Arven was at breakfast the next morning, enjoying a good rich cup of coffee, piping hot and fresh from a traditional coffee brewer, when he saw the picture. It was slapped in full color on the front of a gossip magazine, and said magazine soon found itself to be covered in coffee spittle.
"Oh my god." Arven sputtered, immediately putting down his cup to prevent spilling coffee on himself. Jonathan hurried to his side and handed him some ice water—the coffee had been almost scalding hot, but Arven liked it that way. He was a bit of a masochist. Thankfully, no one else was present to witness the spectacle—mostly because Arven and Caramel were the only ones in the house with ingrained habits of waking up early—besides the servants, of course. Needing to go to school at six in the morning for ten years straight did that to people.
"Are you alright?" Jonathan asked, hurriedly wiping the coffee spittle away from the table and magazine.
"Yes." Arven said, picking up the magazine to flip to the article. It was a just a short one page article, but it was still being featured. It couldn't be helped—Law was just too disgustingly talented and famous.
"I apologise. If the article offends you, I'll remove it immediately. I was just checking it over to see if the Villagold name was mentioned." Jonathan sounded genuinely apologetic as he served Arven a fresh cup of coffee.
"It's okay." Arven said after several moments of trying to wrap his head around the concept. "I just—it's just shocking. Mel's never shown any interest in the opposite sex before."
"Is that so." Jonathan said, an odd look flitting across his face.
"She was always busy studying, or reading, or doing something. I guess she just couldn't be bothered?" Arven sighed.
"Shall I send a gentle reminder to Mr. GoldenHawk about the issue?" Jonathan asked after a moment. Arven cast an odd look at Jonathan, and then shook his head. "You sound like a Nazi, Jonathan."
"I see." Jonathan said, stone-faced. "If it's any comfort, we just received news of both of your official acceptance and admission into Dalton's. It appears that the studying paid off."
Arven smiled faintly, and then put down the magazine.
"She's always trying her best, but never for herself. Caramel was never allowed to be selfish, you see. But now that we have everything we want…" Arven looked around the dining room, and then at Jonathan.
"You'll protect her for me, won't you, Jonathan?"
"I will do everything within my power to ensure that it is done." Jonathan bowed.
"Good." Arven said, smiling bitterly. His fist clenched under the table. "I'm too much of a coward to do it myself." Before Jonathan could reply, Arven finished his coffee and stood to leave.
"Thanks for breakfast, Jonathan. It was excellent, as usual."
"You're very welcome, Arven." Jonathan bowed. Arven snorted at how polite he was and left. Jonathan picked up the magazine and closed it, and then set it down near to where Isaac would sit when he woke up. Things were going just as planned.
.: The Billionaire's Concierge :.
"Did anything happen while I was away?" Richard asked as he sat down in his office chair, glad to be back home. He wondered what his sons were thinking in the act of defiance last night—when they had refused to accepted Agnes' presents. Had his plan of making the stepsiblings study together to get to know each other worked too well?
How can something go too well?
There was a misunderstanding, though. He had gone with Agnes to shop for presents, and had seen her looking into various clothing stores, make-up stores, and even jewelry stores. She never hesitated to buy something for herself, but when it came to Caramel, the mother was always hesitating. Richard had asked her about it, and wasn't sure to be proud of himself for choosing such a woman as a wife or feeling inferior, compared to how he had simply allowed someone else to bring up his sons. He hadn't even known Isaac had achieved a Masters in both the piano and violin when he was four until last month.
"Why aren't you getting anything for Caramel?" He had asked. Agnes had thought for a long moment before answering.
"I'm afraid she will find out that I'm only buying her something to make up for the mistakes I made in the past. I don't regret making the mistake, but every time I look at her…." Agnes' expression had morphed then, into something both regretful but proud. "But she is strong, just like her….father."
"Why are you talking as if she was a mistake?" Richard asked, confused.
"I'm not." Agnes said. "I love my daughter—but she is…she is too much like her father. It doesn't matter, Richard. My daughter is strong. It's just a present."
"It'll be okay, dear. She won't hate you for something like that." Richard had acquiesced. However, he couldn't be sure. He hardly knew Caramel, and to him, she was a hard-headed and intelligent girl. Certainly, there was more to her, but that was not for him to discover.
Confronted with Jonathan's silence, the Villagold patriarch turned and raised an eyebrow at the butler. Jonathan shifted awkwardly, and then spoke.
"Tristan hosted a party during the weekend to weed out a group of thieves who recently designated Dalton's as a target, and during that time, someone assaulted Caramel while she was on the way back to her room."
"Assaulted?" Richard barked out sharply. "Assaulted how?"
"Sexually." Jonathan said a beat later, clearly remorseful.
"Explain." Richard ordered patiently, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms.
"Caramel was on the way back to her room from the kitchen when Howard Dale exited the bathroom in the corridor just next to the sitting room. He was drunk, and grabbed Caramel to drag her into the bathroom. We don't have any footage of what happened in the bathroom, but Law heard her screaming for help and managed to resolve the situation. According to what I have gathered, Caramel managed to fracture Howard's nose while she was struggling, before Law interfered."
Richard was silent for a very long time.
"Law saved Caramel?"
"You could say that, yes." Jonathan agreed.
"And Howard Dale assaulted her without provocation?"
"And Caramel broke his nose."
"Same thing." Richard said, waving the minor detail away. "Did you teach her how to use a gun yet?"
"Ah, about that." Jonathan paused and did not meet Richard's hard gaze. "She refused." The butler said eventually.
"She what?" Richard bit out, eyes bugging out.
"She refused to even touch the gun. In her exact words—"If being safe means I have to learn how to hurt someone deliberately, then I would rather go back to Singapore.". I didn't try to stop her, since Tristan has already sent out a warning, and people are aware that she is not to be touched. It was not urgent at the time, so we did not press her too hard."
"Foolish girl." Richard said, drumming his fingers on the table. "Does she not know she is being hunted? Tell her to come to my office in the afternoon."
"And stop that infernal bowing." Richard snapped.
"Of course." Jonathan bowed himself out.
.: The Billionaire's Concierge :.
Caramel was just pulling on her heeled knee-length boots when Jonathan knocked on the door with a request for Richard to see her. She told him she would be out in five minutes and laced up her shoes before putting on some lip balm. She wore heels more often now—because feeling taller was always nice. And standing next to Law always made her feel smaller, less confident. She wasn't sure she liked it—that strange sense of insecurity when she stood next to him. Or security. She needed to sort that out.
Just like the previous time, Jonathan led Caramel to Richard's office in a corner of the home in silence.
"So why does Richard wanna see me?" Caramel asked curiously.
"That is for me to know, and you to find out."
"Aha." Caramel laughed at his reply. She didn't prod the butler any further—she would find out soon, anyway. When Jonathan opened the door, Richard looked like he had been waiting for her.
"Hey!" Caramel said cheerfully.
"Hey." Richard smiled. The cheer was oddly infectious. "Did something good happen?"
"Yeah, I heard a really funny joke last night." Caramel chortled. "So, what's up?"
"I just wanted to talk with you a bit." Richard admitted. "How do you like it here? Is your allowance sufficient?"
"Richard, a hundred thousand dollars per month is more than sufficient—much less a hundred thousand per week." Caramel's tone was dry as she sat herself down in front of the billionaire.
"I want you to like it here. You can't blame me." Richard shrugged. Caramel did not reply to that, she just smiled vaguely and shrugged. He stared at her, and then finally relented when the teenage girl refused to say what was on both their minds. "I heard about what happened."
Caramel looked blankly at Richard, taking a seat as Jonathan placed a glass of iced water in front of her, complete with a slim pink straw that was bendable at the top. The butler had eventually managed to figure out through trial and error the little quirks Caramel had. It had been a long and painful process, but ultimately fruitful.
"What do you mean?" Caramel asked, being deliberately obtuse. Her face was blank.
"I mean I heard about what happened during the party." Richard said, cocking a brow at her.
"I'm fine, don't worry about it." Caramel said after a long moment, her expression not even tense. She shrugged. "I managed to fracture his nose, and he didn't do anything to me."
Richard wasn't sure how to reply, so he sat back in his chair and stared at Caramel, waiting for her to speak up. But the teenage girl simply sipped at her iced water, crunching down on a cube of ice when she ran out of water to sip on.
"Do you like it here?" Richard finally asked, a resigned look on his face.
"I have everything I need." Caramel admitted, her tone neutral.
"Are you happy?" Richard pressed.
"Should I not be?" Caramel asked, raising her eyebrows.
"No. No, of course not." Richard said. He waited, and Caramel buckled under the weight of the silence eventually.
"You're right. I'm not happy." Caramel admitted with a sigh. She didn't like wasting time—not when there was ice cream to be had. "I hate it here. I was called a thief, almost raped, and told that if I didn't learn how to shoot someone to protect myself, someone would be found to hurt people for my sake. But you know what, Richard? I'll deal with it. So just say whatever you have to say and stop beating around the bush."
Richard smiled. He wasn't sure if he should be proud or disappointed. Caramel was just like her mother in this aspect—unfailingly honest. However, she wasn't happy here, and he was disappointed because he had no idea what he could do to improve relations between her and everyone else.
"Is there something you want, Caramel? Something I can do for you to make you happy?"
Caramel stared at Richard for a very long time. Finally, she spoke.
"I want to go back home." Caramel said slowly, as if she wasn't sure what she wanted.
"This is your home." Richard pointed out.
"I want to go back to Singapore." Caramel said out loud, her tone growing stronger and more confident.. "At the very least, I want to complete my education back there."
"Dalton's just sent us notice of your acceptance and admission. There are much better teachers here, than in Singapore." Richard said, trying to convince her to stay. Agnes would throw a fit and fret subconsciously for days on end without her daughter nearby, and he didn't want that. The mother might seem like she did not care, but she did, in her own way. It was an Asian thing—they weren't big on showing affection. Maybe a cultural habit? He couldn't be sure.
"I am unhappy here, Richard." Caramel pointed out.
"Can you guarantee you will be happy continents away, with your closest kin miles and hours away, with no one to protect you?"
"Better there than here." Caramel snorted. Richard sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. After a moment, he leaned back in his chair, face stony.
"I will think about it." He finally said. "We will talk about this after the wedding."
"No." Caramel said. Jonathan made a sound similar to that of a dying fish, and Richard raised his eyebrows.
"I won't allow you to stall, Richard." Caramel said, a frown on her face. The billionaire sighed. He had crushed men twice Caramel's size with mere words alone before, and even devastated whole companies with a simple signature, but he could not convince a mere teenage girl to stay put in a palace fit for royalty.
"What can I do to make you stay?" Richard asked. Caramel could ask him for anything now. She could ask for millions of dollars, and he would give it. She could ask for a house made out of chocolate and caramel, and he would give it. She could ask for a school built in her name, and he would give it. Heck, she could ask for her own private island with a resort built on it, complete with a beach-based park with slides and airstrip.
Instead, Caramel just shook her head.
"There is nothing you can give me that I don't already have or want, Richard."
"Nothing?" Richard asked, feeling as if someone had just punched him in the gut and then stabbed him in the eye.
"Nothing." Caramel said, shaking her head. Agnes was right. Caramel was strong—and that was what ultimately made life difficult for both her, and everyone else. When people looked at Caramel, talked to her, understood her, they would realize that the person before them was someone that needed no one, and wanted for nothing. She had built a mask, a façade, so strong and solid, it seemed as if there was no one who could break it.
At Richard's silence, Caramel just smiled. She glanced at the diamond-studded pocketwatch she had hung around her neck.
"I have to go now. See you." And then the girl left, undeterred, as if she were a force of nature blasting through without a single care in the world. Richard just sighed.
In the end, there was nothing he could do. This was a problem that not even money could solve, and it confused him. Because it had been far too long since a problem that could not be solved with money had decided to slap him in the face.
"Sir?" Jonathan asked worriedly.
"I'm fine." Richard sighed. "We'll just have to wait and see. Maybe this just takes time." Then he spotted Jonathan's doubtful expression, and knew that the likelihood of that was unfortunately, very close to nil.
.: The Billionaire's Concierge :.
"Where are you going?" Tristan asked when he spotted Caramel skipping through the foyer. He was walking round the house looking for something to do while snacking.
"Ice cream, with Law. Wanna come?" Caramel asked brightly.
"Ice cream, huh? We have an ice cream machine at home, you know." Tristan pointed out.
"It's different." Caramel said, raising her eyebrows at that. "So do you wanna come?"
"Well, sure." Tristan said, then he glanced outside, where Law was already waiting. The superstar was actually on time for once. He was dressed in form-fitting dark jeans that just made his already long legs even longer, and a button-up collared shirt that showed off the smooth skin of his collarbones. Caramel beamed at the sight.
"Law's treating me." She gushed excitedly to Tristan, practically bouncing.
"Oh?" Tristan said with a knowing look at the singer. Law smirked and pulled out his sunglasses, putting them on after sending a meaningful glance at the oldest Villagold brother, and then at Caramel's back.
"My car is a two-seater." Law called out. "And I think Tristan can't fit into the trunk."
"Tristan has a car." Caramel chirped, oblivious to the exasperated look on Law's face. "Actually, he has more than one car." The teenage girl said, with a look on her face that suggested she found the idea of someone having more than one car stupid.
"You know what," Tristan drawled, casting Law a meaningful stare. "I think I'll just stay at home. I have business to attend to."
"Awwwww." Caramel said. "But it's ice cream." She said, as if that would convince him. Clearly, Tristan thought, the girl did not know the difference between a date and a trip to the ice cream store when it slapped her in the face.
"I'm sure Law will make sure you enjoy yourself." Tristan chuckled.
"Of course." Law promised smoothly. Tristan snorted at the reassurance and turned to leave. Caramel would have bounced after him to annoy and pester him further to go with her and Law, but the singer grabbed her wrist and steered her towards his car.
"Come on, let's go." Law said. He turned back to glance at Tristan, who nodded to him. It seemed that he had Tristan's approval, at the very least. And Isaac's, of course.
"Wait! I didn't bring my wallet!" Caramel yelped.
"I'm paying, remember?" Law said, and practically shoved her into the passenger's seat.
"I need a jacket. What if I get cold?" Caramel said, making to get out.
"I'll lend you mine." Law said, slipping into his own seat and closing the door. He had chosen to drive his Lamborghini Aventador today—painted in a sleek black with gold accents, which were generally acknowledged to be his colors. His motorbike was more inconspicuous in general, but he wanted Caramel to be comfortable.
"Why are you in such a rush to leave?" Caramel asked, not making a move to put on her seatbelt. She hardly seemed to notice she was in a car coveted by collectors all around the world, of which only four hundred units existed. Usually, people would be looking around, trying to look like they weren't interested while attempting to test out what all the various buttons did. Caramel was just….she was just excited to get ice cream. Law wondered how oblivious a girl could be then, because if it got any worse, he was going to start losing years off his life.
Not that that wasn't enjoyable in its own way. It was just the principle of the thing.
"I'm an impatient person." Law lied blithely. "Put on your seatbelt." To be honest, he just didn't want to wait around for the other brothers to find out he had asked Caramel out on a date—that was a disaster he would stall for as long as possible.
"Okay." Caramel said. Law picked up his mobile to check his twitter updates—it was an obligation more than an addiction, superstar that he was—and waited for the click to indicate Caramel had put on her seatbelt. It didn't happen.
"How do I put it on?" Caramel asked, pulling at the wrong strap. Law sighed and put down his phone, reaching out to take the straps. He shouldn't have been surprised—the seatbelts in sports car were more difficult to handle than usual ones, since they were built to keep the passengers close to their seat no matter the speed. Still….
He paused when he caught sight of her bare shoulders, the skin pale and creamy against the black of her shirt. He swallowed as he caught a glimpse of her bra-strap as he hurriedly clasped the seatbelt into place—it was purple.
"Thanks." Caramel said. Law didn't lean back—he allowed his fingers to linger, tracing the collar of her shirt and her bare skin. And then he breathed in and caught a faint whiff of a sweet perfume with just a tiny bit of bite to it. It made him want to reach out and grab her—for someone who looked so guileless and innocent, she wore an oddly enticing perfume. He smiled to himself—it suited her, oddly enough.
"You're not wearing any make-up?" Law asked after a moment. Caramel's skin looked startlingly flawless and pale, and her eyes were bright under the hood of a delicate row of lashes. No eyeliner. No chunky mascara. Not even concealer. He saw no hint of color save for a hint of natural pink in her cheeks, and it was oddly erotic. He knew he could kiss her then, and would taste her, and not lipstick, or foundation, or even sticky lip gloss. It was oddly…sexual.
"No, should I?" Caramel asked, tracing the tip of her pinky across her bottom lip as she glanced out the window. Her tongue darted out, and she bent down to reach for her lip balm.
"You smell nice." He noted absently, leaning back into his own seat and securing his own seatbelt.
"Thanks." Caramel said. An awkward pause ensued as Law began to drive out of the estate and down the road.
"I hope you don't make a habit of smelling people—that would be weird." Caramel suddenly said.
"Just the people I like." Law answered dryly.
"So you smell Lucas? And tell him he smells nice?" Caramel asked, a funny look on her face.
"I don't do that to Lucas. That's gross." Law said. He had hoped she would take the hint, but now he was just confused. Was she being deliberately obtuse?
"But you're best friends. So that means you like him."
"Not that way." Law groused.
"What way are we talking about here?" Caramel frowned.
"I like Lucas like a brother. That's all." Law emphasized.
"Oooohhh." Caramel said. "What about Jonathan, then?"
"What about him?" Law frowned.
"Do you like Jonathan? What does he smell like?"
Law groaned. "Can we talk about something else, please?"
"Okay." Caramel chirped. She turned in her seat, then said in a very serious tone : "I hope Miley Cyrus wins the Grammy for Best-selling Artist of the year."
"WHAT?" Law shouted, turning to glare at Caramel.
"What?" Caramel said, her face guileless.
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm a nominee for Best-selling Artist of the year. " Law wasn't sure whether to yell or be amused or angry. He waited.
"I know." Caramel said. "But I feel bad for Miley. I mean, she's nice! But people are always criticizing her about being a slut and stuff when it's really Taylor Swift who had a dozen boyfriends while Miley's been steady with the same guy for nearly two years."
"You're a Miley Cyrus fan?" Law asked in disbelief.
"No, not really." Caramel admitted.
"What about me?" Law asked after a moment. That had sounded kind of self-centered. He paused, then decided there was no point worrying about spilt milk.
"What about you?" Caramel asked, frowning.
"Are you a fan of my work?" Law asked. He was proud of his work, and found himself to be almost afraid of what Caramel would say next. What if she didn't like his work? Music was his life—hell, he would be nothing without music. The thought was chilling.
"My friends are fans of yours." Caramel said after a long moment.
"I wasn't asking about your friends." Law said, growing annoyed.
"Well," Caramel paused. "You have good fashion sense." She finally said in a very diplomatic tone.
"I have a stylist." Law said dryly. "Is that really all you have to say?"
Caramel shifted awkwardly. She bit her lip, and then looked around. But there was nowhere for her to escape to.
"What do you want me to say?" She asked sulkily, reluctant to openly compliment him. To Caramel, if you complimented a guy, that would just boost his ego unnecessarily. And Law had plenty of compliments from others—she saw no real need to feed his ego any more.
"Don't tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what I want to know." Law said, smirking when he realized she was practically squirming in her seat. Was she in denial? He wasn't stupid, he could read the signs. Caramel didn't hate him—far from that. She was attracted to him. She had put on perfume, but he hadn't smelled any on her yesterday—and she was showing a lot more skin today. It may be his imagination—but he wanted to know. Was she attracted to him, as he was to her?
"I like your new single more than the others." Caramel finally admitted. "And you're a good singer."
"Just good?" Law chuckled, feeling at once triumphant and gleeful. He was grinning.
"Fine, you're great. And you have nice eyes. And you're good at what you do. Are we at the ice cream place yet?" The last word was a whine, as if the words were being pulled out of her with a method similar to torture.
"You think I'm a great singer?" Law asked gleefully, just to confirm.
"Yes." Caramel said, rolling her eyes.
"And you think I have nice eyes?"
"And you think I'm good at what I do."
"And you like me."
"Yes." Caramel froze when she realized just what she had just said.
Law didn't say anything next. He just watched her expression shift as she realized what she had just agreed to—her eyes widened in shock, and then she pouted, and then she blushed. If he hadn't been driving, he would have reached over and kissed the living daylights out of her for being so damn innocent and attractive all at the same time. There was just something about a girl who was so pure and unknowing that was so sinfully attractive—it made him want to break her.
"I mean, what?" She sputtered, but it was too late. Law just smirked and kept driving.
"Stop smirking!" She cried, flushing a very fetching pink as she squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. Law just grinned. He was going to have so much fun messing around with her. The girl was practically asking for it.
"I said stop it!" Caramel hissed. But she didn't stay angry for long, because Law chose that moment to stop the convertible in front of a cheerful looking ice-cream store named 'ICY-SPICY & Co.'. It was painted in plain whites and blues, and the simple but clean design drew the eye immediately.
"We're here." He said before Caramel could punch him or something for tricking her. She may have been cute and a bit obtuse, but Law could still remember the state Howard had been in when he had opened the door to that bathroom—there had been blood everywhere. And that was just from the blow to a nose. Either Caramel had darn good aim, or she was just plain vicious when angered. He didn't want that anger directed towards him—it would be…risky.
"It'll be cold inside." Law said as Caramel fiddled with the seatbelt before climbing out of the car while looking over the store.
"Okay." She said distractedly, her full attention already being drawn to all the colors inside. Law sighed and pulled out his jacket, then hurriedly grabbed her arm before she tripped over the curb.
"Thanks." Caramel beamed at him, eyes bright with childish delight. He felt an odd urge to protect that glint in her eyes—when that light disappeared; he suspected the girl he was falling for would disappear too.
The door opened and a blast of cool air washed over them. Caramel stepped in, looked around with excited eyes, and then practically skipped towards the counter to stick herself to the glass. She was practically quivering with excitement—Law found it oddly ironic and almost humbling ice cream turned Caramel on more than he did.
"Do you think lime sherbet would be good with vanilla? What about mango banana passionfruit with green tea dark chocolate. But I hate dark chocolate." Caramel babbled. "Oh, what about bubblegum with oreo crème and—" Then she sneezed.
"Can I help you?" The assistant approached. It was just after lunchtime, and before teatime, so the number of customers were minimal. However, the day was warm—Law hoped that whoever came in for any ice cream would leave quickly before noticing him.
"Yes." Law said, and gently pulled Caramel closer to him so he could put his jacket on her shoulders. Her eyes followed the row of flavors below, hardly noticing the way the assistant looked at her as if she were crazy. Caramel subconsciously snuggled into the warmth of Law's jacket while drawing closer to the glass.
"Ohmigod, they have caramel cheesecake with macadamia nuts. This is my new favorite place on earth." The girl gushed.
"Aren't you that guy who sang 'Passionfruit'?" The assistant asked Law abruptly.
"What?" Law looked up distractedly from where he had been observing Caramel.
"You know—" The assistant said. "Passion, passion, passionfruit?" He sang, somewhat off-key.
"Oh yeah. I'm Law." Law said, then turned away before the guy could react. "Caramel, what flavors do you want?"
"The caramel cheesecake with macadamia nuts. And the red velvet vanilla. With a brownie! But I want a fudgy brownie, not like a dry one." Caramel babbled as she shifted the jacket to sit more comfortably on her shoulders. "And extra Hershey's kisses, please."
"You heard the lady." Law said dryly. "I'll have a…" He glanced at the menu. "I'll have a macchiato with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream. Make it strong."
"Right. This way. That'll be $9.50." The guy said, looking far too curious for his own good.
Law pulled out his wallet, deciding Caramel wouldn't be able to get into any trouble while he paid. What were the possibilities?
When he looked back on this day, Law would know not to tempt the fates. Especially not when Caramel was involved.
"Can I have an autograph?" The assistant asked as he accepted the twenty-dollar bill Law handed over. He grinned sheepishly and continued, "My girlfriend is a big fan of yours."
"Sure," Law said, easily. It was always nice to meet a polite fan that didn't scream your head off, or try to rip your shirt off. Or just annoy you in general.
"Thanks a lot, man!" The guy said, and grabbed a napkin and a pen to pass to Law.
"What's your girlfriend's name?" Law asked as he autographed the napkin. He wasn't bothered by it—he had signed a woman's left boob in eyeliner before, so very little surprised him anymore.
"Belinda. And can you add in that I'm a great boyfriend?" the guy asked.
"Relationship trouble?" Law asked conversationally.
"Well, yeah. But that's mostly because she wants me to become more like you." The guy laughed easily. Law chuckled and handed the napkin over. The guy grinned and tucked the napkin away into the pocket of his apron as if it were a great treasure, and then began reaching for Law's change. Law stood back to wait, then turned when he heard someone shout, followed by a familiar and feminine squeak.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing!" A guy shouted. Law blinked when he saw Caramel standing next to the man. She had been sipping at a cup of water while looking for a seat, and had somehow managed to spill the water on him.
"Sorry! It's just water. It'll evaporate." She said. There was a pause, and then she added in a rather bland tone: "You were the one to bump into me, by the way."
"What?" The guy laughed. "As if! This shirt cost me four hundred dollars, kid. How are you going to pay for the damage you did to it?"
"It's water." Caramel said flatly, a completely different person compared to the girl who had trouble deciding over what flavor of ice cream to eat two minutes ago. Law frowned and made to step over to stop an argument from breaking out, but a small voice in his head told him to wait to see what she would do. He stopped and waited.
"Bitch! You knocked into me, now you gotta pay!"
"Go." Caramel enunciated slowly. "Fuck." She put down the cup on a nearby table, her expression morphing in an annoyed one. "Yourself."
"You little shit!" The guy yelled, cocking a meaty fist back threateningly.
"Are you going to hit me?" Caramel laughed in the man's face. Law groaned and stepped forward, but the man, practically thrice Caramel's size and twice her height, was already lunging forward.
"Shit!" Law ran forward, but he was too far away. Caramel caught the man's fist, and to his complete and utter amazement, shifted her weight and twisted in a perfect execution of a Munetsuki Kaitennage—an aikido move that redirected the opponent's momentum, which could then be used to throw them over the shoulder and onto the floor.
He could feel the ground shaking as the man landed on his back, choking on air as the weight of his body hit against the hard linoleum floor. Law turned to Caramel. She was picking up her cup and walking away—his jacket had not even fallen from her shoulders.
"Oh wait." She suddenly said. She put down the cup, and then pulled off the pocketwatch she had slung around her neck. It was studded with diamonds and plated with white gold—at his best estimate, Law would guess it was worth about three thousand dollars.
"Here." She put the pocketwatch into the man's soaked shirt pocket. "For the damage I did to your shirt." She paused, and then smiled sweetly as he groaned. "And the hospital bill."
Then she turned to get another cup of water.
"Get that guy out of here." Law said to the shop assistant once the shock subsided, who nodded mutely, eyes wide. The superstar stalked over to Caramel to check on her, grabbing her shoulder to look her over and to make sure no damage had been done. He felt a strange sense of anxiety grip him—he was supposed to be protecting her.
"Are you okay? Did he hurt you? Fuck, Caramel. How the hell do you get into trouble so fast?"
"I'm fine." Caramel squirmed in his grip, not sure why he was worried. "I told you guys I could protect myself." She sulked.
"Well," Law said. "Thank god for that. What the heck did you just do?"
"Aikido move." The girl quipped.
"You know Aikido?" Law asked, stunned. He looked Caramel up and down—she looked like she couldn't even lift weights, much less throw men thrice her size around like they were rolls of toilet paper or something.
"Yeah." Caramel said. "I started learning when I was seven. I love it—great way to de-stress."
"Then…you…" Law trailed off, not sure whether to be impressed or scared.
"Howard was a special case. I was eating yogurt, so I couldn't use both my hands to stop him. But I broke his nose, so that's okay. And if I threw him around in the bathroom, he could have broke a neck or, you know, something." Caramel beamed. "I did say I could protect myself." She looked like she would have patted herself on the back if she didn't need to put down her cup of water to do so.
"You're just…" Law stared at her, and she shifted, peering up at him. She looked so weak and innocent as she looked up at him then, his jacket at least two sizes too large for her as she drew it closer. "Never mind." He sighed, turning as two assistants hauled the man up and dragged him out of the store. "Why don't we just bring the ice cream to my place—you won't get into any trouble there."
"Aw," Caramel pouted. But she didn't deny she had caused trouble, so she shrugged and agreed. "Okay."
"Good." Law sighed. He escorted her back to the car, and made sure to secure the seatbelt around her before he walked away to get the ice cream. You never knew what she would get up to just sitting there, really. When he returned, a paper bag with the ice cream in hand, Caramel looked very bored, and was looking through his CD collection nosily.
"Don't bother—" Law said when she opened her mouth to ask if she could play an AKB48 CD. "My place is there." He indicated the tallest building in the vicinity, a gleaming glass and steel giant amongst the other buildings all around. He had bought his penthouse suite when he was 16, when it was newly built, using his own money. It was his pride and joy—he probably wouldn't be moving anytime soon. It even had a Helipad—he mostly used the empty space to think and sit by himself though.
"Okay." Caramel said. She held the paper bag as Law got in and began driving towards his home. "I'm sorry if I scared you back there." She said suddenly, a little crease between her brows.
"I wasn't scared for you." Law said eventually, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. "Just worried."
Caramel was silent at that. He turned to see her blushing very slightly, and she turned to look out the window when he noticed.
"Why are you blushing?" Law teased. He couldn't help it—she was so easy to bully.
"I was surprised." Caramel mumbled to the paper bag.
"Because I was worried for you?" Law asked incredulously.
"I didn't know you cared enough to worry." Caramel finally admitted. "Thanks." She was still blushing.
"You act as if no one's been worried for your sake before." Law asked exasperatedly. Caramel twitched in her seat, but did not reply. Her expression turned oddly flat, and the silence returned—only this time, it was weirdly suffocating. He paused, then asked—
"Did I say something inappropriate?" He finally asked, hoping he could somehow salvage the situation. He didn't want her to shut down like that—didn't want her to hide her smile, didn't want her to be so…blank.
"No." Caramel said after a moment. "No, you didn't. I just…it's nothing." She shook her head, and gladly stepped out of the car after Law slid the convertible into his parking spot. Law paused when his phone rang—this was his private mobile, so only a selected few had the number, and it was a mutual understanding they only called when it was an emergency. Otherwise, Law preferredeither a message or an e-mail.
Law considered rejecting the call, but it was from his manager, Melissa. He picked it up.
"Melissa, it's my off-day, remember?" Law groused into the phone.
"I know! But we just received a call from the X Factor USA producers. They want you to come and sing in place of Gabriel Jackson today. Law, you know you can never have too much publicity. And we might just need this one show to push Passionfruit up to triple platinum! It's the semi-finals, and it's prime time! And there will be people watching it all over the world!"
"Melissa." Law sighed. "It's my off day. I only have one off-day every three months. And it's Gabriel's problem if he can't go, not mine."
"Come on, Law!" Melissa pleaded.
"I'm not going to go, Melissa. They should have contacted you earlier if they wanted me to make an appearance." Law slammed the door closed and took the ice cream for Caramel, who was humming happily in anticipation.
"Law, they only called so late because Gabriel got into an accident. Come on, please!"
Law sighed, and then turned to Caramel, who blinked cluelessly at him. He pulled the phone away.
"Are you free tomorrow?" He asked.
"Tomorrow?" Caramel shrugged. "Yeah, I am." She replied, confused about why he was asking.
"Good." Law said, and then lifted the phone back to his ear. "Melissa, I'll go if you cancel everything I have tomorrow."
"Everything?" Melissa groaned. "Law, that's nonsense. You know I can't. You have a signing! Your fans will freak out."
"Fine." Law sighed. "Everything but the signing."
"And the interview with Glamour! Magazine." Melissa added in hopes of changing his mind,
"Everything but the signing." Law reiterated, ushering Caramel into the lift when he noticed someone approaching.
"Fine. You'll need to get over to the X Factor studio immediately for rehearsal. They're starting broadcast at eight sharp—we only have three hours."
"Send me the co-ordinates." Law snapped, annoyed he had to cut his off day short.
"No, it'll take too long for you to drive there. We're sending a helicopter over." Melissa said gleefully, and then hung up to arrange everything.
Law groaned. He knew he should have thought about it more when Melissa had suggested he get a penthouse suite with a Helipad. It's didn't take up a lot of space, per se, but it was just….
"Caramel, do you like the X Factor?" Law asked as they stepped out of the lift. He reached for the keypad and began keying in his password to open the door.
"The semi-finals are today, right?" Caramel asked, taking off his jacket and folding it over one arm as she stepped into the home.
"Do you wanna go?" Law asked.
"Uh." Caramel said. She didn't reply for a while, looking around the penthouse. It was done up in black and gold, with hints of dark blue and silver. It gave off an oddly lonely feeling, as if Law spent a lot of his time here alone. Maybe a cat would liven things up. But Caramel couldn't see Law having a cat—the image made her snicker.
"Nice place. And I can't go anyway, I don't have an invitation. Where's the kitchen?" She grabbed the paper bag, eager to start eating her ice cream. She hoped Law had a microwave—she could warm up the brownie. Brownies were best eaten warm. Eating them any other way was just sacrilege.
"What if you could go? With me?" Law asked.
"You said it was your off day." Caramel pointed out, pulling out Law's macchiato and vanilla ice cream. She pulled out her cup of ice cream as well, and frowned when she realized there were no spoons provided. Her frown deepened when she realized there was no microwave. Oh well. She'll have to live with the little disappointments life flung her way, wouldn't she?
"Change of plans." Law said. "Gabriel Jackson got into an accident, and I've been invited to fill his spot."
"That's nice." Caramel said, raising her eyebrows. "I'll just go home then." Who was Gabriel Jackson again?
"You don't have money to take a cab." Law pointed out. He remembered she had nothing but the clothes on her back with her right then, and he was going to use it to his advantage.
"I'll just pay them when I get back." Caramel said, shrugging.
"You could go with me." Law said patiently.
"Well, I won't want to interfere with your work." Caramel said, unsure. She wondered if she could finish her ice cream before she left. It would melt by the time she got home, and that would be a waste of epic proportions.
To eat, or not to eat? That was the question.
"You won't be." Law assured, moving to his room to pick up his guitar and change into something less casual.
"So I'll be in the audience?" Caramel asked out loud. Well, it was a once in a lifetime chance. Besides, she wouldn't have anything else to do. And it was apparently free. In this case, the advantages clearly outweighed the disadvantages.
"I think I can manage a front seat, or second row, at least." Law said dryly as he stepped back into the living room. Since Gabriel couldn't make it, the seats reserved for the fellow performer were likely to be empty, and placed under his name instead.
"Cool, I guess. So are we taking the car again? Can I play AKB48 then?"
"We're not taking my car." Law said, placing the shirt he had found down on the back of the couch as he looked out the window. He could see a black speck drawing rapidly closer—that was probably the helicopter.
"Then whose car are we taking?" Caramel asked obliviously, thoughtfully putting his macchiato into the fridge for him. She cracked open the lid of her cup and dug a spoon she had found into it, scooping up a bit of everything as she did. Ah, sweet satisfaction.
"We're not taking a car." Law said, pulling off his shirt. By his estimate, the helicopter would be here in three minutes. That was enough. He pulled out his guitar and made sure it was tuned, humming under his breath. His phone beeped, and he grabbed it, frowning.
Melissa : Do you want to perform the acoustic version of Passionfruit, or with the band? I can't get a hold of Tim, so we have to make do with one of their drummers.
Law made an annoyed sound under his breath.
Law : Acoustic is fine. But I need Chad and Mike to be there for keyboard and bass.
"We're not taking your bike, are you?" Caramel asked. "If we are, I'll…I'll go home and watch X Factor on TV. I have a TV in my room." There was a note of nervousness in her voice. She was babbling.
"No, we won't be taking my bike." Law said, amused as he set his guitar back into its case. He could hear the sound of the helicopter drawing closer, and began putting on his shirt, buttoning it rapidly as he glanced into a mirror.
"Then how are we getting there?" Caramel chewed happily when she found a whole macadamia nut in her ice cream.
"Helicopter." Law said, and left to his room to find a tie. He didn't see the smile drop from Caramel's face, nor did he see the color in her cheeks fading. He was securing his tie and making sure his hair was in place when he heard her terrified squeak as the helicopter descended just fifteen feet away from her, outside on the Helipad.
"You have got to fucking with me." Caramel gurgled, almost choking on her ice cream at the sight. "I didn't even dare to risk my life on a motorbike, and now you're asking me to go on a helicopter? Are you trying to kill me?"
"No one's trying to kill you." Law said drolly, making sure his door was locked.
"Liar." Caramel said, practically choking on the remnants of the macadamia nut she had been chewing on quite happily just mere moments ago. "You can't do this to me." She said weakly as Law extracted her spoon from limp fingers and shoved her ice cream into the freezer.
"Come on, we're tight for time as it is." Law said, and handed his guitar over to an assistant who had got down from the helicopter to see if he needed help.
"Do you have space for one more?" He asked, glancing in the mirror one last time. He tightened his tie and straightened it, then flicked a bit of hair out of the way before he was satisfied.
"Yeah, sure. We can put the guitar in the back." The assistant said, blinking at Caramel, who looked like she was going to either freak out or pass out. Or both. She was holding up Law's jacket like a shield, shaking her head rapidly.
"Ok good. We're ready to go." Law said, grabbing Caramel's arm.
"No, I'm not." Caramel managed to say in a squeak, practically grabbing onto whatever furniture she could to prevent Law from bodily carrying her into the instrument of death. "You can't do this to me. Aren't you supposed to ask my permission? This is kidnap. I'm going to call the police! Stop it!"
"You agreed to go." Law said plainly, and practically lifted her off the ground and onto the Helipad.
"I didn't agree to this!" Caramel wailed, grabbing onto the helicopter door to prevent herself from being dragged in. "Please don't. I'm still young. I have my life ahead of me!" She babbled.
Law just curled an arm around her waist and tugged. She fell into the seat next to him and immediately clutched at him, stiff with tension and fear. The singer gagged as she grabbed onto his tie, pulling hard.
"Can I don't go anymore. Please please please please please."
The assistant looked at Law, not sure what to do. Law extracted Caramel's hand from his tie and just indicated for him to close the door so they could get going.
"Just don't look down, alright?" Law said, gleefully pulling the girl close as she clung to him. "We'll be there before you know it."
"I'm going to die." Caramel sniffled in reply.
"Seatbelts." The pilot said into the speakers. Caramel shakily let go before putting her seatbelt on, looking anywhere but out the window. Law smirked as he secured his own seatbelt.
"Lifting off." The pilot said. Caramel clutched Law's sleeve so tightly her knuckles were white. She mumbled something into his shoulder, looking everywhere but out the window.
"What?" Law whispered, enjoying the moment to grab her hand and entwine her fingers with his. He curled an arm around her waist, smirking as he played with her hair.
"I said," Caramel mumbled. "I'm never going out with you ever again. Ice cream or not."
"Sure you won't." Law laughed. A minute later, Caramel peeked up at him to glare very briefly.
"Are we there yet?" She asked mournfully, scooting even closer when the helicopter swerved slightly. Law relished the warmth she was giving off, pulling her even closer as he caught a whiff of that perfume she was wearing.
"What? No. It's only been a minute since we lifted off."
"It felt like an hour." Caramel muttered, slowly relaxing. She didn't seem to realize they were holding hands though, and Law didn't bother stopping her. It was nice to be able to hold her like this.
"We'll be arriving in four minutes." The pilot said eventually, much to Caramel's relief. When they landed, and the door was opened, the teenage girl practically lunged out. She didn't notice she was still holding onto Law, so they climbed out together.
"We made it." She said, smiling widely in relief when she realized it was solid ground beneath her feet. Law chuckled as he stepped out of the helicopter behind her, flashing a smirk at the camera following their progress. Someone had been sent up to film his arrival, it seemed. A tall woman with bleached blonde hair stepped forward, Blackberry in hand.
"Law. You're here. Good. I found Chad and Mike, they're on the way. And—who's this girl?" Melissa, dressed in dark jeans and a button-up shirt, stepped forward, her carefully arranged updo hardly shifting as the wind tried to catch hold of it. She frowned at Caramel from behind fashionable black spectacles.
"Lucas' sister." Law said in reply, looking around to take in his surroundings.
"Hi." Caramel said brightly. She had recovered surprisingly quickly. "I'm Caramel. And I didn't like that helicopter ride at all. I demand for a cab to be called when I go home."
"I, uh, didn't know Lucas has a sister." Melissa said, confused.
"He does now." Law said curtly. He pulled Caramel close and dragged her out of the camera's frame, Melissa following behind them as the assistant grabbed his guitar. "How much time do I have to rehearse?"
"They're getting ready to admit the spectators already, so just one rehearsal." Melissa said worriedly. "I know you can do this. Chad and Mike should be here in a bit."
"One?" Law asked sharply. Damn, he hated last minute arrangements. "Where's the stage?"
"This way." Melissa said, leading the way through the corridors, which was full of noise and commotion as the production crew prepared for the live broadcast. "Your room's here—the make-up artist is waiting. No, you can't come in." Melissa said to Caramel.
The teenage girl blinked at Melissa. Law had already stepped into the room, and she was only holding onto his jacket. Melissa noticed that, and pulled the jacket away from her.
"But Law said I could get a seat." Caramel said. Had she really just risked life and limb for nothing? Really?
"It's too late to find you a seat now. He has to warm-up, and I don't want any distractions." Melissa said. Caramel frowned and tried to explain, but the door closed in her face.
"Geez, be that way, why don't you." Caramel turned to leave. She hated women like Melissa, and besides, she could watch X-Factor from her screen at home. If only she had her ice cream….
She turned down several corridors, went through a few doors, took a quick trip to the loo, and still couldn't find her way out. A door abruptly opened next to her as she wondered which way she should turn next.
Caramel pulled out her phone and bit her lip before looking through her contacts list. Who could she find to pick her up? Arven didn't have a car. She did not know any of the brothers well enough to ask them. Richard would be busy, and Agnes didn't even know how to drive. Heck, she didn't even know where she was.
Her best bet was to find a cab, then. And Caramel turned away and set off confidently down the corridor—because from there, there was nowhere to go but straight.
.: The Billionaire's Concierge :.
Law was annoyed. The sound people had encountered a technical problem because someone had tripped over a wire somewhere, his bassist and keyboardist were nowhere to be seen, and he only had ten minutes to rehearse. He hated last-minute arrangements.
And what was worse, he couldn't find Caramel.
"Where is she?" Law demanded of Melissa as he was placed onto a high stool. He adjusted the strap of his guitar and allowed the assistants to adjust the height of the mike to fit him.
"Who?" Melissa asked as she checked twitter to see if the change in schedule had been announced. If Law's fans knew he would be on the X-factor, they would tune in no matter what. And if more people tuned in, it would mean higher ratings, and higher ratings would mean that more people would get to hear his new single, and that meant more people would be tempted to buy his album. Which meant that they could actually hit triple platinum before the week was out. Which meant more money, which was exactly what they wanted.
"Caramel." Law hissed through gritted teeth.
"Oh. Lucas' sister." Melissa said dryly. "I told her to leave."
"You what?" Law asked, voice frigid.
"I said I sent her—"
"I know what you said." Law practically growled. "Why the hell did you do that? I invited her."
"You didn't tell me that." Melissa looked up, an odd look on her face. "You should've told me."
"Oh, for goodness' sake." Law grumbled. "If she was on the freakin' helicopter with me, obviously we were together before you dragged me here!" The superstar hissed. Melissa frowned at that, her fingers pausing on the keypad of her Blackberry. Law had been on a date?
"Ready!" The sound crew called from backstage.
"Go find her." Law ordered, adjusting his grip on his guitar, already turning away.
"I don't have time to look for some random girl you picked up on the street." Melissa pointed out. She wasn't sure she liked this. People in love were dangerous and reckless, and Law couldn't afford that with the degree of fame he possessed.
"I mean it, Melissa. Go find her, or you won't be seeing me for the rest of the week." Law managed to grit out, then turned away to start strumming before Melissa could protest. Chad and Mike began to join in the tune as well—the keyboardist and bassist had just arrived, so at least something was going right.
Law really didn't want to know what kind of trouble she could get into here, after all.
.: The Billionaire's Concierge :.
Author's note: EXTRA long update for your guys this week! I couldn't find a good point to stop the flow of it, so I had to either update with a short chapter or an extra long one. I decided to go the less conventional route. Why would I consider it less conventional to update with a long update rather than a short one? Allow me to give a short lesson regarding the psyche of a real writer.
I consider it less conventional because, during a conversation I had with one of my classmates, she admitted that no matter how much fans of her fanfiction—pfffft, you're in a Creative Writing Course and you're still writing fanfiction? Puh-lease.[I'm serious. This is shameful. You're in a three-year diploma course to learn creative writing and you're still depending on other people to create a world and characters for you? That's just honestly sort of pathetic. I mean, look up and admire them if you must, but don't insult me by standing on the same level as I am and relying on others to do your job for you while you're at it.]pleaded with her to update, she never did. That means instead of a short update, there was NO update.
I hate writers like that. As long as there is even a single fan of my work, I won't stop writing. Writers are nothing without readers—if you're taking your own work this lightly, and neglecting the people who are supporting you, then clearly you weren't cut out for this. I didn't know what to say to her, so I just ignored her. I know a writer has his/her own life to live, and sometimes, we start things without knowing where we are going to end it. But to create a world, seduce people into it, and then leaving it to rot—that's the worst. Writers are gods of their own world, and gods who abandoned their own creation are the absolute worst.
Ok, maybe I'm just so passionate about this because that classmate of mine is just always really rude and I feel like punching her in the eye whenever she opens her mouth like we can't live without her pearls of wisdom. But honestly. Don't commit yourself to something and then give up halfway, leaving people hanging. That's just plain cruel.
By the way, I have an announcement to make; I will not be updating next week. I know—after that passionate speech, I'm not going to update?
Well, allow me to apologise in advance. I'M SORRY. Now that we got that out of the way, let me make my excuses.
I have my schoolwork bearing down on me. I have an essay to do on how media changes society due in approximately 36 hours, a voiceover script due in another 48 hours, and a TV concept to fine-tune so that I can practice pitching it to a panel of industry professionals due in about two weeks. Yeah…..and it's only the first year, better known as the honeymoon year. JUST IMAGINE ALL THE WORK I HAVE TO DO NEXT YEAR, AND HOW MANY FUCKS I HAVE TO RECLAIM IN THE NAME OF SCHOOLWORK AND GPA! Did what I just say even make sense. Ah, well.
So…..that means I'm going to take a one week break so that I can get all my schoolwork out of the way before coming back to this story. I'm sorry, guys, but I have priorities! Please don't hate me, my poor insecure heart won't be able to take it.
On another note, tell me what you thought of this chapter in a review! What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? Did the fact that Caramel knows Aikido—a form of martial arts—shock you? Well, I won't be offended if it does shock you in an unpleasant way—after all, I am writing this story in order to show that in our own way, Asians are still different from the 'Western invaders' as much as we like to tout ourselves as part of the globalised world etc. And yes, I do know parents who send their kids to learn martials arts from as young as four, although the myth of all Asians knowing some sort of martial arts of life skill is a foolish notion. No, Caramel knowing how to fling people around doesn't make her a Mary-Sue, because heroines of romance stories are not about the fabulously long hair and sexy bodies. Not in my world, at least.
I do know how to peel an apple with just a fruit knife though. LOOK AT MY MAD SKILLS, WOOT. Ok, this author's note is getting way too long—that's what trying to update at one in the morning does to you. Hope you guys enjoyed this week's update, and see you in two week's time!