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SERIES: Knight In Shining Suit (Episode 10)

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Nicole referred some of her clients to me.  She said that apparently, they were under budget constraint and the revised professional fees that Fiona had been charging made them lose interest.


They were very happy to meet with me.  More so when I told them that since they were my first clients, I would waive all the professional fees.  They just need to pay for all the expenses for the wedding.  But of course, nothing would happen without their approval first.  I told them that I’m building up my portfolio and thus, I don’t mind doing this for free.


“Are you sure?”  The bride named Angela asked.


I nodded.  “Positive!”

The groom looked a little suspicious.  I smiled at him.


“This is not my first time doing this.  I used to work for Fiona.  In fact, I was one of their pioneers.”  I assured them.


“Really?  Why’d you leave?” 

I sighed.  “Long story.  But… to cut it short, let’s just say that my own engagement went down the drain and for a while, I was… socially dead.  Now, I’m resurrected.  What can I say?  No heartbreak can make me stay away from making ‘ever afters’ come true.”


The bride bit her lip and then she smiled at me.  “I admire your courage!  My sister-in-law just got dumped too.  Maybe you have advice for her on how to get better.  You don’t look heartbroken at all!”


I shook my head.  “I’m not!  Not anymore!”


Her glanced drifted off to my ring and her eyes widened. 

“Oh my God!”  She breathed.



“A… are you still wearing your engagement ring?”  She asked. 

I looked at my ring and then I laughed.  “No, no.  This wasn’t my engagement ring.  This is…” I sighed, smiling at the thought of Ryder again.  “This is some sort of a promise ring.  I made some guy a promise and he… gave me this so I won’t forget.” 

“Sounds like a very expensive promise.”  Jacob, the groom to be, said.


“Oh no.  I don’t think so.” 

“We’ve wanted that ring.”  Angela said, still looking longingly at my ring.


“I told you, you could have it.”  Jacob told her.

“No!  Twenty-five grand?  Are you out of your mind?”  She said.  “I’d rather we spend that money on our honeymoon.”  She said smiling at her fiancé.  She glanced at my ring again.  “You must admit, Harry Winston did great on that ring!”


“This… this isn’t… a Harry Winston.”  I said.


Angela laughed.  “Right.”  She rolled her eyes.

“Oh, she stares at that ring in a magazine everyday.  She knows.”  Jacob told me.

“I do not!”  Angela punched him playfully in the arm.

I still don’t know what they’re talking about, but I didn’t want to talk about my ring anymore.  First, because they’ve already mistaken it to be a real Harry Winston and also because I don’t want them to start arguing over a ring that she was never going to have.


“Well, you were right to spend the money on your honeymoon.”  I told them cheerfully.  “Have you already made plans with your travel agent?”


It took me half a day to finish my meeting with Angela and Jacob.  When they left my office, they were much more excited about their wedding than they were before they met me.  I was extremely pleased with myself.  


As I sat on the deck of my office, sipping a glass of pineapple juice, I smiled.  I tried imagining where I would be had I married Bryan.


I’d probably be still with Fiona, answering to her every whim, watching her take all the credit and all the money for my brilliant and unique wedding ideas, and getting paid almost minimum wage for all the hard work that I put through.  Then I’d come home, cook and wait for Bryan to come back from work.  We’d talk about our day, like good friends.  He’d probably be too tired to make love to me, and since I never knew wanton desire at all, I wouldn’t mind.  I’d contentedly read a romance novel, until I fall asleep.


And what would have happened if Ryder and I continued seeing each other after the wedding?  I’d still be here, cooking a special meal for him probably, hoping to seduce him so he would stay the night with me.  We’d probably have made love in every corner of this office already.

I bit my lip at the thought.  Damn!  How could the mere thought of Ryder arouse… unknown feelings in me?  How could the memory of that night make me want to relive it over and over again?  

Bryan never made me feel sexual.  Ryder brought all my nerves to life and turned my world upside down.  

Ryder asked me to come and find him again.  When I am ready.  Right now… I’m halfway there.  I want my next relationship to last forever.  I don’t think I can stand to go over another heartbreak ever again.  That is why I have to be careful.  God knows I needed to see Ryder again.  I could tell that he’s a good man.  He awakened my senses.  But I need more time.  


I stared at my ring again and smiled. Harry Winston!  Well, it does look like one, but I know it isn’t.  Though, this ring is a hundred times more beautiful than the ring that I actually got from Bryan.  Ryder has great taste!  I wonder where he found this.  Maybe when I see him again, I can ask him to show me.


I kept myself busy for the next weeks.  Angela and Jacob were going to have a beach wedding and I had to handle all the arrangements for them.  They are going to say their vows along the shore and the reception is going to be in paradise on the beach.  I have it all figured out.  I drew concepts for them to look at, so they can picture out the idea that I have in mind.  When Angela saw my storyboard, she almost cried.  She was so ecstatic about the whole thing. 

It took me more than a month to finish the concept, find the right materials, book the venue, photographers, videographers and make all the other necessary arrangements.


One week before the wedding, I was able to rest.  Although not completely because I still have so much pressure before the show.  This is the first wedding I did on my own.  And this will be the start of things for the company that I am running.  And I want it to be perfect.

Dannie asked me to go shopping with him.  There’s a new Technodiamond watch that he is itching to buy and we went around from store to store, trying to find a good deal. 

I was looking at the diamond watches with lust in my eyes.  I sighed.  Someday.  My time will come.  I will be able to afford these.


The fourth store that we went to was the store that brought me so much memories.  Except now, I no longer feel the pain when I remember that Bryan gave me a fake ring.  I just feel embarrassed and angry.  And then I remembered that this is actually where I first met Ryder and I cried in his arms.


Ryder.  I smiled at the thought of him.  I miss him!  It’s a wonder how I can miss him so much over these months when I’ve only been with him for a day.

I wanted to see him again.  Even if only to know that I didn’t just invent him.  That for one day, he had really existed for me.  And for one night, he’d been mine.

“Oh my God, Ash!  That looks exactly like your ring!”  Dannie said, pointing at the poster of a beautiful Harry Winston advertisement. 

There was no mistake.  It does look exactly like the ring Ryder gave me.  The stone in the middle, the cut… the similarity is unmistakable.


“I know!  But we both know this ring is a fake!”  I whispered to him.

“Good morning, Ma’am, Sir, how can I help you?”  The guy at the counter asked us.  He was the same guy who examined my engagement ring. 

“Well, I’m actually waiting for the other sales guy to come back to me with the availability of the watch I asked for.”  Dannie said. 

The guy nodded politely.  “And you, Ma’am?”  His eyes drifted off to my finger.  I immediately took my hand off the counter.


He stared at me with a weird look on his face, as if he was trying to remember something.

I laughed.  “You must probably be wondering where you met me, right?  Actually, I came here before, I asked you to look at my engagement ring, and you told me it was a fake.”

He nodded.  “Oh, yes.”  He smiled sheepishly.  “I remember.  Well, I can see your fiancé was quick to make amends.”  He said looking at my ring.

“Oh, no.  No.”  I shook my head.  “We… didn’t get back together.”  I showed him my ring.  “This… came from somebody else.”

He smiled.  “Then I suggest you marry this one before he gets away!”  Something about his voice told me that he was so gay.  I can see Dannie staring at him with so much interest now. 

“Well, thanks, sweetie.”  I smiled at him.  “Actually, I dumped my fiancé before I even found out that the ring was fake!  At least this new guy… didn’t make this ring pass up as a diamond.” 

He stared at me with narrowed eyes.  “But that is a diamond.  And it’s a Harry Winston.”  He said pointing at the Harry Winston poster of the ring that looks like mine, only it was in gold.  Mine was in silver.


“No, no.  This is just a good imitation. Besides, that’s in gold.  Unless they make this ring in silver or white gold too.”  I laughed nervously. 

The guy shook his head.  “No, but they make in platinum.”


I stared back at him, completely dumbfounded.  Then I insisted.  “Sweetheart, you don’t understand.  There is no way the guy who gave this to me can afford the real Harry Winston.  This is a fake!  Probably a cubic zirconia or a moissanite.  And it can’t be platinum.”


He shrugged.  “Well, the inside should say PT 950, if it’s the real thing.”


I sighed, getting a little irritated now.  This guy is so meticulous and so nosy that I wanted to prove him wrong now.  “Alright, I’ll prove it to you.”  I said, taking off my ring and looking at the inside of the band.  There was no inscription.  I turned it around and then suddenly, my heart actually dropped to my toes, when I saw PT 950 inscribed on it.  I swallowed hard.


“This… this can’t be right.”  I whispered.

Dannie took the ring from me and had a look.

“Oh my God!”  He breathed.

We both stared at the guy in the counter who was beaming a big I-told-you-so at us. 

“Would you like to have the rest checked for its authenticity?”  He asked although I think he already knew  our answer.


I nodded silently and gave him the ring.


We waited for him impatiently.  My heart was pounding inside my ribcage, I can feel my temperature rising.

I stared at Dannie.


“Well, if it’s real then you can pawn it!”  He teased.

I shook my head.  “If it’s real, I’m going to hunt Ryder Woodson down and shove it down his throat!”  I muttered. 

The guy came back.  I raised a brow at him.  “Well?”




He smiled at me widely.  “It’s the real thing.  Harry Winston, emerald cut diamond, two carats on a genuine platinum band.”

I swallowed hard.

“Doesn’t this ring cost about twenty grand?”  Dannie asked.

The guy shook his head.  “The one on the poster does.  It’s twenty-two carat gold.  This is platinum.  This one actually retails for more than thirty.” 

I felt my knees turn to jelly at that instant.

“You can trust me on this.  I heard you mention Mr. Van Woodsen?  He’s been buying jewelry from us at least once a month.  I heard his mother is quite a collector of diamonds.”  He winked and something in his look made me feel like he thought I was  damn lucky to be receiving a ring from Mr. Van Woodsen.

I shook my head, taking my ring back from him.  “No.  You misheard me.  I don’t know Mr. Van Woodsen.  But I do know a certain Mr. Woodson who I will hunt down and kill.”  I said in a serious tone that the guy actually stopped smiling. 

“Thank you for your time and your… assessment of my friend’s ring.  If I can just get your calling card, we’ll give you a call once we have some… requirements for jewelry.”  Dannie said.  The guy couldn’t help smiling and immediately handed him a calling card.

“Thank you, Garrie.”  Dannie said reading his name out loud.

Then he dragged me out of the place before I start hyperventilating.

“Oh my God!”  I breathed.  “I cannot believe this!”

“Yes!  You’re wearing a thirty thousand engagement ring!” 

“How?  I don’t know how Ryder could have afforded it!”  I asked.  Somehow things do not make sense.  “God, I hope he didn’t steal this or something.”

Dannie raised a brow.  “God, I hope not!  With his looks… he’ll be a hit in prison!”

“Even if he did… acquire this in illegal ways… why would he give it to me?  Why not pawn it and take the money?”

“Only one way to find out.”  Dannie said as he headed towards his car.


Thirty minutes later, we were at Oil Rig.  I kept staring at the bar, keeping an eye out for Ryder.  John and Nicole joined us a couple of minutes later.


“What?”  Nicole asked, grabbing my hand and examining my ring.  “I knew this couldn’t have been a fake!  It’s too beautiful!”




“How could he afford it?”  I asked.  “And why would he give it to me?”  


Did he pity me because for my first engagement, I had been given a fake ring?  Did he feel sorry for me?  But still… no one can be that sorry!  Thirty grand!  Maybe even more!




What could I have done to him that would make me deserve to keep this ring?

I snorted to myself.  I did give him my virginity.  And I wanted to laugh at myself for that until I realized…

If this ring was a payment for going to bed with him, then that would make me a 

“Shit!”  I muttered under my breath.  I won’t rest until I find him!  Until I talk to him again.


I dialed his number.  His phone was off.  I tried again.  Still off.  I stood up from my seat and marched to the counter  


“Where are you going?”  Dannie asked. 

“Ending this mystery!”  I murmured.




There was a bald bartender who saw me approaching.




“How can I help you, Madam?”  He asked.




“I’m looking for a co-worker of yours.  Ryder Woodson?”




He gave me a confused look and then he shook his head, “I don’t think I remember working with anyone that goes by that name, Ma’am.”




I shook my head.  “Maybe you’re new.  I met him here at this exact counter, a couple of months ago.”, He smiled at me.  “Sorry, ma’am.  I’ve been here since opening.  I'm telling you, there is no bartender by that name here.  Never been.”




“Maybe… maybe he was a temp or something and you were off the night he was on duty.”  I insisted.  John came up beside me.




The guy shook his head.  “I’m sorry, Ma’am.  We have a strict policy here.  No one temps for us.  The owner has very… distinct policies.  Everybody must be trained for months before facing a customer.  So, no temps.”




I sighed.  “It… it can’t be.” “I wish I could help you, Ma’am.”  He said apologetically.




I thanked him quietly.  And then I turned my back on him, still confused.




Just then, I remembered what Garrie from the jewelry shop said.  I turned back to the bartender.




“How about Ryder Van Woodsen?”  I asked him.




He stared back at me for a while and then he said, “I’ll call the manager, Ma’am.  He can help you with that.”




I watched him walk away.  And then I stared back at John, who just raised a brow at me.




A minute later, we were joined by a tall blond guy dressed in an expensive suit.




“Yes, Ma’am.  How can I help?”




I took a deep breath and said, “I… I’m looking for a guy who works here.  Ryder.”




“Mr. Van Woodsen is out of the country right now.  May I ask what this is about?  Maybe I can help.”




“Does he work here?”  I asked.




The guy shook his head.  “No, Ma’am.  May I ask what this is about?  Maybe I can help you out.”  He repeated.




“If… if he doesn’t work here, then how can you help me?”  I asked a little impatiently.


He raised a brow at me but he didn’t say anything.  I realized he wasn’t going to give me any information.




“Mr. Van Woodsen…”  I started.  “This guy that we’re talking about… Ryder Van Woodsen?”




The guy nodded.  “Yes, Ma’am.”




I already feel like I am about to hyperventilate any minute.


“You see… I met a guy a couple of months ago… he introduced himself as Ryder.  We had a little arrangement… I've been trying to call him today but he was unavailable.”




“I see.  As I said, he is out of the country.  Maybe he’s on board a flight right now.”  The guy said politely.




“Okay.”  I took a deep breath.  “But really?  Ryder Van Woodsen?  That’s his real name?  Are we talking about the same guy?  Black hair, riveting green eyes?”




The guy smiled.  “I think we are talking about the same guy.  But really, Ma’am?  How can I help you?”




I shook my head.  “I… guess you can’t.”  I said to him.  “Do you know when he’s coming back?”




The guy shook his head.  “He comes and goes.  He has other branches to look after.  We do not know when he’ll be in Malibu again.”




I nodded.  “Okay. When he does come back, can you please tell him that Astrid Jacobson is looking for him?”




The guy nodded.  “I will pass that message along.”




I nodded at him and smiled.  Then I turned my back on him and started to go but then I changed my mind.  I turned back to him again.  “And can you also tell him that when I do find him, I intend to personally kick his ass?”




The guy looked startled but he quickly composed himself.  “I’ll… I’ll make sure he gets the message.”




I nodded again and then quickly dashed back to our table.




I was quiet.  My friends were waiting for me to say something.  When Nicole and Dannie finally figured out that I might not speak for a while, they turned to John.


John sighed.  “Apparently, a certain Ryder Woodson does not work here.  Never had.  No one knew him.”




“So, what was he doing behind the bar then?”




“No one knew Ryder Woodson.  However, a certain Ryder Van Woodsen seems to be so important around here, only the manager can talk to you once you mention his name.”  John replied.




“How could it be the same guy?”  I asked in disbelief.




“He did say that Mr. Van Woodsen’s name is also Ryder.  And he also has black hair and green eyes.”  John said.  He chuckled.  “Wow!  He must have been so taken with you to agree to pretend to be your date that night.  No wonder he didn’t take a penny from your ten grand!”




I stared at John.  “It can’t be!”  


“Ash, wasn’t he introducing himself at that party as Ryder Van Woodsen?”  Nicole asked.




I nodded. 




“He what?”  John asked.




“He was telling everybody that his name was Ryder Van Woodsen.  So much so, that whenever Ash introduced him as Ryder Woodson, he corrected her every time.”  Nicole said. 

“If that guy you introduced to us really is Ryder Van Woodsen, then he isn’t just a bartender here, sweetheart.”  John said.  “He doesn’t work here.  Apparently, he owns this place.”


I knew that he was right.  If no one knew Ryder Woodson the bartender, but he was at that counter serving my drinks that night, he must still be a part of this bar. For the manager to refuse to disclose his whereabouts or his schedule but made it clear that he knew him… that could be the only explanation.  




In fact, it was the only explanation for everything.  From the checks that he returned to me, to the car that he was driving, to the ease and grace that he had when he was talking to my relatives about business and assuring them that he can get them a table to a famous Manhattan restaurant, to the very expensive room that he rented that night, to the ring that I am wearing on my finger.




He must have thought this was a joke!  He introduced himself to everybody except me!  He gave his real name to everybody and to me, he gave a fake name!




“I… can’t believe this!”  I breathed.




“Wow!”  Dannie breathed.  “You didn’t make up the perfect guy that night.  You really had him.  He was the real deal.”




“So, the story that you thought was real was the actual sham?  And the fake story that you were telling your relatives that night was really the truth?”




“Apparently so.  Except for us.  We were a sham.”




“No you weren’t.”  Nicole said.  “You said you didn’t pretend right?  He said that too.  Just think that you had a one day relationship with Ryder Van Woodsen.”




“Yeah.  And having this ring made me feel like a… prostitute.  Like he paid for my company!”




“You should only feel that if you went to bed with him!”  Dannie muttered. I made a big mistake after that!  I blushed ‘til the roots of my hair so fast that I had no time to pretend otherwise.


“Oh my God!”  Nicole breathed.


“Oh my God!”  Dannie almost shrieked.




John looked away and took a gulp of his beer.




I covered my face with my hands.  “Shit!  I’m going to kill him when I see him again!”




“Why?  I thought you said…”  Nicole started.




“I said a lot of things, I believed a lot of things!”  I muttered.  “That didn’t stop Bryan and Geena from hurting me beyond belief!”

Dannie and Nicole fell silent.

“No one is judging you, Ash.”  John said gently.  “It was about time you gave it up anyway.”


“Thanks John!”  I said

“Well, at least you gave it up to someone more gorgeous than Bryan!”  Dannie said, trying to make the mood light again.


“And I got a thirty thousand ring in return!  What a high class whore I am!”  I muttered. 

“It’s not that, Ash!  Maybe he was just… gallant

“I told him to buy a ring that is fake but would pass up to be the real thing.  Or he can rent the real thing and return it later.  He didn’t do either!  And he only told me to keep the ring after all has been done!  What else was this ring for?  He doesn’t know me.  I don’t know him.

“He’s rich.  Something to remember him by?”  Nicole suggested.

I shook my head.  “No.  If he thought, he could buy me, he’s dead wrong!”


“And what are you going to tell him when you see him?  That your sleeping with him was actually for free?”  Dannie asked in an irritated tone. 

“Well…” Actually, I didn’t know what I’m going to say to him. “I’ll tell him that… that he can take his ring back and shove it down his throat!”

“What good would that do?”  John asked.

“I don’t like owing people favors.  Especially those with a huge financial value attached to it.”  I replied.

“Fair enough.”  Nicole said.  She stared at my ring once again.  “But still very pretty!” 

“He must have thought I was a joke, huh!”  I whispered.


“Come on!  You don’t know that!”  John said.  “For all you know, you got under his skin the minute he laid eyes on you.”


“If he really is who we think he is then he’s got a long line of mistresses pining for his attention.  I just feel that he… bought himself a weekend entertainment and… I was it.”


“Hunt him down, sweetie.  So you can ask him why he did it.  Why he spared you even a minute of his time.”  Nicole said, smiling at me.  “Who knows?  If John’s right and you did get under his skin, then… Bryan would be eating his heart out at your wedding.”


I glared at Nicole.  Because even though I have been thinking about Ryder constantly over these past few months, I know I was thinking about Ryder Woodson, the bartender, who was sweet and kind, smart and funny, who steals lines from his sister’s romance novels.  The warm, gentle guy who made me feel like I was the queen of the world.  That I deserved a Prince like him instead of a loser like Bryan.  Ryder, the simple guy with a great mind and a big heart. 

Ryder Van Woodsen, on the other hand… I don’t know him at all.  For all I know, he could be a fierce, manipulating, cold-hearted bastard who didn’t mind paying thirty thousand dollars to pretend to be somebody he isn’t… and to take advantage of a desperate, pathetic heartbroken girl like me 

If he really is all the things he said he was at that wedding… then he is the epitome of what I swore never to date ever since I was a teenager.

I went home with a heavy heart.  Because I know, everyday since the wedding, I’ve been looking forward to see Ryder again. I thought I’d be able to show him how I am in a different light.  When I’m not so broken and banged up.  I thought that given the chance, when I get my act together and I’d show him the real me, he might actually get to like me.  For real.

But now… I doubt that I would get to like him.

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