The Worst Best Man
It was the bridal party from hell. The gold leaf, crystal chandeliers, and acres of Italian marble of the Grand Terrace Ballroom couldn’t dress up the fact that a hot mess was currently in progress. From her vantage point on the upper balcony that ringed the hotel’s sunken ballroom, Frankie could see it all.
The groomsmen, in their Armani and Brioni, were overgrown frat boys destined to spend their lives reliving their prep school glory days. Their trust funds were cushy enough to buy their way out of any real trouble.
The bridesmaids were worse. All working on landing husband number two—or three in Taffany’s case. They were on the prowl for men who came with a favorable prenup and a yacht in Saint Tropez.
To Frankie, it was a literal circus. But there wasn’t much she wouldn’t do for the bride, including standing up for her best friend in a three-ring mess of a $350,000 wedding. Pru and Chip were the golden couple of the Upper West Side. College sweethearts who had found their way back to each other. And Frankie was more than happy to be a part of their extravagantly special big day.
If this engagement party was any indicator of how fabulous the destination wedding would be, Frankie wasn’t sure how a poor, sarcastic girl from Brooklyn with big hair would fare amongst the who’s who in Barbados. But for Pru, she’d give it her best shot.
Besides, it gave her a chance to ogle the best man in person. She snagged a champagne glass from a passing tray, winking at the server who joined her against the balustrade. She eyed Aiden Kilbourn across the room. Impeccable, aloof, and painfully beautiful.
“I can’t believe we got this gig,” Jana, the server hissed. “I never in a million years thought I’d see Manhattan’s Most Eligible Bachelor in person, let alone serve him champagne!”
“Don’t spill anything on him, Jan,” Frankie cautioned.
“You mean ‘don’t pull a Frankie.’” Jana smirked.
Frankie lifted a shoulder. “The guy grabbed my ass. What was I supposed to do, not drop a tray of canapés on his lap?”
“You’re my hero,” Jana sighed.
“Yeah, yeah. Get back down there before they start sobering up. And tell Hansen to maybe migrate away from the ladies’ room. He’s not getting any phone numbers tonight.”
Jana tossed her a mock salute. “On it, boss.”
Frankie watched Jana nimbly skip down the stairs, tray aloft. As soon as Pru and Chip had announced their engagement, she’d snapped up a second job with a catering company, knowing the cost of doing business with the privileged. She wasn’t about to let Pru pay for her bridesmaid dress or her plane tickets, though the offer was there. Frankie was determined to hang with the socialites just this once without being a charity case, even if it bankrupted her.
She ran a hand over her two seasons-old Marchessa that she and Pru had found at an upscale consignment shop in the Village. It was hard to find couture that fit her curves. Pru and the rest of the bridesmaids were nymphy waifs. All blonde, all thin, all B-cups. Well, except for Cressida. Her double Ds spilled out of her size zero Marc Jacobs. Either the woman was blessed with incredible genetics, or they weren’t real. But without getting a handful, Frankie couldn’t tell for sure.
Speaking of good genes, she turned her attention back to the man in the white tuxedo jacket. He had a hand in his pocket in that effortlessly casual stance that the rich were born with.
At forty, Aiden was Manhattan’s unicorn bachelor. Never married—just a rotating cast of arm candy, the longest of which had lasted nearly three whole months. He rarely smiled, unlike the rest of the cast of characters who pasted on their phony “great to see you” grins. It looked as though he was perhaps as uncomfortable as she was in the thick of things.
Pruitt waved to Frankie from the center of the throng. Maid of honor duty engaged. Frankie pasted on a smile of her own before taking to the stairs to join the party. She wove her way between gold cushioned chairs and ivory linen-draped cocktail tables. It’s funny how good the wealthy smelled. All subtle, rich scents as if it emanated from their pores.
“You look amazing, Frankie,” Pru told her, dropping the double kiss on the cheeks and squeezing her hand.
“Me? Have you looked in a mirror tonight? You look like a high-fashion model pretending to be at an engagement shoot.”
“Good enough to eat,” Chip, the golden groom, said swooping in to kiss his bride-to-be.
They glowed at each other, and Frankie felt like she was intruding. “Well, I should get back—”
“Uh-uh. Not until you meet Aiden,” Pru said, dragging her attention away from Chip. On cue, Chip waved at the man.
“That’s okay. I can meet him at the ceremony,” Frankie said.
“Frankie doesn’t like high-society people,” Pru stage whispered to Chip.
Chip slid an affectionate arm around Frankie’s shoulders. “Good thing she made an exception for us, seeing as we’re classy as fuck.”
Franchesca laughed. “You should have put that on your wedding invitations.”
Hansen the server approached with a tray of beef crostini, and Chip snatched one off the tray. He popped it into his mouth, eyes rolling back in his head. “Ummm. Frankie, we owe you for the catering recommendation. Delicious.”
Frankie gave Hansen a nod in the direction of where Pru’s father was glowering in the corner. The man hadn’t gotten over the fact that Chipper Randolph III had unceremoniously dumped his little girl in the months after college graduation when she’d been expecting a ring. But he was picking up the bill for this shindig, and Frankie was determined to make sure his stomach was full to prevent any hangry outbursts.
“Chip. Pru.” The voice was a full octave deeper than Chip’s. Smooth, cultured. Frankie considered asking him to read the grocery list she had stashed in her hand-me-down clutch just so she could listen to him pronounce edamame.
“Aiden!” The good breeding kicked in automatically, and Chip turned to his best friend to make the introductions. “Frankie, this is Aiden Kilbourn, my best man. Aiden, this is Franchesca Baranski, the maid of honor.”
“Frankie,” Aiden said, extending his hand. “That’s an interesting name.”
Frankie gripped and shook. “We’ve got a Taffany and a Davenport in the bridal party, and I’m the one with an interesting name?”
His already cool expression chilled a few degrees. Obviously, he wasn’t used to being educated by an underling. “I was merely making an observation.”
“You were pre-judging,” she countered.
“Sometimes a judgment begs to be made.”
She was still holding his hand. Annoyance had her tightening her grip. He returned the squeeze, and Frankie dropped his hand unceremoniously.
“So, Aiden,” Pru began brightly. “I met Franchesca my first semester at NYU. She’s brilliant—full-ride scholarship—and she graduated a semester early with a 4.0. Franchesca works part-time for a nonprofit while pursuing her MBA.”
Frankie shot daggers at Pru. She didn’t need her best friend trying to talk her up to a snobbish ass.
“Aiden is COO of his family’s business. Mergers and acquisitions,” Chip supplied. “I don’t remember his GPA from Yale. But it wasn’t as good as yours, Frankie.”
She was about to excuse herself and track down another tray of champagne when the DJ changed it up. The first beats of “Uptown Funk” brought half of Manhattan’s elite rushing to the dance floor like someone had announced the new Birkin bag was available.
Pru’s hand clamped down on her arm. “It’s our song!” she squealed. “Let’s go!”
Frankie allowed Pru to tow her toward the dance floor. They slid seamlessly into their choreographed dance crafted two years earlier after one of Frankie’s moderately disappointing breakups. They’d polished off two entire pizzas with three bottles of wine and spent the rest of the evening choreographing the perfect ass shaker.
“I couldn’t tell if you two were fighting or flirting,” Pru yelled over the music.
“Flirting? You’re joking, right? I’m way out of his league.”