I was standing by the window when Angie came into my room.
“You are up early.” She plopped on my bed and grinned at me.
“I’m sleep deprived.” I walked back and sat next to her. “What?” A grim look marred her face and she was scrutinizing me closely.
“Did you forget to turn on your lights last night?” Angie inquired and I shook my head in negative. “Did you-”
“It’s workload.” I sighed. “The designs for the new launch kept me up all night.” Her expressions stayed the same. “I’m telling the truth.”
“I don’t find your innocent face convincing enough.” Angie got up. “I have made breakfast. Come quickly.”
“Nat left?” I asked and Angie nodded. “I better get ready then.”
She left and I went to the bathroom to the bathroom.
I changed and gathered my stuff. I checked my bag, wore my shoes, and stood in front of the mirror.
“That’s a lot of change,” I muttered at my reflection.
A redhead, brown-eyed, and five-five woman with a healthy figure was staring back instead of that little girl.
I put in a lot of effort to maintain these curves.
I looked mature and more feminine now. My complexion was healthier as well.
Everything changed except for the occasional dark circles due to insufficient sleep.
“That’s the only constant thing,” I said breathily.
I was not conscious of my looks much but I made sure I looked appropriate and presentable. I worked for a leading fashion brand, The Allure.
I breathed out and left my room. Angie was already sitting at the dining table and was furiously going through her file. She was working at DS-con, a well-known media house.
I met Angie at the university and we ended up best friends for life. She was extremely social and outspoken. Angie looked pretentious at first glance but she was a genuine person at heart. She would do anything for her loved ones.
Angie belonged to an affluent family but she pursued her dreams. Her parents were not happy with her decisions but she remained adamant.
Angie has one brother, Scott. He was older than her by a year.
We have one more mutual friend, Natalie Flores. She was working at The Moonlight Hotel as a manager. Her parents are doctors and she is an only child.
Nat was the exact opposite of Angie. She never minded anyone unless someone got on her nerves first.
Angie was fair-skinned like me. She was auburn-haired and hazel-eyed.
Nat was olive-toned, has baby blue eyes and golden-brown hair. Her figure was toned and she was the same height as me.
We moved into this apartment six months ago and the decision was extremely spontaneous.
“Laurel called yesterday,” Angie informed me when I sat down. “You have not been answering her calls?” She glanced at me briefly. “You didn’t fight with her again, did you?” I just buttered my toast silently. “Ana?”
“I don’t fight with her, Angie.” Her brow shot up at my offensive tone. “Can we not talk about this first thing in the morning? I don’t want to ruin my day.”
“Call her.” Angie pressed. “You haven’t gone back ever since you moved here and you stopped her from visiting suddenly.” I kept my eyes on my plate.
It’s been ten years already!
I will be turning twenty-five soon. A lot changed but sometimes, I felt as if nothing changed.
Life was never easy for me but I couldn’t complain much.
I’m surviving so I’m fine with whatever.
“We are here for you but she is your family.” Angie tried to reason.
“I know” I whispered lowly. “My only family.” In terms only.
I’m an orphan.
I haven’t seen my parents and never got the chance to know them. The only person I knew is Laurel. She is my guardian for as long as I can remember.
I used to live in Medford before moving to Seattle. I was fifteen when I came here. Things called for a change at that time.
I don’t regret it now in the least.
“Enough about me. What’s wrong with you?” I mused over her bitter expressions and pointed to the file in her hand. “Wasn’t this your dream place? I still remember how you bawled your eyes out a night before your interview.” I snickered. “Got fed up in two years?”
“Don’t start with me,” Angie groaned. “You don’t know how things work there.”
“I’m sure I don’t want to know.” I cupped my cheek and watched her candidly. “But it’s not enough reason to be fussing like this. Every morning.” I added after a pause.
“It’s the new boss.” Angie slammed the file shut. ’DS-con was taken over last week.” I blinked at her in surprise. “We were just informed yesterday. The new boss is coming today.” Angie sighed. “It now belongs to Blackstone.Co. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad?”
“That’s it?” Angie looked at me rather dramatically. “You are keeping your job, right? They are not throwing you out, right?” I said incredulously.
“You do know who owns Blackstone.Co, right?” I just ate my toast slowly while looking at her. “Seriously!” Angie jumped out of her chair. “Are you serious?” I took another bite. “Ana!” She exclaimed.
“I know who they are. Relax.” I cringed at her scream. “Everyone knows about the phantom family. Geez! You are going to make me go deaf.” I glared at her smugness. “Is the new boss hot?” Her expressions told everything. “Oh, god!” I palmed my forehead when she squealed. “Are you for real, Angie? Tell me about one guy you don’t find worth ogling?”
“They are not phantom people, Ana. They just keep a low profile.” I just sipped my coffee. “Do you want to see? My new boss! I swear you won’t regret it.” Angie rushed to my side with her phone. “Don’t look at me like I’m some creep. I was just investigating.” I just faked an innocent smile. “Here-”
“No, thank you” I pushed her phone away and got up. “I don’t need to taint my eyes with” I moved my hands around, “whatever.” Angie shook her head disappointingly. “You better not make a fool out of yourself by drooling after him.”
“Aye, aye mademoiselle.” Angie faked a bow. “Spoilsport.”
“Better than some brain-dead Bambi” I retorted.
“Hey!” Angie was highly flustered. “That was harsh. I’m not stupid.”
“Aren’t you getting late, Angela Roberts?” I checked my watch and Angie did too. She was screaming and running around our living like a madwoman.
“Wish me luck.” Angie ran for the door. “I just hope to pull it off successfully.”
“Good luck” I responded nonchalantly. Angie left and I sat back to finish my coffee. “I don’t know what I would do if my boss changed overnight.” I shuddered at the thought and got up to wash the dishes. I was about to leave as well when my phone decided to ring. I huffed when I looked at the caller’s name.
“You just left.”
"Ana!" Angie almost cried which stopped me dead in my tracks.
“What’s wrong?” I panicked at her panic. “Are you already fired?”
"Oh, for goodness sake, don’t say that."
“Why are you whining?” I grabbed my keys from the basket.
"I left my flash and file."
“Can you stop screaming?” I put my phone away from my ear. She was going to make me deaf. “What file and flash?”
"It has my presentation." Angie cried, "I am so going to lose it."
“How can you be so dumb?” I rubbed my temples. A headache was on the way.
"Shut up and please help me."
“Are you asking for help or calling insults?” I glared in space.
"I’m sorry, my dearest Anastasia.” Her dramatics kicked in. “Bring the file and flash to my office, please pretty please?"
“I hate you.” I groaned and went to her room. “Where is your damn file?”
“Thanks a bunch, girl. I knew you will not leave me in turmoil." I could see her dancing there. “It’s on my bedside table. The flash will be on top of it.”
I grabbed her flash and file after checking and left the apartment. I hailed a cab and left for her office first.
I was already late today.
“Hey,” Angie waved wildly when I got off the cab. “Oh, my neck is saved.” She took the file and flash from me. “Thank you, Ana. You are a lifesaver.”
“You owe me twenty minutes.” Angie smiled stupidly in response to my glare. “You are cooking dinner tonight.”
“Don’t be too dramatic.” Angie linked her arm with mine and turned me around. “Your office is just two buildings away.” I wanted to wipe the stupid grin off her face. “It’s Nat who is down three blocks. Imagine if it was her.”
“She would have murdered you,” I said flatly and unhooked our arms. ’Still, you are cooking.” Angie saluted enthusiastically. “I’m off. Not want to be stingy but my neck is not on the line with a new boss.”
“You are a sting in yourself, Ana” Angie retorted with zero expressions. I just shrugged and took off in opposite direction. “Hey, don’t stay out late,” Angie yelled after me. “Call me in case you plan to stay out late.”
Our workplaces were close but they were in no way close. My office was on the opposite side of the road.
I rushed through the sea of people while looking at my watch and muttering curses inaudibly. Hannah was going to have my head today for sure. I had to hand in the designs for the upcoming event and I was the one late to the meeting.
“Damn you, Angie. I’m not going to leave you if Hannah murdered me today.” I didn’t wait for the signal to turn green. I was not being rash. I made sure there was no approaching vehicle.
“Watch out!” Someone yelled from behind and I looked just in time to my left towards an approaching black car.
I fell on the hard road. My files and bag fell and the designs flew all over the place. But the fortunate thing in all the unfortunate mess was that I wasn’t hit.
The car stopped before it could have sent me flying or crushed me. I wonder how it stopped when it was coming at that speed.
I didn’t even hear the tires screech.
I sat up straight when the initial shock subsided and looked at my palms. They were scraped badly.
“Damn it,” I rushed around to gather my stuff.
“Are you okay?” Someone asked me. I was too busy crawling across the road to catch my designs to even respond. “Someone call 911.”
“I’m fine.” I stuffed the papers in the files and finally looked at the audience around me. “I’m totally fine. See!” I stood up and flexed my knees. “Nothing serious.” I glanced at the car that almost wrote my death warrant.
A black hawk.
Not many people drove such expensive cars with symbols these days. It was black plated as well and such cars always meant danger. The windscreen was black tinted so I couldn’t see who was driving.
Better leave than get in trouble with an egocentric rich lunatic.
I ran and didn’t stop until I reached my floor. I hissed every five seconds because my hands were stinging so badly.
“I better disinfect them later.” I made a beeline towards my cabin. “What a great start to the day.” I dumped my bag on my table and rushed to the meeting room.
As expected, everyone was ready to murder me.
“Anastasia!” Hannah groaned in frustration.
“Can we get to the scolding later?” I gave the flash to Nia and passed the files around. “Let’s get on with it.”
The meeting went smoothly and I breathed in relief by the end.
“What happened to your hands?” Hannah’s early anger morphed into concern. “God, Ana! Were you in an accident?”
“I’m fine,” I replied offhandedly. “I’m sorry I was late. Angie forgot her file.”
“Tell me something new about this friend of yours.” Hannah shook her head and we walked out of the meeting room after everyone. “You got in a scuffle with the marketing team again.”
It was not a question.
“Audrey is not happy.” I snorted. “You snatched this launch off her plate and shoved it on me on a whim.”
“This field demands the best, Ana.” Hannah looked at me sternly. “Don’t be too empathetic when it comes to working or it will make you suffer dearly one day.” I couldn’t keep my scowl. “I have watched you for two years. You have the potential, that is why you are leading this launch. I don’t make rash decisions.”
I get her point but the pressure was unnerving.
’Hannah,” We looked towards Chris simultaneously. “They are here.”
“Call everyone to the main hall, Chris. And by everyone, I mean everyone.” I looked towards Hannah questioningly. “Come.” I went with her.
“What-” I was mildly perplexed when we entered the hall, “is going on?”
“Sit for now,” Hannah responded professionally. I just nodded and sat with Nia.
Hannah got on stage and clapped everyone to silence.
“I will cut the chase,” Hannah looked at us apathetically. “Our company has been taken over last week. The Allure is now part of Blackstone.Co.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” I whispered in astonishment.
The doors opened and every head turned back.
“Meet the new owner of The Allure” Hannah announced.
A sharp pain shot through my left wrist suddenly. This hasn’t happened over years. I looked back as well, at the three men descending towards Hannah.
Their gaits were arrogant and their postures bore conceit. I could sense the dangerous aura.
The pain in my wrist worsened to the point that I could make out the faint flapping under my skin.
That scared the shit out of me.
“Ana?” Nia was eyeing me worriedly. “Is everything okay with you?” She looked at my clutched wrist. “You-”
“Excuse me,” I ran away without looking back. I made sure my wrist was covered well until I reached the restroom. I locked the door after making sure no one was inside and rushed towards the washbasins.
I removed my hand from my left wrist and I almost collapsed to the floor when I saw the symbol burning under my skin.
“H-how?” I rubbed at it but it didn’t disappear. “Why is it happening again?” I turned on the faucet and put my wrist under cold water. It was not fading. “No. Not again.” I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I will only worsen things for myself. I looked at my reflection determinedly. “I won’t be scared. Never again.”
I didn’t leave the restroom until the symbol faded. Luckily, no one came and I got enough time to compose myself. But I was not ready to take chances for now.
“The meeting might have ended by now.” I rushed out of the restroom and to Hannah’s office. The sooner I got out of here, the better. I knocked at her door once and entered without waiting for her permission. “Hannah, do you have a-”
She was not alone.
I looked at the men sitting across her on different couches.
“Yes, Anastasia?” Her smile was forced.
“Can I take the day off?” Her brows furrowed at my abrupt request. I looked towards my new boss reluctantly. Or bosses. “I’m just- can I leave?”
“Anastasia Grace?” His voice sent a chill down my spine. I hid my left wrist behind my back when the same sting pulsed through it. “I didn’t see you.”
And yet you know my name and face!
“I had to leave for something urgent.” I tried not to step back when the one who addressed me stood up and sauntered towards me.
“Urgent?” His voice sounded sinister and dark. “What could be insistent than meeting your new boss?”
“Anastasia!” Hannah shot me a warning glare. “I’m sorry, Cain. She is-”
“Untamed!” He interjected calmly. “I won’t tolerate insubordination and boisterous attitudes.”
Cain Black. The eldest son and the ruler of the entire Black Empire.
I looked at him from head to toe slowly and against my will. I could see where all this scorn and snobbery was coming from.
Cain Black didn’t only have money and power but looks as well. It was unfair to call him human.
So, he is the one that the public couldn’t catch anywhere! The phantom lord and center of every gossip and news.
No wonder he spiked the curiosity of many.
His chiseled and muscular body was dressed immaculately in an expensive charcoal suit. His height seemed around six-two and his shoulders were broad.
His sculpted face bore inhuman charisma. Turquoise eyes, perfectly styled black hair, sharp and straight nose, full lips, and high cheekbones. His complexion was perfectly balanced.
I wonder what his origin is!
“Ana!” Hannah’s voice interrupted my mental check-out session. “Meet Cain Black and his brothers, Aeron Black, and Xic Black.” She motioned towards them while making introductions. “Cain is going to look after The Allure from now on.” I blinked at her in surprise.
This is bad news.
“She seems fierce.” Xic mused. “Interesting.” He looked me whole and it was uncomfortable like hell.
“She is not usually like this.” Hannah looked at Cain apologetically. “Ana is one of the best-”
“I will decide, Hannah” Cain interrupted her rudely. “You can leave, Ms. Grace.”
I didn’t need to be told twice.
“Arrogant ass” I stomped towards the elevator. “I think I’m going to resign.” I reached the ground floor and ordered a cab. It was still five minutes away. “This is shit. I need to tell Angie and Nat.” I rubbed my left wrist softly.
I need to call Laurel as well.
Three cars stopped in the driveway. One was the same car that almost hit me in the morning. I didn’t need to run my brain over the treadmill because the owner walked past me on cue.
My face didn’t show it but my jaw hit the floor mentally.
Bloody! It was the same car.
Xic and Aeron got in their respective cars and Cain’s chauffeur opened the door for him.
The one that almost hit me.
I made sure my face was blank when Cain looked over his shoulder. I could feel the piercing gaze behind those shades.
No wonder Cain Black didn’t step out. He would have run me over and would have felt zero ounce of regret over it.
My heart started pounding with something akin to fear and the same pulse throbbed under my skin.
Cain got inside his car and I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I frowned at my bandaged wrist. I couldn’t explain why my whole being was being wary of this man. I have never seen or met him before.
“Definitely nothing good.” I scowled when their cars drove away.