MY HEART lurched thinking of Skip Linton. When I was still with my ex, I thought of Linton and never figured out that he was actually a Linton. If my heart lurched for him, it also ached that he didn’t recognize me. Was it because I gained some weight? Was it my hair? It frustrated me because I knew he was that guy I used to know.
The connection was still there—those eyes, the feelings when our eyes met—I could still feel it, and I knew he felt it too.
Hotsome: So, should we stop this?
I stared longer at my laptop screen, berating at my possible answers. Linton didn’t want me anymore. This man showed interest for almost two weeks now. So what was stopping me?
Sinderella: But he doesn’t like me.
Hotsome: What made you say that, love?
Love? I shook my head, pushing the thought of Linton away.
Sinderella: Well, for a starter, he didn’t show his intention. It’s maybe because I’m fat. Secondly, he didn’t ask me out, and lastly, I don’t think he would ever like me more than a friend. If he even considers me as a friend.
Hotsome: So, this guy is a friend, huh?
Sinderella: Well, he’s a
I hesitated. Why? It wasn’t like he knew me, right? I continued typing.
Sinderella: Well, he’s a friend of my brother. So you probably know about the Bro code. I’m literally an off-limits.
Hotsome: That makes sense.
Sinderella: So, if you were that guy, what would you do? I mean if you like me.
Hotsome: If I like her that much, and if we’re on the same page, I’ll risk my relationship with my friend and she should think of the possibilities and consequences when things went south before she enters into that relationship. But my relationship with her brother won’t be the same again.
Sinderella: He doesn’t like me anyway. It answered my doubt. Thanks so much.
Hotsome: I’m glad I can help.
Sinderella: Are you still interested?
Sinderella: Yes, in meeting me?
I crossed my fingers.
Hotsome: Of course, but let me be the one to ask you. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee, or grab a drink with me?
There was something in me lightened up upon reading his reply.
Sinderella: I’d love too, when?
Hoтѕoмe: How about Saturday?
Oh, hell. I had a game with the guys.
Sinderella: Um, I promised my brother and his friend for a pool game.
He replied immediately.
Hotsome: The same guy?
I grimaced. My hands were sweating as I typed my reply. I had to be honest with him as much as possible.
Sinderella: Why won’t you join us instead?
I clicked send.
Seconds later, still no reply. Was he hesitating?
Hotsome: I might be out of place with your brother and his friend around. Don’t you think it’s a little bit awkward to meet your brother on our first date?
Sinderella: You’re right, I’m sorry. I told you I’m not good at this. How about Sunday? I know a good coffee shop downtown.
Hotsome: Sounds like a plan.
Oh, my God! I was really going out on a date with hotsome, and I didn’t even ask his name. How stupid of me!
* * *
AFTER I got my BS in Chemistry, I’d been a trainee for two years at the Scentsory Laboratory for Perfumes. A sub-branch from France. We concocted remarkable fragrances those now sold by the huge brands in perfume industries.
I always loved natural scents, especially from flowers and fruits. My family was not impressed with my choice of major. Brett once told me it would be difficult for me to find a job, but it didn’t stop me from pursuing what I loved, and I wanted them to be proud of me.
Now, we had a seven-figure deal with the famous international brand— Everly Cosmetics and Fragrances. And I just found out from Brett that Skip’s family happened to own the company.
I stared at the lines of vials on the racks in front of me. My mind went back to Skip Linton. If he was going to choose a scent, what would that be?
We’d tried many formulations for months. Some were strong, others were mild, and nothing met our expectations. It exhausted us. We needed to impress our client, and until now we were not near closer to making an extraordinaire scent. We had to come up with two scents this week—one for men and another for women.
Jasmine and honey? How about orange blossom, rosewood, and pine? Lime for headnote, rosewood, then vanilla for ground? I was also thinking of cherry, apple, lavender, hyacinth, citrus, and raspberry. Musk, mint, cedar, and sandalwood were usually for men. I groaned in frustration.
The alarm on my phone startled me, indicating my work was done for today, and I had not come up with a better formula. Great!
I sent a text to Kat if she wanted to have a late-night dinner tonight after her duty. I drove to the supermarket near our apartment when I received her reply. I parked my car, blocking a black rental car since I was not going to stay long.
Hurriedly, I pushed the cart to the veggies section and picked some baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, lemon, cucumber, and some fresh herbs. Then I moved to the dry section to grab some organic pasta, quinoa, and semolina. I started to watch what food I shoved into my mouth before I turned into a freaking hyena. Nobody wanted to date a fat woman, right? After grabbing some fresh milk and tetra packs of orange juice, I paid to the register.
A tall familiar figure leaning on my car made me stop pushing my cart. Before I could avert my gaze, he saw me coming. His simple blue sweater stretched on his perfect body and his firm and huge biceps flexed as he crossed his arms over his chest, attentively watching me as I approached in wobbled knees. His hair was still on the same man bun as the last time I saw him. The aviator glasses he wore looked too good on him. He reminded me of the young Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun.
“Arella,” he greeted. Just my name on his tongue was like warm honey on my skin that sipped through my bones.
“What are you doing in my car?” Thankfully, my voice didn’t crack or stutter.
“You blocked my way,” he simply said with the same tone—cold as the Arctic.
“I’m sorry. I was in a hurry. I didn’t mean to block your way.” I quickly unlocked my car and opened the trunk.
“Of course, you didn’t,” he mumbled and stood straight.
I paused. “Excuse me?” My voice raised a little bit. Before I could start loading my groceries, he already took two plastic bags at a time.
“You don’t have to. I can carry them myself.”
“I know, love, but I’ve been waiting here for a couple of minutes, and I’m in a hurry,” he talked without bothering to look at me, then grabbed another bags.
“I’m so sorry—”
“You already said that, Arella.”
My blood suddenly rushed through my brain with a strong force. “Wait, Linton. Do we have a problem here?” My hands already propped on my waist, glaring at him.
And he sensed my anger. This time, he faced me, lifted his sunglasses, and propped on top of his head. And I almost stumbled back when I saw those eyes that drove me insane years ago. Now, they squinted back at me with intensity. “Problem? Are you seriously asking me right now? No, I don’t have a bloody idea why—” He suddenly stopped, strolling his gaze on my body. I wore four inches high heels, but he was still way taller than me. “Never mind!” He slammed my trunk a little bit stronger, making me startle. “Drive. I’m late for my appointment.”
“Where is your appointment?” My question made me freeze. Oh, frack!
He snorted, and that irritated me. “Why would you like to know?” He walked past by me. His perfume reached my nostrils—it was a mix of mint and cedar.
“Care to tell on why are you so mad at me? What have I done wrong? If it’s because of the stupid game. Forget about it because I’m not coming. I already informed Brett that I can’t join you guys. I have a date.”
His hand froze before it touched the door handle of his car. He then turned to face me and shook his head with a mock plastered on his face. My palm was itching to feel it against his cheek as I slapped him so hard. “You’re a terrible liar, Arella.”
“I lied sometimes, yeah, but why would I lie to you if I don’t want to play that stupid game with you?” I raised one brow. “And why do you care if I choose to go on a date than to be your partner?”
“Fine. Call that guy who you want to go out on a date with.” His face reddened. His gorgeous eyes could light me into a torch.
“I will. When I get home.”
“Don’t you dare lie to me this time, Arella. And you won’t go anywhere on a date during our game.”
“Look, Skipper, you may be my brother’s best friend, but I don’t know you, and I can’t recall giving you the right to control my life. Do you think I can’t find a date because I’m fat? You guys are all the same. You want a supermodel in your arms. You’re so full of shit and ashamed to date someone has a body like me!”
His mouth fell open, eyes widened with shock. And if I saw it right, there was a glitter of pain before he blinked it off. His face paled as if he’d seen a ghost.
I got in my car and revved away without looking back at him.
My ex-husband used to tell me at least two months ahead if we had a party to attend to, so I could go on a strict diet and spent at least two hours in the gym every day because he wanted me to look like those people around him when he introduced me as his wife. But I wasn’t lucky to have a fast metabolism like some women. I almost starved to death during our entire marriage.
I fished out my phone from my bag when it vibrated. This must be Brett. I pressed to my ear and sniffed as I answered. “Brett.”