Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 04

Chapter 4: Throw Back Thursday Story



The next few weeks breezed past in a hive of activity. True to his word, Dorian escorted Emily to Cullen’s house to collect her things. She moved into one of the company’s penthouse apartments.

Dorian wouldn’t accept any rent from her, saying the apartment was a company expense that didn’t have a cost centre so she would be messing up the accounting system if she persisted. Emily had laughed at his logic and finally stopped protesting the issue.

The apartment was tastefully decorated in a modern style and had two bedrooms and a large open plan space that included the dining kitchen and living room.

When Emily wasn’t working on the Belmont takeover, she was sorting out the rebuilding work on her house. Dorian’s policeman friend had taken her statement and assured her that they had an open and shut case against Arthur Belmont.

She’d barely seen Cullen since their Boardroom disagreement. He seemed to be spending most of his time at Belmont’s as the takeover went ahead. She received e-mail queries from him about financial matters and one day he asked her for a re-worked proposal now that they had the full financial records of Belmont Industries.

She quickly updated the figures and sent them off to him. She waited all day for a response but never received one. She snorted angrily at his complete lack of manners and resisted the urge to start banging books again. If he disliked her so much there was nothing she could do about it except get on with her job.

Emily called Alice into her office and asked her to schedule meetings with the department heads of the accounting team over the following week.

“How long for?” Alice asked scribbling in her notepad.

“Tell them I understand they’re really busy but if they could give me two hours I’d really appreciate it. It may not take that long but I won’t know until I’ve had the first meeting,” Emily told her.

She was mapping her way through the company’s accounting procedures when she heard Cullen say, “You look tired.”

Her head jerked up in surprise and she felt butterflies in her stomach as she saw him leaning against her door. His thick, brown hair hung loose around his shoulders, his golden brown eyes deep and unfathomable. He was so beautiful to look at and for once, he wasn’t scowling murderously at her.

“So you’re talking to me now?” she heard herself ask and stifled a groan at the slightly pathetic tone of her voice.

“I’m thinking about it,” he said, his mouth quirking into a crooked smile.

“Don’t do me any favours,” Emily retorted, a touch of anger in her voice.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Cullen smiled, his expression still guarded. “The last time I did you a favour, I failed miserably at it. I would hate to disappoint you like that again.”

Emily stared at him. Was this his way of apologising for his recent behaviour? She just couldn’t work him out.

“ I see Dr Jekyll’s back in residence,” she couldn’t help but jibe at him. She saw his jaw tighten and then slowly relax. She sighed and pushed her laptop away.

“Are you coming in or are you just going to stand there?” she finally asked.

Cullen straightened and entered the office. He sat down on the seat across from her.

“That was good work you did on Belmont,” he said quietly. “I wanted to personally thank you for getting the revised figures back to me so quickly. It was kind of hectic and I didn’t get a chance to get back to you about it.”

“So the takeover has gone through smoothly?” she asked, giving him a tentative smile.

“Yes,” he answered. “With practically no loss of jobs thanks to your astute financial proposal.”

Emily found herself beaming happily at the news. She had done the very best she could for the employees of Belmont. She knew it could have been a very lot worse.

Cullen watched her face radiate with pleasure. He sucked in a deep breath as her beautiful face seemed to glow. He had missed her the last few weeks. He had gone from being desperate to have her out of his home, to feeling lonely now that she was gone.

He’d finally admitted to himself that he wanted her. His recent temper was all because he couldn’t forget how soft and delicate she had felt in his arms when he had carried her to her room. Her sweet scent pulled at him like a heady aphrodisiac. He’d caught himself sitting wondering what she was doing at odd times of the day.

Feeling like this was so very wrong though. They could have no future together. He had stayed away, hoping the confused feelings inside him would go away but the more he was apart from her, the more he longed for her.

“Cullen?” Emily said again as he didn’t seem to hear her the first time.

He started with surprise and gave her a rueful smile. “Sorry, I was miles away there.”

“I was just wondering if there was anything else you needed?” she asked, looking pointedly at her laptop.

“No, that was all,” he sighed, standing up. He walked to the door and turned, staring intently at her, his expression guarded.

“Can we start again, Emily?” he asked softly.

She smiled tentatively at him. “I suppose we could try,” she agreed softly. “But if you could calm down on the ‘I want to rip your head off’ looks, I’d really appreciate it.”

His mouth fell open with shock and she almost burst out laughing at his stunned expression. But then he said in a tortured whisper, “I would never hurt you, Emily.” And her amusement vanished as soon as it came.

“I know that, Cullen,” she said softly.

He left without saying anything further and Emily turned their conversation over in her head. She had been half joking when she’d said what she’d said but the look on Cullen’s face had been so stricken. Why had he reacted like that? What was Sebastian Cullen hiding from her?

Emily had never liked problems defeating her. She was going to find out what Cullen was so guarded about. If he had any sense he would just tell her because once Emily decided she needed to know something, she dug deep until she found out.

Emily began her task that night. She had her personal laptop back so she used that instead of the work one. She ran numerous searches on Sebastian Cullen, frowning at the odd results that were thrown up. On a wild hunch, she researched Dorian Cross too and sat back stunned as she read the matching results.

Wherever Cullen appeared, Dorian was right there with him. That in itself wasn’t so surprising. What was surprising was the strange dates involved. 1854?! Maybe their fathers had been best friends too?

She decided to search the registry of births, deaths and marriages and gasped out loud when she could find no record of either of their births. The database went back a few centuries so it wasn’t as if she could have missed them. What the hell was going on? Who were Sebastian Cullen and Dorian Cross.

Determined to have some answers, she asked to meet with them in the Boardroom the next morning.

Cullen and Dorian looked at her expectantly as she entered the room and closed the door behind her. She stood with her back against the door, eyeing them warily.

“Who are you?” she asked, her voice thick with confusion. “Why can’t  I find your birth records?”

She watched them both stiffen instantly and knew she was on the right track.

“Must be a computer glitch or something,” Dorian finally said. He tacked on a smile at the end of his words but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“I don’t think so,” she snapped, angry that she was being lied to.

“Drop it, Emily,” Cullen said quietly, a hint of pleading in his golden eyes.

“Why?” she asked breathlessly, staring at him intently. “What are you hiding? Why can’t I know the truth?”

Cullen groaned and shot a murderous look at Dorian. “I told you!” he snapped between clenched teeth.

Dorian rose slowly. “Emily, please respect our privacy,” he said quietly. “I think you’ve come to know us well enough to know that we’re not bad people. We mean no one any harm.”

“I’ve just found out that my employers are not who I think they are and you expect me to just leave it?” she asked incredulously. “Do your names even belong to you or did you take someone else’s? How am I supposed to trust you both when I don’t even know who you are?”

Emily’s eyes sought out Cullen’s. His expression was hard, the look in his eyes unfathomable.

“Cullen?” she breathed softly, trying to will him to tell her what she needed so desperately to know.

He looked at Dorian and it almost seemed as if they were having a conversation she couldn’t hear. Finally he turned to her with a resigned expression on his beautiful face.

“Remember the book you were reading the night you feel asleep in my study?” he asked softly.

She stared at him confused. He wanted to discuss her reading habits? Had the world just suddenly gone mad in the last twenty four hours? She cast her mind back to that night. She’d been reading a horror novel she remembered. A novel about vampires and……..Emily suddenly froze. Was Cullen trying to tell her that he and Dorian were vampires?

She searched his eyes intently. “You’re not serious?” she whispered, her eyes wide with apprehension.

“We are,” Cullen answered quietly, a pleading note in his voice.

“They don’t exist!” she stammered. “It’s just a story! It’s bloody daylight! If you were one of those then you’d be burning up!”

“Myths and legends,” Dorian told her softly, seeing the panic building in her eyes. “Our kind circulate them to protect ourselves.”

Emily found herself slowly sliding down the door to sit on the floor. She pulled her knees against her body and wrapped her arms around them, automatically adopting a protective position. Cullen and Dorian watched her with worried expressions though they stayed away from her as if afraid she would run screaming from the room.

“This can’t be real,” she groaned wretchedly. “I can’t have walked from one nightmare straight into another. No one is that unlucky!”

“Emily,” Cullen breathed softly. “Try to take some deep breaths,”

Emily pushed herself back to her feet. “Deep breaths,” she almost shrieked at him. “You think taking deep breaths is going to make this all right, Cullen? You’re a bloody vampire!” the last word came out in a tortured whisper.

Emily could feel her panic reaching crisis point. She had to get away from them before she really lost it completely. She was almost hysterical as it was. She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart.

“What happens now?” she asked. “Do one of you kill me so your secret is safe?”

She heard their gasps of shock and opened her eyes. They were both staring at her, appalled expressions on their faces. It reminded her of the look Cullen had given her only the day before when he had said he would never hurt her. Obviously he had meant physically hurt her. Because this current revelation was certainly tearing her up inside at the moment.

“Sorry,” she laughed bitterly. “I forgot for a moment there that you said you wouldn’t hurt me,” she shot at Cullen and saw her barb hit home.

“I need to go home,” she said suddenly. “Try and wrap my head around all this.”

“Let me drive you,” Cullen said taking a step towards her.

She flinched away from him, “I’d prefer not be alone with either of you right now, Cullen.”

She turned and hurried from the room.

Cullen and Dorian looked at each other, their expressions concerned.

“And you thought she was strong enough to handle the truth?” Cullen ground out angrily.

“It’s just been a bit of shock to her,” Dorian answered calmly. “I’m sure once she’s had time to calm down, she’ll come around to the idea.”

“And if she doesn’t, Dorian?”

“Then I’ll remove the memory and steer her away from ever looking again,” his friend replied. “I’d prefer not to tamper with her mind because she has such a wonderfully unique way of looking at things but if push comes to shove, I will do it.”

Cullen groaned and lowered his forehead to the table. The very thing he had been so afraid of happening had and he was terrified about the outcome of the situation.

Emily didn’t know how she made it back to her apartment. Her head was throbbing dully and she felt scared and confused and angry. This really couldn’t be happening to her. Surely she was just having a horrible nightmare? The alternative was just too much to contemplate.

She threw herself onto her bed and started crying. She felt an incredible sense of loss that she just couldn’t understand. She felt betrayed by Cullen and Dorian. They had lied to her, let her trust them and like them when all the time they were the stuff of horror stories.

She shuddered when she thought of the nights she had spent in Cullen’s house. He could have done anything to her and no one would have been the wiser! Her subconscious mind tried to kick in and reassure her that he hadn’t done anything bad to her. But she wasn’t up to thinking rationally at the moment. She wanted to hold onto her horror and anger and curse the two beautiful men who she now knew to be non human.

She didn’t know how long she cried but it was dark when she finally sat up and pushed her hair out of her eyes. She felt a bit calmer. She grabbed her laptop and opened it up on the dining table. She spent the next three hours painstakingly visiting web page after web page trying to find some hard facts about vampires.

She shook her head in disbelief. She was actually accepting that they were undead creatures that lived on human blood. If anyone had told her two days ago that she would even be entertaining the idea, she would have died laughing at them.

But somewhere deep inside her she had known that there was something different about Cullen and Dorian. From the very moment they appeared out of the shadows as she walked from Arthur Belmont’s house, she had felt something mysterious about them.

They were impossibly beautiful to look at. Even when they were dressed in jeans they had a slightly old fashioned look about them, what with their long hair. They used words sometimes that sounded so archaic she’d wondered if they were still in the current Oxford English Dictionary she owned.

She sat and thought of all the little things she had noticed since she’d met them. Things that seemed so innocent on their own but began to build a bigger picture when put side by side. She had to accept the fact that they really were vampires.

The hard part was trying to figure out how she felt about it. She didn’t think she was going to work that out tonight. She switched off the laptop and crawled into bed.

In the morning she had two voicemail messages waiting from her.

The first was from Cullen. “Emily, I don’t really know what to say to try and make you feel better,” his voice said sadly. “I hope you can come to terms with what you’ve learned, that you’ll come back to work and hopefully be willing to talk about where we all go from here. We need you, Emily.”

Dorian’s message was briefer, “Emily, love, give either me or Cullen a call, just so we know you’re okay.”

She ignored both of them but took time to call into the HR department and say she’d be off for the rest of the week. She called Alice and asked her to cancel the meetings she had set up for this week.

She didn’t like to lie to Alice, particularly when she sounded so concerned about her. She couldn’t very well tell her the truth though so she invented some illness that was severe enough to keep her away from the office for the rest of the week.

Emily remained holed up in the apartment for the next three days. Both Cullen and Dorian left her messages daily, messages she didn’t return. She answered Alice’s calls and knew that her PA would be letting them know that she was okay. She didn’t hold it against Alice. They were her employers and she shouldn’t have to lie to them just because of her.

She finally ventured outside when she had no other choice. She needed to buy some food. It was a gloriously sunny, warm day so she didn’t bother with a jacket and just pulled on a pair of jeans and a T Shirt. She grabbed her bag and sunglasses and headed out.

She paused on the steps to the building, her eyes peering up at the sun. The very same sun that didn’t burn Cullen and Dorian to a crisp! She snorted in annoyance and put her sunglasses on. She bet garlic, holy water and stakes through the heart didn’t work either. Bloody vampires!

To be continued...