#44 He is different from others
"I am not meeting anyone without prior appointment," I said. "Ask her to contact my PA if she intends to meet me."
Jyothika Anand's eyes widened slightly at my casual tone, and she stared at me.
"Is there anything else? I don't wish to meet anyone unless it's Cinderella Adams herself. And I would appreciate it if you could respect my privacy."
"Ah... yes sir, I will keep it in mind, Sorry about this."
She walked back.
By the time I finished showering and came out, Juri was waiting for me.
She read the day's schedule as I had my breakfast.
"I will meet Jeeva, but let's postpone meeting Professor Abraham today," I said while taking a sip of my coffee.
"Noted," Juri said while making small notes on her tab. "Sir, Jenni asked me about the collaboration with Adam's group." she said.
"I will talk to her about that directly."
Even though I have told her not bother about it, I guess she must be worried.
"Yeah, I told her to talk to you about it," Juri said.
"Why are Zeeshan and Tarun still here? I asked them to get a few days off before we start."
"They are contacting Amanda ma'am and want to stay in the hotel till we start."
I let out a deep breath. I guess she asked them to spy on me.
What is David doing? Can't he at least take hold of this chance!
"Since both of them seemed to be very dedicated and loyal to the work, hand them some tasks to keep them busy, you know what to do," I looked at her.
She nodded, "I understand," she smiled slightly.
"That's all, I will leave right away."
"Er... sir, the chairperson Salena Adams is still waiting for you in the lobby. She's adamant about meeting you today."
"I am late for my appointment. Can we move now?" I checked my watch.
My team members; Kevin, Akash, Rahel and Sarin were in the conference room discussing the new project when my phone beeped.
I had disconnected Jyothika's call once, so I attended her call this time.
"I am in a meeting-"
"You better come here, Ella. Your mama is making things difficult for me!" She said seriously.
Jyothika and I shared a house for a brief time when we were abroad. I was pursuing ACCA from the University of London while she was doing hotel management.
"Why is my mama at Skycity?"
"She wanted to have a private meeting with CIO Michael."
"What!?" I raised my voice slightly and my team members turned to me.
I got up and walked out of the room while listening to her telling me about what happened there.
"He left in the morning itself, but your mama is still waiting for him here. She is refusing to move into the VIP room. All the staffs are uneasy and afraid to serve her as she's in a foul mood. And judging by the way Michael talked to me earlier, I don't think he has any intention to meet her."
I closed my eyes for a moment.
"What should I do now?" Jyothi said. "It's difficult for me to manage as both your mama and Michael looked stubborn!"
"I will be there soon."
"You should go back." Mama looked at me sternly.
"The CIO is not here, and it's noon already. How long are you going to wait here-"
"This is between us." She looked at me. "Keep out of this."
The sharpness in her voice made me realize that she won't budge.
I don't know what the heck I am supposed to do now to convince her.
"Jyothika Ma'am is waiting for you," Kevin walked near me and said.
So five minutes later, I was in her office.
"I don't know why mama is acting like this. I am sorry to put you through this."
But she was looking at me weirdly.
"I am sorry, I couldn't convince her,"
"Why don't you try to convince Michael then? You guys seemed quite close."
"What!?" I turned to her, indignant. "That guy and I just met recently!" I don't know whatever is that made her think we were close.
"He told me he doesn't wish to see anyone unless it's 'Cinderella Adams' herself."
I let out a deep breath.
"That's because we are working on a new project and mama suddenly wanted me to withdraw, causing all of this."
"He personally escorted you back that day you sneaked in to visit him. And he said you were an important guest." Jyothika looked at me. "Are you sure that there's nothing going on between you? That guy had been here for a few days and I never saw him considering anyone else. It shocked me at the way he treated your mama!"
"We only have a professional relationship."
"That means you don't mind if I call dibs on him?" She asked, and I looked at her in surprise.
"That guy is quite a catch. Smart, good looking, rich and classy." She winked at me. "And to top it off, he has a splendid physique as well."
I wanted to roll my eyes at her but held it in.
"Feel free," I shrugged.
It's not my concern, anyway.
Jyothika had always been bold and unafraid of following what she wants. She had always succeeded in her professional life. Unfortunately, she was always unlucky in love.
"Then I will accompany you to meet him to discuss the current situation."
"What? I can't meet him now. Mama will be angry if she comes to kn-"
"I helped you to sneak inside the poolside. You owe me."
"But I really don't think I could convince him, I will try to convince Mama once again before approaching him."
"I just want this opportunity to meet him," Jyothika said. "His PA didn't allow me to meet him, so this is the only way for me. Don't worry, I have had enough experience dealing with tough people. I will find a way."
"Then you should visit him alone. Bringing me along won't be a good idea."
"But he dismissed me this morning, so I cannot meet him without an excuse and he doesn't want to meet anyone unless it's you."
I let out a breath and turned to her.
"I don't even know where he is,"
"One of my staffs overhead his schedule while serving breakfast," Jyothika smiled at my surprised look.
It looks like she had been keeping her eyes on him!
"Fine, I will help you meet him," I looked at her. "but we are even now."
"I am surprised that you contacted me right away you were back," Jeeva said. "you are now considered a bigshot in the IT field."
"You know, I only have a few friends," I said as I poured him the coffee. "I had an appointment nearby your office and dropped by,"
"It disappointed me when you didn't take up my chief's offer that time to join the team," he said. "but I should have known that you would make it big one day."
"I have to-" I stopped as Juri opened the door to the private room.
She rarely interrupts an appointment, so I was alert as she brought me the phone.
"Sir, it's important," she said, and I took the phone.
My heart jumped as I saw Cinderella's name flashing across the screen. I had given her my card last night.
Maybe this is about Salena Adams wanting to meet me?
"Um... this is an important call," I looked at Jeeva, who smiled.
"I guess it is," he looked at me with knowing eyes.
I got up and moved outside to talk to her.
"Sorry to bother you, sir," I heard her hesitated words. "But... um... I was wondering if you are... free to meet for lunch today?"
"Pardon?" I am sure that I heard her wrong.
"I... I promised to treat you for a meal..."
I knew it was about Salena Adams waiting for me at the hotel, but I couldn't help but feel elated at her call.
"I have a meeting outside the city today," I said. "It would be pretty late by the time I am back."
"Um... are you... are you available for dinner?" she asked me.
"Well... yes, but I am afraid that you will have to drive here."
"It's okay," she said with no hesitation and I smiled at her enthusiasm.
"It's settled then. I will send you the location and details shortly." I disconnected the call with a smile.
When I was back, Jeeva was still waiting for me.
"Sorry about that," I said as I took my seat.
"I guess some things never change, Michael. A few days back I read the rumours about the heiress of Adam technology getting engaged with Julian George and now you are back." he laughed.
"I didn't know you were the type to follow celebrity news."
"I noticed it only because it was Cinderella Adams, the girl who swayed the heart of a nerd like you."
Silence followed his statement.
"I am sorry if I hurt you by mentioning the past-"
"It's okay. Both of us are alive today because you helped to track us down in the correct time."
"You got me scared there. I don't even want to think about it." he exhaled rather stressfully and took a sip of his coffee.
"I would have invited you to drink if you were not working today," I said.
"let's hang out another day," Jeeva nodded.
"Is it the right place?" Jyothika asked as she drives. She was wearing a dark green knee length dress with sheer sleeves and looked pretty. I felt overdressed in my casual leather pants and ruffled maroon top.
"...I mean, I know that restaurant, it's not exactly a place for meeting a business partner, it's rather a dating site. Are you sure that he was not discreetly asking you out?"
Asking me out? As if!
"It was I, who asked him to meet, remember," I said.
"Then why would he ask you to drive over for dinner?"
"He and mama don't get along much, so he's taking it out on me," I said gloomily. "I think it would be better if I stayed back. I don't want to cause any more damage to this current situation."
"Relax! You need to loosen up sometimes, Ella. I have been telling you that forever!"
I used to be carefree before, but everything changed the moment my mama collapsed two years back. The directors of the company split into two groups and they had a nasty fight over chair position. One of mama's trusted employees betrayed her while she was in the hospital and we nearly lost everything.
Even though I tried to do everything to help mama, I knew little. It would have been bad if it was not for Sara and other loyal people who guided me then. And everything turned around when mama finally woke up.
When she got back on her foot, there were drastic changes in the people around us as well. They turned respectful and pleasing. Everyone wanted to meet her, and some of them even tried to set up their sons with me.
I had realised the extent of her burden within a few days. And that's when I decided to learn the business to help her.
"It is difficult for me to trust anyone. When my mama collapsed, everyone closed their doors on my face when I wanted help. And when she woke up, they couldn't get enough of me."
"It's always like that, you just learnt it the hard way," she shrugged. "I wish I had met the carefree you." she smiled. "You were such a killjoy when I met you abroad."
"And you were such a party girl," I laughed at the memory. "You made so much trouble and got kicked out of the house."
Her dad had cut off her living expenses because of her partying, and she had to live off me for a brief time.
"I wonder how Sally is doing nowadays, I haven't contacted her recently."
Sally was our landlord's daughter who lived next door.
"She is back with Josh again, her parents disowned her and she has moved out," I said. "And they are running a restaurant together."
"Ha! I knew it." Jyothi said. "But that was a stupid move."
"You know how much they loved each other," I said.
"Do you think she can ever go back to her old lifestyle? I think it's better to live rich than work for your entire life." She looked at me. "What would you opt?"
"If I have a boyfriend, my mama would deal with him even before I have to choose," I rolled my eyes, and she burst out laughing.
"That's true. You are the bird in the golden cage," she said.
"That's not true. Mama wanted me to pursue music! She allowed me to travel and even gifted me an apartment!"
"Right under her nose," Jyothi added. "she hired your manager. Her friend lives in the same complex and monitors you for her."
"That's... that's because she's worried about my safety!"
"You are not queen Elizabeth, Ella! You need to live a little more. If things continue to be like this, you will die as a virgin-"
"... or worse, you would end up having an arranged marriage." she laughed again.
"Shut up, or I am backing out now."
"If you help me get this guy, I will reward you well, Ella," she winked.
"I kept my promise. I will help you meet him privately. You should handle the rest of the things." I looked at her. "And I hope you can convince him to talk to my mama as well."
"Leave it to me."
The private room of the restaurant looked more like a little garden and the table was placed in the middle of the lawn. Tiny golden and white lights were lit up around and felt like a group of fireflies scattered around.
The table had a single red rose in a glass vase. The orchestra group was ready and waiting outside.
"Sir, Madam Ella is one her way here, but she brought one of her friends with her," Juri said while coming inside.
"Friend?" I raised my eyebrows at her.
"The GM at the hotel you are staying at; Jyothika Ananth." Juri said. "She had tried to approach you twice from the hotel but I had to reject her request as it seemed... not that urgent..." she explained.
"That's fine, you know what to do," she nodded and left while I walked to greet them.
I know a bit about Jyothika Ananth, but she didn't look that close with Cinderella when they were abroad.
"This way," I invited them inside.
"Thank you for driving all the way here," I said politely as I gestured them to the seat. I waited for them to sit before taking my seat.
"Thank you for making time for me. I hope you don't mind me bringing my friend along. My driver had an emergency and my PA was away. I am not a skilful driver, so I asked my friend to drive me." she said.
"I am sorry to bring you trouble," I looked at Jyothika and nodded.
"It was no trouble at all," Jyothika said. "Besides, we know each other.
No need to bother about formalities."
One server brought the caramel macchiato and the chocolate doughnut to the table.
Cinderella looked surprised as she stared at it. I had decided against wine as she had gotten drunk yesterday.
"I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty to order it before you came," I said. "Unlike other places, they have the best doughnuts here," I added. Then looked at Jyothika. "I am sorry, I didn't know that Cinderella would bring a friend. What would you like to have?" I asked her.
I looked around the room. The private room felt too fancy for meeting a business partner, and the guy in front of me looked quite attractive in the button-down white shirt and straight-leg jeans. The tailored tan dinner jacket looked fitted to his frame.
My eyes roamed back to his eyes, and it startled me to realise that he was looking straight back. I moved my eyes away for a moment and turned slightly away.
Once Jyothika's coffee reached, all of us had brief chats. Michael seemed to be polite and considerate.
I took a bite of my chocolate doughnuts and nearly moaned as the taste was incredible. He was right, it indeed was one of the best doughnuts I had.
I guess his PA would be very diligent to have known about my favourite snacks.
I focused on my doughnut when Jyothika and Michael were engaged in a conversation.
"... and it would be nice to upgrade the complete security system in the hotel as well. I would really appreciate it if your team could do that."
"The current system seemed to be satisfactory for a hotel. If you are really concerned about it, I will send one of my juniors to give you an idea about some up-gradation. It's always better to depend on the people who are available nearby,"
"Oh, thank you!" Jyothika squealed delightedly, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Looks like she has found her new love interest, and it's going well.
My phone rang.
Perfect timing, Kevin!
"Excuse me," I nodded and attended the call. "Hello? Oh, really? I will be there right away!"
I disconnected the call and looked at Jyothika and Michael, who were now listening to me.
"I am so sorry, I had something important came up and need to leave now," I said.
"What happened?" Jyothika asked.
"Company matters, don't worry about it, please continue, I will meet you another time."
"It cannot be helped then," Jyothika pouted rather "adorably" and I nodded, trying not to gag at her expression.
"How will you go back?" Michael asked me slowly. "You said you got a ride from Jyothika,"
"Um... that's fine. I will get a cab. Please continue what you were talking about, Jyothika had been very concerned about her security system recently. I know it's very important to her." I said, and for a moment, Michael's eyes never left mine.
Uh... did I speak too much?
"Thank you so much, Ella, I will call you later then," Jyothika smiled sweetly at me.
Her voice helped me to get myself together, and I broke eye contact and got up quickly. "See you then..." I nodded at them and walked back.
Why do I feel like I am running away!? But what was that about his gaze? He looked cold and angry!
The elevator door opened, and I entered inside.
I took out my phone when the elevator door opened again suddenly.
It startled me to see him entering inside unexpectedly. The elevator's door closed, and I took an unconscious step backwards as he reached near me.
"Si... Sir... Michae-" I stopped midway as he closed the distance between us.
I hit the wall while he stopped a foot away from me.
The elevator went down while I stayed there, rooted to the spot.
"Cinderella Adams," his voice was close and filled with anger. "Do you know what is 'personal space'?"
"Do you know what is 'personal space'?" he repeated, and I nearly had a heart attack when he placed his hands on my either sides, forcing me to feel like caged inside.
My heartbeats shot up, and I tried to stay calm.
"If... if I am not mistaken, you...you are invading my... personal space now."
I managed to have a comeback which gave me more confidence. So I took a deep breath and looked up.
We were too close for my liking, and we locked our gazes. His pupils dilated, and I suddenly felt warmth spreading all over me.
"You disregarded the 'boundary' first."
"What are you talking about!?"
"You tried to set me up with her! Isn't it the same as invading my private life?"
"I...she...she just drives me here...I...mean nothing else-"
"Are you lying to me!?" his voice rang with warning as he stepped closer, now only inches from me, and I stopped.
We were not really touching, but we were awfully close to being anything but appropriate.
I knew I shouldn't provoke him anymore.
"Can... can you move back first?"
"You need to apologise first!"
"I... I think... you... you are overreacting... uh... I mean, it's no big deal if... someone likes you, she... she was only trying to talk to you!"
We looked at each other for a moment before he said, "Since you think it's no big deal to like someone, I will make it clear to you, here and now," he said while looking into my eyes. "The person I like is here, just in front of me,"
I blinked, "Excuse me?"
"It's you, Cinderella! I like you, I have liked you the moment I first laid my eyes on you, I want to be with you!"
"You are crazy!"
I couldn't help but try to push him away this time, but he didn't budge and instead, he held my hand pressed to his chest for a moment.
"Think about it, I am damn serious about you."
The 'ding' sound came and the elevator door opened, revealing a group of people outside.
Everyone stilled at the scene in front of them and Michael stepped back from me. But apparently, we already did the damage as people were giving us 'that' look.
I pushed my way through the crowd and stormed out of there.
My heart was pounding loudly, and I didn't even know where I was going until I realised I am in the underground parking lot.
Oh shit! I need to call my driver!
I opened my phone and felt like someone is watching me.
"Stop following me, okay-"
I turned around and stopped. Michael was nowhere to be seen, and it was just me there.
I am not an alert person, but I felt as if I am being watched and it sent a chill down me.
"This... this is not funny, Michael," I said. "Step out if it's you..." I looked around again.
My phone rang and I turned to see Michael's name flashing across the screen.
"Hello?" I attended it immediately.
"Where are you?" He started. "Look, walk back to the elevator side. I am waiting for you here. I will give you a ride back."
I saw moments from the side and turned back immediately.
"If you are pulling some kind of prank, this is not funny!" I said. "Step out now."
"What are you talking about?" His voice was sharp.
"Stop following me!"
"I am not following you! What's wrong, Cinderella?" He sounded serious, and I realised it was not him.
"Someone... someone is following me," I ran and stopped as the guy stepped out in front of me, stopping me on the way.
I felt déjà vu as I heard her scream through the phone, and the phone disconnected.
I ran to the other side of the parking lot where I had seen her going earlier. I had thought that her driver must have been waiting for her there.
As soon as I turned a corner, I heard screams coming from the side. I sprinted and reached there to see Cinderella down on the ground holding the pepper spray while the guy was clutching his face and screaming.
I pulled the guy by his shirt and punched him hard, making him fall to the nearest car, causing it to beep loudly.
My mind had stopped working rationally, and I turned to the guy again. I grabbed him by the collar and punched him again.
"Sir, wait, let me take him to the police, leave it to us," the security guard was there.
But I couldn't hold my anger, and I hit him again. It infuriated me as he tried to defend and I kicked him in the middle.
"Please... please... stop... please stop..."
I would have killed that guy if I hadn't heard her weak sound. My mind instantly snapped back as I heard her sound.
I turned back to Cinderella, who was still on the floor, trying to take deep breaths.
"Cinderella!" I knelt down in front of her, "are you... are you okay?" My voice shook and my eyes blurred for a moment. "The inhaler... your... inhaler..." I took her bag and found it before holding it for her. "Take a dose-"
"I am... okay..." she was looking at me with a strange expression, but I refused to put it down and insisted.
"Take...a puff...you...you are... struggling to breathe-"
"I said... I am okay, Michael!" She said. "I... I was just scared. Now I am okay!"
And I stared at her for a moment. She was indeed okay and looked unharmed. She was breathing normally.
She nodded, "you are overreacting-hey!"
But I had wrapped her inside my arms, hugging her tightly.
I had nearly gone out of my mind as I thought she was in danger. I was trembling from head to foot as it suddenly reminded me of the past.
"Let... go..." she tried to speak, and I tightened my grip around her more.
I didn't budge.
"I... I really... can't breathe!"
And I loosened my hands around her and wiped my eyes before moving back from her. I removed my jacket and wrapped it around her.
"Are you... okay?" she gave me a concerned look. "You don't... look good." she looked at my bruised knuckles, "you are hurt!"
"That's nothing," I avoided eye contact, got up and turned away from her. The last thing I want now is to lose control and freak her out.
A couple of people were already at the scene while the owner of the car that I slammed the guy into was also there to inspect the damage.
I gave him my card, "I am ready to compensate for the damages, you can contact me on this number." I said.
Then I looked at the guy who was still held by the guard. I took a step towards him and he cringed back.
"This guy is a habitual purse snatcher. We had been trying to get him for ages now!" The guard said.
I held his collar and looked into his eyes threatening, "you are lucky because she is unharmed."
"Let go of him, you already beat him up. He's injured and got more than what he deserves," the guard said. "Let me take him to the police station now."
"Michael..." I heard Cinderella's voice. "Can... can you walk me out of here?"
I let go of the guy and turned around. I tried to take her hand, and she moved back slightly.
"I am okay... I just... want to... get out of this place," she said. "Just get me out of here..."
"I will give you a ride back."
"That's unnecessary, I will call my driver." I looked at him. "Besides Jyothika will be waiting for yo..." she dragged off at my look.
"Your friend will be fine with my PA." I said. "I will drop you." I insisted.
"I am not coming back with you," she said firmly. "CIO Michael, even though we are business partners, I hardly know you. It's not proper for me to get a ride from you."
"I am guilty about this whole thing. You faced that guy because I called you here."
"It has nothing to do with you. Besides, I had already taken care of him before you came." She said.
Cinderella has become stubborn.
"I will agree to anything as long as you let me take you back," I said, and she stopped on her track and looked at me.
"Anything?" she asked back.
"As long as it doesn't affect our current collaboration," I added. "Anything else is fine,"
"I too don't want to drop our current collaboration," she said. "I worked on it hard."
"Good to know that we are on the same page here. What else do you want?"
"Talk to my mama." She said and before I could say anything, she continued, "I know you two had a bad start. I know you don't want to meet her, but how are we going to continue this project if the chairperson doesn't approve of it?" She said. "I just want you two to settle any past grudges and come to an understanding."
"Your mama caused me to lose something precious. I have tried not to blame her, but it's very hard for me to trust her again."
"What did she take away from you?" She turned to me and I stared at her for a moment.
If only you know...
"The most precious thing to me, that's all I can tell you."
"I know the IT field is very competitive. If she did something wrong, I apologize to you on her behalf. But I think you knew what you were signing for when you collaborated with Adam's technologies," she looked at me. "I just want to complete this project peacefully, this is important for me as well."
I was rather surprised to see this side of her.
I nodded slowly.
I know I cannot avoid Salena Adams forever anyway.
"I will talk to your mama tomorrow since it will be late by the time I go back," I said. "I will convince her tomorrow." I added, "now can you please follow me," I gesture her towards my car and she nodded.
I closed the door after her and came around to the driving seat.
"Hold out your hand," she said, and I turned to her questioningly.
She took out a bandaid from her bag, "I often get cuts and bruises, so I keep it with me always," she explained as she took my hand and turned it around, causing my heart to pound loudly. She placed the teddy-bear printed bandaid on my knuckles.
once she looked satisfied, she looked at me, "There's one more thing."
I kept staring at her.
She avoided eye contact and looked straight ahead.
"Thank you for helping me today," she said. "I think you are... um... not that bad of a person...you are just...different from the people I know."
Updated on: 12/02/2021
Q: Do you think Michael could convince Salena?
Are you enjoying my ongoing story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, authorshakthiWrite a Review