With Darrell arriving at his sixtieth birthday party with Sophia, anyone with sense would know that something was going on. Moreover, considering how Darrell had reacted when someone brought up Horatius and Sophia during the old man’s interview not long ago, nobody would believe it if someone were to say that Darrell did not have any plans for the woman.
However, Darrell was old. Ever since his wife passed away twenty years ago due to a terminal illness, he had not been involved in any scandalous news with another woman. Then again, one would not know if his impeccable image was only for show or if he was truly loyal to his late wife.
Nevertheless, Darrell’s interest in Sophia was not for himself.
Horatius was already thirty-two, while Darrell himself was already sixty years old. Hence, he would surely want his son to start a family and take over the family business. It would be more plausible to say that Darrell was regarding Sophia as his future daughter-in-law.
At the sight of Sophia making an appearance alongside Darrell, Samuel glanced over at Alexander, who was beside him. “Alex, do you reckon that Old Mr. Swain thinks of Sophia as his future daughter-in-law?”
Alexander’s face fell right after he heard Samuel.
Before the two of them got on the plane, the news and photos of Horatius and Sophia were already all over the internet. The angles of the photos made it difficult for Samuel to discern their authenticity. He had inspected the photos a few times, yet it was an arduous task to figure out whether the photos were real.
Alexander had not been in the best mood while making his way there. His mood took another downturn as he was greeted by the sight of Sophia showing up beside Darrell.
Alexander was not dumb. The interviews and the preferential treatment before this were a clear indication of Darrell’s thoughts.
As the secondary host for the night, Horatius had been busy welcoming the guests before Darrell appeared.
Now that Darrell had shown himself, Horatius could finally take the time to greet his father as he brought his uncles along.
The small group of men greeted Darrell and wished him a happy birthday. Then, they turned their attention to Sophia. One of them jokingly said, “Old Mr. Swain, is this Horatius’ girlfriend?”
Darrell glanced at Sophia and let out a chuckle. “I wish she was, but my son isn’t making that happen!”
Even though Horatius was not as faithful as his father in relationships, he did inherit Darrell’s high IQ and EQ. He knew what his father was getting at right away and gave Sophia a look. “Sophia, look at how much my father likes you! Why don’t you just be my girlfriend?” he said in a jesting manner.
Before coming to the party, Sophia wasn’t certain what was on Darrell’s mind. Now, as she stood beside him and listened to the father and son’s half-joking remarks, it soon became clear as day what their intentions were.
She met Horatius’ gaze, her lips curling into a smirk. “That’s not going to work. My parents’ dying wishes were for me to never marry far away from home.”
It would have been difficult for someone else to respond tactfully in such a situation.
Darrell only wanted to sound her out, and he certainly did not intend to force Sophia into making a decision with so many people around.
In fact, he had even thought of what to say to help Sophia out of the awkward situation. However, he did not expect her to think of a way out of it herself.
How brilliant of her! She’s using her parents’ dying wishes as her way out of this. No one would know if it’s real or not, after all.
Sophia managed to preserve the Swain family’s dignity without embarrassing herself.
Meanwhile, Horatius shrugged and said, “I guess we’re just not destined to be together, then.”
Sophia smiled, silently agreeing with his statement.
The person who asked the question did not hope to get an actual answer out of Darrell either. He had just popped the question on a whim. In fact, he regretted asking the question almost right away. After all, he could offend both parties if things did not end well.
Fortunately, Sophia worked around the problem perfectly. The guests who were invited by the Swains were all smart, and they knew better than to insist on an answer.
With that, they changed the topic right away. Nevertheless, it did not change the fact that Sophia was put under the spotlight by the first few questions.
While Darrell left with his group of friends, Horatius took a glass of orange juice and handed it to Sophia. “Please don’t mind me. It was only a joke.”
Sophia took over the juice and sipped on it. “I know you were joking, Mr. Horatius.”
Horatius titled his brow. “What if it wasn’t a joke?”
Sophia lifted her eyes and looked at Horatius. Then, she let out a chuckle and said, “I wouldn’t dare to compete with so many people.”
It was a well-known fact that Horatius was a playboy.
At that, he let out a snicker. “Why would I need other consolation prizes if I have a trophy like you?”
Isn’t he afraid that his ex-girlfriends will come whooping him if they hear him saying this?
Sophia pursed her lips. “Unfortunately, there are no ifs and buts in this world.”
With that answer, they were back at square one.
Horatius knew that Sophia was rejecting him subtly. He took a big mouthful of red wine and appeared quite defeated. Looking at Sophia with a confounded look, he asked, “What makes Alexander better than me?”
“You’re a really nice man, Mr. Horatius.”
“You’re a really nice man, Mr. Horatius.”
It’s just that I do not have any feelings for you.
Horatius would not buy it. “I know you don’t like the fact that I have many exes.”
Even though she wouldn’t mind her boyfriend having exes, Sophia still found it hard to accept the fact that Horatius had too many to count.
Horatius knew he hit the bullseye and scoffed. “Alexander is no saint, either. Even if you don’t choose me, you’re better off not going to him, too. He’s an insouciant and heartless man.”
Right after saying that, Horatius finished his glass of red wine in one go and said, “I’m going to greet some friends. Do let me know if you need anything.”
Sophia nodded in response.
Darrell’s birthday party was buzzing with guests. Sophia actually knew most of them, though she reckoned that they only knew her as Suny, not Sophia.
The huge crowd felt a bit suffocating. After a while, Sophia fetched a fresh glass of juice and decided to get some fresh air in the sky garden.
March in Alenvista was still cold. The hall was warm like the summer with the heater on, but it was different outside with the chilly night air. There was no one in the garden, save for Sophia.
Sophia wore a dress that night. Even though she did wrap herself in a shawl, it was not sufficient to resist the cold. She already felt her limbs freezing after standing for less than a minute outside. The grape juice in her hand felt even harder to swallow right then.
She no longer felt suffocated, but the cold wind was intolerable.
Hence, Sophia turned around to leave after staying in the garden for a while. Just then, a woman in a purple robe approached her. “Ms. Yarrow, what an honor.”
The woman spoke in an arrogant manner. It sounded as if she was spitting the word “honor” out of her mouth.
Sophia raised her brow. “You are?”
Sophia looked at Skyler and smiled. “Ms. Schmidt, I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“Of course not! You may not know me, but I know all about you. The tabloid reports on you over the past year were way too interesting for me to ignore you, Ms. Yarrow.” Skyler let out a snort and continued, “You’re quite capable, aren’t you? Since you can’t get anything from the Xenos family, you’re targeting the Swain family instead?”
Skyler did not keep her voice down. Thus, her words instantly garnered the attention of people around them.