Chapter 24 - Danica
I open my eyes and look around Aldrich’s room. The sun is just starting to enter the windows. I slowly sit up and smile at the clothes I’m wearing. Aldrich was quick to get me away from the party the moment he saw me not feeling well. He even turned around so I could change into his clothes. Then he held me until I was warm, and sleeping peacefully. Sheesh. That man is gonna make me never want to leave. Leave? How will I leave now that I’ve met Aldrich? And . . . It feels so normal to be around him. That can be because we’ve talked so much over the last couple of months.
I sit up and stretch my arms over my head. Then I glance around and find Aldrich in his usual place on the floor, asleep. His left arm is over his eyes while his right hand rests over his heart. His breathing is steady and the blanket covers half his body. The blue T-shirt he’s wearing is the same as the one he let me borrow. I can’t help smiling. I start to kick the covers off my legs, but then my vision becomes slightly blurred.
“Dizzy spell,” I mutter to myself as I fall back in the pillows. I close my eyes while I wait for it to pass. Something cool touches my forehead and I sigh.
“You’re gonna have to sit tight for a moment,” Aldrich says when I can open my eyes again.
“I thought you were asleep,” I say, and my voice sounds groggy.
“I was,” he replies, pulling the blanket back over my legs. “But I’m extremely aware of your every move. I’m a light sleeper.”
“Oh . . . Thanks.”
“No thanking me, moj slatki. I’m happy to take care of you.”
I blush, looking down as I twiddle my hands together. Aldrich tucks the comforter around me and starts moving around the room. He moves his computer desk closer to the bed and then goes to the closet. He brings out a box, wires pouring over the edges.
“Oh,” I say with a grin. “Tell me you have Call of Duty.”
Aldrich grins as he sets the box on the edge of the bed. He reaches into the box and pulls out the game.
“I used to play that with Charlie and Danny all the time,” I explain as Aldrich hands me a controller.
“Is that so?” he asks with a chuckle. “Let’s just see how well you play, moj slatki.”
He sets up the computer, connecting the controllers to adapters in the motum. After putting the game into the disc drive, Aldrich jumps onto the bed and sits beside me. As we choose our characters, he slips his arm around my shoulder, locking his hands with the controller in front of my stomach. This makes me have to turn slightly so my back is against his chest.
We play for what feels like hours until there is a gentle rumbling sound. I grimace, knowing the sound is coming from my stomach. Aldrich chuckles softly and pause the game.
“Let’s go see what Claire has made,” he says, taking the controller from me and tossing it aside.
Aldrich pulls the comforter off me and gently places a hand beneath my knees, and the other around my back. He lifts me from the bed. I fold my hands behind his neck and hold tight. Aldrich carries me across the room and out the door. To my surprise, it is still the morning, but the sun is starting to reach high in the sky.
The smell of fresh coffee fills the air as Aldrich carries me through the kitchen door. Claire stands at the stove, a spoon in her hand as she sways to the rhythm of the music playing. She smiles at me when Aldrich seats me at the breakfast table in the kitchen.
“Good morning,” she says cheerfully. “How do you feel this morning, Danica?”
“Hungry,” I reply with a soft smile.
“Imala je vrtoglavicu pravopisa buđenje,” Aldrich tells her, but I have no idea what he is saying. “Mislim da treba da se odmori više, ali možda grešim.”
Claire’s expression creases with concern as she looks at me. I guess Aldrich is telling her about my dizzy spell. Aldrich then begins moving around the kitchen, gathering plates and forks. He hands them to Claire, and I begin to wonder what their relationship is like. I know Claire is the housekeeper, and her daughter, Laila, the maid. But the camaraderie between them seems closer. As if she were Aldrich’s aunt or something.
“I hope you are well enough to join us for dinner at the hotel, Danica,” Claire says as she piles a pair of plates with eggs and sizzling sausages. “Mr. Djokovic is a very generous man . . . employer. As is Dante, here. Always thinking of others before himself.”
I look at Aldrich and see his cheeks flushed. He smiles at me, shrugging as though it is a little matter. So humble.
“Dante works nearly everywhere in hotel now,” Claire rambles on with a soft chuckle. “I sometimes wonder if he will overwork himself and collapse.”
“I work two jobs,” Aldrich cuts in as he pours two glasses of a red juice; cranberry? “I hardly consider that working everywhere in the hotel. Parking cars allows me to offer the guests proper welcome on behalf of my father, if he doesn’t greet them when they are inside. Security rounds are what have me walking all over the place.”
He shrugs and brings the glasses of juice to the breakfast table.
“Pomegranate juice,” he says with an encouraging smile. “Have you had it before?”
“I don’t think so,” I reply, raising the glass to my lips, testing a tiny sip. “Mm! That’s tasty!”
I take another eager sip, licking my lips. Aldrich watches me with intent eyes. I glance at him and flush with embarrassment. And then, I notice exactly where his gaze is. My breath is caught in my throat and I drink more juice, pretending not to notice.
“Enjoy!” Claire says, placing a plate of hot food in front of me. “And don’t be afraid to have seconds. You need it, my dear.”
I smile my thanks to her and turn to eat. From the corner of my eye, Aldrich watches me. He eats slowly, keeping his gaze on me, as if I might disappear. He’s left-handed, so his right hand rests on the table to me left. I hesitate at first, but then I reach for it and curls his fingers in my palm. He doesn’t ask me what I am doing, or stiffen at my touch. He turns his hand, entwining our fingers together. I turn to look at him and see a smile tugging up at the corner of his mouth.
“Eat, moj slatki,” he says softly, using his eyes to motion to the plate in front of me. “You’re coming to work with me today.”
I smile, nodding before turning my attention back to eating. Steady, my heart.