My lips were firmly set as I passed through the half wasted population, away from that arrogant man with an ego bigger than the sky itself. Eyes narrowed and the irritation still formed on my forehead, I tried to ignore the racing of my heart along with the flutterings down my stomach despite the frenzy.
The sudden temperature I felt in the room wasn't due to tons of people dancing around me, or my anger. It was an effect of staying too close to someone.
A set of electric blue eyes still stared at me at the back of my mind, where his deep husky voice still could be heard. And among the adverse smell of alcohol and sweat, his intoxicating cologne still lingered in my senses.
I shook my head, taking my mind off the outer beauty to the inner. I swear to God, I haven't seen such an ill-mannered, arrogant and infuriating man in my whole life! He really thought I was pulling some tricks to get his attention?
I wish I had a pin to punch a hole into the inflated balloon of his huge ego.
The rumors about him did justice to his personality. One meeting, and I already had an idea what an ass he was.
My phone rang, halting me in my place. And my breath followed behind seeing the caller ID.
Shit! I needed to go somewhere quiet to talk to him. He couldn't know where we were.
My eyes glanced around in the search of a convenient place to talk to my brother. And the only place that came into my mind was outside.
The prickling sensation of being watched came back alive in my mind. Whirling around, my gaze roamed around the packed club carefully. Nothing seemed unusual. But the feeling was still there in my perturbed mind. I felt it even when I went to use the washroom.
Maybe getting out of home, without any bodyguards, and coming among so many people is causing me anxiety?
The ringtone of my phone blared again. So ignoring my anxiousness for a moment, I walked out of the main entrance. As soon as the doors of the entrance closed, blaring music trapped inside the barrier.
"Max?" I tried to keep my voice chirpy. "Hey! Uh, sorry I didn't take your call at the first ring. Actually, I was with the girls and my phone was on charge. Didn't see it then."
Silence regarded me for a moment before he finally spoke, "You should keep your phone with you always, Tomato. You know, for safety purposes?"
He gave me this nickname in our childhood. And his reason was, whenever I was mad or embarrassed, I turned all red. Just like a tomato. Of course I hated it at first, but with time, I got used to it.
"I know, Max. But I'm at Aunt Marie's, so there's no need to worry about it," I said, crossing my fingers, praying to God that he was buying my lies. Otherwise, we would be doomed.
"Hmm, but still Tomato; safety first, no matter where you're. Anyway, when are you coming back? I will come to pick you up."
"No!" I bit my tongue for answering too quickly. "Uh, I mean, you don't need to come here. I'm staying the night. Didn't the guards tell you? They will come back in the morning to take me back. Sam will also accompany. So, no need to worry."
Oh God! Why am I being so nervous?
"Alright then! Don't go out anywhere, and have fun."
"Okay, see you later. Bye!"
I sighed in relief, cutting the call. Thank God, he didn't suspect anything! And now all I wanted was to return home and sleep. The excitement I felt earlier didn't quite exist anymore.
The hair of the back of my neck stood up as the same ominous feeling arose in me again. Oddly enough, where it should still be a busy street at this hour of early midnight, it was deserted. One or two passers by swaying on their feet at a distance, were the only living beings as far as my eyes could get. Other than the two bulky guards stood with their mighty height at the exit. They weren't even acknowledging my existence right now, their eyes were straight ahead in the zero.
Then why am I feeling like this?
Chilly goosebumps crawled up my bare arms, urging me to wrap my hands around myself. Not wanting to stay there alone anymore, I rushed back inside clutching the purse in my hand tightly that carried the weapon inside, ready to be used if needed.
Passing through the crowd, my heart still palpitating, a black figure bumped into my shoulder. A strong pungent scent smelling like smoke hit my nostrils as I turned my head back to the passer by who didn't even glanced back. The only thing of that disappearing figure came into my view, was the inked tattoo on his arm; three cobras wrapped around a single rose. Their heads angled in a way as if they would strike at any moment.
Not giving anymore time away on that strange tattoo, I walked back to the counter only to find Laura unmoving on her spot. Then her alarmed eyes met mine.
"How dare you do that without asking anyone's permission! Do you have any idea how dangerous it is outside for you right now?" I flinched at Dad's harsh voice booming across the hall. His blazing green eyes glared down at me as I stood with my head down.
Everyone stood quite around the room. Jenna, Chloe and Sam's gaze remained on the ground, where Laura sent me a look of apology. But even her big mouth kept shut at the moment. The way Max's outraged eyes were crushing her, his clenched jaw and tight fists keeping him from bursting, anyone in her place would do the same.
We wouldn't be in this situation if not for the head of security of Aunt Marie's house. He puked out of our absence as soon as Max called him to keep the security tight. And thus, we were dragged back to home where Dad awaited us with a meek Mom beside him.
"I'm sorry, Dad! I…"
"No, Sofia! You're not sorry. You said it every time you sneaked out of the house. It's becoming your favorite dialogue to escape your wrongdoings nowadays!" he said, a look of disappointment set on his face. "I know you feel trapped staying home all the time. But these rules and restrictions are for your own wellbeing. I don't find any pleasure keeping you inside the walls. When will you understand that?"
Biting my lip, I looked down at my hands. The disappointment and fatigue in his voice etched guilt in me. I knew what I did was wrong, especially in a situation like this. I was aware of the consequence of breaking safety rules, the danger we could fall in. It was the luck of our fate that we were here right now, in one piece. Even though it was the girls who insisted, a part of me was also eager to breathe in the open air. I couldn't blame them entirely. I shouldn't have gone, but I couldn't help but give in to the temptation of getting a taste of the life all twenty-one years old lived out there. The desire for freedom overcame the fear of getting trapped.
"I understand, Dad. And I'm really sorry. I know what we did was wrong. We should've taken bodyguards with us. But nothing happened, right? We're safe. We took guns with us for protection, and we were extremely cautious. In a place full of people, no one could hurt us," I said, hoping to make him cool down. Although, I knew my wish was already in the shredder.
"And what if something happened? What if someone took you away from us, again," his voice broke while saying this. Different emotions flashed across his eyes. Max's stance tensed as I tried my best to stop the memories of the past from floating back onto my mind.
Wrapping my arms around him, I placed my head in his chest. "Nothing will happen to me, Dad. No one will take me away." Taking a deep breath, I said what I knew I was going to regret later, but if it was gonna give him some relief, then for now I had to do it, "I promise, I won't do it again. I won't go anywhere without any security with me."
He patted my head. "You better. Otherwise I will be inclined to lock you inside the house. And that," he warned, his voice serious as he pulled away, "you won't like very much."
"And I will make sure of it," swore Max. These were his first words to me since he got us home. His gaze swiveled to Laura. "And you! Stay away from my sister. I don't want you anywhere near her."
Laura snorted, rolling her eyes. "Dude, she is my best friend. So you keep dreaming of keeping me away from her."
"Laura," Robert warned his daughter, his expression held equal disappointment as much as my father's had for me.
"Don't cross me, girl! Don't think I don't know whose plan it was to fool everyone into this plan." His eyes cut her, causing her to slap her mouth shut.
"Remember your promise, princess," Dad said. "Don't do anything rash like that again. Think of it as a last warning."
He came back with his nickname again, meaning he wasn't mad at me anymore. So, I nodded my head, not wanting to anger him again.
"Alright, now! Off to bed everyone! It's already late." Mom glanced at the huge round clock hanging on the wall. "And you kids," she said, pointing to Laura, Jen, Chloe and Sam, "stay here tonight. The guest rooms are ready for you. Freshen up before hopping onto bed."
When everyone started to pile out of the room, I looked at Max, he didn't meet my eyes. A stubborn frown set on his forehead. I knew he was mad at me for lying to him earlier. So deciding to talk to him later, I mumbled small 'Goodnights' to everyone and walked out of the room.
It read one in the morning on my alarm clock, and sleep still couldn't catch my attention. I kept twisting and turning on my bed to get a comfortable position to get some sleep, but to no avail. A pair of electric blue eyes kept staring at me at the back of my eyelids whenever I closed them.
Groaning, I sat up. A frown formed between my brows. What the hell is wrong with me? I didn't even want to recall that man bloated with an ego like the size of Megatron!
And a face of an Adonis.
God! Get a grip on yourself, will you?
Letting out a huff, I scrambled out of the bed and trudged downstairs to wet my parched throat.
Once I was done with my quench, a yawn left my mouth.
Maybe I could catch some sleep now.
But then the light of Dad's study took my attention to it.
But this time, I swept my gaze around first to make sure no one was around to catch me red-handed. Satisfied with the lack of presence, I tiptoed towards the door that was kept slightly ajar. The light coming out through the gap, lightened the shaded hallway.
"Are you sure of this?" Max's strained voice floated out.
"Certain. I myself checked the CCTV footage. He was there with his men," replied Robert.
A heavy sigh resonated on the other side of the door.
"I don't understand this. I thought whatever he had against us was in the past. It's been years since then. Then why all of a sudden he was seen at the same place as our girls?" Came Dad's voice.
"I don't think he was there for them. How would he know about our kids going there where we ourselves were unaware of it?" Tim queried.
"I know Checknov more than anyone else. He doesn't do anything without any reason. His being there with his men, the exact same place and time the girls were present, isn't just a coincidence." Dad's tone came out grim. "He came there for them, for her."
My heart skipped a beat. Checknov? As in Russell Checknov? One of Dad's old enemies. And he was there for- me? So my feeling of being followed wasn't just a misconception then.
A chill ran down my spine at the mere thought.
"I didn't know he had the guts to stand against us with the crumbled pieces of his business. What happened all of a sudden then?" venom dripped from Max's voice as he asked.
"From the information I got from my men, he had a business collaboration last month with some nameless entity. His bank account is blooming now. So is the number of his gang members. And oddly enough, the name of this person is suspiciously kept hidden. No one knows who the person is," replied Robert.
"This isn't just a business collaboration. It's an ally. A friendship to destroy the enemy. That's why the first thing after the collaboration he did was, coming after us by plotting the attack. He doesn't have the backbone to challenge us alone." Max paused for a moment. "But the question is, who could it be? Who is pulling the strings from backstage?"
So he was the one who did it? But who was the other man Max was talking about? Could it be any other of Dad's enemies?
A silence fell over.
"That doesn't matter now," Dad spoke. "The thing that matters is, they know who Sofia is. They know how she looks. And we have to be more careful with her from now on. Max, put more securities in her team of guards. Have someone to keep an eye on her everywhere she goes outside the house. And make sure she doesn't get even a hint that she is in any kind of danger." He paused. "I don't want my princess to live in any more fear than she already did all her life."
"Don't worry, Dad. No harm will come to her, I swear this on my life," said Max, his voice latched with fierce determination.
"Robert, Tim, find out who the other man is. And what does he want? Inform me as soon as possible," Dad ordered.
"Will do," they answered simultaneously.
With a heavy heart, I pulled away and climbed up the stairs.
Checknov came out in the open after years out of nowhere. With a new force and ally whom we didn't have any idea about. The problem is easier when you know your enemy. But if you don't know the villain of your story, it can be difficult. You won't know from which direction you will be attacked, when and where.
And the worst thing was, they saw me. They knew now who I was. How I looked. And I was sure, they weren't forgetting the face of their enemy's weakness anytime soon.
I let out a shaky breath. What have we done?
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
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