Chapter 1. Damon Salvatore
A steel structured building towered over the parking lot that was only half occupied with shiny, expensive vehicles. Her beat up Jeep stood out like a sore thumb adding to the nerves she already bundled up inside of her. Combing through her long dark brown hair with her fingers, Elena Gilbert nervously checked her appearance in the rearview mirror of her car. She moaned in irritation as she searched through her bag to double check she had everything. The thought of being out of her comfort zone made her skin crawl. She was completely out of her element. Why on Earth had she agreed to this?
About two hours earlier, she had agreed to cover for her dear friend, Caroline Forbes, who was writing an important piece for the Mystic Falls Courier. Bogged down by a stuffy nose and dizzy spells, the timing couldn't have been worse for Caroline, who had been busting her ass to schedule this interview for what seemed like months. Through much persuasion and begging, Elena reluctantly agreed. While Caroline was confident and spunky, the perfect fit for a journalist, she was anything but. She owed her big time for this.
"Thank you. Thank you." Caroline clasped her hands together and spoke in a raspy voice. Her head poked out of a floral duvet, her cheeks were flushed. "You're a lifesaver."
"What do I have to do again?" Elena asked with a sigh and internally kicked and punched herself. The slightest bit of regret was forming in the pit of her stomach knowing she had no chance of backing out of her agreement now.
"Just ask the questions I've written out and make sure you record them. I have everything in my bag sitting on my desk." Caroline gestured and Elena gathered a notepad, pen, and recording device. "Feel free to take notes, but the recording device should eliminate the need to jot everything down."
"Okay," she sighed. "Anything else?"
"Your outfit." Caroline frowned at her frumpy appearance.
Too most who didn't know Caroline, she came off as a bitch or just bitchy, but Elena understood her tone better than most. No offense was taken when it came to her comment knowing she lacked in the style department. Her choice of clothing wasn't always the best and she was never the girly girl. She loved her jeans, t-shirts, and black Converse shoes. Inside her lack there of closet though, she knew she could pull something together.
"I'll find something interview worthy. I promise." Elena replied.
"Seriously, thank you again."
"You owe me, Forbes." Elena pointed at her and left her germ-infested room.
"Big time!" Caroline shouted.
Back in the parking lot, Elena doubled checked once more that she had everything and exited her car. She tugged on her black skirt, the only skirt she owned that hit just about the knees and smoothed her pale pink top. These had to be about the only two nice articles of clothing she had and she felt they seemed fitting for the occassion. She walked slowly toward the glass doors to the office building and held her breath. Her eyes rose up as she approached the tall building and read in large engraved letters, Salvatore Corporation. Entering quickly, she released her held breath.
Inside, her astonishment continued to wander. The lobby was dully painted with black walls and the floor was covered in shiny gray marble. Not a spec of dirt could be found and she felt if she spoke, her voice would echo. Dark and cold, the lobby wasn't particularly welcoming. How anyone could work in such a depressing structure was beyond her. A little color could do some good. Her eyes scanned every detail as she made her way to the front desk.
"May I help you?" A curly hair blonde with overdone make-up looked up at her through thick dark lashes. Her fingers halted and hovered over the keyboard she had had punching away at when she had arrived. A bright pink scarf the women dressed herself in caught her eye like a smack to the face. It matched perfectly to the shade of lipstick she wore. Despite its distracting intensity, maybe the receptionist felt color was needed too.
Elena cleared her throat. "I have a meeting with Mr. Salvatore. I'm here on Caroline Forbes behalf. My name is Elena Gilbert." Her cheeks flushed from talking. The woman merely stared at her and smiled. Her bone structure was perfect in the all the right ways. She was intimidatingly beautiful. Elena flipped her hair over her shoulder to try to appear more confident.
"Yes, I have a Caroline Forbes scheduled at 2 o'clock." She smiled dully and ran her long index finger over a list of dates. Reaching over into a basket, she handed her a badge that read, visitor. As if she needed a badge to state that. It was obvious she didn't belong here.
"Go straight to your left and take the elevators. You'll want the tenth floor. Once you're there check in upstairs with the next receptionist."
"Thank you." Elena nodded and found her way to the elevators.
The ride up to the tenth floor skyrocketed up smoothly without a minute to spare. Like the woman downstairs had mentioned, as she stepped out of the elevator and was met with another receptionist. After a brief conversation, Elena found a seat in the waiting room on a comfy leather couch. Her eyes glanced over at the large wooden doors that closed off Mr. Salvatore's office from the rest of the world. What would he be like? She prayed that it would go without any hiccups, but who was she kidding? This was going to be a disaster.
A buzzing phone from behind the receptionist's desk brought her stare back to the woman behind it. She too wore a bright scarf that matched her excessive amount of make-up while her blonde hair was pinned up. Was this a trend or an office wardrobe requirement? Maybe Mr. Salvatore liked his employees young, beautiful, blonde, and done up. So far she could sense not a single male presence within the building but the boss man himself. Once again, she stood out and not in a good way.
Fondling with the interview tools inside her bag again, she tried to distract herself. A small pep talk was in order. She could do this. Caroline did this all the time. How hard could it be? Just ask the questions, listen, take a few notes, and then it would be over. With the struggle to get this interview set up, she only assumed it wouldn't last long. If Mr. Salvatore was as busy as he led on to be, this would be over before she knew it.
Her thoughts wandered again as her mind and heart raced with anticipation to get this over with. She imagined what he would look like? Middle aged? Old? Someone this successful had to be doing this for a long time to acquire such an expansive about of money. He probably was clean cut, being a businessman and all. Stuffy. He had to be stuffy. Most people in the high end of business were and probably an ass. Great, she thought. She hoped he wouldn't be too harsh with her considering her inexperience. Her mouth went dry and her palms became clammy. The nerves inside her stomach did somersaults.
"Miss Gilbert, Mr. Salvatore is ready to see you." The gorgeous receptionist spoke loudly and stood up from behind her desk. She gestured her hand to the doors. It was like she was a zombie, her eyes were set off in the distance and she drew no emotion upon her face.
Note to self, don't work at Salvatore Corporation unless you want to become robot Barbie, Elena thought.
Standing up and repeating to herself to not trip or fall or embarrass herself in any way, she made her way to the double doors. Come on Gilbert, you got this. There really was no turning back now even if she wanted to. Running out on an interview that wasn't even hers would be horrible and she would never hear the end of it from Caroline. She figured she rather enter the bull pen blindly than get the wrath of Caroline Forbes back home.
With a deep breath, Elena pulled open one of the doors and peaked her head in. Mr. Salvatore was hunched over at his desk reading over something important. His attention was diverted though as she entered and his stare was no longer drawn to the matter in front of him.
Her heart fluttered with wild wings noticing how awfully young he appeared to be. Not a single wrinkle was on his face. Youth engulfed him. How old was he? But her line of questioning stopped as she found herself gawking at him from the doorway of his office.
Straight from a Calvin Klein ad was how he appeared. Dark haired and groomed to perfection, his jaw line was strong and defined. The corner of his mouth reared up revealing a subtle smirk that made her feel something she had never felt before. He rose from the desk and walked around it meeting her fast. His flawless complexion became clearer as he got closer. She found herself staring at him longer as his gaze locked on hers with the most beautiful shade of blue a pair of eyes could have. Blue, icy, and alluring. And like that she was frozen.
"Hello Miss Forbes." His husky voice greeted her.
"Um, Miss Forbes actually couldn't make it, so I am her replacement." She corrected him.
His head cocked to the side. "And who must you be then?" He asked extending his hand to her.
"Elena Gilbert, sir." Her answer was formal and she shook his hand. His touch sent a thousand sparks through her. For a moment, she felt like she was swaying and reminded herself to stay steady. The greeting of a beautiful man was not what she expected. If she didn't force herself to buck up and stop staring at him like some drooling girl, she was never going to get through this. But his electrifying touch still sent tiny bursts of sparks through her.
"I presume you work for Miss Forbes then?" Mr. Salvatore concurred.
"No, actually." Elena corrected him one more. "Just a really good friend."
It seemed her answer intrigued him. His cheeks rose and the smirk from her first glance of him was back. But it was those eyes she could not get over. Seriously, how old was this guy? How was it possible to look this young and run an entire corporation? It wasn't, but somehow before her was proof that it was.
With a small gesture, she followed him to the center of the room where she took a seat on a chair. She crossed her legs and then quickly uncrossed them. His back was to her as he fumbled with something on his desk. Even this view of him wasn't bad.
"Shall we begin then?" He suggested and sat down behind his desk. Folding his hands in front of him, he waited for her to get ready.
Something was in the air of his office now. Tension? Nerves? Or was it something entirely different? It had to be her nerves, but as she looked his blue eyes starting down captivated her. No one had ever looked at her like this. It wasn't just a normal stare. It was a stare that made her want to squirm in her seat from the intensity. Get a hold of yourself Gilbert!
Breathe. Fumbling with the notepad, pen, and recording device in her bag, she imagined to get it all without dropping anything. Her fingers tapped the recording device trying to figure out how to start it, something that would have been helpful to know before hand. As she struggled to get set up, she heard him find amusement in her embarrassment with a soft snicker. Great! He thought her confusion and nervous behavior was funny. So far, this wasn't going very smoothly.
"Okay." Elena said under her breath as she finally figured out the device. "Mr. Salvatore, what made you decide to start up your own corporation?"
"Many reasons Miss Gilbert." He formally addressed her. The way he said her name made her uneasy and yet warm inside.
His shoulders were broad and his stare finally broke as he looked off to the side to answer the question. From nerves, she chewed on her bottom lip as he answered, "After I completed my studies, I realized I wanted to go into business. I had expectations for what kind of business I wanted to work for, but it was hard to find. With time I realized no one was going to meet my extensive list of requirements and so I decided to start my own. Having my own business, now corporation lets me have full and complete control over every asset, which is important to me."
"I see." She replied.
Like a true journalist, she would have followed up to that question, but knowing she was far from ever being in Caroline's shoes, she moved on to the next question. She was comfortable with the idea of straying from the pre-written questions, at least not yet. Darting her eyes down the list to avoid his gaze that was now back on her, she asked, "What inspires you?"
"Hmm..." He pondered the question while rubbing the back of his neck. "My list is endless. A sense of purpose. Making a difference. It's important to find purpose, otherwise why do anything at all. I can tell you that everything I do is with purpose and with complete control."
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, she mentioned, "That's the second time you've mentioned control. You like having it?" The words escaped her before she could zip her lips. It wasn't intentional. It was just an observation that she had happened to mention out loud. The blood was rushing to her cheeks now. To her surprise though, Mr. Salvatore seemed fine with her observation.
"Control is everything, Miss Gilbert." He replied smoothly. The way he said it though made it seem like there was a hidden agenda behind it. Maybe she was observing a little too much now. "Having control over something or someone is very satisfying."
"So power is important to you?" She asked straightening her back.
His blue stare was glued to her know. Something was going through that beautiful mind of his and she wished she knew what it was. No matter what she said, he listened. Unlike her expectations, he wasn't bored or rushing the interview. He seemed to be enjoying it. This day was worse than a dark rollercoaster. As he continued to stare, he furrowed his eyebrows expressing he was in thought, but his mouth opened and he answered. It didn't match up.
"You could say that." He answered. "I prefer to think of it as control though."
"How does one get to be so powerful?" Elena's curiosity was exposed. This was question wasn't on the list, but she knew it was worthy of information and worthy of Caroline's approval. Hopefully she would get enough content for her to write her piece.
Mr. Salvatore shifted and leaned as far forward as possibly could on to his desk. "I find I can be very persuasive, Miss Gilbert. That's how I gain control."
His words said one thing, while the underlining meaning of them said something else. Damn her skill to pay attention to detail. This had to be just her over analyzing the situation, but he was being sly about something. She swore of it. His intense stare didn't budge and yet she wished it would. Her legs pressed together tighter and she drew in a deep breath. This interview needed to get back on track and back to the questions she was suppose to ask before she found herself in trouble and a pile of deep embarrassment.
Regaining herself, she searched for a non-business related question. Her finger stopped on one. "The media describes your social life as a lack there of, what are you comments on this?" Elena asked and looked up at him. The smirk was gone. His business face was plan as day.
"My comments would be it's my social life and I do what I please with it. I rather not discuss my personal life." His eyes grew big for a moment and his mouth formed a fine line.
"Why not? Being one of the richest businessmen makes people want to know." Elena scratched at the question more. She channeled her inner Caroline Forbes. The people had a right to know if you put yourself out there was what she always said.
"And do you want to know Miss Gilbert?" Mr. Salvatore cocked his head to the side and his blue eyes pierced her soul like a sharp knife. The smirk was back. Shit.
"I'm, I'm saying the public." She stammered and tried not to seem frazzled by his retaliation of a question.
He shook his head. "You didn't answer my question, Miss Gilbert." He stated. Was he serious? No, she didn't want to know. This was for publication purposes. It was for whoever would pick up the Mystic Falls Courier next week and find the headline about a young billionaire interesting. She didn't care about him. Two hours ago she had no idea who he was and yet, as she sat in his office she couldn't deny that secretly she wanted to know everything.
But this was her interview, Caroline's interview. He wasn't suppose to be asking the questions. Or could he? This gorgeous man was going to be the death of her today.