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Heart of Gold

By´╝ÜFrankie Love

at happens when you're the baby of a family like mine.

My father owns the most prestigious law firm in all of Denver. My mother basically runs the country club. My sister does charity work. Yes, that is her actual job title. Charity Work.

And me? I'm an artist. A flailing mess of an artist.

So yes... see how quickly I am back at me? It's time for me to grow up. I blink, stop looking at my mother and follow her gaze to-oh.

Samson.

This is the infamous recluse, long-lost older brother of Taylor.

Samson.

My stomach tightens and my lady parts respond. I swear I dropped forty-three eggs just standing here looking at him. He looks like he was made from solid oak. Or pine. Or maybe maple? I'm not actually sure what kind of trees grow in the Yukon Territory where he is supposedly from, but he looks like he was made from the earth. A sexy beard. A flannel shirt rolled to his elbows-which, in and of itself, is a turn on.




Who is this mystery man who had the balls to show up here at this restaurant, where entrées are three figures, in blue jeans and yesterday's shirt? I'm already wanting to jump in his lap and let him ride me home.

Or give him a ride home.

Or okay, I'm not going to pretend here, one look at this hottie of a mountain man and all I want to do is have his babies. All of them.

"I work on a mountain." Samson's sentence is short and to the point and pretty damn vague. My mother hates this kind of answer.

"Work? What kind of work?" My mother asks again. I look over at my sister and see her eying her fiancé nervously. I know how badly she wants this night to go perfectly. Because that's how everything goes for Sophia.

Which is good. Great, even. I mean, there have to be people whose lives go perfectly, to balance out the people whose lives do not. And now I'm rambling. To myself. Awkwardly. Probably looking like a maniac. To make up for my internal dialogue, I blurt out, "I love the mountains. And I love work. That is so great."

Everyone looks at me. I raise my empty flute and magically a waiter replaces the empty one and I bring it to my lips and drink that sweet, sweet liquid courage.

Not that I need any courage at this moment; it seems like I have this totally under control.

"Is everything okay, Ava Grace?" my father asks, giving me a stern look. A look I am quite familiar with.

"Oh, I'm so good. It's so good to meet you-Sam?"

I have this thing where I make up for my insecurities by acting like I'm totally confident and cool. All of which I'm not. I don't think it really works, but it makes me feel better about myself.

"Samson," he says coolly. "Not Sam. Samson."

Okay. Well, that was a conversation killer if there ever was one. Realizing I have overstayed my welcome, I squeeze my sister's hand and lean in to her ear to apologize again for being late. And to tell her she looks lovely, and that I am so happy for her. Yes, it's a lot to whisper, but Sophia and I are close and she knows my language. She knows me. Flaws and all.

She whispers back, "I love you more."

Wanting her to be back in the spotlight, I address the group, "Well, it's been fun catching up, but I'm going to go look for cousin Trudy. I haven't seen her in months." I smile widely at everyone and make my way to the cousin who is about as exciting as fried liver.

I know, that's not very nice. But last Christmas I sat next to her at dinner and she literally gave me the blow-by-blow of every Pokémon she had caught on her cellphone. Because that's a thing. Apparently.

Several hours later, the engagement party has come to an end. I am properly tipsy to the point that I don't even give a damn about my ripped tights.

"It went well, didn't it?" Sophia asks as we are saying our goodbyes.

"It went brilliantly. Everyone is so happy for you and Taylor."

Sophia smiles, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright -she is going to be a beautiful bride. "And don't forget we have a dress fitting soon," she tells me. "Janet and Cecily are going to email you the details about the bachelorette party."

"I know."

"It's just a lot to remember, Ava, the wedding is going to be here so fast, and I'm going to need you."

"It's all on my calendar," I tell her. She thinks I'll forget. But I won't.

I may be jealous. And a brat. But I love weddings. And I love my sister. Even if she is the perfect one.

Sophia kisses my cheeks and leaves to say goodbye to some of her other guests. Meanwhile, Taylor and Samson find their way to the foyer and the three of us exchange hellos.

"I'm glad to catch you-without Sophia, Taylor," I say. "Because, I was wondering if you would like any help with the wedding rings."

Taylor pushes his lips forward. "I think Sophia has some strong opinions about the wedding bands."

"I know, I just thought if you wanted them to be custom, I'd love to help."

"I'll let her know, but don't hold your breath, Ava. You know how Sophia is. And she'll want the band to match her engagement ring. In both quality and quantity."

I try not take it personally, and instead offer him a fake smile. This is not about me. This is so not about me. This is about what they want. On their hands for the rest of their lives.

"How would you help with the rings?" Samson asks.

This is the most I've heard him say all night. I watched him during dinner, because how could I not? He is seriously the hottest man I've ever seen. And I don't think he smiled or engaged in small talk even once. If I was to sum him up in two words I might use steak and potatoes. Or not necessary. Or perhaps, strong silent type. So, that's three. You get the point.

"I'm a jewelry designer." I shrug, mostly because no one in my family actually takes my designs seriously. Setting up an Etsy shop didn't give my parents a reason to believe my fine arts degree from Berkeley was worth it. So, I'm not holding my br

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