A/N: My HEARTFELT THANKS to the Excess Baggage admins who maintain this wonderful website. My SPECIAL THANKS go to Ms. Chuchy who critiques and checks my work prior to submission. And last but not the least, HUGE THANK YOU to all the readers who always take the time to leave encouraging comments. As I have said for the nth time, you guys, KEEP ME TYPING, AND TYPING AND TYPING…parang ENERGISER BATTERY lang ang effect.
Just a word of caution, the flashback scene is like a tiny peak into what upcoming chapters will be like. If you feel that sizzling love scenes are not for you, please do not read on. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy reading 😉
Maya was like in the midst of a maelstrom. She couldn’t breathe, she could only close her eyes and feel his searing punishing kiss, his polo-shirted chest burning against her breasts through her thin cotton top. She had pushed at him but he was immovable with his arms around her like a vice hold. Richard must have realised her emotional distress for he broke off and she was able to gulp several breaths to inhale in oxygen to her starved lungs.
“Maya…Maya…Maya,” he whispered her name like a litany against her fevered skin. As if to make amends, Maya felt kisses being rained all over her lips, her chin, her nose, her cheeks. Richard was trailing his lips along her neck when she gasped as he found a particularly sensitive spot. He swooped up again to capture her slightly parted mouth at an angle for an even deeper kiss, that was much gentler this time, like how a male lover would kiss to coax a response from his ladylove.
When Maya felt his tongue tentatively exploring the inside of her mouth, she lost the strength in her legs. She had instinctively held on to him but it was Richard’s firm hold by the base of her spine that had kept her upright. She would have fallen at his feet otherwise.
So, this was how being thoroughly kissed was like. All her thought process had fled, suppressed by her senses that feasted…feasted on the man who was passionately kissing her. All she could do was touch, feel, smell and taste Richard. It was an experience that she can not properly describe except that it was such a surrealistic pleasurable experience being held so closely against him.
However, when his exploration got bolder and bolder, Maya felt alarm rising. As Richard gathered her against him in an even tighter embrace, panic started to take over as she finally recognised what the hard bulge was against her lower abdomen. Realising that she was way in over her head, she started pushing against his chest once more. Her brain screamed that she was not ready for this!
When Richard halted his sensual assault on her senses, Maya could feel his upper torso slightly heaving under her touch as her hands remained on his chest. Maya felt him slackening his hold but did not completely let go. His hands remained resting on her hips, his forehead resting against hers.
“Siguro naman maniniwala ka na” he said in an amazingly even tone.
“Sa alin?” she asked breathlessly as her eyes finally fluttered open. Her befuddled brain could not make sense of what he was saying.
“That it is not safe for you to go out at night. In a chance encounter, if a man really wanted to have you, you won’t be able to stop him. Is that fact now clear to you?”
Maya could not believe her ears! She had just shared her first kiss with him and he was saying that he was merely making a point! But the most shameful part of it was, she allowed him to kiss her and would have responded if she had known how!
“Crys-crystal,” Maya had meant to state that succinctly but she said it with a catch in her voice as she felt her eyes go watery. “Now, let me go.”
Richard released her almost instantaneously that she almost stumbled. With sheer will power, she mustered all her strength to pivot to the direction of home. Maya ran without looking back, her pigtails flying behind her. Once inside the safety of her room, she gave way to the tears that have been threatening to fall. She buried her head in her pillow to stifle her sobs as she did not want anyone else to hear.
Maya was crying for many reasons. Firstly, she was so mad that she got herself in a position that Richard deemed it necessary to punish her like a recalcitrant child. And she just hated it when people keep on treating her like one. For goodness sake, she was already seventeen! Her Nanay got married at eighteen!
Secondly, she was crying because she just had her first kiss and she was very emotional about it. She was mourning the fact that she will never share her first kiss with her first boyfriend whoever he would have turned out to be.
Last but certainly not the least, she had come to realise the reason why she had always been so annoyed with herself for feeling or acting weird each time she sees him. It dawned on her that what she feels for the bespectacled chinito may have gone beyond than just a mammoth crush. Maya strongly suspected that she was already on her way to falling in love with him! And she was quite scared at the intensity of her feelings towards Richard!
The intensity of her fury with Richard was at a degree that she was tempted to walk out on him! Well, that’s what she felt at that very moment as she glared at him! He was one of the most insensitive man she had the misfortune to meet! She would have given him a piece of her mind with regards to his nondescript proposal had she not been distracted by Mamang. But, then again he did not actually propose, did he?
Her maternal grandmother had stood frozen there gaping at them and clutching her heart, appearing as if she was about to collapse. Maya quickly came to her aid but Richard was assisting her grandmother before her.
“Mamang, okey lang po kayo?” Maya asked worriedly.
“Anong nangyari?” asked Nanay Teresita who came rushing from the dining area. “Nanay?”
Cristina Rose came closely behind Nanay Teresita.
“Naku, wala ito” Mamang reassured them when Richard had her seated on one of the wrought iron chairs “nabigla lang ako kasi pakakasal na daw sila ngayong gabi. Ni hindi ko namalayan na naging magkasintahan sila, eh!”
“Haaaa?” Nanay Teresita and Cristina Rose both exclaimed in shock as they viewed her and Richard.
Maya glared at Richard once more before explaining. “Naku, Mamang! Hindi po. Nagbibiro lang po si Richard.”
“I wasn’t—owww!” he yelped when Maya kicked him on the ankle bone.
“Maige naman at hindi kayo magpapadalus-dalos. Baka isipin ng mga tao merong ‘dahilan’ yung biglaang kasalan.”
Maya saw Richard’s eyes drop to her very flat stomach and heard him muse almost inaudibly “Hmmnnn, not a bad idea to expedite things…”
“Kalma lang po tayong lahat dahil wala pong kasalang magaganap.” Maya said with finality, her cheeks flushing at how the cog wheels were turning in his head!
“Richaaard, hindi naman ako tutol, botong-boto naman ako sayo” Mamang was smiling up at him in reassurance as she patted his upper arm.
“Akala ko ba si Simon ang manok nyo?” quipped Cristina Rose who was starting to pick up the broken china and fork dropped by Mamang a few minutes earlier.
“Gusto ko lang sana makapagsuot ng gown kapag kinasal si Maya…” Mamang continued, unmindful of Cristina Rose’s gibe.
“Nanay naman!” reprimanded Nanay Teresita.
“Anong problema mo, Teresita? Mabuti na yung alam nila, diba Richaaard?”
“Opo naman, Mamang” Richard agreed with a grin.
“Kasi si Arturo, tinanan nuon si Teresita, nung magpakita sakin kasal na, ganun din si Ryan, tinanan si Celine, tapos sa huwes kinasal. Kay Cristina Rose naman, pihado walang kasal sa simbahang magaganap” Mamang explained.
“Wow! Pinasok talaga ako sa usapan!” Cristina Rose exclaimed sarcastically as she went off in search of a rag to clean up the mess. There was a couple of suman sa lihiya with golden brown sweetened santan sauce and latik that formed a sticky mess on the polished tongue-and-groove floor.
“Kay Maya na lang talaga, eh.” Mamang continued beseechingly, ignoring the collective sounds of protest from the younger Dela Rosa women.
“Wala naman hong problema, Mamang.” Richard reassured the old lady with such calm certainty.
In contrast, Maya was very much bothered by what had just transpired. The last time she checked, the supposed bride’s agreement was also needed for any type of wedding to take place! And unless she developed hysterical amnesia in the last few minutes, she has no recollection of agreeing to anything!
Several hours after Richard had left, Maya was still very much bothered as she tossed and turned in bed. He said he loved her! Then, he made the most unromantic marriage proposal as if he was scheduling an impromptu meeting! Perhaps, she should have responded by checking her diary to see if she was available as well? The nerve of the guy!
Nevertheless, a teeny weeny part of her was flattered that he considered her wife material. He must really want her. But what a way to ask! That must have been one of the most unromantic way to ask a girl!
In frustration, Maya screamed into her pillow and then punched it until her strength was spent. Then she took a deep shaky breath and calmly lied back, willing herself to go to sleep. It was impossible!
At breakfast time, Maya was inevitably the subject of teasing.
“Kelan ba ang kasal?” asked Mamang as she bit into a pandesal after dunking it into her white coffee.
“Mamang, diba sinabi ko naman sa inyo kagabi? Wala hong kasalang magaganap. Hindi ko pa nga ho sinasagot si Richard, eh” Maya felt like stamping her foot in frustration. Instead, she made herself a strong cup of coffee as she badly needed the caffeine.
Cristina Rose was just snickering and wagging her eyebrows suggestively at Maya.
“Bakit ba hindi mo pa sagutin ng magkaboypren ka na. Hayan at may lumalapit na guwapo, mayaman, at mukhang patay na patay sayo…at ang pinaka-importante sa lahat—handa kang pakasalan sa simbahan!
Nanay Teresita merely tried to compress her smile at the outrageous comment.
“Nay, marami namang nanligaw kay Maya na guwapo’t may-kaya.”
“Lahat naman hindi pumasa,” complained Mamang “ewan ko ba dito sa bunso mong anak, Teresita! Sobrang pihikan!”
“Hindi talaga papasa yung mga yun. Kasi, si Singkit ang type ni bunso!” scoffed Cristina Rose.
That was an understatement of course. At one time, she believed herself in love with Richard but that was when she was seventeen. She liked to believe that she has since outgrown that emotion.
Through the years, she had met interesting men and had gone out on dates with a few. But somehow, she could not even let her date give her a peck on the cheek, which can be awkward at times. Edzelyn, her FA friend and colleague, had learnt of this particular quirk and had often said that her Maria Clara ways literally belonged to the pages of J.P. Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Maya could not explain that she just could not let another man touch her. She just couldn’t!
Now, with Richard back, Maya was able to answer some questions. Physically, she was still very much attracted to him and it would seem that he wanted her as well. He seemed to care. He even said he loved her. But then he made that nondescript marriage proposal that made her so mad!
So, what now?
Cristina Rose must have sensed that the situation was bothering her greatly for she started her probing questions when they were alone washing the dishes in the auxiliary kitchen.
“Sige umpisahan mo na” Cristina Rose prompted when Mamang and Nanay Teresita went downstairs to the Souvenir Shop.
“Naguguluhan ako kay Singkit. Sabi niya mahal niya ko. Tapos nagbanggit na kaagad ng kasal. Eh, ni hindi ko pa nga sinasagot. Ano ba naman yun?” Maya reverted back to calling him such without even realising it.
“Bunso, hindi naman agad-agad. Diba nagpalipas naman ng 48 oras bago nagtapat at nagyaya ng kasal?” Cristina Rose asked mockingly.
“Kuteeeeeee!” protested Maya “hindi ka nakakatulong!”
“Sige, sige, seryoso na. So, anong problema mo?”
“Para siyang nakakaloko, eh!!!” Maya fumed as she vigorously rubbed a plate dry.
“Hmmmmm…sa tingin ko naman seryoso si Kuya Richard” Cristina Rose gave her unbiased opinion but could not resist adding “maaaring dinadaan ka nga lang sa bilis pero mukhang seryoso siya.”
“Anong gagawin ko, Kute?”
“Mahal mo ba?” Cristina Rose looked at her directly.
Maya’s frown deepened as she tried to honestly answer the question. “Ewan ko… hindi ko alam.”
Cristina Rose halted scrubbing one coffee mug and looked at her again consideringly. “Palagay ko may pagtingin ka rin sa kanya. Kasi sa bawat naging manliligaw mo, nasasabi mo kaagad na wala kang nararamdaman. Saka hindi mo pinagtatagal. Basted kaagad yung pobre. Sa unang paramdam pa lang, sinasabihan mo kaagad na walang maaasahan sayo.”
“Kuteeeeeee” Maya groaned “anong gagawin ko?”
“Anong wala?” Maya looked askance at her sister.
“Sino ba ang nagsabing meron kang dapat gawin? Hindi mo naman kailangang desisyunan kaagad yang panliligaw niya, diba?”
“Papaano kung mangulit?”
“Eh, di sabihin mo yung tutuo na pinag-iisipan mo pa.”
“Papaano kung magtanong kung may pag-asa siya?” Maya kept on.
“Meron ba?” Cristina Rose asked.
“Alam mo namang crush ko siya, diba? Pero ang chickboy niya, eh!”
“Hayun, lumabas din ang tutuo!” Cristina Rose laughed heartily.
“Kute naman, pinagtatawanan mo pa ‘ko. Problemado na nga ako,eh!” Maya pouted in annoyance with her sibling.
“Hay naku bunso! Palagay ko in-love ka rin sa kanya.”
“Sa palagay mo?” Maya looked stricken, as her eyes glistened with gathering tears.
“Oy, huwag mo akong iyakan diyan.” Cristina rose dried her hands with the tea towel.
Maya could not help it. A few tears dropped silently as she bent her head. Maya felt her sibling’s arms go round her to comfort her.
“Natatakot ako, Kute” Maya admitted in a soft whisper.
“Natatakot akong masaktan” Maya explained quietly “Kayang-kaya niya akong saktan.”
“Bunso, tanggalin mo ang lahat ng nega. Hindi pa man, parang hinuhusgahan mo na kaagad si Kuya Richard. Malay mo naman maging faithful siya sayo.”
“Sa palagay mo?”
“Sabi ni Kuya Richard mahal ka niya. Hayaan mo lang siyang ipakita niya yun sayo. Sa tamang panahon, malalaman mo din kung kaya mong magtiwala sa kanya. Sa ngayon, enjoy-in mo muna.”
Maya sighed with relief and hugged her Kute. She was just so thankful that she has family that will always take her best interests to heart. Her sister reminded her that she needed to keep calm and to just take each day as it comes.
Consequently, she was in a better frame of mind when Richard arrived that night. He had another beribboned cylindrical case containing three long stemmed red roses and a ‘peace offering’ as he called it.
“Ano na naman ‘to?” she queried when Richard handed her a square white box tied up with a white satin ribbon. She smiled when she saw it filled with dozens of scrunchies in varying colours and designs.
“To replace all the ones I took from you,” Richard lopsidedly smiled at her.
Even if she wanted to, it was hard holding on to her anger when he was turning on the charm. Maya could feel her anger melting away. She could always choose to ignore what happened last night regarding his nondescript proposal.
Richard was also carrying a metre-long tubular cardboard case. And of course, it piqued Maya’s curiosity.
“Ano naman yan?” Maya questioned.
“Kitchen designs for the villa. I was hoping to pick your brains?”
Maya nodded eagerly. Richard took them out and unrolled them on the table with the first design on top. “This one features a stainless steel top breakfast bar—”
Maya was already shaking her head “Too modern.”
“But it’s very functional—”
“Hindi siya bagay sa bahay,” Maya stated emphatically.
Richard merely smiled at her. Then he took the sheet away to unveil the second design “this one has a granite top island and has wooden veneer cabinetry—”
Maya noted his raised eyebrows as she shook her head at him. “Unless the wooden veneer is an exact match to the house?”
Richard took the sheet away and smilingly presented the last country cottage design, which aroused Maya’s interest.
“Hmmmnn…this one maybe suitable…what’s the benchtop material?”
“Sealed mahogany, the same with the slats-designed cabinet doors.”
“Maybe plain flush design would be better for the cabinets but I suggest adding some wood carving accents—”
“The intertwined roses?”
“Yes, to have that design around the handles so it blends well with the house. You need lots of cabinets, pot drawers and a sizeable pantry. Also, make the island bigger. Use a huge very solid wood table and place the sink and dish drain area on one side, the other side can be used for food preparation and—”
Maya saw Richard making notes while she was prattling on but he looked up when she stopped.
“Go on” he encouraged.
“Hindi yata pwede yung kitchen work table kasi sa pagkakatanda ko maliit lang yung kusina, eh” Maya grimaced.
“Ows?” Maya looked at him.
“I knocked down the adjacent storage room so the kitchen area is now double the size.”
“Hindi ko matandaan yang storage room…hindi ko tuloy ma-visualise” Maya frowned.
“Then, shall we have a look?” Richard invited charmingly.
Maya hesitated for a second but the desire to see the Spanish villa again was very strong. “Sige, paalam ako kay Nanay.”
They crossed the road distance between two properties in a few minutes. She noted that Richard directly parked on the curving driveway by the front door. He quickly went round to the passenger side to open her door and to pick her up again.
“Teka—” Maya had brought the forearm crutch with her with the full intention to use it.
“The ground is uneven here. I will put you down inside” he explained logically so Maya refrained from voicing any more protests.
They went through the large arched double doors after Richard gave it a little kick. Once inside, Maya noted the changes to the villa. Her gaze was quickly shifting from walls to the high ceiling. All the lights were lit like the fire behind Maya’s doe-shaped eyes.
“I take it you like what I have done,” he said softly.
Maya was nodding her head briskly when she turned to him. Her smile disappeared when she realised that Richard was looking at her lips which was at the same level to his.
“Richard, please put me down,” Maya firmly requested in her most no-nonsense tone.
Maya heard him sigh before complying. However, he continued to assist her as they went through the front foyer into the main receiving room and formal dining area where the ceilings and walls were newly painted off-white. Every domed ceiling was graced with a large chandelier in the middle as well as down lights on the sides and corners.
Maya fingers traced the mural feature wall in the dining area. It had a clear varnish that beautifully enhanced the natural mahogany wood grain. Like the rest of the villa, it featured intertwined roses.
“Alam mo ba kung sino ang nagpatayo ng villa?” asked Maya conversationally.
“A Spanish architect-engineer,” Richard nodded “kinwento sakin ni Nana Benita.”
Nana Benita was Tata Igme’s wife. For as long as Maya could remember, the old couple had lived and worked on the estate as its caretaker. Their small house was located on the other end of the property. It was Nana Benita who had in-depth knowledge of the Spanish villa’s history as her parents, her grandparents and great grandparents before her were caretakers of the estate.
With word of mouth knowledge passed through the generations, Nana Benita had narrated that the Spaniard had met the Mindoro-born lass on the mainland and had followed her when she returned to the island. He was disowned by his own family when he decided to marry her but he was well-loved by the people of San Nicholas as he helped build the church that still stands in the town plaza. He was so in love with his Filipina wife that he built this huge villa when they got married, hoping to fill it with many children.
“Yes, Nana Benita said that Señor la Rosa, who was also a notable sculptor during his time, did all the intricate carvings himself. It was also said that he did several life-size statues of his wife.”
Richard was very quiet.
“That’s why I love this house which was a labour of love and was the setting of a great love story” Maya sighed. “Unfortunately, his wife died giving birth to their stillborn child. And that he never recovered from her death. He died of a broken heart soon after.”
“That’s a great love story?” Richard was shaking his head.
“Hindi naman lahat ng immortal love stories merong happy ending diba?” she countered. “But there’s another less known chapter to the story. It was said that their firstborn was a twin and that the elder child survived and was cared for by the wife’s family. He reached adulthood, got married, lived a long happy married life with children. One of his younger sons inherited the piece of land where our house stands.”
“So, you’re saying you’re related to the original owners of this villa?” Richard was looking at her strangely.
“Ano bang apelyido ko?”
“Dela Rosa…” his voice trailed as he followed where Maya’s hands were gesturing towards—to the focal point of the mural which were two huge roses, one was fully bloomed while the other was just starting to bloom, both were on intertwined stems with many leaves and thorns. Underneath the end of the intertwined stems was the signature of the sculptor. It read ‘DE La Rosa’.
“His full name was Desmundo Ezequiel La Rosa.” Maya announced dramatically. “Nana Benita believed that somewhere along the line, a mistake with a birth record was made and La Rosa became Dela Rosa.”
Maya beamed at him who still had a thoughtful look on his face. “Tingnan na natin yung kusina?” she prompted.
Richard opened and held the swinging double doors that led to the bare kitchen area. In the middle of the room was a linen-covered rectangular trestle table standing so conspicuously out of place. On top was a bottle of Lindauer Classic Rose sparkling wine chilling in a bucket of ice, two wine flutes, a long wooden board with Brie, Camembert, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, assorted crackers, dried fruits and a bunch of black grapes.
“You planned this…” Maya accused him as he detached himself from her to open the bottle. A small pop reverberated in the room. Then he poured the rose wine into the wine flute which he held slightly tilted to avoid generating more bubbles.
“I merely did a calculated guess that you will come. I was hoping you would not be able to resist seeing the villa,” he grinned lopsidedly.
“So you dangled ‘the villa’ carrot in front of me” she laughed.
“Guilty as charged” he admitted as he handed her a glass of sparkling rose wine. “But seriously, I really needed your perspective on the kitchen design.”
“Well, let’s see…” Maya slowly walked to the middle of the room after placing the crutch on top of the trestle table. She took a sip of the wine as she considered the bare walls. “On further consideration, I think it will be way better to use the flush-type cabinets doors with the rose design…best to choose the handles first before you commission the carving…a huge thick distressed wood slab table here…kitchen bench all-round with wicker basket drawers…what type of kitchen appliances are you putting in?”
“Titanium steel finish.”
Maya took another sip of the sweet wine as she tried to visualise where the appliances should go.
“I saw this design in LA. When you go into the kitchen, you won’t see the huge fridge coz it’s been incorporated into the kitchen cabinetry. Even the microwave was under a flap…”
“Maya…” he softly called her attention as he came to stand behind her.
She slowly pirouetted in place to face him, her wine almost sloshing on her right hand. She felt him take and raise her left hand for a kiss. Then he straightened and looked into her eyes while still holding her left hand “I’m in love with you, Maya. I have been for a very long time.”
Maya blinked in surprise. He was doing it again, overwhelming her with his overly straightforward manner.
“I have rendered you speechless again, haven’t I?” he smiled down at her.
“Nakakagulat ka naman kasi…ang tagal mong nawala…tapos ngayon—”
“I would not have been able to keep my hands off you if I kept coming back” he interrupted her then his eyes twinkled “besides your Kuya would have killed me.”
“Surely not, he’s your bestfriend?” Maya was frowning at the thought that her Kuya Ryan would not want a relationship between herself and Richard.
“You would not understand. It’s a guy thing.”
“Siguro nga,” Maya’s brows was still knitted together, unable to understand.
“You were very young. I had no choice but to stay away to allow you to grow and pursue your career goals.”
“And now?” Maya prompted.
“And now, I’ll take you home,” he grinned lopsidedly “baka si Tatay Arturo naman ang sumugod dito na may dalang gulok.”
Richard did not bring up the proposal again which was a good thing. The same was the case for the next consecutive nights. He would come every evening with the cylinder case of three red roses and Cadbury chocolates. And Maya looked forward to his evening visits. He was a cerebrally stimulating company for he was a great conversationalist, with good knowledge of almost everything under the sun.
On the 5th day post-injury, the homecare nurse removed her bandage and just covered her wound with a thin wide Tegaderm pad dressing. Maya smiled and wondered how quickly Richard would notice. She was looking forward to going out with him. Hence, she showered mid-afternoon so that she can dry and style her hair. She was considering her wardrobe and trying to choose something suitable when her mobile phone rang.
She smiled when she saw Richard’s name flashing on the small screen.
“Yes, Richard” Maya responded “napatawag ka.”
“Where do you want to go tonight?” he asked without preamble.
Maya’s jaw dropped. How on earth did he know that her thick bandages are off? He must be keeping tabs on her.
“Sinong nag-report sayo?” she asked, annoyed at being monitored “nevermind, I don’t want to know.”
Richard was quiet for a few seconds.
Did she really have a choice? She had already agreed, hadn’t she?
“Ok,” Maya assented.
“What do you fancy?”
“Actually, I have been craving for pasta carbonara,” Maya confessed.
“I know a nice little Italian restaurant.”
That nice little Ristorante Italiano turned out to be located in Makati City. Maya did not realise that she will be getting into a helicopter when he picked her up. Even with the bright yellow ear muffs that Richard placed over her ears, the ride was still very noisy. Despite garnering thousands of air miles, Maya was still nervous for she had a constant eyeful how far they were from the ground. And when helicopters develop engine problems, they drop!
Richard must have sensed what state she was in for he wordlessly reached for her left hand that was gripping the edge of the seat. Cold seeped out of her hand under the warmth of his. Maya closed her eyes to fight the vertigo.
They touched down on a helipad that was on top of a skyscraper. Richard was constantly assisting her for which she was grateful.
“That bad for you?” Richard asked when they were in the lifts.
“Don’t mind me. It was just first-time nervousness.”
Richard considered her for a few seconds. “We just need to pass by my office to get the spare car keys.”
His corporate headquarters occupied the top three floors of the building. Maya was engrossed with looking around that she did not realise that there were still a couple of people in the office.
“Good evening, sir.”
“Good evening, Lisa, Sonny” Richard greeted back “this is Maya, Atty. Ryan’s baby sister.”
Maya looked at Richard pointedly at the word ‘baby’ before smiling at the two.
“Good evening po, Miss Maya” Sonny extended his hand for a handshake.
Lisa’s eyes had lit up as Maya warmly gave her a cheek to cheek kiss. “It’s nice to finally put a face to the name. Favourite topic ka ng Kuya mo.” Lisa enthused.
“Talaga?” Maya stayed in the outer office while he went through doors which led to his private office.
“Lovelife mo ang sinisisi niya sa pagnipis ng buhok niya. ”
Maya smilingly wrinkled her nose. “Pakialamero kasi yun. Pakiramdam niya minsan siya ang Tatay ko.”
“Yes, sir?” Lisa quickly turned her attention to her boss.
“Confirmed na ba yung return flight ni Atty. Ryan tomorrow?”
“Yes, sir. He sent the scanned copy of the signed contract earlier. He will be arriving early evening.” Lisa nodded “You can resume your vacation, sir.”
“I intend to.” Richard grinned “Maya and I will go ahead. Don’t stay too late again tonight…and if you want, you can take a day-off tomorrow, Lisa”
Maya suppressed a smile that must have been revealed in her eyes.
“Now, what’s going in that beautiful head of yours, Ms Dela Rosa?” Richard asked as their elevator descended swiftly to the underground parking floors.
“Wala lang. Considerate boss ka din naman pala.”
“Thank you, I think” he murmured with a raised brow as he led her to his navy blue BMW 5-series. Maya carefully got in the car as she was wearing a clingy peach dress that shows a hint of cleavage. She wanted to look classy yet femininely sexy.
The little restaurant was a small cosy little place with subdued lighting. At every table was a candle in a vino bottle accompanied by assorted condiments and a narrow-mouthed wicker basket containing breadsticks.
To Maya’s delight, the pasta twist carbonara was bursting with flavour on her palate. Maya was sweeping off the white sauce from her plate with a piece of garlic bread when she noticed Richard smiling at her.
“Ang sarap mong panuorin, nakaka-engganyo kang kumain” he commented as he forked penne Bolognese into his mouth.
“Eh, masarap naman talaga,” Maya responded candidly. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
“Your Kuya and I sometimes come here for lunch” he informed “pero sabi niya magaling ka rin daw magluto ng pasta dishes?”
“Medyo may alam nako” Maya nodded in between chewing “kapag wala akong schedule, I attend one-day courses at Sylvia Reynoso-Gala Culinary Studio.”
“So what dishes do you know?”
“Hmmmnn, ang mga pinag-aralan ko yung mga hindi alam nila Nanay. I first learnt Spanish dishes like paella and callos madrileña. Then I attended the Italian and Russian cuisine courses.”
“Wow! Kelan mo ako ipagluluto?” Richard looked expectantly at her.
“Pumunta ka sa bahay sa bagong taon, ako ang nagluluto ng paella.”
“Ang tagal naman nun!” he complained.
Maya shrugged and wiped her mouth with the napkin and stood up. “I’ll just go to the ladies room for a sec.”
Richard had automatically stood up as well which made Maya smile inwardly. In so many ways, he had old-school manners and she was loving it!
“Saan naman tayo pupunta ngayon?” Maya asked when they were driving away from Makati City several minutes later.
“It’s a surprise.” Richard grinned as he fleetingly glanced at her before concentrating back on the road.
“Saan nga?” Maya insisted.
“If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise.”
Maya pursed her lips but her eyes were smiling. She shook her head for she was amazed at herself for her lack of apprehension. Richard may want her and had expressed this in so many ways but he will never force himself on her. He already had that chance and had not taken advantage of her vulnerable unconscious state. In this regard, he had earnt her trust .
When Maya finally found her bearings, she realised that they were with heading up to Antipolo City. The BMW soundlessly sped by until it decelerated and turned into the wide driveway of a popular hotel venue for weddings! Surely he would not pull a Zoren Legaspi-like wedding stunt now, would he?
“Richard?” Maya gulped, apprehension back in full force.
to be continued…