Primed for Sin | 18+

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eleven : sign on the dotted line

H E R A

♥ ♥ ♥

“THIS IS WHAT you wanted to call me in for?” My question startles the dark-skinned man in front of me.

Jacob Hugues stares me down, leaning back in his chair and yet, his gaze has never left my figure. He runs a hand through the short hair on his head, sighs and then continues to stare at me.

I huff. “Not going to say anything?”

Silence.

I roll my eyes at this man and lean back into my own seat. Folding my hands over the black blouse on my chest, I just look around the office that I’ve been in for the past fifteen minutes. The office itself is painted in a white shade around me. There is a desk in the far left corner of the room when you enter and two chairs nearest to the door, at the desk, and a soft, comfortable chair for Jacob himself on the other side. There is a rubbish bin that is right under the desk—and one that is kicking itself in my foot right now. On the black wood of Jacob’s desk, is a laptop—that is not Apple, which is a sin—and one that he says works amazing for him. Pens, stapler, ruler, and random photo frames of dogs cover the rest of the empty wood space.

I always tell Jacob to get rid of the crazy dog photos.

He just responds back saying that he loves dogs and that when he gets old and wrinkles cover his entire body, he is going to buy a small little cottage in the countryside and buy thousands of dogs to keep him company.

Quite depressing but I can’t tell him that.

He’ll throw a bigger bitch fit than even I can.

I bring my eyes away from the place around me and then back in Jacob’s direction to see if his face has changed at all in the past thirty seconds or so.

Nope. He’s still the same.

“Look,” I start off saying, “if you have anything else to say to me about this job, I’m all ears. But other than that—” I stand up from my spot in the chair, black bag in hand. “I will be seeing you next time.”

I turn from my spot and start walking to the door. Each step of my diamond-studded sandals on the floor is a reminder—in my own personal way—that Jacob Hugues only has my attention for a short moment of my time. Continuing on my way to the door, I touch my hand to the doorknob—

"Fine!"

I smirk and turn right around. “Yes?”

Jacob huffs out a breath, his lips pinching together. I just know that he’s fighting to bring a smile onto his lips at my actions but is too mature to show it. “If you sit down, I’ll tell you more about this role.”

I smile—genuine. “Perfect. Right, what I was thinking.” I bring my hand from the cold metal of the knob and take the short steps to the chair that I was in before, and then sit down.

The smile grows wider when I hear the grumbles of words coming from his lips. Something along the lines of ′I hate when she does’ this as he pushes back his chair, stands up from it before coming in my direction.

A thousand thoughts tell me that he is coming to me—which explains why my first instinct was to stop breathing all together—but he just walks past me and out the door.

I release the breath that I’m holding.

It’s raw instincts that tell me to keep my guard up around people. Even if I know those people and trust them with everything in me.

Five minutes later and just playing Candy Crush on my phone and trying to pass a really hard level, Jacob comes inside with a folder in hand. A thick folder.

Seeing as the folder is big, the role must be big too.

“The tv show is going to be called Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse.” Jacob plops the file right in front of me before taking a seat back in his chair. “It’s a tv adaptation based on the series that was written by author Megan Ogley.”

I pick up the folder, feeling the weight in my hand. “A book written by a woman?” I ask, bringing my eyes to his own dark ones

Jacob nods his head.

I grin. “Great. We all know that book men written by women are the best. And the women are just badass . . . Well,” I say, “except Game of Thrones. Daenerys Targaryen has my heart you know?”

I see a smile come onto Jacob’s face; a shine in his eyes. “Everybody loves Daenerys. Even if she went a little mad in the end, everybody still loved her and continued to watch the show in the end. Just for her.”

“Are you saying that this show—Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse, is what it’s called, yes?—will be something along the lines of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.”

“Yes. It does align with those two concepts of magic and mayhem.” He gives me a once over with a raised brow. “I have a question for that scheming mind of yours: how did you know that the show has to do with magic?”

I look at the weight in my hands, the tan coloured file with black, bold letters that form ′Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse′ on top, before looking back at Jacob. “Honest answer? It was all in the title.” I point at the said title before continuing my words. ”Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse sounds like something that a fantasy author would place as their work’s title. I mean—would you call a teen fiction book Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse?”

Jacob opens his mouth instantly, ready to say words—

“You know what?” I ask, cutting off whatever the hell was about to come out of his mouth. “Don’t answer that. A teen fiction book would honestly have that title if it was about a bunch of rich, boarding school kids who have to hunt down a mafia boss or something and kill him. And then they all die in the end because they are kids . . . Maybe Pretty Little Liars could’ve had that name at some point.” The thought comes to me instantly

Jacob smirks, his dark cheeks moving to form adorable little dimples in its places. “You read my mind.”

“And yet, I said it first.”

“That’s because you thought that it was a good idea to cut off what I was going to say,” he explains, waving my words away with a hand. But then he shakes his head. “How did we go from a role for you—in the future, to teenagers whose whole life flashed before their eyes when they decided to kill a mob boss?”

I shrug my shoulders in return, saying, “Honestly, who knows?” I look at him, serious all of a sudden. “But tell me more about this role. I would do this if it is just like you said it is. A mix between Game of Thrones and Harry Potter,“—I open the folder—” well, sign me up.”

Jacob gives me a smile that says I knew that you would agree with me, before jerking his head in the direction of the folder. “The role that I have gotten is the main female lead who goes by the name of Freya Surrett.”

I look down at the character art that was made to depict Freya Surrett by artist Steve Pence. The woman was . . . well, she is fucking stunning. Brown waves that go till her ass and bright hazel brown eyes that are looking straight at me. The woman staring back at me is covered in a black silk dress that has a large v neck, showing the sides of her breasts; a slit along the sides of her legs and a single panel of silk in between her legs that falls to the floor. A gold chain-like belt is wrapped around her waist to define her curvaceous body to everyone who sees. It’s obvious that Freya is a plus-size woman with power.

This just adds a little bit more of in Jacob’s handbook that goes by the name of How to get Hera Langford to agree on what you say.

Freya herself sits on a black metal throne with a crown on her head, rubies made to look like crescent moons dotting the crown. She looks like a villain.

A Queen of Death.

Around the throne are flames, flames that are bigger and brighter than any I have ever seen drawn before while wisps of shadows wrap around the flames, hugging and comforting the flames.

Flames and shadows forming into one thing that’s whole will is to serve its master.

Freya Surrett is its master, and she shows it well.

I look back at Jacob, grinning. “This Freya Surrett looks like one badass motherfucker.”

“She is!” Jacob brings his hands together to form applause and claps his hands together. “How did you find that out? Is it ’cause you looked at the photos?”

Rolling my eyes at Jacob’s antics, a grin still makes its way to my lips. “I might love you Jacon, to the bottom of my heart.” I shake my head. “But sometimes, you get very annoying by your choice of words.”

“What can I say? I live to make your life a living hell.”

“Well get something better to do. It’s starting to piss me off.”

“Alas,” he says while shaking his head, “I can’t stop. It gets addicting sometimes that it is just second nature to me. The annoying you thing, I mean.” The man has a sheepish expression to his words.

I roll my eyes while flipping through the folder in front of me. Quotes from the book; a character profile of Freya Surrett; more art of the woman depicted by different artists. “Tell me more about this job.”

“Freya Surrett is a human baby—a changeling—living in—”

“A changeling?” I question, my eyebrows scrunching together at the specific word.

“A human baby that is swapped with a fae baby at birth or while the child is still in the womb. Something the Fae do for shits and giggles said in folklore that I’ve been reading about so that they can spread chaos on Earth.”

“Spread chaos?“My lips tilt just the slightest. “This sounds like something that I might do.”

“Of course.” He shakes his head. “But let’s continue without you interrupting everything that I’m going to say.”

“No promises, Hugues.”

Jacob stares me down for a moment, wonder in his eyes before he shakes his head and mumbles something under his breath—something that I couldn’t understand.

“She lives in Aetas, the faerie realm that is just in parallel to the human realm. There are seven kingdoms in Aetas—in other fae books they are called courts, but Megan Ogley decided that kingdoms sounded way better.

“But anyway, Freya is born in the Fire Kingdom, ruled by Cyrus. On her twenty-first birthday, she wakes up to her village destroyed by magic that she had never seen before and that she is the only survivor in her little town. She is then forced to come to the capital of her kingdom—Trebridge, where she comes in front of the other leaders of Aetas. Some shit goes down before the ruler of the Night Kingdom—Remus, tells the other leaders that he would be more than happy to take Freya to his kingdom because he suspects that the magic that was used to destroy the village is close to abilities that the fae in his land have. But she is normal; how would she be able to destroy a village overnight?”

That story . . . that story sounds like something that I might read.

I stare down at Jacob, waiting for more words to come out of his mouth. But when I see his mouth still closed, I narrow my eyes. “Are you going to say more or do I have to find it somewhere else?”

Jacob shakes his head side to side. “No, I won’t tell you more than that,” he pushes away from his desk for a few moments, leaning down and opening one of his drawers and pulling something out. He plops that something in front of me, ”You’re going to read about it.”

I now stare down at the object. A hardcover book that has the title Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse on a background of flames and darkness and in the centre, that same crown that Freya was wearing in the artwork of her.

I drop the file on the table, picking up the book instead. It feels heavy in my hands and I start flipping through the pages. The smell of a new book flutters to my nose. I breathe it in. And then I stop at the opening title of the page.

Snapping my head to Jacob, I ask, “Megan Ogley signed this for me?′

“Yea,” he nods to the book, “she sent me this personally. I think she really wants you to play the role of Freya. Oh!—and in that file, there is a letter written by her as well.”

I gaze at the said file, an emotion in me telling me to say yes to this role.

So that’s what I do.

“I will take this into consideration.” I stand from the table, grabbing the book, folder of the role and my bag before heading to the door. “But I’ll most likely say yes to the role.”

♥ ♥ ♥

I’M IN FRONT of yet another mirror again. Just like the night when I was forced to attend the Whittaker event by none other than Lady Brooklyn Whittaker herself.

But this time, it isn’t just me in front of a mirror. Two other women are messing with my hair, my face, my clothing. Pulling and tugging and nagging me into submission; telling me to do things that they want me to do.

After the meeting with Jacob, I walked out of his office.

. . . And then ten minutes later, I got a message from Jacob.

you’re on the laura kaminsky show at 5. don’t be late!

That was all he sent.

Twenty minutes later, I was dropped in front of the studio that houses The Laura Kaminsky Show and was then forced into a chair two minutes after I entered the building.

Now, makeup and straighteners and hair products are forced onto me while a stylist looks through the rack of clothes for something to wear. He just picks and picks things for me to wear to the show, either shakes his head when it is on my body or hums through his nose.

“This is what you should wear!” The stylist walks up to me with a jump in his step.

I eye the make-up artist duo around me, asking, “Can you guys give me a couple of minutes?”

They glare.

Fine. “A couple of seconds.”

The two stylists—one male, the other woman, look at each other before slowly nodding their heads in unison. “A couple of seconds,” the woman says, taking a few steps back.

I give them a small smile while hopping off the chair and walking to the stylist. Right away, he shoves the outfit in my hands.

“Go on! Try it on, girl!”

Laughing and shaking my head, I head in the direction of a curtain and change into the outfit.

The outfit is a beauty—utter beauty. The outfit itself is an emerald green, chiffon jumpsuit—perfect for the summer weather in New York. The material is soft and flows on my skin like butter and something that I’ll relish for the rest of this interview. Around my waist is an ivory white belt with a gold clasp to keep it in place. The jumpsuit comes around my neck in halter straps with a sweetheart neckline that—thank god!—keeps my boobs in place so that they are not bouncing around all the time while in front of Laura.

I take one look in the mirror in front of me, nod and then come out from the changing room. The stylist—Zac—looks in my direction while nodding his head. “Perfect!” He gives a small smile to the make-up artists. “And don’t bother changing. I know that Evie and Steve will make sure not to get some mess on the expensive fabric.”

“Thank God.” I huff out a breath, giving Zac a hug—while minding my makeup—before making my way to the makeup artists—Evie and Steve now, knowing their names.

The two of them make me get back into the chair and continue to do my makeup. And as Zac said, they are mindful of the clothing on me.

In two minutes, they’re done and taking steps away from me, exchanging glances with each other while placing praises on me with my beauty.

I shake my head, taking a small glance in the mirror. I get a glance at the natural makeup that they did while the heavy smokey eye adds some character to it. A sheer coat of lip gloss covers my lips, making them sparkle in the light. “You guys did an amazing job. Thank you so much, Steve and Evie.”

Even though they look like they want to throttle me to death for being late to the interview, they still give me nods.

I smile—and that’s when a woman comes in through the door, a microphone attached to her mouth. She covers it before giving me a look, grumbling, “You’re on in five minutes. Don’t be late.”

Then she’s gone.

“Don’t mind, Azure,” Zac says, “she can sometimes be a bitch to the people around her.” He points a finger to himself. “When I first came here, she would always get mad at me. I thought that it was about me being gay but turns out, she’s just a bitch to everyone. She was even mean to Evie and Steve here,” he explains, pointing at my make-up artists.

They have no response.

I shake my head before heading to the exit. “Thank you so much, Evie, Steve, and Zac, for taking care of me.”

Zac smiles. Evie and Steve look at me madly.

I smile, before opening the door and walking out.

That smile on my face comes of in an instant when I see that horrible woman from before and she’s—

She’s glaring at me. “You have two minutes left until you’re called on stage.”

I narrow my eyes at her, sneering, “Can’t you wait a second. So hostile.”

“Come on,” she mumbles, “let’s get to the stage entrance for you celebrities.”

Now I smile.

The two of us walk for a few seconds, passing doors beyond doors before I can see the set-up for The Laura Kaminsky Show.

Laura herself is on stage—blonde hair bright against the tan skin of hers, blue eyes shining in the reflection of all the lights above. Then I see her smile. All white teeth like in those commercials on tv about toothpaste. I see her mouth moving and words coming from the speakers above us.

“And let us now welcome the Gold of the Depths . . . Hera Langford!”

The audience bring their hands together, loudly and—

I feel a nudge behind me. “That is your cue. Good luck.”

That’s all the warning I get before I enter the stage, a smile on my face and my foot coming one in front of the other. I still have the same diamond-studded sandals on as this afternoon and since I am in no capability to wear any sort of heels, these sandals are as good as nothing.

My feet make small noises while crossing the wooden floor, the sound of the audience clapping their hands together for me sounds in front of me.

The set of The Laura Kaminsky Show is in colours of gold and navy blue. The floor is tan wood that looks freshly polished and shines in the lights above.

Right above the applause is a round of music played by the band near—the Rocky Blues is what I remember it to be called.

Laura Kaminsky smiles at me, bringing a hand forward for me. “Come, come, Hera. We have so much to talk about.” The woman’s black suit and blonde curls are placed to perfection.

I take a seat on the gold fabric on the couch, placing one leg in front of the other while leaning on the armrest closest to Laura. “I would expect nothing less from you, Laura.”

She grins. “Well, I heard about your movie, Black Marks, that came over a week ago and know that it is doing amazing in the movies.” Laura picks up something from the bottom of her desk before bringing it in front of me and the audience. “It has already gotten over three million at the box office.”

The audience applauds loudly, but I keep my gaze on the photo that Laura has brought out before me. The faces of Colin and I stare back at me, decked out in the badass spy wear that was given to us on the day of the photoshoot.

The anger that I felt on the day of my blackmail to Phillip when that son of a bitch left me to—

Stop, Hera! You are at an interview; you can’t create a scene.

My only acceptance of the words is a smile and taking a glance at the audience.

Their smiles at me are the only thing that is keeping me grounded at the moment. Each one is even more beautiful than the last, containing different emotions on their faces. Some have happiness on their faces; some have disdain; others have envy on their faces. Sure—it might be something that I should’ve hated but, I don’t know these people. They don’t know me.

How am I supposed to judge someone who I don’t know?

But . . . what they are giving me is real.

Unlike what Colin and the rest of the world gives me.

I turn back to Laura—who has her own smile on her face. She still holds that photo in her hands for a couple more moments before placing it back right where she found it before. Then she turns to me.

“Well, Hera,” she starts off, still smiling, teeth and all, “what are the details of your love life at the moment?”

Of course that she’s asking about this.

The audience oohs at the question, all leaning to the edge of their seats, waiting. Taking a single glance at them, I can tell that they are listening to every word that’s coming through my mouth and what will be coming soon enough.

Facing back to Laura, I smile before saying, “Well nothing is happening in my life. Love life or anything interesting after everything has finished for Black Marks. Unless you count the amount of fan mail that I get from teenage girls, telling me how much they love me.” And sometimes, the occasional letters from fifty-year-old men asking for nudes.

Laura shakes her head, blonde hair flying. “It must be so nice to get mail from an audience that you easily influence through your works.” She looks away for a moment, to a white sheet that is coming from the ceiling. “While we’re talking about your fanbase, I’ve got some videos from teenagers. And they have quite a few things that they want to tell you.”

The first video that comes up is one that is held on a beach, the wind blowing in the girl’s dark dreadlocks. The girl—no older than ten, I guess, is looking at me through dark eyes which hold even darker thoughts. Something has happened to this girl. The bigger question: why hasn’t anyone noticed that.

There is a bit of a scuffle on the camera—it moving up and down, words coming through.

After ten or so seconds, the girl looks back at me, waving her hand. ”Hi, Hera Langford. My name is Kaya and I just want to say how much of an honour it is to be talking to you.″ There is a bit of a pause for a moment before the girl, Kaya, continues on. ”I have watched lots of your movies, and your most recent one, Black Marks too. I want to thank you so much for giving power to women. I know that it is said that you came from nowhere, five years ago, and suddenly became a force to be reckoned with for men. I think that it takes guts for someone to do that,“—a smile comes onto her face, and on mine as well—” and be able to say no to all the males that tell you otherwise. And I just want to thank you once more.” She waves at the camera. ”Goodbye, Hera.”

The screen goes dark.

Hearing the sound of applause coming from the audience, it makes me start to clap my hands too. Even a tear might’ve slipped out from my eyes during that video. Sniffling coming from my side indicates that even Laura is tearing up at the video.

“Well, that was,—” More sniffling comes from the host of the show, “that was something that I feel we all needed to hear.”

“That was amazing, Kaya,” I say to the blank screen before facing the cameras. With a smile, I confess, “If you ever want to talk to me or reach out, you can always DM me on Instagram. I’ll definitely respond back to you.”

“That is a wonderful thing, Hera. I’m sure that if Kaya is listening to us, now or later when it’s on Youtube, she will definitely take up that offer. I mean—who wouldn’t want the chance to talk to the Hera Langford?”

The audience claps.

“Now,” Laura brings a hand together, “we have a few more videos to show you before I have some questions about the party last night at the opening of the newest Whittaker hotel.”

I smile and nod. “If the videos are as lovely as this one,” I point at the screen where Kaya’s face was before, “then I would love to watch them,”

Laura nods her head, eyes shining bright. “Let’s play them all.”

The videos all lasted about fifteen minutes for twelve more videos. They all had something different to tell me that all links to the final words: That I’m a woman in a man’s world, fighting my way out. They were all women—little girls and some just a bit older. The youngest was eight; the oldest was around her mid-fifties.

I know that some of my movies have nudity in them—sometimes me naked and yet, that older lady said nothing about my nakedness while watching a movie that I was naked in. She just smiled and told me all the wonderful things that I have done.

The last was even better than the first and all of them did something to my heart. Something that I feel like only these girls can do. They believe in me. And so I’ll believe in them.

I turn back to Laura and I swear that I could feel a sheen of wetness coating my eyes. “These other people—as well as Kaya—all have the chance to DM if they wish. I’m more than happy to talk to them about anything, I don’t care what it is but if it makes them happy, I’ll be accepting DMs from all of them.” I shake my head. “Or one of them, they can still DM me. And something else,” I feel the material of the emerald jumpsuit move while I change positions before saying, “you all might believe in me, but you should believe in yourself.” I face the camera and hope that all thirteen women are listening in. “You all—all women in this case, or men—have the power to be something that you want. And nothing will stop you. If you let someone tell you no, you can either agree with them, admit that you can not do it or you can say yes, you can do it, then go out into the world and become a force to be reckoned with. Make men fear you. Make people fear you”

Those words—those words are said to everyone, women or men or a little one-year-old in their crib, they can take it in and let them do with what they do.

It’s also something that I wish someone would’ve told me at sixteen—when things were bad. Really bad.

“I think that they would like it very much.” Laura nods towards the audience and to the camera. “Everyone, Hera!”

There is yet another applause—and something that I’m getting really sick of for some odd reason. How much have they applauded in the time that I’ve been here? Fifteen? Sixteen? The number is growing and yet, I’m getting tired.

After a few moments, the clapping starts to slow down to none—and I feel grateful for that.

“Now that all the videos are over,” Laura starts to say, folding her arms on her chest and leaning forward, “let’s answer some questions that I have made and some that the people are asking about.”

She goes under her desk yet again to pull up a piece of hard paper, with the logo of the show behind it, and something on the other side. “There have been some . . . photos that were taken of last night with you and,” she shows a photo to me that makes my blood run cold, ”Colin. Care to tell the audience what this is about?”

I take a good look at the photo in Laura’s hand. The quality of the photo is itself not that good but I could still tell what is happening in the video. That wonderful blue dress, tight at the top and flowing at the bottom, swishes as I take my steps forward . . . and Colin in tow. It’s me, and I’m dragging Colin to God knows where. I remember that this is the time that I was running away from Nina, Brooks’s mother, and all the bullshit that she was telling me. I was feeling bold, a little reckless and prone to making bad decisions.

Looks like that Colin and I almost having sex was one of those bad decisions.

I should’ve noticed that there were paparazzi around, taking photos of the event to write an article about how well the opening of the new hotel was. Maybe about the Whittaker family themselves and how they are powerful.

Not that powerful seeing that I’ve blackmailed the CEO of Whittaker Industries into doing my bidding.

I plaster a smile of fakeness and falseness onto my face. “Nothing happened.” I shrug my shoulders like it was nothing. “It’s just that I needed to tell him something important that Brooks—you know, Brooklyn Whittaker, sister to the CEO of Whittaker Industries and fashion model told me.”

“And what did she tell you?”

Allowing a blush to spread on my face, I explain, “She told me that Sabrina and Marie Clarke were at the opening of the hotel. Let’s just say that . . . Colin has some history with Sabrina from a couple of years ago.”

That earns a gasp from the audience.

That’s what you get for running away from me, you son of a bitch, when I needed you. I smirk at the thought.

“Really?” Laura exclaims before shaking her head. “How have I never heard of this?”

“Colin likes to keep his secrets, well, a secret.”

“And yet you let this one slip?”

“Let’s just say that after that photo was taken, he was not very nice to me,” I tell Laura.

Game on, Colin.

Let the best movie star win.

♥ ♥ ♥

I TELL THE driver to stop the car in front of Central Park. The driver gives off quite the fight but in the end, he allows the car to stop and me to exit.

Taking a deep breath, I step out of the car and into the evening environment. It should be around five-thirty, maybe six. The interview ended ten or so minutes ago and started at five and between those two, Laura and I did a lot of things to use up time.

“Thanks so mu—” But he was already gone, driving down the streets.

I shake my head, and I feel the material of my black blouse against my skin and the denim jeans on my legs and I just take a walk down the street. I have my black handbag in my hand, the folder and my copy of Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse in the other.

I start walking down the outskirts of Central Park, the coldness of summer nights piercing its way through my clothes and into my skin, but I don’t mind it at all.

I appreciate the cold.

My walk takes me around the bend and then across the street to—

To my favourite ice cream shop.

The last time that I was here was before I found out what Brooklyn’s twenty-third birthday present will be. An image of Bainbridge Hall appears in my mind when I enter the shop. A bell rings above me and I smile at the teenage boy who is working at Rainbow Creations.

“Welcome to Rainbow Creations,” the teenager says in the most bored tone that I’ve ever heard. He makes me want to yawn and shout at him at the same time. “What can I get you?”

“That’s a hard choice to make,” I mutter, gazing at the different ice creams in the freezer in front of me.

Rainbow Creations is a lovely ice cream parlour that I’ve been to so many times in the past five years that I’ve lost count of it. The walls are white, like clouds while the tables are white marble or wood (depending on where you’re sitting; outside is wood, inside is marble) with rainbows on the tables. The ceiling itself is baby blue and contrasts well with the other objects and furniture.

I look back at the teenager—only to see his eyes widen with recognition.

“Holy shit!” he exclaims and I could see a blush form on his cheeks. “I—well, I just want to—” he stops for a moment, glancing to the side, “I just want to say that I love your work.”

This kid is flustered.

“Thank you.” I smile at him, tightening my hold on the things in my hands. I glance down at the ice creams, musing to the boy over the counter, “I have no idea what type of mood I’m in for today—for ice creams of course. Can you recommend me some?”

The teenager looks at me like I just named a planet after him.

“Of course.”

He rushes around the parlour, pointing to different variations of the same ice creams that he can offer. The words that come out of his mouth are fast, quick-paced and sometimes, I can’t understand what he’s saying.

He comes back to me. “That’s the ones that I can say but if you want some more, I’m sure that if I check in the backroom there’ll be more and—”

“How about you tell me what your favourite ice cream is here? Or gelato?”

My question startles the younger male and his already wide eyes, widen even further. He’s surprised by my question; I would have been to if the most talked actress of New York walked into the ice cream shop during a boring shift. That would’ve made my day.

The teenager scratches the back of his head and then rubs his hands down his neck. “Umm—my favourite ice cream would be the chocolate brownie monster surprise. It is chocolate ice cream with pieces of brownies and M&MS in them.” He points to a box to the side. “Nobody ever gets it—I think that’s the reason why I would always get it. Unless if you would like one of the more popular ones—”

“No, I’ll get it.” I pull my handbag to my front before taking out my card. “Do you do tubs? If it is chocolate ice cream, then a tub would be a necessary option.”

The teenager smiles before pointing towards the back room. “Yeah, we have tubs. I just need to go to the freezer to get it. Be right back.” And then he’s gone.

I smile at the boy. He’s nice . . . Cute. That reminds me. I open my handbag, pulling out a twenty and stuffing it in the tip jar. Go buy something cute, kid.

The boy comes in from the back room with a huge cardboard box—just like the ones that hold the frozen treats in the front. He dumps it on the counter, creating a boom because of the weight.

I bring my card out, ready to pay for it—when I see the boy shaking his head.

“No,” he tells me, “it’s on the house for you.”

“Why?” My eyebrow scrunch. “I would like to pay for it. I’m a paying customer and more than happy to pay.”

The teenager looks to the side, and I see him pulling in his lower lip, biting on the flesh. “Alright,” he sighs out. “Your total is $49.58. Card?”

I show him my card and he indicates it to the paying machine. I just press it on the screen and it approves. Smiling at the boy, I move forward to pull the sweet goodness to me before stopping. I look to the side of the tub. “Do you have a bag?”

He nods and bends down for a moment before coming up with a black tote bag with the Rainbow Creations logo on it. “Here.” He picks up the ice cream tub and places it in the bag before giving it to me.

“Thanks.” I grin, picking up the bag and walking out of the ice cream parlour. I pull my handbag out of my hands and shove it into the tote bag given to me.

It might ruin the expensive material but I would rather get that trashed than the things given by Jacob for a potential job that I’ll most likely do.

Outside on the street, I start making my way home.

It is cold as I walk down the New York streets. I wish that I had brought a jacket with me. But how was I supposed to know that I had so much on my plate today? I just got a call from Jacob, telling me to come and meet him; nothing about the other things that I have to do today. Like The Laura Kaminsky Show.

If that wasn’t there . . . I would have already been at home, doing what people do on a lazy day.

Passing people on the street asking for a photo or an autograph, I just ignore most of them.

Lot’s of things are going through my mind. But one stands out.

What would Phillip Whittaker’s next move be to the blackmail?

And let’s hope that it comes soon.

After a while, I come in front of the glass doors leading into the hotel. I smile at the people at the front desk—who smile back at me, waving an arm and shouting their love to me because of the appearance on The Laura Kaminsky Show.

Everything in my hands—the folder for the new job, the hardcover copy of Kingdom of Ruin and Ruse, and the tote bag that has inside the really huge tub of chocolate ice cream and my handbag, all make it in the nearest elevator without everything falling on the floor.

Especially the ice cream. That would make me really upset.

The elevator goes up, to the top of my penthouse and before I know it, I’m in front of my door, raffing around for the keys.

The sun had set long ago and if I had the capacity to go outside, right now, I know that Venus would be visible. And then I would fangirl over the Greek Goddess of Love because she is fucking amazing.

“Found it.” Those words are said with happiness that I could never fathom.

I’m tired.

First the meeting with Jacob, and then The Laura Kaminsky Show and now, I’m tired and ready to hop into bed, eat my ice cream and watch Mean Girls. The first one.

I bring my key close to the door, ready to open it before stopping—and then frowning.

Why is . . . Why is my door open?

I never leave my door open. Even if I’m going down to get my mail.

That brings me on guard. I place everything on the ground except the tote bag with the ice cream. Slowly, I inch to the door, opening it slowly. The door makes a creak; I flinch in response but still keep a brave face.

Opening the door fully, I walk in, tote bag in hand to hit the intruder with it if I need it.

The lights are closed. My adrenaline goes even higher for a moment; blood pumping through my body makes me realize that this is real. This is not fake.

I take a step into the space. Five. Then ten.

Nothing happens.

Maybe no one’s here.

I nod at my thoughts, placing my bag down, sighing. I walk back to the elevator and pick up the folder, the book and my purse.

The feeling that someone is in my penthouse is still there but it has dimmed down. Just the slightest.

Walking back in, I pick up everything—even the tote bag—and place everything on the nearest surface. I sigh, glancing down at my feet and now I feel pain in my feet.

This is what happens when you walk from Rainbow Creations to home with things other than the ice cream itself.

I quickly take off the sandals and as soon as the weight comes off my feet, I release yet another sigh.

This is life.

I pick up the ice cream and walk in the direction of the kitchen, my mind headset on placing the ice cream in the freezer to make sure that it doesn’t melt anymore. When I enter the kitchen, I turn on the lights because for the past five minutes, I’ve been walking in the dark.

I’m surprised that I hadn’t bumped into anything and then, tripped and fell face first.

I turn to the freezer before pulling open the door and placing the ice cream into the coldness to harden. I tapped the top of the cardboard. I’ll see you later.

Closing the freezer, I make my way back to the book and the folder and along the way, turning on each and every light until the penthouse is filled with light, brightening up everything.

“I didn’t know that acting paid this well that you can afford this.”

I scream, dropping the book in my hand to the floor—

And right on my foot.

“MOTHERFUCKER!” I yowl, pain pulsing in my feet that forces me to grab onto it and start to massage the surface for only a few moments.

Pain turns into anger right after.

Anger, in its purest form, starts to race through me; hot, molten, ready to burn who is in the way.

I turn in the direction of the voice, ready to pounce like a mountain lion in the intruder’s face—and then I frown for a moment. Just a moment before my eye narrow, my nostrils flaring in anger,

“You!” I point a finger at him. “You have no right to come here.”

“Don’t I?”

Phillip Whittaker looks like the smuggest person ever today, standing in my living room like he owns the place—which he doesn’t.

My penthouse is off-limits to everyone.

Except for people who I invite in, of course.

Phillip comes my way, hands in his pockets while gazing around the place. “In the dark, I couldn’t see that well. You know—don’t have night vision and neither do I have my night vision glasses. Not at the moment.”

“You have night vision glasses?”

“You don’t have it?” he questions me, stopping five feet in front. “I thought that it is a necessity for anyone living in New York to have one.”

I smirk. “I think it’s just you.” I then sneer at him, pointing to the space around me. “Now . . . do you have a reason to be in my house at this time.”

“Of course I do,” he shrugs, “if you could follow me.” Phillip turns around before walking to the seats in the living room and sitting down with power in his steps.

This reminds me of last night—if the roles were reversed.

While following him, I notice a set of papers on the table that is placed in front of him. I sit opposite him, gazing at the papers—and the pen at the side.

“You said that you want a marriage, yes?”

Is this really happening? Is he agreeing with my terms? I nod.

He gestures to the paper. “Then sign on the dotted line and make it official.”

♥ ♥ ♥

new chapter up!
hope that u guys like it
and it’s just about to get interesting
(p.s - that book—kingdom of ruin and ruse is a future project! stay tuned for that)
xoxo, kira

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