It was a Saturday evening. The air was unsettling.
The wind rattled the leaves in the trees that surrounded Eden as she walked along a narrow sidewalk.
She shivered and nestled further into her coat, shoving her fingers into the worn pockets.
A large black bird swooped several feet in front of her. She stopped in shock and gasped.
The crow let out a sharp cry that sent a chill down Eden’s spine.
It was dark out. The atmosphere was dense with cloud cover and no light from the moon or stars were allowed to slip through.
Eden heard a thud from behind her.
She gasped and turned around in surprise.
A woman had fallen in the road a thick cloak obscured her face.
Eden rushed over to her.
“M’am are you alright?” She asked, kneeling down beside her.
The woman’s neck rotated toward Eden. The cloak that covered her body fell to the ground and a swarm of massive black crows burst outward, flying up into the air like a violent ink spill.
Eden shrieked and scrambled away. The swarm swirled around her and seemed to trap her.
She covered her ears and clenched her eyes shut. The crows screamed and suffocated the air surrounding her.
Eden’s eyes snapped open.
Her breathing was heavy and labored as she frantically observed her surroundings.
She was lying in her bed. Safe in her quiet small apartment.
The dinky alarm clock on her bedside table told her it was time to get ready for work. Eden sighed and ran both hands down her face. A dreadful cloud of anxiety formed within her as she began the mundane process of getting ready to face the day.
Malcolm had thrown a party that night. Eden was assigned to work as a bartender with Beatrice.
The party was long and utterly exhausting.
She had worked dozens of parties in her time of employment yet she scarcely saw the same faces twice.
Where did all of these people come from?
Eden’s heart stopped as she caught a glimpse of Malcolm’s eyes from the crowd.
He began to walk toward the bar and Eden began to more intently restock glasses and avoid his gaze.
“Hello Eden, you look lovely tonight.”
Eden scarcely refrained from rolling her eyes. She was wearing a shapeless white button down shirt and her hair was in probably the messiest ponytail of her life.
She swallowed and looked up at him.
“Did you need a drink?” She asked nonchalantly.
“I am quite alright, thank you.”
Eden suddenly realized that Bea had disappeared.
“I came to ask if you would be alright to be on cleanup crew tonight?”
Eden’s shoulders slumped involuntarily and her muscles cried in exhaustion at the thought.
“I am well aware you have been working all day but Henry had an emergency and will be physically unable to tonight.”
Eden bit her lip and nodded in understanding.
“Yes. I can do it.”
Malcolm smiled sympathetically and placed a hand on top of hers.
“Thank you, love.”
He wrapped his fingers around her hand, raising her hand to his lips.
Eden’s lips parted and her knees nearly gave out on her as his lips pressed against the back of her hand.
“No problem,” she replied her voice cracking.
Malcolm winked at her and walked away. Leaving her breathless and with a conflicted conscience.
The party had ended hours ago. Beatrice had abandoned Eden once again, leaving her to finish the clean up alone.
Eden had just completed mopping the massive expanse of the white shimmering marble floor.
She currently was lounging in a chair near the large pool off to the left of the banquette room.
The plush cushion of the chair felt positively delightful against her tired and worn muscles.
Eden knew it was an ungodly hour and that she needed to go home soon but she could not get her body to move.
She also couldn’t help but to look at the steaming pool in front of her.
The steam swirled upward until the tendrils disappeared in the air. Almost as if waving for her to come in.
Eden bit her lip and wondered how nice the warm turquoise water would feel against her sore muscles.Her eyes darted around the massive room, she leaned forward and checked for any signs of someone around.
Her heart pounded as she slowly slipped off her shoes and peeled off her tights.
The air around her was still and quiet. It was four Thirty in the morning, surely everyone was asleep.
With that assurance Eden sat on the ledge of the pool and slowly submerged her feet into the warm inviting water.
Eden closed her eyes and leaned her head back, letting out a sigh of content.
She stayed like that for several moments basking in the serene warmth and the waves of steam around her.
She anxiously looked around the dimly lit main hall once more before stripping off her dress, leaving her only in her bra and underwear.
Tossing the dress aside she lowered herself into the teal pool. Slowly breaking the surface of the tranquil glass like water.
The water slipped against her skin as she hummed in relief as the warmth seeped into her.
She leaned back, soaking her hair with the water as she floated on her back, staring at the beautiful high celling above her.
She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. She tried to forget. To forget about how much her sister Gen was struggling and all the debts and bills that desperately needed to be paid.
Eden’s eyes snapped open and a white hot
flash of dread swarmed her entire body.
Calculated and precise footsteps against the marble floor echoed across the expanse of the great hall.
Eden quickly and as quietly as possible swam to the corner of the pool, pressing herself against it. She submerged herself so only her eyes peered over the top.
Her heart pounded violently as she held her breath and scanned the area.
Eden yelped in surprise and spun around. She tightly covered her exposed chest and stomach with her arms as she stared at none other than her boss himself standing at the pool ledge.
Complete and utter mortification swept over her.
Her mouth gaped like a fish and her eyes widened as she took into account his appearance.
Despite the late hour he looked impeccably put together. He wore a jet black tux and his hair was perfectly tousled.
His hands were placed causally in his pockets and a devilish smirk was branded on his face.
“I-I am so so sorry,” she stammered.
She frantically tried to cover more of her body. She felt painfully exposed and vulnerable in that moment.
“Do not be embarrassed, love. Nothing I haven’t seen before,” he said causally.
His steely gaze was set on her. Dragging down the length of her body.
Her initial embarrassment dissolved in a flash as anger began to boil within her.
She dropped her hands and glared at him with murder in her eyes.
“Just because you’ve seen me in my underwear before doesn’t mean you get to see me like this again.”
Malcolm bit his lip and folded his arms across his chest.
“And my my what a shame that is,” he rasped, scanning her once more with a gleam in his eyes.
Eden’s breath hitched and when she opened her mouth to fire back an insult or tell him off no sound came out.
“Stop teasing and please just hand me my clothes,” she asked pointing to the lump of clothing near his feet.
“Why would I want to do that?”
Eden huffed in annoyance as frustration bubbled inside of her.
This man was the most infuriating person she had ever met.
Eden stormed to the side of the pool and reached for her clothes. They were just barley out of reach.
“Could you please just hand them to me?”
Malcolm smirked and picked them up and held them out to her.
They both knew Eden would first have to exit the pool before she could put them on.
Eden looked up at him and smiled. She reached her arm and and gripped his wrist tightly. She then yanked back as hard as she could.
Malcolm’s eyes widened as he lost his balance, tumbling forward into the pool.
Eden burst out laughing. She covered her mouth with her hands as fits of giggles swarmed over her.
Malcolm emerged with his hair stuck to his forehead and an angered expression.
“Do you have any idea how much this suit cost?”
Eden stopped laughing.
His voice was soft. Laced with malice.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry I didn’t realize-”
“You clearly did not take into consideration the consequences of your actions. That is blatant enough.”
Eden’s heart hammered.
“I didn’t and I’m so sorry what can I do to fix this?” She asked. Her tone laced with desperation.
Despite how annoying he could be. And despite the long hours, this job was the only way she could help Gen save up to move to America with Harrison.
“Fix this? There is nothing you can do. This suit cost more than what you make in six months.”
“Shit,” she hissed under her breath.
Malcolm waded toward her. She backed up until her back was pressed against the pool wall.
He glared down at her.
“There is one thing you could do to make it up to me.”
Eden looked up at him.
“Okay I’ll do it. Anything. I’m so sorry please don’t fire me.”
She knew she sounded pathetic but the thought of loosing her job sent a frenzied panic through her veins.
Malcolm placed his hands on the pool ledge. Caging her in.