I sat in the front row of the packed room in Skylight Modern, one of New York’s finest venues. The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce was putting on one of their newest fundraisers of the year: New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette. For a thousand dollars, you could nominate yourself or someone else to be named New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor or Bachelorette. Along with the title came a few media appearances, some magazine articles, but mainly bragging rights. Mortals love their bragging rights, but so do I.
I threw my name in the hat along with fifteen hundred other men and women across New York City. All we had to do was record a short video of us answering some pre-written questions and send it in. From there, it was all up to the Fates. Luckily, I knew them, and had even slept with a couple.
The week prior I had been announced as one of the top three Most Eligible Bachelors.I was Pollo, the up-and-coming pop-rock superstar. I knew I was a shoo-in in this competition. After all, I was a god, the God of the Sun, Music, Healing, and Prophecy, to be exact.
I sat back in my chair and looked around the room filled with the biggest names—and wallets—that the city knew of. The most elite of the elite were here tonight to see who would be crowned the Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette. Single men and women lurked around the stage for their chance to get up close and personal with the winners.
I unbuttoned the top two buttons of my plain white, slightly oversized button-up shirt. I untucked the tail of the shirt from my black jeans and leaned back in my seat. I sighed in relief, that was much more comfortable.
The sound of whispering and giggling behind me caught my attention. I turned my head just enough to see a couple of girls out of the corner of my eye and noticed they were looking my way. I flashed the short blonde and her slightly taller brunette friend a smile and a wink before turning back to the stage as it dimmed to black.
A bright white light flashed across the audience and stopped at the center of the stage, where Amelia Rivenbark, the Executive Director for the chamber of commerce, stood. The woman was small in stature, but she commanded respect. She was strong and one of the fiercest advocates the business community had.
Amelia flashed the audience a bright, white smile that seemed to glimmer from the light above. She ran her left hand down her side, tracing her curves before lifting the microphone to her mouth.
“Ladies and gentleman,” she started, looking around the audience. “Thank you for coming out to support the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce’s first ever New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette!”
The crowd erupted in applause around me. I slowly clapped my hands and looked around at all the smug mortals. Every one of them thought they actually stood a chance. I smirked and turned my attention back to the stage.
“We have fierce competition tonight,” Amelia began again after the applause died down. “Six very deserving women and men are vying for two of this year’s most coveted titles: New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette.” The crowd burst into applause again, and Amelia flashed them her signature smile.
She lightly shook her head, pushing a few strands of long blonde hair out of her face. “As I announce the three finalists for Most Eligible Bachelor, I ask that each of the nominees come to the stage.” She paused, looking around the room until she made eye contact with me. She smiled and continued.
“Our first nominee is…” as she paused for effect, the sound of a drum roll filled the room, “Aaron Kendrick!” The crowd began clapping again as the tall brunette man stood up. Aaron Kendrick was a tech mogul who had moved here about a year ago from Silicon Valley. He rubbed the stubble covering his jaw and smiled, making his way to the stage as he waved around at the crowd.
“Our second nominee is…” the same song and dance repeated with the drum roll, “Thomas Asterson!” A much quieter clap emitted from the crowd. I raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar name and looked around the room. Apparently, nobody else knew his name either, as everyone was doing the same.
A large brute of a man appeared from the shadows in the back of the room. He adjusted his wire-framed glasses and ran his hand along the side of his head. His long brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He looked at me and winked before heading toward the stage. He walked up the steps and took Amelia’s hand in his, and brought it to his lips. He released her and turned back to the confused crowd. Nobody seemed to know who he was, but he acted like he was a superstar.
What bothered me most was the wink he’d sent me. It wasn’t a flirty wink. Trust me, I knew what those were like. It was more of a I know your secret wink.
“Pollo!” Amelia’s voice announcing my name as the third bachelor yanked me out of my head.
The crowd cheered as I stood and made my way to the stage, half jogging my way there. I shared a hug with Amelia and turned to the other two finalists. I took Aaron’s hand in mine and shook it, giving him my signature smile.
When I got to Thomas, I gripped his hand and leaned in closer. His grip tightened around my hand with incredible strength. I felt my body twitch as it struggled to keep up. “What are you?” I said between gritted teeth.
“You’ll know soon enough, Apollo.” Thomas smirked at me and released my hand. I gave him the side-eye and stood beside him, turning to face the crowd. I flashed another smile and threw a couple of winks.
“Ladies and gentleman,” Amelia said, looking around the audience with a smile painted permanently on her face. “Now is the moment we have all been waiting for, the moment we crown New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor.” The crowd went wild as people clapped and whistled, some cheering on their bachelor of choice.
As they quieted down, Amelia opened a cream-colored envelope. She pulled out a plain, white square of card stock. She glanced at it and looked back up at the crowd. “The one, the only, Pollo!”
I smiled and waved before stepping from the line of men. I grabbed Thomas’s hand and leaned in as he whispered, “I’m sure you already knew you were going to win, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know who you are, but I will find out,” I spat back. I released his hand and ran my palms down my shirt.
I walked to Aaron and shook his hand as he gave me a solemn congratulations. I made my way to Amelia and smiled at her. She leaned in to give me another hug, kissing each of my cheeks. She offered me the microphone, and I gladly took it.
“I’m truly honored to have been named New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelor. I’m sure a lot went into this decision from the judges, between my rockstar charms,” the crowd let out a modest chuckle, “and my work giving back to the underprivileged youth around the city, providing them with a place to learn music in my free music schools.”
Yes, I was tooting my horn, but I was honest, always brutally honest. “Maybe it’s because of my club, Delos. By the way, the open bar after-party for this event is at Delos, and you’re all invited.” I raised the microphone over my head as the crowd all clapped and shouted at the mention of free alcohol.
“Thank you to the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, the business community, and everyone out here tonight supporting the chamber. Let’s keep fighting to make the business community stronger and better for this great city!” I finished.
I handed Amelia the microphone and put my arm around her waist. We turned to the slew of photographers as the flashes lit up my vision. It’s a good thing my eyes were accustomed to looking at the sun, or I may have gone blind.
Once they were done taking pictures, Amelia put the microphone back to her mouth and said, “Thank you, gentleman, for participating and supporting the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce. Next up, we’ll introduce the nominees for New York City’s Most Eligible Bachelorette.”
I stepped off the stage, looking around for Thomas. I glanced around the room and caught him leaving out a side door. I slithered my way across the room, weaving in and out of the crowd.
When I got to the side door Thomas had exited, I pushed it open. It led to an alley. I looked left and right, but saw nothing and nobody. Thomas was gone, but I needed to find out who this mysterious stranger was.