Aria sighed as she pushed herself away from her car. The last thing she needed was a flat tire on her way to the office. She looked around, taking in the secluded private road she was on. It was a route she often took to avoid the paparazzi and their prying eyes, but now it seemed like her luck had run out.
She couldn't help but think back what happened awhile ago. She had been at a dinner table with her father, the prime minister, and other government officials. Everything had been going well until she saw something she wished she hadn't. Her father's spokesperson had been caught in a compromising position in the women's bathroom. Aria had screamed in shock, attracting the attention of everyone in the room. The first person to arrive was the prime minister, who was fifteen years her senior.
The image of that moment was burned into her mind, and she could still feel the bile rising in her throat as she remembered the embarrassment of being caught vomiting in front of the prime minister. It only got worse when a journalist arrived with a cameraman, capturing the entire scene on film.
Her heart sank as she thought about the headlines she had seen that morning. "President's daughter pregnant?" The words had jumped out at her from her phone screen, filling her with dread. She clenched her fists in frustration and let out a scream of anger. The tire that had caused all of this only added to her frustration, and she kicked it hard in frustration.
Aria took a deep breath and gazed up at the sky, asking herself, How would they say that I am pregnant? However, her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of her shattered phone a few meters away. It was clear that she had thrown it in a fit of anger. She bit her lip, trying to suppress her rage, and leaned against her car.
She closed her eyes, folded her arms across her chest, and repeated the mantra "Buttercup, Buttercup..." In her mind's eye, she envisioned Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls, her favorite childhood cartoon, smiling at her. The image of the cute green superhero always helped calm her down when she was feeling angry.
Suddenly, she heard a car pull up behind her, followed by heavy footsteps approaching. Her eyes snapped open, and she watched as a man approached her. The frown on her face deepened as she regarded him warily.
The cocky smile that spread across the man's face made Aria's eyes narrow and her lips purse tightly. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was off about this stranger, and the sight of her exploded tire only served to heighten her suspicion. As she took in the sight of his expensive suit and tie. Hair was still damp, she couldn't help but wonder what Zerran Kent Treveno was doing here.
"I think you've had a rough day," he said in a deep, baritone voice, stopping just a few steps away from her. Despite the distance, she could smell his fragrant cologne, a scent that was both pleasing to her nostrils and didn't overpower her senses.
With a frightened reaction, Aria turned her head and feigned ignorance, "Who are you? Are you a hostage taker or a kidnapper?"
But her act did little to fool the man, who let out a rich, amused laugh. "You're not a very good actress, Aria," he said, "You know who I am. And what a twist of fate it is that we meet like this. It seems like you need my help."
Gritting her teeth, Aria took a deep breath and tried to hide her annoyance behind a fake smile. "No, thank you," she said firmly, "I can handle this on my own."
"By leaning at your car, waiting for a miracle to fix the tire. Is it not?" The cocky man's words were like a knife to Aria's pride.
She raised an eyebrow and, with a cool demeanor, stepped away from him. Of course she needed help, but asking for assistance from this man was out of the question.
"You are wrong," she replied coolly, and walked past him towards her car. As she settled into the driver's seat and slammed the door shut, she caught a glimpse of Zerran's face wincing at the sound.
Leaning back in her seat, Aria expected the man to finally leave, but her heart skipped a beat as he stopped at her window and knocked on it. Rolling down the window, she asked with a hint of irritation, "Problem?"
Zerran bent down, resting his arm on the windowsill, and looked at her with a persuasive expression. "Look, can you lower your pride for a moment? You need help, and it's good luck that I'm here. I can give you a ride to where you need to go, and I already called a tow truck to take care of your car's tire."
Aria gazed into Zerran's beautiful gray eyes, a color she normally wouldn't like, but it suited him so well. She glanced at his furrowed brow, and she could see the genuine concern on his face. She had seen pictures of him before, but seeing him in person was a different experience altogether. He was so handsome, and it was a feeling she did not like. All she wanted was to get away from him before she did something she would regret. She didn't want to like the color gray, and she definitely didn't want to like this man.
Aria hated the man. Or at least, she used to. It was an enormous red flag that her feelings towards him had changed, and she found herself disliking his scent less and less. She couldn't help but admit to herself that his handsome smile was becoming more and more appealing, much to her chagrin.
"I know you hate me for that marriage your father offered to me," he said, his lips curving into a beautiful smile. "But, you know, we could be friends."
Aria glanced at the man and quickly looked away, her mind racing. Her father had offered her hand in marriage to this man? This was something she needed to discuss with him as soon as possible. She bit her lip, reminded of the pressing matter that required her to hurry to the company.
But there was nothing wrong with accepting his help, she reminded herself. She straightened up in her seat and looked at the man.
"Fine," she said, opening the door and grabbing her purse. "If I didn't need your help, I wouldn't accept it. I want to know what you have to say. It's not like my father to offer a marriage without consulting me first."
Aria followed the man to his car and climbed into the front seat. He closed the door softly behind her, and she inhaled the scent of his vanilla musk perfume, which lingered in the air. The cool air conditioning of the car was a refreshing contrast to the heat outside, and Aria felt herself relaxing a little.
Zerran turned the key in the ignition and cast a charming smile in her direction, but Aria simply rolled her eyes.
"You know, you should be thankful for what I did," he said, excitement in his voice as they pulled away from the curb. Aria gave her car one last look before facing forward.
She leaned back in her seat, arms crossed, and offered a bitter smile. "I am not thankful for your actions," she said, her tone serious. "But I do have an important question that you need to answer honestly."
"Questions aren't my thing," Zerran responded, blowing out a breath. "I hate them."
Aria lifted one side of her lips. "Why? Everything starts with a question in order to know the answer and figure things out."
A smile spread across Zerran's lips, accompanied by a weak laugh. "Ask me now, but I hope it's not too personal."
Aria couldn't help but wonder if she detected nervousness in his voice. Or was he just a good actor? Either way, she found herself struggling to read him for the first time, and she sat up straight, focusing on the road ahead.
"How did my father offer marriage to you? What was the reason? What would he benefit from it?" Aria's voice was tinged with annoyance, and she knew that the man had picked up on it.
As he switched lanes, she waited for his response. The car stopped at a red light, along with the other vehicles on the road.
"He said that I would be a good catch for you and the right man to marry his daughter," Zerran responded.
Aria laughed at his words, causing the man to smile as well. "Do you really believe that?"
She turned her gaze to him. "That's the biggest load of BS I've ever heard. No one would ever believe that."
"You're mad about that reason," he said calmly, and Aria turned her attention back to the road.
"Then tell me," she demanded.
"What do you want me to say more? I already told you the reason. If you want more information, you should ask your father, Princess."
"I am not a princess!" Aria snarled, her irritation growing as he simply shrugged. "And why would you even accept it?"
The light turned green and the car started moving again. "Because you're the president's daughter. Why wouldn't I?"