Picture Perfect 8

Chapter 8

“I’m the manager in this hotel.” He sneered at her, his face turned into a hateful mass of lines that froze her in place. “You can scream, but there’s nothing they’re going to do for you, Vicky.”

“I suggest you do as the lady asks,” Eric said making Victoria glance up to find him standing a few feet away. “I don’t care who you are. If you don’t let go of her, I’m going to break your fingers.”

“This is none of your business,” Ronald said still holding on to her arm. “Why don’t you walk away?”

Afraid the scene would escalate, Victoria stepped into Ronald’s personal space. Surprised by her abrupt move, shoesRonald didn’t get time to react when she stabbed the tip of her right heel into his toes. She used all the force she could master, digging her heel into the expensive leather.

He howled and let go of her arm. She jumped away from him and Eric tugged her out of Ronald’s reach. She was pleasantly surprised when Eric used his own body to shield her in case Ronald retaliated. Eric took her right arm and studied her skin searching for bruises.

“Are you okay?” Eric asked meeting her gaze with concerned eyes.

“I’m fine,” she said giving him a small smile. “I’m not sure Ronald is though.”

“You did good,” he said stroking his thumb over her arm. “Just stay here for a moment, okay?”

She nodded and he smiled. “Good.”

Eric turned to Ronald and in a split second, he had Ronald pressed against the wall. She gasped as Eric tugged Ronald’s tie, tying it around his fist and pulling it until it was choking Ronald.

“I hate men who treat women like you do,” Eric said with disgust. “You listen to me, if Victoria ever complains about you again, even if it’s because of a paper cut, I’m going to find you and you won’t like what happens. Do you understand?”

Ronald choked and nodded his head.

“I didn’t hear you,” Eric hissed in anger.

“I u-understand,” Ronald managed.

Eric tightened his hold on the tie for a second then let go. Ronald collapsed against the wall gulping in air with deep heaves, as he tugged at his tie to release his neck.

“You-, get out of this hotel-, you-”

“Remember what I said,” Eric warned, pointing a finger at him. He turned away from a wheezing Ronald and smiled at her. “Come on, Victoria. I’ll get you home.”

She allowed Eric to lead her away from the alcove and they headed to the stairs. She was conscious of Eric’s hand on her left elbow as they went down the stairs. Once they got to the lobby, she stopped and turned to him.

“I’m fine now,” she said pointing in the direction of the ballroom. “You should go back.”

“Will you stop chasing me away,” Eric said glaring at her. “I just choked a guy for you.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that,” she said glaring at him. “You did that all on your own. Thank you for helping me. Now, go back to the wedding party.”

“I don’t want to be at the wedding party,” Eric said with a stubborn tone. He took her elbow and led her toward the front door. “I promised Olive I’d get you home. That’s what I’m going to do, even if I have to carry you to the car. Cooperate, Victoria.”

She chuckled as the front doors slid open and they stepped out into the cool night air. When they got to his black Jeep, he opened the passenger door for her and waited until she settled to close the door.

When he slid into the driver’s seat, she asked, “Why did you follow me?”

“You’re my date,” he said, starting the car. “How could I let some weird guy steal you away without a fight?”

She smiled at him. “You didn’t have to follow me, you know.”

Eric spared her a glance before he asked. “Is that guy the reason you were crying that day we bumped into each other?”

Her smile faded away as fast as it had come. Remembering that day, all the reasons why she now hated Ronald Mutoko returned and she was suddenly glad that Eric had threatened him. She looked out the window at the city lights, and the vehicles passing them.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she murmured.

“He hurt you,” Eric said quietly. “It matters.”

“Not if I don’t want it to matter,” she replied firmly. “I don’t want to dwell on that guy anymore. You have no idea what it has been like since I found out what he did. I don’t want to think about him.”

“Fine,” Eric said.

When she turned to look at him, he looked away.

“I won’t ask again, as long as you admit something,” he said.

“What?”

“You thought I was pretty cool back there.”

She scoffed. “Please, I had already rescued myself. You were just trying to be macho man.”

“Come on, I was the warrior with his spear defending his woman. You were impressed.”

“Warrior with his spear?” Victoria laughed. “What do you think this is? A movie?”

10000BC“Hello, I’m sure my grandfather was the clan chief in the past. I’d have been the one leading battles against the wild animals in the village. I won the fight today, so that means you’re my reward. Haven’t you watched 10,000 B.C.?”

“You really are insane,” Victoria said with amusement. “I’m not a thing to be won.”

“No, you’re not,” Eric said quietly as he sped up the hill on Valley Road. “I’m hoping you won’t have trouble with that Ronald. I need you to promise that you’ll call me if you do, Victoria.”

She dropped her gaze. “He won’t bother with me anymore.”

“Promise anyway,” Eric insisted as he joined Argwings Kodhek road. “It will make me feel better.”

“Fine, I promise,” she said, welcoming the warmth that flooded her at the thought of having someone other than her big brother to call on for help. She concentrated on giving him directions to her apartment building, which was off Argwings Kodhek in Hurlingham. When he found her residential street and turned on to it, he slowed down.

“This is very close to the shopping center. Maybe you can come visit my studio tomorrow.”

“It’s Sunday,” she said with a sigh. “My brother is picking me up. We’re going to visit our parents in Kinoo.”

“Are you going to be there all day?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “Things just end up going nuts on days like tomorrow. It will depend with what’s happening.”

“Oh,” Eric said in disappointment. He stopped the car before the black gates outside her apartment building. “So, when will I see you again?”

She looked at him. “Do you want to see me again?”

“Give me your phone,” he said holding out his hand.

She got the phone from her purse and handed it over. She watched him type in his number and save it. He called his number and handed her phone back when his rang.

“Come see my studio on Monday,” he said when she put her phone away.

“After work,” he said when she started to protest.

“I might work late,” she said with a frown.

“Come on, make time” he cajoled. “I’ll even feed you.”

She reached for the door handle. “I’ll think about it.”

“Just think about it?” he asked when she opened the door.

“A lot, I’ll think about it a lot,” she said with a small grin.

When she started to get out, he placed a hand on her right hand to stop her.

“Victoria,” he said.

She turned to look at him and he smiled. “Thank you for being my date today.”

Before she could answer, he leaned over and pressed a kiss on her cheek.

“Sleep well,” he murmured.

“Good night,” she managed and slid out of the car.

She closed the passenger door, waved at him and waited for him to drive away. He didn’t.

“Go on in,” he said leaning out the window.

She frowned but did as he asked. Greeting the guard on the other side, she closed the gate and grinned when she heard Eric honk once and drive off.

****

To be continued……Thank you for reading, “_”

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Picture Perfect 7

Picture Perfect 7

“What’s wrong with your car?” Eric asked when he settled in his seat.

“I don’t know,” Victoria said with a shrug. “My brother towed it to a garage a few days ago. I’m hoping he no cargets it back to me soon. I miss the freedom of my car.”

She sipped her drink and stared into the glass in silence.

He cleared his throat and asked, “What did I do earlier?”

She lifted her head to look at him.

“What do you mean?”

“When we were in Upper hill this afternoon,” he said quietly. “We were talking nicely; you were having a good time. When I finished taking Beth’s photos and came to find you at the gazebo, you changed. What did I say?”

“Nothing,” she said her gaze sliding away from him. “It was foolish.”

“Your feelings aren’t foolish, Victoria.” He touched her shoulder, marveling at how soft her skin was.  “Please just tell me.”

She closed her eyes. “Why?”

“Because, I want to know,” Eric said.

She met his gaze again. “I saw you with her. How she made you smile, you light up when you’re around her.”

“Victoria,” he started shocked by how deeply she saw inside him.

“You must love her very much,” she said quietly. “How can you stand it?”

He dropped his hand away from her shoulder and reached for his beer. Taking a healthy sip, he shrugged.

“I stayed away. It was easier.”

“Hence the dangerous excursions to all kinds of places,” Victoria said studying him. “Did it help?”

“Yes,” he said with a small smile, “until I came back for the wedding. I’m glad you went to the church, you distracted me and the day has ended without me noticing.”

“What about the rest of your life?” Victoria asked. “Are you going to avoid them?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

He’d thought about immersing himself in work again, taking on more out-of-town assignments. Now–

He glanced at Victoria…maybe she could be the distraction he needed.

“What?” she asked.

I like you“Nothing,” He smiled and leaned on the counter to study her. “You’re very beautiful. I don’t know if I’ve told you that.”

Victoria laughed and pushed her drink away.

“No, you’re not going to use me as a distraction.”

“I’m just giving you a compliment,” Eric said, noting the small laugh lines that appeared at the corner of her lips. “I’m stating a fact here.”

“You’re not flirting?” she asked giving him a skeptical look.

“No,” he shook his head even though he didn’t quite manage to hide his grin.

She punched his left arm lightly.

“You can’t even lie with a straight face.”

“You’re the one who wants me to lie. I’m happy telling you the truth.”

“Let’s discuss something else,” she said shifting in her seat to look at him.

Dark hair fell over her right eye and he reached out to push it back. She sat still as he stroked a finger over funher soft brown cheek. When he dropped his hand away, she met his gaze. He read fear, and uncertainty. She looked like she wanted to bolt for the doors, but wouldn’t.

“Vicky,” a gruff voice interrupted the moment and he turned to find a tall man standing a few feet away in an impeccable suit. He was looking at Victoria expectantly and giving Eric an irritated glance. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Eric turned to find Victoria staring at the man with a mutinous gaze. He started to send the unwelcome man away, but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Give me a second, Ronald,” she said with a cold tone. She slipped off her chair and turned to him. “Eric, I can get myself home.”

“No way,” he protested taking her hand. “I promised Olive.”

“There is no need to drag you away from the party going on downstairs. Beth and Taylor’s families need you there. Please, don’t worry about me. I’ll take a taxi home. I had a very good time today. Thank you,” she said leaning to press a chaste kiss on his jaw. “Let’s meet again.”

She let go of his hand and turned to the man standing a few feet away. Roland or Donald, whatever his name was, slipped an arm around her shoulders and he felt an ugly surge of jealousy sweep through him.
Who was this guy holding on to her like he owned her? It didn’t help when the bastard turned and gave him a smirk. Reaching for his beer, Eric took a healthy sip and wondered if he could get away with punching the smug bastard. He sighed and turned away to keep from running after Victoria.

****

“Who is that guy?” Ronald Mutoko asked Victoria when they were in a private alcove around the corner from the Tropical Isle bar. “Why was he touching you?”

Victoria folded her arms against her chest and studied him. She’d found his impeccable taste in suits attractive once. Now, the tailored garb seemed too much like a costume Ronald was using to hide his rotten nature.

“What does it matter?” she asked meeting his dark gaze. “Why should it matter to you who touches me?”

Ronald’s forehead creased.

“Vicky, why are you acting like this? If it’s about that new concierge, you don’t have to worry about her. I’ll fire her and you’ll never have to see her again.”

“She’s not my worry, Ronald.” How had she never seen this horrible side of Ronald? “And leave that poor girl’s job alone. You’re the one in the wrong here. I trusted you and instead you,” she broke off and looked away from him. “You turned me into an idiot. That’s never going to happen again.”

“What if I apologize?” he asked touching her arm.

She shrugged his hand away. “You can apologize. It won’t mend us.”

“Vicky-,” Ronald said quietly.

“How many have there been?” she asked abruptly. “These past two years, while I blindly trusted you, thinking we were building a relationship, how many women have there been?”

He took a step back and shook his head. “You can’t ask me a question like that.”

“Why not?” Victoria asked her voice rising unintentionally.  Jeez, he was such a bastard.  “You felt you have the right to ask about the guy I was just having a drink with. Why shouldn’t I ask you about the women you’ve slept with behind my back?”

“Don’t talk so loudly.” Ronald looked around the hallway, making sure no one was around.

She was disappointed there wasn’t anyone in sight.  Not because she liked drama, but she wished others would see this Ronald.  This sleazy, unscrupulous side of him.  God, she was getting bitter.

“I already apologized,” he said returning his gaze to her. “Let it go, and let’s start over. I promise I will never do it again, Vicky.”

let goGoodness did she have stupid stamped on her forehead? She scoffed and stepped away from him.

“I hope your next girlfriend believes you. We’re over, Ronald. We’re going to keep up a professional relationship, that’s it. If you have any questions about the hotel sales, I’ll be happy to answer them. On a personal note, you’re nothing to me.”

“You can’t do this,” Ronald said glaring at her.

“Yes I can,” she said narrowing her gaze. “I should have done it a long time ago, but I’ve been too scared of the future to face the truth. Thank you for opening my eyes.”

“Vicky,” he grabbed her upper arm tightly when she turned to leave. “You have no right to do this.”

“Let go of my arm, Ronald.” His fingers were digging into her skin and it hurt.

“Who do you think you are to judge me?”  His fingers tightened around her arm. “Aren’t you also just as vulgar? Look at you, slathering on red lipstick, dressing in a provocative dress, and having drinks with strangers. Weren’t you asking for attention from that guy I just dragged you away from?”

“Let go of me, Ronald.”

She winced when he tightened his hold and tugged her closer to him. His cologne made her want to gag. It was unbelievable as she’d once found it enticing.

“You still want me.” His leering tone made her skin crawl. “You want it, you’re just angry with me for choosing another woman. So you’re trying to make me jealous by going after strangers.”

“I’m not even going to address that comment. Let me go before I start screaming.”

“I’m the manager in this hotel.” He sneered at her, his face turned into a hateful mass of lines that froze her in place. “You can scream, but there’s nothing they’re going to do for you, Vicky…”

****

To be continued… Thank you for reading >_<

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6