Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #bwwm interracial romance
You wouldn’t know it from the way she insisted on mothering him, but without a mother of his own, Dorian couldn’t deny that it was nice sometimes to have someone who was willing to take care of him.
For instance, Anita was already getting out the large mixing bowl that meant she would be making pancakes.
“Tell Anita what’s wrong, hm?” she said over her shoulder as she moved to the refrigerator. “And stop moping and come help.”
She never had any compunctions about putting him to work when he was in the kitchen, and since he loved to cook anyway, he didn’t have a problem with that.
Dorian finished off his tea and slid from the stool he’d been perched on, moving to take over cracking eggs into a separate bowl. Having his hands busy was always good when he was dangerously bored out of his mind.
,” he explained, trying very hard not to sound like he was whining. “I can’t go anywhere until I get a new team, and we’re doing the background checks in triplicate this time, so it’s taking
Anita frowned as she sifted flour. “I thought the guy didn’t turn bad until after he’d already started working here.” All the other staff members had heard the story by then.
“He didn’t, but we can’t be too careful. It turned out that Breckidge had an uncle who owed money to whoever these people are, whether he knew it or not. It wasn’t just because he was working for me that he got recruited.”
“Ah, I see. And how is that man doing?”
Dorian scowled. “He’s being released from the hospital and into police custody. A part of me wishes Carlos had killed him.” He felt bitter and mean for saying that, but it was true. That man would have handed him over to people who would have extorted him for money and then gladly watched him die. After signing a contract promising to keep him safe. It was ridiculous to be so upset about it, but Dorian had never been rational when it came to his emotions.
“It’s better for him to face justice,” Anita said. “You know that, but your hurt feelings are talking right now.”
Dorian couldn’t argue with that, so he didn’t try.
It was soothing to work beside Anita in the kitchen. She had a way with food that fascinated him, and he loved listening to her talk about how she learned to cook from her mother and aunts back in Mexico. She always took care to explain the things she was doing, and it was a way of cooking that Dorian couldn’t learn from cookbooks or watching the Food Network. It was more intuitive, and he followed her instructions, letting the tension drain from his body as they worked.
By the end of it, there was a plate piled high with perfect pancakes, and Dorian sat down across from Anita as they started in on them.
Carlos came in when they were halfway through, smiling as he always did to see his sister and boss getting along. He’d confided in Dorian that he thought Anita was lonely sometimes, and he worried about her, so he was glad that the two of them had bonded.
“Good morning, Anita,” he said. “Sir.”
“Morning, Carlos,” Dorian replied, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “You should have some breakfast.”
This was, perhaps, the closest Dorian came to having a family. His father was dead, and his mother had died giving birth to him, but Carlos had been around since Dorian was eight years old, and Anita had such a warm demeanor that it was easy to feel like he’d known her for just as long.
While it was true that they worked for him and he paid their salaries, they were both more than just his staff, and he liked to think that he was more than just a boss to them, but he wasn’t going to ask.
Carlos smiled and took a seat, piling pancakes onto an empty plate. “Thank you, sir,” he said. “I have some good news for you.”
Dorian looked up. “Really?”
“Mm. I think perhaps we’ve found someone to head up the security team.”
Well, that was something. Dorian sipped his coffee. “Go on.”
“It’s...a bit out of the ordinary, but I think that considering what happened we should do something different. I’ve been looking into more local security firms. People who had experience, but also have a sense of...loyalty to the job, I suppose. There’s a man who runs his own firm not far from here. He gets called in when important people visit the city: celebrities, even a politician or two. His reviews are all excellent, and his training record is flawless. He was a police officer before he started his firm, and a very good one from all accounts. I think he’d be perfect. But if you don’t like him, there are some others that I have lined up with more traditional experience. I think it best if we build a new team with the head of security instead of just calling people in.”
Dorian tapped his fingers against the table, thinking. It was risky to go with someone who hadn’t done much of this kind of work before. Protecting celebrities and politicians wasn’t really life or death work, but work with a police force was. Carlos seemed to have a good feeling about it, and Dorian had always trusted his judgment.
It wasn’t like he was going to be able to find people with loyalty to his family name here. Back home, people knew the Kingston name and the same people who worked for his father had relatives who’d worked for his grandfather and so on, but here things were different, and it was hard to find that kind of loyalty.
So it would have to do.
“Well, call him in for a meeting, I suppose,” Dorian said finally. “I didn’t like Breckidge all that much anyway, so we’ll see how I feel about this one.”
“Very good, sir.”
It didn’t take long to find a time to meet with this man, Benjamin Samuel. He came in the very next day, standing in the living room with Carlos, dressed in a suit and looking around nervously. It was clear that no matter how much work he had done with celebrities, he wasn’t used to being around wealth.
Dorian didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
He came down the stairs, back straight, head high, the way his father had taught him when he was a boy. It wasn’t meant to intimidate, but to let people know that he wasn’t someone they could push around because he was in charge.
Benjamin looked at him without Dorian even having to clear his throat for attention, and Dorian awarded him a mental point for attentiveness.
“This is Dorian Kingston,” Carlos was saying, gesturing for Dorian to come closer. “Sir, this is Benjamin Samuel.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Dorian said as they shook hands. Already he liked him better than the others he’d had. He wasn’t massive, but it was clear that he could hold his own, and he didn’t seem like he was interested in trying to be intimidating either, shaking Dorian’s hand easily and then letting go without trying to test his strength. He was just an inch or so taller than Dorian’s own height, and while muscular, it wasn’t excessive. He had a kind face, and white, even teeth flashed in his dark face when he smiled.
“Likewise. Please, call me Ben, by the way.”
Dorian nodded and gestured for him to sit. “I was impressed with your resume, Ben,” he said, folding himself into his chair and crossing his legs. “You haven’t done a lot of big things in the security field, but what you have done is exemplary, and I think your police work speaks for itself.”
Ben smiled. “I’m glad you think so. It’s. A passion of mine, I guess. Protecting people. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, cheesy as that sounds.”
“It’s admirable,” Dorian replied. “And considering I am currently without
security because a member of my former team wanted money over my safety, it’s something I can’t afford to do without.” He tapped his fingers together and then looked up. “How much do you know about my family?”
“Not much,” Ben admitted. “I did some research when I got the call from Mr. Ortiz, but I’m pretty sure that was just the cliffs notes version of the things I’d need to know.”
“Very much so. I won’t bore you with a long story about the family history because much of that isn’t important in the States, and you can read about it on Wikipedia quite easily. But I will tell you the important parts.” When he looked at Ben again, he was rapt with attention. Another good sign. Dorian took a breath and launched into his story.
“Money has always been in my family. There is an old tale that says that my great-great grandfather came from royalty and that’s where the fortune began. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t seem to matter all that much as each successive Kingston heir has managed to increase the money when they had it. Investments, good business dealings, the like. It has almost tripled since my great-great grandfather’s time, and of course, as you can imagine, such things do not come without their share of peril. My father was a smart man, but he was an arrogant man as well. In England there was a group of...thieves, I suppose you could call them. I don’t know if they have a proper name, but they commit crimes from grand theft auto to murder to extortion. They are a syndicate and no matter how many of them get arrested, there are always more.
My father made the mistake of crossing some of them, and to this day I’m not entirely sure what he did. All I know is that it involved money and they are angry about it. So angry that they were calling for his death for years. A heart attack took him before they could, but they want their money back plus interest in the form of the rest of the family fortune,” Dorian explained. “With my father dead and the money in my control now,
am their target. With the mess that just happened with one of my bodyguards working for the very people who are after me, I need more than just someone who can protect me. I need someone I can
Ben nodded. “Absolutely. I can only imagine how horrible it must have been to be betrayed by someone you were trusting to protect you, but I can give you my word that it won’t happen with me. Loyalty is most important between a bodyguard and his charge.”
Dorian arched an eyebrow. “There are some that would say that money is the most important.”
“Well, those are people that I wouldn’t trust with my life,” Ben said with a shrug. “Trust, Mr. Kingston. If you can’t trust someone to take the risks necessary to keep you safe, then they aren’t worth the money you’re paying them. And, if you’ll pardon me saying so, men go the extra mile for charges they feel loyal to in this business.”
“Well said,” Carlos murmured from his spot near the fireplace.
Carlos,” Dorian said, rolling his eyes. “We’re in agreement, Ben. I would like to be the kind of charge that inspires loyalty, and I would like to have a team that I can trust not to betray me at the first hint of a better deal. My father had the kind of men and women around him that knew about loyalty, and I would very much like to feel that secure with my own team. It means a lot to me, and I can assure you that you will be paid and paid well if you choose to take the job.”
Ben blinked, as if confused for a moment and then smiled. “You’re offering me the job?”
Dorian couldn’t help smiling back. “If you’d like it, yes. I can’t imagine that we’ll find anyone else who is as suited to this as you are, and to be frank, I like you already.”
“Well, that’s good to know. Before I accept, can we go over what all the job will entail? I feel confident that I can handle it, but I’d like to be sure before I say I can do something if I can’t.”
Carlos exchanged a look with Dorian, clearly impressed. “Alright,” Dorian said, steepling his fingers. “It’s a fairly demanding job, I think it’s safe to say. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. You’ll need to assemble a team of people you trust that I can trust, and they will need to submit to background checks and regular drug tests. All matters dealing with my security will go through you.”
“Twenty four hours a day?” Ben asked. “So I’d be living here?”
Dorian nodded. “Yes. There’s plenty of room, as I think you can see. There’s a small house on the grounds if you’d prefer, but I think you can see how I would feel more comfortable with you in the house.”
Now it was Ben’s turn to nod. “Yeah. This place must be a nightmare to secure.” His fingers tapped on the arm of his chair, and he was clearly hesitating.
“If there’s something else you require, I’m sure we can work something out,” Dorian said. “We haven’t talked salary yet, but I am not going to skimp when it comes to my safety.”
“Oh, no. It’s not the money I’m worried about. Believe me, I don’t doubt you can more than make it worth my while to meet your needs.”
“Then what’s making you hesitate?”
For a moment, he thought Ben wouldn’t answer, and Dorian lamented the fact he’d have to find someone else for the job. It wouldn’t be easy, and he was fairly sure he wouldn’t find someone else as suited for the job as the man in front of him. But then Ben cleared his throat and leaned forward in his chair.
A negotiating position if there ever was one.
Dorian copied the movement, ready to bargain.
“My sister,” Ben said. “She...well, she doesn’t live with me just yet, but I’d like her to. There’s a bunch of drama behind all that, family stuff I won’t get into, but if I take this job I won’t be able to be there for her as much as I need to some times. So...if there’s some way that I could...have her close to me…”
“Oh,” Dorian said. He’d been expecting something more than that. “Your part of the house will be yours to do with as you’d like. If you want your sister to move in with you, we can allocate rooms for her.”