Not What It Seems Ch. 02byAscii©
Going to work was not what Alin wanted to do, however leaving Ryan on his own was unfair if not a little unprofessional, even though their relationship was more than boss and employee. There was a knock on her door, which reminded her she needed to be more composed.
"Morning A. You alright?" Ryan placed a cup of coffee on her desk noting her distress.
"Yeah I'm good, thought I'll come into the office early. I've just been designing what the client wants, but I'm not sure if it's viable. He wants the building to be iconic, so I've been thinking over the weekend and came up with-"
A woman who had just received a proposal should not be talking about anything but marriage let alone work, "Alin you sure you wanna talk about work? Shouldn't you be telling me how happy you are? You are going to get married soon right?"
Alin dropped the pencil she was holding and sighed, "Ryan I am happy. I'm just not sure if marriage is my thing. I'm afraid. I just- I'm starting to feel like John's not the one. I mean I ask myself why I feel like that. He's perfect for me. ...but I don't want to make any more mistakes."
Ryan was bias. "Look Alin you can't say he's perfect if you have doubts. If you're not happy then don't marry him. Simple. He might seem perfect, but I don't like him." Ryan stated.
Alin was about to ask him to continue, when Hallie burst into the door.
"Hey, Hallie nice to see you" Ryan smiled when he saw Hallie. He cared about both of them, Alin in a sister-brother way and Hallie...well he cared about her but he reminded himself there was nothing more to it.
"Hey! It's really nice to see you too! The kids asked me when they get to see their cool friend Ryan." She laughed and Ryan's heart melted inside. If only she wasn't happily married, he thought and instantly regretted it. He cared about her too much to hurt or ruin her happiness.
A lot had been troubling Ryan lately. He was worried both Alin and Hallie would never talk to him again if they find out the one thing he failed to mention to both of them...well I'll think about that when it comes, he thought.
"Oh Ryan I know you guys are busy and I won't be long, but mind if I talk to Alin for a bit?"
As Ryan left the room, Hallie turned her attention back to Alin. "Okay so tell me, what you gonna do?"
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of avoiding eye contact, Alin finally looked at Hallie and murmured softly, "I don't know."
Hallie sighed. "Alin I know you. 'I don't know means' NO. Don't make this hard for yourself. Just say no to his immature proposal and move on." She hesitated before continuing, "I know you still have feelings for Jared."
"Please don't. Hallie please don't mention him. Jared slept with other women behind my back. Do you really think I can forgive him? My mom did that and I refuse to lead a miserable life like her. You know I think I'm just nervous. I can learn to love John and-"
"Bullshit! Alin, why are you so keen on marrying John? I really don't understand you! You never even let Jared explain his side of the story! Besides, John is just as bad! Why are you forgiving him then? You always say you will marry until you find someone you love and trust, why have you changed? The Alin I knew five years ago was strong and determined. Why are you being like this A? It just seems you're a string puppet being pulled however John wants. I don't want to see you like this."
Alin knew Hallie was right. Her morals, principles and determination should have avoided her going down this path, but there was no option for her. Sometimes reality made you turn your back on what you believe in. She was going to break it up with John a while back had her life not been turned upside down by her so-called father. Speaking of which, the men hadn't come threatening her for repayment. What was going on? Never-the-less she couldn't tell anyone about the situation she was in. Not even Hallie.
"Hallie please. Just forget it. You know he treats me like I'm his world. Be happy for me?"
It was funny how five years ago Alin asked if she was sure about marrying Jack and now Hallie is asking her the same thing. She didn't want Alin to regret her decisions like her. However she knew how stubborn Alin can be and that would just put a strain on their friendship. Sighing, Hallie smiled, "I'll try."
"John?! What are you doing here?" Alin exclaimed as she opened her front door.
He followed her in and then suddenly pulled her and hugged her tightly. "I wanted to surprise you. I know I told you I won't make it back for the charity auction ball tomorrow but I really missed you so I just cut the meeting short." He tilted his head and whispered in her ear, "and I've got something for you"
Alin looked puzzled as he searched in his pocket and pulled out a little box. Her lips formed an O shape. He went down on one knee, opened the box, and said softly, "Alin you know I've wanted you since the first day I saw you. I love you. I know you liked the proposal on the front page. I am serious and I know asking you in person will show how much I love you. Alin marry me and make me the happiest man alive!"
First of all, she hated his proposal on the front page of the newspaper and second she couldn't say no now, "Yes, of course I'll marry you."
John was too happy to notice the lack of enthusiasm in her tone, he was so overjoyed he picked her up and kissed her hard. He started to unbutton her blouse. He had to have her now. She can't say no to him since they were going to marry soon anyway.
"John! No please don't!" She heard him groan in frustration.
"Alin, we are getting married anyway."
"John, I want our wedding night to be special. Please just- just not now."
He looked at her in both anger and desire, before he finally composed himself and told himself that all he had to wait was three more weeks before he can finally fuck her senseless. "Alin I'm sorry. I just got carried away. I love you and I just wanted to show you how much I want you. I've already set a date which is the 24th of this month and I will -"
"John but that's in three weeks time! We can't get married so soon... I mean how can we plan a wedding in three weeks?!"
John was starting to get impatient. He wanted to fuck her, but she wanted to wait till their wedding, so the only answer is to marry as soon
as possible. "Baby don't worry with the planning I've got a whole team of people who can sort that out for us. You know mom, dad and grandpa are eager for us to get married too. You don't want to disappoint them do you?" She couldn't protest the inevitable. The only option was to marry John if not she will probably be ruined by her father's mistakes.
Timothy Fanning knew he ran into trouble 5 years ago. He had just lost out a major contract for one of his firms, however he had heard that the health supplements were big business and health trends were going to be the next big thing. The decision to dabble in a new venture was never an easy thing, so he decided to add his daughter into the equation.
He knew her mother had left her a healthy amount of inheritance, so if the business were to fail she would pay the price and if the business was successful, well he'll give her as little as possible. The plan was to make sure that should the business get into any debt Alin will be liable to pay for the debt, but if the health store proves to be a success she would get a small cut from it.
The 40% was just a sweet deal that he had made up, he never intended to give her that much. Alin was merely a fall back plan and a so-called owner of Acai. It was great that she was stupid enough to trust her own father, he laughed at the thought, ignoring the irony of it.
He had made sure she signed every contract that could potentially fuck her up- no lawyer on her part was hired. He hated the smug look she had when he came to beg her to take her 'present.' How stupid was she to think he would ever care about her?
Well he wasn't that heartless, of course he didn't want to fuck up his daughter's life, but the reality was it's better for her to take the blame than him.
Call it luck or a good judgement, but the business was a success, penetrating a niche market where customers pay a premium price for such low cost crap. Business was good. Timothy was annoyed that he had to give some profit to his brainless daughter who donated all the money to charity. Stupid like her mother he thought.
Acai was so successful since it opened that Timothy was able to cover his debts with the profit generated. He started to expand Acai and had borrowed $5million dollars from an underground company who charges high interest for the investment.
Timothy always had a good relationship with the company, although interests were high, the repayment term were a little lenient. The good thing about borrowing from illegitimate debt companies is they are willing to give you money with little questions and they give it to you without the wait. He had put his daughter as the liable person should any there be any outstanding debt. Timothy was surprised when the company had never asked further questions as to how she could pay; still the most important thing was the
responsibility was hers should disaster strike.
Unfortunately, all his companies were badly hit in the financial crisis in 2008. He had tried to cover debt with debt, but interests were high and he was starting to fall behind on his payment and debt collectors were coming to his house every other day. He just couldn't take it anymore.
Alin would now pay the price. She had wanted to split up with John when she found out that he had cheated, but he told her not to. When she had questioned him further on, Timothy told her where she stood. He had shown his true colors and told her about all the contracts she signed. She had screamed how much she hated him but he didn't care.
In the end someone had to pay the price and he would rather burn in hell than pay shit.
She couldn't inherit the full amount of her mother's money until she turns 25 next year, so in the meantime he had managed to persuade her to marry John, so that he could settle the debt. He was still in deep shit with his failing businesses but at least the $5million dollars wouldn't be his problem.
NYC Daily Post: 'Let the gossips begin tonight... the prestigious charity auction ball. Are you on the guest list?'
Every year, the charity auction ball attracted more gossips and attention than donations. Socialites, business people and celebrities would beg to be on the guest list. It was an event where rich people competed to see who could donate the most money. It was also an event of fine wining and dining where rare items were put on auction.
Alin hated the event with passion. It was ironic that it was named charity ball, when there was in actuality nothing charitable about it. Unfortunately, her attendance was expected as these high profile events offered publicity much needed for the hospice and charities she actively promoted. Alin sighed as she put the finishing touches when John rang to tell her he was already downstairs waiting for her.
John rushed out to open the car door for Alin and saw her elegant and sexy black dress. It was sleeveless and had a see-through panel on the top. It showed tantalizing glimpse of the top of half of her breasts. Her hair curled and tied up in a sophisticated bun, "You look amazing. I finally get to show the world my sexy fiancee." He said as he kissed her gently on the lips.
Alin remembered Ryan's confrontation regarding her relationship with John. As John was kissing her, her mind drifted to trivial matters. 'Damn why can't I enjoy it?' She thought. 'You are enjoying it, you are enjoying it. You love John.' Alin chanted the thoughts in her head until the kiss ended. She felt nothing. Damn Ryan!
Jared looked out of the window and smiled. It was good to be back in New York. He carefully avoided any attention in the past years. Many acquaintances would be shocked to see him, as he had led a very reclusive life ever since his public split from Alin. He had so many things to do. He hadn't seen one of his old friends for almost three years. Most importantly he came back for vengeance. Tonight he would tell her what he wanted.
The ball was in full swing and Alin felt lonely. She was constantly being dragged around by John. He would drag her to where the photographers were and would pose for pictures. The act made her sick. It was like he was confirming she belonged to him. Alin was trying hard to spot Hallie, when John's mother came to greet her. At least she had some breathing space.
"Alin come here darling, we are family now so no more of those silly formalities okay dear?" Alin smiled at the words from John's mother.
His family treated her like their own daughter.
"Thank you Mrs Hal- um, Catherine. Sorry I need time to get used to it, well I mean the proposal came as a shock and-"
"But dear are you not sure?" Catherine could sense Alin's hesitation. She really liked the girl, it was a far cry from her son's previous partners: brainless with big plastic breasts.
"No I didn't mean it like that. Of course I'm happy! Catherine, I see Hallie I'm just going to go and say hello."
Alin took the chance to leave John's embrace to his disapproval. He had wanted everyone to know they were engaged to be married. Still he didn't want to be seen as too possessive, "Alin come back when the auction begins okay honey?" John pulled her in for a kiss, as photographers took more pictures. He was getting on her nerves.
There were surprise glances his way, as he exited his car; many took their time to register who he was. The media and photography were obviously aware of Jared's presence, thanks to the event organiser's 'accidental' slip of the guest list. Anyone could put two and two together. Why would a person like him suddenly attend a high profile event? This was going to be great news tomorrow.
"Mr Valentine what brings you here? Is it because of the engagement between Alin and John?" a gossip columnist asked.
These questions were thrown at him as he entered the building. Silence on his end.
As he entered the building photographers rushed to take his picture, yet again thanks to the heads up from the organisers. Jared looked around and saw Alin and John; he felt anger boil inside him when he saw that son-of-a-bitch kiss her. Fuck! He wanted to beat the shit out of him.
Alin strolled towards a bored looking Hallie and noticed Jack next to her, in a heated discussion about gold prices with another man.
"Hey,A! When did you come? I'm a lil bored. Let's go outside," lowering her voice she said, "I'm sick of listening to gold prices."
Both laughed, and then a small crowd near the entrance caught their attention.
"Wonder who that could be. I'll go over if you tell me it's Justin Timberlake" Hallie chuckled; she looked closely at the crowd and nearly choked on her drink.
"Alin- its - its Jared!"
Why after five years did he decide to come back now? He smiled for the camera with a model draped on his arm. She felt a wave of nausea hit her. "Hallie I think I need to go outside...I just...I don't want to be here-"
"Are you crazy? Can you not see the amount of paparazzi outside? If you step out right now, what do you think everyone will think and write? Stay calm and just don't let anyone see how affected you are" Hallie hissed.
Alin was still staring when Jared looked in her direction and they were locked in a brief eye contact, his lips curled into a smile, but it wasn't a particular friendly one...it seemed rather sinister. She broke the contact and saw Ryan approaching her.
Ryan could not keep his eyes off Hallie she looked so beautiful. Like an angel. 'Stop she's married,' he whispered to himself.
"You okay A? You look like you seen a ghost"
Hallie murmured, "Well worst than a ghost...remember Alin's ex-fiance, Jared?"
Ryan shrugged, "Yeah, 'f course, why?"
"Well he's over there and it makes me wonder why after five years he decided to come back now?"
Ryan groaned. Seriously he wanted time to tell Hallie and Alin but now there will be no way in hell he can get himself out of this mess!
"Ryan I haven't seen you a very long time. How are you?"
He was so deep in thought he didn't realize Jared had already walked away from the crowd. The paparazzi continued to take pictures from a distance.
"Um... yeah Jared it's been a while. Yeah I'm cool why didn't you tell me you were back?" Ryan could see Hallie and Alin's gaze in his peripheral vision. This was not looking good.
"You know I wasn't planning on coming back but I had a lot of unfinished business that I want to attend to and," Jared let his gaze linger on Alin knowing she damn well felt it before continuing, "why the surprise? Is this a way to greet an old friend Ryan?"
Ryan groaned inside. Fuck he knew Jared was doing it on purpose now. He wanted to drag him to the corner and beat the shit out of him. What would Alin think of him now? What would Hallie Think?
"No" Ryan smiled. Two can play this game. "Well Jared have you met my friend Alin and Hallie? He indicated to the two surprised woman on his left.
Before Jared could answer the auction was beginning and everyone went to take their seats on the rounded table. John had noticed Jared and was surprised with his attendance. He was more shocked that he was near Alin. John had never felt insecure but he was worried that she still had feelings for him. He went across to where she was and snaked his arm around her lower back and pulled her in possessively. He wasn't sure but he swore he saw a flash of annoyance from her.
"Why would Ryan lie to us? If he knows Jared why would he keep it from us?" Alin was upset with the fact that Ryan could lie to her. He was like her brother and yet all this time he hadn't told her the truth. Just what is going on?
Hallie was furious more than upset. "I know and to think we trusted him...god why would Jared suddenly come back? He's not that sort of person to go to a place if there's no reason to."
"What the fuck are you up to Jared? You came back and you didn't tell me? Why the hell would you pull that act when you know I haven't told them I know you? Ryan whispered but Jared didn't miss the pissed off tone. "You know Ryan, I thought I trusted you but behind my back you were fucking with what's mine. How do you think I should react?"
Now Ryan was pissed off. "Jared I've done nothing but help you these past years and now you say I have feelings for Alin? You know your fucking out of your mind. The thing is you have the nerve to say all this shit when you were the one saying you hated Alin. If you don't care about her, why would you care if I was with her or not?"
Jared hated when Ryan always managed to hit the nail on the head. That's what you get when you've been friends with someone for as long as they have. Jared hated his possessive streak but he couldn't help it when he saw her sweet smile for him. How was he to know?
"Ryan, fuck man I'm sorry. Can we not let a girl come between our friendship, especially not a bitch like her. Lets enjoy this evening and later we can catch up like old times."
"Man I hope one day you can tell me why you hate her." Ryan murmured