Walking through the busy street, I let myself lose in the swarm of rushing people with little pink clouds of cotton candy melting into my mouth. The fresh morning breeze swayed my chestnut locks away from my shoulders as tender sunlight delicately kissed my skin.
My eyes roamed around, and I felt content in my heart. I felt ordinary. Just like the moving crowd around me. No guards breathing on my neck. No weapons surrounding me.
With a content smile stretched across my lips, I closed my eyes for a moment and drew in a fistful air of breath. But the smile slipped away from my lips as I stumbled on my legs due to a sudden collision against a hard chest.
Looking up, I found a pair of electric blue eyes peering down at my soul. And my heart palpitated beneath my chest at the intensity of them.
What's he doing here?
Suddenly, a black shadow passed beside me, pushing at my shoulder, causing me to turn around. I couldn't even comprehend the object at the person's hand that shone under the sun, before it went for my stomach.
Breath caught in my throat, my eyes widened in horror as the warm crimson liquid soaked my white shirt. My hands were also painted in red.
But the panic set in when I couldn't feel any pain. All I felt was numb.
My gaze fell on the vague figure clad in black coat.
Leaning in, he whispered into my ear.
"Hello, little one."
My heart stopped in my chest, a shiver of dread ran through my spine.
No! No, no! It can't be! It can't be him! He is dead!
My hands went to grasp the figure, but he took steps back into the crowd, gradually vanishing into the air. My ardent eyes searched him among the swarm of people who seemed to be unaware of the blood in my hands and clothes.
Where did he go?
With shaky breath and weak knees, I took some step forward; my gaze still in search of him. And then my eyes fell on the person in black, standing at the side of the road with his back to me.
With bated breath, my hesitant legs approached him, and put a hand on his shoulder.
The sound of my slow heavy breaths echoed to my ears, as my eyes awaited for him to turn around.
And just as he angled his body to me, his face turning around, a splash of cold water hit my face causing me to jolt away.
And the next thing I knew, I was in the middle of my bed, panting and sweating, my hand wiping off the water of my eyes.
Hysterically glancing around the room, I found Alex standing there beside the bed with a glass in his hand, a frown set on his forehead.
"You okay?" The slight twitch at the side of his lips didn't go unnoticed by me despite his mask of concern.
I inhaled an unsteady breath, my heart still pounded down my ribcage.
It was just a dream. He is not here. He is dead. It wasn't real. Just a dream.
The cold water seeped through my t-shirt arising chilly goosebumps across my skin. Wiping my face, I scowled at him.
Don't show your fear.
"What the hell is wrong with you? What are you doing?"
He shrugged. "You should thank me, you know? I just saved you from dying in your dream."
"Dying? How did you know I was gonna die in my dream?" I asked incredulously.
I didn't die in that nightmare, though I was close. It's not that I didn't get nightmares often, but today, it was different. And…confusing. What did it mean?
My knees still felt weak under the blanket.
"The facial expressions you were making, it looked like you were being chased by a ghost in a haunted house. And you knew you were about to die." He placed the glass on the side table. "I do the same when I dream of a ghost."
"And how do you know what expression you make during a ghostmare while sleeping?" I raised my brow.
"My girlfriends told me," he replied in a nonchalant voice.
I cringed at the word in plural.
"You mean bedfriends?"
He just laughed, didn't even try to deny it. Grabbing a pillow, I threw it, smacking him right in his face.
"Don't you dare do something like that again. Or I swear to God, Alex. I will kill you!" I warned.
"Ungrateful, aren't you? I just tried to help you! Or should I say, the ghost? You would've scared the poor soul," he said, a mischievousness danced across his eyes.
I gritted my teeth. "Get the fuck out of my room, Alex McCommer!"
"Language, kids!" Mom shouted from downstairs.
His laughter filled the room as he crouched down gripping his knees for support, tears gathered at the corners of his crinkling eyes, but his cackling didn't die down.
"Oh my God! Y-you should've seen your face when I threw the water on you! It was epic!"
"I said get out!" I fumed.
At times like this, I hated him. But it was our thing, waking each other up in a weird way.
"Alright, alright!" he coughed, a defaulted effort of hiding his mirth. "I'm going. But get ready and come downstairs. Everyone is waiting for you at the breakfast table. Don't be late, I'm starving!" Calling over his shoulder, he walked out of the door.
"I will make sure you die out of hunger then!" I retorted back.
I heard his chuckle before he disappeared around the hallway, making me huff and lie back.
Visions of the nightmare floated back before my eyes. Then my mind went to the conversation in Dad's study I eavesdropped on last night.
One of our enemies came out of the shadow of our dark past. Russell Checknov. Enemies from the past. Maybe it was a trigger for my brain to remember and dream of a person, a past I wanted to erase from my memory? Though snippets of that day from nine years ago still haunted me in my sleep sometimes, this one was different from the others. It was odd. Although...the dagger in his hand, it felt all so familiar.
And then those blue eyes…DO NOT GO THERE!
A groan left my mouth. Why did I dream of him in the first place?
Shaking my head, I scrambled out of the bed and walked into the washroom.
Putting another mouthful of pancake soaked in dazzling sugar syrup into my mouth, I added one more sunny faced poached egg on my plate. The judging pair of eyes on me was long ignored by the hunger of my tummy. Even the nagging feeling of the nightmare was put at the back of my mind right now.
"So, Charlotte? How was your UK trip?"
Charlotte, the daughter of Mom's maternal cousin, removed her eyes filled with disdain of the amount of calories I was intaking, and looked at Mom plastering a sweet smile.
"Oh, it was great, aunt Juls! I went there for just a vacation, but I fell in love with English people. And now I think I will permanently shift there," she replied in her chirping voice.
"I agree, the people are amazing there. But what about your mom? I don't think she would like to stay here all alone," Mom said.
I unheard the rest of the conversation and concentrated on the French toast.
Chloe and Laura left early in the morning, they had some errands to run. And Jenna and Sam stayed behind, who were currently sending evil glances to the particular guest. They all knew of her hunting adventures around the world. Adventures of men hunt. Famous and rich. And this habit of hers had Chloe lose her high school sweetheart to her.
"How is your training going?" Alex asked, cutting on his pancakes and taking a bite.
The mention of my training and trainer had me roll my eyes. "As usual, boring and hard. That man doesn't know when to stop. He makes me train with him for hours even if my limbs give out. It sucks."
And here we were back to normal siblings. Our morning fight was long forgotten. When it has always been like this between us, Max was the opposite. Strict and short tempered.
He chuckled. "I know. I've been through this. Chang can be hard, but he is the best, you know? Though we don't work with Dad, we at least need to learn the basics of self defense in order to protect ourselves if a situation arises. You should be happy that he only trains you twice a week, he made me sweat everyday."
"Yeah, thank God for that!" I shook my head. "Do you know where Max is?"
I almost forgot about him being mad at me. Mom told me he went back to his apartment last night, he didn't even say bye to her. And it meant he was disturbed regarding something.
And I might know the reason.
"He is at Golden Palace. Some meetings he needs to attend," replied Sam, brushing his hand through his dirty blonde locks.
"I need to talk to him. You guys are heading there after breakfast, right?" I glanced at Alex.
Golden Palace was one of our hotels that he and Sam ran. And they were supposed to join a meeting there this morning.
"I will be slightly late, I need to head back to the office. Forgot some files. But Sam can take you there," Alex said, wiping the corner of his mouth with his napkin.
"Where is your secretary? He could bring them for you."
He sighed. "Shawn is already at the hotel. Today's meeting is very important. You could say, it can be a turnover for our business. And it depends on some stinky rich jerk businessman who will be there at the meeting. So he needs to be there to keep everything in check." A crease of irritation formed on his forehead mentioning that man. "That bastard can't tolerate any malfunctions."
At the corner of my eye, I noticed Charlotte's attention suddenly moved to our conversation. The word rich must've done the work.
"You seem to have a dislike towards this individual," I pointed, raising my brow.
His reasons must be reasonable, otherwise he wasn't someone to have aversion towards anyone that easily.
"You could say so. Anyway, take permission from Dad before you go. I don't want him to be mad again and blame me later for letting you go," he said, a look of displeasure set on his mouth.
Dad and he never really got along. Due to his dislike towards Dad's business and the restrictions we all had to endure because of that, his opinion always differed from Dad. Even with Max to some extent.
Sighing, I nodded my head and went back to my plate.
I had noticed the increase of guards around our house, and I was certain the same went with my bodyguards. I just hoped Dad would let me go. I even made Max's favorite cupcakes for him. And he could never resist this bribe of mine.
Getting permission from Dad was a tough bargain. He wasn't so pleased with the idea of me leaving home even for some hour. With Golden Palace in concern, he had no problem with me going there. It was like a second home to us, it was a safe zone. And both of my brothers' being there was a bonus in addition.
The problem was the road. He didn't want any incident to happen on the way. So, in return for the permission, he made me take along a dozen guards on my trail.
Equipped with arms, straight postures, poker faces and sunglasses, all of them piled out of the cars following behind me. The curious glances passersby casted at me made me uncomfortable.
They must be thinking of me being a celebrity or some VIP. Though it wasn't anything that hadn't happened before.
"Sofia, you go inside, I will park the car," saying, Sam drove away to the parking lot.
I turned to the guards who stood there, immobile like robots without a command. "All of you guys aren't planning to follow me around, are you?"
"We can't leave you alone, Miss. We have instructions," one of the guards replied.
Even I wouldn't want to be alone after last night. But parading through the hotel with so many men following behind me was just ridiculous.
"It will be really awkward to walk around with you all. I don't think even a lift will have that much space for all of you. So why don't only two or three of you come with me and the others stay here and make sure everything is fine? I'm just going to meet Max. It will be fine."
I wouldn't know they were glancing at each other through their dark glasses if not for the slight craning of their necks. After much hesitation, they agreed. But instead of two, four came along.
After exchanging greetings with Helen, the receptionist, I found out Max was in our penthouse situated at the top of this building. He and Alex often used it for long busy days or nights.
"Alright, thank you, Helen! See you later!" Waving at her, I ambled towards the elevator.
"Bye!" she chirped back.
Once inside the elevator, I pressed the button imprinted thirty-two, and waited for the doors to close. The all three walls including the doors mirrored our reflections crystal clear, as if they were made of glasses.
As the doors began to slide close, a sudden interruption halted their movement, sending them back wide.
A sleek black shoe.
Moving my gaze from the shoe, to its owner's face, my breath caught at my throat. The sudden skip in my heart didn't make any sense.
Adrian Larsen's blank and serious face held no emotions, but the surprise that flashed across his eyes staring into mine, told me he was equally surprised.
Clad in a black Armani with a white shirt underneath, no tie attached, he stood there with his mighty height before a five inch three toddler, me. The first three buttons of his shirt were unmade, granting the world a view of his hard pale chest. His hair combed back, in an unkempt way, and the one day old stubble around his sharp jaw gave him a rough look.
I was so busy taking in his appearance that I almost unseen the girl in a maroon dress, with an extremely low neckline.
With an iPad in her hand, she didn't even make an effort to glance around. Her eyes were glued on him.
The heady smell of his expensive cologne tingled my nostrils as he passed me and stood right behind, the girl stayed close on his side. Too close to be moral. The doors closed with a 'ping'.
I didn't have to look at the mirror like doors to know where his eyes were. I could feel it. The intensity that burned through me due to his sharp gaze and close proximity.
The guards were alert, eyeing the certain Alpha male standing tall and proud at the middle of the cramped space, radiating power that had them wary of him. They had orders not to trust anyone.
Suddenly the temperature of the elevator rose. Without my permission, my legs shuffled in their place. He was close. Close enough to feel his body heat against my back.
Goosebumps crawled onto my skin with the sharp intake of breath he took. My stubborn eyes looked at the doors betraying the order of my brain, only to meet his blue pools of black holes that had a way to suck me into them.
Flaunting a cotton shirt, the same jeans I wore in the morning, and with my hair tied in a high bun, I found myself conscious of my appearance. Which was absurd. Why did I even care what this notorious womanizer thought of me?
Irritated at my impulsion, I took a step ahead, creating some space between us.
A deep masculine chuckle resonated through his chest.
The time till the elevator reached his destined floor, was full of tension and silence. The minutes felt like hours in his overwhelming presence.
When the doors opened, and he started to move, I released a breath I didn't know I was holding. But I almost choked on it when I felt a hot air in my ear.
"See you, soon," the huskiness and certainty in his voice sent shivers down my spine as he whispered into my ear. And before I could even blink, he was out of the elevator; the girl hot on his trail.
What just happened?
I was so engrossed in my thoughts that my eyes almost didn't catch the sharp glance she cast at me over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner.
When we reached the penthouse, the guards took post right behind me. Loud music floated outside through the closed door. Is he working out at this time? He had a habit of enjoying blasting music while he worked out. Knowing he wouldn't hear the bell, I pounded my fist on the door several times and waited. After a moment, the music slowed down before the door cracked open. Thus a girl with wild hair and a skimpy black dress, one sleeve hanging down her shoulder, came out. Cheeks flushed, breathing laboured and lips swollen as she eyed me up and down. An annoyance set on her forehead. Well, he definitely was working out. Clearing my throat, I stretched my lips into a smile. "Hi! I'm here to see Max." She raised one of her arched brows. "May I know why?" Her eyes went to the paper bag of cupcakes in my hand. "I don't think we ordered anything." My eyes widened slightly. Did she think I was a delivery girl? Not that it was something bad. Those who did this job worked pretty
My visit to the pizza shop in a busy street, despite the guards' disagreement, reached Dad's ears. And that didn't sit well with him. I reached home to a fuming Dad welcoming me with his wrath. I didn't understand why he was so mad? It's not that I went there without any protection. And who would dare to attack me in the middle of a busy store? But that didn't deter him from insulting me before the guards, enunciating how careless and foolish I was. And that only fueled the fire of my smoldering temperament. "Didn't you think what could be the result of your ridiculous act? How can you be so foolish going between so many unknown people? Did you forget your promise that easily?" "I didn't break my promise. I promised not to go anywhere without any protection, and I didn't. They were with me all the time." "There is no point taking protection if you're t
I wiped my sweaty palm against the black pencil skirt and smoothed the royal blue blouse I chose to wear today for this special day. My first day at the office. I still couldn't believe I was standing here today, before the large office building. It's not that it was my first time coming here. I did, many times. But I didn't come here as an employee then. Though I could just work here as an owner, beside Alex. I had chosen to prove my worth before expecting people to work for me. Despite the dismay of my family, they were proud of my decision, I knew it. I saw it in Dad and Mom's eyes. It was still a matter of disbelief for me; the sudden change of my life. I still couldn't believe Dad would give me the permission to work with Alex. Even if I was going to work in my own family business, with my own brother, I was nervous. I couldn't tame the restless butterflies flutte
Letting out a huff, I slumped on the stairs, providing my butt and legs some rest. My arms held the bunch of folders tight against my chest. Sweat trickled down my spine and forehead from all the marathons I did using the staircase between the third and fifth floor. Not only me, the entire office was racing in this marathon that Adrian Larsen held kindly giving us this project. Even one minute late became a crime here now. So waiting for the elevator was out of the question. I had never seen the employees here working so fast before. That Larsen king wouldn't accept any default and sluggishness under his command. He was making sure he wouldn't have to face any kind of loss where he invested his money. He had set his eyes on here like a hawk all the time, if not him, then it would be his soldiers. I still remember the shock I got when Alex told me he was the one who gave this company this project. Though
Adrian's POV Loosing the knot of my tie, I paced around my office. My jaw clenched and unclenched, fists shook to destroy something; my vision turned red. How dare that leech come into my office building and abuse one of my employees! And then he dared try to hit Sofia! My Sofia! Fucking criminal bastard! My entire frame shook with rage. My hands itched to curl around his throat and… The thoughts disturbed me. My lips thinned at my own lack of self control. No! I've handed him over to the police, and made sure he rots behind the cells for the rest of his life. I didn't need to stoop to his standard. I didn't need to behave like a mindless criminal, some dirt of a local gang. I was not him. Even the word: criminal, brought a bitte
"Sofia, can you print those documents for me, please?" Tiffany, a girl from Blake Corporation, who was also working on the project, asked me from her cubicle. Temporary cubicle. Because we will be working here only for one and a half month. "Sure, just give me a minute." I took the documents from her hand and put them on my desk. As my neighbor cubicle, she was the one I interacted the most with. Thanking me, she went back to her work, exhaling an exhausted sigh. Work was running at its highest speed. Even if we started here just yesterday, it felt like we were doing this for weeks now. After the kickback Adrian Larsen gave us in yesterday's meeting, the team working on this project of our company and Blake's company immediately transferred to Larsen Group Of Industries. Well, for a time being. They spar
Closing the sixth file, I moved to the next one. The buzz around the office obstructed my concentration. I missed my cabin back in our office. The privacy was appreciated. Though my desk here wasn't that bad. And Tiffany's company made it better. A shadow loomed over me, making me look up. Sasha. Her blazing eyes glared at me. I raised a single brow. "The boss wants you in his cabin, now." Now it was my eyes' turn to blaze. "What does he want now?" This was the third time he was calling me in his office since this morning. Every time a new excuse. First he wanted me to report him on everyone's performance - even if this responsibility didn't fall anywhere near my job - the second time, he wanted me to fetch some files from the executive manager who worked in the other building. He was really wasting h
"Mr. Larsen, please! I beg you! Don't do this! I've a sick wife to take care of," a man in his early sixties begged.I was talking to Jason at the lobby, when Adrian strolled out of the elevator with that old man running behind him, pleading and crying. But not even an ounce of emotions softened his harsh features. With a careless manner, he walked as if no poor helpless man was running behind him for a glimpse of kindness. And his bodyguard, John, seemed equally disinterested."Mr. Larsen, please! Give me another chance. I swear, I won't give you any chance to complain!" he cried out, with his hands intertwined together before him as he begged."Enough!" Adrian bellowed.I flinched, so did the entire lobby around us. Eyes furious, he turned to that trembling man."If you want to get a job somewhere else in near future, I'd suggest you get out of my sight right