We climb out of the limo once again, and Spence takes his place between us, and we hook our arms with his.
“How’s our lipstick?” Casey asks him.
He chuckles and then looks from me, and then back to her.
“Still perfect,” he says with a smile, “shall we, ladies?”
“We shall,” I giggle.
And with that, we head into the hotel. The doormen open the doors for us, and we cross the threshold into the lobby. I find it kind of surreal how different this year is from the last. Last year, I had shown up here, all by myself, not knowing what to expect. Now this year, I’m accompanying the host himself- my husband to be, along with my best friend, with whom I just made out with inside the limo. Oh, how things have changed.
When we approach those large double doors, we are not asked for an invitation, we are granted access immediately, with both doormen bowing slightly to Spence as we go by. We are now in the mask room, the party precursor. The décor is much different this year; the walls are swathed in soft white fabric, and there are large white vases in each corner filled with white roses. The lighting is muted and warm, casting a relaxing glow over the area. This year, the women handing out masks are all in golden gowns and masks. The boxes lining the shelves are gold as well.
“Good evening Mr. Manfredi,” the clipboard lady greets him with a curtsey, and then she turns and smiles at me and curtseys again, “Miss Vice.”
Then she looks at Casey.
“This is Casey Sheahan,” he informs her, and she doesn’t check her clipboard, she just nods.
Instead of going over to the shelves to pick out masks, one of the women reaches underneath the table and pulls out two golden boxes.
“I had yours chosen already,” Spence murmurs to me as he reaches for the box and pulls the lid open.
Casey and I gasp as he pulls it out of the box. If I thought my mask last year was beautiful, this one knocks it out of the ballpark. It’s black satin, covered in black lace, with dramatic cat-eye shaped holes for the eyes. It’s dotted with sparkly tiny red jewels, and there are intricate, finely woven black metal wire designs that fan out from the mask on either side, forming an almost wing-like appearance.
“Oh, Spence,” I breathe as he lifts it out of the box, and he stands behind me to put it on.
“Hold on, let me help,” Casey offers, and she comes over and carefully lifts my hair so that it can be fastened underneath.
Once it’s secured, I reach up and gently touch it. It’s a little heavier than the last one, but I love it.
“Perfect,” Spence smiles happily, “Now for yours, Casey,” he tells her. “I didn’t know what color gown you were going to wear, so I took a guess,” he explains, opening the second box.
She stands next to him and waits excitedly as he lifts it out of the box, a small squeal escaping her lips as she lays eyes on it.
“Oh my god,” she breathes.
Hers is made of weaved, fine black metal, giving it the appearance of lace, and it’s smaller than mine, just big enough to cover only her eyes. Spence helps her fasten it to her head.
“Now, for mine,” he says, and the clipboard lady hands him a smaller box containing the same type of mask that all of the men wore last year.
He slides it on and then flashes a smile at me that causes my heart to flutter with excitement, and the muscles deep in my belly to clench.
“Wait until you see what we’ve done this year,” Spence says, taking our arms in his again, and doorman number three lifts a curtain that hides the door that leads into the party. We step through, and my steps are halted as I take it all in. This year’s theme is red, red everywhere. The walls are covered in a luxurious, deep red fabric that’s almost burgundy; the tablecloths are red, with red glass vases filled with blood-red roses. All the sofas are red velvet, and even the champagne glasses that are being passed around are made of red glass. It’s very gothic looking, and it kind of reminds me of the nightclub that Spence took me to on our first date, except there are no cage dancers this time. All the waitresses wear gold, just like the welcome crew.
“Holy shit,” Casey gasps.
“I love it!” I gasp, “It’s very dramatic.”
“It’s also for you, for your favorite color Roxanne,” Spence tells me, and we start moving forward, deeper into the room.
There are only a few guests here, but it’s still early. The music is subdued, easing into it, I assume. As I look around at the guests, I notice that not one other woman that I’ve seen so far is wearing red, I am the only one.
“Spence?” I ask him as we head towards the back of the room towards the VIP room.
“Yes, my love?”
“I’m the only one wearing red, is that on purpose, or just coincidence? I know there are a lot more women about to arrive, but red is usually a pretty common color choice.”
Spence chuckles lightly.
“Would you be mad if I told you that it was on purpose?” he asks.
“Why would you do that? And how could you pull that off?” I frown.
“I had it written in the invite small-print. No red gowns,” Spence says, casually, like it’s no big deal, “I wanted my fiancée to stand out.”
“That’s crazy, Spence,” I chide him.
“I want what I want,” he shrugs then adds, “and I want to be able to spot you easily in a crowd. If you’re the only one in red, I’ll know that it’s you.”
“Like I said, crazy, and a little micromanaged,” I retort.
“I think it’s romantic…and maybe a little clever,” Casey chimes in with her two cents.
“I think so,” Spence agrees with her, and I guess I agree, it is kind of romantic that he wanted me to feel special.
I smile and shake my head at him. We approach the VIP door, and the doorman lets us through. All the doors that line the hallway are open so far, none of the rooms are occupied yet, and Casey and I peek in as we pass. Some have beds, some don’t, some only have sofas, and all of them have their very own private bar.
“Ewe, who would want to use one of those beds after someone else has been in there,” Casey scoffs, scrunching her nose in disgust.
“Trust me, Casey, they are stripped clean after each use,” Spence assures her.
“Yeah, well, seeing those solidify my suspicions as to what happens back here,” she says, but Spence doesn’t respond as Big Walt opens the door into Spence’s private room.
“Hi Walt,” I greet him with a smirk.
“Nice to see you again, Miss Vice,” he bows slightly, and flashes me a toothy grin.
We step into the room, and the red theme carries on, making it look different than last year. However, I still recognize it, almost vividly. Memories start flooding back as we head over to the red velvet sofas. I take a seat, and Casey walks around the room, examining it.
“No bed in here?” she comments.
“No, not in here,” Spence answers from where he stands in front of the bar. A bartender is pouring our drinks — a martini for Casey, scotch for Spence, and of course, white wine for me. Spence makes his way over and sits down next to me, slinging his arm on the back of the sofa behind me. Casey comes across and sits on my other side, as the bartender brings our drinks over and places them on the table in front of us. Casey leans over and grabs her drink and mine, and hands me the glass.
“Drink up,” she orders, clinking her glass to mine, and taking a long pull of her drink.
“Shit, I almost forgot how good the martinis were at this thing,” she gasps.
Me, on the other hand, have not forgotten about the wine, since I get to drink it all the time whenever I’m at Spence’s house. I lift my glass to my lips and tentatively take a sip, feeling nervous all of a sudden and sitting here in this room again, sandwiched between two people with a sensual promise though the two people next to me are very different than the mystery men of last year. This is my fiancé and my best friend, with whom I just made up with after the fall out of the events stemming from last year, in this very room, almost in this very spot, except for it is a brand new sofa. I must have tensed up because Spence dips his head close to me.
“Are you okay?” he asks me.
“I’m uh…I’m fine,” I stutter, and turn my face towards him to offer a reassuring smile, but it must not be convincing because he frowns.
“Come with me,” he murmurs and stands up, offering his hands to me to help pull me up. I take them, and I stand, and he leads me away. Casey looks at us in question.
“We’ll be right back,” he tells her.
He pulls me into the restroom and closes the door behind us.
“What’s wrong?” he asks again.
“Nothing is wrong,” I answer, casting my eyes down, “I just can’t help but remember what I did in this room last year. It just seems a little strange, that’s all.”
“Oh, I see,” he says, taking my hand and pulling me towards him.
He puts two fingers under my chin and lifts my face to look at him, “Is that all?”
“Well, there’s that, and then I think about what happened in the limo tonight, and the whole situation feels a little familiar, but with different participants.”
“This situation is nothing like last year, sweetie. I’m your fiancé, not some stranger, and Casey is your best friend.”
“Which makes me wonder if what I’m considering doing is a good idea,” I tell him.
“What are you considering?” he asks, his voice low.
“I’m considering messing around with Casey,” I whisper, and a smile touches his lips, “because I trust her around you more than I trust…Anya, for instance.”
“You trust me, right?” he asks earnestly.
“Of course,” I nod.
“Then it doesn’t matter who you choose. No matter what Rox, I’m not going to touch the other woman if this is something you want to try…but if I had to choose between Anya and Casey, I too would prefer Casey. Anya is so young, and she’s Victor’s daughter, and she’s Seth’s girlfriend, and I don’t feel like adding him to the mix if you know what I mean, because I don’t want him touching you either.”
“Anya likes you too much. I know she’d try to touch you, even if you don’t reciprocate. I know I wouldn’t like it,” I explain.
“And that’s how I’d feel about Seth,” he adds.
“Then we have an understanding then. If we decide to try this tonight, then we go with Casey,” I clarify.
“Casey,” he nods, “and please don’t feel weird about last year, babe. You’re with me now, and nothing will happen that you’re not comfortable with, and nobody is going to judge what you do this year, because it’s nobodies business but our own.”
I sigh and rest my head on his chest, soaking in his words.
“I don’t care so much about the judging. I think most people who attend your masque, all have their own stories. It’s just the aftermath that I worry about,” I tell him.
“As long as you know what I’m up to, and I know what you’re up to, I think we’ll be just fine, and I think Casey knows what she’s getting into.”
“She kissed me last year too, you know before she knew about everything. She had wanted to have a threesome with Lucas and me, and we turned her down, I think it bothered her more than she let on when I turned her down…and I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I chose Anya over her tonight,” I reveal.
“Then don’t turn her down this time,” Spence says, his voice silky smooth.
“You just want to watch us,” I giggle and smack him playfully on the chest.
“Of course I do, and now that you two gave me a preview in the limo, I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact…” Spence smiles and grabs my hand and places it against his crotch, “it’s getting me a little excited.”
I raise an eyebrow at him and bite my lower lip.
“I wouldn’t call it little,” I croon.
“Maybe you could help me out with that.”
“Maybe I could,” I smile and squeeze his package slightly, rubbing him through his pants.
I push him up against the door, and it makes a loud crack as his back hits the door. I press up against him and lean in to kiss him deeply. Spence grabs my waist and holds me flush against him, and his tongue invades my mouth. A soft moan escapes my lips as desire takes over. That is until we hear a timid knock on the other side.
“Um, guys?” Casey says through the door, “we’ve got company, so maybe control yourselves for now...please,”
Spence and I stop kissing and look at each other, and begin to laugh. Then I take in Spence, and he’s got red lipstick on now, causing me to laugh even louder.
“What?” he asks.
“That shade looks great on you,” I tease him, and he laughs, going over to the mirror and examining himself.
As he wipes it off, I open the door, and Casey is still standing there, a hand on her hip.
“Sorry, Case,” I giggle.
“Looks like you could use a touch-up,” she says, taking in my face, and spotting Spence in the mirror.
“Oh! I need my lipstick,” I say.
“Hold on,” she sighs before walking away.
She comes back a minute later with my clutch and hands it to me. I open it up and pull out my new lipstick. Casey joins us in the bathroom and closes the door behind her. I look at her questioningly.
“Here,” she says, holding out her hand for the tube, and I hand it to her, “I’m a pro at applying red lipstick,” she explains, opening the container.
“Relax your lips, like this,” she demonstrates, and I follow orders.
I’m aware of Spence watching us. Casey starts swiping the creamy lipstick carefully across my lips.
“Rub them together, like this,” she says with another demonstration, “then blot.”
I do as I’m told and rub my lips together, and then I look around for a tissue to blot.
“What are you looking for?” Spence asks.
“I need to blot,” I tell him.
“Oh, that’s okay…here,” Casey says, leaning forward, and she kisses me.
When she pulls away, my eyes are wide.
“What? It works good for blotting,” she shrugs.
“Works for me,” Spence chuckles lightly, clearly enjoying the show.
“Okay, one more time,” Casey says, and she swipes another coat on.
“Do we blot again?” I ask wryly, and before she can answer me, I reach out and grab her face between my hands and kiss her.
I pull back, and she smiles happily.
“There, a perfect lipstick application,” she giggles.
“It was the most interesting make-up application I’ve ever witnessed,” Spence chimes in.
Casey and I go over to the mirror and check our faces. My lipstick is fresh and perfectly applied once more, and even Casey has a fresh coat now.
“Well, now that that’s all taken care of, shall we join our other guests?” Spence asks.
“Who’s out there anyway? I ask curiously, and Casey’s face darkens, giving me a hint as to who it must be.
“It’s Lucas,” she confirms.
“Oh shit! Sorry Case that must have been awkward,” I offer.
“I didn’t say anything to him; I just came straight to the restroom when he came in. He looked surprised to see me,” she tells us.
“Sorry, Casey,” Spence says, “I almost forgot about him.”
“It’s okay, I understand. Lucas is your right hand, so of course, he’d be here. I was expecting this at some point, I can handle it,” she states confidently, and we open the door.
We walk around the corner, and sure enough, Lucas is leaning against the bar, drink in hand.
“Lucas,” Spence greets him a little stiffly and joins him at the bar, and Casey and I go over to the sofas and take a seat. She leans in close to me and holds my hand.
“It’s so weird seeing him,” Casey whispers, “but that asshole is still one good looking son of a bitch.”
“Be strong Case,” I say, squeezing her hand.
“Oh Rox, you don’t have to worry about that, I still genuinely hate him. How about you?”
“We’re on speaking terms if only so it’s not so uncomfortable when I have to be around him so often.”
“That’s understandable, I guess,” she nods.
“But I still don’t trust him by any means,” I add.
“We can be civil tonight, can’t we?” I ask her, and she purses her lips a little.
“Yeah, I guess so. I’d like to keep the mood light, so I wouldn’t want to cause any tension…” she pauses then adds, “That’s not of the sexual kind anyway.”
I laugh out loud, and the guys look over at us curiously. Casey turns and smiles sweetly at them, and Lucas smiles back. Spence is smiling at me, and then Casey turns and looks at me again, before leaning in and kissing me once more, and this time I know, it’s purely a show for Lucas’s benefit. So I play along, and put my arms around her shoulders and kiss her back.
“Well, Lucas, I hate to do this to you, boy, but I think I need to kick you out for now,” Spence says rather loudly, playing along.
“What the fuck?” I hear Lucas mutter.
“This year, things have changed a little bit,” Spence adds, rubbing it in.
From the corner of my eye, I see him leading Lucas towards the door. Lucas gapes at Casey and me as he steps out of the room, and before Spence shuts the door in his face, Casey and I look over at his shocked face and wave.