Unwillingly Yours(13)

By: Marian Tee & Lourdes Marcelo

Too much. Derek had a feeling he had made his move too fucking fast, pushing her too fucking hard and he was going to pay for it.

Two Years Earlier

Jaike carefully adjusted her lens before kneeling on the ground, her lens zooming between the rails of Roosevelt Bridge. The position gave her the perfect angle to take a long-range shot of the town of Stuart. With dawn breaking overhead, the town appeared magical, wrapped in a mystery of pink clouds and orange skies.

Click, click, click. She took a series of shots before getting back to her feet. When she lowered her SLR, a guy stood before her, startling Jaike into a little jump.

“Did I surprise you?” Derek asked innocently. He wore a black sleeveless shirt and khakis, and he had his own SLR camera slung around his neck.

Jaike shrugged, not trusting herself to speak. If she did, her voice might reveal the suddenly maddening state of her heartbeat.

“You look beautiful.” Derek always said it like he meant it, even though she had to be Scarlett Johansson’s twin just to look marginally attractive next to him.

“I don’t.” She said it because she meant it, too. She knew what she looked like, what everyone saw in her. Jaike was average girl in all ways---her hair was neither silky straight nor curly, her skin neither ivory nor gold, and her face was just…passable.

What she couldn’t figure out was what Derek saw in her that made him so persistent all this time. There wasn’t a day she didn’t get to see him, talk to him, and he didn’t even seem to care if he did so while Angelo was right next to her.

They had their staring contest again, one she always inevitably lost. His gaze made her uncomfortable even now, with the way his eyes caressed her body as if he knew what she looked underneath her clothes.

In an effort to distract herself Jaike gestured awkwardly to his camera. “I didn’t know you’re into photography, too.”

“I just joined yesterday.” The lazy smile on his lips was an arrow to her heart, one that never ever missed. And it was an arrow that struck her entire body.

Jaike tried to control her reaction to that smile, appalled at the heat that enveloped her, as if his gaze alone could command her body.

Derek smirked, as if he knew exactly what his nearness did to her. And he probably did, considering his reputation. Jaike wasn’t blind or deaf. She knew he was a ladies’ man, that he dated practically every girl who came on to him.

Derek reached out to touch her but she quickly stepped back. He chuckled, and even the sound was possessive, like he was only being generous in giving her time to be apart from him.

“I hate taking photos.” Derek lifted his camera from his chest, turning it around in his hands as if it was a toy he couldn’t decipher.

She pressed her lips together, not wanting to accidentally scold him for the careless way he held his camera. The muscles in his arms flexed with every move he made, and Jaike gnashed her teeth, hating how just the sight of it made her toes curl inside her sneakers. Why couldn’t she stop being so obsessed with him?

“Why are you staring at me like that?” There was that smirk again.

She stumbled for an excuse. “I don’t understand why you bought a camera if you hate taking photos.” She fingered the ID card pinned to her jeans pocket, which served to identify her as a club member. “Are you hoping you’ll improve with the club?”

Derek replied in a matter-of-fact tone, “I bought this camera, I joined this club, and I woke four in the morning today just to see you.”

Jaike’s lips parted in shock. When he didn’t take the words back, she said lamely, “That’s not a good reason to spend hundreds of dollars for something you won’t use.”

His laughter startled her. “You still sound like a nun.”

Derek’s amusement was infectious, and Jaike was unable to prevent her lips from twitching.

Derek pretended to clutch his heart. “At last! I thought I’d never see you smile at me again.”

This time, Jaike really did smile, and it widened when Derek groaned. “Now I can die happy.”

She giggled.

Derek’s jaw dropped. “Did you just…giggle?”

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