Love sucks. Anyone who says otherwise has never had their heart broken. No, not just broken. Torn out and stomped on. Worst thing is, I did it to myself. Ripped that sucker out and kicked it until it gave up. You wouldn’t know it to look at me though, I’ve perfected the art of looking normal because I got tired of answering the question: are you okay? Fact was, I was as okay as a heartless bastard could be. That’s bastard by virtue, not by birth, my parents are happily married. The love they have for one another is amazing, and once upon a time I wanted the same for myself.
But love sucks, remember? And once upon a time doesn’t always end with ‘they lived happily every after’. Sometimes you just have to be happy with ‘they lived’. So that’s where I’m at right now, alive and well, though apparently an idiot. It’s one of the biggest nights of the year and I’ve closed The Void for a private party, and not for some random rich dude either, this is a private function, family and friends by invite only. Even worse, I didn’t control the invitations which means I’m going to be a well lubricated idiot, using alcohol to dull the pain I know is coming. Luckily tonight isn’t about profit.
I downed my third shot for the night as I stood behind the bar watching Chess set up on stage. He had a party playlist ready to go but wanted instruments ready in case anyone wanted to get up and play. His bandmates from England were over and Quinn and the boys would be here too so he was all boy scout about it. While he was doing his soundcheck the first guests arrived. Well it was Max and Mitch and since they were both going to work the bar with me, maybe guests was a stretch.
They came in holding hands and grinning, all aglow with love and shit. Married life was good and they liked to make sure everyone knew they thought so.
“Hey lovebirds, how was christmas?” I greeted them as Max moved into my open arms and hugged me.
“Weren’t you there?” she leaned back to frown at me.
“Was I?” I frowned right back as Mitch pulled Max to his side. “I thought that was a nightmare what with all the food and the questions.” I shuddered then laughed at Max’s scowl.
“They mean well.” She defended every family member even as she grimaced. “God it’s going to happen again tonight isn’t it? Can’t I be married for more than a minute before they start looking for babies.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep the music loud and you keep the booze coming and they wont be able to ask you a thing.”
“You’re a genius!” She grinned at Chess as he joined us and leaned over the bar to kiss him on the cheek.
“Yeah, I got the brains and the looks,” he said with a wide grin at me then tapped the bar. “Want to get started with those drinks Z?” he asked with a wink, the fucker. But I was three drinks ahead of them already so I grabbed a glass and sent it spinning into the air as I reached under the bar then caught it and with a flourish set it before my brother.
“Here you go Chesney,” I said as I poured a glass of milk and pushed it towards him. “Your favourite.”
“See what they’re like?” Max muttered to Mitch as she swapped out the glass for a bottle of beer.
“He started it,” I defended myself like a ten year old and Chess retorted in kind by poking out his tongue.
Luckily for us all our guests started to arrive and Chess went to greet them then got some music playing at a low enough level that conversations could still be had. I split my time between mixing ridiculous cocktails for my mother and Max’s moms and all of their friends, and watching the door so I knew exactly when Luc, Levi, and Jorja arrived. It only took one look for the cavity in my chest to fill with dread pushing a lump into my throat so that I couldn’t talk.
I smiled though as I poured a frothy blue concoction into a glass and stuck a little umbrella into it. And I smiled as I poured scotch over ice and lined up shots. I even smiled as Luc walked up to the bar and slid onto the stool closest to me.
“If it isn’t the amazing disappearing Zander,” he said with a grin as I wiped the bar in front of him.
“What can I get you?” I ignored his comment.
“Dessert?” He suggested with a low laugh as he leaned his elbows on the bar. “I don’t know why I was surprised,” he added. “You run away so well.”
I shrugged and since he hadn’t answered my question I set the usual beer he drank on the bar for him. “Sorry to disappoint you. I thought we were done talking.”
“Jorja was hoping to talk to you too,” he said and picked up the bottle to take a sip. “But you left right after the speeches.”
I had. When the speeches were done and the DJ asked the happy couple to take the floor I knew it was time to go. Because after the bride and groom danced he would invite other couples to the floor and I didn’t need to watch that.
I kept my smile firmly in place as I asked, “Can I get you anything else Luc?”
His grin faded and he took a longer drink before he answered. “How about a do over?”
“Sorry, fresh out,” I shot back then I couldn’t resist asking. “For what?”
“Everything. If I could go back to that first night…”
“You would never have met me?” I guessed and his nod sent a jolt of pain to where my heart used to be.
“No but… I would have done things differently Zander. I would have been upfront about exactly what I wanted. With Levi and with you.”
“Yeah well, it all worked out for you anyway didn’t it Luc?” I said and looked beyond him to where Levi and Jorja swayed together on the dance floor.
He followed my gaze and when he turned back he was grinning again. “I guess it did.” He drank some more of his beer as I looked along the bar but no one needed me, Max and Mitch had it covered, so I stood there close to Luc, but not close enough as he watched his lovers dance. “You know, Jorja told us about you,” he said softly after a while, turning back to look at me.
“Really?” I said with a smirk, not about to fall into that trap.
“Really.” He arched a brow then tipped back his beer to finish it. My mouth went dry as I watched his throat move as he swallowed and I tried not to remember having my mouth there. “She told us you gave her back her confidence. Without you, we probably wouldn’t be where we are now.”
He smiled as he said it and I wondered if he was planning to thank me. “That’s great. I’m happy for you all.” I was running an open bar so I didn’t wait for him to ask, just set another beer down. It’s not like I was trying to get him to stay and chat. “I’m curious as to how it happened though?” Or maybe I was.
“Slowly and with great care,” Luc said thoughtfully then grinned. “I’m sure you mean how we met. We went out for a friend’s birthday and Jorja was a friend of one of her friends. Does that make sense?” He shrugged and looked at his beer then went on. “She was solo and so was I since Levi was late as usual so we hit the dancefloor together. One thing led to another…” Another shrug as a flush showed across his cheeks and I wondered if they’d found a dark corner or corridor…
“Thanks for keeping it vague pretty boy,” I mumbled and poured myself a shot. Maybe it would burn away the lump in my throat except he hadn’t heard me and he kept talking.
“I asked her out and after a few dates introduced her to Levi and then they had a couple of dates before we… well I’m sure you don’t need those details.” His eyes met mine then, almost like he was challenging me?
I shook my head, my imagination doing a good enough job fucking me over with images of the three of them without his input. “No, I’m good. Thanks.” And I was, completely, but I did another shot just to be sure.
Luc watched me drink then tilted his head towards the dancefloor and asked. “Don’t you wish you were out there.”
“I’ll get out there later,” I replied with a shrug, glad he was changing the subject.
He chuckled. “No, I mean with Jorja. Instead of Levi.”
“Oh.” I looked out at them dancing together, smiling and happy and shrugged. “Nah. They look good together.”
Luc arched a brow and hummed softly. “Hmmm, maybe you’d rather take Jorja’s place then?”
Replace Jorja or Levi? “Nope. I’m glad you found each other Luc, glad you’re happy.”
“You…” his words trailed off as he stared at me with a frown. “You’re not jealous?”
Was that the reason for the lump in my throat and the burning ache in my gut? Was I jealous of what they had? I painted a layer of green over my vision, pictured myself in Levi’s place, in Jorja’s place, in Luc’s place and I shook my head. I didn’t want to replace them, I wanted to join them. “Like I sad Luc, I’m happy for you, all of you.” I smiled as I looked into his eyes, hoping he’d see my sincerity. “You should get back to them, let me get you set up.”
I opened another beer and at Luc’s suggestion poured a glass of champagne for Jorja. He looped his fingers around the long neck bottles and picked up the glass with his other hand as he slid off the stool. He flashed his usual grin and said, “Maybe we’ll see you on the dancefloor.”
“Maybe,” I agreed as he stepped back to make space then disappeared into the crowd that had appeared seemingly from nowhere. Quinn slid into the seat Luc had vacated and I groaned and swore as he was joined by his bandmates.
“What?” Quinn gave me an innocent look. “I haven’t even said anything yet?”
“Just don’t okay?” I warned with a glare. “I’m not playing your games tonight. I’m working here.”
“Hear that Dane?” Quinn held my glare as he spoke to his drummer. “Zander doesn’t want to play tonight.”
“Yeah?” Dane snorted and I shifted my glare to him. “That’s what he always says. I’ll change his mind one of these days.”
He almost had when I’d toured with the band, his brown eyes and closely trimmed beard reminded me of Luc and more than once things had gotten hot and heavy between us. But his hair was too short and his eyes were too light and I had never been drunk enough to pretend otherwise.
“It’s your time to waste,” I dismissed Dane’s comment with a shrug and set up a row of shot glasses then reached under the bar and came up with a can of whipped cream. “Blow jobs all round? Probably the only ones you’ll get tonight,” I taunted as I poured the drinks.
Quinn laughed as he moved his into position and put his hands behind his back. “Since we’re surrounded by family, you’re probably right you fucker.”
I grinned as they all ducked their heads to pick up the shots with their mouths and did the shots to a round of applause and cat calls.
“Fuck!” Quinn dropped the glass to the bar with a clink. “Where can I get a real drink?” Down the bar Mitch was pouring vodka shots and Quinn slid off the stool to go get one as I opened beers and the boys took them and trailed after Quinn.
Except Dane. I poured him a whiskey and one for myself since it was a party.
“You keep drinking at that rate and tonight could be my night,” Dane said as we tapped glasses.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes, amused and flattered by his persistence.
“Look around Dane. Plenty of opportunity for you out there.” I lifted my chin towards the packed dancefloor.
He glanced over then looked back at me with a shrug. “I’d hate to fuck Quinn’s best friend or sister of his best friend and end up in a situation. Plus, I’ve already got you primed,” he said with a hopeful grin.
“Yeah, I’m well lubricated already,” I agreed with a lift of my glass which we both found hilarious judging by the way we laughed.
Dane stopped laughing and leaned over the bar to pour his own next drink.
“Hey!” I laughingly protested and put my hand over his face to push him back until he licked my palm and I jerked my hand away.
“You taste good Z,” he said and licked his lips as I stared at him, willing myself to feel something real for the hot guy hitting on me. But behind him, I could see Luc and Levi on the dancefloor and close by them Jorja danced with one of the trainers from the gym.
“It’s just the spilled alcohol,” I muttered and wiped my hand with a rag.
“You know I always wondered what he had that I didn’t… I didn’t realise it was a they,” Dane said after a look over his shoulder.
“Yeah, you’ve been pining over it I bet,” I scoffed.
“Not pining, I just like to finish what I started,” he said with a shrug and a grin. “You know we could find a girl if that’s what you need?”
“I’m sure you could,” I agreed, my eyes on the only girl I wanted.
“Maybe not here where you’re related to a lot of them though. Maybe later we can go out…”
I laughed at his enthusiasm and poured him another drink. “Forget later. That group over there all work for Max and Mitch so you wont have to worry about fucking anyone’s sister. Go have fun.”
Dane stood up looking like the rockstar he was in his ripped jeans and long leather jacket, and totally unaware of the attention on him. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
I nodded but I knew I wouldn’t because to my shock, apparently my heart was still alive and kicking and it only wanted one thing. But since that was nothing I could provide, I poured another drink and smiled like I was happy, sure I could convince myself and everyone else that I was.