“I would never marry that man!” I yelled at my mother who followed me to my room after walking out of that dinner. I should’ve known that it was a formal dinner for a reason!
Mom was looking so angry at me for walking out on a dinner that was meant to be the future of our company. I know about that. I believe that my parents are thinking futuristically when it comes to our company that it makes them do some stupid stuff to push me to the limit.
“You have ruined the dinner! It was very important, Darren!” She was fuming as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
I rolled my eyes and walked inside my room, waiting for her to come follow me before I answer her back. I want my door locked before I could speak. The guests, the Francos, are still downstairs with my dad. I know that if I shout back from here, they would hear it.
I bet they have already heard our heated conversations when I walked out.
Mom got inside my room and shut the door with a loud slam! Damn! So much for making the guests feel a bit welcomed from me. She faced me with her angriest expression I have ever seen in my whole life.
Her wrinkles have been more defined with the way she gazed at me. Her lips were pursed in a thin line and I can see it from here.
“You did not just walk out on the dinner that would define the future of our company!” She exasperated while pointing towards the door.
I bit my lip and rolled my eyes. “It was the future of your company. Not mine!” I shot back.
Her jaw ticked. “How dare you say that, Darren! That company was what kept you sheltered, clothed and satisfied for all of your life! It was the reason why you got into a prestigious school! It was the reason why you drive your own car! So you don’t have the right to tell me that it was not yours because you benefitted from that too!”
The frustrated and fury in her tone didn’t go unnoticed. She was shouting at me. And I couldn’t do anything but clench my fists when I heard what she just said. She might be right. No, she really is right. That company was the one who kept us alive all through the years.
That advertising company was built by my great grandparents and was passed on from generations to generations. My dad holds the company now while my mom had been his adviser. Everyone in the family had thought that I would inherit our business. No. I wouldn’t. I don’t have anything to do with business. I want to be a chef. I’m not studying culinary arts for nothing.
“And don’t you dare talk back to me! I am your mother! You do as I told!”
That, I couldn’t handle.
“You are my mother but you don’t own me!” I countered.
All of my life, they have been telling me that I own my life and I should do what I want in life. I should always choose to be with the choices that my heart desires. Thus, I couldn’t marry anyone just for a freaking future of a fucking company. No. Not even my family’s business.
Mom’s jaw dropped at my counterattack. She must have not seen that coming. I admit I was a daughter that has given them too many headaches to count but I wouldn’t actually go against my principles to give way for their own.
“Mom, there are a lot of things I want to do in life. I don’t want to marry a man I don’t love.”
“You will love him when you get to know him.” Finality was marked permanently on her words.
I looked at her in disbelief. It was as if I want to ask her if she could actually hear herself. If it were she that’s being caught up in a fucking arranged marriage, I bet on all of my money in savings account that she’d react even more than I am now. I know my mother. I am her replica.
“I won’t alright. I won’t love him and I will not make myself do so.”
If her words were marked with finality, so are mine. I am not marrying that man! I don’t even know his name!
“Travis Franco is a good man. He’s got great educational and family background. Plus, he’s the son of the owner of the largest online shopping company in California. Your marriage would make a big boost on both of our ends.”
I couldn’t hear her anymore. When she started talking about the family background of that Travis, I couldn’t help but not believe all this.
And I hope she knew that no matter how rich those Francos are, I wouldn’t marry their son. Not if I’m not in love with him. Not if it’s against my desires.
“You know what, Mom? I don’t care. I don’t care about those Francos. About that Travis. About their company. I don’t care. At all. So, you need to cut it out. If you want, I have my elder sister, who’s living the time of her life in London away from here. Why don’t you fix her marriage first before mine? I haven’t even graduated in college yet.”
I turned my back on her and walked towards my walk-in closet. With my outburst, I believe I have touched some sensitive issues in her that would make her furious beyond anything.
I took my suitcase and placed as many clothes as I can get to leave this house. I don’t have many places to go that would keep distance from my parents. I know that they would find me even if I’m in Pluto or anywhere else. But I didn’t care anymore. I hated teens and young adults rebelling but if this is some sort of rebellion, I would take a risk.
My parents needed to see that I can stand on my own. I don’t need their wealth. I don’t need luxurious phones, bags, cars and all. I wanted to be the captain of my ship. I wanted to be the ruler of my life. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I have a mind of my own, and most of all, I am not a baby anymore. I am twenty one for God’s sake!
“Where are you going?” Mom seemed hysterical when she saw me walking out of the closet with my suitcase in my hand.
I stopped and stared at her. I don’t want to but I need to.
“I’m leaving this house.” I stated the obvious.
Her eyes narrowed at me. “And who told you, you can do that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Now I get why my sister chose London over staying here. I’m actually very envious. I should have chosen other countries, too. If I had known I would be marrying a rich heir because my parents are so obsessed with money that they needed to secure it—”
A loud slap stopped me from mocking my mother. I think I needed that, though.
I looked at my mom in shock while she stared back in shock. She was trembling while her tears brimmed the sides of her eyes.
“Darren, I’m sorry—”
She was about to come to me when I stepped back. She stopped and looked at me with such apologetic eyes. Maybe I deserved that. I yelled and even tried to mock her. That was below the belt.
She burst into tears and I shook my head. I threw my phone and my wallet with all my cards on the bed and pulled my suitcase out of that room.
I don’t ever want to come back in a house full of controlling people.
I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry, Dad.
“One cup cappuccino for Mr. Hampton!” Henney called out from the counter in the café.
The café is almost full today. We are expecting for a full house later in the afternoon. It’s the anniversary of the hotel in a week and I heard that it’s going to be really extravagant this time. I heard the staff from the kitchen that Mr. Bennett will announce the wedding date on the anniversary night.
Mr. Nero Bennett is the owner of the Beach House Hotel where I am working as a barista. He’s engaged to Kinsella Sloane who is the daughter of the owner of the KS Construction and Design Company. I know. I’ve probably seen her in one of the events where our companies attended before.
Henney said it was really a rollercoaster ride for the two. Kinsella left Mr. Bennett more than once and he was very devastated that he couldn’t even concentrate on his work anymore. Tears were shed and hearts were once broken but that made their relationship stronger.
“Mr. Greene will be back today.” Henney told me as I was making another set of cappuccino.
I looked at her with confused eyes. “Who’s Mr. Greene?” I asked.
Henney smiled. “Oh, you didn’t know him? He was the manager of The Strand before. He left because he had to study about management. Now, he’s going to come back because of the wedding of Mr. Bennett and Ms. Sloane.” She explained.
I nodded. I have been working in Hermosa Beach for about six months now. So, I guess, that Mr. Greene left before I even started.
“He left last year. So, I think you didn’t know him before.” Henney added.
I smiled and nodded. “I guess so.” I shrugged and continued to design the cup of cappuccino in front of me. I made two more cups before coming back to the counter.
“So…” I trailed. “Is Mr. Greene a friend or an enemy?” I asked, chuckling because I was nervous. Our current manager is Ms. Heart Dixon and she’s kind so I’m kind of scared of who this new manager is.
Henney looked at me and smiled. “Don’t you worry! Mr. Greene is a bit stiff but he’s kind, too. He’s just quiet unlike Mr. Pole who keeps joking with the employees.”
I nodded and placed the cups on the tray. I know Mr. Harvey Pole. He’s funny and we were on the same team in the last team building. He’s got a good sense of humor but he also has that leader vibe that radiates around him.
“So, if he’s coming back, is he going to be our manager?” I asked.
Henney shrugged. “I don’t know. Ms. Heart is managing the café well. So, I don’t think so.” She said and I could only sigh in relief. “But you know, Mr. Bennett, Ms. Heart, Mr. Greene, Mr. Pole and Ms. Lucy are all friends. So, expect Mr. Greene to always be around this place.”
I gulped and nodded. Ah! Whatever! I don’t need to impress him anyway. He wasn’t the person who hired me. It was Mr. Bennett. So, why would I even care about him?
“Four cappuccinos for Heaven.” I called out, deciding to just concentrate on my work rather than thinking of some person who I’ve never even met.
A slender woman came to get the cappuccinos. She has wavy hair and tanned skin. Well, almost all of the people here have tanned skin and bleached hair. Henney was an exception because she’s also not from the beach side, like me.
The whole day, I anticipated for the coming of Mr. Greene but he never came. Until we closed, he never showed up. Well, it’s not like I needed to see him or whatnot. I just thought that maybe I needed to see him so I would be at ease with all the worries I am feeling right now.
Greg walked up to me when I was cleaning up the counter and the bar. He’s been a friend of mine since I got into Hermosa. He was the first one to talk to me when I first started working here. He was a former barista and is now working as a caddie in the country club.
I looked at him and smiled. The bells on the door chimed as it shut behind him.
He grinned and his dimple showed. “Are you finished?” He asked.
I shook my head. “I just need to finish cleaning the counter.” I replied. “Henney had to go first and I volunteered to finish off for her.”
He nodded as he looked at the counter I am cleaning. “It’s already clean.” He told me.
I laughed. “Well, it’s not. It has sticky stains for the frappe that was spilled because of a child.” I explained and pointed at the obvious sticky portion of the stain.
He nodded and took one of the scrubs to help me finish off.
“I can do it alone, you know.” I told him.
He grinned and just shrugged.
I exhaled and just let him do whatever he wanted to do. After all, he’s been through all these before.
We finished off cleaning and I was only putting the scrubs into the janitor closet when he spoke. “You didn’t forget that we’re supposed to go out tonight, right?” He asked.
I smiled and shook my head. “Of course, I know that.” I replied.
Last week, we have planned to have a night out with Henney, Bash and Dave but it didn’t push through because the boys were caught up in the country club. We rescheduled it tonight. That’s also the main reason why Henney had to go home first. She needed to iron her clothes.
“Are you going home or can we go straight?” Greg asked me.
“I need to go home.” I replied as I removed my apron and placed it on the hanger behind the door. “I need to take a bath. The café was crazy a while ago.”
Greg chuckled. “You’ll know how crazy it will be on the day of the anniversary.”
I narrowed my eyes at him before getting my bag under the counter. “Why? A lot more people come?” I asked.
Greg laughed. “Oh, Darren. The population now wouldn’t even compare to when the Beach House celebrates its anniversary.”
My eyes widened in horror. It can’t be even more busier, right? It can’t be.
Greg was laughing at my expression as we walked out of the café. He was carrying his duffel bag as he walked beside me.
“Aren’t you going to change, too?” I asked.
He smiled. “I’ll change after I walk you to your door.” He told me.
I know. I’m not naïve. I know that he’s been hitting on me. Bash and Henney never failed to point that out since day one. The way Greg cared about me was different. I know because I can see how he treats Henney and Bash.
Well, Greg’s not bad. In fact, he’s hot. His blonde hair and tanned skin are what the rich people in the country club want. He has a toned body that all the women in every generation would want to stare at. It’s a bonus that he’s kind and caring. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
When we reached the entrance of the staff dorm, I faced him. “I’ll just go with Henney and Bash to the bar. I’ll text you when we’re almost there.”
I can see how he wanted to protest but he stopped himself. I hope he knows that I am not here for a relationship. I went to Hermosa because I want to escape my engagement with someone I don’t love. I didn’t come here to find love. I am here because I want to prove my parents that I can live without their money. I can provide for me. I don’t need them—or anyone—to decide for me. And that’s what I am doing.
“Sure. I’ll see you there.” Greg smiled at me.
I smiled weakly at him before walking towards the building. Mr. Tan, the security guard, greeted me and I greeted him back. If there was one thing I learned here in Hermosa, it is to be kind to everyone. All my bratty attitude issues couldn’t work if I need to start anew.
When I stepped inside my room, I immediately stripped and took a bath. Until now, I still couldn’t believe how fancy the dorms of the staff and crew are. Fully furnished and with an amazing bathroom. It’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t miss my own bedroom.
After showering, I wrapped my body in a towel and looked for something to wear. I have been to parties and clubs. I am from Las Vegas and it’s normal for us to party all night. I reached for that yellow cropped halter top and that tiny leather skirt.
I looked at myself in the mirror and decided on what makeup I will use tonight. In the end, I went for the dark theme. I put on my dark brown lip cream, matching it with my smoky eye shadow. I put my hair up in a messy bun before wearing the perfume I love.
Series of knocks came to my door and I knew it would be Bash and Henney. I went to open the door for them. They were too noisy as I put on my favorite pair of boots.
“Wow! You look sexy and hot.” Bash told me as she sat on my bed. “Are you planning on getting Greg into a fight tonight?”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Why would I?” I asked.
Bash shook her head. “Well, Greg likes you and he’d be glaring at all the guys who will look at you in that party. You know how possessive that guy is when it comes to you.”
“Shut up!” I shook my head.
Bash and Henney laughed. “It’s true, though.” Henney was smiling at me as she was already retouching her make up in front of my mirror. Bash followed soon after. When we were all done, I sent Greg a message. He was fast in replying that he was already there with Dave.
Somehow, the thought of him getting into a fight because of me made me uncomfortable. Perhaps, it’s true. There was one time when a European tried to hit on me on the beach and he almost went ballistic. Dave was fast enough to stop him.
Loud music was blasting through the speakers outside the cub. There were couples who were already making out in the dark alleys at the sides of the club. I had to look away because it grosses me out.
Bash, Henney and I walked towards the table that Dave told Bash. Greg was there with a woman trying to get his attention but he was shrugging her off. When he saw me, he sat up and glared at the girl.
I smiled at him. He smiled back. The girl beside him saw me and glared at me before leaving the table. Henney was laughing as we approached the table. She probably saw what happened as well.
I shook my head and sat beside Greg. He immediately asked me if I wanted a drink. “Just the lightest.” I told him when I saw a man staring at me across the dancefloor.
He has a clean cut hair, slicked back as wore a black V-neck shirt and jeans. Even from here, I can see how his biceps flexed as he crossed his arms against his chest. He titled his head to the side and bit his lip as he eyed me. I’m not hallucinating, right? He’s looking right at me.
“Darren, here’s your drink.” Greg’s voice almost made me jump. It was the signal that I had to stop staring at that god. I looked away from the man and calmed my beating heart. What was that?
I didn’t know what got to me. The next thing I know, I was already in bed, wearing nothing. White sheets covered my body as I sat up on a foreign place.
Damn. What happened last night?
For the first time in six months, I have gone to the club. I promised myself that I won’t force myself to drink more than my alcohol tolerance limit. But what the hell? I can’t even remember anything after dancing with a man!
I heard the shower open. Fuck! Someone is here with me?
My eyes roamed around the whole room. The way I can smell the sea breeze from here made me automatically think that I may be in one of those ocean front view suites in the hotel. The white and blue walls got me.
I looked around to look for my clothes. I almost slapped myself when I saw them near the door. Was I too excited last night? Damn it!
“Fucking stupid, Darren Fall…” I muttered under my breath as I walked towards my clothes with the blanket wrapped around my body.
Well, if it’s a consolation, at least I already lost my virginity to my first boyfriend in high school. Not to this unknown man, whoever is in the shower. At least nothing was gone with me. The hymen was gone anyway.
Just when I was about to reach for my underwear, the door of the toilet opened. I almost jumped and landed on the ground butt first if the man did not hold me down.
My heart almost leaped out of my chest when I saw the face of the man. Fuck! Isn’t he the guy who was watching me since I first got into the club? What the hell just happened? Did we just—
I can’t believe this!
The man stilled me in front of him as he observed me from head to foot. His jaw ticked and it made me dizzy. Damn it, Darren! This is not the time to adore a fucking godly human.
His brows furrowed as his gray eyes landed on mine. “Are you just leaving?” He asked in a curious tone. But above all, I think he was trying to accuse me of something I was about to do.
Well, I thought it would be better if I didn’t know who it was right? It would be less embarrassing if I hadn’t known who that bastard was. But then, too late. I already know.
I bit my lip and narrowed my eyes at him. “What happened last night?” I asked him, finding the courage.
Godly Human smirked and I almost frowned at how handsome he was. His sole dimple on the left cheek made my heart skip a beat. He is very pleasing to the eyes, alright! Anyone can attest to that!
“You don’t remember?” He asked in a husky voice.
I gulped as my system started to shake. Fuck! He took a step towards me and all I could do is take a step back because my insides are all wavering.
He took another step and I took one step back. And again. And again. It has been on repeat until my back reached the cold wall.
He smirked and trapped me in between his arms, his body and this damn cold wall. “Aren’t you sore?” He asked in a serious tone.
My eyes widened in horror. Now, that he said it, it suddenly hurt…down there. My head started to throb as well. This fucking hangover is attacking at a time like this. Great!
His grin got wider. Maybe he thinks he’s won this argument. Well, he kind of did. And I hate myself for that. I haven’t lost in a single debate at school. But why am I quivering in front of this man? There are a lot of more handsome men in Vegas. All the celebrities and top models are there. Who did he think he is? Damn!
“You should eat first before you go.” He told me.
I looked at him and saw that his facial expression has somehow calmed down. In a way, it has helped my system tranquil too. Everything inside me needs to calm the fuck down. I hate it when I lose my cool.
He turned from me and walked towards his baggage. He put on a simple white shirt and a black pair of jersey shorts. While he was getting his clothes on, I did the same, too. This blanket is so embarrassing I need to change in my clothes.
I walked towards the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I knew it. I look and feel like shit for a reason. I fixed my hair in the best way I can in this situation. I also gargled and hit my head when I realized that I have been so close to Godly Human with my morning alcoholic breath. What a shame, Darren!
When I’ve already fixed myself, I got out of the shower room only to be welcomed by the fresh smell of brewed coffee and pancakes. I bit my lip as I saw Godly Human preparing the table for breakfast. He looked so hot as his biceps flexed effortlessly with his every move. I can watch him all day—
Stop damn thinking those kinds of thoughts, Darren! Damn it!
Godly Human suddenly glanced at me and I’m sure that I am beet red at this moment. All these silly thoughts are making me blush! Fuck! I wish I remembered what happened last night!
“I hope you like pancakes and coffee. It’s the only food I have right now. I just got back yesterday night from New York.”
I nodded and bit my lip.
“Come on. Let’s eat.”
On why I am eating with a stranger, I don’t know. But there is something with Godly Human that pulls me to him. No matter how I hated the fact that something happened between us—I’m guessing I initiated it because I am like that when I am drunk—here I am, still eating breakfast with him.
“You’re new here?” Godly Human asked me.
I shook my head.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “I don’t know you. I’ve grown up here. You’re new.” He said before chewing the pancake.
He’s been living here? He grew up here?
“What’s your name?” I asked. In the bathroom, I decided to not know anything about him because I think it would be better that way but right now, all my curiosity is killing me.
No. He can’t be Mr. Greene, right?
“Julian.” He replied simply. “You’re Darren, right?”
Oh fuck. This is what I was afraid of. He knew me but I didn’t even know him. “How’d you know my name?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I heard your guy friend call you by that name.”
Guy friend? Could it be Greg?
“By the way, you dropped your phone on the way to my suite.” He handed me my iPhone. He raised his brow as he saw me taking it from him. “Are you a guest here?” he asked.
He isn’t suspecting me of being anything, right? I have perfected my decoy as an average woman all these months. This Godly Human cannot bust me with my phone alone.
I shook my head. “No. I work here.” I kept my phone in my pocket. I need to put that away.
He raised his brows, as if he was surprised that I am an employee in Hermosa. “Where do you work?” He asked.
“The Strand.” I replied nonchalantly as I poked on the cherry on top of the pancake.
“Really?” He asked. I nodded. Now, he seemed interested. “What do you do there?” He leaned his chin on his palm as he looked at me with such attention.
“Barista.” I popped the cherry in my mouth.
“Barista?” He said while nodding and grinning at the same time.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why? Is there something wrong with that?” I asked.
He laughed and shook his head. “I just never thought you were that type.” He told me. I frowned at him. “I thought you’d be like a princess or something.” He grinned.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head at his failed pick up line. “Try harder, Julian.”
He laughed, as if he didn’t notice that I just called him by his first name. “Do you stay in the staff house?” He asked me.
I nodded. “Yes. It’s really good in there. Very comfortable.” I replied.
“Do you have work today?”
My eyes widened when he asked me that question. Damn. I looked at the clock and I immediately stood up and grabbed my things. It’s almost twelve noon and I am already three hours late. I bet Henney is already mentally killing me right now.
“I have work.” I told Julian. “I have to go.” I told him as I put on my boots.
He stood up and walked up to me. “I can drive you towards the staff house so you could change your clothes.”
I looked down at my clothes and cursed under my breath. “Sure.” I told Julian without thinking. It was really fast. I was really fast. I just combed my hair and washed my face before putting on decent clothes to get to the café.
I ran towards the café and was welcomed by Henney who was looking so worried. “Where have you been all night?!” She asked the moment I got into the counter. “Greg was going insane because he couldn’t find you anywhere. We couldn’t find you anywhere!”
I bit my lip and apologized for suddenly disappearing. I explained what happened leaving out the details of what happened between me and a stranger. I know I’d get a litany of lecture if I told her that now. It’s not even a big deal to me now.
“Don’t ever do that again!” Henney pointed a finger at me. She sighed hard and calmed down. “Are you okay now? Are you having some hangover? What?” She asked me.
I smiled and shook my head. “I’m good now. I can deal with a little headache.” I told her and placed my things under the counter.
She nodded and did not ask further. “I covered up for you with Ms. Heart. She was asking where you’ve been and I told her you were sick. Be ready if she asked you something weird.” She primed me.
“Good afternoon, Henney, Darren…”
I froze before I could even nod when I heard Ms. Heart’s voice. I shut my eyes forcefully to curse myself mentally before facing her with a big smile on my face. Henney did the same. But my smile immediately faded. My eyes landed directly on the godly human behind our manager.
He’s now wearing a button down blue shirt coupled with a pair of black slacks. He looked corporate and now I am thinking of only one thing.
No. It can’t be. It couldn’t be, right?
Ms. Heart eyed me. “Hey, Darren. I thought you are sick today.”
I faked a smile and bit my lip. “I was having a major headache last night but I’m fine now so I came, Ms. Heart.” I replied but my eyes couldn’t escape from the godly human’s gaze.
He’s almost grinning as he stared at me with such humor in his eyes.
Fuck. I don’t even know if I’m screwed or sick anymore.
Miss Heart nodded. “You could have just taken the day off. I have called Celine to help Henney today.” She told me.
I smiled. “I’m sure I can handle it now, Miss Heart. Just a little headache.”
“Have you taken your meds?” She asked me.
I nodded. I hope this ends this conversation.
Julian was looking at me with an amused smile on his face. I think I’m getting paler by the minute with the intensity of gaze he is giving me. I feel like I am screwed. And I think I’m even getting sicker.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Greene.” Celine suddenly entered the counter coming from catering the customers in the outside.
My whole system froze.
“Good day, Celine.” Julian greeted back.
My eyes widened in shock. Now, I feel like the whole world is crashing under my feet. Julian is Mr. Greene. Julian is my boss. Damn it!
Moments ago, I was hoping I could’ve remembered something from last night but right now, I have never been thankful that I couldn’t remember what happened.
Miss Heart smiled. “Well, I guess Henney and Celine know Jules.” She looked at me. “Darren, this is Julian Greene. He is gonna be the café’s supervisor from now on.” She introduced him to me.
“Welcome back, Mr. Greene.” Henney and Celine chorused.
Julian smiled at both of them before eyeing me once again. “Nice to meet you again, Darren.” He told me, shocking the hell out of me. How could he say that?!
Miss Heart, Celine and Henney looked at me suspiciously. Can the earth open up and eat me right at this very moment? I would gladly offer myself!