The Two Groomsmen

Chapter One

 

End of December 2018, Friday afternoon

Wes Rhymes could use some sleep.  Tired down to the bone was his permanent companion this year, his musical commitments the cause. Commitments that brought in boatloads of money, and afforded him access to private planes, and the lifestyle that went with it, but also kept him in a state of perpetual exhaustion. He wanted a break, needed a break, and he would give himself one. One more year on tour and he was taking the next year off, at least.

In the mean-time he was headed to Vegas for the night for a short break in his schedule. An unexpected obligation to fulfill for his only and younger brother Noah.

There were two things he loved in this world, his music, and Noah. The latter had called him last week with a request to be a groomsman in his wedding. To say he was surprised would be an understatement. He was floored. He’d been living under the belief, allusion that he and his brother weren’t at all interested in long term with women and marriage was as long term as one could get.

So of course he would be a groomsmen for his brother’s hastily arranged-last-minute-dash-to-the-alter out of the blue wedding for no other reason than to meet the woman who had put an end to their vow. A woman who went by the name Stardust, who Noah had never mentioned before. Ever. Thanksgiving three week ago they hung out and not a peep about a woman.

Hell yeah he was going to support first and foremast. Always, schedule or no. It’s what brothers did for each other. More importantly though, he wanted to lay eyes on the bride. To make sure she was on the up and up and not just in if for the money, his or brother’s money. He took his big brother duties seriously, old habits of watching out for his baby brother were hard to relinquish

He removed his phone from his pocket, it was Noah calling him, again. A morning full of calls, had been his brother. “Hey.” Wes said.

“You’re going to be late picking up Angie.” Noah said.

“I am not. I’m at the airport, walking to the plane as we speak?”

“Have you told her you’re running late.”

“I’m not running late and Hailey’s talked to her, right Hailey?” Wes said, meeting his assistants gaze.

“Yes sir,” the young woman said. No nonsense and on top of his life was his assistant, tall and reed thin, brunette, alabaster colored skin, ever efficient was beside him, keeping up with him stride for stride as they cleared the back door of the small waiting room for outgoing flights. They were walking across the tarmac now, headed to the plane.

“See, Hailey has it handled.”

“I wasn’t sure you’d come, last minute and all.”  Noah said.

“The tour I can manage, It’s the short notice that was harder to work around.”

“It couldn’t be helped.”

Sure it could, people plan weddings in advance all the time, he thought. He said instead. “Why haven’t I met her before today?”

“You’re busy with the tour and all.” Noah said, irritated Wes thought.

“I would have made time and since when do you believe in marriage.”

“People change big brother.” Noah said, chuckling, interrupting him before he got started with all the reasons marriage wasn’t for the Rhymes men diatribe. “I met someone that made me want to change.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing. You have a lot to lose.” He said, stopping just outside the door to the waiting area. He waved for Hailey to continue on to the plane, He wanted a little privacy. “You run it by the brother’s W?” he asked. The brother’s W, short for Walden was the law firm that represented he and Noah in all things legal. Two brothers, that Wes met early in his career and bonded over beer and love of the blues. The brothers continued on their lawyerly journey and hooked up with Wes as his career grew. They’d helped guide him and eventually Noah when his song writing career took off.

“Yes.”

“That’s something at least.”

“I told you not to worry about me.”

“Too late, I’ve been at it all my life, couldn’t stop now if I tried.”

“Yeah yeah I know. Anyway, Stardust is picking you and Angie up from the airport. I’ll meet up with you two at the hotel afterward for my mini-bachelor party. Since you have to be back tomorrow morning, we’re doing everything tonight.” He said.”

Angie, a woman was to be the other groomsman, Wes thought, his brother’s best bud. “What does the other groomsman think about all of this?” he said, shaking his head at the notion of a woman being a groomsman, not a bridesmaid with a dress, nope but a groomsman outfitted in a tux same as he. “What does she think about Stardust? That’s an interesting name to by the way. What does Stardust do?”

“She wants to be an actress. It’s a stage name. Angie hasn’t met her either.”

“That’s a surprise.” Wes said.

“Not much time.”

“And why is that.”

“I’m not doing this again.”

“Fine then. This will be the last thing I’ll say on the subject, since you have the good sense to consult with the brothers. My mine is slightly more at ease.”

“Can I get that in writing?”

“Wes ignored the comment. “You’re an adult and whether or not I understand your reasoning, I’m always with you.” He said.

“I know this.”

“You need anything else from me before I board?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Okay then, I’m turning off my phone to try and get some sleep.” Wes said.

“Sure no problem. I’ll call Angie and let her know you’re on your way.”

“That’ll work.” Wes said, sliding the phone into his pocket, moving to the plane. He loved his brother. They only had each other, had only ever had each other, and although the front end of their lives hadn’t started out well, the back half was way more than either of them had imagined. They had lots to be thankful for. With his singing career and his brother’s song writing ability they’d survived their childhoods. No more money worries for either of them, at least the ones brought on by scarcity. The last two years had been a blur of concerts and tours and festivals and raking in the money for him and writing songs for him and others to bring in money for Noah.

There were always worries in life—the new fiancé for one and making sure she was kosher was the first of his immediate worries. There was a reason Noah hadn’t introduced Stardust or mentioned her before last week, one he meant to find.

He’d could run his thoughts past the other second groomsmen or not. She was Noah’s best friend.  He didn’t really know her either, hadn’t seen her since Noah’s college graduation. She and Noah went back fifteen or so years, he thought, doing the math in his head. Skeptical was  his SOP when it came to women.  Always. No woman or very few woman, in his experience, could be all Noah claimed Angie to be.

The summer before the start of high school, after the death of their dad. He’d dropped Noah at the home of his father’s only sister, unmarried and living alone, while he started his grind, of working and sending money to supplement her pension and small social security check. His life had become one of work, odd jobs mixed in with grinding to make his music, not that much different from now.  It was his only choice at the time. Living with their pops attempts at his music career, the seen first-hand that struggle.

Angie, the same age and grade as Noah, lived down the street from his aunt at the time.  They’d become fast friends—two nerdy musically inclined misfits, according to Noah. High school and on to college with Angie leading the charge, dragging Noah along with her. Her marriage, this past last year, had been the only break in their otherwise friendship that he knew of.

A few steps more and he’d be at the plane’s steps, a few hundred or so miles and he’d meet Angie and then Stardust, two important woman in Noah’s life. He’d watch them both, as he always did knowing that people, particularly women, would always show you who they were. One just had to believe them when they did. Yeah, he had lots of scars with women that he wasn’t even going to try to fix or pretend they didn’t exist.

He sighed, ran his hand over his face. If he were truly lucky he’d sleep the entire trip and deal with the women later. Nah, not really, but really, he though chuckling, amazed how cynical and distrusting he grown to be. He smiled, cause life.

***

            Angie Johnson checked the GPS again against the scene outside her window. She was quite possibly lost on the way to some bum fuck Egypt airport out in the middle of who knows where town to catch a ride with Wes Rhymes, the rich, famous, and handsome brother to her best friend, Noah.

A need for privacy and control of his schedule was the reason he didn’t do commercial Noah said. She understood. Just wished it hadn’t required her to drive an hour out of her way to reach it, a place, surrounded by nothing and in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, yeah, she was being uncharitable, looking a gift horse squarely in the mouth.

That was purely her mind complaining, her heart and body were all a flutter, at the prospect of seeing the Wes Rhymes live and in person again. It been six or seven years ago, college graduation since she’d seem him in the flesh. Not sure if he even remembered, permanently distracted she thought at the time. She and her support system with one way, and he and Noah, and their Aunt wenh another. A time when he was beginning his assent to becoming this serious guitar player. Now he graced the covers of magazines, played in videos on YouTube, did that one movie. He had the looks for all of it, he and Noah really could pass for twins, handsome, sexy, and totally unavailable. Well only Wes was unavailable now.

He was different from Noah in personality too, she’d heard. Taciturn, and reserved she heard he could be, with good reason, Noah said.  He didn’t trust women. A tribe Noah belonged to, was a happy member of until about a week ago, or longer, she had no idea. Him getting married she’d yet to wrap her head around.

Her phone rang. It was Noah for the fourth time today. “Hey.” She said.

“Where are you?”

“Lost I think,” she said, scanning the area outside her windows, of mostly trees, hills, grass, and all totally unfamiliar.

“What?”

“Just kidding. I’m not lost, haha the GPS tells me I’m halfway there”

“I just hung up with Wes. You’re his first stop.”

“I know. His assistant just sent me a text.”

“Hailey?”

“Yep. Her.”

“He has to leave Saturday morning early, so I booked you on the regular airline. Sorry it’s not the private jet round-trip.”

“I know. Hailey told me that too. No worries. When did I need a private jet to travel?”

“Still.”

“Still nothing. I’m much more concern about the woman you’re attaching yourself too and this hastily arranged wedding than I am air travel.” She said, listening to the GPS.

“It wasn’t hastily arranged.”

“What happened to no way with anyone?”

“Stardust happened.”

“Did Stardust happen to Gabby too?”

“Gabby and I weren’t like that.”

“You were something.” She said, scanning the horizon for what might be the airport? Her GPS said she was point two miles away.

“Do you trust me?

“I do.” She said, a consistent reply to his consistent trust me question. It was his goto answer of late.

“Then trust me.” he said.

She heard loads of irritation in his voice, not that it deterred her any. “”Is your brother okay with this?” she said again, coming to the end of the road, that was in fact the entrance to the airport.

“He trusts me.”

“Right.” She said, pulling into of the empty spot in the parking lot instead, or what she hoped was the parking lot. It was a small airport, with plenty of empty parking slots. Was that a sign she wondered. “I don’t know about this. Are you sure this plane is safe. Somehow I can’t see it. Give me a big as 747 any day of the week.” She said, hoping it was safe to leave her car here, scanning the area again. It wasn’t sketchy so much as vacant looking. “And is it safe to leave my car here?”

“It’s safe.”

“Right. You can see it’s sudden, right and you’re not very forthcoming about any details.  To go from never marriage to Vegas in a hurry, makes it all suspect. You can see that, right.”

“So was yours, I hate to remind you and I told you Lewis was for shit. But you married him anyway.”

“And now I’m divorcing him. I don’t want that for you.”

“It won’t be.”

“You see the Brother’s Walden?”

“Yes, mom.”

“That’s some good news at least. You got lots to lose.” she said.

“I know. I really do have it under control. Why is that so hard for you to believe?”

“The suddenness of it, is the first reason, but you know what. I’m letting it go. Only because you’ve seen the brother’s W.” She said, staring out the window at the empty stretch of runway. “The plane will be here soon?”

“Yes. There a place for you to wait, a small building, you see it?”

“I do.” It was back off a ways and maybe it was better to wait here, she thought scanning the empty this place appeared to be. “So Wes huh. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”

“You’ll like him and he’ll like you.”

“Right.” She said, not as sure. He and the distrusting women thing, which was fine. She didn’t trust men either, was over men with attachment disorders for whatever reasons which Wes was and Noah used to be Noah. Staunch members in fact.

“Stardust’s going to meet you two at the airport, ride with you to get fitted in your tuxedos. My appointment shouldn’t last more than an hour or two, so I see you in the hotel room after your done, and Angie?”

“Yes.”

” Love you.” He said.

“Love you too,” she said, smiling at her best friend’s happiness in spite of her reservations and she had plenty reservations. About Noah in general and then specifically about his upcoming nuptials to a woman she knew next to nothing about.  She’d met all of the other girlfriends or not girlfriends over the years. Gabby she thought was the latest, and one of the few she thought had real potential to break through the wall the Rhymes men had built to keep out women intruders.

She would admit that perhaps she didn’t know all there was to know about Noah’s life anymore. Not on the scale she’d had before, when they lived two doors down from each other. Her marriage had interrupted that for sure. What a waste of time that had been.

Whatever, she thought, letting it go. The haste of Noah wedding or her lack of knowledge of the bride didn’t change her desire to show up for his wedding. Nothing could. She and Noah had only ever been friends, since forever too. Whatever, if it had to do with Noah, she would now and forever be in. She would checkout home girl fiancé and speak her mind if necessary.

She would not be alone either. Big brother, with the not so good view of women was the perfect person to put a stop to a woman looking to cause harm, or a wedding if need be. It was the one upside to riding with him today. Okay there were more than one upside, but the upside she was focusing on, was the protectiveness he’d always was with Noah.  He loved Noah as much as she did.

She grabbed her purse, suitcase from the trunk and make her way to the small building to wait.

***

 “Hi Elise,” Hailey said, arriving to the plane’s door first, rolling Wes luggage behind her.  Elise was Wes’ favorite stewardess.

“Hey. You’re with him this time.” Elise said.

“Nope, he’s going it alone, which means he’ll probably sleep the entire trip.”

“The usual huh.” Elise said, chuckling.

“Yep. You’re picking up another passenger, the other groomsman, a woman. Angie Johnson. Noah’s longtime friend.” Hailey said, wiggling her eyebrows.

“I didn’t know who we were picking up.”

“She’s the who.”

Wes stood in the door, looking his usual tired self.” Elise thought, running her gaze over him. “Good Afternoon Mr. Rhymes.” Jeans, t-shirt under Henley styled shirt, boots, his normal attire was casual. He wore his black hair short, thick and little bit unruly. Beard, he wore trimmed close, came together in a nice package. The eyes were the thing that captured most women’s interest. Grey, smoldering and intense, behind black framed school boy glasses also a trademark, stared back at you like you were the only person in the world.  He knew this, the effect on he had on women as well as when and how to deploy his charm. Elise noted.

“Elise.” He said, moving inside, heading straight for a chair. He feet were up, and he was settling in, reclining, seconds later.

“Your normal sir.” Elise asked, which was bourbon. Always Bourbon.

“Yes, thanks.” He said.

“I’m out boss.” Hailey said.

Elise returned a few minute later, drink in hand. He was of asleep, which she thought he might be. Perpetually tired for work, not much else. Work, music was his first love, Noah his second. He didn’t party as much as he used too.

Women he never really done, he did, but those he kept quiet and out of the public view as much as he could and not for very long. Probably would never settle down, she thought of the last two years she’d worked for this private concierge service.  He told her that there was no such woman, but most men said that. Eventually they found someone that change all of that and she expected the same for him. So far, he was single, so maybe he knew more about it than she did. She was willing to concede that he might.

 

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