— what you deserve
So many eyes were on her. Their gazes unrelenting and ever so entranced on the girl with honey for skin; glistening with no remorse underneath the light of the burning sun. A sight for sore eyes in a place like this one, Cassidy had the heads of some of New York's most powerful men turning, but even if you'd pointed it out in a way she couldn't deny, it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't matter because her eyes were focused on one thing— one person. After all, he was the reason she sat beneath the sweltering, skin prickling morning star.
She smiled, as easily as one did when they're best friend stood in front of a crowd of influential people giving yet again another speech of inspiration because he himself was a source of the rare feeling. Luke spoke effortlessly. Every now and then, his lips spewing jokes he'd practiced like a maniac in the car making the crowd laugh. This was his natural habitat, and no matter how much he hated public speaking, he did it so well, you'd find yourself lost in a sea of words he created.
Today was the 15th annual, 'Young, Smart and Inspired' conference in New York City. Luke was sent an invitation in the mail a few weeks back which stated that he had become one of the most looked up to people in the city over the last few years. An invitation to this event was an honor but being asked to speak was an even bigger one. He wrote and threw away speeches, prepped and prepped in front of his full-length mirror, and at times when the pressure got too high, he'd remind himself that the only reason why he was successful was that he had someone to look up too. Luke didn't think of himself too much as a guy who could pave the way for other young and hardworking dreamers but, regardless of his ever showing moments of doubt, he pushed on because letting down others was not in his vocabulary.
Cassidy was proud. Proud because of how far he'd come. From this ambitious eighteen-year-old college freshman to this powerful, and riveting twenty-five-year-old man, Luke has become everything she knew he could be; and then some.
The memory of him frantically running into her dorm room with a red folder marked important, flashes so brightly in her mind. It was the day he decided to pursue his business venture. Fox Travels went from being an assignment for his business class to it being a reality in just over a year. Ever since then, things have been falling in place for him and Cassidy could not be happier for him and for herself because to know Luke was to know happiness unlike any other.
That same happiness radiated off of him as he spoke to the large crowd, "I'll leave you all off with these wise words from my beautiful Abuelita who couldn't be here today." Luke's tone was clear, precise, and filled with passion. "El que no tiene ambicion, no vive. Sueña niño, y ganaras el mundo entero. The English translation is, He who has no ambition does not live. Dream child, and you'll gain the whole world. So," he smiles as his hands' grip on to the edges of the podium he stood behind. "No matter what you hear, no matter what you're told, no matter how you feel and no matter what it takes dream. My dream is the only reason why I'm here, and I promise, your dreams will land you in your own definitions of success. Gracias, thank you."
And the crowd stood immediately, hands meeting each other in a rhythm of steady claps to show how much they enjoyed his speech. Luke bowed his head, he flashed smiles and shook the hands of Young, Smart, and Inspired chairwoman; Eloise Frazier. She was one of the most influential women in New York and meeting her had definitely made Luke's day. As she stepped up to the mic, Luke took his seat back at the panel. "I'd like to thank Mr. Fox for making an appearance at this year's conference. There are so many more things I could say but as per usual, my last words are these; Be young, stay smart and always strive to stay inspired."
A round of claps was heard again, a few whistles and a few laughs. People began to disperse, finding their friends or networking. All that was running through Cassidy's mind was finding Luke so she could congratulate him. She wanted to squeeze him till he chuckled and told her 'relájate mami, estoy aquí' as he always did when she got excited for him and hugged him with insane force. So she stood up from her seat, setting out to search for her best friend.
Amongst the moving sea of people, she spotted him after a few minutes speaking to a few kids. With a smile on her face, she slowed her steps down and admired his way of being. He was absolutely patient with kids; especially those he saw himself in. She remembered him telling her that morning that if even one kid got something out of anything he said, everything he'd done up until this point would be worth it.
Deciding to wait till he was finished, Cassidy went through her phone looking through her messages in search of one from a specific person. Today was not only a special day for Luke but a special one me for her as well. A few weeks ago, Cassidy was contacted by one of the Vogue Magazine representatives who wanted to know if she would be interested in being interviewed as the 'Up In Coming Designer' for the month of January. To say she was surprised would be exactly accurate; she also was on the road to believing it was a prank call.
Cassidy remembers the first time she ever read a Vogue magazine. It was on her 7th birthday. Her mother, Cassandra, had given her a box of her old magazines and to anyone on the outside, used items seemed a bit cheap but to Cassidy, they were everything. When she was a child, she wanted to do everything her mother did. So when she would see Cassandra licking the tips of her fingers to turn the dry pages of the newest issue, she wanted to do so also. Not too soon after came her love for fashion.
Anyway, today the magazine with her exclusive front-page feature had been released and she had refrained from looking and searching for it because Luke had convinced her that they should do it together at his place later. She agreed because sharing a moment like that with him was even more special than doing it alone. Luke even went as far as deleting every app that had the potential of spoiling it, telling their four mutual best friends not to text her any spoilers. She loved just how serious he took this; he knew this was very important to her so, to him, it was equally as important.
She'd found the message she was searching from. It was from her dad. I'm literally the proudest dad on the planet. I bought about 30 copies to share with my guys at work. A little excessive, I'm not sure but I don't care. You did great! I miss you and can't wait to see you. Je t'aime Bambi. The smile she wore reached her eyes as she read it. If no one supported Cassidy, her dad would. He was one of the main reasons why she pursued the career she was in. She thinks back to the moment when her dad told her that if she didn't do what made her happy, he'd never be happy. Thinking back to it, it was almost coercion. This thought made her chuckle slightly.
"Boyfriend?" A voice drew her away from the screen of her cell up towards the direction of the person who spoke. It was a blond man. His hair was nicely slicked back, he sported what could only be an expensive suit and he smiled a smile only players did. Cassidy immediately knew why he was speaking to her.
"No," she responded casually. "My dad actually." He nods licking his lips and taking two more steps towards her. He wasn't even subtle Cassidy thought. The minute he got closer, she had to prevent herself from coughing up a storm. She could smell the abundance of Gucci cologne that this man had most probably bathed in. She couldn't stand it but she didn't want to be rude and tell him to stay back like she wanted to.
"I just had to come over here and say hello," he smirked. His hands maneuvering in the air as he spoke, "You caught my attention at the beginning of this shindig. But you were occupied with another man so I thought he was your beau."
Cassidy's left brow raises a bit, "Oh? Not anymore?"
"Not anymore. If he was with you he'd be with you but here you are, as beautiful as can be and alone."
"Hmm," she responds simply. "So tell me," she goes on. "You're here because?"
The golden-haired man chuckles, "I'm here for your number of course. You're gorgeous, I'm good looking and rich. We could uh... set up some kind of, arrangement." He flashes her a smile as if he'd said something tempting. Cassidy got ready to open her mouth to curse him the hell out but another voice stopped her.
"Are you calling my girl a gold digger?" It was Luke. He had finally finished up with the kids and searched for Cassidy over seven minutes before spotting her with a man. His face was calm as he spoke those words, his eyes gazing intently at the asshole who had the audacity to speak to his best friend that way. He was itching to put a fist through the blond's face but he refrained because of two things. 1, Cassidy didn't like it when he resorted to violence; no matter the reason, and 2, he was still amongst kids. He didn't want them watching as someone they just watched speak about being better people in society, punch another person.
His girl the man thought upon hearing the words. He was sure they weren't together. "I wasn't aware you guys were actually together," was his response. A poor one because he completely dismissed the issue at hand. He'd implied Cassidy would involve herself with him just for the money he had.
"I asked you a question," Luke stepped up again.
The guy who had yet to identify himself chuckled nervously upon taking a good glance at an angry Luke. He takes a step back, "I didn't mean anything by it. I was just—. Never mind. She clearly has a protective boyfriend and I am not the type to meddle in people's relationships. My bad pal."
Luke scoffed. His head slightly tilted and a menacing smile appeared on his face. "I'm being really nice, pal. Apologize to the lady you offended and I won't act out of character."
As this happened, Cassidy just stood there watching the interaction between the two. How this went from some guy flirting with her to him being threatened by Luke was a bit unclear. She could've handled it herself but unfortunately for her and the unlucky man, Luke had managed to hear the last bit of the conversation. The thing with Luke was he was overprotective of her. Any little thing said to her that sounded even remotely passive-aggressive would result in a threatening, one-sided conversation. It's not that she didn't appreciate Luke and the way he stood up for her, it was that she wanted to be able to deal with things like this because deep down she knew Luke wouldn't always be with her to do as he did. She sighed.
"It's fine Luke. Leave it alone."
"Cassie," Luke began.
"I said it's fine. Really."
"You see," the unidentified guy spoke with a relaxed smile. "The lady gets it."
"Leave," Cassidy demanded finally having enough of whatever persona he carried. She could just tell he was the most annoying person and even if he hadn't disrespected her, she wouldn't be able to deal. She already had one guy in her life that annoyed her to no end. Seeing that he was next to her already, she faced him, "I'm not going to say anything because I don't want to be in a fight with you today so let's just drop it, ok?"
"I could go for a fight," he joked. Luke tried to understand where she came from when she complained about his standing up for her but sometimes it just irritated him that she wouldn't let him protect her. She was his everything and it was the most natural thing for him to want to take care of her.
Cassidy rolled her eyes playfully, "You did so well!" She beamed changing topics. "The speech came out great and your delivery was perfect."
"Yeah? I was a fucking wreck beforehand." He grinned slowly. Cassidy nodded and threw her arms around his neck, snuggling into him as she usually did. Her hold on him was firm and she fit into him so well. "Relájate mami, estoy aquí." Cassidy laughs into his neck as he softly rubbed her back whilst thanking her. A few more seconds of holding each other, Cassidy pulled away and looked into his eyes.
She then cleared her throat, "I'm really so proud of you. I know how much you worried about this and everything in general but there is no universe in which the Luke Fox isn't great." He smiled and looked down at his best friend. In all his years of knowing her, he could truly say that she had never let him down. After his grandparents and his cousin Elijah, Cassidy was his greatest supporter and rock. He thought back to the day he told her about his pursuit of making his business assignment real life. Anyone looking on the outside would've truly believed she was the one pursuing this path but that was just the excitement she held for the people she loved. She was with him through the doubts, through his late-night break downs and fears and she was there the day it launched. He could not imagine doing this without her.
"Great huh?" He teases while throwing an arm around her neck pulling her into him a bit. "I don't know... I mean, in my arms right now is the woman on the cover of the Vogue magazine."
Cassidy smiles in remembrance of her accomplishment, "Hmm. I guess I am great."
He kissed her forehead, "Damn straight." They looked at each other and just suddenly started laughing. They could never be serious. It was a disease they both proudly sported. They began heading out towards the exit.
Both of them so completely engrossed in their conversation that they hadn't realized the many eyes on them. Not just any eyes but the lenses. The paparazzi had snuck into the event to get photos of all the celebrities that would attend. Many of them were aware of the fact that Luke would be in attendance as his invitation was very well-publicized to increase sales in tickets and such. More specifically they not only came to see other celebs and Luke but Luke's date of choice and as per usual, it was Cassidy Hearst.
The media ate them up. Always speculating that there was more to their friendship than just a friendship and they were hellbent in proving it. In interview's after interview's Luke made it clear that he was not in a relationship but no one could comprehend the close nature of their companionship; it was just odd to them and the picture they had just taken of an innocent kiss would be taken out of proportion by tomorrow.
. . .
"Is this even necessary?" Luke had blindfolded Cassidy once they'd made it outside his door into his penthouse. He'd told her that he had set a little something up for her and he wanted her to be surprised. She did not like surprises so she was of course very hesitant but after a while, she decided to just let him have his moment. She just wanted to get her hands on her first-ever magazine feature. She was itching to indulge herself with Oreos and obsessing over every word written about her.
"Sí, así que cállate." He responded. She couldn't see for obvious reasons but Luke had the biggest smile on his face. Everything that she would see behind his doors he had been planning since last month when she told him they had contacted her about being in the issue. He hoped she liked it because if Cassidy didn't like something she would make it known and he couldn't bare be the reason her special day was ruined. For a quick second he began doubting even going in but the impatient groan that fell from her lips and the nervous shifting of her feet, he knew he didn't even have the time to back out. He inserted his key into the locked, turned it, and pushed one of the double doors open slowly guiding her in. "Ten cuidado," he spoke his native tongue absentmindedly.
"You know I don't know what you're saying right?" He chuckles.
"I said be careful."
"I would be if you'd let me see." She sassed which earned her a pinch to the arm. "Ouch," she whined while soothing herself where it hurt.
"Patience is a virtue, Cassie." After closing the door behind them, he made his way back over to her and held her by the shoulders. "Ok, ready?"
Luke took hold of the cloth that fit snuggly around her eyes, untied them, and let it fall off completely. Cassidy's eyes began to flutter open, slightly sensitive due to the tremendous amount of light that poured in through the windows of his open floor plan. But once she did get them open, all she heard was. "Surprise!"
"Oh my God!" A shocked Cassidy spoke. Almost everyone she loved was in one room. Her dad, her stepmom, and her four other best friends; Zara, Ellie, Theodore, and D'Andre. Each one with gigantic smiles on their faces and clapping in congratulations of her huge feature. Cassidy immediately ran into her father's arms and was engulfed in such warmth. She missed him so much and couldn't believe he was here right now. "Hi Papa," she greeted.
"My baby," he spoke while shaking her side to side his arms. "I'm so proud of you. Je savais que tu pouvais faire tellement avec ta vie ce n'est que le début." Cassidy couldn't help but sniffle as she heard his voice. Her relationship with her father was one she couldn't begin to explain. They had been through so much together and the fact that they were closer in age just solidified their relationship. Axel, Cassidy's father, had her when he was just 15. He and her mother raised her together with the help of his parents till Cassidy turned 10 and her mother became a lose canon in their lives.
"How are you here?" She asked when she finally pulled away. "Why are you here?"
"Luke called us last week," her stepmom Sienna said as she stepped up with a smile on her face. "Told us there was no way he couldn't do something special for his girl and flew us down." Cassidy turned around to face Luke who had managed to somehow blush at the sound of his exact words being restated.
"You did that?" Cassidy asked taking a few steps towards him.
He shrugs, "It's nothing too crazy, Cassie. You would've done the same for me." She shakes her head.
"You know that I wouldn't. The act in itself is too cheesy for me to conjure up." She replies truthfully. Everyone in the room knew it was true. Cassidy didn't like anything cheesy or corny or predictable; everything in her recoiled at the thought of cliche acts done out of romance. Luke on the other hand loved them. There was something about doing the absolute most for the person you care about that made his heart happy.
"Probably not," he replies with a teasing smile. "You don't hate it though, do you?"
Cassidy has finally found herself in front of him again. Through her long thick lashes she looked up at him, a loving smile graces her glossed lips and her arms skillfully meeting the back of his neck; she hugged him tightly. "I don't know how much more you want me to love you, Luke. You do so much for me, more than you should."
Ignoring the fact that the other people in the room were looking at them have a moment, Luke slid his arms around her waist a squeezed lightly. "I haven't done enough. You deserve everything mami. I am so fucking proud of you." And for a few more seconds they stayed like that. If it wasn't for Zara voicing it was her turn to hug on Cassidy, they would've stayed like this for a long time. One by one, Cassidy greeted and hugged her friends. They all congratulated her on accomplishing something so amazing. By the end of all the formalities, Cassidy had a few renegade tears kissing her skin as they fell down. She was an emotional wreck and being with even more people she loved just solidified tears for the rest of the night.
Time went by in a blur. From obsessing over the front cover of the magazine to her dad taking over a hundred photos with her holding the magazine to her reading the actual article on her. Every different event that took place in Luke's home was jumbled together into one big one. They had eaten and laughed. They had taken turns talking about their favorite parts of the interview and when it was all said and done, they were all in Luke's living room with glasses of expensive wine from Theodore and Zara's home wine cellar.
"You're drunk Luke," Cassidy chuckles as she watched him stand in front of the tv with his wine glass in tow.
"I'm buzzed, I don't get wine drunk and shhh. I have a surprise for you." She sighed and look around the room.
"Another one guys?"
"This is all him bubs," Ellie grinned. "Although I had a little hand in it." She says proudly.
"What is it?"
"Patience," Luke smiled. Then he turned and grabbed a CD from the top of his tv stand and put it into his DVR before rushing over to take his seat again.
The beginning of the video started with everyone looking at a blank, white wall and listening to a mumbled voice in the background as the camera shook slightly; probably from trying to adjust it. Then, unexpectedly the person that took a seat in front of the camera came into view and Cassidy's reactionary response was to grip onto the person next to her and it was her father. When she looked at him, he held the same facial expression. They both looked back to the tv when they heard him speak.
"Hey, little sister." It was Carson, her twin brother who was older than her by three seconds. "And before you roll your eyes and say 'Older by a few seconds' I'm still older so hush. When you told me you'd be getting interviewed by one of your favorite fashion magazines, I just wanted to be there to hug you and tell you how much I loved and was proud of you because it's what you deserved but I couldn't. All I could do was say it over the phone and no matter how many times you tell me it's alright that I can't be there, I will never not be sad about it." Cassidy's eyes bore into the tv screen as a few more tears escaped her eyes.
"Well anyway," he goes on with a chuckle. Carson reaches for something off-camera and places it in the lens's view. "Imagine my surprise when your friend Luke sends me a package last week and it's an advanced copy of your very first magazine feature." He chuckles again, "I don't know where you found him or how he tolerates you but keep him. As a friend Cassidy, nothing more. I haven't met him in person yet but through your words about him and speaking to him briefly, I can tell he wants nothing but the best for you.
Being overseas isn't easy because I miss you and dad so much but, I know you guys are ok because you guys have each other. Tell your friend thank you again for me. Je t'aime Bambi." Carson blows a kiss and reaches forward to shut the camera off but stops and comes back. "Also, tell dad to send me more chocolate in my next care package." And this time the screen turns black and silence washes over the room.
After processing seeing her brother's face after so long, after processing the fact that Luke pulled out all the stops for her, after processing the reality that she couldn't possibly deserve him, Cassidy put her half-empty wine glass down on the coffee table. She stood up and made her way over to Luke held a worried expression because he wasn't sure if his love for over the top displays of care had finally been enough for her to snap on him. But that wasn't the case at all.
Even if she didn't like those kinds of things and would never do them of her own volition, Cassidy couldn't deny that a part of her secretly loved his cheesy heart. In general, Cassidy loved him and was forever thankful for having a friend like him in her life. She stood in front of him and smiled softly as she extended her hand for him to take. When he did, she tugged on it so he'd stand up and the second he did, she jumped on him with her arms securely holding on to him as usual.
Everyone in the room understood just how much this video message from her brother meant to her. Carson and Cassidy had gone through so much at a young age and they were separated at eighteen so anything related to him made her overly emotional. They also knew that Luke and Cassidy's friendship was the kind people wished of having because they weren't just best friends but soulmates in the best sense of the word. They also just wished they saw that last bit.
"Did I do good?" Luke's words came out as an audible mumble. His nose tucked into her hair as the smell of coconut-mango enveloped his senses. He hoped she loved it because of all the things he'd planned, this was the one that mattered most.
"You did good," she replies smiling into his neck.
. . .
a/n: wheeewww. how was it? luke is a little softy but not all the time. 70 percent soft, 30 percent not. i promise you guys are going to swoon for him if you already don't with this chapter. it was just an intro chapter after all.
Are you enjoying my ongoing story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, RhemaWrite a Review