Aaron knew he screwed up when Keeley hit him and stormed off. She looked angry but more than that she looked scared and it cut him to the core.
Why? Why had things gone so wrong this time? She was supposed to be in love with him already! He hadn't meant to scare her off.
Even though she didn't wear the presents he bought her, she still looked like an angel in her cheap pink dress and loose curls. No sane man could resist kissing the woman he loves in that situation.
These days he wondered if he even was sane or if he was losing his mind over her.
Keeley's resistance to him was maddening. She was supposed to come to him; she always did before.
He remembered how she originally caught his eye.
He was at a basketball game because the son of one of his father's business contacts was the captain and his father wanted them to be on good terms with each other.
Aaron didn't care about basketball but orders were orders. Defying his father was not in his best interest.
He went to get concessions during halftime and briefly locked eyes with her. She turned bright red and looked away—a common female reaction—and scurried away into the crowd.
He would have thought nothing of it if they hadn't been seated next to each other in literature class a few weeks later.
"Your last name is Hale?" she asked with a wide smile on her face. "Mine is Hall; we're only one letter off. What a small world."
A small world indeed. His world was painfully small. Everybody he knew wanted something from him or vice versa. It was oddly refreshing that she didn't know who he was before then.
Keeley treated him like a normal classmate rather than someone to be feared. Every day she greeted him with a warm smile and when he ran out of lead for his mechanical pencil in the middle of a quiz she gave him a piece of hers straight out of her pencil before he even had the chance to dig around in his bag to see if there was any left hiding somewhere.
He wouldn't have been able to finish the quiz on time if not for her interference. How had she known he was in need so quickly?
After that he paid more attention to the girl sitting next to him. She had an expressive face and sparkling eyes that were frequently focused on him when she thought he wasn't looking.
Other people sucked up to him but Keeley offered him gum or mints or half of her candy bar out of genuine kindness. He could see it in her smile. She didn't have much but still wanted to share it with someone she liked.
"Hey Aaron, want to try this new hot dog stand with me?"
"Aaron, let's go see the new superhero movie!"
"I made cookies last night, do you want some?"
"Let's study together for the test!"
"Have you finished your paper yet? I'm only halfway through because I'm having a hard time finding enough character evidence…"
"Aaron! Let's sit next to each other on the field trip bus."
Keeley always approached him with such liveliness on her face. She wasn't faking it. She wanted to be around HIM, not the heir of Hale Investments.
He secretly watched her interact with other people. She treated him the same way she treated her friends, which was quite pleasing. Once his suspicions behind her intent were cleared, he didn't brush her off as often.
She never once asked him to buy things for her the way the other girls he knew expected him to because of his family's wealth. When they hung out she insisted on paying her own way.
She never complained about his schedule, expected anything from him, or put on any sort of pressure. Keeley was just happy to be with him.
He wished he hadn't taken that for granted. Back then it seemed so natural that she followed him around like an imprinted duckling.
Her friends, like most people, were afraid of him so Aaron preferred to have them spend time with his group once they started getting close. This was the biggest mistake of his life because it was how Keeley got onto Lacy Knighton's radar.
Even though she didn't belong in his world, she did her best to carve a space for herself there because she wanted to be with him no matter what. By doing that she subjected herself to all sorts of torment from catty socialites who didn't think she was good enough.
Aaron didn't want her to suffer that kind of degradation so he tried to teach Keeley everything she needed to know about fitting into high society.
Dancing with her tonight triggered a walk down memory lane. He remembered how hard she practiced in preparation for a charity gala where he had to show his face as the brand new Vice President of Hale Investments.
She danced beautifully that day but he couldn't say anything to her because his father was watching. In his picky eyes, Keeley's efforts were the bare minimum and not worth being praised.
They already went against his approval just to get married. That was when everything went downhill.
So how could he not kiss her when she danced with him this time?
He loosened his burgundy tie angrily. Keeley had been avoiding him. He wasn't stupid. Nobody changes their habits without a reason and it started right after he joined her friends for lunch and took her "home."
Clever girl, trying to throw him off like that. Too bad he already knew where she lived from back when they were dating.
"Aaron, what's wrong with you? Why did you kiss that cheap girl?" Lacy demanded angrily as she stormed up to him.
Her ugly expression didn't suit her. Otherwise she would have been quite beautiful to the average man with her raven hair and sea-green eyes. But Aaron Hale had never been an average man.
He was surrounded by beauty from a young age to the point where it hardly affected him at all.
Only Keeley could elicit a reaction from him. Her beauty was innate. She would always outshine the Lacy Knightons of the world in his eyes.
"Watch your mouth, she isn't cheap," Aaron said sharply, emanating a frightening chill.
"That's the girl you ate lunch with a while ago, isn't it?" Lacy pouted, draping herself over his arm.
"What's so special about her anyway? She's poor! Don't you know her school is paid for by a family trust but she's actually penniless? She's no better than a scholarship student! She lives in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn and her father works in construction!"
He shook her off. "So?"
Lacy gaped at him. She didn't have a comeback for such a simple argument.
Aaron did what he wanted and she knew it. Nothing she or anyone could do would convince him to change his mind once it was set on something.
"It's not any of your business what I do," he said icily. "You should remember that."
It was times like these he wanted a drink but he wasn't twenty-one yet in this life. How bothersome.