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The Emotional Contract

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With your suitcase grasped firmly in your hand and Viccat tucked under your arm, you stepped out of the place you called your home for the last several months. The cicadas sang in the summer heat and your beat up, old sneakers just barely covered your feet from the hot, stone steps. Stepping up to the cab parked out front, you handed your bag to the driver and turned to take one last look at the stunning modern mansion.

It hadn't taken you that long to prepare to leave, deciding only to take with you what you had brought when you moved in, aside from the stuffie you continued to hold. Once packed, you sent a message to the friendly group chat announcing you needed to return to England immediately, citing a family emergency, and even forwarded the message to Victor so he'd know the excuse you made for your sudden disappearance. After that, you left a short note on Victor's nightstand, thanking him for all he had done for you, along with the phone he gave you, the engagement ring, and any of the money he had given you that you had remaining.

You wiped your teary eyes and slipped into the backseat of the car, still holding tightly onto the stuffed animal in your arms. Leaving hurt your heart almost as much as Victor's words had but you couldn't stay. Learning the man's feelings towards you hadn't changed over the course of your stay had shattered your hopes once again. It hurt so much more than the first time you had had your heart broken. At least back then, you knew your ex did love you once, while Victor never did, even if it appeared he had.

"I'm so stupid." You muttered to yourself as the car made its way down the driveway.

The driver stopped at the gate, waiting for the security guard to open it. The guard took a quick glance at you before pressing the button that activated the gate. It rattled noisily along the track, pulling back from the small building to allow the cab to drive through. You waved politely at the guard, keeping your face down so he wouldn't see you without your face painted as Elizabeth and to hide the tears slipping down your cheeks.

Thankfully, the further you drove from the place you once called home, the lighter your tears became. By the time you reached your parents’ building, they had all dried up.

Your mother was waiting patiently at the curb for your arrival. You had called her before departing, knowing you were going to need to borrow some money for the ride. When the cab came to a stop, she hurried to the driver's side window and passed some money through to him. You slid out of the car and waited on the sidewalk for the driver to open the trunk. Smiling widely at your mother, you gave her a large, warm hug, taking in the familiar scent of the kitchen spices she frequently used. When you released her from your grasp she cupped your face, knowingly. Her upturned brows and pitying look in her eyes caused tears to prick in the corner of yours.

“Come on inside, dear.” She said sweetly.

You nodded and picked up your old suitcase from where the driver had left it on the sidewalk. Your mother took the stuffed cat from your hand and led you into the dilapidated apartment building. Once inside of the homely apartment, you took a look around. Small couldn’t even describe what you were seeing. The kitchen was just large enough for a stove that was just over half of the size of a standard one, a fridge, and a single sink with one small cupboard below it and one above. The living room housed a single low table and some cushions on the floor next to it. Any small appliances your mother required for dinner were stacked along the wall. Looking to the right you spotted what appeared to be a small bathroom housing a standing shower and a toilet only and a bedroom just large enough for a single dresser and the two futon mats your mother had neatly rolled up and placed against the wall.

“Tea?” Your mother asked, drawing your attention back to her.

“Yes, please.” You replied, shuffling out of her way.

With nearly no room remaining in the stuffy apartment, you shoved your suitcase in the only space available between a small twenty-inch tv sitting on a cardboard box and your mother’s small appliances. You sat on your knees on one of the square, blue cushions and watched as your mom pulled an electric kettle off the top of her pile. She placed the round bottom in the center of the table then moved into the kitchen to fill up the kettle.

“Why are you and dad still living in such a small place? I thought dad was making enough for you guys to move into a new apartment?” You asked as she placed the kettle onto the bottom ring.

“I like living here. I find it cozy and it doesn’t take very long to clean. Aside from having to go to the market every single day for groceries, I love it here.” Your mother replied with a smile.

She unplugged the tv’s cord from the wall and replaced it with the kettle.

You looked back into the kitchen and noted the lack of storage space. The cupboard under the skin seemed to house a small number of dried foods that only came in bulk, such as tea. The small cupboard over the sink was where the dishes were kept. Your mother hurried back into the kitchen to retrieve two mugs along with a box of tea before returning to the seat across from you. The kettle shrieked once that water inside was warmed enough, your mom took up the handle and poured the steaming water into the two cups before dropping the bags in.

“Now then,” she said, setting the kettle to the side and unplugging its base, “tell me everything. I haven’t seen you in ages!”

You took a deep breath and shook your head slowly. Remembering Victor was the last thing you wanted to do, but what else were you to do? Your mother always had a bad habit of being too curious about everyone else’s lives. Looking down at the steaming mug clasped between your hands, you opened your mouth and began.

Over the course of your beverage, you told your mom everything that happened while living in Victor’s home. Well, everything aside from your late-night encounters with the man. Your mother didn’t need to hear about the details of your relationship. Unbeknownst to you, the more you spoke of Victor, the more affectionate your voice became. Your eyes filled with tears again when you finally reached the end of your tale, threatening to spill down your face.

“When your father saw you last, he mentioned how close the two of you seemed. Honestly, I’m surprised you’re here.” She said after you finished.

“That was just an act. I was accustomed to playing Elizabeth whenever we weren’t at home.” You said, brushing her assumptions away.

“Are these tears Elizabeth’s too?”

You snapped your head up to look at her, finding the same forlorn expression on her face. You pressed your lips together in an attempt to get them to stop quivery as the tears snaked down your cheeks. Seeing your heart breaking once again, your mother moved to your side of the table and wrapped you into her embrace.

“It’s alright, honey. Let them all out. There’s no use keeping them in.” She said soothingly, stroking your hair.

Your body shook with your sobs as you dampened your mother’s shoulder with your pain. She hummed softly and rocked you back and forth like she once had when you were young.

There was no denying it now. Your mother now knew how much you loved that seemingly cold and distant CEO.

***


After you finally calmed down and your tears stopped staining your cheeks, your mother released you. She silently went into the kitchen and ran some cold water over a cloth then rang it out before returning to your side.

“Your eyes are all puffy, dear. Best clean up before your father comes home. If he finds out how much pain you’re in, he just might storm down to Victor’s office and give that boy an earful.” Your mother said, pressing the cool, damp cloth to your eyes.

You laughed at the image in your head of your father scolding Victor for being, well, himself. Thanking your mother for everything that day, you took over, moving your hands onto the fabric over your eyes.

“I suppose you’ll need to stay here tonight?” Your mother asked.

You looked around the small apartment, knowing it was your only option. The living room was so small, you would have to move to the table every night before going to bed then move it back in the morning when you woke up. As much as you didn’t want to impose, you had nowhere else to go, nor did you have a job or money to get your own place.

“If you and dad don’t mind. As soon as I get a job and have saved up enough money I’ll find my own place.” You answered, bowing your head.

Your mother clicked her tongue at your form and shook her head. “Of course you can stay here. Now, why don’t you come out to the market with me today? I’ll make your favorite meal for dinner.”

You raised your head and beamed at your mother. You couldn’t remember the last time you had a taste of her home cooking. The thought of it was enough to make you salivate.

Nodding at her words, you got up and stretched your legs, now sore from being seated on them for so long. Your mother slowly got to her feet, using the table to push herself up. She shuffled to the door and changed out her slippers with her outdoor shoes and grabbed a basket sitting nearby. You followed suit, exiting the apartment just behind her.

Arm-in-arm, you walked down the bustling mid-afternoon street with your mother, down to an outdoor farmer’s market that was housed in a nearby square. She walked from stall to stall picking out only the freshest of ingredients before leading you to a grocery store a little further away. Everyone you came across greeted your mother cheerfully and introduced themself to you. It seemed while you were away, your mother had become a staple in the small community.

“You mentioned you needed a job.” She began, taking your arm to lead you back out into the summer heat after finishing purchasing what she needed from the grocery store.

“Do you know anyone who might be hiring?” You asked, looking around to see if you could spot any Help Wanted signs in the storefront windows.

Your mother chuckled and handed you the basket, making you carry it, as it was full of groceries. Surprised by the sudden weight, you couldn’t imagine your mother carrying this home every single day and enjoying it, but with the heartful way she walked, it seemed she had.

“You should talk to your father when he gets home. He may have mentioned needing to hire some new employees for his shop.”

“Oh, but I don’t know anything about repairing electronics.”

Your mother laughed at your comment and patted your arm while shaking her head. Every time your mother shook her head at you, you knew it was her way of calling you a “silly girl”, suggesting you were missing something.

Back at the house, you offered to help your mom prepare the meal, but she shooed you away, claiming the kitchen was far too small to have two people in it. You offered to take care of anything that required using one of the small appliances on the living room table, but again she denied you. When you went to plug in the television to entertain yourself while you waited she scolded you. Apparently, in the small apartment, the breakers could only handle so much at once which was why she unplugged the tv before using the kettle earlier that day.

You sighed and told her you were going to take a walk.

Back outside in the humid air, you took a deep breath, trying to fill your lungs with some fresh air. A cool breeze kicked up, causing a few leaves on the ground to skitter along. Not knowing where to go, you turned south and headed down to a large river that split the city of Loveland. Looking over the waters lazily lapping against a barrier, you spotted the familiar tower, standing tall in the center of the financial district, LFG. Feeling your heart squeeze tightly in your chest, you turned your gaze away. You knew your father would be returning home from work soon and the last thing you needed was to cry again.

“Okay, now I know not to come in this direction again.” You mumbled to yourself, turning on your heel.

With nothing else to do and nowhere to go, you slowly proceeded back to your parents’ place.

Just as you were approaching the old building, you spotted your father’s figure advancing toward the front door. You smiled widely and sped up into a light jog.

“Dad!” You called out, hoping to stop him from entering without you.

Your father froze upon hearing your voice and turned to face your direction. A smile broke across his face and he threw out his arms, ready to catch you as you quickly moved to him.

“There’s my girl!” He said cheerfully as you ran into him.

He pulled you into his warm embrace and kissed the top of your hair gently. You almost felt like a kid again with the way your parents were treating you.

“Let’s get out of this heat.” He chuckled, removing his arms from around your shoulders.

You nodded and followed him back up the rickety old stairs and into the apartment.

Inside, your mother had finished preparing dinner and was in the process of setting the table. When your father announced his arrival, she gleefully turned and welcomed him home with a kiss. You smiled at how loving your parents always were with each other. The thought caused your mind to return to Victor’s world. Would things have ended up differently had you acknowledge your feelings earlier and acted more affectionately towards the CEO?

Your mother’s tittering pulled you from your distant thoughts. You looked up and found her waving you over to the table, ready to enjoy the meal. Switching out your shoes for slippers, you soon joined them.

While your mother’s cooking wasn’t expertly done like Victor’s was, there was no comparison in the love you felt in each bite. Your mother always took great care when cooking for her family. Nothing warmed her heart like seeing her family together enjoying what she made. You could always see the gleeful sparkle in her eyes whenever you ate.

"You know, when Victor told me you'd be coming home today, I almost didn't believe him." Your father said to you, taking a bite of food.

You looked up and met his eyes, the corners of which crinkled with his smile.

“You saw Victor today?” You asked, feeling your stomach cramp as his name spilled from your mouth.

Your mother's eyes darted from you to your dad, concern growing on her features. Neither one of you wanted your father to find out how deep your feelings for the man in question ran. As mentioned before, the older man would have no issues putting his business in trouble if it meant protecting you. However, since your family had come so far and you had to endure so much to pay off the debt owed, you couldn’t let your dad risk anything.

“We had your run of the mill meeting. When I asked how you were doing he told me you fulfilled your end of the contract and you’d likely be home by the time I returned. It’s so nice to see you back.”

You took a deep breath and smiled at your dad, ignoring the sick feeling in your stomach.

“I’m glad to be back. I’m sorry that I’ll probably be a burden for a little while until I can get a job and my own place.” You said, steering the conversation to a new topic. “Mom mentioned you might be looking to hire some new people.”

It was your dad’s turn to look from you to her with a soft look in his eyes. It seemed the thought hadn’t occurred to him. Your mom was always really good at filling in the holes your father had a tendency to miss. They complimented each other so well.

“Actually, a lot of my part-time workers will be returning to school in the next few weeks and I’ve been trying to find replacements for them. If you’re willing, I could offer you a steady job working weekdays.”

“Really?” You squealed.

Your father nodded. You jumped away from the table and scurried to his side, wrapping your arms around his head, hugging him tightly.

“Oh, thank you, dad! Wait, I don’t know how to repair stuff.” You said, peeling your arms away from him.

He chuckled at you and playfully ruffled your hair the way he used to when you were a child.

"I need someone to work the front desk."

"Oh, I can do that!" You chuckled and returned to your previous spot to finish your meal.

Being with your parents and enjoying the home cooking may not have seemed like much, but it lifted your spirits a great deal. While enjoying the last few mouthfuls of food, you decided to focus on the good things life offered. You weren't about to let a little heartbreak get you down. Now was your chance to put your best foot forward, to forget the man you loved so dearly, and prepare for some normalcy to return to your life.

But try as you might, that devil always found a way to drag you right back.

Chapter Text

They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but they also say “out of sight, out of mind”. Which one of these proverbs related to you in this situation? Neither, as it were. Being home and away from Victor did not make your love for him increase in any way, nor was he out of your mind.

Over the next few weeks, while steadily working hard at your new job, you found your pain soon turned to anger whenever Victor permeated your mind. Unsurprisingly, you hadn’t heard from him since you moved out. Not that you were expecting to, with your contracts over and your debt paid. That, combined with his final words to you, fueled the raging fire of wrath inside of the pit of your stomach. You welcomed the hatred you sometimes felt for him. It meant you were getting over him. Your current hope was to never see his smug face ever again.

Your dreams, however, betrayed you. Thankfully, they were never explicit since you still slept on a thin futon in your parent’s living room. Sometimes they were memories, like the way he held you close while teaching you how to dance or how he’d suppress a laugh whenever you did something silly by covering his mouth, but he was never able to cover the amusement in his eyes. Other times, they were simple gestures like the way his fingers always seem to entwine within yours without any awkward fumbling or the look he’d give you whenever he caught you staring. He always feigned annoyance but you saw through his facade; he enjoyed it.

The worst dreams were the ones that would never come to pass. Future milestones you knew would never happen. Him proposing or a fabulous wedding. Those ones hurt the most.

In your conscious state, you pushed aside what your subconscious played for you and focused on work.

It didn’t take you long to pick up on your job duties. For the most part, you set people up with a repair-person for a consultation, call clients when their devices were ready to be picked up, and general salesperson duties.

You did notice one giant flaw in your father’s storefront. Whenever a customer came in requesting repairs on a computer or other device, the consultation had to take place at the small front desk. Oftentimes, people either had to wait for the consultation with the repair-person to end, or they would have to wait for you to finish ringing someone up. One would think a business like this wouldn’t be so busy, but you found a lot of the repairs were simple issues, like a cracked screen for example.

With the storefront so cramped and the actual repair area in the back being fairly large, you proposed a solution to your father. You requested building one or two small rooms between the two sections of the store for consultations. It would keep customers from having to wait so long and thus increase business. He agreed to your idea but both of you knew that required more money the business had, which meant your father would likely have to go to his investor, Victor.

Today was a hot Wednesday afternoon. It was a slow day, leaving you with the task of dusting the product shelves.

With your feet pressed into the top of a step-ladder, you reached up to clean off one of the higher shelves when you heard the bell over the front door chime as someone opened it.

“I’ll be right with you.” You called cheerfully, backing off of the steps carefully.

“Take your time. I’m early for my meeting anyway.” A familiar deep, expressionless voice replied.

Your breath caught in your throat for a minute at the voice. Although you knew who it belonged to, you prayed your mind was tricking you and the person behind you wasn’t the one you didn’t want to see.

Taking a deep breath, you slowly turned to face the man behind you. Standing by the door, was Victor, dressed in his usual suit. Even in the hot summer heat, not a single drop of sweat appeared on his brow. He stared at you with his cold, grey eyes.

You felt your chest tighten at his unwavering gaze. Shifting awkwardly, you moved to stand behind the desk. You opened your mouth to speak but your words betrayed you and no sound came out.

Victor turned his eyes from you as he brushed a hand through his perfectly styled obsidian hair. For a split second, you missed the way his hair felt between your fingers.

“Victor, I’m so sorry for making you come all this way.” Your father’s voice rang from behind you.

Surprisingly,, Victor responded in an informal way, calling your father by his first name.

As he passed, Victor gave you one final indifferent glance. You gawked at the retreating men as your father patted Victor on the shoulder like they were old friends. The two disappeared into the back of the store, hiding them from your eyes. Victor’s apathetic behavior toward you and his near friendly attitude toward your dad was too much for your already fragile heart. You slumped against the wall with your hands clasped at your chest, breathing erratically. With your eyes squeezed shut as tight as you could, you focused your mind on your work. Now wasn’t the time to get all emotional.

Pulling yourself back to your feet, you returned to the task you had started before Victor’s presence shook your world to its core.

“I don’t care if he pretends he doesn’t know me.” You mumbled to yourself, letting your anger replace your pain once again. “It’s better this way. Now I can see how much of an ass he really is. I’m happy I dodged that bullet.”

After you finished a few more shelves lining a wall, a young customer walked in. You stepped down from the stool and politely greeted him as he scanned the walls of merchandise. The man requested your assistance on a selection of charge cords he was looking at. You walked over to him and dutifully helped him choose one that suited his needs. At the register, you quickly rang him out then repeated your usual go-to way of thanking the customer for coming to the shop.

Just as the bell on the door rang when the man left, you heard the door behind you open. You glanced in the direction, hearing your father happily thanking Victor for his time. Your eyes followed the tall, stoic man as he walked past you. For a split second, you felt as if something brushed along your lower back. Feeling as if Victor might have touched you, albeit so gently you could barely feel it at all, you looked down at his hands. They were both placed comfortably in the pocket of his black dress pants. There was no way he would have been able to tuck his hand away so quickly without you seeing some sort of movement.

You continued to watch him as he crossed through the storefront, silently hoping he'd at the very least acknowledge your existence, but he didn't. He pushed open the door, causing the bell to chime again, and disappeared from your view as he walked down the street.

With him finally out of sight, the emotions you had been holding in came crashing through like a dam breaking. You sniffled and brought your hands to your face to hide the few tears that escaped your attempts to keep them in. In your misery, you had forgotten your father was still standing behind you in the doorway to the back rooms. You felt his hand clasp gently onto your shoulder.

"Take the rest of the day off." He said softly, squeezing his palm that was draped over your shoulder comfortingly.

You turned to him and gave him a tight hug and thanked him for being understanding. It was unlike your father to not feel the need to stand up for you, but maybe after all these years he was finally beginning to understand you were an adult and could handle things on your own.

You collected up your items quickly, stepping out under the hot sun. Unsure of where to go and not exactly wanting to go home and worry your poor mom, you turned in a random direction and began to walk.

After a few seconds you stopped, noticing a fallen leaf dangling midway in the air as if someone had pressed pause. You looked around, seeing the cars on the road had also stopped, the breeze was no longer cooling your skin, and the normal, everyday noise was replaced by silence. Closing your eyes you turned to the sound of footsteps advancing on you.

"This isn't funny." You growled at the only person you knew who was capable of doing such a thing.

"It wasn't meant to be funny." He replied in his usual unamused tone.

You opened your eyes and looked up at Victor who was no more than a foot in front of you. With his back blocking the sun, you couldn't make out the expression on his shadowy features other than the steely gaze peering down at you. When he took a step closer you raised your hand and went to bring it down across his face.

"You're a goddamn asshole!" You yelled at him, finally feeling freedom within your grasp.

Victor quickly seized your wrist, thwarting your attack. You tugged at your arm, attempting to break free of his hold to no avail.

"What makes you think that?" He said darkly, advancing closer.

You walked backward, unsure of where you were going.

"You show up and act as if you've never seen me before in your life as if I didn't spend months in your bed." You glared at him.

"Dummy." He mumbled and brought his free hand to your waist, leading you against a wall.

You shifted uncomfortably, feeling the bricks behind you digging into your shoulder blades. Victor moved his hand from your waist to the wall you were pressed against and leaned his face in close.

"How would it look to an outsider if I was pleasantly chatting up someone I shouldn't have any history with? It didn't occur to you that I was acting that way for yours and your father's protection? If anyone finds out you're Elizabeth, your livelihood is in danger." He explained slowly as if you were too dense to understand otherwise.

"Then what's with all this?" You asked, nodded your head in an attempt to point out the frozen world behind him.

Without warning, Victor's lips pressed against yours in a slow but heated kiss. You instinctively moaned against his lips and, upon feeling his hold on your loosen, wrapped your arms around his neck. He shifted closer and moved the hand that once housed your wrist to the side of your face. You opened your mouth and tilted your face, feeling his tongue tease your lips. Running your fingers through his hair, you lost yourself in his taste and scent for a time, allowing him to weaken your reserve bit by bit.

It wasn't long before the quiet voice in the back of your mind screamed loud enough you could hear. You unlocked your fingers from his hair and shifted your hands to his chest before pushing him as hard as you could. Victor looked bewildered at your sudden reaction but quickly returned his expression to his standard poker face.

"You can't just fucking kiss me like that!" You yelled at him, your voice becoming louder with each word.

"You didn't seem to have a problem with it at first." He replied, correcting his tie.

Feeling the anger bubbling inside of you once again, you lifted your hand a second time and successfully brought it across his cheek.

"I'm not your fucking toy you can play with whenever you feel like it!"

"That wasn't my intention." He began, but you wouldn't hear it.

"Just go away, Victor." You growled, feeling the tears start their descent down your face. "I don't ever want to see you again."

You wrapped your arms around yourself, feeling the crushing pain of your heart inside of your chest. It felt like someone had taken a red hot knife and shoved it through your sternum. The CEO said nothing. You stared at his expensive, black loafers until they disappeared. Hearing the world finally come back to normal, you covered your ears, expecting the same overwhelmed feeling to overtake you as it had once before, but it never came.

When you finally released the grasp on your head, you realized Victor was gone and so was his car that was parked nearby. Peeling yourself from the wall, you wiped your tear-stained cheeks and proceeded to continue on with the walk you intended to take before.

You walked for about an hour until you came upon a familiar old school building. Leaning against a nearby fence, you looked longingly at the play-yard as your childhood memories began to drift back to you. You welcomed them, taking your mind away from your pain and anger and returning them to simpler days.

Back then, no one cared about who was dating who and talking about holding a boy’s hand was enough to make you blush. Andrew, your highschool sweetheart, and your best friend from then Xiao-niao spent a lot of time running around in the grass, playing various make-believe games.

The three of you were inseparable over the years until graduation when everyone went their separate ways. Andrew went off to the premed program you were supposed to attend and Xiao-niao attended college here in Loveland. Although you and Andrew never spoke after he broke up with you, you and Xiao-niao would occasionally catch up over a cup of coffee. It had been at least a year since you saw her last and you wondered what she might have been up to.

As fate would have it, you were soon to find out.

Hearing someone call your name, you turned your head to find the friend you were reminiscing about coming out of the school building Her short, black hair and straight bangs blew in the gentle summer breeze as she waved you over.

“What are you doing here?” She asked excitedly.

“I was just taking a walk. What are you doing here?” You repeated, getting close enough to pull her into a hug.

“I work here.” She laughed, pulling away from your embrace after a minute. “You, taking a walk? Alright, I hope you don’t have any plans because you’re coming with me to get some coffee and you’re going to tell me everything that’s going on with you.”

You smiled at her and took the arm she offered you, letting her lead you away. After all this time, she still managed to remember that you only took walks when something was bothering you. It took Xiao-niao a little prying, but eventually you opened up to your friend while still keeping your true story a secret.

You explained to her that you had been seeing a man casually for a few months and somehow managed to develop feelings for him. Vincent, the name you had chosen to call Victor to hide his identity, did not seem to feel the same way. Even though you found him acting almost as if he did. You lied and said the mixed signals he sent were the reason why you and he had ended things and while it still hurt, you moved on with your life.

“I’ll get us some drinks,” Xiao-niao said, leading you into a small cafe.

You nodded and chose a seat in the corner of the place, watching as the other patrons read their papers or clacked away on their laptops. Xiao-niao rejoined you after a few minutes and placed a cup of iced coffee in front of you. You took a sip, letting the cool beverage chill the inside of your throat. Refreshing hardly covered how your drink felt.

Your friend settled herself in the seat across from you and urged you to continue your story. You agreed and explained he had come into your place of work to speak with your dad about something.

“Why did he want to talk to your dad?” She asked curiously.

“Oh, he used to work there and was picking up his final paycheck..” You lied and thanked whoever was looking over you for providing you with a reasonable excuse.

Xiao-niao eyed you for a second but seemingly accepted your answer. You continued on and even went so far as to bring up the strange moment outside of the shop when he kissed you. Your lips tingled as the words left them as if they were reliving the moment.

“That guy sounds like a mess.” She laughed, taking a sip of her own drink.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening, you continued catching up with Xiao-niao. You learned she had become a school teacher like she always dreamed of becoming and was excited to be working at the same school you and her had attended as kids. As she went on, she mentioned her current roommate was moving in with her boyfriend at the beginning of next month, and Xiao-niao was having a hard time trying to find someone else to move in. You sat up quickly in your seat and took her hands in yours.

“Could I move in? I’ve been living in my parents’ tiny apartment and I really need my own space.” You asked, eagerly awaiting her reply.

“I don’t know, you seem to have an awful lot of baggage.” She said with a pesky, amused smile on her lips.

You laughed along with her, knowing that was just her sense of humor.

Getting a job working for your dad and happening to run into an old friend who was going to have an open room in her apartment, left you feeling like your luck was beginning to change. While the thought of you running into Victor from time to time, since he was your father’s investor, made you uncomfortable, you knew it would be unreasonable to believe you’d never see him again; even if you hoped you wouldn’t.

“I can’t wait until September!” You said excitedly, still grasping onto Xiao-niao’s hand.

“Me either! When we’re living together I want you to tell me all the dirty details of your relationship with Vincent. I haven’t had a date in six months.” She returned your excitement and smiled.

Having not yet purchased yourself a new phone since you were saving for an apartment, you glanced at the clock on the wall of the cafe and gasped. It was nearly dinner time and you knew if you didn’t return home soon, your mother was going to worry. With the help of Xiao-niao looking up the best way for you to return home, you thanked her for everything, took down her number and promised to keep in touch over the next week to make plans about moving in. She walked you to the bus stop you required before she waved you off and disappeared into the crowd.

Back at home, you were greeted with your mother’s scolding for coming home so late and found your parents had already started dinner without you. When you explained you were out with Xiao-niao and lost track of time, your mother’s worries began to ease. You told them about how she was going to need a roommate in September and even offered it to you. Your parents were thrilled at the prospect of you moving out.

After dinner, you took up the task of cleaning the dishes for your mother as an apology for coming home late. She gladly accepted your proposal and made herself comfortable in front of the small television with your father.

Throughout the rest of the evening, your mother went into details about the neighborhood gossip she had learned that day. Your father announced that Victor had agreed to lend the store some more money so they could build the consultation rooms you suggested. While hearing his name sent a shiver down your spine, you pushed any negative feeling aside and congratulated your dad. You could tell by the way your mother was behaving so joyfully, your father spared her from your embarrassing moment at the store.

You told your mother how Xiao-niao was doing and expressed how thrilled you were about having your own room as you pushed the table aside and rolled out your futon. Your mom wished you goodnight and told her how proud of you she was before placing a loving kiss in your hair. You curled up under a light blanket and closed your eyes ready for sleep.

That night was the first night in a long time you didn't dream about Victor.

Chapter Text

The next week and a half had been the busiest one you experienced since you started working for your father. With the summer vacations coming to an end, the store was full of high schoolers and college students alike looking to get their devices repaired or to purchase some new accessories to show off when classes resumed.

With the store being busier than usual, your father decided to keep it open a little later for the rest of the month, causing you to log in some serious overtime hours. Although your dad could have called in one of the part-timers to work alongside you, you had a feeling he kept it this way so you would have more than enough money for your first month's rent.

On the first of September, he gave you the day off to move. You laughed at the gesture, knowing it wouldn't take you very long to move your single suitcase, the futon roll, and Viccat, but you appreciated it all the same. Xiao-niao wasn't home since classes had begun and she was away preparing the minds of the future. As much as a kindergarten teacher could anyway.

Having the entire day off did have its benefits. With Xiao-niao's apartment being halfway across the city, you needed to plan your route accordingly. As luck would have it, with Loveland's extensive subway system, you would be able to travel to work in the same amount of time it took you to travel via bus from your parents' place. As an added bonus, the apartment faced North, meaning you wouldn't see LFG nestled with the rest of the buildings in the financial district when looking out of your window. Her building was quite a distance from that area of the city anyway.

Part of your agreement to having the day off was for you to spend one final dinner with your parents. You easily agreed. They were kind enough to board you and feed you for free for nearly a month. The least you could do was allow them to throw you a small private party.

After your mom treated you to the same meal you had the night you moved back, your father handed you a small gift bag. You looked up at him graciously.

"You didn't need to get me anything." You said, shaking your head.

"We felt like this was something you were going to need." Your mother answered for your dad and insisted you open it.

Sighing, you gave in to their words and opened the bag. You pulled out a hand-sized, white box. Upon seeing it, you knew exactly what it was. Opening the box, you revealed a slim smartphone, similar to the one you had when you lived with Victor, except this one appeared to be an earlier generation. You smiled and turned the screen on, finding your father had set a background photo of him and your mother. Letting out a small laugh, you thanked them and gave them both a hug.

After dinner was over and you finished configuring your phone, a knock on the door disrupted your quiet family night.

"I'll get it." You said, pushing yourself to your feet.

It was strange to have visitors so late, but you figured it was just one of your mom's gossip gals that had a tendency to come over at random hours to share some juicy rumor they heard. When you opened the door, you were sorely disappointed by the sight before you. Standing in his casual attire with a light suit jacket over a black polo stood Victor.

"The hell do you want?" You growled at his form.

"Your dad and I have some business to attend to and this was my only free time this week. He asked if I would have any problems coming to the apartment since he apparently had plans with you." Victor replied in his deep, no-nonsense tone.

"I'm sorry, honey. I thought you would have gone home by now." Your dad said apologetically while moving you out of the way so Victor could enter the small apartment.

You rolled your eyes as the two men moved to the low table and your mom offered to make them some tea. Your dad pulled out a thin binder full of his ideas for the consultation room.

"Why don't you join us, dear? It was your idea after all. I feel like you should have some say in how it looks." Your dad said, gesturing you to join them.

Not wanting to disrespect your father's wishes after he had done so much for you these past few weeks, you begrudgingly agreed. Taking the only available place left, you knelt next to Victor and looked over at the binder, trying to ignore the heat his body was producing.

After a few minutes, Victor pulled his jacket off and placed it behind him against the wall, exposing his toned forearms and filling your senses with the scent of his cologne. A scent you once loved to have wrapped around you.

Inside of the binder were five basic layouts your dad had drawn up for the storefront. At first, you were disinterested and stared aimlessly as your father carefully explained each one and the pros and cons. It wasn't until he reached the final page did you begin to feel drawn to what you were looking at. While all of the options were similar in size and structure, this one was the only one that offered a window between the consultation room and the work area. You leaned over Victor’s left arm and pressed your finger to the page.

“I like this one.” You said quickly, interrupting your father’s speech about the design.

"What do you like about it?" Your dad asked with a smile in his eyes.

Looking down at the design again, you took a few seconds to organize your thoughts before speaking.

"I think having that window there would be beneficial to our repair-persons, the customers, and myself." You said without hesitation.

"Explain the benefits." Victor's deep voice said calmly in your ear.

You turned to look at him, only to realize how close your faces were. Pulling away, you glanced away from his hardened stare to hide the blush that was creeping up your face. Victor patiently waited for your reply, keeping his eyes trained on you. You knew because you could still feel his gaze boring into you. Clearing your throat, you replied carefully:

“I believe the window will do us a great service. For one the customers would be able to see how well our employees care for each device that’s brought in. Second, one of our experts would be able to see when a customer is in the consultation room, and third, without me having to constantly be heading into the back of the store to let others know someone needs their assistance, I will be able to focus on my main duties.”

After explaining, your face returned to its normal color, making you feel comfortable enough to turn back to Victor. He was flipping through the pages with a thoughtful look resting on his features.

“We’re going with the first option. Those rooms were larger, giving both customers and consultants plenty of space. Your idea wasn’t a bad one, but what if your experts, as you called them, aren’t comfortable having people stare at them while they work.” He said in his end-of-argument tone.

“Wait a second.” You growled and reached over him, ready to flip the papers back to the draft you liked.

As soon as you began to lift some of the pages, Victor slammed his hand down on top of them, preventing you from flipping them. You glared up at him while attempting to shove his hand away. Even though he was staring you down with his unamused grey eyes, this time you didn’t let up. You returned his stare defiantly.

“Why do you think you get any say? You don’t work there!” You snapped, adding your second hand in an attempt to move his.

“I get a say because I’m paying for it.” He retorted.

Victor turned his hand palm-side up and grasped onto both of yours. You inhaled sharply at the feeling of his fingers curling over the backs of your hands. He moved his hand to his lap where his free one joined in, trapping you. His eyes darted from yours to your lips and back. Suddenly you knew what he was thinking.

Your mother’s sudden soft giggling on the other side of the table reminded both you and Victor where you were. He released your hands and turned his face away. You returned your hands to your lap, feeling a blush dusting your cheeks for a second time that night.

“Larger rooms won’t mean shit if the repair people don’t know there are people inside waiting to be seen, and I can’t promise I’ll be readily available to run into the back to get someone.” You added quietly, not ready to give up the argument.

“Then we’ll add a bell,” Victor replied while getting to his feet then turned his gaze to your father. “It’s getting late and I have an early meeting in the morning. Ultimately it’s your decision. Call me when you make one.”

You kept your eyes turned away as you heard him shuffle past you to the front door. He politely exchanged farewells with your parents, changed his shoes, and exited.

Pulling out your new phone, you noticed it was nearing eleven. Not knowing how late the buses and subways ran, you decided now would be the best time to leave too. You knew you were going to have to risk Victor catching you leaving, you were hoping he'd be long gone by the time you got outside. As you were pulling on your shoes your mother made a discovery.

"Oh! It seems Victor forgot his jacket. Why don't you be a dear and take it to him." Your mom said, handing you the jacket.

You huffed at her words but took it without question. As much as you didn't want to do this errand, you knew returning it was the right thing to do. Now changing your hope that he was gone, to one where he was still nearby, you waved your parents goodbye and jogged out of their apartment, down the old set of stairs and out into the cool night.

As luck would have it, Victor was just stepping up to his car door when you spotted him.

"Hey, jerk." You called to him, holding the cloth in the air. "You forgot your coat."

The CEO turned his head to you, spied the jacket in your hand, and quickly returned to the sidewalk in just a few of his long strides. He said your name softly while wrapping his fingers around the hand that grasped his jacket.

"There's something I've been needing to talk to you about. Come with me." He said, moving you toward his car.

You released his cloth and jerked your arm away, scowling at him.

"Say whatever it is you need to say. It's late and I need to go home." You replied, folding your arms across your chest.

"It's too risky to speak with you in public. Let me take you somewhere private. I'll drive you home when we're done." He said.

His tone was dull, nearly weary as if all the arguing he had done with you earlier was enough. You knew if you put up a fight he probably would leave you alone, but inside your heart, you held the faint glimmer of hope. Hope that whatever he needed to say were the loving words you longed to hear since you discovered your feelings for him.

Not willing to let him in on how you truly felt, you feigned annoyance but agreed, stepping toward the car. Victor opened the door for you. Once you were tucked away on the black, leather seat, he shut the door and circled to the other side of the car.

Victor was silent during the drive, keeping his eyes trained on the road. You kept your head straight ahead but occasionally glanced at him out of the corner of your eye. The overhead street lights illuminated his features every few seconds like a strobe light running out of power. You knew where he was taking you the second he drove into a tunnel beneath the river that connected the financial district to the area of town your family lived in.

After fifteen minutes or so seated in awkward silence, Victor pulled into the underground parking area of LFG and pulled into his labeled spot by the elevators. You followed him out of the car and into the elevator and watched as he pushed a button for the top floor.

"I take it we're headed to your office." You said, gesturing to the lit button.

Victor looked you over but offered no reply. He took out his cell from his pocket while glancing at the time on his watch. You struggled to refrain from smiling at this as he could have just checked the time on his phone. Pressing his phone to his ear, he put one finger to his lips, requesting you be quiet. He turned from you and spoke quietly into the receiver, so quietly you couldn't make out what he had said.

When the elevator reached the designated floor, instead of walking toward his office, Victor went the other way. You looked at him puzzled, nervousness creeping into the pit of your stomach making you feel a little ill. Although you were hesitant to follow him, you did so anyway.

The sounds of his footsteps echoed around the quiet empty offices as he briskly walked down the narrow hallway. The atmosphere was eerie with the lack of people and lights. It felt like you were walking through an abandoned building rather than LFG.

At the end of the hallways was a stairwell door that led up to the rooftop. You could hear the wind howling as you climbed the steps behind the CEO. Reading the words painted in red across the door, you quickly pushed past the man and blocked him as his hand reached for the metal push bar.

"It says an alarm will sound if you open this door." You warned him, crossing your arms.

"I've already taken care of that, dummy." He said.

Without hesitation, Victor moved his hand past you and pushed open the door. He threw you a satisfied smirk as he moved past, stepping out into the night air.

"Jerk." You murmured to yourself before following him.

The rooftop of LFG offered a stunning view of the city skyline. You gasped and moved to the railing, looking over the city lights that looked like a million stars. Now forgetting the reason why Victor had brought you here, you turned to him and smiled wildly. The wind on the top of the building was colder than you expected and you shivered. Victor seemed to notice the goosebumps that dotted your arms and took his jacket, wrapping it around your shoulders.

“I come up here whenever there’s something bothering me.” He admitted, moving his hands to the railing on either side of you, trapping your frame.

“Has something been bothering you?” You asked, instinctively leaning back against his chest.

The anger and pain he caused you melted away with the feel of his right arm wrapping around your waist, holding you close against him. You tilted your head to look up at him, finding his grey irises searching the black horizon. It was clear he was trying to find his words.

After a time, he sighed and looked down at you. His left arm came up and joined his right, wrapping itself around your torso. He dropped his head to your shoulder and let out another sigh.

“Some reporters have been sniffing around looking for Elizabeth.” He admitted.

The name escaping his lips set your mind back on track. You mentally scolded yourself for falling for the romantic atmosphere of Loveland's skyline as you squirmed out of Victor's grasp. He watched you as you shifted a few steps away before turning away to hide whatever he was feeling from you. You rolled your eyes at his reaction, having had enough of his avoidant behavior.

"Just tell me what you need from me so I can go home." You replied.

"If the reporters dig deep enough, they'll discover Elizabeth never existed in the first place, putting you, your father, his business, and myself at risk. I was hoping I'd have a little more time before this but it seems someone leaked information about Elizabeth returning to England." Victor said, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance.

"Get to the point and tell me what it is I'm supposed to do." You growled, annoyed by how long he seemed to be dragging everything.

"I need you to sign a non-disclosure agreement."

You weren't at all surprised by what he said. Coming from a father who ran a business you did have a faint idea of how things worked. The only shocking part was that he hadn't asked you earlier. Many untrustworthy people would have taken the experience and ran with it, looking for book deals or movie contracts. Of course, the truth would likely be twisted in a way to make Victor seem like the big bad CEO taking full advantage of a lowly commoner in need of money. Why he waited to ask, you weren't sure, but you were glad to do it. Signing this final contract would lead you one step closer to moving on.

"Fine. I'm assuming you don't have it up here and we'll have to move to your office." You replied, stripping off his jacket and handing it back to him.

Victor tentatively took it back, his eyes trained on the cloth between his fingers. By the melancholy look in his eyes, you knew there was more he wanted to say, but once again, something inside his mind stopped him. You shook your head knowing him well enough you wouldn't be able to force him to speak. Whatever was on his mind, he needed to say it in his own time. Victor rarely spoke without thinking about it first.

Feeling a little awkward and now cold from the warmth of his jacket gone, you moved closer to the door you had come through and cleared your throat. Victor peeled his eyes from the fabric in his hand and looked up at you. As if not wanting you to guess something was amiss, he acted his usual self and proceeded through the door and down the steps.

Once back inside of the building, he pulled his phone out and dialed a number. This time you were able to hear at least his half of the conversation as he told whoever was on the other end, presumably a security guard, that he had completed his business on the roof and they could turn the alarm back on at any time.

You followed him through the maze of hallways, past the elevator, and to the large door adorned with his name engraved onto a metal plate. Taking out his keys, he unlocked the door and opened it. You smirked at the thought of Victor not using the highest security for his office, but you assumed there were probably more security measures set up that you couldn't see.

Inside of his office, he draped his jacket around the back of his chair and diligently began digging through a small stack of papers on the corner of his desk. You stood by and watched as he ruffled through the stack, admiring his long fingers dancing over the pages. When he located what he was looking for, he slipped it out of the group and laid it on the desk in front of you. You picked up a pen and immediately went to sign along the line on the back page. Victor curled his fingers around your wrist to stop you.

"You should read it first."

"I know what a non-disclosure is. If I mention anything about our relationship to anyone you'll sue the pants off me." You grumbled, pulling away from his grasp.

You quickly scribbled your signature on the marked line and slid the paper back toward him. Victor placed his palm on the stapled pages. He kept his eyes cast down as if there was still something plaguing him.

"I've signed your thing, now take me home." You said, moving toward the door to leave.

Once again, you felt his fingers wrap themselves around your wrist. You groaned at his persistence and whipped around to face him, expecting some sort of curt remark. Instead, you were met with his earnest eyes, showing emotions you never expected to see behind those grey irises: pain, sorrow, regret. He pulled you into him, enveloping you tightly inside of his arms. You pressed one of your hands to his chest, feeling his quickening heartbeat beneath your palm as the realization slowly sunk in.

"I wish we met under different circumstances." He said softly; his breath blowing over the hair on the top of your head.

You slipped your arms around his chest, returning his strong embrace. Everything was beginning to make sense. The way he turned from you before saying those words that broke your heart. His sudden kiss a few days ago. His insistence on bringing you to his office building. He missed you as much as you missed him. Had he been agonizing over you? You wondered. The thought of hurting him tore your heart in two and tears began to sting your eyes.

There was only one thing you wanted an answer to.

"The day I left. I asked you how you felt. Why did you lie to me?" You breathed against his cotton polo.

"You were going to leave anyway," Victor replied.

You pulled away to look up at him. He met your gaze. His eyes shimmered in the soft light, reflecting your face. He moved his hand from your back to cup your cheek. Brushing the single tear that snuck down your cheek away with his thumb, he tipped your face up to his.

"You are a stupid, stupid man." You whispered as your eyes fluttered closed, preparing for the impending kiss.

"Love makes you stupid." He murmured before pressing his lips to yours.

Victor left gentle bittersweet kisses on your lips. Moving his hand from your cheek to the back of your head, he entwined his fingers through your locks. He kept up a slow pace, never parting his lips more than the few centimeters it took to kiss you sensually. You moved your hands from his chest to around his neck, silently pleading him for more.

"We shouldn't." He whispered after parting from you to catch his breath.

His lips were slightly swollen and a deeper pink than usual from the blood rushing to them. They glistened in the dim overhead light, tempting you more. His face was flushed, his pulse quick and his eyes were filled with lust.

"Do you want to stop?" You asked, tearing your eyes away from his attractive features.

"No." He replied quickly, turning you to look at him again.

It was like a switch was flicked at that moment. Victor crashed his lips hungrily against yours and moved his hands down under your rear. While he lifted you off the floor with ease, your body responded by wrapping your legs around his waist and tightening your hold on his neck. He walked across his office and placed you gently on the edge of his desk. Breaking from your embrace, he moved to your side and began carefully removing some of the more expensive items away from behind you.

Once he was done with the task, he resumed his fast, passionate kisses. You met his hunger with equal ferocity of your own, eagerly accepting his tongue whenever you felt it run gingerly across your lips. He placed his hands on your hips and pulled you closer to the edge while pressing his thigh between your legs. You moaned against his lips and moved your fingers to the hem of his shirt. With a few taut tugs, Victor understood your message. He took hold of the bottom of his shirt, after shooing your hands away, and pulled it up over his head.

Next, he peeled off your shirt then took a step back, examining your nearly nude top half for a time. When his eyes met yours, you noticed the sorrow and hesitation hidden behind the shadow his brow cast over them. There was no doubt in your mind. Tonight you and Victor were seeing each other as true lovers, but given the situation, you knew it was unlikely this would happen again.

You swallowed the knot that was beginning to form in your throat and reached toward him, curling your fingers around his bicep.

"Victor." You whispered softly, pulling him back into you.

No more words needed to be shared. He pressed his forehead to yours and closed his eyes, taking a shaky breath. The hand you had resting on his arm slid up to his shoulder, while your other hand cupped his cheek lightly. You rubbed your thumb over the stubble that had grown over the course of the day. He pressed his hands into the top of the steel and marble desk and took a deep breath.

After the short shared moment, you removed your hands from his body and pulled them behind your back, unclasping your bra. The article loosened around your torso. As you moved your arms forward, the straps slid down them, coming to a stop at your elbows. You shook the bra off and wrapped your arms around Victor's neck. Pulling him into a slow yet sensual kiss, you teased his lips playfully.

Victor moved his hand to your knee. The deeper your kiss became, the further back you leaned until the marble top of his desk cooled your heated back. Victor's right hand crept up your torso until it found your left breast. He squeezed the soft mound then gently teased your nipple.

You moaned into his mouth and ran your fingers through the short hairs on the back of his head. Victor's body shivered at your touch.

The CEO pulled away from your grasp and moved his hands to the waistband of your shorts. He glanced up at you, finding you nodding your confirmation. You watched as his tongue flicked over his top lip lightly before he slowly peeled the fabric covering your lower half down your legs. Without a second thought, he quickly removed your underwear immediately afterward, leaving you completely naked on his desk.

His belt buckle shined in the soft, hazy glow of the dim overhead light as Victor's long and nimble fingers worked the leather strap out of it. The prong tapped lightly against the metal frame creating a discombobulated rhythm while it dangled off Victor's pants. His steady hands unbuttoned his pants then unzipped the fly in the front, giving his growing erection more room. As he slipped the trousers down, the front of his black boxer-briefs had the clear cut signs of his excitement protruding against the fabric. 

You pushed yourself up onto your elbows and eyed his form as he released his aching self from its confines. Victor grasped his length and stroked himself to full. He ran his fingers over the tip, coating his digits in the clear, sticky fluid his body secreted. You bit your bottom lip expectantly and opened your legs for him.

The CEO pressed his palm into the top of his desk and stepped between your legs. Your breath hitched in your throat when you felt him lightly rub the tip of his cock against your parts.

"Are you still on birth control?" He asked.

You nodded and looked up from his waist, meeting his enticing eyes. Victor teased your entrance a little more, rubbing himself over your clitoris. A jolt of pleasure shot through your lower abdomen each time he tickled the button of nerves. You whined in anticipation and reached for him, silently persuading him to continue.

"You haven't been with anyone else since our last time, have you?"

"No, have you?" You replied with a slight attitude, insinuating he was more likely to be involved with someone else.

Victor let out a sigh yet a small smile pulled at his thin lips.

"Does it look like I want to put anyone else under contract?" He growled, pushing the tip into you.

"That doesn't mean you didn't." You replied through heavy pants.

Victor pushed himself in a little deeper then pulled back, allowing your body to adjust to his girth. While it had only been a little less than a month since your last time with him, this time felt almost like your first night with him all over again.

"Dummy," Victor panted, pushing himself in more, "you're the only one I want."

This sudden confession mingling with the sensation of his hips meeting the skin of your thighs elicited a quiet gasp from your lips. You pushed yourself up onto your palms then moved one arm over his shoulder.

The CEO began a slow rhythm, rolling his hips. You matched his pace, moving your body along with his. A light, fluttery feeling formed along your lower stomach then began to steadily grow the longer he kept up his unhurried pace.

He brought his face to yours, leaving soft, wet kisses over your lips. You let out a content sigh and began to lay back, offering more of your body to him. Victor kept up with the gentle, deep kiss, slipping his tongue delicately over your lips and into your mouth, all the while pressing his body tightly to yours.

With your nails gripping his shoulder from one hand, you slowly leaned yourself back against the desk. Without breaking the kiss, Victor leaned forth, moving his palm from where it rested next to your side to the place by your head.  A quiet groan escaped his throat as he pushed himself deeper inside of you. His free hand slipped to your outer thigh, where he squeezed the soft flesh between his fingers before pushing your leg a little higher. You broke the kiss and tipped your head back, letting out a surprisingly loud moan.

“Enjoying yourself, are you?” Victor chuckled, dipping his head to lick at your exposed throat.

He pulled back enough for you to catch his gaze with your own. His eyes lit up with a mixture of pleasure, lust, and one final element you had seen many times before but weren’t able to place. Until now. You stroked his cheek and smiled, feeling the love he was expressing to you fill your once wounded heart. Finally unraveling the mysterious look you had seen time and time again prior to this, you started to become aware of how long this man had been in love with you. Learning this and understanding what this meant, filled you with regret.

Noticing the strange look you were unknowingly making, Victor stopped and clicked his tongue to get your attention.

“Am I boring you?” Victor grunted with a slightly annoyed inflection.

You shook your head and reassured him by running your fingers through his dark hair.

“Sorry, I was getting a little lost in your eyes.” You admitted while playing with the short hairs on the back of his head.

Victor’s eyes widened for a split second and the blush on his cheeks seemed to deepen with your words. Without another sound, both his lips and his hips crashed into you, causing you to moan into his mouth. He curled his fingers around your palm still holding his hair and moved your hand to the top of the desk. After entwining his fingers with yours, he whispered your name orgasmically against your lips causing an excited shiver to run down your spine.

Victor shifted his weight to his right side, leaning his forearm against the desk. He dropped his head to your neck where he bit into the sensitive skin. You let out a breathy moan and moved your head to the side, giving him more room to suckle on your flesh. His movements increased in both intensity and frequency, speeding up the process of your impending orgasm. Your extremities both heated and numb shook and spasmed. His name tumbled from your lips as you felt the growing feeling inside of you ripple out in waves as he inched you closer and closer to ecstasy.

Victor hissed loudly in your ear, feeling your nails rake down his muscular back. Your body shuddered and twitched beneath his and your back arched, causing your hips to press into him. You bit into the shell of his ear, slightly muffling your blissful cries as your hand clawed its way back up his back and into his hair where you pulled hard at the soft locks.

The sudden explosion of pleasure within caused your vision to flash white. You reeled your head back from Victor's and cried out, letting the orgasm overtake your senses completely.

In the wake of your orgasm, Victor's breathing became unsteady as it caught in his chest. His thrusts became disorganized and rougher as he pushed closer to his own release. His grip on your hand tightened uncomfortably and his teeth dragged over your neck. A soft moan left his lips as his body shuddered and shook. With one final thrust, he groaned, filling you with his release. He slowed his rolling hips to a stop and peeled his upper torso from yours. His eyes fluttered open for a second, catching your relaxed gaze. A smile appeared on his lips.

"We should get you cleaned up," Victor said gently, unclasping his hand from yours.

When he went to pull away completely, you dug your heels into the backs of his thighs and tightened your arm around his neck.

"Wait a minute." You breathed, not ready to lose his warmth.

Victor let out a sigh and swept away some hair that was stuck to your face. However, instead of leaning over, he pried his arm beneath your back and pulled you into a seated position. Your other arm joined the first around his neck as the CEO left sweet pecks over your lips.

"Spoiled princess." He growled and pulled your legs a little higher so he could lift you from the desk.

You squealed in surprise and instinctively linked your ankles behind his back as he effortlessly carried you off to the bathroom after stepping out of his pants that were piled around his ankles.

Placing you down on the counter, he picked up a cloth and wet it under some warm water. Without a moment's hesitation, he quickly replaced his softening cock with the cloth to catch anything that attempted to drain from your body.

"Do you enjoy cleaning me up?" You asked, looking down at the man cleaning the mess he made between your legs.

"It's not that I enjoy it," he began, pausing to rinse the cloth in the stream of water pouring from the tap, "it's just part of being a responsible partner."

Dripping his gaze, the CEO silently returned to work. Mulling over his words, you picked up a second cloth, wet it like Victor had, then used it to wash away the sweat that had accumulated along his brow. The man glanced up at you curiously, his eyebrow cocked. You followed his hairline with the cloth, paying no mind to the expression behind his eyes. He dropped the cloth he used to clean you with into the sink after wiping his flaccid self and closed his eyes as you washed over his shoulders and chest.

Kissing over his jaw, you tossed the fabric you used into the sink as well and wrapped your arms around his neck once again. Victor lifted his arm, glanced at his watch, then stroked your cheek tenderly.

“It’s really late. I should get you home before your roommate worries.”

Your heart dropped into the pit of your stomach as those words left his lips. Knowing this was likely the last time you'd ever see him again, you were desperately hoping time would slow down to give you more moments with the man you yearned for.

As he stepped away from the counter, his hand dropped from your cheek. You took a deep breath and watched as his nude form quickly left the room. Normally, you'd find amusement in the idea of Victor walking around his office completely naked, but tonight there would be no more laughter.

You slid off the counter and joined the man in his office, finding him standing bent over by his desk, pulling his pants up over his legs. Shuffling around the quiet room, you picked up your discarded underwear and shorts and slipped them on. Next, you located your bra laying on the floor by Victor's shirt. You glanced at the man adjusting his belt before picking up his shirt. Half-tempted to put it on, you moved to his side and handed the article to him. When he wrapped his fingers around the shirt, you felt the urge to pull it away from him. Upon feeling your slight resistance, Victor took the shirt and pulled it over your head. You gave him a curious look, watching him cross over to a small closet on the corner of his office. He opened the door, unzipped a suit bag hanging on the inside of the door, and pulled out a crisp, black dress shirt. You blinked at him a few times before pulling your arms through the holes of his shirt; a smile spreading over your lips.

"Why did you put this on me?" You asked, locating the shirt you had worn when you arrived.

"You looked like you wanted to keep it." He replied with a slight shrug, nimbly buttoning the front of his shirt. "Once I've finished cleaning up in here, I'll take you home."

You grimaced at his reply and shuffled over to the large wall-length windows taking up one whole wall of his office. The sound of his scuttling around returning the items to his desk filled the quiet room. You wrapped your arms around yourself, feeling helpless at that moment. You loved him and he loved you, yet you and Victor could never be a couple. Not with how you were hired to scare off Chik. Goldman was right about one thing, if any reporters caught wind of the truth about Elizabeth, it would spell bad news for Victor.

While lost in the maelstrom of your mind, you didn't notice Victor walk up behind you until you felt his hand on your hip. Your eyes refocused on his slightly transparent reflection. He held the same conflicted air around him, exuding exactly how you felt. You closed your eyes and turned around, hugging him tightly against you. You felt his chest expand then contract with a heavy sigh as your body shook.

"No tears." The CEO said quietly, taking both of your shoulders in his large hands.

He pushed you back a step and cupped your cheeks to wipe away any drops that snuck out of your eyes. You both wanted to say something, anything to make this situation easier, but what was there to say? It would be unrealistic to say you'd wait however long for the world to forget Elizabeth's existence.

Victor gave you a sympathetic look then turned away. He grasped your hand loosely within his and led you out of his office.

Down the long, darkened hallways, to the elevator taking you underground, to the sleek luxury car resting alone in the parking lot, along the winding, empty streets of Loveland, you and Victor remained silent. You weren't surprised that Victor seemingly knew where your apartment was. Both of your parents had a tendency to talk too much about matters that barely concerned them. It was likely your father said something to him when planning their strange business meeting earlier in the night.

When Victor pulled up in front of your apartment building, you turned to look at him. He kept his eyes trained forward and his jaw was clenched.

"So this is it." You said, putting on a mask to hide your pain.

Victor closed his eyes, listening to the sound of you shuffling in your seat and unbuckling your seatbelt. You leaned over the center console between the two seats and pressed your lips lightly to his cheek.

"Thank you, Victor." You whispered and pulled away, opening the door to the sidewalk.

Just as the door was about to shut, you heard Victor let out a long, shaky breath. The sound of his obvious pain caused your heart to twinge.

"No tears."

His words came back to you at that moment, giving you the strength to make your final goodbye. You planted a smile on your lips and waved at the blackened window, unsure if Victor was even looking your way. At that moment, all you wanted to do was to be strong for him. He was a smart, extremely capable man. It was unlikely he would never find someone else and move on.

Turning on your heels, you walked up to the door to your apartment building and pulled out your keys. Hearing his car engine purr as he pulled away from the curb, you took one last look at the red brake lights on the end of his car.

"Goodbye, Victor." You whispered as silent tears rolled down your cheeks.

Chapter Text

The entire month of September was eventful, to say the least. Your father had chosen a design for the consultation room after asking the repair personnel their opinions. After this, the store was shut down for the remainder of the month for the renovations. Not wanting to cause any distress to current customers, however, he still found a way where everyone could continue working, by renting another temporary building. Unsurprisingly, the owner of the building was Victor.

Although the repair center was set up elsewhere, the place it was located was inaccessible to customers, leaving you and your father with more work. A number was left on the window of the old shop, directing customers to call if they required repairs. When they called, you would arrange a pick-up time and your father would drive to wherever they were located for the device. When the repairs were done, you'd then contact the customer and again arrange a time to have their item delivered. Oftentimes, you'd have to take a delivery out because your father still had his own work to do.

In that month, you neither saw nor heard from Victor. It was both heartbreaking and relieving. While you missed running your fingers through his soft, charcoal tresses or kissing his thin, warm lips, or staring into those slate-colored eyes, you still felt emotionally freer than you used to. Your last night with the man gave you the closure you required.

Every once in a while, when you found the feeling of loneliness sinking into your heart, you'd pull Victor's shirt out from the back of your closet. Even after four weeks of having it, it still held his smell as strongly as the day he last wore it. Sometimes you'd put it on and fall asleep surrounded by his scent, other times you'd simply hold it to your face and inhale deeply before tucking it back in its place. The more you found yourself pulling that shirt out, the more you scolded yourself for being weak.

Your parents seemed to have sensed your change in behavior since the night Victor was there. As much as you tried to act like your usual self, they still would give you pitying looks and neither ever so much as breathed Victor's name in your direction.

Xiao-niao was also very empathetic. While she was busy with the new school semester beginning that month, she still took the time to check up on you. Every Friday night like clockwork, she'd invite you to join her on her night out with all her high school friends. Friends that were once yours too. And every night you declined, until tonight.

There wasn't anything special about this particular evening that caused you to accept her invitation, but rather, you just felt like going out. She helped dress you up in a slightly formal, but mostly casual, attire, having you wear one of her white pleated blouses with a pair of dark blue jeans and black, closed-toe pumps. After applying just enough makeup to accentuate your eyes, you followed Xiao-niao from the apartment down to the nearby bus stop.

During the course of the trip, Xiao-niao explained since everyone lived in different parts of Loveland, they chose a new place to meet up, giving everyone the chance to show off their neighborhoods and local hotspots. Xiao-niao expressed how much she enjoyed it, having been able to explore the city in a new light and discover many great places to eat. You nodded along with the one-sided conversation. It had been quite a long time since you saw any of the people you were meeting with and it was making you nervous enough to pick at the cuticles lining your fingernails.

When you and Xiao-niao arrived at the small cafe, two of your old classmates were already there holding a few tables for the group. The female gasped at your presence and ran to hug you, asking you question after question about your life since you saw her. The male waved at you sheepishly. Over the next half hour, more of your old classmates trickled in. Each one stopping at the sight of you.

After everyone was settled and the questions directed to you came to an end, Xiao-niao quieted everyone. If there was any doubt left that she was a school teacher, the way she controlled the room squashed it.

The small crowd slowly hushed as everyone turned their eyes to your roommate, standing at the end of one of the tables with her back to the front door. She opened her mouth and was about to speak when the door behind her opened. Everyone instinctively looked behind Xiao-niao at the person entering the building. You, however, kept your eyes trained on your roommate, not caring who was entering.

That was until nearly everyone at the table gasped.

You turned your gaze to the person behind Xiao-niao and joined the others in their surprise. There, standing in the doorway, glancing around the room was your old friend and ex-boyfriend, Andrew.

When his dark brown eyes met yours, a smile spread across his lips. He raised his hand to you and the group before advancing closer. You shifted uncomfortably in your seat. The last time you spoke to him was the day he broke your heart. Now reeling after yet another heartbreak, he wasn't exactly someone you wanted to see

"Hey, shove over. Give Andrew some room." Your roommate hissed at you.

You wanted to protest and insist he sit next to someone else, but after glancing around the space, you noticed there wasn't room anywhere else. Sighing, you shifted closer to the person on your left, giving your ex room to sit in the booth with you.

Andrew threw you another one of his dazzling smiles before thanking you and taking the seat you offered him. You mumbled a "no problem" and turned to face away from him. The rest of the group began the same treatment they had given you just moments before; bombarding Andrew with a ton of questions about his personal life. You didn't care. You rested your chin on your hand and closed your eyes, letting your mind drift away.

After a short time, the group began to settle again. Xiao-niao once again hushed the group before running into a long speech to thank everyone, especially you and Andrew, for coming out that evening.

During her speech, you felt a gentle bump on your right shoulder. You turned your attention to the man sitting next to you, finding his chocolate-colored eyes staring at you. He smiled once again, showing off his perfectly straight, white teeth. His close proximity to you made your face suddenly flush. Andrew leaned over, his nose brushing your hair as he moved, to whisper in your ear.

"I had no idea you'd be here, it's really nice to see you again." He said.

Andrew's hot breath tickled your ear as he spoke, sending a shiver down your spine. You inched away from him as he pulled his face away, offering him nothing but a shy smile.

Being so close to him almost made you feel like you were back in high school all over again. He seemed taller and broader than he did back then. His chestnut brown hair swayed as he returned his attention to your roommate just finishing her speech. She turned her attention to you, flicked her eyes to Andrew quickly then threw you a wink. You shook your head at her as she sat down. Having no intention of getting to know Andrew again, you spent the rest of the evening attempting to ignore the man next to you without making it obvious.

At the end of the night, as you were picking up your purse to leave, you spotted your roommate quickly running out of the door without you.

"Xiao-niao!" You yelled after her as she disappeared through the door and down the street.

Hearing someone clear their throat from behind you, you turned around to find Andrew standing by the barista bar and holding two coffees. He moved toward you and held out one of the paper ups.

"Did you have anything to do with Xiao-niao abandoning me?" You asked, tentatively taking the drink he offered.

"I might have." He replied with a sly smile

You shook your head at him and let out a small laugh. After all these years, it seemed he hadn't changed all that much. This moment nearly mirrored the way he asked you out back in high school and brought the memory of that day back into your mind.

Back in your second year, you, Xiao-niao, and Andrew were pretty much inseparable. Other friends would come and go, but the three of you always stuck together since childhood. You always had a crush on your group leader but never outright admitted it to him. Though he never bothered dating, you assumed it was because school was more important, until one day.

Like any other day, you, Andrew, and Xiao-niao were all hanging out at the mall, like many other teenagers. The three of you were enjoying a peaceful lunch when Xiao-niao suddenly excused herself. She claimed she was feeling unwell and left you and Andrew alone together. Not wanting to ruin your day, Andrew suggested continuing the plans of seeing a movie. You agreed.

After the movie, when the world was beginning to darken, Andrew insisted on walking you home.  He paused as a streetlight over his head flickered on, illuminated a yellow circle on the ground around you. You still recalled the nervous feeling building in the pit of your stomach when he called your name and asked you to be his girlfriend. When you accepted, he kissed you without warning, nearly causing you to stumble back into the street in surprise. He called you clumsy and ruffled your hair before turning and leading the rest of the way to your home.

As soon as you stepped through your front door, your good mood was quickly shattered by your parents’ scolding. It seemed, as you were out with Andrew, Xiao-niao had called the house almost every half hour looking for you. Your parents were so annoyed they nearly unplugged the phone. After apologizing for what seemed like hours, they excused you to call your friend back. That was when you clued into the plan Andrew had set.

"Would it be so bad to spend some time alone with me?" Andrew asked, his words returning you to the present.

"I suppose I could spare a few minutes." You replied, feigning indifference.

He smiled once again, and placed his left hand on your lower back, leading you out of the building. You squirmed from the warmth of his hand. It seemed Andrew felt how uncomfortable you were and moved his hand away as the two of you proceeded down the quiet sidewalk.

At first, neither of you spoke. You could sense every single glance he threw your way as the street lights buzzed loudly overhead. A cold, autumn wind rushed by as you moved to the first intersection, blowing your hair wildly around your face. You sputtered and attempted to move the strands clouding your vision and sticking to your lips to no avail. The man next to you laughed gleefully, breaking the awkward silence between you. Soon, you found yourself laughing along with him. All the tension and anxiety you felt around him quickly melted away, being replaced by the amusement you felt. It was just what you needed.

Over the course of two hours, you and Andrew walked with no real destination in mind, talking about everything that happened from the end of high school until now. He spoke of how difficult the university was and how often he thought of dropping out, but he never did. He couldn't do that to his family. Andrew expressed how strange it felt no longer seeing his name at the top spot in the class and went into great detail about how humble it made him. It never occurred to you how narcissist and egotistical he was in high school until you spoke to him now.

When it was your turn to talk, you told him you didn't have much to say. After high school you simply jumped from job to job, helping your family stay afloat. You mentioned the debt your father owned and that it was paid, but not how it was paid.

As the night went on, the conversation slipped into one about relationships.

"I'm really sorry for how I treated you back when we were together," Andrew said, taking a break on a small bench in the park you had been currently walking through.

“What do you mean?” You asked, taking the empty spot next to him.

He sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes for a second. When he opened them, he kept his gaze turned toward the night sky. His eyes darted between the clouds as if he was trying to find the words to say. You shivered in the cool air and drew your arms around yourself, rubbing your hands over the goosebumped flesh of your upper arms. Andrew noticed your movements and turned his head toward you.

“Back then, I wasn’t a very good boyfriend.” He finally said, pulling the thin grey sweater he was wearing over his head.

He looked down at the fabric between his hands before offering it to you. You tried to claim you were okay without it, but Andrew insisted you take it, threatening that if you didn’t, he wouldn’t continue talking. You laughed slightly and thanked him, pulling the large sweater over your head. Being wrapped in his warmth and smell, you felt a twinge of pain in your heart. Because he was a doctor, his clothes seemed to have that distinct disinfectant hospital smell you hated, and the sweater didn’t offer much protection against the chilling wind.

“Whenever we went out, we only ever did whatever I wanted to do. We hung out whenever I wanted to. I don’t recall one time I ever asked what you wanted.” He added to what he said before your chill.

“Really? I never noticed. If I’m gonna be honest, I was so infatuated with you, I didn’t think you could do anything wrong.” You shook your head with a smile.

“I guess that’s just what happens when girls are in love.” He laughed and nudged you gently with his shoulder.

Love. You shook your head again and dropped your eyes to your lap, suddenly being reminded of everything you were experiencing. Your thoughts returned to Victor and you couldn’t help comparing the two. While they were both young, handsome, and successful, that’s where the similarities stopped.

Victor was ruthless. He didn’t ask you to take walks with him, instead, he’d demand you to. He was cruel with his words and emotions seemed to escape him most of the time. Yet, through all of his faults, you managed to find out how gentle and romantic he truly was, while slowly falling in love.

Andrew was always kind, even if he didn’t think he was. He was alluring and charming and always seemed to know what to say and when to say it.  His face was always lit up with his smile and his laugh was infectious.

While you were lost in your thoughts, you didn’t notice the man next to you closing the gap that was between you. He quietly shifted himself into position and moved his arm around your shoulder, pulling you into a hug and out of your head.

“W-what are you doing?” You gasped, flustered at the sudden embrace.

“You had this look on your face like something I said made you sad.” He replied.

You pushed him away and stood up, still startled. He apologized as he got to his feet, reminding you how when you were young, you used to love all sorts of affection. You peeled off his sweater, now feeling too warm from your embarrassment and handed it back to him.

“I’m not who I used to be.” You said and turned away from him, advancing down the paved path.

You didn’t know exactly where you were or where you were going, but you just had to get out of there. Although you walked as fast as you could, the heels on your feet dug into your flesh, causing what felt like blisters to form on the back of them. You groaned and sat down at the next bench you came across to remove them from your aching feet. It was no surprise to you when Andrew joined you.

"I'm really sorry if I offended you." He said quietly. "I guess I still think of you as that lovesick highschooler."

You scoffed at his words, "It's been a long time and a lot of things have changed. I'm nothing like I used to be."

"Well then, would it be alright if I got to know you as you are now?" He asked.

You looked into his earnest, chocolate brown eyes for a short while, contemplating his request. Perhaps you had originally mistaken his kindness as something more than it was. A problem you had mentioned a few times prior. Feeling stupid for your assumption, you slowly nodded. Gaining a new friend wasn't exactly the worst thing in the world. Currently, the only people you hung out with outside of work was your roommate and your parents every Sunday when you had dinner with them. You smiled softly and nodded your confirmation.

"Great! Now, in the meantime, let's get you home." Andrew laughed excitedly and jumped to his feet.

He looked down at the shoes next to you on the bench and the red marks on your feet. Before you knew, he was crouched on the ground in front of you with his back turned to you.

"Hop on. I'll carry you to my car then drive you home." He said, looking at you over his shoulder.

If there was one thing you remembered about Andrew, it was his stubbornness. There was no way he was going to let you walk with sore feet. You swiped your shoes from the bench and flopped yourself onto his back. Andrew wrapped his arms over your legs and held tightly as he stood.

During the walk to the car, you and Andrew talked about your job and your parents. You mentioned your weekly dinners with them and he asked if he could one day join you. His question made you fall silent. Sure he knew your parents already, but you also knew if you showed up at their apartment with a man they'd assume the worst.

"I get it." He said at your lack of response. "My parents are on my case about getting married, too."

You shook your head and smacked his shoulder playfully just as he reached his small, old car. He placed you carefully on the ground and opened the passenger side door for you. Once you were settled in the seat, Andrew closed the car door, ran around to his side, and joined you.

During the ride, the conversation of your job continued. You went on about how excited you were for the new consultation rooms and how the design you liked was the one that was chosen for the end look, only pausing your story whenever the GPS robot voice spoke over you. Andrew smiled at you prattling on, keeping his eyes on the road the entire time. When he pulled up in front of your building, he turned his gaze to you. A serious look replaced the smile his eyes usually held.

"I need to be completely honest with you." He began.

Your heart dropped at his words, feeling foolish to think this night was just two old friends reconnecting.

"I want to get to know you in hopes that maybe one day you'll give me a second chance. I would have said something earlier, but your body language suggested you're not interested in any sort of intimate relationship right now."

You shifted uncomfortably in your seat and moved your hand to the door handle, ready to jump out of the car as soon as you could while your other hand fumbled around, placing the heels back on your feet.

"You're right. I'm not interested in that." You replied and opened the car door.

"That's fine." He said.

Before you stepped out, you froze and turned your attention to him. 

"I still want to get to know you and if somewhere down the line you want to try again, I'll be ready. If you don't, that's fine too. I just feel that it's important you know my intentions from the start." He explained, throwing you a soft look.

Andrew was kind, smart, and funny. Thoughtful and handsome, too. If you weren't so mentally mixed up from your strange relations with Victor, you probably would have jumped at the chance to try again with Andrew.

"Maybe, one day." You replied and slipped from the car.

You felt his eyes follow your retreating form as you entered your apartment building with your keys. His car didn't drive off until you were completely out of his view. You let out the breath you had been holding and scurried into the elevator.

Inside of your apartment, your roommate, Xiao-niao was waiting for you in the living room. The second the door opened, she was on her feet, dashing to greet you. She bombarded you with questions about your evening with your ex, not giving you a chance to reply before the next one shot out of her mouth. Eventually, she ran out of questions as she followed you into your room where you stripped yourself from your clothes and changed into a more comfortable outfit. When she finally stopped talking, you explained the bizarre, yet fun, night you had.

"So what are you going to do? I mean you're still very in love with Vincent and here's Andrew practically throwing himself at you." She said once you finished.

You flung yourself onto your bed and scooped Viccat into your arms. With a heavy sigh, you shrugged.

"Vincent and I are no more, but I'm not ready to move on. I think I'm just gonna hang out with Andrew every once and a while and see if our old spark returns."

Xiao-niao nodded and joined you on the small, single bed you had recently bought for yourself. She draped an arm over your stomach and cuddled in close. You welcomed her friendly snuggles and closed your eyes. Xiao-niao was always an exceptionally affectionate person and over the last month, you'd often find her sneaking into your bed at night whenever you were at your lowest moments, just to offer you some comfort. It wasn't uncommon for you to fall asleep next to your best friend and tonight was no different.

Chapter Text

"What happened to Elizabeth King?"

Your head snapped up at the name of your old, faux persona being spoken in the other room. Scrambling, you pulled your hands from the sink full of dishes, snagged the dish-towel from the place it hung on the handle of the oven, and scurried into the living room.

"Victor hasn't brought her out into the public eye in almost three months."

Xiao-niao was lounging on the couch, enjoying the lazy weekend. Like every Sunday, she watched her favorite show on celebrity gossip "The Loveland Accounts". You shuffled to the couch and went to take a seat as your roommate brought her feet up to give you room.

"Does anyone have any theories?"

On the screen, the team of reporters were all turned away from their desks, facing one another.

"I have a source claiming Victor and his bride-to-be never agreed on a date for their wedding. I bet they called the whole thing off and split up." A small woman in a red t-shirt kicked things off.

"Last time anyone saw her was when they were on vacation, right?" A tall man with deep acne scars on his cheeks added.

The show then cut away to showcase the pictures of you and Victor arguing on the beach. The very same ones plastered all over the tabloids back in August.

"Yeah! When they were caught on camera fighting!" A third person, outside of the frame, piped up.

The camera panned to the voice, revealing an androgynous person with curious grey eyes.

"My theory is: Elizabeth wasn't real. The woman fabricated the whole story to get Victor in her clutches. I think he found out and had her killed." They added.

The color drained from your face the longer you listened to the show. The camera panned back to the editor and chief, sipping on a cup of coffee.

"I like that theory. I want you to work on it. Dig up anything you can about this Elizabeth King. What's next? Any news on Kiro?" He said moving the topic to a new discussion about the famous idol and the many projects he'd undertaken.

You fell back against the back of the couch; your heart hammering in your chest. It didn't come as a complete shock. Victor had told you the last time you saw him that reporters were sniffing around. You were just hoping they would give up the chase and move on. For now, it seemed you were still safe. Victor assured you, even if a portion of truth was revealed, there was no way any of it could be traced back to you. He took great care, ensuring your name, nor your father's appeared on anything having to do with Elizabeth.

"Are you okay? You look a little pale." Your roommate said, drawing you back to your senses.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I'm fine." You replied and dismissed her with a wave of your hand.

You got back to your feet and returned to the kitchen to continue the chore you were part-way through completing. Through the narrow archway connecting the kitchen and living room behind you, you heard Xiao-niao get to her feet and shuffle across the carpeted floors. Her slippers smacked loudly against the linoleum when she entered the kitchen and took her place next to you.

"Are you sure you're okay?" She asked, taking the dish-towel off of your shoulder.

You glanced at her out of the corner of your eye. She was petite in every way and had a round, childlike face, leading most people to believe she was still an adolescent until she spoke. Her eyes were the color of a cup of coffee and held a deep look of wisdom.

You planted a smile on your face in response to her worried look and handed her the next dripping dish you cleaned.

"I'm okay. A missing woman always gives me the chills." You replied, attempting to make it seem like what you just heard wasn't directly related to you.

"I was wondering why you ran into the living room so fast. I've been following the story of Victor Li and Elizabeth King for a while now." She mumbled, putting the dish into the cupboard after drying it. "You know, you kind of look like her. A little bit at least. Similar facial structure."

You tried to contain the amusement you felt, knowing your own roommate didn't recognize you when you were painted up like Elizabeth. As you continued cleaning the kitchen with your roommate, you asked her about the story she had been following. You were really curious about how the entire thing was presented in the media, compared to what you knew was the truth. She took a minute to think back to when the news first broke about Elizabeth. At first, she started by gushing about Chik, who was her favorite actress. Then she went into the rumors circulating between Chik and Victor.

"I was a little unimpressed by him when he suddenly showed off his new fiancée but the more I thought about it, the more I became alright with it. Chik is a young idol and this whole Victor scandal has left it difficult for her to obtain roles here. Thankfully, she had a fairly large fan base overseas so now she's doing Hollywood movies." She went on.

Unfortunately, the things Xiao-niao told you were nothing you hadn't heard before. While the rumor mill had churned about Elizabeth's whereabouts, it seemed the media as a whole took the information Victor fed to them as the truth. What you didn't know was that Elizabeth herself had a small fan base. While you were away in your own little Victor world, rubbing elbows with Loveland's elite members, the media and small groups of lower and middle-class citizens had taken to calling Elizabeth "Loveland's Princess". Which made you wonder, was that why Victor had begun calling you that during your trysts?

"What do you think happened to her?" You asked, pulling the plug from the drain to release the soapy water from the sink.

"Last time she was mentioned on the show their source claimed she returned to England for a family emergency. That was back in August right after the images of her and Victor fighting emerged. I believe they split up or separated, honestly."

You took the dishtowel from Xiao-niao and contemplated her words as you dried your hands. She gave you an awful lot to think of and not just the whole Princess nickname. Who was this source feeding information to the media? You only told the girls in the group chat so it had to be one of those four, but did they go directly to the media or someone else who did? Was it the same person feeding information to Chik during your time as Elizabeth?

“Maybe you’ll see Mr. Li at the charity tonight and can ask him what’s going on.” She suggested, nudging you with her elbow.

You gave her a puzzled look at first before it dawned on you.

Last week, Andrew had invited you to an event the hospital was throwing. They threw a charity every year to raise money for the hospital itself so they could invest in new equipment or fund research. For some reason, it never occurred to you that Victor might attend and it was too late to cancel now. You bit your lip in thought, deciding you'd try to get in and out of the event as quickly as possible.

"Xiao-niao, I think I'm going to get my hair dyed today." You said.

She gave you a stunned look and questioned why you made that decision so suddenly but after she thought about it, she came to the conclusion you were doing it to help get over "Vincent." Drastically changing one's hair was something she herself did after a break-up and was even sporting her current hairstyle because of it. You nodded along with her hypothesis, agreeing to what she said. In truth, you made this quick decision to disguise yourself. You couldn't run the risk of someone believing you were Elizabeth King tonight. Not now with reports digging into the story.

Xiao-niao excitedly announced she wanted to be a part of your transformation and nearly dragged you out of the apartment to her go-to salon.

***

Hours later, standing in front of Xiao-niao's full-length mirror, you ran your fingers through your now flame-red locks. The color, to you, seemed too bold and might attract the attention you weren't seeking, but it was too late now. At least you didn't look so much like Elizabeth. You sported a light dusting of makeup on your features, taking great care not to cover your imperfections too much. After that, you pulled on the tight, strapless, black dress and slipped into the same black pumps you wore the night you reunited with Andrew. Xiao-niao took your hands and delicately painted your fingernails to match the color of your hair. She styled your hair into a loose but attractive bun and smiled at your reflection.

"You're so gorgeous. Andrew is going to fall in love with you all over again." She said, hugging you from behind.

"I really hope not." You laughed and fell into her friendly embrace.

"I think you should give him a chance. It's not every day a hot doctor comes knocking on your door."

You shook your head and closed your eyes. Over the last month or so since you agreed to get to know Andrew all over again, you had seen him multiple times. You learned he was in his second year of residency and things were just starting to settle down. He complained his intern years were the most difficult part of his training, but now he was well on his way to becoming a fully-fledged doctor. Not just any doctor, but a surgeon specializing in cardiology since his grandfather passed from a bad heart.

He complained about some of the God complexes his co-workers had. He developed a bit of a dark and morbid sense of humor over the years but did his best to keep some of that morbidity to himself whenever he was with you, only slipping up occasionally. The look of horror on his face the first time he slipped up and he spent five whole minutes apologizing for what he said. You laughed at him and tried to tell him you understood. After all, you weren't that innocent high schooler anymore.

Xiao-niao pulled away at the sound of the intercom by the front door buzzing loudly. She threw you a wink and a smile before exiting your room. You could hear the intercom button click and the sound of her voice asking who it was in a sing-song tone. Andrew's muffled and static-riddled voice answered through the speaker. You took a deep breath to settle yourself and to run through the plan in your mind once more.

Going to this event was risky, but if you played your cards just right, no one should recognize you. You figured staying for a half an hour just to meet some of Andrew's co-workers would be enough time before you could feign ill and leave. Grabbing your phone, you quickly checked the balance remaining in your account. You knew you'd have to take a cab home and you needed to ensure you could do so. You soon heard the sound of the front door opening followed by Andrew's footsteps as he proceeded to enter the apartment. After confirming you could afford a way home, you shoved your phone into your purse, slung it over your shoulder, and exited your room.

The door to your bedroom was directly across from the front door and when you stepped out, you met Andrew's dark gaze. He looked you over slowly as his lips parted in surprise.

"You look… uh," he trailed off; his eyes still following the curves of your body.

"Stunning."  Xiao-niao hissed and nudged Andrew sharply in the ribs.

He groaned at the sudden impact but quickly composed himself by clearing his throat, "yes, stunning."

You smiled and thanked him then crossed the few feet separating you from the others to join him at his side. Andrew's eyes followed your every move, which was beginning to make you feel a little uncomfortable. Xiao-niao leaned over and whispered softly in your ear.

"I packed you a small box of condoms in case you don't come home tonight."

Your face flushed at her words as she took a step back and winked at you. Andrew asked what your roommate said with curiosity but you dismissed his question with a laugh and denied that it was anything important. After waving goodbye to Xiao-niao, you and Andrew left the small apartment together.

The drive to where the charity event was being held was a surprisingly short one. Andrew mostly chatted about the work he did earlier in the day, trying to spare you from some of the more gory details of his job. You nodded along to his enthusiastic words while still running through your escape plan in your mind. In and out. Don't stay for too long. Avoid anyone who might recognize you.

Andrew pulled up to the valet and got out of the car. He handed his keys to the person wearing a red vest and business-like black pants standing at the edge of the sidewalk who gave him a valet ticket. The tall doctor politely thanked the man then came to your door, opening it up to you. He took your hand in his and led you into the small lobby.

Following the signs that directed guests to the proper room, Andrew's grasp on your hand never loosened. You thought about pulling away but was concerned it might make him look bad as you weren't the only two walking through the echoing halls. 

The high ceiling and beautiful decor inside of the event brought back memories of some of the events you attended with Victor. In fact, you were beginning to believe you had been to this very place before, but they all looked so similar, you couldn't be certain.

There was a large bar taking up one side of the room where most of the early arrivals stood. Andrew offered to purchase you a drink, but you declined. You had no intention of staying long enough to enjoy it.  He kept a loose grip on your hand as he began introducing you to his colleagues and bosses. You were as polite as possible, knowing how important connections were even in a hospital setting.

Every now and then, you nervously glanced at the door, checking out some of the other attendees. So far, you hadn't recognized anyone you knew from your life with Victor, but the night was still young. Andrew noticed your awkward glances.

"Are you expecting someone?" He laughed jokingly.

"No, no, I was just curious to see what kind of people you have come out to these events. Like is there a chance I might meet an idol?" You joked along with him.

You and Andrew continued to laugh and converse playfully. He put his hand on your far hip and pulled you into his side. You brought your hand to his chest, leaning into his warmth as he turned with you to continue meeting some of his co-workers. When you advanced forward, you turned your gaze ahead to see where he was leading you when the joy came crashing down.

You felt as if someone sucked all of the air out of the room and your body froze at the vision before you. All the hope you had for being able to escape the event without running into someone you knew went out the window when you spotted the raven-haired man walking in your direction. His fierce, icy grey eyes burned with his signature intensity. You felt Andrew’s grip on your waist tighten as Victor continued to advance. Pulling your hand away from Andrew's chest, you threw a smile on your lips. Under the possibility of others seeing you eyeing Victor, you couldn't give away the notion that you knew him personally. Your date jutted out his right hand and offered a wide smile himself.

"Mr. Li! Thank you for coming!" He said enthusiastically.

Victor examined the man's hand then Andrew, before turning his gaze to you. His eyes fell to the hand on your waist, causing your breath to catch in your throat. The CEO accepted the offered hand with his own and shook Andrew's hand.

"Thank you for the invitation," Victor replied and pulled his hand back.

Andrew quickly introduced himself then turned to you. Victor's eyes followed the young doctor's gesture as you, too, were introduced. You instinctively held your hand out to him which he took gently and turned it so the back was facing up.

"We've met," Victor said curtly before raising your hand and bending a little to place a soft kiss on the back of your hand.

Your face flushed as his eyes never left yours. You were astounded that he would admit something so boldly in front of Andrew. The man holding you squeezed your waist a little tighter. You felt his body tense the moment Victor's lips touched your skin.

"You have?" Andrew asked, looking at you curiously.

You opened your mouth to reply when Victor quickly interjected, "I invest in her father's company."

Andrew's body relaxed at the CEO’s words and his joyful tone perked up once again. He began the speech he had practiced over and over again to attempt to entice the other man to donate while he was there. During the speech, Victor's eyes would occasionally flutter over to you then back to Andrew. It was clear he had something to say. About halfway through Andrew's spiel, he suddenly stopped. You looked up at the doctor, puzzled as to what could have made him freeze mid-sentence. Turning your attention to Victor, you found him pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance.

"What are you doing?" You hissed and stepped out of Andrew's grasp, turning around to take in the frozen scene around you.

"I should ask you the same question." He growled, bringing your attention back to him.

You crossed your arms defiantly and huffed. As much as you had planned to get out of there as soon as you could and understood the risk you were in, Victor's dark gaze still ruffled your feathers. You struck a defense pose and turned your eyes away from his threatening stare.

"I'm just here as a supportive friend, but don't worry. I'm gonna be leaving soon." You explained with a hint of attitude in your voice.

"Good, because Song Wang is on the guest list as well."

You bristled at his words and closed your eyes, wishing the images of your past that floated to the surface of your memory away.

"Are you going to ask your boyfriend to drive you home?" Victor asked.

His tone of voice and the emphasis on the word boyfriend quickly pulled your mind to the moment at hand. You scoffed at Victor and shook your head.

"First of all, he's not my boyfriend, and second, he needs to be here. I'll be taking a cab."

The CEO weighed your words in his mind for a moment as his stare bored into you. He pulled his hands from the pockets he tucked them into before, grasped your shoulders, and pushed you back into the position you were in before he froze time. Understanding what he was doing, you replaced Andrew's hand on your waist and shifted against him. Thinking Victor had accepted your plans, you took a breath of relief. Just as he stepped back into his own spot he opened his mouth:

"Meet me around the corner in ten minutes. I'll take you home."

Before you could protest, the sounds of the hall met your ears. Soft music playing from the speakers overhead, quiet sporadic chatter around the room, and of course Andrew continuing his speech. Victor raised his right hand to cut off the doctor's words.

"Please excuse me. I've already placed my donation and I have a more pressing matter to attend to." The CEO said with a slight bow of his head.

He quickly turned on his heel and exited the room without another glance at you. Andrew let out a heavy and sigh and shook his head, garnering your attention.

"That man is every bit as intense as people say, isn't he?" He said with a laugh.

You quietly agreed and dropped your gaze to the floor. Yes, Victor was intense and yes, he could be cold, but you knew he was also thoughtful, romantic, and occasionally insecure.

Andrew pulled you to the next person he wished to speak to. You counted the seconds in your mind as time slowly ticked on. Without realizing it, your head naturally turned to the front whenever movement captured your eye. The longer you stood in the hall, the more frightened you were that the man who assaulted you would come waltzing through the door. You were shaking and sweating and turning pale by the second. A part of you wished Victor were still there with you or at least came back to take you away. Andrew noticed your sudden paling complexion and pulled you aside.

"Are you feeling alright?" He asked, pressing his hand to your forehead. "You're not looking very good."

You thanked your lucky stars for the perfect excuse to get yourself out of the situation.

"Actually, I'm not feeling too well. I think I should go home." You replied, feigning a tired voice.

Andrew looked at you with concern and brushed some loose hair from your forehead. You took his hand and gave him a weak smile before taking a step back.

"I'll drive you home. Just give me a few minutes to explain to my boss." He said.

"Don't worry about it. I'll take a cab home. I know how important this night is for you."

After a few back and forth words with Andrew, and a promise to call when you got home, you finally convinced the doctor to allow you to take yourself home. You scurried to the entrance, keeping a watchful eye on the few elite members you recognized to ensure they didn't look your way.

You managed to slip out of the hall completely unnoticed and out into the cold November air. Cursing yourself for once again coming unprepared, you hugged your arms around yourself and walked around the corner as you were instructed. A small part of you knew going with Victor was a bad idea and that you should have taken a cab instead, but when you finally caught sight of him leaning against the passenger side door of his car, all regret you had dissipated like the white puffs of breath that appeared before him. He was peering down at his phone, the light of which was illuminating his sharp, stern features until he heard the clack of your heels against the pavement. 

When he looked up at you, a wave of relief hit you. As he removed himself from the car and turned his body to face you, you picked up speed in your walk. Your body seemed to have a mind of its own as you rushed to the CEO and threw your arms around his torso. He took a step back to steady himself from the sudden impact of your body. You shivered, either from the cold or from the after effect of the anxiety you felt.

"Dummy." He murmured, wrapping his arms around you to return your embrace. "What went through your head when you agreed to come tonight? Did you even consider the possibility of someone recognizing you?"

You smiled into the man's chest as you buried your face deeper into his scent. As strange as it was to admit, you missed the way he scolded you when you did something he didn't like.

"I didn't even think about it until earlier today. By then it was too late to cancel.” You admitted with a sigh.

You closed your eyes, taking in the sweet, clean smell of his body and cologne. While you still occasionally found yourself cuddling with his old shirt, it didn't even compare to the real thing.

"I don't regret going. I'm happy I got to see you." You added, squeezing him tighter.

Victor breathed your name and ran his hands up and down your chilled skin in an attempt to warm you up. He moved you slowly to the passenger side of his car and opened the door.

"After all this time you still never learned to dress appropriately. Let's get you home before you catch a cold." He said.

Although his tone was serious, there was a hint of laughter behind his eyes. You smiled and slid into the seat, only to catch the door with your hand as he shut it.

"Your home or mine?" You asked, throwing him a seductive look.

The CEO looked you up and down. His expression, unreadable as usual. It was clear, he was weighing your proposition carefully. On one hand, you two had said your parting words with the idea that you'd never see each other again. On the other, the feelings and attraction you both felt were still there.

You moved your hand to the interior handle and pulled the door shut and out of his grasp. Through the window you could see him still standing there, his one eyebrow cocked at your movements. You knew he couldn't see you through the reflective black coating on the window which made you smile quietly to yourself. 

The interior of the car offered little protection from the cold. Victor's warmth was quickly disappearing from your skin and you hugged yourself in hopes of retaining some of it. Victor soon circled the front of his car and joined you inside.

"You know if you were cold you could have turned the car on." He grumbled. 

The CEO gestured to the button on the driver's dash before pressing it himself, emphasizing his words. The engine purred to life as the lights along the dash lit up. He threw you a smug look as you crossed your arms over your chest and pouted.

"Don't make fun of me. I'm a poor girl. We don't have fancy cars like this."

Victor ignored your childish reply and shifted the gear to drive. He checked for any oncoming vehicles before carefully pulling away from the curb. You watched the buildings and street lamps pass by in quiet contentment. You considered asking him once again if he was taking you to your apartment or not, but by the direction he was driving in, you figured it out pretty quickly. Looking over at the man, you took in his handsome profile and the atmosphere around him. Quiet classical music poured from the speakers, adding a romantic ambiance. Occasionally, he glanced over at you, but he didn't speak. The heated seat you were pressed against soon warmed your chilled body. After a few minutes, he finally opened his mouth but what he said surprised you.

"Your hair," he paused slightly like what he was about to say was difficult, "it suits you."

You whipped your head to look at him so fast you felt a bit dizzy. You gaped at him for a few seconds, letting his words sink in. Compliments were rare from this man, making them that much sweeter. Once you were over the initial shock, you beamed at him.

"Thank you. I thought it might help me disguise myself but I was worried it was too much."

Victor gave you a side glance but said nothing. You were sure there was some sharp and unpleasant retort floating around in his mind, ready to take you down off your cloud but it never came. It was the best you could hope for from the stoic man.

The car eventually slowed as Victor pulled into the underground parking beneath the streets of Loveland. You looked at all the expensive, luxury vehicles lined up perfectly until Victor located his assigned spot. Having expected to be returning to his house on the outskirts of the city, it never occurred to you that he'd bring you to his condo. You had only been here a few times before when you needed to pretend Elizabeth and her fiancé didn't live together.

With the car parked, both you and Victor slipped out of the vehicle and joined up at the back of the car. The car beeped, signifying the alarm was set. The CEO pulled his right hand from his pocket and took your left, leading you to the elevator. You looked up at him, wondering what he was thinking about. There was definitely a lot going on behind those slate-colored eyes.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty car. He pulled you inside and pressed one of the higher buttons on the list. You nestled against the back wall with Victor and watched the digital numbers over the doors climb. You squeezed his hand gently, getting a raised eyebrow in return.

"Are you sure about this?" He asked.

Chapter Text

It was a simple question but the meaning behind it combined with his deep baritone voice rattled you slightly. Neither of you had expected to see the other again, let alone be holding each other's hand on the way to his condo. There were a lot of things you were uncertain about but your feelings for him and the unspoken plans for tonight weren't on the list. You looked up at his sharp features, meeting his wary gaze and gave him a smile.

"I'm more than sure." You replied, leaning into his warmth.

When the elevator dinged once more, you looked up at the glowing number over the door. You were surprisingly nervous, finding yourself being led out of the car and down the long, quiet hall to Victor's door.

Inside of his barely furnished apartment, you watched as he slipped off his sleek, black loafers and replaced them with a pair of slippers. You were surprised to find the identical pair you used was still where you left them the last time you had been there. You followed suit, peeling off the painful, pinching heels, and slipped your feet into the plush, soft slippers. Victor took off his jacket and hung it off a coat rack next to the door. You hung your purse on one of the hooks and followed the CEO into the kitchen where you found him pulling two wine glasses from an overhead cupboard.

"When did you move back into the condo?" You asked, watching him pour the red liquid from a wine bottle into the two glasses.

"After you left. Staying here is more convenient for work." He answered, handing one of the half-filled glass to you.

Bringing the glass to your lips, you took a sip. The bitter-tasting wine filled your sense of taste as you eyed the man suspiciously as he sipped from his own glass. You didn't completely believe he was living in the condo just because of work. It could have been your own ego talking but you wanted to believe he couldn't live there without you. The two of you created so many memories there, it would be hard for anyone to continue living there as if nothing changed.

Victor took a step closer, moving his free arm around your waist. You moved your wine closer to your face as you entered his embrace, looking up at his softened gaze. His lips were tinted with the color of the wine and his cheeks flushed ever so lightly in the harsh, fluorescence of the overhead light. He set down his glass before pinching your chin between his thumb and forefinger, bringing his face to yours. Just as his lips were about to meet yours, a loud vibrating followed by the telltale tone of a call coming in on your phone.

"Shit, I told Andrew I'd call when I got in." You cursed.

"Better not keep your boyfriend waiting," Victor replied, releasing your body from his grasp.

You shot him a sour look and reminded him that the man you were with earlier that night was not your boyfriend. With the wine glass still clasped in your clutches, you took another sip and pulled your purse from its resting place. Victor followed close behind, swiping the cup from your grasp. You pouted at him as he finished the contents in one swig. Looking down at the phone in your hand, you answered the call and pressed it to your ear.

"Hey, Andrew. I was just about to call you." You said into the receiver.

You followed Victor with your eyes; his silhouette disappearing into the kitchen. Seconds later he returned, placing his hands on your shoulders.

"Did you get in okay?" Andrew asked, the concern very present in his voice.

"Yeah, I'm just about to get into bed." You answered, trying to ignore the feeling of Victor's lips leaving silent kisses along your shoulders and neck.

You tried to listen to what Andrew was saying on the other end of the line but his voice quickly became white noise to you. You melted into Victor's body, feeling his hands run down your sides then back up your back. The dress around your body loosened and you realized Victor had carefully unzipped the back of your outfit without you noticing. You inhaled sharply at the CEO tugging to tight fabric down and off your frame.

"Is everything alright?" Andrew's voice spoke, after calling your name repeatedly.

"Yeah, I'm just really tired." You forced a tired voice in hopes of convincing the doctor.

You rolled your shoulder back, attempting to brush off the CEO's lips from any more of their warm, enticing assault. Victor took your action as a challenge and slipped his arms around you, taking both of your breasts within his palms. You bit your lip to quell the urge to moan as his fingertips rolled smoothly over your nipples. Your mind became muddled with the pleasure and excitement pooling within. Victor's hot breath blew loudly in your free ear as he sunk his teeth into the shell. His hands freely roamed your torso, now making their way down to the black, lace panties your roommate insisted you wear (just in case).

"You sound really out of it so I'll tell you what. I work the night shift this week so I'll come check in on you in the morning and take you to work if you're feeling well enough. What do you say?" Andrew's voice floated through the phone.

Between your fuzzy brain and Victor's breath panting in your ear, you didn't quite hear what the doctor was saying. All you knew was that he made some sort of proposal. In your rush to end the conversation, you quickly agreed, bid him goodnight, and ended the call. You spun around on your heels, breaking free of Victor's embrace, and pressed your hands into his firm chest.

"That was cruel." You huffed.

"How is this different from the time you pleasured yourself while I was on the phone with Goldman?" He retorted.

Your face flushed; his words taking you back to that morning in August. Victor watched you carefully with a mischievous look in his eyes. Without breaking his severe stare, he gracefully unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves and rolled them up his forearms.

"That was different. We had already started then." You disputed.

"So what you're telling me is, it would have been fine if we had already started?" He questioned; a small smirk pulling at the corners of his lips.

You raised your hand from his chest and went to bring it down in a playful slap, only to have the man catch it. In this moment, you became painfully aware of how undressed you were compared to him. You stood in his living room clad in nothing but your underwear while the CEO was still fully dressed. The blush on your cheeks deepened at this realization and you dropped your head in embarrassment. Victor took a step back but held your hand gingerly as he pulled you down the hall to the lone bedroom.

While you had been in his condo once or twice before, you never made it much further than the living room. The bedroom here was set up similarly to the room he used in his villa, albeit much smaller. He had a king-sized bed adorned with navy blue bedding pressed against the wall with a large contemporary painting hanging overhead. There were two matching mahogany end tables on either side of the bed, housing modern, crystal table lamps on both, and a digital alarm clock on the one on the left. Three feet from the end of the bed was a tall, five-drawer dresser that matched the rest of the set. Against the window was a navy armchair and a small table cluttered with what appeared to be documents from work.

Victor pulled you to the bed and instructed you to lay down with your head hanging off the edge. You gave him a knowing look and did as he instructed while he undid his belt and the front of his pants. He pushed down the dress pants and the tight, black underwear, releasing his already formed erection from its prison.

"Open." He commanded and pressed the tip of his cock to your lips.

You closed your eyes as he neared and opened your mouth, accepting his length. The taste of his salty pre-cum enveloped your senses. Victor started a slow and gentle rhythm while unbuttoning the front of his crisp, black shirt. He threw back the open sides of his shirt and pushed his length in a little deeper than before. With your eyes shut tight, you focused on your breathing. The CEO let out a ragged breath, pulling his length from your mouth. His cock dropped with your saliva as he took a step back and looked down at you.

"Are you okay?" He asked.

You weren't sure why he was suddenly concerned about your well being since you gave no indication that anything was wrong but it made you smile nonetheless.

"This isn't my first rodeo." You said with a laugh and reached out to him, wrapping your hands around his thighs.

Victor looked a little stunned at your reaction but pushed himself back into your mouth, this time going deeper than before. When the tip pressed between your tonsils, he stopped. You took this opportunity to hum around him to increase his pleasure. The added vibrations elicited a surprised curse to tumble from his lips. Sliding your hands up the back of his legs, you grasped the soft flesh of his ass and began guiding him in and out of your throat at your own pace. You alternated between taking deep and taking him shallow to ensure you were able to breathe. He slid his hands all over your torso before landing on your chest. His fingers gently twisted and pulled at your nipples.

The CEO's breath became erratic and hitched in his throat every time a groan escaped him. You worked your tongue over the top of his shaft, urging him to finish. Before long, his legs were shaking, his rear kept tensing underneath your fingers and his hands squeezed your breasts. He cursed once more, moaned your name then inhaled sharply before spilling his release directly down your throat. You let go of his rear and slid your hands back down his thighs while carefully swallowing the remainder of his load.

Victor pulled his length from your mouth and pressed his hand into the bedding next to your head to steady himself. He twisted his body around and laid back against the cool, plush comforter.

You sat up and wiped away the remainder of saliva that rested on your lips with the back of your hand. Looking over at the man you just pleased, you noted his messed up locks, his heaving chest, and the way his legs still twitched. He had his left arm cast over his eyes, shielding you from their radiance. You shifted closer and knelt by this head. When you ran your fingers through his hair, he pulled his arm off his eyes and looked up at you.

"Enjoyed yourself, didn't you?” You said with a smug smile on your lips.

Victor's eyebrow twitched when you threw his words back at him from the last time the two of you shared an intimate moment. He took your hand in his and brought it down to his chest. With his free hand, he cupped your cheek and brought your face to his, meeting your lips with a sweet kiss.

"I suppose you did well enough for a reward." 

You huffed and pulled away from him. True to his nature, he still refused to admit when something was really good. By his reaction alone and how quickly you got him off, you knew you did better than "well enough." Victor pushed himself out of the bed and pulled his underwear back up over his hips. You crossed your arms and turned away, pretending to be more upset than you were.

"No reward?" The CEO mused. "How about a game then?"

"A game?" You asked curiously, turning to look at him and dropping your pout.

Victor smirked at your undivided attention. He pulled off the dress shirt and laid it carefully over the back of the armchair. When he returned to the bed, he grabbed your hips and slid you down the comforter about a foot, then pushed your shoulder to lay you down. You asked what he was doing but he ignored your curiosity, giving you nothing but a side glance. The man peeled off your panties, spread your legs, and positioned them so your knees were bent up and open with the soles of your feet pressed firmly into the mattress. Next, he placed your hands palm down at your sides, roughly half a foot from your hips.

Again, you questioned his plans, and again, he ignored you. Victor moved to the right nightstand and pulled out a box of condoms. You opened your mouth to speak when he laid one of them on the back of your right hand.

"Don't move." He spoke in a deep, commanding tone.

The CEO turned your head so you were looking directly up at the ceiling and placed a condom on your forehead. He continued carefully maneuvering around your body, adding a condom onto each breast, your belly button, the back of your left hand, and on both of your knees.

"Each condom represents the number of times I'm going to fuck you tonight. Provided none of them fall during the foreplay." He explained, tossing the empty box over his shoulder.

The box slid noisily across the hardwood floor until it came to a stop. You glared up at the ceiling, not being able to locate the man in your line of vision without dropping the foil on your forehead.

"This isn't a game," you huffed, "it's a fucking test."

You felt the bed sink around your feet as he joined you on the comforter. You fought the urge to move your legs as his lips moved from your right ankle, up your calf then skipped over to your left thigh. He nipped at the sensitive flesh while moving his face painfully slowly to your core. His hot tongue rolled over the crease where your leg and your pelvis met.

"Ready for the game to begin?" He said softly; his breath blowing over your parts, causing a shiver to ripple through you.

You whined, feeling the wet muscle dip between your legs. Victor flicked his tongue into you before slowly sliding it up and over your clitoris in a deliberately teasing manner. You closed your eyes tightly, attempting to direct your focus on keeping your body still, rather than the pooling heat within your abdomen. He placed his lips over your clit and sucked the sensitive button into his mouth. You cursed as your hips involuntarily jerked into his face, causing the condoms on your knees to teeter and threaten to slip off. Victor pulled off your body with a smack of his lips and gazed up at you.

"Careful, you almost lost two of them just now." He teased.

"Shut it." You fumed, already finding it difficult to ignore the growing need for release within.

The man let out a deep, rumbling chuckle and dropped his head a second time. He lapped up the sweet nectar that dripped from your body. You hated this game already. You yearned for his touch that he was hesitant to give you, knowing full well he wanted you to beg for it. It was a struggle not to give in. You wanted him to please you more with that talented tongue of his, but you knew it came with great risk.

While trapped inside your mind, Victor brought your clit back into his mouth and began flicking his tongue over it, faster than he had before. You sighed and moaned, fisting the bedding beneath your fingers; the condoms on your hands surprisingly stayed put as you did so. Your legs began to tremble with your impending orgasm and just as you were about to get off, the foils on your knees tumbled off. Victor pulled away, denying you your ecstasy. You cursed loudly at him and brought your head up to glare down at him, now losing the condom on your forehead.

"You've just lost three, Princess." He reported, meeting your furious gaze with his own amused one.

"Don't tease me like this, please. I want to get off." You whined and dropped your head back.

Victor clicked his tongue in disapproval and moved his right hand between your legs. He slid his fingers up and down the exterior of your parts, narrowly missing your clit each time.

"Are you willing to sacrifice numerous orgasms tonight for just this release?" 

You dropped your legs, widening the opening between them as you felt his finger press into your entrance. He slowly pumped his finger inside you, twisting it around and curling it to rub all the places he knew would break down your walls. You bit into your lip and whimpered at the nagging feeling inside your mind. Victor prodded you more with his words, expecting you to give him something.

"If you don't answer me this is all you'll get." He growled, pulling his finger from your body.

"Don't stop." You whined at the loss of his digit and moved your feet to his back, pressing your heels into his shoulder blades.

The sound of him sucking your juices from his finger could be heard between your legs. He teasingly licked at your thighs, tempting you even further before making his way back to your core. This time, he quickened the assault on your clit, pulling out all the stops to get you off as fast as possible. He pushed two fingers deep within you and moved them in tandem with his tongue. You squealed at the suddenness of his movements and arched your back, pressing your hips into his face. The condoms on your torso slid from their spots; the ones on your breasts slipping down to the bed. He reached around with his free arm and pushed your hips back down, pulling his face from you for the third time.

"Jesus, fuck, you're a cruel bastard." You yelled at the loss of your release again.

Victor chuckled again and examined your twitching and heaving body. He was living for this, you knew. His sadistic nature often left you reeling. The constant edging fogged your mind and you soon found yourself giving in to what he wanted.

"I don't care." You breathed and lifted your hands, losing two more foils. "Make me cum, sir."

You brought your hands to his hair and tugged on the raven locks, trying to persuade him to continue.

"Not yet." He grumbled.

By the fifth time he denied you, you were a mess. Your body was slick with sweat and flushed and your breath was ragged. You were annoyed, no, pissed off at what he was doing to you. You hated it, yet you loved it. You ached for this kind of attention when he wouldn't give it to you. With his damp hair clamped between your fists and tears stinging your eyes, you relented and gave him what he craved.

"Please." You begged, your voice hoarse from your dry mouth and screaming. "Please, please, Victor, Sir. I need it. I need you. Baby, please."

"Baby?" He scoffed and pressed his fingers hard into you.

Victor once again went full force against your body. His fingers working hard on the inside while his tongue swirled expertly over your clit. The pleasure you felt mingled with a hint of pain from the on and off motions. When you felt yourself nearing your release, you feared he would pull back again. You rolled your hips in time with his movements, your body quivered and twitched. The heated feeling inside of you flickered and jolted, numbing your toes as they curled into your feet. You tipped your head back and cried out the man's name, feeling that much-needed burst of pleasure that dulled your senses and blurred your vision.

"Thank you. My god, thank you." You panted as Victor untangled himself from between your legs.

He smirked at your words and went about picking up the dropped condoms from the bed, counting them as he went. You were only slightly disappointed that the one on your navel was the only one that managed to stay on through the entire ordeal. Relaxing against the plush comforter of his bed, you starfished there for a moment. The world seemed to spin around you as your brain struggled to regain your senses. You were so intoxicated by the euphoria, you barely heard him speak.

"I'm not done with you yet, Princess." He growled and climbed onto the bed, straddling your body.

"I need a few more minutes and some water." You choked out between heavy puffs of breath.

Victor scoffed at you, scolded you even for making demands at a time like this but he did as you requested. He removed himself from the bed and stalked out of his room. You pushed yourself up just in time to catch a glance at his perfect ass disappearing from view. The condom on your bellybutton slipped off, landing between your legs. You picked it up and examined the shimmery, square package. Smiling to yourself, you moved into a seated position and crossed your legs.

When he returned, you noted the very prominent bulge of his underwear. You covered your mouth to hide a laugh, looking down at the black socks hugging his feet. Victor glared at you and handed you the water you requested, sat down and peeled the socks from his body. You thanked him for the water and took a large sip. The CEO soon joined you at your side and wrapped his arm loosely around you. You leaned into his warmth and turned to face him, meeting his grey gaze. While no smile appeared on his lips, his eyes were lit up with a softness you had come to recognize as love. You leaned into him and kissed him softly.

"I love you." You whispered against his lips.

Victor inhaled sharply and looked away. You took another sip of your water and shifted onto his lap. Even though he attempted to hide it, there was no mistaking the blush coloring his cheeks. You rested your head against his shoulder and nuzzled into his neck, taking in his comforting scent with a deep breath.

"Had enough of a break?" He asked, removing the glass from your hand to take a sip.

You held up the condom in front of his face and gave him a sensual look. Victor looked from the condom to you then leaned back placing the cup on the nightstand. He returned to his position, took your face in his hands, and kissed you hard. You moaned against his lips and parted yours, allowing his tongue to dart into your mouth. He laid you against the bed, keeping his kisses intact. After a few minutes of dizzying kisses, he pulled back and knelt above you.

"Roll over." He growled.

When he moved out of your way, you did as he said, pulling one of his fluffy pillows down to rest your head on. You heard the bed creak as he got up and the crinkle of the condom wrapper.

"You know, I'm still on the pill and haven't been with anyone else." You said, turning your head to look at him over your shoulder.

"I don't want to deal with the mess tonight." He replied, rolling the condom down his shaft.

You felt his hands slide over your back to your hips where he gripped you tight and pulled to force you to raise them. You moved your knees beneath you and went to prop yourself up on your hands when his palm pressed down on your upper back. The sudden force knocked the wind from you and you groaned, regaining your breath. You felt the tip of his cock rub against your entrance and a second later he was completely sheathed inside of you. A gasp of air filled your lungs but was quickly forced out against by the quick and rough thrusts of his hips. He pressed his hands into the pillow under your head and nipped at your earlobe while rolling his hips.

"I hate what you've done to me." He groaned in your ear.

You cried out in response, feeling your thoughts becoming muddled and fuzzy with pleasure.

"I can't go a day without thinking about you multiple times." He continued, his voice dark and as rough as his thrusts.

"I never cared to fall in love. I never wanted to marry and never once considered being a father."

Victor's hips crashed haphazardly into your backside, filling the air with a rhythmic slapping sound accompanied by your moans and pants. You squeezed the pillow and buried your face into the soft bedding, muffling your cries. The CEO growled darkly and moved his hand to the back of your head. He grabbed a fistful of your hair and wrenched your head back hard against his shoulder.

"Don't do that, Princess. I want to hear you sing tonight."

You were surprised how rough he was taking you. It wasn't the first time his primal nature took over, but it was definitely the roughest he had been. You cried out his name at the sudden forceful orgasm that tore through your body, flushing your body from head to toe in a heated rush. He released your hair and leaned back against his heels. His hands slid down and up your back. His fingers followed the curve of your spine then danced over your shoulder blades to your arms. He slid his hand down your right arm before pulling back over your back then did the same with your left. Gripping your wrist tightly with one of his large hands, he moved the other to your hip. The CEO kept up with his unrelenting, forceful thrusts until another wave of bliss shook your frame.

“Victor!” You cried over your shoulder, catching the lust-filled glint in his eyes.

Victor slowed his rolling hips, riding you through your third orgasm to its completion. He let go of your wrists and pulled himself from your body. You shivered, either for the sudden lack of his warmth or from your body recovering from your pleasure. Perhaps both. The man took you by the hips and flipped you onto your back. He pressed his body against yours and pushed his erection back inside of your entrance. You weakly wrapped your arms around his sweat-slick back and brought your knees up, resting your heels on his butt.

“I hate that I fell for a dummy like you.” He said softly, pressing his lips to yours.

The way he moved this time was in stark contrast compared to how he was before. He moved slowly and gently, panting against your lips between hot, sensual kisses. You moved your hips to match his pace and carded your fingers throughout his hair. The build-up was slow but that familiar warm feeling began to bubble inside your for the fourth time that night. You moaned into his mouth and tipped your head back, tugging at his hair gently. Victor ran his tongue up your exposed neck and placed a feather-light kiss on your chin. You breathed his name and stared at him through your lashes.

The CEO shifted ever so slightly, slid an arm underneath your back, and sat on his heels pulling you into his lap. His large hands moved to your rear where he began lifting and lowering you, impaling you on his excitement. You tightened your hold around his neck and moved your face to his jaw. You moaned his name again then began sucking softly on the sensitive skin below his ear. His body shuddered under your touch and his hips jerked suddenly. You gasped, biting into his neck. Victor groaned and shivered again, picking up the pace on your combined movements. You dragged your nails down his muscular back, arched your body into his, and cried out, feeling yet another surge of pleasure flowing through you. Victor responded by groaning your name and clutching your hips tightly before finding his own release.

The CEO gingerly laid you on the bed and rolled off of you. He made quick work of removing and tying off the condom before throwing it into a nearby wastebasket. His fingers ran through his hair, brushing the damp strands from his forehead. Seizing the opportunity, you rolled into his side, rested your head against his shoulder, and threw your left leg over his. You ran your hand up his chest and closed your eyes, listening to the rapid beat of his heart. Victor rolled his shoulder, bringing his arm down to frame your form. He turned his head and placed a gentle kiss in your hair. You drew slow circles on his chest with your poorly manicured nail. All the things he said to you during that night still plagued your mind. There were a lot of things you wanted to ask but you weren't sure where to begin. Figuring you'd go with what was freshest in your mind, you spoke:

"You mention that you didn't want to fall in love or get married and have kids. Were you insinuating you've changed your mind since you met me?"

Victor's body tensed at your question. It was pretty obvious the things he said to you weren't something he expected to say and only did so because of the heat of the moment. It was astounding how he only opened up and allowed you to see his vulnerability when the two of you were lost within each other, or shortly thereafter. He took a deep breath and squeezed your body to him.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say I've changed my mind. It was because you were playing the role of my fiancée that these topics were brought to me in the first place." He replied.

His words hurt more than you expected. He still didn't want to be in love or get married or anything that went along with sharing a life with someone else. No, it was because of outside forces presumably asking him questions that had given him those thoughts. The same thing had happened with you when Ya Ying announced her pregnancy as everyone was curious if you and Victor planned on having a family. Before then, you never considered it.

This topic reminded you of where you and Victor stood. For a while, you had forgotten the world. Forgotten your place. You weren't his and he wasn't yours. You pulled yourself from his arm and sat up.

"I'll be right back." You said with a smile, hiding your true emotions.

Scooping your discarded underwear from the floor, you slid them on and left the bedroom. You hurried into the bathroom and took a deep breath, pressing your hand to your chest to calm your wildly beating heart. This was no fault of his. You knew not to expect anything more from him by coming here. Tonight wasn't two lovers meeting for a romantic evening. It was a single man and a single woman enjoying their night together, but damn that man for making it so difficult.

After a few more calming breaths, you finished your business in the bathroom and snuck out to the living room.

You felt it was best to get out of Victor’s condo as soon as you could. Figuring he wouldn’t argue with you if you went through all of the trouble to get dressed, you picked up your discarded dress from the floor. You stepped into the fabric and went to pull it up when the hall light clicked on. You froze like a deer in headlights and turned your head to see Victor clan in grey sweatpants leaning against the wall.

“What are you doing?” He questioned, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

“I-I, uh,” You stammer, trying to come up with some reasonable excuse.

Victor sighed and dropped his arms to his sides. He quickly crossed the floor to where you stood and pulled the dress from your hands, letting it drop to the floor. Bending a little lower, he hooked his arm under your knees and wrapped the other around your back before lifting you off the floor.

“I didn’t say you could leave.” He growled in your ear, carrying you back to his bed.

You knew there was no use in fighting. After all the time you spent with him he made one thing very clear: he always got his way.

Back in his room, you noticed Victor had taken the time to pull back the bedding and fluff up the pillows, preparing for your return. He laid you in the center of the bed before sliding his feet under the covers to join you, then pulled the sheet up over his waist.

“I shouldn’t stay.” You mumbled and bit your lip, turning your face away.

“No, you shouldn’t, but you’re going to because I want you here.” He replied, pulling your body into his. “I… haven’t slept properly since you left.”

Hearing this sudden confession, you resigned to giving in to what he wanted. You curled into his chest and hugged him tightly, nuzzling your nose against his neck. His soft, warm skin and rhythmic breathing put you in a relaxed mood. You closed your eyes and kissed his throat, falling deeper into his embrace.

“I don’t care if you hate that you love me. I love that I love you. It’s the fact we can’t be together that I hate.” You whispered against his skin.

“I dislike it too.” He admitted, running his hand up and down your side.

As your exhaustion began to take hold of you, you mentioned having to open the store in the morning and would need to return to your apartment to shower, change, and pick up the store keys. The CEO ensured you that he would handle everything you’d need and get you to work on time. The rumbling of his voice in his chest made it difficult for you to keep your eyes open any longer. You let out a large yawn and snuggled deeper into his chest before drifting off into a comfortable sleep.

Chapter Text

You awoke to the sound of a set of curtains being pried open. The metal rings skidded across the bar they were on, throwing a stream of sunlight over your closed eyes. You squeezed them tighter and threw your arm over your face with a groan, attempting to block the light from interrupting your rest.

"If you don't get up now, you're going to be late to work." Came Victor's domineering voice.

You peeled your arm away from your features and fluttered your eyes open. It took your vision a second to adjust to the brightly lit room. The sunlight spilled into the space, casting everything in a warm, golden haze. Victor moved from the window to the bedside, turning his gaze to you. You gave him a smile and reached out to him, motioning for him to come closer. The CEO accepted your request, taking your hand within his. He laced his fingers with yours and bent over, placing a few short, pleasant kisses on your lips.

"I'm going to prepare breakfast. You go shower. There's a set of clothes in the bathroom for you to wear." He said after his lips parted from yours.

After he quickly departed the bedroom, you yawned, sat up, and turned your attention to the digital clock on the nightstand. It was a little after seven, giving you two hours before you needed to get to the store. While that seemed like plenty of time, you understood that the drive into that part of town might take a while with it being rush hour. You crawled out of the lonely, spacious bed. The plush carpet beneath the bed felt great between your toes as you sat on the edge of the mattress. You stood and made your way to the door, still clad in the black lace panties your roommate insisted you wear the night before. The hardwood floor that followed was a stark contrast compared to the carpet. It was cool, almost too cool for your bare feet as you padded toward the bathroom. 

Upon reaching the door, you were surprised to hear the shower already running. Steam billowed out when you opened the door, hugging your chilled skin with humid warmth. Entering the room, you shut the door tightly behind you and examined the spacious bathroom. On the countertop rested a pile of clothes, you could only assume were the ones Victor retrieved for you, along with a fresh toothbrush still wrapped in its packaging.

You went about your routine, showering in the standing stall, preset to the perfect temperature, with the more feminine selection of soaps, dressing in the clothes, and brushing your teeth. Unsurprisingly, Victor owned one of those fancy mirrors that didn't fog up when the shower ran. You noted the small pile of makeup next to the sink and went about applying a light coating to your features as well as paying particular attention to any marks the man had left on you from the night before. While examining yourself in the mirror, you realized all the items that were selected for you were ones you probably left behind at his home. As you thought more about it, you assumed Victor had woken early enough to return to his home outside of town to retrieve clothes and makeup for you. You could tell he put a great deal of thought into the selection as the items he chose suited your style more than Elizabeth's.

A gentle rap on the bathroom door drew your attention back. You opened the door, revealing the man you were just thinking about.

"Breakfast is ready." He said.

He went to turn away when you grasped his hand quickly. His steely eyes flicked to you and softened when they met yours.

You didn't intend on grabbing him like that. Your hand seemed to have a mind of its own as your fingers curled under to rest against his palm. While you thought to pull your hand away and to come up with some sort of excuse, you couldn't bring yourself to do so. Victor twisted his hand in yours, changing the position just enough for comfort. His unwavering gaze held yours as he pulled his arm back, bringing you closer.

"Your breakfast is getting cold." He said, abruptly ending the romantic air.

Typical Victor. You thought to yourself with a smile sneaking onto your lips. His grip on your hand loosened when he approached the small dining room table. Stopping at the nearest chair, he released you and pulled out the seat. With a flick of his wrist, he gestured to you to sit. You thanked him with a joyful smile and placed yourself in the chair just as he tucked it under the table. Victor excused himself to the kitchen but returned just moments later with a plate. From the angle, you couldn't make out what was on it until it was placed in front of you.

Your mouth watered at the vision before you. French toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese topped with more berries and powdered sugar and a couple of breakfast sausages sat perfectly plated on the dish. You gaped at the surprisingly high-calorie food he made for you, watching him drizzle maple syrup over the food like a sugary rain. During the time you lived with him, he had you on such a strict diet you never anticipated he'd put something like this in front of you. It seemed so out of character you even hesitated to pick up your utensils.

"Something wrong with it?" He asked, placing a mug of coffee in front of your plate; you hadn't even noticed he left the room to retrieve the beverage.

"No, I… are you sure I can eat this? You'd never let me have this kind of stuff when we were together."

Victor's lips tightened at your choice of wording and you stumbled to correct yourself, insisting you meant while you were residing at his place and working as Elizabeth. He took his place at the seat across from you, picked up his work tablet with one hand and his own mug with the other.

"I know what you meant." He replied, taking a sip of the hot drink he held. "Eat."

You nodded, knowing this was the only response you'd get from him. Cutting a corner off of the breading, you popped it into your mouth. First, you experienced the taste of the syrup as your teeth crunched through the crispy outer layer before the explosion of cream cheese and strawberry-filled your mouth. You groaned delightfully, closing your eyes to fully savor the taste. It had been months since you had experienced his cooking. He was unrivaled in the way he could blend flavors perfectly without one overpowering the others.

As you helped yourself to the plate of food before you, you failed to notice the man seated across from you, watching you intently with a gleam in his eye until your plate was half-cleared.

"Are you not eating?" You asked after finishing another spectacular mouthful of food.

Victor raised his cup as if saying that was all he was eating. You scoffed at his reaction, stabbed one of the sausages, and held it out to him. He looked from the food to you and gave you his familiar unamused glare. You pouted, attempting to throw him some puppy dog eyes. He returned his attention to whatever was on the screen, but you refused to abandon your quest. You leaned further over the table, stretching out your arm as far as you could reach, passing the sausage in front of his face. Victor let out a defeated sigh and snatched the fork from you, resigning to eat the one thing. You beamed proudly and picked up another fork, no longer caring if it was the proper one to use and resumed clearing your plate.

"I have a question for you." You stated, taking a sip of the now lukewarm beverage he prepared for you.

You waited until he placed the tablet on the table, giving you his full attention. Having his stern eyes bore into you as he waited for you to ask what was on your mind made your heart jump in your chest. You recalled a time when that stare made you uncomfortable but now you couldn't get enough of it.

"I recently learned that many people took to calling your fiancée 'The Princess of Loveland' and, well, is that why you started calling me-"

"No." He interrupted flatly, not letting you finish your question.

"Then why did you?" You pressed, hoping for some profound answer.

Victor mulled over your question for a moment, taking a deep mouthful of his coffee and emptying the mug. "Why did you call me 'baby' last night?"

Your face flushed recalling that moment when you were so heated and he was teasing you so bad, you'd say anything to continue. A satisfied smirk pulled at his lips and the topic was dropped. You understood what he meant by that though, having lived with him long enough to understand how to read between his words. He didn't need to answer outright to admit it was simply a spur of the moment pet name that happened to stick.

Victor gracefully glanced at his watch, registering the time, then began picking up all of the dishes from the table. You decided to take this moment to collect your belongings that you scattered around his condo, only to find he had taken care of that already. Biting your lip in thought, you followed him into the kitchen and watched him begin to wrap the apron around his waist.

"I'll do the dishes." You offered, placing your hands on his to stop him.

Victor looked at you from over his shoulder curiously but agreed. He stepped out of the way, pulled the apron off of himself before applying it to you. You turned on the water and began to wash the first dish as you felt his hands deftly tying the strings around your waist. When he was done he wrapped one arm around your breastplate and dropped his head to your shoulder. As wonderfully surprised as you were, the air around him was again anything but romantic. You felt the melancholic twist of heartbreak in your chest as his grip on you tightened. You could almost hear his thoughts with every beat of his heart. He didn't want to let you go. Taking a deep breath, you focused on cleaning the dishes, allowing him to hold you for as long as he wished knowing that it wouldn't be long before you two would part once again.

"Did you drive back to the house to get these clothes for me?" You asked, trying to push your mind onto something other than the pain that was slowly creeping in.

"No, I brought some of the items from the house over here long before you left. Just in case you ever needed them while you were in town." He answered in a hard whisper over your neck.

Not having anything to answer with, you nodded to confirm what he said while rinsing the final dish. Even though it felt like there were a thousand things to talk to him about, not one of them felt like it was the appropriate time to bring up. With the dishes done, you turned off the water and felt his arms loosen around you. The sudden lack of his heat against you made you shudder with a chill. You turned around, finding he had already retreated to the other room and was preparing for departure. Untying the apron, you pulled it off and folded it up before resting it on the counter.

"Your attire from last night has been sent out to the cleaners. I'll have it returned to you by the day's end." Victor called from the living room.

You took a deep breath to steady yourself and took a few shaky steps to join him. Unfortunately, while he may have had clothes for you to wear, he didn't have another set of shoes and you were forced to cram your feet into the pinchy heels once more. Victor deftly unrolled the cuffs of his shirt he had rolled up prior to making your breakfast. Looking over his ensemble you realized he was missing one key element. His tie. This, coupled with everything you experienced the last twelve hours or so, taught you one thing. He wasn't alright. Admitting he had trouble sleeping, making you a sugary breakfast, holding you against him while you did the dishes, forgetting his tie, everything he tried to hide behind his stony exterior slipped and crumbled when you were near.

You jumped out of your shoes and dashed off to the bedroom with Victor's bewildered eyes following. Throwing open his closet, you selected a tie you assumed he'd like and jogged back into the living room. He cocked his eyebrow at your return while buttoning the cuff on his right sleeve.

"Forget something?" He asked, smoothing down the front of his dress shirt.

"No, but you did." You replied, holding the tie out in the palm of your hand.

Victor eyed the silk you held and brought his hand to his neck, checking in disbelief he actually forgot that.

"I didn't forget." He lied, snatching the tie from you and turning toward the mirror by the door.

You smiled at his reluctance to admit it and returned your feet to your shoes. Victor quickly tied the silk around his neck and corrected the collar. You took your purse that hung on the peg next to his jacket, just as he pulled it off for himself. Slinging the purse over your arm, you waited and watched him slip his arms through the sleeves of his jacket then button one of the buttons to keep it together.

Before long, he was leading you out of his condo, back down the hallway to the elevator, then to his car in the parking lot. You plastered a smile on your lips and sunk into the seat.

"Your place first, correct?" He asked, starting up the car.

You confirmed the destination, announcing you only needed to pick up the keys to the shop so it shouldn't take a long time. On the drive to your apartment, Victor kept quiet. You wanted to say something, anything to break the awkward silence that had befallen but nothing came to mind. By the time Victor pulled up to the curb in front of your building, the silence was stifling. You told him you'd only be a minute or two and quickly escaped the awkwardness of the situation. Pulling your phone out as you climbed the many steps to your apartment door, you groaned when you realized it had died overnight. It shouldn’t have come as a shock to you since you left it on all night without charging. In fact, you couldn’t even recall where you left it. One moment you were on the phone with Andrew and the next you were in Victor’s embrace. Did you carry it into the room with you? Did you drop it on the living room floor? The whole evening was such a blur that you had no recollection of how your phone even ended up in your purse. You knew you didn’t put it away, that was for certain. Whatever the case was, you had it now, and it was dead.

Digging out your keys, you unlocked the front door of the building and made your way into your place. Your roommate had already left for work, leaving the apartment as silent as Victor's car, but you welcomed it.

"Just a little longer and all this will be behind me." You murmured to yourself.

You collected the keys to the store, grabbed the charger for your phone, changed your shoes into a much more comfortable pair, and locked up behind you.

As you made your way back outside, you slowed your steps into a comfortable walk. You knew the second you returned to the store that Victor would once again be out of your life, for who knows however long. Perhaps forever. All you wanted to do now, was allow yourself a few minutes to relish in the good memories you had made with him. Spending time at the beach in August. Dancing with him in front of everyone. Kissing his soft, warm lips. Holding his strong, large hands. The little things that caused you to fall for him without even knowing it. Those were the things you were going to miss the most.

But you needed to put it all behind you. This back and forth, saying goodbye, then sleeping together was too much for your heart. It was time to let him go.

Well. Maybe after today.

You pushed open the door to the building, letting yourself be hit with a wave of brisk cold air. Being distracted by your dead phone, you had completely forgotten you still needed a sweater or coat to keep you warm as winter was quickly coming. You grimaced, knowing you had no time to go back up to get what you needed. What you could hope for now, was getting a ride home from your father.

Shaking off your feelings, you skipped down the steps and looked up, spotting something you never expected. While Victor was leaning against the car door with his arms crossed, he was speaking to someone. You couldn’t tell who it was through the tree in front of the building obscuring your view, but the further you walked out, the more you saw. It was Andrew.

Your heart leaped, watching the two men politely chat. One you loved before who wanted you now, and the other whom you loved now but couldn’t have. You took a few steps back, thinking you could run back inside the building and exit through the back door to avoid whatever was going to happen if they spotted you. Unfortunately, you didn’t manage to even begin to enact your plan as Andrew and Victor both turned their attention to you.

“Good morning!” Andrew said cheerfully, jogging up to meet you as you advanced down the path.

“Andrew! Uh, what are you doing here?” You asked, feeling his hand press into your lower back.

You tensed at the touch and looked at Victor, finding his eyes narrow at the other man. You felt like a rabbit caught between a wolf and a lion. Fearing what may happen, you stepped away from Andrew’s touch and turned to face him.

“Well, last night I said I’d come see how you were feeling and that I’d take you to work.” He explained.

You nodded at his words, unable to remember this happening. Picking at your cuticles nervously, you weren’t sure what to do next. Having agreed to have both men take you to work put you in a really awkward position; especially since Andrew had no idea how close you and Victor were. Before you had a chance to come up with an excuse, Victor stepped in behind you and spoke:

“I’ll be taking her to work. I was driving by on my way to her father’s business for a meeting when I noticed her leaving. Since I was heading there myself, I stopped and offered her a ride.”

You quickly agreed with Victor’s words, adding in that you nearly forgot the keys to the store which was why he caught you walking out of the building rather than already on your way to work. Andrew eyed Victor suspiciously and grasped your wrist lightly, pulling you into him.

“Can I talk with you for a moment?” He asked; his stare never leaving the other man.

“Sure.” You agreed and turned to Victor to mouth to him that you won’t be long and a quick apology.

Victor retreated back to his car, crossing his arms over his broad chest and leaning against the door. Just like he was when you spotted him moments before. Andrew led you back to the front door of your building. You shivered in the cold air, suddenly being reminded of how you had forgotten a coat. Andrew pulled his red argyle pattern sweater over his head and handed it to you.

“It’s cold, so take this with you.”

You thanked him and pulled it on, finding yourself wrapped in the sterilized scent you hated. Andrew didn’t take too long to bring up the reason why he pulled you away. In short, he didn’t trust Victor. He had heard stories about how Loveland’s elite members could be and he was concerned the CEO would take advantage of you. You waved him off, ensuring that while Victor seemed like a mean person, he wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. The doctor scanned your face as his thoughts were visible on his. He wanted to ask you how well you really knew this guy, but Andrew was smart and he knew arguing with you wasn’t a wise thing to do. Especially when it would lead to you being late to work. He scratched the back of his head before taking your hand and leading you back to Victor’s car. Andrew ruffled your hair affectionately with a smile on his lips. He was faking it, you could tell, but you accepted it all the same. You just wanted out of this situation as fast as possible. Victor peeled himself off of his car and opened the door for you. You gave Andrew a wave to quell his concerns one last time before slipping into the warm seat. Victor shut the door, calmly walked to the driver's side, and joined you.

During the drive to work, the deafening silence continued. With his eyes glued to the road, you weren't able to figure out what he was thinking. It was just like him. Dwelling on inconsequential moments, pretending they didn't bother him as he overanalyzed every second. With the way he gripped the steering wheel so tightly, you knew something was bothering him.

He still didn't say anything by the time he parked in front of the store, nor when the two of you entered. Silence drove you to near insanity as you went about your morning routine, counting the float and shoving it into the register. Victor's eyes watched your every movement even though you told him he could wait in your father's office.

With the last few minutes before your dad and the rest of the staff were due to arrive, you yanked off Andrew's sweater, tucked it away under the counter, and skipped to the back of the store to use the bathroom.

Once finished, you opened the door, finding Victor standing there waiting for you. You let out a gasp and jumped, not expecting anyone to be there.

"Were you listening in? You creep." You growled at his hardened stare and went to push past him.

Victor caught your elbow and proceeded to pull you into your father's office, shutting the door hard behind him. He leaned against the door, preventing your escape and crossed his arms. It seemed he had finished sorting out his thoughts and was ready to talk.

"Tell me everything about this Andrew guy."

You staved off the urge to laugh. He was jealous, you knew, but he was acting like it was nothing more than concern for your well-being. You leaned against your father's desk and crossed your feet in front of you. It didn't take long explaining your past relationship with the doctor since you'd already told him how it ended a few months prior. The man's eyes darkened with each word you spoke, making him look more and more intimidating. By the time you told him how Andrew had apologized, you were hesitant to admit the other man wanted to rehash your relationship with him. Victor, seemingly sensing you were withholding something from him, urged you to say what you needed to say.

"He… wants to be with me." You confessed and quickly added, "but I told him I'm not interested."

An intense light flared behind his eyes. Jealousy, you sensed.

"There's something untrustful about him." He finally said after some time.

You rolled your eyes and crossed your arms over your chest. After knowing Andrew for many years and seeing the great strides he made to better himself as a person, you didn't believe the accusation. Andrew had been nothing but upfront and honest about his feelings toward you and his hopes for the future. He never pressured you into anything, nor attempted to make a move. Victor was being unreasonable where he shouldn't be. Hell, even if you and the CEO were together, it wouldn't stop you from having a friendship with Andrew. Not that that mattered. Right now, Victor had no right to open his big stupid mouth and you told him so.

Defending your friendship only seemed to make things worse and soon an argument arose. While Victor never raised his voice, you could tell he was just as pissed as you with the way his nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed. His gestures became more animated and he couldn't seem to stay still.

"You're naive if you think he wouldn't take advantage of you just because he hasn't yet." He growled.

Throughout the course of the argument, he had steadily moved closer. By now, he was towering over you.

"You're just being a jealous jerk. You're in no position to tell me who I can and can't hang out with. It's not like we're anything more than two people who occasionally fuck!" You snapped, almost spitting in his face with your words.

Victor slapped his hands on the desk, trapping you between his arms. His body shook with anger. He pressed his face closer, the tip of his nose just centimeters away from yours. His grey eyes shined with annoyance and frustration, but also the love he still held for you. He opened his mouth to speak once more. You bristled, expecting him to call you an idiot, to verbally shoot down your argument one way or another. Instead, he just sighed, dropping his head to your shoulder. He wrapped his arms around your torso and pulled you tight against his chest. You felt his heart pounding behind his ribs and his warm breath tickle your neck. You relaxed in his embrace, returning the gesture by wrapping your arms around his neck. While running your fingers through his thick black hair, you kissed the skin behind his ear in comfort. Looking up at the clock above the door frame, you realized during the entire argument time hadn't changed. Even though the heated words, he remembered you needed to open the store. You started at the frozen hands, allowing his hug to melt away all the anger you had been harboring.

"Your mood doesn't usually change so suddenly. What's going on?" You asked in a whisper.

Victor let out a shaky sigh and tightened his hold on you before replying, "I don't want a fight to be our last moment together."

His words hit you hard, bringing you back down to earth after the fight you were engaged in. You gripped the back of his jacket hard and squeezed him close. Tears formed along the brim of your eyes, stinging them so harshly you squeezed them shut. You didn't want to be reminded of what was to come after today. Not again. You couldn't keep doing this to yourself. Being in his arms felt so good and so right but you didn't want to be hidden in the shadows. Snuck in and out of his home like a dirty secret. No. Today had to be the last time you laid eyes on him. Not only for you but for him as well.

Victor loosen his grip on you and pulled back, raising his head from your shoulder. Your noses brushed gently before he placed a sweet kiss upon your lips. In the ensuing minutes, between slow, passionate kisses, you didn't notice the steady tick tick tick of time resuming. All you heard was your heavy pants mingling with his, your blood rushing through your veins, and the smack your lips made whenever they parted from his. You felt his thumb drawing circles over your back and the warmth of his body increasing steadily.

"Is this really the last time?" You asked through the steady stream of kisses.

Victor took a step back, parting his lips from yours. He took your face in his palm and ran his thumb over your check.

"I'm withdrawing my investment from your father's company effective immediately." He said, watching your reaction closely.

There were no words to explain the pain and terror that tore through you. You stumbled over your words, attempting to ask why, what was going to happen with the company, with you and your father. Victor subdued your concerns and went on to explain.

"The company is strong enough to stand up on its own, and," he paused to take a deep breath, "it's better for you if I have no reason to be around."

You closed your eyes, silently begging for everything to be over. He must've planned this some time ago. This meeting with your father had been scheduled for weeks. You knew because you were the one to take Goldman's call. You had even requested the morning off so you wouldn't have to see the man in your arms right now, but due to the lack of storefront employees, your father couldn't honor your wish. Or maybe he could and he had planned this. Why else would he ask you to open the store this morning? Perhaps, your father had an ulterior motive. Perhaps, your father wished you and Victor would reconcile. Perhaps not. You didn't even know anymore.

All you could be certain of was that this was definitely the last time you'd be seeing the man you loved.

You brought your hand to his wrist and gave it a loving squeeze before pulling his hand from your face. Looking up at him, you blinked away the tears in your eyes and gave him the best smile you could muster under the circumstances.

"Thank you for always looking out for me. I wish you all the best for your future."

Your words were strained and felt more like two friends departing on different paths rather than lovers ending their sordid affair. Ignoring the incredulous look in his eyes, you moved past him. It was going to hurt for a while, but you didn't want to cry anymore. It was time to say goodbye for good.

You briskly walked to the storefront, noting it was two minutes after nine. Your father, along with the repair personnel scheduled that morning were already huddled by the door. Some of them had their hoods drawn up around their faces to hide them away from the bitter fall wind. You rushed to the door, unlocked it, and stepped aside as the employees walked in.

"Good morning! I hope I didn't keep you all waiting too long." You said, tipping your head apologetically.

The close-knit group didn't seem to mind you weren't perfectly on time. The tallest of the group ruffled your hair with a smile, always acting like an older brother to you and everyone else aside from your dad. As the employees made their way to the back of the store to begin their day, you called after your father:

"Mr. Li has arrived and is waiting for you in your office."

Your father nodded and requested you get some coffee for him and Victor (and something for yourself), and instructed one of the other employees to cover the front until you returned. Seeing as it was still early, it was unlikely any customers would be coming in, the employee didn't object. You took the money your dad offered you, slipped Andrew's sweater back on and headed out into the crisp air. Your dad could have asked anyone to run the errand instead of you. At first, you thought he just wanted you out of the building, but then you assumed it was because you already knew how Victor took his coffee. The little cafe you regularly visited was quiet like it usually was. It was nestled down a back alley and only a handful of loyal patrons visited daily, you and your father among them. When you entered the dimly lit establishment, the woman working the counter spotted you and began to make your usual.

"Anything else today, darling? Or just yours?" She asked.

The barista was middle-aged. Crow's feet were beginning to form on the edge of her eyes. A silver streak was very noticeable in her full, black hair as it framed her face. Her hands were thin, showing more signs of her slow aging. You added the two other coffees to the order and thanked her for her service, taking the cardboard tray she handed you.

When you returned to the store, Victor was just stepping out of the building, having finished the meeting. You didn't suspect it would take him long to tell your dad he would no longer be bankrolling the small company. His fancy shoes clacked against the sidewalk with each long stride he took to get to his car. Before he opened his door, however, you called out to him.

"Mr. Li! We've ordered you a coffee. Please take it with you."

You hurried down the sidewalk as the CEO turned his attention toward you. Stopping before him, you pried the one paper cup loose from its seat and held it out to him, bowing your head in a show of respect. Victor took the cup, wrapping his long fingers around it and inadvertently brushing yours in the process. You shot your head up and met his cold stare. For a moment, you believed he had stopped time again until a cool breeze shook through the strands of his hair. He pulled the drink from your grasp and returned his attention back to his car. Just before he got in, you heard him say your name softly.

"Thank you." He added.

You stood in silence, watching him disappear behind the tinted windows. His car started with a quiet purr before it disappeared down the road. You let out a sigh and smiled.

"You're welcome, Victor."

You turned on your heel and returned to work, feeling lighter than you had in months. Finally, you felt ready to take on the next chapter in your life. Victor or no Victor.

Chapter Text

True to his word, over the next six weeks you never heard from, nor saw Victor. The dress you had left at his house was never returned to you, leaving you to assume it was delivered to his condo. That fact didn't bother you much. Owning it would simply provide you with more memories of the man you were now determined to forget about. Though as much as you tried, he always seemed to find his way into your thoughts as if he possessed not one, but two magical abilities.

During this time, you had confided into Andrew as much as you could without breaking the agreement you had previously signed. You simply expressed your need to move on from a failed relationship, and how you were having difficulty in doing so. He proposed the best way to get over someone was to date someone new, then mentioned his offer for a relationship was still on the table. At first, you laughed him off, assuming it was no more than a joke, but the look in his eyes offered something different. He didn't bring it up again, yet you gave it some thought and finally agreed. With him working sixty or more hours a week and his few days off he was usually on call, he wasn't able to schedule your first real date with him until much later. That was last week.

The date itself was fun and nostalgic, mirroring the first real date you had with him back as a teenager; albeit much colder. Andrew was kind and respectful, never taking things further than holding your hand. While you tried to focus on the good qualities of the man you were with, you kept comparing him to the man you wanted. For one thing, he always insisted on placing his thumb where you wanted yours while holding hands, leaving you feeling weirdly uncomfortable. It wasn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but you couldn't help but zero in on the feeling. It made you wonder if he held your hand that way when you were young.

The dinner you had with your parents, which was once held on Sundays, had been moved to Friday evenings. Your father made the change so he could drive you to their place after work and then home. This past Friday, you told your parents about your new relationship, hoping to get them off your back about being single "at your age." Your mother was ecstatic. Your father… was unamused. You hadn't realized it, but in the time you were working at the shop and your father was working closely with Victor about business-related things, they had developed a bond. It seemed your father had picked up on the feelings between you and the stoic man and started referring to the man as his-soon-to-be son-in-law whenever he was alone in your presence. News about Andrew only made him huff and an argument broke out between your parents. You should have been annoyed, but instead, you laughed at them having a "shipping war" over your love life.

That was two days ago. Today was now Sunday morning and you were just settling in to watch "The Loveland Accounts" with Xiao-niao. Elizabeth hadn't been mentioned much in the last couple of weeks. You knew the reporters weren't going to give up the search any time soon. The forums were still flooded with theories and speculations about where Elizabeth had disappeared to. It just showed how much work Victor did to ensure the safety of your true identity and the backstory that was created by you.

While waiting for the show to start, the topic of Christmas had come up. You told your roommate about the nice shelf you and your father got for your mother to put all of her small appliances on. The shawl you bought for her separately and the boots and gloves for your dad. You told her you had already gotten a gift for her and when she pried about what it was, you denied telling her. What you had gotten her was a tea set with little bluebirds painting along the outside. She pouted and crossed her arms, but quickly rebounded back to her peppy self.

"What did you get Andrew?"

You gasped and your face twisted into a look of horror. You hadn't even thought about getting him something, but now that he was your boyfriend you had to. He was definitely going to get you something. Xiao-niao laughed at your expression and urged you to go buy him something now. Christmas was only a few weeks away and since you still had to work, it didn't leave you much time to get something. As you scrambled to your room to get changed, your roommate said she'd record the episode for you to watch when you returned. You thanked her, prepared yourself for the cold December air, and ran off to catch the next bus heading to the nearest mall.

During the entire bus ride, you racked your brain attempting to think of something to get the young surgeon. His busy schedule had prevented you from really getting to know who he was now as opposed to who he was as a teenager. The few times you did hang out with him, he seemed to bank on bringing up old memories. That, at least, got you thinking. You remembered at the time, Andrew really wanted to own a particular game console . As a doctor though, he might not have the time to play many games. You decided to at least look around the mall for anything that catches your eye and jumped off the bus once you reached your destination.

It didn't take you long to find a video game store that offered refurbished used systems. While browsing the selection, your eyes landed on a first-generation Nintendo DS. A handheld system would be a better option for a busy doctor. Plus, you were sure you had read somewhere that video games offered excellent hand-eye coordination training for surgeons. You made up your mind right then, purchasing the system and a few games you thought he'd enjoy along with it.

With the bag in hand, you decided to head down to the closest coffee place the mall offered for a little pickup. As you were scanning the stores, your attention was drawn to a little antique shop nestled between two large clothing stores. In the display window was a gold-colored pocket watch. The case front was open, revealing the white face adorned with black Roman numerals and the two hands in the center. At the bottom was a second dial for the seconds. The hand there dutifully danced around the circle, marking off the seconds as they went by.

Without thinking, you rushed inside of the shop, spoke with the owner at the register, and immediately purchased the watch. It wasn't cheap and you knew you probably shouldn't have bought it in the first place. The elderly man had told you three times that they didn't offer refunds, but you insisted on buying it anyway. It was the perfect gift for Victor and you knew exactly how to give it to him. You decided you would mail it to him using your father's company as the return address. No one would question that.

With both gift bags grasped tightly in your hands, you set off once again to the cafe. The line at the coffee place was far longer than you anticipated, leaving you to wonder if it was at all worth it. You knew there was a good chance you'd have to run to the bus stop after receiving your beverage, but the smell of the roasted beans and fresh baked goods prevented you from leaving.

Once you had your drink, you ran off toward the bus stop for your trip home, only to find the damn bus was early and you had missed it.

"Great." You mumbled sarcastically to yourself and slowed your pace to a walk.

There wasn't any need to rush now as the next bus wasn't going to come for another fifteen minutes. Just as you were about to step inside the shelter, a familiar voice turned your blood to ice.

"Lizzie."

The tone of voice wasn't one of questioning whether you were the person they thought you were, nor was it one of surprise. It was as if she was expecting to find you here.

You turned around to see the woman who matched that voice with her long black hair blowing idly in the chilled breeze and her dark brown eyes staring painfully at you.

"I'm sorry… I don't-" you started, trying to deny what you both knew.

"I suppose you don't go by that name anymore. Listen, I really need to talk to you." She said.

You eyed her closely, finding she was dressed in clothes that appeared to be second hand. The character in her shirt was faded and cracked from being worn and washed often, the jeans she wore were ripped in the knees and the shoes on her feet weren't appropriate for the cool weather. You couldn't help but wonder, why was Thelma dressed like this? Was it possible she was trying to blend in with the rest of the people around? Her skin was blotchy and uneven from breakouts and her lips were cracked and dry. It wasn't like her to go anywhere without some level of makeup evening out her skin.

You bit your lip and considered her words carefully. If you went with her, there was a chance it was a trap set up by Chik or the media to expose the true identity of Elizabeth King. She looked and sounded honest, but after experiencing the elite world on Victor's arm, one of the first things you learned was that everyone you met was an experienced actor. Everyone was so good at hiding their true nature behind smiles and laughs. 

You took a step back and shook your head mumbling, "I'm sorry, I think you have me confused with someone else."

"I get it. You're protecting yourself. You don't have to say anything. Just… come with me somewhere private. I have something really important I need to say." Thelma pressed.

You wanted to go with her. Of the four women you had met, she was the one you were closest to. She always had your back, no matter what; arguing on your behalf when you were silent. If you went with her though, you were essentially confirming what she suspected.

You dropped your head and bit your lip considering your options. Worst case scenario, the media finds out the truth. Unless you come right out and admit it, you could be safe enough to avoid breaking the NDA you signed with Victor. You found it unlikely that he would go so far as to actually sue you. The point of it was to protect you in the first place. To be completely honest with yourself, you were tired of hiding this secret from those you were close to, and you missed Thelma dearly.

After a few minutes of thinking, you nodded your head. Thelma gave you a gentle smile and took your arm, leading you away from the bus stop.

She shivered in the cool air, being unprepared for the weather. The jacket she wore was better suited for fall or spring temperatures. It was another thing you added to the list of curiosities. Even if she was dressing down to avoid detection, shouldn't she have at least worn a thicker coat? You expected her to lead you to a car or something, but instead, she led you down the long, winding street, then down a quiet side street. She didn't say much other than apologizing for the long walk, claiming it wouldn't be too much longer and that she wanted to be sure the two of you could talk without anyone eavesdropping. The longer the led you away, the more worried you became that you were falling into a trap. Just as you were about to tell her you changed your mind and needed to get back, she stopped. You looked up at the chic looking restaurant, reading the name of it over and over in your head. Souvenir . It took you a couple of seconds to fully remember where you had heard the name before. You had heard it in passing here and there, read about people raving about the food online, but the thing you remembered most was how badly Allison wanted to come here. Unfortunately, she never got that chance as the place was always closed when she was visiting.

You gave Thelma a curious glance and followed her inside of the establishment. The interior was the perfect blend of both modern and classic style, reminiscent of how Victor's home was. That's how it seemed to you anyway, but since you left, you found the most random and obscure things would remind you of the stoic CEO. Glancing around the empty and dimly lit dining area, you leaned closer to the woman you were following.

"I'm not sure I can afford this place." You said quietly to her, hoping you could leave before an employee spotted you.

"You don't need to worry about that here. I've heard rumors that the owner often doesn't charge for food but instead makes strange requests. Sometimes he has people wash their own dishes." Thelma explained, moving further into the place.

Before you had a chance to reply, an elderly man appeared from behind the swinging door to the kitchen and offered a polite smile.

"Welcome to Souvenir, seat for two?" He asked.

Thelma agreed and followed the man to a table against the wall, away from the window. You mirrored the man's smile and thanked him as you took your seat, placing the bags of gifts next to the chair. Looking around, you noticed there were no menus. With the man who seated you now gone, you weren't exactly sure what to do. Thelma seemed unfazed by the situation as she tucked herself closer under the table.

"Let me get right to the point as to why I invited you here." She started, glancing around the empty restaurant just to be safe.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, mentally preparing herself for what she needed to express.

"I have to apologize to you." She said after some time.

You opened your mouth to respond but closed it again as the man had returned with two glasses of water. Turning your attention to him, you asked for some menus. He stifled a chuckle and insisted the chef already had the meal planned. As odd as that seemed, you were more curious about what Thelma needed to apologize for. The waiter bowed his head and excused himself a second time, disappearing into the kitchen. When you turned your attention back to the nervous woman across from you, she continued.

"While you were with Victor, I was feeding information to Song Wang and Chik."

You felt as if you couldn't breathe. Of all the women you spent time with, Thelma was the one you suspected the least. She didn't seem to have as much to gain as someone like Patricia. Even with all the inner turmoil you felt, you did your best to channel Victor and keep your emotions hidden. You hadn't yet admitted you were Elizabeth. Anger and pain were the two feelings you experienced first, but soon the fear began to sink into your heart. Your heart thumped rapidly in your chest as your anxiety-induced brain jumped to the worst conclusion. This was a trap. Without alerting the woman across from you, you started planning your escape for fear Song or Chik were there ready to expose you.

Thelma picked up the napkin from the top of the table and dabbed her eyes.

"I hope you'll give me a chance to explain." She sniffled.

You shook your head and pushed your seat back, "I really must be going."

Scrambling to get out as fast as you can, you picked up the two bags in a hurry but managed to miss one of the handles. The bag containing Victor's present fell open. The box tumbled across the floor of the restaurant, causing the lid to pop off and the watch to spring free. You gasped and hurried to it, picking it up off the floor. After inspecting it closely for any scratch marks, you held it against your chest and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Did you buy that for Victor?"

Startled by the sudden voice over your shoulder, you jumped to your feet and turned to look at Thelma. Her eyes were bloodshot from the tears she released after her apology. The way she looked was so pitiful and so honest, you felt the least you could do was give her a chance to explain. If it turned out that this entire thing was a setup, you’d just have to deal with the consequences later. You squeezed the pocket watch in your hand and nodded, confirming who the gift was for.

"It's perfect for him. You know him so well." She smiled and gestured to the table.

You picked up the bags and tucked the watch safely away in the box it was in before and returned to your seat. Dropping your head, you tried to hide the pride you felt in her words.

The room went silent. The smile on Thelma's lips slowly faded away as did yours with her pending explanation.  Although the room was beginning to smell wonderful with the chef dutifully cooking away behind the kitchen door, all excitement you might have felt at a delicious (and possibly free) meal was gone. Thelma shifted in her seat, picked at the corner of the fabric napkin she used to wipe her tears, and took a deep breath, preparing to begin.

"Do you remember what I said about my late husband having no family?" She asked.

You nodded and recalled the first night you met Thelma. When she was with her husband that night at the opera, he was already wheelchair-bound and on oxygen. You didn't learn about the circumstances of their relationship until you and Thelma grew closer. Your first conversation with her, had you believing she was just a lower-class woman, marrying rich to get out of poverty as she suspected you of doing. You quickly learned that was not the case when she revealed her truths, but now it seemed she might have been better at lying than you were.

"He did have a family, but they didn't see eye to eye on things. His relationship with his son was so tumultuous that the two had stopped speaking for a decade prior to our marriage. Song Wang is his grandson."

This information came as a surprise to you. While Thelma's husband and Song both sported the same last name, it also happened to be the most common surname in the entire country, possibly the entire world. As you tried to absorb the information you were told, Thelma continued.

"When my husband came to the conclusion his life was nearing its end, he reconciled a little bit with his son. They made an agreement that he would relinquish the business over to the family but any personal wealth was to remain mine. That was until my husband's mind began to go. They convinced him I was…" Thelma trailed off, holding back a sob.

You waited for her to compose herself and took her hand to give her just a little bit of comfort. She dabbed at her eyes once again with the napkin and sniffled. As soon as you felt it appropriate, you finally commented.

"Why did you tell Song and Chik about Elizabeth?"

"Chik and Song had a relationship much like the one she had with Victor. The only difference was, she didn't want more from him. When you came on the scene, they immediately started conspiring against you. After I lost everything to the Wang family, Song offered to pay me for whatever information I could provide. I'm so sorry for everything."

You felt for her, you really did, but you couldn't ignore the betrayal you felt. There were still so many questions that plagued your mind, so you decided to tackle them one by one.

"Victor told me the Wang's are a family of lawyers, was that not true?"

"No, it's true. My husband was once a lawyer but started his own business after having a family." She explained.

You nodded and turned your attention to the sound of someone approaching from behind. The man who had seated you was now approaching the table with a tray on his arm. He placed two bowls of some sort of brown stew in front of you, calling it boeuf bourguignon. You stirred the contents of the bowl and inhaled deeply. French cuisine was something you had learned quite a bit about while spending time with Victor as it was his favorite dish to prepare. This meal was something he made on particularly cold days, much like the one today. You couldn't help but wonder who's stew was better, the chef's or Victor's. Bringing the spoon to your lips, you blew over the liquid to cool it. The stew rippled with your breath and teased the edge of the utensil, threatening to spill over before it entered your mouth. The beef, the wine, the mushroom, and the onions blended perfectly. You stifled a moan at the taste of your lunch, feeling it warm your body from head to toe.

It tasted exactly like Victor's.

You looked up at Thelma and watched as she gleefully devoured the food before her as if she hadn't had anything to eat in a while. If her story were true and she was really left with no money, it made sense that she might not have eaten much.

"Can you go back to your old job as a nurse?" You asked, continuing the conversation from before.

Thelma looked up from her bowl and slowly shook her head. She took a sip of water to wash down the remaining morsels in her mouth and replied.

"I'd like to, but leaving my job to marry a client reflected incredibly poorly on me. No one inside the city will hire me."

"What happened after I left?"

You spooned another mouthful of the stew into your mouth, keeping your eyes trained on the other woman. She dropped her eyes to her lap and explained that since Song had no use for her and Chik had suddenly given up on the idea of revenge, she was left with nothing. Once Song was out of the hospital and Elizabeth was gone, Thelma was kicked out onto the streets.

As much as you pitied her, you couldn't ignore the anger you felt. Considering the reputation that man held before you even came on the scene, she still chose to put herself above everyone else. Even if she wasn't fully aware of the plans the man had, she was still an accomplice in the sexual assault you experienced. You set down your spoon and glared at her from across the table. All the anger, frustration, and pain you experienced came bubbling to the surface.

"Do you have any idea what he did to me?" You spat.

At first, Thelma appeared taken aback by your question. Then more tears came pouring down her streaked cheeks. She sobbed out an apology and wiped her eyes.

"I wasn't made aware of their plans, honest! All I did was tell them you were going to be there that night." 

"But you left me alone, knowing what that man was capable of. You knew what he's been accused of and acquitted of time and time again." You raised your voice.

You pushed away the remainder of stew in your bowl and got to your feet, ready to leave your backstabbing ex-friend to her guilt. Thelma shook her head and tried to calm her sobs.

"I left you alone because I was trying to figure out where the hell Victor was!" She finally sputtered out as you were already four paces away from the table.

You stopped in your tracks and spun on your heels, to look at her. You breathed a quiet "explain" to her.

Before she had a chance to, however, the waiter once again returned to the seating area. He noticed you were no longer seated in your chair and asked if you'd like the bill. Thelma quickly declined for you and insisted you had to have the world-famous pudding before you left. You grumbled quietly and took your seat, not wanting to pass up any more food that reminded you of the man you missed more than anything.

Once the waiter was gone, Thelma went on to explain.

"Like I said before, I was never made privy to any of Chik and Song's plans, but I knew something bad was going to happen. Especially since Victor was out of town. Song would never have tried anything if Victor were there so as soon as everyone was convincing you to come with us, I contacted Victor and told him everything."

You thought about that evening, skipping over the horrific event that took place. That must've been why Victor called you earlier than he usually did, which you already knew was out of character for him. Thelma must've contacted him just before he called you. Then you thought of his words on the ride home.

"He told me Allison made a post on Moments and that's why he came back." You pointed out the flaw in her story.

"A post was made on her account but it wasn't Allison who posted it. I often take away her phone when she's had too much to drink. But I feared the post wasn't enough, so I went through my late husband's home office and located Victor's contact information." She answered.

That made sense. Victor wasn't the type to go on gut feelings alone and would definitely want all the facts before making a decision. If Thelma had indeed told him about her deal with Song, he'd have gotten on the next plane as soon as he could.

All of the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place. There were still a few more questions you needed answers to. Through the course of the dessert, you didn't get to fully enjoy, you asked her those questions.

Did Thelma witness the exchange between Chik and Victor when he first arrived at the event? Did Chik and Song figure out she had confided in Victor and foiled their plans? What was she going to do now? Most importantly, was she still in contact with Victor?

As the sweet caramel taste lingered on your tongue, Thelma calmly answered every question you had.

Yes, she did witness Victor's arrival at the party and how Chik handed over the camera and pointed where to go. Though she wasn't close enough to hear what the two were saying, she could tell by watching them that that was when Chik fully gave up on him.

As far as she knew, Chik and Song never figured out she went to Victor. Song was in the hospital most of the time and Chik flew to the United States for a movie and cut all ties with everyone she once knew in Loveland.

As for the final question, they went hand in hand. She was still corresponding with Victor and he was setting her up with a nursing job up north for an elderly woman he knew. Your mind immediately went to the cleaning lady he mentioned a while back.

One final question came into your mind, "how did you find me?"

Thelma pushed away her empty dessert plate and leaned against the back of her chair.

"It took me a while to convince Victor I was trustworthy, but he eventually conceded at least the area of town you lived in. From there, I just started checking out every shopping center in hopes of finding you."

You nodded and mirrored her movements, pushing your own empty plate away. Knowing Victor, he probably had her followed by a private investigator to be certain she wasn't conspiring with the media or Wang again. If Victor trusted her, the least you could do was forgive her for her mistakes, but that didn't mean you were willing to be her friend again. Regaining your trust was going to take time and since she was moving away, that prospect seemed unlikely.

As you waited for the check to come, Thelma began asking how things were with you. You vaguely mentioned your roommate and your job. When you mentioned Andrew, she seemed surprised to find you were dating.

"What about Victor?" She asked, pressing her elbows into the table.

"There's no way we can be together. It's better if I try to move on and… Andrew's patient." You replied, taking a sip of the now room temperature water.

"'Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.'" She quoted the poet Lord Byron.

You laughed awkwardly and shook your head. You were too old for fairy tales now. Life wasn't a rom-com. Victor wasn't about to show up under your window with a boombox blaring love songs, or chase you through an airport to express how he feels. No, he was fixing the mess caused by your love and you were doing right by yourself by moving on.

At that moment, the old man once again returned, this time with the checks. He laid the metal trays the receipts were on on the table in front of each of you, bowed, and excused himself. Thelma flipped hers over first and groaned, she was requested to help clean up the kitchen. You picked up the thin piece of smooth paper and turned it over. When you read the words scribbled on the bottom of the page, your heart nearly stopped.

The pocket watch.

You closed your eyes and grit your teeth, placing the bill on the table to collect yourself. The owner must've seen the watch when you dropped it earlier. Of course, he'd want something so precious to you. You sighed loudly and picked the box out of the bag it was contained in. You opened the box and peered down at the glittering object inside. It pained you to hand it over, but there was no telling what the owner would take instead of this. In your heart you knew purchasing the watch for Victor was probably not the wisest idea in the first place. Deciding it was better to use it as payment for a delicious meal, you closed the box and set it on the metal receipt tray.

Thelma looked from you to the watch, and back again. She didn't make any comment about it but offered a comforting smile. It seemed she agreed with your choice. Not wanting to change your mind, you abruptly stood up and said your goodbyes to the woman you once considered your best friend. You wished her well for her future and she thanked you for listening to her apology.

You quickly exited the quiet restaurant only to be hit in the face with a blast of arctic air. While rushing down the busy streets, back the way you came, you tugged the zipper of your coat up and hastily slipped on the gloves you had in your pocket. The further you got away from Souvenir, the more the urge to run back and grab the watch lessened. By the time you reached the bus stop, you had convinced yourself it was better this way.

On the busy bus, you were forced to stand, cramped between other passengers. Most of them had armfuls of shopping bags, taking up even more space in the tightly packed bus. You held Andrew's gift close to your chest with one arm while holding tightly onto the plastic ring above your head. The bus bounced and bumped along the road, stopping every few minutes to let people off, or to let more on.

Finally, your stop came, you shimmied your way through the crowd of people, trying to get close enough to the door. The door opened with a hiss, allowing you and about five other people out into the cool world. You welcomed the cold breeze this time as the crammed bus had made you uncomfortably warm.

You let your feet carry you from the stop to your apartment while you were in a daze. Now that the entire ordeal was over, you finally had the time to sort out your thoughts. You didn't want to blame Thelma for doing what she did. It came down to survival or your friendship. Obviously, she was going to choose herself in this situation, but seeing her and talking to her brought a lot of painful memories to the surface. You tried to clear your mind as you pushed open your front door, knowing your roommate would question why you were upset. 

Painting on the happiest smile you could muster, you stepped into your residence.

"I'm home!" You called from the doorway, slipping off your boots and shoving your toes into the welcoming warmth of your slippers.

"Welcome home!" Xiao-niao called from the living room.

You heard the couch creak and the sound of her slippers scuffling across the floor in your direction. Setting down the bag containing Andrew's gift, you shook off your coat and hung it in the closet.

"What did you decide to get Andrew?" She asked, coming around the corner.

"An older DS. It's nothing fancy, but it should give him some entertainment during his rare downtimes at the hospital." You replied, picking the bag up.

Xiao-niao followed you to your room, but before you added Andrew's gift to the few you had bought, you shooed her from the room. You didn't want her to see her gift too soon. She laughed as you pushed her out of the door. You closed it in her face causing another outburst of her high-pitched giggles.

"You're so paranoid! Anyway, I'm sure Andrew will love the gift." She said through the door.

You shoved the bag containing the present under your bed with the others you had purchased; aside from the shelf for your mother as that was being stored at your father's business. Xiao-niao's footsteps receded away, back to the living room.

"By the way," she called out from the other side of the apartment, "The Loveland Accounts dug up more info about Elizabeth King."

You jumped to your feet at her words and quickly rushed out to where your roommate sat on the couch. She had the program already loaded up on the TV, ready to hit play when you were ready. You sat next to her just as the program started. Seems Xiao-niao had taken the initiative to fast-forward through all the content that didn't pertain to you.

"I have news on Elizabeth King." The same reporter with the grey eyes spoke.

All eyes in the room turned to them, it seemed everyone, including yourself, had been waiting to find what this person would dig up.

"I dug through some records around the time Miss King would have been born as none of my sources seem to agree on her age. As you all know, King is not a common last name in this country. I thought it would be fairly easy to obtain a birth registration or something, but I came up empty-handed. Either she never existed or she wasn't born in Loveland. I am leaning toward the former."

The other reporters around the room nodded and mumbled in agreement.

"Without being able to definitely prove on paper that she existed, I moved on to what I had learned about her family. The company name BRK Industries popped up from multiple sources. It's apparently based in London. The more I asked, the more people couldn't exactly tell me what this company actually provided. I looked up a website related to the company. At face value, it looked just like any other company site you would expect, but there was very little information to go off of. It was all very vague. I attempted to reach out to said company via the email contact information provided, though I never received a reply."

You were on pins and needles throughout the entire program, listening intently to the information that had come to the surface. Of course, any information on your faux father's business was vague, that's exactly how Victor had planned it. Neither of you expected reporters to come lurking out of the shadows after your disappearance. Well, you didn't anyway.

There was one thing that always bothered you about this entire ordeal. Victor was always so meticulous about everything he did, how come he didn't foresee this happening? If he did, why didn't he have a plan to prevent this? And if he did have a plan, why didn't he execute it?

Questions you wished you had the answers for, that you'd probably never get. They were just going to sit in the back of your mind until the entire thing blew over if it did.

You turned to your roommate who was now fast-forwarding through some commercials. She was talking about what you had just heard but offered no other insight. It seemed she agreed with whatever the media said. Turning back to the TV, the program started up again.

"Did you find out anything else?" The editor asked, clearly only partially pleased with the amount of information the reporter provided.

"There's more. I got a hold of some contacts I know currently residing in London. I asked if they'd be willing to look into this BRK Industries for me. They did. One took it upon themselves to attempt the phone numbers attached to the website. Not a single one of them were in working order. Even the address provided turned out to be an empty building that didn't even match the picture provided. As fishy as that is, one of my contacts did locate a company there called B. King Industries. When they sent me to the website, I was flabbergasted. BRK Industries and B. King Industries’ websites were nearly identical. I knew I was onto something.

"I had one contact set up an interview with the company. They weren't able to get one with the CEO, but rather a media liaison. However during the interview, my contact brought up LFG and Victor Li, the liaison then cut the interview short stating something else had come up. I don't know about you, but this all seems extremely fishy.

It seems our star CEO had a hand in the creation of his fiancée, disproving my original theory."

The reporter finished what they had to say and leaned back in their chair as the editor praised them for a job well done. It seemed you were still safe but Victor was going to receive even more heat. It was the acne scarred man who spoke next.

“I have some information on Victor Li as well.”

Two images then appeared on the screen. The focus was Victor and an unknown woman at his side. She was tall and graceful and held a sweet smile on her lips. Her hand was wrapped around Victor’s arm, the same way you used to hold him. It appeared in one photo, the two of them were entering a restaurant and the other they were leaving.

You felt a tightness in your chest, seeing the man you were still very much in love with another woman on his arms. His face as always was expressionless, but to you, you could almost see the sadness in his eyes.

You wanted to scream and cry and vent all of the pain and jealousy harboring in your soul, but you couldn’t. It would be hypocritical of you to get so upset over him attempting to move on when you were doing the exact same thing.

“Victor Li and Fenfang Zheng were spotted dining together at Flair Rooftop. Miss Zheng is the daughter of a wealthy businessman in Northern China. Sources claim Miss Zheng and Mr. Li are long time friends, as they’re alums from the same University. At first, I assumed it was just two friends catching up. That was until these pictures were revealed.”

More images appeared on the screen. Pictures of the woman and Victor entering a high-end hotel together and a picture of Victor exiting on his own. Anger boiled within you. Sure, you were currently testing a relationship with Andrew, but you certainly weren’t running off to some hotel with him.

“Our photographer was unable to gain access to the hotel so we have no idea where they went upon entering the establishment. It is reported that Mr. Li was inside the hotel for well over two hours. We’ve reached out to both Mr. Li and Miss Zheng for a comment, but neither has returned our calls.” As the man finished, the screen changed back to the room they all sat in.

“With the media all over the disappearance of Elizabeth, do you think he’s trying to throw us off course by appearing with another woman?” The first reporter asked.

The editor shook his head slowly, “I’ve been in this industry for years, and what I’ve learned about Victor Li, is that he never does anything for media attention. Whatever they were doing, it has nothing to do with Elizabeth King.”

“Turn it off.” You growled at Xiao-niao.

She complied, clicking the screen off. She awkwardly watched you storm out of the living room. You were pissed. This man acted like you were the only woman he ever loved, that he was ever going to love only to be seen with another woman just a few months after you left. You threw open the door to your closet and pulled out the shirt Victor had given to you. This was the final straw, no more whining, no more pining. It was the end.

Pulling a pair of scissors out of a drawer in your nightstand, you began to cut and shred the expensive shirt as tears stung your eyes.

When the cloth was nothing more than small pieces of torn bits, you collapsed onto the bed, depressed and exhausted.

“I fucking hate you, Victor.” You sobbed quietly to yourself, bringing the bits of his shirt up to your face.

Chapter Text

After the news hit about Victor, the conspiracy theorists quickly took to the forums, spouting their own thoughts and ideas. Many of them came up with their theories as to how Victor was directly involved and why. Others believed B. King Industries were behind the creation of Elizabeth to get information on LFG and its CEO. There were a few posts about Fenfang Zheng's involvement with Victor as well. A few speculated Victor had rid himself of his fiancée for this new flame. As much as you tried to avoid gossip, you couldn't help yourself from searching every few days. Victor still seemed to hold onto his vow of silence. You watched the Loveland Accounts religiously but no new information was discovered about Elizabeth or Victor by the reporters digging around.

The remains of Victor's shirt you brutally shredded rested in a bag hidden under your bed. Even though you destroyed it, you still couldn't part with it. All of the pain and anger you endured over the last few months made you feel weak and exhausted. You hated what you've become, pining over a man you can't have, crying yourself to sleep nearly every night, praying that one day he'd just show up at your door to sweep you off your feet. This wasn't you but as much as you wanted to get over this road bump in your life, you still felt stranded.

Xiao-niao seemed suspicious of your reaction the night you learned of Miss Zheng. She never questioned you, but you felt her eyeing you curiously whenever she spoke about Victor. You wished you could confide in her about what happened but you couldn't. While the NDA specifically stated you couldn't speak with the media, sell your story to authors, or anything of the like, it didn't outright state you couldn't confide in your friends. However, if you did and they went to the media, it could be traced back to you. Xiao-niao probably wouldn't do something like that but you had been betrayed enough times in your life that you couldn't be too careful.

Christmas and New Year's came and went and while the store wasn't as busy with shoppers, you found the orders for repairs skyrocketing. People came in with computers infected with viruses and malware, phones or tablets with cracked screens, and various other issues. Your father ended up having to hire more repair personnel to help with the sudden increase and even then, he was taking things home with him at the end of the night to finish quickly. He toyed with the idea of opening a second store, but with Victor no longer investing in the small store, the business just couldn't afford it.

You and Andrew made no progress in your relationship. While you were slightly concerned as to why he hadn't attempted to kiss you yet, you weren't complaining. Andrew adored the gift you got him, explaining that he was even considering something like that for himself. He had given you a nice pair of earrings; a set of sapphire tear-shaped studs. Though they didn't compare to any of the fancy jewelry Victor would buy for you, they were still quite nice. The holidays were an especially busy time at the hospital, so you barely got to speak to the man you were dating. Your roommate was around at least to keep your mind from plaguing you with more intrusive thoughts about Victor.

This day started like any other day. You got up, had your quick breakfast, showered, left for work, returned home, and settled on the couch with Xiao-niao as she meticulously worked at her computer. The winter break was over and she was in full swing with the second semester of the year. Not wanting to disturb her with idle chit-chat you reached for the tv remote sitting on the table in front of you.

"Don't you have a date tonight?" She asked, not looking up from her laptop.

"Andrew isn't picking me up until nine or so. He's working until eight and would need enough time to get ready." You replied, sitting back against the cushion.

You clicked on the TV and started aimlessly flipping through channels in hopes that something will catch your eye. There didn't seem to be anything you found particularly interesting on right then, so you left it on the next channel and got up to retrieve a drink from the kitchen. You weren't two steps away from the couch when a "breaking news" screen appeared on the TV.

"I'm standing inside the conference room where LFG CEO Victor Li will be holding the press conference he announced just a few hours ago. As you can see, behind me there are rows and rows of other reporters preparing for this. We have no clue what Victor plans to talk about but there's only one thing we all want to hear: where is Elizabeth?"

You turned your attention to the screen and slowly returned to your seat as the reporter continued speaking to the news anchor that was asking her questions from the report room. The reporter never got to finish her answer to the latest question when a raucous from behind her caught her attention. You watched as all of the other cameramen and photographers stood and angled their devices toward the side of the stage. As soon as a foot appeared, the stage was repeatedly lit by multiple flashbulbs going off, and the distinct sound of cameras clicking drowned out everything else.

You hadn't realized you had been holding your breath this entire time until you felt your lungs inside your chest, screaming for fresh air. Although you let out a heavy sigh, it didn't help the tightness in your ribs.

On the screen you watched as what appeared to be some sort of bodyguard, stepping onto the stage. He was clad in an all-black suit and a matching set of sunglasses. There was an earpiece in his ear that traveled south under the collar of his shirt. He stood by the door with his left arm outstretched to prevent it from closing. Victor didn't need bodyguards, nor had you ever heard of him mentioning one. You figured someone had to have convinced him to hire some or forced him to in some way. The next person to enter the stage made your heart hammer wildly in your chest. From the polished dress shoes to the perfectly fitted suit, and up to the ends of the styled raven black hair there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to whom that was. Reporters instinctively called his name, attempting to get the man to look their way for a perfect snapshot, but as Victor's slate gaze scanned the crowd, they silenced. His eyes, sharp and dangerous as daggers were all he needed to quell the excitement in the room. You could almost see everyone visibly shudder at his intense stare. Victor stood at the back of the stage with his hands clasped over his stomach. Nobody, including you, seemed to notice the shorter brunette man clad in a dark blue suit and thick-rimmed glasses joining the CEO on stage until he stepped up to the podium.

"I'd like to officially begin this press conference by thanking you on behalf of LFG for joining us on such short notice." He started.

Goldman looked over the silent crowd. It was apparent that no one cared to hear what he had to say. Everyone was impatiently awaiting Victor's turn. A few people shuffled in their seats and someone coughed. The assistant dropped his eyes to his notes, scanning the next thing written.

"We ask all of you to keep any questions you may have until the end. Now, without further ado, Mr. Victor Li."

Goldman took a step back, bowing his head as Victor approached the podium aligned with multiple microphones, each one sporting a different news logo on it.

"Thank you, Goldman." His deep voice resonated around the room.

The other man stood from his bow and took the place his boss once stood, keeping his eyes trained on the crowd.

Victor stood in silent confidence, drawing the room to him. A few cameras flashed but far less than before. It appeared as though many of the photographers we're almost frightened to take his picture. He drew in a breath and opened his mouth to speak.

"Over the last few years the media and I have had a tumultuous relationship but as a businessman, I understood the importance of having a media presence." He paused, looking over the room once more. "That being said, I called this press conference to dispel a few rumors that the media has been insistent on reporting about."

Your heart thumped rapidly in your chest. There was no way of knowing what he had planned. How much was he really planning on saying? Xiao-niao kept sneaking quick glances at you while holding her phone in her hand. She had rested her laptop on the table in front of her. There was no way she was going to be able to work with this going on.

"I'd like to begin with the suspicion surrounding my relationship with Miss Fenfang Zheng. Miss Zheng is nothing more than an old classmate of mine. She was in town for business and requested we have dinner. We did dine at Flair rooftop restaurant and I did accompany her back to her hotel, but we parted ways in the lobby. On my way out of the establishment, I came upon another business associate of mine who invited me to join them at the hotel bar. At no point did I visit any personal rooms, nor did I intend to. My relationship with Miss Zheng is, and forever will be, platonic. The hotel in question is willing to provide security footage of the lobby and bar should anyone feel the need to verify my claims." Victor paused for a moment, looking over the reporters as many of them scribbled down his words for the morning papers and internet reports.

Guilt seized you at that moment. You fell into the tabloid trap and drew the conclusion that he was moving on. Well, why wouldn't you have? The two of you had made a clean break and said your goodbyes. Your reaction to it was the problem, storming off to your room like a teenager who isn't allowed to do what they wanted. It was shameful and you wished you could take that moment back.

Lost in your thoughts and the sound of his voice coming through the TV speakers, you failed to notice your roommate furiously typing away on her phone.

"Now that that has been cleared up, I'll move onto the topic you're all eagerly waiting for: the truth about Elizabeth King."

If you hadn't believed Victor's ability to freeze time before, you would have then. Though you knew he didn't actually use it, it still felt like it with the way the entire room seemed to pause at the mere mention of that name. No one moved, no one spoke, and it seemed as if no one breathed.

"The Elizabeth King you all came to know over the course of a few months does not exist." He said, matter of factly.

Straight to the point was how Victor always was, but it didn't stop the shock that gripped the entire city at that moment. Those in the seats in front of the CEO erupted into a flurry of gasps and heated whispers. Victor raised one hand in response, quieting the crowd almost instantaneously.

"Allow me to explain. The woman, formerly known as Elizabeth, was a young woman I hired to play the role of my fiancée. Due to contractual obligations, I cannot explicitly state my reasons why for doing so, however, I can say that when our contract came to an end, the young woman and I were supposed to enact a public breakup in a way to tie up loose ends. Had we done that, I doubt this conference would have been necessary."

"So why didn't you?" By the tone of voice, you could tell a younger man in the back of the room piped up.

Victor turned his attention to the man, displeased with him for having spoken out of turn. If you had to guess, the reporter must have been shrinking in his seat under the stare of Victor. The CEO didn't answer. He returned his gaze forward again after looking over the crowd.

"Any questions?" He asked.

Everyone in the room threw their hands into the air. Victor chose a woman from the front row. She put her hand down and repeated the same question that the other man had asked, albeit more eloquently.

"What reason, if any, did you and Elizabeth decide not to hold the public breakup?"

Victor thought over the question for a moment before answering:

"At the time when our agreement came to an end, I found myself unable to complete the task. If I were to be honest, I will admit that some romantic feelings had begun to emerge between the two of us. Therefore, I needed to conceive of a way where we could reveal the truth about Elizabeth with the least media backlash as possible."

"Are you saying you planned to hold this conference before she even went missing?"

"Yes, I did."

"Did you do this in hopes of reigniting your romance with her?"

"Yes, I did."

"Are you in love with her?"

"Yes, I am," Victor answered confidently, though his eyes wavered slightly.

You gaped at the screen for a time, letting the information sink in. Victor never mentioned to you about the public breakup he had planned, obviously in case the circumstances changed. But he also never mentioned this press conference. This seemed to be a way not only to clear the air about Elizabeth but an ending where you had a chance to be with him. Silent tears escaped your eyes and slipped down your cheeks. Every time he told you there was no chance to be with him, you believed him, yet he knew what he was doing all along.  The more you thought about it, the more confused you became. Had he just told you about the conference in the first place, you would never have attempted to date Andrew.

Andrew.

Date.

You had a date with Andrew that night.

The questions continued to flow and Victor answered them as quickly as they came up. No one waited for him to designate an asker anymore. The crowd was loud and rowdy, yelling over each other in hopes Victor would answer them next. Your attention jumped from the screen to your plans that evening. There was no way you could continue going out with Andrew when Victor was confessing how he felt about you on national TV. You needed to break up with your boyfriend, and fast.

Although the sense of urgency was ever-present in your mind, you couldn't find a way to get off the couch and unglue your eyes from the screen until the conference was over. You gasped when you saw Victor pull a very familiar pocket watch from the inner pocket of his jacket. How he managed to get a hold of it after you were forced to leave it at Souvenir was beyond you. At first. And then it clicked. The only thing that made sense was if Victor was the chef at Souvenir. I mean the place screamed with his personal style and the food was identical to his.

"That's all the time I have. Goldman will finish answering any questions you may have." Victor said, replacing the watch in his pocket and taking a step back.

Goldman rushed to the podium and did the best he could answering questions over the crowd as Victor quietly slipped out the stage door with the bodyguard behind him.

Xiao-niao then clicked off the TV screen and turned to you.

"You can't go out with those tear streaks and puffy eyes." She said with a laugh, "Let's get you cleaned up."

Before you had finished dressing in a somewhat nice blouse and jeans, you heard Andrew arrive at the door. You knew Andrew never took you anywhere fancy without telling you beforehand, but you didn't want to dress too casually. Not that it really mattered since you'd be dumping him tonight. You could hear him and your roommate quietly talking to one another in the hallway. By the hushed tones, you could tell they had to be talking about you. You took a deep breath to help settle your nerves. Breaking up with someone was never easy, especially when one person has strong feelings for the other.

Once you felt a little more confident in yourself, you stepped out of the room with a polite smile on your lips.

"Wow, babe. You look great!" Andrew beamed, looking you over, "ready to go?"

You nodded, slipping your winter coat over your shoulders and your fur-lined boots onto your feet. Andrew enjoyed taking walks regardless of the weather so you always needed to be prepared when he took you out. 

After saying goodbye to your roommate, you followed Andrew outside to his car. He seemed to be in a good mood, which meant he had a good day at work. Since he was a surgeon, his mood always depended on how many people he lost on the table. It was a tough job but he enjoyed it for the most part. In the car, you and Andrew talked mostly about how your respective days were. He explained his good mood, stating his favorite patient finally got a transplant they had been waiting for. He even got to assist in the surgery which went off without a hitch. The entire drive, his excited and joyful energy made you forget you were about to dump him.

That was until he pulled into the parking lot overlooking the water. The dark ocean waters reflecting the city lights splashed and licked at the shoreline. While it was a beautiful view, you knew it was an ominous sight. Andrew only ever came here when he had something painful to talk about. You knew this because it's where he told you about his grandfather passing away and that the vast ocean helped him grieve. He turned off the car and stared out over the water for a moment before speaking.

"I think it's time you come clean about your relationship with Victor Li."

Your heart nearly jumped out of your chest when he said that. You attempted to tell him you had no idea what he was talking about but he interrupted you with a laugh.

"Xiao-niao and I have been talking about it for weeks now. We have enough evidence to prove that you're actually Elizabeth King."

"What kind of evidence?" You scoffed, not believing what he had to say.

Andrew gave you a look as if he knew that was what you were going to say before he began listing things off. He mentioned how you were mysteriously out of town the same time Elizabeth was around and how when you returned, you made a mistake and gave people different stories about where you were. He said Xiao-niao noticed how different you'd act whenever Victor was mentioned on TV, or anywhere for that matter. The suspicion started for him the night of the charity when you and Victor laid eyes on each other and how the man looked at you. He went on to explain he had a feeling you went home with Victor that night and that your roommate confirmed this by checking your room before she left for work the following day.

While Andrew continued to explain his reasonings, his tone never changed. He didn't seem upset or hurt that you lied or that you spent the night with another man (even though at the time you and Andrew weren't together).

When he finished what he had to say, you stared at him for a time, unsure of how to respond. Of course, he was correct in his assumption, but you didn't know if you should admit it or not. You swallowed the lump that formed in your throat and turned your gaze to the hands on your lap.

"Listen, I don't know much about Victor, but what I've heard, he doesn't express his feelings much… if at all, and yet, he goes on TV and professes his love to you. Just admit you're Elizabeth." He pressed.

You sighed, thinking about Victor and the pocket watch gift. You thought about how much you missed him and how much you wished to see him again. Holding back the tears threatening to spill down your cheeks you replied meekly.

"I'm so sorry, Andrew." You said, choking back sobs.

"You have nothing to apologize for. You were as honest as you could have been given the situation. If anyone should be apologizing, it's me." He said, offering you a weak smile.

His words made the tears stop as you stared at him curiously. As far as you could tell, he had been nothing but a supportive person in your life. When you questioned him, he turned to face the dark water ahead and took a deep breath.

"Did I ever tell you why I broke up with you back in high school?" He asked after sorting his thoughts.

"Uh, if I remember correctly you said it was so you could focus on your studies, but I assumed you wanted to date pretty college girls." You admitted.

Andrew laughed and shook his head. He confessed the original reason was only part of the truth and that he had a second, more important reason for the break-up and that your thoughts were incorrect. He never intended to date anyone in university, though he did here and there throughout the years.

"So what was the second reason?" You pressed, now curious as to what he had to say.

"I saw you the day of the entrance exams. I realized you were also taking them, but I knew becoming a doctor wasn't your dream. It was then I realized you were taking them for me and that wasn't fair. Even though I loved you so much, I wanted you to become your own person without me, so I broke up with you. I hated doing it, I know it hurt you. It hurt me too. Just before I left for school, I met with your parents. I promised them that once I returned to Loveland as a doctor, I was going to ask you to marry me."

As Andrew told you his story, his eyes never left the scene in front of him. You knew it must've been difficult for him to come clean about this after so many years. Before you could finish wrapping your head around what he was saying, he continued.

"My entire reasoning for getting back together with you was to make good on that promise I made to your parents. I'm really sorry. As much as I tried to become a better person, I just continued to pull you into my bullshit."

You shook your head and patted his hand.

"When we were out on our dates, what did it feel like to you?" You asked.

Andrew finally returned his gaze to you before dropping it to your hand placed on top of his. His eyes wavered there for a moment as he recalled the last while the two of you had been together.

"I guess it felt more like two friends hanging out." He answered.

You nodded and smiled. That was exactly all it was. Although you both attempted to rekindle your old flame for one another, you never felt that connection. Aside from occasionally holding hands and slapping a label on the relationship, the two of you were nothing more than friends. Which is what you told him. He responded with a smile and took a deep breath like it was the first time he had been able to breathe the entire night. Nothing needed to change. You could still hang out with him without any awkward feelings.

After the initial conversation ended, you felt like a crushing weight had been lifted off of your shoulders. Breaking up with someone was much smoother when both people were on the same page. The two of you chatted a little longer. Andrew asked a few questions about what it was like living as Elizabeth, and while it was still strange to talk about it since you kept it a secret for so long, it also felt great to finally be able to tell your story.

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone as deeply in love as you are with Victor, even when you were with me." He said, starting up the car.

You blushed at his words and swatted in his direction, hoping he'd drop it but he didn't. He continued to tease you as he navigated the brightly lit streets of Loveland. You didn't pay much attention to where he was driving, assuming he was going to take you straight home, but when he turned down one of the tunnels, you realized that wasn't the case. When you asked him where he was taking you, he smiled and pointed to a tall structure in the heart of the financial district. LFG.

"Why are we going there?" You asked, already knowing the answer.

"You're gonna tell me after the press conference you don't want to see him?" He answered with a laugh.

You would be lying if you said you didn't want to. Each passing day, you yearned to hear his voice and while some days you barely thought about him, those were far and few between. It seemed the less you heard from him, the more you wanted to see him. Everything was so much easier when he left you angry. Glancing down at the time on the dashboard, you made a face. It was already after ten and the odds Victor would still be at LFG were low. He was usually getting ready for bed at this time. If he's not at work, would it be appropriate for you to show up at his home? Your heart pounded harder the closer the car approached the familiar building. Closing your eyes to steel your resolve, you took a few deep breaths as Andrew pulled up in front.

"I'll wait here. Text me if you find him or not. I don't care if I have to drive you around the entire city all night. We will find him."

You smiled at your once again ex-boyfriend and thanked him before rushing out into the freezing cold wind. You pulled the hood over your head and close to your face as you scrambled to the door to the building. Your hair whipped wildly in the strong gusts of wind, but you didn't let it slow you down.

Unsurprisingly, when you grasped and yanked on the freezing cold door it didn't budge. The security guard nestled behind his desk glanced up at the sound of the door rattling. You could just see him wave his hand dismissively at you and drop his attention back to the monitors for half a second, then his head snapped back up in recognition. His eyes never left you as he peeled himself away from the desk and moved to the door. You took a step back when he unlocked it and pushed it open a bit.

"You're Elizabeth, aren't you?" He asked.

The guard was a short, plump man with a shiny round face. His dark hair stuck out from under the cap that was too small for his head, giving you the impression he didn't brush his hair before coming in to work. The front of his shirt was speckled with grease stains from the collar and over his rotund stomach. His beady eyes looked you over curiously, anticipating your reply.

"Is Victor in?" You inquired, hoping asking this would answer him without you having to explicitly state the truth.

By now the cold had seeped into your coat causing your body to shiver and your teeth to chatter. The guard screwed up his face in thought and murmured to himself. You wrapped your arms around yourself and bounced lightly on the balls of your feet, attempting to warm yourself up.

"I'm not supposed to share that sort of information, but," he stopped and looked over his shoulder as if checking if the coast was clear.

Without another word, he pushed the door open a little more, just enough for you to enter. You moved past him and thanked him for allowing you entrance to the building. Now out of the cold, you dropped your hands to your sides. The guard locked the door and hobbled back to his desk in the vast, empty lobby.

"Interesting, it seems the rooftop alarm has been turned off." He said with a wink.

You thanked him once again and pushed past the barriers dividing the lobby and where the elevators were located. You had been to LFG enough that navigating the maze-like halls was a breeze. You even remembered exactly how to find the rooftop exit from the one time he took you up there. Along your way, you sent Andrew a quick text, requesting he stay just a little while in case you needed a ride home for whatever reason. Somewhere, in the back of your mind, you were worried Victor would deny you and send you away. If they were to happen, you wanted to make sure you didn't have a freezing cold walk home ahead of you.

You had only just warmed up your fingers when you reached the door to the roof. The nerves you had managed to push aside came bubbling back to the surface as you placed your hand on the handle. Your breath shook every time you exhaled but there was no turning back now. Pushing open the emergency exit door, you were hit once again with a blast of cold air. You instinctively shut your eyes and stepped out onto the roof, letting the door slam shut behind you.

"It's about time you showed up." That deep rumbling voice you longed to hear, floated into your ears from in front of you.

You dropped your arm from your eyes and was met with the vision of the man with his back to you. His elbows were propped up on the railing he leaned over. You said nothing as you moved in his direction. The gravel under your feet crunched under your heavy boots with every tentative step you took. He turned at the sound of your approaching footsteps and stared down at you with those penetrating grey irises. As you quickened your pace, Victor stepped forward, meeting you halfway on the rooftop. You looked up at his features, softened by the city lights, and pressed your hands to his chest. Puffs of breath appeared before him every time he exhaled, hiding his face from your view for a second until the cloud dissipated. His hands pressed into your hips before pulling your body close. He dipped his head, pressing his chilled lips against yours. Your eyes fluttered shut and you inhaled deeply through your nose, taking in the familiar scent of his aftershave still lingering on his skin. Victor pulled away for a second, lifting his hand to brush away the loose strands of your hair while cupping your cheek. He kissed you again, this time more fervently than before. You panted against his lips, sliding your hands further north over the front of his jacket, then over his shoulders. The heat from the kisses you shared warmed you more than you were inside of the building. His tongue danced against your lips. You parted them, allowing his tongue passage into your mouth. Your hands carded through his hair on the back of his head as the fur lining of his hood tickled your knuckles.

You were held locked in his embrace for a time, holding you taut against him until your knees were weak, your lips swollen, and your breath stolen by him. When he pulled back, he met your eyes and rubbed your flushed cheek with his thumb. A smile broke across your face as you leaned into the palm of his hand.

"I shouldn't have left." You said more so to yourself than to him.

"Then come home." He replied, pulling you into his chest.

The gentleness of his voice and the context of his words made the realization sink in. After months of pain, pinning, and forcing yourself to think of something other than him, you were finally in his arms. You moved your hands from his shoulders and slid them down his arms, then around his middle. Sinking deeper into his puffy jacket, Victor stroked the back of your hair lightly.

"It's cold, let's get you inside to warm up." He said, stepping away from you.

You agreed, feeling too happy in the moment to point out he had been outside for far longer than you had. He led you to the door and held it open for you. The stair passage was narrow, leaving Victor to follow behind your steps as you led the way down. You glanced over your shoulder and smiled at him while he pulled his phone from the pocket of his jacket. He gruffly told you to watch where you were walking and dialed a number on the phone. Seizing the opportunity, you did the same thing, but instead of calling, you texted Andrew to tell him you no longer required a ride and thanked him for waiting for you. You heard the CEO behind you telling the person on the other line to re-engage the alarm on the rooftop door. He even thanked the guard for allowing you entry into the building, causing a smile to form on your lips. 

At the bottom of the steps, you waited for him. He hung up the phone and took your hand, lacing his fingers between yours. The two of you walked back to the elevator together. Once there, Victor clicked the call button and turned to look down at you at his side. You met his gaze and pulled his arm over you, hugging it to your chest.

"Is everything going to be okay now that you've told the truth about us?" You asked, smiling at the warmth from his hand.

"I can't say for certain whether or not the general public will accept us, but I don't care."

"You admitted you had the entire thing planned from the start, how come you left me waiting for so long? And why didn't you tell me you were going to do this?"

Victor's eyes darted between yours for a moment. You couldn't tell if he was unsure about telling you the truth, if he was coming up with an excuse, or if he was simply trying to find the right words to explain. Before he replied, the elevator dinged and the door slid open. He pulled you into the awaiting car, pressed the button for the underground parking, and waited for the door to close before he spoke.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to go through with it. There's no guarantee the people we've deceived will accept you back. I didn't want you to suffer with me. If leaving you to move on was what I needed to do to give you happiness, I would have done so. However, I changed my mind when I heard you were seeing someone else." His tone was even and calm, but he spoke slowly.

You smiled at him, holding back your amusement. Jealousy often causes relationships to fail and somehow his was bringing yours together. You gave his hand a heartfelt squeeze. There were still a lot of questions you wanted to ask, like how did he know you were in a relationship? What was his connection to Souvenir and the pocket watch (though you were pretty certain you knew the answer to this and simply wanted confirmation)? But for now, you wanted to enjoy the content silence. It had been so long since you held his hand in yours, you didn't want to ruin this time with needless chatter. Victor always did prefer the quiet moments anyway. You spent the rest of the elevator ride like this, occasionally stealing a glance at the man to your side.

When the elevator hit the floor of the parking garage and the door opened, Victor departed with you gleefully skipping alongside him. Victor's parking spot was only a few short feet from the elevator and before long, he was removing himself from your grasp. Before you managed to touch the handle of the passenger side door, the CEO took your face in his hands and stole a quick, heated kiss. He slipped away, leaving you breathless before you had the chance to move. You blushed at the sly, seductive smirk he held on his lips as he spun away and moved to the other side of the car. Both you and Victor slid into the car at the same time.

The car ride was mostly quiet aside from the gentle music pouring from the stereo speakers. At one point, Victor placed his hand on your knee and kept it there whenever it wasn't needed to steer. You stared out of the window, watching the city fly by in a blur until your stomach rudely interrupted the relaxing atmosphere. Your cheeks flushed and you turned to the man to gauge his reaction. He offered you a quick glance but kept his eyes on the road.

"Did you have dinner?" He asked, pulling up to a red light.

"I was supposed to with Andrew but we ended up breaking up instead."

Victor snapped his head to look at you, his eyes boring into your soul. You laughed at his reaction and waved your hands. Once you settled from your little fit of amusement, you decided to tell Victor everything about your history with Andrew. You made it clear that while you and the doctor did go on a few dates, the two of you hadn't even kissed. Victor listened intently, driving the car out of the city limits. He didn't say anything, but you got the sense that he felt relieved after you explained the situation. 

"I'll make you dinner when we get in." He said, squeezing your leg lightly.

"You don't need to go through all that trouble. You can just go through a drive-through somewhere."

Victor scoffed loudly at your suggestion, "do you know how much fat is in fast food, dummy."

"Yes, I do know and I know it's delicious, jerk." You retorted, sticking your tongue out at him.

"I'm making you dinner, end of discussion." He grumbled sourly, though his loving strokes with his thumb on the outside of your leg never ceased. You moved your hand on top of his and curled your fingers over his.

You spent the remainder of the drive smiling to yourself. It still felt almost like a dream. Through all of the ups and downs you had experienced with this man, you had just about given up hope that you’d ever see him again, let alone be holding his hand. You turned to look at the sight of his stunning profile; his eyes holding steady on the road before him. Every time he glanced at you, you’d smile and squeeze his fingers. You were afraid to look away, or even blink, in case all of this would suddenly disappear again. Though you didn’t take your eyes off of him, you knew where he was taking you. The drive to his condo wouldn’t have taken this long, nor would it require leaving the bright city lights. Modest houses with small yards melted away into large mansions with acres of land. You suddenly felt nervous, having not been to the house since the day you left. You were a little curious to find if it had changed at all, primarily, the room you stayed in.

Victor pulled up to the gate blocking his driveway and waited for it to open. As it slowly slid across its track, the guard in the hut looked up in surprise, not expecting anyone to be coming in, especially not so late at night. Because of the tinted windows, he wasn’t able to see who was inside of the car, but he recognized the make a model belonging to the homeowner. He tipped his hat in respect and settled back into his seat as the car bumped over the track and up the drive. He followed along the driveway, down into the underground parking where the rest of his luxury vehicles sat undisturbed. The garage was lit with harsh fluorescent lighting over each parking space, but the areas in between were darkened. Victor pulled his hand from your leg and carefully back his car into the open space closest to the door. You took a deep breath and waited until the car was turned off before you stepped out of it. The garage was warmer than you expected, not realizing that he, of course, had it heated. You stripped off your coat and hung it over your arm as the man came to your side and took your hand with his. The garage door at the other end slid shut while you were led to the door leading into the house. 

Hand in hand the two of you walked down the long hallway, passed the weight room, passed the indoor pool, passed the bar where the pool table resided, and up the stairs to the first floor. Many memories returned to you as you walked through the familiar halls. If you hadn't tried seducing him while he had your body pressed against the green felt lining the pool table, would you still be in this position? Victor led you to the front foyer and released your hand to shed himself of the winter coat along with his suit jacket. You wondered why he hadn't done all this at the closet downstairs when your question was answered by him taking your coat from your arms and handing you the slippers you wore when you lived there. You thanked him and sat down on the bench by the door to unlace your boots. The very same bench he claimed you as his the night Song Wang attempted to assault you. You shuddered at those thoughts and pushed them aside, choosing to remember how that night ended instead. Running your fingers over the red velvet fabric, you smiled to yourself. Victor took the boots you left on the floor in front of you and placed them on the nearby shoe rack.

"What's with that dopey look?" He asked, turning his attention to you.

"Nothing. Just remembering all the fun we had while I lived here." You replied, implying to the more intimate moments of your relationship.

Victor took your left hand in his right and gently pulled you to your feet. His left arm swept around your body, holding you taut against him. You slid your free hand up the soft fabric of his dress shirt as he moved his face close to yours. His hand on your back lowered to your rear where he gave it a light squeeze while his lips brushed against yours.

"Be a good girl tonight and I might reward you with some fun later." He breathed.

Victor pulled away abruptly, leaving you dizzy with desire. You whimpered watching him saunter away in the direction of the kitchen. Though you couldn't see the look on his face, you knew he was smirking. You bit your lips, dropping your eyes to the tight ass in his dress pants. You contemplated following him into the kitchen to watch him work, but you decided to head up to your old room instead. Victor had told you at one point he hadn't returned to the house since you left. You were curious to see if he had the items he bought for you removed or not.

Skipping up the steps, you walked briskly down the hallway and stopped at your old bedroom door. You turned to look at the door to your left and decided you will have to check Victor's room too. Opening the door and stepping in, you clicked on the light and took a glance around the room. It looked almost the same as it did when you left, aside from the fresh bedding on the bed. You walked over to the closet door and pulled it open, expecting it to be empty. However, you were surprised to find it hadn't been touched. Walking deeper into the closet, you ran your fingers over the many dresses and other clothes hanging up. You smiled to yourself. Victor was surprisingly sentimental, holding onto these items when he nearly let you go for good. You were thankful he hadn't though as it meant you would have something to wear in the morning.

Turning around to exit the closet, your eyes fell on the bedside table you kept most of your items in. You tilted your head to the side curiously and moved over to it, pulling the drawer open. A laugh escaped you when you found the old contract about your sexual relationship wrinkled and worn still buried underneath a bunch of other junk. You took it out and smoothed it over the end table, looking over the last two rules on the list. Dropping your hand into the drawer, you pulled out a pen, put the cap between your teeth, and pulled it off. While two rules remained, you scribbled out the one:

Should either party begin to develop romantic feelings towards the other party, they must cease all physical contact immediately.

You ran your finger over the scribbled marks you just did, wondering when exactly Victor broke that particular rule. By the look in his eyes, you suspected he broke it long before you did. The final rule was about consent. While you might have toed the line a few times, that was a rule neither of you ever broke, nor did you plan to. You folded up the page, tucked it away in the drawer, and left the room the way you found it.

Of course, you visited Victor's room next and threw yourself onto the plush king-sized bed. You took a minute, inhaling the scent of the detergent used. It was crisp, clean but not overpowering. You rolled around the bed a little bit and turned to look out the balcony window when your eye caught the objects you left next to his bed. The note you left him stuck out among the other items. You rolled over onto your knees and crawled over to the nightstand. Along with the note, the phone, the ring box, and even the cash was still sitting exactly where you had left it. You picked up the note first, contemplated reading it, but put it down instead. There was no reason to remind yourself of how much pain you were in when you left. Your hand hovered over the phone next, wondering how many messages you might have from the girls wondering where you were, but it slipped over to the ring box. Cracking it open, you were shocked to find it empty. You began looking around the area surrounding the nightstand in case it fell somewhere to no avail.

In your search, you didn't notice Victor come into the room until his shadow appeared in your line of sight. You looked up from your spot on the floor, then stood, dusting your knees off.

"Where'd the engagement ring go?" You asked, holding out the empty box to him.

Victor took the ring box from your hand and turned to look out of the balcony window, "I suppose some lucky landscaper might have found it."

You followed his gaze, realizing what he had done. You made a face and shoved him in a playful manner, feigning annoyance.

"That ring was so expensive! How could you just throw it away?" You scoffed, turning your body from him and crossing your arms.

Victor stepped up behind you, wrapping his arms around you. You felt him nuzzle your ear with his nose and his breath stirred your hair.

"If it bothers you so much, I'll buy you a new one." He murmured, kissing your ear lightly.

You instinctively shivered and fell into him, closing your eyes tight. Your face warmed with a blush, thinking over the words he just said. It was essentially a proposal one way or another. Before you had a chance to reply, he spoke again.

"For now, dinner is ready. Come eat."

Chapter Text

The aroma and taste of the light meal Victor made for you reminded you of the time you ate at Souvenir and the pocket watch you knew he owned. When you questioned him about both, he admitted the truth as if you should have already known the answer, which you had. Yes, he was the owner and chef of Souvenir, and yes, he did listen in on the conversation you had with Thelma. Under normal circumstances, you would have been upset with him for eavesdropping, but tonight you readily forgave him. You were so happy just to have that slim chance of being with him, you were willing to forgive almost anything. You thanked him for helping her even though he didn't need to.

The meal he made for you was a small garden salad and a perfectly seared steak. It wasn't an overly large portion. Just enough to tide you over until the morning but nothing too heavy for the night. After a light scolding for nearly skipping a meal, you watched Victor standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes he used to make your meal. You tried to follow the rest of the conversation as much as you could, but your mind had other ideas. Sensing your half-distracted answers, he turned around, drying his hands on a dishtowel.

"Is your head in the clouds again?" He asked with a sigh.

"Mhm," you replied, pushing away the not empty plate.

"Are you that bored by my company?"

Victor took your cleared plate and returned to the sink to wash it. You slipped off the stool and circled around the island separating you from him. Taking the ties to his apron between your fingers, you slowly tugged them free from the bow they were tied in. You slowly removed the apron from his waist and placed it on the counter next to the sink.

"Actually, I was thinking about what I'd like to do with your company." You purred seductively while your hand slid around his middle and over the front of his pants.

Victor gripped your wrist tightly and spun himself around. Without a word, he pressed your back against the island you recently sat at with his knee between your legs. You held back a whimper when you caught the charged look behind his eyes. The wrist he held was pinned to your side and his free hand pressed into the marble top as he leaned in close. Your eyes fluttered closed when his lips brushed against yours, expecting a kiss from the man. Instead he turned and nipped at the lobe of your ear, causing a tingle sensation to shoot down your spine.

"Fifteen seconds." He breathed into your ear, pressing his knee harder against you.

"For what?" You asked, gripping the cuff of his rolled up sleeve.

"You have fifteen seconds to get that sexy little ass of yours up to my bed and strip. Well, ten seconds now." He growled deeply.

Victor took a step back, releasing you from his hold. You wasted no time, tearing out of the kitchen. At the bottom of the steps you heard him loudly counting down the seconds. Climbing the steps to the second floor, you yanked off your shirt followed by your bra. The adrenaline pumped through your veins, spurred you to move faster. At the top of the stairs, you gripped the banister hard and nearly swung yourself into the turn down the hall toward his room. You couldn't hear his voice any more, but resumed the counting in your head. Four seconds . Running out of time already, you undid your pants, ready to remove them at a moment's notice. There was no way you'd be able to take them off while running without risking a fall. Your feet thundered down the hardwood in you nearly burst through his bedroom door. You threw yourself onto the bed and kicked off your pants as fast as you could.

"Time's up." His voice resonated from the doorframe.

"How did you get up here so fast?" You squeaked in surprise.

There was no way he could have followed you so closely behind without you hearing his footsteps. His breathing was normal while you gasped and panted for air on the navy comforter. Victor smirked at your question and entered the room, shutting the door tightly behind him. Figuring he must've cheated by using his time control abilities, you made a face at him. He moved across the room to the bed in a few short strides and pointed you to the center of the bed. You shrunk away from his menacingly advancing form and did what he said, crawling over the bedding until you reached the middle. Before you had the chance to flip over onto your back, you felt Victor's hands grasp onto the cheeks of your bottom. He kneaded the soft flesh with his fingers and left feather light kisses over your lower back, eliciting an excited sigh from your lips.

"You missed an article of clothing." He mused, trailing the tips of his fingers over the elastics around your legs. "I'll have to penalise you for this."

You shivered feeling his fingers hook under the waistline of your panties before he slowly drew them down off your bottom.

The heavy wind outside blew against the sliding glass doors of the balcony causing them to shudder with the force. The bed creaked with Victor's movements as he shimmied himself back far enough to fully remove your underwear from your frame. With your head turned in the direction of the balcony, you watched him as soon as he came into view. He was still dressed in a black button down partially undone and still tucked into his black dress pants.

"Get on your knees." He commanded, catching your watchful eye with a look of sensual determination.

Bringing your knees underneath you, you mirrored the movement with your hands, placing you on all fours. You felt a little cold without his warm breath traveling up your back. Victor dug around the drawer of the end table, picking out a few objects. Some of them he kept hidden from view, but what you could see was some sort of rope and a blindfold.

"Really? Starting with the kink already?" You asked with a snicker.

"It's part of your punishment." He said with his deadpan tone and turned to you.

The dim lights in the room were swiftly replaced with darkness as Victor slipped the blindfold over your eyes. You felt the bed sink around you with him creeping up from behind. His clothed hips brushed against your exposed bottom, making you shudder with anticipation. Victor pressed his hand between your shoulder blades, urging your top half to the bed below. He took both of your arms behind your back and skillfully bound your wrists with the rope you saw before. The bindings dug into your skin just enough to prevent you from escaping, but they weren't too tight to restrict blood flow to your hand. Your face flushed at the embarrassing position he kept you in. His warm, soft lips peppered kisses over your shoulders and down your spine.

"Don't make a sound." He commanded softly. "If you do, the duration of your punishment will increase, do you understand?"

"I understand, but what do I do if, say I want to stop or need a break?" You asked, your words slightly slurred from laying on the side of your face.

"Normal words will suffice. We're not engaging in any sort of 'no consent' fantasy. If you need to stop, tell me to stop."

Even in the awkward position, frozen by the bindings and blinded by the fabric over your eyes, you took comfort in Victor and his words. Every part of your being believed this man would never do anything you didn't agree with. He would never hurt. He loved you with everything he had and you loved him all the same.

You heard the CEO shuffle a little bit and the bed sink to your right side, suggesting he was now placed next to you. A moment later, you felt something soft run down your side. You shuddered at the tickly feeling following your ribs. Clamping your lips shut, you attempted to keep any giggles from escaping. It certainly did feel like torture, having Victor tickle you with what felt like a feather all over your body. The few minutes felt like hours as your body shook with your silent laughs. You felt the tip of the feather slide over your neck, over your jaw and around your ear before it stopped.

“Good job, Princess.” Victor whispered, causing another shiver to run down your spine.

You heard the sound of his clothing shuffle and his calm, even breathing. You figured the punishment was over and he might have been undressing, but when you felt the still clothed crotch of his pants press into your backside, you knew you were mistaken. Your body instinctively pushed back against his, feeling his excitement press into your flesh. Victor stifled a groan of his own and clicked his tongue disapprovingly.

“Patience. You’ll get your turn.”

You sighed softly as your pleasurable torture continued. This time, the man teased you by licking and nipping at some of your most sensitive places. You closed your eyes trying to think of anything but the sensation of his tongue licking your earlobe or his teeth lightly digging into your flesh. Your bound hands balled into fists on your back as your moans died in your throat before they could escape. Victor continued to praise you for staying quiet like he requested, making it that much more difficult to keep any sound from escaping. Victor's hands cupped your breasts, pinching and rolling your nipples between his fingers. His hot pants blew over your neck. He pressed his body tighter against yours, grinding his clothed erection against your entrance. You bit into your lip, stopping an orgasmic moan from escaping you. Victor rolled his hips into your backside and groaned in your ear.

The slightest stimulation against your parts sent your brain into a tizzy. Over months of no contact, the sensory deprivation and the teasing you felt like you were going to explode with desire. All you could think about was how bad you wanted him inside of you. Your eyes glazed over. A puddle of drool formed beneath your cheek. Through gasping breaths you begged him.

"Victor," you whined, "I need you."

The CEO stopped his movements and pushed the fallen hair out of your face. You felt chilled when he tore his body away from yours as the sweat coating your skin started to evaporate. He slid his hands down your sides and over your ass.

"I'm extending your punishment by five minutes." He said darkly.

You came to your senses at his words. He had warned you this was going to happen if you made any noise, but you were so worked up and turned on that you completely forgot about it. Victor slipped his hands lower and inched his fingers toward your core. The tip of one finger teasingly rubbed over your sensitive, swollen entrance but failed to go in.

"You're soaking wet." He chuckled, prying his hands from your warmth.

You squirmed from the loss of his touch. He shifted positions again, causing your body to rock and sway with the motions. You felt his hair tickle the inside of your knees as he moved. Your eyebrows furrowed in confusion, wondering just how he was on the bed. Your question was answered by his lips kissing the inside of your thigh. You bit your lip again, anticipating the feeling of his hot tongue against your parts, but it never came. Instead, you heard a quiet buzzing coming from below. At first, you thought it might have been a call coming in from either cell phone until you felt a cool piece of vibrating plastic press into your left nipple. You gasped at the sensation and squeezed your blinded eyes shut. Victor had stepped up to the next level of torture, keeping the vibrator against your nipples while he sucked hard on your inner thigh. Your legs shook from pleasure and stimulation. It took everything you had to stop yourself from begging for more again. Since Victor's grip on the vibrator never slipped, you assumed it had to have been attached to his hand in some way. Satisfied with the mark he left on your leg, his hand containing the toy made its way down your body. You twisted your hands, hoping to break free from the tight knots keeping you tied to no avail. The buzzing toy trembled against your stomach and lower abdomen before coming to a stop on your clit. You clenched your teeth and felt the tears prick at the corner of your eyes as you fought against every nerve in your body screaming.

"You've done well." You heard the man speak from between your legs. "I suppose you'd like a reward?"

You swallowed the lump in your throat as the pleasure pooling in the pit of your stomach began to boil. Victor wrapped his free arm around your waist and pulled the crux of your legs to his open mouth. You gasped and purred at the feeling of his tongue plunging into the depths of your body, eagerly lapping up the arousal dripping from your body. His hair tickled your stomach, his hot breath blew over your parts in waves, his nose rubbed against your flesh as he delved his tongue deeper within you. For half a second you found yourself concerned about smothering him in his position but soon your mind clouded in pleasure. The vibrator worked tirelessly, sending jolts throughout your body endlessly. Victor worked his tongue in tandem with the toy, rolling it over some of the pleasurable spots inside.

Your legs soon began to shake. You gasped and squealed and moaned with wave after wave of ecstasy pushed you closer to the brink.

After bucking your hips a few times, Victor switched tactics and moved the vibrator away from your clit. Fearing he was denying you the impending orgasm you cursed at him but ate you words when he wrapped his lips around the bundle of nerves, choosing to use his tongue to finish you off. The silicon finger toy pushed between your slick folds. It was longer and thicker than you expected, vibrating against your walls. You screamed out the CEO's name as your orgasm rippled hard through your body.

Victor held you up long enough to remove himself from beneath you. You collapsed on the bed, gasping and panting for air. Your body continued to twitch and shudder. Victor straddled your waist and took your bindings in hand, carefully untying the knots he tied before. He rubbed the sore marks on your wrists and placed them on either side of your head. You felt his lips leave light kisses over your jaw while nuzzling your cheek with his nose.

“Are you alright?” He asked in a soft whisper in your ear.

“Yeah.” You answered breathlessly.

He sat back a little bit and rubbed his hands over your back, massaging your muscles. You groaned and fell into the relaxing atmosphere.

“Let me know when you’re ready to continue.”

You smiled at his gentle tone and replied, “I’m ready.”

Victor slid off of you and the bed. You heard him move closer to your face before the blindfold was pulled from your eyes. When you moved to sit up, Victor requested you lay back down. He stroked your hair and stepped back, unbuttoning the buttons of his dress shirt. Within minutes, he was fully undressed and moved the items he had used on you out of the way. He repositioned himself over your hips and rubbed his erection over your rear. Your name slipped past his lips as he pushed himself between your legs. He didn't enter, choosing to slide beyond. Your body, still coming down from your last orgasm, twitched and jerked when the head of his cock brushed your clit.

"Still so sensitive." He murmured in amusement.

Victor let out a sigh, rubbing himself repeatedly over your parts. He was hot and hard, coating himself with your juices. When he felt you were ready, he parted your legs a little more and lined himself up with your entrance. You moaned at his girth pushing itself inside. Victor rocked his hips, pulling out and back in little by little, giving your body time to adjust. When his hips were flush with your backside, he leaned down close. He leaned into his right forearm next to your head, and placed his left hand over yours, lacing his fingers with yours.

The CEO started off slow, pushing into you at a gentle pace. He kissed and nipped at your shoulder as his breathing started to become labored. Once he began picking up speed, you heard the rhythmic slap of your bodies coming together. Victor groaned in your ear and buried his face in your hair.

"I've been thinking about this for so long." He breathed and nibbled on the shell of your ear.

You moaned in response and pressed yourself back against him. Victor shifted his weight onto his knees and, by using his right hand, he lifted your hips as you tucked your knees beneath you. You pushed yourself onto your hands, keeping your fingers tightly laced with his. His thrusts deepened in the position change and with the pillow no longer filtering your moans, the room was quickly filled with the sound of your pleasure echoing off the high ceiling. Victor curled his arm around your chest and placed his hand on your left breast. He teased and rolled the hard nipple between his fingers. You cried out, feeling the pleasure building within once again. His sweat rolled down his jaw and dripped from his hair, landing on your back. You turned your head to the side and looked over your shoulder at him, catching the expression on his face. His cheeks were pink, his eyes were closed, and his mouth was twisted into a toothy grimace. You called his name to get his attention, causing his long eyelashes to flutter.

"Kiss me." You whispered.

Victor could have easily reached your lips, but instead he pulled out and flipped you onto your back. He reinserted himself between your legs and hovered over you for a second before crashing his lips into yours. You moaned into his open mouth as his tongue rolled skillfully around yours. He rolled his hips, setting up a slow and sensual pace. You wrapped one arm over his back and grasped onto his shoulder then placed your other hand in his hair. You raised your legs and hips and draped your feet over his ass, feeling the muscles clench and release with his gentle thrusts. His tongue passionately caressed yours through open mouthed kisses. You moaned and whimpered beneath him, shuddering at the jolts of pleasure rippling periodically through you.

Victor broke the kiss, pulling his upper half away from you. This thrusts quickened and deepened, hitting some other spots that had your head swimming. Your hand slipped back across his shoulders and came to rest at his bicep but the other one stayed put in his damp hair. He gazed down at you with a passionate look, darkening his grey irises. Through his heavy pants, he breathed your name softly and dropped his lips to your ear. He nipped and flicked his tongue over your earlobe before releasing a content sigh.

"I love you." He whispered so quietly you almost couldn't hear him.

Before you had a chance to fully register his words, Victor sat back, causing your hands and feet to drop to the bed below. He grasped onto your hips bruisingly hard and began pulling you into him with each hard thrust he made, chasing his release. You gripped the bedding hard; eyes rolling back into your head. The room was filled with the sounds of the love you felt for each other. You rolled your head to one side then the other, and then peered down between your legs. You watched transfixed on his glistening cock disappearing and reappearing from your entrance. You let out a low, loud moan, finding yourself in the throes of a powerful orgasm washing through your system. Through half-lidded eyes, you caught the expression on Victor's face. He cursed between pants. His brown was furrowed, his mouth hung open, his sweaty hair was sticking to his forehead. With one final push and the sound of your name escaping as a whisper between his clenched teeth, he filled you in multiple short, hot spurts.

Victor took a deep breath and lowered himself onto you, dropped his head into the crook of your neck. You wrapped your arms around his shoulders and hugged him for a time, listening to the sound of his wildly beating heart and heavy breathing. His cock twitched inside of you as it slowly returned to its flaccid state. While he was laying on you, he was careful not to crush you under his frame by propping himself up with his left knee. You ran your fingers through his hair and nuzzled his forehead with your nose, trying to get his attention. He tilted his head up, gazing at you curiously. You pecked his lips quickly and smiled at him.

"Wore yourself out did you?" You asked.

"You could say that." He replied; his breathing returning to normal.

Victor walked his fingertips over your cheek, neck and shoulders with a proud smile on lips. You couldn't be certain what he was doing but with the way your body felt deliciously sore wherever his fingers pressed, you guess he left a collar of marks on your body.

"I need to get cleaned up." You whispered to him.

Victor gave you a curt nod and reached over the closest nightstand, grabbing a hold of the Kleenex box. He pulled a few from the box and swiftly replaced his cock with the Kleenex pressed to your parts. After taking your hand to replace it with his, he scooted off the bed and pulled you into his arms. You snuggled into his chest and released a content smile. It hadn't hit you completely that you and Victor were officially and finally together. The two of you had turned off your phones earlier in the evening to spend the time together uninterrupted.

Victor set you down on the bathroom counter and silently went to work cleaning you up. You kept your hands on his shoulders watching him work, smiling softly. If you had to be honest with yourself, you were worried if you took your eyes off of him, he'd disappear. After he was done, he stepped away to run a bath for you and him to share. You turned to look in the mirror and confirmed what you thought. Small purple and red marks along with light bites were pattern across your neck, shoulders and chest. You ran your fingers over them and smiled. Any other time you would've been annoyed by this, but today to appreciated them. It felt like he was officially claiming you as his.

When he moved back in front of you to pull you off the counter, you stopped him.

"Hold on a second." You whispered and pulled his body close. "It's not fair I walk away with so many marks and you have none."

"Are you serious?" He grumbled with a roll of his eyes.

You nodded and he stepped closer with a sigh. He leaned over, giving you more access to his skin. You tickled your fingers over his shoulder and neck picking just the right spot. You didn't want to place a mark on his neck where it could easily be seen but you didn't want it to be completely hidden either. You settled on the spot where his shoulder met his neck. At first, you started with soft kisses and a lick. You nibbled a little then pulled the skin between your teeth, suckling on the spot. Victor sighed and cupped the back of your head and circled his other arm around your waist, holding you as close as he could. Once you were content with the mark on his body, you pulled away and inspected the nickel-sized bruise. He rolled his eyes at your proud smirk and took a step back. You slipped off the counter and took the hand he offered you, walking over to the full bath. He helped you in before stepping in behind you in the round tub. His arms wrapped around your body and help you close. You leaned your head against his chest and closed your eyes, letting the hot water relax your sore muscles.

"It's getting late." He said quietly in your ear.

You nodded as the smile slid from your lips. Not wanting to worry the man holding you, you kept quiet about your worries. You didn't want to let him go and go to sleep in case this entire thing turned out to be a dream. You also had no idea how things were going to go from then on. There was no reason for anyone to believe your claims of being Elizabeth if you were to come out and admit it. There was no telling whether or not people would accept your relationship with Victor, especially those in the elite life since you weren't born into that society. You had never met the CEO's family and part of you worried they'd be as cold and as strict as Victor appeared. However, Victor was also a secret softie and a total romantic. It's possible his family was as well. You sighed and leaned against his warm, bare chest. Victor sensed your inner turmoil and squeezed you gently.

"Are you planning on telling me what's bothering you or am I going to have to work it out of you?" He asked.

Though his tone was a little threatening, you knew him better than that. He was just concerned about your worries. Victor, as much as he wouldn't admit it, enjoyed fixing people and helping them. Although he often did it in a very roundabout, teacher-like way. You shook your head and smiled, placing your arms over his.

"We can talk about it in the morning. I just want to enjoy tonight."

Victor grumbled to himself a little bit but accepted your reply. He took the small loofah from the side of the tub and added a dollop of soap to the center of it. He lathered it up and began running it over your exposed skin. The soap was infused with lavender, adding into the relaxing atmosphere. Leave it to Victor to think of everything ahead of him. He carefully washed every inch of your sore body, even washing and conditioning your hair for you. When you were finished, you turned yourself around and took the loofah from him.

"Do I get to wash you now?" You asked.

"As you wish." He replied, placing his hands on the edge of the tub to fully expose his chest.

You ran the loofah over his skin as his head dipped back, offering his neck to wash. It was a passionate shared moment between the two of you, washing one another. Cleansing his hair was the best part for you. He shuddered and groaned as your fingertips worked to scrub the sweat that had accumulated on his scalp.

When all was said and done, Victor stood you up and used an overhead shower to rinse any suds that remained on both his and your bodies. He stepped out of the tub first then helped you out. Take a plush white towel, he wrapped it around your body before taking a second one for himself.

The two of you silently prepared yourselves for bed. Drying hair and skin, brushing teeth, and sharing a few minty kisses. Victor got dressed first and brought you a pair of pajamas from your closet. When you stepped out of the warm bathroom, you found Victor already propped up in his bed. You smiled and ran over to him, diving onto the kings-sized mattress. Crawling over to the CEO, you straddled his lap and pressed your lips to his. He ran his fingers through your hair and pushed you to lay on the bed. His kisses were sweet and soft as he laid by your side.

"Sleep, Princess." He whispered, settling himself under the covers.

You curled up in his arms and cuddled in close. His warmth surrounded you, making you feel safe and loved. Your heart was so full in that moment, you could hardly handle it.

"Victor, I love you." You whispered, squeezing him close to you.

"Me too." He hummed, sleepily.

Not wanting to keep the very tired man awake any longer, you smiled to yourself and closed your eyes. Victor's strong arms wrapped around you, and his deep breathing soon lulled you into a comfortable sleep.

The next morning you woke up slowly and stretched in the large bed. It was empty aside from you, causing you to sit up with a start. You looked around the room and took a calming breath, realizing you were still in Victor's bed. Not waking up in his arms nearly made you believe that the entire night was just a dream. You pushed back the covers, found your slippers sitting next to the bed and put them on your feet.  Opening the door, you instantly smelled the breakfast Victor was preparing. You made your way down the stairs and shuffled into the kitchen where you found the man standing at the stove with a Bluetooth in his ear. It appeared he hadn't noticed your presence yet, busy with the conversation at hand.

"No. I'm not bringing her out in the public eye… because I want to keep my private life private… I don't care about the stocks!" You heard him speaking to whoever was on the other end of the line.

You didn't want to eavesdrop on his conversation, so you shuffled your slippers loudly on the tile floor of the kitchen and sat at the kitchen island. Victor clearly heard you and ended the call without so much as a goodbye. He picked up a plate of berry stuff crepes he made and laid it out on the counter in front of you. You picked up the fork and used the side of it to break off a piece of the thin, fluffy pancake.

"Who was on the phone?" You asked, putting the forkful of food in your mouth.

"Nobody important." He replied, taking the seat next to you with a plate of his own and a cup of coffee.

"When you said 'bringing her out in the public eye', did you mean me?"

Victor gave you a sideways glance and returned to his food without saying anything. Of course he was going to try to handle everything on his own. That's how he was. Stubborn till the end. Judging by the clothes he had on and how it was still quite early in the morning, you suspected he had to go into work. You were a little hopeful he would have taken the day off so you could spend more time with him, but that wasn't the life of a CEO.

Over the course of the perfectly made, extra delicious meal, you expressed your concerns you thought about the night before. Victor took your hand and promised you, you had nothing to worry about. You laced your fingers within his and kissed his knuckles.

After he left for work, you made the decision not to leave everything up to him. You wanted to be able to have that happy life and you knew if LFGs stocks were dropping, that would make things very difficult for Victor at work. You hopped up the steps to Victor's room and took not just your current phone but the one Victor had given you under the guise of Elizabeth. When you turned it on, you weren't at all surprised by the amount of messages that came buzzing through. As much as you would have liked to go through each and every message, you had a feeling that would take at least an entire day and you just didn't have time for that. You opened the contacts app on the phone and looked at the six numbers saved, and clicked on the third one down. The phone didn't ring for long before a very curious tone of voice answered.

"Hey, I know this is really weird and all, but… it's the woman formerly known as Elizabeth and I need your help." You said into the phone.

Hours later, dressed in the designer clothes Victor bought for you (ones with a high collar to cover Victor's marks) , with your makeup and hair done the way you did it when you went out with as Elizabeth, you stepped out of the stylish car driven by your new lawyer. You weren't surprised to see the crowd of reporters huddled around the entrance of LFG being pushed back by some extra security Victor must've hired. Patricia took the lead, walking up to the rowdy crowd and calling their attention to her. When everyone laid eyes on you, they froze for a second, shocked to see the Princess of Loveland standing before them. Taking the attention away from the doors of LFG, the guards soon switch over to your side, keeping reporters from getting too close as you started your own impromptu press conference. You stood up tall with your shoulders back and your head held high as you spoke loudly and clearly to the crowd. The first thing you did once cameras were rolling, was announce your real name for the city, no, the world, to hear. Then, you expressed your deepest sympathies for lying to everyone about your real identity. You told your half of the story, leaving out the part about your father's debt. You told them about the Victor's lessons to teach you how to blend in with Loveland's high-brow families. You admitted to falling in love with the expressionless CEO and how the two of you wish to be together now without the obstruction of the media. You told them about leaving to return to your previous life, only to be unable to forget the incredible man.

As you spoke you didn't notice the man in question come out of his building and stand by your side until you felt his hand inside yours. To those who didn't know him, might believe he was displeased with your actions, but when you met his eyes, all you could see in them was pride. The cameras flashed, catching pictures of you standing with Victor. He took a step forward, taking over talking for you to answer the reporters questions. You didn't mind it as your throat was beginning to get sore from all the talking. You turned to Patricia standing to your left and thanked her for her help. She smiled and leaned over to speak quietly in your ear:

"No need to thank me, it's what friends do. We've all missed you very much."

After the little meeting was over and the reporters were satisfied with the information they were given, you parted ways with Patricia. She said her goodbyes with a hug, shook hands with Victor and disappeared inside of her car. The CEO took your hand and led you into the building. From the main floor all of the way up to his office, workers stopped to bow to you and welcome you back. Victor brought you into his office and sat you down on the couch against the wall.

"You should have told me what you were planning." He said, waving Goldman in through the window.

"I just wanted to help you because I know you wouldn't let me otherwise. Are you gonna sue me for breaking the NDA?"

Victor chuckled lightly at your words as Goldman entered the room. He looked at you nervously and moved in front of you to bow deeply.

"I am so sorry for speaking out of line and causing you pain and discourse. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me." He spoke solemnly.

Goldman's eyes never left the floor as you thought over his words. If he hadn't said those words to you before you left, there was a chance things would have turned out differently. You looked over at Victor, but his eyes offered you nothing. Finally you took a deep breath and spoke.

"I understand why you did what you did. You were just taking it upon yourself to protect Victor and LFG. Of course I'll forgive you, but don't do it again." You warned.

Goldman nodded and rose to his feet when Victor sent him off to make him some coffee.   The assistant nodded and left the office, leaving you and Victor to continue the discussion you were having.

"I'm not going to sue you." He said leaning back against the back of the couch.

You sat back as well, keeping a little distance between the two of you since he was at work and all. The CEO assured you all will be well in the end. He had expected a little bit of backlash but was hoping to keep you out of it. By coming forth and announcing your real name there was a chance the reporters might dig up the truth about the contract you made, although no record of your original contract existed. He admitted he was disappointed in you for going behind his back and taking matters in your own hands, but he backed off when he saw how well you handled it. The conversation was pretty brisk with Victor having to head off for a meeting shortly after Goldman returned with the requested drinks.

When Victor suggested Goldman call the company car to take you back to his home so he could get on with his day, you interjected stating you wanted to return to your apartment instead. You hadn't spoken to your roommate about Victor yet and there was a pretty good chance you'd be moving out. The CEO agreed to your request and told you he would pick you up when he was done work for the day, giving you plenty of time to see Xiao-niao. Because of his meeting, he wasn't able to see you off in the car and Goldman had to in his stead. It was a little awkward being around the assistant still and neither of you spoke during the entire trip down to the car.

You were happy to find the same driver was still employed by Victor when you got into the car. He chatted idly with you, taking you to the location you requested. It finally started feeling like you were back where you belonged. He wished you a polite farewell when he pulled up to the apartment building and opened the door for you. You thanked him and bounded out of the cold air, into the warm lobby of the building. You weren't able to tell your roommate you were coming home because the battery of your phone died before you had the chance to message her. That didn't really matter anyway since you lived there and no one really warns their roommates when they're coming home.

As soon as you walked into the apartment, you heard the shower running. You kicked off your shoes, shook off your coat and wandered to the living room to wait for your roommate to finish up so you could talk. Lounging on the couch gave you some time to think about everything that had transpired in the last twelve hours. You brought your hands to your heart and smiled, thinking about Victor and all of the time you'd get to spend with him.

When you heard the bathroom door open up, you sat up and peered around the corner. Expecting to see only your roommate, you were surprised to see she wasn't alone. Behind her was your very recent ex boyfriend, Andrew. Neither of them had noticed you as they were quite involved in their conversation. They were laughing together with their hands clasped, wearing only towels. You only had a second to decide whether you would announce you were there or hide away until they were dressed. Since Victor was going to be picking you up, you couldn't exactly leave and if you didn't tell them you were there, there was no telling what they were about to get into. You tucked your head back so they wouldn't see you, but cleared your throat loudly enough for them to notice. And notice they had but they didn't know it was you.

"Hello?" Xiao-niao said timidly in the direction of what she thought was supposed to be the empty living room.

"It's just me." You replied.

You held back a laugh listening to the panic whispers from the pair. Your roommate stumbled over her words, telling you she would be joining you in a minute. You snickered to yourself and told her to take her time ending your conversation with a "tell Andrew I say hi."

About ten minutes later, the very embarrassed couple joined you in the living room. As much as you knew you needed to explain the story to your roommate, you definitely had to hear what they had to say first. It turned out that all of the time they spent talking with one another about you and your possible role as Elizabeth, they had developed feelings for each other. Both of them apologized to you for not telling you, but you waved them off. You had no feelings for Andrew and if anything you were happy they were together. Andrew was a great guy, the perfect guy for your roommate as far as you were concerned. He insisted they didn't do anything until after you and him had officially ended things.

The topic quickly shifted from their newfound relationship to yours. Andrew had given a cliff notes version of your story to Xiao-niao but it still wasn't enough to satisfy her curiosity. She plagued you with questions, some a little more risque than others, prompting Andrew to vacate the apartment pretty quickly as he wanted to part in hearing those answers. Xiao-niao was beyond giddy the entire time you talked. She equated you to a celebrity, even though you insisted you weren't one and that it only felt that way because of the public scrutiny Victor was under.

The day went by surprisingly quick. You told Xiao-niao there was a good chance you'd be staying with Victor more often than not. If she wanted to find herself a new roommate, you had no problems with that. At the end of the evening, Xiao-niao received a message from Andrew telling her you were on TV. She quickly turned to the channel in question and the two of you sat in silence, listening to the news report. You were surprised to see how different you appeared on TV. Not just physically but the way you held yourself, answering the questions of the reporters. When the camera changed back to the anchor, you learned your plan had sort of worked. According to polls the news outlet ran, a majority of the people claimed they were willing to forgive you and Victor for the deception. It wasn't everyone and there were plenty of people who were still displeased, but it was a start.

Victor showed up a little after five to take you back to his home, but Xiao-niao bombarded him with questions the way she had done to you. He answered in his usual cold tone, quickly shutting her down before she got out of hand. You could tell he was tired from work and possibly having to handle the PR mess of your relationship.

After packing up some of your most needed items, such as your stuffed cat Viccat, you returned to the large mansion with the CEO for another quiet night in. The first twenty four hours of finally being his was over. It was exciting, busy, exhausting, but most of all, passionate. He treated you to a wonderfully home cooked meal and ended the night just as you had expected he would: inside his warm embrace, flooded with the love you felt for one another.

Chapter Text

The next two months flew by surprisingly quickly. You never officially moved into Victor's home on account of your parents disapproving of that. They were being ridiculous, of course, since you already lived under his roof for so long with him. Your mother claimed it was because the relationship was different. Now that you and Victor were together, actually together, she couldn't condone it. If she knew half of the things you did with the CEO long before you realized you loved him, she'd have a heart attack. You still spent nearly every night of the week in his bed, regardless.

The shipping war between your parents obviously came to an end. Your mother was a little bummed she was wrong in the end, but mostly because of what was at stake. You found out your parents had placed a little bet on who you'd end up with and the winner got to pick the location of their first vacation in years. Your mother wanted to go to Tahiti, your father picked the closest hot springs resort, and seeing as there was one just outside of Loveland, they wouldn't be going far. As annoying as it was, you forgave your parents for what they did. You were their one and only child after all. It made sense for them to get so deeply involved with your love life.

LFG took a few more hits after the reveal. Some companies jumped investors. Victor and his company were blacklisted from some of the more prestigious contracts and events that came up for a time. The man worked long hours, every day of the week, trying to repair his reputation and rebuild the trust he lost with many of his investees. He was often away on business trips, having to branch out even further to make up for the losses in the city. You did everything you could to silently support him by making sure he was eating well and getting enough sleep. You'd often come into his home office and massage the tense muscles in his shoulders and upper back.

Your relationship with the girls was surprisingly in much better standing. Allison was just happy you were okay and that you and Victor were together in the end. In the time she spent with you, you managed to change her views on love so much that she ended up divorcing her older husband. She moved to Loveland shortly thereafter and was starting a fashion line with Ya Ying. She was working on getting Chinese naturalization as well.

Ya Ying became a new mother on the first of February. You didn't get to talk to her much since she was incredibly busy caring for her child and starting a business. Everything else you hear from Allison.

Thelma kept in constant contact. She insisted she was very happy with her job as a private nurse. Her apartment was small but cozy and in a safe neighborhood. She has a favorite cafe she visited regularly and even met a man she was interested in. You were happy to hear she was doing very well, all things considered.

While the group dynamic changed quite a lot, one thing stayed the same. Patricia. She claimed to have no news to report. Her life was work, work, work, sleep, eat, work, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

The most shocking information you heard was about Song Wang. Normally, you shuddered at the sound of his name, but this was something you needed to hear. While you were out of the elite life, Song was up to his same old tricks. As disgusting as it was, he made a fatal mistake by assaulting the daughter of a well-established member of the Loveland Triad (Chinese organized crime). Fearing for his life, Song fled the city. No one knew if he was still in the country any longer or if he was still alive. You never felt safer in your entire life until you heard that.

Xiao-niao and Andrew announced their relationship and were still going strong. Andrew ended up staying over with your roommate an awful lot, but it didn't matter to you since you were hardly there anymore.

The media reported on you and Victor for quite some time after you spoke with them. Going out was difficult because paparazzi liked to follow the two of you no matter where you went. People learned everything they could about you. Your place of work, where you lived, who your friends were. The media called everyone you ever knew, even classmates you never spoke to, just to get anything on you. Things didn't settle down until they found something new to focus on, which came from an unexpected place.

The famous actress, and Victor's ex-lover, Chik gave an exclusive interview on a morning talk show about you and Victor and her involvement. She admitted everything she ever did live on air. From hiring a look-alike to back Victor into a corner about marriage, to her conspiracy with Song Wang to make it look like you were having an affair. She apologized and begged the audience to forgive her for everything she had done wrong. At the end of the interview, she received some sympathy when she announced she was pregnant and would be retiring from the spotlight to raise her child. That news took Loveland by storm.

With the media finally off your tail, everything settled down. The invitations to events starting coming in again. Companies were actively reaching out to Victor to invest in them. You were able to go to work without having a ridiculous amount of personal security on your heels the entire time. But the best thing of all was just being able to be with the man you love without anything getting in the way.

On this particularly warm March evening, Victor had made some extra special plans for the two of you. He always wanted to bring together your two lives into one by having a little party with your friends and family but was unable to do so with everything going on until now.

With Victor's hand holding yours tightly, he led you into an elevator that took you to the rooftop bar he had rented out for the occasion. You leaned against his shoulder and looked up at his strong, handsome profile, thinking about how lucky you felt. Tonight you were wearing a sleek, burgundy cocktail dress with a silver chiffon shawl draped over your shoulders. You adorned your wrist with a diamond tennis bracelet and your ears sparkled with teardrop diamonds. The makeup you applied was light in an attempt to keep yourself looking like you and not Elizabeth. The lip stain you wore matched the color of your dress and your eyeshadow faded from silver to black. Victor matched your semi-formal ensemble with a black open jacket, a tailored waistcoat in the same color, a crisp, white dress shirt, and black pants. The pocket watch you gifted him for Christmas was tucked into the pocket of his waistcoat with the chain attached to the center button. The tie he chose was solid black silk, tied into a Cape knot instead of the standard Windsor.

Victor released your hand and slid his around your back, gripping your waist. You looked up at him, catching his grey gaze with your own. A small smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. Twisting his body, you soon found yourself facing his front. He ran his fingers through your hair, brushing the strands from your cheek. You placed your hands on the outsides of his arms and ran them up and over his shoulders as he leaned down close. He kissed you with such intensity you felt your knees wobble. His tongue toyed with your lips, urging you for entry. You surprised him by taking the upper hand and deepening the kiss yourself. He let out a sigh and walked you back against the wall of the elevator car. His hand slid down the front of your body, coming to a stop at your right breast. He teased and palmed the flesh while swallowing your sighs and moans with his mouth. His knee pushed between your legs, forcing the hem of your dress to ride up. You ground your body against his thigh, losing yourself to the passion and pleasure he was causing. For a time you forgot where you were. Victor's lips left a trail of kisses down your jaw. He nipped at your ear lobe and breathed in your ear. His breath was hot and heavy, mirroring your own.

The ding of the elevator coming to its destination brought your senses back. You gasped and pushed at Victor's shoulder, trying to shove the man off of you before all of your friends and family witnessed the events unfolding on your way up. Victor ignored your pleas, finding your nipple through the fabric of your dress and bra. You watched in horror as the door to the elevator began to part. Before the gap was large enough to see through, the door stopped.

"Did you forget who you were with, Dummy?" Victor chuckled, prying his body from yours.

"Jerk!" You responded with a pout.

You straightened out your dress, corrected your hair, and focused on evening out your breathing. Victor fixed the wrinkles in his own attire before taking your hand once again. He brought your hand to his lips and kissed your fingers with a playful look in his eyes. The night hadn't even started but you were ready for it to be over just so you could have a little more of his heat engulfing you.

As soon as you felt ready, Victor unfroze the scene. The door to the elevator resumed opening, revealing the dimly lit interior of the sky bar. Together, you and the CEO stepped out of the car and into the establishment. You surveyed the room, taking in as much as you could. In the center of the room was a 360 bar with two bartenders filling orders. The walls surrounding the place were completely glass, offering the perfect view over the cityscape. You glanced over your shoulder and groaned, noticing the back wall of the elevator was also glass. Victor noticed your movements and brought his lips close to your ear.

"Relax, we were much too high for anyone to be able to see us," he breathed, sending a shiver sensation down your spine, "or are you bothered by the fact I didn't fuck you in it while we had the chance?"

You rolled your shoulder, nudging him to quit it. Trying to ignore the satisfied smirk on his lips, you turned your attention back to the bar. The place probably had about a hundred or so guests in it. You spotted Allison, Ya Ying, and Patricia at one table, and Andrew and Xiao-niao at another with a bunch of your high school friends. Your father was in the back, sitting with a bunch of his employees. There were a few groups of businesspersons hovering around the bar; some of Victor's associates no doubt. He probably invited them because he always took whatever opportunity he could to build up LFG. Lastly, you saw your mother speaking to someone in a well-fitted suit. You couldn't see the person, but judging by their height, the way they held themself, and the streaks of grey throughout their hair, you figured they might have been a middle-aged businessman.

As you and Victor walked into the scene, your mother saw you and scurried over, calling your name. It was enough to gain everyone's attention. As all of the guests turned their eyes to you, you felt your face redden. You followed your mother's voice and waved at her to let her know you were on your way.

"Do you know the man my mom is talking to?" You asked Victor.

"Of course I do," Victor scoffed, "he's my father."

Your heart nearly jumped out of your chest. Victor never told you who was on the guest list, let alone his own father. You wanted to scold him for not warning you, but now wasn't an appropriate time, so you settled for a quick glare instead. Victor released your hand and moved his to your lower back, leading you to your mother and his father. As soon as you neared, the man turned around. There was no doubt in your mind that what Victor had told you was true. This man held the same powerful and dignified air around him. He didn't smile with his lips, but his eyes were alight with joy.

"This must be the young woman who has stolen my son's heart!" He exclaimed, taking your hand in his.

You blushed at his words and blushed even harder when he brought his lips to the back of your hand. Like father, like son. You found yourself unable to look away from him as Victor officially introduced you to him. His enigmatic aura pulled your attention to him, just as it had to Victor. Even your mother seemed enraptured by the man. After a short, polite conversation, he turned to his son.

"I must apologize but I can't stay long. I have a flight to catch. I hope you don't keep this beautiful woman all to yourself and you two come visit soon. Your Aunt Grace is going to adore her." His father said, winking at you with the last sentence.

The two men shook hands and Victor's father clasped his hand proudly on his son's shoulder. You could almost see Victor stand up taller as the smallest smile pulled at his lips. His father turned to you and took both of your hands in his.

"Take care of him, would you? He's too stubborn to ask for help when he needs it."

"I will." You promised with a smile.

You and Victor both turned and watched the older man walk away to the elevator without looking back. The CEO wrapped his arm around your waist and pulled you into him. Your meeting with his father was short, but he left you with the sense that he approved of you.

Over the next few hours, you wandered around the bar, having your attention pulled this way and that. Ya Ying only stayed for half an hour before she needed to get home to attend to her newborn. Patricia, who had an early meeting in the morning, decided to leave as well to drive the new mother home. Because of this, Allison hung on your arm the entire night. She hit it off really well with your old high school friends, almost taking all of the attention away from you. She cooed and howled when she found out about your history with Andrew and how your twice-over ex was now in a relationship with your roommate.

Victor spent most of the time talking with the men at the bar. At one point, you looked over and found him sitting with your parents. You watched your mother dry her eyes and your father shake Victor's hand. You were so curious, you excused yourself from your friends and skipped over to Victor after your parents walked away. When you asked what it was all about, Victor told you he's going to be investing in your father's business again and had given your mother an all-expense paid vacation for two to Tahiti like she always wanted.

By the end of the night, you were socially exhausted. Victor's business partners were the last to leave, keeping your boyfriend busy right until the end. It wasn't until the bartenders announced they were closing up, did everyone end up leaving. Victor walked up to the bar to handle the bill since he was paying for not just the space, but the entire bar tab as well. You didn't even want to know how much it cost.

After everything was all taken care of, Victor took you by the hand and led you over to the elevator. He pushed the call button as you leaned against him, stifling a yawn. Noticing your movements, he dropped his head to your ear and murmured.

"We have some unfinished business to attend to."

Confused by his words, you turned and gave him a puzzled look. He didn't say anything but the look in his eyes and the ding of the elevator reminded you. You squealed, being pulled into the car. Victor pushed the button for the bottom floor, then turned to you. He pressed you up against the back, glass wall of the elevator and kissed you bruisingly hard. You moaned into his mouth, wrapping your arms around his broad shoulders. While his tongue kept your mouth busy, his hands slipped down to the bottom of your dress. He pushed the fabric up over your hips, exposing your panties. Victor pulled back, breaking the kiss to examine the look on your face. His fingers teasingly rubbed over the front of your underwear, sending small jolts of pleasure through your system. He dropped his head to your neck, kissing and nipping at your sensitive neck. Through half-lidded eyes, you glanced over the man's shoulder at the red glowing floor numbers above the elevator. You gasped when the numbers blipped to a different one, indicating the elevator's descent.

"Victor… sto- ah!" You shuddered, feeling his teeth sink deeper into your flesh.

The man registered what you attempted to say and pulled his hand from between your legs. He looked up at your flushed features and cupped your cheek.

"We can resume when we get home." He whispered, placing a soft peck on your lips.

When he went to move away from you completely, you gripped the front of his jacket. Dumbfounded, Victor searched your eyes for any answer as to what you were contemplating. You ran one of your hands over the lapel, stroking the soft fabric lightly.

"What I was trying to say was 'stop the time'." You breathed, reaching up to tickle the back of his neck with your fingertips.

You looked back over at the red numbers and watched as they came to a stop. When your eyes met Victor's, they were alight with a fiery passion, reflecting your image back at you. With a smile on your lips, you pulled at the back of his neck. Victor complied with your motions and dipped his head, pressing his lips against yours. You hummed in satisfaction and parted your lips, allowing the man access once again. The CEO returned his hand between your legs, but this time slipped his fingers inside of the soft cotton fabric. He ran the pad of his middle finger over your clit a few times before sliding his hand in lower. Two of his fingers pushed in between your folds and into your entrance. Victor swallowed your moans and sighs, hooking his fingers to find your sweet spot. He moved slowly, taking his time to build up your pleasure.

You dropped your head back against the glass wall, gasping and whimpering. With his free hand, Victor scooped his arm around your arching back and pulled at the zipper of your dress. You felt it loosen around your chest and drop to your waist; your bra was the next thing to go. After shaking off the straps hanging onto your arms, you carded your fingers throughout his silky hair as he kissed your collar bones. His tongue darted from between his lips, leaving a trail of saliva down your left breast. He fondled your right breast with his free hand, teasing and pinching your nipple at the same time. You tugged at his hair and bucked your hips, moving closer to ecstasy.

Victor broke from your nipple with a string of saliva hanging from his lips. He met your heated gaze with a sultry look, sinking to his knees. Your breath hitched in your throat in anticipation of what was coming. The CEO pulled his fingers from your body eliciting a whine at the loss of contact. He slipped the digits into his mouth and hummed at the taste of your arousal. His stare never left yours as his tongue rolled between and around his fingers, cleansing every bit of your juices from them. You bit your bottom lip and brushed his hair from his forehead for a better view.

Once Victor was satisfied with how clean his fingers were, he gripped the crumpled fabric of your dress and yanked it the rest of the way off of your frame. He did the same with your saturated panties, tossing both articles of clothing over his shoulder and leaving you wearing only your thigh-high stockings and a pair of burgundy pumps. He shook off the jacket and waistcoat he wore, tore off the tie from around his neck then rolled up the sleeves of the dress shirt in preparation. The CEO lifted your left leg and draped it over his right arm, palming the top of your thigh with his hand. You inhaled sharply at the feeling of his hot, wet tongue, running along the inside of your thighs, lapping up whatever juice escaped from your body. Your body ached for release but the man ignored your pleas. He kissed the flesh of your legs and slid his left hand between them. He teased you with his fingertips, circling your entrance. Your legs shook with need and anticipation. The longer he went, denying even so much as a hint of pleasure, the more you dug your nails into his scalp. It wasn't until you begged him did he give in.

The second those words left your lips, Victor was on it full force. He pressed his fingers deep into you and began pumping them in and out. His lips wrapped around your clit, sucking the sensitive nub into his mouth where he flicked the tip of his tongue over it in quick succession. Going from his teasing touched to this sent your head into a spin. You cried out at the sudden pleasure and tugged hard at his raven hair, locked inside your fists. Victor groaned in response, sending vibrations through your core. Even through the bucking of your hips, the shaking of your legs, and the pulling of his hair, the CEO didn't relent until you were screaming in bliss as the orgasm took over your entire body.

You pressed your palms into the top of the handrail lining the elevator car to steady yourself. Your legs trembled as the man between your legs pulled away. The man released his grasp on your leg, lowering it to the floor slowly. Because of your unstable state, he jutted his knee out and pressed it between your thighs to hold you up.

"Open your mouth and stick out your tongue." He commanded.

In your postorgasmic haze, you blinked at him as he lifted his left arm into your view. You barely heard the words he said. Your head was buried in a fog as you grasped at your sanity, trying to bring back some conscious thought. You felt Victor grip your cheeks and squeeze until your lip pulled apart.

"Tongue. Now." He growled.

The tone of his voice brought you back to the present. You blinked a few more times, focusing your eyes on the view in front of you. Victor was still holding his arm up in front of your face. A streak of your juices ran from his fingers, over his palm, and all of the way down his forearm to his elbow. The words he said finally registered and you stuck out your tongue. With his right hand, he steadied your stance by holding onto your hip. You leaned forward and ran your tongue from his elbow up, cleaning away the remnants of your orgasm. Victor opened his hand, exposing his palm as you licked higher and higher. His fingers twitched when you flicked your tongue over the middle of his palm, lightly tickling the skin there. Feeling a little more steady now, you removed one hand from the bar you were holding onto and curled it around the back of Victor's hand. He praised your efforts when you brought his fingers inside of your mouth, sucking on them while staring into his eyes.

Once Victor was pleased with your work, he pulled his digits from your mouth and ran his fingers over your slick bottom lip. He trailed his hand to your jaw and pinched your chin, bringing his face to yours. The kisses were soft and sweet as the two of you shared the taste of your body. You felt the warmth of his hand dissipate from your face when he moved it away. A second later, you heard the familiar sound of his belt becoming undone. You placed your hands on his shoulders and tipped your head back to catch your breath when the man pulled away to focus on undoing his pants. Upon hearing the rustling of clothes, you looked down and watched him pull his erection free from the constricting dress pants. He lifted his head, tickling the tip of your nose with his hair. You met his eyes and smiled, nonverbally letting him know you were ready to continue. Just as before, Victor lifted your leg.

As soon as Victor felt he had a strong hold of your leg, he removed his knee that was holding you up. He lined the tip of his excitement up against your entrance and slowly raised his hips, pushing himself inside. He waited for a little bit, allowing your body the time it needed to adjust to his girth. When you were ready, he rested his forehead against yours and started rocking his hips slowly. You wrapped your arms tighter around his neck, feeling his other arm come down and wrap around the leg you stood on. Within an instant, you were in the air. His arms tensed and flexed, lifting and lowering you on him. You moaned and gasped, closing your eyes and losing yourself to the pleasure. Victor's breathing became labored, his dress shirt clung to his sweaty torso, and his face was flushed, but he was determined to continue. You leaned against him and rested your forehead on his. He breathed your name, sending excitement coursing through your veins. You squeezed your eyes shut, feeling the pleasure pooling in your stomach, sending wave after wave of pleasure through you until it exploded. You moaned his name, fisting the back of his shirt tightly. It wasn't the most intense orgasm you ever had, but it was intimate.

When you opened your eyes, you met Victor's beautiful grey eyes watching you. He lowered you to the floor and turned you around to face the city skyline. You gripped the handrail again bent over. Victor took you by the hips and eased his cock back and into you, the position offering a deeper penetration. You moaned as his hips slapped noisily against your backside. In the window, you could see the lights of the city, frozen in time. The reflection of you and Victor was the only thing moving. Your face was flushed, your hair was disheveled. Your breasts swayed back and forth with every thrust Victor made. You could even make out the lust in your eyes before you turned your attention to the man you loved. His brow was furrowed with concentration and his eyes were squeezed shut. With parted lips, he panted and groaned softly, enjoying the feeling of your body. When you moaned his name, his eyes opened, meeting yours in the glass. Victor moved his hands from your hips and placed them on top of yours on the handrail. He bent forward, nuzzling your ear with his nose. You turned and leaned your face into his embrace and closed your eyes, taking in his scent surrounding you.

When your legs began to shake and your moans increased in volume, the CEO moved his right hand to your lower abdomen and snaked his fingers lower. As he rubbed the pad of his finger over your clit, you cried out, feeling the overwhelming pleasure once again. Your toes curled in your shoes and your vision went white as you chanted his name in bliss. Victor pulled away, leaving himself unsatisfied at the very end. In your worn-out state, you crumbled to the floor and glanced up at him. He soon joined you, sitting back against the mirrored wall. His chest heaved with his gasping breath. You didn't think it was fair for him to please you so much, then ignore his own needs. Mustering up some strength, you crawled closer and took his cock in your hand. Any protests he might have had died in his throat when you wrapped your lips around the tip and began to bob your head. It didn't take long for the overstimulated man to finish, filling your mouth with his bitter, sticky seed in multiple short bursts. After swallowing it all down, you sat back on your heels and glanced at him. Victor wore a tired smile on his lips and his eyes shone with love and ecstasy. He cupped your cheek loosely and pulled your face to him, kissing your lips softly.

"Good girl, Princess." He whispered, running his fingers through your hair.

"You seem extra tired today." You murmured, snuggling into his chest.

It wasn't much of a surprise to you. Victor was an early riser, waking up before the sun most days for a run.

"Concentrating on not accidentally restarting time took a lot out of me." He admitted, running his hands through his damp hair. "I'm fine."

You shivered, feeling your body quickly cool. Victor noticed and stood up, making his way to the pile of clothes crumpled on the floor. He picked up your articles of clothing and handed them to you. You thought about what he said and it made you wonder how his power worked. From personal experience, you knew he hadn't paused time with you for this long before. When you asked him, he answered the best he could while the two of you dressed yourselves. He explained he was born with the ability and he never really put much thought into why he had it or how it actually worked. Victor learned using it took a toll on his body, but the more he used it, the stronger it became. He admitted he rarely used it. In fact, just in the last year, his power had increased so much he was able to do things he couldn't before. When you asked him to elaborate, he pursued his lips and focused on buttoning his waistcoat around his middle.

"Before I could stop time, but I wasn't able to freeze people who also possessed abilities, nor could I pick and choose what froze."

As much as he tried to explain everything, you found it difficult to completely follow along. There was a lot of information being thrown at you during this time, and your mind still hadn't fully recovered from the amazing sex either. Victor spun you around and grasped your dress, taking the initiative to zip it up for you. Before you could ask him if he ever froze you without you knowing about it, he changed the topic.

"Your shawl is missing. Did you leave it behind?" He asked.

You looked around the small, square car, searching for it. It was clear, it wasn't there. You turned to Victor with an apologetic look in your eyes.

"It's too late to go back up to get it, dummy." He sighed and wrapped his jacket over your shoulders.

You felt bad for losing something he bought for you, even if he didn't seem too bothered by it. He pulled you against his chest from behind and held you tightly. You looked up at the numbers on the elevator and watched as the world returned to its proper state. Victor cupped his hands over your ears to help prevent your mind from becoming overwhelmed with the sounds. You didn't need it all that much anymore. He had stopped time enough for you to become accustomed to it, but you welcomed his embrace. It showed you just how much he truly cared.

Back at home, you and Victor decided the best course of action would be to shower separately before bed. Both of you knew and understood that a shower together would likely result in delaying going to sleep even longer. It was already half-past two in the morning at that point.

You showered quickly, mostly rinsing off the sweat that accumulated on your skin in the elevator. You washed the makeup off your face and brushed your teeth, ready to get to bed as soon as possible. Since you had used the facilities in the bathroom that was once your private room, you collected the items up and carried them off to the room you stayed in now.

Upon entering, you glanced around, finding the bed still untouched. You didn't hear any noise coming from the bathroom, but you assumed he was still in there. You wanted to drop off your bag of toiletries, so you tapped on the bathroom door. When no response came, you popped your head in.

"Victor?" You called into the dark, empty bathroom.

"I'm out here." His voice rang, slightly muffled, from outside.

You dropped the case of items you carried on the counter and turned around. Following the direction where his voice came from, you skipped across the spacious room to the balcony. You peeked through the glass and found the man standing against the railing, looking over his yard with a mug in his hand. The plush black housecoat was tied tightly around his waist, accentuating his perfect ass. You pulled your own housecoat, a light pink one, tighter over your chest, and joined the man.

"What are you doing out here?" You asked, poking your head out of the sliding glass door.

Victor didn't reply. He didn't even turn to look at you. Instead, he lifted his hand and motioned for you to come join him. It almost reminded you of the time you found him on the roof of LFG with the way the chilled wind blew. You stepped out onto the balcony and closed the door behind you then walked up to the man. He set down his mug onto the railing and turned to another mug and thermos resting nearby. You watched him open the thermos and pour something into the second mug before handing it to you. You brought the cup to your face and inhaled, recognizing the scent of chocolate. Victor's homemade hot chocolate had become something of a favorite of yours.

"I just brushed my teeth." You sighed, staring down at the steaming liquid.

Victor rolled his eyes as you brought the beverage to your lips and blew over the contents. You sighed, tasting the rich chocolate flood into your mouth and down your throat. In an instant, you felt warmer than ever. You looked up at the man at your side and noted the bags under his eyes. Given the time, you probably looked about the same.

"We should really get to bed. The sun will be up in a few hours." You hummed, enjoying another sip of your drink.

"That's alright, it's eight at night in France right now." He replied.

You inspected his features, trying to understand what that had to do with the time where you stood. As if he sensed your confusion, he turned to face you and wrapped his arm around your shoulder. You leaned into his warmth and nuzzled the fluffy fabric of his housecoat. You asked him what he meant by his words and he answered with:

"Because that's where we are going tomorrow."

You gasped and looked up at him. Over the last few months, he helped you get your passport so you could join him on some of his business travels in the future, but you didn't expect to be using it so soon. You didn't even know it had arrived in the mail already. He smiled down at you and squeezed your hip gently.

"Do you have business in France?" You asked, keeping your eyes trained on his.

"No, we're going to celebrate our engagement. Provided you say yes."

Your eyes widened in shock and your mouth dropped open. The two of you hadn't even begun to discuss getting married, so you assumed he wanted to wait a little bit longer.

Victor released you from his grasp and stuck his hand into the pocket of his housecoat. You covered your mouth, still shocked by everything that was happening. Things were slowly beginning to fall into place for you. The reason why he held the party tonight. Why his father was there and seemly approved of you at the first meeting. Why your mother was in tears and your father was vigorously shaking his hand. He had constructed this elaborate plan to get both of your parents and his father's consent for the two of you to marry.

Tears slipped down your cheeks as Victor pulled a solid white ring box from his pocket. He opened it with a snap and revealed the ring sitting perfectly inside. It was a white gold band with a five-carat heart-shaped diamond ring in the center. On either side of the diamond was an infinity symbol lined with smaller diamonds and onyx gems. He placed his drink on the railing then did the same with yours before prying the ring from the box. After tucking the box away in his pocket, he took your left hand in his. You took a deep calming breath as he stared into your eyes and spoke your name.

"Will you enter into a legally binding, lifelong contract with me and do me the honor of calling you my wife?"

You nodded excitedly and chanted your confirmation. Your hands shook as Victor slipped the engagement ring onto your ring finger. Before you even had the chance to admire it, the CEO lifted you into his arms and pressed his lips firmly to yours. You fell into his kisses and didn't even protest when he carried you back into the room and laid you on the bed. Neither of you cared about the items left out on the balcony. All that you craved was the man you had wrapped in your arms.

Even though it was so late and the two of you were exhausted, you had no qualms about him taking you over and over again that night.

The following day, you woke up and stretched your sore body. You sat up and looked over your body, noticing the ravishing marks he left all over you. Glancing over at the man sleeping next to you, a smile tugged at your lips. You stared at his handsome face, watching his eyelashes quiver while he slept. His lips were slightly party and he breathed deeply through his mouth. You smiled and gently smoothed down the strands of his hair that was sticking up awkwardly. You could tell he was dreaming and you hoped he was dreaming of you.

The events of the previous night replayed in your mind, making the smile on your face increase. Through all the hard times you experienced growing up, you never once thought you'd ever find yourself waking up in the bed of a very sexy, multi-billionaire. You definitely didn't think you'd ever be wearing a piece of jewelry that signified all of the love he felt for you.

The ring on your hand caught the light of the sun streaming in through the open window, drawing your attention away from Victor. You looked down at it and smiled and grabbed your phone. After smoothing out the blanket in front of you, you placed your left hand on it and opened your camera app. You fiddled with the settings just a bit before snapping a picture of the ring on your finger. Making sure the picture was perfect, you inspected it closely then uploaded it onto your official Moments page with the caption: "This time it's for real."