The view of the city from her car window was so beautiful it was heart breaking. Santa Montes was one of the biggest and most beautiful cities in the country. Its tall buildings looked mythical in the rising sun, straining towards the lush blue skies. Santa Montes was ever busy with people bustling around, trying to make good use of the day. In the back seat of her Range Rover, Cassandra watched the day unfold while her driver cruised through the streets.
In the past, Cassandra would seat and admire the rising sun, conjuring up an imaginary husband to enjoy it with. She would imagine him sitting by her side, looking at her with love and respect. Betrayal aged her quickly out of her teen fantasy and it made a hard woman. Her blue eyes shifted to her ring finger and she smiled at how long it had taken the imprint of the ring to disappear. Cassandra spent the past two years, discovering the benefits of solitude. Each passing day, she feared less the loneliness that used to terrify her. Curling her fingers into her palm, she looked back on the streets, feeling the car speed up.
The car stopped in front of Placer del Cuerpo, her pride and joy. Cassandra had started the company when she was very young; it brought her great pride. Arriving young to the world of business was not an easy thing, especially when she had very little material to start with but she made it work. Years later, her company had either absorbed or outlasted the other businesses that opposed her. With each win, her confidence grew but so did her reputation.
The doorman greeted her politely and she returned it with a small nod of her own, making her way up to her office. Cassandra pushed open the door to her office. Redecorating her offices had been a good idea. She walked over to her new desk, her wedges clacked across the polished floor. The large windows gave her a perfect view of the city. When she really focused, she loved to think she could see her home from her office, though she knew it was not completely true. Cassandra drifted closer to the windows, folding her arms and silently taking in the view. After going on vacation for a whole month, she felt more at ease being back at work. She functioned better when she had things to do; it made her feel lively.
“Good morning, ma’am.” Julia, her personal assistant, walked into the office. “Welcome back.”
“Good morning and thank you.” Cassandra said in return, shoving her hands into the pockets of her gown. “You did an impressive job with the remodelling while I was away. I hope you didn’t encounter any problems.”
“None.” Julia replied. “Everything went smoothly.”
“Good.” Cassandra sat down, rolling the chair forward, closer to her desk. “What do you have for me today?”
“You have three export shipments to approve, the shareholders’ meeting to attend by two this afternoon. There are also some legal documents Mr. Preston said you needed to sign with relation to the new shops you are building in English town.”
“I heard there is a new company also producing lingerie here in Santa Montes. I want every single bit of information you have on them. I would like to see if the owners are willing to sell.”
“It is not a new company, Miss Hernández; it is actually the Clark and Co. Company that has been changed.” Julia dropped a file in front of Cassandra. “Harrison Clark now owns the company after his father died a week ago, while you were on your trip. Since then there had been changes. Name change, methods of production, store changes, new products.”
“All I need to know are in these files?”
“Yes, every single detail. Surprisingly, the changes he has made has gotten the company product into a much higher demand than it was months ago. I predict that in a short while, you both may be competing for the audience of your clients.”
“I highly doubt that. We removed his father from the game before and we would remove the son as well. No matter how long it would take.”
Julia smiled and slipped another file across the table, “I think you need to read this before you make that decision ma’am.” Julia rose to her feet and straightened her skirt, “I would go get the documents you would need to sign. Please excuse me.”
Cassandra rose from her desk, taking the folder along with her. She stood by the window, looking out at all the other tall buildings. From her office, she could only see seven of them. Each time she looked out, she counted them in a solemn reminder to herself that no matter what happened, she had to remain at the top. Not for the fame or recognition but because it was all she had for herself.
Two subway drives and a few blocks away, Harrison Clark was going over the file he had on Cassandra Hernández. There was no doubt in his mind that the woman was one of extreme beauty. Her blue eyes and auburn brown hair were only the first features that captured his interest. What really held him was the smile on her cherry red lips. He did not make it a point to believe gossip but he had heard whispers of ‘The Ice Queen’. According to many people, that she rare smiled. Looking at the picture, Harrison could not understand why. When she smiled, she glowed.
She was only four years short of his thirty-eight and she had started her business when she was twenty-four. At that time, Harrison’s greatest concern was which country he needed to cross of his bucket list. The woman was a formidable figure in the business and she had years of experience over him. Knowing the top players was one thing he needed to do for his company because it taught him who to avoid and who to engage. As beautiful as she was, Cassandra was not a force he wanted to face.
There was a knock on the door before his girlfriend popped her head into his office. Josephine had been his girlfriend for a few months. Their relationship had been on the rocks after his father died, with Harrison having to take over the company. Josephine tried to be considerate, she dropped by to visit him a few times a week just to check on how he was doing.
He stood from his seat and she walked into his arms. “Good morning.”
Josephine looked up at him, pressing a small kiss to his lips. “Morning. I hope I did not get you at a bad time. I was hoping to get here earlier by the traffic on the street was crazier than I expected.”
“Yeah. Getting used to it myself.” Harrison walked her back to his chair. Josephine sat on his lap, looking him over with a wide smile. “I am sure your parents are enjoying having more of you in town. How are they?”
“So, so.” Josephine looked on his desk. Harrison watched her as she pulled away from him reaching forward to pick up a sheet of paper. “What is this? Why do you have this woman’s pictures here?” Josephine looked over all the files he left on his desk. She held it up to his face like evidence for an accusation. “Why do you have all this?”
Harrison plucked the files from her hand, “One of my many competitors. I don’t need to explain to you that Miss Hernández is one of the largest distributors in Santa Montes. Coming into the business means that I have to know about everyone to avoid stepping on the wrong toes. No need diving in blind with a company that is almost on its knees.”
Josephine scoffed and he drew out three other files of notable contest and laid them out for her. Her only action was to shake her head, disappointment marring her face. She snatched her purse and threw the strap over her shoulders.
“Sure, competition. The picture on your desktop is research as well right. Well that does not look like harmless research to me. I knew your reputation with women when we met but I at least thought that you would take this thing between us seriously. I have an intuition about these things, especially when it comes to our relationship.”
Harrison stepped around his table. He caught up to Josephine before she could set out of the office. He knew she had a point, he did indeed find Cassandra Hernández to be an attractive woman but he had no intention of leaving or hurting Josephine. He knew how jealous she could get; especially when she was convinced she was in the right, defusing the situation would require extreme care and patience. “I am very committed to this relationship, believe it or not. I do not understand why you would immediately think I am interested in her in that way. ”
“It is not only about that.” Josephine insisted. “It’s everything. The new job you have taken on is separating us each day. Back in Clover, things were different but here you work and spend all days in the office. I try to support you as much I can but I am sick of acting as if I cannot feel you slowly pulling away from me. I feel it. Soon, your tastes would change and you would want other things. Cassandra Hernández or some other woman you set your eyes on in the cause of building your company.”
He covered the small distance between them and held her shoulder gently. He wanted to shake her, maybe rattle some understanding into her, but he didn’t. “I am not replacing you with anyone and there is no number of miles sitting in front of us, I do care for you. I just don’t want you to blow this out of proportion.”
“From your point of view it may look like I am taking this a step too far.” Josephine pushed his arm off her shoulders. She swiped her cheeks to brush off the single tear rolled down her face. “I don’t really expect you to understand. You are not the one with countless failed relationships that cut into your soul. Until you have had your heart broken by the people you entrusted it to, I will never expect you to understand my point.”
He did not get the chance to speak before she abruptly rushed for the door. He decided it was a better to allow her leave and calm down rather than rushing after her. She would not believe him if he told her he understood her uncertainty. Harrison looked at the desktop, closing the website he had opened and clearing his desk of all the other folders. Turning to the window, he took in the scene outside his office.
The choice to take up his father’s business was not one he made lightly. There were things he had to learn, people he had to meet and places he needed to see. Harrison did not know what he would lose in the process or even what he might gain. In the end, he had made a choice, to save his father’s legacy at all cost. He was getting to the top and failure was not an option.