That's the thing about the ocean, people are so completely taken by its mystery, by the diamond-like glisten of the waters, and the promise of freedom, that they forget it holds the ability to suck the life from you.
Dead; that's how he made her feel, like she was suffocating inside an 84 by 28 inch casket beneath six feet of soil. Most people would just tell her to leave him, it's not like they were bound by marriage or actual feelings of love or fondness. She was, however, bound to him by duty. Shackled to a life filled with glamour and money that ceased to interest her, a life she so desperately yearned for that she agreed to become nothing more than a trophy upon somebody's arm. She realised now how meaningless that desperation had been, because her life was meaningless. The empty life she couldn't seem to bear four years ago, the life of complete nothingness, was the exact life she had right now.
It was ironic; she was surrounded by New York's finest in a building that could be mistaken for a palace, sipping from a glass filled with expensive champagne, wearing a gown of pure silk and she felt nothing but the same loneliness and regret she had felt all those years ago.
Stealing constant glances over to the opposite side of the hall; to lock with the pair of ocean blue eyes that made her tremble and feel more alive than she had for years, was the only thing that made this evening sufferable.
"Sweetheart," The voice from beside her that made her want to crawl out of her skin and the forced affection that made her want to vomit dragged her back to the present. With the little effort she could muster, she gave a smile to the man who was 22 years her senior, the man that should be considered her saviour, instead considered the anchor that fastened her to the seabed of an ocean.
"Yes?" she replied sweetly, tucking a lock of her long brown curls behind her ear and taking another sip of champagne, earning a momentary glare from Frank.
"I would like you to meet Mr Smith," he gestured towards the tall man in front of her, who she assumed to be no more than in his mid-thirties, handsome features and bright green eyes that would have been captivating if she hadn't already seen and experienced the most beautiful man any woman would ever come across. "Mr Smith, this is Elena; my fiancée." He ran a soft trail of his fingers down her bare arm; a gesture that would usually be seen as sweet, but from him, made her internally roll her eyes.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr Smith" Elena chimed, extending a hand for him to shake and was pleasantly taken by surprise when he rotated her slender hand in his grasp and brought it to his lips.
"Oh, the pleasure is all mine; Elena" he released her hand and gave a charming smile.
Even after four years of this, she still wasn't adjusted to such well treatment. She still felt the same flattery and hot rise of a blush to her cheeks she had at the start. The last time someone had made such a gesture, her heart had quickened its pace so intensely she feared it might jump out of her chest.
"My, my, Frank, she is exquisite."
And the flattery was gone. Rule number one to being the trophy of one of the most powerful men in New York; expect to be treated as such.
"Sorry, could you just excuse me?" Elena requested in the same sweet and polite manner, set down her empty glass of champagne on a passing tray that balanced on the hand of a handsome waiter and picked up another in attempt to satisfy her craving for bliss. Honestly, it was a good substitute for what she was actually craving; intimacy, love, sex, passion. Sometimes she doubted if she ever would have it.
She weaved through the small groups of people, desperately hoping the end of the maze was close. Her body relaxed from its tense posture as the door labelled 'Ladies' came into her line of sight, subtly quickening her movements towards it, her lungs gasping for a release.
She just needed five minutes. Five minutes to take a breath.
And just like the first intake of oxygen after resurfacing from the ocean depth, there he was, a foot away from her. Prominent, masculine facial features that begged to be traced, jet black hair that had been smoothed with nothing more than his hands and fell sexily around his magnificent face, a body you could just tell was immaculate under the clothes, and the eyes ; the eyes that reminded her of the sky on a summers day.
Her breath hitched and he shot her a crooked smile.
"Is someone desperately searching for a toilet to throw up in?" he arched an eyebrow playfully.
"We both know I don't eat anything to throw up." Elena naturally played along; it had become sort of their thing to banter about her weight. It was true, she was tiny. She had to be according to Frank, but it wasn't due to an eating disorder of any kind, she was just naturally very slim.
"I'm pretty sure I've seen you eat two whole pizzas in one night." He pointed out.
"Mm, don't tell Frank that," she warned. If Frank ever found her eating like that, she knew she would be on the receiving end of a lecture about how important it is to watch her weight, since 'everything was about image'. What he actually meant was; he didn't want his trophy fiancée walking around with any scrap of fat on her.
He leaned in and let out a soft whisper. "There are a lot of things I wouldn't tell Frank about."
She wavered but couldn't seem to step away from the close proximity, the sweet intoxication of his breath gluing her black heels to the floor under the pool of violet silk massed around them. She couldn't count in her head how many times she just wanted to reach out, trace her fingers along the pale glow of his skin, or revel in the sweet taste she imagined his lips would provide.
He sighed harshly before rearing back slightly, standing at a more appropriate distance from her heated body. "I know. I get it; the bosses' girl and all." The disappointment that washed over his beautiful features made her heart clench. Her body was addicted to the way he made it feel, the silent buzz that coursed through every inch of her when he gave her a look of desire, and the hammering of her heart inside her chest when he smiled.
Guilt overwhelmed her; she was being selfish, and unfair.
He could have any woman he wanted, get involved with any beautiful girl he took his fancy to, but the very thought of him with someone that wasn't her, made her stomach knot profoundly. Just because she was miserable didn't mean he had to be. It's not like they could ever be together, not like anything could ever happen, Frank would destroy both of them.
"I'm sorry." She whispered sadly and let her eyes fall to the floor.
"I don't want you to be sorry, I want you to realise what you deserve." Damon told her firmly, lifted her chin to the reunite their eyes and gave her a smile that threatened to buckle her knees. Elena swallowed thickly and felt her heart mourn the loss of his presence as he turned and disappeared from sight.
She didn't know what she deserved, if she deserved anything. Maybe this was it, the best her life could get; a loveless 'show' engagement to a man who treated her like property. Things could be worse. He took care of her, provided her with a beautiful home, clothes, and a job. A few bruises to the face were a small price to pay.
Did she need anything else? Did she need love? From what she heard, love only destroyed you. Is that what she wanted?
Exhausted steps led her through the door of her apartment, leaning her weight on the table next to the door; Elena bent down and pulled off her heels, allowing a sigh of relief to escape as the chilled air soothed the ache of her feet. It wasn't long before Franks' heavy footing approached the doorjamb and stopped, to what she assumed was his usual lean against it.
"How long are we going to keep this fake engagement up?" Elena huffed impatiently, tossing her clutch-bag haphazardly onto the leather sofa located on the left side of the apartment. "You think people will notice there's been no marriage after five years?" She added sarcastically, making sure to turn and shoot a condescending look at the man who irritated her to no end.
"Don't get smart." He told her dryly.
"Right, just do as I'm told, smile and look pretty, don't say anything out of turn, don't tuck my hair behind my ears, and don't wear a dress above my knees," she angrily listed off all the things he had ordered her to run by for four years.
"You are completely ungrateful, girl." Frank closed the space between them; quickly slamming the door shut in the process and leaned over her. It had become automatic for fear to overwhelm her; she knew what he was capable of. She knew the sharp sting of his slap to her face too many times to count. "I'm going home; don't bother coming into the office tomorrow, take the day off to sort out that attitude." He threatened.
She wasn't alarmed by his threats, he gave them too often.
He swung open the door aggressively, and the last she saw was his back before the door eased softly into place with a soft click of the lock.
She had wanted to scream, she had wanted to demand what she should be grateful for, but her common sense kept her silent. She couldn't afford to make lame excuses to why she had a marked face; she was running out of them.
She wanted to cry for how empty she felt, but that was the thing about feeling empty, all your body's energy is used up in desperately trying to not feel empty that it doesn't seem to have any leftover to express that type of emotion. Anger is easy. But crying until you can't catch a single breath? That takes energy, the type of energy she didn't have.
"Damon?" The voice of his younger brother, and colleague at Miller & Anderson caused him to look up from the scattered papers amongst his large desk. "Frank wants to see you." Stefan informed.
"Great." Damon muttered bitterly, checked his Rolex watch to find it was 10:17, and rose from the warm contact of his leather office chair.
"Now, now, dear, try to keep your temper under check, won't you?" Stefan remarked playfully, standing to one side of the doorjamb to let his brother past.
"I'll try my best, darling." Damon shot a glare and slipped out of his office, coming to a direct stop at the elevators located on the opposite side of the hall. Pushing in the up button on the wall between the two elevators, he took a deep breath.
It was safe to say he wasn't a fan of Frank Miller, not only did he hate the type of man he was; womanizing and arrogant, he hated the life he so effortlessly possessed. He had a fiancée that was so incredibly beautiful it was almost painful to look at her, yet he slept with every woman in the building, and even more throughout the city. The worst part being, she stayed with him.
The gold elevators door opened and Damon swiftly stepped passed the threshold, pushed the button marked 43 and rotated on the spot to watch them close again.
He ran a hand up his face and through his tousled jet black hair. He was 28 years old, had more money than he would ever know what to do with, and women fawning over him almost every day. He had the life he always wanted, and it had been enough, until he received a job offer from Miller & Anderson; one of the best businesses in New York. He felt like everything was falling into place, great job, and great apartment. Then he saw her.
It had been his first 'business-party' of any sort, and after two hours of interacting with almost every guest in the large hall, he had turned to curiously scan the groups of A-list New Yorkers and general business representatives, when the work of fate seemed to part the crowd in order for their eyes to meet. He remembered how his mouth fell agape in response to her glorious beauty.
He had seen beautiful women, and had the pleasure of sexually experiencing them, but not one of them had ever made him feel like a fumbling idiot. All he seemed able to do was stand there, and blink, his brain failing to process such a stun. He did know one thing, however; he had to have her.
It had been four months, 16 days and 11 hours since the moment he first set eyes on her, and his feelings remained the same, with an additional intensity. She was as beautiful inside as she was outside, and that made her even more desirable.
Realisation that he had remained on his journey to Frank's office on the top floor of the building only struck when stood outside the office door made entirely of glass, matched to the glass partitions of the rest of the office, currently not revealing the inside due to the pulled shut blinds. There was only one reason those blinds would be closed; Frank doesn't want the rest of the floor to see his X-rated activities within.
Damon quivered reflexively to the images crossing his mind, unsure whether he wanted it to be Elena in there with him or not, and turned away from his approach to the office, making a pit stop at Frank's PA's desk. On normal circumstances, he would find Elena sat behind the desk, tapping quietly away at the computer, a pencil balancing behind her ear and complete focus in her eyes.
"Hey, Andie," he flashed his usual crooked smile, only continuing when he knew he had her undivided attention; which never took long. "Could you tell Frank I came by to see him, but he was currently… detained?" He let the words fall from his tongue like velvet and stroke her into a heated frenzy. He always had known how to charm women; it came as naturally as breathing.
"Of course, Mr Salvatore" Andie purred in return, leaning on her folded arms to purposely push her breasts out.
With that, he gave her a subtle wink and continued on the return to his office on the floor below. At least he didn't have to see Frank. The glass was half full after all, even if the empty half was the possibility of Elena having sex with Frank on his huge wooden desk. No, the glass wasn't half full.