9 | Newfound Tolerance
I was braiding my hair in a fishtail when someone knocked on my door. I shouted a ‘come in’ from where I was standing, probably thinking it was the maids.
However, the door opened, revealing Ava. She had a cautious expression on her face as I stared at her impassively not knowing what to say. After she comes to stand in front of me, she raises her hands which held a plastic box of chocolate pastry.
She passes me an apologetic smile and I immediately burst into a laughing fit at her hilarious reaction.
She looks at me like I’m crazy then she herself joins me in laughter. “It’s ok I forgive you. You know I can’t stay mad at you for long especially when you bring chocolate cake” I say.
She passes me a soft smile and envelops me in a hug which I return. After a while, she lets go and I see her getting angry.
“Jeez, I feel so mad right now at Nate. That bastard has the nerve to ask me about you” She says through her gritted teeth.
“Wait he asked for me?” My eyebrows rise in surprise upon hearing what Ava said.
“Yes. When you didn’t show up at the dining hall last night, he asked me and I quote ‘Hello Ava, will Phoebe not join us at the table? Is she ok?’ ” She mimics him and rolls her eyes thinking about the incident.
“And what did you say?” I drawl out curiously.
She looks down at me and says “I said that you are busy working and left him on his own” She finishes saying proudly raising her head with a victorious smile adorning her lips.
I let out a small laugh and say “Avalynn Hayes, what am I going to do without you?”
She cups her chin feigning confusion and says with mock horror “You will probably end up alone with a baseball bat hitting your head because of how stupid you are”
I roar with laughter because it was indeed true. Ava was my lifesaver and the only person who could insult me non-stop without making me mad.
I put down the pastry on my dresser and return to doing my fishtail but that doesn’t last long as Ava takes it upon herself to braid my hair. As I look in the mirror, then I notice that Ava looked really different. Her long waist-length black curly hair was cut short to shoulder-length and straightened making her look more sophisticated. She was wearing a pastel pink lace top with black high-waist jeans.
“Did you cut off your hair?”
She pauses on her work and looks at meets my eyes in the mirror and shrugs.
“Yeah, I thought I needed a change after everything that has been going on. Do I look bad?” She looks up at me for approval.
“Oh no, you look different but gorgeous nonetheless” I smile with assurance.
“Hey, let's go check the pool that’s in the back of the castle near the maze and then we can go check out the maze. I heard that it is beautiful and has many kinds of flowers in it” She suggests with glee.
“Yeah sure, but what do I wear?” I scratch my head in confusion.
“Just wear something short and casual” She shrugs.
I head towards the closet and pick out a dark blue tube top with straps and pair it with white shorts. I picked out my Chanel sunglasses from my handbag and tied my hair in a high ponytail.
Before heading out, I pick up my phone from the bed.
The weather was exceptionally warm but weirdly enough the sky was a bit cloudy with a very limited amount of sunshine.
We settled in one of the white lounge chairs by the pool and relaxed while one of the maids served us cocktails to drink.
Ava was applying sunscreen on her arms when she asked “Hey did you talk with Noah since yesterday?”
I turn my head that was resting below my right hand and look at her frowning.
“No, not really”
She sighs loudly and before she can say anything I say defensively that “I just don’t know what to say, to be honest. He should’ve warned me since he already knew that they were coming” I say sullenly and take a sip of my cocktail.
“With all due respect Pheebs, would you even agree to this project if he mentioned them coming too?” She looks at me pointedly.
I think for a moment and realize that she is indeed right. I would’ve run for the hills and possibly abandon the offer without a second thought. It sounded quite depressing actually. I knew that one day or the other I had to face my fears but I guess I didn’t expect that day to come this soon.
Bruh, 9 years is more than enough for fuck’s sake!
I exhale loudly and rest my head back on the lounge.
“I’ll talk with him as soon as we're free,” I say to her. She passes me a happy smile and settles back on her lounge.
I pick up my phone to check for notifications and a shiver passes through me as I see Blaze’s reflection on my phone’s black screen. He was standing on the balcony that was on top of where we were resting and was slowly sipping on the drink that was in his hand. Judging from the glass, it might probably be whiskey or brandy.
He stared at like a predator with a dark look in his eyes. I instantly crossed my legs tightly on instinct and saw him smirk. That fucker definitely noticed my actions.
I flush in mortification and look elsewhere.
“Hey, Pheebs” I hear Ava calling and look at her. “What are you going to do when you face Nate and Emily? I mean you do have to face them at the welcoming party tonight. What are you going to do?” She asked distractedly.
I think for a while and remember reading about the party in one of the planners which stated the scheduled stay and event dates. As much as I would love to avoid them, I knew that it was damn time I stopped being a coward and face my fears beforehand.
“Well, I’m going to try my best to ignore them and to mingle around. However, I’m not sure if I can stomach Emily’s bratty attitude” I shrug unfazed.
“Hmm, good point” She murmurs satisfied, and goes back to sipping her cocktail.
After spending a few more hours in the lounge, both of us go exploring the maze which reminded me of the maze garden from the movie ’Anne Karenina’.
I smiled sadly on our way back thinking about the tragic ending of the women.
But my thoughts were interrupted when I saw Blaze greet a handsome Italian man who looked like he was in his early thirties. He was dressed impeccably in a three-piece suit and had the stance of a very important man. He was dark-haired with olive skin tone. Unfortunately, Nate stood beside the new stranger and I saw the three men discussing something I couldn’t hear from this distance.
I started feeling uncomfortable and flinched when I looked down at myself. Compared to their formal attire, I felt way too underdressed.
We had to approach them since they were standing near the entrance of the castle. Blaze was the first one to notice us and following his gaze, the hot stranger gazed at us too. I kept my eyes trained on Blaze as I walked towards them and flashed him a teasing smile which he returned with a look of pure lust as he scanned me from head to toe. My breath gets caught in my throat as that familiar clenching on my abdomen returns with full force due to his tantalizing gaze.
Yeah! So much for steering clear of him.
Looking on his right I see Nate with a brooding expression which I had gotten used to over years and just like that my anger towards him surfaces back in my head. I feel Ava looking at me cautiously, probably thinking that I might burst into a fit of rage in front of everyone. However, I myself am surprised as I walk towards them with a calm expression. Something I mastered over the years or maybe it was Blaze’s presence. I was feeling more at ease with him around I guess.
“Hello, ladies! I don’t think we’ve met before” The hot stranger drawls out with a thick Scottish accent and extends his hand towards us “I’m Andres Russo”. Ava was the first to shake his hand and then when my turn came, I realized that he was the CEO of Russo industries like Blaze mentioned.
“You’re not Italian” I blurt out bluntly and close my eyes in embarrassment to my straightforwardness.
He lets out a chuckle and replies “Oh dear, you are a quick one. I was born in Italy and raised in Scotland”
I nod in understanding. From the corner of my eye, I see Nate about to say something and immediately cut him off saying “Well, it was pleased to meet you Mr. Russo” to which he responds “Oh please, It’s Andres for you my love” He says flirtingly. Blaze shoots a hard look at Andres and says icily “Andres I think that’s enough”
Andres gives me a secret smile and says softly so that only I can hear “And my work here is done”. I frown in confusion then I understand that he probably wanted to get a reaction out of Blaze but my question was why?
“Ok, we should get going’” I announce loudly and grab Ava’s hand “We’ll see you around I guess. Bye” I give Blaze one last look but he is still busy glaring at Andres. Smiling, I take Ava’s hand once again and almost drag her inside.
Once were inside the confines of the castle, Ava spins me to face her and asks me with wide eyes “Is it me, or was it vaguely awkward at the end?”
I laugh whilst removing her hand from my shoulder and say “I did it! Oh my God, I managed not ripping Nate’s hair off his head” She throws her head back laughing in answer to my statement.
A/N - Hope you all enjoy this chapter! I'll try my best to make the next fun!