Her Empire, His Dominion

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Chapter Seven

The sun glared at Sapphire through the slight opening in the window, and she groaned before pulling the covers over her head. Still, it only seemed to mock her by getting brighter. She had no choice but to swing the blanket over her head and glared at the window.

It had been the first time in years since she slept in a bed that wasn’t hers. The constant wrestling last night didn’t grant her the best night’s sleep either. Perhaps it was the pain in her head or the fact that her mind wouldn’t settle. But it was three in the morning that she actually got some rest. And now, the sun was out and beckoning her to a new day that she wasn’t ready for.

Grabbing her phone, she noticed that it was ten in the morning, and her eyes widened in shock. She hadn’t expected to sleep that late. In fact, she was supposed to go to the bank and some other places, and this time shoved her off schedule. Nonetheless, she didn’t see the sense of crying over spilt milk, so she simply went to the bathroom to wash her face before heading downstairs for breakfast.
Upon arrival, Sapphire noticed that the kitchen was equipped with chefs, all neatly dressed in uniforms. She paused at the door, unsure what to do or how to request space to make an omelette.

A short brunette spotted her and instantly stiffened before slightly bowing in respect. The action took Sapphire by surprise.

“Oh please, don’t bow. A wave is just fine,” she said, laughing awkwardly. However, the woman’s face feigned confusion as the sound of her voice caught the attention of everyone else. The large kitchen soon felt as if it was closing in as eyes all over focused on her.

She shifted from one side to another, not sure how to speak to them.

“Do any of you speak English?” she asked in frustration. A middle-aged woman with her hair pulled back in a sleek bun stepped forward.

“I do, madam. May I get you something? We were just preparing lunch.”

Sapphire’s frown deepened as she sat at the island a few feet away. “Please, call me Sapphire, and isn’t there any breakfast leftover?” Sapphire was starving. She didn’t leave her room after going in last night, and it had been hours since he had eaten on the way from the airport yesterday.
She wasn’t in the mood to wait until lunch was made.

“N-no, madam—um—Sapphire. But I would be happy to make something if you’d like?”

“Perfect. Something quick, please. Or you can show me where the ingredients are, and you continue with lunch,” she said before mumbling under her breath. “I wouldn’t want to upset Mr Stick-in-his-ass.”

The chef seemed to have heard as she snickered a little. “I’d be happy to make you something, madam.”

“My name.” Sapphire raised an eyebrow at the woman as she blushed profusely.

“I apologize. But the boss doesn’t permit us to use his name. Some of us don’t even know it.”

“Really?” Sapphire asked, and the woman nodded. “Well, I am different, and I am changing a lot of things around here.”

She grabbed an apple as she watched the chef stiffen far more than she already was. Then, a presence was felt behind her, and she just knew who it was.

“Are you now?” His deep voice rumbled through the entire room, causing the women to move even faster than they already were, as if on instinct.

With a huff, Sapphire spun on her heels to face him. He still towered over her, watching her with cold, grey eyes. She matched his glare, automatically adapting his energy. In all honesty, Sapphire didn’t want to despise him. She had hoped that they could’ve come to some sort of mutual agreement. But he was making it pretty difficult.

“I am, whether you like it or not. Now, I would like to have a proper talk with you later after I return from the city,” she said sternly, keeping her voice levelled.

Valentin’s eyes swept down her form. She barely wore anything but a spaghetti strap top and sleep shorts. Her curly hair was pulled messily into a bun at the top of her head, and the evident bags under her eyes seemed to have brought out their emerald colour even more.

His frown deepened. If this is the way she dresses in front of staff, then what respect would she gain?

“Miss-miss Sapphire. What would you like?” the woman asked from behind her, and Sapphire whirled around to meet her gaze.

“Anything without peanuts. Highly allergic,” she said, and the woman nodded before retreating to the stove area.

“So first you dress like you’re in your bedroom around the staff, then you have them calling you by your name. How will they respect you?” Valentin asked with his tone dripping with judgement.

Sapphire subconsciously glanced down at her sleepwear, and her hand instinctively tucked a red curl behind her ear. She hadn’t considered that her attire could’ve been inappropriate. At home, she was accustomed to wearing anything she liked, but she had to remember that this wasn’t home, and by six in the morning, the house would be crowded with men coming to do their daily duties.

Just at that thought, a man walked in with a bunch of papers in his hand, adorned in a three-piece suit like Valentin. At the sight of Sapphire, he instantly spun on his heels to leave after his eyes swept down the length of her body.

“Is this a house or a business place?” she mumbled under her breath as she tried to cover her bosom.

Valentin smirked at the sight. “Go home, Sapphire. This is not for you.”

Sapphire’s gaze became heated as she met his eyes once again. “Now you listen to me, mister, not because I have not fully grasped how things work around here mean I am not cut out for it. You know it, which is why you are trying to get rid of me. You can either work with me or stay out of my way because I am not going anywhere.”

With that, she smacked her bottom on the stool again, automatically giving him her back. The chef’s lips curled at this, and Sapphire caught it quickly before she hid her smile. She could still feel Valentin’s heat behind her. He didn’t speak or move for a while, and she simply nibbled on the apple as she waited for her food.

“How’s the head?” he asked out of the blue, his voice now void of all annoyance.

“It’s fine. Thank you.”

“Call the doctor. I’ll leave her number by your room door,” he said as he turned to leave. Was that concern? Sapphire wondered. But probably it wasn’t. Perhaps he was just teasing her, showing her that she couldn’t exist in this world without being hurt for a second.

Soon after, the chef appeared before her with a plate of food that had Sapphire’s mouth watering. She didn’t even know how it was all made so quickly, but she didn’t complain.

“Thank you,” she moaned as she shovelled a fork of deviled eggs in her mouth, relishing in the flavour that erupted on her tongue. Valentin was horrible at keeping peace in the country, but it seemed that he did a decent job with the staff.

“Do you like it?” the woman asked as if teasing her.

Sapphire gave her a knowing look. “I love it,” she groaned. “What is your name?”

“Oh.” The woman’s eyes shot up at Sapphire’s question. The men in the higher hierarchy around here never asked her name. They complimented the chef indirectly many times but never grew curious enough of who it was. “My name is Katerina.”

“Well, Katerina, you have a great talent here.”

Katerina’s smile widened as she fiddled with the dishtowel. “Thank you, Miss Sapphire.”

She still added formality to her name, but Sapphire suspected that was the most she would get.
She turned to return to her duties soon after, but Sapphire stopped her.

“Wait, sit with me,” she suggested, and she noticed the reluctance on Katerina’s face.

“I-I really shouldn’t. I have—”

“Will you say no to me?” Sapphire asked, after which she felt bad for using her power to get what she wanted.

Nonetheless, Katerina nodded before sitting in front of the fiery young woman.

“So, I suspect everyone already knows who I am. Tell me, Katy… I can call you Katy, right?” she asked quickly, and Katerina nodded, not daring to say no even if she didn’t like the nickname. “Good. So, as I was saying, what are people saying about me?”

Katerina’s eyebrows shot up a portion as Sapphire watched her in anticipation, gulping down some of her orange juice.

“Well, some people are only curious. Information spreads like wildfire in this business. An organized crime’s grapevine is the most active in the business world, I believed,” she said, and Sapphire nodded in understanding. “Some of the men are set on keeping their loyalties to the boss. Some are sceptical of who to follow now, as they all knew your father. The boss barely hired anyone new after Mr Nieto died….” Katerina stopped briefly, checking Sapphire’s face for hurt.

“It’s okay. I didn’t like my father,” she dismissed causally.

“Oh… Well, yes. Most men here and around the country where Trevoga operates are Mr Nieto’s men. They respect you and your authority, even though you haven’t made a formal outing. But, then, some of us are awaiting Mr Dominik’s instruction.” Sapphire raised her eyebrows at this.

“You said us?”

Katerina hung her head with a slight nod. “Da. The boss is a very…unforgiving man. Forgive me, Miss Sapphire, but most of us fear for our lives. If we decide to rebel against him, we are afraid he’ll hurt our families and us.”

Sapphire couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and her appetite was suddenly gone.

“He would kill people for loyalty to him?” she asked, and Katerina nodded slowly.

“He barely kills anyone himself, but one order, and they are dead.”

“He’s done it before?” Sapphire’s voice suddenly dropped an octave as if someone would hear their conversation.

“Yes. Well, he seems to be lenient with women. But with his men, he is very strict,” Katerina explained, and Sapphire plopped her chin in her palm as she rested her elbow on the hard, granite counter.

She knew Valentin was harsh, and his orders seemed cold. But she never suspected that asking others to follow her ruling would put their lives in danger. Would it be worth it to fight him? If he was willing to kill a ‘disloyal’ soldier, what lengths would he go to keep this Mafia in his name?

“But some of us believe that you are our hope,” Katerina whispered. “I don’t quite mind my working environment, but most women here wanted to leave for years but are afraid of him.”

Sapphire forced a smile as she rested a hand over hers. “I promise I will do my best.”

Katerina smiled at her in gratitude until her expression got suddenly scared as her eyes landed on something. Following her gaze, Sapphire spotted Luka, who was now glaring at her new friend.

“Is this what we are paying you for?” he snapped as he slammed his hand down on the island. Katerina flinched away as she scrambled to her feet. “Get to work now!”

Sapphire felt her ears rang as Katerina scrambled away. Utterly annoyed, she stood firmly before him with nothing but contempt in her gaze.

“How dare you speak to her like that? I was the one who requested her company,” Sapphire shot at him, at which he scowled down at her.

“Who gave you the authority to do that? I don’t care who you said you are, but you are not the boss around here. You are a mere visitor with the name Nieto.”

Sapphire regarded him in pure red. She thought Valentin was difficult, but this man was impossible.

“You have some nerve speaking to me this way. I don’t care if you fear your spot under Valentin’s ass will be in trouble, but whether you like it or not, I am your superior, and you will respect me.”

“You are a few years too late.” He laughed. “And I don’t care if Valentin eventually bends because of some stupid oath. But you will never be the boss of me. You are just a woman.”

“Try me,” she growled.
She was met with his fierce gaze as he gritted his teeth and shook with fury. Despite his talk, Sapphire knew that if and when Valentin bends, he would have no choice but to do so too.

Smirking, she retook her seat. “That’s what I thought.”

Luka let out a disheartening growl as he raised his hand and swung it in Sapphire’s direction. Luckily, her reflexes were on point, and she caught his hand just before it landed on her cheek.

It took a while for her to realize what had just occurred, and when she did, she felt fury she had never felt before. Jumping from the stool again, she shoved him so hard that he stumbled against the fridge. But he barely got a chance to recover since Sapphire was already in front of him, pointing a finger to his face.

“How dare you!” she screamed. “How fucking dare you! I do not know what world you think you live in, but you do not hit women!” She shoved him against the fridge again as he tried to stand to his full height. “You do not speak to them as if they are your slaves.” She gestured to Katerina, but she didn’t take her gaze from him. “And you DO NOT disregard my ability to lead just because I am a woman. Now, you are so lucky I don’t choose violence, or you would’ve met my fury for that stunt you just pulled. And don’t you dare try to hit me again, or I will not be so lenient the next time.”

And with that, Sapphire stomped from the kitchen, leaving Luka still pressed against the fridge, unsure of what just happened. On her way out, she spotted Valentin a few feet away, and the look on his face told her that he had witnessed the incident from the hallway.

Sapphire stopped on the staircase, turning to gaze at the men who were littered about the living room. Her curls had finally burst free of the band and tumbled over her shoulders in flaming coils, giving her the look of nothing less of a goddess.

“I will not stand for disrespect, violence and bigotry,” she started, gaining all their attention as she pointed at Valentin. “And I do not care how harsh you think he is or how much pain you think his wrath would bring. You haven’t met me, and you haven’t seen what my anger can do.”

Something in her voice sounded familiar to her. It sounded very much like Enrique, and the men in the room could see it too. For a moment, she didn’t like it. She knew she couldn’t hurt these people like Valentin does. But the fury she felt was fueling her every word.

She met eyes with Valentin, who was glaring at her as if she was a menace. “Not even from you,” she growled. “I am the daughter of Enrique Nieto, and I don’t care how long I took to come here. I am here now, and this is my empire, whether Mr Dominik likes it or not,” she spat, and with that, she spun on her heels and finished her journey up the staircase. Her hair bounced on her shoulder as she stomped each foot, and her hips swayed in a perfectly womanly way.

She was a woman indeed. They all saw that much. But they also noticed that she was just as much of a boss as Valentin.

Sapphire didn’t want them to fear her. Fear brings a form of respect because they are forced to do the leader’s will. She wanted them to respect her. And until Valentin and his men, especially Luka, understands the difference, they would always be conformed to this nineteenth-century mentality, where a woman is weaker than a man in every way.

But not in this world. Not in hers, at least.

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