Authors: Kitti Bernetti
Dark Nights by
This story was first published in The Thousand and One Nights
by Xcite Books Ltd – 2012
Copyright © Kitti Bernetti 2012
The rights of Kitti Bernetti to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
The stories contained within this book are works of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the authors’ imaginations and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers: Xcite Books, Suite 11769, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY
SEBASTIAN DARK’S HAND CLOSED over his rival’s and gripped it in a crushing hold. ‘So that’s a deal then.’ He smiled like a cheetah leaning over a gazelle – in for the kill. A sheen of sweat broke out on the smaller man’s upper lip; the smell of defeat punctured the air. Seb regarded his rival distastefully.
They had battled.
Seb had won. He always won.
Smaller companies swam into his business waters at their peril. Shark-like, he gobbled them up and swallowed them. This takeover meeting at one time would have excited Seb enough to produce an erection under his smart Savile Row trousers. Now he had made a bigger fortune than he could spend in a hundred lifetimes. And he had to admit as he looked past his vanquished foe and surveyed London through the floor to ceiling windows of his plush boardroom, he was bored.
‘Thank you for your time Mr ....’ what the hell was happening to him? He had just bought this man’s ailing company for a cut price five million and Seb couldn’t even remember his name.
‘Vanhoffer,’ Seb’s assistant Richard Waters, hissed in an aside.
‘Mr Vanhoffer. It’s been nice doing business with you. I’ll show you out.’
The man stood paralysed at the door of the wood panelled boardroom. Seb towered above him. Placing a hand on the little man’s back to guide him out he noted the man was trembling. With anger, with remorse at losing a company that had taken him a lifetime to build and an hour to lose? Seb barely cared, that was business. Protocol required him to be magnanimous to the foe he had just destroyed. He escorted Mr Vanhoffer down the cream carpeted passage to the lift on the 21st floor. He stifled a yawn as the lift doors closed.
Then, a vision caught his eye so startlingly perfect, so eye-catchingly tantalising he, along with the other men moving about their business, faltered as if in slow motion and stared. It had happened again. The one thing that had sparked Sebastian Dark’s interest in months was igniting the city suite of offices like a sky-rocket on bonfire night. She was wearing black patent stilettos, business-like, up to a point. But with a cutesy bow that made him want to grasp those spiky heels and slide them off, to trace his fingers over the stocking mesh covering her oh-so-pale skin, to stroke toes that would be painted in-your-face kick-arse red.
He wondered if she realised that as she walked, she placed one foot directly in front of the other giving her a Marilyn-Monroe sway that teased and more than suggested the up and down thrust of a good hard fuck. Yup, he conceded, she realised it all right. And she used it. To give her power. And control.
Richard broke the silence. ‘Goddammit, that girl is sex on legs. Just wait till that perfect arse goes by. The things I wouldn’t do given one night alone with her …’ All thoughts of the vanquished Mr Vanhoffer had disappeared once the blonde beauty sauntered into view. ‘They call her the Ice Queen, gorgeous but untouchable.’ Suddenly remembering himself and looking sheepish at Seb’s granite stare, Richard tried to stop gawping. But the girl’s magnetism drew both men in. The tight black pencil skirt moulded over buttocks as round as a young pony’s, the breasts fettered behind a virginal white shirt and oh so artfully pushed up by the files she was gripping. Her ample mounds bounced against the top button as if they longed to be released. And finally those go-to-bed lips, strawberry red glistened at them like a half-bitten cherry.
Apart from himself, Seb noted, enthralled, she was the most controlled human being he had ever encountered. Why was she like that? What was it that made her turn away from everyone, eschew office parties, push people away? The Ice Queen. Fascinating. Controlled and as arctic as a steel ice-pick. She knew every guy in that passageway was hooked. And every woman was puce with envy. It was as though she was playing a game. She was a winner, like himself.
Only Sebastian Dark was determined there was one game she wasn’t going to win. Because he was going to stop her. Tonight. After dark. He’d been plotting it for weeks. Ever since he had discovered that she was the one who’d been sneaking in after hours and had the bare faced cheek, the high handed effrontery to have been embezzling thousands from his company – milking it, skilfully, for months. From under his very nose. And she thought he didn’t know.
She had reached him now, so close her perfume itched his nostrils. She glanced at him under thick eyelashes, tossing her blonde fringe in that insolent way until she caught his stare and momentarily she stumbled. One foot went wrong on the thick white carpet. For a nanosecond her step was less than sure. As he raised an eyebrow, she disappeared into her office. Closing the door with a sharp rap. The fascinated glances of those in the passageway dissolved. As soon as she’d gone the electricity charge disappeared and people flowed back into the business of the day.
Tonight Sebastian Dark would catch her. In the act. Tonight he would punish her. The only question was how? He would enjoy that. Enjoyment? He’d almost forgotten what the word meant. All he’d ever wanted was business success, his adrenalin fed on the next big deal. Now he had it all – a fortune, women who threw themselves at him. But enjoyment eluded him. He felt crushingly empty. Until now. Something stirred beneath his tailored suit, the sleeping length in his groin twitched and hardened. She fascinated every man who saw her. And ignored every one. He smiled; he wasn’t going to be ignored by the Ice Queen. Suddenly blood rushed through his veins and spiked his cock to attention. It felt good. He was alive again.
Breeze Monaghan dropped the files she was holding. They spilt across the floor like a fan. She clung to the wall. If its solidity hadn’t held her up, her shaking legs would have crumpled to the floor. She couldn’t go on much longer.
Seb Dark was a smooth operator; somehow he had found her out.
But he couldn’t possibly know. She had been ultra careful. Besides, he was too high up the pecking order to be in the least bit interested in her, an interim accountant, a faceless paper pusher. Still he terrified her. Looking down his nose at everyone like an eagle spotting prey. Dangerously masculine. Pull yourself together she practically shouted then clamped her hand over her mouth. The strain of living a lie for months was beginning to tell. She had to quit, like she had in all the other places. But not yet. She just needed tonight to complete her plan. She breathed deep, pulled herself upright, grabbed the files and thrust them into order.
No one must find her in this state. She knew they called her the Ice Queen behind her back. That was the only way she could protect herself and she did it now. Putting back her mask of control. Cooling down her fear of being found out. Just another few thousand was all she needed. She sank at her desk and smoothed down her dyed blonde hair. She longed to go back to soft chestnut, be natural. Living a lie was starting to eat her soul. She pulled the desk drawer open, slipped her manicured hand to the back and pulled forward the little photo in its oval frame.
They were the ones she was doing it for. Her mother – soft focussed but with an inner core of steel, just like Breeze. And Breeze’s sister, Summer, sweet as a country meadow, her wide eyes so vulnerable. Her frail body so crooked.
Everything Breeze did she did for them. She would milk the last few thousand from Sebastian Dark’s monolith of a company. Then she’d disappear just like she’d done so many times before … Only she had to get tonight over first, and then escape, before her boss with his cruel eyes really suspected something.
‘HEY, MISS MONAGHAN.’ THE security guard’s face lit up as if he’d been waiting for her. ‘Comin’ back to the office to work late again? You put in far too much time for this company, you know. You should be out enjoying yourself instead of hunchin’ yourself over that desk until the early hours.’
‘You still haven’t told anyone I come back at night have you, Ronald? If they thought I couldn’t complete my work in an ordinary day, they’d think I was incompetent. It’s our little secret, isn’t it?’
‘No way, Miss M, I haven’t told a soul.’
She’d loved Ronald’s cheery smile. If only she could say goodbye properly but then that would give the game away. Thieves, like beggars, couldn’t be choosers.
The lift doors swished open. The offices were best when they were like this: empty; still; safe. Her heels were silent on the plush carpet. She was perfectly in control. Until she passed the spot where Seb Dark had stood today and regarded her with that inscrutable stare. She shuddered. You never did know what that man was thinking. If he wasn’t such a threat, she might have found that sharp taunting jaw intriguing, the wavy sun-kissed hair attractive, the broad shoulders worth fantasising over. She slapped the idea down; she had work to do, work that demanded all her powers of concentration.
Breeze sat down at her desk and flicked the computer into life. It had taken her ages to hack into the protected full accounting system. After that it had been a painstaking matter to find all the dormant accounts and start programming them to divert their funds to the suspense account she had set up. Bit by bit over the months her plan had been executed. Finance companies like this which dealt daily in millions always had hidden cash that had slipped through the net. A clever accountant like her had only to look for those little pockets of wealth and grab them. The secret was not to be too greedy. To take what had been forgotten and make it yours. Tonight she would siphon off the money she had ring-fenced, direct it to her secret offshore account and close down all evidence of her wrongdoing. She was pleased with her plan; it was a thing of genius. Virtually undetectable.
It took her two hours to garner every last penny, to check and double check that all her tracks had been covered. And finally to insert a worm into the accounting system that would eat all the evidence of her crime from the firm’s hard disk, hiding her treachery as surely as if she had turned back time and it had never happened. Her shoulders were sore, her back stiff from tensing up. Then, she heard the opening of a door down the passage. Who the hell was that? She hadn’t heard footsteps, no one else had ever been here at this time, it was the middle of the night. Whoever had opened that door must have been there all along. Bile rose in her throat fit to make her vomit. In an instant she had shut down the computer, grabbed her bag and shot up from her desk when suddenly the handle on her office door clicked and turned. Like a gunshot it tore through the night’s silence.
Sebastian Dark filled the doorway, shutting out the light with six foot four of six-packed male. His voice as menacing as a fisted hand struck her like a blow to the chest. ‘It seems you suffer from a great deal of insomnia, Ms Monaghan.’
‘I ...’ thoughts flailed about in her head as she struggled for composure. ‘I had to finish the quarterly report. It’s all done now, I was just going.’ She shot him one of her devastating smiles and watched it land on stony ground.
‘I don’t think so, Ms Monaghan.’ He raised one eyebrow and squared up to her. She tried to breathe but it felt as though all oxygen had been sucked from the room. There was no escape. She glared at him.
‘Let me out. I want to go.’
‘You’re going nowhere. Unless you want to go to jail, that is.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’ She spat the words out, like a cornered rattlesnake ready to strike. Attack she’d always found to be the best form of defence. It had certainly worked when she was a child defending her sister from the bullies who taunted her. Breeze stared insolently back, every bit the Ice Queen. She’d get herself out of this, she had to. Her mother and sister depended on her. They were the only thing that mattered in this whole crappy world.
‘You know exactly what I mean.’ He slid into the room and slammed the door firmly behind him. ‘You’re a bright woman. And gorgeous into the bargain, that’s a great smokescreen, making people focus on your looks to distract them from what you’re really up to underneath all that makeup and tight clothing. You’re as clever as the finest of my executives even though you’ve hidden your genius well. The thing is, I always wondered what you were doing with all that intelligence. Always suspected that you had a hidden agenda. I’ve been watching you. And now I’ve caught you.’