Noémie Rochester finds herself in a precarious situation after a passionate night with her boss leaves her pregnant and alone. Struggling with loss and betrayal, she crosses paths with Ajax Halest, a troubled man haunted by family secrets. Despite their complicated history and clashing personalities, an undeniable connection draws them together. As shocking truths come to light, threatening to destroy lives and relationships, Noémie and Ajax must confront the demons of their past to find redemption, justice and a love that could stand the test of time. A story of passion, intrigue and the indomitable human spirit, this romance will leave you believing in the power of love.
Age Rating: 18+
The glittering rays of the sun sneaked through the flimsy curtains of the windows and sank onto the beautiful face of Noémie Rochester. Her shut eyes fluttered at the cruel invasion of the warm rays while an uneasy feeling wriggled up her stomach, making her slightly wince in her sleep and turn to the other side.
She rubbed her temples when a soft ache struck her head and a pungent smell of alcohol molested her nostrils.
Noémie tried to breathe through the thick, musky scent that hung in the surrounding air, but something felt oddly amiss.
Not to forget, she was freezing. The air conditioner in the room had dropped the temperature too low for her liking, darting a shiver instantly down her spine.
Tugging the warm sheets closer to herself, Noémie opened her eyes to the blatant rays of the sun. It took a lot of blinking and fluttering to get used to the brightness, but once her eyesight adjusted, she pulled herself up to a sitting position and looked around with a careless glance.
The room was a mess.
Clothes were littered on the floor. A glass of water was shattered. There was an empty bottle of rum on the nightstand and lots of showpieces knocked out of their original places, strewn and broken all over the carpet.
What the heck happened here? She thought to herself.
Worried lines etched across her forehead as she tried to retrace the happenings of the previous night.
This was definitely not her room, that was for sure. Then whose place could this be? She wondered with a frown.
By then, the pounding in her skull had turned horribly violent and the ache in her abdomen felt overwhelmingly similar to the cramps she had before and during periods. Although, the raw pain between her legs was a little mystery she couldn’t decipher.
Until it dawned on her like a bolt of lightning.
Smacked right on the head with the snapshots of the previous night—the coffee, the unconsciousness, the feeling of being carried, and a blurry man moving over her body.
“No no no no no no!” She panicked, her eyes growing wide as saucers. Despite the soreness in her thighs and core, she scrambled out of the bed—almost tripping with her foot tangled in the sheets but catching herself upright just in time—and faced the daunting reality she almost had no wish to face.
Her heart thumped like crazy underneath her chest while her breathing grew erratic. Panic bled through her veins and caused all her limbs to grow limp when she caught the naked man lying next to her on the bed.
An arm covered his eyes. White sheets covered a decent portion of his body while his dark hair seemed just as messy as her own. A frown twitched the corner of his lips, the one that felt dangerously familiar to her frightened heart.
Almost on the verge of passing out again, the first thing Noémie did was to find her clothes and get dressed up.
Once that was taken care of, she picked up her heels and handbag and without affording much of a glance, flew out of the room and down the stairs.
She remembered the mansion belonged to her boss, Mr. Halest. She came here last night to hand over important files that needed his urgent approval so she could transfer them to the concerned department in the morning. Only God knew what happened to those files or where the hell they were as of now.
Not that they mattered anymore.
Barefoot, Noémie ran out of the mansion, battling the assault of the raging sun and building tears. Her lungs felt like they would explode any moment and she hated that the ache in her thighs continued to remind her what the hell might have happened the previous night.
Almost knocked out by a car coming to a stop in the driving lane just outside the porch, Noémie skipped a few steps backward to save herself from being hit.
“Noémie?” She heard someone call behind her, but the girl had already taken off in the opposite direction, not ready to face the world yet.
Once stumbling to her apartment, she shuffled for the key with shaky hands. It took a few frustrating seconds but once she got herself inside the safety of her abode, and had her back pressed against the door, then and only then, she allowed herself to gasp and break down.
Tears flooded uncontrollably down her face, soaking the shirt she wore. Her heart ached.
How could he do this to her?
Her boss. The man she respected so much. The man who lost his wife and unborn child in a car accident not so long ago. How could he? How could he stoop so low?
Thinking about what he did to her, disgust filled her veins. Noémie tore the clothes off her body as if they carried some infectious disease and tossed them into the dustbin and went straight for a shower.
The cold water poured down her naked body and washed away all the evidence of what had happened to her—what he did to her—all night.
However, what it couldn’t wash away was her aggrieved heart and the pain in her chest. The shock of being betrayed by a man, for whom she was eager to go to any extent.
“I loved you, Mr. Halest,” she sobbed, collapsing on the floor while water pounded on her head. “And you raped me!”
“Are you sure?” dumbfounded, Noémie blurted out.
Her eyes had grown extra-wide hearing the words that came out of the mouth that belonged to the woman in a white coat sitting across the desk. “Maybe we should have another round. What if you got the results wrong? There’s always a chance for slip-ups, right?”
“You look surprised,” the doctor said, her mouth pulled in a polite smile, something Noémie found comforting and critical at the same time. “Do you not want one?”
“It’s not like that,” Noémie muttered, releasing a sigh, biting on her lower lip and rubbing her arms. Not because the air conditioning in the room had gotten chillier, but because she didn’t know what else to do to keep her hands busy. Besides, it was also calming in a way. Something she realized she desperately needed right now, seeing how her heart was causing havoc inside. A huge part of her was offensively terrified.
“It’s just...” Now, how was she supposed to explain anything to anyone?
Two months ago, after she woke up in her boss’s bed, she had done everything in her strength to run away from him. She changed the country, the job, the contact details, the friends (well, maybe not all of them) and whatever was possible there to change. She did all that to escape the humiliation. So she wouldn’t have to face that man ever again. She did not even wait for him to apologize for his not-so-sophisticated actions.
In hindsight, it was kind of a rash decision, yet not the one she regretted. Not one bit.
She was so livid with him that day. How could he do this to her?
For three years, she worked for him with all the devotion and sincerity in the world. He was not the easiest person to work for, tossing orders around like freaking royalty. The only good thing about him had to be that he wasn’t a playboy like his younger brother. He didn’t flirt with every single thing that moved and breathed and had a pair of perky boobs.
Unlike his coquettish brother, Ajax Halest was well-mannered, cultured, and no-nonsense. Something she admired and had grown to respect during the time she worked for him. He always looked so tough and focused. Noémie rarely saw him without his signature grimace. The one that left him never. Not even when he slept.
She struggled to imagine if a man of his stature could ever apologize. He was so arrogant, often, she should know. She had dealt with his mysterious mood swings almost every single day. Until that fateful night when he destroyed the image she had of him when he fell from her eyes so low, she wasn’t certain if there was anything he could do to reverse that.
Burying her face into her hands, she strained her face hard. “I’m not sure if I’m ready for it.”
“You’re nervous,” the doctor supplied, the pleasant smile continuing to dance across her lips. Her eyes shone with an understanding Noémie hoped to see in her family’s eyes, too. Would they be angry at her? They would probably want to know who the man was. How would she answer the millions of questions they would barrage her with? “Which is absolutely normal.”
Noémie drew in a deep breath and lifted her head. “Are you really sure?” she asked, hoping the answer would be different this time. Although she should have known better than to doubt the capability of her own ears.
“If you want, I can run another test,” the kind doctor suggested, patience reflected through her every word. “But I’m positive the result would remain the same. You’re two months pregnant, Ms. Rochester. Congratulations.”
Deep down, Noémie could feel a hurl of emotions. There was so much going on inside her. That morning when she woke up, only to throw her guts out, she stupidly thought she might have gotten a stomach bug after one of her colleague’s birthday bash the previous night. She had taken no drinks, but there was definitely something fishy about those Manchurian balls. They tasted...different.
Not that it mattered now.
Sighing to herself, Noémie thanked the doctor and collected her reports and prescription before heading out of the hospital. On her way to the parking lot though, she was so busy in her thoughts that she failed to notice the man who walked right into her.
All the papers in his and her hands dropped and flew everywhere.
“Dammit!” the man cursed out loud, dropping on his haunches and furiously collecting all the papers. The man seemed to be in so much rush that he growled when he couldn’t distinguish which belonged to who. “They all look exactly the same!”
They didn’t. But he was panicking. But surprisingly Noémie thought she could see right through him.
Putting aside the pit of her unease, she sank her knees to the ground and helped him sort everything out. She gingerly gathered the papers and read them briefly before stacking them separately.
“Here,” once done, she pushed all the papers into the file she thought belonged to him and handed them over. “Done!” she gave him a soft smile.
The man took the file and stood up, letting his shoulders drop with relief washing over him. “Thank you so much. Although I should probably apologize for running into you first.”
“It’s alright,” Noémie was quick to dismiss his apology. She had noticed how tense and restless he was a moment ago. It was obvious why he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. Hospitals weren’t the most delightful places in the world. Who knew what distress he was going through? She felt sorry for him. “There is nothing to be apologetic for. Take care of yourself.”
With that, she gave him a nod and turned towards the spot where she had parked her car. It wasn’t far from where she bumped into that poor man.
Little did she know that the accident wasn’t actually an accident. The man who crashed into her did that on purpose, to serve an even greater purpose.
As he watched Noémie getting into the car and driving away, he took out the phone from his pocket and dialed a number. After three rings, someone finally picked up and answered.
“She’s in Bordeaux,” he furnished confidently.
“Are you sure it’s her?”
The man on the other end of the phone hummed thoughtfully. “Anything else?”
“She visited the hospital today.”
“I’m not sure,” he rubbed his temples, turning around to protect his eyes from the blunt rays of the sun. “But she looked anxious and lost while leaving.”
“Find out whatever she was there for. You have an hour.”
The man nodded firmly. “On it.”