second: VIV

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I opened the door to my apartment and walked in, my eyes glued to the envelope in my hand. My first thought was that I needed some beverage, some black tea. My preferred drink.

My home was a simple, one-bedroom apartment. I hadn't changed it ever since I had moved in five years ago. A small corridor led to the room doubling as bedroom and living room. There was a small kitchen on my left and a bathroom on my right. I went straight to the kitchen and brewed up some tea. While I waited for the water to boil, I opened the envelope, failing to tear it and finally deciding to use a pair of scissors to cut through it. I took out the bundle of papers and my eyes immediately fell on the vaguely familiar name.

Atkinson Association

The billionaire beauty chain's founder was my newest target. She was world-famous. An icon revered globally, and for good reason.

My stomach clenched in anticipation. I removed the saucepan from the fire and poured the steaming liquid into a cup. Strangely, the aroma and tint of tea always managed to comfort me. I plopped onto the couch, placing the cup on the table and lying down as I slowly started going through the many pages.

The first page revealed the photograph of a stunning, smiling woman in a sexy red dress. Probably at some store opening. I whistled under my breath as I studied her. She had wavy, golden hair and grey eyes. A gorgeous smile. High cheekbones. She was stunning. She looked to be around her mid-thirties. The name below read Rosalie Maria Atkinson.

I sat up straight, taking a sip of the tea and letting it warm my throat and penetrate my very senses. I couldn't understand why this assignment was making me more nervous than all the ones before it. Maybe because I knew how highly important it was. When and if exposed, it would cause a scintillating scandal. An international one.

I took a deep breath. Having these thoughts weren't going to help my nerves. I sighed, raking a hand through my hair as I placed the photo on the table. The next page was a newspaper article. I began reading it.

'Atkinson Association estb. 2009 began as a straightforward start-up. It aimed to milk the already booming beauty industry by providing an array of cosmetics, perfumes and even medicines at both affordable as well as luxurious prices to cater to a vast demographic.

Spearheaded by the breathtaking Rosalie Atkinson, The Atkinson Association is today, set to expand their business further and venture into other personal care products as well as clothing.'

Below it was a few graphs and pie charts, analyzing the growth and fall of Atkinson Association. I noticed that its formative years had been extremely unstable. Somewhere, around three years back, it had attained an overnight boom due to the generous contribution of one unknown investor. This had propelled Rosalie to become a billionaire and made her company one of the brand leaders in the fashion and beauty industry.

I studied the charts, trying to figure out some hidden pattern. I couldn't see any reason why anyone would have invested in a company that seemed to be really slow-paced in a highly competitive market.

My head snapped upwards as there was a loud knock on the door. I gazed at my wristwatch and saw that it was almost nine. Pretty late. I hoped and prayed it wasn't Annalise from downstairs and found myself planning passable excuses. I had already used the 'I'm sick,' excuse and would have to rely on 'Sorry, have to wake up early tomorrow,' if she arrived again. She was a little too over-friendly for my taste.

The knock was repeated and I sighed, placing the papers carefully on the table and making my way to the door. I opened it to find Grayson instead, his eyes dark and wary. He gave me a soft smile.

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