A/N: Hi guys. I'm so sorry but I got really tired with this story and I'm scrapping it after this last chapter. Thank you for reading. Wish you all the best.
Chapter 23: Puzzle Pieces
The applause was deafening. I barely heard my own heart shatter.
The plastered smile on my face thankfully held up as I willed myself to stare at Alex and Lily share smiles and loving gazes. Their parents standing by their sides applauded and looked proud of what they have achieved. It was a union of two powerful families, signed and sealed.
Everyone who was considered anyone had gathered in the great Morgan estate to gawk at two barely legal rich kids get engaged for the sake of making more money for their families. Then again, they weren't just some run-off-the-mill rich kids. Lily and Alex belong to the oldest, most powerful bloodlines in the country.
"How could you love such a spineless slug of a man," a bemused voice whispered into my ear.
I tore my eyes away from Alex who was waving down at us puny people down their balcony and sighed as I flicked an annoyed glare at Gabriel.
I itched to push him away from me but I couldn't. We had similarly been engaged. However, as his status as bastard dictated, there was to be no grand balcony announcement.
The crowd knew, though. Also, there's this pesky contract I have with Gabriel. No choice. I have to keep up this charade.
Viennese waltz music started and the area beneath the gigantic cluster of chandeliers gradually became free. Everybody knew what that meant.
Old people's music dance-athon.
Not really a cure for a broken heart. Besides, it's a dance reserved for them. For the engaged couple.
Ugh. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't take it any longer; watching Alex looking so happy to be with Lily. I couldn't stop myself from guessing whether he was just pulling an Oscar-worthy performance or he already had fallen in love with Lily.
"I'm thirsty," I declared before moving towards the nearest exit. Not really a lie.
Surprisingly, Gabriel made no move to stop me. Kara too, only nodded her head, though I knew she was just hiding her sympathy for me.
I badly needed a break. Fresh air.
I was only here to see Isadora Wurtzbach. Maybe squeeze some info regarding that night of Andrew's conception. Maybe bring some closure to this whole mess.
But nope. She's not here. I haven't seen her. Instead, I was forced to stare and applaud and smile as Alex got formally engaged to Lily.
No, Drea. Not champagne. Back off.
But my throat is like, full of sand! I'm parched!
Just as I was about to lift a flute of champagne off a waiter's tray, a hand grabbed my wrist to stop me.
"You don't look like you're old enough for alcohol, young lady."
I clenched my fist and pulled my wrist free. I eyed the stranger before me. He looked a bit in Robin's age range. His blond hair was chin-length, but not a bit unruly. His eyes were glinting but he emanated a sort of kindness through his small smile.
"I'm just thirsty," I reasoned, already halfway to turning away.
"Drea, your juice," Gabriel's voice suddenly came into existence beside me. A glass of what looked like orange juice appeared under my chin.
"Right," I mumbled. I quickly took a gulp as I felt his arm snake around my waist. The stranger was still staring at me.
"Tristan Crawford! What a pleasure to meet you here," Gabriel enthusiastically shook the man's hand.
"Gabriel," he greeted while smiling more broadly. "You barely made it in time. Your underage fiancée almost took a glass of champagne to quench her thirst."
I squinted my eyes at the Tristan person. I already heard that name somewhere.
"Ah! Tristan Crawford! The girl with purple hair! Y-You had her shoved inside your limo!" I exclaimed while pointing a finger at him. I was being incoherent but I guess he got the gist of it.
Tristan looked taken aback, and obviously horrified. There was a brief moment of silence before buzzing whispers erupted.
I lowered my finger slowly, abashed at my rash reaction. Gabriel laughed, and broke off the tense atmosphere. Tristan laughed too after a while; loud enough to inform everybody that nothing was out of order. I forced myself to laugh too.
"You must be talking about Apples."
I gulped. "Right. She was playing hooky. You wanted her to work," I said, supplying what I knew about the incident.
Tristan smiled at Gabriel. "As expected from a master investor. You must know about everything, huh?" He then turned to Gabriel as I reeled from his comment.
"Oh, don't look so shocked, Miss Stevenson. Everyone here knows about you. After all, you did win that investment challenge competition last year."
"In my honest opinion, you picked the better girl, Gabriel," Tristan muttered just low enough for us to hear. He then winked at me.
"Now, now, Tristan. No need to suck up to me. I'm not the one inheriting the great Morgan fortune."
Tristan snorted in that aristocratic way. "Alexander will do fine, that's a given. That boy's a shark after the old man's footsteps. We're honestly more concerned with what you'll stir up," he said, poking Gabriel's chest lightly.
Who else was concerned?
Why would they be concerned? Gabriel was hardly a spare. He was a bastard child. Not entitled to anything except horrible family dinners.
"Just look around you," Tristan continued. I quickly took his advice. For the first time, I noticed everyone's shifty gazes directed towards us. My heart beat hitched up a notch.
"Everyone's waiting for their turn to get introduced to you and your betrothed."
Gabriel chuckled. "What I'll stir up? Boy, oh boy. I haven't got anything up my sleeve, Tristan. In any point of view, it will be ridiculous to focus on us. The Atherton and Morgan merger-"
"Is hardly any threat. Puh-lease. Everyone prepared for that partnership upon seeing your father seated next to Lily's father at the Royal Ascot three years ago." Tristan rolled his eyes. "Alexander's a shark. A big, big one that scares the hell out of everyone who crosses his path. But you... you're the fox. Almost behind the scenes. You think we miss out on those favourable privileges afforded to you by your father? We both know that every damn move made by your father has ten thousand planned implications."
Gabriel's grip on my waist noticeably became tighter, making me sneak a glance up at him. He still had his confident smile on but his eyes shimmered with what appeared to be... excitement.
"And now you have Miss Andrea Stevenson. The mysterious investor who began the crucial tipping point that eventually saved Wall Street from an inevitable crash and burn. Yet, you tell us to look away?"
He laughed boisterously.
"Still don't believe in love, eh, Tristan?" Gabriel said after a pregnant pause.
Tristan smirked. "You know we all here can't afford love. Besides! Don't pull that card on me, you fox," he sneered while leaning in towards us. "You think anyone believes the bullshit that you barely out of high school folks are getting engaged?" he whispered gaily
I expected it to be a clear jab to the gut for Gabriel, but he remained unfazed.
Someone loudly clearing his throat interrupted our tense moment. An old man with glasses smiled at Tristan.
"Mr. Crawford, I do believe Miss St. James would like your immediate assistance right now. It seems her champagne came into contact with Lady Margaret's gown."
Tristan paled, and with a slack jaw, rushed off without so much as a goodbye.
"You do forgive him for leaving your company in such haste?" the old man continued while smiling at us.
Gabriel and I simultaneously muttered that we did not mind.
"Nevertheless, let me apologize for him. My name is Gregor Polianovich, by the way."
And thus it started. Numerous men and women circulated around us and introduced themselves. All of them aired off their numerous assets, or their regal titles. Models, actors and actresses clinging on to their arms were made to charm the both of us. The attention was overwhelming. Tense. Surprisingly though, it was enjoyable.
Never in my whole life have so many people praised me, complimented me and strived to gain my favourable reaction.
Tristan Crawford was right. I did notice the mood of the party shift. The attention was showered now all on us. Gabriel seemed not a bit disturbed by the turn of events. I honestly felt a bit vindicated by it all. The guests were not at all too shy to point out how better a choice I was than Lily Atherton. I still didn't know how to react to that, though.
I glanced at Lily and saw that she had a firm grip on Alex's arm. Her brown hair, swept up in an elegant bun, showed off her swan-like neck that was adorned with glittering diamonds. The gown she had on was a thousand times more exquisite than mine. It couldn't be helped. Mrs. Morgan was the one who chose what I had to wear in the end. Her message was clear: Lily Atherton shall not be upstaged.
Oh crap. They're approaching us.
"Relax, Drea. You're doing fine," Gabriel whispered beside me. "Lily won't pounce on you in public."
"Drea. Gabriel. How nice," Lily greeted us with a wide smile. I didn't feel the niceness of the situation, though.
I looked straight at Alex and wondered what he was thinking. He refused to look at me, focusing instead on Gabriel.
"It is just unfortunate that you barely had to announce your happy engagement. And to do it on the same day as ours," Lily chirped sympathetically.
"It is Drea's birthday too. Same as Alexander's. We also thought we'd make it doubly special to announce our engagement today." Nice save, Gabriel. The pain was too much for me to say anything. I sure as hell didn't want her to know that I was hurting.
Lily pursed her lips and smiled. "Enjoying the attention, Drea?"
I gulped. "Huh? Uh, well…"
"It must be so uncomfortable," she continued, "having so much attention on you." Her blue eyes glinted maliciously, making my chest constrict.
"I think she's handling it pretty well," Gabriel said. "Everyone's curious about the genius who amassed quite the fortune by playing with stocks."
I blushed. So everyone already knew.
"Of course it doesn't help that I just recently sealed the deal with the Koreans. We begin mining explorations in North Korea by next month." Gabriel took a sip of orange juice from my glass and winked at me.
"What?" Alex exclaimed. "Father had me drop that project! Their demands were out of bounds. Too costly!"
Too late. Alex's outburst had caused me to look at him. I hoped I was not blushing too heavily. Alex and Gabriel did look like they were twins, but not tonight. I had to tear my eyes away lest anybody notice that I was making googly eyes at him.
Gabriel shrugged. "I convinced Father to let me try again. I got it for cheap, actually. I mean, cheaper than what you did with the Cubans." He wrinkled his nose as a sympathetic gesture but it was so fake that anyone could have taken that as insult instead.
And it was an insult.
Alex's glare was smouldering. It was clear, unmasked anger. How very out of character. He was a master of keeping in any emotion. Now he's showing it in front of so many people.
"Darling," Lily chuckled. "It's our engagement party and yet you're discussing work. Shame on you, Gabriel," she chided Gabriel with a mock glare. I admired her for her grace. I envied the way Alex relaxed a bit as she squeezed his hand tight.
This was one of the reasons why she was so much better than me.
"Besides, we have a project worth trillions. No need to get so worked up on child's play." Lily caressed Alex's face and gently turned it towards her. I clenched my teeth as Alex's eyes darted towards me for a second.
Eyes were upon us. I knew that. I couldn't just look away.
But I almost lost all capability to hold back a snarl when, just before Lily tiptoed to kiss Alex, she turned towards me and smirked.
Yeah, I know. You got him. Congratulations to you.
When they separated, Gabriel immediately busted in on the romance. "We would obviously love to stay and watch you PDA your way to the wedding, which is going to be at least a decade from now, but I need to introduce Drea to some more investors. I find that everyone's been way more agreeable once they find out who I'm marrying," he chuckled.
Alex cast me a worried look that quickly disappeared. I beamed at the obvious irritation that marred Lily's pretty face.
Gabriel sneered at Lily before steering me away from them. I tried to sigh in relief in the most discreet way possible.
"You okay?" he asked while smiling and nodding at the people we passed by.
"Sort of," I mumbled.
Gabriel led me away from the ballroom and towards the foyer where a magnificent, marble grand staircase greeted us.
"Uh, where are we going?"
"Yeah, but exactly where?" Gabriel might have been courteous the whole night. Magnificently nice, even. Still, I have no intentions of trusting him.
He paused and turned to me. I could get the feeling that he understood my anxiety.
"I am delivering you to your room. I thought you had no desire in staying for the engagement festivities?"
I scratched the back of my neck. That was true. "But… Isadora Wurtzbach," I mumbled. She was the only real reason why I attended the damn party.
Gabriel grinned, showing off his dimples. We started moving again. "Kara wants to be the one to find her. As your birthday present."
"I saw Isadora's name on the register. She's here. But I didn't see a glimpse of her."
Neither did I.
"Kara will call you once she finds Isadora. No need to stress yourself…"
Gabriel stopped. His face took on a look of puzzlement. I narrowed my eyes as he tilted his head and blinked multiple times.
"Ssh," he whispered, wagging a finger at me. I decided to go along with this... whatever this is, and kept still myself. I listened.
"Daniel!" I heard someone shriek. I jolted on impulse and tried to run towards the muffled voice. Gabriel gripped my wrist so tightly that I winced.
Again, he silenced me with a finger to his lips. He pointed towards a slightly open door and tugged me gently.
We both crept towards the door and peered through the crack. It was some sort of office. A study. At first I could see no one in it, but I heard voices.
I recognized one.
"You ruined everything already!" he yelled.
""D-Daniel, please! I was scared. I was stupid," the woman begged. "I had nothing. You know that. If I messed up, I'd be back on the streets, you know that. I have no family name like you do—"
"I could have given you that name!" Daniel roared.
I heard her burst into tears, then the sound of someone slumping to the floor. I caught a glimpse of her heeled shoes.
"You don't understand. You don't understand," she wailed repeatedly. Her voice was a bit muffled.
"Y-You said you love me," Daniel stuttered. I knew he was crying too. It sounded like he was straining to get the words out.
"I do! I still do," she insisted.
"No. No, you don't." Daniel chuckled mirthlessly. I hugged myself, suddenly feeling cold. I looked up at Gabriel, who was also earnestly listening to the conversation.
Did I really want to hear this?
I mouthed a question. "Who?"
Gabriel nodded and mouthed a name that made my eyes grow wide. "Isadora."
"You didn't. I see it now," Daniel continued. "You just wanted a stepping stone."
"That's not true!" she shrieked.
I looked around, nervous. What if somebody else heard them? I was nervous for them. This was the fight of the century. I bet the media people in the ballroom would kill pandas just to get a scoop like this.
"If that was not true then tell me, Isadora. Tell me straight to my face what you did to our baby."
I stifled a gasp. Baby? They have a baby?
I've never seen Daniel with a baby. Well, only Andrew… But his baby? And I thought Isadora could very well be the mother of Andr-
Was it possible?
C-Could it be?
Of course it was possible. It could happen.
Oh my gosh.
B-But then…. Why?
My mind flashed back to those times that Andrew and Daniel bonded together. Andrew was closest to Daniel among all the Morgans. He was probably closer to Daniel than to me. He loved Daniel's red hair.
Well, actually, Andrew loves everything that has a red color.
Yeah, I've always had that thought at the back of my mind that Daniel seemed more of a father than Alex. Heck, how many times have people commented that?
"What?" Daniel laughed. "Cat got your tongue, Isadora?" Isadora hiccupped in between sobs as she mumbled apologies and begged. Daniel was unforgiving, though, finally snarling, "You can't even speak of it, can't you? It's too horrible and… I… I just can't… Fuck, Isadora. You thought I'd welcome you with open arms after-"
"I just wanted to apologize!"
"There's nothing you could to make me forgive you! You sicken me," he hissed. "Don't you ever come near me again."
I was yearning to hear more but I felt a powerful tug on my wrist. One look at Gabriel's panic-stricken face was enough for me to scramble to my feet and run after him. Fortunately, the room next door was not locked. We were able to slip in just as soon as we heard Daniel exit the other room.
I slid down to the floor after anxiously listening to Daniel's footsteps fading away. I stretched my legs in front of me and kicked off the killer heels that Mrs. Morgan made me wear.
I looked up to find a very unsettled Gabriel briskly pacing back and forth. He was nibbling his thumb. His brows were knitted tightly, and his eyes seemed to be looking at something far away.
Nah, not just "looking."
He was glaring.
"Gabriel," I called out to him. I didn't like how he was being openly shaken.
He stopped and forced a smile at me. "I'm sorry, I'm just…" He licked his lips and exhaled loudly.
"It doesn't make sense," he said exasperatedly, throwing both of his hands up in the air.
"Actually, it does. It's kind of clear, isn't it?" I said, tilting my head. "Daniel got Isadora pregnant. Isadora didn't want a child. She wanted a career. She drops off the baby, aka Andrew, to Alex—"
"Why Alex?" Gabriel interrupted me. He sounded mad. I cringed for a second.
"W-Well, duh! If she gave the baby to Daniel, then she'd be obligated to play 'Mommy' to the baby. She wants to be a supermodel."
"Again. Why Alex? How did that baby end up with Alex?"
I sighed. "Because Andrew is still a Morgan. She probably thought that Alex would still give Andrew the lifestyle he deserves."
Gabriel laughed bitterly. "Yeah, right."
I shook my head. "He's not all evil, Gabriel," I insisted gently.
He scoffed, obviously finding humor in what I said, and then frowned and clucked his tongue. "Something still seems off. How come Daniel isn't claiming Andrew as his then?"
I was struck dumb.
Gabriel had a point.
Maybe Daniel doesn't know?
But that would be weird. Daniel knows Isadora gave their baby away. It wouldn't be too far off then that he'd know to whom Isadora gave their baby to.
Something does seem iffy.
And then there was that event last year when Alex and Daniel were caught beating each other up. What was that all about? Everyone was hinting that it was all because of Isadora.
So many questions.
"Agh! My head hurts," I whined. "And it's already eleven. I'll have to check up on Andrew now."
I didn't wait for his permission. I stood up, picked up my shoes and walked off.
"Glad to see you're as driven as ever in getting to the bottom of this," Gabriel sarcastically remarked.
I glared at him. "Thanks for all the help, Gabriel," I retorted. "I'm also glad that you're much more driven than I am. How fortunate that you're as curious as I am about all of this."
I watched him redden and look away, glaring at the wall.
That's right, Gabriel. I am still watching you.
It's suspicious that he's desperately digging info too. What's in it for him, anyways?
A/N: Lol. I was kidding. This isn't the last chapter. :D
So! Miss me?
I'm so sorry that I couldn't update sooner. Or regularly. T_T With that said, I am very much thankful to those who still follow this story. Also, to those who reviewed or pm'd (some even did it multiple times), I am extra sorry. I hope this and the next chapters Imma roll out would be explosive enough to appease you guys.
This chapter is short. I'm a bit rusty. I'll depend on your thoughts and tweak what I've drafted for next chapter. Hope you guys don't mind. It's easy to get kinda lost when you haven't written anything for so long.
It's always fun to read all the theories and guesses. I squeal when you guess something right, I swear. XD Slowly but surely, I'm filling up the plot rips. Happy guessing! :D