Kane I’ll admit it. I’m not a good man. I make my living on the shady side of the dollar. It’s the hand I was dealt as a kid with nothing. But, even so, that doesn’t mean I’d put my own kid in a cage and treat her like bait for sharks. There’s something about Laurel Steiner that makes me want to shield her from all the dirtiness in this city. Can this bad man be good enough for her? Laurel Everyone in the city has heard of Kane Santino. He’s a big bad man who is all bite, no bark. You won’t get a warning before he smushes you into dust. It just happens. One minute you’re there and the next minute, your building is blown up. My father refused to sell and put me in a cage to lure someone else to save him. Of course, no one showed up. No one that is except Kane Santino. He seems to want to lock me in a new prison. It’s pretty and warm but I don’t know that I can handle a man like Kane. Can a girl like me really be bad enough for him?
*************FULL BOOK START HERE*************
“And here we will put in a five-story fountain.” The architect nods to his assistant, who taps something on her phone. A soft sound whirs from under the model, and suddenly a tiny spigot of water shoots up and flows down the stepped art structure made out of solar panels situated between the crisscrossed escalators. “As you can see, the water will begin at the center of the sculpture and flow down until it reaches the ground floor reflection pool. From there, it splits and swims along these small channels of the larger mandala floor design, where it circles and then is deposited in a well underneath that feeds back up to the top.”
“And the skylights will provide power to the sun panels?” I ask.
The architect nods eagerly. “Yes, it has a zero carbon footprint as the water is refilled by rain barrels on the roof, and the solar panels capture the energy needed to power the engine of the water fountain.”
“Good.” I turn to my land acquisitions manager. “What’s the status?”
The man hunches his shoulders slightly. “We have a hold-out.”
I stretch my fingers to keep from forming a fist. “Ah, is that so?” To the architect, I nod politely. “This plan will do. Send your final invoice. We will start obtaining the bids.”
I usher them out of the office. When it is just my acquisitions manager, I walk over to the plate glass windows with him. “Who is the hold-out?”
“A dry cleaning business.”
“How long have you worked for me, Luca?” I pinch the bridge of my nose, partly in annoyance and partly to block out the too-strong scent of his cologne.
“Eight years, sir?”
“So, long enough that you know we don’t mind getting our hands dirty.” I turn and brush some nonexistent lint off his custom-tailored Italian wool jacket that probably cost him a cool grand or three. “If you want to keep wearing this, perhaps you can be more persuasive.”
He pales but nods and exits immediately.
“We’re getting soft,” I say to no one.
“I could help with that,” announces someone behind me.
I spin around and arch my eyebrows when I spot the architect’s assistant leaning against my door.
She pushes upright and strolls across the room, releasing a button on her shirt with each step until it is kept together only because the tails are tucked into the top of her tight, straight skirt. I glance over her shoulder for her boss, but he’s nowhere to be found. The woman stops about two feet away, two feet too close, and reaches her long fingers to grab my tie. I stop her, gripping her fingers tightly in my grasp. Worse than Luca’s cologne. She winces in pain but doesn’t lose her supposedly sultry smile.
“I’m here to tell you that whatever you want, you can have.”
I toss her hand to the side. “I’ve gotten everything I need from your boss. Get out before I fire him for having bad taste in employees.”
A gasp of surprise comes out. “He didn’t send me to you. I came because I wanted to. Don’t you find me attractive?”
“No. Now get out.” I don’t bother to look at her again, instead going to my desk and bringing up the in-dash camera of Luca’s sedan. Three other black sedans trail behind. After a moment, I lift my head to see the woman still standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, her shirt hanging open at the sides and a confused expression on her face. I guess she’s never been turned down before.
I often wonder if there is something wrong with me. Sex has never lured me. Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten so far. I have no vices except to succeed.
I pick up my phone. “Ned, please come in here and collect some trash that was left behind by the architect’s office.”
Shortly after I hang up, the door opens, and Ned strides in. Without a word, he grabs the woman by the arm and drags her toward the door.
“Let me go, you asshole. I’m going to sue you for battery. This is illegal!” She howls and curses all the way out. Annoying. I turn my attention back to the cameras. Luca has been a disappointment for a year now. I think it’s because he’s fucking Kimberly Soritz. She’s supposed to be pursuing a marriage with me because that’s what her billionaire daddy wants, but instead, she’s been riding Luca’s dick. They both think I’m clueless. I don’t care, but I do like doing business with Daddy Soritz, so I keep my mouth shut. It keeps her off me.
This little squeeze-out should’ve been easy for Luca to take care of. I switch my camera to the last car and speak into the mic. “Sham, I want you to take the lead. Not L and don’t take any weapons in. There will be plenty of tools to use inside the store. Irons, sprays, steamed water. That sort of thing.” Could easily blind someone or burn their skin off with the dry cleaning equipment.