Chapter 1

496 5 5

Another event, another night spent wearing my well-worn mask.

I show the world what they want to see. No, what they expect to see. A nationally renowned architect with iconic buildings attributed to his name attracts attention and garners certain expectations. I'm expected to be approachable, respectable, inspiring, and well put-together. And from the outside, I'm all of those things. A good man from a great family, a man who rose to recognition for designing a few buildings that inspired national pride, and doing it by showcasing the best of modern architectural techniques.

I lean against the room's corner bar. Catching my reflection in the mirror behind the top shelf, I square my shoulders, standing up tall as I try my best to not look foreboding and unapproachable. The event may be in my honor, but I'm not ignorant to its true purpose—to raise funds from the college alumni on the back of my latest feat. The great Callum Alexander success story is the gift that keeps on giving, it seems.

Cradling my glass of Glenlivet, I peruse the room with unabashed indifference. I don't care whether I'm here or not. To be honest, I'd rather be in my own secluded sanctuary, sitting back in my black leather chair looking out towards the bay. Instead, I'm wearing a tailored black Tom Ford tuxedo in a room full of fellow chameleons making incessant small talk about inconsequential matters.

Everything I do—the way I act, the car I arrived in, even the label on the suit I wear—all matter. I fit the mold when I'm like this. In this setting, my own chameleon costume is in its element—I'm making small talk with university staff, professors keen to discuss their latest batch of students, star-struck kids hoping to get even a toe in the door, and even benefactors hoping to pull me into the 'old boys club.' Everyone has an agenda; everyone wants a small piece of me. That's why I'm more reserved at functions like this. I sit back, I watch, and I rarely engage with others unless they approach me.

There are many layers to my disguise, my public persona. Very few people get an insight into the real Callum Alexander—my family and my best friend, but that's all. Everyone else gets this Callum, the well-respected, well-regarded, successful man living the American dream. Sacrificing a lot and remaining in control at all times is what I've had to do, but that may have something to do with my desired predilections more than anything else.

I shake my head as my thoughts go down an entirely inappropriate track for an event such as this, adjusting my pants discreetly as I down the rest of my drink. I set my glass on the bar and signal to the barman to prepare another. When it arrives, I head toward the front of the large hotel ballroom, trying not to think the dark thoughts that are starting to blur the edges of my seemingly bright life.

As I walk through the crowd of mingling people with a narrowed brow, my lips are drawn into a thin line as I search the room for a familiar face but come up empty. The looks I get in return tell me my mask must be askew tonight. It's somewhat understandable; my mind is elsewhere. I'm too busy considering why I bother with the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing façade.

I've worked hard and foregone a lot to get where I am today and have continued to do so in order to maintain it. To lose it all now would be unfathomable.

A man who could easily have been a mirror image of myself ten years ago steps into my path with his hand out. "Mr. Alexander?"

I take a moment to study him. He's just short of my six-foot two-inches, with broad, confident shoulders and a tailored suit that's no doubt equally as expensive as mine, a sign that he definitely comes from money. His almost black hair is slicked to the side and back off his face, adding character to his fresh, bright-eyed and hopeful expression as he looks at me.

CraveRead this story for FREE!