Chapter 2::The Sight of New York City::
First, I'd like to say, WOW! Thanks for all of the reviews. I didn't know that there are so many of you who like it! I'm glad though.
Second, I know that the reviews are wonderful, but it kind of scares me when people take it overboard with the threats. Ahem, cursing at me, calling me names, spamming E-mail with threats, bribery and threaten to burn down my house is not going to make me update faster.
Third, I really need a beta-reader for this story. Important qualifications are: You cannot quit until the story is finished and must be a Grammar-Nazi since I'm not one. LOL.
Fourth, I will definitely try to update every week for this story. I can't make any promises since school and work takes most of my time I barely have time to eat and watch television anymore.
Fifth, enjoy this chapter!
Word count: 5681.
'Okay, maybe he didn't lie about his status.' Serena thought as she continued to walk through the massive golden glass lobby. As soon as they stepped foot into the building, Darien had everyone's attention as some raced toward him in greetings of politeness and some smiled as he nodded to each one.
They stopped at the glass elevator just in time the adjacent elevator door opened revealing several employees. Serena felt embarrassed as she suddenly remembered her attire. A simple khaki pants and a dirty polo shirt compare to the smart suits they were wearing. The employees each greeted him like any others except this time; they seemed to be more reluctant to say anything to her. He nodded then waited for her to step into the waiting elevator and he followed suited. The man dressed in a uniform nodded toward Darien as he pressed the button without asking which floor. The silence was starting to get to her as the ride towards whatever floor was getting longer. It occurred to her that they had not stopped at any other floors to pick up any more passengers.
"This is a private elevator." Came Darien's voice unexpectedly. Serena turned her head towards him with a raised brow. "You're very obvious to read." He continued.
Serena's mouth formed an 'O' shaped. "Why are those people so afraid of you?" she asked referring to the employees.
"They are not afraid. They are respectful." He corrected.
"Are you one of those tyrant bosses?" she questioned while twirling a piece of her blond hair around her fingers.
"There's a different between tyrant and one who demand respect." He answered simply.
"Tyrant for sure." Serena muttered to herself quietly.
"What was that?" he asked with a raised brow.
"Nothing." she replied innocently. The soft 'ding' signaled that they had arrived. The door opened revealing a very decorative floor of gold carpets and mahogany furniture.
"Wow." Serena mouthed quietly to herself as Darien led her through the room into the double door of what she assumed be his office. It was meticulously neat. The golden Persian rug lay on the floor, leather couches and glass table sat on one opposite side of the room while the other side sat a huge mahogany wood desk that held electronically stuffs and a huge leather office chair sat behind the desk. To the left, a cabinet attached to the wall held liquors and glasses as well as a huge plasma screen television.
"This is your office?" Serena asked incredulously as she walked around trying to absorb everything in at the same time.
"Yes. I spend a lot of my time in here." He answered.
"I can see that. It looked more like a bachelor pad rather than an office."
"Would you like anything to drink?" he asked as he moved toward the liquor cabinet.
"Do you have any non-alcoholic drink?" she asked.
"I have water." He said as he took out bottled waters and gave one to her and himself as well.
"That's fine." Twisting the cap opened, she took a sip. He had led her to the leather couches and motioned for her to take a seat.
"You have any questions you want to ask me?" he asked casually.
"Actually, I have a lot of questions to ask you. Okay. First off, I am extremely curious. You are rich, you are handsome, you are healthy---you are healthy aren't you?"
"Perfectly." He said as amusement crept into his eyes.
"So why can't you fend off one fledging female? I mean, she's just a teenager, right?" she asked curiously.
"Wrong." He sighed. He could handle predatory women, honestly he could. However, a semi naked eighteen years old Marie Beaufort had cornered him in his bedroom the last time he stayed there and had flung herself at him. It took him almost half an hour of talking and prying her hands off him. "I tried to let her down gently, but she's very stubborn."
"And that had led you to invent a wife and now you have to produce her before taking this deal I assume?" Serena said.
"Actually, my cousin invented a wife, but you got it pretty much correct."
"Why not ask a woman you already know to help you out? She'd probably do it for free."
"That may be true, but then I have to dissuade her from getting the idea of being married for real. Besides, if I hire you, then it will be in contract only. No feeling attached once this said and done."
"I see. Will you and your wife be staying at their house?"
"Monsieur Beaufort owned Chateau Waverly in the countryside. It is an open invitation. I was thinking of staying there so Marie would get the picture."
"What exactly is the job description?" she asked.
"Dining with them, socializing, getting to know them. Be the corporate wife."
"In French, of course."
"Not necessarily. They speak English fairly well. Of course, if you are able to communicate in French, it would be a bonus." He said.
Serena bit her lips and sat back, tossing the remaining of the water into her mouth. "That's a lot of lies, Darien. Why don't you just tell him the truth? I am sure that he will be able to see the reasons."
Darien shook his head. "You don't understand. Beaufort has only one daughter. He will not refuse her of anything." The man was sharp as a knife, but when it comes to his daughter, he was putty in her hands.
"I was raised by my father also. I don't think the concept apply to men."
Darien sighed. She had pointed out a good point.
"Of course, it'd be completely different situation if he decides that by marrying you to his daughter; it will somehow make a good business sense."
"I was afraid of that and that's why I can't risk it. So, will you do it?" Darien asked. He did not want to marry Marie or any women for that matter. He was happy with his life. Women would only complicate things and his life was already complicate enough.
"I still don't know much about you. So far, I'm only getting about your situation." She said.
"I will send you a fact file about me."
"I'm not a fact-file person."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"I'm more of a hand on kind of person. I need to know your criminal record, where you went to get your education, where you live, where you spend your day besides at work. That kind of thing."
Darien raised a brow in question. "You're only going to pretend to be my wife for a month, not eternity."
"Be that as it may, I still feel much safer if I know the life you lead everyday. You can also send me a fact file as well. It cannot hurt. Also, we need to establish some rules."
"What kind of rules?" Darien was not good with rules. He had spent most of his life breaking rules. Rules were not worth mentioning in his presence.
"I want physical contacts limited only in public places." Serena stated firmly.
Darien's lips twitched. "No problem."
"And only when we have an audience."
"I'll follow your lead, but within reasons."
"You're not going to be submissive, are you?" he asked shrewdly.
Serena flashed a glare at him "I can't see it happening."
"But you will simper a little?"
The glare was back as she narrowly pointed her gaze.
"Okay, I can see that simpering might be a bit of stretch for you. Can you do possessive?"
"You mean the hands-off-my-man slap kind of thing?"
"No slapping. Ladies don't slap."
"You never mentioned anything about being a lady." She muttered under her breath.
"There's another thing…" Darien suppressed a smile as his mind wanders into one of his many fantasies. A picture of Serena in a bunny suit crawling towards him on her hands and knees with a submissive look on her face, begging him to take her on a wild ride of her life.
Serena glared at him "Earth to Moretti." She said in exasperation. She knew that kind of look to well and Darien Moretti was not thinking about business. Men. They can never multitask. "Hello, can you hear me?"
"I'm listening." He had the smooth voice and a lazy smile plastered on his face. Serena was tempted to ask him what he was thinking about but she decides against it. Whatever it was, it probably involved her being naked. "We are taking my private plane to and from France."
Serena rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to bail out on you."
"Nevertheless. Now about your salary. I'm willing to pay you twenty thousand dollars a week all expenses covered."
"Twenty thousands for a week including public display of affection isn't much, don't you think?" Serena said. "Kissing would cost extra."
His lips twitched. "How much extra?"
"I'm thinking ten thousands."
"Ten thousands each week just for a few kisses?" he was still amused over the whole situation.
"I'm a very good kisser." She said with a grin.
"Well, in that case, I would need a demonstration on your skills." He said as he scooted closer to where she sat. Serena bit her lips as she mentally kicks herself. Now she had gone and done it. She just had to open her big mouth. Now she was going to have to kiss him, but she will make it brief. Not too enthusiastic. One scoot put her in a touching distance of him and she leaned over quickly to give him a peck on the lips.
"That's it. Well, that was downright disappointing." He teased as she pulled back just as quickly.
Serena shrugged. "Best I can do given the circumstances. Sorry, I didn't feel any sparks."
Darien fought a smile. "If I'm paying extra ten thousands each week for a few kisses, sparks is a must."
"Sparks is not part of our negotiation. It is a freebie. Either it is there or it is not. There is nothing we can do about it."
"Let's try again just to make sure." Darien murmured before pulling her down onto his lap as his lips sought her out. It was a lot different from their first kiss. His lips maneuvered, shaped it to fit perfectly to hers. Plenty of chemistry here now, she thought hazily as his lips moved on hers, warm and lazy and very knowledgeable. Plenty of heat as her mouth opened beneath his, she tasted passion, and it was richer, riper than she had ever known. She melt against him, sliding her hands across his broad shoulder to twine around his neck as he slanted his head to take her deeper, tasting her with his tongue, curling it around her own in a delicate duel.
If this was kissing, Serena could not imagine what his lovemaking would be like. His smile was crookedly endearing when he lifted his mouth from hers, his hands gentle as he smoothed her blond hair back into its place. "Now that was better. I don't know about you, but I'd have to say there's definitely a spark presence this time." He said with a bedroom voice that had her toes curling.
Serena cleared her throat several times. He was very experienced, that she had gathered during their kiss. However, she was not. She gasped in horror as thoughts struck her. What if they end up doing…it? What if she looses her virginity to him? Damn, they had better stick to the contract even if it killed her or him, or both.
"So, have you made up your mind?" Darien asked.
Serena bit her lips. "Call me naïve when it comes to business, but I really don't think lying to your potential business partner about your marital status is just asking for more trouble."
"You sound like my conscience." Darien muttered out. "If you have plans C then let's hear it."
Serena shrugged. "I don't currently have any plan C."
He looked so tired as if deceiving Beaufort did not sit well with him. Sympathy washed over her as she suddenly felt the urge to run her fingers through his tousled hair, sliding next to him on that recliner and comfort him. She wanted to touch her mouth to his and feel the passion slide through her as the heat grew hotter in the pit of her stomach as she feasted on that cleaver, knowing mouth and---Whoa! That was so not sympathy.
That was pure lust!
"So, are you in?" he asked.
Serena drew a breath. All of her life, she was taught that deceiving others never resolved in good consequences. She was very tempted to say 'yes'. With the money that he was offering, she had a good start on finance to finish her degree in Interior Designing, but she had a gut feeling that being pseudo wife to Darien Moretti was not the right way to go either. His handsome dark look was enough to stump her on the spot. Imagine hugging him, holding his hands and even kissing him in public, even though it is not real, it would not help her beating heart every time he is near either.
A sensible woman would refuse him, held her head up high and leave with her dignity intact. She should be one of those women. She should leave right now and leave behind the heartbreak she would soon face with a man like Darien. She should, but instead she replied, "Do you believe in destiny? In fate?"
Darien raised a questioning brow. "Only as a last resort. Why?"
"I'm going to fate decide." She said simply.
Darien was still looking at her with that confusing look. "How?"
"Promise me first that if you win, we'll go to Paris as man and wife, but if you loose, you'll throw yourself over to Beaufort mercies and spill your gut out to him about the truth."
"Deal." He said hesitantly before nodding his head and stuck his hands out in a handshake gesture. Serena took it and shook it. "So, how are we going to let fate decide?"
Serena grinned as she released his hand and reached into her pocket and took out the same quarter. "Head or tail?"
Darien suppressed a grin. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Dead serious." She said firmly.
Five painful minutes later, they are going to Paris as Man and Wife.
Serena opened the door to her flat with a tired sigh. She was deadbeat on her feet. After the initial coin flipped and signing the contract, Darien had offered her a ride home, insisting to know where she is living. Taking off her shoes and shoving it onto the rack, she peeled off the dirty polo shirt, pants next, and headed for the shower. Adjusting the water temperature to lukewarm, she stepped in and let the warm water washed over her body. The feeling was a total miracle as it soothes her aching muscles and helped her head adjust to the bazaar situation she found herself in.
It was not as bad as she had thought. She will be a wife in contact only, touching and brief kissing only when they have audiences and in public, that part she had stressed about repeatedly. It was not as if she does not want to touch him, it is just that if and when she did, everything will be out of control. She had always been to softhearted, even as a kid growing up in a house of a messed up mother, an alcoholic father, adds a mean stepmother into the picture, and she was ready to run away from home before she even turned eighteen. She loved her parents, it was just that they were not exactly ready to settle down and have kids. Serena had complicated all that. She was an accident to begin with. A night in Las Vegas with five bottle of Jack Daniels and nine months later, she was the result of that.
Turning off the water, she stepped out of the shower, grabbed a towel from the towel ring, and wrapped it around her body. Going through her daily routine of washing her face, brushing her teeth and drying her hair, it took her a good fifteen more minutes before padding into her tiny living room. She had so many things that had to be taken care of before leaving to France next week. Bills and more bills and rent had to be taken care immediately. She had cashed her check the week before and had enough money to pay the rent and bills with a hundred and fifty five dollars leftover. This month had been particular tight for her since she had sent some money home to her Mother.
Heaving a sighed, she placed the money inside an envelop ready for drop off at the landlord tomorrow morning along with the bills. She had a long day ahead of her tomorrow. She had to search for a new job after this whole arrangement is all said and done along with registering new classes for college in order to finish her degree. Stifling a yawn, she shut off the lights and went to bed.
Darien was in frantic when a phone call from his company in New York demand his presence there soon, possibly the next flight out from his private plane. He was somewhat tempted to call Malachite back from Italy but the image of a pouting Mina guilt his thought immediately. He was even more tempted to call his father to overlook the new York situation but his mother would be terribly upset of her vacation time in Guam was cut short. It left him to the task, and dragging Serena with him seemed like an appropriate idea. She would have time to shop at chic designers boutiques in New York full of brand names clothing and shoes and all that stuff women likes to go shopping for while he take care of the situation. It was a perfect solution. He ignored the little voice of his conscience stating that he felt guilty for dragging her a week early when it was suppose to be next week, as he picked up the phone and dialed her number. It was the fifth ring before her groggy voice greeted him in what he assumed was her nasty voice to be awakened at four in the morning.
"I take it you're still asleep?" he asked. He heard a growl from the other line before a ruffling sounds and something dropped before she answered him.
"It's freaking four in the morning, Moretti. My contract did not specifically say that I have to cut my sleeping time down." She growled.
"Ah-ah. The contract also state that you have to act like a corporate wife, and that means no complaining." He teased hoping to get her in a better mood.
"You and your contract can burn in the seven hells." She grumbled back. "Anyway, why are you calling me at this hour?"
"I have an urgent situation that needs my presence in New York." Darien said as he heard her stifled a yawn from the other line.
"Okay. So why did you call me?" Serena asked genuinely confused.
"I need you to come with me. You can do your shopping there while I take care of business." Darien explained.
"Shopping in the mega city of brand names and luxury. Count me in." she said.
"I knew you'd like it. We are leaving in a couple of hours so get ready. I'll pick you up then we'll head to the airstrip."
"Wait, wait. We are leaving today? I cannot do that. I have tons of things to do like pay the rent, bills and I need to find a new job…" and the list went on and on.
"I'll let someone take care of it. All you need to do is pack. I will see you in a couple of hours." Darien said as he clicked off his phone not waiting to hear her reply. He guesses that it will mostly be growling and shouting she will hurl at him anyway.
He made a call to his secretary to take care of Serena's situation before heading to the shower and get ready to leave. Dressed sharply in a black Armani suit and tie, he left his penthouse Apartment and took the elevator down to the lobby to where the limo waits.
It did not take long for him to get to Serena's place. She was standing out in the front dressed in a white skirt that reach below her knees modestly and a maroon blouse and a small suitcase near her feet. She was talking to an elderly woman with an apologizing smile on her face. He ordered the limo to stop a couple of yards from her as he got out and headed toward her and the woman.
"I hope you have a good time in Louisiana, dear. Your mother would be so proud to see you after all these years." She said patting Serena on the arm. Darien raised a questioning brow at the woman inquisition and suppressed a grin. Serena narrowed her eyes as she murmured something to the woman.
"I hope I'm not interrupting." He said smoothly. The woman turned to look at him only to stare openly at him in shocked. Her eyes rolling back and forth between Serena to Darien then back again at Serena. Something must have click in her mind before she gave Darien a huge smile and whispered something in Serena's ear as her face turned a deep crimson shade.
"Of course not. Have a good trip, and do not worry about your place, dear. I'll look after it." She said before walking back into the building.
"What was that all about?" Darien asked as he shoved his hands into the pocket of his trouser.
"Nothing." Serena mumbled before heading toward the limo. Darien caught her elbow before she could get any closer to the limo and took a hold of her hand and placed it on his arm. The driver took her suitcase and deposited into the trunk of the limo.
"It's better if we practice now. You know, you being a corporate wife and all." Darien said teasingly.
Serena stifled a giggle. "I've never been a corporate wife before."
"And I have never had a corporate wife, but we'll manage." Darien replied as they both entered the limo heading toward the airstrip. It took them a good hour because of the morning rush hour in Chicago. The sun had fully risen over the sky bathing it in blue and red-orange. Serena found herself looking out the limo window to the scenery that went by. They were on the outskirt of the city now and soon, the airstrip came into view. A medium private plane bearing the name of 'Trinity' was painted on the side stood in the middle of the huge cemented ground.
"Wow." Serena mouthed to herself as she tried to look as casual as one can be when they are about to go on private jet and fly first class to New York. Darien was busy talking with; whom she would assume was the pilot. He was dressed in a white uniform and had a huge smile on his face as he said something to Darien and he chuckled too. He was at her side a few moments later on and they both boarded the jet.
As soon as she stepped foot into the luxurious plane, she was about to pass out from joy. The cabin was converted into a dining rooms set with a dining table covered in ivory cloth and leather seating around the table. To the right, there are a couple of ivory colored leather sofas and loveseats and a clear crystal coffee table in the middle decorated with fresh orchard and jasmines. A huge plasma screen television was attached to the wall and a there's even a bedroom. Serena wanted to jump for joy when she took it all in. The designing style reeks of elegance and wealth. He must have spent a good fortune on this plane alone. Serena sighed. So, this is how billionaires spend their moneys. Mega mansion and yacht and summer and winter houses, vacation all year round, shop endlessly through expensive brand names clothing. They have it all, don't they?
"What do you think?" Darien asked as they were seated and buckled up, ready for take off.
"Very lavish." Serena replied.
"My sister, Raye, design this plane especially when she finished her Master degree in interior Designing." Darien said his voice almost proud.
"Are we going to run into your family while we're there?" Serena asked.
"I highly doubt it. My parents are away on vacation in Guam and Raye usually lives in New York, but she she's all the way in Long Island, so the chances of meeting them are very slim."
"You have only one sister?"
"Yes. I also have two cousins, Malachite and Seiya."
"Are you close with them?"
"Malachite and I are as close as brothers. Even though he's a pain the ass, I trust him the most."
"What about your other cousin, Seiya?"
Darien sighed. "Seiya and I…we don't get along well. In fact, we looked at one another as a rival against every little thing. Even as a kid, we competed over who's the smartest, the strongest and the so on. We never really outgrew it, I suppose. Though I tend to let the pass behind me, Seiya can be a little…over competitive."
"I see. Is it only sibling rivalry or does it goes way beyond that?" Serena asked hesitantly. She was afraid that she had overstepped the line of asking personal questions.
Darien gave her a small smile. "It's a long story. I will tell you about it some other times. What about you? Do you have any siblings?"
Serena was hesitant to answer the question. She did not want to tell him much about her personal life because there is always a chance that he would feel pity towards her.
"Think of it as a session between us. The more we know about each other, the better it is for the roll we assume. I will not tell anyone. I promised." He added with a serious look on his face.
"Sadly no. My parents are very…they do not get along well. They never got married. I was born out of wedlock." Serena said. Darien shoots her a questioning look. "My parents got drunk in Vegas and the consequence that they have to live with is me. Since I was born, they did not exactly hide their feeling about looking after me. Neither one wanted to look after me nor they even thought about putting me in foster care. You could say that I was surprised that my mother didn't think of having an abortion when she found out she was pregnant."
"So did they out you in foster care?" Darien asked interested.
"No. Apparently, I was a very well behaved child. My father kept me out of convenience because he gets money from the state, which he spent it, all on alcohols and drugs. Did you know that I could cook since I was four years old?" Serena joked as she glanced at him. She narrowed her eyes when he has 'that' look plastered on his face. "Don't give me that." She whispered out.
"Give you what?" Darien asked. He was shocked to learn of her past. She looked so carefree that he did not even stop to think she had gone through so much during her childhood. How did she felt when she knew that her parents did not give a shit what happen to her? No one deserved to go through that. Especially not Serena.
"That's pity look you have on your face. I did not tell you my past to make you feel sorry for me. I don't want you to feel anything."
"It's not pity." Darien assured. "Its respect, awe, and something else. I respect you for growing up into a woman who can handle herself very well. It always occurred to me that when one goes through something similar to your situation, they leave scars behind in your memories to remind you."
Serena did not bother replying as she turned her face to look out the window. Her gesture clearly said that she did not want to speak anymore about this. Darien understood it completely because he knows how many countless times he did the same thing.
'Who says it didn't leave a scar?' Serena thought bitterly as she remembered those times when her father got drunk and practically beats her to an inch of her life. She once fainted for two days until her father finally noticed her absence. She went to school the next day with cuts and bruises visible on her fragile body. Her teacher had asked about them and she lied naturally. A good daughter must protect her father from being thrown into prison. Her father had told her that if she ever said a word to anyone about her abuse, more would surely come. She was afraid and never felt so alone in the world. Nevertheless, what her mother did did not break her. No, it had mad her much stronger than the sheltered life most kids had grown up in.
She slept and watched movies on the giant plasma television for the rest of the ride to New York while Darien occupied himself with paper works and phone calls to god know where. Serena contemplated to herself as the conversation replayed in her head. What had made her bawl out all emotions to him? He was not special and she obviously did not know him from Adam.
'I must be really lonely to tell him about myself. What did he know anyway? He was born in a perfect world where loving parents doted on him while he grew up in huge mansions and did not have to worry about money or getting abuse. He doesn't understand anything about me and he never will.'
They landed in Kennedy Airport around noon. Everything was different in New York. She noticed people bustling around endlessly as they try to find their way around. Serena felt refreshed as she inhaled the crisp October air outside of the stuffy airport. They waited outside for a few moments before a sleek black limo rolled up and a chauffeur hurried out to open the door for them. Serena resisted the urge to roll her eyes at how elaborate this may look like. To him it may be normal, but for her, it looked far overboard.
It took them about another hour before entering Manhattan. She had always thought that Chicago was crowed but it was nothing compare to New York City. There were people everywhere she looked, roads filled with cars and taxis and bus, streets filled with shops, stores and cafes, and many more that her vision had not had time to grasp the whole scene before she was ushered out of the limo into a large glass complex building at Lexington Avenue named 'Moretti Industry.'
Just like in Chicago, Darien exuded demand and respect and that's was exactly what the employed people gave him. As always, he gave a nod every now and then. She noticed that as every step she took, she was aware that people that stared incredulously at their linked hands along with an oversweet smile that everyone gave her.
Hah! Moreover, Darien was afraid that they are not fooling anyone.
They entered the glass elevator that took them to the top floor. The huge office was similar to the one in Chicago but with much more elegant taste. Cream-colored carpet rug spread on the floor generously, giant dark tinted windows that look out into the incredible city beyond as well as the skyline, mahogany furniture spread around the room in various places and the latest technologies installed.
Wow. Serena felt like she was in an alternate universe of her life!
"I may be caught up with work most of the day." He said with an apologetic grin that made Serena smiled. He dug into his wallet and handed her a platinum American Express card. "Spend as much as you want. Have fun."
Serena's lips split into a catty grin. "Oh. I definitely will."
AN: I know some of the scenes are similar to a romance novel. I've picked up a book from Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks back and skimmed through it. However, I couldn't remember the name of the book or who the author was. So, if any of you know, please E-mail it to me so I can give credit to the author. My story will stray from her work in later chapters. I can guarantee that.