Reed, Reed & Grogan Offices, 7:30pm, Conference Room, Engagement Toast for Kate & Ben
Kate, Ben and Lauren stood at the far end of the conference table in front of the window. It was just after sunset. The interior of the office was brightly lit as the light outside faded, festively displaying city lights twinkling like Christmas decorations in the darkening window. Leo was off to one side near to Kate. Numerous silver ice buckets with champagne bottles filled the table in front of the window, behind where the three partners stood. Caterers moved throughout the room and hallway offering full flutes of champagne and hors d'oeuvres to everyone before Lauren gave Kate and Ben the official congratulatory toast on their engagement. Lauren had also hired a professional events videographer to capture the toast which would then be added to the rest of the footage collected throughout the multiple parties held in addition to the actual wedding. The video chronicle was Lauren's gift and the end product was likely to be a veritable miniseries.
Lauren asked everyone in the office, as well as a few outside business and personal contacts, via email invitation, to dress up a little for the office toast that evening as the "event" would be filmed. Kate was so happy she didn't even give Lauren a hard time for suggesting a dress code – it was just Lauren being Lauren - keeping a tight control on anything she possibly could. The end result would be beautiful and memorable – Lauren would make certain of it. She would do whatever necessary to make everything turn out just how she envisioned it.
Ben and Leo were secretly taking bets on when Kate would lose her current "engagement bliss" and get superbly annoyed with Lauren – finally snapping as Lauren continued to quietly wrest control of wedding details that she felt might not be properly handled by Kate. To Lauren's dismay, Kate and Ben hadn't even hired a wedding planner yet. Ben was staying out of it for the present, but agreed with Lauren that they would need to hire numerous people to arrange what they needed in the coming months. Lauren felt a personal stake in the arrangements as well.
She hadn't had a big wedding herself. Teddy was embarrassed by spectacle, which is what he felt a big wedding at his age would be. Lauren loved him so much she was happy to go along with his wishes at the time. Theirs was a small albeit elegant affair, but now, in retrospect, she regretted not making more of the celebration. She wanted to make certain Kate didn't have any regrets or miss out on anything for her wedding. Kate's first wedding was actually fairly modest because she and Justin preferred it that way. In that circumstance though, Teddy was actually disappointed as he wanted to throw a lavish affair for the daughter and future son-in-law he adored. Lauren's vision for Kate and Ben's celebration was for a "society" wedding with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance. They both had notable standing in the business community and moved among San Francisco's upper echelon socially. They would have a who's who as a guest list. Although they weren't far apart age wise, Lauren felt an obligation in her role as Kate's stepmother and also in honor of her late husband, to do whatever she could to ensure Kate had everything she wanted and more. It would be the wedding Teddy would have given Kate and Ben had he lived to see their union.
Lauren tapped her champagne flute with a small silver teaspoon. A high pitched ringing floated throughout the room. Soon everyone quieted down, anticipating the coming toast. Lauren glanced around the room waiting for the last murmurs to die down and making sure the videographer was filming. He held up his thumb signaling everything was ready. Ben slipped his arm around Kate's waist and gave her a squeeze. She wrapped her arm over his and placed her hand so that her diamond and ruby engagement ring was clearly visible for everyone to see (and also to be filmed, per Lauren's suggestion/request). They smiled at each other and Ben kissed Kate's forehead, slightly tightening his embrace.
Glancing affectionately at Kate and Ben, and then facing the roomful of well-wishers, Lauren began, "Good evening everyone. Thank you for being here to celebrate the first official announcement of Kate Reed and Ben Grogan's recent engagement." Some people clapped and cheered and Leo joined in with a loud "woop woop," sound, until Lauren, smiling broadly, held up one hand and then tapped her glass again, signaling for quiet. "I promise to keep this brief. I just want to say how happy I am to make this announcement on behalf of Kate and Ben who I truly believe belong together. Kate and Ben bring out the best in each other. They complement each other both inside and outside of the office. The cases they have collaborated on have all been very successful. I know I am not alone in recognizing the great happiness and love that they share. Even now, they only seem to have eyes for each other. They may not even be aware the rest of us are in the room," Lauren offered, laughing as Kate and Ben gamely pretended to be surprised as they glanced around, looking startled by the sight of everyone. Appreciative laughter resonated thru the room.
Lauren continued graciously, "Please raise your glass with me in wishing them a long, happy and fruitful life together," Lauren concluded, raising her glass and sipping a small amount. The room erupted into cheers. Kate and Ben took a small sip of their champagne and kissed each other lightly on the lips and then Ben darted a quick kiss on Kate's nose. "Congratulations Kate," Lauren said as she hugged Kate and kissed her on the cheek. "Congratulations Ben," Lauren said as she shook Ben's hand also giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you Lauren, this is all just perfect," Kate said beaming. "Excellent job Lauren, thank you so much," Ben replied appreciatively. Everyone applauded and cheered noisily. Then people started walking up to Kate and Ben to offer their own personal congratulations.
In the hallway, watching through the conference room's glass wall stood Justin Patrick, San Francisco's newest District Attorney and Kate's ex-husband, along with Robin Archer, Lauren's famous billionaire boyfriend. Both men had arrived a little late, after Lauren had already started the toast, so they stood together outside the conference room, as not to interrupt. Robin and Justin exchanged a few pleasantries when the toast was over and then Robin excused himself to go and see Lauren, who was expecting his arrival. Justin planned to make his way over to Kate and Ben when the crowd thinned a little. Meanwhile, Leo had noticed Justin standing alone after seeing Robin Archer leave and decided to join him.
Robin made his way through the crowd to the front of the conference room. Lauren had moved off to the side to give people easier access to Kate and Ben. Lauren was wearing a perfectly tailored, form fitting charcoal and red color blocked sheath dress with a coordinated charcoal blazer. Her heels were a gray and black leopard print and she had on a luxurious looking black diamond and platinum necklace, bracelet, ring and earring set Robin had given her. Lauren no longer wore her wedding rings, at Robin's request. He said it made him feel (and possibly appear to others) like he was "cheating" with a married woman. The appearance of impropriety finally convinced her and so Lauren placed the valuable wedding rings in her safety deposit box.
Lauren was facing a different direction from which Robin approached as she talked to one of the firm's associates who was asking whether a wedding date had been set. "No, not yet," Lauren replied, "but I would expect it to be 12-18 months from now, depending on the extent of the plans, if they hold with tradition," she finished. Lauren caught a peripheral glimpse of Robin moving towards her. "Please excuse me," she said politely to the associate and turned towards Robin. He gazed at her admiringly as she walked to meet him. Robin always thought Lauren looked stunning, impeccably groomed from head to toe, and he especially liked the way she walked. She had a kind of sashay that he found absolutely charming. They smiled at each other, maintaining eye contact as they closed the last bit of distance between them. Although they talked at least once a day, often several times, they hadn't actually seen each other in several weeks. They missed each other more and more when they were apart for any length of time.
"Hello sweetheart. Sorry to be late. Lovely speech, by the way," Robin apologized smoothly when he reached her, placing his hand lightly on her waist as he kissed her cheek. Neither of them liked to display too much affection in public, but at the firm it was especially important to Lauren that they did nothing more than a quick hug or kiss on the check. "Hello darling. I'm glad you could make it at all given your schedule," Lauren replied graciously, smiling and then kissing him on the cheek in return.
People still stared a little at Robin when he came to the office to see Lauren, since he was such a well-known celebrity, but they had gotten much better about being discreet - much to Lauren's relief. She was embarrassed by the frenzied attention Robin often attracted, but sought to at least offer him some semblance of privacy within the walls of her own firm. Robin knew Lauren discreetly tried to ensure his comfort in that respect and he appreciated her efforts. Lauren had a kind of "properness" that would actually work quite well in British society he often thought. She was refined, very polite and enjoyed employing subtlety in her dealings with others. Robin found it amusing that his American girlfriend was more stereotypically "British" in demeanor than many British women he knew. Plus, she was beautiful, intelligent and very discerning. He respected the fact that she had outmaneuvered his own lawyer in their very first business negotiation. He was impressed and then immediately smitten.
Soon afterwards, Lauren shockingly and abruptly refused to see him again after they had what Robin considered a lovely, intimate lunch. They had even kissed that first date – which was unusual for him and even more unusual for Lauren. She admitted that she didn't trust him because he had claimed earlier not to be married or have any children and she had discovered that although he was single, he did indeed have a grown son. He felt completely flattened after being "dumped" – actually depressed – so much so that he didn't leave his hotel for a week. He swam every morning and evening, worked out with a trainer obsessively and conducted all his business on site or via teleconference, phone and email. He cancelled all other meetings "until further notice". For his part, he wanted to wait until he felt a bit steadier emotionally. In control as it were. He wasn't well equipped to handle romantic rejection because it just didn't happen very often. He was typically the one sought after and when he did pursue a woman she was nearly always receptive to the idea. Robin's sudden heartache only subsided a little after he tried to intensely work around it. It was maddening for him to be so blindsided by the exciting, unexpected attraction to Lauren followed by her swift, harsh rejection. But then, thankfully, Lauren contacted him within a couple weeks and asked for a favor, so he had an opportunity to impress her. He was determined to win her over and he was masterful at getting what he wanted.
Kate saw Lauren and Robin together near the conference room door. She also noticed Justin in the hallway, talking with Leo. She squeezed Ben's hand and whispered quietly in his ear, "Justin and Robin are here." She inclined her head slightly in their direction and Ben discreetly glanced first at Lauren and Robin, who were standing close to each other with Robin's arm draped lightly around Lauren's waist and then to Justin and Leo who were laughing and talking in the hallway. Ben knew that Kate was concerned about both men, but for different reasons. "Justin looks in good spirits. Lauren and Robin look happy together as well," Ben observed, still whispering quietly into Kate's ear. Kate shook her head in agreement.
Kate was relieved things were going so well for Justin. There was a time just before the election when his position as Assistant District Attorney was in jeopardy due to DA Davidson's dirty political tactics. Now, Justin was touted as the "best catch" in the city by the social columns promoting his single status while drawing attention to various events. His picture appeared regularly in the society papers with one beautiful woman after another. His career was in an upswing with his new position as the city's District Attorney. So far, he was wildly popular politically. Kate's threat to former DA Davidson to expose some of the corrupt deals he made that she could prove had helped pave the way for Justin's landslide victory in the election after Davidson withdrew as a candidate. Robin had given Kate the information she needed to pressure Davidson as well as get Sintax shut down and prevented from conducting any more of its predatory business practices.
Lauren and Justin thought Robin was a hero for getting the "dirt" on Sintax and the elusive Paul Kaplan, but Kate and Ben knew better. Robin Archer was actually the principal player behind Sintax. He simply hid behind Paul Kaplan. Kate never told Lauren or Justin the truth about Robin. Lauren had already begun having romantic feelings for Robin at that point and Justin needed powerful allies like Robin to be successful as the new DA. The whole truth would only hurt them and they could decide for themselves how they felt in their dealings with Robin Archer. They were both intelligent adults. Robin understood why Kate kept the information about Sintax private but he also knew she would keep it as an "insurance policy" in case she ever needed to apply pressure to him for some reason in the future. Meanwhile, Robin quietly erased all traces of Sintax, Kaplan and whatever deals had happened while they existed. It was a lesson well learned. Robin would be more careful about the kinds of deals he made and his exposure going forward. In addition, he knew Lauren was highly principled and he didn't want anything to jeopardize their relationship.
The room had begun clearing out as people started leaving for the evening. It was only meant to be a cocktail hour kind of celebration after all. Kate and Ben stayed at the front of the room in plain view giving everyone a chance to offer their congratulations in person if they wanted to do so. Justin and Leo made their way over to them. "Hey you two, congratulations! Really nice reception," Justin said smiling warmly as he walked up to them. "Thanks man, I mean DA Patrick," Ben said smirking while offering Justin his hand. Justin and Ben had become friendly once there was no longer any romantic rivalry between them. "Congratulations Kate. You look so happy – you really light up the room," Justin said, leaning in and kissing Kate's cheek. "Thank you Justin. You're such a prince. So glad you could join us," Kate said warmly.
Leo stepped up. "An official congratulations from me too although I have probably said everything I could possibly say to the 'intendeds' at this point, except that this is a rockin' good party. Great toast from the lovely Lauren – guests had a good time and the champagne and hors d'oeuvres were fabulous. Count me in for as many of these as you have leading up to the grand finale," Leo said enthusiastically. Ben gave him a side glance, suspicious he was baiting Kate a little in regards to the length and breadth of Lauren's possible future wedding party plans. Leo ignored the look. Of course it was bait. "Thanks Leo. You will certainly be invited to everything," Kate said simply. She saw the look between Ben and Leo and she knew better than to get involved. They were both pranksters and there was no telling what they were up to. Leo glanced furtively at Ben. Ben smirked at Kate's quick sidestep. A server brought by more champagne for everyone and they continued to chat for a while until Justin and Leo excused themselves for the evening. They were going to share a cab home since they lived in the same direction.
The party was winding down. Guests were leaving and the catering staff was busy making the last rounds and cleaning up. Lauren and Robin had been waiting for a good opportunity to speak with Kate and Ben and this was finally it. They really had a commanding presence, both together and apart. Wherever they went, people stared, whether or not they recognized Robin. They simply looked gorgeous together – a gorgeous power couple. They obviously made each other very happy and it showed. Kate and Ben smiled as they approached. "Congratulations to the adorable couple," Robin said charmingly, as he and Lauren joined them. He leaned in and kissed Kate's cheek and then shook Ben's hand. "So glad you could make it Robin," Kate said smiling happily. "Yes, thank you for celebrating with us this evening," Ben offered sincerely. Kate turned to Lauren, "Lauren you outdid yourself. Thank you so much for everything. This was beautiful and fun and elegant – all at once. It was the perfect engagement party for us," Kate gushed and gave Lauren a tight hug. Lauren beamed. "I'm so glad you both enjoyed it – it was my pleasure, I can't tell you enough how happy I am for you," she finished. Robin looked at Lauren appreciatively. She was gracious in all ways. He pulled her closer, kissing her cheek softly. "Well said sweetheart," he murmured into her ear.
They all talked until the last of the guests left for the evening and the catering manager and videographer checked with Lauren to see if anything else was needed from them. Everything was in perfect order. Lauren and Robin walked out together, looking forward to their first evening alone for several weeks. When they entered the elevator, with no one around to see, Robin pulled Lauren to him for a long, passionate kiss that lasted until they arrived on the ground floor where a car was waiting for them. They were spending the night at the penthouse suite at the Royal Archer, Robin's hotel downtown.
Kate and Ben were sitting on Ben's couch in his office after everyone else had left. Kate was sitting on his lap with her head against his chest and Ben had his arm around her as they discussed the evening. They were leaving soon as well, but wanted to sit and talk for a little while first, letting the champagne wear off. "That was fantastic," Kate said enthusiastically. "We are an officially engaged couple," she finished. "Agreed. It was beautifully done. We're lucky to have Lauren's help and so many good friends and colleagues to share this with," Ben said, kissing Kate's forehead.
"Justin looked good, didn't he?" Kate asked. "Yes, success and his new responsibilities obviously agree with him. Of course, he's still in the 'honeymoon phase' at this point. The voters' love him, but I hope he gets the political support he needs," Ben finished. "Well, he has Lauren's full support and that brings him Robin Archer by proxy, with all of his influence and connections, so that's a good start," Kate observed. Ben shook his head in agreement.
"She brings out his finest qualities. I like him more when he's with Lauren. I think everybody does. I also think he's shrewd enough to recognize that. He tries harder to be a good man because of her. I can certainly relate to that myself," Ben offered honestly. Kate kissed Ben's cheek. "You are already a very good man, sweetie; you just need some mild reminders about what really matters, from time to time. In Robin's case, I think he needs a constant incentive to stay on the right side of things. And Lauren is a great incentive for him. She's no push over. If anyone can keep Robin Archer in line, it's Lauren. Plus, he really does seem to adore her," Kate concluded. "He definitely does," Ben agreed. "The future of Reed, Reed & Grogan is going to be very interesting with Robin Archer in the mix," Ben said. "Yes, it will," Kate agreed.
They looked at each other and smiled. "Ready, ma petit fiancée'?" Ben asked. "Yes, officially, mon chéri," Kate replied smiling. Ben kissed Kate softly on the lips and helped her off his lap.