At Simon’s approach, Richard had felt irritation, akin to what one would feel towards a pesky fly that refuses to go away. One must really swat it to get rid of the pest properly. Richard mentally shook his head. Richard’s analogy was not really fair to a very nice guy like Simon. In his estimation, Simon would be the type of guy whom he would entrust to escort his sister or daughter, if he had any. The younger man really deserves to find someone who can return the same devotion he has been showing Maya for years.
BUT that has to be someone OTHER than Maya, right? his inner voice jeered him.
Well, they simply won’t suit at all, he silently concluded. Maya would make herself and Simon miserable if she ever commits the blunder of accepting his suit. Maya, for all her sweet nature, always had a stubborn streak.
But she has never been sweet towards you, has she?
That was his fault, he acknowledged. In the past, Richard could not resist teasing her, particularly when she’s trying to ignore him. Richard was just so fascinated by the play of different emotions on her face, especially the fire behind her doe-shaped eyes. It was the same fire that would light her up when she’s happy, the same fire that would radiate when she’s in the midst of her loving family , the same fire that would flare when she takes a strong stand on issues she believed in.
Although she was not spoilt, Maya, as the youngest child, has been mainly indulged by her older siblings and her parents alike. Hence, she can be makulit until she gets her own way. She needed someone mature who can be patient yet strong to be firm when required.
Someone like yourself, Richard?
The answer was a given, of course.
Richard had patiently allowed her more than enough time to grow up, forge a career and form romantic attachments with other guys along the way. Richard had known that there was a high risk that she could fall for someone and subsequently form a permanent relationship.
Through the years, how often had he broke out in cold sweat each time he hears Ryan fret over his youngest sister as she dates someone new? There was the Senator’s son, an international violinist from Britain, a hot shot young lawyer from Ryan’s law firm and a Fil-Am baseball player based in California. Of course, there was her perennial suitor Simon and then this unknown Capt. James. And each time, he had to control his knee-jerk reaction to barge into her life to annihilate her would-be beau. He could do nothing but feel dread at Ryan’s next installment update of her current romance. Despite whatever he felt for her, Richard knew he did not have the right to be in her way. He can only brood whether she had been in love with any of them.
On the bright side, time had also shown him that despite the intervening years, Maya remained unmarried and by all accounts, emotionally unattached and unscathed. Richard smiled at the thought for this made everything less complicated. For at this stage, Richard had already firmly decided that her period of reprieve has just been exhausted. Unbeknownst to Maya, her time was up.
Convincing her would be a challenge that he would relish, starting with wiping off that disbelieving look on her face. He had watched incredulity chase away the initial surprise from her features when he blatantly declared his desire to romantically date her. Richard could almost hear a disparaging comment forming on her lips but Maya had chosen to clamp it down. Maya was quite a study as she struggled to keep quiet. Her upper lips tightened while her delicate nostrils flared as another becoming blush crept up her cheeks.
“You’ve gone very quiet.” Richard murmured in dulcet tones, his eyes shaded by the photochromic lens that darkened under the sun which was streaming through the canopied veranda.
“Ayaw ko lang patulan yang pang-aasar mo.” Maya whispered, her head bowed down as she tried to concentrate on her food.
“Why do you find it so hard to believe that I find you very attractive?” Richard continued to whisper as his eyes caressed her features. “And I do, make no mistake about this. I find you…”
“very very attractive” he slowly went on after an infinitesimal pause in that low voice that bespoke of promised intimacy.
“Tigilan mo ako, Singkit.” She hissed back.
“Richard” he corrected.
Maya blankly looked up at him, both eyebrows lifted.
“Call me Richard” he instructed.
Maya was about to answer but her phone rang. Maya dropped her fork to take the device from her blazer’s pocket.
“Excuse me. Hello James….?” The wrought-iron chair grated against the floor as Maya stood up and moved to the other side of the veranda to have some modicum of privacy.
Richard viewed her for a few minutes as she animatedly talked with ‘James’. He guessed this would be the same Capt. James who has been trying to court her. He ground his teeth as he recognised pangs of jealousy at this unknown Capt. James who certainly has the knack to make Maya smile.
With his appetite non-existent, Richard stood up. He took both their unfinished plates to the auxiliary kitchen where Cristina Rose was doing her ‘tour of duty’ with the stack of dirty dishes. He said his goodbye to Cristina Rose, then to Nanay Teresita who approached the sink with more dirty dishes. Richard informed both that he intended to come back later in the evening.
Nanay Teresita smiled at him meaningfully. “May bagyong paparating mamayang gabi. Kung aabutan ka sa daan. Ipagpabukas mo na.”
Richard smiled back and nodded. He went through the back door to get directly to his vehicle without running the gauntlet of each member of the Dela Rosa clan halting his tracks. He drove along the curving road towards west and then after about two kilometres, he turned into a very long driveway lined with mango trees. He parked the Toyota Land Cruiser under the detached carport and then walked on the cobbled paving to the side door which directly leaded to the kitchen. Inside the villa, there were a dozen tradesmen about who cheerfully greeted him before returning back to what they were doing.
Richard actually bought the Spanish villa almost eight years ago when he should have been concentrating all his resources in his new construction firm. However, purchasing the property was a very personal decision. Even Ryan, who only learnt about this property a couple of years back when he reviewed all documentation of Richard’s assets and liabilities, had no idea of the true motivation behind his irrational action. To give him credit, Ryan never probed nor divulged anything to anyone including his family, to maintain his client’s privacy.
As it turned out, Richard never found the time to work on either the Spanish villa nor the surrounding extensive grounds. He has postponed the restoration until he came back a few days ago, preceded by his renovating team. Richard went to his private quarters on the western wing to quickly shower to get rid of the smoky barbecue smell from his hair and body. Afterwards, he donned on his overalls and safety shoes to join his men.
At five pm, his staff hopped on the white Toyota long-wheel based service van that shuttled them to their temporary lodgings in the town centre while Richard went round the formal lounge area to check the structural reinforcements done. Time had taken its toll on the arched way between the formal lounge and formal dining area. His fingers traced the intertwined rose carvings on one of the supporting columns. It was actually the prevailing theme in the entire villa. The design was carved on the wooden panels on the mahogany doors, the mural wall feature in the formal dining area and the plastered domed high ceilings of every room, particularly the front receiving room and the large ballroom.
Richard looked at his watch and dialled his friend’s mobile.
“Hello, brod” Ryan’s voice came through the receiver.
“Hello,” Richard said “anong oras and flight nyong mag-anak?”
“In two hours, paalis na nga kami. Kung hindi lang sa schooling ng mga bata, hindi pa talaga kami uuwi ng Manila. Kaso back to school na sila tomorrow morning.”
“I can take you to the airport” Richard offered.
“Naku, hindi na. Si Cristina Rose na ang maghahatid samin. Andiyan naman yung kotse ni Tatay.” Ryan referred to the old Mitsubishi Lancer box-type that the Dela Rosa had owned for decades.
“May problema ba, brod?” Ryan sensed the hesitation in Richard’s voice.
“Wala, brod” Richard quickly reassured his friend. “I was wanting to discuss something.”
“Ganun ba? What is it?”
Richard shook his head. He can not discuss Maya over the phone. He also needed a tête-à-tête with his bestfriend. Like his talk with Tatay Arturo and Nanay Teresita, he needed to personally express his honourable intentions and sincerity. He could do no less with his bestfriend whom he considers more like a brother.
“It is best we discuss this personally.”
“Okey, sige I will wait for you in Manila. Sige, brod. Sinesermunan nako ni kumander.”
Richard swiped the red ‘END’ bar on his iPhone-5 screen and then stared outside. It was darker than usual even though the sun has yet to officially set. He went back to his private quarters. It was the masters bedroom suite on the western wing that had its own little sitting room that opens to a secluded garden. Richard went into the walk-in wardrobe to change into a black box-cut-style Speedo.
Richard had been having a daily swim in the late afternoon just before sunset since he ensconced himself at the villa. He did dozens of laps in freestyle before going on his back to do backstroke in a more relaxed pace until he reached shallow water once more. His wide chest was slightly heaving at the effort as he stood up and walked up the beach to where he left his glasses and towel. He was towelling his hair dry when he noticed a movement inside the villa. He was not expecting anyone at this time so this intruder could have burglary in mind.
He put on his specs and stood still to concentrate on the human shape that was quickly moving along the arched windows to the side door. Instinctively, he broke at a run and tackled the intruder that could put a New Zealand All-Black rugby player to shame. At first, Richard thought that the intruder was a boy until he brushed against a very curvy bottom as he straightened. Richard’s heart went to his throat as recognition slowly dawned on him. He gently turned the ‘burglar’ to see that her eyes were closed and that she was very still.
“Oh God, Maya!” Richard was gently tapping her cheek as he checked her airways and breathing. He saw that her chest was rising regularly. He then checked her carotid pulse and then gently checked for any dislocated or broken bones. He checked for broken skin and any sign of bleeding. In the next few seconds, Maya’s lids fluttered open.
“Are you okey? Do you feel any pain anywhere?” Richard asked worriedly.
Maya moaned as she tried to get up.
“Teka muna. You may have broken ribs or something” Richard was looking at her chest area.
“I don’t think so” Maya said as she propped herself up on her elbow.
Richard very gently scooped her up in his arms which made Maya instinctively circle her arms around his neck. He went indoors and went straight to his bedroom.
“This is the only furnished part of the house.” He informed his uninvited guest who moaned again as he laid her down on the soft mattress.
“I am fine, really.” Maya started to get up again but was held down by Richard.
“Just take a few minutes.” His quickly took his hands off her breasts as if scorched. He combed his fingers through his hair in slight agitation. He was getting uncomfortable and finally remembered he was just standing in his Speedos with seawater drying on his skin. He quickly grabbed another white towel and wrapped it around his waist and by the side of the bed.
“I am sorry, Maya.” Richard scratched his forehead in search for more adequate words to say. “Akala ko kasi magnanakaw ka…”
She was quiet. This time when she slowly got up, Richard did not try to stop her.
“I am fine. Kasalanan ko rin naman. Pumasok ako ng walang pahintulot. Pero kumatok ako ng kumatok, walang nagbubukas ng pinto.”
“Nasa labas ako ng bahay nang dumating ka.”
Maya was now sitting on the four-poster bed and was at eye level with his naked wide chest. He could see another blush creeping up her cheeks as she turned her head away. He frowned as she was behaving like she’s not familiar with the male anatomy.
“Kapitbahay ka na pala namin.” Maya said as she swung her legs on the side of the bed.
Technically, what Maya said was true. The Spanish villa was the closest house to the Dela Rosa residence on the western side despite the kilometre or so distance in between the two houses on the coastline side.
“Pa-shhhecret… secret ka pa.” Maya’s voice was getting slurred that had Richard frowning again. Richard hovered near as she got up. She was able to make it to the bedpost which she held on by hugging it.
“Maya, are you okey?” Richard could see that her eyes were closed as she rested her forehead on the post. He was really getting worried. It was possible that she had concussion. “Right, I am bringing you to the hospital…”
Maya giggled as she lifted her head to peer at him. “OA ka namaaaan, Shingkit.”
“But you don’t sound okey.” His arms went around her as she started slipping down the post.
“I’m fi—I’m okeeeeey” she answered as she leaned her head on his chest, giving up any pretext of standing up independently. “I need to get to bed, antok nakooooo…”
Then another thought occurred to Richard. “Are you drunk?” He took a whiff of her and could not detect any alcohol scent.
“Maya?” Richard shook her as she settled herself in his arms. “Are you drunk?”
She shook her head and mumbled something against his neck that sent sensations up and down his spine.
“What was that?” Richard strained his ears as heavy rain started pelting the tiled roof above.
“Drugged…” Maya answered again.
Maya then licked her lips and commented “ang alat mo…” She smiled as her eyes languorously fluttered at him before closing again.
Did she say she was drugged? His face thundered. What on earth did she take? She needs to be taken to the hospital. Where on earth were his keys? Where were his denim pants? Where the hell were his Loafers?
What was that buzzing sound?
Richard shifted Maya within his hold so that he can carry her back to bed. Before he could take his arms from underneath her, he heard the buzzing sound again. Maya’s head was flopped back, mouth slightly parted and was snoring like a bee!
Richard did not know what to do with her. In the end, he called up Cristina Rose.
“Cristina Rose, Maya’s here with me” Richard informed directly.
“She had a little accident but she seemed okey.” Richard did not expound that he caused the accident in the first place “then she started falling and now she’s fast asleep.”
Cristina Rose laughed which further annoyed Richard. “Naku, pihado umepekto na yung ininom niyang sleeping pills. Sabi ko sa kanya kanina wag nang lumabas ng bahay pero matigas ang ulo. Alinsangan kasi kanina. Hindi talaga siya makatulog kahit pagod na pagod na. Halos 48 hours na yang gising dahil sa biyahe.”
Richard’s frown deepened. “Madalas ba siyang umiinom ng sleeping pills?”
Cristina Rose paused to think. “Hmmmnnn…medyo madalas nitong mga huling uwi niya.”
“I see.” Now what was he supposed to do? He could carry her into his four-wheel drive and bring her home. But they will be soaked in seconds. “Pwedeng makausap si Nanay Teresita?”
“Naku, tulog na sila Nanay at Tatay. Pagod na pagod, eh.”
Richard sighed. “Listen, Cristina Rose. I think it is best that Maya stay here instead of bringing her home in the storm.”
As if on cue, there was a clap of lightning and then the boom of thunder reverberating outside. Large rivulets of rain can be seen hitting the glass pane of his bedroom window.
“Ah, okey” Cristina Rose readily agreed.
“Depending on the weather, I will drive her home when she wakes up. Pakisabi na lang sa parents mo.”
“Okey” said Cristina Rose as he rang off.
Richard bent down to rearrange the pillow behind her head and to pull the bedclothes to cover her. He straightened as he continued to look at her serene form. The sight of her sleeping in his bed was doing crazy things to his nether regions that he felt more discomfort in his Speedos that had nothing to do with seawater nor stray sand.
“Bloody hell!” he swore under his breath as he quickly got up to go to the ensuite bathroom. He turned the shower tap to the lowest temperature setting. He swore again as he stepped and flinched under the icy cold stinging spray. He never took advantage of a woman before and he would be damned if he started now. Besides, he intended Maya to be fully conscious the first time he made love to her. His possessive nature demands that he exorcise any man out of her system so that she could be exclusively his. Anything less will simply not do.
He quickly went to the wardrobe to put on a white V-neck Hanes T-shirt and Porontong cotton printed shorts. He grabbed the unused pillow by Maya’s head and placed it on the wooden Gallinera-style chair. He positioned it a couple of feet from the bed so that he could prop his lower legs on top of the bed while sitting on the wooden chair.
Richard checked his Omega wristwatch. It was only half past seven in the evening. Judging from how the wind outside was howling like a banshee, this tropical storm will be lasting until the wee hours of the morning.
“This is going to be a long night” he muttered to himself as he placed his specs on the bedside table. Then, he tried to find a more comfortable position on the wooden seat.
Richard must have dozed off for it was almost nine when he peered at his watch. Standing up slowly, he felt the stiffness on his lower back and the numbness of his gluteal muscles. He stretched and looked at Maya who was still sleeping, sans snoring. Richard covered her once more with the blanket which she must have kicked off during the night.
Richard considered the space beside Maya. Surely it would not hurt if he stretched on the bed for a few minutes. Besides, the thought of Maya lying beside him was guaranteed to keep him wide awake. When he did lie down, he felt his lower back pain subsiding.
Ironically, he was asleep in fifteen minutes.
Richard was in a semi-conscious state. He was in bed beside Maya and had his right leg over both of hers. And he was trying to wake her up by nuzzling her neck while caressing her left breast. Why was she wearing so many clothes? He wanted to make love to her again.
Then a very high-pitched sound blasted his eardrums which stilled his lip and finger movements. Richard blinked, then unhurriedly removed his lips from the delectable neck that he had been nibbling. He drowsily lifted his head to meet Maya’s alarmed incredulous eyes.
“Eeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!” Maya screamed again so shrilly that it was enough to rattle all the resident house geckos to go scuttling into the nearest crevice for cover.
to be continued…