Ten years later…
“Your two p.m. appointment is here, sir.”
“I will be there in two minutes,” Axel replied without taking his eyes of the report he was perusing.
“Yes, Mr. Finlayson.
“Keep my coffee ready after the meeting,” he ordered, getting up from his chair and locking his computer. He pulled his tailored blazer, buttoning it.
“Sure,” she replied, opening the door for him to exit before following him to the conference room with the required files.
“Hello Axel, it’s good to see you again,” Jenson, Axel’s trusted business partner and confidant for eight years, greeted him with a wide grin that seemed to reach his eyes. Jenson was in his late fifties with a bald head and a brown beard. His company offered a lot of profitable deals and together they were stepping into another successful venture.
“It’s good to see you too, Jenson,” Axel reciprocated his grin and extended his hand. The two men shared a one-armed hug before taking their seats.
Samantha set the files next to Axel and left the room with a nod towards Jenson.
“Hm... You still have the girl, I see.”
“Samantha is talented and a hard worker,” Axel smiled, thinking about his secretary. She was efficient and made his professional life easier.
Samantha had a master’s degree in business administration and a strategic mind, so Axel had decided it was time to train her with a motive to assign more of his works to her. He didn’t think he would find any other suitable candidate most suitable for the post.
That also meant that he trusted her.
The only female he had trusted, besides his parents and a few others he let in. She doesn’t have to know, but she earned it through her hard work.
“And the only one that has stayed in your company for over a year. She must have a lot of patience if she is putting up with you,” Jenson commented again bringing Axel out of his own thoughts.
Axel chuckled, “Enough about me, Jenson. Why don’t we talk about business?”
“There he goes again, always about this boring charts and graphs,” Jenson grumbled under his breath before turning back to the screen where he had his presentation ready.
Although Axel did not like Jenson’s comment about Samantha, he let it slide and concentrated on the screen for the next hour. It was always the same, new business ideas, new plans, market demographics etcetera. Once the meeting was over he returned to his office, knowing Samantha would follow him with his usual coffee. She knocked on the door, and the calming aroma of coffee teased his nostrils even before Samantha was in the office.
Samantha wore her usual work slacks with a long sleeved button down shirt. The small smile she always sported was absent, and a worry-filled crease occupied her forehead which Axel noticed right away. He wondered if something was bothering her.
“Do you need anything else, sir?”
“No.” She’d always addressed him as Mr. Finlayson or sir and he never corrected her. He didn’t want to. It was better this way, so she would know her boundaries. Or, so he thought.
A sudden thought grabbed his attention: I wonder how it would feel to have her call him me by my first name.
She shifted on her legs, making him look at her with a raised eyebrow. A few strands of her chocolate-brown hair had escaped from the neat bun and had framed her round face.
“You have had nothing to eat since the morning,” she stated.
That’s none of your business. Axel bit back the cruel retort ready to escape his lips. He closed his eyes, rubbing his temple. She was only professional he reminded himself. He didn’t trust women. They were all the same. A pair of green orbs he tried to forget flashed in his mind. When he opened his eyes, the green faded and in its place was a pair of brown ones, he’d become accustomed to.
He looked at her eyes and forgot that he ever wanted to snap at her. Her innocent honey-brown eyes held his cold blue ones as she shifted from one foot to the other.
“Get me something light,” he sighed. A small smile stretching across her lips as she nodded before exiting his office. He shook his head, shaking away the small sense of relief he felt. She is not her. He shouldn’t snap at every woman he met.
He leaned back in his chair, moving his head from side to side to relax his sore neck muscles. Jenson’s words kept playing in his mind. None of his secretaries before Samantha made it past the six months’ probation period. But why?
He thought perhaps they tried to impress him in one way or the other, overkill, while some left unable to put up with his arrogant behavior. Then in his life came Samantha. Samantha was different. She never dressed to impress him, she worked hard, and she merely gave a shy smile with a thank you on the rare times he appreciated her for her good work.
The solid mahogany door creaked as Samantha entered the room with a plate in one hand filled with two homemade sandwiches and chips, and a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice in another.
Placing the plate and juice at his table, she looked at him expectantly before he got the hint and took a bite of his sandwich. The delicious flavor of Turkey, cheese, and mustard exploded on his taste buds, just the way he liked it, no mayonnaise or tomatoes. He hated tomatoes on his sandwich.
His stomach rumbled, and he ate quickly, finishing it in a few hungry bites. The cold juice added to his delight. He didn’t even realize how famished he was until he ate.
Samantha was still waiting for him, and her eyes twinkled when he emptied the contents of the plate. She flashed a broad smile as she took the empty plate and cup, and then left her boss without another word, leaving him to his devices.
Axel felt refreshed. He smiled before resuming his work, sipping the cold coffee that had grown bitter.
Samantha knocked at his door around five p.m. again, “I’ve finished all of my reports for the day. Is there anything else you would like me to do today?”
“No. That’s all, just email the reports before you leave.”
“Do you want another coffee?” asked Samantha, eyeing the empty cup that sat beside him.
“No, I’m calling it a day.”
“Okay,” she replied, taking the empty cup before turning to leave.
Axel rubbed the back of his neck as the pain burned down his spine, starting from his neck and ending in his tailbone. His doctor had advised him not to sit straight for hours and taught him some mild exercises, but the list of tasks he had to do in a day was making it harder for him to breathe, let alone get up from his seat.
He shut down his computer and noticed Samantha getting into the elevator just as he exited the office. Their eyes locked for a moment, and she stopped the elevator door from closing, waiting for him to get in.
His head pounded as the muscles in his back ached. He cracked his neck until he heard a satisfying pop.
“Back pain,” she asked, not sure if she were overstepping her boundaries.
Axel opened his eyes to see her giving him a concerned look. “Yes.”
“Do you want me to book an appointment with the spa?”
I don’t see why that’s your concern. Once again, Axel bit back the cruel retort that bubbled in his throat out of habit. She is considerate. He remembered no other woman care for him after his mother. He considered her suggestion and decided that he needed it.
“That would be nice, thank you,” he replied with a tight-lipped smile. He then averted his gaze from her eyes that had a way to soften him every time he looked at them.
His response surprised her, and she nodded before dialing the stored number on her phone.
He wasn’t the one to thank often.
“I have booked it at seven p.m. Is that fine?”
“Yes. I have nothing else to do this evening.”
Samantha often wondered about the lack of Axel’s social life. The talk in the office was that he didn’t date or hit the clubs. “Have a good evening, Mr. Finlayson,” Samantha said, exiting the elevator when it stopped on the ground floor.
Axel stared at her retreating for a moment before closing the door and hit the button for the basement. Today he almost offered her a ride home and had to bite the inside of his cheeks to stop himself.
What was happening to him?
“Tough day, I presume.”
“Yeah,” Axel replied to his father as he plopped down on the couch in his three-bedroom home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.
“Mom, can you make me some coffee, please?”
“You drink too much coffee these days, Axel. Do you know coffee can cause insomnia and restlessness?” His mother’s concerned tone brought a smile to his lips. He’d lost his sleep a long time ago, and he doubted he would have a peaceful sleep again. No matter what his therapist said, the shame and the memories from so long ago wouldn’t go away.
“I know mom but, it’s better than consuming alcohol, isn’t it?” He asked and watched as his mom nodded and went to the kitchen to make his coffee.
“It hurts her so much to see you like this, Axel. You are our only son, and we wish you would move on.” His father sighed, placing the newspaper he was reading on the table.
“I have moved on, dad. Our company is climbing the charts.”
“Axel, you know well what I am talking about. You haven’t dated in ten years. Hell, you are not even getting within a half-mile radius of any women.”
“Dad, that’s not true.” Axel shook his head in denial.
“Look, being around your female staff doesn’t count. And, Axel, you’ve fired an employee for telling you-you looked handsome!”
“They are all the same, dad. They only want my money and not the heart that comes with it.”
“Not all the women are same, Axel. If the women you are seeing are all social climbers, then you are not looking in the right place.”
Axel let out a humorless chuckle, “honestly dad, I don’t feel like looking at all.”
“Look at me and your mother. When she fell in love with me, her wealthy father was against our relationship. She left all the riches behind, just to be with me. There is a woman for you out there, and when you find her that will be the fourth happiest day of my life.”
“What are the first three?” Axel asked, knowing well what the answers might be.
“First is the day I met your mother. Second is the day of our wedding and the day she accepted my proposal, can’t choose between both.” Henry chuckled. “Both days are special for me. Then the third is when we found out she was pregnant with you and the day I held you for the first time. Again, both days are equally important.” His father had a lovely smile and a distant look on his face as he recalled his memory as if he were seeing it again.
“I agree with you, my love.” His mother smiled lovingly at his father as she placed the coffee mug in front of Axel and went to sit beside her husband.
Axel had no siblings; his mother had complications while she was pregnant with him, and after witnessing the eighteen-hour labor, she went through his father decided against putting his wife through such pain.
His mother, Sara, was born to a Spanish business tycoon, Rodriguez Del Campo. She fell in love with Axel’s father when they met in college, and they had been together ever since. When Axel’s grandfather found about their love, he gave her an ultimatum to choose between his father and family. She chose his father and here they are married for thirty years.
Axel looked at his parents with a mixture of pride and envy filling his heart. There was too much love between them as they gazed at each other.
He always wanted the same for him and he even thought he had it all until she destroyed it. He doesn’t know if there was another woman in this world, who can mend his heart and make him trust in a relationship again.
“Axel, can you drive us to Manhattan this week? It’s been a while since we saw Naina,” Henry asked, changing the topic.
“Sure, dad.” Axel smiled fondly at the thought of his adopted sister, who was pregnant. “Here, take my card mom. Buy her something she likes.”
“No need, my dear. Your dad already bought everything.”
“Okay. I am heading to the spa and will be in time for dinner,” Axel got up from the couch to leave.
“Axel, grandpa Joaquin called. He wants to meet you,” his mother informed.
“Sure mom. I think I can wind up a few things and why don’t we all go there for a week, it’s been too long.” Axel also missed his cousins.
His mother’s grin widened as his father nodded in acknowledgment. He could tell she missed her home and family.
This should keep them busy for a while.
The thought of visiting his ninety-five-year-old great-grandfather–whom he was named after–excited him. Though his own grandfather gave him a cold shoulder, his great-grandfather has always been kind and loving. He always kept in touch with his parents and once Axel graduated, there was a decent amount of money waiting for him in the bank.
Axel started a small business exporting seafood and his business grew. His father resigned his job as a janitor and worked in his company. Within two years, he could pay their family loans and buy a decent home.
Jenson had contacted him with a profitable deal when he was still new to the business and he has come a long way from there. His father retired five years back and now his parents can finally enjoy their time together. Though his great-grandfather had given him a few million, Axel made his first million in business four years ago and since working hard towards his goal of becoming a billionaire.
His hands unlocked his car as he got in and drove towards the spa. There were so many things to wind up if he traveled to Spain.
Leaving for a week shouldn’t hurt.