COPYRIGHT © 2018 Miu
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the Author.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All pictures and multimedia used are not the author’s work and doesn’t claim any legal rights.
MATURE CONTENT and VULGAR words not suited for young readers below eighteen (18) years old.
Eric blinked, he even rubbed his eyes before he arranged his glasses parked on his nose. But still, the image of a lazy, elegant man, standing in front of his door, still dominated his entire view.
The man was lean with a posture of a true noble, complete in vest and tie underneath a silvery blue cashmere coat.
“Can I help you?” Eric was surprised to see Alvaro this close so early in the morning at his front door though his face remained impassive as ever while his tone didn’t give anything away.
Not answering, Alvaro lazily brought out his ash container and casually put out his cigarette before shoving back that container inside the pocket of his coat.
“Do you have a minute? I have something important to tell you,” he asked, face welcoming and friendly.
On alert, Eric didn’t let his guard down. He didn’t know why his guard was always in full gear whenever he was facing this man. He had a rough guess what the subject was, and the only thought in his mind was Evangeline since she was the only one linking him and the stranger.
“Alright,” Eric simply said.
Eric was wholly dressed even in the early hours of six in the morning since he had to go to work early on the weekend. Thus, he and Alvaro left right then and there.
“Mind if we take my car?” Álvaro asked, all in a gentleman tone.
Eric’s face remained stoic as he answered almost in a robotic tone, “It’s fine,” he said while eyeing the striking, drool-worthy ashen blue Lamborghini.
Álvaro smiled, yet Eric could feel the mirth in his eyes was not real.
“Let’s go then.”
Eric kept on stirring his tea. Cold sweat trickled his back. He had an ominous feeling the moment Alvaro stopped in front of Snow Café. He thought he would ask him to stay away from Evangeline or threaten him like the way Asher was doing to him.
However, Alvaro Cole was nothing like Asher Cole, who used brute force to get his way. The man in front of him was level headed. A man who was showing neither his true intentions nor give anything away from his calm and kind face. A man he didn’t want to make an enemy off.
It was already ten minutes since they made themselves comfortable on the second floor of the café, yet they remained stagnant. Every passing minute, the temperature dropped, making it harder to breathe.
Parting his lips, Eric wanted to break the thick, impenetrable barrier of ice between him and Alvaro, but the latter beat him to it.
“What do you think about this café?”
“. . .”
The sweat which was about to freeze on Eric’s forehead gradually thawed. He masked the surging threat he felt with indifference and innocence.
“It’s okay,” he answered, pushing back the uncomfortable feeling with a gulped from his tea.
Chuckling, Alvaro observed Eric, who was pretending to be unaffected. He slowly stirred his tea, took a sip before putting down his cup. Playing with his teacup, he appeared lost in thought. Like he was mesmerized by the dancing liquid inside his cup. He crossed his legs and leaned back on the soft cushioned seat, looking very comfortable, and at the same time, elegant. Even the modest interior of the café turned majestic in his presence that Eric’s brows briefly twitched.
“You know . . . ,” Álvaro started. “I, too, have tasted this kind of flavor before. In my country, in BlackPine. This man, I think his name is . . . Dimitri, an energetic young man. Orphaned at young. Took his journey from rags to riches and became a tycoon in the agricultural industry. An interesting story, really. Then I came to visit him this one time for a partnership since I heard he was a fanatic in producing the best tea and coffee in the world. This man loves coffees and teas, you see. And you know Evangeline also loves teas, so I wanted to have a share of his produce. Offered him double, even triple the market price . . .”
Eyes on his tea, Alvaro spoke so nonchalant as if he was telling a bedtime story. And his soft, somewhat droopy eyes narrowed while his piercing gaze gradually halted towards Eric sitting opposite him.
“And do you know what happened next?”
Eric didn’t answer. He was busy fighting the emotions that were gradually destroying his composure.
Chortling, Álvaro continued, somewhat disappointed that Eric could still maintain his façade.
“He rejected my offer. Saying the tea and coffee he produced were for his leisure only and didn’t have any plans of selling it to anyone nor anybody.”
Alvaro interlaced his fingers and leaned towards Eric while tilting his head to the side as he continued his one-sided conversation.
“You know, I’m not particularly amazing. I was never the straight-A student. Never the honorary one. I don’t have any particular skills which will put me out from the rest. However, what I have, and very confident of . . . is my memory. You see, once something caught my attention, it will remain in my mind forever. The taste, the smell, the experience.”
Alvaro smiled, yet his eyes were sharp, clouded by his usual gentle front. “Now . . . what I want to know is and very curious to know . . . why does this tea taste exactly like that one I had together with Dimitri? The tea which was supposed to be explicitly for his personal enjoyment only.”
“And . . . why only Evangeline could purchase a share of this café, I wonder. I tried to purchase but got rejected almost instantly by the management. And do you know what’s the most curious of all? Almost all of Evangeline’s favorite flavors of teas and pastries are sold here.”
Alvaro propped his head on top of his interlaced fingers and smiled. “Tell me, don’t you find it strange? Or rather, you must really love my cousin for you to build this café for her. Am I right, Eric Phelps . . . ? Or should I call you . . . Ericson Philippe Frizkiel?”
Eric’s tightly held calm and indifference totally broke, whereas his face turned grim. His silvery eyes constricted. The nerdy, weak countenance he upholds disappeared while his entire persona and character contested with the elegant, confident man sitting opposite him.
In a short time, his silver irises, which were a dot steadily regained its normal shape while his gaze shifted towards his tea, appearing unconcerned and unperturbed. Gently stirring his drink, his thin lips remained unmoved as he neither denies nor confirms Álvaro’s allegation.
Alvaro didn’t mind the other’s lack of response and continued, “The Frizkiel family, a family who founded Frizkiel country. Develop it from a barren wasteland of snow and ice into a country of fire and gold. You can say that they are like the invincible Empire controlling the country in the dark. Only a handful of people know about them. They are almost like a myth due to their unique customs and traditions of pushing their young into the abyss.”
Alvaro chuckled, glancing at Eric, who was still playing with his tea, full of unclouded calm and aloofness.
“Fascinating, really, their customs and traditions. You see, I have a little knowledge about it, being a Cole and all. From a young age, their children would undergo this identity change. Put in an orphanage, forced into labor until meeting a certain quota. Usually, it will even take them almost thirty years to reach their quotas through their own efforts until they are granted their families inheritance and would be able to return home. Such . . . traditions. It’s quite fascinating . . . Cruel even. But the result . . .”
“The Frizkiel Empire grew and grew. Compared to most families who declined because of their useless children, the Frizkiel tempered their young by pushing them to feed on their own. And the result, those who survived and completed the challenge were extraordinary individuals. They have power but doesn’t abuse it. Wealthy, yet not greedy. These people were influencers yet humble and one of a kind, for they know what it was like to be an ordinary worker. Empathized with the common peoples’ ordeals. A leader who knows what it’s like to be a follower.”
Alvaro’s playful gaze turned serious. “It was hard, investigating your background. Everything was hidden quite well. There was no hole to exploit. No gap to investigate. No actions for suspicion. But . . .”
Papers flew on the table and scattered all around for Eric’s view.
“All it took was one little connection, and the rest was easy.”
Eric’s eyes, which regained its calm, increasingly turned sharper once more when his gaze spot a familiar name on those scattered papers.
“At first, I too had a hard time cracking your identity. However, in this world, there is no such thing as coincidences. From all your part-time jobs, the one thing which gave away your cover is this name.” Alvaro then pointed at those lines of letters on the paper.
“There is nothing wrong with it at first, but gradually, I found something . . . interesting. This man, Mike Lantis, at least owns a share from all the establishments that you’ve been working, as well as, Dimitri Hernandez . . . Or should I call them, Michael Lancelot Frizkiel and Dimitri Herald Frizkiel. Your brothers.”
Leaning against his chair, Alvaro’s fingertips skimmed his jawline. “I never would have thought that you came from a very prominent family, Eric. It was even rumored in our circles that Frizkiel had long dominated the northern world. Wealth as vast as the oceans. Power, immovable as the mountains.”
“At first, I was hesitant whether my conjectures were right because there are some shops your family doesn’t own and yet you are working in there. Like that convenience store for example . . . And a realization hit me.”
“Those places you chose to work here in Burberry, they are the places that Evangeline frequented. *chuckle . . . You really are a stalker, huh? Well, I can’t blame you, Evangeline is a woman worth that much trouble.”
Eric, who was quiet from start to finish, finally retracted his eyes from his cup and slowly leaned on the couch. Propping his head against his hand, his voice remained aloof as always.
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