I’ve found the courage to come back down stairs, aiming to find out what Cynthia’s motives were. It couldn’t simply be drama, it had to be something else. In the corridor, I bump into Chloe, strutting her stuff, hands on hips as her little cousin takes pictures and the others follow behind her.
Theo is watching from the sidelines, leaning against the wall with hands in his pockets, thankfully by himself. When I appear at the end of the corridor from the stairs, he instantly glues his eyes on me.
I smile, but he does not. His eye brows furrow and he walks past a stunned Chloe, who pulls on his leg to stop him.
“You have to judge,” she complains, “Were you even watching?”
“Not now,” Theo growls and she lets him go, looking devastated for a moment but quickly focusing back on posing for the camera instead.
I stay where I am, not expecting him to approach so moody, especially when he saw me.
Was Cynthia going to ruin yet another day for him and I?
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest.
Theo unexpectedly puts a hand behind my back and ushers me off towards the alcove before the stair case so we’re out of sight.
“Why did you go up there without me?” he asks, “Cynthia came down the hall, did she talk to you?”
“Did she talk to you?” I retort.
I expect Theo to tell me off, but he does something far worse.
He says nothing.
His face is expressionless as he looks me over. It was a look he obtained when he was thoroughly pushed towards the edge, at the limit of his tolerance for disrespect.
I gulp nervously as he simply stares and my eyes dart to his hand, which wanders up and brushes a slither of hair behind my ear. A firm caress as he warns me with his eyes.
“Do you remember the reason I spanked you the first time?” he asks, low.
“Avoiding you,” I murmur, instantly. I wouldn’t forget.
“Now you seem to be avoiding me and ignoring me,” he states, “Answer my questions, Wren, or what I have planned tonight won’t be as fun as you’d hoped.”
“I –” my mind goes blank as my cheeks go red.
Tonight? What about Mr. Fox?
“You better call that friend of yours to feed Fox tonight,” he cups my cheek now, reading my mind, his thumb running along my cheek bone as I glance up at him nervously, “I was going to drive you home eventually but I doubt you’ll be leaving tonight, doll.”
I go quiet, for once not blubbering my guts out. But it was unlike me and Theo instantly notices.
“What aren’t you telling me?” he commands me to answer and although I’d want to normally take a step back to process, this time I take a step forward.
Instinctively I put my hands up on his chest and slowly slide them around him, giving him a tight hug. I didn’t want him to feel alone or not supported by me. Now that Cynthia was clearly going to start shitting on everyone and everything until she got whatever the hell she wanted.
I pull back after a short while.
“What was that for?” he asks in a growl as I smile. I know he is still trying to be angry but it’s as if my hug is making it hard for him to remain so; which is why I’m smiling.
“Because I could,” I shrug, “Did you talk to her?” I then ask in a whisper, “Did she tell you?”
“She walked right past me like she didn’t even know me,” I see the annoyance in Theo’s eyes as he says this and it instantly stabs a knife of jealousy right through my heart.
I lick my lips and glance at the ground.
I knew it wasn’t because he truly missed her, but how she fucked him over that bad. And now had the audacity to ignore him completely.
Stay strong, Wren, don’t break down just yet.
“She’s up to something –” I begin to explain, however as I do Chloe screams out from around the corner.
“Birthday cake!” followed by more squeals and kids running for the food table.
Theo doesn’t say a word but he chooses to slide an arm around my waist and pull me in nice and tight as we walk back down the corridor together, towards the main room.
“Let’s go sing happy birthday… and we’ll talk about this soon,” he responds, quietly as we walk, “But I’m glad you’ve noticed something isn’t right. I thought I was simply reading into it because of how long I had been involved with her.”
“Just don’t believe anything she says,” I whisper back quietly as well, feeling so utterly content walking down this hall with his arm wrapped so possessively around my waist.
I’m so ready and so prepared to enter back into the fray with my man on my arm. I’m so damn focused on it, I don’t expect Theo to abruptly stop before the main doors, simply to lean down to whisper in my ear.
“Tonight is not a maybe, sweet cheeks, it’s a promise… and a warning,” he seems more than content making me shiver in my boots, “… you will not leave my side for the rest of the party.”
“Yes sir,” I wink at him to lighten the mood again and hopefully save me some pain and embarrassment later.
‘cause you know yo’ ass is going to get punished… you’re going to be a wet mess and he knows it. And you’re going to love every second that he spends one more damn moment of his attention on you.
“Nice try, sweet cheeks,” he makes me nervously try to step forward to encourage him to enter the room with me, but he simply holds me back, making me feel like an idiot.
I turn to face him, tilting my head.
“I want cake,” I complain.
“So do I,” he pulls me back into his side as he opens the door and he mutters under his breath, “…just not that kind of cake.”
…don’t start debating what he could or could not have said, Wren. Just don’t bother.
Did he mean cake between my legs?
Was that even a saying? Or did he make it up?
He’s swivelling me through the crowd and takes me to stand at the back with him while I overthink whatever he just said.
“Oh!” there is a feminine squeak right before me and I focus back on reality to see Arianna just in front of me, within the mass of family and friends around us. My hand had brushed her ass by accident. She looks majorly disappointed as she looks behind her to see it’s been my hand; not Theo’s.
I watch as she slips through a few people to stand a few more metres away from me.
I’m blushing a lot harder now.
She probably thought I was a creep.
I glare up at Theo for forcing me to stand so close behind someone and he has the most uncontrollable smile on his lips right before he snorts in laughter. Just as everyone has started to sing happy birthday.
“…happy b–” Theo is glancing down at my still shocked, worried expression and he can’t contain his laughter, which means he can’t sing properly. I pinch his side as he laughs and I wince in surprise when his hand grips my waist and clenches harder than I expect.
“Why are you laughing?” I hiss at him as everyone sings around us.
He leans in to whisper in my ear.
“Because you’re natural innocence is the sweetest thing I’ve seen in years, your soul is absolutely beautiful and it comes through in your expressions…” he grabs my chin, then, suddenly leaning in to kiss me full on the lips. I gasp into him, shocked again at his sudden choice and he pulls back with a grin, “See? You’re so sweet, in so many ways.”
Everyone is cheering for Bryony as she cuts the cake and my eyes briefly swim over the crowd of people to see Cynthia on the other side of the room, her eyes furiously glued to us.
I didn’t mean to spot her, but her glare was hard to ignore and it was as equally hard not to feel it burning through me.
I don’t give her anymore attention, however, I focus on Theo and he grabs my chin in a large hand, squeezing my cheeks.
“Sweet… cheeks,” he teases, before releasing my chin.
“I thought you meant my ass every time you said sweet cheeks,” I complain.
“Definitely both,” he answers, “Definitely. You better go eat some cake to fatten that ass up some more.”
“Excuse me?” I accuse, thoroughly confused since Cynthia just told me to get fit; which meant my fat ass was already fat enough.
“You are not excused, sweet Wren,” he shakes his head, further provoking me as he lines us up for some cake, “And if you ever try and quit your job again, you’ll regret the fact I know the code to your apartment.”
“Because you’ll convince me otherwise?” I ask, catching on quickly.
“I may just have to tie you up and spank you with a wet towel, to make it sting,” he threatens this in my ear, and I just roll my eyes.
“A wet towel?” I ask, “Original.”
“Not with water,” he growls, proving me wrong again.
“How far do you ‘go’?” I ask him, knowing he’ll know what I’m hinting at.
We’re now at the front of the line and grab our plates and slices of cake. He keeps a hand on the small of my back to lead me away from the crowd as we find a seat.
“Well?” I ask.
“Hmm?” he pretends to be oblivious as he takes a bite of his own. I also cut into my cake with my spoon and take a quick bite, chewing while narrowing my eyes at him.
He just winks.
Out of nowhere, we are intercepted, however, but not by the obvious culprits.
“Theodore,” it’s Gaia, with Alex right behind her. They take a seat at our table and Gaia has a hand over her heart with a worried look in her eye, “We had no idea.”
“About what?” Theo asks, leaning forward, clearly intrigued.
“We just heard that Cynthia’s fashion line went bankrupt months ago,” Gaia explains, “but darling… that’s no reason to abandon her. Really, Theo, you should support the woman carrying your child.”
“It’s a shame on our family name,” Alex growls low, looking extremely embarrassed by hearing this news about Cynthia.
My cheeks have paled considerable.
Theo shakes his head, not worried.
“Not my baby,” he shrugs, “Kyros knocked her up… you should probably talk to him about putting shame on the family.”
Gaia and Alex both go quiet.
“Explain… this then,” Alex has gone red in the face, he can barely get the words out as he reaches into his pocket and takes out a piece of paper, shoving it at Theo across the table.
Theo picks it up while rolling his eyes.
When he reads it, however, his face quickly drops.
He slams the paper down and without even looking at me, he gets to his feet.
I see his eyes searching the crowd, clearly looking for someone.
Don’t be coy, Wren, you know exactly who he’s looking for.
“What are doing?” I ask, Theo, nervous.
“Were you invited to this party?” Alex asks me, with a raised eyebrow.
I go quiet and look to my spoon, what was I meant to say?
“Don’t talk to her like that,” Theo snaps, without even looking at us as his eyes still search the crowd. My heart warms a tad at his protectiveness of me, but I’m still feeling worried about what he was aiming to do right now.
Theo does not answer me as he finally spots Cynthia and Kyros out in the garden.
I watch where I am, as he stalks his way over to them.
I eat my cake.
I cannot hear what is said, but he makes them stand and directs them to leave.
“Bankrupt?” I build the confidence to ask Gaia the question.
She looks at me suspiciously but I know she isn’t as mean as Alex.
“Yes, has been since their trip to Hawaii,” Gaia admits, sighing, “I am sad for my boy.”
“Were they really happy together?” I ask, curious for her answer, “Everyone clearly loved her. I know you both approved of her. She must have been very good for Theo.”
It takes all my guts to speak the words when they felt so wrong.
But I finally get the answer I’ve been searching for.
“Women will do anything for gold,” Alex growls, “Turns out she’s no better than the rest of the girls running after my son. She had been begging for loans from us for months, did you know? Theo is a good son, refused to mix our businesses with unrelated companies. In return she refused to mix her family with him… nothing works when you base a relationship solely on money.”
Finally, he said something I could agree with.
“Luckily I’m not interested in money. Theo is an amazing man that deserves a woman by his side that will support him when he…” I try to consider my words carefully, so that Alex may change to like me “…when he gets home from work. Two business heads together, like Theo and Cynthia, don’t work. When he’s with a woman who wants to support him because he clearly has a lot on his plate; that’s all he needs to stay happy. Food, a clean house –”
“Exactly,” Gaia throws up her hands in agreement and I’m thankful no feminists are around to hear me right now. I had to do what needed to be done to get in their good books.
Now I think I was basically there; which would make my life a little bit easier.
I do not fail to omit I think Theo has done more dishes in my apartment than I have in the last few weeks. Oops?
But that’s what made Theo so special; he actually cared about me.
I hear a door slam in the distance and everyone is a little shocked as Theo appears once more, far more relaxed as he approaches our table and takes a seat.
“People who aren’t welcome in my home, don’t get to stay,” he explains, “Especially people who fake doctor’s results as important as these. I’ve done the research; I’m not stupid. This isn’t a real document.”
“She wanted your sympathy and your money,” Gaia reassures her son while Alex grabs the piece of paper, also angry.
“I will kill that other son of mine,” Alex rips up the paper, “Adding to all this trouble.”
“Eat, Wren,” Theo nods at me.
“I have been eating the cake, slowly, for once,” I tease, “It was just nice eating cake while watching my man take charge of his house.”
Gaia grins and Alex actually seems humoured by what I’ve said. Theo just smirks as he watches me, not saying a word.
“What is she to you?” Alex asks Theo, carefully, clearly wanting some answers now.
“Just a friend, just an employee,” Theo answers, while winking at me in front of them, “At least for the moment.”
“You are a sweet girl,” Gaia admits, “Tell us… where are you from again?”
Alex even turns in his seat to listen to me.
While Theo sits back and kicks up a leg onto his knee, completely at ease.
He couldn’t wait to see me squirm again, knowing I’d be nervous to answer these questions.
But for once; at least Cynthia’s presence hadn’t ruined the day. After they found out about her apparently failed business and willingness to forge fake doctor’s certificates…
…suddenly Cynthia was the reason my day had gotten a whole lot better.