Beyond The Masque Part II

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Chapter 3

Spence and I decided to just go to this quiet little Italian place that we like just down the street from my apartment. He slings his arm around my shoulders as we stroll down the street towards the restaurant. It’s a bustling little stretch of road, lined with busy cafés and bars. There are little white lights strung between the trees that line the sidewalk. They cast a warm glow over the street, creating a lovely ambiance to this exciting and warm Saturday night. Spence is dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a white button-up un-tucked. I love this look on him, and I just threw on a cream-colored wrap dress and heels. I thought since we were celebrating, I should put in a little effort.

“I still can’t believe you said yes,” Spence smiles and kisses the side of my head.

“Me either,” I say, and he chuckles easily.

“I thought for sure I’d have to beg,” he admits.

“You know what though? I’m actually glad you didn’t do it in some overblown grand gesture,” I tell him.

“Really? I thought that’s what all women wanted?”

“No, I love it just the way it happened, and I was and still am, shocked and surprised,” I say, holding my hand up and looking at the alien object around my ring finger, “I need a manicure.”

I frown at my short fingernails. It’s easier and more hygienic to keep them filed short while in the kitchen, but they could do with a little maintenance and polishing.

“You can have whatever you want from now on Roxanne,” Spence says.

I sigh. That will take some more getting used to. Dating Spence has come with certain luxuries that I sometimes still find really hard to accept. He had finally managed to get his way, and he bought me an entirely new wardrobe, but I still prefer jeans. I only wear fancy clothes when we go out or have some sort of event to attend, which is another thing I do now. Being Spence’s girlfriend means being on his arm every time there is some kind of official function. I did, however, manage to keep my car. That is one thing I would not cave on.

Now I’m his fiancée, the future Mrs. Manfredi. It’s craziness!

“Chris is going to propose to Lena next weekend before the masque,” I mention.

“Really? That’s great! Good for them,” he smiles.

“He wants to do it on the way to the hotel, so I was thinking that because we were going to go together, we could surprise them, and send them their own limo? Maybe put some flowers in there or something, and some champagne?” I suggest.

“That’s a great idea… so you like grand gestures for other people, but not for yourself?” he inquires.

“Yeah, I guess so. I just want it to be special for them. Chris still thinks that we’re going to be there, but I think it should be a private moment between the two of them. And you know, if they want to really enjoy the moment…” I trail off.

“Ah, I see what you’re getting at,” Spence chuckles, “Then it will be done, I’ll make sure it’s all organized Rox. Just leave it to me.”

“Thank you, Spence,” I say, turning my head and kissing his hand that rests on my shoulder.

We enjoy a fantastic meal, and share a bottle of wine, talking and laughing about Spence’s business trip to New York. He had wanted me to go with him, but I wouldn’t leave the restaurant. He understands and respects my work ethic, so he doesn’t bother me about my lack of free time very often, because he is usually a very busy man himself.

“So Rox, are you looking forward to the masque this year?” he asks casually, with a smirk.

It brings me back to last year, the first time I had ever met him while being seduced by two other gorgeous men. It feels like a lifetime ago.

“It will be a lot different than last year,” I say to him.

“Yes, yes it will,” he grins and leans over the table, “the only person you’ll be fucking that night will be me.”

“Geez Spence,” I frown at him, “as if there was any doubt,” I chide him.

“Oh I didn’t doubt it, I just like the thought of it. Last year, I saw this gorgeous woman that had unfortunately been snagged before I could meet her first. I’ve never told you this, but you know how everyone has to send in a photo?”

“Yeah,” I nod, remembering the detail that remains true for this year as well.

“This is for a couple of reasons. We do checks on everyone in attendance, making sure there is no press sneaking in. And well, for more shallow reasons I guess, I like the fact that everyone in attendance is attractive in some way or another. It creates an almost fantasy world.”

“I had noticed that,” I say dryly.

I shake my head at him, and he shrugs.

“It’s my party, I can choose who I want to. Anyway, I personally go through the final guest list, and I remember seeing your photo. I thought 'Damn, I hope I run into her,' except Lucas met you first.”

“Really?” I ask, a little dubiously.

“I knew it was you the minute I met you in my private room,” he admits.

“Oh really, how was that? I was wearing a mask,” I challenge.

“That hair,” he looks up at my head, “there really wasn’t that many redheads in attendance… and then there were those lips.”

He looks at my mouth and licks his bottom lip.

“Wow,” I murmur, a little speechless.

“Why do you think I tried so hard to get to you afterward?”

“I just thought it was some game you guys were playing.”

“Not at first, but then maybe it became that way a little bit. But ultimately, I won,” he smiles mischievously.

“You were very patient,” I smile back at him.

“Just biding my time Rox.”

“Well, I wish I had met you first, too, thinking back on the whole thing,” I tell him.

I feel what I say is the truth, but I get a little nagging prick on the back of my mind telling me that it isn’t entirely. I choose to ignore it.

“Sometimes I wonder, though. If that were the case if the outcome would have been the same as it is now? Maybe it’s better that it happened this way. We were able to get past all the physical stuff and really get to know each other and become friends first. I’m glad we were given that time because, with my other marriages, I’ve just jumped into them. I realized all too late that they were not what I wanted, or whom I thought they were. I feel like I know you better than I knew either of them,” he explains with severe intensity, making my heart flutter.

“I’m glad you feel that way, Spence. I guess I’m happy too that we took it slow. I had really appreciated the fact that you didn’t try to sleep with me during my healing process,” I say to him, reaching for his hand.

Spence smiles, warmly at me.

“It was tough, but I knew it’d be worth it. I wanted you so badly.”

I giggle at him, feeling my cheeks warm. He still makes me blush sometimes. Spence lifts my left hand to his lips and kisses my ring.

“So then Roxanne, when shall we do this thing?” Spence asks me eagerly.

“Oh, Spence, I don’t know. We literally just got engaged, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

I laugh at his enthusiasm. I never even thought we’d be engaged, so I definitely hadn’t thought about a wedding. However, the first thing that comes to mind is… small.

“I don’t want a huge wedding Spence,” I tell him.

“No?” he raises an eyebrow.

“Not at all,” I confirm, and he nods thoughtfully.

“You know what? That sounds good to me. I’ve had a big wedding before, and I’d like this time to be very, very different. Small sounds perfect, just us, family, and close friends.”

I nod happily. I’m glad Spence is on board with this. I could just see some big god-awful media circus happening. Not my idea of romantic.

“Maybe we could do it in October?” I say, picturing a lovely fall day with all our nearest and dearest.

“A fall wedding?”

He taps his chin, thinking about it.

“Yeah, let’s do that, I think that could be really nice,” he agrees.

“I love that time of year, it's not too hot, and it could make for some great pictures,” I muse.

“So that gives us just over four months then.”

Oh man, I almost forgot that it was already May. Nearly five months? That is in no time at all.

“That isn’t very far away,” I say quietly, feeling a flutter in my gut.

“No, it isn’t,” He nods once.

“Wow,” I murmur.

My palms start to feel sweaty, and my mouth goes dry. Relax Roxanne. Try not to start freaking out now. My eyes dart around nervously.

“Are you okay?” Spence asks softly, noticing my growing unease.

“Um… yeah, I’m fine,” I say quietly.

“Seriously Rox, you look like you’re about to jump out of that chair and run for the hills right now.”

Spence reads me so well sometimes. Not much gets by him.

“It’s just a lot happening so fast,” I answer him, “I guess it has me a little freaked out, everything’s changing. All of a sudden, I have to move out of my apartment and move into your palace. We’re discussing our wedding, and I didn’t even think that would ever happen and…and…”

Spence gently places a finger on my lips, quieting me.

“Roxanne, okay. Relax, breathe,” he orders, and I take a big deep breath, and he continues, “Everything is going to be great, I promise you.”

He’s just so, at ease with everything. I wish I had that kind of confidence. I guess I just need to trust that what he says is the truth. Everything will be great. Everything will be perfect. Except for the realist in me is saying that nothing is ever really perfect.

The next morning after a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, some of the few things I did have in my kitchen, Spence and I are dressed up and ready to go. We have been invited to a yacht party hosted by Victor and Nadia. So Spence is wearing a lovely, perfectly tailored, tan-colored suit that he bought in New York. I’m wearing some ridiculously expensive white shift dress, with navy blue accents. It reminded me of a sailor, which is why I chose it for today. It seems appropriate.

“You look very nice Roxanne,” Spence compliments me, giving me a kiss on the cheek as he comes out of the bathroom.

“So do you,” I smile at him.

“Ready to go?” he asks me.

“Yes,” I say, stepping into my navy blue, Jimmy Choos.

I can’t help but love my new shoe collection. It’s really a thing of beauty.

We go downstairs and into the waiting limousine. Spence places a hand on my knee, stroking it with his thumb. It sends small tingles up my leg, straight to my groin. I gaze at my ring finger, at the huge rock taking up real estate. There’s going to be some questions today, I just know it.

“I guess people are going to notice my ring,” I say quietly, twisting it around on my finger nervously.

“I look forward to telling people that you have agreed to be my wife Roxanne,” he smiles and grabs my hand so that I stop fidgeting with it.

“Wife,” I test the word.

Spence leans in and presses his lips to my neck softly, effectively distracting me. I close my eyes and revel in it, I love it when he does that. I hum contently, and Spence turns my face towards him and kisses me softly, but passionately at the same time.

“When you kiss me like that, it makes me want to rip your clothes off,” I murmur, our lips still touching.

“I know,” he smiles, brushing his lips down my chin and back up again.

Spence,” I complain, “come on.”

“I love that I can do this to you,” he says, reaching over and pressing the button that closes the privacy window.

“Now we have about thirty minutes before we reach the yacht club, let’s make the most of it, shall we?”

We climb out of the limo, and I check myself over, making sure I’m decent.

“You look great, not a hair out of place,” Spence chuckles quietly.

I smile at him. His face is still a little flushed, and some of his hair has fallen over his forehead, so I quickly smooth it back for him. We had a pretty hot make-out session on the ride here.

“I guess that’s not the case for me,” he laughs.

“You look handsome, as always,” I smile at him.

“Alright,” he offers me his arm, and I take it, “let’s get on with it.”

We head out to the harbor, and I see the yacht. It’s super sleek, modern, and massive. Two or three of my little house could fit into this thing. A low whistle escapes my throat.

“You think that’s nice, you should see mine,” Spence murmurs.

“You have one too?” I ask in disbelief, I’ve never seen it before.

“Yeah, but I don’t keep it here. I keep meaning to take you to it, but we’re always so busy.”

“Where is it?” I ask curiously.

“I don’t keep it in this bay, I keep it in Galveston,” he tells me as we walk down the docks, “We’ll go this summer, I promise.”

I nod, that should be fun. Maybe we can invite Chris and Lena.

My thoughts are interrupted by a loud booming voice up ahead, coming from the boat.

“Spence! My good man,” Victor bellows, holding out his arms, cigar in hand.

“Victor,” Spence chuckles at him as we climb up the ramp onto the boat.

Victor comes over and takes my hand in his to kiss it. As he looks down at my hand, he spots my ring. His eyes go wide, and he looks up at Spence and back at me.

“What’s this?” he smirks.

“We are getting married,” Spence smiles, looking pleased with himself.

“Well, now! Congratulations!”

He grabs Spence’s hand and shakes it vigorously.

“I hope you have one hell of a prenup,” he adds.

Ass! Spence frowns at him and ignores the comment.

“Where’s Nadia?” Spence asks, changing the subject.

“Inside somewhere. Come on, let's go get a drink and celebrate,” Victor chortles, leading us into the main cabin.

It’s like a full-size house in here. There are about thirty or so people inside, and more people out on the front deck outside. Nadia is standing at the bar with Paulette. I still really, really dislike Paulette. She’s just as horrible as the first time I met her. Her friend Trista though has been since ousted. Her husband had caught her red-handed, cheating on him with her personal trainer. She received next to nothing in the divorce. I hate that I know all of this gossip, but it comes with the territory. Spence was right about Nadia though. She’s not quite as bad anymore. I still don’t feel all that comfortable around her, but she’s not as snippy with me as she used to be.

“Roxanne darling,” she coos, when we approach her, she kisses both of my cheeks.

“Nadia, thank you for having us,” I say politely.

“Of course,” she smiles.

Victor sidles up next to her.

“Nadia honey, Roxanne and Spence have some good news for us,” Victor announces loudly.

“Oh?” she says, waiting.

I look over at Spence nervously, and he reaches over and holds my hand tightly before telling her.

“Roxanne has agreed to marry me,” he states proudly.

Nadia’s eyes almost pop out of her blond head. She looks down at my left hand and snatches it up to examine my ring. I frown at her, but she doesn’t see it.

“It’s extraordinary,” she gasps, “Oh Spence, you have such good taste when it comes to picking out rings,” she smirks at him.

It’s a backhanded compliment that doesn’t go unnoticed by Spence as I see his jaw tighten. I pull my hand away from her and lean in closer to Spence who wraps his arm around me protectively.

“So, when’s the big day? I’m sure it’ll be the event of the year,” she asks curiously.

“Sometime in the fall,” Spence answers her, “but we’re keeping it small. Just close family and friends,” he clarifies.

“Well, I do hope we make the guest list,” she smiles, her eyes darting towards me curiously.

“Of course, we are darling!” Victor laughs, quite sure of himself.

I don’t mind Victor so much, he’s pretty arrogant, and can be a real ass, but he’s pretty harmless most of the time. He’s one of Spence’s closest friends so of course, he’s right, they will be invited.

“Lovely,” Nadia, smiles.

“Hey, everyone!” Victor suddenly announces loudly over the crowd, “can I please have your attention for a moment?”

Someone clinks a glass and gets the attention of the people out on the deck, and they crowd around the door to listen to what Victor has to say.

“My dearest friend Spence here has just told me that he is engaged to his beautiful girlfriend, Roxanne. Let’s all raise our glasses and offer them congratulations,” he announces, raising his glass above his head.

Some people cheer, some start talking excitedly, some whisper, and some stare in surprise, especially the women, who are scrutinizing me carefully. But the shocked face that I’m glued to, a face I haven’t seen in almost a year, is Seth’s.

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