Chapter 3: Earn it

ARA can never be more stupefied in her entire life. Opening the door and being surprised with one familiar and one unfamiliar face. And it's the familiar face she's afraid of.

Smiling and handsome, no doubt Russian, the unfamiliar faced one first spoke, "Hi! I'm Danil," he offered his hand for a shake.

Her eyes didn't left Danil's smile. She turns her focus on the man she will never ever forget. His face is in pokerface mode. "What are you doing here? Why are you here?!" She squealed in whispers.

Before either man can answer her father and mother are already at her back.

"Ara, sino sila?" her father asked in their own Filipino language.

(Ara, who are they?)

"Mga foreigner ba ang mga ito?" followed by a comment by her mother.

(Are these foreigners?)

Ara's flushed face didn't know what excuse to come up with. Vanluke knew she wasn't used to lying for herself. She can easily say they were stalkers. Or people who forced her to be acquainted with them. Yet she chose to keep her mouth shut not to be scolded but to let them give the explanation on behalf of her.

Vanluke cleared his throat. "Hello, my name is Vanluke Kromatova. I'm here to ask for your daughter's hand."

How Ara wished she lied instead. Her eyes rounded. Her parents' eyes narrowed.

"I'm Vanluke's cousin, Danil Kromatova," Danil introduced himself cheerfully.

Ara couldn't believe what's happening. Her parents invited the two men in. She thought her mother and father would interrogate them and protect her from any harm they might have been planning. How utterly she was when after a few exchange of words all four of them are laughing at each other's jokes.

Vanluke, who Ara just known to be his name, told her father that he's from Russia taking months long stay here in Philippines for a business. A multi-purpose corporation that has a lot of investments in almost everything. Danil is part of the executives that's why they're together. He made her parents believe that they met in the nightclub in a dramatic way such as bumping into each other in the restroom to rescue her in the hands of a group of perverts. Wait, the story doesn't end there, he made it believable that she was adoringly kind based on his first impressions so they had a date just a few days before and he damn realized that he wanted her for a wife. With pure intentions!

"Mr. Kromatov--ah, no--Vanluke," Ara's father, Kristofer Villanueva, says, "My wife and I have no problems if you'd like our daughter's hand for marriage. I will trust you that you will take good care of her. But it is her decision to accept you or not."

Emily Villanueva, Ara's mother had a say too, "Just make sure that she will never come to us because of anything," her doubt is clearly written all over her face but respects her daughter's decision as her husband perceives it.

It is just right that Ara has the final say in the conversation. So she does reveal her thoughts. One eyebrow up in suspicion and distrust she said, "I refuse. I don't want a European husband. I want an Asian." She gathered all the courage to be tough in front of two different parties. Both are dangerous when angered. "Please, leave. We are already over, Vanluke," she pressed every word in the last sentence.

"OH, my gosh, and then what happened?" Erikka is thrilled to know the events after Vanluke and Danil come to their home and lie about having Ara's hand in marriage.

Ara rolled her eyes in frustration. "They humbly left and announced they'll be back for gifts when their schedules permits them. You know what? I don't believe any of their damn business!" She tried her best to lower her voice next to Erikka's ear. They're in a famous coffee café where everybody seems to take a picture of their orders before actually consuming it. Including her best friend who loves to take a lot of pictures when chance has given her the opportunity.

Erikka squealed quietly. She's romanticizing the fact that Ara had been with dangerous people and that her family might be in big trouble. "Oh, gosh, Ara! Don't you know it's every girl's dream to be chosen by a hot, mysterious, dangerous tall guy?"

"Erikka, I'm not taking the chance to make my dream come true. Yes, I would love to tame a beast, but I don't know him at all! He could be a hired killer, or a drug trafficker! Why else will foreigners like them wander at night sliced and stabbed?"

"Oh, come on! We don't know that for sure yet. Give it a try!"

"Where did your brain go? Are you stupid? What if I get human trafficked? What are you going to do about it?"

Erikka pout. "I'm kidding, don't be so serious!" She hugged Ara tight. "I love you and I want what's safe, best, for you. Cheer up, girl. Save every authority number you can find in our locality. Put them on the emergency dial in case something comes up."

That's the best advice she received. And what she did before they split up. Erikka still has work at one o'clock in the afternoon as a public attorney's assistant. While she decided to stroll the mall more since it's her day off from the veterinary clinic. After that she went to the parking lot to take a shortcut towards the terminal where she may commute back home.

There was no one there except empty cars. At least that's what she thought. While busy putting the local police number on the emergency dial in her phone two men in three-piece black suits appear behind her. One took her phone away from her hand so as her cheap shoulder bag. The other one forced her into a black car. The two men sat on each side of her, guarding the doors. There is another man in the driver's seat. Fear taking over her mind went crazy for instance. She wanted to leave the suffocating car as soon as possible. She thrashed trying to get to the door.

"Miss Ara, we don't want to hurt you. Please calm down," the man from her left said, which was the one to force her inside this damn car.

"Calm down? Calm the hell down?! You people grabbed me out of nowhere! Are you expecting me to cooperate after that?! And how do you know my name?! Who sent you?!" She screams.

"Sir Vanluke sent us to get you. He has something important to say to you."

"Vanluke? Hell, no!" This is what she's talking about. She was right all along that that Russian guy is a danger for her life. "If you're going to kill me, do it now! I don't want to see his damn face!"

"Forgive us, Miss Ara. We cannot do that."

Ara realized their thick Russian accent is not just for authorization it's also for reminding her that they're not people to trust. They will not listen to whatever she says.

"Let me go! I don't want to go with you! This is kidnapping!"

"We're merely collecting you for Sir. We mean you no harm so please wait until we reach the hotel."

They arrived at the said hotel in half an hour. Vanluke welcomes her with a big fake smile. "We meet again, Ara."

She shoved the men holding her arms. She glared at them before glaring at their boss. "What do you want from me?" If he wants something they should talk about it right now. She knew coming to her home had something to do with his evil intentions.

"Please have a seat," he gestured to the arranged dinner table in the middle of the luxurious room.

She narrowed her eyes towards the prepared empty wine glass and unopened wine bottle.

Vanluke guessed right, "It's roofied if that's what you're worried about."

"I want to go home," she said clearly. Her hands turn into fists.

"We have so much to talk about. Why don't you sit down first?"

"There's nothing to talk about. Why are you doing this? What did I do wrong?"

Vanluke's smile faded. Turning serious. "Leave us," he ordered his men who were out wasting no second. He pulled her to a chair. "Come sit."

With no choice she did.

He pulled himself a chair opposite of her. "You must be wondering why you're here. Well, it's because of the marriage."

"It's not really a marriage is it?"

"The opposite."


"It's a real marriage."

"Are you out of your mind?"

"I will give you everything you need."

"Like what?"

"Everything money can buy."

Ara laughs in a sarcastic way. "Unbelievable. Does that mean money can buy you?"

Vanluke's forehead knot. "What?"

"Can money buy you, Vanluke?" She challenges him.

Vanluke got over her sarcasm quickly. He smirks. "Baby, I'm the money."

She gave him a grimace expression. "No. I don't want you. Nor do I want your money. I can earn my money fine."

"That's very notable." He leaned forward with elbows above the white table. "I like that you're not attracted to money. You just made me more interested in you."

"Oh, please, do me a favor and be very uninterested in me."

"I will give you everything, Ara. If it is not money that you want, I will give you myself. All of it."

"The very least thing I would ever believe.I can feel you're not the type to stay in a commitment, much less marriage."

"What if I tell you I am already committing myself to you?"

"I doubt it. A hundred percent."

"That's more like it." He chuckles, showing his beautiful white set of teeth. "I'm confident now that you will be my wife."

"No, thank you. I'd like to go now."

"Let's get to know each other more. Give us a chance."

"You know, it doesn't really suit you to be all sweet. You're better off as a cassanova." She stood up. "I'll be taking my leave."

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