Clandestine Heart

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Chapter 6

She was a phantom of delight when first she gleam’d upon my sight;

A lovely apparition, sent to be a moment’s ornament;

Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;

Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;

But all things else about her drawn from May-time and the cheerful dawn;

A dancing shape, an image gay, to haunt, to startle, and to waylay

--William Wordsworth


Lara was perching on the stool bar, talking to Rosalie, as Tristan saw her, the moment he walked into the lounge. She crossed her legs and her coat was on her laps.

And he noticed that she looked slightly different, he could not decipher what made her so different. She looked despondent, yet more beautiful, he thought as he looked at her under the dim light of the bar lounge. She was the true meaning of beauty and he was an expert to distinguish which one was the fake or the real beauty.

And this woman, who was listening to what Rosalie was saying, was purely beautiful. Her hair was braided loosely. Her subtle makeup did not make her less beautiful though somehow she looked paler. Her sapphire off-shoulder knee-length dress was simple yet elegant with a three-inches white strapless shoes.

She did not notice his arrival, it seemed she rather in her deepest concentration. It was a fortunate for him since he could procrastinate taking his time to admire her and the more he was doing that, the more he was intrigued by the indefinable presence of her petite figure.

“Hello ladies…” Drawn irresistibly to Lara’s feminine scent that lingered in the warm temperature of the room, he began to take his steps towards them.

Two pairs of eyes swung their attention to him. One pair of eyes that were bright and as blue as sky, expressing no surprise of his presence and the other one…That brown eyes that had haunted his nights just like shadows of ghosts, captured his eyes.

“Well, finally, you’re here.” Rosalie condescendingly uttered, still she climbed off her bar stool and flung her arms around his shoulders giving him a peck of kiss on the cheek.

Tristan smiled wryly as he returned the favor to kiss her back. “Work got in the way.”

“We heard that a lot.” Rosalie said nonchalantly. “Either you’re busy or you’re in overseas.”

“Come on, spare me, sweetheart.” He muttered and then brusquely changed the subject. “By the way, you look beautiful, Rose.” He examined his friend for a moment.

Indeed Rosalie was beautiful with a little fitted mini black dress. Featuring a ribbed round neckline, long length raglan sleeves this dress really enhanced Rosalie statuesque figure.

“Thank you.” Rosalie smiled sweetly and flipping her head to other direction. “I need to check on the menu make sure everything’s okay.” She rose from the stool bar.

“Sure, Rosalie.” Tristan heard Lara melodious voice said.

“I see you two in ten minutes at our table, okay.” Rosalie said to them and then imperially walked away from the bar lounge heading to the restaurant.

And since Rosalie left, Tristan felt that the silence mounted them. He knew of them had to start to speak. Usually Lara was the one who started the conversation, but this time he wanted to change that.

He pursed his lips, the gesture that only he knew in order for him to calm his heart that beat frantically in his chest. “Hi how have you been?” He managed to speak with his cold and reserved tone.

Hastily, Lara managed to force a smile to him as if she tried to mask the long in her eyes. “I’m good. How about yourself?” She replied while fumbling with her fingers, scarely meeting his eyes.

Tristan almost had his whole body snap into rigidity at the sound of a sweet voice of her reply. “Well you heard Rose…I’m always busy.” He heaved a deep sigh, inserting both of his hands in his pants pockets. “How’s your life?”

Lara missed the concern gaze that flashed momentarily in his eyes. “Still manage to survive.” She answered. Her voice was shaky.

He had no clue what was happening in the turmoil of her heart as there was something comprehensible in her brilliant eyes. Yet he did not know what was written there. He wondered what did she mean about surviving. Did she finally manage to survive forgetting him or the passing of her mother?

Scanning her face, he could not help but to ask. “What do you mean?”

Lara was frozen with her eyes that aimed him like a deer that caught in spotlights. “I didn’t mean anything. My life is okay. Revolve around jobs and study.”

“Jobs?” He asked genuinely bewildered.

“Yes, I’ve two jobs.” Her voice came out imperceptible, like if she almost did not want him to hear her.

“Are you struggling, financially?” He took a step closer and leaned against the bar. His eyes measured over her creamy complexion.

There was a hesitation but she gave a little shake of her head that making the braid of her loosened up.

And Tristan lost his control. Without he realized what he was doing, he reached out and gently tuck those stray locks behind her ear, just to feel their softness.

It was as gentle as a feather, indelible as a brand that made her shivered. The fluttering of the vein in her neck was visible, so was the cramping constriction on her breathing.

“Tristan…” Her breath hitched and her innocent brown eyes stared at him incredulity.

“You look so beautiful, Lara.” He sighed in appreciation, now his good fingers were tracing her jawline that made her shivered from his touch.

She’s still not immune with my touch, Tristan immersed. And the thoughts thrilled him.

“W…What are you doing?” Her breath almost stopped in her throat, she was simply astounded and then her eyes fell as if she did not believe her own sight and feeling.

“Nothing.” He shook his head as he reluctantly abated his caress. “I just want to say that you’re so beautiful, also I need to know if everything’s okay with you.”

He saw Lara fluttered her eyes briefly as if she wished to gain her last straw of her strength. “I’m okay. Thank you for your concern.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” It was only his respond. “But like I said…” He halted when he felt someone tapped at the back of his shoulders.

“Wow, you managed to come here.” Blake greeted him, perplexed. He was looking so boyishly good looking with all black shirt, pants and winter coat.

“Yes.” Tristan blew a scathing breathed, raising his hands in front of his chest dramatically. “And you seem surprised knowing that you’re the one who called.” He added succinctly.

Blake gave a lopsided smile but he did not reply him back. Instead he turned his attention to Lara. “Shall we take our seat now?”

From the corner of Tristan’s eyes, he could see that Lara gave Blake a smile that looked like a relief smile as if she was thankful that Blake saved her from this awkward situation between her and himself.

“Yes.” She said and rose from the chair hastily.

“Let’s go.” And without hesitation, Blake took her hand and clasped it. “Aren’t you coming?” He then asked brusquely Tristan who stood rigidly rooted on the wooden floor.

“No.” He snapped coldly. His aggressive jawline clenched for the sight infuriated him that, Blake dared to take her hand so casually, as it was the habit between the two of them. Was there something going on between the two of them that he did not know?

Blake arched an eyebrow. “You okay?” He stared at him with his infamous piercing look.

Tristan took a deep breath to calm himself down. “Yes, just tired.” He said abstractedly. “And I need my drink.”

Blake looked at him and tried to decipher the meaning behind those words. Yet he only nodded. “Don’t be too long.”

“I won’t.” He stated tightly and turned around to call the bartender as if he did not want to see the two of them walked out from room.

“Alright.” And with that one single word, Blake and Lara finally left him.

Once, there were out of his sight, Tristan sauntered to other end of the bar table. “Macallan on the rock, please.” He told the bartender grimly.

“Certainly, sir.” The bartender smiled politely and immediately he poured the gold liquor into the crystal glass. “Here’s your drink, sir.”

“Thank you.” He said, lifting the glass and immediately took a sip of his drink. He felt the fiery liquid filled his throat before went to his lung.

The turbulence of emotion surfaced in his eyes. He heaved another heavy sigh as he lowered his face until his brows pressed against his coiled hands.

“Fuck…” he muttered softly to himself as the thoughts of them walking hand in hand few minutes ago flashed on his mind.

What’s going on between the two of them? Since when did they start so close? Why I don’t know about this? Are they dating now? He thought angrily as he shook his head wanting to shake his wild speculation.

He lifted his face and expression from into a grim, the contorted of his feature anguished. His dark eyes seemed to mirror the agony of the vision. Doleful and intense. He clenched the glass and squeezed it tightly, trying hard to control his emotion.

Another tap of his shoulder forced him to tug him from his reverie.

“What are you doing here all alone?” A familiar masculine voice asked him incredulously. He was looking arrogantly handsome with blue-ish collar shirt and black pants.

Tristan exhaled an impatient breath as he played the rim of the glass with his finger. “And what are you doing here also, Liam?”

“I’m asking you first.” Liam, his best friend riposted as his gaze penetrated to him. “You’re not being of yourself. What’s going on?” He asked again. It was direct, straightforward. Liam might be rough and domineering, nevertheless he cared a lot in his own way.

“Nothing’s wrong.” Tristan lied in agitated voice.

“Are you sure?”

Tristan’s eyes flicked up from the glass. For a moment longer he said nothing, just let his unreadable gaze rest on Liam. And his best friend sensed a chill seep through him.

“Tristan, What’s going on? Is there something that I should worry about?” Liam demanded. “I’ve known you long enough.”

“Nothing’s wrong.” He repeated his lie, taking another gulp of his drink.

“Is it about work?” Liam scrutinized his taut face.

Tristan slammed the glass on the sleek wooden bar table impatiently. “I said there’s nothing wrong. Which part of my statement that you don’t understand?!”

Liam did not reply and soon the silence between them crept in. Only the sound of the music filled in the air. Candidly the music was really a mood boozer, however it did not apply for Tristan, as Liam noticed.

“Alright then.” Liam shrugged. “If you need…”

“I don’t.” Tristan cut in in cold voice. “I think I should get in there now.” And in a split second later he turned his dark head away and strode out from the bar lounge.

Liam will never understand, he thought. No one understood how he felt towards Lara. The rage of jealousy appeared the moment he had heard Blake would have picked her up.

But then again, what would you expect, Tristan? His inner sanctum asked.

Lara was a beautiful woman, there were many suitor that more than willingly to give their feeling. A lot more than he could have done.

Perhaps this time he really should relinquish the grip thinking that Lara still loved him. He had done it many times in the past. Surely he should have become an expert by doing that.

Before she had come into his life, he honestly had not appreciated the depth of his own bitterness. Although how badly his father had hurt him, he had not known or perhaps ignored that fact until he knew the moment he had realized that he had lost Lara.

He sighed defeated as striding up his pace toward the private room inside the restaurant. The room was filled laughter and joy and he stiffened as he heard Lara’s amusement mixed with the others laughed over something what Phoenix said.

Suddenly Abby’s face lifted up. “There you are!” She exclaimed and rose from her chair to approach him as he was still standing at the threshold of the sliding door.

From the corner of his eyes, he saw that Lara also turned her attention to him. From a split second their eyes collided, yet as soon as her eyes met his, she looked away. The amusement she had displayed earlier vanished just like the comet disappeared the dark sky.

“Where have you been?” Abby’s voice required him to avert his attention.

“I’ve been in the bar lounge.” He said casually and took the seat next Phoenix in this round table and fortunately the seat was facing in front of Lara’s.

“Where’s Liam?” Abby queried through her pink lips.

“I’m here babe.” Suddenly Liam replied from behind. He took his steps towards his fiancé who was absolutely stunning in the black short sleeve lotus leaf edge length pencil dress. But Liam still took a slide glance to Tristan before he took his seat next to Abby.

Tristan pretended he did not notice or understand what Liam meant with his glance. He ignored him and started to check the drink menu.

After that, the night went smooth and comfortable. There were another six people of their friends that came with whom Tristan also knew. Phoenix’s jovial charm, lifted up the air and Tristan felt that his own relaxing manner amplified, he even cracked some jokes to them and laughed with them.

Yes, Tristan laughed with them, though his eyes and mind were busy too busy to capture of every angle of Lara’s face.

She looked painfully thinner since the last time he had seen her. He really wondered if the life had treated her well. Her collarbones were stretched taut against her almost translucent skin. Her wrists looked so fragile that a little pressure might have snapped them into half. And her eyes, those bright eyes were hollowed and muted with suffer.

Lara seemed drown with her own little world even she kept on smiling to hear their friends chattered. She obviously looked so distance, much, much to distance. Even at this proximity, she seemed so far away as if she had wanted to avoid him as much as possible. The thoughts of that made his heart shivered and hurt in someway. It seemed that he couldn’t react the way he used to act normally. But he knew there was nothing formal about him as far as Lara’s concern.

Then night was getting thinned. One by one the guests were leaving, soon it was only seven of them who stayed until Tristan saw from the corner of his eyes, Lara was whispering something to Abby. And Abby looked dumbstruck for a second before she nodded to what he saw she seemed objected but she had no choice with whatever Lara had told her.

A moment later, Lara rose from her chair. “I’m sorry guys, I’ve to call off the night.” She said and showed any apologetically smile.

All of them including Tristan, seemed to follow the reaction of what Abby had displayed a little while ago, dumbstruck.

“What? Why?” Tristan blinked as he heard Phoenix’s objection tone. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt up to the elbows.

“I have things to do tonight.” She responded softly and vaguely as if she was afraid to tell them what things she had to do at the late hour of the evening.

“Oh, Lara, do you really need to go now?” Rosalie asked while she was putting down the flute of the champagne.

“I’m afraid so.” Lara’s tone was still low and somehow as if she did not want her friends to ask her more questions, she immediately collected her purse and her coat. “But I’d a blast tonight. Happy birthday once again, P.” She added before she started to leave the table.

Blake was about to get up from his chair but Tristan was faster.

He stood from the chair rapidly without his thinking. “I’ll take you.” Tristan offered.

Now everybody’s attention was driven to his impulse reaction. Liam almost chocked and spilled out his drink at his unexpected movement. Rosalie and Phoenix shared the same awe as they opened their mouth widely and last but not least Blake from his chair scrutinized him with his placid eyes.

But it was Lara’s expression was that striking him the most. Her reaction was beyond everything his friends had, as she turned around to face him. Her eyes were dilated and he saw a raw of shock of horror as if she had seen a ghost in front of her instead only heard his tone to offer her a lift.

But he did not care though he did not know why he made his outburst offer. All he cared and knew was, seeing her again for this brief time was not enough for him.

He approached her who was standing motionlessly, unable to move as she had heard his deep and rich voice. Every step he took risked everything he had. Nevertheless he kept on walking until he stood two feet away from her.

“I’ll take you.” His reiterated and his voice was firmly unyielding.

Lara still rooted at the same place. She was still in the deep astound. For a while with his egotistical thought, at least she would consider the offer but slowly she shook her head.

“Thank you but I can get a cab.”

Warily he closed his eyes before he opened his eyelids and stared painfully on the floor. He had hear the bleakness in her voice. It suddenly dawned on him that it should be her answer. What in the world he could expect from her reply, anyway?

Still, Being him, he had to push his luck and ignored his silence audiences who had been watching the scene he’d created. “I’m also going off.” He kept his face straight and his voice neutral. Though on his rumble mind, he should have known better for not opening up the wound he had caused her and also since they had never begun this impossible relationship and he’d supposed to keep it remained that way.

“Really, Tris…”

“It’s getting late.” He interjected almost harshly as the sheer of fear to hear another rejection had consumed him. “It’s not safe for you.” He added more softly. “And besides I think all of us really do mind if you travel alone. One of us surely will send you and since I’ve to go also, why don’t I take you, hm?”

Lara smiled forlornly as if the word ‘safe’ agitated her “It’s New York, Tristan, I think I’m perfectly fine to travel at this hour in this city.”

“I still won’t let you.” He stubbornly stated.

Once again, Lara shook her head. “Thank you so much for you…Er…” She paused for second. “For all of your concern.” She added the word ‘all’ as if she didn’t want to put him singular in her rejection. “But I’m really okay. So I’ll see you guys soon, but I really need to go now.”

And before he could say another word, she already had walked out from the room.

It took a tremendous amount of willpower for Tristan to maintain his disinterested expression as if her rejection and leaving so abruptly like that did make make any effect on him. His face was stony but his eyes betrayed him.

Drawing on all of his strength, Tristan returned to his chair and rejoined his friends, no one spoke for a moment.

“What?” He asked nonchalantly as he leaned back in his chair and sipped his drink, trying to control his feeling for not slipping out in front of them.

Phoenix shrugged and gave him a lopsided smile. “Nothing, but is there something you want to tell us tonight?”

“No.” He retorted and took a deep breath and gave them his feigning laugh. “I’m supposed to be the one who ask about the way all of you look at me.”

“Honestly, you seem so, remote.” Rosalie said. “I can sense the detachment from you tonight. Something’s wrong?”

“That’s bullshit.” He reprimanded, putting his empty glass with defined, controlled movement. Then with the same defined, controlled movement, he rested his eyes on Rosalie. “I’m doing alright. I don’t know what all of you asked the same thing.”

Rosalie eyebrow arched quizzically and just about to say something, yet Phoenix stopped his girlfriend. “Babe, I think he already said that he’s alright.”

“Is there something going on between you and Lara?” This time Blake asked him as his gaze penetrated to him. It was direct, straightforward. No hesitation.

“What do you care?” He countered with fire and although his voice was barely audible, it was heavy with building anger. “Do you like her?” He added, could not hide the sarcasms and the repugnance in his tone.

“Excuse me?” Blake seemed really taken back hearing his accusation.

Tristan didn’t say anything. Instead he stood up and dropped a napkin on the table. “I’ve got nothing to say. And I really need to go also.”

“What’s all about with the question?” Blake also stood up from his chair. “Is there something that you’re implying about?” He folded both of his arms and narrowed his eyes at Tristan’s in suspicious assessment.

They glared at each other for what felt like an eternity and the room temperature rose up immediately with impending tension that emanated from two men. Those two men that cut very dashing figures and equally good-looking, though they’re having different characters.

“I’m not implying anything.” Tristan finally stated.

“Oh, but I think you are.” Blake delivered with chillingly soft exactitude. “Otherwise you aren’t like this. Did I trigger you with something?”

“Don’t be such an asshole, Blake.”

Blake somehow didn’t deter to his wrath, as a matter of fact he was only standing unmoved as if he challenged him.

“Guys, come on, let’s chill.” Phoenix said calmly as he positioned himself in the middle of his best friends. He put both of his hands each onto Blake’s and Tristan’s shoulders.

Tristan blinked, his rage began to dwindle. “I’m sorry, P.” He apologized sincerely. “I really am sorry to ruin your party. But I’m just not in the mood, right now.”

The look in Blake’s face softened. He did not know what happened to Tristan, but he was a wise man for not pursuing the matter, right now. “I’m sorry too, P.” He drawled and flicked his eyes to Tristan. He studied him with the inescapable conviction that he might have jumped into a quick judgment. Perhaps Tristan was really in the foul mood. “I’m sorry about it also, Tristan.” He said after a long silence.

Tristan nodded. “Yeah, me too.” Then he forced to smile on his resolute face, emulating weariness. “I don’t know what happen with me.”

“Tristan, you know you can tell us everything.” Liam said avuncular, he had also been standing, creating the circle of four them into a complete form. “Your business is in trouble?”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Tristan heaved a frustrated sigh. “My business is fine.” He replied finally. “I’m just exhausted.”

Liam leveled his gaze to Tristan offering his verdict. “Alright then, we understand.”

“Thanks.” Tristan murmured. “But I really must get going now.”

Abby conceded. “Sure, Tristan. You really should get some rest, okay?”

“You take care.” Rosalie squeezed his hand and gave him a reassuring smile as she told him resonantly.

“Will do.” Tristan responded swiftly. “Goodnight, guys.” And in the next moment, he turned and walked away, sliding out the door. He disappeared without a backward glance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What did he want from me? What the hell he did that? Is he that heartless? Whirlwind confusion and rage of the questions kept crunching on her mind as Lara walked out through the door.

Soon, the strong cold breeze welcomed her. It made the angle of her kiss-curl touched her face. Once she was strolling along the Fifth Avenue, her eyes settled onward. The great landmark city stores decorated their windows with ornate mobiles of nativity and fairy tales. Christmas already came near and then New Year, so did a sense of expectancy socializing take on a manic energy and there was a delicious licentiousness in the air.

Winter night opened its arms up to those who walked through city streets strewn with glinting white embers. The shadow of buildings blocked the view of the moon, which had never been in its perfect stage during this season. The smell of the misty air overwhelmed her senses. It had snowed very briefly in the city where every block was it own microcosm of culture and controlled chaos. Though, it was barely a dusting of snow, yet it was enough to make her pine for anything.

She took a harsh and pushing breath when a vivid recollection of his offer danced through her mind. She really did not know why he had offered something like that. The privilege offer she had longed to have, unfortunately she had had to decline that tempting offer. Oh, naturally she had had to turn him down. She would have never allowed him or any of her friends to know about her secret life.

Tonight, with the wind howling and temperature was hovering somewhere in single digits, was the feeling she got when she was wrapped in the memories and scenes from all the other lives of she would have lived, like a fever-dream cinematic sequence.

Well, Lara would not even dare to think about other option of life she would have lived. She had given up that choice a month ago.

Emotion turmoil flashed searingly in the darkness depth of her eyes. The mane stood straightened up a her back at the same time the blood rushed through her vain when his face invaded more of her thoughts and also every painfully familiar things about him.

Tonight, during the dinner, she had almost lost her breath when she had silently monitored the face that had the mixture of an Archangel’s look and the bottomless eyes of Lucifer’s. His six feet one frame was impressively athletic-built, and one glance into those shrewd eyes, everyone knew that he had an intellect to match his muscles.

Underneath the fine intellect ruthless businessman, had laid flashes of the sensual devastating charm of first class playboy and with the extent of his charms, no doubt he was still irresistible to her and everything that had to do with him, his sheer masculine presence.

Oh, when he had said his hello to her tonight, she had rooted to that bar chair, unable to move as she had heard a deep and rich familiar voice. All at once, the simple act of breathing was a chore she could have scarcely mustered and she had felt the butterflies had danced inside her when her gaze had taken his handsome feature that had been so absolutely elegant in his dark business suit.

But those muddled confusion had been nothing compared when he had traced her jawline with his long lean fingers and tucked the lock of her hair behind the ear.

Her heart had almost catapulted as the thought of the way he had touched her seemingly unreal or how he had caught her gaze and locked them with his long intense look. His iridescent dark scrutiny had rested on her evasive stare then her chest had tightened. She could not have averted her eyes, if not because of Blake.

An empty taxi came towards her, Lara immediately flagged down that yellow taxi. She instructed the taxi driver to take her to her place.

Inside, in the passenger seat of the taxi, she looked out the spectacular view. The architecture on some of the older buildings that run along the Fifth Avenue was a gorgeous sight at night. Yet, she did not feel close enough to be spectacular albeit no matter what Tristan had done. He had only confused her more as she was thinking about it over again like a damaged compact disc.

She pushed her fingers through her hair. “Damn…” She muttered under her breath, cursing. “There’s no point to think about him now. No point at all.”

She affirmed her own thoughts for all the reasons she could think of and mostly the reason was, she wouldn’t let him messing with her feeling, anymore. And furthermore of course about her life.

What life she had anyway? She immersed, her lips formed into a cynical smirk and heaved a deep sigh. She was not a woman that all the people who used to know her. This was her life, living at the lowest life could have been. And no matter she saw in different angle by blaming that it was not her decision but life had had forced her, still she had taken that part. And in order to keep her in the right sane at this path, she needed to keep repeating herself, that life was though unfair, it kept her alive despite whatever was the circumstance.

No more about choices and indefinitely no more about Tristan Alexander Lancaster.

And this winter night was the reminder of her life.

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