Apollo had to give it to his Uncle Dominic. The man knew how to throw a party. Alexis’s birthday was off the chain. He hired one of Detroit’s hot up and coming DJ’s, Terrance Jayne to bring the beats and the place was jumping. Dom was mixing and mingling with the crowd, directing the catering staff and generally being his over the top self. “Pollo! You made it!” Alexis squealed as she launched herself in his arms.
“Of course I made it, Lex. I haven’t missed one of your bashes yet,” he smiled and winked. “You look gorgeous, sweetheart. Happy birthday.” He hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. “Meda made it yet?” Alexis gave him a sly smile.
“Don’t you mean Tess?” Chuckling, Apollo shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants.
“Yeah ok, you got me. Yes, definitely Tess.” Alexis clapped her hands.
“She’s coming for sure but she hasn’t gotten here yet. I expect her any minute. I think she was riding with Meda and Blake. Or was it Niko?”
“Niko? Why would she be riding with Niko?” Yeah, why the hell would she be riding with Niko? Was the dude trying to worm his way in and take Apollo’s place? Oh hell no.
“Um,” she looked unsure for a moment. “Well, they’ve kind of been hanging out, I guess? Hey, why don’t you go get a drink. I’m sure she’ll be here soon.” Alexis had the sneaking suspicion she’d revealed something she shouldn’t have. Tess and Niko were friends, good friends but she had no idea if the relationship went beyond that. And she couldn’t stand to see anyone sad on her birthday. “Pollo I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sure it’s nothing more than friendship.” Apollo nodded with a small smile.
“Ah don’t worry about it, Lex. Tess is a grown woman. She can see who she wants. I don’t have to like it but Niko is a good man. If it is more than friendship, he’ll be good to her. Much better than I ever was.” He kissed his cousin on the cheek and made his way to the bar. What started out as a night of hope and anticipation of making a crack in the ice wall Tess had build around her heart where he was concerned turned into a blazing pile of ashes. He would stay long enough to be seen by the family, then make his way home. What else could he do?
“You look like you’re attending a funeral, man instead of a party.” Looking up, Darius leaned against the bar next to his baby brother. “Don’t let Alexis catch you looking so fucking miserable,” he chuckled. Apollo sighed and motioned the bartender for a drink. Ordering two shots, he set one in front of his brother. They toasted and downed the fiery liquid. Setting the glasses down, Darius studied Apollo.
“She’s coming with Niko.” Apollo ordered two more shots. Downing them both in quick succession, he settled on a beer to nurse until it was time to leave. Darius let out a low whistle.
“Damn. How do you feel about that?”
“Fuck, I don’t know man. I have no right to be angry about it. Niko is a good guy and he’ll treat her right, like a fucking queen but…” he shoved his hand in his ebony locks, letting out a huff of frustration.
“But you’re thinking it should be you in his place.”
“You know for a guy who doesn’t date or even tag the same piece of ass twice, you have a lot to say about relationships.” Darius laughed.
“Yeah, true. I’ll settle down one day, baby brother. Just not today.” With a wide grin, he clasped Apollo’s shoulder. Before he could say anything else wise as the mature older brother, his jaw dropped to the floor. “Fuck me sideways. Is that Tess??” Apollo straightened up and followed his brother’s gaze. His breath left his lungs at the sight of her. Making her way across the room, she was a redhaired siren in a deep green dress. Her hair hung in silky waves down her back, whispering against her hips.
“No, man. That is Aphrodite in the flesh,” he whispered. Darius could only nod in agreement. Apollo’s eyes darkened as he watched her. Her hips swayed seductively as she walked. He doubted she was even aware of the sultry way she was commanding the room. Every red blooded male in the place was following her progress toward the bar. The brothers were speechless. Shaking his head, Darius slapped his brother’s shoulder and took a shot from the waitress sashaying past.
“She’s all yours, man. But the way she looks tonight, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Wow.” Darius walked off to prowl the room like the player he was, leaving Apollo standing alone at the bar mesmerized. Tess hadn’t seen him yet. She was smiling and laughing, her face glowing making her look like an angel. He didn’t want to see that disappear once she caught sight of him. One good thing was Niko wasn’t with her. Or so he thought. As if the man had heard his name in Apollo’s thoughts, he appeared next to Tess giving her a big kiss on the cheek, sending her into a fit of giggles. Fuck. Had she finally moved on? He felt his chest tighten painfully at the thought.
Niko handed Tess a glass of champagne and excused himself. His brown eyes were now fixed firmly on Apollo and his long legs were bringing him straight toward him. Apollo straightened himself up and prepared for whatever Niko was bringing. But to his surprise, the big Russian only gave him a broad smile.
“Apollo, my friend!” He wrapped Apollo in a tight bear hug. “I’m so glad to see you. We need to talk, yes?” Apollo wanted to say no but he couldn’t. He would have to face this sooner or later and sooner meant he could deal with it quicker. Maybe.
“Yeah I suppose we do.” The two men walked out onto the balcony off the dance floor and took seats on the plush armchairs that littered the outdoor space. Sighing, Apollo tipped his head back. Niko took one look at his face and burst out in a deep laugh.
“You, my friend, are a sad specimen. We are at a party, it is a beautiful night and we are surrounded by beautiful women. Yet, you look like you just had hernia surgery.” Apollo couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him.
“So how do you want to do this, Niko?” he asked. “Look, I fucked up royally with Tess. I know that better than anyone. She deserves better than me and if she’s chosen you, then you are one lucky son of a bitch. She chose well, man.” Apollo could feel his heart shatter as he spoke. He meant what he said but damn did it hurt like hell! Niko clasped his shoulder.
“No no you have it all wrong, priyatel (buddy). We are not together. She is like my little sister. I will not lie and tell you that I didn’t think about it but it never progressed past a thought. She is not the one my soul craves. I already know who holds her heart.”
“Sister? Dude, I don’t look at my sister like that.” Niko shrugged his massive shoulders and chuckled.
“Well I am a man, Apollo. Tess is very beautiful with the sexiest pair of legs I’ve ever seen on a woman. Can you blame me for noticing?”
“No, I can’t. And you’re right. She does have the sexiest pair of legs. They go on for miles.” The men laughed and talked some more. It was easy to talk to Niko, Apollo noticed. Now that he knew Niko would pose no competition, he relaxed and began to enjoy himself. It looked like the night was going to end better than he thought. He just had to work up the nerve to talk to Tess, especially in that sinfully sexy dress she was wearing.