Marriage by Law

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44

The longer I stared at the mirror, the funnier it got.

I was on the bed staring at his reflection. His eyebrows were furrowed as he focused on the task at hand. Watching him try to tie a tie was just plain entertainment. It was better than netflix.

I played with the hem of my black dress, leaning against the headboard and waiting for his poshness to finish. And here I thought I was going to be late. It took me an hour to find a nice black dress to wear and in the end I settled for a simple yet elegant long black dress with a high neck that had big rhinestones as a design.

“You know if you need help, you can ask,” I told him after he undid his tie and started again. Was this the third or fourth time? I was waiting for him to ask me for help, but he didn’t. He looked up, his eyes meeting mine in the mirror and sighed. “Maybe I shouldn’t wear a tie.”

I raised an eyebrow and reminded him, “It’s a black tie event.”

He pulled the tie and turned around to face me. I had to admit, I preferred him without the tie, with the button undone. It looked better but a black tie event meant he had to wear a black tie, or a bow tie, or a tie at least.

I shook my head and stood up. If he wasn’t going to ask, I’ll do it anyway. “Alright, come here.”

I grabbed the black tie, trying to straighten it out. With the attempts he made, it was more crinkled than a twisties chip. I placed the tie around my neck, doing the knot. “You know, it’s really easy. I can teach you.”

I showed him the first step. “First you make a knot like this, and then you place the big end through.”

“I don’t need to be taught.” Darius placed his hands on my waist, pulling me against him. “You can do my ties every time.”

“What about during your business trips?” I tried to loop it around but my hands were stuck between myself and his chest. I don’t plan to go to all his business trips. He has to learn how to do a tie. How did he get them done before?

“Jesse can do it then,” he answered, as though he read my mind.

“Jesse does your ties?” I asked incredulously, leaning back so I could finish the knot.

Darius shrugged and said, “Or Maragret.”

I rolled my eyes, trying not to laugh. I could just imagine a frustrated Darius yelling at Jesse to do his tie and then shoving it at him after he finished the meeting. Typical.

I narrowed my eyes at the tie and sighed, looking up. “You’re distracting me.”

“I’m not doing anything.” He looked innocent enough, but his green eyes twinkled with amusement as I finished the tie and took it off my neck. He didn’t have to do anything. Just staring at me intently like he was now was enough for every thought to disappear from my brain.

I placed the tie around his neck, pulling it tighter to make it sit perfectly between the collars.

“Are you trying to kill me, Mrs. Quartz?” he teased, removing one hand from my waist and loosening his tie.

“No, don’t do that.” I slapped his hand away. “It’s got to be tight.” This wasn’t school to have unbuttoned shirts and a loose tie. It would be a formal event, and to think Darius should know about this.

He rolled his eyes at me, which was a comical sight to behold. Who knows the great billionaire can roll eyes like this?

“Okay, done. Let’s go or we’re going to be late and I don’t think Daniel will be happy!”

I was surprised we were even invited. I didn’t even know how they contacted us but when Darius told me this evening that Daniel had invited us to his twenty-first birthday, we could go if I wanted. And of course I wanted to go.

We had met them all when we played volleyball at the beach. I was surprised they even remembered us. It was touching.

“Do you have the present?”

“In the car.” Then he raised his finger and wiped it across my lips.

I pulled back, looking at him with wide eyes. “What are you doing!” I exclaimed, seeing the red lipstick on his finger. He took out his handkerchief and wiped it off.

“Don’t wear lipstick.”

My mouth dropped as I stared at him. I was sure this colour looked nice. Rose picked it out, saying it made me look good. “Why?”

Darius smiled and leaned down my ear to say, “Because then I can’t kiss you. In case it smudges.”

* * * * *

“You guys made it!”

Daniel greeted us as soon as we walked into the large venue. It was a rented hall in Docklands, a part of the city with a spectacular view of the waterfront. You can see the ships and boats by the harbour and the place was decorated with black, white and gold balloons.

“Happy birthday!” I yelled, throwing my arms around him. Did he get taller?

He laughed, his grey eyes twinkling as I hugged him and he picked me up before putting me down. “Great to see you both again,” he said, ruffling my hair like last time and I slapped his hand away. It was ironic how much we hated each other, or didn’t get along when I first met him, but somehow seeing him after all this time made me miss them all.

I patted my hair back into place as he gave Darius a ‘man hug’ and I tried not to laugh at Darius’s face.

Henry, Jeffrey and Kyle rushed toward us, screaming like girls when they saw us which made me raise an eyebrow.

“We should have brought Adrian,” Darius whispered in my ear and I laughed my agreement. Adrian would have fit in perfectly with these boys.

The party was great as we talked to the guys who stayed by our side most of the time, making us feel welcome since we didn’t know anyone else.

“You ok?” I asked Darius as they rushed away to bring the birthday cake, which was a surprise. Darius nodded, wrapping his arms around me from behind and resting his chin on my shoulder. He had been standing behind me the whole time, barely talking and just looking around.

He looked tired but he didn’t say it. He had left at a rush as soon as we had finished playing monopoly, which went past midnight, as he got a business call and then came back at lunch time. Did he even sleep?

I told him, “It’s okay. We can go after the cake.”

Darius chuckled behind me and I could feel the vibrations on my back. “What?”

“Trust you to want to eat the cake.”

I felt my face go red and warm. “Kyle said the cake is delicious.”

Who goes to a birthday party and leaves without eating the cake? I pulled Darius close to the crowd as the birthday cake came out and I was impressed. It tasted even better as slices were given out in throwaway cups and I sighed with pleasure. It was a raspberry and white chocolate cake and it was amazing.

“What?” I asked as Darius stared at me and he shook his head.

“Do you want my slice?”

Do I?

He laughed when he saw my face and gave me his cup, taking mine as I finished and I smiled. “Thank you,” I said, kissing his cheek.

I sighed, leaning against my seat as I melted. This cake was delicious. I had to ask them where they got it from. Darius beamed as he also leaned back in his chair and took out his phone from his pocket.

“Rewy?” The word ‘really’ getting jumbled as my mouth was full of cake. Maybe not the best table manner.

“Just a quick email,” he said, his fingers tapping away. I shook my head. Well, I can’t blame him. He must be bored in a party without knoanyone he knows.

I looked around to see other people either talking or dancing on the dance floor. Placing my half finished cake on the table, I stood up. “Come on, let’s dance.” Maybe that would make him less bored.

I dragged him to the dance floor as he reluctantly put away him phone and smiled, pulling me into his arms. “You want to dance to this music?”

I shrugged. Maybe it wasn’t the most perfect music to dance to, but it was still possible. After a few more songs, the music finally slowed down and matched our pace. It was quiet and relaxing. I looked around the room, seeing all the balloons with the number 21 on them. That made me think.

“How old are you?” I asked Darius.

This got his attention. He looked at me with a questioning look on his face and I felt my cheeks go warm again. What, am I not allowed to ask?

“You don’t know how old I am?”

I shrugged, looking out the window at the lights of the harbour. “My father may have told me.”

“May?”

I blushed even more. “They gave me your picture and details,” I said as I met his eyes.

“And?”

“I might have burnt them?”

Darius looked amused and I could see the corner of his lips twitch. “You burned a photo of me?”

I bit my lip, looking over his shoulder instead. “Well, it wasn’t exactly how it sounds. I was just angry at my mother and I might have dropped it and it ended up in the fireplace?”

“Of course.”

I rolled my eyes as he laughed. It wasn’t my fault. I was really angry that time and when I am really angry, I don’t think I am overacting. It was only afterwards when I thought about it that there was always a better way to approach it.

After a few more songs, we decided it was time to leave. Darius has work in the morning and I will be job hunting with Adrian. There was always the option of working for my father or even Darius but after the disaster with spreadsheets with father, I don’t think I’ll ever go near business stuff.

“I’ll see you soon,” said Daniel as we gave him a goodbye hug.

“Yes. Come visit!” I told them. That would be great. They can meet Adrian, and I knew they would get along perfectly.

“Good luck,” he told Darius and I looked at them. Good luck for what?

“What did he mean?” I asked as we walked out of the venue toward the car.

“Business stuff,” Darius replied, rubbing the back of his neck and saying nothing more. I raised an eyebrow in question. What business stuff? Was this some other deal?

I climbed in after him as the driver took us back home. The moon was bright tonight and it made the city look stunning. The car ride was fairly quiet and I looked at Darius from the corner of my eyes a few times. I felt like something was wrong.

He was quiet. He always was quiet but he seemed to be deep in thought about something that made me anxious. It felt like it was bothering him.

Maybe later.

“Twenty-four,” he said as the car came to a stop.

“What?”

He got out and held the door open as I stepped out. The lights were on in the house, which got me thinking. I was sure they were off when we left.

“I’m twenty-four, twenty five in another month,” Darius was saying while closing the door and turning around. I smiled. That made him four years older than I was. Somehow I liked that age gap. I nodded and turned around to hurry out of the cold when he grabbed my arm, pulling me back.

“Do you regret it?”

I stared up at him. “Regret what?” The moon was behind him and I couldn’t see his face very well but his eyes looked grim as he looked at me.

It took me a moment to realise his fingers were stroking my finger, where my ring should have been if Adrian hadn’t stolen it, or if I hadn’t dropped it down the sink.

“Marrying me.”

His eyes were staring deep into mine, like he was making sure I wasn’t lying. I tried not to double over laughing. Is he really asking me this?

I wrapped my arms around his neck. “Well, to be honest,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood, but then realised this was Darius.

“No,” I said in a more serious voice. Even if I was in heels, I still had to go on my tippy toes so I could meet his eye level. “I don’t,” I continued, letting my lips meet his and whispered, “...because I love you.”

He stiffened.

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