"Ms. Hart." He nodded. "You're late." And just like that, the asshole turned and walked back inside, leaving me to stand by the door, my heart threatening to explode.
I followed him inside the living room, which was luxuriously furnished and a magnificent view from the balcony windows. It was cold inside, but every part of me felt hot and sweaty.
I sat down reluctantly, perching on the edge of the chair while Mr. Campbell had stretched out with insolent ease in another chair. Crossing over his legs, his stare intimidated me and his fingers slowly drumming on his thigh made my stomach tightened.
"I believe you're quite curious as to why I've called you here?"
"I don't like to beat around the bush, so let me come right out and say it." He uncrossed his legs and stared hard at me, not letting me break the contact. "Marry me," he said casually.
My mind raced. I thought I heard him wrong. He didn't just say I should marry him. I couldn't tear my gaze from him. His posture was utter ease. But it was his eyes that chained me because I did not imagine the cold glitter of calculation in those silvery eyes.
I tried to locate where the hidden cameras were because I was sure I was being pranked in a reality TV show.
Marry me. But Mr. Campbell wouldn't waste his time to do that.
Marry me. And he sure as hell wouldn't ever say something he didn't mean. Marry me. Marry me. Those words rang loud in my ears. Slowly, I began to lean back in my chair, feeling dazed.
He stared. Unblinking. Completely relaxed. Something I couldn't fully comprehend.
I spoke, my tone very low. "Marry you? Did I hear you correctly?"
"Yes, I want you to marry me."
I chuckled, a full blown out chuckle. "Mr. Campbell, I didn't take you as one who would engage in a silly prank. I mean, really? Where are the cameras?" I tried to search on the sofa I was sitting on, pulling the pillows and dropping them on the ground. "Really, sir? You want to prank me at three in the morning? Where did you hide the cameras?"
I rose up on my feet and checked the flower vase, for some reason ended up checking under the sofa as well. I was about to begin a deep searching when he barked at me.
The tone he used made me quickly get back to my seat before I could realize, and my heart thumped rapidly against my chest.
"This is not a prank, Ms. Hart. I'm deeply insulted you would think I would go to this length for amusement," he said in annoyance. "And let this be the last time I repeat this: you're the last person I would ever play a joke on, or do something silly. Now, I asked you something and you'd accept it. Marry me."
I forced out a chuckle. "Why are you saying this so easily as if you're asking me how my day went."
He cocked a brow.
"Why would you want to marry me? This makes no sense." The words came out sharper than I intended.
"It makes sense. It just doesn't have to make sense to you," he said. There was a fierce light in his eyes, a light that was somehow almost frightening. "When you look at it, you're the only best option."
"Option? Option for what?"
"To be Mrs. Mason Campbell."
"You're trying to make it sound as if it's a business deal and not a marriage."
He uncrossed his legs, yet again. "It is a business deal, Ms. Hart. One that will benefit you, trust me. You only need to be married to me for one year, and after that, you're free to go and do whatever you want."
I clasped my hands in front of me, trying to make sense of what he was saying. "Why do you want to get married for one year?" Truly, I wasn't considering it, but I was curious about his condition.
"The reason will be known to you once you accept my offer," he stated curtly.
For someone who sounded desperate, he sure as hell was coming off as if I didn't have a choice in it. Like he had already made up his mind that I would get married to him, and he was only being kind enough to let me know. Talk about the asshole of the century.
"Why me? Why not choose someone you like? Like you always tell me, Mr. Campbell, there are tons of people out there and I'm sure they would love to be your wife." 'Rush to be your wife' was what I wanted to say. I think if he announced to the world that he was looking for a wife, they would need all the policemen in the country to hold the women off. But he was asking for me....
Annoyance compelled me to my feet and I gauged the distance to the door. "I have no idea what your new game is, but I won't be included in it." I rushed forward, trying to escape. I felt like I was in a horror movie.
He caught me mid-stride. His fingers curled around my arm and whirled me around to face him. I looked up at him with a gasp as my back connected to the door.
His eyes turned chilling. "I am not a man to speak lightly about such matters, Ms. Hart. Women are not on my agenda, and certainly not marriage. But I'm in a situation where I have to do the one thing I do not like." He pressed his fingers to my skin. "You understand, don't you?"
No, I don't understand anything.
"This..this is not happening. I won't marry you, Mr. Campbell. Not in this life, or any other life." Even if I got offered everything in life, even if I was being carved out, I refuse to marry Mason Campbell. The whole thing was absurd! He hated me eight hours ago, and he suddenly wanted to marry me now? Did that not sound fishy?
He pulled me with him further into the room. He was close—so close I could feel the heat of his breath on my cheeks.
"I get what I want," he breathed, the smooth richness of his voice spooling through me like it did the first time I met him. "If I have to force a ring on you, then so be it. But in the end, you will be my wife."
I shuddered, gazing my eyes into his bold ones. The humming silence stretched so tautly its tension crackled in the living room.
"Is that a challenge?" I asked, the flatness of my tone revealing far more than the few spoken words.
"A challenge?" he repeated in a heavy tone. Then he cocked a skeptical brow. "Really? As you wish."
I glanced away from his dismissive wave, walking the few steps that separated me from the door, my mind whirling.
Marry Mason Campbell?
Is this a new sick joke?
Your boss asked you to marry him? Mason Campbell?
Beth's astonishment hung in the air. She scratched her head, somehow managing to appear flummoxed, amused, and reproachful in one.
My own face annoyed and full of confusion, I tried to gather a little bit of my sanity. I closed my eyes and I imagined him standing there, with his captivating eyes that haunt you, calculating my every move. Those silver eyes that were so mysterious, deadly, like a bomb ready to explode with you.
I closed my eyes and I could feel like he was still standing in front of me, his pulse roaring in my ears. I imagined him there, drawing me close to him, inhaling his scented breath.
I felt Mason Campbell's presence around and through me. He fired my senses and posed a thrumming challenge not just to my sanity, but to the beat of my heart.
Every single breath I drew.
Drawing a deep breath, I opened my eyes and turned my attention to her. I pinched the bridge of my nose and squeezed my eyes shut again, seeking the familiar solace of peace. . . if only for a moment. But that was a challenge too since all I could see was him asking me to marry him.
"Pinch me if I'm dreaming, Laurie, but Mason Campbell asked you to marry him. You're not lying, are you?"
I rolled my eyes.
"You said yes, right? I hope you didn't sound too excited when you did." Her nose twitched. "That wouldn't look good, Mrs. Campbell." Her grin widened. "Mrs. Lauren Mason Campbell," she declared, her words shattering inside my head. "That does have a nice ring to it, yeah?"
I glared at her. "Have you been doing drugs, Bethany?" I shot back, my chest tightening. "I rejected him. Why aren't you freaking out like me?"
She shrugged without a care in the world. "Why should I freak out? It's a marriage proposal."
"Doesn't that freak you out?! Doesn't it sound suspicious? Why would a man like Mason Campbell propose to me when he could have any woman in the world? An actress, a bloody model, but he chose me. And you still think it's nothing to get freaked over?" I sought to explain in pure disbelief.
Beth's brows lifted but drew together just as quickly. Scratching her head, she peered at me as if she wanted to say something but, thinking better of it, chose to hold her tongue.
"That does seem a bit suspicious?"
My eyes narrowed. "A bit?" I wanted to kick her back to her senses.
She met my narrow-eyed perusal with a scowl. "It's Mason bloody Campbell, the most wanted bachelor all over England, the richest and most powerful man. What's there not to like?"
I arched my brows. Realization suddenly dawned on her. "Oh."
"Exactly!" Finally, we were thinking alike.
"What else did he say?"
"Something about it being for a year." What kind of a dumb person would agree to marry someone for one year? And what kind of offer was that? Marry for only one year? Did he think marriage was like a business?
Beth shook her head, mirroring my disbelief and confusion. "He wants to marry you for a year? But why?"
"He wouldn't say unless I agree to it. He is really adamant to make me marry him."
"But to be his wife..." she trailed off, a few thoughts entering her mind. Her astonishment irritated me more than it should have.
Until recently, I have found out that Beth was the most illogical person. She didn't get the big picture, the red marks that came with Mason's proposal. All she cared about was how rich, hot and famous he was.
Truth to tell, that proposal caught me off guard. When I imagined someone proposing to me, it would be grand, and I would actually like the guy...he would like me too. But it had been so long since I had looked at anyone or consider dating to begin with. Neither Mason and I were friends. We never smiled at each other and he wanted to marry me.
"..is absolutely ridiculous and something I won't lose sleep over," I finished her sentence, skidding a long pointed glare to her. A glare that was piled with all of my frustrations.
"This is all so shocking. First, you started working at Campbell Industry, and now you got a marriage proposal from the big man himself, you proper jammy. A month ago, I wouldn't have agreed if someone told me we would be sitting here talking about Mason proposing to you."
"Don't let that bother you." I felt her hands on my hand. "I know you, Lauren, you're going to keep thinking about it. Don't let it get into your head as everything does, and focus on your life."
I couldn't focus on anything when his words still rang in my ears.
"Let me just say that I'm being brave right now for saying all that and absolutely gutted." Beth added with an exclaim, "It's Mason bloody Campbell!"
"Oh bugger off, will you?" I rose from the table. Beth and I had been eating breakfast–it was the only day we got to eat together. We have all been busy with work. Me with my job, and Beth with hers in the law firm.
I started out to my room and she caught up to me.
"I'm not through, Mrs. Campbell!"
"God! Will you stop calling me that?"
She gripped my arm. "I don't intend to let you forget this proposal. I'm telling your dad–OMPH. Get off me, psycho!"
I kept her pinned down and muttered in her ear. "You won't say anything to dad." Beth tried to lift herself up, but I pushed her down. "Right?"
"This is really inappropriate," she commented with a sly smirk. I licked her cheek, giggling. "Ew! You gave me your germs."
She pushed me back and I landed on my bum with a laugh, watching her run to the bathroom, yelling, 'I hate you' and something about Mr. Campbell.