Morocco Magic: Part 1

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Hello, Richard : Chapter 88
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Point of View: Maine - Alden

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Well, hello, sweaty pits.
Lol.

The intense Moroccan heat draws a drop or two of sweat from Alden's otherwise always-fresh face, so Maine hands him a wet towel (that she had to soak with cold bottled water from the Grocer; a girl's gotta find ways). Instead of picking it up from Maine's palm, Alden closes his eyes and tilts his face as if to egg her to wipe the sweat off it.

She does.

Ghaaad.

Ahem.

He carries more of their luggage than she ever did for him and they head to the van tasked to welcome them. Maine tries to keep her head low to avoid attention but Alden decides its the perfect time to be a gentleman.

He tugs at her sleeve and when she doesn't look, gently grabs her upper arm, "Hey, Maine."

Then, the right mix of bossiness and thoughtfulness colors his next words, "Hand that over. You shouldn't be carrying something that heavy... Give it to me."

Keep calm, you foolish heart.

"It's not, actually. Thanks, but ...", Alden doesn't listen nor let her finish her sentence. Instead, he attempts to grab the small bag she was carrying.

Her heart jumps to her throat and a chill runs through her spine when his hand covers hers, then slowly slides to grab the bag handle from her hand. Maine gives him a startled and confused look.

Did our fingers just intertwine?

Alden smiles at Maine before he shifts his attention to the group of people before them.

Shit. What am I doing?

"Hey, guys! Thanks for the really warm welcome!", he jokes at them. The Moroccan heat may have already broken his perfect sweat-less pores but nothing can dim Alden's famed mega-watt, dimpled smile.

Nothing for now.

"Oh, wait 'til the sun is up in the morning.", the guy holding the camera tells him. "You must be so tired. Let's get you guys to your hotel." They agree and assure Alden that tomorrow would offer even more scorching heat so he should get as much rest as he can. They exchange some more small talk, and as Maine expected, she begins feeling out of place.

Darn. What's my role here?
I'm like Cumin to 'Salt & Pepper'.

Maine reckons its either her thoughts flash like LED marquees on her forehead or Alden is just incredibly keen. He opts out of their chatter, looks for her, and asks, "Maybe we should go now?".

Oh, right, fake girlfriend.

Maine squints her eyes for effect and plays along. "Yeah, you need to rest up, Alden." Before she could stop herself, she tenderly brushes the flat of her thumb across his eyebags. At contact, his eyes close.

What follows probably go both ways:
Him leaning the side of his face on her palm, or
her smoothing her palm over his cheek.

Mess with the Press.

God, How do I stop?

One of the Magazine crew fake-coughs and that brings back the conflicted duo back to reality.

"Hey, that was a good acting back there."
"Yeah? Well, I was trained by the best."
They whisper to each other, exchanging smiles and putting on smirks.

While they both seem immersed in their mission to fool the media, they actually find themselves faced with quite opposing realizations:

Alden begins accepting how it is going to be very difficult to fake chemistry if he and Maine have genuine attraction and even just the slightest tinge of sexual tension in the formula.

No IF's here.
Goddamnit.

Maine, on the other hand, is hell-bent on making hers an unrequited love story, wallowing in her feels and struggling with Alden's effortlessly making her swoon. Whether as online cyber-hotshot Dei or as Mystery Girl Maine, she's just a fake girlfriend.

All fake.
Except my feelings.
Ugh.

He tries to gather his composure as they walk a few more steps toward the van. He hauls the luggage, steps inside and as soon as he is seated, stretches his arm out with open palms, offering to hold Maine. She takes his hand, climbs onboard, and is pulled to sit down beside him. Already both seated, she counts exactly how many more seconds her hand stays in his.

One, two, three,
four, five, six,
Eeee, stop, please.

Don't pull away,
Maine.

She does.

The ride to the hotel is quiet... or at least that's how it starts. Then, the van driver turns the radio on.

🎶 You know just what to say
(Shit that scares me!)
I should just walk away
But I can't move my feet 🎶

She argues with herself whether she should have just kept holding hands or not. It feels so damn right to just lure him in (as if she knows how), but she has already wronged him way too much.

... He loves Dei.

🎶 The more that I know you
The more I want to
Something inside me has changed
I was so much younger yesterday...  🎶

The driver turns the dial further to the right, and the song fills the entire vehicle.

🎶 I didn't know that I was starving
till I tasted you
Don't need no butterflies
when you give me the whole damn zoo 🎶

He chastises himself for pursuing his attraction to her under the guise of their 'Mess w the Press' mission. It feels like the perfectly right thing to do, because she makes him feel so brave... even if their magnetism comes at such a wrong time.

🎶 By the way, by the way,
you do things to my body
And I didn't know that I was starving
till I tasted you  🎶

But... I love Dei.

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