A Billionaire Husband and The Substitute Wife - Love Story of Dominic Peterson and Rachel Daley

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In the Daley household, young Rachel's life was akin to a continuous uphill battle. Her mother was relentless in her relentless teasing and torment, and her sister seemed intent on acquiring everything Rachel held dear, including her boyfriend. Yet, the most pressing challenge was the mounting medical bills of her foster mother, Norma—the one soul who had shown Rachel unwavering kindness since her early years and had raised her with a tender heart.

Desperation had driven the Daley family to a rather peculiar arrangement: they agreed to shoulder Norma's medical expenses, but with a caveat. They insisted that Rachel take the plunge into matrimony with Dominic, the illegitimate and seemingly directionless scion of the affluent Peterson family, replacing her sister as his spouse.

As the wedding bells chimed and the ink on their marriage certificate dried, both Rachel and Dominic would soon discover that their newlywed partner harbored a closely guarded secret, poised to shake the very foundation of their union.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Suddenly, a loud crash echoed from the room, causing Charlene’s heart to skip a beat. She hurried back to the door and peeked outside to see what was happening. The window rails were being torn from the outside. Charlene noticed a rope tied around the bars, connected to a helicopter flying overhead. Rachel was about to be rescued! Charlene couldn’t believe her eyes. It was now her turn to pound on the door.

“Who? Who came for you?” At this point, she no longer cared about her own safety. Fear filled her stomach as she helplessly watched Rachel escape.

It hadn’t been long since the fire started. How had she managed to secure a helicopter so quickly?

Finally, the rails were completely removed, and a ray of light streamed into the tiny room. Shortly after, a fully-uniformed rescuer descended from the helicopter. They climbed onto the windowsill and helped Rachel out of the confined space.

Just before leaving, Rachel turned and calmly addressed Charlene through the glass window. “You’ve tried to kill me countless times before. Did you really think I would remain defenseless and wait for you to harm me again?”

Not long after Rachel returned to Meadowview, she received a call from Braden, asking her to come back to his villa. Knowing that Braden was now at Meadowview, she was certain that Charlene would follow him there. She asked Joyce to monitor Charlene’s movements to prevent any emergencies.

Charlene was always close to Braden, clinging to him like a parasite. Shortly after she arrived at Meadowview, Rachel thought that Charlene must be very anxious. Given Charlene’s ruthless personality, she didn’t believe that Charlene would sit and watch without doing anything as Rachel got closer to Braden.

Charlene had visited the villa twice, but on both occasions, she did not say much or try to sow discord between Rachel and Braden. Rachel had a bad feeling that something significant was going to happen. She realized that Charlene, who no longer resorted to cheap tricks, was probably creating trouble behind the scenes, possibly even planning to kill her.

Halloween was approaching, and Rachel asked Braden if he wanted to go with her to a haunted house at the amusement park. When Charlene found out about their plan, she suddenly announced that she also wanted to take her subordinates there, which puzzled Rachel. She was almost certain that Charlene would take advantage of this opportunity to attack.

Two days before Halloween, Rachel called Joyce and informed her that Charlene had already been in contact with the haunted house staff. Rachel knew how cunning Charlene could be, so she wanted to ensure her safety and the safety of others by arranging for their men to hide in the haunted house.

Joyce warned Rachel about the risks involved, but Rachel was determined to catch Charlene in the act. She wanted to put an end to this game of cat and mouse. On Halloween, shortly after Rachel and Braden entered the haunted house, a staff member asked them to search for decoder cards separately.

Rachel stepped forward while Braden walked backward. Not long after they separated, Rachel smelled smoke coming from a room ahead. She wanted to go back, but unexpectedly, the path behind her was blocked by sudden flames. Rachel remained calm and called the Colton family’s subordinates who were hiding in the haunted house to catch the arsonist.

She then called for a helicopter to rescue her and ran towards the only windowed room in the haunted house while talking on the phone. To her surprise, Charlene hurriedly entered the burning establishment, taking Rachel off guard. Rachel couldn’t understand why Charlene would take such a risk.

Although the fire wasn’t too serious yet, it would be difficult for Charlene to escape now that she was inside. Additionally, it was a windy late fall day, making the flames more dangerous. Charlene locked Rachel inside the room, thinking that she would surely die. However, to Charlene’s horror, Rachel had escaped through the window while Charlene herself remained trapped in the fire.

Charlene was stunned for a moment before realizing that Rachel had set a trap.

Looking back at the corridor, Charlene saw that the fire had intensified. She had lost too much time. The fire surrounded her, the heat clouding her vision and the thick smoke choking her throat. In that moment, the haunted house felt like living hell. Would Charlene make it out alive?

The dancing fire in the haunted house burned in the darkness. The thick smoke and scorching flames surrounded Charlene, leaving her with nowhere to hide.

Nervous and scared, she did everything possible to find a way out. Suddenly, a burnt wooden beam just above her head cracked and fell. Charlene screamed, dodged, and rolled on the ground desperately. It looked like the haunted house was going to collapse on top of her.

Charlene stood up awkwardly and desperately looked at the woman who had just climbed out of the window. “You cheated on me! You wanted to trap me in the fire and kill me, didn’t you? Damn bitch! You will pay for this!”

Rachel was safe and sound while Charlene was caught in the burning building. How ironic. Rachel got on the window, shook her hands, and scoffed with coldness. “You asked for it! You are so cruel!” Rachel rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you have the nerve to call me that. You’re the one who hired someone to start a fire. You’re the one who locked me in this room! Now it’s you who can enjoy the feeling of burning to death!”

Afterward, Rachel climbed the rope ladder that led to the helicopter flying above them. She gave Charlene a smug look before leaving.

“Bye!” The helicopter took off and quickly carried Rachel to safety. The sound of the propeller echoed in the air.

“If you were really a capable woman, you wouldn’t have resorted to playing this trick on me! Damn bitch!” Looking in the direction where Rachel’s helicopter disappeared, Charlene screamed in pain.

She knew she was left behind, and the smoke was becoming denser. No, she couldn’t just sit still and embrace death. Looking at the room Rachel had locked her in, Charlene had an idea. She could escape through the window that Rachel left open. However, when Charlene tried to open the door with the key, she soon discovered that something was wrong. “I can’t open it!” Anxiety and panic ate at her. She turned the key with such force that it broke. She stared at the broken key in her hand and realized that the door had been locked from the inside.

Charlene threw the broken key on the ground and stomped with anger. The flames burned higher and higher with each passing second, and the wooden floor beneath her began to crack. Charlene rubbed her itchy eyes, feeling the temperature around her continue to rise. She could clearly feel the searing pain on her skin. Coughing and leaning against the corridor wall, she desperately tried to find a place to hide. The fire was so fierce that Charlene couldn’t see a way out. The haunted house was about to collapse.

“If I couldn’t get out, I would definitely die here.” She was still young and had a bright future ahead, but she might never see the sunrise. “Rachel could live out the rest of her days happily with Braden.” Thinking of this, Charlene despaired. She had to get out of here! At that moment, another huge wooden beam collapsed. This load-bearing beam blocked the path behind her completely. Now, Charlene had only two options: she could try to run through the fire by herself, risking third-degree burns, or she could wait for the firefighters to rescue her.

Charlene could feel her skin getting scalded from the heat. Clenching her teeth, she rolled up her sleeves and discovered that her once tender arms were already scarlet. There was no time to doubt; she had to make a decision. It was better for her to take matters into her own hands than to leave her life in the hands of others.

Charlene closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had always been a decisive person, quickly making decisions and choosing the path with less fire to run away.

As soon as she ran into the fire, she felt her skin melting from her bones and her lungs filling with thick, suffocating smoke.

Charlene was still a long way from the exit but quickly made her way through the sea of extreme heat, her skin blistering. Soon, the smell of burning cloth filled her nose, followed by excruciating, burning pain.

She let out a piercing scream and looked over her shoulder, discovering that her back was on fire. But she didn’t have time to worry; she could only keep running.

Little by little, she exhausted her last strength, and her consciousness began to cloud over from the lack of oxygen. Pain consumed every part of her body, and even breathing hurt.


Fortunately, all the accessories and furniture in the haunted house had been reduced to ashes, so there weren’t many obstacles on her road. She was getting closer to the exit.

Finally, she heard the noise of the crowd gathered outside. Charlene felt her heart about to stop beating from the pain but kept running in the direction of the noise, fueled by sheer willpower.

She didn’t know how long she had run, but the sound of the crowd grew louder. Finally, it seemed as if she was surrounded by people. Charlene wanted to see what was going on, but she couldn’t open her eyes. It was as if her eyelids were glued shut. At that moment, she felt a gust of icy liquid splash on her body. Unable to hold out any longer, she passed out.

Countless firefighters surrounded the haunted house, desperately trying to put out the fire. Because it was Halloween night, many tourists had flocked to the amusement park, and the fire attracted a wave of spectators.

They all craned their necks to see how the fire devoured the haunted house. Suddenly, a woman on fire ran out of the main door. It was a horrifying sight to behold.

“Oh my God! Is she still alive?!” The spectators were shocked and instinctively took a few steps back. Some even took out their phones to take pictures, while parents covered their children’s eyes to shield them from such a horrible scene.

When the firefighters saw the person on fire running out of the establishment, they immediately pointed the hose at her to extinguish the fire on her body.

Fortunately, the fire on Charlene’s body went out, but she was already burned and unrecognizable. She looked like a charred object in the shape of a human.

Immediately after being sprayed with the hose, she collapsed to the ground and passed out.

Rachel was taken by helicopter to a safe distance from the haunted house. As soon as she disembarked, she rushed towards the haunted house, pushing through the crowd and heading to the fringes of the building.

She looked around but saw no sign of Braden. Rachel grew anxious, grabbed the arm of a bystander, and urgently asked, “Did you see a tall man in a black windbreaker just now?” The passerby shook his head.

“No, but a moment ago, a woman on fire came running out of the haunted house.”

Rachel felt as if her soul had left her body. She took two steps back and looked at the burning house in front of her. She and Braden had arranged to escape, but what about Braden? Was he still trapped inside?

Rachel immediately dismissed the thought. She knew that Charlene would never hurt Braden. Charlene must have arranged for the staff to remove Braden immediately after they had been separated.

Rachel also knew that, given the circumstances, he would never come back for her, even if he knew that she was caught in that burning fire. Things were different now. Braden was no longer someone that he would do something stupid for her sake. Still, Rachel couldn’t shake the feeling of apprehension hanging over her.

She took a deep breath and kept asking, “Have you seen someone get out of the haunted house just now? Please think carefully. A man, about a head taller than me, very handsome but aloof?”

“No, we didn’t see anyone like that. Go ask someone else. We were just going through here,” the person replied impatiently. Rachel didn’t press any further, but she didn’t feel defeated.

She shifted her attention to the other spectators and asked them one by one. Finally, she found a young couple who seemed to have a clue about Braden. “I think I saw the man you described! When the staff told us to evacuate because of a fire, he hurried to enter without thinking twice. The staff couldn’t stop him, and my boyfriend even joked that he must be an idiot who couldn’t even tell where the exit is.”

The woman glanced at her boyfriend before adding, “In my opinion, he ran inside to look for someone important, maybe his wife or child. Hey! I’m not done talking.”

Rachel was already running back to the house, bewitched before the woman could finish her words. How could Braden risk his life in such a big fire? Rachel stopped at the entrance and tried to call him first. She tried over and over, but he never responded. No one else left the burning establishment either.

Rachel was beside herself with worry. She wanted to throw herself into the fire and look for him, just as he had done for her. “Hey, young lady! Do you want to die?” the people around her screamed just as she was about to lunge forward.

They reached out and yanked her back. “Don’t you see the fire burning in front of you? You can’t even walk a few meters without getting burned!”

“No, you don’t understand. Please let me in! My husband is still inside!” Rachel struggled against their hold. They did not understand! The man she loved could be trapped there, suffocated, burning, and it was all for her. Rachel was shaking at this point. She was barely holding on to her sanity.

“Calm down, Miss. Leave this to the fire department, okay? They are working hard to put out the fire and keep everyone safe. They will definitely save your husband. Don’t worry,” a warm-hearted stranger patted her back in a gesture of consolation.

Another person chimed in, “That’s right, it’s too dangerous to get involved at this time. Just be thankful you’re safe.”

Rachel slumped to the ground, numb to her environment. She gripped her phone tightly and stared at the screen, waiting for a call from the Colton family. “Call me as soon as you see him.”

The helicopter ended up making two rounds in the area, but they were still unsuccessful. Braden got caught in the fire, and she couldn’t do anything. Rachel’s fingers trembled uncontrollably. She could barely see through the tears that flowed from her eyes. She knew she was on the verge of collapse but refused to budge before hearing news of Braden.

At that moment, she felt a tug on her shoulder when the woman next to her yelled, “Look, look! Another person just ran out!” Rachel’s head jumped up. She saw a tall figure running out the back entrance of the house.

The man discarded the thick coat he had been covering his body with. His face was soot-stained but still looked as handsome as usual. He was coughing violently as he approached.

Rachel’s tears were finally running down her cheeks. She could feel her blood running through her veins like little lightning bolts. She stood up and met Braden halfway, holding him before he fell to his knees.

It wasn’t until she felt the steady rhythm of his heartbeat under the palm of her hand that she allowed herself a sigh of relief. And then, she let go and cried like a baby. Braden tried to reach out to wipe away her tears.

“Don’t cry. Everything’s fine. I’m fine,” he said.

But Rachel only cried even harder. It took some time for her to calm down.

“Braden,” she mentioned his name. “Why did you do that? Why did you go back inside?”


For a brief moment, Braden thought he would die there. He had seen his life flash before his eyes.

Fortunately, he was nowhere near the origin of the fire, so he had time to orient himself.

After looking around, he found a back door and was able to escape. He threw his arms around Rachel and hugged her tight, burying his face in her hair, inhaling her scent.

When Braden looked at her again, his eyes shone like stars.

“I don’t know either. Anyway, the important thing is you’re fine.” In fact, even he himself was unable to answer this question. Why did he rush back into the fire?

As soon as Braden found out that the fire had started in the same area where Rachel was, he feared for her life. At that moment, he wasn’t thinking. It was as if his body had a mind of its own. Before he knew what was happening, he was already running to the place where he and Rachel parted ways. He had no idea why his body was reacting that way. It was as if sheer instinct dictated that he had to protect Rachel from harm.

“Help me up.” Taking a deep breath, Braden put his arm around Rachel’s shoulder and prepared to stand.

Rachel helped him up gently, wiping her tears. She asked, “Why didn’t you answer the phone? I was so anxious that I almost rushed back to the fire to look for you.”

Braden pulled a charred phone out of his pocket. There was a big hole in its screen. “My phone burned in the fire, so I didn’t even get your call. I couldn’t find you anywhere, and the fire was still spreading, so I had no choice but to try first.”

Braden reached up and pinched Rachel’s cheek with love. The latter could not help but pout like an upset child.

Only then did he regret the up and down look.

“Are you hurt somewhere?”

“No, I am ok. I ran away as soon as I saw the fire.” Still pouting, Rachel couldn’t avoid looking away.

This unexpected flirtatious behavior of Braden made her blush.

“Intelligent.” With a smile pulling the corners of his mouth, Braden let her go. Seeing that Rachel was safe and sound, he finally breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought you were close to the point of origin. How did you manage to escape?”

Rachel looked away guiltily. She couldn’t tell Braden that she had been prepared in case of any emergency.

“The fire was not too serious at that time. I covered myself with my coat and ran away.” She answered perfunctorily.

Braden nodded and he fixed his shirt.

Only then did he realize he was covered with cold sweat. Braden felt strange. He had not been with Rachel for so long, but he had risked his own life and ran to a burning establishment for her. Why was he so worried about this woman?

Rachel looked at Braden silently. He lowered his head and he didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what was on his mind. But he had rushed into the fire to save her. Obviously, he cared about her.

Rachel was secretly delighted. It was like a rainbow after a storm. Finally, her efforts paid off! But she still didn’t know why Braden carried her like a stranger in the first place.

Biting her lower lip, Rachel began to say cautiously, “Braden, there’s something I want to ask you…”

Braden looked at her expectantly, hoping that she would talk to him. Just as Rachel opened her mouth, a loud cracking sound came from above his head. Rachel looked up and saw that the flames had climbed on the roof of the haunted house. The tip of a tower on the roof leaned precariously to one side, about to fall.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

She and Braden were standing right next to the haunted house. With the frightening sound of a cracking, the top of the tower snapped and fell towards the ground they were standing on!


As soon as Rachel was wheeled into the treatment room in a wheelchair, Braden informed Benjamin and Joyce. Joyce couldn’t remember how many times Rachel had been hospitalized in the last six months. She felt sorry and worried for her daughter.

Naturally, she no longer planned to be nice to Braden. The doctor carefully treated Rachel’s back while Braden stood in the corner of the room, his eyes fixed on the numerous blisters on her smooth skin.

Finally, he couldn’t help but ask, “Will she be scarred?” Braden bit his lower lip with strength. He would never forgive himself if Rachel’s skin ended up scarred because of his protection.

The doctor answered honestly, “There are two areas with second-degree burns. Traces will remain, more or less.”

After a long silence, Braden looked at Rachel and murmured hoarsely, “Thank you for saving me.” It was the first time Braden had thanked Rachel so sincerely, but she didn’t like it. He treated her with too much distance.

For a moment, Rachel didn’t know what to say. They were husband and wife. There was no need for him to be so formal with her. She forced a smile, but there was a trace of sadness in her eyes. “No problem, when our apartment was on fire, You also protected me. You still have a burn scar on your back. Now we are even.”

Hearing this, Braden’s expression widened, then immediately darkened. He wanted to say something, but he stopped, thinking twice.

“What apartment? What fire? When did that happen? I don’t remember anything about it.”

When Rachel saw the confusion in Braden’s eyes, the smile on her face hardened.

Soon, the doctor finished dressing Rachel’s wounds. After he left, she took a deep breath and finally asked, “How strange. Why did you have such a weird expression a year ago?”

Braden, if you think you’re not getting anything out of this marriage, just say so. I will not stop you. You don’t have to do this to me.” Rachel spoke in a seemingly casual tone, but the idea of breaking up with Braden made her heart sink.

Braden looked away hesitantly. After a while, he finally spoke, though with difficulty.

“Something happened to me…”

“Yeah, I’m not stupid. Can you say it has changed? In fact, it’s as if you were a completely different person. Are you still not going to tell me what happened?” Rachel rested her head on the pillow and looked at him.

He stared back and said in a tired voice, “Rachel, I’m not a mind reader. The longer I hide the truth, the crazier I become. It’s just a matter of time before I collapse.”

Braden’s expression softened. Rachel had risked her life to save him. Wasn’t she worthy of his confidence? Sitting by the bed, Braden looked into Rachel’s eyes as if searching for answers.

Finally, he said quietly, “You are not stupid. It’s just… whatever happened to me sounds crazy. Even I can’t believe it myself. When you were lost at sea, I regretted it. I passed out on one of the search and rescue boats. It turned out that I had a high fever and was incredibly ill. When I woke up again, I couldn’t understand my surroundings. Charlene told me what had happened. Then I realized that I had lost my memory of the last two years.”

Rachel’s eyes widened. She had lots of guesswork as to why Braden had suddenly become cold with her, but she never considered that he might have lost his memory. It was like a scene out of a movie!

“Did the doctor say something? Can you still retrieve your memory?” Rachel asked anxiously, wringing her hands.

His hair stood on end when all the seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces began to gather. First, he had an automobile accident and plummeted into the ocean. Then, Braden suddenly became ill and fainted during search and rescue operations. When he woke up, he had mysteriously lost his memory of the last two years.

And when Rachel was trapped on the island, someone had sent assassins to kill her. When she came back alive, she had no time to think about everything that had happened due to the sudden change in Braden. Only now did she realize that something was terribly wrong. Who sent those assassins after her?

Although everything seemed unrelated at first, when Rachel thought about everything that had happened carefully, a shiver ran down her spine. But she didn’t immediately voice her thoughts. Instead, she calmed down and waited for Braden to explain.


“The doctor wasn’t very helpful. He said there could be many possible reasons behind my memory loss. Charlene was the one who told me I was in the boat with the search and rescue team when I fainted. The next time I woke up, I couldn’t remember anything from the past two years. Actually, all I know about the last two years, Charlene taught it to me,” Braden narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips tightly.

“It worried me that my competitors used my memory loss to their benefit, so I didn’t tell anyone, including you. I don’t know anything about our past.”

After explaining everything to him, Braden fell into a thoughtful silence. Rachel wanted to tell him everything, especially all the bad things that Charlene had done to them. But she couldn’t. Braden had lost his memory of the last two years, which meant he didn’t have feelings for her now, let alone trust. Additionally, she had no evidence to prove what Charlene had done, and at this point, Braden trusted Charlene more.

After all, she was the second-in-command at the Porter Group. Rachel swallowed everything she wanted to say. Now that Braden’s mind was practically a blank slate, it was likely that Charlene had bad-mouthed Rachel in front of him. Thinking of this, Rachel shifted uncomfortably in bed. The mere thought that her husband trusted the woman who had hurt her more than once upset her greatly.

Worse yet, the two years missing from Braden’s memory were the two years in which they had grown to understand and love each other. No wonder he had been distant with her lately. It all finally made sense.

With tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat, Rachel asked in a low voice, “Do you want to know about our relationship in the last two years? If you have time, I can tell you everything…”

Usually, Braden would not have wasted his precious time listening to this woman’s stories. He was a very busy man and devoted his whole life to work, not boring stuff like this. But after hearing what Rachel said, without hesitation, he unconsciously replied, “Go ahead.” Rachel pursed her lips sadly, realizing that Braden wasn’t really interested in what had happened between them in the last two years and that he was only obliging her.

However, Rachel still wanted to tell him. So she cleared her throat and began to speak. In brief words, she described what had happened between them during the last two years. She told him how he had pretended to be a poor young man when they got married. It was only later when his true identity was revealed that they gained each other’s trust and love. She didn’t describe exactly how she felt, but rather explained everything as if she were telling the story of another person.

“That’s why I couldn’t accept the fact that suddenly you were so indifferent to me,” she added at the end.

Braden was silent and listened attentively and patiently. There was tenderness in his eyes when Rachel finished the story. He smiled and asked, “Did we love each other very much back then?”

Braden thought that if the relationship between him and Rachel was as good as she described it, he must have loved her very much. But at the same time, there was a question lingering in Braden’s mind. According to what Charlene had told him, Rachel had an obsessive one-sided love for him, while he felt nothing for his wife. It was a completely different story from what Rachel had told him earlier.

What was most disconcerting was that Rachel didn’t seem to be lying. Braden buried this question in the back of his head, intending to ask Charlene about it later in the afternoon.

At that moment, the Coltons burst into the living room. When Joyce received Braden’s phone call, she was very worried. However, after learning that Rachel was hurt because she had tried to save Braden, her concern turned to fury.

“Why are you doing this to my daughter? You have been trying so hard and still she risked her life to save you! Your father and I should have prevented you two from being together from the beginning.”

Her nostrils flared as she regretted accepting Braden as her son-in-law, not because Braden was a bad man, but because he couldn’t seem to protect Rachel. Joyce wanted peace and happiness for her beloved daughter, not for her to be hospitalized from time to time, not to mention Braden’s relationship with other women.

Rachel realized that her mother was really mad this time. She buried her face in her hands and bit her lip, trying to hold back tears. Then she reached out a hand and tugged on the corner of Joyce’s clothes.

“Mom, don’t say that. It is not Braden’s fault. He… He has lost his memory.”

Joyce was a little stunned, wondering if she had misheard. She pushed Rachel’s hand away and looked at her with anger.

“I can’t believe you made up such a ridiculous lie to defend this shameless man! How could he lose his memory? That’s nothing. Don’t be silly, Rachel. Braden doesn’t deserve a good girl like you!”

Naturally, in the eyes of parents, no one is good enough for their kids. Rachel smiled bitterly and said, “But it’s true, Mom.”

She also found it amazing at first. How could someone suddenly lose their memory? But it really happened to Braden. Seeing the sincerity in Rachel’s eyes, Joyce reasoned that her daughter couldn’t be lying. Gradually, she calmed down and straightened her scarf. She was so mad just now that she forgot why. She pursed her red lips and demanded, “What exactly happened?”

Rachel lowered her head and said nothing for a long time. Benjamin immediately understood that his daughter wanted to talk to her mother in private, so he looked at Braden and said firmly, “Come with me. Let’s give them some space. I’ve got some questions for you.”

Braden nodded and quickly followed Benjamin. When the two women were left alone in the room, Rachel grabbed Joyce’s hand and whispered, “I have a feeling that Charlene is behind everything, but I still have no proof. I don’t know how Braden lost exactly two years of his memory. He happened to return to a time just before you met me. It can’t be a coincidence.”

Joyce looked at her daughter gravely. “Dealing with Charlene won’t be easy. Braden seems to trust his life with Charlene right now. You will have to find solid evidence and expose her true face as soon as possible. Otherwise, who knows what she will do next?”


Rachel nodded. Her mother was right. But the situation was not optimistic. Charlene was a cautious and cunning woman. She must have covered her tracks. Rachel really had no idea where to start.

After a while, Benjamin came back to Braden. He had a general understanding of what was going on with Braden now. He told Rachel, “Don’t worry. We will do everything we can to retrieve Braden’s memory. I know several licensed brain specialists abroad. I’ll ask them to come tomorrow. The field of medicine has developed exponentially in recent years. I doubt there’s a problem they can’t fix.”

Rachel weakly smiled at him. “Thanks, Dad.” However, internally she sighed. It wasn’t as optimistic as her father. She had a bad feeling that Braden’s memory loss was not as simple as it seemed. Braden didn’t turn down Benjamin’s offer, not ruling out the possibility of recovering his memory. He nodded and said, “I will also go see a doctor and find a way to get my memory back.”

Previously, Braden felt that with Charlene’ help, he could recover his memories of the last two years. However, Rachel and Charlene told him two very different stories. He wanted to know who was lying.

At the same time, he also had a question in his heart that needed answers: Did he really fall in love with Rachel?

Rachel spent the next few days recovering in the hospital. Every day, the nurses came to change the dressing on her wounds. She was often distracted, wondering how to deal with Charlene. A cunning woman like Charlene, who acted in secret and came from a prominent family, posed a significant challenge.

“What do you have in mind? Let’s eat breakfast first,” Braden said, holding a takeout bag of food for breakfast in front of her. Now that they had cleared things up, they could get along. Their relationship seemed harmonious, but Rachel felt an insurmountable gap between them due to Braden’s memory loss. She didn’t know how to face it now.

“Oh, I see. Thank you,” Rachel replied, accepting the food and starting to eat. The awkward silence filled the room. After what felt like an eternity, Braden tried to break the ice.

“Does your back still hurt? I heard you whining last night,” Braden asked. Rachel wiped her lips carefully, hiding her embarrassment. When she turned over in bed the previous night, she accidentally hit her back wounds, causing intense pain. She hadn’t realized she had moaned out loud.

“It’s much better, thanks for asking. Are you going to work today?” Rachel asked, hoping for some time away from Braden. She didn’t want him to see how embarrassed she was, especially since she hadn’t washed her face in days and needed help to go to the bathroom.

“Don’t worry. I’ve already asked for permission. Watching over you is more important,” Braden casually explained while cleaning the table. Maybe it was because he used to be affectionate with Rachel, or maybe it was because he appreciated her for saving his life. Braden didn’t think too much about it; he genuinely wanted to take care of her.

Rachel chuckled, wrapping herself in the quilt and leaning against the headboard calmly. “Dad said he found you a good doctor. Is the treatment working?”

Braden paused for a few seconds, then threw the garbage in the bin and took two pieces of paper to clean the table. He answered lightly, “I’ve had psychotherapy twice. It’s not that bad.” In truth, his situation didn’t look very promising. Every time the doctor asked him to remember the past, he experienced terrible headaches as if an invisible hand was pulling on the nerves of his brain. Rachel noticed the dark circles under his eyes, and he looked much more gaunt than before.

Worried, she asked, “Does the therapy include any medication? You seem a bit listless.”

“I’m fine. I was up late last night dealing with work,” Braden replied, hiding the fact that he had severe headaches when trying to remember the past. He sighed wearily and changed the subject, “Did you know that nobody died in the fire?” Rachel nodded and turned on the TV with the remote without saying anything. “However, I heard that Charlene got badly burned.”

“Is that so?” Rachel responded.

“The firefighters said she ran out of the burning house. Fortunately, she’s safe now.”

Even Rachel couldn’t help but admire Charlene. This woman had guts. Braden seemed visibly confused. “Charlene didn’t go into the haunted house with us. How could she have been burned?” Truth be told, Rachel already knew the answer. The only possible reason why Charlene risked going into the haunted house was that she came back to save Rachel and ended up meeting her instead of Braden. Charlene must have thought she could trap Rachel in a small room in the burning establishment, but their plan backfired, leading them both to a close brush with death.

Rachel had no evidence to prove her theory, and it wasn’t the right time to share her thoughts with Braden. So she simply shook her head, and Braden dropped the subject.

At noon, while Braden went out to buy lunch, Rachel took the opportunity to call the Colton family’s men. “How’s it going?” she asked.

The man reported, “We caught the person who started the fire.”

Smiling coldly, Rachel ordered, “Get him here. We need to know the truth.”

The interrogation ended soon enough. Unfortunately, the Coltons weren’t able to get any useful information from the man. What they did know was that the arsonist had only been in contact with his employer over the phone, and that the latter had used a voice-changing device. He had never seen the main mastermind in person. They had to admit that this person was meticulous in covering their tracks. They had used a burner phone and money transfer, which was done through a third party.

All this was not enough proof for Rachel to blame it on Charlene. In fact, if Charlene hadn’t appeared and tried to lock her in that small room, Rachel would have had nothing against her. However, she couldn’t just say that to Braden because, at the end of the day, she still didn’t have evidence to support her accusation against Charlene. Now her only chance to frame Charlene resided in surveillance footage of the location. That was, of course, assuming they hadn’t been destroyed in the fire.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Holding onto that glimmer of hope, Rachel sent someone to retrieve the haunted house surveillance tapes. It took a long time to get an update on the matter, although it was far from what she wanted to hear. Apparently, the entire surveillance system had collapsed in the fire, and most of the cameras were reduced to ashes. There was no way they could get any kind of archived footage. Rachel had no choice but to give up this option since it was a dead end. Her state of mind, which had been trying so hard to get better, collapsed instantly with the news. She was still discouraged when Braden returned with his lunch.

“Here, I bought this at a restaurant with three Michelin stars,” Braden said, placing the food in front of her before adding, “What happened?” He had sharp eyes.

Rachel opened the takeout box and began to eat. “Anything,” she said, avoiding his eyes while chewing. “This is delicious.” She couldn’t tell Braden that Charlene was behind the fire without any conclusive evidence. She would have to wait patiently for now.

After two weeks, Rachel was more than ready to be discharged. Her condition had improved significantly during her stay in the hospital. But Joyce was still worried. She refused to let her daughter out of the hospital until fully cured. Braden stayed a week to take care of her but had to fly back as there were two matters in particular that required his immediate attention.

First, an alarming volume of internal company documents had leaked. Second, and perhaps most importantly, his memory loss was not improving. On the contrary, it was getting worse. Every time he tried to remember something from two years ago, he suffered from an unbearable headache. In the end, he decided to go to Dr. Booker at the hospital, hoping that the man could help him.

As a materialist and medical genius, Dr. Booker believed that there must be a clinical reason for Braden’s sudden memory loss. However, he found the case of Braden strange after examining his friend. A computed tomography scan was done, and it showed that there was no problem with Braden’s brain. By all accounts, it seemed that Braden had just lost his memory after an especially high fever. It puzzled Dr. Booker.

“I’m afraid I can’t do anything,” Booker said, looking at the test results and shaking his head. “As for your headaches, I have investigated previous cases of amnesia, but I did not find a patient who experienced the same symptoms. Your case is very special. In fact, I will go abroad for a medical research seminar next week. I’ll see if I can get help from other experts.”

“Thank you,” Braden nodded and then fixed his eyes on the result of the x-ray, his look deep and unfathomable.

“Why do you speak to me so formally, anyway?” Booker asked. “We were friends, you know? Make sure you get enough rest and avoid thinking too much about the past. You can overexert your brain and hurt yourself.”

“Agreed,” Braden’s expression softened a bit after hearing that.

In addition to Dr. Booker, Braden also met with other doctors recommended by the Colton family. The doctor Benjamin had previously referred couldn’t help much, but he never gave up. He sought assistance from renowned doctors around the world. Even so, no one could do anything to cure Braden’s memory loss. In any case, they were only curious about his condition. What exactly caused him to lose his memory? And why was it in such a specific period of time? It was almost as if some sinister force was working behind the scenes.

Sunlight streamed into the ward from the window. The woman’s finger on the bed moved slightly, and the heart rate curve in the monitor next to her flickered.

Charlene struggled to open her eyes. It felt like her whole body was wrapped in plaster, and she couldn’t move anything except her fingers. She made a faint guttural sound from her throat, “Hello? Anyone there?”

Melanie, who had fallen asleep on the table, suddenly shuddered upon hearing her daughter’s voice. “Shane, she’s awake! Charlene is awake! Come quickly!” Melanie called anxiously from the door. Then she ran to the bed and took Charlene’s hand.

Charlene was strong. Now that her daughter had finally woken up, tears of joy rolled down Melanie’s cheeks. Charlene felt as if her entire body was in pain. She had to take a few breaks before being able to finish a sentence. “Mom… why… why are you here?”

Melanie wiped her tears with the back of her hand and explained in a trembling voice, “You had an accident after entering the haunted house. Someone from the Porter Group took you to the hospital, and they called me and your father.”

At that moment, Shane ran into the room. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at Charlene with concern. “How do you feel now? Does it still hurt? Do you want me to call a doctor?” Melanie shot Shane a quizzical look, warning him and scolding him for revealing too much.

Only then did Charlene realize that something was terribly wrong. She struggled to turn her head towards the window and saw her reflection in the glass. Realizing that she was wrapped in white gauze from head to toe, everything came back to her. She remembered running to the haunted house to save Braden, only to get trapped inside, suffocating in the thick smoke and being burned alive by the flames.

Charlene remembered her body literally melting and catching fire at that moment, feeling a sharp pain. Seeing herself like this, Charlene’s heart clenched. Her reflection seemed to be looking at her in horror, tears running down her face. The pain was beyond words. Her life was ruined, and she knew it. Charlene wept bitterly, no longer reserved and elegant as before.

Seeing her daughter like this, Melanie stood up and hurriedly closed the curtains so that Charlene couldn’t see her reflection anymore. Then she took a tissue and gently wiped Charlene’s tears. Her eyes were full of anguish, but she did her best to keep her composure. However, it wasn’t long before she covered her mouth, choked with sobs.

Charlene asked with a trembling voice, “Mom, what did the doctor say about my condition? Will I be able to recover?” Melanie hesitated for a moment, seeming to want to say something but stopping herself. After thinking twice, she said lightly, “Your burns aren’t so serious. Don’t worry, you won’t remain permanently disabled or anything like that.”

Charlene’s tone suddenly turned sharp. “Are you saying it will leave a scar?”

“Like I said, don’t worry. The doctor said you can always have plastic surgery.” Melanie’s eyes were red, but she managed to force a smile. “Medicine is so advanced these days, and we have the money. Your skin will be as good as new!”

Hearing what Melanie said, Charlene turned her head away from her mother, biting her lower lip and closing her eyes tightly. Her lips trembled, and tears fell silently from the corners of her eyes. She had never felt so much pain and despair before. Charlene understood what her mother really wanted to say. She was probably disfigured, burned beyond recognition.


Charlene resembled her mother and had always been proud of her appearance. Melanie was quite a beauty when she was young, for which Charlene had always been praised since childhood. Now, everything was ruined. Charlene clenched her teeth and fists, crying silently. If it wasn’t for the fact that Rachel had been trapped in the haunted house on fire, it wouldn’t have ended like this. Not only did she fail to kill Rachel, but she also suffered a great loss. What was worse was the fact that she couldn’t voice her complaints because revealing her assassination attempt plan would put her in trouble.

Shane’s calm facade gradually crumbled. With eyes full of hate, he hissed, “I have investigated, and it turned out that someone had set the fire on purpose. As soon as I find out who’s behind this, I’ll make you regret the day you were born!”

Charlene’s heart jumped into her throat. No, she couldn’t let anyone find out it was her who planned this arson, including her own father! Charlene suddenly raised her voice and looked at Shane pitifully.

“Dad, what’s the point? You can’t go back in time and fix this…”

Shane didn’t know how to respond. Seeing his daughter in so much pain, he decided not to say anything else.

Among everyone who had entered the haunted house that night, Charlene was the most unlucky. Most of them were able to get out safe and sound, while she suffered third-degree burns and was disfigured as a result.

During the recovery process, Charlene was confined to Meadowview Hospital for a long time. Many reporters came to interview her, but they barely asked a few questions before Shane impatiently shooed them away.

In his second week in the hospital, Braden and Rachel went to visit her. When Charlene saw them walking into the room, her heart skipped a beat. A deep feeling of inferiority overwhelmed her, suffocating her. She felt lucky to still be wrapped from head to toe in gauze. At least Braden wouldn’t see her disgusting wounds…

“I heard from Mrs. Palmer that you were seriously injured. I asked Kristian to take charge of your responsibilities for the time being. Don’t worry,” Braden comforted her, using a formulaic tone. As he spoke, he placed the bouquet on the table and looked at Charlene, who wasn’t even looking at him. Seeing this, he couldn’t help but frown.

Charlene’s eyes were glued to Rachel, who was standing behind Braden. It was a warm sunny day, but Charlene was shaking. Her eyes were bloodshot with hate. She wished she could pounce on Rachel and strangle her on the spot, but she had no choice but to swallow her anger for now.

Rachel clearly saw the ferocity in Charlene’s eyes. The woman tightly wrapped in gauze probably hated her to the core, but why? Charlene was the one behind the fire in the haunted house. Why did she blame Rachel for the failure of her plan?

“At least you made it out alive,” Rachel raised her head slightly, her eyes darting over Charlene’s bandaged body. Most of Charlene’s body was wrapped in gauze, indicating that she was likely disfigured by the burns. There was no trace of pity on Rachel’s face. On the contrary, she seemed delighted. Charlene had hurt Rachel so many times before, and now she was finally being punished by her own actions. She deserved the karma.

Charlene scoffed, looking away from Rachel. She was afraid that if she took one more look at the bitch, she would really pounce on Rachel.

“Why were you there anyway? Just so I remember, you didn’t even enter the haunted house with us,” Braden looked at Charlene calmly, though there was a hint of intrigue in his eyes.

Charlene looked away and said nothing. She didn’t really want Braden to see her in that state, but thinking about it, it might be a good opportunity to make him feel sorry for her. So she put on a bitter smile and looked at him sweetly.

“After the haunted house caught fire, I heard that you rushed in. I was worried about you, so I ran to find you.”

Braden lowered his head and considered what Charlene said. He had always known Charlene liked him, but he hadn’t expected her to risk her life for him. He knew better than anyone that he couldn’t give her what she wanted.

Looking at the two people who had fallen silent, Rachel smiled slightly. “Miss Palmer, how come you’ve suddenly become so reckless? That is not like you. After all, compared to Braden, she’s not that strong. What good is running into a burning building to save him? I thought you were smarter than that, unless there’s some other unspeakable reason why you did it.”

Rachel’s voice was soft and kind, but her eyes were sharper than a knife, leaving Charlene with nowhere to hide. Charlene was always proud of her intelligence. What she couldn’t stand was others calling her stupid, not to mention how much she already hated Rachel. At this moment, her seething anger had reached its peak. But Braden was there. As much resentment as Charlene held in her heart, she had to bury it for now. She gritted her teeth so hard she felt a dull ache on her burned face. After taking a short breath, Charlene stiffly asked, “What kind of unspeakable reason can I have? We have been friends for years. Of course, I would rush to save him. Also, I’m very familiar with the layout of that haunted house. I was sure I could help Braden at such a critical time.”

Rachel’s eyebrow rose, and her eyes gleamed mischievously. “Oh? Why would you be so familiar with the design of a haunted house in an amusement park? Miss Palmer, given your status and personality, I doubt you would go to a place like that for pleasure, would you?” Charlene was stunned speechless. She glanced at Braden and found that he was staring at her too. In fact, it was a bit suspicious. After pausing for a moment, Charlene came up with an excuse. “Didn’t I tell you earlier that I was planning to throw a Halloween party for my employees? Of course, I learned everything about the haunted house beforehand.”

The more she talked, the less convinced she sounded, but she refused to give in. Rachel smiled and made no further comment. The answer was obvious. Anyone with a discerning eye could tell that Charlene was lying about something. So Rachel took her bag and said, “Take your time. I’ll go to the bathroom.” She decided to let Braden draw his own conclusions.

Looking at Braden, Charlene felt her muscles tense, triggering a wave of pain through her wounds. Grimacing, she began to say, “Braden, I…” However, she stopped at a second thought. She knew her explanation was a bit over the top, but she couldn’t think of a better excuse. Besides, an exaggerated explanation was better than saying nothing.

Braden looked into her eyes questioningly. Finally, he said with intimidating authority, “You’ve been acting very strange lately…” Hearing the implication of his words, Charlene gritted her teeth and fell silent again. Braden continued, “Tell me. What happened? Why did you lie?”

The unexpected question made Charlene panic. She held her breath for a few seconds, pretending to be calm, and asked, “What are you talking about, Braden? I never lied to you.”

“You told me that Rachel was obsessed with me and that I had no feelings for her. It’s not a lie? Turns out I used to have a good relationship with Rachel!”


From the window, one could see the sky outside darkening as rain clouds gathered, covering the bright sun. The woman in the ward looked as gloomy as the dark sky. She suffered from an inner storm.

“Don’t you want to explain yourself?” Braden’s eyes, which were trained on her, were as sharp as an eagle’s.

Charlene swallowed uneasily. Braden’s question was straightforward. Apparently, he had already talked to Rachel before they came. Charlene wasn’t sure what Rachel had told Braden, but she doubted Rachel had any evidence of her past crimes. Therefore, it was likely that Rachel didn’t tell Braden everything. Otherwise, Braden wouldn’t have been so gracious as to give her a chance to explain herself. In fact, he might not have visited her at all.

Since Charlene had figured this out, she knew what to do next. She pretended to be angry and asked pointedly, “Why don’t you trust me? I’ve never lied to you! Braden, I described your relationship with Rachel only from the perspective of an outsider. Didn’t I tell you before? You never talked to me about your relationship with her. If you didn’t tell me anything, how could I have known whether or not you two had a good relationship? Now, I realize that I must’ve misunderstood your relationship. After all, what I saw was just the way you two got along in public. You are always cold and indifferent with everyone. I thought you didn’t like her either.”

Charlene’s explanation was somewhat convincing. It was true that Braden didn’t talk about his private affairs with others. But Charlene was an intelligent woman with a discerning eye. She should’ve seen the relationship between Braden and Rachel for what it really was, which meant that she wasn’t telling the whole truth. Still, it was difficult for Braden to tell which part of her words was true and which part was not. They had known each other for years, thus he still trusted Charlene somewhat. As for Rachel, Braden could only feel that there was some sort of a special bond between them. But every time he tried to recall something related to her or their past together, he’d get a splitting headache that would debilitate his thinking.

“Indeed, I’m not good at expressing myself.” Braden fell silent for a moment. After a while, he stood up and said, “All right. Get some rest. I have to go back to work. I’ll visit you another time.” Although what he said wasn’t out of character, his eyes were as cold as ice. No matter how hard she tried, Charlene couldn’t read him. So she simply forced a smile in response. She could see that although Braden had stopped questioning her, he didn’t trust her as much as before.

Not long after Braden and Rachel left, Charlene’s attending doctor entered the ward with several nurses. The doctor glanced at Shane and then said to Charlene, “Miss Palmer, the gauze can be removed today.”

Charlene had been in the hospital for a long time now. Because her burns were severe, the doctor never talked about removing the gauze until she had calmed down. After all, in his experience, many burn patients just broke down as soon as they saw their disfigured faces.

Charlene was nervous. Her whole face and body had been covered in gauze since she woke up. She couldn’t see how bad it really was and therefore hadn’t mentally prepared herself for the fact that she was disfigured.

Standing beside the bed, Shane said in a fatherly tone, “Only after checking the wounds can the doctor decide the treatment plan for the next stage.”

“Okay.” Charlene slowly squeezed her eyes shut and lay still. She could feel the nurses slowly peel layer upon layer of gauze off her body. Then she heard someone gasping. Charlene slowly opened her eyes, only to find her mother crying in her father’s arms. The doctor and the nurses also looked at her in shock. There was even a trace of pity and fear in their eyes.

Charlene slowly turned her head to look at the mirror in the ward. The reflection staring back at her didn’t look human at all. She looked like a monster in the shape of a human. Not a single part of her skin was intact, and her face was beyond recognition. The large black scabs all over her body looked like a pangolin’s shell.

In the blink of an eye, Charlene’s self-esteem was shattered. She started scratching at the scabs on her face like a madwoman and screamed at the top of her lungs hysterically.

Charlene was utterly horrified by what she saw. In a streak of madness, she started clawing at the skin on her face fiercely, as though she could tear the ugly skin off and throw it away. Seeing that Charlene was going crazy, the nurses and the doctor sprang into action and rushed to hold her down.

“Miss Palmer, please calm down. This situation is very normal. You can still recover in time,” the doctor said, struggling to hold one of her arms down. Anyone with a brain knew that he was just trying to console her.

There wasn’t a hair left on Charlene’s disfigured head; they had all been burnt to a crisp. It was nothing more than a fantasy to think that she could ever recover from this and look the same as before. No one knew where her explosive strength came from, but Charlene somehow managed to shove all the nurses off of her and bolted to the door. She couldn’t stay here! And she didn’t want anyone to look at her as though she was a monster.

Just as Charlene was about to reach the door, she bumped into Melanie, who had rushed over to block her way. Seeing her daughter like this, Melanie’s heart broke into a thousand pieces. She hurriedly threw her arms around Charlene and held her tightly.

“It’s going to be okay, my baby. Once you’ve completely recovered, it won’t be so bad. Then you can have surgery to remove the scars,” Melanie comforted her daughter.

Maybe it was Melanie’s gentle and patient voice that calmed Charlene down. She hugged her mother back tightly and burst into tears. In between sobs, she cried, “Mom, I’m a freak now. How can I face the world like this? Even if I have plastic surgery, things will never be the same.” She sobbed hysterically and went limp in Melanie’s arms, unable to hold herself up.

Melanie was also grieving over her daughter’s misfortune. She didn’t have the strength to support her daughter on her own, and the two of them collapsed to the ground. The mother-daughter duo held each other and wailed in anguish. Melanie had always been a dignified and reserved woman who could keep her composure even if her husband’s mistress showed up at her doorstep to stir up trouble. But now, she couldn’t stop herself from crying hysterically in front of so many people.

“You’ll still have Mom and Dad. No matter what happens, you’re still our beautiful daughter,” Melanie reassured Charlene, tears streaming down her cheeks uncontrollably. She patted Charlene on the back and comforted her softly.

Charlene’s face was also covered in tears. Her burnt face contorted as she cried, making her look even more ugly. Desperate, she roared at the top of her lungs, “What’s the point? Braden won’t love me anymore!”

In the past, Charlene had always thought that she and Braden were the perfect match. But now, how could she stand beside him with such a disgusting face? She didn’t even deserve to be in the same room as him! Realizing this, her eyes took on a fiercely dangerous light. This was all Rachel’s fault. That bitch deserved to die a horrible death!

Rachel sneezed three times in a row, rubbing the tip of her reddened nose. She looked at Braden and asked, “What did the doctor my father hired say?” Recently, Rachel had been accompanying Braden in his treatments, but the situation was not optimistic.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

“It’s the same as what all the other doctors said. No one can pinpoint the specific reason as to why I lost my memory. The experts need more time to observe my condition,” Braden explained. He handed Rachel a handkerchief and asked with concern, “Have you caught a cold?”

Rachel gratefully accepted the handkerchief and wiped her nose. Shaking her head, she mused, “No. Maybe someone’s talking about me behind my back.”

Braden smiled faintly at her, but his heart was heavy. Only he knew that his condition was getting worse as time went on. Every single time he tried to recall the past, he’d have a migraine, which would put him in a bad mood. Rachel had no idea. She thought that he was just upset that he had lost his memory.

“Now that she had accepted the fact, she could only try to comfort him. ‘Come on. Don’t be so stressed about regaining your memory. Even if you can’t remember our past, it’ll be okay. We can just start over,’” Rachel reassured him, hoping to ease his worries.

Braden, however, felt it wasn’t fair to Rachel. He expressed his concerns, “No, it’s not fair to you.” Rachel pursed her lips and turned her face away from him. However, the smile on her face betrayed her true feelings. She was very happy. Although Braden didn’t remember anything now, slowly but surely, he had begun to care about her feelings. Maybe he would return to the former Braden sometime soon.

“Braden, I know you’re doing your best. Don’t worry. I’ll always be with you,” Rachel raised her head to look at Braden firmly. She was willing to wait for him to recover his memory.

There were two other reasons that Rachel was not worried about this matter. On the one hand, the two of them got along well with each other now. Braden’s lost memories had no effect on their current relationship. On the other hand, she wanted to do something during this period of time. She would make Charlene pay for everything she had done to them…

Charlene continued to delay the discharge date of the hospital. She just couldn’t accept the fact that she was now disfigured and crying in her pillow all day for days and days.

She was once a calm and confident woman herself, but now her ego was stagnant, and she gradually became depressed and melancholic. Sometimes it just takes a crucial moment to destroy a person’s pride and joy.

When Charlene saw her reflection in the mirror, every ounce of pride and confidence that she had accumulated in the last twenty years was destroyed.

The day Charlene returned to work at the Porter Group, Melanie was very anxious. She personally accompanied her daughter to the door of the Porter Group building, as she accompanied her to school on its first day.

“Don’t force yourself, dear. You don’t have to work at this moment. I’ve been talking to your father, and we want to go on a trip with you. You can take some time off and relax for a while…”

“I’m fine, mom. Sooner or later, I have to face reality, right?” Charlene stood up in front of the door of the Porter Group, shaking slightly.

It took all the courage she could muster to go back to the office. She put on a mask to cover half of her face. When she was sure she was completely covered, she took a deep breath and began to walk towards the building with difficulty.

It was November now, but the weather wasn’t too cold. Charlene covered herself from head to toe, exposing only her eyes and nostrils. Naturally, her appearance caught a lot of attention.

When the employees of the Porter Group walked past her, they couldn’t help but look at her in a strange way. These curious glances made Charlene, who had recently become very sensitive, feel very uncomfortable.

She felt as if those people could see the scars on her skin under the fabric. Hugging herself with strength, Charlene lowered her head and walked quickly to her office.

When Braden learned that Charlene had returned, he went to see her during lunch. “Thank you for coming back to work so soon, but you have just been discharged from the hospital. You should stay home and rest more.”

Braden was somewhat surprised when he heard that Charlene would be back so soon. His words also surprised her. “Thank you, as long as you don’t blame me for delaying the work of the company, I’m fine.”

Charlene lowered her head and unconsciously adjusted her mask to cover more of her face. Seeing her awkward gestures, Braden asked, “Doesn’t it feel suffocating to wear a mask and a scarf in here? No one will mind.” His attitude towards Charlene was as cold as before. Nothing had changed even though she was disfigured.

Charlene smiled bitterly. She couldn’t tell how it felt. She knew clearly that it was because Braden only saw her as a business partner, nothing more. Her heart tore bitterly. She turned around and shook her head. “It does not matter if others see my appearance now. I don’t want to disturb the other employees.”

Charlene tried to work the same way she would have done before. That way, at least she could maintain her relationship with Braden.

But she soon realized that her ability to work was not as good as before. She had been crestfallen for about a month.

There was a lot of work that piled up during her absence. To tell the truth, this was not the problem for her. The real problem now was her inner demons. Charlene used to be a calm and rational woman, but now that her confidence was destroyed along with her beautiful face, she couldn’t keep calm.

The top executives of the Porter Group used to have four or five meetings each week. Every time she attended a meeting, she felt that people were staring at her. Whenever they whispered to each other, it felt as if they were laughing at her.


One day in a routine meeting, Charlene couldn’t control herself anymore and exploded on the spot. She lost her composure, saw them talking outside the meeting room.

She even flipped a table and yelled at them. Later, she learned that the top executives were discussing the business plan that she had suggested at the time. No one ever laughed at her. She was just imagining things.

After that day, the same thing happened with more frequency. Charlene had become a completely different person.

She felt that she looked so awful now that she felt embarrassed to attend meetings with other partners, and she turned down invitations to banquets and parties again and again. Given her disfigurement, how could she wear a dress and socialize gracefully? Little by little, the invitations stopped coming.

So Charlene began to think that those people deliberately stopped inviting her because they found her ugliness repugnant.

The perfect opportunity had arrived. Due to her fragile mental state, Charlene had been making many mistakes at work. At first, Braden thought it was normal, considering the traumatic blow she had just suffered.

When employees complained about her carelessness, he tried to appease them by saying, “Miss Palmer just went through a serious accident.

We need to be patient and give her some time to recover.” Since Braden himself had given the order, the employees couldn’t say anything. They had no choice but to tolerate Charlene.

Every day, the Porter Group employees received tea in the afternoon. One day, a group of employees gathered for tea and dessert. “When I went to the bathroom today, I accidentally saw Miss Palmer taking off her mask,” one of them whispered softly.

“She looked in the mirror, talked to herself, and then screamed madly.” Another colleague expressed surprise, saying, “Really? I’ve never seen her without a mask since she returned to work.”

The first employee confirmed, “Well, I saw it with my own eyes… She saw me… Let’s just say I was shocked when I saw her face… Anyone who saw her face would have been terrified. She looked like a living corpse! The rotten kind, of course,” she said, shaking her head with a deep sigh.

Suddenly, a cup of hot tea spilled on the employee’s face.

She screamed, covered her reddened face, and rolled on the floor in pain.

Charlene dropped the empty cup from her hand and spat on the woman on the ground.

“Spreading rumors about me? I’ll rip your mouth out!” Without warning, she pounced on her colleague, wrapping her fingers around her neck and slapping her repeatedly.

People around them were scared. Some were brave enough to intervene and try to stop Charlene. Eventually, when Charlene calmed down, the injured woman had to be rushed to the hospital.

This incident caused a sensation, and the employees couldn’t help but complain to the management about Charlene’s appalling behavior. But Charlene didn’t stop there. Later that same day, she made a mistake in a meeting and had a big fight with a business partner of the Porter Group. That was the final straw. Finally, Braden called her into his office to talk.

As Charlene sat down across from him, Braden slid a business card down the table and got straight to the point. “You can’t continue like this. I know a psychologist who is very good at what they do. You should go see them.”

Tears started rolling down Charlene’ cheeks as she put her trembling hands on the desk. She knew the day would come when Braden would let her go, sooner or later. And this was it!

“Do you think I’m crazy?” she asked with a trembling voice.

Braden shook his head and explained his reasoning patiently. “I don’t think you’re crazy, but I do believe your state of mind is delicate right now. I understand how you feel. I don’t want to blame you, but I strongly suggest you seek professional help. Otherwise, it will affect your work and life in the future.”

Charlene clenched her fists tightly. In her eyes, Braden was just making excuses. She knew he must be upset with her.

After all, her face was disfigured now, and she couldn’t work as skillfully as before.

How could he possibly fall in love with her? “Okay, I hear you,” she scoffed coldly. As soon as she left Braden’s office, she collapsed and ran out crying, not taking his business card. Obviously, she didn’t want to see a psychologist.

Rubbing his aching temples, Braden waved and sighed.

In her current fragile state, Charlene couldn’t do anything right. But considering the fact that they were friends, he couldn’t just kick her out of the Porter Group. He could only hope that she would figure things out.


At first, Rachel didn’t realize how bad Charlene had become until Braden informed her about the seriousness of the situation.

She also saw this as the perfect opportunity. Charlene used to be a serene and intriguing woman, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint her vulnerabilities. But now, she was at her most fragile state.

Finally, it was time for Rachel to move.

From Braden’s conversation with Charlene, she rarely left her office or spoke to anyone. She didn’t want to face the gazes of the intrigued employees, nor did she want to fight with anyone and give Braden one more reason to push her away.

Given her fragile mental state, it was difficult for her to control her temper now. She knew better than anyone that she could barely keep calm in these days. The more she tried, the worse things got.

At that moment, she heard the door open to her office. Thinking it was just her assistant who came to deliver some documents, she didn’t bother to look up from her desk. “Put the documents on the table,” she said absentmindedly. But a familiar voice sounded. Charlene raised her head and met Rachel’s smiling eyes.

“Mrs. Porter, do you have a date? If not, please get out of my office,” Charlene said hatefully.

This woman must have come just to make fun of her. Ignoring her refusal, Rachel entered the office and calmly looked Charlene up and down.

Less than a month had passed since the last time they saw each other, but Charlene seemed to have completely transformed into a different woman. Although Rachel couldn’t see her face with her mask and scarf, she could tell that Charlene was about to lose her temper.

“We need to talk, Miss Palmer,” Rachel kept her smile. They were at the headquarters of the Porter Group, and she was sure Charlene didn’t know. She wouldn’t dare to chase her away. Charlene gritted her teeth angrily.

Just looking at Rachel made her want to skin the dog alive. But since Rachel was the wife of the CEO, she had to be courteous to her. “Then please sit down, Mrs. Porter,” she said with stiffness.

Charlene unconsciously wrapped herself tighter in her coat, feeling uncomfortable and even a little shy under Rachel’s intense gaze. Rachel sat on the sofa and crossed her legs with elegance.

“You set fire to the haunted house to kill me, right?” Charlene’s entire body stiffened, as if she had been struck by lightning. After a moment of silence, she stammered, “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Do you need a mirror to see yourself now? How do you see yourself?” Rachel’s smile widened, and her eyes shone dangerously.

“You have what you deserve, Charlene. You failed to kill me in that fire, and now I’ve managed to turn you into a beast. How are you feeling?” Charlene bit her lower lip hard, forcing herself to calm down.

She wasn’t stupid; she realized that Rachel was deliberately trying to elicit a confession. She was probably even recording their conversation right now.

“I said I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why would I want to kill you? You are Mrs. Porter, and I respect you. For the sake of my friendship with Braden, I’ll forget what you just said. I have work to do. You can leave when you’re done with that cup of tea.” Charlene refused to engage in this conversation with Rachel.

She was afraid of losing control of her emotions and getting into a fight.

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t admit it. I simply enjoy seeing you like this,” said Rachel with a smile. “I mean, you wrap up to cover your whole body now, right? What makes you stink. I know that my husband gets so upset every time he sees you like this.” Charlene’s nostrils flared, but she still did her best to remain calm.

However, every word that came out of Rachel’s mouth hurt her deeply. The audacity of mentioning Braden! How could Charlene withstand such a blow? “Get out of my sight right now!” Charlene stood up suddenly and roared at the top of her lungs.

Seeing that she had gotten what she wanted, Rachel took her bag and sneered proudly, “I was about to go anyway. I feel bad just looking at you like that. Now that you’re an ugly monster, you should give up your dream of being with Braden. You don’t deserve it!”

Her last words finally pushed Charlene over the edge. She was furious and lost control of her mind completely. She picked up the kettle of hot water from the table and threw it at Rachel.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Despite her calm and relaxed facade, Rachel had been discreetly on high alert since she arrived. So when Charlene tried to splash her with boiling water, she was able to dodge it in time. The hot water splashed onto the floor, and a few drops managed to splash onto Rachel’s skin, leaving red marks.

Perfect! Now was her chance to get rid of Charlene once and for all! “Help! Someone, call security! Charlene is crazy!” Rachel yelled at the top of her lungs and fled in horror from Charlene’s office.

Charlene liked to keep a close eye on employees, so her office was located on the floor where most of the ordinary employees worked. As soon as Rachel left Charlene’s office, she caused a stir. Her words were like a fuse, igniting all the rancor of the employees against Charlene. All the employees came up to Rachel and anxiously asked, “Mrs. Porter, what happened? Are you okay?”

When Rachel spoke, her lips trembled with fear mixed with adrenaline. She pointed in the direction of Charlene’s office and said shakily, “Charlene suddenly poured hot water on me and said she felt disgusted when she saw my face.”

“Oh my God! It’s getting more and more ridiculous!” the employees said horrified. Everyone started complaining about Charlene, airing their grievances. “Miss Palmer must have gone mad from the fire! She hasn’t been the same since she came back!”

“She has messed up a lot at work and caused countless losses to the company! Not to mention the fact that she’s hit a lot of people here! And now, she’s even trying to hurt Mrs. Porter! She is definitely doomed now!”

“I can’t take it anymore.”

“Her face is so scary! I can’t keep working at the Porter Group like this with her around!”

“It’s okay! Calm down, everyone.”

Seeing that everyone was getting more and more restless, Rachel spoke up loudly. “We need to focus on the matter at hand. I’m sure Mr. Porter will do us justice!”

After speaking, Rachel sent someone to call the security guards while she called Braden.

Charlene’s office floor was still wet. Curled up like a ball on the couch, Charlene covered her face and wept bitterly. She was wearing a mask and a scarf, so no one could tell if she was really crying or not. They could only hear muffled sounds coming from her, which was a bit scary. As he surveyed the scene in front of him, Braden’s expression darkened.

“Explain to me, Charlene.”

Charlene stopped crying immediately. “It was Rachel. She kept insulting me! That’s why I lost my mind and poured hot water on her!” Panic gripped Charlene, and she couldn’t think straight. She had never been so reckless in her life, and what she had just done scared even herself. At that moment, she only felt pure rage and raw emotion. She wanted to disfigure Rachel’s face so that she, too, would know what it would be like to be an ugly monster. The consequences of doing so never occurred to her.

Braden looked at Rachel, who was standing in the doorway to Charlene’s office, and said nothing. Rachel looked at him with an innocent look and asked, “Do you think I would do something like that?”

“You know what you did! You provoked me on purpose to make a fool of myself!” Charlene yelled, pointing a trembling finger at Rachel.

As things had come to this, she felt desperate. However, Rachel said nothing. The angrier Charlene became, the calmer her opponent became.

“Why would Rachel want to do that? You have no enmity with her,” Braden pointed to the water stains on the carpet and coldly added, “Unless you can give me a reasonable explanation for this.”

Charlene was speechless. Braden had lost two years of his memory, which meant that he had completely forgotten about the feud between her and Rachel.

“Because you say nothing?” Braden frowned sadly. Charlene met his eyes and clearly saw his disappointment unmasked.

“You already know the answer, don’t you?” A single tear rolled out of the corner of her eye and onto the mask. Braden didn’t know why she kept crying so sadly. She rarely cried before. How is it that he chose to believe in Rachel instead of Charlene, his friend and trusted confidante?

Because he had gotten to know Rachel over the last few weeks. After spending time with her, he understood what kind of woman Rachel was. She was kind, caring, and considerate. She wouldn’t hurt anyone for no reason.

Charlene, on the other hand, had been extremely sensitive and irritable recently. She was always paranoid, feeling that someone was talking behind her back and laughing at her. It was not the first time she had lost her temper with someone in the company.

Many employees had approached him recently, complaining about her horrendous behavior. And every time an employee filed a complaint, Braden didn’t do anything about it because he felt sorry for Charlene.

This time, however, she crossed the line. He had to do something now. The Braden of two years ago would have dealt with things in an even cooler manner.

He looked at Charlene, his eyes devoid of warmth, and said, “You’ve gone too far this time. Even if Rachel had laughed at you, you shouldn’t have tried to hurt her like that. Do you know how badly she would have been hurt if the hot water had splashed on her?”

Charlene snorted indignantly. Once again, he chose Rachel’s side. “Your state of mind is incredibly fragile right now. If you continue to work here, I would be putting my other employees at risk. You should seek therapy first and go back to work after receiving treatment.” Braden’s words were cruel. “Otherwise, I’ll have to resort to firing you.”

Charlene felt as if her soul had been sucked from her body. Her feet seemed to have been nailed to the ground, rendering her unable to move. She turned her head with difficulty and looked at Braden, too hurt to say a word.

He had kicked her out of the Porter Group for Rachel once before, but she never expected to get kicked out again. And this time, he did it in front of so many people. Charlene felt like she was going crazy. Her eyes swept the crowd, and all the employees were looking at her with disgust.

Finally, her gaze landed on Braden. His face was cold, and he looked at her indifferently, as if he were looking at a complete stranger.

Suddenly, Charlene threw her head back and burst into hysterical laughter. Everyone present was startled by her sudden hysteria and subconsciously backed away.

Then, as abruptly as she started to laugh, she stopped. Her eyes swept the crowd, her expression unusually calm and disconcerting.

“Well, get back to work, everyone,” Braden said lightly.

“I’m going to see a psychologist.” She then picked up her bag and quietly left.

Braden frowned. He watched Charlene go, deep in thought. There was something wrong with her, but he couldn’t say what. However, he was grateful that she had finally agreed to seek professional help. The two had been friends for many years, after all. He didn’t enjoy seeing her like this.

Rachel also fixed her eyes on Charlene as she left, wondering what she was doing. Still, she was relieved that she had finally driven this dangerous woman away.

Without Charlene, The Porter Group had become much calmer. The gossiping employees talked about her from time to time, as a funny joke.

For the next few weeks, Rachel didn’t hear any news about Charlene. Time passed quickly. Her name was not mentioned again. Autumn had long since come to an end.


Braden and Rachel were having lunch at a restaurant when Braden suddenly brought up the subject. “The psychologist I introduced Charlene to told me that she has been receiving regular treatment and is getting better and better.”

Rachel’s eyebrow shot up in surprise. “That’s good. If she can bounce back and get back to her normal self even after what happened, then she’s a tough cookie.”

Braden nodded nonchalantly. He then poured some food onto Rachel’s plate and said, “It’s her life. She’s getting better for her own good.”

Rachel took a bite of her food and chewed thoughtfully. In fact, she was a little hungry now. If nothing had happened between her and Charlene, she would have admired her. It was a shame that Charlene became an eternal enemy of Rachel.

The snow was getting heavier and heavier outside.

A man in a gray coat and black knit hat entered the restaurant. He took off his hat, brushed off snowflakes, and blew on his cold hands. Then, he turned around and walked into a private room.

Watching him arrive, Braden smiled. “You’re late, so you have to pay the bill.”

Kristian laughed. “Maybe it was because of his new haircut, but Kristian somehow seemed more mature now. ‘It’s only been a few months, Mr. Higgins Why do you look so much older?’ Rachel joked.

Previously, from what Charlene had told Braden about Kristian, Braden had been on his guard against him. Later, Rachel told him that these were all lies, and he stopped believing Charlene’s stories. Rachel had even assured him that Kristian was one of her closest and steadiest friends. Since then, Braden had gradually regained his trust in Kristian.

Kristian smiled wryly and took a glass of wine. “Yes, yes, I know I’m late. I am sorry.”

Rachel and Braden exchanged worried glances. Obviously, there was something on Kristian’s mind that was bothering him. Braden turned to look deeply into his friend’s eyes.

“What’s happening?”

“The same as always, the same as always. I want to get married, but my family doesn’t agree.” Kristian rubbed his forehead and sank into a chair, looking tired.

After bringing Nadia back to Meadowview, Kristian arranged for her and her baby to live in his villa. He assured her that although he might be busy with work, there would be a nutritionist and servants to take care of her, but she could always call him if she needed anything.

“I’m just pregnant, not disabled,” Nadia replied when Kristian expressed his concern.

“Can I take care of myself?” she added, noting that her belly was still flat, and she appeared thin.

Kristian smiled wryly. He was determined to marry her, but first, he needed to gain approval from his family, the prominent and well-educated Higgins family in Sunhaven.

Kristian’s parents, Viola and Leonard Higgins, came from families that had been friends for generations. Viola was accomplished in various fields, including music and art, while Leonard held traditional values but was not a bad person.

Although they were lenient with Kristian’s previous escapades, they did care about him marrying a suitable girl. Kristian knew it wouldn’t be easy to get their approval, so he prepared himself beforehand.

Upon returning to the Higgins family, Kristian took charge of the family business and made significant contributions to important societies. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed by his parents, especially Viola, who was delighted to see her son finally maturing.

“Kristian has finally grown up, don’t you think, Leonard?” Viola remarked happily one day as Leonard sat reading the newspaper in the garden.

Leonard, having observed Kristian’s recent changes, agreed, “He has certainly matured. I hope he can keep up the good work.”

Hearing this, Kristian saw an opportunity and decided it was the right time to approach his parents. That night, he called them into the study, where he served them tea.

Sensing something serious, Leonard and Viola became alert. They noticed Kristian’s unusual seriousness and felt that he had something important to say.

“If there’s something you want to say, just say it,” Viola urged, her hand trembling as she held the tea cup.

Taking a deep breath, Kristian smiled and said, “I’m going to get married.”

Viola’s hand shook even more, causing ripples in her tea. She exchanged a glance with Leonard, who was equally surprised and unsure how to respond. An awkward silence filled the room.

“Daddy, Mommy, I’m getting married,” Kristian repeated, breaking the silence.

Leonard closed his eyes, rubbed his brow, and asked, “What family is she from?”

“She doesn’t have a family now, but she will soon. I am determined to give her a home,” Kristian replied softly, his gaze steady.

Leonard’s eyes widened, and his face turned livid. “Crap!” he exclaimed, unable to contain his anger.

Viola spoke earnestly, “We don’t mind who you date, but marriage is different! I’m sorry, Kristian, but you should marry someone from a noble family, not an orphan. An orphan doesn’t deserve it. We will never approve of this union!”

Kristian smiled, expecting this reaction from his parents. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and then continued, “She is pregnant.”

“What?!” Leonard roared in disbelief, pointing a trembling finger at Kristian. “What a disappointment you are!”

Viola was so angry that she struggled to breathe properly. After regaining some composure, Leonard firmly grasped the armrests and said, “Even if she’s pregnant, you can’t marry her. Make her abort the baby. If she refuses, she can raise the child alone after it’s born. We can offer her compensation, but you simply can’t marry her. End of discussion!”

“Mom, you always taught me to be independent and make my own decisions. Are we talking about my marriage now? Can I decide for myself?”

Viola had just managed to calm down, but now she became furious again.

She put her hand to her forehead in anguish and said, “I’m afraid not. Marriage is a serious matter. We can’t let you marry just anyone from an ordinary family. Why do you think I would allow you to marry an orphan? Kristian, she doesn’t deserve you.”


Leonard intervened, “Did that woman threaten you with the child?”

Kristian smiled bitterly and shook his head, disappointed. “No, of course not. I want to marry her because I love her. I’ve been pursuing her for a long time, and she finally agreed to be with me.”

Leonard’s expression changed upon hearing his son’s words. It seemed that none of them were willing to back down. Viola and Leonard exchanged a look and sighed.

“Well, we don’t have to rush things. I’ll find some ladies from wealthy and noble families, and you can go on blind dates with them. Maybe then you’ll find the right woman for you,” Leonard tried to compromise as much as he could.

If Kristian found someone more attractive and suitable, he might give up the idea of marrying that orphan. “I agree. You don’t have to stick with that woman. Your dad and I are doing this for your own good. You’re going on a blind date tomorrow, and that’s final.”

Although Kristian didn’t want to go on a blind date, he had no choice. He was determined to marry Nadia no matter what tricks his parents played.

The next day, Viola took Kristian to a restaurant to meet a lady from one of the wealthiest families in the city. Before they entered, Viola stopped and reminded her son, “Be a gentleman. Your dad and I carefully chose this girl. Her family is our business partner. Treat her nicely.”

Viola knew her son well. If he wanted to resist, he would do everything in his power to do so. “Whatever,” Kristian impatiently replied. “Meeting this girl won’t change anything.”

Without another word, he entered the restaurant and sat at the reserved table. The woman sitting across from him was stunningly beautiful and seemed infatuated with him.

During the meal, he kept coming up with topics to keep the conversation going. “What kind of women do you like?” the girl asked timidly, playfully brushing her hair behind her ear. Kristian smiled, adjusted his glasses, and replied, “I like women who are considerate and capable of caring for others. You see, I have a pregnant girlfriend who can’t take care of herself. I need someone to take care of her and the baby once we get married.”

The girl became furious. She rolled her eyes at him, glared, and stormed off. Nadia watched from afar, realizing that Kristian must have intentionally ruined the date.

On subsequent blind dates, Kristian used the same trick over and over again. He believed that if all his blind dates failed, his parents would eventually give in.

At home, Nadia was bored to death. She used to go out whenever she felt bored, but now she couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without feeling sick. Nadia didn’t have many friends, and Rachel, her only friend, often had to travel between Sunhaven and Meadowview. Whenever Rachel was in Meadowview, Nadia would ask her out.

Knowing that Nadia had been bored since becoming pregnant, Rachel would spend as much time as possible with her. One day, they went shopping at the mall and then proceeded to a restaurant to rest and have dinner. Rachel had two large bags full of baby clothes.

“We still don’t know if the baby is a boy or a girl. What if we buy the wrong kind of clothes?” Rachel asked worriedly.

Nadia, who was also looking at the bags, chuckled. Maybe it was because she was about to become a mother and had developed a maternal tenderness. “Well, I like them. Children won’t notice the difference anyway,” Nadia said.

Something caught her attention, causing her to stop in the middle of her sentence. Confused, Rachel followed her friend’s gaze. In the innermost part of the restaurant, Kristian was having dinner with a woman who seemed to be from a noble family. The two of them chatted and laughed as if they were the only ones in the restaurant.

Nadia looked at Kristian in disbelief, feeling chills run down her spine. Her blood seemed to turn to ice as she spoke with Rachel, desperately seeking comfort.

“This can’t be true. There’s no way Kristian would cheat on me,” Nadia said, her voice trembling.

Rachel wore an uncomfortable expression as she gently grabbed Nadia’s wrist. “It must be a misunderstanding. We should talk to him and find out the truth.”

Nadia fell silent, her face pale and devoid of any makeup. She dropped the menu and stood up abruptly, losing her appetite. She didn’t want to confront Kristian publicly and cause a scene like those women who caught their partners cheating.

Rachel expressed genuine concern. “Let’s go ask him what’s going on. But remember, you’re pregnant now. Don’t let anger consume you.”

Nadia smiled weakly, pointing to a cab nearby. “I know, no matter what happens, I won’t let it harm my baby. You should go home, Rachel. I need some time alone to process everything.”

Rachel understood that Nadia needed space to reflect on what she had just witnessed. She believed in Nadia’s intelligence and strength to handle the situation on her own.

Viola and Leonard had recently moved to Meadowview, hoping to introduce their son to eligible daughters of their friends. Kristian had once again managed to ruin a blind date, leaving Viola furious. As he returned home late, he noticed all the lights were still on, unsettling him.

Nadia sat on the sofa, surrounded by a knife, a keyboard, and a durian on the tea table. Kristian forced a smile, goosebumps covering his skin. He wanted to embrace her, but Nadia’s piercing gaze made him hesitate.

“What’s going on?” Kristian asked, sensing something was wrong. Nadia grabbed the durian and threw it on the floor. “Kneel on it!”

Terrified of hurting his knees, Kristian pleaded for mercy. Nadia glared at him, demanding an explanation.

“Who was the woman you were with today?” she asked, her anger evident.

Kristian explained that his parents had forced him into blind dates because they didn’t approve of their relationship. He approached Nadia, placing a hand on her thigh, hoping for understanding. “Don’t be mad, darling. We’ll find a compromise.”

Nadia felt a wave of relief as she heard his explanation and saw sincerity in his eyes. But she couldn’t shake off the pain of seeing him with another woman, especially someone so beautiful.

“I expected something like this to happen, but it still hurts to see you with someone else,” Nadia admitted, her voice filled with sadness.

Kristian held her gently, shaking his head. “No, honey. In my eyes, no one surpasses your beauty. You are the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Nadia rolled her eyes, pushing him away. “Let go of me. I haven’t given you permission to hug me. I’m still furious.”

Unable to bear seeing Nadia upset, Kristian approached her again. “Honey, let me give you a massage.”

Nadia sighed and lay back on the bed, resting her head on the pillow. “Don’t worry too much about this. I trust that you can handle your parents. Just be prepared to become my husband,” she said, trying to sound amiable.

Deep down, Nadia knew that her future with Kristian wasn’t promising. She couldn’t help but doubt what lay ahead.

Leonard and Viola had set up numerous blind dates for Kristian with eligible daughters from wealthy families in Sunhaven, but none had been successful.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

“Do you think our son is intentionally ruining his reputation? Do you want us to die without seeing him married?” Viola sighed, rubbing her temples.

“I’ve been longing for a grandchild, Leonard. All the other women my age flaunt their grandchildren in front of me. At one point, I even thought I would have a grandchild soon. But Kristian is too stubborn. And now, with all these failed blind dates, people are starting to gossip and say nasty things about our son. How will he find a partner now?”

Kristian was willing to sacrifice his reputation to reject the arranged marriages his parents had planned for him, leaving them feeling powerless.

Leonard, in particular, was frustrated with Viola’s constant complaints. “Didn’t he get that woman pregnant? If you’re so desperate for a grandchild, why don’t you accept her?”

Viola snorted angrily and remained silent.

Surprisingly, Kristian’s strategy worked. Viola finally understood that he was determined to marry Nadia.

After much contemplation, Viola raised her hands in defeat. “Let’s not be so harsh. Even though this girl is an orphan, what if she turns out to be decent? How about we invite her for lunch and see for ourselves? We have nothing to lose, anyway.”

Leonard reluctantly nodded. “Fine. There’s no such thing as a perfect daughter-in-law, after all.”

When Nadia entered the Higgins family home, she felt extremely anxious. However, she knew her nerves were beneficial. It kept her on guard and cautious. It had taken her a long time to get ready for this day. Since becoming pregnant, she had stopped wearing makeup. But today, she had specifically hired a makeup artist to help with her hair and makeup. She was even wearing her most expensive clothes. After all, this was her first meeting with Kristian’s family, and everything had to be perfect. She couldn’t give them a reason to look down on her.

Kristian carefully held Nadia’s arm as he led her into the house, taking one step at a time.

During lunch, Nadia remained restless. She chewed and swallowed slowly, trying to eat as gracefully as possible, unlike her usual self. As a result, she felt stiff and uncomfortably full after the meal, like never before. She could sense Viola and Leonard’s scrutinizing gazes, observing her every move. Viola elegantly wiped the corner of her mouth and glanced at Nadia’s belly.

“Miss Ortiz, how many servants do you have in your household? You’re pregnant now, so you need to take good care of yourself.”

Nadia obediently nodded and smiled. “Thank you for your concern, Mrs. Higgins. I have several maids taking care of me. I also have a nutritionist and a doctor. In fact, I’ve been following a specific diet for pregnant women.”

Although the truth was that the food designed for her was tasteless, and she secretly indulged in other snacks.

Kristian looked at Nadia with a sad expression on his face.

“Nadia has been practicing martial arts since she was a girl. Naturally, her temperament is different from those spoiled rich ladies who expect me to marry them. She’s sensible and reasonable, which is hard to find these days.”

“But Kristian, do you truly love her? Love can fade over time. What if you fall out of love in the future? If you marry someone from a wealthy background, at least you can maintain the marriage with money. But Miss Ortiz doesn’t even have a family. How will you sustain your marriage? Marrying on impulse is unfair to both you and Miss Ortiz,” his mother argued.

Disappointed by his mother’s perspective, Kristian clicked his tongue.

“I’ve dated many women before, and I know what I feel for Nadia. She’s different. Besides, I have to take responsibility for her. It’s not like the Higgins family is struggling and needs my marriage to stay afloat. Why won’t you let me marry the woman I love? And she’s pregnant with my child. Can you really let this child grow up without a father? Mom, Dad, let me make it simple for you. If I can’t marry Nadia, I won’t marry anyone else.”

Kristian used both firmness and persuasion to convince his parents.

Viola, his mother, had never seen her son act this way. She sighed and looked at her disappointed son.

Finally, she turned to her husband, feeling helpless. “Well, it’s up to you. I can’t control our child. It seems he’s obsessed with Miss Ortiz.”

Leonard, his father, frowned deeply, feeling torn.

Viola was a cunning woman who cared only about their image. By giving Leonard the decision-making responsibility, she secretly hoped he would force Kristian to comply.

On the other hand, Leonard also wanted to be a father and a kind grandfather. That left him with only one option.

“Fine,” Leonard finally agreed. “I approve of you marrying her, but on one condition: You have to leave the Porter Group. This way, you can take over the family business and plan for its future development. We initially allowed you to work at Porter Group to gain experience, but you’ve been reluctant to leave the company after all these years, neglecting our family businesses. Now that you’ve chosen to marry Miss Ortiz, this marriage alone won’t bring any benefits, so you need to add value to the family in another way.”

Leonard spoke solemnly, emphasizing his point.

Kristian knew his father was serious and fell into thoughtful silence.

The Porter Group was founded by Kristian and Braden when they were young. The Higgins family and the Porter Group were competitors in some fields. If he decided to return to the Higgins family, it meant that someday in the future, he could end up on the opposite side of the Porter Group. He and Braden would become rivals. But he had to make a decision.

Right now, Nadia was his priority.

“Fine… I promise,” Kristian said, his eyes filled with determination.

Nadia had been waiting for Kristian at home for a long time. When he finally returned, she smiled happily at him.

“Mom and Dad will choose the perfect date for us to celebrate the wedding. They love you very much and hope we can live with them after we get married.”

Kristian flopped down on the couch, hugged Nadia tightly, and looked into her eyes. She pushed him away slightly, confused.

“How did you manage to convince them? Your parents didn’t agree before. What made them change their minds?”

Guessing that Kristian must have paid a high price for his parents to change their stance, Nadia wore a worried expression.

Smiling brightly, Kristian pinched her cheek playfully and said, “Why the long face? Aren’t you happy to be my girlfriend? They are my parents. They wouldn’t do anything to harm me. They just asked me to return to the Higgins family and take over the family business. He spoke casually, but Nadia’s heart sank.

Perhaps it was due to her fluctuating emotions caused by her hormones.


Tears welled up in her eyes as she said, “Are you being foolish? Why would you accept such a condition? You built the Porter Group from scratch with Braden! The Porter Group is practically your child, isn’t it?”

She knew how important the Porter Group was to Kristian; otherwise, he wouldn’t have worked there for so many years. Now he was forced to leave what he had built so he could marry her.

“It must have been a difficult decision,” Kristian’s expression softened as he wiped away the tears from Nadia’s eyes. He held her in his arms and spoke softly, “What else can I do? I can’t work at the Porter Group forever. My parents are getting older, and I need to take care of the family business sooner or later. Also, now I have something more important to protect than the Porter Group.”

Looking at him with tears in his eyes, Nadia didn’t help stopping herself from crying even more.

Nadia understood that Kristian had made a significant sacrifice for their relationship, and she was determined not to let him down. With a hoarse voice, she promised to be the best wife and make both Kristian and his parents proud. Kristian, amused by her words, laughed softly and kissed her forehead.

“Don’t change yourself for me, Nadia,” he said affectionately. “Just be who you are. Okay?”

Nadia knew that marrying into a wealthy family wouldn’t be easy, especially with Viola’s high standards for a daughter-in-law.

Now that they had his parents’ approval, Kristian began preparing for the wedding. Nadia preferred a simple ceremony without many guests or media attention. However, news of their marriage spread, and even Kristian couldn’t prevent it from becoming a trending topic on Twitter.

During the wedding ceremony, the guests discussed the situation, particularly the women who had once pursued Kristian. He had been one of Sunhaven’s most eligible bachelors, and Nadia’s presence intrigued everyone.

Rachel, who had experienced a similar situation when she married Braden, whispered to Nadia while helping her with her wedding dress.

“Don’t pay attention to them. They’re just jealous. In Kristian’s eyes, you’ve already won.”

Nadia smiled but felt an indescribable sadness. She worried about what life would be like after marriage. She had always enjoyed her carefree lifestyle, and she feared that Kristian might grow tired of married life.

“I heard Mrs. Higgins is a gentle woman,” Rachel tried to console her. “I doubt she’ll make you suffer.”

Although Nadia had never met Kristian’s mother, she knew that Kristian loved her deeply. If he could convince his parents to accept her as his wife, then maybe she could be protected from the harassment of the Higgins family.

After their wedding, Nadia entered the world of the upper class as Kristian gradually took over the family business. She accompanied him to parties and banquets, where some wealthy individuals mocked her. Nadia had anticipated this situation when she agreed to marry Kristian, so she endured the insults and slander.

Not long after their marriage, Viola called and instructed Nadia to move into the Higgins mansion. Nadia was taken aback by the sudden order and nervously twisted the telephone cord as she responded, “Mom, I have professionals taking care of me. I don’t want to be a burden at home.”

“Nonsense! We are family,” Viola replied firmly. “I must take care of you. Besides, I’ve arranged etiquette classes and other necessary courses for you, including dancing, wine tasting, and art appreciation. As the future host of the Higgins family, you must conduct yourself as a cultured lady. Don’t bring dishonor to the Higgins family.”

Viola’s calm voice came through the phone, putting Nadia at ease.

Nadia realized that her mother-in-law didn’t despise her but was genuinely concerned.

“Mom, I understand,” Nadia replied respectfully.

Viola sensed Nadia’s hesitation and asked, “Is something bothering you, Nadia? You can be honest with me now that we’re family.”

“No, nothing’s wrong. I just didn’t want to inconvenience you or dad. But since you insist, I’ll do as you say,” Nadia replied, though still feeling uneasy. She knew Viola had good intentions, even if she wasn’t interested in the courses suggested.

It might be beneficial to learn about high-class customs, Nadia thought.

The next day, Viola sent servants to help Nadia pack her belongings.

After loading everything into the car, Nadia officially moved into the Higgins family home.

The Higgins owned luxurious mansions in Sunhaven and Meadowview.

To make it easier for Nadia, Viola and Leonard temporarily moved to Meadowview.

Shortly after Nadia settled in, her lessons began, and Viola started teaching her various things.

One morning at six, Nadia was awakened by a servant.

Rubbing her sleepy eyes, she went downstairs and found Viola elegantly sipping coffee at the table. Viola was already dressed for the day, with impeccable makeup and perfume.

Viola always looked flawless and emphasized the importance of appearance and manners to Nadia.

“Good morning, Nadia. Did you sleep well?” Viola greeted, eyeing Nadia up and down. “You look tired.”

Suppressing a yawn, Nadia tried to compose herself. “No, no, I usually wake up at this hour.”

“Good girl. Nowadays, not many young people like to wake up early,” Viola said, satisfied. She glanced at Nadia’s attire and added, “Usually, we dress before breakfast. Kristian must have forgotten to tell you. Well, you can have breakfast first and then go upstairs to change.”

Nadia looked down at her pajamas, feeling embarrassed.

Trying to hide her nervousness, she quickly sat down at the table to eat.

After taking only a couple of bites, Viola reminded her, “You should stop eating when you’re halfway full. Overeating will make you feel tired and sluggish for the rest of the day.”

Viola paused and then smiled, saying, “But since you’re pregnant now, it’s okay to eat a little more.”


Nadia obediently nodded and took two more spoonfuls of food.

Wiping her mouth, she stood up, intending to go upstairs and get dressed.

However, she got up too quickly and nearly tripped over the table leg. Nadia reacted swiftly, avoiding a fall.

Viola was startled and patted her chest, sighing in relief. “Don’t be so careless next time. You can’t afford to be clumsy anymore, Nadia. Think about the baby you’re carrying.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Nadia apologized hurriedly.

She grabbed the stair railing and climbed slowly, being cautious.

After changing clothes, Nadia began her etiquette lessons.

It was a long and exhausting day for her.

When she finally returned to her room, it was already nine o’clock at night.

Collapsing onto the bed, Nadia felt like crumbling under the pressure of maintaining proper decorum at all times. It was suffocating.

The high-class lifestyle made her feel trapped.

Etiquette classes proved to be much more challenging for Nadia than she had anticipated. In fact, they were a hundred times harder than martial arts.

Just as she lay in bed for a few seconds, her phone started ringing. It was Kristian calling.

“How are things going? Are you getting along with my parents?” Kristian asked in a smooth voice. Nadia massaged her sore shoulders and murmured, “Mom and Dad are treating me well. I’m happy to be here.”

Knowing his parents weren’t difficult people to get along with, Kristian didn’t doubt Nadia’s words. “That’s great!” he exclaimed cheerfully. “Since you’re happy there, you can stay with them a bit longer.” Nadia forced a dry laugh and didn’t say anything else. She didn’t want to burden him with her unhappiness. The distance between them felt more pronounced than ever.

“How’s your job going?” Nadia yawned quietly.

“I just told Braden that I’m leaving the Porter Group,” he said, his voice filled with determination.

Braden remained silent, absorbing the weight of his decision. Nadia knew he was the rightful heir to the Higgins family, and Porter Group was merely a stepping stone towards taking charge of their family business. The current state of chaos within Porter only solidified his resolve to move on.

“Charlene is on leave for therapy, and now I’m resigning,” Kristian continued, his tone tinged with concern. “The Porter Group will be left with even fewer staff.”

“It’s getting late,” Nadia abruptly interjected, desperately searching for an exit from the conversation. Her emotions were overwhelming, and she couldn’t confide in Kristian. “I’m feeling tired.”

She wasn’t lying. With a 6 a.m. wake-up call awaiting her the next morning, Nadia cherished every precious moment of solitude she could find.

Unaware of Nadia’s inner turmoil, Kristian remained focused on his work at the Porter Group. He blew kisses through the phone and reassured her, “Alright, sweetheart. Goodnight.”

Nadia rolled her eyes in frustration, ending the call and pulling the duvet up to her forehead. The weight of her decisions and the uncertain future weighed heavily on her mind.

Within a month, two of the founders of the Porter group had departed. Charlene left to undergo therapy, while Kristian resigned to take over his family’s business. These sudden changes caused panic among everyone at The Porter Group.

After dealing with Kristian’s resignation, Braden called Charlene’s psychologist to inquire about her progress. “How is she?” he asked.

“She’s fit for work,” the psychologist reported.

Having known the psychologist for years and trusting him, Braden decided to visit Charlene that afternoon.

When Braden arrived, he found Charlene participating in a painting contest with other patients. The hospital sponsored the activity, and the prize was a basket of chocolates.

In the end, Charlene’s painting won first place.

Silently observing, Braden watched as she kindly distributed the chocolates to the other patients. Although she still wore a mask, she seemed less distant and her overall temperament had improved. She appeared less irritable than before.

“It seems like you’ve recovered well,” Braden commented lightly as he approached Charlene, surprising her.

“Braden, why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

“I happened to be in the area.”

As Braden’s eyes fell on the small patch of exposed skin on Charlene’s neck, he smiled and said, “You look as elegant and confident as ever.”

Charlene waved her hand dismissively. “The burns on my neck aren’t as severe as the rest of my body. I used to hide myself completely, but the doctor helped me overcome my insecurities. I’m less sensitive to the scars now. I was wrong before—I covered myself up, sealing off my heart.”

Now, she didn’t mind showing a part of herself.

“You always had the best stress tolerance among the three,” Braden sighed.

Charlene modestly shook her head. “I’m flattered. I went through something incredibly stressful, but luckily, I’m on the path to recovery. After all, my biggest advantage was never my face, but my brain.”

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Braden felt relieved. He turned to look outside, lost in thought. It was a sunny day, almost as if the universe was aligning for them.

After a while, Braden looked at Charlene and spoke frankly. “It’s good to see you improving. Kristian has decided to take over his family business, and The Porter Group needs you. Are you ready to return?”

The Porter Group truly needed her.

After a moment of silence, Charlene sketched a smile. “Of course.”

Three days later, Charlene returned to the office and resumed her work.

Her sudden return surprised everyone at The Porter Group. They had witnessed how broken she was when she left, and her presence made them uncomfortable. Were they in for revenge? But their worries never materialized.

Charlene treated everyone with kindness, just like the old Charlene. Moreover, she proved to be an efficient worker, still the capable woman she had always been.

Braden noticed her exceptional performance and started assigning her important projects.

When Rachel heard that Charlene had recovered and returned to work, she felt shocked and helpless. It seemed that Charlene would remain a formidable opponent. However, Rachel didn’t want to waste her energy seeking revenge. She was content with her career and her life with Braden.

Since their work schedules often differed, Rachel would prepare lunch and bring it to Braden’s office whenever she visited Sunhaven. They cherished their lunch hours together, spending quality time like a young couple in love.

One day, as Rachel was bringing lunch to Braden’s office as usual, she encountered Charlene in the hallway. Ignoring her, Rachel walked past her towards the elevator.

Suddenly, Charlene called out from behind, “Please, wait a minute.”

Rachel frowned and turned to look at her. “Yes?”

“There’s something I wanted to talk to you about. Can you accompany me to my office?”

Rachel’s intuition warned her that something was amiss.

“Nope, what do you want from me?” Rachel confronted Charlene, fully aware of the countless ways Charlene had hurt her in the past. She refused to believe that Charlene thought she could get away with more.

“Don’t worry. We’re in your husband’s territory. I wouldn’t harm you,” Charlene replied, a sly smile playing on her lips. Her mask barely concealed her face this time.

Anxiety gnawed at Rachel as she bit her lower lip.

She pondered whether Charlene truly had no ill intentions or if he simply didn’t want to cause a scene here. Besides, she had just completed rehab and didn’t want any trouble.

Rachel reluctantly followed Charlene into her office but remained cautious, standing by the door instead of entering.

Charlene calmly sat down and poured a cup of tea. “I didn’t tell you? Relax, I won’t harm you.”

Though hesitant, Rachel cautiously approached the seat across from her.

Taking a seat near the French window, Rachel spoke bluntly, devoid of any expression. “Let’s cut to the chase. What the hell do you want?”

Given their history as sworn enemies, there was no need for pleasantries.

“You were right, okay? I’m a hideous monster now. I don’t deserve to be with Braden. I’ve made up my mind to surrender. I hope you and Braden live happily ever after,” Charlene declared, pushing the cup of tea toward Rachel.

Rachel doubted Charlene’s sudden change of heart. The woman who had relentlessly pursued her husband for so long couldn’t possibly wish them well.

Charlene scoffed, her eyes gleaming with darkness.

Without warning, Charlene lunged forward, forcefully pushing Rachel out of her chair and through the open French window.

Surprised, Rachel cried out. She had expected Charlene to resort to her usual cunning and deceit.

Charlene wouldn’t have acted so recklessly if she truly wanted to harm Rachel. There must be a carefully crafted plan behind this.

Unprepared for the sudden attack, Rachel fell to the ground, spraining her ankle. She struggled to stand but failed.

In one swift motion, Charlene raised her leg and kicked the window with great force.

The entire window frame detached, plummeting to the ground below.

Charlene dragged Rachel, who was still struggling, toward the gaping hole. Gripping her hair tightly, Charlene forced her to look down.

“Bitch! Open your eyes. If you fall from here, I promise you’ll die in the worst way possible!”

They stood at a height of more than twenty floors, the wind whistling in Rachel’s ears. The people and cars below appeared as tiny models.

In that moment, Rachel’s legs weakened.

The height was insurmountable. Falling from this distance meant certain death, leaving no chance to see another day.


Rachel trembled, desperately clinging to the French window frame, hoping Charlene wouldn’t push her. In that critical moment, the office door swung open abruptly, and Braden entered, holding a document in his hand.

As he stepped into Charlene’s office, something seemed off. Suddenly, a bloodcurdling scream pierced the air, causing Braden to snap his head up. His eyes widened in horror as he saw Charlene gripping Rachel’s head, dangerously close to the broken window.

“Charlene! What the hell are you doing?!” Braden froze, unable to comprehend the scene before him.

With a deranged look in her eyes, Charlene shouted, “Don’t come any closer! If you take one more step, I’ll push her!”

Fear gripped Braden, draining the color from his face. He never imagined such a horrifying scenario when Charlene asked him to discuss work in her office.

Charlene’s forehead veins bulged with anger as she continued, “Are you hurt yet, Braden? I brought you here so you could witness Rachel’s death firsthand!”

She raised her head and let out a hysterical laugh, her disfigured face resembling a monstrous creature. Braden was overwhelmed by shock and confusion.

“Why are you doing this? The psychologist said you had recovered,” Braden pleaded, trying to make sense of the situation.

Charlene laughed again, her voice filled with bitterness. “Recovered? Braden, do you think life is that simple? I don’t care anymore! That fire turned me into a monster inside and out! My life is ruined, while you’re still happily with Rachel! It’s driving me insane!”

Her roar echoed like that of a wounded beast. The scars from the fire had left an indelible mark on her face and heart, making her feel unbearably ugly.

In that moment, Braden understood. Charlene had never truly recovered. She had deceived everyone, including her doctor, into believing she had healed. In reality, her madness had festered and grown to unprecedented heights.

“Did you come back just to hurt Rachel?” Braden’s eyes darkened with anger.

“Exactly. I waited for the perfect moment when you let your guard down, so I could return to the Porter Group. I planned everything meticulously to ensure you witnessed Rachel’s death!” Charlene’s bloodshot eyes widened as she burst into maniacal laughter.

Braden knew he couldn’t act rashly. Rachel stood precariously close to the window’s edge, held only by Charlene. Calling the police or seeking help would only provoke Charlene further. He was trapped between a rock and a hard place.

What should he do? Regret flooded his being like never before. It was his decision to bring Charlene back to work, putting Rachel in danger. He gritted his teeth, wishing it were him that Charlene wanted to kill.

Attempting to remain calm, Braden discreetly covered his phone with the document in his hand and dialed Kristian’s number while Charlene was distracted. He needed to buy more time. Desperately, he tried to negotiate.

“If you release her unharmed, I’ll pretend this never happened. I promise to let it go, okay?”

Charlene threw her head back, laughing even harder. “Braden, are you seriously trying to negotiate with me now? Do you think I want to live after this? I’m ready to go down with her! I’ll take the woman you love and ensure you live the rest of your life in pain and regret!”

Braden was perplexed by Charlene’s intense hatred for Rachel. He couldn’t comprehend why she despised her so much. Charlene detested Rachel to the point of contemplating suicide just to eliminate her.

Furrowing his brow, he struggled to recall their interactions. As far as he could remember, they rarely spoke to each other. What had transpired? Why did Charlene harbor such animosity towards Rachel? Could his memory loss have caused him to forget something crucial?

Carefully, he inquired, “There used to be no grudge between you two. Why do you suddenly want to kill Rachel?”

Charlene grimaced and glared at Rachel with fury. “We’ve always hated each other, Braden, but you’ve completely forgotten. Well, let me refresh your memory.”

And so, Charlene proceeded to recount everything.

In the past, Braden had been infatuated with Rachel, which ignited an intense jealousy within Charlene. After all, she had known him first and believed she deserved him, not Rachel. She had attempted various methods to separate them but failed repeatedly. In a desperate act, she resorted to setting fire to the bewitched house, intending to kill Rachel. However, her plans backfired, resulting in her own disfigurement instead.

The more Braden listened, the greater his shock grew. He strained his mind, attempting to recollect the details Charlene revealed, but a throbbing pain in his head incessantly interrupted his thoughts.

Pressing his hands against his temples, he looked helplessly at Rachel and asked, “Is this true? Why didn’t you tell me all of this before?”

Lying awkwardly on the floor, Rachel closed her eyes and explained, “It’s true. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t find any evidence to support it. Charlene managed to cover her tracks. You had lost your memory, and you trusted her with your life. I couldn’t risk acting recklessly…”

“Should I thank you for not telling me, Rachel?” Charlene scoffed sarcastically. “You’re a hated bitch! Even after Braden lost his memory, he still chose you. You must be so proud, right?” As she spoke, Charlene yanked on Rachel’s hair, forcing her to raise her head and meet her gaze.

Rachel stared into her eyes, trembling with fear. In that moment, Charlene revealed her true colors. She shed her gentle facade and transformed into the monster that had always lurked beneath her skin.

“Let go of me, you lunatic!” Rachel screamed in pain.

Coldly, Braden asked, looking directly into Charlene’s eyes, “What can I do to make you release her?”

How could he have placed his trust in such a vicious person? He glanced at his phone, discreetly hidden behind some documents. He noticed that Kristian had answered the call, but no sound had come through. Perhaps Kristian had realized what was happening and was desperately searching for a solution.

At present, all Braden could do was buy as much time as possible.

“Wake up, Braden! Can’t you see what’s right in front of you? I won’t let this wretched woman live another day! She’s the reason I ended up like this. I’m going to kill her!” Charlene bellowed, her disfigured face contorted with rage.

Gritting his teeth, Braden clung to a glimmer of hope. Charlene kept threatening to kill Rachel, but she hadn’t taken any action yet. Perhaps she was merely boasting. After all, the Charlene he knew wouldn’t give up her own life so easily.

Taking a deep breath, he attempted to reason with her. “Charlene, you need to calm down. We can talk about this. You have your parents, who love you dearly. You’re already luckier than most people. Can’t you see that?”

It was early December, and the cold wind howled as the sky remained gloomy. Countless snowflakes glittered in the sky, forming piles of snow on the ground. Charlene gazed down from the broken French window and caught a glimpse of a white snowflake.

“How ridiculous. This time last year, I was surrounded by loving friends and family, celebrating the first snowfall. But now, my face is disfigured, I suffer from mental illness, and I have no friends left. Life is cruel.”


“Don’t talk like that, Charlene. There’s still hope. We can find a way to overcome this.”

“No! Don’t try to talk me out of it. They’ve ruined me, and my life is shattered. I’ll never have the chance to be with you now. My only purpose in life is to make sure you witness Rachel’s death.”

“Charlene, please don’t say that. There must be another way. We can find help.”

“I’m sorry for my parents, but I no longer want to live in this cruel world. If there’s an afterlife, I’ll repay you.”

Without further hesitation, Charlene nodded decisively.

“No, Charlene! Please, let’s find another solution. We can get through this together.”

But before Rachel could finish her plea, Charlene jumped out of the window, pulling Rachel along with her.

Rachel screamed in terror as Braden, who had been nearby, rushed towards the window and managed to grab Rachel’s outstretched hand.

“Hold on, Rachel! I won’t let you go!”

The combined weight of the two women and gravity began to drag Braden down. His arms strained, veins popping, and sweat forming on his forehead.

“I won’t let you fall! Hold on!”

Rachel felt the immense pressure, torn between two opposing forces. She couldn’t bear to see Braden go down with her.

“Charlene, let go! Let go of me!”

Charlene glared at Rachel, anger and curses almost escaping her lips. But in the next moment, she lost her grip on Rachel’s hand and plummeted to the ground.

A desperate shout echoed through the air as Charlene landed motionless, blood pooling around her.

Rachel closed her eyes, unable to witness such a gruesome sight. She knew she was still in danger and had no time to dwell on Charlene.

The harsh winter wind mixed with snow numbed Braden’s arms. He could feel the sensation fading away as he struggled to maintain his grip on the window frame.

“Braden, let me go. You can save yourself, but not both of us.”

Braden ignored her plea and tightened his grip on her hand.

“You have to let go! It’s better if at least one of us survives.”

Unbeknownst to her, a small voice inside Rachel urged Braden not to let her go.

“I won’t leave you. If you’re going to die, I’ll die with you.”

Time seemed to stand still as they hung there, the last two people on earth. Braden couldn’t explain why he was so determined to stay by Rachel’s side, whether in life or death. He didn’t remember his past, but he knew that he couldn’t abandon her.

“Braden Porter! Can’t you hear me? Let go!”

Rachel cried out in desperation, fearing for both their lives. She was terrified, but she was more afraid of losing Braden.

Ignoring her pleas, Braden held on tightly, refusing to let go.

Their hands slipped slowly from the edge of the window, and in an instant, their strength gave out. With screams of fear and shock, the two fell from the French window.

Rachel and Braden plummeted towards the ground, feeling the rush of wind around them. But just as they thought their fate was sealed, a network of safety suddenly emerged from the window of the apartment below, catching them in its grasp. They landed on the nets, bouncing slightly from the impact, and looked up to see a crowd of rescuers and employees gathered at the window.

“Come on, give me a hand! Quickly!” one of the rescuers shouted.

With combined effort, the Porter team pulled Rachel and Braden back through the window. Rachel was still in shock, trembling in Braden’s arms. He too was gasping for air, his heart pounding with adrenaline.

It took Rachel a while to regain her composure. When she finally came to her senses, she raised her head and glared at Braden, tears streaming down her face.

“Are you crazy? Why didn’t you let me go? If the rescuers hadn’t arrived in time, we would have died! Can’t you stop being so self-righteous for once? I didn’t need your help. You had a chance to live! You shouldn’t have risked it for me!”

Rachel had always believed that true love didn’t require such extreme tests, and sacrificing oneself for another was foolish. Braden couldn’t comprehend her perspective either. He had always considered himself selfish and cold-hearted, never expecting to do something like this for a woman he barely knew.

Bitterly smiling, he gently brushed Rachel’s hair with his hand. “How could I let you go? I was more scared than you. I knew I would regret any choice I made, so I thought it was better to die with you than to live alone.”

Speechless, tears continued to flow down Rachel’s cheeks. She didn’t agree with what he had done, but fortunately, they both survived. Braden kissed her forehead and patted her back gently.

“Take it easy. We made it,” he reassured her, then stood up.

As he helped Rachel to her feet, he noticed Kristian, his eyes red from emotion. Braden walked over to him and playfully punched his shoulder.

“Damn it! I was starting to think you wouldn’t come to help us,” he said, his voice thick with gratitude. “Thank you, Mr. Higgins.”

King of Dragonmarsh

Seven Level Tribulator
Gold Villager
Sep 27, 2023

“Damn it! I was starting to think you wouldn’t come to help us,” he said, his voice thick with gratitude. “Thank you, Mr. Higgins.”
It is quite strange to hear for the first time that Braden is now addressing Kristian as Mr. Higgins. And I wonder why Kristian is not putting more effort to remind Braden of the things happened in the past 2 years. He is the only person who knows everything inside and out of Braden's life.

..writing 'Braden' instead of 'Dominic' also feels quite strange 😂 I feel more comfortable with Dominic even though now he is no longer Dominic.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023
It is quite strange to hear for the first time that Braden is now addressing Kristian as Mr. Higgins. And I wonder why Kristian is not putting more effort to remind Braden of the things happened in the past 2 years. He is the only person who knows everything inside and out of Braden's life.

..writing 'Braden' instead of 'Dominic' also feels quite strange 😂 I feel more comfortable with Dominic even though now he is no longer Dominic.
We have the same questions regarding the silence/lack of effort of Kristian to help Dominic remember. I guess, 'Dominic' relates to his old family that he disliked. 'Braden' is more on his mother's side, and a self-made millionaire.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Kristian rubbed his shoulder where Braden had hit him and smiled. “I may not work here anymore, but I’m still your friend. I rushed here as soon as I got your call. It was too windy on the phone, so I couldn’t hear what you were saying at first. It took me a while to understand what was happening. When I reached the office above, Charlene was pushing Rachel through the window! I immediately called 911. Luckily, the police and rescue team arrived just in time to save them. Otherwise, not one, but three people would have died today.”

Kristian glanced out the window at Charlene’s lifeless body below, shuddering at the gruesome sight. “God, why, Charlene? Why would she do something so foolish?”

Braden fell silent, unable to provide an answer. After some time, when Rachel finally calmed down, a policeman approached them and asked them to identify Charlene’s body. Together, they made their way down to the scene.

In the snow, a woman lay motionless, her body covered in blood. The crimson stain spread around her like a macabre rose. Rachel couldn’t shake off the feeling that Charlene’s lifeless eyes were fixed on her, sending shivers down her spine. Seeking solace, she buried her face in Braden’s arms.

Trembling, Rachel asked, “Have you contacted her parents?”

Kristian nodded. “I did. They should be here soon.”

Braden, his gaze fixed on Charlene’s corpse, took a deep breath and wrapped his scarf around Rachel, offering comfort. “Do you want to wait for me inside?” he asked gently.

Rachel shook her head, clinging to the hope of being with her parents. She didn’t want to be separated from them.

Suddenly, the wailing siren of an ambulance pierced the air. Gathering what little courage remained, Braden raised his head and looked towards where they had found Charlene’s body. Workers carried her away on a stretcher.

“I almost feel sorry for her,” Braden muttered under his breath.

“She deserved it. No need to feel sorry,” Rachel replied, though she sensed Braden’s conflicting emotions. She knew he pitied Charlene. While there had never been romantic feelings between them, he had always admired and trusted her. From their school days, Charlene had stood out as a confident and exceptional woman, a cut above the rest.

Mr. and Mrs. Palmer arrived upon hearing the tragic news of their daughter’s death. They threw themselves onto Charlene’s lifeless body, crying hysterically. Shane, usually a reserved man who rarely showed emotion, couldn’t help but burst into tears, his anguish echoing through the air. Melanie, disregarding her expensive fur coat soaked in bloody snow, wept uncontrollably, her makeup smearing with tears.

Amidst the chaos, Rachel caught sight of Melanie in the crowd. Shane hurriedly approached Rachel, pointing an accusing finger at her. “You! This is all your fault! You drove my daughter to madness. She said she would go back to square one, but look what happened!”

Rachel frowned, feeling unjustly blamed. It was Charlene who had been pursuing her.

Melanie raised her hand to strike Rachel, but before she could, Braden intervened, shielding Rachel with his arms. His gaze turned cold as he addressed Melanie. “Mrs. Palmer, be careful. We are the victims of your daughter’s actions, not the other way around. She got what she deserved.”

Shane rushed over and helped Melanie to her feet, his eyes burning with hatred. He trembled as he spoke, “The police will investigate Braden Porter. I won’t rest until you’re behind bars!”

Rachel and Braden were taken to the police station for interrogation since someone had died. Fortunately, the Porter Group building had well-equipped closed-circuit cameras. The police carefully reviewed the surveillance footage and interviewed witnesses to piece together the events.

It became evident that Charlene had manipulated her office window, intending to jump off the building with Rachel. However, Braden had saved Rachel, while Charlene met a tragic end.

Both Rachel and Braden were declared innocent, absolved of any responsibility for Charlene’s fate. With the case resolved, Melanie and Shane had no choice but to accept the harsh reality.

They looked aged beyond their years as they returned home, carrying the weight of their daughter’s mangled corpse.

Brenda was convinced that Rachel was responsible for Charlene’s untimely death. She couldn’t understand why Charlene’s parents hadn’t taken any action against her. Determined to seek justice, Brenda, a Ph.D. student in the midst of an important project, made a swift decision to return home.

She hurried to the lab and approached her supervisor, Jerome Bryce, who was engrossed in experiments with other students. Distressed and anxious, Brenda shared the devastating news with him. Concerned, Jerome asked, “What’s wrong? We’re still in the early stages of the project. It’s crucial to establish a solid foundation.”

Shaking her head sadly, Brenda replied, “Mr. Bryce, my sponsor, Charlene Palmer, was murdered. I have to go back.”

Jerome’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he quickly signed the leave forms for Brenda. He sighed, saying, “I’m truly sorry to hear that.”

Lost in her grief, Brenda failed to notice the peculiar expression on Jerome’s face. Time was of the essence, and she needed to pack quickly to catch the last flight tonight. However, just as she turned to leave, Jerome halted her abruptly.

“Brenda, wait,” he called out.

Turning around, Brenda asked anxiously, “Yes, Mr. Bryce?”

Jerome sympathetically patted her shoulder and suggested, “I think one week’s leave might not be enough. Considering the seriousness of the matter, you can return once everything is settled.”

Confused, Brenda questioned, “But didn’t you say the early stages were crucial? Is it really okay if I don’t come back soon? What about the project?”

Jerome waved his hand dismissively. “You mentioned your sponsor was murdered. Don’t you want to avenge her?” Brenda’s eyes lit up with determination.

Of course, she wanted to seek justice for Charlene. However, she felt lost and unsure of where to begin. The Coltons, the family involved, were not to be underestimated. Even Brenda, who had been abroad for a long time, knew about their influence.

“I’m just an orphan, despite my academic achievements. I don’t stand a chance against Charlene’s killer. I don’t even know where to start,” Brenda confessed, clenching her fists with hatred in her eyes.

Observing her closely, Jerome smiled knowingly. “I can help you,” he whispered into her ear. “But if you want my assistance, you’ll have to do something for me in return…”

A chilling gust of wind blew past them, causing Brenda to shiver. She snapped back to reality, and Melanie, standing before her, noticed her pale appearance. Concerned, Melanie instructed a servant to bring a blanket for Brenda.

Wrapped in the warmth of the blanket, Brenda shook her head and smiled, keeping her plan hidden from Charlene’s parents. “Thank you, Mrs. Palmer. I was just reflecting on what happened to Miss Palmer, and it made me feel incredibly sad. She was such a wonderful person.”

Genuine tears streamed down Brenda’s face as she wept bitterly in front of Charlene’s tomb. Touched by her display of emotion, Melanie approached and offered comfort. “If Charlene knew how highly you thought of her, she would have been overjoyed.”

Wiping away her tears, Brenda forced a smile. “For now, I’ll stay in Meadowview. If you ever need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call me. I always considered Miss Palmer as my older sister. During college, she encouraged me to study hard and often spoke fondly of you.”

Hearing that Charlene frequently mentioned her to Brenda, Melanie found solace in their connection. Having just lost her daughter, she felt drawn to those who knew Charlene well. Melanie reached out and held Brenda’s hand, expressing concern. “You mentioned you’ve recently returned from abroad. Do you have a place to stay? If not, you’re welcome to stay with us for a few days.”

Surprised, Brenda blinked in astonishment. Things were falling into place more easily than she had anticipated. Shane, Melanie’s husband, nodded in agreement, and Melanie turned to Brenda with a bright smile.

“Absolutely. You are more than welcome to stay with us.”

“Rachel! You despicable woman! I’ll drag you down to the depths of hell with me!” Charlene screamed, her hands reaching out to strangle Rachel with pure hatred.

Gasping for air and fighting against Charlene’s grip, Rachel struggled desperately. Just as she felt herself losing consciousness, Charlene vanished into thin air. Rachel opened her eyes, waking up in a state of frantic terror. She was drenched in sweat, her hand instinctively touching her neck as she struggled to catch her breath. It had all been a nightmare.

Exhausted from the intense struggle in her dream, Rachel lay back on the bed. Nightmares had plagued her during this period, but she couldn’t recall how many. Braden, hearing the commotion, entered the bedroom.

“Another nightmare?” he asked, concern etched on his face.

“I’m fine,” Rachel replied, forcing a smile.

“This can’t go on. I’ve arranged for you to see a psychologist,” Braden said firmly, sitting down beside her and gently brushing her wet bangs aside.


Reluctantly, Rachel agreed, “Alright, I’ll go see her.”

Braden held her in his arms, their foreheads touching. “Listen, it’s not your fault,” he whispered with tender compassion.

Ever since Charlene died, Rachel had been haunted by nightmares every night. The image of Charlene’ unrecognizable face in the heavy snow tormented her relentlessly.

Later that afternoon, Rachel had an appointment with the psychologist, who greeted her warmly. “Just think of me as a friend. Don’t be nervous.”

After chatting for a while, the psychologist identified the source of Rachel’s frequent nightmares. She also recognized that part of Rachel’s psychological pressure stemmed from Braden.

“How is Mr. Porter doing?” the psychologist inquired gently. “Perhaps both of you should undergo treatment together.”

Excited by the possibility of helping Braden regain his memory, Rachel felt a glimmer of hope. The psychologist explained that some memory loss could be caused by psychological factors.

Eager to explore this avenue, Rachel proposed the idea to Braden when she returned home. However, he immediately became resistant, dismissing the suggestion.

“I don’t need it. As long as she can help you, that’s enough. Don’t worry about me,” Braden retorted, clearly annoyed.

Confused by his strong aversion to psychotherapy, Rachel pressed him for an explanation. She knew him well enough to understand that forcing him into something he had already formed a negative opinion about would be difficult.

Unbeknownst to Rachel, Braden had previously undergone psychotherapy after his mother’s death, which had left a bitter impression on him. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience and had only exacerbated his suffering.

Realizing his reluctance, Rachel didn’t push further. Instead, she had a backup plan in mind.

That evening, Rachel prepared a lavish dinner, hoping to entice Braden. When he saw the table adorned with numerous delicious dishes, he hesitated. He sensed that Rachel had a motive behind this extravagant meal but decided to join her anyway, wanting to enjoy the moment together.

As Rachel served him with a smile, she said, “It feels like we’re back to the early days of our marriage.”

However, Braden’s eyes reflected bitterness as he couldn’t recall those memories she spoke of. Sensing his confusion, Rachel continued, “Braden, can you please go see the psychologist with me? We’ve been through so much lately. I want us to take a break. And… I also want to have a child. Remember how much you loved children before?”

Rachel tenderly held Braden’s warm palm, her eyes shining with hope.

Braden had always longed for a complete family, including children. With Rachel by his side, he felt his dreams were slowly coming true. After contemplating for a while, he finally mustered the courage to say, “Okay.” Rachel was overjoyed, knowing Braden wouldn’t refuse her. They both wanted to be happy together.

The next day, Rachel accompanied Braden to the clinic. As they entered, Rachel noticed a tall, familiar-looking woman. She tapped the woman on the shoulder and exclaimed, “Olive, it’s really you! What are you doing here?” Olive turned around, surprised to see Rachel. After regaining her composure, she greeted Braden and Rachel with a hint of shyness. “Well, I’m here to see the doctor.”

Rachel couldn’t believe that Olive needed to see a psychologist. Despite Olive’s quiet nature, everyone at work found her easy to be around, and she didn’t seem to have any mental issues. Just then, a man approached Olive, dressed in a unique outfit consisting of distressed denim jacket, white turtleneck sweater, tight black jeans, and black army boots. Although handsome, Rachel couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t a good match for Olive.

“Hey, why are you all standing here? It’s almost our turn,” the man said to Olive, glancing at Rachel and asking, “Who’s this?”

Olive softly replied, “She’s my colleague,” lowering her head. The man sneered and crudely looked Rachel up and down, saying, “How come I never knew you had such a beautiful friend?” He extended his hand to shake Rachel’s, but she instinctively pulled away, uncomfortable with his lascivious eyes and flirtatious tone.

Protectively, Braden stepped in front of Rachel, glaring intimidatingly at the man. Olive shot him an angry glare and apologized to Rachel, explaining, “I’m sorry. This is my boyfriend, Hans Cowell. We’re here for counseling. He tends to talk nonsense. Please don’t take him seriously.” She pinched Hans’s arm and urged him, “Let’s go in.”

As Rachel watched them leave, she couldn’t shake the strange feeling she had about the situation. “I never expected Olive needed counseling. It seems like many people need help nowadays,” she sighed heavily.

Braden held her hand, pulling her closer. He gently stroked her soft hair and said, “Everyone has their own problems. The key is to find meaning in life and live it to the fullest.” Lowering his head, he looked at Rachel affectionately and added, “Fortunately, I’ve found mine.”

Rachel blushed and averted her gaze, feeling moved by his words. She tugged at his collar, standing on tiptoe to kiss his lips softly. Clearly, his words had touched her deeply. Soon, it was their turn to enter the psychologist’s office. However, instead of asking about Rachel, the psychologist’s first question was directed at Braden. “Mr. Porter, were you on any medication recently?”

Confused, Rachel looked at Braden. Medication? She had no idea he was taking any. The psychologist noticed her confusion and explained, “I checked Mr. Porter’s medical records and found that he had been taking a lot of painkillers. Such medication can lead to addiction.” Rachel’s eyes widened in shock. What was going on?

Braden’s body tensed as he heard the psychologist’s question, realizing his mistake of not being cautious enough. He had forgotten to ask Booker to handle his medical records, leading him to provide genuine information to the psychologist. It was evident that the psychologist had discovered Braden’s prescription for painkillers, leaving him with no choice but to come clean.

“I’ve seen multiple doctors before, but none of their prescriptions worked,” Braden confessed, panic evident in his voice. “Gradually, I felt even worse. Every time I tried to recall the past, I would have a splitting headache that only painkillers could relieve. But don’t worry, I’m not addicted or anything. In fact, I’m reducing the dosage now.”

Rachel couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Didn’t my father introduce you to a doctor?” she asked, her disbelief apparent. “I thought you were getting better…”

Braden reached for Rachel’s hand, trying to comfort her. “That doctor said there’s no way to cure me,” he admitted, his voice low and filled with regret.

The more Rachel thought about it, the more distraught she became. She shook off Braden’s hand and confronted him angrily. “How come you didn’t tell me sooner? Braden, you’ve got some nerve!”

Braden pursed his lips, falling silent for a moment. Then, in a low voice, he replied, “I just didn’t want you to worry too much.”

Anger consumed Rachel, making it difficult for her to even look at him. Throughout the consultation, she remained silent, seething with frustration. When they finally left, they walked home together in silence, the tension between them palpable.

Once they arrived home and put down their things, Braden approached Rachel, attempting to mend the situation. “Honey, do you want to go to the supermarket? We can cook up a nice meal together.”

Rachel shot him a furious glare and sneered, “No, thanks. I’m not eating tonight. I’m already full—of anger.”

She wanted to storm upstairs, but Braden stopped her. “What do you want?” he asked, his face flinching in anticipation of a slap.

Rachel, hand poised to strike, sighed and said, “Anywhere but the face.” She was bluffing, though. How could she really slap him? With that thought, she turned around and went upstairs, slamming the door behind her.


Braden stood alone on the staircase, feeling dejected. The psychotherapy session had not only been useless but had also worsened their relationship. With a heavy heart, he busied himself in the kitchen, preparing a delicious meal and even a dessert.

Carefully arranging the food on the table, Braden knocked on the bedroom door and called out softly, “Honey, it’s time for dinner. You can go back to sleep after eating. I’ll wait for you downstairs.”

Rachel opened the door, enticed by the mouthwatering aroma of the food. However, she remained steadfast in her anger. “I said I’m not eating,” she retorted. “Eat by yourself. Stop disturbing me!”

Though tempted by the smell, Rachel refused to eat with him. She had made her decision clear. But as she lay in bed, her stomach grumbled incessantly, overpowering her willpower. Unable to sleep, she glanced at the wall clock—it was already one o’clock in the morning. Braden must have fallen asleep by now, she reasoned. She could sneak downstairs for a quick bite without him knowing.

Determined, Rachel got out of bed, donned her robe, and hurried downstairs. The food had been stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. Rachel removed the wrap, picked up a meatball, and stuffed it into her mouth. Suddenly, the kitchen lights flicked on, startling her. Squinting, she tried to adjust her eyes and saw Braden standing before her, arms crossed.

He raised an eyebrow, glancing at the meatball in her hand and then at her bulging cheeks. “Does it taste good, you little thief?” he teased.

Rachel stood frozen, her eyes wide with surprise. She had been caught red-handed. Without changing her expression, she carefully placed the plate of meatballs back into the fridge, licked the sauce off her fingers, and patted Braden on the shoulder.

“Not bad, but you can do better,” she said, trying to play it cool. She walked past him, intending to go upstairs as if nothing had happened.

“Where do you think you’re going, little thief?” Braden grabbed the collar of her pajamas and pulled her back towards him in one swift motion. He lowered his head, locking eyes with her. In that dimly lit kitchen, Braden looked unusually aggressive. It suddenly dawned on Rachel that when they first met, he was nothing more than a bad-tempered and unkempt man.

“What thief? What are you talking about?” Rachel asked cautiously, unable to meet his intense gaze.

“I didn’t steal anything.” Braden pinched her chin, forcing her to look up at him. “Do you want me to dig out the food from your mouth as evidence?”

Hearing his words, Rachel quickly tried to swallow the half-chewed meatball, but it got stuck in her throat. Choking, she grabbed her neck with her hands and started coughing violently.

Braden’s expression darkened. He lifted her up and made her sit on the table. Then he rushed to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water for her. After gulping down a few mouthfuls, Rachel finally felt better. Braden patted her back to help her breathe and used a tissue to gently wipe her mouth.

When she had fully recovered, Rachel turned her face away shyly. “Sorry,” she muttered.

With a sigh, Braden playfully pinched her cheek and tossed the tissue into the trash can. Then, his expression turned serious.

“I should be the one apologizing. The headaches started two months ago. I was afraid you would worry too much, so I kept it from you. The memories of the past two years are incredibly important to me, that’s when I got to know you and fell in love with you. No matter how much pain it may cause, I’m willing to risk it all to remember you.”

Rachel fell silent, a lump forming in her throat. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face on his shoulder.

“I didn’t realize you cared so much about regaining your memories… I shouldn’t have lashed out. I’m sorry,” she said, her voice filled with remorse.

After a moment of contemplation, she continued, “We can always create new memories. Promise me you’ll stop hurting yourself, okay? Your health is more important than anything, even the past two years.”

“Okay,” Braden replied softly. He raised his hand to touch her hair, his eyes fixed on her soft-looking lips. Just as he was about to kiss her, his phone on the table suddenly started ringing.

Braden turned his head to glance at the caller ID, and his expression darkened. It was Booker calling. Rachel knew it had something to do with Braden’s memory loss, so she handed him the phone, raised her chin, and crossed her arms over her chest.

“I want to hear whatever he has to say too,” she asserted.

Braden took the phone and put it on speaker. He had initially wanted to take the call in private, but seeing that Rachel insisted on listening, he complied.

“Braden, we’ve got something. I couldn’t wait to call you as soon as I got off the plane,” Booker said anxiously. “I attended a seminar abroad, remember? There was an expert there whom I had the chance to talk to…”

Braden’s face lit up with hope as he thanked Booker. The wind seemed to howl wherever Booker went. “Thank you, Booker,” Braden said gratefully.

Booker chuckled. “No need for thanks, my friend. Your mysterious condition has piqued my curiosity. I love studying anomalies like this. It might just be the greatest challenge of my career. Even if it wasn’t you, I would’ve continued studying it.”

After ending the call, Rachel sighed, feeling uncertain. “Based on what Booker said, although he has a theory about the cause of your condition, we still need to find an antidote. We’re still in the dark.”

With Charlene gone, they wondered where to even begin searching for the drug. Rachel felt more anxious and dejected than Braden. He tried to comfort her by patting her back. “Don’t worry. Now that we know a mysterious drug caused my memory loss, it’s just a matter of finding it. I’ll have my team investigate as well. We’ll figure it out soon enough.”

Rachel nodded, though not entirely convinced. She knew Charlene was cunning. If she had a way to erase Braden’s memories, she must have also erased any trace of where she obtained the drug. But then, a thought struck Rachel. While Charlene was no longer alive, her belongings remained. Perhaps there were clues hidden among her personal items.

Excitedly, Rachel grabbed Braden’s shoulders. “I have an idea!”

Amused, Braden smiled at her enthusiasm. “What is it?”

“We can start with Charlene! There might be information on her computer or in the documents she left behind.”

Braden expressed his doubts, knowing that Charlene’s parents possessed all her belongings and wouldn’t allow them access. He reminded Rachel of their strained relationship with Melanie, who had even attempted to slap her. Seeking help from them seemed unlikely.

Rachel refused to give up. “But this is our only chance. Do you have any other ideas? It’s better than you suffering from headaches all the time… We can’t just give up without trying.”

Braden understood Rachel’s stubbornness but felt it was inappropriate to approach Charlene’s parents for help. He explained the situation carefully, reminding her of their agreement before Charlene’s funeral. They had decided to part ways with the condition of never meeting again. Breaking that promise wouldn’t be right. Braden suggested waiting to see what Booker could find, hoping he might have another solution.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Reluctantly, Rachel nodded. “Okay, fine. I won’t go to the Palmers.”

Braden smiled at her obedience and couldn’t resist kissing her passionately. Rachel reciprocated, wrapping her arms around his neck. However, her rebellious nature wouldn’t let her give up so easily. She couldn’t simply abandon the idea; there was still hope. Although she promised Braden not to approach Charlene’s parents, she believed she could do something.

Over the next few days, Rachel began gathering information about the Palmer family. She discovered that Melanie and Shane had neglected their family business due to Charlene’s illness and subsequent death. Now, they were pouring all their efforts into making up for lost time.

With a glimmer of hope, Rachel decided to try her luck at the Palmer Group.

Since Brenda moved into the Palmer family home, she quickly became adored by the Palmers. Her sweet and delightful way of talking brought joy to Melanie’s heart, easing the pain of losing their daughter, Charlene. Both Melanie and Shane showed kindness towards Brenda and encouraged her to stay longer.

Over the past few days, Brenda had been driving Shane and Melanie to work. One morning during the ride, Melanie struck up a casual conversation with Brenda.

“Are you planning to come back and work here after you graduate?” Melanie asked, her voice filled with genuine interest. “I’m sure your career will thrive here. Besides, it would be wonderful if you visited us often. I love having you around, Brenda.”

Brenda, who reminded them so much of Charlene, smiled and replied, “My graduation is still far off, but I’ll definitely come back when the time comes.”

Melanie grinned happily and turned to Shane, saying, “If you can’t find a job you like after graduation, you can always work for us. We have a media company and an energy company. There must be a suitable position for you, right, Shane?”

Surprised and delighted by the offer, Brenda couldn’t believe how smoothly things were going. She didn’t expect Melanie to ask her to work in the Palmer Group so easily.

As the car pulled up in front of the Palmer Group’s building, Brenda noticed a beautiful woman with long hair and light makeup standing at the entrance. It took her a moment to realize that it was Rachel, and she couldn’t help but smile faintly. Running into Rachel so soon was unexpected.

Shane and Melanie got out of the car, and Rachel quickly approached them. Melanie felt a sense of displeasure upon seeing Rachel, but she didn’t want to cause a scene in public.

“What can I do for you, Mrs. Porter?” Melanie asked politely, trying to maintain her composure.

“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. I came to see you because I need your help,” Rachel said honestly, her voice filled with sincerity. “Braden’s memory loss might have something to do with Charlene… So I was wondering, Mrs. Palmer, if I may visit your house? I want to take a look at your daughter’s phone and computer. I’m hoping to find some clues that’ll help Braden regain his memory.”

Rachel bowed her head respectfully as she spoke, fully aware that coming to the Palmers for help was not an easy decision for her. She wouldn’t have done it if she had any other option.

Melanie sneered, feeling anger rise within her. How dare Rachel come to them and ask such a foolish question? In Melanie’s eyes, Charlene had died because of Rachel. Still grieving the loss of her daughter, Melanie couldn’t fathom why Rachel would approach her at a time like this.

“I don’t think we can do anything to help,” Melanie replied indifferently. “You should leave now. Sorry, but we can’t assist you.”

Melanie glanced at Shane, both of them seething with rage. Without wasting their breath on Rachel, they walked past her and entered the Palmer Group’s office building.

“Mrs. Palmer, I know you believe that I killed your daughter, so you have every right to be angry at me. But my husband did nothing wrong. Please help him, not me,” Rachel pleaded anxiously, following them.

Melanie looked back over her shoulder, sneering in disgust. “It’s good that you know you’re the one who killed my daughter. Because of you, she’ll never come back. Someday you’ll pay for what you’ve done, Rachel.”

Hearing Melanie’s words, Rachel sighed and backed off. She knew it was futile to continue begging them. Brenda, who had been observing the situation from the car, recognized Rachel but chose not to intervene. She only got out of the car once Rachel had left.

Following the Palmers into the building, Brenda pretended to be unaware and asked tentatively, “Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, who was that woman?”

Melanie’s anger flared up again at the mention of Rachel. “Rachel Porter,” she replied, her voice filled with disdain. Brenda looked in the direction Rachel had gone and gasped in feigned surprise.

“Oh, that was her? How dare she come to you!” Brenda exclaimed, playing along with Melanie’s emotions.

Melanie sneered indignantly. “She said she wanted to go to our house to check Charlene’s things. I don’t know what she was up to. That woman is very scheming. If you ever meet her, be careful, okay?”

“Okay, Mrs. Palmer,” Brenda nodded solemnly, knowing exactly what the Palmers wanted to hear.

“The audacity of that girl! She killed Charlene and then came to you for help? She’ll pay sooner or later!” She spoke with such disdain, knowing that this was exactly what the Palmers wanted to hear.

Melanie’s trust in Brenda deepened as she listened to her words. It was clear that they shared the same goal – to bring Rachel, the murderer, to justice. Brenda knew that with each passing day, she was steadily earning the Palmers’ trust. It was only a matter of time before she could take the next step in their plan.

“Rachel doesn’t deserve to live such a happy life after what she’s done,” Brenda stated firmly, her voice laced with determination. “We won’t rest until she pays for her crimes.”

Brenda vividly remembered her conversation with Charlene, where she learned about Rachel’s desperate efforts to make Braden fall in love with her. Determined to help Braden regain his memory and seeking justice for Charlene, Brenda knew she had to stay one step ahead of Rachel. She pondered on who Rachel might approach next and suddenly recalled a person Charlene had mentioned before.

When Brenda spotted Hillary Montero working at a coffee shop far from downtown, she decided to approach her. Ordering a latte, Brenda sat near the window, waiting for Hillary to serve her. With a sweet smile, Brenda asked, “Excuse me, are you Hillary Montero? Miss Palmer often spoke about you to me.”

Hillary’s face immediately tensed upon hearing Charlene’s surname. Without uttering a word, she placed the coffee cup down, intending to leave. However, Brenda swiftly intervened, standing up and stopping her. Resting her cheek on her hand, Brenda maintained an approachable demeanor.

Having worked as Charlene’s assistant for three years, Hillary had been one of her trusted subordinates. Charlene’s death had turned her life upside down, leaving her unemployed and constantly questioned about Charlene wherever she went. Finding herself in this obscure coffee shop, encountering someone inquiring about Charlene was highly suspicious.

“Don’t leave. Why don’t you sit down?” Brenda urged, noticing Hillary’s intention to depart. Hillary’s grip on the tray tightened, her knuckles turning white. Eventually, she turned to face Brenda, gritting her teeth and saying, “I don’t know her.”

Anticipating Hillary’s guarded response, Brenda retrieved a credit card from her bag. Smiling brightly, she reassured, “Please calm down. I came here on behalf of Charlene’s parents. They wanted to compensate you for your loyalty to Charlene and apologize for the incident that led to your job loss.” Hillary’s gaze fixated on the card on the table, her heart stirred. Awkwardly, she walked over to Brenda and sat opposite her, reaching for the card. Her expression softened, and her lower lip trembled slightly.


“The Porter Group fired many employees who worked with Miss Palmer. I thought no one would remember me,” Hillary confessed, her voice filled with emotion.

Brenda extended her hand, gently patting Hillary’s in a comforting manner. “How could we be as heartless as the Porter Group? We value loyalty and compassion,” she assured.

Recalling her own dreadful experience with the company and the tragic death of Charlene, Hillary couldn’t contain her emotions any longer. Clutching the card close to her heart, tears streamed down her face. “If it weren’t for Rachel, Miss Palmer wouldn’t have suffered such a miserable fate! It’s unjust that Rachel is still alive, living her best life!” Hillary wiped her tears with the back of her hand, locking eyes with Brenda earnestly. “You must seek justice for her!”

Understanding the pain Hillary had endured, Brenda handed her a tissue. While Hillary composed herself, Brenda asked meaningfully, “Hillary, considering your close relationship with Miss Palmer, would you like to join me in avenging her?”

Hillary hesitated, contemplating the daunting task of fighting against the powerful Porter Group and its CEO as a poor and powerless woman. Sensing her concerns, Brenda spoke softly, “Don’t worry. The Palmer family will support you. Once everything is done, they will provide you with more financial assistance and help you secure a better job.”

Although highly tempted, Hillary remained uncertain. Was it worth challenging the Porter Group for Charlene? Observing Hillary’s internal struggle, Brenda leaned in and whispered, “I have a plan.”

Rachel was determined not to give up on finding clues about Charlene, despite not getting any useful information from her parents. She made a list of all the people related to Charlene and planned to track them down one by one.

By the end of December, Rachel returned to work at Grant'd Studio in Meadowview. She had been working remotely for the past few months but decided to come back because Braden would be working at their branch in Meadowview this month. Rachel wanted to be with him and also resume her work at the studio.

Shortly after returning to work, Homer unexpectedly walked into the office. It had been a few months since they last saw each other. Rachel found it strange that he was there since she was told he was on a business trip abroad and wouldn’t be back for a few days.

“Good morning, Mr. Grant. Coffee? I was going to buy one for myself downstairs,” Rachel said nervously, unsure if Homer was okay with her working remotely.

“No, thank you. Have a seat first, Rachel,” Homer replied calmly.

Rachel sat back in her chair, feeling tense and uncertain about what Homer wanted to talk about. She wondered if he was going to fire her due to her distractions over the past few months. Her attention had been divided between Braden and Charlene, making it difficult for her to work as diligently as before.

Before Homer could say anything, Rachel anxiously blurted out, “I’m sorry, Mr. Grant. I’ve been distracted by some personal affairs over the past few months. But don’t worry, I’ll make up for it. Please give me another chance.”

Homer’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, realizing that Rachel had misunderstood him. He smiled and chuckled, reassuring her, “What are you talking about? Don’t be nervous. I wasn’t going to fire you, Rachel.”

He had returned to the studio to see her for himself. It had been a long time since their last meeting, and he was genuinely concerned about her. The news of Charlene’s sudden death had caused quite a stir in both Meadowview and Sunhaven, and Homer had a hunch that Rachel might be involved somehow.

“Oh, well then, what did you want to talk about, sir?” Rachel asked, smiling crookedly, curious about the purpose of his visit.

Homer tilted his head, pondering for a moment before speaking, “I just wanted to ask how you’ve been recently. I’ve noticed that your work has been maturing, and there’s a subtle change in your mindset. If you ever need help or someone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me, Rachel.”

Rachel’s heart melted at Homer’s kind words. He had always been an exceptional boss and mentor, which made her hesitant to bother him with her personal matters. “Thank you, sir. Your guidance is already a great help,” she replied gratefully, touching her nose timidly. “By the way, Mr. Grant, I can work in the studio now. If you need anything, you can call me here.”

Homer looked at her and nodded silently, acknowledging her statement.

Olive, overhearing the conversation, was thrilled that Rachel was back. She stood up from her chair and exclaimed, “That’s great, Rachel! I’m so glad you’re back! How about we have dinner after work? Let’s celebrate your return!”

It was unusual for Olive to take the initiative in social situations, indicating her genuine happiness about Rachel’s return. Rachel couldn’t refuse such a warm invitation and smiled brightly, accepting, “Sure!”

Then, she turned to Homer and asked, “Mr. Grant, would you like to join us?”

Knowing that Homer preferred to avoid large gatherings, Rachel asked out of politeness, assuming he would decline. However, to her surprise, Homer stood up and calmly replied, “Okay. I’d love that.”

When they arrived at the restaurant, Rachel quickly texted Braden, realizing she hadn’t informed him about the impromptu dinner. Her message mentioned that she was having dinner with her colleagues.

Curiously observing Rachel’s goofy smile while pouring a glass of water, Olive playfully asked, “Who are you texting? What’s with that bright smile on your face?”

Rachel sighed wistfully, her eyes shining, as she took a sip from her glass. “Oh, it’s just my husband. He said he would pick me up later, but I told him I can just walk home. Our boss is dining with us tonight, and who knows when the dinner will end.”

Olive nodded quietly, a tinge of envy in her voice. She rarely showed emotion but couldn’t help feeling envious of Rachel’s loving husband. “You two have been through a lot, right? Yet you’re still so sweet with each other.”

Rachel wasn’t sure if Olive was upset or not, so she simply nodded. While she didn’t know what was going on in Braden’s mind, she knew their relationship was strong. “We’ve had our challenges, but we’re doing well now. Sometimes I wish Braden were an ordinary person, but I love him no matter what.”

Rachel chose not to delve into the details of their struggles. She understood that, on the surface, she appeared happier than most people. Complaining wouldn’t make others understand her situation; they might even think she was showing off.

Olive smiled faintly but fell into silence, burdened by unspoken thoughts. Homer, a quiet listener, remained silent as well.

Noticing Homer’s gaze, Rachel looked at him curiously and asked, “Is something on your mind, Mr. Grant?”

As Homer gazed into Rachel’s beautiful, clear eyes, he felt his heart race. He had developed a crush on her, but she was married, and he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had to hide his feelings. “Oh, nothing. I was just listening to your conversation earlier. It sounded like Olive wants to get married, right, Olive?” Homer smiled, shifting the focus to Olive.

Unaware of Homer’s feelings, Rachel turned to Olive with a grin. “Right! Are you going to marry your boyfriend?”

Ever since they encountered Olive and her unruly boyfriend at the clinic, Rachel had been curious. In her eyes, Hans wasn’t a good match for Olive.

Olive’s expression darkened as she spoke, “I wanted to get married, which is why I got into a relationship with Hans…” She sighed, revealing her sadness.


Concerned, Rachel asked in a low voice, “I forgot to ask last time. Why were you two at the clinic?”

Olive’s voice filled with sorrow as she explained, “Hans used to be a drug addict. After quitting, he seemed like a different person. But he lost his job and became violent. Everything used to be so good between us. I don’t know why things have come to this.”

Rachel frowned, forming a worse impression of Hans upon hearing about his past as a drug addict. Carefully choosing her words, she asked, “What are you planning to do? Do you have any plans?”

Olive sighed heavily, nursing a glass of wine, her sadness evident. “I want to break up with him, but I don’t think it’s the right time. I can’t just give up on him when he needs me.”

Trying to offer comfort, Rachel said, “If you’re certain that he has truly quit drugs, maybe breaking up isn’t necessary.”

Olive managed a bitter smile and downed two more glasses of wine.

Just then, Olive’s phone rang, displaying “BF” on the screen.

Olive answered the phone in a rush, her heart pounding. “Where are you?” Hans’s voice sounded anxious on the other end of the line. “Why aren’t you home yet? I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour!”

“I’m having dinner with my friends at the Riverside Restaurant. I’ll be back later,” Olive explained, her face filled with disappointment.

“What the hell are you talking about? Friends? What friends? Come up with a better lie, Olive! Tell me—are you with another man?” Hans’s voice grew louder and more aggressive, causing everyone at the table to overhear the conversation.

“You’re crazy!” Olive didn’t want to waste her breath on him, so she angrily hung up the phone and reached for another glass of wine. By that point, she had already finished almost an entire bottle of red wine by herself.

Worried that Olive would get drunk, Rachel intervened. “Let’s eat something first before you have another drink, okay?”

But Olive ignored her, turning a deaf ear and continuing to drink. Eventually, Rachel turned to Homer for help, even though he usually avoided meddling in other people’s private affairs. However, Rachel’s pleading look was hard to resist, so Homer stepped in.

“That’s enough. Getting drunk won’t solve anything,” Homer scolded, surprising everyone. He was known for being gentle and level-headed, both at work and in private. Olive obediently stopped drinking, but it seemed too late. Her cheeks were flushed, and she struggled to keep her head up, tears welling in her eyes.

After the phone call, Olive lost her appetite. She sat quietly while Homer and Rachel finished their meal. Concerned, Rachel walked Olive to the restaurant’s gate, wanting to drive her home. However, their homes were in opposite directions across the city.

Realizing Rachel’s worry, Homer offered to take Olive home himself. “You should go home now. Drive safely,” he said, understanding Rachel’s unspoken concern.

“Thank you, Mr. Grant. You too,” Rachel replied gratefully. Homer approached Olive to help her, as she was too drunk to stand on her own. Coincidentally, just as Homer reached her, she stumbled and fell into his arms. Rachel saw nothing wrong with this, considering Olive’s state and Homer’s offer to help.

However, someone lurking nearby had a different perspective. An angry man suddenly stepped in front of Homer, blocking their way. He pointed an accusing finger at them. “So, you’re her new boy toy? Bitch, how dare you cheat on me!”

It was Hans, Olive’s boyfriend.

Worried that the situation would escalate, Rachel tried to intervene and explain, “Sir, calm down. We’re both Olive’s colleagues. We just had dinner together.”

“Go to hell, bitch!” Hans refused to listen, shoving Rachel away without hesitation. Rachel nearly fell, but luckily, Braden, wearing a black overcoat, caught her just in time. He helped her up and looked into her eyes with concern. “Are you okay?”

Braden held onto Rachel until she regained her balance. Then, he confidently approached Hans, gripping his shoulders tightly before forcefully throwing him to the ground.

Hans, bewildered and enraged, cursed vehemently, “What the—?! Who the fuck are you?”

“Mind your own fucking business!” Braden retorted sharply.

“Oh, fuck off!” Hans spat back defiantly.

Frowning with disdain, Braden glared down at the despicable man on the ground. He had no intention of wasting his breath on scum like Hans. Unbuttoning his cuffs, he prepared himself to teach him a lesson.

Terrified, Hans curled into a ball and hastily covered his head. The imposing presence of the man before him was overwhelming. He didn’t know who Braden was, but it was clear that Braden’s towering stature and strength gave him no chance in a fight.

“Don’t come any closer! I’ll call the police!” Hans threatened, his voice trembling.

Observing Hans cowering on the ground, Braden decided it wasn’t worth dirtying his hands with a confrontation. He issued a warning instead, “You better not show your face in front of me again.”

Hans dared not utter another word. Meeting Braden’s chilling gaze, he nodded, quickly got up, and hurriedly fled the scene.

Rachel, still taken aback by Braden’s unexpected appearance, recalled telling him she would go home alone. As Hans disappeared around the corner, Braden turned to Rachel and spoke gently, “I promised you I’d come pick you up.” Thankfully, he had kept his promise.

Braden hadn’t anticipated Rachel encountering danger during their dinner outing. Glancing at Homer, Rachel’s boss, he addressed him in an unfriendly tone, “If you’re going to have dinner together again, make sure it’s somewhere safe.” Though feeling uncomfortable, Homer maintained his composure and replied, “I’ll handle it. Thanks for your concern, Mr. Porter.”

Braden pursed his lips, realizing he didn’t like Rachel’s boss. Call it a man’s instinct. He continued in a low voice, “This is about my wife’s safety. Of course, I’m concerned.”

Homer’s expression darkened.

Sensing Braden’s strange behavior, Rachel urgently grabbed his arm and tugged at it. Why was he acting so strangely? Finally understanding her signal, Braden ceased speaking.

Rachel remained worried about Olive, who had been intoxicated the previous night. She decided to let Olive stay at their house for the night. As she helped Olive onto the sofa, she heard her groan in pain. Confused, Rachel rolled up her sleeve and discovered numerous bruises on Olive’s arm. It was evident that Hans had physically abused her.

“That jerk!” Rachel muttered angrily under her breath, applying ointment to Olive’s injuries.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

The next morning, Olive woke up with a pounding headache. She found herself in an unfamiliar guest room. Vague memories of the previous night slowly resurfaced as she made her way downstairs.

Rachel and Braden were having breakfast in the dining room. “Look who’s awake! Come and have some breakfast before you leave,” Rachel greeted Olive cheerfully. Holding her coat, Olive politely bowed to them, intending to leave as soon as possible. The humiliation from the previous night lingered. However, upon seeing the pained expression on Olive’s face, Rachel stood up and stopped her, sighing heavily.

“Olive, I know it’s your life, but I consider you a good friend. Even if you might hate me for saying this, I have to tell you that Hans is a jerk, and you should break up with him.”

Chewing on a sandwich, Braden chimed in, “I’ve encountered many men like him. He won’t let go that easily.”

“Thanks for the advice, but I can handle it myself,” Olive replied softly, avoiding eye contact.

Rachel couldn’t decipher Olive’s true thoughts. After Olive left, Braden tried to console Rachel. “There’s nothing we can do. Only she can help herself at this point.”

Gazing in the direction Olive had departed, Rachel simply sighed, unsure of what else to say. Just then, her phone screen lit up with a message from Hillary, Charlene’s former assistant, whom she had reached out to previously. Rachel was surprised since she had assumed Hillary wouldn’t respond after trying to call her a week ago. What had prompted Hillary to change her mind?

Rachel couldn’t contain her excitement when she received a reply from Hillary. She quickly responded to set up a meeting with her. Braden, noticing Rachel’s elation, became suspicious and questioned her with a hint of jealousy.

“What’s making you so happy? Did Homer text you?” Braden asked, his eyes narrowing.

Rachel thought to herself, “What a jealous bastard!” She swiftly deleted the message and stuck out her tongue at him. Trying to divert his attention, she tapped on an unimportant message and showed it to him.

“This store I’m interested in is having a sale. Now I can buy their clothes at a discount, so of course I’m happy!” she lied, flashing a smile.

Lately, Braden had been overwhelmed with work due to Charlene’s death and Kristian’s sudden resignation. Rachel didn’t want to burden him further. To lighten the mood, Braden chuckled and playfully ruffled her hair. He trusted her completely.

Before leaving for work, Braden even handed Rachel a credit card, encouraging her to go shopping to her heart’s content.

Later that afternoon, Rachel arrived at a restaurant owned by the Porter Group, where she was scheduled to meet Hillary. Having experienced hardships, Rachel had learned to be cautious when meeting people she didn’t trust. Fortunately, this restaurant was familiar to her, and some of the employees recognized her. Even if Hillary had ill intentions, it would be challenging for her to harm Rachel without consequences.

Half an hour later, Hillary cautiously peeked into the private room. As soon as she entered, Rachel noticed that Hillary seemed troubled.

“Mrs. Porter, why did you choose this restaurant?” Hillary asked, her voice carrying a faint trace of anger.

While maintaining her composure, Rachel poured Hillary a cup of tea and calmly replied, “Hillary, you worked for Charlene, so you know our history. When you suddenly asked to meet, it’s only natural for me to be cautious. Can you blame me?”

Embarrassed, Hillary lowered her head and remained silent. Rachel’s patience prevailed; she had learned the importance of self-protection. Charlene’s actions had set a precedent, making Rachel vigilant even when faced with strangers.

Hillary realized that dealing with Rachel would be challenging, but she had no choice at the moment. Since she was already there, she needed to achieve her objective.

Pouring herself some tea, Rachel sat back down and got straight to the point. “Why did you agree to meet me?” she inquired. Rachel had anticipated that Hillary might refuse to see her, considering their complicated history. Hillary had a close relationship with Charlene and was fired from the Porter Group after Charlene’s demise. Naturally, she should hold a grudge against the company’s CEO and his wife.

“I’m in dire need of money. I can’t find a job, and my parents and two younger brothers rely on me for support,” Hillary confessed in a low voice. “After reading the message you sent me, I hesitated for a long time. Despite Miss Palmer’s passing, I never wanted to betray her. But…”

Rachel carefully observed Hillary as she spoke. It didn’t seem like she was lying.

“I can help you with the money,” Rachel stated calmly, taking a sip of her tea. “But it depends on whether you can help me or not.”

Hillary remained unfazed, raising her head confidently. “I know you’re looking for her computer, although I don’t know what you’ll do with it. But she had a spare laptop, and I used to keep it for her. After… the incident, I secretly took it with me when the Palmers weren’t looking. I can give it to you if you want. Would that be enough?”

Hillary was well aware that convincing Rachel would be a challenge, so she had come prepared. She confidently placed the computer bag on the table, knowing it held the key to her claims.

“Everything you need is in this laptop. I’ll give it to you in exchange for the money I need,” Hillary stated, her eyes fixed on Rachel.

Rachel’s gaze immediately fell upon the laptop, sensing that there might be something substantial inside. She hesitated for a moment before asking, “Alright. How much do you want?”

Hillary gestured towards the computer bag protectively and replied, “Give me the money first. Give me two million in cash, or no deal.”

Rachel had her doubts about Hillary, but the anxious look on her face made her consider the possibility. However, two million was a significant amount, and she had been living off her modest salary, never touching the wealth of the Coltons or her husband, Braden.

“Well… Could I pay you in installments?” Rachel asked, feeling somewhat ashamed.

Hillary was taken aback by Rachel’s words. She couldn’t believe that the wife of the Porter Group’s CEO and the daughter of the Colton family would propose such a ridiculous idea. Clutching the laptop even tighter, Hillary scoffed, “You don’t have two million on hand? Stop kidding me!”

Rachel explained, “I don’t use my parents’ money, nor do I rely on my husband’s wealth. I only spend what I earn on my own.”

Hillary snorted in disbelief, rolling her eyes mockingly. “You’re from a wealthy family and married to a CEO, yet you’re still so poor. It seems your family isn’t treating you well.”

Ignoring Hillary’s mockery, Rachel focused her attention on the computer bag. “Since you claim that all the information I need is in that laptop, can you show it to me first? If you’re telling the truth, I’m willing to pay the cash upfront.”

Hillary hesitated, realizing that she wouldn’t get a penny from Rachel without some proof. After contemplating for a while, she finally agreed, knowing that two million dollars were at stake.


“Okay, but you only have five minutes,” Hillary reluctantly agreed. She cautiously placed the computer bag on the table, unzipped it, and retrieved the laptop from inside.

As soon as the laptop powered on, Rachel immediately began searching through its contents. Unfortunately, Charlene had wiped everything clean. Not even a single file remained in the trash bin.

Rachel’s attention then turned to the browser history. A peculiar website caught her eye, and she clicked on it, relieved to find that it logged in automatically. Suddenly, a chat box popped up, revealing the last message from a mysterious individual selling drugs. The message expressed a desire for Charlene to succeed.

“Succeed in what?” Rachel furrowed her brow, scrolling upwards in hopes of finding their previous conversation.

“I think you’ve found what you want,” Hillary sneered, abruptly shutting the laptop.

Rachel felt that the answers she sought lay within that website, but she had barely scratched the surface. Hillary packed up the laptop with confidence and looked directly at Rachel.

“Give me the money first, Mrs. Porter.”

Rachel’s determination grew as she sensed she was nearing the truth. She believed that the information on Charlene’s laptop would help restore Braden’s memories. However, there was a problem: she didn’t have two million dollars to pay Hillary at the moment.

Frustrated, Rachel clenched her teeth and said, “I don’t have two million in my account right now. I’ll have to step out and make a phone call to see if anyone can lend me the money. Just because I come from a wealthy family doesn’t mean money magically appears for me.”

Hillary responded disdainfully, “Wow, the Colton family’s daughter still needs to borrow money? Fine, go ahead and make your call.”

Helplessly, Rachel sighed and left the room to make the call. After four to five minutes, she returned with her phone in hand.

“Check it. I’ve asked my family to transfer the money to your bank account,” Rachel said, closing the door behind her and taking a seat across from Hillary.

Hillary glanced at her phone and saw that the money had indeed been transferred. Her excitement quickly turned into anger when she realized it was only 500 thousand.

“What does this mean, Rachel?” Hillary fumed. “You said you’d give me two million! Do you no longer want the documents on the computer?”

Rachel calmly sipped her tea and replied, “Relax. This is just a deposit. I’ll hand over the remaining 1.5 million after I’m done making the copies. What if I send you all the money at once, and you just escape with the laptop?”

Hillary realized that Rachel wasn’t as naive as she had thought. Charlene had described Rachel as easily manipulated and unintelligent, but meeting her in person shattered those beliefs.

“Well, go on,” Hillary reluctantly said. She switched on the laptop again and inserted the flash drive she had prepared.

With raised eyebrows, Rachel smiled and said, “There’s no extra charge for the flash drive. Consider it a free gift.”

Rachel remained silent as she began copying the documents, while Brenda stood outside in the shade of a tree, spying on everything through the window. Brenda was convinced that Rachel was still as clueless as Charlene had described.

A confident smile formed on Brenda’s face as she observed the scene unfold.

Inside the private room, Rachel finished copying the documents. As soon as she unplugged the flash drive, Hillary started making demands.

“You’ve already copied the documents. Give me the rest of the money now!” Hillary demanded.

Rachel calmly placed the flash drive in her bag and casually sat back down. “Aren’t you afraid of getting caught by the Palmer family if they find out you’re stealing Charlene’s belongings, Hillary?”

Hillary hesitated, unsure of what Rachel was thinking. After a moment, she replied, “Of course not. Charlene has left behind many things. Even if a few items go missing, it’s highly unlikely her family will notice. Once I have the money, I’ll secretly return the laptop and move to another city. I won’t be coming back.”

Tapping her fingers on the table, Rachel drawled, “Okay.”

Just seconds after she finished speaking, chaos erupted outside the room. Heavy footsteps and commotion filled the air as other guests reacted.

“Why are the police here all of a sudden?” someone exclaimed.

“They must be here to catch some criminals,” another speculated.

Upon hearing this, Hillary immediately stood up from her seat, staring at Rachel in shock. She asked, “Why are the police here? What did you do, Rachel?!”

Rachel maintained a calm smile as she looked at Hillary, who appeared bewildered. She began to explain the situation, “Hillary, there’s no other criminal here. The police are here to arrest you because I called them. You stole and sold the Palmer family’s business secrets shortly after Miss Palmer’s passing. Don’t you realize that’s a crime? I was merely calling the police to assist the Palmer family.”

Hillary’s heart raced, and she stammered, “Rachel, you haven’t thought this through! Aren’t you afraid the police will take away the information you want?”

Confidently, Rachel replied, “My husband will find a way to obtain the information I need. But what about you? Is there anyone in your family who can save you from prison?”

Hillary’s face drained of color instantly. She knew Braden held significant power in both Sunhaven and Meadowview, while she had no such influence. She realized she would be at the mercy of others.

“Rachel! You’re such a conniving person! You’ll pay for this!” Hillary shouted angrily.

Frantically scanning the room, Hillary spotted an open window in the corner. With her computer bag in hand, she swiftly made her way toward it.


Just moments after Hillary climbed out of the window, the police forcefully kicked open the door to the room. One of the officers approached Rachel, puzzled, and asked, “Ma’am, are you okay? Were you the one who called the police?”

Wearing a calm expression, Rachel stood up and apologized, “I’m sorry, officer. It was all a huge misunderstanding. When I went to the bathroom just now, I thought somebody had stolen my wallet, but it turned out a girl had picked it up when I dropped it. She just left.”

Awkwardly, Hillary managed to climb out of the window. Without hesitation, she hurriedly ran down the street, determined not to let the police catch her. She knew that if she were apprehended, her fate would be sealed.

As Hillary slowed down to catch her breath, someone suddenly grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a quiet nearby alley. Panicking, she exclaimed, “Who’s there?! Let me go!”

Hillary’s face turned pale with fear as she used her computer bag as a makeshift weapon, striking the stranger. The woman, crossing her arms impatiently, scolded, “Ouch! What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to attract the police?”

Upon closer inspection, Hillary realized that the person who had brought her here was Brenda. Relieved, she sighed, “Oh, it’s just you. You scared me!”

Brenda had ensured this location was safe for them to talk. Annoyed, she asked, “What the fuck happened in there? You were about to succeed! Why did you suddenly run out?”

Grateful that Brenda had caught up with her, Hillary explained, “I didn’t know Rachel would call the police! She promised to give me the money, but then she secretly called the police. If I hadn’t escaped, I would be behind bars by now!”

Surprised, Brenda responded, “That’s impossible.”

“Why do you say that? I heard the sirens,” Hillary retorted, feeling unjustly treated.

Pursing her lips, Brenda grew increasingly perplexed. Would Rachel truly call the police?

“Let’s find out if she was bluffing,” Brenda suggested, grabbing Hillary’s wrist and leading her back to the restaurant.

“Are you out of your mind? If I go back, I’ll be arrested!” Hillary protested, terrified.

“Shut up, you idiot!” Brenda scolded impatiently. “I want to see what Rachel is up to!”

Returning to the restaurant, the two women hid in the shadows and observed as several police officers exited the establishment. Rachel expressed her gratitude to them and even bought them coffee as a token of appreciation.

Brenda immediately understood what had transpired. She glared back at Hillary and said, “She tricked you.”

Confused, Hillary asked, “What do you mean?”

“She didn’t want to pay the remaining money, so she called the police to scare you away. Look at her calm face. She was certain you would run,” Brenda explained, rolling her eyes in frustration.

Hearing this, Hillary’s anger flared up once again. She was so furious that she contemplated rushing toward Rachel to strangle her. Through gritted teeth, she declared, “I think I need to talk to her again.”

“Hasn’t she gotten what she wanted? Why do you think she’ll still talk to you?” Brenda responded, clearly annoyed. Moreover, she was frustrated that Rachel turned out to be much more cunning than anticipated.

Brenda’s frustration with Hillary’s nagging grew, and she couldn’t help but think that Hillary was even more foolish than Rachel. Trying to maintain her composure, Brenda reassured Hillary, “Relax. You did well. Everything is going according to plan.” She wore a confident smile, knowing that their scheme was unfolding slowly.

Even if Hillary failed to extort a large sum of money from Rachel, the documents she had copied contained a virus. Once Rachel clicked on one of those files, the damage would be done, setting the stage for the next phase of Brenda’s plan. Hillary was clueless about the details, and Brenda’s cryptic response only fueled her annoyance. Hillary regretted not demanding more money from Rachel, settling for a mere five hundred thousand dollars.

Brenda felt disgusted by Hillary’s greed, as she had already received a substantial amount from Rachel and the Palmer family. Five hundred thousand dollars, combined with the funds provided by the Palmers, would have been enough for Hillary to live a stable life. Brenda confronted Hillary, asking with a meaningful smile, “What’s on your mind? Do you think you didn’t get enough out of this?”

Caught off guard, Hillary forced a smile and replied, “No, I’m just wondering where I should go next. Braden oversees both Sunhaven and Meadowview. I need to stay away from that man. If anything happens to Rachel, let me know. I want to witness when she gets what she deserves.”

Brenda agreed, wearing a knowing smile. “I’ll inform you if anything good happens.” After parting ways with Hillary, Brenda returned to the Palmer family home, where she had become practically the second daughter due to her ability to please Melanie. The entire Palmer family treated her with respect.

Upon arriving, Brenda found Shane and Melanie in the midst of dinner. Shane expressed his weariness, sharing that their company had been declining lately and a foreign company had proposed a merger. Rachel had also visited earlier, causing further distress. The loss of Charlene had left them disheartened, lacking the motivation to continue.

Melanie, exhausted as well, exclaimed, “I don’t want to see that couple ever again.” After a brief pause, Shane suggested a decisive approach, saying, “How about we deal with this once and for all? We can invite them over, show them everything they want to see, and hopefully, they’ll stop bothering us. I don’t want to see them either, but given the Porter Group’s current strength, we can’t win.”

Shane recognized the changing times. Since Braden established a new branch at Meadowview, other companies had been cozying up to the Porter Group. The Palmer family’s businesses were now isolated and vulnerable. Melanie reluctantly agreed, feeling that many things in life had become meaningless since Charlene’s death. She said, “Do whatever you have to. I don’t want to see them anymore. Every time I see them, I think of Charlene.”

The food on Melanie’s plate lost its flavor, and she continued, “Shane, I’m planning to move to a quiet place, maybe the countryside. If you want a divorce, I won’t object.” Their relationship had always been rocky, with Shane’s infidelity being a constant issue. However, after experiencing the pain of losing their daughter, Shane had remained faithful. Tears streamed down his face as he held Melanie’s hand and declared, “I don’t want to divorce you, Melanie. I’ll go with you to the countryside. I want to distance myself from all of this.”

Brenda clenched her fists upon hearing their plans to move away. She stood behind them, silently listening to their conversation. If they left, who would seek justice for Charlene? Unable to contain herself any longer, Brenda stepped forward with a stern voice and declared, “No! You can’t leave!”

Melanie and Shane were taken aback by Brenda’s sudden appearance and her words. Melanie expressed her surprise, her voice filled with palpable shock. It was the first time she had seen such a horrifying expression on Brenda’s face.

Brenda seemed to realize that she had gone too far. She quickly adjusted her expression, widening her eyes to feign innocence. “I was just thinking that you didn’t do anything wrong, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. Why should you have to move? Rachel should be the one to leave. She’s the one in the wrong. I don’t think Miss Palmer would want to see you hiding in the countryside if she were still alive.”

Melanie smiled, but her eyes dimmed quickly. “I appreciate your concern, honey,” she said. “But I really don’t want to stay in this sorrowful place anymore.” Traces of Charlene, their deceased daughter, haunted their house and the company. Moreover, Rachel continued to pester them. The pain of her daughter’s death and the memories of Charlene scattered throughout the house were unbearable for Melanie. She felt too old to endure such anguish.

Brenda walked over and pulled a chair at the table. She took Melanie’s hands and squeezed them tightly. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Palmer. I’ll deal with Braden and Rachel if they ever bother you again. I will never let them hurt you. I’m almost done with university, and when I graduate, I’ll come back here and stay with both of you. I’m an orphan, and if it weren’t for Miss Palmer’s financial support for my tuition, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She helped me so much. I want to dedicate myself to taking care of you because I need to repay her.”

Brenda’s speech left Melanie in a daze for a long time. Suddenly, she burst into tears, covering her face as sobs wracked through her. Shane was also deeply moved. He felt like he was seeing Charlene through Brenda. When Charlene was a teenager, she had expressed her desire not to take over the family business. She wanted to build her own career and become strong enough to protect Shane and Melanie. Brenda believed her plan was almost successful as she witnessed Shane and Melanie crying their hearts out.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

While pretending to love them and be a sensible young woman, Brenda secretly despised their weakness. The person who had killed their daughter was right in front of them, yet instead of taking action against her, they were planning to escape to the countryside. Brenda knew she could never be such a coward. If it were up to her, she would avenge Charlene.

Meanwhile, Rachel returned home to find that Braden hadn’t come back yet. She called him to inquire about the delay and was informed that he was still working and wouldn’t be able to leave anytime soon. Rachel felt relieved upon hearing this news. She hurriedly took out the flash drive from her laptop and inserted it into her own computer.

As the computer read the data, she opened the website she had seen on Charlene’s laptop earlier. To her surprise, a chat box popped up on the screen, revealing the conversation between Charlene and another person. Rachel didn’t expect anything significant from the conversation, but she was shocked when she discovered the chat records of Charlene purchasing drugs. Charlene had somehow found a way to erase two years’ worth of memories that Braden had of Rachel.

However, the conversation didn’t provide specific details about the drug, and Rachel realized that neither Charlene nor the drug dealer knew each other’s true identities. Everything was shrouded in mystery. Unable to trace the IP address of the dealer since the website operated on the dark web, Rachel was unsure of what to do next.

Suddenly, a message appeared on the screen. It was from the dealer: “Who are you?”

Rachel was taken aback when she received an unexpected message. Confusion clouded her mind until she realized that she was using Charlene’s account. It seemed plausible that the dealer was unaware of Charlene’s death. Acting quickly, Rachel replied, “You sold me some drugs last time.”

Since the dealer didn’t know who Charlene was, Rachel saw an opportunity to pretend to be her and gather useful information. The response came swiftly, “You want more?”

“Yes, I do want more,” Rachel replied, hoping to obtain the drug that caused memory loss. She intended to have Booker examine it in order to restore Braden’s lost memories. However, as time passed, there was no further response from the dealer. Rachel waited anxiously, on the verge of losing hope, until a message finally appeared in the chat box.

“You’re not scared of being haunted by her ghost?” the message read.

Rachel was shocked. The dealer knew about Charlene’s death. Transactions on the dark web were supposed to be confidential, with the buyer and seller remaining anonymous. Who was this mysterious dealer? How did they know Charlene Palmer was the buyer? Could they be nearby, watching everything unfold? Rachel’s mind was filled with questions, but she had no time to ponder them.

The chance to restore Braden’s memory was right in front of her. She couldn’t let go of this opportunity, even if it meant making a deal with the devil. Calmly, Rachel responded, “You don’t need to know who I am. How much is the drug? Name your price, and I’ll pay for it.”

The mysterious seller quickly replied, “You are so bold, missy. Are you aware of who you’re dealing with?”

A frown formed on Rachel’s face. She could sense that the seller was not to be underestimated. While contemplating her response, the mysterious dealer suddenly went offline. Rachel hurriedly typed, “I’m ready to pay, no matter the cost!”

However, there was no further response from the seller. Rachel clicked on the seller’s account page, only to find it had been canceled. The mysterious and frugal dealer was her only lead at the moment. She had already spent five hundred thousand to obtain this clue from Hillary. If she lost it, she had no idea what to do next.

Just as Rachel was about to despair, her computer suddenly shut down, leaving the screen black. Confused, she examined her laptop, feeling a sense of unease. Suddenly, a blood-red window appeared on the dark screen, and slowly, large bloody words materialized within it. Each stroke seemed like smeared blood, as if it would flow out of the computer screen at any moment.

“Rachel! You’ll pay for what you’ve done!”

Following that, the computer’s speakers emitted a chilling peal of laughter. It sounded eerily like Charlene. It was as if her ghost had truly returned to haunt Rachel. Shocked by the scarlet words and unsettling laughter, Rachel flipped over the laptop and sought refuge behind the curtain, covering her ears. A shiver ran down her spine, and her hair stood on end as she recalled the scene before Charlene’s death.

In that very moment, she heard the study door open from outside, and hurried footsteps approached. When Rachel opened her eyes, she saw Braden standing in front of her. His hair was wet from the rain, and he still held his coat in his hand. Clearly, he had rushed home immediately upon his arrival.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, pulling Rachel out from behind the curtains and embracing her.

“Rachel?” Braden continued, his gaze fixed on her. Rachel remained in a state of shock, her mind blank. Gradually, her heart calmed down as she breathed in Braden’s familiar scent.

“Rachel, what’s going on?” he asked again. Rachel shook her head and then buried her face in his chest, holding him tightly.

Braden guided Rachel to a chair in the study, positioning her carefully before leaning against the table. His gaze fixated on her, his expression pensive. Sensing his suspicion, Rachel quickly covered her face, feigning embarrassment.

“Oh my, how embarrassing! I can’t believe I got so scared by that horror movie!” she exclaimed, attempting to divert his attention.

Braden pursed his lips tightly, clearly unconvinced. Unable to decipher his thoughts, Rachel nervously bit her lip and cautiously asked, “Do you think I’m lying?”

“I just don’t understand,” Braden replied simply. “You’re not someone who typically watches horror movies. Why did you suddenly want to watch one today?”

Glancing at the laptop lying overturned on the floor, Braden moved to retrieve it. Reacting swiftly, Rachel sprang from her seat and snatched the laptop from the ground. “Don’t move, I can get it myself,” she insisted, clutching the device protectively.

“Why are you so nervous? Were you looking at something shady?” Braden questioned, casting a sidelong glance at the dark computer screen, unable to discern anything.

Rachel stammered, “There are… um, ghosts! There are ghosts in my computer. Obviously, I can’t show them to you!” She felt a twinge of unease as she realized the strange sounds emanating from the laptop had abruptly ceased after a few seconds. Suppressing her thoughts, she hastily powered off the laptop, determined to prevent Braden from discovering her true intentions.

Just as Braden was about to press further, Rachel gasped dramatically, exclaiming, “Oh God! I just remembered I left something cooking on the stove!”

With those words, she bolted out of the study, leaving Braden in her wake. Reluctantly, he followed her downstairs. By the time he caught up, Rachel had already donned an apron and begun cooking.

As he approached, Rachel turned to him with a smile. “Honey, aren’t you tired today? How about I cook you some curry? I bought fresh ingredients from the supermarket.”

Despite her seemingly normal demeanor, Braden couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. Standing in the middle of the kitchen, he stared at her intently, sensing she was hiding something.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like curry?” Rachel innocently inquired, pretending ignorance of his suspicions. “How about spaghetti then? The tomatoes in the fridge will spoil if we don’t use them soon. Tell me, or I won’t know what to cook for you.”

Rachel knew exactly how to handle Braden—by playing dumb. As expected, he eventually relented, sighing helplessly. “Fine, spaghetti.”

With that settled, he retrieved the tomatoes from the fridge. Rachel couldn’t help but genuinely smile now, requesting Braden’s assistance in the kitchen.


“I thought you were going to cook for me,” Braden grumbled, pursing his lips, feeling somewhat deceived.

“I’m still a bit scared to be alone after watching that horror movie!” Rachel pouted, clinging to his arm like a spoiled child.

Braden relented, boiling water for the pasta, cutting the tomatoes, and preparing the sauce. Before he realized it, the entire meal was cooked, and he found himself plating the spaghetti. Why was he so compliant? Perhaps it was because Rachel had been exceptionally affectionate and adorable today. And he found himself enjoying it.

After finishing their meal, Rachel headed to the kitchen to wash the dishes. Braden followed her, puzzled by her actions.

Braden: “What’re you doing? Just put them in the dishwasher.”

Rachel continued washing the dishes while explaining her reasoning.

Rachel: “You don’t remember, do you? Back then, we didn’t have a dishwasher, so we used to divide the work. One person cooked while the other washed the dishes. Since you cooked dinner for us, it’s only fair that I wash the dishes.”

Once she finished cleaning the dishes, Rachel dried them and placed them in the cupboard. When she turned around, she noticed Braden silently staring at her. It was then that Rachel realized she had said something wrong.

Braden: “Do you miss the old days?”

Rachel tried to laugh it off, but her eyes betrayed her true emotions, revealing her sadness.

Rachel: “You’re right in front of me. Why would I miss the old days?”

Smiling sadly, Braden approached her and rested his head on her shoulder.

Braden: “I’m sorry. I can tell that you were happier with the old me. I can’t seem to make you as happy these days.”

Rachel listened attentively, appreciating Braden’s ability to express his feelings openly. Despite the seriousness of the situation, she restrained herself from laughing. When did he become this adorable? It felt strange yet endearing.

Braden playfully pecked her neck and asked, “So, what horror movie were you watching earlier?”

Rachel’s smile froze, caught off guard by the question.

Rachel: “Oh, well… It was… um… ‘Mary Shaw.’”

Braden suggested they watch it together, pulling her towards the living room. He turned on the TV and started playing the movie, casually unbuttoning two shirt buttons. Seeing Rachel still standing, he patted the spot next to him.

Braden: “You won’t feel scared now that I’m here with you.”

Blushing with embarrassment, Rachel cursed herself for lying about watching a horror movie.

Braden: “What’s wrong?” he asked when she didn’t move.

Rachel: “Come on. The movie’s starting.”

Not wanting to raise suspicion, Rachel reluctantly sat beside him. Horror movies always terrified her, causing her to break into a cold sweat. She couldn’t recall the last time she willingly watched one. Moreover, something strange had happened on her computer earlier, making her more anxious than usual.

As soon as she settled down, Braden naturally wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Grateful for his comforting gesture, Rachel felt slightly less scared as she listened to his heartbeat. She covered her mouth, secretly amused by how fast his heart was racing. Was he scared too? Was he just trying to act cool?

Observing her smug expression, Braden playfully pinched her and asked, “Did you see that? I thought I saw someone by the window just now.”

Rachel nervously glanced at the window, her heart pounding.

Rachel: “What?! No!”

Braden urged her to take a closer look, and Rachel, frightened, lightly punched him while pouting.

Rachel: “Stop joking around, Braden!”

Suddenly, Braden stood up from the sofa and walked briskly towards the window.

Braden: “I really saw something!”

Terrified, Rachel buried her face in a throw pillow and shouted, “Come back! I’m scared!”

Seeing her trembling like a leaf, Braden couldn’t help but burst into laughter. What a scaredy-cat! He approached her and enveloped the frightened Rachel in his arms.

Braden: “Since you’re so scared, why did you want to watch ‘Mary Shaw’ all by yourself?”

Unable to come up with a response, Rachel resorted to her usual tactic of changing the subject.

Rachel: “I’ll definitely have nightmares later.”

Braden’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

Braden: “Then let’s not sleep tonight. We can do something else…”


It had been a while since Rachel and Braden last had s*x, leaving Rachel perplexed when Braden made a proposal. Feeling desire surge through her legs, she hesitantly responded, “Braden… You…” Before she could finish her sentence, Braden firmly pushed her against the sofa, taking hold of her wrists.

Positioning himself on top of her, Braden silenced any further conversation with a passionate k**s that sent shivers down Rachel’s delicate skin. It had been so long since she felt this kind of excitement. Breathless, she managed to utter, “Oh, Braden…”

Meanwhile, Braden noticed Rachel’s flushed cheekbones, narrowed eyes, and deep longing. He couldn’t help but mischievously smile at her frantic breathing. “What a beautiful scene,” he thought. Lightly biting her neck, his other hand dangerously caressed her legs and th**hs.

“I won’t hold back much longer, Rachel,” Braden confessed, straightening up to unb**ton his shirt. Rachel, overcome with heat, watched as Braden undressed before her eyes, revealing his bare ch*st and perfectly formed muscles. Unable to resist, she sat in front of him, locking eyes with determination.

Unsure of what Rachel was planning, Braden was driven crazy by her imposing gaze. He wanted to make a move, but Rachel acted first. She k**sed and nibbled his abdomen repeatedly, not giving Braden a chance to react.

This was the first time Braden experienced such sensations, the first time he made love with the woman he loved. He felt completely under her control. Hastily getting up from the sofa, Braden laughed mockingly, thinking he had intimidated Rachel. But his laughter turned into a subtle cry of surprise as Rachel k**sed him before he could say anything.

With force, he lifted her from the sofa and positioned her in front of him. Rachel instinctively wr*pped her arms around his neck and her legs around his lower back. Nibbling on her neck, Braden held onto Rachel’s th**hs and back, p**ssing their bodies together. She was completely at his mercy.

Feeling Braden’s arousal p**ssing against her, Rachel m**ned repeatedly, grateful that he still had his pants on. The tension in her body grew, enchanting her. “This is something done in bed,” Braden seductively pronounced, causing Rachel to bite her lower l*p in anticipation.

Braden led Rachel to his room, leaving hickeys on her neck and clavicle along the way. Rachel m**ned and ran her fi**gers through Braden’s hair, unable to contain her excitement. Moving rhythmically, her br***ts were now at the perfect height for Braden’s l*ps.

As they reached his room, Braden kicked the door open with force, careful not to hurt Rachel. He gently laid her on the bed, pushing her slightly to destroy her dress. Luckily, she wasn’t wearing a bra, so the only hindrance left was her underwear. “I’ll take care of that later,” Braden thought, a playful smile appearing on his l*ps. Rachel, consumed by excitement, allowed Braden to see her almost naked body, forgetting that it was his first time witnessing such intimacy.

Everything that happened that night would be Braden’s first experience. Entranced by the sight before him, Braden couldn’t help but admire Rachel’s flushed face, her beautiful skin illuminated by the moonlight. She looked like an angel about to be corrupted.

Noticing Braden’s gaze, Rachel hurriedly sat on the edge of the bed, giving him an innocent look as if to ask for a k**s. Braden understood immediately and swayed on top of her. Running his fi**gers through Rachel’s hair, he massaged her naked br***ts while passionately k**sing her collarbone.

“Aah… Braden,” Rachel’s plea rang in Braden’s ears. He caressed her abdomen, navel, descending dangerously towards her intimate area. Rachel gasped loudly, unable to bear the pleasure building inside her. “Braden… I can’t take it anymore,” she pleaded in his ear.

“Me neither,” Braden replied after giving her n**ple a light bite, causing Rachel to m**n in response. Finally, Braden moved down to her intimate area, intending to caress her over her underwear. But he stopped when he saw that she was already w*t, smiling lustfully.

Not even that saved Rachel from her desire. Braden removed his own clothing in one swift motion, leaving them both completely naked. He subtly caressed her intimate area, making Rachel shudder and bring her hand to her mouth.

Unable to contain himself any longer, Braden ventured to lower his l*ps and gently s**k and k**s her c**toris. He then inserted a fi**ger inside her vagina, driving Rachel to burn with passion. “Aaah… Braden!” she groaned deeply, lightly pulling his hair as her back arched.

Braden couldn’t resist watching her tremble.

He gently traced his t***ue from her abdomen all the way up to her l*ps, sending shivers down her spine. His fi**ger moved inside Rachel, bringing her to the peak of excitement. After withdrawing his fi**ger, he sq***zed his th**hs with anticipation. Rachel couldn’t bear it any longer; she was reaching her limit. Summoning her strength, she pushed Braden aside and climbed on top of him. Braden was taken aback, his eyes widening as he gazed at the disheveled hair and naked body of the woman who had just taken control.

“This woman… she imp**sses me,” Braden thought, observing Rachel biting her l*p sensually. Rachel intended to punish him and had a plan in mind. Braden’s pants were still on, ready to burst. As Rachel straddled his member, she moved slowly, t**sing him up and down. An electric shock coursed through Braden’s body as he unexpectedly caressed her br***ts with both hands, one on each br***t.

“Oh… Rachel,” Braden groaned, unable to contain his pleasure. Rachel p**ssed her br***ts tighter against his hands, causing her to m**n loudly. It didn’t hurt; it only brought her immense pleasure. Leaning in to k**s Braden, Rachel noticed that his pants were w*t with his desire. Braden didn’t mind; while they k**sed, he pinched Rachel’s back and clawed at her skin, their breaths becoming uncontrollable.

Breaking away from Braden’s passionate k**ses and fierce grip, Rachel l**ked his ch*st and trailed her t***ue down to his masculinity, unbuckling his belt and removing his pants. “Ooh… You… Little…” Braden said, realizing Rachel’s intentions. His voice grew more seductive, and Rachel responded with a playful laugh.

Rachel wasted no time and positioned herself in front of his erect and throbbing member. With one hand, she played with it while k**sing Braden’s crotch. Although nothing had happened yet, Braden blushed, and Rachel held his member with one hand, smiling mischievously. She k**sed around his member, brushing the tip with her hair, causing Braden to m**n repeatedly. Finally, Rachel took Braden’s large member into her mouth.

“O-oh… God, Rachel… You…” Before he could finish speaking, Rachel moistened his member with her mouth, s**king it precisely while maintaining eye contact with Braden. This made Braden tremble even more, on the verge of losing control. After numerous m**ns and electrifying sensations, Rachel managed to drive him completely insane.

Braden pulled her towards him, k**sing her neck and pulling her hair back. He was so aroused that neither of them noticed how wild he had become. Rachel m**ned without restraint. Even though Braden’s member wasn’t inside her yet, she could feel it t**sing her entrance repeatedly. They were both naked now, and Braden wanted to regain control. He gently turned Rachel, laying her beneath him in a swift motion that caught her off guard.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Braden stared at her, fixated on Rachel’s pink, w*t entrance. “I can’t take it anymore… I’ll make you mine, Rachel,” he declared. A sensation overwhelmed Rachel’s body; she truly desired it. She nodded in response, and Braden spread her legs, taking in the panoramic view. He positioned his member at her entrance and pushed slightly.

“A-ah,” Rachel groaned as only a fraction of him entered her. Both his member and Rachel were already trembling. Originally, Braden planned to ease his size into Rachel’s vagina, but hearing her m**n and feeling her trembling, he couldn’t resist and pushed the rest inside her.

“Aaah! B-braden…” Rachel managed to say his name before her l*ps were rendered speechless. It seemed like her body acted on its own. Braden affirmed, mockingly, “If you say my name like that… I won’t be able to control myself.” Braden noticed Rachel’s perfect br***ts bouncing vigorously after his th**st. He fixated his eyes on her entire body as he claimed her repeatedly.

Their gasps, m**ns, and the sight of Rachel’s face and body drove Braden crazy. In an instant, Rachel took charge, pushing him onto his back again. His member, so big and long, sl*pped out due to the sudden movement. Rachel let out a cry of pleasure that reverberated within her as she impaled herself on Braden’s erect member.

Braden and Rachel m**ned in unison as she moved vigorously on top of him, digging her nails into his shoulders and ch*st. Braden firmly held her h*ps, assisting her movements. Their m**ns filled the room without pause. Rachel leaned in to k**s him while still moving, and Braden placed his arms beneath hers, pushing Rachel’s body onto his member effortlessly.

“Aaah! Ah… A-ah!” They m**ned incessantly. Rachel leaned forward, placing her hands on his shoulders, and Braden pushed her body down onto his member with ease.

“Oh, God… Braden!” Rachel’s voice trembled as her body threatened to give way.

“Oh…dear…” Braden’s voice was filled with desire. He didn’t want to stop yet; he wanted to dominate her further. With a firm grip, he lowered Rachel, turning her face down and spreading her th**hs.

Rachel’s body assumed an incredible shape in that position. The curves of her back and the pronounced cleavage made her irresistibly s*xy.

Without asking for permission, Braden reentered Rachel’s hot, eager vagina. Rachel cried out in pleasure, reaching her limit.

Braden th**st into her relentlessly, each movement causing Rachel to m**n uncontrollably and clutch at the wrinkled sheets.

Rachel’s trembling body could no longer hold on. Sensing this, Braden fl*pped her over once again, positioning her on top. This allowed him to hear her m**ns more clearly and intensified his own th**sts, which grew harder and faster.

Finally, they both reached their climax, shouting in unison. Rachel couldn’t withstand the overwhelming pleasure and collapsed alongside Braden.

As he looked at his exhausted wife lying beside him, Braden saw the watery eyes and the marks he had left on her body throughout their passionate night.

Bowing down, he gently k**sed her and then lay down next to her, equally tired. He wr*pped his arm around her neck, pulling her close. Rachel’s eyes were closed, seemingly asleep.

Unable to tear his gaze away from her face, Braden heard Rachel attempt to speak before he interrupted her.

“Shh… rest, honey,” he whispered softly. Rachel slightly turned her face, silently denying Braden’s request.

With what little strength remained, she managed to say, “Y-you, Master…” before succumbing to exhaustion and falling into a deep sleep.

This time, Braden knew he would never be able to forget Rachel…

When Rachel woke up the next morning, she found herself alone in bed, feeling sore from the night before. Clumsily, she climbed down the stairs and was surprised to see that the living room sofa had been replaced. The new black leather sofa caught her off guard, making her blush fiercely.

Braden, who had just made breakfast and was setting the table, noticed Rachel on the sofa and smiled at her. “It’s time for breakfast, darling,” he called out. Sheepishly, Rachel replied, “Oh, it’s fine. I’ll finish quickly.” Braden laughed heartily and said, “I’ll wait for you.”

Still feeling embarrassed, Rachel nodded and agreed to let Braden drop her off at her office after breakfast. It was their first time being intimate since Braden lost his memory, and surprisingly, everything went well. It seemed that his memory loss hadn’t affected their s*xual compatibility at all.

“You might be late,” Braden reminded Rachel patiently, placing his hand on the steering wheel. Rachel snapped out of her thoughts and blushed, feeling ashamed. Just as she reached for the doorknob, Braden grabbed her and k**sed her passionately. The k**s lasted longer than expected, leaving Rachel feeling lightheaded when Braden finally released her. “Relax, honey. I’m your husband, not a stranger,” he reassured her. Rachel’s cheeks flushed even more, and she pushed Braden away before hastily running into the building.

Before Rachel entered the building, she bumped into Olive and Hans. Surprisingly, Hans seemed calmer than usual and greeted Rachel with a polite smile. “Good day, Rachel,” he said. Although Rachel didn’t particularly like him, she responded politely, “Hello.” She couldn’t help but glance at Olive, wondering why she hadn’t taken her advice seriously and decided to stay with Hans.


Olive seemed guilty when she saw Rachel and explained, “Hans is doing much better now. He even brought me to work.” Hans scratched the back of his head and smiled apologetically at Rachel. “I’m sorry. I was in a bad mood due to my withdrawals. And as for what happened with Olive, I sincerely apologized to her. I won’t lose control again, and I will definitely appreciate her from now on.”

Hans’s words sounded sincere, but Rachel’s instincts told her not to trust him completely. She nodded coldly and entered the study, leaving Hans behind. After saying goodbye to Hans, Olive hurried to catch up with Rachel. She explained that she wanted to give Hans another chance because they had a good conversation, and he promised never to hurt her again.

Rachel’s heart sank, knowing that it was unlikely for domestic abuse to stop once it started. Hans’s promise didn’t seem reliable. Rachel couldn’t understand how someone as insightful in her career as Olive could be so weak and hesitant in love, staying in such a toxic relationship. “Do what you think is right. Only you know where it hurts. I can give you my opinion, but ultimately, it’s your choice and your life,” Rachel advised Olive meaningfully before heading to the tea room for some water.

As Rachel absentmindedly listened to the water pouring from the dispenser, her mind wandered to what she had seen on her laptop the previous day. Unaware of her surroundings, she didn’t notice that her glass was almost full. Suddenly, she heard a soft warning. Startled, Rachel turned around to find Homer standing behind her. Homer frowned and took the cup from Rachel’s hands just in time. It was then that Rachel realized what had happened.

“Mr. Grant, are you all right?” Rachel asked with concern, quickly apologizing to Homer and checking his hand for any signs of scalding.

Homer waved dismissively and placed the glass on the table. “I’m fine, but what about you? You seemed quite distracted just now,” he remarked, looking at her intently.

Rachel averted her gaze and replied, “I’m sorry. My mind was somewhere else…”

Homer’s kind eyes studied her face. “What’s going on? Are you under stress?” he inquired, sensing that something was bothering her.

Rachel shook her head, offering a slight smile, but it was evident that she hadn’t fully grasped the situation.

Realizing that she didn’t wish to discuss it further, Homer decided not to push her. He trusted that if it was something truly troubling, he would confide in her when she was ready.

“Are you free this afternoon? We have a new colleague joining us,” Homer changed the subject, hoping to lighten the mood.

Rachel’s eyes lit up at the prospect of meeting a new designer. “Do we finally have a new addition to the team? Ever since Brigitte left, it’s been just you, Olive, and me handling the designs,” she exclaimed.

Homer chuckled softly. “Well, Liza isn’t exactly a newcomer. She used to work here before and has now returned. You’ll meet her this afternoon,” he explained, satisfied that Rachel seemed more at ease.

With that, Homer retreated to his office, leaving Rachel to eagerly anticipate the arrival of their new colleague.

As expected, later that afternoon, Liza entered the studio. Unlike the typically slender designers, Liza had a slightly chubby figure. She wasn’t particularly tall, and her curly hair cascaded down to her shoulders. Her warm demeanor made her approachable, as she greeted everyone in the studio as if they were old friends.

Rachel introduced herself briefly, while Olive remained silent, not even bothering to acknowledge Liza’ presence. Rachel found this behavior peculiar and soon realized that everyone seemed to have a good rapport with Liza, except for Olive.

During their private lunch hour, Rachel couldn’t help but ask Olive about the situation between her and Liza. After a brief silence, Olive sighed and responded, “No, nothing happened. We were never really friends or anything like that. You see, Mr. Grant had trained her for two years, and then he felt she was capable enough to work independently as a designer. However, her career didn’t gain much momentum in recent years, so she asked if she could come back to work here. The studio needed an extra hand, so Mr. Grant agreed.”

Rachel sensed that there might be more to the story, but Olive’s tone made it clear that she wasn’t pleased with the situation. Rachel had always liked Liza and hoped to learn more about what had transpired betwen them over time. Meanwhile, the workload in the studio had been piling up, even with Liza’ return. Homer, the renowned figure behind w Grant'd Studio, insisted they needed one more assistant and assigned Liza and Rachel to conduct interviews.

The announcement of the job opening attracted a long line of eager applicants within days. Rachel initially hesitated to participate in the interviews, feeling less qualified compared to Liza. However, Homer assured her, saying, “You are more than capable of handling this, Rachel. I believe you will be a great help to the new assistant.” With a crooked smile, Rachel thanked Homer for his recognition, but deep down, she still felt uneasy.

The following day, after lunch, Liza approached Rachel’s desk to strike up a conversation. However, she completely ignored Olive, who maintained a serious expression and remained silent. Rachel’s curiosity got the better of her, and she couldn’t resist asking Olive once again, this time in a hushed voice, “What happened betwen you two?”

“Excuse me,” Olive interjected hastily, wanting to add something, but Liza interrupted her.

Liza approached Rachel with a cheerful tone, saying, “Hey, Rachel! Mind if I sit next to you? I’d love to chat.”

Rachel smiled awkwardly, realizing there was no polite way to reject Liza. She reluctantly nodded, and Liza took a seat beside her, striking up a conversation.

“I’ve seen your work before, Rachel. You’re incredibly talented. I’m sure you could become a successful freelance designer in the future. Your family would support you, especially considering the Colton family’s connections in the fashion industry. With your talent and their support, you have a bright future ahead,” Liza flattered.


Rachel forced a smile, unsure of how to respond to Liza’ excessive praise. “Thank you very much. I appreciate it. But I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me,” she replied.

Laughing, Liza patted Rachel on the shoulder. “No need to be so modest, Rachel!”

Rachel couldn’t help but notice Liza’ overly familiar behavior. They had only known each other for two days, yet Liza acted as if they were old friends. Clearing her throat, Rachel politely asked, “Was there something specific you wanted to discuss? If not, I should get back to work.”

Liza smiled and suggested, “How about we grab some coffee? I just woke up from a nap, and I still feel a bit dizzy.”

Rachel saw no harm in that and followed Liza into the tea room. As they found themselves alone, Liza suddenly looked at Rachel with a serious expression.

“Rachel, you’ve been working here for quite some time, right?” Liza asked, seeking confirmation.

Rachel focused on making coffee and didn’t look up. “Yes, it’s been almost a year. Why do you ask? Is something going on?”

“Mr. Grant mentioned that we’re in charge of interviewing applicants, and I have a friend who’s eager to work here. We graduated from the same design school. I can’t bear to say no to him… Can you help me out?” Liza requested, hoping for Rachel’s assistance.

Rachel tilted her head to the side, pondering the situation. “Well, if that one is your friend, I suppose there shouldn’t be an issue as long as he meets the required professional skills. However, we already have numerous applicants at this stage. Let’s see if he stands out among them.”

Liza’ smile faded, and she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Don’t you understand what I mean? I meant we don’t need to consider other candidates if we choose my friend directly!” She spoke slowly, winking at Rachel with a flattering smile.

This made Rachel extremely uncomfortable. She had always valued her work, and it was the first time she faced such an ethical dilemma. “Let’s see how his interview goes first,” Rachel replied, deliberately giving Liza a vague answer.

The interview began promptly at three in the afternoon. Liza wore a disappointed expression throughout the process, while Rachel maintained her professionalism. If Liza’ friend truly possessed exceptional talent, they would be welcomed without skipping the interview process. Rachel couldn’t help but feel that Liza was underestimating her own design capabilities.

A few minutes later, Liza’ friend arrived for the interview. As Rachel reviewed the portfolio, she realized that the designs were rather ordinary and not up to the standards of a prestigious studio like Grant'd & Co. There were many other outstanding candidates.

After Liza’ friend left, Rachel turned to Liza and said directly, “I’d like to see the other candidates.”

Liza began collecting the resumes, intending to dismiss them. “There’s no need. I’ve already reviewed all the resumes and portfolios of the other applicants. My friend is absolutely the best choice.”

Rachel reached her limit and spoke coldly, “Liza, you don’t have the final say in this interview.”

Her frank words caused Liza to blush with anger. She angrily threw the resumes in front of Rachel. “I’m not lying! Take a look for yourself. There’s even one candidate with a significant career gap who recently resumed work. Moreover, she’s pregnant! Hiring her would only disrupt our workflow and create inconvenience if she has a child at home!”

“Call in the next candidate for the interview. They traveled a long way to be here. Let’s not disappoint them. It’s a matter of respect,” Rachel firmly stated.

With clenched teeth, Liza had no choice but to proceed with the next candidate. “Hello, I am applicant number 108,” the woman introduced herself.

To Rachel’s surprise, it was Tina standing before her.

To confirm her suspicions, she inquired, “Tina, is that you?”

Tina was taken aback to see that the interviewer was Rachel.

“I knew Rachel worked at w Grant'd, but I never expected her to be the one interviewing me,” Tina thought to herself.

Tina had her reasons for coming to Grant'd. After divorcing Lewis, she received a substantial settlement and returned to her family.

Her family the Jefferson had arranged Tina’s marriage to the Peterson family for mutual benefit. However, now that she was divorced and the Peterson family was facing financial difficulties, the Jefferson family felt ashamed.

Adding to the complexity, Tina was pregnant at the time, which made matters worse. Given all that had happened, it seemed unlikely that Tina could remarry another wealthy man. This burdened the Jefferson family, and even some of her relatives began treating her coldly. Unable to bear it any longer, Tina decided to move out.

Although money wasn’t an issue for her, she didn’t want to remain idle. Coincidentally, w Grant'd studio was hiring at the time. Knowing that Homer, a renowned figure in the fashion industry, headed the studio, Tina wanted to give it a try, so she submitted her resume.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

“Please have a seat. Why didn’t you use your real name?” Rachel was genuinely surprised to see Tina there. She glanced at the resume and portfolio Tina had submitted, confirming that she hadn’t used her real name.

Tina smiled sheepishly and explained, “There were some family issues, and I didn’t want them to know I was looking for a job. Will that affect today’s interview?”

Rachel shook her head with a slight smile and continued reviewing Tina’s folder. “No, the interview will solely depend on the quality of your work.”

Liza, noticing that the candidate and Rachel knew each other, narrowed her eyes and asked, “How do you two know each other?”

“We went to the same school. Just relax. I will conduct a fair and impartial interview,” Rachel assured Liza, knowing that judging Tina solely on her work was the professional way to proceed.

She also understood that this was what Tina truly desired—to break free from the constraints of marriage and gain recognition for her own design abilities.

Liza rolled her eyes at Rachel, suspecting that she wanted to hire her friend but pretended not to know her too well. “So, let’s begin the interview now,” Liza said, scrutinizing Tina’s resume and portfolio.

In reality, Tina’s work far surpassed that of her friend’s. Moreover, she had even won several design awards while still in school. Suddenly, Liza felt a twinge of nervousness.

Rachel was delighted with Tina’s impressive resume and genuinely believed that even Liza would recognize her potential. She turned to her and asked, “Well, what do you think, Liza?”

How could Liza allow this pregnant woman to be hired when it should have been her own friend? She had promised her friend a position at Grant'd. How could she explain this?

“Not bad,” Liza forced a smile. “Can I ask you a few questions first?”

“Of course,” Rachel nodded enthusiastically, holding Tina in high regard. Despite being out of the design industry for a few years, it was evident that Tina still possessed remarkable talent. Additionally, she had won numerous design awards even before graduating, showcasing her exceptional skills.

As Liza glanced at Tina’s protruding belly, she asked harshly, “You were a housewife, right? That would explain the gap in your resume. Now, after getting divorced, you’re looking for work. Did your husband leave you?” Her question was intentionally rude, clearly aimed at provoking Tina.

Tina felt disheartened by Liza’ unpleasant remarks, which made her appear unfit for the position. She remained silent, unsure of how to defend herself. Just as she attempted to explain, Liza abruptly interrupted her.

“Besides, you’re pregnant now. Working alone, you’ll be a burden to others, not just yourself. And you haven’t had a job in a long time. Is fashion just a game for you? You know Grant'd is not just a small studio next to the street. People like you will only drag us down,” Liza exclaimed, causing Rachel’s eyes to widen in shock.

Rachel couldn’t believe Liza would say something so nasty. Unable to tolerate it any longer, she stood up to prevent Liza from continuing. “Blacklisting designers who have taken sabbaticals is serious discrimination. There’s no point in asking something like that. No interview. Your bias against this candidate is a blatant violation of Grant'd’ values.”

Liza was taken aback by Rachel’s reasonable argument and found herself speechless. Tina, who had been quiet until then, realized how much Rachel cared for her. She mustered the courage to speak up.

“It’s not what you think. It’s true that I was a homemaker for a long time, but I chose to divorce my husband for personal reasons. I really want to return to the fashion industry. I’ve applied to all major studios. Even though I’m pregnant, I can manage, and I don’t mind starting from the bottom. If it brings me closer to my dream, it will all be worth it. I genuinely want to get back to work and immerse myself in the world of fashion. So please give me a chance,” Tina pleaded, bowing respectfully.

Liza sneered at Tina with disdain, unconvinced by her sincerity. “Nope. We need to hire an employee who will help Grant'd grow, not a pregnant woman who will drag us down. You’re not a good fit for our studio. You can leave now.”

Rachel intervened, her voice filled with determination. “Wait a minute,” she said through clenched teeth, stopping Tina from leaving. She stared coldly at Liza and continued, “Tina is clearly more qualified and talented than the other applicants. Why don’t you want her? Is it really just because she’s pregnant? Or is it because you want your friend to get hired instead of her?”

Her eyes burned with fierce determination. Rachel made it clear that she wouldn’t let this matter go until Liza provided a reasonable explanation. Liza was left speechless, gritting her teeth. She pointed a finger at Rachel and yelled, “No! Don’t spout nonsense here! This applicant will have a baby in a few months. Then she’ll ask for maternity leave, and the company will be forced to grant her paid leave. She’s simply trying to cheat the company! Do you think that’s fair? Go out and ask any company if they would accept such employees!”

Tina stepped in to offer an explanation. “I certainly don’t want to take advantage of the studio. I just want to work as a designer.”

Liza rolled her eyes sarcastically. “Then find another company to work for. Why do you have to work here? Oh, I see how it is. Did you make a deal with Rachel? Did she promise you the job here at Grant'd?”

Not wanting Rachel to get caught in the crossfire, Tina sighed despondently and said, “Enough, I’ll go.”

Just then, Homer walked into the room, frowning at the heated exchange. “What’s going on here? I could hear you arguing from a mile away,” he questioned, wanting answers.

Liza eagerly approached Homer, her face filled with concern. “Mr. Grant, I must bring something to your attention. Rachel had prior knowledge of this candidate, Tina. How can we conduct a fair interview when there might be bias due to Rachel’s inexperience? I don’t blame her, but I’m saying this for the sake of our studio.”


Rachel, who overheard Liza’ remarks, felt a surge of anger.

How dare she accuse Rachel of such things right in front of everyone? Did Liza really think Rachel was an easy target, unable to defend herself?

Unable to contain her frustration any longer, Rachel responded coldly, “You’re talking nonsense.” It finally dawned on Rachel that Liza was truly two-faced.

Liza wasn’t content with just tarnishing Rachel’s image in front of Homer; he also wanted to snatch away the opportunity for Tina to work at Grant'd. Homer, known for his integrity, frowned and firmly declined Liza’ suggestion. “I won’t let personal connections influence my decision.”

Homer then turned to Rachel and asked, “Do you know this candidate, Tina?”

“Yes, we know each other,” Rachel hesitated for a moment, wanting to explain further, but Homer interrupted calmly.

Rachel lowered her head, pursed her lips, and remained silent. She felt hurt by Liza’ accusations. It wasn’t as Liza had portrayed it.

Meanwhile, Liza smirked, satisfied with her plan’s success.

“Mr. Grant, please take a look at this briefcase. This is the most outstanding candidate we’ve seen today,” Liza enthusiastically handed over her friend’s resume and portfolio to Homer. “Such designs are fresh and align perfectly with our studio’s aesthetics.”

Homer nodded and began reviewing the materials. After flipping through a few pages, he raised his hand and said simply, “Give me Tina’s resume.” Liza’ smile faded, but she had no choice but to hand over Tina’s resume to Homer.

Homer silently compared Tina’s work to that of Liza’ friend and soon came to a conclusion. “I’m impressed with Tina’s work.” Rachel looked at Homer in disbelief, but he remained as composed as ever, as if discussing the weather.

Liza was momentarily speechless, but he refused to give up. “How can Tina, who is clearly inexperienced, be qualified to join our studio? Have you bewitched Rachel into favoring her so quickly?” Liza underestimated Rachel, who had only recently started working there but already had a strong influence on her boss.

Homer gently placed the resume down and calmly stated, “I don’t care if the interviewees have connections within my studio or not. Tina is undeniably the best candidate based on her work alone.” His calm gaze turned unusually sharp as he directed it towards Liza.

“But you, Liza, what’s happened to you? Despite Rachel having less experience than you, can you honestly say that Tina’s work isn’t superior to the other applicant’s? And how can you claim the other work is innovative when it’s utterly useless? It seems you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned at Grant'd over the years. Do you truly believe this immature design qualifies for our studio? Since when have our standards become so low?”

As Homer scolded Liza relentlessly, her face flushed with anger and humiliation. Yet, Liza refused to accept defeat. Nervously fidgeting with her thumbs, she blurted out, “Tina is pregnant. It won’t be convenient for her to work here. Moreover, she’ll likely request maternity leave soon, which will undoubtedly burden us. That’s why I decided not to hire her after careful consideration.”

Homer spoke calmly, “Well, I’ve decided to hire Tina. Liza, you don’t have to worry about those things.” She smiled and shrugged nonchalantly, saying, “Okay, it’s up to you.” Then she lowered her head and focused on organizing the papers on the table, avoiding eye contact and refraining from talking to anyone.

Tina looked excitedly at Rachel, who gave her a thumbs-up. She walked over to Homer to express her gratitude. “Thank you for choosing me, Mr. Grant. I promise to work hard in the future and not let you down, even with my due date and unavoidable maternity leave. I’ll do everything possible not to delay your work during this period.” Homer nodded calmly.

To be honest, Homer had met Tina once before. A few years ago, he had given a speech at Tina’s school, and he had the opportunity to see some of the students’ designs. Even back then, he felt that Tina’s works were remarkable. Homer had hoped that Tina would dive right into the design industry, but unfortunately, Tina got married right after graduating and gave up her career for the sake of her family. Now that she was trying to get back into the world of design, Homer believed she was making the right decision. He just hoped that Tina would persevere in the future, starting from scratch now.

“Rachel, why don’t you give Tina a tour of the studio first?” Homer instructed Rachel.

Rachel nodded, relieved that Homer didn’t believe Liza’ lies. “This is where we work. The tea room is on the left. If you ever get hungry, you can always grab some snacks there.” Rachel, in high spirits, led Tina around the studio.

After the tour, Tina was eager to get started. The walls of the design department were adorned with the works of Grant'd Studio over the years, providing great inspiration. From a distance, Liza watched Rachel and Tina laughing happily, which fueled her anger. However, since Homer had chosen Tina, she had no choice but to accept reality.

After the tour, Rachel took Tina to meet Olive. Olive was engrossed in a design draft when she felt someone patting her shoulder. Seeing that it was Rachel, she put down her pencil and stood up. “Let me introduce Tina, our latest designer!”

Olive’s attention was immediately drawn to Tina’s rounded belly, marveling at it. “You’re going to be a mother. I still can’t believe you want to work! That’s incredible! I admire you from the bottom of my heart.”

Tina looked down, feeling embarrassed, and quietly apologized, saying, “Please bear with me if I cause any problems.” Olive reassured her,

“Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re a team. If you have any questions, just ask me.” She extended her hand to Tina, smiling warmly. “Welcome to W Marks.”

Relieved, Tina shook hands with Olive, wearing a smile. She decided to confide in Olive. “Actually, I owe a lot to Rachel. If she hadn’t stood up for me, things wouldn’t have gone so well… I was about to give up at the first sign of trouble.”

Olive tilted her head in curiosity. “What do you mean? Did someone make things difficult for you?” Then it dawned on her. Arching an eyebrow at Rachel, she continued, “Let me guess. It was Liza, wasn’t it?”

“Has she done something like this before?”

Olive’s expression turned grim as she spoke about Liza’ hiring practices at Grant'd. “Ever since Liza joined, she’s been bringing in her acquaintances as interns here. Homer never seems to care about it; he only focuses on his work. Thankfully, the previous hires by Liza weren’t too bad. But it seems like this time, she made a mistake.”

Rachel took a deep breath and sighed, finally understanding why Olive had been distant with Liza. “Well, at least now I understand why you were so cold towards her,” Rachel remarked.

Olive shrugged. “I didn’t mean to say anything bad about it since it’s all in the past. But now it seems like Liza is revealing her true colors on her own.”

Just as Rachel was about to show Tina around the office, they heard a commotion outside the design department. Tina asked, “What’s going on?”

“It sounds like there’s a fight happening outside,” Rachel replied. “I’ll go out and check.” Confused, Rachel decided to investigate the source of the disturbance.

As she glanced down the corridor, Rachel saw Liza and her friend engaged in a heated argument. “Shh! The acoustics here are terrible. Everyone inside will hear you. Do you want me to lose my job?” Liza tried to calm her friend down, clearly annoyed.

“Are you messing with me, Liza? I’ve given you so much, and what do I get in return? Nothing! You used that expensive bag I bought you and did nothing for me!” the restless girl screamed.

In a fit of rage, the girl snatched Liza’ bag and threw it forcefully to the ground. “I gave you this bag. Now I want it back!” she yelled.


Fearful of causing a scene, Liza quickly retrieved the bag, emptied its contents, and threw it back at the girl. “Fine! Take it! It’s just a bag. Take it and get out of here right now! And don’t come back!” Liza’ face turned red with anger.

Worried about her reputation, Liza looked around to ensure no one had witnessed the altercation. The girl caught the bag and shook it before cursing, “Bitch, you’ve already used it! How much am I supposed to take from a second-hand bag? If I knew you were so useless, I wouldn’t have asked for your help!” Her voice grew louder, causing Liza to feel embarrassed.

Liza wished she could disappear into the ground. As she angrily turned to return to her workstation, she noticed Rachel staring at her. Rachel’s gaze only fueled her fury. Losing control, Liza stormed towards Rachel, roaring, “Bitch, what did you do to seduce Homer? How is it that he listens to you and not me?”

“You were the one making promises you couldn’t keep. That’s not my fault,” Rachel retorted indignantly. She didn’t believe a word of what Liza was saying. Leaning closer to Rachel, Liza warned in a low voice, “Remember, this isn’t over.”

After her outburst, Liza returned to her desk as if nothing had happened. “That little bitch is definitely something,” she thought to herself. She had managed to win over someone as powerful as Homer. The more Liza dwelled on it, the angrier she became with Rachel. It was clear that Rachel also wanted to hire acquaintances, just like Liza did. But Rachel pretended to be innocent and got away with it, leaving Liza to shoulder the blame.

In that moment, Liza made a firm decision. She would stop at nothing to ensure that Rachel and Tina were kicked out of Grant'd.

After escorting Tina to her cubicle, Rachel returned to her seat and immersed herself in work. However, her mind was preoccupied with the strange incident involving her laptop. She had searched online for answers but found nothing. Although the issue hadn’t recurred, she couldn’t log in to the website anymore, severing her only connection to the mysterious drug dealer. Frustrated, Rachel decided to focus on her work for the time being and tackle her problems one by one.

As the day neared its end, Olive packed up her belongings, intending to leave early. Rachel glanced at the clock and asked curiously, “There’s still fifteen minutes left. Where are you headed?”

Olive pulled out a powder compact and began touching up her makeup, enhancing her already beautiful features. With a hint of wistfulness, she replied, “I have to go now. I’ve finished today’s tasks anyway. Hans is waiting for me downstairs, and I don’t want him to wait too long. See you tomorrow, Rachel.” Rachel nodded and bid her farewell, unsure if Olive’s relationship with Hans was healthy or not. Nevertheless, Olive seemed happier now.

Shortly after Olive’s departure, Tina also prepared to leave. She approached Rachel’s workstation, finding her still engrossed in her work. “Are you planning to work overtime?” Tina inquired.

Rachel’s eyes remained fixed on the computer screen as she responded, “Yes, I haven’t completed my tasks for today, but it won’t take much longer.”

“Alright then. Don’t stay up too late, okay? I’m heading home. Bye!” Tina waved goodbye and left. Rachel continued working diligently, and by the time she finished her design, she realized she was the last person remaining in the office, surrounded by darkness outside. Suddenly, her phone rang.

“When will you get off work, you workaholic?” Braden’s familiar and gentle voice brought a smile to her face.

“What time will you pick me up?” Rachel checked the clock, discovering it was almost 7 o’clock in the evening.

“Wait for me. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” After ending the call, Rachel swiftly packed her belongings. Just as she was about to descend the stairs, she received a peculiar text message.

Initially dismissing it as spam, something caught her attention. The sender claimed to be Charlene Palmer. Shocked, Rachel tapped on the message and read it carefully. “You haven’t forgotten me, have you, Rachel? It’s me, Charlene. You’re the one who set me up. I can’t wait for you to join me in hell.”

Before she could finish reading the first text, her phone began incessantly pinging with more messages flooding in. Rachel’s fingers trembled, and beads of cold sweat formed on her forehead. With each incoming message, her heart raced faster. Who would play such a cruel prank on her? Annoyed and anxious, Rachel contemplated turning off her phone.

Suddenly, the messages ceased, plunging into silence. Rachel breathed a sigh of relief and prepared to stow away her phone. However, the screen lit up once again, displaying an unknown caller. After a momentary hesitation, Rachel answered the call, lowering her voice in an attempt to remain composed. “Hello? Who’s this?”

“Are you happy now, Rachel? You’ve finally killed me…” A ghostly female voice emanated from the other end, bearing a striking resemblance to Charlene’s voice.

“Don’t worry. I’ll escort you to hell personally. I’ll be back again soon!” The voice on the other end of the line erupted into maniacal laughter, sending shivers down Rachel’s spine. Gripping her phone tightly, she struggled with how to react. Taking deep breaths, she reminded herself not to show fear, knowing it would only encourage the person behind the threats. With resolve, Rachel decided to hang up. But before she could, the voice on the other end interrupted, “I’m looking right at you, Rachel. Hanging up won’t change a thing.”

Rachel realized that it wasn’t Charlene’s ghost haunting her, but rather someone alive who was watching her nearby. Relief washed over her as she smiled and calmly responded, “Then come out and face me. I wasn’t afraid of you when you were alive, and I certainly won’t be afraid of you now that you’re dead. If you truly are Charlene Palmer, why don’t you reveal yourself and tell me what drug you used on Braden? It would save me a great deal of trouble. I could use the money I’d save to buy you some more flowers.”

Silence fell on the other end of the line, leaving Rachel wondering if the so-called ghost had grown tired of the charade. She decided to take a different approach. “Would you like to have a drink with me?” Rachel suggested, maintaining her composure. “You sound tired.”

The ghostly caller responded with a chilling declaration, “I’m coming for your life!” Then, the call abruptly ended, leaving Rachel staring at the blackened screen. Breathing a sigh of relief, she grabbed her bag and hurried downstairs.

Waiting for her in the lobby was Braden, who had been there for a while. Spotting Rachel, he rushed over, concern etched on his face. “What’s the matter? You don’t look so good. Are you feeling unwell?” Braden took her bag and examined her closely.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Overwhelmed by the recent events, Rachel instinctively embraced him tightly, seeking solace in his arms. She buried her face in his chest, finding comfort in his familiar warmth and scent. The encounter with the ghostly caller had rattled her deeply. Rachel had always been afraid of ghosts, and the late hour of the call only heightened her fear. If the woman on the phone had kept up the act, she might have believed it was Charlene. Thankfully, knowing that Braden was waiting downstairs gave her the courage to face anything.

“What’s wrong? Are you still thinking about that movie we watched?” Braden held her tightly, gently rubbing the back of her head.

Rachel looked up at him, a mischievous smile playing on her lips. “Yes.”

Braden pinched her cheek affectionately and kissed her tenderly. He had a sense that things were falling back into place, as if they were returning to their old selves. Holding onto Braden’s arm and leaning against him, Rachel spoke sweetly, “Let’s go home, honey.”

Lately, Rachel had become more clingy, and Braden found himself enjoying this familiar closeness. Although he couldn’t remember their past yet, he felt an overwhelming happiness. It seemed their relationship was only growing stronger.

“What would you like for dinner?” Braden asked, pressing his lips against the back of her hand.

“Let me think. What do we still have at home? How about we stop by the supermarket first? That way, I can also grab some snacks,” Rachel suggested. As she spoke, a billboard above suddenly broke free from its frame and hurtled toward them!

“Watch out!” Braden shouted, his eyes sharp and reflexes quick. He lunged at Rachel just in time as the billboard crashed to the ground behind them, sending fragments flying in all directions. The surrounding people screamed and scattered, creating chaos.

“What the hell? What just happened?” Rachel exclaimed, bewildered by the sudden turn of events.

“That billboard just fell! It could have hit someone!” a concerned passerby exclaimed, joining the growing crowd of riled-up onlookers.

Rachel looked up towards the direction from which the billboard had fallen. Amidst the smoke and commotion, she caught a glimpse of a petite figure on the rooftop. Squinting her eyes, she thought it resembled Charlene, but she couldn’t be sure. The woman seemed to be staring straight at her, and Rachel even felt a faint smile directed her way. Braden followed Rachel’s gaze and frowned.

“Who’s up there?” he questioned, his eyes fixed on the figure.

“Don’t go,” Rachel pleaded, grabbing Braden’s arm to stop him. She noticed scratches on his hands and face caused by the flying debris. Concern filled her as she realized he was injured. “Let’s go to the hospital first. You’re hurt.”

Braden, seemingly unaffected by the pain, glanced back and saw several strong men in casual clothes rushing to his side. They were his bodyguards in disguise. Pointing towards the top of the building, he commanded, “Go upstairs and find out who’s responsible for this.”

The three bodyguards swiftly obeyed, racing upstairs to investigate. However, their search yielded no results. Frustrated, Braden wanted to continue searching, but Rachel intervened.

“Since your men couldn’t find her, it means she has escaped. But she’ll try again since she failed this time. We’ll find another opportunity to catch her,” Rachel concluded, her priority shifting to Braden’s wounds.

Returning home, Rachel couldn’t help but feel saddened by the cuts and scrapes on Braden’s handsome face. She knew he had gotten hurt because he wanted to protect her.

“We should call a doctor. Your face needs proper treatment to prevent scarring,” Rachel suggested worriedly.

“No, it’s fine. The company is already in chaos, and I don’t want to add to the problem. Going to see a doctor might lead to rumors spreading,” Braden refused, displaying his stubbornness. “It’s just a minor injury. We can handle it ourselves.”

Aware of his determination, Rachel ceased her attempts to persuade him. Instead, she carefully disinfected his wounds with iodine and applied ointment. One particular wound near the end of his eyebrow split it into two sections, making it look slightly awkward. Rachel wondered if the hair would grow back normally in the future.

After treating his wounds, Rachel let out a heavy sigh. “I had hoped our life would return to normal now that Charlene is out of the picture. I was wrong.”

Braden was about to offer words of comfort when his phone rang, interrupting their conversation. His expression turned serious as he listened to the caller.

“What’s wrong?” Rachel asked anxiously, sensing something troubling.

“Have they found the person responsible for tampering with the billboard?” Braden replied, his voice filled with concern. After hanging up, he shook his head. “No, it seems the billboard didn’t meet today’s safety standards. The police believe it was just an accident.”


Rachel couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had seen a figure on the rooftop, resembling Charlene. It couldn’t be a mere coincidence. There had to be someone behind the scenes trying to harm her. Perhaps it was connected to the constant harassment from Charlene’s “ghost.”

Determined, Rachel made up her mind to tell Braden everything. However, before she could utter a word, his phone rang once again.

Braden’s phone rang, and he answered it with a hint of annoyance. As soon as he heard the caller’s news, his anger flared up, causing him to abruptly stand up from the sofa.

“How did this happen? Where’s the technician on duty tonight?” Braden exclaimed, frustration evident in his voice.

Rachel, who had been about to say something, hesitated. She could see that Braden was overwhelmed with the responsibility of running the company alone. Kristian and Charlene, the two senior executives, were no longer part of the Porter Group, and finding reliable replacements had proven difficult.

Realizing the weight on Braden’s shoulders, Rachel decided to hold back her words. Concerned, she asked, “What happened?”

“It’s nothing for you to worry about. I’ve already asked the technician to handle it,” Braden replied, trying to reassure her.

After hanging up the phone, Braden let out a weary sigh. When he turned to look at Rachel, his expression softened, and he pulled her into his arms.

“Don’t worry. I’ll investigate who did this, and I’ll assign more bodyguards to protect you,” Braden assured her, his voice filled with determination.

Rachel sighed, finding solace in Braden’s embrace. Being close to him made her feel safe and relaxed, despite the troubles they faced.

“Don’t worry too much about this, okay? I have a feeling that whoever is behind this will strike again. In fact, I look forward to facing her,” Rachel said confidently. She believed she could handle any threat that came their way, even if it was Charlene’s ghost seeking revenge. Rachel knew she hadn’t done anything wrong, so there was nothing to fear.

Hearing her words, Braden misunderstood Rachel’s intentions. He thought she didn’t want bodyguards around her, preferring to maintain a low profile.

Cupping Rachel’s face gently, Braden explained, “If you feel suffocated by the bodyguards, I’ll tell them to keep their distance. They won’t follow you closely.”

Rachel remembered that the old Braden had secretly hired Nadia to protect her under the guise of being her friend. Braden didn’t want to repeat the same mistake and wanted to be transparent with Rachel now.

“It’s actually fine. It’s not a big deal, really,” Rachel replied, shaking her head. “I’ve realized that nothing is more important than being with you, safe and sound. Trust me, I will take responsibility for both myself and you.”

Braden looked at her with newfound respect. “My, my, you’ve grown up so much,” he remarked, sighing softly as he gently stroked her hair.

Curious, Rachel pursed her lips and looked up at Braden. He appeared unchanged, but she sensed something different about him. “What are you talking about? I’m still the same person.”

“I just feel like you used to live a simple and carefree life before. Now, you’re burdened with so many things…” Braden’s eyes reflected affection and sympathy.

“But I promise you, Rachel, I’ll regain my memories. I don’t want to miss anything about you. You’re incredibly precious to me,” Braden declared, his words causing a lump to form in Rachel’s throat. She smiled, tears glistening in her eyes.

Braden’s sincerity touched her deeply. He rarely expressed his feelings like this before, and Rachel hadn’t realized how much he valued their relationship. Their bond had played a significant role in their personal growth.

However, Rachel knew that recovering Braden’s memories wouldn’t be easy, and she was afraid to hope too much. High expectations often led to greater disappointment.

To lighten the somber atmosphere, Rachel snorted sarcastically. “You have no idea how foolish I used to be. I had a sister who constantly bullied me, and it took me a while to gather the courage to stand up to her.”

“Really? What happened?” Braden asked, his eyes lighting up with intrigue.

As they sat together on the sofa, Rachel recounted her past experiences with the Daley family, leading up to the moment she met Braden. Determined, she made up her mind to protect him and help him regain their lost memories.


The next morning, Rachel woke up to an empty bed. Letting out a small yawn, she made her way downstairs and found Braden already dressed for work.

“Still sleepy? Why don’t you get some more rest?” Braden said with a gentle smile, adjusting his tie. It was clear he was about to leave for the company.

Noticing Rachel’s grogginess, he walked over and lightly kissed her on the cheek. “The bodyguard I hired for you is waiting outside.”

Rachel nodded sleepily, watching as Braden put on his coat and left. After having breakfast, she got dressed and headed towards the door.

Standing outside was a strong and fierce-looking female bodyguard, a complete contrast to the petite Nadia. With this intimidating new addition by her side, Rachel doubted anyone would dare approach her now.

“Good morning, Mrs. Porter!” greeted the specially trained bodyguard, acting and speaking in a brisk manner.

Smiling awkwardly, Rachel replied, “Hello, nice to meet you.” She then set off for work, with the female bodyguard closely following behind.

Upon reaching the studio entrance, they came face-to-face with Liza. Glancing at the bodyguard behind Rachel, Liza sneered contemptuously. She had never been fond of Rachel and saw her bringing a bodyguard to work as a show-off move.

“Wow, I can’t believe you brought a servant to work,” Liza sarcastically remarked, deliberately blocking their path. “Rachel, tell your little servant to step aside. We can’t let just anyone enter our office. Grant'd Studio is a place for designers, not lowly people like her.”

Rachel pursed her lips unhappily. Liza’ words were as rude as ever. “This is my bodyguard,” Rachel explained impatiently. “She’s not a servant. She’s responsible for my safety.”

Liza threw her head back and burst into laughter, finding Rachel’s explanation absurd. “Are you delusional? Do you think your own colleagues are out to kill you? You just brought a servant to take care of you, didn’t you? You’re just a big baby! Well, let me remind you that Mr. Grant would never allow your servant to come inside.”

Knowing it was futile to argue with Liza’ unreasonable behavior, Rachel turned to the bodyguard and suggested, “How about you wait in the café outside? I’ll join you right after work.”

The female bodyguard shook her head grimly. “Mr. Porter instructed me to be with you at all times, anywhere. I won’t be able to protect you from outside the office.”

Liza sneered unhappily. Why was Rachel so fortunate? Not only did she come from a wealthy family, but she also had a caring and handsome husband. It felt incredibly unfair.

As jealousy consumed Liza, she raised her voice and attempted to chase the bodyguard away. “I’ve already told you that you can’t be here! This is our office! Get out!”

Unfazed by Liza’ aggression, the bodyguard stood her ground. In a swift motion, the tables turned, and Liza found herself pinned to the ground, her arms restrained behind her back.

The pain in Liza’ arms made her wail helplessly. “Ouch! Let me go! Help! Somebody, help me!”

Liza’ cries caught the attention of the studio employees, including Homer. He emerged from the studio and asked, “What’s happening here? Why are you yelling right outside our studio?”

Homer observed the intense confrontation between Liza and Rachel, then turned to Rachel with a puzzled expression. “Rachel, can you please explain what’s happening here?”

Rachel signaled her bodyguard to release Liza and began to clarify the situation. “Liza instigated a fight with me and my bodyguard, so she was restrained.”

As soon as Liza was freed, she shot an angry glare at Rachel before turning to Homer with a pitiful expression. “Mr. Grant, it’s all Rachel’s fault! She tried to bring her servant into the office, but I told her it wasn’t allowed. So she ordered her servant to beat me up!”

Fed up with Liza’s lies, Rachel approached Homer and spoke candidly. “This woman is not my servant; she’s my bodyguard. Something terrible happened after work yesterday. The billboard on the roof of this building fell and almost killed me. For my own safety, I decided to have bodyguards accompany me today.”

Crossing her arms in disdain, Liza sneered, “You’re exaggerating. The fallen billboard was just an accident. Why would you need bodyguards? What a lame excuse!”

Ignoring Liza’s remarks, Rachel focused her gaze on Homer and asked earnestly, “Mr. Grant, you must have heard about the billboard incident, right?”

Homer nodded, recalling the news of the incident. It was reported that Rachel had a narrow escape from being crushed by the falling billboard, and Braden had heroically protected her. His brow furrowed. “Are you injured? Have you been to the hospital?”

After contemplating for a moment, Rachel decided to reveal the truth. “No, but my husband got injured. Although the police labeled it as an accident, I sense something suspicious.”

The mastermind behind the incident remained hidden, and Rachel was unsure where to look. Perhaps even their current situation was being monitored. After pondering for a while, Homer reached a decision. “I’ll allow your bodyguard into the studio, but she must follow the rules and not disrupt anyone’s work, alright?”

Rachel was pleasantly surprised by Homer’s consideration. What a kind boss! She smiled gratefully and nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Grant. I’ll get to work now.”

Excusing herself, Rachel entered the studio accompanied by her bodyguard. Just as she was about to reach her workstation, Liza’s sharp voice called out from behind. “You can’t just leave! Your so-called bodyguard hurt my arm earlier. How are you going to compensate me for that?”

Rachel was speechless, glancing at Liza’s arm, which only had minor bruising. The bruise would likely fade within minutes. How dare Liza demand compensation? It was clear she was attempting to blackmail her! As Homer walked past them, he coldly remarked, casting a glance at the petty bruise on Liza’s arm, “If you’re genuinely injured, you can take a leave and see a doctor. Besides, we have Tina now. The studio will manage without you.”

Liza flared up in anger, her nostrils flaring. Homer was evidently taking Rachel’s side. Liza hid her arm behind her back and lowered her head, pretending to be wronged. “It’s fine. It’s just a minor injury. I can still work,” she muttered before storming off to her station.

Once Liza was out of earshot, Rachel couldn’t help but snicker. She briefly entertained the thought that Liza might have tampered with the fallen billboard. However, upon reflection, Liza seemed too dim-witted to devise such a devious plan. Could she have discovered Rachel’s conflict with Charlene and used it against her? At least Liza could be ruled out as a suspect. But if it wasn’t her, then who could it be? Rachel was determined to uncover the truth. She found a seat for her bodyguard in the office and instructed her to wait quietly while she went to the bathroom.

Inside the bathroom, Rachel turned on her cell phone and reviewed the strange messages she had received the previous night. It was daytime now, and she doubted any ghosts would haunt her while the sun was still up. With determination, Rachel dialed the mysterious sender’s number, eager to get to the bottom of this mystery.


Rachel anxiously held her breath, waiting for the call to connect. However, she was met with a cold robotic voice informing her that the number didn’t exist. It seemed whoever was after her had taken precautions to erase their tracks.

Realizing that the person who sent her the text message didn’t want to be traced, Rachel concluded that they had deliberately erased the number after sending it. Although she wasn’t tech-savvy, she knew it wouldn’t be difficult to accomplish such a task. This made her more certain that it wasn’t Charlene’s ghost haunting her; someone was using Charlene as a decoy to frighten her. But why? What did they want from her? Rachel wracked her brain, trying to recall if she had wronged anyone else who had been close to Charlene.

“Hello? Earth to Rachel! You forgot to turn off the water!” Olive appeared out of nowhere, tapping Rachel’s shoulder from behind. Startled, Rachel quickly turned off the tap.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Olive could see that Rachel’s mind was elsewhere and frowned in concern. “What’s going on, Rachel? You’ve been distant lately. Is it because of Liza?”

Rachel looked at Olive, seeing the worry etched on her friend’s face. “You’re overthinking things. Liza isn’t bullying me anymore. Besides, I have my bodyguard now. She’ll think twice before causing trouble.”

Olive burst into laughter, having heard about the morning incident. Suddenly, a thought struck her, and she looked at Rachel in confusion. “Why did you suddenly hire a bodyguard?”

As Rachel explained, the two friends walked out of the bathroom together. “Didn’t you hear about what happened last night? The billboard on our building’s roof fell down out of the blue. Everyone said it was an accident, considering how old the building is.”

Olive, unaware of the full story, found nothing strange about it. Rachel saw this as a good thing; it meant Olive wasn’t in danger. She didn’t go into detail and simply claimed that the bodyguards were hired by Braden.

Returning to her workstation, Rachel noticed a large bouquet of fresh red roses wrapped in black paper on Olive’s desk. “Oh my God! They’re beautiful! Are these from Hans?” she asked curiously.

Truth be told, Rachel didn’t like Hans for Olive and had hoped she would break up with him. In her eyes, Olive deserved a better man. Hans had already proven himself to be a domestic abuser and drug addict, which worried Rachel for her friend’s safety.

Olive blushed, her cheeks matching the color of the roses. She lowered her head shyly and pinched a rose petal, leaving a slight mark. “Hans has been really good to me lately. It feels like we’ve gone back to how things used to be. I think he has genuinely changed.”

Rachel smiled but refrained from saying more. She didn’t want to dampen Olive’s mood, but she couldn’t shake off her unease about Hans.

“Good morning, ladies! We have a new design project. Mr. Grant asked me to give you these materials,” Tina approached them, briefing them on the new assignment.

“In the afternoon, the client will visit the studio to select a young designer for their dress designs. Everyone can participate in the competition,” Tina informed Rachel.

As Rachel received the materials, she instantly recognized that it was for a dress design. Although she usually focused on runway fashion and rarely took on couture projects, she understood the significance of this opportunity, especially since it was her first project after returning to Grant'd. Opening the document, she discovered that the client’s last name was Higgins.

“Higgins? Which Higgins family is this?” Rachel pondered. While she wasn’t well-versed in the prominent families of Meadowview, she knew about the Higgins family in Sunhaven. Could they be related?

“It must be the Higgins family from Sunhaven. They also have a presence here in Meadowview, currently led by Kristian,” Rachel speculated aloud.

Later that day, two sleek luxury cars came to a halt in front of Grant'd Studio. The Higgins family had finally arrived, and it had been quite some time since Rachel last saw Kristian. She had a feeling he would show up today. Anxious with anticipation, Rachel waited alongside her colleagues in the hallway, eager to catch a glimpse of her old friend.

Finally, the car doors swung open, and Mrs. Higgins gracefully stepped out, followed by Nadia. Rachel’s eyes widened in astonishment. She could hardly believe her own eyes—this woman standing beside Mrs. Higgins was Nadia, but she looked completely transformed. Her long hair was elegantly braided, framing her beautiful face. Her eyebrows were neatly groomed, and her curled eyelashes added a touch of nobility and grace. Gone was the rough bodyguard Rachel once knew; this Nadia appeared gentle and delicate. It was as if she had undergone a remarkable metamorphosis.

Rachel couldn’t help but stare at Nadia, observing her every move. Nadia’s eyes scanned the room, searching for something or someone. When her gaze finally met Rachel’s, she offered a polite nod, accompanied by a gentle, somewhat distant smile. Rachel knew that Nadia had been taking etiquette courses from Mrs. Higgins, but she hadn’t expected such a dramatic transformation in such a short time. Nadia seemed like an entirely different person.

As much as Rachel longed to approach Nadia and strike up a conversation, the presence of Mrs. Higgins made her hesitate. She didn’t want to overstep any boundaries, so for now, she pretended they were strangers. With a composed demeanor, Rachel led them to the meeting room, all the while stealing glances at Nadia.

Once inside, Mrs. Higgins addressed all the designers present, her voice carrying an air of authority. “I need two outfits—one for my son and one for his wife. They’ll be wearing them to an upcoming event.”

Liza, one of the designers, seized the opportunity to impress Mrs. Higgins and handed her a cup of coffee with a flattering smile. “No problem, Mrs. Higgins. We have swatches of almost every fabric here in our studio. Just let us know the design you have in mind, and we’ll make it happen.”

Mrs. Higgins graciously accepted the coffee and began expressing her preferences. “Thank you. I want the dress to exude elegance and possess a conservative style. Many dresses these days are far too revealing and lack the dignity I desire. However, it must also have a contemporary touch. After all, my daughter-in-law is in her twenties—I don’t want her to look outdated.”

Mrs. Higgins continued to assert her opinions as if she were the one who would be wearing the dress. Nadia sat quietly beside her, maintaining perfect posture.

Liza eagerly echoed Mrs. Higgins’s sentiments, ensuring that no other designer could get a word in. “Absolutely, Mrs. Higgins. We can create exactly what you’re envisioning. It’s true that many dresses nowadays seem to have abandoned modesty.”

“Yes, precisely. I want the design to strike a balance between dignity and fashion,” Mrs. Higgins affirmed, taking a sip of her coffee.

Liza, determined to win the coveted project, continued to flatter Mrs. Higgins. “Rest assured, we can deliver precisely what you desire. It’s rare to find a designer who understands their clients so well.”

Mrs. Higgins nodded approvingly, seemingly pleased with Liza’ response. “Indeed, it is rare. Do any of you have further questions?”

Rachel’s gaze remained fixed on the quiet Nadia. Summoning her courage, she took a deep breath and rose from her seat. “Mrs. Higgins, since you mentioned that this dress is for Nadia, I believe it’s important to hear her opinion as well.”

Mrs. Higgins was taken aback when Rachel spoke up in defense of Nadia. She turned her head to look at Nadia, who sat beside her. While Nadia had shown improvement recently, she still had a long way to go to become the ideal daughter-in-law, especially when it came to taste. Mrs. Higgins had already envisioned the dress she wanted for Nadia when they arrived at the studio and hadn’t planned on asking for Nadia’s opinion. However, now that Rachel had brought it up, Mrs. Higgins couldn’t ignore the situation. She smiled at Nadia and asked gently, “Well, Nadia? What do you think?”

Nadia glanced around the fabric swatches in the studio. After a brief silence, she spoke gracefully, “I have one thought. The color of Kristian’s suit should be darker.”

The designers present fell silent upon hearing Nadia’s suggestion. It seemed like everyone was waiting for Mrs. Higgins’s response. Liza, who had looked into Nadia’s background, knew that Mrs. Higgins wasn’t satisfied with her daughter-in-law. Liza understood that Mrs. Higgins held the final say in this matter. She chuckled and then turned apologetically to Mrs. Higgins. Condescendingly, she said to Nadia, “You probably don’t know much about fashion, but dark-colored fabrics are usually considered old-fashioned. Mr. Higgins is still young. We don’t want to dress him up like an old man, do we? You should listen to your elders more.”

Mrs. Higgins frowned slightly upon hearing Liza’ words while sipping her coffee.

Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes and countered, “There are many dark-colored couture clothing options that don’t make people look old. Remember the black velvet suit adorned with pearls and sapphires? That design is a timeless classic and has always been the star of fashion shows.”

Liza pulled a sour face. “You’re too young. What do you know? How many shows have you watched? Stop talking nonsense in front of our clients.”

Rachel’s actions always seemed to stir up trouble, and Liza was furious. She had been trying to impress Mrs. Higgins, but Rachel kept trying to steal the spotlight. It was disgusting to her. Ignoring Liza, Rachel looked directly at Nadia and asked, “May I ask you a question?”

Nadia was somewhat confused by Rachel’s serious demeanor. Rachel had never spoken to her like this before. “Please,” Nadia nodded graciously.

“Why do you think your husband’s suit will look better if it’s dark?” Rachel inquired.

Nadia responded promptly, “Because my husband usually wears bright-colored ties. It’s his signature style. I believe if he were here today, he would make the same choice.”

After finishing her answer, Nadia glanced warily at Mrs. Higgins. Mrs. Higgins smiled and nodded approvingly at Nadia. She had always considered Nadia impulsive and careless, but now she realized that Nadia was observant and genuinely cared about Kristian.

Nadia’s simple words touched Mrs. Higgins. Although Nadia didn’t meet Mrs. Higgins’s initial expectations, she could see that Nadia deeply loved her son and understood him well. This newfound realization earned Mrs. Higgins’s respect for her daughter-in-law.

“Well, let’s go with what she suggests. She’s my son’s wife and knows him best,” Mrs. Higgins declared proudly. She despised the idea of being an evil mother-in-law who mistreated her daughter-in-law. Such behavior was distasteful to her, and she knew it would only push her son away if she made things difficult for Nadia.

After expressing her approval, Mrs. Higgins noticed that Rachel had supported Nadia earlier. She turned to Rachel and asked seriously, “What’s your name?”

“It’s Rachel Porter. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Higgins,” Rachel replied.


Upon hearing the name, a trace of surprise flashed through Mrs. Higgins’s eyes.

Mrs. Higgins recognized the name Rachel and remembered that she was the daughter of the Colton family and Braden Porter’s wife. The Porter Group had become a prominent company with branches in Sunhaven and Meadowview, known for Braden’s deep love for his wife.

Mrs. Higgins saw an opportunity to establish a relationship with Rachel, considering the potential business partnership between their families.

“I’ve met Joyce before. She mentioned you to me,” Mrs. Higgins said, observing Rachel closely and noticing her resemblance to her mother.

Rachel’s smile widened. “Really?”

Although Rachel hadn’t met Mrs. Higgins before, she had heard about her from Kristian. Rachel knew that Mrs. Higgins valued nobility and etiquette, but seeing how Mrs. Higgins treated Nadia, she realized that she might be more approachable than expected.

Eager to strengthen ties with the Colton family and the Porter Group, Mrs. Higgins quickly warmed up to Rachel.

“Since I know Rachel, I won’t bother anyone else. Rachel, could you help me design Nadia’s dress? I’ve seen your excellent fashion designs, and your parents must be proud of you.”

Overwhelmed by Mrs. Higgins’s praise, Rachel nodded gratefully, lost for words. “Thank you for your trust, Mrs. Higgins. I won’t let you down.”

Smiling with joy, Mrs. Higgins finished her coffee and said, “Great! We’ve found our designer. Let’s discuss the next steps.” She straightened her dress and looked at Rachel expectantly.

However, their conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Higgins’s ringing phone. Apologizing, she answered the call and learned that something required her immediate attention. “What’s wrong? Oh, it’s ready? Okay, I’ll pick it up right away.”

Apologizing once again, Mrs. Higgins turned to Nadia. “I’m sorry, but I have to run. I’ll leave the rest to Nadia.”

Nadia assured her, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Higgins. I’ll stay in touch with Rachel. She has great ideas.”

With a subtle wink, Nadia exchanged knowing glances with Rachel. They understood each other well. As Mrs. Higgins left, Liza watched helplessly, seething with anger. Mrs. Higgins had chosen Rachel personally, leaving Liza unable to voice her objections. Frustrated, Liza resolved to get rid of Rachel, glaring at her contemptuously.

Now that Mrs. Higgins was gone, Rachel cleared her throat and suggested, “Nadia, it’s almost lunchtime. Shall we discuss over lunch?” Nadia happily agreed.

The two women headed to a charming restaurant near the studio, accompanied by Rachel’s bodyguard sitting opposite them. While ordering food, Nadia glanced at Rachel, who was engrossed in conversation with her female bodyguard.

Nadia felt a sense of nostalgia, as if they were back in the good old days when nothing had changed. Though they had only been apart for a short while, it felt like a lifetime to Nadia.

Noticing Nadia’s melancholy expression, Rachel asked with concern, “What’s wrong, Nadia? You seem sad. Are the Higgins giving you a hard time? I’m here for you. You can talk to me.”

Nadia shook her head, a wistful smile on her face. “You know, it’s not like that. I was just reminiscing about our carefree days back in Sunhaven. Living with the Higgins family is different. They’re nobles, so everyone there is very particular about their manners. I understand why, but sometimes it feels like I’m walking on eggshells.”

Rachel could sense her friend’s unhappiness and patted her on the shoulder to offer comfort. “The sooner you accept the reality, the better. You’ve changed so much, Nadia. I almost didn’t recognize you earlier,” Rachel remarked, concerned.

After ordering their food, Nadia handed the menu to the waiter and sent him away. Turning to Rachel, she expressed her struggles. “It’s tough. I don’t want to disappoint Kristian. He left his job at the Porter Group to work for the Higgins family because of me. I want to please his family, but it’s really difficult at times.”

Nadia had been finding the etiquette classes over the past few months challenging. With Kristian busy running the family business, he rarely had time to see her. Nadia, who loved martial arts and cherished her freedom, felt like her true self was buried since marrying into the Higgins family. She questioned if her life still held any meaning and feared being trapped by the family’s rules, feeling suffocated.

Rachel’s heart sank as she witnessed the helplessness in Nadia’s eyes. “If you’re truly unhappy, why don’t you talk to Kristian about it?” she suggested, hoping it would bring some relief.

“Kristian is… hot-tempered. If I express my unhappiness, he’ll confront his mother and argue with her,” Nadia sighed heavily. “But what’s the point of fighting? In the end, it’s me who will suffer. So, I keep quiet. Besides, the Higgins family has accepted me, even if it’s just because I’m pregnant.”

Rachel shook her head, urging Nadia to trust Kristian more. “Kristian is more responsible than you think. He wouldn’t want to see you suffer. You should at least have a conversation with him, okay?”

After a long silence, Nadia murmured, “I don’t know anymore…”

As their discussion about Nadia’s life continued, her mood grew increasingly gloomy. Fortunately, their food arrived, providing a temporary distraction. Rachel noticed that Nadia had ordered mostly green vegetables. Surprised by this change, she commented, “Nadia, I didn’t know veggies were your favorite food.”

Nadia sighed again. “Mrs. Higgins says pregnant women should eat healthily for the baby’s sake.”

“Enough of that. You’re pregnant, and you’re in charge here,” Rachel asserted, motioning for the waiter. She proceeded to order all of Nadia’s favorite dishes, determined to make her friend feel better.

While chewing on a piece of meat, Rachel observed Nadia picking at her food. Concerned, she asked, “Do you want something else? We can order whatever you’d like.” Nadia smiled, grateful for Rachel’s thoughtfulness. It was refreshing to have someone care about her as an individual rather than just her pregnancy.

“No, it’s just that I haven’t had much of an appetite lately,” Nadia replied, setting down her fork and elegantly wiping her mouth. “Even though these are my favorite foods, I can’t eat much. Rachel, you should eat more. You look thin.”

Just as Nadia was about to add more food to Rachel’s plate, Rachel’s phone began to ring. Seeing an unfamiliar number, Rachel’s face turned pale. Sensing something was wrong, Nadia frowned and took the phone from her friend, answering it assertively. “Hello, who’s this?”

The female bodyguard also noticed the sudden shift in mood and stood up, alert and ready. The voice on the other end of the line was clear, pretending to be Charlene.

“Rachel has done something wrong, and now she won’t even answer her own phone. Hahaha! Tell her that I’ll exact my revenge sooner or later. And you, since you’re pregnant, you should stay away from her if you still care about your child. If you try to help Rachel, both you and your baby will die together.”

Nadia sneered, realizing that the woman on the other end was nearby, watching them. Drawing on her past experience as a professional bodyguard, she discreetly signaled the female bodyguard to search the restaurant.

Continuing the conversation on the phone, Nadia discreetly scanned the restaurant. “Hey, the game is up. You have one minute to leave, or there will be consequences once I catch you.”

The caller did not hang up, nor did they make a sound.

Soon, Nadia spotted a woman in a black trench coat in the corner of the restaurant. Phone in tow, Nadia bolted from her seat and chased after her.

The woman in the corner caught a glimpse of Nadia rushing towards her and quickly stood up, preparing to flee. But before she could make her escape, Nadia reached her and grabbed hold of her coat, attempting to remove her mask. The woman in black clenched her teeth and fought back, surprising Nadia with her strength and agility. It was evident that she was a skilled fighter. Although Nadia was more proficient in combat, her pregnancy had made her slower and weaker.

As the two engaged in a struggle, Nadia was on the verge of gaining the upper hand when suddenly an adjacent dining cart came hurtling towards them. With no other option, Nadia leaped backward to avoid the collision. Seizing the opportunity, the woman in black pushed Nadia away and swiftly fled from the restaurant.

Rachel, who had been about to follow Nadia to assist her, witnessed the woman’s push, causing Nadia to fall heavily to the ground. Shocked, Rachel rushed to her friend’s side. Nadia curled into a protective ball, clutching her belly, her face drained of color. Once adept at fighting, Nadia’s pregnancy had rendered her vulnerable and sluggish.

“Don’t let her escape!” Nadia managed to utter through difficulty, pointing in the direction the woman in black had fled. She had come so close to apprehending her! The female bodyguard prepared to pursue the assailant, but Rachel intervened.

“Nadia is bleeding! We need to get her to the hospital immediately!” Rachel urgently exclaimed. The bodyguard hesitated momentarily, torn between her duty to protect Rachel and capturing the person who posed a threat.

“Hurry! Her life may be in danger! I can’t carry her alone!” Rachel’s voice grew hoarse as tears welled up in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for Nadia’s well-being. Finally, the bodyguard relented and carried Nadia into a waiting taxi, with Rachel quickly joining them. Together, they raced towards the hospital.

Junlee (aka 'Jungal2000')

Immortal Great Grandmaster - Dragon
Sep 4, 2023

Meanwhile, the woman in black continued her escape until she reached a secluded alley. Glancing over her shoulder to ensure she hadn’t been followed, she finally stopped running and sought refuge in a nearby cafe. In the farthest corner of the establishment sat Brenda, leisurely enjoying her dessert.

Brenda looked up in surprise as the breathless woman she had hired approached her. Setting down her spoon, she frowned and asked, “What are you doing here? Didn’t I instruct you to keep an eye on Rachel?” The woman in black appeared anxious, sinking into a chair to catch her breath before responding.

“They almost caught me. Rachel not only had a bodyguard by her side but also a friend who seems to have some sort of sixth sense! I don’t know how, but she found me and put up quite a fight. She must have received training. She’s even better than me,” the woman explained. Brenda’s frown deepened, and her appetite vanished.

“Aren’t you a professional? Why couldn’t you carry out such a simple task: scaring Rachel?” Brenda crossed her arms, leaning back in her chair. She had regained her composure and seemed to be contemplating something.

The woman in black was at a loss for words. “They didn’t see my face, but you provided me with incorrect information. Rachel isn’t afraid of ghosts at all. It feels like she taunts me every time I approach her!”

Brenda leaned against the chair’s backrest, her arms still crossed. She appeared deep in thought. In truth, Brenda had underestimated Rachel’s boldness. Following the incident with the billboard, she had taken precautions and hired a bodyguard. Additionally, Rachel had a capable friend by her side. It was no wonder Charlene had failed against her.

As they rushed into the hospital, Nadia was immediately wheeled into the emergency room, leaving Rachel scared and frantic. She quickly dialed Kristian’s number, hoping he would come to their aid.

Meanwhile, Kristian found himself in the middle of a meeting when he saw Rachel’s name flashing on his phone screen.

Wondering if it had something to do with Braden, he answered playfully, “What’s wrong, Mrs. Porter? Does Braden need my help again?” He assumed that the Porter Group must be in chaos without him.

Rachel’s voice trembled as she replied, “No, no. Nadia’s in the hospital. Come here quickly. It’s an emergency. I’ll explain everything when you get here.”

There was no time for Rachel to provide further details, and she hung up before waiting for a response. The smile vanished from Kristian’s face as he realized the seriousness of the situation. He immediately suspended the meeting and hurried downstairs to drive to the hospital Rachel had mentioned.

Anxiously pacing the hospital corridor, Rachel couldn’t help but worry about Nadia’s condition. After what felt like an eternity, the door swung open, and a doctor emerged, followed by a nurse pushing Nadia’s wheelchair.

Rachel rushed over to them, desperate for news about her friend. “How is Nadia? Is she going to be okay?” she asked, her voice filled with concern.

The doctor, wearing a kind smile, reassured Rachel, “We’ve conducted a thorough examination, and fortunately, Nadia isn’t seriously injured. She experienced some bleeding, but she just needs some rest.”

Before Rachel could even ask more questions, the doctor preemptively explained everything. A wave of relief washed over Rachel as she let out a long sigh. “That’s good to hear. Thank you so much, doctor,” she expressed her gratitude.

Observing Nadia’s pale lips, Rachel couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt. Sensing her anxiety, the doctor tried to comfort her. “Don’t worry too much. Nadia will be fine. Just make sure she gets plenty of rest, okay?”

Rachel nodded obediently, appreciating the doctor’s reassurance. At that moment, Nadia slowly opened her eyes. She had experienced a severe stomachache and had passed out from the pain. As she surveyed her surroundings, she realized she was in the hospital.

Looking at the doctor beside her, Nadia nervously bit her lip and asked, “Doctor, how’s my baby?” Despite the unplanned nature of her pregnancy, her love for the unborn child had grown immensely.

Her maternal instincts compelled her to protect the baby at all costs. The doctor responded with a reassuring smile, “Don’t worry. The baby is fine. Everything looks perfectly fine. You’ve taken good care of yourself even before the pregnancy, so the baby is healthy too. You’re going to have one tough baby, ma’am. But remember to be more careful in the future since you’re pregnant now. Avoid straining yourself.”

After ensuring Nadia’s well-being, the doctor left the room. The nurses then wheeled Nadia into a private ward and departed as well. With the chaos settling down, Nadia began to recall the events that had just unfolded.

The strange phone call, the mysterious woman in black who had been spying on Rachel—it all seemed so peculiar. Nadia held Rachel’s hand tightly, expressing her concern. “Rachel, you need to be careful.

That woman in the restaurant… I fought her, and I could tell she’s a trained fighter. We must catch her before she causes any more harm. By catching her, we can uncover who is behind all this.”

Rachel smiled bitterly and replied, “Don’t worry about me. The bodyguard has informed Braden, and I believe he’ll get to the bottom of this soon. You should focus on yourself, Nadia. God, I was so scared earlier!”

Nadia squeezed Rachel’s hand reassuringly, her worry evident. “I didn’t expect you to still be in danger even after I left. It’s not that I don’t trust Braden, but… I can’t trust anyone else to protect you.” If it weren’t for her pregnancy, Nadia would have confronted the woman in black herself. Rachel was her best friend, and she couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to her.

Tears welled up in Rachel’s eyes, which she quickly wiped away with the back of her hand. She smiled wistfully and said, “No matter how many etiquette courses you take, Nadia, deep down, you’ll always remain the same honest and brave woman. You haven’t changed a bit.”

The two women continued their conversation when suddenly, the door to the ward swung open from the outside. Kristian burst in and without saying a word, enveloped Nadia in his arms.

It all happened so fast that Nadia was too stunned to speak.

Ever since she married into the Higgins family, she had always felt watched, so she seldom openly showed affection to Kristian and vise-versa.

Tears welled up in her eyes all of a sudden. She clenched her fists and punched him.

“You bastard, what took you so long?”

Nadia and Kristian embraced each other tightly, their love evident in the way they held on. Rachel observed them from a distance, wearing a smile as she quietly exited the room, leaving them to their moment.

Struggling to maintain her tough exterior, Nadia glanced downward, concealing her trembling eyelashes. She had once been renowned as a formidable bodyguard, so how could she allow herself to cry like a little girl? Yet, the sight of Kristian overwhelmed her, and tears escaped despite her efforts. Determined to appear strong, she quickly wiped them away.

“Why are you here? I thought you were working. You should go back to work now, or your parents might scold you. The baby…” Nadia began, intending to reassure him that everything was fine with their child.

Interrupting her, Kristian interjected, “I don’t care about the baby or my work. Nothing is more important than you, Nadia. Just let me be here with you.”

His tender gaze melted her heart. He gently placed his hands on her shoulders and arranged a soft pillow behind her back. Something felt off about his words and expression, though. Nadia watched as Kristian picked up a red apple from the nearby table.

“Let me peel an apple for you,” he offered, and Nadia didn’t refuse.

“I didn’t marry you because of the child, and I won’t leave you because of it either,” he continued, comforting her while deftly peeling the apple. Not once had he mentioned the word “divorce” even in their casual conversations. Perhaps it was due to the persistent rumors speculating their impending separation.

“With or without the child, I have always loved you. Maybe God sent this baby as a gift to us. Don’t you think so? But if He decides to take it back, we’ll have another baby…” Kristian’s voice wavered slightly, but it gradually softened. It was then that Nadia realized what was troubling him.

Cutting him off abruptly, she exclaimed, “Stop it, Kristian Higgins! What on earth are you talking about? Our baby is perfectly fine.”

“What?” Kristian straightened his back, his eyes welling up with tears upon hearing her words.

“But… I received this message from Rachel. Look…” He showed Nadia the message Rachel had sent him, warning him to be mentally prepared for the possibility that their baby might not survive.

Reading the message on his phone, Nadia raised her head and burst into laughter. “You’re so silly! You fell for Rachel’s prank!”

It was beyond her imagination that a smart man like Kristian would believe such a clumsy lie. Slowly, Kristian comprehended what had transpired. He sheepishly set down the fruit knife he had been holding, feeling utterly embarrassed.

“You looked like you were about to cry. Let me see! Oh my God, there really were tears in your eyes!” Nadia laughed heartily.


Blushing, Kristian averted his gaze, avoiding Nadia’s eyes. “I was just so worried about you that I didn’t have time to think it through. It’s not funny. Don’t laugh at me, Nadia. The baby will hear you!”

Finally, after laughing to her heart’s content, Nadia ceased and playfully tugged at the sleeve of Kristian’s shirt. “Why are you shy? Turn around. I’ve seen you cry before.”

In truth, she was deeply moved by his concern. Nadia glanced out of the small window on the door, realizing that Rachel must have already left. A smile graced her face as she silently thanked Rachel for her intervention.

Meanwhile, Rachel couldn’t contain her happiness, knowing that Nadia and Kristian would undoubtedly communicate and resolve their issues after this incident. She even hummed a cheerful tune on her way home.

Surprised by Rachel’s upbeat mood upon leaving the hospital, the bodyguard couldn’t help but inquire out of curiosity, “We didn’t catch the woman. Why are you still so happy, Mrs. Porter?”

“You have no idea. I did a huge favor for a friend today. And let me tell you, I’m feeling pretty darn good about it,” Rachel said mysteriously, a mischievous smile playing on her lips.

Rachel genuinely wanted Nadia to be honest with the man she loved, Kristian. She believed that they shouldn’t let misunderstandings ruin their love. Despite coming from different worlds, their love was undeniable.

From the moment Rachel met Nadia earlier that day, she sensed something was off. She hoped that Nadia and Kristian would have a heartfelt conversation to smooth out the wrinkles in their relationship.

With her bodyguard close by, Rachel returned home. As soon as she stepped inside, the tantalizing aroma of freshly-cooked food wafted from the kitchen. Braden, her personal chef, was busy preparing a meal.

Rachel quietly placed her bag and coat down and tiptoed into the kitchen. “Little Thief, what are you trying to steal this time?” Braden teased without even turning around. His sharp ears had caught the sound of her light footsteps the moment she entered.

Disappointed that her prank failed, Rachel pouted. “You’re no fun at all!”

Curiosity got the better of her, and she approached Braden to see what he was cooking. A pot of steaming fish soup greeted her eyes. She couldn’t resist and scooped up a spoonful, blowing on it before tasting it. “Wow, Chef Porter, you’re getting really good at this!” she exclaimed, giving him two thumbs-up.

Braden raised an eyebrow and smiled. While cracking an egg into the frying pan, he suddenly asked, “So, what happened earlier? I heard there was a mysterious woman who had a confrontation with Nadia and managed to escape.”

Rachel’s guilt caused her to lower her gaze, pretending to focus on the fish soup. “Oh, it was nothing. No one got hurt,” she replied evasively.

Braden remained silent for a moment, his curiosity still lingering. Finally, he couldn’t hold back any longer. “Honey, are you hiding something from me?” he asked, gripping her wrist gently to prevent her from escaping.

Caught off guard, Rachel’s heart raced, regretting her decision to come to the kitchen in the first place. Before she could slip away, Braden held her firmly and pressed on, “Where do you think you’re going? Tell me, did you seek out someone connected to Charlene to find the antidote?”

Despite losing two years of memory, Braden’s deduction skills remained sharp. Frustrated, Rachel had no choice but to confess. “Okay, okay. I met with Hillary, Charlene’s former assistant, and struck a deal with her. I was hoping to gather some information,” she admitted, her voice filled with remorse.

“But luck wasn’t on my side. Not only did I fail to find the antidote, but my computer has been acting up. I’ve been receiving creepy messages and prank calls from someone pretending to be Charlene’s ghost. If I weren’t brave, I would have broken down by now,” Rachel explained, her eyes pleading for understanding.

Braden chuckled and affectionately pinched her cheek. “You silly girl, you should have told me sooner.”

Rachel protested, “How could I? You would have scolded me! Besides, you told me not to take matters into my own hands. But I couldn’t just sit around and wait!”

Sighing heavily, Braden reassured her, “I said I’d find a way, didn’t I?” He set aside everything he was doing and reached out to hold her. “Hillary must have planted a virus on your computer to monitor and scare you. That’s why they created the illusion of Charlene’s ‘ghost’.”

Rachel’s eyes widened in realization. She had underestimated her enemy. It turned out to be just a computer virus, and she had been played.

“You must have been terrified, my poor girl. Give me your laptop. I’ll contact the technical staff to track down whoever did this. We’ll soon find out if Hillary is the mastermind or if there’s someone else pulling the strings,” Braden assured her, his voice filled with determination.

Rachel hesitated at first, but after much convincing from Braden, she finally handed over her laptop to him.

“Let go, Rachel,” Braden urged, reaching for the laptop. However, Rachel held onto it tightly, reluctant to give it up.

“Be careful with it, okay? I don’t want your staff prying into my personal files! My laptop is like a treasure trove of my life!” Rachel anxiously pleaded, her eyes widening with concern.

Braden’s suspicion was piqued by her words. “Why? What’s in your computer?” he asked coldly, his expression darkening. He wondered why she was acting strangely and if she was hiding something from him. Could she have pictures or information about other men on her laptop?

Confused, Rachel blinked, not understanding why Braden’s mood suddenly changed. “Just make sure they don’t snoop around, alright?” she reiterated.

“Got it,” Braden replied impatiently, his voice tinged with annoyance. He carefully put away her laptop and resumed cooking as if nothing had happened.

This time, Rachel didn’t linger in the kitchen. She retreated to the living room, settling into the sofa, snacking, and watching TV while waiting for dinner.

Occasionally, strange sounds emanated from the kitchen. Curiosity got the better of Rachel, and she decided to investigate.

“Honey, what’s with all the noise?” she called out, poking her head into the kitchen.

Braden continued to cook, his face still sullen. He snorted coldly, ignoring Rachel’s question.

Pursing her lips, Rachel turned around and left. She couldn’t understand what had caused his anger. During dinner, Braden appeared even angrier, eating his food in silence.

After they finished, when Braden stood up to clean the table, he finally broke the silence. “Go upstairs, take a shower, and then go to bed,” he commanded, not even looking at her. He stormed off to the kitchen to wash the dishes.

Rachel sensed that something was wrong with Braden, but she remained clueless about the reason for his anger. She shrugged and followed his instructions, going upstairs to take a shower before heading to bed. She didn’t stir until Braden joined her in bed.

Lying there with his back turned to her, Rachel instinctively moved closer to him. Pressing her face against his back, she softly asked, “Honey, are you mad because I didn’t tell you about my plan?”

Braden shrugged her off and replied coldly, “No, just go back to sleep.”

Rachel instantly sobered up, realizing he was lying. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she attempted to get closer to him and apologized in the sweetest voice she could muster.

“I know I was wrong, okay? Honey, please forgive me,” she pleaded, hoping her cuteness would win him over.

Ignoring her advances, Braden squeezed his eyes shut. It wasn’t until Rachel slipped her hand into his pajama pants that he reacted. Suddenly, he rolled over and got on top of her.

“Okay, I’ll forgive you if you spread your legs.”

Braden’s breath brushed against her sensitive ear, making her turn red.

The secret garden between her legs instantly became wet.


Without hesitation, Rachel wrapped her arms around Braden’s neck and kissed him.

Braden kissed her back and made her sit up in bed.

With her legs parted, Rachel straddled his waist.

The two kissed like there was no tomorrow, the tips of their tongues intertwined in a passionate dance.

Rachel moaned slightly, which instantly sparked his desire.

Things were more tempting when the sun went down.

Rachel was wearing a silk nightdress, outlining her curvy figure delicately. She sat on Brendan’s lean waist, her thin lace underwear brushing against his pajamas.

Braden stroked Rachel’s smooth and tender thigh with one hand and rubbed her breast with the other hand through the thin fabric.

The two kissed, their breaths intertwined and their bodies hot.

Braden’s fingers finally wandered to Rachel’s underwear, and he could feel that the fabric had already been soaked through.His fingers tinkered with her labia.

Through the thin fabric, he could feel her slight quiver.

Rachel threw her head back and moaned, thoroughly enjoying Braden’s touch.

Finally, Braden took off his pants, revealing the erect cock between his legs. He slapped her buttocks and commanded in a voice thick with desire, “Sit up on me.”

“Are you still mad at me?”.

Braden had already started pulling off Rachel’s wet underwear, and it had gotten stuck between her thighs.

Rachel looked up at him with glassy eyes, and he knew that she wanted it, too. Rachel reached out and started stroking Braden’s hot cock..

This wasn’t the first time the two had had sex, but she was still a little nervous as she tried to wrap her small hand around the man’s thick penis.

Gritting his teeth, Braden pinched Rachel’s chin and forced his lips against hers.

At the same time, his hand reached under her nightgown and rubbed her labia.

Soon, a finger slipped into her wet pussy.

Braden could feel the clear liquid dripping down the back of his hand. He could hardly control himself anymore, but he still managed to keep his voice steady.

“If you behave, I’ll consider forgiving you. Just look at how wet you are.”

He withdrew his hand from Rachel’s nether region and held it up in front of her.

The slightly sticky liquid rolled down his finger and formed a clear droplet.

Biting her lips, Rachel leaned back and spread her legs out.

Looking at the huge cock in front of her, she slowly lifted herself and guided her pussy to his penis.

The second they touched, she gritted her teeth and slowly sat down on him, receiving his cock in all its glory.


She was only able to swallow half of his long member, but it was enough to satisfy a little of their desire.

Braden’s eyes had been bloodshot because he had been holding himself back.

At this point, he couldn’t take it anymore. He held her waist and pulled her towards him quickly.


Having been caught off guard, Rachel couldn’t help but scream, her eyes rolling to the back of her head.

“Braden…Oh, my God…”

Braden lifted her nightgown above her breasts and rubbed her pink nipples while simultaneously thrusting inside her violently.

Rachel couldn’t even think straight now, she could only support herself by putting her hands on Braden’s shoulders..

Holding her smooth thighs tightly, Braden’s eyes remained fixed on her. Her curvy breasts bounced as he fucked her.

“Having fun?”

Rachel was also bouncing on top of him so that he could go deeper and deeper insider of her.


She had already lost her mind.

All she could think about was that she was about to climax soon.

Braden sensed this as well, and he kept thrusting inside of her as hard as he could.

Soon, Rachel’s lips parted and her back arched.

King of Dragonmarsh

Seven Level Tribulator
Gold Villager
Sep 27, 2023
Rachel is the kind of lady who can make a guy steaming hot... who comes to your mind if you are going to put a face for Rachel? how do everyone imagine her image?
She reminds me of my former colleague who I have long lost connection with since I migrated.. an innocent look Chinese girl. Her innocent appearance but can get drippingly wet is what bring my good younger time memories of her when I read Rachel 😅. With the help of our fantasies & fond memories, some novels really can bring back nostalgia.. 🥰

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