I slid the envelop across the table at the woman sitting opposite me. Her glossy black hair was pulled back in a high ponytail and her usual bright makeup was replaced with something natural, to make her blend in the crowd rather than stand out on a TV screen. Jaclyn Stonewater was easily one of the most recognizable faces on TV as one of the top fifteen Hollywood news reporters. She was also considered a style icon by many. But the woman who sat opposite from me today was dressed in grey sweatpants and a black hoodie. Her outfit and makeup a camouflage to blend into the crowd.
“You don’t have to pay me,” the senior reporter pushed the envelope back in my direction. “Consider this a favor for Mr. Eustein. I’d like to redeem my price another way.”
I eyed the woman and realized that she had always had an ulterior motive for helping me and Acelin in the first place. Jaclyn had been the insider from Ace Media who had provided me with the bank details about their recent bankruptcy. When I had reached out to see if someone was willing to help, she had jumped at the offer. However, since I’d received Mr. Eustein’s list of past and present meals this morning, I’d already realized that Jaclyn had been one of Lancelin’s ex-meals.
No wonder she had jumped at the opportunity. She just wanted to get back together with Lancelin. Clearly, this was a woman with delusions that her relationship with Lancelin had meant something.
I gave her a polite smile. “Ms. Stonewater, do you really think you are in any position to change the conditions of the agreement?” I raised an eyebrow at her. “You just gave away valuable, top-secret information about the company that you are currently working for and thanks to you, ReefWood will soon to taking action against Ace Media for withholding crucial information.”
I pushed back the envelop in her direction and tapped it with a fingernail. “So the best options you have right now are to take the money for delivering the information, lay low and find another media company that isn’t on the verge of shutting down. You’re young and famous, so I don’t think that will be a problem for you.”
“You…you!” Jaclyn’s hazel eyes spit fire as she clenched her hands into fists. I was pretty sure that if she could, she would probably be slapping the shit out of me right now. And my thoughts were proven right when she raised her hand as if she would actually slap me in the middle of the restaurant we were currently in.
“You’re a woman of class Jaclyn; you couldn’t possibly be caught dead breaking a fingernail for slapping a mere secretary.” I reminded her. “So woman up and stop being desperate enough to chase after a man who has long forgotten you. You deserve better. Learn to estimate your self-worth and find someone who’ll treat you like you deserve to be treated.”
Jaclyn’s expression turned from angry to confused as she blinked several times to understand what I’d just told her. When realization finally dawned on her, her big grey eyes widened in surprise.
“You sound like you actually mean it.” She whispered in her sensual, husky voice.
“Of course, I do.” I told her as I gathered my bag and stood up from my seat. “Always put yourself first, because if you don’t then no one else will.”
I turned and took a step towards the door but then I stopped and turned back to her. “I’d heard you say in an interview that you liked Cacio e Pepe. I hope you don’t mind that I ordered you a takeout?”
Jaclyn’s face lit up with a bright smile. “No, absolutely not. And thank you for the advice.”
“You’re welcome.” I waved her goodbye and walked out of the busy restaurant and into the cool night breeze. I rubbed my aching neck and stretched my hands above my head as a sigh left my lips.
It was nine thirty in the evening and I had gotten off from work hardly an hour or forty five minutes ago. Lancelin had been a no-show all throughout the day…unless he had another elevator that he could take to reach his lair. I’ve heard whispers that his apartment was at the topmost floor since everyone was forbidden to go there, but I couldn’t be too sure.
I’s sorted out the files that the previous secretary had left before she was fired, a week into her work. To say that the files were a disastrous mess would be an understatement. From staff name listing to equipments to budget…everything had been arranged wrong and there was even a mistake with the budget itself. It had led me to an hour long conference call with the entire management team at the ReefWood Deluxe Club in the heart of New York City and it had derailed my progress by a long shot. It was blessing that I had been able to finish my work by eight thirty thanks to Tanya’s help.
The mocha skinned, dark haired beauty had been in ReefWood for over three years and was a huge help in arranging everything I couldn’t find. We had bonded over lunch and I was grateful that I could make at least one ally on my first day of work.
“Hello delicia, would you mind joining me for dinner?”
The soft, velvety voice had me pausing mid-step and I turned to find Acelin leaning against a street light, his golden hair blowing back in the wind as he gave me a charming smile.
“You’re wearing white.” I pointed towards his pure white jacket and pants and to the street light behind him. He was wearing a crystal blue shirt underneath, the same colour as his eyes.
“For you delicia, I’d sacrifice all my white clothing in a heartbeat.” He said as he moved away from the post and opened his arms for me.
“Sweet talker!” I smiled and gladly went into his embrace.
Acelin wrapped me in his arms and spun me around in circles before putting me down gently on my feet. “You never know Sanaya, delicia could mean either darling or pet.”
“For you pulcher, I’m willing to be either.” I mimicked his earlier words.
“Come on now,” he slung his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in the direction of his car parked on the side of the road. “I’ve got some juicy chicken burgers awaiting us inside.”
“Where’s Lorenzo?” I asked him about his chauffer. “I don’t see him around.”
“I gave him the night off.” Acelin said as he held the passenger’s door open for me. “You see, unlike your new boss, I actually care for my secretaries…well, ex-secretaries.”
“How thoughtful of you,” I told him before turning to rummage through his car in search of the burgers. The entire car smelled of burgers and it made my stomach growl like a ravenous animal.
“Aha!” I triumphantly retrieved the McDonald’s pack from the back seat of Acelin’s Audi and immediately pulled out a parcel and began unwrapping it without even bothering to hand one over to Acelin. There were only two burgers inside the parcel and they were both mine! I took a humongous bite of the juicy goodness as soon as the wrapper was off.
“Seriously, where does all of the food go?” Acelin shook his head as he started the engine.
“Into the black hole!” I announced with my mouth full before asking, “Are you going to drop me off at home?”
“Eat with your mouth closed, child! Jeez!” Acelin shook his head before answering my question. “Yes. I couldn’t possibly leave a burger intoxicated woman behind, now could I?”
“I will love you forever and always!” I told Acelin happily as I swallowed the first bite and took another bite of the burger.
“Thanks, but this is a one time thing only.” Acelin sighed. “Lance gets pretty possessive pretty soon.”
“Possessive?” I asked him once I’d swallowed my first bite. “Of what?”
“Pretty much everything.” Acelin shook his head as he came to a stop at a red light. “You’ll find out soon enough. By the way, why didn’t you take the money I gave you?”
“Acelin, I don’t work for you anymore, so I can’t take your money.” I told him. “Besides, ReefWood pays a tad bit more than BlueStar, so I’m very sure that it’ll all be covered up by the next year or so.”
“Sana, that was ten thousand dollars!” Acelin scolded. “You could’ve paid me back little by little. Aren’t you saving up to buy your childhood home?”
“Yes.” I placed my hands on my lap as a sense of loss overcame me.
When my father died, my mom and I had to move out of my childhood home and move into a smaller apartment because we could no longer afford the expenses. When I had first gotten my job, I’d started saving up so I could buy that house someday and gift it to my mom as a memory of my father. There were so many memories of us in that house that I could still hear the laughter echoing off of the walls.
“It’s alright.” I shook off the gloomy feeling and looked ahead at the road with determination. “I’ll get that house back someday and I want to do it on my own. So, I really appreciate the offer Acelin, but-“
“But you can’t accept my generosity.” Acelin finished for me. “I understand and I really appreciate your strength.”
“Thank you.” I blew him a kiss and went back to devouring my burgers as Acelin drove me home.
What we both failed to notice however, was the car trailing behind us and a pair of golden eyes that had been watching the whole ordeal.