Chapter 26: Saying Hello
My inner alarm clock woke me up at five thirty, and even though I knew I should get up soon to get this nightmare of a day over with, I couldn’t help but turn around slowly, trying hard not to wake Phoenix up.
He was still sleeping, though his features seemed troubled as he took slow and steady breaths. Something was bothering him, and I didn’t know if it was just that damn article that was released last night.
Truth be told, I couldn’t care less about what they said about me or who knew about us both. It was my father that worried me — in the end I carried his name, carried part of his legacy, right alongside my brother. My brother, who always stuck to the rules, who was the poster child of a Formula 1 (or soon to be) driver and didn’t get in any trouble.
I always knew that I wasn’t the calmest of persons, and I also knew that my character spoke for itself most of the time. Silence was never my forte, and I didn’t want it to be, either. I loved who I was with every fiber of my being, and nothing would ever convince me otherwise. Not even that stupid article.
But after last night, I knew I had to own up to mistakes.
Phoenix and I needed to talk, I knew that. And I’d face the storm with his name on it when I got my affairs in order, but for now there were more important things I had to address.
Grabbing a pen and pencil from the desk, I wrote him a quick note.
I need to take care of the mess I made — don’t know yet when I’ll be back. I’ll text you.
P.S.: You snore, too. It’s cute, though. ;)
That last part was true, but I mostly wrote it so I could imagine him doing that weird blush-thing he does when I compliment him. It’s adorable, and if it helped him have a day that was a little better than mine, then writing those words surely couldn’t hurt.
After placing his shirt and boxers on the desk and getting into my clothes, I couldn’t help but just stare at him once more. I wondered what the future held for us, what we’d make of all the chaos we started. The only thing I knew was that I wanted him to be a part of that, no matter how difficult things may have looked at the moment.
I pressed a gentle kiss on his temple, stealing yet another glance before I slipped through the door.
My phone vibrated the second I got to my room, and I looked at the screen to find a message from my dad waiting for me.
A smile spread on my lips at the reminder that Dad and I were the early birds of the family, though I couldn’t help the twinge of guilt lingering in my heart.
I’ll be down in 5.
Quickly changing into some jeans and a hoodie, I rushed down the stairs. Every bone in my body felt electrified, the sudden need to go for a run now invading my senses. Running has always been my favorite stress relief, and it’d been a while since I’d gotten some exercise in with everything going on. Work had occupied my mind, and if that wasn’t enough, Phoenix asked for the rest of my attention.
Literally asked, for the record. That was something I loved about him; He took what he wanted, but he was so respectful doing it, always gauging my reactions. It’s not like he was treating me like a porcelain doll, just like someone equal to him, which was all I asked for.
“Florence?” My dad’s voice made me flinch. He rarely called me by that name.
“Hi, Dad…” I saw him sitting in the hotel lounge, an unreadable expression on his face.
As I’d once said: I never cried. I didn’t like it. But right now, seeing the disappointment in my father’s eyes, I was close to breaking the dam.
He must’ve noticed, because before I had a chance to explain anything, he jumped up from the sofa and threw his arms around me. I swallowed the lump in my throat and hugged him back, letting myself feel his fatherly embrace.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“Oh, Sunflower…” he hushed, rubbing my back. “It’s okay, I promise.” Releasing the hug, he let his hands linger on my shoulders as he gaped at me. The concern in his eyes seeped straight into my heart, and now I didn’t just feel guilty for moving the spotlight, but also for making him worry about me. “Are you okay? I swear, if I find out who did that, they’ll—”
“Dad, stop.” I shot him the brightest smile I could muster up. “I’m okay. Really. I’m just sorry for dragging your name through the mud like that…”
He waved his hand around, shaking his head at me. “Oh, shush. You know I don’t give a damn about what anyone says about me. I just want you to be okay.”
I nodded in response, hoping he could read me enough to know that I really was doing as well as I could under the circumstances. It wasn’t me I was worried about right now. “I’m good, Dad. Really.”
His eyes narrowed as he studied me for another long moment, the frown on his lips slowly twitching up. “Well, in that case… You and McCoy, huh?”
“Dad!” I laughed, slapping his arm. “I will not talk to you about this.”
“Why not? I can give you some brilliant advice!” He threw his arm around my shoulders and steered us out of the lobby, a bright grin on his face.
“Please, I really don’t want it.”
“Well, considering we don’t have a race next weekend, I have enough time to convince you otherwise.”
A laugh fled my lips from the crooked wink he shot my way, and I ended up shaking my head. “Dad, please, don’t…”
But the grin on his lips remained. “Oh, just you wait, Sunflower.”
I’d spent the entire day and night with my dad. It’d been a while since the two of us spent so much time together, and I couldn’t deny that I missed it, too.
His engineers brought us a game console he’d been asking for, and so we’d enjoyed our evening with Super Mario Kart and a truckload of popcorn.
He’d beaten me, of course. I hadn’t even let him — he really was just that good at the damn game. Guess the racing instincts even transferred onto the screen.
When I woke up the next morning, right on time at five thirty, of course, I realized we’d both fallen asleep on the pillow fort we’d built. My face hurt, and as I glanced up, I realized I slept on one of the controllers, leaving painful markings on my cheek.
I hissed when I rubbed the skin, looking back at Dad, who had his mouth wide open but a hand on my arm. I couldn’t remember the last time I cuddled with my dad, but smiled at the unexpected turn of events.
Spotting my phone next to my head, I reached out and unlocked the screen, furrowing my brows and the dozens of texts I’d received. Dad had never liked smartphones, and whenever we’d gotten the chance to spend time with him, it was clear we wouldn’t use them that much. It was a sign of respect in my eyes.
Amara’s name was the first I clicked on.
Earth to Flooooo!
Hello? Are you really ignoring your best friend?
You do know I have a ton of secrets I can tell everyone, right?
Like the one time where you drove your dad’s car into a wall and then fixed it so he wouldn’t notice. I bet he wouldn’t be too impressed if he found out…
I almost snorted at her threat. Dad, of course, already knew about that, but Amara loved having the impression she knew things others didn’t. The fact that I couldn’t keep a secret for the life of me and on top of that was a terrible liar didn’t really factor into that, apparently.
Not that I minded. If it made her feel better, then why the hell not?
You can stop now. I’m here. I sent the reply with a smirk.
Oh, the princess has arisen!
Oh, too soon? She probably read my mind. Sorry. Or not. I mean, he is really hot.
Did you need anything?
Ah, yes! I need my best friend, of course. My brows furrowed at her message. I knew I hadn’t kept up with her as much as I wanted to, but she understood this job was temporary and so damn important to me that we’d have to make time when the opportunity arose.
Everything’s fine. Just give me some of your attention tomorrow, okay?
I smiled. Deal. I’ll call you.
Perfect. Love you.
Love ya too, Ames.
My finger moved so I could click on Phoenix’s name, and just as I did that, another message from Amara appeared at the top. Guess #Flonix is official now, heh!
I snorted, despite my efforts to be mad at her for making fun of this whole ordeal. She really knew how to lighten the mood.
My eyes skimmed over Phoenix’s messages, a whole bunch of them now waiting for me.
I don’t snore. Another stifled laugh fled my lips. And you could’ve woken me, you know.
I would’ve wanted to see you before you left. You robbed me of a goodbye kiss.
My cheeks burned and I grinned to myself, scrolling further down. This one was from last night.
Can I come see you?
Nevermind. I’ll just come over.
Nevermind again. You’re not there.
He stopped for a while, and the next message was from 2am this night.
I’m really sorry, Flo.
I frowned at his message, getting ready to type a reply.
It only took a second for the dots to appear, and a minute later, his response flashed on my screen.
I have to. Can we talk? I really need to see you.
Again, my cheeks burned. Goddamnit…
Why are you awake? I’m still with my dad. We need to catch a flight in a couple of hours.
That reminded me, I really needed to get my packing done.
Shit. His reply came instantly. I went for a walk and am now in the middle of nowhere. Some Germans offered me a beer. They drink beer on the streets. It’s weird.
I was just about to ask why he was going for a walk so early in the morning, but his next message appeared on my screen.
Where are you going? When will you be back?
A sigh fled my lips, realization that I probably wouldn’t see him for a while settling in my bones.
I’m going home. Dad wants to surprise Mom. Raf is coming too, which is why I’m joining them. I have some explaining and apologizing to do… I’ll be back in a week.
The dots appeared, stopped, reappeared, and stopped. It took about five minutes until the next message chimed.
That’s too long.
Ugh. My heart.
I know. I have to take care of this, though.
I know. His reply felt like a sigh.
I’ll call you when I’m there, okay?
Alright. Let me know if you need anything.
I will, Blueberry. xx
I hate you.
A grin spread on my lips. No, you don’t.
No, I don’t, Nyx. I really don’t.
Time with my family went by in a blur. Raf wasn’t too enthralled by my involvement with Phoenix, since, as he said, he had a violent reputation. Knowing where that came from, his opinion didn’t bother me that much. Even Mom seemed lighthearted about the whole thing.
It’d weirded me out. I rarely blew things out of proportion, but apparently this article’s impact wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. Yes, they painted me as the dumb girl shooting her chance in a male dominated business, but everyone who knew me knew it wasn’t true.
Everyone knew who I was, what I stood for, and what I could do.
And so, before I knew it, it was Wednesday morning, and Raf, Dad, and I stepped out of the plane and onto Dutch ground.
Saying goodbye to Mom wasn’t as hard as before, considering this was my last race, anyway. I’d had to do some of my ‘homework’ during my time at my parents, meaning I’d studied different engine components and alignments. And even though the race-free weekends were meant to be a break from everything, I couldn’t deny that I’d missed it. So fucking much.
The thrill of the paddock was something I’d never tire of, and the more time I spent there, the more I knew my decision had been made. This was my career, my passion.
This was my life.
Truth be told, I’d expected to get fired over the course of the past week, but Salim either hadn’t had the balls to do so, or Michael vetoed.
Either way, I couldn’t help the heartache at the prospect of this weekend being my last. I would’ve loved to stay. Would’ve loved to see so much more of everything.
I knew my time would come, though. There’d be a time where I’d stand in the middle of that garage, working with, hell maybe even leading a team.
Just not yet. It’d be a long way.
“Alright, I’ll go get settled and see you guys for lunch Friday?” Raf called out as he grabbed his suitcase and stepped out of the cab. As a Formula 3 driver, he spent his nights in a different hotel than us. Dad suggested paying it for him, but Rafael wouldn’t be Rafael if he accepted any of Dad’s help. It’s just how we were raised.
“See you Friday, Rafi.”
“See you, son!”
We made our way to the hotel, where I instantly ran up to my room the second Dad said goodbye. Jin would pick me up for our meeting in an hour, and I felt the urge to wash the twelve-hour flight off of me before I got back to business.
My family and I agreed I needed to salvage my career in the sense that I had to make a name for myself for the time being, meaning this weekend, I’d have to show off everything I learned until now. This was my time to shine.
I’d just jumped out of my shower, a towel wrapped around my waist, when a knock on the door made me look up. My cold and wet hair brushed over my bare shoulder, making me shudder as I opened the door, not even thinking twice.
I really should’ve looked before I got to the damn door.
Phoenix stood there, wide eyes taking in my appearance head to toe. His gaze darkened when it landed on my own, and just like him, I was speechless.
“Are you stalking me?” My mouth revealed the first question that came to mind. I really wondered how he got my room number.
But he didn’t respond - he just stepped into the room and kicked the door shut, never leaving my gaze.
“You didn’t tell me you were back,” he avoided my question. My feet moved backward as he approached me, and only when my calves brushed against the bed behind me did I stop in my tracks.
“Didn’t think I had to let you know…” There was no use in telling him I was literally just about to text him, right?
His eyebrows rose and he stared at me for a long moment, gauging my reaction. He opened his mouth but instantly closed it again, and instead minimized the distance between us, letting one hand wander up my back. My skin tingled when his fingers brushed over the bare skin between my shoulder blades, and I caught myself inhaling a sharp breath when he pushed our bodies together, letting us collide with a quiet thud.
“You don’t,” he growled, hooking up and digging his fingers into my skin. “But there is something I really need you to do.”
“What is it?” I asked, though the breathlessness of my voice revealed I already knew exactly what was going through his mind.
His hand went through my wet hair until he had a tight grip on it, sending a few cold droplets on my shoulders. My soul burned from the fire in his eyes, from the passion that so unabashedly ran through his veins. “Kiss me,” he demanded, not a shred of chagrin in his voice.
“What, without a proper hello?” I bit my lip to stifle the smirk that threatened to break out.
Surprisingly, Phoenix shook his head with a chuckle. “Insufferable…” He leaned down and pressed a kiss on my cheek, letting his lips linger on my skin when he whispered, “Hello.”
And when he leaned back to meet my gaze again, I really couldn’t help it anymore. I moved my arms from his hips and circled them around his neck, playing with the hair on the back of his head. “Hi.”
He didn’t even hesitate. The second the word left my lips, he had his own brushed against them, eradicating the space between us. I wanted to whimper from the sensation that coursed through my body when he attacked my senses like that, his large hands keeping me locked in place. There was an urgency to his kiss that knocked the air out of my lungs, not that I minded. I bathed in the feeling, in the way his hand roamed up my back, giving me all sorts of shivers I didn’t even know exist.
“Fuck. I missed you,” he muttered into the kiss, pushing me onto the bed.
I fell over backward, glad as hell that my towel still covered what it was supposed to, and stared back up at him. He climbed on top of me with his hands next to my head, hunting me like the predator he was, before his lips collided with mine again.
“Ditto…” I breathed, enjoying his taste on my tongue.
Time stood still when he kissed me like that; rough, deep, and so damn possessive that my feministic instincts threatened to surface. I enjoyed myself far too much with him, but I wasn’t ready to stop feeling him yet. Instead, my fingers found their way beneath his shirt, eliciting a groan from his lips when they dug into his skin.
“Flo…” he warned, but I shut him up with another kiss, pulling him even closer. It didn’t seem like he minded — he just revenged himself by tightening his grip on my hair, so much that it almost stung a little, but that just multiplied my senses by a million.
So much so, that when the sound of knocks on my door echoed through the room, I gasped out loud. Phoenix pulled himself up, still towering over me when he asked in a whisper, “Who is it?”
“Jin.” I sighed. Was it time already?
“Well, answer him.” He raised a brow at me, smirking but still holding that fire in his eyes.
“I will, smartass…” I rolled my eyes before calling out, “Jin?”
“Oh, you’re there! Good.” Jin’s voice traveled through the door. “We need to leave in ten minutes, Flo. You coming?”
“Fuck…” A sigh fled my lips before I looked at the door again. “Yeah, I just got out of the shower. I’ll be in the lobby in five!”
“Alright, see you downstairs then! Don’t make me come get you!”
Phoenix furrowed his brows at me, a frown on his lips. I waited until Jin’s footsteps retreated before I let out a breath and closed my eyes, running my hands over my face. “I need to get dressed.”
As I tried to wiggle out of his grasp, Phoenix just held his position like he was set in stone, fiery gaze still set on mine. “I need to tell you something.”
I blinked a few times. “Okay, but I need to get up. Can you tell me while I’m getting ready?”
After staring at me for another long moment, he must’ve noticed my urgency, because I was finally relieved of his grasp. I pressed a quick kiss on his cheek before I stumbled over to my suitcase, grabbing the first things I could find. “So, what is it?” My question echoed through the suite as I entered the bathroom.
I just got my underwear on and jumped into my jeans when his response resonated through the door, almost letting me fall over. “I’ll be driving this weekend.”
My eyes widened, and without hesitation, I threw the door open. “What?!”
Phoenix’s stare mimicked my own, but then his gaze lowered for a moment before it met my eyes again. “Florence…” The darkness of his voice surprised me, but only until I realized I was standing in the doorway in my bra and unbuttoned jeans.
“Oh. Oops. Wait.” I grabbed the top from the sink and threw it on, zipping up the rest of my outfit before I stepped back out. It didn’t even bother me that he’d seen me like that. In the end, I wasn’t ashamed of my body, but I knew it made him uncomfortable.
Or something like that.
“So, what? You’re driving?” Excitement rippled through me. This was huge. A weekend like that usually meant he’d have more chances at the seat next year.
I waltzed over to the bed, a large grin on my face as I sat down next to him.
“Um… Yeah.” He seemed wary of my reaction, his eyes scanning my face.
“Phoenix!” My arms wrapped around his neck as I pulled him into a tight embrace. “That’s amazing! Congratulations!”
To my surprise, he held my hug for a moment longer than expected, his head buried in my neck. “Thanks. I uh…” He cleared his throat and leaned back to look at me again. “I also got Lucien’s spot for next season.”
My mouth hung wide open, and all I could do was gape at him for a long while. Probably too long. “You got the seat?”
Tears stung in my eyes for some reason. My father left the sport, and Phoenix would get his first chance at it. Dad did say it was time for a change, I just hadn’t thought it’d come this quickly and would hit this close to home.
“I did.” Finally, his own face broke into a bright smile.
“Phoenix, that’s just…” I swallowed the lump in my throat. Why the fuck did this all of things make me emotional? “That’s astounding. I’m so, so proud of you.”
Something glimmered in his eyes, an emotion I couldn’t quite read, but that scared the shit out of me. It wasn’t just happiness lingering there. It was something much, much, bigger; something that told me I had to protect myself.
Protect my peace.
The knock on the door interrupted him. “Flo! You have two minutes!”
I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. My five minutes had turned into eight.
“Phoenix, we’ll talk about this tonight, okay? Do you want to go get dinner or something?”
“Um, I’m actually supposed to see Michael tonight.”
“Ah. Got it. Wow. There must be a lot to discuss with him, especially after our—” I gasped. “Did the article ruin anything?”
The look on his face was unreadable, yet again, though I could tell something about this didn’t sit right with him. “No, no… God, no. I swear, Flo. Everything’s good.”
A sigh of relief fled my lips before I pressed them against his own, short but rough. “Good. I’m glad. I really need to get going now, though. Can you text me when you’re free? We need to celebrate.” I kissed him once more and got up, grabbing my purse and jacket before glancing back at him. “I’m so proud of you, Phoenix. Really. This is so fucking huge.”
I couldn’t help the grin on my lips as I reached for the door, but as I turned around once more, it became clear to me that there was so much more to talk about than I thought. This would change things.
His Formula 1 seat would change a whole fuck-ton between the two of us.
Little did I know just how much…
So, I know this must’ve felt like some sort of a filler chapter, but it was necessary, trust me. Something within me makes me not want to write the next few chapters, though... Ugh. :D
I’ll keep going of course, with the time I have.
My teaching rotation starts on Monday, just so you’re aware why updates might be slower again, soon. I’m trying to bring writing into my daily routine, though, so bear with me!
Lots of love,
P.S.: We’re about halfway through the story and will soon reach the time jump, which is when you will see more of Jas and Kill (maybe even of Mila and Hayden ;))! Hope you’re excited. I know I am, lol