Plus One(3)

By: Aleatha Romig


As the elevator doors open, a smidgen of relief fills me. Just as quickly, the thoughts of my cousin’s wedding and ex-boyfriend’s injury fade away into the chic ambiance of Gaston’s. Stepping into the dimly lit foyer, I’m enthralled with the decor. High above, the ceiling is filled with small, twinkling lights mimicking a starry sky. Near the entrance the hostess stands in a pool of blue light. The couple who rode the elevator with me moves ahead and speaks to her.

Not only must guests clear the sentry on the first floor, we also must make it past this woman to get inside. As I wait, I gaze toward the wide archway leading to the prize—Gaston’s. My breath catches as I take in the beauty. Beyond the array of tables covered in linen and lit by flickering candles, the walls don’t exist. Instead, they’re made up of floor-to-ceiling windows filled with the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen.

Through the glass, the sunset’s final orange and purple blush beams from the horizon, illuminating the restaurant and showering it in a bronze glow. Outside, the windows of Manhattan’s buildings blaze in radiant glory.

Even after nearly three years, I can’t help but marvel that this is where I live, that the grandeur of New York is all around me.

“Miss?”

The hostess brings my attention back to my mission at hand—getting inside the archway. “Yes, I’m here to meet Shana Price. I believe we have a six o’clock reservation.”

After a quick search of the electronic tablet, the hostess smiles. “Yes, I see the reservation. Let me show you to your table. Ms. Price is already seated.”

I follow the petite hostess as she weaves between tables. Even at this early hour, most of the seats are filling with happy patrons. Their hushed murmurs add to the posh feel as I think about Shana.

We’ve been roommates since we both moved to New York. It was a lucky match. Both recent college graduates and from small towns, we were paired by a realtor site when we both followed our dream jobs to the big city.

My job is with Buchanan and Willis Pharmaceuticals while hers is with Saks. Yes, Saks Fifth Avenue, as in the one on the actual Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Though if you saw Shana, you would swear she looked like a model, her dream job is being a buyer.

When she’s not in New York, she’s flying to fashion shows and inspecting textile companies.

After receiving her text earlier today, I texted back and asked why we were going to Gaston’s and how in the world she got a table. Her answer was that we’re celebrating and money talks.

I’ve heard that before about money; however, as I gaze around the upscale surroundings, I’m pretty sure that even if all my money got together and shouted, it would barely make a whisper compared to the monetary clamor of the other patrons.

Near a large window filled with the majestic skyline, I spot Shana. When our eyes meet, her perpetual smile grows and her arm pops up as she waves my direction.

“Your table,” the hostess says as she pulls back my chair.

“Thank you.”

The hostess’s response is a quick nod—maybe only the movement of her chin, it’s hard to be sure—and a pivot as she disappears into the maze of tables.

“I’m so happy you could meet me,” Shana says with her blue eyes sparkling.

I shake my head as I lift the satin napkin. “What in the world happened? Did you win the lottery?” I lean closer. “I didn’t know you even played.”

“I don’t, but I did.”

“I’m so confused.”

“Well, it was kind of like winning the lottery and we need to celebrate.”

The word celebrate brings back memories of Scarlett’s wedding. I push the thought of my mother’s call away and concentrate on Shana. As I do, the slippery napkin escapes my hold. Quickly, I slide from my seat to retrieve it.

“Excuse me,” a deep voice says as black leather loafers stop precariously close to where I’m now kneeling to rescue my napkin.

Seeing the shoes, I look up and suck in a deep breath.

Towering above me are long legs covered in tailored trousers. As I follow them up, they lead to a trim waist, a black belt, and a white shirt that buttons over a broad chest. I barely swallow the lump in my throat as I recognize the wide shoulders covered with the matching suit jacket. Seizing the napkin, I stand, suddenly face to face with one of the owners of the company where I work.

My face burns with embarrassment as his shimmering green eyes narrow and head tilts. Inches away from me is one of the handsomest men I’ve ever met. He should be on the cover of GQ, not gracing the halls of Buchanan and Willis.

His firm lips form a tight smirk and cheeks rise in amusement. “Miss Jones.”

Staring into the sea of emerald, I try to pretend I wasn’t just on my knees in a chic restaurant in front of Duncan Willis.

“Mr. Willis,” I respond, my voice cracking. Nervously, I take a step backward. As if the moment weren’t awkward enough, I wobble, teetering precariously on my high heels.

Swiftly, he reaches out, grabs my elbow, and steadies my footing. Though he just saved me from making an even bigger fool out of myself by falling face-first into what I can only imagine is a hard, defined chest, my mind is suddenly consumed with the electricity of his touch. The energy heats my skin as his grasp lingers.

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