Stolen By A Sinner: Chapter 33

Lara

Standing in front of the box, I stare down at it.

A gift?

Maybe it’s for Alya Hanim?

Carefully pulling the note from beneath the ribbon, I open it.

Ödülüm,

Wear this for me to the party.

Gabriel.

My eyes dart to the box, and my heart starts to beat faster.

A gift for me.

I sit down on the bed, taking in the beautiful box. It’s black with a leaf pattern all over it. It takes me a moment to process the excitement of receiving my first gift.

I stand up again and kneel in front of the armchair. With trembling fingers, I take the lid off, and then my breath catches in my throat.

Oh my God. It’s the dress from the window display.

I carefully lift the shimmering fabric from the box and hold the beautiful gown in front of me. My eyes start to mist up, and I blink fast.

Climbing to my feet, I quickly undress and step into the gown. I rush to the bathroom and lose my ability to breathe when I see my reflection in the mirror.

I look like Cinderella and not a maid.

But…

Emotions explode in my chest, and a sob bursts over my lips. Covering my face, I crouch down, my shoulders shuddering as sobs tear through me.

Allah Allah,” Nisa exclaims. She pulls me up into her arms. “Lara, what’s wrong?”

“The dress,” I sob against her shoulder. “It’s so beautiful.”

Allah Allah, that’s not something to cry about.”

Pulling away from her, I turn around. “I can’t wear it,” I cry, devasted that the one chance I get to wear something so beautiful to a party, the scars on my back ruin it for me.

“Oh.” Nisa places a hand on my back and comes to stand next to me. Giving me a comforting look, she says, “You can borrow one of my shawls. I have a silver and black one that will match the gown.”

My gaze snaps to her, hope unfurling in my chest. “Really?”

“Of course.” Gently she wipes the tears from my cheeks. Her chin quivers. “Stop crying before I join you, and then we won’t get any work done.”

I swallow the tears and turn to look at my reflection in the mirror. The fabric falls softly around my body, and with every movement, it shimmers.

“Did you get the dress yesterday?” Nisa asks as she admires the gown as well.

I shake my head. “It’s a gift.” I swallow hard as my throat threatens to close from the pressure of not crying. “Gabriel gave it to me.”

Nisa’s eyes snap to mine, surprise and hope all over her face. “He did?”

I nod, and no longer able to hide things from her, I admit, “I really like him, Nisa Hanim.” I brush a hand over the expensive fabric. “I think I’m falling in love for the first time.”

Nisa’s face crumbles, and I’m yanked into a tight hug. “Does he return your feelings?”

I nod against her shoulder. “I think so.”

Allah Allah, this is a great blessing.” She pushes me back by my shoulders. “Tomorrow, I’ll style your hair and help you with your makeup. You’ll be the most beautiful woman at the party.”

I nod, and laughter bubbles over my lips. “I can’t wait.”

She pushes me back into the bedroom. “Change so we can get to work. The family will arrive at ten am. We need to have everything ready.”

I wait for Nisa to leave the room, then carefully step out of the gown. I let it hang against my closet door, so I can see it whenever I’m in the room.

I quickly dress in a pair of light blue jeans and a soft cream sweater, then slip on the black ballet flats again. I rush through my morning routine before hurrying to the kitchen.

I’m so busy, time flies. As I place a tray of baklava on a cooling rack, Nisa comes into the kitchen, grumbling, “They’re already driving me insane.”

“I’m sorry,” I murmur, in no hurry to meet them.

“Nisa Hanim, this. Nisa Hanim, that,” she keeps grumbling.

“Is there anything I can help with?”

She gives me a pleading look. “Will you take tea to them? They’re in the sitting room with Alya Hanim.”

“Of course.” I quickly prepare the tray and give Nisa a cup so she can rest while I tend to the guests.

When I enter the east wing, I hear a burst of loud laughter. I don’t understand what’s being said as they’re speaking Turkish.

The moment I walk into the sitting room, the conversation stops. I glance at the two women, noticing their features are much darker than Alya’s. They have curly black hair, dark brown eyes, and it looks like they’ve been in the sun for days.

Bu kadın kim?” The older woman asks.

“This is Lara,” Alya Hanim answers. “Lara, this is Gabriel’s aunt and cousin, Ayesenur Hanim and Eslem.”

“No Turkish?” Ayesenur Hanim asks.

“No, Lara’s Polish.”

Allah Allah. Neden Polonyalı bir hizmetçi tuttun?” Ayesenur Hanim exclaims, looking as if she’s been insulted.

“English, Ayesenur. Lara doesn’t understand Turkish,” Alya Hanim chastises the older woman. “And I’ll hire whom I please.” She turns her attention to me. “Set the tray down, Lara.”

Oh. Right.

The younger woman, who seems to be in her early thirties, looks me up and down as if I’m dirty, making me feel uncomfortable. Then she comments, “She’s young for a maid.”

Allah Allah! Lara’s not a maid. She’s just helping Nisa until she starts her studies,” Alya Hanim snaps.

I think I should leave. My presence seems to be upsetting everyone.

 Giving Alya Hanim a tentative smile, I quickly exit the room and hurry to the kitchen.

“How did it go?” Nisa asks.

I widen my eyes. “I think my presence upset them.”

She waves a hand. “Those two live for drama. Trust me, it’s nothing you did.”

Now that we have a moment to breathe, I ask, “Do you think I can phone Gabriel to thank him for the gown, or should I wait until he’s home?”

She doesn’t hesitate. “Wait until he’s home. He’s busy with work.”

Pouring tea for us, I sit down at the table.

Nisa gives me an inquisitive look. “Did he say you must only call him by his first name?”

I nod, then take a sip of my tea.

She leans forward, her expression telling me she wants to know everything.

I hesitate, not sure what I’m allowed to share. I’ve learned Gabriel is very private, and I don’t want to upset him.

Allah Allah, tell me everything!” she exclaims impatiently.

I give her an apologetic look. “I’m not sure what I’m allowed to share.”

Excitement widens her eyes. “Has he kissed you?”

A shy smile spreads over my face, making Nisa almost jump out of her chair with happiness.

“So this is what the help does during the day,” Eslem suddenly says as she saunters into the kitchen. “I have to bring the tray back because you’re too busy chatting.”

I dart up and quickly take the tray from her. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Nisa snaps. “Eslem has two hands.”

My eyes widen when Eslem levels Nisa with a glare. “How dare you? Alya Hanim clearly allows you to do whatever you want, but you won’t talk to me like that. Know your place, servant.”

It looks like Nisa’s about to burst a vein as she rises to her feet. I quickly set the tray down and move in front of Nisa. Keeping my tone respectful, as if I’m dealing with Tymon, I say, “We apologize, Eslem Hanim. Is there anything else you need?”

She looks at me as if I’m trash, then lifts her chin and leaves the kitchen.

I quickly turn around. Nisa’s red in her face, her hands shaking. I take hold of them. “It’s okay. Shh.” Not knowing what else to do, I wrap my arms around her and hold her tight. “I’m sorry.”

It’s one thing having people talk to me as if I’m nothing, but it breaks my heart that Nisa had to experience it.

She sucks in deep breaths of air, and when I pull back, she shakes her head. “Gabriel Bey will hear of this,” she says, her voice quivering.

Oh, dear.

“They’re only here for a couple of days,” I try to defuse the situation.

Nisa shakes her head again, then mutters, “Let’s prepare lunch for the ungrateful snakes before one of them slithers into my kitchen again.”

“I’ll serve them,” I say, not wanting them to upset Nisa again. I’m used to dealing with cruel people. When Nisa wants to argue, I shake my head. “No, Nisa Hanim. I’ll serve them.” There’s a finality in my voice I’ve never heard before.

“Thank you.” She gives me another hug before we start making food.

An hour later, when I carry the dishes to the dining room, I steel myself for whatever might come. Entering the room, only Ayesenur Hanim and Eslem are seated at the table.

I set the tray down and carefully unload the dishes.

Eslem looks at the food, then picks up the bowl of Şakşuka. It’s an eggplant, zucchini, garlic, tomato, and chili recipe.

“This is the best you can do?” she asks, her tone filled with hatred.

I’ve learned people don’t need a reason to hate, they just do.

Before I can ask whether I should take it back to the kitchen, Eslem slowly tips the bowl, pouring the dish over my shoes.

Instinctively, I lower my head as she stands up.

She pinches the fabric of my blouse between her fingers. “This is not what a maid wears. You’re disrespecting my mother.”

“I’m sorry,” I murmur respectfully, so glad Nisa’s not here.

Eslem picks up the bowl of Kisir, a Turkish salad, and pours the contents over my blouse.

That’s going to leave a stain.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Gabriel’s voice cracks through the air like a whip.

I instantly drop to the carpet and start to gather the food into a bowl. Pins and needles spread over my body, my heart beating a mile a minute.

Suddenly my wrist is grabbed in a tight hold, and I’m pulled to my feet. Gabriel yanks my body behind his as he steps into his cousin’s personal space. “I asked you a fucking question.”

A man I’ve never seen before steps closer as well. “Eslem? What’s the meaning of this?”

Ayesenur Hanim, who’s been quiet up until now, stands up. “Sakin olun, Gabriel Bay.”

His eyes snap to his aunt, his features tight with rage. I cower behind his back, not wanting any of his anger directed at me. His voice sounds deadly as he growls, “Don’t tell me to calm down.”

Suddenly I’m tugged to his side. “Lara is not a servant you can abuse and boss around to your liking.”

“Then what is she?” Eslem asks with a raised eyebrow.

It looks like Gabriel is a second away from strangling her.

Eslem is either very brave or stupid.

“What’s going on?” Alya Hanim asks as she enters the dining room.

Ayesenur Hanim lets out a string of Turkish words, and for a couple of minutes, I don’t have a clue what they’re saying, but it looks intense.

Everyone is upset, then Gabriel shouts, “Silence!”

Instantly the room grows quiet.

He pins Eslem with a dangerously dark look. “You will apologize to Lara.”

“Gabriel Bey,” Ayesenur Hanim gasps.

“I said to keep quiet. I’ve had enough of you,” he warns his aunt. Turning his attention back to Eslem, he orders, “Apologize to the woman I’m dating, or so help me God, I will disown you.”

What?

Gasping, my eyes dart to his face. He looks like he could murder someone with his bare hands.

Because of me.

Gabriel’s defending me against his own family.

Eslem sucks in a deep breath, then locks eyes with me. “I apologize. I wasn’t aware you were dating my cousin.”

Gabriel lifts a hand, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Eslem.”

“I’m sorry. Okay? Geez.” She lets out a huff then injects sincerity into her voice. “I apologize for disrespecting you, Lara Hanim.”

Leveling his aunt and cousin with a final look of warning, he says, “You will treat Nisa and Lara with the same respect you give me. They are not maids in this house. They’re more my family than you’ll ever be.”

My heart fills with so much warmth it threatens to burst.

How can I not fall in love with this man when he’s so amazing?

Still gripping my hand tightly, Gabriel pulls me out of the dining room as he orders, “Clean up the mess you made, Eslem!”

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