“I think I’m in love.” Ashton reached for a glass of champagne and leaned against the bar. “What a woman.”
“Did I mention she was smokin’ hot?” the guy next to him asked.
“I believe you did.” Ashton turned to him and held out his hand. “I’m Ashton.”
“Nice to meet you, man. I’m Brock.”
Before Ashton could finish his first glass of champagne, Victor strutted into the room as if he already had this competition in the bag.
Guy after guy came through the front door, every one of them with a confident swagger. Ashton felt less and less sure of the connection he’d had with her. Maybe she was having the same effect on all of them.
The men stood around talking, drinking more alcohol and connecting with one another. I want to connect with Michelle. Hurry this process up already and bring her in here. Ashton watched the door as the men trickled in. It was silly to do. She wouldn’t be coming until all of the guys were here.
Finally there were twenty men standing around and no Michelle. Rachel Gibbons stepped into the room and all the guys straightened and turned to give her their attention.
“Michelle will be in shortly.” Rachel folded her hands in front of her. “We’ve asked her to take a moment and write the At-First-Sight love letter before she joins the party. This love letter is based solely on those few moments she spent with you as you were walking in from the limo.”
Some of the guys had gaped mouths. Some shook their heads or rolled their eyes. One guy mumbled under his breath. “There goes my chance. I was a bumbling idiot out there.”
“The gentleman who receives this first love letter will have the opportunity to hang out with Michelle, by himself, all day tomorrow.” Rachel continued, glancing around the room, meeting each man’s eye with the polished flair of a seasoned host.
Ashton could almost hear the dramatic theme music that would accompany this scene in the televised show.
“Take full advantage of tonight’s party because all day tomorrow you’ll have the chance to write Michelle a love letter expressing why you’d like to stay here at the mansion and continue to get to know her.” When Rachel paused, the guys seemed to shift back into their casual relaxed mode.
“What about the guy who receives the At-First-Sight love letter?” A stocky guy with bulging muscles folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the bar.
“He will be safe for the week,” Rachel said. “As for the rest of you, after tonight, if you feel that Michelle is not the right girl for you, simply don’t write a love letter, pack up your suitcases, and we’ll give you a one-way ticket home.”
That caused a few guffaws and a snort. Ashton’s thoughts echoed their behavior. Yeah, right.
“Tomorrow evening Michelle will read your love letters and she’ll have the chance to write letters back to you if she’d like you to stay and continue on this journey to love.” Rachel’s stance shifted. She took a half-step back, angling toward the foyer.
Ashton’s anticipation was almost palpable. It was time.
“If you do not receive a return love letter, you will be heading home. Good luck to you, gentlemen. Here’s our leading lady.”
All eyes turned toward the foyer as Michelle stepped into the room. Her emerald gown was even more delicate in the indoor lighting. The little sparkly clips in her hair bounced diamonds around the room, giving the appearance of a halo. Ashton felt his breath catch in his throat.
The guys welcomed Michelle with light clapping and cheering, a few whistled. Ashton set down his glass of champagne and stood in awe. Michelle’s classic beauty shone in her eyes as she tried to meet everyone’s gaze, if only for a second. From the way shoulders melted around the room, he wasn’t the only guy affected by her presence.
Ashton was transported to that moment at the end of the original Star Wars movie when Princess Leia stepped onto the stage at the awards ceremony. Han Solo and Luke Skywaker, and every other member of the Rebel Alliance, stood at attention as she nodded her approval. Pure elegance.
“Welcome, gentlemen.” Michelle turned to the man closest to her, and he held out his arm to escort her into the room. Another guy tried to hand her a glass of champagne. She shook her head with a tiny smile. “No, thank you. I don’t drink.”
“This should be a fun party,” Brock mumbled. He downed the last swig of his glass of beer and turned back to the bar, catching the bartender’s attention. He glanced sidelong at Ashton and raised his eyebrows. “You ready to switch to something stronger?”
“I’ll just have whatever beer is on tap.” Ashton pushed aside his nearly-empty glass of champagne while Brock requested a Jack and Coke. They clinked glasses, turned, and leaned their backs against the bar, watching Michelle work the room. It would be awhile before she got around to them.