A/N: This was added to on 23/10/13 (extra stuff past first line break).
I wake with the sudden, certain feeling that something has woken me. An abrupt change in the light, or the rustling of sheets or… I don't know. What I do know is that my night time cleaner has paid me another visit.
I roll over and look at my clock, groaning and pulling a pillow back over my head when I see that its only 5:45. My office doesn't open until seven, and it only takes me ten minutes to get there by train. I don't eat breakfast. Getting ready only takes me a couple of minutes to shave, a couple more to wash and brush my teeth and then only another few minutes or so to get dressed, maybe ten minutes extra if I want a shower. I know because I repeat the exact same actions day in, day out.
What am I meant to do with all that extra time?
I won't sleep again now, now that I've woken. Sleep is the only reprieve that I get from the living nightmare that is my life. I rarely remember my dreams and every night I thankfully collapse into the dark oblivion it brings. Occasionally I wake, gasping or crying for no reason at all - although I could probably hazard a good guess if I tried - but I never remember exactly what it is that has caused my tears, and I soon fall asleep again, forgetting about the incident until around noon when I'm at my busiest anyway and couldn't care less.
Although… last night. I rub the palms of my hands against my eyes in the effort to clear myself from sleep fuzz and remember. Something was different. I remember… silver hair and eyes like cold fire… No. No, that can't be it – I remember that the eyes were warm when they looked at me.
I frown in confusion, trying to place a name to a face that I've only gotten a fuzzy image of. Was it a woman I had brought home? But I wouldn't have done that. I don't have any friends, or go to any bars where I could pick someone up. Could it have been my cleaner? They have never made contact before…
It must have been a dream. A good dream. I can almost feel against my chest now the body that fit perfectly against mine, my neck tucked into it's – no, her - her shoulder.
I draw myself up onto my elbows and stare at the ceiling, dismissing it from my mind as I mentally catalogue the things I need to get done today. There's an important business meeting coming up with the potential merger company managers for Sidoti Corporation, that report due in on my current case, an interview with a client, and… I sigh; just another day at the office.
But, my cleaner… Over the past couple of months I've gradually begun to notice the existence of another life-form – other than the germs that I practically breed – in my apartment. It began about midway through my fight for the custody of little Jennifer and Ellie. I'd come home to find my desk tidy with the legal documents I had been going over sorted into neat, manageable piles. I'd have clean laundry and sheets at the end of every week, and every now and then I'd find a freshly brewed mug of coffee on the counter that I could never remember making.
I'd never taken notice of the little things like that before, but the case with my daughters had brought me out of the zombie-like stupor I had been in for months and the mystery of the cleaner in my home and kept me from sinking back into it, especially after I had lost the case.
It could have been going on for even longer than I'd noticed it, and it probably had, considering how well I had been fending for myself this last… a little under a year, was it now? Anyway, my apartment has remained clean throughout. Of course, I've figured out who the culprit is by now: Lewis. It slowly dawned on me that it must be my office partner looking out for me who had hired some poor cleaning girl to tidy up. It's probably his idea of a joke to give her the key to my apartment and make her clean up whenever I'm not around to see her, or… maybe he's just trying to be considerate for once.
Yeah, right. As if anyone cares.
Although the maid has definitely been a help, I want my private life to remain private, and I don't like the fact that a stranger has access to my house even if they have been there for what must have been months without attacking me or anything.
I suspect that Lewis has been using her to spy on my 'condition'. I'm fine, aren't I? So what if I bury myself in my work? At least I get results. So what if I work so late into the night that my eyes haven't been free of their bloodshot look for the past nine months? The longer I stay up the more I study and the more cases I win. So what if I work myself to the bone? It means I get to sleep and forget all about my messed-up, miserable life.
So I've spent the past month or so thinking about the maid, and in the last week and a bit, I've been thinking about a way to get rid of her. To be completely honest, it's nice having something to think about that isn't work and still keeps my mind off of… Selene.
I've put all my energy into a plan to 'capture' the maid in the act, because when I confronted Lewis in work he denied all knowledge of the scheme and laughed, saying that at least it got my mind off work. The idiot. So I've decided that the only way I can get him to admit to the farce is by confronting the maid and not letting her go until I scare her into admitting the whole thing. Then at least I'd have the proof to tell Lewis to bugger off with his 'concerns' about me.
I've actually almost seen her once or twice, when I've caught her unawares by coming home early or just by accident, but only ever out of the corner of my eye. I saw her last night, just as I was about to head into my bedroom, standing in some awkward position I couldn't quite make out in the shadows by my small table and mismatched chairs. I wonder if she had been cleaning…
She's slender, I know that, with a flat stomach and narrow waist that anyone woman would die for. She's tall – from my estimation maybe only a couple of centimetres shorter than me. I know she has long hair and maybe wears contacts because although I never really see her body if I do catch a glimpse of her, her eyes always seem to be reflecting the light in this strange silver way.
Last night I'd let it pass because I'd had a long day and I couldn't face anything more than a soft mattress and a duvet. It must have been her who woke me up this morning, although I don't think she realises that I know she exists yet.
I roll over onto my back, and look up at the ceiling, thinking. Did she stay all night, I wonder? I suppose I have grown used to the idea of another person in my house that I never see, never hear, or never talk to, but… all the same… the next time I know she is there…
It's not right, having a stranger in your house that you don't really know. Maybe, if she's here, I will confront her tonight. Maybe I'm not normal, letting this go on for as long as it has, but then, I've been too exhausted to do anything else.
I stretch and look at my clock. Whoa, I have spent nearly fifteen minutes procrastinating. Right, I think. Let's get to it.
I blink fuzzily.
A hand nudges me.
"Wha..?!" I jolt upright as my manager, Deborah Duran shakes my shoulder impatiently. Ah, that's right. I'm in the office.
I turn to my boss, struggling to wake up. Deborah Duran is a straight-talking blonde in her late thirties, an efficient and strict boss, and inwardly I groan that she had caught me napping. "What is it?" Blearily, I look up at her.
Deborah fixes me with a piercing stare. "Daniel, we've got a meeting in twenty minutes –are you ready for it?"
Oh, yeah. Damn.
"Sure." I smile faintly up at my ice queen, attempting to look capable and efficient, but falling pathetically short. My boss glares at me.
"You'd better get your head in the game, Mr Gallagher. This one's a big one – you know the profile. If we screw up with Sidoti Corporation then you're going to get it big time." She raises an eyebrow as I nod my head sanguinely at her words. Yeah, yeah, I know the gig. Deborah doesn't need to remind me. What else did she think I'd been working myself to the bone trying to get ready the past couple of weeks?
"You getting this?" She demands as I tune back in, and I nod more emphatically, trying to blink the sleep from my eyes as she purses her lips in a threatening manner.
Deborah eyes me up narrowly. She takes in my tired, rumpled appearance, and the shock of premature grey through my otherwise dark hair. "Daniel – if something's the matter-"
"I'm fine." I say shortly. The whole department knew that my wife had left me for another man months ago; I don't need to go to a counselling session with my boss now that everyone has finally started getting over it. As much as I can accept that office gossip is inevitable, I not going about to willingly go ahead and add even more to my plate.
Boss stares at me hard. "If you're sure." Her eagle eyes pierce me again. "Just know that my ass is on the line as well if you screw up this merger meeting."
Deborah sighs, and I feel a prick of irritation, soon washed away, at her repetitiveness. "Honestly, I'd rather have Lewis do it but since he's still too inexperienced right now…"
I frown. Does she really need to inform me of this right now? I stand up wearily, and stretch, ignoring her pained expression as my joints click.
Relaxing into a more comfortable position, looking at Deb's stressed expression, my eyes soften, and I break out into a smile for her, the sort of smile I used to break out in all the time before my wife smashed my heart in two and took the pieces of it with her. Before I was the bitter, tired man I am now.
I clasp one of her hands in mine.
"Deborah, I'm fine." This time I fix her with a piercing gaze. "I can handle this. I've been working on my presentation for two weeks already." I can see her melting slightly, and I muster up another smile, and blast it at her. "Don't you worry – just head over there now and I'll meet you in a few minutes, okay?"
Deborah looks at me uncertainly, but I give her hand another reassuring squeeze, and she drops mine in disgust. "Just make sure you're ready, Daniel. Please?" As she walks away she shoots a despairing look at me over her shoulder, and sighing, I straighten up and turn back around to my desk.
The merger deal, the merger deal, the merger deal… Ah, found it. As I pick up the thick wedge of paper I run my hand through my hair tiredly. I used to love my work, honestly. Mackleberry, Hudson and Moore are one of the top, private law firms in New York, despite it's small size. I'd worked hard to get to the place I was now, managing a small part of the company, and I'd been pleased to think that I had helped it all I could when I got into my current position.
However, for the past year my enjoyment in my work had rapidly declined. My enjoyment in everything had rapidly declined. I'd continued producing results: in fact, I'd excelled in our recent deals - however, the passion had gone out of it for me…
I sigh. Wearily gathering up my papers, I head off to meeting room B.
As I walk into the meeting room I see with sinking realisation that the representatives of Sidoti Corporation are already there. Deborah is seated on one end of the long business table, and she shoots me a killing look. She taps her watch, practically hissing at me. I can almost read the look in her eyes: it reads: 'You're going to get it later'.
A cool female voice breaks into our heated eye contact, and I snap back into awareness
"Mr Gallagher. Nice to meet you." A manicured, feminine hand slides into my field of vision and taking it I plaster a polite smile onto my face. The woman's grip is cool and firm. Right, brain: business mode, please.
Then something happens that I not expecting. Looking up at the genteel woman whose hand I'm shaking, my jaw drops open in shock. Uncharacteristically, I gasp.
She is the most gorgeous woman I've seen. With tumbling red hair and skin the colour of milk, she is elegance personified. But this isn't what makes me gasp in such a way that causes Deborah to shoot me another look full of daggers.
Her eyes. Her eyes are the colour of melted silver, like two flashing mirrors in her head.
Her eyes are the same eyes as those of my cleaner.
A/N: I'm really unhappy with this, partly because I wrote the ending at three in the morning and was almost falling asleep as I did so, but I'm glad that I managed to get this chapter finished off. Please drop a review – constructive criticism is appreciated!
The Witch's Lover xxx