My Saving Grace

Despite losing her mother when she was ten, Sophia Grace Weston has the life most kids dream of. Growing up, she had a loving father and was always surrounded by the most privileged people, but when she enters college, a brief encounter with Chase Lincoln reveals that life isn't easy for everyone like her. In fact, life can go spiraling downwards in just the blink of an eye. And when that happens, sometimes all you can do is pray for a saving grace.

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9. Chapter 9

My college professors sure weren't kidding when they'd said that chemical engineers had it tough. Four years of grueling coursework followed by a lifetime of challenging projects in the workforce. Six months into my job, and I finally came to accept that it was hard. Fortunately, I loved what I did and was extremely motivated. 

 

Most of my days were spent in the laboratory working with fellow engineers to design the processes used to transform raw materials into essential health products like medicine and nutritional drinks. There was so much purpose and value to what I did, and I wouldn't trade my job for the world. 

 

Throughout the months, I'd formed a strong friendship with my co-workers, Ella and Peter. We were all single and enjoyed stuffing ourselves with half-apps every Friday night. They also filled the empty void that was my nonexistent love life. 

 

Ever since July, I'd been saying a silent prayer to Chase Lincoln every night before bed. For years, I'd forced myself to forget about him, but he was too special a person to simply be thrown in the back of my memory. Wherever he was now, I hoped life was treating him right. 

 

It was a cool Saturday night in February, and I was out with Ella and Peter. Peter was turning twenty-four today, so we'd decided to celebrate by taking him out to dinner at The Lobster, a high end seafood restaurant in Santa Monica with a beautiful view of the ocean. 

 

"You girls think I'll get laid tonight?", Peter joked as we struggled to crack open the lobster tails. 

 

"Absolutely. The girl sitting at the table behind you has been staring at you for the past half hour," Ella replied. 

 

I looked to where Ella was gesturing and indeed, there was a girl practically ogling Peter. With blonde hair and blue eyes, he looked like your typical frat boy and dressed like one, too. He had a very youthful face, though, and could pass for a college freshman. 

 

"You should ask her to go clubbing with us later," I suggested. 

 

"What about her friends?", Peter inquired. 

 

"Eh, just invite them, too."

 

"Sweet." He grinned. 

 

By the time I finished my entrée, my dress felt like it was going to rip off of my body. But I refused to miss out on the triple layer chocolate cake. 

 

Standing up, I excused myself to go use the bathroom. The majority of the people dining here looked like the business type--older and dressed to impress. My friends and I were definitely the youngest ones. 

 

I located the restroom in the back corner of the restaurant, but on my way there, the sight of a couple sitting at a nearby booth halted my footsteps. It wasn't the woman I focused on, but the man. Something about him seemed so familiar. 

 

Styled dark brown hair and tan skin...

 

It was as if he could feel my eyes on his back because at that moment, he turned around, and a gasp escaped my lungs when his brown eyes landed on mine. 

 

My knees buckled involuntarily just as a waiter walked by carrying a pitcher of water, and to my horror, we collided, the contents of the pitcher spilling all over my dress. I quickly took a step back, oblivious of the chair leg behind me until I felt my heel connecting with it. Next thing I knew, my arms were thrashing about wildly as my butt landed on the ground. 

 

"Oh my god, ma'am, I'm so sorry," the waiter frantically apologized. "Let me go grab a towel for you."

 

I listened to the sound of his quick, retreating footsteps and closed my eyes, unable to look at anybody. 

 

"So we meet again, Miss Mac and Cheese," another voice spoke moments later. 

 

My eyes immediately blinked open. Hovering over me was the nameless face I'd never stopped thinking about since that day at Ralphs.

 

"I'll take care of her," he said, dismissing the waiter before directing his attention back to me. 

 

"H-how did you remember me?", I asked him, brushing the hair out of my eyes.

 

"You're an unforgettable person," he replied with a smirk. 

 

It took all I had to fight back tears of humiliation--why did he always have to see me at my worst? 

 

"You must think I'm such an idiot."

 

He crinkled his nose. 

 

"Sort of. Here, let me help you up." 

 

He offered me his arm, and I held onto it as he pulled my body up. To make matters worse, the heels I wore had caused my ankle to twist slightly during the fall, so I winced in pain while attempting to stand. 

 

A frown formed on his perfect lips then he bent down, removing both of my heels before standing back up. 

 

"There, that better?"

 

"Yes, thank you." I managed a small smile. He nodded his head, handing me my heels. 

 

"Oh, and you might want to put something on over that dress."

 

My eyes traveled down to the front of my peach dress, and one look was all it took for me to cry out in embarrassment. The white lace bra I wore was totally visible through the thin fabric, which was soaking wet. Instinctively, I crossed my arms around my chest, covering myself. 

 

At that moment, Peter and Ella both came rushing towards me with horrified faces. 

 

"Oh my god, what happened to you?", Peter asked. 

 

"I accidentally bumped into a waiter while he was carrying a pitcher of water."

 

"That's terrible!"

 

"I know...Ella, can you go grab me my cardigan real quick?"

 

"Yes, of course." She ran back towards our table. 

 

"Peter, I'm sorry, but I don't think I can go clubbing with you and Ella. I look like an absolute fool right now. And I think I hurt my ankle." 

 

My lips were in a pout, and I fought the urge to cry. 

 

"No, you don't. You look gorgeous like always." He smiled. 

 

"It's your birthday. Go enjoy yourself. Tell Ella I'll call an Uber to get home."

 

Some time during my exchange with Peter, the handsome stranger had left to return to his booth. Before leaving, I vowed to finally put a name to his face. 

 

"You sure, Soph?"

 

"Yes, I'm sure," I said firmly.

 

Ella returned with my cardigan and was sad to hear that I wouldn't be joining them at the club. My ankle wasn't in the right condition to dance, and I'd suffered enough humiliation to last a lifetime. 

 

"Ok. You still want to order dessert?"

 

"I'll pass."

 

Ella gave me a sad smile, and I hugged both her and Peter before they left. After using the bathroom, I made my way to the front of the restaurant, avoiding eye contact with everyone. As soon as I was outside, I pulled out my phone to dial an Uber when I heard his deep voice. 

 

"Where are you going?"

 

Turning around, I came face to face with the handsome stranger as he leaned against the building with his arms crossed. Clad in a light blue dress shirt and gray slacks, he looked hotter than ever, and the navy blazer he wore on the outside added a sophisticated touch.

 

"Home." 

 

"What about your friends?"

 

"They're going clubbing. It's Peter's birthday today." 

 

"I see. How are you getting home?", he further questioned. 

 

"Uber. I didn't drive here."

 

His lips curved downward, and he took a step towards me. 

 

"I'll drive you home." 

 

"That won't be necessary," I quickly declined, pulling my cardigan tighter around my body. The ocean breeze had gotten cooler, and it didn't help that I was soaking wet. 

 

"Why not?"

 

"Don't you have a date waiting for you in there?", I nodded my head towards the restaurant. 

 

"Who, the woman?"

 

"Yeah." My feet shuffled awkwardly on the ground. 

 

"She wasn't my date. And she just left a couple of minutes ago," he replied simply. I did a mental somersault. 

 

"We're practically strangers, though. I don't even know your name."

 

"I think we're far from strangers, Miss Mac and Cheese. And you never asked me what my name was." 

 

"Fine. What's your name?"

 

He gave me a smug smile, revealing a tiny dimple on his left cheek.

 

"I'll tell you once we're in my car."

 

"Deal." 

 

I spun around on my heel and started walking towards the parking lot, hearing the sound of his low chuckle behind me. The guy seemed harmless enough, and I'd always been a daring person. At the end of the fourth row, I stopped where his BMW was parked. 

 

"Wait, how did you know this was my car?", he asked, glancing sideways at me. 

 

"Last time I saw you, your BMW was the only other car parked on the street."

 

"Interesting," he murmured, his brows furrowed as he held the door open for me. 

 

"Well, aren't you a gentleman," I said teasingly, climbing in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the slightest twitch of his lips, but then his straight face came back all too soon. 

 

Gee, did this man ever smile? 

 

As soon as he got in the driver's seat, I recited my address to him, and he entered it into his navigation system; It would take approximately forty-five minutes to get home. 

 

"I believe I deserve the name now," I remarked when he began backing out. 

 

"Antonio."

 

"Antonio...," I repeated, the name rolling smoothly off my lips. "It suits you perfectly."

 

"How so?" He gave me a brief sideways glance, keeping one arm on the steering wheel. 

 

"It sounds very exotic. And well, you also look quite exotic." I blushed slightly. 

 

"My father is Italian."

 

"And your mother?"

 

"She's German."

 

"That's cool."

 

I drummed my fingers on my thigh as silence descended upon us. I was usually quite talkative with guys, but Antonio was different. He seemed reserved somehow and to be honest, kind of intimidating. 

 

I sure hoped I wouldn't lose the ability to smile once I hit my thirties. 

 

"Oh, my name is Sophia, in case you were wondering," I spoke. 

 

"I knew that already," he said. 

 

"Wait, what?" I sat up straighter in my seat, looking over at him. 

 

"You're Sophia Weston, Derek Weston's beloved daughter. I've seen photos of you since you were a kid in magazines and newspapers. In fact, I think every California citizen has," he explained.

 

I blew a raspberry, feeling utterly exposed. 

 

"God, you pretty much know everything about me then."

 

"Not everything. But I will say this."

 

"What?", I asked him, my curiosity piqued. 

 

"You definitely aren't what I expected you to be." 

 

"Please elaborate, Antonio."

 

He rubbed his jaw, directing his eyes to me since we were at a traffic light. 

 

"You're very honest and down-to-earth. Most kids who grow up in extremely wealthy families don't turn out like that. Believe me, I know."

 

I couldn't help but smile. 

 

"You probably weren't expecting me to be such a fool, either, huh?"

 

"That, too. But hey, you are a blonde, after all." 

 

"Go fuck yourself," I spat, slapping his arm, and his eyes gleamed with amusement. 

 

"Someone's got a dirty mouth."

 

"Sorry if I offended you, prick."

 

"Don't worry, I like my women dirty." He gave me a provocative wink, and my panties literally dropped. 

 

God, what I would give to just rip his clothes off of him. Clearing my throat, I rid my mind of those explicit thoughts.

  

"So, what do you for a living, Antonio?", I asked. 

 

"I'm a professional male stripper," he replied with a straight face, throwing me completely off guard. 

 

"You don't look like a professional male stripper..."

 

"Looks can be deceiving, Sophia."

 

"I know...But hey, I totally respect your job. Everyone has to make a living somehow, right?"

 

"Right..." 

 

He was studying my face, probably searching for any signs of disapproval, but I had none. Since my time with Chase, I'd learned to embrace the fact that not everyone got to deal with ideal circumstances. 

 

Including Antonio. 

 

"It's funny how you know so much about me, but I barely know anything about you," I commented. 

 

"Why do you have to know more about me? It's not like I'm planning on marrying you." 

 

As soon as the words left his mouth, I felt a pang of hurt in my chest. Clearly, the attraction I had for him was one-sided. Now that I thought about it, he probably only offered to drive me home earlier out of pity. 

 

For the remainder of the ride, neither of us spoke. I tried to focus on Alicia Keys's smooth vocals playing silently through the car speakers, shutting out the man sitting next to me. 

 

Even after knowing his name, he was still just a handsome stranger to me. 

 

The moment we arrived at my apartment, he found a place to park and turned off the ignition. I grabbed my purse, opening the car door, and managed to put one foot on the pavement when I felt him grab my elbow. 

 

"You know what else I didn't expect when I saw you for the first time?", he spoke softly, his eyes smoldering. 

 

"What?" My heart beat furiously in my chest. 

 

"I didn't expect you to be this beautiful."

 

With a swift pull of his arms, my body landed against his hard chest, and before I could process what was happening, Antonio's lips were on mine. 

 

It was electrifying, the feeling of his muscular body pressed against my soft curves as our lips molded together; his tongue darted out to trace my bottom lip, and I moaned quietly, clutching the lapels of his blazer. 

 

Just when I was about to part my mouth for him, he broke our kiss, pulling away from me. 

 

"I should get going. It's late," he muttered in a detached tone, avoiding my eyes. Our chests were rising and falling heavily. 

 

"I understand," I murmured. Grabbing my purse, I quickly got out of the car then turned around to look at him. "Thank you for driving me home, Antonio."

 

"Don't worry about it. Good night, Sophia." 

 

He lifted his eyes to mine for the briefest of seconds then sped away, leaving me with nothing but the sweet taste of his lips which lingered in my mouth. 

 

It was the moment I reached my bedroom when I fell back against the door and cried. Because Antonio's brown eyes had held regret with that last look he gave me. 

 

Regret at having kissed me. 

 

And all I could feel was pain and utter confusion. 

 

 

 

A/N- So, what do you guys think of Antonio's character? Leave comments, and remember to like! 

 
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