”Let me get this straight. You woke up in THE PAST, THREE YEARS EARLIER after your stepmother KILLED you? ” Tessa asked, over the bubbling noises of the jacuzzi. ”That is AMAZING! Like a sci-fi story! ”
She was literally bobbing up and down in the bathtub. ”I mean, of course, what happened to you was tragic, ” she trailed off.
After escaping from the hotel, the girls retreated to Malory Towers, the tallest skyscraper in the city, owned by the Graysons.
Their first stop was Tessas master bathroom on the forty-fifth floor. The girls felt they deserved a break after the horrors encountered earlier that day.
The bathroom had a glass-bottomed spa bathtub with Amazonian crystal sides. With Pietra Firma tiles, a champagne ice wall, and double vanity bidets, it was an exhibition of filthy rich. There were two walk-in showers, a double massage couch, and super-chic mirrored furniture.
The bathroom was of cantilever design, floating out of the main building. Walls were entirely made of tinted glass, offering a jaw-dropping view of the city. One could take a shower while looking down on a million people. The principal attraction, however, was a retractable roof for stargazing. Nothing beats a salt bath soak with a glass of wine under the open night sky.
The teen billionaire had good taste.
Tessas bathtub was sizable enough for eight people. However, at the moment, she and Ashley rested their naked bottoms on opposite ends, enjoying the warm rush of water from the jacuzzi jets.
”Yes, that is the long and short of it, sci-fi or not, ” Ashley replied, with her eyes closed. ”Gosh, I like your bathtub better than mine. ”
”You mean, your bathtub in this building? In the future? Which floor did you live on? I mean, as Jakes wife. ”
”The fifty-first. ”
”Wait! We have only fifty floors! ”
Ashley nodded her head in agreement.
”Well, after I married Jake, he spent a quarter billion dollars on adding another floor to Malory towers. ”
”So cool! ”
”Not cool, Tess. It was more like a prison for me rather than a gift. ”
”Oh! Sorry about that. I cannot believe my brother would turn abusive. He is not that kind of person. ”
”I told you, it is all part of Scarlets game. The devious little bitch! You know- she had a recorded IQ of one hundred fifty in high school! I had better grades than her, but she was like this crazy scientist, likely to invent something freaky in the future. Instead, she focused her intellect on making my life a living hell! ”
”Now that I think about it- Scarlet is the better candidate for CEO of Palmer Industries, ” Ashley added. ”I lack the cunning and ferocity needed for the job. There is nothing she cannot achieve with manipulation and planning. Moreover, now, as CEO, her purse is thicker than ever. ”
”It seems almost as if you admire the woman who ruined your life, ” Tessa observed.
”Kind of, yeah. Now that I have a birds-eye view of what happened. I admire her tactics, no matter how horrifying the results were. Nevertheless, it is high time to show her who the big sister is! ”
”Awesome! What next? ” Tessa asked as they stepped out of the bathtub and walked into a shower.
”Tessa! ” Ashley called out. ”Turn up the volume! ”
The eighty-inch OLED TV screen on the opposite wall was tuned into the local news. A reporter talked on, with Hotel Marigold in the background.
Tessa pressed a waterproof panel in the shower, and the volume increased.
||| Authorities have confirmed that there was a burglary in one of the suites. The police are investigating potential leads. |||
”This is bullshit! ” Ashley cursed. ”They made the bodies disappear and staged the place to look like a burglary! ”
”This is scary, Ash, ” Tessa agreed. ”By the way, it seems weird to ask, but why did they kill me in your timeline? ”
Ashley pulled Tessas cheek.
Timeline, huh? That is some sci-fi jargon right there.
”Because you make me happy! ” Ashley shouted over the shower. ”And Scarlet is hell-bent on changing that. ”
”Aww, ” Tessa whimpered, hugging Ashley. ”You are the sister I never had. ”
”Speaking of sins, I had to lie for you, ” she added. ”I texted my brother that I had to visit my gynecologist, and you agreed to accompany me. A valid excuse for you missing your date. ”
”Good thinking. ” Guys will travel with you to the remotest corners of the world, but ask them to tag along to the gyno clinic- they will turn around and split as if it were Armageddon.
”So! ” Tessa inquired, washing Ashleys back with a sponge, ”What next? ”
”I have a plan, but we will need help. A lot of help. ”
”What kind of help are we talking about here? ”
”Professional services. The best that money can buy. I have made some calls, and an hour later, I am expecting some guests. ”
”Umm, Ash, you need to stop being vague. What services? What kind of professionals? ”
”Aces. From corporate law. From private security. Finally, we will need an investigator. ”
Tessa paused the sponging and leaned in to speak closer to Ashleys ears.
”We have a retainer lawyer, Ash. A security team is with us at all times. In as much as, why the hell do we need a detective? ”
Ashley turned around to wash Tessas back.
”The Grayson corporate lawyer also works for Palmer, ” she explained. ”Scarlet has him under her thumb. Her goons knocked out your security guard in the hotel, remember? It clearly shows how dispensable your team is. We are completely clueless about the attackers, and we need some concrete information to plan ahead of time. Should I go on? ”
”Fine! Fine! You don have to treat me like a kid. ”
”I wouldn dream of it. ”
The girls exited the shower and toweled each other off.
”I wish to have a body like you when I grow up, ” Tessa murmured as she stooped to wipe Ashleys moist hips. ”You have the shape of a supermodel. ”
”You are a beauty, ” Ashley replied, turning around and tickling Tessas perky body. The teen giggled and backed away.
”But of course, once we put this problem to rest, I will introduce you to my trainer. ”
”Okay, now tell me, do you have an office? ”
”What did you think? ” Tessa scoffed, handing a bathrobe to Ashley. ”I am a twenty-five percent shareholder in the company. Furthermore, I run several nonprofits. ”
”There is a pretty swanky office on the twentieth floor, ” she added with an air of pride.
”Perfect! ” Ashley said. ”I will find something to fit me in your wardrobe and meet you in your office ASAP. Inform your secretary that we are expecting guests. And for Gods sake, dress like an employer! No jeans and t-shirt, please! ”
Tessa made a face at the suggestion but finally agreed. Ashleys wish was her command.
Half an hour later, the duo was behind a desk in Tessas office. Both were in collared button-ups and trousers.
Compared to Jakes office, Tessas was futuristic. It had white paneled walls, a smart desk with three curved monitors, and galvanized odyssey chairs.
Tessa was a sci-fi enthusiast from the looks of it. There was no liquor bar, while a modest cafeteria lurked in the corner. Light beamed in through oval-shaped windows. The lounge space was spacious, with a floating walk-in garden. It took some time for Ashley to take it all in. The little girl was quite the interior decorator.
”I wanted to ask you something. ” Tessa began.
”Go ahead. ”
”How do you feel about– ”
”You killed someone, Ash– ”
Ashley took a deep breath and bit her lip.
”I am yet to process it. However, if you ask me right now, I felt nothing. Nothing at all. At that moment, my sole concern was to protect you. If I had to do it all over again, I would not think twice. ”
Tessa was almost teary-eyed. Ashley extended her hands to pull her cheeks.
”No more cheek-pulling! ” the eighteen-year-old complained, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. ”We are partners, okay? ”
”Okay, ” Ashley agreed, ”Partner. ” A twenty-five-year-old and an eighteen-year-old would make quite the team.
There was a knock on the door, and Tessas secretary, Dmitri, walked in. The latter was a greasy-haired youngster, fresh out of Yale. Tessa had hired him for quite a fortune. He was worth his wage though.
Dmitri could make mincemeat of analysis reports and balance sheets. At the same time, he was sensitive enough to take care of pets, babies, and stuffed animals.
The secretary held a document folder in one arm and carried a kitten in the other.
The cat hopped down from him and skittered towards Tessa, whose face lighted up.
”Leia! ” Tessa exclaimed, picking up her pet. ”You missed me? ”
”Miss Grayson. Miss Palmer, ” Dmitri announced, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. ”There is a Mr. Elijah Wood in the waiting room. He says he is a corporate attorney. ”
Tessa and Ashley exchanged glances.
”Send him in, ” they said together.
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