Chapter 8: War of Beauties
Oh my God! I cant believe Im here!
Lina gave a droll stare on Anna as she watched her hyperventilate and bead cold sweats inside the fully air-conditioned venue of her Aunt Mimis party. While the others including her are enjoying the food and good music, her friend is at the verge of fainting. Her knees are trembling and her face had lost color despite of having make-up.
Anna is supposed to be the one who should watch after her in case she feel sick again but it looks like things are going the other way around.
Lina tried to pick another taco from her plate only to find it empty for the third time. Geez, dont they have bigger plates. She complained mentally. Hey, are you okay here by yourself? she asked Anna.
By the start of the evening, there were six of them in their table but as minutes passed each of her associates decided to engage into some activities. The twins and Andi decided to stroll around and check the place out. Sandra, on the other hand had decided to look for her Dad. For what reason, Lina doesnt have a clue.
So now, only she and Anna are left. And though it wont take long for her to refill her plate, she doubted if Anna could last that long alone without having panic attack if she leaves her.
Anna slowly and nervously nodded. Yeah, Im okay.
Though uncertain, Lina accepted that. If Anna could faint from anxiety, she could also faint from hunger. Well, shes just over-exaggerating but shes really hungry and the foods that her parents had prepared for the party are mostly her favorite.
As she cross the room towards the tiered tables where the foods are being served, Lina couldnt help but examine the people that had attended the Guerra di Bellezze.
Most of them are fashion designers that are both friends and foes of her stepmother on her chosen industry that are checking on what are the new trends that Mimi Kriegs had in mind this time. Next to them are the sons and daughters of some known individuals in the finance world that are fashion enthusiast, young people that are hungry to know what is new and whats the next big thing.
Small businessmen and agents cant be absent too in this kind of occasion. They attend on this kind of events in the hope of snatching a huge catch from the big fishes that are swarming in the place while the big fishes in the area are trying their best to either ignore or to get away from them.
And of course, if there is an event like this the celebrities and media are surely present for promotion purposes.
Lina bumped into huge man as she steps sideways in front of the tables filling her plates with the variety of foods that she liked. The man was holding a wine glass and some content of it spilled on his suit when she collided with him.
Oh! Im so sorry.
Lina expected the man to be angry like most arrogance coated people present here might do. On his initial facial expression there was a slight annoyance on his face which is of course normal regarding the situation. She thought that it will augment but on the contrary his expression softened by time. No, its okay.
Im truly sorry, sir. I wasnt looking. Lina explained.
He settled his glass on the table and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the spills of wine on his chin and mouth and some from his suit. Dont worry. Im really fine.
Lina inclined her head. His expression and voice are sincere which makes it easier for her to accept his words.
After rearranging himself, the man stared at her for a few moments then frowned like hes examining her, or to be more precise, identifying her. You look familiar. Have we met before?
She not a lie detector but she could distinguish the truth on his words. He truly mean what hes implying and not just using those words as pick up lines like most men does. No, sir. This is the first time Id seen you.
The man stands at 67 and has a pale blonde hair and smooth complexion. His presence is like a mixture of both sexes. The body and the strength of man and the gentleness and meticulousness of a woman, attributes that craft him into an elegant gentleman.
And now that he looks at him closer, he also looks kind of familiar to her. He looks someone she knows but at the same hes not. And whats weirder is that shes not recognizing the physical aspect but something which is much deeper like
like she can recognize his existence, an existence that she witnessed from someone before but she could not perfectly remember from whom.
He nodded surveyed her again from head to toe, attempting to identify her. Im sure Id seen you before, he insisted and then shrugged. But maybe its just me. Anyway, be careful next time.
Lina nodded. Of course, Mr.
Holmes, Mitchell Holmes.
Lina nodded again. Yeah, Mr. Holmes.
Mitchell Holmes smiled warmly but interrupted when his cellphone chirped. Excuse me, he said as he reached inside his suit and drew out the gadget. General Holmes.
Her eyes widened a bit. Hes a General? A soldier. That was unexpected.
An instant transformation then happened before her eyes. Lina had seen it before from Cairo, that particularly moment where the brilliant mind and the dedicated heart behind the façade of normality kicked into high gear. Alright, get into your positions now. He ended the call and then dialed a new one. Alpha. How are things going there? He sighed after the person from the other line replied. Okay, just tell him to wait a little bit. He snapped the phone shut and slid it back inside his suit.
A liability? Lina asked.
A responsibility, he corrected. Anyway, I need to go. Its an honor meeting you, milady. Please enjoy the party.
She tilted her head as she watched him whipped around and sliced through the crowd until he was gone. It was then when the music stops playing and the feminine voice of the speaker boomed from the sound system.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for waiting.
Her attention shifted immediately to the podium beside the grand stage where the much awaited fashion show of the year is about to take place. When the speaker continues her address, she felt a couple of hands bearing on her shoulders. When she looked on her sides, it was Anna and Andi along with Sandra and the twins.
Is it starting? Anna asked excitedly.
I guess so, Lina simply said, unsure about it herself.
And now, without any further adieu, I am greatly honored to present to you the host of this gathering. She is the world renowned political and social figure and the woman behind the most artistic and glamorous designs in the fashion industry, along with her partner, the CEO of Mimic Corporation, Mr. Cazimiro Mortis. Let us all welcome, Miranda Kriegs!
When the main door opens to welcome Linas parents, the entire place broke out in seconds. The applauses of the guests, the reporters, cameramen and photographers that are trying to capture a good shot and scope, and the securities that are pushing themselves to control the crowd spread like wildfire on parched grass. Here and there, a lot of things are happening but are solely focus on the two individuals that are entering the room.
First to be noticed by Lina as the two walk through the red carpet was her ever loving Father in his dashing debonair outfit and beside him is the woman that she and the rest of the people present in the gathering are dying to see, her Aunt Mimi.
Mimi is a tall and beautiful auburn haired woman with an out of this world face and figure, the kind that even the models from Mens Magazines can spend their entire life envying. Clad in red dress matching her hair and her stunning amber colored eyes that suits perfectly on her creamy white complexion.
Lina heard the five girls that are surrounding her gasped on the sight of Mimi. The rest are no difference too, their applauses and cheers had grown awkward as their heads got occupied on the beauty of Mimi.
Finally, they made it to the stage and when Mimi stood in the center of the grand stage, the entire room shifted into silence except for the occasional clicking and flashing sounds of the cameras. They are all excited on what does the red haired beauty is about to say and what does she is about to offer for the night.
Good evening, Mimis mesmerizing voice greeted through the microphone. Before we start the night proper, I would like to thank first everyone that made themselves available for this occasion. It makes me feel so blessed that despite the many years that I had spent in this business, your love and support for my works never diminished.
The guests replied with applauses at the end of her initial statement.
So for tonight, this collection of artistry and glamour are dedicated for all those years of war in the industry not just for myself but for all of those that risen and fallen for the sake of beauty. Technique, imagination, creativity, resourcefulness, all that are needed to stand at the starting point of the fashion world and to tell the world that you got what it takes. However, in the long run, none of those will measures you as an artist. It is if you have the valor to make it on top. Mimis demeanor started to get stern, iron-like. Similar to a General towards her army of soldiers. Among the thousands that had stood at the starting point, 99% of them had become sacrificial stones in order to polish the remaining 1% gems that are standing now at the peak. It is a war, a war of dedication. A dedication to bring the best to the world. Mimi paused, catching everyones attention and anticipation. So now, from a survivor of the merciless assault of the never ending battle of becoming the best among the best, I am proud to present to you the Guerra di Bellezze!
The entire place exploded again into cheers and applauses when the models started emerging from the backstage. The flashes of cameras are evident everywhere as the models clad with Mimis designed dresses and outfits catwalk back and forth on the stage.
Ladies and gentlemen, the speaker spoke again. This is the first among the seven sets of the Guerra di Bellezze collection that will be introduced and presented tonight. The first set is composed of glamorous evening gowns suitable for gatherings of all genres. Each dress is available in three colors. Black, white, and red
Lina stopped paying attention on what are being spoken and what are happening on the stage and shifted back her attention on her plate. Shed almost emptied her plate when the stage and crowd settled down in preparation for the next presentation. It was then when she saw her parents that are anxiously evading the leeching crowds and press with the help of their bodyguards in order to reach them.
The five girls that are with her make their distances as Cairo and Mimi gets nearer and nearer to them.
Cairo hugged her instantly when he was on a touching distance. Hello my princess, he embraced her tighter, lifting her slightly from the floor.
Hi Dad, Lina spread her arms at her sides in order to not stain her fathers suit with her plate.
Her father pulled away, setting her feet back to the floor. How are you? Are you feeling better now?
Lina smiled and nodded sincerely. After a few rest and sleep, the badass headache from earlier is now long history. Im fine, as healthy as a horse.
Cairo smiled at her. Im so glad to hear that.
After checking her, Cairo then made a quick glance through his shoulder and then looked at her again, gazing directly to her eyes. His expression is filled with both uneasiness and excitement as he moved aside in order to give way to the red haired beauty that Lina had been dying to meet for years.
Thats your Aunt Mimi, Cairo whispered against her ear.
For almost half a minute, Lina just stared at her in utter silence. Mimi is just stunning especially up close.
Well, Mimi finally broke the excruciating silence. Are you just gonna stand there? she said, spreading her arms. Come over here and give your Mama a hug.
Lina almost toss her plate over to Cairo in order to get rid of it as fast as possible to run to Mimis arms. Ever since she got aware of her existence in her and her Dads life and ever since she felt her love for the first time, shed been dying to meet her, to touch her. Mimi had been the only mother that she had. And after so many years that shed been faceless and formless to Lina, now, shes finally here with her arms wrapped around her. She can feel her warmth, her breathing, her heartbeat, and most of all, her love.
Mimi pulled away and then cupped the sides of Linas face with her palms. Oh my goodness, youre such a lovely lady.
She failed to reply, her throat is still obstructed with overflowing emotions. Lina just gaze at the motherly expression of Mimi and to her eyes that slowly diverted from being locked on her face downward.
But for Christs sake, what are you wearing? Her expression filled with disgust as she scrutinized every fiber of her clothing.
And she cant blame her. In comparison with the dresses of her acquaintances like Anna and her friends and the prominent guests present in the occasion, her choice of clothing is completely unacceptable. While they wore elegant dresses and fancy suits, she is simply clad with her black V-neck long sleeves sweater.
Mimi shook her head in utter displeasure. For a child of mine, this is unacceptable.
Sorry, Lina just smiled bashfully. I dont have any nice dress at home.
Oh shush, Mimi hushed her. Worry not about that. Leave it all to me. She winked at her and in a softer voice she added, And before this night ends, youll be the most beautiful young lady that settled her foot on this gathering.
Lina eyes widened on Mimi in both dread and excitement, dread in the sense that shed never been dressed by anyone before that she completely had no idea what to expect and what to do. And excitement, for its going to be her first bonding moment with her stepmother.
Can we excuse ourselves? Mimi said to her husband. Lina and I just need a mother and daughter moment.
Uh, sure. Cairo replied uncertainly. In his expression there is a part that doubt if he should let Mimi do as she please with Lina.
A chill suddenly enveloped Lina, a familiar chill that she only felt when a specific person is somewhere near. At that moment, the second walk of the Guerra Collection is about to start but was delayed when a member of the security approached the speaker. He whispered something to her and then hands over to her an envelope.
Before we start the second part of tonights presentation, we just want to acknowledge the arrival of another guest.
Everyone in the room stiffened including Cairo and Mimi on the announcement. Aside from ostentation which is the most minor and unimportant reason of acknowledging an arrival of a guest in a huge gathering such as the Guerra, the true vital purpose of such announcement is to prepare the people present in the occasion. If it is someone big or a very well known individual, it is certain that he or she is surrounded by bodyguards coated with killing intent that might scare or intimidate the guests if they just enter all of the sudden.
It registered immediately to all of them that whoever this arriving person is surely someone powerful and has a very important status not just in the State but in the world.
Who could this be? Mimi said under her breath. Everyone that Im expecting is already here.
Lina smiled widely. He finally decided to show up. He surely did make her wait for too long.
A representative from CEOR
the speaker continued.
That broke the silence. Upon hearing the word CEOR, almost everyone in the room gasped and then starts whispering on each other.
CEOR!? Mimi exclaimed and then looked questioningly at Cairo, demanding an immediate answer.
The clueless Cairo shrugged, pertaining to Mimi that even he doesnt have any idea. I dont know. I didnt invite them and you know that we cant even if we wanted to.
What is CEOR, sir? Anna asked.
Big shot people, Cairo said. Even for us.
Mr. Castor Myne, she finally proclaimed his name.
MYNE! Some exclaimed, some mumbled.
A Myne? Mimi said. Now this is interesting.
CEOR and Myne, two names that a man can only hear if his financial standing in the world is on top. In the world, all people believed that the planet is revolving based on what they do. Well, that is just partly the truth. There are always people behind the shadows that possess control over things and even the entire world is no exemption.
That is CEOR, the biggest and the most influential organization in the world yet the most invisible, the most enigmatic, but undoubtedly the Puppeteer that is pulling the strings on how the economic, the financial, and even the political status of the world should move.
And then theres the Myne, the brain that controls the Puppeteer.
Everyone went silent. Eyes locked on the main door as it open to welcome the unexpected yet the most prominent guest of the night.
The door opened and Lina flinched a little when 12 men carrying a presence that can kill entered and lined up at each side of the red carpet. She had seen intimidating people and people with killing intent before, like her father when the situation requires and those people that serves and protect them. But their menacing natures are nothing compared to these men that serves under Cast. If their team is composed of rabid dogs then this team is composed of crazy tigers.
This just fueled up the fire of curiosity and anticipation from everyone. And even for Lina who personally knows this enigmatic guest couldnt help but to be thrilled.
And then that chill running on Linas spine intensified as the man causing it entered the area carrying that sexy physique magnified by his dark attire. And she was not alone. Even in a lesser manner or in a different approach, Lina is sure that these people around her had also felt that huge thump on their chests upon being within his presence.
And then their expressions were replaced with fear and uneasiness when his eyes glared on them.
Cast just stood there like a perfect statue of the Greek God Adonis. His beautiful yet bored stare scan through the almost petrified crowd until he found what hes looking for. He smiled, his face lighten up making Lina blush when their eyes met.
The crowd all breathed in relief on the softening of his demeanor. And then the speaker totally relieved the tension when she resumed the introduction of the next set of collection. Their attentions diverted away from Cast but still wary about him.
Everyone finally relaxed with an exemption of Linas group, the only set of people that has Casts attention. Their guardedness just magnified when he started making his way to them, it was just Lina who wasnt bothered at all.
Lina! Mimi almost shouted when she moved away from them to approach Cast.
Cast stopped when he saw her moving to him. Her feet moved faster. She knows that shes attracting attention and strange eyes but at the moment she doesnt care. He opened his arms. She didnt hesitate, leaping up and latching on his huge stature.
Hey, Lina whispered.
Hi, he murmured, clutching her.
Wow, you look good, Lina complimented when they parted.
So are you, he said and then sniffed. And you smell like tacos.
Her eyes widened and shot immediately to her hands. Her jaws dropped when she found them soiled with the crumbs of the tacos that shed just eaten. Oh damn it! Lina exclaimed in anger and sheer embarrassment on her negligence. Im
Im so sorry.
Cast grinned, amused. She could feel her cheeks heating up now. No, no, its okay, he said, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket. He took each of her soiled hands to his and wiped the crumbs off.
Lina looked down, abashed to the point that she wants to disappear to where she is standing. I didnt notice. Then a possibility struck her. I could have stained your suit.
No, its fine, he said, trying to stop her when she took the handkerchief from him and move to his back.
Be still, Lina said, making Cast sighed in surrender as she wipes the crumbs that stained on his suit.
When she returned to his front, he said, That wasnt necessary.
You should have stopped me then, she grinned with a hint of teasing on her tune.
Well, she placed her lips close enough to his ear while inserting his handkerchief inside his suit. You didnt try hard enough, she said, tapping his chest.
His lips parted, staring at her uneasily. And then he smiled and shook his head in defeat. Okay, I guess I didnt.
Come on, she grinned, taking his hand. I want you to meet my parents.
Cast is overjoyed that after a long and excruciating wait he was finally been allowed by his brother and his men to set foot to where Lina is. The preparation was exaggerating but extremely necessary just to ensure that he wont cause any trouble especially in the presence of Lina.
Hes currently doing fine but he still had to deal with Linas guardians which are the ones that are causing a huge part of his discomfort.
He truly cant stand staying for too long with the kind of Cazimiro Mortis and most of all of Miranda Kriegs and at the moment hes just forcing himself to do so. And if it werent for Linas sake, he wouldnt even dare to try.
It adds to the augmentation of his unease is the never ending mumbling of their audiences. The connection of him with the only daughter of the CEO of the Mimic Corp is such a big deal to them or maybe its the other way around, which is which, the outcome is pretty annoying and he hopes that Lina is not suffering the same way as he does.
Youre thinking too much, Lina said like she could actually read his mind.
He sighed. I just cant stand this kind of place. His eyes glanced around, And these kind of people, he added.
So am I, but I really want to see Aunt Mimi so I have to bear with it even for just a few hours.
And Cast feels the same way. He wants to be with her and he doesnt care even if all of the things that pissed him off will be included on the overall package.
Dad, Lina said to the semi-stunned huge guy.
Cazimiro Mortis. Its impossible for Cast to not know him considering that he is one of the few newbie that earned an almost instant place among the top within just 3 years ever since hed started his business. And he is paired to Miranda Kriegs, a reigning designer in the fashion industry whose designs are sometimes regarded to be out of this world.
Guys, she said too to the rest of her acquaintances. This is my friend, Cast.
He inclined his head towards them after Linas introduction. Good evening.
good evening. It was Miranda that answered to the speechless bunch. She moved closer to him and offered her gloved hand. Miranda Kriegs, she introduced herself for the sake of formality.
Castor Myne, he politely shakes her hand.
From him, she eyed significantly on Lina. Lina, she called, taking her attention. You didnt tell us that youre acquainted with a Myne.
Why? Is that supposed to be unusual, Ms. Kriegs? Cast said before Lina could compose a reply to her stepmother.
No, she defended. Not unusual, just
Miranda tried to make it look and sound like what she claimed but Cast had already saw past through it. Shes not curious on how the connection between him and her step-daughter had started but concern that they had a connection at all. Unexpected things always happen. Its nothing to be surprised about.
Miranda glared at him. Cazimiro Mortis snapped then and interjected between them by taking his turn in introducing himself forcing Miranda step away giving him and Cazimiro some space.
Cazimiro or Cairo is less tense and guarded compared to his wife but still wary towards him.
Aunt Mimi, youre saying something about a dress earlier, right? Lina said to her stepmother.
Oh Im sorry, I almost forgot, she told her. Anyway, please excuse us.
Miranda grabbed Linas wrist and led her away from them. Ill see you later, she said to him before they disappear from sight.
Where are they going? he simply asked in the air, not caring who heard it and who will reply.
As to be expected, it was Cairo that gave him an answer. Lets just say that my wife wants to play dress and our daughter is going to be the doll.
Is that supposed to be terrifying? Cast said, responding to his sarcasm.
Yeah, it is, he replied after a brief silence.
Cast is frustrated. He had waited for hours to be with Lina but she was snatched immediately away from him after 5 minutes. But at the same time he cant help smile to be thrilled about whats going to happen next.
He loves Linas simplicity. He finds it very beautiful and sexy but he also knows that glamour suits her very well. With the right dress and the right foundation to match her unique beauty, she can exceed even the most beautiful of all models and actresses when it comes to facial features.
Miranda Kriegs appears to be the most suitable person for the job. She adores and cares for Lina and will surely strive hard to give the best and right for her.
He smiled in anticipation. Maybe he needed to wait for a little longer again but it seems that a greater price is along the way. He just hoped that he will still have the guts to be around Lina after Miranda is done with her.
END OF CHAPTER 8