Not What It Seems Ch. 10byAscii©
Yet again I'm sorry for the wait. As I've always said being a reader myself I understand the frustrations between the wait. I just want to say this is not the end of the story. I do like to tie up loose ends, and I hope this chapter has done the job (if it hasn't, please don't abuse me, threaten to kill me etc etc :/ ) Thanks for all the comments for the previous chapter and the votes. They mean so much to me and it really does put a smile on my face (thank you John B!)
Lost my editors, so I'm afraid I did the edit myself. It's about 3am, so I don't think I have the capacity to dwell on it any longer.
He watched her walk away. He had to let her go. What else could he do? What else could he do or say to redeem himself? Apart from when his parents died, Jared had never cried, nothing had made him close to feeling any emotions, unless anger, but now he felt trickle of tears sliding down. He slumped down onto the floor, occupying the same spot, his back against the door. She was the best thing he'd ever had. And he lost it- again.
Alin cried herself to sleep that night. She was adamant about leaving. But now that she left, she badly wanted to feel him in her arms. Is that what happens when you love someone? Is that how her mom felt? Is that why her mom chose...but Alin knew she was stronger than that. She had gone through so much; she knew she could deal with this and move on. She had so much to live for. When Jared came back to her life, she never expected it to be good. In fact he had used $5million as a weapon for her to yield to him. But it was the hope he had given her, these past few weeks that made it so hard and confusing for her. Why did he have to tell her that he loved her? It was so simple when nothing was said, and they just had sex. The tiredness of the emotional burden hit her so hard. By the time Alin fell asleep, it was almost four am. Eight hours since she left him.
Four days later, Alin found herself having to work from home to avoid the negative media attention. Again, she was painted as the bad guy. Her reputation was in ruins and her professional work didn't fare any better. She was tired of explaining herself, to prove to everyone she wasn't what everyone thought she was, but the thing that hurt the most had to be proving it to the one you love.
She tried hard to concentrate on the projects at hand. Ryan had decided to give her little work since he wasn't sure which direction the Daniels group wanted to go with their project and also he wasn't sure if she could mentally handle so much work after what had happened. Alin however, had insisted she was okay, so she assisted colleagues on their projects.
The negative media was just the tip of the iceberg, she knew much worse was to come when she received a call from Steven. She knew it was not good news. Since Daniel's Group are an influential company, it was expected they wouldn't want negative media associated with them. Alin was prepared for the blow, but it was hard to face another harsh reality so soon.
Arranging to meet her at a nearby coffee shop from her apartment, Alin found herself sat in front of a stern looking Steven as she nervously stirred the sugar and milk in her coffee, waiting for him to speak. Taking a sip of her coffee, to ward of the dryness from her lips and throat, Alin decided to take the lead, "Steven, I really understand if you want to cancel the contract. With my... I know with such a big investment, publicity is everything."
Steven poured milk into his coffee and stirred it. Looking up at Alin he said, "Do you know what I value the most in business? A lot of people think cockiness and confidence will get you far, but I don't think so. It may be a dog eat dog world, but people like you, so humble but talented is hard to find."
He smiled warmly at her, "I'm not going to cancel the contract. I don't care what other people say, but I'm going to continue giving you the main responsibility for the projects with Ryan over seeing it for me. I've been getting shit for employing you, since I was told you are supposedly inexperienced. Your age doesn't affect your ability and talent and neither does this so-called scandal."
For the first time in months, she smiled, "Thank you for this opportunity, Steven. Thank you for believing in me." Alin said through tears. "But I just have one more thing to ask of you."
"No problem, go ahead."
"Is it okay if we keep this between us for now? I know this is not correct protocol, but I don't want my personal life interfere with my professional life, so it would be best if Ryan is unaware we've signed."
Steven nodded in understanding. "I will let you tell him when you feel the time is right. Then I'd personally discuss the main points in the contract with him once you tell me you're ready."
Steven sincerely hoped he was doing the right thing in agreeing with her...
That day, after meeting with Steven, Alin sat in front of her desk looking at the paper work in front of her. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. Though, she was relieved to know that under no condition would he not employ her, something felt amiss. She wasn't sure if she was ready to be so far away from everything.
She read through the contract trying to find any fault she could. But she couldn't. The Daniels Group were too generous with their offer. She couldn't refuse it. Alin couldn't tell anyone about this yet. Not even Hallie. She had made Steven promise not to tell Ryan. She didn't want Jared to know because then she'd be persuaded to stay by her own heart. Though it was hard, it had been almost a week since she had avoided him, ignored his calls and gave the flowers and presents he gave her to others.
Alin knew she was slowly recovering. No longer an addict, she wouldn't suffer from relapse and forgive him- because he didn't deserve forgiveness. She told herself over and over again.
As her phone rang, knowing it was Jared, she pressed 'end call.'
It was better to leave everything unsaid.
Jared drove to the same spot he had occupied for the past month and switched off the engine, waiting. The spot was perfect and he knew he couldn't be seen. He smiled as he saw Alin walk out of her apartment. She was dressed in a black vest top with black gym shorts and stretching her long slender legs. It was the same every Sunday. After going for an hour run, she would go brunch with Hallie. Again, Jared smiled bitterly at the thought of him not being in her life anymore and being reduced to stalking her. Hell if anyone found out...as a matter of fact, what if someone found out? He'd do anything to have her back.
For the past month he had tried hard. Knowing she didn't really want to see him, in fact Alin had flat out refused to see him. He tried her office or Hallie and Ryan slyly arranging for him to be there on many occasions outside of work. But Alin caught on quickly and gave both her friend an ultimatum- either see them separately or don't see her at all. Helplessly, Hallie and Ryan had suggested maybe Jared should not push too hard yet, and maybe let them persuade her. In the meantime they gave him updates in her life, whilst trying to always say good things about him to get her to soften towards him.
It hadn't gone to plan.
Though Ryan always assured him that Alin still had strong feelings for him, he was sceptical. Besides, even if the words were true, she was still indifferent to him.
So he had sent flowers and presents to her apartment and office and also called her often, leaving messages. He wasn't sure if she listened to any of them, but he was damn sure he wasn't going to give up. At least she hadn't changed her number, so he viewed that as some sort of progress. The media however did fortunately die down after a few weeks, though there still speculations and made up stories. Jared promised he'd make whoever was behind this to pay dearly, starting with Haltor.
"...remember our second home in LA? Well I was thinking of renovating it, but not really sure if I should make it the same as our home here. But then I know you're not into the whole lavish theme, so I think simplicity is the way forward." He paused and sighed, it was hard to keep a conversational tone especially since it was a one way conversation. "Alin, I really miss you. I miss being beside you, I miss the way you smile at me. I miss...I just want you to know I love you, and there's a not day I don't regret ever mistrusting you..."
This was the fifth time Alin listened to the message. I love you. How she missed those words. But how could she give him another chance? They weren't meant to be together she tried to tell herself. He would leave her at least one message everyday. There were so many times she wanted to just reply, or go to his apartment to see him and really tell him how she felt. But she couldn't because common sense and better judgement would kick in and she knew how their relationship would end. What was the point, if in the end he would hurt her again? She knew if she ever gave him another chance and he pulled that on her again, it would break her, like it had broken her mom.
Everyday she would pretend everything was perfect. But when she was alone she would cry uncontrollably. It did get marginally better when she discovered how much exercise helped suppress her emotions, so she decided that anytime she could get she would go for a run to clear her mind. It was during those times she felt she could really breathe and focus on moving forward.
"Alin-" she turned around and smiled as Richard approached her, just as she finished her stretches. He lived opposite of her, and alongside Ryan, he had helped her move in. Last week he had asked her if he could join her on her Sunday runs. She had agreed but instantly regretted it. It wasn't because she didn't like him, she really did, because he was an incredibly nice guy, but Alin cherished the time she spent alone on a Sunday.
Jared watched on, jealousy killing him. Who the hell was that guy? Ryan did mention some friendly neighbour of hers helping her out. Jared snorted. Friendly my ass, he thought. It was blatant what this guy was trying to do. If this guy thought he could take her away from him, he had another thing coming. He watched as Alin threw her head back laughing as the guy leaned closer and told her something. Jared gripped the steering wheel hard. Fuck, he couldn't take this anymore. He had to see her soon, otherwise he'd lose her forever. Fuck the ultimatum and this shit. They were meant to be. He called Hallie up to see if she would let him join them for brunch, but obviously not tell Alin.
It was a miracle Hallie had even given him the time. When Alin moved out, Hallie had refused to speak to him. Luckily, it seemed Alin didn't tell her the whole story about how he treated her, so eventually Hallie had somewhat softened towards him and promised to help him out secretly. The truth was, he was so embarrassed and ashamed that Alin would tell Hallie and Ryan about the way he had treated her. But she didn't. He felt even more like a fucking idiot. How could he ever mistrust her? She had the best chance to tell them how he had mistreated her, and turn them against him, but she didn't.
Instead she chose to protect him. But Jared had hung his head in shame and told Hallie the whole truth, if he was to show his remorse, he had to prove he knew how wrong he was. Hallie had gone mental at him. Still, eventually after his many calls begging for Hallie's forgiveness and his solemn pledge to never ever mistreat Alin, Hallie had somewhat reluctantly agreed to help him out.
After the run, Alin felt slightly refreshed, though having Richard as a companion was nice, it upset the balance and routine she had so quickly got accustomed to and suited her perfectly. The daily Sunday routine of going out with Hallie and her 'mom friends' started when Alin holed herself either at the office or at her rented apartment assisting projects and acquiring new clients. An intervention was long due when Alin had stopped even seeing Hallie. So, therefore, on a particularly sunny Sunday afternoon, Hallie went round Alin's apartment and practically pulled her out of her misery and into this new routine.
Alin went to Hallie's house to help her prepare for brunch. Luckily the other moms' hadn't shown up as yet, which meant Hallie could really use the time to talk to her friend. However, her son beat her to it.
Spotting Alin, Alex ran up to her, "Alin!"
Smiling down at the small child, Alin picked him up, "Hello, ooh what have you been eating lately honey? You're growing up so fast!" she said as she twirled in circles with him in her arms.
Alex giggled but then had his arms around her neck as she tried to put him back down. "Alin, I missed you." He pouted. "You don't come out anymore. Jared took me to Adventure Land again, but you weren't there. He said next time he'd take me to Disney Land. I asked him if you were coming. But then he said he did something bad and you won't come. Would you please forgive him, so we can go together?"
Alin turned to Hallie, but she shrugged her shoulders. Turning back to Alex, she patted the child on his head, "I'll take you to Disney Land. So you can go with Jared, once and then go another time with me? How's that sound?"
The child nodded eagerly while Hallie shook her head. Finally, Alex let go of Alin after spotting some of his friends arriving with other mom friend's of Hallie's. Not joining the other women yet, Hallie used the opportunity to talk to Alin.
"You know it's true. Even the kids are missing being around both of you..." Hallie said casually.
Alin tilted her head to the side and looked at Hallie suspiciously, "I hope you didn't make Alex say that. Emotional blackmail does not work on me." She wagged her finger at Hallie and retorted in good nature.
"Heyyyy, I did not! He really did get upset when he didn't see you last weekend." Hallie regarded the expression on Alin's face, "You don't believe me?"
"No! I do. It's just I'm glad you've finally stopped talking about him."
"I'll never stop. It's just-" Hallie sighed, "I know why you're angry with him, and god I would be too. In fact I was so mad at him for, but you're good together, and it upsets me to see you two running in circles."
Alin looked at Hallie sadly, "No matter how hard I try, I just can't. He leaves me these messages, he sends me flowers and presents everyday, but nothing he can do will ever make what he did to me go away. Hallie... I'm so angry with him but I still have f-feelings for him, but I feel I'd be condemned if I go back to him."
"No one would condemn you!"
"I would! And my mom... if she were looking down on me, she wouldn't want me to forgive him."
Hallie leaned across to hug Alin, noticing the tears in her eyes, "Shh... no your mom would be so proud of what you've become, A. I know you don't want to hear this but Jared is really remorseful. He's not like your father. He loves you. Your mom knows you and Jared are meant to be. She would never think less of you!"
For a while Hallie held her in her arms. They broke apart, not wanting to gain an audience with their long absence.
"Come, A, we'll talk later."
Hallie knew the decision to tell Jared not to come today was a good idea. Though it hurt to know he was so upset, she knew Jared could take it as she sternly told him no. It was hard but if he came today it would upset Alin further, worsening the situation.
Ryan was watching a game of football at Jared's apartment when he came back armed with beer.
"What took you so long?" he said not turning around to look at him, too engrossed in the game, "You missed the first 25 minutes of the game. You've been gone an hour. Good thing I told you to go early, otherwise, you would have missed the damn game."
Jared wasn't going to tell him he went to see Alin. Because all he would say to him was give it time. Fuck that. Not being with her made him insane, if he couldn't even see her, regardless of how far away, he would rather die. And Hallie sternly telling him off had made it worse. He knew where she was coming from, but it was still so frustrating to be so far away from her.
He took two beers and slumped on the couch next to Ryan. Giving one to Ryan Jared opened his and took a swig. As their team scored, Ryan shouted at the screen in joy and expected Jared to do the same. But when he turned to look at him, all he saw was a serious looking Jared staring at the screen but not really watching it.
"What the hell's wrong with you? Did you not see that?" Ryan demanded.
"I don't care about the game. I saw that fucker today. He was talking to Alin. Fuck I saw him lean close to her. He's only known her for a week-"
"Four weeks." Ryan interjected as he regarded his best friend's solemn features. He wasn't going to comment on how Jared saw what he saw.
Jared growled at him, "Whose side are you on? Fuck, this is so unfair!"
Ryan couldn't help it, he laughed hard. Even though he'd known Jared for a long time, seeing him mooning like a teenager was hilarious, because it was so different from how he was normally. Though it did make him realize how much Alin affects him. When they broke up five years ago, Ryan had never seen his friend drink and party so hard. At least it was a relief to see he had somewhat matured a little and put his hardcore partying ways behind him this time round.
"What are you laughing at?" Jared almost shouted at him.
Ryan tried hard to compose himself. Because he did feel bad for him and he'd give the world to see them both together, but honestly, he also knew a punishment for Jared was long overdue.
"Look I don't care if you're gonna sulk and cry like a fucking annoying dick, but let's just be honest, you brought this on yourself-"
"It's true, how many times have you treated her badly? I'm telling you you've crossed the line and that's why you should pay. I'm glad Alin hasn't forgiven you- yet."
"Damn, Ryan even you think that, what would Alin think?"
"Look, Richard, or that fucker as you always call him, is only a friendly neighbour, rest assured. Maybe he likes Alin, maybe not. I don't know. But what I do know is as much as a dick you are, Alin still thinks the world of you. Yep it baffles people why she still does, but it's true. Just give her time."
"But how long? How long until someone takes her away from me?"
Ryan patted his best friend on the shoulder, "Jared, I don't know. But what I will say is you can't expect her to forgive you in what, a month? Show her you're no longer the arrogant dick everyone's come to feared, then maybe, just maybe she'll soften towards you."
Jared sighed. "You're right.
He was about to retort when his phone rang. As it was on the table, Ryan reached over to take it. As he was about to hand it over to Jared, he accidentally saw the caller.
"Naomi? I hope this is not the Naomi I'm thinking of." Ryan stated angrily.
"Shit its Naomi? Give it to me."
Holding it back Ryan shook his head in disappointment. "I can't believe you. After all this time, I thought you'd change. Alin is not one of those girls. Seriously? You're just gonna fuck around until you get back with Alin? You're fucked up you know that, Jared?" The phone continued to ring.
"What?! What are you on about? Why would you think that?"
"Don't bullshit me Jared. I know what you're relationship is with her."
"And what is it then?" Jared demanded.
"You introduced me to her five years ago. You and her...seriously do I really need to spell it out to you?" Finally the phone stopped ringing.