I LOVE TO HATE YOU CONTEST
- Has to be a one shot above 2500 words, and below 10,000 words
- Be realistic
- Het pairing, with both girl and boy more than 22 years old.
- Mutual hate relationship for a while between the leads which eventually turns to love.
- Either/ both characters must have an obsession with a beverage of your choice.
- The characters must have substantial reason to dislike one another, and then to eventually fall in love.
- Neither of the characters can pretend to hate the other. There must be genuine dislike between the two.
- Characters above 22
- The characters can't just wake up one day, and decide that they are in love with each other. The build up must be realistic, and believable.
Oh, come on. He hit his horn impatiently.
Cars were jam-packed on the road and the blaring of horns resounded on the street. Leo Rodriguez glanced at his watch and cursed—he was going to be late—and tried to focus on the person on the other line.
"Look," he said, "I hired Calli Windsbor and Jeric Levesque specifically for stage management of this production. How the hell was I supposed to know they have history?" He nodded distractedly as he listened to Joseph Martin's words. "I appreciate this update Joseph, really I do, but technically they're in your territory." He smirked at his friend's gripes and carefully parked his car. "You're directing, Joseph. Get them to make up before the deadline. I'll talk to you later."
Simultaneously shutting his phone, he slipped out of his car and tugged his collar as he walked towards the front entrance of the building. He stepped into the elevator and glanced at his reflection with a frown; he didn't have time to shave and his hair was in its usual untamable mess.
"Had a feeling you'd be running a little late," were the words that greeted him as he stepped out of the elevator. Leo accepted the Starbucks coffee with a nod and took a sip.
"Traffic's a bitch," he muttered. Rolling his head back, Leo tried to relieve himself of the kink forming in his neck. He spent at least thirty minutes of his sleep calming his jackass of a best friend, telling him that he kept his word and he wouldn't bail on him, so could he leave him alone now—?
Herbert Leslie chortled. Leo slanted an amused gaze in his direction. No matter the time or situation, Herbert Leslie would always have a smile on his face. He was a jovial aging man who loved his job and life. The latter sometimes, Leo thought, was ridiculously miserable, and he wondered how Herbert never frowned, especially with all the assholes in the world. But that was his personal opinion.
"Luckily they're prepping the room. Oh, and Taylor is late."
"No, I'm not." A grumpy looking man approached them with the ding of a elevator. Exhaustion was written all over his face, and he yawned loudly as if to prove his fatigue. Herbert handed Taylor Jenkins his coffee and they stood in contemplative silence.
Leo glanced around as Herbert reiterated their schedule for the next few weeks. "Today, we're meeting with the first assistant director and the production manager. Will Joseph be present?" Herbert looked up from his Blackberry.
"He'll make it by the second meeting this afternoon. There was a problem with the stage management." Leo hid a wince. "Personal issues between Windsbor and Levesque."
Herbert chuckled. "Oh, yes. I forgot to warn you about them. I had the pleasure of working with them a few films back."
Leo was amused. Herbert's been in the film industry for a long time and he seemed to know everyone working in every department.
Taylor tapped away on his own Blackberry. "I've contacted a close friend to work as our production accountant. He'll be getting in touch with you in a few days to discuss restrictions and future dates for the final budget." Taylor nodded towards Leo who filed a mental note for himself. Everyone was always a thousand steps ahead. "His name is Liam Stewart."
"Oh, how is he?" Herbert mused distractedly. Both men chuckled just as a woman in a crisp, but fashion-inclined business suit approached them. Leo fixed a smile on his face; she was as gorgeous as she was weeks ago. Leo vaguely wondered why he didn't call the number she gave him.
"Hello, gentlemen, I'm Vanessa Love, first assistant director." Her beam was as he remembered it to be. He tried not to smirk too knowingly as she directed her gaze towards him. "Nice to see you again, Leo. Have you grown shy from the last time I've seen you?"
Taylor and Herbert's gaze landed on him and he rubbed the back of his neck. "Of course not," he said smoothly and slipped his hand into hers. "Looking as gorgeous as ever, Vanessa," he said. He gestured to his side. "This is—"
"Mr. Herbert Leslie and Mr. Taylor Jenkins." She grasped their hands in a firm shake. Leo shook his head in amusement.
"I see you've done your research," Herbert joked.
"Or she read the memo," Taylor muttered to Leo as Vanessa directed them to the meeting room. Leo smothered a snicker as Herbert sent them both a mock warning look.
They took a seat around the long table and Leo tried to get himself comfortable. The blinds were pulled away from the window and the sun's rays illuminated the large meeting room. There was a table with a coffee machine at the left side of the room along with refreshments. Leo took a swig of the remains of his coffee and tried to stay focus. Meetings were never his strong point.
"Hello, hello," a man with graying hair stepped into the room with a bright smile fixed on his face. "How are you all? I'm Frank Blythe." Leo tagged him as the production manager and they rose to shake hands. "I met with Herbert and Taylor, so you must be—"
"Leo Rodriguez," he said with his professional smile. "Nice to meet you."
"He's our line producer," Taylor said with a grin towards Leo. "We practically had to track this man down. We almost gave up on him."
"He's best at what he does. It's quite an accomplishment as his young age," Herbert said, his voice prideful as if he were introducing his own son to the world. Leo snorted in amusement.
Vanessa and Frank shared a satisfied look. "We're looking forward to working with you," Frank said. "I take it you've received the script?" It was a rhetorical question.
Leo nodded, his face neutral. This was more of his territory. "I've broken down the screenplay into a schedule. Here's the timetable." He slid a printed hardcopy towards the middle.
"And we've produced the required finance, so we can talk schedule and budget." Taylor leaned forward. "We're here to oversee that everything is according to the schedule prior the pre-production. Leo will be the only constant presence from the three of us for the next few weeks to work with your department to discuss all other pre-production aspects."
"I've starting recruiting the production team," Leo updated as he glanced through his list. His eyes ran over the words as he reiterated, vaguely hearing the door click open. "I have a few locations in mind to scout according to the descriptions I've been given, but Joseph is needed for that." He frowned thoughtfully. "I've sourced the equipment and suppliers, but I wanted to ask if there were any specific requests . . .?"
He looked up, just as an arm stretched from his left and placed fresh coffee from Starbucks, still steaming. Leo Rodriguez turned to thank the person, but when his eyes caught sight of a familiar face that brought a stream of memories, the words died in his throat.
"I'm—" A dark brown haired woman skidded to the side abruptly as a man passed by her with a scowl. Flashing, a sheepish grin in apology, she turned her heel and proceeded to her destination. "—going to be there, I promise!"Arianna Reynolds mouthed a 'thank you' to the girl behind the counter at Starbucks as she passed her nine grande sized cups, specific flavours written on the side, and struggled to hold them. Arianna handed her the money and turned around, a strained smile appearing on her face as the customers in line glared at her for her interception.
"—listening to me?"
Arianna pushed the door open, cheek against shoulder, supporting her cell phone. "Of course," she said easily, all the while trying to catch a cab. "You want me to attend your wedding. Haley, I promised you I'd be there. It's your special day."
Haley huffed on the other line. "You missed your own parent's anniversary because of this demonic job. How do I know you won't bail on me, too? You're my maid of honour! I need you," she said dramatically. There was a pause. "Where are you anyway? I hear cars."
"I'm—" She struggled to get into the cab she hailed. "—getting to work right now!" She gave the driver the address and she collapsed in the back seat. It wasn't even ten and she was already exhausted. "Haley, I would never dream of missing your wedding. We've been waiting too long for this," she said, finally able to speak in proper sentences. "If worse comes to worse, I'll fake sick."
"You'd do that for me?" Haley cooed. Arianna rolled her eyes in amusement and shoved her hand into her purse to retrieve her orange juice. She chugged as Haley said, "Okay, I'm going to mail you the ticket; your flight time will be inside. Do not miss this."
Arianna's jaw clicked open as she burst into bouts of coughs. "Hales, I can't let you—"
"No. Shut up, don't mess me with. I'm paying for your flight and you're going to graciously accept my generosity."
She felt like crying. "Thank you, Hales." A few more words were exchanged and Arianna closed her phone and shoved it inside her purse.
Looking out her window, she noted traffic and she felt like really crying. The meeting started in ten minutes, she confirmed with a glance to her watch. She could make it. She could. Hastily, she threw the cab driver enough money and ignored the protestation; she knew arguing would make no difference.
The run to the department was painful, but bearable.
"I'm not getting paid enough for this." Wincing at her reflection in the elevator, she redid her ponytail and applied a new coat of lip gloss. A second before the elevator door opened, she swiftly swooped down to retrieve the coffee and straightened her back.
She spotted Emelia heading in her direction, her eyes glued to a sheet of paper. Arianna opened her mouth with a smile, "Hi—"
"Thank you." Emelia's hand deftly plucked her specific cup of coffee and walked away without a glance in her direction.
"Okay . . " Arianna walked briskly towards her desk, and hands sporadically appeared from the side and skillfully pulled out their particular morning caffeine. She smiled at each hand, but received no words. Undeterred, she placed the remaining five grande sized cups to the side of her desk and searched for her schedule.
9:45 am - serve producers
With a sense of foreboding, she slowly lifted her wrist to glance at her watch. There was bloody reason she highlighted and underlined that specific time. There were even exclamation marks. It was her moment to prove to everyone that she was more than a production assistant who served coffee. Never mind the fact that she was instructed to do so, but she was an organized, capable young woman who had a dream to accomplish! Impressing these producers could give her a break; after all, if she wanted to be a line producer, she needed good connections with everyone.
10:03. She blinked at her watch and almost went into cardiac arrest. "Shit!"
Scrambling to get herself organized, she turned her pager and shoved her cell phone into her pocket from her purse. All her papers were stacked neatly on her desk and they were labeled according to their deadlines and who they were to be distributed to. Her eyes ran over her schedule; she arrived at five-thirty this morning, but she was sent to do errands. How could she be late when she was so early?
Arianna grabbed the coffee and stormed one level up. Cautiously, she approached the closed door she knew the meeting was being held. No wonder Vanessa wasn't screaming for her; she was already in the meeting. It was an important meeting . . . so how does she impress while trying to maintain a low profile?
Sucking in a quick breath, she turned the handle and stepped inside.
". . . a few locations in mind to scout according to the descriptions I've been given, but Joseph is needed for that."
She smiled meekly at Vanessa's glare over Frank's shoulder. Why, out of all the people in this department, did she have to work for the epitome of evil?
Deftly, she placed the beverages Vanessa instructed her to retrieve thirty minutes ago in front of those seated. She smiled as they looked up at her presence, and was about to distribute the last cup. She absentmindedly reminded herself where the refreshments were situated.
"I've sourced the equipment and suppliers, but I wanted to ask if there were any specific requests . . .?"
Done. She fixed a pleasant smile on her face as the man looked up from his sheet of paper. Eyes meeting stormy grey ones, she almost let her jaw drop. Arianna couldn't help it, but she found herself staring at him. Shit. It was Leo Marc Rodriguez. He was still as flawless as she last saw him. It was a biased opinion, but anyone in the world can see how gorgeous he was. His dark hair was still untamable as ever; his suit barely concealed his broad shoulders, and even his white propped collar couldn't hide the tattoo crawling up the side of his neck.
She feared for her deer caught in headlights expression and she roughly pulled herself out of her reverie.
His partially opened lips closed, looked at her for a few more seconds, and turned his head away.
Oh, my God. She tried to keep her face cool and stepped on the voice telling her to run for her life. Feeling prickles on her face, Arianna looked up and met the amused gazes of the producers sitting across from him, along with Vanessa's glower and Frank's questioning eyes.
"And who is this?" Herbert casually interrupted Leo's robotic and calculating voice and smiled warmly at Arianna. "I make it a mission to know everyone, and I haven't met you. I would remember the name of a beautiful young lady."
The man next to Herbert rolled his eyes and smiled at her. Arianna only knew them through research, and in all honestly, she wanted to make a good impression, but it was difficult when she felt another pair of unwanted eyes on her.
"I'm Arianna Reynolds." She accepted his outstretched hand as he stood and introduced himself. Taylor also greeted her.
Vanessa smiled a saccharine smile. "Arianna here is the production assistant."
Arianna's smile froze on her face. Leave it to Vanessa to rub her status as one of the lowest crew in a film's hierarchy. She might as well dangle her paycheck in everyone's faces.
She smiled sweetly at Vanessa. "We all have to start somewhere. I don't have a rich daddy to pull strings for me." Satisfied, Arianna watched the smile slip from Vanessa's face.
Herbert's voice was smiling. "Leo?"
"Of course, Mr. Leslie." Her back tensed at his cool tone. "But we already met." He held his hand out, his eyes daring her to reject him. She exhaled quickly and accepted his hand, their quick grins were forced and strained.
She tried not to wince at his firm grip. Leo Rodriguez. Shit. Has it really been six years?
For once in Arianna's life, she thanked Vanessa's interruption as she cleared her throat loudly and reminded the group of their task at hand. After receiving a scathing look that promised a conversation afterward, Arianna quickly served the refreshments and stepped out of the room.
After a few quick breaths and a pep talk ("It's been six years. Six years. Leo Rodriguez doesn't hold a grudge . . . right?"), she realized that she was a little hypocritical, because the sight of Leo made her run blood cold and the familiar urge to get revenge quickly made itself known by the clench of her stomach. Why wouldn't he feel the same?
"Because we're both professionals," she assured herself as she walked briskly to her desk. "We're adults, and high school problems are not going to be dragged into this."
The figures on the chart in front of him began to blur and Leo realized that he'd been staring off into space again. Annoyed, he pushed the folder away and buried his face in his hands for a moment. He needed to get a grip with reality. It's been six years and he convinced himself that he was never to see Arianna Reynolds in his life. Arianna fucking Reynolds. The same person who played him like a sorry fool.
Opening his eyes, he attempted to shake the tight feeling in his chest away. It's been six years. He left the thought unexamined and tried to regain his focus.
Leo stood up and headed to the small refreshment room on the level. He was calm. He refused to be deterred by her presence.
The grip on the refrigerator tightened. Yeah, if only that were true.
The door opened and he vaguely heard from the back of his mind, "Orange juice, orange juice—"
He smirked to himself, reaching for the orange juice. Body half-turned, he lifted his gaze and they both froze. Speak of the devil.
He dropped his expression, and stony faced, he handed her the cold bottle. Hating himself, he found himself appreciating the view. Arianna Reynolds matured from the shy, pretty type to a classical beauty anyone would be able to appreciate at first glance. He knew that it was only a matter of time that the world to see what he always saw.
"Thank you." Her voice was strained in an effort to keep her voice polite.
He watched her shuffle before she turned, and he couldn't help but keep her squirming. "So." He casually leaned against the counter, and she halted at his voice. "I didn't peg you to be a big city girl."
She turned her head and met his eyes from over her shoulder. "It has been six years," she said with a clearly forced smile.
He shrugged and straightened. She was right.
But that didn't erase the fact that she deliberately destroyed him.
Arianna observed him, and he caught the familiar flare in her eyes he remembered her to be; not his subordinate who had to respect him, because he had a feeling that was one of the last thing she felt for him.
"You don't really like me, do you?" She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
A smile crossed across his face. She was still quick. "Baby, I can hold grudges."
She gave him a dismissive look. "Please, you're not the only one, Mr. Rodriguez." She took a step, her hands gripping the orange bottle tightly. "You know, I'm glad you set the bar, because before this meeting I was actually considering to be civil towards you. Quite amusing, isn't it?" Her eyes pierced his. "But now I can see that you haven't changed."
"Analyzed me that quickly, Miss Reynolds?" He felt his neck tense in annoyance and animosity. "Of course, you're all about judging a book by its cover. And by the way," he said, sardonically amused by the situation. "If you don't mind, would you grab me some coffee?" He walked out of the room, but not before catching the look of disbelief on her face. "Thanks, babe."
"Arianna!" Vanessa barked. Said girl instantly stiffened and shot up from her seat. "Where are you?"
"Yes?" She pasted a I'm-ready-for-your-orders! smile on her face as Vanessa's menacing stare met her eyes. Arianna swallowed. Ever since the comment about Vanessa's father pulling strings, she's been more demanding than usual. . . not to mention Vanessa's unprofessional demand concerning her relation with Mr. Leo Rodriguez, and Arianna's refusal to confide her history with said man, Vanessa Love's been . . .
"I've been paging you for over five minutes," she said, trying to maintain a calm façade. "Do you want to be a production assistant forever? Because at this rate, it feels to me that you are unable to handle the demands necessary for a higher position."
. . . a bitch. A cold, unfeeling, terrorizing bitch.
"I'm sorry," she managed to say, glanced at her pager instinctively upon its reference, and blinked. "Wait, no, I don't see—"
Vanessa dismissed her words with a pleasant smile. "Never mind, Arianna. I forgive you for your negligence and lack of conduct."
Arianna's eyebrows shot up and she gritted her teeth to keep her smile on her face. No matter how foul people were, Arianna reminded herself, you must be nice to everyone in this business for good connections.
"There's a meeting with the director and line producer," Vanessa said. "I need you to go in my place and take relevant notes. I'm sure you'll be able to do that." Pulling out her compact mirror, Vanessa applied lipstick and checked her reflection, unbeknownst to Arianna's complete horror.
"Right. You have a doctor's appointment." Arianna offered a smile. "Good luck."
Vanessa snorted. "Please." She swaggered away and Arianna couldn't help but give her back a dirty look. Cow.
Taking a deep breath, she mentally prepared herself. She could handle this. Inhaling sharply, she grabbed a folder and a pad before walking briskly to the meeting room.
Leo barely glanced up from the papers on the table. "Miss Reynolds," he said, his voice completely detached and professional. "How nice of you to join us after many failed attempt of contact." He looked up and smiled a little mocking smile. "Perhaps you could turn your pager on and keep us from wasting our time?"
Her face instantly flared at his words; she didn't know the predominant emotion causing this reaction. Anger? Embarrassment?
Quelling her initial reaction, she forced a smile. If he could act professional, then she could, too. Even if he was an asshole about it. "I'm sorry," she said courteously.
The other man in the room chuckled. "No need to apologize," he grinned and stood up. His posture was at complete ease as he crossed over and held his hand out. "I'm Joseph Duran. You must be Arianna Reynolds."
She smiled, relaxing. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Duran."
"I'm only a few years older than you," he nudged her. "You really think I'm that old?"
Arianna felt a blush creeping across her cheeks when he winked at her. "Quite a charmer, aren't you?" A tiny smile quirked her lips.
"If you two are done flirting," Leo cut in. "I'd like to get back to business."
Arianna glanced at him, instantly recognizing the tone. He refused to meet her gaze, and instead distracted himself by arranging the papers on the table. Smirking a little at his audacity, she took a seat and held a pen poised over her note pad.
Leo stepped into the house without bothering to knock. The smell of delicious food wafted as he stalked down the hallway with a mission in mind. He found the couple huddled in the kitchen, and the blonde noticed him first with a smile from over his target's hunched shoulders.
He grinned lazily and gestured for her to be quiet as he approached the brown haired man—before locking his head under his arm.
"What the f—Marc!" He said his name in a tone torn between laughter and annoyance. "What the hell is wrong with you! I told you to be here three hours ago!"
Leo pulled away and smirking at each other, shook hands. Yeah, the bastard told him to come three hours ago. He lived three hours away. Leo rolled his eyes at Zackary's exasperated look and pointed out, "I'm here, aren't I? Be glad."
His best friend scoffed. He's known the jerk ever since he pulled the back of his pants open in grade one and tipped every single drop of his grape juice. But that wasn't why he was a jerk—even though the action did prove his motives—but if not for the blonde beauty a few feet away from them, Zackary Deacon would still be out breaking hearts.
Yeah. He was a heartless player. Leo was the angel between the two of them.
"You're thinking I'm an asshole, aren't you." Zach glared. "You have that superior look in your eyes. Well, guess what—"
Leo cut him off wryly, "What're you, in elementary school? I'm still trying to process the fact that you're getting married." He couldn't help but snicker at the brief automatic expression of agony that crossed his face at the mention of marriage. Zach's been a commitment phobic his whole life, hence his brief relationships and the long trail of broken hearts, but Haley surprised them both. Next thing he knew, Zach was telling him he wanted to propose.
"Ha ha." Zach crossed his arms over his chest. Leo copied his movements, both eyebrows raised. They were best friends, but that didn't mean they always had to get along. "How's your job? Interfering with your string of girls?"
Leo's lips curled. Okay, so he lied about the angel comment. But ever since he started with his goal to work in the film industry, his focus was solely on his work, not trying to find his latest conquest.
"High school days," he dismissed.
Zach's eyes flickered into a more somber light and Leo's back tensed, waiting. "Yeah," was all he said quietly.
The abrupt edgy atmosphere was ruined when Leo felt slender arms around his neck. Haley Crawford hugged him tightly around his neck, and ignoring Zach's sudden instinctive dark expression, he grinned and gently hugged her back.
Until she pulled away and smacked the back of his head.
In dazed confusion, he pulled back and barely registered her words, "I know you screen my calls."
"I thought it was Zach."
"What did you expect? You called me at bloody three o'clock in the morning to tell me to come home earlier than expected. Fifteen times."
"Well, you don't answer and I know you're there. Where else would you be at three in the morning? And plus, I thought it was a later time," Zach defended.
"We live in the same time zone." Haley snorted as Leo scowled at his best friend. "We're in the middle of pre-production stages. You're lucky they're allowing me to leave."
"Please, you don't think I researched your job? It's freelance. You can do your shit here." Zach gave him a smug smile as the phone rang.
Haley muffled a laugh, and passing by Leo, she muttered, "Give him his moment." Leo effectively closed his mouth and settled for shooting Zach a look.
Zach chuckled, and slapping his back he said, "It's good to have you back." Leo nodded in agreement. He loved New York, but his home and friends were here. Nothing could ever replace that. "By the way," Zach said, glancing at the clock, "we should head out now. Everyone's probably at the restaurant by now."
Haley looked over worriedly, the phone against her chest. "But Zach, Ar—"
Zach suddenly started coughing really loudly. Leo raised an eyebrow, observing their exchange. Zach's eyes were narrowed as he jerked his head to the side shortly.
Haley's mouth dropped open, and with a sheepish grin, turned her back to them.
Leo didn't drop his expression. "What was that?"
Zach's face portrayed innocence. "What was what? Anyway, get dressed. You look like shit."
Leo's fist accidentally met the back of Zach's head.
Arianna's cheeks puffed in and out in an attempt to regain the oxygen she lost on the run towards the restaurant. Wheezing, she leaned against the door, only to realize belatedly that it was a revolving door. She scrambled to her feet whilst the heavy glass hit her butt.
Her plane was late. Her brother, who promised to pick her up, didn't. Arianna couldn't ask Haley to come, so she settled for taking the bus, which was a stupid move because she could've called a taxi and—
No matter. She was here.
"Under Deacon," she said politely, and was led to the table by the hostess.
A grin stretched her lips when she saw familiar faces. She missed home. There was Zach, his parents, Haley's parents, and another attendee. Probably Zach's best man, Arianna thought vaguely and her eyes brightened when Haley looked at her.
Surprised, Arianna watched Haley shoot out of her seat and practically barreled her out of the room.
"Miss me that much?" Arianna joked and couldn't help but hug her tightly. "Sorry I'm late."
Haley's smile was nervous, and instantly made Arianna suspicious. "Ari, I know work's made you stressed and you're looking forward to a relaxing—"
"Don't you know it! God, I could wring Vanessa's neck. She's only snubbed and more of pain in the neck than usual because I wouldn't share about Leo." Arianna made a face. "I'm definitely need to relax before I force another smile on my face."
Haley only sighed and directed them both to the table, "Don't kill me."
Zach sprung to his feet. "Beautiful Arianna, where have you been?" He winked and practically engulfed her in his hug.
Laughing, she stepped back to smile brightly at the parents.
"I don't think we've met before," Arianna said as she turned to face Zach's best man. "Marc, right—?"
Arianna found herself staring blankly at Leo Rodriguez who was currently shooting Zach death glares. Through the fog in her mind, she vaguely heard Haley's placating voice and Zach's frantic, "Mom, take the knife away from his reach!"
All Arianna could say was, very pointedly, "You're not Marc."
Leo's shoulders were hunched and tensed at the sound of her voice, but he managed to face her. "You're forgetting that Zach's the one person in the world who calls me Marc."
Reality slapped Arianna's face and her chest felt tight. "Oh." She nearly slapped herself. 'Oh'? Was that the best she could come up with? But honestly, shock in the workplace came differently from situations like these. This time, she couldn't blame the shock at his presence for the sudden pound of emotions.
Dominant emotion? Revenge. She needed to get Haley alone.
"When I said 'Is there anything else, Zach?' this bloody morning, Arianna being the maid of honour goes without saying!" Leo practically roared, uncaring for his fanatical appearance. Zach's hands were held up in a 'don't-shoot-me' pose as he slowly backed away. Dinner was tense. Leo had wanted to reach over and squeeze the life out of Zach, but he took Haley's feelings into consideration. Not to mention Zach's parents; they were practically his parents.
But they couldn't save Zach from his wrath right now.
"Marc, I know you hate her—"
"What tipped you off?" he growled.
"But you know Haley's her best friend. Did you really expect someone else to be the maid of honour?"
Leo addressed him begrudgingly. Traitor had a point. Haley and Arianna were best friends during high school. If Leo allowed himself to recall, he was forced to double date with Arianna during the first stages of Zach and Haley's relationship.
"You couldn't warn me?" Leo asked incredulously. "That girl fucking humiliated me."
Zach rolled his eyes at his dramatics. Leo resisted the urge to clobber him. His cries if pain would draw Haley in. Since Haley was with Arianna downstairs, Arianna would tag along. "Stop with your profanities. She put you in your place."
"I fucking loved her!"
There was silence and Zach's eyebrows were practically touching his hair line. Leo registered the words that slipped his mouth and he immediately straightened. Shit.
"So you admit it."
"Note the past tense," he said. "You knew it was messed up then. Why wouldn't it be now?"
"Because you're both adults now." Zach's demeanor was unsmiling. "You left it all to crumble. You didn't even talk to her afterwards."
"I'm not the type to pine and beg," he said shortly.
"Why? Because of your pride?" Zach demanded. "Marc, you have to understand that when you're in love with someone, your dignity isn't worth shit. If you love her, you risk everything."
They stared at each other for a good few moments. Finally, Leo said without emotion, "You're six years too late."
She watched the orange, pulped fluid swish in the cup before bringing it to her lips and chugged. Ignoring the lightheadedness that came with the movement, she poured another glass, watching it slowly fill up.
Arianna took a swig of the orange juice. Ah, orange juice. It was always there when she needed it—in her fridge, in the supermarket . . . It would never dream of betraying her. Unlike some people.
"Ari, I'm so sorry," Haley sighed. "I didn't think your reaction would be that bad. Especially since you're working with him—"
"That's exactly it, Hales!" Arianna practically exploded. "I work with him. Isn't that enough of a reminder? This week was supposed to be Leo-free! It's so damn hard being around him and now I have to dance with him? Sit next to him? Pictures? It's hard, okay?"
There was a strange note in Haley's voice. "Why?"
"Come off it, Hales," Arianna growled. "I don't like him. Any delusions you have of me being in love with him are just that—delusions."
Haley grinned guiltily and took a seat next to Arianna. The latter proceeded to chug more orange juice down her throat. "You'll have to pee a lot," Haley said.
"Small price to pay."
"It's been a long time, Ari."
"I thought so too." Her lips thinned. "He set the bar; he wants nothing to do with me. Like I'm going to forgive him anytime soon." Her lips curled humourlessly. "He hasn't changed much. I haven't either." Her remark was meant to stretch the fact that their dislike was forever present.
But Haley smiled. "Then I guess, even under all that hurt and humiliation, you both are still crazy for each other."
She nearly spat the orange juice on Haley's face. "What?"
"Babe, it's called magnetism."
I'm going to kill Zach, Leo thought as he maintained an expressionless face, literally forcing himself to put his hand on her waist and keep the grip on her other hand tightened. He carefully kept his eyes over her head, and he vaguely found it amazing that she was still this short.
He could feel the hostile waves rolling onto his body, and he wanted to smirk. So he wasn't the only one irritated by the situation.
"That's right, gentlemen, backs straight. Ladies, light on your feet!" The dance instructor walked around, critically inspecting every couple on the dance floor. Everyone around them was laughing and joking with their partners as they struggled to remember the dance routine. All except them.
Leo had the urge to attack his best friend again. They just had to be conveniently placed together.
"You're tense," suddenly came her quiet remark.
His lips quirked. "Glad you noticed."
"I was trying to be subtle. I can't work with a pole."
"You're telling me."
Haley and Zach danced by them and glared. "Shut up and relax," Haley ordered and glided away.
"I suppose we should try and be civil," Arianna said after five minutes of immobility and glowers from the main couple off at the sidelines. Not to mention the dance instructor's evil hawk-like eyes.
Leo shot Zach a dirty look as the aforementioned man mouthed fiercely at him. Leo had a feeling a string of obscenity was somewhere in there. "Yeah."
He tried not to look at her face as he twirled her and pulled her back into his arms. The abrupt collision with her body against his made him loose his breath, and he instantly stepped away from her.
She raised her eyebrows. "Am I that repulsive?"
He shrugged. "Kind of. You make me sick."
The smile was on her face was sickly sweet. "You always were straightforward."
Through half lidded eyes, Leo allowed himself to look at her. It was the defiant tone she used, and he'll admit it, it was the one that caught his attention back when he was young, stupid, and arrogant. Clearly it still caught his attention, but this time he wasn't stupid. He knew what she was like.
"Have you always been manipulative and heartless?" he mocked.
Her eyes tightened. "No. But in your case, always. I had to put you in your place, didn't I?" She batted her eyelashes. He knew for a fact that if they were at work, she would never be this bold. But they weren't, and he didn't know whether to admire her for it or completely hate her existence. "I never got to ask you, how did it feel?"
He wanted to rip away from her, but he tightened his grip around her waist. He saw her wince a little. "Shouldn't I be asking you that, Miss Reynolds? Having the whole school against you would be a traumatic experience."
She laughed a forced laugh. "Oh, but what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."
His lips curled. "My sentiments exactly."
They proceeded with the lesson in silence, their bodies no longer stiff, but almost automatic. He forgot to feel as he held her close when absolutely necessary, and forgot to breathe whenever she moved her head. He's been trying to forget ever since senior year and he found out that the girl he completely fell in love with was a complete fake. A phony. It was all a fucking sham to put him in his place, because he was a player and he deserved to feel what he put countless girls through. Never mind the fact that he was just any other guy who felt blown away by one person; or he could fight the world with one hand so long she was holding the other. Any other guy who turned into a pansy reciting love quotes that completely and honestly dictated how he felt whenever he was with her. Never—fucking—mind that he was just a boy who fell in love with a girl.
Because at the end of the day he was the player who got a taste of his own medicine. And let me tell you, it fucking hurt like a bitch.
Yeah, he got it.
The instructor's voice rang clear in their silence. "You did well today! I'll see you all tomorrow!"
Leo Rodriguez immediately dropped his arms and walked away with a backward glance. He hated himself completely for feeling the ache to have her in his arms again.
Heavy disappointment accompanied the sick, nauseated feeling Arianna had in her stomach as she trudged inside Haley's and Zach's home. Haley was with the other bridesmaids shopping for last minute wedding decors and Arianna was sorry that stress from work finally caught up with her and made her sick. Leo's presence at her best friend's event also may have something to do with it.
Arianna padded to the kitchen, trying to make herself believe that she wasn't sick. She'll eventually believe it, right? Grabbing the bottle of Tylenol, she felt her forehead and tried not to be deterred by the heat. She'll cool down. Eventually.
Walking to her room, she happened to pass by Leo's door slightly ajar. She heard his professional voice and concluded from the bits she heard that he was speaking to the director about the areas they were scouting.
She walked into her room and collapsed on the comfy looking bed, completely forgetting about the medicine and water bottle in her hands.
She woke up to the sound of rustling and quiet mutters. She tried not to move. God, she felt like shit.
"Yeah, she's here." She recognized Leo's voice. "No, she's sleeping. I guess . . . I mean, the medicine is there. But the water bottle is uncapped. Stupid girl." Leo sighed. "Alright, don't worry. Bye, Hales."
Arianna felt the bed shift and her eyes immediately shot open. She tried sitting up. "I'm okay," she said, but her words came out in a slur. She would've slapped herself if she didn't feel so exhausted.
Leo roughly took her hand and dropped two tablets. He uncapped the water bottle and held it out to her. Arianna obliged silently and sunk back into her bed. She felt Leo remove her socks and tuck her legs under the blanket.
"You're being nice," she informed him, her voice heavy.
"Don't get used to it."
It felt surreal when he didn't leave right away, and instead, sat next to her. She felt his piercing eyes on her skin and she didn't bother opening her eyes. She knew he would just look away. She didn't care that she looked like shit; he's seen her in her worst and did he care? No.
"How'd you get sick?" His voice was reluctant, as if he had to force the words out of his mouth.
She smiled, eyes closed. "Vanessa Love," was her simple reply; and even in her sick induced state, she had to defend the epitome of evil. "But it's not her fault; the life of a production assistant is hard."
She felt a cold, wet cloth on her forehead and she had to smirk again.
"You better leave before I remember any of this later on." For some silly reason, she felt an ache in her heart. She almost forgot to remind herself that he didn't care.
She listened for footsteps, but upon hearing silence, she cracked an eye open and saw him staring down at her, his face unreadable. He caught her eye for a second, then he stood up and left.
She hated herself for caring that he didn't care.
Even the sound of music couldn't erase the apprehensive air in the car. Leo tried not to look at her from the corner of his eye. Arianna Reynolds sat in the passenger seat of his car as he drove them both back to New York.
It was a three hour long drive and he had a feeling he wasn't going to make it out sane.
Conveniently, Haley forgot to mention that she only bought a one-way ticket, and instead of buying another flight and flying with complete strangers where she could somehow get hurt, why won't she ride with Leo — ?
Yeah. They planned it. He managed to get a punch to Zach's smirking face before he was forced into the driver's seat. Bastard, Leo thought vaguely.
From his peripheral vision, he saw her grab another bottle of orange juice and chugged. Frowning a little, Leo remarked, "You know, the next washroom break won't be for another thirty minutes?"
"Thank you." She took another sip. "Ever wonder if they planned this?" Her voice was thoughtful, bordering on distaste and awe. Leo grunted as he made a turn.
"Clearly." His fingers tapped against the steering wheel. Arianna hummed subconsciously and he turned his head to hide the sudden quirk to his lips. Maybe it was a momentary lapse, but he couldn't forget the way she looked at the wedding. The bridal gown was figure-flattering and pretty, but it was the exquisite dress she wore at the reception that truly took his breath. He wasn't all biased; he'd admit when someone was drop dead gorgeous, and the sight of Arianna Reynolds that night made him weak in the knees. He almost forgot that he was bent on hating her.
"So," her voice was almost reluctant. He was pulled out of his reverie. "You're a successful line producer." He shrugged. She inhaled sharply, "Um, is it . . . hard?" Her voice was quiet.
He stared at the road. "It's definitely challenging. Sometimes it's stressful, but if you strive better under stress then that's good for you. You'll get the work done." Leo smiled a half smile subconsciously. "Since you're stubborn, I'm pretty sure you'll make it." He didn't bother thinking as to why he said that.
"It's how I made it this far in this industry."
"Gave up on law, I see."
She glanced out the window. "Something like that." Arianna took another sip of her orange juice. "I couldn't keep the scholarship, so . . ."
He felt like she was waiting for him to mock her; and maybe a part of him told him to, but the larger part wanted to let it go. Instead, he said nothing.
Arianna exhaled shakily. The grip on the steering wheel tightened as he felt the atmosphere shift. There were moments during the wedding and moments preceding the wedding when they got too close. Now they were in a confined space, and neither of them could run away.
"Leo," she blurted and he closed his eyes briefly. It was that tone. He would recognize it anywhere. "I know for a fact when we get back to work—when Vanessa the cow is hovering over me—" He couldn't stop the smirk tugging his lips. "—we're going to do everything in our power to avoid each other. Heck, we'll probably never see each other after you're done overlooking our department."
He felt stupid for feeling that damn ache in his chest. "What're you trying to say?" he cut in smoothly, lessening the tension building.
She laughed humourlessly. "God, what am I trying to say?" she muttered under her breath. "I was stupid. I should never have agreed to that. I'm sorry for humiliating you. I'm sorry that I never got the chance to say sorry—" She cut herself off and sighed. "I know it's six years too late, but I . . . I guess I didn't want you to go on in life remembering me as the girl who wasn't, you know, sorry." She finished awkwardly.
Leo stared at the road blankly. Fuck. This wasn't supposed to happen.
"Okay," he eventually said tersely. His heart was about to pound out of his chest.
Arianna laughed lightly, and turning her head to face the window, he barely heard her mutter with the music flowing in the car. "It's a wonder why I even liked you."
He pretended not to hear anything.
A manicured hand slapped itself against the desk, and in surprise, Arianna yelped and practically jumped out of her seat. Looking up, Arianna pasted a pleasant smile on her face. "Hi—"
"I heard from the director that you two went away together?" Vanessa's voice was incredulous.
Arianna wrinkled her nose. Was it strange that she knew what she was talking about? "I don't endorse gossiping," she said and stretched. "Would you like a bottle of orange juice, Ms. Love?"
"Would I—no! I want to know whether you're having an affair with Leo Rodriguez," Vanessa hissed. Arianna's eyebrows shot to her hairline. Vanessa hastily fixed her mistake. "For business references. I don't recommend it." She shot her a look to cue her in.
Arianna opened her mouth.
"Harassing the production assistant, Vanessa?" a drawl was heard behind them, and Arianna immediately tensed, recognizing the arrogant voice she hasn't heard for a long time.
Arianna closed her mouth, and simultaneously with Vanessa, turned to see Leo standing with his hands in his pockets. His collared shirt's sleeve was rolled to his elbows and Arianna saw the pen markings on his hands, signifying his hard work. Arianna held in a sigh, ignoring the fiery feeling in her veins at the sound of his voice.
"Of course not, Leo." Vanessa laughed good naturedly. "We were only talking."
Arianna bit back a smile, shaking her head. Sometimes Vanessa's capability of lying smoothly on the spot amused her. Sometimes it annoyed her.
"Reynolds." Her back stiffened and the rate of her heartbeat increased. Shit. What did he want now? "I need to speak with you."
Trying not to hyperventilate, she ignored Vanessa's pointed look and followed Leo out into the hallway. Once the door was shut, she looked up at him expectantly.
After the most painful confession in the car only a few days ago, the silence was almost unbearable, but since Arianna expected his reaction, she wasn't disappointed. Much.
What she didn't expect was the look of absolute fury on his face at the moment. It brought back a sudden rush of memories that it almost made her choke.
She didn't know what changed—just that something did—she didn't know when, but it happened. Now she didn't know if she hated him anymore. She didn't know how to deal with his presence. She could handle him for afar, but this proximity was unnerving.
"What?" she said warily. It was her first time seeing him since he dropped her off without so much of a goodbye. The fact that he was practically breathing fire was not reassuring to her existence this moment.
He paced back and forth, and stopped shortly in front of her. "It's like this," he said curtly. "I hate you."
Stung, she took a step back. She knew he was frank, but that was honestly unexpected. Glaring, she snapped, "Well, okay, if that's it—"
"No, shut up," he growled. Annoyed, she crossed her arms under her breasts. "You can't just apologize like that—"
"Why not?" Arianna demanded. "You didn't even give me a chance to explain myself. You acted like I meant nothing to you." Her voice was tight as she tried to maintain her composure. He couldn't waltz back into her life and shatter her built walls. Like hell she'd let him.
"What was there to explain, Reynolds? Your charade was exposed; did you want a moment to feed me lies?"
Arianna's jaw clicked open at the venom in his tone. "How about a chance for me to explain that it may have started out like a damn charade, but it ended up being completely different?" Her voice was incredulous. She couldn't believe how adamant he was—he adamant he still was. "A chance to say that I was going to confess—I'm not that heartless, Rodriguez—and if you didn't believe every word that malicious cousin of yours said, then maybe you would have gotten to hear the part where I fell for you, too."
Arianna watched in bitter satisfaction, for that one moment, where she made Leo Rodriguez speechless.
"Yeah, I knew you had every right to hate me the way you did," she said tightly, "I probably deserved all those students laughing behind my back. But did it have to be about my family?" The last word was choked, and Arianna took a deep breath to uphold her strong demeanor. "My family's poor, Leo, I know that. I worked hard to help out, but it was honest work! I didn't go running around cheating on you using my body." Her voice shook as she allowed herself to say the words that were bottled up for so long. "I didn't sell those stupid drugs they found and—" Oh, that was it. It was all she could handle before the tears rushed to her eyes and all air left her lungs.
Humiliated, but strangely relieved, she turned her heel to run.
She felt his strong grip on her upper arm before she was whirled around to face him.
Paralyzed, her eyes were wide as she returned his intense gaze. His jaw was clenched, and the ragged look in his eyes made her heart hurt. God, even after all this time, she still had the urge to run her hand over his face and relieve him of his frustrations.
"I didn't tell them." His voice was empty, opposed to the exclamation she was half expecting. He dropped his arms. All Arianna could do was gawp at his words. "Fuck, Arianna, I hated you for what you did, but I didn't tell the school about your family. I swear."
She stared at him.
Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair. "My cousin overheard us talking one day, and she wanted to get revenge for what you did to me, so she spread the rumours and framed you. I should've stopped her. I wanted to hurt you, so I didn't say anything." He averted his eyes awkwardly and exhaled. "I'm sorry."
They stood there as silence expanded, and simultaneously, both took a step back from each other.
"Okay," Arianna said quietly and lifted her gaze to look at him.
Leo glanced back, face unreadable, and nodded once. They stood there for another minute before Leo straightened and jerked his shoulder to the door. "That's it, Miss Reynolds."
Dragging her eyes away from him, Arianna left.
"Um, sir? That's your—uh, eighth glass of oran—"
Leo directed a death glare at the teenage boy manning the counter. "I asked for another one."
Shaking his head profusely, the boy scrambled to get Leo another glass of orange juice.
Bemused, Leo looked at the empty glasses next to him. Orange juice was good. Maybe that's why Arianna loved them so much; she practically got him addicted. He wasn't, though, so it was okay for him to be drinking this much.
Barely acknowledging the trembling boy, Leo grabbed his ninth glass of orange juice and stood up from the stool. He had one purpose in mind, and he'll be damned if anyone got in the way.
"Ah, we were looking for you!" Herbert, Joseph, and Taylor abruptly cut his line of vision; the grins on their faces were too bright for Leo's tastes.
Guess he was damned, Leo noted and impatiently, jerked his head for them to continue.
Joseph nudged Herbert. "Look, he's a little cranky."
"Which is pretty strange behaviour," Taylor mused, rubbing his chin exaggeratedly. "We finished the film. You should be happy, you ungrateful asshole. This is a party."
Leo scowled, disregarding his latter statement. "Why are you calling me an asshole, asshole?"
Herbert smiled at them pleasantly. Sometimes Leo had the feeling the Herbert liked to play teacher and reprimand the 'students'. Leo will never understand Herbert's outlook on life. "Children, come now," Herbert said coolly, desperately fighting the smile on his face. Yeah. Leo saw his lips twitching. "Taylor, explain to Leo what you mean." There was a brief pause as Taylor opened his mouth eagerly. "Nicely."
He shut it closed with a frown.
Laughing, Joseph slung an arm over Leo's shoulders. He felt like this was some sort of intervention. Leo tried to escape, but Joseph tightened his grip around his neck, rooting him into a fixed position.
"Look, we all know that you've been a jerk because of a lady—"
"Arianna," Taylor put in.
"—and we've discarded it because we thought you'd fix things with her—"
"But you didn't," Taylor said.
Leo scowled ferociously at Taylor. Leo was this close to reaching out, fist first.
"—and since this will be the last time we're here like this together, we would like to say that we think you're being a complete pansy." Herbert finished with a stern look in his eyes.
Leo could only stare at them blankly. "But I'm an assertive male," he said with a frown.
Joseph rolled his eyes and shoved him in the direction of Arianna. "Just go talk to her."
Straightening, Leo rolled his eyes and tightened the grip on the glass of orange juice. It's been months since the momentous day where they last spoke to each other. Neither made a move to rekindle their misunderstood relationship, and not a day goes by where Leo kicked himself for acting like—a pansy. They were right.
He was a complete coward.
Leo easily found her in the crowd; he's been keeping an eye for her ever since she stepped into the banquet room. But the proximity between the two of them only proved to steal his breath away as he got a better view of her. Damn. She was stunning, and she probably didn't know it.
Smothering a smile, he saw her nodding robotically to Vanessa's words. Smoothly, he stepped between the two and smiled a disarming smile at the flabbergasted looking Vanessa.
"May I speak to Ms. Reynolds for a few minutes?"
He didn't wait for a reply and turned to lead Arianna away from Vanessa. He ignored her incredulous expression and placed them away from prying ears.
"Mr. Rodriguez," she said, a strange tone entering her voice.
He held out the glass in his hand. "Orange juice?" Leo felt like a stupid, inexperienced teenager asking a girl out to the movies. He felt even more stupid for comparing himself to such a situation; this was so much more important.
She observed him for a moment before grinning a reluctant smile. "Thank you." Her eyes flitted to his neck. "Nice tattoo." There was a hint of a smirk on her face.
He felt the skin burning where she was piercing it with her eyes. "I think I heard you call Vanessa Love a cow from where I was standing."
Arianna lifted her chin defiantly, but he knew her cheeks were hot. "No, of course not."
He sobered, and his eyes traced every curve, juncture and line on her face. The way her eyelashes fluttered as she blinked, and the concentrated focus in her eyes. He wondered how he went months without talking to her. Hell, he wondered how he went years without hearing her voice.
Joseph suddenly passed by, and with a napkin over his mouth, "Kiss her," he coughed violently and disappeared with a grin over his shoulder.
As Leo distractedly thought that he and Zach would get along great, Arianna took a large swig out of the glass and slammed it against the table. The last thing he saw was the familiar glint in her eye before he felt a pair of soft lips against his own.
It was only a second before he responded, his arms wounding tightly around her waist, as they both tried to ignore the laughter and encouragement from the audience.
Arianna pulled away all too soon, face flushed, lips swollen, and Leo couldn't help but think she was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon.
Her grin was crooked, "Old times sake," she said quietly.
Leo Rodriguez felt lightheaded. "Maybe." He shrugged noncommittally, and pulled out a card. He watched her glance at the card, and her eyes widened. "It's all about connections, right?" His grin was roguish.
Arianna looked up at him, stunned. "But—but why?"
"Because you're intelligent, determined, and deserving."
Arianna observed him, and he felt the usual prickles on his skin whenever she laid her eyes on him. It was the familiar urge to have her near him at all times.
Suddenly, Arianna frowned quizzically, tilting her head. "Leo Rodriguez." He glanced to his side noncommittally, feigning nonchalance. But shit, his heart was pounding louder than the music in the room. "You like me, don't you?"
Slowly, Leo turned his head to see if she was serious, but she was only glancing at him in that curious manner tinted with slight embarrassment at her blunt inquiry.
Leo only shrugged.
Arianna shook her head, "For the record, I never stopped either," she said wryly.
Leo ignored the three knowing faces at the sidelines, ignored his brain, and ignored his dignity—all because he liked her enough to risk everything.
Hell, who was he kidding. He fucking loved her.
"Haley called it magnetism. I guess it makes sense."
Leo looked down at her looking at him musingly. He let the silence drag on as he contemplated the word. Magnetism. The properties of attraction possessed by magnets. The power to attract, fascinate, or influence . . .
Leo snorted. Fuck that.
"Nah. It's you and me. That's what makes sense."
Author's note: Oh, my gosh. I had isolated writer's block, but since there was a deadline I had to keep coming back. I literally dream of possible scenes. Trust, there's a file for deleted scenes. Haha, but I had fun! I think I was pretty realistic (more than I usually am, anyway), right? Anyway, I had to get this out before I left for Florida. YAY. LOL, so yes, wonderful fictionpress readers! Support this contest hosted by annoyance. Check out the other stories in her C2!
Disclaimer: definition for magnetism was borrowed from dictionary . com (: