Chapter 17 - Aldrich
I am working as valet this afternoon. I worked a late night shift with security, went home and slept until noon, then came here right after lunch. However, despite my exhaustion, and my determination to work hard, my mind is elsewhere. I can’t stop thinking about Danica. She is most likely on the train, on her way here. Right now. She could arrive into the station at any moment.
A taxi pulls up in front of the hotel, bringing me back to reality. Jordan is still parking another car, so I am the only one here to greet the guest. I rush up to the taxi and open the door. And I freeze. The world around me freezes.
“Welcome to the Ruzmarin Hotel,” I say, after a moment, clearing my throat.
“Thank you!” Danica says, climbing out of the car, wearing her 100-watt smile.
We both go to the trunk for her luggage, but before either of us grabs anything, we exchange a long glance. Something passes through her brown eyes. Recognition? Realization? Bewilderment? Whatever it is, the moment disappears and she grabs the smallest of her bags. I start to lift her other suitcases out of the trunk, my heart pounding in my chest as I catch a gentle whiff of her perfume. Cherry blossoms. That’s what she smells like. I set the suitcases on the walkway before rushing to get a luggage carrier.
“I’m still not familiar with this currency,” Danica says as she starts to take out her wallet when I return. “My grandpa always taught me to tip anyone who offers their help though, so . . . does this work?”
She extends ten Euros to me. I look at the money and shake my head.
“You needn’t fret over that,” I say, folding her finger over the bill, just to feel her hands in mine. “Save it for later, when you enjoy a pleasant dinner in the restaurant. Enjoy your stay at the Ruzmarin Hotel.”
Danica smiles, her hand still lingering in mine. Her hands is so soft, so warm. We look at our hands at the same moment. As much as I hate to do it, I slowly release Danica’s hand. As though she senses my reluctance, Danica continues to smile.
“Hvala vam,” she says, nodding. “Did I say that correctly?”
I chuckle and reply, “Perfectly.”
Danica grins, a soft giggle escapes and I find myself glancing at her lips. I force my gaze back up to Danica’s eyes, and offer a smile in silent apology. She waves and follows the bellboy that is pushing her luggage inside. I watch until I can no longer see Danica’s back.
“My friend has just seen the light of day.”
I turn and find Jordan coming up to me with a grin. I roll my eyes and return to the valet station. I can’t help the urge to drop everything and run to reveal my identity to Danica. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything to her when she exited the cab. I should have said something. Jordan rushes to assist the next guest. When I see who it is, I groan and turn on my heels. I should be thanking Karolina for appearing at this precious moment. I can try and see Danica once more.
When I enter the lobby, I look towards the main desk. Danica is waiting to be attended. I could go up to her right now. I should go up to her right now. Whilst I am discussing my options with myself, Alana appears at my side.
“I spy with my wonderful eye,” she begins, laughing softly. “A lovely face that has caused you to blush.”
“I am not,” I say, though I reach up to rub my cheek. “But yes, that’s her.”
“What are you waiting for then?! Go talk to her before she goes up to her room.”
I can’t help smiling as I glance at Alana before I start towards Danica. She is still standing behind a couple, which should give me a chance to talk to he-
“Dante!” I grimace as Karolina is suddenly walking beside me. “We have unfinished business, you evil soul. Leaving me hanging the way you did that night.”
I grunt as I stop walking, reluctantly turning to look at Karolina.
“I have no business with you,” I say firmly. “Do you know why I teased you that night? To show you how easily carried away you are, when confronted with a deep desire. I am not going to let you play games with me. I ended our relationship because you are cold hearted and selfish. You never think of the feelings from the people around you, and you deliberately seek personal gain from everything you do. You burned me, and I don’t care what you do or say. I am never taking you back.”
With that, I turn and look to where I last saw Danica. She is walking away from the front desk, following the bellboy pushing her luggage. If she enters the elevator, I might never get the chance to speak with her. I start sprinting towards her. When I am just within earshot, I call out to her.
“Miss!” I say, not calling her by name, though I should. “Wait a moment!”
Danica turns and smiles when she sees me. “Hello again!”
“Hi, um . . . You’re here for the book event, I take it?” Why am I not speaking outright who I am?
“I am,” Danica replies, nodding, still smiling brightly. “I’m Danica Kensington.”
She puts out her hand, which I take gently into my own to shake slowly. I open my mouth to say my name, when someone calls me.
“Dante!” I turn and see that it is my dad. He beckons me with his hand. I suppress a groan, motioning to him with my free hand that I will be right there. I turn back to Danica, who looks as if she is trying to keep a straight face, but her eyes are wide as she looks at our hands, still clasped together.
“I guess I will see you around, Dante,” she says as she slides her hand out of mine.
I nod, sighing. “Yeah, enjoy your stay,” I reply, though I want to shout who I am.
Danica enters the elevator, smiling at me as the doors close. Despite the disappointment I have, I’m smiling as I turn on my heel and walk towards my father’s office. Once inside, I start to scowl. Karolina. Her face is stained black from her eye makeup.
“I have to work, you know?” I say, closing the door behind me. “I don’t have time to cater to Karolina’s every hemp and haw.”
Karolina scoffs, crossing her arms over her chest, forcing her breasts to appear larger than they already are.
“If this about what I told her a few moments ago,” I go on to say. “You can’t possibly hold it against me. Not after what she did.”
“You lie!” Karolina shouts, standing abruptly in utter outrage. “How can you say such a thing when all I have ever done is love you!”
“You never loved me!” I shout back, moving so I tower over her. “You only loved the life you could have if I married you! Being the daughter of the prime minister has never been enough for you! You want to have money to squander away on useless material things that will never make you happy! And because you’re not satisfied with the luxurious life you currently live, you strive to make the rest of us bloody miserable! Despite what you might think, Karolina, you would never be happy with me. Of that I assure you.”
After saying all of this, I feel such a weight lifted off my being. Yelling at Karolina has made me feel so relieved. Someone had to tell her these truths eventually. It just happened to be me. What is surprising about this situation is that I would have never been the one to do it. What changed? I’m unsure.
“Dante,” Dad says, appearing beside me, his hand on my chest to have me step back. “Why don’t you go to the security room and . . . cool off for a while. I must speak to Karolina’s parents . . . and let them know of her recent whereabouts.”
I nod, my glare never leaving Karolina’s wide, panicked eyes. Good. Let her be terrified. I don’t care. She breaks contact and slumps back into the chair in which she had been sitting. I leave the office, not glancing back.
I spin my chair in circles, making myself dizzy. I am bored out of my mind. I am anxious to see if I can catch Danica somewhere in the hotel. Or even around the city. I have to tell her who I am. She deserves to know that it’s me. If I don’t jump now, I will lose my chance. I’ll lose her. I don’t plan on losing her to someone else. Whatever it takes, I’m pursuing her with my every being.