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Heart of Gold

By:Frankie Love

e a chaste kiss and her parents clap encouragingly.

I do my best to suppress a laugh, and as I look away, my eyes fall on a woman who's has just arrived at the restaurant. She drops her purse onto an empty chair, pats down her wild blonde hair, and unapologetically pulls on the waistband of her skirt, adjusting her tights.

She walks toward us and immediately my cock twitches. My body has a strong reaction-maybe I've been alone in the woods for too damn long, but I don't think it's just that. She's gorgeous.

She has an upturned nose, dark brown eyes that seem to catch the light of every lit candle. She looks like fresh air feels. Like you could take a deep breath of her and feel better.

Her clothes are a stark contrast to the room: bright tights, bold patterned blouse, and a short-ass skirt. It looks like she dressed without caution, without pretense -the clear opposite to everyone else here who is poised to perfection.

I always pick the road less traveled, the dirt path and the gamble, maybe that's why this woman is so damn attractive. She isn't ordinary. She is set apart.

If Taylor and the others were still talking about wedding details, I couldn't tell you any bit of it. Instead of paying attention, I was imagining dragging the woman with the kaleidoscope outfit away to the nearest hotel room for some fun.

"Ava," Sophia says. "You finally came. I thought you might be a no-show. Again."

Ava frowns openly. "I'm ten minutes late. God, had you written me off that quickly?"

"Well, you are my sister," Sophia says. "I thought you might be one of the first to arrive. Not the last."

Cora shoots her husband dagger eyes that look like some kind of secret family voodoo I've only read about.

"Okay, girls," their father says, resting his hands on both of his daughters' shoulders. "Everyone's here now. It looks like you could both use a drink."

Ava rolls her eyes. "Great, because what's a family get-together without alcohol? I mean, I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing."

She may be ripping her family a new one, but as a waiter walks around with a tray of champagne she reaches for two flutes. Handing one to her sister, she smiles. "Sorry. I know I'm being a brat. It just took me forever to get here, and the Uber driver got lost and I know that's no excuse but," she... stops talking and pushes a hand out in front of her as if preempting the lecture her sister is about to dish.

"Seriously, though, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to make excuses. I know you hate when people are late. But here I am. And here you are," she says, this time dropping her hand and raising her champagne. "To Sophia and Taylor. To dreams coming true and being swept off your feet and to having the happily ever after you both deserve."

Personally, it may be a little over-the-top as an introduction, or even as a toast, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that her presence is refreshing. There's nothing stuffy or uptight or boring about her. Ava is everything her family is not.

"You're supposed to save the toast for dessert. But that's fine." Sophia smiles tightly and then turns to her fiancé. "Taylor, introduce your brother to everyone."

With that, all eyes turn to look at me, but I don't look around the circle.

Because my eyes, well, they are firmly planted on Ava.

Chapter Two

I guzzle my champagne. No, I'm not a lush. I mean, unless it's Monday night and I'm watching The Bachelor. But today is an exception. Today I'm at my sister's engagement party.

Now, I am happy for Sophia. Taylor seems like a really nice, albeit boring, man. But yes, the two of them are going to have a very nice life. I say nice because there really isn't a better adjective to describe the pair.

Most people,-ahem, my mother – would say I am a little jealous.

But why would I be jealous of my sister's perfect life? I've never wanted a life filled with garden parties and tea with the ladies.

The thing is, when it comes to sisters there's always going to be one who is the winner of the family, and one who is the loser.

I finish my champagne, instantly looking around for another waiter to replenish my bubbly. There are none in the vicinity and to avoid my mother's judgmental gaze, my eyes hit the floor.

And then they run up my leg to see the gaping run in my pink tights. I shouldn't have worn pink tights to this fancy pants restaurant. I should've worn sensible sheer hose. Maybe some peep toe shoes and a dress from a department store.

I look at my sister in her delicate pearl necklace and diamond earrings and huge diamond ring. She looks so put together. So perfectly put together. So perfectly not me.

Exhaling, I remember who this is about-Sophia and Taylor, and their wonderful news. I may be jealous, but that isn't the real emotion rising inside of me. Tears prick my eyes at the happily ever after they are finding.

I lift my chin, open my eyes wider, paste on a smile. I am determined to be present. To be happy. To be in this. I focus, which, yes, it's not exactly my strong suit, but I try. I focus and listen to the conversation around me.

"So, Samson, you live in the mountains? And what is it you do out there, exactly?" My mother is a prier. She doesn't drop a subject until she gets what she wants. Except, not with me. I'm a supreme disappointment due to my lack of ambition and drive. Because, according to her, starting a "craft business" is not a business. It's a hobby and I need to grow up.

Let's not think about the fact that my business is thriving. Growing. That I just had a super sexy art show at a gallery in Boulder.

Whoa. Deep breaths, Ava Grace. Clearly coming here tonight has been a trigger.

I need to stop thinking about myself, which, I know, would be an amazing accomplishment for a 24-year-old young woman to do. Yes, some people might say I'm a little self-indulgent, but that's wh