"You!" Charmaine pointed accusingly at the strawberry blond hovering over Aiden. "Oh my god, you! How could you do this to Richard?"
"What?" Aiden's head snapped up. "Richard…?"
But he was ignored by Charmaine.
"Look, I don't know how you got here so fast or maybe I do, since well, Paris is like only a few hours away but still!" Charmaine continued, glaring at the woman while taking menacing steps towards the couple. "How dare you cheat on my brother? I mean, you guys aren't an item yet but you probably know that he really likes you!"
"Excuse me?" the strawberry blond lady stood up, swishing her hair, a hand on her hip. "But I don't know any Richard. And I don't like it that you're accusing me of something I clearly did not do."
"Cheating?" Aiden started to button his shirt from the 'woman attack' he just suffered from. He took that statement to heart, it seemed. "I think you already did that."
"Hush, sweetheart," the strawberry blond said sweetly.
"You – what? Who are you? Aren't you Illyana Hawkins?" Charmaine asked, noting the woman's symbolic strawberry blond hair and blue eyes.
"Ugh," the other woman cringed in disgust. "Don't ever think that I'm Illyana Hawkins! And who are youto ask me questions?"
"Oh my god You - you're not Illyana Hawkins? I am so sorry!" Charmaine started to blush tomato red, her eyes widening.
"Well, if you must know," the woman scoffed. "I am Ava Preble, Illyana Hawkins's hotter, sexier, more beautiful and overall better older cousin."
"Okay," Charmaine nodded slowly, unsure. But in her head, she thought cheekily to herself, If you define more beautiful and overall better as 'sluttier and obviously a prostitute'.
"Why you little – do you not believe in me?" Ava went for her. "I ought to – "
"Please, Ava, stop this," Aiden's voice loomed over both of them. "You've already barged into my office, practically attacked me - I don't want to fight you, Ava. I'm not in the mood right now - "
"What? Aiden!" Ava whined. "But I came here for – "
"I would suggest that you leave before I call security, Miss Preble," Aiden insisted, heaving a heavy sigh.
"Aiden, I love you, you know that – "
"And you showed that love rather well," Aiden said, his voice carrying a hint of sadness, motioning to the door. "Now, please, Ava, I don't want to argue anymore, especially not in this place. We've already broken up, remember?"
"Aiden! You don't understand!"
"I don't need this right now, Ava, please. You've given me enough suffering as it is," Aiden replied, pushing a button on his desk. Then as if automatically, two guards appeared and proceeded to take Ava by the arm and walked her out of the office.
"Aiden, no – you don't – Aiden…!"
After a few seconds, Aiden sighed and walked over to Charmaine, "I am terribly sorry that you had to witness that."
"Oh, it's ok," Charmaine's face was a bright red. But she held her head high in an attempt to redeem herself for embarrassing herself. "Don't worry about it."
"Now, about that welcome gift…"
"Here's your strawberry cone, enjoy," the girl behind the counter smiled as Charmaine took the ice cream cone from her.
"Thanks," Charmaine said and she and Aiden went out of the ice cream shop, each holding an ice cream cone.
As soon as they were outside, Charmaine said, "So, this welcome gift thing – you don't do this for all your employees, do you?"
"How did you guess?" Aiden asked, grinning.
"Well, you don't seem to be the type of person who has enough time to go strolling with every employee, an ice cream cone in hand," Charmaine pointed out.
"Yeah, you're right," Aiden laughed. "This is just for you."
"And may I ask why?"
"I just wanted to tell you that you will be having your first ever meeting tomorrow with the board of directors," Aiden said casually.
"And you couldn't just tell me that over the phone?" Charmaine joked.
"Well, it is your first meeting and I didn't want to be insensitive and besides, I want to prep you personally," Aiden explained. "The board could be tough, especially to a newcomer like yourself."
"I wouldn't expect anything less," Charmaine shrugged.
"Anyway, I'd be here if you need advice on anything…"
"A boss that cares," Charmaine nodded.
"Well, I'd like to consider myself as such," Aiden chuckled.
Charmaine shook her head in amusement, "Classic…Look, um, I really appreciate all of this but maybe it would be better if you didn't treat me like this. I mean, any other guy that would see us would say that we're really close friends. I'd really hate for the 'I slept with my boss' incident to go around and especially since I just started today, I don't want people getting the wrong idea..."
"Rest assured," Aiden said, nodding. "That I do not favor you in any way. The night we spent together will be kept to ourselves. Don't worry, I am not that kind of man and I'm not very keen on having a reputation wherein I sleep with my colleagues and besides, I just broke up with Ava..."
"So," Charmaine said after a long silence. "That Avaperson…she was your girlfriend?"
"Yes, she was," Aiden nodded.
"Oh…well, she was rather…interesting," Charmaine struggled to find words.
"Yeah," Aiden laughed without humor.
"She cheated on you?"
"Yeah, she slept with another man," Aiden told her. "On my bed."
"Oh my god, that's horrible!" Charmaine exclaimed. "Wait – we, we slept on that bed, didn't we?"
"Don't worry, I threw the sheets away the minute I broke up with her," Aiden explained, earning a confused look. "Before I went to the bar."
"Oh," Charmaine replied. "And, um…Why…why does she look so much like Illyana Hawkins, the singing idol from France?"
"Plastic surgery," Aiden shrugged casually.
"Plastic surgery?" Charmaine's eyes widened. "And she didn't want anyone to say that she's Illyana Hawkins? I'm confused. Why even go through plastic surgery to look like Illyana Hawkins if you don't want people to say that you're her?"
"I don't know," Aiden said. "My hunch would be self-confidence issues. People did always prefer Illya to her in every single way."
"Can't blame them," Charmaine rolled her eyes, earning a chuckle from Aiden. "Why on earth did you even date her? Oh god, that came out wrong. No, what I meant was – no, wait. Just forget I said anything."
"I wasn't really the one who asked her out," Aiden admitted, explaining his situation. "It's just that I was always bad at asking girls out and so even though I didn't like her that way, I accepted her confession anyway and I guess in time, I learned to love her."
"Oh," Charmaine nodded in comprehension.
"Maybe," Aiden supposed. "Because Illya and I were really close back then and since I kind of always ignored Ava when we were kids, I guess that's why she wanted to pursue me relentlessly. I mean, I preferred Illya too when we were younger but that's only because Illya and I had always been closer..."
"Ah," Charmaine said. "Wait – you know Lacus Clyne?"
"Yeah, I grew up with her," Aiden explained.
"Oh, and I'm so sorry for accusing Miss Preble about the whole 'cheating' thing," Charmaine flushed. "It's just that I tend to jump to conclusions often and my mouth just went off as if it had a mind of its own. I'm impulsive that way, you see."
"It's fine," Aiden dismissed, waving a hand. "At least, I don't really care that much anymore..."
"You don't have to apologize for anything," Aiden shook his head. "Oh yeah, you mentioned Illya with a guy…Richard, was it?"
"Mhmm," Charmaine licked her ice cream. "He's my adopted brother."
"Our parents were really close friends," Charmaine explained. "But when Richard's parents died in a car crash sixteen years ago, my father took him in as his own son and now Richard works for the family company."
"I see," Aiden nodded. "I just want to ask though. If you have a family company, then why work for Houston Enterprises?"
"I didn't like people saying that the only reason I was successful was because my father owned the company," Charmaine said. "I wanted to build my own reputation and not based on my family's, you know? I wanted to establish that I was my own person – just Charmaine."
"I see…" Aiden smiled. "And what about you?"
"What's your story?"
"Uh, I don't think…"
"I don't mean to pry or anything," Aiden immediately said. "I know that you said you didn't want to be friends yesterday morning given the circumstances but since we're stuck in a situation like this, we might as well try being friends. And besides, I told you my story…"
"No, it's fine, I don't mind," Charmaine shook her head. "It's only fair, after all. Nate, my ex, was the son of my father's business associate – an ass, if you ask me. So, the other day I saw Nate fooling around with his secretary on my bed, in my apartment."
"Wow, that's a coincidence," Aiden said. "He cheated on you in yourbed too?"
"Yeah, stings, doesn't it?" Charmaine asked.
"Tell me about it," Aiden rolled his eyes.
"He kept on pushing me to have sex and I guess he just couldn't control his libido," Charmaine shrugged, sighing. "He screwed the first woman he saw, probably."
"Wait – you guys didn't have sex before?" Aiden asked, his eyes widening.
Charmaine looked at him, confused then gasped, "Oh no, it's not what you think. I'm not a virgin. I just never had sex with Nate before, that's all."
"Oh ok," Aiden gave a sigh of relief. "Why didn't you guys – ?"
When Charmaine gave him a look, he chuckled, "No, sorry, I was prying."
"Anyway, I have to go," Charmaine said, suddenly stopping in her walk. "I have to meet my roommate for dinner. Especially with that escapade I had the other night, who knows what she'll do."
"Alright then," Aiden agreed. "I'll walk you home?"
"I don't think so," Charmaine shook her head. "We may have had this conversation but I don't think we're prepared for the 'walking home' bit."
"Are you sure?" Aiden raised an eyebrow. "It's getting late."
"It's only a few minutes over seven, don't worry," Charmaine walked a few steps ahead of him. "And thanks for the ice cream by the way, even though it'll totally ruin my appetite."
"Don't mention it," Aiden raised a hand as a sign of farewell.
"Look, Mr. Houston," Charmaine bit her lip. "I know that maybe you're just being nice but I hope that this would become just a one time thing. I really appreciate your help and I'd turn to you for advice but maybe not like this."
"I understand," Aiden nodded.
Charmaine then ran off and Aiden stared at her retreating figure until he could see her no more. He smiled to himself before walking off to the other direction.
"Alright, Mister Langley, I expect these papers to be on my desk at noon. You can submit it earlier than that or don't submit at all and you can consider yourself fired," a long haired brunette suddenly walked in Charmaine's office, causing the blond to turn around in astonishment.
"But, M – miss Beaumont – "
"No buts, Mr. Langley," Miss Beaumont smiled darkly at his direction. The man swallowed a gulp.
"O – of course, Miss Beaumont," he stammered and left immediately.
Miss Beaumont then turned to face Charmaine, a sweet smile plastered on her face. And Charmaine wondered how she was able to manage such a quick character change. The brunette took a hand out, "My name is Sage Beaumont and I will be your assistant advertising manager."
"Oh, yes," Charmaine nodded, shaking Sage's hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Beaumont."
"Likewise," Shiho smiled. "And please, call me Sage. You are my superior after all."
"Well then I must insist that you call me Charmaine," Charmaine said in return.
"Of course," Sage nodded then gave her a look over, noting her total business attire and her hair which was tied in a neat ponytail. "It will be a pleasure working for you seeing as how you actually know how to dress properly."
"Is that so?" Charmaine arched an eyebrow.
"Truth be told, I was always there when Mr. Houston was interviewing the candidates for the position of advertising manager," Sage explained. "And at that time, I totally approve of the last three. They were serious, classy and I was certain that they'd be good at their job. But the day when they actually started working, my god, their skirts were so short that I could see their underwear and their blouses barely covered their breasts. They weren't even wearing a bra."
"Wow," Charmaine took in a deep breath. "Doug called them sluts but I didn't know it was that bad."
"I know, right?" Sage chuckled. "But seeing as how you're not dressed like some showgirl, I'd like to think that you haven't fallen for Aiden's charms. It's not like he does it intentionally but even Icannot deny that he's good looking."
"He is, I guess," Charmaine shrugged. "But you know – work comes first."
"Very good," Sage nodded approvingly. "Aiden made a good choice in hiring you. Anyway, I apologize for not meeting you yesterday or the day of your interview. I had been really busy with meetings and I'm glad that I have a partner again."
"So, you've been in this company for a long time?" Charmaine arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah, four or five years already," Shiho nodded.
"Well, if you've already been here for that long, shouldn't you be in this position?" Charmaine asked, laughing lightly.
"Yeah, Aiden offered the job to me a couple of times already but I declined," Shiho explained.
"Why?" Charmaine asked.
"Well, you see – "
The women then heard the door of Charmaine's office slam loudly as a man entered, his face fuming and Charmaine swore she saw smoke coming out of his ears. "How dare you? You good for nothing little piece of crap!"
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