Unwillingly Yours(4)

By: Marian Tee & Lourdes Marcelo

The entire place was crowded, all the way to the poolside lounge, where couples danced to mixes by the DJ from the university’s radio station. Eric’s pad smelled of booze and nicotine, which made Jaike a little dizzy. The music switching from hip hop to heavy metal didn’t help either, the loud thuds becoming a prelude to what was fast becoming a major headache.

Would Marcy get mad if she left without saying anything? Clearly, tagging along was a huge mistake. She just did not fit in this kind of scene. For one thing, everyone seemed to be wearing layers of glitter and body oil. Standing next to them, Jaike felt like she was a block of wood surrounded by gemstones.

Here, she thought morosely, was probably another reason Angelo was standing her up more often than usual. She chewed on her lip, wondering if it was time to try shedding off even just a bit of her hang-ups. Perhaps could try being more outgoing. She wanted to be an asset to Angelo, not a brick around his neck.

Her phone buzzed with a default tone, one that made the small clique of girls at the other end of the table titter.

“I told you to change your ring tone,” Marcy whispered to her.

“I don’t have the time,” Jaike said, still fumbling inside her larger-than-life bag for her phone.

“You mean you don’t want to make time.” Marcy sighed in consternation. “And would you pleeeeeeeaaaaaase bring a smaller bag next time? You don’t have to carry your whole house with you all the time!”

“I’m not.” Then she added honestly without looking up, “But I want to if that’s possible.”

“Two words: control freak.”

“Aha!” After three minutes, Jaike had finally found her phone – the tiniest Blackberry model, which she had purchased because it was exceptionally light. It was Angelo, telling her not to wait up for his phone call tonight. Her heart ached a little at the curt tone of his message. Something was so goddamn wrong between them, but she just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Returning the phone to her bag, she looked up to find Marcy gone.

“Seriously?” Jaike muttered to herself as she hastily scanned the room. Dammit! The no-good liar! She was so going to get Marcy for this the moment she found her friend in the crowd, which seemed to have grown ten times more in size since they had come in. It made her head throb even more painfully.

Yes, this was definitely a headache – and it was on its way to developing into a full-fledged migraine.

“Koukla mou.”

The hairs on her nape stood up at the sound of the low deep voice coming from behind her with its faint Greek accent and teasing undertone.

The flawed part of her responded to the voice instantly, body softening in recognition as if it had found the missing half of her soul. But the sensible part of her veered away from it just as quickly, and Jaike scanned the crowded room again, this time searching for a place to hide.

“Are you really going to pretend you don’t hear me?”

Yes, she was, for her sanity. She clenched her teeth, hating the melodramatic turn of her thoughts. It was always, always like this with him. She quickened her pace, but it was just too late.

“Jaike.” It was louder this time, wicked amusement lacing her name, and drawing more attention to them. She could feel heads turning, ears attuned to gossip twitching.

“Are you avoiding me?”

Pinning a smile to her face, she whirled around, her headache gone but her stomach queasy when she found herself gazing into dark blue-gray eyes that always seemed to uncomfortably see through her.

Jaike quickly looked away before she could see more in those eyes. Everything in them was a danger to her, a threat to the self-control she had worked so hard for.

“Having a nice time avoiding me?” A lazy smile accompanied the words, turning them into an innuendo.

“I wasn’t avoiding you.” She hated how he made it seem like they were playing a game of hide-and-seek, like she wanted to run away so he could go after her.

“That’s too bad. I like the idea of running after you.” Derek paused meaningfully, as if wanting her to fully experience the electric current that went through her body at his words. “I’ve gotten good at it over the years.”

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