MASON (Campbells, #1)

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Chapter 1



"Calm down," my roommate, Beth said as she watched me pace back and forth in our living room. I had been pacing for thirty minutes right now, nervous and anxious. "You're going to ace that interview," she added with an encouraging smile.

I spared her a glance. "It's not a normal interview!" I ran my hand through my hair in frustration.

"Are you going to be interviewed by God?" Her question made me look at her like she was insane. Well, clearly she was insane if she was saying such a thing. She couldn't know how I was feeling about this interview. Everything depended on it.

"No, but I'm going to be interviewed by the most powerful man," I reminded her.

Mason Campbell was one of the most powerful men in the world, but he was the most powerful man in England. No one really liked to admit it, but he was even more powerful than the Queen. At such a young age, he had acquired more money than anyone. He had built several corporations all around the world that had about one thousand workers. He was feared all over the country because he was cold and terrifying.

Mason Campbell was the man who laughed in the face of death. He lived by his own rules. I had heard men cowered over his intense look, and by that, I meant men with great power. I had also heard that he could make anyone disappear and never to be found again. That thought enough terrified me.

"Why didn't you choose somewhere else to work?" Beth asked. "Rumours says that what happens behind the door is terrifying. I've also heard that his cold look enough could crack a stone, and the earth shook with his anger."

"I wouldn't mind seeing that," I answered, trying to lighten up the situation I had put myself in.

"That sight would ruin you for sure." She sounded so sure.

I lifted my chin. "It would feel intriguing though."

"Yeah," she agreed with a nod, then presumed to smile amusingly. "But you'll feel otherwise if his eyes roast you." I wanted to laugh at that, but I was too nervous about tomorrow. I had no idea where Beth got these rumors from, although I had to agree that his eyes were terrifying, I didn't think he could roast anyone with it. People can be so dramatic sometimes.

"Psh," I dismissed the possibility. "That is just a rumor, Beth."

She held my gaze. "Rumours sometimes are true." I struggled against the urge to squirm under her gaze. "I've heard that he treats everyone like his enemies...even his employees." That made my nerves flutter. Treating his employees like his enemies? How did that even work? I couldn't tell if she was being truthful or not.

I shot a narrow-eyed glance at her. "He is that crazed, I know."

"All the more reason you should consider working somewhere else." She clutched my hands in hers, then released me to cross her arms over her chest.

"How sure are you that I am even going to get the job?" A lot of people wanted to work at Campbell Industry and a lot of people were going to be interviewed. Only one of us would be able to get the job, and I seriously doubt that I would be the one. Some of the girls were only after him, not the job.

"0 percent sure." Beth laughed, earning a glare from me. "I can't see any good working there. That place is nothing but terrifying. It's filled with nothing but control and darkness. Mason Campbell makes it cold and forbidden."

"No place is forbidden and unwelcoming," I said, drawing the pillow closer against my chest. "But they say the place cries echoes of roars."

"You know," Beth looked back at me, her emerald gaze piercing. "I'd love to be there tomorrow just to see you cower in fear at his presence," she ended with a laugh.

"Shut up." I grinned, throwing the pillow at her. "I'm not going to cower. I'm not afraid."

She raised a challenging eyebrow. "Oh really? You've never been in his presence before. You don't know how that would feel like."

"Nervous and a whole lot of uncomfortableness," I thought, biting my lip. "If I come home crying, you shouldn't even be surprised."

"I will keep the tissue ready."

"Bitch, you wish." I glared playfully at her.

Her smile faded and she looked serious at me.

"You're going to do fine in the interview, Lauren. Your resume is great. I'm sure you'll be picked among the hundreds of people."

I smiled weakly. "I hope so."

I really did, because it was the only job that paid well. I would be able to pay my dad's medical bills and for his treatment. I would be able to do so much more with the money. But dad's medical treatment was the only thing that worried me. He had a stage four cancer which had been a blow when he told me the first time. He was the only person I had left after my mum left us when I was ten. It still hurts when I think about it. Dad had to go through so much to raise me and it was my turn to take care of him.



Morning came sooner than I had expected. I had been up since six am, getting ready. The interview was seven-thirty and I wanted to be there by seven. I groaned as I crawled out of bed and tottered drowsily to the bathroom. I washed my face, and the benefits proved just as fleeting, and no less groggy, I brushed my teeth before taking a shower. It took me ten minutes to get ready.

I straightened my spine and smoothed my worn-out grey skirt that reached my knees. My light blue blouse was tucked inside my skirt. My cheeks were rosy, setting off a sparkle to my hazel eyes. The orbs slanted slightly upward and were thickly fringed with lashes.

I tied my brown hair into a ponytail, not a single strand had loosened. I hoped I looked sophisticated enough for the interview. I didn't like wearing makeup, so I went ahead with my natural look. I had only applied nude lipstick and that was about it. I wore the old black heels that I had bought two years ago.

Knowing Beth would still be sleeping, I left her a note before grabbing my bag, leaving our flat. London was really cold, and because all my coats were really worn out, I wasn't able to wear any. I wanted to look good, I didn't want to be looked down upon.

I took a taxi and when I told him where he would take me, he looked shocked. He asked me again where he would take me, and I told him the address.

"Are you sure that is where you want to go, ma'am?" he asked, unsure of himself.

"Yes," I said, growing annoyed. He didn't say anything afterward, but I would occasionally catch him looking at me through the rearview mirror as if he couldn't believe I was going to such a place.

He stopped the car across from Campbell Industry, and when I was about to ask him why he wouldn't drop me off near the building, he said, "Sorry, ma'am, but no taxi is allowed near the building. I have to drop you off here."

My mouth shaped into an 'O', shaking my head in disbelief. I walked out and readjusted my blouse. If anyone could stop and observe me, they would see nervousness oozing off of me.

Campbell Industry stared down at me. It was a huge building that had about sixty floors. It was large, wide and intimidating. I carefully strode past a security guard at the entrance and into the building. I was met with a lot of people that were strolling around in their expensive, neat clothes and I felt self-conscious of what I was wearing.

They seemed to be on edge like they were holding the entire world in their shoulders. I went directly up to the receptionist nervously. She was a redhead woman, dressed elegantly in a blue dress. Even her hair seemed to be perfectly done. Her face was covered in the minimum amount of makeup. Her hazel eyes sized me up, her expression pure distaste.

"The coffee shop is down the street, ma'am," she said, and I hinted a slight Italian accent.

"What?" I asked, confused.

She stared at me as if I was a dimwit. "Isn't that where you want to go?"

"No. I'm here for an interview."

She raised her perfect eyebrow, her mouth curving upright. "Oh?" Sizing me up again, she clicked her tongue before meeting my gaze again. I wanted to punch her face. She didn't think I belong here. How dare she!

The receptionist inhaled dramatically before plastering a fake smile. "Twentieth floor. Take a left and you'll find yourself among the lot that are here for the interview."

My lips twitched. Was she insinuating that they were a lot of people for the interview and I had zero chance of getting it? Twat.

"Thanks," I gritted out.

"Good...." She stared up and down at me again, her face turning upside down. "....luck."

I was feeling a bit miffed, but I tried to calm myself down and made my way to the elevator. I waited a few seconds before it slid open and I quickly rushed inside. Before it slid close, I heard a commotion. A woman was being dragged out by a security guard and she was crying. Clearly, she was having a mental breakdown.

"No!" she shouted. "You can't do this to me! I have worked here for three years!" I watched as she tried to struggle against the security guard. "I'm loyal! You can't do this to me!"

The elevator closed, blocking the cries and screams of the woman. My heartbeat accelerated. I felt sorry for the woman. Whatever she had done, she didn't deserve to be treated like this. She had worked for three years! She deserved some little respect at least.

My back hit the wall and I closed my eyes. Was this such a good idea after all? But this was the only place with a good salary. I was doing this for dad, I shouldn't be thinking twice about working here. Working here?! You don't even have the job yet, and you don't even know if you'd be the lucky one.

Tightening my eyes, I hoped this interview would be a success. I couldn't afford to mess it up. Dad's life was on the line here. You can't, Lauren. You will do great if you'd just calm down and believe in yourself. Yes, I know I would ace that interview.

"Aren't you going to get off?" I was startled by a man's voice beside me. I realized that I had reached the twentieth floor and I mumbled a quick apology to the older man in a grey suit and stepped out.

The entire left was this huge window and I stared at the amazing view of London. My phone in my bag was itching to come out and snap a picture. Before that could happen, I reminded myself why I was here in the first place. I followed the instructions the receptionist told me and true to her words, they were a lot of people. They were so much that I wasn't even able to see the end of them. And they all wore nice clothes.

A group of girls spared a glance at me and I heard them laugh a little. What was on my face?! I wanted to ask. Looking up, I noticed that they hadn't stopped looking my way and wasn't subtle about it. I looked away angrily. Just because they were looking sexier than me and were dressed in nicer clothes didn't mean I should be treated this way.

I pushed my way through tons of bodies, trying to find a place to sit. I spotted one at the end of the room and made my way to it. But before I could sit, a man beat me to it. He shrugged his shoulders at me and I glared. I turned to go back to where I was, and before I knew it, I was being pushed by bodies towards different directions.

I found myself being pushed toward a silver door and inside it. The door shut automatically. I panicked when it wouldn't budge at all. I tried again, but the same thing happened. It just wouldn't budge.

Bloody hell!

I turned around to see where I was, and I found myself in a long-dimmed hallway, and an elevator was at the end of it. I heaved a sigh of relief. A way out.

It slid open when I pushed the button, and I quickly hurried inside. I went to press the twenty-first button, but I only found one button with a Campbell logo on it. My face screwed up. Deciding that it would be best to go there rather than stay here with no way out, I pushed the button with the logo.

My heart started to race for some reason, and I found my hands shaking slightly. It felt stuffy in here and I felt like there was a presence of something powerful and terrifying. What the hell was wrong with me? Why do I feel so scared? What the hell?

The elevator stopped and it slid open. I got out as quickly as I got in. Maybe I would be able to breathe in here and where was this place? I scanned my surroundings and my jaw dropped. Literally.

The office was gigantic and breathtaking. It was polished and fancy. Everything in here screamed expensively. The White leather seats were shining and I didn't want to touch them in case I ruined them.

The view was much more amazing in here. I gasped when my eyes caught a few paintings on the wall, and I realized that it was the paintings that had been the talk of everyone. It cost a billion pounds. Holy fuck. There were a fireplace and a large flat-screen TV on the wall. Literally, everything in the office was white, even the pens were white.

I couldn't describe everything because I found my eyes suddenly blinded by this fancy office. I heard the door being burst open and several footsteps. Before I realize what was happening, I was being pushed to the ground roughly and I felt a gun in my head.

Holy shit.

This totally happens in movies. There was no way this was real. No way was I on the ground with a gun in my head like a bloody criminal. I attempted to raise my head up, but it was pushed back down. I winced and gritted my teeth.

"State your reason for being in a private office before I blow your brains out," he barked out, pressing the gun to my head.

Private office? How the hell was I supposed to know it was off-limits?

"Speak! Now!"

I shook in fear. "I..I got lost. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to be here. I'm sorry, please don't shoot me," I pleaded, as I closed my eyes and prayed to God that I don't end up dead without any of my loved ones close to me, and certainly not here.

"Stand down, Gideon," Someone said, making me sigh in relief. I felt him draw back the gun he had at the back of my head. I stayed down on the ground, not sure if I was giving permission to get up. You see, I value my life very much.

"Get up."

I didn't need to be told twice. Getting up from the ground, I slowly turned to the men standing before me in black suits, holding guns. I shivered when my eyes found the one who had his gun on me.

"What's your name?"

"Lauren Hart," I lifted my chin, hoping my voice sounded more firm than it did to me. "I didn't mean to come in here. I'm here for the interview, and I was pushed through a door. I couldn't go back and the only way out was through an elevator. It got me up here. If you thought I was here to steal, you are mistaken." Forcing myself to be brave, I continued, "Please, just let me go."

They glanced at each other and it didn't take me a minute to realize they were communicating with each other through their eyes. The one who I thought was the leader made a gesture before one of them walked out of the office.

"So...how about I just leave?" I smiled and made a move forward before my view was blocked. "or...not." I took a couple of steps back. "Look, there's no reason for me to be here anymore. I already told you I didn't steal anything. Just let me be on my way. I've got an interview to go to." They simply ignored me.

Then...

I shivered. At once, the air shifted around. The chill of the office blasted me, making my heart beat fast in my chest. I could almost feel a rush of emotion, a powerful force seeking to prove its fury. I gripped my bag tightly, the feeling almost knocking me off my feet. I heard the angry footsteps before I spotted him. I swear...

I

stopped

breathing.

Standing, his powerful pose made my breath caught in my throat. He breathed hard, his broad, well-muscled chest rising and falling as if he'd just ran a marathon. He was dressed in black from head to toe; black Armani suit, shirt, and tie that made his powerful arms and his chest seemed almost alive, almost challenging anyone to doubt his fierceness and hotness.

He was beautiful, almost as if he had been the one to carve himself; cheekbones that would make any man and woman jealous, straight nose and red lips. And his eyes, oh god, his eyes were pure silver. It was the most intense, yet cold eyes I had ever seen in my life. He raked his fingers through his dark hair, his silver eyes almost ready to glower at any poor soul stupid enough to glance his way. His glare was hot enough to wipe the existence of mankind.

This was Mason Campbell. The country's most vicious man.

I gulped.

The man moved out of his way as he strode in, his movements powerful and confident. He didn't take a glance at me as he took a seat behind his desk and proceeded to go through some files. No one said anything for five minutes, and I was beginning to get tired and my legs started to feel numb. No one was acknowledging me, and no one was ready to let me go just yet. Another five minutes before he raised his big, strong hand and waved me away.

I released the breath I was holding and turned around to leave when I got a glare from Gideon as his men started to leave the office. My stomach dropped then. He didn't wave me away. They all left, and I was alone in his powerful presence.

I tried to act natural, but damn it I was failing. I stayed frozen on my spot, but I kept moving my arms and legs around, just so I could stop being so nervous. I wanted to stare at Mason Campbell, but I was scared if I did, I would be turned into ashes or turned into a stone. Neither sounded okay at all.

"Stop disturbing my peace," His voice soft, yet cold and deadly. I wasn't even aware he knew I was here. Making no attempt to hide his perturbation, Mason Campbell fixed his darkest look on me, the girl who had dared disrupt his peace. "Or I would do something about it."

My chest grew so tight I could barely breathe. Fear pounded through me, the image of myself lying cold and dead in an abandoned place flashed through my mind, stirring deep emotions in me. I nearly peed in my knickers.

"Take a seat."

With shaking legs, I was quick to sit down in one of the chairs in front of him, deciding I was safer if I could have been out of his view. But I didn't have any choice.

"Why are you here?" he asked without taking his eyes off the papers he was writing on. I wanted to take a peek, to see what his handwriting looked like. Was it ugly? Was it beautiful? I knew it was the latter though.

I shifted in my seat, willing myself to speak before he got any angry. I remember full well what they say about Mason Campbell. The only wildly intense emotions he had ever experienced in his life was anger and cold darkness of his own heart. They said he had a rage so fierce it chilled the bones of people. I had thought it was insane, that he couldn't be what everyone says about him, but I was starting to think otherwise.

"I...i...I..w.." I stammered in fear, the sentence I meant to say cowering behind my heart.

Mason stopped writing and he suddenly glanced up at me. The powerful silver eyes that collided with mine made me gulp down. He continued to bore holes in me with a decidedly pointed stare.

"Careful what you say," he said before tilting his head. "Do I...frighten you?"

I licked my lips before speaking, "Is that a trick question?" I quietly asked. Not getting any answer in return, I added, "Y...yes."

He lifted a perfect brow. "Oh?"

"I don't want to say anything wrong that might end up in me laying dead in the cold night. People say you are a cold hard killer, and you take pleasure in killing your victims or making them disappear." I didn't even realize what I had said until it had dawned on me. My eyes widened and I clapped a hand over my mouth.

His jaw clenching, he drew a hand down over his face. "You'd do well to remember who you're speaking to, Miss?" he warned his silver-eyed gaze hard as ice, his deep voice equally cold.

"Hart," I answered, my voice shaking. "Lauren Hart. And of course, Mr. Campbell."

"Miss Hart, I don't quite like repeating myself. Why are you here?" he pushed, his voice louder this time. Louder, and laced with crackling anger and impatience.

"I'm here for an interview. I didn't mean to be here. I got pushed into a door and the only way out was through an elevator that got me here. I'm so sorry. If you'd be so kind as to let me go, I'll be on my way."

"I'm not kind," he spoke as if he was disgusted by a word he wasn't familiar with.

"Of course. If you'd be nice enough?"

Drawing himself to his full height, Mr. Campbell cocked a brow. A challenging one. "No difference."

Irritation pumping through my veins, I met his

heated gaze with my cool one. "If you'd be so generous to let me go? I don't want to trouble you more."

"Do you own a dictionary, Miss Hart?" He asked without so much as a blink. "Is that the only words you know?" When I attempt to answer him, he cut me off. "It was a rhetorical question."

"Oh."

"Indeed," he responded in such a tone that had me wondered if he thought I was a dimwit. "Pass me your resume."

I studied him for a long, uncomfortable moment. "You want to see my resume?"

"I'm speaking English, aren't I? Pass me your resume." I quickly passed him my resume while he studied it. "Hmm. You attended Knight- obviously, I didn't expect you to get good grades. Had only two jobs. Zero experience here," he talked to himself, carefully enunciating each word.

His face scrunched into an odd mixture of pity and reproach. "When you came here, I do hope you had zero hope of getting the job. From what I'm seeing here, you aren't qualified enough to work at Campbell Industry, Ms. Hart," he countered, every fiber of his being daring me to state otherwise.

I met his gaze with a steely-eyed glare, my anger ready to erupt in me. I pressed my lips together and hoped he wouldn't notice the muscle jerking in my face.

"What? I'm not getting the job?" I asked, his words plunging like an expertly wielded knife straight into my heart. I knew when I came here that I had no chance, but it didn't mean I wasn't hurting. This was my only chance of getting a perfect job with a good salary.

I wanted to say I wasn't supposed to be interviewed by him, that it was a Mary Warner who called me for an interview. But I was a coward.

"Are you going to cry?" he asked, tilting his head to the side.

"No..I just-"

"Good. Because I hate weak women who aren't strong enough to handle the truth. Wipe your tears before you leave your DNA here."

I stiffened, a vein in my forehead beginning to throb. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Campbell." My heart pounded in hot anger as I made an attempt to get up and leave his bloody office and ugly personality.

"But...you are qualified for one thing. There's a job opening that suits you just fine. Would you like to be my assistant? Don't let the word get to your head, though. You're simply going to run my errands, answer my calls and fetch me tea. Your salary, of course, is not going to be much."

I drew a series of long, deep breaths until the tension in me began to lessen. "Mr. Campbell if you'd just-"

"Take it or leave it. There is a line of people who would throw themselves at this job."

Closing my eyes, I pinched the bridge of my nose and repressed the urge to throw back my head and scream. "Yes, but-"

He looked away from me and glanced down at the papers in front of him. "Have a good day, Ms. Hart."

Part of me was screaming that it was a good job and another was screaming that I didn't deserve being walked on, but the other part of me that screamed louder won.

"I'll take it! I'll take the job." Clamping my lips together, I swallowed the bitterness rising in my throat and, instead, eyed him with disdain. "Mr. Campbell, are you listening? I said I'll take the job." My entire body thrumming with agitation, I clenched my hands to white-knuckled fists under the desk as he ignored me.

"I'll see you on Monday at eight o'clock," he dismissed without even bothering to look at me.

"Thank you so much! I'd not let-"

He interrupted, "See yourself out."

What an ass. I silently walked out of the office, my mind replaying the 20 minutes of conversation I had with him, and through those minutes, he never said anything nice to me. How could someone work for such a person?

Remember, Lauren. You work for him now. Oh yes, how unfortunate for me. If I hadn't been so desperate to find a job, I wouldn't have agreed to work for him. Even if the salary wasn't what I wanted, I was going to take on his offer. I wasn't going to deny it, I had thought about not taking it, but I remembered my dad and how this was all for him.

I just hope I survive working for Mason Campbell.

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