I couldn’t even taste the food I was eating. I’m too anxious about dad’s presence as if one wrong move and he’d hurt me for it. I tried hard not to shake while holding the fork. Why did I even order steak when I don’t even like it that much.
While cutting the meat, I jolted when dad suddenly spoke. “Kenneth told me you’re going to stay with him tonight.”
“Yes, dad,” I said, nodding my head.
“Did you know he’s going to get married?” he asked out of nowhere.
I gulped. “I haven’t heard it from Kenneth himself,” I answered with a small voice.
To be honest, I wasn’t in favor of my brother getting married. I don’t even know if he liked this woman. I haven’t even met her. All I knew was that she was from a wealthy family that would help the Torres-Shao’s business prosper. It annoyed me that dad had to resort using his children to get more money when he’s already overflowing with it.
Did he really need more?
Or was it just his greediness?
“The woman he’s going to marry is a special one,” dad said, his lips curling into a smile. He emptied his glass of wine before continuing what he had to say about Kenneth’s fiancé. “Her family has a connection with the Jeongs.”
I blinked. The Jeongs, huh? As expected, the woman Kenneth’s going to marry was connected with the Mafia. The Jeongs had been successfully rising over the past years in the syndicate by selling organs and illegal drugs in the black market. I heard from Paolo that they’re also one of the Romans biggest clients and had a good relationship with whoever was leading the said family.
It frustrated dad that he couldn’t get a deal out of the Romans. The infamous and mysterious group refused to let anyone know where they were. Only a few men knew and even then, their identities were hidden as I heard that the Romans weren’t only good in producing illegal drugs, they also have talented killers that could silence anyone who would try to expose them. Although we had a connection with the Blaise, I doubt they would reveal anything about the Romans. Dad knew the close friendship between the two groups, and it was a well-known fact that the two were closer than friends.
It also didn’t help that the Romans were connected with the Molchalin. They’re a Mafia group in Russia that’s been gaining popularity due to their Pakhan—a man who managed to retake the most influential position in the Mafia. Only one person had done it in the past and he was killed off in a Mafia war. Although there were some conspiracy theories that the previous Pakhan was indeed alive and living somewhere far and isolated, no one knew if it indeed was true.
Nevertheless, dad had been unsuccessful in gaining connections over these groups that could change his game in the syndicate. He’s always been determined to become the most powerful group in Asia and thinks that getting the Russian’s favor would help him reach his goal. Unfortunately, they’d been refusing dad’s offer, no matter how much cash he throws in their face. I guess the Molchalin didn’t need something as petty as money.
If only dad could ask the Blaise for help, huh? The only reason why he managed to establish a connection with them was because of the previous leader’s sister who chose to stay and live here in the Philippines with his Filipino husband. They badly needed territory in the country to continue protecting their family—and if there’s one trait I adored with the Blaise, it’s their strong familial bond.
“Your brother is lucky he found her,” dad commented, wiping his lips with the napkin. “He knows how to use the people around him.”
I stared at dad while he talked fondly about Kenneth. My two older brothers brought him the things he wanted. Using dad’s logic, he’s obviously proud of his sons that was successful in making him more powerful. If Tyler ends up marrying Maria, I’m sure dad would be more than happy for him.
I knew for a long time ago that the only purpose dad had for having children was to use them to his advantage.
Never did he really touch me as a father does, never did he ask if I was doing alright and he never did look at me as if I was truly important.
For this man, my only use was to bring him more money and power.
I smiled a little, turning my gaze away from him. “Yes, I’m happy for him.”
“Anyway,” dad said, putting the napkin on the table before leaning his back against the seat. He eyed me with that penetrating gaze that I felt like I turned into stone. “The Cagadas called me.”
“And they told me about your little deal,” dad said, his fingers intertwining. “Twenty million, huh?”
Of course, dad would talk about the Cagadas. He wouldn’t talk about how I was doing, what’s my life like in North Vale, how was Tyler or anyone that’s around me. It’s always business.
Nothing more, nothing less.
“Yes, I offered them a deal to replicate the drugs the Molchalin sells so that they can use it themselves,” I said.
“So, we’ll be losing another client?” dad asked, his voice monotone—I wasn’t sure if he was angry or not. I could feel my heart beating out my chest as I attempted to look straight into his eyes to explain why I did that.
Don’t stutter, Liam.
“I think it’ll better for our business to just sell the replicated drugs the Molchalin produces,” I said. I could almost feel my voice cracking in fear. Hold it in, Liam. “The Cagadas wouldn’t need that many drugs either to use for their people and if they ever delve into the drug business, the only people they can get help from are us. Besides, giving the Romans more jobs will be beneficial for both of us. More transactions with the Romans will only mean more opportunities for us to create a bond with them.”
Dad raised a brow, an impressed smile appearing on his face. “It’s good that you reminded me why I chose you to be the next in line,” he said.
I felt relief washed over me as soon as dad said that. Thank God I wouldn’t get punched tonight.
Dad’s fixation to get the Romans was one of the many reasons why I was desperate to get their trust. If I did get a deal out of them, then maybe, just maybe, dad would be proud of me too.
The only hope I had was Maria. She was the common link between the two groups. She’s the cousin of the current leader of the Blaise group who was also rumored to be close to the Romans.
I just need to convince Maria to let me meet Hiro Blaise. No matter how scary the leader was, he’s the only way to get the Romans on our side.
“I’ll be leaving the Romans to you and Tyler,” he said. “As for the Molchalin, they’re too busy dealing with whatever they’re dealing in Russia. We’ll take our time with them.”
Dad’s phone lit up on the table. He glanced at it and a small smile appeared on his face. “I’ll be meeting your mother tonight. Tell Kenneth to free some time tomorrow.”
He was about to stand up to leave but stopped when I spoke. “H-how’s mom, dad?” I asked, nervously. It’s been a while since I last saw her. Maybe a month or two? Paolo told me that she was out of the country with her supposed new boyfriend or something like that. But knowing dad and how possessive he could be when it comes to my mother, I doubt her new lover would even be able to come back home alive.
My parents always had a strange relationship from the beginning. Their marriage ended after she gave birth to Anthony, but mom and dad remained in contact and ended up having two more kids even after they’ve broken up. Their constant meetings would only result in dad impregnating mom. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d announce later on that I’ll be having another sibling.
“She’s fine,” dad shortly answered.
I hesitated to ask a dangerous question but went on ahead. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I don’t. “Can I see her too?” I asked, looking up at dad with hopeful eyes.
He stared at me before shrugging his shoulders. “She’s busy, Liam. Focus on studying and training. It’s more important.”
I watched him leave the room followed by his bodyguards. I was left alone at the table, scoffing after seeing the sight of an empty chair in front of me.
Nothing had changed.
He’s still an asshole.
“How was dinner?” Paolo as, tossing the cigarette his smoking on the asphalt.
“Awful,” I answered with a groan. Why did he even bother asking when he should already know what my response would be. It’s always disappointing to meet up with my father, damn it. We didn’t talk about anything but work. It’s the same as when I’m with Tyler.
They only see me as someone they could use for their business.
“But was the food even delicious?” he asked, trying to alleviate my irritation.
“No, it wasn’t,” I said without thinking twice. Even if this restaurant was well-praised, I couldn’t appreciate the food. I’d rather eat something cheaper. I’d been eating expensive food my whole life that I was becoming sick of it. “It’s just a small portion, no one’s going to be filled up by eating that,” I complained, shaking my head while crossing my arms in frustration.
Paolo chuckled. He ruffled my hair and urged me to get inside the car. “Maybe Kenneth might change your foul mood. He’s already waiting for you.”
“Where is he?”
“In his apartment,” he said. “You can request your brother another dinner.”
I grunted. It’s not as if Kenneth would gladly come with me to eat at a fast-food restaurant. He too grew up in a sophisticated yet destructive household, he had the same refined taste as my family. “Alright, bring me to him.”
I went inside the car, collapsing on the seat with a loud sigh. Paolo closed the door for me before going around to sit on the driver’s seat.
“Did you even eat?” I asked after Paolo settled beside me. I watched him put the car keys in before backing up the driveway.
“No, I was talking to Cesar,” he answered, mentioning one of dad’s bodyguards.
“Oh, then let’s eat with Kenneth. I’ll call him,” I said, taking my phone out. But before I could, I saw dad’s car leaving the place, followed by two other vehicles as his convoy. I pouted, beaten that I spent an hour eating and talking about nothing with my own father. If I were in a normal family, I would have told him about my newfound interest, and he didn’t even need to know that it’s a man.
Oh, but then again, even if I belonged to a typical family, being in a same-sex relationship was mostly condemned in this place.
And with my kind of family, I could almost say they’re going to kill that guy before he even comes close to me.
It’s enough that I had Paolo to tell these things. Even if he was loyal to my father and Tyler, he wouldn’t let me be punished for something like being attracted to a guy I only just met. He’s more than that.
After tapping Kenneth’s name on my phone, it took him five rings to answer my call. “Where are you?” he asked with that usual nonchalant tone he had.
“We’re on our way,” I said. “I just met up with dad for dinner, but the food isn’t enough. Can we eat together?”
“Then I’ll call for delivery. What do you want?” Kenneth asked.
I bit my lip, hesitating to tell him what I wanted to eat. Kenneth might be fond of me, but he was as strict as the others. “I-I want fast food,” I shyly said.
I braced myself to be rejected but was surprised to hear my stern brother saying yes. I gasped, earning a glance from Paolo. “I’ll call for delivery then.”
He hung up the phone and I was left in disbelief. Who would have thought that I’d be this happy to eat fast food? What an unconventional life, huh? I bet that guy would laugh at me for getting this happy over something he probably gets any time he wanted.
“Kenneth said he’s going to order food,” I said.
“Good. He’s really good at spoiling you, huh?” Paolo commented, his gaze focused on the road.
I smiled a little. At least something good happened today.
Arriving at Crown Residences, I stared at the soaring buildings that could almost reach the night sky. The bright lights coming from the hundred of glass windows lit up the whole neighborhood, and as busy as the city was even a night, I was still looking forward to staying with Kenneth.
He’s usually cold and emotionless, but he listens to me and gives me good advice. He knew about my responsibility for being the next leader of the Torres-Shao and sympathizes with my situation. Dad had been adamant about making me like him, and it upset him that I wasn’t the son he expected me to be.
I’m really trying, believe me, I do. But a part of me that kept begging for a different life hinders my desire to make my father proud.
He was the one who could satisfy my father’s wants.
“We’re here, Liam,” Paolo announced, stopping the car right in front of the building’s entrance. “I’ll come and pick you up later.”
“What? You’re not coming with me?” I asked.
He smiled. “You’ll be spending time with your precious brother. I know you’ve been looking forward to seeing Kenneth again. Don’t let me interrupt you two.”
I pouted but nodded, nonetheless. It’s rare for Paolo to leave me as he’s always following me wherever I go. It’d definitely be weird without him by my side. “Alright. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Stepping out of the car, I watched Paolo drive away, disappearing in a second after merging into traffic. I faced the tall doors and made my way inside. The security guards stationed out front eyed me with one of them raising a brow. I looked at him and noticed he was new. This place was heavily guarded due to the kind of people who lived here. They wouldn’t just let anyone inside without permission or some sort.
“Who are you?” he asked.
I quickly noticed his intrusive tone. I only smiled and answered, “I’m Liam, sir. I’m here to visit my brother. He lives here.”
The guard narrowed his eyes at me, and I could see he didn’t believe a word I said. “Brother? Who?”
I grinned at him. “His name is—”
“Sir Liam?” The guard who was with him approached us, his eyes widening in shock. He was preoccupied with something when I arrived, failing to notify his colleague of who I was.
“Hello, Lawrence,” I greeted, waving a hand at him. “Busy night, huh?”
The guard glared at the other before giving me an apologetic smile. “Sorry, sir. He’s a new guy. Sir Kenneth’s already waiting for you.”
“Thank you,” I said. I looked back at the new guard who was confused but understood that I was indeed telling the truth. They let me in and before I could walk across the wide lobby, I heard Lawrence reprimanding his co-worker.
“Don’t ever ever talk to that kid like that again,” the older man said, his voice hushed. “If you still want to live.”
I rolled my eyes and scoffed. It’s not as if I’m going to kill anyone who was rude to me. I’m not like the others.
I went to the elevator, nodding at the women behind the reception table. The security was tight here but because of the Torres-Shaos connection with the man who owned this place, I was allowed to go in and out anytime I wanted.
Stepping inside, I pressed the floor to Kenneth’s apartment and waited. He’s been living in this place after graduating from North Vale, immediately taking over the school after. I didn’t know if Kenneth wanted to go to college, but he probably thinks he didn’t need to as there was already a job waiting for him. He was aloof yet intelligent while Anthony was the complete opposite; an extroverted person who’d say anything he wanted to no matter how ridiculous and immoral it would be.
The doors parted open and I got out, sauntering into the long hallway to get to Kenneth’s place. I wanted to see him as fast as possible. Even if he was the owner of North Vale now, his other business endeavors keep him from his duties as the school’s proprietor. It’s not as if he was needed to be there all the time as Maria was doing a great job of handling North Vale.
I didn’t even ring the doorbell when the door opened, revealing Kenneth in a white, over-sized plain shirt and black shorts. His hair that’s mostly styled in a slick manner was messy, giving him off a laid-back air rather than that usually rigid appearance that he always had.
“Hey,” I greeted, a smile immediately surfacing on my face the second I saw him. His dark eyes that hide behind those glasses looked at me, observing me from head to toe. A second of staring and he finally let me inside his apartment.
“You’re looking good, Liam,” he commented.
I cringed at how dead his voice was, I wasn’t even sure if what he said was a compliment or an insult. But even so, I still smiled in elation. I was happy of seeing him again after a month or two had passed by. And the fact that I could spend some time with my brother after that depressing dinner with dad, this was definitely a sleepover that I’d fondly remember.
“Thank you,” I said. I walked to the living room and quickly noticed how clean his apartment was. He never really stays here for a long time, he’s been frequently going in and out of the country, building up connections with the foreign tycoons surrounding the country. As of now, there’s already two branches of North Vale that were built in other countries thanks to Kenneth. “I just had dinner with dad.”
“And how did that go?” he asked.
Horrible. “It was fine,” I said. “Though I didn’t eat much.”
“You need to stop being picky with food, Liam,” Kenneth berated. He disappeared in the kitchen and after a second, he came back with a huge bag of fast food delivery. The aroma of fried chicken quickly filled the air and I was so close to salivating when I smelled it. “Here, a little treat for you.”
I took the bag from him and sat in front of the television. There was a strict rule in our house to only eat at the dining table, but since dad wasn’t here to punch me on the face for breaking the law, then I’m free to do whatever I wanted.
I started taking the food out but stopped when I noticed Kenneth staring at me. He already sat on the couch, his face impassive.
“What?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”
“No, I’m just tired,” Kenneth said.
“How was Bangkok?” I asked before resuming on taking the food out. He brought a lot, huh? As expected of him. He knew I could eat a lot.
“Beautiful,” he said, smiling. “A nice break from this putrid place.”
I froze and stared at him for a second. “Are you planning on leaving too?”
“You’re not an idiot, Liam,” Kenneth retorted, scoffing. “I can’t leave. I’m not like Anthony who can do anything he wants.”
The bitterness in his voice was obvious. We’re all shackled by our father who had expectations of us. We could just leave him, but he’d go through great lengths to bring us back and regret betraying him. The only reason why Anthony was allowed was because of the Zhangs. There always had to be a favor that would please our father.
“I heard you’re going to marry,” I said, smiling awkwardly at him. I didn’t want to talk about dad right now. Tonight, I just wanted to be with my brother.
“Yes, her name’s Maricar Bernardo. A daughter of a very wealthy businessman.” Kenneth smirked before continuing. “And the total opposite of what I like.”
I blinked at him. It’d be stupid to ask him why he was going to marry her. Of course, he had to. She’s rich. And dad liked that. “Then…who do you like?”
Kenneth looked away, a melancholic gaze appearing for a second. “I can’t tell you.”
“What? Why not?” I asked, pouting.
“Because he’s getting married too.”
Kenneth’s in love with a man?
// latest chapters are available on Patreon (uncensored) and Radish (censored).
// UNCENSORED VERSION IS ONLY AVAILABLE ON PATREON AND ONCE THE BOOK IS COMPLETED, YOU CAN EITHER BUY THE PDF COPY (UNCENSORED OF COURSE) OR THE EBOOK ON AMAZON.
// thanks for everyone who’s supporting me on Patreon and Radish!
// if you wanna get the early access of my books + a lot more rewards such as reading sneak peeks and exclusive books that are not going to be posted anywhere but Patreon, click the link: patreon.com/ellesugi.
// and please if you can, support me on Patreon. any kind of financial support will be a big help for me to continue being a full time writer.
// as always, thank you. :)