London hadn’t changed at all. I didn’t miss the cold winter nights or the chilly air of October early mornings. I never thought I would be coming back to this city again, and yet, here I was.
Everything seemed to be as I remembered. The tall modern skyscraper buildings of The City making a stark contrast to the white opulent facades of the town houses in central London. Tower Bridge, Big Ben, The House of Parliament. All appeared the same. And yet all was different. I was different.
Six years ago I left this place still as a student. Or should I say- a drop out. I never even managed to finish my first year at university. It had become impossible for me to remain or even transfer to another academic institution. It wasn’t like I didn’t try- I did. But the applications all returned with the very same answer- not approved. The reasons given varied, some didn’t even pay me the curtesy of even specifying any.
Not that I needed them to. I knew damn too well why I got declined from everywhere. The answer had one name- Robert. Or should I say, Professor Green. Lord Winfield. The heir of a vast fortune, wealth and unlimited power. His family owned most of the land in central London. Properties, businesses, you name it. They had their hands on everything lucrative and prestigious. Including the university I had been studying at, at the time. This is where I met him. He was one of my professors in Neuroscience. I didn’t know who he was at the time- he had made sure of it. The plan I guess was to seduce me and have fun with me for as long as he wanted me- then discard. Get rid.
The only problem- I happened to accidentally stumble across the whole truth before he could carry out his ploy. He hadn’t predicted the possibility of his father coming to the university building and thus revealing unintentionally the identity of his son. And what identity it was! No wonder he was hiding everything from me. From the playboy past, through numerous model-like blond girlfriends, to multiple affairs and broken promises. The trail of destroyed lives, hopes and dreams that this man had left in his wake was staggering. I remember I felt sick as I was going through numerous pages on the internet with articles on him, with photos upon photos of his smiling arrogant face staring at me, with a stunningly beautiful woman always on his arm.
He was irresistible, the most wanted bachelor in London- and he knew it. And played it well. Of course all this had to end with the accident. The one that got him stuck in a wheelchair. He was driving his latest toy- some crazily expensive car, when he crashed it. It left him paralyzed from the waist down. Of course I didn’t know all this when I first saw him at the lecture hall. All I could remember were the beautiful amber eyes, the masculine jaw, the perfectly sculpted cheek bones and straight nose. This man was beautiful. I could only imagine how attractive he must have been to the women before. The accident had changed him, it was obvious. And therein lay my most crucial mistake- I believed it. I believed he was a changed man.
Of course it wasn’t difficult as back then I had no idea who he was, or what his life had been prior to the car crash. All I saw was a man who was trying to live as best as he could, and to love. Oh, how much was I mistaken. It all became crystal clear when I discovered his past along with the man he used to be. A man I could have never fallen in love with. The familiar face that looked at me from the glossy magazine photos was not the guy I had grown to know and eventually, love. This person was a stranger. And not only that- he was the type of character I would generally avoid at all cost. The arrogance, vanity, egocentric attitude, were all present. He was clearly used to getting what he wanted- always. And this time around- he wanted me. For reasons I still find difficult to understand.
The facts is – I didn’t look like the model, statuesque women he was used to dating. With my brunette hair and medium height, I wasn’t one to basically stand out from the crowd. Perhaps my only very attractive feature were my eyes. He complimented me on them often. They were green, with tiny brown specs scattered throughout the irises. This combination, along with long lashes and the almond shape, gave me somewhat of an exotic, cat-like appearance. So I guess this was my misfortune and why I really hated them every time I looked myself in the mirror ever since. For maybe if I had just ordinary, brown eyes, that didn’t stand out so much, I could have avoided altogether the disaster that was Lord Winfield.
Now, six years later, I had returned to the place I had sworn I would never visit again. Back to the man who had destroyed my life, my teenage hopes and dreams, my career- with just one word of his. I knew Robert was behind all the denied applications. He had connections in all academic institutions in the country and it seemed his influence reached as far as Scotland. After I received a decline from the University of Edinburgh, I knew I was done with trying to continue my degree in the UK. Apparently it wasn’t enough that he managed to destroy my reputation when the truth about our affair came out.
I don’t know if he managed to keep his position and title, but I figured since his family practically owned the university, he most likely was still teaching there. What was my surprise, therefore, when a month ago I happened to come across an article online, with his name plastered all over the headlines.
The air stopped in my chest and the familiar sickly feeling- one that I hadn’t experienced in years, returned with a vengeance. It was as though no time had passed and I found myself looking again at those arrogant amber eyes. The expression on his face- although he managed to hide it within seconds, was still etched vividly in my memory. He was pleading for me to forgive him. To understand why he had lied and hidden his identity. Why he had purchased a flat for our meetings, in order to keep up the illusion of being an average guy, just living off his professor’s salary, completely obscuring the fact who he really was. Who his family was.
I never gave him the chance to explain. I walked away from him. in that very same corridor where we had met for the first time. I didn’t want to hear more lies and I was convinced he would have tried to manipulate me further, had I given him the opportunity. Robert- I mean Lord Winfield, was obviously very experienced with getting his own way. Especially with women. The doubt I felt regarding his intentions vanished immediately when I caught that expression he had on his face. I would ever forget it. Or the moment all became crystal clear to me. In that moment I knew this man had never truly changed deep inside. The veneer of humility, generosity and consideration for others had been just that- a cover up. Beneath it all he was still the same arrogant guy, looking at me from the covers of the glossy magazines. He could no longer have all the best looking models, actresses and socialites – the crème de la crème of London high society. But he could have me- and at the time I was convinced he wanted me. I have no idea why- perhaps the thought of sleeping with a student of his, the thrill of the forbidden love affair, appeared tempting. Whatever the reason, I was sure he would have dropped me the moment he had satiated his curiosity. For the kind of men he clearly belonged to- the spoiled, super rich, high status mega powerful elite members of London society – would have never been able to see me as anything more than a plaything.
Clearly he had no intentions of ever introducing me to his family, or including me in his real life. He had made sure I was kept in the dark, and actually went as far as creating an entire separate life for himself. We didn’t go out together and mostly stayed in, in the evenings. This went on for almost two months. I was practically living at his place by then, he had insisted it would be easier for us logistically. He would then drive to work and drop me off just a short distance before the university campus, so that no one ever knew we were an item. I had fallen hard for him already, so I didn’t really pay attention as to what was going on around me. There had been some inconsistencies in his story, some things that didn’t add up. Had I not been so infatuated, I would have probably been able to spot those much sooner. And maybe saved me a heartbreak and a total career collapse in the future.
Unfortunately, I discovered the truth when it was already too late to salvage anything, not even my dignity. Somehow the secret had come out and I had no choice but to seek a transfer to a different academic institution. It soon became clear, however, that rumors had reached all the bigger universities in England, which drastically reduced my chances of ever continuing my degree in a reputable, established institute. Scotland was my last option, but their refusal of my application came in so quickly, I was certain by then someone was involved. Someone who clearly didn’t want me to stay and finish my studies here.
So the only choice was to leave. Humiliated and with no prospects, I took a plane back home. It took me almost two years to begin regaining some of my old self back. My passion for life slowly but surely was coming back to me. I ended up travelling across Europe for a year, brushing up on my French while making new friends all over the continent. I had been staying with a girl in Nice- someone I met during my travels and who quickly became one of my closest confidants and companions. It was summer and we had been enjoying the Mediterranean outdoors, sunbathing and playing in the salty waters. During one of our breaks, we were drinking cold lattes at a cute local café near the beach, when with my peripheral vision I suddenly caught a sight of something familiar.
The TV was on, they had been playing some showbiz news from St Tropez. I focused on the presenter, not understanding why I felt like I needed to see what they were about to show next. My French still wasn’t perfect and I struggled to follow the quick barrage of words. Suddenly, a name was mentioned- one which I could recognize anywhere. And one that I wanted desperately to be able to forget forever.
Robert Green, Lord Winfield. The famous bachelor was visiting. The next thing that followed was a series of photos and a video of him, accompanied by a tall, devastatingly beautiful woman, exiting one of the famous 5-star hotels on the Riviere. And he was NOT in a wheelchair. I squinted, cursing myself for not bringing my glasses along. The screen was big enough fortunately and there was no way I wasn’t seeing properly. Robert was walking all on his own. He had a cane which he seemed to be using, putting some of his weight on it. And his gate seems somewhat abnormal. He was concentrating on walking, not paying attention to the crowds of paparazzi waiting outside. The woman who was his companion didn’t seem to have an issue with the media attention, however, as she smiled broadly and looked straight at the waiting cameras. She had the polished skills of a professional actress. They looked perfect together, almost like a Hollywood couple.
I was so entranced by what was unfolding right in front of me, that I didn’t notice my friend talking. I wanted to see every detail, to memorize his expression. Unfortunately, their car pulled right in front of the hotel entrance and Robert and his companion soon disappeared from view. At this point the video footage ended and I slowly moved my eyes across the table where my friend was looking at me speculatively. I hadn’t told her every little detail about my past and the man who had hurt me beyond repair, but I think she managed to put two and two together.
“Emma? It’s him, isn’t it?”, I looked her directly in the eye.
“Yes, it is”.
“You are going to London, aren’t you?”
It was more of a statement rather than a question. “Yes, I am going back to London.”
The plane landed with a thud. I grabbed my handbag and prepared myself for the hustle and bustle that was going to follow next. Terminal 5 at Heathrow brought unpleasant memories- ones that I would rather forget. Six years ago I was here again, this time however not arriving but departing. Everything had been a blur, the pain too much to bear. It’s still unclear to me to this day how I managed to gather the courage and strength not to fall apart completely.
Of course the meltdown took place, but much later on, once I was safely in the air, on my way back home. The period immediately after my return was one of the darkest, most terrifying experiences in my life. Something I generally avoided talking about altogether, if I could help it. Today I think of it as a black hole- a gap in my story which is better left uncovered.
The strength of the memories and sensations once my feet touched London soil took me by surprise. Through the ears I had managed to develop some kind of a shield of self-protection, not many could penetrate. Particularly men. For I had spent the time not only recovering, but building myself up. I had lost most of the baby weight I still carried around with me during my student years. The frequent swims in the Mediterranean along with basking in the sun had given my skin a bronzed, healthy flow. I was in the best shape of my life and I knew it.
The final alteration that finished off my complete transformation was my hair- it was now a golden blond. The darker shades of auburn had fully disappeared. In fact, this step was the last one and it took some courage to go through with it. At first I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go that far and change my look so drastically. However, after seeing the recent footage on all TV channels, where Robert was being snapped with a string of Barbie-looking socialites and models, had solidified my decision. If I wanted my plan to work, I needed to go all the way. There had to be no compromises, no risks taken. He had to believe I was the person I was going to introduce myself as. My name was changed, my background story along with all the necessary documents.
To be honest, it turned out to be easier than I thought. This part worried me the most- how was I going to get a job at one of his companies and slowly infiltrate myself into his life. And heart. But the interview went surprisingly smoothly, and soon after I received confirmation of my job application being successful.
Leaving my best friend in France was difficult, but she promised she would pay me a visit in London as soon as possible. Next, I arranged my flights and the flat I was going to be renting while here. It was a very nice small apartment in Knightsbridge. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it, and the landlord was kind enough to reduce the price for me- which was very odd, I must say. I had my misgivings and expected something to be majorly wrong with the place, but it turned out to be even nicer than what I had seen in the photos. So I signed the lease right away.
My plan was running so smoothly up to this point, that I almost felt suspicious something was off. Getting the job turned out way easier than expected, as well as finding a place that I loved AND within my price range right away- which, for London, is quite rare, seemed a little bit too good to be true. But when I shared my reservations with my friend, she suggested perhaps it was a sign fortune was finally on my side- and my plan was going to work out. The man who destroyed my life and my future six years ago was going to pay for it. And I fully intended to make sure he did. Yes, karma is a bitch.
The Kensington flat was even better in reality than those photos I saw when I signed the tenant’s contract. It was rather surreal and almost too good to be true. Maybe, as my friend had said, this was a sign from destiny- that I was indeed supposed to be here and proceed with my plan.
I settled into my new routine much sooner than expected. The company I was going to work for had its headquarters based in the City, however the commute hadn’t been as bad as I was expected. Not only that, but my first day at my new job went brilliantly. My colleagues seemed pretty chilled and very helpful. My immediate supervisor- a girl my age who was the happiest person I have ever seen- made sure I felt comfortable and had everything I needed.
Everything just seemed to click in so easily, I had to pinch myself in order to remind me that this was only a temporary thing and once I managed to accomplish what I came here to do, I would be leaving this place and everyone along with it. The thought almost made me sad- all these people seemed so lovely. I had expected much animosity and hypocrisy. Instead, I got kindness, compassion and genuine friendliness.
But I knew I had to keep my eyes firmly on the goal. Which was to make Lord Winfield, future Viscount Wesley, pay for everything he ever did to me. And so I was going to buy my time and get familiar with my job and immediate surroundings. I didn’t want to attract much attention to myself. So I was going to work diligently, whilst at the same time waiting for the right moment to act. Since this was one of the companies run by Robert’s family, and by now I knew he had assumed the head CEO position from his father, sooner or later he was bound to visit the main office here. And when he did, I was going to be ready. Robert would not be able to see it even coming- and this time around I was going to be the one to have the last laugh.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this sample, please check out my book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HL9VNLQ
to be continued...