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   Chapter 4 Enigmatic Eyes

I Thirst For You By JMFelic Characters: 19629

Updated: 2018-09-06 22:19


Two days passed with Amanda having the same routine. She worked on the three Formula Ones for the grand race to be held on the second week. She was together with the other mechanics of her stepfather focusing on the wiring, engine performance and the fluidity of the run. Matteo as usual drove her home while Noman, nursing two more hangovers, entertained her with his set of Originals and The Tudors DVD.

On the third day, she, having preregistered in an international mountain climbing club back in New Zealand, traveled to the province's highest mountain with Noman and Matteo tagging along. This was one of her most awaited activities during her stay in the country.

"Alright, we are here, " announced the athletic, dreadlock-haired Club leader, Kenneth.

They left the van in a clearing surrounded by many trees and shrubbery some distance away and trekked in a narrow rocky path to where they stood now - in front of an intimidating red and gray, close-to-vertical rock formation with its summit reaching to as high as ten floors. The other side of it was a slanting land, easy for them to trek back to the van.

The sky was a beautiful blue. Clouds were present but they were white enough to hint no rain to come.

"Is he seriously going to expect us to climb that?" Noman whispered on Amanda's left ear. He stared at the megalithic rock formation and cringed.

Amanda only grinned at him. "Yes, that's the purpose of this travel Dom."

"I don't think I can do that, " he added, putting his index finger against his bottom lip and biting it.

Amanda gave him an Are-You-Serious look. "Then why did you come along with me?"

Noman rolled his eyes and smiled at her impishly. "Uggh, hello Cait? To check out men!" he replied and true enough, it was his plan all along considering he just wore cardigan pants and a button-up shirt exactly a complete contrast of Amanda and Matteo's sports attire.

She shook her head in disbelief and nudged at her bestfriend on the ribs. "You really are silly Dom."

"I for one would like to climb that, " Matteo, who had been quietly listening to their conversation, cut in. He examined the towering land formation with sparks in his eyes and continued, "Nothing could compare to reaching the top of that with Caitlin next to me."

He gazed at her, warmth radiating on the way he looked, and this caused Amanda to lower her head and Noman to wave his hands in front.

"Okay, then be my guest Matt, " he said rather cheerfully. "I'll just be here waiting for the two of you to come down."

Both Amanda and Matteo smirked.

"Let's go?" she said, readying her backpack in one arm.

Matteo bobbed his head, easily accepting her silent challenge. "You bet I will."

He wasn't one who loved mountain climbing but he enjoyed sports and getting in shape. With Amanda an added bonus, he didn't hesitate daring himself.

With all the equipment set up, seven climbers started including Amanda and Matteo. They started at exactly thirty minutes after ten. An hour later, half of the climbers reached the summit including the Club leader, his girlfriend Macayla Miller, a Caucasian male member and Amanda.

"Wow, breathtaking, " she expressed, gazing at the beautiful sight before her. She inhaled and exhaled, wiped her sweat off her forehead and made a victory pose.

"Yes, almost there Matt!" she then shouted, looking down to where Matteo was. "Wait 'til you see this view! It is worth it!"

Amidst the difficulty, he looked up and smiled brightly on her way.

"Hey Cait!" Macayla, a woman with fiery red hair, patted on her shoulder. "You see that peaking roof over that mountain?" She pointed past a mountain ahead covered with a sea of leaves. Solid shapes of rectangle overlaying one another was clearly seen emerging from it.

Amanda turned to look and nodded. "Yeah, what of it?" she said.

"That's the Vitalis Castle, " the latter replied, knowing very well the popularity of the Family.

"No kidding..." Amanda blinked many times.

"Yes, I'm not messing with you. This whole area you see including this mountain we are standing is owned by the Vitalis Family."

Amanda gaped some more. "Wow..." she uttered, completely flabbergasted on the fact laid out on her. After staying a night in the castle, she knew immediately they were wealthy people, but she didn't expect they were this outrageously wealthy.

"Truly, wow, " Macayla echoed whilst staring at the landscapes too.

Amanda, for minutes, gazed at the peeking roof. She had never felt so drawn to such a building like this before. Maybe because it was the design of it. Maybe because of the sense of mystery in it. Maybe...anything really as long as it wasn't because of the man that Mastered it: Cord Vitalis.

Remembering him, she immediately shook her head and pursed her lip.

God, why did that man just slip into her thoughts without invitation?

She trained her eyes in a different part of the scenery, eager to relieve unwanted images of him. She didn't intend it, but she chose to look at a couple of massive sequoia trees in her left side. What she saw there though made her gasp.

A mirage? An illusion?

She couldn't really be sure, but a silhouette of a man in a black trench coat stood in one of the fat branches in the tallest tree, looking at her way. His hand rested in the bark, but Amanda didn't think it was to keep himself from falling. Heck, the man looked at ease with his surroundings, confident even, like he could sprout wings on his back anytime when needed.

But that wasn't her problem. What unsettled her was how he looked exactly like the Vitalis Master, minus the blindfold. If it weren't for the distance, she would have been so sure then that it was truly him.

A gust of wind passed by and this made Amanda clutch her hair to keep it from getting tangled. Then, a hand patted her right shoulder.

"Hey, I'm up!" proclaimed Matteo, smiling from ear to ear. He inched closer to her looking every bit a sexy man who just came from a long, hard gym training.

"Took you long enough, " Amanda stated, smirking at him in order to hide the fact that she had just forgotten about him for that one particular moment. Her eyes betrayed her and glanced back at the tallest sequoia tree, expecting to see the man still, but to her astonishment, he was nowhere in sight.

"Wow, " exclaimed Matteo in awe.

"Exactly, " Amanda took a long, deep breath. Probably, the arduous task of getting into the summit took a toll on her sense of reality? Surely, a human can't disappear just like that right? Unless the man fell from the tree, but that was highly unlikely without them hearing a cry for help.

"I'm glad I tagged along with you, " Matteo stated, oblivious of what troubled her.

"You're welcome Matt, " she replied.

Matteo opened his mouth to continue on, but whatever topic he had in mind was instantly lost when they both heard loud, jubilant cheers of their fellow climbers.

"Wooohoww!"

"Yeah!"

"Way to go dude!"

Both Amanda and Matteo turned to look behind.

"Oh, how sweet, " she commented once finding the reason for the climbers' elation.

The club leader, Kenneth, and his girlfriend were actually lip-locking with so much passion and without any shyness, their arms entangled in their bodies.

"Look at that, they seem to see the romantic side of this place, " Matteo remarked as he smoothly slipped a hand on Amanda's waist.

Caught unaware, she felt instant goosebumps all over her arms.

"Yeah, it seems so, " she whispered and shifted a little to loosen his grip.

It failed miserably.

"Cait, there's something I want to tell you, " Matteo continued, eyes burning with an emotion Amanda had seen in him countless of times since they first met.

"What is?" she asked, tipping her brow up acting as if she was unaffected, but an immediate blush came to her cheeks - for the very first time - owing it to the change of atmosphere on top the rocky formation they were in and how he gazed at her with such adoration.

"Is there a possibility for you to...welcome me in your heart?" He turned to face her, chest to chest, not at all hesitating.

Amanda had foreseen this question coming so when Matteo asked this, she wasn't at all surprised. She wanted to say a direct 'no' but out of respect and in order to protect his male ego, she answered him instead, "There is but—"

"Stop, " Matteo quickly inserted, pressing a firm finger over her mouth. He shook his head whilst closing his eyes, pulling off a serene look of contentment. "That's all I want to hear Cait. Just give me a chance."

"Matt, I don't want to entertain any suitors, " she furrowed her brows. He knew this well, surely he can understand it.

"I am not your suitor Cait. I am your future husband, " was what Matteo answered with confidence oozing up.

"So sure of you to say that."

"You don't believe me? Then how about we experiment?" Matteo pressed himself more on her.

Amanda didn't answer but she narrowed her eyes at him, calculating him.

"I'll kiss you now, " Matteo continued. "The sparks that you will feel then will become the answer."

Up for the challenge, Amanda grinned, confident enough that she'll be immune to this man's lips.

"Go ahead and try, " she stated, raising her face higher for better access.

Matteo's chest rose with pride. His free hand moved to caress her chin slowly, leisurely, until it trespassed her bottom lip with a light press.

"I've yearned to kiss your lips for such a long time, " he stated, wetting his own lips in preparation for the contact.

Amanda merely stayed still.

When their lips touched, the climbers shouted in glee. Many congratulated. Others just whistled, but to Amanda those sounds were muted.

For her, the only thing that captured her focus was Matteo's soft lips on hers, the way he held her in his arms like she was a valuable object, and the way his heat radiated on her.

Surprisingly, his kiss didn't repulse her. As her first time, she honestly thought it would be because she didn't love the man, but she was wrong. It felt good and damn, she felt little sparks appearing in her closed eyes just as what he mentioned.

She didn't expect this at all.

"Matt..." she whispered once able to break a little to catch a breath.

Matteo, raking her hair, didn't withdraw. He continued to steal quick kisses on her lips. "Cait, you taste of wild honeysuckle, " he groaned.

But his voice was muffled when a sudden splitting sound of wood resounded in the air.

"OH SHIT!" one male climber bellowed and this made Amanda wrench herself out of Matteo's hold.

"Oh my God, that tree over there!" Macayla cried out, pointing at the now torn-into-half sequoia tree. "How did that happen?!"

The hard wood fell uncontrolled on the earth, creating a loud, rumbling sound in their ears. Birds of different species flew away from the affected site, some of which flew directly past the climbers.

Amanda, watching with eyes rounded, knew the tree as not only the largest but also as the one that that illusion of a man appeared. She felt her blood chill as Macayla's question lingered on her head.

Yes, how did the tree split into two?

"The van!" Kenneth shouted. He hopped in one of the lower areas of the rock formation and waved his hand. "Guys, let's go! We need to check if the van was hit!"

"Cait, " Matteo interlaced his fingers on her and kissed her forehead.

She pressed her lips together, but other than that, she didn't show any other response to his intimate actions.

"Come, we should go down too, " she stated, making sure to be as neutral as she could be.

"Yes, we should, " Matteo answered.

On their way down, Amanda stole a few glances of the destroyed tree. It actually got split to the roots which looked weird and scary. Many smaller trees got hit during the process; their trunks and branches severed and strewn across the forest floor.

Some of the climbers commented about it being too old to hold its weight. Some commented it was because of its height.

But to Amanda, it was neither. Although it sounded crazy, she believed what had recently occurred wasn't a natural phenomenon. She had this nagging feeling that the man from earlier caused it.

The answer as to how though remain a mystery.

*

*

*

Luckily, the van was spared from a brutal destruction. The club leader, being a hardcore believer of superstitions, decided to cancel the whole camp activity and return instead to the city.

While on travel, many climbers talked about the tree, Noman included. Amanda remained silent, listening to the active conversations and so did Matteo, but he had his hand on her lap acting like a possessive boyfriend.

Amanda, still feeling the effects of their kiss, refused to look at him in the eye and that went on for an hour of travel.

When they arrived in the city, it was already two in the afternoon. Matteo invited the two of them for a late lunch at a famous Italian restaurant. Noman was happy to accept. Amanda just nodded and ghosted a smile.

In the restaurant, they ate and drank merrily with Noman the main leader of the discussion. It wasn't until Amanda's cellphone rang that he paused from talking.

"I need to get this, " informed she, looking at the unknown number in her cellphone screen.

Matteo and Noman simultaneously bobbed their heads.

"Go ahead Cait, we will be fine here, " said Noman.

Amanda pressed the answer button after she had fully exited the restaurant.

"Hello?" she said, pressing the cellphone against her ear.

The caller answered and thereafter informed her of a certain important issue.

Amanda just nodded the whole time, her mouth a thin line, and by the time their discussion finished, she was partly sad and partly disappointed with it.

"Who called?" was Matteo's immediate question right after Amanda returned to their table.

"It is Chief Moretti, " Amanda supplied. She placed the phone in the pocket of her sports capri pants and drank her lemon juice straight.

"The Chief? Why did she call?"

"She said I needed to be under the witness protection program."

"What?" Both Matteo and Noman spoke in unison with their brows completely furrowed.

Amanda sighed and gave them a shrug. "She says that since the man who died was an important board member of NASCAR, I needed to be protected. I am the only one who saw the murder and who the man looked like. The security cameras didn't yield good results since the spot was too dim."

"I thought you didn't see the man's face because of that same reason, " Matteo questioned.

Amanda nodded. "Yeah, you're right, but still she said the department won't take any chances. The dead man's got bad issues going on around him. Swindling and gambling cheats to mention some. It's possible that he angered some mafia or a loan shark."

"Oh, that's bad news Cait. Totally." Noman looked worried.

"I guess so. I'll just have to do what they tell me to for now, " she answered, her eyes looking distant.

Not that she didn't want to cooperate, but this was her supposed vacation. Being placed in a witness protection program and sent to a safe house wasn't included in her list. No. Not at all.

"Won't that affect the grand race next week?" Matteo inquired.

Amanda was silent for a moment. She looked at her empty plate and then smiled confidently. "I don't think it would. I'm certain the three Formula Ones are in perfect condition. You won't need me in the grand race at all."

"I'm relieved to hear that, " he remarked, sounding like every worried Vice President in a large company.

At four in the afternoon, the group left the restaurant. Since no one brought a car, Noman and Amanda took a cab to the apartment. Matteo, giving Amanda some space to think about their growing relationship, kissed her in the cheek as a goodbye. Noman waved a hand, but with a definite mischievous smirk on his face.

By the time the duo arrived in the apartment, to their surprise, there were already two police officers stationed in the front door of Noman's unit. One informed about having to relocate Amanda ASAP to which she of course vehemently refused.

"I thought I'll be given until tomorrow to pack Chief Moretti?" was her fuming question over the phone.

The other end of the line explained the necessity of transferring her into the safehouse stat.

Amanda, in the end, surrendered.

"I can't believe this is happening, " she complained as she packed her clothes back in her luggage.

Noman helped. He gave her a sad face and pulled her in an embrace.

"I know. Did the Chief say where you will stay? Because I will certainly visit you every day."

Amanda calmed for a moment and leaned on his shoulder. "She didn't divulge it saying it is confidential, but she says a car will pick me up an hour from now." She checked on the wall clock and frowned. "Or more like ten minutes from now."

"I hope this witness protection program ends before you return to New Zealand, " Noman released a sigh.

"Yeah, I do hope so too. We still have one hell of a shopping to do before we return." Amanda giggled.

When it was time to leave, they exchanged goodbyes in the street. The two policemen flanked them on each side like normal bodyguards would do.

"Well, where is that car the Chief said anyway?" Noman pointed, standing and looking ahead on the road. By this time, the sun had some early hints of setting. Violet and orange painted the sky. The air was cold, but both he and Amanda wore thick coats for it.

"It'll be here, " she answered, holding her personal bag in one hand. Her luggage was next to her feet, all stocked with her vacation belongings.

"Yeah, I don't doubt it at all, " he replied.

Without anything to do, they stared at the passing cars. One vehicle in particular caught their attention. It was a limousine and it was driving towards them.

"Whew, " Noman whistled, "Look at that shine."

The limousine was ebony black, smooth and slick enough to have undergone constant polishing. The tires looked brand new and damn, it screamed fancy and pricey.

Amanda, being an automobile lover, relished the sight too, momentarily forgetting about her situation until the limousine stopped directly in front of them and out came the Chief of Spa Police, Chief Moretti, all clad in police uniform.

"Ms. O'Malley, " she bent her head and proceeded, "this is your ride to the safehouse."

The woman must be joking if she meant the limousine as her ride but she looked serious enough for Amanda to believe.

"Where's the destination to, Chief Moretti?" she asked, hoping she would divulge but still she didn't.

"I'm sorry, but it is confidential. Just go inside the car. You will know soon enough, " the Chief answered.

Amanda and Noman looked at each other and sighed.

"Text me when you arrive okay?" Noman stated, hugging her once again.

"Yeah, you know I will. Do tell Matteo of this too. He'll be angry that I didn't inform him."

Noman nodded.

"Yes, I will. Stay safe." He released her and gave her a fly-away kiss.

Amanda smiled and slipped into the car without really checking on the passengers inside, thinking that she was alone, but as soon as she turned her attention on the left side of the car, her mouth dropped.

Apparently, the one sitting there was the Master of Vitalis, Cord, and he looked as dangerous and strikingly enigmatic as he was two days ago.

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