older.”
How could she not know who Lucas Bright is? One of her lifetime goals since moving to New York is to work for him. As soon as she is done with her degree, Bright Industry and Technology is the first place to which she is submitting her application. But she’s not interested in the man, she’s interested in his cutting-edge business.
She had noticed him ogling her and so what? She hated it, she tells herself. She’s not interested in men or relationships. They’re the worst kind of creatures. She’s been propositioned by a few since her migration to New York last year but she’s never been interested. Still isn’t, no matter how handsome the devil is, and this devil is particularly handsome in the ′I know it′ kind of way.
“Yes that is billionaire McHottie and he wants to get hot with you.”
“He does not.”
Alaine glances at her time dismissively and dives headlong into her attitude of indifference. The shuttle bus would be leaving soon and she has no intentions of missing her ride to stand here discussing something that she did not want and would never have.
“From what I’ve heard,” Bethany continues while packing up her personal belongings. “I bet you, if you go out there and hand him a slip of paper, he’d meet you in a dark corner and...”
“Stop, Bethany,” Alaine scolds feeling her cheeks heat. Well that’s new. She’s never blushed a day in her life. “I’m not meeting a stranger in darkened corners for any kind of, whatever word you were going to use. Now I need to catch the shuttle to catch the train.”
“You need a car.”
“Can’t afford it,” Alaine says, walking through the back door.