‘Calm down,’ her grandmother said. Eleanor, the woman who took Jeraldine in when her father died, had been watching her pace back and forth in their living room. The younger girl had been pacing for thirty minutes now, nervous and anxious. ‘You’re going to ace that interview,’ she added with an encouraging smile.
She spared her a glance. ‘It’s not a normal interview!’ Jeraldine ran her hand through her hair in frustration. The whole situation had become really intense.
‘This is just a normal interview. And don’t forget that you got the call because of your merit?’ Eleanor said. And for a second there, Jeraldine thought her grandmother had gotten insane.
She knew well enough her grandmother couldn’t understand how she was feeling about this interview. Everything depended on it.
‘No, but I’m going to be interviewed by a CEO who is very well known to be rude, and straightforward.’ Jeraldine reminded her.
Nathan Blackwood was one of the most powerful men that in all of London. He had managed to achieve more than most men can in their lifetimes. Some say it was his luck, and another claims it to be his hard work, whatever it may have been – Nathan Blackwood was the youngest billionaire in the city. How he had manage to achieve all that was beyond anyone.
‘Why don’t you choose somewhere else to work?’ Her grandmother suggested. ‘You know well enough how stressed and tired your father was working there. Yes, he had a different boss but he knew Nathan, and he never had good things to say about him.’
‘You know why Grandma. You know how important it is for me to get this job, and you saying this isn’t doing anything to help my nerves.’ Jeraldine answered, trying to reason with the older women.
‘I know, darling, I know. I am just not sure what clues you think you would find though.’ Eleanor said. She did not want her granddaughter to build too many expectations.
There was a chance that she might not find anything at all.
Jeraldine lifted her chin. ‘My dad – who was an honest man, died working there. His reputation was stained, and no matter what the police say, I don’t for a second believe that he was drinking while driving. He was more than that, and you know it.’
‘Yeah,’ Eleanor agreed with a nod, her eyes brimming with sadness.
It made Jeraldine feel guilty. Maybe for her own lack of letting her father go, she was also bringing her grandmother down with her, but Jeraldine could not believe it.
Not after what happened.
She still remembered it all. All that happened two months ago.
It was a beautiful day. I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping outside my window and headed down to prepare my dad’s favorite breakfast for his birthday. However, the man would not sleep past 6 am, and I found him standing by the stove.
‘Dad, you should have let me cook today.’ I said annoyingly.
‘Why? Is today a special day?’ He said with his smile.
I huffed, ‘Happy Birthday, Dad. Thank you for being there for me all this time. I love you.’ I said, kissing him on the cheek.
‘Thank you, darling.’
He patted my head and went to give me my breakfast. We continued with our usual chatter. He asked me my plans for the day, and I told him that I would be cooking him dinner today for his birthday. He smiled and said he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
She couldn’t stop her tears as the memories of her father’s last day filled her head. How he had kissed her goodbye and told her he loved her for the last time. How he teased Mrs. Willow on his way out. Their annoying old neighbor did not like them for some unknown reason.
She remembered waiting for her dad. Having cooked his favorite dish, she sat by the couch, killing time waiting for her only friend to come home. The only person in her life whom she could count on. She ran to the door when the doorbell rang and opened it with a smile only to see too grim-looking officers looking at her.
Everything they said after the word accident was a blur. Jeraldine had stopped listening. They sat her down and told her that her dad had been drinking while driving his boss around. The car had hit a curb, which led to his death; he died on impact. They had declared the case drunk driving and didn’t feel the need to investigate.
Jeraldine wanted to ask them to, but she couldn’t find her voice.
The officers left, and she sat there on the couch. Mrs. Willow came and cried, but Jeraldine couldn’t. It took four hours for her grandmother to come, and the old woman hugged her and cried. Jeraldine knew arrangements had to be made, and as if her body and mind were on autopilot.
The funeral was done, and so was the service at home. All her dad’s friends came, and hugged her, and apologized for her loss. And it angered Jeraldine that they had all believed the officers. All his friends thought it. Everyone who claimed to have known her had had simply accepted the man to have been drinking.
She stood in her home, and soon everyone started leaving. The last one to go was her grandmother. Eleanor did not want to leave the poor girl all alone, but also couldn’t very well stay in the house filled with her son’s memories.
It was only after everyone had left, did she go into his room. The memories were too much, and she found herself crying. The reality of the situation finally hit her.
Days turned to weeks, and then a month. She didn’t know how to deal with it. Everything that had happened, and a month later, she found her grandmother at her door, demanding that Jeraldine move in with her.
Initially, she had refused. But then it clicked.
She would move. Jeraldine would get a job in the same company her father worked at, and she would find the truth about that day.
‘I know why you want to work there, I understand darling. But from my opinion, I don’t think you should work there.’ Eleanor clutched Jeraldine’s hands in her own as if an unwanted attempt to stop her from going to that interview. But deep down, Jeraldine knew her grandmother wanted this as much as she did.
‘How can you be sure that I am even going to get the job?’ Many people wanted to work at Blackwood Industry, and many candidates would be interviewed. As much as Jeraldine wanted to get the job, the chances were very slim.
‘You are barely on your own two feet’s now, and I fear that with you working there, you might be as satisfied as you are hoping to be.’ When Jeraldine heard her grandmother say this, she realized the old woman was brave and courageous.
Brave because she was putting up a strong front for Jeraldine. Courageous because Eleanor had accepted the death of her only son.
‘You won’t know if you can do it or not unless you try it.’ Jeraldine reminded her grandmother. It was a sentence her father often used to say. Drawing the pillow closer against her chest.
‘In that case, you are going to do fine in the interview, Jeraldine. Your resume is great. You are smart, and talented. But most of all, you have a kind heart.’
Eleanor had accepted that the next few months would be difficult. Her granddaughter would work for the same company that had led to the death of her son.
Eleanor only hoped that Jeraldine would find what she was looking for and finally move on.
Jeraldine smiled weakly. ‘I hope so.’
She really did because there was no other way she would get close to the company where it all happened. She just needed some proof. Something that would convince the officers that her dad wasn’t drunk driving. He wouldn’t. He had too much of conscience for that.
With that thought, her grandmother bid her goodnight. She, too, found herself in her bed, waiting anxiously for the next day.
Morning came sooner than she had expected. She had been up since six am, getting ready. The interview was at seven-thirty, and Jeraldine wanted to be there by seven. She groaned as she crawled out of bed and tottered drowsily to the bathroom. She washed her face, and the benefits proved just as fleeting and no less groggy; she brushed her teeth before taking a shower. It took her 15 minutes to get ready.
She straightened her spine and smoothed her suit. Her dad had always told her of the importance of professional attire, and she was glad to have taken his advice and buy a few things that would fit the purpose. Her red suit was matched with black heels. Her hair straight, and her makeup minimum.
Jeraldine hailed for the taxi, and sat inside. When she told the driver the address, he seemed a little taken back.
She knew the company was big and had a reputation for being the monster corporate, but it couldn’t all be that bad.
‘Are you sure that is where you want to go, ma’am?’ he asked, unsure of himself.
‘Yes,’ she said, growing annoyed. The driver didn’t say anything afterward. But she would occasionally catch him looking at her through the rearview mirror as if he couldn’t believe she was going to such a place.
A few minutes later, she couldn’t hold it in, ‘Excuse me, sir? Why are you looking at me like that? It is considered harassment.’
The man looked even more shocked now.
‘No, ma’am. I was looking at you because I am scared for you.’
‘For what reason?’
‘Ma’am, that place is a horror. And I have a daughter your age. You look like someone kind, and gentle – and that is no place for you.’
Hearing the cab driver’s confession, she closed her eyes, willing herself not to cry. She cursed herself for making everything about her dad.
Everything reminded her of him. Instead of giving a reply to the man, she looked out the window, holding the tears in.
He stopped the car across from the Blackwood industry. When she was about to ask him why he wouldn’t drop her off near the building, he said, ‘Sorry, ma’am, but no taxi is allowed near the building. I have to drop you off here.’
Her mouth shaped into an ‘O’, shaking her head in disbelief. She walked out and readjusted her suit. If anyone could stop and observe her, they would see nervousness oozing off of her.
Blackwood industry stared down at her. The building was huge. It was large, vast, and intimidating. She carefully strode past a security guard at the entrance and into the building. She was met with many people strolling around in their expensive, neat clothes, and she felt self-conscious of what she was wearing. Maybe, she was overdressed?
The whole atmosphere was tense. Jeraldine went up to the receptionist. She was a redhead woman, dressed in a yellow sundress. Everything about her was prim and proper.
‘The coffee shop is down the street, ma’am,’ she said, and Jeraldine hinted a slight Italian accent.
‘What?’ she asked, confused.
The receptionist stared at Jeraldine as if she was stupid. ‘Isn’t that where you want to go?’
‘No. I’m here for an interview.’
The ginger hair receptionist looked taken back. ‘Oh?’ Sizing Jeraldine up again and down, she clicked her tongue before meeting Jeraldine’s gaze again.
Jeraldine was used to this. People looking down on her. It was what her father had always told her to work on. But she could not change how people perceived her.
The receptionist inhaled dramatically, ‘Twentieth floor. Take the first right, and you’ll find yourself among the lot that is here for the interview.’
‘Thanks,’ Jeraldine said.
‘Good….’ She stared up and down at her again, her face turning upside down. ‘….luck.’
Jeraldine felt nervous, but she tried to calm herself down and made her way to the elevator. She waited a few seconds before it slid open, and she quickly rushed inside. But before it could close, Jeraldine heard a woman sobbing. She looked at the same age as Jeraldine and was being dragged out by the guards.
‘No!’ she shouted. ‘You can’t do this to me! I have been a loyal, and hardworking employee for the last five years!’ Jeraldine watched as she tried to struggle against the security guard. ‘You can’t do this to me!’
The elevator closed, and Jeraldine let out a sigh. Her heartbeat accelerated, and she was sorry for the woman.
Her back hit the wall, and she closed her eyes. Doubt creeping up at the back of her mind, was this such a good idea after all? She was doing this for dad; Jeraldine had to remind herself. She had a reason – a motive, and she could not back away from it now.
Tightening her eyes, she hoped this interview would be a success. She couldn’t afford to mess it up. You can’t, Jeraldine. You have to believe in yourself, just like your father did. This was a mantra she was repeating in her mind again and again.
‘Aren’t you going to get off?’ She was startled by a man’s voice beside her. She realized that she had reached the twentieth floor, and she mumbled a quick apology and left. The building was huge and classic. She followed the instructions the receptionist told her and true to her words, there were a lot of people.
She pushed through the bodies, who all looked nervous, just as Jeraldine felt like she did. This was an opportunity of a lifetime, and the competition was immense.
Looking at the line of people, she figured it would take some time before her name would be called. Wanting to calm her nerves, she looked for a dispenser, and found one by the door at the far end of the corridor.
But before she could reach it, she found herself being pushed toward a Burgundy door and inside it. The door shut automatically. She started to panic when the door wouldn’t open. It was as if the door had never opened in the first place.
She turned around to see where she was, and she found herself in a long-dimmed hallway, and an elevator was at the end of it. She heaved a sigh of relief.
She had finally found a way out.
It slid open when she pushed the button, and she quickly hurried inside. She went to press the twenty-first button, but she only found one button with a Blackwood logo on it. Her face screwed up. Jeraldine decided that it would be best to go there rather than stay here with no way out; she pushed the button with the logo.
She felt scared, and alone. All she wanted was to get out here, and go back to the room with all those other people. She cursed herself for wanting to drink water at such a time. Stupid body she thought to herself.
The elevator stopped, and it slid open. Jeraldine got out as quickly as she got in. She was claustrophobic but it was something about this place that was making her heart race. She looked around, and it shocked her.
The office was gigantic and breathtaking. It was polished and fancy. Everything in their screamed class, and taste. The maroon leather seats were shining, but Jeraldine didn’t want to touch them.
Jeraldine gasped when her eyes caught a few paintings on the wall. The paintings were the most beautiful she had ever seen. The raw display depicted the sheer intensity of love and loss; and its aftermaths—the coldness of one’s heart when one can find no reason to move on. Jeraldine stood there mesmerized by the view before her.
And before she had the chance to run away from the hallway she wanted to spend her life in, she heard footsteps. There was only one person, she figured. Before she could turn around, she felt her handbag drop to the floor with a thud.
All of a sudden, she was up against the wall, in a very painful motion.
The person behind her, held her hands tightly to her back.
She tried to get up from the awkward position but to no avail. Whoever it was had a strong hold on her hands, judging by the pain she was in, she knew there would be a bruise.
‘State your reason for being in a private office before I throw you off the building in the worst possible way imaginable,’ he barked out.
She shook in fear. ‘I…I got lost. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be here. I’m sorry, please let me go,’ She pleaded, as she closed her eyes and cursed herself for her poor decision making skills.
‘Stand down, Brian,’ someone said, making her sigh in relief. She hadn’t heard another person enter, but whoever it was, she needed to thank afterwards.
Brian who was holding her up till now, unceremoniously dumped her to the ground. For a second, she thought about the possibility of him being Nathan but it was stupid. His name is Brian, Jeraldine – her subconscious told her.
She didn’t need to be told twice. Getting up from the ground, she slowly turned to the men standing before her in black suits. They both looked scary, with tattoos peeking out on their hands. They had to be bodyguards or something, for they looked the part.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Jeraldine Andrews,’ she lifted her chin, hoping her voice sounded more firm than it did to her. ‘I didn’t mean to come in here. I mean, this room. I actually did mean to come to the building today. You see, I am here for an interview. And I stumbled here by mistake.’ Forcing herself to be brave, she continued, ‘Please, just let me go.’
The men before her looked at each other, and Jeraldine got the feeling that they didn’t believed her story. The man who had saved her from Brian, then waved him away, and Jeraldine found herself alone with the person who was her savior.
‘Thank you so much for saving me back then. Can I leave now?’ She smiled and made a move forward before her view was blocked. ‘Or…not.’ She took a couple of steps back. ‘Look, I have no reason to be here anymore. I am telling you that it was a mistake. I have no intention of stealing anything.’ But he simply ignored her.
All of a sudden, she shivered. The air shifted around. The chill of the office blasted her, making her heart beat fast in her chest. She could almost feel a rush of emotion, a powerful force seeking to prove its fury. She gripped her bag tightly, the feeling almost knocking her off her feet. She heard the angry footsteps before she spotted him.
The man before her was the most handsome man she had ever seen. He was breathing hard, with some beads of sweat clinging onto his forehead. He was dressed in black from head to toe, and Jeraldine realized she could stand there and stare at him all day long.
This was Nathan Blackwood. The most loved bachelor of the city.
Her breath hitched.
The man casually moved about the room, his movements confident and assertive, and Jeraldine was envious of the confidence he was oozing. He didn’t glance at her as he took a seat behind his desk, casually, as if it happened every day he just went to his work. He chose to ignore the people in the room and went about his business. It was 10 minutes of pure quiet, and Jeraldine began to get tired, and her legs started to feel numb. No one acknowledged her, and no one was ready to let her go just yet.
Just then, he looked up from the papers. His stare, cold and bland, directed at her. Without taking his eyes off of her, he waved her away.
She released the breath she was holding and turned around to leave when she got a glare from Gideon as his men started to leave the office. Her stomach dropped then. He didn’t wave her away. They all left, and she was alone in his powerful presence.
She tried to act natural, but damn it, she was failing. Jeraldine stayed frozen in her spot, but she kept moving her arms and legs around just so she could stop being so nervous.
She wanted to stare at Nathan Blackwood, but she was scared if she did, she would be turned into ashes or turned into a stone. Neither sounded okay at all.
‘Stop disturbing my peace,’ His voice soft yet cold and deadly. Jeraldine wasn’t even aware he knew she was here. Making no attempt to hide his annoyance, Nathan Blackwood fixed his darkest look on her, the girl who had dared disrupt his peace. ‘Or I would do something about it.’
Her chest grew so tight she could barely breathe. Fear pounded through her. The image of her father’s corset crossed her mind, and she felt she would hyperventilate.
She realized this was the room that held the secret to the truth about what had happened.
‘Take a seat.’
With shaking legs, she was quick to sit down in one of the chairs in front of him, deciding she was safer if she could have been out of his view. But she didn’t have any choice.
‘Why are you here?’ he asked without taking his eyes off the papers he was writing on. Jeraldine wanted to take a peek to see what his handwriting looked like. Was it ugly? Was it beautiful? She knew it was the latter, though.
She shifted in her seat, willing herself to speak before he got any angry. She remembers full well what they say about Nathan Blackwood. The only emotion that the man was known to feel was anger. Nathan was famous for never smiling. He had his face straight, and she began to wonder if he knew how to smile. She had thought it was insane, that he couldn’t be what everyone says about him, but she was starting to think otherwise.
‘I…i…I..w..’ She stammered in fear, the sentence she meant to say cowering behind her heart.
Nathan stopped writing, and he suddenly glanced up at her. The mighty blue eyes that collided with her made her gulp down. He continued to bore holes in her with a decidedly pointed stare.
‘Careful what you say,’ he said before tilting his head. ‘Do I…frighten you?’
She licked her lips before speaking, ‘Is that a trick question?’ She quietly asked. Not getting any answer in return, she added, ‘Y…yes.’
He lifted a perfect brow. ‘Oh?’
‘I don’t want to say anything wrong. You have a reputation that well, I think it might be true what people say about you. You certainly are very scary.’
After she had said this, she realized that this was not the most careful thing to say.
Her words registered, and Jeraldine sat there wondering how he could stare at her so much more coldly now, ‘you’d do well to remember who you’re speaking to, Miss?’ he said in a chilling cold voice with his blue eyes piercing through her soul.
‘Andrews,’ she answered, her voice shaking. ‘Jeraldine Andrews. And of course, Mr. Blackwood.’
‘Miss Andrews, I don’t quite like repeating myself. Why are you here?’ Nathan said, growing impatient. The woman before him was beautiful and different from any other he had ever seen. Usually, he was okay with being the reason of fear for people, but hearing her say that she was scared of him, made the occurrence of an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach.
‘I’m here for the interview. I got lost because of the influx of people outside. The only exit I could see was this elevator, and I got in it but this was the only destination for it, and you know the rest. I really do apologize for all the inconvenience that I have caused you.’
‘I’m not kind,’ he spoke as if he was disgusted by a word he wasn’t familiar with.
‘Of course. If you’d be nice enough?’
Drawing himself to his full height, Mr. Blackwood cocked a brow as if challenging her. ‘No difference.’
Irritation pumping through her veins, She met his heated gaze with her cool one. ‘If you’d be so generous to let me go? I don’t want to trouble you more.’
‘Do you own a dictionary, Miss Andrews?’ He asked without as much as a blink. ‘Is that the only word you know?’ When she attempted to answer him, he cut her off. ‘It was a rhetorical question.’
‘Indeed,’ he responded in such a tone that had she wondered if he thought she was a dimwit. ‘Pass me your resume.’
She studied him for a long, uncomfortable moment. ‘You want to see my resume?’
‘I’m speaking English, aren’t I? Pass me your resume.’ She quickly passed him her resume while he studied it. ‘Hmm. You attended Harvard, and graduated at the top of your class. I am impressed. However, you do not have the necessary work experience required. In fact, you don’t have experience working in any corporate setup.
How do you think you can work for a company such as the Blackwood industry, Ms. Andrews,’ he countered.
She met his gaze with a steely-eyed glare, her anger ready to erupt in her. She pressed her lips together and hoped he wouldn’t notice the muscle jerking in her face.
‘All I can say is that I am dedicated, and a hard worker. If given the chance, you will see that I am a woman of my word’ She asked, his words plunging like an expertly wielded knife straight into her heart. She knew when she came here that Jeraldine had no chance, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t hurting. This was her only chance.
She hadn’t lived a courageous life, and now that she was trying to – things weren’t going her way.
She wanted to say she wasn’t supposed to be interviewed by him, that it was Elizabeth Garner who called her for an interview. But she was a coward.
‘Are you going to cry?’ he asked, tilting his head to the side.
‘Good. I don’t know what to do when a woman cries.’ Nathan said.
She stiffened, a vein in her forehead beginning to throb. ‘Thank you for your time, Mr. Blackwood’ her heart pounded in hot anger as she made an attempt to get up and leave his bloody office and ugly personality.
‘But…I can think of a position that I think you will be qualified for. What would you say to be my personal assistant? You will be responsible for running my errands, and handling my emails. You will be asked to work longer hours, and sometimes on the weekend as well. You will be compensated heavily, of course.’
She drew a series of long, deep breaths until the tension in her began to lessen. ‘Mr. Blackwood if you’d just-‘
‘I urge you to give me an answer before you walk out that door because I can easily find someone who would love to do the job.’
Closing her eyes, she pinched the bridge of her nose and repressed the urge to throw back her head and scream. ‘Yes, but-‘
He looked away from her and glanced down at the papers in front of him. ‘Have a good day, Ms. Andrews.’
This was her chance. This was the perfect opportunity, and she was hesitating. Why?
‘I’ll take it! I’ll take the job.’ Clamping her lips together, she swallowed the bitterness rising in her throat and, instead, eyed him with disdain. ‘Mr. Blackwood, are you listening? I said I’ll take the job.’ Her entire body thrumming with agitation, she clenched her hands to white-knuckled fists under the desk as he ignored her.
‘I’ll see you on Monday at eight o’clock,’ he dismissed without even bothering to look at her.
‘Thank you so much! I’d not let-‘
He interrupted, ‘See yourself out.’
What an ass. Jeraldine silently walked out of the office, her mind replaying the 20 minutes of conversation she had with him, and through those minutes, he never said anything nice to her.
Remember, Jeraldine. You work for him now. Oh yes, how unfortunate for her. If she hadn’t been so desperate to get this job, she would have told him for the arrogant man that he was. But she couldn’t. Too much was at stake now, her father’s death and his innocence.
She just hoped she would survive working for Nathan Blackwood and get this thing over with soon. She had to move on, and she could only do that when she had the proof that she needed.
The moment she opened the front door, she found her granny standing there, her expression grim with anticipation. Jeraldine nodded at her, and the women took in a breath of relief.
‘I got it, grams.’ She said and hugged the older woman.
The latter was a sobbing mess. Eleanor hadn’t told her granddaughter, for the girl was grieving. Still, she wanted more than anything to find the people responsible for the death of her son. She, too, like Jeraldine, did not believe the story. But now, seeing the girl trying so hard to get justice for her father reminded her of her son.
Jeraldine was just like her father, Eleanor had come to realize. She shared the same passion and dedication, and both of them knew right from wrong.
‘Come on. Grams. It is supposed to be a happy day.’ She said, trying to calm her grandmother down when it clicked. She knew what they should do right now. ‘Grams, how about we order pizza, and go through the carton, you’ve been asking me to?’
‘Are you sure you want to do that?’
‘Yes. I think it would give me the motivation, I need for Monday.’
Half an hour later, they both found themselves on the floor of the living room couch. Before the woman was a box of old pictures that Jeraldine had kept in her attic. Not knowing what to do with them; she brought them with her.
The box was full of pictures of her father and her mother and the three of them together. It was going to be rough, she knew, but she had promised herself that she would start to move on if she got the position at the Blackwood Company.
And this was the first step.
Every picture had a story, and her grandmother told her about them all. She narrated how crazy in love her dad was when he first saw her mother and how angry his own dad was at him. The whole house was a war zone back then.
Her father met her mother on a trip to Europe. Lost amidst one of the ancient castles’ sights, her father found a lost maiden somewhere in old England, crying by the corridors. Being the gentlemen that he was, he went ahead to ask after the young lady.
It was love at first sight.
He saw her, and he knew that he had found her princess.
Her father was a man who was gentle and loving to those who knew him. He was funny and outgoing, but he would instead come off as rude and broody to those who did not know him personally.
The man was also a sight to hold in his younger days. McDreamy – like the girls in his school would call him. McDreamy with the bad boy reputation.
All the girls wanted him, and he was waiting for his own damsel in distress. The girl he would be suitable for, as he put it many times.
Going through picture after picture, Jeraldine couldn’t stop the tears. Memories were flooding in, and she couldn’t help but smile as she remembered the moments she had lived in their perfect home.
‘Do you the story behind that picture?’ Her grandmother broke her out of her reverie, pointed at the picture in her hand. Jeraldine saw her younger self sitting on her father’s lap. She had been no more than 5.
No, she shook her head.
‘Well, it was the day of your kindergarten prom. You were crying because not a single guy had asked you to be their princess. You see, you were very obsessed with Cinderella, and Sleeping beauty. And all day long, you would tell us all stories of how you couldn’t wait to meet your own prince charming.’ Her grandmother continued; she too was lost in a trance with tears stroking her face. ‘But that day, you were sitting in your room crying, and when your father asked what the problem was, you told him – daddy, I am so tired of waiting. Will I ever be someone’s princess? – Your dad took you into his lap and told you that he had only been in love two times, in his life. Both the times, it was a princess. The first was your mother, and the second, when you were born. He held you in his arms and fell in love with his beautiful daughter the moment he saw her. Oh, Jeraldine, you were the happiest that day.’
Even though Jeraldine couldn’t remember the events, she smiled. That is a man who brought her up. He was the one man to look after her when her mother walked out on them.
This she remembered.
She was 12 years old, and she eavesdropping on her parents. Her mother was accusing her father of loving her too much. She claimed that all that love was suffocating her, to the point that she had no option but to leave them.
The moment, who gave birth to her left them that day. And her father became both her mother and her father. The man did everything for her. He brought her to school, worked his job, and helped her with her homework and her first heartbreak. When she woke up the first time she got her periods, he was there with her, sitting beside her and explained everything.
That man would never endanger anyone, nor would he drink while working. Not even on his own birthday. And this she would prove.
With her resolved, she sat aside that picture, wanting to frame it for her room.
The two of them stayed in the living room for two hours, going through picture after picture, and by the time they were done, their faces were red with all the crying.
It was then, they both realized that it was the right thing to do. The man who had died did not deserve what he had gotten. On her own, Jeraldine took her grandmother’s hand and promised that she would try whatever it took to clear her father’s name and bring the real culprits down.
The weekend was over before she knew, and she found herself standing before the Blackwood building. The sight was scary, and Jeraldine felt like she hadn’t gotten enough time to wrap her head around the fact that she was now working here.
She had spent the weekend with her grandmother and her old friends. The women were all enjoying a kitty party in their home, and when Jeraldine joined them, they, in their own way, kindly asked her to go.
She couldn’t be annoyed at them because they wanted her to go out and explore the city. And she did just that. She went out shopping. She was the assistant to one of the richest men in all of London and had to look the part. And she did just that.
She got off the cab and started walking. She found it stupid that no taxi was allowed inside, and because she did not have a car, she had to walk. She turned the corner, and she found herself being followed by two homeless men. The city was beautiful but scary, and at that moment, she was scared shitless.
It also didn’t help her that the street was nearly deserted. She could see the guard outside the building, but he had his back to her and had his air phones on.
Before she could figure out her next course of the plan, a hand wrapped around her waist. Her side was pinched, and she felt a warm breath on her neck. ‘Play along.’ The voice said.
The mysterious man stopped her and turned her to face him.
The man before her was around her age but taller. The most typical British guy you’d ever see, and all the more handsome.
‘Darling, I know you are angry at me, but that does not mean you can just leave without telling me anything.’ He said rather too loudly, and she saw the man following her, too had stopped. They look confused.
Deciding to play along, she added, ‘But I am very angry at you.’
‘I know, baby. Please give me a chance? He said, looking at her with puppy dog eyes. She couldn’t help but want to provide him with an opportunity for whatever he wanted.
She nodded her head with a smile. This irked him to smile too, and all of a sudden, Jeraldine found herself in a warm, muscular chest. He kissed the top of her head, and without releasing her, turned towards the two men.
‘Can I help you?’ He asked them. All the warmth leaving his body.
‘No.’ they said and left.
She took a breath and turned towards her savior.
‘Thank you so much.’
‘No problem. I would have stopped them sooner, but they had a gun. I am Adam, by the way.’
‘Jeraldine.’ She shook his hand, and her gaze fell on the watch on his hand.
Crap, she thought. She would be late on her first day.
‘I am sorry but it is my first day, and I cannot be late. Mr. Blackwood is a hard man and I don’t reason for him to fire me on the first day.’
‘Oh, yeah. I have heard the rumors. Come, I too am going there to meet my brother. I could accompany you.’
Now she was hesitant of the man who had saved her. But not wanting to waste any time, she agreed. He stayed with her the entire way. Even when she entered the elevator, and she had a feeling she was enjoying her agitation.
But before she would say anything to him, the elevator came to a halt.
The minute the door slid open, she walked out, her steps were nervous, and if it had a mind of its own, it would have bolted right out of there and leave her legless.
When she stepped foot in the building, She didn’t know where the hell she would go to.
She also couldn’t just barge into Mr. Blackwood’s office and demand to know where her desk was. Besides, she didn’t think he was here yet.
She turned around to ask Adam and was surprised to see him gone.
She turned at the sound of her name and came face to face with a beautiful woman. She was so gorgeous and well-dressed.
‘Yes?’ She answered politely, with a smile on her face. The women returned it.
‘My name is Emma. I’m a little surprised to see you here so early, though it’s a good thing. Mr. Blackwood doesn’t like when his employees come late to work.’
‘Don’t worry. I am a morning person, so I will always be on time.’
‘That is very good to hear. Please follow me, and I will show you to your desk.’
Emma started walking, and Jeraldine couldn’t help but like her. She was nothing like Nathan, but then again, she shouldn’t judge him based on their one interaction. Her father always said this was a bad habit of hers.
‘I want to tell you not to believe all the things you hear about this place. While some are true, the majority aren’t. Mr. Blackwood is an excellent CEO, and not like the monster that the media portrays him as.
He just lives a very private life, and people I think cannot digest that. Oh, here you go.’ She pointed to a desk that had a white laptop on it. The desk was pushed far up against the wall beside a large double door.
‘You’re going to be sitting over here,’ she said. ‘You can put one personal thing on your desk because Mr. Blackwood doesn’t like too much of it. Your job is to answer the phone and complete his tasks. Do you understand?’
‘Very good. Welcome to Blackwood Industry. I’m sure you will be perfect.’ Emma said, a smile never leaving her face.
‘Here is a list of all the numbers of everyone important in the company.’ She handed her a paper and left.
It didn’t take more than thirty minutes before Nathan walked in like a storm, ready to suck you away into its vortex. His face held no emotions, and those stone-cold eyes could cease your existence. Jeraldine stood transfixed, unable to tear her eyes away from the sheer muscled of his arms, chest, and legs. The way his blue Armani suit clung to his body like a second skin. There was a perfect lethal and predatory to his movements as he walked.
Her heart pounded with fascination. Nathan was a powerful man, incredible in every way, and the mere sight of him now, in his glory, nearly brought Jeraldine to her knees. It was as if she was seeing him for the first time.
She hated it. The attraction she held for Nathan. She was here on the job, a mission of her own, and crushing over him wasn’t part of the deal.
Everyone nodded good morning to him, but he ignored them and walked past with so much grace she had only ever seen in one man before—her father.
Without so much as a glance in her direction, he went into his office. She stood there transfixed, unaware of what to do. She couldn’t stay there and not do anything.
Mustering up the little courage she had, she went and knocked on his door.
‘What?!’ His voice was deep and thunderous. It felt as if it rumbled mightily inside the building.
Swallowing bile that had risen in her throat, she turned the knob and pushed the door open. Jeraldine walked inside his cold office and closed the door behind her.
‘Good morning, sir,’ she greeted, her heart pounding in her chest.
Mr. Blackwood slowly raised his head to look at her. He appeared more frightening than she could have imagined, and she couldn’t control the shudder that shook her body when those silver eyes were fixed on her. There wasn’t anything familiar about his stare. She sucked in her breath.
She didn’t understand why his presence made her feel this way. She was generally quirky, and all but something about him made her run away from him and run towards him.
His gaze roamed over her, and almost lazy action. Their eyes stayed locked for one long, nerve-shattering moment. A hundred feelings went through her in that instant. It was as if everything else in the world stood still.
This man…he was frightening. And she feared she might have accidentally sold her soul to him.
‘Yes? Can I help you?’ he barked.
She stared at him, unable to understand what he meant by that? Was she not to come into his office?
Before she could say something, he fired more questions at her. ‘How did you get here? Who let you in?’ He pressed an intercom and spoke into it. ‘Who let this woman in? Do I pay you to let any stranger come into my office?!—You’re asking me what woman? You’re fired!’ He was raising his voice at the poor man that was receiving it. It was a voice that represented sudden death to her.
‘Please, Mr. Blackwood, you hired me to be your assistant. Jeraldine Andrews, remember?’ she asked in a choked, pleading voice. Her heart was pounding loudly, and she couldn’t seem to move. Her deepest instinct warned her not to anger this man any further.
He was like an unforgiving storm, a force not to be reckoned with.
Nathan raised his eyebrows as he seized her up, pointing his pen at her in realization. He let out a long sigh and relaxed, ‘My apologies. I have had a rough morning, and it slipped my mind that today would be your first day.’
‘Take this.’ She quickly moved to take the paper from him; their fingers almost touched in the process if he hadn’t let go of it immediately before it happened. ‘That’s my email and the password. Answer all my emails. Ignore ones that aren’t relevant. Don’t schedule a meeting without consulting me first. Do not, under any circumstances, Ms. Andrews, make any of my emails go public.
Keep my emails private. If I find out you’ve discussed it with anyone, family or friend, I assure you, you will very well regret it.’
Her heart began to beat fast, and she hated that he could evoke this anxiety in her. And he was doing it intentionally. Of course, he was.
‘Every morning by exactly 9 am, you’ll get me my tea, not coffee. I like it black. It shouldn’t be too cold and too hot. All the files I need to sign on should be at my desk before I get here. You don’t come into my office, and no visitors are allowed from 12 to 1. You get my lunch from Anna’s kitchen. It’s a one-hour drive, and I don’t care how you get there. Just ask for my usual. Keep in mind that I need it hot and on my table by 2. If it turns cold, I’ll deduct the price from your salary.’
She did all she could to keep everything in her mind. This was bound to be a difficult job, she knew. But she had to do it. She told herself, again and again.
‘Are you listening to me?’ He looked outraged. Anger emanated from his face, his gaze traveling over her critically. Something dark flickered across his expression that had her stomach churned.
Swallowing, she nodded her head.
His eyes narrowed. ‘You don’t nod. You speak when you’re spoken to, do you understand?’
‘Yes, sir.’ She looked down before looking up at him. The fierce expression on his face filled her with terror.
He continued with his cold and unforgiving tone. ‘I took it upon myself to give this to you.’ He threw what looked like a manual at me. ‘Read it. Follow it. If you want to be here in a week.’
It was the tone in which he had said it. Jeraldine realized that the conversation was done and over with.
She quietly went to her desk, put the humongous file there, and went to retrieve his tea. He hadn’t told her how much sugar he took in it, but deciding by his personality, she figured Nathan would like his tea bitter, just like he was.
When she went into his office again, he was on a call. He motioned for her to put his tea on this table and leave. She did just that but waited by the door to gauge his expression when tasting the tea.
She didn’t know why it mattered to her if he liked it or not, but she had convinced herself that she needed him to trust her to be able to find the evidence she needed.
He took a sip and closed his eyes. A ghost of a smile appearing on his face. Feeling satisfied with the result, Jeraldine closed the door happily, only to collide with someone.
A low chuckle began, and she looked up to see the culprit.
It was Adam. The tall, lean guy was staring at her, his lips curved into a smirk. In all her anxious state, she had forgotten to notice his features. He had short dark hair at the sides, and the spike in the middle was a bit long and messy.
‘Congratulations,’ his deep voice said with a hint of a joke. ‘You survived two visits to his office. Calls for a celebration.’
She couldn’t help but smile. One, because she knew Adam was probably telling the truth, and two, she knew she would like Adam. He was different from the way she saw him.
Doing a little curtsy that would earn another chuckle from him, she said, ‘Would you like to engrave that in a cup and deliver it to my desk?’
‘Oh, clever. Not feeling so scared now, are we?’
She smiled at his reference and walked away, only to see him following her. ‘Did you find your brother?’
She sat in her seat and turned towards him, only to see him a few inches away from her. He was hovering over her heart, and it was scandalous. ‘Why? You want to know if you can have me all to yourself now.’ He said with a smirk. She could feel his breath on her.
But she responded; someone cleared their throat from behind them.
Jeraldine gasped and saw none other than Nathan staring at the two of them. If looks could kill, she would be dead, judging by his intense stare.
‘Am I paying you to flirt with my younger brother, Ms. Andrews?’ Nathan asked, still not taking his eyes off of her.
It had to be how he was staring at her, which made a part of her feel as if he was jealous. The idea itself was ridiculous, but a part of her, the part that had the biggest crush on him, was determined. But before she could ponder more over it, his words registered.
‘Brother?’ She asked, flabbergasted. On no Earth could Adam and Nathan be brothers. They were poles apart.
‘Yes. This is the brother I was meeting today, and to answer your earlier question – No, I was about to go and meet him.’ Adam replied as if nothing had happened.
Jeraldine could only nod.
The two brothers looked at her once and started to leave. Before they had the chance to close the door, she heard a bit of their conversation, ‘You didn’t tell me your new assistant is so hot.’ It was Adam.
She couldn’t hear Nathan’s reply, and she wanted to. Apart from her wanted to know if he would agree with his brother or not.
Her day so far had been going good. Nathan had mainly kept to his office, and she was happy about that.
There was so much of the man she could take in one day, and she had her fill for the day.
Adam was indeed a blessing in disguise. Just as she was about to leave to get the boss’s lunch, he had announced that both the brother were going out. Jeraldine found it funny. The entire office was more far more relaxing when Nathan wasn’t in the building.
She was also thrilled to have met Emma. The woman was beautiful and unique. She invited Jeraldine to lunch with two other colleagues, and she found herself having fun.
They went out to the nearest café, which was only 5 minutes away. Jeraldine had learned that the entire office got their lunch from there in case Nathan needed them back. She met Nina and Tom.
Nina was 7 months pregnant, worked in HR, while Tom was her husband and a friend of Nathan, if that was even possible. He was in the administration.
The couple was funny and goofy, and all throughout lunch, Jeraldine couldn’t help but feel lonely. Not that her father had left, she had no one. Jeraldine hadn’t had a boyfriend in over two years, and at this point, Jeraldine wasn’t sure how to find one. She had no social life, and she had just recently moved to the city. All of her grandmother’s friends were old.
She felt like she was in an interview; maybe it was; the one she had missed, initially. They had asked her why she was here and the whole story. And Jeraldine told them everything, except the part of her secret mission.
All the chatter that had continued throughout their way back came to an instant stop when they entered the elevator. Nathan stood there with them, in the closed space. Nathan greeted Tom and then asked about Nina’s baby.
It shocked her to see him be so civil. On every floor, one person left, until it was only her and Nathan.
The air was tense and awkward, and she felt like she couldn’t even breathe. All of a sudden, Nathan moved to the back and kept his stare on her. It made her all the more conscious, and she found herself counting the floors.
As soon as their floor came, Nathan grasped her hand.
She turned to look at him, feeling her hand burning. She loved it—his touch.
‘No one comes to my office, and I mean no one. I have a board meeting.’ He said and left.
The man was rude, hot, and made her feel things she hadn’t ever felt before. Sitting at her desk, she couldn’t focus on her work but only how her skin had burned after he touched her. She hated to admit it, but she did not want him to let her go so soon.
‘Excuse me?’ Too lost her thoughts, she didn’t notice the presence.
Before she stood, a little guy. His height could barely touch the side of her desk. She stood up, and walked towards him, and kneeled down.
‘Yes, how can I help you?’ she asked.
The boy was no more than 5 years old and looked familiar. She didn’t know where she had seen him but had a feeling that she had. There was something about him, or maybe it was just his innocence.
This boy had to be the cutest she had ever met. Because of her love for children, she didn’t usually discriminate against them based on their appearance. Every baby, according to her, was beautiful. But the one before her was the cutest she had ever seen. All she wanted was to hold him in her arms and kiss him all over. Maybe even bite his chubby cheeks.
‘I don’t have anywhere to go, and my dad told me not to disturb him in the meeting.’
‘Where is your daddy now?’ She felt dumb asking that. Of course, his dad was in a meeting with Nathan. He had told her that he was in a meeting with the board.
The boy before her had to be one of their sons. Maybe that is why he looked familiar. She did see a few board members entering the office a while back.
The boy pointed in the direction of Nathan’s office.
She nodded her head in understanding, ‘What can I help you with?’
‘I am hungry. Do you have anything to eat?’
‘Sadly no, but we can check the kitchen out?’
The boy nodded enthusiastically. Jeraldine stood up; he instantly held her hand and started dragging her.
She looked back and realized the dilemma.
It was her first day, and what if Nathan needed something. He could buzz the intercom, and if she wasn’t here, he would just come out and see her empty desk. But then there was this cute little guy, who she wanted to spend time with. He looked sad for his age, and she wanted to hug him close and ease away all of his sadness.
Praying to all the Gods that there are, she wished Nathan would not come out of his office and find her vacant desk. She led the boy to the kitchen.
Thankfully, because almost everyone had already had their lunch, the place was deserted. Jeraldine saw the boy getting into a chair and climbing to sit on top of the table. The action made her ruffle his hair messy.
‘Please don’t.’ He said in a small voice.
She smiled at him, ‘What do you want to eat?’
‘Do you have instant ramen?’ He said.
‘You want instant ramen, right now?’ She could not believe the boy before her.
He nodded his head, giving her puppy dog eyes.
The boy was good. She knew it, and he knew it. He was also brilliant for his age, for he knew no one sane would be able to refuse him with that look.
She looked around the cabinets and found one, luckily. The boy did a dance on the table, and Jeraldine was glad she was there with him and not on her desk.
This had been the only moment all day that she was actually happy to be working here. Mind you – working, because her lunch was when she wasn’t working, and that did not count. She was weird like that, and she knew it.
‘Hey, what is your name?’ She asked.
‘Well, Xavier, it is very nice to meet you. ’Jeradline said, extending her hand.
The boy, or Xavier – as she finally had a name for him was all too happy to shake her hand, in display to their professional meeting. She was taken aback, when he placed a sloppy kiss on the back of her hand, ‘you are beautiful, ma’am.’ He said, and Jeraldine fell in love with him.
‘Aren’t you a gentleman, kind Sir?’ She replied, playing along.
‘I am. My dad says every man needs to be a gentleman because not many man are these days.’
‘Well, your dad seems like a smart man. So how old are you?’ She asked him while making him his food.
‘I will turn 5 in a month.’
‘Oh, you are a Scorpio?’
He looked at her weirdly, ‘What is that?’
‘So basically, for every month there is a number, stone, and star assigned to it. The star is usually a symbolic representation. Basically, those who believe in it think that their stars have glimpses of their personalities.’ She finished and cursed herself.
Wow, Jeraldine, You cannot explain to a 5-year-old what a horoscope is.
‘Do you get it?’ She tried asking.
He looked lost in his thoughts and replied only after a minute, ‘I think so. So all Scorpio’s have the same personalities?’
The boy was brilliant for his own age.
‘They are all not the same, but yes they have similarities. Like, I think you and I will have a lot in common, because I, too, am a Scorpio.’ She was doing better. He smiled at her brightly, ‘Let’s see, do you like Batman?’ she asked, knowing this would be something he would like.
‘Yes. Do you?’ He asked so excitedly that Jeraldine let out a loud laugh.
For the next five minutes, he kept asking her different things of what he thought they might have in common, and she was happy to see that they had a lot in common.
She gave him his ramen and sat on the chair before him. Not being able to keep it in any longer, she finally asked him, ‘Who is your father?’
‘Nathan.’ He replied as if it wasn’t a big deal.
Her whole world stopped. No, this could not be happening. Needing to confirm, she asked again, ‘Nathan Blackwood?’
‘Yes.’ Came the reply.
Only it wasn’t from the kid, it was from his dad, and if looks could kill, she would be six feet under the ground by now.