Chapter Eight: Derek the Dude (Aria's POV)

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I push my way through the crowds in front of the bar on Derek's block. While I was on my way to the train station, he called me and asked me to meet him at this bar. As I walk in, I wonder why. Seedy and cheesy, it has glaring neon signs, loud country music, and a few huge TVs. It's totally not his style. Derek usually favors classy, minimally decorated, quiet places.

            Yet there he is, still in his black suit from work. Only a few years older than me and still fresh out of college, Derek manages the finances of his father, Francis Harrison's, company. It's a job that requires a suit. Every freaking day. No casual Friday at his dad's company.

            He looks like a male model.

            The thought flashes in my mind. I'm surprised that the sloppy-looking gaggle of girls sitting near him haven't tried to flirt with him. Maybe they're scared. Derek exudes a certain degree of importance and power. Even to me. And I've seen him vulnerable and bared.

            Hell yeah. You want to see him bared. In your bed.

            I shake away the thought of Derek naked just in time to watch one if the drunk girls try to flirt with him.

            Slut.

            Holy shit. I'm jealous. I stride over to him, trying to appear confident. The girl backs away. I plop down on the bar stool in what is possibly the most disgraceful way possible. Derek purses his lips like he wants to laugh, but is too polite to. But I start to laugh at his expression, and then he starts to laugh. For a good five minutes, we just sit there laughing like freaks.

            When I recover, I ask, "So why'd you want to meet me? And why here?" I gesture to the fake trout mounted on the wall.

            He picks up his glass and absentmindedly puts it to his lips. When he realizes there's nothing in it, he sets it down, the ice clinking. "Because I felt that we had some things to discuss. We had buried some treasure, and it seems as if we unearthed it again. We have to decide if we want to open that treasure chest again, or if we should keep it buried. As for why here, I felt that meeting at my home was a bit too... intimate. I felt that having you in my apartment again would stir certain desires in me like seeing you earlier did."

            "Okay, I didn't hear half of what you said, but your metaphor was awful," I say.

            He lets out a low, rumbling laugh. "Maybe you're right. Let's go to my house."

            As we leave, I punch him on the arm playfully. "Guess you'll have to just control yourself, tiger."

            He  laughs. "I always liked that you were able to make me laugh."

            We walk down the block, and into his building. When we get inside, I flop down on his couch. Just like old times.  He sits down right next to me.

            "Okay, if we're going to be having this talk, I need you to let your guard down. No more Derek the ideal son, businessman, and boyfriend. I need you to be Derek the dude."

            "Okay. Just call me Derek the dude."

             "So I told you the whole story. And now I think I have to choose. But first, I have one question: Do you want me back?"

            He just stares at me for a moment, his eyes and gaze intense. Then he kisses me. It's a drowning, consuming kiss. The kind that’s full of need, of want, of desire.

            When we pause, he whispers into my neck, “Do I want you, Aria? No. I don’t. I need this. I need the feel of your skin on mine. I need the smell of your perfume, of your hair. I need you.”

            I hate to admit it, but I realize I need him too. I can’t stay away from him. I can’t stop thinking about him. But I don’t know if I can trust him. And that’s what makes it so hard. Austin seems so honest and innocent. He could give me security. And trust. But Derek gives me everything else. In the end it all boils down to whether I favor trust over passion.

            The rest of the night passes in a blur of passion, whispers, and kisses. Later, I lie on his chest, thinking. I wonder what Austin’s doing. Maybe he has another girl lying on his chest. Maybe he’s thinking too.

            Later, when Derek falls asleep, I get up and go into the bathroom and dial Anna’s number, begging for her to pick up. I have so much to say to her. 

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