The Invitation

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Chapter 3

“This was such a bad idea.” muttered Willow, following Lorie and a few other guests who’d arrived just slightly before them up the large, ornate stairs to the Heathcliff Estate.

She could see that the Bane brother’s were standing just inside the door - she’d gotten a glimpse of the youngest brother, Sebastian, when the doorman had opened the door for a couple as she and Lorie were still at the bottom of the massive staircase.

Now, as the doorman was opening the door for them, she half wished she could just turn around, sprint down the stairs, and go home.

Lorie seemed to sense her train of thought, though, and took her hand in her own, giving it a reassuring squeeze before turning her attention to the brothers they were now standing in front of.

All three of them were beautiful. Pale skin, broad shoulders, a towering height, and striking features - but that was where the similarities ended.

Luca, the oldest, had a shock of white blonde hair and warm brown eyes. He seemed the nicest of the three - more carefree.

Damon was the middle child, and certainly the most short-tempered - though Sebastian wasn’t really far behind in that department. Damon had black hair that slightly hung in his bright blue eyes and he was seemingly always smirking. Always.

Sebastian was the youngest. He had shockingly blonde hair like Luca, but his eyes were the strangest green. He was quiet and seemed to prefer studying people than actually interacting with them.

“Welcome, ladies.” greeted Luca, kissing first Lorie, then Willow’s hand.

“Thank you for having us.” Lorie answered smoothly, elbowing Willow in the side when she said nothing.

“Right - uh…thank you.”

She could see Damon smirking at her, but she refused to make eye contact. He always knew how to unnerve her.

“Sebastian, why don’t you show Willow to the bar? I need a quick word with Lorie.” said Luca, addressing his younger brother.

Willow’s heart immediately flipped - Lorie couldn’t be leaving her already.

“Oh…” said Lorie, looking over to me, “I promised Willo--”

“I’ll bring her right back.” he interrupted, speaking to Willow now. “Promise.”

And with a wink he and Lorie were gone.

Willow sighed, turning her attention to the other two brothers. Sebastian held his arm out for her, “Would you like a drink?”

She found herself nodding, sliding her arm through his, “Seems I’m going to need it.”

Damon smirked, “Why did you come then?”

“Ignore him.” said Sebastian, “He’s just pissed Luca asked me to look out for you and not him.”

The smirk left Damon’s face immediately as he glared at his brother, “Watch it, Sebastian.”

“Why? Do you want to look out for me?” asked Willow, addressing Damon for the first time with a little smirk of her own.

Damon said nothing, but his eyes did roam down her body as though he were undressing her with his eyes.

“You do look beautiful in that dress.” commented Sebastian, beginning to lead her past Damon, “And if he won’t tell you that, I sure as hell will.”

Willow felt her cheeks heat. It had been quite some time since any man had complimented her, let alone a man who was one of the three most strikingly handsome men in Seattle.

She couldn’t help but feel a slight flip in her stomach, even though he was the one brother she hadn’t met at least once before.

Though he certainly seemed more personable than Damon was.

Sebastian led her to the bar, signaling for the bartender to get two drinks - what, she had no idea.

Sebastian pulled out her chair before sitting himself.

“So, Luca said you’re a painter?”

She rolled her eyes and chuckled lightly, “As in it pays my rent? Hardly. But I do have paintings that sell occasionally.”

Sebastian looked impressed, though it was hard for her to tell. The Bane’s were infamously good at hiding their emotions. Or so she’d learned from Damon.

“Do you have a gallery?” he asked, taking a sip of the drink the bartender had just set in front of them.

She looked down at the glass filled with amber colored liquid and could hazard a few guesses about what it could be. Instead of asking she took a drink as well, fighting back the urge to make a face at the strong taste.

“No, a few galleries around town display local artists sometimes…”she trailed off, waving her hand in the air dismissively. “You run Bane Industries with your brothers?”

He smirked, and it reminded Willow of Damon immediately.

“Something like that. I travel a lot.”

A rather evasive answer, in her opinion, but she didn’t comment on it. She chose instead to brave another sip of what she now new was scotch.

The second sip went down easier than the first, so she took another directly after. If she was going to survive even an hour here when things started getting more…depraved, she was going to need to speed up.

“First time?” he commented, smiling over the rim of his glass as he looked at her.

She let out a sharp, slightly forced laugh in reply.

When his smile only widened she groaned and took another drink from her glass, “Is it that obvious?”

“You do look rather…tense.” The way he spoke the word made her stomach clench.

Get a grip, she thought to herself.

Before she responded she downed the rest of her drink in one gulp, setting the glass down on the bar and raising her finger to the bartender. There weren’t too many people here yet, so their side of the bar was completely empty.

“I’ve never been invited before.” she admitted, her cheeks flushing at the thought of why exactly she’d been invited this year.

“Really?” he asked, surprise evident on his face as he arched a brow at her, “That’s rather surprising to me.”

She frowned, her brow furrowed as she looked at him, “Why?”

“As I said, you look beautiful. That’s the whole point of these things, isn’t it? I mean look around, what do all these people have in common?”

She did as he asked, her eyes flitting across the room. A couple stood by the roaring fireplace, drinks in hand as their foreheads nearly touched. The woman was tall - at least six feet - a lovely purple silk dress draped over her body as if it had been poured over her, her skin a beautiful ebony, and raven black hair that rode in tight curls down her back. Her lips were painted a beautiful deep orchid, her eyes adorned with a sharp winged liner.

The man that stood in front of her, seemingly enamored with her, was certainly nothing to scoff at. His skin was a warm golden brown, blue eyes popping even from across the room, and his hair was a warm brown that fell in messy curls over his forehead. His suit a deep navy blue, accented with white cuffs and a white handkerchief in his breast pocket - it was tailored immaculately.

Willow’s eyes left the couple and wandered to two women who were sitting on one of the many couches. One was a striking woman in deep red, her skin pale and black hair cut in an asymmetrical bob. The other woman, who had now draped herself across the former, had short brown hair and a white and gold dress that stopped just at her knees.

Willow blinked, unsure how to react to seeing women just openly kissing as if there were no one else around. She cleared her throat and turned back around to face the bar, thankful that the bartender had replaced her drink.

She took a grateful sip before realizing that Sebastian had asked her a question.

“Everyone looks stunning.” she said, her eyes trailing over him as she spoke.

She quickly caught herself, hiding her blush behind her hair - which she’d thankfully convinced Lorie to let her wear down - as she took another sip of her drink.

“Indeed.” he murmured, before continuing at a normal volume, “So it’s strange that you haven’t been invited before.”

Willow shrugged, drumming her long red nails against the wooden surface of the bar.

Where the hell is Lorie, she wondered, nervously biting her bottom lip.

More people were there now, quite a few engaged in the beginnings of what she assumed would be…quite the experience.

Sebastian placed his hand over hers, his skin cool to the touch, “Did you read the rules?”

She nodded, glancing down at his hand on hers before meeting his eyes again. Up close she could certainly confirm that his eyes were like the greenest spring grass. She had never seen a color quite like it before.

“So then you know that you’re free to sit at the bar all night if that’s what you want.”

She nodded again, her eyes dropping from his to look at her half empty glass, but said nothing.

Willow,”

Her eyes snapped up to his, shocked at the sensual way her name fell from his lips.

Once he had her attention he just studied her for a moment before he stood and offered her his hand, “Would you like to dance?”

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