The Billionaire's Mask (mask #1)

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Chapter 1

Chapter 1



"You shall never enter Master Brandon's bedroom nor his study. He's not a very patient man. No one is allowed to enter his room. You can do whatever you want in the house, but, never go inside his room unless you are permitted to do so. Do you understand?" Madam Lennie warned. It was clear in her pale, cerulean eyes how serious she was.

The hair of the head housemaid was ash-colored and seemed as if it had been tied in a bun forever. She had a strong complexion and stood about five-feet-five-inches tall. I guessed she was probably in her late fifties.

“I understand, Madam.” I gulped and responded with a nod. “I just want to ask…”

“Yes, Miss Hart,” she prompted, acknowledging the hesitation in my voice. We had stopped in the middle of a long stairway.

“Um, I’ve noticed the painting in the living room. Is he the Master?”

The features of the man in the painting were hard not to remember: dark hair, chiseled jaw, piercing gray eyes, perfectly-aligned nose, thin pinkish lips, and an utterly stoic expression. Kinda hot, actually.

She turned to meet my gaze. “One more thing,” she said severely, “that is the last time you will ask me that.” Then she turned away.

Was that a yes? I swallowed again.

The ambiance of the place was turning gloomy. The darkness of the entryway and its incessant purple drapery added up to a creepy feel. So the Master never came out of his room and no one had seen his face. But the big question was why? Was he allergic to sunrise? A vampire? Did he have an immune deficiency? The house itself was too huge for just one person. Was he Dracula? I wanted to know, but I managed to shrug my curiosity away. As long as I didn't cross paths with the Master, I was going to be okay. I decided to stick to the kitchen and do my job quietly.

I graduated from The Art Institutes International in Kansas City, with a major in Culinary Arts. I’ve always wanted to become a professional chef. Well ahead, I was given a chance to work as a food taster in Palazzo Franchetti, a restaurant in Venice. Now, here I am in this incredible manor house as the newly hired assistant cook. Bravo, Alayna! What an excellent choice of profession.

I sighed as I followed the head housemaid to the inner part of the house. There, it didn’t seem gloomy at all. In fact, it was lively. Even the walls were painted in white and cream. Yet, there was an intimidating number of doors, each identical, making it look more like a hotel than a private home. Never good with directions, I started to worry about getting lost.

After a long walk, we stopped by the only wood-colored door in the passage. Madam Lennie took a bunch of keys from her pocket and chose one with a unique design. “The Master wants you to use this room. You’re fortunate. This room is usually reserved for special guests and it is the largest room in this passage. I don’t have any idea why he wants you to use it.” she said as she unlocked the door. She then handed me a key similar to hers. “Here's your duplicate key,” she explained. Her expression was still blank. Does she even know how to smile?

"Thanks, Madam. I'll just put my things inside." I smiled, wondering if she was going to smile back. Predictably, she didn't.

“I'll meet you in the kitchen in one hour and show you your station.”

"Thank you," I nodded then opened the door.

I walked into my room, dragging my luggage behind me. My eyes widened the moment I lifted my head. "Goodness gracious! This room is for a princess!" I exclaimed then cautiously lowered my voice, anxious someone might have heard me. I started to look around, stunned at the realization that I was meant to be alone in such an enormous room. Truthfully, I didn't need so much space, but was incredible!

Though the house was undeniably vintage, the room was impeccably modern, judging by its bright and colorful decor. The curtains weren't purple, but baby blue and the queen-sized bed bore yellow floral patterns and fluffy looking pillows. The room had a TV, two speakers, and a mini-fridge, but the thing that startled me most was the MacBook glowing on the desk. Quizzically, I wondered if I was allowed to use it.

Considering the extravagance of the room, I had to check what was up with the bathroom. Thinking of magazines, I expected to find a classic claw-foot bathtub, something I could relax in. Wrong. It was a Jacuzzi! I wanted to collapse in amazement!

For a lowly assistant chef, it was all too much to take in. But who was I to complain? The Master was probably being generous to compensate for his gloomy lifestyle.

Ann Margarette

Edited: 05.09.2019

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