Chapter 1 - Taking a Break
Twenty five year old Scarlett Workman woke to the promise of a new morning with a big stretch and let out a deep moan as her long body spread out across the plush king-sized mattress. The warming rays of sunlight beamed in from the nearby glass window and were currently warming her toes comfortably as they lay hidden beneath the thin layer of black silk sheets.
As she blinked her long black lashes and her hazel eyes finally opened. Scarlett pulled herself up into a sitting position on the bed, turning to see the empty space beside her. Dimitri was already gone, probably had an early morning meeting to make and didn’t want to wake her. It wasn’t exactly unusual for him to disappear at different times of the day and night for his line of work. She was used to it by now. Although she wasn’t entirely sure about what he actually did. Something to do with businessmen and fancy suits. He always appeared to have fancy-dressed businessmen over at his place to visit.
She and Dimitri had been dating for a couple of years and were only recently engaged to be married less than a week ago. The wedding had been set to take place in six months time and was no doubt going to be the event of the century!
Truth be told, Scarlett was still adjusting to the feeling of having such a massive crystal-like rock on her finger all of the time, everywhere she went. It felt strange, having such a massive piece of jewellery on her finger as she constantly twirled it around when she was nervous. The ten carat princess-cut diamond was encrusted with smaller diamonds around its outer edge and held together by a stunning white gold band. It was entirely too much for her and she felt awkward wearing it, but it was from Dimitri and she would love it none the less.
As Scarlett flicked the covers off and proceeded to climb out of bed, she couldn’t help but remember how she had felt when Dimitri knelt down before her in front of everyone at the restaurant that night. The night he asked her to become his wife; to become the future Mrs. Mancini. Since then she had never been happier and looked forward to the day she and her generous fiancé would tie the knot.
Making her way across the large master bedroom of Dimitri’s incredible mansion-like home, she entered the giant ensuite and reached for the light switch, turning it on and then closing the door. She needed to get herself ready for a catch-up with one of her closest friends, who just so happened to be Dimitri’s youngest sister, Elena. Since meeting Dimitri, Scarlett and his little sister Elena had become life-long friends and the two were almost inseparable majority of the time.
After having a nice relaxing shower with scented scrubs, getting dressed into a yellow floral day dress with matching heels and applying her more natural style of make-up Scarlett finished styling her long dark blonde hair in loose waves cascading down her back and across both of her shoulders. With a final look in the mirror at her finished appearance she smiled with delight.
“Today is going to be a good day… I can feel it.” she announced confidently to her reflection in the giant mirror.
With that Scarlett quickly collected her golden handbag, keys and mobile phone before exiting the master bedroom and making her way down the hall.
At the other end of the city a handsome young man named Adam sat at a large polished oak table in the middle of a large corporate conference room, patiently waiting for his next scheduled meeting. Glancing down at his fancy black and silver embroided Rolex to see the time his left brow rose with silent frustration. His client was over twenty minutes late for their meeting! His time was being wasted and for someone as important as him, time was money. With a great sigh, he lifted his right hand to brush impatiently through his short black styled hair as his fingers tapped against the stained oak.
Adam was thirty and currently working as an investment banker under his father’s massive corporate company, ‘Cunningham Investments’. His father Mr. Eugene Adam Cunningham or as everyone knew him, Mr. Cunningham Senior, was an old English gentleman in every sense of the title. Pompous, impatient and expecting of everyone he felt was beneath him, which unfortunately included his American wife, Charlotte and all four of their sons.
Being the eldest of his three brothers, William, Dexter and Samuel, there was more of an expectation of him when it came to running the company in a smooth and professional manner. And of course, being the eldest meant that their father would soon pass the reigns on to him, expecting that Adam would devote the remainder of his life to taking over Cunningham Investments and becoming the next Managing Director.
It was his birthright after all.
But after working under his father’s wing for more than ten years now and being carefully moulded into what his father had always wanted him to be, Adam was beginning to realise that this was not the life he himself had wanted. He was losing a sense of who he actually was.
“This is ridiculous.” he suddenly pulled himself up to his feet and began marching out of the conference room, intent on finding out what was keeping his client from making an appearance.
After reaching his large corner office, Adam walked all the way around his large dark oak desk and sat down in his comfortable black leather recliner, reaching for the phone and dialling a number using nothing but his photographic memory. That was a special ability that Adam possessed, he had a photographic memory which worked to help him recall numbers, names or information anytime he needed it. A useful trait, but one of many.
After the phone rang for a while, it finally clicked and proceeded to play his client’s voice recording message. With a roll of his chocolate brown eyes, Adam shook his head as he fought to hold back his obvious frustration while he left a voice message for his client after the tone.
“Mr. Paulson, this is Adam Cunningham of Cunningham Investments. It appears that you have missed our scheduled meeting this morning and I would remind you that this investment is vital for your planned retirement. Give me a call when you want to discuss this matter seriously.”
With pursed lips, Adam then slammed the receiver down angrily after leaving his message and hanging up.
As a wave of anger began to flood over him he closed his eyes and focused on his breathing for a moment, blocking everything else out until he could feel his heart return to normal, pulsing at a slower pace and calming him significantly. It appeared that the anger management courses he had been sent to as a teenager had finally paid off!
With his morning nothing but a bust, Adam proceeded to stand, grab his coat and head for the doorway of his office. As he marched past the desk of his secretary, he spoke with a brief glance down at her, not bothering to stop walking while he spoke.
“Mrs. Gentle, will you cancel my appointments for the rest of the day? Oh, and take the remainder of the day off as well. Go… shopping… or something.”
He had apparently surprised her with his newest order as she stood with a look of concern, watching him marching away and frantically calling out after him.
“But Mr. Cunningham, what about your father? He’s due to meet with you here in a few hours?”
Adam suddenly paused, seeming to think it over for a moment before he turned back around to meet her eyes and replied without any kind of emotion.
“Just… tell him I’m unavailable…I’ll leave it with you. You’ll figure something out.”
With that, he turned and continued marching out of the office, headed for the elevators and freedom from the massive building. He needed to go somewhere far away and try to clear his mind of the mounting concerns he currently had.
Once his elevator had reached the ground floor and the doors opened, Adam began to make his way out through the main lobby and towards the massive rotating doorway when a familiar voice caused him to freeze in his place, unable to move, unable to think.
“Going somewhere?” the older man wearing an expensive suit enquired from behind him.
Adam closed his eyes, admitting defeat and feeling a wave of guilt wash over him.
“Father…” he greeted the elderly man, then turning to face him with a forced smile, “Fancy running into you here.”
“I practically live here Adam, you of all people should know that.” Eugenie reminded his oldest son snidely, “And just where were you running off to at such an early hour? Shouldn’t you be up in a meeting with one of your clients?”
Adam let out a large sigh, slowly making his way back in his father’s direction.
“They didn’t show.” Adam admitted.
The older man frowned upon hearing this, “What! That’s absurd!” he announced stepping up to meet his eldest son in the middle of the massive foyer. “Did you try and contact him?”
“Yes, yes… Got his voicemail. He’s either ghosting me or something’s happened to him.” Adam replied dryly.
“Well, that’s his loss…” Eugene put his arm around his son’s broad shoulders and began to walk him slowly along as he continued on with their conversation.
“Listen, I wanted to speak with you about the handover in a two months time. You know becoming the Managing Director will have its responsibilities and expectations, the company will practically become your entire life.”
Adam felt his heart sink upon hearing that as he stared at the ground as they walked.
“And of course, there’s your engagement to the lovely and extremely wealthy Miss Saunders. Your mother has informed me that she would like to meet with you to discuss the arrangements, you know, napkins, flowers and all those prissy little details…” he waved his hand around dismissively.
“Um… father, about that…” Adam pulled together a small amount of courage to speak his mind as he turned to face the older man, “I can’t marry Brittany. I’m sorry…”
“What? Of course you can!” Eugene snapped sternly before continuing a little calmer, “Believe me, I understand what you’re going through at the moment, my boy... What with the stress of taking over a massive company and getting engaged to a beautiful woman, it can all be a bit much to handle all at once.”
Adam frowned; that wasn’t entirely what he had meant, but he chose to remain silent and continue listening to his father’s advice.
“Take it one day at a time, climb one hurdle at a time and eventually things will always find a way to work themselves out. You’ll see.” Eugene turned and smiled at him, patting him on the shoulder.
But he could see the obvious despair in his eldest son. He was not a robot after all, he too possessed a heart and he was currently feeling a sudden sense of guilt and deep sorrow for Adam and what he was being forced to go through for the sake of their family name. He was his father after all.
After letting out a big sigh, Eugene pursed his lips together tightly and looked down to the floor, with his hands in his pockets as he spoke.
“Adam, listen… I’m incredibly proud of you and everything that you’ve done for this company, for our family.” he placed his hand onto Adam’s shoulder now as he raised both his brows and continued, “Maybe what you need is a break from all of this. A chance to get away and find your roots, so to speak.”
His father was precisely on point and Adam’s dark brows furrowed with surprise. That’s exactly what he felt he needed too!
“Why don’t you take some time off, in fact you know what… take the next month off, all expenses paid. Consider it a gift from father to son for all your valued efforts in the company.” Eugene reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his mobile phone as he continued, “I’ll have my secretary call yours to help clear your schedule for the next month and then arrange for a suitable sum of money to be transferred into your account to cover travel, expenses, etc.”
“Father, I don’t need your money-“
Eugene cut his son off with a raised hand, “-I won’t hear another word on the subject.”
Adam rolled his eyes once more.
“So, today is the fourth of September… I will expect you to be back here, refreshed and ready to get on with things promptly on the fourth of October, understood?”
Before Adam could form a response, Eugene had already leaned in to give his clearly taller son a firm handshake. He had never been one for hugs, especially not in front of his employees. With a forced smile, Adam shook his father’s hand firmly to officially seal the deal.
“Thank you father…” he replied with a smile, “I guess I'll see you in a month then...”