A/N: Author’s Note: Again, I would like to extend my thanks to Ms. Alpha Grace, Ms Liza and to Ms. Dianne for generously giving their time to critique and proofread this chapter. Please feel free to give your honest feedback, whether good or bad.
After several weeks on leave, Richard was back behind his massive office desk, reading the latest progress report on his underwater tunnel project. There have been delays due to very bad weather conditions and heavy equipment breakdown. A few minutes prior, Lisa had also nervously handed him a price increase notification from one of their main suppliers. On top of that, there have been a couple of reporters lurking in the premises who tried to do an ambush interview with him when he walked through office reception that late afternoon. While business concerns and the security breach irritated him, Richard remained in high spirits. This did not escape Lisa and his employees’ notice
“Sir?” Lisa tried to get his attention after placing various documents on Richard’s desk for him to sign.
“Yes, Lisa?” Richard lifted his gaze from the file he was reading and looked at his long-time secretary.
“Sir, I just wanted to know if congratulations are in order?” Lisa asked.
Lowering the report he was reading, he responded with a bedimpled grin, “Maya said yes. “We’re getting married in a few weeks. We’re just waiting for the invitation from the printers and then we will be giving them out soon as. So, please mark the date.”
“That’s wonderful news, sir!” Lisa gushed. “Would you like me to place an official notification in the papers?”
Since Richard never really considered himself a celebrity, he did not even think of having his engagement publicly announced. His impending marriage should only concern him, his family and his circle of friends. He still can not wrap his head around the idea of his personal life being fodder for local news.
“Do you really think that’s necessary?” he consulted Lisa.
“Well, first of all,” Lisa began “if you place an official notice, the press will stop speculating.”
“And second?” Richard prompted.
“Your employees will also stop gossiping about you and Maya,” Lisa muttered.
“I am not paying them to gossip about me,” Richard answered sternly.
“Nevertheless, it is happening, sir. Worse, some people are betting on how long your relationship with Maya will actually last,” Lisa explained unhappily.
“What!???!” Richard bit out.
“That was how Atty. Ryan got wind that you have been seeing Maya. He overheard people betting and speculating about you and Maya in the cafeteria.”
Richard gritted his teeth and his whole body stiffened as his infamous tiger-temper rose. His first instinct was to find the people responsible for starting the gossip and then fire them. Then, the voice of reason pricked him, diffusing the anger that had quickly built up.
People have been discussing only what they see. So far, they have seen you dating a string of women through the years. You never made secret of the fact that they were all just casual relationships. Can you really blame them if they expect Maya to join their ranks?
“Sir, I have already dealt with the people betting over your relationship with Maya. I made sure it will hurt their pockets so that they will not do it again. But I cannot stop people from talking,” Lisa lamented. “So, I would really recommend making an official announcement.”
“How did Atty. Ryan take it?” Richard quietly asked as he leaned back in his leather swivel chair.
“He was furious when he overheard. At first I thought he was going to punch the guys. But then he just walked out.”
“How has he been since?” Richard’s queried with a slight frown between his lifted brows.
“Actually, he has not been back at the office since. He has mainly been communicating only with me or through his secretary. Apparently, he has been working from home.”
Richard pulled a deep sigh as he slightly slumped in his swivel chair. Since the last time he saw Ryan in San Nicholas, he has tried to ring, text and even email his best friend – all to no avail. He is assuming Ryan is still very angry about his relationship with Maya. Richard cannot really blame him. If he had a sister of his own, he would likely react the same way, if not worse. If their roles were reversed, Richard would probably succeed in murdering Ryan if he messed with his supposed sister.
He absent-mindedly fingered his healed lower lip and smiled self-deprecatingly. He really needed to personally see his best friend. And by the way the land lies, that would entail visiting him at home. He was trying to avoid this for he did not want Ryan’s children to witness any possible unpleasant exchanges between Ryan and himself.
While he was instructing Lisa to proceed with the public announcement of his engagement, his phone rang twice while the third ring was cut off midway. When he checked the incoming call log, his phone registered Maya’s mobile number. He returned her call but his calls were not going through.
Richard was a little concerned for he had dropped off Maya at the airport about two hours prior. She actually looked a little pale this morning and he had advised her to call in sick. Of course, Maya argued and insisted that she was fine.
He decided to call Time Airways’ airport office to check on her but was informed that Maya did not board the plane and was marked off as sick. With that information, he decided to return to the airport to pick her up so he can bring her to the doctor immediately. Upon reaching TA’s staff entrance driveway, he saw Maya being escorted into a sports car by the same man he saw a few weeks ago when he dropped off Maya at work the first time.
Richard had noted the other man’s dismay when he released a thoroughly-kissed Maya that late afternoon. Afterwards, he saw the same man ‘sizing’ him up which Richard returned with a measuring look. Although they have never been introduced, Richard recognised him as the same man who visited Maya in San Nicholas. With simple deductive reasoning, Richard identified the individual as Capt. James Ventura and recognised him for what he was—his rival.
And Maya chose to ride in that man’s car!
“What the hell?” Richard swore in disbelief that Maya was naïve enough to go with that man!
Despite his attempt to manoeuvre his BMW quickly out of the driveway, Richard had to step hard on the brakes to avoid hitting the other car that pulled out in front of him without any warning. Out of frustration, he pressed down on the horn and let loose a string of epithet describing idiotic drivers who do not know how to use indicator lights.
When he finally merged into the afternoon rush hour traffic, the sports car was nowhere in sight. All he could do was drive into the general direction where the other car went. He drove and got stuck in traffic for almost two hours before deciding that guessing where Maya went was a futile exercise. Hence, he was in a very foul temper when he finally parked his BMW in the visitors’ carpark space before going up to Maya’s condo unit. He almost broke his key as he viciously unlocked the front door. He malevolently eyed Maya’s black heels, purse and small suitcase – all of which were in the middle of the tiny lounge, like they were hastily left there.
While Richard’s imagination was running wild, Maya casually came out of the bedroom wearing a short towelling robe. She was obviously naked underneath.
“Andiyan ka na pala,” Maya greeted in surprise.
“Nasaan siya?” Richard bit out, advancing menacingly towards Maya, his hard gaze travelling up and down her shapely fetching form. He stopped in front of her but refrained from touching her as he tried to keep a tight rein on his temper.
Anger can be a strong aphrodisiac.
“Siya? Sinong siya?” Maya questioned, bewilderment written all over her face as she followed Richard back into the bedroom where he stood glaring at the crumpled bedsheets.
“I saw you with him!” Richard bit out through gritted teeth while his hands moved to remove his tie with a vicious tug, followed by his suit. Buttons came flying as he carelessly parted his shirt before kicking his pants off.
“Si James ba ang pinag-uusapan natin? Hinatid lang niya ko—” Maya tried to explain, getting wary at the way Richard was behaving. Something was wrong.
Then he menacingly pivoted towards Maya who instinctively stepped back when she saw Richard’s thunderous expression. Richard grabbed Maya by her upper arms when he saw that she was trying to evade him, as if in rejection. Her movement was like a red flag waving to an already enraged bull. Something snapped inside Richard that moved him to imprison Maya in his arms while his lips sealed hers in a kiss that intended to hurt. Richard felt Maya’s protest but he was past caring as he picked her up to drop her on the bed. He prevented Maya’s escape by immediately pinning her with his weight.
“Richard, stop this!” Maya yelled.
“What’s the matter, Maya? Do you now prefer his touch over mine?” Richard asked while he untied her robe to tug her only clothing down her legs, tearing the silky undie in his haste.
“You’re insane!” Maya cried breathlessly as she tried to push him away.
Richard responded by clasping both of her hands in his to hold them high above her head. Swiftly, he took off his last piece of clothing and pried Maya’s legs apart with his left knee. He felt her resistance but she was no match against his male strength.
“It doesn’t really matter if you do, ” Richard answered his own question tersely. “Because you are mine!!! Mine!!!”
With that declaration, Richard subjugating her in a way that was almost as old as time…
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