For Angelo

By: Marian Tee



Because he had already been gazing at her from the start.

Because from the very moment he had walked into the room, he had known she was there, and that upon seeing her, his body had gone still and his blood had turned cold.

The entire time the dean had been talking about him, his attention had been completely focused on her, and he had not been able to understand why she had not looked up when he entered the room or when the dean had mentioned his name.

Instead, he had seen her look up only at the sound of his laughter, magnified by the microphone pinned to the lapel of his suit.

And now, she was staring at him, and for one moment he could not stop himself from gazing back at her. Even as he exchanged banter with the dean, even as he continued with the rest of his speech, he claimed her gaze—

Until he remembered that she already belonged to someone else.

His jaw clenched, and this time he looked away and never glanced back at her again. Even when it was Steel’s turn to speak, even when he could feel her stunned, wide-eyed gaze on him the entire time, he did not look at her even once.

A sickeningly strong sense of déjà vu struck him then, and his resolve strengthened.

Never again, he thought grimly.

When the orientation was over, he had reinforcements in place, a woman waiting for him right outside the classroom.

Amor was a model and Italian like him. More importantly, she knew how to play the game as well as he did and expected only from Angelo what he was comfortable giving.

“Ciao,” he murmured in greeting, taking her hand and raising it up to his lips.

But instead of pleasure, he felt…pain.

Her pain.

He didn’t understand how and why, but he knew that she had seen it all, and she was in pain.

His jaw clenched.

He ended the kiss, but he didn’t release Amor’s hand. Instead, he held it tightly, knowing that to others it would seem like he was possessive of the model. Beside them, his friend Steel shot him a curious look, but Angelo ignored this.

He curled an arm around Amor’s waist, pulling her closer to him as they walked away, wanting to make a statement.

You are never going to be a part of my life.

He wanted the message to reach her loud and clear.

But it didn’t.





****





They started playing a cat-and-mouse game after that, and it left Angelo torn between anger and exasperation. In some strange, explicable twist, like the universe playing a joke on him, he – Angelo Valencia III, whose soul was beyond redemption – had ended up being the target, a full-sized prey being stalked by a tiny, hapless kitty.

And what made it worse, he considered tautly, was that she didn’t even seem to be intentionally following him. As far as he could tell, it was fate constantly throwing them together, fate forcing their paths to continuously cross.

He would be heading to the dean’s office, see her from the opposite direction, and he would find himself turning around with embarrassingly clumsy haste. He would rather take a circuitous route than walk past her.

And now, Steel was asking him what was wrong. They were outside the library, with Angelo keeping his friend company while they waited for a family friend Steel was supposed to meet.

“Well?” His friend arched a brow at him.

“Nothing,” Angelo lied in a clipped tone. If he admitted the truth, then he might as well admit that he was already fighting a losing battle and she had gotten under his skin.

And that, he thought grimly, he would never do.

Steel was smirking. “You’re lying. Remember the time we were supposed to have lunch at the students’ cafeteria because the one for faculty was crowded?”

“So I changed my mind—”

Steel rolled his eyes. “You were starving as much as I was—”

“You’re exaggerating,” he said brusquely. “I wasn’t starving. I just realized it would set a bad example if we didn’t maintain the barrier between students and mentors.”

“Riiiiight.” Steel’s tone was amused. “You’ve become rather fickle-minded lately, now that I think of it. Like the time we were crossing the street and you changed your mind halfway. You almost caused a four-car pile-up—”

Because he had seen her with the convenience store guy, he recalled blackly. Angelo looked at Steel. “Just drop it, March.” His lips compressed in frustrated anger.

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