Chapter One

Elena always had the same dream.

She could not remember a time when she didn’t have this dream. Abstract. Darkness at first, then suddenly the feel of ice-cold arms wrapping around her, pulling her to the surface.

To the surface of what, she didn’t know. She wasn’t drowning. There was no water around her, and yet she was being pulled upward. She was struggling to breathe. Someone was holding her, helping her, but she couldn’t see the person. She couldn’t hear a thing.

Her perception shifted. She saw shards of colors—brilliant icy blues, bright vibrant reds, and through them a deadly silence.

Then she woke up.

Her moods were always unpredictable when she started her day waking up from this particular dream. Some days she was melancholic, others anxious, sometimes happy, but never, ever calm. And today, of all days, Elena needed to be calm. Today, she needed to have her head in the game and not on some stupid dream.

“Stay awake,” Elena told her reflection in the mirror.

She had just stepped out of the shower and was applying her makeup. The same reflection she saw every day stared back at her; a raven-haired girl with an oval face, straight narrow nose, green almond-shaped eyes, and full lips—the upper lip faintly downward-turning. She was pretty, but not what Elena would call beautiful.

Elena peeked out of the bathroom door to check the clock on her nightstand. It was 7:17 a.m. She was running a little late, but she could make up the time. She pulled the damp towel tighter around her and finished applying her eyeliner. She didn’t rummage through her closet like she usually did, trying to find the right pieces to pair. Instead, she went with the easy, no thought needed whatsoever choice—a dress suit. It was a somewhat plain ensemble, so she slipped on her favorite pair of red-soled heels to make a subtle statement. Then she brushed out her long black hair, put on her mother’s opal ring, ate a quick bowl of cereal and headed out the door.

Elena didn’t realize she had forgotten the file until she was halfway to work.

She was twenty-three minutes late by the time she drove back home to retrieve it and walked into the office. The receptionist gave her a stern look but Elena ignored her, as well as the group of people she could half-see inside of the conference room. She walked straight past the receptionist and down the various halls to her office, praying no one noticed her. When she finally reached her door, her secretary was waiting for her with a cup of hot green tea in her hand.

“You are a godsend, Amelia. Has she asked for me yet?” Elena’s tone was hushed and she quickly stepped into her office, motioning for her secretary to follow.

“No, but Ms. Marjorie’s been calling and asking for you every five minutes,” Amelia said, and took a seat in front of Elena’s desk, giving her a knowing look before sitting down. “She wants the expert’s report and the spreadsheets you finalized last night.” After a brief pause, she added, “they started sniffing around about twenty minutes ago.”

“Did you kindly remind Marjorie that there are PDF copies of the expert report in the computer?” Elena was finding it very difficult to keep the annoyance out of her voice, and she would have to get that in check before walking into the conference room for the morning’s scheduled deposition.

Elena was a second year junior associate at the firm of Callas, Moraitis and Galanis. Ms. Marjorie was Ms. Callas’ secretary; a position she apparently thought made Elena her personal lackey. This morning’s deposition would be a document intensive affair, and Ms. Callas would be taking the lead. It had fallen on Elena to prepare the spreadsheet summarizing the documents for Ms. Callas to refer to during the deposition. The spreadsheet had been complete for weeks, but as usual Ms. Callas insisted on a myriad of last minute changes—at 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon. To make the changes on time, Elena had taken home a file full of documents to work with through the night. It was that file of documents she had left at home earlier in the morning.

With a resigned sigh, Elena set the file down on her desk and took the cup of hot tea Amelia offered. Tea for Elena was a religion; it reminded her of the most vivid memory she had of her mother, who had died when Elena was just seven years old. Born in Japan, Elena had lived there until both of her parents died in an accident. Her father had been an urban planner working for an American firm in Tokyo, and her mother an artist and sculptor. After her parents’ death, her mother’s childhood friend, Cataline, took Elena in. Elena’s earliest memory was of her mother preparing tea in a room overlooking their garden.

“I reminded her about the PDF copies on the computer,” Amelia’s voice interrupted Elena’s thoughts, “but Marjorie insisted that she couldn’t find them, so I had to print them out myself and walk them over. Ms. Callas knows you were late, although she didn’t technically ask for you. They’re waiting for the spreadsheets. The deposition is set to begin in less than thirty minutes.”

As always, Ms. Marjorie couldn’t be counted on knowing anything other than the latest office gossip, and god forbid Ms. Callas go onto the computer herself to find the file. That was Elena’s job—secretary, personal assistant, courier, and lawyer last. It wasn’t unheard of for Ms. Callas to call Elena to request retrieval of a file that happened to be located immediately outside of Ms. Callas’ office. It was too logical for her to ask Ms. Marjorie, whose desk was less than twenty feet away from the file cabinet, and so it somehow became Elena’s job to walk halfway across the firm to Ms. Callas’ office and pull the file herself.

That was only one of the many reasons Elena hated her job.

“Thanks for holding down the fort, Amelia. I guess I better head down there.” Elena took several sips of her tea before she began to rummage through the file, as if she would somehow find a solution to her problem there. Of all days to be late, today was not the day to do it. It didn’t matter that she had never been late before; Ms. Callas wouldn’t care. With a heavy sigh, Elena grabbed the file from her desk and began the dreaded walk to the conference room.

At least she had on a nice pair of heels; the day’s only silver lining.

Elena wasn’t paying attention when she opened the door to the conference room, and she slammed right into someone. At least it felt like a slam; she didn’t have a running start and she definitely wasn’t that strong so it shouldn’t have hurt, but Elena felt as if she’d ran into a wall. For a minute, there was dead silence in the room. Elena could almost hear the collective breath, and then everyone was moving and talking all at once. The person Elena ran into, however, hadn’t moved an inch. He just stood there, unnaturally still.

Over his shoulder, Elena could see people moving towards them; Ms. Callas and a few others couldn’t be bothered. Ms. Marjorie appeared out of nowhere to Elena’s left, demanding the finished spreadsheets. Elena wanted to scream. This place was like high school, but with a more lethal variety of bullies. Standing up to these bullies was like cutting your nose to spite your face; Elena couldn’t afford to get fired, not with bills and the exorbitant amount of school loans she needed to pay.

The file was on the floor, a casualty of the collision, and papers were sprawled everywhere—and with Elena’s luck entirely out of place now. She needed to start picking up the mess, but she couldn’t because the man she ran into was blocking her way; for what reason Elena didn’t know, because the man remained completely silent. There were no apologies, feigned or otherwise, and no attempts to help Elena retrieve the file, not even an “Are you ok?” The man just stood there. Silent.

“Excuse me,” Elena managed to whisper, anxiously tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she looked up to meet his gaze.

Elena was surprised to see he was so young. He looked around her age, in his mid twenties, and didn’t look like any lawyer she had ever seen. He was dressed impeccably, in a slim-cut suit and tie. He even wore a pocket square. He was tall and very slender, which added to the intensity of his overall presence, but it was his face that floored Elena. He was fair skinned, so much so it reminded Elena of snow, so pale, you could almost see a shimmer of blue beneath the surface. His features were fine and sharp. He had a Greek nose—perfectly straight and narrowly defined—and his cheekbones were pronounced. His lips were beautifully proportioned, something she rarely associated with a man, and his eyes were a pale icy blue. His hair, worn short, was a pale blonde.

His eyes met Elena’s only briefly, and he regarded her with a stoic indifference that left her reeling. Then he turned away from her, stepped around her and was gone, not a single word passing between them; only silence.

**Copyright © Eva Vanrell, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material contained in this blog, including but not limited to the characters, plots, settings and contents depicted in this Prologue, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Protogenoi Series

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