Surprise Me Maybe

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Pit of Skepticism

“How could I not connect the dots that the V-gal was you. You’re a single mom, and just joined the company!” Gina exclaims in disbelief. “You even told us that Chloe met her father recently. Oh dang! I feel so dumb.”

After visiting my biggest client that I have to hand over to Gina, we decided to stop by Suits ’n Beans, the coffee shop across the street. This is my last week at Knight & Co and I need to inform the rest of my team about my transfer. We can’t talk about my situation with Ashton if we sit in the crowd at the office canteen. Too many ‘extended’ ears there. Too risky.

“Don’t be. I was probably standing in your blank spot. Just like in most mystery movies, the person they’re looking for is the one they suspected the least, and often, the person is in their own inner circle,” I reply. “But seriously, you’re not mad, right? I mean, I pretended that I didn’t know who she was while you guys were busy investigating the vagina girl.”

“No, god no. I’m not mad at all. Just baffled about how dumb I was. And cringe so hard because of all the speculation we made about you. Well, we didn’t know it was you.” Gina laughs sheepishly. “And damn, how are you going to live the days after the magazine is out? It’s later this week, right?”

“Yeah,” I whimper. “And I really don’t know, Gina. Maybe I’ll just hide behind my desk with earphones on, eat at my table, avoid social encounters in the pantry, and go home after everyone leaves the building.”

“You can always go with us for lunch if your new team gives you a hard time.”

“Thanks, girl. I will see what happens first. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the rest of the hours of being Charlotte Garnett without being associated with the CEO.” I bring my latte cup to my lips and take a sip from it.

“Honestly, though, I would’ve done exactly the same if I were you. Hell, maybe I would refuse the public announcement part.”

Gina’s phone on the table chimes and Shanti’s name pops up. She opens the message and reads it briefly. “It’s the list of drinks and meals everyone wants to have. Going to order it now, or I will be stuck in a shitty long line. Be right back.”

It’s almost lunchtime. People will start flooding in the coffee shop, and soon this place will be packed. Good thing that Gina and I came early to secure the best spot on its terrace for our team. I want them to hear about Chloe from me before the company magazine releases the official announcement on Friday.

Next week, I will be officially a member of the International Marketing team and to be honest, I don’t know what to expect except that the task will be challenging, and so is my new boss. But it’s a better choice than staying in my current team and having all eyes glaring at me as if I’m my boss’s pet. Especially if someone accidentally finds out about my shenanigans with Ashton.

I jump slightly when a bag is slammed on the table in front of me, pulling me out of my bubble of thoughts. I look up and find Shanti standing on the other side of the table, hands on her hips. “What kind of bullshit have I just heard from Max?” she starts, looking angry. “You’re leaving and never planned to tell us about it until your last week?”

“No, it’s not like that!” I squeak. “It’s a last-minute decision, and I will still be around sometimes until all the handover process is done.”

“What do you mean by the last-minute decision? Max looks sad, girl, but he said it’s between you and Ashton Knight. Tell me now, did our dreadful CEO force you? Just say the word, and we will riot for you!”

I gulp, switching my gaze from her to Donna who is standing next to her, also looking displeased. “No, he didn’t. It’s my decision,” I reply. “Can you guys at least sit down first? Please?”

Not taking their gazes from my face, the duo take the seats in front of me.

“Is Sebastian coming by the way?” I ask, glancing at the shop’s door.

“He can’t. He has an important client to handle with Max.”

“Okay.” I rub my hands up and down over my thighs. “So, I have a confession to make.”


The upside of working in the headquarters is having my own office room instead of sharing a cubicle with my colleagues. I believe it has something to do with the nature of my new task. Since in-person client meetings will cost a hell of money and time due to their locations across the globe, I will be on video call a lot in this room. It’s not luxurious but I like having my own workspace.

I walk to the window to check the view. Unfortunately, it’s not the pretty side of this business area. It’s facing the backside of the other building with a small street in between. But hey, I’m getting plenty of sunlight. At least, it will prevent me from having seasonal depression too fast when the summer is over. Yes, baby, positivity is the key.

“How do you find your new office?” A baritone voice makes me jump, prompting me to turn my head to the source of disruption. Dickson stands at the doorway, leaning on the door frame with crossed arms. The International team is going to have a brief meeting after lunch, yet here I am, twenty minutes earlier because I’ve been dying to check out my new space.

“You’re almost giving me a heart attack. I didn’t hear your footsteps.”

“Oh, I float, in case you didn’t know,” he replies flatly. “Sorry, though, I should’ve knocked.”

“Nah. Officially, this isn’t my room yet.” I plop down on my soon-to-be chair and test if it rotates well. It’s slightly bigger than what I have at my current desk now and it makes me feel like a lady boss. “But answering your question, I like my new office.” I sweep the room with my eyes. “I used to have my own room in my previous company. I have to say, I miss having my privacy.”

“Don’t set your hopes too high about having privacy.” Dickson walks over to the window to assess the view, just like what I did a few minutes ago. “I and the rest of the team will keep popping up at your door, and you will get sick of us pretty soon.”

“We’ll see about that.” I chuckle. “And what about you? How do you feel about coming back to your old playground?”

Dickson shifts his gaze to me, seeming to take his time in weighing what he’s going to say. I believe he’s aware that I know about his history, a little bit too much for his liking.

“Ecstatic,” he replies before making his way to the desk in front of me and sitting on it, facing me while one leg dangling off the ground. “Well, this is not the same playground I used to be in. I don’t have my little brother here to play with.”

Biting my inner cheek, I stare at his pale green irises. I don’t think Dickson knows about me and Ashton, but my alarm just went off, reminding me to be careful with every word escaping my lips.

“Don’t you find it better this way? Because for me, working under the same management with our sibling doesn’t sound appealing at all.”

Dickson raises his eyebrows. “On the contrary, to me, having Ashton around makes the game slightly more… interesting.”

“How so? Did I just smell a sibling rivalry?”

“Maybe,” he replies, smirking, “or maybe it’s just fun to pull each other’s legs. At least I love teasing my brother or poking his nerves. Don’t worry, it’s just our thing. Ashton is too serious sometimes for his own good and always plays by the rules. He needs to live a little.”

“Well, maybe he’s just trying to be careful since, you know, people put a lot of faith in the Knight family, and he doesn’t want to let them down?” I add.

Dickson scoffs. “My brother is the last person in the family who gives a damn about our last name,” he says as he stands up and moves closer to the wall next to the door, examining the sunrise photo that is divided into four small frameless pictures. “But you’re right, he’s very careful. He is a man who craves precision, even when it comes to his love life.”

“Oh?” I ask, a little bit too enthusiastic before I scold myself inwardly. I need to school my face or Dickson will catch something. I have a feeling that he’s cleverer than he lets on, and Ashton’s warning about his brother keeps ringing in the back of my mind. “I never knew that.”

“He has criteria when it comes to the women he dates long term. He set his standard and he will not bat his eyelashes at the prettiest girl on earth if she doesn’t meet the criteria. Unless, you know, if he needs some easy release.” Dickson cackling at his own words.

I bite my lower lip, refraining from asking further. But dammit, I need to know what Dickson is talking about. “What criteria does he have in women then? Hmm, never mind, it’s none of my business anyway,” I mutter as I spin on my chair once again.

Dickson turns around and his eerily friendly eyes are on mine. “Most of them come from wealthy families, or at least women with a very settled career.” When I can’t find a word to respond to him, he plops down on the chair behind the desk that separates us. “And oh, he’s against the idea of dating anyone from the same office, even those who are in a different company but under the same group.”

“I see,” I mumble while trying to wrap my head around the information Dickson just told me. I’m nowhere on the criteria. Does it mean I’m not in Ashton’s long-term plan?

“I have to say, he’s quite a man of his own words, until one day he met a girl that forced him to break all the rules he had set.”

“Diandra.” My voice comes out as a half-whisper. Suddenly it’s getting hard to swallow now.

“The one and only,” replies Dickson. “It was supposed to be a fling but my brother dipped his toes too deep into it. And he doesn’t know how to get out of it now. Poor boy.”

I’m not sure where Dickson is standing right now. He was with Diandra that night in the bar, as good friends. Does it mean Dickson is on Diandra’s side? Or does he also see Diandra as trouble? Or is he just there to enjoy the show?

“You met her a few weeks back, right?”

“Yes, I did. And we talked a bit,” I reply, swallowing the mixed feelings I have about her.

If I’m being honest, now I want her to know about the kiss Ashton and I shared on the night they broke up. I’ve been convinced that it has nothing to do with her, but after what Dickson has just told me, I started to question if Ashton purposely hides it because he doesn’t want to hurt Diandra. Does he still care about her? Does he still want to protect her feelings?

“She is… quite a girl, isn't she?” Dickson murmurs. His eyes stare blankly at the wooden desk between us, yet they carry so much intensity.

My breath hitches in my throat. From the glint in the eyes of the man in front of me, a realization comes down on me like a bucket of cold water. Dickson admires Diandra. No, he loves her.

“Did you know that people thought you and Diandra went on a date that night at the bar?” I say, trying to pull some reactions out of him.

“Me and Diandra? Nah.” He chuckles, the adoration glint in his eyes disappearing. I see his eyes dilate before he blinks and his signature smirk grows back in the corners of his lips. “Everyone knows it has always been Ashton for her and likewise, no matter how far my brother strays away from her, he will crawl back, sooner or later. It’s been like that for years.”

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