"I can't believe she's engaged!"
"So can't I. Who told you this, just to confirm?" Dallas asked Verity.
"Bridge did a few minutes ago, aren't you as happy as I am?"
Dallas sipped from her smoothie and fiddled with the straw. "I am, but how long have they been together?"
"For a fair amount of time, I think. Who cares? I'm so happy for them!" Verity threw a chocolate wrapper into a dustbin and pulled out her phone. She looked at Dallas and continued, walking ahead, "I'll tell Eli to meet us at the villa."
"I'll wait here and catch up with you guys after a while, okay?"
Verity turned back with the phone beside her ear and waved. "Okay, be back soon. I bet Mom will treat us all to a big feast if she knew."
Dallas smiled and watched Verity disappear around the corner. She threw the smoothie into the same dustbin and exhaled. For some reason, Dallas could not believe the fact that Bridge was engaged to Zed. Didn't they know each other for a few months or something? She shrugged off those thoughts, telling herself that was none of her business.
She just knew that the engagement news did not feel right. Why wasn't she jumping around like Verity? She decided that she did not know Zed and Bridge like Verity did and decided to take a walk.
She walked a few steps and saw a familiar figure sitting on a bench near a swing. The man was carrying a baby in his hands and his eyes were full of life.
She smiled to herself and started to walk toward him. She crossed the road and waved, when she realized he had spotted her. He struggled with the baby, but rose slowly. "Hey, you're Dallas Fletcher, right?" He smiled widely and held the baby's hands so she couldn't play with his hair. He noticed her reaching out for the baby girl and he slowly gave her to Matilda.
"Goodness, Ness, over here, can't stay still for a minute, God!" He exclaimed, but stopped. Ness, the little baby, was laughing and seemed to get along with Dallas. "Whoa! She..." he thought for a moment and smiled, "likes you."
Dallas laughed and played with little Ness' blonde curls. "She is so cute. Look at her."
"You're lucky; she's a tough nut to crack."
Ness' eyes twinkled in the sunlight and her fair skin was as smooth as silk. Dallas felt a peculiar sense of rapture erupt out of her. She felt like her body burst into a million butterflies and her soul was exposed to the goodness surrounding her. She sighed, intruding her feelings. "Is this your baby?" She asked, deeply hoping that the answer was a clear-cut 'NO'.
She was positive that she liked Mitch better if he was not married or did not have any children. Where was she going with this? Even if he was married and had children, what difference would that make, she thought. It was not as if she was going to go out with him or even think about doing that. That was completely out of context.
"Definitely not," he replied, his voice husky, "this is my sister's little girl, Vanessa. We call her "Ness", but her mom hates it."
Dallas sighed. Relief was exactly what she felt.
Mitch noticed this and gave out a little chuckle. "Were you scared at the thought of me being married and having a kid?"
She turned around and laughed. "No, no, no," she screamed. "I'm embarrassed."
"Of liking me?" He pretended to cover his face with his hands. "That's just sad coming from a cute girl like you."
"Ha, ha. Um... I don't know what to say."
"How about yes to a cup of coffee?"
Dallas shook her head in amusement, and then looked at him. "A coffee wouldn't hurt, would it?"
Dallas sipped the remaining coffee and watched Mitch feed Ness. She ate a biscuit and clung onto Mitch's neck. "You can tell Zoe that her daughter is absolutely adorable."
"She'd be glad," he replied, and sat her on his lap carefully. He untangled her fingers from his hair and continued, "How long are you going to be staying here?"
"I have no clue, but, um... for quite some time, that's for sure."
"That's great; we can get time to know more about each other." He looked into Dallas' eyes and back at the table.
Dallas looked down; she felt quite uncomfortable doing this. Honestly, she could swear and say confidently that she had never done any of this emotional loving stuff with and to Eli. It seemed so easy with him. Every emotion imaginable flowed out of her genuinely and with ease. She did not fake anything with Eli. The 'looking into the eyes' part, the 'singing together' part, the 'dancing together' part... everything.
Everything was better with Eli.
Not that she cared now. She had convinced herself earlier when she said, "I can't take this anymore," to Eli. She could not take the fact that Eli was causing all the pain for her. From the time she had come to Ashford, she had seen two people shot. One being her brother. She found out her parents were murdered by people she is staying with.
This time, she had decided that she could take care of herself and that she did not need Eli or Parker to make her feel better.
Then, came Mitch.
"Mitch, I have to go. I told Verity that I'll be coming before thirty minutes."
"She can wait," he said, persuasively.
Dallas collected her bag from the seat and pinched Ness' cheeks before saying goodbye.
"I'm so sorry, I hope we meet each other again.
"I really do."
She sprinted off and Mitch watched her walk away.
"Thanks for coming soon, Dallas," Verity greeted her when she opened the door.
"Verity, I am so sorry," she said, pleadingly, "I caught up with a friend."
"Okay, then, let's move. Everybody's here."
Dallas followed Verity into the living room. And Dallas realized whom 'everybody' meant. The entire family was here, not strangers or other residents in Ashford. The chandelier glimmered brightly and glasses of champagne were visible in the air. She realized Jess had apparently cooked a wonderful meal. It was like Thanksgiving. A turkey was obviously the centerpiece, and surrounding it were two different salads, a huge bowl of pasta, newly baked French bread, and cheesecake and gateau for dessert.
Dallas gasped when she got the full view of the dining table. "Oh, God! Did she have to make all of this?"
"I thought the same when I saw what she saw, what she came up with," Bridge inched beside her and said quietly. "Oh my goodness, congratulations!" Dallas hugged Bridge as Bridge laughed.
"I'm very excited. I'm so happy."
"I would be too, if I were you."
Bridge toyed with the ring on her finger, and Dallas gasped. She grabbed Bridge's hand, and inspected the ring. "Look at that rock!" She thrust Bridge's hand and Bridge said, "I'm very lucky. He's a nice guy. See you later." She smiled, waved and headed over to Zed.
"Yes, I saw his 'niceness' when he flirted with me when he met me," Dallas muttered under her breath.
A husky voice asked her this.
Eli walked closer and realizing the promise he made to himself.
"Where were you?"
Dallas fidgeted with the handle of her bag, and blurted out finally, "I was with Mitch. Mitch Nilsson?"
Dallas huffed and folded her arms.
"Was it a date or something?" He asked her, his figure towering over her.
She stepped back and snapped angrily, "Why do you want to know? Are you my dead father to ask me that?"
Dallas stepped toward Eli and thrust a finger at his chest. "You better not say a word about him and stick your nose in my personal life."
He smiled and mumbled something. "Do you listen to yourself? You sound like a-" He stopped and balled his fists.
"A what? I sound like a what, Eli?" She asked louder.
Eli couldn't take this anymore. He shook his head irritably, and walked away. Dallas exhaled deeply and sat on a chair nearby. What was wrong with her? Why did she act like that? What happened to all those feelings when she was with Mitch? The feelings of desperation and the feeling of wanting him back. She was just asserting her independence. More like ego, Dallas recalled. She felt bad and useless. She felt like a puppet; her big-headedness was costing her Eli. Her friend and everything now.
She sat down, and listened unresponsively to the songs playing.
After exactly fifteen minutes at four, Dallas found a hasty Veronica rushing toward her. "Mrs. Griffin, are you okay?"
She sat on the chair next to her and collected herself. Dallas took a whiff of her, and pinched her nose slightly. "Wow, she's a lightweight. She was fine when I saw her first." She held on to Veronica and put a coat on her to cover all the skin she was showing in her little black dress. This was interesting for Matilda as she had never seen or spoken to an inebriated Veronica. Luckily, Jess saw Dallas struggling with Veronica and quickly came over.
"Is she okay?"
Dallas shook her head and replied, "She is not okay. I think she had too many drinks."
Jess grabbed onto Veronica's waist and they walked to the stairs carefully. "Obviously. She was hogging on some shots just before you came." She lowered her voice this time and continued, "I heard them fighting."
They got to the bedroom and slowly placed her on the bed. She was moaning and grunting. "Who were fighting?" Dallas panted.
"She," Jess said softly pointing at Veronica, "was fighting with Gabriel."
Jess shrugged. "I don't know. But, it was something about the engagement and Bridge."
Veronica moaned and snorted again. "Bridge, you don't deserve... in the Griffin family... you gold-digger." Jess and Dallas gasped and Dallas' eyes were wide-opened in shock. Veronica tumbled on the bed and flailed her hands in the air. She laughed loudly and snorted again. "You only came here for the money, you imbecile."
"Next thing, you'll get pregnant and call yourself a mom and me a grandmother."
Dallas covered her ears and screamed, "Okay! That's it." She walked to Veronica and said slowly so she could understand, "Mrs. Griffin, you really need to get a hold of yourself and keep control of your tongue, now."
She went on rambling. "Fooling everyone with your charm... even my own husband. Poor Gabriel."
"Jess, you can go now," Dallas told the interested cook, and sighed as she watched her leave.
Jess did not seem only interested but thoroughly enjoying this. Dallas knew by now that Jess was like a live broadcast. The words coming from her mouth spread like wildfire, and even though Veronica deserved this, Parker had a better plan to get vengeance.
She made Veronica lay on the bed, and covered her properly. Matilda sighed again and closed the door. What she learned from this was Veronica hated Bridge. She hated Bridge so much. She called Bridge an "imbecile" and a "gold-digger".
Dallas bit her lip and she went down the stairs. This gave her another reason to hate Veronica and a stronger motive for revenge.
This is short. I am trying to post regularly. Thank you to all still in touch with this story. I really appreciate it.