Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 21: We're Supposed to be Happy and In Love

After Nate sends me back to the penthouse (I couldn’t invite him in, because you know... rules), I rush straight to my room before Daniel can see me. But, before I can close the door, his foot comes up and jams it.

I sigh. Reluctantly, I open the door.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Daniel leans by the side of my door frame, his jaw set in a hard line.

“Nowhere,” I scowl and try to close the door again.

He pushes it away. Now, his eyes literally glowed red. “Wrong answer. I’m going to ask you one more time: Where the fuck have you been?”

He’s so angry his nostrils might as well be flaring right now. I roll my eyes. I might as well just tell him where I’ve been. There is no point trying to hide it.

“I was out with Nate, okay?”

He clenches his jaw, his eyes hardening.

I put out a hand to stop him. “Before you can say anything, you said I could hang out with him if it was totally platonic!”

“Doesn’t feel very platonic to me if you had to hide it from me!” He raises his voice.

“I wasn’t trying to hide it from you.” I say, but him and I both know that’s a lie.

“Bullshit,” he sneers.

“Whatever. Don’t believe me. Not my problem,” I murmur.

He huffs. “I can’t believe it. All this while, I thought that Nate was the one who was going to jeopardize our engagement, but I finally realize it’s not him. It’s you.” “Me.” I say, bewildered.

“You. You have feelings for Nate that you can’t control,” His eyes flash red. “You like him. Or you wouldn’t have tried to hide the fact that you went out with him. Let me make this perfectly clear for you, Alex. Keep your shit together when you’re around him, or you’re going to blow this whole thing up and end up throwing us both into the deep end.”

I look down shamefully. Because I know that Daniel’s right.

“Can you do that? Or do you have a problem with the rules we’ve set? Because you’re pretty damn close to breaking one of them.” He says.

I remember the rule. Don’t get involved with other people.

I close my eyes and nod.

“Good.” He seems pleased. “Now go get dressed. We have guests arriving in an hour.”

I roll my eyes and finally manage shut the door at his face.

I try not to let whatever Daniel had said get to me. Nope. Not going to let his words sink into me.

It takes me about half an hour for me to get ready. Ten minutes to hop into the shower and cleanse myself. Five minutes to towel myself off. Two minutes to slip on the dress that I had bought earlier today. Another five minutes to put on my shoes and my necklace.

And eight minutes to quickly smack on some lipstick and blush.

After I put on the finishing touches on my face, I glance at my reflection in the mirror. Not as hot as how I looked on the Charlize Matson show, but at least I look presentable.

Grabbing my purse, I head down the staircase, my heels clicking against the hardwood floor.

As I’m walking down the stairs, the hustle and bustle of activity grows more obvious and the voices of people mingling gets louder. When I finally set my eyes on the party, my eyes widen.

Damn.

Chandeliers hang on the high ceilings, casting an elegant light on the guests who are seen laughing, as if unaware of the luxurious spread around them. The men are all dressed in tailored suits that fitted them well and the women wear dresses adorned with lace, silk, velvet and all sorts of fabric that had to be way beyond Chanel worthy. Not to mention their jewelry which sparkle and garnish the scene.

“Wow.” This is definitely a Kerrington-worthy engagement party.

My eyes search for Daniel, and I find him waiting for me at the staircase, looking up to me. He wears a beautiful tuxedo, as if fitted especially just for him. Most of his anger has vanished from his face, and now he looks fine. Not smiling, but not scowling either. His stormy blue eyes trace every movement of mine as I make my way down the stairs. When I reach the end, he reaches out to take my hand and kisses it. As much as I hate him right now, I can’t deny that my skin tingles from his kiss.

Why does he have that effect on me? Why why why?

Then, he pulls me towards him and takes a good look at me. “You clean up nicely.” “You don’t look so bad yourself,” I manage to say.

He leans closer to me, his breath hot against my ear. I can feel his anger radiating from his mouth. “I’m still mad at you.”

“You’re always mad at me.” I counter back.

“True. But this time, I’m furious. Because you fucked up,” He bends lower, his lips grazing my cheek, “I guess I shall have to let the anger slide just for tonight. Don’t want people questioning me for staring at you like I want to kill you.”

I narrow my eyes at him.

“Remember, we’re supposed to be happy and in love.”

I snort.

“I’m serious, Alex. So play along.”

I pull away from him, plastering the fakest smile on my face. “As you wish, baby.”

He quickly kisses my cheek, and weave his fingers with mine. “Follow me.”

Then, we walk into the crowd together. It parts for us, all eyes trained on Daniel and I. I feel the nervousness bubbling inside of me, but when Daniel squeezes my hand, it slowly goes away. Knowing that he’s beside me, makes me feel like I’m not the only one going through with this alone.

A few of the guests smile at me, and I do the same to them, even though I don’t exactly know them. Because I ran through all their faces with Daniel two days before, I can see some familiar faces.

I spot Mr. Kerrington waiting for us by the main door, his hands clasped together in front of him. When he sees us, he waves us over. He puts on a friendly face, definitely a contrast from how he looked the first time I saw him.

“Alexandria,” He greets me, and he kisses my other hand, “You look ravishing tonight.”

“Thank you,” I mumble back.

He turns to Daniel and his smile disappears. “Daniel.”

“Father.” He nods back. “How are you enjoying the party?”

“I like it,” Harry looks around and nods in approval, “You made the penthouse look like a mansion. I’m proud of the both of you.”

Daniel doesn’t answer, and I can tell he doesn’t like talking to his father. I don’t know why, but I’m guessing something has happened between the both of them.

I’m not sure whether I should ask him about it. Maybe not.

Harry turns to me now, smiling. “Alexandria. I’m glad to hear that you’re holding the end of your deal.”

I shift uncomfortably. “How is Woods and Co doing?”

“Fine.” He replies, “with the help of my loan, they’re doing just nicely. Keep up the façade and the company will be doing just fine, even without my loans.” Well.

After talking to Harry, we mingle around for the rest of the night, talking to more guests, and exchanging brief conversations with them. Eventually Daniel and I separate. I talk to some of Harry’s business associates -boy, that was uncomfortable- and some of his relatives. They compliment me on my outfit, and ask me what the future holds for Daniel and I. I give them the same answer, every time.

“We’re just going with the flow, see how everything goes,” I smile, “But no doubt it will be an adventure.”

Finally, (finally!) Cara decides to grace me with her presence. She arrives an hour late, of course, wearing a drop dead gorgeous red gown with a slit along the side. With her blonde hair curled and pushed to the side, she looks amazing. I watch as she parts the crowd, her face beaming when she sees me. She practically jumps on me and wraps her arms around my shoulders.

“You look AMAZEBALLS.” She compliments me.

I grin. “Thanks, Cara. Apparently, it’s couture.” I twirl around, letting my dress flow around me.

“Everything these days is couture.” She rolls her eyes. “God, I need to get drunk tonight.”

I instantly grab two glasses from a waiter passing by us. “Here. Champagne.”

“Shall we toast?” She asks.

I lift an eyebrow. “To what?”

“To life!” She exclaims, “Or fake fiancés-”

“Shhhhhh! Cara!” I slap her arm, “You’re not supposed to say that!”

She tilts the champagne glass and drinks up the whole thing, “Oops.”

I drag her to the side of the living room, and cast her an annoyed look. “Cara... did you drink before you came here?”

She pouts. “Weeeellll....”

“How much?” I cross my arms.

She pinches her fingers together. “Just a weeeee bit.”

Christ. “Cara!”

She’s supposed to be the responsible one of our little duo!

“I’m sorry!” She frowns, “It’s been a while since I got tipsy, and I couldn’t wait until the party.”

If she’s drunk, it will mean she may accidentally expose to everyone that our engagement is a sham. There’s reporters swarming everywhere! I can’t take any chances.

“Cara, I don’t think you can be here.” I whisper. “If you accidentally tell someone that our engagement is fake-”

“I WON’T!” She shrieks. “I’m your besssst friend! I would nnneever do that!”

“I know, but you’re drunk, and who knows what might come out of your mouth?” I hiss. “I can’t risk that.”

Her face falls, and I know she’s hurt. “Are you kicking me out?”

Just as I am about to answer, Daniel pops up behind me. “Alex? What are you doing hiding at the corner of the room?”

I almost jump. ”Jesus.”

He grins, “Nope. It’s just me. Although I may have been called that among other names during sex-”

“I cannot handle this right now.” I walk away from him, bringing along Cara with me.

“Okay, I’m sorry, sweetheart,” He nudges my shoulder. “I may have drank a little bit too much.”

I am definitely not equipped to handle two drunk idiots right now.

“You think?” I glare at him. But he’s not looking at me anymore. He’s looking at my best friend.

He reaches for her. “Hello, there. Who are you?”

My best friend squints her eyes. “Cara.”

He glances at me. “Your best friend, right?”

I don’t answer. He has all the confirmation he needs.

He kisses her hand lightly and his eyes brighten. “A pleasure to meet you, Cara.” “Shoo away, Daniel Kerrington,” She twists her head so she’s not looking at him.

“What’s her deal?” He’s facing me now, confused as ever.

“She’s really drunk,” My hold on her wrist tightens. “I need to get her to my room.”

“Why?”

Cara decides to butt in at the worst moment. “So I won’t blurt out her secret!”

Now that catches Daniel’s attention. “WHAT?” Oh boy. I’m in deep trouble now.

“I’m not supposed to tell anyone!” Cara’s words slur. She wobbles a little bit, and I manage to catch her before she falls to the floor. “That your engagement with Alex is...” Then, she lowers her voice, ”Fake.” Daniel’s eyes murder me.

“Okay, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” I force a laugh at Daniel, “I’m going to take her upstairs and lock her in my room so she won’t say anything.”

I quickly rush up the stairs, with Cara trailing along behind me. She misses a step and almost ends up tumbling to the ground. Daniel catches her arm and manages to stabilize her. When I finally got her in my room, I heave a sigh. She stumbles unto the bed, her hands splayed wide.

“Stay here, alright?” I warn her. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Boo. You’re no fun,” She whines, sticking her tongue out.

“You’ll thank me when the night is over.” I sigh before closing the door.

Just when I am about to go down, Daniel yanks on my hand. “Not so fast, sweetheart.”

“What?” I say, frustrated.

“You told Cara that our engagement is a sham?” He questions me, “I can’t believe you can be that stupid!”

“Hey!” I almost yell. “First off, Cara’s my best friend. I can’t hide anything from her, even if I wanted to. And I had to tell her! I came home that weekend after I found out and I broke into tears. She found me and demanded to know what happened. I had to...tell her.”

“God, Alex,” He runs his fingers through his gelled up hair, “I can’t believe you told someone about it.”

“I didn’t have a choice!”

“You are really getting on my nerves, Alex,” He shakes his head, “First Nate, now Cara. What are you trying to do? It’s like your begging for this whole deal to be over. Do you want that? Huh? For your parents?” I keep my mouth shut.

“I’m not even mad. Now I’m just disappointed.” He says. “I thought you would have thought this through. After all, your parents company is on the line because of what you’ve done!”

I gasp slightly.

“You already screwed up twice. Don’t let there be a third strike.” He warns me.

“I’m sorry,” I murmur. “I didn’t mean it.”

Daniel’s right. He’s absolutely right. I did screw up. Big time. With Nate and with Cara. What if I hadn’t find Cara drunk tonight? She would have just blurted out our secret and the whole façade would just come crumbling down. All because I told her. And in the end, it would be my fault.

Why why why is he always right?

He sighs, letting out some of his anger. “Sweetheart...”

His eyes lock with mine. We just stare at each other for what seems like a really long time, neither of us saying anything. My breath hitches up.

I don’t know why I do it- maybe I’m just so flustered, or my emotions are running all over the place- but I do what I never thought I would ever do.

I hug Daniel.

He seems so taken aback by it. His hands just stay frozen by his sides, but after a while, his stance eases and his arms wrap around me, holding me together just when I’m about to break.

He buries his nose against my neck, breathing me on. His body warms me, envelopes me in some kind of bubble I never want to get out of. When we embrace, it’s as if our emotions mirror, and we feel whatever each other is feeling. His fury radiates from his body, but instead of me pulling away from it, I catch the feeling and I numb it for him. He slowly relaxes, sighing as he tightens his hold on my waist.

This is the first time we have ever been this close together. And as much as that thought disgusted me a week ago, I now think that it isn’t such a bad idea after all.

“I’m sorry,” He says after a while, “I would have done the same thing if I was in your situation. Cara’s your best friend. She’s bound to figure it out one-way or another. Hell, I’m pretty sure Simon knows that it’s fake.”

I retreat from him, but smiling. “Thanks.”

He cups my cheek and grins, “No problem, sweetheart.”

I reluctantly pull away from him and wrap my arms around my body. “I should...”

“Yeah. Um.” Now the awkwardness floats in the air surrounding us, and the both of us are left confused as to what has just happened.

Did I actually just hug Daniel?

Whoa.

“Yeah.” I echo. “I’ll just...”

He doesn’t stop me when I walk down the stairs without him.

I am greeted again by the huge crowd in front of me, most of them congratulating me of my engagement. I plaster on my biggest smile and thank everyone for coming, telling them how happy I am for them to be here. But my mind is elsewhere...

Something strange happened when I embraced Daniel. And I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a really really bad thing.

I’m not sure whether I want to find out.

I didn’t realize I had bumped into someone until I hear them make a grunting noise.

“I’m so sorry-” I start off, but my words immediately die down when I realize who it is.

“Alexandria?” The familiar voice sounds.

No it’s not him, it’s not them.

“Alex!” the other voice rings in my ears. “Is that you?” I gulp.

I want to escape, but I can’t. It’s time to face them.

It’s time to face my parents.

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