Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels, jittery from coffee, and with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in her purse. She took out her phone to text her sister, Olivia, upstairs in one of the guest rooms.
Getting on the elevator!!!
It was always good to give Olivia a little more advance warning than most people. It didn't matter that Olivia had just made partner at her New York law firm; some things didn't change.
Oh no, was just about to get in the shower.
Alexa got Olivia's text just as she stepped into the elevator. She laughed out loud as she pushed the number of her sister's floor, the laughter calming her nerves. Alexa couldn't wait to celebrate with her older sister, despite . . . no, maybe because their relationship was still tricky after all these years.
The elevator glided in the air, in that smooth, noiseless way elevators in expensive hotels do, while Alexa checked her purse for the third time to make sure she'd tossed the fancy crackers and Brie in there. They would need a pre-dinner snack to soak up all of that champagne, after all. She wished she'd found the time to make brownies the night before. Olivia loved her brownies.
She spied the cheese and crackers in the corner of her purse, tucked away from the heavy champagne bottle. Just then, the elevator stopped with a jerk. A second later, the lights went out.
"What's going on?" she said out loud to herself.
A few seconds later, a dim light came on, but the elevator stayed motionless. She looked up and around, and jumped to see a man with a suitcase in the opposite corner of the elevator.
"Were you here this whole time?" she asked.
"What am I, a genie?" He grinned back at her.
"I guess you don't really look like a genie." He was a tall white guy, with tanned skin, rumpled dark brown hair, and about a day's worth of scruff where a beard would be. She had a sudden urge to rub her hand on his cheek to see how prickly it was. How exactly had she missed seeing this man get on the elevator with her?
"Thank you, I think. But isn't that what a genie would say?" he asked. "You're not claustrophobic, are you?"
"Um, I don't think so. Why, were you going to bust us out of here with your genie powers if I said I was?"
"I guess you'll never know if I'm a genie now," he said.
"Well, there was that time I got an MRI," she said. "Being inside that tiny machine wasn't much fun. Maybe I am claustrophobic."
"Sorry, you already lost your chance to see my powers." He moved to the front of the elevator and picked up the emergency phone.
"Let's see if they can give us an ETA on getting out of here."
She tried not to stare at him in the dim lighting, but she couldn't miss the opportunity to check out his butt in his perfectly fitted jeans. It was as good as the rest of him. She tried to wipe the grin off her face in case he turned around.
Stuff like this never happened to her. Not the stuck-in-the-elevator thing-her life was full of minor crises like that. No, it was being stuck in an elevator with a hot guy that was the unusual part. She was always the one sitting on an airplane next to a chatty toddler, or a knitting grandma, or a bored college student; never a hot guy to be found.
After about a minute of him saying, "Okay . . . okay," in progressively tenser tones, he hung up the phone.
"Well . . ." He paused and smiled at her. "Wait, I don't even know your name, my new elevator friend."
"Alexa, and you, Genie?"
"Drew. Nice to meet you, Alexa."
"Drew, it's a pleasure, but . . ."
"Right, these circumstances are not ideal. So, the bad news is that there's a power outage in the whole hotel."
Her phone lit up just then with a text from Olivia.
My power went out. Where are you??
"Ahhh, yes, I was just alerted to that." Alexa held her phone up before she texted Olivia back.
Whole hotel, I'm stuck in the elevator.
"At least that means they were telling the truth," Drew said. "The good news, or so they tell me, is that they have generators, so the elevators should start moving shortly."
She slid down to the floor, placing her purse gently beside her. It would be a tragedy to break that champagne bottle.
"We might as well wait in comfort," she said. Her favorite red heels were relatively comfortable for the first five hours, but she'd been wearing them for nine plus.
He shrugged off his leather jacket, gifting her a glimpse of his stomach muscles as his gray T-shirt shifted. Mmmm. Hot, funny guy who occasionally flashed his abs. Was it her birthday?
"So, are you a guest here, Drew? Where are you coming from?" she asked him so she wouldn't stare.
"Just flew in from L.A. And you?" He sat down next to her.
"Oh, I live here. Well, over in Berkeley, anyway. I'm just in the hotel visiting someone."
He glanced at her phone, her shoes, and back up at her.
"A pretty special someone, with those shoes on, and all of that smiling you were doing when you didn't even notice someone else got on the elevator with you."
"A very special someone," she said, and his grin got wider. "Wait, no, not that kind of special someone! My older sister! She's in town from New York for work."
Yep, this was how she usually acted around hot guys. Scared to make eye contact, stared at his abs, said something awkward.
"Ahhhh." He laughed. "Okay, yes, I did think it was that kind of special someone. Do you two have a hot night in the city planned?"
She crossed her legs and adjusted her black wrap dress so she didn't accidentally flash her underwear at this dude on top of everything else.
"Sort of. We're celebrating. She just made partner at her law firm!" Alexa smiled down at her purse full of treats before looking back up at him. Not even cheese could compete with this dude.
He narrowed his eyes at her. Light brown eyes, with a really dark rim around them. His eyes were so pretty that she looked away again. Thank God her brown skin meant her cheeks couldn't get too pink, otherwise he'd be able to see them glow in the dark.
"Okay, I'm happy for your sister, but what is in that bag? You keep looking at it like it holds the Holy Grail."
"Just champagne and a few snacks. The plan is to drink the champagne here and then go out to dinner . . . Well, that was the plan, but we'll see how long we're stuck in this elevator."
Drew scooted closer to her and looked in her purse. Alexa pushed it toward him, so he could see better in the dim light. She never let people poke around in her purse, but hey, this was a cute guy and a weird situation.
"Okay good, we have sustenance if we're stuck here for hours. Champagne is so convenient because no corkscrew is needed, and then we've got . . . Oh, look at that, cheese and crackers, the perfect stuck-in-an-elevator snack."
She leaned back against the wood-paneled wall.
"Have you been stuck in an elevator before with a variety of snacks and been able to determine which ones are best for this situation?" she asked.
"No, but come on, cheese and crackers are obviously the best possible option here. First of all, you had the foresight to bring a soft cheese, so we won't need a knife to cut it; we can just use the crackers to pull off bits and spread it with our fingers. And second, have you ever not enjoyed cheese and crackers? Ever not thought, 'Oh boy, these cheese and crackers are exactly what I need right now'?"
She considered for a moment.
"Stop, no, stop even thinking about it," he said. "You know the answer is no. Cheese and crackers are objectively the perfect snack."
She laughed and pried his fingers away from the box of crackers.
"Okay, fine, you're right. But you didn't manage to talk me into sharing Olivia's you-made-partner cheese and crackers with you, you know."
He stretched his legs out along the floor and took another glance into her purse.
"I was afraid of that. Well, I can only hope we'll be here so long that you'll take pity on me."
She slipped her shoes halfway off, just enough to relieve the pressure on her toes.
"No offense, Drew, but my goal is not to be stuck in this elevator with you all night." Although those abs . . . No, remember Olivia? Her sister? Right, Olivia, okay, yes, Olivia. Time to ask him another question so she'd stop staring. "Don't you have plans tonight? What are you doing here in San Francisco for the weekend anyway?"
He made a face.
She made a face back at him.
"Don't say it like it's a prison sentence."
He slumped against the wall.
"If prison sentences lasted for a weekend, this one would qualify. Okay, fine, a prison in a cushy hotel, but still."
She looked around at the dim, still elevator.
"Not so cushy right now. What's so terrible about this wedding?"
He threw his hands in the air.
"Let me count the ways." He held up one finger. "One: it's my ex-girlfriend's wedding."
Alexa winced. She'd been there. Exes' weddings were always a trial, even in the best circumstances.
Second finger. "Two: she's marrying one of my best friends from med school."
Alexa covered her eyes. Okay, he maybe had a point.
"Were they . . ."
"No, she wasn't cheating on me with him, but . . . let's just say I wasn't particularly pleased about how it all happened, shall we?"
"Ouch. Well, I understand why you-"
He held up a third finger. "THREE."
She sat up straight.
"There's another one? A third finger?"
"Oh yes." He waved his middle finger in the air. "As a matter of fact, this is the worst of the fingers. Three: I am a groomsman."
She swung around and faced him, mouth wide open.
"Are you kidding me? A groomsman? What? Why? How?"
"Yes, you are asking the important questions. The ones that Josh, Molly, and I all should have asked before this nightmare of a wedding weekend started. What and why indeed. What could have possibly inspired him to ask me to be a groomsman? Why would he do that? Why would she allow it? WHY would I say yes? How did this happen? All of those questions should have been asked, and yet, here we all are."
"Oh my God, Drew. That's almost enough for me to give you some cheese."
He patted her shoulder. Cheese? Hell, if he'd let his hand linger there for a few more seconds, she would have given him a lot more than cheese.
"Alexa, I'm touched. I truly am. And then"-he waved another finger in the air-"there's four."
"Oh good Lord, what could four possibly be? Are your divorced parents coming to the wedding with their spouses, too, or something?"
"No, but good guess. What a nightmare that would be. No, four is that I am not only a groomsman in the wedding of my ex-girlfriend and former best friend, but I am a dateless groomsman in the wedding of my ex-girlfriend and former best friend. My date bailed on me at the last minute, so I'm going to look pathetic, and I'll probably get drunk and hit on a bridesmaid-the whole thing is going to be a nightmare."
She brushed that off with a wave of her hand.
"Oh please, you'll be fine. Weddings are great places to meet people. It's better that you're without a date. As my friend Colleen always says, 'Don't bring a sandwich to a buffet.'"
He let out a bark of laughter.
"I'm definitely going to steal that saying. And while in most situations I would say that your friend Colleen is totally right, this is that five percent of situations where a sandwich would save me from all of the food poisoning in the buffet. I'm going to get so many pitying looks, you have no idea. And the worst part is that I RSVP'd with a plus-one, so there's going to be an empty seat at the head table. And lots of 'What happened to your girlfriend, Drew, couldn't make it?' And I'm going to have to smile and take it, but there's like a thirty percent possibility I'm going to have one too many glasses of bourbon and go rogue."
She touched his hand and tried not to linger there.
"Okay, yes, sometimes a sandwich is a necessary security blanket. I'm sorry that yours bailed on you."
He looked down into her purse again.
"Alexa, I'm going to need you to stop talking about sandwiches if you don't want me to steal that cheese."
She grabbed her purse and moved it to her other side.
"Now temptation is farther away. Isn't that better?"
He looked at her, at the purse, back at her. She smiled and kept her hand on the strap.
"So, Drew. What happened to your girlfriend?"
He narrowed his eyes at her, and she laughed again.
"Okay, first of all, Emma wasn't my girlfriend. We were just hanging out, that's all."
Alexa frowned at him. This guy had to be in his thirties like her. Hadn't people stopped "just hanging out" with people by their thirties?
"Don't look at me like that! I'm not a girlfriend kind of guy! And when I could tell that she might want something more serious, I ended it. I was nice about it! I don't do girlfriends. I haven't had a girlfriend since . . ." He sighed. "Molly. Anyway. Except I forgot that I needed a date for this damn wedding."
Alexa pointed to the fourth finger that he'd raised in the air.
"Wait," she said. "How, exactly, is that your date 'bailing' on you?"
He shook the finger at her.
"Don't do that! Don't blame this on me. It's not my fault. It's not her fault, either-she was going to come to the wedding with me anyway, but her dad's having surgery tomorrow, so she couldn't come." Those ab muscles moved in a lovely way when he sighed. "And, of course, I'm sorry about her dad. I don't blame her for that at all. I do, however, think this is just more evidence that I've been cursed when it comes to this wedding."