Authors: Caroline M. Townes
By Caroline M. Townes
Copyright © 2015 by Caroline M. Townes
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Sara- Anne Bexley followed her parents out of the black short limo and was immediately surrounded by security. Her floor length evening gown in a titanium blue sequin glimmered in the light of the flashes of the cameramen who stood to the sides of the red carpet outside of the London Natural History Museum. A cool breeze made her shiver as she walked up the steps of the museum, her cowl back dress exposed her bare skin to the autumn breeze.
This benefit had socialites and horrendously rich philanthropists attending from all over the world and Sara just happened to be the daughter of people who fit into both categories. She rarely came to these events anymore, preferring to be out of the limelight, she focused mainly on university back in the United States.
She wanted to be anywhere but a public function like this, she just needed to dig herself in and finish her mass of papers that was due at the midpoint of the month. Not flying across the world to attend some party. Silk Kelly, the London socialite and hostess of this event, had specifically asked her parents to bring Sara to this event- she couldn’t say no.
She trailed behind her parents who were shaking the hands of all the men in their penguin suits and all of the women in their glamorous gowns. Sara found herself playing her role quite well, shaking hands, giving hugs, kissing cheeks with a smiled plastered onto her face and a dramatic laugh ringing out every time she heard some terribly unfunny joke or pun. She could win a glamourous acting award with talent like that
Whether she liked it or not, this was to be her life one day, and although she didn’t enjoy it on any level she was quite masterful at going through the motions. She looked almost as comfortable as her parents. The room was full of dresses, glittering jewels and matching tuxedos accompanied by fancy Rolex watches, the popping sound of bottles and laughter – this was the norm.
These sort of things often had some sort of sexual ritual, such as auctioning a woman’s first dance of the night. Sara had often wondered if any of the other guests noticed the inappropriate nature of the archaic practices associated with these things. Furthermore she found it was totally insane that people, including herself, would spend all that money to fly around the world, pay for a hotel, and purchase dresses that likely cost the same as an economic car… especially when they could simply just donate the money instead. It simply made too much sense to do it that way. Why make a huge donation when you could spend money on travel, clothes and luxury before making a donation to whatever cause they were benefiting.
“Save the Rainforest” was the cause for the event; but it seemed to be little more than an excuse for people to buy new nauseatingly expensive outfits, drink wine, and show off just how successful and rich people are. On the other hand, it felt a little like a meat market. Other young singles, trust-fund babies mostly, had come with their parents in hopes of finding a “suitable mate”.
To Sara it was absolutely barbaric; the idea of marrying “well” seemed to be an outdated and absolutely ridiculous practice. Especially considering that her grandparents on her mother’s side of the family were farmers and her grandparents on her father’s side only owned one hotel and by no means had a fortune.
Still Sara smiled politely when a mother would approach her with a young son and a sly toothy grin. Sara was fortunately well practiced at the polite “Oh how wonderful to meet you” act, her mother would push her to engage a little, and after a few minutes Sara would lie and say that she needed to freshen up or saw someone she absolutely had to say hello to. This was a practiced routine.
Functions like this were a game, an effort that allowed rich people to impractically grasp to their past as masters of the universe (this idea crashed and burned long ago, so much for the glory days). For Sara, events like this were a headache.
As she took her seat at the round table next to her mother she welcomed a glass of champagne from the waiter who had approached them from behind.
“Numbing the pain, dear?” Her mother asked with a touch of humor in her voice.
“You know me too well.” Sara replied sardonically, taking a large sip of her sparkling beverage.
“Do you have to fly back tomorrow?” Her mother asked, sadness sweeping over her eyes, “We don’t get to see you often anymore.”
“I do mom, I have school. But I’m sure you’ll be seeing me much more when I’m finished.” Sara’s voice also had a touch of melancholy, she really did miss her parents, but they were always traveling. Their lifestyle didn’t allow them to stay in place, and Sara’s didn’t allow her to be on the move.
Her father interrupted, sitting where his place card directed.
“I hope you two aren’t depressing each other again,” he chuckled, knowing it was a common occurrence when they got together.
He fumbled around pulling an envelope out from under his plate. Sara and her mother quizzically watched him open it. His face was expressionless, however, the blood drained from his face.
“We have to go.” He said swiftly, standing up and turning to walk towards the door. Her mother caught up to him, as she followed. She could see the side of her mother’s face as her father spoke and could identify the lines of worry that had suddenly appeared.
He ushered them to the limousine but didn’t get in.
“I have a car picking me up, I have to take care of some… things.” He said, explaining himself to Sara, “If I don’t see you before you fly home, it was wonderful to see you and you look stunning tonight.”
“Thanks, daddy”, she whispered, the confusion and worry evident in her voice, “Is everything okay?”
He didn’t even hesitate, “Of course it is, my girl. Of course, just work.”
“Okay,” Sara said hesitantly, “Well, I love you.”
She slid into the limo, hoping her mother would give her some insight to their abrupt flee from the event her mother had been talking about for months. However, she gave no indication as to why they had left, and they rode back to the hotel in silence.
The next morning her father wasn’t able to see her off as she flew home. She gave her mom a firm hug, and felt the small shakes of her mother who always cried when they had to say goodbye. This time, something was different. She wasn’t sure what, but she could sense it. Something was terribly wrong.
“This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honor, is but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
– William Shakespeare
Sara Bexley sat at the kitchen table-turned desk and saved her essay before sinking back into her chair. Her honey blonde hair fell into her face as she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. All she had to do was hand in her work and she would have three weeks of beaches, margaritas, and sunshine. Normally she would go visit her parents for Christmas break, but they were traveling for business, and though she was invited to go with them, a break in Brazil would be the perfect present to herself.
She looked around the messy suite, living on campus definitely had its benefits. She could usually get to class in a matter of minutes, there was always something going on at one of the campus pubs, and it was the perfect place to be normal.
She bit down on her lip as she thought about her parents whom she hadn’t seen for weeks. When she had last seen them something was troubling them, but as usual, they wouldn’t share what it was with her. She sighed, shaking her head. Sara realized it must have been something to do with her father’s business. If that was the case, she was better off minding her own business.
There was a loud startling bang at the door and Sara quickly turned around to see her drunk roommate returning from the frat party down the street with their equally drunken friend Amanda. Carrie had finished her papers two days early and was eager to celebrate, which she had been doing since finishing her term.
Carrie was tall and olive skinned, she had exotic green eyes and looked like a super model. Sara could never get over how striking Carrie was. Sara thought of how different the two of them looked. Amanda had flaming curly red hair, fair skin, and deep blue eyes; she looked like one of the women that those Celtic songs were written about, a fair beauty. Sara was by no means plain, but neither were her looks as exaggerated as either of her friends. Sara had long straight blonde hair, gray eyes, and full lips. She wasn’t as slender as Carrie, nor was she as voluptuous as Amanda, they were so different, and yet she was sometimes so envious of both of their exaggerated features.
Amanda mumbled that she was just dropping Carrie off and stumbled back out of the door, slamming the door shut for the second time. Carrie staggered towards the table mumbling about how the last keg stand was the one to do her in, and Sara could do nothing but helplessly smile and pull out the emergency bucket that they kept under the sink for when someone was reckless enough to do keg stands, beer bongs, or some other dumb drinking experiment that was promoted in university culture.
“Seriously”, Carrie said, her eyes trying to focus on Sara, “You graduate in a year, then there won’t be time for any fun.”
Carrie walked to the only clear part of the counter, her steps with all the grace of a baby deer, she clumsily climbed onto the counter, and criss-crossed her legs before pulling her raven hair up into a messy bun, “Then you’re going to need to deal with real life.”
Carrie’s tone was ominous, foreshadowing the lack of freedom that Sara’s future held. Sara’s parent’s had great expectations for her. Her parents owned a resort chain, and Sara was expected to take over the family business. She didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, going to university was just for appearances, and it only looked like she had a choice in her future.
Sara knew that she was lucky, most people didn’t have the privilege that she did, and many people would kill to be able to run her parent’s resort chain. But while she was at university she was going to try to be as normal as possible, that’s why acing this paper was essential.
Sara broke out of her daydream to the sound of snoring. Carrie was now sprawled out across the counter, completely passed out.
Shaking her head, Sara walked to Carrie and gently shook her awake. Carrie half opened her eyes, and gave a sorry lopsided grin. Sara had a feeling that Carrie was going to have a messy night as she helped Carrie to her room. She used the throw pillows Carrie’s bed to act as a barrier, keeping Carrie on her side in the fetal position. Sara laid the “puke bucket” on the floor beside Carrie’s head and backed out the door leaving the door cracked so she could listen in on her friend.
Sara made it to her room and flung herself down onto the soft mattress, still covered in pillows. She sprawled out on her bed, too tired to change out of her clothes, as she began to drift off. She thought about her ticket that was beside her on her bedside table, it was finally real. Despite her being half asleep, her stomach jumped a little in excitement. The piece of paper represented so much, for three weeks it would serve to be her passport to freedom.
Sara woke up late, and found herself rushing to get everything handed in so she could get back to the university residence and pack. Her parents would kill her if they found out she was going to be backpacking with her friends for three weeks in Brazil. The only suitable travel according to Sara’s parents was staying in high end resorts.
She returned home by 3 pm. Carrie was out, probably at the campus pub. Sara wanted to pack, they would be leaving at a god forsaken hour in the morning to get to the airport. Sara went to her dresser and pulled out her two bikinis, a towel, two bras, and a handful of panties and set them into her suitcase. She went to her closet and picked out three sundresses, and laid them on top of the rest of the clothes she had packed. She was done packing by 3:30 pm, and all she could do was wait. Bored, she turned to study herself in the mirror. Her large gray eyes gazed at herself, she was so pale… too pale, she definitely needed some sun.
Sara looked at her phone and saw that she had missed a total of ten messages from Amanda and Carrie. Sara was right, there were at the pub and of course they wanted her to come join them. Sara was sure that neither of them were packed for their early morning flight.
She sighed, it didn’t matter, they would throw something in a bag, be ready to go, and look great the entire trip. Neither of them had Sara’s “type A personality”. Sara couldn’t help but remember Carrie’s words “You graduate in a year, then there won’t be time for any fun.” Sara shuddered, as she mumbled to herself “I guess there is no time like the present…” as she grabbed her eggplant shrug, slipped on her flats and ran out the door.
The bar was full of students, all celebrating finishing exams or getting their final papers in for the semester before taking a well-deserved break. Amanda and Carrie were sitting with Adam and Matt who also lived in campus residence, they were all playing a drinking game where they passed a quarter under the table. She could tell the Carrie and Amanda were already drunk, she knew that the group would inevitably try to force her to catch up.
“Trouble’s here” Matt yelled making eye contact with Sara. He beckoned her over with a welcoming smile as the rest of the group cheered.
Sara flushed as she scurried over to her friends. Matt grabbed an empty glass from the counter behind him, set it in front of Sara while Adam poured from one of the group’s numerous pitchers into Sara’s glass. Matt slyly put his arm around her as Sara grabbed her glass.
“You sure you don’t want a big strong man to come protect you?” He whispered into Sara’s ear. Sara rolled her eyes and dug her elbow into matt’s rib cage moving her chair away from Matt. The group laughed, Matt had been trying to get with Sara all semester. Sara had made it clear over and over again that she was not interested… he wasn’t so good at taking hints.
Carrie suddenly stood up, interrupting Matt’s creeping, and raised her glass, “To Brazil, the trip of a life time”.
Adam chimed in “And for the rest of us, three weeks of no school!”
As the time passed by the event grew hazier. The group was on their third round of whisky shots when Amanda drove her elbow into Sara’s arm, missing, and hitting her directly in the ribs. She winced, “What the fuck, Amanda!”
“Sorry, but that hottie is checking you out” Amanda whispered, looking towards the bar.
“So you decided to break my rib?” Sara scowled.
Carrie looking in the direction in which Amanda was staring was a little less discrete, “Damn, Sara, he really is fucking hot.”
Sara looked down at her glass as she realized that her whole table was staring at the individual, she felt her ears burning with embarrassment.
“He’s not that hot,” Matt sulked.
“Stop staring” Sara hissed, not daring to look at the guy that had drawn everyone’s attention.
“If you don’t look, we’ll start pointing!” Adam laughed threateningly.
The table roared with drunken laughter as Sara slowly raised her eyes. The man didn’t seem to be checking her out, Sara thought to herself, he looked concerned… even mortified.
“Shut up guys, he can hear you!” Sara said through her clenched teeth, the man was staring back at the group, his brows were furrowed in seeming displeasure in the group’s antics. He really was beautiful, he had brown hair, he was clean cut, and even though he wore a t-shirt and jeans it was obvious that he was ripped underneath his clothes.
Sara made eye contact and mouthed the word “Sorry”. He answered with an understanding smile.
The three girls were hideously hung over and maybe even still a little drunk as they boarded their flight. As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, Amanda and Carrie ordered a Bloody Mary. Sara’s stomach turned as she looked out the window of the plane, surrounded by clouds.
The previous night had gotten a little bit too crazy.
Sara flushed, thinking about how the liquid courage made her think it was somehow a good idea to approach the beautiful man who kept looking in her direction. As she moved toward the stranger, her group cheered her on, and like a merciful angel he pretended not to notice.
“Sorry about… all that…” Sara said apologetically.
“Hey, what are friends for, if not to embarrass you,” The man said with an answering smile.
“Eric.” answered, the beautiful angel.
Upon a nearer look, Sara found that he was even more gorgeous up close. He had dark brown hair, a strong jaw, lightly tanned skin, blue eyes that were as bright as the summer sky. His muscular stature was perfect, Sara would have bet anyone that underneath that shirt was the body of a Greek god.
It took some convincing, but after chatting for a while, Sara had convinced Eric to come to her table and hang out with her and her friends. She was thrilled to find out that he went to the same university, which was obviously why he was on campus, he was doing his masters in geography and lived close to the campus. As he let the group know a little bit more about himself Carrie winked to Sara in approval, it was looking more and more like the man was dating material and maybe even relationship material.
He asked Sara about her upbringing, her family, and her studies. Sara, of course, gave a watered down version of the truth. She didn’t like people to know that she had come from money. She was privileged, and she knew it. It didn’t stop people from judging her for it or trying to gain fringe benefits.
Eric couldn’t keep his eyes off Sara, the constant warmth of his eyes on her made her feel uneasy, but surprisingly delighted. When she spoke he stared deep into her soul, she found him completely unnerving. Completely irresistible.
As, only her friends and family knew, it wasn’t very often that she connected with someone. It was even rarer for it to happen that quickly. Sara was known to be guarded and careful; men wanted her usually for one of three things:
1- To marry a woman from a rich family who would be deemed acceptable by his snobby rich family. 2- Meaningless sex. 3- To use her and her connections to further themselves. She was used to receiving attention for all of the wrong reasons and had to grow a strong armor to avoid getting hurt.
She immediately knew, after talking to him, that she didn’t stand a chance. Her guard, despite her best efforts, wasn’t only coming down but it seemed that it could possibly topple over. Somehow, after just one meeting, she was okay with that.
While waiting for a taxi to pick up Sara, Amanda, and Carrie; Sara had exchanged numbers with Eric and had promised to call him upon her return from Brazil. However, as she turned to walk away she felt a hand on her wrist pull her back, and she found herself in the arms of the man who she had been talking to all night, his lips firmly planted on hers. Sara’s heart was beating rapidly as she returned his kiss with urgency.
She could smell his beautiful musk, his warm sweet breath on her mouth as his lips lingered over hers.
The taxi honked as the girls cheered from inside the cab, and he released her.
“I just wanted to see what it was like,” he quickly explained, “In case you don’t call me when you get back.”
Sara smiled, closing her eyes and reclining the plane seat as she pictured the beautiful man she had met the night before. It wasn’t long before she drifted into a relaxing sleep.