Notes: WIP, PG13, Iron Man/Magnificent Seven/Highlander. Thank you to strangevisitor7 and ninjababe for the beta! This is a bit of back story dealing with Tony and Charlotte's first meeting in 2001. Hopefully this will hold you over till I finally write the sequel to Practical Applications! Other stories in the series may be found here. Many thanks to everyone who has been so enthusiastic about this series and these characters over the last months!
Summary: Resistance is futile -- some friendships are just meant to be.
Added Note: For those of you new to the series, Ezra is an Immortal, as is Maude. Charlotte was Maude's teacher and Ezra's. Some of these stories are set in the Old West, and others are set modern day.
Books and Covers
Monte Carlo, September 2001
"Having fun yet?" Ezra Standish asked brightly, coming up to one of the many small candlelit tables that were scattered around the large garden terrace where a party was in full swing.
Charlotte Sparrow glanced over at her companion as he sat down next to her. "Not as much fun as you, I'm sure." She accepted the glass of champagne he handed her. "But at least the booze is good," she allowed, taking a sip.
Shaking his head, he sighed dramatically. "And just how much do I need to get you to drink before you let your hair down," he asked, gently tugging at a shoulder length strand of her ink black hair. "Figuratively speaking of course."
Rolling her eyes, she smacked his hand away, ignoring his smart aleck grin and irresistibly cute dimples. They'd been adorable when he was five, and still were at a hundred and sixty-three. And he knew it too. “I came to the party, didn’t I?”
Ezra, who was currently known as Edward Zachary Sanbourne, Ez to his friends, famed photographer and something of a celebrity in his own right, had cajoled her into attending a ‘little soiree’ held by his friend, the Contessa de Silveira. How he had managed to convince her to be his date, she still wasn’t sure. Charlotte had little use for the idle rich, and even less for socializing with them. Yet here she was, beachside in Monte Carlo, sipping champagne.
"Now, now," he chided. "Don't be grumpy; your face will freeze like that," he told her, mimicking one of the lines he'd heard frequently from her during his childhood.
"Weren't you playing poker?" she asked pointedly.
"I was," he replied, still grinning. "But we are taking a short respite, and I thought I would spend some time with my favourite cousin. You are my date, after all."
"Such a gentleman," she said wryly.
"I like to think so." He leaned back in his chair, tapping a finger against the table top. "I realize this is something of a concept, but perchance, have you considered mingling, maybe even, I don’t know...dancing?"
Draining her champagne, she shot him a glare. "Maude put you up to this, didn't she?" she demanded. "That's why you asked me to come to this party!"
Charlotte had been on a business trip in Italy when Ezra had called her, asking her to join him in Monte Carlo. As it had been several months since she'd seen the younger Immortal, she had readily accepted his invitation. She had been putting in double time getting her new winery off the ground in San Luis Obispo, and a short vacation with Ezra seemed the perfect idea. But he’d failed to mention the party till this afternoon. Now she was beginning to think his sudden desire to spend time with his 'dear Cousin Charlotte' had been a setup.
"Really, Charlotte! Such a suspicious mind you have," he said reprovingly. "Perhaps mother did mention that you seemed a little peaked after your last sojourn together, but that had nothing to do with my invitation, I assure you." At her eloquently arched eyebrow, he amended, "Very well, perhaps it had a little something to do with it."
"Hah!" She crossed her arms. "I knew it! Ezra, just because I prefer leading a quiet life does not mean that you and Maude need to stage an intervention."
"There's quiet and then there's one foot in the grave," he shot back. "I distinctly recall someone telling me once upon a time that life was meant to be lived." Pausing, he placed a finger against his lips. Then he pointed at her. "Oh, wait; I remember now. That was you!"
A waiter came by, refilling her glass. Staring at the bubbles, she shook her head in defeat. "Fine, I'll mingle, just for you."
He looked incredibly smug. "Very glad to hear it, dear cousin, because you're about to have your chance."
Quizzically, she glanced over to where he was looking. "No! Absolutely not!"
Ezra paid no attention to her. "I'll introduce you, shall I?"
Now she knew for certain she'd been conned. "I'm going to get you for this, Ezra," she hissed as Tony Stark sauntered up to their table.
Ezra only chuckled as he stood, holding out his hand. "Mr. Stark, a pleasure, as always," he greeted the billionaire, shaking his hand.
"Ez, glad you could make it," he replied. "Loved that last layout you did for Rolling Stone. You always capture my best side," he said with a smirk.
"If only all my subjects were as easy to work with," Ezra told him.
While the two men had been talking, Charlotte had attempted to unobtrusively back away and make her escape, but Ezra's hand at her waist stopped her.
"This must be Charlotte," Tony said, turning the full wattage of his attention towards her.
How on earth did he know who she was? Ezra was behind it, she was sure. Damn him anyway! The excellent performance of the Stark Industries stock she held in her portfolio was the only thing she cared about in regards to the company or its CEO. Ezra couldn’t possibly think she’d have any interest in the infamous lothario.
"Pardon my manners," Ezra said. "Charlotte, may I introduce Tony Stark. Tony, this is my cousin, Charlotte Sparrow."
"Sparrow, like the bird?" Tony enquired with a grin.
Charlotte held out her hand. "Yes, just like the bird, Mr. Stark," she said as he took her hand, lifting it to his lips instead of shaking it. Lord, I really am going to kill Ezra, she thought, all the while keeping a polite smile on her lips.
“It’s Tony,” he corrected. “Ez has told me all about you."
“Is that right?” Mentally, she was planning various painful forms of retribution against her so called cousin and former student.
“We were playing cards at his place in Manhattan a few weeks back,” Tony explained. “Your photo really doesn’t do you justice.”
“Tony was looking over the photos that weren’t used in the Rolling Stone article,” Ezra said. “Some of the winery shots I took several months ago were out in my studio.”
“I have to say though, I do miss the flour,” Tony told her with a wide smile, his dark brown eyes glinting with mischievous delight. He reached out, barely touching her cheek with one fingertip as if wiping something off her face.
He is so dead! The last time Charlotte had seen Ezra, she had been giving a tour of the winery to a group of Brownies. When it had started to rain, the tour had turned into an impromptu cookie baking afternoon. With a dozen excited little girls in her kitchen, there had been flour all over, a good deal of it on her. Ezra had been there helping; stealing cookies and keeping the children in a nearly constant stream of giggles and laughter. She knew he’d been taking photos of the girls, but she’d had no idea he’d been taking photos of her as well.
She jabbed Ezra in the ribs with an elbow. “I forgot to pack any,” she commented dryly, shooting Ezra a look. He just flashed her an unrepentant grin, his gold tooth glinting in the reflected candlelight.
Tony leaned in, saying softly, “I’m sure we could find some.”
His breath was warm against her face and there was frank appreciation in his gaze as he looked into her eyes. She marveled that the man could make such an outrageous line so damn sexy. It would seem that Mr. Stark came by his reputation honestly, so to speak.
Despite her best intentions, she found herself smiling up at him. “Oh, of that, I have no doubt, Mr. Stark.”
“Tony,” he reminded her. “So when Ez told me you’d be here tonight, I knew I had to meet you; flour’s very sexy.”
God, did she just giggle? She had! And she had to admit, his eyes were very pretty. You’ve had too much champagne! “Then my kitchen would practically be a den of iniquity—” she paused, her lips curling into a slow, lazy smile “—Tony.”
That got a genuine laugh from the man. “You know I’m going to expect an invitation once we get back to the States,” he told her. “But in the meantime, perhaps you’d care to dance?” He held out his hand, a hand she found herself taking, much to her surprise. Tony Stark was not at all what she’d been expecting.
“I’d be delighted.”
“Yeah, you will; I guarantee it,” Tony replied, his voice all teasing charm with an undercurrent of heat.
She shook her head. It seemed he had a snappy comeback for every occasion. “Shall we then?” she asked, nodding towards the dance floor.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have a card game to get back to,” Ezra told them, dropping a quick kiss on Charlotte’s cheek. “Any chance we’ll see you later, Tony?”
“Not any chance at all,” he told Ezra while keeping his eyes focused solely on Charlotte.
Looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, Ezra said, “Well then, you two have fun.” With one last pleased smile, he took his leave.