“Lucas…Anya, what the fuck!” I gasp.
“Lucas?” Anya asks, looking at him, “you said your name was John.”
“So?” he shrugs, glancing at her, “you said your name was Elizabeth.”
“Touché,” she giggles.
“How do you two know each other?” Spence cuts in, sounding irritated.
“Oh, we just met, not even an hour ago,” Lucas tells him with a sly smile.
“Anya, what about Seth?” I ask her, bitch!
She glares at me.
“Hey? What happened to discretion?” she argues, and Lucas gasps.
“Oh bloody hell, don’t tell me this is Seth’s Anya,” Lucas cringes, and I nod.
“Sure is,” I inform him, and Lucas turns to look at her.
“This is very, very bad news,” he tells her.
“Why? What?” she asks, putting her hands on her hips, “you know, everyone keeps talking in code around me, and I have no idea what the deal is? Can somebody please let me in on it?”
“Seth is my ex-best friend,” Lucas tells her simply.
“Ex?” Anya repeats.
“We had a fall out over a girl,” Lucas adds, glancing at me, and Spence’s posture straightens.
Anya notices this small exchange and looks at me, the pieces clicking into place.
“And let me guess, Roxanne, was that girl?”
Lucas nods once, his cheeks turning red, and avoiding Spence’s stare. Anya continues.
“So Seth and Roxanne dated? And she cheated on him with you?”
“No. Roxanne and I dated,” Lucas, corrects her, “and I cheated on her.”
Oh god, could this be any more awkward?
“So how does Seth fit into this scenario?” Anya then asks.
“Do we need to talk about this?” I chime in.
“No, let him tell her. Let’s clear this up right now, so there’s no more confusion,” Spence says, and it’s an order.
Lucas clears his throat, looking increasingly uncomfortable.
“Well, where shall I start?” Lucas asks, glancing at Spence and I. Spence looks around, and he gestures with his chin at the room that Lucas and Anya just came out of. What?
“Ooh,” Anya breathes, an excited smile on her lips.
We ignore her and step back into the room. It’s dim, and there is no bed in here, just a couple of plush looking chairs and a sofa facing the window that looks into the room that Spence and I were just in. Seriously? I need all my decision-making privileges revoked when I’m here. Can’t I just have fun without it turning into a mess?
“Let’s keep it simple?” Spence suggests, closing the door behind him.
“Seth and I met Roxanne last year at this very party, and we were both interested in her. I eventually won…”
Lucas trails off, looking at me nervously, and I glare at him, but he continues.
“But I cheated on her with her friend Casey, with whom I dated before Roxanne. Seth and Roxanne caught us in the act, and Seth punched me out.”
“Dramatic,” Anya snorts.
“And now, I’ve just screwed his new girlfriend. Therefore, this is very bad.”
“Oh please. I doubt he’d care all that much,” Anya retorts, sounding a little bitter, “ever since we ran into Roxanne at my dad’s yacht party, he’s been distracted and distant, and now I know why.”
“Do we even need to tell Seth about this?” Lucas asks, glancing around at the three of us.
“Yeah? I thought this party was all about anonymity?” Anya argues. She has a point which I hate.
“I suppose you’re right. It’s not worth it to stir shit up. However, you just witnessed Rox and I together, and we’d appreciate your discretion with that as well,” Spence counters.
“Well, for one, let me point out that I’ve noticed that Roxanne is the only woman in red tonight, so if you were hoping to stay anonymous, you didn’t do a good job…but lucky for you, it was us, and I can keep a secret if you can,” Anya states, looking smug.
Crap! I had forgotten that one crucial detail about my dress color tonight.
“I can keep a secret,” I sigh.
“Do you even need to ask me?” Spence says, looking at Lucas.
“Of course not,” Lucas shakes his head.
“Then, we have an understanding. This never happened,” Spence clarifies.
“Never happened,” Anya smiles, “but can I just say one last thing? That…” she points into the room on the other side of the window, “was hot! I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to participate, but I guess I’ll settle for having witnessed it.”
“Yeah. When I chose this room, I never expected you two to come walking through that door- Bravo!” Lucas informs us, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Well, I’m glad you two enjoyed the show,” Spence says dryly.
“It got me off,” Anya giggles.
“Okay, that’s enough,” Spence says quietly, “this conversation ends here. Roxanne and I are going to go back out to the party now.”
“Yes sir,” Lucas nods, and Anya doesn’t say anything.
Spence opens the door, and we step back out into the hallway. Spence grabs my hand and pulls me towards the door leading out into the ballroom. He looks annoyed, his good mood from earlier seemingly gone, as well as mine.
“Those two are made for each other,” Spence mutters as we cross the threshold.
The masque is in full swing, and there are now people everywhere.
“I can’t believe it was them in there, of all the people it could have been. They both work fast, don’t they?”
“Yeah, well, I’m not pleased that it was they who watched us, but on the other hand, Anya was right about your dress. I forgot about that.”
“Me too, I’m sorry,” I say, feeling guilty, “I guess I’m pretty recognizable.”
“Both a good thing and a bad thing,” he nods, “but it’s not your fault; it’s mine.”
“Why is it your fault?”
“Because I’m the one who wanted you to stand out.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t know I was going to pull you into that room. Personally, I had hoped that nobody was in there. I just liked the idea more than the actual possibility. Besides, even if I were wearing the same color as everyone else, those two would have known exactly who we were.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, Roxanne. Lucas knows how to keep his mouth shut. Anya, I’m not so sure, but I’m holding out hope. Even if she did mention it, it’s not like we have anything to hide. Also, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy myself.”
“Lucas I don’t care about, he’s seen it all before,” I say, and Spence frowns at me, “sorry, but it’s true, but I don’t like the fact that Anya got a good look at you if you know what I mean.”
“Well, I don’t like the fact that he got to see you again, either,” he counters.
“Maybe next year, we should just keep it in our pants,” I joke, “because something always seems to go wrong.”
Spence stops walking and turns to face me.
“I’m not sure I’m going to do this again next year, Roxanne,” he informs me.
“Because I’ve been doing this masque for ten years, and I think it’s time to put it to rest. By this time next year, we’re going to be married, and I think I’m done with this…” Spence gestures around the room, “I think it’s time to settle down, and maybe even start a family.”
“A family?” I squeak.
I hadn’t even thought of that. It wasn’t on my radar. I swallow hard, and my palms become sweaty. Kids?
“A…a family?” I gasp.
“Yes. Do you not want children Rox?” he asks, sounding slightly worried.
“I never really thought about it Spence,” I tell him, it’s not a yes or a no, “and this seems like a conversation better had elsewhere, doesn’t it?”
“You’re right, let’s not talk about it right now…but we will talk about this soon.”
“Okay,” I breathe.
Kids? Me? A mom? Kids, with Spence? My heart has started beating erratically, and for the first time in a long time, it’s not from excitement.
“Are you okay? You look like you’re about to faint or something?” Spence asks, holding me by the shoulders.
I can’t find the words to answer him, so I just shake my head. Spence takes a deep breath and looks around the room.
“Let’s just find the others and try to enjoy the rest of our evening,” he murmurs, taking me by the hand and pulling me forward.
We find them a few minutes of searching later. Chris and Lena are on the dance floor, and Casey and Seth are sitting on a nearby sofa. Not in the dancing mood, I take a seat next to Casey. She’s smiling at me until she studies my face, then her smile drops.
“What happened?” she whispers in my ear.
I shake my head, and Casey frowns.
“I’m grabbing a drink,” Spence says, his voice flat, and then he strides away.
“Seriously, what’s going on?” Casey asks again, watching after Spence, “he looks pissed, and you look scared.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, it’s nothing serious,” I tell her.
“Okay, we’ll talk about it later,” she replies, and I know she’s not going to drop it.
“Rox, do you want to dance with me?” Seth offers, leaning forward to see me better.
I look at him nervously.
“It might help you feel better,” he adds, and Casey looks at him, frowning.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she objects.
“It’s just a fucking dance,” he argues, “I’m not going to run away with her, especially with Spence here.”
I take a deep breath and nod, anything to steer my thoughts away from where they are. Seth stands and offers me his hand. I take it, and he leads me to the dance floor. A slower song starts to play just as we step onto it. Seth just smiles and shrugs as he places a hand on my hip, and takes my other hand in his in a traditional dance pose. We start to sway to the music, and Seth keeps a respectful distance between us, but his eyes pierce me.
“What’s got you upset?” he asks gently.
“It’s nothing,” I say, not meeting his gaze.
“Bullshit, spill it.”
“Seth, I can’t talk about it with you.”
“Because it’d be inappropriate.”
“Why? We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Then tell me. Maybe I can help.”
“Okay, Spence just told me that he wants kids,” I tell him.
There, let’s see what advice he has about that. He looks surprised.
“That’s not so bad,” he chuckles, “I thought it was something bad.”
“It’s not bad. I just hadn’t thought about having kids. It’s a little scary,” I say.
“You don’t want them?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know. What about you, Seth? Do you want kids?”
“Shit, I don’t know. I guess if I found the right person.”
When he says this, I feel him pull me in an inch closer to him.
“But now I’m back at square one, so I don’t have to worry about that for a while. However, in your case, Spence is what? Forty-three now? I bet he wants to get on that right away before he becomes an old man.”
“Geez, Seth!” I frown at him.
“Just telling you like it is. You’re young, so you have some time, but Spence? Think about it. If you had a kid next year, then by the time he or she is six years old, he’s going to be fifty.”
“That doesn’t matter,” I say, shaking my head at him, “Spence is in better shape than most guys my own age,” I add.
“Alright then, so then what’s the problem? If it’s not age, then what is it?”
I don’t know what to say, and I glance over at the sofas where Casey sits, and I see that Spence is now sitting with her. His eyes are glued to Seth and me, and he doesn’t look happy. Casey looks like she’s trying to talk to him, but he just nods absently. Damn it! I turn back to look at Seth, and he tugs me a little closer.
“Seth, don’t,” I chastise him, pulling away from him a little.
“Roxanne, please don’t marry him.”
What? My eyes go wide, and my arms drop from his shoulders, but he doesn’t let go of my waist.
“Seth, I’m not talking about this again.”
“You should be with me, and deep down, you know it too,” he pleads, pulling me closer.
I shoot a panicked look in Spence’s direction, and I see him now just hovering on the edge of the sofa, his eyes on fire. Casey is next to him, holding his arm, holding him back. Fuck! I quickly pull away from Seth, and his arms drop to his sides.
“Spence looks like he wants to pummel you right now,” I inform him.
Seth looks over at Spence, who stands up from the sofa now and takes one dangerous step forward, a warning. Casey is standing behind him now, waiting to hold him back if need be, though if he were determined, nobody could hold him, I’m sure. It makes me angry to think about how this is making him feel. Seth sticks his hands up in front of him in surrender.
“You have to forget about me, Seth. It’s over between us; I’m in love with Spence. He’s everything I never knew I wanted and needed. I know you, and I had a connection, but that was before, and I don’t feel that way about you anymore. You have to move on. If you care about me, you’ll back off and stop trying to mess with us,” I say with a passion so that he knows that I’m dead serious.
But Seth isn’t even looking at me. His eyes are focused over my shoulder. I turn around, and Spence is standing directly behind me, but he doesn’t look angry like I expected, he’s smiling. I gasp in surprise, and before I can say anything, Spence wraps his arms around me and presses his lips to mine and kisses me passionately. When he pulls back, his eyes are warm, loving, and then he looks at Seth, keeping his expression light.
“Seth, if you keep trying to fuck with my world, we’re going to have a problem, so if you’re smart, like I know you are, you’ll back off right now. You don’t want me fucking with your world, too, now do you?”
This is a threat, a real one, and Seth looks a little fearful.
“No, Spence, I don’t want that,” he replies, looking crestfallen.
“That’s a good boy,” Spence patronizes him, and it reminds me of Spence's, ‘I’m not a boy,’ comment from earlier.
Seth’s jaw clenches like he’s biting back his words. I’m assuming he’d like to talk back, but I’m sure Spence is not a good enemy to have.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Seth says, instead.
“I doubt that,” Spence snorts.
“Yeah, you got me there,” Seth smirks, squaring his shoulders.
I guess he’s not so scared after all, but I’m not expecting what comes out of his mouth next.
“You two will be divorced within a few years, and when that happens, I’ll be there.”
“Seth, you underestimate my patience,” Spence chuckles darkly, “and if you’re not out of my sight in two seconds, so help me god…”
“Whoa! Whoa!” I step in between them, scared of where this is headed, “stop it, both of you! Spence, there’s no need for that.”
Then I turn on Seth.
“Seth, you’ll be waiting forever. What you just said is total bullshit talk. You’re only saying that to piss Spence off, so just fucking stop.”
“What? You don’t think I’d wait?” Seth asks me.
“Shut up!” I bark at him.
I turn to look back at Spence, and he puts his hand in the air and gestures to Seth. I look at him in confusion, but confusion quickly turns into understanding when two large men appear out of nowhere.
“Escort Mr. Turrell from the building,” Spence tells them, and they promptly move to either side of Seth.
“Come on, is this necessary?” Seth asks as the men each take him by the forearms.
“It’s more for your safety,” Spence tells him with a wry smile.
“Yeah, is this necessary, Spence?” I then ask, hating the thought of Seth getting kicked out.
“What? I’m supposed just to let him stay?” Spence asks me, his eyebrows rising.
I turn to look back at Seth, and the men wait for the final order to lead him out.
“I think he gets the picture,” I say quietly to Spence, “no need to humiliate him.”
“Fuck! Fine,” Spence grunts, then looks over at the huge men.
“Let him be.”
They drop Seth’s arms and walk away, and Seth winces as he rubs his forearms. They must have been holding tight. Spence points the finger at Seth, threatening him.
“Seth, you had better avoid me for the rest of the evening, and that includes Roxanne.”
Seth doesn’t answer him as Spence puts an arm around my shoulder and starts pulling me away. He walks us past the sofa where Casey now sits with Chris and Lena, who look completely dumbfounded by the little scene that just played out in front of them. Spence leads me over to the bar and taps on it, and a bartender comes over right away.
“Six shots of tequila,” he orders.
“Spence, what are you doing?” I ask him.
“Getting drunk,” he snips as the bartender lines six shot glasses in front of us and pours the tequila with flare.
The bartender also sets a small glass filled with limes next to the shots, along with a small, shiny, steel saltshaker. Spence pulls a lime from the glass and hands it to me.
“Put this in your mouth,” he instructs, and I understand what he’s doing, “then turn your head to the side.”
“Just do it, Rox.”
So I turn my head to the side. Spence then leans down, and I feel him suck on the base of my neck, he reaches out and grabs the saltshaker, and he sprinkles a little on the spot he just licked. Tiny goosebumps form on my skin as he slowly licks the salt off, then grabs a shot glass and tips it up. Spence slams the shot glass down and grabs me by my face, before sucking the lime between my lips. He pulls back and spits the lime peel out, and then crushes his lips to mine. He pulls back, and his eyes burn into me, full of excitement.
“Five more to go.”