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Heart of Chaos

Less Than Three Press LLC

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 21,000
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Rin's life is on track for long-lasting success, but when her business partner blindsides her by proposing marriage, she cannot accept. Desperate for a way out of the marriage that won't ruin her business, she runs to the Hall of Altars and prays to Vistri, the shapeshifter god of the desperate and bringer of chaos.

Vistri appears and offers to fix her problem, asking only for her trust in return. With no other options, Rin accepts—but she's not at all prepared for Vistri's solution.

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“Ms. Sarduuri, your parents have arrived ahead of schedule.”

Rin sighed softly and began closing the windows on the slender screen at her desk. Once her desktop was clear, she tapped a little blue circle at the bottom corner to reply. “Thank you, Darren. Please, send them in.”

She didn’t wait for confirmation from Darren; her assistant was nothing if not reliable. If he wasn’t, he would be searching for a new job. That wasn’t cruel—it was just business. Darren understood it, as did the rest of Alhira’s corporate climbers: their great country wouldn’t remain the world leader in innovation and advancement without the hard work of all the Alhiran people.

Rin saw her guests approaching long before they reached the door to her office, thanks to the glass walls separating her from her team. She stood and strode to the door to pull it open with a bright smile.

“I’m so glad you could stop by. How was the Festival of Lights last weekend?”

“Rinata,” her father said as he stepped into the room, Rin’s mother at his heels. “I read the revenue reports you sent me this morning. I must say, things are looking nice and ripe for the Thorinson merger.”

Rin let the door close behind them, unfazed by how he ignored her question. They chatted regularly about everything and anything outside the office, but once her parents stepped into the building, it was all business as usual. She clasped her hands in front of her and faced her parents with a proud smile, letting out the breath she felt she’d been holding for months. “They are. We’ve sorted out all the details with Thorinson; everyone is in agreement. The announcement is scheduled to drop at the end of the month.”

“And you’ve come to an agreement in less than a year since you began negotiations,” her mother added with a nod. “Your father and I took nearly two to reach agreeable terms.”

“If your mother hadn’t been so stubborn about keeping the Halberd name, it wouldn’t have been such a long process.”

“And if your father hadn’t eventually figured out I was right, well, you likely never would’ve been born!”

Her parents shared a laugh, and Rin couldn’t help but chuckle along. She’d been looking forward to this all day. Her parents rarely stopped by these days and, until now, they’d always seemed to pick the worst possible times. Today, however, everything was perfect. The reports were entirely positive, Halberd’s revenue was soaring higher than ever, and everyone who was anyone in the tech field was talking about Halberd and Thorinson. The merger would give Rin’s audio technology a bridge into the world of robotics. She and Jarrod had spoken at length about the potential of this merger: vocal recognition software, instant translation devices, state-of-the-art hearing assistance hardware. Rin had worked relentlessly for this, to bring Halberd Tech into the future, to build upon the business she’d inherited and make her parents proud.

“And Jarrod,” her father said, nodding to her. “We must give him his dues.”

“Ah, yes. He’s been wonderful in all of this.” Rin nodded back politely. The head of Thorinson and her now-business partner had been pleasant to work with. “He has been a dream through this process, truly. He’s the perfect business partner.” She added an emphasis on business. Her parents were hinting at marriage, she knew. They had been dropping little breadcrumbs for months now, assuming she would be sealing this merger the old-fashioned way: marriage. She’d done everything she could to shrug it off, answering their questions with more questions or changing the subject to avoid talk of matrimony. So far, it had worked well.

Perseverance wasn’t always enough, unfortunately.

“Now honey, why don’t you tell him that yourself?” Rin’s mother smiled and reached for the office door, then pulled it open to let in the very man they spoke of.

Jarrod Calvasse stepped into Rin’s office with a humble tuck of his head and a bright smile. He was impeccably dressed, as always. Every inch of his suit was tailored to his silhouette, his hair perfectly combed and coiffed.

“Miss Sarduuri, I hope you don’t mind the surprise visit, but I wanted to be sure the appropriate parties were here.” He looked to Rin’s mother and father, then once again to her. Once he’d caught her gaze, his smile brightened. He sank down until the cap of his knee kissed the white carpeting of her office floor. Jarrod Calvasse’s silk suit had likely never touched the ground until this moment.

“Miss Sarduuri, we’ve come to know each other well over the last few months,” he began. “I had always admired you from afar before our businesses brought us together, but working side-by-side for this merger has been nothing short of a delight. I know it is a bit earlier than tradition dictates, but I can only hope my boldness is appreciated by someone as confident and accomplished as yourself. As we both well know, without risk, there can be no reward. Not that I think of you as merely a reward, by any means…”

Rin’s parents stood behind him, smiling at her with anticipation.

Rin looked out the glass doors and windows behind her kneeling business partner. All of her employees had turned to watch the spectacle with excited glances, hands over their mouths as they whispered amongst themselves. As much as she liked her open-door policy, she was beginning to regret the glass cage she’d designed for herself. Shit.

Jarrod clasped his hands in front of him and cleared his throat. He glanced at the glass with a small smile to Rin’s workers, then turned his attention back to her. “Regardless, we have long discussed the benefit in our businesses joining. Halberd Tech and Thorinson are a match made in heaven, and I am sure you can agree that we work well together. I believe we are ready for the next step, and I would like to not only take our business partnership to the next level, but to also offer my companionship and affection.”

Jarrod reached into his pocket and withdrew a finely crafted golden bracelet. The edges came together in the center, shining droplets that just barely touched—an unmistakable symbol of union, of marriage.

“Will you do me the honor of joining with me in marriage as we join our labors of love?”

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