6

Chapter6️⃣



MEREDITH



"I will have a latteand please put lots of cream in it." A customer said.


"Okayas you wish."I smiled and served her.I continued taking orders but only to pause what I was doing in disbelief.You gotta be kidding me!

He was in a charcoal grey suit and a black tie.It fitted him like his second skin and he held himself with perfect posture.It seemed like he had spent all morning talking about money until his brain was fried.Unlike the other dayhe wasn't seated in the boothbut he was standing in the line like any other normal human being out there.It was a surprise because he was definitely the sort of man who had minions to do all the annoying tasks for himlike standing in a queue for coffee.Before moving to the front line he dropped some hundred dollar notes in the tip jar when no one was watching.Hmmgenerous I see.I looked down and continued serving the customers.


"Hellokitty." His deep voice sounded exactly like it did the last time we metpowerfuldeep and masculine.He could command an entire army with his voice alone.He also had the rough edges of a commander too.He was a full package.But a full package at the wrong address.


"What will you havesir?" I continued looking down.The last thing I wanted to see was that smirk.I felt the tension settle on my shoulders.It was like being locked in a cage with a bear or wolf.It was bound to strike.When I thought of the fact that this man was possibly going to become my bossmy stomach tied in knots.I couldn't even stand his presence right now.He annoyed meand he knew it.


"Can I have my usual." I could feel his eyes trained on me and I knew he wouldn't leave until I looked up to him.


"What usual?Its not like you order coffee here everyday.What do you wantsir?" I looked behind him and I was even more annoyed when I realised he was the last on the line.Greatnow I had to put up with this asshole.


He rested his elbows on the counter moving a little closer.When he was this closeI could smell the scent of his cologne.Something like mintpine wood and body soap.For a momentI imagined the scent clung to him just after he stepped out of the shower.When I pictured him in the showerall manskinwet and muscleI frowned to that thought.What the hell?Get a grip MD!

"Its not like you don't know what I want kitty.I will wait for my order at that booth.Don't keep me waiting.I hate waiting." He moved his body closerready to lean into my face and say something elsedirty.But his mouth shut and he grinned lazily before stepping awaytaking all the warmth with him.Since he was a customerI couldn't disobey.I was committed to giving the best services to customers out of obligation.I swallowed my pride and filled the Styrofoam industrial sized cup of espresso without sugar and served three lemon-blueberry rolls in a plate before walking towards the booth he was at.When I walked towards himI didn't need to be toldI knew he was staring.His presence was heavy enoughand his stare was just as powerful.


"Here you go.Enjoy your coffee and your rolls."I placed everything down and was prepared to turn and walk away when Vic came out of nowhere.


"Ohh Mr Jalal its good to have you here again.I hope you have everything you need." She smiled.


He noddedsipping his coffee. "Yesthank you."


"If there is anything else that you needplease tell her she is at your service.She is the best one we got here." Vic smiled and patted my shoulder before walking away.


"You heard her.If there is anything I need." He smirked and took a bite of his roll.


"I'm by the counter."


"OhhI need you to sit down and wait for me to finish eating." He issued his first command emphasising on 'need'.


I scoffed. "In case you haven't noticedI need to go back to work."


He sipped his coffee and looked at me.He wasn't smirking he was just looking at me like I was the only thing to look at.When he created these tense moments he didn't seem to be bothered by his stern gaze.He was naturally intimidatinga skill that affected everyone else but him.I refused to allow this man to make me stand on pins and needles.But when he wore such an expression mixed with distinct darkness it was hard not to. 

"Why are you uncomfortable around me?Take a seat." He read me like an open book.


"I'm not uncomfortableI'm annoyed.Can I go back now?You have everything you need."


"Sit down." He ordered. "Or do you want me to complain to your manager?"


"Complain about what?Drop your sense of entitlement.I'm not one of your minions.I don't give any customer special treatment than the other just because they have more money.I'm a waitress and its my duty to serve everyone who walks in this café not sitting and watching you eat.That's what 'watchdogs' are for." I said calmly.

 

He adjusted his expensive watch before he stripped off his jacket revealing his musculature in the crispy white collared shirt.He tossed it besides him and rested his elbows on the table.The clothes covered his skinbut the formation of his strength was outlined in the way the fabric hugged his body.He looked over to where Vic was and waved at her.His shirt was tight over his strong biceps and broad shoulders.

"Can she keep me company till I'm done here?"


"Sure." Vic waved back and nodded at me.


I had more important things to do than babysit this ego maniac rich prick but what choice did I have now.I rolled my eyes and sat opposite him.

"That was easy.But its gonna be difficult to tame you.Kitty doesn't like following orders."


Not taking bullshit was ingrained in my blood and this man was close to crossing the line.First it was the kiss and now showing up at my workplace and ordering me around.I have had it.People worshipped his feetand everyone else respected his unbelievable success but he didn't impress melet alone his money.To me he was just a rich brat who thought owned everything in the worldincluding people.I tried to swallow my pride before I could blurt out an insult. _He might become your boss MD.Get a grip!_ My inner voice warned.

I watched him as he finally picked his roll and stared at it.He took a pausedeliberately before he finally took a bite.He chewed quietly having the manners of someone with high class.Which of course was the reality.I watched himsurprisingly fascinated by the way his mouth moved.He didn't make a single smacking sound.He was really handsome when he was quiet but the moment he opens his moutheverything  changes.Anything that popped out of that mouth never impressed me.He grabbed his cup of coffee and took a sip.He set it down again between uslicking his lips when he was finished.I don't know if it was for my benefit or whatbut watching him do that made me remember what those lips could dowhat they did.I shook my head and looked outside.


"How is work?How I'd waitressing like?I bet being on your feet all day long is not that amazing?Dealing with different clients can be crazy tooright?" For the first time he said something decent.His voice was so deep and masculine and he always spoke in a baritone.He emitted so much confidence with such a few words.A nice change for arrogance.


I sucked in a breathe. "I love what I do.Serving people always makes me happy since I was a kid.Sometimes people took advantage of thatbut I didn't mind as long as I was the one responsible for getting things done.SoI love waitressing.Being on my feet all day looks like torture but when you adjustit becomes enjoyable.On top of thatI meet new people here everyday.In the process I learn how to manage people with different characters.Even at the casino is the sane thing.I know how to handle a drunk and a customer who is just difficult.The job has its own disadvantagesbut I think the upsides outweighs the downsides."


He grabbed the coffee and took another drinknodding. "But I'm sure you haven't met anyone like me.Not that I'm bragging but I'm my own kind." That was true.

"Anyway I think you chose the wrong course."


I narrowed my gaze. "What do you know about my course?"


He folded his arms and gave me that intense look which made me feel like he was the biggest thing in the room. "I know you did accountancy and business."


"You were stalking me."I said as a matter-of-fact.


He shrugged. "UmmI wouldn't call that stalking.Its called an innocent background check."


"Well unauthorized background checking is called stalking."


"Stalking is to follow someone stealthily or harass someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.WellI did none of that and my background checking was unharmful.I didn't even invade your privacy.I respected it.All I wanted to know was your addressfull name and the basics because you wouldn't give me that information.It's like watching a movie trailer.You want to know what's the movie is about before you get into it.That's what I did and its not stalking.BesidesI wouldn't be here telling you about it if I had bad intensions."He had a point but I was not going to admit to that and give him the satisfaction.


"I didn't give you the permission to do that background check on me so in our world its illegal."


He shrugged. "In my world its not."


I rolled my eyes. "I can't believe I actually thought we were having a decent conversation.He just can't stop being so cocky." I murmured. I turned to himthe ferocity entering my gaze.


A smile formed on his lipsthe look so handsome and arrogant that it was undeniably sexy.

"I get under your skin don't I?"


_Yea like a crawling bug._ "You're arrogant and egoistic."


His smile widened. "Thanks for the compliment.But if you think I'm bad you haven't seen anything yet."


"I don't wish to."


He chuckled. "Has anyone ever told you how gorgeous you look when you're pissed?With that cute as hell scowl on your face."


Merlin came to mind. "Actually yes someone did but that doesn't mean I will take what you just said as a compliment."


He chuckledshaking his head. "You have a quick mouth on you." His smile faded awaybut the dark intensity remained in his eyes.I couldn't help but feel the chills down my spine. "I wonder what else that mouth can do."


"You will never know."


"Yes I will.I already know those lips give the best kiss."He shrugged.


I shook my head in disbelief. "I thought we would have a decent conversation but it can never happen.I'm sure you're done with your rolls and your coffee has turned cold.My job here is done."


Without waiting for him to say anything elseI took everything and went to the back kitchen.I carelessly dropped the plates in the sink but it wasn't my intention I was just irritated.


"Go easy on the plates.What did they do to you?" Kendall my workmate looked at me with concern.


"I'm just irritated by that arrogant son of a bitch."


She looked at me with her eyes popped. "You have never cussed before.This is a first."


"Mr Jalal thinks he is all that.Just because he has money he thinks everyone should worship the ground he walks on.Can you believe it?He asked Vic to allow me to keep him company.The audacity!"


She shrugged. "Well obviously she couldn't say no.The guy gave a huge donation.With that being saidwe are going to have a raise and this place will be renovated."


"Sohe thinks he can buy people with money.To get special treatment here he gives a donation."


She chuckled. "I don't think that's the case.Besides being a businessmanthe guy is a philanthropist.Donating is also part of his job.There are a lot of restaurants and cafés he gave donations to in Manhattan and all over New York.He has foundations and he supports many.This is not a surprise.If he was doing it for special treatment then we could have carpeted the floor with roses for him and he wouldn't have queued with the rest of the people who wanted coffee earlier.Besidesyou're good company MD.This is not the first time a customer had asked you to keep them company.A lot of kids always asked you to sit with them and tell them stories while they have their milkshakes and cookies because apparentlyyou're cute."


"Well the kids are cute too.He is far from that.His presence irks me."


She laughed. "You may dislike the guyand maybe he is indeed an arrogant businessman like they say he isbut making panties drop is his next skill set." She giggled naughtily.


I rolled my eyes. "WellI'm a grown woman with a childnot a hormonally charged teenager.I don't have the time or the inclination to get gooey-eyed over an ego maniac rich prick who thinks he owns everything and everyone."


She laughed. "What did he do to you?"


I just shook my head.And that instant my phone rang.I looked at the international number confused.After a lot of hesitating I answered.


"Meredith speakinghello."


"Heyits Benedict."


I smiledletting my guard down.Just what I needed. "Hey Ben.What's up?"


He sighed at the other end. "I'm in Tuscany right now.I'm jet lagged but I wanted to talk to you before getting to bed."


"What are you doing in Italy?Is it a business trip?"


"No.My parent's anniversary is coming up and my mom honors my dad's memories here in Italy that's why I had to accompany her.I will be back the day after tomorrow."


I sighed. "Okaysafe stay then."


"Should I arrange my chauffeur to come pick you up after your shift at the casino?"


"No no.I will be fine.You have nothing to worry about.Today I'm not working till very late."


"Ok thenif you say." We talked for a few more minutes.


When I walked back to the counterI was glad to find Juan-Carlos gone.Greatnow I could breath.


Kendall walked to me with his tab. "He left this note for you."


"Me?"


She smiled. "Yeayou."


I opened the note. " _I had to rush off to a meeting.See you laterkitty."_


I tossed the note in the nearest trashcan and started wiping the counter.


***


I waited at the bar counter at the casino for the next order to fill in.Since I didn't show up the previous day I had to work hard to get tipsto cover up for the previous night.I started working on the tableshelping the men gamble and then I started taking orders.It was a Monday and it wasn't packed as usual but still the customers we got were enough.I got good tips too.While I was working my phone rangI finished serving the gamblers and reached for my phone.I saw the name _Mother_ on the screen and ran to the nearest ladies room.I had to answer the call.


"Mama.What's wrong?Are you alright?" Slowly I paced fearing the worst.


"I'm sorry to bother you my dear.I know you're working right now." She sighed but her tone didn't give any hint of distress.Mom had always been that eerily calm even in dangerous situations.Merlin always said I inherited her calm and gentle naturebut right now I was already in a panic mode.

"Your father is here and I can't get him to leave."


"I will be right thereright now.Are you okay?"


"I'm fine and the kids are okay too.He seems angry but he is not gonna do anything.He says he wants to speak to you.He doesn't know where you stay or your phone number.My house was the last option."


"Its okay I will be there right now.If he tries anything lock yourself in the bedroom and call the police.But first call Merlin."


She sighed. "There is no need to.He won't harm us."My mother wanted to see good in people even there was none left.


I felt tears threatening to come out. "Mama I didn't forget what happened that time.I know everything.Don't try to defend him.That man is capable of anything.Let me go talk to my manager.Go lock yourself in the bedroom.Or call the neighbors so that you wouldn't be alone with him."


"Alright.Let me call Merlin." She hung up.I knew she wouldn't do that so I sprinted to the managers office as fast as my thick thighs could carry me.I didn't bother knocking I just barged inapologized and asked to be excused.He saw the distress I was in so he didn't ask anything he just granted me the permission.


"Meredithwait up!" It took me a moment to realize that someone was calling my name because I just sprinted out of the casinopurse clutched closedesperately looking for a cab to take me to my mother's house.I glanced around looking when I saw him jogging towards me.


"Where are you running off to like that?" He was still in his suit but without a tie.The front of his white shirt was unbuttoned to the chest revealing that rock hard muscle.


"Now you're stalking me.Seriously?How do I keep running into you?"


"I told you I was going to come and see you later."


"Whatever.I'm in a hurry.I can't deal with you right now.I have to go." I turned to walk away.


He blocked my path. "Heyheyhey.Where are you rushing off to?I can drop you off.You won't find a cab this time.And its dangerous to be out here alone." Before I could even protest he was already holding my hand and leading me to his SUV Toyota Avalon.I didn't have much of an option.I had to get to my mother fast.


"Get in." He rested his hands in his pockets and walked to driver's side.This man was straight up ungentlemanly.Not that I cared about him opening the car door for me but come onseriously?!


He looked at me while I stared at me in disbelief. "Ohhh kitty.I thought you would give me a lecture on equality if I so much try to open the door for you."


"I can do it on my ownthanks.I knew from the start you weren't a gentleman anyway.I wasn't surprised."


He chuckled and opened the door from the inside. "Does this count as being gentlemanly?"


I shook my head and got inside.


He pressed the button near the steering wheel. "Siriswitch on the lights."


I figured it was a hand free iOS. "Switching on the lights Mr Jalal."


When the lights were onI was blown away.I have never been a fan of fancy big cars but the interior of this one was to die for.It was covered with white leather and with a touch of shiny brown woodthe roof even had 'stars'. 

"Its beautiful."


"Thanks.Sowhere are we going?"


"Queens Forest Hills East side."


He nodded. "Hey Siri give us directions to QueensForest Hills East sidehouse number xxxx."


"Passengerplease put the seatbelt on." 


I rolled my eyes putting the seatbelt.Even the vocal hand free device was as cocky as its master.


Juan-Carlos shook his headchuckling. "Sirithe directions please."


"Calculating route Mr Jalal."


He looked at me with his intense gaze. "You have a problem following orders don't you?"


"The only orders that I follow are my own."


He revved his engine. "We will see about that."


***


"Here we are." He parked his car in front of the gate.


"Thanks so much.I gotta go." I got off the carquickly.


"Hey why are you in such a hurry?Is everything okay?" He held my arm before I made it to the front yard.


"Everything is ok.Thanks for the ride.Now I have to check on my mother." There was some shouting from the inside.

"I really have to go.Please don't follow me."


I ran inside.When I walked in I found Merlin giving Mr Burnett a piece of his mind.

"Merlin its okay.I will take it from here.You need to get some air."


"I'm the man of this house now.I'm the one who protects you.This is not his house.He should know that.Try something funny and you will know me." Merlin's features were similar to our father's and it was clear who he had inherited so many of his facials from.But our father didn't possess a spine and honor like he did.He glared at himgrabbed a packet of his cigarettes and walked out.Before asking why he was at our home I first went to check on mom and the kids.


"Momare you okay?Did he try to hurt you?"

My memory of my father being violent was when I was six.I witnessed a lot of things during that timebut none of them made any sense because I was just a kid.I remember my father headbutting my mother.She was wearing one of those flowery and sparkling jumpsuits with wide legs that slay queens in the eighties used to wear.Merlin and Megan were at granny's place so they didn't witness what I did.I obviously don't remember what the fight was aboutbut none of them made any sense because I was just a kid.I remember my father headbutting my mother.She was wearing one of those flowery and sparkling jumpsuits with wide legs that slay queens in the eighties used to wear.Merlin and Megan were at granny's place so they didn't witness what I did.I obviously don't remember what the fight was aboutI didn't understand anything during that time.My father continuously head-butted my mother.I remember being on the couchseeing blood and screaming.Blood was pouring down my father's neck and my mother's nose.Her jumpsuit was covered in blood.After the fightlike any mother trying to protect her child from a horrible memory she told me that they were playing the grownups game and it wasn't real blood on her face but ketchupand I believed her but it never left my mind.I only started to realise that I was lied to when I was old enough.That was the time I saw my father physically abusing my mother.


She fixed her head wrap.Most of her hair was goneher eyebrows too.It was a painful reminder of the cancer scare she was going through. "I'm fine.He didn't try anything.Even if he was to try anythingMerlin was nearby and when I gave him a call he was here in a blink.You have nothing to worry about.The children are asleep too they didn't witness the confrontation."


I sighed. "OkayI will go talk to him and hear what he has to say.But first of all how are you feeling?"


"You know the aftereffects of chemotherapyvomiting and all.But I will be fine in no time.You have nothing to worry about.Go talk to him."


I nodded and walked to the living room. "Father I heard you wanted to talk to me."


He couldn't hide his look of annoyance. "Why did you attack my daughter?"


I looked at him in disbelief. "Wait a minute.Soyou're telling me you came all the way from your house because I slapped Megan twice after she disrespected me?Is that why you're here?"


He frowned. "You don't understand what's at stake here.She has a photoshoot tomorrow for a famous magazine.And this is not the first time you and Merlin had attacked her.The last time she visited you took everything away from her.Things she worked hard for.You lazy around all day and expect her to do everything for you.When she stands her ground you rob her.What the hell is wrong with you?Why are you jealous of her success?Why are you so heartless?"


I looked at him in disbelief.I wanted to cry but I was too proud to give him that satisfaction. "If I'm heartless then I take after you.Mr Burnett you turned your back on my mother and left her alone to take care of two children while you took your favourite child along with you.She had no money no jobsick and you left anyway.You're the definition of heartless.You ran off with the next woman who had moneyleaving your family behind to suffer." Money is the root of all evil.When you have too much of it everyone wants it.When you don't have ityou will do anything to get your hands on it.My father chose to abandon us because he couldn't provide for us.He wanted an easy life and married a rich young woman.I hated richesmy family was torn apart because of them.I wanted a simple life.A small and quaint house without owing anything to itand the money I  make on my jobs would be enough for a comfortable life.


"How dare you talk to me like that?"


I looked at him and shook my head. "How dare I talk to you like that?You came here guns blazing because I slapped Megan after she insulted me.But you didn't even come when I was molested because you were too busy.You simply didn't care.Now you have the nerve to say I'm heartless?"


I stood up and I was about to walk away but I halted on my tracks and looked at him. "I saw you years ago.I didn't understand what was going on because I was a child but I saw you with that woman you are married to now."


"We are not doing this right now."


"Nowe are doing this!" I yelled.

"Mom was admitted in the hospital that day.It was late.Your car was parked in the front yard and you were with her.Mom knew didn't she?Because when she was discharged you argued before she went to the hospital again for her first operation."

I chuckled bitterly and shook. "Then she was discharged and you told us we were not going to stay together anymore."


"Meredith!!"He eyed me with a flatugly look of his that I hated so much.


"Father when I was little you were my hero!" I shouted.

"Now I even doubt heroes exist and it scares me to death.You don't even know where I live.You don't even have my number.You simply don't care at all.But you have the nerve to say I'm heartless." I looked at him and he shifted in his chairmanaging to transmit his usual aggression. "One day you will regret this but know that it will be way too late.The door will be shut and locked.You have never treated me with anything but contemptyet I did everything I could to win your love and prove that I was a good daughter despite my flaws.I did everything because I had some fantasy that I could prove I was not a waste of the Burnett's genes like you said I was.When the truth isthere is absolutely nothing I could ever do to please you.I get it father.I finally get it."


Then I turned with all the dignity I could managewhatever shreds of grace I had at my disposal and kept my head held high as I walked to my mother's bedroom.

The moment I walked in she hugged mecrying.But I refused to shade a tear for that man.He didn't deserve it.

"I love you mom.You're my everything." My mother worked around the clock to put a roof over our headssend us to school and put food on the table and somehow we always managed to have a nice Christmas.She took both roles of being a mother and a father.The void left by my father didn't feel so deep anymore.


"I'm so sorry."


I brushed her back. "There is no need to apologize mom.There is absolutely no need." I wiped her tears off.

"Can I take Gabriel with me.I have an interview tomorrow and he is my lucky charm."


"Of coursebut he is asleep and make sure you don't wake him up.And good luck on your interview.I know the job is yours already."


I smiled. "We can't be so sure mom."


She smiled. "I have faith and I know God will come through for you.Now go and rest.You need it.Its already 11."


"Okay mom." I went to the room Gabriel  was in and carefully carried him and his puppy.


"Merlin can you please take me home."


He drank some water and looked at me. "Your 'friend' has been waiting for you since you came.I took all his informationbut he said I can trust him because apparently you're friends."He folded his arms and glared at me.


"Juan-Carlos is still here?"


He sighed. "Where do you know the guy from Meredith?He looks older and rich.I saw that huge car of his.He is probably married.I didn't know you hang around such people."


I sighed. "Its not what you're thinking Merlin.I swear to you.He is a regular customer at the café and apparently he was at the casino when I ran out.He offered a lift since its late for a cab.We are not friends.He told you that so you could let your guard down.There is nothing to worry about."


He sighed. "I trust you.But I don't like that man.He is trouble.He may be good looking but he is older than you.The maturity is written all over his face.Don't associate yourself with that kind.AnywayI don't have a choice but to let him drop you off.I'm not done with the mama's old BMWso I will work on it overnight.I'm actually going to start now.It will be done by tomorrow though and I will drop it off early in the morning."


"Okay.Thank you."


He walked me out and since I was holding GabrielJuan-Carlos decided to be a gentleman and opened the door for me.Before he could get inMerlin asked to have a word with him.I didn't hear what they were talking about but it looked tense.It was like watching two bulls in one kraal.They weren't fighting but the intensity was noticeable.


After the talk Juan-Carlos came to the car and stared at me for a while. "Are you alright?"


I nodded. "Yea."


"Okay." He looked at Gabriel and the puppy. "He is cute and he looks like you."


"Thank you."


He nodded. "Siriswitch on the AC.A warm temperature please."


"Switching on the air-conditioning."

He looked at me one more time and drove out of the neighborhood.


***


When we arrived at my apartment he came to my side and took Gabriel as well as Chase.I got off the car and opened my arms so that I would take my son but he turned and started walking towards the security.


I ran after him. "Heythank you.I will take it from here."


"I cannot in good conscienceleave without making sure you're alright and safe in your home."


I shook my head. "No thanks.You're a stranger with a devious mind."


He chuckled and continued. "Right now my mind is not devious." He looked at me up and down. "You're still wearing your clothes."


He walked to the head of the police.The neighborhoods my motherMerlin my girls and I lived in werr patrolled by the 112th precinct of the NYPD on a regular basis.They were not really luxurious but safe neighborhoods in Queens.Juan-Carlos took out his IDpassport and driver's license and gave it to the policeman.

"If something bad happens to her while I'm in therehold me responsible." 


The policeman nodded and Juan-Carlos looked at me. "Does that make you feel better now?I'm harmless."


I sighed and led the way.I unlocked the door of my apartment and walked in.Without waiting to be invited in he pushed his way past me and marched into my apartment.I sighed and closed the door. "Welldo come in and make yourself at home." I saidevery word dripping with sarcasm. 


He stopped in the middle of the living roomturned looking at everythingtaking it all in.They were stuffed chairs covered in flowery and feather cushions and a love seat with white and blue stripes.I always kept my apartment squeaky cleandespite it being a lunch box like Megan had said.My wood floor was polished and few soft rugs broke up the space.They were frames painting of flowers and family portraits on the wall.He looked at me. "I like it.Warmcozy and welcoming.Where is his room?"


"Give him to me."


He shook his head and sighed. "If we move him around he is going to wake up and it will be hard to put him to sleep.Can't you see he is comfortable right now?" He decided to look for it himself.


"I'm sure he is feeling like he is sleeping on a rock." I murmured as I followed him.My hallways were smaller than most apartments built in modern age so he took much of the space if not all.

"First room." I instructed. He opened the door and tucked him and his puppy in bed before closing the door quietly.


"Thank you.Now you can go."


"Go and change into something comfortable. I'm making dinner.I'm sure you didn't eat.BesidesI'm hungry."

 _OhGod._ 


"Its time for you to go."


He shrugged. "You told me to make myself at home.I'm doing just that."


"My boyfriend will be here anytime soon.Please leave."I lied.


"Then tell him not to come.Get rid of him or when he comesI will."


I threw my hands in the air.I have never met such a difficult man in my life.Jesus Christ.Arguing with him further seemed to be a complete waste of time because of course he was used to have things done his way.I went to my bedroomlocked the door and changed into a pale green T-shirt and my pyjama pants.After talking to Merlin on the phone I walked back to the living room and I found him standing in front of the other side of the wallhis eyes trained on the portrait there.It was a scene of a forest and a night sky.


"Where did you get this from?This is beautiful."


I shrugged. "I painted it."


He looked at mesurprised. "You can paint?"


"Yes.I did some art in Senior high school and I was good at it.I was interested in interior designing but the course was too expensive for me to pursue so I settled for my second interestnumbers."


He nodded and rounded the corner and walked in my small kitchen.It had a dining table that could seat four people.He removed his suit jacketthrew it on the chairremoved his watch and folded the sleeves of his shirtbefore opening the grocery cardboards.Thank God I had done some grocery shopping or I would be embarrassed right now.

"You can cook?"


"I'm a man of many talents.And I'm going to make spaghetti and meat balls because its quick."

I rolled my eyes.


He started moving around the kitchen smoothly like he was born for it.Moments later the room was filled with a rich and delicious aroma.He gave the salad a toss and declared it ready and placed it in the center of the table.The sauce and meatballs simmered on the stoveand the spaghetti was draining.He finished pouring the spaghetti into the colander then carefully dried his hands on a towel before turning to look at me.

"Sodo you wanna talk about it?"


"Talk about what?"I blinked at him


"What's bothering you?Your eyes are glassy and you wanna cry.What's wrong?" Straight down the line.


"Why would I tell you what's wrong?You're an arrogant stranger."


He smirked. "I love it when you compliment mekitty." OhGod.

"Sometimes its good to tell a stranger what's wrong.They can't really judge.Give me a try.You might be surprised."


"No thanks.I will pass that one.I don't see how your logic works."


"Okay.I can't really force you." He gave me my plate.I looked at his plate which was filled with greens.

"I really love food but proteins and greens the most.It has something to do with a lifestyle that I religiously follow because of a health scare.Don't mind meeat to your heart's content."


I nodded and wound spaghetti noodles around my fork.When I took the first biteI looked at him shocked. "This is really good.Better than I expected.Ummmlike reallyreally good."


He gave a half shrug. "I told you I'm a man of many talents." He took a few bites of his salad and watched me as I ate the whole meal until there was nothing on my plate.I had ice cream for dessert and I was content.


"This was good really thanks."


"You're welcome." He took his suit jacket and I walked him to the door.


"Once againthank you."


"Aren't you going to kiss me goodnight?" He had a smug on his face.


"Ohh God."I rolled my eyes and slammed the door on his face.


***


"So..let me get this straight." Chicago said slowly. "You were with Mr Jalal in your house for about an hour?"


I nodded.


"And you have told us everything?" Leigh-Anne asked in a disbelieving voice.


"So what's he like?" Chicago asked.


"He is annoying." I shrugged.


Leigh-Anne's eyes widened almost filling my phone's screen. "You spent about an hour with that hunk and all you can say is that he is annoying.Goodness gracious!Where did I go wrong with this one?"


"Are you telling us everything?" Chicago asked.


I laughed. "Yes.He is attractive I admit but his attitude annoys me.The reason why he is being persistent must be because of that primitive conquering male thing.He is finding it hard to accept that there are women out there who doesn't wanna fall on his feetand I happen to be one of them."


"Enough about that man.How do I look?"

I smoothed down the skirt of my impressively formal black suit.My mother had bought it for me after my graduation.It was Armani.I never wore itso it was good as new.The jacket was immaculately tailored the skirt straight and reaching just above my knees.It was an outfit that breathed professionalism and power.I tied my hair into a tight bun.


"Goodness.You look smart.Very elegant." Chicago commented as I turned around for them to see.We were on a video call.


"Its the kind of suit men visualize a woman wearing with absolutely nothing on underneath." Leigh-Anne murmured teasingly.


"This is a businesslike and respectable suit."


Chicago laughed. "Ohh darling I promise you what you're innocently imagining as a perfectly respectable and businesslike suit is not what's in the male's minds.The only thing in the minds of the men when they see you will be your undergarments and they will be definitely black and silky.I had a hard time getting my head around itbut apparently there is a deep in-built psychological reason for itsomething to do with their hormones.Soyou're going to torture the men out there."


"I agree with Chic.Anyway I should have been there to drive you to work but I can't walk."


Chicago and me laughed. "For real.I'm not going to work.My knees are shaking and I'm really really sore.Lee is an animal.I'm telling you."


"Ohh so his name is Lee."


"I can't pronounce it well.But the dude is a Tshaka Zulu down there."Chicago and I laughed even more.


"If I was you Meredith I was not going to laugh.Mr Jajal is obviously after your fat assand he is arrogant as hell."


"So?" I shrugged.


"A man can't be that arrogant and confident unless he is packing a big dick in his pants.And he had been with different women he sure knows his way between the sheets.Very soon I will be the one doing the laughing and prescribing some ointments.Watch the space."


"You will never laugh because nothing of that sort is gonna happen."


She chuckled. "Okayanyway best of luck my friend.This job is yours I'm hundred percent sure."


Chicago smiled. "I'm already drafting your contract.Go girl."


I breathed out. "Thank you."


***


After leaving my son at his daycare firstmy brother dropped me off where the main offices were located.It was the administrative building for Jalal luxury chain of resorts and it was in Manhattan.He wished me luck and left.I entered the building then took the elevator to the top floor.Right when the doors openedI came face to face with five men in suits.Then my eyes landed on him.He was in a black suit fitting his broad shoulders like it did the previous night.I was caught off guard and judging by the hint of surprise in his eyeshe didn't expect to see me at all.He rested his hands in his pockets and didn't even blink as he took me in.His eyes narrowed slightly as he examined me.The corner of his mouth ticked slightly like he wanted to smile but stopped himself from doing so.Instead he wore a hostile and ice cold expression which made him even more intimidating.His eyes were hostile and his lips were slightly pressed in amusement.


"Good morninggentlemen." I stepped out of the elevator and clutched my file with my hands.They replied and I didn't turn to look at them again.Head held highI walked to where I was instructed to go by the receptionist on the front desk at the ground floor.I walked to where the candidates were seated.In front of them they were three secretaries sitting behind a white desk.It was extremely quiet.A glass wall was behind them but somehow I couldn't see the view of the boardroom.I looked around me and nearly forty people were waiting for their turns.One of the secretaries stood up and came to us.


"Candidate number one Ms Pretty Jamesonplease go in they are ready for you." The lady who had needle-thin sky-high heels and in a short skirt with perfectly styled hair walked in confidently.I looked at the other female candidates.They were smartly dressed.In fact they went to extremesmake up was on point and they wore heels that looked like ballerina shoes.All of them were holding foldersthicker than mine and probably filled with a lot of recommendations and experience.The few male candidates too held thick folders.I looked at mine and my confidence faltered.I had studied a few things about being a receptionist during my free time.I have never worked in a company before except when I was an internbut it was just a small firmnothing like this.SoI was depending on the knowledge I had from reading the articles about being a receptionist.My degree was not for this job and without experiencethe odds were not in my favour.


***


The boardroom door opened and a woman red with anger exited."I swear the witch in there doesn't want us to get jobs.She is asking ridiculous questions!"She clicked her tongue and walked towards the elevator.


"Eish I'm scared.I heard if we pass this first roundwe will be screened again after lunch then tomorrow morning.Its nerve wrecking." One of the candidates besides me saidher tone with a hint of distress.


"I'm not surprised.This is a multibillion dollar successful company with a reputationso they are extra careful about who they hire.I bet you they even interview the cleaners." Another one said.


"Number 30Miss Meredith Burnettplease go inthey are ready for you."


I stood up and smoothed the back of my skirt before confidently walking into the glass-and-steel boardroom.When I walked in four people were sitting on the chairs and the long table made of shiny mahogany.My eyes landed on herand I recognized her immediately.Juan-Carlos' date.A hint of recognition sparked in her eyes too and she immediately wore a frown.


"Pleasesit down." One of the men said.I introduced myself and all the three guys asked questionswhich I answered honestly.


"DanicaI'm sure you have questions too."


She straightened her back and rested her elbows on the table. "Of course." She glared at me.

"How do you manage your workload when it's really busy?"


I noddedthinking of the perfect answer. "I prioritize and I'm extremely organized.I set out a work schedule ahead of time so that I can ensure all my time is being used effectively."


"What do you think is the most essential quality for a receptionist?Looking at your CV herethere is nowhere that states you have ever worked at a huge successful company after your graduation.You just worked as an intern at a small accountancy firm which is not on the business map.None of what you did has nothing that can guarantee us you will be a good receptionist.But anyway let's hear what you have to say."


I maintained the eye contactrefusing to back out. "I understand I didn't work at a big company but we all start from somewhere right.I'm sure you didn't have the position you have now firstyou started from the bottom up.That's how things are supposed to be.The receptionist keep the office running smoothly and are often the primary contact of the company.A great receptionist has excellent organizational skills and has a positive and friendly attitude at all times.They are the face of the company that many clients will see firstso its vital to make a great impression." The other interviewers nodded.


She flipped her hair and cleared her throat. "Have you ever applied for any other job opportunities? And why is this job so important to you."


"I'm actively pursuing a few different opportunities.This job is important to me because of the financial rewards and motivation drawn from exposure of working in a constructive environmentas well as learning from others to achieve common goals."


She frowned. "What do you think sets you apart from other candidates we have interviewed?Apart from having a first class degreethere is nothing else to see here."


I ignored her abrasive comment. "If I get the job I will impress you with my organizational skills and the amount of workload I can handle.Also a sense of achievement from a job well done is undoubtedly my number one drive henceforthI I will give this my all.I also believe that's what sets me apart from other candidates."


"I think that will be all.Thank you Miss Burnett.You can go." One of the interviewers said and I breathed out loud when I closed the boardroom door.


When all the candidates were interviewedwe were taken to the company's restaurant waiting for the second screening.The menu was fancy and obviously expensive but luckily we could order what we wantedit was on the house.After lunch we went back to where we were seated before.


The secretary came again. "I hope you enjoyed your lunch.Fortunately or unfortunately there won't be a second screening.You may all go home and wait to receive a call by the end of the day.If you don'tthen it will mean that you were not selected.I wish you best of luck.Thank you."


***


"You have been checking your phone after every minute.Don't worry they will call.In the meantime have this coffee." Vic sat down with a cup of black coffee.


"I'm worried Vic there was serious competition there.I don't even think I can quality.They probably tossed my CV in the trashcan."


She squeezed my hand. "Think positive.In case you get the jobyou will no longer work with us?" She looked at me sadly.


"Of course I will still work with you.I will work on the weekends is that okay?"


She breathed in relief. "That's good.Weekends are busy so we definitely need you."


***


I spent the rest of the day waiting for a call but I didn't receive any.When it was nine o'clock I lost all hope.Obviously I didn't qualify.

While I worked at the casino I was so down that even some of the customers noticed.Getting that job was going to change my life for the better.I would at least take a few years to finish paying for my student loan and my mother's medical bills.


"Kitty."I almost dropped the tray when I heard that.

"You were zoned out.What's up?"


I flinched and stepped back. "What are you doing here?"

Juan-Carlos was still in his black suit but he had abandoned his suit jacket and tie.His white crispy shirt had three buttons undone and the sleeves were folded.His hair was messy like he ran his hand through it after a shower.


He smirked. "Ohh I get it.You're worried you didn't get the callri ght?Well I told them not to call because I'm here to deliver the messagepersonally.You have been hired.And I'm going to be your boss now.How does that sound?" He smirked wickedly and turned to walk awayonly to stop on his tracks and gave me that intense gaze again. 

"Ohh and in my company I'm a dictator. Welcome to my world.This is going to be interesting." He smirked and walked awaygrabbing the attention of every lady in the room and the gentlemen too.


What the hell did I get myself into?


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