From the rooftop of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Joan and Cole sat in front of a round table, drinking and passing time. Joan practically objected to Cole's conclusion, throwing questions left and right.
“What kind of excuse is that? Too good?” Joan challenged, raising her voice at Cole. She turned to look for the waiter, asking for more alcohol.
Cole shook his head and answered, “It means he did not want to take that risk with you, Joan. You are friends - we are friends -"
“Excuse, me. We aren’t friends. We just… know each other,” Joan corrected, squinting her eyes.
When the waiter came with some chicken pops and another round of drinks for Joan, she started eating while asking for more details.
“Tell me. What is wrong with being a good girl?” Asked Joan as she carelessly chewed on her food and wiped the bread crumbs from her mouth.
“How will he know if I am the one or not if he won’t even try!” She said out loud before taking her alcohol and gulping it down.
Joan noticed how Cole was seriously paying attention to her. His eyes were drawn together as if he was in deep thought. He asked, "Can I ask you one thing. Why him? Why of all the many men in the world? Why it had to be Christopher?"
"Why not me?" He said it in a bantering manner and he abruptly cleared his throat right after.
"You?!" She objected before laughing altogether. "You are just a playboy!"
Joan's eyes may have been playing tricks on her. She swore she saw Cole hurt by her words. She thought, 'Am I already drunk?'
It was possible. Joan was very bad when dealing with liquor. She could get easily drunk with just two glasses of the cocktail.
"Why do I like him? Because he is so handsome and so kind." She nearly sobbed before she told the real score. "It's because he saved me that day when I got bullied at school!"
Cole's eyes narrowed at her words. He could only recall one instance when Joan got bullied at school.
When they were in high school, a group of boys casually played pranks on new students, and back then, Joan was relatively new. The bullies did not know her background and assumed she was one that could easily be coerced.
Three male students purposely put slime on her walk path that she slid down on the floor. Her skirt ended up going up to her waist, and she was utterly covered in white goo.
Other students laughed at her, especially the socialites.
Cole remembered every single detail of that day, for it was he who threw punches at the three students. When he saw Joan lying helplessly on the floor, crying and pulling down her skirt, his blood boiled and he chased after the bullies.
It was the first time he thrust his fists into another person, but he thought it was all worth it. He did it for Joan.
While he took care of those that tormented her, Christopher was the one who put a jacket on Joan, helping her up and bringing her home.
The bullies were expelled, but he also got suspended for several weeks. Even if the Hales were behind his back, the school determined Cold still had to be punished for taking matters into his own hands.
Returning his attention to Joan and with a tinge of nostalgia, he thought in silence, 'So that's the reason? Does she even remember what I went through for her?' He looked down at his hands and said, 'Maybe not. She was too frightened back then.'
"Cole? Are you listening to me? Why do you always ignore me?" Joan asked, her face was already read after drinking another alcohol.
He scoffed and said, "Me? Always ignore you? Are you sure you aren't referring to yourself?"
"You are talking gibberish, Cole!" She declared.
Joan ordered another drink, and it was then that she cried again. She said, "I love him. I really do, Cole. I have always been in love with him. What do I do? Why can't he look my way?"
The sadness in Joan's eyes thrust a knife into Cole's chest. He never liked it when she was sad.
'What am I thinking? I know this already,' he told himself in silence.
“Joan, either way, with the way you carry yourself and how you practically show him how much you are attracted to him, he will always think that you are just there… waiting for him,” said Cole. He finally spoke after some time of contemplating.
“You have to act differently around him. Show him that other men are after you too,” Cole suggested while getting started with the chicken himself.
Wiping the wetness on her face, she said, "But I'm not interested in another man - "
"Well, that's the problem. He knows that," revealed Cole.
"Listen, Joan." He studied her desperate face and said, "If you really love Chris and if you really want to be with him, then I'll help you."
"Help me? How?" She asked, sniffing her sadness away.
"I can teach you the ways to attract a man properly and how to act around him, but all that!" He pointed to her dress and said, "That will have to go away. You need to stop being conservative and if you agree, then you also need to abide by my rules."
"Pfft! I don't need your help!" She said, "He should love me for who I am?"
"You are totally conflicting with yourself. You want help but will not accept any. You are asking what's wrong with you, but you are not accepting my suggestion." With a heavy sigh, he said, "Let's go. I'll take you home."
Cole knew Joan was not being herself that evening. Thus, he meant for her to think it over, sleeping on it. He guided her down to the hotel's parking lot and drove away from the hotel. He no longer returned to the party, for it was also Joan's preference.
Meanwhile, at his grand birthday party, Christopher Hale was not himself.
His eyes were fixed on the table meant to accommodate the Belles. Joan wasn't there, and so was his best friend. He tried calling her repeatedly, but there was no answer.
The rest of the celebration went by to him like a blur. It was as if it did not matter to him.
Looking one last glance at his phone, he asked silently, 'Where are you, Joan?'
On a bright and sunny late morning, someone was still sleeping off the pang in her chest from inside her room.Curled under the sheets, Joan tried her best to think not of the sight of one Shantal Lin being kissed by Christopher.From her bedside table, her phone had been ringing nonstop, buzzing while left on vibrate mode. She had clients today. She knew, but she was not in the mood.Last night, she told her assistant to cancel all her appointments. She gave no valid excuse."Urrgghhh!" She got up in anger. Joan grabbed her phone and answered, "What is it, Gina? I told you to cancel my appointments today!""Miss Joan, I'm very sorry, but a rising singer came in the shot today asking if you can her official stylist! It would be a good chance for you to shine!" Suggested her assistant, Gina. "Not that... you are not shinning. You are already... somewhat famous."After finishing college, Joan had pursued her great
"Joan, are you feeling better?" Joan Belle heard Christopher's voice on the other line.Right after Shantal left, she called him immediately. She had to. She had six missed calls from him last night, and it was not like Christopher to call him so many times.Heck! He rarely called her."Yes, I'm fine now. Thank you for your concern," she said. "I'm sorry, I missed your party. I just - I just wanted to rest it out. Cole brought me home instead. I did not stay in his hotel room."'I could not stand the sight of you being with another woman. I just could not,' she spoke only in her mind while holding the phone up to her ears."I see. That's a relief," Christopher softly said. "I mean, that you are better."Her brows furrowed at his words, but just went on to ask, "Chris, you are dating Shantal Lin?"There was an odd silence on the other line before he said, "Yes. Yes, I am. In fact, I am meeting her today. Would you like to join us
Joan Belle's heart was racing. Again and again, she pursed her lips while sometimes taking deep breaths."This is it, Joan. No turning back," she muttered to herself, seeing the buildings past her line of sight.Following Lina's advice, Joan rushed to the Hale Industries office, wanting to finally let out all her feelings to Christopher.Lina was right. She repeatedly reminded herself.She had loved Christopher for so long, but she never really told him. Even if she was being obvious, she could at least confess to him and get an answer.Yes or No! That was all she had to find out.It was Lina's driver who brought her to Hale Industries and the second she arrived; she asked to speak to their new CEO.Being a family friend of the Hales has its advantages. Joan was immediately directed to the CEO's office.Christopher's assistant was not there, but one other secretary recognized Joan
"Coming to you live at Park Central Los Angeles, this is ANN Afternoon with Carie, and today, we have a special guest!" Announced the show's host, Carie Umber.The forty-year-old host pushed her hair back, giving a sly smile in front of the crowd. "Guess who it is?"Screams could be heard from the audience. They came for the special episode of the famous afternoon talk show."Ahhh! I love you, Cole!""Cole Adams!""Cole Adams!""Cole is the best!""Cole is so fucking sexy!""Calm down, girls! Calm down! Geez!" The host called the ladies' attention while grinning widely at the crowd. "I'll have him first before you do!""Ahhhh!""No! No, Carie! He is mine!"Clearly, the screams from the surrounding ladies outroared the teasing of Carie Umber. She could not help but chuckle at their reactions.It was challenging to tame the surrounding excitement, but with the help of the production c
"Come on, answer me! Cole! Where the heck are you?!" Joan was wailing from inside the taxi while holding up her phone. They had been going around in circles, without any specific direction.She had been texting and calling Cole for the past ten minutes, but to no avail."Miss? Where are we headed?" The driver asked, looking at her from the rearview mirror."Please, can you go around the block again? I'm still waiting for my friend to reply," she told with her eyes watering and her lips trembling."Are you okay, miss?" The driver asked, worried for her state.Joan had been weeping the second she got in the car. Her earlier plan to confess to Christopher was a total fail. Worst, she heard him doing it with Shantal Lin!"I'm fine. Thank you. Please, just - just go around the block a few more times. I'll pay for every minute that I use up, anyway," she pleaded.A minute later, she finally received a rep
"What did you just do?" Monica Wells, Cole's manager, asked. "You practically hinted that you have a woman on the side, carrying her like a princess! Couldn't you just have waited until the crowd had dispersed?"Cole massaged the bridge of his nose before shaking his head. He said, "I couldn't. She looked so sad and in despair - ""I get that, but you might ruin your career because of this and all for what?" Monica let out a heavy sigh and said, "Anyway, we'll stick to the story of your friend being in need of help. You just need to be consistent with the interviews, okay?"Cole nodded before running his hand against his hair."I'll have your car brought around the back of the tent for your convenience. Take her home and deal with whatever is her issue," said Monica before taking a leave.The two were in a serious conversation behind the show's temporary set. A tent was set up, meant as a changing area, and it was there where Cole hid J
"So what is this appointment you are going to?" Joan asked after hopping on to Cole's car."Meeting with the California Yacht Club president. They are planning to re-market the club and Monica wants me to be the next model for their upcoming ads," said Cole while turning on the ignition of his Jaguar."It's going to be a party that we will attend to so, get ready to flaunt your assets," he said with his usual killer grin.It was no wonder he had a stylist work on her attire. Joan was wearing new shoes, on top of her new dress, and had put on light makeup for his appointment. He was also dressed up for the part.Seeing the reluctancy on her face, Cole asked, "What? No backing out now. I just spent thousands of dollars on you today."She rolled her eyes and said, "Fine. I don't want to go home, anyway."For a second, she took a peek inside her purse and saw that her phone's battery had died. She sighed, thinking it was
"Joan, dear. What are you thinking?" Her mother, Jessica Belle, asked as they were having lunch at the Cafe Teragram.After attending a morning service nearby, they went straight for lunch."Nothing, mom," Joan said and decided to start with her salad.She was still in deep thought about what Cole suggested. He told her that getting the contract with the Yacht Club would be a way for her to catch Christopher's attention, but right now, she wasn't sure what she wanted.Joan hasn't gotten back to Cole for two days.Just as she was in deep thought, another prominent family arrived at the Cafe and Alexander Belle, Joan's father, easily invited them to their table.They had used up an entire ten-seater long table, just the way her mother always liked it.When she looked up to find out who it was, she paled. It was the Hales. Worst, the singer starlet was with them!"Oh, Jessica, it's good to