Afraid, Ms. Brooks?

"Bye, Romeo! Be a good boy! I will be back soon!"

After checking if the door is locked twice, I took the elevator.

I didn't want those debt collectors to come and barge into my apartment in my absence. Even though the time they gave me was still unexpired, I didn't trust them.

Just as I was about to pull the door of the car, I felt a presence behind me. With an alert heart, I whirled around.

A set of pearly white teeth greeted me. "Hey, Cassie! What's up?"

"Aaron!" I let out a sigh of relief. No drunk men again. "Don't sneak up behind me like that next time!"

He frowned as sunlight shone on his blonde hair. "I'm sorry. Did I scare you? I didn't mean that."

"Whatever. What are you doing here? Last time I checked you didn't even know me."

A grimace pinched his boyish features.

"Uh, I'm so sorry for that statement, Cassie. You know, you were stuck in a scandal with that case and if I told the paparazzi that I was dating you, it would be bad for my uncle's reputation. As well as mine as I'm going to debut into the movies soon. I'm really embarrassed about that, Cassie. But I had a huge pressure on my shoulders. That's why when the paparazzi asked me questions about us, I denied."

I scoffed.

He was from our middle school. My first boyfriend, for a week. After our childish fling ended, he suddenly appeared at a party three months ago, as a film-star's nephew. I didn't even know his uncle was in movies.

After the party, he asked me out and I agreed, only for the sake of our childhood. We went on dates several times before Todd happened. And after that, he suddenly became a stranger who barely knew me.

Fucking coward!

"So why are you here now?" I raised a brow. "You're not afraid that someone may see you with me?"

"Todd has been proved guilty. Your name is clear now. So there is no issue. I'm sorry again, Cassie. For not supporting you. You know the things we have to do for our career," he said, taking a step forward. "Now that everything is good, can you please forgive me?"

"I was never upset with you in the first place. So there is nothing to forgive."

At his confused state, I continued.

"People get upset with people they expect something from. And I didn't expect anything from you. So no worries!" I never had any expectations from anyone. Living without anyone's help and support was a part of my life now.

"Cassie, please. Try to understand. I had no choice. We were so good together. Can you please give me another chan…"

"Don't finish that line." At my glare, he went quiet. "We just dated for a month. And you're saying we were good together?"

Remorse flashed across his features. "But I really like you."

"And I don't. I agreed to go on a date with you because of the sake of our friendship. That's all. Now get out, I'm getting late."

He suddenly grabbed my hand. His eyes were desperate. "Cassandra, please. I missed you. Even though we didn't spend much time together, I couldn't get those amber eyes of yours out of my head. I…"

"Shut your mouth before my fist does, Aaron. I'm getting late. Fuck off!"

His eyes widened at my outburst. Realizing the seriousness of my tone, he stepped back.

"Uh, alright. I get it. You're mad at me and we can't go back to our old selves. But can we at least be friends again? Please? Come to my house next week. I'm throwing a party for my debut movie."

"No." I got into my car and closed the door.

"Please, Cassie. It will be profitable for you too. There will be a lot of famous faces. You can make a fresh appearance there after the case, you know? It will be good for your career!"

Now that grabbed my attention. An appearance on the occasion of his upcoming movie?

He had a point. It would be good for my image. The image that Todd Samuelson ruined.

"Please? Just think about it," he pleaded through the car window.

I shrugged.

"I will think about it. And if I do, don't think I will be there as your date. Just as a guest." Just for my image.

He winced at my words. But soon a smile spread across his face. "At least you will come. That's enough for me right now. Thank you, Cassie!"

Before I could react, he leaned in and placed a kiss on my cheek.

"I will be waiting for you at the party."

"First of all, I said I will think about it. I didn't confirm anything yet," I said, pushing him out of my breathing zone. "And don't need to be so clingy. Stay in your limits."

He didn't seem to mind my rude words. "I will keep hoping that you do come to the party. See you soon!"

As he walked towards his car parked on the street, I blew out a sigh.

He was right. The things we had to do for our career.

Now I'll have to tolerate him too.

As I started the engine, my eyes suddenly zeroed on the cars parked on the other side of the street. Right beside the old two story house that was exactly opposite of my building.

Two black Range Rovers.

They were there everyday. There wasn't a day that I didn't see them parked there since I moved in here. The strange thing was no one knew much about the owner of the house and the cars. No one lived there, but the cars would be there twenty four seven. They were not covered or filled with dust. That meant someone used them. But I didn't see anyone around it ever.


Shaking my head, I focused on the road before driving away.

I should just think about the surprise Chad had in store for me.


"You were supposed to be here at seven. And it's seven thirty." With pursed lips, Chad stood at the entrance with his hands on his hips.

Grinning, I wrapped my arms around his neck. "Chad! I missed you so much!"

"That's why you didn't call or message in the last two weeks?"

"I already apologized for that. You know the shit I was going through when you were enjoying your cousin's wedding in Germany," pulling away, I said.

Rolling his eyes, he ran his hands through his newly dyed blue hair. "Family pressure, you know? I had to attend. Otherwise I wouldn't leave you alone in that situation."

I shook my head. "I understand. Family comes first. Anyways, I hope I'm not too late, am I?"

I would kill Aaron if I was. Though the traffic was to be blamed here.

"I don't think so. The boss is too eager to have you in the team. So I don't think it would be much of a problem. Let's go! They're waiting for us!"

I ran after him as he strode inside the huge five star hotel. One of the most lavish ones in the city.

"Wait, so you've really found a job for me?"

He nodded, grinning ear to ear. "Yes. And the photographer's job is mine! Isn't that cool? It was my dream to work under this company. And finally my dream came true."

I gaped.

"That's amazing, Chad! But how did you manage to do that? And which company is it? They hire models?"

A wink. "You will know soon. Now come on! She is waiting for us!"

When we reached the seventeenth floor, Chad took me to the left wing where I was about to meet the boss.

I wonder who was so excited to work with me even after the scandal?

As soon as he opened the door, I was left speechless.

The room, much like a vast hall, was busy with people rushing around with their own designated jobs. On the other side, a busy photoshoot was running. Some models gave poses for the cameras, while some were rechecking their makeup.

Seeing some of the well known models and the grand set up for the photoshoot, I could tell this company was a big one. With a bigger pocket.

"Come, this way!" Chad ushered.

I followed him, but not before glancing back at the photoshoot again.

I missed it, posing before the cameras.

Once we stopped before a door after passing some long corridors, Chad knocked twice.

"Come in!" yelled a voice from inside.

I frowned.

It sounded familiar.

And my suspicion turned out right when we entered the conference room.

As soon as her eyes landed on me, a bright smile spread across her face. Nothing changed in her in between the years. Just her brown hair was longer.

"Cassandra! Finally, you're here! I was just about to call Chad why you're taking so long!" she chirped. Rushing to me, she engulfed me in a hug.

I raised a brow at Chad. He just shrugged.

Pulling away, I put on a professional smile. "I apologize, Elizabeth. I got stuck in the traffic. And nice to meet you again. It's been years."

She waved her hand. "Oh, call me Ellie. And no problem, I get how this city's traffic can be sometimes. It's definitely been years. But I'm glad we finally got to meet again!"

What's up with her?

From what I remember from our last meeting, she barely looked at me. I clearly remembered how she ignored my presence and talked to Chad as if I didn't even exist in that room.

After that blunder I did on that night, falling from the stage, I thought that would be the last night of my career. After all, I ruined her show. And belonging from a rich family, she had the power to ruin me. But she didn't.

Most probably because even after my blunder, Duncan De Sylvano hired her as one of the designers in his company. Even though it was shocking for everyone. Because it was next to impossible for her to stand up to his standards, especially after my stunt.

"Thank you for having me here. But may I know why you want to work with me even after the… you know, the scandal?" I asked. "No one wants to go against the Mayor. But you…"

"Mayor?" She let out a snort. "Who cares about the Mayor? And honestly, I'm glad that you put that criminal behind the bars. He deserves to rot in jail."

I nodded. "Yes, he does. And everyone cares about the Mayor. My agency kicked me out because of his fear."

"But I don't fear him. I like how courageous you are. Not everyone has the guts to go against the Samuelsons. But you did," she replied.

"So that's why you decided to give me a job? Because you thought I had guts?" I tilted my head. "Because after the blunder I did that night years ago, I didn't think you would want to work with me ever." I knew I should just be happy that I got an offer. But I needed to get my answers.

"Oh, no! It's nothing like that! Thank God, you did that blunder that night, otherwise…" she stopped, her eyes widening slightly. Then clearing her throat, she let out a nervous chuckle. "I mean, I didn't mind at all. It happens. And no, that's not the reason why I wanted to meet you. I saw some of your ad films and photos in magazines. You're really good. And I wanted someone as gorgeous and talented as you for my dresses. That's why I asked Chad to bring you here tonight."

A crease formed between my brows.

She didn't mind that night?


"Yeah, isn't she a sweetheart? Not only did she offer me to work as a photographer at Rossa, she asked me to bring you here too!" Chad exclaimed. Excitement dripped from his voice.

My eyes widened.


The new company that was rising to the sky fast in the fashion industry?

I didn't know Elizabeth worked for Rossa? She was working for Duncan, right? Then what happened?

At Chad's praise, Elizabeth flashed a tight smile. Shifting on her legs, she tucked a strand behind her ear.

"I- I needed a good photographer who knew me and my way of work. And Chad knew it really well. So I contacted him for the post. And then one of your ad films caught my eye," she said. "Uh, please take a seat. Let's discuss the job."

Nodding, I took a chair.

Why did Elizabeth, the famous designer of the city, suddenly become so generous to me?

I got it about Chad. He was a close acquaintance of her. But why me?

There were so many popular and talented models out there.

I shook my head.

I should stop overthinking now.

I didn't care about why she all of a sudden started to notice me as long as I had a job and money to bear my expenses. To get rid of those men.

"So Cassandra, you will be one of the faces for our magazines. As you already know how this works, you will have to be present for shoot whenever we call you. Be it day…"

"Wait!" I cut Elizabeth off. "Are you saying I will be one of the faces for Rossa's magazines?"

I gaped, an excited grin slowly crept on my face. Featuring in one of those magazines meant a huge leap of my career.

Sharing an amused look with Chad, she nodded. "Yes. And we might need you for other purposes too. You will be offered a contract for a year and…"

"I'm ready!" I interrupted again. But I couldn't contain my excitement. "One year or five years, I don't care. Count me in! When should I start?"

She let out a chuckle. "From tomorrow. But you will have to read the contract first and then sign. Only then you will start shooting."

"Sure! Give her the contract and then we can start from tomorrow," said Chad. I nodded, agreeing with him.

"My assistant will bring it here soon. I already asked her to make it ready," Elizabeth replied.

"Wait, so you knew I would agree for the job?"

A nervous laughter again. "Uh, who will say no to work at Rossa?"

Point. No one would.

"Umm, you guys stay here. I have to make a phone call. Will be back in a minute."

With that, she walked out of the conference room.

Chad threw me a look. "So? How are you feeling now?"

"I'm over the moon! Thank you so much, Chad!"

He chuckled. "I didn't do anything. It's all her. And your luck."

"Yeah, finally my luck favored me in some place." A sigh left me.

Finally something good happened. I hoped nothing would go wrong after this.

Suddenly the light of the room went off, leaving us in darkness.

I frowned. "What happened?"

Chad put his phone's flashlight on. "I don't know. Must be some technical issue. Don't worry, it will be fixed soon."

"Where is Elizabeth?"

"Must be outside, on the phone. Wait here, let me check what's wrong."

When he stood and started to walk towards the door, I shot up from my seat as well.

"Wait! Let me come with you!"

"Stay here, Cassie. I will be back in a sec. She must be outside."

And then he disappeared, leaving me alone in the empty conference room.

Fishing my phone out, I put the flashlight on.

Power cut in a five star hotel? Don't they have generators?

After minutes passed and there was no sign of Chad or Elizabeth, I decided to go out.

The hallways were as silent as graveyards. Just the sound of distant murmurs reached my ears.

I looked around with the help of the flash light.

"Chad? Elizabeth? Where are you guys?"


Where were they?

The eerie corridors started to crawl on my skin. The darkness was getting to me.

I gulped.

I should leave and go to the hall.

As I was about to move, a noise from my behind made me whirl around. My heart thumped in my chest.

"Chad? Is that you?"

No answer.

There was only darkness.


I wasn't scared of ghosts, because I didn't believe in them. But human could be more dangerous than them sometimes. And I didn't want to face that at that moment.

Getting no answers, I took a step back.

Get out of here, Cassie.

As I was about to turn around, I stopped. So did my heart.

There was someone behind me.

I could feel it.

My hand tightened around the mobile. My heart raced. Perspiration formed on my forehead.

Before I could turn around, a pair of calloused hands grabbed on my arms, holding me in my place. Soon, hot breath fanned my neck.

A gasp slipped through my lips.

But before I could fight in his grip or do anything, a heady masculine scent tingled my nostrils.

"Afraid, Miss. Brooks?" A low husky voice murmured in my ear.

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