Monday, 4 August 2014
My story has been plagiarized once again. I'm in the process of getting my story removed from this users account. If anyone else even considers stealing my work while I'm making it 'public', I will go through great lengths to sue you. This user that has stolen my story makes me sick, they've changed the 'gym' scene to a 'café' scene. Not only can you clearly see the story is mine, her added bits and pieces have been written atrociously. I'm sorry if this isn't a very eloquent post, as I am still stunned by this ordeal. The user that stole my story : http://www.wattpad.com/48338213-billion-dollar-girl-chapter-1
Posted by Louise Nel at 04:08
Monday, 10 February 2014
Hey guys, My story isn't back up permanently. I'm removing my account once again as soon as Wattpad sorts out my story that's been stolen and posted on there. They just needed me to get this account back so that they can verify that it's true (the postings of my story). This is the second time this is happening to me so unfortunately, I will never post The Billion Dollar Girl online again. I'm sorry for not staying in touch with you all. I also don't use Facebook anymore. The only way to get in touch with me is through email. firstname.lastname@example.org Looking forward to hearing from you all. :).
Posted by Louise Nel at 14:35
Friday, 5 February 2010
The Billion Dollar Girl “Tell me you love me again, Ash,” I whispered into his lips. Ash’s fingers dipped under the thin fabric of my shirt. My breath caught in my throat. God, I loved the way he made me feel. “I love you,” he muttered, into my lips. I kissed him even harder, as his hand slid slowly upwards, leaving a hot trail behind it. Ash’s smell was intoxicating and I felt myself leaning further into him to smell it. “Say it again,” I whispered, breathlessly. Ash broke away from my lips and started kissing my neck. I suddenly noticed that somehow, the necklace Ash had bought me, was around my neck. I stared at the delicate red butterfly, the light from the fireplace making the diamond flicker. “I love you,” Ash mumbled, kissing my neck. I smiled, but it turned into a moan when his soft lips brushed against my sensitive skin. I shivered from the sensation. “Again,” I said, through gritted teeth. “I love you.” “Again!” “I love you! Ella Castillo, I truly and utterly love you!” *** The Billion Dollar Girl CHAPTER 41 Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ His fingers found the hem of my shirt and tugged, as if trying to pull it off, his lips still on mine. In my dazed mind, I just about managed to register it. “No,” I mumbled against his lips. “No!” Ash pulled away and I stared at his blue eyes, glittering with lust. He looked like a wolf, intent on devouring its prey. “Why not?” he snarled, his desire evident in his husky voice. I smiled and kissed Ash’s forehead. He blinked, and that wolfish glare was gone. “I’m sorry, Ash,” I told him. “But I’m not ready. I can’t do it, not yet anyway. I do want this, it’s just that…I can’t, when my face is all busted up and my leg’s like this. I just…want it to be perfect. I’m sorry.” Ash stared at me for a moment, before taking a deep breath and giving a shaky laugh. “Damn, Ella,” he sighed. He laced his fingers through mine, giving me a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry I didn’t think about your feelings. I just assumed that love would mean… Never mind. Sorry, Ella.” “Will you…be okay?” I said, in a small voice. Ash laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Men aren’t animals. I can control myself.” But he sounded unconvinced. We spent the rest of the night snuggling on the bed, listening to the sound of each other’s hearts both realizing that for the first time in the long time, we were no longer alone. *** With my broken leg, there wasn’t much we could do at the ski resort so we decided to cut the ski trip short and returned to Paris the next day. Ash and I then spent the rest of the week touring Paris. We visited the Louvre – something I’d dreamed about for many years. Though to be honest, Ash didn’t seem really into the paintings and instead dragged me into the dark, unopened section to make out. We emerged half an hour later. Ash looked cool and collected, his hair still perfectly arranged. On the other hand, my face was burning, my words incoherent and my hair bedraggled. I caught Ash smirking at me and I glared at him. The trip seemed to end far too quickly and before we knew it, we were flying back home. With the time difference, we would arrive pretty early in the morning. Ash wanted to then take the rest of the day off, but I insisted on doing to school right away. He grumbled about it, but I was worried about my marks. I mean, Ash was okay with meaning almost last, but I had to keep my grades up. It was the only part of life that had always remained the same. On the plane back home, I switched on my phone for the first time the whole trip, and suddenly saw a whole bunch of missed messages. They were from Zack, Will, but mostly from my Mom. I bit my lip, feeling guilty. I’d completely forgotten to call her and tell her I would be missing for a while. She’d probably been worried sick. I called her back immediately. “Mom?” I said. “Hello?” There was a silence and at first I thought there was something wrong with the connection, but then I heard her voice. “Young lady,” she said, very seriously. She never called me young lady unless she was very angry. “You are in massive trouble. Do you know how worried I’d been? I called all over for you, and no one said they knew where you were! Did you know how I had to find out? From a magazine. That’s right, a magazine showing you and Ash in Paris, on some romantic getaway.” “I’m so sorry, Mom,” I said in a small voice. “I…forgot.” “You forgot! Oh, you forgot. That makes it okay. I haven’t slept for days, Ella.” “I’m…sorry…” “What did you do?” she snapped. “Did you sin?” It took me a while to realize what she meant. My cheeks turned bright red. “No, Mom, I didn’t,” I said, in hushed tones in case Ash (who was currently in the bathroom) could hear us. “What kind of person do you think I am?” “Because you have to remember, Ella, that this is just a temporary marriage. It’ll all be over in two months. Don’t be pressured into sleeping with the boy.” The words hit me hard. “Mom…” I said, hesitantly. “I’m not sure about that anymore.” “About what?” “About divorcing him.” She was completely silent for a moment, before she finally spoke. “Do you love him, Ella?” The Billion Dollar Girl “Yes,” I answered immediately. “And does he love you?” “I…think so.” “Ash is the kind of boy who can only make you sad,” she sighed. “He may love you, and you may love him, but he’ll hurt you whether by accident or not. If in the end you think he’s worth it, if you can suffer through all the pain and indignity, then go ahead.” I bit my lip. “But…I really like him, Mom. He might be the one.” She sighed, again. “Then I’m happy for you, Ella.” And she hung up. I stared into space for a few seconds, before Ash’s voice made me snap out of it. “Ella? Who were you talking to?” I blinked, my eyes focusing on his smiling face. It was only now that I was noticing the true change in him. When I’d met him – had it only been a month ago? – he was just another bitter, angry, spoilt adolescent with his head stuck so far up his ass he couldn’t see the platinum card in his fist. Now, he was someone I…could… Love? I realized only then that I’d never said those words to him. I’d never actually told him how I felt. I’d tried to show him with my actions and my words, but I’d never said the three words that would really seal my fate. Even now, I didn’t know if I could really say it. I wanted to, I really did, but I was still scared. This was supposed to be a three-month marriage. It wasn’t supposed to end up like this… Yet, as Ash’s eyes fixed on mine, I knew that I couldn’t live without him. “Just my Mom,” I told him. “Ah,” he said, sitting down on the plane chair next to me. “Mother-in-law. You should tell her to come to the penthouse one day. She hasn’t seen it yet, right?” “No,” I said, shaking my head and smiling. Just being close to Ash gave me the sense of fulfillment and peace I could find almost nowhere else, not even with Zack, who had been my closest friend for years. So was this it, then? Was this love? Was Ash the person I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with? “Well, tell her to come. I’ll cook her one of my famous omelets.” I eyed him carefully to make sure he was joking. “You’re not trying to kill my Mom, are you?” I asked worriedly. Ash laughed. Maybe, if Ash did turn out to be the guy I spent the rest of my life with… it wouldn’t be so bad. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “What’s this?” Ella asked crossly, glaring at me. I gave her a pleading look. “Don’t be mad.” We were back at school already. I hated being awake before noon. Being back in New York during winter made me miss Paris. There, buildings were rustic and clean, people dignified yet rude, food completely exquisite. Here, the buildings were ugly masses of dirty concrete, the people just as rude though less cultivated, and most of the food consumed came from a greasy paper bag with a McDonald’s logo printed on it. The only thing that hadn’t changed was Ella. “What the hell is wrong with you?” she yelled, smacking my arm. I winced. “I can’t believe you did this! Are you stupid? Or do you really have no common sense?” “I just thought…since your leg was hurt…you shouldn’t be climbing any stairs…” “So you installed escalators all over school?” She hit my arm again, this time with her crutch. It hurt a lot more. I made a mental note to not let it develop into a habit. I could feel a bruise forming already. I leaned in close to her so the people passing up wouldn’t hear. “Please stop yelling,” I muttered. “I have a reputation to uphold, and I can’t have you –” “I’ll yell if I like,” she yelled. When she was mad, her nose got all crunched up and it looked kind of cute. I decided not to mention it to her. “You’re really stupid, you know that?” “I only did it for you,” I tried. Ella glared at me, clearly still fuming, but refrained herself from hitting me again. Just then, the bell rang. “Listen, I’ve got to go to my homeroom,” I said, calling over my shoulder. “See you at lunch?” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ Rubbing gingerly over the blister that had risen on my thumb, I winced before adjusting my crutches and starting again the treacherous path through the wet and slippery courtyard. I paused when I saw someone I recognized The Billion Dollar Girl “Ella!” Will called, smiling jovially when he saw me. “Back already? How was Paris?” His uniform was as smart and pressed as usual, and he looked every inch the young businessman he had been raised to be. I really couldn’t get the things Ash had told me out of my head. Just seeing Will brought back everything I’d heard. Sympathy swelled up inside me. I wondered if Will would treat me differently if he knew I was aware of his past. “Fine,” I said distractedly. “Paris was fine.” “Good.” He leaned in and continued in a much lower voice. “Listen, I’ve got something to tell you… I had my lawyers look over the contract and they think they’ve found a loophole. A pretty big one, to be honest. I can’t believe you missed it. All you have to do now is take this to a judge to get it annulled, and you should be free.” It took me a while to realize what he was talking about. “Listen, Will, I want to talk to you about that,” I said, nervously glancing around, to make sure no one was listening. Will seemed to notice my discomfort. “We can talk in here, if you want,” he said, opening a door to reveal a small classroom I’d never been in before. “For privacy.” I agreed and followed him, closing the door with difficultly behind me. Will flicked on the lights and leaned against the wall. He pulled out the copy of the contract I’d given him. “Here, look,” he said, handing me the contract, grinning. “Look at this.” I looked. Ella White must do everything stated by Ash Cadtillo. Ella White cannot speak against Ash Cadtillo. Ella White is forbidden from any action that will harm Ash Cadtillo Any violation of any of these terms will result in the immediate fine of one billion US dollars. The contract I’d signed a month ago, a contract that’d changed my life and the lives of those around me so drastically. I sighed. “What am I supposed to be looking at?” I said resignedly. “Look at the names,” Will said, pointing at ‘Ash Cadtillo’. “The names are spelt wrong!” “He said his lawyer made a mistake,” I said slowly. “He said he was going to change it.” “But the contract you signed,” Will said insistently, “had this mistake! You weren’t agreeing to marry Ash Castillo at all! You were agreeing with Ash Cadtillo. I have no idea who he is, but he’s a lucky guy.” I didn’t respond. “Ella, don’t you see? This meant this contract has no legal power! This means –“ “Will,” I interrupted. “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” He frowned deeply, looking confused. “What are you talking about?” he demanded. “You know.” I swallowed. “Everything. The contract. Divorce. I don’t think I want to do it anymore.” Will tried a smile. When I didn’t smile back, he tried to laugh. “You’re joking, right? You’re not serious. You’re messing with me.” I shook my head. “Will, I’m really not. I don’t want to leave him anymore.” “Don’t tell me…” Will sounded almost amused, but the look on his face wasn’t amusing in the slightest. I shrunk away from him. “You’ve fallen for him!” “Well…” I began timidly. “I don’t believe this!” he yelled, slamming his fist into the wall, so suddenly I jumped. When he moved his hand away, there were dents in the plasterwork from his knuckles. Will advanced on me, his blue eyes flashing, sharp and deadly, glaring in a way Ash’s blue eyes, so similar, were incapable of. He grabbed me by my shoulders and squeezed me so hard tears came to my eyes. “You’ve fallen for that idiot? The good-for-nothing fool, the player, the loser, the one who almost always get last place in exams? The one who tried to buy you, the one who cheated on you, the one who you told me you could never forgive? You fell for…Ash?” “Let go!” I snapped, trying to pull away. He was starting to scare me. “Will, let go of me.” “You said you hated him!” he raged. The look in his eyes was almost feral, the friendly twinkly gone. He was cold and hard and unyielding. Nothing like the Will I knew. “You’re supposed to hate him! You’re supposed to want to be with me. It’s meant to be you and me. Tell me you don’t like him! Say you don’t love Ash!” The Billion Dollar Girl “No!” I cried, trying to push him away by the chest now. He either ignored it or didn’t feel it. “Say it,” Will demanded again, shaking me by the shoulders, so hard it hurt. “Tell me!” “Let go of her!” Ash burst into the room. Without blinking an eye, he ripped me from Will’s grasp and slammed his fist into his face. Will collapsed, completely caught by surprise. Unbeknownst to me, my crutches had fallen from my grasp. With no other support, I began to fall too, my knee buckling painfully under my weight. Ash grabbed me by my waist and scooped me up into his arms, carrying me so close I could hear the sound of his heart, beating frantically, and I automatically knew that he had been scared, terrified for me. “Never let me see you again,” Ash said, voice cold and emotionless, though I could hear the anger. “Or I promise…I’ll kill you.” And with that, he carried me out of the door, leaving Will on the floor, blood trickling from his mouth. There was a strange expression on his face. Anger…? Or sadness? *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ The girl disappeared from the courtyard and the door closed behind her. I frowned. Had that been Ella or not? Yes or no? I’d only caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye, so I couldn’t be sure. Cautiously, I slowly walked to the door and pressed my ear against it. Immediately, I heard a voice that was undoubtedly Ella’s. “I don’t think I want to do it anymore.” Smiling, I reached from the handle but froze when I heard another voice, also painfully familiar. “You’re joking, right? You’re not serious. You’re messing with me.” It was Will. What was Ella doing with Will? Alone? I suddenly remembered what James had told me, about Ella wanting to leave me and how Will was helping her. Fear ran through me, as painful and as startling as an electric shock. Surely she couldn’t want to leave me now, still? After everything that happened in Paris? Fear was quickly replaced by anger. No. There was no way I was going to let her. Even if I had to lock her up, there was no way I was going to let her go. “Will, I’m really not. I don’t want to leave him anymore.” I stopped. A slow warmth spread through me, and I felt myself smile. She didn’t want to leave. “Don’t tell me… You’ve fallen for the guy!” Will sounded uncharacteristically out of control. “Well…” “I don’t believe this!” There was a loud thud, of fist against wall. I froze. “You’ve fallen for that idiot? The good-for-nothing fool, the player, the loser, the one who almost always get last place in exams? The one who tried to buy you, the one who cheated on you, the one who you told me you could never forgive? You fell for…Ash?” “Let go! Will, let go of me.” Will had hold of Ella? I’d heard enough. I turned the handle, but found the door locked. Inside, their voices were rising ever louder. “You said you hated him!” Will yelled. My heart thudded as I desperately twisted the handle, putting all my weight into it. “You’re supposed to hate him! You’re supposed to want to be with me. It’s meant to be you and me. Tell me you don’t like him! Say you don’t love Ash!” “No!” Ella sounded panicked. There was nothing else for it. I took a few steps back. “Say it. Tell me!” The door crumbled under the weight of my shoe and for a moment, I caught a glimpse of both their faces, turned towards me, surprised. Will’s hands were tight around Ella’s shoulders, and she was clearly in pain. Anger coursed through me, an anger I’d never felt before, not even on the night my Mom abandoned me. I ripped Will off of her. When he stumbled back, I smashed his jaw with my fist. He fell to the floor and didn’t get back up. Ella began to fall too, but I managed to grab her and pull her into my arms before she fell. She was so small and delicate in my arms, it made me want to hold her there and keep her and protect her forever. “Never let me see you again,” I threatened Will, my voice flat so he could tell I meant it. “Or I promise…I’ll kill you.” I walked out with Ella, and didn’t stop until we were both deep in the middle of the school gardens. There, I let her down, setting her gently onto a bench. Finally, I allowed myself to look at her and to my surprise I saw her crying. Tears rolled down her face, shimmering like tiny little diamonds. “I’m sorry!” she sobbed. Ella dropped a ball of paper – the contract – she’d been holding in her fist onto my lap. “I’m really, really sorry I asked Will to get me out with the contract. When I accepted his help, I…I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight. I thought you were in love with Lucy. I didn’t…I…” She looked so hopeless and upset, I almost laughed. “Ella,” I said, my voice strangled. I pulled her hands into mine and peered worriedly at her face. “Why are you crying?” She hiccupped slightly, looking at me shyly through her wet eyelashes. “Because…well…aren’t you mad at me?” Her voice was hesitant, like she was scared. “Why would I be mad at you?” I said, confused now. “Because I tried to break the contract,” she whispered, through barely moving lips. “Which would have made you waste a billion dollars.” The Billion Dollar Girl I did laugh now. “I’m not mad at you at all,” I said, still laughing. I moved my hand up, still clasping hers, to wipe away a tear rolling down her cheek. “It was Will I was angry at, not you. I could never be mad at you. He’s the manipulative one who made you even consider breaking the contract, right? That night at the café, after Brooklyn Bridge?” She blinked. “The café…How did you know?” “James happened to be there,” I explained. She seemed to be calming down now, I noted. “He told me.” “You knew this whole time?” Her expression changed. “Is that why we went to Paris?” “No! Well, yes,” I amended. “I mean, I know I had to win you back somehow, back Paris was also a chance to tell you the truth. But it wasn’t just that. I wanted to take you somewhere you would remember for the rest of your life. What’s the point of having all this money if you can’t even spoil the girl you love?” She blushed and I took advantage of her silence to plow on with my explanation, before there were any more misunderstandings. “Besides, I wasn’t angry about the contract, not really,” I continued hastily. “I don’t care about the money, I’ve told you before. What really made me angry was the fact that you were going to Will, when he was clearly trying to steal you away from me!” Ella frowned. “So it’s not about the money?” “Ella. The contract has been essentially void ever since this stopped being a fake marriage and became a real one. I trust you Ella. I trust that you won’t leave me. We don’t need a billion dollar contract to keep us together. I love you, Ella. In fact,” I said, letting go of her hand to pull out my phone from my pocket, “I’m calling my lawyer right now. I’m cancelling the contract. I want to be with you, and only you.” A hard, burning look came on Ella’s face. Her eyes burning, she knocked the phone from my hand and grabbed my face, pulling me down so we were eye-to-eye. “Call them later,” she whispered, before she kissed me. *** ʘ Will Castillo ʘ I listened to the sound of Ash’s confession from behind the willow, its long branches dragging across the ground as if in defeat. Peeking out from behind the swaying leaves, I glimpsed the two two of them kissing. Though I’ve been trained to handle any possible eventuality in my business career, I found myself completely unprepared for the rush of emotion that hit me. My insides felt like they were trying to leave my body. My vision was replaced with a deep blood red. My heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe, think, feel. I collapsed onto the grass. When I had recovered my senses long enough to think, the rage finally hit me. It started, a gentle bubbling in the deep pit of my insides, until it grew and expanded and crescendoed into a huge volcano of red hot lava burning my consciousness. I dialed a number on my phone. “Is this Theresa, at New York Times? I think I have a story you’ll find interesting.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I woke up, feeling content for the first time in a long time. When I saw the long, curly mop of hair resting on my chest, I felt even more content, if that was even possible. No, it wasn’t the fact that I’d slept with someone – literally, sleeping. Our clothes were still on – but it was the fact that I was with someone I loved. The ray of light shining through the curtains fell into my eyes and, uncomfortable, I shifted. Ella yawned and turned over. When she opened her eyes, I greeted her with a smile. “Did you sleep well?” She appeared disorientated for a few moments, but her eyes soon focused. When she realized where she was, she blushed. “How long have you been watching me?” she murmured. “I just woke up.” She grinned again and stretched. Then, almost before I could do anything else, she sat up and slid her warm legs from under the duvet, let in a gust of cold air. I grabbed onto her hand, before she could escape me completely. “What are you doing?” I demanded. Ella looked confused. “Going to have a shower. Why? Do you want to go first?” “No, I mean, what are you doing, getting out of bed?” I said, sitting up and pulling her back by her waist. She resisted, but only half-heartedly. “We have to get ready for school, Ash.” “No, we don’t,” I argued, kissing her neck. “We can call in sick.” “Both of us?” she said reluctantly, though she giggled. “Won’t they suspect something?” “I don’t care,” I said, kissing her again. She fell back onto the bed. “I don’t learn anything at school anyway.” “But…we have to go to school…” Ella resisted feebly. “Not for half an hour,” I reminded her. “We can get dressed, really quickly, later. Come back to bed, Ella, please?” I kissed her, on her lips this time, I think that was the thing that did it. She was ready to get back into the warm haven of covers, until she froze, suddenly. There’d been a noise, outside, loud enough to be heard even in the penthouse. “What the –” I started, but she was already out of bed and at the windows. She threw open the curtains and let in the streaming light. I squinted. “Oh my God,” she gasped. “What?” I snapped, bad-tempered. I pushed down the covers, thinking about the coffee I really, really needed. “What is it?” “The press…” Ella whispered, her breath fogging up the glass of the window, her face was so close. “They’re here…they’re outside. Dozens of them. Does anyone else famous live in this building?” “No, I – What?” I scrambled out of bed and joined her by the window. She was right. A crowd of them, huge even at a distance – there were a fifty maybe – were all congregating outside the building. I thought I could see cameras in most of their hands. “Please tell me Brad Pitt lives in this building,” Ella said, sounding horrified. “No, I had the entire building checked when we moved in,” I replied, slowly. “No one famous lives here, except –” Us. I didn’t have to say it for her to know what I was thinking. “So they’re here for you and me,” she muttered. “But why?” That question was answered almost immediately. My phone began ringing from the bedside table, where I’d left it the last night. I walked over to it, barefoot, frowning when I saw the caller name. “Father, this isn’t a good time right now,” I said, not bothering with a greeting. I was pacing up and down the room, trying to figure out what to do. Why were the press here? Oh God, please don’t let it be pictures from Amsterdam. That’d been almost three months ago. I glanced at Ella. I didn’t think our new relationship would be able to handle a full-scale scandal. “There’s kind of a situation outside the penthouse –” “I’m well aware of that,” he replied shortly. His tone made me stop my pacing. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong. Worse than strippers in Amsterdam wrong. “Have you seen the front of the New York Times today?” The front page? Then it wasn’t some sleaze story. They wouldn’t slap a three-month old story about a Manhattan-socialite on the front page, not when there were wars and murders and senators who couldn’t keep it in their pants. The Billion Dollar Girl “Molly!” I called. Ella looked at me questioningly, but I just shook my head. When the maid came in, blushing at my state of undress, I snapped, “Molly, have we got a copy of today’s New York Times?” “S-sir,” she stammered, an unflattering shade of maroon. “Let me – let me, check.” She quickly disappeared out of the room. “It’s an exclusive,” Dad continued. The room was completely silent and all I could hear was the sound of Molly’s shoes against the marble flooring. I glanced at Ella, who was looking at me worriedly, stroking Eyelash, who had flitted into the room when Molly entered. She mewed gently as Ella’s hands ran over her soft fur, her eyes closed. “Someone did an interview with Theresa May yesterday. You know, the head reporter for the gossip section in the New York Times. And there’s something I have to know. Are you crazy, or just stupid?” I frowned. Molly rushed in, a copy of the New York Times in her hand. “Here it is, sir,” she said triumphantly. “You didn’t have a copy, but your neighbor did, so –” “Stealing,” I said, taking the paper from her. “I should fire you for that. But I’ll give you a raise instead. Get out of here.” She left, just as I dropped the phone in shock. My eyes darted over the words, again and again, my brain unable to take them in. Oh my God. This couldn’t be happening. Ella was by my side in an instant. “Ash, what is it?” she said gently, tugging the paper out of my limp fingers. She understood as soon as she got the paper. The Billion Dollar Girl New York’s hottest couple, Ash and Gabriella Castillo, who tied the knot only a month or so ago, did not marry for love, as they would have the Manhattan social scene believe, but merely as a business deal. Ash Castillo, teen billionaire playboy who had recently been involved in a number of scandals, has been revealed to have “bought” the right to marry Gabriella Castillo, in a legal contract rumored to be worth approximately a billion US Dollars, who prior to the marriage had a job as a janitor of a school gym. So how did this year’s most anticipated debutante, Mrs. Castillo, manage to win over both the purse strings and heart of Mr. Ash Castillo? Gabriella, maiden name White, New York Times can exclusively reveal, coerced the young bachelor, future CEO to Castillo Corporations, into entering the marriage with her, claiming she was pregnant with his child. She then made the smitten heir sign the deal, stating that he first give her a sum of no less than a billion dollars before marriage. The contract also states that he would be unable to divorce her for at least three months – something he would undoubtedly attempt, after finding out the truth about her “pregnancy”. This contract, though morally ambiguous, does not violate any laws and so cannot be repealed. (Story continued on page 6) “Who would do this?” Ella whispered, horrified. I closed my eyes and didn’t reply. My Dad’s voice was still blaring out of my phone. Slowly, I picked it up, pressing my hand against the receiver. “I need some time to talk to him,” I said to her, quickly. “Just so I can explain things to him.” I didn’t want Ella to hear what my Dad would say. I knew it would hurt her. I walked out of the room, out of the apartment. Once I was safely in the hall, I brought the phone to my ear. “…your trust fund! I give you all this money and this is how you spend it? How can I ever trust you again–?” “Dad,” I said, through gritted teeth. “This isn’t true. Ella’s not that kind of person. She would never…” “I know,” he snapped. “Ash, how stupid do you think I have to be to believe every goddamn thing written in that damn paper? I wasn’t born yesterday. Of course it wasn’t the girl’s fault. She hasn’t got a seductive bone in her body. You’re the one to blame, always wanting what you can’t have.” That was unfair. “Not all the blame,” I said, stung. “Maybe sixty-forty. Eighty-twenty?” “Why did you do it?” he raged on. “Why did you force this girl into marry you? A billion dollars, Ash! That’s my legacy, your legacy! What were you thinking? And please don’t lie about terms in the contract. Your lawyers are my lawyers. They told me everything. So, Ash, was this just all a game to you? Just a wild game to try to get some girl into bed?” The Billion Dollar Girl “It wasn’t like that!” I protested. “You were the one who wanted me to marry! You wanted me to settle down. So I did. I was going to leave her, afterwards. When I married her, I was going to divorce her three months later, so you would get off my back –” “You’re an idiot,” he spat. “I wanted you to settle down. Think about your future. Think about the company for once. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” “And Ella has helped me settle down,” I tried. “And I think she’s made me a lot more responsible. She’s helped me mature as a person, even tried to get me interested in school.” He was silent for a moment. I held my breath, waiting. “So when are you getting divorced?” he said, finally. “What?” I was caught by surprise. “We aren’t getting divorced.” “Come on, Ash. You can’t really expect me to let you stay married to her? Do you have any idea how this looks for our company? Do you know how many investors I have meeting with today, to try and convince them not to withdraw? How many shareholders who are trying to call me right now? People don’t want to invest in a company whose heir blew a billion dollars on some girl! Stock points are dropping faster than they did during the recession. If this scandal gets any bigger, the company might actually go down.” “I don’t want the company!” I yelled. “Sell it, abandon it, give it away for all I care! Let Will be the next CEO. I’ve never wanted the company, and you know that. I must’ve told you a thousand times. I’m not leaving Ella. Ella’s not just a girl, Dad. She’s the love of my life.” There was a long silence. “Dad?” I said. “Dad, are you still there?” “When did you realize this, Ash?” he wanted to know. “Tell me, when did you realize that you loved this girl?” “I don’t know,” I sighed, closing my eyes. “It just sort of dawned on me that…that I couldn’t live without her.” “Have I taught you nothing, Ash?” my Father said. Instead of sounding angry, he just sounded sad. “Didn’t I tell to run and hide if you realized you were ever in love?” “I can’t leave her, Dad, no more than I can cut off my arm. Dad, listen to me. I think you need to gain perspective here. My relationship with Ella is nothing like the one you had with Mom. She’s different. I’m different. I’m not going to let the same thing happen to us.” “You think she’s so different?” he snarled. “You bought her, Ash. She’s only with you for your money. I know her type. Young, ambitious. If you were penniless, she wouldn’t even give you a second glance. She’s just like your Mother. The only thing that truly matters to her is your billions. That’s the kind of world we live in.” “That’s not true.” But still, I wondered why Ella hadn’t told me she loved me. I knew she was aware that she hadn’t said it yet, because whenever I told her I loved her, she would get a distant look in her eyes, as if she was debating with herself over if she should say it. Each time, I’d saved her by breaking the silence. But her muteness worried me. Was she not saying those words because she couldn’t? Because she didn’t really love me? “Alright. I see that you’ve become attached to her. I’ll make things easier for you. When you some to your senses, call me. You have a week to change your mind, before I call the lawyers and cut you off. You’ll be penniless. The properties you own will be seized. All your credit cards will be blocked.” “You’re giving me an ultimatum?” I said, disbelievingly. “You think she’ll love you, even if you lose all your money, your status in society, your company? Well, in a week’s time, we’ll both know the truth.” *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I glanced at Ash, worried. His face was smooth, but the way he was staring out of the window told me that he clearly didn’t want to be disturbed. What had his Father said? I wondered, staring down at my crutches which were resting on my lap. Could it have been that bad? Maybe he was demanding I repay the money, or to waive the contract. Surely if it was something like that, Ash would tell me. I stared out of the window too. “Who do you think did this?” I asked, in a small voice. Ash didn’t look at me, his jaw set. I wondered if he’d even heard me. Maybe he was wondering the same question. No one else knew, apart from myself, Ash and his Dad. Oh, wait. There was one other person. “Will,” I breathed. Could it be? I thought about the way he acted yesterday, crazy and jealous. It was definitely possible. But was he capable of doing something like that? Ash glanced at me, our eyes meeting for a moment. He clearly thought so. When the car pulled to a stop, I let out a small gasp. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by all sides, paparazzi cameras flashing at us so violently that even though the tinted windows, I was blinded. Ash had called for a special team to get us safely out of the penthouse, but he clearly hadn’t anticipated such a large crowd outside the school. Though we were only a few feet away from the school gates, I could barely see them through the hoard of excited cameramen. “Smile for us, Ella,” I heard one call. “How does it feel to be New York’s highest earning escort?” Anger rose up inside me, hot and flowing. Will had done this. He’d betrayed my secret and turned the whole world against me, turned me into some kind of joke, just as I’d starting fitting into Ash’s society. My hands shook. I might actually kill him. “Hey,” Ash said softly, taking my hand in his. The shaking stopped. “If something like this had happened maybe a week before, it might have broken us up. But now I think we’re stronger than that. Together, I think we can handle it.” The anger lasted for maybe a moment more, before subsiding. I returned Ash’s smile, and before he could reacted I gave him a quick kiss on the edge of his mouth. “You’re right,” I smiled. “The only question is…how are we meant to get into school?” “We could call another security team,” he suggested. “We could do that. Or we could race,” I said, grinning. A slow smile spread across his face. “On the count of three,” Ash said. “Three.” Then he opened the car door and started pushing his way through the crowd. Laughing, I grabbed my crutches before following him, shoving and poking at the journalists bustling around me, trying to catch up with him. Shouts and curses erupted around me, the flashing lights ten times brighter now that I was out of the car. I hopped my way through them. Maybe racing was a bad idea while my leg was still injured. I stumbled, but a warm hand reached out through the thick crowd, steading me. I looked up, and saw Ash, his blue eyes glinting. “Together?” I smiled. “Together.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I insisted on walking Ella to her homeroom, claiming I was being chivalrous, though I think she suspected the real reason I was walking her. Will might visit her. He was also in her Biology class, and even if I called the Dean now and insisted that Will moved classes, they would still have to spend at least first period together. Though I knew I was being over-protective, I couldn’t help it. Will had hurt her and I didn’t want it to happen again. I felt responsible for all the pain that had been inflicted upon her since meeting me, and was trying to make up for it now. I wondered if Ella noticed that everyone went quiet as we passed them, and started whispering loudly about the article as soon as they thought we were out of earshot. How could she not? It was so obvious. She was grinding her teeth angrily, clearly trying to ignore the comments. We reached her homeroom. I was prepared to make up some excuse so I could stay with her, but Ella stopped walking, standing in the doorway. “What’s wrong –?” The question was immediately answered when I saw him, standing next to Ella’s desk, clearly waiting for her. He waved. The girls surrounding him went quiet when they saw me and Ella. The Billion Dollar Girl I was going to kill him. Though apparently, there was already a waiting list. “What the hell are you doing here?” Ella yelled, her expression furious. Despite the serious atmosphere, I felt like cracking up. Just the sight of Ella hopping towards Will on her crutches, her face screwed up in a way she clearly thought terrifying, was just hilarious. It was as if she thought she was being threatening. It was possibly the most adorable thing I’d ever seen. It was a lot less funny when Will smiled at her, clearly thinking the same thing. “I was waiting for you,” he replied casually, lolling back in his chair. “Hey, Ash.” “Get out!” Ella snarled. “Get out, right now!” “Calm down,” Will sighed, looking pained. “I don’t understand why you’re so mad.” Just then, I realized what he was doing. He was trying to make Ella look unstable in front of her classmates. I’d never hated anybody more. I stepped in front of Ella, who looked like she was about to pounce. “I told you to never appear in front of her again,” I said, struggling to keep my voice even and sound detached. Though my hands were balled into fists, I was reluctant to hit Will as I didn’t want to make this a bigger deal than it already was. I could see phones out already, and I was prepared to bet that this argument would end up on the internet in less than three minutes. Will already knew this, which was the only reason he was taunting me and Ella. “I came here to apologize,” Will said, to Ella now. I recognized his voice from when we were kids and got caught stealing chocolate from the chef’s pantry. “What happened yesterday, that was wrong of me. The way I acted was most ungentlemanly. I didn’t mean to treat you that way. I was…emotional. I wasn’t thinking straight. Please believe me.” “And what about the article?” Ella snapped. “How could you betray me like that?” “The article?” Will said, blinking like he was surprised. “You think that was me?” “Well, who else could it be?” “I would never do that to you and Ash, I swear to God!” Will blasphemed. “It wasn’t me who phoned in the story! Did you even ask the newspaper who submitted the story? Because I heard it was one of Castillo Corp’s lawyers.” He leaned in and grabbed Ella’s hand. “Trust me, Ella,” Will continued, his eyes staring straight into hers. “I care too much about both of you to do that.” I held my breath, waiting for Ella to explode and beat him to within an inch of his life. Nothing happened. I gaped at him. Surely she didn’t believe it? Even Ella couldn’t be that naïve? “It’s alright. I believe you,” Ella said, her voice soft. “And I forgive you for yesterday.” His face broke into a smile that so heartbreakingly sincere he had to be faking. “Thank you.” And then he pulled her into his arms. “Enough of this charade,” I snapped, pushing Ella away from him. I grabbed the front of his shirt. I was still an inch or so taller. I used this to my advantage, glaring down at him. His eyes were disturbingly like my Uncle’s. “I told you I would kill you if I ever saw you with her again,” I yelled. I ignored Ella, who was tugging at my sleeve. “Did you think I was joking?” “Calm down, cousin,” Will whispered back, quietly. “You’re causing a scene.” He was right, but I didn’t let go of his shirt. “Let’s take this outside,” I hissed. “Ash –” Ella started, but I shot her a look and she fell silent. Will gave a most convincing look of shock. “Why do you do this to me, Ash?” he asked, sounding serious. “We’re family. That has to count for something. What happened between me and Ella yesterday was a mistake, I admit it. I apologized. It shouldn’t affect our relationship.” There was quiet muttering around us. Will was making it sound like something happened between him and Ella, and he knew it. A quick glance at Ella told me she hadn’t realized yet. “Shut up.” My fists clenched tighter. “Ash…” Ella tried again, trying to prize my fingers from Will’s shirt. “Please stop this. Will’s apologized. What happened between me and him is our business. Please don’t fight over this.” The Billion Dollar Girl She was making it even worse, and she didn’t even realize it. Will’s eyes were glinting victoriously. “Ella’s right,” Her name rolled of his tongue, coming out in a long drawl. My blood crawled. “Don’t say her name,” I said through gritted teeth. He leaned in, and whispered in my ear so only I could hear him. “What’s wrong, Ash?” he breathed. “Are you afraid she’ll leave you for me? Just like your mother left you and your pathetic father and begged my dad to take her?” Ella’s cries were drowned out by the sound of blood thudding in my ears. There was chaos around me, around all three of us, but I ignored it, concentrating on pummeling Will into a bloody mess. By the time a teacher showed up to pull us apart, Will had a black eye, a broken nose and jaw, and three fractured ribs. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “Are you okay?” Zack asked, looking concerned. “I’m fine,” I sighed, dumping my bag onto the lunch table. I assumed Ash was either still being yelled at by the principal or already suspended and at home. I didn’t feel sorry for him. After all, Will was in hospital – I’d escorted him to the school gates myself, apologizing profusely about Ash. He would need surgery and a few weeks recuperation to get his strength back fully, but even then he refused to press charges. Ash was lucky. But other than that, the morning had been uneventful. Sure, the space Will usually occupied in class was empty. Other than that, Biology today was like any other. Apart from the staring and whispering, I guess. It didn’t help that I had blood on my shirt that wasn’t even mine. “I guess you heard, huh?” I took a bite out of my apple. “Everybody heard. It’s all over the school. I knew you couldn’t have wanted to marry Ash, but I would never have guessed it was because of a contract. I didn’t believe the rest of the article, but everyone seems to unanimously agree that at least that part of it was true.” It took me a while to remember what he was talking about. The excitement over the fight had made me completely forget about the article that had been released this morning. “Look, my mom was pregnant,” I sighed, explaining though I wanted to do nothing but put my head in my hands, fall asleep and wake up in Ash’s arms to find out this was all a dream. But Zack deserved the truth. I wasn’t looking forward to this conversation, however. I’d already had it with my parents, trying to explain away the terrible lies that had been appeared in the New York Times. “And you know my Dad doesn’t earn much. And the school fee at Charlotte’s was costing a fortune. I had no choice. I had to help my family.” “You could have done something else. Anything else.” “It was a billion dollars, Zack,” I tried. “I know it goes against my principles, but I had to. My parents begged me. What would you have done? It was only going to be for three months. But anyway, everything’s changed. I’m not leaving him.” “What? You signed another contract?” he said, disbelievingly. “No.” I shook my head. “I’m staying with him because…well…I love him.” I smiled as I said it. It felt good to get the words out, even if I couldn’t do it in front of Ash. Zack just stared. “You’re kidding, right?” “No. Why would I be?” “Because he tried to buy you!” he snapped. “He took you away from your family! He made you move school! He did all those to you and you still don’t hate him? Why did he even do it? Was he bored or something!” “He had to get married!” I defended. “His Dad was going to make him marry someone he didn’t love so he made a plan and was married me. We were going to divorce so he could pretend his heart was broken so he wouldn’t have to get married again.” “That was his reason? What kind of selfish dick would do that to a girl?” “Zack, I’m agreeing with you,” I said, desperately, trying to get him to quiet down. “He was an idiot when he asked me to marry him. But he’s changed, he really has. We’re having the contract annulled. He loves me.” Zack didn’t reply. “And you’re sure about that?” “Yes,” I said, though hesitantly. Though he’d confessed to me in Paris, I still had a hard time believing someone like him could fall in love with someone like me. He looked straight into my eyes. “Ella. There’s something I have to tell you.” But before he could say anything else, a girl came up to me. She was about five-ten, skinny, and blond. I recognized her as one of the seniors. She glared down at me, tottering on her high heels, holding her food tray in a way that made me think she was going to tip the contents of it over my head. “What do you want?” I demanded, rudely. “I just wanted to say,” she said, loudly and confidently. A few people looked around. “That I think what you did to Ash Castillo was terrible. You’re a real skank and if you had any human decency you would leave school right now.” I was amused, though Zack was glaring threatening at the poor bimbo. “That’s what you think, is it?” I asked, equally as loudly. I was fed up of people either whispering about me behind my back or confronting me about the crimes I’d never committed. “You never considered that the newspapers might be wrong? He blackmailed me! I’m the victim here. Why else would I marry a guy like Ash?” She snorted. “Like anyone would believe that. Look at you and look at him.” And she stalked away before I could pour yoghurt over her stupid dip-dyed head. “Don’t worry about it,” I said to Zack, who looked like he was going to say something. I spooned the yoghurt into my mouth instead. “It’s been happening all day.” “You get your story out there,” he said, still looking shocked. “Make sure people know the truth. That was…brutal.” I shrugged. “I don’t really care that much. I’m used to it.” “You should still do something.” Zack had clearly never been bullied. When you’re bullied, you’re meant to lie there and take it. Otherwise, if you retort, defend yourself, they’ll only come back the next day with bigger guns. It was just easier this way. “Where’s Ash, anyway? He got you into this – he should at least be here to protect you.” “Suspended,” I said, finishing the yoghurt. “He had a fight with Will and put him in hospital.” Zack grunted. “Good. I never liked him, anyway.” I couldn’t help but smile at Zack. So much had changed in my life, but Zack was always constant, a pillar of support. I wondered if he knew how grateful I was for him. I was about to open my mouth and say something jokingly about his blatant disregard for human life, when the fire alarm went off. “Is this is a drill?” I said to Zack, confused. “No, I don’t think so,” he said shortly, abandoning his lunch and grabbing his bag and mine. “Come on, let’s go.” ***
Posted by Louise Nel at 14:24
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
“You’re doing fine,” I encouraged. “Just remembered to put your weight in the middle, or you’ll collapse. Now, try and do the V-shape I was telling you about.” Ella did as I told and her gliding slowed down again, until she stopped. “How was it?” I asked her, grinning. “Wasn’t scary, right?” She rolled her eyes. “As if I would be scared of something so stupid.” “You were holding my hand really tight when we first got onto the snow.” “Yeah, well, shut up.” I smiled endearingly. “So do you think you’re ready to do it by yourself?” Ella bit her lip. “Um.” “Oh, don’t be nervous,” I laughed. “You have me, right? I’ll always be here for you.” Ella suddenly turned to me. I expected a cheerful smile, but what I saw instead shocked me. Her eyes very wide and suddenly filled with an unimaginable angst, so bright and fiery it froze me to my spot. She ripped my hands from her waist with sudden venom. “Why would you be?” she said, her voice cold. “When you don’t even like me? When you slept with Lucy?” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ It was something so simple that had ruined the moment. I looked down at Ash’s fingers and suddenly I had a flashback. Ash’s fingers, locked around Lucy’s wrists as her skinny frame hung over his body. My mind froze. I was barely aware of the fact that I was sliding down the hill already. All I could think of was Ash’s fingers, on Lucy’s wrists. My chest constricted and my breathing hitched. Anger, sadness, desperation filled me. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. Memories returned to me in flashes. Oh God. I’d been so stupid, so caught up with the romanticism of the whole Paris outing, so caught up with Ash, that I’d completely forgotten that I was meant to be taking revenge on him. I’d opened my heart to Ash again and he, again, was in complete control of me. I was so damn stupid. The Billion Dollar Girl My hands beside me as I continued down the ski ramp. I was staring out at the scene in from of me, but I didn’t really see. My knees were weak, and I was no longer in the formation Ash had taught me. I didn’t realize I was moving too fast until it was too late. I vaguely heard Ash yell something from behind me, heard him struggle to put his skis back on, but I was past caring. I felt empty, hollowed out. It was as if someone had cut me open and ripped out every part of me that made me Ella. I was gone. There was a bump and I blinked, snowflakes catching in my eyelashes. Realizing I’d somehow veered out of the ski slope I’d been on, and I was no longer on the nice, smooth snow, I was speeding down on slick, hard ice. Suddenly, I was caught by a primeval panic and I desperately dug my heels down but it was no use, it was too late and I could do nothing to slow down my velocity. My skis make harsh noises against the frozen ground as the freezing cold air bit into my cheeks. My eyes watered. Some part of my brain, the part that had somehow managed to stay sane, yelled at me to do something, so anything to stop, but I was powerless. I bit down on the inside of my cheek, so hard I could taste blood, squeezing my eyes closed, suddenly grateful for my ski-goggles, feeling my blood pound in my ears. I cracked open one of my eyes, just in time to see a sudden steep slope in the ice. I lost my balance and feel forwards, smashing my head against the cold ice. With the air squeezed out of my lungs, I registered nothing but pain and surprise as I tumbled. I could feel one of my skis rip off my feet as the cruel ice smashed into the exposed parts of my face. It was over as quickly as it began. I hit something solid and hard, feet-first. There was a sickening crack and pain throbbed though my leg. Looking up at the blue sky through my cracked ski goggles, my stomach still lurching and adrenaline still running through my veins, I just breathed. Blood trickled down my cheek. Every part of me hurt so bad I felt like I could never move again. All my senses were completely over-ridden by the shock so I couldn’t be completely sure, but I think I heard someone call my name. Suddenly, the pain in my leg truly hit. I opened my mouth to scream, but the world had disappeared, replaced with black. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I followed her the way she’d gone. “Ella!” I yelled. This was a bad dream. This had to be nothing but a bad dream. Slowly, but gathering pace, I started running. “Ella!” My ski goggles chafed against my face. I ripped them off. Suddenly blinded by the pure white ice, I squinted but carried on sprinting. Already, I could hear some attendants behind us, who’d obviously seen what had happened and were going to get help. What had she meant by those words? When you don’t even like me? I thought I’d made my feelings pretty clear already. I angrily wiped my face, unsure of whether it was sweat or tears. I’d been trying to show her in this whole trip that I cared. To any rational girl, they would have seen it by now. But for someone so smart, Ella was incredible stupid. It was my fault, though, right? It was definitely my fault. I’d not told her truth when I had the chance. Maybe James had been right. Maybe I just didn’t know how to be honest to women. I knew how to talk to them, I knew how to woo them, I even knew how to please them – but did I know how to love them? As soon as I find Ella, I’ll tell her how I feel. I promised to myself that I would tell her. She had to know and I had to say it. No matter what happened, I had to tell her. I hated myself for not making sure the slopes were safe. I was so stupid. I had to apologize to her. I had to apologize to her for being such a tool when we’d first met, for trying to buy her with my money, for taking her away from her parents. It was all my fault, so it was only right for me to solve this. I finally found her, leaning against a tree stump. My heart stopped. Though I’d run all the way here, I hesitated as I walked towards her unmoving body. Oh God. Ella, please, be all right. With shaking hands, I removed her cracked goggles. Her eyes were closed and her face was pale and cold. Trembling, I gently tilted her head back and pressed my ear to her lips. The Billion Dollar Girl She was breathing. I collapsed, all the energy leaving me. Ella was alive. Thank God. Leaning over her face, my teardrops fell onto her nose as I held her close, crying with relief. *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ This familiar smell. Like…raspberry and orange blossoms. I breathed in and out, utterly at peace. My bed was soft against my aching muscles. I felt numb. Calm. Comfortable. I heard a sound next to me. It was the soft sound of someone breathing. Sleeping, maybe. It was calm and slow, matching my heartbeat. I liked the sound. It made me safe. The warm fuzzy feeling clouded my mind, so much so that fatigue took over me and I felt sleepy. But then I heard a word. “Ella…” There was no way I wouldn’t recognize that voice. I would recognize it still even if all else was lost. It was Ash’s voice. He was pleading. “I’m so sorry,” I heard his whisper. His voice was now very close to my ear. “I’m sorry you’re here because of me. This is all my fault.” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “You’re had an accident because you remembered something you saw.” I frowned, trying to recall what he was talking about. But I already knew. Some part of me would never forget, but that part had kept silent, not wanting to disturb this new-found peace. “If only I’d told you the truth,” Ash sighed. “If only I’d told you before. Then this wouldn’t have happened.” I was beginning to remember. And those memories brought unwelcome pain to my paradise. “You remembered that you saw me with Lucy.” And then it all came back to me. The sound of rain and hailstones against the roof. A long shadow, coming from the bed. Ash and Lucy, locked together in an embrace. My eyes snapped open and I shoved Ash away from me. “Shut up,” I cried. “I don’t want to hear it.” I tried to slide off the bed, tried to get away, but even as I did, a hot flash of pain ran through my leg. I looked down and saw that it was in a cast. Then I remembered the snapping sound I’d heard when I’d fallen down the ice. “Careful,” Ash said, rushing forward to steady me, but I waved him away before he could touch me. I forced myself off the bed, gritting my teeth against the pain. I leant against the walls to avoid putting weight on my injured leg. I tried to take a step, but it was unsteady. “What are you doing?” he demanded, angrily. “I’m leaving,” I snapped, taking another step towards the door. I didn’t recognize the room, but I guessed that we were in a hotel. A fireplace blazed in the corner, hot against my exposed skin. I looked down and realized I was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I tested my broken leg and it wobbled. I swore. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he retorted, grabbing my arm. I tried to shake it off, but he held on tight. Even now, even after he’d done so much to hurt me, the feeling of his hand against my bare skin made my knees melt. “You can’t leave in this state. Ella, stop being stupid. Ella. Will you look at me!” I turned to him, tears rolling down my cheeks. Ash stared at me, his ocean blue eyes unreadable. Suddenly, I felt pathetic. “Don’t touch me,” I whispered, sobbing silently. “Don’t touch me, you…stupid…son of…” “Ella…” Ash said, very gently. “What’s –?” I glared up at him. “What’s wrong? Are you serious? Are you really going to ask me that?” Ash’s face crumbled. “Ella,” he said, his voice unsteady. “Please let me explain about Lucy.” He was going to do it. He was going to tell me that he never really liked me, that I was over-reacting, that he didn’t think we were serious. Panic gripped my soul. I pushed him away, savagely, with a sudden abandon that shocked even me. “Do you really want to know what’s wrong, Ash? I’ll tell you!” I screamed. “It’s you! It’s the way you are! The way you look at me, like I actually mean something to you. The way you smile at me, as if you care. The way you make me feel, like I’m finally not alone. Ash, can’t you see?” I pleaded. “Can’t you see what you’re doing to me? I’m going insane, imagining you with her, your arms around, kissing.” My voice broke down and I was reduced to sobbing weakly into my hands. “And you don’t even like me,” I whispered. I’d lost the fire that had filled me only moments before. Now, I just felt cold. “And why should you, when I’m not important, rich or even remotely pretty? I’m nothing compared to a girl like her. Look at me, Ash. Do you like playing with my emotions? Is this…is this fun to see? I hate you, Ash Castillo, I hate –” The Billion Dollar Girl Ash grabbed me roughly and pulled me into his arms. Tears trickled from my eyes as I continued to cry soundlessly. I tried to push him away, but I was already lost in Ash’s embrace. My resistance faded. I couldn’t help it. There was something in Ash’s arms I could find nowhere else. “Let go…” I mumbled weakly, trying to pull away. But Ash held me fast, like a drowning man holding onto a piece of driftwood. Eventually I gave up and let Ash hold me, my heart slowing down to a normal, calm pace. Then Ash leaned away slightly, though his arms still remained around me. He looked into my eyes. I blinked, shocked. Ash’s eyes were shining, brimming with tears. “Oh, Ella…” he whispered. I’d never heard him sound so broken, so guilty before. “You never gave me a chance to explain.” The breath caught in my throat. “I wasn’t true, Ella. I never did anything with Lucy. I would never have betrayed you, Ella.” Ash stared at me. “Can you believe me?” Tears formed in my eyes and trickled into my messy hair. There was no denying the truth in his wide eyes. “Ash…” I breathed, shocked. “I…” “I love you, Ella,” Ash implored, staring into my eyes in a way that made me feel like I was on fire. Suddenly, looking into his light irises was like staring into the sun. It was like he was seeing me, all of me, all the way to my naked soul. “I love you more than you can even imagine. I loved you since the moment I saw you, in that moonlit gym. I loved you when we stood in the chapel, saying our vows. I loved you when you screamed that you hated me on the Brooklyn Bridge. And I love you even more now. All my life, I’ve been isolated and lonely, trying to find empty happiness in the money and possessions, but now… Ella, you’ve taught me…you’ve taught me how to love.” His lips were mere inches from mine. My heart thudded, my mind completely blank as I listened to the torrent of passionate speech issuing from his lips. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done to you. I’m sorry for the contract, I’m sorry for manipulating you into doing that deal with your grandparents, I’m sorry for not explaining about Lucy. You’ve done so much for me, yet I only hurt you. That’s going to change Ella. From this moment on, I promise to treat you right. I promise to make you happy, every second of every day. I promise to uphold the wedding vows I took because though I may not have meant them then, I mean them now. You are everything to me Ella, and if you ever left me, I would chase you to the end of the earth, for the rest of my life, if that’s as long as it takes.” Ash paused, to catch his breath. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. “Ella, I love you. Please forgive me?” I looked into his burning blue eyes and smiled. There was no way I could lie to him, not when he was staring at me like that. “Yes.” Ash leaned down and kissed me. This was nothing like the short passionate kisses we’d had before. This was slow and genuine, as is we had all the time in the world. The fire started off as a tiny spark my chest. Then it built up, bigger and bigger until it was a huge explosion of fireworks in my body, mind and soul, completely dominated my Universe. I tangled my fingers into Ash’s soft hair, attacking his gentle lips in a way I would’ve found incredibly embarrassing only a few days ago. Now, I was beyond caring. I almost wanted to laugh. Ash hadn’t done anything with Lucy. He hadn’t cheated on me at all. It was a huge sense of relief, like a weight had suddenly been lifted from my shoulders. I felt like skipping, I was so deliriously happy. Ash cupped my face, his fingers sending electric shocks through my body. I felt his eyelashes tickle against my nose as he pulled me closer. He gently nibbled on my lip, making me tingle. For a change, I had him pressed against the wall, instead of the other way around. Even so, Ash was still the dominant one, his hot fingers burning against the small of my back. He pressed my body against his, molding them together perfectly. Everything inside me was on fire. Red hot heat burnt against my eyelids, so hot it almost hurt. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t even cry out. I just kissed Ash like it was the only thing I knew. The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ This familiar smell. Like…raspberry and orange blossoms. I breathed in and out, utterly at peace. My bed was soft against my aching muscles. I felt numb. Calm. Comfortable. I heard a sound next to me. It was the soft sound of someone breathing. Sleeping, maybe. It was calm and slow, matching my heartbeat. I liked the sound. It made me safe. The warm fuzzy feeling clouded my mind, so much so that fatigue took over me and I felt sleepy. But then I heard a word. “Ella…” There was no way I wouldn’t recognize that voice. I would recognize it still even if all else was lost. It was Ash’s voice. He was pleading. “I’m so sorry,” I heard his whisper. His voice was now very close to my ear. “I’m sorry you’re here because of me. This is all my fault.” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “You’re had an accident because you remembered something you saw.” I frowned, trying to recall what he was talking about. But I already knew. Some part of me would never forget, but that part had kept silent, not wanting to disturb this new-found peace. “If only I’d told you the truth,” Ash sighed. “If only I’d told you before. Then this wouldn’t have happened.” I was beginning to remember. And those memories brought unwelcome pain to my paradise. “You remembered that you saw me with Lucy.” And then it all came back to me. The sound of rain and hailstones against the roof. A long shadow, coming from the bed. Ash and Lucy, locked together in an embrace. My eyes snapped open and I shoved Ash away from me. “Shut up,” I cried. “I don’t want to hear it.” I tried to slide off the bed, tried to get away, but even as I did, a hot flash of pain ran through my leg. I looked down and saw that it was in a cast. Then I remembered the snapping sound I’d heard when I’d fallen down the ice. “Careful,” Ash said, rushing forward to steady me, but I waved him away before he could touch me. I forced myself off the bed, gritting my teeth against the pain. I leant against the walls to avoid putting weight on my injured leg. I tried to take a step, but it was unsteady. “What are you doing?” he demanded, angrily. “I’m leaving,” I snapped, taking another step towards the door. I didn’t recognize the room, but I guessed that we were in a hotel. A fireplace blazed in the corner, hot against my exposed skin. I looked down and realized I was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I tested my broken leg and it wobbled. I swore. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he retorted, grabbing my arm. I tried to shake it off, but he held on tight. Even now, even after he’d done so much to hurt me, the feeling of his hand against my bare skin made my knees melt. “You can’t leave in this state. Ella, stop being stupid. Ella. Will you look at me!” I turned to him, tears rolling down my cheeks. Ash stared at me, his ocean blue eyes unreadable. Suddenly, I felt pathetic. “Don’t touch me,” I whispered, sobbing silently. “Don’t touch me, you…stupid…son of…” “Ella…” Ash said, very gently. “What’s –?” I glared up at him. “What’s wrong? Are you serious? Are you really going to ask me that?” Ash’s face crumbled. “Ella,” he said, his voice unsteady. “Please let me explain about Lucy.” He was going to do it. He was going to tell me that he never really liked me, that I was over-reacting, that he didn’t think we were serious. Panic gripped my soul. I pushed him away, savagely, with a sudden abandon that shocked even me. “Do you really want to know what’s wrong, Ash? I’ll tell you!” I screamed. “It’s you! It’s the way you are! The way you look at me, like I actually mean something to you. The way you smile at me, as if you care. The way you make me feel, like I’m finally not alone. Ash, can’t you see?” I pleaded. “Can’t you see what you’re doing to me? I’m going insane, imagining you with her, your arms around, kissing.” My voice broke down and I was reduced to sobbing weakly into my hands. “And you don’t even like me,” I whispered. I’d lost the fire that had filled me only moments before. Now, I just felt cold. “And why should you, when I’m not important, rich or even remotely pretty? I’m nothing compared to a girl like her. Look at me, Ash. Do you like playing with my emotions? Is this…is this fun to see? I hate you, Ash Castillo, I hate –” The Billion Dollar Girl Ash grabbed me roughly and pulled me into his arms. Tears trickled from my eyes as I continued to cry soundlessly. I tried to push him away, but I was already lost in Ash’s embrace. My resistance faded. I couldn’t help it. There was something in Ash’s arms I could find nowhere else. “Let go…” I mumbled weakly, trying to pull away. But Ash held me fast, like a drowning man holding onto a piece of driftwood. Eventually I gave up and let Ash hold me, my heart slowing down to a normal, calm pace. Then Ash leaned away slightly, though his arms still remained around me. He looked into my eyes. I blinked, shocked. Ash’s eyes were shining, brimming with tears. “Oh, Ella…” he whispered. I’d never heard him sound so broken, so guilty before. “You never gave me a chance to explain.” The breath caught in my throat. “I wasn’t true, Ella. I never did anything with Lucy. I would never have betrayed you, Ella.” Ash stared at me. “Can you believe me?” Tears formed in my eyes and trickled into my messy hair. There was no denying the truth in his wide eyes. “Ash…” I breathed, shocked. “I…” “I love you, Ella,” Ash implored, staring into my eyes in a way that made me feel like I was on fire. Suddenly, looking into his light irises was like staring into the sun. It was like he was seeing me, all of me, all the way to my naked soul. “I love you more than you can even imagine. I loved you since the moment I saw you, in that moonlit gym. I loved you when we stood in the chapel, saying our vows. I loved you when you screamed that you hated me on the Brooklyn Bridge. And I love you even more now. All my life, I’ve been isolated and lonely, trying to find empty happiness in the money and possessions, but now… Ella, you’ve taught me…you’ve taught me how to love.” His lips were mere inches from mine. My heart thudded, my mind completely blank as I listened to the torrent of passionate speech issuing from his lips. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done to you. I’m sorry for the contract, I’m sorry for manipulating you into doing that deal with your grandparents, I’m sorry for not explaining about Lucy. You’ve done so much for me, yet I only hurt you. That’s going to change Ella. From this moment on, I promise to treat you right. I promise to make you happy, every second of every day. I promise to uphold the wedding vows I took because though I may not have meant them then, I mean them now. You are everything to me Ella, and if you ever left me, I would chase you to the end of the earth, for the rest of my life, if that’s as long as it takes.” Ash paused, to catch his breath. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. “Ella, I love you. Please forgive me?” I looked into his burning blue eyes and smiled. There was no way I could lie to him, not when he was staring at me like that. “Yes.” Ash leaned down and kissed me. This was nothing like the short passionate kisses we’d had before. This was slow and genuine, as is we had all the time in the world. The fire started off as a tiny spark my chest. Then it built up, bigger and bigger until it was a huge explosion of fireworks in my body, mind and soul, completely dominated my Universe. I tangled my fingers into Ash’s soft hair, attacking his gentle lips in a way I would’ve found incredibly embarrassing only a few days ago. Now, I was beyond caring. I almost wanted to laugh. Ash hadn’t done anything with Lucy. He hadn’t cheated on me at all. It was a huge sense of relief, like a weight had suddenly been lifted from my shoulders. I felt like skipping, I was so deliriously happy. Ash cupped my face, his fingers sending electric shocks through my body. I felt his eyelashes tickle against my nose as he pulled me closer. He gently nibbled on my lip, making me tingle. For a change, I had him pressed against the wall, instead of the other way around. Even so, Ash was still the dominant one, his hot fingers burning against the small of my back. He pressed my body against his, molding them together perfectly. Everything inside me was on fire. Red hot heat burnt against my eyelids, so hot it almost hurt. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t even cry out. I just kissed Ash like it was the only thing I knew.
Posted by Louise Nel at 03:31
Friday, 29 January 2010
“Shall we, my lady?” It was like nothing had changed. It was like she’d never accidently found me in bed with Lucy. It was like we hadn’t had a fight. It was like we were whatever we had been before – husband and wife. I’d spent my life dreading commitment, dreading having to marry some girl who I was sure I was incapable of loving, dreading having to spend the rest of my life with her… but as I gazed into Ella’s green eyes, I realized she’d changed everything. Ella took my hand and electricity buzzed through our fingertips. “Of course,” she said, smiling. “My Lord.” *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I stared out of the carriage window for a few moments, just indulging in the feelings tingling against my skin. The soft moon was one, the huge round orb hanging in the night sky that cast a gentle light onto the surrounded. The second was the warmth of the blanket Ash and I were currently sharing (I wondering if Ash had quickly made a call while I was in the bathroom, and asked them to include something to keep me warm. It wouldn’t surprise me. Ash thought of everything). Or rather, Ash’s warmth. And the third was the taste of champagne against my lips. It electrified my whole body, making me feel alive. “So how is it?” he said, over the gentle clip-clop of the horse’s hooves. We moved through the carefully maintained path slowly, but I was in no hurry. This was one of the best, most romantic moments of my life and I intended to savor it… no matter Ash’s true intentions. I turned back to Ash. He was smiling. Ash looked so perfect under the moonlight it was almost criminal. His skin shone, the red lips of his especially dark and even his hair, though messy and untamed, looked good. Not for the first time, I wondered why Ash seemed to like me. He was funny, rich and damn handsome. So why was he doing all of…this…for me? His face blurred a little and I blinked, suddenly feeling dizzy. His grin slid off his face when he noticed the tears shining in my eyes. “Hey,” he said, sounding concerned. He leaned in to brush away the drops of liquid. “Hey, Ella, what’s wrong?” I didn’t reply and just stared at Ash’s face. I cried a lot lately. I used to think of myself as a strong, independent woman who could take on the world. It was only recently that I realized how truly weak I was. I depended on Ash. No, it as more than that. I needed him. When I couldn’t look at him face any more, I just looked down. “I don’t know,” I mumbled through cracked lips. “I just…” Ash seemed to understand. Slowly, gently, he pulled me into his arms and I just lay, my head on his chest, listening to his rapid heartbeat. He was so warm. Almost unconsciously, I held my fingers over his heart. Was that me doing that to him? How? I had no idea what I was doing. I wanted to know, so badly. After all, it was only fair since he seemed to know what he was doing to me. “Do you want me to sing for you?” Ash said, his deep voice making his chest rumble against my cheek. I smiled. “No.” “Oh.” “Don’t take it personally,” I laughed. “I just don’t want to hear you sing.” “I’m an excellent singer, actually.” “Is that what your Mommy says?” I teased. Ash froze, his whole body tensing up beneath mine. Even though my mind was woozy and I couldn’t think straight (a side-effect of the alcohol, perhaps?), I could tell I’d struck a nerve. I looked up, at his face and saw him wear an expression I’d never seen him wear before. It was a mix of sad and hopelessness. That face made me want to hold him and never let go. “I’m sorry,” I muttered, under my breath. I squeezed his chest clumsily and rested my head on Ash’s shoulder again. “I shouldn’t have said that.” “It’s not your fault,” he sighed. “I should be less touchy about the subject.” He glanced down at me and frowned. “Hey, Ella, are you okay?” “I’m fine,” I laughed. It sounded weird, even to me. Then I frowned too. “Wait, why are there two of you?” “Ella, are you drunk?” “Maybe.” “But I only gave you a few glassfuls…” he said, looked panicked. “Ella, how do you feel?” “Dizzy. Worn out. Tired. In fact, I think I’m going to go to sleep…” My eyelids were suddenly feeling very heavy and I let them droop again. “Ella, I’m sorry for doing this to you,” Ash said quickly, as if he wanted to tell me everything before I blacked out. “I’m sorry the night hasn’t been the best, what with the temperature on the roof and for making you cry and for getting you drunk. I’m sorry I –” I shut him up by pressing his lips to mine. His mouth was pleasantly warm against my lips and he tasted of champagne. He smelt like his cologne, the way he always smelt. Even with my numbed senses, I could feel our hearts beating against each other frantically, and the delicious feeling I always felt on the rare occasions we kissed. A moment later, I pulled away and glared at him. The Billion Dollar Girl “You talk too much,” I complained before I let myself succumb to the sleep. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ Her head fell back onto my chest. I sat frozen, on the bench, my lips still throbbing from the gentle kiss. It suddenly occurred to me that Ella had never kissed me before. I’d kissed her, of course, several times before, whether it was because I was angry or simply because she looked so damn cute. Nevertheless, though this kiss was soft, a lot softer than any other of our kisses, it seemed different somehow. It meant something. It was Ella who wanted to kiss me this time and not the other way around. Just this fact had my heart racing. I enjoyed the carriage ride for a few more minutes, enjoying the feel of Ella’s body pressed against mine, her flowery smell and the beautiful expression on her moonlit face, before telling the carriage driver to quickly get us back to the entrance. I’d had a whole event planned with fireworks and violins serenading us, but somehow that kiss was a hundred times better than any cheesy romantic thing I could have planned. When we were at the entrance, the carriage driver opened the door for us and I thanked her. Scooping Ella’s body up with ease, I carried her back to the car. The driver opened the door and I got in, gently placing her into the seat. I got in as well and we were driving. I watched Ella’s sleeping face. She looked so peaceful, so childlike I almost fell for her again. As I brushed a wavy tendril of hair away from her eyes, Ella gave a little groan that sounded a lot like, “Ash”. I froze, staring at her intensely. Was that what she’d really just said? Had she just said my name? Was she dreaming about me? I watched her carefully the whole ride, but she didn’t say anything again. *** The Billion Dollar Girl Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ When I opened my eyes after the long, unexpectedly blissful night sleep, I noticed three things. Firstly, the pounding headache. You know, one of those headaches that made you want to curl up into a ball and cry. It took me a while to stop noticing that, and notice the other things around me. Namely, the bare muscular arm that was draped over my chest. I stared down at it, my brain too slow and sluggish to realize whose it was. But before I could even attempt to work out whose arm it was, I noticed something else. The ceiling. An ornate but understated wooden ceiling, carved with delicate little flowers that wound around the corners of the room. It was beautiful, the kind of thing you would find at in an upper-class house. And it was something I’d never seen before. Which raised the question…Where was I? The owner of the arm mumbled something and I turned to him. It took me a few more seconds to realize who I had in fact slept next to. Ash. And he was naked. Giving a strangled shriek, I leapt away from him, clutching the silk sheets to my body. Looking around, I tried to pinpoint exactly where I was, but it was impossible. Had Ash kidnapped me? “Why are you screaming?” Ash mumbled sleepily, turning away. “Because…we’re in…bed…” I stuttered, unable to accurately express my anger. “Us…naked…” “You’re not naked,” Ash pointed out as he sat up, revealing more of his sexy chest. I couldn’t help but stare at the wall of hard muscle Ash had just managed to expose by “accidently” letting the covers fall. It took me a while to take in what Ash had said. I looked down and realized that he was right. I wasn’t naked, but in what I roughly remembered as having worn yesterday. “And technically, I’m not naked either. I’m wearing boxers.” I looked down at the part of Ash I’d been avoiding and saw cute little red boxers with chickens all over them. Then I blushed, realizing that I’d accidently been tricked into staring at Ash’s crotch. “You’re right,” I mumbled, quickly looking up at the ceiling again. “You are wearing boxers.” “You sound a little disappointed,” Ash said and though I wasn’t looking at him, I could tell he was smirking. “Did you want to see more…?” “No!” I protested, pulling the sheets over my face so I couldn’t see anything, should he decide to flash me. I winced when my loud shout made my head throb. I could hear Ash laughing. The weight shifted on the bed and I could tell that he was right next to me. I clutched the soft sheets to my face even firmer, not wanting my innocence to be snatched away in such a manner. “I was just kidding,” he said, his voice muffled as he pressed his face into the pillow. He tugged gently at the covers. “Ella, let go.” Slowly, I let go of my grip on the sheets and felt them slide out of my grasp. I glared at Ash’s smug face, bemused by my innocence. “Not funny,” I snapped. “Don’t worry, Ella,” Ash said, quickly leaning in to press his lips against my forehead. He put his lips to my ear. “We’ve got plenty of time for that in the future…” I felt myself blush again at his lewd words. Even in the warmth of the cozy bed, I could feel Ash’s body heat against mine. A shiver ran down my spine. The way Ash smelt in the morning was even better than the delicious smell of his cologne. Ash smelt of the sun. That was the only way I could explain it. He smelt like the sun and the grass and the flowers and the trees. Ash smelt like everything I could ever want, or had ever wanted. He smelt amazing. I found myself burying my head in his neck and inhaling deeply. When I came to my senses, I froze. Damn. I still might be little drunk. “Ella…” Ash rumbled, sounding amused. “What are you doing…?” I had no idea what to say, so I did that only thing that my hung-over brain could think of, something I would never ever have usually done. I bit his neck. Ash pulled away sharply, glaring at me. “What the hell was that for?” he said, rubbing his neck. I hadn’t bitten him hard. It was just a little nip, but apparently Ash had no tolerance for pain. I stuck my tongue out. “Payback.” Ash just stared at me for a few more moments, before grinning widely. “I think I like drunk Ella,” he said. The Billion Dollar Girl *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “Where are we?” Ella asked, her voice muffled by the door. I took this as a sign that she was ready and so I re-entered the room. She was stood by the window, brushing her long hair. She turned to face me, raising her eyebrows questioningly. I felt my heart thumping. Did Ella really not realize how beautiful she looked in that dress? I shook my head. Concentrate, Ash. You’re not an inexperienced little virgin any more, so stop acting like one. “I bought this place when my Uncle died,” I said, joining her at the window. We both stared out at the lush lawns, decorated in a sense that could only be described as Parisian Chic. It was one of our best properties in Europe and I sincerely wished that I could visit more. I pointed at the circular fountain in the middle of the grass, with delicate white lilies floating on the surface of the water. “Those were his favorites.” I stared out at the gardens, a flood of memories engulfing me again. I no longer felt sorry for myself about what had happened. I was the last person who deserved sympathy. I just felt sad at what had happened. To my surprise, I felt Ella take my hand. I turned to her, astonished and saw her sad smile. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, squeezing my fingers. “I had no idea how lonely you were.” I stared into those honest green eyes, and in that moment I almost didn’t believe that a girl like Ella would be capable of deceit and betrayal. Well, I had to take responsibility for some of it, I guess. I hadn’t told her the truth about the Lucy incident yet. But now wasn’t the time. But there was something in Ella’s face that made me feel so loved, yet so alone at the same time. For the first time in a long time, I felt unsure. I didn’t have my usual self-confidence. Which was why I was prompted to say the next few words. “Do you promise to never leave me?” I whispered, the words so quiet even I could not hear them. “Do you promise?” Ella stared at me for a few moments, and those lucid green eyes clouded over. She looked away. “I promise,” she lied. I grit my teeth. Ella, one day, I’m going to make you promise to me for real. And that day I’ll hold on to you and never let go. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ “We are we going today?” I asked as Ash sprinted through the lawn. With our joined hands, I had no other option but to run along with him. “Hey! Ash! Slow down.” “I’ve got a surprise planned,” Ash yelled. He seemed to enjoy running a lot more than I was. Well, I guess the son of a multi-billionaire rarely got the chance to really let go and run around like a madman. He also seemed surprisingly nimble in a suit. “We’re going shopping until lunch, then I’m going to take you somewhere you’re going to love.” “Shopping?” I repeated, panting a little from the running. I usually hated the word. Did that surprise you? Probably not, since I totally come across as the type of girl who loves shopping in malls. “That sounds nice,” I lied. “Oh, don’t sound like that,” Ash said, not out of breath at all. Now that we were closer to the entrance, I could see the car. It still seemed very far away. I wondered if I would die of exhaustion before I reached it. “Girls should love to shop.” I rolled my eyes. Had Ash met me? “Plus, I have to get you something for our one month anniversary,” Ash laughed. My heart skipped a beat. He turned back to look at me for a moment. “What, did you really think I’d forget? James tells me girls take the whole thing very seriously. He helped me plan the whole thing.” Despite myself, I smiled. To be honest, I’d been too caught up in a whirlwind of events to dwindle too long on the fact that we’d been married for a month already – has it really been a month? It seemed to be a lot shorter than that. “What, you’ve never celebrated a one month anniversary before?” I teased. We’d reached the car and Ash finally stopped. I tried my best to stop panting. “Not with a girlfriend before,” Ash said. The way he said it made my heart beat fast. Girlfriend? Did that mean Ash was my boyfriend? I’d never had a boyfriend before. I’d been so distracted by the enormous words like contract, marriage and husband that I’d never even thought about the smaller, sweeter words. I smiled. Boyfriend. It was a nice word. “I’ve never gone out with a girl for as long as a month.” The Billion Dollar Girl I raised my eyebrows. “Really? Do you realize how much of a playboy you sound?” “Well, I’m just honest about my emotions,” Ash said, opening the car door for me. I loved how is eyes twinkled as he smiled. I slid into the car. “I’ve never liked a girl long enough to go out with her for a month.” At this, I gave a little gasp. I couldn’t help it. The way he had said it made me feel special. “I’ve never liked a girl long enough to go out with her for a month”. It was stupid, I know. Ash was only staying with me because the contract was binding us together. That was all. That was everything we could ever be. But still, those words made my heart flutter. “So what do you want for our anniversary?” Ash asked. I smiled at him, drawn back into the simple world where nothing mattered. Where we were two lovers, not two business partners, where Ash’s life hadn’t been ripped apart years ago, where I wasn’t married to Ash simply for the money. I just smiled at Ash and replied teasingly, “Shouldn’t the guy come up with that?” “Well, it’s hard,” he said, hanging his head. His blonde fringe fell over his blue eyes. “I’m not smart enough to know what kind of books you would like. Maybe something on Quantum Physics?” I rolled my eyes. “Jesus, you’re just like everybody else. Do you how many books I got at Christmas? It was completely ridiculous. Go with something pretty. You can’t go wrong with pretty.” “As you wish,” Ash said, smiling. He turned to the driver. “Go to the nearest jewelry shop, please.” *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I watched Ella’s eyes widen at the beautiful multicolored gems and the bands of gold at platinum that surrounded us from all sides. I loved seeing that look on her face, that expression of awe. It made everything worth it. The shop had the air of an upper-class French boutique and was one of the most unique jewelry shops in world. We walked through the cabinets filled with prize jewels. Ella gaped at each and every one, her eyes never leaving the gleaming jewelry, but I was too busy watching her reactions. “Which one do you want?” I asked, staring at her face. “Uh…” she mumbled, tearing her wide eyes away from the displays long enough to give me an awestruck look. “I don’t know…they’re all so pretty…” “Do you want to try anything on?” Ella bit on her lips, her eyes still looking around the shop. Her eyes fell on a small butterfly pendant hanging on a simple chain and I could almost sense her falling in love with it. I would’ve been jealous if it hadn’t been an inanimate object. “That one?” I prompted. She nodded, wordless. I turned to the lady behind the counter, who smiled and reached for the key behind the desk and unlocked the cabinet in the wall. She gently lifted the necklace from its stand and passed it to me. I softly urged Ella to turn around so I could fasten it onto her neck. I enjoyed the goosebumps I unintentionally left of her skin, and may have taken longer than I could’ve to fasten the chain. Once I was done, the delicate butterfly hung there, over her sharp collarbones. We both stared at her reflection in the mirror, overwhelmed. In this lighting, it looked as if the wings themselves were flapping. “It’s Italian,” the lady said in a thick French accent. “Handcrafted. It’s one of a kind, made by a master jeweler just before he had died. The delicate butterfly, a single chiseled piece of diamond, symbolizes the transition between captivity and freedom. The blood-red rubies symbolize sacrifice. It’s a prized piece of mine, and there are not many women out there who could pull it off, but I have to say, it suits you immensely. You have good taste, madam.” Ella was still wordless as she looked at herself in the bright glow of the lights. The butterfly’s wings cast a long shadow onto her creamy skin. Since she could not speak, I spoke for her. “We’ll take it,” I said to the woman. “What is your price?” Ella turned to me, mouth open, about to protest but the woman beat her to it. “Monsieur,” she said, shaking her head. “This piece is completely priceless. It is a unique masterpiece and cannot sell it to simply anybody.” The Billion Dollar Girl “I am not simply anybody,” I insisted, confidently. “I’m Asher Castillo, soon to be CEO of Castillo Corporations. I own a business empire that stretches all over the world. Surely you have heard of me? I ask you again, madam, what is your price?” Ella tugged at my sleeve, shaking her head, but I ignored her, focusing on the woman, who gave me a long, searching look before speaking again. “Two million Euros,” she said. I smiled. That was more like it. “Then we’ll take it. Check okay?” The woman disappeared behind the counter to find a suitable box for the prized jewel and I pulled out my checkbook. Ella stared, open-mouthed at me. “Are you crazy?” she hissed. “That’s almost three million dollars! Ash, what were you thinking?” Grinning at her, I signed the check. “Don’t worry about it,” I said, kissing her forehead. She blushed as usual, despite her panic over my spending habits. “It’s a present from me, okay? Plus, you’re worth a billion dollars now. You should at least look like it.” Ella did not appear to be calming down, but it was too late. The woman reappeared and quickly but efficiently unfastened the chain from Ella’s neck. The platinum chain fell, along with the pendant and the woman carefully placed it into the smooth velvet box. She handed it over to Ella as I passed her the check. “Thank you,” I said, giving the woman a polite smile. She returned to her spot behind the desk, just as I turned to face Ella. “Now,” I said, smirking at her face – the perfect mixture of adorable confusion and shock, “do you want to buy anything else?” It was amazing how fast she dragged me out of that shop. *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I sat in my seat of the car, sulking. I knew it was a stupid thing to sulk about and it made no sense for me to sulk, but I was still sulking. Ash glanced over to me a few times, but kept looking away, bemused. That just made me want to sulk even harder. “Ella…” he finally said. I turned my head away from him and glared gloomily out of the window. “Are you sulking?” “No,” I snapped, crossing my arms. “Because you’re pouting.” “So?” “Because that just made me think that you were sulking. Was I wrong?” Ignoring his smart-ass little comment, I just stared out of the window harder. “I’m going to take that as a ‘no’,” Ash said. “So. Care to tell me what you’re annoyed about?” “I’m not annoyed about anything.” Ash sighed and grabbed onto my arm, forcing me to face him. “Ella,” he said seriously. Those blue eyes bore into mine. “Please tell me what you’re upset about. When you’re sad, I feel sad as well.” I bit on my lip, but that puppy face weakened my resolve. Damn, was Ash a smooth talker. “It’s just…” I said, in voice. I was aware that I sounded like a whiny child, but I couldn’t help it. “I don’t like you spending that much money on me.” “Oh,” he laughed, as if it wasn’t really important. I frowned. “Is that it? Well, would you mind telling me exactly what you find so objectionable about it? Don’t you like the necklace? I saw the way you were looking at it. I paid for it, so you shouldn’t worry about the price.” “It’s not really about the money…” I said, looking down at my shoes. “It’s just…whenever you spend money on me, I’m just reminded of the fact that you bought me with money too.” Ash didn’t reply, so I decided to look up to him. His face had a hard, unreadable expression. “I mean,” I continued. “That’s all I am to you, right? Just another plaything that can be easily purchased, as long as you flash that fancy checkbook. That’s all I could ever be.” We stared at each other for a few long moments. Ash’s eyes were filled with sadness and an emotion that scared me as much as it excited me. His beautiful face, the face that haunted some of my better dreams, was serious, and when he opened his mouth I knew he was going to say something that would change our relationship forever, for better or for worse. And he would’ve said it, if only the driver hadn’t chosen that exactly moment to stop the car and wind down the window that separated us from him. The Billion Dollar Girl “We’ve arrived at the helipad,” he said brightly. His cheerful expression disappeared when he saw both of us quickly away from each other, the tension still tangible in the air. “Thank you,” I managed to choke out, before I opened my car door and stepped out of the car into the cold air. When I saw car’s weight shift, I knew Ash had done the same thing. When the driver drove away again, there was suddenly no barrier between us and we both stared into each other’s faces, wondering what the hell to say. Then Ash’s face broke into a small smile. “Do you like helicopters?” I blinked, surprised by the sudden change of subject. “Yeah, I guess.” “Well, today’s your lucky day,” he said and, flashing a quick grin, pointed at something behind me. I turned around and gaped at the huge black mass of metal and blades that I had somehow missed. When my back was turned, he had somehow gotten really close to me. I jumped when I felt his hot fingers touch my skin. “Because you’re going to ride this beauty,” he whispered, into my ear, his smooth voice making me tingle that way it always did. Then he was gone from my side and I saw Ash again, walking towards the helicopter. He turned around, giving me a beautiful smile that played havoc with my pulse rate. “Come on!” he called. I watched him leave for a second, slightly disappointed that he hadn’t been able to say the thing he had wanted to say. But should I be disappointed? I could already imagine what kind of thing Ash could’ve said at that point: “I’m sorry I mislead you, but I’ve always thought of you as an employee.” “Well, you were certainly were easy to buy, weren’t you?” “I’m never had any feelings for you. Sorry.” I tried to work out if this way was better. But I hated never finding out the truth, always hanging in the balance, unsure of how he truly felt and where I stood. It would’ve been better if he’d been able to tell me the truth. I sighed. “Hey, Ella,” Ash called again. I looked up and saw that he was by the helicopter already. “You want to come or not?” Unable to help myself, I smiled at him and started making my way towards Ash. Who cared if he never really loved me? I should stop over-thinking everything and just enjoy the now. Ash grasped my waist and help hoist me up, into the helicopter. I ignored the hot flush I got from his touch, and just put on the noise-cancelling headphones that Ash had passed to me. I nodded at the helicopter pilot, who nodded back. Ash gave me two thumbs up. “Ready to go?” he mouthed. “As always,” I mouthed back. *** The Billion Dollar Girl ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ I watched Ella stare down at the snow-capped peaks we were currently flying over. I loved that part of her, the childish part that seemed to be capable of taking normal, ordinary life and making it something exciting. But even I had to admit the view from the window was impressive. That was the thing I loved about flying in a helicopter. You felt like you were above the world, looking down on it, gliding over it. You didn’t get that feeling in a jet or a private plane…or God forbid, a commercial flight. We were nearing our destination and the pilot was dropping altitude. Already, I could see the ski slopes of Chamonix. I glanced at Ella, who was gaping down at the ski resort. “You didn’t,” she mouthed, wide-eyed. I didn’t move back, just smiled at her and looked away, watching the resort getting closer and closer. I could see the ski lifts already, and smiled approvingly when I saw they were empty. I’d had to book out the entire ski resort, of course, since I absolutely despised the idea of skiing down a slope surrounded by fat teenagers and their obnoxious parents. We landed gently onto the helipad that had been especially built for our arrival. The blades slowed down and I pulled off my headphones. Leaning it, I did the same for Ella. As soon as the headphones were off, she started spewing a torrent of words. “I can’t believe it,” she gasped. “You brought me skiing! Ash, I can’t believe you actually brought me here…Ash, I –” “Don’t worry about it,” I said, smiling. “It was nothing. When you have money, the whole world is within your grasp.” But as soon as I said this, I remembered the conversation we’d had in the car. Ella clearly remembered too, because the excited expression on her face slipped for just a moment, before she hitched it back on. “I don’t think I’m dressed suitably, though,” she confessed, as if it was a great sin. She was shivering violently in the tight-fitting dress she’d put on this morning, and I cursed myself for not considering the temperature. “Don’t worry about it,” I smiled. “I have some warm clothes for you, and all the ski equipment we’ll need.” She nodded, looking overwhelmed. I glanced at the pilot, who was pulling out the bag of equipment I’d asked to be packed into the helicopter with us. He tossed me the bag and I caught it easily. I glanced over and saw that the ski resort’s manager had arrived as well. “Greetings, dear visitors,” he said, his voice deep and calm. Though his words were fluent, it sounded rehearsed. “And welcome to Chamonix, the leading French ski resort with some of world’s most –” “Save it,” I said, interrupting him. Ella’s lips were turning blue. “Just tell us were the changing rooms are. And they better be warm.” *** Ͼ Ella Castillo Ͽ I came out of the room I’d used to change in, feeling very bulky in the padded clothes Ash had handed me. When Ash saw me, he doubled other, laughing. I glared at him. “Shut up,” I muttered. “It’s not funny.” “Sorry,” Ash smirked. “But you look like a snowman caught in a paint accident.” Ignoring him, I decided to make my way out of the changing rooms and started following the signs to the entrance. In the unusually empty resort, I easily heard Ash run after me and a few moments later, he appeared beside me, the equipment bag slung over his shoulder. “Are ski resort usually this empty?” I asked. “I hired it out,” he replied simply. I rolled my eyes. Typical Ash. He wouldn’t survive five minutes with a regular credit card. I stepped out of the building, the cold wind immediately biting into my exposed neck and face, though thankfully my body stayed warm under the thick, insulated clothing. Then I started walking, moving towards the direction of a ski slope I’d seen. “If you keep going that way,” Ash said, still behind me. “You’ll fall off the mountain. Beginner slopes are that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction. Trying to maintain my dignity, I turned around and walked in the direction he was pointing in. Pretty soon, my feet left the concrete and I was enjoying the feeling of snow crunching under my boots. Snow didn’t happen often in a city like New York, and when it did, it was pretty much guaranteed to turn into disgusting brown mush in about five minutes. So the pure white snow made a nice change. The Billion Dollar Girl I almost slipped, but Ash reached forward quickly and grabbed onto my arm, keeping me upright. We both stared at each other for a moment and I blushed under the intensity of his stare. “What are you looking at?” I finally asked, shy all of a sudden. “Your ears. They’re bright red.” Oh. Romantic. “Hang on a second,” Ash said, dropping the bag to the floor and quickly unzipping it. I watched him curiously as he rummaged around the bag. Finally, he produced a bright orange hat with a giant bobble on top that was clearly not chosen by my fashion adviser. He pulled it onto my head, so low it covered my eyes as well as my ears. “There you go,” Ash laughed. I pulled it up again to glare at him. In moments like these, we were so close it made my heart warm. I wished every day could be like right now. *** ῼ Ash Castillo ῼ “I haven’t given you poles, because they’re really for turning and all you’re going to be doing is sliding,” I said, in instructor mode, “but what you have to do for the basic position, is to first turn your skis in, like this, making a V shape, and press down. This stops you from moving. You want your knees to be bent a little, like this.” I demonstrated. “But if you want to move, turn your feet out your skis are straight.” I did this, and started to glide down the snow slowly for about a second. “This move is called something I can’t actually remember, but I think it’s one of the beginner moves. Why don’t you try?” Ella stared at me dubiously, as if to say, ‘Are you joking? I can’t do that.’ “Go on,” I prompted. “I’ll hold onto your waist until I think you’re ready to go it yourself.” I unlocked my skis and grabbed her waist. Ella gave me worried look before clumsily positioning her legs into the pose I’d taught her. I held onto her waist as she slowly started sliding down the slope. This was one of the reasons I wanted to teach her myself, rather than have an instructor. I didn’t like the idea of anyone touching her. “I’m doing it,” she gasped. “Ash, look at me, I’m doing it!” I grinned at her childlike innocence and nodded along. “Yes, you are. Now go into the second position.” “Okay…” Brow furrowed with concentration, Ella bent her knees, gliding a little faster. “Wow,” she gasped. “Look how fast I’m going! Ash, am I doing it right?”
Posted by Louise Nel at 11:38