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All That Glitters by Ines Bautista-Yao
When they have nothing better to do, college students Billie Santiago and Carlos Angeles enjoy imagining what their lives will be like five years into the future. It’s never serious—just a whole lot of teasing and poking fun at each other. Until blindingly handsome, PR professional Iñigo Antonio saunters into the university bookstore where Billie works. All of a sudden, she finds herself face to face with the physical manifestation of the very dream she tells Carlos about.
Captivated by Iñigo’s magnetic personality, Billie is lured into his dazzlingly glamorous world—much to Carlos’s frustration. But as Billie notices Iñigo might not be playing by the rules, Carlos begs her to stay away from him. When Billie doesn’t listen, she realizes too late that she is in over her head and it may take a miracle (or a boy who cares deeply about her) to help get her out of it.
Billie wasn’t prepared to arrive back at school. She spent most of her life there, so it wasn’t the first place she’d expected Carlos to take her. She was hoping for some hole-in-the-wall restaurant or maybe even a rundown diner with greasy fries and burgers, but school?
“I know that look. Stop it and hold all judgments till after I show you where we’re going.” Carlos glanced her way.
“What?” Billie spluttered. “I didn’t say a word!”
“You forget, I am well-versed in Belinda Santiago’s Facial Expressions 101.”
“And I am just as well-versed in the tricks up Carlos Angeles’s sleeve. So don’t blame me while I try to figure out what this surprise is.”
“You can’t. I haven’t told you about it. I just got the go-ahead yesterday. I was saving it for a date with Patricia, but…well…” His voice trailed off, and he gave her an odd look.
She felt her mood darken at his words. “Are you seriously still seeing her?”
“Does it matter? I’m here with you, taking you to a place I was planning to take an actual date… so I was expecting less snark and more gratitude.” Carlos cut his eyes at her. “I should have just taken you to a fast food joint.”
“That’s what I was expecting.” But Billie wasn’t upset anymore. In fact, she was feeling a bit lightheaded.
“Remind me not to waste anything special on you next time,” he teased.
“Does that mean you’re still taking me to see this totally awesome place?” She poked his arm repeatedly, a grin on her face.
He shook her off. “Quit it.”
“You still are, right? Right?” Billie put her cheek against his shoulder and inhaled his scent of laundry detergent and something else she associated only with him, most likely a mix of his soap and deodorant. Whatever it was, it was comforting.
Instead of shrugging her away, which he usually did, Carlos leaned his head on hers for a split second before straightening up again. “Yeah, if not, I’d just be wasting my gas and you know how pricey it is nowadays. My dad’s going to take away my driving privileges.”
Billie snorted. “You truly know how to make a girl feel special, Carlos.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Carlos pulled up in front of the science and technology building. “Let’s go, Belinda Santiago. Just don’t fall in love with me after this.”
“Mighty cocky, aren’t we?” Billie jumped down from the car, trying to ignore the flutter of excitement in her chest. She was probably just tired or hung over from immersing her brain in all things Iñigo. This was, after all, just Carlos pretending to flirt with her. Nothing more. He was likely doing a look-see of the place before taking the Pixie Princess there so she might as well enjoy herself. She’d had a rough afternoon. You didn’t get money tossed in your face and called a pimple on society’s butt every day.
Carlos fished a key from his pocket and greeted the guard who gave him a wave of recognition. Billie elbowed him in the side. “Did you secretly shift courses or something? Why are you BFFs with the guard?”
“I hardly call a wave BFFship.” Carlos led the way straight through the dimly lit lobby, up a few flights of stairs, and to a door with the sign “THIS WAY TO THE STARS” stenciled on it.
Billie’s breath caught. “Are you seriously taking me to the observatory? How did you get the key to the observatory?”
Carlos took her hand and squeezed it. “Shush. I’ll explain later.”
Billie couldn’t contain her excitement. The tiny butterflies that sprouted in her tummy flew up to her chest where they took turns flapping, fluttering, and flipping. Every student knew about the university observatory. When the library was renovated, it was too. Instead of a simple deck with a couple of telescopes, there was now a gray dome that rested atop the astronomy building, straight out of a sci-fi film. Only science majors were allowed inside and Billie didn’t think she’d ever get the chance to enter. She didn’t let go of Carlos’s hand as he unlocked the door and they stepped inside a dark room.
Carlos flipped on a switch and the large space was bathed in bright, white light. Ignoring all the other scientific equipment and files scattered about, Billie let go of his hand and ran to the center, right underneath the dome. Looking up at what seemed like an inverted crater—well, a smooth, human-engineered one that opened up when you pressed a button—Billie felt her heart rate speed up. There was a long, sleek telescope resting on a tall stand next to her, its lens slightly tilted upwards, but the rest of the equipment was pushed to the sides, giving Billie and Carlos space to move around and not worry about accidentally hitting anything.
“This is wonderful,” she whispered when Carlos stood next to her.
“It is, isn’t it?” He smiled. “But it gets so much better.” He moved to the wall nearest the telescope and touched something. A low hum broke the silence around them, and Billie watched in awe as the evening sky began to slowly reveal itself when a panel slid to the side. She held her breath. The velvety blackness spattered with tiny pinpricks of light winked down at them through the inverted dome.
Carlos pulled her down by the hand and they sat on the wooden floor. Billie stretched herself out and lay back on her elbows, her eyes enthralled by the night sky. “Makes me wonder if I could still shift courses.”
“You just have to know a guy.” Carlos shrugged. “Steven owed me a favor.”
“Why didn’t I think of Steven?” He was one of Carlos’s closest friends and the president of the Astronomy club. “If I had known they had privileges like this, I would have signed up years ago. I thought they just went to parks and mountains to look up at the stars.”
Carlos chuckled. “What’s wrong with climbing a mountain? It’s definitely on my bucket list.”
Billie grimaced. “Not mine.”
“I know.” He nudged her foot with his. “City girl.”
“Well, thank goodness for places like this in the city!” Billie stuck her tongue out at him.
Carlos just laughed.
This was the perfect time to play the five-year game, but somehow, Billie found herself thinking back instead. “Stars remind me of my grandfather. He used to live with us because he’d gotten too sick to live on his own and my mom didn’t want to leave him in the care of a nurse without a family member around.” She took a deep breath, her eyes misting over, her chest tightening. “He used to sneak me out of the house past bedtime to visit the park and gaze at the stars. He’d tell me to look for the constellations, but I could never picture them the way they looked in cartoons or books. The dippers, I could always find but everything else? I mean, like Hercules? Come on.”
“That just means you can’t switch courses.” She could hear the grin in his voice.
“Yeah, whatever. That was a long time ago. The twins weren’t even born yet.”
“Was Yaya Dolor angry when your lolo took you home after sneaking you out?”
Billie smiled at the memory. “No, she never got mad at him. I think she had a soft spot for my lolo. She would sneak me right back in bed and not tell my parents. The next morning over breakfast, he’d quiz me on the constellations and I would bring out my notebook with my list. I memorized them but still can’t seem to see what the early Greeks did, you know? Like over there, I know that’s Cassiopeia—but really, how did they figure that? I mean, it’s just five stars in the shape of an E, an M, or a W depending on your orientation.”
“You just got that from a movie,” Carlos smirked.
Billie ignored him. “And over there, that’s Perseus. That line next to Cassiopeia, and those bright stars that form an inverted V, well, those are supposed to be his legs. The Greeks must have had a great imagination.”
“Or were bored to death. I could come up with stuff based on the stars. Just give me several nights up here.”
Billie rolled her eyes and turned to face him. She was surprised at how close he was. Pleasantly surprised—which surprised her even more. Maybe there was some merit to his earlier warning. The thought made her nervous.
Carlos added, “I’ve had a fascination with the stars too. But I’ve always been more intrigued by the planets. When Steven took me here once, I was able to spot Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter right away. And I knew I had to come back. When he gave me the key, for a significant occasion, I wanted to bring someone special here. Someone who would appreciate it as much as I did.”
Something began to ache in Billie’s chest. What was going on? What was he saying? This was all happening too fast. This was not what their friendship was about. Or was it?
“That’s why I was going to ask Patricia.” He looked at her, waiting for her reaction, a naughty smile playing at the corners of his lips. “But you’re a lousy stand-in. You need to stoop a little more.”
Billie sat up and whacked him on the shoulder.
Carlos was on his side laughing. “Sorry, Billie girl, you’re just so easy to tease, you know that?”
“Well, after that, I’m definitely not falling in love with you!”
“Never say never.” But before Billie could retort, he said, “Come on, let’s go get something to eat. We can sit in the field and still be under the stars even if the view isn’t this spectacular.”
Billie got up, threw her arms around her friend, and squeezed tight. “Thanks for this, Carlos. I really needed it.”
His arms came up around her too. “I know. But now, you realize, you owe me.”
Billie shoved him away. “You’re impossible!”
Carlos grinned. “I know that, too.”
About the Author
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.