Authors: Abby Brooks
© 2016 by Abby Brooks
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house buzzed with activity. Caterers laid out food on the long countertops in her well-appointed kitchen. Maids flitted around in a flurry of feather dusters. And Lilah herself stood in the middle of it all, annoyed that she couldn’t trust these people to just do their damn jobs. What was so hard about following a simple set of instructions to get the house ready for tonight’s party? She should have known better than to think she could leave these people alone. Life never skipped a chance to remind her that if she wanted something done right, she would end up having to do it herself.
She even had to tell the girl at the salon how to do her nails properly. Nail polish belongs on the fingernail. How hard is that to figure out? At least her hair had turned out well—the only easy thing about the whole day. Antoine was a genius and that’s all there was to it. He had blown out Lilah’s long, blonde hair and managed to make perfectly wonderful waves that looped their way down her back without looking like she spent the better part of the morning at the stylist.
Which she had, of course. Such was the genius of Antoine.
Now, if she could just get the caterers and maids in line, this might actually turn out to be a decent party in Lilah’s estimation. And, as everyone knew, a decent party in Lilah’s estimation was actually a fucking fantastic party. Which is exactly what her three brothers deserved. A fucking fantastic party.
Life had been just clicking into place for each of them. Ian was married. Harry was
married. And James was about to become a dad. Which left Lilah as the last unattached Moore, and that was more than fine with her. Finding a decent match was more challenging than it was for her brothers. Lilah had
. She wouldn't settle for just anyone. She was fine to wait until she found someone who would treat her the way she deserved to be treated. Someone who could provide the lifestyle she was used to.
Finally, after every flower arrangement was in just the right place, every pillow had been fluffed and straightened at least twice, and the food looked positively mouth-watering lining the counters, Lilah shooed the help out of her house and wandered around, double checking everything until the boys started showing up. Ian was the first to arrive of course—ever the punctual first-born—and his new wife Juliet clung to his arm as if he were her life raft. Next came Harry with his fiancé Willow looking perfectly waifish and wide-eyed as she stared around Lilah’s house. And finally, in sauntered James—late as usual—with his poor pregnant girlfriend Ellie waddling in behind him.
Lilah was in tip-top, positively perfect form, ushering people to the chairs in the living room she had arranged specifically for each person. Not that they knew she had a seating arrangement in her head. God, no. James would never let her live that one down. But just because she didn’t tell anyone there was a plan didn’t mean she hadn’t made one. She understood the ebb and flow of socializing, the need for the perfect arrangement of, well,
, to make a gathering go well.
After about twenty minutes of conversation, Lilah ushered everyone out of the living room and into the dining room for dinner and—thank god—everything was just as tasty as it looked. Which it should have been, considering how much she spent on it.
“So…” Lilah held up her drink and waited for all eyes to be on her. “Thank you all for coming...” She smiled and squared her shoulders. “I’m just so proud of my brothers, such good, strong men who have taken such good care of me. Sometimes too good…” Lilah smiled and waited for the light laughter she expected.
“We wouldn’t have to take such good care of you if you didn’t make such bad choices in boyfriends.” James leaned forward and crossed his arms on the table. “I mean, we’re the whole reason you made it through high school without a getting your heart broken.
“Or, you know, actually having a chance to fall in love.” Lilah shrugged. “Six of one, half dozen of the other, really.”
Ian laughed. “Oh, come on Lilah. You were crazy in love with Braydon Fletcher.”
“I might have been, if you hadn’t broken his nose right after Junior Prom. I don’t think I ever saw him again after that.”
was the one who broke his nose.” James pointed to his puffed out chest. “These guys just made sure he knew exactly
he got the shit beaten out of him.”
Ellie, James’s girlfriend, leaned forward and put a hand on his arm. “You broke his nose? Why?” She sounded more awed than appalled and Lilah rolled her eyes.
The truth of the matter was that Braydon Fletcher got his nose broken because the guys had come home about a half an hour earlier than Lilah expected. They found her on the couch, a little drunk, a lot undressed, and totally covered up by a very handsy Braydon. The Moore men were nothing if not protective and it didn’t matter how much Lilah swore that she was totally fine with what was going on, poor Braydon came to the full and complete realization that her brothers were not quite as fine.
“None of that’s important right now.” Lilah laughed and willed her brothers to shut up. This night was not supposed to be about her. It was for them. And if they would just shut the hell up and let her talk, they could all move on to the next thing she had planned for the evening. “What’s important is that you’re all here and you’re all happy. I couldn’t have picked a better set of women to be with my brothers.”
There. That had everyone settled down. They were all smiling and getting that silly sparkle in their eye and looking all mushy faced at each other. “To love,” Lilah said, holding up her glass. With beaming smiles, her guests echoed her and drank.
“You girls must feel like you won the lottery, getting to join the Moore family,” Lilah said as she put down her drink. “Even you Ellie, although officially it’s only your baby who’s part of the family.” Ellie’s jaw dropped, but Lilah didn’t notice. “It must be nice to have everything just fall into your lap like it has,” she said, smiling at each of the three women in turn and then taking a drink of her whiskey sour.
“Lilah!” All three of her brothers spoke at the same time, none of them sounding all that pleased, all of them glaring at her across the table.
“What?” she asked, genuinely confused.
“You need to think about the things you say,” Harry said, as if that cleared things right up.
“What did I say?”
fell into their lap
? What do you think they are? Gold diggers?”
“No. Of course not.”
Although I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were,
she thought. But she wouldn’t say that. God no. “Besides,” Lilah said, refreshing her smile. “They did just all manage to pull off pull a major Cinderella story without having to work for anything. And now, they won’t have to work ever again.”
That should make everyone feel better. And it's not like she was lying. Juliet, Ellie, and Willow earned themselves a lot of money and the opportunity to spend their days stretched out on the beach when they hooked her brothers.
James leaned his elbows onto the table and leveled a finger at Lilah. “Who are you to talk? It’s not like you’ve ever had to work a day in your life.”
“I worked very hard on this party! I’m exhausted!” Lilah looked at the other women at the table for support. Surely, one of them would jump in and come to her rescue. They had to know she didn’t mean anything
by what she said. The truth was the truth even if it was hard to hear.
“Did you cook this meal?” asked Harry, lifting his eyebrows and gesturing towards the plates littering the table.
“What about the cleaning, did you do that?” Ian had that smug grin on his face that sent Lilah’s blood boiling.
She ducked her chin. What did any of this matter? She was just doing something nice for her brothers. “No…”
“I bet she didn’t even do her own hair.” Great, now James was in full on attack mode, biting off his words and shaking his head as if what she did tonight was something to be ashamed of.
“What the hell, guys? I was trying to do something nice for you.” How had they gone from having a great time, enjoying the nice evening she created for them, to everyone being mad at her for doing it? It always happened this way. Everyone was so damn touchy about everything.
do something nice for us.” James sat back and grabbed Ellie’s hand. “With Mom and Dad’s money. Plus, you managed to offend everyone.”
“It’s okay. I’m not offended at all.” Willow leaned forward and sought out eye contact with everyone, a wide smile on her face.
“Here’s the thing, dear sister.” Ian took a drink and just by the way he put the glass back down, Lilah could tell she wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “You have a lot of stuff, but you don’t have a single clue what it means to work for what you want.” He gestured around the house. “You live in Mom and Dad’s guest house. And decorated the place with their money. And drive a car they gave you. And eat the food they cook. And wear clothes you buy with the money they put in your account.”
Lilah frowned. “So I take advantage of being born into a wealthy family. James did, too. He didn't even work up until he met Ellie. I don’t see you giving
a hard time.”
“He wasn’t busy being a condescending ass.” Harry smiled to take the sting out of his words, but damn, they still stung. Lilah opened her mouth to say she wasn’t a condescending ass and Harry held up a hand. “Plus, ever since Ellie came into his life, James has been a total rock star, hasn’t he?” Harry turned to Ellie.
“Hell yeah he has,” Ellie said nodding her head emphatically. “He does the books at the cafe. He man's the counter when I just don’t think I can manage standing anymore. He hired more people to help in the kitchen. I don’t think of Good Beginnings as just my cafe anymore. I think of it as ours. James is…” Ellie threaded her fingers with his and stared deeply into his eyes. “He’s the best.”
Lilah could care less how much hard work James had done. She was totally offended that her brothers didn’t think she was capable of doing the same thing. “I can take care of myself,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest and sitting back in her chair.
All three men broke into laughter and Juliet looked down at the table, covering her mouth with her hand. Willow was busy nodding her head in total agreement, and Ellie just made a face like Lilah was a kid who just announced she wanted to be Superman when she grew up.
“I can!” Indignation squeaked in Lilah’s voice.
How dare they! Here she was, creating this entire evening in order to celebrate their happiness and they all decided that this was the best possible way to thank her? By calling her lazy and spoiled?
“Okay,” said James, and Lilah didn’t like the look on his face. Not one bit. That was the look that always ended up with them being in trouble when they were little kids. “Prove it.” He gave a curt nod. “I’m throwing down the gauntlet right now. Prove that you can take care of yourself.”
“Fine.” Lilah thrust her chin up and pursed her lips. “I’ll totally prove it.” She gave a little shrug. “How?”
Another round of chuckling around the table sent a ripple of irritation rolling around in her belly. How wonderful for them all that they found this so entertaining.
James met Ian and Harry’s eyes in turn, before shrugging and turning back to Lilah. “Move out of here. Get a job. Pay your own bills. You know.
Ian made a sound that was more gunshot than laughter. “Be reasonable, James. We don’t want to traumatize her.”
“You don’t think I can do it?” Lilah looked around the table at her guests who all looked like this was the funniest thing they had ever heard. But it was the look on Ellie’s face that really burned her. Ellie looked like she felt sorry for her. The woman who was struggling to keep the lights on in her apartment just last year felt
“It’s hard out there,” said Ellie. “I know better than anyone, especially now that I’ve got everything I ever wanted.” She put a hand on her belly and smiled up at James again and for some reason that made Lilah all the more mad. “I don’t think you know what you’re signing up for.” Lilah made a face and Ellie hurried on. “And that’s a good thing! You should be
you don’t know how hard it is to actually work for what you want.”
Ellie smiled as if she had just said the nicest thing ever. It didn’t feel nice to Lilah. It felt condescending and snobbish. One look around the table at six heads nodding agreement and making different versions of the same judgmental face made up Lilah’s mind. They didn’t have any faith in her? She would show them just how wrong they were to underestimate
She sniffed. Shook her head and pursed her lips. “I can so totally do this,” she said and meant it with every fiber of her being.