chapter one

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𝐒 𝐓 𝐀 𝐑 𝐃 𝐔 𝐒 𝐓

"A galão for Sylvie?" The blonde approached the counter and grabbed her coffee quickly, smiling at the old lady in gratitude. Her eyes twinkled as she mirrored her smile, nodding her head as Sylvie left the little cafe.

She could feel the blood rushing through her from the adrenaline as she took another look at her watch. For some odd reason, her alarm didn't go off that morning and she was now late to the company's monthly meeting. A meeting that consisted of her annoying, sarcasm-lover, father talking about the statistics for that month. It's something she checked frequently, nonetheless, so the data wouldn't be news to her, but not once was she late to anything in her life. It is a lack of respect to be late once you have taken the responsibility to be present at a certain time. It does not reflect who she is in any certain way, so the anxiety she was feeling was pretty justifiable.

At least that's what she tricked herself into blaming her anxiety for so she'd forget that she's been feeling it for the past couple of days almost constantly. And right on time Pandora texted her, asking about her whereabouts. It didn't take her long to answer once she pressed the ring button.

"Bro, what's wrong?" Sylvie was calm most of the time. She's put herself through hours of yoga and meditation for the simple reason she knew her nerves would only make her punch someone in the throat at the slightest inconvenience. It happened multiple times as a child.

"My alarm didn't go off."

Pandora clicked her tongue, "That's odd."

"That's exactly what I was thinking! I mean, I did stay up last night working through stats but it's not like it's the first time I've done that," Pandora let out a sigh and prayed that her friend would get to work on time. The meeting was important.

"They want you to present in the meeting today," she told Sylvie.

Sylvie's response was measured, her tone devoid of any hint of warmth. "My capabilities are best demonstrated through tangible results, not theatrical performances." She paused briefly before continuing, her voice steady and cool. "Nevertheless, if this is what my father deems necessary, I will comply."

"Well, it looks like your dad wants to give you a taste of the spotlight. Maybe he thinks you're ready to step up and show everyone what you're capable of," Pandora chuckled on the other end of the line.

Sylvie's heart raced as she clutched the phone tightly, Pandora's words echoing in her ears. Anxiety coiled within her, constricting her chest and sending waves of unease throughout her body. The upcoming meeting, where she would have to present, suddenly felt like an insurmountable mountain before her. Doubt and self-doubt mingled, swirling in her mind, as she grappled with the overwhelming pressure to perform. Sylvie took a deep breath, desperately trying to steady her trembling hands, determined to push through the paralysing grip of anxiety and find the strength to face the challenge head-on.

"Great, another opportunity to impress the elite," she muttered dryly, her eyes flickering with disinterest. "Just what I was hoping for to make my day more thrilling."

"Come on, Sylvie, you've got this. You know the data inside out. Just go in there, dazzle them with your wit, and make them eat their words," Pandora laughed.

Sylvie sighed, a mix of apprehension and determination settling within her. She disconnected the call, and grabbed her car keys and walked away from the café, her thoughts focused on the upcoming meeting. As she drove through the streets, her fingers tapped rhythmically on the steering wheel, a subtle reflection of her racing thoughts.

As Sylvie approached the grand entrance of the Clément headquarters, her heart quickened with a mix of anticipation and awe. The iconic building loomed before her, a sleek masterpiece of architectural ingenuity that commanded attention. Its shimmering glass façade reflected the vibrant blue sky, adding a touch of sophistication to the surrounding landscape. A sense of exhilaration tingled through her veins as she stepped inside, greeted by the pristine marble floors that seemed to whisper tales of elegance and craftsmanship.

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