Elegant Deception

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Twenty One

I closed my eyes, feeling his hot breath caressing over my cheeks towards my lips. I could smell his hot, sweet cologne from how close we were. My stomach knotted in anticipation.

My eyes opened at the same time Dean cleared his throat and put some distance between us. I turned to check what made him pull away. It was then I saw a handful of guest, half I knew, were passing by and peering at us with a teasing grin. I could already hear the gossip swirling later. I hate to take the engaged couple’s thunder.

Shortly after that embarrassing moment, Julian and his brother, Jensen, appeared. They saw Dean and me huddled on the side, still too close than normal, with impish grins.

“Well, what’s this?” Jensen started, but Julian interjected his brother by blocking his path with his arm like he was protecting us.

“Let’s go. And don’t tease Dean and Amy. I want that to work.” Julian muttered softly, but I’d easily caught what he said.

Dean briefly turned to me before joining Julian and Jensen. “Damn guys. We weren’t… We’re done talking. What do you want Julian?”

Julian peered around him and met my gaze. “Amy, would you mind if we take Dean away from you? I want a word or two with my groomsmen.”

“Of course, Mr. Hawksley.” I nodded and awkwardly left Dean with one last glance.

Behind me, I could hear their muffled voices with my name mixed in it. I didn’t bother eavesdrop anymore. I was too embarrassed to be caught in the first place.

Once I arrived at my shared room with my sister, not a minute later, I got a knocked on my door. I expected it to be April. Instead, it was a well-dressed woman with graying hair tied in a bun with killer heels. I noticed her during the dinner party, sitting with Julian and Zoey’s parent’s table. So I presumed she had some relation to the two, and probably lost.

“Hi, do you need help, ma’am?” I asked before she got to introduce herself.

“No, dear. I’m not lost nor need any help,” she replied with a clear British accent. “I’m here for you.”

“For me?” I was thoroughly confused. “I’m sorry. Do I know you, ma’am?”

“No, you don’t.” She said abruptly and peered around the hallway. “Can we talk in your room? There are a few things I want to ask about you.”

“I’m sorry. But I feel it’s hardly fair on my end to let you in when I don’t know who you are… ma’am.” I added the formality, hearing my rude tone.

She sighed. “I’m Dean’s mother. Dalia Garcia.”

“Dean’s…” My eyes widen as her words hit me.

Why is Dean’s mother here? What does she mean she wanted to ask me questions? Did Dean tell her about me? Does she want to know my true intentions for her son? Is she here to judge if I was good for her son? Words swirled in my head like a freight train.

“Now, my dear, if you please pardon my intrusion, would you mind we talk inside?” She asked again when I didn’t respond.

I automatically moved aside and gestured for her to enter. With a confident stride, Dalia Garcia entered my room and paused to look around before settling down on a couch in the left corner of the room. Thankfully, the room did have formal sitting furniture rather than the bed. Because I’m not sure I’d be ready to picture having Dean’s mother sitting on the bed where I had intimate activities with her son. Thinking about it only made me nervous.

I tried to drown my nerves with casual conversations, which only made me sound more nervous as I stuttered like crazy. “I… um… what is it…ah… what is it you want to talk about… with me, Mrs. Garcia?”

Dalia studied me for a moment. She then gestured towards the chair on her right. “Please seat, dear. I’m not here to start a fight or anything you think a mother would do when she’s alone in a room with the girl her son is dating.”

I knew it. Wait. Dating?

“Mrs. Garcia, Dean and I aren’t…” She held up her hand, cautioning me to pause.

“I know that you think you’re not dating. But you two had been exclusively going on dates, are you not?” She asked.

I nodded, unable to find my words.

“Then, you’re in an exclusive relationship, my dear. In my time, that’s called dating.”

“Right.” I sighed and straighten my posture. “Is this why you want to talk to me?”

She waved her hand in disagreement. “No. I’m not. I only want to know you. Because hearing Julian’s or Zoey’s prejudice opinion about you don’t give me a proper insight into what kind of person you are. I need to see it myself.”

Julian and Zoey talked about me to Dean’s mom. When did this happen?

“I see you’re confused about my dilemma.” She sighed exasperatedly and placed her hand on top of her thigh in such a proper and elegant manner. She seemed natural on that response like it was whipped out of her for years. For a second, it made me conscious of how unpoised and improper I was. If she saw what I knew she’d seen right now, I’ll be sure to tell my son not to date me too.

“I want to get to know you,” she said. “Now, tell me. Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in the Chicago area?”

“Ah… yes, ma’am. I grew up in Chicago. However, I’ve been away for at least five years to work with the Hawksley Holding branch in England.” I replied.

“Really? You’ve worked with Julian in England? Why haven’t I seen you before?” She continued her interrogation.

“Yes, ma’am.” I took a cautious breath. “I… ah… maybe you haven’t seen me around since I worked as a low-level assistant before Mr. Fletcher offered me this job as a head receptionist for Hawksley Holding Chicago branch.”

“Oh, you know Rufus as well. Was he also your mentor?”

“Yes, he was ma’am.”

“And what do you think about that old man? Was he tough on you?”

I can’t believe she also knows about Rufus. How close was she to the Hawksley’s? Better yet, was she from the same social status?

I cleared my throat and shook my head. “No. Rufus wasn’t tough, but he was stern and meticulous when he taught me about the business.”

Dalia chuckled, which made it nerve-wracking rather than relief. “Well, that means he favors you if he’d recommended you for a promotion. I think it does paint a better picture of you than what dear Julian told me.”

“I’m sorry, but may I ask a question, Mrs. Garcia? It’s okay if you don’t want to hear it.” I’m shocked that I’m no longer stuttering.

“Of course, dear. Ask away.”

“Well…” I paused and cleared my throat again. “What relationship do you have with the… Uhm… Hawksley’s?”

She smiled. “I see. My son continually kept his habit of keeping quiet about his childhood in England with Julian and Jensen.”

I waited for her to elaborate a bit further. Whatever expression I had, it prompted her to add more details.

“You see, I used to be Julian and Jensen’s nanny and tutor. I raised those two boys when they were young, and taught them everything I can before they’ve gone to boarding school. Well, even then, I stayed with the Hawksley and raised those two during summer and winter breaks. Usually, I don’t allow my personal life to intervene with work. But I got married, have a child before I was offered the job. Thankfully, the Hawksley were kind-hearted people and allowed Dean to live with me.”

“That’s quite a job, Mrs. Garcia. And have you always been a nanny before you got married and after Julian and Jensen grew up?”

“Yes. I have. And I still do. Jensen had just asked me to be his daughter’s nanny. Can you believe that?” She smiled. And the glow and gleam in her eyes made her younger than she looked.

“I think it’s a bit expected if you’re still working. But have you considered retiring? Though it’s not like you look like you’re in the age to retire. I mean, you look young for you age, ma’am.” I quickly recovered with that slight slip.

Dalia waved her hand. “It’s okay, my dear. I’m in my retirement age. But I’ve always loved the job, and I love seeing the children I raised become accomplished people. It’s who I am. And it’s what I know.”

“Does that mean you took the job offer from Jensen?” I bashfully inquired.

“I did. And Julian’s a bit annoyed with Jensen for taking me before he got the chance too. Maybe I’ll be looking after his child when the time comes.”

“That’s quite admirable, ma’am.”

“Oh, goodness. I didn’t come here to talk about myself. I’m here to ask about you. From what I heard, you’re quite good at diverting attention away from you.” She pointed out with a smug grin that was identical to Dean’s.

“I’m glad you think so since I haven’t shaken off the gossip around the office about Dean and me,” I admitted willingly, which surprised me.

“Why? Does it bother you that much?”

“No. No, it doesn’t. But I just…” I didn’t finish my sentence when the door slammed open and Dean stood by the threshold. His face was stoic. I’ve never seen him angry. It was scary, yet sexy for some odd reason.

“Mom! What the heck are you doing?” His voice sounded controlled For a moment, I saw his eyes dart in my direction before turning his glare back to his mother. “Would you please mind your own business and not bother people in my life, for once?”

From his tone, it would seem this wasn’t Dalia’s first stunt cornering Dean’s previous partners. Had she always found a way to talk to the girls her son dated?

She scoffed. Dean’s outburst did not affect her. “I’m only talking to a guest, Dean. Is it a crime to talk to people now?”

“Yes. When you’re only talking to one person, and you’ve snuck yourself in her room.” He argued.

“I didn’t sneak in here. Amy properly invited me in to have a chat.” She defended.

“I’m sure you’ve somehow intimidated her into agreeing, but that doesn’t change the fact you went behind my back, again, mom. If you want to meet her so badly, because I know Julian told you, you could have just asked me. I would have gladly introduced you.” Dean sighed in defeat.

“Would you?” That offer surprised Dalia.

“Yes, mom. I really liked this one… and you’ve gone and messed it up.” I was then I noticed a slight British accent from Dean like Julian does sometimes. Since he’s worked up, he’d unconsciously reverted back to his comfort zone, which stripped him bare and showing me – for the first time – his true accent. “Mom, I understand that you feel the need to check up on me, especially the girls I’ve dated, but I know what I’m doing. Even if it means I’ll make a couple of mistakes along the way, I know.”

“Even if you did, my dear, as a mother, I won’t ever stop worrying. I’ll keep on worrying until I die. And you can’t take that away for me.” I could nearly hear Dalia’s voice cracking as her emotions bubbled to the surface.

It was then I decided to intrude. “Dean, I know you’re frustrated with what your mother did. But she was nice with me. And we just talked. I wouldn’t deny her that opportunity to interrogate me, because I know her intentions were good. Plus, it doesn’t change between us whatever anyone says.”

I saw Dean’s expression harden. “Does that mean you’d never consider… me?”

I gasped, heart-strung by his misinterpretation. “No. No. I didn’t mean it like that… what I meant was…” I trailed off and caught myself what I was going to say.

The tension in the room rose.

Then Dalia spoke, breaking the silence. “I’ll leave you two to sort this out.” She turned to me and lightly patted my arm, to show her support. “Be easy on him, dear. I won’t hold it against you if his actions today might change your mind.”

I smiled at Dalia. “I’ve made my decision long ago, Mrs. Garcia.”

She nodded and peered back at her son. “Dean, I’m sorry if you thought I was ruining your life. I’ll leave you with her… and for your sake, don’t ruin it either. I particularly like this one.” She subtly whispered though she had no intention of hiding it from me. When she glanced back at me and winked, I understood it was her intention that I heard her.

Once Dalia left the room, closing the door behind her, Dean took a cautious step closer but I held up my hand to stop him.

“Dean, hear me out first before you say anything.” I paused to wait for his response.

“Okay. Go ahead.” He gestured for me to continue.

“Right.” I started fidgeting while I was formulating the right words to say. A minute in silence, I saw Dean shifted his weight on his other leg and sighed heavily. He placed both his hand on his hips and waited another minute. But then, I still wasn’t ready.

“Would you like me to start instead? I’d love to go first, if you’re not ready.” He offered.

I smirked and shook my head. Seeing him so undone, frustrated, and completely flustered about what I’m going to say gave me the boost that I needed. If he was this nervous as well, then I shouldn’t be or else this relationship won’t progress.

“I’ll go,” I said. “Dean, I think you misunderstood my intention about us – this – what we are together. And I agree what your mother told me too.”

He held up his hand to stop me. “Please don’t listen to what my mother said. Her prejudice and judgmental conclusions doesn’t define what I feel for…you.”

That perked my interest. Now I wanted him to go first. “And what is it you feel for me?”

“What?” He looked startled at my question. He wasn’t completely aware of what he had said.

“You said, what your mother said doesn’t define what you feel for me,” I sited. “And what do you feel for me?” I asked again. It was tough keeping a poker face as I watched him struggled to come up with a proper explanation. And the fact he was hesitating did prove I was right. He did misinterpret what I said.

“Dean.” I called as he lost his focus on me. He was lost in thought. So I called again, “Dean. Listen to me.”

He finally met my gaze. His eyes mirroring my old fears that held back what we have.

To ease up his confusion, I said it first. And it was freeing, fulfilling, and empowering to say it. To express my real feelings for him.

“Dean, I love you.”

“What did you… say?” The sudden shift of confusion to disbelief and then happiness looked animated. When his face lit up at my confession, my heart nearly exploded. In his eyes, I saw myself mirror in its reflection. I knew before I finally said the words. “Did I hear you right? You… you love me?”

I smiled and nodded. “I do.” I burst in a bubbling fit of chuckles. “You have no idea how much I kept myself from feeling that way. But I do.”

Dean closed the distance between us. He cradled my face with the palm of his hands. And still, even if that was a good moment to kiss, he waited for my permission. So I leaned and initiated it for the first time.

And it was everything. After I came to terms with my emotions and told him, the kiss held more meaning and warmth. Every kiss I received before blurred in the background. His was all that mattered.

After we pulled away to breathe, Dean wrapped me underneath his embrace, holding me as tight as he could. “You have no idea how happy I am now. You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you.”

“Then tell me.” I lightly jested.

He leaned away yet kept me in his embrace. “I love you too, Amy.”

How are you? I hope this chapter wasn't cringy, or enough of a cringe. But, finally, these two made it. They've said the holy grail words of romance stories. Haha! I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Until next week's update!

P.S. There's at least five to six chapter more. I'm sad to see the series end. But I will end this with a good note. I always do. :)
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