"Whyyyyyyy," Brienne whined through the phone, flopping heavily back onto her bed and pinching the bridge of her nose. "Is it not enough that I've agreed to stand up in your outdoor wedding on Tarth in August wearing a black velvet suit ? Now you're telling me I have to bring a date?"
Renly sighed. "Brienne. Sweetie. Everyone on Loras' side is bringing a date, and if you don't have one, the symmetry of the head table will be totally thrown off. And you know how I am about symmetry."
Brienne squeezed her eyes shut. "Strangely enough, I do know. But I don't have anyone to bring. I haven't even been on a proper date in two years."
"Ask a friend. Pull a random man off the street. Hire an escort!" He ignored Brienne's gasp of indignation at that last suggestion. "I know you'll figure it out. Just, please, Bri. I never thought I'd even be able to have a wedding, and I want everything to be perfect. Please?" She pictured her best friend pouting his bottom lip and batting his unfairly-long eyelashes, but he sounded so sincere that her already-weak defenses against him crumbled.
"Okay," she replied, resigned. "I'll figure it out."
"Thank you!" The joy in his voice was almost worth agreeing to…whatever she just agreed to. "I gotta run, Loras and I are meeting with the florist." He made two kissy noises into the phone. "Talk soon bye!"
"Bye," she said, then listened to the silence on the other end for a few moments before hanging up. She sat up in bed, thoughts swirling in her brain. What did I just get myself into?
It wasn't until three weeks later that Brienne really began to panic. She'd exhausted her few options: her friend Podrick, a paralegal at work, said he'd love to go… if he didn't have a family reunion in Lannisport that weekend. She didn't dare ask her gym buddy, Tormund, who was nice enough but would definitely take this as an invitation to try and get into her pants yet again. She'd even asked her dad, who was invited to the wedding, if he'd act as her date, but he'd already invited his lady friend from the senior center.
Being rejected by her own father was the last straw – she had just decided to call Renly and tell him as gently as possible to stick his symmetry you-know-where when a thought popped into her head. She remembered a segment she'd seen on Wake Up Westeros a few months prior about so-called "professional party dates" – people who got paid to accompany lonely losers such as herself to weddings, company parties, family functions, and the like.
At the time, Brienne had shrugged it off as a last resort for the pathetically desperate. But right now, feeling both pathetic and desperate, she started to rethink her position. Of course, the name of the company profiled on the show escaped her, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to use them anyway because of the publicity. She couldn’t imagine anything more humiliating than someone at the wedding recognizing her date from the segment.
Brienne sat down at her computer and pulled up the one website she knew of that might be a good starting point in finding a legal yet somewhat shady service such as this - PetyrsList. She was only familiar with PetyrsList through news reports of buy/sell deals gone bad and prostitution rings being busted up using ads from the site, but she figured if anyone was advertising what she was in the market for, it would be there.
She pulled up the site, clicked on “services,” and skimmed through the list of categories. None of them seemed to be what she was looking for, so she typed “date” in the search bar. After that didn’t bring up any relevant results, she tried “wedding date.” This looked more promising - she flicked through a few postings for event planners and bachelor/bachelorette party organizers before stopping on one titled “Rent a Gent.”
Maybe your family is always on your back about never having a date for family functions. Maybe you want to make the company office party a little less awkward. Maybe you want to make your ex jealous by bringing a handsome date to a wedding. Whatever the occasion, I can be the gent for you. Call Jaime at 555-453-5466 for more information.
The listing also included a picture of possibly the most attractive man Brienne had ever seen - all piercing green eyes and sharp jawlines and perfectly-tousled golden hair. There’s no way he really looks like that , she thought, but even if he was half as good-looking in real life, he’d still be the best-looking man there. Which gave her pause - who would believe a man like that would agree to go to a wedding with a woman who looked like her ? But she had no other option at this point, save hiring an actual escort, and she was even more uncomfortable with that idea than with renting a date.
She wrote down the phone number and shut her computer, not quite ready to make the actual call yet, but feeling somewhat less anxious now that she at least had a plan.
A month later, Brienne waited at the ferry dock on Tarth, wringing her hands. She’d arrived from Storm’s End a few days earlier to spend time with her father and to help Renly with last-minute details, but the time had flown by, and now she was about to meet Jaime for the first time.
She’d spoken on the phone and emailed back and forth with Jaime several times, explaining what she needed from him for the weekend, ironing out the contract for his services, and arranging his travel. He was easy enough to work with, although she found him somewhat condescending and flippant.
They’d agreed he would act as her friend from work, since no one else at the wedding worked at or knew anyone who worked at Brienne’s law firm. There was a strict no-sexual-contact clause in the contract, lest anyone think Jaime’s business was a cover for prostitution, and one requiring separate hotel rooms if overnight accommodations were necessary. She appreciated the thoroughness, although she wondered briefly if something had happened in the past to necessitate it.
Despite all the times she’d communicated with Jaime, this would be her first time actually seeing him in person, not to mention his first time seeing her , and she felt irrationally nervous. He was just someone she was paying to do a job, to act like her friend and fill the seat next to her at the head table. Still, her stomach fluttered and heart thudded rapidly as she watched the ferry come across the harbor.
Jaime had said he’d be wearing a blue button-up shirt and jeans, and she’d told him there was no way he’d be able to miss her height and white-blond hair. She craned her neck as the passengers started to disembark, wishing he’d chosen to wear something a little more conspicuous, when she saw him. His hair was just as golden and artfully tousled as in his picture, his bone structure just as perfectly formed, and though he was wearing sunglasses, she guessed his eyes were just as green and piercing. Gods, he really does look like that. With his garment bag slung over one shoulder and a duffel bag in the other hand, he looked straight out of an ad for a luxury travel brand.
He was also much taller than she expected, although she still had about an inch on him, which was a pleasant surprise and would make her look a little less ridiculous in the heels Renly insisted she wear.
Jaime sauntered off the dock and looked around for a moment before his eyes came to rest on Brienne. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, trying to look confident despite the butterflies swirling in her stomach.
He walked up and stopped in front of her, openly sizing her up. "You must be Brienne,” he said by way of greeting. “Seven hells, you said you were tall, but you didn’t say you were the last of the giantesses.”
Brienne furrowed her brow. “Nice to meet you too,” she said gruffly.
Jaime smiled a broad grin that would have looked welcoming on someone else, but on him, it looked sharklike and almost menacing. “Oh, come on. We’re supposed to be friends. This is going to be a long weekend if you can’t take a little good-natured ribbing between friends.”
Brienne huffed, then turned and walked toward her car, Jaime on her heels. He was babbling on about never having been to Tarth, waxing poetic about the blue of its waters and green of its hills, and wondering if everyone from here was as tall and blond as Brienne. “My father is,” she said offhand, mostly to get him to stop talking for five seconds.
Jaime stopped and grabbed her elbow, gasping dramatically. “Wait, do I get to meet your father ? This is pretty serious for a first date.” She could see his eyes glinting mischievously behind his mirrored aviators.
“This is not a date,” Brienne insisted. “I am paying you to provide a service.”
“Are you always such a romantic?” Jaime groused as they continued walking.
“Are you always so...” Brienne started, waving her hand vaguely.
“Charming?” Jaime finished, smiling that sharp smile again. “Yes, I am. That’s why I’m so good at this job. I’ll have every guest at this wedding eating out of the palm of my hand before the weekend’s over. Well, except maybe you.”
Brienne refused to take his bait, instead launching into a review of the schedule for the weekend as they got into her car. “So, tonight is the rehearsal dinner, then tomorrow morning Renly wants you to go golfing with him and some of the guys before the actual wedding tomorrow afternoon. That’s followed by the reception, then brunch the next morning.” She was exhausted just talking about it, but she’d never been one to deny Renly anything, and if he wanted his fairytale wedding, she’d indulge him.
“Shit,” Jaime said from the passenger seat. “Who do these guys think they are, the ancient kings of Westeros with their seven-day wedding feasts?”
Brienne sighed. “Renly is my best friend from college. His father was...not the most open-minded man, and Renly was very closeted growing up. We actually dated for a little while when we first met, but it was always more like a close friendship. I was the first person he came out to, and the only person who knew for a while. Then his father died, and shortly after that he met Loras. He finally came out to the rest of his family, who were not very supportive at first, but they eventually came around. He’s been through a lot. He deserves some happiness.”
“You sound like a good friend,” Jaime said, his voice the most sincere she’d heard it since meeting him.
The corner of Brienne’s mouth flicked upward. “I try to be. So yes, I know all these events are ridiculous, but if he wants to feel like a king for a weekend, so be it.”
“So be it,” Jaime agreed, looking out his window. “There are definitely worse places to spend a weekend. Does your family own it or something?”
She chuckled. "We never really owned it, but the Tarths ruled the Stormlands from here for generations. But with wars and the advent of democracy and the depletion of the marble mines, pretty much all that’s left is the name.” The corners of her mouth quirked up. “It still has a little pull sometimes.”
Jaime’s appreciation of her home made her feel strangely proud. She told him about the wedding venue, Evenfall Hall, and how it used to be the seat of the leaders of Tarth. It had fallen into disrepair before the island’s trust, of which her father was a member, had purchased and revitalized it. It was now the crowning jewel of the island, so much so that when Brienne had brought Renly to Tarth in college, he bemoaned the fact that he’d never be able to have a wedding there.
Jaime whistled as Brienne pulled into the front drive of the Grand Tarth Hotel, an imposing historic building on the bay lined with white pillars and a huge wrap-around porch. Despite having grown up just a few miles away, Brienne had never actually stayed here, and she looked forward to getting a taste of what the rich visitors to Tarth experienced every summer.
She handed her keys to the valet and walked inside the hotel, with Jaime right behind her commenting on the types of pillars and trusses used on the building and the period-appropriateness of the tiles on the roof. “You know a lot about architecture,” Brienne remarked as they made their way to the check-in desk.
Jaime stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned back to study the coffered ceilings. He muttered “yeah” and didn’t elaborate, so Brienne didn’t push it.
“Hi, I have a reservation for two rooms under Brienne Tarth,” she told the hotel employee at the check-in desk.
The woman smiled. “Ms. Tarth, so nice to have you staying with us. We have two separate rooms available on the same floor, or we can upgrade you to a two-bedroom suite with a bay view for no extra charge.”
“The suite sounds great,” Jaime interjected from behind her shoulder. “If that’s okay with you. I mean...it’s a bay view,” he added, glancing at her.
“Um, it’s okay with me, if it’s okay with you,” she replied. Turning toward him and lowering her voice, she added, “But the contract…”
Jaime lowered his voice to match hers and moved closer, his breath in her ear sending a shiver down her spine that she hoped was imperceptible. “Brienne. As a lawyer, you should know that the contract is not legally binding. It’s more for my comfort. And I feel comfortable with the suite, as long as you do.”
Brienne swallowed. She honestly didn’t know how she felt about sleeping in the same room with this golden god whose proximity was currently making her traitorous stomach swoop, but it certainly wasn’t uncomfortable , so she told the woman they’d take the suite. The promise of sweeping views of the water didn’t hurt either.
Keys in hand, they got into the elevator and rode up to the fourth floor. “So your name really does still have some pull, huh?” Jaime teased, and Brienne looked down and smiled, her cheeks blazing.
When Brienne swung the door to the suite open, she thanked the gods for the Tarths’ remaining good name. The room opened onto a sitting area with sumptuous leather couches, wingback chairs, a fireplace, and a wall of windows providing a truly breathtaking view of the calm, sapphire-blue waters of the bay. Jaime let out another low whistle behind her before pushing past and heading straight for the door to the balcony.
He opened it and walked to the railing, leaned over it, closed his eyes and drew in a huge breath of sea air. She recognized the reason for the action, having had the urge to do the same.
“You grew up on the coast, I take it?” she said, joining him near the railing.
Jaime chuckled. “How’d you guess?”
“King’s Landing?” she ventured, remembering his address from when she'd arranged his travel.
“Wrong coast. Lannisport.” He looked almost wistful staring out at the bay.
"How'd you end up so far from home?"
Jaime laughed scornfully, still looking out at the water. "It was never home. Not really.”
Before Brienne could open her mouth to ask another question, Jaime smacked his hands on the railing and turned to her. “Well, let’s check out the rest of this place,” he said, his voice suddenly light and jovial.
Brienne followed him into the suite, marveling at the size and opulence. The main sitting room had two bedrooms off either side and a bathroom just as big, if not bigger, than the bedrooms, done in tasteful white tile and marble with silver accents. The bathroom contained a huge walk-in shower, double sinks, and a bathtub the size of a small swimming pool.
The tub was so big, in fact, that Brienne couldn’t resist slipping off her shoes and stepping in. She sat down and stretched her legs out in front of her, then clasped her hands behind her head and reclined. “I’ve never been able to do this in a bathtub before,” she told Jaime when he gave her a quizzical look.
Before she could register what was happening, Jaime was climbing into the tub with her. “Let’s see if it fits both of us,” he said, nudging her legs open with his foot and wedging his ass firmly between her feet. He draped his legs over hers and leaned back, mirroring her position, looking entirely too relaxed when her own body was now drawn tight as a bowstring. His legs were heavy atop hers and it took all of her willpower to keep her eyes away from the strip of skin showing between the bottom of his shirt and his waistband.
“Looks like it does. Must be the biggest bathtub ever made,” he said with a grin. She was sure he would be able to see her heart beating out of her chest if he looked at her for one more second, so she clambered awkwardly out of the tub, ignoring his exclamations of pain when she stepped on his foot in the process.
“Which bedroom do you want?” she yelled over her shoulder while fleeing the bathroom.
“Uh...it doesn't matter to me,” she heard him mutter, still in the bathtub from the sounds of it.
Brienne grabbed her luggage from where she’d left it just inside the door and dragged it into one of the bedrooms. She sat heavily on the bed and willed her mind and heart to stop racing. He climbed into the tub with me. She decided he must just be a naturally physical person, much more comfortable with casual touching than she was.
Brienne looked at the clock on her bedside table - they still had two hours before the rehearsal. She emptied her suitcase into the dresser, hung the dresses from her garment bag in the closet, set her toiletries out on the small desk, and looked back at the clock. One hour and 50 minutes left. She sighed and laid down on the bed, not ready to face Jaime again.
She reminded herself that he was only here because she’d paid him to be. The fact that he had chosen to share a room with her was simply because he liked the sound of a bay-view suite, and he laid in the bathtub with her because...he was curious about how big it was? She wasn’t sure about that one, but he couldn’t have meant anything by it.
He was easily the most beautiful man she’d ever seen in person, and she had always had a soft spot for beautiful men, despite knowing from an early age exactly how she looked. Braces and professional hair treatments and an intricate skincare regimen had improved some facets of her appearance, but nothing would ever fix her wide jaw, crooked nose, or sheer bulk. She’d mostly come to terms with the way she looked and found other ways to gain confidence, but the nagging voice in the back of her mind wouldn't let her forget that she would never have a chance with the types of men she dreamed about.
Men like Jaime, who she heard puttering around in the suite as she hid in her room like a coward. You're paying him to be here, she reminded herself, and this is your home. The least you can do is be a good host.
Brienne changed into her swimsuit and cover-up and walked out into the common room, finding Jaime sitting on the arm of the couch inspecting a vase that sat on one of the end tables. She felt her cheeks redden as his eyes flicked down to the expanse of leg bared by her short cover-up, but resisted the urge to squirm uncomfortably or flee again. Instead, she smiled her most casual smile and said, “we have a little while until the rehearsal. I was planning on going down to the beach, if you wanted to…”
“Yes,” he interrupted, jumping up off the arm of the couch and striding quickly into his room. “Just give me a minute,” he yelled, not bothering to close the door. Brienne busied herself with folding and refolding her towel to distract from the sounds of clothing being shed in the next room.
Less than a minute later, Jaime walked back out of his room in nothing but a pair of short red swim trunks and a smile. Brienne attempted not to stare, but her eyes definitely lingered too long for propriety on his chiseled stomach, broad shoulders and muscular arms. She wondered once more why he was doing this job instead of modeling or acting or posing for artists who sculpted statues of ancient gods. He definitely noticed her staring and stood up a little straighter, white teeth gleaming in his grin.
As soon as they made it down to the beach, Jaime ran and splashed into the water while Brienne set down her bag and towel and removed her cover-up. The swimsuit she wore was a retro-style black one-piece, quite daring for her, with a low v-neck that dipped down past her breastbone. Her coworker Sansa had insisted that she buy it, and she’d felt somewhat confident in the fitting room of the store, but now that she was on the beach with actual eyes on her, she had to resist the urge to cover herself back up and instead walked down to the water.
Her insecurity melted away the moment her feet touched the surf, enveloping her like an old friend. The water was cool enough to be refreshing but warm enough that she could walk right in without having to acclimate, and she dove in as soon as it was deep enough. She emerged and saw Jaime a little way out, his golden head bobbing in the surf. She was debating whether to swim up to him or leave him be when he turned and caught her eye, smiling and swimming toward her.
"So, Brienne Tarth, of the Tarth Tarths,” he said, which she couldn’t help but snort at. “What’s your story? If we’re good enough friends for you to bring me to a wedding, I should probably know something about you.”
Brienne shrugged, digging her toes into the soft sand underneath her. “There’s not a whole lot to tell. I grew up here, obviously. My dad owns a garage, and I started helping him fix cars when I was really young. That and the fact that I was a foot taller than all my classmates didn’t exactly help me make friends,” she chuckled, hoping it didn’t sound too bitter. “So I toughed it out through high school and packed up for Stormlands University as soon as I could, got my law degree, and started working for a firm in Storm’s End doing environmental law. Been there ever since.”
Jaime looked at her expectantly. “And?”
“What else? You told me where you went to school and what you do for a living, but what are your interests, hobbies, what do you like to do for fun? Who is Brienne Tarth?” He said that last part like an overdramatic television therapist, which made Brienne chuckle.
“I don’t know...I work a lot. I do like to work out – boxing, running, playing in a recreational soccer league. I like reading, and movies. Gods I’m boring,” she laughed.
“Not at all. That sounds like a great life to me,” Jaime said with an unusual softness in his face.
Brienne swam toward the shore a bit to put the space she suddenly needed between them. She stood up in the now-waist-height water and noticed his eyes linger on the exposed flesh at her breastbone.
“Your swimsuit…” he said, his voice strangely thick.
Brienne folded in on herself, feeling suddenly insecure. “I know, it’s not my usual style...I let my friend convince me to buy it…”
Jaime furrowed his brow. “That wasn’t...I was about to say that it becomes you.”
Her cheeks flared again. He'd complimented her twice now, and she didn't know what to think. To break the tension, she asked, “What about you? How did you end up here, Jaime Lannister of the Lannisport Lannisters?”
He laughed at that, and she tried to conceal her delight at having made him do it. “You don’t want to hear my sob story about how I came to make my living taking women on dates.”
“Oh, that’s not...I didn’t mean…” Brienne stammered, worried that she’d somehow made him think she disapproved of what he did.
Jaime just chuckled and held his hands up. “Hey, it’s okay. I know it’s not the most conventional career choice.” He’d moved with her toward the shore so that the water was only up to his waist, and Brienne had to make a conscious effort to look at his face while he spoke. “I actually went to college for art history for two years. My dad told me that unless I studied business and came to work at his company, he wouldn’t help me pay for school. I would have rather died than do that, so I tried to make it on my own, working two jobs and taking out loans. But after two years, I was so exhausted and broke that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to drop out.”
The tone of his voice made it seem like it was something that still weighed on him. “I’m sorry,” she replied.
“It’s okay. I’d rather be a college dropout with a job he enjoys than a soulless drone at Lanniscorp.” Jaime dunked his head under the water, then came up and swept his hair back from his face in a move right out of a cologne commercial. “This isn’t the only thing I do, though. I bartend, and I teach art lessons to kids at the community center. Turns out you don’t need a degree for that,” he grinned, and Brienne’s heart warmed dangerously in her chest.
They swam around for a while longer, debating the merits of different action movie franchises and splashing each other when they didn’t agree. Brienne noticed two pretty young women on the shore eyeing Jaime and whispering to each other and felt strangely guilty.
“You know, you don’t have to hang out with me this whole time even though I’m paying you,” she told him. “If you have other things you want to do, or other people you want to hang out with…” she trailed off and looked toward the two women, who arched their backs and pouted their lips when they saw Jaime’s head turn.
Jaime raised an unimpressed eyebrow and looked back at Brienne. "I'm here with you. Unless you want me to do something else…"
"No, I don't," Brienne said quickly. She smiled a genuine smile - despite its toothiness, she actually felt comfortable enough to share it with Jaime. Although they barely knew each other, and he was only here to pretend to be friends, she felt like maybe they were on their way to becoming them.
After swimming so long their skin had turned pruny, they'd returned to their suite to get ready. The wedding was to take place in the hotel's garden, a gorgeously manicured green space with a breathtaking view of the water. Rows of chairs had been set up facing an arch made of greenery and white flowers, which Brienne was currently staring at out the window of her room.
She'd taken a long shower, scrubbing and shaving and exfoliating to within an inch of her life, and had wrapped herself up in one of the luxurious hotel robes before stepping out of the bathroom and giving Jaime a shy smile. "Shower's open," she said, ducking her head as she walked past him to her bedroom, not looking back to see if he was, in fact, staring at the sliver of thigh exposed by the slit of her robe.
Something had changed during their time at the beach that made Brienne feel guilty about writing him off as a smug asshole upon their first meeting. He’d complimented her, ignored two beautiful women to continue spending time with her, shared personal details about his past, informed her that he taught art to underprivileged kids, which she considered a direct attack on her ovaries. But she also knew this was a job to him, and he’d probably gotten very good at making lonely women like her feel comfortable and maybe even wanted, only if for a night.
She shook herself out of her reverie and turned back to her bed, upon which two dresses were laid out. One was cornflower blue, made from a flowy fabric that hit at mid-calf with a v-neck and spaghetti straps, and the other was sleeveless, short red silk. Sansa had forced her to go shopping for all new outfits for the weekend, despite Brienne’s protests that what she already had in her closet was perfectly acceptable. Sansa’s face in response told Brienne exactly what she thought about that claim, so she’d reluctantly allowed her to drag Brienne into boutique after boutique for new dresses and shoes and even lingerie, which Brienne insisted was unnecessary. Sansa had insisted back that pretty new clothes deserved pretty things to go underneath them, so she relented and bought a black lace set that did admittedly make her feel quite sexy, even if no one would ever see it.
But now, she faced a problem she’d never had before – she couldn’t decide which dress to wear tonight. She thought about texting Sansa to ask her, but knew she’d receive a well-meaning but unhelpful “you look great in both!” in response. Brienne gathered her courage and poked her towel-wrapped head out of her bedroom to see if Jaime was out of the shower yet. The bathroom door was open, and so was his bedroom door, so she figured he must be dressed. “Hey, Jaime,” she called out, and was stunned into silence when he came out of his room in nothing but a white towel wrapped low around his waist, hair glistening wet and golden around his face.
Her eyes automatically followed the vee of his well-defined abdominal muscles down into his towel, and she quickly turned her head when they came to rest upon a bulge in the cloth. Jaime continued toward her until he was close enough that she could see the drops of water still on his chest. “Do you need me?” he asked, stopping in front of her with his hands on his hips.
A dozen quips came to mind, ranging from innocent to downright raunchy, but instead she gestured to the dresses on the bed and replied, “I can’t decide which one to wear.”
Jaime moved closer to the bed and crossed his arms, cocking his head and staring thoughtfully at the dresses. After a few minutes, he looked at her and remarked, “The blue one. It goes well with your eyes.”
She held his gaze for a moment, despite the burning in her face that she was sure went from her hairline to her breastbone, then muttered “thanks” and hung the red dress back in the closet.
Jaime gave her a cocky half-smile and nodded, then walked out of her room. Brienne shut the door and flopped down on the bed next to the blue dress. He noticed my eyes . No one’s compliments had made her feel this flustered since Renly’s, even if he had just been overcompensating. She reminded herself once again that this was a job for him as she pulled the blue dress on.
Thirty minutes later, after she’d primped as well as she knew how, they walked down to the wedding space, where Renly, Loras, and their families were gathering. When Brienne had come out of her room after getting ready, Jaime had nodded and said, “I was right.” She’d smiled and mumbled, “you look nice too,” which he did in his fashionable ensemble of blue pants and a short-sleeve button-down shirt with a tiny flower print.
Brienne greeted Renly’s family - his older brothers, Stannis and Robert, and their respective spouses, Selyse and Lyanna. Although she wasn't a huge fan of any of them, she felt she owed it to Renly to at least be civil. She introduced Jaime as her friend, and he shook all their hands warmly, joking with the men and complimenting the women. He even made Stannis crack a tiny smile, which was the most emotion she’d ever seen from him.
Okay, he is good at this, she thought as they separated, her to the small huddle of attendants and him to the chairs with the other observers. Lyanna and Selyse, who sat a few chairs down from Jaime, blatantly ogled him. Brienne didn’t blame them, although doing so right in front of their husbands struck her as somewhat tacky.
The attendants - Renly’s brothers and Brienne on Renly’s side, and Loras’ siblings, Margaery, Garlan and Willas, on Loras’ side - gathered in front of the septon to receive their instructions. They were to be already standing on either side of the altar when the grooms entered from opposite sides, meeting at the top of the aisle and walking the rest of the way together. Renly and Loras had made many such changes to modernize their ceremony and personalize it to them, and Brienne got a little misty thinking about how special this day was going to be for her best friend.
Since there wasn’t much to practice, the actual rehearsal consisted of the wedding party standing at the altar while the septon recited the ceremony; Brienne and Margaery pretending to hand the rings and ribbon, respectively, to the grooms; and everyone filing out down the aisle after the ceremony was over. All in all, it took about 15 minutes, leaving them plenty of time for cocktails before dinner.
“You did great,” Jaime told Brienne as they walked the grassy path back to the hotel.
She snorted. “I did nothing. But thanks.”
Their small group made their way to the hotel bar to pass the time until dinner. Brienne ordered a club soda, not wanting to partake the night before the wedding to avoid the bloating and dark circles that usually accompanied her hangovers. Jaime ordered a Shipbreaker, which was the local specialty consisting of several different alcohols and juices.
“Be careful with those,” Brienne warned. “They taste sweet, but they’ll sneak up on you.”
Jaime smirked. “Why do I feel there’s a story behind that warning?”
She raised her eyebrows. “You will NEVER hear that story, but suffice it to say one is my max.”
As they sipped their drinks, Brienne discreetly explained the dynamics of the Baratheon family to Jaime. “Robert is the oldest brother. He’s a senator. He was given his father’s Senate seat when he died, which caused a major rift between him and Stannis, because Stannis thought he should have gotten it. To be fair, he probably should have, but since Robert’s the oldest, he got it. He’s a loud drunk and he and his wife cheat on each other constantly. Kind of an open secret.”
“Why even be married?” Jaime puzzled.
Brienne shrugged. “Politics, business, something. Sounds pretty miserable to me, but what do I know.”
She pointed then at Stannis and Selyse. “Middle brother. He and his wife are R’hllorites, so they don’t drink, don’t dance…”
“Don’t smile?” Jaime interrupted, which Brienne snorted at.
“Basically. He’s nice enough, but not super fun at parties. He also kind of resents Renly because he’s Robert’s favorite.” She noted the dumbfounded look on Jaime’s face. “Yeah, it’s complicated. But the fact that they’re all here is something.”
Over the next hour, Jaime and Brienne chatted with the other members of the wedding party, Jaime answering the questions about how he and Brienne met with a smoothness that was almost concerning. He told the others that he worked with Brienne as a “lowly paralegal” and then deflected by asking them about their jobs, their homes, anything to get them talking about themselves and keep the focus off him. Brienne figured he did this a lot in his line of work, but it made her feel a little sad that others never got to see the real Jaime.
Loras tapped his glass and announced that they would now be moving upstairs for dinner in the Gate House room, a smaller room than the one they’d be dining in tomorrow but no less stunning, all dark, polished wood and white linen tablecloths and golden chandeliers.
They were ushered into the room by a white-gloved employee and told to find their seats, which were assigned with name cards. Brienne shot a look of silent gratitude toward Renly when she found her and Jaime’s places at a table with the Tyrells - Margaery and her date, a handsome singer named Wat; Garlan and his wife, Leonette; and Willas and his girlfriend, Alyce. The thought of sitting through a dinner with the Baratheon brothers and their wives was unbearable.
Robert and Stannis were seated together at a different table, already arguing loudly about politics. Lyanna swigged red wine in between rolling her eyes at her husband and shooting long glances at Jaime. He didn’t seem to notice, though - he was too busy engaging Wat in a conversation about his music and asking Leonette about the unique pendant she wore. Brienne envied the ease with which he made conversation, but was glad of it right now, so she could just sit back and watch him captivate the rest of the table.
Between the appetizer - fresh Tarth oysters - and the salad course, Jaime excused himself to use the bathroom. As soon as he was out of his seat, Brienne saw Lyanna get up from her table and follow him into the hall. Brienne was honestly surprised Lyanna had waited this long to try to get him alone, with the way she’d been looking at him all day like a wolf sizing up its prey. She pushed down the jealous knot forming in her stomach and reminded herself yet again that they weren’t together, weren’t even actually friends, and she had no claim to him. Lyanna looked much more like a woman who would belong with Jaime, anyway.
A few minutes later, Jaime rushed back to the table, with wide eyes and a slightly panicked look on his face. He put his arm around Brienne and leaned in close, nuzzling his nose against her cheek. He must have felt her tense, because he whispered, “Just go with it, okay? Please.” There was a strange desperation in his voice that made her comply, relaxing into his embrace.
“What is going on, Jaime?” she whispered into his ear while the others at their table were engrossed in their own conversation.
“That woman, Lyanna. Robert’s wife. She just cornered me in the hall and came on to me. Hard. It was actually kind of scary. I thought she was going to eat me.” Brienne snickered, but the seriousness of his demeanor caused her smile to dissolve. “Anyway, I panicked, and I kind of told her you’re my girlfriend.”
“You did what? ” she hissed, loud enough for the rest of the table to stop their conversations and look over at them.
Brienne gave them a saccharine smile. “Will you excuse us for a moment?” she asked, taking Jaime’s hand and pulling him to his feet. He held on to her hand all the way out into the hall.
“Jaime, why would you say that?” Brienne whispered loudly once she was sure they were alone. “People barely believe you’d be here as my friend, they’ll never believe that we’re actually together!”
Jaime shook his head quickly. “I think you underestimate how terrifying that woman is. Besides, I don’t see why they wouldn’t think we were together...if we make it believable.” He waggled his eyebrows then, causing Brienne to smack his shoulder.
“It doesn’t matter how we act! Look at you, and look at me.” She gestured up and down her body.
His eyes raked over her form. “I’m...not following,” he said, knitting his eyebrows together.
Brienne let her head fall back and sighed. Of course he wouldn’t understand - he’d obviously never been in a relationship with someone out of his league, because there was no one alive out of his league, but she didn’t have time to explain all that right now. Jaime had also seemed genuinely rattled by his encounter with Lyanna, so if this would make his weekend more bearable...well, they’d just have to sell it.
“Fine,” she groaned. “Just...don’t go overboard.”
Jaime grinned that wide, white smile and grabbed her hand, leading her back into the dining room to questioning looks from their table mates and stares like icy daggers from Lyanna.
Brienne flagged down their server. “One Shipbreaker, please.”
The next morning, Brienne woke to her alarm at an ungodly hour. She planned to get a swim in before she had to meet Margaery to start getting ready, and Jaime had asked her to wake him for his golf game with the guys.
Despite her warning in the hallway last night, Jaime had gone a bit overboard with the “we’re a couple” act - she’d barely made it through the rest of dinner with him leaning in close to her, putting his arm around her shoulders, using his thumb to swipe a dollop of whipped cream off the corner of her mouth. She tried to play it cool, like frequent intimate touches from a man who was a living embodiment of sex were completely commonplace, but she knew the blush spreading from her hairline down to her chest gave her away. Still, the others at their table seemed to be convinced, Margaery even going so far as to mouth a smug “I knew it” at her when Jaime wasn’t looking.
By the end of dinner, Brienne was so wound up she was practically vibrating. Jaime seemed confused when she barely said goodnight before shutting herself in her room and slipping a hand into her underwear, stroking herself to a frenzied finish while remembering Jaime's fingers grazing the bare skin of her back. Afterward, she felt much more relaxed yet slightly ashamed, and told herself she'd handle the situation better tomorrow.
But now that tomorrow was here and Jaime was currently padding around the suite shirtless with his hair mussed and face adorably creased from sleep, Brienne had to remind herself once again that he was not actually her boyfriend and that he may not appreciate being dragged down to the floor and ridden like a stallion with no warning.
“Good morning,” he said in a raspy voice and startled her out of her daydream. “Sleep well?”
“Yep,” she answered too quickly, a fresh wave of embarrassment sweeping over her. “Ready for your golf game?”
Jaime shrugged and sat down on the arm of the couch. “Ready as I’ll ever be. Golf just reminds me of when my dad forced me to go with him and his business associates to ‘learn the ropes’ before he gave up on me completely.”
Brienne chuckled. "Well, at least you don't have to spend the entire day getting scrubbed and waxed and plucked and polished. Margaery insisted we needed the full spa package. I'm terrified of what torture awaits me."
Jaime laughed then, a sound that filled Brienne's chest with warmth. They smiled at each other for a beat too long, causing Brienne to turn away and shove her towel and sunscreen in her bag to break the tension. "I'm going down to the beach for a swim before meeting Margaery at the spa. Renly said to be in the lobby at 8 a.m. so you guys can walk over to the golf course together."
"Okay," Jaime said, a tinge of something like disappointment in his voice. "Have fun with Margaery. I'll see you back here before the ceremony?"
"Yep, I'll pick you up." She shot him a smile before heading out the door and was rewarded with an even bigger one in return. Even though she’d just met him less than 24 hours ago, the idea of spending a day without him made her feel curiously low.
After her swim, Brienne returned to the room to change into “comfy clothes,” as Margaery had requested, and made her way to the hotel spa. Brienne had only known Margaery for a few years, but she’d liked her instantly, the younger woman’s sweet looks and demeanor hiding a refreshingly spunky personality. Margaery also made Brienne feel like one of the girls, which she hadn’t had a lot of in her life, and didn’t know how much she needed until now. Case in point: she’d insisted that Brienne accompany her on her spa extravaganza, despite Brienne’s protests that all she needed was a little help with her hair and makeup. “Don’t be silly,” Margaery had said. “You’ve worked hard on this wedding too. You deserve some pampering.”
Now, sitting in a pedicure chair, soaking her feet after a hot stone massage, body wrap and scrub, face mask, and something called a “body gloss,” she was exceedingly grateful to Margaery for bullying her into this. She felt so relaxed that Margaery’s pointed questions about Jaime’s prowess in bed barely registered. “It’s very new,” is all she said, careful not to confirm nor deny her friend’s assumptions.
While Brienne and Margaery got their feet scrubbed and chatted about the wedding, they heard their phones ding at the same time. They looked at each other curiously and picked up their phones, a momentary pause before Brienne groaned “oh, no,” and Margaery shrieked, “oh my gods!” with a delighted cackle.
Renly: Jaime just backhanded Hyle right across the face!! (He deserved it tho lol) Brie, you must have this guy WHIPPED! 👉🏻👌🏻👅💦
Brienne let her head fall back against the chair, closed her eyes and sighed.
Hyle. How could she have forgotten to warn Jaime that her ex was going to be there? Her ex, with whom things had not ended well after Brienne had found out he’d been cheating on her the whole time? Who’d been angry at her when she ended things because he’d expected her to roll over and take it, and be grateful he was willing to be with her at all?
Renly had introduced her to Hyle, who he’d known since childhood, and they'd developed a relationship based more on proximity than actual feelings. It had lasted entirely too long, but it was her first relationship and she didn't have anything to compare it to, although she knew the sheer... mediocrity of it couldn't be what all the songs were about.
Renly warned her that Hyle would be invited - their families were longtime friends and Hyle had been a good friend to him while he was struggling with coming out, but she figured she’d just avoid him and all would be well. But she’d forgotten to tell Jaime to avoid him too...and now apparently he'd bitch-slapped Hyle on the golf course. From Renly’s text, she could deduce it had something to do with her. This was less than ideal.
“What do you think that was about?” Margaery asked, not bothering to disguise the glee in her voice.
Brienne covered her forehead with her hand. “Uuuugh. I don't know. Probably just...Hyle being Hyle.”
“Or maybe Hyle said something about you and Jaime wanted to defend you like your knight in shining armor.”
Brienne didn’t even know what to say to that - obviously she’d never had anyone do anything like that for her, especially not someone she’d just met, and ESPECIALLY not a man like Jaime.
For the rest of the day, through the manicure and pedicure and makeup application and hair styling, Brienne’s thoughts swirled in her head. Why would Jaime defend her like that, despite barely knowing her? From what she knew of him, he was a good person, but would he really stick his neck out that far for her?
Before she knew it, the makeup artist was putting the finishing touches on her face and Margaery was shoving a red rectangular tube with a white top into her hand. “Renly insisted we wear red lipstick, and I’ve heard this is what porn stars use, so you don’t have to worry about it rubbing off on your man.” Margaery gave her a wink and bade her goodbye with a hug, saying she’d see her in an hour for the ceremony.
Brienne looked at herself in the mirror - the makeup artist had played up her eyes with black liquid liner and tons of mascara, and her hair was pulled half up with the rest falling in gentle waves to her shoulders. She looked - pretty good, actually. Like herself, but better, which was all she could ask for.
When she walked into the hotel room, she found Jaime dozing on the couch, his right hand resting on his stomach, a plastic bag full of ice and water wrapped around it. She knelt down next to the couch and touched his arm softly, watching his eyelashes flutter open. He looked slightly startled, as if he hadn’t meant to fall asleep, before giving her a soft smile.
“Hey,” he said. “You look great.”
“Hey,” she responded. “You look like you hit someone in the face.”
Jaime laughed and shifted to sit up, patting the seat next to him. Brienne sat and said, “So, I heard you met Hyle.”
“Yeah. I can’t believe you dated that guy.” Jaime made a face like he’d smelled something rancid.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” she gestured to his hand, now dripping water from the melting ice in the bag.
“He started trying to talk to me about you, asking innocent questions at first, but then he started getting...indecent. I didn’t appreciate it, and I told him that, but he just kept talking, so…” He shrugged and gave her an apologetic smile.
“I don’t doubt he deserved it, but you didn’t have to defend me,” she said softly. “You barely know me.”
“I know you enough to know that you deserve better than some little twat bad-mouthing you.”
“I appreciate that, but I don’t want you getting hurt just to keep up this ruse.”
Jaime’s voice softened. “It’s no ruse. You really do deserve better.”
Brienne studied his face, which looked as if he was reliving Hyle’s comments in his head, and knew arguing with him was going to be pointless. Instead, she just said, “Well...thank you.”
Jaime nodded, the wrinkle between his eyebrows smoothing. She gestured to his hand again. “May I?”
He held it up for her, and she gently unwrapped the bandage holding the ice bag in place. His hand was red from the ice, and had the beginnings of a bruise on the middle knuckle, but didn’t look as bad as she was expecting. Their palms pressed together, fingers on each other’s pulses, and she swore she heard his breath catch when she let the fingers of her other hand ghost across his knuckles.
They sat there for a moment, hands pressed together, the intimacy of the situation nearly overwhelming her. Before she did something stupid like kiss him, she set his hand down, stood up and said, “We should probably get dressed.”
Brienne hurried into her room and pulled her suit out of her closet. It was black velvet, with black silk lapels and cigarette pants that, having been custom-made, actually hit at just the right point between her ankles and calves. Renly had also instructed her NOT to wear a shirt underneath, so the jacket exposed a significant expanse of pale, freckled skin from her collarbone to her navel. She fastened a delicate gold sun-moon-and-stars necklace around her neck, placed some double-stick tape in a few strategic locations, slipped on black strappy sandals with block heels, and applied with surgical precision the red liquid lipstick Margaery had given her.
She stood in front of the full-length mirror and appraised herself. She looked, if not pretty , at least elegant, and Jaime’s reaction when she walked out of the room bolstered her confidence even more. He stood up from the couch, where he’d been struggling with his cufflink, and looked at her wide-eyed. “Wow. You look...amazing.”
Brienne blushed and looked down. "Thank you." She gestured to the cufflink in his hand. "Do you need help?"
He smiled almost sheepishly. "Oh, yeah. My hand is a little swollen. I can't seem to get it to cooperate."
She took the cufflink, a gold square with a raised "J" in the middle, and fastened it to the cuff of his white shirt, letting her fingers brush the skin of his wrist perhaps a little longer than she needed to. He thanked her and shrugged his jacket on, which was charcoal gray and perfectly fitted to his body, much like the matching pants. A black silk tie set off the ensemble, crowned by his gold waves. He looked…perfect, entirely too perfect to be her boyfriend. At least they only had to keep up the ruse for one more day. But until then, she felt proud and even a little smug to have him as her date.
"You look very handsome," she told him, and he stood up a little taller before offering his arm.
She nodded and took his arm, her hand settling into the crook of his elbow. It felt much more comfortable to touch him now, even though it still made her heart flutter.
They made their way down to the lobby, where the rest of the bridal party was gathering. Margaery looked gorgeous as always in her own black suit, which she'd accessorized with a huge round emerald pendant encircled by gold roses. She shrieked when she saw Brienne, running up to give her a hard squeeze around the middle.
"You look STUNNING! Doesn't she, Jaime?" she asked with a sly smile.
"She does," he answered, gazing at Brienne as if she were the only woman in the room. He gestured outside to the ceremony location. "I'd better find my seat. See you after?" Brienne nodded, and Jaime took her hand and leaned up to plant a quick kiss on her cheek.
She couldn’t help the dopey smile that came over her face, but was able to put it in check long enough to shoot a glare at a chuckling Margaery.
“That boy’s got it BAD,” Margaery said, watching his back recede toward the lawn outside. Brienne shook her head weakly, not even about to argue. He was so good at playing the part, she was almost convinced herself.
The ceremony was beautiful, intimate and personal. The weather was perfect, and the vibrant green grass and sapphire blue water made for a stunning backdrop. The grooms looked resplendent, Renly in a gold jacket with black lapels, Loras in a similar jacket but in a rich forest green, both in fitted black pants and shiny black shoes. But more than that, they looked so happy Brienne almost had to shield her eyes from the brightness of their smiles. She teared up at a few points, she laughed at certain inside jokes only they knew, and her heart overflowed with love.
When she chanced a look at Jaime in the crowd, she was surprised to find he was watching her. She smiled at him, and his answering grin was enough to make her stomach swoop.
“I am his, and he is mine. From this day, until the end of my days.”
The grooms kissed, the guests cheered, and the wedding moved from the lawn inside to the Grand Dining Room for cocktails. Brienne hadn’t seen her father in a few days, so she picked his white-blond head out easily from the crowd and walked up to him, Jaime on her heels.
“Starlight!” Selwyn exclaimed, scooping her up in a rib-cracking hug. “You look beautiful!”
“Thanks, Dad,” she laughed when he put her back on the ground. She greeted Selwyn’s lady friend, Adrienne, a short, dark-haired woman with kind eyes, then gestured to Jaime. “Dad, this is Jaime, my…”
“Boyfriend,” Jaime cut in, holding his hand out. Selwyn took it, staring curiously at Brienne.
“Nice to meet you, son,” he said, then looked pointedly at Brienne again, a look she knew all too well.
“Hey, Jaime, can you go in and get us some drinks? A Shipbreaker for me, please?”
Selwyn turned to Adrienne. “Could you get me the same, my dear?” She smiled a knowing smile and took Jaime’s arm, leaving father and daughter alone.
“Boyfriend?” Selwyn cocked his head at her, raising one eyebrow. “I thought you said he was just a friend?”
“Things have...changed recently.” She said, being careful to look out at the water instead of at her father - he could always tell when she was lying.
“He makes you happy? Treats you right?”
Brienne sighed. “He does.” That, at least, wasn’t a lie, and she looked her father square in the eye as she said it.
“Well then, I’m happy for you. He seems like a fine young man.” She smiled up at her father, one of the few people she’d ever known that were taller than her, and tried to hide her sadness that she’d eventually have to tell him it didn’t work out. She took his elbow and walked with him back inside, where Jaime was charming Adrienne with some animated story, the short woman nearly bent over with laughter.
Jaime’s eyes lit up when he saw them coming, and he held up the Shipbreaker she’d requested, their fingers brushing as she took it from him. They excused themselves to go talk to Renly and Loras, who were holding court in the front of the room.
“What did you talk about?” Jaime asked teasingly as they walked away, knowing exactly why Brienne had wanted to be left alone with her father.
“Nothing of importance,” she teased right back, a sly smile spreading across her face at the ease of their banter.
“Well, I hope you weren’t too hard on me,” Jaime replied. “That man is absolutely HUGE and terrifying.”
Brienne laughed. “His bark is much worse than his bite. But I’ll go easy on you during the breakup conversation.”
Brienne thought she imagined Jaime’s smile falter at that, but got distracted by Renly and Loras calling her name.
As they congratulated the happy couple, Brienne noticed Lyanna circling near Jaime again, no doubt trying to disprove his claim that they were in fact dating. She used her liquid courage to wrap her arm around his waist and lean in close. Jaime looked momentarily surprised before mirroring her gesture, resting his hand just above her hip and pressing his body to hers. She saw Lyanna huff and stalk away out of the corner of her eye, but couldn’t even find it in her to be insulted, the alcohol and and the closeness of Jaime causing a pleasant buzzing sensation throughout her body.
She did, however, have it in her to glower at Hyle and give him the middle finger when she saw him sulking over Loras’ shoulder, then turned back to her friends and forgot about him completely.
She was so content that she could almost drown out the little voice in her head repeating, this isn't real .
After cocktails, the guests were ushered to their seats, Brienne next to Renly in the center of his perfectly symmetrical head table. She was grateful that Lyanna sat at the far end of the table, and even more grateful that the grooms had decided to forego the traditional best man and maid of honor speeches. They did partake in some other traditions, such as the cutting of the cake and the first dance, then invited the wedding party to the floor for their own dance.
Normally Brienne avoided dancing in public - she was too big and broad and self-conscious. But tonight, surrounded by friends and family, pleasantly buzzed, with a gorgeous man as her partner, she didn’t even care. She stood and took Jaime’s hand, leading him to the floor as the first strains of “Stand by Me” by Bael the Bard floated from the speakers.
Jaime placed his hands around her waist, and Brienne wrapped hers around his shoulders, swaying gently to the music. Having switched her heels for flats, their eyes were level as they looked at each other. Jaime’s body was solid and warm beneath her hands, his smell - cologne and grass and a slight whiff of the sea - enveloped her, his eyes sparkled at her like perfectly-cut emeralds.
“Is Hyle looking?” he said softly, a mischievous smile on his face.
“I don’t know,” she chuckled. “I kind of forgot he existed. Is Lyanna looking?”
“Who?” He smiled, pulling her slightly closer so they were cheek-to-cheek. “If they are, this should make them livid.”
Jaime’s voice in his ear sent a vibration through her body, her heart fluttering rapidly in her chest. Their bodies swayed in time, Jaime’s breath warm on her cheek, and for a moment, everything and everyone around them faded away. When the music ended, her face fell, unable to hide her disappointment. She started to walk back to her seat, but Jaime grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the dance floor.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, swinging her hand as the next song started, a more upbeat tune. Brienne laughed and began moving to the music, letting Jaime twirl and sway her. Their bodies fell into a semblance of rhythm faster than she expected, and before she knew it, they’d danced to half a dozen songs before the heat got to her. She fanned herself with her hand and pointed to the bar. Jaime nodded and followed, leaning on the bar next to her as she ordered two waters. He’d stripped off his jacket sometime during their dances, and his white shirt was rolled up to the elbows, his tie loose and the first two buttons of his shirt undone.
“This is fun,” he remarked, sipping his water, a fine sheen of sweat on his brow.
Brienne chuckled. “You sound surprised.”
“I’m not gonna lie, after our first meeting, my expectations were not high.”
“Sorry. I can be a little...gruff at first. Defense mechanism,” she shrugged.
“Don’t apologize. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times since then.” Jaime smiled, and Brienne’s chest ached with unexpressed feeling.
The music began to slow, the first notes of “Make You Feel my Love” by Tom Sevenstreams making their way to Brienne’s ears. “Oh, I love this song,” she sighed.
“Well?” Jaime put down his empty water glass and held out his hand. Brienne took a deep breath, sensing the innate danger in dancing to this particular song with this particular man, but she couldn't refuse him. She took his hand and let him lead her to the floor, where he wrapped his arms low around her back and pulled her in close, pressing his cheek to hers. She draped her arms around him and, caught up in the moment, rested one hand on the back of his neck, his skin warm and flushed. Jaime’s fingers tensed on her lower back, then pulled her in a bit more. Their bodies pressed together fully, swaying in time to the music. Brienne closed her eyes and drank in this moment, this feeling, knowing in the back of her mind how fleeting it truly was.
“You know,” Jaime said into her ear, pulling her back into herself, “If we really wanted to make this convincing, we could...kiss.”
Brienne drew back and searched his face, looking for a smirk or another sign of a joke, but saw only sincerity and maybe something else in his dark, wide pupils.
“Really?” Her voice was nothing more than a whisper.
Jaime nodded, looking suddenly nervous, his eyes on her lips. “Only if you want to.”
Brienne had never wanted anything more in her life, and her reasonable side said no, you’ll just get hurt, but her romantic side won out. She nodded back and moved her head closer.
Jaime closed the distance, pressing his lips ever so gently to hers at first, then a bit harder when he felt her melt into him. His lips were warm and soft and sent a jolt of heat curling through her body. Jaime tilted his head, sighing softly. Brienne’s fingers tightened on the back of his neck before she remembered they were in the middle of a crowded dance floor and drew back. Jaime’s eyes were hooded and dark, his lips slightly parted, and Brienne wanted nothing more than to pull him back in for a longer, deeper kiss. Instead, she pushed away from him, muttered “excuse me,” and rushed off the floor and out of the dining room to the attached terrace.
She gripped the railing looking toward the water and leaned over, closing her eyes and taking a deep, cleansing breath. What are you doing, the voice in her head rang out. You’re never going to see him again after tomorrow.
She felt more than saw him approach her from behind, the heat from his body radiating into hers despite the respectful distance he kept.
“Brienne, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have done that if I knew it was going to make you uncomfortable.”
She shook her head sadly. “No, it’s not...I liked it. A lot. I just know this isn’t real, so…”
Jaime grabbed her forearm and whirled her around, then pressed his mouth to hers again, more insistent this time, tangling his fingers in her hair. He swiped his tongue along her bottom lip, then against her tongue. He pulled away just as quickly, holding her steady by the shoulders. Brienne’s eyes were wide, mouth frozen half-open, heart thudding in her chest.
“I didn’t do that because people are looking,” he said insistently. “I did that because I wanted to. Brienne – after this weekend, I want to see you again.”
Brienne snorted, her brain not truly registering his words. “I don’t think I can afford that.”
“No, I mean...for real.” His hands slid down her forearms and gripped her hands, his thumbs rubbing comforting circles into her skin. “You are...incredible. Unlike any other woman I’ve ever known. And the thought of leaving here tomorrow and never seeing you again –” He pulled away and ran his fingers through his hair, pacing the terrace, looking almost frenzied.
“Jaime,” Brienne said, grabbing his hand. “I want to see you again too.”
“You do?” His voice was soft and hopeful.
She stepped closer and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. “Of course I do. You’re a really good fake boyfriend, so I can only imagine you’re an even better real one.”
Jaime smiled and pulled her in for another kiss, a quick and gentle press of lips, but with no less feeling behind it.
“We should probably get back in there,” he said somewhat reluctantly, tilting his head toward the dining room.
Just then, her father and Adrienne stumbled out onto the terrace laughing, hands roaming in places Brienne did not want to see.
“We absolutely should,” she agreed, pulling him by the hand back toward the music.
At the end of the night, after most of the revelers had gone back to their rooms, just a few stalwarts remained, Brienne and Jaime among them. They sat on the terrace in wrought-iron chairs, string lights illuminating the night, their soundtrack the waves crashing on the shore. Brienne sat with her legs across Jaime’s lap, her head on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her. They’d danced and kissed all night, surrounded by music and friends and loved ones, and Brienne had never felt so happy.
Hotel staff eventually ushered them out of the dining room to clean up, and they held hands in the elevator and all the way back to their suite. Brienne’s body vibrated with anticipation as she unlocked the door and stepped inside, not knowing exactly what to do next, what she wanted to do next.
She did know she wanted to kiss him again, so she did, grabbing him by the tie and pulling him in. Her hands rested on his chest, and his fingertips skimmed down the sides of her neck.
“Gods, you looked so sexy tonight,” he rumbled, voice low and strained, as his hands moved lower to brush her exposed collarbone. She whined in response, fingers curling in his shirt, tongue sliding against his. They kissed and touched until they were both breathless, breaking apart and gasping for air.
“You have no idea how much I want to drag you into that bedroom and do... all manner of things to you,” he said with his forehead pressed against hers. “But I want to do this right.” He pulled back and looked seriously into her eyes. “I want to take you on dates, and buy you flowers or chocolate or swords or whatever you like. I want to find out your favorite foods and where you’re ticklish. I want to meet the rest of your friends and fall asleep on your lap while you watch those terrible movies you like.” Brienne laughed, and although her body was veritably screaming for more, she agreed with Jaime. They both knew this was more than a one-night stand.
“I want that too,” she smiled, curling one of her hands into his hair. They kissed once more, pulling apart reluctantly to move toward their separate bedrooms. “Good night, Jaime.”
Jaime’s smile filled her chest with warmth. “Good night, Brienne.”
Brienne woke the next morning with the sunrise, feeling surprisingly decent despite the more-than-one Shipbreaker she’d allowed herself. She padded quietly out of her bedroom and onto the balcony, sitting in one of the white rocking chairs and watching the sun peek beyond the horizon. She heard the door slide open, and Jaime came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her shoulder and planting a kiss on her cheek. It was such a simple gesture, yet so intimate, and it made her heart ache.
“Good morning,” he said softly in her ear.
"Good morning. Sleep well?"
"After I…calmed down a bit," he laughed, sitting in the chair beside hers.
They sat quietly and watched the sunrise until it was high above the horizon. Brienne started straight ahead as she broached the topic she'd been dreading since last night.
"So. We leave today."
"And then what?"
Jaime turned to look at her. "Then, we figure it out. We talk on the phone and text and facetime, and visit each other whenever we can." He reached over and took her hand. "It's not going to be easy, but I have a feeling it's going to be worth it."
Brienne smiled at him, beautiful and golden in the early morning light, and knew it to be true.
Two years later
Brienne stood in front of the mirror in the bridal suite at the Grand Tarth Hotel, adjusting the ivory silk that draped gracefully down her body. Sansa flitted around her, fussing at her hair and popping grapes into her mouth so she didn't completely forget to eat.
Brienne always thought she'd be nervous on her wedding day, before she'd sworn off the idea completely, but she felt surprisingly calm. She'd never been so sure of anything in her life, and all she felt was joy in getting to marry the love of her life at the place where their story began.
She thought back to two years ago, when she'd made that fateful decision to hire Jaime to be her date for Renly's wedding. She never could have dreamed that a year later, he would move to Storm's End to be with her, and less than a month after that, he'd pull a gorgeous sapphire and diamond ring out of his pocket and ask her to spend the rest of her life with him.
With Brienne’s urging, he'd signed up for classes at Stormlands University to finish up his degree and gotten a part-time job in the university's art gallery. Yes, there were struggles, but she was so proud of him for following his dream, and so madly in love, that it never mattered at the end of the day.
“Ready, Starlight?” Her father’s resonant voice pulled her from her reverie. She turned toward him and smiled, and his eyes lit up at the sight of her.
“Ready,” Brienne said, taking his elbow and letting him lead her out the door into the sunshine.
Later that night, Jaime and Brienne, husband and wife, laid in bed in their hotel room, exhausted and satisfied. Jaime ran his fingers through her hair while she rested her head on his chest. “You know,” he murmured, “I almost didn’t take the job.”
“The job?” Brienne asked, her head heavy with post-orgasmic haze.
“Renly’s wedding. I almost said I couldn't do it. But something told me I should.”
“I’m glad.” Her fingers drew circles on his chest, his heart thumping in her ear. "Sometimes I forget it wasn't even real in the beginning."
He pressed a kiss to the side of her head. "It’s always been real to me."