I didn't know there were so many employees. I underestimated how large Campbell Industry was and it's interior decoration because the cafeteria was gorgeous. Everything was clean and shiny.
I was having lunch with Athena and Aaron. Thankfully, in this massive cafeteria, Jade was not going to locate where I was. I was not in the mood to enter into a glaring contest. I had already gotten that from our boss.
I like Athena. She was a breath of fresh air, outgoing and the cooler friend I had always wanted. No offense to Beth whatsoever. But Athen was a bit different. She could literally calm an angry rhino down if she wanted. Moreover, I was also fishing to know how her relationship with Mason worked. What was he like at home? Was he as uptight as he was? Did money and fame get to him so much he forgot how to treat people?
"Do you like it here?"
I played with my salad, not really in the mood to eat anything. It's not like I wasn't hungry. I really was, but I was also scared I would do something that would get me fired, and then I wouldn't know what to do. If I eat, I might throw up and I had read the manual enough to know that the office must always be clean and shiny.
But it wasn't as eye-rolling as the rule that stated all employees must be clean. No blotch or dirt must be seen in your clothes at all time. I looked down at my white blouse, pleased that I didn't unknowingly spill juice on my blouse.
"It sucks, but hello? The paycheck. I didn't know anyone could exhaust someone so fast as Mr. Campbell does to me."
Athena laughed. "He's a walking bastard, isn't he? But the perks of working here is you get to see that six-foot gorgeous, muscled, rich asshole and admire how hot he is."
I stared at her, completely shocked by her words and her ability to say it with a straight face. "He is your nephew," I reminded her in case she hit her head in the morning and forgot about that little piece of information. I could never say that about my family at all, and not that I had seen any of them.
My family was complicated. Dad's family cut ties with him after he had married mum. His family was rich and they thought my mum was a gold digger. She didn't deserve him, they told him. She wasn't a good woman. But dad had been in love with mum so much he ignored their warnings and knocked her up.
They cut ties with him and he had never spoken to them in twenty-three years. They didn't even know he had cancer. He was scared they were going to turn him down and he was also ashamed that they were right about mum all along.
"He's really hot. You should see him in casual clothes...that taut arse."
I shot Aaron a look. "You too?"
He shrugged. "I swing the other way, darling." He was gay.
"I can't see anything past that bad personality. Women like that?" They both gave me their best impression of 'Are you kidding me' look.
"99.9 percent of women could care less about his bad personality," Aaron said. "They only care that he's hot, insanely rich and available. Something past that is not that important."
"The man was named the sexiest man alive 5 years in a row. He's UK's most desirable bachelor."
I was amazed. Someone with that bad personality could still be loved?
"Bet he loved that," I said, putting the salad in my mouth. On cue, Aaron and Athena started laughing as if they heard a bad joke. "What?"
"Loved it?" she repeated. "Mason hated it. He said he's too good for that category. Said a lot of things actually."
"One of them was it was an insult for his name to be attached with other people's names. Also said he would sue for discriminating him."
I choked. "How is that discriminating?"
Athena shrugged. "He doesn't want to be associated with anyone and anything. His sole focus in life is to get richer every day and be the most powerful man."
"Isn't he already?"
Aaron lowered his voice. "He wants to take over the world."
I laughed. They didn't. "You're joking." I stared wide-eyed at Aaron, then at Athena.
"We never joke about the story of Mason Campbell."
My voice lowered to a whisper. "So is it also true he makes people disappear and kills them in an isolated area and dispose of the body?" I asked, scared of the answer.
"He also has a torture chamber," Athena added in a hushed tone. "Where he tortures people for information or those who wronged him."
"Omg, really?!" I exclaimed, catching a few stares in return. I looked down, red in the face by the attention I didn't mean to catch.
Athena's face suddenly twisted into a funny look before she was bursting out with laughter while holding her stomach. I didn't mean a small laugh. It was a full-blown out laugh that made me stare more. Probably wondered if she was insane.
"You should have seen your face," she cried in between laughs. "God, you believe things so easily. Mason doesn't kill anyone."
Aaron chuckled. "But he does make people disappear, so you be in your best behavior."
I glared at her.
"But don't tell anyone I said that," she continued. "Mason wants people to believe he does kill to scare them. If you tell anyone what I said about it not being true, you didn't hear it from me."
I rolled my eyes. "Don't worry about it. It's not like I want to talk about him anyway. I want to leave everything about him at the office."
"It's so cute how you don't like him." She smiled. "Or seem affected by him. I think it's why he wants you close. God, I'm so glad he did that to Jade. What I would give to see something like that again."
"You don't like her?"
"She doesn't." Aaron grinned. "Jade was a bitch to Athena when she first got here. But when she found out she was his auntie, she started being friendly and—"
"And I put her in her place because I don't like fake people. But she's still trying, you know? Still hoping I will put in a few words for her to Mason."
I shook my head. Sounds a lot like Jade would do something like that.
"Holy shit!" I yelled, staring at my watch. "It's past twelve!"
"So? What does that mean?"
I grabbed my phone and downed my juice, waving at them. "I have his lunch to pick up and I heard it's far! See you guys!"
I ran to the elevator, pushing in the button. I didn't remember that I broke rule number twenty-eight. No running in the building. The minute I walked out of the building into the street, someone yelled my name.
Athena jogged over to me and threw me a key which I caught with a good reflex. I played basketball in college.
"Take my car," she said. "Trust me, it's better than taking a taxi. It will cost you a lot."
"Thank you!" I gave her a quick hug before she directed me to where her car was parked. It was a nice car. Smelled like a brand new one.
I put the restaurant's name in the GPS before I was pulling out of the parking lot. I drove fast and I got there in thirty minutes.
Not wasting any more time, I asked for Mason Campbell's usual. The waitress was shaking so much when she gave me the food you would think he was standing behind me. Or maybe he was? I turned around to check but there was no one, and I wanted to kick myself for being so stupid. But it didn't hurt to check.
I thought when I walked out of the restaurant that I was finally going to impress Mr. Campbell. I would definitely get a thank you, or even a smile. Uh. I shouldn't be too hopeful. He would never smile at me. He could be grateful though. With a smile, I got inside the car and started to drive back to the city.
Turning on the radio, I listened to it with a clear mind and a sound heart. I thought about getting off early today, but something tells me I wasn't going to be given a favor. I wanted to go see dad and talk to him, see how he was doing. Ever since I started working at Campbell Industry, I barely had time to see my father. We had texted each other last night, but it was brief. I was getting kind of homesick even though it was ridiculous. I was missing Dad so much.
The car started to make a weird noise. It was coming from the engine and I wanted to stop and check it out. I decided against it because I would waste time and time was something I didn't have. Ten minutes to driving, the car started slowing down.
"No, no, no," I chanted in frantic. "Please don't break down."
I looked up into the sky, praying to God that the car doesn't break down. That would be a major disaster. I kept my hands on the wheel and hit the gas, determined to get back to the company before the car stopped working in the middle of the road.
How the bloody hell was I going to get back?
God was on my side this time around and I reached the office without the car breaking down. I wanted to kiss the ground and jump in excitement but then remembered rule number fifty-eight. No employee should act inappropriate or display any act of childishness in public while being anywhere near the company.
Stupid rules. Stupid Mason Campbell.
"Where are you coming from?" Jade fired at me when I came out of the elevator.
I walked past her, saying, "Why don't you come and ask me again in Mr. Campbell's office. I'm sure he would be okay with you asking where his assistant went." I didn't wait for her to reply, knowing all I would get would be a glare.
I knocked on the door slowly.
I walked in, my legs and hands shaking. "Your lunch right on time, sir." I plastered a smile. He didn't say anything and I didn't move. I thought if I did, I'd be scolded.
When minutes seemed to pass with no response, Mr. Campbell looked up from his papers. "What are you waiting for? Applause for finally doing your job right?"
I opened and closed my mouth, fishing for something to say. When I think about it, what the hell was I supposed to say to that?
"Keep it on the table and leave."
I did just that and quietly left after I was done.
I was busy the entire day, although that didn't stop me from thinking about my boss. I was smart enough not to cross his path again or make any mistakes. I was doing the best I could to stay out of trouble and it was getting easier when I set my mind on it.
After I left the office that night, I stopped at a restaurant nearby and picked up Thai food, knowing I wasn't going to be able to cook, and Beth was out tonight. I wasn't much of a great cook. She was always a great chef and not me. When I got back home, I collapsed on the bed. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until I hit the bed.
For three days, I managed to be on the good side of Mr. Campbell. And I didn't mind the rudeness stopped. No, he just stopped insulting me. It was progress. He was getting used to seeing me, although he never missed the chance to remind me it was only a temporary job. If I stepped out of line, it was over for me. I had access to his schedule and it came in handy if I needed to get out of his way.
I was also getting used to seeing Aaron and Athena and being friends with them was great. I had also started talking to Jonathan from the marketing department. He was nice and thought to be funny when he wasn't.
Jade hadn't stopped harassing me with her words, but all she got in return was several eye rolls which really was like a slap since she expected me to engage in a verbal insult with her. I was a grown-up. Clearly, she missed that part.
The job was frustrating, especially the file work Mr. Campbell assigned me to do. It's been two days and I was still battling with arranging the files alphabetically and the nonstop interruptions I was getting from the phone that won't stop calling.
The phone rang next to me and I knew it wasn't any client or someone asking for the boss. It was the boss himself.
"Yes, sir?" I asked politely.
"I've emailed you some documents that need to be printed out. You do that now," he ordered before dropping the call. I glared at the phone, muttering under my breath. What an ass. Then I groaned, looking at the pile of files in front of me.
After I got the documents printed, I was on my way back when I bumped into someone and the papers fall from my hands. I crouched down to pick them up and the person who bumped into me tried to help me.
"I'm so sorry," she apologized, handing the last paper to me.
I smiled. "It's fine. I wasn't looking too."
She adjusted her glasses and I eyed this beauty in front of me. Everyone was so pretty here. It was as if Mr. Campbell only hired people who had a pretty face, but I doubt it. The girl in front of me wore simple clothes. There was nothing extraordinary about her, and I could have sworn I owned the blouse she was wearing a year ago.
Something tells me she was just like me. A girl from a poor background. I could relax now, knowing I wasn't the only one who was poor and with no expensive clothes.
"We haven't met. I'm Odette and you're Lauren."
"You know my name?"
She grinned. "Everyone knows your name, Lauren."
"Because Mr. Campbell hired someone that doesn't match the company's standards, everyone's gotta know her name, right?" I snapped defensively.
Odette's face fell. "No, of course not." She sounded honest. "I know your name because Jade's been talking about you nonstop."
I rolled my eyes. "Why am I not surprised. And they are not good things, I assume?" I got a response from her shrug. "I haven't seen you around."
"Yeah, I don't come up here much unless it's necessary. I'm on the second floor. IT department. You should come visit me sometime."
"That would be nice. Sorry, but I have to go. It was nice talking to you, Odette."
"You too. See you around, Lauren. Don't be a stranger."
I walked back to my desk, crossed check that I didn't miss anything before knocking on the lion's den.
"Come in, Ms. Hart."
I opened the door and closed it. Mr. Campbell wasn't sitting in his seat like I thought he would be. Instead, he was laying on his sofa, his hands and legs crossed in front of him.
He wasn't wearing his suit jacket. His white shirt clung to him, and his huge biceps looked like it might rip the poor shirt any second now. I gulped and looked away from his biceps.
Don't think about his biceps. He's your boss. He's a jerk. A jerk with the hottest body. Shut up!
"How did you know it was me?" I found myself asking, after keeping the papers on the table his finger pointed out.
Mr. Campbell didn't open his eyes when he answered, "No one knocks annoyingly more than you."
And that was it. Served me right for asking in the first place. I have learned that no good came out of his mouth from asking questions.
"Oh, and Ms. Hart? Make a reservation at the best restaurant tonight. 7 pm. I have a business meeting." His eyes opened but they didn't fall on me. "I repeat, best restaurant. I'm fully convinced you don't know any or never heard of because of your status, therefore you're free to ask for help."
I rolled my eyes, knowing he couldn't see me. "Yes, sir. Anything else?"
"You be there."
I opened my mouth. "But..."
Those silver eyes sharply glanced in my direction and right into my own set of eyes. I could have stopped breathing right there.
"Got something to say, Ms. Hart? Got anything better to do?"
As a matter of fact, yes. I was going to the hospital to visit my dad whom I haven't seen in a while. But due to the fact that I was a coward and a prisoner to those eyes that wanted no argument, I shook my head.
"I have no plans. It will be done." I wanted to cry, wanted to say my dad mattered more than your stupid business meeting.
He looked away and closed his eyes again. "Close the door gently when you leave. There is no reason to take it out on it because you were too much of a coward to admit you had plans. I'll be expecting you," he dismissed.
I wanted to rip him apart. I clenched my fists and went back to my desk, feeling so heartbroken. I willed myself not to let any tears fall from my eyes. One, because I wanted to teach myself how to be strong, and two, Jade won't stop looking at me. I could feel her eyes on me all the time. I wouldn't give her something to taunt me and gossip she would happily share with everyone.
It didn't occur to me what I was going to wear tonight until I remembered I had nothing to wear at all. I didn't have nice clothes, and I certainly didn't have a dress that would be classy enough for Seasons Restaurant, or my boss' taste.
"Beth, I'm screwed!" I yelled, pulling out dress after dress and throwing it on my bed. "What am I going to wear?!"
"Calm down! I'm sure you will find something."
I spun around and glared at her. "You've been saying that for five minutes and we have gone through my dresses for the third time. And they aren't bloody great." I kicked a dress with my leg in frustration.
"It's not my fault, Laurie, that the last time you went shopping was a year ago."
"But you know why I don't spend my money. It all goes to my dad's medical bills. Ugh, I don't know what to do!" I groaned, falling back down on the bed.
"Oh, I have a great idea!" she suddenly exclaimed, making me rise up from the bed. "Let's go to Melt's and shop."
"Are you kidding me? We can't afford Melt. We can't even afford a common earring from there and you're talking about buying a dress? You've lost your mind."
She swatted me in the head. "I don't mean buy it. I mean, we should borrow it and you can return it afterward. You just have to make sure Mr. Campbell doesn't see the tag and have more reason to insult you."
I imagined the expressions he would wear on his face when he sees it. "You think that would work?" She nodded. "I love the idea. Thank you so much, Beth. Let's go now before I change my mind."
After we got back from Melt's, Beth offered to do my makeup. She didn't want to overdo it, so she chose to give me a more natural look. When she was done, I looked different. Different in a good way and I loved it. I decided to let my hair down but I curled it a bit.
At exactly six fifty-five, I reached Seasons Restaurant. But I didn't go in. I waited for Mr. Campbell outside the restaurant. Now don't ask me why I needed to do that when I could just go in and wait for him there. But my brain was functioning well tonight. There was no chance I was going inside without my boss.
7:05, a black Escalade pulled up next to me. The driver got out and crossed over, opening the backseat door. One polished shoe appeared, followed by another and I was hit with the most delicious scent ever. I could not even begin to describe how I felt when Mason Campbell walked out of that car, a complete alpha male that commanded attention.
My mouth went dry despite having drunk water five minutes ago, but I could not help myself. Mason Campbell was beyond gorgeous. He was the kind of man you would admire from afar because he was impossible to touch. The kind who makes your heart race and your legs weak in the knees.
Was I experiencing that sort of thing? Hell yes. Why wouldn't I when Mason looked like a Greek God in his black Armani suit, his face perfectly shaved and his hair sleeked back. Male models had nothing on Mason Campbell. He didn't just have the looks, the money, power, and everyone's love, but there was something mysterious about him. Something you can't help but want to poke your finger at.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
"What the bloody hell are you wearing?"
And I was pulled back from the fantasy I found myself falling in from six mere words that escaped his perfect plump red lips. Did I just say perfect?
I looked down at my dress, making sure I was still wearing it because I had no idea why he sounded surprised and annoyed at the same time. My hand went to the back of my dress, making sure the tag was well hidden.
"Never mind that now." He looked towards the car. "Prince."
Four tiny legs jumped out of the car and before I could realize what was happening, it launched itself at me and I shrieked.
"Prince, down, boy. She's harmless. Can't do a damn thing." The owner of the dog pulled the dog back before it attacked my face again.
I held a hand to my chest, listening to the sound of my own frantic heartbeats. Mr. Campbell's mouth twitched a little bit, but I could also be imagining that.
I finally found my voice. "Is that....is that a dog?"
He rolled his eyes. "Five points to you."
"But there's a policy that says no dogs or any animal allowed?! Why are you bringing a dog?" He raised a brow at my tone. "...sir."
"That's why you're here, Ms. Hart. To walk my dog. Although, I would have recommended something a bit more....casual?" He eyed me from head to toe. I was wearing a black strapless dress with a slit and Beth's heels.
"I'm walking your dog?" I asked in disbelief.
"Why, did you think you were doing something else?" he asked, his tone sounding like he was mocking me.
"No, of course not, sir. I just felt like dressing up to walk a dog." We both knew I was being sarcastic. He chose to ignore that.
"Very well." He handed Prince's leash to me. "Be back here in an hour and not more than that, do you understand?"
I nodded. "Yes, sir."
He patted Prince on the head and walked inside the restaurant, leaving me alone with a seven hundred pounds dress, three-inch heel and a dog in a cold night. I didn't know the time I went from being an assistant to a dog walker.
I screamed a tiny scream.