The minute I got the text from April after Rhea left I didn’t hesitate to get out of there as fast as I would like a guilty criminal. We found a good Diner close by that wasn’t packed so that we can have a hushed and decent conversation. For god knows, April was itching to know the detail. She’ll be ecstatic there is more drama before I left the office. And my intuition was right after I choked out the last words of my complicated, silly romantic interlude in life.
“I can’t believe it. So, the sister-in-law finally knows. And you two are in love, for sure. You can’t hide that glow from me, Zoe.” She snorted and smirked as I was about to argue for the tenth time.
“Okay, fine. So I have some feeling for this guy… I’m not really in love… I’m not emotionally invested…” I kept on rephrasing, trying to get a better scene of what I am going through after my uneventful realization.
Sometimes, when you realize you love someone, it isn’t all flowers and fireworks. It can be like a slap in the face, like a real wake-up call. Not every romantic at all. It can be painfully unforgiving for those who believe and expect it’ll be like a movie.
“Whatever makes you feel not guilty of sleeping in the same bed as him, I’ll take what sprouts of excuses you’ll say out loud right now.” She jested giggly.
“I’m glad you’re having fun listening to all of this.” I scoffed. “You call yourself my friend.”
“All jokes aside, Zoe, you know I’m on your side and I do care for your well-being.” She stated firmly.
“Of course, I know, April. Same goes for me.” I smiled.
“But, seriously, how whipped are you?” she cheekily grinned.
She was happy for me how I was able to find new love after my relationship with Ben. But I’m not sure it was the right time to be confirming all of this emotions. It hasn’t been long, more like a week or so since Ben and I had called it quits. In the public’s eyes, this could easily be called a rebound. And maybe at first, he was plain as day, a rebound for all of my sexual frustration. However, every day I spend nearly twenty-four seven with Julian, that mentality was dwindling away. I don’t know how long I could keep up this farce before I crumble.
By the time I got back, the man who was the hot topic in my friendship circle right now, Julian, was already in his office working. I didn’t bother to disturb him in fear what he’ll say when we’re alone. From where our last conversation went, he was about to say something that might make it emotionally difficult to face him on a daily basis. But it was inevitable to avoid him completely. All I could do was stall it as much as I can. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the remainder of the day.
His first attempt to show some interest on continuing our conversation that morning was on our way to our afternoon meeting across the city. On the drive there, I noticed his posture and tone softening as he addressed me informally. So I hastily reverted his attention to one of the paper works I’ve yet let him reviewed today. He looked annoyed at my interruption, however, he was quick to follow along with my façade.
The second time was on our way back, which was a bit difficult since most of the task for the day had been completed. Then I remembered I haven’t cleared out his schedule for next month since we’ll have another couple of trips around the country to finalize contracts to start ground-breaking and construction on the Hawksley Holding Inc.’s new project.
So I kept myself busy with my phone and a small notebook, a hard-copy of Julian’s daily schedule. It was then Julian finally had enough of it.
“Okay, I know what you’re doing here. You don’t want to talk about what happened earlier this morning.” He bluntly stated.
I stiffened at his words. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I muttered innocently.
“Oh, you know what I’m talking about.” He pointed firmly. “I’m not going to push you if you’re not ready for anything, Zoey. I mean, you told me plainly what we have – this” he paused to gesture between us in emphasis. “It’s just purely a physical relationship. However, after my talk with Grace, and how you put it in perspective, I don’t want it to be just physical anymore…”
I gasped. My face flushed in embarrassment as his question since I consciously know we weren’t alone. However, Jeffrey remained quiet through it all.
“I need you to stop right there, sir. I don’t think we should be discussing this during work or in public.” I firmly replied.
“No one’s listening, Zoey.” He argued. “And besides, Jeffrey knows how to connect the dots. He’s perceptive.”
It was then Jeffrey cleared his throat and spoke up. “Don’t worry, Ms. Curtis. My ears may have heard things, but my mouth is completely sealed. You have my word.” He avowed.
“Thank you, Jeff.”
“Now, are you happy? Can we talk about…us?” For someone who looked so confident a minute ago, it was surprising to hear him nervous and unsure of himself.
“I don’t think we should be discussing it. We both just got out of a relationship. What we have is pure euphoria of a moment… it’s not serious. It’s not real.” I blurted out in frustration.
“You don’t completely believe that.” Julian sound breathless.
It took me a second but I replied. “Yes, I do.”
There was a brief eerie silence but he recovered at my response.
“Okay. I respect your choice. But, I just what to know something...” He paused to collect his thoughts and wits. “Have you not at least once felt something for me?” His question weighed with hope mixed with some uncertainty, which caught me by surprise.
I didn’t want to be a coward when I say it.
So I looked him in the eye. “I… ah… I don’t…” Suddenly, I choked up.
“Tell me the truth, Zoey.”
“Julian…” I whispered and stopped short, realizing what I’ve said. Embarrassed by my moment of weakness, I turned away to hide the evidence of my crumbling resolved.
That was the first time I called him by his name in public.
In response, Julian reached out and grabbed my wrist. He slowly interlaced our fingers and kissed the back of my hand. I sighed heavily in defeat before looking back at him.
“Is not that difficult, isn’t it?” He whispered.
“Shut up,” I muttered.
His answering smile pushed aside all the feeling of fear and regrets. I was then I knew I had already fallen in love with him.
When we returned to the office, Julian and I tried to keep things professional. However, for some reason – it might be his enthusiasm for what happened – he couldn’t hide his emotions. For someone who I once viewed as a cold man in the business industry, it was truly a sight to see a different side of him.
His smile was genuine as people greeted him in the lobby and elevator up back to the office. Even as we passed through the reception area, I noticed Amy giving me a look, asking what was wrong with Julian. Of course, I couldn’t tell her out loud about the news. So I could only give her a confused look. She’ll find out about it sooner or later after I’ll tell April this evening or tomorrow. Depends on how ready I am to tell anyone about it.
When Julian and I reached at the end of the hallway, he paused by my desk as I made my way around my seat. He lingered by the countertop, studying me briefly as I settled down my things and restarted my computer monitor. When he still hasn’t spoken, I finally addressed him.
“Yes? Is there something else do you need?” I asked out of professional courtesy.
“Would you still continue calling me, Mr. Hawksley here?” He softly asked, knowing how I might have reacted if he said it out loud.
Even if he was cautious, I peered behind me to my colleagues before answering. “Yes, of course. Why’d you think that’ll change just because we’re…?” I trailed off, not sure how to phrase it.
“… together.” Julian finished my own words. “Well, since we are together, wouldn’t it be awkward being formal?”
“We can’t suddenly drop the formalities, Mr. Hawks…” I trailed off again when I saw Julian’s gaze hardening.
I sighed. “I want it to be professional between us here at work. I want that to be clear… Julian.” I hesitated for a moment but I knew it was better to drop it while we were discussing this matter.
Like a switch, Julian started laughing. “I’m just kidding, Ms. Curtis. I just wanted to hear and see your reaction.” He stated after catching his breath. He then leaned closer and added in a whisper. “I really want to kiss you right now. But I’ll save that for later. I’ll have you for the rest of the evening.”
My breath caught at his words, which made me flush. I’ll be a hypocrite if I said I wasn’t looking forward as well.
Julian and I left the office on time, which was surprising, but commendable how we’ve kept focused on work and do things done at the same time. He looked enthusiastic about this news, which made him a bit lax addressing me in the office. With only his innate thought on giving me a helping hand, he grabbed my satchel and briefcase, leaving me empty-handed. Usually, I’m the one holding on to those things, which goes with the job description as his assistant secretary.
So I had to keep face and insisted on bringing it myself.
“At least, a thank you, Zoey,” Julian grumbled under his breath when he gave up and saw the logic of my defense.
“I’m grateful for the thought, Julian. But we’re still at work.” I whispered in reply. “And thank you,” I added when he looked a bit at loss.
That got him to smile a little.
“So, how about dinner?” He asked and clasped his hand as we walked towards the elevator.
I tried to be patient with him and kept my answer brief and professional. “I’ll call and reserved one of your favorite restaurants. Do you have anything in mind you want to eat tonight, sir?” I asked while we passed by the open work area. There were a few people working overtime. Their eyes and ear were straining to listen to our conversation as we passed by.
“How about you choose for tonight?” He asked, smiling coyly.
I arched my eyebrow and kept on walking until we reached the reception area. When I saw only one staff was manning it, and no sign of Amy, I kept my mouth shut and decided to continue the conversation until we were alone in the elevator.
“I’d rather we get take-outs and stay in.” I finally said.
Beside me, Julian tugged on my satchel and successfully snatched it away. “I agree.” He grinned triumphantly.
On the way to his apartment, I suggested a drive-thru, which unpredictably Julian agreed.
“I don’t why you keep on getting surprised, Zoey. Have you not learned anything about me yet?” He smugly asked on our drive back to his place.
“My first impression about you isn’t easy to erase, but I am learning.”
His answering laugh made me smile.
Arriving at the apartment, we decided to eat in the living room. I unpacked our take-out meals by the coffee table, while Julian took care of drinks, grabbing one of his wine collection. I didn’t bother asked how much it was when I saw the year plastered on the bottle. I’ll let this one fancy drink slide – which mismatched the theme of our dinner theme tonight. As expected, the wine not only looked expensive, it also tasted expensive as well. Before he got to dig in, Julian spoke up.
“How does an stay-at-home date usually go?” he asked.
His serious expression was what got me. I’m thankful I wasn’t eating or drinking when he said it or I’ll be spewing it out of my mouth.
“What?” he looked a bit hurt, but the smirk at the edge of his lips gave him away.
I rolled my eyes at his jest. “Don’t be sly with me just because this is our first dinner… ah… date?” The words dangled into question as I felt suddenly uncertain.
“It’s a date, Zoey. Don’t back out on me and say you’ve changed your mind about it.” He firmly stated.
“I’m not. I won’t.” I muttered a bit too softly, which made Julian glare at me. “I’m not taking it back.” I added with more confidence.
“Good.” He grinned happily. “So, do you have anything in mind for the rest of the evening?”
“Well, it’s a weekend and we have work early tomorrow…” I trailed off.
He arched his eyebrow. “Are you seriously trying to be coy here?”
I smirked. “You’re not the one with moves, Julian.”
As he heard me casually addressing him, his façade broke. He held up his hand in defeat and dramatically sighed. “Okay. You win. Just a fair warning, I’m not going to hold back anymore.” The mischievous glint in his eyes as he said those words made my stomach curl with need.
I cleared my suddenly dry throat. My face felt flush as Julian stood up and took off his blazer, then rolled up the sleeves of his pale blue polo shirt. When he noticed me staring, he gave a flirty wink. I flushed some more. It was problematic to hide my emotions now as they were front and center. To make matters more difficult, Julian moved closer to me until our knees touched. I was so aware of him beside me. Every movement of his fingers, his arms, his shoulder, and the way he tilted his head while studying each packed meal was mine or his. I was mesmerized and entranced. And for sure, I knew he noticed it as well. Because as our eyes met again, he gave me a mischievous grin.
“So, do you want to eat now or…?” He teased.
My hand unconsciously reached out and gripped his arm. I felt flustered at my boldness. This time it wasn’t meaningless anymore. This time I wanted him because I want to be with him. And I was scared for a moment how much I want him right now even though it hadn’t been long since we met, and now we’ve made it official today. I’m afraid how quickly my emotions for him grew within days. What if it wasn’t the case for him?
Then his words cleared all those raging thoughts in my head.
“Is it foolish to say that I really want to make love to you right now?” He whispered breathlessly.
I chuckled at his honesty. “No. Dinner can wait.”
I apologize it took awhile for me to update a new chapter. I've been busy for the past weeks with personal and work-related matters. Thank you for your patience and support on the story.
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