Even though Jenny didn’t know the reason for why I’d been pretty much single all my life, she never stopped trying to set me up.
“Thanks, I guess,” I whispered back. “He’s pretty cute.”
I wasn’t just saying that. With light blonde hair and pool blue eyes, Samuel looked like a model off duty. His tux was stylishly cut, and he had a great smile too. He was built big, like a football player. He waved over a waiter and got me a drink as I pulled back from Jenny,
“Hi,” I said as I shook his hand. “I’m Clarissa.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Sam,” he said. His handshake was firm. “Jenny was telling me how you were starting up your own company?”
“That’s right,” I said, my voice becoming excited. “I’m going to reveal it tonight, so don’t say anything yet.”
“I’ve got a business myself too. I would be happy to give you some pointers.”
“That would be fantastic,” I said with a big smile.
Jenny caught sight of another of my friends and moved off with her boyfriend, her wingwoman duty done. After ten minutes though, I wished that she hadn’t. Though Sam might have been cute, he wasn’t very… exciting. It seemed as though his company was the only thing that mattered to him. I tried to steer the conversation a few times into other topics, but he just barrelled right over me.
Not only that, but I caught sight of Aiden at one point too. He was walking along with a different blonde on his arm now. Nikki hadn’t lasted long as usual. I could see him on the upper patio, leaning close to the new woman. At one point his hand reached up and swept away a ringlet from her forehead, and she laughed.
I felt an intense pang of longing. Why couldn’t it be me up there with him? I wanted to be the one to lean into his face, to feel the rush of heat from his touch, to have his arm around my waist. My need was only amplified by having Sam beside me instead. I will say this for Aiden, I was never bored with him around. We might not always agree, but conversations were lively. They made my mind and my body feel alive as we sparred. In those moments, he wasn’t Aiden the asshole playboy, but Aiden, my stepbrother, again.
Just as I was trying yet again to pull away from Sam, it was announced that the auction was about to begin. He looked pretty put out by the fact that his sermon had to stop halfway, but I was glad for the distraction. With one last apologetic smile, I took off for the back.
The auction was set up so that each person would come out along with the item/whatever was being sold and explain a little about the charity of their choice. We managed to get a guy from Sotheby’s to help us do the auction, one of those who could speak a mile a minute kinds. There was a big turnout from what I could see at the back of the small stage we set up. All of the chairs we had set out were filled, and there were even more people standing around the room.
I craned my head a little further and spotted Aiden walking down to a seat near the front row. In his hands was a paddle. My heart sped up a little faster. I hadn’t realized that he would be bidding tonight. He had no interest in art or sculptures, so I wondered what it could be that had had caught his attention. Maybe he plans to bid on me, I thought, before quickly discarding the thought. He didn’t care about what I did anymore, and he never holds the kind of parties that would require my services.
The Sotheby’s man cleared his throat, and I ducked back behind the curtain. Jenny was there too. Her contribution was a weeklong stay at her family’s private island in the Virgin Islands. It was actually an amazing offer. It was a totally private, and yet fully staffed. The perfect lovers getaway.
“So, what did you think?” she asked excitedly.
“Well,” I said, wondering just how friendly Samuel and her boyfriend was. “He’s led a very interesting life. He had a lot of good business advice.”
“Right?!” She said. “I figured you two would totally bond over the whole business company thing. I mean, he likes to work too according to Jared. I think he doesn’t even take weekends off half the time.”
I could definitely believe that. I gave Jenny a quick smile and shrugged.
“I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
I didn’t really like lying to Jenny about how I felt, but lately I noticed there was a… fervour to her matchmaking. I knew that her and Jared were pretty close to taking the plunge, and I wondered if maybe she didn’t want to feel bad about her own happiness when I had never had mine. Not that I could really explain to her my reasons. Even for a best friend, it would be tough to swallow something like having a crush on your stepbrother.
The bidding took a long time, which wasn’t surprising. Everyone wanted to be seen donating the most to charities. I was second to last, and by that time a quarter of the room had gone back out to the party in the garden. The Sotheby’s man announced my name, and I stepped out into the light. I waved as everyone clapped and made my way over to the podium.
I took a deep breath. It was always hard for me to stand up in front of a crowd like this. Out of habit, my eyes searched for Aiden. He was smiling at me, and even gave me a thumbs up, just like he used to whenever I had a piano recital.
“The charity I’ve chosen to donate to tonight is called Celebrate Life. What they do is help bring joy to kids who are struggling, or have beaten cancer. In addition to organizing events for kids to gather and find support, they have week long summer camps all across the country. Celebrate has a special place in my heart, because I was put in charge of one of their parties just a little while back. They are amazing, and so are the smiles on each child’s face when they show up at a Celebrate event. Thank you.”
I squared my shoulders as everyone clapped.
“Tonight I’ll be offering to plan out the party as the very first event of my new company, Clarissa Boutique Events! It’s been a long time coming I think, and I am very excited.”