Elegant Deception

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I watched at the muscle on his arm flexed and bulge as he wrapped them around my waist.

“Amy, look at me.” He ordered.

I looked up and met his deep blue eyes. He has a gaze that I could feel within my bones. It made my knees give out. But thankfully, Dean was holding me upright.

“So, where do you want me to do you?” His hot breath caressed my flushed cheeks, making me shiver in anticipation.

“Um… ah… I…” I wasn’t even conscious I was stuttering.

He leaned closer and whispered to my ears. “What was that?”

I cleared my throat and just nodded. I’m not sure if that would be considered an answer to whatever he was offering at the moment.

In a single instant, I felt his cool lips brush over my bare neck. My skin burned as he trailed kisses up to the edge of my jaw until he captured my lips. The kiss was everything. It was hot and spontaneous, unlike the kiss we’ve shared before. In the back of my mind, I wondered what changed.

I got too distracted to contemplate more on it. I allowed my emotions to take charge. And when I was brought back to my consciousness, Dean and I were nearly stripped from our clothes and on top of the duvet.

Before Dean initiated another kiss, I held up my hand between us.

“Stop! Stop! Wait a minute.”

That caught him off guard.

Still, in his boxer, Dean leaned back and gave me some distance. “What is it? Did I do something wrong?”

His expression quickly changed with worry at the thought that he did something I didn’t like. The idea brought a smile to my face.

“No. You did nothing wrong. You were… you were great actually,” I bashfully admitted.

His smug grin was back. “Oh, thank you, Ms. Nolan.”

I rolled my eyes and gestured him to unmount off me. He got the signal and moved to settle beside me. “If it’s not me, then why are we stopping?” He asked. “Wait, are you on your…?” he didn’t finish that sentence as I covered his mouth.

“Would you let me talk, please?” I asked, which he nodded since he was unable to speak now. “I’m just worried about my sister. We’re sharing this room if you haven’t guessed yet. And we do need to talk first.”

“Oh, okay. Let’s talk.” He gestured for me to go ahead.

I groaned. “Don’t think I’m bummed about not doing it with you, okay. That was a hot couple of minutes.” I scoffed and got up to grab our clothes off the floor.

Dean followed and started picking up our clothes as well. And to his luck, he was the one to grab my lacy bra (thankfully I chose to wear them today for a change). My face was deep red as I grabbed it off his hands.

“Please just take your shirt,” I said while picking up his pants and threw it at him, “and here are your jeans.”

“Thank you. And will do. I won’t pick up any more underwear.” He cheekily said.

Once we were clothed, which weren’t wrinkled (thank god), he sat by the edge of the bed and proceed where we left off. And I opened the topic.

“Why are you here? You didn’t tell me you were invited to this event. And I’ve been seething with guilt and regret that I didn’t ask you…” I trailed off when I turned and saw Dean’s expression. “What? Why are you smiling like that?”

He wrapped his arms around my shoulder and pulled me closer to him. “I’m sorry if I made you feel that way and didn’t tell you that I’m going as well.”

“How are you here anyway? You weren’t in our group when we flew in this morning.” I asked.

“I flew in last night and did Mr. Hawksley a favor by having the resident and perimeter secured before you arrived today.”

“Oh,” I paused in realization. “Okay, you’re here for work?”

“Yesterday I was, but not today. I’m a guest too.”

I arched my eyebrow, considering his words. Maybe Julian invited him since he was already here a day before for work.

He got up and offered his hand to me. “Well, anyways, if you’re not continuing our activities before, and you’re done asking, would you like me to give you a tour of the estate?”

I grabbed it and interlaced our fingers. “I don’t think we should continue anything. My sister is also sleeping in this bed. So, I’d love for you to show me around.” I jested.

He chuckled. He then escorted me back to the main entrance. From there, he did a brief introduction of each section and area of the house as we passed by. I couldn’t believe he remembered the layout after one night.

It took us a good half an hour to scope the basic part of the mansion. By the time we finished the tour, we ended up at the backyard across the pool near a canopy. Dean and I sat down on the love seat inside the sheer white veil, while a handful of the guest was idling lingering by the poolside. To my luck, the love seat wasn’t completely facing the pool, so we got a little bit of privacy.

Yet it didn’t take long before someone noticed us hiding away. It was my sister. Trust her to find me in a compromising position.

“Amy, I was looking for you…oh!” she paused as she met Dean’s gaze. “I didn’t know you’re taking your lovefest here. But since this is an engagement party not for you two, I’d like if you join us by the poolside for an afternoon tea with the rest of the guest. I’ll be doing my first round of embarrassing speeches. One of my duties as the maid-of-honor.”

I got up and sighed. “Yes, of course. We weren’t really doing…” I trailed off when April arched her eyebrow and gave me a quick once-over, and then winked.

I flushed beet red at her unspoken insinuation. It was typical of my sister to read too much between the line. But this time, she wasn’t reading too much. Not half an hour ago, Dean and I were nearly stripped naked on our shared bed. Even thinking about it made me feel embarrassed.

“Anyways.” April clasped her hand to grab back both our attention. “Please join us at the poolside.”

“Right, of course.” Dean nodded and finally got up. He held out his hand toward me, which I took without hesitation. That got me another smirk and wink from my sister.

I noted to tell her later tonight that Dean and I aren’t… Now I’ve recalled about the past week with him, no wonder people who knew about us were shocked we weren’t going as a couple. Unconsciously, Dean and I had been masquerading as a couple at the office. The dates, the late nights, and that brief relapse of a heated make-out session. These were obviously something you do with someone you’re intimate with. However, Dean and I were in agreement we weren’t in a romantic relationship. I wasn’t ready. Or was I?

The first part of the weekend-long party ended with a laid back dinner with Julian and Zoey’s closest family and friend, and a handful of workmates. It was impossible for my sister to end the evening without making a speech about the couple. As head coordinator of the event, and also Zoey’s maid-of-honor, it was inevitable. However, Zoey’s older sibling, one of the twins, Kathy, wasn’t completely ready to give up the title easily. She also had her turn to make her bridesmaid speech. Thus, it created a chain of speeches made by people who were close and important to Julian and Zoey’s life.

Halfway through the list of guest, I watched Dean stood up. He was sitting further back from the main couple’s table, with Albert and the crew. I was confused about why he confidently stood up. He had been working for Julian, not nearly a month now. But then he said something that nearly shook me to my bone.

“Mr. Hawksley,” he paused and chuckled, “I’ll never get used to calling you so formally since that’s how I usually call your father. But anyway, since I’m not working at the moment, I’ll drop the formalities,” he paused again and grinned at the groom.

“Julian, my longest and only childhood friend, I’m proud to see that you’ve finally settled down after all these years. And I’m happy to be back in your life again. I know we’re still catching up my friend,” Julian held up his wine glass in agreement to Dean’s statement, “so I’ve nothing informative to say about your bride. However, just meeting her these past weeks or so, I know that what you have with her is real and pure. So, don’t screw it up. We’re not kids anymore, and I won’t be cleaning up your messes anymore.” He jested and held up his whiskey glass to Julian. “Congratulations and I hope you two have a happy and fruitful life.”

Julian grinned. “Thank you, Dean. And I hope that you’ve finally found someone as well… from what I see, you’re getting cozy with someone at the office.” He teased as his eyes briefly peered in my direction. At the moment, I could feel most of my coworker’s eyes darting in my direction.

Dean rolled his eyes and pointed at Julian. “Don’t let me tell them a couple of your childhood secrets, J.” I saw a flashed of mischievousness in his eyes.

Julian held up his hands in defeat. “Okay, I’m sorry. I thought that was no longer a kept secret.”

I slumped my shoulder and grabbed the near-empty glass of chardonnay, and gulped down the remaining content. My sister met my gaze and arched her eyebrow at my reaction. I groaned and turned to find the server who was carrying a refill for my drink. It didn’t take much to get his attention and in a second, I had my glass filled with more wine.

After hearing Dean and Julian’s exchange, in public, I finally connected a couple of dots. And answered a few more mystery questions I have about Dean. About the night of my 30th birthday party, and why Julian and he were close the moment he got the job at the office, and why he was here. Of course, it wasn’t for work, was it? As Julian’s childhood friend, he’d be invited.

But why am I hearing about this now? My sister or Zoey should have known. Why haven’t they told me?

When I turned to my sister to ask my question, she was still studying my expression and got what I was thinking without me saying the words. And she looked slightly terrified.

“Amy, you didn’t know, did you?” April muttered under her breath.

Thankfully the people in our table weren’t either our coworkers and friends, who already knew.

I grabbed her shirt and lightly tugged it. “Why didn’t you tell me that Dean and Julian were close?”

“I thought you already knew… or figured it out. This is you we’re talking about, sister. You know all the gossip and news…” she paused and apologize again. “I’m so sorry, Amy. I really thought you knew.”

I sighed heavily. “That’s why he told me Julian was giving him dating advice and such.”

“What? Julian’s giving Dean dating advice? That’s new,” she scoffed. But the smug look on her face was gone when I glared at her. “I’m sorry. But since you don’t know, does that mean Dean knew that you didn’t know about his friendship with Julian?”

“I don’t know, April. I’m still processing that fact he and Julian are childhood friends. I mean, how does a man like him cross paths with Julian when he was young? Dean don’t look like he goes to the same boarding school as Julian, does he?”

April took a deep breath and patted my arm, which was still gripping at the hem of her shirt. “I’ll tell you the whole story, based on what I heard from Zoey later, okay? Would you be able to act normal until then?”

I let go of my grip on her shirt and nodded. “Yes. I’ll be fine. This isn’t my first rodeo, sister.”

April cheekily grins back. “That’s the older sister that I know and admire.”

I fought back a smile, which was a losing battle, and nudge her to concentrate back on the event.

Thankfully, after Julian’s father made his speech, nobody had the guts to follow. Thus, it ended the evening in a bit of good fatherly advice from the Mr. Hawksley.

I followed the crowd of guest back to the guestroom wing. I intended to keep away from Dean from the rest of the evening, still not comfortable about what I’ve uncovered. But he found me instead.

I wasn’t aware he had left the dinner ahead and wait for me by the hallway leading towards the guestroom. He must have thought I’ll make a quick escape, which I did since I was one of the first who exited the event.

His presence stopped me in my tracks. He held up his hand, “hey.”

“Hey?” I arched my eyebrow. “Is that all? After hearing all about that… that you and Julian were childhood friends?”

“I thought you knew, Amy. I mean, you’re…” He trailed off as I held up my hand. “But since you’re reacting this way, it’s my mistake not saying anything in the first place.”

“So you weren’t trying to hide it? am I the only one who wasn’t aware?” I asked.

“I wasn’t trying to hide it. But I wasn’t sharing that information freely though… and I should have told you. Actually, since we’re in this topic, I’m one of Julian’s groomsmen.”

“Right, of course, you are,” I scoffed. “That’s a given Dean. But are there any more secrets you’re hiding that’ll shock me? Because I really didn’t expect all of that.” My sarcasm was thick.

“No. I don’t have that kind of secrets, Amy. I had been truthful and frank with you since the very beginning.”

“Really? Since the beginning? Are you sure?” I sarcastically asked.

He sighed in frustration. “Okay, I admit. I’ve been selective with my choices of truths, however, I never lied to you. Not once. But can you blame me? I admit at first, it was out of habit and an occupational hazard to lie about my job. However, with Julian and his family, it’s second nature to me to keep my mouth shut. You know their family. Even now, Julian and his fiancé are under fire with the media and tabloids. He’s my friend. I don’t want to be that person who’ll be the reason for his name to be on the headlines of an entertainment magazine.”

I nodded, understanding his reasons. And he had the right reasons. I was the one who was being unfair.

“I’m sorry for being tough with you. But I’d have enough of the lies, and the pretending. Because I know who that’ll end.”

It was then Dean moved closer and held out his hand to me, waiting for my permission. I accepted his outreached hand and lightly squeezed my grip. I watched as a smile slowly tugged at the edge of his lips.

“I won’t ever make the same mistake.” Dean avowed and pulled me closer to him until we were chest to chest.

I looked up as his lips brushed past my cheeks. He then whispered to my ears, “I can’t lose you when you aren’t mine yet.”

Thank you for patiently waiting, and for reading the novel. Please let me know what you think and leave a comment below. Have a lovely day!

To my Pinoy readers, take care during this rainy season. Bring umbrella’s or jacket. Keep yourself warm.

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