Chapter: 07

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ELENA

"You're late." Rylan declared as soon as I got into the passenger seat of his shiny black Maserati. The inside of the car smelled of musk and rich leather.
    
I tsked, annoyed at him and it had been only a couple of seconds in his vicinity. It was what, five minutes past the stipulated time? "Can you shut up? I don't wanna hear your voice right now."
    
He did shut up but sat there staring ahead. Weren't we getting late like a minute ago? Being in such a closed space with him was enough of a punishment. "Can you drive already?"
    
I watched Rylan cock his head to the side and assess me with one silent gaze before he leaned towards me till he was completely in my space. I squeaked, the spice and musk in his cologne making me feel a little dazed.
    
The coffee and hazel eyes turned into something relatively darker, an indecipherable look passing through them. His overwhelming proximity had screwed with my head because my gaze dropped to his lips for a quick second.
    
His jaw flexed which was followed by the sound of a click. After the seatbelt was secured around me, he leaned back and gripped the steering wheel, hard.
    
Once I composed myself, I remarked. "You could have just told me."
    
"I thought you didn't wanna hear my voice." His response drew an eye roll from me. I was irked for certain. But what I was scared to admit was that whether the annoyance was because he pulled that stunt or because I had for a tiny fraction thought that he was going to kiss me.
    
"Whom are we meeting?" I asked looking outside the window.
    
"You'll see." Another eye roll. Wouldn't hurt him to offer a proper answer for once, would it?
    
The silence that ensued allowed my mind to shift to more concerning subjects. I hadn't yet found a chance to broach the subject with my parents. I would have to tell a pack of lies before them and there was a fair chance of me messing it up. That fear was what had stopped me from bringing it up last night at the dinner table.
    
I can do this! It's easy! I had told myself after every practice session in front of the mirror. All that pep talk had gone down the toilet.
    
I snapped out of my thoughts when I heard Rylan closing the car door behind him. So lost in my thoughts, I had failed to notice that we were in some basement parking.
    
I unfastened the seat belt meaning to get out when Rylan to my utmost surprise held the car door open for me. I quirked an eyebrow. "Careful! I might mistake you for a gentleman." I was partially apprehensive that my comment might get him to close that door on my leg as I stepped out.
    
His eyes glinted with scarcely perceptible amusement. "Wouldn't want that."
    
"Do you stay here?" I asked while he guided me to the elevator.
    
Rylan typed in the code before responding with a "I do." A private elevator?
    
The said elevator had opened to a penthouse. Rylan put in another code to let us in and oh my God!
    
I thought I had left my jaw on the floor outside.
    
The place was huge, like a fortress, every corner of the living space immaculate. From where I stood, I saw a staircase at the end of the living area winding up to a second floor.
    
"You stay here?" This time it actually wasn't a question. I was awestruck by the beauty of this monstrously large area.
    
Whoever said that money can't buy happiness could find themselves a seat on a cactus. I have never been a believer of the idea anyway. Honestly, I would die for a penthouse like this.
    
He gave me a blank stare. "Are you dense or deaf?"
    
"You have a beautiful place but why am I here?" I answered his question with one of mine.
    
"I'll be back." He moved across the rich hardwood floor and disappeared down the hall, leaving me to inspect the expensive furniture and the paintings hanging on the walls. Only a second later Rylan walked in, this time a familiar lady following close behind. Stacey, as in Ava's nanny.
    
"I am aware that you two have already met and know each other but I wanted to introduce her to you." I was a little surprised by Rylan's gesture. He particularly didn't stand out to me as someone who would take time, introducing his pretend would-be wife to his staff.
    
Guess I judged too fast.
    
"Elena, my girlfriend." A tiny shiver went down my spine. It could either be because of how foreign and absurd it felt to be introduced as Rylan's girlfriend. Or it could be due to the fact that I was extremely aware of the warm hand resting at the low of my back.
    
"I must say that your girlfriend is beautiful." I figured it out. It was the tag that's distressing.
    
"I'm glad we met, Stacey." I said.
    
"I do return the sentiment, Elena." Stacey warmly smiled at me, the skin around her eyes wrinkling that kind way before she added. "I work for Rylan. I'm Ava's nanny as you already know."
    
"You're family." We both turned our attention to Rylan whose brows had dipped down just a bit. Despite his clipped interjection, his voice easily gave out that he was offended. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Stacey was important to him and vice versa. It was the way Stacey stared back at him with affectionate eyes.
    
She blinked away the sheen of moisture with a warm smile. "Rylan, why don't you show her around while I get her something—"
    
She hardly got to complete the sentence when a squeaky little voice butted in. "Elena!" Ava sprinted her way to us.
    
"Hey, sweetie!" I squatted to Ava's height.
    
"Did you come to see me?" She asked, gripping the crayons tightly in her hand.
    
"I did!" Ava seemed to be well pleased by my response.
    
"Do you want to see my room?" Her eyes shone with excitement. How could one ever say no to a face that cute? Besides I could really do with a moment away from Rylan.
    
"I would love to." It took her less than a beat to start dragging me upstairs to her room.

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