I inhaled sharply, surprised at the sudden offer. "You're going to answer truthfully when I ask?" I asked as I looked up at him full of hope.
"Yes." He said firmly with solemnity in his eyes. "I might be a lot of things but a liar isn't one of them."
He picked me up and carried me to a chair where he sat down with me in his lap. He grabbed a Kleenex box nearby and handed it to me while seizing one of the tissues and gently dabbing it on my cheeks.
"You're still a crybaby." His tone half concerned and half teasing. Wait. Was he referring to when we were kids?
"Are you referring to those times when you refused to play with me and I wouldn't stop crying until you did?" I asked, surprised, and blew my nose into the tissues.
"And the time when I accidentally ate your favorite dessert or the time when you couldn't catch a fish no matter how many times you casted?" He listed with a half smile.
"You...You remember those?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes." He said it simply. "I remember a lot of things."
"Like what?" I asked curiously.
"Is that 'the one' question you wanted to ask?" A smirk appeared on his handsome face.
"No." I said immediately. "Of course not." I wouldn't want to waste my one question on something trivial and insignificant. However, at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder what it was that he also remembered.
I sat in silence as I pondered all the questions I wanted to ask and prioritized them. Suddenly, his hand reached out and pinched my cheek.
"Ouch." My hand automatically flew up to cover the painful spot. "What was that for?"
"You're so cute when you're thinking hard." He teased again. "You always did bite your bottom lip whenever I tutored you during math and you would look dazed like you're zoning out." He chuckled.
"I did not." I said as my heart flip flopped. "Stop distracting me." I said with a stern continence. "I need to pick a really good question or else I would really regret it."
"Alright. I'll try not to distract you." He promised with something burning in his eyes.
Another 5 minutes had passed and I narrowed down my questions to top two. Before I could decide on which to ask, Artemis gently bit my ear and made me jump. "Hey, I thought you promised not to..."
He suddenly kissed me and his hands started roaming my bare back. Then they moved down my dress and pushed it up as it bunches around my thighs as he moved me into a straddle position. The skirt also formed a wall at my stomach and forced me to arch my back as I tried to kiss him back.
The kiss went from hard and urgent to slow and savory. "Wrap your legs around me." He said huskily against my mouth as his arms crossed under my butt and lifted me as he stood up.
Our lips never disconnected as he brought me over to the bed. The moment my back hit the mattress, I suddenly remembered and my hands gently pushed at his chest. "Wait, I haven't asked my question yet." I pouted.
"Sorry." He was not sorry one bit. "I couldn't help it at the way you look in this dress—showing off your elegant shoulders and back." He tried to seduce me with a tantalizing smile.
I tried to push him off before he got his way with me. "Flattery is not going to save you from answering my question."
"Can't say I didn't try." He said sweetly as he seized my hand and pulled me up into a sitting position.
He walked back to the chair and sat down as I sat in the chair across from him.
"So what's your question?" His tone serious, the playfulness was gone like he had a switch that he could just instantly turn off.
I thought the one question I had been wanting to ask was why he married me. However, after a lot of thought, I decided it was more important for me to know what had happened to him all these years. The other question would just have to wait a little longer.
"What happened to you after your mom's accident? Where did you go?" I asked slowly fearing that he might change his mind and take back the offer.
******* Artemis's POV ********
My hand went up to comb through my neat hair as I leaned back against the chair. I thought she was going to ask a different question. I had hoped she would ask a different question. However, I should've seen this question coming from a mile away. How much should I tell her? I had to be careful not to say too much or it would come back and bite me in the ass.
I wanted to tell her just enough for her to trust me—no more, no less. If she knew too much, she would just worry and get stressed out and I wouldn't want to put her in that situation; especially, this early in our relationship.
This was my fight. It had been my fight the moment my mom died. I definitely didn't want Grace to get involved. I couldn't tell her that my mom's car accident wasn't an accident.
I leaned forward again, placing my forearms on my knees and my hands together as I focused on something else instead of Grace's face. "Right after my mom's accident, my dad was in a mess. He immediately sent me out of the country to an exclusive school in Europe. I begged him to let me stay, at least for the funeral, but he refused no matter how hard I begged."
I looked back at Grace and could tell that her heart ached for me.
I averted my eyes again to the wall behind her and continued. "I resented him for many years. He would try to see me a few times a year but I denied each of his visitations because I hated him for sending me away without so much as an explanation. When I turned 18, I tried to fly back to the US but the bodyguards that my dad hired prevented me from leaving."
Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell that Grace desperately wanted to ask more questions at the way her body slightly fidgeted. However, she stayed silent and didn't interrupt me.
"Finally, I decided to see him when he came to visit me on my 19th Birthday. He finally explained why he had to send me away and why I needed to finish my schooling in Europe until I turned 21. I ended up staying an extra 2 years after that to get my Master's degree before flying back. The year I flew back was that same year when I saw you at the gala." I gave her a small smile at the recollection of seeing her at the party.
To be honest, I had not thought much about her for the last 11 years since I was so consumed with confusion and hatred toward my father and then later with revenge that my heart didn't have room for anything else. I did date a couple of women but it was never serious.
When I saw her again 3 years ago, that was when old buried memories suddenly resurfaced. I was taken aback at the beautiful woman she had become. I wanted badly to go to her and talk to her but I was busy 'building my reputation' at the time. I shamelessly flirted with women and wanted them to believe that I was a playboy. I wanted them to spread rumors about me. I wanted people to believe that all I was capable of was fooling around and nothing more. I wanted my competitors to underestimate me so when I go up against them, they would have their guard down. I loved proving them wrong over and over again.
By the time I wanted to search her out again, she was avoiding me. That was when I decided to investigate her—to know everything about her and what she had been doing all these years.
When I investigated her, it wasn't because I didn't trust her but because I wanted to know more about her. I haven't seen her for 11 years, and when I did, she avoided me for another 3. One thing I desperately wanted to check was to see if she had been with anyone and she had not—that fact surprised me and brought my heart so much joy.
When I didn't continue after a long silence, Grace decided to ask. "So why did Mr. Jame send you away?"
"That's another question." I paused. "Maybe for another day."
She puffed her cheeks looking adorably annoyed. "Why just one question? Can't you just tell me the whole thing and save me from the frustrations?"
"I'm doing you a favor. In your case, ignorance is truly bliss." I said it hoping she wouldn't continue to push me.
"You can't just give me a taste and expect me not to want more." She whined.
"I do expect that. A taste is all you're going to get." I said with finality and added. "All I can tell you is what you see is not actually what you get, so don't trust everything you see."
"What do you mean?" Her question dripped with agitation. I could tell she wanted me to give it to her straight and not talk in riddles. She was a simple straightforward person and never did like reading between the lines.
"Just know that there's nothing going on between me and Samantha." I hoped this alone would clear up whatever misunderstanding we had.
I never wanted to hurt Grace or be the reason why she cried. Thus, it nearly broke me watching her cry in anguish earlier. It was hard pretending to be cold to her in front of Samantha.
Just like when she showed up early to my office and I had to act distant with her. I didn't want Samantha to put two and two together and learned that I care about Grace or that would've ruined the whole plan.
That was the same reason for not wanting Grace to be here at the gala tonight even though I had a perfect dress picked out for her. I couldn't let Samantha catch on to what had been going on between Grace and I.
However, I didn't realize it would be so difficult. It was grueling watching Grace's face when she saw us. I was frustrated with myself and went to look for her after my speech. It didn't help my mood to find her with another guy.
Before she showed any signs of comprehension about what I just said, my phone rang. It was a call from Nate. "Speak." I said into the phone.
"Where are you? We need you to make a closing speech." He said calmly.
"Okay. Be right down." I hung up.
"Let me make a closing speech and I'll be back to take you home." I said as I touched her cheek.
"What about the guests? Shouldn't you be there to...?" She asked, concerned.
"It's alright. Nate can take care of the rest. I can tell you had a long day." I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and left.