Playing Cupid

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Chapter 6 : The Hangover Cure

I shield my eyes from the bright light.

“Ace? What the hell?” I grumble and stretch the blanket all the way up to my chest. “Where are my clothes? I’m practically naked,” I exclaim in a hushed tone.

“Covered in vomit,” He states. Heat rushes to my face and I tilt my head down in embarrassment. “Don’t worry, I got Camille to help.”

“Camille?” I quiz.

“Yeah, she rushed over to you when you passed out.” He explains.

“Passed out?”

“Do you remember anything from last night?” I glare at him and he chuckles.

My entire body felt beaten to a pulp as I pulled myself. I adjust the garter of my nike pros, preventing it from riding up. I move to cuddle the dog and it rests its snout on my forearm.

“You’re not even gonna ask if anything happened between us?” Ace cocks his brow.

“Frankly, I don’t want to know the answer.” I sigh. He jumps onto bed, crushing my legs.

“I’m just kidding, you slept next to Enzo.” He reaches over to pet him on the head. Enzo raises his head after hearing his name.

Ace then, bounces off the bed and I study his shirtless figure. He runs a hand through his hair with his back facing me, and it physically hurt to admit how attractive he was. It would make me feel better to find one flaw in his physique but there were none. He catches a glimpse of me and smiles.

“Take a pic. It lasts longer.” He teases and I mask my blush.

“Wear a shirt or something,” I look away.

“Why? See something you like?” He winks and throws over a shirt. “Get up.” He instructs as I bury my head under the pillow.

“No,” I say with a muffled voice. He repeats himself and I do as he says to get him to shut up. I let out a grunt as I use every muscle in my body to sit upright. I was still dizzy, courtesy of how much alcohol I had in my system last night.

“Remind me to never drink that much again,” I whine.

Unable to stand up, I sit glued to the side of his king size bed. I had my elbows rested on my thighs and my face buried in my palms. My head was still pounding and I slowly rub my temples to help alleviate the pain. I brush my hand against the area Liam bruised.

“It really hurts,” I wince.

Ace drops his cocky demeanor and looks down with sympathy. He kneels in front of me and caresses the side of my head with his thumb, resting his other hand on my knee.

“May I?” He asks and I nod.

I feel his hot breath on my neck as he tugs down the hem of my shirt to examine the bruises on my shoulder. He lets go of my shirt and I was on fire with every touch.

“Say the word, and I’ll beat him up again,” He grits through his teeth.

“Don’t,” I soothe.

Our lips were merely centimeters apart and I feel my heart jump out of my chest. He delicately pushes the hair away from my face and I stare right into his eyes. He moves closer and I almost flatline.

“Could you um, get me some water please.” I gulp, breaking away from his gaze.

“No problem,” He smirks.

He comes back and I hold the cold glass with both hands, careful not to spill water on myself.

“Can you pass me my phone please,” I motion to my clutch bag. He digs through and fishes out my phone. I switch it on to see 20 missed calls from both my brother and Nikki. There were several text messages asking me where I was, but I wasn’t sure what to reply.

I impulsively text my brother, saying I was at Nikki’s and pray he doesn’t question it. He didn’t swoop in when Liam came so I assume he left the party early like he normally does. I text Nikki the opposite, saying I was at home and my phone rings instantly.

“Where are you?” She quizzes.

“I’m at home” I answer with a fabricated sleepy voice, so she doesn’t try and interrogate me. Enzo suddenly jumps off the bed, making his way to nudge Ace’s leg. Ace drops to the floor and plays with Enzo as he barks in excitement. My heart fluttered seeing such a cute display, distracting me from what Nikki was saying.

“I’ll talk to you later Nikki. I’m still pretty tired.” I fake yawn and drop the call. I call Enzo over and hug him with both arms. I carefully slide down onto the floor and we stay in that position. It felt therapeutic embracing him.

“I know exactly what you need,” Ace says.

“Asprin?” I look up with Enzo blocking my full view of Ace.

“Nope,” He shakes his head. “Come,” He beckons and I shoot him a look.

“What do you need me to carry you as well? He jokes.

“You’re such an ass.” I comment as he helps me get up. His oversized jersey hangs down to my thighs and I catch a whiff of his scent.

“Let’s go, buddy,” He calls and we both follow him out the door. We stroll through his house which honestly felt more like a museum than anything. It was a marathon walking from one end to another. Enzo tags along, happily wagging his tail behind us.

“Are we alone right now?” I ask.

“Why? Did you have anything in mind?” He raises a brow.

“What? No! That’s not what I meant.” I huff.

“Chill, I’m kidding.” He defends. “My sister’s probably still asleep and I think my mom’s still at work.” He responds.

“You threw a party with your mom and sister home?” I ask.

“My sister sleeps like a log and my mom works really long hours.” He answers.

“Oh? What’s her job?” I inquire with evident curiosity.

“She’s the managing partner down at Stephenson Mirkwood.” He says proudly.

“Damn,” My eyes widen in awe. “Don’t managing partners usually have their name plastered on the firm?” I ask.

“My mom’s maiden name is Stephenson. She didn’t take my dad’s last name, unlike us.” He shrugs and my ears prick up at the first mention of his dad.

“Anyway, her work schedule is kinda complicated. I’m not really sure how to explain it.” He changes the topic and I nod, seeing what he was trying to do.

We finally reach the massive living area and it was like a hurricane ran through it.

“We don’t get housekeeping on the weekends.” He points out.

“You rely on housekeeping?”

“With a house as big as this, it’s pretty hard to do maintenance all by yourself you know.”

“Okay, flex.” I roll my eyes and he chuckles.

I make a move to start cleaning up but Ace stops me.

“Come, let’s eat first.”

He leads me into the kitchen and it was masterchef heaven.

“You sit right over there, and I’ll make you the best breakfast after a night out.” He proclaims, pointing at the counter chair.

“What are you making?” I ask.

“You’ll see,” He winks and I smile in anticipation.

He busts the fridge open and whips out a bunch of ingredients from the pantry.

“Are you making pancakes?” I ask, studying the ingredients he gathered.

“Um,”

“I wanna help,” I declare like a little girl and hop off the chair.

Instead of just helping, I gradually take over the kitchen until it was Ace sitting on the chair.

“I’m supposed to be making breakfast,” He crosses his arms, annoyed.

“Don’t worry, you can cook for me next time.” I slip out.

His expression shifts to amusement. “Oh? So, you’re hoping for a next time?” He challenges.

“Why? Do you not want there to be a next time?” I fire back, smirking.

He laughs and shakes his head, “You’re not like other girls,”

I stop everything I’m doing and face him, emotionless. “Use that line on me again and I swear I’m walking out.”

He motions a zipper across his lips and I smile in satisfaction. I continue whisking away, preparing breakfast.

Our households both used induction stove tops, so it was easy to maneuver my way around the kitchen.

“Hey,” Ace greets and I spin around, not hearing the tiny footsteps walk in.

“Who’s that? She’s pretty.” I hear her whisper to Ace and I smile to myself, flattered.

“I’m Jade,” I beam before he gets a chance to introduce me.

“I’m Scarlett,” She greets, waving excitedly.

I place down the mountain of pancakes on the counter.

“Care to join us for some choc-chip pancakes?” I offer, smiling widely.

“Can you please come over every day?” Scarlett begs and I laugh.

I get to know Scarlett a little more and she was like a miniature version of Ace; She had that same sense of confidence and charisma. However, her childlike sense of curiosity reminded me a lot of Jace.

“Why are you only wearing a shirt?” Scarlett asks, sitting back down after fetching herself a glass of water.

“Don’t worry, I’m wearing shorts under.” I blush, pouring syrup over my pancakes.

Ace compliments my cooking in between bites and I laugh in return. I turn sideways and he notices leftover flour resting on my cheek. He gently brushes it off for me and I thank him.

“Are you his girlfriend?” She asks innocently, observing the both of us.

Ace and I both react frantically and I almost choke on my pancake.

“Uh no, I-I’m just a friend.” I falter.

“Oh, I hoped you were.” She says sadly. “His last girlfriend didn’t make us breakfast.” She continues.

“Okay, that’s enough chatterbox. Let’s not dish on my life story.” He gains composure.

Scarlett shrugs, completely clueless about the ripple effect of her revelation. Looking at her made me miss the age of being young and naive.

We finish eating and Ace pulls me out into the living room. I ask him to grab us a trash bag each to ease the cleaning process. We disperse into different sides of the room for the sake of efficiency.

“This house is a mess,” I exclaim, crouching down to pick up the empty cups from under the large sofa. I spot another one further back and I accidentally reach too far out, stretching out my bruised shoulder.

“Ouch,” I hiss and quickly retract my arm back and gently pat down the area.

“Are you okay?” Ace spins around and looks at me worriedly.

“I’m fine,” I lie and sit on the sofa. I tug on my shirt and inspect the bruises.

“Do you need anything? Medicine? Ice?” He asks, walking over to me.

“No, really it’s okay.” I assure him.

“I just don’t understand how he could physically hurt a girl, especially you.” He clenches his jaw.

“You and me both,” I plaster a weak smile.

“Why was he so mad at you?”

“I don’t really know. I guess he was just mad I didn’t hear him out?” I theorize. “But it wasn’t like I was obligated to, you know? I mean the guy cheated on me, that’s more than enough reason to cut him off from my life.” I sigh.

“I’m sorry, Jade.” He says out of sympathy.

I shake my head, “Don’t be. If it weren’t for you, this probably would’ve been so much worse.” I point at my shoulder.

“Do you at least know who with?” He asks.

“Who he cheated on me with? No, I don’t.” I answer and he contorts a puzzled face. “It was Camille who saw him that night and she couldn’t tell who the girl was.” I explain.

Ace doesn’t know what to say and I smile, understandingly.

“It’s in the past now, let’s not dwell in it.” I squeeze his wrists and I pick myself up. We continue cleaning and the room was spotless in no time. I dust off my shirt and let my hair down. I bend over to gather all my hair and throw it into a bun. I can feel Ace’s gaze linger and I roll my eyes playfully.

“Enjoying the show?” I tease and he snaps back into reality.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” He throws the nearest pillow he could find, aiming directly at my face with force.

“Ace, no!” I slip, almost falling to the ground and I shriek in laughter. He mirrors my laugh as I try to do the same with the pillow he threw. Difference was I don’t play football well enough to throw with the same precision and force. The pillow merely bounces off his chest and falls flat on the floor.

“What the hell was that?” Ace laughs, mocking my failed attempt.

I huff and grab another pillow, this time running towards him and swatting him in the head. He throws his head back and stumbles a little before gaining composure. With a headstart, I run away trying my best to contain my giggles.

“You so did not want to do that. Come here,” Ace threatens, smiling widely with a plan brewing in his head.

He manages to catch up to me and engulfs me into a bear hug. He gets his revenge by tickling my sides and I tear up in laughter.

“I can’t b-breathe,” I announce, flapping my hands around to get his attention.

“Celine?” A cold voice asks. Ace lets go of me and we turn around slowly.

A tall, blonde woman stood before us. Her perfect posture and poise spoke volumes of her character. With her sleek white pantsuit and cream handbag hanging from her arm; She stood upright, examining my face and pantsless figure. I’ve never felt this intimidated in my life.

“Who’s this?” She turns to Ace, dismissing me completely.

“This is um, this is Jade.” He clears his throat.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Stephenson,” I smile, extending my hand out. She looks down at my outstretched palm and flashes an insincere smile. I slowly retract my hand and I just wanted to disappear.

“Another party?” She asks, peering at the living room behind us, trash bags thrown over to the side. “I do hope nothing is broken this time.”

“No, mom. I made sure of that.” Ace answers.

“Good, well I’m off to get my beauty sleep.” She sighs, putting her palms together. “Oh, and do get her some clothes.” She looks at me from head to toe before strutting off the other direction.

“Wow,” Was all I could say.

“I’m sorry, she’s probably just tired.” Ace comforts me. I nod slowly, not looking up at him. “So, what do you want to do this afternoon? Maybe a movie?” He asks, trying to lighten the mood.

I wanted to stay with him but I just couldn’t shake off the feeling of degradation. She was so disappointed that I wasn’t who she thought I was. Plus, James would probably start to question things if I didn’t make an appearance anytime soon.

“Actually, could you drive me home?” I say quietly and his face falls.

“Is it because of my mom? Jade I-”

“No no, I’m just tired.” I say with a weak smile. “I’d drive myself, but I don’t have my car. If not that’s totally fine, I can just like grab a taxi or something.” I stutter.

“Of course I’ll drive you.” He replies. “Let me just grab my keys,”

“Let me just grab some pants,”

I return to his room and I take my clutch bag. My phone was dead and I lost my portable. I check to see if anything else was missing and miraculously, my wallet was still inside. With my dress still in the washing, Ace borrows me his smallest pair of sweats and it was overall, not my favourite look. It was the ultimate walk of shame; oversized shirt, loose sweats and messy hair.

“Don’t look at me, I’m hideous.” I dramatize.

Before we head out the door, I hug Enzo one last time and vow to give him treats the next time I see him.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” I start. “And for defending me last night, I really don’t know what I would’ve done if it weren’t for you.” I thank him sincerely.

“Well, I had no choice. You kinda passed out on me and I’d look like a dick if I didn’t take care of you.” He jokes and I slap his forearm.

“Kidding, I’ll always defend you,” He mumbles the last bit, making me all jittery again.

“Stop, doing that. It doesn’t work on me.” I mutter.

“Doing what?” He asks, contorting a confused face.

“Nothing,” I say under my breath and look out the window. I huff and discard all the emotions brewing in my stomach.

“Where do I go now?”

“Make a left,”

“Where do you live again?”

“24 Sycamore Drive,”

He starts whistling out a tune and I look up. He has his eyes focused on the road, while mine were focused on him. My stomach jumps and I tell myself I was just hazy from last night. He catches a glimpse of me and I shake my head.

“What?” He asks worriedly.

“Wait. Don’t move.” I warn cautiously. “What’s that?” I question.

“What’s what? Is there something on me?” He breathes.

“Look over to me for a sec,” I say and he moves his face sideways, eyes still on the road. “Wait, never mind. It’s just your face.” I snort.

“Wow, you’re such a comedian. Good one!” He says with painful sarcasm. I roll my eyes at him.

“Does your head ever hurt from rolling your eyes too much? Aren’t you scared one day they just won’t roll back down?” He jokes.

“Well if they don’t roll back down, at least I won’t have to see your face again,” I shrug.

“You insult like an 8 year old,” He snorts.

“Wow, okay. Sue me for being too kind.” I throw my hands up in the air.

“Kind? No no. I said you were bad at insulting people. You’re not a kind person at all.” He states.

My heart sinks and I start thinking about everything I’ve ever done. I look back to see if he was kidding, but his eyes were on the road. I lean back and start fidgeting.

He sees my reaction and snickers, “That’s how you insult people.”

My eyes shoot daggers at him, “That wasn’t an insult. That was just you being plain mean.” I frown. I scooch over further away from him and I rest my cheek on the window.

“Jade? You can’t actually be upset. I’m just kidding.” He laughs but I ignore him, giving him the silent treatment.

“Jade?” He starts getting worried. His expression makes me want to face him, but I stand my ground.

We finally reach the driveway of my house and I slam the car door. I don’t even turn back at Ace.

“Jade, wait.” He grabs me by the wrist and I flick him off.

“Waaiitt,” This time he hugs me from behind, stopping me from moving forward.

“Ace, let go.” I say blankly.

“I’m sorry, it was just a joke.” He apologizes.

Ace always has such a suave and smug facade, its almost surreal seeing him act like this. His face gets me to drop the act and I pat his arms.

“I’m just messing with you. I’m not mad,”

“I hate you,” He smiles and hugs me tightly. Shocked by the sudden affection, I tiptoe to hug him back. He realizes what he’s done and breaks away.

“Sorry, I just thought I actually upset you.” He confesses sheepishly.

“Am I interrupting something?” James bellows from behind.

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