I could feel my heart skipping a beat as soon as I caught sight of that familiar dark eyes of his. Everything stopped around me as if time had frozen. Was it really that guy? The guy I had been fantasizing ever since I first laid my eyes on him, the same guy that I couldn’t stop thinking about?
No, please tell me this wasn’t a dream.
Am I seeing things now? Was I that desperate to meet him again that I’m starting to hallucinate, just like back in the days where I was kept in that room for a long time that I was beginning to see things—no, this was different.
This was real.
I swallowed the thick lump of saliva stuck in my throat. I couldn’t move my gaze off him. Why does he still look so damn attractive even if he’s tied in a chair with blood dripping off his nose?
Martinez spoke, garnering my attention. I stayed in the shadow while silently watching their conversation. I should have stepped in to stop Martinez from digging his own grave, but I couldn’t move. I was entranced by that guy’s existence.
I felt something tick inside me when Martinez grabbed a lock of his hair, forcing the guy to look at him. “Too bad you’ve picked the wrong person to threaten. I’ll f*ck you up.” I could only roll my eyes at how pathetic that sounded like. Poor Martinez, acting like his father when he’s threatening someone even if the old man didn’t even know how to punch a guy. But what should I expect? The Martinez family was known to be a bunch of pussies—only using their money to control people to do everything for them.
How pathetic indeed.
I looked at the guy to see what reaction he had after hearing Martinez’ threat. I was expecting he’d be scared. Even if it was Martinez, his threat would work to any ordinary people. He might lack the balls to do it, but he certainly had the power to make anyone bow to whatever he wanted.
But much to my surprise, the guy scrunched his face in disgust. “Get away from me,” he said, smirking back at Martinez who was taken aback by the guy fighting back. Anyone in his situation would have sunk in fear but he didn’t. “Your breath stinks.”
I heard some people laugh from his remark. It brought a smile to my face. Damn, I wasn’t wrong about this guy. He wasn’t ordinary. In fact, if I knew better, he could have been the same as us.
But he didn’t smell like me. No, he was far from what I am. This person hadn’t done anything monstrous, at least not yet.
I clenched my fists when Martinez suddenly punched him on the face.
“You think this is funny?!” he yelled, losing his composure just because the guy he’s trying to scare refused to be scared. “I’ll f*cking kill you!”
His head sagged for a second before raising it to look at Martinez, taunting him to do better. “Oh, come on,” he said, his smirk reaching his ears, “if you wanted to kill me, you should have done it.”
Martinez growled, punching him again on the face. Finally, he successfully made his nose bleed. I held my breath, watching the blood dripped off his face.
He looked even handsome—f*ck, the same fire that I felt when I met him burned me from the inside. I wanted to touch him, to bury my nose in that locks of him and—
“Liam.” I snapped out of my thoughts, gasping out loud. Paolo looked at me, confused. “What? Are you okay?” he asked after seeing how red my cheeks were. It felt like it’s burning, and that guy was the only fix to my problem.
“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” I stammered.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. This wasn’t the right time to admire him. Martinez dragged a civilian. One of my rules was never to involve people outside of the gang, no matter what. We had to protect our identities as we lived a very dangerous life. And dragging someone like that guy would only bring me trouble, especially if Tyler knew about it.
“Man, you punch like a fag,” the guy jeered. The corner of my eye twitched when he licked the blood off him. That’s hot. “Punch me like you mean it, Remus. Do it!”
“Liam,” Paolo called. “Do something. Don’t just watch.”
Ah, he’s right. I didn’t come here to watch the guy perform for me. Before Martinez could explode, I stepped in to stop his stupidity.
“What are you doing?” I asked, walking towards Martinez.
Recognizing my voice, he turned around only to drop his jaw in utter shock. He probably didn’t expect I’d waste my time traveling one hour just to get here, thus why he was confident his little activity wouldn’t be noticed. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be his ass on the line if Tyler finds out about this.
“H-hey, boss! What are you doing here?” Martinez nervously greeted. The fake grin that appeared on his face irked me but instead of talking about how stupid he looked like, I shut my mouth and decided to act like the boss for once.
“Seriously, Martinez?” I asked. I tried to sound as disappointing as possible.
Don’t look like you’re happy to see the guy. This wasn’t the time, Liam. Act as scary as it was your job to look after your men.
Remember what Tyler always says.
People won’t respect you if you look like a damn coward.
“Listen, boss,” Martinez began, his hands shaking as he tried to explain what the hell was going on. He knew I’m going to give him to Tyler. He better pray my older brother would have some kind of epiphany to spare him. He might be a Martinez, but in front of Tyler, we both knew he’d be nothing. Tyler didn’t care who the f*ck anyone was. Using the Torres-Shao influence was enough to let him do anything he wanted. “This guy pissed me off!”
I rolled my eyes. And here I thought Martinez couldn’t get any more childish. His father really did him dirty by raising a kid like him. The logic of doing anything I want because I have money would be the cause of his death.
Seriously, when will he ever learn?
“Didn’t I tell you not to cause any trouble while we’re outside?” I asked, raising a brow at him.
Martinez grunted. “But he’s annoying! And he deserved to be taught a lesson, Liam!”
I’m so glad Paolo could see this. He now knows that someone could get even more immature than me. And not in a good way. Sighing, I closed the gap between Martinez and me. He bit his lip, bracing himself as if I was going to hit him. I rarely punish my men and Martinez always takes advantage of that, but this time, he knew he messed up.
But I didn’t.
As long as no one tells Tyler what happened here, we’d all be safe from his wrath.
Besides, he was the one who knew how to punish people in the most painful way. I’ll only embarrass myself if I try to copy his actions. I tried it before, and it didn’t go well.
“Never involve a civilian, Martinez. Have you forgotten about that?” was what I said to calm him down.
He visibly gulped, eyes widening in remorse. “Y-yes, I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t force myself to get angry with this guy, he’s too stupid to even know why I’m angry. Besides, I wouldn’t want the guy who had been watching the whole encounter to get freaked out.
As much as I wanted to talk to him, this wasn’t the place.
“Clean this up,” I declared, eyeing Paolo who only nodded his head. He turned and motioned the others to fix the mess Martinez started.
I heard the guy gasped out loud. All of a sudden, he ripped the ropes behind him, surprising everyone in the room. I’m aware he wasn’t just an ordinary guy, but the skills he’d been displaying tonight perfectly fit my ideal type.
I like it.
I watched him walk towards Martinez and in a blink of an eye, he delivered a punch so hard it broke his nose. I heard the crack of his bone from where I was standing and saw Martinez cry out from the pain. Blood spurted from his nose as he desperately clutched it to stop it from bleeding. It satisfied me to see Martinez be put on his place by an ordinary guy who he thought would be scared just because he had goons behind him.
“That’s how you punch, bitch,” the guy said, flashing Martinez a proud smirk.
He collapsed on the floor, crying like the bitch that he was. “Y-you f*cker!” he screamed like a kid. If only he could flip out his phone and demand his father to finish this, it would have made my night even greater.
“Aw, did that hurt?” the guy teased, grinning at Martinez as he continued to tease him. “Aren’t you a man? Suck it up!”
I couldn’t hold it in much longer. I laughed, amused by this guy’s actions. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of watching him. I ignored everyone who looked at me, staring as if I just lost my mind. Even Paolo was appalled, of course, he would have, it’s not as if I’m allowed to let other people see that I have emotions.
But this guy, he definitely brings out the best in me.
I had never laughed like this, never.
He was the only one who made me feel like I’m truly alive, that it was worth living this life no matter how bleak it could be.
“What are you laughing at, huh?!” he asked. His playful grin looked so adorable, I would have pulled him close to me and kiss those puckered lips if I could.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, still stifling my laughter. “It’s…it’s just my first time seeing someone so cool,” I answered.
He stared at me, his lips parting open. “What? Aren’t people like you who belong to gangs supposed to be cool?” he asked, raising a brow at me.
I flashed him the most genuine smile I could ever pull. “There’s nothing cool about people like us,” I admitted. To be honest, I’d rather be someone like him, normal.
Walking towards him, I eyed the other guys around us and nodded my head. They picked Martinez up from the floor and dragged him away before he could further stain the ground with his blood.
“I’m sorry about that,” I said. I could barely contain my smile as I finally get to see him up close. He was spectacular, the very fact that he was real and that I was talking to him, it was more than what my heart could take. I never felt this elated before, not even when mom used to visit me.
Stop it, Liam. I needed to compose myself in front of him. If only I could ask him what his name was, I would die a happy man. But I couldn’t. I already knew right from the very start that liking him would only be seen as a distraction. The only I could do was to hold these feelings for him as if it never existed.
That immediately wiped the smile off my face.
If only I was normal, huh?
“I need to teach my boys how to act like normal citizens,” I said, pulling back a fake smile to show him that I was genuinely apologetic at what happened. “That’s what you get when you isolate them long enough. They tend to get wild.”
And I had to remind myself of the line that Tyler drew for me.
He stared at me for a second, his eyes showing me dozens of emotions that I didn’t have. “Who are you?” he asked, breathlessly.
We stared into each other’s gazes and for a second, I forgot everything I just said to myself. I wanted to touch him, to feel his warmth against my skin, to make him mine—if only…
I couldn’t let anyone else be involved with my shit.
Smiling, I said, “I’ll let someone bring you back.”
This was enough.
Being attracted to a total stranger, I’m sure it wasn’t a rare occurrence. It’s possible to be fascinated by someone I just met him, it didn’t mean that I was in love with him.
Not asking his name would be the smart decision.
I don’t need a distraction. Besides, I had to make sure Tyler wouldn’t know about this little crush of mine.
I saw his brows furrowed. He was clearly upset that I dodged his question. “I’ll also give you compensation from what Remus did. I hope you won’t press any charges. You won’t win anyway.”
He bit his lip, staring at me hard. I took one last look at his face, smiling sadly as I turned my back against him.
“I can take him.”
I inwardly sighed after hearing that ominous voice in my head. Of course, he’d resurface. This guy was one of my triggers, and for me to suppress my feelings for him just because of who I am, I’d definitely be frustrated.
And whenever I’m frustrated, he’d come out.
Ignore it, Liam.
“I want to f*ck him.”
Because he’s not like us.
I met Paolo outside the building. He stood next to the car, waiting for me to finish my business. “Bring him back to his house,” I said to him before getting inside the car. Paolo narrowed his eyes at me and was about to ask me what happened. But luckily, he chose to mind his own business.
“Okay, I’ll do that,” he said, slamming the door close.
I leaned my back against the seat and heaved a loud sigh. I watched Paolo walk away, disappearing for a minute to do what I just told him to do.
Who would have known that a simple admiration such as this would bring me sorrow, huh? I didn’t know what’s it like to be in love, but if I’d take a guess, this probably felt like this.
The urges I had whenever I think of him, it’s overwhelming. There were too many what-ifs that kept popping in my head that it’s beginning to annoy the shit out of me. Tyler taught me how to control my emotions. He told me that it’d only hinder my job as the next leader of the Torres-Shao group.
“It’s useless,” he said, his voice resonating in my head. “You don’t need love. The only thing you need is to f*ck someone and have a son. That’s all.”
“But what if I find someone I want to love?”
“Don’t be absurd, Liam. Who in this world would love someone like you?”
I shut my eyes.
Not even that guy.
My phone vibrated in my pocket and I hesitated to answer it. But knowing that it might be Tyler calling me, I had no choice but to take it. I pulled my phone out and answered the call without even looking at who it was calling.
“Where are you, Liam?”
Hearing dad’s voice made me jolt out of my thoughts. F*ck! I completely forgot about the dinner, god damn it! I cleared my throat before replying, “Sorry, dad. I-I was busy.”
“Didn’t Paolo tell you that I arranged a dinner with you?” As always, he sounded so cold even if it was a phone call.
“Yes, he did,” I said, defending Paolo in an instant. Dad wouldn’t even think twice to hit him if he knew that he failed to relay an important message. Which he didn’t. It was my fault, I forgot. “Something just happened.”
I immediately noticed the change in his voice—the same pitch that he’d use when he’s expecting failure.
“It’s nothing, dad. I fixed it already, I—”
“Explain it when you get here. I’ll be waiting.”
Dad hung up the phone and I could only groan in response. F*ck, I’m so f*cked.
I was about to get out of the car to call Paolo, but he was already walking towards me. I motioned him to come and hurry up and he did. “What?” he asked.
“Dad just called. He’s waiting for me.”
Based on his reaction, Paolo also forgot about the dinner. “Right.” He walked around the car to get to the driver’s seat. “Is he mad?” he asked.
“He always sounds mad,” I commented.
Paolo shrugged his shoulders, visibly agreeing with me. “I just hope he’ll wait long enough for us.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure he will.”
I didn’t even wait for Paolo to properly park the car when I stormed out to get inside the restaurant. How could I forget about dad, damn it? Just because I kept thinking about that guy.
I didn’t even bother looking at the bodyguards standing right at the entrance. They’re obviously waiting for me as they followed me with their gaze when I went past them. I heard them alert the people who were probably with my dad with my arrival.
The restaurant dad booked for tonight was a well-known dining place for people like us. Not only was it famous for serving overpriced food, but it also had special rooms meant to be used by people in the underground business—the perfect place to do something illegal right in the middle of the city.
There weren’t any diners around, I assumed dad reserved the whole place for us. He was, after all, a man who loved his privacy. He could have rented the biggest mall in the Philippines just so that he could shop in one store.
Before entering the VIP section of the restaurant, I straightened my shirt and made sure my hair wasn’t disheveled. If there’s one thing dad hated, it’s seeing his children looked like delinquents without etiquette. A weird combination of words but if that’s what dad wanted, then we had no choice but to obey him.
Three more bodyguards were standing at the entrance, looking at me. I ignored their apathetic stares and walked inside to see dad sitting at the round table, drinking red wine.
I bit my tongue before faking a smile. “Dad,” I called out.
Looking at him, he resembled Tyler the most. The shape of his face, that familiar arch of his brows that made him look vicious, those callous dark eyes, pointed nose, and full lips, it’s as if I’m looking at an adult Tyler.
Out of all my brothers, I was the only one who looked the same as our mother.
And dad didn’t like it. He wouldn’t, of course. His ego’s too big that he wanted everything around him to be about him.
“You’re awfully late, Liam. What have you been up to?”
I could only shudder at how deep and detached his voice was. “I…was preoccupied with something.”
He raised a brow at me, bemused. “I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with the Torres-Shao.”
“No, of course not, dad,” I snapped, shaking my head to deny his claims. “I wouldn’t do that, I—I promise.”
I wished I could stop stuttering but every time I see and talk to dad, I’d be reminded of those days.
The dark days.
“Sit down,” he urged, putting his wine glass down.
I walked to the vacant chair and pulled it. Keeping my lips pressed as tight as I could, I struggled to look at dad in the eye. “Maria said she allowed you to stay outside of North Vale for a couple of days.”
“She did,” I answered, nodding at him.
“Are you enjoying yourself here?”
I froze, not knowing what to answer him. One wrong move and I’d be receiving a punch. I don’t want that.
Think carefully, Liam.
If I say yes, dad might potentially berate me for not taking my job seriously. But if I said no, he’d probably say I was lying and would push me to the answer that would earn me a slap on the face.
“I’m…yes,” I finally said after much deliberation. “I’m learning a lot of things here, but I’d rather go back to North Vale. I still have a lot of things I need to do.”
I waited anxiously for his reaction. Seeing that he’s neither impressed nor disappointed, I sighed in relief.
I can plow through this dinner in peace. And maybe, just maybe, if I answer all of dad’s questions correctly, I could go home without sporting another black eye.
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