tagRomanceAxiom Ch. 01

Axiom Ch. 01


It was a busy Monday morning, and the long line of weary faces at Costa proved the point. Aidan waited patiently, going through his emails on his Blackberry as he stood in line. Realizing that the queue was being held up longer than usual, he looked up from his phone to see a blonde woman in a suit, sheepishly rummaging through her bag for some loose change.

"I'm so sorry, I'm sure I have it in here somewhere."

The cashier rolled his eyes, contempt written all over his face, and tapped his foot impatiently as the flustered woman struggled to find the cash for her morning coffee. Irked at the nonchalance of others, Aidan was reaching for his wallet to help out when the brunette in front of him beat him to it and kindly proffered the necessary quarter. The blonde woman thanked her, grateful at the simple gesture of kindness, and he watched the brunette laugh off the situation with a friendly grin. That's when he noticed that she was very pretty.

She had the clean, sharp features that were so popular with high street models these days: deep set eyes, defined brows and a perfect nose. But while the models were dead set on looking bored, glum and just plain cool, her face carried a smile with such ease. He would've kept looking, but his phone buzzed angrily with a new email, and after shooting back a quick reply, he looked up and she was gone.

By 11 in the morning his temples were throbbing. The draft of papers needed for the Heyland acquisition were a mess, littered with poorly crafted clauses and overtly gimmicky language -- but worse still, he was in one of his moods. Clicking about revealed the criminal who authored the offending document -- a certain Gwyneth Kenner. He'd had a bad morning, and wanted to defuse, so he picked up the phone on the desk and punched 0. "Lucy, please send me -- Gwyneth Kenner. Thank you." Scrolling through the document revealed a progressively expanding mass of absolute gibberish, punctuated by the timely knock on the door. "Come in." And that's when she stepped in.

This was Gwyneth Kenner? The brunette from coffee this morning? She stood in front of him, her hands placed awkwardly behind her back, as she greeted him hesitantly. He was surprised, but it passed in a heartbeat -- the blood pounding in his head a reminder of the ghastly document on his computer.

"Right, Ms. Kenner. I have here a copy of your work for the Heyland file, and I just want to know what the fuck you're trying to do over here, because for the life of me, I don't see a reason for you to still be on this team." His voice sounded like bullets being fired out of a gun.

Shock rippled through her pretty face, although she remained composed, and quickly became puzzled. "But..." she paused "...but I'm not on the Heyland file. I'm with the Brooks and Whitmore merger, and have absolutely nothing to do with the Heyland account."

"So would you mind telling me why your name is on this document?" he swiveled the screen to face her. Bewildered, her eyes scanned through the document, widening at what she saw, her frown deepening as she went along.

"This...isn't my work." she scrolled through rapidly "I've written this part before. Months ago. This was for the RBS fund project -- but - how -"

She was clearly at a loss for words. Aidan leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair. "Of course. Plagiarized document. And the birdbrain who did this didn't have the brains to fucking change the author's name on the document," he punched at the phone again. "Lucy, who is updating me on the Heyland file? Gavin Cross. I see. Thank you." He hung up. 

Gwyneth closed her eyes. Of course it was Gavin. Scheming little bastard. Pretty boy could never get anything done right, and trust him to have leeched a file off her computer when she wasn't looking. She rolled her eyes and breathed sharply, unwilling to face the man behind the desk. The atmosphere in the room couldn't get any more awkward as she stood there, feeling wrong footed -- like a child being chastised in the principal's office on mistaken grounds.

He broke the silence. "Well, I'm terribly sorry about that," he said, in a much warmer tone. "It was very rude of me, and I take full responsibility -- and I'm sure the original work was well worth copying." He gave a wry smile. She half-smiled in return, too terrified to reply, and hastily excused herself from the office. 

Holy hell. Aidan Scodelario was every bit as intimidating as she'd heard about. The prized son of the firm's founding family -- educated at both Oxford and Yale, he had a reputation for being one of the brightest minds in the legal field. His summer internship at Bear Sterns rocketed him to fame, even though he was all but nineteen of age - and as he sat for his final exams, he was already consulting major banks on the finer points of floating stock trades and investment bonds. But that wasn't all about him. 'Demanding' was the word most commonly used to describe him -- having been around the brightest minds since his school years, he expected no less from the people he worked with, and the icy glare he gave so freely earned him the office nickname Berg -- short for iceberg.

Being alone in the same room as him for the first time, and being so coldly interrogated by him allowed her to understand why he was so terrifying. He had inherited his father's ice blue eyes, a blue so pale they were almost crystal, accentuated by his uncharacteristically high cheekbones and a strong, angular jaw. Seeing that face clenched taut in anger had scared her into a stuttering, stumbling mess, something completely unlike her real self, and she had to admit that he was a force to be reckoned with, beyond the office myth.

She staggered back to her desk, still shaken by the experience. "Oooh," Dylan Foreman, who sat in the desk opposite hers, leaned forward eagerly, "What'd he say to you?"

"He thought I did the Heyland forms and asked me what the fuck I thought I was doing. And believe it or not, I think that was his opening sentence to me."

"Whoa, that's pretty brutal," he nodded, making a sturgeon face. "But wait, you're-"

"Yup. Told him that, and get this -- Gavin took my agreement for the RBS deal last year and worked his magic on it, " she paused for effect "then submitted it to the berg." Dylan's face lit up in a grin of disbelief.

"No way!" he chuckled "Well it could've been worse," he offered, trying to console her.

"Trust me, it was bad enough on its own. The man's a living nightmare. I mean, would it kill him to not be so intimidating every once in a while?"

"Oh come on, he's not that bad."

"Oh, really? How about you go into his office and help me get some files I need? I mean, since you're not scared of him at all..."

"Not a chance in hell. You know, I'm pretty sure if anyone was going to be Batman, he would be. He seems just like the type who roams the night as a vigilante, beating bad people with high tech gadgets..." he made punching motions in the air. "Just sayin'."

"So...you're saying that I just got yelled at by Batman?"


"And how is any of this relevant to anything?"

"It's not," he said innocently, taking a sip of his coffee as he did so "just voicing out a cool point."

"You're a poster child for ADHD, you know? Sometimes I wish there was a way I could take a look into that psychedelic little head of yours."

"This psychedelic head," he tapped at his temple, "memorizes Tolstoy verbatim. And kicks your ass at Call of Duty. Is that the green-eyed monster I smell? Bam!"

She rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her laptop. For all his idiosyncrasies, Dylan was one of her closest friends. They'd met in law school, where they discovered that they both grew up in the same neighborhood, and have been best friends ever since. Upon graduation, they both applied to Lynch, Scodelario and Ackham -- one of the largest law firms in the country -- and negotiated their way into being seated beside each other in the office. Through the many years of their friendship, everyone they met commented on how cute they were together -- but the friendship never progressed beyond a purely platonic one, and it became apparent that it would be that way forever.

Thursday afternoon was sluggish -- she was waiting, with increasing agitation, for an email that was supposed to have been sent an hour ago -- and she wasn't feeling too productive. Utterly bored, she decided to browse through one of her favorite websites, the one for a nearby art gallery, and a notice for an upcoming exhibition caught her eye. Excited, she began clicking and scrolling through the multitude of photos on the site, until she had a feeling that she was being watched. She looked up at Dylan, who looked back at her with wide, unblinking eyes.

"What's up?" Gwyneth asked.

"The Miyami collection, apparently," a deep British male voice answered.

She spun around in panic to find Aidan standing behind her, hands in pockets, staring at her with a blank expression. She quickly closed all windows, heart pounding through her chest and fear running thick through her veins. "I'm very sorry," she said coolly, "and I promise it won't happen again, sir."

"I wouldn't worry about it," he remarked with a trace of amusement in his voice as he walked away. "Carry on." After he left, Dylan drew a line across his neck with his finger, making slicing noises as he did so. Gwyneth pulled a face at his gesture, before flipping him the bird and burying her face in her hands. What a day, she groaned, pinching her nose bridge. As if to taunt her, the computer beeped brightly. "New E-Mail Message Received."

She glared at the screen. "You have got to be kidding me."

A few hours later, she was typing furiously, pausing only to take deep gulps of coffee when Dylan popped by her desk. "How's work?" She sighed, leaned back and stretched her hands, popping her knuckles as she did so. "Killer. What about you?" He shook his head, his long curly hair tumbling back and forth.

"Such a fuckup. Dinner soon?"

She blew out a deep breath and thumbed through a thick stack of papers. "Apparently, meals will have to be a luxury I cannot afford," shrugging her shoulders, "but you have fun. Get something in you, you look beat."

Out of habit, he ruffled her hair as he was leaving. "I'll buy you a sandwich or something. I know, I know, whole grain, no tomatoes, extra mayo. And oh," he turned to face her while walking backwards "the berg wants to see you in his office." He held up his hands and raised his eyebrows to indicate I-don't-know-why, and rushed off before she could question him.

Staring at herself in the bathroom mirror, she re-tied her straight hair into a fresh ponytail and tugged at her shirt in an attempt to make herself look more presentable. She could feel her insides sinking already, dreading every step to the door of his office, towards an almost certain doom.

He was engrossed in his work when she rapped on the door.

"Come in."

She shuffled in awkwardly, the tension visible in her gait. "You wanted to see me?"

Aidan looked up, and his face brightening as he saw her. "Ah, Ms. Kenner," his voice was friendly, a stark contrast to their prior meeting. "Please, have a seat." She settled into one of the plush chairs opposite his, unnerved by the sudden warmth in his demeanor.

"I'm sorry if I'm keeping you at work, and this shouldn't take a minute -- are you in a hurry?" She shook her head no. "I see. Well," he leaned forward, crystal eyes meeting hers -

"I just wanted to apologize, personally, for the misunderstanding that day in regards to the Heyland file. It's been a while since the incident, and my tardy apology in itself makes it a double faux pas. I hope that it will not color your opinion of me." He gave a small, cynical laugh. "Unless, of course, it's already too late. In any case, I'm sorry, Ms. Kenner." He was apologizing about that? Talk about awkward situations with your boss.

"Please, call me Gwyneth."

"Right. Gwyneth." The smile on his face was surprisingly infectious, and Gwyneth felt the corner of her lips lifting. "I'm sorry about my behavior the other day."

She could feel herself blushing. "Mr. Scodelario, it was nothing, really --"

"Please, call me Aidan."

She hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. "Um, Aidan," the name rolled off her tongue experimentally "I fully understand that it was just a case of mistaken identity, and while the apology is a nice thought, I'm afraid there isn't much to be sorry for."

Her stomach clenched as the words tumbled out of her mouth. Why was she drawing out a painfully awkward situation, arguing with a polite apology from her boss? Stupid, stupid, stupid -- she wished desperately for an excuse to leave, any reason at all.

"Well," his voice was all businesslike and formal now "if so, then, please take this as a small token of good will." He held up an envelope made of stiff, creamy paper.

She gingerly took it from his hands and opened it to reveal two tickets to the Miyami art exhibition. She was floored, all the wind knocked out of her stomach, too stunned to react at first, but she quickly stuffed it back into the envelope and gave it back to him. "I...I can't, Mr. Scodelario. Thank you, thank you very much, but I...this is too much."

He frowned and shook his head. "No, I insist -- it's an excellent collection, and you simply cannot miss it."

She opened her mouth to protest, but he interrupted her before she could say anything.

"Look, they're just tickets. Haruka Miyami is one of the pioneers in Neo-Dadaism, and to have his works circle Ameringer Yohe is an absolute rarity - so here's my advice, from an art aficionado to another -- take the tickets. Enjoy the exhibition. Don't just see it from a computer screen." She grimaced at the mention of the incident, but his voice was gentle and persuasive. "Experience it in real life. Don't make it harder than necessary. Just take them."

He held them out again, eyebrows raised, and she couldn't find it in herself to say no, so she reluctantly reached out to take the envelope. "Thank you very much, Mr. Scodelario," "Ah," he pulled the envelope away slightly. "It's Aidan. Mr. Scodelario is my father, so that name can wait till I'm all wrinkled and gray." She smiled sheepishly, and continued to thank him profusely.

As she munched on her sandwich, finishing up with the day's work, she couldn't stop glancing at the envelope tacked to her board, constantly thinking about how odd the circumstances were. But by the time she gathered her jacket and beeped her car open, her spirits were at an all time high and she was looking forward to attending the event.


Aidan had just finished talking to an old acquaintance from Harvard when he spotted her. She was admiring a painting, hands behind her back with her head cocked to one side and he stopped to admire her for a bit. Her outfit was effortlessly stylish -- black jeans, pale ecru shirt and a dove gray blazer with black lapels, finished off with pointy black pumps. She was clearly dressed for off duty, her makeup heavier than usual and her hair let loose.

The spotlights glowed warmly on her hair, making it look glossier than ever. She had a waif-like stature, so delicate and slender he wondered if she would break at the slightest touch. Yet there was a certain coolness in her eyes, a kind of easy grace with which she moved - perhaps she was a dancer? Her hand moved up to tuck a stray tendril of hair behind her ear and his stomach clenched a little. There was something in the way she'd done it that made it seem so sexy - with any other woman, it would've looked like more like vain preening, but she made it seem so casual and relaxed. So natural. In that moment, he ached to try it for himself - to stand in front of her and brush on that part of her skin with gentle fingers.

Gwyneth was lost in her thoughts, marveling at the colored canvas in front of her until he approached her.

"Gwyneth," he said, smiling warmly "glad you could make it."

"Aidan, how nice to see you," she shook his hand. "Thanks again for inviting me. It's been an incredible experience." He could see the excitement in her eyes, her face more effervescent than he'd seen at the office, simple joy bubbling off her skin in a pleasant aura. They both turned to face the painting.

"Miracle 253," he quipped. "One of my favorites ever."

She smiled as she nodded. "Mine too. There's just something about this that's so..." she gestured while deciding on a word "...magnetic. That's it. Magnetic. It's not just the brushwork, or the colors, or the vision. Can't quite put my finger on it, but I can't stop looking at it either."

He looked at her with a blank expression. "I just like it for the colors. Blue, gray, black. Very pretty." He said wryly. She stifled a giggle and hid her smile behind her hand. "So, can I offer you the Aidan Scodelario tour of the place? No drab facts about realism and the deconstruction of society through the paradigm of colors at all that jazz. I'll just point out the ones I find aesthetically pleasing." She was laughing out loud now, relaxed by the easy smile on his face. He could be charming when he wanted to, and he clearly had a sense of humor.

"That would be very helpful, thank you."

As they ambled slowly through the brightly lit gallery, their chatter livened as they went along. They clearly had plenty in common -- similar interests, hobbies and opinions -- and in no time, they were talking like old friends. She was surprised at the ease at which they conversed, and how comfortable she felt with him, considering that just a few days ago he had so sternly rebuked her in icy tones, but he was a different person tonight. Here and now, he wasn't her superior, not her boss, not the berg, but a friendly new acquaintance she was becoming fast friends with.

"Is this your first time here?" he asked, handing her a glass of prosecco.

"I've been here once before - the Barnett Newman exhibition in July?"

"Ah," he nodded in understanding. "I've heard a lot about that one. I was very keen on securing one of his pieces, but they withdrew it from sale at the last minute."

She gave him a sympathetic look. "That's a shame. It would've been such a darling to own."

"Oh well," he shrugged his shoulders. "You know what they say. If you can't get a Newman, settle for Robert Motherwell."

"Or if you're really that desperate, just frame up a blank canvas and tell people it's an Ulzaria."

He threw his head back in laughter. God, she didn't think that he ever laughed out loud like that. "Don't let Simmons hear you," he lowered his voice and pointed at the elderly gentleman a few feet away. "He'll have you burned at the stake for blasphemy."

She stifled a giggle. "Look, you're free to judge me for what I'm about to say - I love art, and I do consider myself to be quite open-minded, but there are some pieces that make me question my ability to be pretentious. Abstract? Sure. But sometimes it's just plain crap. Even if it's neo-destructionalism meets cubist utopia, or whatever you want to call it."

His nose twitched as he tried to stay deadpan. "The appropriate response would be to politely agree with you, stick to my guns and defend the creative young minds that strive to push the boundaries of expression in art." He tugged at his earlobe and leaned closer.

"But I find that I must admit - you're absolutely right. There was this exhibit I went to - and I'm being absolutely serious here - which consisted entirely of plastic phalluses painted in a myriad of colors. I'm no prude, but words cannot begin to describe how uncomfortable I was."

"You're missing the point," Gwyneth feigned a businesslike air, a playful smile twitching at her lips . "It's about the amorphous male form and the ambiguity that enslaves us all."

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