Scenes, dialogues, places, events, and characters in this book are all invented or are used fictitiously.
This story contains mature themes, some violence, profanity, and sexual content not intended for young readers.
Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this story or plagiarism of any kind is prohibited by the law.
This story is a standalone book and part two of a series, written in multiple 1st person POVs.
P R E V I E W
"You wanna leave? Right now?" I stared at him as he sat on the edge of the bed, his face buried in his palms. The hopeful side of my brain anticipated a denial, but the more sensible part of me knew he believed what happened between us was a huge mistake.
He should? Did I ever tell him he shouldn't be here?
That's all he said while he sat on my bed, hunched over, sighing about something that seemed to be bothering him a great deal. His voice sounded gruff and full of regret.
It hurt more than the thought of him thinking I'm the type of girl who prefers one-night stands. It actually hurt. Actual physical pain. I couldn't even breathe properly anymore. My throat and chest ached, too tight for air to pass through.
"So you're leaving now."
"I gotta go. I'm on night shift." He got up from the bed and put on his wrinkled shirt.
"Okay," I murmured while holding back tears he obviously didn't wanna see.
The jerk wouldn't even look at my face now.
As my insides coiled, I grabbed my robe to cover myself up. The moment I shut the bathroom door behind me, the tears just streamed down my cheeks. Shit. Everything hurt.
While my eyes and chest ached, I bit on my lip and muffled my sobs with my palm.
It's not like I could say anything to stop him. He wanted to leave now. Meaning, he didn't want this. At all. He didn't want a relationship. He didn't want me.
Just another girl he met...
It's all clear now: I was nothing to him.
END of PREVIEW
— EILYN —
What a waste of time.
These days, I had to deal with traffic everywhere I went. Cars. Crowds. Just flocks and flocks of strangers rushing in every direction. Going about their daily lives.
Granted my affinity for privacy and solitude, being stuck with a crowd of strangers almost always got on my nerve, which was why I chose to leave this dirty city and live my own life in another country.
Every single day in this place, traffic followed you wherever, whenever. Even here in the country's biggest airport. Now I had to waste my entire morning dealing with air traffic, too.
"First time for everything, Ei," I murmured with a sigh. My butt and legs just felt dead. Painfully numb like my brain now. For hours, I'd been sitting in this claustrophobic corner, just waiting to get out of here. If only my pancake butt had eyes, the thick cushion would've been drenched in tears by now.
First time a Seoul-Manila flight took almost five hours! "There's still traffic in the air plus heavy rain and a thunderstorm. Apologies for the wait. Kindly sit tight until the weather clears up," the pilot announced earlier.
Luckily I was the only one on this flight who could afford a VIP seat. At least I still had some semblance of privacy.
The plane remained stuck in the corner of the runway. Heavy rainfall tapped against the windows while my arms and face felt close to freezing.
Flying commercial wasn't an issue for me but even a first class seat didn't keep the boredom away. Why today? Of all days? "Ugh." I scratched my head again.
Our private jet couldn't fetch me since my uncles would be using it all week, probably closing another big business deal with new investors. I would've asked my dad to buy a brand new plane, but he's too busy with other matters at the moment.
Family matters, to be specific.
Oh well... Maybe I'd ask him for a smaller plane for my birthday this weekend. Or after my suicidal brother got out of the hospital. "Hang in there, bro," I sighed as I stared at my last texts to him. All unanswered.
Sent to: Kuya J
"Kuya, you ok???"
"D said you got shot and hurt your head after a bomb went off?!!!"
"Are you out of the OR now?"
It's been hours.
Still no replies. Maybe the pain medications knocked him out. But my dad and my cousin Daniel had assured me that my brother safely got out of surgery this morning. One good news for today.
It could mean his injuries weren't fatal.
Thank God he's okay. I'd been praying all night. I hadn't slept yet; now my temperature's feverish and my joints were aching.
Darn it. It's almost lunch time and we're still stuck in this plane. How long would we have to wait out here? "Ugh! I don't have all day!" I wanted to shout at the skies for this dreary weather, but the cabin crew might think I'm being such a Karen.
"Patience goes a long way, Eilyn," my dad used to say whenever I behaved like a drama queen. That was years ago, though, and I liked to think living on my own in another country had changed me for the better. "If your mom's too busy to be here, fine. Just be here by tomorrow. Go see your brother," Daddy Eugene requested last night over the phone.
Despite my plans for this month, I couldn't say no. Thinking about Kuya Jeihral and the culprits behind his unfortunate situation now just made my blood boil with frustration. But I had to be here. Although I didn't want to see my only sibling all weak and injured, it's not like I had a choice.
"Tan's guys kidnapped Ken, so we had to find the idiot. The cops wouldn't do shit 'cause it hasn't been 24 hours yet," was what Daniel said, my first cousin, and his ungodly-early morning explanation didn't relieve me at all.
To relieve the numbness in my backside, I got up and walked around the first class section. The other seats remained quiet and empty as I waited for the ringing to end. "Pick up, D."
"The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later..."
After an unsuccessful third attempt, I almost threw the gadget onto the floor.
Where's Daniel? Who's gonna pick me up now?
[ 10:42 AM ]
Surely my dad didn't have the time to pick me up today. He couldn't even text me back.
Where the heck's Daniel? I called him again, but no answer. He totally forgot about me. Or were they stuck in another board meeting?
"J's out of surgery now." It was his last text before he stopped answering my messages and calls.
I flumped back down in my seat. Some nervousness still bothered my peace of mind, and I wasn't sure when my brother would be sent home.
My thoughts roamed again. I had time to waste. This flight was taking forever, and I didn't expect I'd be back here in Manila so soon.
More importantly, I didn't expect to hear that my own brother got shot by Tan's criminals, then knocked unconscious by a freakin' bomb explosion.
Shit. It's all Kenji's fault.
We're all used to hearing about Kenji getting in trouble but not to the extent of almost getting my brother killed. His own cousin. The heck... I thought Kenji's the only one we should worry about after he got kidnapped by that ruthless drug lord, Armond Tan.
That guy deserved a death sentence. Multiple sentences, the better. But Tan had enough dirty money to bribe lots of people in this city.
Sighing loudly, I raked my cold fingers through my messy hair. I probably looked like I just got out of bed, but, whatever. My patience was running out. I just wanted to go home.
If I took a cab and my dad found out, he would definitely pitch a dozen fits, then lecture me about "necessary security protocols" all day. Like the last time.
I understood his paranoia, though. After what Luke (my spoiled and insane ex) did to me when I tried university life here in Manila, my father often worried about my safety.
I closed my eyes and reclined again. My feverish temperature had already conjured up a migraine plus body pains, and I had places to be today. Not just the hospital.
Then my phone buzzed, disrupting my attempt to take a quick nap. There's one new text from my dad.
From: Appa Bear
"Just left the hospital. J's stable. Transferred to a private room. Daniel can't pick u up. Sec guys waiting for u outside."
Today 10:47 AM
"Thanks for being very specific as always, Dad." I sighed before sending a reply.
Sitting quietly in the corner, I waited for another message from Daddy Gene.
A minute passed.
Still no reply.
Then two minutes...
"Great." I hurriedly fixed my hair with my scrunchie.
Maybe he was too busy with something again. Like an emergency board meeting, or something else that badly needed his undivided attention.
"Fine. Cab, it is." I stretched my aching back while trying to ignore the incessant pounding in my jet lagged head.
Five hours. It had been five hours of traveling and waiting. I just wanted it to end. My feet were already itching to get off this plane.
Before I could mumble an expletive, the pilot's voice spoke through the speakers again.
"This is Captain Velasco speaking again. We have received instructions to proceed and deplane. We sincerely apologize for the long wait. Thank you for bearing with us and we hope you'll enjoy the sights Manila has to offer. Good day."
"Black Trailblazer with customized plates." Daniel said I should look out for the vehicle. Only one. Not a convoy.
Well, I wasn't a filthy rich politician. Or a big-timer like Dad.
"Go see J. I'll drop by later," Daniel mumbled on the other line.
With my handbag, I walked out of the arrival area wearing a face mask. Crowds of passengers wheeled their luggage out of the airport, rushing to get out like me. I stopped near the exit. I held my breath and looked for someone holding a placard with my name.
Not a single soul. "How many guys?" I asked. Perhaps I could just stroll out of here like everybody else. My mask hid my face enough.
"Three." Daniel yawned. "Told them to drive you home after. J was asleep when I left."
"With Kuya Romer?"
"No. Later. I'm beat."
"Fine. See ya." I hung up on my cousin.
Did my brother have security escorts in his hospital room? Fortunately he was recovering well in post-op, at least according to my dad and Daniel. I imagined Collien would visit Kuya J after work hours.
As the crowds dispersed around the arrival area, I sighed and waited beside my suitcase. I shouldn't even be here. I should be in Brussels, completing my newest collection for finals.
It's all Kenji's fault. "As usual..."
We were never close. Growing up, he treated Kuya Jeihral like a big brother. They hung out more often than I spent time with my brother. But Kenji never really outgrew his "teenage rebel" phase.
Last I heard, he went to rehab again. I thought it was his last attempt at cleaning up his act, for his family's sake.
Then the incident happened. And now my brother's stuck in the hospital, probably enduring a brain injury that could damage his health permanently.
Infuriating, to say the least.
"Maam Ei. B here. 1D 2B. Black Tblzr rims."
"So I gotta go look for you myself?" I scoffed at the text. No black Trailblazer anywhere. As I stood alongside other passengers, the sky dimmed.
The cool wind tousled my hair. The chills only worsened, and I already felt drained of energy. But like everyone else, I had to wait.
Then I got another call. I sighed upon hearing Beck's voice, the only female member of our security detail. "Hi, B. Can you guys hurry up, please?"
"Bay 10. Pink long sleeves, B."
"Copy. Stand by." She hung up.
I glanced around. The clouds darkened before rain suddenly poured.
Ugh. Great. I tried texting my dad again. Then a shadow and dark combat boots parked in front of my flats.
A security guard? Cop?
When I looked up, a wavy-haired guy with dark eyes stared at me, smirking. He didn't look like a cop or airport security personnel. My nose barely reached his bearded jaw. He reeked of cigarettes. He took a drag before flinging the cig onto the ground and stomped on it.
My blood pressure spiked. "Can't you read? There's DON'T LITTER signs everywhere."
"Axell." He held out his palm as if telling me to shake his hand.
I frowned, just at a loss. His features reminded me of someone I'd rather not think of right now. "Sorry? Who are you?"
"X." Bearded Guy grinned at me. His dark lashes partly concealed his watchful brown eyes.