By the time we’ve finished through our schedule, like yesterday, we were running near minutes throughout our schedule. On our last meeting, which I had to squeeze in since Julian wanted to meet with Mrs. Flores again before leaving, we were down by the second before hauling ourselves back to the hotel to pack, check out and head to the airport. However, by my lucky estimate, we were able to reach the airport on time with only half an hour before our flight back to Chicago.
As we landed back in Chicago, Julian and I looked like we were about to pass out. It wasn’t until I imagine sleeping peacefully in my own bed tonight I realized that place was no longer an option. Then a flood of memories from what happened two night ago came back like a dam. I felt flustered as I pulled out my phone from my blazer pocket while Julian and I waited by the entrance for Jeffery to pick us up.
Julian noticed my frantic expression. “Is there something wrong?”
“No. No. No… it’s just… Argh!” I cussed underneath my breath as my thumb fumbled through my contact list, searching for the right number. For a moment, I’ve just lost function of my brain. “I need to call April. I’m staying with her for a while…”
It took a moment for Julian to catch up, but he understood my dilemma. “Are you seriously going through what you’ve said to your boy… ex-boyfriend about leaving your apartment?”
“Yes. The lease is under his name. So, logically, I’m not sticking around before he throws that fact at my face.” I muttered with dejection. “I’ll have to find time to get my things this week.”
Julian regarded me for a moment. “How about you don’t go anywhere else tonight? My condo has a guest room…” he trailed off as I interrupted.
“Oh! No. No. No. I’m fine, Mr. Hawksley. I think two nights in a hotel room is enough.”
Julian argued. “And based on those two nights, it’s safe to say I’ll be on good behavior and won’t do anything.”
“Thank you for the offer, Mr. Hawksley. But April’s couch is fine for me right now.” I argued back again and clicked the call button before he musters a retort.
I moved a few paces away while listening and waiting for April to answer. With luck, in two rings, she finally answered. However, I didn’t think things through on how to properly explain it to her why I’m staying overnight.
Once I got the word out about Ben, she exploded on the other end of the phone. And I fear for the people who were actually in there with her. I hoped she wasn’t in the office or any public places. Since it was a weekend evening, it’s unlikely she’ll be out.
“Didn’t I told you to break up with the prick before he does something like this?! Did you at least get a good punch in his smug face?! I’d love to get a good smack at him after…” I didn’t hear the rest of her sermon as I pushed my phone away.
Once I felt it was safe to put it back on, I asked yet again. “April, would you be okay with me staying over?”
“Of course. There wasn’t any need to ask. It’s already a given, Zoe,” she replied. “What time will you be here? I’ll buy us dinner.”
“That’s sweet of you. I might be there before seven. I have to stop over at the apartment to get a few things…” I trailed off into silence.
April misinterpreted my silence differently. “Do you need me to go there with you? We could meet there,” she offered.
“No. I’ll be fine. Mr. Hawksley’s driving me from the airport.” I informed, which I had forgotten to tell her.
It got her mood lifted a bit. “Oh! You just got back from your trip with Mr. Hunky. How was it?” she asked with interest.
“It was…” I paused to clear my drying throat. “I’ll tell you all about it later.”
“Did something happened?” She probed.
“What? What happened?”
“No. Not over the phone. We’ll chat when I get there. He’s here with me.” I kept my voice lower. I nearly forgot the man in question was within hearing range.
“Oh! Right, of course. Then I’ll see you later.” She said. “And I’m sorry about what happened with that prick. Though I’m not really sorry you finally left him. I’m sorry how it had ended for you.”
“Thank you, April. I appreciate that.” I smiled. “I’ll see you later.” With that, I ended our call in time Jeffery parked on the curb where we stood waiting for him.
As we got in the car, in the corner of my eyes, I saw Julian was about to say something when his phone vibrated on his front pocket. He checked who it was before answering. It was from his brother, Jensen. The call took a bit of time, giving me some peace and something to eavesdrop on. From the one-sided conversation, it seemed Julian and Jensen had plans next week. But from the creased between his eyebrow, Julian didn’t seem to like whatever it was. By the time the call ended, Jeffery turned and parked the car by the pavement in front of my apartment building. Julian looked a bit distraught as he peered out of the tinted window.
“Well, here we are,” Julian announced and Jeffery studied the two of us over the rearview mirror.
“Would you like me to lend you a hand with your luggage, Ms. Curtis?” Jeffery asked, keeping things formal.
“That would be great, Jeff. I’d appreciate it.” I smiled and peered over my side of the door before getting out without as much as a goodbye to Julian.
However, as I closed the door, I heard another door slammed shut. Looking on the other side of the car, Julian had got out as well. Jeffery took out my luggage from the trunk while I walked around and headed towards the door. As I passed Julian, he started walking beside me like it was natural.
I stopped in my tracks and quizzically look at him. “Where are you going?”
“Pardon me.” He said in confusion.
I asked again. “Where are you going?”
“I’m escorting you inside your apartment. It’s the least I could do.” He replied nonchalantly.
I snorted and turned as Jeffery appeared behind us, carrying my luggage. I held out my hand towards it. “Thank you, Jeff. I think I could take it from here.” I said before turning to Julian. “Thank you for dropping me off, Mr. Hawksley. If you need anything, you know how to contact and where to find me.”
Julian looked slightly dumbfounded by my dismissal. “I… ah…”
“Have a good evening, sir. Jeffery, please drive him back safely.” I said before entering the lobby of my apartment building.
I didn’t bother checking whether or not they left and continued walking towards the stairs leading up to the soon-to-be no longer home. As I reached the door to my place, I felt a sudden rush of regret and stupidity on what I had done. Julian didn’t deserve that treatment from me, after the weekend we had. I’m even slowly regretting having that heart to heart talk about Ben. But I was vulnerable. Nevertheless, I didn’t want him to imply that our relationship should take another step further than boss and employee. I didn’t want to cross that line.
I couldn’t contemplate on these thoughts further as I entered the apartment. Before I got to step foot on the threshold, there standing across the hall with a determined look on his face was my notorious cheating boyfriend, Ben.
“Wha… What are you doing here?” I gather my wits before he could say anything. “I thought you’re not coming back until later in the week.” I sounded a bit breathless but proud how my knees hadn’t buckled from the surprise.
“I’ve been calling you since you left the Gallery. But you didn’t pick up,” he started.
Of course, I didn’t. I blocked him while I was drinking beer at the bar with Julian, I briefly thought.
“I didn’t know where you were staying, so what choice do I have to make but come back and wait here for you. So I took the first flight back to Chicago the minute the event ended.” He explained, his voice firm and unwavering. And as he talked, he slowly walked closer to me. “Zoey, please. Let me explain myself. You got the wrong idea, okay. It wasn’t what you think.” He continued.
But before he got the whole word out, I interjected. “Really? Because I know I’m not blind nor deaf, last time I checked. I clearly saw you with that blonde with your hands all over her. And I clearly heard her say ‘you still haven’t broken up with your girlfriend.’ So remind me if I’m wrong, where those just delusions or are you playing an awful prank on me?” I haven’t heard my voice sounded so lifeless. After holding back tears a few nights ago, which I was sharing a room with my boss, I’m not going to start brawling right now.
“Come on, Zoey. It doesn’t really look or seemed that bad.”
“Really? And by what means does the definition of bad is for you?” I sarcastically retorted.
He opened his mouth, but closed it again, unable to find the right words. “Okay. Okay. I give in. What I did was awful.” He dejectedly admitted.
“Awful? Is that just what you think of it? AWFUL?!” I could no longer restrain myself. “YOU CHEATING PRICK!”
“Zoe, quiet down, will you? The door is still open behind you. I don’t want the neighbors to hear…”
“OH! NOW YOU HAVE THE DECENCY TO FEEL ASHAMED?!”
“ZOEY! FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I’M SORRY! OKAY! I’M SORRY! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”
“HOW ABOUT A REASONABLE EXPLANATION. HOW ABOUT NOT BEING A CHEATING PRICK! HOW ABOUT TELLING ME YOU NO LONGER WHAT TO BE TOGETHER…” I gasped as tears slowly streamed down my cheeks.
Before Ben could muster another word, he halted and peered at me in surprise. Curious what caught his attention, I turned and found Julian. His expression was unreadable. But it was the first time I saw him looked cold and unwelcome.
“Mr. Hawksley…” I choked out the words while catching my breath in between sobs.
“Hey, are you okay?” He asked as his eyes softened while looking at me. “Do you need any help getting your things? I’ve decided to wait and drive you to April’s place.”
“I… ah…” I paused and heavily glanced towards Ben for a moment. “I’m okay,” I muttered dryly from the lie.
It took a moment for Ben to speak up. “Excuse me. And who are you? Do I know you from somewhere?”
Julian closed the distance between us until he stood behind me. Without as much as a warning, he placed his hand on my shoulder and twisted me around to face him. He then leaned down to my cheeks and lightly whispered, “forgive me for this.” And before I realized what happened, he kissed me.
I lightly hear myself took a sharp intake of breath at the sudden sensation of his lips on mine. I stood frozen and allowed him to kiss me. And my goodness, it doesn’t compare to all of those fantasies. It was more. Much more. Once he broke away, he turned to Ben.
“Hi. I’m Julian Hawksley, CEO of Hawksley Holding here in Chicago. And yes, we’ve met but not officially. I was with Zoey at the Gallery last Saturday.” His tone of indifference was giving me a chilling vibe.
“You’re…” He trailed off and glanced between us in wonder. “When have you…” He started again but become breathless as recognition crossed him face. “You! You’re him!” He pointed at Julian in emphasis. “Mr. Hawksley, I’m… I…” he stuttered as he finds the right words.
For a moment, I was unsure what was happening between Julian and Ben. How does he know about Julian? Before I could ask the man himself, Ben returned to his bitter self.
“HA! I wasn’t the only one. You’re cheating behind my back as well!” Ben stated angrily.
“For your information, Zoey didn’t cheat on you. I made my move when I knew you two had broken up,” Julian icily informed. “Now, we’ll have someone vacate her things tomorrow. I hope, for your sake, you won’t be here when that happens. And if one of my men comes over and find all of her list of things are not here or not in perfect condition, I’m not sure my company would be happily sponsoring you in future exhibits.”
“Mr. Hawksley… I’m… That’s hardly fair, sir.”
“Really? You know what’s fair now, do you?” Julian challenged.
But Ben had no reply for him. With a curt goodbye, Julian led me back down the lobby and out of the apartment. And all throughout the exchange, I haven’t wrapped it around my head that he kissed me to shut me up.
Julian and I got back in the car, while Jeffrey kindly returned my luggage back in the trunk of the car. After we were back in the road, I finally spoke up.
“What the heck was that?” My voice was still breathless from the shock of it all.
Julian arched his eyebrow. “What?”
“Did you just… and then you said…” I’m at lost for words again.
“No need to thank me. Again.” He haughtily stated.
This was a Julian I was familiar with. “That was unnecessary, you know. I handle it…”
“Well? Are you sure? You were at each other’s throat, shouting like sirens.” He interjected.
“But I was going to win that argument,” I muttered.
“No, you weren’t.” He remarked before reaching out and lightly brushing a stray hair on my cheeks. “Your eyes are puffy.” He whispered, which I caught. But then, he cleared his throat and lean back to his side of the car. “Are you sure you want to be going to your friend April and recount the story again?”
I pursed my lips. He was right. I’m not sure I was in the right mindset to answer April’s questions, especially what just happened yet again. There were too many emotions swirling in my head and I’m not sure I’m ready for a retelling. As I continued to ponder, Julian spoke up.
“I’ll offer this again. We won’t be sharing a room this time. And I assure you, you won’t see or hear me for the rest of the evening – but I can’t promise about tomorrow. I have to go to a meeting to update each department heads on the weekend meetings and contract dealings.”
Rather than arguing as I did before, I smiled and lightly shook my head. “Thank you, Mr. Hawksley. I’ll call April.”
Julian smiled in reply and turned to Jeffery. “Back to my apartment, please, Jeff.”
“Got it, sir.”
The pit of my stomach turned as I pulled out my phone. I’m not sure how April would react to this for I’m sure she’s all for me staying over at Julian’s place. After I send the message to her, not a few seconds later I got a response.
Go! And if you don’t hit that, I will!
We’ll talk some other time. Love you!
A/N: Hello everyone. I apologize I hadn’t updated yesterday as planned. Just warning for the future since I’m sure it might happen again. When I don’t update it means I’m busy, either with work or personal stuff. But I’ll always update a day or so after.
Please follow me on my social media account for updates on when I will be updating. I’m active on my Facebook page: fb.com.authormelryle . And on twitter: @melondiaries.
Thank you! Good day!