Skin of the Night

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Chapter 12: Milestone

Finally, my exams had come to a close. I’d partied all of Friday night with my fellow students as we celebrated completing our bachelor degree. It was odd how having a degree to my name suddenly made me feel much older than I was. I had surely become an adult, hadn’t I? Milestone accomplished. Wherever had my teens gone? I missed them. Carefree days, they had been. All I could think of now was overcoming the next obstacle in my career. At the moment, that was showing up to my first day at Day & Night for my internship programme.

I’d woken up at six thirty to prepare for it. My entire body had been tense while I completed my morning rituals and cooked breakfast for Jason and I. Thankfully, I’d decided what to wear the day before – a grey pencil skirt with a white blouse to go with it.

Low, black heels complemented my feet as I made my way through the revolving entrance door of the huge Day & Night building on Cannon Street. A grand foyer of white marble floors welcomed me. Neatly designed, the lobby was an impressive and lush place. Strange decorations, forming triangles, hung from the ceiling, and I resorted to admire the artistry for a brief moment. At the reception sat a sophisticated-looking lady, brown hair tied into a bun atop her head. Nervously, I approached, and struggled to keep my rising pulse under control.

Halting before her marble desk, which beautiful flower arrangements decorated, I met her dark eyes. There wasn’t a trace of a wrinkle on her face, though I suspected her to be in her early thirties from the experienced gleam in her eye.

“Hello, Miss. How may I help you?” She smiled up at me, baring white teeth beneath her plump, rosy red lips.

I swallowed, dazzled by her smile. “I’m a new intern. Cara Jane Darby, is the name,” I murmured and shifted my weight onto my left leg.

While nodding, she typed onto her computer. After confirming my name with a virtual list, she pressed the hands-free device attached to her small ear. A silver earring flattered the lobe of it. She had excellent taste in jewellery, I noted, as she presented herself as positively elegant.

“Yes, hello. This is Deborah from receptions. Miss Cara Darby just arrived... I’ll let her know. Thank you, sir,” she spoke before directing her attention back to me. When she did, she smiled again.

“John will be down in a moment, Miss Darby. May I offer you any refreshments while you wait? A cup of tea, or perhaps some coffee?”

I paled. Did I look in need of coffee? Or refreshments? At once, I stifled my self-conscious thoughts. What was I thinking? She was only being accommodating, which I was certain was part of her job description. Get a grip, I told myself.

“I’m alright, thank you,” I politely replied and gestured toward a group of white chairs in the far end of the space. “I’ll wait over there,” I informed her and, upon her responding nod, headed toward them.

I had hardly waited for longer than a minute when John exited one of the four lifts. The sight of him startled me somewhat. Was it normal for the CEO to welcome insignificant interns like this? I was well aware that my purpose here wouldn’t be to serve directly under him. So why the special treatment? Was it because we knew each other from before, seeing as I was his son’s flatmate?

I watched his tall and broad frame approach with a grin on his handsome face. Physically speaking, John was one of those men who made age his friend. Scattered throughout his otherwise dark brown hair were silver strands. Neatly shaven, he looked years younger than he was. His piercing, light blue eyes – which were the first thing I’d noticed about him – locked with mine. As he made his way across the floor, I admired his elegancy, as well as the power of his strides. He graced a level of class I could only dream of managing.

Wilful and sharply clever, John was a remarkably impressive man. A few hours into conversing with him, I’d harboured no doubt as to how he had managed to amass such an empire for himself.

“Cara,” he greeted, delighted. “You look dashing.” His compliment roused a pink colour in my cheeks while I slowly stood to welcome him.

“John. So do you,” I stated and extended my hand to him, and shook it rather firmly while he towered in front of my shorter frame. His intense gaze swept across my body the once, all while his grin persisted.

“Are you nervous?” he asked and gestured toward the lifts. Understanding the implication, I began walking toward them.

“A little,” I confessed with fleeting eyes.

He chuckled and, gently, landed his hand to the small of my back. “You needn’t be. You’ll fit in perfectly, I’m sure. Everyone’s eager to meet you.”

I could only nod. I hadn’t had colleagues for three years, since I’d quit my job at Starbucks to focus on my degree.

After he called for the lift, he turned toward me. “How was my son this morning?”

That made me smile. “Groggy, but grateful for the breakfast I served him in bed.”

“He has mentioned that you’re an excellent chef.”

“Has he?” I queried surprised and looked up at him.

“Indeed. Hasn’t he told you?”

I snickered and shook my head. “Must have slipped his mind.”

“I’m sure he was just too busy devouring your cooking to mind commenting on it,” he countered amused. “Wherever he lost his manners, I don’t know. I’m sure my parenting isn’t to be blamed for it.”

Again, I snickered. John was a witty man, something I’d been quick to notice during our dinner in his home. I was grateful for it, because it erased a portion of my anxiety.

When the lift arrived, he gestured for me to enter first, ever gallant.

Nodding toward him, I stepped inside. “Thank you.”

As he joined me, he pressed the fourth floor. “My office is on the fifth, but yours will be on the fourth floor, where the solicitors you’ll be aiding have got theirs.”

I nodded my understanding, so he continued, “My eldest son will be in charge of you during your time with us, but I assure you, he’ll be on his best behaviour. He’s a good man, I like to think, and one hell of a solicitor. I couldn’t be more proud of his achievements. Hopefully, you’ll learn a great deal from him.”

I blinked. His son was going to be my boss? I hadn’t expected that. Though Jason had mentioned him several times, and always with a tone of brotherly affection, I’d never met him. He hadn’t been present during the dinner slash informal interview I’d attended a few months ago, in John’s home in Chelsea.

“If he’s your son, I’m sure he will, John. I’m looking forward to absorb his guidance,” I replied sincerely.

“Pity you’re not Jason’s girlfriend, Cara. He would have been well off with a woman like you,” he said then, and my eyes widened. “Straight A law student, as you are? He’d make his father proud.”

I chuckled. He had a mighty slick tongue, I noted. “Well, you needn’t be worried, John. I can assure you that Jason’s taste in women is going to make you proud some day.”

“I’m looking forward to that moment. None of my sons have brought home a serious significant other yet, though my eldest did enjoy a relationship with somebody a few years back. However, since he’s going to be your boss, I’m afraid I might be speaking out of turn if I delve further into this topic.”

Snickering, I nodded my head. “I won’t say a thing.”

“Good. He’s a bit of a reserved character, but you’ll manage just fine, I’m sure.”

The lift halted on our floor, and the doors slid apart. Presented to me was the view of a fancy open-landscape designed office, with closed offices surrounding the open square. Lush and seemingly expensive interior of light shades beckoned.

With his hand reattaching to the small of my back, John guided me out of the lift and past the curious facial expressions of a few new colleagues of mine, toward the far end where some of the closed offices resided. Turning around the corner of the open square in the middle of the space, he approached the dark brown door of an office that seemed to be rooted in the corner of the building. I wondered what the view from it was like. Though, in a few seconds, I’d find my answer.

While raising his hand to pay the door three gentle knocks, John sent me wink. “You’ll be fine,” he reminded me.

Then, an eerily familiar voice called from inside, “Come in.”

I resorted to a puzzled frown beside John, certain I’d heard it before. Where, I wondered.

Turning the handle, John stepped through and brought me along with him. The sight that met me rendered me paralysed, overcome with emotion. Confusion, despair, as well as fear and unbelievable joy seeped through my heart, causing it to twist in a most painful manner.

With parted lips, I watched him lift his gaze from his stationary Mac computer and onto my figure beside his father. Upon recognising me, his eyebrows climbed up his forehead while his eyes widened beneath them.

Seemingly speechless, William, erotica in the flesh, stared back at me.

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