Chapter Thirty One

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Natalia's P.O.V

I looked up as Stellan walked back into his living room with a glass of soda for us both. Once he sat beside me he handed me a glass. When I'd seen him at lunch today I'd asked if we could talk and surprisingly he'd agreed so we'd ended up skipping the rest of school to go to his house.

After all I was grounded and that was the only way we'd be able to talk privately. We'd already begun the awkward conversation and it had gotten so heavy that he'd gone to get a drink, most likely to think things through.

"The day we met I fell for you Talia. Your personality was so different to the girls I'm used it and you were funny- let me finish."

I paused from the words I was about to say and let him continue, "I didn't realise that the tension between you and Alex was actually flirting which is what annoys me the most. If I'd realised that I didn't have a chance with you then I would've given up sooner, it's too late now."

I swallowed hard, experiencing dread as I pieced together what he wasn't saying and hoping that it would stay tucked between the lines so I wouldn't have to face it.

"Every time I convince myself that I've moved on from you I get knocked off course when we have a good time together. I forget that you're practically his and you're definitely off limits."

There was no point in denying that I liked the idea of Alex having made it clear that he wanted to be with me. I just had to pluck up the courage to be with him. It's just that I wasn't in the right place right now.

"Forget that Alex likes me, meaning you have some kind of bro code stopping you from making a move...I need you to know that even if I didn't have feelings for him, nothing would happen between us because I've only ever seen us as friends."

He nodded down into his glass and took the longest sip. "I get it, every girl wants to date a guy who looks like Alex."

I sat up on the couch and twisted so we faced each other, "This isn't all about looks Stellan, you're just as hot as he is but he understands things no one else seems to and we have so much in common. I'm not that shallow, I used to be but I'm not anymore."

"I didn't mean that you're only interested in his looks Talia, it's just that none of us ever get a chance whenever he's around."

"Trust me his looks are the one thing that put me off him to begin with." I told him with a smile as I thought back to the early stages of my attraction to Alex. It had been instantaneous and it wouldn't have gotten this intense if he hadn't charmed me with his personality.

I'd already sworn to stay away from hot guys who had nothing more to offer than heartbreak and possible STIs.

"I know you don't want to hear this but something about him drew me in, especially when we first met and he hated me the second we spoke," My eyes rose to meet Stellan's blue peepers, seeing them saddened by my words which hurt, "I wouldn't be starting all of this drama if all I cared about were his looks."

His hand rose to run his thumb over my chin, almost brushing my lower lip but not quite and all I can do was look into his eyes, wishing this would be the end of the drama. "I promised him that I'd try getting over you but it's been pretty much impossible." He said quietly.

"You have to." I whispered back.

I could be stubborn, I could act like a control freak and I could do stupid things sometimes yet Alex still wanted me. That was pretty amazing.

"What's going to happen now that he's single?" he asked as he dropped his hand.

I shrugged, turning back to face forward with a sigh.

We spent a lot of the day watching movies and when he got a phone call he smiled and gave it to me. "It's Kaya."

I took it and answered, hearing my best friend's voice and smiling, "Hey Nat, I just wanted to check in."

"Alex talked to you didn't he?" I guessed easily, aware that the first person he'd go to when it came to issues with me was Kaya.

She sighed, "He wants to know why you're ignoring him."

"I'm not ignoring him, I sent him a text saying that I needed space. I can't talk about what he wants us to right now."

"He needs more than a text Talia, he deserves to hear it face to face."

"I know and I feel like a witch for that but if I said it face to face then we'd end up talking about the elephant in the room."

"He's single now, of course he wants to kiss the life out of you then show you his bed."

I cringed inwardly, feeling strange as I realised that I'd mulled over the prospect of being with Alex in every sense of the word a million times before. I glanced at Stellan who appeared to be watching the movie but I knew he was still listening. I said it anyway, "He told me that he isn't looking for sex right now so I don't think so."

I noticed him wince, Kaya snorted down the phone at me, "Every boy wants sex Talia, he only said that because he knew you'd run the other way if he admitted it. My boyfriend definitely wants it but he's waiting for me, gosh I love saying that. My boyfriend, my boyfriend, my boyfriend."

I couldn't help laughing as she changed her tone of voice every time she said boyfriend, "You never believed me when I told you that waiting would pay off."

"It's not my fault I had to spend four years wondering if I was too fat and ugly to get a guy to even look twice at me, something you mastered years ago." She grumbled, I just rolled my eyes and refrained from giving her the speech I always gave when she put herself down.

"Hun we both know it had everything to do with your skin colour. People around here have issues, it has nothing to do with looks." I told her, smirking when Stellan rolled his eyes at me for the comment.

"Even so, it's about time I lost my lip virginity so thankfully that's happened. I won't end up with a movie about me called 'Never been kissed.' Which is a relief."

"Having a string of bad ex-boyfriends is nothing I'm proud of Ki, if only I'd waited until I met Alex then things wouldn't be as messed up in my head as they are right now."

"You may have never met him the way you did though. Damion pushed you to make fun of Alex that night when he gave Izzy the same lines you'd heard before at Finn's party, which is the only reason you two talked in the first place. I don't know about you but I'd call it fate."

"I don't believe in that crap Kaya, not anymore."

"You're freaking seventeen! There is no way you're giving up on love so early on in life, come on!"

"Love isn't real! I always seem to confuse love for just really strong feelings which always gets me into these messes."

"I think I need to call mama Laurentius to knock some of that romance back into you!" Kaya threatened.

"Mom changed her last name back to Masike and she's not a romantic either, dad really messed up when it came to her since she hasn't had a long term relationship in years."

She laughed hard, "Ok fine! I'll stop talking about it but he knows that you were with Stellan...I had to tell him, I'm sorry!"

"It's fine," I sighed, "I take it he wasn't happy?"

"Come on now, of course he was pissed."

We talked for a few minutes longer as she ran through the conversation they'd had at lunch then Stellan dropped me off a home before dad arrived so I wouldn't get into even more trouble.

As I walked down the hallway during the period before lunch the next day I heard Alex calling my name. I slowed down and wondered what I'd say to explain myself.

"Natalia!"

"I can't talk right now Alex." I said loudly but he continued walking to me, grabbing my arm and pulling me aside the traffic of students.

"You'd been avoiding me for two days, we're talking right now." He was pissed, that was obvious and expected.

I tried not to squirm around too much, "Ok then, what's up?"

"What's up? If your aim has been to make me go crazy it's working! I broke up with my girlfriend and my best friend wasn't there for me. That's what's up."

I winced, "I was just busy studying and being grounded but I sent you a text before that."

"Too busy to take a thirty second break and actually text me back after I replied before your dad took your phone?"

Yes because you needed me and as much as I'd wanted to be there like you wanted, I also had a duty to protect my heart which was still very much in critical danger. I didn't say any of that out loud though; I wasn't stupid enough to open that can of worms here.

"I'm sorry. How are you?" I asked instead, placing my palm against his chest for a second before anyone saw.

Alex relaxed his tense body as the short lived anger slowly subsided, "I would've been better if you'd been there to keep a smile on my face."

Guilt clenched at my soul and I scolded myself for being selfish. He may not have wanted Izzy as a girlfriend but he cared for her so it would hurt.

"I've been a horrible best friend but not anymore. I'll be at your house at five with ice cream and a ladle, you pick a movie and I'll make you smile plenty." I said, giving him a sheepish smile, pushing the warning signs my heart gave to the side.

This was playing with fire and I would get burnt but right now he needed me and that counted for more than a possible heart break when things turned pear shaped. The cute smile of genuine happiness should've scared me away but my stupid brain registered pleasure at the sight of it. I had the power to make him happy so that's what I'd do. That's all I'd do.

"That's the best thing I've heard all week. If you stand me up I may just die, I hope you know that."

I laughed softly and linked my arm with his, taking note of the way the feel his skin against mine almost electrocuted me with stimulation, "I wouldn't dream of it, unless you refuse to walk me to class."

"I'd be honoured to escort this beautiful princess to her next class. Aren't you grounded though?"

"Be serious." I said, biting back a laugh which escaped anyway when he jabbed my side, "I'm supposed to be working tonight but I can call in sick then you'll have to drive me back to the gym after my shift so dad won't find out."

"I'm not sure if I like this new bad girl thing you have going on but I need to see you so I'll let it slide for now."

I laughed again, "I hate lying to him after we just made up but I need to see you too, I won't do it again." I fluttered my lashes and saw his eyes drop to my lips. It was difficult not just giving into the urge to plant my lips over his but walking down the hallway wasn't the most romantic place.

Even if I didn't mind PDA.



The day finally ended and I jumped into Alex's car once it was over, so excited to spend time with him that it helped with the guilt for going behind dad's back. We stopped at a convenience store so I could pick up two tubs of his favourite ice cream on our way to his.

He'd already told me that his parents would be at the other side of their large house so we wouldn't cross paths if we stayed in the living room opposite. We sat on the couch once he'd chosen a movie and shared the first tub of ice cream, finishing it pretty quickly.

Some time into it I could feel his eyes on me. My face, my hair, my body, and my brain was a mess of temptation and confusion. I was fast becoming flustered which put me on edge so I tried getting the upper hand again.

Meeting his gaze, I let a lazy smile play on my face that matched his own, "The TV is over there Captain."

"You're going to be the reason that I have a heart attack and die. I hope you can live with yourself."

I laughed softly, sliding my hands under me and looking away from his lips which seemed to have become a habit of mine, "Don't be so melodramatic Alex."

He laughed too, the deep rumble of his voice plucking at my heart strings, "You won't be laughing when it actually happens."

Alex reached out to cup my chin with his hand, stroking my cheek with his thumb which was like a shock to my body. Our laughter died down slowly with the awareness of each other's body increasing to an almost unbearable hum of lust, resistance being the only thing keeping us apart in that moment.

"I can't keep restraining myself when I'm around you Natalia, it's too hard."

My instincts took over and I was leaning closer to him, our shoulders had already been touching so I was now near enough to reach his lips. Alex leant forward too, our noses coming into contact and it would've happened if not for the loud gunshot that made us both jump.

The movie was getting violent as I watched which gave me the chance to think about what had almost happened. Gosh I wanted it to happen so badly...I don't know why I just couldn't.

"Why are you sitting on your hands like that?" He asked, circling my wrist with his index finger and thumb then nudging it upwards but I resisted, knowing that he'd hate my reasoning.

"My mind has decided to confuse the heck out of me so I might do something I shouldn't."

Looking, I spotted his brows dropped low, breathing out a long slow breath, "Talia you're making all of this sound like the world would end."

"My world might."

He stared at me for a really long beat, his brown eyes so dark that his pupils weren't visible, he then tugged harder to free one of my hands, "Stop that, you're interrupting blood circulation."

"Circulation has already been interrupted since I'm positive none is now reaching my brain."

Alex turned to face the plasma screen TV, his profile hard and sharp due to the expression on his face. His jaw was taut and the muscle constantly jumped, "I don't think any blood has reached my brain since the day I met you. Instead it's been going south and giving me painful erections that I have to ignore because the girl giving them to me won't even consider letting anything happen between us."

I sucked in my breath sharply in a loud gasp, staring at him after that revelation with shock that he was being so honest. We'd always known how the other felt and saying it aloud was slightly disconcerting, feigning ignorance had been the safest option for my feelings.

Now though he seemed to want to talk, Alex being never one to bring up any conversations that would lead to talking about his emotions and feelings, right now stared right back at me.

"Don't pretend that you had no idea what you do to me practically every day!" He shouted with an incredulous tone.

"How am I supposed to know?" I asked, still in mild shock.

He rolled his eyes, "You know now. So you were with Stellan yesterday."

I looked at him, seeing his struggle to keep his thoughts from being plastered all over his face and so I decided to be honest. Even if it hurt his feelings. "Yes, I stayed at his house for most of the day."

He pressed his lips together and shifted his narrowed gaze back to the TV, "What did you do all day?"

"We just talked, I apologised a million times then we watched a couple of movies. That was it."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm not lying to you Alex, nothing has or ever will happen with me and Stellan."

"That's hard to believe when you were ignoring me." He replied stubbornly, clearly not really wanting to believe anything I was saying. It hadn't been fair to ignore him but I'd needed breathing room to think and to make things right with our friend.

I lay my head against his shoulder and slid my hand under his, ignoring the pins and needles stabbing my fingers from the blood finally reaching them, "You're the one I like Alex. I made up with my dad. I actually think things will work out this time."

He seemed to believe me since he squeezed my hand then placed a kiss on the top of my curly head, "What did you do to end up grounded?"

"I may have trashed my dad's office and completely messed up his filing system, mixing up medical records that could take weeks to organise."

"Geez...why?"

"I was upset about what happened at the wedding and needed to talk to him, he wouldn't give me a second of his time and I got mad. It was stupid." I explained, thinking back to when I'd found out that dad wasn't marrying Jane.

He'd kept mom's ring all this time, what did that mean?

Coming up with something to distract us from the near kiss we'd just had, I tugged on his hand already clasped in mine. He looked up with surprise, "I'm working on a routine for my audition, help me?"

He rose slowly, looking at me with uncertainty which quickly turned to laughter as he tried copying my dance moves. Together we created an entire routine in the hours we had together before I had to go, giving me something to pass the time for the next two weeks.

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