Chapter 7 ~ A Date
I woke up late for some strange reason and amazingly, I had a restful sleep. Everything we had been through the last couple of days would normally cause me hours of endless insomnia - with no reprieve from the reoccurring horror that continuously laid within the dark confines of my untrustworthy mind. Yet, she has caused the raging storm to calm and the ocean of hurt and pain to cease its torturous batter against everything.
Guess dad was right when he said I would find her, but - could she love me?
I sat up rubbing the sleep from my eyes and focused on her long caramel hair with its blonde highlights, glistening in the sun’s rays as she sat on the chair she had claimed as her own, since the first night of her arrival.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” She glanced up at me with sad hazel eyes, causing me to immediately fall at her feet. “What’s wrong?”
“The moment I have Paisley, I have to leave.” She refocused back on the ocean view.
“Why? She will be safe here,” I stated, only to receive her head, shaking side to side.
“No, Carmelito had a plan of action in place, in case of extended periods of absence or death - I have to see them through.”
“The thing with plans is, they are subjected to change, despite your rigid refusal to believe. Otherwise, they would be called ‘concrete’ or ‘immovable’, maybe even ‘set in stone’.” This made Harlyn chuckle quietly.
“I promised.” She looked back at me with sadness, hoping I would understand but I refused to. She can’t leave - not now.
“So, I will deliver her safely with you.” Harlyn seemed to pause whilst staring at me, I didn’t want to let her go, she was my calm, the one person that could soothe the confusion fog. I was not prepared, under any circumstances, to relinquish her.
With knotted brows, she draws both lips between her teeth and bites, “what if I can’t come back, Arlo? What if the hunt for revenge never stops for Paisley?” I had no answer for that, Carmelito, being the man he was, had endless enemies and who knows if all of them knew he was dead or not. What if they didn’t know he was dead and then they would seek revenge anyway?
No, I would not let this deter me or get me down - I will win her heart. “C’mon, let’s get ready - we’ll stop by Tristan’s room, then we’re going out.”
“You still want to hang out with me even though I told you I’m leaving?” She stared at me like I had grown a second head.
“I told you, plans are subjected to change, nothing is set in stone.”
“You’re awfully confident Mr Ramalio,” she calls back over her shoulder, to which I just shrugged.
“I have faith.”
We arrived at the maze hedges about forty-five minutes drive from the city, the acres of hedged property would allow us to get lost and finally have fun. The goal was to make it through from one end to the other, simple… right?
“This place is amazing,” my goddesses hazel eyes sparkling with excitement and childlike wonder at the prospect of getting lost in amongst the maze. I internally smiled, knowing that I was the cause of her elated heart.
“I thought today we could have some fun.” She leans over, pressing her lips to my cheek and I freeze. Her lips were so warm, so soft against my face and all too quickly they were gone.
“Bet I can win and find the exit first?” She wiggled her brows teasingly.
“You’re on,” I reply. “What’s the prize?”
“What would you like?” She seductively peeks up at me through her dark lashes.
“A kiss.” Her cheeks tinted a slight red blush as I boldly gave my answer.
“Fine,” she agreed, unable to meet my eyes.
“Great,” I proudly stated, “3… 2… go!”
We both took off, sprinting in opposite directions, there were five entry points into the maze, yet, we both chose the opposite entrances because - this was competition. This was a challenge I could not lose, after all, the prize made it worthwhile.
I was charging as fast as I could, left turn, right turn, bolting straight ahead then - dammit, a blocked end. I zipped back to a side opening, next thing I know, I was knocked to the ground by a beautiful goddess with hazel eyes.
“Fuck...” I groaned, opening my eyes.
“Arlo, I’m so sorry… are you okay?”
I reach up to cup her face, “I am now.” She smiles widely as we lock gazes, but then her body’s gone.
“Good, because I’m still going to win,” she calls back, hurtling rapidly away from me. I looked up confused, watching her upside down, her sexy ass disappearing behind a tall hedge.
“Fuck...” I cursed again, jumping to my feet and dashed after her. I had lost her though, all I could concentrate on now was, making it to the end before she did, the tantalising lure of a kiss lay at the end of my mission.
Moving as fast as my legs could, I came across a slightly bare tree - one that, if I climbed, would be easy to see where I was and where I needed to be. I know it was cheating but really, the rules weren’t specific, so I scurried up the branches. At the top, I relished in the fact that I wasn’t too far from the exit and mentally planned my route from my tree perch. Climbing back to the ground, I followed my mental map and found the exit in record time. Harlyn, on the other hand, took a further fifteen minutes to find the exit, and even then it was only by mistake. She went streaking past, her head snapping to the left as I stood there with my arms folded across my broad chest, smirking delightfully and halting her jog. “Shit...” she cursed before walking towards me, “how long have you been waiting?” my goddess huffed - clearly disappointed I had won. Hmm, someone didn’t like to lose.
“Roughly, about fifteen minutes.” I shrugged, not telling her how I cheated.
“What?” She exclaimed incredulously, “I was certain that when I climbed the…” she snaps her mouth shut, but I had already caught it.
“Climbed what? Did you cheat?” She nervously looked away.
“Umm… nnnnoooo,” she sounded out, looking everywhere but at me.
“You did,” I accused.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She strode past me exaggeratedly, I was unable to hold in my laughter - she most definitely had a competitive streak.
“That’s what you get for trying to cheat, Harlyn Royce - you lose.”
I collected her hand as we made our way back to the car, her delicate fingers entwined with mine felt just right. “That was fun though, thank you for bringing me here.”
“This is not over. This is just the beginning... hungry?” I questioned.
“Starving.” A wide toothy grin filled out her attractive features, I sucked in a sharp breath - I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing just how beautifully she beams when she smiles.
We headed over to Mrs Jones’ cooking rooms - an entire restaurant dedicated to showing you how to prepare a fancy meal, then you all sit down with a bottle of wine and enjoy your meal you have created.
We sat down around a large kitchen with other couples, everyone awkwardly smiled at each other and some even murmured ‘hello’s’ but were quickly silenced as the chef came out. I chanced a glance at Harlyn, who looked like a kid at Christmas, it was wonderful to see her soaking up this experience.
“Congratulations everyone for coming this evening to try your hand at some of my culinary favourites. The purpose for me, at teaching these classes, is allowing each couple to really bond over their love of food. Passionate structures can be created in the kitchen, preparation of healthy fresh food allows for conversation flow and to form a commitment, teamwork, if you like, between one another...” Harlyn stifled a giggle while I raised my eyebrows. Jesus, I didn’t know this was a ‘couples, couples’ cooking class. “Please select one card between each loving partnership and gather your ingredients from the fridges or the storeroom - we shall begin our work together - experiencing closeness with your loved one. Tonight’s dish will be Lobster Pasta with Herbed Cream Sauce. If anyone is allergic to seafood, please let me know now, so that we may change your dish accordingly. Watch carefully, as I will run through this creation once and then help you create your own masterpieces.”
After the demonstration by Mrs Jones, we wandered to our stations, arms packed full of ingredients and got to work. As suspected, Harlyn knew her way around a kitchen, me on the other hand, I was far less than impressive. We managed to pull through and sat down beside one another to feast upon our hard, sweaty and surprising work.
“Why did you book at couples cooking class?” She inquired curiously, finishing off the last of her delicious creation. I say ‘hers’ because let’s face it - I wasn’t much help.
“I actually didn’t realise until Chef Jones started talking about it,” I snorted, inhaling another mouthful.
“Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you. Now I have a new dish to cook.”
“Yep, now I can make grilled cheese, eggs on toast and half a Lobster Pasta in Herbed Cream Sauce.” She laughed at me, it was enjoyable basking in our comfortability and pleasantness.
“We could have gone drive-thru, why on earth did you pick this?” I looked up at her with a furrowed brow and an offended face.
“You are worth more than a drive-thru - you deserve to be wined and dined, I just have to learn how to first.”
Harlyn gaped at me, “y-you are so cute,” she blushed ferociously. I had never seen such a deep crimson.
“Anyway,” I brushed it off, I would not be derailed in my plans, “we have one more stop, so if you’re done…” we stood, thanked the Chef, taking away containers of the Chef’s special Mango, Passionfruit and white chocolate baked cheesecakes and climbed into the car again.
We parked in the underground lot of my father’s building and stepped, hand in hand, out into the busy city streets. She was soaking in all of the scenery with avid interest - I guess being under Eddie ‘murderman’ Muntz, had been suffocating and now - she had freedom and she was enjoying it immensely.
“Why haven’t you claimed your prize from winning at the maze?” I paled slightly before regaining my composure, I was not expecting that question.
“Oh, I was leaving that up to you. When you feel like rewarding me - I will gladly accept.” I gave her a cheeky wink, “we’re here.”
We walked into an old Karaoke joint and strode directly to the bar. Ordering our drinks and collecting a playlist, we sat a couple of tables back from the stage, watching the procession of drunk people climb onto the stage and ‘try’ to sing. “We’re here so you can sing, aren’t we?” Harlyn snickered.
“Oh yeah, no one wants to hear that. We are here because your voice is incredible and selfishly, I want to hear it again.”
“So pick a song for me...” her hazels twinkling with mischievousness, “pick a song we can do together.”
“No, no, no, no-one needs to hear that shit.” I laughed uncomfortably, trying to control my anxiety and sudden stage fright.
She grasps my hand, entwining our fingers, “please?” She bats her lashes. I crumbled just like that, succumb to the charms of my alluring goddess. “Just once and I promise, no one will know - it can be our secret, please?”
“Fine, just once - and if you ever tell a soul…” I submitted and walked back to the counter, placing our duet in the line-up. She crosses her fingers over her heart and makes the universal sign for - ‘not a word’ - and zips her mouth shut.
We were having a really great time with each other, laughing and carrying on, my arm slung securely across the back of her chair as she kept shuffling closer. I wanted so desperately, to kiss her.
“Next we have a duet by Harlyn and Arlo,” the DJ called from his booth, we walked up on stage, collecting microphones - then the music started.
*** Please listen too, Christina Aguilera - Say Something ft Colin Smith ***
“I didn’t know you could sing? Although, I should have presumed you could because your parents can - you are amazing.”
My cheeks were touched by a scarlet hue, I could feel the burning flush flood my chest and rise upwards. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
“Oh, I’ve already realised that Arlo.”