Three hours later, I was cursing every known God on the planet for the ungodly existence of the being called Lancelin Eustein.
“Do you have any special preferences amongst the women listed in your diary?”
“Do you have any special restaurant preferences?”
“Any favorite food items?”
“Any particular allergies?”
That just earned me a look with a raised eyebrow.
Right. Incubi = immortal = all kinds of disease resistant…especially STDs.
“Any particular kind of gift you like to send your…”
What the fuck? Did he just call his mistresses his…meals?
I was screaming and ripping out my hair on the inside but outwardly, I just gave him a polite smile and continued. “Right. Any particular gifts that you like to gift your…meals?”
“Whatever they want.”
Wow! Did he just ditch the monosyllabic replies?
“Do you have any preferences for any particular…meal, you’d like to call upon this week?”
I sighed and put the planner on the table. “Sir, I can’t set up any dinner dates for you if you don’t give me any specifics. You’re meeting and business schedules have already been fixed for the next week, but one of my main duties as your Secretary is to fix your dates. How can I help you if you don’t co-operate?”
Lancelin only gave me a lopsided smile as he continued to study me with his intense topaz eyes. I didn’t know if it was just me that he liked to give those stares to or if that was everyone else, but the fact that we were the only people on this floor, alone, made a shiver run down my spine.
No, it wasn’t because I was uncomfortable, it was quite the opposite actually. I’d become used to the admiration and sometimes open interest that men showed me while I worked for BlueStar. Even Acelin had admired me sometimes, although I knew there was nothing sexual in his admiration. Everyone admired me for my looks and my brains, it made me feel confident, powerful.
But with Lancelin, I felt vulnerable. Like he could look into my eyes and peek into my soul and find out all my deepest secrets.
And I didn’t like feeling vulnerable. It had taken me an entire year to get back my self-confidence, to become numb to all my pain. I couldn’t go back to being that woman once again. So no matter how charming and intriguing I found Lancelin Eustein, I had to resist with all my strength.
“Tell me, Ms. Johnson,” Lancelin’s voice startled me out of my thoughts. “Which of your parents have a South-Asian heritage?”
I was a little startles at the unexpected question. “My mother. She has Indian ancestry.” I answered honestly.
“And where is your father from?” He asked, leaning forward on his chair as he placed his elbows on the table and intertwined his fingers together to place his chin on them.
“He was born and brought up in Manhattan.” I answered, my chest tightening at the thought of my father.
“And when did your mother move to New York?”
I looked up into his topaz eyes sharply. He had a smirk playing on his lips but other than that, his expression was unreadable. My eyes narrowed in on that smirk. Acelin already knew about everything in my life, from my deepest secrets to all my regrets and fears. But I didn’t know why I felt self-conscious when Lancelin asked me the same questions.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but these questions are a bit personal.” I told him as politely as I could without getting into trouble on my first day at work.
“Is it?” He tilted his head sideways, giving me another one of his soul-searing stares. “Because I thought it was only fair since you’ve been asking me a lot of personal questions for the past hour.”
My eyes widened at the mistake that I’d failed to notice. “My sincere apologies, Sir. I didn’t think th-“
“Ms. Johnson,” his voice was soft but his tone held a kind of authority that I’d never heard in Acelin’s voice even when he got mad. “Forget everything that you’d learned at BlueStar, those techniques do not apply here. I prefer a Secretary who can handle all my business arrangements first and my personal life second. In fact, I’m perfectly capable of handling my personal affairs.”
“I understand, Sir.” I lowered my head, having difficulty processing the sudden change in Lancelin as well as my role in this new company.
“And from tomorrow onwards, hand over that coffee cup to Martin, I despise espressos.”
Shocked, I looked up at his face to see him nod his head sideways. Following his lead, I looked towards where he had pointed and found the coffee cup disposed in the trash can.
“The file that Acelin gave you says that I like three shots of espresso with sugar?” I looked back at his face to see his eyebrows raised and a mocking smile on his lips. “That’s what Martin likes to get for himself. Some things, Ms. Johnson, are just for show. Just to get my over-intruding big brother off my back. So, whatever he had given you in that file, it’s of no use to you.”
By the end of his speech, Lancelin was looking at me like he was sure that I was going to burst into tears and run straight to my apartment and never show him my face ever again. I gave him my brightest smile instead.
“Sir,” I told him as politely as I could, even though I wanted to chomp down on his humongous ego. “If only you’d looked closely at the cup that I’d handed you, you would’ve noticed that it actually had vanilla latte and not an espresso. The cashier at Starbucks had already given me a clue that your chauffeur, Martin, sometimes sneaks in an extra order of vanilla latte along with his espresso and just before I entered the elevator, Martin himself confirmed his order and yours. So the cup you disposed off was actually your favorite drink, not Martin’s.”
I then picked my planner back up and opened a new page that I’d been working on for two days now and I saw Lancelin narrow his eyes at me from the corner of my eyes.
“Here,” I handed him the tablet while briefing him on the contents. “Mr. Billard had informed me that ReefWood was soon to partner with Ace Media for a promotional campaign of the new club opening at Chamomile Street. However, very few people know that Ace Media has recently gone bankrupt and are in no shape to shoot for a new promotion and they have also lost a few of their major sponsors, as the report states.
“If you want to go ahead with the deal, the by all means, you are the boss. But I would sincerely advise you to go over the reports thoroughly and get an insider to speak the truth.”
Lancelin was quiet for a long time as he went over the report, his eyes moving rapidly over the lines on the screen.
“I’ve forwarded the detailed report to your personal email ID as well, so you can view it at your leisure.” I informed him as I stood up from my chair. “Sir, is there anything else that you require of me?”
“No.” Lancelin’s voice was curt as he returned the planner and leaned back on his chair. “You may go now, Ms. Johnson.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
I curtsied in front of the future King and turned and left the office. Placing the planner at my desk, I headed straight for the elevator. Once on the ground floor, I asked the first person I met to point me towards the women’s washroom. It was only after I’d entered the washroom and checked to see it was empty that I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“Oh God!” I whispered to myself as I placed a hand against my racing heart.
Reaching the sinks, I splashed some cold water on my face and neck and wiped them down with a tissue. Then I located a small sitting are at the far corner of the bathroom and took a seat. My heart was beating so fast that I could hear it pulsating in my ears. My legs were shaky and I could feel perspiration dripping down my back.
That was a very narrow escape. For a moment, I had thought this was it for me. It had been a bit fishy when Acelin had found out that his brother had fired several secretaries in the last three months after a grueling interview session, but he had appointed me instantly, without even a single question asked. Acelin had told me to keep my eyes and ears open for any red flags and he had also been the person who had provided sources and news about Ace Media’s recent bankruptcy. If it weren’t for Acelin, I’d definitely be on the streets by now with all my memories of the past five years wiped clean from my mind.
That thought itself had me springing to my feet. I couldn’t let Sana’s insecurities seep under Sanaya Johnson’s armor. Not only did the last five years give me some valuable lessons regarding my work life but everything I am today as a person also came from Acelin’s training. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. And I wouldn’t let his brother’s schemes land me in trouble.
Squaring my shoulders, I walked out of the washroom and headed straight for the elevator. If Lancelin Eustein wants to challenge me then challenge accepted! This time, I was determined to see things to the very end.