The realization just hit me. It wasn't merely the pressure. Nor was it simply because he wanted a serious relationship with me now.
Maybe he really did, but...
Above anything else, Jeihral just wanted to impress his father. Mr. Han, the billionaire. The boss. Practically everyone's boss.
It made absolute sense now. Pleasing his indubitably scrutinizing father was Jeihral's ultimate goal. He simply wanted to make his dad proud. Give Mr. Han the heirs he wanted. Do "the right thing" and oblige the head of the family's every wish.
Perhaps it was the only reason Jeihral wanted the wedding to happen soon. I shouldn't feel bad. I should just accept the fact that, he was determined to make a name for himself in the family business, as much as his father's approval mattered to him.
It's all I could think of lately. That day Jeihral told me he wanted us to get married this year, I started harboring more doubts about us and our future. Yet I still couldn't say no.
"I just need some time to think," was my poor excuse that day, just so he wouldn't expect an immediate answer from me.
The starlit sky helped the candles on the table as he sat next to me, speechless and prolonging the awkward silence. Or perhaps he's just busy thinking of something else.
His promotion? Me losing our first baby? Or the party? The engagement party he'd been planning in his head was weeks away, after all.
Or was it something else? What really bothered him? J wouldn't have drunk this much if he was feeling totally fine. His smooth cheeks looks flushed now. His droopy eyes and slurred speech also told me he'd been drinking with Gabriel since dinner.
"Why did you tell me to come here?" I asked calmly while sitting next to the man I had to marry.
The questioned seemed to surprise him. "Why?" Jeihral pulled away and squinted at me. A smirk tilted the corner of his pale lips. "Why are you here?"
"'Cause you said, you wanted me to come."
He leaned in, watching me closely as I tried to keep up a straight face. "But you'd rather you didn't?"
Huh? What was he getting at? "I'm here, aren't I?" I mumbled.
Instead of replying to me, Jeihral pressed his lips together and looked away.
We both fell silent. For about a minute, I sat back and waited, sincerely hoping I didn't ruin his mood now. The pressure to say yes to everything he wanted still daunted me, but I still loved him—a little too much, said my best friends. I still wanted to help him make his plans a reality, despite everything that happened the past year. I owed him a lot, too.
My family still owed him millions. Give or take 13 million pesos. Saying no to him was pretty much out of the question. And if he really thought getting married soon and having kids would make his dad happy...then fine. I would hold up my end of the deal.
Although it meant helping my family was never his main objective, I understood his choices. I couldn't blame Jeihral for concocting that fake-marriage-for-a-year agreement. Even Mr. Han didn't know about the contract. Not yet. I didn't tell my mother, either. It would only spark off more family drama we didn't need.
"Do you want to keep this up?" Jeihral sighed the question while his brows knitted.
I held back a scowl. Some well-kept sentiments tried to wrangle their way out of my mental restraints. I stared into his endearing brown eyes.
"Like I said, if you wanna call it off, I'll understand."
"Call it off?"
Jeihral placed an arm on my shoulder to pull me closer. "Maybe, you still think, you've got no say in this. But, that's not the case. Okay? I know I have to accept whatever your decision is."
"Seriously, J..." After looking away, I sighed at his words. I couldn't help it. But maybe it was just the alcohol talking. "You're such a contradiction sometimes. It's driving me crazy." I nearly flinched when his sudden grip on my hand lodged a ball of anxiety in my throat.
"I'm not—" He paused to look away and took a moment to compose his reply. "Look. I'm not saying, give me a definite answer now. Just tell me if something else is bothering you. Or if, you don't really wanna get married."
Well, he knew I wasn't excited about getting married soon. I already told him that a few times. Did he want me to contradict myself now?
"I'm just asking if..." Jeihral mumbled with a frown, "before the year ends, you'd still want to step into a church with me."
"Before the year ends..." I murmured after another awkward silence. My hands covered my face as I leaned onto the table, unable to look him in the eye. "Did you actually plan everything with a timetable?" I squinted at his frown.
"Yeah. Like I said, I want us to get married this year. I could ask Eilyn to come home, help us with the wedding preparations and all that."
I faintly shook my head. I actually didn't need him to explain or say much; I already read that absurd contract several times. But, even after several attempts, memorizing those clauses still didn't make it to my list of pastimes. It was just too ridiculous for real life.
"But if you wanna back out, I would understand. It's not like...I can force you. I'm never gonna force you to do anything you don't want to do."
Oh gosh. The drinks really got to him. I closed my eyes as my palm smothered a sigh. Dumbstruck, I masked the disbelief with a fake grin. I should've anticipated that the booze he and his best friend feasted on would turn this night into a big deal.
And here I thought he only invited me over to go swimming. To unwind and have some fun. Abandon all worries and just hang out...
Apparently, it wasn't the plan. "I would understand, Clau." Jeihral shrugged and regarded me with his tired eyes. The pungent smell of alcohol in his breaths warming up my face was starting to make me nervous.
Silence was all I could give back. I couldn't even keep looking at him. The conversation had shifted again, and my brain didn't have enough time to come up with answers.
After glancing at the other guests lounging by the poolside, he budged in his seat to face me again. "Clau, just talk to me."
"Are you really asking if I don't wanna push through?" I gripped my glass till my fingers grew white.
"The wedding," he said with a weak nod. "Marriage and a house. The proverbial first child. Everything in between."
Oh dear. Why couldn't he just wait?
"What?" he muttered before flinging his gaze to my fidgeting hands. "You want out?"
I looked away and got up in haste. "I think you should ask yourself that first." Without bothering to tell him I was going home, I stepped away from the table, only to leave him sitting by himself.
× WARNING! × Graphic content below intended for mature readers and might be triggering to some. ×
"You wanna see him again? Fine! Go."
"J, would you stop—"
"No. G'ahead. Go back to that coward."
"Don't you even—" I held in a swearword and turned away from him, just raring to walk out. I was mostly a calm, mild-tempered person. But I'd heard enough nonsense from him for one night.
Why must he keep pestering me about my indecision? And after questioning my truthfulness about things—again—he hurled senseless accusations at me. It might just be the alcohol, but he just wouldn't stop.
Although I hated confrontations, the taut strings just snapped.
"You honestly think he could do better?" Jeihral clasped my wrists.
I could feel the jealousy and disgust in his glare as I pulled my hands away. Without sparing him another glance, I rushed to the elevator.
Screw it. He was blind drunk again—I should just leave.
"You think you're gonna be happy with him?" He caught up, unsurprisingly. Jeihral grabbed my arm and pulled me back to him. He even tried to hug me from behind, just to stop me from leaving.
"No! I'm done." I shoved him once. Then again. My voice quivered as tears blurred my sight.
How dare he accuse me of two-timing! What's more maddening? It wasn't the first time.
For what felt like an hour, we practically wrestled in the quiet hallway while I screeched my annoyance, his taller physique and muscles just intimidating.
"You just never learn, do you?" His jaw clenched while he kept pulling me close. He stressed each word as if I were the densest person on Earth. "Sure, he wants you back. But do you actually think he's gonna make a difference?"
Did he mean to say I was dumb and stupid? The nerve! I glared at him, then shoved him away again.
Our physical altercation went on. What he said just downright humiliated me. I might've slapped him once, and our awkward struggle in the dim hallway lasted a moment too long.
He was only able to subdue me once we reached his hotel room. Jeihral shut the door after he dragged me inside—well, mostly—and I just about fainted in front of him.
My legs trembled and my knees just buckled. I could almost hear my insides vibrating with shock and ire. Some breathless seconds later, the tears rushed out. The tense silence in the dark room didn't help.
How he managed to hastily drag me inside his room with me shoving him away every chance I got, I'd never know. I just couldn't remember—I immediately saw red the second he brought up Raph again.
More than twice, I pushed Raph away and just forgot about our friendship, because it's what Jeihral wanted. It wasn't enough effort on my part, apparently.
Panting and catching my breath, I took deep breaths to stop the tears. My throat and chest ached now. I hated thinking he was being manipulative again, but his behavior tonight just...
Did he want me to promise I'll never talk to Raph again?
"Sorry." Jeihral helped me up after I callously wiped the tears off my face. "I'm sorry." He sighed.
I tried to calm my breathing while leaning against the door. Our bodies almost touched, and he wouldn't back off.
Then followed another apology. "Sorry." J stepped closer with his arms on either side of me. He tried to kiss my face now. His mellow voice denoted regret. "Hey. I'm sorry. I'm just..."
Words wouldn't come out of my mouth anymore. Part of me still wanted to leave, but I let him get nearer until his warm forehead touched my cheek. My breaths paused before I could prepare myself for his tender but insistent kiss.
It melted away my resolve. As much as I'd been upset by his stupid, tactless words, I still wanted to stay. I just had to be with him. I just had to be near him. Touch him. Feel whatever it was he was feeling.
Crazy...but it was my reality.
He must've planned this. Or else it wouldn't feel so right in time. I savored the sensual kiss he started. It stirred emotions I wouldn't have entertained if only I didn't feel the desperation clawing under my skin.
Annoying, really. I still ached for his touch, the feel of his arms around me, and the feel of his warm hands caressing me.
He kept kissing me, and I just loved how it felt. I couldn't even stop moaning—everything just felt overwhelming. For a second, I felt wrong for behaving this way.
But, no. Shame wasn't in my vocabulary tonight.
We ended up in bed before my fairly hypnotized senses could react. Not that I wanted to complain. But if we were going to do this again, I could've picked a better night to be reckless.
Still, my logic was powerless over my aching need. I wanted him. Just him. Even just for tonight.
I couldn't recall the exact moment our clothes had started falling to the floor.
A minute ago?
All I could think about was how much I missed him and how desperate I felt. He just had this depressing habit of leaving me mad with the thought of him not wanting me the same way I longed for his affection.
"You're just...so...infuriating sometimes—" I managed to say before he started tugging at the buttons of my dress, his soft lips touching mine again.
"Likewise." His fingers worked on the buttons now. "Still want you so bad, though," he murmured with a grin I felt on my heated skin.
I let him kiss my neck. I smiled when he kissed me harder, waiting in anticipation as he stroked my curves. For a moment, my best friends' voices tried disrupting my thoughts.
"No. Don't. You're smarter than this, Clau..."
"Think about yourself and your own future. You don't need that entitled jerk!"
"Not again, Collien. You know he's not the only solution..."
Although I tried to ignore the tiny voices of caution, it wasn't enough. I knew I should stop him. Sleeping with him wasn't the answer—it wasn't even a good enough Band-Aid solution.
I tried to pull away again.
He didn't care. He didn't stop kissing me, trapping me in his embrace.
Heck. I just couldn't deny him. I let him snuggle up to me on the covers, his tongue busy teasing mine, his hands still fondling my body.
Darn it. Why did it feel so right? Why was he so good at making me feel this amazing?