Chapter 30 - Time to Take the Pressure Test
Being four years older than me, I sometimes feel Lorde as my big brother. I remember back when the Final Fantasy Crisis Core installation was released, his friends and I teased him that the creator modeled his face to create one of the antagonists in the story.
Why you ask?
Because he looks exactly like Genesis Rhapsodos. Of course, it was just a joke then, especially that Lorde’s hair at that time was a dark brown.
But at present, looking at him with his signature unkempt hair having red highlights, I agreed to myself that he really looked like the handsome Genesis. Red highlights must be the fashion fever of the elite people in Mexico right now huh?
He still has a lean, muscular body. The ones you can compare to a Calvin Klein male model, but with Eriol as the more seasoned of the two.
He is a freaking sex God in the first place, so yeah... it is expected that a human male would pale in comparison to him.
However, amidst this truth, Lorde still has a charm of his own. A charm that I once found...disarming.
With that fine black trench coat, gray v-neck shirt and black pants, I found that his so-called charm never once expired.
For a particular moment, it felt like the world stood still when our eyes locked in a staring contest. Nobody but us stood in the wide portico; no Aunt Marcella, no driver, no servants. Well, that’s what it felt for me at least. I had to hold my breath just in order to calm my heart’s erratic beating.
“Oh Lorde!” Aunt Marcella exclaimed, quickly interrupting us in our small world of magnetism. She left me behind and walked forward to give her step-son her famous hug.
Lorde beamed his white teeth and welcomed her ample embrace.
“Tia Marcella,” he said with a cool, sultry voice. They embraced, but even with this, his eyes were still on me.
I felt my face flush then.
I wish I had Eriol’s mind reading power so that I would know the contents in Lorde’s thoughts. I don’t want to know if he agrees with my dress or if he finds my woman curves pleasing to the eye. What I want to find out was why the hell he still looked at me like he was about to freaking propose?
“How have you been Lorde? My goodness! Look at you! You are even more handsome than before you left!”
Aunt Marcella remarked with a gentleness a normal mother would give to her son. She cupped his cheeks with her hands and traced his attractive triangular jawline. She gave him a thorough observation and Lorde just let her do so, giving off another batch of beaming smile.
For a moment there, it did look like a real mother-and-son bonding. Lorde had already welcomed Auntie as his step-mother when his father married her roughly fifteen years ago. They only got each other to care for in the Winner Household as Lorde’s relatives had been MIA or at least that’s what I have been told about by Auntie.
“Ah, I always miss this lavish side of yours Tia,” Lorde stated. He patted a hand on her back much like a family gesture of warmth.
I didn’t miss him calling Auntie his ′tia′ and not ′mother.′ Tia means Aunt in Spanish. He had already called her that even before I started visiting the Winner Mansion, so it was not weird for me to hear it. Aunt Marcella didn’t mind it too and was more than happy to be called that since being called ′mother′ apparently was just not her taste.
“Of course you would!” she replied. “Now come, we have a lot of catching up to do and someone here is excited to give her greetings too!”
They both turned to me and in that short amount of time, I became the center of attention.
“Hey,” I croaked, “welcome back home.” I gave him a smile; closed lip though.
“Andrea, it is good to see you again,” he said, voice coming out a lot cool and collected than mine. Dang... I should probably compose myself a little bit more. But wait. Was it just me or did I just saw a brief twinkle in his eyes?
He approached me then with yet another reserved grin.
Situations like these calls for a welcome hug right? That’s what Auntie did to him earlier, and I think it was expected that I should do the same. But I stepped backward in the end. I don’t know, but I feel that the contact of our skin wasn’t warranted for now - errr, probably not at all.
Lorde, however, saw my hesitation and gave me a sharp look. I was taken aback. My eyes quickly sought a lesser intimidating object which was the BMW car behind him, but that did it for me. I was caught off-guard when he embraced me tightly.
“Andrea, I missed you so much,” he whispered so close to my ear.
I felt a small tingle ran from my back to my shoulders after hearing his words. Did I shake it off? Yes I did, quickly. But only to be replaced with a different kind of tingle when his warm breath touched my skin and his lips brushed my cheeks covertly.
I was instantly rooted in place. My hands got stuck midair next to his broad shoulders deliberating on whether I should reciprocate his warm gesture or not. I am definitely not ready to go all touchy with him, but with Aunt Marcella in front of us, I decided to pat his back lightly in the end.
“Lorde... ye-yeah... it’s truly been awhile since we’ve seen each other,” I countered an appropriate response. I guess this would be better than saying ‘I miss you too’ when I didn’t have that kind of feeling towards him. Well, at least not anymore.
He withdrew and gave me a smile, with again those piercing eyes of his scanning me from head to foot.
“So, shall we go inside?” Auntie suddenly asked. She walked past us and gestured for the open door.
“I believe so Tia,” Lorde immediately answered. “I am quite very thirsty. Traveling for hours really isn’t easy.”
“Oh, that’s good. You will find your Corona’s a refreshing change, I’m sure,” my Auntie replied. She walked ahead of us and we followed her.
Side by side we entered the foyer, but it wasn’t easy a task for me because I suddenly felt Lorde’s hand touch my waist. I don’t know if he was just being a gentleman but it sure was uncomfortable for me. It had only been just a few minutes since we’ve seen each other again and he was already very smooth with the touching.
Oh. Speaking of touch.
Considering Eriol being a jealous demon, I know that this simple gesture would tick him off. He was probably like an Alpha mate right about now, growling ‘mine’ on his woman.
But I have to wonder though, where the hell is he anyway?
You can only imagine how full the dining table was. Seriously. The foods laid weren’t just for an afternoon snack, but also for a heavy meal in the evening. Quite what you would expect in an excited step-mom. But contrary to what I expected, Lorde suggested having tea outside the dining room, particularly in the spacious veranda.
I remembered that he always loves to eat in that place with me mainly because it showed a magnificent view. It basically shows the mansion’s back garden, the wide rectangular turquoise pool and the Luxembourg mountains as its background.
Auntie most willingly agreed with his suggestion. I, in the other hand, just nodded, going along with the flow.
Three maids assisted us there. One prepared the finely polished teak table with classic placemats, plates and utensils, while the other two placed our tea and snacks, and Lorde’s perspiring Corona.
I chose to sit in a chair that faced the pool. Auntie sat on my left, while Lorde picked the seat directly opposite mine thereby blocking my view of the pool.
Great. I have a feeling this is going to be an awfully long chit chat.
Auntie started the ball rolling with a question that was typical for a mother to ask.
“So, how’s your business there Lorde?”
She took a sip of her lemon tea while waiting for him to speak.
Lorde’s overall posture was relaxed. His back touched the vase-shaped splat, his right hand holding the Corona while the other was in the armrest.
He eyed her step-mother, drank a good amount of the yellow liquid, and went on to say confidently, “Ahh, everything is fine Tia. You would really be amazed with the manpower in Mexico. They are all willing to work the whole day just in order to receive their salary every week. Because of their hardworking attitude and strong will, my investors are flooding like crazy.”
That is pretty much what a CEO’s way of thinking alright! No surprise in that!
“Oh, so that’s what keeps you from visiting me here,” Auntie remarked. There was a glint of sadness in her eyes that I didn’t miss out. She really does feel lonely in this house huh? I am glad I didn’t cancel my visit here.
Lorde slightly smiled. He shifted in his seat and went to touch his drool-worthy lips. Ooops! I am not supposed to think about that!
“Yes, partly that’s the reason,” he answered, eyeing me then. I had to control myself not to drop my mouth.
“What’s the other half of it dear?” Aunt Marcella explored. She was as curious as me, but never did I expect that I would quickly fall into the limelight once again.
“I was waiting for someone to visit back our house, Tia. Just, waiting patiently,” he stated coolly.
I saw Auntie mouthed a big ‘oh’ and then directed her attention to me. “Who would that be, I wonder...” she commented, playing innocent again. Because of this, my suspicions that she knows more than she let out about me and Lorde became stronger.
My cheeks began to burn like steam iron on a diaphanous material. In order to null the seconds of silence that befell on the three of us, I sipped my tea and hummed a low-key tune.
“Andrea, how’s life being a volunteer?” Lorde suddenly asked, startling me.
“Ha? Ah, uhmm...my volunteer work is smooth sailing I should say,” I answered.
I placed the chinaware down and inhaled slowly, enough that they wouldn’t think it weird.
“Just recently I joined Madame Ivana’s outreach program for two tribes here in Luxembourg.”
“Really? That’s good to hear. How was it?” he followed, sounding very interested.
I glanced at Aunt Marcella who busily sliced a piece of carrot cake.
Talking with Lorde like this makes me remember the good old times. Sharing goals were our favorite pastime. One of my shared goals would be me being a volunteer in any outreach activity. He used to make fun of me back then because of this, telling me it was a waste of time, but in the end he encouraged me to fulfill my goals, this particularly included.
Seeing how sincere Lorde looked, I felt a sudden bubble of happiness inside then; of giddiness, of excitement to be able to share my experiences in the outreach program with another person other than Eriol.
“It was great!” I said with a wide smile. Just that, my feeling of anxiety was forgotten. “The natives were so friendly Lorde. They have these colorful costumes that really pop out. They share a peaceful life with nature and they are so family-oriented. I am really happy that I was able to extend a helping hand to them. No doubt my experiences in there will be one of the best!”
That was exactly what I felt when I saw his amused but pleased expression.
“Hmmm, judging from your sparkling eyes, it sounds as if you enjoyed your time there,” Lorde stated matter-of-a-factly.
“Oh, yes I have. I really have,” I answered, but then paused after remembering something. “Well, except for-”
“Andi dear,” Auntie interrupted. She eyed me and gave two fast blinks. I instantly understood what it meant. It seems I had no idea I almost crossed the line between sharing and informing.
“You try this carrot cake, it is really good,” she added with smooth precision. She definitely was like a mouse who doesn’t want to get caught, while I, her accomplice.
“Ahh...ye-yes... sure! I would Auntie,” I croaked again, slanting the plate on her way to receive the slice of carrot cake she had baked. “Thanks,” with a smile on her way, I said.
I am no actress so I hope I was able to pull it off. I sought out Lorde’s reaction and there it was, all too clear under the afternoon sun.
He grinned as if finding our small fiasco entertaining.
“Hmmm, nice try Tia, but you can’t do that to me,” he said, putting an elbow in the table and leaning closer to it. His eyes scrutinized us this time.
“Wh-what? What are you trying to say Lorde?” Auntie feigned, but she pretty much sounded alarmed if you ask me. Quite a clear-cut clue already.
“Judging from both of your actions, it seems that you are trying to hide something from me.” His beautiful pale blue eyes roamed to me and I began to boil in embarrassment. We are definitely caught; straight out in the lines of the barbwire.
“Oh... we’re busted huh?” she shyly stated and then let out a long sigh.
“The carrot cake is a dead giveaway Tia,” he announced, which he was exactly right about. Probably, when this situation happens again, Auntie should change tac.
With a hand gesture from her, I remained silent. It seemed she wanted to be the one to explain it. I am glad with this though. It would be hard for me to explain things when I know the whole situation wasn’t what I call normal with Eriol’s intervention.
Oh. Again. Where is that damn demon by the way?
“Well you see...” Auntie started out softly, “During their second day in the outreach program, Andrea here and the rest of the volunteers had an accident. Their bus unfortunately slipped and went off road into a slope going to a cliff. Luckily, a miracle happened and no one got hurt badly. Andrea was just recently discharged from the hospital three days ago. But you don’t really need to worry. Everything is fine. Her hospitalization was just a precaution.”
“I only just got some minor cuts and bruises from it. Nothing to worry about,” I immediately added when I noticed Lorde’s hands turn into a fist. He could really overreact sometimes, certainly just like my mother.
“Hmmm, so that is what you have been keeping from me,” he stated, throwing a hard look on me and not to his step-mother. “I bet your mother doesn’t know about this right?”
I traced the rim of my teacup consciously. “Well, we kinda agreed not to mention the accident to her for her own good,” I said, justifying our decision.
Lorde’s shoulders relaxed and he leaned back in the chair. “I guess that sounds thoughtful enough. I don’t like it that you tried to hide it from me, but don’t worry, the secret is safe with me,” he stated and that immediately assuaged my fear, as well as Auntie’s I bet.
“Oh God, that gives me relief,” she exclaimed, acting out some deep breathing exercises that was a bit overdone.
I smiled on her way and then to him.
“Thanks Lorde. I owe you one,” I stated softly, meeting him in the eye.
And then it happened. There it is again. Our small world of magnetism making itself known. Nothing but us; me and him; with no Auntie Marcella and Erio- wait WHAT?!
My eyes blinked a couple of times when I suddenly caught sight of Eriol teleporting at the base of the stairs connecting the veranda to the pool area. His face looked grim. DEFINITELY grim. And his steely eyes were directed to me. I am no reader of minds but I certainly sensed that he was pissed on something. Errr, no, not something, but on someone.
His ascend to the stairs felt like in slow motion. Well, uhmm, actually, I wanted it to be in slow motion because I wanted to prolong the time of his arrival. I had an inkling that what would happen next would be pure tension between these two men.
He glided up the stairs and into our table with precision however, in just a matter of ten seconds. And with just that, I felt like I am in a countdown to Hell breaking loose. Literally.
My heart doubled its beating and my breathing became deeper. Oh yeah. Now I know what it feels like to be in a woman’s situation where two of her lovers are in one room. Well, not that Lorde is my lover, but we did have a past together right? So, more or less, it feels the same way.
Eriol threw dagger-like glances at me while he passed by our table to where Auntie sat. I did the same, but with only matchsticks.
Yeah... I know. Funny isn’t it? I seriously don’t have a will to do an eye battle with him when I know he would win anyway.
Between Lorde and Auntie, the latter was the one who first noticed Eriol since she was already facing the stairs. She raised her hand and said, “There you are Eriol! I was actually wondering where you were all this time!”
Lorde glanced at his direction and gave him a once over. I didn’t miss his brows quirk up then.
Shit. Shit. Oh shit! That ain’t looking good! He would be too ballsy if he thinks he can contend with the charms of a demon!
“Excuse me Madame.” Eriol’s voice was velvety smooth. Damn... I missed his voice already. “You have a phone call from Mr. Realis,” he added but with a formal tone, holding the Blackberry phone up in front of her. Auntie smiled and nodded.
“Right,” she said and went to look at the occupants of the table namely me and Lorde. “I should leave you two alone for a moment. This man doesn’t want to be kept waiting. I’ll excuse myself okay?”
She stood up and took the phone from Eriol’s hand.
“Sure Tia,” Lorde answered quite quickly, “Take your time.”
She left taking the phone with her while Eriol remained, standing three steps away from Lorde’s back, his arms crossed in his chest. His eyes blazed with anger, but for some reason he looked like he was restraining himself.
With Auntie’s absence, my heart tripled its damn beating knowing that I am left alone with two of these gorgeous men in my life.