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Alluring Masquerade

Summary

Drowning ... in debts. Either it be financial or other. A Debt is a debt at the end of the day.

Hira may seem cold and biting, but that’s only a front. Truthfully, she’s quite insecure and fragile. But she has to keep the falseness in order to get by in her ordinary world – since that is how she has grown to take care of herself. But she and her family are struggling all the time because of financial difficulties.

Kael offers to pay her if she pretends to be his girlfriend, in order to save himself from getting set up by his mother with someone he doesn't even know. So he makes a deal with her, a contract, and they begin to get along once they get to know each other.

But Hira wasn't supposed to fall for him ... that wasn't in the contract ... was it?

And then there is Zach. Hira's crush. He seems everything that she wants in a man ... or so she thinks. Because in the end she has to chose between him and Kael. Who would she choose?

In addition, her past seems to be pulling her down. And then there's her best friend who returns home after 14 years bringing a sorrowful secret along with him. He has secretly been in love with her for years.

-

To my dear readers :)
© Copyrighted to DarkMystique. All rights reserved.
Please Do Not Copy My Stories; I Spend So Much Hard Work And Time Into My Stories And I Do Not Want Them To Be Stolen, Distributed And/Or Changed In Any Way Or Form. My Stories And Characters Belong To Me.
Stealing Is Wrong.

Prologue.

“You’re scaring me,” she whispered into his ears. “What’s wrong?”

“Like I said, I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t…”

He broke the embrace after that.

“I promise I’ll always be by your side and never hurt you,” he promised seriously. “Do you trust me?”

“More than I do myself.”

Kael moved closer to her as did she, but then his phone rang. He ignored it but it rang again. Apologising, he went away a few feet to check the message. There was an unopened message with a video sent into his inbox. He frowned. What did she want now?

The message read;

‘I don’t what to say, it’s you whom I’m worried about. Play it.

Love you always, your Sonia.’

He opened the video file and played it. He didn’t believe what he was seeing and didn’t want to believe it either, but it was staring him in the face. A confused and incredulous expression came over his face and his right hand, clenched his mobile phone angrily.

Hira was humming to herself with a gentle smile on her face as she hopped and skipped about, kicking the water with her feet softly and sent it splashing. She was oblivious to the betrayal Kael was feeling and wasn’t watching him as he turned towards her.

“Hira,” he said, demanded her attention. His eyes were distancing and growing colder.

“Yes?” She asked sweetly, skipping over to him.

“Do you have something to tell me?” he seethed.

The smile disappeared from her face. “What do you mean?” she asked confusingly. “Why are you so upset suddenly?” she asked observantly.

“Did you kiss Alec?” he asked quietly.

The first signs of rain began falling from the sky.

“Why are you asking me this?”

“Just answer my question!” he snapped.

“I didn’t … but he kissed me – he … he likes me, but I don’t like him at all.” She was babbling.

He laughed without any amusement. “You didn’t seem to mind him kissing you at all, though, did you? I don’t see you pushing him away.” Anger had consumed him.

Hira blinked back her tears. “Don’t you trust me?” she pleaded. “I don’t like him like that!”

“Then can you disprove this?!” he demanded, facing the video at her eye-level.

Chapter 01 - Surprise Birthday Gifts.

It was the summer season and this year was just too hot, more than ever for England. Humid breeze consumed the entire town in its slow as a snail’s embrace, causing laziness and tiredness to lay heavily on almost everybody. Not even a breeze weaved through in the air.

Vibrant green leaves turned towards the sun. The grass glowed radiantly and bloomed flowers looked colourful and bright.

. . . Be - ep . . .

At first the noise was from a very, very far away place and muffled, like a cloth covered a speaker.

. . . Beep . . .Beep – Beep – Beep!

It wasn’t long until it started to grow louder and soon... very annoying.

. . . .BEEP – BEEP – BEEP! BEEP – BEEP – BEEP! BEEP – BEEP – BEEP! BEEP – BEEP – BEEP!

She twisted around on her stomach to grab the mobile phone from under her pillow. Using her thumb, she slid phone-slide up and down; a way to ‘hit’ the 'snooze' button. Sighing, her gaze flickered over to check the little black digits at the bottom of the screen; it seven o’clock in the morning. Leaving the silver phone on her bed, she climbed out slowly.

The humid summer weather wasn’t helping her at all. Her body felt clammy and feet were burning as if they had been walking on a hot summer’s beach. Sweat clung to her like a second skin that made her feel sickened. With slumped shoulders and a lazy gait she grabbed her bathrobe. She yawned. Her long dark hair was cast a gloomy shadow over one side of her face.

Her room was unadorned, boring and cluttered. The walls and furniture were a plain boring cream hue with random items and clothes strewn everywhere. She was familiar with her workplace more than her own bedroom.

“I love the hot summer weather!” her mum’s a voice up the shrilled upstairs, “Wake-up, my little Lily!”

Hira almost reached the doorknob, when the door opened with a bang, startling her. “Mum, please!” she cried out with her hand on her heart.

“You’re wide awake already!” her mother cried happily. Suddenly her expression turned unforgivable. “You need a haircut, young lady. I demand you get one as soon as possible. This is –”

Hira sneezed suddenly and sniffled. “Excuse me,” she mumbled.

“Bless you.”

Hira turned to look at herself in the full-length mirror on her right. Her overgrown, layered black hair looked haphazard and her fringe hid her dark eyes almost down to her nose. She wanted a serious trim or maybe a different haircut altogether. “I see what I can do about it,” she gestured to her mum in the reflection. She turned her attention back to her mum. “I need the bathroom.”

Her mum on the other hand was looking as tidy and well dressed as always. This morning her brown hair that was dyed with subtle dark blonde streaks, and tied behind her head in a pony that ended in tight banana-curls. Her deep brown eyes were gleaming with optimism. Her lips painted with red lipstick as always. Her pale blue blouse was flowery and she wore a white maxi skirt.

Hira’s bare feet carried her straight to the landing. She walked down to the end and turned to the right. On the left was the door to the toilet. A wooden banister and a set of stairs descended on the opposite the toilet. Before she could enter, her mum came to her again.

“I nearly forgot! Here you go darling,” her mother told her lovingly. She was holding something, gifts of some sort.

Hira watched her mum with a baffled expression and before slowly accepting the gifts. There were two presents; the first was a small velvet blue gift box, the size of her palm, which was tied with a lighter hued ribbon. The second present was carefully covered with green wrapping paper that had printed black bats. “It’s not Halloween,” she stated, blinking.

“I forgot to buy a birthday wrapping paper,” her mum said, amused. “Anyway, it’s your birthday! Happy Birthday my daughter!” her mother cried, hugging Hire in a tight embrace, crushing the gifts between them. When they parted tears were leaking down her mum’s face. “My little girl is eighteen today.” She wiped away her tears dramatically.

“Thanks mum,” Hira smiled for the first time that day.

"My daughter is all grown up now!"

“Mum,” Hira insisted, when she broke the embrace. “You know I don’t like you crying. Thank you for these amazing gifts!”

“There’s little a party for you tonight.”

“…What?”

“Don’t you dare try to get out of this one!”

“Mum, please. I don’t want a party-”

“Why are you like this?” her mother tried to reason by resting a hand on Hira’s cheek. She shook her head. “You used to be so alive and ... and bubbly and outgoing…”

Hira replied simply smiled, and responded with, “I have just too much things to get done. I can’t afford to be carefree. You know that.”

Her mother sighed and changed the subject. “You know that your aunt Davina is coming tonight with her family, don’t you? She hasn’t seen you in years!”

Aunt Davina wasn’t Hira’s real aunt but she was like a sister to her mum. That’s why Hira and her younger sister always addressed her as aunt Davina.

“I know, mum. I can’t wait to see her!”

“Me, too – now, hurry, or you’re going to be late for work!”

Hira nodded – remembering that she indeed had work today – and went back to her bedroom. She planted the gifts on her bed with the little blue box on top, then headed to her wardrobe and pulled couple of items out for her shower, which was a very short one. After wrapping a towel around herself and another smaller one over her hair, she returned to her bedroom.

Her mobile phone rang. She sat on her bed to pick it up. She answered it before slipping on her spectacles. “Hello?” She greeted and remembered to open her gifts. She started with the Halloween one.

“Morning! Hey, girl, ready?” A cheerful voice loudly greeted her, shocking her ear-buds for about a second. Angelina was a happy, morning person.

“Yes. This heat is killing me though,” Hira admitted. She ripped the last of the wrapping paper and some folded up fabric slipped out and onto her bedsheet. It was a new summer dress with a few hair clips. She smiled. It was a beautiful shade of white, pink, and blue. She moved onto the blue velvet box.

“You’re such a drama-queen. Get tanned and enjoy the summer weather girl! You might attract a cute guy if you smiled more often too,” Angelina teased.

“Ha – Ha. You’re so funny – NOT,” Hira said but laughed nevertheless. She gasped when she saw what was inside the box. She gently touched it, tears pricked her eyes but she held them at bay with force. A lump stuck in her throat as a sob threatened to come out.

“What’s going on?” Angelina asked suddenly. “Are you crying?”

“Sorry,” Hira sniffled and wiped her moist eyes. “My mum gave me my birthday gifts this morning. One of them was the silver locket chain I’ve been saving up for. It must have cost her a lot of money – I thought she forgot about it.”

“Awwwwwww! She’s so sweet. That’s why mum’s are the best. Show it to me when you see me!”

“Sure,” Hira smiled.

“I’ll be there in about twenty minutes, ‘K?” Angelina ended the phone call with a giggle.

Hira felt guilty for Angelina making her go with her all the time, she felt that she was being a burden on her friend. If only I knew how to drive myself and owned license I wouldn’t always need her to drop me off, she scolded herself. She knew that she couldn’t afford all the driving lesson fees when her family already had countless bills and the rent to pay. They were months behind.

~*~

After she was done using the blow-dryer and the straightening-iron, she picked up one of her new black hair-clips and tied it at the top of her head. She tucked away a few tray strands of hair behind her ears, and she fixed her fringe to fall to the sides of her face instead of it covering her forehead completely. She sighed at her fringe, shaking her head. It needed a serious trim.

She started to apply some concealer under her eyes quickly and a little foundation, just enough to hide the tiredness on her face. She added a tiny bit of blusher on the apple of her cheeks and used dark brown eyeliner to line the water-lines, keeping everything subtle. No mascara, since she always wore her spectacles, and her mascara coated eyelashes would scrape against the lenses every time she blinked. It was a very uncomfortable and annoying feeling. She finished with some light pink lip-balm.

The glasses were a soft rectangle shape with charcoal grey metallic frames that rimmed very thinly – but only on the top. You could barely tell there were framed at first glance.

Her job was at a cafe that was located in the bustling shopping town centre, where she was expected to wear something orderly, neat and ... well, black, to be blatantly frank. It was sensible and simple. She would wear black skinny jeans or leggings with a black top – a usual pair of diamond studs and her silver watch –which had collars that she wasn’t principally fond of. But what could she do? Work was work for her and not a fashion statement.

She always enjoyed working at the Café. It kept her busy mind occupied from the troubles of life, but she knew that they weren’t so easy to ignore once she returned home.

Her mother knew all too well, too. It had happened about three years ago; after her father had died from a plane crash and passed away. Well, it was assumed that he had died along with the rest of the passengers; no-one had had survived the tragedy. Who could? It was certainly impossible. However, his body was not found either, which had been another anxious moment for her and her family.

They weren’t even able to give him his last rites and for him to finally rest peacefully in his grave. They couldn’t even visit his grave and lay flowers for him.

After her father’s death, the duty fell upon their shoulders to take care of every single thing that a father should take care of in their family. Her mother was still a homemaker, but worked from home sewing trousers for a local factory.

Hira couldn’t go to college as much as her mother had wanted to. Somebody had to bring in the income and put food on the table. Hira felt everything was on her shoulders.

Going to college was left as a broken dream for her; nevertheless she understood that this wasn’t anyone’s fault. She worked to support her mother and sister. She wanted her younger sister to receive an excellent education that she herself wasn’t able to afford.

“Sweet heart!” her mum shouted from the bottom of the stairs. “Angelina is here!”

“Be right down!” Hira responded. She grabbed her phone and quickly put on the locket that was in the shape of a love-heart that was embedded with Swarovski diamonds.

Chapter 02 - A Random Date?

The cafe always had a very comfortable and homely feeling to it. Customers wouldn’t feel like leaving it and enjoy themselves having a cup of coffee, tea, or a few more snacks. People visiting would just want to have a quiet time and read a good book sometimes.

The ceiling was the main attraction; it could change colour and glow in the dim light as stars would turn on like sparkling diamonds. A few star-shaped bulbs complimented the ceiling. During the day the ceiling would be like white candy-floss on a tranquil, clear, sapphire coloured background in an attempt replicate the real sky. It was a splendid decoration.

Some fake plants sat on the ground and some smaller ones on windowsills. The only real live flowers were of those white Calla Lilies sitting on either sides of the entrance of the shop in large brown flower-pots.

People could look through the floor to ceiling windows - it looked onto the main street in the town centre - with their hands cupping around their scrunched up faces in fascination. Some had to pear around the diamond-beaded curtains drawn away from the center of the windows.

Workers in the cafe were busy setting up for opening. They lifted the chairs that were left upside down from last night the right way up again and tucked them under the tables. The tables were frosted with some if the glass cut into snowflakes under it and the surface was smooth and glossy on top.

Angelina was a tall girl and already at the age of nineteen she was 5’11”. To a stranger she would look as if she might have been in her late twenties. Her hair was a reddish-brown and thick with plenty of volume that everyone adored and envied. Her hair style today was in loose curls. Her eyes were deep green and her rosy cheek-bones complimented her features flawlessly. Some freckles if paid close attention to dotted her nose bridge and cheeks.

“Thanks, Johnny,” Angelina said in her Geordie accent. She nodded at him and took the pile of pastel-blue and yellow napkins from him. She sauntered over to a bare table where Hira was sitting with her hands in her lap, deep in thought. She sighed at her friend and applied a fresh coat of baby pink lip-gloss.

Hira only stared at her hands more and more intensely causing her dark chocolate brown eyes to glaze over.

“Hell – o?” Angelina asked patiently. She shook her head to herself as she took a seat opposite. “Earth to Hira.” She waved a hand in front of Hira's face a few times and clicked her thumb and index finger.

That snapped Hira out of her trance. “One-cup-of-coffee-coming-right-up,” she said nimbly. When she noticed that it was none other than Angelina she visibly relaxed. “Oh, sorry...”

“What's the matter, Hira, you look bothered about something?”

“I - It's nothing.”

Angelina was unconvinced. She tapped her diamond studded nails on the table thoughtfully. “You sure it's naught, lass? ‘Cause you can tell me anything you know.” She took out a packet of strawberry flavoured sweets and offered some.

“I’m sure,” Hira assured. “I know I can trust you with anything. It’s just about bills, bills, bills and I know I'm not the only struggling but you know how I am. Stupid bills.” She thankfully took a couple of the pink sweets and popped one into her mouth. They were her favourite.

“Story of our lives, lassie,” Angelina said, biting her sweets loudly. Crunch! – Crunch! – Crunch! “But don’t worry, Hira. I believe in miracles.” She fixed her black sleeveless top and brushed away the tiny crumbs.

“I’ll go and do something useful instead of moping,” Hira joked,rising from her seat. “Thanks for the sweets.” She headed over to the back of the room.

Angelina followed suit and pocketed her bag of sweets. "I wonder what Karla's up to? She hasn't come out to tell us off like she usually does."

"My thoughts exactly," Hira smiled, amused. She pushed through a single door - painted in white - and was met with a gloomy storeroom. She nearly bumped into her manager who was holding a cricket bat threateningly at something with her back facing the entrance. “Karla?” she tentatively.

“We have mice!” Karla, their manager, screamed incredulously in a stage whisper. Her beady eyes glanced over her shoulder and then continued scanning the ground.

“My God, I was clamming and just had some bread from the kitchen!” Angelina confessed. She felt wretched and gagged. "What if I 'ad got some in me bread?!"

“They haven’t gotten to the kitchen!” Karla cried.

Hira tried her best not to step on any shards of glass with her black ballerina pumps, but was unsuccessful and they crunched under her soles. Karla had accidentally smashed a spare frosted-glass of the tables. "Oh my days..." she murmured.

“Yee sure about that, Karla?” Angelina queried quizzically, gingerly stepping over the broken wreck of transparent glass. Her four inch heels made a scrunching noise.

“Of course I’m sure!” Karla squeaked, glancing over at the two girls momentarily. “I saw one scurrying a long right there, under the stacks of – argh! – there it is again!”

Hira and Angelina both jumped in unison when their manager began screaming at the tiny scuffling and squealing sounds. “Will we be closing down now?” Hira asked worriedly.

“Don’t you even think that, Hira!” The manager cut her off. “This café is my whole life, my everything, my life’s work!”

“Karla –”

“No, no, no, no!” The manager threw the bat on the floor.

Hira set her lips in a thin line. She silently watched the manager walk past them and close the doors behind them before checking for possible intrusions. “I think you should call the pest control people” she said.

“I made an appointment with one of them to come and take care of the little demons. They'll be here be here anytime. Please don’t tell anyone,” she asked in a very quiet voice, yet firm. “I don’t want our business to shut down!”

“Naebody's stupid, they might see one of those,” Angelina argued, jabbing her thumb behind her at the closed door. “Mice squeak, y'know. They...” She paused to gag. “…excrete.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Hira added, looking at her friend and back at Karla. “It can be dangerous as well, health wise and lawfully.” She made a revolted expression at another squeak from behind the white door.

“Girls, I’ll take care of it.” Karla clasped her hands as if to confirm her words. “Don’t create such a racket. NO NEED TO PANIC.” She seemed to grow more panicky than Hira and Angelina put together.

“D'yee reckon?” Angelina cried. “I feel propa violated!”

“Hey!” Another person called from the kitchen.

Hira, Karla, and a frazzled Angelina turned around to the young man. It was Jared, their coworker. “Sorry to bother, but there are last minute areas to clean before the customers start rolling in,” he reminded them and glared at the waitresses pointedly.

Angelina rolled her eyes at him. “We have mice!” she squeaked, and pointed at Karla. “What if I get poisoned? I'm the bairn of me mam!”

Jarred was in his early twenties, very bossy, sandy-brown hair and deep blue eyes. Fairly built and unfriendly; you would have to use a knife to understand what in the world went on in his brain up there. He didn’t used to be so negative, but recently it was really rare to see him smile. Too much work stress. He rolled his eyes before disappearing into the kitchen and behind the counter.

Angelina had a huge crush on him and had been dating him for about a week. She blushed like a tomato and smiled at him widely, but them frowned again. “I think I'm gan be sick,” she moaned.

“Let’s go,” Hira said, and ushered her tired looking friend through another door that led them into the kitchen. She moved Angelina past Jarred and into the staff toilets to let her vomit all the breakfast into the toilet bowl. Angelina thanked and asked her to give her time alone so she left her to her to go back into the kitchen. She watched Jarred hurry past her to aid to his girlfriend. Taking a freshly rinsed wash cloth, She began to clean up the partly messed up cabinets under the sink and underneath the counter.

“Excuse me,” someone said.

Hira nearly had a heart-attack. She had not even heard any footsteps sound on the other side of the counter in the restaurant. The voice came out of the blue. And with her left hand still on her heart, she got up from the bottom unit with the dusty wash cloth in the other. “Sorry, Sir, I didn't hear you come in! How can I help you today?" she laughed nervously.

“One coffee and a napkin,” the young man said. It didn't sound like a request but a demand.

Hira subconsciously frowned at his attitude. She didn’t appreciate his manners and did her best not to scowl at him. “One coffee and a napkin, coming right up, Sir,” she responded through gritted teeth, moving away to make his coffee.

He was a lot taller than her and she only reached right about up to his broad chest. He had a medium build. Black wavy hair that was brushed back from his face. His eyes were deep brown, almost black and appeared surreptitious. His angelically handsome face was perfectly angled and shaped, titled back slightly to the side as he studied her with a staid expression. His hands were in the pockets of his dark trousers that went with his matching designer blazer and tie.

“Hello, Sir, would like anything else with that?” Angelina asked him thoughtfully, glancing at Hira working at the corner of the counter.

“No. And make sure the napkins are clean,” He retorted, ignoring the question. He didn’t even thank Angelina when she gave him one folded up.

Why would we serve dirty napkins? Hira thought. She returned to him with the fresh cup of coffee and smiled. “Your coffee, Sir,” she said, standing next to Angelina.

He didn’t even look up at her or thank her.

“HOT,” Angelina mouthed subtly with a meaningful look, wiggling her brows at Hira. She was always finding guys to set her up with.

“That's £2.99 please,” Hira said politely.

“Urgh!” He cried and made a disgusted face. He put down the cup of coffee on the counter and glared at Hira.

Oh, no, you didn’t… she thought, speechless and mouth agape.

Suddenly Karla appeared next to him, and gushed, “Sir, what a lovely surprise! What can we be of service?”

“Forget it, I’ve had my fair share of your service,” he answered arrogantly, glaring at Hira irritatingly and then shook his head at the coffee. He rather looked big-headed.

Karla’s smile turned downward a little.

“I knew this place was useless,” he continued rudely and shook his head. A few loose strands fell across his forehead, complimenting his features. “It was unfortunate that my car broke down a couple of shops away. What a waste. I thought you’d at least have efficiently trained workers ‘round here.” He was firing invisible needles at the girls, but from the looks of it targeted Hira more.

Angelina crossed her arms in front of her and pouted. “Idiot,” she whispered under her breath but Hira caught on, and almost giggled if she wasn’t still astounded.

“I – I – am so sorry!” Karla managed to muster the strength to say. Her gaze travelled to Angelina and Hira as if to say; 'I’ll-deal-with-you-both-later.' “What can I do to make your stay here better?” she asked hopefully.

Stay? I’m leaving,” he announced in a self-aggrandizing way. “Worthless place and worthless people.”

Hira couldn’t take the insults anymore. “Stop it,” she snapped. “That was very horrid of you.”

The guy blinked silently, shocked at the reaction. No-one ever talked like that to him and it perplexed him for a moment before he composed himself. "Leave." He scowled at the others and they all left at once. “What did you just say?” he asked slowly, his voice gradually grew louder.

“I said stop it. You are a very mean person. We’re not useless people. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me to make one after the other until it was satisfactory. We work here but we don’t have the right to be insulted. We’re people, too,” she retorted evenly. Oh, no, I said too much haven’t I?! Her hands were gripping the edge of the counter on her side tightly. Her lips scrunched up tightly, her brown eyes wide with anger and her fingernails tapped underneath the counter impatiently. Tippity-Tappity-Tippety-Tappity-Tippety-Tappity, her finger nails drummed.

“You dare speak to me in that manner?” He demanded.

“I...” She hesitated. She glanced around to see Angelina or the manager, but surprisingly they weren’t there. Where'd Angelina go...? she thought, dumbfounded. When she turned her back at the big-head customer, she saw a struggling Angelina being pulled away by Karla into the storeroom as if she was in a silent horror film. She turned back round to face him.

The business was relevantly down and only a few people were seated here and there now, and they had heard everything between the him and her. She wished she hadn’t opened her mouth now because she didn’t usually snap back at people. She didn’t behave so boldly, albeit this guy was practically asking for a confrontation.

His features were blank save for his eyes ... his eyes looked very angry, which made him look intimidating. “Well?” he asked.

Even when she couldn’t even see the pupils from this distance, his eyes were just too dark to figure out if they consisted of any emotions other than anger or antipathy. He gave an impression that he had never talked kindly to anybody his whole life and got his own way. “No-one has ever had the audacity to speak to me this way!” He claimed, puffing out his chest.

“Yeah, well-” she cried, pausing for a second, “...maybe somebody should!” I seriously loathe him. It’s a shame he’s so handsome but ugly on the inside. A nice kind personality would have gone perfectly with him. He’s not even my type – hang on! What did I just think? Why did I think that? He’s a bad guy. I don’t like bad guys … even if they have a gorgeous face. Well, is he a bad guy? Do baddies wear suits 'n' ties?

He smiled now. It was attractive and daunting at the same time if that was possible. He leant forward and placed his larger hands on top of the counter, causing her to avert her gaze. Their faces were only an inch away from each other as he stared into her eyes boldly. The rejected cup of tea sat alone in the centre on them. He snickered when her face turned more to the other side and her cheeks burned. “I’m Kael Xavier,” he out of the blue introduced himself casually.

Hira frowned. “O – oookayyyyy…”

His perfectly aligned, bleached teeth dazzled with dimples and yet his eyes were a in complete darkness. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Hira,” she muttered. Her nails dug up into the counter from underneath the surface.

“Hira, pretty name. Unusual name. So you want to go on a date with me?” He didn’t avert his dark eyes away from her. He was hiding something.

She was so stunned by the question that she thought she must’ve misheard him. “I’m sorry, what did you just say?” she asked, and blinked up into his eyes innocently.

“A date,” he stated, watching her with his long lashed eyes, “With me.”

She snickered. Crazy guy. Who’d want to date him? He’s all about money and power and nothing else.

“What’s so funny?” He asked cockily, losing his smile.

“Oh,” she replied taking her time, “I was just thinking if you just escaped from an insane asylum.”

“You’re lucky that I am going to pretend like I did not hear that,” he said coldly. “Anyway, what do you think?”

She crossed her arms in front of her, and asked, “Why should I date you again?”

“You pretend to be my girlfriend and I’ll pay you.”

“What?” She cried, gob smacked. A few laughs, 'oohs' and 'ahhs' reached her way she blushed, embarrassed. The thought never crossed her mind that someone could even ask her for a date in such a shameless manner. That was until today of course. “I Pretend and you’ll pay me to date you – just what are you talking about?” She simply could not get her head around that.

“I have some issues that need to be solved,” he replied matter-of-factly. “You’re not that pretty or anything, but you’ll do.”

She didn’t know how to react other than to just stare at him, mouth agape and wide eyes. “Wow,” she stated, crossing her arms in front of her when he moved away.

“I’m valuable to you,” he explained further, fixing his black tie thoughtfully. “I’ll pay you thirty pounds per hour.” He seemed proud.

Well, she pondered hesitantly. I could pay off our debts with extra money – No! I can’t. “Eurgh!” she grunted, disgusted. “The answer is no.”

He frowned.

“You could be a serial killer or something or worse,” she cried dramatically. “A Psycho or a bloody rapist out to lure innocent girls with weird offers and-”

“I can assure you I am nothing of the sort,” he said cutting in indignantly and he looked her up and down. “I would definitely not be in my right mind in order to even touch you.”

She gasped, not knowing if she should be relieved or insulted. “There's the door,” she said, pointing to the entrance.

“Hira, there’s an emergency phone call for you,” Jarred said, popping his face round the kitchen door and then he was gone.

She felt anxious as soon as those words left his mouth. She silently prayed it wasn’t anything serious and hastily walked away.

“Wait!” Kael called, but she was gone from the kitchen. He wasn’t one to give up either. He needed all the help he could get to escaping out of a predicament that he was going through.

Hira stepped out from the kitchen and grabbed the phone in the hallway, which lead out to the back street. Her heart clutched inside her chest as she heard someone crying. “Mum, what’s the matter?” she asked. She instantly recognized to whom the sobs belonged to. Her mother was crying harder. “Mum please, you know I don’t like it when you cry. What happened?”

“The debt collectors were talking to me on the phone and they’re demanding the bills to be paid within this week ... or else t – they’ll claim the house and everything in it!” Her mum's voice cracked and she began crying again.

Hira sighed heavily. She leant forehead against the wall. Over five thousand pounds of loan money that was exceeding day by day in interest was already an outstanding amount to make up for. And only recently another eight hundred and forty-two pounds needed to be paid according the internet providers. Unlimited internet use, as if. Damn that company. Why did they do this to innocent people? One day I’ll hunt all of them down and...

“I didn’t want to call you at work but they only gave us a few days...”

“When does the money need to be handed in?” Hira sighed.

“Next Monday. I didn’t know what to do, Hira, I – I...”

“Don’t worry mum, it’ll be done. Tell Hiba not to worry. I'll work something out. You don’t need to worry while I’m still alive. Don’t worry.”

“God bless you, my child. Come home safely.”

“I will. Bye, mum,” Hira smiled sadly, and ended the call. She hung up the phone to return to clean up the kitchen, when she met Kael leaning sideways against the counter.

He was still waiting for her response, clearly. “Come on, I’m a busy man,” he urged, “Think about it.”

Hira was embarrassed with herself but she was thinking about his offer now. Maybe I should... There wasn’t any other way at the moment and his offer was now a lucky thing in a way, a God send. She didn’t have any other options after all. Her little sister's educational money had to be there and ready. Rent that needed to be paid in order for her mother and sister to be able to live under a roof.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this. Fifty per hour,” she negotiated, and blushed because of her direct demeanour. She couldn’t believe that she was asking to be someone’s fake girlfriend for money.

“I’ll give you a hundred can hour,” he said. “Money isn’t an issue for me. So, I’ll take that as a yes?” he said before she could change her mind. He looked smug.

She blinked a couple of times and nodded.

“I’m glad we agreed on at least one thing,” he retorted. Little had she known that he had gone after her and accidentally heard some of her conversation on the phone earlier. Something told him that she wasn’t how she seemed from the outside as she was always appearing to be. In the end they’d both get what they want with nothing to lose; a win-win situation.

She smiled, feeling slightly relieved. Tears stung the back of her eyes. Things were starting to become promising. At least my family won’t get hassled every day by those bloody loan collectors, now, hopefully. I hope I’m able to pay them back in time, she thought, relieved, and some guilt crawled into the bottom of her stomach. God, please don't let him turn out to be a weirdo rapist or killer or both, she thought.

“When do you get off work?” He asked.

“Five,” she replied slowly, “Wh-y?”

“To pick you up of course.”

“Not tonight, I promised my mum I’d reach home without being late,” she said, firmly. “She doesn’t need to know about this, OK?”

“Not a problem. And you’re coming!” He ordered.

“I won’t,” she retorted, and lazily left the kitchen. “And don’t you dare follow me!”

He didn’t since his mobile rang and he answered to find his decision regrettable. “Yes, mother,” he answered, trying not to let any irritation penetrate his tone. He headed out the cafe while talking on the phone; something about a blind date that his mother had set up for him again. Soon after the brief talk he had shut the phone. He was shaking his head in amazement.

As he expected, body guards with black suits and dark glasses guarded the matching limousine. “Bloody guards following me everywhere,” he swore pointedly. He got in the car and ordered the driver to start driving.

The two body guards who stood at the front of the car stepped away as he stepped inside the driver’s seat, and they got inside their own black car and followed suit.