It disturbs me way more than I expected when Chloe sort of distances herself. After that night, I thought we'd become closer considering I now knew what had happened and we were over it, but something told me it wasn't going to be so easy. I should have listened to that voice.
She was fine, in general. We spent the same amount of time together. I surprised her with flowers one evening and took her out for dinner and when we were together, everything was great. But there were times I felt she wasn't there, not mentally, that she was slipping through my fingers and that scared me. A lot.
So I decided to talk to Ray Friday morning.
"Don't worry man. She probably needs to just sort through her head. She really cares about you, I can vouch for that with complete confidence. Knowing Chloe she's probably worried on how you took it or something. Don't give her space or anything. Just be normal. It'll come out in time, trust me."
And with that advice in mind, I work on keeping everything normal between us.
"How was the party?" I ask Ray as he joins me in the kitchen after showering. It's the day after I'd lost the contract. He'd gotten back while I was asleep and this was the first I was seeing of him.
"Great!" He grins before sobering. "What happened yesterday?"
I shrug, "Nothing. Why?"
He studies me, "I just got this weird feeling that something wasn't right but I didn't want to call and worry you. I thought maybe it was because you lost the contract but I don't think so."
Sighing, I tell him everything. I'm not as upset as I was yesterday but it still dampens my mood.
"What they both said is really insulting and I don't blame you for being upset. But Chloe-boo, you believe in yourself, I believe in you, your whole staff believes in you and most importantly, Jacob believes you. I'm not sure if you've noticed but he's made you so much more of a happier person. You're really blessed."
I sigh, taking in his words. "I know what you mean, but I was already upset how they'd treated me about the contract. That was just like heaping fire to the coals."
"I know, I know." Sighing, he pulls me into a hug.
"What are you doing still sitting there?" Ray demands walking into the living room, Friday afternoon. I look up from the book I'm reading and see him all dressed in jacket, cap and gloves.
He shakes his head, "Go get dressed. We're going out."
"Where?" I ask as I walk past him towards my room.
Well, that narrows it down.
I brush back my hair into a ponytail and then pull on my jacket.
"Wear your gloves." Ray calls.
I find them hanging off my desk and then pull them on, walking out. Sitting down on the couch in the front room, I pull on my boots.
Ray follows me out, locking the front door behind him. He then leads me downstairs and out onto the sidewalk.
"We're going for a walk?"
"Yeah, the weather's great."
"Okay." I nod, walking beside him.
We walk towards the park, trudging in the snow. Children's laughter meet us as we walk through the gates and looking around we can see quite a few neighborhood kids out, playing in the snow, making snowmen. I don't realize Ray's fallen behind until I look towards my right. Turning around, I see him crouched on the ground.
"What are you doing?" I ask and clearly startle him as he straightens.
"Nothing. There was something in my shoe."
"I see." I give him a suspicious look as he joins me.
"What?" He laughs, tugging me along.
I sit down on a bench and watch as he looks around. My eyes drift over to a couple sitting on another bench nearby, children making snow angels and pushing each other, a dog owner walking his pet.
I gasp as the snow makes contact with my cheek.
Chuckling, he backs away. "What?" But he raises his hands and I see his gloves covered on snow.
"You're so dead!"
"Really?" He tilts his head to the side.
"Oh, yeah." I bend down and form a ball of snow. Standing up, I step towards Ray.
"You'll miss." He taunts and raising an eyebrow, I take another step forward.
Turning around, Ray flees, his red jacket standing out against the white snow. I run behind him, keeping in pace and getting closer with every step. Looking over his shoulder, his eyes widen but he keeps running. He surprisingly turns around for a second and flings a ball in my direction. I quickly duck down, still running and throw my own. It hits him square in the back but he continues on. There's a hill on the left, a path on the right and I see Ray trying to decide which way to go. Knowing him, I turn towards the left and seconds later he makes the same decision. He's just a few steps ahead of me when I launch myself onto his back.
"Oof!" He's thrown forward with the impact, but manages to stay on his feet.
"You can't get away that easily." I say, slipping snow beneath his collar and down his back.
Ray groans, "Get off Chloe! You're heavy."
"Not! And I'm staying."
"Oh, really?" He makes to swing me forward but I quickly wrap my legs around his waist. He loses his balance and starts to fall, his arms held out in front.
"You hurt?" I ask, rolling off him.
"No." He groans, closing his eyes.
"Good." I dump a handful of snow on his face.
"You little..." In a quick motion he's got me pinned down on the ground, one leg holding me down. "That's not funny Chloe! It's freezing!"
"And?" I ask, my expression blank.
He scowls, "I can't believe you did that."
"Neither can I! You started it anyway."
"I didn't dump it in your face."
"You threw it. It's much worse."
I sigh, "Ray, I really thi-"
His head whips around as a snowball hits the back of his head. Another one lands just inches away from my shoulder.
"Who could that be?" He whispers, glancing at me.
"There were kids there."
"I know, but.."
"Exactly." He lets me go and we slowly stand up. Bending down, Ray makes a couple of snowballs and I do the same. He lifts a finger to his lips and I nod as we silently start to make our way towards the hill, where the balls were shot from.
Our hands raised, each walk out on either sides of the hill and I stop in surprise to see about eight children on their knees making snowballs along with Jacob.
What is he doing here?
He turns around and his eyes widen as he sees me.
There's a shout from Ray's direction as they start firing the balls at us, rapidly. I make a futile effort of defending myself by throwing the ones I have in hand before taking off.
With a battle cry, the kids run after us.
"This is crazy!" I pant as I catch up with Ray.
"I know." He glances over his shoulder. "Let's split up."
We go in the opposite directions and a look over my shoulder shows Jacob and three boys are behind me.
Panting, I swivel around to face them.
"Come on you guys." I pant, "I'm exhausted. Why are you chasing me anyway?"
"It's fun!" One of the kids exclaims.
I look imploringly at Jacob. "Please?"
"Moooooovee!!" Ray shouts and I turn just in time to see him heading towards me. Before I can react, I'm knocked down onto the floor. The children gather around us and I quickly turn my face into Ray's jacket as we're pounded with snowballs.
"Okay, okay! That's enough!" Jacob chuckles and one by one they stop.
"What was that for?!" Ray exclaims once the kids have disappeared. I sit up, shaking snow out of my hair and he props himself up on an elbow.
Jacob shrugs, "I was walking towards the apartment and saw you two heading out. I called you guys but you didn't hear and when I got here you were running around."
"So you decided to join the game?"
I glare at Jacob as Ray does the questioning.
He grins. "Yup."
"Wrong move pal."
Ray turns to me and raises an eyebrow, looking devious. Jacob's eyes narrow as he watches us and smiling, I stand up. Walking over to him, I pull him into a hug.
"Well, it was fun." I say, happily.
Jacob's arm slides around my waist. "That's good."
"I know right?" I slip my hand beneath his collar and let go of the handful of snow.
Jacob's intake of sharp breath causes Ray to break down laughing. I pull back, grinning and see his shocked expression as the ice-cold snow slides down his back.
"Oh I just did!"
I high five Ray as he manages to stand up.
I back up as Jacob starts to step towards me. Feeling something on my back, I glance over my shoulder and see the park railing that surrounds the park's perimeter.
"Gotta go hun." He grins, disappearing.
"Traitor." I mutter, turning to Jacob. I bat my eyelashes at him and he just laughs.
"Not gonna help sweetheart."
"Aw, come on."
Grinning, he takes the last step, closing the distance between us completely.
I gulp, looking up into his eyes, which are looking more like gray at the moment.
"Hmm?" He runs a finger down my cheek and I take in a shaky breath. "Yeah?"
He brushes his lips along my jaw and then across my cheek to the sensitive skin behind my ear.
"Please what?" His warm breath blows into my ear.
My mouth is bone dry as his lips trail back to mine. Jacob flicks his eyes up and holds mine for a long moment, his lips touching mine, but not quite. A few agonizing seconds later, he presses his lips on mine, his hands taking a hold of mine as I reach up and pining them down.
"Jacob, it's Ray."
I lean back in my chair, smiling. "Yeah? Did you get anything?"
"Yup. They've got a reservation for tomorrow at 7:30."
"That's wonderful! Where?"
"Shut up! I stay there."
"I know! So it's going to be much easier!"
"Yeah, much easier."
Ray sighs, "I just wish I could be there."
I hesitate, tapping my pen against the desk. "You can be there."
"I don't think so, won't it mess it up? Can I?"
"Yeah, I'm sure you can. We'll go down for drinks before I take her to dinner. And I'd love you to join us."
"Oh, I'd love to see his face.."
I laugh, "Okay, here's the plan..."
"No." I shake my head and refuse to move another inch.
"Come on Chloe. Please? Have you gone for Christmas shopping yet? It's just two weeks away."
I sigh, "Okay fine."
He grins. "See? We'll have fun!"
Chuckling, I gun the engine, "Where to?"
"Where do you want to go?"
He shrugs, still smiling. "Sure."
"Have you got your credit card?" Ray asks as I turn into the parking lot and look for an empty spot.
"Yup. I need to get gifts for all of my staff."
"Yeah, that's why I asked."
I park my car and then turn to Ray. "What do I get Jacob? What do you get a guy who's got everything?"
"You. Your love. I'm sure he wouldn't want anything else."
I groan. "This is not the time to be romantic Ray! I'm serious."
He chuckles, pulling off his belt. "Well, let's go inside and look for something."
Sighing, I grab my handbag and follow.
Shopping with Ray is just so much fun! He's so goofy, trying on stupid things and making me laugh.
"So how many people do you need to get things for?" Ray asks as we walk out of Sears.
"Let's see. There's Tarek, Foster, Darren, Alice, Fran, Susan & her daughter, Claire and then I've got about 5 waiters and waitresses."
"Wow. And that's just the bakery."
"Exactly, I've got my parents, Amelia, Jacob, you." I look at the shops we pass. "Oh! Let's go in here. We might find something for Susan's daughter."
"You don't need to get me anything Chlo." Ray says as we go through the racks of clothes in Justice.
"Really?" I look up at him with a huge smile. "Awesome!"
He chuckles, "I feel so loved!"
Grinning, I hold up a pink sweater dress. "How's this?"
We find the cutest black boots with pink butterflies and Ray insists on getting a few sparkly headbands as well. With two full bags, we leave the store. For the women, I pick out things from The Bay and something small for the waiters and waitresses. I get these really hot black Burberry shades for Darren, he's done fantastically this year and really deserves it. For Alice, I let myself go free in Claire's and buy a ton of accessories, and Ray and I are passing by a shop when I see the most beautiful chocolate brown wrap around dress so I get that for her as well. Foster gets a sweater and book that Ray is convinced he'll love.
Finally, Ray and I walk into Zara.
I sigh. I haven't chosen anything for Tarek yet...
"Gorgeous isn't it?" Ray asks, pulling out the red crochet skirt.
"And check these boots out."
I look towards the black boots with the lace trimmings he's pointing at.
Ray turns to me and holds the skirt up against me.
"Why don't you get it? I don't think you have anything like this."
"I don't." I bite my lip, looking at it, before shaking my head. "No thanks."
"Aw, come on Chloe. It's gorgeous."
"I know." I throw him a grin as I make my way across the shop. "Come here."
Sighing like a child, he puts it down and follows me.
"Put this on." I hand Ray the brown leather jacket.
"Pass me the medium."
"Okay." I pass him the medium size.
"You're not getting this for me right?"
"No, I might find I've forgotten someone." Although it'd look very hot on Jacob.
Ray pulls the collar up and poses, his head held high.
Laughing, I shake my head. "You're terrible!"
Ray chuckles and pulls it off. "So you don't have a particular hottie in mind for it? Maybe someone beginning with a 'J' and ending with a 'B'?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." I shrug, folding it over my arm when he holds it out for me.
"Hmmm... not someone who sounds like Jacob?"
"Why would you think that?"
"Maybe because he'd look good in it?"
"Would he?" I ask, holding up a baby pink shirt up against Ray. He holds out his arms, completely used to me doing it. I keep the shirt, satisfied and move on towards the pants.
In the end I buy a Carolina Herrera perfume for Tarek that's just come out and smells divine.
Ray and I head over to Walmart around 5:30 to do the weekly grocery.
"What do we need?" I ask Ray, who's in the next aisle, picking out a box of strawberries.
He looks over his shoulder and his expression brightens. For some weird reason.
"Apples. Carrots, Lettuce... umm veggies?"
"Okay." He's excited about apples?
Sighing, I reach for a bag and start picking out the best looking ones.
Two arms slide around me and pick up a shiny green apple. "This one looks ripe enough." Jacob murmurs.
My breath catches and I whip my head around to see him smiling.
"Hi! What are you doing here?"
He raises an eyebrow. How many months have we been going out? That move never fails to excite me.
"Ray didn't tell you I was coming?"
"No." I throw a glare towards his direction.
"He probably wanted to surprise you. I should thank him. Your reaction was priceless." He kisses my cheek and steps back. He throws the apple in the air and catching it, holds it out to me. "Like I said, it's ripe."
Laughing, I pluck it from his hands and drop it in the bag.
Ray disappears as his phone rings and taking my hand, Jacob maneuvers the shopping cart as we walk through the store and I pick out what we need.
"I missed you." Jacob kisses my cheek as I try to decide which hand soap to get. Ray likes to try new ones instead of the same old thing every month.
"I did too." I smile up at him and grinning he drops his lips to mine.
"Jaaacoob! Not here."
Chuckling, he pulls back and obediently keeps both hands on the cart.
"There you are!" Ray gasps, skidding into the aisle.
I throw him a questioning look. "Where have you been?"
"I got a call. And then I wanted to check out the phones in the store next door."
"Why are you panting?"
"Why are you asking so many questions?" He throws me a dirty look and then looks into the cart. "I need shaving cream."
"See? Now that's why I love her." Ray grins at Jacob who laughs.
"I thought because she was beautiful."
"Oh, that's why I have her as my best friend. So that I look good. Not that I don't look good without her. But you know what I mean."
Smirking, I turn to Ray. "And that's why HE is my boyfriend."
Jacob throws back his head and laughs as Ray tries to come up with something to say and fails.
"Give it up Sutherland."
"Did you get the sugar?"
Ray smiles, taking the cart over from Jacob. "I'll go get it."
"I just want to pop over at the book section."
He nods, "Go ahead. I'll be at the checkout."
Taking Jacob's hand, I lead him over to the books. I scan the recipe books rack before heading over to the novels. Jacob spends more time than me looking over the cookbooks.
"Yup." I hold up the book. "This looks good."
Smiling, he wraps his arm around my waist and leads me towards the checkout counters.
"Will all the bags fit?" I ask as Ray puts the groceries in the trunk.
"Yup, your shopping can go at the back. And I've got the passenger seat as well."
"Why? Where are you going?" I ask, frowning at him.
"Nowhere. YOU are getting a ride with Jacob."
"You're not driving my car!"
"Yup, I am. I do have the keys." He shakes them in my face and I sigh.
Ray grins. "Don't pretend you're not happy."
I stick my tongue out at him as he gets in the car.
"Come on." I follow Jacob to his car and get in when he holds the door open. Getting into the driver's seat, he leans over and kisses me.
"Mm... I've missed you."
A loud honk from behind his car makes him pull back.
"Ray, always impatient." I groan, pulling on the seat belt.
Jacob laughs in response.
"So we'll go over to mine for some drinks and then head out for dinner, alright?"
"Yeah, sure." I shrug. "Fancy?"
"No, unless you want it to be? I feel like having Chinese."
"Chinese, it is." I grin.
It's the first time Ray's walking into the Ritz. Jacob's arm is around my waist and he nods at the receptionist as we pass by the desk. I don't miss that she's eyeballing Ray, who doesn't notice at all.
"Sweet. No wonder Chloe keeps staying over at your place!" Ray exclaims once he's walked through the suite.
I roll my eyes. "Why do you take me to be so materialistic?"
He falls down onto the couch and reaches for the remote control.
"Dunno what you're talking about sweet-thing."
"Chloe." Jacob tilts his head towards the bedroom and I quietly follow.
He closes the door behind him and then closes the few steps between us even more quickly.
"Why don't we just forget the drinks and stay in?" He murmurs against my lips.
"Wonderful idea. Except Ray's in the next room."
Groaning, Jacob drags his lips back to mine.
"You're staying over tonight right?" He mumbles as his lips skim across my cheeks.
"I'm not sure."
"Well, you better decide soon."
I laugh, pulling back. "Okay, okay. I'll stay."
Grinning, he leads me towards the dress and pulls open the first drawer. I've got a few of my clothes here and he goes through them before pulling out a sleeveless light blue vest and a white shirt.
"I want you to wear this."
"Okay. I'll just freshen up first."
He nods, letting go of me. "Sure. I just need to change my shirt."
When I glance back as I'm stepping into the bathroom, I see him still watching me. Blowing him a kiss, I step inside.
Jacob comes back out, buttoning up a fresh shirt and sits down at the end of the sofa near me.
"Yup." I shoot him a grin, excited.
Chloe comes out, looking as beautiful as ever, her coat over her arm and the both of us jump up.
Jacob locks the door and then we head downstairs. Chloe is all wrapped up in his arms and it's not just a facade. He really seems happy.
The restaurant's beautiful, richly furnished like the rest of the place. Jacob glances at me as we pass a table full of at least ten people and I nod. I see his jaw tighten for a second but as Chloe says something, his face breaks into a smile and he leans down and kisses her cheek.
We get the most perfect table, the booth right opposite their table. Ben and his mother sit facing us. Chloe looks amazing as per usual. The both of us are sitting in the curve of the booth, Ray on my left. The atmosphere's light and relaxed.
"You guys, look over here." I glance towards Ray to see him holding up his phone.
Chloe starts laughing. "Ray! Not here!"
"Why? You two look cute."
I can see that it pleases her as she blushes and chuckling, I pull her into my lap.
"Say cheese!" Ray laughs.
"Jacob!" She turns to look at me as Ray snaps a photo.
"Chloe, you're 29, you should know you need to smile and look AT the camera when someone says cheese."
She shoots him a murderous look.
"Okay, let's try that again."
"Jacob, make him stop."
"I'm quiet enjoying this, sweetheart."
"You're supposed to be on my side!"
"I am... partly." I trail my lips along her jaw.
She moves away and buries her face in my neck. Ray snaps away at the camera anyway.
"That was cute. Now, look at the camera. Look here Chlo."
"Oh shut up Ray!" She looks up at him and he snaps the picture. "Uggh!" Groaning she drops her head down to my chest.
Shooting Ray a look to back off, I gently lift her face up. Chloe looks up at me, her lips jutted out.
"He's mean isn't he?" I say, brushing my thumbs across her cheeks. She nods, still pouting. Leaning in, I press my lips to hers, my hand slipping behind her head to cup the back of her neck.
"I'll get us some more drinks." Ray says, getting up.
Not that I really hear him. No matter how many times I kiss Chloe, I always seem to want more than before. Completely forgetting and uncaring of the fact that we're in a full restaurant, I kiss her back heatedly. She squirms on my lap and I turn slightly so that she's comfortable.
A cough makes us break away and after a second Chloe turns away from me, letting me go of her gaze.
"Ben." Her voice is expressionless, and reassured that this will go well, I look up at the man standing opposite us.
"What a surprise to see you here!" He exclaims.
"I should say the same." She lifts a shoulder up.
"Who's this sweetheart?" I ask, pulling her back into my arms so that her back's resting against my chest.
"Ben, my ex."
"Ah, I see."
"Look at what we have here!" Ray exclaims, sitting down.
"Ray. What do you know? Still no girlfriend?"
"Aw don't fret man. She just couldn't make it today. It's sad you can't meet her. A beauty." Ray shakes his head and Chloe starts laughing.
"Yeah too bad. She really is beautiful."
"How IS Amelia?" I ask, turning to him. "I haven't seen her in a while."
Ray chuckles, "Not hard as you're all wrapped up in your girl."
Grinning, I bury my face in her neck. "Can't really blame me."
"So what are you doing here?" Chloe turns to Ben.
"Just having dinner with my family."
"Oh, is your super model girlfriend here? The one that quit work for you?" She asks, her voice mocking.
He gives a short laugh, "What are you talking about? My girlfriend's an accountant." He points over to a woman at the table and she looks up just then.
I'm normally not this mean, but that girl's not even pretty!
I snort before I realize it and then quickly turn it into a smile.
"I'm Jacob Skyes by the way."
A puzzled look passes his face. "Why do you look so familiar?"
I exchange a triumphant look with Ray. "You must have seen my picture somewhere. I work for Smithson West."
He merely raises an eyebrow but I catch the look of surprise. "I see."
"Yup." Chloe gives me a loving look and I lose my train of thought completely. "He's the Chief Finance Officer."
"Impressive." He looks at the both of us. "So how did the two of you meet?"
Chloe lets out a short, dry laugh. "Hardly have the right to ask anymore don't you think?"
"I was your fiancé Chloe." He glances towards me and looks slightly disappointed that I don't seem surprised.
"Was. Keyword. Don't forget it."
Chuckling, I press my lips to her cheek. "Not much of a secret, I'm afraid. We met at her bakery. Little Miracles. I fell for the bakery but when I saw her.." I trail away, smiling. "Not sure how you let her go mate but I should thank you. I've got a gem now I'm always going to treasure."
He gives a forced smile. "Glad you're happy. I've got to get back. Nice seeing you."
We watch as he walks back to his table.
"You two knew!" She turns to us.
I just watch Chloe but Ray's grin gives it away.
"You should have told me!"
"So we could have put on a bigger show of course!"
I laugh, thankful she isn't upset.
"His mother was glaring at you the whole time." Rays says, laughing.
"I know! I caught it!"
"And they're so talking about us right now."
Turning her head, Chloe looks over at them, her chin up, a smile playing on her lips.
"So since the show's over here, why don't we make our grand exit boys?"
Laughing, Ray and I follow her. I signal for the barman to tell him we're leaving. They'll just add the payment to my bill.
Arm wrapped around her waist, I pull my girl close. I wasn't kidding when I thanked him.
Comment Replies for Chapter 23
Maddz - Hey! Thanks! LOL, I didn't even realize Valentine's was last week. Haha, aww I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, Jacob is SO much better in a million and one ways! Thanks, so you! Yes, you are.
Praiser - Thanks! I'm glad you think so! Whenever Ben and his Mom turn up, there's got to be bad news! Thanks so much.
DaniGirl - I know, right?! Exactly, any other man would have gotten angry and done something rash thanks so much!
Maha - Thanks so much!
Mnh - Thanks a lot!
Anjana - Thanks so much! I hate them too... Thanks!
BriBri - Peter Hall did support her bakery, it was Steve who made the decision, I know, I hate them too!
Athenaelite - I know, complete prick! Lol, so am I! Waiting to see your reactions.
PH - Ray is such a child lol, I dunno... There are going to be a few surprises in the next few chapters. And I think you'll be happy to know I've extended the story by a chapter... Can't bear to part from Ray and Jacob. Lol! I enjoyed writing that part so much! Haha I'm not sure, I just wrote it off the top of my head I don't know if drinking warm water works, lol. I know so arrogant I hate Steve and her mother is a billion times worse. Haha my friend said the same thing! But I had to do something with him... don't worry, he isn't going to stay happy, lol. I know right? I could just imagine Jacob running up the stairs and hugging her so cute. Ooops! I always get mixed up with my characters last names sorry! Thanks so much!
Jar - Lol you're laughing at him making fun of her foot? Bad Jar... I know right? Imagine Jacob+bakery, I know right? People change faces so fast. Ben and his mom get married? Hahaa love you too!
Lucy - Hey! I know right? Poor Chloe. Haha you know me well! But I won't tell you about what! Read and find out. She never got the opportunity to tell Jacob, noting came up that brought up the topic so you can't really blame her... Enjoy!
Grace - Haha I know right? You mean Steve-Peter Hall was nice to her.. Aw, thanks hun! Same to you, thanks so much.
Cheyfkhhfv- Thank you!
AAA - Thanks!