Chapter Fourteen

Mia awoke to darkness. She groaned in frustration. She had a horrible night's sleep for some reason. She was sure she only got maybe an hour of sleep… if she was lucky. She rolled over to try and slip back into her dream world when fate decided to smile down upon her as her alarm went off at that exact moment.

Aw, damn…

The alarm was shut off with more strength then necessary as Mia's fist slammed down on the innocent button. She had to return to school today, but thankfully she had finished all her work. Begrudgingly, she threw the covers off her body as she sat up.

Suddenly, it hit her.

Today was her birthday.

I'm sixteen now… weird.

She wasn't overly excited. A birthday was just another birthday.

Fifteen minutes later, she descended the stairs wearing a tight black tee with the sentence "King and Queen of My Soul" written in sky-blue letters and a plaid baby-blue and black pleated mini-skirt along with matching converse high-tops.

Logan was due to pick her up so they could grab breakfast together before heading for school. She sighed in relief as she entered the living room and looked up from putting on her watch. She had cleaned the majority of the mess the day before, and luckily Rick had handled the rest. She adjusted her backpack and headed for the door when she heard her uncle call her name.


Rick caught up with her as he bounded down the stairs and handed her a box wrapped in hot pink wrapping paper, "Here. Happy birthday, kid."

Mia looked down at the box in surprise. Her uncle had never remembered her birthday before… on time anyway. She hesitantly took the offered gift, "Y-You remembered?"

He gave her a sly grin in return, "I know. I'm untypically early this year."

She smirked, "Asshole."

"Open it."

She did and gasped as she pulled out a glittering diamond necklace. She was in such a state of shock that she made no move to stop her uncle from retrieving the item and placing it around her neck.

After a few moments, she found her voice as cool fingers brushed the back of her neck, "H-How d-did you get this?"

"You'd be surprised what people would pay for drugs."

Instantly, she tried to pull away but froze when she felt his hot breath on the back of her neck as he chuckled.

"Don't worry. I got rid of the rest of the drugs and traded it for the necklace." He paused for a moment and then rubbed her arms before continuing, "Sixteen… you're almost all grown up, Mia."

The teen tried once more to pull away when she felt lips on the nape of her neck. Her breath hitched and her heart beat thudded in her rib cage.

This is exactly how it had begun… before…

"I miss you," he murmured.

In a flash, she broke away trying not to tremble, "Rick, stop."

He shook his head and blinked as if having snapped out of a trance, "Whatever. Get to school."

The change in his demeanor caused alarms to go off in her head. She snatched off her necklace disregarding the fact that it hurt like hell when she did and hurled it back at him, "I don't want this! I don't want anything to do with the crap you're doing. If you really wanted to give me something I wanted, you could have used that money to maybe help us keep our fucking house!"

Without waiting for him to respond, she quickly made her way out the front door and slammed it shut. She leaned against it as she caught her breath.

No… I won't let it happen again.

She stood upright and shook her head to compose herself.


She smiled in relief as Logan showed up in his car. "Hey," she greeted softly.

His smile faded a little, "Are you all right?"

Suddenly, Mario's head popped up from the backseat, "What's the hold up?"

Mia rolled her eyes, "I'm fine."

"Chiqui! Get in the back with me."

Logan instantly turned in his seat, "Hell no! I'm not a chauffeur!"

She giggled before entering the passenger's side.

"But I'm all alone, cabron!" Mario continued as they took off, "Chiqui! Come back here!"

"Mario, shut up!" Logan shook his head before smiling at her, "Happy Sixteenth."

"Thanks. Question though: is Mario necessary?" She smirked as the Hispanic boy protested.

Logan laughed, "He came over really early and insisted on surprising you. I couldn't kick him out."


Mia laughed then and turned in her seat, "Relax, Mario. You can come." She faced Logan, "So, where's my present?"

He laughed, "Always straight to the point. It's in the glove compartment."

"You know I don't know about you, but I have never stored gloves in here. You would think they'd pick a different name." She gasped as the gift came into view and almost squealed. "No way! For real?" She pulled out the silver-colored metallic mp3 player, "The Arcetta Diamond! This thing just came out! It must have cost like at least four hundred dollars!"

Her best friend chuckled, "Don't worry about that. I know you were running out of room on your old Arcetta and this one has video."

"B-But this… How did you get the money for this? I know you had some saved but... not like this…"

Logan joined the queue for the Wendy's drive-thru before leaning over to her and murmuring, "Just enjoy it. Happy Birthday." He kissed her cheek.

She gave him a bright smile, "Thank you."

They sat in silence, staring at each other for a long time before a certain someone got fed up.

"Hello! Tengo hambre, guey! An old lady with a scooter just passed us! Ándale!"

"English, Mario. English," Logan rolled his eyes and began ordering.

Mia fingered her Arcetta Diamond. Maybe, her birthday wouldn't be so bad after all…

"All right, I've helped Hallie organize all of your meetings and lunches for the next month."

Stephan gave his secretary a grin as she placed a few forms on his desk, "Did I mention how much you mean to me?"

Tricia rolled her eyes but gave a smile, "You've mentioned it once or twice."

He chuckled before placing his chin on his fist, "Must you retire so early?"

"I've worked in this company for twenty five years. I think I deserve to finally retire, regardless of leaving behind your debonair charms."

The CEO let out a heart laugh, "I'm afraid I can't argue with that logic."

"Yes well, few can." She winked, "Now, Mr. Espy, there's a call for you on line one. He is very eager to talk to you."

He shook his head and gave a small smile as she left before picking up his phone, "Stephan Espy speaking."

"Hey, buddy!"

The CEO cringed at the familiar tenor voice, "Frankie, why are you calling me at work?"

"Because you weren't answering your cell."

"Touché," Stephan sighed before giving a rueful smile, "What is it?"

"Nice way to greet a friend." His tone quickly changed from annoyed to cheerful, "I just finished my business seminar in LA, and you're the first one I called."

"I'm honored."

"Shut up." Frankie snapped before changing his tone to a more amiable one, "I wanted to let you know I'm going to be visiting in a week and a half."

"Then why are you telling me now?"

"I'm being polite." His friend replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "See you then."

The CEO shook his head as the dial tone met his ears.

That was Frankie.

Still, Stephan couldn't help but chuckle as he hung up the phone.

Frankie Linwood was his closest childhood friend. They had met when his family had taken a vacation to their summer home in Malibu, where Frankie lived. Both of them had come from similar families, both wealthy and well known, with his own father being a business tycoon while Frankie's father had been a very successful lawyer.

They young boys had met at the beach at a tender nine years of age when Frankie had defended him against local bullies who had decided to pick on him for reading a book instead of playing in the water.

At that age, he had struggled with living up to his father's expectations and coping with his intellect which would occasionally make have mental breakdowns. Frankie, however, had not laughed at him or made him feel awkward in anyway. In fact, if it weren't for the patience and the kindness that Frankie had shown him that day… he might not have learned that it was all right to be a little different despite his father's constant assurances that different was better.

Long story short, they had quickly become very good friends and remained in contact even through the distance. They had decided to spend every summer together from then on, deciding to attend college together.

Frankie had even worked harder, taking summer classes in order to graduate early, so they would be freshman at the same university. Luckily, Frankie had been a good sport about Stephan breezing through exams and essays while he himself had to give a lot more effort.

Despite all that, they had graduated together, Stephan with a business degree and ready position of CEO of Espy Corporations while his father handled the Chair and Presidency of the company, and Frankie with a degree in public speaking.

They didn't see each other as often as they used to. Frankie had to travel a lot on business, and he was usually busy with the company, but whenever they did see each other, Frankie would take it upon himself to remind his best friend that "there's more to life than business."

"Here are the forms you wanted, Mr. Espy."

Stephan snapped out of his thoughts as his assistant handed him the stack of papers, "Thank you, Hallie. Please sit."

She did so while blushing madly all the while. He ignored this as he handed her half of the stack, "Can you divide these into categories, please? It'll help me while I sign them."

"Of course."

Mia barely raised her head from the desk when her math teacher called on her.

"Bryer! What is the answer?"


Her math teacher, Mrs. Payton—the one Mia had been busted for making fun of her large nose a few weeks before—glared at her through narrowed coffee-colored eyes. Yeah… she was not one of her favorite students obviously.

"I will ask you one last time. What is the answer to the equation?"

Mia groaned as she was forced to lift her head a couple of centimeters to look at the board. It was a picture of some random triangle with coordinates. She really hadn't being paying attention. School seemed unnaturally long today, and she couldn't wait to leave.

"I don't know. Can't you tell me?"

Mrs. Payton rolled her eyes as a few classmates snickered, "No, I certainly will not. You never pay attention-"

Mia groaned and laggardly put her mind to work oblivious to her teacher's rant. The answer… ugh too much thought… is… ugh…

"-You take a week off and expect to come back to slack off some more? First off, I can't even imagine you getting the answer without working it out. You must at take out a sheet of paper and a pencil and use the formula, so you can find the left side of the-"


Mrs. Payton blinked, "What?"

"The answer is fifty-four. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"W-Well… y-yes, but how did you do that without writing anything down?"

Mia groaned. Hadn't all her teachers been made aware of her… deal?

"I just did it all in my head. There, I answered the question. Can you please allow me to slip back into unconsciousness?"

Her math teacher seemed at loss for words until the bell rang signaling the end of class—and the end of the day thankfully.

"Fuck yes!" Mia cried as grabbed her bag and prepared to dash to the door.

"Language, Bryer!" Mrs. Payton snapped.

"English!" She retorted wittingly before she raced out the door and out the hall, swerving left and right to avoid people until she saw Logan talking with Mario and other random classmates. She dashed up to him, "Logan! Can you give me a ride to work?"

He nodded but looked saddened, "Sure, but do you have to work today? You won't get off until eight."

She gave a small smile, "Yes I do, but I'll make you a deal. I'll try to get out early and head to your house, all right?"

"O que la… why don't you two just date already?"

Mia had to laugh at Mario's—as always unasked for—comment. "You can be so weird sometimes, Mario, honestly."

"Let's go now."

Mia blinked at Logan's short tone but obediently followed him as he made his way towards the front doors.

What's his problem?

A few minutes later, they were on their way to the company. Mia fidgeted a bit. Logan had been very quiet since Mario's comment, and it was really starting to get to her.

"What's with you? You're really quiet."

He seemed startled as he blinked and responded, "W-What? Oh, no I… I'm just thinking."


"Nothing." He shook his head and chuckled, "Forget about it."

She shrugged and turned on the radio. Heavy symphonic metal filled the car, and she began bopping her head in time with the bass. She could barely hear Logan's laughter as she continued thrashing around in the car as if having a seizure.

After a while, she started getting a headache from the constant whipping of her head and so leaned back against the seat. She tapped her foot against the dashboard in rhythm instead.


The teen jumped as the bellow reached her ears. She swiftly turned down the volume of the radio and turned to glare at her best friend, "What? Damn, you got my ears ringing."

Logan laughed, "I'm sorry, but you couldn't hear me through the music. I didn't want to interrupt your imitation of a convulsion. I don't see how you can like that type of music."

At this, the brunette laughed, "Within Temptation is amazing."

"If you say so."

"I do. So what is it?"

"We're here."

Mia blinked and looked at the unreasonably tall building that made up Espy Corporations. "Oh… right."

He laughed and leaned over to her, "See you later. Call me when you're free. I'll come pick you up."

"Will do, captain. Thanks." She quickly gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek before stepping out of the vehicle with her backpack.

She waved as he drove off before entering the building. The large lobby had few people, one being the receptionist who sat at the desk, lazily shuffling through a magazine. The phone wasn't currently ringing, but she knew there was a lot a receptionist did on the computer that took up a lot of time. Email was getting much more used than phones.

Mia grimaced, she wasn't a snitch by nature, but she hated it when she saw employees acting as if they worked at Wal-Mart. It was just disrespectful… to Stephan and everyone else. With that in mind, she entered the elevator and pressed the button for her floor.

A few minutes later, the doors opened.


She barely stepped out of the elevator before getting enveloped in a fierce hug. Once her feet touched the ground, she smiled, "Hey, Carl."

"Happy Birthday." He gave a small smile before handing her two white slips of paper, "Here's your birthday present."

"Wow. Thanks, Car- Within Temptation concert tickets? Oh my god! I love them!" She launched herself at her boss, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Carl laughed, "You're welcome. I hear you listening to them a lot, and I know you like that type of music."

"Hell yeah, I do. Thanks a lot!"

The older man gave her a smile, "No problem. Just try not to get into too much trouble when you do go."

"Sure." Mia replied happily as she walked over to her cubicle.

Her day was turning out to be much better than the morning. She frowned as she thought about her uncle and in turn the impending foreclosure of their home.

How could her uncle waste money on a diamond necklace when he could have used the money to pay their debt… she would have to do damage control when she got home. As she placed her bag on the ground and made her way to the desk, she stopped.

There was a large white stuffed bear holding a medium-sized golden-wrapped box. Next to it was an envelope and a small white card.

Mia approached the teddy bear cautiously. She couldn't say she had many friends at work so who would give her a present?

She reached for the small card and read the writing.

I figured seeing as how this was your sixteenth birthday, I'd indulge you. Happy Birthday, Mia.


Her eyes widened. Her boss gave her this? He went out of his way to place these items on her desk so she would find them upon arriving?

That was awfully… sweet.

She hugged the teddy bear to her. She wasn't one for stuffed animals… but she couldn't deny the softness of the material or the significance of the giver. As the light reflected off the golden box, she decided to find out what lay inside. Placing the bear back on the desk, she grabbed the box and began to open it.

Her face scrunched in confusion as the plain white box came into view. What was so special about a plain white box… she opened it and gasped.

For there- lying in the rectangular indent intended for the phone- lay the new Ultima cell phone. The long sleek black phone shone as the light bounced off it. The word "Ultima" lay in chic neon-green letters.

She carefully took out the phone though her hands shook in excitement. There was a holographic shooting star on the cover of the phone which seemed to shot from one end to the other depending on how you titled it.

She wondered how to open it as she looked the phone over. There seemed to be a split in the middle so she placed her bet on that. Gently prodding the break, she gasped as the phone seemed to come to life. The two halves split and then flipped to produce two screens with a keyboard in the middle.

"Welcome to the new Ultima."

She jumped as the futuristic-sounding automated voice coming from the phone filled the small cubicle.

"Whenever you're ready, please enter your name."

Remembering Karen's phone—which she had to say couldn't hold a candle to her own—she cautiously turned the screens until the combined into one at the top of the keyboard.

She quickly typed her name.

"Welcome… Mia Bryer. You are now ready to use the Ultima phone."

"This is so cool!" She squealed.

"So, you liked you new present?" Carl asked as he leaned at the opening of her cubicle.

"Hell yes! This is so fucking awesome! No wonder this is a billion-dollar company."

He chuckled, "I'm getting one myself. The rest of the employees who want one get theirs later on today. You're the first."

Mia beamed, "That's cool. So, where is the big boss? I want to thank him."

"Uh, I think he said he had an appointment," Carl checked his watch, "It might be ending soon. I'm really not sure."

"I guess I'll wait a few minutes then."

"In the meantime, I have some information you need to get for me, please. Richard in accounting asked for these forms, so if you could fax them to him." He handed her a few sheets of paper.

"Oh sure." Mia took said forms and turned to her phone.

It didn't take long to get through.

"Hey, Richard? Yeah this is, Mia, Carl's—"

She smiled at the other man's response.

"Yes, the one who placed the tape at the bottom of most of the computer mice in production and accounting two weeks ago. So you've heard of me? Okay, okay, listen. I'm about to fax you the forms you needed from Carl. Mm-hmm, yes. Okay."

She hung up and was about to walk over to the fax machine at the other side of the room when she noticed the white envelope still lying on her desk.

"Oh, right… almost forgot." She reached for it and then gently opened the flap. Her eyes widened as she took in the check with Stephan's signature.

He… he had…

Refusing to wait anymore, grabbed all her gifts and dashed towards the elevator.

After abusing the elevator button to the point Carl had asked what was wrong with her, the elevator doors finally opened, and she stepped through. She pressed the button for the floor right below the top floor of the building. She wondered what was on the floor above her boss' office, and why he didn't simply use the highest floor.

It didn't take long to reach the CEO floor, and as she stepped out she noticed Stephan's assistant passing by. "Hey… Hallie?"

She smiled, "You got it. Please don't forget this time."

Mia winked as she stepped off, "I'll try." She walked over to Tricia.

"Always a pleasure to see you, Mia." The secretary smirked at the small teen.

Mia grinned in return, "Likewise, Madame Secretary. Our encounters are as unconventional as they are memorable."

The older woman let out a laugh, "Yes, I have to agree. I will definitely remember you even in retirement."

"Oh, you're retiring?" The teen titled her head in wonder.

"Yes. Next week."

"Wow… well happy retiring!"

Tricia chuckled, "Thank you."

"So, is your boss busy?"

"I don't think so. His appointment ended a few minutes ago. Go ahead and go."

"Mucho thanks." Mia moved to the left and down the hall.

As she passed the meeting room, she paused. That had been the exact meeting room in which she had first met Stephan, and the whole thing had began.

She smiled as she recalled the way his eyes had blazed when she had demanded he see her. Till this day, she would always wonder why he had obliged her, but she had to admit she was very glad he had.

As she moved on to his office, she bit her lip and hesitated. How would she handle this? It was on thing to be grateful to Logan and Carl for material things, but Stephan had…

His gift meant so much more than even he knew.

She shook her head and grumbled, "Get it together, Mia. It's a simple 'thank you'." She moved towards his door only to find it closed.

She was about to knock when she heard soft murmuring from inside. She placed her ear on the door. The words were muffled, but she could make out her boss' voice. It seemed there was no one else there, so she cautiously opened the door.

Her boss was facing away from her, but she could tell he was on the phone.

"Yes, Mr. Thompson. I completely agree. In fact, I was hoping to address such a matter at our shareholders meeting tomorrow."

Stephan turned in his chair and caught sight of her. Mia froze, unsure of what to do. Fortunately, he smiled at her and motioned for her to wait a moment.

"Yes. I understand. I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Thompson." He hung up and gave her a grin as he placed his chin on his folded hands, "So, the birthday girl graces me with her presence."

She knew she fought a losing battle as a blush spread through her cheeks. She would never understand how that man made her blush more times than she had in her entire lifetime. "I-I just wanted… to…"

She trailed off, and he smiled as he caught sight of the items in her hand.

"I see you received my intended gifts. I hope you liked them."

"I-I did." She shook her head and tried again, "I do. I came here to… thank you. Your gifts mean a lot. I really like them."

The CEO smiled, "You're very welcome. Happy Birthday."

Mia stood there for a moment. She found herself between the proverbial rock and hard place… The air around them had a sense of… expectancy. As if there was something that had to be said, but the occupants of the room had no idea what it was.

She snapped out of her philosophical moment when her boss cleared his throat.

"Did you need something else, Mia?"

"N-No… I d-don't think so."

The air seemed to thicken as if urging her to prolong her visit… by any means necessary. Mia—subconsciously or not—obeyed.

"Oh, dang!" She cursed as the objects in her hand somehow found their way to reunite with the floor. She made a big show about having to bend down and get the items—which, she knew, made absolutely no sense seeing as how she wasn't wearing high-heeled boots or anything. Yet Stephan, being the gentleman that he was, swiftly rose from his seat, walked around the desk, and gingerly picked up the cell phone that had fallen.

"It's a good thing this phone is almost indestructible, or I'm afraid it would be utterly obsolete by now."

Mia gave a playful grin as she took the phone back, "Ha, ha, very funny. This phone is amazing though. I never thought you'd actually get me one, even though I bugged you about it for a while."

Stephan leaned against the desk, and crossed his arms and ankles. "I wasn't considering it until your former cell found itself floating down in the depths of a lake."

She winced, "Oh yeah. Man, I almost forgot about that. I hardly use my cell phone." She then brightened, "But that's totally fine because this thing is the shit."

Stephan scoffed in humor, "I wish we had come up with that slogan to promote the phone."

She let out a soft laugh before walking over and placing the items on the chair. She kept the phone and looked down at it, "Question: This thing seems to be programmed already. Does that mean I can call and text right now?"

"Yes. The ones given to any Espy Corp. employee already have a contract with the Utopia provider. As I'm sure you must have heard from the meeting yesterday, the contract specifies a free trial of internet access and unlimited calls and text messages for a month. The phone itself however is not free, but the company has paid for yours and everyone else's who work here. After the free trial is over, you have to pay for everything should you choose to keep it."

Mia nodded, "Okay… wow… that's going to be expensive."

"I wouldn't worry too much about it. Espy Corp. employees get discounts, and besides, yours is paid for three months after the free trial."


He nodded.

"That's… awfully nice… thank you." She then remembered the check, "And thank you for the check. It really means a lot."

"You're welcome. Though I know you haven't been too forthcoming in your reason for it, I am willing to let it slide only because it's your birthday."

She returned his smile, "Yes well… thanks again… Stephan."

Something seemed to have changed then as the teasing smile on her boss' face slowly died until he looked completely stunned.

"Is something wrong?"

Gradually another smile crept into his handsome face until he seemed genuinely happy, "You said my name."


He smirked, "You said my name. You've never addressed me by my name before."

"What? Yes I have…" Mia trailed off. The truth was she couldn't recall such a time, but that didn't mean anything, "I'm sure I have… at one point."

The CEO shook his head, "No, you haven't. I'm sure of it."

The teen found herself speechless, "Well… that's… it doesn't…" She paused before shaking her head ruefully, "Maybe you're right. There's always a first time."

Before thinking on it—though she knew she hardly ever thought anything through—she stood on the balls of her feet and placed a light kiss on his cheek.

The warm smooth skin caressed her lips pleasantly, but she pulled away quickly when she realized what she had done.

Are you crazy, her mind screamed at her, get out of there now!

Not one to disobey her own mind when she had perhaps made the biggest mistake of her life, she quickly grabbed her things aware of her reddening face before giving a quick farewell, "Got to go. Tons of stuff to do. Thanks again, bye!"

She dashed down the hall and into the elevator; when the doors closed, she slid down and tried to still her racing heart. Why? Why had she done that?

As if they hadn't already crossed the line between boss and employee already, this was just the push over the edge needed.

Would he be mad that she had been so audacious?

Granted they had both indulged each other at the park, but to go and place one's lips on another's cheek… Was that too far?

She sighed, "Oh, boy."

Stephan hadn't moved from his place against the desk minutes later. He touched a hand to the spot where Mia had kissed him.

What… was going on?

A few seconds later, he shrugged it off and chuckled ruefully. He was making a federal case out of something simple. Apparently, Mia had been touched by his gifts and had responded in kind. A kiss on the cheek was universal sign for affection and gratitude.

This had been no different.

It wasn't like she had thrown herself on him and kissed him passionately.

The CEO returned to his desk with great determination and refused to dwell on why that thought hadn't repulsed him is it should have.

Fifteen minutes later, his assistant walked into his office. "Sir, Miss Davis is on line one and these are her reports."

"Ah, thank you, Hallie." He made a move to receive the offered reports when he froze. Hallie had leaned forward to hand him the papers, and her shirt was unbuttoned to allow a full view of her cleavage.

The CEO blinked.

As Hallie gave him a shy smile and then hurried away, Stephan held his chin with his hand as he slipped into deep thought.

Had she just…?

He had always known Hallie was attracted to him, her blushing being as telling as a neon sign. However, she had never done anything to act on her desires… until now…

Okay hold, on, he thought as he leaned back on his chair, you don't know for sure that was her intention, she may not even be aware of it.

It was true, maybe it was purely accidental. Yes, that had to be it. The last thing he needed was his own personal assistant attempting to seduce him to bed.

"Hey, Carl. How can you make a call on this phone?" Mia asked as she entered her boss' cubicle. "I know how to text, but I have no idea how to send or receive calls."

"Oh, here. You slide the top until it flips." He took her phone and demonstrated as the cover slide backwards and then flipped to the side revealing a screen.

The teen gaped, "Wow… so it's a touch screen too?"

The COO laughed, "Modern technology."

She let out a small laugh as well, "Guess so."

Carl then leaned back on his chair and gave her a teasing smile, "Have you been fiddling with that thing all this time?"

"Of course not! I'll have you know that I was working on that report you wanted typed up."

"Oh so you finished?"

"Er… well… W-What is 'finished' really? Everyone says they've 'finished' something, but have they?" Mia leaned forward, "Have they really?"

Carl blinked as she continued.

"Now finished is defined as the—"

"So you didn't finish."

She then gave a sheepish smile, "No… but I did finish the first paragraph."

The COO shook his head and then gave her a piece of paper, "Well for right now put away the revolutionary device and fax this for me to the number on the page. I need to run down to the accountant offices for a moment. After you're done, I need that report typed up, all right?"

Mia took hold of the paper, "Right-o, chief." She walked over to the fax machine and proceeded to start faxing the paper. She was busy concentrating on placing the paper correctly in the fax machine, when a voice startled her.

"Where is Carl?"

She let out a small scream as she spun around seeing Stephan, "Jesus Christ! Did you want to give me a heart attack?"

He gave a small smile but she could tell he was not in a happy mood, "Sorry. Where is your boss?"

"He said he would be down on the…" She paused to think, "Tenth floor. He had to run a quick errand." The teen crossed her arms, "Now can you please explain to me what your intention was when you almost gave me a premature death?"

Her boss shook his head before walking away.

"Hey! What's wrong with you?" She asked as she trailed after him.

He entered Carl's cubicle and sat in the chair with a sigh.

Mia watched him before kneeling down and tapping his forehead, "Hey. Why so glum?"

Stephan swatted her hand away and snapped, "Nothing."

"Well fine. Forgive me for giving kindness a try."

The CEO sighed before grabbing her wrist. "I'm sorry, Mia. I just am a little… frustrated right now."

She turned and relented, "What about?"

He seemed reluctant to say before speaking, "I just had a talk with Christina. She told me in recent months, Maddux Corp. has almost been outselling our products. Their Genesis mp3 player has been catching up to Arcetta sales. Although, with the new Arcetta Diamond, we can probably remain ahead so there's no concern there, but there's still a high chance that their Eclipse cell phone will outsell the Ultima."

"Oh…" Now she could see why he seemed so upset. She leaned back on the wall, comforting wasn't her thing.

The CEO ran a hand through his hair as he leaned back on the chair, "All right. Let Carl know I need him when he gets back." He made a move to stand up when she spoke.

"You need to relax, Stephan." He gave her a suspicious look as she moved behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "You get way too anal over things. For all you know, the Ultima will totally kick ass, and you'll be even richer than should be allowed. I know I love my new phone. " She began to work the muscles as best she could, not bothering to deny the fact that she enjoyed the feeling of his warm skin on her cool fingers as she dipped them underneath his shirt slightly but not deep enough to be sexual.

After a few seconds his voice reached her ears, though he sounded strained.

"Have you… done this before?"

She titled her head, "Well… once or twice. Why?"

"You suck at it."

She paused before playfully hitting the side of his arm, "Gee, thanks. I guess that's why Logan always flinches when I offer to give him massages."

Stephan stood up rubbing his shoulder, "I'll say." As they walked out of the cubicle he continued, "Still, it was sweet of you to try. Thank you."

"No problem," she stuck out her hand and tapped her palm with the index finger of her other hand. "But I—like all my other kinsmen—need sustenance, my dear Stephan. Pay up."

"For what?"

"That mini-massage, my services aren't free you know."

"If you really want to be fair then you'd end up owing me for that painful experience." He teased before patting her cheek gently, "I'll make sure to recommend you to the employees who annoy the hell out of me. You can take my frustrations out on them. You should like that." He then crossed his arms and smiled, "There you go. Actions speak louder than words. You're welcome."

"And money speaks louder than actions; cough it up, good sir."

The CEO let out a laugh, "God, I needed that. Thank you, Mia. You're heaven sent."

She gave her own grin in return, "We'll see. There's a devil in me yet."

"Don't I know it? Anyway, tell Carl that I am calling a quick meeting in my office. Christina and Mike will already be there."

He pressed the elevator button as she nodded, "Will do. Mike Mitchell, the CMO? So you're going over the statistics for the Ultima phone?"


"Well… good luck."

He gave her a dazzling smile, "Thanks."

She gave shrug but smiled in return as the elevators opened, and they were met with a gigantic bouquet of white flowers. She blinked… the thing was huge!

Stephan also looked surprised, "Uh… Carl?"

"Y-Yeah, I had to go down to the lobby before coming back up here, and these flowers were supposed to be delivered to Mia. Is she here?"

"I'm right here." She called knowing Carl could barely see through the large bouquet.

"H-Here's the card."

She took it from him and read it.

Happy birthday, Mia. I want to take you out for dinner. I'll pick you up around six. Be ready.


P.S. I'm not sure if you're into flowers, but I'd figured I'd break traditionalism by giving you lilies instead of roses. Enjoy.

She blinked before grinning.

He remembered, she thought giddily. He actually remembered my birthday… but… flowers?

"Uh… can someone help? These are huge."

Stephan reached over and grabbed the rather luxurious and unnecessarily large bouquet of lilies before placing it on a nearby table. A phone began to ring, and Carl excused himself to answer it.

Mia stepped over to the lilies and wrinkled her nose, "Ugh. I hate flowers."

"Why?" The CEO asked as he stood next to her.

She shrugged, "They always die… no matter how much water you put in a vase. It's a waste of time and money. Besides… they smell weird."

"That's something you'll have to make quite clear to admirers."

"Believe me I know. I'll have to tell Gio that."

The CEO gave her a sharp glance, "Gio? Giovanni sent you those?"

"Yeah, for my birthday. He's picking me up for dinner in…" She checked her watch, "Thirty minutes."


Mia looked up and eyed him strangely. Even though he hadn't exactly stated a question, she answered anyway, "Yes… really."

"Have you considered the fact that you work until eight o' clock at night?"

"Yes I have, sir. And I'm sure someone as considerate as you won't place too much emphasis on missing just two hours of work when I've been so good lately." She leaned forward giving him—what she thought was—her sweetest look.

Her boss was surprisingly silent for a long moment before speaking, "Fine but only because it's your birthday."

She beamed and gave him a brief hug, "Thanks a lot!" She stepped back before remembering something she had wanted to mention to him, "About… the kiss on the cheek I gave you in your office, I didn't mean—"

The CEO shook his head, "Don't worry about it. Who was the one who said as long as something done on impulse doesn't hurt anyone, it's okay? So…" She blushed faintly and grinned as he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"Have fun."

With that, the big boss entered Carl's cubicle for a moment before they headed back out to the elevator.

She gave them a slight wave before returning to her original task at the fax machine which she found a little difficult to concentrate on since, for some reason, the warm feeling that had settled inside her from the kiss on her cheek had not faded away. It didn't really bother her… in fact, she liked it.

Still she managed then turned to lean on the table slightly as she stared at the elevator doors. She hoped the meeting would ease Stephan's—everybody's fear a little. Strictly speaking it was just a possibility still, they would have to wait for the sales report—report!

"Oh shit! I have to type it up before I go!"

She raced to her desk. Thankfully, she had always been a fairly good typist being a teenager in the 21st century and all, but with all the typing she had to do on a daily basis since working at the company she got really good. She jumped into her chair and almost fell of the side before typing away like a madwoman.

"So will you take me to dinner at Cesario's?"

Stephan finished glancing over some spreadsheets before answering back on his cell phone, "Yes, if you want."

"Well of course I do, genius, otherwise I wouldn't be asking."

He chuckled at her playful tone, "Well I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes."

"All right, see you then."

He hung up and stood as he grabbed his coat before checking his watch. He had planned on working late but apparently his girlfriend had other ideas…

He left his office and made it to the main office. "Tricia, I'm heading out early today. Can you please forward any important calls to my business phone? Please tell Hallie she's welcome to leave early. "

"Of course, have a nice day."

He returned the farewell before the elevators door closed. He hadn't seen Hallie since the meeting. She had made herself scarce since then. What kind of assistant was she if he couldn't find her half the time?

Still, he was too compassionate to just fire her. She was a good PA and would have much more responsibility when Tricia left, but if her insecurities or personal issues continued to get involved he would have no choice but to let her go.

The CEO stared aimlessly around the elevator before his thoughts went back to the recent meeting. Everyone agreed that nothing would be gained from worrying since it was only a possibility for now—as Mia insisted—but Christina and Mike would be paying more attention and let him know of any new undertakings.

A few minutes later, the doors opened, and he stepped out effectively catching his receptionist flirting shamelessly with one of the young employees, a boy no older than twenty.

Boy… I'm only one year older than him. I have to stop doing that.

He approached the couple and cleared his through. His receptionist bit her lip, "M-Mr. Espy, I-I was just—"

"Miss Taylor, this is the third time I've seen you idle when you should be working. This is a busy company. On a slow day you get about maybe twenty minutes total of peace. How is it you a rarely seen working, but find time to socialize?"

She opened her mouth and closed it a few times while her would-be conquest quickly scurried away. Stephan crossed his arms and stared at her.


"S-Sir… I-I"

He turned away in disgust. She couldn't even defend herself. "Miss Taylor, today will be your last day. Pack up your things and leave."

"Oh no! Please sir!"

"No. When you applied for this job, you strongly implied you had a good work ethic. That hasn't been what you have been showing lately. This isn't the first time I've heard or seen with my very eyes how you are rarely seen at your desk or doing your job. I know someone has already spoken you over the matter before and in fact a reliable source informed me that you have been busy reading magazines rather than sending and answering emails. Frankly, that is an embarrassment to the company and to me. Furthermore, that eventually I would have had to get involved if not the fact I have just caught you, is not lost on me. I will not tolerate this disrespect for the authority of my employees and my officers. I will say this one more time." He ignored her tears. He didn't like seeing woman cry at all, but he did not play around with his work. He expected things done the way they were supposed to be and not even little tears could away him when he got angry.

"This is your last day. You are fired."

He looked up to see a few people lingering watching the scene unfold. His eyes narrowed, "Would any of you like to join her? If not, get to work."

Instantly the lobby emptied, and he turned to his former receptionist who was wiping her tears and sniffling slightly. He sighed and spoke softly, "Miss Taylor maybe being a receptionist is not your calling. I think being in sales will benefit you much more. Good luck on your next job, and may it lead to a better outcome then this one, though that will depend on your own work ethics. Your final check will reach you in the next coming week."

He wasn't as heartless as to say anything else and walked out the main doors. Oh the joys of being the "big boss." Now he had to find a new receptionist by tomorrow.


"Wow… where the heck is this place?"

Gio chuckled as he turned to glance at her, "In honor of your birthday, I have decided to take you to a place that's well known for their food and decoration, Cesario's."

Mia glanced away from the window of the limo before looking confused, "Cesario's… never heard of it."

"I think you'll like it. The food is amazing." The limo came to a halt in front of the restaurant, and they stepped out.

The teen girl glanced awkwardly at the people entering the restaurant. "This is really… fancy. You should have warned me, Gio. I'm not exactly dressed for this…"

The older boy chuckled before wrapping an arm around her waist and leading her inside. "Don't worry about it. I'm pretty casual myself." He wore a simple white dress shirt with very expensive looking jeans and black dress shoes.

Oh yeah, totally casual, Mia thought sarcastically.

"The important thing is that you enjoy yourself. It's the least I can do to make up for the flowers."

She smiled as he blushed faintly. "It's all right. No harm done. Some people like chocolate and flowers… I just like the chocolates. Besides," she leaned into him, "To err is human."

He gave her a grin.

Mia couldn't help the small pang of disappointment. She knew it was a little silly, but she had hoped that Gio would finish off the well known proverb. She shook her head mentally. It was stupid.

They entered the posh restaurant where the maître d' caught sight of her. She glared at his stuck-up look and was about to give him a piece of her mind when he caught sight of the person holding her.

Instantly, the asshole—as she dubbed him—changed his persona.

"Mr. Maddux! To what do I owe such an honor?"

Gio squeezed her gently as he answered, "A special birthday dinner for this beautiful girl, a table near the back in the second room, Gaston."

Sir Gaston: The Complete Apotheosis of Two-Faced Bi-Polarity beamed and turned to her with a much too happy grin. The façade had to be pretty bad if even she could see through it.

"Well Happy Birthday, Miss…?"

"Yura," Mia held her hand out confidently, "Yura Morahn."

Gaston smiled and began to shake her hand confidently until the Einstein caught on. His mouth tightened, and he dropped her hand while she couldn't help smirking. She felt Gio nudge her but could tell he was amused by his attempts to hold his laughter.

He did manage to clear his through and say, "This is Mia Bryer. She is turning sixteen today and managed to get off work early to have dinner with me."

She gave the older teen a look, "Would you like to hand out my social security while you're at it?"

Gio gave her a small pinch on the cheek before turning to Gaston who seemed less enthusiastic but nonetheless led them into the dining area.

Mia knew she always gave the impression that she could care less what people thought of her, but when you had more than thirty pairs of eyes glaring at you seeming to conclude that you are not worthy enough to inhabit the same virtual space, it was kind of hard to keep up the disinterest.

They were finally led to the second room where even more stares bore into her, but she found herself easily ignoring them when Gio smiled at her as they reached a table at the back. They sat down across from each other, and Gaston handed them menus.

"A waiter will arrive shortly, please let me know if you need anything."

With his departure, Gio turned to her. "They serve all types of food here. Order anything you want, my treat."

"I would hope so with these prices." She snorted as she studied her menu. He laughed softly before seeming to study his menu as well.

Once she settled on ordering steak, she took in her surroundings. There seemed to be a different theme for every room. The first room they had passed had had the typical classy theme with shiny wooden tables, white tablecloths, fancy curtains, large portraits, beige carpet, etc.

The current room they were in however had the same chic style except it seemed to be more modern than anything else. The tables were covered with ebony tablecloths matching the carpet with twirling designs. Above them numerous chandeliers covered the expanse of the vast room. The chairs were made of soft gold velvet to match the color of the intricately designed walls. The classical music that filtered through the air made her wrinkle her nose.

As nice as the place was… it wasn't for her.

When a basket of garlic bread was brought though, she dug in with vigor. Fancy or not, food was marvelous food.

"So I guess you like garlic bread?" Gio laughed.

Mia spoke through a mouthful of heavenly garlic goodness. "I wuv fawh."


She swallowed, "I love food, anything from bread to ice cream. I draw the line at vegetables though." She shuddered, "Ew."

The blonde laughed, "Mia, you're so funny."

She shrugged as she smiled, "Thanks. I try."

Their drinks were brought, and she took a sip of her Nesbitt's strawberry soda.

Their female server who introduced herself as Loraine politely took out a notepad. "Are you ready to order?"

Gio charmingly smiled, and Mia found herself comparing his subtle charisma to another well-known charmer. Even she had to admit that Stephan had the handsome teen beat in that department. She would also bet that the CEO could probably talk his way out of paying for any meals even if he had more than enough money to cover it.

She broke from her thoughts when Loraine turned to take her order. She opened her mouth when she happened to spot someone enter the room. The words died in her throat.

What. The. Fuck?

"Karen, if you really want. I can ask them to find us a table in the first room." Stephan suggested as they followed Gaston, the maître d' who happened to almost wet his pants upon seeing him, through the dining rooms of Cesario's. The maître d' had been saddened to inform them that the first room, which happened to be Karen's favorite, was completely occupied but had stated they could have a nicer table in the third room which happened to have large windows allow a wonderful view of the beautiful colors of the evening.

His girlfriend shook her head to his previous suggestion, "No, that's fine. I don't want to kick anyone out. Besides," she leaned into him while squeezing their intertwined hands, "I just want to be with you."

He grinned and kissed her forehead before they entered the second room.

Whether it be fate or a rather unfortunate—not to mention awkward—coincidence, he happened to scan the room and locked eyes with the last person he had expected to be there.

Well, Stephan compared to how your life has basically interweaved with Mia's, is it really a surprise you found her here?

The CEO almost chuckled at his own statement. It was true. Compared to every other encounter with the teen girl, this was… almost expected.

Still, he gave the teen a comforting smile to which she seemed to relax slightly. He would not ruin her… dinner. In fact, he had to make sure Karen didn't spot them. The woman would be sure to insist on being there to gush over how cute the teens were. The thought alone was enough to make him nauseous.

"Karen," he effectively turned her attention away from observing the room, "Are you sure you don't mind?"

She smiled, "Of course I don't. I already told you it's fine." She leaned up to give him a kiss on his cheek while he turned to see the waitress leave Mia's table. Fortunately, Giovanni was facing away from him, so he didn't have to worry about being spotted.

It didn't mean Stephan couldn't see him though. His eyes subconsciously narrowed when the teen took hold of Mia's hand in an almost tender gesture.

Thankfully—or not—they soon moved on to the third room.

"Here we are, Mr. Espy. Does this table suit your needs?"

He vaguely nodded, and they sat down and were handed menus.

"Is there anything else I can get you, sir? Anything at all?"

"No. Thank you, Gaston. We're fine."

Gaston bowed low before departing.

"Wow…" Karen murmured looking around, "I always forget how beautiful Denver is in the evening."

Stephan followed her gaze. The large overhead openings and windows let them see the beautiful rainbow of colors in the sky. Soon the metropolitan area would light up with the numerous skylights and street lamps.

He tore his gaze away and studied the room. The slim candles surrounded in glass, which were situated in the center of the tables, were lit low to give off a rather romantic atmosphere. The tablecloths were a deep crimson red and had matching chairs while the floor was sleek tile the color of coffee cream. There were various plants around the room but not so many to resemble a forest rather enough to enjoy a natural setting while on a romantic date.

Their waiter arrived, and they ordered their drinks.

Mia forced a smile as their food was brought.

What the hell was Stephan doing here?

Luckily, Gio hadn't spotted them. She had a feeling that would have put a damper on the dinner. Still… she remembered his comforting smile, and his attempt to make sure Karen didn't spot them wasn't lost on her.

She had to thank him somehow… oh!

She took out her phone from her pocket just as their meals were brought. For once not allowing herself to be distracted by food, she opened up her phone to call when she faltered. She had no idea what his phone number was.

Gio must have noticed her crestfallen look since he paused with a fork of smoked salmon half-way to his mouth. "Mia, are you all right? How come you haven't started eating?"

"Oh uh… I will in a minute. I just have to—don't you have to go to the bathroom?"


"That was an awful lot of soda you had. You must have to go to the bathroom."

Gio looked perplexed, "No… I really don't."

"Why don't you go make sure?"

"Uh well, I really don't—"

"Did you know that it's good to go to the bathroom at least six times a day?" She fought the urge to laugh. That was complete bullshit; she had no idea. However, she doubted Gio did.

"No I didn't—"

"Then I think you should meet the health quota. It's a well known fact."


"I'm only looking out for your health, Giovanni."

Either he got tired of trying to defend himself, or he caved under her persistence. Whichever way, he stood up, "I guess I might as well."

As soon as he was safely away from the table, she stared at her phone. She sighed… it was either thank her boss later or go into the other room to find him.

She quickly dismissed that idea. He probably was on a date. He had respected her privacy, and so she would do the same.

Having nothing to do, she checked all the features of her phone picking the phonebook last. She was surprised to see a contact already added.

"Me?" She questioned reading the name out loud, "Who the hell is Me?"

Suddenly it clicked. Only one person who would assume she would know who they were. Smiling softly, she texted said person.

Stephan ate a bread stick as he listened to Karen go on about her job at her father's company. Though she was the creative director at Hermes-Wings Inc.—a company specializing in sportswear and equipment—she had nowhere near enough money Stephan himself did. Their company was not quite as popular as his company was, but they did take in a good amount of money.

Suddenly his personal phone vibrated, breaking him away from the conversation. He reached for it and subtly took it out of his pocket and read the text message.


What are you doing here?

He smiled. Of course she would figure it out.

"Who is it?" Karen asked curiously, noticing her boyfriend's attention wasn't on her anymore.

"It's just Frankie," he lied easily, "He's coming to visit in a week and a half and wanted to let me know."

"Oh!" Her eyes lit up. "He's the one you're always talking about...the funny womanizer who is deals in Public and Business Relations. I can't wait to meet him. He sounds very nice. "

Stephan smirked, "Don't let him get too touchy feely. He loves pretty women even if they're taken."

She gave him a large smile.

Thankfully their drinks were brought, and they ordered their entrees while Stephan texted his employee back.

Mia felt the phone vibrate against her thigh as she ate. Gio had come back looking confused, but she had easily charmed him into forgetting the ordeal. He really was so cute. She smiled at him as she clandestinely took out her phone and peered at it.

You're welcome.

Well let's see, I'm here with my girlfriend… in the evening… at a restaurant.

We must be shopping for a pet.

Though she initially felt insulted, she smiled as she realized Stephan's light teasing. He was usually a sarcastic asshole without meaning to be, and she made sure that message was clear as she texted him back.

Thanks a lot, dickhead.

I was just surprised is all.

You may be my boss, but right now you're just another good-looking twenty-one year-

old who just happens to have a shitload of money. So watch the sarcasm, my handsome


You can be a real pain sometimes, but I suppose that's part of your charm. :)

After the colorful message was sent along with the smiley face, so he knew she wasn't truly angry, she turned to see Gio staring at her. "Is something wrong?"

He smiled, "You're really hot."

She blushed not used—or entirely comfortable—to such a blatant compliment, "Thank you. You're really cute yourself."

Gio laughed before becoming somber. He reached for her hand and grasped it, "Listen, Mia. I know we haven't known each other that long, but I—"

Her phone cut them off. This time, Gio heard it.

"Uh… hold on."

Mia pulled away to check her phone.

Thank you for those… particular words, though I do enjoy the comments on my looks. You're pretty good-looking yourself.

About Karen, don't worry, I'll make sure she doesn't spot you.

Trust me, it's not as painful being talked about as it is being the listener.

Now, get back to your dinner.

It's rude to have another conversation—no matter how much more interesting—with another person while your…

guest requires your attention.

She shook her head as she chuckled.

"Who is that?" Gio asked cautiously as if afraid she would snap at him for no reason.

"No one." She slid the phone closed and this caught the other boy's interest.

"Oh, is that the new Ultima? My dad's been obsessing over it for months."

Suddenly, Mia became acutely aware of who exactly she was with. Giovanni Maddux: son of Octavius Maddux, the CEO and President of Maddux Corp.

Shit! I'm so stupid!

She opened her mouth but nothing came out. Then she cleared her throat and tried again. "Er… yeah since I work there, and it's my birthday… I got one early. Listen, have you told anyone I work at Espy Corp.?"

He looked surprised, "No, actually, I haven't. Why?"

She sighed, "Look I really like you, Gio." Ignoring his hopeful look, she went on. "But I don't want the fact that we are from different rival companies to ruin what could be a really great friendship. I think we should keep that part of our lives completely separate from each other."

"You're right. I hadn't thought of that." He agreed nodding.

"Also… can we keep the fact that I work for Stephan a… well a secret between the two of us? The paparazzi have really stopped bothering Stephan mostly due, I think, to the fact that celebrities are causing quite a stir with adopting half the children in the world and teen stars going into a nudity craze, regardless I don't want idiot photographers with elementary educations to snap pictures of me or anyone else bothering me for that matter."

Gio nodded seeming to understand, "No problem. I get it."

She smiled, "Thanks."

He smiled back.

Half an hour later, Stephan stood up, "Excuse me, I'll be right back. I have to use the lavatory."

Karen looked up from eating her cannelloni; she wiped her mouth neatly with her napkin before nodding and smiling at him.

Remembering that the bathrooms were located in between the second and third rooms, he headed there.

As he turned to his right where the male restrooms were located, he picked up snippets of conversations since he was taller than the sixty-eight inch wall separating the dining area from the bathroom hallway.

"I think I'll have the…"

"I don't know… this seems too easy…"

"Can you believe she texted me after what happened?"

"Listen, about what I wanted to tell you before, Mia…"

Hold the bloody phone…

That was Giovanni's voice.

The CEO turned and peered through the decorated border of the wall to look down on the boy reaching for Mia's hand. Knowing he should respect their privacy and leave, he proceeded to do just that when he heard her voice.

"What is it?"

Maybe it was the question itself that sparked his sinful inquisitiveness or the fact that her voice was soft and held a hint of curiosity as well… either way, he turned back.

"Well… like I said I know we haven't known each other for very long… but…"

It didn't take a Sigmund Freud to figure out what exactly he was planning to ask. The boy seemed nervous and not at all the self-assured teenager who had blatantly insulted him a couple of days ago. Then again, even he would admit, Mia could be unpredictable with her temper. Was Mia even single? She had never mentioned a boyfriend, and Logan hadn't either…


How would he take the news?

No doubt the boy would be heartbroken. It seemed Mia had been in danger from being taken away from the black-haired teen all along, except it wasn't Stephan who stole her away in the end.

He snuck a peek at the teen girl who watched the boy in front of her impassively, nothing in her face revealing if she had any idea what Giovanni wanted, though he suspected she did.


Stephan, who ignored the stares he received from other bathroom goers as they no doubt wondered why a grown man was practically spying on someone having dinner, turned his attention back to the blonde teenager as he continued.

"I just… I really like you a lot, Mia. You're different than any girl I've ever met and—"

"Do you use that line all the time?" She playfully cut him off, but Stephan was shocked to hear the evident flirtatious tone that lay underneath that made the other boy chuckle nervously.

Did Mia… actually… like Giovanni as more than a friend?

He wondered why he cared… or why the thought bothered him.

However, before he could go into depth on his self-analysis, the conversation continued.

"Heh, well no…actually. I never really had to… out-right ask a girl to be my girlfriend."

"Wait… you're asking me to be your girlfriend?"

This made Giovanni blush as he stammered, clearly not yet used to Mia's bluntness, "Er… well… yeah. I know this is really sudden but—"

Stephan could have sworn time stopped then. He watched as Mia leaned over and grabbed the boy's shirt and yanked him forward. Their lips met rather forcefully, but Giovanni seemed to snap out of it, and his eyes fluttered closed. Soon he seemed to take control of the kiss—that or Mia let him—and it became a rather sensual dance of lips. From his angle he could see Mia's dark eyelashes caressing the soft skin of her cheek as she seemed thoroughly immersed into the kiss.

The CEO felt the blood rush to his cheeks. He found himself trembling slightly. He knew he should look away—give them the privacy they deserved. It was the right thing to do.

His body had a different opinion.

He could not tear his eyes away.

Her hand caressed the boy's cheek so gently that Stephan saw the male teen visibly shiver.

The Chairman tried to breathe deeply to calm his racing heart as he ran a hand through his hair while continuing to gaze at the obvious couple.

The memory of the time where it had been his cheek that had been on the receiving end of her caress made him see something he hadn't really thought about before. For the first time… he was forced to see—really see—Mia as more than an employer… more than a teenage girl… she was a woman. Only a woman could create such a simple act of kissing—not even really passionate kissing—into such an impassioned display of sensuality as she was doing now.

With a start, he realized he knew even less about the teenage prodigy than he had originally thought. This was a whole new side of Mia that he hadn't really seen before… a whole new… sexual side.

They pulled away, and Mia smiled and licked her swollen lips, not at all fazed that she had just engaged in a rather evident exhibit of PDA.

"I'd love to." She spoke in a breathless tone.

Giovanni grinned before reaching forward to kiss her again.

It was official then… Mia Bryer was now Giovanni's girlfriend. Almost as if someone had hit him over the head with a metal crowbar, Stephan realized what the hell he was doing.

He—the CEO and Chairman of Espy Corporations, one of the most successful companies in the Unites States—was spying! On one of his employees no less! What the hell was he thinking?

His fascination died immediately afterwards replaced by a feeling of dread. Something twisted in his stomach. He felt a strong feeling of… loathing for the boy currently enjoying Mia's lips.

Stephan had known Mia before Giovanni did. She belonged to him!

He stepped away from the wall, sighing as he cooled down. The shock was making him think and feel strange things. He was happy for Mia… he really was. He knew the possessiveness came from the fact that he was fond of the teen girl even though they weren't even officially friends… despite their… intimate moments.

Ignoring the knots in his stomach, he returned to his table completely forgetting what he had originally been on his way to do. He had to stop getting into Mia's private life. It was only making things more… complicated. He cared for the girl, yes, but that was all. They weren't even official friends.

With a newfound resolve, he returned to Karen.

From now on, he would treat Mia like any other employee. He could not afford her becoming anything more than that. He hated to think how much worse he would feel if she had been more to him.

Because even now—as simple people who got along and had things in common—he felt like she had betrayed him in more ways than one.

Mia pulled away and met Giovanni's happy gaze. She felt a bubble of happiness as they silently agreed to skip dessert and leave the restaurant. They held hands as they walked around the streets.

The sun was close to fully setting as the sky had few colors as it darkened.

It had been a couple of years since she had a boyfriend and none of them had been as good-looking as Gio was which made her feel shallowly nice. She didn't know what possessed her to kiss him back at the restaurant.

Well… it was pretty understandable… for her anyway.

"Do you live around here?" Mia asked curiously.

"Yeah. Maddux Corp. is about thirty minutes from here. It's around ten minutes away from Espy Corp. actually. I live with my parents in our mansion, but right now my mom took off to Aspen. She loves skiing."

"Ah… right, your mom. Listen, about that—"

Gio cut her off, "Don't worry about it. She was really mad for sure." He laughed, "But sometimes she forgets that just because she's rich, it doesn't mean she owns the world."

"Right… but now that we're… together. I'll be seeing a lot more of her so… I'll try to be polite."

He smiled at her, "Thanks. Did you enjoy your dinner?"

She gave him a grin, "It was the best." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him briefly on the lips.

As she made a move to pull away, he grabbed her and deepened the kiss, his lips coaxing hers into a more active state. His hands tightened on her small waist as their kiss became wet and incredibly more… pleasant.

She groaned in annoyance as her phone vibrated.

Whoever the hell it is, I'm going to kill them.

She pulled away before giving her new boyfriend an apologetic look. As she pulled it out, she realized there was only one person it could be.

Meet me in my office tomorrow as soon as you get there.

Mia bit her lip. She had no idea how, but she had a feeling Stephan was upset. This really dampened her blissful mood.

"Are you all right?"

She looked up, "Y-Yeah. It was just my uncle. I think I should be getting home."

Gio nodded, "All right. Let me call my driver. I'll drop you off."

"You just want to make out in your limo." She teased as she nudged him playfully.

He laughed, "Maybe." He gave her a brief kiss before taking out his cell and calling his driver.

As soon as his attention was away from hers, she felt her playful disposition leave her. What could her boss possibly want? She hadn't done anything wrong…

Wait…wait…No, she really hadn't done anything wrong for once.

So what the hell was with Stephan's mood swing?

She pouted, He's acting just as weird as Logan—Logan!

She gasped. She had completely forgotten.

"The driver's on his way. He'll be here in ten min—are you okay?"

She nodded at her boyfriend's concerned look, "Yeah, actually instead of taking me home, can you take me to Logan's house?"

"Sure, but only if you promise we can explore this whole relationship thing on the ride there." Gio replied slyly to which Mia laughed and leaned into him.

"It's a deal."

As his lips descended upon hers, Stephan was temporarily forgotten, though the feeling of guilt seemed to settle permanently inside her heart.

Stephan stared at his phone refusing to eat anymore of his lobster. He wondered if Mia would know he was upset… no doubt she would wonder why he needed to see her in the morning. He wasn't too sure himself. He only wanted to establish the fact that an important line had been crossed and no matter what had been said, they needed to rectify that.

For the rest of the night, he had a rather pensive air around him. Karen asked him what was wrong, but he refused to admit something was bothering him. After a while, she stopped insisting. He found that the more he thought about it, the more upset he became.

It had been a mistake to allow Mia to become closer than was advisable for someone who worked for him. And now he was paying for it.

Whether he was being rational or not, whether it was stupid to be mad over something that was not his business, or whether he knew he should question why Mia always seemed to throw him off kilter or not, he knew things had to change.


End of Chapter Fourteen

Child of Philosophy