When we arrived at the super insanely expensive restaurant, Rome went the stretch and opened my door for me, telling the valet to be excused. I smiled and blushed at him like a lady, prepared to act like one, too. This was important for our company… for Rome.
“My my, Miss. Corbin. You look exquisite.” Mr. Johnson said. He looked old and kind, and I was immediately grateful that I made Rome promise to save his employees. He was the kind of man who cared.
“As do you, Mr. Johnson.” I smiled sweetly and let him kiss my knuckles. Our table was set for five. Rome, myself, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Johnson, and their son. Who, by the way, was staring at me with that look in his eyes. Like I was something to eat.
“Nice to see you, Miss. Corbin.” Mrs. Johnson said, looking disheveled. I mean, she looked gorgeous, but plain worn out. This company was taking too much out of them, and I was glad we could take it off their hands.
“You look wonderful, ma’am.” I gave her a half pleasant, half sympathetic smile.
“You’re stunning, Julie.” The Johnson’s son said, a grin forming on his face. I racked my brain for his name, remembering it was Kenneth. I tried not to show my repulsion at his using my first name. I mean, could he not see we were all strictly on last name basis?
“Nice to see you too, sir.” The sweet smile I gave him was forced. I mean, Kenneth wasn’t ugly. He was kind of attractive, actually. But his actions resembled a dog too much for me to think anything highly of him. Everyone gave their greetings to Rome as we sat down, and I couldn’t help but notice how much more unfriendly Kenneth’s greeting was to him than me.
“Now let’s get to business.” Mr. Johnson said after we ordered. “We can’t handle the company, and you’ll buy it from us for more than it’s worth?” Rome opened his mouth to answer, but Mr. Johnson was looking at me, so I cut him off.
“We believe your company can become something again. And it’s completely okay that you don’t, because we never really know how it’s going to turn out. We could go completely bankrupt, and then we’d be in the positions you are now.” I was lying, because I knew for a fact my plan would work. I just wish the Johnsons would think about it. I really didn’t want to take away their company, but it was my job.
“Here’s the deal…” Mr. Johnson said, looking between me and Rome. “We’ll sell as long as you keep all the employees.” I smiled, leaning back a little in my chair.
“Julie here is way ahead of you. She made me promise that if we got your company, we’d keep every single employee.” Rome stated. Mr. Johnson smiled at me so much like a father, tears formed in my eyes.
“Thank you so much, honey.” I smiled and nodded at him, struggling to hold back my tears.
I let Rome handle the rest of the details while I tried to concentrate on anything but how Kenneth was staring at me. I vaguely listened to the deals Rome was making, being sure that he wasn’t doing anything depraved.
“Now, shall we dance?” Mr. Johnson seemed relived and sad that his company was officially in the hands of Madden&Corbin Company. The papers were signed, dinner was in our stomachs, and there was a content feeling around the table. Everyone seemed to get what they wanted. Except for Kenneth.
“Do you want to dance?” I swallowed hard, looking over to Rome to find that he was glaring at Kenneth. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were already slow dancing on the dance floor, taking softly and smiling.
“I’m sorry, Rome’s already asked.” I gave him a rather snooty grin before grabbing Rome’s hand and dragging him to the dance floor. “What a dog.” I muttered as Rome pulled me close.
“I don’t like him.” Rome’s voice was hard, and his grip on my waist was tighter than when we danced earlier. “The way he looked at you… and to know you’re engaged to the man sitting right beside you!” Rome seemed utterly appalled.
“Yeah… he’s repulsive.” I paused, leaning my head on his shoulder. “But at least we got what we came here for.” The song that was playing was slow and sweet. A perfect mood setter. But of course, Rome wasn’t the hero in romance novels. Rome was Rome, and he did what he wanted, which obviously wasn’t to kiss me.
“I don’t want you to dance with him.” This surprised me. It could have been because Rome was protective or jealous, and both made me sizzle in satisfaction. It was one step closer for him to kiss me.
“I don’t want to dance with him, either. But if he asks, I can’t exactly say no.” I pointed out, fingering the soft material of Rome’s suit jacket.
“You can’t?” He sounded like a hopeless little boy, and I laughed.
“No. I can’t.” I was amused at his cute behavior, and snuggled a little closer to him. What did I have to do to get Rome to lay one on me? Undress and act like an exotic dancer? I didn’t see that happening anytime in the near future.
“Have I told you you look gorgeous tonight?” He murmured into my hair. I smiled, breathing in the scent of his cologne.
“Maybe once or twice…” I whispered, wondering if this was the moment he would sweep me off my feet in a enchanted kiss.
“What about beautiful? Dazzling? Striking? Lovely?” I chuckled softly, suddenly aware of everywhere our bodies were touching. His soft hand enveloped mine, our torsos were pressed against each other, his hand was warm around my waist, and my hand was rested on his strong upper arm. “But don’t think this dress makes you pretty. You’ve always been pretty. You’re a great person, and in the business world, that sometimes isn’t good.” My mind was churning, trying to figure out if he was saying I was pretty, or on the inside I was pretty.
“It depends on who you are. You, for example, think it’s a bad thing because I want to save thousands of people lives by keeping them employed. I, on the other hand, think it’s a wonderful thing.” I heard Rome laugh, and I felt abruptly like an adult. That usually happened when I was with Rome.
Theoretically, I’ve always been an adult. I’ve never really had the chance to be a kid. I never really was regretful of that, but it crossed my mind often. What was it like to go to the playground with your parents holding your hand? Run to your mother when you started your period? Sit in your daddies lap as he read you to sleep? Go to a public school? Kiss a boy in the rain?
“Julie?” Rome paused, seeming to think. “If you had the choice, would you marry me?” I was confused by his question.
“Rome, I do have a choice. And I’m marrying you.” The words seemed out of place in my mouth. Rome and I rarely talked about our marriage.
“No, I mean, like… if you met me on the street, and our parents didn’t know each other and we’d never met, would you give me a chance? Or would you think I’m a bad person?” I bit my lip, taking my head off Rome’s chest.
“Rome, you really are a good person. Just because you care about the business doesn’t mean you don’t care about other things. I mean, sure, you’d let a bunch of people loose their jobs, but I’m working on you. And I would give you a chance.” Rome stared down at me, searching my eyes for doubt, and sighed when he found none.
“I really don’t deserve you. It was sheer luck that my parents were best friends with people who happened to have a beautiful, wonderful, achingly nice daughter.” I blushed, a smile sneaking up on me.
Everything seemed to grow one thousand degrees hotter and go in slow motion, that cliché moment finally happening. Rome leaned down, his lips coming towards mine. Hallelujah choruses echoed in my mind as I closed my eyes and puckered my lips towards him.
“May I cut in?” Hallelujah chorus was cut off abruptly like an old record, and I snapped my eyes opened just as Rome pulled away. Kenneth did not just ruin my chance at a first kiss.
My eyes shot over to Kenneth, silently throwing daggers at him. I wanted to decapitate him. Rip off his toe nails. Stab him repeatedly. Anything to make him die slowly and painfully.
“Not only will you be cutting in, but interrupting something.” My voice was surprisingly icy. I would show no mercy on him now. Forget being a lady. Kenneth’s eyebrows raised.
“Is that a no?”
Rome groaned agitatedly. He pulled away, gesturing angrily towards me as an invitation for Kenneth to dance.
Kenneth grinned, pulling me close. This time, when I realized everywhere he was touching me, it was all cold and gross. Not to mention his hands on my waist were pretty low. Too low.
“I couldn’t help but notice you and Mr. Madden.” Couldn’t help but notice? More like he was staring at us the whole time. I didn’t respond, afraid I’d say and do something I’d regret. “You seem to be close to him.”
“Yes. We’re business partners.” My voice was low and hard. I was angry. Very angry.
“Well I don’t like it. He doesn’t seem like your type.” My type? What did he know about my type?
“What makes you think you know about my type?” I scooted away from him, trying to get some distance between our bodies.
“Because I know myself.” Eww… was he saying…? “I’m your type.” Before I could comprehend him, his lips were swooping down towards mine. I had a few nanoseconds to think about it. I could have my first kiss with this guy that was reminiscent to a reptile, or I could save it for Rome.
I turned my head so his lips landed on my cheek, then shoved him away.
“I’m engaged to Mr. Madden, sir! And if you were anything like a gentlemen, you’d respect that and leave me alone!” I stormed away over to a glowering Rome, grabbed his hand, and walked out of the restaurant.
“That… that scum! How dare he!” I kept muttering rude things about Kenneth as Rome drug me by my hand to the car that the valets had promptly gotten. As he opened the door and I slid in, he leaned down.
“How could he not try something on you? I mean, look at you. You’re unbelievably beautiful.” Before I could wrap my arms around his neck and lay a good one on him, he shut the door and walked around to the drivers side, tipped the valet, got in, and drove off.
As the car ride was silent, I fumed. Every cuss word was going on repeat in my head. Rome and I were so close to kissing! Kenneth would ruin it. He’s just like that.
“Julie?” I didn’t respond to Rome. I continued to stare out the windshield, and a few seconds later, I realized we were in front of my house.
“Oh! Sorry…” I muttered, looking over at Rome. “Are you staying the night?” I asked, rubbing one of my tired eyes.
“Would you make me sleep on the patio again?” We laughed.
“I don’t think I would…” A faint smile stayed on my lips as the laughter drifted away. I heard a dog bark from the distance, and I realized what a beautiful night it was again. I was about to mention it, but remembered Rome didn’t like talking about the night sky.
“I don’t think I’ll stay tonight.” Disappointment from his words made the smile turn into a frown. I undid my seatbelt, prepared to leave, but Rome grabbed my arm. “Maybe you should stay the night at my house.” My breath stopped and my heart sped up as I turned my head to look at him. “In your own bed, of course.” My breath escaped in a big gust, and I shook my head. “Julie, you need to sleep in a decent bed, and have a decent meal.”
“Look, I can’t help it if Maggie and Robert aren’t the richest people in the world, but they try hard. I’m sorry they aren’t as rich as you, even though you could give them some money so they can live without working twenty four seven. I mean, Maggie home schools me, keeps the house clean, cooks, does our laundry, and Robert pretty much works all the—”
“Julie! They don’t want my money.” My words faded into the darkness of the car. The front porch lights were on, illuminating Rome’s face.
“I’ve asked them before if I could help them out. They refuse every time.” I felt awful and angry at the same time. I’ve been nagging Rome forever that he has all that money and never does anything good with it. He could’ve been helping us, and I thought the reason he didn’t was because he was selfish. Not because Maggie and Robert wouldn’t take his money. It made me angry at them. They wouldn’t have to work so hard if they would swallow their pride. That explains why they were poor while my mom was rich. She probably offered them money too.
“I’m so sorry! I’ve always been demoralizing you about money, and really, you’ve already offered. Why didn’t you say something?”
“They asked me not to.” He sounded tired, and suddenly, I wanted to make up my being such a bitch to him.
“I’m sorry, Rome.” I paused. “I’ll run inside and tell Maggie that I’m spending the night at your house.” Rome seemed surprised that I was actually going with him, so from saving me from embarrassment, I ran through the front lawn and walked in the front door.
“How was dinner, Julie?” Maggie asked from the couch as she watched the news. I cleared my throat nervously.
“I’m spending the night at Rome’s tonight, Maggie.” Her head snapped around to me and she turned off the television.
“What?” Her sharp voice sliced through me, but I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin. “What are you planning to do at Rome’s?” She was implying, of course, that we were going to have some ‘fun’, which would so never happen.
“I don’t know. Rome just asked me to stay, so I said yes. I mean, he told me he comes here because it reminds him of a real home and he’s lonely in his house. I feel bad for him, Maggie.” After a few seconds of studying my face carefully, Maggie found that I was telling the truth.
“Don’t do anything you’ll regret. Like get pregnant.” My mouth dropped open at her.
“Maggie! That would never happen! We haven’t even kissed yet.” Maggie’s mouth dropped open at this. Heat flooded my cheeks, and I squirmed in my spot.
“You and Rome haven’t kissed yet? And you’ve known each other since birth?” I bit my lower lip, mortified. It’s not like I didn’t think her very words nearly everyday.
“I’m going to go, now.” I muttered, starting to walk out the door.
“Wait! Julie, take some board games and cake mix or something to do with Rome at his house to make him feel more at home.” I smiled, doing just that. I got a bunch of board games, movies, and some cake and brownie mix, putting them all in a large bag.
“Goodnight, Maggie.” I said, kissing her on the cheek and walking out of the house. The lights from Rome’s fancy silver car shone on the garage door , and my shadow passed through it. I slid back into the passenger seat, sitting the bag in the backseat.
“What’s that?” Rome said, nodding towards the bag. I grinned, putting on my seatbelt.
“You’ll see.” Rome turned on the radio, and a soft, slow song came on. I groaned, changing the station to a fast rock song, turned up the volume and bass, and started bobbing my head around like an idiot.
“Julie, stop. You look ridiculous.” I grinned over at him and made my head banging more obvious, my hair tossing around. “You look stupid!” He said in a laugh. I stopped head banging to look at him.
“You try.” I told him, smiling at his surprised expression.
“Hell no.” I chuckled, reaching over to grab Rome’s head in my hands, noticing how soft his hair felt. While I forced his head to bang to the music, Rome pushed my hands away. “Jules… stop.” Rome said when I cranked up the music and danced around some more.
“Come on, Rome! Have some fun!” A few more moments of the blasting music coming from the speakers was all that happened, then I saw Rome bob his head a tiny bit. But it was bobbing, nevertheless.
The ride to Rome’s house was filled with singing off pitch loudly, head bobbing, hair flinging, and watching Rome let loose. It was a pretty magical thing.
Inside Rome’s miraculous house, I went straight to the living room, sitting crossed legged on the carpet, patting the area beside me when Rome gave me a quizzical look.
“We’re still in our dress clothes.” Rome mentioned, gesturing to my lovely dress. I sighed, mentally smacking myself for forgetting pajamas. “Here. You can borrow some of my clothes.” The thought of wearing a man’s clothing made me feel embarrassed for some reason, so I tried to shield my blush with my hair as I followed Rome up the stairs.
His room was unnaturally organized, and it made me feel itchy inside. Everything was in its place, and everything was in order. It made me want to go jump on the made bed, knock over the neat cup of pencils on his desk, and throw his perfectly hung up clothes on the floor.
“Here.” I caught the long white t-shirt and boxers in barely enough time, and for a few seconds, it didn’t register to me that he wanted me to put them on. “Well…?” Rome inquired. My mouth was slightly ajar, and my eyebrows were raised.
“You want me to put on your shirt… and your underwear?” My voice showed how incredulous I was, but Rome’s face showed no sign of a joke. After deciding I had to sleep in what Rome gave me or the dress, I chose the former and quickly slipped in the bathroom to change.
After changing, I washed my face clean of any makeup, brushed my hair with one of Rome’s combs, and slipped it up into a ponytail. Rome’s clothes were huge and baggy on me, but super comfy.
“Will you tell me what’s in the bag now?” Rome asked when I met him in the living room. I saw he had changed into an outfit similar to mine, but the clothes fit way better on him.
“I don’t know if I should. You might duck and run for cover…” I put a hand to my chin in mock thought, a smile bringing up the corners of my mouth.
“Jules…” Rome whined, plopping down on the couch. I grabbed my bag, and sat down beside him. I gingerly took the items out of the bag, watching Rome’s face fall with each second. “Julie…”
“No. Rome. Let loose a little. We got the business. Celebrate! Have a drink or something.” Rome stared at me long and hard, and I mirrored his expression. “I’m serious.”
“You’re never serious.” Rome countered, silencing me for a grand total of two seconds.
“Listen. Here’s how things are gonna go tonight. We’ll bake, get messy with flour in our hair, and possibly end it with a flour fight, then we’ll play the board games, then we’ll have a Star Wars marathon. Got it?” I could have sworn a ghost of a smile threatened to grow on Rome’s face, but he wiped it of all emotion.
I sighed, grabbing his hand and the mixes, and taking us to the kitchen. Jetta, his maid, sat precariously on the counter, and jumped down when she saw us, nearly falling.
“Do you need anything, sir?” Rome shook his head. Her gaze fell on me. “Miss. Corbin?”
“No thank you. Thanks, though.”
“You can go home now. It’s late at night.” Rome said, taking the mixes out of my arms to set them on the counter.
“My husband and I had a fight.” Her cheeks blushed a deep red, and her voice shook. “I’m sorry, sir. Once he falls to sleep, I will be out of—” A cell phone ring tone went off, and Jetta quickly grabbed it out of her pocket, opening it and pressing it to her dainty ear. “Yes?”
I could faintly hear speaking on the other side, but no words were discernable. A small smile formed on Jetta’s lips, and I couldn’t help but smile with her. Things were looking up for her. A few moments later, she hung up the phone, and looked between the two of us kindly.
“I can return home.” Jetta said some awkward goodbyes, and left the kitchen, leaving Rome and I. Rome looked weary at my grin as I sauntered past him to pick up the ingredients.
“Julie, please. Must you act so immature?” I sighed and turned around, my turn to look weary.
“Immature? Rome, all I’m doing it trying to have fun. Why is that such a problem with you?” Anger was rising up to my face, and I could feel it heat up. “I mean, seriously! All it ever is with you is work, work, work! We are going to do exactly as I say tonight, you are going to have fun, dammit!” I stomped my foot for emphasis.
Rome’s eyebrows shot up for a second, before a lazy grin pulled one side of his mouth up.
I rolled my eyes, and walked to the island bar to set down the bag. Rome watched me as I angrily got out bowls, spoons, eggs, and vegetable oil. I heard him chuckled when I motioned sharply for him to join me. He came by my side, however, seconds later.
“This attitude isn’t fun, Julie.” I rolled my eyes and scoffed, sliding the bowl down so it was in front of him.
“I decide what is fun or not. And right now, I’d be really fun if you’d mix the ingredients together.”
Rome rather amused, he started opening the packages and putting in the correct amounts of everything. I seethed silently, watching him with a close eye. Since he read the directions, he was doing everything pretty much correct. The only thing I had to help him with was adding the eggs.
“There. Finished.” Rome said, showing me the bowl of stirred brownie mix. I smirked, crossing my arms over my chest. “And I don’t have a speck of flour on me. In fact, I the recipe never even called for flour.”
“That,” I paused, grabbing the bowl from him. “Was only the brownies. We haven’t even started the cake.” After I put the brownie mix in the oven, the fun began.
And the flour finally started flying.
With the first pour into the bowl, the excess flew up into our faces, giving us the appearance of clowns. While I laughed, Rome’s mouth turned down, and I sighed. I grabbed some flour and flicked it onto his shirt. He didn’t respond. I flicked more. Still nothing. I grabbed a bunch in my hands, and poured it over the top of his head, the white mix cascading all over his body.
Before I even had time to laugh at the priceless expression on his face, flour was tossed into my face harshly, finding its way into my mouth. While I was coughing, more flour found its way down my shirt, and all over my hair.
“Rome!” I screamed, reaching blindly for the bag of flour. When I could finally pry my eyes open without worry of getting flour in them, I saw Rome standing across the kitchen, the flour bag cradled in his arm, a smirk set on his lips.
I quickly sprinted to the cabinets to get another full bag, then went back to my place across from Rome.
As if we were cued by a conductor, we both started tossing and throwing and shoving flour at each other, getting it all over our bodies, in our clothes, and all over the kitchen.
By the time the flour in our bags were gone, the whole kitchen was tinted white, along with the people in it. Rome and I were laughing hysterically at each other, for obviously we both looked hilarious.
“Your… flour… hair… eyes…!” Rome gasped for air as he tried to get out sentences, failing.
When finally we could breath and talk coherently, we decided that perhaps we should shower and change clothes.
After I showered, I felt strangely relived, and slid into another outfit similar to the one before. Huge t-shirt, baggy boxers.
Then, thanks to my obsession with the series, I pulled out the Star Wars collection. I told Rome it was a crime that he’d never seen any of the movies, and he said it was a crime someone my age still watched movies like Star Wars.
I gave him the cold shoulder for a good five minutes as I set us up blankets, popcorn, and pillows on the huge comfy couch in his living room. By the time I was finished and was talking to Rome again, the brownies and cake were ready, and I hurried to the kitchen to put them on plates.
“I really don’t want to watch this.” Rome said as the screen started. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
“Oh come on. These are the best movies of all time! George Lucas is a freaking genius.” Rome started to open his big mouth again, in attempt to demoralize me by pointing out my so called immaturity, but I cut him off. “Shh! The movie is starting.”