On the eve of Zoey’s bachelorette’s party, I’ve reviewed my checklist on my phone (I’ve memorized by now). Dean offered to drive me to the venue and he was cutting it close. Before he arrived, I got a call from my sister.
“April, I’m on my way to the venue. What do you want? And if this call is about additional stuff for the party, I’m not entertaining them. We’re on a budget and I can’t do anything last minute.” I stated before she could say a word of greeting.
“I wasn’t calling for any of those, Amy. I’m calling to ask whether…okay, maybe I was calling to ask about whether or not you did get some kinky candies for the party, at least.”
I sighed. “Is Kathy with you right now? And no, I didn’t get any of those for the party. Please tell her that. And also warn her not to bring anything of the sort. The venue is not one of those noisy clubs with loudspeakers that blast EDM songs. Would you do that for me, April?”
In the background, I could hear a disgruntled groan. Kathy must be listening to our conversation.
“You heard her, Kat. I told you Amy can be a crude authoritarian. If we’re lucky, she even got us any good booze.” April said. Her voice sounded muffled. She must have covered the mic of her phone.
“If so, why was she leading this party in the first place?” I could hear Kathy’s frustrating response.
“I was supposed to be doing it, but I had, you know, I was otherwise distracted and… my life was a mess, really.” April replied in dread.
“Okay, you two stop it. Amy is doing a great job. And I’m glad she’s in charge of this party because I don’t like any of your ideas in the first place. I just want a simple gathering of ladies who are important in my life. That’s what Amy is doing for me.” I felt teary-eyed by her praise. Then I heard a rustle before Zoey’s voice became more clear on the other end. “Amy, hi. It’s Zoey here. Please don’t listen to your sister’s nonsense. I’m grateful for spending your personal time planning for this party.”
I smiled. “It was my pleasure, Zoey.”
“Are you already there? Is anyone there already? I know it’s still early, but based on that guest list, I have a few people in mind who would be an early bird.”
“No, Zoey. Dean is on his way though. But I will call and let you know if your guest is there and arriving.” I offered.
“Thank you again, Amy. You’re the best.”
With one last and unified encouraging ‘good luck’ and ‘take care’ from the three across the phone, the chaotic called ended. I quickly left Dean a voice message, asking him where he was now. To my luck, Dean was five minutes away from my apartment after I send out the message.
I didn’t wait in my apartment and sat by my apartment’s entrance. As he arrived, he parked his motorcycle in front and took off his helmet.
“Why are you in such a hurry? Isn’t the party at less than an hour from now? I’m sure people will be late and the real party would start at least another thirty minutes later.” He remarked in jest.
I scoffed and got up. “I thought so before I got a call from April and Zoey a few minutes ago. Zoey told me she had a friend on her guest list who were prone to come early to parties such as these, based on how she phased it”
Dean shook his head and handed my helmet that was strapped behind him. “No. I’m sure no one does go early for a bachelorette party on a weekend. Even if you’re not holding it at a rowdy club, you’d be safe until past,” he paused and peered down on his wristwatch, “at least eight. And it’s still fifteen past seven, Amy.”
“Not until we’re there, seen no one had arrived early and waited at least an hour for them to arrive I would agree to that verdict,” I pondered.
Dean studied my expression for a minute, and then gave up. “Okay, I’ve been sure to safely get you there. Per your father’s order, I’m no longer allowed to drive you past a certain speed anymore – unless the law says otherwise.” He wittily teased.
I snickered and playfully slapped his arm. “I can’t believe you’re still at that. And you’re sticking to it until the end.”
“I’m a man of my word, Amy Nolan. And I don’t break my promises easily unless there’s a viable reason to.” He smirked and winked at me.
My cheeks heat up at his cheeky response. I put on my helmet to hide my blush and hop on. He got me there.
For the party, I was able to rent out a classy cafe and bar that had a vintage interior décor that makes you feel like you’re in a small town rather than on the outskirts of downtown Chicago. The only reason we were able to rent out the place was the owner had been one of Jensen’s old friend. Kyla was the one who suggested the place earlier in the week and set up the meeting for me. After saying the event was for Julian Hawksley’s fiancé, I didn’t have any difficulty in getting the place and have everything set-up and ready.
As Dean dropped me off in front of the Café Bar, an upfront name of the place, he parked his ride to check out the place. He whistled in appreciation.
“And you said they serve beer other than coffee and teas in the evening, right?” he asked again. I gave him a brief narrative of our party venue when I sealed the deal on the place.
“Yes, they do.” I handed him my helmet and quickly fixed my hair.
“And I really can’t go in? I mean, can I at least get coffee?” He playfully asked, balancing both my helmet and his, which he also took off.
I studied the near-empty café. “They’ll stop accepting customers by seven forty-five. So yes, you can technically get a cup of coffee as a customer.”
“If I did get a cup of coffee, can I stay with you until non-party goers are kicked out?”
I glanced back at him. “You don’t have plans tonight? This might be the only night you won’t be spending time with me since I’ll be going home with April and the girls.”
“No. And that statement make be sound clingy. I just enjoy your company too much,” he said sweetly.
“Come on. Really? You have at least someone you might…”
“My aunt and uncle have date nights on Saturdays. My parents, especially my dad, may still be working. And my mother’s like to have her Saturday’s to herself. It usually involves a book and a bottle of wine. So, no, I don’t have anyone I could think of other than you. Well, until you’re otherwise occupied in about an hour from now,” he interjected.
“How about a boy’s night out with Julian? When is he having his bachelor’s party anyway?” I inquired. I haven’t heard anything from Dean since the engagement party weeks ago.
“We had it briefly last week. It was uneventful really. Julian’s a changed man, something I never thought he would end up becoming.”
“Really? What did you do? I don’t remember you going out anywhere at night last week.” I recalled my memory, but he had been spending a lot of late-night at my apartment after work.
“We went out for lunch with Julian that one time.”
“That was it? Just lunch? For real?” I was surprised indeed. I’ve known Julian to be a lavish and extravagant man. At least, for his bachelor party, he would have rented out a bar and drank the night away.
“My reaction was the same when he told us. Though we did order one glass of a very expensive whiskey, other than that, there was no ‘Julian’ from what I remembered when we were younger.”
“Did Zoey finally tamed and domesticate him?” I jested.
Dean laughed and shook his head. “I applaud Zoey if she did. I’ll tell you more about the unusual party after I get my coffee.” He gestured towards the café.
“Wait, there’s more to that story?” I was astonished.
“You’ll be surprised how uneventful that day was. And yes, there was more of that story,” he remarked and opened the door for me.
I entered and he followed in. “What else happened besides the expensive drink?” I asked as we walked towards the cashier.
“I know you’d want to know more…” he muttered to himself, which I overheard before he ordered something from the cashier.
Once he was done, he pointed at a private chair in the inner part of the café. On the way, however, he stopped dead on his tracks. He noted a couple of customers who were sticking out like a sore thumb. One common thing these group had on their table was an expensive professional camera. Dean pulled me further towards the empty seat he had pointed out.
“Amy, how many people are invited to this bachelorette party? Because I think someone from your guest has given a tip to paparazzi’s.” He said so low that I leaned closer to listen to what he said.
“What? I don’t… How do you know there are paparazzi in here?” I asked as I leaned back and studied the crowd of people. It took me a minute, but then I finally noticed them. If Dean hadn’t pointed out their existence, I wouldn’t have recognized these men. “Oh my gosh…” I quickly covered my mouth and duck low.
“Text Zoey about the situation and I’ll inform Julian. I’m sure Greg may be escorting Zoey tonight on the way here.” He instructed.
“Right on it.”
My stomach knotted at the thought of Zoey getting hounded by this man. If Dean didn’t come in with me to get coffee, I wouldn’t have noticed these people. Though I was confident the staff would escort their customers and close down the place fifteen minutes before the party starts, I’m not sure the paparazzi would leave entirely. I should have known better. How could I forget Zoey’s situation?
Dean noticed my panic and grabbed my hand. “Amy, this is not your fault. I can see you starting to blame yourself. This kind of situation is out of your control. And you have a lot on your plate. Zoey understands and she won’t even think that you were responsible for this mishap.”
I looked up and met his gaze. I then let our shaky breath. “Thank you, Dean.”
He gave me an assuring smile.
A few seconds later, Dean got a message from Julian. “He wants me to call. I need to go out for a bit. Will you be okay?”
My palms started to sweat as I peered at my dead phone screen. Zoey hadn’t responded yet. I peered up at Dean and nodded. At least Julian was answering right away. “I’ll be fine.”
He studied my expression for a second before headed towards the exit. Since the window had a clear view of the street, I could easily pinpoint Dean standing with his back to me. But he staying within my view. He must have done it to give me comfort. After another minute passed, I still haven’t got a reply from Zoey and I’m started to fidget.
To add my stress, Grant Sarchet, owner of the Café bar, and Jensen’s close friend, joined me by my table. “Ms. Nolan, I didn’t know you’ve arrived early. You could have told my staff.”
I squared my shoulder and held out my hand to him, as a customary greeting. “Hi, Mr. Sarchet. I didn’t want to bother you since it’s still too early. And I’m with my boyfriend as well.”
“Oh, is that so? I didn’t know you were dating anyone…” he muttered in dejected, but quickly recovered with a poker face and a smile. “Where is he?”
“He’s outside with a call,” I said and quickly peered out. He was finished with his call. So I decided to tell Grant about the situation. “Mr. Sarchet,” I started.
“Please call me Grant, Ms. Nolan. I did insist on it the last time we met.” He cheekily interjected.
Before I could get to my explanation, Dean rejoined us. This slightly startled Grant. “Is this the boyfriend you told me about?” He inquired and turned to look at Dean. He held out his hand to him. “I’m Grant Sarchet, owner of this place.”
“Dean Garcia,” He replied and briefly shook his hand.
“Just Dean? No occupation or…”
“Mr. Sarchet, do you have an office we can talk? I’m here to represent Julian’s security team,” he softly said the last few words. His eyes quickly scanned the room, fearing that the paparazzi had overheard him. But no one reacted.
“Oh… Oh, right,” Grant understood him. “Of course. Would Ms. Nolan be joining us?” He asked.
“No. It’ll be just me, sir. And I need your discretions.”
Dean’s serious and slight authoritative tone gave Grant hint of the situation. “Is there something wrong?” He leaned closer to him and whispered.
“Please, sir.” Dean urged him again.
Grant noted his urgency and got up. “Of course. This way please.”
The two left me swiftly. Once they were occupied, I checked my phone and saw no reply from Zoey still. So I checked my outbox and reassured myself that I sent the alert message to her. To make sure she got it, I resent the same message again. When I still didn’t get a reply after Dean and Grant spoke, I was starting to stress. He had got back alone.
“Dean, she still hasn’t responded,” I whispered to him.
He held up his hand and moved towards the middle of the room. It was then Grant reappeared and stood beside him. Dean then called everyone’s attention.
“Good evening, I’m sorry to take your attention. But I’d like to make a short notice in behalf of the owner, Mr. Grant Sarchet,” he paused and gestured to Grant beside him, “there will be a private party in less than an hour or so. If a staff member hadn’t informed you, I apologize. But we need the place vacated by seventy forty-five. Mr. Grant had told me for your kind consideration, he will be giving out a free cup of coffee on your next visit. Staff will be handing out to you. I hope you’ll have a lovely night. And again, I apologize if you weren’t informed.”
It was then one of the paparazzi called out. “What party? Is this Julian Hawksley’s engagement party, sir?”
“I’m not at liberty to say that for security reason. I’m sorry. But please, sir, leave the area before then.” Dean replied.
“That’s not fair for us. We paid for our drinks. Can’t we stay and enjoy it, at least,” another man spoke up.
“If you’ve purchased your drinks less than an hour until we close for the party, we’ll gladly reimburse you for your inconvenience. However, this is still a private establishment, sir. We have a right to use the establishment however we want it, as long as the law allows it.” It was then Grant interjected.
A few of the customer, who were just civilians, quietly agreed. A few had started to pack up and leave. However, the paparazzi weren’t that eager as well. What now?