1 - Ocean Eyes
This is not a standalone book. Please read the first one as you need to know important information as you progress through each book.*
Set 3 years ahead of Book 1.
I twist the lens slightly to zoom in on the engraved wall as I try to get as much detail as I possibly can into the shot. I know I’m already running late to my meeting but I just had to take a picture when I saw the level of detail on the wall.
“Cameras are not allowed here.” A deep and husky voice suddenly states from behind.
I turn to see a tall man standing there. He’s of a strong build and that dark navy suit of his does nothing to hide his muscles straining against the clothes. My eyes roam over his features as I take him in. He has blonde hair with the clearest set of ocean blue eyes and a sharp, stubbled jaw. Overall, he looks like a golden boy but there is a certain ruggedness to him that intrigues me.
I smirk before taking a quick picture of him and letting the device hang around my neck. “You sound just like my father.”
His eyes narrow at my dry tone as I smile sweetly and wave before disappearing down the hallway. I continue onto the next level of the courthouse before reaching my dad’s office. He’s a judge in the New York County Supreme Courthouse. Sighing heavily, I brace myself before knocking on the door and entering once I hear a muffled “come in!”
Dad sits behind his mahogany desk in a designer suit. I inherited my green eyes and light smattering of freckles from him but other than that my red hair, slender figure and soft features are from my mom. My sister looks exactly like him though with her golden blonde hair and sharp features. But she has brown eyes like mom.
“Can we make this quick? I need to meet with my supervisor.” I rush as I take a seat on the couch.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. There’s still time to drop out and pursue a career in law or science.” He stands and walks over to grab a book from the shelf behind me.
“It’s my last year!” I clench my fists in anger as my blood boils.
Just once I wish someone would understand me and what I want to do with my life. My parents have always been hellbent on their children following in their footsteps, to have a career either in law or science but when I didn’t have the same dreams that’s when they started making my life miserable.
My sister is literally the golden child and known as their only child too unless they absolutely must admit that they also have another daughter. It’s ridiculous how ashamed they are of me just because I decided to pursue a career in photography.
I chose to apply to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York without telling anybody but when I received an offer my family were adamant that I reject it. Of course, I didn’t and accepted it as it was my dream college and offered one of the best photography courses.
Right after that, things turned ugly. My family went so far as to disowning me and giving me an ultimatum, either I drop photography and do law or science or I’m going to be kicked out and left unsupported.
I got kicked out.
I have been living in a small, shitty apartment over a noisy street ever since. I can barely pay my rent and the loan for my tuition fees but I’m managing with the two jobs that I have. It’s been four years and every semester I’m pestered by either my parents or my sister to drop this course and do something I’m not passionate about.
“Zoe, there is no chance of you turning this photography nonsense into a career that pays you well. I’m looking out for you as a parent! Say the word and I can get you into the best colleges for law –”
“A parent would never kick their child out on the streets just because they wanted to pursue what they are passionate about.” I reply quietly while struggling to restrain my fury.
His hand grips my shoulder very tightly, as if he wants to shake me into submission. “You are a disgrace! Why can’t you be more like Cynthia?”
“Believe it or not, siblings don’t have the same thoughts and ideas.” I remark dryly but immediately wince when his nails dig into my shoulder.
I hear a knock and sigh when my father immediately tells the person to come in. “Ah! Hunter, come in!”
He still hasn’t taken away his hand that rests on my shoulder and continues to grip it quite tightly. I bite my lip to stifle a sound of pain and look up only to groan mentally when I see the man I met earlier. His blue eyes narrow in on my father’s hand before staring at me in disgust. I frown at his attitude before hastily scrambling to my feet when my father’s hold relaxes, knowing that my conversation with him is over.
“I’ll pick you up for dinner around eight so we can talk more, be ready.” My father brushes me off before returning to his desk and taking the file from Hunter’s hand.
“No thank you.” I mutter as I throw my coat on quickly.
“Zoe!” He all but snarls while daring me with his eyes to object.
“Good day, Miller.” I call him by his surname, knowing well that he’ll feel highly disrespected by it and scold me later. But I can’t bring myself to care.
I angrily walk out of his office and make my way down the numerous hallways before I reach the stairs that will lead me to the exit. Tears brim my eyes and I curse under my breath lowly, hating how emotional I get when I know I can’t expect anything but hatred and disdain from my family.
Feeling my throat tighten with emotion I press my hand to my mouth and lean against the banister of the stairs. I quickly wipe away the traitorous tears that have managed to escape. Juggling college and two jobs is hard enough I don’t need the added stress of these monthly meetings my family like to have with me. Arguing and trying to make them understand only to stomp out after with nothing achieved takes so much time and energy.
I had tried to avoid them once by not showing up to dinner and they tracked me down to my apartment. That only made things worse because once they saw the conditions I was living in they taunted me relentlessly about how I could still be living comfortably if I had just listened.
I sigh heavily before glancing down at my tattered watch, that I had taken when I left home, seeing that it’s two o’clock. Only an hour left before I need to meet with my supervisor to review my progress on the thesis I must complete this semester.
“How did a young, little thing like you end up with that old man?” I hear that familiar voice ask from behind but his question makes me frown in confusion.
I turn to see him standing a few feet away with his hands in the pockets of his slacks. I’m surprised I didn’t hear him walk up but then again this building is swarming with people rushing around as they get back from lunch.
“Excuse me?” I ask as I notice his eyes roam lazily over my body.
They darken as they slide over my legs with pure hunger evident in them as he drinks me in. I struggle to restrain a shiver from shooting down my spine. I did not like the things this man is doing to me.
He shrugs halfheartedly before stepping closer and bending so that his lips brush against my ear. “Word on the street is that you’re Judge Miller’s mistress. And from what I just saw in the office I believe the rumors are true.”
My jaw drops at his accusation but then I close it and grit my teeth angrily. Of course, my father would never tell anyone about his failure of a daughter so obviously people would make up crazy assumptions. Not being able to stop myself, I rear back and slap him hard across the face as tears brim my eyes. His lips pull up in a sneer but I see something flash in his eyes once he notices the tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Making baseless assumptions lessens your integrity as a lawyer!” I hiss and shove him before rushing down the stairs.
I wipe my tears once again and leave the building in a hurry. The chilly air of autumn kisses my cheeks and dries my tears quickly as I look around for a taxi. Managing to hail a cab successfully I give the driver the address of the college while thinking of how many ways I can kill that man. I hope I never see him again! I think to myself. He’s incredibly handsome sure but that horrible first impression put me off.
I hurry into the Italian restaurant and behind the counter. Mia, my co-worker, chuckles at my panicked state and I stick out my tongue as I rush past her. Putting on my uniform, I attach the name tag before picking up a notepad and pen. Working at Mama Lila’s is one of my jobs during the day. Because it’s my last semester and I only have a thesis to submit the number of classes I have during the week are quite less which makes it easier for me to earn more. I also work at a bar as a bartender during the nights whenever I can, which is most days since I need the money.
I put a fake cheerful smile on my face and start taking orders. The place is always busy as it’s one of the best Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. I like working here but if Grant, my boss, could go and get hit by a truck I would be much happier. He seems to have a personal vendetta against me and is always making up excuses to punish me.
Sighing, I work the next few hours on taking orders and cleaning up after the customers. Sadly, I don’t get a minute of rest until my break and by that time my feet are killing me. I quickly eat my lunch which Callum has cooked for me. He’s a sweet man in his thirties and can whip up amazing dishes. After tasting his meals for the first time it was no surprise that he got the job.
“Any plans for the weekend?” Mia asks when she walks into the small and very cramped room where we have our lunch.
“Just a stupid gala I need to attend.” I roll my eyes in annoyance.
“Honey, you get free food! What’s not to like?” She chuckles as she thanks Cal before taking a seat opposite me with her food.
Mia’s situation is like mine but her parents died in a car crash. She lost everything and is also working two jobs to support herself. It was because of her that I got a job at the bar she works at. We only see each other at work and I guess we bonded over our shitty lives.
“I’m sure someone will realize that I’m wearing the same dress again.”
She bursts into laughter and I glare at her playfully. We chat some more and I ask her about her weekend plans before Grant ushers us out of the break room ten minutes earlier. We curse him to the depths of hell under our breath as we make our way out to the front, giggling to ourselves at the outrageous and weird names we come up with.
Grabbing my notepad and pen again, I look around as I wait for someone to call me. It’s a little quieter now since it’s the evening but eventually a woman beckons me from a table at the back and I start making my way to her. There’s two other men but they have their backs turned to me so I can’t really see them.
“Hi, my name is Zoe. What can I get for you?” I rattle off the usual line before looking up, only to freeze when I recognize the man sitting at the table.
Hunter leans back in his seat and rubs his bottom lip mischievously. He doesn’t even try to hide his full-blown smirk.
Well, fuck my life.
Ages - I’m terrible at math so if I’m wrong PLEASE correct me! 😂 Also I’m not writing or mentioning every time someone’s birthday comes up so take that in account too :)
Zoe: 22 (turns that age later on in book but not menti