Her Empire, His Dominion

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Chapter Nine

It had been yet another torturous night of no little sleep for Sapphire. But it hadn’t been because of her inability to slumber in a foreign place, but her talkative boyfriend instead. No matter how many times she told him that it was past midnight in Moscow, he still chatted away, since he was on his way from work in the afternoon in America.



Even though she eventually fell asleep on the line, she had barely gotten much rest, seeing that she had to be up by six in the morning. So, Sapphire wasn’t in the best mood today, and Valentin was the first to notice.



He took advantage of her mood by making all the decisions himself, never once running them by her first. Sapphire was too exhausted to protest. In the past week of working with Valentin, she learnt that he was a very authoritative person. When she would request something from someone, most times, they turned to him for clearance.



But on the contrary, sometimes they didn’t go to Valentin at all. They simply went directly to Sapphire. She was adapting faster than they all expected. She even took Valentin by surprise. Valentin showed her the basics, from in house operations to the broader international aspects of the business. She mostly managed the internal affairs, starting with the staff who wanted to leave. That had been their first considerable disagreement. Sapphire believed that the workers had a right to leave if they wanted to without facing consequences, but Valentin was more concerned with the short staff. Fewer maids and cooks meant slower progress, and as Sapphire learnt, he hated slowness with a passion.



Nonetheless, the search for new staff was already in progress, and Sapphire ensured that each candidate was willing and understood what they were getting into. Only two people had agreed so far, one for the kitchen and one for the house duties. Katerina stayed, though, and secretly, Sapphire was glad.



Luka had not been happy for obvious reasons, and Sapphire steered clear of him, never asking him to do anything too much out of his way. She didn’t trust a single bone in his body. In his mind, Sapphire working with Valentin was foolish and pushed him to third place on the charts rather than second.



He made his disapproval known anytime the two were together.



Despite all the progress they’ve made, they still didn’t mesh well together. Most of the decisions started as heated fights, and Sapphire grew quite frustrated with Valentin’s keen arrogance and stubbornness. He barely spoke unless necessary, and if she asked him a question, it would be followed by silence for about a whole minute until he answered her. He barely made eye contact with her either, and the only time he looked at her was in the mornings when she would join him, and he would assess her outfit for the day.



Sapphire didn’t want any sort of friendship with the man, but his coldness towards her and everyone else was highly intolerable.



The day ended quicker than she anticipated, and Sapphire found herself driving into the city to get a break from the house. She still didn’t know a lot of places, so she went back to the bar she first went to on the night she arrived.



Just like last time, it was filled with people and the eeriness of the Saturday night. She decided to take a table instead of heading to the bar like the last time, thinking it would be wise to get something to eat. She hadn’t been having a lot of food lately, and it was showing from the way her waistband felt loose. The thought bothered her. Sapphire had never had a thick body type, but she wasn’t thin either, and she didn’t want to start now.



She waited at a doubled table by the window as she scrolled through countless messages from Tiffany, complaining that the diner needed her and she should come back home ASAP before she ‘hops on a plane and drag her back herself’. The very verbose message humoured Sapphire that she didn’t even notice that someone had taken a seat in front of her.



Looking up from her device, she noticed that it was Sophie, the same bartender from the last time she was at the place, this time sporting a welcoming smile. She also wore an apron around her waist, suggesting that she was the waitress for the night. What confused Sapphire, though, was that Sophie was sitting in the seat across from her.



“Uh, hi,” Sapphire mumbled, not sure if the petite woman would understand the general greeting.



Sophie’s eyes brightened at her words, and she quickly grabbed her phone from her apron pocket, tying vigorously on the screen before the phone spoke to Sapphire.



It literally spoke. “Hi. I’m Sophie,” the automated voice said, and Sapphire noticed that the waitress had gotten an app that could allow them to communicate. Her lips instinctively pulled in a smile of her own at the thought. She realised that Sophie seemed interested in her language from the night she first came here, but she didn’t notice it was this much.

Still, the young woman’s enthusiasm impressed her.



Sophie gestured to Sapphire to take the phone, and with a chuckle, she reversed the settings and returned the greeting Russian. Sophie’s eyes brightened as she repeated Sapphire’s name. She then punched a few more words in the phone before allowing it to speak again.



“May I grab your order?” it asked, and Sapphire laughed out loud at the question. She suspected that Sophie meant ‘take’, but she knew that these translation apps were sometimes off by a word or two.



Quickly, Sapphire showed Sophie what she would like to have on the menu card without typing into the phone, assuming it would be clear to the waitress. Sophie nodded as she grabbed the menu and stood, quickly typing again as the voice echoed from the device.



“You have a nice laugh,” it said.



Sapphire blushed. “Spasibo,” she returned, automatically causing Sophie’s features to brighten even more. Sapphire didn’t know much Russian, but she picked up ‘thank you’ since most of the staff would say it to her before leaving to complete their tasks.



Sapphire smiled after Sophie as she left. She seemed like a lovely young lady who was evidently attracted to Sapphire’s accent and language. Sophie didn’t know that Sapphire would return to the bar, yet she went out of her way to interest herself in the American tongue.



The bright beams of pink and orange splashed across the sky over the horizon, and Sapphire had a perfect image of it all. Though the parking lot was blocking the view of the water, she could see the city lights being illuminated one by one from where she sat, as well as the flash of car headlights on the bridge that led to the city. It was a beautiful view, and it calmed her as she waited for the food. As much as her day was awful, this much of it was great.



Something familiar caught her eye, and Sapphire noticed that it was a car she recognised pretty well, even though it was only one time since she had ever seen it. She narrowed her eyes and grabbed hold of her phone again, still keeping her attention trained on the dark figure that sat behind the tinted glass. She then reached into her purse, happy that it was the same one she brought a couple of nights ago when she first came to the bar and shuffled through it for the paper with a specific phone number on it.



It rang a few times before it was answered, and when it was, the guilt in his voice was evident.



“Alexey,” Sapphire growled. “Why are you stalking me?”



He laughed innocently before answering, and Sapphire watched as he hopped from his car and approached the entrance, realising that his jig was up. “It’s great to hear your voice again, Sapphire. I never thought you would’ve called,” he said, avoiding her question.



“So, you stalked me?” she retorted as a sliver of guilt rose in her mind too when she realised that the cop had barely graced her thoughts this week. She was far too concerned with keeping positive thoughts about Valentin so she wouldn’t go against her better judgement and kill him in his sleep.



Alexey strode inside, taking Sophie’s former place in front of Sapphire as they both ended the call.



“I wasn’t stalking you, Sapphire. I—”



His statement was cut short when Sophie appeared with Sapphire’s food, looking absolutely scrumptious.





“This my favourite. I asked the chef if I could cook it for you,” Sophie’s helper said; this time, she spoke to the app rather than typed it. Sapphire’s eyes widened at this after taking the first bite, totally avoiding the slight grammar issue from the automated voice.



“You made this?” Sapphire asked, completely forgetting that the girl couldn’t understand her. As a bit of help, Alexey quickly translated for Sophie, and her eyes brightened again as she nodded.



Sapphire shovelled a few more filled forks of pasta in her mouth, holding onto Sophie’s wrist to keep her at the table. She quickly drew a line across Alexey’s number on a scrap of paper before replacing it with her new local number instead. Then, she met eyes with Alexey again, completely forgetting that she was annoyed that he followed her but only concerned with the message she wanted to send across.





“Tell her that if she would like a job that pays triple what she can make here, she can call me at this number,” she said to Alexey, and despite his confusion, he passed on the message as Sapphire handed her the paper. Sophie had some talent that they could use in the Trevoga mansion.



Sophie eagerly nodded before scrambling away, seeming sure about the opportunity before she even made the call. It then occurred to Sapphire that she wouldn’t be able to understand her, but she had enough people around her who could assist either way.



“What was that about? You’re hiring people?” Alexey asked, halting Sapphire’s eating for a second.



“Yes,” she mumbled through a full mouth. “As I said, I’m changing things, and I started internally. First, I let all the helpers who wanted to leave go, so I’m replacing them.”



For some reason, Alexey’s eyes brightened at this. “What can I do? I can cook, you know?” He wanted so desperately to be on the inside that he forgot a keen factor.



“You have a job, Detective.” She exaggerated the ‘detective’ much more than needed to prove her point. Disappointment replaced his smile as he thought deeply about it for a while, but Sapphire then remembered why he was here in the first place.



“And why are you still following me?” she asked, a little snappier than expected. “I thought you trusted me.”



“I wasn’t following you. If you had listened the first time—”



“So you just happened to be here the exact time I’m here?”



Alexey chewed on his bottom lip for a while before answering. “Okay, maybe I did follow you... But—” he added quickly as she opened her mouth to most likely cuss him out. “—but I swear I was going to approach you normally. I was at the mansion today, doing my weekly stakeout. When I saw a new car exiting the gates, I grew curious until I noticed that you changed your car.”





“Yes, I bought one. A rental didn’t seem like the smartest thing for months,” she explained impatiently.



“Right. I don’t have a telephone number for you, so I was going to trail you until you noticed that it was me again, so we could talk.”



“But?” she asked, sensing that he had something else to say.



“But I couldn’t give myself away. I wasn’t stalking you, Sapphire. I was watching the men who were with you.”



Sapphire coughed as a creamy coil made its way down her windpipe instead of her oesophagus as she stared at him wide-eyed.





“Who was following me?”



Alexey himself seemed confused at her bewilderment. “Wait, you didn’t notice that two cars were behind you? Yet when I did it, you noticed after like ten minutes? They left about two minutes after you did.”



“From the mansion?”



“Yes,” he confirmed. “I thought they were your bodyguards or something.”



“Are they here now?” she asked, dropping her voice an octave as if they’d hear.





Alexey nodded as he nudged his head over the bar area where indeed, two bulky men in suits and earpieces sat, sipping on what seemed like water. How did she not notice?



“I kept my distance just in case they thought I was following you and got suspicious.”



But Alexey’s voice was barely what Sapphire heard. Instead, she felt utterly aggravated that she was being watched. Luckily, Alexey wasn’t dressed in uniform like a cop, or else Valentin would’ve probably already known.



“I can’t believe he sent people to watch me,” Sapphire complained as she threw a few notes on the table, leaving her half-eaten plate there as well. Her appetite was now gone. She only had an appetite for one thing, and it was Valentine’s head.





“Are you okay?” Alexey asked in concern after seeing her frustration.



Sapphire simply nodded as she stomped from the bar with her head held high. She needed to have a talk with Mr Dominik because he obviously didn’t understand boundaries.

***

With fire following her every move, Sapphire marched through the gigantic house with one mission in mind.
She wanted to get to the bottom of this, as she really wanted to know if it was really Valentin who sent men to watch her. She knew better to assume it was for ‘protection’. Valentin could care less about her safety, and even if they were in some alternate universe and he did, he would’ve sent men with whom she was familiar. Those men at the bar were new to her. She had never seen them in her life.

With a heaving chest and grinding teeth, she barged in his office, not once knocking like she usually did. His head rose on instinct as if he was daring the intruder to come closer, but he dropped his angry gaze when he noticed that it was only the nappy tongue woman with a high temper and over the roof self-confidence.
Valentin noticed her frustration but found no interest in figuring out why. He was busy packing away his papers for the day, and this didn’t seem like something more important to him than his dinner that was waiting for him downstairs.

“Yes, Sapphire?” he asked with his tone dripping in boredom.

“How dare you?” she demanded, though he still didn’t lift his gaze as he tucked his folders in their respective drawers.

“You have to be more specific, Sapphire. I dare to do a lot of things.”

She didn’t even think it was possible, but her anger rose even more as she balled her fists at her sides, her nails digging uncomfortably in her palms.

“How dare you send your men to watch me? Can I not go about my business anymore?”

“Of course you can,” he scoffed, “I have no interest in where you go and with whom.”

Sapphire narrowed her eyes even more. “So those two men weren’t sent by you?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t deny that I sent them.” He let out an annoyed breath as he relaxed in his chair, seeing that his dinner would have to wait until he appeased the woman.

The stars in the sky twinkled like the amusement in his eyes after he really saw how pissed she was. For some reason, Sapphire being worked up pleased him. It was sort of like revenge for how she made him feel every day. He couldn’t stand being around her more than the ordinary.

“Why?” she finally asked. It seemed like she was trying to calm herself down, and Valentin
thought not quite yet.

“You’ve been to the city three times during this week, and you are just taking notice of my men?” He laughed. “Why?”

Sapphire’s eyes widened even more, and Valentin recognised the flare in her eyes that he was already so familiar with. The way her cheeks flushed pink and her full lips pulled in a thin line, and the wrinkles that formed between her eyebrows as she pulled them together were all so familiar. But this—this was far more than he had ever noticed.

She stomped closer to him, closing the distance between them as she raised her finger towards him. Valentin didn’t miss the way her hips swung even more prominent with each step as if her anger enhanced the rigid act. In fact, he was always aware of her features and found them quite appealing. If only they hadn’t belonged to a woman so impeccably unbearable.

Still, a small part of him said that he was only so interested in keeping her angry all the time, because of the way her wrath heightened everything about her. Her green eyes, the movement of her body and even her hair seemed like it was actually on fire every time she was worked up. The power that radiated from her also made him only feel more powerful himself, as he would always tower over her and match her ranging authority. The woman never backed down, though, which made the challenge even more enjoyable.

But what he enjoyed the most was her belief that whatever she said or did could make him flinch. It amused him that she believed her threats evoked fear in him. Perhaps the only thing she had over him was her threat to call the mafia to her order, as he knew it would be a bloodbath when men turned against men for choosing this or that side. But she could never say or do anything to shake him.

Even now, with her finger lifted to his face—a habit she seemed to like—Valentin didn’t move an inch.

“You have no right to have people following me without my knowledge,” she told him. “None! And I want them off my tail from this day onward. Am I clear?”

Valentin believed it would be a little more interesting to taunt her a bit more. “Then how will I know if you aren’t a traitor, Sapphire? I sent them to watch you because I don’t trust you.”

Sapphire gaped at him, giving him just what he wanted. This was his genuine reason for sending them, that much she could see, and she couldn’t help the tiny hurt that ran through her veins for a second.

“How could you work with me and not trust me, huh? As awful as you are, because believe me, you are terribly disgusting, I inflicted some level of trust in you, as I believed we had somewhat of the same motive here. Luka, I don’t trust, but you?”

“Don’t get it twisted, Sapphire. You cannot trust me, as I do not trust you. We are but mere enemies working together only because it was forced upon us.” His tone suggested that Sapphire was the one who forced these ‘conditions’ upon him. “And we share somewhat of a similar interest here, so we worked together.”

“What similar interest? Guns, profit and human suffering. Because that is all you, Valentin, not me!”

He smirked at her as he leaned forward in his chair. “I was thinking more of world peace and eternal happiness. But that works too.” He wasn’t taking this seriously, and it bugged Sapphire to the point where she nearly launched herself over his desk to grab onto him.

She had never been the person for violence, but Valentin was asking for it.

“Take your men off my back. That is not a request. That is an order.”


Valentin didn’t like that she ordered him. Nobody has ever had the gall to do such a thing before, and even throughout the week, she had kept her opinions and suggestions in high regard, but she had never ordered him before.

Sapphire had already dismissed herself and was on her way to the door when Valentin went after her and stopped her, slamming the door shut with his palm when she opened it. She whirled around to face him but realised that he was directly in front of her with his hand still on the door.

His eyes no longer held humour but slight annoyance as he glared down at her. “You do not order me,” he growled in her face.
Sapphire shoved him away, taking him by surprise as she flung the door open and stormed through it. Valentin went after her and grabbed her hand, stopping her from going further as he jerked her to face him again.

It was his time to be furious. The fire in his eyes penetrated her soul as he slammed her against the wall, using his large hands to cage her in.

Sapphire didn’t even wince; she only matched his heated stare as their chest heaved together. They were only mere centimetres away, and she was aware of all of him as his masculine scent filled her senses. None of them spoke for a while, challenging each other in the rawest way possible, twining both their power into one.

Sapphire was the first to calm down, as his closeness suddenly made her more aware. She tried to move away, but Valentin met her movements by pressing his body closer against hers.

This was his only mistake, as he could feel her entire womanly figure beneath him squished against his hard chest, and her rising and falling chest wasn’t helping either. Sapphire noticed, too, as she let out a quick gasp that parted her lipstick-stained lips.

Her eyes searched Valentin’s, trying to see if there was any will to step away, but she was met with nought. Her breaths became faster, and it was no longer because of anger but a different type of heat that they both were feeling. Sapphire wanted to shove him away, yet she wanted to pull him closer and relieve her frustration for the repulsive man in the strangest way possible.

The thought made her believe she was crazy, and without thinking, she snaked her fingers around his biceps, hoping she would be able to move his hand away. But she was met with his sharp breath instead as the muscle flexed beneath her fingers. She pulled her hand away as if she touched fire, and suddenly she felt vulnerable under Valentin’s captivity.

He noticed her defeat and how her pupils dilated, which only evoked his own surrender to her murderous bewitchment. Sapphire gasped when she felt a new body part pressing against her as her eyes went wide and met Valentin’s again. But she found that they were trained on her lips as he slowly licked his.

Soon, he leant in, and as much as she wanted to run, scream and fight, Sapphire found herself glued to her spot, anticipating what would come next. Because if she was being honest, she wanted to ease the curiosity in her mind. She wanted to know if his lips and tongue were better for something other than irritating her and dropping rude comments. But most of all, she wanted to know if this single act would cool the burning anger she had hidden away in her mind from the very first day she met him.

And Valentin did too.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?”


The two jumped away from each other at the sound of a foreign voice, breaking them from whatever trance they had been in. Valentin rubbed his temples as a line of curse words fell from his lips. Sapphire instinctively adjusted her blouse and hair as if they had been ruffled, ensuring to keep her eyes on the ground. But it was seconds after that Valentin realised that it was a woman’s voice who broke them up.

The only woman who was allowed on this floor was Sapphire. Even if it was one of the maids, they would’ve held their heads straight and walked away.

He looked up, daring to see who was brave enough to not only trespass but speak with such confidence too. But when he did, he was frozen yet again in a shocked state as his eyes fell upon his sister.
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