Grace Vandell couldn't believe her own bad luck. She must be cursed. How else could anyone explain this?
Imagine – you leave your job in hopes of getting a better one. But your boss turns out to be the ex-boyfriend you stupidly and heartlessly dumped in university.
Really. She had the worst luck.
And she couldn't even begin to explain this to the man who sat before her – the design director who had no idea about Grace's history. He thought she would totally get the job. He had complete faith in her. Little did he know…
Her day had started very differently.
Grace had come into the design director's office feeling actually excited! She loved design so much. This job would be perfect for improving her skills; this company did so many cool, unique designs. But what she didn't know was that the design director was preparing to throw a whole bucket of ice-cold water on her plans.
She said hello, sat down and immediately picked up the design catalogue on his desk. They showed all the company's special projects.
The design director, Nate Hughes, nervously played with some useless reports. Damn it all, he hated giving people bad news – worse if he had to tell a pretty girl something sure to make her day worse.
He looked over the papers in his hands at the pretty girl in question. Grace Vandell's delicate heart-shaped face was glowing with excitement. Her striking blue eyes were basically sparkling. And damn, all she was doing was looking at a design catalogue. She must be passionate about this stuff.
Thinking about that did not make Nate feel better at all.
Grace Vandell – right, that was her name. She was a really talented jewellery designer. And she was basically promised a job here by Nate. Unfortunately, as of this morning, it was a promise he probably couldn't keep.
Nate sighed and put down his papers. He said, "Miss Vandell, we need to have a conversation."
Grace looked up and smiled, all dimples and crinkled eyes, and said, "Oh, call me Grace. We'll be working closely, after all."
"Uh, right. About that…" Nate said nervously.
Grace's smile dropped immediately. "Oh no, what is it?"
He sighed. "This morning, I got the news that our company was basically bought by a bigger company. It was finalised yesterday. Have you heard of Baron Jewellers? Well…that makes new hires and even the jobs of current employees a bit…unsure. So, I can't promise you a place here, Grace."
Grace sat back with a worried frown. She wasn't angry at Nate. He probably hadn't known anything about it. She bit her lip, trying to think clearly.
She really, really didn't want to be unemployed, though! The thought of it made her hands cold. She tried to cheer herself up and said, "I hope my CV will win your new boss over. You did say I had an impressive career!"
Nate nodded hard. "Yeah, yeah, there's a huge chance you'll still get hired. It's just not a guarantee. God, I'm so happy you're not upset at me."
Grace shook her head and smiled brightly. Poor man must've been worried. ‘Luck for him,' thought Grace, ‘I'm just not the grudge-keeping type.' What was the point of making Nate uncomfortable? "So, Baron Jewellers…they're new, aren't they?"
"Yes," Nate agreed. "They've really gotten big, though. Led by a genius like no other, or so I've heard. Some dude named Felix Barone."
Grace felt the smile freeze on her face. No, not just her smile. Her whole body became cold. "What? Wh-what's his name?"
"Felix Barone. Why? Have you heard of him?"
The sounds from Nate's mouth seemed to come from far away. Grace sat back, feeling something twist in her chest. Oh wow. It was just a name, but she could feel her entire body reacting to it.
That was the moment, the second when her whole day changed. All her excitement and hope died completely.
She tried to breathe the tension out, but the name just brought flashbacks – a pale, betrayed face. Rain. The sound of thunder far away.
"Grace? Hey, Grace!" the voice brought her back to reality. She sat up straight, staring wide-eyed at Nate. He was half out of his seat, about to walk over to her.
Grace waved her hands at him to stay in his seat. She stood up, filled with nervous energy. "Sorry, sorry! I just..um…" She thought frantically for an excuse. "I just realised I've heard of him. Yes. Um, he's strict about new hires. I've heard from other people. So…he might not hire me."
Grace laughed at herself. He probably won't. How could he? Felix Barone definitely hated her guts.
Nate whistled. "Oh, damn. That's not good."
Grace laughed again. "Yeah…yeah, that's not good."
Nate stood up, too. He looked genuinely worried. ‘He must be a good and caring man,' thought Grace. ‘No need to make him worry and tell him the truth.' The design director put his hands on her shoulders.
"Okay, don't freak out. I promise I'll speak on your behalf," he said with a gentle voice. "Go home for today. Rest up and try not to think about all this. I'll call and let you know."
Grace nodded. She took her bag and left the building. But, honestly? She felt like she was in a daze.
She kept bumping into people and losing her way at times. In her head, she kept remembering little snippets of her university life. A meal she'd shared with…someone special. A familiar laughter. That terrible rainy day…
It was when she went home that panic finally seized her. She undressed, got into a bath and almost dunked her head fully under water. ‘Stupid, stupid girl,' she thought sulkily. Why had she been so stupid and hurtful when young?
Felix Barone was a familiar name alright. He was her ex-boyfriend. But that label was not enough to describe everything she felt. It felt wrong to call him that.
She'd been unable to date anybody else after him. How could he be an ‘ex' when she still felt like part of her was back there, in the times she spent at university with him?
And yet she'd been the one to break up with him. Grace had left Felix alone and rejected. The reasons for that…she didn't want to think about that now.
"Felix, Felix, Felix," she said to the ceiling while leaning back in the bathtub. She couldn't let his name have so much power over her, right? Not after these seven long years. She was saying his name to get used to the sound, so she wouldn't freak out after hearing it again.
She said it again, softly, "Felix." No, it only sounded more special. More loved.
That's when the phone rang. Grace stumbled out of the bath, almost slipping because of her wet feet. She leaned against the wall in her room, picked up her phone from her desk and pressed the green button. It was Nate.
"Hey, Grace," he greeted. "Got home okay?"
"Yeah, yup. Um, yes," was her elegant reply.
"That's good!" he responded. "Listen, the boss invited a bunch of us to a work party. It's an icebreaker event for all the senior designers, directors, managers. And guess what? You're invited! You know what that means, right?"
Grace let out a huge breath. She could barely say it, but forced the words out anyway. "I'm hired."
"You're hired!" Nate agreed, sounding much happier than Grace.
"Wow," Grace said, unable to say anything more. She couldn't even think.
"Yes, I know. I didn't even have to speak on your behalf. So be there, okay? You'll meet the team, not to mention the boss, too. Even I'll be meeting some new people from Baron Jewellers original design team. But you'll get the newbie special treatment."
"Th-thanks," she managed to say. "That's very nice of you guys."
"No, no, it's for all newbies. I'll text you the details." The call ended. Grace could only stand there, a little bit in shock.
She better get used to his name. She was going to meet Felix Barone, her ex-boyfriend and current boss, tonight.