I was standing by the window when Angie came into my room. She plopped on my bed and grinned at me. “You are up early.”
“I’m sleep deprived.” I walked back and sat next to her. Angie sat up, a grim look marred her face as she scrutinized mine closely. “What?”
“Did you forget to turn on your lights last night?” She inquired and I shook my head in negative. “Did your han-”
“It’s workload this time. 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?” Angie nodded. “I better get ready then. You are almost done.”
“Be quick.” She left and I went to the bathroom to freshen and shower.
I changed and gathered my stuff, checked my bag, wore my shoes, and stood in front of the mirror at last.
“That’s a lot of change,” I muttered at my reflection.
A familiar red-haired, 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. My complexion was healthier and fairer than pale now. Except for the occasional dark circles, I get due to insufficient sleep.
“That’s the only thing that didn’t change,” I said breathily.
I was not conscious of my looks much but I made sure I looked appropriate and presentable since I worked for a leading fashion brand, The Allure.
I puffed my cheeks and left my room. Angie was already sitting at the dining table and was furiously going through her file. She works at DS-con, a well-known media house.
I met Angela at the university and we ended up best friends for life. Angela is extremely social, outspoken, and might look pretentious at first glance but she is a genuine person at heart. She is the type of person who would do anything for her loved ones.
Angela belonged to an affluent family but she pursued her own career. Her parents were not happy with her decisions but she was adamant about making them see. Angela has one brother, Scott. He is older than Angela by a year. I have met him a few times.
I swear I never saw them getting along. They don’t hate each other, they just can’t keep their tongue war whenever their paths crossed.
We have one more mutual friend, Natalie Flores. She is the exact opposite of Angela. She won’t mind you until you get on her nerves. But she is a gem of a friend. She works at The Moonlight Hotel as a manager.
Angela and Natalie have lived in Seattle all their lives. We moved in together six months ago and the decision was extremely spontaneous.
“Laurel called yesterday,” Angie informed. “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 have been counting each day of my life. I will be turning twenty-five soon. A lot changed but sometimes, I feel nothing changed. Life has never been easy for me but I can’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, never got the chance to know them. The only person I know 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 this change and I don’t regret it now in the least.
“Enough about me. What’s wrong with you?” I mused at 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. 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?”
“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 my 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 nodded with a fake 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, “Such a spoilsport.”
“Better than some brain-dead Bambi” I retorted smugly.
“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.” She ran for the door. “I just hope to pull it off successfully.”
“Good luck” 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 left my flash and file.”
“Can you stop screaming?” I put my phone away from my ear and glared at it. 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’m sorry, my dearest Anastasia.” Her dramatics kicked start first thing in the morning. “Bring the file and flash to my office, please pretty please?”
“Ugghhh! I hate you. Where is your damn file?”
“Yayyy thanks. I knew you will not leave me in turmoil.” I could practically see her dancing there. “It’s on my bedside table, blue in color. The flash will be on top of it.” I ended the call and retrieved my steps to her room.
“Hey!” Angie rushed towards me. “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 sheepishly when I kept tapping my foot. “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 that 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,” I fixed her with a glare. “You are cooking.” Angie saluted enthusiastically. “I’m leaving. Not want to be stingy but my neck is not on the line with a new boss.”
“You are a sting in yourself, Ana” 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 picked my pace. “I’m not gonna 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. The impact was lessened with my hands. 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 away. I wonder how it stopped when it was coming at that speed.
I didn’t even hear the tires screech.
“Shit!” 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 before it could have blown away.
“Are you okay?” Someone asked me but I was too busy crawling across the road to catch my designs. “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 flexed my knees a little. “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 and such cars always meant danger. The windscreen was black tinted as well.
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 before I need to cut them off” 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.”
“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 rather loudly. “You practically snatched this launch off her plate and shoved it on me on a whim.”
“This field demands the best at every step, 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. He wasn’t looking his usual self. No one was their usual self today. “They are here.”
“Call everyone to the main hall, Chris. And by everyone, I mean everyone.” I looked towards Hannah questioningly. “There is something I need to tell you all.”
“What?” I was mildly perplexed when we entered the hall. “Is going on?”
“Sit for now.” I just nodded and went to sit next to Nia.
“I can feel the tension,” Nia whispered. “What do you think it is?” I just shook my head in response and looked at Hannah. The hall was silenced with her single clap and now all eyes were on her.
“I will cut straight to the point.” Hannah looked at all of us. “Our company has been taken over last week.” Hushed murmurs broke around. “The Allure is now part of Blackstone.Co.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” I whispered in astonishment. The door opened and every head turned back. The voices died in an instant.
“Meet the new owner of The Allure” Hannah announced.
A sharp pain shot through my left wrist. 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 actually make out the faint flapping right 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. “Your han-”
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, please. Not again.” I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I will only worsen things for myself. “I-I need to calm down.” 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 shook my head to clarity and rushed out 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. One was sitting like a king.
“Yes, Anastasia?” Her smile seemed 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?” I hid my left wrist behind my back when the same sting pulsed through it. His voice sent a chill down my spine. “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 practically the ruler of the entire empire.
I looked him from head to toe slowly and against my will. I could see where all this scorn and snobbery came from.
Cain Black doesn’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 he had broad shoulders.
His sculpted face bore inhuman allure. Turquoise eyes, perfectly styled black hair, sharp and straight nose, full lips, and high cheekbones. His complexion was perfectly balanced as well. He was neither tanned nor fair.
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 when the Black brothers walked past me.
Xic and Aeron got in their respective cars and his chauffeur opened the door to the backseat for him. I made sure my face was blank when Cain looked over his shoulder. I could feel the piercing gaze behind those shades.
No wonder he 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.