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Under the Cover of Darkness

Under the Cover of Darkness

Christiana Cherry

Update: 2022-04-07

Chapter 1 — Alexandra

  • It was the same house I grew up in but somehow it seemed colder, more frightening than usual.
  • I was in my upstairs bedroom cowering under my favorite Bratzduvet while I listened frightfully to the heavy footsteps ascending the stairs, intent on my room.
  • Tears coursed down my face as I silently pleaded for the angry man to leave me alone. Assuming the fetal position, I shut my eyes firmly.
  • I heard the creak of my door and strangely I could smell the alcohol from the man at the door through the thick material of the duvet over my head.
  • “Alex,” he drew the first vowel in my name. “You've been a naughty girl.”
  • Suddenly the duvet was yanked from me leaving me cold and vulnerable to the man with the strange red eyes and feral smile. The scent of alcohol was almost choking at that point.
  • “Pl . . . ease,” was all I could mutter through my torrent of tears.
  • He made a tsk sound, the animalistic smile still on his face before he lunged for my throat.
  • I bolted up in bed breathing heavily and scanned my dark surroundings. The fear still gripped my heart so I switched on a light.
  • The light fell on my sparsely furnished bedroom and raw and unbelievably pleasant relief flooded my body. I tunneled my fingers through my damp hair and focused on slowing my erratic breathing.
  • Nightmares like that were starting to get more frequent but there was nothing I could do about it short of going to a doctor. As twisted as it sounded I would rather suffer incessant nightmares than go to a hospital.
  • A shadowy form moved to my left and I drew back in fear. I was about reaching for my bedside lamp when the shape flew out of the dark and unto my leg.
  • I almost screamed before I made out Morgan's dark brown head on my lap. I clutched my heart. “Morgan! Don't do that please!”
  • He cocked his head at me as if saying ‘what the heck did I do wrong?’. I chuckled and scratched his head.
  • Morgan was the brown Cocker Spaniel I once rescued. His left eye looked normal but the truth was he couldn't see a thing through it. He'd been the one constant in my life and although I was too busy to appreciate him properly like he deserved, I loved him to pieces and he knew it.
  • Suddenly overtaken by love for that shaggy, huge dog, I kissed him between the eyes. His tail perked up happily.
  • I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes. Looking at the alarm clock on my bedside table, I saw the time was 5.08.
  • I didn't have to get ready for work for another two hours so I got up and headed downstairs to the kitchen.
  • The house was tiny. Just a two bedroom apartment I shared with my mom.
  • What it lacked in space it made up for in hominess. With its bright white walls with blue trimming and the small blue throw pillows on the couch, I couldn't ask for a better home.
  • I trudged to the kitchen that was separated from the living room by a high arc, and sat on one of the four wooden bar stools surrounding the island.
  • Everywhere was still dark as I sat. This was my favorite part of the day, the time before the sun came up and I was reminded of how hectic my life really was.
  • I went through my boss' schedule in my mind.
  • I worked as the executive assistant to Carson Miller, the CEO of Miller Inc., and the overall boss of the company that revolutionized the tech world by developing the first fully automated ambulances. Being his executive assistant I got to manage and plan most of the details of his personal life but since his work life was his personal life I end up managing both.
  • He was much of a recluse when he wasn't out and about with various women and frankly I didn't see what they saw in him. Sure he was good looking and rich but that was where everything stopped.
  • After making a mental note to call Jeffrey Daniels’ assistant and schedule a meeting, I decided I'd spent enough time in the dark and went upstairs for a shower.
  • After a warm shower and with the nightmare almost forgotten, I threw my dull brown hair into a bun and scanned the row of dresses in my closet.
  • I always did this even though my closet was filled with the same shade of grey dresses and skirts.
  • I chose a knee length dress one with shimmery material and clumsily put it on almost tripping over my feet. After, I stood in front of my floor-length mirror-another morning ritual I wanted to kick but somehow couldn't-and scanned my figure.
  • I always told myself that I wanted to see how I looked in my work clothes but deep down, I knew that wasn't fully the reason. The truth was I wanted to check if my secret wish had come true and a part of my body had changed overnight.
  • But every morning my hopes were dashed. I'd still wake up with too wide hips, skinny legs and an almost non-existent bust. Every morning my crystal blue eyes and long jaw would stare back at me tauntingly.
  • Backing away from the reflective material that brought the real me painfully to fore, I slipped on my one and only pair of black pumps and put my laptop in my black leather bag.
  • I connected my black ear buds into my phone and after giving Morgan a kiss on his head, I was out of my room and down the stairs.
  • It was 6.30 when I locked the door and selected my ‘Serenade Me to the Lair of the Beast’ playlist.
  • With Imagine Dragons’Demons blasting directly into my ears, I walked for half an hour until I got to my favorite Starbucks just two blocks from Miller Inc.
  • Pushing the door in I took in the empty shop filled with the heady smell of coffee and I instantly felt alive.
  • I had a stupid smile on my face as I walked to the counter. My favorite barista, Carmine, was wiping down the counter when he spotted my smile. Rolling his dark eyes upwards he stopped what he was doing and leant his elbows on the now clean counter.
  • “This is my kingdom come, this is my kingdom come,” I started by way of greeting.
  • “Imagine Dragons, Demons.” He answered proudly with a shake of his curly black head.
  • “Very good!” I replied, impressed.
  • “It was too easy.” An easy smile had slipped into his cute face.
  • This was our standard morning procedure. It consisted of me coming in with a random song lyric, him trying — and until recently — failing miserably to identify it. Then I'd order two espressos and a cappuccino while he tried to score a date with me.
  • It wasn't like I didn't want to go out with him, I just had a phobia for getting close to men. I'd been through some horrible stuff in the hands of the opposite species so I was taking an indefinite break from the whole relationship thing. I didn't want to hurt Carmine's feelings so I just made up excuse after excuse. I realized that I hurt his feelings more by refusing but it's a one-way street with me.
  • “The usual?” he asked.
  • “Yes please.”
  • He nodded and proceeded to start filling my order.
  • “So,” he started and I internally rolled my eyes.God this guy is unrelenting. “I was planning on having a little party at my place, wanna come?”
  • I busied myself getting my purse out and digging around in it so I didn't have to answer immediately.
  • As I pretended to get out some money to pay I saw him drop the three coffees on the table with my peripheral vision and I straightened out and dropped my purse in my bag.
  • “Maybe later, Carmine,” I gave him a blinding smile and dropped the money on the table. Winking, I sashayed out.
  • As I crossed the threshold of the foyer towards the elevator Bruno Mars was wailing into my ears.
  • I clicked the button for the 17th floor and waited. Miller Inc.'s headquarters was at the heart of Miami, an imposing 20 floored glass and steel high-rise. It stuck out like a finger in the sky.
  • The doors pushed open to reveal a pristine white lobby with white leather seats at the right, a table holding coffee and snacks was tucked at the left-hand corner and right in front was a shiny white marble table top with a swivel chair behind it.
  • Everything in here was so white I thought I'd stepped into heaven.
  • I quickened my steps and went through the hallway on the left. Stopping in front of the door marked CEO I pushed it open.
  • It was empty and lit by a thin sliver of sunlight that managed to find its way through the thick curtains covering the glass walls. Three of the four walls were made of glass because Carson said it made his office less like a prison and his work less like hard labor.
  • Sometimes I didn't understand why he was so moody, it wasn't like he had problems. I took care of all of those!
  • Putting my boss out of mind I settled the coffees in the middle of the desk and turned on the desk lamp.
  • With the light of the lamp and Ed Sheeran in my ears I drew the left curtain open and stood looking out into the world below. I sighed. It was times like this that I enjoyed my job. Times when I didn't have to worry about arranging drama-filled family meetings or organizing impromptu trips to South Africa.
  • I finished opening the curtains and arranged his desk. When I was done I hurriedly popped over to my office that was separated from his by a wall of frosted glass and a brown door — the only one in this building so far — and dropped both my coffees.
  • Before I left I finished one in one gulp, grateful for the caffeine in my veins.
  • At exactly 8.00 the private elevator in Carson Miller's office pinged opened and out walked the devil himself quietly speaking to the Bluetooth headset on his ear.
  • At the sight of him my stomach plummeted.Sigh! Another work day begins,Lex.
  • He sighted me standing in front of his desk and nodded at me before taking his seat behind the table.
  • He kept talking about construction and machines while I looked him over to ascertain what mood he was in.
  • His strong jaw was locked as a muscle twitched sporadically on his forehead, his grey gaze was directed, unseeing, to something behind me. He was dressed in a tailored suit that screamed expensive coupled with a white shirt that had its top buttons undone. He gave off the domineering businessman without even trying.
  • After the silence lasted for what felt like days, he sighed and pressed the button on the headset. Finally he turned his intense gaze to me.
  • "Crap! I thought I could beat you coming in today. Guess I'm really out of my league in that category. Don't you ever sleep?" One of his dark eyebrows lifted. His voice was too low and gentle and so did not match the image he presented.At all.
  • “And a very good morning to you too, Mr. Miller. I did sleep fine thanks for asking. The sun is already up so we can expect a blistering day with temperatures in the thirties, and to be honest I don't think it's fair that only roosters are allowed to start the day screaming.”
  • Rule number one of working efficiently with Carson Miller: always have a joke handy. He'll never laugh at it but at least it puts him in the only mood I can work with; a good one.
  • “You and me both sister,” he shook his head and ran a hand through his black hair.
  • I felt the air shift in my favor and took in an inaudible breath.
  • “So Miss Holdman, it's a whole hour before anyone comes in, how about we get some work done?” His bored eyes defeated his enthusiastic tone.
  • “I'm shaking with anticipation,” I replied in the same fashion.
  • I hate Mondays.