Two hours later, Amber got out of Liam's sporty Lamborghini in a casual ivory blue cotton cami dress with her hair in a loose bun. Soft tendrils of curls fell around her face, further enhanced by the light makeup touches she'd applied earlier. Amber wasn't a fan of makeup, preferring to go natural whenever it suited her, but she dabbled a little here and there when the occasion called for it.
"There's something about you that seems…different," Liam came around the corner of the car, eyes on her. "You look gorgeous tonight."
Amber's eyes widened slightly. Briefly, she wondered if Liam and Hunter had been talking because gorgeous was never in Liam's vocabulary before until now. However, it felt vastly different coming from him than it did Hunter. "Maybe it's just the scenery. It has a way with things sometimes."
Liam handed the keys to the valet boy before taking her hand. He placed it on his arm and gave her an odd look. "Maybe, but you need to look like this more often."
"Way to ruin the mood," Amber held onto his arm as they walked into the five-star restaurant explicitly reserved for this evening. It was neat and intricate, crowded with diners in formal suits and gowns just waiting to spend their money on small appetizers and courses. Soft, fancy jazz music was playing in the background. "Are you saying I don't look like this every day? Don't go around telling that to females now."
Liam smiled, and for once, he was charming as a waiter led them to their table in the back, where it was much quieter. "Not everyone, just you because I know won't take it quietly."
Amber grinned, glad to be on friendlier terms for once. Perhaps tonight wouldn't be so bad after all. Maybe he'd be a perfect gentleman and play the part of fiancé so Amber wouldn't keep having these second thoughts about marrying him.
The waiter took their orders, left, and came back with a bottle of wine for the table, and the two settled into a pleasant, quiet conversation. It was boring, but at least it was the most decent conversation they've both had in a while. The topic of studies came first, with both sharing which classes they liked more and which ones they'd both prefer to ditch. Next came the professors, in which Liam maundered on about the lack of female professors at his private college. All the while, Amber tried to hang on to every detail, no matter how tedious. Finally, with his throat parched, Liam grabbed the bottle of wine and pulled out the cork.
"Mom's wondering when you'll come to visit," Liam poured the wine into her glass before moving onto his. "I know you've been busy, but if you have time next week, why don't we have a date night at their place?"
Mr. and Mrs. Riley were a pair of astute individuals who were made for each other. Being around them was like being in the middle of a hailstorm. The two always talked about business non-stop, and if you tried to change the subject, they would oh so cleverly bring it back. It was like they were obsessed with making money. Sometimes, Amber felt sorry for Liam because she couldn't imagine herself growing up in an environment like that.
Amber's parents had also been that way, obsessed about making money, but once she was born, they weren't so driven, choosing instead to focus on her. Now, the attention was on her younger sister, Hope, and she wouldn't have her family any other way.
"That sounds like a fantastic idea." It had been a while since she'd seen them, so it was probably time to pay a visit to her In-Laws. Amber took a sip of the wine, and it took all her effort not to make a face as the flavor washed over her tongue. Despite its popularity, Amber was not a fan, taking the occasional sip here and there if it called for it. If she could, she'd avoid anything with alcohol for the rest of her life.
"Delicious!" Liam exclaimed after draining his halfway. "This place has the best wine, food, and the most beautiful lady one could ever hope for."
Amber eyed him skeptically, but the waiter brought in the main appetizer before she could voice her suspicion. Amber took one look at it and raised an eyebrow at Liam.
"What?" Liam was already grabbing the utensils.
"I thought you ordered scallops."
"I did," Liam answered, confused. He glanced at the three shells on her plate and his. "These are scallops."
Amber said nothing, and Liam continued. "The part that you usually see is the white muscle on the shell right here," he pointed to it on his plate. "The bright orange part is known as the coral. It's actually quite tasty, but if this is your first time, I wouldn't recommend taking it all in one bite."
"I don't recommend taking a bite out of it at all," Amber's fork made a grab for the muscle and ignored the orange piece. "I'll just have the muscle, thank you very much."
"Pass it over here when you're done with the muscles then," Liam used his spoon to retrieve both pieces…straight into his mouth, chuckling as Amber made a face at him.
"I didn't know you were quite the seafood lover," After finishing the muscles, Amber passed him the shells with the coral still intact and wiped her lips. "Remind me to order my own appetizer next time."
"Noted," Liam finished her portion in a couple of bites before saying, "There's a lot of stuff we don't know about each other."
"Well," Amber leaned back and rested against the back of her chair. "Where do you want to start?" She was trying because he was behaving normally for once.
Neither of them barely paid any attention to their waiter as he led another esteemed guest in a dark suit around them. It was a full house this evening at the restaurant with all the tables taken.
"Not tonight," Liam waved his hand in the air at her. "I want to talk about something else."
Inwardly, she cringed. So much for trying. Amber learned, over the years, that whenever Liam wanted to talk about something else, to always prepare for the worse. She took another sip of wine, waiting for Liam to form his thoughts. She didn't have to wait long.
"Let's talk about your new friend, Hunter."
Here we go again. Amber opened her mouth, but Liam waved his hand at her, shaking his head. "No, no, it's nothing like that. I want to say a job well done!"
Amber blinked, confused.
"How did you even hear of that bastard?" Liam poured himself another glass of wine. "I did a little bit of digging on him and couldn't find much, but apparently, he's been on everyone's top list of both white and black hat hackers."
Huh. Was that why you've been hanging around the campus much more often than usual...was what Amber wanted to say. Instead, she asked, "What does that have to do with anything?"
The hacker world was always a mysterious place for her, but she knew enough to understand the differences between a white hat and a black hat hacker. Essentially one was given permission to look for and hack into a company while the other one was not.
"This fella apparently appeared out of the blue, taking the hacker world by storm and winning all major hacking competitions he's come across, sanctioned or unsanctioned. He's apparently built a reputation, and no one knows anything about him."
"Are you jealous of him, or are you admiring him?" Amber couldn't tell.
"A little bit of both, actually," Liam admitted. "But I assumed you knew about this already?"
"And if I did?" Amber lied, having a hunch as to where this conversation was going. After all, all week long, the subject had around this so-called ambiguous heir. By now Liam would have caught wind of it, hanging around her campus as much as he did.
"You must have heard the rumor that the supposed heir is attending your college?" Liam held nothing back, overlooking her short and snippy responses.
"Somewhat." Spot on, once again.
"So, then you obviously became his friend to have him to look into the identity of the heir. Just think about what it would do to our brand and reputation!" He was grinning at her with that charming expression of his, but Amber found nothing dazzling about it, especially where his thoughts were going.
"What are you implying about Hunter and me?" Amber straightened in her seat, restless. "And what exactly is this plan of yours?" And did she want to find out?
On that note, where was the waiter with their food? She'd seen him lead another guest in earlier to sit at the table behind Liam but not since then.
"Well, you know, bat your eyelashes at Hunter, lead him on until he can get into the campus system. Then, lose his sorry ass once we uncover the identity of this so call heir and nab the person to our side," Liam leaned in, eyes gleaming, mind racing. "Amber, just think about it! The connections and information it could bring!"
"And how do you plan on getting close to this heir?" Amber asked quietly, solemnly.
"Why, if it's a girl, you'll introduce us, and I can pretend to be interested in her and find out all about their business transactions." Not even a pause. It was apparent how much thought he'd put into it already.
"And if it's a guy?" Amber's hands clenched against her lap. So much for a lovely evening.
"Well then, if it's a guy, you do it," Liam stated, dumbfounded that she didn't come to the same realization. "I mean, I know you want to stay loyal to me and all but think of the company first. If you can pretend to be his friend, even make him fall in love with—"
"Enough!" Amber, who didn't like to make a scene, suddenly shot out of her chair and slammed both palms against the table. It shook momentary from her strength while Liam's mouth and eyes widened in disbelief.
"Calm down," Liam's eyes darted around the restaurant. "People are staring. Why don't you sit down, and we can have—"
"You know what?" Amber's eyes narrowed dangerously as she clutched the tablecloth tightly before letting go. "You can go to hell!"
Before Liam could say anything, Amber whirled away, storming off towards the restaurant entrance, clutching the contents of her purse close to her side else she’d be tempted to swing it at his face.
"Well, that was a disaster." Liam remained where he was, watching her retreating back. He took out his phone and dialed his dad's number. "What was her problem? Hello? Yeah, Dad?"
The waiter finally returned with the main course, but Amber was no longer around. He settled the plates down in front of Liam, who waved him off nonchalantly, still on the phone. The waiter nodded and moved behind Liam to another individual sitting by himself, the menu covering his face and a half-empty glass of Dark & Stormy cocktail next to him.
"Sir, would you care to order anything? You've done nothing but looked at the menu all night." The waiter said to a pair of piercing green eyes. The young man was still in his youth, but already there was something charismatic about him and how he held himself.
"No, thank you," he answered, tossing two hundred bills on the table before standing up. "I'll pay for the drink upfront. Thank you for an entertaining evening."
Confused and gallantly stunned at the tip for doing nothing, the waiter bowed his head as the green-eyed guest made his way towards the entrance. If only more guests like this came in for a drink, tipped generously, and didn't make crazy demands, life would just be perfect. The man must have been an important guest; otherwise, his manager wouldn't have allowed the stranger in without a reservation.