The fall of our secrets

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Chapter8

Nina:

We entered the building, and all chatter stopped at once. Everyone was looking at Ethan in awe and waiting for him to speak even one word. I looked up at him and was surprised by the look on his face. There were no traces of gentleness or relaxation. His shoulders were taut, and his jaw was set in a hard line. He walked with confident strides to a private elevator in the corner.

I shook my head to get rid of my thoughts and hurried to catch up with him. He punched the number of the last floor, and we rode in silence.

The elevator’s doors opened to reveal a spacious hall where a desk was situated to the side. The girl working on her computer stood immediately and greeted us in a sweet voice.

“Good morning, sir.” Ethan just nodded at her without pausing in his walking. The girl’s eyes moved to me. They roamed over my body from head to toe. She shook her head and gave me a tight smile. I could tell it was forced, and it took her a lot of work to keep it on her face.

I followed Ethan to a dark large mahogany door, and he opened it to reveal a large office. He went directly to his desk and dialed a number on his landline. I ignored his conversation and looked around the room.

There were two black sofas on one side of the room with a coffee table between them. Paintings and other artworks were hanged on the walls, and to be honest, they added style to the already stylish room.

A large bookcase was standing against the other wall with rows and rows of thick books. I ran my hands through their covers, liking their solidness.

Ethan’s desk was large and organised in fascinating order. Everything was in its rightful place. There were no papers, pens, or files scattering around. In front of the desk were two comfortable looking chairs.

I averted my gaze to the wall behind Ethan’s desk. It was made of glass and showed the entire city. I looked in amazement at the magnificent view displaying before my eyes. It was the tallest building, and you could see everything from my point of view.

I was brought out of my reverie when the door burst open.

I turned around to see Enzo Ethan’s friend accompanied by the girl who greeted us at the ball, who I believe her name was Melissa.

“How dare you leave me alone on an important day?........” Enzo started to say, but he stopped when he saw me. He raised an eyebrow and smirked at his friend while Melissa squeaked and looked at me in fear. I shook my head in amusement, hardly stopping a laugh from escaping my lips.

Ethan rubbed his forehead tiredly and gestured for them to take a sit. I was curious about the topic of their conversation and decided to make myself comfortable while they discuss their differences. I made my way to the sofa and made sure to brush Melissa’s shoulder while passing her. She squealed and nearly fell off her chair. I smirked in satisfaction and sat on the sofa with my feet on the table.

I felt Ethan’s eyes on me, and I looked at him. He narrowed his green eyes and raised an eyebrow.

“Nina,” he said warningly.

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him with the best innocent face I could muster. He raised a finger and said in a calm voice. “This is strike one.”

I nearly laughed at his words, but I caught myself in the last minutes. Instead, I said in an earnest tone.

“I will behave myself. You won’t hear a pipe from me.” I said and made the gesture of closing my mouth and throwing the key away. Ethan fixed me with one of his unyielding glares, which I held without flinching. I knew he understood the mockery behind my words, but he decided to let it go.

I fetched my phone from my pocket and started checking my social media accounts. I wasn’t that popular, and I didn’t have a lot of friends and followers. But I always liked seeing others’ stories and souvenirs. It was an efficient way to spend your time in silence without getting bored.

Time flew by quickly, and when I looked at the clock, it was 5 pm. My stomach grumbled, and I looked up the still heated conversation between Ethan and Enzo while poor Melissa remained silent and wrote notes on her notepad from time to time.

I had to clear my throat twice before Ethan looked up at me.

“What?” He snapped.

“I am hungry,” I answered with a shrug.

My answer caught him off guard, and he stared at me with a dumbfounded expression on his face. I rolled my eyes at him and clarified in a duh voice.

“Hunger, as in a state human being, would be put in after staying without food for a long period of time.”

Enzo laughed from his seat and shook his head. He looked at Ethan and said in a teasing voice.

“You have your work cut off for you.” He looked at me and winked. “Make sure to give him a hard time.”

“I will do it gladly,” I said with a cheesy smile on my face.

“You two are impossible. I will order something for us.” Ethan said and took the phone, but I paused his movements with a groan. He looked my way, waiting for my protest.

“Are we going to eat here? It is really suffocating. I want to inhale some fresh air.”

“We are not done here. I can’t afford to lose another hour just for eating.” Ethan protested.

“Come on, man. It won’t take us a long time to eat and get back.” Enzo whined like a small child.

“You two will be the death of me. Alright, we will go to a nearby restaurant and have dinner.” He declared and grabbed his keys.

***************

We arrived at the restaurant, and I gaped at the large building in front of me. Ethan said we would have a quick dinner. He never said we would dine at a five-star restaurant.

The moment we entered, the receptionist in her late forties smiled at us and said in a thick English accent.

“Good evening Mr. Salviatti. How are you?”

Ethan nodded her way and said with a smile on his face.

“Good evening Laura. I am doing just fine. How is Ramsey?”

The woman’s eyes brightened, and she spoke eagerly. “He is fantastic. Do you know? He was the first in his class this last semester. I am so proud of him.”

“As you should be. Tell Ramsey I said hi, and I would take some time off to meet him soon.” Ethan said with a gentle look in his eyes. It was the first time I saw his green orbs softening like this.

“Your usual table is ready. Enjoy your meal.” Laura’s words brought me out of my musings, and I followed the others to a secluded table. Ethan and I sat next to each other while Melissa and Enzo took the seats in front of us. I scanned the menu and felt dizzy at the ridiculous prices written on it. How could a single meal cost you more than 2000$? I looked at Melissa and saw the struggle in her eyes. I am sure she wasn’t used to this type of environment.

“Did you choose what will you order?” Ethan asked after a few moments.

“I will have the usual,” Enzo said and closed the menu.

“I want burgers and fried potatoes,” I answered and waited for the reactions of the others.

“They don’t serve burgers in here. This restaurant is classy and has a reputation to uphold. It is not a fast-food joint in the streets.” Ethan explained with a patient voice as if he was teaching the alphabet to a five years old.

“I want burgers, and that’s final. Ask Melissa. I am sure she wants the same thing as me.” I said and looked at Melissa, challenging her to counter my words. She swallowed hard and nodded her head.

“Yes, I want burgers as well.”

“Oh! for the love of god! You wanted to eat outside, and I agreed even if it wasn’t the wisest decision. Now, you refuse to eat what’s on the menu. What’s wrong with you?” Ethan said with barely contained anger. I saw Melissa shrinking in her seat and opening her mouth to say something. I gave her a meaningful look, and she immediately closed her mouth. Smart girl!

At that moment, a waitress arrived at our table. She gave us a big grin and said in a professional tone.

“Good evening, did you decide what to order or not yet?”

I was the first to speak in a neutral voice. “My girlfriend and I will have burgers.” I saw as the girl looked at me in confusion and turned to Ethan for an explanation.

Ethan gave a look that promised revenge and said in a clipped tone. “The girls here are craving burgers. I would appreciate it if you made them an exception for us.” I smiled in triumph when the waitress just nodded and scrambled words on her notepad. I ignored the rest of the conversation as Enzo and Ethan made their orders. Even the names of their dished were so complicated I would never remember them.

Thirty minutes later, our meals were in front of us. I inhaled deeply and smiled at the rich aroma invading my senses. It was just then I realised I was so hungry, and I started eating without any further delay.

I didn’t look up from my plate until I popped the last bite in my mouth. It was the most delicious burger I ate in my entire life. The flavors mixed together and gave a unique taste to the dish.

All the eyes were on me as I wiped my mouth and sighed in delight. Enzo was the first to laugh in earnest. He was laughing so hard I could see tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

“What’s funny?” I asked with confusion written all over my face.

“You are one of a kind, Nina. I never saw a girl eat like you.” He said with a smirk on his face.

I shrugged my shoulders and said in indifference. “Food is made for us to eat, not to stare at,” I spoke while glancing at Melissa’s half-eaten burger.

“Some of us don’t have your appetite, you know,” Melissa said with irritation. Those were the first words she spoke to me since the ball. I sniffed and acted as if I was wiping tears. “The little girl grew up and started talking. We have to memorise this event and never forget it.”

I smirked as her cheeks coloured, and she avoided my gaze. Ethan looked at me with a disgusted face.

“You can never be nice, can you?”

Before I could retort, the waitress came back and held out a check for us. Since I was the one near her, I snatched it from her hand and looked at our bill. I nearly choked on my own saliva. I reread the numbers written on the paper three times before I conceded and believed that a burger here cost 500$.

I shook my head and handed the check to Ethan since I knew I would never pay this amount for dinner.

Ethan gave the waitress his credit card, and we waited for her to come back before we rose to leave. As we neared Ethan’s car, he caught my arm and leaned over to whisper in my ear.

“Next time, don’t create a scene just for a simple meal. Understood?”

I felt my cheeks heating at his words, and I thanked the dim lights of the street for covering it. I snatched my arm from his grip and spoke in what I hoped would come out as a confident tone.

“It wasn’t about the price. I wouldn’t be bothered with spending your money on trivial things. I was craving a delicious big burger. ”

“Keep telling yourself that.” He said and strode towards his parked car, where Enzo and Melissa were waiting for us.

I stared after his retreating back and thought about his words. It was the second time today he used the same expression on me. Did it mean he doesn’t believe me? Since when did I lose my lying skills?

“Aren’t you coming?” Ethan called.

Without answering him, I jogged to his car and got in the back seat with Melissa while Enzo took the passenger seat. It was less stressful to be in the back than the front.

******************

Ethan:

Leaving the company for two weeks had cost me a lot. It was a mess I didn’t know from where I should start cleaning. Our partners from Japan refused to begin the production until I meet them personally in Japan. A trip I couldn’t afford now since Nina was here. I looked at the subject of my worries and sighed. She was curled up on the couch and sleeping peacefully. She wasn’t comfortable, and I knew her neck would be killing her tomorrow.

I fetched one of the cushions and carefully lifted her head. She stirred, and I held my breath, waiting for her to open her eyes and unleash her anger at me. Fortunately, she just turned her head on the other side and resumed sleeping. I adjusted the pillow a bit so she could rest her head more easily.

I brushed one of her soft brown locks and looked at her in amazement. It was the second time I see her with her eyes closed, and again, I was left with the same musings. How someone looking so peaceful and calm can hold so much power and courage.

I went back to my seat and looked at the files in front of me. It had taken me all day to find where we went wrong but to no avail. There was something wrong, and as Enzo said, the situation was fishy here.

I ran my hand across my face and groaned. One look at the clock in front of my desk told me it was the early hours of the morning. I turned off my computer and went to the recreation room. I prepared a steaming cup of coffee and sat on one of the scattered sofas. I knew it was pointless to try and sleep now. I just needed a boast to carry on through another new day. The hot liquid washed over my tiredness, and I felt the energy coursing through my body.

I replayed all the numbers again in my mind, and a sudden realisation made me halt with the cup of coffee halfway to my lips. I jumped from my seat and ran back to my office.

Seeing the numbers and dates brought satisfaction to my tired mind. The bastards tricked us and wanted me to believe I was the one in the wrong. A knock on the door disturbed my concentration, and I snapped. “Come in.” My assistant entered the room and looked at me nervously. “Yes?” I said impatiently.

“The Japanese company CEO just called. He gave you until Monday before he calls the deal off.” She said steadily, trying to hide her nervousness.

A wolfish smile took over my face, and I clicked my pen a few times before I answered her.

“Call John and tell him to prepare the jet. We have a trip to make. Also, inform Hirokatsu that we will have dinner tomorrow. The location will be his choice.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sofia said and left the room.

I stretched my arms over my head with a satisfied smile on my face. Revenge plans swam inside my mind, and I could practically taste my victory.

“Are you a vampire?” Nina’s question surprised me, and I looked at her in confusion.

She rolled her eyes and sat up on the sofa. “You didn’t sleep at all yesterday.”

“How would you know that? You were snoring on my sofa the entire time.” I spoke teasingly.

“First, I don’t snore.” She said, holding one finger. When I just shrugged at her words, she raised a second finger. “Secondly, even a blind can see you didn’t sleep. Don’t you use a mirror?”

Laura interrupted my reply to Nina’s sassy words.

“The jet is ready. Your flight is in two hours.” She said with a small smile on her face.“Ok, let’s go,” I said to Nina while grabbing my phone and car keys.

“Where are we going?” She asked as she wore her flats.

“Japan,” I answered and opened the door to leave. When I was halfway to the elevator and didn’t hear any steps after me, I turned around to see Nina still standing at the door.

“What’s the problem now?” I was getting irritated, and my sleep-deprived mind didn’t help at all.

“Do you realise what you just told me?” She asked in bewilderment.

“I just stated our next destination,” I said simply.

“Ethan, I am not a ragdoll for you to drag around. I have other things I must do. I can’t accept this situation at all.” She said with anger in her voice, which surprised me a bit. I closed the office door and turned to her.

“What did you expect? You are the one who chose this.” I said coldly.

Nina let out a humourless laugh and shook her head. “Can you please stop reminding me of that? I know my choices very well. I understand what I had signed up for, but that doesn’t mean I will be your shadow in every step you take.”

I inhaled and exhaled twice before I fixed my eyes on Nina. “I don’t care about your opinion on the matter. Wherever I go, you go. I won’t repeat myself twice.”

“What the hell is wrong with you, Ethan? I didn’t take a shower since yesterday morning. I slept on a sofa because you bloody didn’t have the time to go back home. What did you think my response would be to you flinging a trip across the world at my face?” Nina spoke with her fists clenching and unclenching in suppressed rage.

“This is my life, baby. You have to get used to it. You either follow me, or I will carry you myself to the parking. Time is of the essence to me, and I don’t plan to start wasting it.” I said firmly, waiting for her reaction.

I watched the gears working inside Nina’s mind before she nodded her head and walked past me to the door. I followed her, and we drove the elevator in silence.

********************

As expected, the jet was prepared for our trip. I shook hands with John and wished him a safe journey. He was a skilled pilot and a trusted member of our organisation.

I sat on the sofa at the end of the row and did my belt. With my laptop in my lap, I looked up at Nina, who chose to sit as far away from me as possible.

I smiled at her antics and focused on the email I was writing for Enzo to inform him about my sudden trip. I didn’t disclose all the information to him through the internet. My phone might have been tracked or something like this.

“Do you want something, sir?” I looked at the stewardess who was carrying a tray in her hands.

“A cup of coffee,” I said and accepted the mug from her. I took a sip and prayed the hot liquor would keep me awake through tonight.

“Yes, of course, I want to have something. Someone here thought it was acceptable to leave from country to another without breakfast,” Nina said rudely with her eyes trailing my way. She paused a moment before talking again. “On second thought, can you leave the tray here?” The woman just nodded and put the tray on the table before leaving.

“By this rate, I will need to start working overtime to feed you.” I shot from my seat. Nina glared at me and looked down at the plate in her lap. She resumed eating without even sparing me another glance. I laughed out loud at her manners and decided to leave her alone for now. I started liking my decision to accept her in our world. Her company was so intriguing, and I realised how much my life was lacking a sense of adventure before I met her.

**********************

I blinked twice to adjust my eyes to the bright room. It took me a few moments before I realised I was still on the jet. I made a move to rub my eyes when I recognized my hands were tied behind my back.

I looked frantically around the jet to assess the situation. The first thought that crossed my mind was a kidnapping operation. My eyes caught Nina’s, who was smirking at me.

“What are you playing at?” I asked with suspicion.

“I remember old advice that says you must always sleep with an eye open when your enemy is with you in the same room.” She said with a smirk, while she was sitting cozily where I have left her before my short nap.

“You tied me?” I said in disbelief.

“mmm, yes.” She said with a satisfactory smile on her face.

“And may I know why?” I asked with my voice, not above a whisper.

“Consider it revenge.” She said indifferently.

“Will you be ready to face my revenge?” I asked with the same tone as before.

“Figure out how to untie yourself, and then I will worry about your revenge.” She said confidently with her arms crossed over her chest.

“And now, aren’t you concerned?” I inquired with my hands rope-free.

Nina opened and closed her mouth several times as if weighing the words she wanted to say. “But how did you manage to do it? I made sure it was flawless.”

“To be honest, it was flawless. It took me twenty seconds to undo it. Usually, I don’t take more than ten seconds to undo any kind of knots.” I said and stood up from my seat. I made sure to advance towards her at a deliberately slow pace.

“What are you doing?” She asked bravely, but her actions were in contradiction with her words. She had moved farther in her seat and was stuck to the end of it.

“I am taking my revenge. I thought we were in a truce, but since you think of me as the enemy, I need to retaliate.” I said with an arched eyebrow.

“Alright, go ahead. Do your best. I am sure it won’t be as shocking as waking up with your hands tied up behind you. If only you saw your face at the moment. It was hilarious.” It was amazing how she could change in the span of a few moments. I can’t detect any trace of fear or nervousness in her eyes. Her breath was steady, and her back was straight. She was ready to accept any challenge thrown her way.

“You are playing with fire, Nina,” I warned.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let it burn me.” She shot back.

A sudden shift in the plane’s movement made me jolt forward, and I nearly collapsed on Nina. I supported my body on the seat’s arms and looked down at Nina, who was staring at me in shock.

“Are you afraid?” It was the first question that came to my mind.

“You mean from you nearly crushing me with your heavy body.” She replied while rolling her eyes. I let out a laugh at her words and asked out of curiosity.

“You are really a puzzle. I don’t understand how you are afraid of riding a car for a few minutes but, at the same time, careless in the face of the plane’s turbulence.”

“It is none of your business.” It was like magic how her eyes hooded, and I could practically see the barrier she built around her. Her relaxed body went rigid, and her face hardened.

Before I can say anything, the pilot voice boomed through the jet, telling us to take our seats and put on our seatbelts.

From that moment onward, we spent the trip in complete silence. Nina, with her annoying video games that she didn’t bother to lower their music volume, and I was busy with some last-minute arrangement for the awaited meeting.

**************************

Nina:” Where are you guys? I want to see your positive reactions! Or do you want me to tie you up to a chair ;)?”

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