When Sparks Fly by Ines Bautista-Yao
Genre: Sweet Romance
Twenty-four-year-old photographer’s apprentice Regina has always felt like the plain, dull orange next to the shiny red apple that is her best friend Lana. But then she meets Ben—the first guy to ever break Lana’s heart, and the first guy to ever make Regina feel that he only has eyes for her. As Regina finds herself falling hard for Ben, she also finds herself breaking all the rules of best-friendship. Will she give up the love of her life for Lana, or will she finally realize that she deserves her share of the spotlight, too?
Regina Salvador wasn’t too sure what she was doing at El Tomador on a work night. She had to be up and on location early the next morning, which was going to be in, oh, maybe three hours—the Philippine sun did have a habit of rising before six a.m. But she had promised her best friend Lana Lucero she’d be there to support her. To support her as she drank three boys under the table in a freaking drinking contest. Which just so happened to take place in a dark bar, hidden along one of the shadier streets of Makati, reeking of smoke and blasting grunge. What was this? A throwback to their college days?
Through narrowed eyes, she watched Lana chug down another tumbler of beer, the frothy amber liquid dribbling down the sides of her mouth, running down her neck, and soaking through the neckline of her white tank top, probably staining it forever. Why her friend thought she had to do these things, she would never know. When Lana triumphantly held the tumbler up and turned it face down to the whoops and cheers of the thickening crowd, Regina felt someone jostle her arm, causing her to lose her balance.
“Watch it!” she snapped, feeling the beginnings of a tirade gathering in the middle of her chest, just waiting to be released. She was tired and worried about Lana. She didn’t want to acknowledge it, but she thought she knew why her best friend was there. Regina didn’t even want to admit it to herself because that would mean her best friend had it really bad, but at the back of her mind, there was a nagging voice whining for attention, chanting one name: Ben. Ben. Ben. Ben Marquez who didn’t call her back after turning her world upside down and making her believe that she was the one—the one who was going to change him, the one who was going to make him forget about all the other girls in his life, the one he was finally going to settle down with—at their ripe old age of twenty-four. Right.
Regina had no idea who this Ben Marquez was. She had been out of town on another shoot when it apparently had all taken place. She was training to be a photographer under Paulo Javellana, one of the most sought-after lensmen in Manila. When she had gotten back from a beach shoot in Boracay, a gorgeous island of powdery white sand and clear blue water that was gaining popularity, Lana was already in tears. She had fallen in love, she said. She had finally found him. The one. The guy she was going to give up her wild, carefree days and take up an apron and a spatula for. Regina was sure Lana didn’t even know what a spatula was.
Lana had met him at this very bar, El Tomador, where their college friends hung out every Wednesday night after work. He was someone’s friend from high school and had wanted a change of scene. They’d had a drinking contest and he’d won. Lana was smitten. No one had ever beaten her before. That was all it took. She was his. But a few days later (“Days? How can you know you’ve found forever in a few days?” Regina was incensed. Her irresponsible best friend had always been flighty but this was the worst she’d seen her), he was gone. Not a call, not a text message, not an email. She actually began stalking him, driving by his apartment and dropping by places she thought she’d find him in. This was one of those places. And when Regina heard what she was planning to do, she insisted on coming along. No way was Lana going to make an utter fool of herself without backup, without someone to take her home at the very least.
So here she was, ready to snap someone’s head off just because he had bumped into her. “I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?” He had puppy dog eyes. Round, dark brown, and piercing. Regina blinked, imagining herself getting lost in those warm pools, the angry words fizzling out on her tongue.
“Uh, no, I…” she stammered, unable to tear her gaze away. Well, he didn’t seem to be looking anywhere else either.
When he broke into a relieved grin, she found herself smiling too, the tirade all but a distant memory. What was wrong with her? She’d seen cute guys before, kissed a few of them too. But this one’s eyes made her feel as if she weren’t in a noisy bar worrying about her best friend drowning her brain cells in alcohol.
“Did you want another drink?” He gestured toward her empty glass. Which had been filled with water earlier.
Regina twisted her lips in a grimace. “No, I can’t. I have to be at the bus terminal at five.”
“Five this morning?” His eyebrows shot up. “That’s like three hours away.”
“Yeah. I like living dangerously.” She felt her lips twitch.
He laughed. And she felt as if she had hit all three cherries on a slot machine. She usually didn’t talk to strange guys in a bar, especially those with eyes that pulled you in like magnets. But then again.
“I think a cup of coffee is your best bet.” He didn’t even wait for her to agree. He wove his way through the heated bodies cheering someone else on and asked the bartender for the unexpected drink.
Regina watched him walk away. He was in a long-sleeved blue shirt and dark pants. He probably worked in an office or something boring like that. She rebelled against what she called the corporate life. She hated dressing in clothes people wore to an office. She had no idea what they consisted of anyway, unless Paulo had to shoot them for a magazine spread. But otherwise, she lived in jeans, oversized t-shirts, and Doc Martens. With the ease in his movements, this guy looked like he lived in office clothes. She could easily picture him in jeans and a tee though. And that made her smile.
“Reg! What are you smiling at? Why weren’t you watching me?” a slightly slurry Lana yelled in her ear.
Regina’s smile dropped from her face and she grabbed her best friend’s upper arms, shaking her slightly. “Are you okay?”
“God, Reg, what’s wrong with you? Of course, I’m okay!” Lana swung herself free from Regina’s grasp. “I won! And you didn’t even see!”
That’s right. She didn’t. She was too busy being charmed by… where was he anyway? She looked behind her, convinced that Lana would understand once she met him. But he seemed to have disappeared. Was she that exhausted that she had imagined him?
“Hi, Lana. Congratulations.”
Regina spun around to see who Lana was shooting daggers at with her wide, flaming eyes. Her heart sank to her stomach when she saw who it was. He was smiling at her best friend, holding coffee in a paper cup.
“Is that for me?” The anger in Lana’s face was receding, as if she was willing to accept a peace offering from him. Any peace offering.
But he didn’t take the hint. Or maybe, wouldn’t.
“No, this is for…” He turned to Regina and smiled again. “I’m sorry, we never introduced ourselves. I’m Ben.”
About Ines Bautista-Yao
Reading and writing are close to Ines Bautista Yao’s heart ever since she was a child. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in AB Communication Arts. She has been a teacher at the Assumption College San Lorenzo and the Ateneo de Manila University’s English department.
Her debut novel One Crazy Summer was first penned in 2007 when she was pregnant with her first daughter Addie. Being a mother has taken much of Ines’ time so she was only able to write 13 pages of her novel. She completed her story in April 2011, while three-year-old Addie was sleeping and inspiration struck her again. Two months later her story was complete. After eight months, her dream of publishing her own book came true. The book was only launched last January 26, 2012, but Ines is already writing her second novel.
Most readers can remember Ines as the former editor-in-chief of K-Zone Magazine and Candy Magazine . At present, Ines is working as an editor of Summit Books. She is also married to photographer Marc Yao, whom she says she consults whenever she’s stuck in the middle of a story she’s writing.