His Demand (Dirtier Duet Book 1)(3)

By: Lisa Renee Jones

An hour later, I’m dressed in a gray pin-striped suit, and already on my way to the office, stopping in the coffee shop for my usual triple venti latte, and playing the game I always play. I laugh. I smile. I make other people laugh and smile. No one needs to know what the hell is going on in my head, and when they’re thinking about themselves or a laugh I’ve given them, they aren’t analyzing me. I like it that way. I keep it that way.

I tip the barista twenty dollars because that’s also what I do. I tip big. I make people feel good even when I’m burning alive inside, especially on the days that I’m burning alive inside. And for a reason I can’t seem to explain, Abigail has sent me to that place, reminded me of the past. It’s a damn good thing that she’s gone. Really damn good that she’s gone. I don’t even like redheads. I don’t know why this woman has this power over me, but I don’t like it.

Twenty minutes later, I’m behind my desk and my assistant is standing in front of my desk, which isn’t unusual. However, I’m acutely aware of the fact that she’s thirty-something with red hair. “Don’t hate me,” she says. “I have a list of ten problems you have to deal with right now.”

“I live to beat a path through the hell,” I say, welcoming the distraction, ready to dive into my work. “Bring it on. What’s number one?”

 “Your father called.”

“Considering my father’s a fraud, liar, and jerk who cheated on my mother and all but ruined this business, why do I care? He’s retired. Reid and I made sure of that.”

“Because when he calls, it’s trouble.”

“Move on to the next problem.”

“Number two. One of your father’s mistresses says she’s owed money and served you for that money, which I assume is why your father was calling.” She motions to a folder on the desk. “You were served. So was Reid. The board wasn’t. She also called and said she’s got intimate knowledge of things your father did while here at the firm that you might want to know about. She’s willing to help you.”

Help me. More like bribe me. “What else?” I say, because this is absolutely ridiculous and will go nowhere, and anyone involved knows that.

“I go on vacation tomorrow for a week. You remember that, right?”

“Yes. I bought the tickets to Italy for you and your sister, remember?”

“Yes, but at the time, Reid wasn’t going on his honeymoon and you hadn’t just forced your father out of the company.”

“I have Connie,” I say of Reid’s secretary. “It works. Go. Enjoy your trip. You deserve it after that hellish acquisition we did a few months ago.”

“You really are good to me,” she says.

“You slept here a couple of nights to finish that deal,” I remind her. “I owe you.”

“Yeah. You kind of do, but still.”

“Just update Connie on everything,” I say. “Then go eat pasta and have some wild fling with a hot Italian man. Just don’t fall in love and stay there.”

She laughs. “No problem there. I’m immune to love, just like you, which makes me work well as your assistant. I can’t fall for your Ken Doll good looks and you hate redheads.”

A muscle in my jaw ticks at her Ken Doll comment, not to mention the reference to redheads. “You know too much about me.”

“Ah, the real reason you sent me to Italy,” she teases. “I’m going to see Connie now.” She stops at the door. “Let me know if you want me to file a reply to that bullshit claim from your father’s mistress.” She disappears and I read the claim, which is absolutely insane. The woman wants three million dollars.

I dial my father. “How big of a problem is this woman?” I ask, without any preamble. He called. He knows what’s going on.

“If she was a problem, I’d have paid her off. She has no proof of anything, but she has a loud mouth. That makes her a problem for your firm.”

For my firm. The one he keeps trying to destroy even now, after we got rid of him. I hang up. That bastard just won’t stop being a problem. I text my brother: There are problems related to dad and a mistress. I got this. Pretend it doesn’t exist. You have honeymoon fucking to do.

Reid’s reply is simply: And I don’t plan to stop for that asshole.

I glance at my watch and I have fifteen minutes until I meet with one of the partners on a problem case. I decide I need some fucking air, compliments of my fucking father. I round my desk, exit my office, and waste no time exiting to the office lobby. I’m walking toward the double glass doors that lead to the elevator bank when I do a double take. Abigail is walking onto the elevator. How is this even possible? But even as I ask the question, there is no “good thing she’s gone” in my head right now. I’m not letting her get away.