Chapter 1. Satay Chicken and a Special Guest
I hated weddings; at least the ones I catered at.
I was almost thirty, and my focus had solely been on my business catering weddings; From the decorations to the third tier on their extravagant cake, to the servers who delivered each slice, I got you.
I couldn’t decide which specialty I wanted to do, so I said fuck it and did them all.
My company was young and had only been around for two years, yet every wedding I have delivered to, and I always delivered, had caused my anxiety about marriage, and if it ever were in the cards for me.
Sure, I didn’t want to marry some dude for the sake of it. I wanted sparks flying, toes curling, leg lifting, and heart-thumping love.
But that didn’t exist. At least not in my world.
The closest I got to marry someone was when the father of one of the brides tried to feel me up at his daughter’s wedding. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the man was sexy, but so was his wife. Or should I say ex-wife, now?
Life for me was spending most of my time at the bakery, stuffing custard into puff pastry and decorating the mountain of desserts people begged for at weddings. The rest of the time I had drowned myself in paperwork and plonked my not so small ass on the couch in my apartment, watching---no, bawling my eyes out as I watched Hallmark movies at Christmas.
Despite hating weddings, I adored them at Christmas, which was my favorite time of the year. From the snow crunching beneath my feet to the icy chill in the air and the warm fireplace, from the scent of freshly baked Christmas cake to the enormous Christmas tree adorned with glittering ornaments and glowing fairy lights draped around it; I just wished I had someone to share it with.
It wasn’t to say that I was absolutely miserable. No, fuck no! I’ve had my moments of pleasure, most of the time, with my own fingers. The last time anyone else went anywhere near my naked form was... wait, there was that dude three months ago who said he was going to call, but never did. Always the fucking case. Cue the eye rolls, everyone.
“There’s a tray missing.”
I spun around and spoke to Ellen, one of my employees, who pulled me from my mundane thoughts. “What do you mean missing?”
“I mean it was there and now it’s not.”
“Which tray?” She stretched her lips, and I immediately knew. “Wait. Not the…”
Ellen immediately nodded. “Yes, that one.”
“The bride and groom had requested extra of that dish. Go, find it!”
The original company they hired had fallen through. Something about the business shutting down for health code violations. They contacted me at the last minute, and of course, me being the people pleaser I am; I said yes. It was the first time I was going to meet the couple face to face.
I gestured with my hands for her to leave while I focused on transferring the cake inside. I was told the couple had been together for three years before he proposed.
Even though there was a chill in the air, sweat dripped profusely from my forehead and this only happened during stressful moments. I usually worked well under pressure, but having an entire tray of food go missing was not ideal, especially when they were the extra meals ordered by the bride and groom.
I kept smiling at the other guests as the wait-staff offered the canapés. I knew by the reception house that the couple who married were wealthy. It was probably the nicest venue I had the privilege of attending.
The guests were shielded from the elements beneath the wooden stained structure, yet could still gaze out the glass windows and admire the flurry of snow drifting across by the winter breeze, covering the grounds with ice-white dust. Chandeliers, which were hung by the breathtakingly high ceilings, brightened the space. Dry branches with dangling bulbs gave the ambiance a warm and rustic feel. White roses were beautifully presented on each table, brightened by tealight candles placed evenly in between the clear wine and champagne glasses.
“That ceremony was spectacular,” beamed one of the guests. “I just can’t believe they would spend so much money on it.”
I tightened my lips and walked away, not wanting to hear any potential feedback on my business, especially with how I felt at that moment. Completely and utterly incompetent.
“Did you find it?” I asked Ellen when she returned a short time later. I had just put the finishing touches on the Hors d’oeuvres.
“Yeah,” she replied. “A bunch of kids took the damn thing and hid behind some tables. The little shits.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Ellen had always wanted kids, though not me. Only because I never thought I would find a person who would love me enough to want to start a family. I guess moments like those misbehaving kids made me grateful.
“Okay, please tell me they didn’t eat the entire lot?”
She shook her head. “Nope. Realized it was fish and didn’t bother touching the rest.”
“Thanks. Okay, take out that tray and serve the people over there waiting to be seated.”
At big weddings like these, the bride and groom usually made some grand entrance. Even though my feelings towards weddings had changed, the one thing I took pleasure in was admiring the choice of wedding dress.
There were only a few occasions where I couldn’t believe the gowns for the bridesmaids. One, the bride forced them to wear makeup, which made them look like clowns, and it was on purpose because I heard the bitch say it to one of her guests.
The other, I sympathized with. The bridal company they organized had closed down without warning. The owners took everything and went into hiding, and the poor folk had to wear dresses that were oversized and discolored as they didn’t have time to make any adjustments, or find decent dresses. At least the bride’s dress was okay.
“You know there are some really hot guys here tonight, CC. You should chat them up,” Ellen winked when she returned.
I rolled my eyes at my friend. “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.”
“Why the fuck not?”
“Because I’m working and not here to chat up some random guy who probably won’t be interested in me anyway,” I replied, glancing down at my white uniform shirt and black pants. “I mean, look at me.”
“What? You’re beautiful. Don’t sell yourself short, CC.”
“I’m not selling myself at all. If someone happens to chat me up and he’s nice, possibly cute, I won’t say no, but the point is I doubt it.”
“Someone hot, huh? You mean like that guy over there?”
Ellen pointed towards the bar where a tall, clean-shaven man stood in what was clearly an Armani suit. He was gorgeous, way out of my league, and there was no way he would ever be interested in someone like me.
What the fuck am I thinking?
I shook the self-doubting thoughts from my head and turned to my colleague. “What about him?”
“What about him? Are you serious? I saw the way you were looking at him.”
She rolled her eyes. “So, maybe you should go and talk to him.”
I placed the Hors d’oeuvres on the platter and vigorously shook my head. “No. I’m a professional, and can’t be seen fraternizing with the guests, no matter how damn sexy they are.”
Ellen immediately laughed. “Ha! You think he’s sexy!” She said a little too loudly for my comfort. A few of the patrons turned to glare.
“The microphone is just over there. I think you’ll be able to reach more people with it next time!”
Ellen’s apologetic expression graced her flawless face. “Sorry.”
Sneaking glances towards the bar, I couldn’t help but notice how nice the guy’s smile was; slightly boyish with the small dimple on his right cheek but perfectly complementing his dapper self. Like I said, he was certainly easy on the eyes, a bit preppy- his wealthy background being obvious from his crisp, aristocratic appearance.
“Why do you look at him like he’s your next meal?” Ellen said, pulling me from my perverted gaze.
“Shut up and take out the next tray please,” I muttered, low enough she could only hear me.
“Um-hmm,” Ellen grinned teasingly before picking up the Hors d’oeuvres and walking away to the other guests.
For the next ten minutes, my focus was solely on the Satay Chicken canapes, adding the fresh coriander and lime to the clear glass until a soft, yet masculine voice shifted my attention away from it.
I glanced up and my breath hitched when I noticed the sexy dude from earlier standing in front of me, drool almost dangling from his luscious lips.
“Can I help you?” I asked, pulling the trained smile that masked every adulterated thought running through my head.
“I couldn’t help but notice the chicken dish in front of you. I wanted to snatch one before they were offered to anyone else.”
A slow smile spread on my lips, “Well, as you can see, I haven’t finished preparing them, so I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to wait.”
He cocked his brows and folded his arms with a smirk, “Do you have any idea who I am?”
“No,” I replied. “Am I supposed to?”
He looked playful, yet there was a hint of seriousness in his expression which didn’t go unnoticed, and I wasn’t sure if many people had ever said no to him.
“Wow,” he breathed as he unfolded his arms. “That’s surprising.”
Inspecting his face, there was something familiar about him, but nothing came to mind. “I’m sorry. I have no idea who you are.”
“I’ll be honest. It’s kinda refreshing.” He gave me a lopsided grin that sent a flurry of butterflies into havoc inside.
God, I hope it’s not the groom. That’d be so fucking wrong.
Considering I had never met the now-husband, I realized it could have been any man in the room.
“You’re not the groom, are you?”
His eyes widened as he let out a deep laugh, “Are you serious? You’ve never met Evan?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve only spoken to his wife over the phone.”
“Wow,” he chortled. “They’ve never been organized, those two, so this doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
I stuttered as I tried to explain the situation the newly married couple had gone through, but he just shrugged off my words.
“So, what’s your name?”
Glancing down, I pointed towards my name tag, “CC.” My eyes locked with his. “What’s your name?”
He paused for a moment, grazing his lower lip with the pad of his thumb contemplatively before muttering beneath his breath. “Prince Alexios of Iceskonia.”