The young maid yelped in fright at the sound of her boss’s voice as she quickly spun around on her heels, being met face-to-face with a confused looking Sapphire.
She was standing at Valentin’s office door, just leaning against it as if she was listening in. Sapphire was on her way down for breakfast when she spotted Alyona. Every day she got weirder and weirder.
Sapphire raised her eyebrows higher as Alyona shifted from hip to hip.
“I was…um… I was just—”
“Don’t let him see you,” Sapphire said, saving her the embarrassment. “He doesn’t like being…watched.” With that, she continued her journey down the stairs.
She thought she heard a rude remark from Alyona, but she didn’t dwell on it. She was in far too good of a mood to get it ruined. However, the universe seemed to have had different plans for her, seeing that Luka and Elisa were in the kitchen when she arrived. Though Sapphire was now fully dressed for the day, they still regarded her in disgust.
Sapphire decided to avoid them. She had been feeling quite good about herself after seeing Valentin’s expression this morning about the men. It wasn’t about the glory. For the first time since she arrived, Sapphire felt like she made a difference outside of the Trevoga mansion. She had Alexey to thank for that too, and the thrill of knowing that she did some good didn’t stop at this. There were a lot of things left for her to do. But for now, breakfast was what she needed.
“Good morning,” Sapphire said with a beam as Katerina approached her.
“Good morning,” she returned as she filled Sapphire’s cup of coffee. She knew Sapphire’s routine by now. She would come down, grab a cup and complain about not sleeping the night before.
Katerina had gotten quite accustomed to her morning behaviours, and it always amused her how Sapphire could seem more and more interesting by the day.
Sapphire groaned. “Barely, but better than usual. And it is so weird, this morning all my clocks were tampered with. I woke up two hours late.”
“Hhmm, no wonder you took so long.” Katerina frowned as she grabbed Sapphire’s breakfast from the microwave, which she had made when she expected her to come down earlier. “Did you do it?”
“No,” Sapphire scoffed. “If I wanted to get up late, I would’ve just changed the time on my alarm.” Sapphire’s frown deepened as she tossed a piece of egg around the plate.
It had only occurred to her that she could be in danger. Her eyes flickered over to where Luka and Elisa were whispering. In some sense, she still believed it was them. But why would they anyway?
“I’ll just lock my door at night,” she finally concluded with a shrug.
Katerina gazed at her wide-eyed. “You sleep with your door unlocked?”
“It’s a habit.”
Katerina gave her a pointed look like a mother scolding her child. Sapphire chewed slowly on her food as she avoided eye contact at all costs. It simply never occurred to her to lock the doors. She knew that only Valentin and Luka stayed in at night. As far as she saw, neither of them were a threat to her life.
As much as Luka hated her and Valentin was annoyed by her, she knew none of them would hurt a hair on her head for obvious reasons.
“By the way, there’s a new young woman. She came looking for you, and we sent her to Valentin’s office.”
Sapphire’s face lit in realization as she sprung from the stool. “That’s right. I hired a new cook to join the team. Her name is Sophie, and she used to work at a bar in the city. She’s really talented. I should go and get her.”
“No need,” a deep voice boomed behind her, “here she is.”
Spinning around, Sapphire almost bumped into Valentin as he stood tall beside Sophie’s evident tininess.
Sophie seemed rigid and nervous until she saw Sapphire. It had been a tedious month trying to ultimately convince Sophie to work for her. First, there was the language block, and Alexey wasn’t always there to translate for them, even when the app helped sometimes.
Sophie was eager about working for Sapphire, seeing that she admired the young American. However, she loved her job at the bar, and the customers she had grown close to will miss her. When she finally agreed, Sapphire ensured that Sophie knew exactly what she was getting into, assuring her that all she would do was cook, nothing more, nothing less.
Sapphire had totally forgotten that she asked Sophie to come in today. Thankfully, they didn’t give her a hard time at the gate. Perhaps because the guards knew that she was in the process of hiring people. What she didn’t like was that Sophie was with Valentin alone. Who knows what traumatizing things he could’ve said to her.
“I would really like to know how you managed to hire someone who has no knowledge of English when you have no knowledge of Russian,” Valentin said as he met her eyes. He was still upset about earlier, and it was showing in his stance.
Sapphire scoffed. “Of course, I know Russian a little bit.”
“Net, ty ne.”
The evident confusion on her face revealed that his point was proven.
“Okay, fine. But I met her, and we connected,” Sapphire admitted. As much as they had the language block, Sophie and Sapphire meshed quite well.
Sapphire grabbed Sophie from Valentin’s side as the entire kitchen staff watched in silence. The hush whispers of their conversations had halted from the minute Valentin entered. Even the new workers were intimidated by him.
“Everyone, this is Sophie Woodwiss. She will be joining you all,” Sapphire said as Sophie blushed profusely beside her. The workers beamed at her as each of them got the very same introduction. “I know you will make her welcome and help her out until she is accustomed to the place.”
As always, Katerina stepped forward to take the new worker under her wing.
Sapphire handed her over, trusting Katerina to offer her warmth and hospitality.
Valentin rested his hand on Sapphire’s shoulder as each worker introduced themselves to Sophie. Sapphire grabbed her now lukewarm coffee as she spun to face him. As usual, his proximity affected her, so she took a few steps back, which he noticed.
“I need to talk to you,” he said stiffly, trying to keep his eyes on her face. She wore a blouse with a very deep cut, and her generous bosom was plumpy showcased. Her hair was pulled into a tight bun that seemed uncomfortable, yet it complimented her attire wholeheartedly.
“What’s the matter?” she asked as she followed him to the exit. He stopped at the door, being a generous distance away from everyone else, even Luka and Elisa, who were watching them keenly.
“I’m leaving in two days. I have a meeting with the head of the Sicilian Mafia,” he said, and Sapphire’s eyebrows shot up as she choked on some of the coffee.
“What? But they are—”
“I know,” he sighed, “I know, but this was a meeting planned from before I learnt the truth. They don’t know that I suspect them yet.”
“Suspect!” Sapphire said through a harsh whisper. “What more evidence do you need? Or is it because you heard it from me, you doubt me?”
“I don’t.” He grabbed onto her forearm and pulled her close to him, eyes blazing as he gazed into the depths of her soul. He sighed as he saw her relax and her pupils dilate. What he also noticed was the evident worry swimming around in their green pools. “Sapphire, I believe you. I would be foolish not to.”
“And you’re foolish now,” she said. “Are you forgetting that just because we suspected them now doesn’t mean they only recently became the enemy? They could’ve been against you from the minute you took over, Valentin. They were affiliates with my dad, and they had mad respect for him. Perhaps the only reason why they pretended to be allies with you was for the name of both Mafias’ sakes. But if they are so boldly against you that they would steal such a great shipment from you, can you imagine what they could be plotting for you?”
“Or they could simply continue acting as if we are allies. They don’t know that I know.”
Huffing, Sapphire shoved against his chest, sending him a few steps into the dark hall. “I’m coming with you. You are going there to die, and I won’t allow it.”
Surprisingly, Valentin chuckled. The sound was calming to her. “Sapphire, relax. I never go anywhere alone, and now I know to watch my back. I am only staying for one night, and I am staying at a hotel. Besides, I need you here.”
“Oh, do you?” She raised an amused eyebrow at him as she folded her arms over his chest. Was the great Valentin finally admitting that she was a good leader?
“With Elisa here, I cannot trust Luka with the business even for a day. She has a way of twisting his mind.”
“I shall keep that in mind.” Sapphire sighed as the memory of her clocks came back to mind. Who else could it be but them?
She yelped in shock when Valentin’s fingers brushed against her cheek and tilted her head upwards to meet his stormy eyes. Her breath hitched in her throat as she instinctively stepped closer to him. His eyes remained guarded, yet his expression seemed almost soft.
“I will be back on Friday. At first, this meeting was meant to make arrangements about a large operation we were planning, but now I can really get a chance to see how much they have taken from me.”
“Just… Just don’t do anything stupid,” she mumbled, sounding like a child after her parents told her they were leaving for a business trip.
Valentin’s lips curled to the side as he nodded. “I won’t kill anyone out of anger.”
Oddly, Sapphire found herself laughing. “Good. I can’t stand a bone in your body, but I don’t want you to die either.”
“If I die, then you’d get this entire place for yourself.”
Sapphire nibbled on her lip as she fiddled with one of his buttons. She didn’t even realize what she was doing until she caught his eyes lingering on the simple act. Still, she didn’t stop.
“Maybe I don’t mind… having you around. You make this exciting.”
“Do I now?” He raised an eyebrow at her as his thumb lingered at the side of her mouth. “Good to know.”
Silence fell between them for a while as they became aware of each other entirely. No one wanted to move or speak, but it was only when Sapphire spotted Alyona on the staircase that she pulled away. She was sweeping imaginary dirt.
Clearing her throat, she stepped away from his warmth as she met his eyes again. “I have some work to do.”
“More men to send to prison?” Valentin teased with a raised eyebrow. Sapphire rolled her eyes as she shook her head, spinning on her heels to leave.
But she was halted as he held onto her hand. “What were you saying this morning? Someone broke into your room?” he asked with knitted eyebrows.
Sapphire dropped her gaze to her feet but shook her head. “I don’t know what happened. But I already told Katerina that I will now lock my door at night.”
“You slept with your door open?” Valentin asked, flabbergasted. “Sapphire, you do realize where we live, right?”
“I know,” she sighed, “it’s fine, really. We’ll talk more later, okay?” Her eyes flickered toward the staircase again.
That maid was acting weird. Was Valentin’s sex that good to keep her so hooked to his tail? A sliver of both jealousy and curious want tingled in her veins at the thought. At first, Alyona seemed like a sweet young woman. Now, she was downright creepy.
Without even thinking, Sapphire found herself stepping into Valentin’s embrace, wrapping her arms around him in a bear hug. Shocked and taken by surprise, Valentin stood stiff, simply staring down at her for a while. When he had finally raised his arms to hug her back, she had already pulled away and ventured back inside the kitchen again.
It had been so long since he had gotten a genuine hug that he almost forgot what it felt like. Valentin cursed himself for not hugging her back. Now, his mind would not only be equipped with thoughts of how she would feel beneath him but how she would feel wrapped in his arms too. Oddly, the latter pleased him more, and he found it quite unusual. How could a woman’s hug entice him more than knowing the pleasure of taking her?
Why did Sapphire make him feel like he needed to hug her again?
He cursed under his breath in Russian, climbing the stairs with clenched fists at his sides, not knowing why or how Sapphire could do this to him.
Meanwhile, Sapphire was conflicted too. The minute she stepped into the kitchen again, Katerina wasn’t the only one to notice her flushed features. Elisa and Luka had been waiting for them to emerge from the hall and seeing Sapphire’s expression angered Elisa even more.
“I hate that bitch,” she snarled softly to Luka.
He nodded in agreement. “I told you that you would.”
“Valentin is leaving in two days. I think we should send her back to America once and for all. How dare she come here and command power so easily? I don’t care what her last name is.”
“Agreed,” Luka mumbled. “But how will we get rid of her without making it seem intentional?”
Elisa gaped at him. “You want to kill her?”
“You do know that trying to scare her away or send her back to America won’t work, right? We have to kill her and make it seem like an accident. Preferably in her room. It’s been raining a lot lately. She has a tiled balcony. A slip and slide accident wouldn’t seem too suspicious.”
Elisa nodded slowly, though her heart pounded against her chest rapidly. Killing might come naturally to Luka. He was, after all, the underboss of a Mafia. But Elisa had never done anything impeccably close. It was one of the reasons why she didn’t get involved in the Mafia after their father’s demise soon after Enrique died.
“If we do this, we put ourselves miles away from the scene, okay?” she whispered as they stared at the red-headed woman talking with the cooks.
Luka nodded as he took another swing from his glass. “This will work. It has to.”
“And then things can finally get back to normal.”
“Valentin won’t be this easily fooled, especially since someone is messing with her. Whoever changed her clock times obviously wanted something,” Luka added, causing Elisa to nod in acknowledgement.
“He will heal. There are hundreds of women in the world he can have as his whore. Just not this Nieto bitch. He can fire the entire staff if he believes someone killed her, as long as you and I are far away from it.”
Luka shared a look with her before they shifted their gazes back to Sapphire. She was now leaving the kitchen, and as if she could feel their stares on her, she threw her head over her shoulder to look at them.
They didn’t hide the fact that they were staring at her, and she quickly left the room with not so much of a second glance their way.
“Two days,” Elisa mumbled.
“Two days,” Luka agreed.
Now, all they had to do was plan.