Chapter 21

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“Who is it?” Julianne asked, curious now. Zach did not answer, she was sure he did not even hear her question. He was gazing, stunned and stupefied, at the four wheel drive that had stopped just a few meters away. “Zach?” she asked once again, her heart beginning to hammer as well for no reason at all.

“Shit,” he murmured. “That bastard…I’m going to kill him!”

Fatima and some of the girls rushed out the door. They must have heard the car from inside. Julianne stepped away from Zach. There would be trouble if she was found with him.

“The bastard…” she heard Zach mutter under his breath again. Finally, the car’s headlights switched off and the man hopped out from the driver’s side. Julianne frowned. Liam?

“Hey, man! Glad to see me?” Liam howled with a grin. His eyes turned to the ladies by the door and he waved his hand, “Hello, ladies!”

No one answered. Aside from Tanya and Julianne, no one else knew who he was.

“What the hell did you do, man?” Zach asked when Liam jogged towards him.

“Nothing,” his friend shrugged. “They wanted to come along, I offered them a ride, and here we are.”

They? Julianne’s eyes flicked back to the vehicle and her heart stopped. What the hell!

A man and a woman were just getting out. She knew them very well. Hell, everybody knew them very well.

The woman, though she was showing the signs of aging, was as fair as…Julie Andrews. She still had that charm few women had when they got older. She was the living embodiment of grace. Julianne saw it in her eyes and her smile when she greeted her son.

“Honey…” Mrs. Astor’s voice said as she went near her son, her husband, looking grumpy and all so powerful, holding her by the elbow.

On the other hand, Mr. Astor was completely different from his wife. He looked strong and well-built for his age, and maybe that was why he gave off an aura that said, ‘Don’t talk while I’m in the room.’ But he sure looked like Zach.

“Mom…” Zach sighed, his eyes shooting daggers at his friend before he turned to the woman with a smile. “Dad…” he nodded at the old version of himself.

“She has been insisting to see you,” Mr. Astor said, disapproval in his voice. He looked around and added, “Why don’t we talk alone?”

“Sure,” Zach nodded his head. “Let me introduce you first to my guests,” then he bent down and planted a kiss on his mother’s cheek. “Glad to see you, mom.”

As he straightened back to his full height, Zach met her gaze for a second. Something in his gaze told her his mood was not the same as before his visitors arrived.

 *****

Zach didn’t want to be alone with his parents. He wanted to be alone with Liam and beat the hell out of the man. How could he be so stupid to bring his parents here? He would have to talk with the man anyway. They had to talk about the bet.

Fatima had already gathered the girls, Julianne included, in the living room. Jack Carter was busily organizing the camera guys around before the introduction. It was a big surprise and nobody wanted to miss it.

His father was looking everywhere with disapproval. Zach knew he didn’t like the presence of the cameras around. But he couldn’t very well tell them to go away because the ranch was not his. It was Zach’s and he knew that Zach could do anything he wanted in this place. It was the only place he could do anything freely without his dad interfering.

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