An Glimpse of Valentine's Day: Rick and Madison Style
**Please note that this has not been edited**
I scanned Martini Bar once more. We were at capacity with reservations throughout the night. Bruce had been right. I’d been selling my kitchen staff short. Meanwhile, he was leaning against the counter with what appeared to be his own conquest for the evening.
The sounds of the patrons laughing and enjoying their meals caused a swell of emotions to overtake me. I’d never been one to gush at the idea of Valentine’s Day, but I had to admit watching couples in love, lust, or temporarily insane warmed my heart. I stood in the midst of a perfect balance of love, commercialism, and success. A smile spread across my face, and I nodded in complete satisfaction.
I pulled out my phone as I walked back toward my office. Pushing open the door with my hip, I began scanning through my messages. My stomach dropped and a hallow feeling replaced the elation I’d felt just moments ago. I hadn’t received a text from Rick in hours—very un-Rick-like.
Sitting down at my desk, I shook off the disappointment. I refused to allow myself to buy into the idea of this god-forsaken day. I’d never cared about it before. I wasn’t about to allow a number on a calendar to dictate my mood.
Anyhow, I was reading too much into his perceived absence. I’d been with him this morning. I’d see him tonight. We’d been sleeping together every night for the past several weeks. We’d both been very busy lately. I had to work tonight. I continued to check off the mental list of reasons why it made perfect sense.
I sighed. I was becoming one of those insecure women who measured her relationship based on every single solitary move the man made. Stop being ridiculous. We’re both in love. We don’t need a day on the calendar to remind us of that.
Shaking my head, I reached into my drawer and pulled out a box from my desk. Just as quickly as my sour mood came, it went away as I ran my fingers along the edges of the frame—our first official as a couple. I chuckled softly reminiscing about New York with Rick. Still, I couldn’t explain the dull feeling in my gut. I wasn’t a hearts and flowers kind of girl, but he knew better. I’d told him I wanted to be wooed. I wanted him to go the extra mile. I was worth it.
Well, Mr. Marin, I think you’re getting a little too complacent if you think blowing me off on Valentine’s Day is going to fly! It’s our goddamn first Valentines. What an asshole.
A light tap at the door startled me out of my estrogen-laced coma. A surge of anticipation filled me, and I bit down on my lip to hold back the excitement. Rick. “Come in,” I called out, quickly putting the box away.
“Hey,” Bruce said, popping his head in the door. I batted my eyes quickly to hold back the rush of tears that were forming. I had to stop this pathetic behavior immediately. I wasn’t like this, and I certainly didn’t want to become one of those women. “You have out done yourself.” He stepped inside and shut the door behind him. “The place is buzzing, the customers are happy, and the chi- of the register is music to our ears.” He sat down—without an invitation, I might add—proud of our accomplishment. Once again, I was reminded of exactly who I was—Madison Stuart, and I was a badass, proving to the industry that I was a force to be reckoned with.
I sat back in my chair. “Put on your seatbelt.” I raised an eyebrow and smiled. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
He placed his hands on his legs and leaned forward. Glancing around the room, he asked, “So where’s your worse-half? I was sure he’d be annoying the ever living shit out of me tonight.”
At that very moment, I wasn’t sure who I hated more, Rick or Bruce. But I wasn’t about to let either one of them see me affected by their insensitivity.
Tucking my hair behind my ear, I smiled curtly and began shuffling papers on my desk. “Tonight’s very busy. I need to focus on work.” I looked up at him. “We’re going to Naples tomorrow for the day.” That was the truth. I didn’t add, though, that Rick had wanted it to be for the weekend, but I had too much going on with Donovan’s to be that disconnected. I suddenly felt a pang of regret. Why did I have to be so damn difficult?
Bruce cleared his throat. I wondered if I gave something away with my expression. “Don’t get me wrong. I think the guy’s an asshole. I don’t have a problem with him missing in action.”
I tilted my head and gave him one of my looks, letting him know he was off base. A fierce sense of protectiveness came over me. “The two of you need to put your differences aside.” I reached for the box in my drawer and placed it on my desk. “What do you think?” I showed him the picture as I admired it. “I love him.” I looked up at Bruce, whose eyes had softened.
“I’m not used to seeing you act like a girl.” He smirked. “Nice picture. I’m sure Douchebag will love it.”
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically. I placed the framed picture back in the box. “This is the ruse.” Excitedly, I pulled out his real gift and held it out to Bruce. “Here’s his real present.”
Bruce’s eyes widened as he took the World War II Purple Heart in his hand. He appraised it and smiled. “He’s been injured in battle?”
“Being with me isn’t easy.” I winked and took it back. “He loves this stuff. I bought it at auction last week.” I tucked it away in its case. I’d taken so much care to get him something absolutely perfect. After all, it was our first Valentine’s Day.
I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down that he hadn’t done anything special for me. Sure we were going away tomorrow, but what about today? He could’ve sent me flowers. He always did that. He could’ve at least obsessively called me during the day. No, on the one day he was expected to be over the top, he wasn’t.
“He’s a lucky guy, but if anything changes, I can break his legs for you. And I’ll do it with a smile on my face.” Bruce stood up and tilted his head to the door. “You coming back out on the floor?”
I pushed back from my desk. “Of course. We have a restaurant to run.”
Bruce held the door for me as I stepped into the narrow corridor leading to the main area. The sounds and aroma coming from the kitchen refocused me and gave me the jolt I needed. With my head held high, I stepped into my element. I was, in fact, the queen. My shoulders slumped slightly, though. I dearly missed my king.
And then as if in a movie, I saw him, standing by the door. He held a single red rose. I weaved through the patrons, not taking my eyes off of him. The noise died down, and we were the only two people in the world. I’d graduated to heights of the overly romantic woman who longed for the fantasy of her knight in shining armor. And reluctantly, I admitted to myself, I liked it.
“What are you doing here?” I greeted him as he wrapped one arm around me and pulled me into him. Normally, I would keep the public displays of affection at a minimum at work, but today was the exception.
He handed me the rose. “I’m an asshole who was working too hard today when I should’ve been spoiling you instead.” He lowered his mouth to mine and softly kissed me. The gentle feel of his lips over mine sent a tingle down my spine. I closed my eyes and relished his warm embrace. “Let me make it up to you tomorrow.” He pulled back and tucked my hair behind my ears. Leaning in, he placed a kiss on my forehead. “I love you, babe. I’m such a fuck-up. This week flew by. Before I knew it, here we are on Valentine’s Day, and well…”
This wasn’t the time or place to be having this discussion. “Hey,” I said coyly. “How about, I leave early tonight and let you start making it up to me tonight?”
“You can’t get enough of me.” His lips curled into a dimpled smile.
I smacked his chest and held back my own smile. “You’re an idiot.”
“In other words, I’m right.” He placed another kiss on my lips. “Listen.” He laid his hands on my shoulders.
“You should leave early. That way, you’ll be rested for tomorrow.”
My body went rigid. “I’ll see you later, then?” I asked, trying not to jump to conclusions. I want to ram this rose up his ass right now.
He kissed my cheek. “Babe, I’m beat. I’ll pick you up early.” He stepped back. “I promise, I’ll make this up to you.” He smiled and blew me a kiss as he walked out the door.
I wanted to kill him. No, death would be too kind. He needed to suffer.
I stood paralyzed, staring at the door. Bruce placed his arm around my shoulder. “The offer to break his legs still stands.”
I buried my emotions deep inside and gave him an icy glare. “That’s too merciful.”
Bruce laughed. “Sign off on these invoices and then head home. I’m sure loveless boy will turn that frown upside down tomorrow.”
I grabbed the papers and headed to my office to collect my things. I plopped down at my desk and pulled out my pen. Everything was standard and in order, so I signed off on the bills. My Pandora bracelet slid down my wrist, and I sighed. I loved him, and I knew that aside from him being the world’s greatest asshole, he loved me too.
I grabbed Rick’s gifts and placed them in my tote, wishing I’d gotten him something I could return. I stared at my rose. One? Seriously? One? God, I hated that I was acting like a silly woman. Valentine’s Day sucks!
I wasn’t a victim, and I refused to feel sorry for myself. I’m Madison Stuart. I wanted to spend this evening with Rick, and nothing was going to stop me.
I waved to Bruce as I walked out the door. I glanced back once more to see my well-oiled machine. I smiled, feeling empowered. If I’d lived my life waiting for permission, I wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I’d done. Rick Marin needed to be schooled in the art of treating a woman.
Once I reached my car, I pulled out my phone and called him. It didn’t ring more than twice before he picked up. “I want to see you tonight,” I said, without waiting for an introduction.
"Manner, mi . Hello. How are you?" He chuckled. “But far be it for me to deny you my presence.” He paused for a moment. I was expecting another cheesy line from him. “You can’t stay away from me, can you?” And without fail, he delivered it. “Just get your stuff for tomorrow and come over.”
I stared at my phone. Was he distracted?
“Marin,” I said as a wave of emotion washed over me. “It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I…” The words were difficult to form. Relationship, stupid days on calendars, and expectations were new to me. I didn’t want them and craved them all the same.
He didn’t let me finish. “I love you, Madison. You have no fucking idea how much.”
His words were filled with emotion and sincerity. I felt it in the marrow of my bones. That was all that should matter, and in a lot of way, in the ones that counted, it did. How could I allow a day on a calendar to render me a wallowing, brainless sap?
I fought back the impending tears as I drove home, realizing that the man on the phone truly did love me. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was real and it was ours. He showed me every single day.
“I love you, Marin.” I blew out a deep breath, letting go of some bitterness, no thanks to this botched up commercialized day. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
I pressed the red END button as I pulled into my building. After I parked in my space, I grabbed my purse and tote and entered through the side door.
“Ms. Stuart,” Walter greeted me. “How are you this evening?” He got up and came over to me, taking the tote from my hand.
“I’m fine, thank you.” I was suddenly exhausted. With the insanity of the evening, I had forgotten to have dinner. “How are you?”
“I can’t complain.” He pressed the call button for the elevator and handed me my bag when the door opened. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Walter smiled. “Mr. Marin is a very lucky man.”
“Yes, he is,” I responded as the elevator closed.
I stretched my neck from side to side before fumbling for the key to my apartment when I reached my floor. It really had been a long week. If I didn’t want to be with Rick so badly, I’d crawl into bed and most likely fall asleep immediately.
I jiggled the lock and opened the door. The sound of soft music welcomed me, and my breath caught in my throat. A warm flush touch my cheeks and a smile spread on my face when my eyes landed on the bouquet of red roses on my side table in the foyer. I pulled out the card that was written in his chicken scratch. Never underestimate my love for you. Be my Valentine. Forever yours, R
I laid down my purse and tote. A tremor of excitement hit me. My heart raced. Everything started to make sense. I felt like a world class bitch.
“Marin?” I called out softly as I entered into my apartment, still holding the card, and trying to remember to breathe.
When I turned the corner, the room opened up. Lit candles adorned the tables and pink and red rose petals were sprinkled throughout. I set my hands on the back of the dining chair, taking it all in. The table was set for two. A bottle of chilled champagne. A bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. A wrapped box. “Someone has a lot of explaining to do.” I said. “Breaking and entering?” I couldn’t contain the smile. God, I hate his guts.
"A crime of passion." He walked out of the bedroom, impeccably dressed, wearing a devious smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He wrapped his arms around me and dragged me into his body. He ran his lips over mine. “Are you surprised?”
I smiled against his mouth. "I wanted you to die a slow death for blowing me off today." I tightened my hold on him and swayed in his arms. "But this is a start in the right direction."
"A slow death, huh?" His tongue caressed my lower lip, and my mouth opened in response. "I think you're getting soft. I would have expected something more epic." The kiss was soft, intimate, and soul touching. His hands cradled my head as his fingers twined around my hair. Our tongues danced urgently, changing the intensity of our connection.
"I couldn't stop thinking about you all day," I confessed breathlessly.
He pulled back and held my face in his hands. He gazed at me with the intensity of a man determined. I was taken aback by it. My heart drummed rapidly.
"You're all I ever think about." He sucked in his lower lip while his eyes searched my face. "Be my Valentine." He leaned his forehead against mine. "Everyday."