This is a continuation to The Rightful Owner – part 8.
Richard arrived at the T.A. office late due to the traffic from Ortigas to Pasay City. He woke up later than usual since he it took him several hours before he finally returned to sleep the previous night. After his cold shower, he spent some hours speculating what Maya could be feeling for him. They’ve just met three weeks ago and evidently they both have strong attraction to each other. He admitted to himself that he is very drawn to her and would like to be with her.
He missed a meeting that morning but he was pleasantly surprised that it was James took over. When he reviewed the minutes, he was impressed at the output including the decisions made by the team.
Richard decided to visit James in his office. He found him reviewing the materials for their new collaterals.
“James, okay ang meeting n’yo kanina ha. Good job brother.” He patted his back. Richard glanced at the proposals that James was reading. James was really working to Richard’s delight.
“Thanks bro. By the way, this Friday is the formal contract signing natin with Ms. Maya dela Rosa. I’ve arranged for everything. You will need to be there for the signing itself and photo session.” James reminded his brother.
Richard was silent for a while thinking about his James’s plan. As the future president of the company, he thought James needed to start being more visible than him.
“James, as the VP here, you have the authority to sign the contract with them. I’ll drop by the event but I have no plans to be in any of the photo sessions. I think you should own the whole event. After all, it’s going to be your company. So it would be better if your presence is felt like what you did in this morning’s meeting.” Richard was serious as he shared with James his intention.
“Ok, if that’s what you want. But please make sure you are there. You wouldn’t want to miss meeting your future sister-in-law.” James intended it to be a joke. He expected that Richard would react with the mention of Maya’s name but Richard just calmly looked at him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there. So, how’s your progress with her?” Richard asked although deep inside him, he was apprehensive of James’s response.
“Wala , eh. She told me that we can only be friends.” James opened to him. “There’s someone else, Kuya, she told me herself.”
“Really?” Richard was surprised at the revelation of James. He became pensive.
He wondered whether the person in Maya’s heart was him. With the way she been responding to his kisses, he’d like to assume that it is him. He wished it was him. With that realization, came along self-doubt too. What if she was just playing him along? Nevertheless, he’d like to pursue her himself and so he would need to clear the way with James.
“So, how did you take that? Are you still going to pursue her?” At that point, he was ready to tell his brother that he is interested in her as well.
“Kuya, I actually believed her when she told me that is someone else in her heart. I appreciated her being straightforward, hindi na n’ya ako pinaasa. So, I am okay with her offer of friendship.” There was nothing in James’s tone or facial expression that contradicted his statement.
Richard interpreted James’s comment as an indication that he had given up. He was delighted that it seemed he didn’t have to clash with his brother. He was about to share to let him know about his own intention to Maya when his phone rang. It was Ryan, his operations lead at Lim Aviations. So, Richard took the call.
“What?” Richard’s voice thundered as he stood up from sitting position. “Since when has that started?” He paced back and forth James’s room signifying that he was very upset. Eventually, James heard him say. “Okay Ryan, I’m coming in today. Let’s talk.”
“Bro, what’s wrong?” James asked, concerned about his brother’s upset moment.
“James, I’m going to Lim Aviations. I need to be there today and probably in the next few days. We’ll talk when I return. In the meantime, I suggest that you focus on T.A. operations.” Richard gave instructions to James before finally leaving T.A. office.
Maya was in a sulky mood for the past three days. If on Monday morning she was upbeat because of her weekend with Richard, she was somber by the end of that day. She greeted him thru a text message in the morning but she didn’t get a response from him. By lunchtime, she resent her message thinking he might have just missed it. In between her taping scenes for her TV series, she would check on her phone but still, there was no response from him.
On Tuesday, she called him up but it was a woman who picked up the call. She was informed that Richard was meeting and that he left his phone in his office. She expected him to return her call but he didn’t.
She didn’t hear from him until Wednesday evening when she was in her bedroom getting ready for bed. By that time, she was already upset with him for not contacting her. She was also upset with herself for expecting his call. Her inner dialogue asked herself why was she even expecting a call from him anyway.
“Hi Maya.” Richard sounded distant on the other end of the phone.
“Hello Richard.” Her own voice was lackluster.
“Sorry, I wasn’t able to call you or respond to your messages. May issues ba kay Nay Teresita? Anything thing I can help you with?”
The way he spoke sounded impersonal to Maya. It was like a business call and suddenly she felt embarrassed by her own doings. Several thoughts came into her mind. Is she running after him? They are in a pretend relationship but she realized she wanted more.
“Ahh, wala naman Richard. I just wanted to say hello kaya ako napatawag or nag-send ng message. There was nothing to those calls.” Maya tried to cover up her intention of her messages and call. How would she tell him that she just wanted to stay connected with him, even just hear his voice?
“I was very busy sa office so I’ve not been able to take any personal calls.” Richard’s tone remained flat. He may be really busy, Maya thought. So, she decided she didn’t need to prolong their conversation.
“Ah, ganun ba? O sige baka nakaistorbo na ako. May incoming call na ako sa kabilang line.” Maya lied.
“Sige. I’ll probably see you this Friday. But if I’m not there, I’m sure James will take care of you.” Richard bid her goodbye and disconnected the call.
After putting her phone on the side, Maya hit her pillow hard. For three days, she waited for them to speak and when they finally did, she didn’t like the turnout of their conversation. It was very impersonal and posed uncertainties. Richard didn’t mention if he’d like to see her again. She was even unsure if she would see him that Friday.
Maya emerged from the beauty salon in Greenhills feeling confident with her look. She then proceeded to Emman’s pad which is within the area. She would be changing clothes in Emman’s place and they will go to the venue for T.A.’s event together.
She had been briefed several times on their agenda that will start with the formal contract signing, followed by a photo session with the company officers. Then, a dinner event will be hosted for all T.A. employees as form of celebration. An after dinner party has also been arranged, but her attendance there was option. All those activities will occur at the Edsa Shangrila hotel. It was a last minute change of plan that James made.
The moment Maya came out of Emman’s room wearing her dress for the event, Emman exclaimed.
“Oh my gee, girl, you are dressed to kill.” Emman appreciated the halter style body hugging blue ankle length dress Maya was wearing.
“Emman, kill agad. Hindi ba to impress lang?” She joked with her friend. She walked as if she was in a runway.
“Impress, oo. Pero pag humakbang ka at medyo ipinosing mo yang legs mo, nganga sila sigurado.” Emman pointed at the left leg that was exposed in front of him.
Maya chose the dress suggested by her studio’s stylist. It was simple and elegant. The highlight of the dress is its high slit that extends up to her upper thigh. As she walks, the slit would open up and would expose her sexy leg. She knew her assets well and she wanted to use it that night. She wanted to impress Richard Lim.
“If I know that dress is specially dedicated to Mr. Lim.” Emman started teasing Maya again much to her consternation.
“Emman, ha, uulitin ko uli, please don’t tease me when we’re are there. Act formal, please.” Maya’s smile left her face. She rolled up her eyes indicating her displeasure.
“Alrighty, sister. I won’t so ‘wag ka ng maasar. If I know, you’re just excited to see Mr. Lim. So, kumusta na ba kayong dalawa after your dinner last week?” Emman seriously asked.
“Wala at tara na.” Maya pulled him towards the door so they can leave for the event. She didn’t tell him yet about the date the previous week and what happened after that.
As soon as they got out of their vehicle at the Edsa Shangri-la’s driveway, Maya and Emman were welcomed by TA’s marketing staff. They were immediately ushered to the Sulu function room where the contract signing and photo sessions were to take place.
James approached Maya the moment she entered the room. He was all smiles upon seeing Maya and Emman.
“Wow, very beautiful, Ms. Dela Rosa.” James appreciated her look and gave her a light kiss on her cheek as a form of greeting. Then, he greeted Emman next. “Hi, Emman, good to see you again.”
“Okay, let me introduce you around.” James then led Maya and Emman around the room so they could meet the rest of the T.A. officers. After which, they started taking their respective seats in the long table for their formal signing as the photographers set up their cameras.
“James, is Richard joining us?” Maya turned to James who was seating on her right. As TA president, she expected him to be there.
“Maya, he is not joining us. I’m not also sure if he is attending today’s event. He is attending to something important.” Learning that she wouldn’t be seeing Richard that night dampened her spirits. She had dressed up thinking of him. It was then she realized how much she wanted to see him even though their conversation during their last phone call didn’t go well for her.
Maya reminded herself that the primary reason she was there was work and therefore she should focus on the expectations of her client.
She tried to put on a cheerful mood. “Oh, well. So, I guess we can proceed then.” She used her fake smile.
The signing was completed within fifteen minutes but the photo session took longer than planned as the photographers wanted to have many shots to choose from later on.
By 6:30 p.m., the TA officers and Maya moved to the Palawan function room for cocktails.
Although she was disappointed of Richard’s absence, Maya began to loosen up after consuming a glass of red wine. She started to enjoy the event with James playing a good host. He stayed by Maya’s side most of the time as they mingled around.
After meeting several groups, Maya told James she needed to go to the ladies room. She knew she has reached her alcohol limit as she felt a little tipsy going to the ladies room. When she looked at the full length mirror in the powder area, she noticed that her cheeks were already flushed from the red wine she had consumed. She powdered her cheeks to lessen the color in her face. She stayed there for a few minutes checking her phone for any message from Richard, but there was none. She then decided to return to the function room.
When she got back, she saw Emman with new group of people seemingly enjoying the night. Then a roving waiter came to her and offered a new glass of wine which she took. She almost dropped the glass in shock when she suddenly heard the distinct voice of Richard.
“You’ve been drinking a lot, Maya.” She found him standing beside her with a serious look in his face. Her heart somersaulted when their eyes met.
Richard was wearing a dark gray suit with blue shirt, same shade as Maya’s dress. He looked so handsome that night.
“Hi, Richard. I just started.” She greeted him and then turned pretending that she was searching for someone.
“I’ve been observing you. I know you’ve had more than one. Naka ilang glass ka na?” Maya were at a loss for words.
“ So, I say you’ve had enough.” Richard took the wine glass from her hand. “Let’s talk outside.” He said close to her ear not wanting the other employees to hear what he just told her.
Maya turned and looked at him and finally found her voice. “Dinner is about to start. I don’t think I should go out, Sir.” She responded to him. Suddenly, she didn’t feel like talking to him just because he said so.
At that juncture, their attention was diverted when a woman joined them. The woman placed her arm around Richard’s arm. “Here you are. I thought you went out for a call?” The woman was Alicia, his girlfriend she met in Bali.
“Well, I’m still talking to Maya here.” Richard responded to Alicia without looking at her.
Alicia’s attention turned to Maya. She assessed her from head to foot before speaking to her. “Hi, I’m Alicia. We’ve met before in Bali and I’m sorry for what I said to you in Bali.” The apology Alicia made didn’t reach her eyes so Maya sensed that she was insincere.
An actress that she is, Maya put on her acting skills to handle the situation even if she could feel herself getting upset. “Hi, I’m Maya. It’s alright Alicia. People sometimes jump quickly to conclusion, it can happen to us anytime.” She observed that Alicia’s hand remained in Richard’s arm and he was allowing it. Maya was getting annoyed by it.
Then, James came over to join them. “Hi bro, so you’ve managed to join us. Hi Aish. ” James gave his elder brother a pat at the back and peck on the cheek to Alicia.
“Yes, I wouldn’t miss this event, bro.” Richard glanced at Alicia and then to Maya sensing the two ladies were faking their pleasantries. Maya maintained a calm demeanor. Although Richard and James referred to each other as bro, it didn’t occur to her that the two had blood ties.
“Well, since everyone is here. We better start serving dinner.” James then led Maya to their assigned table. Richard with Alicia also moved towards another table joining the other company officers.
During dinner, Maya comfortably spoke to people in their table. She even laughed at James’s jokes belying her true feelings that night. She couldn’t stop herself from occasionally glancing at the other table where Richard was. Every time she looked at his direction, she would see him looking at her too. Each time their eyes met, she would either quickly look away or had her lips pursed with matching rolling of eyes.
Earlier that evening, Richard hurriedly went to the Palawan function room of Edsa Shangri-la so he could attend T.A’s event. It was important for him to attend the event. When he entered the hotel premises, he accidentally met Alicia who is a daughter of one of their shareholders. She was also attending the T.A. event upon the invitation of James.
From the time he arrived, he kept a low profile and stayed in a corner observing Maya from a distance. He noticed that Maya was enjoying the night with his brother. Although James mentioned that he has been turned down, Richard wanted to observe her first before approaching her. Besides, his brother kept close guard to her that he couldn’t find a way to approach her. Neither of them saw him yet. He only found the opportunity when she went to the ladies room. He wanted to speak to her alone and so when she declined the invitation for them to go outside, he was disappointed.
Over dinner, he kept a close watch on Maya even from the other table. She looked stunningly beautiful that night especially when he saw her sexy leg as she walked. She was wearing one of his favorite colors, blue. But he wondered why she had a displeasure expression on her face whenever their eyes met.
He made a firm resolve that he will not let the night go by without talking to her, alone.
The serving of dessert signaled Bryan, the marketing manager, to take the microphone for a short message.
“Good evening everyone, before dinner is over, we would like to invite our company president Mr. Richard Lim to give a short message for the team.” A loud applause was heard in the room. The lights dimmed as everyone waited for Richard.
Richard was momentarily caught off-guard as he really didn’t prepare anything. Nobody told him that he will need to make a speech. Nevertheless, he stood up to go to the mini stage that was set up in front of the function room.
“Good evening everyone. I didn’t actually prepare anything. Mahirap talaga maka pagtrabaho sa mga young ones, they always surprise you.” There was a laughter in the room. Then, he started “Time Airways has been in existence for nearly fifteen years. We are considered young compared to our competitors but we have proven our worth in this industry. We continue to grow and boy we are growing fast. Together with the growth is the need for new ways of doing things including how we market ourselves to our clients, our passengers. This is where the very beautiful Maya Dela Rosa comes in to our life.” He paused as the employees applauded. Maya’s got a momentary spotlight on where she was seated. She smiled as she waved to everyone.
“I know the marketing team has put a lot of effort to put this event together, thank you guys. But please allow me to make a special mention to someone. Let’s recognize the brains behind our new marketing strategies, our VP marketing, the next president of Time Airways, James Ventura.” There was a loud clapping and buzz from the employees. It was the first time Richard mentioned about his successor and even James was surprised by his public declaration.
James left Maya’s side as he took the microphone from Richard. As James stood on the stage, Richard sat on his chair to be close to Maya. He whispered in her ear. “Let’s talk later.” She just looked at him and then focused her attention to James who was about to speak.
“Pagpasensyahan n’yo na kami. Sino-sino pa ba ang magpupurihan kundi magkakapatid. Thank you Kuya.” The employees laughed as clapped their hands again. Between the two, James is the informal one so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he would openly admit their blood ties in a business event. James started his speech which was also unprepared. He was ecstatic of his brother’s open appreciation of his contribution to their company.
Maya was dumbfounded when she heard the opening speech of James. She thought she heard it wrong so she asked Richard. “Richard, tama ba dinig ko, brothers kayo?” She asked , moving her face close to his ear for him to hear her.
Richard had a strange look in his face when he answered her. “Yes, didn’t you know?” Their face so close to each other that Maya backed away.
Several thoughts ran in her mind so she didn’t hear the rest of James’s speech. The next thing she knew, James was back beside her and the dancing music started to play as the room’s bright lights were replaced by dancing neon lights. It was party time.