☠ Chapter Twenty-Four ☠
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
A warm hand grabs at the skin on my waist, lightly pulling me backwards. When I open my eyes I see his tattoo covered arm wrapped tightly around my body. I can feel Zayn's breath fanning across my back. He nuzzles his nose into the crook of my neck.
There's a blissful ache between my thighs, my hair's a wild mess, and though I got nearly no sleep, I feel completely rested. Last night was amazing. Zayn was soft and gentle and he was caring. It was nice to see the softer side to Zayn. I know it exists, but it's such a rare occurrence that I'm still stunned whenever it comes out.
I know last night was his way of showing that he cares about me. But I already know that he cares about me. He cares enough to pay attention. He shows that he cares through brief moments of vulnerability–such as the way we made love. Every other time we'd done intimate things together it was usually rushed, fast, and hard . . . but last night was slow and sensual, and romantic. It was exactly what I needed, and I think he knew that. And I think in a way, he needed it to.
Something was different about Zayn last night. He was more honest and more vulnerable with me. I was sure that too much alcohol was equivalent to truth serum for Zayn.
I carefully roll over underneath his arm. When I'm facing him I admire his bed hair, his lengthy eyelashes, his face–which appears entirely peaceful in front of me. He nuzzles into me again. My breath catches in my throat when he makes a small almost incoherent mumble in his sleep. It's adorable.
He's adorable. He's talented, and he's smart, and he's handsome, and he's caring. And my skin tingles whenever he touches me. And I crave him, almost as if he's a drug and I'm an addict. I want nothing more than to spend the entire day with him, listening to his soft snores and incoherent sleepy mumbles. I adore the stubble on his face, and the ink covering his body, and the way he says my name. The face he makes when he's behind the wheel of his car is something I'd love to see every day. He's something I don't think I'll ever get used to, but he's like a drug to me–he's something I don't think I'll ever get enough of.
Unbeknownst to him, I think I'm falling in love with him . . .
I'm positive that he's sleeping until I feel his hand slowly wander under the thin sheet until it finds the bare skin of my bottom. He squeezes lightly before I feel his warm lips place a wet kiss to my chin. I close my eyes at the contact–his touch igniting fire within my veins.
"Morning babygirl," his voice is raspy.
I flutter my eyes open to the sight of him. "Morning," I murmur sleepily. I appreciate the beauty of his caramel eyes this close. I notice a beautiful small freckle in his left eye on the edge of his iris.
"Did you sleep okay?" His arm ghosts across the flesh of my back, causing me to squirm a little. I think he's realized that I adore it when someone caresses the skin on my back.
I nod my head, "you?"
"Never better." He nuzzles his head into my neck, placing a small kiss there, "you weren't very warm."
I throw my head back a little with laughter, "that's because you're a damn heater." I say it as if I hate it, when in all reality it’s one of the things I adore about him.
His hand wanders down my body until it reaches the back of my knee. He grabs it, lifting my leg over his. "Well you don't feel very warm, maybe we should do something to change that," he presses his lips to mine.
I place my hands on his chest, pushing him lightly, "as much as I'd love to, I can't. I have a meeting with an advisor today."
He never stops peppering kisses to my neck. "Mm," he hums, "what about?"
"Something about my extra credit."
He stops immediately, pulling away from me. "Please tell me that this has nothing to do with that dickhead of a professor . . ."
"It has nothing to do with him. In fact, one more class and I'm done with him." I say, reassuringly.
"Good," he says and places a quick peck to my lips. He hops out of the bed, standing in front of me completely naked. Tantalizingly naked. My mouth goes dry at the sight. He cocks his head a little and smirks. "Well, come on now babygirl, don't stare. It's impolite." He flashes me a crooked smile–if I was standing, my knees would go weak.
I laugh a little. I crawl towards him and stand on my knees on top of the mattress in front of him, completely naked. His eyes go wide and he gawks. His hand reaches for me and I swat it away. "What was it you said about staring?"
He smirks before pressing his lips to mine. "Would you like to join me in the shower?" He asks.
"We don't have time for that Zayn," I whisper, "I got a thing, remember?”
"I got a thing, you got a thing," he bites the skin on my chin lightly, "we could put our things together and have some real fun baby," he whispers seductively in my ear.
I giggle a little and a smile tugs at his lips. "How about we save that for another time?" I run my hand over his jawline, the stubble tickles the palm of my hand.
He hums in appreciation as he presses his lips against mine. "Can't wait," he whispers.
He smiles at me before turning around and walking into the washroom. I hear the shower running and I get my clothes on. I should have enough time at the dorm to get a clean change of clothes and apply some makeup.
* * *
Zayn drops me off at the school and I run inside. I quickly head to the dorm, change into a nicer pair of clothes and apply some fresh makeup.
I make it to the advisor's office just in time. She's standing in the doorway, waiting patiently for me to arrive. "Arielle Hawthorne?" She greets me.
"Yes, hi." I step forward and shake her hand.
"Veronica Welles," she introduces herself.
"It's nice to meet you," I comment and she steps backwards.
"You as well. Please, come in."
I take a step in and sit down quietly in the seat. She takes a moment to close the door behind her and then takes a seat in her large chair. "Miss Welles, do you mind if I ask why I was called down here? I'm not in trouble, am I?"
"No.” She shuffles some papers on her desk.
"Is this about my previous extra credit?" I ask.
"Actually, this is a piece of extra credit that I'd like to offer to you. It's something extra special and I think you'll be interested in this. There aren't a lot of students that get offers like this."
"Well now I'm really interested . . . and flattered." I shuffle a little in my seat, crossing my one leg over the other.
"There's a couple that would like for you to come cook for them for roughly two months."
"Really?" I ask, surprised.
"Yes, they have asked for you specifically." She grabs a paper on the far end of her desk, "now I know you did some extra credit with Chef Theo Wilson, is that correct?"
I cringe a little at the name but she doesn't seem to notice, "yes."
"And according to these documents that shortened your overall school time by about four months, is that also correct?" She runs her hand over her long ponytail before adjusting the glasses on the tip of her nose.
"Yes, I believe so."
"Well, this new extra credit I'm offering you will give you another four months of school time, even though you'll only be working for them for two months. You've already got nine months under your belt. If you do this Arielle, you will be able to graduate by the end of February."
"Yes, and that's why I think it's an offer you can't refuse."
"No kidding," I smile, excited. "That's . . . I'm sorry, I'm a little bit speechless."
"You've got one day left in this term and then you'll have your Christmas break. Come January you'll be working for this couple and it's an easy two months cooking for them and you'll be done with us here at Le Cordon Bleu."
"Okay, so how exactly does this work?"
"They would like to meet with you beforehand. They–" she's quickly flipping through papers on her desk until she sees something and she stops reading. "Actually, they live in New York–"
"New York City?" I interrupt, both worried and excited. Wait. Two months working in New York? What happens with Zayn and I? "Do I have to stay in New York for the two months?"
"It looks as though they are relocating here. So sometime before January you will fly out on their private jet to their house in New York City where you'll meet with them first, maybe have a taste test. After you spend a few days getting to know them they'll fly you back here–free of charge. It looks as though they'll have relocated to Miami by the time you'll have to start cooking for them. So it works out perfectly."
"Wow. That actually does sound perfect," I comment.
She smiles at me, "it really is an offer you can't refuse, Arielle."
"Do you mind if I ask what their names are?"
Her eyes scan over the paper quickly. She turns the page around and points to the names printed on the page. "Jamie Price and his wife, Sydney."
"I'll do it. I'll meet with them. You said I could bring someone, right? I really don't want to fly in a private jet all by myself to meet a bunch of strangers," I laugh lightly.
"Yes, you're allowed to bring a friend. I made sure of that for safety reasons." It's quiet in her office for a moment. "You know Arielle . . . this really is unorthodox for someone to ask for you personally, but you have Chef Wilson to thank. He actually recommended you. Turns out he's a close, personal friend with the Price's."
"Wow," I say, a little bit speechless. It's hard to believe that even after everything that's happened between the two of us, he's still willing to go out of his way to give me such an incredible opportunity. Maybe he just wants to put all of this behind him for good? Maybe he just really wants me to leave Le Cordon . . . then if I'm gone, the temptation is no longer there . . . I'm no longer there and we wouldn't have to face each other all the time. He'd keep his job. He'd actually be able to keep his life in order. Maybe he actually did this because he still believes that I have talent, and he wants the best for me. "That's uh–wow. I'll definitely have to thank him for that tomorrow in class."
Miss Welles straightens in her seat. "Oh, you won't be able to do that Arielle . . . Chef Wilson quit yesterday, actually. He handed in the final grades for all of his students, a recommendation for you for this extra credit program, and he quit without notice."
"Really?" I sigh and look away from her, memorizing the pattern in the chair beside me. "Did he say why?"
"He said he needed to find himself," she shrugs her shoulders. "He said he really lost himself while he was teaching. And something about how he was just starting to figure out who he was, and to do that, he needed to leave this school. It sounded like a load of gibberish to everyone in the office."
"Oh, well that sounds a little strange," I comment. I adjust my skirt, trying not to fidget too much. "Maybe he just needs some time to go on vacation or see his family or something. Good for him. It's good that he knows what he wants in life."
"I'm sure if he doesn't return to Le Cordon that he'll make an excellent chef at any restaurant in the city," she comments with a longing smile.
An uncomfortable silence falls between us.
I scratch at the back of my head, "so when would I be leaving for New York?"
"Oh," she seems a little flustered as she rifles through pages. "There actually isn't a date written in here yet. Y'know what? I'll get in contact with either Mr. or Mrs. Price and I can let you know!" She tosses an empty pad of paper and a pen at me, "just write your phone number on here and I'll give you a call when I've spoken with them. I believe they wanted you right after Christmas, so that isn't too long from now. That'd give you about a week and a half's notice."
I run my hand over my face, "I forgot that Christmas is only a week away," I sigh heavily.
Miss Welles chuckles from across the desk. I grab the pen and quickly jot down my name along with my cell phone number. "Well, lucky for you it seems as though you're done for the term so you'll have plenty of time to do your last minute Christmas shopping."
I smile. "Yes, I definitely need to do that." I stand up and she extends her hand towards me. I shake it, "thank you. Really. Thank you for this opportunity. I realize the importance of it, and I won't take it for granted."
"Well according to Chef Wilson, you've earned it Arielle."
I cringe again a little bit. I smile at her, "I'll talk to you soon. And if I don't hear from you before Christmas, happy holidays."
"Same to you," she smiles kindly.
I exit her office quickly, giddy about my trip to New York.