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The Beast of Stornoway

Chapter 5 - Van

Van sighed as he stared at a massive spreadsheet full of expenses and a pile of invoices next to him. He hated doing this tedious work. Data entry was for the birds. This was why he needed an assistant.

He poured himself a glass of whisky, taking a drink. This was the only way he could get through this shite. He leaned back in his plush leather chair and looked at the numbers on the computer screen. He had a fucking headache.

He'd been working in the fields during the day and doing this horrid administrative work at night for the last two weeks. Benny seriously needed to hurry up and hire a damn assistant.

As if on cue, Benny opened Van’s office door holding a manila folder in his hand. He tossed the folder on Van’s desk, causing him to raise his eyebrow at Benny.

Van frowned. "What's this? Please tell me it's not another invoice."

"That's your new assistant; she'll be here on Monday," he curtly replied. Benny had been annoyed with him since Doris had left. Constantly grumbling about managing the house and managing Van's life again.

"Her name is Amani Blake, and she's American. Please don't muck this up." Benny sighed as Van raised his eyebrows.

"Thank you, Benny." Finally, an assistant.

"You're welcome. This is the last time I will hire another assistant for you. I'm getting too bloody old for this, m’Lord. So, make it work." Benny huffed, turning towards the door and closing it with a slam.

He had really done it now. Benny only swore when he was really pissed at him. Van knew he was difficult to deal with, but he might be kinder to people if they weren't so damn predictable and selfish.

He picked up the plain folder and opened it to find a picture of a young woman with a honey brown complexion and black oversized round-rimmed glasses over her doe brown eyes. Her straight dark brown hair was smoothed to the side in a neat bun. He rolled his eyes at her cheerful brown gaze. She looked just like the others, the only difference was that beautiful complexion of hers.

He smirked. She may have had nice skin, but he was sure she'd be prim and proper. Too prissy to get dirty or come near any of the farm animals. He’d try not to drive this one away, for Benny's sake.

As he looked over her resume and her qualifications, his phone began to ring. He looked at the caller and a slight smile tugged at his lips. "Hamdi, what do I owe this honor?"

"You know me, just checking on my mate. I'm flying into Edinburgh on Monday. I'll be there for a couple weeks, and thought I'd see if we can meet up."

Hamdi was his best friend and only friend since childhood. He was the son of a business mogul so they'd always been in the same social circles and went to the same prep schools. He had taken over his father's business like Van, but Hamdi was far more outgoing than Van. While Van would rather stay on his farm and isolate himself from social gatherings, Hamdi was a full-fledged socialite.

"Maybe. I've got a new assistant arriving on Monday. An American," Van scoffed.

Hamdi chuckled. "You had to sucker an American to be your assistant, now? What's her name?"

"Amani Blake."

"Great name. Do you know where she's from?"

"Yeah, I'm looking at her resume now. She's from Detroit, Michigan."

"I like her already. You got a picture of her?" he asked as Van chuckled, snapping a picture of her photo and sending it to his friend.

"Oh, she's cute," he said a moment later.

Van looked at her picture again, raising an eyebrow. "You think?"

"Yeah, those eyes are something else. But is she going to attend engagements with you?" he asked his voice filled with slight concern.

"Probably. All the other ones did. Why?"

"Well, she'"

Van frowned. "What does that have to do with anything? You've never had any issues," he said, wondering why Hamdi would say that. He was Egyptian. He had darker skin.

"Mm, that's because I've got money. I grew up in this world, and I still get a few looks, if you know what I mean. Just don't be surprised if she's not well received by the Mionlach. They may act like they're tolerant of us, but it's just a facade."

Van scrunched his face in disgust. This was just another reason he didn’t care to socialize, especially with the Mionlach.

"You know I don't give a fuck about them. That's not going to be a problem," he said.

"Alright, well, not that you would, but don't catch feelings for Miss Blake. That would be a disaster."

Van let out a bark of laughter. "I don't catch feelings, Hamdi. I haven't in a very long time, and I'm not going to start now," he said, looking at Amani's picture again. She wasn’t his type, anyway. He didn’t want another prim and proper materialistic woman ever again. But Hamdi wasn’t wrong; she was kind of cute.

"Good, mixed race couples are a definite no in our circle."

Van laughed. "Have you forgotten that your wife is white?"

"Yeah, but we don't have blue blood, like you. You're a Lord. If you started dating out of your race, the Mionlach would tear Miss Blake apart. To them, she's only good enough to be the hired help in our world."

Van felt his blood boil at that statement. He hated the Mionlach. They were a small group of the UK's 1%. They were some of the world's richest individuals with more money than sense. And they acted like they were a bunch of philanthropists, but he'd seen the looks some of them give Hamdi and his wife, Marie. As if their relationship was impure.

He wasn’t sure why it bothered him so much that Hamdi made that comment about this woman he didn’t’ even know, but it pissed him off. He looked at her picture again. Her eyes were so bright and so pure. She was innocent. He wouldn’t let them treat her like some kind of peasant.

"Van? You alright? You went quiet. Stop planning the massacre of the Mionlach." Hamdi laughed, knowing this kind of stuff bothered Van. They were always getting into fights in prep school because some of the kids would call him racist names.

"Yeah I'm fine. You know I don't like that shite." He shook his head in disgust. "Why do you and Marie still tolerate them? Why don't you avoid them like I do?"

Hamdi sighed. "My business depends on it, and you're hardly avoiding them yourself. You may get out of a few gatherings, but you've got your mother. Lady Blarcum will always rule you, my friend."

Van knew his friend was right. She kept holding the manor over his head if he didn’t attend the engagements she wanted him to.

His father left his wealth and his business to Van, but left his mother controlling owner of Blarcum assets. She technically owned everything. When she wanted something from him or she wanted him to attend an Mionlach gathering, all she had to do was threaten to take the manor away from him.

She'd done this more times than he could count. She knew the manor was the one thing he cared about more than anything. He could care less about being stripped of his title or losing his portfolio of businesses. But if she took his farm away from him, it would kill him.

"You're quiet again, mate. Did I strike a nerve?"

"No, just thinking about what you said," he murmured. "There’s no escape from the Mionlach, is there?"

"Not really." He chuckled. "Remember when we said we'd never be like our parents, that we'd never get stuck in this damn ring of the wealthy?"

He laughed. "Yeah, I remember, now look at us. Anyway, I'd love to see you, mate. It's been too long."

"For real. I'll clear my schedule and come visit my last week in Scotland. You and your new assistant should be somewhat acquainted by then, if she hasn't quit."

Van grinned. "No, she has to stay. I can't do this to Benny again. He'll kill me."

"Alright, then be nice to her, Van. No tormenting her with your damn horses like the last one."

Van smirked. "Doris annoyed the fuck out of me. I was happy when she quit."

"Whatever. Just be nice to Miss Blake. I've got to finish packing. Oh, Marie will want to come with me too. Is that alright?"

"Of course. It’ll be good to see her. Safe travels, Hamdi. I'll see you in a few weeks," he said, hanging up his phone.

Van looked over Amani's resume again, ignoring the pile of invoices, favoring learning more about his new assistant instead.

She had a bachelor and master’s degree in psychology. She was on a few research projects. She was a published researcher under a few well-known psychologists in the field. He frowned looking at her past employment. It didn’t match up with her extensive qualifications.

He knew she could be so much more than a personal assistant. She was far more qualified than his previous ones. She may have looked like the typical candidate, but she might not have been like his other assistants.

He looked at his watch. It was midnight and he needed to be up in a few hours to tend to the farm. He turned off his computer, picked up the folder and his glass of whiskey and went to bed.

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