“Wait!” I called, then smirked. Really? Was he going to fire over some soup? I almost wanted to chuckle. How unreasonable could he get? I took a deep breath then exhaled the air slowly. I couldn’t lose this job. I needed the money and I was desperate. I’d got a lot of debts and I had no place to stay in this foreign city. I couldn’t just go back home bringing nothing but failure to my family.
“First of all, Mister, you signed me up to a two-year contract. You can’t just fire people just because you wanted to, that’s against the law. I hope you’re smart enough to know that. Second, the soup is very exclusive, and I can’t just give them away to strangers, especially a kind of stranger like you. I may have forgotten the woman’s name, but I know in my heart that only the two of us knew about the soup. Why do you want it anyway? I demand an explanation. Third, in all honesty, I forgot how to do it because it has been such a long time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t anymore. Kept somewhere on my personal belongings, is a notebook with the list of my specialties. Lastly, your people should have told me that this was the main reason why I got hired here and not as an assistant cook. Period.”
“I hired you, Miss Hart, what made you think I don’t have the right to fire you? And in all honesty too,” he said discordantly, “I love firing stubborn people, especially those who don’t seem to know when to zip their mouth shut,” he added, not hiding the unpleasant tone in his voice. “I think you are forgetting something here, lady. You went to my room and you watched me while I was in the shower. You broke the number one rule in this house,” he pointed out. I felt my face whiten with guilt. “If that isn’t unlawful enough then I don’t know what is. But you’ve made your point, and for your information, I’m not just a stranger. The woman you are talking about was related to my father. I’ve been looking for her for a very long time, and upon searching for her, I found you. I found out you are the last student whom she passed on her infamous creation. If you can’t re-create the soup, at least tell me where I could find her.”
For someone who doesn’t socialize with other people, this person could talk a lot. But his voice remained stern and flat.
“Let me just clear something here. What is it that you actually need from me? The soup or the woman? And for your information too, I’m not the last.” I answered, making sure I put on hard tone in the word ‘last’ student she passed the soup on. I was the only student she taught how to make it. May I repeat myself, only the two of us knew about the soup.”
He laughed with a hint of sarcasm, “You are not the last person who told me that. A lot of individuals claimed they could make it, but none of them succeeded, all of them were after my money. I know exactly how it tastes. Well, bad news, I’m not after the soup. I am after that person who made the soup. I just want you to re-create the soup, so I could tell if you are lying to me about the woman.”
“Isn’t it obvious? I was the one who said it was taught to me by the two—”
“Shut up. Will you? I told you, you are not the last person who said that!”
I couldn’t believe a soup could too precious. I bit my lower lip. I thought the recipe had been just an experiment. I never thought there were actually people wanted to steal it. Or maybe, it was only precious because this man put a price on it.
“Well, the woman has encountered a lot of aspiring chefs, but I’m not sure why she chose to pass it on me,” I bit my lip hard. I better make a fair deal. He couldn’t just take something from me in exchange for firing me after a week! I scowled in my mind.
I thought about the situation thoroughly. I won’t be able to tell him where he could find the woman because she moved to London some days after the event, but I should I tell him that she was. I remembered she mentioned that her family lived in London and that she was finally going to see and live with them. He didn’t need the soup, so I won’t bother re-creating it.
“Let’s make a deal,” I finally spoke after a long pause.
“This should be worth it,”
“You don’t need the soup, just the woman, am I correct? I forgot her name, I think it sounded like... Annie? Anna? Anne? A—”
“Her name’s Annette,” he said briskly.
I snapped! “Yes! Whatever. We’ve only been together for three days on a college trip when I was in Venice. She was one of the judges in our mini competition. I won the competition and for a special price, she gave me the recipe. She told me that she was the only one who knows how to cook the soup with perfection. It was incredibly delicious!” I explained happily, recalling that moment. Suddenly remembering I was inside a lion’s hideout, I cleared my throat then turned serious. “I think you don’t need to know that. Sorry. Hmm... She’s not in Venice or anywhere in Italy right now.”
“What?!” he exclaimed in surprise then he sighed, clearly disappointed. There was a long pause on his end. I started imagining if he collapsed or probably just decided to cut our conversation.
“Where is she now?”
I jerked when I heard him talk. I thought he dismissed me already.
“Wait, how can I trust you?” he added. “How do I know you’re not just another pretentious cook who wants to get something from me?” he asked in distrust.
“I’m not going to deny that I need money. Everybody needs money, but I’m not a leech. I won’t drain your bank account,” I responded in the middle of my soft chuckle. “But,” I spoke in a serious tone, “in case you forgotten, you were the one who put a price on that soup, I didn’t ask anything from you. It was you who offered me.”
He chuckled mockingly, “That’s what I thought—”
“Wait. Are you even listening? I said I don’t need your damn prize! My salary is enough. Now, I’m going to tell you where you could find her, but you’re going to let me work here for two years. Take it or leave me alone,” I firmly said.
“Okay. But I will not have second thoughts on kicking you out of my house if you lost your way in my room again. Tell me where she is.”
I shrugged, “I need another contract.”
He sighed in frustration, “Okay, we could work on that.”
I clicked my tongue, “I don’t want to become the assistant cook,” I said smirking as another playful thought crossed my mind, “I want to be a chef. Your chef!”
“What else?” he asked. Whoa! That was a fast move. He even sounded bored.
“Why are you looking for her if she’s related to your father?”
“Just tell me where is!” he almost shouted.
“Don’t yell at me. You speak to another person rudely yet you can’t even show your face to everyone. What a shame. Maybe you’ve got something to hide on that face of yours,” I mocked then blew out a frustrated breath. How could anyone live like this? Trying to hide behind the walls of this huge house.
He did not answer right away, something about his long pause made me feel panicky. “I don’t need to explain anything about that,” he spoke, his voice lowered down.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then. I need the contract first, and then her location. End of discussion.”
“Expect it tomorrow morning. Lennie and my lawyer will give you another contract, Miss Hart.”
“No. Do it personally.”
“I—” he paused, “I cannot do that, Miss Hart.”
“It’s just too wrong to live like this, Master,” I lectured. “Let’s do the contract signing personally. That, or I’ll leave. Your chance to know where the woman—Miss Annette is would be gone. Forever.” I would never make a deal with a person who couldn’t even show himself to anyone. That was the bull-shiest thing I’d ever encountered.
“Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?” he asked, yelling.
I raised a brow then shrugged. “Goodbye then, Master. I’m packing my things right now because finally, I found a reason to.” I stood up, put down the phone then started counting my steps mentally.
“Wait! Hold on!” he called. I knew you’d do that! I bit my lower lip hard to stop myself from smiling. Annette seemed like a very special person to him. Was she his mother? She couldn’t be his lover because Annette was like fifty years old when I met her. Unless…
I walked back then placed the phone on my ear.
“Yes?” I asked confidently.
“I don’t meet with other people just like that,” he said tightly.
“I don’t care. I just need to make sure you’re not talking shit right now. I need to see you sign the contract in front of me. What’s so hard about that?”
He sighed, “How did I ever stumbled to a woman like you?”
“What the hell are you afraid of? Why can’t we come into your room? Why can’t we see you? Why do you lurk inside your gloomy house? I’m sick of people who can’t even stand on his own and always depend on other people!” Yeah, just like my ex-boyfriend whom I cursed my whole life. I shuddered at the thought of remembering him. I would never forget what he did to me. A monster, a nasty monster who doesn’t deserve to live. I pressed my palms against my chest. He put so much horror in my life and left a mark on my chest.
“How dare you lecture me? Who do you think you are? You better be careful with your words,” he said, full of warning. Crap. Prick. Full of Bullshit. A poisonous bastard!
I sat down quietly on the chair. Why do I have to remember him now? Maybe because he reminded me of the man I was talking to. He may have a lot of money, unlike my ex, but they’re all full of bullshit! This man depended on his life to his maids and workers. He was just another coward.
“Miss Hart?” I heard him called, “Are you okay?”
“Do it personally or throw me out of your creepy dungeon,” I lastly said then put the phone down.
“I have to go,” I said, but I didn’t know if he heard me because I dropped the phone. “I’m sick of people like you.”
“Miss Hart, get back here!” His voice echoed the whole room, the phone rang once again. “Pick up the damn phone!” he demanded.
I looked up to the ceiling and waved at the camera then left him an imaginary snap of kiss.
I went out of his study giggling. Madam Lennie was still at the door, standing like a statue and wearing her expressionless face like an expert, waiting for me to come out. I sighed then shook my head in disbelief. The people in this house didn’t have any sense of humor at all.
“He didn’t fire me,” I muttered proudly.
“I know. He just called,” She said, her face still lifted up. Really? That was fast huh.
“I don’t know what you did to our Master, but I’m bothered,” she commented. “I’ve known him since he was a kid and I raised him until he reached seventeen. He closed his life to everyone inside this door, and I can’t believe you actually asked him to come out, ” she explained, trying to avoid my gaze. What’s wrong with this people? They are not normal, I decided.
“I didn’t do anything. He needed something important from me, and no one in this world could give that to him, except me,” I explained in confidence. I felt like a very important person.
“I know exactly what’s going on, Miss Hart,” Madam Lennie started to walk, “follow me.”
“Where are we going?”
“To your workstation. You’re going to work now as his personal chef, as you asked from him,” she answered.
I smiled secretly. Personal chef of The Master? Cool. It was going to give my CV a good background. I cleared my throat, “Does he work or he just stay in his room, playing games or watching or reading or something?” I attempted to ask, “How did he become rich?”
“The Master is a Chairman of his own stockholder company. He owns numbers of real estates and group of corporate companies. He doesn’t have a lot of time on his hands. He always works even if he doesn’t come out of the house. He doesn’t play games or watch movies, but he reads a lot,” she informed but sounded reserved. How could someone run a company when he couldn’t even come out?
I nodded then snapped. “Is he finally going to show himself to me?”
“That’s for the master to decide,” she answered. “Here’s your workstation.” Madam Lennie opened another kitchen. It was a medium-sized kitchen. It looked wonderful. All of the equipment I needed was everywhere. There was also a huge cold storage of raw meats and vegetables.
“Am I the only one who’s going to work here?” I blinked, still feeling astonished. “I’m not allowed to work with the other people?”
“No, and thanks to you, the chef here doesn’t have to make the Master’s meal anymore. Good luck. He’s very picky.”
I frowned. Did that mean the former chef wasn’t going to work anymore?
“I’m going to leave you here. Don’t forget to make something for him for dinner. I will come back later. Treat this kitchen as your own.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
Should I make him the soup? Maybe one of these days. Where should I start? What am I going to cook for him? I think I have to ask him first about his likes and dislikes. Maybe he was on some kind of a special diet.
I bit my lower lip. “He had an awesome back. Too bad, I didn’t see his face. I really had a feeling that he was good-looking and that he was the man in the painting. Maybe I should come to his Big Brother room a.k.a study room and ask him about his appetite?” I said, talking to no one.
I suddenly remembered his study was included in the “NO ENTRY AREA.”
“I’m going to die early!” I blew out a frustrated breath. “Nah! I have something he desperately needs. Maybe, I should create my own contract too.” Maybe. I felt like a sane woman talking to myself. Right. I’m going to Big Brother’s room.
I was about to come out of the kitchen, but a knock stopped me. I opened the door.
A young but gorgeous guy appeared in front of me, he was smiling widely and was wearing the same attire as mine. I guess he was one of the workers in the central kitchen.
“Hi,” he greeted. His dark blonde hair was brushed up nicely. His eyes were cerulean, thin lips, his body was averagely lean, not too muscly but had broad shoulders. God, he was handsome! Like an actor from the Hollywood.
“Hi,” I greeted back. It felt great to finally talk to someone who actually smiles.
“I’m Oliver, the chief cook. You must be Alayna,” he introduced, then smiled.
“Yes. Hi, Oliver.”
“Just call me Ollie. Lennie asked me to show this to you,” he gave me a recipe journal.
“It’s Brandon’s list of favorite dishes. You might want to see this if you don’t know what he likes.”
Brandon? He called the master, Brandon? I blinked rapidly. “You don’t want Madam Lennie to hear you calling him Brandon.” I chuckled. “She’s a little scary.”
He laughed softly, “Really? Is she?”
I nodded and grinned. “Thank you for this by the way.” I lifted up the notebook.
“Did you already had a grand tour?” he asked, smiling.
“I bet your Madam Lennie didn’t tell you who I am nor introduced you to everyone.”
“No, I don’t think so.” I frowned. “I wonder why.”
“That’s unusual.” He smiled again, showing his dimples on both sides of his cheeks. “I’m Brandon’s cousin. I also live here.”
I gasped. I caught my mouth. “Oh! I’m sorry. I am so sorry, Sir! Forgive me. I didn’t know!” I apologized immediately.
“But, you’re working for him?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Are there anyone else in the family living here?”
“No. It’s just me. They’re all in Greece.”
Oh! So, he was a Greek? I wondered if they’re the human version of Greek Gods in Greek Mythology. I shook the thought away. “Anyway, thanks for this.” I should not talk to him comfortably, even if his character made me feel at ease and natural.
“Oh, sure. Do you need some help here?”
“Yes, but maybe some other time. I want to familiarize this on my own for today. Thank you.”
“Okay, if you need anything, you can come to my kitchen.”
I bit my lower lip. The Master’s attitude was nowhere near this guy. “Sure. Thank you so much.”
He nodded, “It’s good to finally know you, Alayna. I hope you enjoy working here.”
“Sure. I will.”
Problem solved! I didn’t need to disturb the dragon. I celebrated deep within. But I strangely, I wanted to hear the Master’s voice again. I bit my lower lip. I was very curious now about how he looked like. Does he look as good as his cousin? Too bad, he never came out of his cave. I hope he would really show up tomorrow. I wished.
I couldn’t wait!