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.” ***

5 comments:

  1. When are you going to post the next chapter?

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  2. When are you going to post the next chapter?

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  3. you stole the story you son of a bitch stop lying the date on the blog and the time stamp in the url is different.

    go fucking do sonething with you're own imagination and stoping using someone elses

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  4. this Louise is sick. you are pathetic, you need medical attention girl

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  5. this Louise is sick. you are pathetic, you need medical attention girl

    ReplyDelete