Posts Tagged Fiction

Slow Burn – Chapter 5

Chapter 5

“Jeremyyyyy……Jeremyyyyy….selfie please!”

“I love you Jeremy!!!”

“You are so handsome, Jeremy Ledesma!

Natasha should be used by this by now, but it still amazes her the kind of reaction Jeremy elicits from his legions of mostly female fans. She is very happy for him, of course, and all the success that continues to come his way. When she got to know him better, she found out that he fought hard for that success, and it was not just handed to him because of his good looks, and not solely because of his amazing talent. The hardest battle he fought was with his father who never approved of his chosen career. But he persevered and she admire him for that, very much.

“Nat, just hold on to me, okay!” Jeremy said, breaking into Natasha’s thought as he helped her out of the car and into the entrance to the venue where the awards ceremony was being held.

The screams grew louder as they walked towards the entrance after having handed Jeremy’s car key to the parking valet. Some of those waiting for Jeremy even asked if he can stand away from Natasha so they can have a solo photo of him, or a better ‘selfie’, blatantly excluding her, but he just smiled and held on to Natasha tighter, even when she tried to pull away to give in to the fans’ requests.

They made it to the entrance after several stops. There, Benedict, Jeremy’s manager was waiting for them to escort them to their seats. They made it on time. Both Jeremy and Natasha hate arriving late to an event even if it is something people somewhat let slide. Midway through the ceremony, Jeremy whispered to Natasha that he needed to go backstage to prepare for his number. He had rehearsed for that earlier as he wanted to be with Natasha before he performs.

“I’ll see you later, Nat. Or would you rather go to the backstage with me?” Jeremy asked, reluctant to leave Natasha. He remembered that she didn’t really want to go with him to this event and had to cajole her. Jeremy thought that Natasha hated being put on the spot like this. But unknown to him, Natasha had a different reason for trying to beg off, though that reason had been superseded by events.

“Go, go. I will stay here, and chat with Tita Yasmin.” Natasha assured Jeremy. They were lucky to have been seated with the wife of a well-known older singer, who happened to be a big fan of Natasha. She has not missed any of her shows. “I’ll be okay, especially with Tita Yasmin here.”

“Don’t worry, Jeremy, I’ll keep Natasha company.” Yasmin assured Jeremy. “Just go and wow us with your performance.”

“Thanks a lot, Tita Yasmin. Nat, laters!” Jeremy kissed Natasha on the cheek before going with the staff who will escort him to the backstage, a move which surprised Natasha and the kiss felt different from his usual beso! It was like the kiss they have shared in her house, something really, really different about it!

Natasha was still mulling over the kiss, her hand on her cheek when Yasmin broke into her thoughts.

“Natasha, please forgive me for asking ha, and for prying also, but are you and Jeremy together now?” Yasmin asked with a big indulgent smile. “ I hope it is okay that I am asking.”

“Together, in what way, do you mean, Tita?” Natasha was startled with the question. She does not mind Yasmin asking as she feels comfortable with her. She knew somewhat Yasmin was asking, she just want to be doubly sure. She was surprised that she sensed it too. She needed a moment to marshal her thoughts and to get use to this ‘different’ Jeremy.

“You mean, together as in the two of you in a romantic relationship!” Yasmin clarified, smiling. “I know you guys are the best of friends, and I know you are very close, very there is something different between you guys this evening, a vibe I am feeling. To be honest, I felt it before when I see the two of you, but then my husband would say that you two are just very good friends. But this evening, Jeremy is acting like a very protective boyfriend and he only had eyes for you. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed.”

“Errrr, we are not, you mean, boyfriend and girlfriend. We are just close friends.” Natasha said hastily, her face flushing, then asked, “Really, you think this is very different from our usual? Maybe, Jer is just happy to be attending this award and besides, he is also in the process of doing a new album and he is happiest doing that. It is his passion. He might just be very happy.”

Looking at her, Yasmin smiled. Something has changed between these two, but she thinks it is still very new, so maybe she better stop and let these two kids be. “Oh, okay! Sorry for prying, Natasha! Well, seeing the two of you, I wish you will end up together. Not only you look good together, you suit each other.”

“Thank you for that, Tita Yasmin. Jeremy is very special to me.” Natasha said simply, her heart beating faster with the thought. People are seeing something different in them! But haven’t the media been speculating about it for years now! However, this time, she knows that there is indeed something different between her and Jeremy and it all started with that kiss at her house the Friday before!

“….Jeremy Ledesma….”

Hearing his name, Natasha looked at the stage and saw Jeremy, tapping his hand on his jeans-clad thighs as he waited for the opening notes of the song he was about to sing. He looked so handsome as he waved to the screaming crowd, with his boyish smile, a smile that reaches his beautiful, expressive brown eyes. If someone will ask Natasha what is Jeremy’s best feature is, she would readily say, his eyes. He waved once more and blew a kiss to the crowd, before his beautiful voice floated around the packed venue. There was a noticeable hush as he sang.

I’m burning for you, baby….ohhh…

Can’t you feel it, baby….

Can’t you feel it, baby….ohhhh

I hope you do…

Let us embrace the fire together….

You and I, we are meant to be….

Oh, baby, baby, baby….

Jeremy finished the last lines of the song that he wrote himself with his eyes closed, feeling every note, every words he sang. Then he gazed again at Natasha, like he was doing before the last refrain of the song. He only had eyes for her.

Natasha felt the heat of Jeremy’s stare. The lyrics of his new song and the melody sounded way different from his previous songs. This is the first time she was hearing it too. She knew that Jeremy was working on a new album, but she never had gotten around to listening to his new songs like before. Sometimes, he would for her opinion and feedback when he was composing a song. But not this time, even when they met the previous Friday at her house. Even if she was busy before with her show before, Jeremy didn’t mention this song that momentous Friday, when they could have listen to it.

Yasmin nodded, then clapped enthusiastically with the crowd. There was definitely something there! He was telling her something with that song, she thought to herself. Maybe it comes with age, or because she and his husband Jason went through something like this, she can see all the love that Jeremy Ledesma was bestowing on the sweet girl beside her. It felt like he only saw her all the time he was singing and not the huge crowd that evening. And oh boy, the lyrics of the song! It touches the heart so much. The boy is very much in love. She smiled. She hoped that these two young ones will end up together.

Several minutes later, Jeremy returned to his seat besides Natasha.

“That was beautiful, Jeremy. I’m sure it will be a hit.” Yasmin said, seeing that Natasha was still unable to say anything else! “What’s the title of that beautiful song?”

“Thank you Tita Yasmin. It’s called Slow Burn.”  Jeremy smiled at the older lady, then gazed at Natasha. “How about you, Nat? Did you like it?”

“E-r-r, it is beautiful, Jeremy. I never realized that you were working on this. I’m sure it will be a hit like Tita Yasmin said.” Natasha managed to say over the fast beating of her heart. It seems like she was having a LSS with the song and as she was hearing in her head his beautiful voice, and it felt like he was singing directly to her!

The song is about a boy who fell in love with his best friend, and he was singing that love just crept by on him, like a slow burning fire, that it started a long time ago and he tried to douse it, but it kept burning and now it is consuming him. He wishes that the girl feels the same, and that she is ready to embrace the fire with him. Nat actually got self-conscious as she noticed Jeremy looking only to her as he sang. He also appeared nervous which was so unlike him. She thought only her noticed that as she knows him very well. She thought he only sought her while singing for support and comfort. But now, she instinctively knew that there was so much more with his gaze.

“I’m glad you like it. It is a recent addition to the album I am working on. I finished and recorded it over the weekend.” Jeremy said nonchalantly as he sat beside Natasha, then he dropped his bomb. “The song is for you. I wrote it for you, you know.” He whispered to Natasha, taking hold of her left hand, intertwining it with his.

Natasha whipped her head in surprise. “For me! But…? How…? Why…?” She started asking rapidly when the hosts of the awards ceremony announced Jeremy’s category.

“Shhhs, we will talk about it later.” Jeremy said with a big smile, pressing their joined hands. He didn’t mean to blurt it out like that to Nat. But he was just very happy that the song that he was working on like crazy turned out very well. He poured all his emotions in that song, hoping to send the message across to Natasha that he loves her with all of him.

Jeremy drew the loudest cheer from the fans when the nominees for that final award category was flashed on the giant LED screen inside the theatre. He was up for some stiff competition. Then the winner was announced.

“…the Best Male Pop Artist is….JEREMY LEDESMA!”

The camera zoomed in on where Jeremy was seated, and captured him hugging and then kissing Natasha on the lips before he walked towards the stage! It was not just the television cameras that captured that moment, but the cameras of the phones of his fans. It went viral soon after.

The presenters gave Jeremy his trophy and he proceeded to make a short thank you speech. Towards the end of his speech, he gazed at Natasha, then raised his trophy. “Lastly, this award is for a very special person in my life. Thank you for being there for me always and for inspiring me.”

Even if he didn’t mention her name, people looked at Natasha, speculating on the real score between her and Jeremy now. Natasha felt herself blushing from head to toe, and there seemed to be thousands of butterflies fluttering in her tummy. Oh, Jeremy! Natasha managed to whisper.


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Slow Burn – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Jeremy put his phone down on the coffee table in the living room of his penthouse unit in an upscale condominium building in Makati after he texted Natasha. Smiling, he went to his room and took a shower. When he got out, he eagerly checked if there was a reply from her. He was a bit disappointed that there was none, but he was not surprised. He had given Natasha enough to think about and absorb for a while. He hoped though that she would see things the same way he would like to see or envision it to be, them in a romantic relationship!

He went to bed, but unable to sleep, still too keyed up with what happened that evening. He stared at the ceiling, put his right arm behind his head, using it as a pillow, then thought about his friendship with Natasha, and how it was, and how it is about to change big time once he let her know that he likes her a lot in romantic way. Stephen is right! Maybe, it is about time he does. He had tried, but unable to suppress anymore, what he feels for her. He sometimes wondered, how he lasted that long, being just friends with her!

Jeremy smiled, remembering his first meeting with Natasha. She was like a prickly cactus that evening. Later, when they became friends, she admitted to him that, that night was not one of her best nights. Then, he teased her mercilessly about it, acting out how she had been, in an exaggerated manner, and they have a good laugh about it.

Natasha told him that she was actually going through something that evening. She just saw her father with his second family. He was indifferent to her, and it hurt, especially after she had observed him being sweet to his daughter who was just a year younger than her! Yes, her father was already in relationship with his wife number two while he still married to Natasha’s mother! Added to that, one of her friends was going through a bad break up. Natasha is very cynical about love. It was one of the first things he had found out about her when they got pass their several false starts. It was the main reason why they ended up friends instead of being in a relationship. She nipped everything in the bud, when he started letting her know that he was interested in her romantically!

The moment their eyes met, that evening at the coffee shop he felt a pull, a very strong instant attraction to her. She looked so lovely, sitting there, trying to go for nonchalance after he heard her dishing the dirt on him, base solely on what she had seen on television or read in the papers and online, to Seb! She looked cute with that lovely flush on her face. He had known who she was. He had seen her as a cute theater kid, to the lovely teenager she had become in The King and I and The Sound of Music, two of his Mum’s favourite musicals.

He has not followed much of her career after that as he stopped going to the theater when his Mum died , and everything just went downhill with his father. Several years after his Mum died, they are still very much at loggerheads on most things. Sometimes, Jeremy wished his father would just let him be! How he missed his Mum, even after all these years!

While he was talking to Seb, he was very much aware of Natasha’s presence opposite him, serenely sipping her espresso. She just looked on at them, listening to them discussing the musical. Except for her initial falter when she introduced herself, she was as cool as a cucumber most of the time. He didn’t see her expression changed when he introduced himself, like what happened to people when they realized it is him, the famous singer. It was liberating that she was not in awe of his celebrity status. In fact, later on, Natasha admitted to him that one of the reasons she left early that night was because of all the fans that approached their table for photos. It was too much for her.

Of course, the following day, the shit hits the fan, so to speak, when their photo, him kissing Natasha good night on the cheek, went viral and she was paraded on social media as Jeremy Ledesma’s new flame, the latest in a string of party girls that people thought he was dating or passing his time with. She was put under intense scrutiny and worse, bashed by his so-called fans who were hiding under usernames and aliases! She was also sought after for interviews by entertainment bloggers and showbiz reporters. Both of them were, as it was the first time, a photo was taken with his ‘date’ that’s not in a bar or a party venue.

He clarified that he and Natasha had just met by accident because of their common friend, Sebastian. But it didn’t stop the talk or the bashing. At that time, they can’t reveal yet that they will be working opposite each other in a hit musical. There was a press conference scheduled to announce him joining the musical and present the other cast members several days after that meeting with Seb and Natasha. He can’t preempt that! It was what his management company’s condition to Seb and to the producer of the show. He communicated as much to Seb that evening.

Initially, his manager was against him doing the musical as it would take too much of his time, his schedule was packed. Besides, he said, theatre was not his forte. But Benedict relented when he insisted that it is something he would like to do for a long time. He wanted to prove that he was not just another pretty face who can carry a tune.

Besides, he wanted to do it also for his Mum. It has been something they both love and a big part of his happy childhood with her. He had been wanting to do theater for so long, even before he became a famous singer. His father objected as he wanted him to join the family business. He never liked Jeremy putting himself in the public limelight. He was also the main source of his Mum’s unhappiness and early death, in Jeremy’s mind!  He rebelled and did the things his father hates.

The day after he and Natasha first met, when he found out about the viral photo, Jeremy called Seb to get Natasha’s number, wanting to apologize to her for what had happened. Well, that was his excuse. He actually wanted to see her again, not only because of the musical, but because he was very much attracted to her. He wanted to pursue her romantically. It was just that, due to the people asking for photos the night before, he forgot to get her number.

When Natasha, told by Seb beforehand that Jeremy will get in touch, picked up the call, her voice sounded frosty. He asked her if they could meet! She declined politely, saying that she didn’t want to add more fuel to the fire. She also told Jeremy that while she knows things like that are part and parcel of being the Jeremy Ledesma, she does not appreciate being on the spotlight in that manner. Outside of her work, she told him, she was a private person.

He apologized profusely, especially as he can’t disclose yet that they would be working together in a musical. Natasha said she understood and that it was beyond his control, anyway. People will say whatever they want to say, and see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe. After that, luckily their viral photo was overtaken by another one, that of another showbiz couple who were caught on camera kissing in a parking lot! Of course, they were still asked if there was something between them when they were presented to the media, but they both denied that there was. The of them also explained that, they met for coffee because of the musical, like Jeremy had previously said. After the press conference, he invited her for a drink, but she declined. The next time they saw each other was on the first day of their rehearsals.

Jeremy’s phone made a beeping sound in the middle of his introspection. At first, he frowned, wondering who could  be messaging him in the middle of the night? Then he suddenly remembered his text message to Natasha earlier. Maybe, it’s her! Finally! He scrambled out of the bed fast, woke barefooted, in his boxers to where he had left his phone, earlier, in the living room. Good thing, he still heard the faint sound of it beeping!

Excitedly, he swiped his phone open. His excitement turned into disappointment several seconds after. It was not Natasha who sent him a message via Viber, not a text message from her after all! The message was from a commercial model he had dated for a couple of times. She even sent a photo of herself in a provocative dress, holding a drink at the watering hole in Bonifacio Global City where he met her one Saturday evening. Ashley was asking if he would like to join her and her friends, and she even promised to make it worth his while.

Jeremy wondered why did he ever date her! He ignored the message, put his phone on silent, then went back to bed. He was through doing meaningless stuff. He will just concentrate on his campaign to win Natasha.

The days that followed were busy days for Jeremy. He rehearsed for his upcoming concert, guested in a musical variety show and did a photo shoot for a magazine. He also shot a commercial for a car company, who wants to introduce their latest model to the young and hip crowd, and thought that he would be the best ambassador for their new product.

He asked the producers if Natasha, should she agree, can be one of the guests in his concert. They have said yes. He was planning to tell Natasha about it when they see each other again for the awards ceremony they will go to. They haven’t communicated with each other since ‘the kiss’, but that’s not unusual. There were times that they don’t talk for days due to their busy schedules.

Wednesday evening came! He was excited, not because he might win another award, but because he would see Natasha again. He ordered flowers for her and it was delivered just before he left his place. At first, he hesitated doing so as Natasha might ask all sorts of questions as it was outside his norm, but he wanted to do it, so he dialled the number of the florist that he uses from to time. The florist smiled when he told her what he wanted and told him, he was in luck as their new shipment had just arrived.

He texted Natasha when he was about to leave his place, and she just replied a short okay. Half an hour later, he was parked outside her building. He texted her again to tell him he was there. He drummed his fingers against the steering wheel, patiently, nervously and excitedly waiting for her!

Jeremy didn’t wait long. However, his eyes popped, and he gasped, when he caught sight of Natasha and what she was wearing, with matching stilettos! She was a vision in the dress she chose to wear that evening, a deep violet halter dress that hugged her curvaceous body, something she usually hides in leggings and loose shirts. Well, the dress did look very, very nice on her, even if it is more revealing that what she usually prefers or what he have seen her wear. He guess the dress was okay, and that was before she turned a bit to thank the receptionist!

“She can’t be seriously wearing that!” Jeremy exclaimed,  sitting straighter from his slouching position, seeing Natasha’s dress was not so demure after all! Most of her upper back was bare! He got out of the car, fast, and met her halfway.

“Hi Jer!” Natasha greeted him as she would normally do. He can’t detect any change in her treatment of him. In fact, she sounded like the kiss didn’t happen and he didn’t send that text message. “Nervous? I’m sure you’ll win so don’t be!”

“Hi Nat!” Jeremy returned the greetings by kissing her cheek as he normally does, when they meet up. He knows he does not have the right but he was unable to stop himself. “Errr, Nat, is your dress okay? Are you sure, you want to attend the event in that?”

“Ha, what is wrong with my dress? You told me, not so formal,”  Natasha asked, surprised, checking the dress she was wearing.

“Errr, yeah! But isn’t it too revealing?” He managed to say, treading carefully. “Do you have a shawl or something for that? What’s called, a wrap? It might also get cold in the venue!” He added hastily. Fast thinking there, Jer, he told himself!

Natasha laughed, her lilting laugh that Jeremy likes very much. “Come on, Jer, this is perfectly okay. Unless, the dress does not suit me? Hindi ba bagay?”

“No, Nat, you look very lovely, actually,” Jeremy admitted reluctantly.

“So, on with this dress! By the way, what brought this on? I have worn skimpier clothes on stage,” Natasha asked, finding Jeremy’s reaction a bit strange, after all this time!

“Oh nothing! Come let’s go.” Jeremy gave up explaining that he was feeling territorial and protective of her. He was in the past, but it was not as overt as this. He would just protect her the way he had been doing in the past.

Jeremy escorted Natasha to the car. He opened the door for her, then went to the driver’s side. He remembered the flowers. He grabbed it from the back seat before he went into the car.

“For you Nat!” Jeremy handed Natasha a beautiful bouquet, of tulips of different colors, as he slid into the driver’s seat!

“Wow, this is so lovely, Jeremy.” Natasha said, her heart beating faster. This was not the first time Jeremy gave her flowers, or gifts, but this is the first time he gave her tulips and usually too, he gives her flowers or gifts during the opening night of the show she was in! She looked at him a bit puzzled.

“Well, I just want to thank you for going with me this evening. I know you were a bit reluctant to do so.” Jeremy hastily said. He felt himself flushing and a bit nervous. He wanted to ease Natasha gently into him courting her, and suddenly he was nervous that she would see through him, with the flowers he gave her out of the blue.

“What are friends for! You know, you are very important to me and I want to share this evening with you, despite the crowd.” Nat said, looking at the tulips! “But thanks a lot for the lovely flowers.”

“Thanks a lot again, Nat.” Jeremy put his hand on top of Nat’s and gently squeezed it. “I appreciate you doing this very much. You are the best! I’m lucky to have you!”

Natasha looked at him in surprise, but she didn’t remove her hand. He smiled. She smiled back.

Jeremy drove off, humming his latest song, about a guy who can’t fight his feeling anymore for a girl he likes very much for a long time. Natasha on the other hand, stared at the vibrant tulips on her lap, touching one gently as she relived the kiss that she and Jeremy shared several days before!


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Slow Burn – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Natasha plopped herself down her sofa after she had closed the door on Jeremy, and stayed like that for a while, still in shock at the intensity of the kiss that they have shared! She was not really expecting that their Friday night bonding would end like that, with a bang, with a big bang! It was the first time she and Jeremy had kissed like that outside of the musical they did.

She touched her lips which were still tingling, reliving the kiss in her mind. Oh my! What is happening to them? What brought it on? She does not have an idea. All she knew at that moment was that whatever she thought was extinguished several years ago had just came to life all of a sudden. The kindling actually started a fire, a slow burning one!

Jeremy Ledesma came into her life like a shooting star streaking into the night. She knew of him, but she never thought that they would cross paths. They didn’t move in the same circle. Their lifestyles, what she can gleaned from the numerous articles, features, and social media uploads on him, seemed to be the exact opposite.

By the time they met, she had several musicals and straight plays under her belt. While Jeremy, on the other hand, was already hugely popular by then and had several bestselling albums, and sold out concerts under his belt.

One evening, over cups of coffee, Seb, her friend who will direct Rent, and who also directed several other shows she had been into, told her that aside from her Mimi, they have cast the other roles, including that of Mark, Maureen, Angel, Colin and Joanne, but they were still waiting for the nod of the guy that they very much wanted to play Roger.

Natasha smiled, remembering that night. She and Seb were having coffee in a new coffee shop in a quiet, off the radar part of Quezon City as far as watering holes are concerned, when he started telling her about the casting just to divert her attention from the bad day she had.

“So, who is this all important guy that we are waiting for to play Roger?” Natasha asked desultorily, her mind was still on the bad day she had. Seb is used to her occasional moods, like this, when she sees her father, and would always cheer her up so she snaps out of it, fast.

“Oh my, Nat, it will be a casting coup if we can get him! Oh my God, I’m so excited. I wish he would finally say yes!”

“So, who is it?” Natasha asked, not really understanding Seb’s excitement. Her friend is flamboyant and openly gay and the way he was acting that evening, he didn’t sound at all like the very good theater director, who had honed his craft in New York, that he is! He was giddy.

“We are talking to Jeremy Ledesma! In fact…!”

“What? Him? Does he do theater? Can he do it? His background is not exactly theater!” Natasha asked before Seb can finished what he was about to say! She was just surprised at what he said. She thought Seb and the producers were in talk with a well-known Filipino-American actor who had been in several West End and Broadway productions before moving to the Philippines for good to be with his Filipino relatives, for Roger!

“Of course, Nat! He is the perfect Roger! All those angst and rebelliousness, being channeled on stage!” Seb pointed out. “Yes, this will be his first foray in professional theatre, but unknown to many, he was not a stranger to it. I also know that he is an easy guy to work with, professional and always on time for all his commitments.”

“Really, he is on time? With all the partying that he does?” Natasha asked, then continued, not seeing, that Seb’s expression has changed. “Really, Seb, I know he will sell tickets very fast, but do you want the notoriety that is always with Jeremy Ledesma?”

“Oh, I see, my reputation had preceded me!” A masculine voice remarked from behind Natasha, lightly.

“Jeremy, I’m glad you can make it!” Seb greeted the speaker effusively. He stood up and hugged him.

The name of the person who spoke finally sunk in, into Natasha. Oh my God! She also remembered Seb’s face changing as she was finishing what she was saying! She slowly turned and saw a handsome guy dressed casually in jeans and dark-colored t-shirt.

“Hi Seb! My apologies for the vague reply to you earlier. I thought I will be unable to get away from my other appointment at all. I decided to take the chance that you will still be here! You did mention that you will be here until 9PM.” Jeremy said amiably, smiling at Seb, not noticing that the quiet cafe was suddenly abuzz with conversation, realizing who had just came in!

Jeremy then looked at where Natasha was sitting. She knew her face was flushed, embarrassed at what she had just said. She was not normally quick to judge people! She wished then that the floor will just swallow her.

“Hi, I’m Jeremy!” He then offered his hand to her. She took it and it felt like she was hit with an electric current when their hands touched.

Natasha, was at a lost for several long minutes, just staring at the most beautiful brown eyes she had gazed upon and the handsomest face she had seen! She had met plenty of good-looking guys throughout her career, some of them visiting foreign theatre actors, and she was not moved like that. There was just something in Jeremy Ledesma that sets him apart from the rest! It was no wonder, he elicits screams everywhere he goes, with all that good looks, it is criminal, really, she mused while trying to gain her equilibrium.

“H-hello, I’m Natasha Reynoso!” She managed to say, suddenly feeling so guilty for saying those things about him when she didn’t really know him at all. Worse, he heard it! You have more manners than that, Nat!

“You were ‘Tuptim’ in the ‘King and I’, ‘Liesl’ in ‘ The Sound of Music’ and ‘little Cosette’ in Les Miserables!” Jeremy said, smiling oh charmingly at her, gazing at her intently.

“Oh, you have seen me on stage!” Natasha was surprised that he had remembered her for those roles she played many years ago.

“My Mum was a big theater fan. She used to drag me to the theater when I was a kid!” Jeremy explained, a bit self-consciously, so different from Natasha’s image of him in her head. “Nice to finally meet you, Natasha.”

“Jeremy, please have a seat. Join me and Natasha. It’s okay, she will be in the musical too.” Seb said, cutting through the private world Natasha and Jeremy were finding themselves into. “That is, if you can stay?”

“Oh sure, I don’t have any more plans for the evening.” Jeremy said, then he looked at Natasha and started saying as he was about to sit, “So, what will be your…..

He was unable to finish what he was saying and before he can sit down, a group of girls approached them, and asked for a picture with him. He obliged and right before Natasha’s eyes, he changed demeanor, got more like the Jeremy she sees in television interviews. It felt like it was what the other people at the coffee shop were waiting for, they also asked for a photo with him.

“Sorry, about that!” Jeremy sat down and looked apologetically at Natasha and Seb after the flurry of photo ops and selfies with him. His admirers went away happily.

“No worries, Jeremy. I thought this coffee shop would be quieter than the rest. That is why I chose this.” Seb remarked. “Well, it was. But since you were here, apparently not. Probably, someone already tweeted that you are here.”

“I don’t mind the fans. I owe my career to them. I’m sure you are used to them also, Natasha. But I better warn you also, that you may find yourself online and speculated on as you were with me!”

“Oh! It is okay! I don’t normally check what is being uploaded and floated on social media!” Natasha thought it would just be run of the mill kind of tweets and feeds about them, how wrong she was 24 hours later! “What could they say about me! I’m not the famous one, you are!”

Looking back to that evening, 24 hours later, she thought Jeremy was about to say something, but stopped himself. Instead, he looked at Seb and with a big grin, more like a child who received the best present from Santa, he told him his news. “Seb, I’m in, man! Thank you for this opportunity! I have been wanting to do this for so long!”

“OMG, really!” Seb shrieked happily! “I’m so happy. Now I have a complete dream cast! I should be the one thanking you, Jeremy!”

“You know I really, really wanted to do this. I can’t think of anything else since you called me about it. I just needed to talk to my management company. I’m looking forward to being a part of your production. It is a long way from our high school days and all the stage plays we were in, eh!”

“You two, know each other before? You did theater in school” Natasha asked, surprised. She was just content to be a passive listener, as she was trying to digest that Jeremy Ledesma seemed to be different from what she had heard and seen on TV.

Jeremy focused his whole attention on Natasha and with a big, boyish smile, he slung his arm around Seb’s shoulders affectionately. “This guy and me go a long way back. Didn’t he tell you? We were high school classmates, and we were both members of the theater club while in that all boys school.”

“Yes, Nat, I was about to tell you about that earlier. But Jeremy arrived.” Then at Jeremy, Seb said, “Nat is a friend too, Jeremy. I met her when were at the university. She will be Mimi to your Roger.”

“Wow, that’s great, Natasha! Before the hordes arrived, I was going to ask you what your role will be. I’m sure you will be a great Mimi and the role suits you. You have a beautiful voice. I’m so looking forward to doing the musical with you. I’m honored, actually!”

“Really!” Natasha said in a disbelieving tone, unable to help herself. Maybe he was just trying to be nice, patronizing, or being ‘showbiz’ in saying that. She can’t help it, sometimes, glib and charming guys raised her hackles! He is just too good to be true! She can’t helped being cynical at times, with all that she had seen happening to people she loves.

“Of course!” Jeremy replied, still smiling at Natasha, either he let passed her show of cynicism or he didn’t notice it at all. When they got to know each other better, Jeremy had teased her mercilessly about it. They laughed about it, but Nat knew it was not one of her shining moments.

Before Jeremy can finish what he was about to say, another group of girls approached their table and requested for a picture with him. He obliged. It was followed by another group, who were not as polite and as well-behaved as the first one. Jeremy with all the phone cameras thrust on his face, just smiled all throughout and posed, amiably.

“I better get going, Seb. I’m sorry for cutting this short. Please excuse me, Jeremy!” Natasha said, when the last group left.

She stood up, she was in a bit of a funk, and for some reason she can’t understand, a bit irritated with the gaggle of girls approaching them, or looking at Jeremy surreptitiously from their tables. Funny, how the coffee shop got full fast since he arrived! She felt like a bug under the microscope! “I’ll go ahead, Seb.” Then looking at Jeremy, she said, “Nice meeting you, Jeremy. Until the rehearsals then!”

“Nat, are you okay? Why don’t you stay a while!” Seb was surprised that Nat was leaving as they were thinking of seeing the last screening of a movie they have been both wanting to see. But of course, that was before Jeremy showed up. Seb told her later why he met her and Jeremy at the same time in that cafe. She knew that Seb wanted to ask her what was really bugging her, but Jeremy was there. Seb is also used to the cheerful, positive Natasha, and she was not that at all, that evening.

“I’m okay, Seb. I’m just tired. Just go catch up with Jeremy here! And no need to go with me out to the car. I’m parked just outside the door.” She told Seb, who was about to stand and go out with her to the parking lot. She just gave him a beso. “Let’s meet again on Saturday, okay?”

Seb nodded. “Take care, Nat! Text me when you get home.”

Jeremy, however, stood up, smiled at Natasha, then said, “Great meeting you, Natasha! See you at the rehearsals, looking forward that!”

Natasha felt his sincerity and she felt like a heel for the way she spoke about him, earlier, and the weird way she was acting that evening. Fair is fair, she acted badly. He had been nothing, but very nice and courteous to her the whole time. He acted like a normal person and not like a famous singer with an attitude and an oversize ego.

“I’m looking forward to that as well. And Jeremy, my apologies for the way I spoke earlier. I realized that I was speaking out of turn and I was being unfair as I don’t really know you, to be saying things like that. Then, I’m not good company to you and Seb also. I’m not always like this, really!” She finished with a smile.

He smiled back at her, a smile that reached his beautiful brown eyes, and for a little while, Natasha forgot where they were. It felt like it was just the two of them there, all the noises and the giggling faded in the background.

“Thank you, Natasha. I appreciate the candor. No worries. I’ll just work on you getting to know me better. Rest and relax. Works for me when I feel a bit off.”

“Thanks, Jeremy, I will just do that.” They way he was looking at her, Natasha felt herself blushing. “Good night.”

Before she can recover from that, he leaned forward and gave her a beso! “Drive carefully and see you soon.”

Someone caught that ordinary, harmless kiss on camera and posted it online, and it went viral! Suddenly, Nat’s life changed.

The beeping of her phone interrupted Natasha’s recollection of her and Jeremy’s first meeting. Who could be sending her a message in the middle of the night! She stood up, grabbed her phone where she dropped it earlier. Jeremy sent her a message.

Good night Nat! Sweet dreams! See you soon. And by the way, I’m not sorry we kissed.

“Oh my!… Natasha managed to say, with her heart hammering against her chest. How can she sleep, with that text message!

She went back to the sofa, plopped herself down again, and stared at the ceiling. What to do now? She asked herself. She felt giddy and at the same time nervous at what she feels in her gut – a big shift in hers and Jeremy’s relationship! Is she ready for it? What if…? Well, let’s see, she mused, then grinned. She just can’t help herself! Quizas, quizas, quizas! She started humming that too, from an old song that her mother likes very much.


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Slow Burn – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“So, are you really going for it, this time?” Stephen said, nursing his second bottle of a light beer brand he favors. He had been listening to Jeremy the past hour, telling him that Natasha has plans of going to London if she makes it to the audition of a musical she would like to be part of, very much, and that they had accidentally kissed when he was leaving her place that evening. Reading between the lines, he sensed that his best friend was feeling out of sorts, confused at the moment, and that the kiss was of the earthshaking variety to unsettle his, normally cool, friend this much!

Jeremy called him two hours ago, asking if he could meet him at a low-key bar they frequent. Stephen had been best friend with Jeremy since they met in an exclusive boys school in high school, long before he got to be the most popular singer in the country, so he knew that he was not just asking for a random, laid-back meeting. They haven’t seen each other in several weeks. Their schedules do not seem to mesh. He is busy running his family’s radio stations, and Jeremy is also hard to pin down, with all his commitments, especially the past weeks. He had declined his invitation to go clubbing with him twice.

“Go for what?” Jeremy asked, looking at his oldest friend with brows knitted, taking a sip from his, now, warm bottle of beer.

“Court Natasha!” Stephen said, not mincing words. “Man, you love her for the longest time!”

“Ha! Am I that obvious to you? How about to our closest friends? Do you think Natasha knows?” Jeremy asked, though, he shouldn’t be surprised. Stephen is like a brother to him, actually. He knows him inside out. “I really thought I have buried it so deep, that I hid it so well! You know, hearing that she might be leaving the country, the feeling, it came back full force, especially after we kissed! I guess it was just there all long. See, you even know how I feel about her!”

“Man, of course, but it was just obvious to me, I guess! I know from the get go that you were very much attracted to her, from the first time you have met her, I think. Tell me if I’m wrong! I also saw how you were with her, so many times! If not for that, I would have made a move myself, and ask her out.” Stephen admitted to his best friend sheepishly. “She is a very pretty girl, inside out. I like her a lot, you know!”

It was news to Jeremy, so he looked at Stephen in surprise. They haven’t talked about Natasha like this! He had bottled up what he feels for Natasha for years, put it in the recesses of his heart and brain, since he had decided to curb his intense attraction he felt for her even on their first meeting. He opted for the friendship. It felt more important at that time. He didn’t want to ruin the rare bond that he developed with her.

“Yeah, yeah, I  just said I would have. No need to be like a caveman man, me-and my-woman-kind-of-thing with your best friend! I didn’t act on it, did I?” Stephen raised both his hands in a gesture of self-defense, forestalling his friend.  “Besides, with you around I don’t think I would have stood a chance! She only sees me as your dearest friend, you know!”

“What do you mean? Do you think Nat likes me too, that way?” Jeremy asked his friend, sounding hopeful!

“I think so. I believe so. Don’t you feel it, don’t you see it? She likes you, not as a famous singer that has fans screaming, mostly female ones, as soon as you enter the stage, but as you, as Jeremy Ledesma, the person. She treats you like a normal person, isn’t it? Looking in from the outside, the two of you actually look like you are in a relationship, instead of just being friends.You have this special way of treating each other that excludes other people sometimes, including me!” Stephen to stress his point, and to prod his friend to finally make his move, leaned forward and said, “Look man, why do you think people never got tired of asking you and her if you are in a relationship and what is the real score between the two of you? They must be seeing something that you two are not seeing. It has been years since you did ‘Rent’ and became friends.”

Jeremy took a gulp of his drink, tilted the whole bottle and decided to finish it off. Stephen’s words got him thinking.

“Don’t you think it will destroy our beautiful friendship if I show my interest in her, that way? If I seriously let her know that I want a romantic relationship with her?” Jeremy asked, seemingly still unsure of himself. He who had faced millions of audience in the course of his career and faced countless sharp entertainment reporters who want to be the one to unlock what makes Jeremy Ledesma tick.

“Man, if your fans can hear you now! If they can see you now! Priceless! They would have remarked ‘how the mighty had fallen!’ Haven’t seen you like this, you my cocky friend, who had face life and all it gave you with so much bravado!” Stephen said, grinning. “But seriously, Jeremy, what’s worse? You staying on the safe side with her, when you love her, then she ended up with another guy, or you going for broke and gambling on what you feel for her, and what she might be feeling for you too. Better to find out, than stay on the safe zone, the friend zone. Don’t friend-zoned yourself! If she does it, after you took the gamble, then at least you have tried.”

“I know you are right, of course. In my head, I have rationalized it countless of times.” Jeremy sighed. “But she is the best thing that had happened to me. You know that and you know my background. I don’t want to lose her if I make a move to change our current relationship. You know, upset the status quo. I’m nervous about rocking the boat, so to speak!”

“Gamble man, it’s about time you do. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Natasha is a beautiful girl, intelligent, level-headed and nice and some lucky man might snatch her away, right under your nose, if you don’t do something about it! Sometimes, we need to go for broke for some thing that is very important to us.” Stephen clapped Jeremy on the shoulder. “Think about what I said. Regret is a cold bedfellow! Take a chance. I’m off to the toilet, back in a bit!”

Jeremy signalled to the waiter for another beer for him and, seeing Stephen’s empty bottle, for him as well. While waiting for the drinks, he glanced around the room, uninterested. His eyes met that of a group of girls from the other table. They have obviously been talking about him. One of them looks familiar, then in a snap he placed her as the lead singer of a new provocative all-girl band. They also performed in the last music awards he attended, the one where Nat was unable to go with him as she was doing a show at that time. Isabel, that’s her name, came on to him a bit. He just ignored her, and pretended to be dense.

Before the girl can make her move, Jeremy decided to do some evasive actions. He grabbed the beer bottles that the waiter was putting on the table, went outside, in a small place at the back of the bar, then texted Stephen to go there. He and Stephen have an open tab at this bar and the owners just bill them every month. Francis, the owner became a friend, and he was the one who told him that he can use this space if he needs too, understanding that with his fame, he needs a space to escape to from time to time.

“What happened?” Stephen asked as soon as he saw Jeremy standing near the edge of the small garden there.

“Well, I was just trying to avoid complications that I don’t really seek or want, anyway, especially now. I saw a girl inside that came to me before. She was there with a group of friends and she was eyeing me again.” Jeremy replied. “Remember what happened with the girl you introduced me to, your date the last time we went out. I ended up plastered on social media with her!”

“Man, sorry about that again. I didn’t realize that she only wanted to do that when she asked me if we can go out.” Stephen said. “Had I known it would happen, I would have said no. She is a friend of my sister, actually! I forgot to tell you.”

“No worries, Stephen. Water under the bridge. Though, Nat thought we were dating! She asked me about it after she had agreed to accompany me to the awards next week. It took me a while to persuade her this time. It was strange really as usually, she just say yes, except when she is not free.”

“Hmmm, see, take that as a sign. Maybe she was actually jealous, doesn’t like you with other girls. At least, she is not indifferent to that aspect of your life.”

“I don’t know Stephen. I just don’t want a repeat of that incident with Katrina Robles, especially now that I’m leaning towards taking that gamble you were talking about. I want to have a better chance with Nat. I have been trying to clean my act, lately! I want to be the person she wants to be romantically, and not just the ‘platonic’ thing we have. I want to be the love of her life, and not as a surrogate brother!”

“Jer, you are a good guy and Nat know the real you. Just hold on to that. Be yourself. I don’t think she believes all the drivel that has been written about you. Most of it were not true and she knows that of all people. There’s nothing to clean. Don’t change who you are. I think Nat wouldn’t want that. I am not her, and I can’t really speak for her, but I got to know her pretty well through you.” Stephen said earnestly, then added. “Now I understand why you had declined my invitation to go out twice. Was it part of this ‘new you’ campaign?”

“No, it was not just because of that! I was just feeling tired of the sameness of going to our usual haunts. Don’t you feel like that at times?”

“Yes, I do! Especially, I get tired of those people who thought that I can get them a job in our radio stations and that they just want to be in my good graces because of the influence they thought I have in the industry. But with you and our friends, it is different. I just want to hang out with you and be me.”

“The same goes for me, Stephen, the same goes for me!” Jeremy said, taking one more drink from his still half full bottle. “Shall we get going? I have a rehearsal early tomorrow for my upcoming concert. You know it has been a while since I have done one and I’m kind of, nervous.”

“Really, you nervous? You have done it a lot of times. Why don’t you ask Natasha to be a guest in your concert? I’m sure the fans you got through ‘Rent’ would love that as well. That way, you also get to spend more time with her. You two, look very good on stage and I’m sure a lot of people would like to see that chemistry on stage again.”

“Hmmm, that’s a wonderful idea, Stephen! I will suggest it to the producers.” Jeremy grinned, liking the idea. “I will have to persuade Nat first. She may not like to be a guest in my concert. She seemed reluctant, really, to be seen with me in big events these days! I wonder why.”

“Why don’t you find out? You have always been opened with each other, isn’t it? No harm in asking her. You might even be surprised with her answer!” Stephen remarked enigmatically. “So, you are really going for it?”

“Yes, I am.” Jeremy said with conviction, then he grinned boyishly, happy with his decision. “Thanks, Stephen for helping me sort things out.”

“For you, my friend, anytime. Good luck. Looking forward to be your best man.”

“Hahahahaha, that’s way to ahead! Thanks for wishing me good luck. I feel like I need it, tons of it, actually. I’m nervous.”

“You can do it man. Trust your feelings and trust what you and Nat have for the past several years.”

“I do, and that’s giving me courage.”

The two friends parted for the night. On the way home, Jeremy’s head was full of plans on how to let Nat knows that he loves her. That he wants to be her man, forever!


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Slow Burn – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Nat, please go with me! Please, please, please!” Jeremy pleaded with his long-time friend Natasha Reynoso one more time. He had been trying to convince her for half an hour, and she was not budging. “You know you are the only want I want to be with, when I attend those awards ceremonies! Don’t you want to share that moment with me, if I win?”

Natasha gazed at her friend of several years, Jeremy Ledesma, and his very handsome, boyish, pleading, please-save-me-again-Natasha-look and she does not really have the heart to deny him, even if would mean people speculating anew if they are more than friends. She can’t avoid it, and she should be used to it by now. Jeremy has always been in the limelight owing to the fact that he is the hottest pop singer in the country. While she on the other hand, is a theater actress, known too, yes, but not to the level that Jeremy is. Most people in the country probably came to know her, because of Jeremy, and not because of the roles she had played on stage through the years. They have been asked countless of times if they are a couple. But they have always maintained that they are just very good friends.

Who would have thought that they will end up the best of friends after meeting each other in the local production of the hit Broadway musical ‘Rent’. Jeremy had crossed over into theater that time, out to prove something – that he was just not just another pretty face who can carry a tune. She, on the other hand, at that time had several lead roles in musicals under her belt. After all, she was a theater baby.

Natasha had been on stage since she was a little girl, gravitating towards it naturally, owing to the fact that her mother was in the theater too, as a costume designer. She had encouraged Natasha to try the stage as it was her dream to be an actress as well, but she didn’t have the talent for it. Miriam Reynoso had switched career when Nat was four years old. Now her mother works as a flight attendant for an airline. Nat does not mind as her mother’s old life rubbing off her, or for encouraging her to go into the theater at a young age. If she had not taken a liking to it instantly, she would  have been glad to do this for her wonderful mother who single-handedly raised her after her father walked out on them when she was two years old.

Her mother told Nat when she turned 13, as she believed that she was old enough to know, that her father’s reason of abandoning them was that he needed to find himself. He found it another woman, a colleague, in the multi-national company where he still works. Despite this, her mom didn’t turn bitter towards love. She told Nat that sometimes, love and relationship just don’t work out the way you want it or wish it to be, but it does not mean you will close yourself off love or loving again. She said, love can be very beautiful with the right person. Nat thought otherwise. She had an inkling it took a long time for her mother to recover from her father’s betrayal. Despite what she said about love, until now her mother is ‘single’!  Nat had also seen the bad side of love too many times in her friends, and she refused to fall into the trap of loving someone too much, and getting her heart-broken in the process.

Jeremy was ‘Roger’ to her ‘Mimi’ in the musical which became a big hit with the local theater fans. Jeremy was described as a very soulful Roger, especially when he sang ‘One Song Glory’. People also noticed their onstage chemistry and the fact they became good friends after a few false starts fuelled speculations that there was more than friendship between them. People also  would see them together in concerts, even if it was not Jeremy’s and watching movies late at night, when they thought there would be fewer people to recognize them. It was not because they didn’t like the fans, but sometimes, they just want some private time to relax and be like ordinary people out for the night. She had been the person Jeremy confides to, even with his affairs of the hearts. While, he on the other hand, became her buffer against overeager suitors.

“Okay, okay, fine, I’ll go with you! Hindi naman talaga kita kayang tiisin!” Natasha said with a resigned expression, then asked before she can stop herself, “What happened to the girl you were supposed to be dating? The commercial model? I saw a cozy photo of the two of you in social media several weeks ago. Then there were write ups and alleged sightings of the two of you!” Then added hastily, “I have been meaning to ask you if it was anything serious, but you know I was busy with ‘Evita’!”

“Yes!!!! Thank you, Nat. You are the best! You are my one and only! Hmmm, about that girl, there is nothing to it.” Jeremy shrugged and fiddled with his drinks. The two of them were having their Friday bonding time at her place, something they have been doing after ‘Rent’, when both of them do not have commitments. There were times they can’t do this, and would just update each other through text or calls in between schedules. “I just met her in a bar one evening. She was actually with Stephen. She asked for a photo and I was just trying to be friendly since she is a friend of a friend, the next thing I know, our photo was plastered all over social media, picked up by showbiz blogs and speculated on. It was just that meeting, the other instances were not true.”

“Well, sometimes, I think you don’t really have an idea on how famous you are! But I guess sometimes, you can’t really do anything about it, aside from refusing pointblank, of course, but then you will get bash also, and may even be called suplado. Just keep your distance, if you can, so there wouldn’t be a chance for people to assume, or try to use or bash you.” Natasha advised Jeremy.

“Yes, I try, Nat. But sometimes, it’s difficult to strike a balance!” Jeremy said earnestly. “But I think, I’m done partying until the wee hours of the morning. I’m getting tired of the sameness of it. Haven’t been in a bar in weeks. You just didn’t notice because you were busy. I prefer your company more! Though, when you are busy, and I get bored, I go out with my friends, you know that, but that’s about it.”

“Don’t you get bored with my company? I’m kinda dull. See, if I don’t have a play or a musical to do, I’m just here at home, reading a book or writing the libretto of that original musical that is still in my head, that I dream of producing one day.” Natasha asked curiously, seriously. “I mean, you are young, you should go out. Don’t change your habit just because of me, and our Friday time. Di ba, you like going out before?”

“Yes, and you are young too, and should go out, if that is your premise. I prefer having quiet times with you like this. And most importantly, you are not dull!” Jeremy insisted. “Besides, you might get busy na naman with a new show, and I with my stuff, then we will not see each other for weeks!”

“Up to you, really Jer. And speaking of that, wish me luck! I heard from a friend that the producers of ‘Miss Saigon’ will be auditioning again for new cast members and since they got a lot of the cast members from here before, Manila will be their priority stop.” Nat said excitedly. It has been a dream of hers to be a part of a West End or a Broadway production even if it just in the ensemble. Maybe, she also needs a change of scene, so to speak. She had been feeling a bit restless and listless lately. The news about the possible audition perked her up.

“Really? When?” Jeremy suddenly sat up from his very comfortable position, with his head on Nat’s lap.

“Tommy, is not sure yet. But he is friend with the local agent that the production is using, so he told me, he will inform me promptly as soon as he gets a confirmation from his friend. Imagine, finally, my dream of going to West End or Broadway, is slowly shaping up. I do wish I will get in. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!” Nat said, hugging Jeremy unconsciously in her excitement. “You never know, maybe I can do it one go if I get in. Be both in West End and Broadway if I do good. I just read online that Miss Saigon will go back to Broadway in a year or two!”

“Really, not ‘if’, but when you make it, you will be abroad that long?” Jeremy asked, surprised, at the same time, feeling unsettled that Natasha will be away from him that long.

“Yes, why not? I’m okay with that. I don’t really have ties here, except this condo unit and Bubbles. And I’m sure you will take care of her for me, di ba, until I can send for her?” Nat reasoned out.

Bubbles is her cute orange tabby cat, a gift from Jeremy when she did ‘Cats’. He told her it was something to remember the musical with. He is thoughtful like that, giving her gifts associated with the milestones in her life.

“Yes, of course! But what about me?” Jeremy suddenly asked. Natasha has been his anchor in the ups and downs of his life, and suddenly he felt like he was going to be cast adrift. Then he realized, he does not have the right to ask that of her, as they are just friends. “ I mean, we will not see each other much anymore.”

“Well, you can come and visit me in London if I make it. You can even stay with me.” Nat offered. “Besides, we can always have our Friday time online. It’s easy to do that now with all the technology at our disposal. Come on, it would be fun! We can explore London and other parts of England, Scotland, Ireland or other countries in Europe during my free time and days. We haven’t been to Europe together. I know you have been, but me, no and I would like you to be with me, when I finally do!”

Jeremy grinned, liking the idea and the excitement he can see on Nat’s eyes.  It is Natasha’s time to shine, especially now that she had finally found the courage to spread her wings. He knows that with her talent, she will pass the audition. So, he is readying himself to months and months without her. Yes, there were times that they don’t see each other for weeks, but he knows that she is just there. She is just a car drive away, and a phone call away, on the same timezone.

“Okay, okay. You better save that spare bedroom for me, Nat. I’m gonna camp at your place for weeks and months if I can manage it.” Jeremy said, at the same time, it occurred to him that she might meet a guy there that she likes very much, and he would be the third wheel. He does not want to think about that now. “I’m sure you will get in. With your talent, no doubt about it.”

“Of course. It would have your name on the door of my other room, or my sofa since I may have to live in a small apartment to save on expenses!” Nat assured, smiling, at the same time, feeling sad all of a sudden. She has gotten used to Jeremy also and for the past years, this wonderful, misunderstood guy has been a big part of her life. The thought of not seeing him is also making her feel unsettled. “Thank you for your support, Jer. It is important to me. You know that of all people. I really value your friendship.”

“You have it, Nat for always. You are very important to me, too. You know that. You are a very big part of my life and what makes you happy, makes me happy too.” Jeremy said, putting his hand over Nat’s, and suddenly wishing that they can really be more than friends. He jerked at the thought. He hasn’t thought of that in years! He tried not to think of that in years. Her friendship is more important to him than them ending in a romantic relationship with her, and possibly, breaking up eventually. He had seen it happened to friends several times. He needed to think.

“So, would you like to watch another movie?” Nat asked suddenly, breaking into Jeremy’s thought. “Are you hungry, do you want more chips? I can also make you something heavier? I think I have enough ingredients for an omelette!”

“Thanks a lot, but I better get going Nat. It’s a bit late and I know you have not recovered your energy yet after your last show.” Jeremy, stood up. Natasha gave him the opening he needed. “I’ll pick you up on Wednesday, sixes, for that awards, okay. But do let me know if you hear something concrete from that audition before that, okay? And I’ll drive you to that audition, moral support, you know.”

“Sure. You rest too. I know you are busy for your upcoming concert also. I can go there on my own.” Natasha insisted.

“Nope, not negotiable! I want to be there for my best friend.”

“Thank you, Jer. You are the best guy friend a girl could have.”

Jeremy gave Nat a brilliant, boyish smile, and teased her by pinching her nose. “Of course, I’m one of a kind. I’m the one and only guy in your life.”

Natasha smiled, a bittersweet smile. That is true. Jeremy is the only guy that has gotten close to her this much. “Okay, go and drive carefully! Good night!”

Natasha moved to give Jeremy a goodbye kiss on the cheek. He turned suddenly, and instead of his cheek, their lips met. Without really intending to, Jeremy deepened the kiss and Nat responded. They stayed like that for a while. When they broke apart, both have startled looks on their faces. They realized what they just did, what had just happened. Strange, as they have kissed on stage before and it didn’t have this effect. Yes, there was something years ago, when they kissed, but it was not like this, wasn’t it? They gazed at each other again, then, both, as if by silent agreement, opted not to make a deal out of it then, unable to rationalize the feeling. They said a hasty good night.

Jeremy was out of Natasha’s place fast! He has some thinking to do, some serious thinking to do. He needed to think about what is happening. He though that he had buried it so deep, but apparently not!


Note: This has been in my head, and in my draft folder, for a while! This not a Richard and Maya story as you have read. I just needed to write another ‘Pippa-and-Ethan-kind-of-fiction’. I hope you will like this as well! 🙂 No worries, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more! I promise not to disappear for long periods of time! 🙂 I’m off to my favorite coffee shop again later. Yesterday, I took my daughter to the cinema and watched Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie with her!   ❤


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Unexpected Love – Chapter 20

Chapter 20

“Excited, darling?” Ethan asked Pippa as the two of them settled more comfortably into the seats at the open part of the boat that would take them back to Puerto Galera from the Batangas Port, more than a month after they have left the island, one after the other. It was just four weeks ago, but it felt like ages as so many wonderful things had happened to them, so many beautiful places they have been, the warm and nice people that they had met, and the unforgettable experience they have shared together!

“Yes, darling, and I’m also quite nervous!” Pippa admitted, taking comfort in hers and Ethan’s clasped hands. This is it for them! They will tell her mother, that not only they are in a relationship, but that they are engaged, and would like to get married the soonest time possible.

Pippa and Ethan decided that they would like to get married at the place where they have met, Puerto Galera, and have the reception at Pippa’s family’s resort!  The honeymoon, they haven’t decided on a place yet, though they are thinking of Palawan, in a  small private island that belongs to one of Pippa’s godmothers. She has a standing invitation from her Ninang Evelyn to go and stay in the island, which is just being used as a vacation place of the Romeros and their families and friends. Pippa was actually planning to take Ethan and Ally to that place had their Palawan trip pushed through.

While Pippa and Ethan have called their respective parents during the two weeks that they have been traveling around Northern Luzon, they opted not to tell them about their relationship, and their engagement over the phone as they want to tell the wonderful news to them in person! They are planning to see them the soonest. In the case of Marianne Montenegro in two weeks time, which is in about an hour or so, and the Bowmans after a month, depending on what Pippa and her boss will agree on. She had decided to tell her boss that her decision is final, she is resigning from her job. Then, she and Ethan will travel to England to see his parents, and to give Claudia’s diary to her mum.

Pippa almost told her mother that she and Ethan are in a relationship when they talked to her briefly before their trip to Northern Luzon . But it was so new then, and she wanted to have a heart to heart with her mother about it. She was planning to call her and tell her about it, but she was the one who phoned and asked how she and Ethan were. The three of them ended up talking about their trip and Ally’s vacation in Mindoro. She felt at that time that there was just too much to tell her mother over the phone. She would tell her about all the wonderful developments when they see her.

Only Allison knows about their engagement. She phoned Ethan one evening and he admitted to her that he had proposed to Pippa at the Bantay Bell Tower! Ethan said his sister was being makulit as she knew that he was planning to propose to Pippa. He just asked her to keep it to herself as he and Pippa are planning to tell the parents in person. Ally told the two of them that of course, she will and that she is very happy for the two of them. She also informed Ethan that their parents will be home in two weeks time.

Pippa smiled and gave Ethan a kiss while the boat was under way to the port in the town, where they will be pick up by Mang Ben. Pippa had called her mother the night before. She told her that she and Ethan were back in Manila and that they will travel to Mindoro the following day. Her mother was happy know that and told them that she will prepare all their favorite dishes, and that Manong Ben will pick them up from the pier.

“What’s that all about darling? Not that I mind you kissing me! You may kiss me anytime, you know.” Ethan said smiling at the love of his life.

“Wala lang, honey, I’m just very, very, very happy! I will see Mom na, and also I was remembering your proposal and our trip! I can’t wait to tell her that we are getting married!” Pippa replied, looking again at her ring for the nth time. At times, it still feels unreal to her that she and Ethan are about to get married. It was already hard enough believing that they are in a relationship, that in just a short time after her heartache with Martin, she found the love of her life! “Sometimes, I feel like asking you to pinch me at baka kasi nananaginip ako!”

“You are not the only one, Pippa darling.” Ethan hugged Pippa and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “But what we experienced together so far, it is just the beginning of our wonderful journey together.”

Hugging each other and with loving smiles solely for each other, they passed the time by remembering their wonderful trip the past two weeks and the nights they have spent in each other arms, savoring the feeling of knowing that they are committed to each other for life. That their lives would be like that, in each other arms, sharing each other thoughts, sharing experiences, hopes, dreams and loving for always.

The first person who congratulated Ethan and Pippa when they got down from the bell tower was Manang Lucing and a group of tourists wanting to climb the bell tower after them. Ethan had asked Manang Lucing in secret to leave them alone in the bell tower as he would like to propose to his girlfriend. The old lady, a romantic at heart, was all smiles and readily agreed. She also promised him that they will not be disturbed while they were there. She also wished Ethan luck. Like what they have agreed on, after taking their photos, she went down to stand guard.

Seeing the ring on Pippa’s finger when they got out of the tower, and the happy smiles on their faces, she readily concluded that the proposal was a success. She offered her congratulations. The other tourists upon hearing this, congratulated them as well. They even teased Ethan na kaya pala ayaw silang paakyatin pa sa bell tower ni Manang Lucing eh magpo-propose siya! Ethan and Pippa thanked the old lady and their well-wishers. The two of them went back inside the church and prayed for the success of their relationship, and thanked God, again, for bringing them together.

When they returned to Mang Erning’s calesa, they told him of their engagement, unable to contain their happiness. The old guy was also all smiles, offering his congratulations. They continued their sightseeing tour, chatting with their kutsero about their relationship, and in the process, they also found out a bit about him, that he has four children, he and his wife has sent to school by sheer hard work, him as a kutsero and a handyman, and his wife as a weaver and a seller of cosmetic products. All of the kids had finished college and wanted for Mang Erning to retire as kutsero as they can provide for him and their mother. But Mang Erning told them that he likes what he is doing and chatting to very nice tourists like Pippa and Ethan makes him happy and it is his life now.

Hearing his story, Pippa asked him if she could write about his story in the blog she is making. Mang Erning he would be happy too as he would like other parents to get inspired into sending their kids to school no matter what and no job is too small or too ordinary basta love mo ang ginagawa mo. Hearing the old guy and his positive attitude, Pippa’s felt that she had made the right decision in pursuing her dreams too.

While they did their tour, Pippa interspersed it with an interview with Mang Erning, with Ethan acting as her cameraman. They also invited Mang Erning to lunch as a way of thanking him for showing them around and treat nila sa engagement nila. They also hired him for the rest of the day. Like what they have agreed on, he took them to a burnayan where Pippa tried her hand in making a simple burnay jar, while Ethan took a video of her doing it for her blog, as well as recorded her interview with the potter. They did the same thing in the weaving place where Mang Erning took them next. Seeing it, and trying her hand at weaving, Pippa realized how difficult it is, and how much work goes into a single inabel blanket.

Pippa and Ethan didn’t make it to Santa Maria and the Quirino Bridge that first day. They just went around Vigan and the nearby areas. They also managed to tour several ancestral homes, and also the Burgos Museum and had coffee at Calle Crisologo after they have said goodbye to Mang Erning, who wished them well on their upcoming marriage.

The rest of the evening was spent going around the streets of Vigan on foot and a romantic dinner at one of the ancestral homes in the city which has been turned into a hotel. When they returned to their hotel, like the previous night, Pippa and Ethan took turns in the bathroom before they retired for the night.

However, unlike the previous night, Ethan was waiting for Pippa when she came out of the bathroom. He was reading the book he was trying to read the night before, which he quickly put down when he saw Pippa getting out of the bathroom, wearing another of her sleep t-shirt. He patted the space on the bed beside him. Pippa went to him, sitting cross-legged, trying to comb her hair. Ethan took the comb from her hand, and combed her hair gently, massaging her hair in the process.

Pippa asked Ethan where he had learned to do that as he can make a fortune doing that, as it was very relaxing. Ethan sheepishly admitted to Pippa that was the first time he did it, and hoped he did okay. He did it instinctively as he just wanted to do something for her. Pippa thanked him and said he did good and that she enjoyed it very much. She was also touched that Ethan would do that for her. She turned to face him, their eyes met and they shared a kiss that led to so much more. However, before it could go any further and cross the point of no return for them, Ethan stopped, with difficulty. Haltingly, he told Pippa that he promised himself inside the church in Bantay that he would wait for the wedding night before making love to Pippa fully.

Ethan cupped Pippa’s face and gently told her that he knows that it is very important to her, that even if she is ready to make love with him, that act is something very important to her. She had waited for the right time for it. They might as well wait for the perfect time for it, which is their wedding night. He told Pippa he can wait, honest, cross his heart. He also teased her that it is going to be a big struggle, though, as seeing her, especially dressed like that  is temptation itself and he hopes he has the willpower of a saint to survive the coming months before their wedding.

Pippa can see in Ethan’s expression his resolve not to consummate their relationship before the wedding. She understood what he meant. Even when she said to Ethan almost a week before that she was ready to take their relationship to the next level, there is a part of her that is nervous of the unknown, that she needed to be eased into first. She loves Ethan the more for seeing that, and understanding. She kissed him softly on the lips and told him she loves him very much. Yes, they can wait! They went to sleep with arms around each other. Pippa slept promptly, while it took a while for Ethan to do so, praying then that he will survive the night, and the next night and the next without making love to Pippa.

Ethan did survive, barely, in the two weeks that they have traveled from Vigan, to Laoag, Paoay, Batac, Burgos, and Pagudpud, seeing the beautiful sites in these places – from the Paoay Church, to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, to the Bangui Windmills which Ethan saying the only time he had seen windmills up close was at a farm in Denmark, then to the Cape Bojeador or the Burgos Lighthouse, down to the beautiful beaches of Pagudpud, marvelled at the Patapat viaduct engineering, also at the wonderful view and the seemingly endless sea one can see from there. Throughout their trip to the region, they also tried all the delicious local food, from bagnet to longganisa, to dinengdeng, empanada, pinakbet and some others with unusual names.

From the Patapat Viaduct, they drove to Cagayan Valley, stopping at Sta. Ana for their 45-minutes or so boat trip to Palaui where they spent most of the day, and from  Sta. Ana again, they drove to Tuguegarao for the night. They also explored a bit of Tuguegarao the following morning, they went to the centuries old cathedral there, explored other old churches in the nearby areas, and tried pancit batil patung, before they went to Callao Cave, taking a boat trip down the Pinacanauan River while waiting for the thousands of bats to come out from the cave at twilight. It was worth the wait and it was a sight to see!

From there, they drove down to  Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya and up to Banaue, using it as a base as they explored the rice terraces there, and then the much beautiful one in Batad. After that, their trip took them to Bontoc, then to Sagada for several days, then to Baguio. The last leg of their trip was Pangasinan, to Alaminos for the Hundred Islands and Bolinao for the beaches there, and from there they traveled back to Manila. They arrived at Pippa’s condo the night before, rested a bit, then off to Batangas that morning for their trip to Puerto Galera.

“Why are you smiling and sighing at the same time?” Pippa asked Ethan, curious. They are about to dock at the Puerto Galera Muelle Pier, as from where they are, she can see that their boat was about to enter the lagoon that leads to it.

“Wala lang….” Ethan said, shrugging.

“Hmmmm, meron. I can see na meron.” Pippa insisted. “Tell me!”

“Okay, I will tell na.” Ethan said, then whispered, “I was smiling and was sighing because I just realized that I survived not making love to you while your delectable body was by my side every night. You don’t know how hard it was not to make love to you, you know. While I will miss you by my side when we get to your mother’s home, it is respite for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I will last longer.” Ethan confessed.

Pippa smiled, an element of mischief in it. “And I thought you were Mr. Cool all the time we have shared a bed. Maybe, I’ll sneak into your cottage, you know, make you lose that control.” She teased. But honestly, she too, thought that she wouldn’t last longer if she has to share another night with Ethan, especially now that they are not too tired from all the road trips they did.

“Pippa, darling, then I will break my promise to God.” Ethan smiled. He is sure Pippa will not do it. Despite the fact that she says she was ready for intimacy between them, she is a conservative girl at heart.

“Just teasing you, honey.” Pippa said, then gave Ethan a quick kiss. While they have not done the deed, so to speak, their sharing a bed night after night was not completely innocent. They have indulged a bit, testing the limits of their controls. Ethan also candidly answered all of Pippa’s questions about making love and intimacies between a man and woman, putting Pippa’s fear of the unknown to rest. “We really have something to look forward to on our honeymoon, Mr. Bowman.”

“We do, Mrs. Bowman-to-be. But I’m looking forward, not only to that, but to finally spending the rest of my life with you.” Ethan said, giving Pippa a gentle kiss.

“Me too, Ethan.” Pippa whispered.

The boat finally docked at the pier, and they saw Manong Ben right away, and he was with Pippa’s mother! She was supposed to be just waiting for them in the house. She waved at them as soon as she saw them! It also didn’t escape Marianne Montenegro’s notice the way her daughter and Ethan look at each other, not to mention their intertwined hands! There is something different about this two, she thought to herself. Meron na dati, pero parang mas meron ngayon!

“Mom, great to see you again!” Pippa hugged her mother tight and gave her a kiss.

“You too, anak! Na-miss naman kita ng husto!” Marianne said, then she looked at Ethan. “Ikaw din, Ethan!” She went to hug him as well.

“Hello, Tita Marianne! Glad to be back here in Puerto!” Ethan said. “Hello po, Manong Ben.” He said, waving at the old guy.

“Tara, sa bahay na tayo magkwentuhan.” Marianne Montenegro said. “Nagpaluto ako ng mga paborito ninyong food kay Doray. Hindi ko lang napigilang hindi kayo sunduin, hindi ako mapakali sa paghihintay. Kasi naman anak, I missed you ng todo-todo. Ewan ko ba, dati ka namang matagal hindi muuwi kapag marami kang trabaho, pero this time parati kitang naalala. Ikaw din, Ethan.”

The three of them walked to the car where Manong Ben parked near the restaurant where Pippa and Ethan had breakfast weeks ago. Ethan opened the door for Marianne first, then Pippa and sat with Manong Ben in front.

“Kailan pala ang dating ni Allison, Ethan? I thought kasabay ninyo na ni Pippa?” Marianne asked when they were on the road. “I forgot to ask you last night.”

“In a week’s time po, Tita Marianne. Nag-extend po siya ng kaunti pa sa Mindanao. Our cousins took her also to Iligan, Bukidnon, Cagayan De Oro, Camiguin and Siargao pala! She extended her vacation. Nag-enjoy!”

“That’s a lot of places!” Marianne remarked. “Pero I heard, magaganda raw sa mga lugar na iyon. Kahit sa Davao, hindi pa nga rin ako nakakarating. Your mum did ask me to go with her noong college kami, Ethan, pero hindi nagka-chance.”

“Oo nga Mom. Ethan and I would like to go to those places also.” Pippa remarked. “Gusto mo sumama ka na lang sa amin.”

“Kailan ninyo plano? Paano iyong work mo pala Pippa?” Marianne asked, surprised as her daughter rarely takes a vacation, and not this long.

“Oh, about that. Mom, I have a lot to tell you, pero can we wait until we get home, please.” Pippa said, hugging her mother and giving her a big, happy smile, before looking at Ethan and sharing something, a big something again.

Hmmm, now Marianne’s intuition and motherly instinct are working overtime. Marianne has an inkling that she is in for some big surprises! “Okay!” She simply said.

Soon after, they were in the driveway of the family home. Ethan opened the door for Pippa. Pippa in turned, extended her hand to help her mother out of the car. That was when her mother noticed the beautiful ring on Pippa’s finger. It looks like, it looks like, an engagement ring!!!

“Could it be??? Are they????” Marianne asked herself. Her heart also started beating fast, coupled with this, she remembered Pippa’s words early, that she has a lot to tell her. Marianne barely stopped herself from asking her daughter or screaming in delight at this development! She had hoped, wished and prayed that Pippa would find someone who will love her like she deserves to be love, and also wished that it would be Ethan, but she never expected that it will come true this soon! She felt very happy at the moment.

“Mom? Is something wrong? Bakit hindi ka pa bumababa?” Pippa asked, puzzled and then she saw where her mother’s gaze is. She smiled, blushing a bit. “Yes, Mom. I found my prince after all the ‘frogs’.” Pippa said softly to her mother, then looked at Ethan with so much love. Ethan looked at Pippa with the same expression. “Ethan and I are engaged, Mom!”

Marianne Montenegro slowly got out the car, like in a trance, then her face was wreathed in smiles, at the same time teary-eyed. She touched her daughter’s face. “Pippa, I’m happy to know.” She hugged her daughter tight, then looked at Ethan. “Come here,  Ethan.” She included Ethan in the embrace, then said, “Welcome to our family, Ethan.”

“Thank you very much, Tita Marianne. Sorry po, hindi pa namin nasabi ni Pippa sa inyo sa phone. Gusto po kasi naming in person sabihin sa inyo, pati na rin kina Mum and Dad. Kaya nga po kami umuwi ng mas maaga kaysa kay Ally so we can talk to you.” Ethan said.

“Oo nga Mom. Iyon po sana ang isa sa sasabihin namin ni Ethan sa inyo.” Pippa said. “Sorry po, naunahan niyo na kami.”

“Naku, you two owe me a lot of kwento talaga!” Marianne said, smiling through her tears of joy. “Hindi ko nga alam na kayong dalawa na. Though, I had an inkling that you two are heading in that direction. Halika pasok na tayo sa loob so we can get settle in and so you can tell me the whole story from the beginning. Who would have thought ha pag-alis mo last month, Pippa anak, pagbalik mo magkaka-son-in-law na ako. And Ethan before I forget, call me Mom na rin, no more ‘Tita Marianne’!

“Yes po, Tita….Mom.” Ethan grinned, so happy that everything is okay with Pippa’s mom. He and Pippa shared a looked and his happiness was also reflected on her face.

The three of them entered the house with arms around each other. As Manang Doray serves merienda, and with Pippa and Ethan holding hands, they told Marianne Montenegro how their relationship started and how it led to Ethan proposing at the Bantay Bell Tower, two weeks before. Pippa’s mom was smiling all the time they were telling her. She was very happy for her daughter and she couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law! She is so looking forward to finally having grandchildren to spoil!


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Unexpected Love – Chapter 19

Chapter 19

“Go ahead, Ethan, please use the bathroom first. I will just unpack my clothes. How about you? Do you want me to do it for you?” Pippa offered. She likes arranging her clothes in a cabinet instead of all of them getting crumpled in a suitcase, even if it is just for several days. The room that the hotel gave them as a beautiful, antique aparador.

“Thank you, Pippa darling. But I can do it myself.” Ethan hastily said. “I will use the bathroom first, then.”

“Ye, please go ahead. I’m not going to get settled in until I have arrange my stuffs.” Pippa smiled self-deprecatingly. “I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my things and traveling.”

“Whatever makes you happy, darling, that’s okay. I hope it is okay too that I’m on the messy side.” Ethan said, cupping Pippa’s chin.

“Sure, but I’ll nag you about it, once a while ha, and maybe arrange your things for you.” Pippa said teasingly.

“Oh, that’s fine with me, Pippa. I don’t mind, except I will do it this evening.” Ethan was afraid that Pippa will see the box containing the engagement ring he bought if she arranges his things. “I’ll go ahead and take a shower.” With a kiss on Pippa’s forehead, Ethan was off to the bathroom.

Pippa was humming while she put her clothes inside the clothes cabinet with an intricately designed front. The whole room, is actually furnished with antique furniture, from the four-poster bed to the night tables, aparador and the tokador. When she had finished doing that, and while waiting for Ethan, she sat cross-legged on the bed, opened her laptop, and made some notes on the places they will see in the morning, and the whole of their travel to Ilocos and Cagayan regions. They decided to leave off Batanes for another time as it would need a trip by itself!

“The bathroom is yours, darling.” Ethan said after several minutes, getting out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, freshly shaven.

Pippa seemed to be engrossed in what she was doing, as she didn’t hear Ethan right away. She looks so beautiful with her brows knitted, typing on her Mac, sitting cross-legged on the bed. Ethan slowly crept on to her, then kissed her on the nape. “My lovely darling, it’s your turn. Bathroom is yours.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Ethan, I didn’t hear you!” Pippa said, smiling sheepishly. Ethan looked so neat, as he had shaved. and smelling of the soap that Pippa has grown to like very much, a smell she considers distinctly Ethan’s.“I’ll go in then. Here are the itinerary I plotted for tomorrow, please check if everything is okay with you. I also made a list of the places we can see in Ilocos Norte, after here in Sur, and Cagayan Valley with a summary of information. I made some revisions to our original plan.” Pippa handed the laptop to Ethan, gave him a quick kiss and went to the bathroom with her night-clothes.

Ethan put down the laptop first, went to his backpack and got a pair of boxers and  t-shirt. He usually sleeps in the nude, but in deference to Pippa he had taken to wearing a t-shirt and pair of boxers to bed. After checking where the engagement ring is, he went back to the bed, checked Pippa’s itinerary, which looks fine, especially one of the places she had included in the list, fits with his plan. It looks to very nice in the photos he had seen. He had surreptitiously checked it the night before, when Pippa was in the bathroom.

He then waited for Pippa by trying to read the latest Ken Follett book that he and Pippa bought the day before. However, after a page or two, he found himself nodding and yawning, he tried to move so he will not fall asleep, but it was a losing battle. He turned on the TV, but nothing in the telly caught his attention. He gave up. For sure, he will wake up when Pippa comes out of the bathroom. Maybe, he can just take a very quick power nap!

More than an hour later, Pippa got out of the bathroom and saw Ethan fast asleep on the bed. The book that he started reading was on the floor. Pippa presumed that it fell as Ethan was in a bit of an awkward position on the bed, as if he was not intending to fall asleep yet. She picked up the book and placed it on the side table.

The driving was probably too much for Ethan as he told Pippa that has not done it in a while, added to this is the fact that he is not used to driving in the Philippines. He also spent longer hours driving than her. Pippa was afraid the position was not comfortable for Ethan and he will feel the effect of it in the morning, so she tried to move him gently so as not wake him up. Luckily, he just moved and didn’t wake up.

She pulled the blanket over him and looked at his beloved face with tenderness. Sharing the bed with him the past weeks, even if was of the innocent kind, made her realized something, he is the one she wants to wake up with every morning for the rest of her life. She gave him a tender kiss on the lips. He murmured her name but didn’t wake up. Pippa settled in beside him. Ethan put his arms around her while in sleep and it touched Pippa a lot. Even in sleep, he sought her.

The following morning, Ethan’s freshly showered face hovering over her was the first thing that entered her consciousness. She sensed him first before she saw him. She gave him a sleepy smile. “Good morning, honey. Kanina ka pa ba gising? What’s the time? Parang mataas na ang araw!” She saw that he is ready to go out in in his favorite cargo shorts and a t-shirt.

“Lovely morning to you, my darling Pip.” Ethan said, then lowered his lips to Pippa’s, giving her a good morning kiss before she can react and protest that she hasn’t even brush her teeth yet. “Sorry, I just slept on you last night. I must have been very tired from all the driving we did yesterday!”

“It’s okay, honey. That’s why I didn’t wake you up, para na rin makapagpahinga ka. I felt tired nga rin. I decided to sleep early na rin para we have energy for our sightseeing.” Pippa said, as she got out of the bed and go to the aparador to get new clothes.

“Wow, you really arranged your clothes neatly and nicely in that beautiful, old thing!” Ethan said, seeing the insides of the closet when Pippa opened it. “I noticed in your flat, but never thought much about it.”

“I told you!” Pippa said laughing, then she was off to the bathroom.

More than half an hour later, she came out of the bathroom, wearing a beautiful patchwork skirt and a white sleeveless top. She opted not to wear make-up. Her hair was tied in a ponytail. “I’m done, let’s go to breakfast.” She said, giving Ethan a brilliant smile. She is so looking forward to hers and Ethan’s adventures today and the next day and the next. Her heart is suddenly filled with an unexplained excitement for all the things they will see and experience starting today.

Ethan smiled at his radiant, lovely girlfriend. He, too, is excited for the start of their very special day. They ate breakfast at the hotel, longganisa, eggs, coffee and juice. One hour later, they were in Calle Crisologo, renting a calesa for the day. The kutsero know already here to take them as he had done it for the countless tourists that come to Vigan.

Mang Erning, their very friendly kutsero, told them that the usual sightseeing route would be to Bantay to see the bell tower and then the church, then to a burnayan, the hidden garden, the Baluarte zoo, an abel Iloco weaving place. As for the old grand mansions they can visit, and the museum, they are within walking distance of the hotel where they are staying, and Calle Crisologo. He did ask them in what particular order they want to go, or if there is somewhere else they want to go aside from the places he had mentioned. Pippa and Ethan everything sounds fine with them. They told Mang Erning that if they still have time they will take a car trip to Santa Maria and see the beautiful centuries old church there and stop at the Quirino Bridge, otherwise they will just do it the following day. Mang Erning said their plan is a good one. The tour will depend on how long do they want to stay in a place they will see.

Mang Erning first took them to Bantay. On the way, he also suggested where is the best spot to take a souvenir photo of them in his calesa, which had Pippa and Ethan smiling broadly as he assured them it’s a pam-Facebook shot! They just love their kutsero and considers themselves lucky to chance upon him when as soon as they got out of their hotel! He stopped the calesa after the arch that says Vigan and took their photo with the signage in the bakground.

“I can use it as the new cover photo of my Facebook page,” Pippa said happily, reviewing the shot. She likes hers and Ethan’s photo. Ethan’s arms were around her as he smiled handsomely at the camera.

Ethan smiled at her. “Maybe, you should wait before making a final decision, darling. I think everything in this place is picture perfect!”

“You are probably right, honey!” Pippa said. “I will surely have a hard time picking photos for the blog I’m going to write. At least, it would be easier with the videos.”

“I’ll help you.” Ethan offered, squeezing Pippa’s shoulder reassuringly. “We are in this together!”

“Thank you again, Ethan. You are the best and ever supportive boyfriend!” Pippa said, hugging Ethan and giving him a kiss. Ethan returned the kiss and they got engrossed in it and didn’t realize that the calesa has stopped at the gate of the church compound in Bantay!

“Ehemmm, Sir Ethan, Ma’am Pippa, nandito na po tayo.” A smiling, indulgent Mang Erning told them. “Dito ko na lang po kayo hihintayin.”

Pippa blushed and Ethan grinned happily at the old man. “Thank you po Mang Erning.” He assisted a still blushing Pippa down the calesa. They looked at each other lovingly, then walked hand in hand towards the entrance of the church.

They went inside the San Augustine Church first as per Pippa’s request when they were discussing the places they will go to. She likes being inside old churches, and this one, which is one of the oldest, still standing, churches in the region She wanted to go inside first before they explore the bell tower. Inside the beautiful centuries-old church, Pippa uttered a solemn silent prayer. She prayed for her and Ethan’s relationship, that they will be together for the rest of their lives. Ethan, not a very religious man, and a non-practicing Catholic, also found himself praying inside the church which has seen the flow of life for several centuries now.

Getting out of the church, they went to the place handling the tour to the Bantay Belfry/Bell Tower. Since it was still quite early, and it was on a non-peak tourists season, the was not much people going up, and having their photos taken in front of the very picturesque and towering belfry. Their guide introduced herself as Manang Lucing. While Pippa was busy taking photos, Ethan whispered a request to Manang Lucing, which had the old lady, grinning.

“Manang Lucing, bago po kami umakyat, pwede po ba kaming magpa-picture ni Ethan.” Pippa requested the smiling lady.

“Sure na sure po, Ma’am.” Manang Lucing said, taking the camera from Pippa.

Ethan and Pippa posed in front of the steps leading to the belfry which was built in the late 16th century according to the information Pippa researched. Ethan’s arms were around Pippa as they grinned at the camera.

“Ma’am, check ninyo po ang pictures,” Manang Lucing said, then remarked, “Bagay na bagay po kayong dalawa.” She told them.

Ethan and Pippa thanked the old lady and shared a loving smile. Soon after, the three of them walked towards the entrance to the bell tower. After unlocking the door, Manang Lucing guided them to the top of the belfry. When they reached the highest point that can be accessed, she told them to take all the pictures they want, and that she will just wait for them in the bottom.

“Wow, look at the view from here!” Pippa remarked as she looked out of the tower and the panoramic view that is a feast to the senses. “Ethan come, I feel like I’m on top of the world here! I’m so liking the start of our adventure together.”

When Ethan didn’t say anything, Pippa turned around to check what he was doing. He was looking at her with a big, loving smile. “Ethan…?” He walked towards her, gazing at her intently, lovingly.

When Ethan reached Pippa’s side, by the big window which framed her lovely self, he got something from his pocket, and knelt before her on one knee. “Pippa, will you marry me? Share the adventures of a lifetime with me, please.” He finally managed to say, amid the fast beating of his heart and his hands that suddenly got so clammy. He waited for Pippa’s answer.

Pippa was so surprised at Ethan’s proposal, than she was unable to react right away. She never thought that Ethan is planning this! Now she understood why he went missing in the mall. He went out to buy her an engagement ring. She swallowed for she is suddenly breathless, her throat constricted, staring at Ethan’s. This is what she had prayed for in the church, but she never expected that her prayers would be answered this fast!

“Pippa…..” Ethan said softly, getting more nervous, starting to think that maybe his proposal is too soon. But he has never been surer in his life than this.

Pippa knelt also, touched Ethan’s beloved face. “Yes, Ethan, I will, gladly.” She managed to say as tears of happiness started flowing from her beautiful, expressive eyes.

Guiding Pippa up, Ethan stood up, then gently wiped Pippa’s tears away. “Thank you with all my heart, Pippa darling. Promise, it will be my goal in life to make you happy always. Everyday with you would be a wonderful adventure that would last a lifetime, our lifetime!” He then put the beautiful ring on Pippa’s finger, slowly, lovingly. It was a perfect fit. He then raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I love you will all my heart, with all of me, and with all that I could give you to make you happy and loved always.”

“Ethan, Ethan, honey. You made me the happiest girl in the world. I love you very much, with all of me and all I can give you too. You are my life now. I am so looking forward to all our adventures together. It will be so wonderful with you by my side for always.”

With that, and amid the beautiful, blue sky, the panoramic view outside, and the centuries-old bell tower who already bore witness to a lot of things throughout its long history, Pippa and Ethan sealed their promise to each other with a kiss.

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Unexpected Love – Chapter 18

Chapter 18

“Please send me an SMS, Ally, when you and Melissa land in Davao.” Ethan told his sister as they waited for their cousin to arrive and pick-up Allison from Pippa’s place Tuesday afternoon. Ally opted to go to Davao instead of joining Pippa and Ethan on their road trip throughout Northern Luzon.

“I will Ethan, don’t worry, please. That is the first thing I will do once when we reach Davao, I promise. I’m looking forward to spending time with Mum’s family there. Melissa said there are also a lot of beautiful places we can see in Davao and in other parts of Mindanao.” Ally assured her brother. “Just enjoy your trip with Pippa. I’m sure you are both looking forward to that. Then as agreed I will just see you two in Puerto Galera in three weeks time. I very much want to meet Pippa’s Mum and thank her too, for taking good care of you. She seems like a very lovely person, based on what you have told me, what Pippa had said, and what Mum had mentioned to me and Dad.”

“Yes, she is that and much more. She is like a mum to me too. Okay, I’ll see you then. You will like the Montenegros place in Mindoro. And seeing a bit of the country, you will understand why I’m staying here for good, aside from Pippa, of course.” Ethan said. “Hello to the family there. One day, I will find my way there also, with Pippa.”

“Please thank Pippa again for letting me stay. And brother dear, you are a very lucky person to have found that wonderful lady. Don’t let her go. Take good care of her.” Ally said, poking her brother affectionately on the chest. “I do understand why you want to stay here. But I think it is not about the place anymore, it is mostly because of Pippa. The place being so beautiful is just a bonus.”

“Yes, that’s true. And I will not let Pippa go. That I have decided, early on. Pippa is for keeps. She is my forever, Ally!” Ethan said, his eyes full of love for his girlfriend. “Basta, bridesmaid ka sa wedding namin ha!” He teased his sister.

“Wow, really Ethan! When are you planning to propose to her?” Ally said, smiling. She is happy for her brother. “I’m happy for you my dear brother. Of course, I will be. In fact, I will not talk to you anymore if I am not. But you better make sure that Mum and Dad can be there as well. They will strangle you, especially Mum, if you get married without them!” Ally teased. Of course, as much as their parents would like to be at the wedding, they will understand if Ethan marries without them.

“Of course, they will be there! They have to be there. I want to share that very happy day with them. As for when, I will propose to Pippa, I will do it at the right time and at the right moment.” Ethan said, smiling secretly. He had a plan already, but he needs to put a couple of things in motion before he could do so.

“Well, good luck brother dear. I wish you and Pippa all the happiness.” Ally hugged her older brother tight.

“Thank you, Ally.” Ethan replied. “I wish you will also find a love like what I have found with Pippa.”

“In due time, Ethan. Maybe, I will. You’ll never know, I might also find love in this beautiful country.” Ally said.

The house phone rang while brother and sister were hugging each other. Ethan answered the call. The receptionist informed him that a Melissa Benitez was at the lobby waiting for Allison Bowman.

Ethan helped Ally with her suitcase. Brother and sister went down to where their cousin was waiting. Melissa promised Ethan once again that she will take care of Ally who will be staying at her and her parents house, their Uncle Michael and Aunt Minerva. After Melissa and Ally left, Ethan went back to Pippa’s place to wait for her. Pippa had gone to work that morning to file her vacation leave and to attend to some last-minute stuffs before they can go on their road trip.

When they got home the night before they informed Ally about the change in their plans, that the Palawan trip has been cancelled, and they asked her where she would like to go. Ally told them that if that is the case, she will just go to Davao with Melissa to see the relatives, and they can just meet up somewhere, at some point. Ally said Melissa, and her parents too, issued the invitation to Ethan and her. However, she just told them, while talking to them on the phone that she will discuss it with Ethan first, as they had plans to go to Palawan. Maybe they can visit them before she goes back to London is another option.

Even when Pippa and Ethan assured Ally it is okay to tag along with them, she insisted on going to Davao instead. Ally assured them it is perfectly okay for her to go on her own, as going to Davao is really part of her plan. She has not been there since she was a kid. She also teased Ethan and Pippa about giving them a chance to really, really be with each other, with no one interrupting them. The three of them laugh, remembering the incident Sunday morning!

Ethan relented, and brother and sister agreed to meet in Mindoro a week before Ally returns to London. After Pippa left that morning, brother and sister discussed how best they can send the diary to Claudia’s mum. They agreed that it was best if Ethan give it to her in person, no matter how hostile she will be to him, judging by their previous interaction.

Ethan will have to go back to England to do it at some point. Ethan said he will discuss this with Pippa as he would like to ask if she can go with him. He wants Pippa to travel with him, as he would like his parents to meet her the soonest, hopefully as his fiancée if she will have him. His and Ally’s Mum and Dad are currently on a cruise so he will go back after they have returned from that. His going to England schedule will also depend on  what Pippa would like to do next – if she will stay with her current job or do the blog, and freelance work. Pippa had mentioned that one of her options is to freelance. That way, she said, her time is more flexible.

Ethan spent the rest of the afternoon doing some preliminary work for Werner and his company so that he would be familiar with everything when he comes on board the following month. He also did some freelance work while waiting for Pippa to return home. He also worked on the design of Pippa’s blog and the back-ending or content management system. He is planning to buy her a domain name from the register that he uses, instead of starting with a free blog site there.

Pippa had shown Ethan some of the ideas for the blog she would like to have, from content, to the kind of design she is thinking of, and what she hopes to have in her page. Pippa has some very innovative ideas that Ethan feels will become big. She knows her social media, her digital media platform, and what people wants when they go online. Engagement is very important, she had told him when they were discussing it last night. He felt himself getting as excited as Pippa with this project. He believes that she has what it takes to make this blog fly.

Two hours later, and after cleaning the place, just tidying up, and putting the dirty clothes in the wash, Ethan received an SMS from Pippa, informing him that she was on her way home. Pippa arrived home carrying a take out bag from a Filipino restaurant near her place of work which has comfort food on its menu.

“Dinner!” Pippa said when she entered the apartment with a big smile. She gave Ethan a quick kiss on the lips. “Hi, honey! How have you been? Sorry, natagalan akong makabalik. Si Ally, nasundo na ba ni Melissa?”

“Hi darling!” Ethan said, hugging Pippa and kissing her, giving her a kiss that was longer than the kiss she gave him. “I missed you.” He whispered after they broke apart, both feeling flushed.

“Yes, Melissa picked up Ally, as scheduled. Probably by now the two of them are in the mall, doing some last-minute shopping or having one more night out since hapon pa naman ang flight nila. As for me, I have been busy with all sorts of things. How about you? Kumusta ang meeting mo with your boss?”

“Okay naman. She agreed to me taking a month’s off!” Pippa said happily as she started preparing their dinner. “Imagine, one month na laid back lang! I haven’t done this since I started working. The best thing is I will be spending it with you. I have more to tell you, but let’s eat first. Nagutom ako sa office. Alanganin na rin if I will eat pa there. Besides, I wanted to hurry home.”

“Okay, dinner first. But I’m happy about your boss allowing you that month’s leave.. I’m so looking forward to our road trip!” Ethan said, putting his hands over Pippa’s. “So, tomorrow, tuloy tayo in buying the supplies we will need for the trip?”

“Yes, I’m officially on vacation starting tomorrow.” Pippa replied, then suddenly looked around and realized something looked different. “Thanks a lot for tidying up the place. I just realised. Kanina ko pa iniisip na parang may naiba. Hindi ko na naasikaso kaninang umaga na mag-tidy up.”

“Oh that, it was a small thing. I was not so busy and I’m used to doing that naman in London.” Ethan replied as he seated Pippa. Besides, it is the least I could do for you.”

The two of them enjoyed their dinner, discussing the blog that Pippa would like to do. Ethan mentioned the initial work he had done that afternoon. He said he can show it to her later. They also chatted with Pippa’s mom. Tita Marianne called up earlier to ask how they are. They told her about heading to Mindoro in three weeks time, after their road trip and Ally’s vacation in Davao. Pippa’s mom was so happy to know that they will all go home.

While they were having coffee and dessert after their lovely dinner, Ethan mentioned to Pippa about his plan to go back to England, at some point, for a short spell to give the diary to Claudia’s mum.

“I agree with you and Ally. It is best that you do it in person. That way, wala na silang masasabi sa iyo. Besides, I think that way, magiging talagang super full closure na ang lahat for you. Somehow, it will make Claudia be at peace too kung nasaan man siya. Kung ano man ang maging reaction ng mum ni Claudia, nasa kanya na iyon. You have more than done your part.” Pippa said, putting her hand over Ethan’s. “Kailan mo balak umalis? Sasabay ka bang bumalik kay Ally sa London?”

“No, mauuna na si Ally. I don’t know yet, depends pa rin sa time. Besides, I’m hoping you can go with me.” Ethan said softly, gazing at Pippa. “Not in meeting Claudia’s mum, but go with me so I can introduce you to Mum and Dad as the love of my life, and we can also see the sights. Pero, depende pa naman iyon on what you would like to do after our road trip. Di ba, sabi mo iisipin mo pa kung babalik ka sa job mo or will do the blog full-time, as well as freelance?”

“Oh, that is what I wanted to talk to you about also. Di ba, I met with my boss? Nagpaalam na rin ako sa kanya. I have decided kasi na leave my work and do the blog and go freelance. This morning, nagkataon na tumawag iyong isang close friend ko noong college, asking how I am. We haven’t seen each other lately so we had coffee at the cafe near my office, and through the course of our conversation she asked if I’m interested in being her partner in a production company she is putting up. Isabel said she would like to do freelance work too! Imagine, nagkataon pa.”

“Really, what a coincidence! So what did you tell her?” Ethan said, waiting for Pippa’s answer.

“Well, I told her about my plans to start a blog and also to freelance. Isabel laughed at the pagkakataon. Pareho pala raw kami ng iniisip. Matagal na raw niya akong gustong kausapin, pero kanina lang siya talaga nagka-time. I told her I will seriously think about it as I have already made plans with you to take a vacation,  then the blog, and I have yet to talk to my immediate superior.” Pippa said, then continued, “Just before I had my meeting with my boss, I have made up my mind na magpaalam na sa kanya verbally and not just go on vacation leave, but to leave the company na. I did naman. But she requested me if I could stay muna for a month after my vacation for proper turnover. Hahanap pa siya ng kapalit ko. Also she told me, should I change my mind during my vacation, I’m very much welcome to stay. Sabi niya file the vacation leave muna and we will discuss my other plan when I come back. So, that’s about it! What do you think?”

“I’m happy with whatever you will decide on eventually, darling. You do know that whatever your decision is, it’s okay with me, di ba? It is your life and I will just be there to support you in whatever you would like to do.” Ethan said. “Just take your time. Think about it thoroughly. You can certainly do that during our road trip and while we are sitting on a blanket in some nice quiet beaches up north. Nice, isn’t it. We can always head to London for Christmas or some other time.”

“Thank you for that, honey. But I have made up my mind on my way home, Ethan. I will just go with forming a production house with Isabel, pero I will stay pa for a month with my current job as requested by Ms. Tina.” Pippa said. “So, if you could wait two months before heading to England, then I would like to go with you, and meet your parents. I would like to see your other world, too.” Pippa said softly and lovingly, planting a soft kiss on Ethan’s lips. “Besides, I want to be there with you after you have given that diary to Claudia’s mum. Kahit man lang to hold your hand, or give you kiss after it is done.”

“Really, really! Lovely! I’m so happy to know, darling. Of course, I can wait two months, basta ang importante, makakasama kita.” Ethan said, grinning. Two months to put his plan into motion! He went to where Pippa was seated, held her gently by the shoulder so he can guide her to can stand up. When she did, he hugged her tight, lowered his mouth to hers, then gave her a searing kiss.

“I love you, you know, very much. I’m so looking forward to our life together!” He said cupping her face, while they were catching their breaths.

Pippa smiled at Ethan, a bit bemused at his last statement, but is very happy at his show of love. “I love you very much too, Ethan and I, too, looking forward to us being together.”

The two of them shared one more deep kiss, before they broke apart.

Ethan helped Pippa with the dishes soon after, then they stayed in the living room watching Iron Man 3 before they headed to bed.

“Good night, darling!” Ethan whispered as he hugged Pippa and pulled her closer to him after putting the blanket over them. His right arm hugging the underside of her breasts, their bodies fitting against each other, like two spoons. He needed to rein in his body’s physical reaction to Pippa’s nearness, as even if Pippa is now ready too to take their relationship to the physical level, they can’t, yet!

“Good night, honey!” Pippa said, trying to steady her heart and her physical reaction to Ethan’s arm around her, so near her breasts. She is so acutely aware of him since she admitted to him that she is ready to share that aspect of their relationship with him. She is looking forward to that. Unfortunately, they can’t still do anything about it at the moment. Maybe, in one or two days time, they can!

The following morning, Pippa and Ethan hit the mall as soon as it opened, buying stuffs for their trip. At some point, after several stores, Ethan told Pippa he needed to run an errand and he will just meet her at the Starbucks near the front entrance of the mall.

Unknown to Pippa, Ethan went to a jewelry shop he Googled the day before. He also measured one of Pippa’s rings she had left on her dresser for size. He already had an idea on what design he would like. He was lucky! He found a ring along the designs he likes and the store have it in Pippa’s size. It was the first thing that attracted his attention when he looked at the display. He paid for his purchase and put it in the bottom of the backpack he was carrying. When he went to the coffee shop, Pippa was already there.

“Sorry, Pip darling, natagalan ako.” Ethan said with a big smile as he slid into the chair opposite Pippa’s.

“It’s okay, Ethan. Did you finish your errand? Did you find what you were looking for?” Pippa asked.

“Errr, yes,” he said but did not elaborate. He just gave her a big smile. “Thanks for ordering for me,” he said, holding the latte that Pippa got for him, and taking a sip.

“Good.” Pippa said smiling, letting Ethan off the hook, even if she was curious at the bit of mystery surrounding his sudden departure from her side, knowing na hindi niya kabisado ang mall and all morning, magkasama sila sa lahat ng shops na pinuntahan nila. “So, off to our adventure tomorrow!”

“Yes! I’m excited about it. Basta we will take turns in driving, and we rest when we are tired.” Ethan said. Pippa offered to do it herself since she know the road more, but Ethan insisted they take turns as it would be grueling for her if she does all the long driving.

“Opo.” Pippa said, pinching Ethan’s cheek affectionately.” Sure ka ba na okay ka lang mag-drive?”

“Yes, I’ll be fine. Nahihirapan lang ako dito sa Manila, pero I’ll be okay paglabas natin ng Manila.” Ethan assured Pippa. “Besides, it will really be too tiring for you kung ikaw lang ang magmamaneho all throughout.”

The night before they discussed whether they will just drive or take the buses or a plane to the places they would like to see. They both agreed that it would be more fun and they have more time to see places off the beaten track and stumble upon interesting stuffs if they drive themselves. Besides they have more control of their schedule, that way.

Pippa and Ethan spent the rest of the day going around the mall, buying the third book in the Ken Follett’s trilogy than Ethan had been wanting in the process, and having dinner at one of the garden restaurants in it before heading home. Ally texted while they were having dinner, informing them that she and Melissa arrived safely in Davao and on their way to Melissa’s home. They went to bed early as they will leave for their trip early the following day.

For the initial leg of their trip, along the main highways, it was Ethan who drove. They switched places in La Union. Pippa drove until they reached Vigan, the first full stop of their road trip, ten hours after.

“So, what would you like to do first, eat an early dinner or check in to our hotel?” Pippa asked.

“Let’s go check in first. Base dito sa description ng hotel na napili natin, there is a place beside it that serves good food.” Ethan replied, reading from Pippa’s tablet.

“Okay, let’s do that.” Pippa said, driving on, after checking the direction they got from the hotel’s website.

“Wow, I really like this place!” Ethan said when they stopped at the address indicated in the map, which is that of a Spanish-era house converted into a hotel. “We chose well!”

Pippa looked closely, and she too, likes the place they have picked after checking from a travel website various reviews of places where they could stay while in Vigan. They checked in after asking the nice lady at the reception where they could park Pippa’s car for the duration of their stay in Vigan. Both Pippa and Ethan decided that they will take the local modes of transportation in exploring Vigan, and the car is just for long distance traveling.

That evening, after taking turns in the shower, Pippa and Ethan walked hand in hand towards the restaurant they were directed to by the nice lady at the reception. They had a wonderful dinner, ordering mostly Ilocano cuisine. Afterwards, hands intertwined, they took a stroll to the softly lit and beautiful Calle Criosologo and marveled at the beautiful Spanish-era houses there.

“This is just so perfect.” Ethan softy remarked, stopping in the middle of the nearly deserted street, and cupping Pippa’s face. “You, me, in this very lovely place! There is nowhere else I want to be, than here with you. I love you, Pippa.”

Cupping Ethan’s face too, Pippa whispered. “And there is nowhere else I want to be too, than here with you. I love you very much too, Ethan. I’m so lucky to have found you, so unexpectedly.”

The two of them gazed at each other lovingly, and then amid the beautiful old houses of a bygone era, they shared a tender kiss. They return to their hotel with arms around each other, their hearts overflowing with love and happiness.


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Unexpected Love – Chapter 17

Chapter 17

“Pippa darling, is everything okay?” Ethan asked as he saw Pippa staring into space, and heard her sighing in between drinking from the cup of coffee in front of her and tapping her fingers on the table absent-mindedly. She was seated in a corner table in the cafe where they agreed to meet that afternoon. He was supposed to surprise her with a kiss while covering her eyes, as he slowly crept towards her, but heard her sighing instead, and she seemed to be lost in thought.

Pippa and Ethan agreed to meet at that cafe in Bonifacio High Street after his visit to Werner’s office. Ethan was surprised when Pippa texted him more than an hour ago to tell him that she can pick him up and meet him for coffee if he finishes early. It was just a little after 3PM. He thought she would still be very busy at work since they will leave for the Palawan trip the following day. They only agreed that morning that she will pick him up from Werner’s late office in the afternoon if she can make it. If not, then Ethan will just take a cab home. Pippa had earlier insisted that she can pick him up, but Ethan told her to take care of her work first. He assured her he can managed. Pippa just gave him a spare key to her condo.

“Hi, Ethan!” Pippa said, smiling, happy to see him, then she stood up and gave Ethan a kiss on the cheek. “Please have a seat, honey. What would you like, frappe, cappuccino, tea? I ordered mine na since I arrived a bit earlier than our agreed time.”

“Oh, kanina ka pa pala! You should have sent me an SMS so I could have been here earlier.” Ethan said as he took a seat. Then he took hold of Pippa’s hand. “Is something wrong? Tell me please.”

“I guess I’m just frustrated, tired and a bit stressed out, Ethan. The show that I cut short my vacation for, and what I have been working on hard, will be put to the back burner indefinitely. The management has a change of plans again in the final line up of our new programs. No more magazine program for now! That also means no trip to Palawan tomorrow. My production team is a bit sad, but what can we do!” Pippa explained as she unconsciously moved her hand over Ethan’s. “This thing happens, pero I never thought that the show will be cancelled this late kasi di ba ma-a-advance nga dapat ang airing. Saka kung tutuusin, okay rin naman ang uunahin and ilalagay sa slot na dapat sa magazine show, a program on emergency preparedness. Mas kailangan naman ito sa mga panahong ito, lalo na after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, saka because of the malalakas na bagyo rin in recent years!”

“Oh, darling, I’m so sorry. I know how you have been looking forward to doing this program!” Ethan said, moving closer and putting his ams around Pippa. “So, what are your plans now, career wise and personal? Pwede ka na ulit magbakasyon?”

“For now, rest muna ako, until they green light the magazine program again. In a way, it’s a blessing in disguise din naman. Na-realized ko rin iyan while waiting for you and trying to clear my head with a cup of coffee. Now, I can continue with my much needed vacation. Also, I can also explore what I have been toying in my head before, just try to make a career out of blogging. This way I can control my content and my time. Karamihan naman, online na ngayon and I believe if I have put enough interesting content and promote it on social media, I’ll make a career out of it. For me, para rin naman iyang production work, online nga lang instead of television.” Pippa said, staring off, as if talking to herself, but basically using Ethan as sounding board. “What do you think?”

“I think it is a wonderful idea! I can help you with setting up your site.” Ethan said, liking Pippa’s idea and liking the fact that he can help her make a go of it. “You can do it, darling. You have the writing and production background for it. I can handle the technical stuffs. It is one thing I can do for you.”

“Really, honey, you will? That would be great!” Pippa said, happily. “Thank you, thank you, honey.”

With Ethan supporting her idea, it is not as scary and as unchartered waters, so to speak, as the first time she first entertained the thought of doing it, several months ago. She hesitated on sounding off Martin about it as she knew he would think she would be foolish to leave her network job, and all the benefits for something so completely unknown and untested. Truth to tell, she thinks now that one of her attractions to Martin is her job, and his perception that a lot of perks and influence goes with being a producer! He couldn’t be more wrong. While she can, on a level, Pippa has never tried to use her position for personal gains. It is against her ethics. As for benefits, in actuality, she would be okay too financially, as her father left her and her mom well off. She also got hold of the money he and her mother invested for her when she turned 25 years old. She does not spend much and she is not into designer clothes and bags naman.

“Of course, my darling. Whatever it is that you want to do next, I will support you 101 percent. I love you and that is part of loving each other. As you were there for me as I dealt with the effects of Claudia’s death.” Ethan cupped Pippa’s face and then gave her a quick, sweet kiss. “I’ll just grab myself a cup of coffee too, then we can talk in details about your plans, and our plans since the Palawan trip is off.”

Ethan stood up to go to the counter and Pippa followed him with her gaze, thanking God for giving Ethan to her. Apparently, she was not the only one looking at Ethan. She saw several admiring glances as he walked to the counter, then they looked at her, with something akin to envy. Ah, you don’t know ladies how lucky I really, really am to have this wonderful and beautiful man in my life! If  you know, tataas ang standards niyo sa paghahanap ng boyfriend or sa mga boyfriend or husband ninyo na!

Pippa is glad that Ethan is completely out of the long shadow cast by Claudia’s death and that they can move forward together. Yesterday morning, she was woken up by Ethan’s kisses. When she opened her eyes, she saw him looking at her with a big smile lighting up his whole face.

“Good morning, my darling!” Ethan said lovingly, caressing her face thoroughly, and lovingly. “Thank you very much for taking care of me, last night.”

“Good morning, Ethan!” Pippa said sleepily. “How are you, honey?”

“I’m very good, I slept well and I felt way, way much lighter. In fact, I just felt so very happy. Reading that diary liberated me, and you with me last night, made me feel so wonderfully so. I’m so lucky to have found you.” Ethan said. “I love you very, very much, Pippa.”

“I love you very, very much, too Ethan.” Pippa whispered softly. “I’m so glad you are okay now. If you want we can go to church later, diyan lang sa kabilang village and offer a prayer for Claudia and your baby.”

“Yes, we can do that Pippa. Thank you very much. You are the sweetest girlfriend and I’m a very, very lucky guy. I will not get tired of saying that to you.”

“Ethan honey, I will not get tired of hearing it. I’m a lucky girl too.” Pippa said, giving her boyfriend a loving smile.

Pippa and Ethan gazed at each other. The gaze turned into a heated look. Something was ignited between them. Ethan lowered his face to Pippa’s, capturing her lips in a searing kiss that went on forever. Pippa returned the kiss, with equal fervour. Both of them wanting more. They started caressing each other heatedly. Pippa felt like Ethan was branding her with his heated touch. From her lips, his questing mouth moved to her nape, then the valley between her breasts, and then his lips replaced the hand that had been wreaking havoc on her breasts through the thin material of her sleeping shirt. She felt like she was going crazy with want, craving for more and more of Ethan’s touch. She knew where what they have been doing would lead and she was ready for it. The time was right for her and Ethan to take their love for each other to another level. She was not afraid to do so. With Ethan, she was very much willing to cross the point of no return, with the two of them united body and soul.

“Pippa…Pippa…!” Ethan said softly.  “Earth to Pip, my darling!” He said with a quick kiss on her opened lips.

“Oh…!” Pippa then realised where she was and what she was reliving at that moment! She blushed profusely, flustered, she gave Ethan a shy smile. “Sorry, I was so lost in my thoughts.”

“It must be very nice thoughts, darling! I have been calling your attention for a while.” Ethan said, then he grinned naughtily, seeing the blush on Pippa’s oh so transparent face. “Hmmm, parang I know na what you were thinking. I have been thinking of that too, darling on my way here. Pati the whole day kahapon!” He confessed, as even if they would like to, they were unable to continue with that last night.


“Yes, really, really!” Ethan said, grinning and teasing. “And when you are ready and when we finally get to make love, darling, I’ll make sure there will be no more interruptions. Maybe, we can go to an island where it would just be us there! No sister to interrupt us!”

“Hahahaha, Ally was not intending to naman, Ethan. She was being very quiet nga. Next time, maybe I should just buy plastic glasses and cups, hahahaha!” Then Pippa looked at Ethan. “But you know, if we were not interrupted, we would have, you know, done it.” She admitted, blushing.

“Really, darling! You were okay with it?” Ethan asked, gazing at Pippa, lovingly and with a hint of desire in his eyes.

“Yes. With you, I’m sure.” Pippa confessed.

“Darling, thank you.” Ethan said, with a wealth of emotion in his reply. He felt overwhelmed with Pippa’s trust in him. His throat constricted. “Next time, let’s make sure, no interruptions. You know buying plactic cups and glasses is not a bad idea.” He added, grinning happily.

The two of them shared a meaningful look, grinning, remembering their interrupted moment.

Their passionate moment was actually interrupted by a sound of breaking glasses. Not because they were trying to rein in their passion for each other. It was so loud that it sent Pippa and Ethan out of the room fast, without even checking their appearances, thinking that something had happened to Ally. Yes, something had happened. Ally broke the glasses and the cups she was holding in her hand. She was trying to be quiet, so as not to disturb them. She thought they were still sleeping. However, she slipped on a wet patch near the sink, with the glasses  and cups she was trying to put in the dish cabinet! Pippa left those by the sink  to dry when Ethan and her went to bed the night before.

She apologized profusely for breaking the glasses and the cups, and said sorry anew, when she saw the state her brother and Pippa were in. It was obvious that she interrupted more than just their sleep! Pippa blushed, felt shy all of a sudden. Ethan hugged him to her and whispered to her that it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Later that day, Ally, a straightforward person like her brother, assured Pippa that she does not have anything to be embarrassed about, as she and Ethan are both consenting adults and it is quite normal where she had grown up.

“So, what would like to write about?” Ethan asked while he takes a sip of his cappuccino, holding Pippa’s hand.

“Hmmmm, anything that is interesting. People, places, things, gadgets, fashion, information, and human interests stuffs. Something that people would be interested in, along the lines of the magazine show I would have produced for the station. I can also incorporate short vids, together with tons of photos. Something short and snappy, pero very informative din. I’ll show you some of my ideas when we get home. They are stored in my MacBook.” Pippa said, her face lighting up as she talked about her project. “Matagal ko na kasi itong gustong gawin, pero walang courage kasi nga ang dami namang bloggers ngayon  na magagaling and anyone can create a blog. Also, wala rin akong time before to do this and give this project most of my time.”

“Okay, we can do that this evening.” Ethan said. “I’m sure you will like doing this, and you will be a success on it, darling. You have produced successful shows and it is just a matter of translating it into the cyber world. Your face lit it when you speak of this. You have the talent and the guts to finally do it. I believe in you, Pip. You can do this.I’ll be here for you.”

“Thank you again, Ethan.” Pippa pressed Ethan’s hand. “Kumusta pala ang lakad mo sa office ni Werner?”

“It was okay. I will start middle of next month. Their office is nice, with big glass windows and a pool table inside. Very laid back. Pero I don’t have to go there naman everyday kasi most of the work, I can do anywhere as long as I have a fast internet connection.” Ethan said. “So, everything is looking good.”

“Middle of next month? Then you have several weeks free pa?” Pippa said matter of factly. She had been thinking of asking if Ethan would like to travel with her part of that when he verbalized what she had been thinking.

“Yes, which is great since I would like to spend more time with you, you know just being laid back and enjoying each other’s company. Now that you are not working on a program at the moment, maybe we can explore the country together. As many places as we could in one go, leisurely.” Ethan said, then asked, “What do you think, Pippa?”

Pippa grinned at Ethan. ”I was going to ask you that, naunahan mo lang ako! That would be great! Tapos I can also write about the places we will go and see, interview people, looking for something interesting to write, that sort of thing!”

“I like it, very much. So. where do we start and when?” Ethan asked, getting very excited about the whole thing, and looking forward to seeing places with Pippa.

“Well since hindi na nga tuloy iyong Palawan trip, we don’t have to start there. We can do it at some point. How about we travel North muna, then pababa to South, then to Visayas, and Mindanao? Kahit hindi naman in one go. Basta ang importante we got to enjoy the places din. We can travel naman another time, since flexible rin ang time mo sa bago mong work. I can also think about whether I will stay pa with my job or go full blast, doing the blog. That way, I can also think about my options while we are traveling. But wait, how about Ally, baka may gusto siyang specific places na puntahan. Gaano katagal ba siya dito. Let’s ask her this evening. Babalik ba siya sa condo tonight? I forgot to ask her.”

“Yes, she will be. She said Cousin Melissa will take her home around 7PM or so mamaya.” Ethan replied. “Pero she hasn’t send an SMS yet about it. Anyway, we can just ask her when we see her, whether this evening or tomorrow. For sure, babalik kaagad iyon kasi di ba, she does not know yet na hindi tayo matutuloy sa Palawan.”

When they got home the day before from eating lunch, shopping and watching a movie from the nearby mall, Ally went online to check on her Facebook page and found a message from hers and Ethan’s cousin Melissa who it turned out is in Manila. She attended a seminar at her company’s corporate headquarters in Makati, but opted to delay her return to Davao to do some shopping and take a short vacation. Ethan was planning to call her and his Tita Miriam at some point, just to say hello, but as he was still hurting from what happened, he opted to keep a low profile first. Melissa saw Ally’s post that she is in Manila. As they have not seen each other for four years, the last time was when Melissa was in London, she had asked Ally if she would like meet with her as her flight to Davao is on Wednesday pa.

Pippa, Ethan and Ally stayed at home, Sunday evening. Pippa and Ally cooked, while Ethan made the salad, a task he told the ladies, he can’t fail in doing. After dinner, Pippa had stomach cramps, something that she experience from time to time because of her period. Ethan asked her to lay down early to ease the pain. He also bought her medicine from the nearby pharmacy, and made a hot compress for her. They had an early night, watching the first of The Hobbit movies.

That Monday morning, they left Pippa’s condo at past 8 o’clock in the morning to start their long journey to Makati. It took them more than an hour to go there from Quezon City. They dropped off Ally at Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall. Melissa was already at the cafe where they agreed to meet. The three cousins chatted for a bit and Pippa got introduced also as Ethan’s girlfriend. Pippa dropped off Ethan at Werner’s building and then return to Quezon City for her meeting with her production manager, and the rest happened. She felt so tired after the meeting. She texted Ethan and they agreed to meet at BGC.

“So, would like to go back to Quezon City now or just walk around and have dinner here?” Pippa asked Ethan.

“Home please! I prefer your condo than being in a crowd. We can just pick up food on the way home. Di ba, sabi mo there is a new restaurant near your place that has masarap food?” Ethan said.

“Yes! The place has the most mouth-watering baby back ribs, and pasta with shrimps!” Pippa replied. “Are those food okay with you and Ally? We can also order pizza and burgers there. They have several kinds, or we can order their special rice. ”

“Sounds good to me. I’m sure Ally will like those too.” Ethan smiled. “Come, let’s go home.”

Hand and hand, they walked out of the cafe, to where Pippa parked her car. Pippa felt happier and lighter. She gave Ethan a loving look, and he did the same. Both of them are looking forward to their trip.

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Unexpected Love – Chapter 13

Chapter 13

The place was packed, that evening being a Friday, as Pippa and Ethan, hands intertwined navigated the throng of people in the dimly lit inside of a popular watering hole in the rooftop of a building in Bonifacio Global City after their very nice dinner in Teacher’s Village in Quezon City.

Ethan loved the Asian fusion cuisine at the restaurant they have been to. They traveled to BGC from there to meet Ethan’s friend Werner. Pippa and Ethan agreed earlier to have a night out, so when Werner called and invited Ethan to meet him that night, he said yes and asked if he could bring Pippa too. Werner said yes and they agreed to meet at this bar in BGC.

“Ethan, someone is waving at you from the corner table.” Pippa told Ethan as her eyes caught sight of a tall guy wearing glasses, calling Ethan’s attention by briskly waving at him.

Ethan looked at the direction Pippa was pointing at, and saw Werner. He was with another guy. “That’s him! Come Pip. You will like him, promise. He is a very affable guy. That’s why we hit off, bat on the first time. We actually met at the bar at the resort. He was chatting with your cousin Belle.”

Several minutes after, and after sidestepping people who had a bit of drinks already, they reached Werner’s table.

“Mate, good to see you!” Werner said with a big smile, then looked at Pippa. “Hello, there! You must be Pippa. I’m Werner, and this is Colin!” Werner shook Pippa’s hand, and Colin, another foreigner, did the same, first with Pippa and then with Ethan.

“Hi Werner, Colin, please to meet you. Yes, I’m Pippa Montenegro, a friend of Ethan’s.” Pippa said, offering a friendly smile to Werner and Colin.

“Ethan, Colin is my partner in the software development company I have put up here.” Werner explained. “I invited him over so you two can meet each other at least, this evening. By the way, Pippa, I hope it is okay if we talk shop a bit.”

“Yes, it’s perfectly okay, Werner. That is, if it is okay that I’m here too.” Pippa said.

“Sure, sure no worries.” Werner replied. “Sorry, please have a  sit.”

Ethan pulled the chair for Pippa, then took the seat beside her. “What would you like, Pip? Tanduay Ice or something else? Beer?”

“I would like Tanduay Ice, please.” Pippa replied. “Thank you, Ethan.”

Ethan signalled to the waiter. He ordered a SanMig Light for him and Pippa’s Tanduay.

“Werner, Pippa, Ethan, please excuse me. I’ll say good night then and nice meeting you two. I’m looking forward to working with you, Ethan.” Colin said. “I’m meeting my girlfriend and she just sent me an SMS. Have a nice evening!”

The three of them said goodbye to Colin.

“So Ethan, you have decided to stay in the Philippines after all!” Werner asked, sipping his beer. “I’m glad. We need a software developer with an expertise such as yours. I’m happy you changed your mind. You were not so keen the first time I mentioned the job to you.”

“No, but that was then. I had a changed of mind, recently. I do have a very compelling reason for wanting to stay in the Philippines for good, aside from the fact that I like it here.” Ethan said cryptically, looking at Pippa intently, which made her blush.

“Oh! That’s the way it is, eh!” Werner said with a teasing voice.

Ethan just grinned and Pippa smiled shyly.

“Do you also live in Mindoro, Pippa? I didn’t see you when I stayed at the wonderful beach resort near Ethan’s place.” Werner remarked.

“Sort of. My family owns the resort where you stayed. I’m glad you had a nice stay.” Pippa said with a smile. “But I live in Quezon City, where I work.”

“I’m staying with Pippa actually. She is my mom’s friend’s daughter, and my very special friend.” Ethan added, gazing at Pippa meaningfully. The two of them smiled at each other before looking at Werner again.

“I love your place! One of these days I will go back there. I also met your  beautiful, charming and very nice cousin Belle. How is she?” Werner added with a smile. Pippa detected something from Werner’s voice, the way he said her cousin’s name, parang iba.

“Oh, she is doing great. Quite busy as we have a lot of guests these days, being the tourists season.” Pippa replied.

The drinks Ethan ordered arrived then. The three of them continued chatting about Mindoro and other vacation places they have been. Then the talk shifted to the job Werner wanted Ethan to do for him. They talked shop while Pippa listened on, drinking her Tanduay Ice. She limited herself to one bottle of Tanduay Ice, though, as she will be driving later on.

When they were finished discussing technical stuffs, the conversation shifted to Pippa’s job. Werner had a lot of questions. He was fascinated with her job. Sometimes, Ethan will answer for Pippa and Werner noticed the way they picked up each other’s thoughts. It didn’t escape his notice too, the way Ethan looks at Pippa. His mate is in love! But it looks like Pippa was the same.  If not for Pippa introducing herself as Ethan’s friend, he would have assumed that they are in a relationship already. Well, the two of them are obviously on their way there.

Unbeknown to the three of them, Martin was also at the same bar, with Cassie. At first he wanted to approach Pippa when he saw her entered the place, surprised to see her there and the fact that she is back in Manila without him knowing. But then he noticed the good looking foreigner beside her. By the time he was going to approach them, even while Cassie was objecting, he saw them holding hands. He started to feel pissed off and he resented the fact that Pippa, this soon, had replaced him! Or maybe, he was replaced even before they broke up. His suspicious mind, cloudedd by jealousy and liquor, thought. He ignored Cassie who was sulking by then, and ordered one drink after the other.

“So, I will see you on Monday, Ethan to show you around our office.” Werner said as they were winding down the evening. “You are welcome to tag along too, Pippa.”

“Yes, I will be there. But I’m not sure about Pippa! Pip?” Ethan looked inquiringly at Pippa. They only managed to discuss their plans for until Sunday wherein they will pick up Ally from the airport.

“Oh, thanks for the invitation Werner. But I can’t. I’m flying to Palawan for work on Monday.” She told Werner apologetically. “Ethan, it slipped my mind earlier.” Pippa added, suddenly blushing, remembering how they spend the afternoon.

Ethan smiled, remembering their wonderful afternoon too before going to dinner in Teacher’s Village. Werner noticed them exchanging looks again as if they were in a silent communication. Love! He mused. He wished he would find it too. But alas, he was not as lucky as Ethan!

“Okay! It is just you, then Ethan.” Werner said, pulling himself out of his thoughts. “It was nice meeting you Pippa. Say hello to Belle from me. Ethan, until Monday!”

The three of them parted at the ground floor of the building. Ethan and Pippa offered to drop off Werner wherever he is going, but he declined as he will meet Colin and his girlfriend at the coffee shop across the street.

Pippa and Ethan walked hand in hand to the parking lot. Several minutes later, they were driving back to Pippa’s place.

“So, you will go to Palawan on Monday? How many days will you be there?” Ethan asked as they navigated the late Friday night traffic.

“Hmmm, about three days, I think. But after that, I have some free time. I can go see you and Ally in Mindoro.” Pippa started saying, then a better idea entered her head. “Or you and Ally, can come with me! I’ll be working, but the two of you can enjoy the sights and touch base. I will be free during evenings. Tapos, we can extend na lang for several days after we finish our shoot and interview with the celeb who has a house there.”

“That’s a better idea! I haven’t been to Palawan and I have been meaning to see a bit of the place at some point. That way, we can still be together.” Ethan said happily. He felt better, knowing that he and Pippa will have more time to be with each other. “Knowing my sister, she will like the place too.”

“Great then! I can also book you at the place my crew and I will be staying, and in the same flight.” Pippa said.

“Pippa, I’ll pay for it please. No arguments, okay?” Ethan said. He had a feeling that Pippa will treat him and Ally. “It is more than enough that you are letting us stay in your place here in Manila.”

Pippa knows there is no swaying Ethan on this. She was really planning on paying for it as a welcome treat to Ally. “Okay, I will bill you.”

“Thanks, Pippa.” Ethan touched Pippa’s arms. “And I’m looking forward to enjoying Palawan with you.”

“Me too, Ethan.” Pippa smiled. She and Ethan are really into this thing between them know and she feels very happy. The reason she forgot to tell him about the Palawan trip is that they got so caught with each other earlier. They just cuddled on her sofa after that sweet kiss. They have watched a movie and after that, ended up taking a nap together, without intending to, in the sofa while watching their second movie.

Soon after, they have arrived at Pippa’s building. They walked hand in hand towards the elevator, never letting go of each other’s hand as they walked to Pippa’s unit. Pippa was about to open the door, when she heard Martin’s voice from behind. She looked up in surprise.

“Kaya mo pala ako ayaw kausapin, may kapalit na pala ako agad, ha Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes, never-been-touched Pippa Montenegro.” Martin said in a loud, slurred voice. He was obviously very, very drunk.

“Martin! What are you doing here?” Pippa asked surprised. While Ethan moved closer to her, realizing who was the guy who materialised out of nowhere.

“Waiting for you, of course, my dear. Akala mo pa, palalampasin ko ang nakita ko sa bar.” Martin continued. “Ito lang bang mestisong hilaw na ito ang ipapalit mo sa akin? Bibigay ka rin pala, dito pa.” He added insultingly, not knowing that Ethan understood every word he uttered.

“Hey buddy, watch it! Dahan-dahan sa pagsasalita. No gutter language please.” Ethan said calmly, trying to diffuse the situation. “Pippa was not the one was at fault. It was you.”

“Huwag kang makialam dito. I don’t care kung naintindihan mo pala lahat ng sinabi ko. This girl is a cock-tease!” Martin continued crudely. “O baka naman hindi na. Was she good in bed? Kung sa iyo lang naman, mas mapapaligaya ko siya.” Then looking at Pippa sneeringly, he continued his tirade. “Ano bang meron iyang tisoy na iyan, ha Pippa? Halika, kaya ko ring gawin ang mga ginawa niya sa iyo.” He grabbed Pippa by the arm, roughly. Pippa managed to extricate herself fast, but she had a red mark on the arm that Martin grabbed.

With that, Ethan saw red too. He had enough of Martin and his insults and manhandling of Pippa. Before Pippa could react and ask him to ignore what Martin said and did, as it was not worth it, he punched Martin in the face and wherever he could hit him, in rapid succession. “Enough of your gutter language, you two-timing cad!”

It was the provocation Martin seemed to be waiting for. He also threw a punch on Ethan, hitting him on the mouth, then another which hit his left eye, and also his jaw.

Ethan was about to strike back again when he heard Pippa’s plea. “Ethan please, don’t. He is not worth it. Halika na pumasok na tayo. Huwag mo na siyang patulan.”

He looked at Martin one more time, threw a punch that sent him reeling and clutching his stomach, before nodding at Pippa, taking her hand, and going inside her place.

“Pippa darling, I’m sorry for doing that. I don’t like anyone insulting you like that.” Ethan said, unconsciously slipping in a term of endearment for Pippa, while touching her face gently.

“It’s okay, Ethan. Thank you for defending me. I’m over Martin and whatever he says, does not hurt me anymore. I’m thanking the stars for my lucky escape.” Pippa said. “Hayan, nasaktan ka pa tuloy. Halika, gamutin natin. Upo ka na lang muna sa sofa, I will get the first aid kit from the bathroom.”

Pippa returned several minutes after with a basin with lukewarm water, then the first aid kit. She cleaned Ethan’s split lip, gently and tenderly. “Masakit ba. Sandali na lang ito.” She said as she continue pressing a gauze on his lip to absorb the blood trickling from his wound. Pippa also iced it, so is his left eye that was already turning a bit purple, and his hand that bore the brunt of his punches to Martin.

“It is okay, Pippa. Thank you.” Ethan assured Pippa. “Pasensya ka na talaga. Ayoko lang ng binabastos ka like that. Paano pala kung wala ako and lasing siya, tapos nakita ka niya. I don’t want to think about it. I’m glad that I’m here when you saw him again.”

“I agree, Ethan. I didn’t realize that Martin could be like that. I only saw his good side when we were together. Well, not so much in the end. But I’m glad that you are here too when I faced him. Thank you.” Pippa gave Ethan a tight hug.

Ethan hugged Pippa back. “I’ll take care of you and protect you, always, Pippa.” He whispered fervently and lovingly.

“Thank you again, Ethan. Halika na let’s go to sleep. Ready na iyong room mo. Para makapagpahinga  ka na rin. Let me know lang kung kailangan mo ng pain reliever ha.” Pippa said.

“Okay. But I do have one request.” Ethan looked at Pippa intently. “Can we sleep together, as in sleep only, like what we did when I had a nightmare. I just want to be with you.”

Pippa looked at Ethan. She does not want to part with him for the night too. “Okay. Let’s just go to my room, then.”

“Thank you, Pippa. I will be a gentleman, I promise.” Ethan assured Pippa as he does not want her to think that after Martin, he is the one who will try to take advantage of her.

Pippa gave him a sweet, trusting smile. “I know you will be. I trust you, Ethan.”

They walked towards Pippa’s room after getting Ethan’s bag, with their arms around each other’s waist, to settle in for the night.

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