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Twenty-eight-year-old playboy Ralph Van Halen has always lived life on his own terms. As a founder and Production Head of JC Group Inc., one of the leading Fashion Houses in the country, he lacks nothing. His stunning good looks make him one of the most eligible bachelors on the Forbes list. However, he doesn't believe in love and relationships. For him, a no strings attached fling is the way of life. What happens when Ralph hosts a campus interview at one of London's leading Technical College and meets Raven Porterfield, the stunning twenty-year-old? His world turns upside down as he gets very attracted to her. He recruits her as a trainee in his company. However, he soon learns that Raven has a boyfriend and is a very dedicated and good girl. She doesn't trust the likes of Ralph at all and is determined to remain true to her boyfriend. Will Ralph forget Raven? Or will this new feeling turn into an obsession for him? What will Ralph do to get Raven?
Chapter 1 - Prologue
Thank you for selecting my story.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of my imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Rituparna Darolia.
All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author.
“Wait for your punishment, Raven. You lost the bet, and I lost my chance with Mason Holden,” said a displeased Katherine Reed, who was Raven Porterfield’s best friend. They both were twenty years old, pursuing a B. Tech degree in Apparel Production Management at London’s premier, Coventry College Of Fashion.
“What punishment? C’mon Kate, it wasn’t a serious bet,” said Raven, with a look of dismay on her face.
“It’s a shame that Mason got himself a girlfriend before you could confess your feelings to him, girl,” said Mary Ann Harris, another classmate of theirs, supporting Katherine.
“So what punishment should we give, Raven? Hmm, think guys,” said Jeffrey Lee, Mary Ann’s boyfriend, also in their class. Two weeks back, they had a bet about whether Mason Holden was straight or not. He was sinfully gorgeous, yet he showed no interest in any girl. Kate had a crush on him and the possibility of him being disinterested in girls had her worried. However, when Mason introduced his girlfriend, Mia Bradshaw, to his closest friends before the last class, it broke Kate’s heart.
It was lunch break, and they arrived at Little Cafe, a busy cafe adjacent to their campus, which was their regular meeting place. It was always bustling with students from different departments at any time of the day. Outsiders hardly arrived at the madhouse and there was always a shortage of seats. Kate sulked and blamed Raven since it was her theory that Mason wasn’t into women. She chided herself for listening to Raven!
“I know what Raven can do,” started Sabrina Riley, who was famous for her weird ideas. Raven groaned and stood up, refusing to endure their crazy ideas.
“When you come up with something, tell me. I’m going back to class.” She dreaded what Sabrina might ask her to do.
“You aren’t going anywhere, Raven. Sit and hear out your punishment.” Raven looked at the angry look on her best friend’s face and sighed.
“Look, Kate. So what if he has a girl? He’s not married to her. You can still show him you care. Pursue him,” said Raven to save herself from Sabrina’s ideas.
Raven was a very down-to-earth, practical-minded girl who preferred to stay away from all the craziness. Her parents were computer engineers and had a software development firm of their own. They were disappointed at her lack of interest in computers and always tried to prove to her how Apparel Production and Management was a waste of money. Being their only child, they had high hopes for her, which were all dashed the day she chose her own field of study.
“Whatever, you lost the bet, so be a sport and accept your punishment,” said Kate. Raven sighed, knowing that there was no escaping the punishment that Sabrina would now have for her.
“Kiss the first guy who enters the cafe wearing a suit,” said Sabrina, and everyone cheered in agreement while Raven’s jaws dropped with horror.
“No way, guys, I already have a boyfriend. Come up with something else, please,” said Raven, thinking about the infuriating Frank Bradley, whom she had been dating for the last two years. Their parents were close, and she had known him for the last ten years.
“Do you call him a boyfriend? You guys haven’t even kissed,” said Richard Fox, another batch mate of theirs.
“Of course we did,” said Raven, glaring at Richard. She remembered the pecks on her cheek that Frank gave her every time they met. He was in his fourth year, studying medicine, and hardly had time to meet her.
“Oh c’mon, we know your equation with Frank. Now, back to the punishment. Do what Sabrina said else for the next six months, you would pay our food bills at college,” said a sulking Kate. Raven shot her a look. Why was she behaving like a drama queen? As if Mason would have married her if she had confessed!
“Look Raven, you are quite safe with this punishment. You know no one wears a suit here. The professors hardly come here,” said Mary Ann, and Raven grinned at her with relief. She was right, actually! No one ever wore a suit here, so she might just get away with doing nothing at all.
“Okay, chill, everyone. I’ll do it,” she accepted, at last, shooting a look all around her. As she had expected, the place was teeming with casually dressed students.
Her friends cheered. “Yay! That’s the spirit, Raven. Your time starts now,” said Jeffrey. They sipped coffee as they waited for some suit-clad guy to enter. After fifteen minutes, Raven looked at her friends.
“Done?” she asked with a smile of relief on her face.
“No, ten more minutes,” said Sabrina, checking the time on her mobile phone. Raven again sat watching and waiting. Ten more minutes and she’d be free from her punishment. Busy scrolling through her mobile phone, she looked up when suddenly Sabrina nudged her and silently gestured towards the entrance to the cafe. All her friends sat frozen like they had seen some ghost. Raven turned her head to see for herself what the matter was.
Her eyes popped out at the sight of a gorgeous stranger, in a checked navy blue suit that accentuated his tall, muscular frame. Where did this creature come from? Then she remembered the punishment she had to do now.
“I don’t believe this!” she said with shock.
Sabrina pulled her up as she gaped at the drool-worthy creature.
“Go,” muttered Kate with a giggle, seeing the expression of dread on her friend’s face. Raven muttered curses at her bad luck. The man looked like he just walked in straight from some fashion magazine.
Raven slowly walked towards him, praying that her ordeal would be over and she could just disappear, never to see him again. The man’s eyes suddenly fell upon her as she approached him. He stood rooted to the spot and kept watching her like a hawk. Raven colored at the intense gaze of his green mesmerizing eyes. God! This was torture. Why did he have to watch her? She could have just kissed him and escaped before he realized it.
Raven went up to him while he stared down at her with hooded eyes. She colored even more while her heart raced like lightning. Why did the man have to be so damn tall? Avoiding his hypnotic gaze, she simply stood on her tiptoes and attempted to plant a kiss on his cheek. However, as bad luck would have it, the man turned his head, and the kiss landed on his soft, warm lips instead.
Before she could escape the scene, his fingers tangled in her hair and he claimed her lips hungrily. A gasp escaped Raven’s mouth, and he took advantage and plunged his tongue into her delicious mouth, tasting her thoroughly. There was silence in the entire cafe as everyone watched the strange drama.
He released her suddenly, and Raven staggered backward, her face flushed with disbelief. Not in the frame of mind to face anyone, she just ran out of the cafe in embarrassment. Her friends called after her, but she didn’t listen to anyone.
“Raven, wait,” said Mary Ann, feeling bad for her.
“Raven, we’re sorry, wait,” said Richard, but she didn’t wait to hear their apology. What made her agree to such a thing?
Why did the man have to steal her first kiss? She had saved it for Frank. She touched her throbbing lips, still swollen from that passionate kiss. Who was she bluffing? She had no idea that a kiss could be that passionate. She could still feel the minty taste of his mouth, leaving her tingling all over. Thankfully, no one was around when she reached her classroom. Breathing in and out deeply to compose her steady nerves, she sat down and closed her eyes. Despite trying hard, she failed to drive away the memories of the kiss from her mind. This was real torture! Thankfully, she would never meet him again. She opened her book and tried to divert her attention, but with no success.
“There you are,” said Kate. “I’m sorry, Raven,” she said apologetically.
“Please leave me alone,” she said, disappointed at her friends. They could have given her a different type of punishment, but no, they had to think of the worst possible punishment for her. She felt like she betrayed Frank’s trust in her.
“I never imagined that you would really have to do it, Raven. I’m sorry,” said Sabrina, sitting beside her.
“Can you guys please leave me alone? I’ve done what you asked me to do,” she said, getting up and going to the washroom. She checked her flushed face in the mirror. She was really looking thoroughly kissed.
“The campus interviews would start in five minutes, Janet, hurry,” said a voice from outside the washroom.
“Yes, in a minute,” said the girl, busy touching up her makeup.
“What campus interviews?” Raven asked her.
“Don’t you know?” asked the girl and Raven shook her head. She had no idea what was going on apart from her studies.
“The Production Head of the leading Fashion House, JC Group Inc. would conduct campus interviews at our college. They are looking to induct interns into their company. In five minutes, the interview and screening would start at our auditorium. It’s open to all. I’m retouching my makeup for it,” she said with a nervous laugh, walking away, swaying her hips more.
Raven rolled her eyes at her. An internship sounded good. Her parents wouldn’t have to spend their precious money on her useless education if she got the job. So she walked out of the washroom towards the auditorium, determined to try her luck.
Chapter 2 - The Challenge
Raven reached the auditorium and, opening the door, went inside. The place was already full. It surprised her that nearly the whole college was there to go through the interview. She found an empty seat and sat down, watching some distinguished-looking men interact with the head of their college placement division. They all looked professional in their formal attire!
“We will conduct a written impromptu test right now. Please fill in your details carefully in the form we will distribute. There will be a question paper too provided to you with five real-life situations and you need to explain how you would deal with each one of them. You have 30 minutes to answer and please adhere to the word limit specified. We would select only 10 of you for the interview. Those who are still interested may remain seated while the others may leave now before the door closes,” announced a volunteer.
Raven saw that nearly half the students rushed to leave, scared at the mention of a test.