My phone buzzes, alerting me to a new message. I reach for my phone once again and open the message. It’s from Seth. I take a deep breath before I read it. I have no idea why I suddenly feel very nervous.
*Hey Rox, I just wanted to apologize for Anya. Last night and again this morning. She can be a little much to handle sometimes.
This is not what I had expected the message to say, but what was I expecting? I type back a quick reply.
*Hey Seth, it’s okay. She is quite the girl though. I’m surprised that you are into someone like her.
I hit send before I realize that my comment sounds a little catty and jealous. Oh shit! Seth notices this.
*Does it bother you? I wouldn’t worry too much; it’s just sex.
I can almost sense his smug grin right now.
*No. Why would it bother me? You’re free to do whatever and whomever you please. I just didn’t realize girls like that were what you were interested in.
*Well, she likes to have fun, and that’s what I want right now. Last time I tried for something more, I got stomped on.
Groan! Should have just shut up Roxanne. Guilt starts streaming through my veins.
*I’m sorry, it’s not my place to question you, Seth. It’s none of my business.
*No, it’s okay. I like the fact that you care.
I don’t know how to respond to this. As I think of something, Seth texts me again.
*Are you with Spence right now?
*No, he’s at home. Are you still with Anya on the yacht?
*No, I’m at home…all by myself.
A quick vision of Seth lounging on his sofa wearing nothing but his underwear comes to mind, but I quickly shake it away. Shame on you Roxanne, stop that right now!
*I suppose you will be moving in with him soon huh? He adds.
*If Spence has it his way, I’ll be out of here by next week.
*Spence’s way? What? You don’t want to?
Oh, I didn’t mean to give that impression.
*, Of course, I want to, it’s just a big change that’s all.
*I still can’t believe that you’re marrying him Rox. I feel like such a chump. I really fucking wish that I had just sucked it up and answered your phone calls. But my pride had really taken a big hit, and I couldn’t deal with it.
Again, what can I say without hurting Seth or betraying Spence? I can’t tell Seth that I wish things were different because I really am happy with Spence. Spence is the priority.
*I really can’t go there, Seth. What’s done is done. Again, I’m sorry that you were hurt, and I’ll admit that there are times that I wonder what could have been if I had left with you instead, but I’m with Spence now, and he makes me happy. He’s going to be my husband, and all you and I can ever be is friends…that’s it.
I hit send and wait.
*Just remember what I told you yesterday Rox. That I’m going to be here whenever you need me. Even just as friends. As I said, I’d rather have you in my life somehow than not at all.
*Thank you, Seth. That means a lot.
*No problem. I guess I’ll just see you next weekend at the masque then. Oh, the memories.
I can’t help chuckle at that, because I too remember so clearly.
The next morning, I am relieved that I can take the elevator straight down to the parking garage and out because as I drive past the front of my building, I spot a few photographers waiting by the door. I guess they didn’t know of the parking garage exit. Thank goodness! I get to work in quick time, thanks to the proximity of my apartment. I get changed and head into the kitchen to start getting prepared for the day. I chit chat with the prep cooks for a little while then head up to the front kitchen. I’m all by myself up here as none of the other line cooks are here yet.
“Roxanne,” A deep voice breaks the silence, forcing me to look up and to the side where it came from.
Lucas. I look back down at what I’m doing, ignoring him.
“Really?” he scoffs when I don’t say anything.
“What do you want Lucas? I’m busy,” I say flatly, not looking at him.
“I just heard some interesting news,” he says, and I don’t ask what, I know already.
“So, you’re marrying Spence then?” He asks, coming closer and leaning against the counter.
“What’s it to you?” I shrug, “but yes, I am.”
“I didn’t see it happening. I thought for sure you were going to end up with Seth,” he replies.
“I guess not,” I say, annoyed that I’m even having this conversation with him right now.
“You do realize that he was in love with you right?” Lucas says quietly.
That’s when I stop what I’m doing and turn on him.
“Lucas, what’s your point? It’s done, and what do you care anyway? You’re the one who manipulated me into thinking you were really serious about me, and I was the one stupid enough to believe it. If it hadn’t been for you, then yeah, I’d probably be with Seth right now,” I half shout at him, and he swallows, actually looking a little nervous. I see him glance nervously down to my side, and I realize that I’m clutching the handle of my kitchen knife very tightly. I quickly place the knife back on the counter and cross my arms over my chest, and glare at him.
“I know Roxanne, I know, and I’m sorry. I really did want it to work between us, but I could tell almost right away that it was over before it began. I knew you were denying how you really felt, so I hurt you before you could hurt me,” he admits.
His admission surprises me a little. I let out an exasperated sigh and stare into his deep brown eyes. The same eyes that I used to have trouble resisting, those eyes that look so sincere right now, but even if they were, I just couldn’t trust them.
“It doesn’t even matter anymore Lucas. I’m in love with Spence, and Seth and I are just friends. I’ve moved on,” I tell him, my tone softer now.
“Has he?” he asks quietly, and I make the mistake of peeking up at him.
“I can tell that’s a no,” he guesses.
“He’s got a girlfriend,” I offer, though it doesn’t really mean anything.
“Do you know who Anya Clark is?”
“What, Victor’s daughter? I’ve only heard of her. Isn’t she a little young?” he asks, raising his eyebrows.
“She’s twenty-one. Apparently, it’s not serious or anything, she’s a little wild…actually, she reminds me of you a little bit,” I smirk.
“What? Why?” he smiles.
“She’s a player, through and through, and she’s out to stir shit up,” I answer him, causing his smile to fade and transform into a frown.
“Hey, I was not out to stir shit up,” he argues.
“But you’ll admit to the player part?”
“I guess I can’t really deny that,” he shrugs.
“Anyway, they are going to be at the masque this weekend,” I tell him, not sure why exactly.
“I’d be curious to meet her,” he smirks.
“Why? So you can steal her away?” I say dryly, only half-joking.
“Fuck! No Roxanne, not to steal her. Wow, you really think I’m a piece of shit don’t you?” Lucas says, sounding angry, then he takes a deep breath and continues.
“I’m just curious about your assessment of her, that’s all. And I also haven’t seen Seth since the grand opening party. That’s when I knew he was in love with you. We’ve never had a girl come between us. Ever. And that night, I had never seen him so upset. After you left and he went after you, I followed him out to try and apologize to him, and you should have seen him standing there Rox. He looked absolutely heartbroken. I’ve never seen him look that way in the entire time I’ve known him. He barely spoke to me, and then he just took off. Then he cut off all contact with me.”
His account of that night causes my heart to constrict in my chest, and tears threaten, this makes me mad.
“Why are you telling me this Lucas? To mess with me?”
“No, not to mess with you Roxanne. I just thought you should know, I thought you already knew. Seth is a great guy, and I miss him a lot. He was my best friend, and I just think that you’re making a mistake in choosing Spence over him.”
“Lucas! I didn’t choose Spence over him,” I retort, feeling the lump in my throat grow bigger.
“But you left with him that night?”
Oh god, him too?
“I’ll tell you the same thing that I told Seth. I didn’t go home with Spence that night. Yeah, as you know I went to Italy, but seeing that you work so closely with Spence, you should know that nothing happened when I got back either.”
“Spence doesn’t tell me his personal life, so how would I know that?” he counters.
“Well, nothing happened. I tried to get a hold of Seth over and over again, and he never answered or returned my calls. I took that as a sign to give up and move on, which is exactly what I did Lucas.”
“Why did you leave with Spence that night anyway? If you cared about Seth, then why didn’t you just leave with him instead? You must have known you were hurting him.”
“After everything went down, I felt like a horrible person. I lost my best friend, and I just wanted to get away from the whole situation and everyone in it. I thought he deserved better than me,” I mutter, and that’s when a few tears escape me.
I quickly wipe them away, but it’s too late, Lucas notices. Cautiously, he steps forward, and wraps his arms around me, hugging me. I don’t bother shoving him away.
“I’m sorry, it’s totally my fault. I know that.” Lucas murmurs.
“Not entirely. It’s mine too,” I concede, “it takes two. I’m the one who should have never messed around with you in the first place after I found out you were with Casey, no matter what you said about it being exclusive or not. A friend just doesn’t cross that line, and I pole-vaulted over it,” I say quietly into his shirt before pulling away.
Lucas puts a hand on each of my shoulders and stares at me.
“So can you and I be civil now? More than civil even? Maybe friendly?” he asks hopefully.
I look up into his pleading eyes. I really don’t want to hate him anymore, there’s no point. I need to just let go of the anger and move on, so I nod slowly in response.
“What’s going on over here?” I hear Chris say from behind us.
Lucas removes his hands and looks over my head as I turn around to face Chris. My eyes must still be damp because Chris looks instantly alarmed and angry at the same time. He storms up to my side, glaring red-hot lasers at Lucas.
“What the fuck did you do now?” he growls at him, putting a protective arm around me.
Lucas puts his hands up in a placating gesture.
“Whoa boy, calm yourself,” Lucas smirks at him.
“Don’t call me boy, and go fuck yourself,” Chris spits.
I can see Lucas’s cool waning slightly as he takes a step forward, but stops himself. I quickly jump in to diffuse the tension.
“Chris, calm down. It’s okay, we were just talking,” I tell him.
“What could there be to talk about with this dick?” Chris snorts.
“You know what? You’re really starting to get on my nerves. I’ve ignored it thus far Chris, but don’t push me. My patience isn’t unlimited,” Lucas threatens.
“Hey! Hey now, stop it both of you,” I whisper shout at them as a few of the other cooks have now come in and are staring at the three of us curiously.
I turn to Lucas first.
“Lucas, how about I’ll just see you around okay?” I say, dismissing him so that he’ll leave.
He nods quickly and then shoots one dark look at Chris before he turns and leaves the kitchen. Now I turn to Chris.
“Seriously?” I ask him.
“I really hate that guy Rox. What he did to you…I don’t even know why you’re talking to him at all,” he replies angrily.
“We were clearing the air I guess. I don’t want to hate him anymore. I’d rather just move on,” I tell him, hoping that he’ll understand and give it a rest.
“I don’t trust him, and you shouldn’t either,” he mutters, looking at the floor, and running a hand over his shaved head.
“Who said anything about trusting him?” I say, “I just don’t want the past hanging over me anymore, that’s all.”
Chris is silent for a moment, considering this, and then he sucks in a deep breath.
“Yeah, I guess. Just be careful and don’t fall for any of his bullshit,” he concedes.
“Trust me, Chris, there’s no danger of that happening again,” I assure him.
Even if I were friendly with Lucas again, even friends, I don’t think I could ever fully trust him, ever again. In fact, when I think back on it, I’m not so sure I ever fully trusted him in the first place. I think that was one of the things that were always nagging me at the back of my mind. My sub-conscience was sending me warning signals that I chose to ignore. Well, not this time. I turn towards the grill to start it as Chris watches me.
“What’s that there?” he asks me curiously.
“What’s what now?”
I turn my head to look at him and he’s pointing at my left hand. I then hold my hand up to show him the ring.
“I was going to tell you this morning. Spence proposed to me on Saturday night,” I tell him.
The corners of my mouth curve into a slow smile as his eyes go wide, then a wide grin spreads across his face.
“What, really? Oh, Rox, that’s awesome!” he exclaims loudly before pulling me in to hug him.
“I hope you don’t think I’m stealing your thunder or anything,” I ask him hopefully.
“Oh please! Of course not Rox, congrats! This is so great. How’d he do it? Was it crazy?”
I laugh at his enthusiasm and curiosity. Sometimes his sweet ways just clash with his heavily tattooed exterior. It just goes to show that nobody should ever judge a book by its cover. I’ve said this time and time again, and it always remains true.
“Actually he asked me in bed, just simple, and so romantic,” I reveal.
“Really? I would have expected some grand gesture.”
“I’m glad it wasn’t. I loved it just the way it happened, it was just…natural,” I tell him, which makes him look worried all of a sudden.
“Wait, you don’t think I should change my plan do you?” he asks me.
“No! Of course not Chris! I love your idea. In fact, it’s all set up. There will be a private limo picking you two up on Saturday, and we will be taking our own car.”
“You guys didn’t have to do that, I thought it’d be cool if you were there,” he frowns.
“No. I think that it should be a private thing between you and Lena, and it should be the most romantic night ever. You don’t need Spence and I there crowding up space,” I tell him, then lean in closer, and whisper conspiratorially, “and besides, we also thought that you should have the limo to yourself because once you pop the question, she may very well want to jump your bones.”
Chris’s cheeks turn pink, and he smiles an adorable shy smile.
“I suppose you have a good point there.”
“Of course I do. We’ll just meet up with you in Spence’s private room once you get there.”
“The infamous VIP room?” Chris chuckles.
“Yeah, well, it’s a good meeting point for all of us. I don’t think anything is going to happen in there like last year.”
Chris laughs out loud at this.
“Don’t say that or you’ll jinx yourself Rox.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Who the hell knows what will go down this year,” I agree.
The Manfredi Masque is a night where just about anything could happen. I’d be stupid to think otherwise.