Beyond The Masque Part II

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Chapter 22

I am dressed in a pair of dark jeans and a black, sleeveless blouse. Spence is in jeans and a white button-down shirt. This dinner is much more casual than last year's fancy brunch, and I’m thankful for it. Spence’s guests have started to arrive, and they are ushered into the back yard. Spence had decided on a barbeque feast, so the caterers have set up a large grill, it’s covered in all sorts of grilled meats and vegetables. I gaze at the mouthwatering steaks and feel my stomach growl in anticipation.

“Hey Rox,” I hear a deep voice greet me.

I turn away from the food and up into Lucas’s bemused face.

“Oh, hey Lucas,” I greet him back lightly.

“You look good,” he compliments.

He looks me up and down, and I frown at him, but he continues anyway.

“So here we are again. The Manfredi Masque after-party.”

He’s saying one thing, but I know he’s alluding to another. I ignore it.

“Who would have thought?” I sigh and run a hand through my hair, glancing around, looking for Spence, but I don’t see him.

“You know, I still can’t believe that you’re going to marry him.”
“Funny how life works out for the best sometimes, isn’t it?” I retort with a smirk, and he frowns at me this time.

“I know, I’m a dick,” he shrugs, his eyes gleaming mischievously.

“Yeah, you really are.”

I can’t help but chuckle at him. At least he knows it, and he laughs along with me.

“So, did you bring some poor unsuspecting date with you tonight?” I ask him.

“No, thought I’d show up stag this year.”
“That’s good. You don’t know how to stick with one date per night.”

“Hey, what can I say? I like to keep my options open.”

I’m shaking my head at him when I spot Casey a few yards away, looking over at Lucas and me curiously. Oh! She must have just arrived.

“Well, Lucas, as much fun as this is reminiscing, I see Casey.”

He looks over his shoulder and spots her and then turns back to look at me.

“It’s good that you two are friends again.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy about it,” I nod.

“Her and Seth are becoming close too, huh?” he says casually.

“Huh?” I ask, confused.

“Oh? I guess you don’t know then?”

“Know what?”

“Last night at the masque. I saw them making out before they disappeared into the VIP section,” he informs me, and my mouth drops open before I shut it quickly.

Lucas studies my face as I absorb his words.

“Are you sure?” I ask, a little disbelievingly.

“Why would I make it up?” he says, “ I don’t know. Maybe those two should get together. We’ve certainly pulled them through the wringer, and we both know that Anya isn’t good for him.”

I wonder why she didn’t tell me this earlier? She had said nothing had happened last night, just flirtations, nothing more.

“I still can’t believe you two found each other so quickly…” I mutter, trailing off, distracted now.

“She came storming out of Spence’s room and ran into me in the hallway. We flirted for a few minutes before she pulled me into that room we were in. We didn’t even know that it was a viewing room until we saw the glass. Low and behold, you and Spence came in, and we thought you were just talking until…well, you know. She was so turned on that she practically attacked me after that. It was awesome,” Lucas grins wickedly, licking his lips.

“Anya has a thing for Spence. She was mad because we wouldn’t sleep with her, which is why she stormed out in the first place,” I reveal, though I don’t know why.

“She wanted both of you?” he asks, raising his eyebrows, and I nod.

“Well, she was certainly pleased to have at least watched you two. I, on the other hand, just enjoyed seeing you.”

“Lucas!” I admonish him, and smack him on the shoulder, and he just laughs in response.

“What? Hey, I’m not the one who chose the voyeur room,” he argues.

“Yeah, I know. Bad decision,” I agree.

“It was all in good fun, no harm, no foul.”

“Oh well, what’s done is done. Anyway, I gotta go,” I tell him.

“Okay, Rox. Good talking to you. I’ll see you around,” he smiles, then strides away first.

Finally, I walk over to greet Casey. She offers me a tight smile as I approach her.

“Hi, Casey,” I say to her.

I wonder if I should ask her about Seth or not. Maybe I’ll wait and see if she offers it up first.

“Hi Roxie,” she says, leaning in and planting a quick kiss on my cheek.

“How are you feeling? Hungover at all?” I ask her with a smirk.

“Surprisingly not, I feel good actually,” she tells me.

“Yeah, me too,” I nod.

“It looks like you got some sunburn there,” she comments, brushing her fingertips lightly along my bare shoulder.

“Yeah. Spence and I hung out by the pool all afternoon, and I forgot to reapply my sunscreen.”

“Are you two alright?” she asks softly.

There it is again.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t we be?” I ask, wondering if she’ll tell me how she knows, although now I think I understand why.

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it just seemed strange that you two took off so suddenly last night,” she shrugs.

So nope, she’s not going to tell me. Two can play that game.

“So, there was nothing but some flirting for you last night? I thought for sure you’d find some action,” I suggest, testing her.

“Yeah, nothing too interesting.”

Bull. Come on, Casey, just tell me. I just nod, fighting the urge to call her out. Maybe Seth has asked her not to say anything.

Spence approaches us then. He wraps an arm around my waist and kisses the side of my head, and then he smiles at Casey.

“Casey, glad to see you again.”
“Hi Spence, thanks for having me. I kind of feel like I’ve been third-wheeling you guys all weekend,” she says, sounding suddenly shy.

“Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. You are welcome anytime, sweetheart,” he assures her.

“Thanks, Spence.”

He smiles warmly back at her, then turns to me.

“Rox, there are some people I’d like to introduce you to,” he tells me. “Casey, I hope you don’t mind me stealing my fiancée away from you for a moment?”

“No, I’ll be fine,” she says.

“I’ll have her back to you in a jiffy,” he says and starts pulling me away, towards a group of older-looking men, whom I assume are some of Spence’s business associates.

I steal a glance back at Casey, who stands there watching after us with a glum look on her face for a moment before she turns and heads towards the pool area. I want to tell her that I’m not upset if she did hook up with Seth last night, but I’m also curious as to why she’s not just telling me herself. I can tell she’s feeling guilty, and she doesn’t need to feel that way. In fact, I’m now rooting for them to become more if it is, in fact, anything at all; maybe it would help him get over me.

After about fifteen minutes of meeting and greeting Spence’s associates, he takes mercy on me. I do my best to smile and appear interested in whatever it is the men discuss, but I’m so bored by it, I can barely stifle my yawn. Spence leans in and whispers in my ear.

“Rox baby, I’m sorry. I know this is boring for you. Why don’t you go find Casey, or I think I saw Chris and Lena by the bar.”

I smile gratefully at him and give him a quick kiss. I look at the other men, but they are so involved in their conversation that they don’t even notice when I take my leave. I wander over to the bar and see Chris and Lena right away. They are chatting with Frankie and another man who I don’t recognize. I approach the four of them.

“Hey Chris, Lena,” I smile at them and then at Frankie, “hey Frankie.”

Frankie gasps dramatically and rushes forward, kissing both of my cheeks.

“Roxanne darling, you’re looking marvelous. How are you, my dear?”

I giggle at his enthusiasm.

“I’m good, Frankie, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m fabulous as always.”

He reaches out and grabs the arm of the other man, pulling him forward.

“Rox dear, I’d like you to meet my beautiful boyfriend Les that I told you about.”

Les smiles broadly at me, flashing me a perfectly straight and probably bleached smile.

“Les Florence,” Les elaborates, extending his hand.

I take it and give it a shake. Les is quite attractive. Very tall and lanky, but he has a kind face with big blue eyes and light blond hair.

“Roxanne Vice,” I reply.

“Oh, I know,” he gushes, “Frankie has told me so many wonderful things about you, and I’ve been following your story in the tabloids.”

I flush a little in embarrassment from this. I sometimes forget that my love life is now under public scrutiny because of Spence.

“Uh, yes, well, Frankie has told me that you are a wedding planner?” I inquire.

Les beams and looks at Frankie, who smiles proudly back at Les.

“Yes, I own and run Florence Events, and I would be honored if you and Mr. Manfredi would have a sit down with me. I have so many ideas for fall weddings that I would love to share with you two.”

He looks so hopeful, I couldn’t bear it to turn him down, not that I was going to anyway. I’d rather give our business to a friend of a friend anyway.

“We would like that Les. I think we could make sometime next week to meet with you,” I tell him.

Les’s eyes go wide, and he smiles again, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.

“Shall we exchange numbers?” he asks me, thumbs already working.

“Okay,” I say, pulling my phone from my back pocket.

I get the entry ready and hand my phone to Les. He takes it and quickly enters his number, then I tell him my number, and he types it into his phone, without even looking at the screen as I tell him.

“Perfect,” he murmurs, tapping on his phone again, then he glances up at me.

“Next week, I have Tuesday and Friday available, but if that doesn’t work for you, I can switch some appointments around…”

“No. I think Tuesday will be just fine,” I answer him and then add, “any time after seven, though, since I work that day.”

“How about seven-thirty?” he asks me.

“Why don’t you two just meet in the private dining room in the restaurant? I can make sure that it’s available,” Frankie chimes in; his voice is laced with excitement.

“Sounds like a good plan,” I agree, “I’ll just let Spence know, and we’ll be good to go.”

“Thank you so much for your consideration, Miss Vice. I think we’ll work very well together,” Les says formally.

“I think so too, Les, and please, just call me Roxanne, or Rox.”

I then turn to look at Chris and Lena, who has remained quiet throughout this entire conversation.

“So, have you two enlisted Les yet?” I ask them, and Les glances over at them too, smiling.

“Not yet…we just got engaged last night,” Chris laughs, “but when we’re ready, we’ll let you know,” he says to Les.

“Delightful,” Les sings.

“Though, I’m not sure what our budget will allow,” Lena chimes in.

“Oh sweet girl, I can work with any budget,” Les assures her, and soon they are lost in wedding talk, along with Frankie.

Chris pulls me aside while we have a moment.

“So, I had an interesting conversation with Spence this evening,” Chris says quietly so that only I can hear him.

“Oh?”

“I am interested in your apartment Rox. I can’t believe it’s even a possibility. Lena is going to freak out when I tell her. I almost feel bad though that Spence is helping us out, but he assures me that it’s only a loan. Otherwise, I couldn’t accept it.”

“I’m glad you’re interested. It’s a great apartment, and it’s so close to work,” I say.

“Exactly why I want it. I mean, we love your little house and all, but it’s across town.”

“Exactly why I moved.”

“So, is this a furnished deal?” Chris asks with a teasing smile.

“You want my furniture?” I ask dubiously.

“Well, I figured this place,” Chris waves his hands around, “is already pretty set, so…”

“I guess I never thought about it that way. I suppose if you want it,” I shrug.

“All of the furniture in our place is so old. It just wouldn’t look good in that modern apartment.”

I think about Chris’s shabby old sofa and some of my older furniture that I left behind when I moved out.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“We can just work it into the price,” Chris clarifies.

“How about we just call it a bonus?”

“No, no. You guys have given us enough. I do have a little pride,” Chris chuckles.

“Okay then, it’ll cost you one-hundred dollars.”

“Sold,” he laughs and holds out his hand.

I take it, and we shake on it.

“Spence will be happy. He wants me to move in here this week.”

“Wow, so I guess I’ll need to tell Lena that we’re moving next week then?”

“I guess so.”

I am moving in with Spence. This week. Wow! It’s quick, but I do look forward to being under the same roof as him every night — no more switching between his place or mine. Sure, I’ll miss the me time that I get from living by myself, but I’m sure I’ll still be able to have that here. This place is so big; there are many spaces available to me if I need some alone time. There are so many changes coming my way, and not a lot of time to get used to them. I’m about to move into this gigantic mansion, with my beautiful, billionaire fiancé, it’s so surreal. This is not what I pictured for my future. I imagined reality, and I feel like I’m getting the fairy tale.

I look around, searching for my prince, although he’s more like a king, king of his empire. I spot him across the lawn, still talking with the men from before. He locks eyes with me, and smiles, and then rolls his eyes playfully, showing me his boredom with the conversation, I giggle at him.

“What’s funny?” Chris asks, glancing in Spence’s direction.

“Spence,” I tell him.

“Yeah, he’s pretty awesome,” Chris agrees.

“You know, he thinks very highly of you too. He considers you a close friend,” I tell him, and a look of awe crosses Chris’s face.

“Really?”

“Yeah. And why shouldn’t he? You are one of my best friends. It’d be nice for you two to be close as well.”

“I consider Spence a good friend too,” Chris replies.

“I’m glad.”

I smile, and we look over and see Spence approaching us now.

“What’s the word?” Spence says, smiling warmly at both of us.

“Chris and I were just discussing how great you are,” I tell him.

“Please. My ego is becoming inflated,” Spence chuckles.

“Spence, isn’t there something you would like to ask Chris?” I encourage because now seems like a sweet moment.

Chris looks at me in question, then at Spence expectantly. Spence nods and smiles broadly at Chris.

“Why, yes, there is. Chris, Roxanne, and I would like to know if you would stand up for me at our wedding?”

Chris smiles shyly, and his face softens, he looks touched.

“Really?” he gasps.

“Of course Chris,” I laugh, “at first I thought you could be a beautiful bridesmaid, but we thought this would be better.”

“Well, I do look great in a dress,” Chris jokes, “however, I would be honored to stand up for you, Spence.”

“I won’t ask you how you know how good you look in a dress, but this means a lot to us, Chris,” Spence says with a grin and holds out his hand to shake Chris’s.

However, Chris steps forward and envelops Spence in a big hug instead. Spence laughs and claps Chris on the back. I watch the two of them together, and I feel so happy, my best friend and fiancé, good friends. This is how life should be. Easy. Now I just need to find my other best friend and find out why she doesn’t want to tell me what happened between her and Seth last night.

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