“Are you sure?” Damien didn’t know why he was asking. Desperation maybe? Stan wouldn’t have called if he hadn’t been sure.
“Man, I’m sure. It’s her.” Stan confirmed, “You need to get down here. They have her appointment book. You’re in it.”
“She never showed.” Damien said, rubbing the base of his skull as the bad news kept on coming. They’d been so close and now. Shit. Just shit. He pulled the photo out from under various news clippings. The woman they’d been searching for smiled up at him.
“They don’t know that.” Stan said, “Bring the lawyer. We need to be careful with this.”
“I’m aware.” Damien disconnected. And sent Jenson a short text.
“Holy crap!” Andie flipped around and found Damien standing there. Okay that was freaky. “You scared the bejesus out of me? Where’d you come from.” She’d been facing the door. He was behind her…
“Ah, well,” Damien flushed, “The panel behind me is a door.”
Andie leaned around him, studied the large sections of picture-frame wainscoting, “You’re shitting me.”
“No. The previous owner had reason to hide some of his activities.”
“Oh my God.” Andie’s hand flew to her mouth, “You have a boom-boom room. Can I see it?”
A puzzled frown creased his demi-brow, “Boom-boom?”
“Uh, it’s been cleaned and uh, sanitized and all that, right?”
The creases smoothed, a small smile playing around Damien’s mouth, “You needn’t worry about any fluids, previously flown or otherwise.”
“But I don’t believe you’re ready to see what’s in there.”
“I read Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“So you’ve said.” Damien took pulled her to him, his hands sliding around her. Andie returned the gesture gladly, loving the feel of him under the fine silk of his shirt, she slid her hands up his back to his neck she slid her fingers under his collar. A weary hum of pleasure rolled though him, “Still, I’d like to have a little more time to… explain and I have to get down to Richmond immediately.”
“Nothing for you to worry about.”
“This is about your uncle isn’t it.”
“Somewhat, yes.” He looked frustrated, tired, overwhelmed. Damien Alexander Drake was overwhelmed. Shit, something was really really wrong.
“And you can’t talk to me about it.”
“I…no, no I can’t. No yet.”
Oh. Why did that hurt so much? “Okay.”
“I would count it a favor is you stayed here tonight.”
“Oh. I would, but the Christmas Queen pageant is tonight. Jose is a judge.”
“I see. All right, then. I’m doubling your security. Please be careful and do whatever they tell you.”
“Of course. You’re going to explain all of this when you get back, right?”
“As much as I can. Yes.”
And that’s how Andie came to be surrounded by four hulking giants as she stood beside Layla inside the door of the club hosting DC’s Christmas Queen Pageant, to take it all in. Explosions of color everywhere, every kind of reflective surface you could imagine and some you couldn’t… and feathers… and boas…and Drag Queens….
“Holy Shit! They’re gorgeous…” Andie whispered.
“My ego is taking a serious hit right now.” Layla ‘s kept swinging on her long neck, “And damn, that’s hella-ton of glitter.”
A giggle popped out, “I love it!!!”
Layla shoulder bumped her, “I know, what is it about glitter and feathers?”
“It appeals to the girlie-girl in us all.” The answer came from woman in a bright red dress and vibrant purple hair, “A girl just has to sparkle, you know.” She sent them a saucy over-the-shoulder-wink as she strutted to the back of the club, where she disappeared behind the shimmering purple curtain that ran the length of the back wall.
“Andie, Layla…over here!!” Jose´ waved from his table directly in front of the stage. He was looking very large and in charge in a raspberry shirt and black pants. Maneuvering between tiny tables and stunning queens, they made their way over.
“Welcome to paradise, my sugars,” Jose´gave them little pecks on each cheek. “You’ve got the best seats in the house, right next to the judges table.
“Oooh, it’s you. You’re Andie!” One of the Queens squealed, wiggling forward as fast as her skin-tight, neon-pink gown would allow. She towered over everyone else mainly due to her mile-high blond hair adorned with a glittering tiara.
Andie wasn’t sure how to respond to that. She went with a perky, “HI!”
“I saw the clip of you dancing with that Dreamboat Drake. And now you show up with enough beefcake for a calendar. Some girls have all the luck.”
” “Yes, this is the sister of my heart, Andie Chase.” Jose´ made the introductions, “Andie, this is Sabrina, Washington D.C’s Christmas Queen of 2016,”
“Nice to meet you, Sabrina.” Andie smiled.
“Oh, honey it’s an honor. Now,” Sabrina’s million-watt smile lit up the room, “Sit in the place of honor and have a mimosa on the house. This is my honey’s place.” She waved over one of the waitresses, her shiny pink nails reflecting the light, “The drinks are on him tonight.”
The pageant was the most non-sexual fun Andie had had in a long time. Cheyenne, their ebony skinned waitress, kept them in Margaritas, chips and salsa. While they watched beauty after beauty strut, sing, dance and show off various talents, all while wearing heels that made Andie’s feet ache in sympathy.
At the end, Sabrina tearfully handed over her tiara to the new Christmas Queen, Macarena, with the purple hair.
It was after the stage had emptied and the music started thumping that disaster struck.
Andie was busy trying to pick a couple tiny sequins out of her Margarita. They were so close to the stage, the law of averages said she’d probably already consumed a couple, but she was making an effort to pick out the ones she saw, when a shrieking scream over the sound system blew out her ear.
“Was that Jose´….” Layla shouted, her hands over her own ears, the club had gone still, but the music was still thumping.
“No, too high and he’s still at the judges table,” She threw her thumb in Jose’s direction, “I think it’s coming over the sound system…”
“You bastard. You vile evil she-whore….” The exclamations over the sound system, were followed by a single, explosive, crack. Then Andie saw a flash of blond hair and neon pink fly through the packed, but motionless dance floor, a tall impeccably dressed man on its heels. Andie was guessing this to be the owner of the club.
“So…. I’m thinking Sabrina forgot to remove her mike.” Layla said, head swinging as she tracked the two all the way out the door.
“Shit!” Jose´ jumped up from the judges table, “That asshole…” and took off after them.
“Should we leave?” Andie asked, right as Cheyanne arrived with fresh chips and salsa.
“Are you kidding me? “Layla leaned over, craning her neck, to keep the front door in sight, “This is just getting good. We’ll have two more, Cheyanne.”
“Sure thing,” Cheyanne nodded, tossing her glowing apple green hair behind one shoulder, “And damn right, don’t leave now.”
A few minutes later, their eyes still riveted on the front door, Cheyanne returned and dropped off their drinks, “That Rick is a whore. He can’t keep it in his pants…this isn’t the first time. Poor Sabrina. It’s her birthday. She deserves so much better than that jerk. I know he’s my boss, but a weasel’s a weasel.”
Her words ended when Jose´ and Sabrina came back inside. Cheyanne set down her tray and ran over to the distraught beauty queen. Wrapping her arms around her. Jose´ broke off and headed in their direction.
“Her Birthday and the night she had to give up her crown,” Layla’s narrowed eyes landed on Rick sneaking back through the door, “What a jack-ass. She should rip off those peep toes and slam the guy right in the balls. Those spike heels would drive them all the way up to his throat.”
Wow, taking in Layla’s face, Andie thought her friend might be considering doing the deed herself. Andie looked down and winced. Jimmy Choos were lethal in the Layla’s hands.
“Annie, grab your drink, I need you.” Jose´s voice brought her eyes up to his angry face. Jose´ was a fierce friend, between he and Layla, Rick should lay low for a while.
“Oh, I don’t know, Jose´’ I want to help….but…”
“Honey, I wouldn’t ask, but we can’t have the party here now and Bree has always wanted to see EverMay.
“But with Damien out of town…”
“I know, but I promise we fairies will clean up after ourselves. It’s Bree’s birthday, and that Grade-A jack-ass has ruined her night.. We can’t have the party here now. I promise I’ll take full responsibility. And you made that huge cake. It’s like fate.”
It was a lot of cake. She’d been planning to donate it to the Jane’s silent auction, but if ever there was a good cause… “Alright,” She gave up and gave in, “Yes, okay. Party at EverMay.”
“Fabulous, let me just go tell the girls and we’ll head on over. And don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple. Just a few friends, some cake, and champagne for the birthday girl.”
“Holy Shit!” Mount Olympus had turned into The Bird Cage. Andie held a platter of chilled shrimp and gaped at the terrifying living room’s transformation.
“How the hell did they do this in a half hour?” Layla put voice to the question foremost in her mind.
“Maybe they really are fairies.”
She and Layla had been given the job of picking up the party platters. Layla was holding a fruit and cheese tray.
“That’s a lot of pink.” Said Max. He held a plate of beef tenderloin and french bread slices.
“Yes, a bit too much really, but Bree adores pink.” Jose´ appeared, his arms full of bright pink feather boas, “Trade with me, Gorgeous,” He took the tray from Max, and handed over the pink feathers, “Go on over there to the grand piano and make use of that brawn. Marcie, she’s the tall, girl with the green dress, and orange hair, she’ll tell you what to do.” Jose´ then turned his attention on them, “You ladies follow me.” Andie and Layla dutifully followed. If she hadn’t seen the gates for herself when they drove through, she’d swear she was somewhere else. Where, she had no clue, Wonderland, maybe.
A variety of disco lights adorned every flat surface, resulting in a pink and white light show rotating around the entire room. Bright pink, and silver metallic boas were draped along the walls like streamers. Sheer fabric in various pink shades adorned the walls and covered the remaining lights giving the room a pink glow. And the corner with the Grand Piano was set up like a stage, complete with a sound system Andie suspected was a karaoke machine. She noted the sculpture was still there, but now it had a variety of pinks streamers hanging from it. The white sofa was adorned with pink pillows. The silver-gray chars were covered in shiny pink pleather tied down like slip covers. And in the dining room. Wow. Just Wow. The arched windows were draped out in pink feathers and metallic beads and the chandelier was draped with tulle in every shade of pink from palest blush to neon fuscia.
As for Andie’s four-tier chocolate cake, it had been transformed. “Happy Birthday Bree” in bright pink letters on the sides of the top three tiers, the bottom tier was surrounded with peonies and bits of silver confetti and the entire cake dazzled….
“There’s pink glitter on the cake.”
“It’s edible,” Jose´ said, taking her platter and placing it on the table next to a plate chocolate covered strawberries.
“Won’t Bree think something’s up when she sees she’s at EverMay.”
Jose shrugged, “I told her we were giving her a tour for her birthday. She knows nothing about the party.”
“How in the blazes did you do all this?” Layla asked, setting the shrimp platter on the dining table.
“Tommy’s boyfriend’s ex, Steve, is a party planner. Super nice guy. That’s him over there helping set up the karaoke machine.” Jose´ explained, picking up the tray Layla had just set down and placing it at the other end of the table next to a platter of sushi. “And his boyfriend has one of those extreme cake design bakeries. He’s been on the food network, that cake battle thing. I think he won.”
“Right.” Layla dragged out the word.
“But we were only gone twenty minutes.” Andie said.
“We had all this up in five.” Jose´ absently threw one hand over his shoulder and waved it in a little circle, stepping back and examining the table with a critical eye. He gave it a satisfied nod, then picked up a bottle of Perrier, pouring it into glasses, “If it’s one thing the Gay community has down to a science,” He popped in a lime wedge before handing them each one, “It’s how to celebrate.”
“Wow, you guys are amazing.” Andie sipped her water, taking in the scene around her.
Jose´ poured himself a Perrier and lime and took a long sip, “We are, aren’t we?”
Macarena came flying across the room waving a bright pink boa over her head, “She’s here. She’s here!!!”
Jose´ took charge. Setting his Perrier down he marched to the center of the room and with a double clap, issued commands, “Lights. Dim the lights….no no leave the disco lights on. Spotlight on the cake. Jamie, be ready to put the spot on Bree. The rest of you, hide!!!!
“It’s like a Broadway show.” Andie whispered, crouched with Layla behind the sofa
“Broadway isn’t this much fun.” Layla whispered back, “I am soooo having a drag queen birthday next year…”
“Shush, you two.” Jose´ knelt beside them.
Andie peeked over the couch to see the door open, she heard sniffling, consoling words and then Bree’s voice, “Oh, Oh my goodness….”
And the light show commenced…..
A pink spotlight hit Sabrina as a pink glow slowly lit up the room, the disco lights spun and Donna Summer belted out MacArthur Park.
Bree squealed and ran to the stage, taking the mike, blowing kisses all around, “Oh thank you, thank you all!!” She cried, “I’ve dumped the slimy, jack-ass, so let’s get down!!!”
Shouts of love you babe, hello gorgeous, atta girl, and you look fabulous…and then the music started thumping.
“Come on Lay-lay,” Jose´ grabbed Layla’s hand, dragging her to the cleared dance floor. “Let’s show these queens how it’s done.” and pulled her onto the middle of the makeshift dance floor. The furniture had been rearranged while they were on platter duty.
For her part Andie grabbed a plate and started piling it shrimp. She’d missed dinner and lunch seemed like days ago.
“You’re Andie, right?” She turned to see Tommy’s boyfriend’s ex, Steve, the party planner looking very put together for a guy who’d shifted reality in under half an hour. Not one bright red hair was out of place and not so much as a wrinkle marred his sky-blue silk shirt and gray slacks, but she did see random glitter glinting when the disco light hit him.
“Yes, and you’re Steve, it’s nice to meet you.”
“My dear, the pleasure is mine. I want to thank you for doing all this. Sabrina has had a tough year. I’m not betraying confidence, I’m sure she’d tell you herself, she lost her father, and they were such a close family….”
“Oh, no,” Andie sought out Sabrina on the dance floor, “I’m so glad we could help.”
“Oh honey, You’ve gone way beyond help.”
“What about her mother?”
A fond smile lit Steve’s face “Oh, Frannie’s alive and kicking. She would love this.”
“Is she local? I could send one of the security guys to pick her up.”
“Oh…that would be wonderful…” Tears filled the man’s hazel eyes. He blinked them away and pulled out his phone, “I’ll call her. It’s her bingo night. She doesn’t answer while playing, but they break up around ten”
Forty-five fun minutes later, a stressed Max returned in a sea of multi-colored tracksuits, and spectacular dye jobs.
“Oh my God, Mama!!!!” Sabrina jumped for joy, clapping her hands and running across the dance floor. She lifted a tiny woman with a shock of bright orange hair, spun her around, and carried her to the stage, “Mama’s here!!!! Karaoke time!!!!”
“Man, this is a fun party.” Layla, taking a break from the dancing, came over and grabbed a strawberry off her plate.
“Hey, get your own…”
“Miss Chase,” Max’s unusually serious tone grabbed her attention. She turned to see him looking…. well she wasn’t sure how he looked, but he wasn’t happy.
“Is there a problem?”
“Look, I’m all for good deeds, but if I have to go after any more little old ladies, I’m going to have to ask for hazard pay.”
“Wow, this strawberry is awesome.” Layla munched away.
“Hazard Pay?” Andie repeated. Maybe she’d misheard. The music, after all.
“Damn straight,” He threw his head in the direction of the ladies gathering around the dining table and loading up plates, “Those women are a menace.”
“Menace? To fashion maybe….” Layla said, using the distraction to snag another berry.
“Can’t keep their hands to themselves.” Max was watching the women like a jack-rabbit ready to run.
Layla choked on her strawberry. Andie reached over, patted her back, working hard to keep a straight face, “You’re not serious.”
“The hell I’m not” Max was positively indignant, “My butt’s pinched black and blue.”
“Black and blue?” Andie covered her mouth to hide her smile. Layla didn’t bother, choking down her mouth-full of berry, she burst out laughing and somehow managed to make it sexy. Andie marveled at her skill.
Max wasn’t impressed, “You laugh,” The big man shuddered, “But I’m telling you those ladies are downright aggressive.”
Laughter found its way out of her throat, joining Layla’s. Her friend flopped back on the sofa howling, tears rolling from her eyes, making mascara trails and still she was gorgeous. If Andie didn’t love her so much she’d hate her on principle.
“Frannie can belt.” Andie covered one ear as the tiny woman belted about cakes left in the rain.
“Bree’s no slouch.” Layla mumbled between bites of chocolate covered pineapple. She’d consumed all the strawberries, and was moving on to the rest of the fruit.
“Excuse me, Andie?” She turned to Cheyenne who’d quit her job working for the weasel and come to celebrate, “There’s a couple people here. This gorgeous blond hunk-a-love……”
Andie knew who it was from Layla’s narrow-eyed reaction, “What the fuck is that ass doing here. And shit, uh… oh.” Layla froze, a chunk of pineapple halfway to her mouth.
That “oh” Didn’t sound good. Andie turned and there stood Nate wearing a huge grin and beside him… “Oh, shit.” Andie felt the blood drain from her face.
“Got that right.” Cheyenne grabbed the chunk of pineapple from Layla’s motionless fingers. “Hang on to your ta-tas girls. Mama’s home.”
Oh shitty-shitty shitty-shitty shitty-shitty fuck!!!
“Uh, I’m just gonna go and check on the… uh… pot roast…” Layla cut into her curse filled panic attack…and check on the what..oh hell no. Andie caught her friend by the arm mid-slink…
“Don’t even think about it.”
“What?” Layla tried for wide-eyed innocent and might have pulled it off, if not for the darting glances she kept shooting over her shoulder to the two people rapidly approaching.
“I am not explaining the Drag Queen birthday by myself.”
“Well, hi there Andie, Layla, you guys having a party?” Nate’s annoyingly jaunty voice came from right behind her, she turned around.
Sure enough, Nate, his eyes sparkling with wicked humor, stood beside Eveyln in her wheelchair.
“Hello Nate, um yes, it’s a birthday party.” She squeezed Layla tighter when she felt her attempt to pull away.
“Well, it looks like a hell of a good time, shame Damien’s not here.”
“Yeah,” Oh lord, she felt sick, “About that…it’s a little complicated…”
“I’m sure…” Nate nodded all mock understanding. Damn, she almost wanted to bean him with a shoe herself.
“Nate, behave.” The woman at his side spoke up. She looked as nervous as Andie felt and somehow that made it better, “Layla, Andie it’s nice to see you again.”
“Evelyn, good to see you as well,” Oh crap, that sounded hokey, “Um I’m sorry Damien’s not here…”
“Not as sorry as I am..” Nate said rocking aback on his heels.
For crying out loud. Andie was ready to throw a Jimmy Choo or two herself.
“Nate that’s enough.” Evelyn shot her son a severe look. Instantly he quieted, but that mischievous grin was still there. “Yes, we knew Damien had to go out of town suddenly. We just had dinner down the street…” The elegant woman explained, her discomfort growing. Andie’s eyes darted between mother and son. What was that about?
“And Chase, Layla’s security guy called,” Nate took over, looking pleased as punch, “And when he mentioned you were having a party, well, we thought we might stop by…..”
Oh, that’s what that was about.
“WHAT?” Layla’s hiss pierced the air.
Oh, shit. Layla was pissed, and in the Jimmy Choos. Survivors instinct had Andie reaching for Evelyn and taking a couple of steps back. Who knew what would have happened, but before disaster could strike, a hoard of Mom Jeans and track suits descended.
“Mrs Drake, Ma’am,” Frannie marched right up to Evelyn, leaned down, and wrapped her in a quick, tight hug, “From one mother to another, I just want to thank you for raising such a fine son who would do this wonderful thing for my little ‘Brina.”
“Oh, well, of course.” Evelyn’s eyes followed Frannie’s extended arm to the stage where ‘little’ well-over-six-feet Brina was rounding out her Donna Summer tribute with “She Works Hard for the Money.”
“It’s been so hard, what with my Herb leavin’…” Frannie’s eyes watered. Her bingo partners offered sympathetic murmurs of agreement.
A silver haired coral lipped lady took over, “And you know some people wouldn’t open their homes up to our sweet Bree. Prejudice being what it is.”
“It must be very difficult.” Evelyn nodded her understanding. Andie had to hand it to her. She grasped the situation quickly, and her offer of sympathy was gentle and sincere.
“It is sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of it, I wouldn’t.” Frannie sniffled, “But this is a party and we’re here to have a good time.” A determined smile lit the woman’s features, “You come with me and I’ll make you one of my famous vodka stingers. The liqueur cabinet was locked and Jose´, he’s such a sweet boy, he couldn’t find the key, but Nina picked it with a bobby pin….” Frannie slid behind Evelyn’s wheelchair and rolled away with her
“And just who is this gorgeous young man?” The coral lipped lady eyed Nate.
“Nathan Drake, Ma’am…pleased to meet….”
But Lady in Lavender had already taken him by the arm and was leading him to the dance floor.
“Well, Nate we need dance partners, that Max is cute as a button, but he’s a little standoffish. Says he’s on duty….”
Andie watched Nate being led away by the flock of pink and denim. She saw Lavender’s hand move.
Layla snickered. “Serves him right, the ass. I hope he can’t sit down for a week. I’m a little worried about Evelyn though…”
Andie’s eyes followed Layla’s to the wet bar that had magically appeared where there had only been a marble and stone wall between the dining room and living space and Holy crap! that thing had been hidden perfectly seamlessly into the wall how the hell they’d found it, Andie didn’t know but find it they did. They clustered all around it, Evelyn in their midst. And Frannie.. shit…. the woman had a bottle in each hand…
“Damn, look at her go.” Layla whispered, “She’s like Tom Cruise in that Kokomo movie….”
“I don’t know about this…”
“Oh shit, mamma found the booze.” Bree appeared beside them, wringing her hands. “Uh, maybe we should go switch out the good china for plastic or something.”
“Yeah…” Andie said. There were an awful lot of breakables on that dining table. Apparently Jose´ was thinking along the same lines. He waved them over with one arm, while motioning to Cheyenne with the other. She in turn, was putting her waitress skills to work removing the crystal goblets from the table and loading them on a tray.
The three of them rushed across the room, weaving in between the dancing bodies. Including a very uncomfortable looking Nate who was trying to put distance between himself and Coral Lipstick while simultaneously removing her hand from his behind.
Andie heard Layla snicker again.
As soon as the got to Jose´ he was pushing stemware at them. “You two get the crystal put away. Bree, you and Layla be ready to grab the booze. I’ll distract Frannie.”
“I don’t know how you’re planning on doing that,” Bree’s worried gaze strayed to Frannie, who had moved on from mixing to lining up shot glasses, “Once mamma starts pourin’ all bets are off.”
Jose’s gaze followed Bree’s, “Damn, time to pull out the big gun,” He disappeared into the kitchen and came back dragging Max behind him.
So that’s where the security guys were hiding. Put a whole new spin on covering your ass.
“Now listen…” Max protested, pulling against Jose’s hold, his eyes darting around the room in an effort to locate any hostiles, “I didn’t sign up for…”
“No, you listen. You’re here to protect sugar-buns and his property, and that’s what you’re going to do. Believe me, you do not want those ladies snockered. Tipsy is bad enough. Now get that fine touchie over there and distract Frannie.” Jose´ shoved Max towards the bar, “Bree you and the girls get ready to grab as many bottles as you can. Alright now go, go, go!!!” With one last shove, he sent Max into enemy territory. The ladies parted like the red sea, then closed ranks, and poor Max was surrounded.
“Uh, Miss Frannie, me and the guys were wondering if you would sing us another song…”
“Smart, she can’t pinch his butt from the stage.” Layla whispered, right as Max yelped and jumped, “Oooh, blond bouffant in the blue pantsuit got him. He forgot to watch his six….”
“Watch his six?” Andie whispered out of the side of her mouth.
“Means watch your back. Read it in a romance novel.” Layla hissed back, “It’s military talk.”
Max was spinning in circles to protect his rear, but his effort was paying off. Frannie put down the bottles to give his behind a pat, “Well, now I guess I can take a break from pourin’ to do a Gladys Knight number.” She grabbed Max and pulled him across the dance floor past a grinning Nate who had his back and butt to the wall, “But I’ll need some Pips…”
“Uh…I’m on duty…..” Max’s face went from uncomfortable to full on panic. Andie caught sight of the remaining four security guys streaming in from the kitchen. No doubt eager to see Max’s floor show.
“This won’t take long…” Frannie kept dragging until poor Max was standing in front of the grand Piano… She let go of him long enough to grab Nate, whose grin melted like ice-cream on hot concrete, “You too, handsome.”
“I don’t know the song…” Nate attempted a polite protest.
“That’s all right. Steve can show you the ropes. He’s done this plenty.”
“Oh my god,” Beside her, Layla whipped out her phone, “This is sooo going on my face book page…”
“No! Layla, stop.” Andie grabbed for the phone, but Layla was so much taller she, pulled it out of reach, “I mean it Layla. Damien is very private.” She grabbed again.
“So? He’s not in it.” Layla danced away and held up the phone as the first strains of music started. Andie was about to tackle her, but help came from Jose. He came up behind Layla and plucked the phone from her hand.
“Layla, that’s enough.”
And Andie was torn between watching the drama on the stage and the drama beside her….
“L.A. Proved to much for the man… “
In front of her, Frannie belted. Nate moved his lips, Max just stood there, and Steve, who had a very nice voice, sang “Too much for the man” solo.
“Dammit Jose´ give me my phone!”
Beside her, Layla jumped Jose to snatch her phone back,
Leavin’ a life he’s come to know..”
In front of her, Frannie kept belting. Steve kept Pipping, Max looked around for an escape, and Nate grinned at Layla’s attempt to get her phone back.
“Layla Delsi Markham, STOP! I’m responsible for this party and I won’t have it!”
Jose´ scolded in the tone he used when she tried to leave the house wearing yoga pants.
In front of her:
“Goin back to find…” Steve added the classic Pip spin-and-step to his solo, bumping into Max, who knocked Nate into the grand piano. ‘The Kiss’ wobbled.
“Ooo Ooo Ooo What’s left of his world.” Without missing a beat, Frannie reached out and caught it.
Jose shoved at Layla’s grasping hands, “I’ve got enough trouble with the Bingo Babes…”
Time Out. Andie just had to know. “Bingo Babes?”
Jose flipped a thumb at Frannie, “They’ve got tee-shirts.”
“He left behind, not so long ago.” Frannie reached out and grabbed Max when he tried to slink off.
Layla went for an all-out, grasping grab-a-thon.“Dammit Jose, GIMME!”
Jose whacked her on the head with her own phone, “No. I will not allow you to violate Sugar-Buns. “Now, go help the queens hide the booze.”
“He’s leavin’ on that Midnight train to Georgia… “
Frannie’s hand slithered down to Max’s butt.
Jose shoved she and Layla towards the bar, “Go help the queens hide the booze!”
Max yelped, jumping away from Frannie’s wandering hand and smashing into Steve, who was mid-spin. He collided with Nate, who’d given up and was bent double, shaking with laughter. And all three Pips went down in a tangle of arms, legs, and well-pinched asses.
Layla abandoned grabbing for her phone to grab her ribs, her husky laugh rolling out. Andie’s much less attractive wailing, choking, snorts filled the air, but with the queens roaring and the security guys falling all over each other howling, her embarrassing sounds were drowned out. Even Evelyn, who was still beside the bar, giggled behind her Vodka Stinger.
And over all this – hands clapping. One set of hands, coming from behind her. The laughter stopped – instantly. It was like someone hit the mute button.
Before she heard Layla’s ‘oh shit’…she knew. Before she saw Evelyn’s smiling giggle disappear, she knew. Before she saw heard Bree’s breathless, “Oh my….”, before she saw Max scrambling attempts to rise from the floor, before she heard Jose´’s soft exclamation, and before Nate threw out his laughing, “Hey, bro ..” …she knew.
And before she felt the heat at her back, the breath on her hair, the light caress of hands that gripped her shoulders and turned her around, before she looked into the fathomless depths of that silver stare, and inhaled that intoxicating scent, before she felt the light kiss on her cheek and the words brush her ear…. she knew.
”So kitten, have we cut the cake, yet?”
Damien – ten minutes ago
Drake rubed his eyes, his phone at his ear as Simon turned the SUV on to EverMay Drive. He hadn’t had time to check his messages, too busy dealing with the shit storm in Richmond, and in all likihood he’d be flying back down tomorrow. he should have stayed overnight, but the thought of being away from Andie… fuck it, that’s what coroporate jets were for. He checked his watch, 11:38 p.m. He wondered if she even home yet. He had no idea how long a drag queen beauty pageant lasted.
‘You have…four..new messages’
Oh, well, he’d been called worse…
“I hate to collect on that favor so quickly, but we’ve had a bit of an emergency, and we’re going to have to use EverMay for a little get together. Now, don’t you worry. We know how to behave ourselves…You won’t even know we’ve been here. …..”
What the hell?
Simon stopped to enter the code. The gates swung open.
‘Next new message’
“Damien, um I hate to bother you, but it’s just well, Sabrina had to give up her crown and it’s her birthday, and her boyfriend’s a weasel, and we have all that cake…and oh, I hope this is alright….but I said they could have the party here at EverMay…..Jose´’ promised to keep it simple. I hope everything is alright there….I’ll…um save you some cake…”
Save him some… what the fuck?
‘Next new message’
“Mr. Grey, sir, this is Max, everything is fine here, but if you could call me when you get this message. Uh… I’m not sure how to proceed with this whole party thing…uh…yeah…just call when you can.”
“Uh Sir” Simon called from the front, “You having a party?”
It sure as shit looked like it. Cars lined the circular drive. EverMay was lit up, the windows glowing….holy shit!
Next new message
“Hey Bro, heard you’re throwing a party. I gotta say, I’m a little hurt I didn’t get an invite…”
‘End of new massages’
“Sir, your house is glowing pink.”
It sure as shit was.
He stepped into the vestibule…..and Holy Fucking Hell!!!
No wonder the windows glowed pink. EVERYTHING was pink. No, the lighting was pink, casting everything in a pink glow. He was half afraid to go any further, but then he heard Andie’s voice…
…Adonis is very private….
..So, he’s not in it…
Three more cautious steps took him to the end of the vestibule where it opened to the Great-Room and an explosion of color, light, and feathers nearly blinded him…and if he wasn’t mistaken, his ears were picking up ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’. Then he saw Andie all over another woman he assumed to be Layla, who looked like she was trying to film something with her phone. His eyes drifted to the make-shift stage in front of the Piano, so this was the source of the music. A short, older lady with bright red hair was singing the Gladys Knight number and behind her……one ‘pip’ spun right into….Shit was that Max?…. shoving him into…. holy fucking hell..Nate??? Well damn, he couldn’t blame Layla for wanting to get that on film. He had half a mind to whip his own phone out….
“Oh, hi, you must be Damien.” The husky voice beside him drew his eyes from the comedy playing out in front of him.
He turned to see a woman, a tiara sitting atop her shocking purple hair and a purple sash across her red dress identifying her as Washington D.C. Christmas Queen 2017.
“Yes, Damien Drake,” He extended his hand, “Allow me to congratulate you on your win.”
She grasped his hand in both of hers, and sighed, “Gorgeous, rich, and well mannered, I could almost hate Andie, but I can’t hate anyone so sweet and generous. I’m Macarena, It’s so nice to meet you.”
He was distracted from answering by the shouting….
…won’t allow you to violate sugar-buns…
To her credit, Macarena responded with just the smallest giggle, “We um…were under the impression you wouldn’t be arriving home until tomorrow. We would have had all this cleaned up….”
“Yes, that was the plan…” He was distracted again by the melee of a floor show happening in front of the Piano. For some reason, Max jumped about a foot in the air and came down on the only fully functioning ‘pip’. They both crashed into his brother, who didn’t see them coming because he was bent double laughing. He watched, stupefied, as all three men went crashing to the ground…
The entire room erupted into laughter, and he had to admit, he wished he’d been recording. Then, over the din of chaos he heard that familiar, cute as hell, hooting snort, and the tension he’d been carrying for the last eight hours melted away. He found himself fighting a smile as he brought his hands together in slow, spontaneous applause. After all, the show had been plenty entertaining.
Silence settled on the room like a blanket. Max jumped up from the floor, the red headed woman stopped singing. His kitten had her back to him, her shoulders tensed, but she wouldn’t turn around. Damn, he had to get his hands on her. It seemed to take forever to cross the suddenly still room. Finally, he stood behind her, reaching out he turned her around, lowered his head a brushed his lips along her silky cheek.
Breathing her in, he whispered against her ear, “So kitten, have we cut the cake yet?”
His kitten stumbled and spun stammering all the while, “Uh…well..um..it’s just…Bree got dumped…”
He pulled back to look into her blue eyes, wide and panicked. He bit back his smile, “Did she?”
“Actually, I did the dumping.” A tall blond drag queen in a shiny pink dress offered.
“Oh, right…” Andie’s wide gaze darted over to her, “Sorry, anyway…her boyfriend’s a weasel…”
“Ex-boyfriend.” The queen spoke again.
“A weasel?” He felt his lips twitch, his hands feathered up and down her bare arms. Not touching her wasn’t an option.
“Uh-huh…and a bastard…”
“And a vile cheating she-whore.” This from Layla. He glanced over to see a vicious expression on her lovely face, “I still say she should have clobbered his nuts with the peep-toe.”
“Damn, right.” The red-headed woman with the mike agreed heartily.
“Yes, I imagine that would have been quite a memorable lesson.” Major ball-buster was right. Nate was in for a shit-load of trouble with that one. The thought almost had his smile breaking free.
“And he owns the club….and It’s Bree’s birthday…” His kitten continued to stammer.
“And since Bree was wearing the peep-toes, I’m assuming she’s the one who gave up her crown.” One hand left her arm to rest low on her hip.
“Yes, uh yes that’s right….and well, they couldn’t have the party at the weasel’s, and we have all that cake…”
“Yes, it is a lot of cake…” His eyes moved to the cake that, like EverMay, had undergone a major transformation, “There’s pink glitter all over it.”
“It’s edible.” Jose´ spoke up for the first time.
“Yes..um.. Tommy’s boyfriend’s ex, Steve, is a party planner…” Kitten pointed a shaking finger over at the red headed pip.
“It’s quite a transformation.” He stated the obvious.
“Thank-you,” Came the pip’s gracious reply, “It’s easy when you’re working with such a wonderful space.”
He acknowledged the compliment with a slight nod.
“…and his boyfriend owns one of those extreme cake design bakeries.” The woman in his arms rattled on, “I’m not sure I got his name…”
“Flynn, Flynn Wallace,” a voice spoke from the kitchen, where a bald stocky man in a blue and white striped shirt and a yellow bow-tie, stood next to a tall African-American with vivid green hair, both had their arms full of liqueur bottles. He decided not to ask, “Nice to meet you.”
“And, um..” Andie’s hesitating voice brought his eyes back to hers in time to see her bite down on her sweet, plump bottom lip, “I thought you weren’t coming back until tomorrow…”
So did he…
Reaching out he tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering around the delicate shell, “I missed you,” the simple truth fell from his lips. His hand on her hip flexing, caressing the warmth he needed closer. He felt her tiny shiver.
Her mouth opened in a surprised gasp,“You did?” the words were barely more than a breath…. and everything around him faded out of existence.
“Mmm-hhmm…” He lowered his head, his lips meeting hers, “Very,” he sipped that sweet bottom lip, “very,” moved up and sipped the little bow on the top, “much.” a brush against her damp mouth.
Gradually murmurs around them filtered into his consciousness.
“Oh, oh my…”
“Sign me up for some of that…”
“Mercy, is it hot in here?”
“That is what I call yum-yum good..”
“Got to get me one of those…”
“I think my panties just melted…”
“If only I were twenty years younger…”
“Try Forty, Frannie…”
“Damien, perhaps we should cut the cake?”
What the hell? His head shot up, “Mom?”
“Hello, dear,” his mother looking elegant as always, sat in her wheelchair next to the bar, sipping from a martini glass.
He lifted his hands from Andie’s hip and tucked her into his side, “What are you doing here? Not that I’m not glad to see you….”
“Yes, well, Nate and I were having dinner nearby….”
“And Bruce the snitch,” Layla interrupted, “My former body-guard, called to inform your jack-ass, nosy, good for nothing brother that we were having a party.” Layla’s eyes were shooting venom at Nate, where he still lazed by the Piano. He proved he had no sense at all by laughing.
“Now, what kind of guard would he be if...Hey! Shit! What the fuck….. OW!! Dammit that hurt!
“But Mom…she threw a shoe at me!”
“Damn,” Grey whispered, “She is fast.”
“Layla played fast-pitch softball in high-school.” Andie explained.
“Shit, she must have been damn good.” He watched the second shoe fly across the room.
“Oh yeah,” Andie nodded, wincing as the shoe slammed into Nate’s chest, “State Champs.”