Written by Princess Juliet
�Wake up, Princess. It is morning already.�
Atarah heard a familiar voice whisper in her ear and a warm feeling coursed through her vein, energising her. Slowly, she opened her eyes and found Jayden staring down at her with those cute ocean-blue eyes that drives her crazy.
A slight blush rose to her cheeks and she turned over on her side and mumbled something she hoped sounded like a greeting.
Jayden�s chuckle was low and soft as he leaned over and kissed her forehead lightly. �We need to get out of here asap.� He murmured and only then did Atarah remember that she was getting discharged from the hospital that morning.
�Finally! A breath of fresh air.� Stretching her arms and yawning, she leaned forward to rise.
�Have you signed the necessary documents?�Her eyes slowly travelled down Jayden�s body, taking in his chiselled chest, and his long slim legs and coming back to his face.
Jayden nodded faintly, his smirk the only outward sign of emotion. �You�re fully discharged, Princess.� He reassured her and Atarah couldn�t be more pleased. She was sick and tired of the disgusting antiseptic smell.
�Good.� She climbed out of bed with a smile on her face and started toward the bathroom.
�Tarah.�Jayden stopped her, his voice gruff but levelled.
�Where are you going?� He asked, his expression unreadable and Atarah let out a quick breath, almost a scoff
�To the bathroom.�She answered his obvious question.
Jayden shook his head. Of course, he knew she was going into the bathroom. �You can�t do that here.�
Atarah raised a questioning eyebrow at him
�We�ve got no time.� Before she could protest, he picked up her backpack and walked out through the door.
Stunned, Atarah was speechless for a brief moment, and then she slid her feet into her pink slippers and walked behind him out of the room, down the hallway and outside to his car. She was acutely aware of the fact that all eyes were on them and this made her nervous and a bit sweaty.
Hastily, she opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat.
�Are you all right?� Jayden asked noticing the deep frown lines on her forehead.
�Yes.� She closed the door behind her and sank into the seat with a heavy sigh.
Jayden glanced at her but said nothing. Starting his car, he sped down the road and bounced into the highway leading to his home.
They arrived at the mansion somewhere around mid-morning. Jayden slowly backed his car into the garage and cut the engine.
�Let’s go in.� He whispered and leaned over the back seat to grab her backpack before opening the door and stepping out of the car.
Atarah mimicked him and closed the door behind her. Reluctantly, she followed him into the sitting room and her heart caught in her throat when she saw his father sitting on one of the smaller sofas.
�Oh no! The devil himself!� She hid behind Jayden so he wouldn’t see her and Jayden almost burst out laughing at her naivety and childlike behaviour.
�Good morning dad,� He greeted his dad coolly. Trent shifted his attention from the television and smiled at him. �Morning son…..�His voice trailed off into silence when he noticed Atarah and he frowned at her. �What is she doing here?� He demanded
�She is here to stay with me.� Jayden bluntly replied, much to his father�s annoyance.
Trent stared at him in utter shock. �You want to accommodate a criminal?� Try as he might, he couldn’t understand his son or whatever was going on in his head.
�She is not a criminal.� Jayden half yelled and Atarah flinched at the cutting acidity in his voice. �That is enough, Jay.�She patted his arm, trying to calm him down but Jayden was too angry to listen.
Impulsively, and without thinking, he shoved her aside. She staggered a little before regaining her balance.
His eyes flashed angrily and he stepped forward to face his father. �Call her a criminal one more time and I swear on my mum�s grave that you�ll regret it.� Gosh! What was he even saying? He was trying so hard to control the rage burning within him.
�But her mum is to be blamed for your mum�s death.� Trent spat out, irritated by his son’s sense of reasoning.
�Nah,� Jayden shook his head and smiled wryly at him. �You got it all wrong there. You and your dearest wife are to be blamed for my mum�s death. You both ruined this family and you both deserve to be punished, especially her…….�He paused in mid-sentence when he heard a shuffle behind him�a half�choking gasp or cough and moved his head sideways, Greg was standing at the foot of the stairs, looking so startled and bewildered.
�D**n!� He gnawed his lip and swore silently under his breath. He hadn�t bargained for this sh*t at all.
Coldly, and without looking at Atarah, he passed her backpack to her and muttered. �Go to my room.�
She nodded wordlessly and ran lightly up the stairs, her heart thumping wildly in her chest.
Greg scoffed silently. �Isn’t her staying here with us gonna be a little awkward?�
�Then perhaps I should just move away from home.�Came Jayden�s clap back as he glared at his brother.
�That wouldn�t be necessary.� Trent quickly intervened, much to Jayden�s surprise but he didn’t show it.
�And why, if I may ask?� He asked instead.
Trent pondered a moment before replying. �Because we are family.�
�Oh yeah!� Jayden sarcastically commented.� Tell me that only when your wife�s head is hanging on the gallow.�
Greg gasped at his words. �That is a harsh thing to say, Jayden.�He scolded his younger brother but Jayden didn’t care one bit. There was not a trace of remorse on his face at all.
He was acting like a brat, yes! But his stepmom deserves a punishment worse than death itself. With a nonchalant shrug, he trotted up the stairs and when he entered his room, he found Atarah curled up on the bed, sobbing softly.
He completely ignored her as he was in a foul mood and proceeded to take off his clothes.
�Are you…going somewhere…today?� She struggled to speak through a hiccup and her tears.
He nodded. �I�m returning to the hospital.�
�Then I will come with you.� Atarah jumped at the opportunity to leave the house with him. She was scared of his family, most especially his dad.
Jayden didn’t say anything to that. He simply walked into the bathroom and absentmindedly stepped into the bathtub. In his mind, he was still pondering the same question-� Why it had to be her, why it had to be them.
With slow and careful steps, Nancy alighted from her car and walked into the old and dilapidated building. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest as she entangled herself in the sticky cobwebs which were draped over the door�s metal frame.
Terror washed over her, raising the fine hairs on the back of her neck.
The dim-lit house was like the Sahara desert on a cold night. Old, shredded curtains hung from windows left and right, foreign liquids dripped from ceilings unto the dusty marble floors, and ancient chandeliers hung from the wooden ceilings, almost breaking off.
� Holy jeez!� She stood there for what looked like hours and blinked blankly at the terrible sight before her. �Out of all the places in this big city, why did Mrs Hobsons insist I meet her here?� She couldn�t understand the woman at all.
With a deep breath, she trotted forward and screamed. �Hello, is anybody here?� But all she heard was the echo of her own voice and the colour quickly drained from her face. She couldn�t do this anymore, no�Never!
She turned around to leave, but then a hand gripped her wrist hard. She screamed.
�Hey, it�s me.� Mary hissed angrily and Nancy clamped her mouth shut on hearing the familiar voice.
�Oh my god, Mrs Hobsons!� She clutched her chest and let out her breath in a sigh of relief. �You scared the hell out of me.�
�That�s because I was being careful.� Mary looked around anxiously to make sure no one followed her then she asked. �Did you tell anyone about me?�
Nancy shook her head slightly in response
�Good.�She smiled inwardly but maintained a straight face as she went straight to the point. � I want you to rush your wedding with Greg.�
�But why?� Nancy was taken aback by her sudden demand.
Mary’s smile was wry as she gazed up at her face. �That�s the only way my son can take control of your father�s hospital.�
�Then you must be sick in the head if you think I�ll agree to that.� Nancy looked at her with disgust and anger. Gosh! How could she have been so dumb to trust the witch? She silently cursed at her own stupidity and started toward the entrance.
�I guess you are ready to spend a couple of years behind bars.� Mary stopped her, her jaw tightened and her voice low and threatening.
Slowly, Nancy turned around. �What are you talking about?� She looked genuinely confused.
�I have proof sweetheart,� Mary made no attempt to conceal the desperation in her voice.�Proof that you contacted me, proof that you are my accomplice.�
�But you contacted me first, ma.�Nancy could feel her knees shaking with terror, but she put on a bold front and glared at her. �I�m not your accomplice, criminal and you know that.�
�Tell that to the police.� Mary had the self-satisfied smirk of a woman who knew she was in power and enjoyed watching her subordinate cringe. �I�ll make sure to help you out without leaving a single detail out.�She threatened and Nancy caught her breath in a startled gasp.
�I�ll do it.�She was on the verge of breaking down like hell and was desperately trying to hold back her tears. �I will marry Greg as soon as I can.�
�Not only that.� A triumphant look appeared on Mary’s face and Nancy looked at her rather too sharply. �What again?�
�I also want you to use your family connection to make trouble for Atarah and her mother.�
�And how will I do that?� Nancy almost yelled out, but then she thought against it.
It will be of no use.
With her hands trembling, she reached into her handbag for her phone and put a call through to her aunt who was a reporter for a popular media house.
�Hi, Aunt May! I have an interesting story you would want to hear. It’s about Maria Jones, the real murderer of Matilda Hobsons.
Mary smiled a tiny secret smile meant only for herself. Everything�s going according to her plan.
~~~~~~~~~~The Hobsons mansion~~~~~~~~~~~~
It was not until half-past eleven that Atarah finished getting dressed. She had spent almost an hour in the bathroom washing her hair and scrubbing the smell of antiseptic off her body.
Jayden didn’t complain, he didn’t even seem to mind. He patiently waited for her till she buckle up her sandals before asking. �Are we good to go?�
Atarah nodded her head in response. Satisfied with her outfit, she stared at her reflection in the mirror and smiled faintly. �How do I look?�
Jayden�s gaze travelled down her body as she bent over the bed and stretched for a maroon sweater. D**n! The dress she wore was so tempting. It clung to her body, bringing out her curves and accentuating her features. �Isn�t this gown too short?� He queried her on an impulse.
�Is it?� Atarah stared down at the gown but saw nothing wrong with it. The red knee-length gown covered her body properly and complimented her white low sandals.
Jayden saw her hesitation and knew that his query was pointless. Without another word, he picked up his car keys and walked out through the door.
Atarah ran after him, screaming his name but he didn�t respond. Eventually, she caught up with him and they climbed down the stairs together and walked outside to his car.
Jayden held the door open for her. When she climbed into the passenger seat, he closed the door behind her and tuck his phone in his pocket before walking around the car and sliding into the driver seat.
He jammed his boot on the accelerator and sped down the road leading to the hospital.
Hobsons hospital was basically a few minute’s drive from the mansion so they got there in no time.
Jayden swerved his car into the parking lot and cut off its engine. They both got out of the car and were greeted by a shocking sight.
A crowd of reporters rushed out of nowhere to surround them, blocking their path and asking numerous questions.
Atarah was too stunned to hear whatever they were saying. She held onto Jayden�s hand tightly, as if to ask what the heck was going on.
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, but before he could say anything, a female reporter pushed her recorder in front of him and asked. �Is it true you are in a relationship with the daughter of your mum�s killer?�
What? Jayden�s head snapped up and he eyed her icily. �Who is feeding you guys with all this nonsense?� He thundered angrily but the reporter just smiled and faced Atarah instead.
�Are you by any chance related to the murderer, Maria Jones?�
Atarah froze to the spot, her face twisted with pain. She opened her mouth to say something, anything at all but no word came out. Unable to take the humiliation anymore, she turned around to run but Jayden caught her hand and drew her to him.
�Let me go, please.� She cried in muffled sobs against his chest but he didn’t budge. He held her tightly in his arms and protected her from the flashing lights of the cameras.