Her Empire, His Dominion

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Chapter Four

Patience has never been one of Sapphire’s greatest attributes. Perhaps that was one characteristic she inherited from her father. So, it wasn’t the greatest feeling when she found that she had to wait outside the massive gate for their boss to satisfy himself enough to let her in.

It seemed different from the last time she was here, she noticed. The gate was now painted in a deep burgundy colour, contrasting the white she once remembered. There were also more people guarding it. She had almost gotten herself killed when she parked in front of the gate and exited the car. Immediately, guns were pointed at her.

Sapphire had to raise her hands to show that she was of no threat, and then a slim, lean man approached her with questions. When she told him the truth of who she was, he instantly raised his gun to her head. She didn’t flinch this time since she expected it, and so all she did was pull the chain from her pocket to show him.

At first, he seemed stunned, grabbing after it as he believed she stole it. But Sapphire simply swung it from his reach with a raised eyebrow. Till then, she had been waiting on them to ‘query with the boss first’. It had been over five minutes, and she was quite drained from the flight.

The past two weeks had been hectic for Sapphire. Upon constantly convincing and unconvincing herself to make the trip, she sorted her business at home, and before she knew it, she was on a plane. D’Andre supported her all the way—always at her house and helped prepare. In some aspects, Sapphire believed he was being a supportive boyfriend, but she refused to be gullible enough to think that that was the only reason. After she told him about her father, he had changed, and not in a good way.

He was still his sweet, charming self, who cuddled her at night and made her hot breakfast, but he seemed more excited about the money nowadays. Sapphire tried not to let it bother her too much, though. She knew he was still paying student loans, and his job at the BPO didn’t provide as much stability as he had hoped. So, of course, he was a bit excited about her wealth. With this much money, Sapphire could help him a lot. It should’ve bothered her more, yet the sudden surge in his greed barely shook her.

Greedy or not, he cared for her, and she knew it. Even before he knew who her father was, he was always a gentleman.

Finally, the automatic gates made a loud buzz, and each panel slowly parted as Sapphire went back to her rental to drive in. The road was just as narrow as she remembered, except this time palm trees bordered the asphalt on both sides, giving it a more homely touch. It was still as long as she remembered, though, winding up the hill to the gigantic house she would soon call home—even if it was temporary. Sapphire threw the door closed and stood in front of the grey doubled doors with a deep breath.

She never used them before. When Enrique used to take her here, he always brought her to the back. Sapphire was smart enough to understand he was hiding her, and she didn’t understand why but never complained. The last thing she needed was a house of men peering at her.

As she reached for the door, it opened for her as if sensing her movements. It took her by surprise for a while until she saw a formally dressed man with a stoic expression and hair sticking out in all directions holding the door for her. At first, she believed he was the boss and found the gesture courteous. Without a word, he helped her shrug the coat from her shoulder and hung it by a rack. She smiled at him in thanks, and he simply nodded as if he understood the silent words.

But instead of following her, he folded his arms behind his back and remained in a statue-like state by the door.

“Oh,” she mumbled to herself, realizing that he was just a worker here. She should’ve known that the heartless man she heard about wouldn’t open the door for her and hang her coat.
Recomposing herself, Sapphire sauntered through the grand foyer that led to the living room. The `velvety carpet seemed like it was shining beneath her as she walked. The ceiling stretched high above her, with the crystalloid chandelier hanging at a length that seemed like five feet from the centre.

The room was painted differently, too, in a similar deep purple like the carpet. The boss—whoever he is—really did his best with the place. It looked nothing like she remembered, but it looked better.

Sapphire easily spotted the hidden cameras around the grand living room. It seemed like a unique skill of hers, and she had a feeling that he was watching her. Perhaps that was the reason why no one had come to fetch her yet. He was probably waiting for her to steal or break something—testing her from the minute she entered.

With her chin held high, Sapphire mounted the curving staircase, hand gripping the golden rails as her feet sank into the soft carpet draped along the ground. She found the office with ease, remembering how she would escape at night to search through her father’s belongings for a key so she could escape. She was almost sure that the new boss would find his comfort in the roomy office. Anyone would.

As she approached the door, a man appeared out of nowhere and blocked her way. She glared up at the stranger, trying her best to match his towering height with her 5’8. His eyes were cold and scrutinizing. For some reason, he was angry, and Sapphire had no interest in knowing why. Though his aura held power and authority, there was a budding in her mind that assured her that he wasn’t the boss.

“How did you get up here?” he growled in her face, baring teeth like a hungry bear. Sapphire cocked her brow at him without so much of a step back, and this, she noticed, unnerved him. Perhaps he was used to people cowering away from him. But even if she didn’t hold so much power, Sapphire knew she wouldn’t have bowed to him or showed any sign of fear.

“I am here to see the boss,” she simply said, gesturing behind him to where the door sat. “If you may excuse me.”

“Valentin doesn’t see strangers without an appointment, and I would’ve known about it.”

His name rang in her mind longer than it was supposed to. The name ‘Valentin’ sounded so loving and pure. Then again, she only assumed this because it sounded so close to Valentine. His name could have a completely different meaning.

“Let her in, Luka,” a deep, thunderous voice called from behind the door that almost shook Sapphire to her core. Almost.

“Who is she?” Luka, as she just discovered, asked with his eyes still trained on the glaring woman.

“No one important,” Valentin retorted, and Sapphire’s face morphed into shock as she heard this. Obviously, this man had no regard for the information his guards told him. For him to refer to her as ‘not important’ showed his gall quite well.

Sapphire could already sense that this would not be easy.

Reluctantly, Luka stepped aside with a wry smile on his face after catching her reaction to his boss’s words. She reached for the handle, and with one final glance at Luka, swung the door open. As she entered, she found him sitting in a big, black chair, with one foot perched on his knee as he held a newspaper in his hand.

Sapphire’s steps faltered a bit as she took him in. Handsome, he surely was, and brooding too. His cool olive skin was hidden behind a crisp three-piece suit, as his stone-cold grey eyes wandered avidly over the paper as if he was reading the most interesting article.

His lips were set in what she could’ve only imagined was a permanent scowl, yet it didn’t take away from his conspicuous handsomeness. Mixed—he definitely was. His curly hair seemed soft and effortlessly perfect, shaven sharply at both sides and bundled at the front. Sapphire grew curious if it was as soft as it looked. There was also a metal piercing on the edge of his perfect eyebrows, giving him an even more dangerous look. Sapphire wasn’t a fan of facial piercings, but on him, it looked… good.

“When you’re done staring, I suggest you get one with the reason why you are here.” He spoke without raising his head from his paper, and Sapphire felt her cheeks burning at the thought of him catching her staring. Soon, it turned to a burning annoyance in the pit of her stomach for his arrogance.

She wasn’t looking longer than a typical person would when seeing someone new, and while she was observing him, she was also assessing what type of person he was, even though she could already tell.

Holding her chin higher, Sapphire took three stern steps forward, leaving generous space between them, yet ensuring she was close enough to show that she didn’t fear him. She cleared her throat and folded her arms in front of her, expecting him to lift his gaze, but he didn’t.

“I am Sapphire Nieto—daughter of Enrique Nieto and heir to his business,” she said, her voice bold and confident. It surprised him—how strong her voice was—but he chuckled coldly under his breath as he turned to the next page.

“I know who you claim to be,” he mumbled. “I asked why you are here.” His English dripped with his deep accent, and Sapphire suspected he didn’t use the language as much as his native tongue.

Showing her defiance to his behaviour to her presence, Sapphire planted her feet two steps closer to him, and this was the bold move that finally had him lifting his gaze to her.

He wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the woman that struck him. Sapphire noticed the way his eyebrows shot up, as if in surprise as they graced the length of her form. His gaze wasn’t lustful, nor was it judging. It was simply pure curiosity being fed.

“If you are done staring,” Sapphire threw back the words he used earlier, “I would really appreciate it if you rest your news affairs for a minute to hear what I have to say. You can know how you are ruining the country in your reading later.”

Valentin raised his pierced eyebrow at her as his eyes found back her face. Her voice matched her features, that was for sure, and the woman had some gall.

“Lest you forget, you are the one who invaded my home with your puny claims, and I assure you that you have nothing of interest to me. I simply let my men let you in so I could tell you this: if you know what’s best for you, you will return to America right now and forget about that thing around your neck.”

Sapphire’s hand rose on instinct to finger the chain that she had rested around her neck, seeing that reaching into her pocket in a house filled with armed men wasn’t the best idea.

“And lest you forget, Valentin, whatever you believed you built here is all mine by law and by right. Now, I have no intention of driving you into the ground, but I have seen far too much of what you are doing with this country, and I will not stand by it.” Sapphire didn’t realize she had raised a pointer in his face until he stood from his chair and forced her hand down.

He towered above her even more than Luka, but she never once shrunk back.

“Is it that after eight years, you have finally felt the need to take on your duty? Or are you actually ready to honour your dear father’s legacy? Perhaps it is the mere feeble compassion that you have for a country you weren’t even born in that had you running here believing you could take my seat.” He paused, rounding the table to stand directly in front of her. Even now, when he suspected she would step back, she didn’t. “I hate to be the one to tell you, but that is not how this works.”

“Do you think of me as a fool?” she asked but gave him no time to answer. “I did not come here to drive you from your seat. Keep the damn seat if you must. Yes, I came to see to my duties that Enrique left to me, but I did not expect this to happen overnight.”

“So tell me then, Sapphire, what did you expect?”

Her name fell from his tongue lathered in his accent as he said it in a way she had never heard before.

“I would propose you keep your place while I direct your decisions. They are obviously flawed. I will help run this mafia the right way.”

The sound of his laugh filled the room as he rested his rear against his desk. He folded his arm over his chest, eyes dancing in amusement.

“I do not know what world you live in, but there is no right way to run a Mafia. And you are certainly not overseeing me. Is it that you want to call all the shots without actually doing any of the work? After all these years when I have built my dominion?” All traces of amusement fell from his face as he leant closer to her face. “It is not happening.”

Sapphire pressed her lips together as her chest rose and fell. Valentin caught the swift movement of her full chest heaving up and down, and it pleased him that he got a rise out of her.

“Leave, woman,” he mumbled as he moved back to his chair. “You have wasted your time and mine. For your trouble, I will send you back home on one of my jets, and you can forget the name Nieto. Because you are obviously nothing like your father.”

“And I am glad. I don’t want to be anything like him or you,” she said through gritted teeth, her anger rising by the second.

“Why are you still here?” He cocked his head to the side as if he was confused at her presence, feasting off her anger.

Sapphire wasn’t surprised, but she couldn’t believe that he dismissed her so casually. He, more than her, understood the weight her father’s name had, yet he threw it about as if it was nothing. Sapphire wasn’t proud of who her father was, but she knew damn well that if Enrique or another person with his last name, probably a man, was standing in her place, Valentin’s reaction would’ve been different.

Sapphire acknowledged that she didn’t know how things worked around here, which was why her original plan consisted of a proposition for him to attain his spot or perhaps a position below her, where he could still be the ‘boss’, while she cleaned up his mess.

However, Valentin made it clear that he had no intentions of working with her, let alone accepting her. But he knew more than anyone else that no matter how long she took to come or whether or not she knew how to run the business, it was her name on that title and thus, at her very presence, he should’ve been packing. They took an oath when joining the mafia, and sovereignty was a significant aspect of it.

Sapphire didn’t worry about the men. She knew some if not all of them would follow her, just by the memory of the guards’ faces when she revealed to them who she was. Yet, this man—whoever he was—felt he could dismiss her so effortlessly.

“You know they will follow me,” Sapphire growled just loud enough for him to hear.

“No, they will not because they shall know nothing of this.” His voice was collected as he warned her with his eyes. “Because you will leave right now if you cherish your life.”

Sapphire simply smirked at him, not saying another word as she marched to the door. With her hand on the knob, she threw her head over her shoulder, catching his gaze as she left.

“We’ll see.”

That was the last thing she said before strolling from the room with her head held high and her confidence never shaking. The door closed slowly as if taunting him as Valentin watched as she moved with her fiery tendrils bouncing against her shoulder with each step, much like her attitude.

He narrowed his eyes as he saw some of his men stepping from her path as she walked until the door finally relieved him of the sight.

He hated it, but he knew that he wasn’t getting rid of her as quickly as he suspected. And what he hated even more, was that the woman actually surprised him.

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