Draco:Book Two of The Stardust Series

By: Autumn Reed & Julia Clarke

Book Two of The Stardust Series

Business Mode

My stomach churned as I followed Theo through downtown San Jose. As we neared the Zenith office, I persistently reminded myself that I was excited to have my first job. Yet I was a bundle of nerves, my heart pounding in anticipation. Was this how students felt on the first day of school? Homeschooled by my dad since the age of six, I really couldn’t say.

Until a few weeks ago, my life in the Sierra Nevada mountains had been extremely isolated. And most of my time since arriving, involuntarily, at Knox and Theo’s loft had been spent in Santa Cruz. Ahead of schedule for my first day, Theo grabbed a cappuccino before giving me a brief walking tour of downtown San Jose.

This was my first encounter with a large city since childhood, and I marveled at the movement, the scale, the noise. Tall buildings in various designs created a unique skyline with the mountains as their backdrop. Cars and bikes zoomed by while I attempted to avoid the people, dressed mostly in business clothes, crowding the sidewalks. And I had thought the University of California: Santa Cruz was full of people and activity; it seemed small in comparison to downtown San Jose.

I had always known there was a wider world out there beyond my reach. But seeing it now, I was only beginning to grasp how large it actually was. While I craved the tranquility of nature, I felt invigorated by the rush of the city.

The sight of Theo in his slim gray slacks and button-down shirt, complete with a herringbone vest and skinny tie, made me smile. Despite the professional feel of the ensemble, his signature style still dominated. I felt myself relax ever so slightly, reassured by his presence and the knowledge that I already had friends at the office. More than friends, really, although I wasn’t quite sure what to call them.

Liam, Knox, Ethan, Chase, Theo, and Jackson had been amazingly good to me, and even though their entrance into my life was abrupt, I was incredibly grateful for all six of them. In addition to providing me with food, clothes, and a place to stay, they constantly went out of their way to make my unique situation better, easier. The only thing missing was my dad.

It had been two weeks since my eighteenth birthday. Two weeks since our house was destroyed. Two weeks since my dad vanished, pursued by men somehow connected to the client who hired the guys to find my dad in the first place.

I had so many unanswered questions. But, for the moment, my only real option was to earn money so I could go to San Francisco and access the safe deposit box my dad had prepared in case of an emergency. Realizing that no amount of worrying about my dad’s current whereabouts would help me with my new job, I forced myself to focus on the present.

Theo smiled at me as we approached a large, multi-storied glass building. The design of the building was sleek and modern while still retaining a traditional feel. Although Theo’s smile was reassuring, the building was imposing and even a little intimidating.

He opened the enormous glass door for me, gesturing inside. “Welcome to Zenith.”

Considering my obsession with astronomy, I figured it was a good sign that my new employer was named after an astronomical term. But when we walked past an official-looking security guard in the lobby, my uncertainty increased.

What are you doing, Haley? I didn’t have any job experience or even a high school diploma, but I now had a job. While Jackson knew all of that, and it didn’t seem to phase him, I still feared that someone at Zenith would unmask me as a fraud.

As Theo and I crossed the lobby, light streamed in through the enormous windows. Since it was later in the morning, the lobby was quiet apart from background music playing over the speakers and heels clicking randomly against the tile floor. With a few large sofas and pieces of art placed throughout, it almost felt more like a modern art gallery than an office building. At the row of elevators, signs indicated the names and locations of tenants—law firms, consulting businesses, and of course, Zenith.

Riding the elevator to the fourth floor, Theo faced me and gently held my hands in his own. “Don’t worry, Haley; everyone will love you. And besides,” his eyes scanned me from head to toe, “you look fabulous.” He grinned.

I smiled sheepishly. “Thanks to you.”

After spending most of the weekend at Jackson’s uncle’s house, I hadn’t even had time to think about work clothes. Fortunately, Theo—ever prepared and always shopping—had planned ahead. He came to my room on Sunday with an array of work-appropriate attire.

I didn’t feel the part of a young working professional, but at least I looked it in my black slacks, white ruffled tank, and coral cardigan paired with matching accessories. I had even opted to wear my long, wavy hair clipped half up to look more sophisticated. Exiting the elevator on the fourth floor, I hoped it would be enough.

Also By Autumn Reed & Julia Clarke

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