Eve felt her stomach expand.
The strings around her torso did not help. She devoured the food like her life depended on it. Not only did every bite go to her stomach but they also went to her heart. Stitz Bristo now owned her foodie soul.
No wonder Andie bought their book.
No wonder Ambryan loved this place.
She also fell into its spell, not regretting anything.
"I take it the food is to your liking?" Ambryan asked. He brewed another cup of tea, already finished with his course meal. His posture relaxed on his seat as he sipped his tea.
Eve cut a piece of the chocolate cupcake. She made sure to get a bit of its purple icing. She loved how it was the right amount of sweetness. From her guess, it had some white chocolate and a bit of cream cheese.
"Mr. Hathaway, do you not have any conditions of your own?" She suddenly asked, remembering how he never answered. She chewed faster and swallowed the cupcake. "I doubt that you opened the topic without having any in mind."
Ambryan kept his gaze on the teacup. "Mine focuses on after the 9 months end."
"Is that so?"
It seemed reasonable. Now that he mentioned it, Eve realized its importance. Would they never talk again? She had to let Evangeline go at some point. Her double identity couldn't last forever, especially around Ambryan.
Others may think that Evangeline Reed was only a stage name. But, it could backfire someday.
Eve put down the fork. She drank some water to wash down the chocolate in her throat. "What do you have in mind?"
She gave him her full attention, trying to focus. This was important. She felt glad that he took the initiative. They wouldn't need to worry about it when the time comes. She just assumed it would be the same as his previous breakups.
Hopefully, not with her breaking up with Evangeline.
It wouldn't even make sense after her demands.
She thanked her wits for thinking of them. She would worry less now about clashing with her other identity and job. It solved many future problems. She gave herself a mental pat on the back.
Ambryan leaned on the table. His violet met hers. They shined just like her crimson hair. The sunlight from the window illuminated them, making them stand out from her fair skin. The cat-eye liner added a sultry effect to the round shape.
"We'll part ways, of course." He declared, not questioned.
Eve nodded her head once. "Of course."
Ambryan stirred the tea with only his wrist. His gaze scrutinized her face. She stared back with an unshakeable determination. He really found nothing. No hint of a hidden intention or motive.
Instead of being frustrated, he felt content—which encouraged him to say his next words.
"My offer of doubling my mother's bargain still stands."
"Wait, what?" Eve gasped, scowling. Her blood simmered in her veins as she glowered at him. Her voice came out through gritted teeth. "For what reason would you give me that money? To never contact you after?"
'Why is this brought up again?' She asked herself. Wasn't her opinion earlier clear? Or was it for another situation? It had been a week since that conversation. Her assumption for the deal was to quit the site.
So it turned out to be this one instead?
"It's for cooperating with me in a fake relationship," Ambryan explained. He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You do understand that it's fake and no one could know about it?"
"That's a given." Eve didn't expect anything less. Even without a formal discussion, she knew he'd only play along. That was what they talked about briefly.
"Anyway, I'd be asking you to lie to my mom. It would be the least that I could do."
Eve froze in her seat. Now, she just stumbled in a web of lies, hadn't she? Would this lie cancel out her previous one? Probably not. She could still suddenly lose her job since it collided with the rules.
She had no means of escape.
Avery should have predicted this, right?
"You do know I have an agreement with your mother?" Eve reminded Ambryan. The main point was for them to date. What kind of situations would be thrown at them that they'd need another formal contract?
"I am aware." He nodded.
"Then, there's no need for this. I am here to do my side of the bargain. I gave her my word so I'll be doing my best," Eve repeated the same statement with Avery. Just how specific did things have to be?
Ambryan hardened his gaze. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Alright." He sighed, grabbing his cup of tea. "But negotiations are open in the future."
"Of course, depending on unforeseen circumstances." Eve agreed. They didn't know what these 9 months had in store. For now, they should focus on becoming comfortable with one another. Heavens knew that she was still trying to grasp the concept.
"So, when will we leave?"
Eve gaped at the infrastructure. "Parthenos Mall?"
It had the size of roughly 140, 000 square meters, resembling buildings from Ancient Greek. From the outside, she estimated that it had three floors. Revolving doors covered the entrance. The white paint seemed new.
It reminded her of a museum.
"Have you never been to one?" Ambryan asked beside her. His eyes stared straight ahead. "I think this one opened around this year."
"I must have missed the news…" Eve mumbled. Her neighborhood was close to a local mall. She and Andie mostly did their shopping in it. If she wasn't mistaken, Parthenos Mall was internationally known, branching out to several countries.
Whoever owned the mall chain must be really rich.
Ambryan walked ahead, entering the premises.
Eve followed his lead. She wondered what they'd do in a mall. Of all places for a date, why a mall? They already ate too. The doors led them to the center sect. It was a wide section of the mall. The stalls contained many famous brands.
The two walked side by side.
Ambryan stepped with purpose. His gaze trained on his goal. Everything else faded away from his attention. Heads turned in his direction. His imposing presence drew them in, curious about his identity. A few workers wondered if he was part of the top management.
Eve twisted a lot as she tried to catch a glimpse of everything. The cleanliness and hygiene impressed her. Unaware of her own inviting aura, the people followed her with their eyes. They found her approachable compared to her companion—despite how beautiful she was.
Stepping through glass doors, Eve noted how the store looked bigger on the inside. It had a theme of cream and mustard colors, varying in shades. Bright lights peeked from carved rectangular holes on the ceiling. Smaller ones littered around their products' shelf corners.
In the middle, a cash register sat on a counter. The surface had a glass display that showcased accessory items such as wallets. Behind it, shelves of newly released bags towered to the ceiling.
It had two hallways on either side, leading to more shelves and display counters behind.
Eve glanced over her shoulder. She missed the front sign. Her lips muttered out a curse. She needed to stop looking at everything.
"Good afternoon, how may I help you?" A shop worker approached them. She wore a matching black blazer and pencil skirt, brown hair cropped short. Her black eyes peeked through rounded square frames.
'Louisse Tonvui' was embroidered on her breast pocket.
Eve's blood drained off her face. She heard this name before.
Ambryan stepped forward and said, "We'd like to browse your private collection."
"Do you have a membership card?"
He took out his wallet and showed her a sleek black credit card with gold detailing around the edges. Nothing about it screamed wealth at first glance. Only a small symbol of an eagle indicated significance.
It was more than enough to grant permission.
The shop worker bowed her head, turning on her heel. "Please step this way."
Eve trailed behind Ambryan and the sales representative. An ominous feeling clouded over her head. They passed by the shelves behind the main counter. A narrow doorway led them to a smaller room. It had carpeted flooring and lesser items. A round sofa chair stood at the center.
Ambryan and the worker remained on their feet. The latter gestured to the east wall which had bags in various designs and sizes. "This is our latest collection. It will be out next month and is only open to VIP customers. If sold out, there won't be any production for more stock."
She grabbed a tote bag. The pattern contained the brand's logo. Her hands unzipped it and showed the interior. It looked, felt and sounded sturdy. No one could deny the high quality leather and gold zipper.
"What do you think?" Ambryan asked, shifting his attention towards Eve.
"They're… lovely?" Eve choked. What was she supposed to say about a luxury bag? She had zero knowledge on how to assess its value. As long as it was durable and could last for years, she'd consider it as high quality.
Ambryan paused for a second, observing her expression. Silence surrounded the room as both women waited for his comment.
When Eve opened her mouth to ask, he turned away. She swallowed back her words.
"Please pack them up. We'll take them all," Ambryan instructed the sales representative. He stepped back immediately to let her do the work.
"Yes, sir. Right away."
"Wait, wait, wait…" Eve protested. She approached the two with her hands raised. Her body angled towards Ambryan. "What do you mean by that? I thought we were going on a date?"
Ambryan frowned at her. "We are."
"So, this is your idea of dating?"
"What idea would that be?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Ambryan narrowed his gaze. "Do couples not go shopping for dates?"
Eve exchanged looks with the sales representative. The latter merely shrugged. She was just here to do her job. Whatever the pair decided on or argued about, she would stay out of it.
"They do but—" Eve groped the corners of her mind, searching for a good way to explain. "Ugh, let me ask you. Are you enjoying yourself right now?"
"I don't see why that is relevant."
She snorted under her breath. That answer shouldn't have been a surprise. "Well, one of us has to be."
Ambryan tilted his head to one side. Even now, he continued to study her. "You're not satisfied?"
"No!" Eve exasperated, closing her eyes. A groan rumbled in her throat. She huffed and stared straight into his eyes. "Look, people have different tastes, including the couples. The important thing to note is that it should be something for them to enjoy."
Anyone want to share their ideal dating activity? :)
If we reach Top 10 NEW Ranking by Sept 06, we'd also have double chapter release on Sept 07-Sept 11 for all the hard work. :D
Have a good day!
Other ongoing work: Trust and Believe in Love