This is an AU story. I hope you find the characters still themselves even if their world is different.
The Good Wife
I woke up with a start and a splash. Crap. What the hell? I took in my surroundings. Right, the new house, my new bathroom; I sighed, and what a bathroom it was. I was currently in the Jacuzzi tub that would happily accommodate two. As if. I must have fallen asleep. It had been a busy couple of days, hell; it had been a crazy couple of months. But what else was new? Pretty much normal in my life, I sighed again; I suppose I should get out before I turned into a complete prune. The girls would be here soon to help me get ready for tonight. Gulp. Was I ready for this? Ready or not, this was happening. Put on your big girl panties Steph and get it in gear. I got out of the tub and made my way to the shower. It really was beautiful in here. Maybe I could just hide in here and no one would miss me. Yeah right. I stepped into the shower and fiddled with the controls, everything still unfamiliar. There were multiple shower heads which would come in handy if I had company in here, but I didn't see that happening. I shampooed, conditioned, buffed and shaved all of the essentials. When I was finished I eyed the one addition I had requested be added when we moved in. Pausing only briefly I picked up the state of the art shower massager and made myself comfy on the bench to relieve a little stress.
After being duly impressed with my new toy, I toweled off and moisturized before slipping into my robe. When I stepped into my bedroom I found Connie and Lula waiting for me. Connie checked her Blackberry and made a 'tsk tsk' sound as Lula grabbed me and sat me down in the chair in front of the vanity.
"White girl, I thought you drowned in there. We don't have much time to get you ready. This is your big night. Everything needs to be perfect. Plus this is my reputation on the line. This could be a big break for me, I can't be havin' you short my time. An artist can't be rushed." She flew into high gear as I saw her open up a massive tool box and pull out a hair dryer, hot rollers, 3 different size curling irons, a flat iron and a few other tools I couldn't identify. I thought it was a bit of overkill, but I knew better than to mess with Lula when she was like this. The woman was fierce.
I had met Lula nearly four years ago. In some ways she was the same; her fire, her spirit and her grit. But other things had changed drastically, her job, her happiness and most importantly her life expectancy. We first met while I was working on a case. She had been in her words, a ho. She worked a corner on Stark Street in Trenton. She had been an informant, helping me gather information on a local boxer Benito Ramirez and his manager Jimmy Alpha. Ramirez liked to hurt women and his manager Jimmy Alpha liked to cover it up. They had both been convicted and sent to jail, but the fortune Ramirez had earned in his career sat in Jimmy's bank account. With Lula's help we were able to gather enough information for a lawsuit against the two. Many of his victims didn't survive; we sought a financial settlement for the families of the women who had been killed and compensation for the victims who survived.
Lula was one of those. She took her money and used it to finish cosmetology school and open a small salon. The salon had grown and now she ran one of the most popular spas in Trenton. While her personal style was a little on the outrageous side, she was very talented as a stylist and turned out to be a good business woman. I had asked her once what her secret was, she shrugged, "It isn't always about the hair. People like to talk to their hairdressers. I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." Smart lady. I had been her first client when she opened her doors, so of course I hired her for tonight.
While Lula worked her magic, Connie fluttered around the room gathering my clothing for the evening. She grabbed the gown from the bed and found all of the other things I would need. I thought it was a little weird for someone else to be picking out my underwear, but she told me I should just get used to it. As she worked she went over the itinerary for the evening, what time the car was coming, how long we would be spending at each party and who the important people I was to schmooze at each one. Her eye for detail and ability to multitask had made her friendship invaluable to me. When I offered her the job as my personal assistant she was skeptical. She was afraid that her family connections would cause problems. I assured her that this was New Jersey and you couldn't walk three feet without running into someone who was related. If she hadn't accepted, I don't know what I would have done. I was entering a whole new world and I felt the need to surround myself with familiar people. I had worked with Connie several times through her job with my cousin at Plum Bail Bonds. Connie was the office manager and kept my perv of a cousin Vinnie in line. I had no doubt she could handle the job.
After setting my hair in curlers Lula moved on to my face. I wasn't used to someone else doing my makeup. Considering what Lula usually wore, I was a little apprehensive, but we had done a test drive of the hair and make up the day before and I was pleasantly surprised. She picked a simple, elegant look, not too heavy. We were going for classy, not Jersey Girl. She had done a slightly smoky eye shadow with charcoal liner. Knowing how much confidence I needed she added several coats of mascara. My lips were a classic muted red. I have to say I looked damn good.
We had tried several hairstyles, but had decided yesterday on leaving it curly. She had it pulled back gently and secured it with jeweled hair pins at the back of my head. The curls hung in a slightly messy up do at the back of my neck. It was a little sexy, but classy without being too severe. Happy with her results, Lula packed up her massive tool kit, making sure to leave me the lipstick, mascara and powder I would need for touch ups as the evening wore on.
Connie informed me we were down to half an hour so I scurried to get dressed. Connie offered to help, but I assured her that I didn't need her assistance to be quite that personal. Sometimes she forgot we were old friends from the burg and treated me like I was royalty. It was weird. I stepped into the dressing room and slipped into lace panties and strapless bra before sliding on my silk thigh highs. I did have to call Connie for help into the gown. She held it for me as I stepped in and she zipped me up. I ran my hands down over the dress, reveling in the texture. The dress was stunning. It was a ruched silk taffeta gown with a fitted sweetheart bodice and spaghetti straps. It was an iridescent navy and form fitting from the bust to the hips, flaring slightly below the knee.
While the dress was gorgeous, my movement was a little restricted. I should be good for dancing tonight since it would be the basic boring and stuffy ballroom stuff that I had come to tolerate. I giggled thinking of the who's who of New Jersey dancing to the play list on my i pod which was home to Lady Gaga, Shakira and Timberland. Connie helped me slip into my silver sandals with the 4" heels. I knew we were going for classy, but this is Jersey we are talking about here people. Next came the diamond pendant necklace that my husband had given me for Christmas. It had concentric circles of diamonds hanging from a platinum chain. It had matching chandelier earrings and a diamond bangle bracelet. I rolled my eyes at the extravagance of his gift, but knew it was one of the ways he assuaged his guilt. Whatever.
"Damn Girl!" Lula exclaimed as I emerged from the dressing room. She made me twirl and gave a wolf whistle. I laughed and hugged her and Connie both.
Connie checked her watch as the alarm on her Blackberry went off. "Steph, remember we have extra security tonight because of the threats. I am sure it will die down now that the election is over, but your in-laws hired a private security firm to act as body guards for the time being." I rolled my eyes, just what I needed, a bunch of overgrown goons following me around.
I snorted, "I guess they spent enough money to get him here, they aren't taking any chances." Bodyguards would be very annoying, but marrying into the family I did, I found it necessary to pick and choose my battles. They had lots of money and lots of power, a scary combination. We had reached a truce, outlining what I was and not willing to do. In exchange I was given a certain amount of freedom. Without their backing I wouldn't have been able to help Lula and countless women and children that the state had forgotten. The Foundation was my life. A deal with the devil I know, but I did what I had to do. I was always very careful when discussing my marriage. Connie and Lula were among the small number of people who knew the truth. To the outside world we were the perfect power couple and poised to carry on the family's legacy.
We heard a knock on the door and it was time to go. Connie handed me my clutch and wrap. "Your bodyguard will escort you down to the limo. Your husband will meet you there." Great. Big girl panties Steph, time to play the role. I am the dutiful happy wife I told myself. I was arm candy, he was the power and I was the personality. I had done this many times before. After my mental pep talk I nodded to Connie and she opened the door for me.
Stepping through the door I stopped short. Standing outside my door was what I assumed was my bodyguard. He had to be the most gorgeous man I have ever seen. He was Latino, with long dark hair pulled back at the base of his neck. He looked positively edible in the tuxedo that looked custom made for him. While classy, it hinted at the muscled physique underneath. His eyes were deep brown, but serious. He gave me a cursory glance, his face blank.
I was momentarily stunned. I collected myself and gave him a slight smile. He nodded and motioned for me to proceed. In classic Steph form, I tripped slightly and he moved to steady me. I felt my skin tingle as his hand grabbed my arm, his other on my waist as he caught me. His body was so close to me I could feel the heat radiating off him. My god he smelled good.
"Thank you," I blushed. He gave me a small smile. Ohmigod.
He motioned for me to start again, this time keeping his hand at the small of my back in a protective gesture. We made it down the large staircase and out to the circular drive where the limo was waiting, without further incident. There were several more good looking and well built men in tuxes standing guard. One of them came up to us as we approached the limo. He was an extremely large bald black man, built like a brick shithouse. He nodded to me before speaking to my bodyguard and then turning to climb into the black SUV parked in front of the limo.
My bodyguard turned back to me and apologized. "Change in plans Mrs. Orr. Your husband is running late. The Governor will be meeting you there."
I rolled my eyes. Great, just great.
Catching my eye roll he paused and then gave me that small smile. Yum.