“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli,
“Wow!” I breathed out as we exited the restaurant. Rows of men in black suits were standing around the area, looking alert and ready to attack if needed. “Who are they?”
“Did you think I would come here, unprepared?” Ethan winked at me and walked towards a burly man who was standing at the entrance of the building.
“Hello, sir.” The man with sunglasses said respectfully and stood with his body rigid, waiting for orders.
“Did something out of the ordinary happen while we were inside?” Ethan asked while I stared at him.
“No, sir, everything was good. Our opponents’ guards wanted to make a move, but we stopped it before things could escalate.” The guard spoke with a cold voice, not showing any emotions.
Ethan imitated power and was graceful in his moves. I watched as he ordered guards and arranged for us to leave. I never thought Ethan would be like this. He always seemed gentle and caring.
Today, he was calm and collected in a scary manner. Once the security protocol was arranged, we ascended the waiting car. I leaned against the car’s window and enjoyed the feeling of the clod glass against my warm forehead. I glanced at the night lights as the car sped through the silent streets. I looked at Ethan, who was deep in his thoughts.
“Why did you include the poor dog in your schemes?” I asked with a frown on my face.
It took Ethan several seconds before he replied. “Do you now have a special place in your cold heart for little puppies?” He spoke snidely. I arched an eyebrow at his harsh and unnecessary words.
I found out I didn’t like this side of Ethan. He was hurting me on purpose and for no reason at all. “Yes, I have a special place for dogs. I don’t hurt innocent creatures on purpose.” I said, feeling defensive.
“I don’t hurt innocent people or animals on purpose.” He mirrored my words emphasizing the word people. I understood his unsaid words but decided to ignore them for now.
“You didn’t prove it earlier. Did you?” I challenged, daring him to contradict my words. The ride back to the hotel was tense and silent. Ethan was deep in his thoughts with a frown marring his beautiful face. My fingers were itching to reach over and smooth the crease between his brows, but I didn’t act on it.
We exited the car and rode the elevator to our suite. I took off my uncomfortable high heels and headed towards the bedroom. It was nearly impossible for me to stay up any longer. I stood under the hot sprays of the shower and sighed in relief as the tight knots in my body loosened. I wore a pair of pajamas I found in the bathroom and went back to the bedroom only to stop in my tracks again when I saw Ethan sitting on the bed.I stood rooted in my spot, waiting for his next words.
He looked up at me, and I noticed some of the coldness had left his green orbs. “The puppy wasn’t in danger at all. I had the cure with me all along, and I was planning to use it regardless of Mr. Hirokatsu’s reaction.” I moved closer and sat next to him on the bed. I could feel the warmth of his body, and for a moment, I wondered how it would feel being in his arms.
“How did you provide the cure so easily?” I whispered my curiosity. I watched with fascination as a huge grin took over his face, and he spoke in adoration.
“Akira, he is an old friend of mine. The man is a science genius. He can brew any antidotes in the world. You can say he is Severus Snape from Harry Potter.” I laughed at his words and his reference from the movie.
I looked up at Ethan when he didn’t give me any other reply. He was staring at me with a strange look in his eyes. He leaned over, and I could swear my breathing stopped for several moments. I was sure he would kiss me, and the terrifying part of it, I couldn’t find it in myself to object. I just stood rooted to my place and looking at him unblinkingly. Ethan’s breath fanned my face, and he planted a gentle kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you for tonight,” He whispered sincerely.
“I didn’t do anything. You are the one who planned the whole thing .” I managed to say the words through my racing thoughts.
“You are going the modest road,” He said teasingly. I glared at him and shook my head.
“Get out of here. I need my beauty sleep.” I rolled my eyes and watched as he exited my room with a devastatingly charming smile on his face.
I felt a hand shaking me awake from my deep slumber. I tried to put a pillow over my head to block the unabating hand on my shoulder but to no avail. I opened my eyes and tried my best to glare at Ethan, who was standing over my bed. His face was illuminated by the soft lights of the bedside table.
“What is wrong with you? Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night?” I said as I looked at the clock that was displaying an unholy hour of the morning. I had never woke up at 4.am with my free will. It was always one of my bosses responsible for me losing precious sleeping time.
“We are leaving.” He stated as if he was talking about the weather.
“Are you kidding me? Can’t we sleep and then wake up like normal people to have breakfast, and then we can leave this forsaken place?” I spoke with exasperation.
“No, I can’t risk staying here. My informants just called and told me Mr. Herukatso is planning revenge. So get up and start moving.” He said, leaving the room.
With a groan, I stood up from the bed and stretched my burning muscles. I changed back into the clothes I arrived in and ran my hands through my hair to tame my wild locks a bit. I didn’t even bother with packing the things Ethan got for me while we stayed here. I just left them neatly folded in the closet.
When I entered the living room, I found Ethan in his dark jeans and blue shirt waiting for me.We rode the elevator in silence and got in the car, waiting for us at the entrance. I noticed two vehicles before us and another two after us while our car was in the middle. It was the first time Ethan resorted to such tight security, which only proved the level of danger we were facing. “Why are you upping the security tonight?” I asked Ethan who was busy typing on his phone. Before he could answer my question, his phone rang, and he held a finger, asking me to wait.
“What?” Ethan exclaimed after a few moments of listening to the person on the other line. He was silent for another moment before he cursed under his breath and cut the call. Ethan tapped the window, separating us from the driver. “Break out from our cars. They will serve as a distraction to the cars following us while you take the shortest road to the airport.”
The man just nodded his head and started speeding through the highway.“We are being followed?” I turned my head and tried to look behind me, but all I could see was endless darkness.
“Yes, apparently, Mr. Herukatso doesn’t wait. He wants me dead before I leave Japan.” Ethan spoke cooly as if he didn’t just tell me he might die tonight. Wow! This man had a nerve.
“I thought you solved your differences earlier.” I didn’t expect Ethan to let out a laugh and shake his head at me.
“The man is smarter than I gave him credit. He discovered that by signing the documents, he gave everything he owns to me.” I gasped at the words he spoke and looked at him with wide eyes. “I thought you just made him agree to be your partner. I never realised you bankrupted the man.”
“Mr. Herukatso betrayed me, and when I decide to take something, I take it all. I don’t ever stop halfway. For me, it is all or nothing.” I felt a shiver ran down my spine at his words. He was ruthless and didn’t even bat an eye at what he did. I am not a saint myself as I have had my share of destroying others’ lives. But I never saw anything like this.
In my case, I had always used force and demanded blood, but the man sitting in front of me didn’t even break a sweat in demolishing the empire of a very influential man. Do you think he will show you mercy when he discovers your real identity? My annoying subconscious pointed out the obvious.
I closed my eyes and rested my head on the backseat. With every passing day, I realise how much I was risking. I felt Ethan’s hand resting on mine. I enjoyed the touch of his fingers against my skin as they were so gentle and comforting. I didn’t open my eyes and decided to live this adventure day by day, trying to convince myself I will be on the winning team in the end. ************************
I sighed in relief when the plane landed, and I could finally feel the safety of home. I looked to my side and smiled at Nina, who was sleeping deeply in her seat. I wondered how she could sleep on a plane while she has a panic attack in a car. I moved carefully to her side and undone her seatbelt. I slide my arms under her and lifted her body. She stirred, and for a moment, I was afraid she would wake up and give me a piece of her mind. I let out a breath when she just snuggled closer to my chest and resumed her slumber. I nodded at the guard, who opened the car’s door for me.
Once again, I helped Nina inside the car and was thankful she wasn’t disturbed. I put her head on my shoulder and started running my fingers through her soft locks. I don’t know why I felt this sudden protectiveness and care towards her. Only days ago, she was no one to me, and now, we were literarily and figuratively partners in crime.
She was a heavy sleeper, and it reminds me of Hunter. The mere thought of my little brother brought so much pain and grief to my heart. I missed him so much, but I can’t be brave enough to face him so soon. In no time, Matteo pulled in front of my apartment complex. I took Nina in my arms again and headed to the elevator. I managed to open the door to the house with minor difficulties.
As I moved towards Nina’s room, I could hear the Tv noise in the background. As if on cue, Lillian met me halfway through the corridor. She was wearing her pajamas and had a bowl of popcorn in her hands.
“What is the meaning of this?” Lillian asked loudly, not caring about waking Nina.
“Shhhh, you will wake her.” I hissed and passed Lillian, who was glaring at me. Once again, I made sure to put Nina gently in her place. I covered her with the comforter and exited her room while closing the door silently.
I headed to the kitchen and filled a glass with cold water. “We need to talk,” Lillian said from her seat on the couch.
“You realise I am so tired and need to rest,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t care how tired you are, Ethan. We need to talk, and this is final.” Lillian spoke with her no-nonsense voice. I knew arguing with her would lead me to nowhere, and I decided to talk to her and get it done.
“Okay, what do you need to say?” I asked as I sat next to her on the sofa. I grabbed a handful of popcorn and started munching on it.
“What are you doing, Ethan?” Lillian asked gently, losing her stern voice.I swallowed the popcorn and sighed. “I am doing what must be done. I don’t have a choice in this.”
“I know you have a mission and responsibility towards this girl, but that doesn’t mean you carry her around and give her special treatments. Don’t play this game, cousin. You know it is dangerous.” Lillian said in her most convincing voice.
“I am not playing any games, Lillian. I am just trying to finish this assignment. When she proves herself and Father deems her worthy of his trust, I will be out of this.” I spoke with a confident voice. I was adamant not to let Lillian see how I am unconvinced with the words that just left my mouth.
Lillian narrowed her eyes, and for a brief moment, I thought she would call me on my bluff. Instead, she said with a challenging raised eyebrow. “So, you won’t mind if I set you up with a blind date?”
“What? From where did you get this outrageous idea?” I nearly choked on the popcorn in my mouth.
“It is easy, my dear cousin. If you haven’t already developed feelings for Nina, I don’t see where is the problem with going on a date.” She had the audacity to smirk at me.
“You know I don’t do these things, Lillian. I don’t have the time for a girlfriend who will demand my attention all day.” I tried to reason with her.
“Don’t worry about these things. The girl won’t be demanding your attention as she will be with you all day.” Lillian said with a mischievous glint in her green eyes.
“What do you mean?” I asked, already getting suspicious of her comportment.
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out, Ethan. So, is it a go?” Lillian said excitedly.
“Yes, go for it.” I sighed, surrendering to my fate.
“Great!” Lillian clapped her hands gleefully and gave me an evil stare. “Be ready tomorrow for your first lunch date.”
“What?” I gaped at her, with my mouth wide open. “You planned this before even running it by me,” I told her accusingly.
Lillian just shrugged and got up from her seat.“I am tired. I will go to sleep goodnight, Ethan. You should sleep also. You have a big day ahead of you.” She winked at me and hurried to her room before I could grill her more about her antics. Here goes nothing. I would head to my room and hope for a dreamless and peaceful sleep. I turned off the room’s lights and called it a night.
Unceasing knocking on my door woke me up. I groaned and spoke in a tired voice. “Come in.” Lillian didn’t need another invitation, and she entered my room.
With half-opened eyes, I looked at her. She was leaning against the door with her hands on her hips and a glare gracing her face. “Do you think sleeping the day away will get you out of your date?”
“What do you mean?” I asked her in confusion.
“It is 11 am, Ethan. When do you plan to wake up and get ready?” I looked at the clock on my bedside table to make sure my dear annoying cousin was telling the truth and not just pulling some pranks on me. Surely enough, the clock was displaying 11:00 in red numbers. I groaned and threw my head back on the pillow.
“Come on! Your date is at one o’clock. Don’t be late; it won’t look good on you. You need to make a first impression on the girl.” Lillian spoke seriously.
“What if I don’t want to make any impressions?” I questioned.
“Don’t be a loser, Ethan. You have a girl to charm today.” With those words, she closed the door and left me alone.
I stood up from the bed and headed to my bathroom to take a much-needed shower. Once I was satisfied with my attire and hair, I went to the living room, where I found Lillian typing on her laptop.
“Good morning,” Lillian said cheerfully.
“Wow! Look, who finally remembered her manners,” I remarked sarcastically as I made my coffee.
“So, are you ready? I reserved for you at one of the fanciest restaurants in the city.” Lillian ignored my comment.
“Alright, I will just have some fuel before I leave for this forced date,” I said as I gestured towards my steaming cup of coffee.
“Great!” Lillian said with a huge smile on her face.
“I never thought me going out on a date would make this happy. Maybe I should have done it before.” I teased her as I sipped my beverage, enjoying the soothing feeling washing over my throat.
Before we could speak about anything else, Nina entered the room in her pajamas. She was wearing a weird shirt and black shorts. Her hair was messy, and she looked like a zombie. “Good morning,” I greeted her with a gentle smile on my face.
“Morning,” She muttered while moving towards me. She gave me a cheesy smile before she snatched my cup of coffee and started drinking it.“Hey! That was mine,” I exclaimed.
“And now, it is mine,” She shrugged and continued sipping on my drink without care.
Lillian clearing her throat brought us back to reality. She was frowning at me with a knowing look in her green eyes. I gave her a look that would hopefully prevent her from saying some stupid nonsense. “You have to leave right now, or you will be late,” Lillian said from between gritted teeth.
“Are you going somewhere? Do I need to get ready?” Nina said with a frown on her face.Lillian turned to Nina and said with a sickly sweet smile. “No dear, Ethan has a date today. You will be staying with me.”
“Oh!” Nina said and then got up from her seat, leaving the cup of coffee on the counter. “Good, I wasn’t in the mood to be out anyway. Enjoy your date.”
When I was sure Nina was out of earshot, I turned to my unruly cousin and gave her one of my glares. “What the hell, Lillian? Why did you act like this?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I just stated the facts for our dear guest.” Lillian answered, looking and sounding unapologetic.
“You know what I mean, even if you insist on denying it.”
“I am the one lost here. Since when did you start caring about your protégée or apprentice, or I don’t know who feelings? This is new for you, Ethan.” Lillian looked at me with a raised eyebrow, daring me to deny her words.
“Lillian, you are crossing a line here. I won’t put up with any of it. Thank your lucky stars I am going to this date and avoiding getting you embarrassed with whomever you stuck me with.” I said angrily.
Lillian knowing my tone was utterly serious, gave me an apologetic smile. “I am just trying to prevent you from doing something you will regret later. What can I do to make it up to you?” I could never resist her big green eyes. So with a sigh, I looked at her and shook my head.
“Just be nice to Nina for today, and we will be good.”
“You are asking for too much, Ethan. How can I be nice to her? She is impossible.” Lillian pouted.
“Lillian,” I said warningly.
“Okay, okay! Don’t turn on your lecturer mode. I will try to be civil to her, but on one condition.” She raised her finger.
“I thought you were trying to make it up to me. You are not allowed to make any negotiations.” I said as I grabbed my car’s keys and phone.
“Come on! Don’t be difficult.” Lillian whined like a small child.
“Okay! Shoot.” I said, looking at my watch. It was already 12:15 am.
“I will be nice to you apprentice, but you promise me to give the girl you will meet your undivided attention.”
“I can’t promise you something like this, Lillian. You know me, if I am not intrigued, I would never give her my attention.” I spoke honestly. I would never make a promise I am not sure I can carry out. And if anyone would know this, then it would be this girl standing in front of me and making my life hell.
“Okay, I get you. You must go, or you will be late.” When I didn’t move from my spot and just stared at her, Lillian threw her hands in the air. “I will be nice to Nina. I promise.“I kissed Lillian’s cheek and exited the apartment towards my mysterious date.
I cursed under my breath when I glanced at my wristwatch. I was already late for this forced date. I handed my keys to the valet boy and entered the restaurant. True to Lillian’s words, the building was so luxurious and screamed money. I smiled at the receptionist, who was an old woman with a kind smile on her face.
“Reservation with the name Ethan Salviatti.“She typed on her computer and then said gently. “Come with me. I will take you to your table.” I followed her to an excluded table at the far end of the big room. I winced when I saw a girl already sitting there. I didn’t see her face since she had her back to me. I gave the receptionist one last smile and cleared my throat.
The girl turned around, and I swore to the high heavens I will kill Lillian the next time I set my eyes on her. Sitting in front of me was none other than Melissa. She stood from her seat when she saw me standing in front of her. I could see disbelieve written all over her face.“Hello,” She said quietly.
“Hello, Melissa, How are you?” I asked and looked at her. She was wearing a lavender blouse and dark skinny jeans, which made me wonder about her fascination with this weird colour. I held the chair for Melissa and waited until she sat before I took my own seat. After all, I must always act like a gentleman.
“So, how have you been?” I asked after a few awkward silent moments.
“The past weeks had been so stressful with work. I spend all day running from one department to another,” Melissa said with a shrug.
“I see our work environment had already tired you,” I said with a smile on my face. “Maybe you can go back to your old boss,” I added teasingly.
I chuckled as Melissa’s eyes enlarged, and she shook her head repeatedly. I wondered how she could be so transparent and display her emotions in the open like this. “No, I would never go back to that horrible woman.”
A waitress approached our table and took our orders. After the girl left, Melissa and I fell into an uncomfortable silence. I used all the languages I knew to curse my cousin, which were a lot if you are wondering.
“I didn’t know you were my date,” Melissa said, breaking the silence.
“Me too. I apologise if Lilian put you in an uncomfortable situation.” I spoke with a gentle voice as I didn’t want to show Melissa how I hated this damn date.
“Going out with you can not be described as an uncomfortable situation,” Melissa muttered under her breath, but when she realised I had heard her words, her cheeks reddened, and she reached for her cup of water.
I will officially kill Lillian without any mercy. I looked at Melissa, who was trying to compose herself. She was flustered, and no amount of coverage would hide this fact. “I didn’t mean what I said. I was just....” Melissa started speaking when I didn’t utter any word, but I held my hand to stop her ranting.
“It is okay, Melissa. We were both played into this, so let’s enjoy our time together. I would like to get to know you better.” I found myself saying. What the hell? Why did my mouth speak without my brain’s consent?I immediately regretted my words as I saw Melissa’s eyes brighten, and she looked at me with excitement visible on her face. I gave her a fake smile and tried my best to listen to her while she spoke about some new projects she was trying to finish.
The food arrived, and we started eating. Melissa was a chatterbox while I just answered her questions and nodded my head when needed. My mind drifted to a certain brunette, and I smiled inwardly. If Nina was here, I am sure she would have spent the whole time arguing with me over the smallest things.
I looked at Melissa, who was eating slowly and with grace and elegance, and once again, I found myself comparing her to Nina. Food for Nina was like breathing. She doesn’t stop until her plate is empty. Nothing would halt her, even if it were a hurricane. I forced myself to focus on Melissa since she deserved my attention. She wasn’t here by her own will, and I must give her a decent amount of respect.
Finally, the lunch was over, and I was happy as I paid the check and led Melissa to my awaiting car. I pushed my feet on the gas, and the car lurched forward. The feeling of freedom engulfed me, and I smiled.
“Whoa!!” I heard Melissa exclaiming beside me. I looked at her and saw her looking out the window with her hair flopping in every direction. She had her hand out, and she was waving in the air.
“Are you enjoying the ride?” I asked with a surprised look on my face. The shaking form of Nina in this same seat crossed my mind, and I slowed down the car without hesitation. Melissa tore her gaze from the scenery and looked at me with a contagious smile on her face bringing me back to reality.
“Yes, I love the rush I feel while riding speeding cars. It is a freeing feeling.”
“My thoughts exactly. Would you like me to go faster?” I suggested with an arched eyebrow.
“Yes, I would like to see the limits of your car.” Melissa was like a child in a toy store. It was the first time I saw her with this much passion in her eyes. I gave Melissa her wish and drove with neck-breaking speed.
In no time, I pulled in front of her house. She was living in the kind of neighborhood where everyone knew each other. I noticed a few women staring at us and whispering with each other. “They live for the sole purpose of getting involved in everyone’s lives,” Melissa remarked.
I chuckled at her and shook my head at her words. “Thank you for today. I enjoyed our time together.”
“Yes, me too. I will see you tomorrow.” Melissa voiced her statement as a question.
“Yes, I will be at the company tomorrow,” I answered her.
“Good, I will see you then. Goodbye.” Melissa said and opened the car’s door.
“Goodbye,” I said and watched as she waved her hand and descended the car. I waited until she entered her house before I drove away.
When I left Nina and Lillian together this morning, I had come up with many scenarios about how they would spend the day, and each one had ended with a disaster or a slaughter. So imagine when I entered the apartment to loud music blaring through the walls. I put my keys on the table and headed to the living room, where the subjects of my misery were dancing and laughing. DANCING AND ON TOP OF IT LAUGHING!!!
I shook my head twice to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. What the hell was going on? I think the apocalypse was upon us. They were so carefree I found it hard to stop their moment. I watched for a few moments as they goofed around, not even noticing me. If it were an assassin who broke into the house, they would have been dead by now. I moved inside the room and stopped turned off the stereo.
Both girls stopped at the same time and looked at me with surprise. Lillian was the first who regained her composure, and she looked at me with a glare. “You have to spoil our fun.”
“It is his mission in life to put a cloud on others’ fun.” Nina agreed with her. I discretely pinched my arm to make sure I wasn’t inside some twisted dream. To my horror, my arm hurt and confirmed I was in reality.
“How was your date?” Lillian said excitedly, while Nina just stared blankly at me.
“We need to talk about that, cousin. Meet me in the ring in five.” I said and exited the room without giving her the chance to protest. The last thing I noticed was how her face paled dramatically, and she hurried to her room. I smirked to myself and made my way to my own room.
Training under father and Jasper’s strict rules can make you get ready in seconds. That’s why three minutes later, I was in the ring waiting for my cousin to arrive. I was surprised once again when Lillian wasn’t alone when she entered the gym. She was accompanied by Nina, who was wearing her training attire as well.
“What are you doing here?” I spoke harshly to Nina.
“I have a score to settle.” She said with a dangerous glint in her eyes. Her stance promised a good fight.
“Alright, you are on. Just don’t come crying to me by the end of this.” I warned her seriously since I wasn’t planning to go easy on them.
“You wish.” she challenged back as she and Lillian took their fighting positions.
Until next time!
I hope you liked the surprise of me updating five chapters in a row.
I am still writing this story, and I will try to update more reguraly.
I have another written chapter and I will update it soon if I receive positive or even negative feedback. Your opinions matter.
Until next time!