“You need to attend,” Cormac growls as he paces back and forth before me.
“Oh, is that right?” I chuckle as I lean back in my armchair. “So, giving them money is no longer enough?”
Cormac stops in his tracks, crosses his arms and turns toward me. “Dude, Sonny’s doing the job you were supposed to do yourself. He even hired three of the new ambassadors you requested; you need to at least meet them,” Cormac groans.
I roll my eyes, pick up my brandy from the table beside me and take a sip. “I’ll just write a bigger cheque…”
“It’s not about the money,” he roars. “It’s about effort. You started the foundation, you ran it, and now you’re letting Sonny do it but still micromanaging… Money means nothing when you have enough to feed a small country. Go get fucking changed, Beck.”
I jump to my feet, walk around the coffee table, and stand before him. Keeping a serious expression on my face, I square up to him. “Excuse me, who are you again?”
“Beck, go get changed. Then, and only then, will I leave you alone for the next year,” Cormac sighs, looking defeated.
I was joking. Of course, I know who he is – barring Sonny, Cormac is my only friend. Everyone else is just interested in my money, which is less than fun. “Fine, but while we’re there – you’re not allowed to leave me alone with any of the donors.”
Cormac sighs and rolls his eyes; he knows what I’m asking him to do – help me avoid being groped by the ladies the foundation takes money from. Years ago, it wouldn’t’ve been an issue. But, now… I’m not interested in the slightest; I’m not a horny twenty-one-year-old anymore.
I grin as I move around him, heading out of the open-plan living space and down the corridor toward my bedroom.
“Black tie!” Cormac shouts after me. “Anything less and I’ll dress you myself!”
“Yes, Dad,” I laugh, slamming my bedroom door in response. I rarely get bossed around, but when it happens – I don’t like it. While Cormac is only a couple of years older than me, I’ll allow him today – just for the tenth anniversary. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably still be alone in my living room right now.
After a few minutes, I hear footsteps in the corridor. “Have you showered today?” Cormac asks from outside my bedroom.
“Of course,” I respond, fixing my tie as I open the bedroom door.
“A bowtie…” Cormac scoffs.
“One: it’s a black tie event, requiring a tie that is black.” I pause. “Two: bowties are cool.” Stepping around him, I head through the apartment to leave, stopping at the mirror by the front door. It’s not been scientifically proven that your hair turns grey due to stress, but here I am – 35 years old – with a thick streak of white in my hair.
Cormac stands next to me, watching me through the mirror. “You’ll do. Let’s go.”
My left brow raises as I turn to him. “Thanks..?”
I didn’t waste any time on the red carpet. They get enough photos of me while I’m trying to live my life; I don’t see the point of posing for them.
Getting inside, the event is in full swing. Donors and ambassadors mingling around the room, the dinner tables set up but empty.
My name is called over the speakers providing music, announcing my arrival, and eyes fall upon me.
“Stay calm, these people admire you,” Cormac tells me.
I nod, trying not to look as grumpy as I feel. “Of course…”
Sonny approaches, his mouth hanging open as if surprised. “You’re actually here…”
Forcing a smile on my face, I offer him my hand. “Hi, Sonny.”
He chuckles, slaps my hand away and embraces me. “I’ve missed you, Kid.”
I hug him back; I can’t deny the old man that. He’s the father I never had, even if he’s only a decade older than me.
As he steps back, I see the beam on his face. “Are you going to participate in anything tonight?”
My eyes dart between Sonny and Cormac. “What do you mean by participate?”
Sonny turns to Cormac. “You didn’t tell him about the games?”
“It was hard enough getting him to actually turn up.” Cormac shrugs.
Letting out a sigh, Sonny looks back at me. “We have two fundraising games set up – you can either volunteer to be auctioned off for a date, or enter the kiss tournament where people bet on who can kiss the longest without breathing.”
“So, I can be either go on a date with a clingy donor or kiss a random person?” I question.
Sonny grimaces, knowing how I feel about personal contact and time. “Basically, yeah.” He pauses. “Skip the auction. Though, the kissing tournament is ambassadors only, so… At least you’ll kind of know who they are if you’re lucky.”
“How lucky? Who signed up?” I chuckle, burying my hands in my pockets. Who in their right mind would sign up to kiss a random stranger?
“Well, Cormac signed up for it. So did Jimmie, Maggie, Tommy, Kendra, Natalie, and Esta,” he explains.
“I only know three of those people, and two are men…”
Cormac rolls his eyes and slaps my arm. “Trust me, you won’t be kissing me.”
“Yeah, I fucking hope not: you’re not my type. Also, that’s an odd number of people, what happens if I say no?”
Sonny sighs, “I guess our newest entrant won’t be able to participate.”
Nerves settled, and I’m back into the swing of it. Talking to donors may be uncomfortable, but it beats talking to the ambassadors – I hate suckups.
“What made you come tonight?” Rebekah purrs, linking her arm with mine as she peers up at me. Her lips painted red to match her obviously dyed hair.
“Well, I did create the thing we’re celebrating, so I thought I may as well enjoy the party, right?” I joke, trying not to look as uncomfortable as I feel as she pulls me closer.
She unlinks her arm from mine, moving her hand to my back and stroking. “It’s good to see you, Mr Warren,” she coos, her hand slowly sliding down and pinching my arse.
I jolt forward on instinct. “And you, Ms Smith. I better get going, I have ambassadors to see,” I explain, giving her a smile and leaving in haste – Cormac following closely. “I feel violated.”
“I can see that… She really needs to keep her hands to herself,” Cormac mutters as we approach the dancefloor where the younger donors and ambassadors are gathered, talking in small groups.
I notice Jimmie standing next to a short woman in a vintage dress. “Who’s next to Jimmie?”
“If you’re talking about the short stack with a good rack, that’s Esta Cohen,” Cormac chuckles before sipping his drink.
I turn to him. “Dude…”
“What?” Cormac mutters.
“You could’ve mentioned her hair, or just said she was short, you didn’t have to point out her tits,” I groan.
Sonny walks over, eyes darting between us. “Are you talking about Esta?”
“You got that from me mentioning tits?” I sigh, frowning – hoping I look as annoyed by them as I feel.
“He thinks saying she has a good rack is inappropriate,” Cormac tells Sonny, rolling his eyes before leaving us and going to the bar.
“From him, it is. Though, she does take it as a compliment from me and a few ambassadors,” Sonny mentions. “Unlike Cormac, they’re not close enough for that – proving he can occassionally be an arsehole.”
“Occassionally?” I scoff. “Bit more than that, if you ask me…”
Sonny smiles, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Yet, he’s your best friend.”
“I stand corrected,” Sonny mutters, a sombre expression on his face. I could have friends, but none of them would be willing to put me in my place like Cormac.
“So, Esta Cohen?” I mutter, skipping the conversation topic.
Sonny bobs his head. “Gorgeous, funny, and extremely talented. She’s an intelligent woman, and the newest ambassador. She’s been with us nine months, now.”
Remembering back to Sonny explaining the kissing tournament, I press my lips together as I watch her interact with her colleagues and a few donors. “She’s in the tournament?”
Sonny smiles and raises his left eyebrow. “Found your partner?”
I bite my lip, watching as she tucks a few strands of loose hair behind her ears. “Maybe…”
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