Authors: Avery James
“Enough of this lovey-dovey stuff,” Vi called from the kitchen. “Is this a party or what? Everyone has to try one of my patented cocktails before we put this show on the road.”
“Except for Amy,” Callie yelled back. Charlotte watched Amy pour herself a glass of Perrier. Her bump was starting to show. She and Ethan were already several months on their way to their second baby.
“I’ll leave you ladies to it,” Logan said, heading to the door for his own party. He shot Charlotte a glance and shook his head. “If I were you, I’d pass on Vi’s cocktail. I’m pretty sure the main ingredient is rubbing alcohol,” he whispered.
“Last time I let you in on a secret,” Vi called from the kitchen.
Callie grabbed Charlotte’s arm. “If you have one I’ll have one.” This was an old refrain, one they had practiced over years of nights on the town together. It was a great way to keep from getting in trouble, and a better way of keeping things interesting.
“Deal,” Charlotte said.
The next hour passed in a blur, after Vi poured drink after drink while telling a convoluted story that involved the Vatican, three cousins named Lorenzo, and a stray dog named Charlie. Amy and Charlotte kept asking her for more details. Without fail, Vi was able to provide them. By the time the limo arrived, everyone was in good spirits. Everyone except Callie.
It wasn’t that Callie was sad or upset. She was just quiet, reserved, in the way she was when something was gnawing at her. As they piled into the limo, Charlotte figured it was the perfect time to try and lift her mood. “Alright, Callie, now that we’re on our way, we have set up some trivia for you to see how well you and your husband to be know each other.”
“Oh no,” Callie said. She started to blush a bit. “I’m not sure I even want to know.”
“We’ll start easy, dear,” Vi said. “Boxers or briefs?”
“Am I giving my answer or what I think he’d say?”
“Both,” Amy said.
“Then neither,” Callie said.
“Correct,” Vi replied.
“What does Logan say is your best physical feature?”
“He better have said my eyes,” Callie shot back, “but I’m going to guess he said something else.”
“Which one?” Charlotte said.
“Sorry, he said butt.”
They rifled through the questions as they headed out of town, and while everyone laughed almost to the point of crying, Charlotte could tell that there was still something off. Someone who hadn’t lived with Callie for so long might have looked at the smile on her face and thought everything was fine, but Charlotte saw through her. While Vi and Amy argued about who was more responsible for Callie ending up with Logan, Charlotte whispered, “Hey, what’s going on? I know you, and I just want you to be happy. We have an incredible weekend planned for you, and don’t worry, it doesn’t include the boots.”
“I know,” Callie said, “It’s nothing. Sorry, this is really incredible. It will be great to get away from work and all of the insanity of planning for a while.” Callie’s time with Logan had changed her. Charlotte could see it clear as day. In the past, Callie would have been the one pushing for crazier plans and trying to get everyone involved as much as possible, but it was plain on her face how much she missed her fiance. Charlotte thought it was sweet, more than anything, the way they seemed to fall apart when they were away from each other for more than a few hours. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to love someone like that, but she did know what it meant to be a friend, and she knew what Callie needed.
Charlotte slid up on the seat and knocked on the glass divider, as it slowly lowered, she said, “Driver, turn around. We’re heading to Georgetown.”
Amy and Vi turned their attention to her, “Oh?” they asked in unison.
“Last minute change in plans, ladies. We have at least one stop to make before we head off on this trip.”
“One of the benefits of having your own jet is that you don’t have to worry about missing the gate,” Amy said, shrugging her shoulders.
Charlotte reached into her purse and pulled out a blindfold. “This was supposed to hide the big reveal of the jet, but instead, I guess we’ll have to use it for something else. She watched Callie pull it on, then she typed out their destination on her phone and handed it to Amy. Amy and Vi both nodded.
Half an hour later, they were parked outside the hottest new bar in Georgetown: District. The place was packed on a nightly basis. It was a good thing they knew the owner. Charlotte opened the door to the limo and helped Callie out onto the sidewalk. “We’re here,” she said. “I hope you like our detour.” As she led Callie inside, Charlotte spotted Logan across the room. He was standing at the bar, raising a drink with the rest of his bachelor party. Charlotte recognized him and Ethan immediately. She knew that the older man between them must have been Logan’s dad, Hank, but there was one other person standing next to Logan, facing away. What was his name again? As he turned around and Charlotte saw him for the first time, her heart skipped a beat. He had deep blue eyes, dark brown hair, and he was gorgeous.
Jack, she thought. That must be Jack Coburn.
Charlotte shook out of her stupor and led Callie across the room to the bar, placing her hand down against the bar itself. “Callie,” she said, waving Logan and his party over. “Your sister, your aunt and I wanted to think of the best present we could give you for your wedding. We wanted to give you the best, most memorable night we could imagine. We came up with a few amazing ideas, but I think this one is the best. Go ahead, take off your blindfold. I think you’ll be very happy.”
Callie slowly pulled the blindfold off, she looked down at the bar and then up at Logan. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around him. “Best gift ever!” she said as she kissed him. Charlotte turned to Amy and Vi. She had just brushed aside weeks of planning, and it couldn’t have been a better choice. She watched Callie basking in Logan’s attention, talking with the members of his party. Her time with Logan really had changed her. It had softened her, which was a good thing. There was a time, not so long ago, when all Callie thought about was work. Before she met Logan, she couldn’t even go out unless it was for a case. Charlotte watched her and was so happy for how far she had come. She wondered if Callie would keep working after the wedding. She wondered what would happen as Callie and Logan started a family together and got deeper into their own lives. Meanwhile Charlotte would be trying to put her own life back together. She had been putting it off until the wedding, but she needed to find a new job, and she needed to find a new roommate.
Vi stepped up next to Charlotte and placed a hand on her shoulder, “Hey Red. What do you say we order a few drinks and divvy up the groomsmen? I’ve got an eye on that sharp-looking fella with the flag pin on his lapel.”
“Vi,” Amy butted in, “that’s Jack Coburn.”
“I don’t care who he is. He’s a looker. A rose by any other name,” Vi replied. “Is he single?”
“Yes, unfortunately,” Amy said. “It’s not helping his senate campaign much.”
“That sounds like a stroke of luck to me,” Vi said, “or at least for one of us.” She ribbed Charlotte with her elbow.
Amy’s eyes darted from Charlotte to Jack and back to Charlotte. “Hmm,” she said, “I’ll be right back.”
“Well, I say we let him decide who he likes better,” Vi said. She leaned over the bar and motioned to the bartender, “Barkeep!” she called, “Something strong!”
The bartender came over and poured some drinks according to Vi’s explicit instructions. Charlotte counted at least seven different kinds of liquor. Vi took a sip of one when it was finished and nodded in approval. “Charlotte, be a dear and bring one of these over to Callie, and one over to that Jack gentleman. This other one’s for you.”
Charlotte walked over and handed Callie a drink.
“You didn’t have to do this you know,” Callie said. She took a sip of the drink and cleared her throat. “Did Vi make that?”
Charlotte laughed. “We’re all just happy to see you happy.” She held out the other drink for Jack. “From Callie’s aunt,” she said.
Jack took it and smiled. He took a sip and tried to hide the look of surprise on his face. “That’s… interesting,” he said. He choked down another sip, and shook his head no. “I think I’ll admit defeat,” he said as he looked around for somewhere to put the drink.
Charlotte grinned and tried to think of something witty to say in response. Her stomach looped itself in knots. Jack was so much more handsome up close. And he held eye contact as she tried to think of something, anything to say that could possibly interest him. Finally, Logan started talking with Jack again, and Charlotte turned her attention back to Callie. Next time, she’d have to plan her conversation in advance.
“Promise me I didn’t ruin your plans,” Callie said.
“We’ll get to them some other time,” Charlotte offered. “This is your night. I’m just glad to see you so happy.” Charlotte watched Callie glance over at Amy making several sweeping gestures with her hands. “You and Logan are perfect together. He’s so good for you. He evens you out, helps you relax and finally forget about work. The two of you are just so natural together. Soon you’ll be married. Eek! It’s wonderful to see. I guess a part of me is worried that once you get married, things will change between us. I mean you already seem so much more relaxed than you were before you met Logan. Your whole life was work, and now you have something so much better. I really hope I find that someday.”
Callie’s eyes widened and she placed her hand over her mouth. She looked back at Charlotte. A familiar grin spread across her face. Callie was up to something.
“What?” Charlotte asked. “What did I miss?”
“How would you like all of that now?”
“Oh yeah, like some rich, charming guy is just going to appear and sweep me off my feet.”
Callie waved Amy over. “I know we’ve said it as a joke in the office, but what do you think about Charlotte for the job?”
Amy smiled. “I was just thinking the same thing.”
“I know she hasn’t been vetted, but wouldn’t they make a cute couple? Come on, the camera would love her. She’s wholesome.”
“Actually, I ran a background check on her when you first started living together.”
“Are you serious?” Callie asked. “And you never told me?”
“I was just looking out for my little sister. Don’t worry. Everything checked out.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Charlotte asked.
“Do you want to tell her or should I?” Callie said.
“It’s your party,” Amy replied.
“Charlotte, we need you to marry Jack Coburn,” Callie said.
“You WHAT?” Charlotte exclaimed.
Callie laughed. “Come on,” she said, taking her friend by the arm and leading her over to the group of men. “Why don’t Logan and I introduce you?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I spoke too soon!” Callie hadn’t changed one bit. She was still laser focused on her job. Charlotte still wasn’t sure what Callie meant by saying she needed to marry Jack Coburn, but hey, she wouldn’t be opposed to getting to know him. Rich, handsome, and polite enough to try to second drink of Vi’s concoction.
Callie smiled and slid her arm over Charlotte’s shoulder. “Jack,” she called, “there’s someone you need to meet.”
Thank you for reading
The Billionaire’s Kiss
, the second book in the
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If you haven’t read the first book in the
series, I’ve included an excerpt below. Charlotte’s story is next, and will be out in Spring, 2014.
An excerpt from:
Ethan Cole sat at the bar and looked at his reflection in the mirror as he reached into his briefcase. He studied the lines on his face. He wasn’t getting any younger, he thought. He wondered if the stress of his job was starting to get to him. For over a decade, he had been the toast of the tech world, but he wondered if the world was finally catching up with him. By the time he fished the small box out of the bottom of the leather briefcase, he had gone from looking at his forehead to inspecting the small lines that were starting to form next to his eyes. As he spun the box around in his fingers, he turned to look toward the door. No sign of Amy yet. He let out a little sigh of relief and turned back around. He motioned to the bartender.
“Ready for a drink?” the bartender asked.
“Just let me know when the attractive brunette comes in through the front door.”
Ethan opened the box and gazed down at the ring inside. “This is just a business deal,” he whispered to himself. “Don’t try to make it anything more than that.” He pulled the ring out of the box and inspected it in the dim light. It had been in his family for two generations and was the only keepsake he had left of the grandmother who had raised him. He looked at the sapphire set in the center of the ring. It was barely half a carat, but it was worth more to him than almost anything in the world.
As Ethan began to think back, the bartender pointed to the door. “I think your friend is here,” he said.
Ethan put the ring back in the box and slid it into the bottom of his briefcase. He gazed back toward the door to catch a glimpse of Amy as she looked around the dining room. She was as stunning as ever, and Ethan felt his pulse jump as he looked at her. Here goes, he thought. He turned back to the bartender. “I’m ready for that drink.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. “Her drinks are on me, too.”