I woke up on an unfamiliar bed in utter shock. I groaned as I instantly felt the breaking of my head with the loud bell chimes of my phone. I lazily grope the phone over the side table and forced my eyes to open, only to see Oliver’s name on the screen.
I jumped off my bed—not my bed—but a suite in Vermont. I remembered it now. I pretty much had a drink last night and almost passed out. I gawked at my phone screen thinking of reasons to say because I was out my fucking mind last night. I already had an idea was he going to hassle me about.
I answered the call finally after another ring.
“Damn it, Brandon. Where are you?” he hissed.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t tell you. Something came up.” I massaged the back of my neck.
“Oh, so something came up at the club last night and then you just disappeared. Tell me, did you go home with that woman?”
I scowled. “What woman?”
“The one with the blue hair.”
I squeezed my temples. “I was all alone in this suite, Ollie. What kind of question was that?”
“You’re still in Vermont? You’re supposed to be here an hour ago.”
I rolled my eyes. “Cancel the meeting. I have somewhere to go today. I don’t give a fuck to the people who demand things when all they do was sit. I won’t answer to anyone, Ollie. Let them wait. Turn them down if you have to.” I hung up.
There were endless missed calls on my phone for the last hour. I’d been trying to reply to all the e-mails getting inbox. I was too fucking exhausted listening to endless complaints. I dropped the phone at the back of the car and squeezed my eyebrows.
It was after lunch I checked out of the hotel and drove to Brooklyn Heights. I stopped in front of an unusual building. It looked more like a cheap Hostel. I frowned at the sheet of paper I was holding.
Jupiter Inn, Rm. 450
I was sure it was the address, but the parking was terrible. I had to drive underground and it was too dark. God knows it looked dangerous.
I grimaced as I stepped out of my car. I walked back to the entrance and found tattooed kids hanging all over the place, and they were fucking staring at me.
Inside, the building was obviously old with the worn-out wall, the corridors were dark and unusually warm, and it smelled horribly sour. Why did the heck she wanted to meet in a place like this?
I headed to the reception first. A woman with messy bun hair greeted me. She was chewing fucking gum! What the hell?
“Can I help you?” she asked, then she studied me under her fake eyelashes. She didn’t look like a receptionist at all with her crop top and pink skirt. She even looked at me like I was a piece of meat. She was playing her hair with her manicured fingers.
I heaved the sigh.
I drew out my wallet and picked up my calling card inside. “Here.” I handed to her. “A woman checked under the name Samantha checked in here last night. She’s blonde, and about five-eight feet.”
“Let me check.” She looked at her computer and typed something.
“Uh, yeah,” she said, still chewing her hum. “Room 450. Seventh floor.”
I frowned. “That’s it? I just have to go there?” Their security was a joke.
“Anyone in a suit and a calling card with the Lucien name is welcome here. If you weren’t handsome I wouldn’t believe you, love,” she said, then chuckled. “What’s your relationship with this Samantha? Your secret girlfriend?”
I rolled my eyes. Their security was fucking kidding me. “None of your business,” I cursed then headed to the elevator.
I searched for room 450 as soon as I reached the destination floor. Why did she choose this awful place to stay? I could’ve gotten her a suite with reliable security. This place was even more dangerous for her.
“Open the door. It’s Brandon.” I knocked when I found the room.
The door flew wide open instantly, and Pauline’s ruined face appeared before me. She was skinny as hell, and the natural glow in her eyes disappeared as it was covered now with dark circles.
“Brandon!” Her arms immediately curled around me, and she dipped her head in my chest. I brought her back inside and shut the door. Even her room smelled foul and terribly small.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I said softly. “I’m here now.” I stroked her hair, trying to ease her. But stopped as I noticed the bruise on her shoulders. There were also small burnt marks on her skin that seemed to be cigarette blisters on her arm.
I slightly parted away to look at her face. “You should have called me. Why come into this kind of place?”
“It is safer than in any place out there,” she said. “I was being followed at the airport by Silvanus’s people. I just managed to sneak out. I can’t live there anymore, Brandon!” she breathed, and I felt the shuddering of her body. She was scared of him.
I gritted my teeth. “Just what did he do to you? Did your parents know you are here?”
She shook her head. “Don’t tell them. I hate them. They sold me to him.”
I cupped her face. “Shh… You are safe now. I came here to get you. You will be staying at my place.”
“No!” she screamed in terror. “He’ll find me there. He’s going to hurt me!”
“It is safe in my house. It is highly secured, and they can’t come into my territory. No one’s going to hurt you there. Where are your things?”
She wiped her tears. “It’s there.” She pointed out the black suitcase lying on the ground. “I did not unpack.”
I picked her luggage up, then grabbed her arm. “Now, let’s get you out of here.”
As promised, I brought Pauline to the mansion. There was no other safe place, but here. Everyone would think it wasn’t a smart decision given the whole fucked-up situation between me and Alayna, but Pauline was my responsibility now. I wouldn’t let Silvanus hurt her again knowing that she was hurt because of me.
“I’ve always wanted to see where you live,” Pauline informed as she stepped out of the car, and Lennie was already at the front door with her two assistants. I had told her about Pauline’s arrival.
“Welcome to the mansion, young lady,” Lennie greeted her with a small smile. “Master Brandon.”
“Good afternoon, Lennie,” she greeted back. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes. You were just a child back then, my lady.”
Pauline held Lennie’s hand. “Just call me Pauline. I’ve missed you. You look still as young as ever.”
Lennie touched her face and grinned. “Oh, thank you. You are still lovely.”
“Lennie,” I called. “Please help us take her things in her room.”
“Right away, Master Brandon.” Lennie snapped her fingers and ordered the maids to take the suitcase inside.
“Lennie’s going to take you to your room,” I said, lifting Pauline’s chin. “I’m after you. I think I need to answer to some questioning.” I groaned as I saw a furious Casey approaching.
Pauline glanced at me one more time and followed Lennie inside.
Casey clicked her tongue unbelievably and crossed her arms. “I heard the news. I guess it was true then.”
“She needs a place to stay.”
“And you think this is the right place. You are completely out of your mind.”
“Casey, I don’t have time to deal with you. And I don’t think I have to tell everything to you.”
“Ha! Try me,” she taunted. “I heard that you ditched Oliver last night. Are you with her?”
I scowled. “Excuse me?”
“Don’t complicate things like this, Brandon. I can’t believe how you’ve changed.”
“Let’s not do this today, Casey. Please? I’ll tell you everything later. Why don’t you give me something to eat now? I’m starving.”
She shook her head. “Alayna’s finally coming home this week. Are you going to display this woman in front of her?”
“Her name is Pauline, Casey,” I said tightly. “Did you not see her? She has bruises on her arms, and her eyes were swollen.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “How am I supposed to sleep at night if I just left her on that motel?”
“What about Alayna?”
“Isn’t she with Cassius?” I shot back, clenching my fist.
She tensed up. “You know that nothing’s going on with those two.”
“Is there really nothing. How many times I have to tell you that Alayna and I broke up?”
“I don’t fucking care!” she exclaimed.
“Watch your words, Casey!”
“I said she’ll be working here!” she snapped. “She’s in pain, too, and it’s all because of you!”
“Is this her house?”
“I said, is this Alayna’s house?”
“N-no… but that’s not what I meant.”
“Then I will do whatever the fuck I want in my house or whomever I wanted to take here. Do you understand?”
Not waiting for her answer, I marched away because I grew tired of listening to any of this.
I went to my desk and pulled the drawer. I picked up the pieces of photographs I received from the tracker I hired to check on Alayna and Cassius. It was pictures of them kissing in front of a coffee shop in Lawrence last week. As much as this photo infuriate me, I couldn’t do anything but step back.
I slammed my fist on the desk. I wouldn’t do everything I did if I wasn’t receiving those threats and subsequent emails from an unknown sender. It had all the same message and the texts were precisely about her.
I’m watching your girlfriend. She’s one beautiful woman. You better watch her out Brandon. You’ll never know what happened. I’ll be watching her.
Goddammit! And everyone was accusing me of letting her go with Cassius because I couldn’t make firm stand and everybody thought I was the villain. Great!
Harshly, I crumpled the photos tossed it in the trash bin.…