Normally when I went to an event, it was centered on a runway, with hors d’oeuvres to feed people and a bar to lubricate them.This gala was different because it wasn’t a show, it was a fund-raiser for some charity, and that meant it was a sit down dinner with various presentations and pleas for cash.These were different in other respects, in that people were able to get up and walk around at various times, usually between courses, and because once the main dinner was over, it was possible to escape from the gala and congregate outside the main room.The promoters of the show had convinced the fashion industry to support it, and they’d sold tables for the event to raise some serious money.It was no surprise that Mode had bought a couple of tables, and it was no surprise that I was invited to sit at Bellona’s table.
I’d arrived before Bellona, so I wandered into the dining room to find our table, see what the set up was, and to get my bearings.Appropriately enough, our table was at the center of the room, but not too close to the podium.That was important, because it wasn’t good to be so involved in the event that it interrupted conversation at the table, and most people were nervous about being near a microphone during unguarded moments.I found one of Bellona’s assistants in there, hurriedly working on putting out name cards.I stayed out of her way until she was done, then went to see who was sitting with us.I found myself sitting on Bellona’s right, in between her and Carmelita Ferracci, the head of Mode’s Milan bureau.I looked to see who was on the other side of Bellona and was surprised to see that the card simply said ‘reserved,’ as did the one next to it.That was very odd.On the other side of the second reserved card sat Patrick Christian, and next to him sat Ella.Of course.
Jarvis came in to inspect things, so I engaged him in pleasant conversation, with an eye to finding out what the fuck was going on.We had a good rapport, and he seemed to understand that he could chat with me candidly and that I wouldn’t tell Bellona what he said.I thought about my brothers with annoyance, and how they used to give me shit for being a tattletale.If I were still doing that, Jarvis and I wouldn’t be friends.“Who’s sitting here?” I asked, pointing to the reserved signs.
“I don’t know, and when I asked, I was told to mind my own fucking business, although perhaps the wording was a bit different,” he said, making me chuckle.It was a rare occasion for the word ‘fuck’ to come from Bellona’s lips.She’d learned to be just as emphatic without using extreme profanity.
“Well then this should be interesting,” I told him.
“I am sure that it will be,” he said.“The general consensus at the shop is that Paris Hilton will be joining us.”When he talked about ‘the shop’ I knew he was referring to Mode.
“She’s pretty trashy for Bellona,” I noted ruefully.I was pretty annoyed that someone like that would be sitting with us, but then again, she was one of the Hiltons, so that gave her an entrée.
“That is an understatement,” Jarvis agreed in his haughty tone, outsnobbing me.
“Patrick managed to score a seat at Bellona’s table,” I said, raising an eyebrow.
“She was impressed with his preview, so inviting him here is her way of letting everyone know that,” Jarvis observed.
“That is a distinct honor,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure he deserved it. “I thought he did a good job, but I didn’t realize it was that terrific.”
“You want to argue with Bellona about that?” Jarvis challenged.
“No,” I said succinctly, making him chuckle.
“It was a relatively late addition, so I’m sure Patrick is as surprised as the rest of us,” he said.
“I thought she had these tables organized last month?”
He shrugged.“Maybe there were some cancellations.”
“Maybe,” I agreed.I headed out to the reception area and got a glass of wine, then proceeded to mingle with the people here who represented the height of this industry.I had a nice time, doing my usual routine at these things, where I stuck close to Bellona until she seemed to want me to leave her alone, and then I wandered around and chatted with other people.It was fun, because everyone was talking about the latest show or the latest trend, and they were not a little catty about it.I thrived on the gossip, and found the bitchiness of their comments to be hilariously entertaining. As the time for dinner grew near, the crowd grew larger, and then as it drew closer still, people clustered either in front of the entrance to the ballroom or near the bar.
This was a highbrow affair, so there were no tacky announcements demanding that people move into the dining room.If Gathan were in charge, someone would probably bang a gong and yell “soup’s on!” I thought to myself as I rolled my eyes at his family and how provincial they were.Instead, the staff merely opened the doors to welcome us, and everyone waited to go in until the big players like Bellona entered.I took that as my cue to go stand next to her while she finished up a conversation with one of the execs from Dior.She took her time, a clear power gesture, but not so long as to be rude.“Let us go,” she announced, and we dutifully followed her into the ballroom.As we headed to our table, I was stunned to see my brothers standing there, both of them looking really good.Their presence here, unannounced, totally freaked me out, but I still took a few seconds to study their appearance.Darius was wearing a black Armani suit that worked perfectly for him.It emphasized his slim but fit body, and the color brought out his dark hair and blended perfectly with his skin tone, making him look very sexy and exotic.Will was also dressed in black, wearing a Patrick Christian suit that made him seem like he was at least 25.The dark color looked good with his dark brown hair, but the best effect was that it made his bright green eyes really stand out.I pushed my observations aside and let myself ponder the most burning question:What the fuck were they doing here?
“Isn’t this a lovely surprise, Jeremy?” Bellona asked, with a slightly mischievous expression.“Your brothers flew here to spend the evening with us.”
“It certainly is,” I lied.
“Welcome, gentlemen,” she said to Will and Darius.“You two are some of the most handsome men I have ever seen who weren’t on the runway.”
“That’s very nice of you to say,” Will said, grinning, even as he shook her hand.
“Allow me,” Darius said to her, as he held out her chair for her.
“You are such a gentleman,” she said to him in a slightly flirtatious way.
“Not all the time,” he said, winking at her, and freaking me out.Darius was here in New York, hitting on Bellona?What was going on?
“I think I will remain standing until my guests arrive.”
“I can work with that,” he said, pouring on the charm.“Hey there,” he said to me, and gave me a man hug.I got a similar greeting from Will.I glared at them, but got a look in return that was just as unpleasant.
“So what are you guys doing here?” I finally asked.
“I came out to escort Bellona to this event,” Darius said.
“I was under the impression you were my guest, not my escort,” Bellona said in a slightly coquettish way that seemed strange coming from the dragon lady.
“That is disappointing,” Darius said, pretending to be sad.
“I said that was my impression, not that I wasn’t flattered to have you as my date,” she said, and slipped her hand through Darius’ arm.
“Good,” he said, and put his other hand on hers, as if to attach her firmly to him.
I stood there, freaking out inside, wondering what would happen next, when Patrick and Ella came up.The tension rose quite a bit, and I saw Bellona putting on her crocodile grin as she greeted both of them.What had originally been seen as a sign of honor for Patrick was now looking like a massive slap in the face to him, and even more to Ella.
“It’s nice to see you, Darius,” Ella said pleasantly, trying to make the best of the situation.
“Ella,” Darius acknowledged curtly.His single word greeting was cold enough to raise eyebrows around the table.He shook hands with Patrick in an obviously stunted greeting, one that everyone around was sure to notice.Both Patrick and Ella looked horrified, to the degree that they’d let those emotions show through, and Bellona seemed quite pleased with the drama.
It wasn’t surprising that our family cheerleader defused the situation.“Hey Ella,” Will said in a neutral tone, even as he gave her a kiss on the cheek.Based on the greeting from Darius, Will’s greeting was effusive.Ella was so freaked out; she excused herself, presumably to go to the ladies’ room.
“Patrick Christian,” he said, introducing himself to Will.
“Will Schluter,” he replied, tossing out his brightest smile as he shook Patrick’s hand.“I get to sit next to you at dinner?”
“Looks that way,” Patrick responded pleasantly, probably glad to have someone here who was being nice to him.“My lucky night.”
“That could very well be,” Will said, blatantly hitting on Patrick.I was infuriated with both of them for walking into my world and acting like complete sluts, but I just kept my mouth shut and watched them.
“You’re wearing my clothes,” Patrick told Will.
“You want them back?” Will asked, flirting shamelessly.
“No, they look great on you,” Patrick said, in a slightly sultry tone.
“I’d be happy to take them off for you,” Will said suggestively, but fortunately I think only Patrick and I heard him.
“We’ll have to work on that later on,” Patrick said.
“I would like to talk to you privately,” I hissed into Will’s ear.
“I’m sure we’ll have time later,” Will said obliquely, then refocused on Patrick.I turned to zero in on Darius instead, but he was totally focused on Bellona.This whole situation was ridiculous.He’d made her the center of attention, just like he did for one of the girls he was trying to fuck, and even more annoying was the fact that she seemed to be thriving on his attention.That was unusual, because even though she was constantly surrounded by handsome men, she seemed to almost be asexual.Maybe she just assumed all the guys around her were gay, I thought ruefully.I mean, this was the fashion industry.In any event, whatever it was, she was completely warming up to Darius.I spaced out a bit, so flummoxed was I by these events.
Ella came back to the table and pulled Patrick aside in what was obviously a pretty intense conversation, but that didn’t slow Will down.He just moved on and started chatting with Zac Posen.I wondered if he’d drag him to the bathroom and fuck him there, he was being so brazen.It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep an eye on him and simultaneously listen to Darius flirt with Bellona.I decided to stick next to Bellona, since she was the source of power in this group.
Patrick saw Will chatting with Zac and seemed to get a little jealous, which just made this whole thing even weirder.I was listening to Darius and Bellona while I watched Patrick and Ella.Their conversation seemed to flare up in intensity, then it ended.Ella turned on her heel and walked out, trying to do it in a graceful way, while Patrick watched her go.When she was almost to the door, Patrick wandered over to where Will was and the three of them chatted for a bit, until Zac Posen evidently decided to move on to talk with a different group, leaving Patrick and Will alone.I was intently watching this scene even as I listened to Darius prattle on with his bullshit pickup lines, as if he were trying desperately to get Bellona into bed.Patrick said something to Will, prompting him to immediately walk over to us.“Patrick just told me that Ella had to leave.She wasn’t feeling very well.”
“That’s too bad,” Darius said deadpan, his tone making it clear that he didn’t care if she was at death’s door.
“It certainly is,” Bellona agreed, just as insincerely.She led us over to Patrick and proceeded to console him.It was amazing that, now that Ella was gone, Darius was relatively pleasant to Patrick, and that largely dissipated the tension with our group.We all took our seats, but with Patrick having no one next to him, and Will having only Darius on his other side, that left the two of them free to talk to each other.I decided that with the way he was acting, Will would probably end up pulling a train later on tonight.
“I have a present for you,” Darius told Bellona.
“You certainly didn’t have to get me a present,” she said insincerely, as if she didn’t expect people to fawn all over her all the time.
“Actually, I’m just the messenger, it’s from Stefan,” he said.He pulled out a small jewelry box and handed it to her.
“Well, since he is not here and you gave it to me, I will just assume that it is from you,” she responded.“But please thank him for me.”
“You haven’t even seen what it is,” Darius said. I sat there, just staring at them, when Bellona noticed my intense look.
“Jeremy, do be a dear and tell Carmelita about our plans for the Milan show,” she said, all but telling me to fuck off.
“I would be happy to, but first I want to see this present Stef sent you,” I said, which was my way of being my own person, more or less.
She obliged me by opening the box and smiled broadly at the beautiful fleur de lys broach it contained.It must have cost a shitload of money, because it was encrusted with diamonds and sapphires.“It is exquisite!” she said.
“I’m so glad you like it,” Darius said.“I’d help you put it on, but I’d probably do it wrong, and your jacket is too beautiful to mess up.”
“I’ll need a mirror,” she said and made to stand up.Darius stood up promptly and pulled her chair out like a gentleman, then gave her his arm and escorted her from the dining room.Were they going somewhere to fuck, in the middle of this dinner?I felt like I’d fallen through some wormhole and ended up in a parallel universe where everyone was fucking crazy.
I felt the need to escape, so I unobtrusively got up and headed to the restroom.On my way, I saw Darius and Bellona standing off to the side in front of a mirror.He was putting the sapphire and diamond broach on her, and it looked to me like he was gently running his finger across her left breast as he did.He saw me and winked at me, and that just made the whole thing that much creepier. I looked away and hurried into the bathroom, locking myself in one of the stalls, feeling as if I’d barely made it to a sanctuary.What the fuck was going on with these people?
I sat there for about ten minutes thinking about the situation, getting nowhere with my ruminations.My mind was just going in circles, and I was just wasting time, so I’d decided to go back to the table and see what else my brothers were doing to embarrass all of us.Just as I was about to get up and go back, the door to the stall next to me opened up, and I heard two voices.I rolled my eyes at how, in an industry like this with such a large gay component, there was bound to be a bathroom fuck or two thrown into the mix.I was about to leave when I heard Patrick Christian speaking.“We don’t have much time,” he muttered.
“I can work with that,” Will said in a seductive way.I heard a zipper.“Nice,” Will said.
After that, I heard the distinctive slurping sound of someone, presumably Will, sucking Patrick’s dick. That was confirmed when Patrick moaned almost too loudly.“That is so fucking good,” he cooed to Will.
“I love the way you taste,” Will murmured, then must have gone back to work, based on Patrick’s moans.
“I’m close,” Patrick said urgently. I looked at my watch and shook my head.Will had been blowing him for less than three minutes. His moans got more pronounced, then there was a loud, sexy grunt which announced to me and anyone who was in the next stall that he was blowing his wad.“Thanks,” Patrick said, after a few seconds.
“That was a lot of fun,” Will said.I heard a different noise, one that sounded like they were kissing.“You go back first.”
“OK,” Patrick said.The stall door opened, I heard Patrick walk out, then the door closed.I sat in my own stall, absolutely furious at Will, trying not to be too annoyed that I’d had absolutely no luck getting Patrick to fuck around with me when we’d gone out.
As soon as I heard Will’s stall door open, I all but stormed out of my sanctuary.I expected Will to be surprised, but he looked at me kind of contemptuously.“What the fuck are you doing?” I demanded.
“Enjoying the party,” he said.He turned his back on me and went to wash his hands.
“What are you doing here?” I demanded.
“Seems that you think you can come walking into our world and fuck things up, and treat people like shit,” he said, smiling.“I’m just returning the favor.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong!” I insisted.
He chuckled at me.“Then I think you’re going to have a pretty shitty night.”
“Why don’t you go out there, get Darius, and just get the fuck out of here!” I said much too loudly.I was lucky that we were alone in this restroom.
“Nope,” he said calmly.“You don’t live in a bubble, where you can treat people like shit and get away with it.”
“This is bullshit!” I told him.“I’m going to call Stef.”
“Still tattling?” Will taunted me, just about setting me free.“Who do you think picked out our clothes?”
My mouth dropped in shock. I figured this was just Will and Darius fucking with my life, which was so typical of them, especially since I was doing so well.But Stef was involved in this thing, this attempt to ruin my life?I guess I should have figured that out from the broach that Darius brought. I thought about that, and it made sense, and in fact, Stef was the only person who could have done that.That’s the only way Will and Darius would have been able to score tickets to this deal, or tickets at Bellona’s table.He must have talked to Bellona about this.My eyes narrowed as I realized that the broach she was given was probably payment for fucking with me.But how could Stef do that to me?How could he betray me like that?I heard the door which surprised me, since I’d been spacing out so much that Will had been able to just walk out on me.
I took a few minutes to wash my hands and to make sure my hair was still perfect, and then I went back out to our table.There really wasn’t anything else I could do right now but make it through this evening with as much dignity as I could muster.I got back to the table to find Will sitting in my seat chatting with Carmelita in Italian.He saw me and promptly got up, excusing himself in a polite way that would have won Grandmaman’s approval.“I did not realize that your brothers were so charming,” Bellona said to me, acting almost giddy.
“They’re like modern day Casanovas,” I said, trying to make it sound funny, but I wasn’t sure if I’d pulled that off.
“Casanova was legendary for being one of the best lovers of all time,” Will said to me.“Thanks.”Of course he’d know that, since he was always reading about history just to suck up to Grand.
“I can’t evaluate that,” Bellona said.
“Yet,” Darius said softly, so only Bellona and I could hear.I spent my time talking to Carmelita, trying to keep her amused, but after Will had wowed her with his Italian, she seemed to find me to be a bit of a letdown.That was so typical of my brothers.They come into my world and totally outshine me, steal the spotlight, and then leave me cast aside like trash, like garbage no one would want.It got to the point where the whole event was unbearable.
“I’m not feeling very well,” I said to Bellona.
She acted annoyed that I’d interrupted her time with Darius.“I am sorry to hear that.”
“I hope you feel better,” Darius said to me, and winked at me, more of a taunt than a friendly gesture.“We’ll stop by and see you tomorrow morning.”
“I’m not sure if I’ll be there,” I said, being bitchy, and then I regretted it, since Bellona gave me an amused look.
“That’s fine,” he said.“Then we’ll come back next weekend and hope you’re around.”I stood up and strode out of the ballroom in as dignified a way as I could, even as I was fuming inside.
I sat in the limo, and was so mad I stomped my feet on the floor.I didn’t even answer the driver when he tried to call me to bitch about it.I dialed Stef and got his answering machine, which ratcheted up my rage just that much more.I sighed, and then called Escorial.One of the less-than-bright staff members answered, so it took me three tries to get them to understand who I was, and to put Stef on the phone.
“Hello JJ,” I heard the voice say, only it wasn’t Stef, it was Grand.I so did not want to talk to him.
“Hi,” I said somewhat meekly.“Is Stef there?I need to talk to him.”
“He is not,” Grand said.“I talked to him before he left, and he told me that if you called, I should instruct you to talk to me.”
“He knew I was going to call,” I fumed, and that fueled my anger even more.“He sent Will and Darius here to embarrass me in front of my friends, and to fuck them too, then he doesn’t have the guts to even talk to me?”
“I find your outrage over their breach of manners to be incredibly hypocritical,” Grand said icily.
“You think that’s OK, for them to do that?” I demanded.
“Did they tell you why they were there?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes at that.“They’re still mad at me for trying to stop Maddy from running around the house like a demon from hell.That’s what this is about, and it’s crap, since it’s unreasonable for me to sit there and put up with kids screaming and yelling in the kitchen.”
“I would point out that it was my kitchen you felt you had the right to police, and I would further point out that it is not your place to discipline Maddy,” he said.
“Well then I’ll just stay away,” I snapped.
“The most disturbing thing is that you have not heard a thing the rest of us have been saying to you,” Grand said.
“What are you talking about?” I demanded.
“You are universally prickly and mean to everyone in the family with the exception of Stefan, and then you rely on him to cover for you, and to explain your inexplicable behavior,” he said.“And worse than that, you are being rude to Mr. Carullo, who is our guest.”
“I am not!” I insisted, and annoyed myself by sounding like a two-year-old.
“I am going to let you ruminate on things,” Grand said, in his same cold and unrelenting tone.
“I have done that, and that’s why I’m so pissed off!” I almost shouted.
“You are aiming your lens in the wrong direction,” he said.“I suggest you turn it inward.”And then he ended the call.He was that mad at me that he hung up on me?I slumped back into the seat and pouted, fighting against hearing his words, and fighting even harder against actually acting on them.
September 6, 2003
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, NY
We watched JJ walk out of the room, which was so dramatic for him, and so ridiculous since this thing was winding down anyway. Bellona smiled at Darius and me.“I think you accomplished your mission.”
“We won’t really know about that until tomorrow,” Darius said.“Besides, that’s not my mission.”
“It is not?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him in surprise.I was kind of surprised about that too, since I thought we’d pretty much accomplished what we were supposed to do.We were supposed to come out here and show JJ that he wasn’t going to get away with being a total douche, and that all the power and money he took for granted was something he couldn’t use for evil, more or less.
“I think we established that this is a date,” Darius said to her, making his voice deeper, and much sexier.
“You are adorable, but there is no need for you to continue the charade,” she said dismissively.
“It’s not a charade to me,” Darius said. “I’m on a date with a beautiful woman.I’m not leaving without at least a good night kiss.”It was hard to listen without being obvious, but I was trying my best to remain inconspicuous.
“You can’t mean that,” she said, and truly sounded surprised.I knew that I was.
“There’s only one reason you shouldn’t come upstairs and spend the night with me,” he said.I was stunned.He was serious about this?
“There are a number of reasons why that can’t and won’t happen,” she said firmly.
“I can only think of one,” he said.
“Alright, what’s this one reason?” she asked, smiling at him in a patronizing way.
“I’ll make you a deal,” he said.“You guess it, and I’ll leave.You don’t, and you come upstairs with me. You have three tries.”
“I’ll try to guess, and then we’ll see about going upstairs,” she insisted.“Because I’m old enough to be your mother.”
“Nope,” he said.“I think you’re amazingly hot.I don’t give a shit how old you are.” His somewhat crass phrasing made him seem really masculine and attractive, or at least that’s what I thought.
“I don’t believe that,” she said.I didn’t either.
“I’m not a liar,” Darius said in an offended way that backed her up.“I can prove it to you, but you have to guess wrong two more times.”
“Because relationships are complicated,” she said.
“I’m flying back to California tomorrow, and I don’t get to New York all that often.I’m not talking about a long-distance deal, I’m talking about a night of fun, one that we’ll remember and smile about when we do.”
“And the final reason is that you’d wear me out, and I’d be exhausted tomorrow,” she said.He didn’t say anything, so she smiled, knowing she’d figured him out.“As I have two meetings tomorrow morning, I’d have a hard time functioning.”
“I should have known you’d be smart enough to guess the reason,” he said, sounding sad and dejected.“Damn.”Before she could respond, Paris Hilton came strolling up. I stood up to greet her, even though he remained seated.
“S’up Darius?” she asked, even as she looked him up and down.
“Paris,” he said to her casually.
“And how are you Will?” she asked, acting like she wanted to fuck my brains out.
“Doing great,” I said, giving her a hug.I noticed that she had some white powder on her nose, so when she pulled away from me I wiped it off in a relatively flirtatious way. She winked at me to thank me, then turned her attention back to Darius.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” she said.“You should hang out after this.We’re going to a party.”
“Thanks, I’m happy here,” Darius said, and squeezed Bellona’s hand in an obvious way.
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” she said, in a slutty way, which was pretty much the only way she ever talked.She gave Bellona a contemptuous look, which was pretty bold.
“Yeah, I do,” Darius said.She gave him a dirty look and sort of meandered away.
“You passed up what was probably a really fun party,” Bellona said. Her voice sounded almost gleeful, probably because Darius had picked her over Paris Hilton.
“I’ve already been to Paris,” he said.
“I’ll probably regret this…” she said, and stood up, leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished.She held out her hand, Darius stood up, smiling, and the two of them left the ballroom.I watched them go, even as I blinked in surprise. That was not how I’d expected this to end.
“Sorry, I had to talk to some people,” Patrick Christian said as he sat down at the table next to me.He was really handsome and really sexy, and best of all, he had a really deep voice.I loved that.
“It was fine,” I said, smiling at him.
“Well, this thing is ending, so time to bail,” he commented.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Upstairs,” I said, raising my eyebrow suggestively.
“Dude,” he said in a dissenting kind of way.
“I didn’t do a good job in the bathroom?” I asked him, sounding a lot like Darius had when he’d been hitting on Bellona.
“You did a really good job,” he said, and gave me a cute smile.
“I didn’t earn a second round?” I asked, and then pretended to pout.
“You want to blow me again?” he asked quietly.
I leaned up and whispered in his ear.“No, I want you to fuck me.”He backed away from me, smiled, and we both hurried to the elevator.