Phones and Tablets

Knight In Shining Suit (Episode 12)

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I made myself busy the next week. I got the early shots of Angela’s and Jacob’s wedding. I asked permission for these to be uploaded onto my site. I also asked for some early video clips that showed most of the venue, the arrangements, and the highlights of the party.


I was very happy with the results. Rose is getting a lot of inquiries for our services. I don’t give a quote unless I have met with the couple and hear about their ideas, and of course, their budget.


I met with my friends at a new bar called Rig Style. I do not want to risk meeting Ryder at Oil Rig. I promised to stay away from that place since I found out he owned it.


“So when will you treat us for a round of beers?” Dannie asked me.


“Once I start making money. Right now, it’s still on take off stage. But I’m happy with how popular we’re getting.” I said with all smiles. 

“You’ve always been great, Ash. This is you. This is who you are, and what you’re made of.” Nicole said. “And I won’t forget what you promised me. You’ll hire me as soon as the cash comes pouring in, okay?”


I nodded. “I promise.” 

When we took our bill, the waiter told us it has been taken care of.


“By who?” 

The waiter stared at me. I raised a questioning brow at him.

“My boss said you’d know.” He said. “He was hoping you would come up to his office.” 

At first, I didn’t get what he meant. Then it dawned on me and my heart pounded inside my ribcage.  


“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” I groaned. How rich could he be?

My friends looked at me curiously.


“Any chance this bar has the same management as Oil Rig?” I asked the waiter.

The waiter smiled and then he said, “Then I trust you understand what I meant.” 

I groaned and then I turned to my friends who were smiling now.

“Wow!” Dannie couldn’t help saying.


“Okay, where’s his office?” I asked the waiter.

I told my friends I won’t be long. I just need to tell Ryder that next time he wants to see me, he must make the effort to ask me himself.


I was led to the office upstairs. When I opened the door, I found Ryder standing on one side, looking through the glass wall, his back turned on me. I know that he knows I was standing behind him, but I made no effort to call his name or to make any sound to indicate my presence.

“Can you do me a favor?” He finally asked.


I sighed. “What?”


He turned to face me. “Will you have dinner with me?”


“I already had dinner.” I said, although it was more a snack than dinner. I intended to make some pasta when I get home. 

“Would you humor me then?” He asked.


“What for?” I asked back.

He smiled and he stepped closer to me. “We… got off on the wrong foot the last time. I’d like to make up for it.”


I rolled my eyes. “Ryder, what do you want from me? I know I owe you a favor. But can you tell me what you want in return so we can go on our separate lives?”


“That’s the thing. I can’t seem to decide what I want in return.” He said, his eyes twinkling. I almost forgot how to breathe. He was so handsome and the look he gave me just blew me away. 

I sighed and then I nodded. “Okay. I just need to tell my friends.” 

I dialed Dannie’s number and told him that they can go ahead since Ryder and I have some business to talk about.

“Would you like to have dinner here then?” I asked Ryder after my phone call.

He shook his head. “No. I’ve got something else in mind.”


He grabbed his car keys and then he took my hand. I tried to pull it away but he only gripped it tighter, refusing to let me go. Then he turned to me and winked.


I heaved a sigh. I wish he would just tell me what the hell he wants so I can start moving on with my life!

We drove quietly for a while. He parked in front of a hotel and then he went out of the car and opened the door for me.


“Mademoiselle.” He said.


I stared at him and found that his eyes were twinkling, like he was suppressing a laugh or something. I didn’t know what to say so I rolled my eyes and stuck my tongue out at him for a moment and then I walked past him. I heard him chuckle behind me.


We walked into a restaurant. He chose a spot outside where we had a lovely view of the beach.


The waiter handed us a menu. Although I said I already had dinner, I still ordered pasta. Ryder was suppressing a smile when he heard me order something from the waiter.


When the waiter left, we stared at each other blankly. Then Ryder chuckled.

“What?” I asked in an irritated tone. 

He shook his head. “You’re cute.”

I knew I blushed at that. But I raised my brow at him instead of turning away.


“What do you want from me, Ryder?” I asked.


“Come on, Ash. You were not this grumpy at the wedding. What happened to that girl?”


I sighed. “That girl was desperate and broken. This girl is nearly fixed now and she’s mad at you for lying to her, and making her feel like a first class…”


“Stop!” He cut me off. Something in his voice scared me. He took a deep breath. It was evident that he was trying to control his temper.


I was afraid to utter a word. I bit my lip, while I waited for him to say something.


He took a deep breath. “I never meant to make you feel that, Astrid.” He said in a low voice. “In fact, I never planned to… I didn’t plan the things that happened that night.”

“I know. I threw myself at you. And you’re just a man.” I said.


His eyes narrowed. “Do you think I would take any woman who would throw herself at me?”


I shrugged. “I don’t know you.”


“Exactly. You don’t know me. So don’t… judge me, Ash.” His words were bitter, but his voice was gentle. Like he’d been hurt by my words but he was trying to understand me.


“Then why did you do it, Ryder?” I asked him. “Why did you agree to do pretend to be my boyfriend? You didn’t need the money.”


“Sometimes, you don’t need to have a reason for doing something. Sometimes, you just… want to.” He said.  

“It must have insulted you that I thought you were just a mere bartender.”


He shook his head. “Not really. Would you have spoken to me if you knew I owned the place?”

I shook my head. “I wouldn’t even look at you.”


He smiled. “I was at the right place at the right time, Astrid. You needed me. Call it a favor.” He said gently.

Our food was served. We ate in silence for the about five minutes. And then I couldn’t help asking him, “What about the events that followed after? Is that a favor too?”


He stared at me for a while. He knew I was talking about the night we spent together. He shook his head, “That… that I did for my own benefit.”


I blushed again and this time, I did look away from him.


The he reached forward and pulled my chin so I could look at him. “The ring was not a payment, Astrid. It was yours the moment I bought it. I never intended to just lend it to you… or to give it to you only after what happened between us. So… please… do not think otherwise.” 

“Why, Ryder? Why would you give me that ring in the first place? I know you’re rich and you could afford it. But you don’t just give out expensive rings to people you don’t know.”

“I know you, Astrid.” He said softly. “And I know you deserved it.”


“It’s not enough.” I whispered. “Your reason is not enough.”


He smiled. “If I find a reason that seems ‘enough’ for you, will you wear the ring again?”

I raised a brow. “I gave it back to you already.”


“It’s still yours. I’m not going to send it back to the store.” He said. “So? Will you?”


I sighed. I don’t know what that meant, or why he was so persistent, but somehow, what could it hurt if I accepted his gift? As long as he finds a good enough reason as to why he was giving it to me, then I guess it was fine.

“Only if your reason is good enough.” I said. 

He nodded. “Then we have another deal.” He smiled.

“I’ll get to be the judge, so don’t keep your hopes up.” I said seriously.

He laughed. “We’ll see about that, won’t we?”


* * * 

It’s Kaycee’s and Michael’s wedding day. They were childhood sweethearts, and they wanted their wedding to be a feast of flowers. The place where the ceremony was held was covered in lilies. The reception had roses in shades of red, orange and pink.The floor was covered with rose petals. I mixed the artificial ones with the real ones to save on cost. Balls of roses hung from the ceiling in different heights. It looked like a classy fairy, flower land.

“I told you, you should hire me now.” Nicole said. “You really could use some help.”


I smiled at her. “I know, but not yet. I can’t afford you yet.” 

After my success with Kaycee and Michael, I was hired by Peter and Lyn, a referral that came from Angela and Jacob. And soon, inquiries just kept pouring in. 

I’ve built up my portfolio. Our gallery is filled with amazing shots of the weddings that we have done so far. I have strengthened my relationships with my suppliers. Even photographers and videographers loved working with me that they all promised to give me top priority and better prices. Since my concepts looked unique and brilliant, they also look good on their portfolio.


One Friday night, one of the rare weekends I know I will not be working, I got an unexpected call.


“Miss me?” Ryder teased.   

It must have been weeks since I last spoke to him. But I must admit that he crosses my mind… more than once a day… particularly before I go to sleep. But I shook off that thought and instead I pretended to be oblivious of who he was. “Oh, who is this again?” 

“Oh, I’m so hurt.” He chuckled.


“You can’t be. Compared to you, I’m practically a nobody. I’m sure you have more people pining for your attention, my indifference is quite insignificant to you.” I said.

“But you see that’s what a normal human being actually craves for. The attention that he couldn’t seem to get.” He countered. 

“Hmmm… We are insatiable by nature. But my dreams are simple, Mr. Van Woodsen. I want not what I do not have.”


This time he laughed. “And that ladies and gentlemen is our winner!” He said and somehow that statement confused me. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning, seven sharp. Pack a weekend’s worth of clothing, will you?”

“Excuse me?”


“I know you’re not working this weekend, Astrid.” He said. “Don’t ask me how I found out. If you’re not out of bed by seven A.M., I will haul you out of it. And something tells me that you may not like the methods I will use to wake you up. Although, I find it very, very tempting.”


“Ryder, what game are you playing?” 

“I’m not playing games, but I do remember that you owe me a favor. And this time I need you to do one for me.” He replied.


I sighed. Do it and get it over with. I thought to myself.


“Do you know where I live now?” I asked him. The last time we went to dinner, I still asked him to drop me off at Adam’s. 

“I’m sure I can find it.” He replied. “See you tomorrow.” And he hung up, not giving me another chance to think it through.


I sighed in frustration. “What weird things am I constantly getting myself into?” I muttered under my breath. 

Nevertheless, I packed a weekend’s worth of clothing, not only that, I think I packed some of my best casual clothes, nightgowns I’ve only worn once, and underwear that I bought some time ago, thinking I would be using them only when I got married.


Damn! I cursed to myself. You’re not thinking of sleeping with him again, are you?

I stared at myself crossly in the mirror. I remembered the last night I was with him and how reason had abandoned me.


No! I will not allow myself to drown like that again! I will not sleep with Ryder Van Woodsen the second time around!

Firmly deciding this, I threw out the nightgowns and kinky undies from my bag and instead, I packed new sets of bikini panties and bra. The bikini underwear was low cut, but still very decent. I put two pairs of pajamas in my bag. Pastel-colored in candy-like designs. The kind that a sweet, innocent college girl wears on slumber parties.

I smiled to myself. I am not planning on sleeping with Ryder Van Woodsen! Who knows? He might even use that as another reason for me to accept the ring from him! Not only am I a whore for one night, I’d be a damn mistress!

The next day, ten minutes before seven, I was dressed in a pair of jeans and violet blouse. I was fresh from my bath. I was confident I smelled and looked fresh. I was sipping coffee in my office reception, waiting for Ryder to ring the bell… if he finds my place, that is.


6:59, the doorbell rang. I was shocked! How could he know these things?


I opened the door ready to demand an answer from Ryder but my breath caught in my throat at the sight of him.


His hair is still a little damp from the shower. He was wearing a beige turtleneck shirt under a white hooded jacket. He looked boyishly handsome, I almost forgot how to breathe. 

“Good morning.” He greeted me with a grin.


I finally composed myself and managed to raise a brow at him.


“What is it this time, Ryder?” I asked him.


“Relax.” He replied. “I promise you’ll have a lovely weekend.” 

I grabbed my bag and closed the door behind me. He took my bag from me as soon as I stepped out of the house.


“Hmmm… Manners. Impressive.” I muttered sarcastically.


He chuckled. “Oh, there are some things you should know about me.”


He put my bag on the backseat and held the passenger door open for me.


“Where are we going?” I asked as soon as he got inside the car. 

He smiled at me shortly and then he said, “Do you remember you asked me a favor a couple of months ago?”


“Uh-huh.” I said.   

“Well… I kinda need the same thing from you.”


I raised a brow. My heart pounded in my ribcage. “Wh… what do you mean?” 

He sighed. “Well, we’re going to a weekend get-together of sorts. With… old friends of mine. Two of my best friends are celebrating their anniversary. Last year, we made a wager, that I would have a steady girlfriend before I turn thirty-one.”

“How much is the wager for? Why don’t you just pawn my ring and pay up?”


“There’s no price for pride and dignity, love.” He smiled.


“And I have to be the steady girlfriend?” I asked.

He nodded. “If it’s not too much to ask?”


I heaved a sigh. “How could I say no? I asked you the very same thing.”


“Thank you very much.” He smiled and then he reached for my hand and squeezed it. “To make it easier, we can continue the same story that we told your relatives. We met a couple of months ago, couldn’t take my eyes off you, went after you for a month until you finally agreed to go on a date with me.”

“Okay. Well, you know my background pretty much. You know my friends and many of my relatives now. You know I just came from a bad breakup. You know what I do for a living”

“And you know about me too.” He said.


I shook my head. “No, I don’t.” I muttered under my breath.


He took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m from Manhattan originally. My family owns the Van Woodsen Restaurant Chains, which include the restaurants Rollo’s, Mi Casa, Sugu, The Cellar, and some other smaller chains. We have these restaurants in New York, L.A., Miami, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Denver and in other States. We have branches in Paris, Rome, Milan, Florence, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona and Sydney. My grandfather started the business, and as early as now, I’m starting to learn the ropes, although I have Oil Rig, The Rig and Rig Style as my own. I started them in Manhattan, and now, I’m branching out in Malibu. I only have one sister, Paris… who was born and raised in Paris ‘til she was a teenager. She’s got a bit of a French accent. She and my mother are the only two women that I’ve ever loved.”


I stared at him and raised a brow. “You want me to tell your friends that?” 

He laughed. “Okay, for the purpose of our little masquerade, let’s say that Paris, my Mom and now you are the only three women I have loved in my life.”

“You don’t have to say you love me, you know.” I suggested. “We could be a couple that was once serious, but is now slowly drifting apart. We’ve just met a couple of months ago, you’re too busy with your work, you barely have time for me, and we don’t even have sex anymore!”


I turned red the minute I said the last phrase. I regretted that.

“Hey, hey!” He said. “I’m sure we will not be having those problems as early in our relationship. And besides… I’ll never be too busy with work when it comes to my girlfriend. And the sex part… I’m sure I won’t be able to get enough of my girl.”

I sighed. “Seriously, you want your friends to think that this relationship is going somewhere?”


“Of course!”


“Do I have to get them to like me too, like what you did with my family?”


“Well, you don’t have to try. I’m sure they’ll like you just as you are.” He replied

“Obviously, you expect me to tell them I’m not interested in your money, right? Can’t I just play the mercenary little girl who couldn’t care less about your heart? So they’ll hate me immediately and they’ll beg you to break up with me? And then we don’t have to lie to them anymore? 

He chuckled. “No.” He replied. “My friends have been pestering to see me happy with a woman for years. It’s been driving me crazy how hard they try to fix me up once in a while. They’ve got to stop! And you’re here to do that for them!” 

“I can’t be myself then.” I said.



“Because it won’t be believable.” I replied. 

“Why won’t it be believable?”


“First, the likes of me won’t have the same friends as you. There’s no chance that we’d ever meet.”


“You’re in the wedding industry, love.” He reminded me. “There are plenty of chances for us to meet.”


I sighed. “I’m not sure I’d even talk to you.”


“Why is that? Do I look hideous or something?” 

I shook my head. “You’re just too flashy, too rich, too famous. I wouldn’t want to be a part of your league.” 

He laughed. Then he reached out for my hand and squeezed it. “Then I found the perfect girl that my friends would love for me.”


“I’ll try my best, Ryder. But I’m not making any promises. I don’t even know if I could pull this off.

He laughed again. “I won’t leave your side.” 

“Oh, don’t bother yourself too much.” I said sarcastically. 

“You weren’t always this sarcastic the first time I met you, you know.” Although his tone was light, I know he meant what he said.


I sighed. “It’s not me, Ryder. It’s you.”

“What about me?”

“I do not understand why you even… want to be friends with me. Why you are so nice to me? Guys like you are usually too busy to care about girls like me.”


“Is that all?” He asked after a moment of silence.


I shook my head. “No.” I took a deep breath. “I owe you the first steps of my recovery. I will forever be thankful for that. For months I’ve thought of you as a dear friend… an ally. I fixed my life, hoping that someday I’d see you again, and show you that I did keep my promises to you that night. But then when I found out who you were… I couldn’t think of a reason why we could even be friends! I don’t move in your circle and you don’t move in mine. When you gave me that ring… I still couldn’t help thinking that I was… just an entertainment to you. Maybe you were bored with your life and you needed someone to amuse you. I was… desperate and unfortunate enough to venture your way.”

Ryder didn’t say anything for a long time that I was afraid that I have offended him with my monologue. When I stared at him, he was concentrating on the road, his face sober. I sighed and turned away from him

We didn’t speak for a while. Before I knew it, he was parking on a slot in the airport. He took a deep breath and then he turned to me. He looked at me for a while and then he said softly, “You’re wrong, you know.”



“You’re wrong about me.” He said. 

“I wouldn’t know that.” I said quietly.

“You will… by the end of this weekend. You will change your opinion of me.” He said, his voice was so serious, it made my knees shake.

To be continued..... 

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