I walk quietly downstairs after my morning shower to find Ace in the kitchen. Great. I thought waking up earlier would make me avoid this exact situation. Avoid him. It doesn’t help that he is shirtless and I can see his back muscles under the glimmer of the morning sun.
He is cooking pancakes and for some reason that makes me want to laugh. I didn’t take him for a pancake guy. I look towards his bedroom, expecting to see Lexi come out at any moment but there is no sign of her. I’m not even sure whether she stayed over last night, I want to ask Liv what’s going on between Lexi and Ace but I don’t care. I shouldn’t. Ace is complicated and I need my life to be simple.
I look back at Ace and it’s like I’m drawn to him, unable to look away. I want to kick myself for finding him attractive but the feeling only lasts until he opens his mouth.
“Done staring?” He says turning around and directly facing me. His eyes twinkle and it irritates me.
My cheeks flush a deep red and I don’t know whether I should look away or not since I’m already caught red-handed.
“Do you have a personality disorder?” I ask him and it takes a while for him to register what I said. I catch him off-guard and he raises one of his eyebrows while his full lips turn up at the corners.
“No, I don’t Calla,” he says as if it was a regular question. His eyes don’t look away from me as he watches my reaction.
“What did I do for you to hate me then?” I ask because that is the only other explanation for him to act like this towards me.
There’s a long moment before he answers and it makes me wish that I didn’t even ask.
“For me to hate you, I would need to feel something — and frankly I feel nothing for you.”
I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t say anything and drop my gaze away from his intense one because if I continue looking at him, I would get the urge to punch him again. I remember how that went last time. My hand is still wrapped in a bandage from the hardness of his nose.
“What, are you going to cry now?” he says in a mocking tone, taking a step towards me.
My head snaps up, meeting his amused expression and anger bubbles inside of me. He is impossible, I can’t deal with him. His mood changes from one extreme to the other when he’s around me — it’s tiring to know where I stand with him.
“Ugh, I think I actually hate you!” I say exasperated. I have never met someone more infuriating than him. He is a Gemini for sure I think to myself remembering the conversation that Mia and I had yesterday.
Just because I didn’t believe about the predictions part of the horoscope, didn’t mean I didn’t believe in the personality traits a person acquired from their star sign.
“Good. You’d be stupid not to.”
The assertiveness that spills from that sentence surprises me. I continue looking at him, trying to figure him out but his words are slicing me inside.
I feel nothing for you. Good.
“Pancakes?” He has the audacity to ask, placing the warm plate in front of me. I scoff, grabbing my bag off the bench and walking towards the door.
I walk to my first class, letting the mild exercise relax me. I really wanted those pancakes. It’s like my day is already cursed from the bitter morning run-in with the asshole that I am living with. I only hope that it gets better from here. But it doesn’t.
I walk into my first class excited to see Theo — he never fails to put a smile on my face. I completely forgot that Ace is in this class too. The smile that I managed to put on my face disintegrated into thin air when I see him next to Theo.
I almost consider sitting at the back but once again I don’t want to give him that satisfaction. I don’t want him to know that his words lingered on my mind more than they should have since he said them.
I say hello to Theo and then turn to Ace, “Hi Ace,” I greet him, forcing a smile on my face. Kill them with kindness, isn’t that how the saying goes? I sit next to Theo but not before I see Ace’s gaze on me, he doesn’t say anything.
The Professor begins talking about our assessment piece, “This year, I decided to make the assessment easy. I am assigning you a partner, you will need to spend time with this person.
Try spending a couple of weekdays as well as weekends observing your partner. Because you will be writing a piece about them. Find out their secrets, their interests, find out their passion and what makes them tick. This is the only assignment you have this semester and it’s worth fifty percent.”
I shudder at the thought of someone trying to get to know me that well and wonder if there is a way I could avoid this.
Theo turns to me and flashes me a smile. Being partners with Theo would be easy, he is the kind of person who won’t push you tell them something you’re not comfortable with sharing.
The professor continues, “I will pick your partners in alphabetical order.” I see Theo sulk, “So to get the ball rolling,” the professor picks up the class attendance roll. “Ace Blackwell, you’re with Carlotta Maven.”
Oh god. Why?
I don’t want to make a big deal out of this but there is no way I am letting Ace dig around my life or spending more time than I already am with him. It will drive me insane. I learnt how to put on a front, I know how to make someone perceive you differently. However, I’m intrigued to get to know Ace Blackwell and what makes him tick. To find out why he is the way he is. Is it worth risking my vulnerability to find out his?
No, it’s not.
I spend the rest of the day consumed by the thought of spending time with Ace. I consider talking to the professor about changing partners but I’m sure Ace has already done that. I saw him stay back after class and I don’t think it went well.
I am grateful that Asher doesn’t come to the cafe while I’m working today and surprised when Mia says, “There’s a bonfire thing on Thursday night, wanna come?”
I smile because it’s the first time she is talking to me like a friend and not a co-worker. “Sure,” I say, it will be refreshing to get out of the house and spend some time with Mia outside of work.
I can hear Ace talking on the phone through the door. His voice is soft and filled with something that I didn’t think he was capable of... warmth? I am not sure who he is talking to but I assume it’s Lexi. However, after witnessing how he spoke to her in person, I’m beginning to think it must be someone else. No surprise there, he must have a thousand girls lined up. Before I begin to question what the hell I am doing, I raise my hand to his door.
“I’ll call you back, yeah?” he says when I knock on the door.
I hear the lock click and then the door swings open. Ace’s face is inches from mine and before I could stop them, my eyes travel down his chest. They linger on the ink that covers his body for a lot longer than they should and feel my face heat up. Doesn’t he own a freaking shirt?
“Can I help you or didn’t you get enough of a show this morning?”
I grind my teeth in annoyance. How can one be so full of themselves?
I look past him to get a glimpse of his room mostly because I don’t want to look anywhere in his direction and give him the wrong idea. I am not interested in him but one can certainly appreciate his looks. My eyes land on a bookshelf and my eyebrows furrow in confusion. Ace reads? I doubt that — it’s probably just for show.
“Do you think we can at least pretend to be civil for this stupid assignment? It will make things a lot easier for both of us,” I ask bringing my eyes back to his.
“Hmm like friends?” he says mostly to himself like he is considering the option. I roll my eyes at his arrogance.
“Yes,” I find myself saying irritated.
“On one condition, if you don’t fall in love with me.”
I look at him, waiting for him to laugh and say he is joking but he doesn’t. He continues to look at me waiting for me to respond.
“Is that a joke? Your attempt of trying to be funny?”
“No, I am serious.”
The irony makes me curl my fists at my side.
“Whatever Ace, you have your head so far up your own ass that it’s hard for you to see that not everyone wants you. Especially not me, so you don’t have to have a single worry about that.”
He looks amused at my outburst and smirks.
“Perfect. Goodnight Carlotta.”
It doesn’t take me long to understand that is dismissing me and before I even have time to leave, he closes the door in my face. I groan in frustration and I swear I could hear a small chuckle from the other side.
What have I gotten myself into?