The Marks That Bind Us - Book cover

The Marks That Bind Us

Vivienne Wren

2: Chapter 2


I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. My cold, wet clothes clung to my body, and I couldn’t even feel my feet anymore.

I leaned forward slightly and looked back at the leather behind me. I’d left a wet mark where my back had been.

“I’m ruining your seat!”

“Don’t worry about it,” the man next to me said without even looking up.

I sat back, still not at all at ease. I peered out the window and saw Miles walking by with the last of the ornaments.

I heard the trunk shut, and moments later, he sat down in the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition, and the car slowly went into motion.

“Where were you headed?” the man asked, still not looking at me.

I pushed some strands of wet hair behind my ear. “Porthouse Publishing. It’s over on—”

“We’re familiar. To Porthouse, Miles.” He finally graced me with a stare. “Do you work there?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think you introduced yourself when I told you my name.”

“Cyrus. What do you do at Porthouse?”

“I work as a graphic designer.”

I looked at my feet, which were starting to hurt now that feeling was coming back to them. My toes were throbbing, and my shoes felt unreasonably tight suddenly.

“Are you any good at your job?”

I raised one eyebrow. “I’m all right, I guess?” What kind of question was that? “And what do you do?”

“Business.” He looked out the window again.

“I’m trying to get into illustrating instead of design,” I said and immediately wondered why I shared that with this stranger.

It did seem to get his attention though. He turned to look at me. “Do you have any experience?”

“Just one project, but a pretty big one actually.”

“Anything I might have seen?”

I felt my cheeks turn pink. “If you have kids, maybe. It was for a celebrity children’s book. My publishing company hosted a competition to find an illustrator, and I got the part.”

“Jesse Harrison’s book?”

I nodded.

“I’m familiar. Good work.”

That surprised me a little, since he hadn’t said a kind word to me so far. He’d barely spoken at all, for that matter.

“Thanks,” I said a little too excitedly. I cringed and sank further back into the seat.

“You never tried your luck at Brentstone and Sons?”

“I did. But unfortunately, they found a better fit.”

“Maybe you should try again.”

I fumbled with the buttons on my cardigan. “Yeah, I don’t think so. Not too keen on getting rejected twice. I’m just going to take my loss and move on.”

The car pulled into the Porthouse parking lot. The snowfall had only increased since we’d started driving, and it now covered the city in a thick white blanket.

It made everything look peaceful, especially now that the moon had broken through the heavy clouds to cast a subtle light over the scenery, making the snow glisten beautifully.

I opened my door and got out of the car. “I’m just going to grab another box for the ornaments. I’ll be right back!”

I tried to make my way inside without slipping on the snow-covered pavement. I came out with a large box I’d found in the storage room.

When I got back to the car, Miles was already waiting for me at the trunk, and he helped me scoop the ornaments into the box. I swung my wet coat over my shoulder, grabbed the box, and turned to him.

“Thank you so much. I really owe you one. I don’t know how I could ever repay you guys.”

Miles smiled and waved away my appreciation. “Our pleasure.”

I looked over at the side of the car where Cyrus was sitting. I doubted he would have said the same thing.

I walked over to his window and waited for him to roll it down. He didn’t. I contemplated just walking away without thanking him at all, but that felt rude.

I rolled my eyes and tapped his window. He finally opened it, halfway, and raised an eyebrow at me.

“Thank you for giving me a ride,” I managed.

He nodded.

I stood there for a second, waiting for a response, then turned on my heel when realizing I wasn’t going to get one. Just before I got out of earshot, I heard his low voice again.

“You should really try again at Brentstone.”

I turned back around. “Like I said—”

“Offer stands until the end of the month.”

“What offer?” I was getting a bit annoyed with his vagueness.

“Try again at Brentstone and find out.”

The window rolled back up. I stood there puzzled for a moment before turning around and making my way back to the office, where I found Miles holding the door for me.

“Thank you again. You’re a lifesaver.” I stepped through the door and into the warmth.


In the days that followed my meeting with Cyrus and Miles, I couldn’t help thinking about what he’d said. I wondered what he did at Brentstone and Sons, since he obviously had the power to make job offers.

I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind, but it was getting harder every day.

I decided to try again at Porthouse. I managed to get an appointment with Mr. Porthouse himself for that afternoon.

I put on heels instead of my usual boots, anything to help me look professional and right for the part.

I even contemplated sticking a pencil behind my ear to look more artistic, but it felt ridiculous, so I decided against it.

I raised my hand to knock on the door, but I heard Mr. Porthouse’s voice call out to me before I got the chance.

“Ms. Mayweather. How can I help you?”

I entered nervously and smiled at him, forcing myself to look confident. “I was wondering if you had a minute to discuss a few things?”

Mr. Porthouse looked me up and down. “Yes, twenty of them, no less, since you scheduled this appointment.” I couldn’t help but sense an undertone of boredom in his voice. I was already losing him.

“Right.” I put my portfolio on his desk. “I was wondering if we could discuss an internal transfer to the illustrating department again.”

Mr. Porthouse, who’d been leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, now bounced back up and straightened his back as he turned to his computer and started typing.

“I thought we’d discussed this already.”

“I just thought—”

“I know what you thought. But just because you won a little competition does not mean we will hire you as an illustrator. Besides, all the positions are already filled. I don’t know what you expect me to do.”

I looked at my portfolio. “But I’m pretty flexible. I would even be fine just doing the occasional project until a permanent position opens up.”

Mr. Porthouse stopped typing and turned to look at me. “Oh would you now?”

My hope had vanished at this point.

He started typing again. “I’ll keep it in mind. Anything else I can do for you, Ms. Mayweather?”

“That was all.” I grabbed my portfolio and got up.

“Ah, that leaves eighteen minutes that I could have used for things of actual importance. How wonderful.”

As I bit my lip to keep from flinging back a snappy remark of my own, a raspy voice echoed in my head: “Offer stands until the end of the month…”

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