Show Me Your Soul

What happens if life throws you off track? What if someone asks you to trust him, even though you know nothing about him? Would you trust him?
Cecily Martesse is a normal student in her second year at college. Just when the next normal semester starts, she meets Ace - a handsome boy that throws her life upside down. Compelled by his words, his voice, his behavior, she finds herself getting dragged into a world full of secrets, unfaithfulness and deceit.
Just when she hears some devastating news about her brother, she has to face things she never knew she could endure.
A story about love, trust and friendship. Rated Mature for adult language and hot love scenes.

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30. Change Is the Law of Life

A/N: Hey guys… well, I’m back from the dead :D I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting for so long, but I promise I’ll give my best so that the next chapters won’t take so long.

Thank you all for your patience!

Love, Mirette C.

 

 

 

ACE

 

I heard Cec’s giggle from across the auditorium. Some jerks next to me rolled their eyes and I was on the verge telling them to go to hell. I missed the sound of her laugh. Together with countless other things. Part of me couldn’t believe I was thinking that cheesy stuff that I probably would never say out loud.

Still, I was grinning like an idiot knowing that I was making her happy for once.

After what felt like hours, the lecture finally ended. One more information about any rare disease, modified surgical method or new developed instruments and my head would explode. No doubt, it was interesting – but seriously, the only thing I kept thinking of was food.

I was hungry and ready to strangle anyone who would lift his hand to ask another question.

People raised from their seats and a huge crowd gathered at the entrance. I barely found my way to Cec while bumping into a few people.

“So Cassy released your arm, I see”, I said, approaching her. Her friends were out of earshot, discussing something with other students.

Cec chuckled. “Yeah, she basically tackled me.”

Bending down, I whispered. “Did you tell them… everything?”

I hadn’t thought about asking Cec to keep the thing with Thomas to herself, mostly because I forgot about it. Also, it seemed self-evident since she hadn’t even told them about her brother.

Cec shook her head. “No, of course not. I didn’t tell them about Thomas. Or the whole incident with Aro.”

Now the latter surprised me even more. I arched an eyebrow. “Why? Don’t you think they need to know what kind of asshole Aro is?”

She looked away, sadness flickering in her eyes. “No. I don’t have to tell them anything about him. They don’t like him anyway.”

I mustered her for a second and I could see the inner fight with herself. Telling them about Aro meant revealing Noah’s stay in jail.

She smiled away whatever I’d seen in her mien. “Anyways, this was exhausting”, she sighed.

I couldn’t agree more.

“And I’m so… hungry”, she groaned.

The corner of my lips curled up. “Are you being suggestive?”

Her eyes widened before she smacked my shoulder. “No. I just meant that I’m really hungry. For food”, she added and I closed my mouth before saying something that surely shouldn’t hear anyone else. “I need something to eat. Like right now.”

“Let’s grab a bite somewhere.”

She shook her head. “It’ll take too long. Besides, they mentioned a huge buffet at the cafeteria.”

Considering I was only hearing half of what they had been saying during the lecture, it didn’t surprise me that I had missed that little detail.

She looked around for her friends, biting her lower lip. The hall was getting fuller, but before she could usher us to them, I took her hand and brought her to a halt.

She turned around, a question between her eyes.

“Thanks”, I said.

“Err… for what?”

“Not telling them about Thomas.”

She raised to her feet and gave me a quick kiss on my cheek. “You’re welcome.”

 

The cafeteria was full as shit.

“Maybe we should eat somewhere else”, Cec said meekly.

“No way.” I was hungry and not in the mood to search any longer. I pointed to a table at the end of the room where Josh and the others were already sitting.

I reached for Cec’s hand when she was about to look for another chair and gently pulled her to sit on my lap. I saw her look toward our friends. Eyes darted to us, but I couldn’t care less.

I dared someone to make a comment.

The girls were trying to hide a smile when Cec looked away, embarrassed, but didn’t move from my lap. Eric stared a little too long and I was about to make a comment about how he minded his own fucking business. Or embarrass him completely by saying that he would like to switch positions with me. I leaned up a little more and wrapped my arm tighter around her waist.

“That is totally inappropriate”, she hissed in my ear.

I smirked. “And since when do I care if we do inappropriate things in front of others or not?”, I whispered back, my lips close to the sensitive skin under her ear.

She rolled her eyes, taking a forkful of food to her mouth. Just when she swallowed, her gaze was back on mine.

“Did you think about Chicago?”, she asked loud enough so that the others looked up.

I nearly choked on my food the moment she mentioned that fucking city.

She wanted to play unfair. Fine.

“No. The answer’s still the same.” My jaw clenched yet I forced another bite in me.

I put my hand between her thighs. Slowly traveling up. Up, up, up until her legs stiffened as she squeezed my hand between them. I knew it was taking her every bit of control to not squeak. Or complain that she was ticklish.

“Oh, you want to go to Chicago over the vacations?”, Anna asked much to my annoyance.

“Yes, we were thinking about going there”, Cec answered sweetly, rocking her hips on my lap. Unnoticeably, yet it was enough to let me feel the blood strumming through every vein in my body.

“No, we weren’t.” I grabbed her hips, stopping her from doing any other moves.

“We are not going anywhere”, I said loud enough to assume that this topic was over. The familiar electricity was rising between our stares. Her eyes narrowed before she focused back on her meal. She was grumpy.

I was glad the others were talking about their vacations overseas so I could bring my lips close to her ear to make myself perfectly clear. “Baby, if you think you can get away with acting like this just because we’re with your friends you’re so dead wrong. I won’t hesitate to bend you over my lap and spank you in front of them. Behave. Now.”

Her face turned into a dark shade of red and I bit my tongue to not tease her ruthlessly.

My message had been clear, she dropped the topic and I continued shoving a piece of steak into my mouth.

Just as I started to enjoy my food, an annoying voice caught my attention.

“You two are just so sweet. Makes me want to puke, actually.” I looked up and saw Aro coming to us, followed by his friends. Pathetic.

He laughed, yet I could see the annoyance behind his eyes. Still, I was more focused on his nose which was now a deep purple. I grinned.

Glancing at Cec, I noted the cold look she gave him. I thought she would look twice as embarrassed or walk away but she just grinned as devilishly.

“Wow, your nose looks pretty rough. How did that happen?”

His grin vanished bit by bit and his brows knitted to a frown. She battered her eyelashes, unimpressed by his murderous glare, and just looked as innocent as an angel.

“Must have been a really bad guy.” She smirked. “It was a guy, wasn’t it?”, she topped it, her voice on the verge of laughing. I buried my face in Cec’s back to muffle my laughs. Holy shit, this girl was awesome.

Aro looked from her to me, casting me a murderous glare. He snorted.

“You’re perfect for each other.” His eyes turned into thin slits as he smiled widely.

“Just look at you. Two criminals that found each other. But I guess it’s in your family, right Cecily?”

I felt Cec stiffen within a split second. Her face paled and everyone else at the table looked puzzled. This was low. Even for Aro.

He looked at me dead-on, never breaking eye-contact. I knew he was trying to get to me but hell, there was no way I’d let him do that through Cec.

Pure anger surged through me, enveloping my guts. My knuckles cracked as I clenched my fist.  

“What are you talking about, Aro?”, Eric asked, playing right into Aro’s hands.

Aro shrugged. “You’d be surprised what kind of person Cecily’s bro–”

Before he could finish the sentence, I stood right in front of him.

I didn’t even realize when I got up or how I pulled Cec behind me but that didn’t matter.

His stupid face was all that I saw when we were inches apart. My fist was clenched and knuckles tingling to connect with his jaw.

“Aren’t we talkative”, I growled. “You should stop. If you know what’s best for you.”

He matched my cold glance yet a flicker of fear was visible in his eyes. Cec was pulling my arm, saying something but I didn’t pay attention. My eyes never left that bastard and I was ready to jump at him if he would say or do the wrong thing.

Or stay any longer around her.

He snorted, coming closer. “Have fun, Ace. As long as you can”, he hissed. “Trust me, it won’t last.”

My eyes narrowed on him. Grabbing the collar of his scrubs, I shoved him against the wall. I smirked. “Don’t threaten me. Trust me, that would be really unwise.”

His brows raised. Something flashed in his eyes as he glanced to the right. I looked over my shoulder and noted the silence. Countless eyes were fixed on us and a low murmur swept over the whole room.

“Go ahead. But before you wanna hit me again you might want to consider the number of witnesses.” He smirked. I wanted to break every bone in his body.

Cursing under my breath, I let go of his shirt and ignored the victory written all over his face. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he turned to his friend.

I never wanted to choke someone like right now. I knew it would be far beyond stupid to hurt him here. Still, the urge to cross the distance and sucker punch him was there.  

My jaw clenched but I managed to sit down and swallow my anger. Quite a progress. Just as I was about to make Cec sit back on my lap, she shoved my hand away.

I looked up and saw her enraged glare. She didn’t need to say anything. Her displeased face was like an open book.

“Wow… what was that?”, one of the girls said, but hush was all the answer she got.

Moments passed when neither of us spoke until Eric cleared his throat.

“Ace, what did happen with your face by the way–?”

“What the hell was that, Ace?”, Cec said through gritted teeth.

Now she was angry. For no reason. I didn’t pick a fight – mostly for her sake.

I shrugged my shoulders, nipping at my water. “I didn’t hurt him.”

“It wouldn’t have taken much and you would have done it!”

She was infuriating once she was huffy.

I focused back on my food. “Stop being difficult, Cec.”

I knew I just said the wrong thing. Especially when I saw her walking away, not giving me a second glance.

I cursed under my breath. “Cec–”

Even though she was small, she walked pretty fast. I moaned, already on my way to her.  Eric made a dumb comment that I should know how to speak to her by now and I ignored the impulse to insult him. Another progress.

I rushed to the hallway where I found her heading to the entrance door.

“Cec, wait.”

Of course she didn’t stop.

“Cec” I grabbed her arm, spinning her around so she could look at me.

“Ace, you promised you wouldn’t act like that! You promised you wouldn’t lose your calm or act irresponsibly!”

“And I’m keeping it.” Some students that passed us glanced at the scene we were about to cause, so I wrapped my fingers around her arm, ushering her across the street. We headed right to the garden, completely deserted and far away from curious eyes.

“You were about to punch him, everyone could see that. You just have been in a bad fight recently and you are still healing! In addition to the fact that picking a fight in the middle of the cafeteria where hundreds of students, doctors and professors, oh and maybe even the chief resident are, might be the stupidest idea. I don’t want to see you getting kicked out or… or in jail… or…”

Her cheeks were pink when she finished, her eyes glistening with moisture.

She hated jails.

And she told me one of her biggest fears was to ever walk down that hallway again, to see the cold stone bricks on each side, to hear the buzzing sound when they opened the cell, to see someone in handcuffs, to have a limited time to speak to a beloved one.

Shit, how could I have forgotten about that?

I wrapped my arms around her and brought her closer to a tight hug.

“I’m sorry”, I muttered between her neck and shoulder. “I forgot.”

Her tiny fingers clenched around my jacket, while my chin rested on her head for a while.

“I won’t be reckless anymore, I promise.” What an irony that I used to scold her for being reckless and now I was causing her the same worries.

She nodded when she looked up, my focus entirely on her lips.

“I talked to my parents. About… us”, she said when I was about to lean forward. Huge turn-off.

I sighed, scratching my head. “So?”

“They want to get to know you. Do you have some plans tomorrow? For dinner?”

Fuck no.

I uttered a brief laugh. “I don’t do that, Cec.”

She frowned. “You don’t do what?”

That. Dinner. Meeting parents and trying to get to know each other.”

I’d never done that.

Victoria’s father was dying when I met her and her mother hated me from the beginning. Sounded harsh, but I never had a problem with parents hating me. I got kind of used to it and it had become convenient at some point.

“Your father already hates me. And I hardly believe that is going to change after a dinner.”

Especially when I hated him, too. I would never tell her that but it was hard for me to feel any sympathy for a man who almost left his family.

Disgusting.

She stood with her hands on her hips, her brows knitted. “First of all, it took me a lot to convince my father that you’re not some thug that goes around and picks a fight but rather a… decent guy which was not very easy. And now after I fought for you, you tell me that you ‘don’t do that’?”

An annoying, rational voice inside my head was telling me that she was right but the stubborn part in me just didn’t want to spend a whole evening with awkwardness and biting my tongue.

“Sorry, babe. No means no.”

I looked at my watch. The appointment with Matt was in half an hour. I had to go now. Just when I was about to turn around, she grabbed my arm and pressed her lips against mine.

“Please”, she breathed against my lips. Her palms laid on my cheeks when she moaned into my mouth. My arms were around her, holding her delicate body and she was kissing me frantically.

I knew I should push her away, force her to stop messin’ with my head but I couldn’t imagine for one second resisting her. I’d never be able to.

She was making me dizzy, my mind was too blurred to realize that she guided me to that a little bench. I sat down, her legs spread over my lap.

“Please”, she repeated, her tongue moving tantalizingly, thrusting in and out – long enough to crave for more, too short to get enough. It was nerve-wracking.

God, she was good.

“No”, I muttered, feeling her skin under that blouse that was covering her too much.

Heat was spreading through my body the longer she kept tormenting me.

My heartbeat sped up, and my cock was getting harder but I barely took notice of it. The only thing I took notice of was Cec’s hand moving to unzip my jeans, pushing her hand to my boxers.

Holy shit, was she really doing that?

I made a noise of surprise, low in my throat, but didn’t stop her.

“Please?”, she asked suggestively, this time not pleading, not desperate.

Superiorly, knowing she just had me where she’d wanted me all along. But she wouldn’t do what I thought she would… right? Here?

Surprised, I gasped for air when her hand moved to my boxers, clearly aiming for my dick. Her hand was massaging me aggressively.

Like a devil, she smirked, seeing how my body was reacting to her touch.

Suddenly, her hand slipped under my boxers.

Fuck, that girl was dangerous.

I couldn’t help it but groan when her warm hand touched my heated, hardening flesh.

She let her hand wander from the base to the tip, putting just the right pressure in her hand. My breath got hitched, the heat inside of me burning, making me feel feverish.

She kissed me again. This time rough and hungry. She opened my mouth with her sweet tongue and playfully bit my bottom lip.

She kept pumping while her tongue was doing some crazy shit with my mouth, their moves in synchrony. My hips were moving on their own, responding to Cec’s hand. I could feel the delicious heat that came off her mouth, even her hands. She was burning more and more with every kiss.

Fuck… I wanted her so badly now. I imagined myself thrusting inside her instead of her hand.

“Please…”, she whispered in the most tempting voice I have ever heard.

What? What was she even talking about? Oh right, that stupid dinner.

“Say yes, Ace.” Her mouth was swollen, she was breathing rapidly.

Her skin felt amazingly on mine while she rubbed even faster than before. My thoughts blurred as the desire reached an unbearable point. Lust was raging inside me as a sea of flames turned into a blaze. My blood was boiling.

This felt so fucking good and I was so close.

“Say yes or I won’t make you come.”

Her voice was shaking when her hand stopped and I tore my eyes open, looking at my devilish angel.

I was sweating, the tension inside me was too great. I needed to come. Now.

“Cec, you–”, I hissed angrily, not believing what she just said. Or did. I needed to come. Badly.

“Say it, or I won’t let you come”, she commanded, this time steadier than before. Her hand rested temptingly on my slick, pulsating member.

Fuck that dinner. Fuck my pride. Fuck everything.

“Yes, fine!”, I groaned, on the verge of losing my mind when her hand finally continued running faster and tighter. My muscles tensed, my hips thrusting desperately as I climaxed inside her palm.

My mind turned blank for a few seconds and my breathings slowed down.

She leaned her head against my chest and removed her hand out of my soaked boxers.

Both of us were panting, as if we had run a race.

My badass babygirl.

“You are going to pay for that, Cec. I swear to God, you are going to pay for that”, I panted.

She looked up, not realizing that I was dead serious with my threat, and kissed my cheek. “It was worth it.”

I rolled my eyes when she got down, my body already missing her weight and heat. Damn, if she only knew how much I wanted her.

I had to dismiss the idea of throwing her on the ground and taking her, right here, right now. Instead, I fumbled in my pocket for a tissue.

“Here.” She took it shyly and rubbed her hands.

I frowned. “Great, my boxers are ruined”, I sighed, ignoring the wet fabric of my underwear as I zipped my jeans back closed.

She arched an eyebrow, smiling sardonically. “You also ruined my panties once”, she countered, reminding me how I had fingered her.

I grinned. “So, I guess we’re even”, I muttered and grabbed her hand while we headed to the parking lot.

She was obviously proud of her achievement, grinning at me every time our eyes met. And only for that I wanted to kiss her so badly that she wouldn’t be able to breathe. I refrained since I had no strength left to control my lust, fearing to lose my shit completely.

Even though I was slightly annoyed that she had been taking advantage of me being desperate, my reasonable voice was getting louder. It would be just a dinner which would be over in a few hours and she would be happy.

Again, I looked at my watch. I’d definitively be late. Matt was going to kill me.

Whatever.

 

~ § ~

 

I couldn’t believe I was doing this.

I couldn’t believe she was making me do this.

I was really wearing that stupid suit I had bought in San Francisco, holding a bottle of wine and I had even combed my hair earlier.

Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, I rang the doorbell.

Cec was the one who opened the door. Her hair was combed to the side, shielding her face, but, damn, when she looked up I could feel my heart skip.

She had a look of awe on her beautiful face as she stared back at me. Seconds passed in silence but I needed them to drink in the view. She was wearing a black dress that fell above her knees and hung tightly around her curves which left the rest for my imagination. My dirty imagination.

God, she was… breathtaking.

 “You look amazing”, I whispered in her ear and gave her a small kiss.

“Thanks”, she said, clearing her throat. “So… do you.” Her eyes traveled up and down my body, each time her cheeks turning a shade redder. I smirked, yet refrained teasing her mercilessly.

Taking in a deep breath, I followed her to their dining room and greeted her family.

I really couldn’t believe I was doing this.

“Ace!”, her mother beamed once she saw me and hugged me tightly. I guess I’d never et used to this kind of greeting. “It’s so nice to see you again.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Martesse. You, too.”

She smiled widely. “Please, call me Julie.”

I nodded before turning my attention to her father. His look was anything but welcoming me to be on first-name terms with him. I grinned, struggling to hold my tongue to test it.

As expected, awkwardness was settled above us once we sat at the table. Her sister was barely talking, she was rather staring at me through her big glasses. Kids are so weird.

“So, how are your studies going, Ace? And your work? Do you still work at the repair shops?”, her mother fired while Cec filled my plate with appetizers.

Cec’s talent to talk when she was nervous seemed to be inherited by her mother. She was just as talkative.

“Yeah, I still work there but I’m taking a break for the next three weeks”, I answered, my voice a little stiffer than usual. My focus was more on my back, actually. I forgot how itchy new tattoos were and I had to refrain rubbing my back against the chair.

“College is the same as usual. I’m just glad we have vacations.” I returned her smile before tasting some of the greenish cream soup. 

“That tastes good”, I said, my gaze automatically shifting to her mother.

She smiled, “It was Cecily who made it. I just helped a little.”

I turned to her, arching an eyebrow. “Really? I didn’t know you could cook so well.”

She smiled, shrugging one shoulder. “You’d be surprised.”

Julie cleared her throat, turning to her husband. “Thank you for the wine, Ace. Mathieu, could you please open the bottle?”

She gave him an ambiguous look that Cec’s father answered with a forced smile. He opened the bottle, reaching for my glass.

She shook her head when her Dad asked if she wanted some. Technically, it would be underage drinking, but then in France you’re allowed to drink at a younger age than here in the States. Either way, I think it was the taste she didn’t like. She was really weird when it comes to tastes.

I could feel the weight of her gaze when I nipped at my glass.

“So, Ace, how are your parents? Do they live in Chicago?”

I swallowed that piece of the bread and reached for the wine. What a nice topic of conversation this early.

“No, my father left us when I was a child and my mother died from cancer a few years ago”, I lied matter-of-factly. Well, a half-lie.

Her mother’s fork fell on her plate, making a shrill noise that echoed through the still room.

Cec closed her eyes, probably hoping that I won’t lose my calm at any moment.

“I am so sorry, I had no idea–”

“It’s okay”, I cut in, my tone not impolite.

The atmosphere got tenser after that and I watched Cec forcing a spoonful of the lettuce soup into her mouth. Her nervousness must be bigger than I thought. She reached out her hand under the table and drew slow circles over my knee. Lightly, I squeezed her hand, appreciating the gesture.

Just when we finished our soup, I felt something fluffy on my calf. I looked down and found that white-brown cat. Zazzy. She looked at me with those familiar blue eyes before she licked her paw right next to my shoes.

I mentally rolled my eyes but was distracted when Cec served me the main dish.

Holy… fish.

This was getting better. I should have told Cec that I didn’t like fish. Dammit, why couldn’t she have cooked a turkey or steak or anything but fish?

Her honey-green eyes fixated on me and I slowly cut a piece of it, preparing to shove that thing into my mouth.

The stupid cat kept walking under the table, her fur tickling my legs. But just as I wanted to shoo her away, an idea crossed my mind.

“So, Ace, for how long have you two been dating?”, her father asked the moment I let that piece fall on the floor. Right next to Zazzy.

“Um…”, I started, my eyes focused on the floor when I saw her eating it. For once that cat was useful.

My eyes snapped when I looked at his severe face, realizing what he just asked. “For a week.” Officially.

“A week?”, he repeated. I nodded, taking a forkful of potatoes in my mouth and dropping the next piece of fish on the floor when no one looked at me. 

Bon appétit, Zazzy.

“Is that a problem?”, I asked, my tone harsher than I intended. Okay, maybe I had intended to be harsh but I didn’t get what his problem was.

Maybe that the first time he saw you was when you stuck your tongue inside his daughter’s mouth. My subconscious was being awfully annoying tonight.

“Of course it’s not a problem, Ace”, Julie beamed, giving her husband a cold glance. “Right, Mathieu?” The way she arched her eyebrow reminded me of Cec.

“No, no, of course not. I just expected something else when I saw you at the front porch.”  

Her little sister giggled while Cec shifted nervously on her seat. “How’s the food, Ace? Do you like it?”, she asked in a high-pitched voice.

Before she could turn her gaze to me, I let the next piece fall on the ground.

“Yeah, it’s good”, I lied, rather dismissive since I was more focused on her father’s comments.

“And what did you expect, Mr. Martesse?” I hated this constantly implying undertone. If he had got a problem with me then he should be straightforward. “I know your daughter longer than a week if that’s what you’re worried about.”

He frowned, but just as he opened his mouth, her little sister interrupted him to my surprise.

“Oh, Cecy told us how you got to know each other! You bumped into her car!” She giggled, her eyes glowing behind her glasses. “She was late. As usual. And when you got out of your car your muscles kept distracting her, she said. But she blamed it on you since you were shirtless–”

“Marlene, did you taste the spinach pastry? Here, take some–”

“What a nice story, Cecily”, her father said, glaring at me. “I don’t remember you mentioning that detail.”

I could see her deep wish to be anywhere else but here. It was a pain in the ass seeing her like this.

“Well, I was late, too and I didn’t have the time to wash my dirty clothes, so I drove to the hospital as fast as I could.” And I didn’t think I would meet anyone on my way to the scrubs vending machine.

This was getting tiring. I nipped at my glass until it was empty. The familiar warmth slowly began to spread through my body but it wasn’t relaxing me the bit. I needed another glass.

His jaw clenched when his gaze shifted from me to Cec. She however looked sternly at him, her lips a thin line. She said something in French which her father returned with a sharp tone. I had no idea what he said but I didn’t think something good about me.

“Is there a problem, Papa?”

He rubbed his cheek, shaking his head. “No, I just didn’t expect my daughter obviously dating a stripper.”

I couldn’t help it, but laugh. I tried to mark it as a cough.

“Papa!”

“Mathieu!”

Eyes shifted from me to Mr. Martesse. People had called me a lot of things in my life. But ‘stripper’ was new. That annoying cat kept rubbing her fur against my calf, expecting more fish but I shooed her away.

“Yeah, but I’m usually just a stripper on Fridays and Saturdays.”  

I tried not to laugh which was quite difficult. Especially when I saw the horror in his humorless face. A stone-cold face that stared at me while everyone else stopped eating. Cec let out a shrill laugh. “Funny, Ace. He’s kidding.”

I raised my brow. “Aw, are you ashamed of me? At least I’m not dealing drugs. Well, only during the week, of course. But on weekends I’m clean.”

It was rather annoying to think part of him believed what I was saying. I already had Thomas who always made it clear that I could never live up to his expectations. I didn’t need her father judging me the same way. Even though I was kidding, I could see his prejudges being confirmed.

“Well, I’m sorry for offending you, but your appearance last time I saw you was giving me the impression of you being a rather… wild young man.”

“My appearance has nothing to do with the way I feel for your daughter”, I said, my humor all gone.

“Oh, that was quite obvious last time I–”

“Dessert! We need dessert!”, Julie squeaked, standing up and pulling her husband’s arm. “I need some help in the kitchen, darling.”

He got up, disappearing in the other room when I shoved the beans to my mouth.

The shrillness of Cec’s fork brought me back from my fantasy of choking her father.

I glanced at Cec and she was looking anything but happy.

“What the fuck are you doing, Ace?”, she hissed through gritted teeth.

“Oooooh, Cecily, you just said a bad word!”, her sister giggled.

“Yeah, Cec… that was a very bad word. Do you have a swear jar, I guess someone needs to put a penny–”

“Shut up!”

God, she was so sexy when she got mad. The way her eyes glowed and seemed even bigger than before, the way her chest moved rapidly when she was in a heated discussion, the way she puckered her lips every time she didn’t get what she wanted.

“I won’t say I’m sorry, babe. He started.”

“How old are you? I don’t care who started, you should get a grip and not let yourself get provoked by nothing!”

 I could have argued with her the whole night that this was certainly not nothing.

I didn’t let anyone insult me, or prejudge.

But the moment, I opened my mouth, her parents came back, carrying some tiny bowls.

Crème brûlée”, her mother announced cheerfully, placing a bowl in front of me.

Mr. Martesse followed his wife, his look a little less tense.

We all dug our spoons into the dessert and it tasted delicious. Wow. I was devouring it; it was just divine.

Cec giggled. “I guess you like it.” She smiled sweetly, her anger seemed to have vanished.

“Yeah, it’s good.”

“Thanks.”

“You made it?”

The corner of my mouth lifted as I watched her taking another spoonful.

The rest of the evening went surprisingly calm. Whatever Julie said to her husband, he didn’t make any comments. In fact, he didn’t talk to me at all and I was grateful. Her mother kept talking about Los Angeles and France; how they had decided to move to the States.

The good part started when she told me the story about Cec having forgotten her text when she had to perform a scene from Peter Pan in front of everyone in elementary school. She had started inventing things which was hilarious.

“The whole school laughed at her creativity.”

She and Marlene giggled, while Cec’s cheeks kept getting pinker. “Well, at least I invented something instead of starting to cry!”, she huffed.

“And could you please stop talking about embarrassing stories of me?!”

I put my hand under my chin. “Why? It’s funny. Apparently, you’ve always been clumsy. And affine to those things.”

She stuck out her tongue, chuckling at my comment.

It was getting late and I didn’t want to tax her father’s patience. He was surveying me the whole time without saying anything yet I could almost hear his thoughts. He probably wants to choke me as much as I want to choke him.

Better not risk it.

I got up from my chair. “Well, I’d better go home now. Thank you for the invitation and for the dinner.” Even though I shared my meal with their cat. The thought amused me and I have to think about how I was going to tell Cec to never cook some fish for me again. In a subtle way.

 “Cecily, you can see Ace to the door. Your father and I start cleaning.”

I walked down the hallway with her by my side. I thought she was going to yell at me as soon as her parents would leave us alone but she surprised me by interlacing her fingers with mine.

Her curly locks kept bouncing with every step she took which was quite a different view.

A beautiful view.

“Thank you, Ace”, she said, closing the door when we were standing at the front porch. Her face was beaming when she gave me her purest smile.

My hand moved to her cheek, caressing her soft skin.

“Yeah, it wasn’t as awful as I expected.”
She arched her eyebrow, blinking a couple times. “Yeah, really. I thought either he was going to kill me or I. But we both behaved more or less.”

She sighed, wrapping her arms around my neck. “Expect that joke about dealing drugs you were… great. More or less. Thank you.”

I wrapped my arms around her waist. She was already on tiptoes but I inclined my head so she could kiss me.

“And what do I get as a thank-you gift?”, I whispered in her ear.

She didn’t have to think twice. “Um… my love?”

I snorted. “Cheesy.”

“Shut up.”

I gently disentangled myself from her, fumbling for my car keys. “Do you have some plans Saturday night?”

She shook her head. “No, the girls said goodbye to me today since they are going on vacations. Why?”

I felt guilty. All her friends were overseas, even Paul and Alex were going to Incheon next week and she was stuck here. Well, technically she wasn’t stuck. She was just stubborn and didn’t want to go anywhere else than fucking Chicago.

I shouldn’t feel guilty, I proposed to go to Europe, to Thailand, to each country that crossed my mind and she didn’t want to.

“We need to finish our date. Without interruptions this time.” I tilted my head, raking her body from head to toe. I brought my lips to her ear, the next thing should not hear anyone but her. “Wear that dress. My imagination has been fucking you like crazy since you’ve opened the door.”

She squeaked, her face turning redder than ever and I could literally feel the goose bumps covering her skin. It was amazing how her body reacted to my words.

“You perv”, she gasped, making me grin all the way back to my place.

 

***

CECILY

 

Mom and Dad were already in the kitchen, helping me with the cleaning.

The dinner wasn’t the best one I have ever had but it could have gotten worse. Far worse. At one point, I thought my father would choke Ace and vice versa but they behaved. More or less.

Just as I finished putting my yoga pants and t-shirt on, I walked downstairs to help them when I noted the murmurs.

“I’m not sure Julie. Can we really leave her alone? With him?”

I came to a halt.

“Oh, you’re being really too harsh on him.” My mother’s voice was calm as usual.

Dad snorted. “I’m not. I just know these boys. An irresponsible, young man. Rude and arrogant. He’s probably tattooed and drives a motorcycle.”

“He’s not”, I said when I entered the room. Their heads darted to me when they cleared their voices.

“He doesn’t have any tattoos and he never mentioned a motorcycle. I don’t know why you have so many prejudices against him, Papa, but I can assure you he’s one of the good guys.” I was calm which surprised me, but I think the dinner sucked all of my energy. It was nerve-racking.

I put the dishes in the sink, the warm water roaming my hands. “What did you mean with leaving me alone?”, I asked over my shoulder. “Are you planning on going on vacations?”

They didn’t answer and I wondered if my parents were still standing behind me. I turned off the water, watching them exchanging brief glances.

“What is going on?” Now I was starting to feel nervous.

“Chérie, there is something we want to talk about with you. Um, why don’t we sit on the couch for a minute?”
That is exactly the way of talking that I despise.

“I am not going to sit anywhere”, I said and folded my hands across my chest. “Would you please tell me what’s going on? You’re acting all weird.”

Mom sighed when she sat down next to Dad.

“Cecily, it has something to do with my work”, Dad began. “There are going to be some changes… the company has made a new contract with another one.”

“Okaaay…” I still didn’t understand.

He sighed, smiling at me. “A promotion has been offered to me which is something great and they want to expand and place new offices. I was offered to run one of the offices.”

“Why are you making such a mystery out of it? That’s great!” I felt stupid for being anxious, those are great news!

Dad smiled, “Yes, that’s really great. Um, they are expanding worldwide in fact.”

Oh…

“And?” My anxiety was coming back.

“And one of the new office is going to be in France. In Paris, to be precise.”

I was quiet for a while, his words echoing through my head.

“W-What? You aren’t really considering moving back to Paris, are you?”

They were quiet, looking at each other as if they needed to mentally debate what they should tell me or not.

Marlene came in, looking just as confused as I felt on the inside.

“Oh my God, you can’t be serious. What about us? This house?” I pointed at my sister. “What about Marlene’s school, her friends and our life?”

It was Mom who spoke now, “We already talked with your sister about this and she’s coming with us. With this new office, your father is going to earn twice as much as now and I was offered a job as a lecturer at the university there.”

My head was spinning when I looked at my sister who nodded, and then back to my parents. This was a joke. A bad mother-freaking joke.

“Oh my God… and since when do you know about that?!”, I snapped, my voice rising.

Dad cleared his throat. “Shortly after Noah got arrested, we talked about it–”

“But Noah isn’t in jail anymore!”, I cut in, pacing back and forth in our kitchen. “And we have no debts! So why the hell should you take that offer in Paris?!”

“It’s not just about the money, Cecily”, my father answered calmly. “We never wanted to stay in the States for the rest of our lives. Your grandparents, my brother, my – our family, they all still live in France.”

Family. And what are we?

“What about us? Noah and Stefan. Do they know about this?”

“They’re coming this weekend. We wanted to tell you all once they arrive.”

My eyes burned yet I refused to shed one single tear. “And what happens with this house? Don’t tell me you’re expecting me to come with you because–” I would lose my fucking calm if they would have the nerve to tell me I should come with them.

To my surprise, it was my sister who spoke. Her eyes got bigger and her voice was thin. “You… you’re not coming with us, Cecily?”, she asked and the pain in her voice was stopping my rage. Hurting her was the last thing I wanted to do but I needed to be honest. Another whirl of heat crawled up my throat.

“No, Marlene. I won’t.”

Tears welled up on my sister’s face and I needed to look away to keep my temper low. I couldn’t believe my parents let her believe I would come with them. I couldn’t believe they didn’t tell me. Discuss it with me. Anything.

“That’s… okay, chérie. You’re old enough to make your own decisions”, my mother said sadly.

“We are going to sell the house soon. There was already someone who’s interested and accepted the price. Of course, we would pay the rent for a room at the dorms for you.”

Before I could counter something, my father added, “But if you want to come with us, we would be delighted. Think about it. You’d be next to your sister, the university there is one of the best in Europe. The teaching hospital is very modern and known for the successful dentists that lecture there. I have gathered some information, you just needed to pass an entrance examination but the fact that you already study this gives you a great advantage. And we could come visit your brothers over Christmas or they come to us and–”

“Stop it!”, I snapped, anger in my voice. “I am certainly not going anywhere. And what shocks me the most, more than the fact that you are moving to Paris, is the fact that you decided and planned all of this without telling me once!”

“We also didn’t think about this for a long time”, Mom said quickly. “Things weren’t clear with your brother, so we dismissed the thought about going back. But now that everything is back to normal, we thought about this. This could be a great opportunity for your father, Cecily. And for my career, too.”

I swallowed that lump in my throat. I know their career was important to them and I respect that. But my career was just as important to me and I could never imagine leaving my life right now. I sure wanted to see the world and travel.

But not now.

For now, I wanted to finish my studies where I began them. With the friends that I knew for years. With the man that I loved like crazy.

“And when are you going?” My voice was already raspy.

“At the beginning of the next month, the office opens, so we need to be there earlier.”

“When?”, I asked again, my voice sharp with anger.

“In two weeks”, Dad answered. “They want me there as soon as possible to prepare everything.”

I felt sick.

“And what am I in this family? You planned all of this without telling me once? When were you even going to tell me?! Oh, right. This weekend. When everyone would be here gathered. Nice.”

Dad didn’t say anything, his eyes pitied me in a way I had never seen on his face. “We didn’t want to burden you. You were already under pressure with college and your exams.”

 “You still could have told me!”, I yelled, rage rolling off me immediately. Blaming college for excluding me wasn’t something I’d let him do. “I am not a little, weak girl that couldn’t have handled this information!”

He arched his eyebrows. “The way you’re reacting now is proving otherwise, Cecily.”

I kept clenching my fists until my nails cut my flesh. “I am acting like this because, apparently, you are not taking me seriously! You’ve made such a huge decision without telling me once! My opinion seems to be worthless!” Just looking at my parents was giving me a feeling of nausea.

I couldn’t look them in the eyes. They kept saying that I shouldn’t think like that and calm down, listing me the pros that the new situation could be considered as an opportunity for me to broaden my horizon. I couldn’t care less about my horizon.

“Stop”, I snapped after they began stating how wonderful Christmas in Paris could be with everyone gathered there. I couldn’t hear any more of this. I couldn’t even look at our kitchen, knowing that soon another person was going to live here.

I walked past my little sister. “I need to get out of here.”

Dad got up when I fetched the keys to my car. “And where are you going?”

I grabbed my purse. “I don’t know and I don’t care”, I snapped. “I just need to be alone and away from you all.”

The sound of me slamming the door was the last thing I heard before I noticed my ineffective attempts to muffle my crying. I got inside my car and drove off.

The moment I passed our neighborhood, I screamed. Once and long. I screamed until my lungs felt like tearing apart, until my ears hurt from my own voice echoed in the small room.

Secrets.

It all seemed to lead to that. Keeping it a secret. Even Marlene had known something about it or else she wouldn’t have been so down lately. Forcing my sister to keep quiet about this was inacceptable. I knew they forced her. She would’ve come to me the second they told her, I knew that.

Just what did they expect? That I would be just fine with that?

After Stefan and Noah left for college, it was me who stayed with them. I didn’t want to leave my parents and my little sister shortly after my brothers left. It was already too difficult for Mom when Stefan left and when Noah said he was moving across the country, she kept crying for weeks.

I didn’t want to put her through that. I didn’t want my sister to be alone. I wanted to be there for my family and now they were abandoning everything. I still couldn't believe how they planned everything without telling me a word!
I felt so betrayed.

My heart was slamming erratically. It always did that when I was upset and mad. I didn’t know where I was driving and I didn't care. At some point, I had the feeling of driving for hours but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered to me right now. A feeling of numbness was overwhelming me.

I parked the car at the side of some street and just looked through my windshield. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and no matter how much I struggled to calm down, I failed. Crying wasn't going to help but I couldn’t hold back any longer. Since the first waves of anger were gone, I felt nothing but a profound sadness. After what felt like hours I looked at my watch. It was past midnight.

Sighing, I rubbed my burning eyes and started the engine. The signs didn’t mean a thing to me and I followed just the roads, my thoughts swirling in my mind.

I thought about my friends. All of them living in different dorms, scattered around the city.

The fact of sharing a room with someone I didn’t know wasn’t what was clasping invisible fingers around my throat. It was rather loneliness.

I couldn’t even begin to imagine how it must be to live on your own. To have no one at the end of the day you can tell how your day was, how you feel, what your plans for the next days, weeks, or years are.

No, I didn’t want that.
I didn’t realize where I was until I saw the familiar crossroads where Ace’s apartment was. The lights up there

were off, and I was sure he was already asleep. Part of me hesitated but I needed him badly right now.

Even though I didn’t know what to tell him. Or how he would react of me being a complete mess. I felt so childish for being upset about something like that, but I couldn’t help it.
I checked my face in the rearview and wiped away the kohl, clearing my throat. It still sounded raspy. I guess I shouldn’t have screamed that loud.

After three knocks, I heard the heavy sound of his steps when he made his way to the door.

He opened the door and was looking sleep-deprived, his hair a mess in comparison to his neat look before. His eyes went wide as he saw me, surprise flickering between them.

“Cec, what are you doing here?” His voice was raspy and I felt bad for waking him up. He let me enter the hallway and immediately I flung my arms around him. My heart warmed up as he wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly. I buried my face into his t-shirt but didn’t cry anymore. I just wanted to inhale his scent and feel his warmth. It was enough to calm me down.

He gently pushed me off by my shoulders and looked at my face. “What happened, Cec? Is everything okay?”

I shook my head.

“I’m so sorry… I-I didn’t know where else to go a-and… I-I–”.

“Shhh, calm down.” He gently took my hand and ushered me to his bed. I sat down, feeling cold and suddenly tired. It was still too hard for me to think about the future.

His hand kept running up and down my back, the gesture was appeasing me even more until I found my voice again and finally told him what happened.

My tone was bitter when I explained how I felt. Just deceived.
I didn’t want to talk about my future. I didn’t want to think about what was going to come up to me.
Ace didn't ask further. I didn't notice what he was doing behind me, when I realized that he got another blanket for me.

My brows rose but he just smiled warmly. “I guess you don’t want to go home now.”

I shook my head. He studied me while I tossed my shoes at some corner. His eyes were red and again I felt bad again for waking him up in the middle of the night.
He laid down and I splayed next to him. Words failed me completely. I wanted to say thank you and sorry at the same time, yet both felt not enough. Nothing felt enough to tell him how much this meant to me.

Laying on my side, I felt his arms around my waist, pulling my back against his chest. There was a certain intimacy in this gesture and I felt a warm feeling spreading inside my chest. He pressed something soft against my hair and I wasn't sure but it felt as if that were his lips. I didn't turn around, not sure how to face him.
“Live with me”, he said, just above a whisper.

I turned to him, expecting it to be one of his jokes but the sincerity in his eyes was astonishing me.

“W-What?”, I half-laughed.

His light blue eyes were half open, resting on my face. “I mean it. Live with me here. Or we could look for another apartment, something bigger.”

“I hardly believe my parents would approve. Especially my father. And especially after that semi-fiasco dinner tonight.”

He uttered a brief laugh. “It wasn’t a fiasco. And it wasn’t entirely my fault. Besides, who cares what your parents think?”

Well, I didn’t want to start a relationship with the disapproval of one of my parents. I couldn’t say that to him, yet he must have sensed my worried look.

“He doesn’t have to know”, he suggested.
“You’re kidding, right? Even though it’s way too early for us to move together, how am I supposed to keep that a secret?”

“Say that you live with one of the girls. And when the time is right you can come with the truth. Maybe in a few months when he’s occupied with his work in Paris or something.”

He yawned, a short laugh escaping his lips. “And who cares if it’s too early or not? Who cares about time? We have done everything chaotically.”

I stared at those honest eyes, my heart nearly bursting from the warmth that was spreading in my chest. I exhaled deeply, Ace’s propositions swirling in my head.

I didn’t know what to think about it. This would be crazy. Totally crazy. My reason was stating all the cons and pros in my head.

“Think about it, okay?”

He caressed my cheek, his skin already sending me a shiver down my spine.

His offer was sweet but he was probably just pitying me and tomorrow he’d change his mind.

I rubbed my forehead. “I-I’m sorry for coming here suddenly. I just didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t know–”

“Stop it, Cec.” He tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Don’t say that.”

I gave him a weak smile.

I let my hand wander along his arms, tugging at the end of his sleeves. “Why are you wearing a t-shirt? Normally you don’t sleep with it.” I tried to sound neutral and not suggesting anything, because I wasn’t. I was just curious. I think so, at least.

He pulled me even closer, his hand slipping under my t-shirt and caressed my bare back. “I didn’t feel like taking it off tonight.”

I nodded, sniffing at his t-shirt. We were quiet and the evening kept replaying in my head. Especially the thing with my parents.

“Don’t think about it, Cec.”

“I can’t stop thinking about it, Ace.” My eyes moistened and I wiped a stupid tear that escaped in Ace’s shirt.

“What can I do to cheer you up?”, he whispered, I barely heard him and wondered if I was even supposed to hear it.

My mouth answered without consultation of my reason.

“I want to go to Chicago. I want to get away from here.”
I disentangled my arms from him and sat up, waiting for him to do the same. He sighed, rubbing his temples at my stubbornness. I wrapped my arms around his neck, the back of my thighs already on his lap.

“Take me to Chicago.” I didn’t say it seductively this time, I wasn’t pleading this time. I need this. I need to get away from Los Angeles and see something else. To see the place that brings me nearer to him.

“Okay”, he sighed.

My eyes widened.

“Really?!” My voice was full of astonishment. I think I’m dreaming. No, I was not dreaming. He said okay!

He rolled his eyes, nodding.

Not in a million year I had imagined him to say okay so easily. My face lit up whereas his darkened. I just hope he’s not going to change his mind.

“Let’s go tomorrow!”

“What?”, he groaned. He shook his head. “That’s insane.”

“Why? I want to get away as soon as possible.” Before you change your mind, eventually.

I fluttered with my eyelids, my fingertips caressing his arms. “Please.”

He closed his eyes, and I could feel the goose bumps under the pad of my fingertips.

“You’re a devil”, he growled.

“I know.”

Ripping his eyes open, he lifted me as if I was made of air and spun me around, his body veiling mine.

“Fine, fine, fine. But we’re not staying at my old house. Not even one night. We’re going to stay a few days in a hotel or something and that’s it. You’ll see the airport, and you’ll see that stupid city.”
I frowned. “And what about Thomas? We need to visit him at least once! And I want to see so many things! Your friends! What about the museums, the theater, the parks, the–”

“Okay, okay!”, he growled. His head fell back on the pillow while he kept sighing and groaning and cursing as usual.

I snuggled against his neck, my grin just didn’t want to vanish. I kept nodding and saying “Mh-hm” to every complain he was making but I couldn’t feel anything but happiness.

“Thank you”, I said for the hundredth time and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Don’t be huffy.” I poked his cheek, trying vainly to make him smile.

“I’m not.”

“Don’t be grumpy.”

“I’m not.”

“Stop being difficult”, I giggled, using his own words against him.

“Shut up”, he joked, pulling my arm around him so that my head was on his hard chest.

I yawned and rubbed my eyes. “I’m tired”, I mumbled, my eyelids shut. His hand was playing with my hair, my curls sticking between his fingers and then falling on my back. He repeated it, every time his fingers touched my head, I felt the goose bumps spreading like a tidal wave.

“You know why I do this, Cec.”

“Because you like my hair”, I mumbled.

“Not this.”

“Oh… mmm…” My mouth was getting tired, too.

“You know why I agreed”, he murmured.

“Because you love me, jerk-face.”

I didn’t hear what he said afterward, I already fell asleep; but I want to believe it was Yes, I love you like crazy, you baby.

 

 

 

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