Enter the Matchmakers
The Borscht Bowl Club, April 17, 2019 9:15 p.m.
The Borscht Bowl Club was a charming Russian restaurant, set in a double story stone-walled building, with tiled mosaic floors. On the lower level was a quaint tavern, featuring blue-tin ceilings and red velvet walls, mingled with twinkling chandeliers. Patrons sat, laughing and drinking merrily, at oak tables, equipped with plush velvet chairs. In the center of the room was a fully stocked bar, flocked by three busy bartenders and half a dozen wait staff. The focal point of the room was in the far right corner, which boasted a gleaming ebony baby grand piano. Sitting at it, tickling the ivories, was an obviously tone-deaf young man with slicked back blond hair, clad in a cheap tuxedo. He was, loudly and painfully, caterwauling along to the playing of his swing-style tunes. He didn't appear to take requests – although Maya would have been glad enough if he had succumbed to her repeated silent requests to shut the holy hell up and please cease butchering Frank Sinatra already; Slick Boy was an adequate pianist but truly an atrocious singer!
All in all, that Saturday night the Borscht Bowl had a bustling bar atmosphere, flanked by scantily clad waitresses in black booty shorts and sleeveless cropped white blouses with a ruffled design in the front, accented with a black tuxedo tie. It was crowded and noisy, and so chilly that they may very well have been in Moscow, if not Siberia! Although she was reluctant to admit it, Maya was starting to regret her stubborn refusal of Phoenix's jacket within five minutes of the threesome arriving at their table.
He noted the goose bumps rapidly forming on her bare arms. "Are you OK, Maya?" While his voice was filled with genuine concern, a knowing glint lurked in his sapphire eyes.
Maya pouted as she rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms. "I guess they wanted to ensure we had the full wintry Russian experience? It is positively frigid in here! I can practically see my breath, Nick!"
Phoenix couldn't withhold a smirk. "So you're saying you wish you'd taken my advice and worn a cover up are you?"
"Oh, shut up, Nick!" Maya muttered irritably, pretending to be madder than she actually was while barely suppressing a shudder. Besides, being angry was making her feel a tad warmer. Not much, but a little.
God, she hated when he was right! And the fact that Phoenix was always warm and she was all alone with her shivering suffering only added insult to injury. Did he have to stand there, radiating heat like that? The top two buttons of his snug, short-sleeved shirt weren't even done up! Maya blushed slightly, trying to avert her eyes from the sight of a very masculine tanned throat and hint of broad chest she was privy to see. Phoenix's change of outfit from typical suit and tie into more casual, well-fitted jeans and Polo was a rather dramatic one. He looked younger, more relaxed, and hell, she may as well admit to herself if not to him, sexier than usual. Of course she'd rather die than bolster his ego and voice the observation that on this particular night, the "old man" looked like anything but! No way. Not to Mr. "Nice dress". Damn him!
"However can you not be frozen?" She demanded crossly, stepping almost nose-to-nose with him and poking her finger into his chest. She deliberately forced herself to look up into Phoenix's handsome face and not anywhere near his aptly displayed (and somewhat impressive) physique as she continued her tirade, all the while semi-consciously aware that their close proximity had somehow resulted in her now feeling very warm indeed. "What are you Nick, some sort of human furnace? I have no idea how these waitresses haven't dropped dead of hypothermia already! They're wearing even less than I am!"
"That's because they're already so freakin' hot! They gotta wear something TIT-illating to show off their ASS-ets…amazing they haven't melted the place down!" An aggravatingly familiar voice suddenly crowed behind her.
Maya spun around at this obnoxious comment, intending to shut-up the jerk who'd made it, and found herself face-to-face with Larry Butz, who was suggestively waggling his eyebrows and grinning foolishly at his own wit.
"Only you, Larry," Phoenix grimaced and shook his head before Maya could tell The Butz just how much of an ass he was! "More likely it's because the hard-working young ladies are so busy running around they have no chance to feel frozen. This place is busier than usual tonight. We still haven't had a server come by our table yet."
"Glad you could make it, Pal," Gumshoe affably said to Larry, rising from his seat and shaking the other man's hand. "We were waiting for everyone to arrive before we ordered the first round. Did you happen to see Mr. Edgeworth on your way in?"
"Nope, although the traffic out there is insane and there's barely any parking," Larry replied. "For all we know, Edgy may be out there right now wrestling for a spot. Am sure he'll be here soon enough." The "artist" who last time she'd seen him had preferred to be known as Laurice Deauxnim finally settled his lecherous brown eyes on Maya, which grew to the size of saucers as they drank her in. He let out a low wolf-whistle of appreciation.
"Speaking of hot stuff…somebody call 911! Holy tamale Maya baby, you are looking muy caliente tonight!"
Maya threw her head back and laughed at the effusive flattery, her elaborately curled black waves falling off her uncovered shoulders and spilling down her back like an inky waterfall. Her earlier annoyance had immediately vanished. "Larry Butz, you kill me!" she rasped, still giggling. She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "You're completely loco, amigo, but muchas gracias for the compliment. You just totally made my night!" At least someone notices and appreciates my efforts! She added silently. Even if it is LARRY!
"Me, crazy? I've been called worse." Larry gave Maya a lascivious leer. "But not in this case, mama cita! You have filled out in all the right places! I mean, dang, Maya, those knockers are mucho grande! How the heck are they being held up?!"
Phoenix's face, which had been further reddening since this whole exchange had begun, was now puce in color as he glared at his childhood friend. "Oh my GOD Larry, what the hell is wrong with you? Turn that hose of yours down already and have some shame!" Before I tie a permanent knot into it!
"I shall have to agree with Wright on this one, Butz." A smoothly refined and immediately recognizable voice intoned just then. "Cool your jets and have some dignity man! There is a completely full bar of unsuspecting females here for you to salivate over and practice your bad Spanish on, without poor Miss Fey having to be a victim as well."
Everyone beamed at the long-last arrival of Miles Edgeworth, Chief Prosecutor, dear childhood pal to Phoenix and Larry (and sometimes rival to the former), boss of Gumshoe, and fellow Steel Samurai fan-friend of Maya's.
As usual, Edgeworth was appareled in his typical magenta suit and snowy white ruffled cravat. A regal and debonair gentleman in his late twenties, with ever perfect grayish-black hair and patrician features, Edgeworth had had more than his fair share of female admirers over the years. However, he'd appeared blissfully oblivious to most of them (Wendy Oldbag, aka "The Wicked Witch of the Witness Stand aside) and the only passion the workaholic former "demon prosecutor" had ever exuded had been towards his work and the law.
Such seemed to be the case no longer. Although her identity was momentarily masked in the dim lighting of the bar, a distinctly female, yet somehow familiar outline, was now visibly standing behind the tall man.
Edgeworth stepped aside at that moment, and as the form slithered up next to him, everyone's happy expressions turned into ones of unmasked shock as they at last set eyes on the very well-known figure he pulled possessively to his side before graciously inclining his head towards Maya. "Please accept my sincere apologies for being tardy on this festive occasion, Miss Fey. My companion this evening had a last minute overseas conference call she needed to tend to. Might I add that you look most fetching this evening." He gave a slight grandeur bow, which would have looked ridiculous if done by any other man, yet on the urbane Edgeworth, just seemed swoon-worthily chivalrous. "To atone for this however unintentional faux pas, do allow Franziska and me to buy the first round of drinks for everyone."
Franziska von Karma? The whip-happy, slightly psychotic in her quest for perfection prodigal prosecutor? Phoenix and Maya stared at each other, both their jaws agape in identical stunned expressions. The silver-haired German harpy, despite being Edgeworth's foster sister, was no friend to any of them. Phoenix certainly hadn't been the one to extend an invitation to her that night. What in God's name had possessed Edgeworth to invite her to Maya's party?
Maya gulped and caught her former employer's eye again, the troubled expression on her face as clear as day.
Worst. Birthday. EVER.