MASON

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Chapter 8

It did not improve my mood to discover, the next morning, that I was thirty minutes late to work. I think I didn't care enough to go to work, not when I didn't want to stare into the face of my boss, whom for the past six hours became my number 1 enemy.

I couldn't take his words out of my mind. They were hurtful. They were not who I was, but the fact that he couldn't wait and let me explain everything and decided on his own, not only pissed me off but made me woke up and decided I didn't want to work for someone like that anymore.

Mr. Campbell didn't value anyone and treated them like they were nothing. I wanted to work in an office where I could breathe without fearing I had done it wrong, or where the boss was actually nice and treated everyone with respect.

I grabbed my cup of coffee and stared at the screen of my laptop.

This was the decision I had made the minute I hit the bed last night. I was fed up. It wasn't like I hated myself and didn't value my self-respect. I had feelings. I experience emotions. I wasn't a damn robot that I wouldn't feel hurt by his words.

I quickly typed.

Dear Mr. Campbell,

Letter of resignation.

Please accept this letter as notification that I'm resigning from my position as an assistant to Mason Campbell with Campbell Industry on August 10th. I apologize for not being able to provide two weeks notice. Due to circumstances beyond my control–

I paused and snorted. I wanted to write because you're an asshole and I can't work for an asshole.

I continued, –I need to resign. I'm happy to collect my paycheck or you could have them mail it to my address.

Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Lauren Hart.

"Letter of resignation? What the hell are you doing?" Beth asked, peering over my shoulder. Her hair was messy and she still had a drool at the corner of her mouth, indicating that she had just woken up and had not taken a good look at herself.

"What? It's nothing shocking," I replied, crosschecking the letter again to make sure I got everything right. "I came from the line of quitters. My mother quit on her family, my dad is quitting on life, so it's nothing deep if I quit from my job too. It doesn't matter."

Before I could hit send, she wretched the laptop away from me and stared at me with red cheeks. "It's doesn't matter? Are you serious right now?"

I got up and tried to take it back from her. "Give me my laptop, Beth. I'm fucking serious."

"Not unless you tell me what the bloody hell is wrong with you, Lauren. I know your job is important to you, so you wouldn't just quit unless there is something you're not telling me. And you have to remember that you're quitting the only thing that will help your dad."

I swallowed, pressing cold fingers against my forehead. "Not anymore."

She came forward and gripped my arm. "Lauren, you either tell me what the fuck is going on, or I'm not going to give you your laptop back to do something that you might regret later."

I break away from her grasp. "I'm not going to regret it," I reassured. "Working for Mason Campbell gives me nothing but anger and suffering."

"So your boss is an asshole, then what?" she asked with a scoff. "It's common to have a boss that you feel like killing every now and then, but it doesn't mean you should quit."

"I don't really care. Give me my laptop," I urged, my face grim. "I have to send my resignation letter." She had no idea what I had gone through last night. She had no idea what it felt like to have someone belittle you, to have them think you are cheap and to hurt your self-respect. No one had ever made her feel so little. She wouldn't understand.

None of us said a few words, but the tautness of our grim-set expressions said everything.

"No."

"Beth, I'm not fucking around."

She stood her ground, openly challenging me with a stare. Beth was not one to back down and neither was I, and that was why whenever we clashed together or had our differences, we were bound to have an awful day.

"Me neither. This concerns the wellbeing of your dad. How are you going to find another job in time to pay for his medical bills?"

Her words did nothing but filled me with more dread. For one single moment, the face of my father dying flashed through my eyes and I thought I might faint.

"He's dying okay?! He's dying, Beth, and there's nothing I can do about that," I confessed, my voice sounding detached from the world.

"What?" she inquired, shocked. "What do you mean he's dying?"

My throat burned and my eyes watered. I had come into terms with the possibility that I was going to lose my dad soon, but if, for some miracle, he ended up surviving, I would spend every day thanking God for not taking him away from me. He was my strength and my weakness. I would do anything to have him live longer:

My voice was shaking when I answered, "The chemo treatment didn't work and the doctor said if he tries another, his body won't handle it," I entreated, my fingers clenching around my hands. My words sounded so surreal to my ears. I could hardly believe that was the fate of my dad. I added in a bitter tone, "So it basically means he dies if he tries another chemo, and he still dies if he doesn't try another treatment again. Life is really a bitch like that."

"Oh, God." Beth drew a long series of breath, slid another glance at me. "How long?"

"Does it matter? He's not going to live long." A low unearthly moan I only recognized as my own pain closed my throat. I staggered backward and sagged against the wall, the pain hit me hard. My knees began to tremble and my vision blurred, my entire world contracting to a whirling black void.

All I could see was the world taunting me with glimpses of my dad, cold and gray in death, and waking away from us. I closed my eyes and swallowed. I opened them to stare at Beth's stilled form.

"I don't want him to go," my voice trembled and my vision began to blur with tears. "Beth, I don't want him to die. He's the only one I have. Please, tell him not to leave me."

Beth crossed over and pulled me into a bone-crushing hug. I felt her tears dropping on my back as mine cascaded down my cheeks. "Why does the world hate me? First, it was my mum and now, my dad."

"The world doesn't hate you if you still have me." I sniffed, unable to speak. "I'm going to be there for you in these hard time, Laurie. And we will make your dad's last days happy, we'll make sure of that." The words tore a hole in my heart.

Beth and I visited dad. He was so happy to see her even though he spent most of the time sleeping. He still hadn't regained a lot of energy and Becky said it was expected of him to be sleeping. When he woke up again, he and Beth played chess and he let her win like always.

I felt so happy to see the huge smile on his face. This was what I wanted, for him to spend his last days smiling. We didn't talk about mum again, and I was glad for it. Talking about that woman only put me in a bad mood and I never expected her to show up. And she never did.

Half past five, I kissed him goodbye and promised to be back tomorrow. Beth had other plans, so I was left to return home alone. I was two blocks away from our building when I dropped out of the taxi, preferring to walk to help clear my mind.

I walked silently, willing the peaceful night to soothe me. I let out a long, unsteady breath when my building came into view. A black Range Rover was parked in front of our building. I didn't put much attention to it, thinking that one of the residents had a visitor or got a new car. Not paying the slightest attention to it, I made a move to enter the building.

"Ms. Hart."

I whirled around and to my shock, Mr. Campbell was standing in front of my building, calling out to me casually. I had to be dreaming because there was no way I was seeing him. After spending a whole day without thinking of him, this had to be the punishment I was given for it.

And he knew where I lived? Did he go through the employee's info and got my address? Because the owner or not, that was a breach of privacy.

"What are you doing here?" I glanced at the street before moving my eyes back to him, unsure of how to react to this unexpected and unwanted visit.

"Is that your first question? Not going to ask how I know where you live?"

"I'm just glad you didn't break into my flat," I said, crossing my arms. "That's not beyond your capabilities."

"No, it's not, is it?" he asked, watching me with hooded eyes. "How could I not come when I got this?" He waved a paper in the air. "Your resignation letter. And of course, to do this." He grabbed the ends of the paper and tore it, the sound of it ripping into two reached my ears.

I lifted my chin, fixing him with a piercing stare. "It still doesn't change anything."

"I'm rejecting your resignation, Ms. Hart."

I looked at him, hoping I had misunderstood. "What?"

A bored look crossed over his face. "I believe the words I said are not hard to misunderstand. You're still working for me."

"I don't think so." Frowning, I drew myself to my full height and put back my shoulders—just to emphasize my denial.

He drew a deep breath, something I had never seen him do in my presence. Something about his bold, almost rude stare made me uncomfortable.

"I am a lot of things, a liar is not one of them. I don't have the time nor the patience to crack jokes with you. That is not in my book. You don't get to resign or quit working for me, Ms. Hart. My company is not a child's play, something you can just drop whenever you want."

A look of barely controlled annoyance flashed through his eyes. "You are still my assistant, still working for me. When I don't want you anymore, I will fire you."

I gave an unexpected short laugh, forcing myself to answer him calmly and feigning a composure I hardly felt. "You're not the least I expected you to be," I revealed. "In fact, you're so much different from the way I expected the great Mason Campbell to be."

"Oh, is that so?" he returned mockingly. "May I ask what you expected me to be?" He was daring me to say what was on my mind, almost sounded like a threat too, and if I wasn't already pissed about the fact that he thought he owned me and had a say in everything I do, I would have heeded his subtle warning and backed out.

"Who the hell do you think you are? You can't force me to work for you. I am not working for you anymore."

"You seem so sure about that. Suppose you think you can do that, get away from me so easily." He crossed over to me, his strides one of a predator and the hidden threat on his face, loud and clear. "I can assume, of course, that you will get on with your life in peace and happiness. Do you honestly think I would let you?" His voice was coolly controlled, but he could barely control the heat in his eyes.

He took several steps closer to me, until he was in front of me, so close that I could count the frowning lines on his face. "I am Mason Campbell," he said, arrogantly and proudly. "I don't say things twice. I walk away from people. They don't walk away from me."

For a moment, I was too angry and too dumbfounded to speak. My eyes narrowed dangerously and my hands clenched into fists. This man was not only rude and mannerless, but his contemptuous insinuations were too much to handle.

He seemed pleased by my unexpected silence. Clearly, he thought he had put me into the state of silence.

I leaned forward, my voice condescending. "Fuck you, Mason," I said carelessly, unleashing the anger I had felt for him from the moment I saw him. "You might think you own everyone, which is ridiculous because we are not objects, but you don't own me. I have the right to not work for you. No one is going to force me, not even you."

"You're trying to go against my word?" Mr. Campbell's voice was only barely controlled. I noticed that his whole face had gone stiff with anger he could hardly produce words. "Do you want to join the list of people who had defied me?"

I tried not to show how frightened I was. "Oh, you're going to kill me?" My voice sounded incredulous;

looking up, I caught his flashing eyes and my own became spiteful. "or make me disappear? I want to see you try," I went on, not caring that his eyes had slit, almost like a cat's. "Do your absolute worst, Mr. Campbell."

He faced me with his eyes spitting fury. I nodded my head before I spun around to leave.

"If you don't come back to work, I will buy your building and kick you out. Wherever you try to go, I will be behind you. You won't get a job or a place to live. And the same applies to the people you care about."

I turned to face him again. My cheeks burn with rage, and I wasn't in the least bit afraid of him. My voice shook with uncontrollable rage. "You can't do that."

"I thought you said I'm not capable of doing anything. Why do you sound so frightened now?"

"Mason."

"Mr. Campbell," he corrected, authoritatively. "We don't share any relationship for you not to be formal with me, Ms. Hart."

"Why are you doing this? I don't want to work for you anymore!"

"Pity."

I bit hard on my lower lip, trying to fight the urge to scream. "I don't want you to hurt my friends and family." I didn't need to tell him clearly that I had just gotten my job back.

My defeated expression caused a small, mocking smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. My breath cut short. His smile, bloody hell, his smile made him look so handsome, it was devastating. I thought he was so gorgeous, but when he smiled, he might as well be the most gorgeous man alive.

He was breathtaking.

His smile blinded me.

Bloody hell! He could make anyone dance to his tunes. But that smile belonged to no one, but an awful man and I could no longer see the beauty of it anymore. A man who was rude and controlling was not an attractive man.

"I will see you on Monday, Ms. Hart."

But I had already whirled around and was running back to my building, hardly able to breathe for the rage that boiled up inside me.

Even when I had reached the comfort of my bedroom, and had flung myself across the bed, I found it impossible to control my feelings. Anger, humiliation, and above all, a searing dislike for Mason Campbell, who had placed me in an impossible situation without a thought for my feelings.

I pounded my fists against the pillows, longing to scream out loud.

"I can't really escape from him, can I?"

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