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 fluttering in my tummy no matter how much I tried. My heart still palpitated down my chest.
What if everyone doesn't like me? What if I fall on my butt in front of the whole office? What if…
Shaking my head, I took a deep breath.
Everything will be fine.
Summoning some courage inside me, I walked inside. The guards followed close behind.
The sound of my heels clanked against the tiled marble floor as I approached the reception area. And soon I found Shawn waiting for me, Alex's secretary.
"Look who is here!" His chirpy voice made me smile. "Isn't it the goddess of beauty herself gracing us with her presence?"
"Shawn!" I pulled him in a bear hug. "How are you? It's been so long!"
An offended look claimed over his features. "Of course it is! I remain busy with my job all the time and you can't even give a call to this poor man to ask his whereabouts."
"Oh, come on now! Don't be a sulky face. What's with you today anyway?"
I eyed his loose tie, sweaty shirt and a tired face. That was so unlikely to him. He had a habit of looking his best even at his worst time.
"Having a busy morning?"
"Don't ask. The big shark is here. He needs everything uptight. One mistake, and my ass will be gone. Though, I won't mind giving him my ass. He is one hell of a fine piece." He winked, making me chuckle.
"Who is this big shark of yours?"
"The owner of the company who allotted this new project to us and Blake Corp., It's a long history. I will tell you later. Come on, Alex is waiting for you," saying, he ushered me towards the elevator.
"Alex won't be happy if he learns his secretary is calling him by his name," I teased.
"Well, he has much more issues to handle today than being mad at his secretary."
I didn't give much thought to his response, as we made our way inside the elevator.
They must be having a really busy day.
Knocking two times on the door of the conference room, Shawn held it open for me.
Mouthing him a 'thank you', I walked inside with hesitant legs.
The butterflies in my tummy now went crazy seeing so many people in there, seated around the huge table in the middle of the room. And all of their eyes were on me.
Relax Sofia! You've got it!
"There you are!" said Alex, a broad smile plastered onto his face. "I was waiting for you! Come, let's introduce you to everyone."
Putting an arm around my shoulder, he took me at the end of the table. While I just fidgeted with my fingers with my eyes not really meeting anyone. I had never met so many people at once in such a professional way before.
Well, I barely went out.
"Everyone, meet my sister, Sofia McCommer. She will be joining us in the office starting today," he announced, squeezing my arm to provide me some comfort perceiving my nervousness.
Taking a deep breath, I looked up straight ahead as the room filled with hushed murmurs and some welcoming greetings.
But the breath caught at my throat that instant when I found a pair of electric blue eyes staring right back into mine.
A silent gasp slipped through my lips, shocked at his presence at the most unexpected place. In our office, at our board meeting.
At the head of the table, there sat Adrian Larsen with all his glory and arrogance. His back leaned against his chair in a comfortable position, one hand on the handle of the chair when the other one was placed on the table. He swirled a globe around his fingers as he watched me with those intense blue eyes. A tiny, almost invisible smirk etched at the edge of his lips.
I just stared, shocked.
He sat there like he owned the place. Where I stood there as if I was summoned to the king's court imposed with some misdoing. And the king happened to be a wicked businessman who got a sudden habit of appearing in my life and dreams out of nowhere.
"Sofia!" A nudge at my elbow brought me back from my reverie. "Mr. Charles has congratulated you," Alex whispered, a look of confusion on his face at my lack of attention.
I looked at the huge bald man standing before me with his hand hanging in the air for a handshake. An awkward smile spread across his face as his eyes darted from me to Alex.
Embarrassed, I thanked him and apologized for my unintentional rude behavior. And he just laughed it off, stating that it happened to him many times.
"I'm looking forward to working with you, Ms. McCommer. I'm sure you will be fun to work with as much as your brother," he said, shaking my hand.
"Same here." My tone was professional, the same tone I saw Alex, Max and Dad using everyday.
"Nah! She is quite boring. I'm the only cool person in the family," Alex joked, and the whole boardroom cackled with mirth. Except for one person.
You guessed it right. Even one muscle of Adrian Larsen's mouth didn't move. And nor did his eyes from me.
The meeting continued once I took a seat next to my brother. I got a very little idea of what he was doing here in our office from their conversation.
As I joined the conference in the middle, I missed most of the details. They talked about the new project they were gonna work on, and I remained busy wrecking my brain the whole time thinking of the reason for his presence here.
Throughout the whole meeting, everyone was looking up to him for approval for every single thing. As if he was the owner of this office here.
He was definitely a part of the project they were discussing. A very important part. And I needed to find out just how much.
An irritation latched onto my mind of the fact that I had to face him more often than I would've liked. Of all the companies, he had to work with us?
As if the embarrassment earlier during the introduction wasn't enough, which also happened because of him, his following my every movement with these intense eyes of his throughout the entire meeting made it worse.
The subtle glances people were casting at my way made me turn crimson, matching the color of my temper. But that damn man didn't stop his shameless venture.
The cool water worked like ice on my flaming cheeks. And the worst thing was, I couldn't decipher the reason for their burning. Out of rage and irritation, or something else.
Something that flutters inside me every time I catch his eyes on me.
I could still feel the shiver that ran through my body when I felt his hot gaze burning from my head to my toe while getting out of the conference room after the meeting. Alex had requested him to stay back for a couple of minutes to discuss something in private, and I didn't waste anymore second to dash out of there.
I blew out a frustrated breath.
I jerked my head at the girl standing beside me.
Great! First Adrian Larsen, and now his exclusive employee.
"What're you doing here?"
"What do people do in a washroom?" My tone was bland as I took some tissues to dab on my face.
"Don't be so smart with me. Answer my question, what're you doing here?" She placed a hand on her wide hip. "Who let you in this building? Wait a minute! Are you following us or something? You came here after him, didn't you?"
"Whoa! Calm your horses down, will you?" I shook my head in disbelief. I followed them, really? I think I should be the one to ask the question to her boss. "I didn't follow anyone. This is my office. I work here."
She raised her brow, eyeing me up and down, a distaste curling at the side of her mouth.
"Who even kept you for a job here?" She snorted out a mocking laugh.
My jaw clenched. I didn't know if her bitchiness was her usual self, or if she had any particular reason with me. But I definitely didn't like her tone. I still remembered last week's incident when she pushed me purposely.
"No one needs to keep me for a job in my own company."
A frown formed between her brows. "What do you mean?"
"You would know what I mean if you were in the board meeting with your boss. Now if you will excuse me, I need to make sure to inform the security guards not to let in some rouge bitch inside the office without a leash around their neck. They can be harmful for the ambience, you know?"
Her eyes turned into slits, her nostrils flared, and I could even imagine the hot smoke whistling out from her ears.
Plastering a sweet smile on my lips, I took my purse and sauntered out of the washroom, leaving her fuming over at the taste of her own medicine.
I had to talk to Alex about this matter. It would drive me crazy if I continue to handle situations like these. Working around Adrian Larsen and a woman like her, was a big no from me.
So I headed directly to the boardroom.
And just as I was about to push on the door, it opened from inside.
Take the devil's name, and the devil appears.
The moment those electric blue eyes fell onto me, the corner of his lips turned up into his signature devilish smirk. A tiny, but dangerous act.
"Ah, Ms. McCommer. We meet again." Shoving his hands into his pockets, he gave me a curt nod.
My face remained blank. But I was certain, my eyes were doing a good job at shooting daggers at him.
He titled his head, a small crease set between his perfectly arched brows while his smirk was still intact.
I tried my best not to look into his eyes for longer than a few seconds. I will forget what to say next if I look longer.
I kept my eyes on his wide forehead, dark brows, sharp nose. And he found it quite amusing.
"What're you doing here?" I blurted out. I couldn't keep it in for longer. "I mean, I didn't expect you here."
He shrugged. "For business."
He already gave the answer. But I didn't know why, I had a feeling there was something more. The look in his eyes, the way he watched me, told me there was more of it. I could feel it. The great Adrian Larsen wouldn't just come to work with a still growing company.
"Someone seems very curious." A deep chuckle resonated through his chest, then those intense eyes slid to my lips. "You will know soon, Love. Very soon."
A shiver ran down my spine.
Wait! Did he just call me 'Love'?
"Don't call me that!" I frowned.
He was messing with me again.
Then I realized. That's what he wanted. My reactions.
He enjoyed getting reactions out of me. But unfortunately, he wouldn't get much today.
Instead of getting irritated again, I painted a sweet smile on my lips. He blinked in surprise.
"It was nice meeting you, Mr. Larsen. Don't hassle yourself to answer me. I will just ask Alex about it. See you later, have a good day." Professionalism poured out of me like a fountain as I nodded at him and walked inside the conference room, leaving him spellbound.
Once inside, I found Alex on the phone with his back to me near the end of the table, his tone hushed, shoulders tensed.
"I didn't inform you because I didn't need to. I will do whatever the hell I want with this company, it's none of your business. I'm the one who pulled this business from scratch, not you!" he hissed through the phone.
Who is he talking to?
"Are you threatening me, Max? I don't care if Dad gets to know about it or not. I'm not afraid of him." He paused, listening to whatever Max was saying. And then sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Whatever. And you don't have to worry about her. She is my sister too. I know how to keep her safe. Zion wouldn't be able to come even within a hundred feet of my office. He won't be able to reach her again."
Who is Zion? And reach me again? Have I met this person before?
He stiffened. Putting down his phone, he swiftly turned around; his wide eyes met mine.
"Sofia? When did you come?"
"Who is Zion?"
"No one!" His answer was quick. "Just a rival of mine."
I quirked a brow. "A rival of yours who is interested in me? Cut the crap! I heard everything." The thing that they discuss a matter that concerns me but tends to hide it from me, was fermenting.
A hesitation crossed over his features. "Umm, he…" He grimaced. "You don't say a word to Max that I said something. He will get another chance to taunt me."
"My lips are sealed."
Settling in a chair, he ran his fingers through his brown locks. "You remember Russell Checknov?"
"Well, he is back now. This Zion guy has some past with Dad, so he joined hands with Russell, though we don't know if he's the main person behind the curtains who pulls Russell's strings or not. But now together they're forming a force against us. That attack was also their deed."
I took a seat beside him, absorbing the new addition of the story I already knew.
"What's his full name? You know anything else about him?"
He avoided my eyes and checked the time on his wrist watch, shaking his head. "No. All Max told me was to make sure that man doesn't come near you."
"What did you mean by 'reach me again'? Have I met him before?" I had a feeling he wasn't revealing the whole truth.
"He was there at the club you went to that night. And Dad has a belief that they want to hurt you to get to him." His gaze locked with mine, concern flashed across his eyes. "So you have to be more careful, Sofia. Always keep the guards around. Though this office is safe and Dad's men are keeping an eye on them all the time, it's better to stay alert, you know?"
Nodding my head, I took everything in. So their target was me at the moment.
I didn't let the dread set in as I tried to change the conversation.
"What was Max talking to you before the Zion matter?"
"You ask too many questions, little sister." Rubbing his face, he let out a sigh. "He got to know that our company is not so far from bankruptcy."
"What?" I gaped at him. Now my attention was totally on a whole different thing. "But how?"
"This company has been running at a loss for two years now, Sofia. Last year we invested a huge amount of money in one of Blake Corporation's projects, and it turned out to be a total disaster. He also went at the verge of downfall at that time because of it, and couldn't pay our money. And this loss worked as a fuel to our weak financial status."
"Why didn't you tell us about it?"
He gave me a look. "So that Dad would get another chance to think of me as a loser? No thanks! I'm trying my best to handle it myself."
It was our legal business that Alex ran. And Dad and Max didn't really pay attention to it as they always remained busy with their illegal activities. So all the decisions were Alex's to make. He single-handedly managed all of it. Though sometimes Sam helped him with it.
"Now this project is our only chance. This project is big enough for both Blake Corporation and us to gain a reliable grip," he said.
"Blake Corporation? Will you work with them again?"
"I wouldn't. But after our numerous legal notices to Alexander Blake regarding this return, one day he came to us and offered fifty percent partnership in a project, a way to return his debt. It was a project he managed to get from a company that's ruling the business world right now using his some old connections. This way, not only both of us could get a big project, but he would be relieved from his debt to us also. And in this situation, we couldn't get a big shot like this to be honest. So we accepted the proposal. It would be a great turn around for our business. In that way we would get a financial grip and save our company from bankruptcy," he explained.
"Remembering the project, what was Adrian Larsen doing here? Is he also a part of the project?"
"How do you know him? I don't remember introducing you to him." He frowned.
I shifted in my chair. "Uh, who doesn't know him? Everyone knows who Adrian Larsen is."
Well, I just found out last week.
He nodded, his lips pressed together in dislike. "Yeah! The infamous Adrian Larsen."
"Well?" I urged him to answer my question.
And trust me, what he said, I definitely wasn't expecting it. Nor did I like it. At all.
"He is the one who gave us this project. If he takes this project back from us, we will be done for, Sofia. So practically, we're under that man's mercy now."
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
"Thank you, Mr. Larsen, for dropping us!" Sam said from the back seat. After getting a curt nod from Adrian, he got out of the car. And when I was about to follow behind, a calloused hand grasped mine causing me to turn to him. He observed every emotion on my features with that intense blue gaze. Raising his hand, his fingers gently brushed the strayed tendrils away from my face, as if he couldn't stop himself. "You looked pretty shaken up back then. You okay?" Concern laced into his eyes. For an unknown reason, vulnerability rose in my chest for a second. I wanted that comfort and warmth he provided me the other day in the elevator, I wanted his strong arms around me. But then, I composed myself. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks!" I still didn't pull away from the gentle stroke of his knuckle across my cheek. My body wanted to lean in. His gaz
I could recognize this voice anywhere. Turning around, my gaze fell on him and the skip of my heart was totally unintentional. He stood a foot away from us, donning a three piece charcoal suit. He paired it with black shirt, matching tie, and a red pocket square. Hair gelled back and jaw clean shaven - gone earlier today's stubble. As breathtaking as ever. And his sharp eyes were on… me. They raked over my body, sensually. And it felt totally opposite when Mr. Blake did it. It was a different kind of shiver. When I realized I was checking him out again, my cheeks flared when he remained shameless. I averted my eyes. With powerful strides, he came and stood right beside me. When he put a possessive arm around my waist, I looked up at him I'm surprise. Mr. Blake watched this act and removed his gaze, faking a cough. "Ah, Mr. Larsen
A picture of me coming out of the car with Alex and Sam, another one of me shaking hands with Mr. Blake, me talking to one of my colleagues, me dancing with Adrian. And the last one, me standing with Tiffany and Emma with a glass of orange juice in my hand.Looking up, my ardent eyes glanced around.No one suspicious. Everyone was busy with their drinks and chatting.Someone was keeping an eye on my every move."You okay, Sofia?" Emma queried. "You look pale.""Yeah, I'm fine. Just a minute, I'll be back." Excusing myself, I walked away.Who could send me those pictures?My phone buzzed again.Don't wander here and there too much when you're alone. Who knows, Daddy's little girl can get lost in the swarm of people and never get found?My fingers clutched the phone