Monday, 6 March 2017

Paradise Lost Chap 11

CHAPTER 11 UPTON THE WISE
An hour later I met Upton on the beach, about a ten-minute walk from Noelle's house. As he saw me
approach, he got on his knees and pushed up the sleeves of his navy-blue cotton sweater, exposing his
perfect forearms.
"I've brought you three types of croissants," he announced. "That has to earn me some points."
He pronounced "croissants" with a flawless French accent. Could this guy be any sexier?
Do not get sucked in, I told myself, tucking my hands under my arms as I sat down on the gray flannel
blanket. There was a stiff wind coming off the water, and my green hoodie was zipped up all the way
to my chin, which had the added benefit of sending a clear message--not here to flirt.
"Maybe. We'll see," I said, checking out the rest of the spread. Laid out on the blanket were four
separate platters heaped with fruit, croissants (butter, chocolate, and strawberry), eggs Benedict, and
all manner of breads and cheeses.
"Are you a tea person or a coffee person?" he asked, holding up two silver thermoses.
"Coffee, definitely," I said, pulling my knees up under my chin.
"All Americans are," he joked, pouring some into an actual ceramic mug. I noticed that he also had
somehow managed to transport a glass carafe of grapefruit juice without breaking it. As picnics went,
this was pretty gourmet. Back in Croton the word "picnic" conjured images of soggy PB&Js and
Minute Maid fruit punch juice boxes.
"Okay. I'll admit I'm impressed," I teased, tying back my hair in a ponytail. A few clouds had rolled in
off the island side, encroaching on the sun. I hugged my sweatshirt closer to me, wondering if Upton
felt the same way as Kiran did about Old Navy. I took a sip of my coffee and resolved not to care.
"Thank you," Upton said, settling in next to me with his tea. His thigh grazed mine and, even through
my jeans, I felt the heat. Damn. Being near this guy was definitely dangerous.
"I'm glad Noelle brought you here," he said.
"Why? Need some new meat?" I blurted.
"What does that mean?" he asked, pulling back slightly.
"Nothing. Sorry," I said, taking another sip of my coffee. "It's just... I like you." Didn't get much more
transparent than that.
Upton grinned. "I like you, too."
"But you're a player," I said, my heart slamming against my breastbone. His brow knit as he
considered this. "I don't have to be." I laughed. "Yes, you do. People don't change."
"That is such a load of bollocks. People change all the time," he protested, setting down his tea and
turning toward me. "Look at Madonna. She loves the U.S., then she loves England, then she loves the
U.S. again. Or politicians. They flip-flop all the time. And look at Brad Pitt. You cannot tell me that
man was not a player before he met Angelina." I laughed loudly and raised my hands. "Okay, okay!
You made your point."
"Good," Upton said, settling in again. He reached for the platter of fruit and popped a grape in his
mouth. "I thought I was going to have to whip out my BlackBerry and start searching Wikipedia for
more examples. The point is, right here, right now, I want to be with you. No one else. Okay?"
I took a deep breath and audibly let it out. "Okay." I couldn't help but smile. He'd had me at
"load of bollocks." I tore off the end of a croissant and nibbled on it. It was clearly time to move on
from the player conversation.
"So what's your deal, Upton Giles?" I asked. "Where're you from? What do you do? What do you
like? "
"My deal?" he said with a laugh. He propped his hands behind him and gazed out at the ocean. "Well,
let's see, I grew up in Essex, where my family owns quite a bit of land. My grandfather did well with
some technology investments and used his earnings to snatch up every foreclosed estate he could get
his hands on, so we're new money pretending to be old." He lowered his voice as if sharing a dark
family secret. "So because of this grand charade, I am supposed to make something of myself, which
basically means that when I was five I knew I was going to have to graduate from Oxford and become
a medic or a lawyer or a businessman of some kind. Whatever would get me quoted in the London
Times at least once a month, which is how my father measures a person's success."
I laughed, pushing away a stray lock of hair from my face. "Sounds like a lot of pressure." Upton
grabbed a plain croissant and covered it with some sort of greenish-white cheese.
"You'd think it would be, but you're missing one important detail."
"What's that?" I said.
"Expectations mean bugger all to me," he said with a grin. I smiled and took a sip of my coffee.
"What's Oxford like?"
"Why? Thinking of matriculating?" he asked, leaning on his side now. He gave me a leading look that
made me shiver "We'd love to have you," he said in a jokingly husky voice.
"I think Oxford's a little out of my reach," I said, putting down the coffee and dusting some stray sand
from my hands. "I'm kind of starting to stress about college. Everyone I know has to get into an Ivy
League school, like it's going to make or break the rest of our lives. I never even thought about the
Ivies until I got to Easton, and now it's, like, 'Omigod! What if I don't get in?'" I said, raising my
shoulders and spreading my fingers wide. Upton laughed and took another bite of croissant. "You
don't have to go to an Ivy to have a life."
I rolled my eyes. "Said the guy who goes to Oxford."
"I'm serious," he told me. 'You can get a proper education almost anywhere. It's just up to you how
much work you want to put into it. The important thing is to go somewhere that you feel comfortable.
Otherwise you'll spend all your time trying to fit in instead of trying to learn." I stared out at the
ocean. The waves were larger now, starting to splash their way up the beach toward our picnic spot.
"Huh. No one's ever put it that way before."
"Not only am I not an ass, I'm also quite wise," Upton joked, spearing a piece of melon with his fork.
I sighed and pulled my knees up under my chin, hugging my shins as I looked out at the choppy water.
This was an interesting concept--figure out where I'd feel comfortable. After the insane experiences
I'd had at Easton, maybe I should look for a big school. Big and southern and warm. With lots and lots
of sunshine, modern buildings, and no tradition at all. I laughed to myself and tightened my sweatshirt
around my torso. University of Miami, here I come.
"Is it just me, or is it getting cold out here?" I asked. My words were still hanging in the air when I
felt the first raindrop.
"That's our cue," Upton said. He sat up straight and opened the picnic basket. Already a steady drizzle
was starting to fall. "Leave the trays. Save as much of the food as you can."
"Just leave the silver trays?" I asked. Did his family sweat money or something?
"There's no time. These things come on fast," he said. He was right. The rain was starting to fall
harder, soaking through my skirt and sweatshirt.
"We dumped the bread, cheese, and croissants into the basket, grabbed the thermoses, and left the rest
on the blanket. Upton grabbed my hand and squinted up the beach.
"We can duck under the roof at Shutters," he said, pointing at a covered deck that was mostly
obscured by dozens of blossoming bushes.
Upton jogged up the beach, no easy feat in the downy sand when toting a few pounds of food in one
hand and clinging to me with the other. Before I knew it, we were climbing a set of stone steps and
ducking under the wooden overhang that covered an outdoor restaurant. Several of the tables were
occupied, and the diners were visibly startled at our sudden arrival. The maitre d' stepped forward
and greeted us. He was a handsome, dark-skinned man with a huge smile and four hoop earrings in his
left ear.
"Good morning, Mr. Giles," he said, placing his hands together. "Caught in the storm?" It seemed as if
everyone relaxed when they realized one of the vagabonds off the street was actually Upton Giles. I
was reminded that this was a small island and that Upton's circle was even smaller.
"Afraid so, Marquis," Upton said, running his hand over his hair a few times to shed some of the rain.
"Mind if we wait it out here for a bit?"
Marquis gestured with an open hand toward the front of the restaurant. "Feel free to sit in the lounge
until it passes."
Upton tugged on my hand, leading me toward the lounge. But two steps later, we nearly bumped into
the Ryan family, who were walking out to the patio. Paige, dressed in a white fleece warm-up suit,
took one look at my hand in Upton's and glanced away, irritated. Man, this girl took the Upton Game
seriously. Too bad I was winning.
"Upton! Reed!" Daniel greeted us with a warm smile. "What did you do, go for a walk in the rain?"
"We attempted a picnic," Upton said, glancing past Daniel at his parents. "But the weather didn't
cooperate."
He dropped my hand to adjust the basket, and then left my fingers hanging there. Paige noticed this
and smirked. I tucked both hands under my arms to feel less conspicuous.
"Why don't you join us, then?" Mr. Ryan suggested. His salt-and-pepper hair looked as hard as a
helmet, and his teeth glowed white. In tan khakis, with his aviator sunglasses hanging out of the collar
of his blue polo, he looked like a poster boy for the Republican convention.
"I doubt they want to horn in on a family breakfast," Mrs. Ryan said, slipping between her two
progeny to step past us. "They have better manners than that. At least Upton does," she said with a
sniff, eyeing my soggy hoodie with disgust. "Come, Paige, Daniel. Marquis has our usual table ready."
Paige smirked at me as she followed her mother. Mrs. Ryan had insulted me so flippantly that it took a
few minutes for the words to sink in. When they did, my jaw nearly hit the ground. Was Mrs.
Ryan really that annoyed about what had gone on at Billings this year? Having graduated from Easton
at least twenty years ago, it was way past time for her to move on.
"You'll have to excuse my wife," Mr. Ryan said in a low voice. "She hasn't been sleeping well."
"Not a problem, Mr. Ryan," Upton said. "Enjoy your brunch." Mr. Ryan flashed us his politician smile
before joining his family.
"Not a problem? That woman was so rude to me," I whispered, glancing over my shoulder. Mrs. Ryan
was sitting at the first table overlooking the water, staring at her menu with her lips pursed, judging
the offerings just as she had judged me. "Doesn't she have better things to do with her time?"
"Don't let her ruin your day," Upton said. He nodded toward the cozy-looking lounge, filled with big
armchairs and glass-topped tables. "Come on. We can get dried off inside and see if we can save any
of our breakfast."
I took a deep breath. Upton was right. If I was going to be Fun Reed, I shouldn't let some bitter, bored
housewife ruin my day. But I couldn't help noticing that Upton had not reached for my hand again. Was
it because he didn't want Paige to report back to Poppy and tell her that he had been holding my hand?
And if so, why?
I reached for a chocolate croissant and tore into it. Forget Mrs. Ryan. All these unanswered questions
could definitely ruin my day.

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Terima kasih sebab sudi menerjah ke ruangan saya kali ini.
Anda diwajibkan untuk komen. Amaran keras!
*ceh tipu je HAHA =P*