"Kate, coach is taking me to a junior tennis tournament tomorrow. It's sponsored by the school. Do you want to come with me?" Carlos walked into Kate's room while she was trying on a new dress. He whistled at the sight of her, and he flushed, knowing what the dress was for. "Is that for the year-end dance?"
Kate and Carlos were still eighteen at the end of their high school days. They had always gone out together for the year-end school dance as friends throughout high school. Carlos was Kate's male best friend, and she also had a girl best friend named Lyla.
Carlos was sixteen years old when he became part of the Wright family. This happened after his father and mother died. Because of his father's debts, Manuel Ronaldo's house was sold to the highest bidder. Social service was supposed to take Carlos’ custody, but Kate's parents opened their home for him.
The Wright family was not a stranger to Carlos. After all, they were neighbors. Carlos' old home was three blocks away from the Wrights. Kate and her siblings had been friends with Carlos since they were kids.
Hearing Carlos ask about the dance, Kate bit her lip, and her eyes tightened. She awkwardly replied, "Carlos, about the dance -"
Before Kate could resume, Carlos' eyes landed on the new bracelet around her wrist. He asked, "You bought another jade?"
Kate gulped. She looked down at her beaded bracelet and reluctantly replied to Carlos, "This - this was a gift from Tyler."
Noticing how Carlos fell silent, Kate reminded him, "You know I like jades. I can never say no to Tyler!"
"By the way, he asked me to the year-end dance and." She pursed her lips before admitting, "I said yes." With a shrug, she added, "For a change? We will still go home together."
She tried her best to be careful with her words. When they were seventeen, Carlos had admitted to Kate how he liked her. However, to Kate, she saw him as her best friend and nothing more.
Kate saw how Carlos gulped. His chest heaved, and he folded his arms across his chest. Carlos looked down, appearing to be hurt by her decision. Stuttering, he said, "You've always liked Tyler… You like him because he ranked number two in junior tennis tournaments."
"Hey, you introduced me to him at your practices," Kate said, trying to put the blame on him. "And you would have won tournaments if you had gone to them."
"I don't have the money, Kate. It's not like they pay for the plane tickets or the hotel stay for the tournaments," Carlos reminded her. "The school only sponsored nearby matches."
"Dad can help you -"
"Uncle Ethan has done enough for me. He let me stay here, and he paid for my tuition. I don't want to bother him with my tennis," Carlos cut her off.
"I can talk to dad, and I'm sure -"
"No, don't, Kate. Don't," Carlos replied weakly. "I'll… I'll find my own way."
An awkward silence stretched between them, but soon Carlos asked, "Kate, will you ever… see me more than just a friend?"
Kate felt goosebumps all over. She earnestly cared for Carlos, but she did not know the answer to that. Kate loved being around Carlos. She loved him as a friend. He made her smile and was her constant companion from school to home. Kate felt attached to Carlos, but she did not feel that spark, that tingle in her stomach when their hands touched.
She found herself attracted to Tyler, Carlos' tennis rival at school. Tyler had the looks. He had a well-defined body. He was tall and with dirty-blond hair. Plus, he was really charming and confident.
To Kate, Carlos was just Carlos. He was not a charmer. Carlos did not talk to others the way he did with Kate. He did not dress to impress, and he followed a strict routine. He went to school, to tennis practice, and then he went home. Carlos rarely socialized, and this was because he would instead serve his uncle Ethan and aunt Samantha with whatever they needed at home.
To Kate, Carlos was one of her best friends, and she did not see anything more to it.
It was because Kate did not reply that Carlos answered for her. He said, "Your silence says it all - "
"It's okay, Kate. I understand." He turned away without saying more.
In the days that followed, Kate noticed how Carlos avoided her. Once, she saw him speaking with Hailey Mckenzie and her father at school, but when Kate asked about it, he suggested it was nothing.
On the day of the school dance, Kate was expecting him to come with her to school. They spoke in the living room when he snorted and replied, "I will not be your third wheel, Kate. Anyway, Kaleb will be there. Enjoy the dance."
Kate thought her best friend was still upset, but as soon as she turned her heel to the mansion's doorway, he felt Carlos embrace her. The hug was tight and warm. Something in his hold made Kate's heart skip a beat.
Carlos said, "Take care, Kate. I want you to be happy, always. Goodbye."
In the end, Kate attended the dance with Tyler but did not enjoy his company. His jokes weren't amusing, and just when she thought she could relate to Tyler more, he was so arrogant that she became irritated by his presence.
When Kate returned to the mansion, Carlos was gone. Since he was already eighteen, he was free to leave without the consent of Ethan and Samantha. He merely left a note, saying he wanted to pursue his career in tennis. He thanked the Wright family for their love and support. Carlos promised one day to return the favor.
Days later, Kate and her parents found out that Carlos left with the Mckenzies that same night at the dance. They fled to another state where he would train to be a professional tennis player.
At first, Kate was just angry, and her entire family was, but soon, Carlos' absence became so felt that Kate acknowledged how she missed him. The pain kicked in, and Kate went in and out of a state of woe. She regretted losing her best friend.
Over time, Kate conceded how much she felt for him and that perhaps her constant need for Carlos' presence was not merely because of friendship but love. Sadly, her realization arrived too late.
*** END OF FLASHBACK: Back To Present ***
After narrating it all to her parents, Kate sniffed her tears away. She softly said, "He loved me."
"We knew," her parents expressed in unison.
"We all knew, sweetie," Samantha stated while embracing Kate. "You also loved Carlos, but you were too young to recognize it."
"You thought so?" Kate asked, leaning back.
"Tell me, Kate. How can we correct this?" Kate's father spoke. He suggested, "I can rig his next match to catch his attention. I can have him kidnapped if you want to."
Kate's mouth fell open. She chuckled as she replied, "No, dad. Don't. That's terrible."
She took a deep breath and told them about her recent trip to the big apple. In the end, she said, "I think he is happy now." She rolled her eyes at the mention of the name. "With Hailey Mckenzie."
"After that trip to New York, I have decided to let it go," Kate said. "I'm done. After nine years, I am done."
Samantha embraced her tighter. Her mother suggested, "Don't worry, sweetie. There is a reason for everything. You'll find your one true love soon. When the time comes, we will just laugh about this part of your past."
At that moment, Kate told her father about her plans to leave the company. Ethan and Kate had a back-and-forth exchange, but she insisted on what she wanted in the end. Kate argued, "I need this. I need this change, and I really like fashion. The Wright Diamond Corporation had not invested in such a field, dad. This new job is more me."
“Then let’s start an apparel company,” Ethan suggested.
“But dad, I need experience.” Turning to her father, she pleaded, “Please, dad. Besides, we both know it takes time to start a new business. At least, through this company, I will gain the needed experience. And when I am ready, we can start a clothing company or maybe a jewelry company.”
With a sigh, Ethan surrendered. He responded, "I hope this will make you happy, Kate. You can give your brother your resignation. I'll tell him to approve it."
Continents away, a man was standing at the glass window of his hotel room, thinking of someone. He received word from his assistant, "Sir, she accepted the job offer. I shall draft the contract. For how long do you want the contract to be?"
The man smiled at the thought of this person. He answered, "The contract is forever."
"Eh, pardon, sir?"
Two months passed. Kate was driving herself. She took a left turn from their mansion and went past an estate dear to her. It stunned her to see workers around the property when she perfectly recalled how a family of four lived there. A frown formed on her face. She found herself parking right in front of the gates. Rolling down her window, she asked, “Are the Smiths having a renovation?” The two workers carrying materials to the gates looked at each other, puzzled. One replied, “We don’t know the Smiths, miss. We were employed by a certain.” The worker pondered and replied, “Someone named Donald. Yeah. Donald.” “The house is empty. I think this Donald is the new owner,” said the worker before he and his colleague excused themselves. Kate stared at the home that formerly belonged to Manuel Ronaldo, Carlos’ father. She sucked in a breath, recalling how Carlos had always wanted to buy the house back, but then again, maybe his plans had changed. Giving the property one last look,
Kate's hands turned cold and sweaty. Everyone was standing up, waiting for the doors to the conference room to open. Again and again, she swallowed her own spew. She did it so many times; that she felt her tongue become paper dry. How the doors opened played in slow motion in Kate's view. The first person to enter was a tall man with pale skin. He had long and curly blond hair, and he had beautiful green eyes. Alexander smiled at everyone, greeting, "Hello, everybody. It's nice to see you." The next thing Kate heard was the sound of another man's heels against the tiled floor. She gathered air into her lungs profusely as the door to the conference room further opened. Finally, Carlos walked in. He wore a business suit that stretched nicely against his broad shoulders and chest. He had one of his hands tucked inside his trouser pocket, and his grey eyes scanned the room. Kate could not deny how he looked breathtaking. Carlo's hair was fringed up. A few strands fell into his eyes. Hi
Taking a deep breath, Carlos tried to control his emotions. He shut his eyes as he took the lift to CSK Apparel, a company he founded with his friend, Alexander. That day would mark the beginning of his soon-to-be relentless pursuit of the girl, the girl he left behind; Kate Wright. “Relax, friend. This is the moment you have been waiting for,” Alexander reminded him, and that made Carlos nod. “I hope I made the right decision,” Carlos expressed. The plan was to see Kate after the end of the French Open, when he was confident everything was safe. However, Alexander convinced him otherwise. “No one will find out. We just need to be… discrete about your real relationship with Kate,” Alexander suggested. “Besides, your assistant is still in France, covering for both of us.” Carlos nodded. He knew that he needed to make it clear to his directors that no one must know of his visit too. At the thought of Kate, Carlos smiled. He was a few minutes away from finally seeing her up clo
“Were you followed?” Ethan asked Carlos. He was frowning after learning about Carlos’ current predicament. He rose from his seat and turned his back on Carlos. Ethan looked distantly through the windows, taking it all in. “I don’t believe so, uncle. The French gang still believes Alexander and I are in Paris, preparing for the French Open,” Carlos answered. “And the driver who drove me is a company employee. Like all my employees, he had signed a privacy clause. He won't say a thing.” “I understand you, Carlos. I understand your reasons for leaving, for chasing your dreams, for going after the reason for your family’s downfall, but it should not have been reason enough to cut us completely,” Ethan berated. “I.” Carlos gulped. “I regretted not explaining my side. Again, I am sorry, uncle, but when it all got complicated, I was already stuck in the situation and… I wanted to be man enough to handle everything.” Hearing his defense, Ethan sighed. He replied, “Carlos, dealing with ev
'Who is my girlfriend?' Carlos pretended to ignore her question and asked, "I haven't seen Kaleb. Where is he?" "Are you avoiding the matter here?" Kate suspected. "Why aren't you answering my question?" "Why are you interested in finding out who is my girlfriend?" Carlos asked back, and he could see Kate's stunned expression. He swore; he saw her clench her jaws as a reaction. "I - I just figured I want to know who I am working for," Kate reasoned. "What's wrong with that?" "Really?" Carlos pursued. He folded his arms across his chest, looking intensely at Kate. "You don't have any other reason for asking that?" Carlos caught how Kate struggled to reply. She wound up snorting, letting out a laugh before answering, "No. That's it. What other reasons would I have?" "I don't have a girlfriend," Carlos finally cleared the misunderstanding. "I don't know why Catrina thought I had one, but no, I don't, and you will eventually meet the company's third owner." Before Kate could ask m
*** FLASHBACK: During One Of Carlos’ Highschool Tennis Practices. *** After tossing the ball up in the air, Carlos’ knees flexed, and his trunk rotated at a forty-five-degree angle in a pro-drop position. “Arrghhh!” He grunted as he hit the tennis ball with his racket in a powerful serve. The ball landed on the opponent’s service area, garnering Carlos his last points. “Game Ronaldo!” The referee announced the win, making Carlos’ supporters jump in their seats, cheering him on. When Carlos took the side bench to rest, Kate rushed across the court. “Here, let me get your water.” “You did such a good job! I’m so proud of you, Carlos!” Kate squeaked in excitement. She was so happy for Carlos that she unwittingly helped him wipe the sweat off his face. “Kate!” Carlos groaned. “My team is looking at me now.” “So, what?” Kate replied, her eyes wandering to Carlos’ opponent for that practice match at school. “I can’t take care of you?” When she saw Tyler walking in their directio
“You take a lot from Manuel Ronaldo,” Hugo Bonnet said, his eyes studying Carlos cautiously, waiting for a reaction. While Carlos felt rage running throughout his entire body, he swallowed all his emotions down his throat. He quickly formed a sneer as if revolted by being compared to his own father. Carlos replied, “I am… nothing like my father.” Carlos turned to his friend, Alexander. Then he shifted his attention back to Hugo. He said, “My father was selfish. More than that, he failed to manage his finances and left mother and me in a helpless situation.” “I would appreciate it, Mister Bonnet, if you don’t mention him before me,” Carlos requested. While his eyes were filled with fury, they were bitterness secretly meant for Hugo and not for his father, Manuel. Hugo’s former mischievous grin turned into a wide beam. He declared, “Well, I think… we can get along just fine." “I hope so, Mister Bonnet. I am here for money and money only. I know making business with you is the fast
“Hello, Catrina,” Kate greeted, entering the door of the CEO’s office. She extended her hand, giving Catrina a copy of her marketing proposal. “This is the marketing plan my team and I have devised. I also sent you a soft copy of the entire outline as well.” “I understand that Carlos’ endorsement contract with Rolex ends in two months, so my suggestion included for him to wear the watches even before our official launch -” “Carlos?” Catrina raised a brow and said, “You are on a first-name basis now with Mister Ronaldo?” “Kate, I don’t mind that we call ourselves on first name bases, but our boss remains to be our boss. Unless he says otherwise, you will address him as Mister Ronaldo,” Catrina directed. “Is that clear?” Kate fell silent. She gulped, realizing how the entire office was not yet aware of her connection with Carlos. Her father, Ethan, had specifically reminded her to keep it to herself, given Carlos’ involvement in an undercover police operation. In response to Catrina