291. - Lucien
The speech is perfect. It's an homage to the pub, to its history and its future, and to Louis. His name is never mentioned, but it's easy to notice who that section of the speech is about. Tears glitter in Emma's eyes, and I hold her a little closer.
I feel guilty for lying to her about why I was late, but this is just not the place or time to discuss it. If I can help it, I'm not going to mention Jacques du Castellon today, despite the surprise meeting we just had. Between that and my appointment with Dr Carlisle, I'm ready for a drink. Emma and I weave through the crowd to the bar, where Charles is pouring, together with Selene.
"Lucien!" He exclaims with a wide grin. "We were worried you weren't gonna show up!" As he speaks, he hands me a whiskey and Emma a red wine. "Would have hated to beat up my sister's boyfriend on such a happy day, but I would have done it!"
I snort, shaking my head. "I've been in plenty of bar fights in my life, no need to add another."
That gets me three surprised looks. "I didn't know Lucien du Castellon, assistant CEO at one of Scotland's biggest law firms, was a trouble maker." Charles says.
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me, many of which may surprise you."
"Like his talent behind the bar!" A new voice says, accompanied by a hand slapping my shoulder. "Gabriel Sauvageau, artiste extraordinaire, Lucien's best friend and sanity and apparently your cousin." He doesn't miss a beat, extending a hand to Charles, who gives it an apprehensive shake.
"Cousin?" He asks.
Gabriel holds his hands up. "Don't ask me! Ask these two - and while you're at it, also ask them why they're dating if they're cousins. Anyway - wasn't I telling you about Luce's talent with a few bottles of booze?"
"Yes - but I'd really like you to elaborate on everything you just said." Charles counters, looking wholefully confused.
"Please excuse my friend. He's a dick." I say, glaring at Gabriel who's just flashing me his signature grin. I tell about using Gabriel's name as a cover up when visiting my sister, and lying about being Emma's cousin. As I talk, Matthew also joins us. From the corner of my eye, I see him touching Gabriel's lower back for just a second. But unlike the last time, it doesn't seem like an accident. I'm so caught of guard by it that I falter halfway through my sentence, needing a second to pick it back up.
"Anyway - since I'd applied three times and they kept refusing me, I was worried they were going to kick me out if they found out who I was." I conclude, plastering on a grin.
"Sounds like a lovely place to put your daughter." Charles whistles softly. Suddenly everyone around me looks a little uncomfortable, because everyone but Charles is aware of the relationship between Jacques and his children. Luckily someone in the crowd catches his eye, lighting his face up. "Erica! So good to see you! Hold up, I'm coming to you." He turns to Selene, looking apologetic. "You okay with handling things on your own for a while?"
"Lucien can help!" Gabriel says - again. I'm about to argue, but you don't argue with puppy-eyes like Charles.
"Why are you so adamant about me being behind this bar?" I ask, stuffing a tea towel in my pocket. I've ditched my suit jacket and roll up the sleeves of my shirt. "I'm not experienced at all. I don't do regular tending - I do flair tending, which, might I add, has been a while, too."
"Because you make the best Whiskey Sours, and I figure we might get some online advertising for this pub."
"I think we really need to check that with Charles first."
Gabriel, who seems in a particularly chipper mood, rolls his eyes. "Where's the fun in you today? Fine, I'll check with him."
He disappears and since Emma has been caught up with friends from the past, I'm left alone with Selene. We don't really get to talk, though, because the pub is crowded and everyone wants a drink. A few times I get chatted up for being 'the' Lucien du Castellon, which Charles so lovingly announced, but mostly it's a crowd that I'm not really familiar with. They range in all ages, all classes, all types of people. It's invigorating - no one wants anything from me, expects anything of me expect their drinks, and they're all friendly. I don't know how much time has passed when Gabriel finally finds his way back to me. He's dragging Emma with him.
"I've got the go-ahead." He announces proudly, a second before climbing up on the bar so he's towering over the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen! Such a delight to have you all here! Charles really did a stunning job renovating his place, giving it new life! But no opening is complete without a little entertainment - entertainment that isn't alcohol consumption!"
"Such a showman." Selene mutters to me, making me chuckle.
"You have no idea."
After what seems way too long he jumps down, positioning Emma on one of the stools. "You, sit here. You're getting the first drink, because... Well, because." Then he takes a few steps back and takes out his phone to video the whole thing.
"I'm so embarrassed." I tell Emma, who raises a brow at me.
"No, you're not."
I shrug and wink. "You're here because Gabriel knows I get nervous at the beginning. You're my crutch."
"Please don't talk dirty to my sister like that." Charles grins, suddenly joining us. "And just show us your talent."
The music's changed by someone, probably Matthew, to fit this whole thing better. I truly feel quite awkward, because of the same reasons I found the regular tending so refreshing - this is far from my usual crowd.
"What would it be, then?" I ask Emma, getting out some bottles.
"A red wine." She says, dead serious, but her eyes sparkle. I glare at her, the people closest all laughing.
"An 1870 sour it is, then." I say, leaning flat on the counter with a small jump forward so I can kiss her cheek, before launching myself backwards and grabbing everything I need.
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