The moment he entered the terminal, the truth of his situation came crashing down on him.
I'm home. And I’m getting married. To her.
He sighed and dragged his suitcase behind him. A frown had been permanently etched onto his handsome face since the day he received that phone call from his mother: “Your father is very ill and he wants you to come home as soon as possible." She didn’t say more, but he understood the real message - “Come home and assume your role as head of this family.”
He wasn't rebelling against his parent's nor did he want to shirk his duties and responsibilities as his father’s heir to their powerful business dynasty. If only that damning prerequisite didn't come with it - marriage! They weren't living in medieval times still they arranged this union between him and the Almendrezes’ only child. He was twelve when his father told him about the betrothal, but he didn't take it seriously. He thought it was a joke. How wrong he was!
It’s been fifteen years since he’d last seen the headstrong and very exasperating daughter of his father’s best friend, yet her memory seemed to have been imprinted in his brain. She was eight or nine, while he was turning fourteen at the time. He knew their parents had organized the whole summer to get the two of them to spend time together, help them get to know each other better. And at fourteen, it didn't sit well with him. He had his own plans. He liked other girls. And if he were to marry, he wanted to be the one to choose his bride.
Besides, she was too boyish for his taste. He never saw her playing with dolls or doing ‘girly’ things. She was always running around with his younger brothers, playing soccer, climbing up trees, swimming in the river, riding ponies, and even playing with trading cards. She was also always challenging him every time they were thrown together. He couldn’t understand why she was obsessed with beating him at everything, even to the point of questioning everything he said. The one thing he really hated about her, though, was her ability to deceive the unsuspecting. Louisa Almendrez had the face of an angel and the temperament of an imp. She could get away with just about anything. A little fluttering of her thick lashes plus a double dose of her sweet, dimpled smile and even the hardest heart would be melting.
Though, if he were to be honest, he’d actually liked her the first time he saw her. Or the way she looked, at least. He adored the way her hair curled to frame her fair, oval face, how her cute, little nose twitched just a little when she was planning on mischief. And God, how he loved to see her hazel eyes glow every time she smiled, making them look like molten gold. He liked the way she carried herself, too. Even at such a young age, Louisa already exuded confidence and strength. He’d also seen proof of her quick, sharp mind. All in all, she wasn't really a bad choice.
He could’ve tried to overlook her minor faults and focused more on her good points. If only she hadn't been chosen for him. The fact that he was not even consulted on this major aspect of his life grated against his pride. She was their choice, not his. And because of that, Louisa Almendrez, in spite of all her redeeming qualities, had been placed on their side of the fence. In his young mind, she was the enemy and he tried his best to avoid being with her.
Fortunately for him, when the Almendrezes became too busy with their import-export business in Cebu, the instances of their meetings were greatly minimized. He got another lucky break when his father agreed to send him to England to finish his studies. It gave him the freedom and distance he needed.
Still, the arranged marriage between them remained in force, a virtual Damocles’ sword hanging threateningly above him. This was the twenty-first century, after all, where men and women were free to follow their hearts, where marriages were no longer dictated by their elders but decided upon by two people in love.
He winced, thinking, Am I really such a die-hard romantic, or is this just my pride speaking?
With a heavy heart, Gabriel stepped out of the airport and waved to Juarez, their elderly driver who was waiting for him at the curb. He would bet half his fortune that the loyal driver had been instructed by his mother to take him straight home.
Sorry, Mama. I have no intention of falling blindly into Papa’s plans. Especially the one which involves an irritating hellion!
As Gabriel Fernando Montoya y Gomez slid into the car, he promised himself that the Montoya-Almendrez wedding would remain nothing but an old man’s dream.
He refused to be a pawn in this game of hearts. And he would do everything to put a stop to this madness. Or at least he wouldn’t be silenced.
Never a meek lamb led to slaughter!
He never approved of this betrothal, he never would, and he would make damn sure the whole world knew it.