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As Jia's mind was totally confounded, she never doubted nor did she had any suspicions when kuya Nap invited her to attend a party. She also did not question why Jim was also attending. All she guessed was, perhaps, kuya Nap was inviting them to attend a client's or a close friend's party.
However, when her eyes swept on 'Gee's Cafe', she suddenly realized that the 'party' that night was actually the opening of the third branch of Gee's Cafe and inauguration of Jian's Garden. She had just noticed that the right wall of the hall was fully opened and it showed the whole view of Gee's Cafe. In its door, stood a tall balloon column with the big ribbon tied in it for the ceremony later.
On the big screen of the stage, was a running slideshow of a real estate, its ameninities and photos of model houses.
She then turned and cast a questioning look at Jim. He never mentioned that today was actually the opening of Gee's Cafe. And what about this Jian's Garden?
Jim smiled gently at her and what he said astounded her. "My dear, prepare a speech for the ribbon cutting ceremony."
"What? " She frowned, still unable to get over from the surprise.
Jim chuckled lightly and pulled her, habitually, closer to himself. "Why not? All Gee's Cafe are registered under your name. This is our first time to attend an opening ceremony, so as the owner, you will be the one to give the speech."
Their distance to the next table was barely a meter away so their conversation could be heard very well. Anthon and Giselle just looked at each other, communicating with their eyes.
"Stop scaring me. " She rolled her eyes, making Jim more amused.
"Am I? "He laughed again and encircled an arm to embrace her. He, then, bent down and kissed the top of her head, smelling her feminine scent.
Jia closed her eyes, pretending to be sleepy while resting her head over his shoulder and snuggling close to him. While she was nervous inside because she knew Anthon and Giselle were watching, she did this intentionally. This was to show Jim, somehow, of her truthfulness. And that she couldn't care less of a public display of affection with him, even with Anthon around. The same way for Anthon to give up any hope for both of them.
Deep inside, she was still overwhelmed with guilt and she knew, this would not pass away until she could do some measures to ease it down...
Soon, guests arrived one after another until the seats were filled. Few minutes after, the lady of the ceremony took the stage and welcomed everyone. After the invocation, kuya Nap boosted everyone's spirit with the warmth of his opening remarks. He talked briefly about when and how the first and second branches of Gees's cafe were opened and how much it progressed resulting to the opening of the third branch.
Then, he also gave a brief overview of Jian's garden. As he ended his talk, he introduced indirectly the next speaker as the one who would complete the overview of Jian's Garden as well as its specific details.
As he went down, the lady of the ceremony took over.
"As Atty Guevarra had said, the full beauty of Jian's Garden will be presented to us in details by the next speaker. So, friends, relatives and our honored guests, may we all give the floor to Engr. Anthon
Jia's eyes flew wide open. So, this was exactly the reason why he was here. And of all contractors, why him? She cursed Jim under her breath. Damn it, why was he making things difficult for her? Why was she offered to temptation closely?
Anthon then went up to the front enthusiastically. After giving his greetings, he introduced himself as the man behind Jian's Construction. He, then, presented each slide on the big screen carefully, from the details of the amenities, to the numbers of buildable houses then down to the exterior and interior designs. He also showed the model houses and invited everyone to visit the site.
As Jia's eyes were fixed to Anthon, she could not help but admire and be proud of Anthon's success. As high school classmates fifteen years ago, who both struggled financially, who knew then that this day would come and find them both succesful in their chosen field? Even though, hers was a different story...
She turned her head to Giselle and the latter looked back at her then to Anthon, relaying the same message of pride for their accomplishments.
Anthon ended his talk with an oath to uphold the most important aspects in the success of the business; quality and service excellence for the client's full satisfaction. He, also, thank Atty. Guevarra and the investor of Jian's Garden for choosing and trusting him, who was no other than.... herself?
Few seconds after his last word, his eyes met hers...and their eyes locked for a while. Then he blinked afterwards and made his exit.
Intermissions followed. A dance and a song number. She did not pay any attention to the dance. Her thoughts had flung away. But when the song rendition followed, her foolish heart was easily conquered. She got carried away and a tear rolled down. As she hurriedly brushed it away, she fidgetted... Two pairs of eyes were looking at her.
Finally, it was the ribbon - cutting ceremony. Since she strongly refused to make the speech, Jim stood up together with kuya Nap, Anthon and the VIP's kuya Nap invited.
Did she not quickly thought of an alibi to escape the speech sentence? Of course, she did! She hurriedly took over in carrying Jian up...
Before the cutting of the ribbon, Jim made a very brief speech and he started it in a way that made her spirit slightly, just slightly collapsed!