Romance

Clandestine Heart

Ulfha Olivia Ulya

Lara Harrington is no stranger to rejection, especially when it comes from the virile, wealthy, and influential Tristan Lancaster. After two years of putting up with his mistreatment, Lara realizes she has no place in his jet-set life and decides to give up on him. The only problem? Now Tristan wants her and will stop at nothing to get her back. Will she cave into his desires, or leave him in the past?

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Assault, Violence Against Women)

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Clandestine Heart - Book cover
Romance

Clandestine Heart

Ulfha Olivia Ulya

Lara Harrington is no stranger to rejection, especially when it comes from the virile, wealthy, and influential Tristan Lancaster. After two years of putting up with his mistreatment, Lara realizes she has no place in his jet-set life and decides to give up on him. The only problem? Now Tristan wants her and will stop at nothing to get her back. Will she cave into his desires, or leave him in the past?

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Assault, Violence Against Women)

1: Chapter 1

LARA

The sky was looking ominously purple on this gloomy autumn morning, as if heaven seemed to be also grieving for the young lady who was standing in front of the wet burial ground.

Her slim figure was clothed in a simple black knee-length dress, and she wore a veil of the same color covering part of her beautiful yet pale face.

Deelara Harrington—or Lara, as people called her—stared at the simple epitaph for her mother. IN LOVING MEMORY: THERESA HARRINGTON.

Gradually she kneeled to place a bouquet of lilies on the tombstone. A sad smile formed on her face as she thought of how her mother was finally reunited with her husband.

As long as she could remember, her parents had always been together, until she had been ten years old, when her father had died of his terminal illness.

Since then, there had been only her and her mother. Life had never been easy. Her mother’s anguish had been beyond normal, which had forced Lara to grow up more mature compared to anyone of her age.

She had been only a teenager during the beginning of the painful process when she’d taken full responsibility to take care of the household and also her mother’s health without complaining.

She had barely heard any of the laughter she used to hear before her father had passed away.

Theresa Harrington had spent most of her time in grief and had never found peace, though there’d had been sweet moments for mother and daughter, especially when they talked about their favorite topic, none other than her father.

Deep in her heart, Lara knew both of her parents had loved her, yet there had been times when she’d felt left out.

She had envied their closeness. It’d seemed even death could not have separated them.

And now her mother finally could be with her father, though how her mother had left her hadn’t been what Lara had expected.

On that fateful afternoon, Lara had been getting ready for her work as a part-time employee at a local fast-food restaurant when there was a knock at the door of their house.

Reluctantly she had opened it and found the gloomy faces of two policemen standing before her.

Since then it seemed as if the world had revolved very slowly. Her feet were glued to the floor, and she could barely move a muscle when she'd heard the news.

Her mother had been the victim of the robbery gone bad. She had just stepped out from the bus she had ridden on her way home when a man had appeared from nowhere and robbed her.

And when she had fought to defend herself, the thief had stabbed her several times before pushing her to the curb, leaving her bleeding.

People had tried to save her but she had been in critical condition with multiple wounds, and unfortunately she had passed away on the way to the hospital.

Lara had heard one of the policemen ask her whether she had any relatives to accompany her. Mutely she had shaken her head. She had nobody in this world besides her mother.

She had one best friend, Abby, who she could have relied on, but definitely no relatives, as both of her late parents had also been only children.

She had not even remembered how the policemen had driven her to the hospital then led her to the mortuary to identify her mother.

However the numbness had been replaced by the horror that engulfed her the moment she entered the low-temperature mortuary room and looked at her mother’s body lying on the cold steel divan, covered by white cloth until her chest.

There had been no sign of blood or anything. Her pale face had been already cleaned, and her eyes had been shut, somehow she had looked so peaceful as if she were content wherever she was.

Kneeling down beside her mother’s form, Lara had held her icy cold hand. Tears had begun to flow down her face for the first time, and she had started to cry uncontrollably, calling out for her mother.

“Ma, please wake up… Please,” Lara had sobbed. “Please don’t leave me. Why are you being so selfish leaving me alone? Ma, please don’t do this to me… Please… I still need you. Please wake up, Ma, wake up… ”

Her voice had begun to squeak begging her mother to wake up, yet her mother’s eyes had remained sealed and heaven had remained unmoved.

Rising from her knees, she then started to shake her mother’s body, feeling dissatisfied. “This can’t be happening…,” she’d softly muttered.

The tears kept on rolling down on her cheeks, and one by one fell on her mother’s pale hands.

One of the forensic doctors, who had been present in the room, had helped her from behind when Lara had staggered.“I’m sorry for your loss, Ms. Harrington.”

Lara had shaken her head again. “No…” she had whimpered. “I don’t understand why she…” Wavering, she had swallowed, unable to complete her question.

Honestly there had been no point in asking. Everything had already happened.

“Ms. Harrington…” One of the policemen had approached her. “I was informed that you don’t have any relatives, but I took the liberty of calling one of your friends.”

Lara had looked at the good-natured man. “My friend?” she had asked, not realizing she had been led out of the room.

“Yes, her name’s Abigail Rhodan, if I’m not mistaken,” he’d informed her as he had helped her onto the white wooden hospital bench.

“A…Abby?” she had whispered.

“Yes, Ms. Harrington.” He had nodded, sitting down next to her. “I think you need to know also, we’ve caught the person who has attacked your mother, and he’s under arrest now.”

Lara had closed her eyes.

Honestly, she did not care that the police had caught the man who had been responsible for the attack, or the tales and the reason why that man had taken her mother’s life away, or how that man morosely regretted what had happened.

That had not mattered, because no one could have brought her mother back to life.

The policeman had squeezed her hand gently, and Lara had opened her eyes.“Is there anything I can do for you?”

Lara had swallowed and had been about to reply when she had heard a vaguely familiar female voice call out her name.

“Lara…” Abby, her best friend, had been rushing along the corridor of the hospital.

“Abby….” Lara had stood from the bench.

Within seconds Abby had hauled Lara into her embrace. “I’m so sorry, I came here the moment I heard the news,”she had muttered and had clasped Lara to her bosom again.

Abby had shared her pain and her sorrow. They had sobbed in each other’s arms, not knowing that the nice policeman who had accompanied her had left them quietly behind.

Abby then had released their embrace and pulled Lara back to the bench.

“I’ll take care of everything, okay?” she had told her, wiping the hot tears that had kept falling down Lara’s cheeks. “Let me handle everything. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll help you get through this.”

Lara had nodded mutely. She couldn’t form any words. Her throat had felt so dry, she could not have even told Abby how she’d appreciated her effort.

Yes, Abby had been the one who had helped her through the heartache.

She had taken care of Lara, accompanied her at night, and made sure she had proper meals. Abby also had arranged all the preparations for the funeral.

Lara, on the other hand, had been lost. For her, everything had seemed so unclear as if she’d watched her life in the form of a fast-forward movie.

She had not done much of anything, only sat in the front pew alone, staring blankly at the coffin, inside the church where her mother’s memorial service had been held. She had stopped crying.

She had hardly felt any emotion, and just like a robot, she had carried out everything from meeting the people who had attended the services, to listening to the pastor’s sermon and paying her respects before her mother’s casket had been closed, until she had proceeded to the cemetery and watched as the coffin was slowly lowered into the depths of the earth.

Now, after everything was done, Lara still did not move a step from the burial ground. She let her feet sink into the soft grass, feeling the cold breeze hovering, swirling around her face.

From the corner of her eyes, she saw a woman come, before lowering herself to her level.

“Lara,” she called her name softly. “Our friends want to see you now.”

Lara turned her head and found that it was Abby. At first she was perplexed, as she was still disoriented with this state of affairs.

Slowly, her senses started to return, and her brain digested her surroundings, including her best friend.

Abby was just like usual, very beautiful and kind. Her exquisite black dress was a bit dirty with the mud as she helped Lara to stand with her heavy heart.

It was then that Lara realized that she was not alone with Abby. In front of her stood Liam Hannaford, Abby’s fiancé of the past six months.

His six-foot height and well-built frame was clad in the dark suit. His strikingly handsome features, which most of the time showed the air of autocracy, now showed sympathy.

He took another step before closing the gap between them by hauling her in his embrace. “I’m so sorry, Lara…,” he whispered.

“Thank you for coming, Liam,” Lara replied, releasing his embrace. She forced herself to smile. “I really appreciate it.”

Liam caressed her hair as if she were a child. “You know you can ask me anything, okay?”

Lara nodded. “Thank you once again, Liam. You’re a very good friend.”

Liam shrugged. “Everything will be all right, Lara. Maybe not too soon, but I promise you everything will be fine,” he stated one more time before he slid away from her, giving another person behind him a chance to talk to her.

Lara saw Liam’s sister, Rosalie Hannaford, with her boyfriend, Phoenix Souveraine. Both of them were the picture-perfect ideal couple.

They were also wearing simple black outfits, though the color did not lessen the sophistication of their looks.

Rosalie was simply a stunning creature, almost ethereal. As one of the wealthiest heiresses in the country, her personality was as beautiful as her face.

A couple of times she had showed Lara kindness in the past, and today was no exception.

“Hi there…,” Rosalie said, a sad smile forming on her face. “Are you okay, Lara?”

Lara nodded, her veil falling from her head to her shoulder. “Thank you so much, Rosalie.”

“If you need me, you know, I’ll be there.” Rosalie caressed Lara’s pale face, then gently she closed the distance between them by hugging Lara so tightly.

The sweet, expensive fragrance coming from Rosalie tingled in her nose and Lara also felt a fresh of tears dampened her clothes.

She knew Rosalie was crying, but Lara could not cry anymore. “Thanks.” That was all she could say after she withdrew from Rosalie’s embrace.

“That’s all right,” Rosalie said and gave her turn to her tall and muscular handsome boyfriend, who was standing mutely next to her.

“Hi,” Phoenix greeted in a deep, soft voice.

“Hi, P,” Lara replied, forcing herself to smile.

His usually jovial dark and sharp eyes now were brimming with deep empathy. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Lara.”

“Thank you,” Lara said.

It was the same word she had to say over and over again when people and her friends gave her their condolences. She could not find any other words besides Thank you or ~I’m fine~.

“You know where to find us when you need friends.” One of his broad shoulders inclined lazily but there was seriousness on his face.

“Of course, P.” Lara nodded then saw the next person approached her. He was the most reserved, remote human she had ever encountered. Blake Wyndham.

His boyish handsome face was unreadable as he stood mutely behind Phoenix. He was almost the same in height as his friends, but not in his character.

Lara always thought that Blake did not really care about other people’s business. He had his own mindset and did not bother about others. Yet today he was acting differently.

Blake cared for her.

Shoving both of his hands inside his dark blue pants pockets, he came toward her. His shirt, which matched the color of his pants, looked slightly wrinkled, though still elegant on his body.

As a matter of fact it did not lessen his beauty, only enhanced his boyish good looks and his detached appearance. In his own silent way, he showed his condolences.

Awkwardly, Blake kissed her cold and pale cheeks.

Lara closed her eyes when she received the kiss and still managed to give him a weak smile. But when she opened her eyes, she found another person.

Blake’s body was no longer blocking her view of the striking figure behind.

He appeared in front of her. His features were arresting. Everything about him was flawless. His usually dark thick springy hair now was neck-length, cropped short against a well-shaped head.

He had a cleanly chiseled face with an austere, high, straight nose. His jaw was long and he had firm, finely molded, sensuous lips. His power had hit her just like a rush of electricity as she felt his impact surge over her.

Oh, he had had power over her for almost two years of her life.

He was a wall of power and a wall of authority every time she saw him. Whatever he wore, he never failed to look immaculate, and of course today was no exception.

A black roll-neck sweater, well-cut wool pants, and black shiny boots plus his long cashmere jacket only boosted his tall, lean, well-built figure.

However, it was his eyes that had captured her two years and eleven months ago, although at that time, they had been framed with clear spectacles.

His eyes were so dark and fathomless with a glint that came and went like a shooting star in the sky. Their midnight quality still reeled her in until now as he moved toward her without taking his eyes off of her pale face.

Lara was motionless as he was approaching. She really did not know what she expected herself to do with this sad and confusing situation.

One thing she realized was that she had been holding her breath from the moment she saw him until finally they stood face-to-face.

“I’m so sorry,” he told her. His voice, as she knew very well, was rich and unfathomable, containing so many influences.

“Thank you,” Lara said, barely audible.

“Lara.” Abby tapped her shoulder. “We’re waiting for you in the parking lot, okay.”

Lara broke their eye contact to face Abby. “Yes, thank you. I won’t be long.”

“Take your time.” Encouraging her softly, Abby squeezed her hands. Then she turned her gaze to the strikingly handsome man next to her. “I’ll catch up with you also, okay?”

Lara returned her attention to him again. She saw him nod, still with his gaze on her face.

One by one her friends left, giving them some privacy. Lara wasn’t sure why both of them needed privacy right this time and at this place, since this was absolutely an awkward situation when both of them were left alone.

Nevertheless, Lara had been in various awkward situations when he was concerned, therefore she should be the one who started the small talk.

Her lips curved into a slight smile. “Thank you for coming and paying your respects.”

“I only found out this morning,” he informed her, as if he regretted being the last person to know, and continued as he moved a step closer.

“I just arrived from a business trip and I immediately came here.”

Now, he was standing too close.

The feeling of being near him Lara felt the tremor inside her. But finally she managed to reply steadily. “That’s okay, I understand.”

“Are you all right?” he asked. Still his gaze didn’t leave her face.

She blinked slowly as something lurched inside her. How could just one question from him affect her so deeply? But she knew because it was his presence.

The heat came off him in waves despite the cold breeze. Her mouth was desert dry. Finally she nodded in answer to his question, incapable of forming the words.

There was a long pause between them. He did not say anything, yet his eyes continued to scrutinize her face, drinking in every detail to confirm her silent answer.

She entwined her fingers together, clasping them tight. She was still trying to focus on her threatening tears, yet now her focus was divided.

How could she manage not to cry and steady the rhythm of her thumping heart at the same time?

“Here, with my deepest condolences,” he said, extending a bouquet of white roses he had been carrying all this time, as she realized belatedly.

Reluctantly, she received the flowers. “Thank you. You’re so kind,” she said and then carefully avoided having any physical contact with him as she took the flowers and bent down to place the bouquet on the burial ground.

“Lara.” It was soft when he called her name, but the low murmur was enough to bring her up from the ground and face him.

“Yes?”

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked softly but then a slant of a mocking smile formed on his beautiful lips.

“I know all of them already offered you ,but still…” He shrugged and did not proceed with what he wanted to say though, she understood the message in between the lines.

She understood completely. But what she did not know was if he meant it.

Yet she’d rather not even consider his implicit offer. Instead she only smiled. “Thank you. But don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

“All right then,” he said with a straight face. “But, just in case you need anything, the offer is valid anytime. No expiry date.”

Her smile was getting wider at his cynical choice of words. It was so typical of him. Since for once he had told everyone including her that everything had an expiration date.

“I’ll remember that.”

He nodded, not even an inch of expression formed on his remarkably handsome face. And she felt jittery. God knew this man always made her feel that way every time he was near.

A few sparrows twittered a sweet, beautiful song yet immensely sad. It was so sad that even the heavens would weep filling this awkward silence.

“I’d better go soon, they’re waiting for us,” she eventually told him, at the same time looking at her friends over her shoulder. Her black, see-through veil fell on her shoulders, revealing her long dark brown hair.

“All right,” he said, following her gaze before returning to meet her eyes again. “Let’s go.”

She shook her head slowly. “That’s okay, you go first. I…” She paused momentarily, catching her breath. “I want to pray first.”

“Then I’ll accompany you,” he said though it was soft, but there was an edge of firmness.

Lara wanted to reject him, but she had no energy to argue. Besides, she was always on the losing side when she was against him.

All she did was bow her head and pray to her mother for a moment. And once she settled she looked up and saw he was still standing behind her mutely. “I think now we can go.”

“After you.” He extended his hand, gesturing her to pass him first in a very gentlemanly style before he followed.

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