"Come on, Liam! It's our last night in the big city, and we have to paaaartay!"
I rolled my eyes as Maxwell sing sang the last word.
"I agree." Added Tariq. "We should do something memorable before returning to Cordonia. A last hurrah, of sorts?"
Liam looked at me, and I clapped his shoulder. "Look, man, it's your bachelor party. What do you want to do?"
He looked to Maxwell, and then Tariq. "Fine, let's go out. We'll find somewhere to get dinner and then we can go to a club or something."
I shook my head. Liam was always thinking of everybody else before himself.
"Yes!" Maxwell cheered and pulled out his phone. "I'm googling right now: hottest clubs in NYC."
"I believe Liam mentioned dinner first." Tariq chimed.
I grabbed my denim shirt and threw it on. "Let's just go, I'm sure there's a bar nearby where we can get a decent burger or something."
"You mean, go out with a reservation?" I stifled a laugh at Tariq's appalled expression.
"We've made reservations for this and that place since we got here. I say let's just go into the first place we find, for the real New York experience."
"I agree." Said Liam. "The pizzas here are famous around the world. I hear they sell them by the slice in some places."
"Yeah, Tariq. Where's your sense of adventure?" Maxwell came up behind him and clapped him on the shoulder.
Tariq hesitated. "Very well… if that's what you wish to do, Liam, I won't spoil your party."
"Thank you, Tariq." Liam nodded.
"Shall I call the car?"
"No, let's walk. We'll go in the first place we find, like Drake said."
"Good man." I said, opening the door. "Come on, I'm hungry."
We stepped out of the room and made our way out of the Waldorf, into the busy streets of Manhattan. We walked down Lexington Avenue and then turned on 47th street, wandering aimlessly, until we came across a small bar.
"Foxy John's Bar and Kitchen…" Tariq read, raising an eyebrow.
I shrugged and grinned at the guys. "This will do."
I opened the door and walked in, the shouts of noisy patrons and the smell of beer assaulted my senses. As soon as we were spotted, we were greeted by the host.
"Good evening, gentlemen, and thank you for coming to Foxy John's Bar and Kitchen."
"Thanks. We'd like your best table. We're celebrating our friend's bachelor party." I put my hands on Liam's shoulder and shook him.
The man nodded. "I'm afraid we're a little understaffed tonight, but a server will be right with you to seat you immediately." He turned and headed to what I assumed was the kitchen.
"Ok… I guess we'll wait right here then…" I shrugged.
"Excellent service." Tariq commented sarcastically.
Liam's phone rang. He looked at the screen before stepping out. "Go ahead, guys. I'll be right in."
As he left the kitchen doors opened and out came two servers.
"Waitress! There you are! We need your best table."
She looked at me, and raised an eyebrow. I smiled at her. "Forget the table! Just bring us whiskey and lots of it!"
She exchanged a few words with her co-worker, before walking towards us, a beaming smile on her face. Her brown eyes shone as she approached us, and her brown hair was tied into a neat braided bun.
"Of course, sir. Would you prefer a seat at the bar, at one of our tables or a booth?"
"Booth, booth!" Maxwell chanted.
I rolled my eyes. "A booth, please."
She nodded. "Please follow me."
She led us back to a big, ample booth. The seats were lined with red dyed leather, and the table was a deep chestnut wood.
As soon as we were seated, she pulled out a notepad from her apron. "Good evening, gentlemen. My name is Camilla and I'll be your server tonight."
Before she could say another word, Maxwell cut her off. "Waitress, steaks for the table!"
I groaned inwardly. She'd literally just told us her name, and Maxwell was addressing her as "waitress". Nobles.
"How about some filet mignon, medium rare and prepared with bearnaise sauce?" Tariq piped up.
I watched, mortified, as she raised her eyebrows just the tiniest bit, before schooling her features back to the smile. It was clear she had experience dealing with rude patrons.
"I'm afraid the closest thing we have to filet mignon is our deluxe burger." She handed each of us menus. "It's a large, handmade burger on a sesame seed bun, grilled and covered with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, bacon and tomato, red onions, and pickles, as well as our secret house sauce."
She looked at me and winked. I smiled at her, while Tarquin's face fell.
"Dare I ask for you wine list?"
"We've got an excellent vintage house red…"
Tarquin's jaw dropped. "House red?"
"It also comes in white…"
Oh, for fuck's sake. I shook my head. This girl had the patience of a saint. I decided to put her out of her misery and ordered for the table. "We'll be fine with a bottle of whiskey, and four deluxe burgers."
I plucked the menus from the guys' hands and handed them back to her.
"Hey!" Protested Maxwell.
"Excellent choice, sir… but four burgers?"
I nodded behind her, just as Liam arrived at our booth. She turned and I saw her eyes widen as she saw him. Her mouth opened the tiniest bit before she once again schooled her face into a beaming smile. Liam returned her smile with one of his own, his eyes never leaving hers.
"I'm sorry I'm late." He kept his eyes on her. "Thank you for your patience, Miss…?"
He nodded. "Charmed to make your acquaintance, Camilla."
I shook my head and smiled to myself, as I noticed a light blush coloring her cheeks.
"The pleasure's all mine." She answered coquettishly. "It's nice to meet you." She gestured for him to sit down. "Now let me go and place your order. I'll be right back!"
With that, she took off to the kitchen. I shared a look with Maxwell, while Liam watched her walk away.
"So… what are we having?"
As the night wore on, Camilla brought our burgers and drinks, and we laughed and joked as we ate. The burger was really good.
More patrons came and went, but we didn't realize how late it was until Camilla brought us the check. Liam immediately took it from her, his eyes lingering on her, as I looked around and realized we were the last table left. I took out my phone to check the time… 1 A.M. Wow…
Liam handed Camilla his credit card, giving her a generous tip as well. Soon, we were getting up and heading out.
"So… where to now?" Tariq asked.
Maxwell was glued to his phone. "There's, like, a million clubs in this city!"
"Since when is that a problem for you?" I asked, and turned to Liam. He was still watching the waitress, as she cleaned up the bar. I cleared my throat and he startled. He looked at me, embarrassed, before directing his gaze back to her.
"I'll be right back." He walked towards the bar and tapped her shoulder. They talked for a while, before she nodded and headed back to kitchen. Liam came back and nodded for us to go outside.
I raised an eyebrow as I followed him. "What's up?"
He smiled. "Let's just wait a few moments. Our tour guide will be right out."
I shared a look with Maxwell and Tariq. "Okay…"
We waited a while, when we heard Camilla yell "Good night!" as she stepped out. I couldn't stop my jaw dropping, shutting it quickly with an audible clack.
She had let her hair down from it's bun - long brown locks falling in waves down to her waist - and she'd changed out of her uniform to a stunning green dress.
"Wow…" She looked at me and blushed.
"Wow?" She smiled at me, and I noticed for the first time the dimples in her cheeks.
"I… almost didn't recognize you." I looked away, embarrassed, and saw the guys were equally stunned. Liam simply grinned.
"That uniform wasn't doing you justice." Tariq complimented her, and she nodded her thanks.
"Yeah, the waitress is hot!"
Liam frowned at Maxwell. He cleared his throat. "Her name is Camilla, and I doubt she appreciates you talking about her like that."
"Right. Sorry, Camilla. I meant to say you look lovely."
"Thank you. And it's just Milla, guys."
"So she's our tour guide now?" I asked warily.
"Camilla was kind enough to agree to show us around tonight. She's doing us a favor, so play nice." Liam gave me a pointed looked, and I grinned and rolled my eyes.
Because I'm sure she's doing this from the kindness of her heart, and not to spend more time with the tall, blonde haired, blue eyed European man.
"Shall we?" Liam offered his arm to her, and she hesitated for a moment before taking it.
Milla led Liam closer to the curb, before hailing a cab with a shrill whistle. She turned to us, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Let's go, boys."
A short ride later, we stepped out of the cab, right in front of a club. Kismet. There was a long line, but Camilla simply lead us to the front, and smiled at the bouncer.
"Hey, Milla." He smiled and unhooked the chain, letting us through. "Have fun!"
We stepped through the doors, and electronic club music hit us immediately. The floor vibrated as the bass thumped, and lights flashed all around us.
Maxwell let out a "whoop" of excitement as he took in the club. "Time to party!"
I groaned and covered my face with my hand. "No one wants to see your running man, Maxwell."
Tariq spotted a server passing by and called to her. "You there, who do we talk to for bottle service?!" He followed her to the bar.
"Shall we find us a table, or go to the bar to get you that drink?!" I heard Liam ask Milla.
Oh, Liam… what are you doing?
Milla stood on the tips of her toes and looked around. "I'd prefer a table… what about you, Drake?"
She looked at me, giving me an encouraging smile. Liam followed suit, also smiling at me.
"I… I'm going to the bar with Tariq!"
"Suit yourself. Shall we?" Liam once again offered her his arm, and she once again hesitated to take it.
"Sure." They began walking away, but I saw Milla turn her head and look to me, before looking quickly away.
I made my way to the bar with Maxwell in tow.
"Hey, what's up? You're all broody again! Do you not like Milla?!" Maxwell shouted at me as I signaled to the bartender.
"I'm not brooding. And I don't know her enough to have an opinion on her."
"Dude, she asked you one question in the cab and you were really rude to her…"
"I was not!"
"She asked you if you'd prefer to go to a club or the beach, and you rolled your eyes and told her to 'ask Liam, it's his party'."
"It is his party!"
"But she was asking all of us, to get a vote! Plus, your tone was…"
"It was not! Besides… don't you think it's a little weird how she'd just agree to go out with four guys she doesn't even know? I mean, she practically took over Liam's bachelor party!"
"Well… Liam invited her… I think he really likes her!" Maxwell said enthusiastically.
"And that's the other thing! Don't you think it's kind of a dick move on Liam's part to invite her? I mean, he's totally leading her on! He's supposed to get married at the end of the season!"
"Well… she doesn't seem to mind…"
The bartender finally came. I ordered whiskey for me and Maxwell. We downed our drinks and Maxwell pulled me in the direction of the dance floor. We'd barely taken three steps when we were approached by a couple of girls.
"Hey, tough guy." A gorgeous blonde pressed her hand to my chest. "Wanna dance?"
I smirked at her. "Sure."
She took my hand, and led me into the dance floor. She pressed herself against me, swaying to the music.
"I love New York!" I heard Maxwell shout, as he danced with his girl.
I looked around for the rest of the guys, and noticed Liam and Milla dancing a few feet away from us. I turned back to the girl with whom I was dancing - who commanded my attention by placing her hands on my neck - when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned to find Liam, Milla nowhere in sight. "Hey!"
"Hey! I'm going to take off!"
"Why?! What happened?!"
"Nothing! I'm leaving with Milla! We're, uh… she wants to show me something…!" He grinned sheepishly.
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. Dude, what are you doing?
I shook my head and shrugged. "Ok… I'll meet you back at the hotel!"
"Yeah, thanks, man!" He clapped me on the shoulder before turning to leave, and I turned back to the blonde.
Oh, Liam, I hope you know what you're doing...
The next morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee and maple syrup. I walked into the kitchen, and saw Liam sitting on the couch, a cup of coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. He smiled when he saw me, and put his phone down.
"Mornin'. You seem happy…"
He blushed. "Yes… I guess I am."
"Had a good time last night?"
"The best." He grinned at me.
"Does this have something to do with a certain waitress?" I poured myself a cup of coffee, and grabbed a plate of waffles, pouring syrup on them.
They totally slept together.
"So, you went back to her place or…?" I looked around the room, but there was no evidence she'd been here in our suite.
"No!" He cried. "No, we, uh… nothing of the sort happened…"
"Oh…" Well… that's good… "So…"
"She took me to see the Statue of Liberty."
"Uh… what? How?"
"I don't know! I told her I had wanted to see it, next thing I know we're on a ferry and it's right there, in front of us. She said she'd called in a favor."
"Wow… the bouncer at the club, a personal ferry… she's pretty resourceful."
"Yes, she is." He looked down.
"So… the Statue of Liberty?"
"Yeah, I uh… mentioned to her I wanted to see it before we left, but I hadn't gotten the chance."
"Why didn't you tell me? The whole reason we're here is because of you. This whole week was for you. We could've made the time."
"I didn't want to inconvenience you all. I know Tariq has no interest in tourist spots, and Maxwell prefers to sleep in and go out at night. And I know you'd get bored and grumpy because there's too many people pushing and shoving, and too much noise."
"I do not get grumpy!"
"Yes, you do! You hate loud, over crowded places."
I sighed. Poor Liam… always thinking of others before himself. "But I still would've gone with you."
"So… did you get her number or something?"
His face immediately changed. He looked down. "No." He looked at me, a knowing look on both our faces. "I told her everything, and we agreed to just… have an incredible night and leave it at that. We both know there's no future there."
"Yeah… well, at least you got a story out of it, right? And she probably had the time of her life. I don't imagine she hangs out with royalty every Saturday night…"
Liam shook his head, smiling softly. "She's not like that. She actually didn't care about my title at all. And she's pretty brilliant. She majored in Creative Writing at NYU."
"Wow… then why is she-"
"A waitress? It's her day job, or well, night job… I've heard many aspiring writers have jobs such as those before getting published."
"Still doesn't explain why she's a waitress…"
"Well, she told me she wants to write a novel, but she's also thinking of getting a master's degree, among other things. I guess she's still figuring things out."
"Wow…" I sighed and clapped his shoulder. He didn't show it, but I knew he was bummed he was never going to see this girl again… I could tell he really liked her. "Well, maybe one day, you'll read a book about a waitress and a magical night with an European prince."
Liam huffed a small laugh. "Yes… maybe one day I will."
Maxwell's room opened and he came out shirtless and disheveled.
"Good morning, Maxwell!"
He grunted and went straight for the coffee pot. He poured himself a cup before throwing himself down on the couch.
"How much did you drink last night?"
"Not enough to black out, but enough for my head to start pounding." He sat up just a bit and turned to Liam. "And where did you go last night? One moment I see you at the table with Milla, the next one you're nowhere to be found!"
"Milla took him to see the Statue of Liberty."
"At 2 in the morning?"
I nodded. "At 2 in the morning."
"Well… good for you." He turned to me, and I noticed a wicked gleam in his eye. "Drake, a word?"
I groaned inwardly. This was going to be trouble.
Liam clapped his hands on his knees and stood. "I'll take that as my cue. I'll see if Tariq is up, we have to be at the airport in a couple of hours." He walked out of the living room and headed for Tariq's room.
As soon as he was gone, I turned to Maxwell. "What's up?"
"I've got an idea! Just came to me!"
"Just hear me out!" He raised a finger. " I'm thinking we should sponsor Milla!"
"House Beaumont! We don't have a candidate to sponsor for the whole bride/queen to be contest! We could sponsor her!"
I covered my face with my hands and let a out a sigh. "Okay… okay, two things. Number one: how exactly are you going to sponsor her…" I lowered my voice to a whisper, "...when just last night you told me House Beaumont was broke? I mean, I think in order to be able to sponsor someone, you have to provide clothes and other stuff for her to fit in with the nobles. I mean, I don't think this girl just so happens to have a couple of ball gowns in her closet."
He moved to protest, but I ignored him. "And two: she's a commoner! They'll never accept her at court, much less as a contender for the Crown!"
"Hey! You're a commoner!"
"Yeah, and Liam's best friend. Not to mention I grew up in that environment. This girl hasn't. She would have no idea what she's getting into; the plotting, the scheming, the backstabbing!"
"Ok, first of all, this girl lives in New York."
"New Yorkers are known worldwide for their snarkiness, their sarcasm and their street smarts. I think she can handle court intrigue. Second of all, she's witty and resourceful. That was shown in the way she got us into the club and somehow managed to get Liam on a boat at 2 am to see a bloody tourist site. And third of all… who knows, maybe she does have a ball gown in her closet! Maybe she was a bridesmaid at a wedding, or -or even the bride herself, and that failed, but she kept the dress! Or maybe she has a perfect credit score and can cost her own expenses."
I couldn't help the laugh that escaped me at that point.
"Listen, there's a reason I told you about House Beaumont last night."
"You were drunk!"
"But not drunk enough to tell Tariq! I told you because I know I can trust you. And I'm telling you this now, because I trust you! I want the best for Liam, I know you want the best for Liam, and I think this girl… this girl could really make him happy. And he could have a marriage based on mutual love and trust, and not just political alliances."
You know the world must be coming to an end when Maxwell starts making sense…
I sighed. "She'll get torn to shreds at court."
"Maybe… maybe not. Shouldn't we give her a chance to try? Look, just… come with me to ask her. It'll be up to her, I won't pressure her into anything. If she says yes, we'll see where it goes from there. If she says no, that's that."
I stared at him for a couple of minutes. We heard a click and a door open and Liam and Tariq stepped out, bags in hand.
"We're leaving for the airport. Drake, are you coming with me or with Maxwell?"
I looked between the two of them. "I'll go with Maxwell. He needs help on a last minute errand, so…"
Liam raised an eyebrow. "Okay… well, we're leaving right now."
"I'll call the bellhop." Tariq went to the phone.
"Try not to be late for the Ball tonight. It is an eight hour flight, after all."
"Don't worry, it's a quick errand and we'll be on our way to Cordonia within two hours."
The doorbell buzzed, and Tariq opened it. The bellhop came in and began loading their luggage into a cart. The guys said their goodbyes and left, just as Maxwell called for a car for us.
We drove to Foxy's bar and waited. And waited. And waited. After what seemed like an eternity, Maxwell spotted her and jumped out of the car.
"Milla!" He yelled for her. "Stay here." He told me as he shut the door and ran across the street.
He nearly got ran over by a cab driver, who honked and threw some choice profanities at him, but Maxwell merely waved him off and kept calling for Milla.
I saw their exchange from the car, Milla's face going from shock, to disbelief, to reluctance, until finally, she nodded and gave him a small smile. Maxwell cheered and hugged her, but then she made her way and inside and Maxwell strode to car.
"So…?" I asked.
"She's coming! She's quitting right now, then heading back to her place to pack. She'll meet us at the airport."
"Okay… I hope you know what you're doing."
"I think it's the best desición we've ever made."
Oh, boy… this was going to be trouble.