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Chapter 8 - Eyes On Me

  • ~ Erik ~
  • There are things that just go unplanned and unexpected. Like the two things that happened last night because of Daniella’s innocence and charm.
  • Innocence is because she didn’t know that the club she and her team had visited is a drug den in disguise. They didn’t know that all of the staff there are members of a syndicate and are willing to drug unsuspecting customers with their laboratory-developed power drug called ‘Cloud Blue’. It takes one on a high; give grandiose delusions and hallucinations if it is taken in great amounts. It makes the customers think that the club itself is heaven, hence their constant visits, and that means big money for the syndicate.
  • Because of her actions, I had to break the Club protocol, which is really unexpected of me. Another thing is I always plan things ahead. I can’t believe I acted impetuously for her.
  • With regards to Daniella’s charm, well... it was that time when I almost kissed her. Her desperation and genuine care for her friends were really commendable, but her worried hazel eyes looking at me were unbearable and it almost tore my defenses down.
  • ‘I just had to taste her lips,’ that’s what my mind blurted out, but luckily a car horn woke me up from my spell. I was relieved yes, but looking at her expression, it didn’t escape my notice that she was anticipating my kiss too. Her, Daniella Rosecraft, the ever witty and confident woman, wanted my kiss. I had to keep myself from grinning in happiness then.
  • I was drinking my favorite brandy, lounging in my usual chair in the club man cave when I heard Vincent call Daniella. I couldn’t help but hear their conversation since he was a chair away from me and he had it on loud speaker.
  • The nerve of him. It seems he was doing it on purpose knowing that I and Daniella had a past together.
  • They were talking about her supposed debt after I asked him to play the violin in her organized wedding reception. I did say that he can’t collect payments for it, but it seems he was taking advantage of Daniella’s kindness. So now, because of it, she will model in his Arts Class tomorrow, which I will of course join — for the first time. It would be interesting to find out how this woman’s quirkiness affects the other club members, and probably, my presence there would be advantageous as I can guard her with Enrique’s Spanish charms.
  • When I come to hear Vincent asking her if she was in a club and after hearing her mention Lotus Spade, that’s when I grumbled. I left my chair and stood in front of Vincent, now listening to their conversation more thoroughly.
  • Vincent had a grim look as he stared at me and it was enough for both of us to know that this woman was in a tight mess.
  • I couldn’t contain my disappointment however when I heard her disagreement so I took the phone out of Vincent’s hand and talked to her myself.
  • When I said I will drag her ass out of the club, I really meant it, but it was a risky move. It might catch the syndicate’s attention on me, so I devised a better, low-key plan. I know for sure she’s going to be hysterical because of it.
  • “Do you really want to go there?” Vincent said as soon as I gave back his phone.
  • “Yes,” was my answer. I drank the remaining content of my brandy in one gulp and turned straight to the door.
  • “Wait, Erik.” He caught my arm and stopped me. “Do you really want to break our protocol?” he asked in a grave tone.
  • “I have to.” I gave him a sharp look telling him subconsciously that he can’t stop me.
  • “Just be careful then,” I heard him say and for that I awarded him with a small grin.
  • “You know I always do.”
  • An hour later, I returned to the château with Daniella with me, or rather, I should say with Daniella in my arms. She had already slept in my car before we arrived, probably due to exhaustion and a lesser side-effect of the drug. I had to carry her all the way to her bedroom before I could inject the counter drug in her bloodstream. Suri, the Personal Relations Officer of the Fancy Pants Club, had to help me with the procedure. She and Amano, her boyfriend, who is also a Fancy Pants Club member, are the only persons who know the antidote’s exact measurements. They are called our medicine couple. Amano is in the safe house dealing with Daniella’s friends.
  • I left Daniella in Suri’s care, including the changing of her party dress into a comfortable sleeping wear while I went outside the bedroom phoning Amano to check on her friend’s status. Fortunately, none of Daniella’s team have ingested the drug in a large quantity so they are safe. I can have them brought later in their own rooms so that they can comfortably rest.
  • With everything in order, I decided to leave her bedroom, but not before checking on Daniella for one last time.
  • “I will leave first, President,” informed Suri, holding with her a tray containing a disposable syringe and a vial. It is sometimes unbelievable to think that this pink-haired, petite woman has a vast knowledge on medicinal plants and drug concoctions.
  • “Thank you Suri,” I said with great appreciation. She left after we exchanged nods and closed the door of the bedroom.
  • Now, I was left alone together with Daniella who was sleeping peacefully. I watched her chest rise and fall, watched her eyes twitch for the faintest second and watch her lips briefly curve.
  • Ahhh, her lips.
  • If anything, I feel damned now wanting to taste them.
  • I shouldn’t have allowed myself alone with her if I am this weak on her charm. But move closer I did, with careful, careful strides on the edge of the bed. I sat on the mattress, holding my breath whilst silently hoping that the depression of the foam wouldn’t wake her. When it didn’t, I released a sigh of relief.
  • She looks so beautiful, sleeping, but I knew inside me I wouldn’t be contented with just watching. I just had to taste her lips...
  • ~ Daniella ~
  • I woke up in the morning feeling rejuvenated. The last thing that registered in my mind was sleeping in the president’s car and beyond that, I don’t have any idea. It was possible that Erik carried me all the way to my bedroom because if he didn’t I wouldn’t be here in my room waking up in the right side of the bed and wearing my nightgown.
  • My nightgown...
  • I would have already panicked thinking that he must have changed me himself, but luckily, a note was left in my bedside table written by a female named Suri Marie Shervert. It said that it was her who attended me while I was unconscious including changing my clothes and giving me the counter drug Erik had mentioned. She also left a reminder that I should take an anti-nausea medication to counteract any possible remaining side-effects of the drug. As if her kindness wasn’t already enough, to make things convenient for me, she left a chewable tab of Pepto-Bismol next to the note.
  • I took it before I rushed to take a bath. It was already a quarter before nine as I checked on the wallclock. Vincent’s Arts Class is to start at ten and if I want to look good as his model, I should prepare myself early. I am to check on my friends rooms too to see if they are doing alright like me. I would probably be on a guilt trip if they aren’t.
  • Now, forty minutes had passed and I am in the second floor east wing hallway looking for the club’s inhouse gallery called ‘Colores Imaginarios.’ I was holding my cellphone looking again and again at the map Vincent had sent me just to make sure I was heading the right direction. Before here, I dropped by on Ericka’s room to tell her about my modelling activity for today. She was sitting next to Mason in a sofa while nursing a hangover. Thankfully, they had no residual side-effects of the drug and were normally moving just like me. She bid me good luck and raised a thumbs up after inspecting my attire.
  • First off, I didn’t know the dress code of the Arts Class, so I took the liberty of choosing a floral midi skirt, an off-shoulder blouse, and lace up shoes — all with a touch of black — in the hopes that it would be favorable on the club member’s eyes. Vincent did say last night that I could wear anything so yeah, this ensemble is what I could whip up in time. Second is my hair. I don’t recall him mentioning about the hairstyle, but since he said that their lesson would focus on facial angles, I chose to have my hair done in a semi-ponytail twist. I left some soft curls on my face to add a bit of effect. Third is my make-up. I didn’t think that their painting session would necessarily want a subject in a heavy make-up, so I only used a light brown shadow on my eyes, mascara to thicken my lashes a little and cherry lipgloss to add color on my already shy red lips.
  • When I turned in a corner, that’s when I found what I’ve been looking for. I just realized it isn’t hard to find really since the place is enormous and was walled with transparent glass. A huge carved signage was hung above the front entrance were it wrote the name, Colores Imaginarios. Vincent was right when he said it is an inhouse gallery. The inside was decorated with frames and frames of paintings probably done by the club members. It showed different mediums from oil, to watercolor, to charcoal and some 3D images that used real materials. Since I am a Fine Arts graduate and a lover of anything artsy, I had to control myself once I stepped inside the gallery.
  • Beautiful. Every frame was just beautiful. What is advantageous on it is that they get to sign their artworks too.
  • I found some that were made by Vincent — which by the way were masterpieces. I find it unbelievable that not only was he a virtuoso in playing the violin, he is also a veteran on the field of Arts.
  • Scanning further, there were paintings that were created by Rohan and other masterpieces that were done by club members who I haven’t met yet. Weirdly enough, I couldn’t find one single painting from Erik — NOT that I was searching for his creation — I was just curious why his name didn’t appear since he is the president and all. Surely, it is his job to become the role model of his members and showing his talent to them through painting is one way to it.
  • “Daniella!”
  • Just as I was turning from one painting to the other, I heard a woman call. I whirled around and saw this lovely, petite woman with hair that looked like cotton candy waving her hand at me. She had a wide smile on her face as she approached me. I don’t know why, but I think she was very, very happy to see me.
  • “Uhmm, I’m sorry but have we met before?” I asked as we were an armslength apart.
  • “Hmmm, technically, we haven’t but anyway, I’m Suri,” she shot a hand in between us.
  • “Oh!” My mind quickly registered the facts. “You’re her!” I took her hand and shook it. Now, I couldn’t keep myself from smiling from ear to ear too. “Wow. I am pleased to meet you.”
  • “Same here,” she chimed. She didn’t let go of my hand when I loosened my grip. Instead, she pulled me close for a hug — a nice, warm hug.
  • It made my heart flutter for I instantly felt a sisterly bond with her.
  • “Thank you for taking care of me last night,” I said when we withdrew.
  • “No problem. Did you take the medicine in the table?”
  • She pinched my cheeks lightly and then studied me, turning my face from side to side. If I’m correct, I think she was acting like a doctor assessing her patient.
  • “Yes, I did,” I answered, fighting myself from furrowing my brows. Her actions were weird but I feel cared for by her close inspection.
  • “Do you feel anything right now?” she stepped backward and released a relieved sigh.
  • “Nothing at all,” I answered with ease. “I feel surprisingly myself, like I wasn’t a victim of being drugged last night.”
  • “That’s good news. Well, I can see that you don’t have any rashes and is acting well, so that’s means somebody can be at ease now.”
  • Somebody? Now that’s a vague statement. I would have asked her about it, but another question popped suddenly in my head.
  • “Are you joining the Arts Class too?”
  • She nodded and replied, “Yes, I am. I am just waiting for my beau. He forgot to bring fine brushes, so he went back on our room to get it.”
  • “Oh, I see.” Now my curiosity heightened. “Is it okay if I ask something?”
  • “Yes, sure. What is it?” The blue shimmered in her doe eyes.
  • “Are you a member of the Fancy Pants Club?” I couldn’t help but fidget with my fingers. I hope asking her this directly wouldn’t give her any weird opinion of me. In my research in a social website, a famous columnist briefly mentioned that gaining one of the Fancy Pants Club member’s friendship and trust is advantageous. I hope Suri won’t see me as a gold digger who only wants her friendship to gain an advantage with the club.
  • “Yes, I am,” but she just answered with giddiness. There was no hint that her friendliness towards me had changed. Thank God. “And my boyfriend, Amano, too. I am the Personal Relations Officer of the Club while he is the Weapo-- errr...” She abruptly paused and looked down at her doll shoes.
  • I found it weird then.
  • “Ah, just a club member,” she continued after regaining her cool and gave me another wide smile.
  • “I see.” I smiled back, taking her momentarily lapse as nothing. “It’s nice to meet new members of the club. At Ms. Elaine’s wedding, I was actually expecting all of you to attend.”
  • “Oh, no.” She waved her hands. “Amano and I were having a vacation during Mrs. Roslin’s wedding. We just arrived yesterday morning.”
  • Realization dawned on me then. “Ahh, so that’s why.”
  • “Daniella!” We both turned around when a male voice called me from across the hall. It was Vincent who had just exited a door. He strolled towards us and after only seconds, was standing in our midst with his hand grabbing my right one.
  • “Good morning Vincent,” I say once he bent to kiss my hand the way he did in our first meeting. It gave me the same tingling-in-my-skin, blushing-in-my cheeks effect.
  • “Good morning darling,” he said once he straightened, shooting me a handsome smile. I could definitely compare him to anime shows where bishounen’s beamed a smile with roses in their backgrounds.
  • After acknowledging Suri’s presence with a gentle nod, he turned his attention back at me. “How are you feeling now?”
  • I clasped my hands near my abdomen. “I’m good, thanks to Suri’s care.”
  • He arched a brown then, one that was pretty obvious.
  • “Just Suri?” he said, sounding confused.
  • I was taken aback. “Uhmm, why? Is there anyone else I missed out?”
  • I maybe unconscious last night but I’m pretty sure Suri took care of me all by herself. So, the credit goes all to her.
  • Vincent produced a grin and shook his head. “Nahh, forget it,” he said, then turned towards the open door. “Come inside the studio. I want to introduce you to my students and the other club members before the class starts.”
  • Once we were inside, I was quickly guided by Vincent into a small stage where there were soft spotlights in every direction and a single Victorian sofa in the center. I didn’t sit on it though since I am still to introduce myself to everybody inside whose eyes were riveted on me the moment I stepped in.
  • “Good morning everyone,” greeted Vincent initially. “As you may very well know, today we have a special guest.” He looked at my way and gave me a playful wink. I returned a nervous smile at him. “She is our life class model in this day only. She is the daughter of Mr. Magnus and Evlin Rosecraft, the owner of the Rosecraft Weddings and Events Concepts. She headed the recently-concluded, extravagant wedding of Mr. Aaron and Mrs. Elaine Mckenzie-Roslin. Let us welcome, the beautiful and talented, Ms. Daniella Rosecraft.”
  • I didn’t think that an applause for me was warranted in an elite class like this but they all clapped their hands, smiling towards my way.
  • “Uh, good morning everyone.” I waved a hand shyly and bowed my head low.
  • “We only have seven attendees now so I think it is convenient to name them one by one,” informed Vincent.
  • “Hey.”
  • “Nice to meet you.”
  • “Wassup?”
  • “Good morning, Senorita.”
  • Were the greetings I received when Vincent introduced each of them.
  • A short wave, a nod and a cheerful smile from Suri greeted me thereafter. I was all smiles to them in response. Vincent told me that three of them were his outside students — all from respectable families — while the other four were elite members of the club. Karl Eisengard was the Webmaster of the Club, Enrique Valiencoso was the Head of Security and Amano was — well... just a member as what Suri told me and Vincent backed it up.
  • “Well, now. Since we have established a connection with our model, let us all begin,” Vincent stated changing from his prince charming demeanor to a strict Arts professor.
  • He held my hand and guided me to the sofa. “Daniella, please sit here,” he said as he glanced on the furniture.
  • “Thanks.” I sat down with my legs drawn together and my hands clasped on my lap. It is ironic that I am sitting now as a model when two years ago I was one of those people with an easel and a canvas in front, and a paint brush on hand.
  • “All you need to do is to sit down like a statue. You can move anytime you want, but you can’t change your position. Is that okay with you?”
  • “Yup, not a problem at all,” I nodded my understanding whilst awed by his gentle, accommodating personality.
  • “Good.” He produced a slight grin. “Tell me if you need a break and I will give it.”
  • “Yeah, I will. Thanks Vincent.” I took a deep breath and readied myself on the three-hour painting session.
  • “Anytime darling,” and with that he turned around to face the awaiting people. “Let’s start,” he said to them and pressed the timer in his wrist watch. Immediately, the outside students and the club members focused their eyes on me — eyes that are now trained to study the contours of my face.
  • The whole time of the painting session, I just sat poised and unmoving. I tried training my mind to think of other things — a beautiful scenery, my untidy apartment back home, my Persian cat I left with Mrs. Sofia my family governess, or any other memories that I could conjure up just so my thoughts would be diverted to what was in front of me now.
  • I don’t know if it is just me or because of the situation I was in, but I feel like a queen right now. Vincent and Enrique made me feel that way... or at least that’s what I think with the way they looked at me the whole session.