"I knew it! I just knew it!" Athena cried in outburst, not caring the slightest that we were in public. She leaned closer to me. "I knew your marriage to Mason wasn't real."
"Shh! Not so loud!" I glared at her, sparing a glance at the people in the cafe and releasing a breath, glad that no one was watching us or heard what Athena had said. I was already regretting telling her in public. But in my defense, I didn't know she was going to react this way. I thought she would be mad, not cry out in victory.
"For now, Athena. Before they fall in love with each other for real," Beth promised with a beam.
I rolled my eyes and sucked on my straw, already dreading this lunch with my friends. After I got tired of sitting in my room and had gotten Mason's text that he had left the house, I decided to follow on his footsteps and hang out with my friends and complain to them.
Telling Athena about my deal with Mason felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders. I didn't like lying to her. And if I was going to handle Mason, I needed someone close to him and someone who knew him so well. Who would know him better than his Auntie?
"We're not going to fall in love. Better get that notion out of your head. Besides, he's horrible and incapable of love," I muttered, my cheeks flushed with anger. I was still angry about him denying breakfast. But I blamed myself. I was the one who thought, believed he could have breakfast with me, just shortly after marriage. I thought the nice man inside him was going to come out after we took a vow, but I was kidding myself.
"That's what you think, Lauren. You've to be patient with him. And Mason is a man, you just have to know how to deal with him. Use your womanly skills and he would be at your beck and call."
I covered my face and groaned at Athena's words. "Please, don't be in on this too. I don't want him like that, I just need a friend in him, but he's making it so hard!" I stomped my feet in frustrated outrage and glared at my drink.
"Are you okay, Laurie? Did you have a good sleep last night?"
"Barely," I replied to Beth. "I woke up so early today and I think it's because it's a new place. I don't do well with change."
"Or it's because her husband isn't paying any attention to her." The girls chuckled, and I felt like getting out of there, away from their stupid remarks and teasing eyes.
I chose another option instead, going for a harmless conversation. "How's Jade?"
At the mention of Jade's name, Athena smirked, the corner of her mouth softly pulling up. "Still recovering from the shock of you being Mason's wife," she answered with a chuckle. "She came to me and begged me to get him to divorce you and marry her. She said and I quote 'will make him happier than you."
"I don't know her, but I believe her," Beth caught in. "If Jade was our friend and she had been married to him, there's no doubt that she would listen to us and won't hesitate to make him fall for her."
"What did you tell her?" I pressed with a small smile and a shake of my head. If only Jade knew this marriage wasn't real, and there was no way Mason would ever marry her. With or without me in his life.
"That it's none of my business. And she said she's going to talk to you about it. She's willing to lose everything for him."
My mouth dropped open and I could only stare at her in amazed silence before I recovered. "Wow."
"I know, right?" Athena burst out with a chuckle. "Anyway, I'm going to tell you something you should never tell Mason. If he knows I'm telling you this, there's no doubt he would kill me and he'd make sure my body is never recovered."
I wouldn't lie and say I wasn't so eager to hear what she was going to tell me when it sounded like a secret Mason wouldn't like me to know. I was desperate for anything, something to make me understand my husband well.
She leaned closer to us and whispered in a low voice. "Mason fell in love."
Beth's hand slipped from the table in shock and I choked on my straw. "You're shitting me," I hooted in disbelief, replaying her words in my head. "Mason in love with someone? How's that possible?" Then, my eyes widened in realization. "Wait! Are you talking about Chloe?! Mason fell in love with Chloe?" My brow raised in amusement.
She nodded in confirmation. "She was his secondary school sweetheart. The two of them planned their future out before Chloe cheated on him with his cousin," Athena replied, genuinely amused by my own amusement, but not surprised that I knew it was Chloe.
"His cousin?" Beth choked out in disbelief. I already knew that bit.
"Mason loved her so much. He nearly gave up everything for her, but that bitch was shagging his cousin behind his back and laughing about it." She frowned and I could hear the venom in her tone when she continued, "I don't know what happened, but Mason forgave her and took her back. Turns out the little bitch lied to him, and when he realized that, he broke up with her. That was twelve years ago and he still hates her."
"This is why he doesn't trust women," I pointed out in bewilderment. Suddenly, everything he had said to me started to make sense, but I wasn't going to excuse his bad behavior towards me. Not every woman he meets is untrustworthy. Clearly, he didn't know that or he just wanted to be right. Besides, I wasn't sure it was the only reason why he hated women. There was more to it, something only him would know.
"Yeah, he thinks all women are going to do to him what Chloe did."
"This completely changes everything," Beth spoke up beside me in delight. I spared her a glance, confusion taken over my face. She quickly explained, "It's you!"
"You have to change him! Everyone who knows you knows you aren't like Chloe. Everyone except your husband. You have to change his view towards women, Lauren. You have to make him trust you, and in doing so, you two get to fall in love!" she rushed out in excitement.
"Bethany, this isn't a movie," I said in pure annoyance. Her obsession with getting Mason and me to fall in love with each other was starting to get on my nerves. "How many times am I going to tell you to drop this? Worry about your own love life." Or the lack of it.
Beth opened her mouth to protest, then must have changed her mind and smiled mischievously at me. "I'm only trying to help you, Lauren. I saw the way you looked at him at your wedding reception."
I narrowed my eyes. "The way I looked at him?"
"Yes! I don't blame you. Mason is a walking god! Anyone would be completely entranced by him, and so were you."
"I wasn't looking at him like that!" I exclaimed defensively. I didn't even know what she was talking about, but I felt the need to defend myself. "I was actually so bored of looking at him." That part was kinda true. I had spent the majority of time looking anywhere but at him, at the permanent scowl and clenched jaw I had spared myself from seeing.
"Really?" Beth asked, hiding her laughter and pretending to study the tips of her fingernails. "You find his grey eyes and his jawline, his lips and his hair boring? Every inch of him from head to toe is boring to you?"
"Yes," I answered pointedly, unable to hide my amusement at her obvious state of high infatuation any longer. But I was hundred percent lying. There was no way I would tell Beth that I found Mason so attractive, and how he got my heart racing every time I stared deep into those grey eyes of his.
"Sure, Laurie," she breathed in an awed, low whisper, "Let's pretend I believe you."
I scoffed. "I didn't invite you guys out to talk about him all day," I complained, knowing if they kept digging, they would know my deep, dark secret. I would take my attraction to Mason to the grave. "All I care about right now is finding a job and having something to take my mind off everything bad that's happening in my life."
"You're bloody dramatic."
I shot Beth a glare.
"Why didn't you say that before?" Athena asked as she took her phone and began scrolling through it. "I can get you an interview in my friend's company. He's actually looking to hire someone."
My eyes sparkled in delight. "Really?"
"Yes. As soon as I get you that interview, I'd call you. And trust me, he's not like your old boss."
"Thank you so much, Athena. You're a life saver."
She winked. "It's the least I can do for family."
Family. But I smiled nonetheless.