AN: Hello, hello. I'm sure it seems like I'm posting a billion stories at once on this sight, but it's simply because I have so many that should be posted at FictionPress, though they've been posted elsewhere, too. Anyway, this one was started prior to "Keeping Up Appearances" and "A Queen's Descent," and has a different style to it. It would be absolutely lovely if you would let me know what you thought...aka, review! Please:)


Summary: Throughout his childhood, Brian Gallagher, from the wrong side of the tracks, loved Madison Taylor, the beautiful, perfect daughter of Lark Valley's wealthiest family. One night, a fateful encounter between Brian and Madison shatters Brian's heart and faith. Over ten years later, he returns to Lark Valley successful and famous only to find that much has changed since he left. Now, it's up to Brian to deal with the changes and find forgiveness within him before he can finally be happy…


.Prologue.

The mansion was teeming with elegantly dressed guests. They mingled in the various rooms and sampled from the finger foods carried on trays by discreet waiters and waitresses. The clear summer night drew them outside to the fragrant gardens and the shimmering moonlight. The music of harps and flutes filtered through the crowd and added to the rich atmosphere.

Brian plated more appetizers and, lifting his tray, headed out of the kitchen and into the fray of people. He was stopped here and there by beautifully-attired women and the impressive gentlemen by their sides. Though his motions were smooth and his manner impeccable, his mind wasn't on the job he was doing. It didn't occur to him that his bow tie was strangling him or that the shirt he wore as part of his uniform was starched too stiff. He felt none of the discomfort as his mind and eyes searched the room.

Then, he saw her, and it was as though no one else in the room existed.

She was, naturally, in the midst of a large group of people, who fluttered and cooed over her. Her cheeks were red from all the attention, and one perfectly chestnut colored lock drifted over one cheek. Her deep blue eyes glowed and matched the shade of the summer dress she wore. He'd never seen a prettier sight in his life. She was perfection in human form to him.

"Way out of your league, bro."

Brian blinked and looked over at his younger brother. "What do you know, AJ? Money isn't everything."

AJ snorted then smiled at the lady who lifted a champagne flute from his tray. "You're kidding, right? You're standing in the middle of two hundred people that value money more than anything else in the world."

"She doesn't." Brian could no longer see her as the crowds had shifted to block his view.

"Like you know." AJ shook his head at his brother. "Brian, she's just like the rest of them. She's been raised in this crazy, crass materialist high society. She's their princess. You're fooling yourself if you think she's going to look twice at you."

"Why can't you ever be nice?" Brian snapped. "You just have to be so damn cynical all the time. You're only sixteen, for Pete's sake."

AJ rolled his eyes. "You might be eighteen, bro, but I have way more wisdom than you."

"Whatever."

AJ sighed. "Brian, as your brother, as the one who loves you even though it doesn't always seem like it, I'm begging you to get over her. She doesn't even know who you are, and she never has. Maybe you were in her class all through elementary, middle, and high school, but you weren't even a blip on her radar. I don't want to see you hurt, man."

Brian just shook his head. "I need to get another tray. I'll see you later."

"Brian."

"Don't worry about it, AJ. I got your point. You think Madison Taylor couldn't ever notice someone like me, but I think you're wrong." And, so saying, he disappeared back towards the kitchen, leaving AJ shaking his head.

Brian tried not to dwell on his brother's words. After all, he'd been in love with Madison since they were in second grade. She was the one for him, and he was convinced of it. Maybe he hadn't spoken to her once since sixth grade when she'd dropped her pencil box and he'd helped her clean it up. She'd only thanked him and walked away, but he'd felt starstruck. Silly, he knew, but she was it for him.

For the past three summers, her father had hired Brian and AJ to mow the lawns of the immense Taylor estate, and Brian had spent as much time as possible trying to catch a glimpse of her. He'd heard her laughing with her friends while they lounged in the pool, and it had been like hearing a fairytale princess.

Money, or the lack of money his family had, shouldn't matter, he told himself. Love could overcome all of that. He believed it firmly. Before the end of this summer, he vowed that he would tell Madison how he felt and get her to fall for him, too. It wouldn't be so hard. They'd spend hours talking over coffee at the local café in their small town, and then he'd kiss her. They'd both see fireworks, and, when he would tell her he loved her, she would smile and tell him she loved him, too.

"Brian! What are you doing? Get back out there!" The head of catering shattered his lovely daydream, and he snapped to.

"Sorry," he muttered sheepishly. Grabbing a tray, he hoisted it up and headed out again, hoping to catch another glimpse of Madison.

When it was time for his break, Brian slipped outside to the front of the house where no guests were roaming. He could still hear the music and laughter and sighed. One day, he, too, would mingle among the wealthy and successful. It was only a matter of time.

He thought of the paycheck he was to receive after tonight's job. It would go a long way towards paying for his first semester's books and materials at NYU. He'd worked long and hard to receive admission and a full ride to the university, and he vowed to make it work. He was going to go places and be someone, and he was going to do it all with Madison at his side.

When a noise disrupted his thoughts, he moved to find the cause. His breath caught when he spotted the couple at the bottom of the front steps.

Madison was in the arms of the boy Brian remembered had been the captain of their old high school's football team. Part of the high society set in Lark Valley, he was certainly the kind of guy Brian imagined most people thought of as perfect for Madison. In fact, Brian had heard Jared talk about wanting to date Madison, and he realized that Jared had actually managed it.

Then, he heard Madison scream and saw her trying to push Jared away. Fury turned his vision red, and he leapt forward and pushed the other man away. When Jared swung out his fist towards Brian, he ducked and punched Jared's jaw, knocking him out cold. Then, he turned to Madison.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly as she stood staring down at Jared's unconscious form.

When she looked up at Brian, the last thing he'd expected was the anger in her eyes. "No, and it's all your fault! What did you have to knock him out for?"

Brian was astonished. "Well, he was hurting you. You screamed. I couldn't just leave it alone."

She shook her head and knelt by Jared's head. "I didn't ask for your help, did I? I could handle it. He's just a little drunk, and he was being stupid. But he didn't need some random idiot to punch him." She looked Brian over once. "Who the hell are you anyway? The hired help?"

"Brian Gallagher. Uh, we were in physics and calculus together last year, if you remember?" He was dumbfounded at how different Madison was acting from the way he'd always thought of her.

"Like I'd remember." She checked Jared's pupils and sighed. "Look, the least you can do is help me get him upstairs and into a bed or something. You're catering, right? Get me some aspirin for him. He'll have a huge headache when he wakes up."

As she started to lift Jared's shoulders, Brian stared at her, shocked. Who was this girl that he'd mooned over for years? He'd just saved her, and she was angry with him for it? This wasn't at all what he'd imagined and expected.

"Are you just going to stand there or are you going to help?" she snapped as she struggled to help her boyfriend.

With a sigh, Brian helped her cart Jared to the second floor, deposited him in a guest bedroom, and retrieved aspirin for him.

"Sorry for the mess," he apologized quietly.

Madison set the medicine and a glass of water on the bedside table before turning to Brian. "Yeah, well it's done now. I shouldn't have gotten so angry with you, but you should've just minded your own business." She sighed a little. "I guess it must have looked pretty bad, but I really could've handled it. So don't expect me to thank you or anything."

"Right. Okay." He stepped back and towards the door. "I have to get back to work. I hope your friend will be fine."

"Yeah, whatever," she replied then turned back to Jared's inert form.

Knowing he'd been dismissed by the princess, Brian stalked downstairs and into the kitchen. As he helped arrange plates full of dessert, he couldn't help thinking about what had just happened. No matter how many excuses he came up with for her behavior, there was one thought that nagged at him and shot those excuses down.

AJ had been right, and he'd been wrong.

For eleven years, he'd put her up on a pedestal and believed her to be amazing, perfect, and just right for him. Now, in the space of fifteen minutes, she'd changed his outlook on her character completely. She hadn't thanked him for saving her, hadn't even remembered who he was; she'd treated him like he was, well, the hired help. Which, he admitted, was the truth, but that didn't mean she had to talk to him like he was the dirt beneath her feet.

AJ had definitely been right. He wasn't a blip on her radar and never would be because he wasn't rich and hadn't been born with a gold spoon in his mouth. He was just regular old Brian, and she was Madison Taylor, Lark Valley royalty. They were worlds apart, and always would be. She was not for him and never would be.

"Not for you," he muttered to himself, and, with the words burning viciously in his brain, he dove back into his work and dreamt of getting away from Lark Valley.