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A VERGARA WEDDING (Novella)





The Young Billionaires

Maricruz Rosales









































A VERGARA WEDDING

First edition

Copyright © 2014 by Maricruz Rosales

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or here after invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. All incidents are pure invention.



























‘’My mother wanted to send you to jail, but I had a different plan for you.’’ He informed.

‘’ How very typical of her and considerate of you,’’ Ella bit out sarcastically. ‘’You’re both a bunch of vultures.’’ She glowered furiously. ‘’I will not be bought by your family again!’’ Ella’s chest constricted and she felt like she was going to burst from all the anger.

‘’Oh you already have.’’ That made her blank in horror and confusion.

‘’What does that mean?’’ she met his burning gaze squarely.

‘’The five hundred thousand has already made you my wife.’’ Ella gasped, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she nearly threw back her head in laughter but she snorted instead in stark horror and bewilderment at the absurdity he was implying.

‘’I am not your wife!’’ she gritted arrogantly. Was this some kind of a sick joke?

She waited for him to say ‘got you it was a silly prank’ but instead she got a reply far from that.

‘’You will be,’’ he stated bluntly like he was so sure of what he was saying. ‘’Soon of course.’’

‘’Are you crazy?’’

‘’I think I might be because I can’t believe I’m even saying this.’’

‘’I will not marry you not in this lifetime or any lifetime to come.’’ She flared, throwing up her arms dramatically.

‘’Oh you will, not if you want to go to jail.’’

CHAPTER ONE

‘’Take the money and leave. And never breathe a word of this to anyone.’’

Ella glanced from the woman to the brown envelope she’d so carelessly tossed across the huge rose wood desk. She bit her lips before her eyes met the woman’s uncaring ones.

Unbelievable.

Instead of feeling remorseful she’s bribing her to stay quiet.

Doña Bianca sat back on her chair studying a speechless Ella with chocolate brown eyes underneath thick long lashes.

‘’Is the amount too small? I can double it if you want.’’ She said oh so suavely.

Ella’s lips tightened grimly in suppressed fury at the blatant insult, she had never been this furious with anyone in her entire life and this woman was picking at every shred of nerve. Ella fisted her hands to her side stiffly, afraid that she might do something she’d regret if not for the rest of her life and Doña Bianca didn’t look like she was one to let an insult go unpunished.

‘’I’m sorry madam but I did not come here to be insulted.’’ Ella grated between clenched teeth.

‘’Oh! So what are you here for then?’’ Doña Bianca tilted her head to the side,

‘’I am here to demand a compensation—’’

‘’Demand?’’ Doña Bianca thumped her fist against the rose wood desk, her eyes flashing with unadulterated fury. ‘’Who do you think you are to demand anything from me? That land wasn’t yours to begin with and I will not stand for your impertinence.’’

‘’My father nearly died! The least you could do is pay for his medical bills and I haven’t even started on those poor people who’ve lost their loved ones.’’ Ella blinked back as tears threatened to blind her.

‘’You common folks are so obstinate,’’ Doña Bianca stated grinding her teeth. ‘’If only you had listened to me and taken the money I offered then things wouldn’t have gone this far.’’

‘’Are you kidding? You never negotiate you always take things by force.’’

Doña Bianca got up from her chair and sauntered to a low table where she picked up a bottle of red wine and poured herself a sufficient amount; taking a sip before turning to face Ella again, this time she smirked. ‘’You’re right, I underestimated you. You’re smarter than I thought.’’

‘’What compensation are you going to give to the family who lost their loved ones?’’ Ella felt her chest become heavy; she’d marched to this grand house the same way she had when she heard that the place she called home was about to be turned into a resort only to be dragged out by security. Here she was again without thinking.

She must’ve lost her mind.

After what had happened fifteen hours ago she was prepared to give the tigress a piece of her mind; but now that she’s here, she found herself chickening out and lacking the courage to vent.

Her father was right, she admitted, she was no match for this tycoon who had everything including the law wrapped around her fingers.

Ella pursed her lips; never in her life had she felt so helpless, so belittled, and so worthless.

Fiften hours ago, five people had lost their lives because they were fighting for their rights and their homes.

‘’What do you think I am, a charity organisation?’’

Kids are left without their parents and this is what she could afford to say? The uprising started after her workers had begun to demolish the shanties at the dump site without a forewarning. That land belonged to the people and not just an organisation like Skyline Hotels, the least she could have done was issue out a forewarning but she couldn’t even offer them such courtesy. ‘’Everything that happened was your fault Doña Bianca and you know it, your money isn’t going to bring back the dead but at least it’ll sustain the living and help them get back on their feet.’’

‘’You are a delusional young lady and you have the nerve to come into my house and insult me.’’

‘’With all due respect Madam I did no such thing but merely stated a fact.’’ Ella shot back.

‘’You are one mouthy young woman. But, I’ll let this slide because I am in a good mood today as I am seeing my son for the first time in a long while. Take this money as an act of benevolence on my part.’’

Ella felt her throat dried. ‘’You’re heartless Doña Bianca.’’ She said between clenched teeth. And to her surprise, Doña Bianca let out a throaty laugh before settling back down on her chair.

‘’Aren’t we all?’’ she swayed the glass effortlessly, and as elegantly as she was.

Doña Bianca had power every woman would love to have but she was far from being a role model to anyone.

Ella frowned.

‘’I am not like you.’’

‘’That’s what you common people always say. But you’re worse.’’

‘’What’s wrong with being poor?’’ Ella felt herself growing angrier.

‘’Because the sight of you alone makes my skin crawl.’’

Ella opened her mouth to retort but was cut off by a knock on the door then a man eased himself in.

‘’Doña Bianca, the guests are starting to arrive.’’ He informed.

‘’Thank you Steve.’’ She muttered and the man excused himself.

And then she turned to Ella, ‘’so what’s it going to be young lady?’’ Ella gazed at the floor conflicted. ‘’Take the money and go before I change my mind.’’

‘’And if I don’t?’’

Doña Bianca let out a low chuckle. ‘’You have no choice anyway.’’

Ella bit her lower lip nervously, she was right she had no choice and if Ella didn’t take the money, it’ll be her loss and even if there was a law suit, they’d only end up spending more money and the court might just rule in favour of Doña Bianca because she had legal proof to claim the lands.

‘’Take the money or not, it’s your call.’’ she said finally before grabbing her purse and heading for the door.

Ella sighed as soon as she heard the door clicked shut, her shoulders sagging in tow. She hated being left with no choice and the anger she’s feeling right now is like nothing she’s ever felt before.

Doña Bianca is really a manipulating witch, she thought. Ella glanced at the brown envelope once more before she reached out and grabbed it.

This was not the moment for her pride to take over.

She stepped out of the room and into the hallway, her face devoid of any emotion but her insides were rioting at that moment and she felt like she could murder someone right now…

‘’Hey you there!’’

‘’What!?’’ Ella snapped, spinning around to see a young man probably in his early twenties standing halfway outside the hall. Ella could see the white shirt he had on, the top buttons undone giving her a glimpse of his chest.

‘’Come over here.’’ he beckoned to her with a crooked finger.

‘’Huh?’’

‘’Have you gone deaf or something? I hate repeating myself.’’ He said with a frown.

Dylan doesn’t take too kindly to being disobeyed and he didn’t come all the way to The Philippines to have a maid look down her nose at him. He decided indignantly that she was fired. But not before she’s done what he would ask her to do.

Dylan was a tad bit suspicious seeing as she’d just come from his mother’s office and is carrying an envelope but he reasoned out that perhaps Doña Bianca has sent her on an errand– she wasn’t even wearing her uniform–he wondered why though seeing as there’s a party in less than an hour. And he was yet to get dressed…This reminded him of the reason he was out here in the first place speaking to the impertinent maid who didn’t know her place.

Before she had the chance to give a fitting reply he had disappeared into the room he had been standing halfway in. Ella shook her head, what arrogance who does he think he is? She huffed in frustration.

In her chagrin Ella still went but that was purely out of curiosity.

Her eyes widened at the space even though she didn’t want to react that way. The room had two compartments; one was a sitting area with four black leather chairs and a coffee table in the middle with a flower vase filled with sun flowers; a large flat screen TV stood on the wall, she smiled as she suddenly thought of her friend Lani, she would surely love to watch her favourite soap opera on it.

The other compartment was where the bed was and at the far end of the room, there was glass in place of a brick wall.

‘’Over here,’’ she heard him say. Her frown deepened, and she couldn’t help but wonder who he was.

Her question was answered when she spotted a framed photo of him and Doña Bianca, she furrowed her brows to place him, it was at a convention where some guy with really weird manners bumped into her knocking her to the ground and went off without a word of apology.

Dylan Vergara, it ought to be him.

Dylan Vergara was a name she’d heard so many times on the news who was involved in his family’s Hotel and Condos since he was seventeen. He was one of the infamous Young Billionaires who come from the most opulent families in the country, she had a feeling that now that he’s twenty-two, he would probably be Skyline's president.

Ella frowned at the irony, as if it wasn’t enough that she had to face Doña Bianca, must she face her son too? Without thinking much into it, Ella decided there and then that she disliked Dylan Vergara.

She climbed the mini steps to his bed compartment and saw him standing before an open door.

When he shoved her in Ella’s jaw dropped to the floor and her eyes widened before she blinked once, twice then she let out a silent gasp, is this a boutique or something?

The room was his closet and there was a stunning display of shirts, tuxedoes, ties and shoes; the best of the best.

She clicked her tongue and regained her composure before turning to face him.

‘’Why did you bring me here?’’ she queried raising a brow.

‘’Find me an outfit for tonight’’ Ella blinked rapidly, didn’t think she heard him right but who was she kidding?

She frowned, her mouth twisting in distaste.

‘’Can’t you get a maid to do it for you?’’

‘’Well aren’t you?’’

‘’And what may I ask gave you that idea?’’

Dylan thought she was joking and so help him God his patience was already wearing thin but he resisted the urge to do something desperate. But as the question lingered he realised she was serious.

If Ella had been fuming before, she was seething now. How dare he? Just because she’s wearing a cheap blue gauzy dress she got from the flea-market.

‘’Just because I’m dressed the way I am doesn’t give you the right to look down on me or order me around like I’m one of your servants!’’

‘’Listen—‘’

‘’No you Listen to me,‘’ she poked him across the chest coming unto him with bold strides until they were practically nose to nose. She saw him visibly flinch.

Ella was too angry to acknowledge her victory no matter how short lived it had been but her heart was flip-flopping across her chest, and somewhere a tiny voice told her not to mess with a Vergara but she was too far gone to care. ‘’I may not have a room full of designer clothes but I am proud of who I am and where I come from. I know that you might be used to giving orders to whomever you come across but I will not be ordered around, plus I’ve had enough of Vergara arrogance for one day.’’

Dylan was dumb-struck to say the least as he watched her rant, she actually looked down her nose at him.

This was outrageous! And unbelievable even to him. Never in his life had he been rendered speechless and immobile, his brain had automatically shut down and he found himself conceding that this was just a dream, that this mischievous little brown head imposing on him was a mere figment of an illusion.

But alas! It wasn’t and only when the door slammed hard enough to rip it off its hinges did the wall that seemed to have been around him shatter into tiny shards of glass.

Had she just slammed the door in his face?

Yes, she actually dared.





CHAPTER TWO



Ella knew she was in trouble the moment she stepped out of his five-star suite of a bedroom. She couldn’t believe she’d just had a screaming match with a Vergara.

If he had asked her nicely, Ella would’ve done more than just pick out an outfit but no he had to go all Vergara on her as if she hadn’t had enough of their arrogance for one night. He had no right to insult her and that look of contempt in his eyes when he looked her over was nothing short of infuriating.

Ella had no idea how shaky she was until her knuckles had begun to hurt from clutching the envelope too tight.

She inhaled and exhaled a shaky breath. She had been wearing her heart on her sleeve the entire time and was only grateful that her nerves didn’t give her away.

‘’Ella!’’

Ella’s head snapped toward the voice and she saw her best friend Lani jogging towards her.

When Lani finally got to her, she linked her hand roughly with Ella’s causing her to lose her balance.

‘’Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for you?’’ she said slightly miffed.

‘’I’m sorry Lani, some really awkward situation came up and I was delayed.’’ Yeah really awkward Ella thought bluntly.

‘’Whatever. Since there’s a party going on why don’t we just hang around?’’ Lani whipped her long black hair backwards.

Unlike hers, Ella’s hair was a deep shade of brown which she had suspended behind her head with a black ribbon. Lani chatted away as they made for the stairs.

Both were slender and often disagree with each other sometimes but that didn’t affect their friendship at all. They both have the same family background except Lani’s mom was a mestiza, albeit Lani took only a tincture of her mother’s dark skin.

They’ve been friends for the longest time that Ella couldn’t remember exactly how they met.

They exited through the back door from which they’d come only to be surprised by the number of guests arriving to the welcome home party of Dylan Vergara and his friends.

If he was that cool and sophisticated, Ella was curious to know about his friends.

‘’Whoa!’’ Lani cried bewildered.

‘’Yeah.’’

Albeit Lani was referring to the heir to one of the largest fashion houses in the Philippines and second in Asia, the breath-taking Dominic Alvares, while Ella was reacting to the scene and expensive decorations.

Dominic kissed Doña Bianca on both cheeks, who then proceeded to greet the couple beside him, and Lani assumed them to be his parents; it was no wonder he was so good looking.

Lani clutched Ella’s arm as Dominic’s gaze met hers, ‘’what are you doing?’’ Ella had expected an explanation but when she saw them both mesmerised by each other, or at least Lani seemed to be, she sighed and shook her head.

‘’Geez don’t go crawling at his feet now.’’ she grumbled.

Lani’s lips had begun to curve into a smile but soon twisted into a frown as he tore his gaze away. He was soon joined by Dylan and Ella couldn’t be more displeased. She realised only a short time later that they were both wearing the same outfit, a white Valentino tux trimmed with black satin and a matching bow tie. Ella’s brows knitted as she saw yet another dressed in the same outfit joined them—that was Bryan Cervantes the governor's son.

Ella didn’t know what they were talking about but they looked amused and for some weird reason, she was unconsciously staring at Dylan when he smiled and that one-sided dimple showed up. He’s cleaned up real nice, his dark hair no longer a tousled mess but expertly styled, and his strong jaw was neatly shaven. He was tall, dark and devilishly sexy enough to…what? She'll not go there.

Ella saw him glance around before their gazes collided and he winked at her, surprisingly she felt her face heat up at the thought of being caught checking him out. Ella frowned and mumbled incoherently then she saw him smirk.

‘’Jerk.’’ She muttered.

Then suddenly, his face became stern although Dominic’s and Bryan’s weren’t, they weren’t exactly pleased at whoever it was that they were glaring at.

Ella’s gaze shifted, at first she was surprised then grimaced with feeling.

He was Jason Roxas, the second son of the well-known Roxas shipping and cruising empire. Ella hadn’t expected to see him after all these years. She had met him when she was five and her mother happened to be a live-in house maid at the Roxas villa.

Back then, he was a lonely seven year old boy who wished for nothing but to feel loved. Ella wanted so badly to be there for him, she wanted to be his friend and have him lean on her but whenever she tried to soothe him after his father's reprimands he always shoved her away, and tells her he’s fine.

Then, she didn’t understand why he always seemed so angry at everything until now; she realised that anger was the only way he knew to vent out his frustration.

Then five years ago when it had seemed too much to bear, he wanted to end it all. Of course his father didn’t know about it who knew how big the hell would have been. When Ella saved him from the cowardice means a term his father would’ve used had he found out about it Jason had mumbled that it was the only way he could stop his father from getting mad at him all the time.

‘‘He’s mad at me because I could never be like him, because I am not the person he wanted me to be. I was wrong to be the way that I am so I’ve got to end it now.’’ He cried as she cradled him on her lap. It was the first time she allowed her feelings for him burst out.

‘’And you think killing yourself would change anything? Your father is a fool for not seeing what a wonderful son you are and I’d be lying if I said I understand how you feel Jason because I don’t. As much as I want to I can’t. But I do know one thing for sure Jason, I don’t want you to die.’’

Ella recalled that moment vividly. She’d known Ricardo Roxas to be a very strict disciplinarian who’s obsessed with perfection, he’s a hypocrite who thinks he’s never done anything wrong. He said he hated favourites but he’s made Andy, Jason’s older brother one without even knowing he was practising favouritism.

As Ella studied Jason tonight, she could see the same unhappiness she’d seen in his eyes five years ago. But he had grown more handsome than the last time she saw him.

Ricardo Roxas seemed to be quite in a good mood tonight as he shook hands with Doña Bianca. Those two really do know how to keep face—one that everyone would see and think they’re genuine—but deep down, they’re rotten to the core.

‘’Come on let’s go and get something to eat, I’m hungry.’’ Lani interrupted her train of thoughts.

‘’Um…sure.’’ They both went back into the house.





‘’The nerve of him to show up here,’’ Dylan gritted in displeasure and was having a hard time curbing his anger. His fists clenched, his jaw tightened.

‘’Calm down Dylan.’’ Dominic soothed placing a hand on his shoulder, ‘’this party was made in our honour, don’t ruin the atmosphere by getting bogged down by Jason’s appearance.’’ Dylan visibly relaxed but his anger was still brewing.

They in turn grabbed champagne flutes from one of the servers and took an empty table.

‘’What really happened in LA?’’ Bryan asked glancing from one man to the other. Dylan downed his champagne in one gulp before setting down the empty flute on the table covered with gold linen.

‘’Jason and Savannah, that’s what happened.’’ Dominic told him, a flabbergasted expression plastered on the former’s face.

‘’Really?’’ Bryan glanced at Dylan who snatched another glass and gulped down the liquid in a loud gurgle, intending to make himself drunk. But Bryan was too curious to notice. ‘’But the two of you are like brothers, how could Jason do such a thing?’’

‘’I don’t want to talk about it.’’ Dylan got on his feet grabbing another flute on his way.

Dominic shook his head and tsked, ‘’I don’t think there’s going to be any reconciliation at this point.’’

‘’Those two have been competing with each other since forever, I didn’t think it would come to a point where they’d be competing for the love of a girl.’’ Bryan said. ‘’Why did he have to go this far?’’

‘’That’s what I intend to find out.’’



Dylan ran into Jason on his way to the villa. The two glared at each other as if they were going to go up in flames, Dylan’s annoyance only deepened.

‘’You’ve got some nerve showing up here after what you did.’’

‘’I was invited by your mother. Besides, this party is in my honour too.’’ Jason threw back confidently and that only made Dylan want to swing his clenched fist at him. Oh how he would love to rearrange the bastard’s face.

‘’If I were you, this would be the last we’ll see eye to eye.’’

‘’I’m not looking forward to it either,’’ Dylan’s fist tightened one could hear the knuckles crack; he was the one at fault and yet he could afford to be so pompous.

‘’The next time we meet, one of us will end up dead.’’ And with that last threat, Dylan walked past him but not without sizing his shoulder with Jason’s whose jaw clenched.

He swallowed one more shot before disappearing into the building.

































CHAPTER THREE



To say Dylan was pissed off would be an understatement of the century. He actually saw red at the sight of Jason, sure he knew that this was a welcome home party for all four of them but he hadn’t expected his reaction to be this intense; almost feral even.

He had wanted nothing more than to punch the arrogant jerk’s face. God he could feel the raging adrenaline coursing through his veins but he had managed to curb his anger or so help him God heads would’ve rolled.

He almost took out his anger on an innocent maid who was only doing her job. He made a beeline towards his office and made an order of beer.

With a strict do not disturb order Dylan shut the door and skimmed off his jacket which he threw across the brown leather sofa. He poured himself a glass before plopping onto the high-back swivel chair. He took a sip of the amber liquid relishing in its burning sensation as it travelled down his throat. He allowed his thoughts to wander through so many things; the life he thought he had, Savannah and Jason’s betrayal, and the past rebellious weeks of his life that had now steered him toward a path he never thought he’d get to in his life.

He could still feel the painful sting of his grandfather's palm as it connected with his face, the impact jeered his head to the side and almost numbed his jaw.

He had experienced first-hand some of Don Fernando’s unadulterated rage many a time but nothing had prepared him for the icy anger in older man's piercing blue eyes.

‘’This sort of action is outrageous and unacceptable! What were you thinking?’’ Don Fernando’s angry voice rang out which even in old age appeared to be above average. ‘’I left you to live your life so you wouldn't feel caged and this is what I get for my unselfish decision?’’ his pointer poked at the tabloid on the desk in front of him. Dylan didn’t need to pick it up to see what was on it because the bold letters were staring back at him like a damn predator: VERGARA HEIR ON A RAMPAGE.

He didn’t need to read the article to know what it’s about, the violence only took place last night and it had been two weeks since he found out Savannah was cheating on him with his best friend and he had been a depressed, drunken mess ever since.

Don Fernando hadn’t cared about his drunken spree on the contrary, he thought it was the best way for him to unwind but oh how wrong he had been. The last straw came last night when he pummelled a guy and sent him to the hospital half dead.

Actually, it wasn’t the first time the violence started and every other time he has had to pay for the media’s silence but this was way beyond him and there was no stopping a lawsuit.

Don Fernando thought that he had been too strict with Dylan’s father and made him into the cold and ruthless man he had been but now he’s sorrier for letting Dylan off the hook and letting him have his way.

Even though he had no doubt at all that his grandson had loved this girl and that her betrayal had hit him hard, it wasn’t an excuse.

Don Fernando couldn’t help but feel hurt as he watched his heartbroken grandson–his face all bruised up and his knuckles were covered in bandages–he decided finally that there was only one way to put an end to all these mess…

‘’You’re going back to the Philippines.’’ Relief flooded Dylan’s handsome features but the next words that came out of Don Fernando’s mouth were strong enough to knock the air out of his lungs.

‘’I’m going to get you a wife.’’ Don Fernando stated purposely oblivious to the frigid demeanour that was now his grandson’s mood, he added. ‘’It’s time you settled down and become a responsible man.’’

‘’And you think getting married will make me responsible?’’ Dylan has heard so many absurd things in his life but this was more than absurd, it was outrageous!

‘’You have to get your act together once and for all or I’ll be forced to dis-inherit you. I’m tired of having to be the one to clean up your messes so I think it’s time you grow up and behave like a man don’t you think?’’

‘’Grandfather, I’m only twenty-two I can’t get married.’’

‘’The earlier the better Dylan. I was only nineteen when I married your grandmother.’’ Dylan knew that once a decision has been made by the great Don Fernando Vergara there was no taking it back and of course there was no arguing.

Like the law of the Medes and Persians–unalterable.

‘’You’re not going to let me be the one to decide are you?’’

Don Fernando shook his head and sat back down as his feet had begun to ache. Dylan knew the answer but he still dreaded it. ‘’I’m afraid it is non-negotiable. This is for your own good grandson. An empire like Skyline needs a stable and responsible leader. I’m sure with time Savannah will be nothing but an unpleasant memory.’’

‘’Can I at least choose who I want to marry?’’ he hoped his grandfather wouldn’t refuse him the privilege.

Don Fernando mused for the space of three seconds before he sighed. He knew there was no way his grandson would back down without a fair argument.

‘’Fine.’’ He decided eventually, ‘’you have seven days to find yourself a bride or I’ll be forced to find one for you. Even if I have to drag you to the altar.’’

And that was it. The conversation was over. Dylan found his thoughts inadvertently revert back to the feisty little brunette from moments ago. He had been piqued to see her raise her voice at him. He had met so many people; young, old, poor, and rich not once had anyone talked back to him they were almost, always eager to do his bidding no matter how unpleasant.

He must hand it to her though, that was some enormous guts she had there and even though he wouldn’t admit it he was actually impressed.

He had been smiling like an idiot for the past minute and to think that it was because of some tacky girl from the slums who in the space of fifteen minutes tonight had managed to express her immense dislike towards him in not so many words.

He decided much later that he needed some air.





























CHAPTER FOUR

Growing up, Jason had been told that he was a good-for-nothing. That he couldn’t do anything right even if he tried. He had believed it.

He exhaled deeply, he was sitting on the park bench after having left the party fifteen minutes ago without anyone noticing, or so he’d thought until he heard footsteps behind him. He knew that what he did wouldn’t go un-chastised by the boys and he had been waiting for a confrontation.

So when Dominic appeared before him, he raised his head to meet the former’s disapproving gaze less contritely.

Dominic tucked his hand inside his pants pocket as they continued to stare at each other, the tension between them cutting through the night.

Jason waited for him to speak and after a few more moments of silence, he finally remarked,

‘’That was a very immature thing to do to a friend.’’ His voice was calm but stern.

‘’I know.’’ Jason admitted slowly.

‘’Then why did you do it?’’

‘’I don’t know, maybe I just couldn’t stop what I was feeling.’’

‘’Jason…’’ Dominic called rather harshly before letting out a breath to calm himself. ‘’You should apologise to Dylan before things get out of hand.’’

Jason got on his feet slowly.

‘’Things are already out of hand. And what do I have to apologise for? The fact that she liked me instead of him?’’

‘’You know you’re not making any sense.’’

‘’To you maybe, but expressing my feelings isn’t something I can apologise for.’’

‘’She was Dylan’s girlfriend.’’ Dominic reminded hoping to make him see his mistake.

‘’And she liked me more.’’

‘’If I didn’t consider you a brother, I would’ve punched you right in the face.’’

‘’Oh please do so, don’t hesitate on my account,’’ he shrugged. ‘’Maybe I might get my senses back.’’

The sarcasm earned him a glare before Dominic walked away.

Jason sighed, even though it bothered him that he was always competing with Dylan, he couldn’t help it.

‘’Are you here to lecture me too? Dominic has just done his part.’’ He said without looking back he was referring to Bryan. It’s about time he thought. But when the silence grew, he looked back curiously.

Surprise registered on his face as their gazes locked. Her eyes still carried that glint of worry from five years ago. He didn’t want to be pitied, and he certainly didn’t want her to always be there whenever he was facing a crisis.

Even though it’s been five years already, he couldn’t forget those eyes that had always looked at him with compassion. She was a woman now he realised, no longer the gangly girl with the ridiculous bunches.

Her deep brown hair was suspended behind her head, as always her eyes were apprehensive—those eyes he couldn’t stop himself from gazing into, always having the most addicting effect on him no matter how hard he tried to deny it.

‘’Hi,’’ she smiled, the action caused warmth to course through him her voice was so melodious it sank into him making his heart flip over and that annoyed him to no end. He frowned.

‘’What are you doing here?’’ he asked sounding displeased when he could have been leaping with joy.

Ella’s brows furrowed, ‘’you didn’t even ask who I am.’’

‘’I know who you are.’’ How could he not when she was an ever present force in his life?

‘’Really? Who am I then?’’

‘’Ella Garcia.’’ Her name rolled out of his tongue in a sleek way that was so like him. Ella resisted the urge to wrap her arms around him and inhale his scent. It warmed her heart that he didn’t forget about her, her chest tightened with an unexplained emotion.

Jason tucked his hands in his pants pocket aware that if he didn’t, he would be pulling her into his arms and kissing those sensuous cherry lips until they were both breathless. Where had that thought come from?

Jason cleared his throat and sat back down on the bench. Ella rounded the bench to sit beside him.

‘’Don’t,’’

She hesitated, then sat down any way.

‘’You just don’t take no for an answer do you?’’ he muttered irritably.

‘’Nope.’’ She stated stubbornly, ‘’don’t expect me to change on your account, besides if I stop being the fish-bone in your throat, where’s the fun in that? you know there’s no one as stubborn as me.’’ She grinned cheekily, ‘’I know you like me,’’ she cooed. Jason scoffed,

‘’You wish.’’ Liar.

‘’And you miss me…a lot.’’

He knew she was right but he wasn’t going to tell her. She was like a leech, so clingy it takes all your energy to get it off. But Ella was a stubborn leech he could never get rid of, or like she said ‘a fish bone in your throat.’

They didn’t say anything more but stare at the night sky. The stars twinkled radiantly as though they were smiling down at them it almost took her breath away.

Ella knew he’d be here at the park because when they were younger, he’d come to let out his anger, his fears and frustrations. He would cry his heart out almost every night. Ella saw his pain then, and she still saw it now.

‘’Jason, how are you?’’ He knew she would ask that question sooner or later. Ella turned her head to look at him.

He smirked. ‘’I’ll live.’’

He wasn’t okay, Ella could see that. And without a moment’s thought, she reached out and placed her hand on his as it rested on his left knee. Jason tensed at first but when he allowed himself to relax, he forgot about everything in an instant; Dylan, Savannah and his father all that he felt was warmth from her hand. It was sensual, magical and unbelievably soothing. It was maddening the burst of emotion she evoked in him.

‘’I may not understand Jason but I can tell you that I feel your pain.’’

‘’What do you know?’’ he scoffed.

‘’You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay.’’ Ella hoped that he would hear the sincerity in her voice and see it in her eyes.

‘’Stop spouting out your sappy nonsense Ella okay, I’m not that kid anymore.’’ He countered heatedly. ‘’I’m fine I don’t need you playing the little psychiatrist.’’

‘’I’m sorry I didn’t mean to—‘’

‘’Just because you know a thing or two about my life doesn’t mean you know me at all.’’ He got on his feet. ‘’Stop butting into matters that does not concern you at all.’’



Of all the things Dylan had expected to encounter as he took a little stroll, a romantic tryst wasn’t one of them.

His full brows shot up at the intimate gesture she made by taking his hand; Jason and the slum girl how interesting. Who would’ve thought?

He tsked at how pathetic they both looked the sight almost sickening. He watched as Jason stalked off leaving her feeling miserable, Dylan knew that look, the look of defeat that appeared as if your heart were about to break into a tiny million pieces, as if your eyes couldn’t contain the tears anymore.

She likes him. He concluded, the slum girl actually likes Jason. He suddenly had a gut feeling he and slum girl would be meeting again soon for he hated to admit that he was beginning to be in dire need of her help.

Almost immediately he could feel the uncanny thoughts running amok in his head.

This should be interesting.

































CHAPTER FIVE



Ella’s heart ached for the people who were once her neighbours and friends. Attending the mass for the dead turned out to be harder than she’d thought but she was glad to be there for them as they had for her whenever she needed some comfort. She gave the money she got from Doña Bianca to the living relatives as well as all the others who had no place to stay. At least all of them could get back on their feet again. The rest of the money she would use to pay off her father’s hospital expenses and pay off some of their other pending debts as well.

Ella’s ride back home was silent. And because she was so distracted while thinking about Jason, she completely forgot about the disgusting smell the jeepney always had—the stench of dry sweat and stale tobacco.

She glanced out of the window recalling what Doña Bianca had told her. She had never met a woman so cruel and unfeeling.

It was a good thing that one of her father’s friends had offered them a place to stay even when her father still owed the man some money; they wouldn’t have had anywhere else to go.

Ella hoped to God that the envelope she was holding right now wouldn’t be the death of her. For one, it was suspicious enough that Doña Bianca hadn’t hesitated at all while handing her the envelope.

She sighed as soon as the jeepney pulled over at the terminal just a few walks to the pier where she now lived with her mother and father and her sister Kristina who’s a few years younger.

The house was a shanty made from bamboo sticks which stood at the far end of the pier, at the edge, it was practically on water.

At twenty, Ella had taken up all of her family’s responsibilities. Her father had been a fisherman before he got a job as a janitor at Skyline hotels but even so, it was still not enough and now with his leg injury she knew without a doubt that he wouldn't be working anytime soon.

Ella got a job at a coffee shop two streets away, it was a job she had since she was fifteen and it took a lot to convince her father to let her. Her mother had quit her job as a house maid for the Roxases not long after Jason had gone abroad. Apparently, she was afraid her friends might find out who she really was and what type of job she had—so much for getting herself involved with high society women. At one point, Adele Garcia had denied that Eduardo Garcia was her husband and when asked why she was living in a shed like that, she wasted no time saying that she was on a charity retreat, if there was ever such a thing. That was before they inherited a three bedroom house from Eduardo’s brother after he passed away but now it had been turned into a resort by Doña Bianca who had papers stating that the property had been given to her as collateral for payment of debts owned by Ella’s uncle before he passed on.

‘’Why did you accept the money?’’ It was the first thing her father demanded as soon as he learned about the money. Ella thought it’s a laugh coming from someone who barely made five thousand a day.

‘’What do you mean why?’’ Her mother countered snatching the envelope from her, ‘’How much is it anyway?’’

‘’Five hundred thousand but I gave some to our neighbours to start afresh.’’

Without any further delays, Adele ripped open the envelope and wowed at the bundles before she began to count the notes.

‘’How can you let that woman buy you off so easily?’’ her father was angry Ella could tell,

‘’Dad,’’ Ella called pleading for understanding, ‘’It’s not that way at all. Besides we need the money.’’

He shrugged, ‘’ I’m not going to say anything more because I trust you. And you did the right thing with those people.’’

Ella smiled. ‘’Thanks father.’’ She took his hand and brought it to her forehead, accepting his approval and blessing.

‘’Wow!’’ Kristina slid out of the chair she was sitting to her mother’s side, she was the exact opposite of Ella and it would surprise no one if mother and daughter were in some kind of a league.

‘’Mother how much is it?’’ she prodded curiously.

Ella took that moment and slipped upstairs to escape all the day’s troubles.

While in the solace of the minuscule space that was her room, Ella let out a tired sigh and perched on the edge of the hard bamboo bed which imposed on every nook and cranny of the room.

Ella didn’t have many belongings. She owned only a few hand-me-downs that came from neighbours back in Cebu, they were all so kind and sometimes they brought them food when they could easily have let them starve. Ella had always wanted to attend one of those prestigious culinary schools in Paris but couldn’t because her family’s income was meagre. She didn’t have a degree, but she was grateful for the little culinary skill she had and now she dreams of owning her own restaurant hopefully one of the largest–like the Vergara restaurants–she’s never eaten there before and being a five-star restaurant it only catered for the crème de la crème and Ella was at the bottom of the pyramid, so much so that while they were feasting on lobsters and smoked salmons she only had rice with fresh tomatoes and fried fish and an occasional chicken sauce.

Her gaze zero in on the dog-eared, tattered and out-of-style diary at the corner of her room. Bending over slightly, she retrieved it. The pages were empty as she’d never really gotten around to making an entry in the past few years because she didn’t feel the need to have a documented reminder of her miserable life.

Flipping over to the Centre she picked the dead flower by its shrunken stem. The wilted tulip had been a reminder of one of the special moments in her life; it was a reminder of that day when Jason had called her beautiful and stole her first kiss.

It was at a convention five years ago, she had been a flower girl and he did her the honour of purchasing her flowers that were enough to make a bouquet, with it was a note that sent a thrill down her spine.

Even though it had been a one-sided crush, Ella felt the need to keep them both as souvenirs. Even now as she ran her fingers on the note tracing the impressive penmanship she couldn’t help but smile ruefully.

























CHAPTER SIX



She was the flower girl, how had he not recognised her? The concept had fazed him at first but then he decided that maybe because it had been a painful memory for him, one that he’d thought he’d never relive again but here it was, like a ghost from his past.

He remembered that moment vividly but he couldn’t bring himself to think about it and now he wants to relive it but only as part of his revenge.

Doña Bianca studied her son’s hard features from the dim-lit conference room. She knew that stony exterior all too well and deduced that whatever he was thinking couldn’t be anything good.

In spite of herself she hoped to God it’s not about that woman he’s been digging into. Lately. The last thing she needed right now is to have the past relive itself.

The applause that rang out a moment later jerked her attention back to the presentation and so does Dylan.

With a fleeting approval she adjourned the meeting and turned to her son.

‘’Dylan, a word please.’’ He sighed but stayed back anyway.

‘’What is it mom?’’

‘’I’ve noticed how distracted you’ve been this past few days. Care to tell me what’s wrong?’’

Dylan wasn’t surprised at all with her question, she was his mother after all and she always liked to know what’s going on in his life.

‘’Nothing.’’ He replied in a bored tone.

‘’You forget that I know you too well my son.’’ She folded her long attractive legs across the other and reclined against the posh seat of the president of Skyline. ‘’Is it about your grandfather? I heard all about his reason for sending you back.’’

‘’More or less.’’ He said with a shrug.

‘’Have you found anyone yet?’’

‘’No.’’

‘’Good. I have someone in mind.’’ She offered with a charming grin Dylan knew meant that her decision wasn’t up for discussion.



Ella was exhausted already and it’s not because of the number of coffee she’s had to make or the number of customers she had to serve but rather at the incessant chatter of Lani who wouldn’t stop talking about Dominic Alvares and even went all out to purchase the Galatea fashion magazine which she’d been staring at all day.

‘’Wow look at that!’’ she suddenly exclaimed enthusiastically to which Ella rolled her eyes for the tenth time that day.

‘’Yeah I know he’s handsome but if you don’t get your backside over here I’m going to rip that magazine into shreds.’’ Ella threatened.

‘’Not funny.’’ Lani retorted. ‘’But I know you’ll be interested in seeing this one though.’’

‘’I’m so not.’’

‘’Are you sure? It’s prince charming.’’ She cooed then grinned devilishly as Ella’s petite frame went rigid.

Ella felt her heart jolt at the mention of Jason, it was weird considering how she hadn’t felt that way in a long time, excluding her encounter with him two nights ago and that was only because she’d been close to him…

‘’Would you like to see it, I’m sure you’re dying to?’’ She knew Lani was goading her and she didn’t want her friend to think that she’d been right, that Ella still had feelings for him. Because she still does.

‘’No.’’ she decided with a defiant tilt of her chin and the square of her shoulders.

‘’Coward.’’

As if her day couldn’t get any worse, Ella found herself witnessing a surprise that was enough to last a life time; it was a face she’d never expected to see again.

Dylan Vergara.

She’d been stunned and taken aback the moment she spotted his expensive black jacket as he waltz his way into the quaint little coffee shop, his dramatic entrance grand enough to turn heads. Ella was glaring daggers at him all the way from across the room and the thought of her having to serve him irked her even more. She never pegged him as the sort of person to dine in a place like this but she couldn’t quite dismiss it as a pure coincidence that he had just been driving through the one coffee shop she happened to work at not after their not-so-pleasant encounter two days ago.

Damn Lani for betraying her, running away like that and leaving her at his mercy claiming that the two of them had scores to settle with the excuse of needing to take care of her sick father.

She glanced at the clock for the umpteenth time. Everyone else had left and there was just the two of them. She has to send him away and get ready to entertain the very important customer Mr. Chen said had booked an entire hour, from seven to eight just in line with her closing hour.

Glancing once more at the clock, she decided it was time he left.

Dylan was sipping his coffee and skimming through a newspaper when a shadow suddenly fell across the table. He raised his head to peer at her and he could see that she was trying hard not to throw any snide remark for he was certain that she’d wanted to do nothing but rip his head off the moment he’d stepped into the café and that only made him more pleased.

‘’I think it’s time that you left don’t you think?’’ Ella told him in the most calmed and collected tone she could muster up.

Dylan raised a brow, clearly she has no idea yet and he couldn’t wait to see the reaction on her face when she does.

‘’I’m not done yet.’’ His tone was clipped and not so friendly.

‘’I don’t care, you have to leave.’’

His blue eyes swept over the entire room before he asked, ‘'where’s your friend?’’

‘’She left to go take care of her sick father. Why am I even telling you any of these.’’ She sighed. ‘’You have to leave because the café’s been booked for the next hour by an important customer.’’

Why someone would feel the need to book an entire café at this hour was beyond her.

‘’Did you hear what I just said at all?’’ she demanded when he didn’t bat an eye.

‘’Yes I did, and in case you haven’t noticed I am the important customer.’’

He waited for the meaning of his words to sink in as he searched her face for possible reaction but Ella wasn’t fazed by his admission instead she fired back.

‘’Are you playing games with me Mr. Vergara because I’ll have you know that I don’t have the time to entertain conceited jerks like you.’’

A muscle ticked in his jaw and he felt the immense need for retribution at that insult, but instead he smirked.

‘’If this is how you treat your customers I wonder how it’s still flourishing and why your boss hasn’t fired you yet.’’

Ella squared her shoulders.

‘’Mr. Chen wouldn’t mind.’’

‘’Not if Mr. Chen doesn’t own the place anymore.’’

Ella did a double take at that.

‘’What are you insinuating Mr. Vergara?’’ she demanded, her delicate brows arched in derision.

Dylan stood up from his chair, his remarkable physique towering over her small frame in a condescending manner. He tucked his hands in his pants’ pocket.

‘’I’ll have you know that I am the future owner of this little coffee shop.’’

He watched her go pale as she struggled to contain the piece of information, her delectable lips parting to let out a quiet gasp.

Ah finally some reaction. He thought with glee.

Ella’s head was swirling with a lot of things at the same time. This couldn’t be. She tried to tell herself a couple of times.

She knew that he would come after her sooner or later, she knew that the Vergaras never let any act of insolence go without punishment and she’d been too overwhelmed by her anger that she had snapped.

‘’Why are you doing this?’’ Even though she knew the answer, Ella couldn’t resist the question.

She realised suddenly that she needed this job, she’d grown so attached to the coffee shop that the thought of being fired sent a jolt of pain inside of her and now because of her insolence Mr. Chen would lose the one thing that mattered to him.

She visibly swallowed.

Dylan shrugged. ‘’I saw the place and I fell in love with it. Is that so bad?’’

‘’You’re only doing this to get back at me.’’ Ella sneered.

‘’More or less.’’ He said in a bored tone.

He took a tentative step towards her but Ella backed away keeping her eyes trained on him. ‘’Now that we’re past the stage of introductions,’’ he started, slowly taking another step towards her. Again, she backed away with a frown etched on her face.

‘’Don’t you have anything to say to me or rather,’’ he paused cocking his head to the side. ‘’Something that you owe me?’’ he cocked a brow and waited noting with curiosity the conflicting emotions that flickered across her face in vain attempt to curb her internal debate.

She faced him with a neutral expression. ‘’I’m not going to apologise to you, actually it should be the other way around.’’ She made a circular gesture in the air with her pointer.

‘’I can’t believe you’re still mouthy and defensive even though it might cost you your job.’’ Dylan was surprised that he wasn’t angry any more–amused maybe but not angry.

‘’I’m not afraid of you.’’ It was a lie of course because her insides were screaming murder.

‘’You dislike me don’t you? Why?’’

‘’Isn’t it obvious?’’

‘’You don’t even know me.’’

‘’What I know leaves little to be imagined.’’ He liked her honesty but he absolutely loathed the fact that it affected him.

‘’You do realize that no one has ever spoken to me like that before?’’

‘’Don’t blame me you were the one who started it all when you just assumed that I was a maid.’’

‘’Fair enough.’’ He realised that he wasn’t going to win against her this time.

He took a giant stride towards her, she panicked and recoiled.

‘’W-what are you doing?’’

‘’Tell me what I need to do for you to like me.’’ It was more like a whisper but she still heard him. Why couldn’t she like him?

Is he for real?

‘’What are you talking about Mr. Vergara?’’ she was still stumbling backwards as he matched footsteps with her.

‘’What will it take for you to like me?’’ he rephrased, his blue eyes searching hers. The question was mostly directed at himself than her.

Her foot caught on a discarded mop she had no idea how it got there but her mind was reeling and so was her body as she found herself tumbling backwards.

Dylan’s arms were out in a flash circling around her waist as he pulled her up against him, her arms went about his neck as she clung to him. The tension after that was almost palpable.

Ella blinked back once, twice then sighed to loosen her nervousness which didn’t happen of course because Dylan picked that moment to ask how she was, and in that moment she realised how close they were, her arms went about his neck as she clung to him. Caught by surprise, Ella had forgotten how to breathe, it was like the walls that were the hard planes of his muscular chest were closing in on her, the heat radiating from his body to hers made her knees go weak, and she would’ve tumbled if not for the support of the strong arms he had around her.

Then she did something she instantly regretted, she met his smouldering gaze. Every other argument she might’ve had died back in her throat when she found herself staring into the most gorgeous piercing icy blue eyes she’s yet to see on any male Filipino, his dark chestnut hair an attractive tousle.

She gulped.

Dylan couldn’t think of anything else but relish in how good her body felt against him and those luscious cherry lips that seemed to be begging his attention.

Her brain had shut down and so did her body betraying her in the most devastating way, his smell, an exotic scent of cinnamon permeated her senses. She was supposed to hate him not desire him but her impulse and common sense seemed to be at war right now and only when his lips were merely a breath away from hers did she finally snap out of her fantasy and pushed him away from her.

‘’What do you think you’re doing?’’

Something flickered in his eyes, surprise…guilt…anger…disgust she wasn’t sure.

It was dark except for the crescent moon that hung amidst a billion stars that smiled down upon the earth, with it came the sense of tranquillity and gladness that made Ella smile.

She was out in the court yard away from everything and everyone else. The light breeze swept her dark strands this way and that leaving part of it plastered against her delicate face. She moved her fingers frantically, extricating a few strands from her mouth. As she did so, a sudden sense of trepidation washed over her as she felt she wasn’t alone anymore.

Slowly and guardedly, she twisted her petite body around and was met with the walls of a broad chest. She blinked as she took in the male figure looming over her by two feet at least. Then before she got the question out of her mouth, the stranger’s fingers curled around her nape cupping it before he dropped his head and a warm and soft pair of lips found hers.

Ella was stunned into stillness. A million sensations raced through her as her eyes remained widened as saucers but the stranger continued his ravishment of her lips.

His expert lips moved along hers like it was an action he had memorised beforehand. He traced every outline as if he never wanted to forget. He teased and coaxed until her resolve broke away and she found herself kissing him back.

Their lips moved in synch as if they were made for each other. Her lips parted to allow him entrance which he took with gusto, plunging his sensuous tongue and invading her utterly. Ella’s arms instinctively wrapped around his neck as she stood on her tippy-toes to deepen the kiss.


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