Welcome! This is my second Steroline story, and I am really excited to see what you guys think of it:)
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy! I got this idea from the movie The Wedding Date, but don't expect it to be anything more like that film besides the basic idea of hiring a date for a wedding.
The Only Exception
1: Save the Date
Six months before her 25th birthday, Caroline Forbes went through something she likes to call a 'Quarter-Life Crisis'. Much like a mid-life crisis, she started to feel like her life was passing her by, and yet she was going nowhere. She was still stuck in same old boring town she grew up in, feeling like she was waiting on some grand opportunity to come along and take her away. She had an okay job, a decent social life, and a perfectly average boyfriend, but...she wanted more. She wanted adventure, she wanted to travel, and yeah, she wanted the opportunity to find an epic romance of her own, if those even exist outside of cheesy fantasy novels. So, Caroline Forbes did what any almost-25-year-old suffering from a quarter-life crisis would do; she quit her job, packed up her belongings, and moved to New York City.
Life in the City is much more fast-paced and exciting than Caroline's hometown in Warwick, Massachusetts. It is also more expensive, a lot more expensive, and despite there being millions of businesses, Caroline was having a very difficult time getting hired anywhere. She had worked at a daycare in Warwick, but she moved to New York for a change, so she wanted to try something different. She'd always loved singing, so she auditioned as a singer for a few different restaurants, but was turned away. She started to wonder if maybe she wasn't as great at singing as she thought she was...Thoroughly discouraged, Caroline began applying to anywhere and everywhere that had a 'Help Wanted' sign posted. Eventually, she had an interview at a swanky bar in Manhattan, and was hired on the spot. Finally, her luck had turned.
Shameless Bar is where Caroline met Katherine Pierce, who quickly became her best friend in NYC. Katherine was born in the City, and she had such attitude and confidence, something Caroline both envied and admired. She wished she could be so effortlessly sexy, but she had to try really hard to look and feel good about herself. Katherine gladly took Caroline under her wing, treating her like a new pet, introducing her to all her hip friends, and showing her around to all the best places in New York. Caroline soaked up everything like a sponge, quickly adapting to life in the City, along with Katherine's help. Caroline discovered her inner party girl, someone she hadn't seen since high school, and she liked the new woman she was becoming. She was glad to see her decision to move away from Warwick was a good one, and not an awful disaster that had her running back home to Mommy in less than six months.
On her 25th Birthday, Caroline was ordered by Katherine to come Shameless Bar, even though it was her night off, at promptly 9PM. By now, Caroline knew better than to argue with Katherine, so she agreed to show up at the requested time. Caroline put on a gold-sequined micro-mini dress with matching gold stilletos. Katherine had re-vamped Caroline's style once they became friends, too. She said Caroline's closet was much too 'Country Miss' and not enough 'Sexy Seductress'. Caroline wasn't sure she wanted to come off as a sexy seductress, but once she tried on some of the clothes Katherine suggested, she immediately changed her mind. She looked hot! So why shouldn't she dress like it? After perfecting her makeup and touching up her blonde locks with the curling iron, she stepped back and took a look in the mirror. She was astonished at how happy she looked. Six months ago, she could have sworn an entirely different person was staring back at her, but now...now she's really happy, and she feels alive. She hasn't felt that way in a long, long time.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE!"
The joyous shouts from the waitresses at Shameless upon Caroline's entrance attracted the attention of all the patrons in the bar. Someone started singing the Happy Birthday song, and soon nearly everyone in the building was singing along. It was loud and off-key, but Caroline was grinning from ear-to-ear by the end. She clapped along with everyone and did a little curtsy as she thanked her new friends, Katherine especially, and the others in the bar.
"Aren't you glad you listened to me?" Katherine asked as she nudged Caroline's shoulder in greeting.
Caroline rolled her blue eyes and pulled Katherine in for a hug, even though she knows Katherine isn't a touchy-feely person. She is, and it is her birthday, so Katherine can shove it for a minute and accept that the hug is happening. Surprisingly, Katherine retuned the hug, commenting, "You're such a sap."
"Oh, sue me," Caroline quipped.
"Hey Care," Miss Pearl, the owner of Shameless, called Caroline's attention to the bar, "Happy Birthday, darlin'. This is for you," she gestures to a tall glass of some kind of blue alcoholic beverage, "A suckerpunch, on the house of course; just what you need for your birthday." The youthful-looking oriental woman winks before cackling with laughter.
Caroline raised an eyebrow in Katherine's direction before hesitantly picking up the glass and taking a sip. It tasted like blueberries and lemon, and only a hint of vodka could be picked out amongst the fruity blend. Once Caroline finished the glass though and stood up from the bar, she started feeling the room spin. "Whoa," She said as she turned back to Miss Pearl, "That was stronger than I thought..."
"See..." Pearl grins devilishly, "Suckerpunch. Get it?"
"Yeah, I think I do," Caroline laughs. "Thanks for the drink, Pearl."
Katherine dropped off drinks with her last table and then un-tied her apron. She tossed it in her cubby behind the bar, scooped up her tips from the evening's shift, and sought out Caroline in the crowd. "Hey," She said to her blonde-haired friend, "I'm off the clock. Let's go, the night isn't over yet."
Caroline didn't know what Katherine had in store for them, but when she followed Kat's directions to a fancy hotel in the upper east side, she was not expecting for the penthouse suite to be rented out for the night and fifty of Katherine's friends to be occupying it. Katherine really knew how to party. Even though she only knew half the guests, Caroline had a great time at her birthday party. Partly because she was completely wasted, and partly because she was the center of attention. Everyone wanted to dance with the birthday girl, do a shot with the birthday girl, and for some reason, take a picture with the birthday girl. Caroline wondered to herself if this was what being a celebrity feels like.
At around four-thirty in the morning, Caroline found herself sitting on the roof of the hotel with Katherine, both laying flat on their backs as they gazed up at the sky. The stars were still twinkling, but nighttime was slowly fading, and soon the sun would come up. Caroline realized, and voiced aloud, "I'm officially twenty-five." After a short pause, she added, "Why does that feel so old?"
Katherine snorted, "Because you're a neurotic control freak, and you probably thought you'd be married with a kid by now, living in a picture perfect white picket fence house, and pretending to be happy with your boring life."
"Hey!" Caroline protests to her friend's harsh criticism. "I am not neurotic!"
"Whatever, but am I right?" Katherine insists, "Isn't it true that you had all these plans? And because things haven't gone according to plan, you feel like a complete fuck-up?"
"I..." Caroline frowns, "Guess so. Yeah. I-I did think things would be different. I did think I'd have a more solid future at this point in my life, but...I decided I don't need that to be happy. I've been trying to control too much, and it's unrealistic to think I can control everything. I just want to let go and live; let life make some decisions for me, you know? I want to not think so much, and have a good time, and just be happy."
"I think that sounds like a capital idea," Katherine comments in a faux-British accent.
"You know what I do wish, though?" Caroline asks suddenly.
"What?" Katherine asks, albeit in a slightly bored tone.
"I wish I was making more money," Caroline admits. "I love working at Shameless, but it's still so hard to make rent. I have some money saved up still, but the move here almost sucked me dry, and now I'm worried I'm not going to be able to afford my apartment in another couple of months."
"What are you saying?" Katherine suddenly seems much more interested, "You need more money?"
"Yeah," Caroline giggles, "That's what I said."
"Well why didn't you say something sooner?" Katherine queries, a smartass smirk on her lips. "I know exactly how you can make some extra cash."
At the sound of that, Caroline was hooked. She wanted all the details. And that is how she found out about the secret business Miss Pearl was running when Shameless is closed; an escort service. Caroline felt scandalized after hearing that, and told Katherine she'd never work as a prostitute, no matter what kind of pretty name she dressed it up with. Katherine quickly corrected that it wasn't that kind of escort service. Miss Pearl runs a respectable escort service. The men who call in for dates are all aware about the number one rule: No sex is to be had between a customer and his escort. Shameless Girls, as Katherine said they are called, are like actresses. They play the part of the perfect girlfriend for a shy or lonely man who longs for the company of a woman. The men are usually older, Katherine says, and the dates are somewhat boring, but the money is excellent.
"One dinner date, and you can make two hundred dollars," Katherine bragged, "That's like working a job and making a hundred dollars an hour. One time, on a Saturday, I had three dates in one evening, and I went home with eight-hundred bucks!"
"Wow." Caroline breathes. Eight-hundred dollars in one night?! That's a lot of money! Caroline could really use money like that. "You promise if I do this, I won't end up with some creepy pervert who tries to make a move?"
"I promise," Katherine says as she rolls her brown eyes. "Miss Pearl would never let a creepy pervert anywhere near you. She is seeing a guy who's a private investigator, so he does background checks on all the men first. I've been doing this for three years, and I've never been out with one man who wasn't a complete gentleman."
Caroline is glad to hear that, and it definitely makes her feel much more at ease with the idea of dating a complete stranger for money. Really, though, it doesn't sound half-bad. She's fun and flirty. She loves to talk and meet new people. She just might be able to pull it off...
"I'll do it," Caroline decides. "I'll give it a try. I need the money, and I trust you and Miss Pearl. Can you talk to her for me?"
"I'll call her in the morning," Katherine says with a grin.
"Uh, Kat?" Caroline points out, "It is morning." The sun was just beginning to brighten the navy blue sky with its red-orange glow. The sight of the sunrise with the city buildings in front is breathtaking. Caroline can't help but feel it is the perfect ending to a perfect birthday.
"I can't do this." Caroline blurts out after feeling her stomach do another nervous flip-flop. She backs away from the taxi Katherine hailed a few moments before.
"Yes," Katherine says sternly, "You can. Caroline, you cannot back out now. He's meeting you in fifteen minutes, and you have to be there when he arrives. Now, get in the cab." Katherine places her hand on the center of Caroline's back and gives her a nice shove in the direction of the open door to the yellow taxi, whose driver seems to be growing aggravated with both girls.
She sighs, finally giving in to her fate, "Okay. Fine. I'm going. But if I don't send you a text in thirty minutes saying everything is cool, you better call the cops."
"Oh my God," Katherine complains, "You are such a spaz. Nothing is going to go wrong. Just go! And don't forget to smile and have a good time." Katherine smiles, showing off her pearly white and perfectly straightened teeth. Men probably pop a boner just looking at that smile. What Caroline wouldn't give to be as gorgeous as Katherine.
"Relax. Smile. Enjoy." Caroline repeats the words of advice Miss Pearl gave her an hour ago. "What's his name again? I forgot already."
"Stefan," Katherine reminds the blonde, "Stefan Salvatore."
"Right," Caroline nods, "Stefan Salvatore." Stefan Salvatore. Stefan Salvatore. Caroline repeats the name in her head over and over to commit it to memory. She tries to recall what the information card she received from Miss Pearl said. Her mind is a total blank. She's never been on a blind date in her life, and now she's going on one that she's going to get paid for, and all she can think about is it turning into a complete disaster.
When the cab stops in front of the restaurant Kat gave him directions for, Caroline takes a deep breath, muttering to herself, "Okay. I can do this." She hands the cabbie some money, straightens out her skirt, and climbs out of the car. She decides she's going to borrow Katherine's confidence for the day. Kat said she can be anybody she wants to be, so she has no reason to be nervous. Today, she's not Caroline Forbes, but anyone in the world she feels like being.
Caroline strides into the restaurant with new purpose, her hips sashaying side to side and her curls bouncing on her shoulders in a very attractive fashion. She greets the hostess by giving her date's last name, and then smiles smugly when she is told Stefan hasn't beaten her here. That's good. Katherine did say she was supposed to arrive first. Caroline orders herself a raspberry martini, on the rocks, and then sips from it slowly while she waits for Stefan to arrive. Each middle-aged man who is lead into the restaurant, Caroline's got her eyes on wondering if they are going to be brought over to her table. But none of them are.
Caroline is so determined to pick out her date before he sees her, that she doesn't notice the sharply-dressed young man heading in her direction until he speaks. "Caroline?"
Caroline straightens up at the sound of her name, eyes searching for the owner to the voice. When they land on the handsome green-eyed man standing before her, they widen in surprise. That can't be..."Yes?"
"Stefan Salvatore," He introduces, extending his hand to hers.
"Oh," Caroline can't seem to hide her surprise. She remembers her manners and shakes his hand, "Caroline Forbes. So nice to meet you." Crap, she thinks to herself, I wasn't supposed to tell him my full name. Well, too late now. Less than two minutes into her first date and she already messed something up. But it's really not her fault. Miss Pearl never said Stefan Salvatore was a hot young twenty-something with light brown hair and gorgeous green eyes. She never mentioned he'd have a kickin' body and impeccable manners, to boot. She was under the impression the clients were...well, old. But Stefan must be, what, twenty-five, twenty-six?
"Very nice to meet you as well," Stefan returns as he takes his seat across from her. "Have you been waiting long?"
"No, not at all," Caroline assures him, "I just got here a few minutes ago." His eyes find her martini glass, which is half-empty, and she blushes. He probably thinks she's got a drinking problem. That's just great. "Well, maybe five or ten."
"I'm sorry," Stefan says sincerely, "I was in a meeting and it ran late."
"It's really no problem," Caroline insists. "What line of work are you in?"
Stefan tells Caroline that he works for an advertisement agency, but his real passion is writing. He is currently writing a novel, which he won't share details on until it's finished, and hopes to publish it before the end of the year. Caroline thinks he's very ambitious, and that is an attractive quality in a man. Her last boyfriend worked at an auto part store and seemed perfectly content to remain there for the duration of his life. Not that Stefan is her boyfriend or anything, but still, he's her date for the night, and it's kind of nice to be out with a man who is intellegent and has class. In fact, Stefan is so charming, Caroline can't seem to figure out what he's doing calling Shameless Girls for a date in the first place.
After dinner, once they've gotten to know each other and used up all the small talk topics, and once Caroline has had two more martinis, she starts asking the serious questions. "So, Stefan, tell me...why don't you have a real girlfriend?" She tried to ask as un-intrusively as possible, but she doesn't think a question like that can really be asked without coming off as a little nosy.
Surprisingly, Stefan doesn't seem mad. In fact, he seems relieved she asked. "My life is too busy right now for a girlfriend. I don't have time to go out and meet somebody, and I've always hated dating. There's a reason I called..." He trails off, seeming to look around to make sure no one else is overhearing their conversation.
"And what is that reason?" Caroline prompts, before he decides not to tell her.
Stefan gazes across the table at her for a minute, and she's mesmerized by how handsome his face looks in this lighting. She wonders what it must look like in other lightings. He probably looks beautiful all the time.
Finally, Stefan answers, "My brother's getting married. At the end of the month."
"Oh..." Caroline isn't sure what to say. He doesn't seem to happy about this normally joyous celebration.
"He's marrying my ex-girlfriend," Stefan clarifies after noticing Caroline's clueless expression.
"Wow," Caroline says sympathetically, "That's...pretty fucked up."
Stefan laughs, his first genuine laugh of the date, and agrees, "Yeah, it is."
"What does that have to do with me, though?" Caroline wonders, leaning her elbows on the table so she can position herself just a little closer to Stefan.
Stefan copies Caroline, hunching over the table so he can tell her in a quiet voice, "I need a date for the wedding. I can't go alone, it'll be too pathetic. I was hoping I could maybe talk you into going with me. I know it's not what you usually do, but I'll pay you three-thousand dollars. And if that's not enough, then-"
"Wait, what?" Caroline cuts him off, "Three-thousand dollars? That's...insane. I can't even...What?"
"Well, it's kind of this huge week-long affair," Stefan elaborates, "And it's out-of-state, so I figured three-thousand would be a reasonable price. If you need money for a dress, I can pay for that too."
"A week?" Caroline repeats, not sure what to think. He wants her to attend his brother's week-long wedding extravaganza with him? "Where is it?"
"My hometown," Stefan answers, "Mystic Falls, Virginia."
Never heard of it, Caroline muses, but I doubt he's heard of Warwick, Massachusetts, so who am I to talk?
Stefan can obviously see the confusion and apprehension on Caroline's face, so he adds, "Caroline, believe me, I tried finding a real date to bring, but it was impossible. This is my last option. I promise, it'll be like a free vacation to you. Mystic Falls might be a small town, but my father owns the biggest house in the town, and he is already bragging that this wedding will be the talk of the town for decades to come. Just...come with me; pretend to be my girlfriend, and I'll pay you whatever you like. You name your price."
He seems so...desperate, but underneath that Caroline can see pain and sadness. Stefan might not have said it, but going to this wedding, having to see his brother marry his ex, it's killing him. He's broken inside. Caroline doesn't know Stefan Salvatore all that well, but she can't let him go that wedding by himself. It'd be cruel and she is just not a cruel person.
"Three-thousand is fine," Caroline finds herself saying.
"Does that mean you'll do it? You'll come to the wedding with me?" Stefan asks hopefully.
"Yes," Caroline nods, "I'll do it."
Please Review! What do you think of this idea? Should I continue it, or not? Drop me a line and let me know:)
If you didn't know it, I have another Steroline story on here, it's called Tangled: I Want You To Stay. Go check it out if you haven't already, and be sure to review.
Reviews are like food for your brain, you know;)