Khryssa was still sleeping when he stormed into the room. When Xavier sat down on the bed she woke instantly. Giving a little stretch, she smiled gently at him. The fever was still a vibrant flush in her cheeks. Even through his fury, Xavier could tell she was still quite ill.
“Why did you not tell me?”
Having no idea what had transpired, Khryssa was utterly perplexed. “What are you talking about? Tell you what?”
“What happened with Arne?”
“What do you mean Xavier?”
“I found your diary. Arne tried to harm you.”
“That is none of your business!”
“Everything about you is my business!” He snapped.
“No it isn’t. You do not own me. You do not own my past, present, nor my future. I do not owe you an explanation of anything.”
Grabbing the quilt that covered her, Xavier dropped down to face level with her. “What did he do to you?”
“IT IS NONE OF YOU GODDAMN BUSINESS!”
“Tell me Khryssa!”
“Why do you feel the need to fight me every step of the way.”
Khryssa faltered. “I don’t”
He looked at her with a raised brow and said nothing.
“Okay maybe I do.” Drawing her legs up to her chest, she dropped her cheek onto her knees. “You had no right to read that.”
“I apologize Khryssa.” The reply was formal in some ways and lacking in others.
“Xavier, I don’t know what you want from me. I do not understand why you believe you can make these demands upon me and expect me to obey your every desire, wish, and command.”
“I get what I want and what I want is you.”
She sighed heavily.“I am not a doll Xavier. I am not some pretty piece of fluff that you can admire and then put on a shelf for you to play with later. Nor am I one of your minions. You cannot make me do something just because you wish it.”
“I realize that now.” He said dryly.
“If you are looking for a woman that you can force your will upon, I am not that woman. I will never be that woman. No matter how much we want something, that does not mean we can have it. I am sorry Xavier; perhaps it would be better if you left?”
“You may be correct. Would you please answer the question that I asked?”
Khryssa nodded and sighed again. “Nothing happened Xavier, except what you read in my diary. I went to my best friend’s house. Margalo’s family loved me as one of their own. I stayed there until Arne and my great-grandparents left. I refused to return home until they were gone. While I saw Papa Henrik and Nana Margaret quite regularly, I never saw Arne again.” Arne was their adopted son.
“Thank you.” Rising from the bed, Xavier went to collect his things and call his driver.
Khryssa followed, escorting him to the door. “Thank you for everything Xavier. I appreciate all that you have done for me.”
“It was nothing at all Khryssa.” Xavier gave Khryssa a curt nod before he walked out to the waiting car.
It took a few more days for her to recover. When she finally returned to the office, Khryssa’s staff looked worried. The offices and the labs were nearly silent. The normal chatter around the lounge was absent. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when she finally surfaced from her office and from beneath the mountain of paperwork that had been sitting. Gathering her staff in the lounge, Khryssa wanted to find out what was going on.
“Alright what’s up? This has to be one of the most personable departments within Harcard Industries. We treat each other as equals here. Everyone is acting strangely. I want to know why.”
The room stayed silent. Khryssa tapped her nails against the counter she was leaning against and frowned. Taking a deep breath she spoke again. “Do I have to start bribing people?”
Amelia, Khryssa assistant, spoke up first. “Dr. Hart, we were told yesterday that the department would be undergoing some changes and could possibly be shut down.”
“Who did this announcement come from Amelia?”
“Mr. Harcard came down with the news Ma’am.”
“I see. I suppose I shall be talking to Mr. Harcard then.” Khryssa turned sharply and headed to the elevator.
Swiping her card that would permit her to go to the top floor, the green light flashed its acceptance and beeped. “Well at least that still works.” She muttered softly to herself. Walking out of the elevator, angry steps carried her quickly to Greta’s desk.
“Greta is he in?” Fury burned bright in her dark eyes.
“Yes Dr. Hart he is. But Mr. Harcard is on the phone at the moment. If you would like to wai-.”
“No need, I am positive he is expecting me.” Khryssa stormed into the private office.
Xavier was on the phone when she came in. “Excuse me Reginald; if you would allow me to call you back, something just came up.”
Khryssa picked a file up off of his desk, and flung it at him. The folder hit Xavier square in the chest as he was hanging up.
“Are we a touch testy today Dr. Hart?” The sarcasm was so thick a knife could have carved a piece out of it.
Her hands were on the desk and she leaned over. “Cut the crap Harcard, what the hell is going on?”
“I suppose the answer to the question is a yes then.”
“Because we have decided against anything outside of the workplace, you decide to close my department down?”
“You made that decision my dear, not I.”
Khryssa wondered, somewhere in the darkest part of her mind, if it was possible to strangle a vampire. “Harcard this is insane. If it is your desire to hurt someone, then hurt me. Fire me. I realize I have a contract. I will not act upon it. I will sign legal documents stating I will not seek any action. Do not close the department down. There are many people that work for you that need their job. Take it out on me, not them. Please.”
“You are so lovely when you plead Dr. Hart.”
“Would you stop it? You realize that I am a barrister as well as a physician? I would be more than happy to file a sexual harassment suit against you Harcard.”
“You dare threaten me Dr. Hart?”
“I never threaten Harcard. I merely respond in kind.” Her smile was deadly.
He moved swiftly to grab the woman before him. Khryssa didn’t even see him move. Xavier’s hand grasped her jaw and he looked into her eyes. “I do not take kindly to threats my dear. It would be in your best interests to retract your previous statement.”
He loosened his grip on her and brought his lips onto her softer ones. “I have never met a more infuriating woman in all my years.”
“Let me go Harcard!” When he didn’t, Khryssa cracked her hand against his cheek. She slapped Xavier as hard as she could.
Xavier Harcard chuckled. It hurt Khryssa’s hand far more than it hurt him. “You are mine. You may not admit it, but you are. You have been since the moment you stepped into my office accepting my offer. I wanted you then. I crave you even more now Khryssa Hart.” He released his grip on her fully at that moment and turned away. “I know not why I crave you like I do. Perhaps it is because you do not make it easy for me. Perhaps because I know one day you would succumb to my charms on your own. But right now, the choice is your own. You may walk away from me completely or you may stay by my side. Your prize is, of course, the people you obviously care for.”
“I am not whoring myself to you Harcard.” The anger in her voice made him smile.
“Your answer was expected.”
Grabbing her again, Xavier kissed her cheek. “We shall discuss this later. I shall see you tonight.”
She was dismissed.
“We are not done with this Harcard.”
“You are very correct my dear sweet Khryssa.”
Xavier sat back down at his desk after she had stormed out. He smiled to himself. That had gone better than he originally thought.
Two hours had lapsed. Xavier noting the time, walked out of his office. He spoke into his cell phone. “Where would you like to meet Dr. Hart?”
“My office.” Khryssa disconnected the line.
“Excellent.” It was said to himself.
Opening the door to her office, Xavier walked in.
“Do you not know how to knock?” Khryssa replied irritably.
“My house, my rules.”
“What do you intend to do Harcard?”
“I have a proposition for you Dr. Hart.”
She grimaced. “Yes?”
“You will be my public face. You will be on my arm, publically. When questions are asked, your word is mine. You do this and everything shall return to normal.” Reaching out he stroked her cheek.
“If I refuse?”
“I will destroy everything you worked for my dear.”
“I cannot believe I fell for your deception.”
“It happens to the best of them my dear.” Xavier smirked.
“Tell me more of your terms.”
Xavier smiled coolly. He knew he had her. “It will be for the public only. I will not try to control your – more private affairs. I will elevate your position to – “
“I like what I do. There will be no change to that. I will be your public face. I will stand by your side in public venues. I will speak for Harcard Industries. That is all I will do.”
“I find your counter offer acceptable.”
“Are we done?”
“Not yet.” He kissed her lips, sealing the deal. “You are such a beautiful woman Khryssa. This will certainly be my pleasure.”
“Unfortunately, I do not see the feeling as being mutual. Do not kiss me again.”
“Fortunately, to me, that does not matter.”
Xavier walked out, leaving Khryssa with her anger. Putting her head in her hands, she could not believe what had transpired. He was doing all of this because she made the decision to step apart from each other? There it was, the ever returning headache appeared once more.
The days fell away and months began to pass. Khryssa became the face of Harcard Industries. She was the one that was asked the questions and told the important news to the world. She stood by Xavier Harcard at social gatherings. They looked, to the people around them, like a happy couple. The news spread fast and it was not long before Khryssa had to answer to her family.
“Hi Papa.” She said after answering her phone.
“Khrys what is the meaning of this?” Henrik demanded an answer.
“What is the meaning of what?” Khryssa knew what was coming.
“You are on the television speaking for Harcard and there are reports of you being involved with Harcard?”
“It is merely business. I am not involved with Harcard other than for business purposes.” Anymore, was the silent addition to her words. Well it wasn’t a complete lie.
“Khrys one of Christoph’s magazines reported that you and Harcard are dating!”
She had to wonder which one did that. Who would care anyway? “No Papa, we are not dating. It is merely a publicity stunt. To be quite honest, he and I can barely stand the sight of each other.” That was somewhat true at least.
“Are you sure?”
“Why don’t you come by the house and we can talk? I want to make sure that he has not bespelled you Khryssa.”
“What do you mean he can’t?”
“I mean that he tried to put me under his control, and was unable to. There is something about me that does not allow for it to happen.” Did she sound as tired as she felt? Most likely, Khryssa decided.
“That is amazing Khrys! We will have to look into this at length!”
“I need to get back to work.”
‘Of course, have a good evening. And Khrys?”
“Be careful, I do not like this one bit. Xavier Harcard has an ulterior motive. Do not ever believe otherwise.”
“I know Papa. Have a good evening yourself.”
Hanging up the phone, Khryssa noticed the time. Seven o’clock, damn! She was being picked up in an hour to go somewhere with Harcard. Shutting everything down, Khryssa ran out of the office and headed for home.
It took no time for her to get dressed. A quick clean up, re-apply makeup, and do something with her hair and she stood there in front of a closet in her underthings.
What to wear, what to wear, what to wear, she thought while glancing through the closet again and again. Stepping into the depths of the walk –in closet that was kept for her evening clothes. I hate wearing this stuff. I wonder what he would do if I showed up in jeans, she mused. Most likely it is best not to find out. Finally settling on a rather unique gown, she stepped out.
The gown was Oriental in style, fitted tight from the high mandarin collar down to the hem at her feet. The dress left her arms bare. There was a slit that led up to mid-thigh on each side. The under fabric was simply a heavy black silk. The over layer was a patterned lace set with silver. The back was bare, save for the lace. It left a pattern of butterflies over her pale skin. At six feet tall, Khryssa did not need to bother with heels. Instead she chose a pair of black dancing slippers that matched the dress to perfection.
She had just finished putting on a pair of diamond earrings, when the doorbell rang. Walking downstairs, Khryssa did not bother to look out, she knew who it was.
“Good evening Xavier.”
“You look stunning Khryssa.” He admired the dress, it fitted her beautifully. She wore nothing else besides the earrings, letting the dress speak for itself. It was perfect and understated. He appreciated how she looked.
Offering her his arm, she took it. In case anyone was watching, they acted out their roles in public to perfection.
“What is the destination tonight Xavier?”
“Clairefontaine in the city my dear.”
Khryssa nodded. “Our dinner companions?”
“We shall be alone tonight. We will have a private room to ourselves. We need to talk. I know how you feel about neutral grounds.”
“Xavier.” Her voice carried a warning.
“Yes, I realize I am bending the rules of our agreement. For once Khryssa just do as I ask, please.”
She nodded again, yet a feeling of unease sat in her belly. Khryssa didn’t know how long the trip was since they road together in silence. It seemed like it took forever. When the car came to a gentle halt, Khryssa looked at Xavier Harcard with a distinct wariness in her eyes.
Escorting her out of the car, he took a possessive stance with her, as always. She had gotten used to it. Xavier let his hand rest lightly on the small of her back. He could feel the warm flesh beneath the lace. Entering the restaurant right on time, they were greeted by the maître’d.
“Monsieur Harcard, Mademoiselle Hart, welcome to our humble restaurant. If you would join me please, I shall show you to your table.”
Khryssa smiled politely, but she could feel her nerves begin to fray already. What was he up to this time? Xavier took her hand and they walked together. He leaned in, inhaling the spice and sweet of her perfume.
“You do know how to make an appearance Khryssa.”
Once again the polite smile returned, murmuring softly she responded. “Thank you Xavier.”
Once seated, the experience began. They dined, drank wine, and conversed lightly. It was a respectable meal with respectable conversation. Khryssa finally began to relax. It was just a meal after all. Reaching across the table, Xavier took her hand. After a quick check to make sure that nobody was about, she raised her brow at him.
“You haven't had enough of the play acting Xavier?” She spoke extremely quietly.
“Yes I have. That is the reason why we are here.”
“Oh? Please do tell kind Sir.”
“I have tired of this Khryssa. Your discomfort with me is no longer palatable.”
“Discomfort? I have always behaved properly when I am in public with you.” The tender smile was not believable with the murderous look in her eyes.
“I believed that if you spent time with me, that you would come to see my position as something intriguing.” He paused. “I had thought if you and I were publically declared that perhaps we could change our pattern into something more intimate.”
“What on earth ever gave you that idea?”
“I have never had a woman refuse me Khryssa.”
“Get used to it Xavier.” She smiled a brilliant smile.
“Why must you be so difficult? You are an exceptional woman Khryssa Hart. Your knowledge is beyond measure. Your wit is divine. You can drive a man to complete and utter distraction with your beauty. Yet, you will not follow a simple request.”
“You cannot force me to want you Xavier. Why do you not understand that? While you might force me to stand beside you, you cannot change my emotions.” Rising from the chair she walked around to him. Xavier looked upon her, not expecting what came next.
Khryssa dipped to her knees on the floor at his feet. The silk and lace skirt of her dress rose enough to bare the length of her her long legs. She took his hand. Khryssa kept her head bowed. When she finally looked up, tears had gathered on thick black lashes. Whispering to him, there was sadness in her voice.
“Do you not understand Xavier? You cannot impress me with power. Your money means nothing to me at all. You are the most desirable man I have ever had the chance to meet. Yet, none of this matters to me.”
Looking for the words to continue was difficult, at first, and then they flowed. “I do not need such things. I don’t even want such things. The night of the Winter Ball when we danced together, you held me not as an object, but someone to be treasured. Even when you objectified me, I was still your treasure. When we spent the evening in the café talking and I could look into your eyes and see you relax. That's what meant the world to me. It was right there and then when you captured my heart. Later, I gave you my body. It wasn’t because of your name or your wealth. It was because of what I saw inside of you. You envision yourself to be a monster, and I have seen the opposite of that.”
Sighing softly once more, Khryssa whispered the words. "I have never given myself to anyone before you Xavier. I had neither the desire or the need to do so. With you? It was a necessity. I wanted you to know me as you wished me to know you."
She released his hand and began to rise. Reaching out, Xavier caressed her cheek, urging her to him. Khryssa paused; she stayed upon her knees and looked up to him.
“Why do you not want what I can offer you? I can give you the world. All you have to do is ask.”
“I don’t need the world Xavier. I have more money than some small countries. I have all the fame that I can handle. Power is easy to gain, if you know how. I have had everything that I ever wanted, except love. Oh yes, my family loves me. I have never known the love and romance that fills the lives of a man and woman when they connect. That is in which I am lacking. That is what I have always lacked. I thought I might have found it with you. ”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because Xavier, when I suggested we part on our own terms, you tried to force me to do your bidding. It doesn’t work that way. There may have been others in your long life that has coveted such. I do not. You became angry with me. I believe it was because you thought I had dismissed you.”
Xavier nodded, not saying anything quite yet.
“I did not dismiss you. I knew then that I was not what you wished for me to be.”
“You know not of what I wished.” He rasped.
“Then what is it that you desired?”
“To have you as my own.”
She sighed. “That is the problem Xavier. You wished to possess me and I am not a possession.”
Xavier pulled Khryssa abruptly to him. A brutal kiss took her lips; he could feel her gasp beneath him. He fumbled for a moment, his fingers threading through her dark hair. The single comb that held the mounds of curls in place was pulled free. Delicate ringlets dropped down her back and he ran his fingers through their softness. Breaking the kiss, Xavier noticed her lips. With the force that he had used on her, he had cut the gentle curve. The longing to taste that small bit of blood was too much. He kissed her again, this time gently. The sweetness of her blood was astonishing. It was still like nothing he ever tasted before and in an instant it was gone.
Khryssa pulled back from him, distress was evident on her lovely features. The look alone hit him hard. “I am sorry Khryssa. That was inappropriate of me.” He wanted to taste her again; there was something he wanted more. “May we try again? You and I that is, may we try to be what each other yearns for?”
“We either we are or we aren’t. You are willing to compromise Xavier?” There was a note of humor in her voice.
“Perhaps, just this one time I shall consider it.” The same bit of humor was apparent in his voice as well.
She kissed him. The skilled hand of a surgeon pressed against his cheek. Xavier raised his hand to cover it with his own. “You never cease to amaze me Khryssa.”
Kissing him again, she murmured a soft sound. “Mmm?”
“Shall we take our leave my beautiful Khryssa?”
Xavier helped her back to her feet, only to pull Khryssa close to his body. Slim and sleek, she molded against him perfectly. His lips brushing her ear, the warmth of his quiet voice was a delight. “I believe we have both chosen well.”
Khryssa slid her arms over Xavier’s broad shoulders and pulled him just that much closer. “I believe you are correct.”
Picking her up into his arms, he carried her out of the small restaurant. The car ride seemingly took forever. Xavier refused to allow Khryssa to leave his arms. For once, she did not fight him. They took the chance to know each other in a different way. Music, books, the arts in general were discussed. Even though Xavier had teased Khryssa about playing chess once before, he now discovered she was actually a chess master. It was her turn to tease him.
“You do realize that the rook is next in power to the queen correct?”
“I do play the game, yes.”
Khryssa gave him a smug smile. It was then that he realized what she was referring to.
“Are you insinuating that you are my queen?”
“Perhaps.” Khryssa was trying very hard not to laugh.
“Then my Queen, we have arrived at your castle.” The chauffeured Maybach pulled to a stop at the home of Xavier Harcard.