Elegant Deception

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Nineteen

The next couple of days leading up to the weekend extravaganza (per Greg’s words) were mind-numbing. Dean, of course, found out about Julian and Zoey’s engagement party easily when Greg kept mentioning it throughout Monday. Sean was no help either. He would have heard about the exclusive, invite-only, party.

When Dean offered up dinner again Monday night, he didn’t bring it up. Not even when he asked me out for lunch the following day, and then another dinner date in the evening. By Wednesday, I was starting to think he was toying with me and played some sort of guilt-trip mind games.

It worked.

By Thursday my guilt caught up to me. Greg and Steve, who’d easily get in the loop of office gossip, were giving me hints to take the initiative to ask Dean as my plus-one. However, I waited until lunch to ask. I didn’t have the nerve to say anything at work.

I blurted out without prior context. “Aren’t you bothered that I haven’t asked you to be my date for this weekend?”

He easily got what I meant. Probably from my frustrated tone, or from Greg, Sean, and occasionally Steve’s teasing.

“Why would I be bothered by that, Amy? That’s your choice, not mine.” He looked so calm I wanted to slap myself for being affected by this.

I groaned at his perfect response. “Of course you’ll say that.”

He chuckled. “I’m sorry if you feel like you’re pressured into this dilemma just because we…” He paused to clear his throat. “What are we again?” His thought process completely shifted.

“We are not having this conversation here, Dean,” I warned.

He smiled. He knew this was a sore topic for me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it to be awkward. But…” he paused and leaned closer. “I mean what I said, Amy. It’s your choice.”

I sighed. “I know.”

He leaned back and straightened his shoulder. “Okay, I’ll help you make this easier.” His sly smirk was making me nervous. “Since you’re doubting, maybe it’s best not to take me along with you at all.”

“I do not doubt…” I couldn’t finish my sentence since he was right.

Whatever we have was still premature. And this weekend is sort of a big deal if I took someone - who’s not a friend or family - with me to the party. For one, I haven’t dated anyone in a while. Lastly, specifically taking Dean with me goes to show that our relationship was moving forward. And I’m not sure what we were at the moment.

Dean saw through my internal struggle. But what he didn’t know was that my heart made the decision for me already.

In the end, I wasn’t able to ask Dean or anybody to be my plus-one. It was unnecessary to invite anyone else as well since everyone I knew was invited to this event. My friendship circle after coming back from London shrunk to only my workmates, and my sister’s friends, which consist of Zoey. And she’s the extrovert in the family.


On Friday afternoon, after packing my weekend luggage, Albert drove by my apartment since we were carpooling to the airport. Zoey was gracious enough to book a flight for our group. I have an inkling my sister was the mastermind.

It was the start of a very long and stressful weekend. And not a moment I got in the car, I faced the wrath of my sister.

“Amy! Why didn’t you ask Dean? I thought you two were moving in that direction!”

I kept a poker face while getting in the front passenger seat. I didn’t have the nerve to sit at the back with my sister endlessly nagging.

“Amy? Are you listening?” She pressed when I ignored her.

“Yes. I am.” I sighed. “I didn’t ask Dean because we’re not in that type of relationship… yet.”

“So what is he? Just a booty call?”

I grimaced. “No. Of course not. He’s not…” I groaned in frustration. “Just trust me, April. Okay. I’m thirty and I know how to deal with relationships.”

“Do you?” She scoffed. “The last relationship you were in was with an ass named Flynn. Are you planning to become a Flynn, sister?”

I snorted and rolled my eyes. “I know you mean well, April. But what happened between Flynn and I no longer mattered. And don’t you dare lecture me about my relationship when I noticed your boyfriend is not going with you on this trip. If you have frustrations sister, don’t project it on me.”

Thankfully, for my sister’s sake, Albert was outside putting my luggage on the trunk. April was quiet for a moment after reprimanding her. But she didn’t keep quiet for long when Albert came back.

“Okay, fine. I’m sorry for being too nosy, Amy. I didn’t mean anything by it. And I’m not projecting my frustration on you… and we’re not having troubles…” she muttered the last sentence softly.

“Maybe you’re the one who really needs some advice here, sister.” I lightly teased, trying to get back her good mood.

And per usual, it did the trick. April was her perky self again and started chattering about her problems with her current boyfriend. And it wasn’t looking good for her. But I know she’s fine.

Once we arrived at the airport, my sister’s whole persona shifted. She was in business mode. She round up our group to one area while getting our tickets and luggage sorted. My worries disappear entirely. Since she was well enough to shoulder the responsibilities of taking a group of nearly twenty people, she can power through her relationship issues.

The flight was short, but the drive to the location was another thing entirely. By the time we reached the Hawksley’s summer home at the Hamptons, I was ready to throw my luggage and jumped on top of the comfy bed. However, I took a pause when we entered the estate. It was a remote villa further away from the other houses in the area.

“Wow.” April took the words out of my stunned expression.

We entered the long front lawn that had a canopy of trees lined across from each other to cover the path from the sun. After passing the fountain, and then another scenic route of carved marbles and statues, my sleepiness wore off. I’m rarely impressed by grandeur architectural homes, but this got me to stop and look.

“I can’t believe I’m friends with the girl who’s marrying a man that owns all of these,” April said.

“And let’s not be confused with having anything to do with this place just because we’re friends with the bride who’s marrying a man who owns all of these.” I quipped half-jokingly.

She snorted. “I know, Amy. I’m not going to toot my own horn.”

I scoffed, not believing her.

When our car parked in front of the house, as the rest of the envoy did, everyone simultaneously exited their respective vehicle and admire the mansion in front of us. Just the size of its main entrance and the grand main door defines what we might expect inside.

“Yup.” I nodded. “I’m convinced that this place has enough room for at least fifty guests… probably more from the size of that front lawn.” I remarked.

I hadn’t noticed Julian and Zoey had walked up behind us. Their car parked behind ours.

Amy and I jolted slightly and spun around when Julian clasped his hands to get our attention.

“I’m afraid to ruin your expectation, Amy. It doesn’t have enough room for that many people, however, if we paired up, we might be able to do it.” Julian jested.

“Mr. Hawksley,” I whispered in surprise. “I’m… What I mean to say it that you have a lovely home here. Thank you so much for inviting us to stay.”

He smirked. “It’s my pleasure, Ms. Nolan.” He then turned towards the rest of his guest. “Welcome everyone. I hope you’ll have a great time throughout the weekend, and I hope I won’t send anyone home early for being rowdy or too drunk.”

Everyone laughed in unison.

I might have missed a signal made by Julian because a few seconds later a platoon of house staff greeted us. They took care of our luggage and attended to our needs.

A tall, lanky teenager walked up to our group. He briefly introduced himself, “I’m Gerard, ma’am… I… ah...Let me help you with your luggage.” His flustered and flushed face made me smile.

“Right, Gerard. Could you help out Albert instead? We’re fine with what we’re carrying.” I started but stopped when April handed him her outsized duffle and tote bag. “Don’t give the boy extra things to carry, April. You can do it.” I reprimanded.

April was no longer listening to me and turned her attention to Zoey, as she called her to get straight to business.

I sighed and reached out to my sister’s things as Gerard balanced her stuff. “Let me carry one of those, dear.”

The boy looked up to me in relief. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. But I can do it… I think.” He stuttered yet again. “Please let me carry them, ma’am.”

“Please call me, Amy, Gerard,” I said since I’m starting to feel my age when he kept calling me ma’am. “And don’t overdo it.”

“I’m not, ma’am…” he paused when he saw my expression. “Ms. Amy?” I sighed. “I’ll be fine, Ms. Amy.”

“Okay.”

“Are there anything else you want me to do, Ms. Amy?”

“No. But wait here while I get my things.”

He nodded as I turned and headed towards Albert who was unloading our stuff from the trunk. “Albert, do you need any help here? I can take my stuff with me. I do only have one luggage.”

Albert looked up and nodded. “That would be a great help, Amy.”

I smiled and grabbed my things. Behind me, Gerard looked a bit disoriented on what to do next. He was still struggling to find the right balance on the weight of my sister’s things. To get him out of his misery, I asked one of the staff to led me to my sister and mine’s room. I called Gerard to follow me.

The lobby, which was the size of the main entrance, was packed with all the guest on the flight with us. I didn’t linger as everyone else did - still in awe with the decor and grandeur of it all. However, the way to the guest room wasn’t an easy feat to memorize either. The sheer size of the mansion means everything was a good walking distance from point a to point b.

By the time we reach the room, Gerard was near breathless behind me. Luckily for me, I rolled my luggage and placed my purse on top of it. I carried nothing, except my phone that I’ve been clutching since I got out of the car. I hadn’t noticed I had been holding it, waiting for a text that I wasn’t sure would be there.

After I was staff left the room, I sat down on the top of the thick duvet of a king-sized bed. The bed bounced a little from my weight. But I was preoccupied to notice the comfy bed waiting for me. My eyes were glued to my phone that was vibrating with an incoming call.

It was Dean.

My heart was beating on my chest, my palms were sweaty, and my breath was rugged. It took me a second, but I realized I was nervous to take his call. Why? Why was I nervous now? After everything.

I allowed the phone to keep on vibrating on my palm. But then it was gone before the third ring. I looked up in surprise since I didn’t notice another person entering the room.

“Why aren’t you answering your phone?” April finally glanced at the name on the screen. “Oh! It’s him! He’s calling you!”

“Sheesh, April! Give me that!” I got up and reached for my phone.

“Why didn’t you answer it on the first ring?” She asked, ignoring my attempt to take it from her as she pulled it away.

“I was going to answer it before you took my phone away.” I argued.

“But you were staring at it like you were contemplating.”

“I wasn’t. Okay.”

“Are you still regretting that you didn’t invite him?”

“I’m not regretting anything. Now, give me the phone before he…” I trailed off and sighed in dejection when I saw the screen turned dark, his call ended.

April noticed and apologetically hand back my phone. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you miss his call… I mean, you clearly didn’t want to answer it since you hesitated.”

“I wasn’t hesitating.” I scoffed and unlock my phone, thinking about sending a text to ask him why he called. But before I did, Dean’s name flashed on my screen again.

April noticed and grinned. “Since he called again, he must really want to talk to you.”

I ignored her remark and walked out of the room. I pressed the answer button.

“Hello?”

“I’m glad you finally answered my call. I thought you’re going to avoid me this weekend.” His voice echoed in my ears like he was in the same hallway as I was.

“Turn around.” He ordered.

His voice sounded more prominent. I turned as he asked. I was too dumbfounded to end the call. “What are you doing here?”

I sounded breathless. It was good that we were still connected by phone or he won’t hear what I said. And I wasn’t sure I could repeat myself from shock.

“I was invited. Didn’t I tell you?” He smugly informed before ending the call. He walked over to where I was and closed the distance between us.

“I… I’m…” I cleared my throat and regained my composure. “No. You didn’t tell me you were invited.”

“Really? I thought I’ve implied that I was invited that’s why I told you not to bother feeling guilty about not asking me as your plus one.”

I pursed my lips. “No. You didn’t say anything like that… you said that… you said.” I started stuttering while contemplating whether or not Dean did say he was coming to this party. “No. I firmly remembered you didn’t say about being invited to Julian and Zoey’s weekend-long engagement party.”

“Really? Are you sure? Because I did remember Julian sending me an invite.” He smirked.

I stared at him in contempt. “Are you and Julian…?”

I wasn’t able to complete my question when the door to my shared room with my sister opened. Dean and I turned in unison the same time April looked at us. Her eyes darted between Dean and me, then she got a huge grin.

“Oh! Who’s this?”

It took a second for April to connect the dots. Dean didn’t have to re-introduce himself.

“Oh! You must be the Dean I’ve been hearing about.” April held out her hand to him. “I’m April, her younger sister if you haven’t heard about me. I should have met you sooner, but I had been busy planning Zoey’s engagement party and work to visit the office as I usually do. Though my sister had been talking a lot about you, so don’t worry about making a formal introduction.”

I sighed and gripped my sister’s arm. “April, would you give us a room so we could talk?”

“Oh! Talk?” She suggestively winked. “I see. Talk. Right? That’s what you kids call it these days, huh?” She chuckled. “I’ll let you two talk and make sure no one bothered you until tonight’s festivities.”

I reacted too late.

I watched her sprinting away from hearing range. “April!” I called one last time, but she was already gone.

“Your sister seemed supportive, not like you’ve told me.”

I scoffed. “Well, she is but…” I trailed off, feeling like we were diverting away from our main topic. “Come on in. We have a lot to talk about.” I gestured inside the still-open door.

Dean arched his eyebrow. “Talk? Are you sure that’s all we’ll be doing?” He smirked and slowly took off his denim jacket.

It was then I noticed he was wearing casual clothes. Gone was the black suit and tie. Now, he was in a tight grey shirt, denim pants, and light brown suede boots.

And he looked hot. Very hot and beddable.

His smug look told me he knew that talking wasn’t the only thing in my mind right now.


I was busy yesterday and couldn’t find the time to update. So thank you for patiently waiting for the new chapter. Happy reading! Until next update. :)

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