•5• Priscilla

Ruben doesn’t play. 

As I wait at my desk, waiting for ‘something to be sent my way’, I think about what’s happened since morning. First, Gerrard Southerford himself witnesses my interview for the position of a law consultant in his company. Second, it becomes helluva lot apparent to me that he hates my guts the way he stared me down in the Interview Room. 

And somehow, I still end up with the job?

And then, Argo Smith, one of the senior consultants on the team takes it upon himself to introduce me to his only son, who turns out to be the manager, and then Remo tells me that Smith ‘runs half the company’?

I know for a fact that he’s no partner in this company; Gerrard’s not the kind of person to share even a fragment of his success with someone else who didn’t even contribute to it. 

Then how could Smith run half this company?

My mind drifts back to the events of this morning again, mulling things over and over, trying to make sense of it. 


I snap out of my thoughts to see a tall girl in a crisp yellow pantsuit peering at my face in question. 

I sit straighter. “That’s me.”

The girl smiles, placing a black folder on my desk. “Ruben sent this for you.”

I stare at it, then glance back up at the girl, but she’s already leaving. 

That’s it? ‘Ruben’s sent this’?

The fuck am I supposed to do with that?

I open the file and see the heading on the first page in bold letters. It reads ‘Crawford Firms’. 

When I skim through the text on page, I realise this file isn’t a report on Crawford Firms. 

It’s a case study. 

The fuck?

”It’s a test,” Remo whispers from beside me, and I feel a frown sag my brow. 

“But I’ve already been selected, haven’t I?” I ask him. 

He shakes his head. “No matter how long you’ve been here, Priscilla, Ruben never stops testing you.”

I feel like Remo’s grinding his jaw. 

“Before him, the law department was heaven to work in. Practically,” he tells me. “But ever since he was appointed ‘manager’, life’s been shit for us at the office.”

“Why don’t you do something about it?” I ask him, confused.

Remo shakes his head, laughing pathetically. “What is it that you think can be done about it? When the CEO can’t get rid of that piece of shit no matter how badly he wants him gone, what do you expect from us employees?”

Whatever Remo’s saying is going way over my head. 

Gerrard doesn’t want Ruben here? Then why doesn’t he just kick him out? 

Ruben Smith... Argo Smith’s only son.

I realise the real question isn’t about Ruben at all. It isn’t even about Gerrard. It’s about Argo Smith. 

Who is Argo Smith? And how is he making Gerrard do things he doesn’t want to?

I realise with a shiver that my gut feeling about Smith was right this morning. He isn’t one to be trusted. 

“Don’t worry about it, Priscilla,” I hear Remo say then, “your job is yours. Ruben’s tests just decide who he’s going to fuck with for the rest of the week.”

Huh. As if that’s supposed to help. 

There’s something wrong with this company’s top management— that’s for sure. 

But what that is, is what I’m going to have to figure out. 

Because it just doesn’t sit well with me that Gerrard Southerford disapproved of me and I still got the job— and Argo Smith himself entrusted me to his son when some fucking peon could’ve done that. 

I turn my attention back to the case study— I’ve got to figure this out first. 

I almost groan. 

* ^ * ^ * ^ *

Two and a half hours later, and I'm almost finishing up my case study. In this half day that I've spent at Southerford Inc. as a law consultant, I have two things figured out very clearly. One, Ruben is a schmuck, and second, Remo is a sweetheart. Ever since I began working, he's been giving me heads-up on said schmuck, who's been eyeing me like a hawk since I opened the case study file. 

When Remo first informed me that Ruben's watching me, I asked him why that was. All he'd said was: "He's just making sure you're not taking any help."

Of course, telling me all this while pretending to sip from his empty coffee mug was his trick to not get me in trouble with our manager.

I'm revising my work one last time when I hear a tap on my desk.

I look up.

Ruben's grinning down at me. 

And I'm grinning up at him, but underneath that façade, I swear I'm mincing my teeth and flipping him off— with both hands, obviously.

"Priscilla, darling, you've been working all morning," he coos, his eyes scanning my work as he speaks, after which he sets his gaze back on my face. "Come, take a break, okay? It's time for lunch."

When he tells me that, I feel how hungry I actually am, because it's not just the work I did; the mental exhaustion I've had since morning, with the interview and Gerrard and Smith...

I smile at him, but I can tell that he knows it's fake. But I can't help it— being fake is never something I could excel at.

"That's great, then," I tell him, closing the file and sliding it his way, patting its top, "the case study is done, Ruben. I'm sure you'd want to have a look at it."

I say that to him in a voice as emotionless as possible, because I want to get the point across that I'm not one of those people who are going to butter up to him. 

Because I want to let him know I mean business.

He laughs, gathering the file, but unlike I thought, he doesn't leave.

I don't have a good feeling about this. 

But apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way, because Remo, who'd been lingering back to take me with him for my first lunch break, pauses uncomfortably when Ruben doesn't leave.

Painting on a nonchalant expression, I ask, "Is there anything else, sir?"

His grin falters at 'sir', but he regains his composure. "Actually, there is, Priscilla. You see, there's this very important case that I've been working on, and I want you to help me with it."

I'm uncertain. His gaze is challenging as he stares me down, but this is work—law. I know law. As unwilling as I am to work with him, as long as I can do what I do best, everything should be fine.

"Oh, and then later I can take you for lunch. You don't have to worry about that," Ruben says, waving his hand in the air dismissively and turning on his heel. "Come on up, Priscilla."

I share a last look with Remo, who mouths at me to be cautious, and then I'm up, making my way after Ruben.

He's walking way ahead of me, and in these three inch heels that I'm wearing, I jog after him. But to my surprise, he's heading to the right, out of the department and to the elevators. 

A sinking feeling develops in my gut.

"Ruben?" I say as we wait by the elevators, "Where are we going?"

He smiles widely. "To Gerrard's floor."

My brain blanks out.

G-gerrard's floor? But why?

Was something I did amiss? 

Was my behaviour earlier so out of line? But Ruben's actions are so... predatory, how is it my fault that I reacted that way?

I steel my spine when we enter the lift. 

Because if Ruben's taking me to Gerrard to tell on me, then I'll show him that I'm not going down without a fight.

My manager presses 17, and the elevator doors shut. We go up.

I'm silent the whole time, focusing my energy on thinking about how best I can explain to Gerrard that I wasn't the only one at fault. But the only thing my mind keeps telling me is that why would Gerrard listen to me when he can't even bare to look at me right?

But then it strikes me. 

Gerrard doesn't like Ruben either.

I sigh when the lift dings open.

My job's safety depends on only one thing now. 

On who Gerrard dislikes more.

* ^ * ^ * ^ *

The lift opens right into a huge lobby, which, when I walk out, notice is completely empty. In fact, the whole floor seems devoid of people. 

All corridors.

All glass-walled rooms... Everything?

A creepy feeling tingles down my spine as I follow Ruben into the second glass-walled room on the left of the wide corridor.

"Um, Ruben?" I ask, entering after him while he keeps his back towards me. "Why is... why is nobody here?"

He turns to look at me for a short second before going back to the drawer he was opening. "I told you. This is Gerrard's floor."

I glance back behind me, and survey the corridor once. There's still no sign of anyone.

Is Gerrard running late?

I swallow thickly.

"Where is he?" I ask nervously, but Ruben's still too busy retrieving files from those pristinely polished mahogany drawers. 

To my surprise, though, Ruben laughs. "He's busy."

A frown forms on my brow.

But then, still distracted by his files, Ruben mutters, "Why else would I come here when he's not around..."

I can't believe my ears. As if after his distracted revelation, I start noticing his movements. They're stealthy, hushed— suspicious.

I don't know why, but the fact that he said that he's only here because Gerrard isn't makes me feel like he's snooping around.

In Gerrard's office.

Involuntarily, I take a step back.

I don't want any part of this; it feels wrong.

I glance back towards the corridor again, but this time I know that no one's coming. For some reason, knowing the fact that Gerrard isn't here is scarier than him being here, when I was scared of losing my job. But this is just-

"Priscilla, darling, come here," Ruben says, gesturing for me to come forward.

My stance falters as I stare at him. But I know he won’t take no for an answer; snobs never can. So, I listen to him. "Yes?"

He points to a file at the bottom of the cabinet's shelves. "Can you get that for me? My hands are kind of busy here."

I eye his arms in which he's holding four heavy folders, biting back words that he could keep those back on the table, but I don't say that out loud. I don't want to be labelled a prude or someone who's difficult to work with. Besides, I have nothing to fear; my skirt's pretty long, almost till my knees. 

This creep won't be able to sneak a peek if that's what he's planning on. 

So I paste a smile on my face and bend down. 

When i reach a hand in and pull the file out, I realise it's stuck.

The fuck?

I yank on it once, but to no avail-

I feel Ruben's leg grazing my thigh, and immediately shoot back up. "Thefile'sstuck."

He laughs, but it's wolfish.

A chill runs down my spine. "Try again, sweetheart."

I swear my jaw's ticking when he says that, a challenging spark in his eyes. 

I hate this.

"Fine, sir. But can you stand back, please, and give me more room to maneuver it out?" I say, voice hard, and his smirk falls right off his face.

He takes a tiny step back.

I laugh lightly, sarcastically. "I'm afraid that won't do, sir."

He's glaring at me now, but takes two big steps back, his expression foul. 

I grin. "Thank you."

Bending down, I tug hard on the file, and turn around, placing it on the pile of folders in his arms with a smirk.

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