Authors: Liv Morris
by Liv Morris
Copyright © 2013 Liv Morris
Digital Edition: July 2013
Cover Design by Sarah Hansen of
: iStockphoto/Katarina Sokolova
Edited by Lauren Schmelz,
Write Divas Editing
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Dedicated to my sweet Nomad
A big thank you to my family for their constant encouragement. This book wouldn’t have been possible without your support.
Humongous hugs to the most wonderful friends a gal could have. Thank you for cheering me on while I wrote this book.
Kelly, Taylor, Michelle, TOM, Pammie, Becca, Dee, Jada, Marla, Kathryn, Lauren, Terry, Lesley and Betsy.
April 23rd, 2005. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.
The sky shines a crisp, azure blue, but my heart is a lifeless gray and quickly turning as black as the muddied dirt I'm holding in my hands. I squeeze my fingers so tightly into a fist that my hand begins to shake and bits of grit embed into my palms.
The task set before me is customary and very common among men. But the woman I mourn today was anything but common. She was brilliant, wise, and beautiful.
Now she's gone. . . Forever.
Sorrow will no longer consume her heart and soul. Instead it passes on to me.
I toss the black dirt into the dark and musty grave and fall to my knees. The eerie hollow sound of the clumps of dirt hitting the wood below is more than I can bear.
The tears I’ve been suppressing for days now fall freely down my face like a dam’s flood after a breach. An unrestrained sorrow pours out of me, and the whirl of emotions I’ve hidden within myself is no longer concealed. My grief is freed as I realize all I love is now six feet below me, but it might as well be a million miles away.
The distance will never be broached this side of heaven as she is God’s angel now.
Returning to the hearse, I see a man’s face in the distance. We make eye contact before he raises the tinted window of his black limo. His vehicle pulls away, disappearing into the morning’s mist. Anger rises above my grief because he has no right to be anywhere near this solemn ceremony.
He’s the bastard who slowly and silently destroyed the woman I’m leaving behind today in this cold and wet cemetery. She was my mother . . . My selfless life-giver, and I owe her everything.
My legs feel as heavy as lead pipes, but somehow they carry me through the marbled lobby to the sidewalk outside of my office high rise. I find myself standing on grimy concrete with the New York City rain pelting me, staining my yellow silk tie. I am numb to nature’s onslaught, as my thoughts remain at the conference table forty stories above—where the last meeting of the day still haunts me.
My head of corporate security had informed me that my trusted partner and friend, Simon Edwards, betrayed me by stabbing me in the back. My stomach almost retches as I think about his deceit. I’ve known him since our freshman year at MIT thirteen years ago. Through random selection, we’d shared a dorm room together. We weren’t extremely close because we were polar opposites and different personality types. Especially when it came to dealing with people. Basically, I tolerated them and he didn’t. But we formed a common respect for one another during our college years and beyond. Maybe it was our desire to make our mark in the business world, as we both had something to prove to the fathers we hated. It was likely the only thing we had in common.
After graduating college, four of us from MIT, including Simon, headed to New York City and formed Kings Capital, largely using the inheritance I received after my mother’s death. It served as the company’s seed money and positioned me as the company’s head. Although Simon seldom made his way to the boardroom, his presence there was felt by us all. We’d relied on his genius mind to design a way around any obstacle or shortcoming we found in our software ventures. We capitalized on so many deals thanks to Simon. We had a saying among the board, “If Simon says so, we buy.”
Never in a million years would I have thought he’d try to sell me out. When others said my dreams were impossible or if a wall was placed in my way, he was my go-to man. Now
was the wall. Simon was caught trying to sell me out by giving away corporate secrets to another company.
My corporate secrets
. Secrets stained with my own blood, sweat, and fears. Although I was assured our company secrets never touched any outsiders’ hand, his act of betrayal has set my world’s axis askew.
I wipe the rain off my face and see Eddie, my driver, standing beside my black Escalade, New York City’s newest version of a limo. He holds an umbrella in one hand and the opened back door in another. I observe his rigid stance
; not a muscle moves in his face as he remains at attention like a soldier awaiting his commander’s arrival. I hurry toward him, anxious to get out of the rain and away from my building. Kings Capital has been the center of my life since it was started, but now I want to run from everything I’ve built.
As I’m nearing the car, I hear someone calling my name. A quick glance over my shoulder brings my assistant, Mrs. Carter, into view. I notice she’s waving a piece of white paper as she runs toward me. I compare the two extremes of the people who work for me: one is stoically robotic, the other is embarrassingly chaotic.
"Mr. Kingsley, sir, I neglected to give you your ticket to the Swanson event!” Mrs. Carter rests her hand on her heaving chest, breathless. “Security is at a high level tonight since the Ethiopian ambassador is attending. No one will be allowed inside without this." I stare at the ticket in her hand; the black ink is starting to blur from the rain.
Mrs. Carter places the ticket in my outstretched hand. I watch beads of water from the rain roll down her plump cheeks. The rain washes away parts of her makeup, revealing bare reddish skin underneath.
“Thank you, Mrs. Carter.” A crack of thunder rumbles around us, echoing off the towering buildings, causing us both to jump. “You’d better get back inside.”
“I just want to say how sorry I am, Mr. Kingsley, about Mr. Edwards. I—” Pity is written all over her face, and I detest pity.
“Thank you, Mrs. Carter. I know your intentions are good, but do not bring this matter up again in my presence. If it needs to be discussed, I will let you know.”
My harsh rebuke might as well have been a slap across her face. Mrs. Carter appears wounded, and her skin has now turned more the color of fire.
“Certainly, sir.” She hangs her head briefly and then looks up at me with the same pity in her eyes. Perhaps even more than before.
Dammit to hell
. “Have a lovely evening at the benefit.”
“My apologies for being short, Mrs. Carter. It’s just been a hell of a day.” My conscience tugs at me.
, I’ve overreacted, given into my easily roused temper, and penalized her for a crime she didn’t commit.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” I speak more calmly, the angry tone in my voice now gone.
“Yes, sir. And I understand.” I watch a timid smile stretch across her face. The rain has now fully removed any trace of makeup from her skin, and her pulled-back hair is soaking wet and plastered to her scalp. I should feel guilty for making her stand outside with me getting drenched, but the feeling doesn’t come to me.
“Just remember, Mr. Kingsley. Karma is a wonderful thing.” And with that quick statement she pivots on her sensible heels and runs back inside the building.
I have to laugh. I, of all people, know too well about karma and it’s legend. However, I’ve chosen to operate under the old proverb of an eye for an eye. Karma requires no action and the hope of a chance. I rely on one thing in this world: my actions. I will leave nothing to chance and prefer playing the game of life with the strongest hand possible.
I turn toward my car and approach the open door.
“Good evening, Eddie.” I greet my driver with a nod as I escape the pelting rain and ease into the backseat.
“Good evening, Sir.” Eddie shuts the door behind me.
I immediately put on some rap music and turn the volume almost inhumanly high, hoping the noise will help drown out the stress of my day. Leaning back against the soft leather seat, I let the bass thump against me.
Eddie gets behind the wheel and mutes the volume of the music. I look at him annoyed. “Home, Mr. Kingsley, or do you have an engagement to attend?”
Normally, I confer with him on my agenda, but this afternoon’s event with Simon has me off-kilter and I simply forgot. “I have a benefit at the Lincoln Center tonight. But take the long way so I can change into my tux.”
“Yes, sir.” Eddie pushes the mute button again, and the music blares from the speakers. I see him slyly smirk in the rearview mirror.
Eddie has been my driver since my company landed on the Fortune 500 list two years ago. It was shortly before I turned thirty. A magical year indeed. Heady and intoxicating. My first taste of obscene wealth and its rewards.
Since then I’ve fucked my way around this city, and poor Eddie has witnessed it all. I’ve burned through women like a wildfire roaring across a dry forest. Nothing has stood in my way. My passions have been all-consuming as I’ve indulged myself in all kinds of debauchery. I might think about settling down in a few years, maybe. But, for now, I’m content to sample the choice delights surrounding me. What single man in my shoes wouldn’t say the same? Temptation is just too fucking tempting for me.
As Eddie prepares to pull away from the front of my building, I spot Simon being escorted out of the glass doors. A team of two security officers, one on each side of Simon, has their hands placed tightly above his elbows. I watch as they roughly release him once they have him fully outside. Simon stumbles but remains standing.
“Hold up, Eddie,” I shout above the music before the SUV moves into the traffic. “Stop right here.”
The SUV lurches to a stop and I brace myself against the back of the front seat. I shift slowly on the leather, wet from my rain-soaked clothes, until I’m totally facing Simon through my window. To my surprise he is approaching my vehicle and the look on his face is murderous. Never have I seen him show this much emotion. Never. Even when his fiancée left him a few weeks ago. It’s unnerving.
Simon slowly approaches the Escalade and stares into the tinted glass of my windows. His eyes are wide and crazed, the veins in his forehead protruding. He appears ready to fight. Part of me wants to fling open the door and pummel his ass into the sidewalk. Pulverize him. Make him pay. I have about five inches on him and maybe forty pounds of muscle. He’s no match for me. But something about his face, his eyes make me reconsider. I grip harder into the seatback, grounding myself into place.
Simon leans in closer, his nose almost touches the glass as he shouts something at me, but I can’t hear him. His words are silent to me as I sit behind the car’s dark wall of glass and listen to the loud music piped through the speakers and vibrating around me.
As I am getting ready to tell Eddie to pull away, Simon makes a move that conveys what his words could not. He places his finger beside his neck and drags it across from one side to the other. The universal symbol for
An eerie feeling runs through me, and I consider calling security to remove him from the sidewalk, but Simon turns away practically running from me.
Throughout Simon’s angry display, Eddie is silently observing his behavior through the window. He’s known Simon for as long as he’s worked for me, so this stunt has to come as a shock. Glancing at Eddie in the front seat, I see a look of confusion mixed with concern on his face.
“It’s been a hell of a day, Eddie.” I take a deep breath and release my white-knuckled fingers from the seatback. An indent in the leather remains, a ghost outlining where my tension lay. “Get me the fuck out of here.”
I’m tempted to tell Eddie to take me home and skip tonight’s benefit, but I have committed to be there and make a major donation. I will likely be called by name and asked to stand and be acknowledged for my charity. An empty chair in my absence would be an affront to the organization. One that I’m actually quite fond of, which in this town is rare.
Resolved to keep pressing on, I remove the bag that’s hanging from the hook behind my seat. Inside there is a black tux, brilliant white shirt, and shiny black shoes. I start to undress and as I do, Eddie, on cue, raises the divider between the seats. I laugh as he does. He’s seen and heard just about everything in this backseat. Surely a flash of my briefs won’t offend him. But he remains a gentleman as usual, even when I’ve given him no cause to believe that I am one.
As soon as I’m fully dressed, Eddie pulls up in front of the Lincoln Center, the location for tonight's benefit. I comb my fingers through my hair, trying to settle it back in place. It has a mind of it’s own. Sex hair, I’ve been told.
Other than my white shirt, I’m adorned in black from the top of my head to the soles of my shoes. It’s the color of success in New York City, and likely the color of most people’s hearts attending tonight, too.
I'm scheduled to appear at two similar events this weekend, each one as stimulating as a
prostate exam. Since my company made the Fortune 500 list, the invitations and requests from charities in this city have poured into my office. Poor Mrs. Carter practically needs an assistant to weed through them all. I think it’s time to cut back on my attendance. I’ve frankly had my fill.
During the last two years, I’ve found the conversation at these affairs to be mundane and as boring as hell. The attendees address me speculatively, shocked by my success and youth. At thirty-two how I’ve succeeded is not the norm unless one’s empire is built on family wealth and prestige. In a sick way my empire
built on family money—the hush money given to my mother when she fled this city thirty-two years ago. Funny thing about hush money, though, it’s rarely kept quiet.
But tonight I’ll have to endure all the disgusting verbal fawning. I can hear the people now, those shocked by my accomplishments.
Hello, Mr. Kingsley. I've heard so much about you."
Good evening, Mr. Kingsley. It's amazing how you've taken Wall Street by storm."
Oh, Mr. Kingsley, what a striking man you are . . .blah . . .blah . . .blah."
The eyes on the nameless faces of my commentators have one thing in common: fear. Fear that I will dislike them, fear that I will crush them, and fear they will never obtain the wealth and power I have. It's pathetic how each dinner, gala, or benefit turns into a sycophant ball. A wicked dance where I'm placed in the center to be admired and envied. Displayed on some invisible pedestal until the sands shift beneath me and another up-and-coming man replaces me. Someone with more money, more power. The next bright and shining star. No one remains on top forever, and I have no illusions about my tenuous position among New York’s power players.
Eddie opens the door and I exit with a quick nod to him. “Plan on company tonight. I need something fun to look forward to.”
He nods back in a silent reply because he knows my routine and sexual appetites very well. It's a waiting game for him. He will receive my pick-up text and appear in five minutes at the curb. I'll let him know in my message if I’ll have a
at the end of the night. He will then prepare my arrival accordingly. Tonight, since I've alerted him early, he'll have some champagne ready when we enter the car, the backseat divider up, and seductive music playing in the background. Later, after I’m finished with the night's delight, he’ll drop her off at her Upper East Side condo lovingly bought by her rich father who I've probably done business with.