The next morning, Charlie was late to work after a late night. He wasn’t used to having anyone notice when he was on time or late or whatever, and today should have been no exception. But when he walked in, Amelia was in her usual spot at her desk, looking fresh faced and lovely. The image stabbed him in the chest with a dagger.
“What are you doing here? I told you to sleep in.” Like he had.
“I did,” she smiled at him. There was a shadow in her eyes, and he thought she might be a little afraid of him. As she should be. The thought actually made him smile. “I usually wake up much earlier. Thank you.”
He shook his head at her, and proceeded to his office, removing his suit coat as she went. Her inhale was audible, and he smirked to himself. That was one thing that made him notice her in the front lobby all those months ago: her inability to take her eyes off him when he entered. He didn’t need ego boosts, generally, but from her, it was definitely welcome. She was so damn nice and innocent. It was lovely to imagine defiling her.
“You’re new coffee maker is being delivered today. Just thought you would want to know about it.”
“Good, thank you.” He didn’t need a damn coffee maker, but like everything else, she wasn’t doing this half way.
An hour later, he realized just how thorough she was.
A young guy, with an eyebrow piercing and tattoos all over his arms, showed up with a huge box on a dolly. Charlie watched as he rolled it in, leaned against it, had Amelia sign something, then actually flirted with her.
The body language was astounding. How could a self-respecting man be so damn transparent? He shut his laptop and watched, as the douchebag made a joke he couldn’t hear.
Amelia laughed. Actually giggled. She didn’t hide her smile from this guy. Or her laugh. She simply did it, with zero thought to the repercussions.
Charlie was livid. Unable to help himself, he stood and strode out into the main room.
“It goes in there,” he said, pointing to the lounge area. “You can unbox it, and leave.” His words were short and clipped and he watched with satisfaction as the guy rushed to do his bidding. While the guy was in the lounge, Charlie turned on Amelia.
She looked at him with wide eyes, her mouth dropped open. He had an image of himself shoving his cock in that mouth and grabbing her hair and fucking the surprise right off her face.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he spun on his heels and walked back into his office, slamming the door. Amelia stayed behind her desk until the guy left, giving him a small wave.
Charlie had no idea why this little wisp of a woman was taking up so much of his mental energy. She always had, but now she was in his domain, coming into his office every day and owning things, he was flabbergasted. Her mark was everywhere, her scent, her eyes, bringing a shadowy light into his darkness.
But where his shadows were the absence of light, her shadows were light the sun filtering through the shade of trees. She was life, he was death, but he needed her here.
It wasn’t like he was going to do anything about her. He’d thought just bringing her here and helping her out of a shitty situation in the lobby would be enough. But he found himself wanting more.
He wanted to know her sins, what scared her, whether or not she cried at night. He wanted to be her priest, hear her darkest confessions.
He tried not to watch her as she piddled around the lounge area, but his damn windows everywhere inhibited that. He couldn’t help but see her.
So when she got on her hands and knees to plug the monstrosity of a coffee maker into the outlet under the cabinet, he couldn’t help himself.
The next thing he knew, he was leaning against the doorway to the lounge area, willing her skirt to fly off so he could see the round globes of her pert little ass. Vaguely, he wondered what sort of panties she was wearing. Would they be g-strings? Or something silky, with lace around the edges? Or pure lace, where the outlines of what was underneath would tempt him?
He watched her, completely enraptured, as she wriggled out from underneath the cabinet with an erotic grunt, then saw him.
She squealed and fell on her rump, and he smiled at her discomfiture.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” He planted his feet, not willing to break his composure and take her like he wanted. He knew full well if he helped her off the ground, he would help her over the countertop as he raised her skirts and plunged balls deep into her from behind. He’d been dreaming about it too much to hold back.
“It’s okay,” she stammered as she rose to her feet. She wasn’t the least bit graceful, and he was rewarded with a flash of garters, stockings, and pink silk panties that he would take with him to bed tonight.
He cleared his throat, saving the image for later. “What is that thing?”
“It’s a coffee maker,” she replied proudly, gesturing to it like a game show hostess. “I put myself through part of college as a barista, so I know what a good coffee maker entails. Unfortunately, the industrial Bunn you had in here collecting dust need not apply for the position.”
He didn’t miss the little nugget of information. She hadn’t finished college. At least, not as a barista at a coffee shop.
“What makes a good cup of coffee?”
She gave him a grin, and he relished the brightness. It banished the shadows from her eyes. Granted, he loved those shadows, but seeing her without them for once, was … nice. And all about a cup of coffee.
Amelia spun around and began extolling the features of the coffee pot, the seeming most important being the correct temperature for brewing. He listened with half an ear, while imagining her in her underwear.
“Here. I’ll make you one.”
He grunted in agreement, not giving a shit about a cup of coffee, but wanting her to continue talking to him about something she was apparently passionate about, because it made her so damn alive.
She flitted and floated around the room, moving to a refrigerator he hadn’t noticed before for some milk.
“When did we get a fridge in here?”
She looked at him, one eyebrow quirked. “Yesterday. You were here.”
“I must have been actually working. Did you flirt with that delivery guy, too?” He could have swallowed a gun for admitting he’d noticed her flirting, and might actually be jealous. He hadn’t even thought the thought to himself. Until now. But yeah, he was jealous of that punk ass motherfucker who’d smiled at her.
“It was the same guy, and I suppose I did. I was just being friendly. It was a lot of work for him to bring that up here. But he did tell me about the freight elevator, which I started using yesterday, and I like it so much better than the glass one.”
She babbled on, while she did something with the milk. Steaming it, he supposed. She was making a damn fancy cup of fucking coffee.
“You don’t like the glass elevator?”
She shrugged. “No. I don’t like heights.” Then she walked over to him and handed him a coffee mug filled with a rich smelling aroma of good coffee. He stared at it. The solar system was in his coffee cup.
She giggled at him again, and his eyes immediately when to her mouth.
“It’s a latte. Steamed milk and espresso.”
“But you put fucking Saturn in there.” He was gobsmacked.
“That’s microfoam from the steamed milk. It’s really finely textured…” she continued babbling about the different kinds of foam for different coffees, and he was entranced by her. Once again, she was passionately talking about something, and he could only imagine her talking to him about her passions all day long.
And all night. Laying in bed, propped up on his chest and talking about coffee.
What the actual fuck?
To distract himself, he took a tentative sip. He usually drank his coffee black, from his simple little Mr. Coffee drip maker at home before coming in.
Who knew his mind would be blown by one of these fancy little fuckers?
He licked his lips where he could feel the foam, and was satisfied she seemed as mesmerized by the movement as he was by her garters.
“It’s good.” He was staring at her over the rim of his cup, trying to figure out what to do with her. Should he bed her and get it over with? Or should
he push her away and stop this nonsense? He certainly didn’t see himself making love to her and proposing they have a life together. But he suddenly had the sensation she would change him, irrevocably. In the short amount of time she’d been in his offices, he’d become slightly obsessed with her.
Charlie supposed he would just continue along the same vein as he had this week, until Cayman. Maybe then something would present itself.
Meanwhile, he needed to eat. It was well past lunch time, and he was hungry.
He gulped down the drink that was surely supposed to be savored and sipped, enjoying the look of disappointment on her face. He’d already fucked up Saturn with his first sip, what did she expect?
The disappointment turned to something else, as he lowered his mug and handed it back to her. It was the darkness again, as he eyes squinted at him.
“Did you hear about the Mayor? He died last night. They say it’s an overdose.” Her words were quiet, but she continued forcing them across her tongue. “It was all over the news on the radio on my drive in.”
The darkness was beautiful. Shadows of suspicion crossing the green orbs of her eyes. Directed at him. It made his cock twitch in his pants, and he knew he needed to get out of here. He was about to lose control with her. And her veiled suspicions only told him she was smart, and he might need to be careful with her.
Or not. What sort of darkness could he get from Amelia Flores if he wasn’t careful? Tempting. So damn tempting.
“Yeah, I heard about it. Such a shame.”
He opened his mouth to invite her with him to lunch, then shut it. No. The status quo must remain. He was doing well for himself. No need to fuck it up with a woman.
Besides, he wanted to do some networking at a new restaurant in town. And he needed to banish the thoughts of her delicious darkness.
He was late for the lunch rush, so he seated himself at the bar. It was an old world style, with burnished wood countertops, low lighting, and glassware everywhere. The mirror behind the bar was stacked with shelves of liquor and the bartender wore a black polo shirt with the word Nonna’s on the breast. A TV in the corner had the local news on it, but he didn’t need to hear it. He knew what they were talking about.
It was casual class, and made him wonder if there was something here he could use.
“Scotch on the rocks, please. Whatever top shelf you have.” He slid into a stool a couple of chairs down from a tattooed man with a crew cut, probably former military, but he wore glasses, which softened his demeanor. Charlie nodded a greeting to him, and the other guy raised his glass of beer.
The guy at the other corner of the bar, raised his glass of something clear and tipped it back before ordering another. Charlie guessed it was straight vodka by the grimace on the guy’s face, and grinned ruefully.
“You here getting your head on straight, too?” The bartender gave him lopsided smirk that looked a little sad, exposing a sort of camaraderie among the day drinkers.
“Something like that.” The bartender took a shot of something from the behind the bar before walking to the end to go through some papers.
“Yeah, we’re all just moaning and drinking and figuring out our lives were ruined by the same douchebag.” The guy next to him said, before holding out his hand. “Mack.”
“Yeah? Charlie. What do you do?” When he found people who struck him the right way, he was all about the networks. His was a specific skill set, and he was always looking to expand the favor network.
“Digital security specialist,” Mack said.
“You?” Charlie nodded to the other guy, who looked at him with watery eyes. Okay, he’d been drinking a lot.
“Dean, and I do whatever.”
“Luca,” the bartender said, coming over and holding out his palm. Charlie shook it. “I own the place, and the same douchebag rolled my grandma for the property she’d lived in her entire life, which, after listening to these guys’ stories, seems tame in comparison.”
“He killed my sister. Got her hooked on drugs and dependent on a pimp who fucking killed her.” Mack was slurring his words, and Charlie realized he’d been doing shots before the beer. He slugged his Scotch and motioned for another. He apparently had some catching up to do.
“My wife is dead now because of him.” The bearded guy at the end of the bar, Dean, wasn’t looking at anyone. Charlie was glad he hadn’t been here for the beginning of the conversation, where they all discovered they hated the same man.
“I would ask who, but I’m afraid I don’t want to know.” Charlie really didn’t, not unless they paid him to need to know. It would probably be his forth foster dad or some shit, anyway.
They sat there in silence, each nursing their own drinks, getting lower and lower in the seats.
“I bet we could get something like that for him.” Mack was watching the news on tv, where they still spoke about the mayor’s death by drug overdose. “How hard would it be to fuck with some drugs and get the douchebag to take them?”
Not hard at all…
“Too good for him. Why waste a guy doing something he obviously enjoys doing. He needs to be fucking ruined.” Dean spoke as he propped his feet up on the foot rail and leaned down in his seat. He was in danger of falling out, but some unseen force kept him in place.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Mack said sullenly. Whoever this guy was had really done a number on them, and Charlie saw his chance.
“Hey, I fix problems and find solutions.” Charlie got out a couple of business cards, simple with just his name and phone number. “I can help, if you guys all get together and come up with a plan. Just give me a call in a day or two.”
Dean pocketed the card without looking at it, but Mack stared at it thoughtfully.
Charlie wondered what role Amelia could play in whatever scheme these guys came up with. Well, that was stupid of him, wasn’t it? He only needed her for social engagement, not to actually do things for him. Or with him, as he’d been thinking. She was supposed to be arm candy when he needed to not arouse suspicion. Like when he opened offshore accounts, and went to parties where he was meeting with contacts and shit.
She would have no role in this, whatever it would be. He knew it would be something. He’d planted the seed, and helped them out.
“Hey, I might need a cybersecurity guy. Do you have a card?”
“Nope. But I can be in touch.”
“I hate to break it to you guys, but you’ve all had enough. I can call cabs, if you need me to.” Luca was smiling at them brightly, the sadness evident in his eyes. “Besides, Nonna is going to be here soon, and I don’t want her hearing you all talk about Baldwin. It always sets her on edge.”
Charlie looked at Luca. “Thanks, I’ve got a ride.” Leaving him a card as well, he left the bar.
He’d forgotten to eat.
The next morning, she chose the least sexy professional clothes she had in her possession. A long flowing skirt and a pair of knee length boots covered her legs, and a bulky, cowl necked sweater covered everything else. The day was dreary, so her clothing choice wasn’t too warm. Still, that was just for today. As she sat outside and waited for the driver to pick her up, she thought about all the skin that would show this weekend.
She was still angry when Luther picked her up, and angrier still as she answered emails on her phone for Mr. Delmonico on the way to work. He’d insisted she use his driver so she didn’t have to make the commute into the city herself. She suspected it was to get more work done, but if that was what he was paying her for, she’d be glad to do it. However, she strongly suspected he was paying for more than her work, so each email she sent only made her angrier.
Pulling up to the curb in front of work, Amelia forced herself to look up at the building she had loved for so long. It looked like the Chrysler building on steroids, taller, wider, and more intimidating. The long, thin windows mirrored the shape of the building, and today reflected the white clouds that covered the sky. The way the windows reflected the weather so beautifully echoed her mood. It wasn’t dark, just finally seeing the cloudy reality of her future.
Luther tipped a hat to her, offering her a kind word for her day, and she took a deep breath and walked inside the lobby. Brooke was sitting at her desk, staring at her. Her mouth was plastered into a fake smile, but her eyes were slanted with displeasure.
“Miss. Flores, good morning.” The words came out through gritted teeth, and Amelia flashed her a genuine smile. The woman’s anger only fueled her at this point. It was catty and childish, but Amelia didn’t care.
“Good morning,” she sing-songed, feeling fake but loving the look on Brooke’s face as she sailed by her.
The elevators were terrifying, as usual, but she got in and spun around, settling herself in the corner to stare at the button pad and ignore the sight of the floor dropping out from under them behind her.
At the office, Mr. Delmonico, as she was forcing herself to refer to him now—not Charlie, was already in his office, shirt sleeves rolled up. Part of her, the stupid part, wished she’d seen him as he got comfortable for his day, as she had fallen for the put together man in the suit with the cufflinks, and only enjoyed the show as he undressed. But the rational part couldn’t stand to look at him in any way, since it only served to remind her why he wanted her to work for him.
So she got busy, confirming the two appointments he had today, forwarding him emails, and then scanning documents. They were leaving for the Cayman Islands this evening, and she was going to have a clean desk when she left.
The phone ringing interrupted her scanning, and she saw him watching her through the windows.
“Delmonico Enterprises, how may I help you?”
“I need an appointment for this morning, please.”
“I’m sorry. Mr. Delmonico is full for this morning. All he has today is a three o’clock.”
“I don’t know if I can get everyone together for three…” The voice on the other end was a man who clearly hadn’t expected to not get what he called for. The attitude, so similar to Charlie’s … Mr. Delmonico’s was exactly what she needed. If she couldn’t lash out at him, she would put this client in his place.
She smiled. “Mr. Delmonico is out of town next week. Unless you want the week of the sixteenth, you’ll get them together for three o’clock today.”
“How about we make the appointment, and I’ll call if we can’t make it.” The man was dismissive, as if he were about to hang up.
“Mr. Delmonico’s time is valuable, sir, and we don’t make appointments on the off-chance you show up. If you cancel, you will be charged a cancellation fee, and it’s almost triple the rate of actually showing up.”
The man sputtered on the other end of the line before accknowleging the terms she had just made up off the top of her head. He didn’t make an appointment. She was grinning as she settled the phone back in its cradle, feeling satisfied that she’d managed to get the best of someone today.
“Miss Flores, a moment please?” His voice was intense in its quiet. It was a bit scary, but she stood, squared her shoulders, and marched into his office.
His eyes scanned her body, not giving away any reaction. She wondered if he was noticing the unsexiness of her outfit choice today. Amelia quirked an eyebrow and settled a hand at her hip, waiting for him to speak.
“Is your Gram okay?”
The topic of conversation threw her. She was expecting something else.
“Um, yeah. She’s fine.” Her hand fell off her hip, and she clasped them in front of her.
“Everything else fine?” His eyebrows were raised with concern.
“Of course.” Not really. She’d just figured out yesterday why she was really here.
Suddenly the concern left his face, and it was filled with something completely different. He stood behind his desk and planted his hands on the top, leaning toward her. She ignored the flex of his forearms with the movement.
“Then please explain to me, why you chased off a client?” His voice was a roar, and she flinched, bringing her arms up to her chest. They started knitting together, a nervous habit she had. Amelia tried to stop it, but that would require all her concentration, and he’d just asked her a question.
“Because your time is valuable sir. They were being wishy-washy with it, and I didn’t think they’d actually show up. It was a judgement call, and I made it. If it was the wrong call, I apologize.”
“Did they give you a name?” Quieter, he was still angry, but was watching her hands. She managed to clasp them behind her so if they started clutching at each other, at least he wouldn’t see.
“No sir, but he said it was four people and he wasn’t sure if they would all be available at three o’clock. I really thought—“
“I don’t pay you to think. You have a job that doesn’t require much thought at all. You simply do as I ask, do you understand?”
“Other duties as assigned,” she muttered, peeved.
“The phrase used to trap me in the contract, sir. Yes I understand completely.” Amelia’s voice was rising in pitch and she felt the sting in pad of her thumb as she stabbed it with a fingernail in her hand-writhing behind her back.
He came around the side of the desk. Leaning on the front, he crossed his arms in front of him, but the gesture was anything but carefree. The tension radiated off him. She could cut the barely controlled restraint with a bread knife if she wanted to.
“You finally read it?” His mouth was a sneer. Still beautiful, but she felt it as it curled around her, covering her with his distaste.
“Yes, I read it. Several times. While you never actually said what you are paying for clearly in the papers, it’s plain to me what you are throwing money at me for. The sexy clothes, making sure I’m at your beck and call. Utterly dependent on you. I get it. It’s what case studies are written for. I can see it.”
His face was suddenly washed in shock. “You think I’m abusing you?” Each word that came out of his mouth was increasingly angrier. Her stomach
plummeted at his directing it at her, but she stood firm. She wasn’t going to back down.
“Isn’t that what your job is all about? Manipulation? All you do is manipulate people into doing what you want to make clients happy.” The look of angry disbelief on his face made her stop. “You have to see what you’re doing.”
He raked his hand through his hair and let out his breath in a whooshing noise. Finally, he stalked around the desk and dropped into the seat.
Looking back up at her, he pierced her with the dark abyss of his eyes.
“That is all. I would offer you lunch, but I’m afraid any act of kindness at this point would be construed as manipulation, so I’ll leave you to your
“Yes, sir.” Dismissed, she spun on her heels to retreat to her desk.
He seemed shocked, but expert manipulators were great actors, so she didn’t put too much credence in the action.
No matter how genuine he seemed.
Charlie sat at his desk, staring at Amelia through the glass of his office. He’d been doing this for hours. He couldn’t stop himself. She was beautiful in her anger. She was the type of woman who cried when she was mad, and he watched her shoulders rise with every sniffle. He was enraptured by the angry swipes at her face, knowing he wouldn’t see tears, but wishing he’d pushed her that much harder so he could.
Except she’d flinched, hadn’t she? He wasn’t into physically hurting women, unless they wanted it. And while the thought of raising that massive expanse of skirt she wore and spanking her ass until it was red was highly appealing, she had flinched when he’d strode toward her.
She was right. He manipulated people. Killed them when necessary, true.
But he hadn’t intended to do that to her. He only wanted to see her more often. He wanted to give her things because she seemed to need them.
He’d had the contract written for months, since the first week she’d started working in the lobby. Her bright smile on her innocent face, surrounded by the dark halo of her sleek bob, all combined to make her a mystery to him. And he liked mysteries.
Yes, there was a shadow behind her eyes, and he wanted to understand it. But he wanted her smiles. Her tears. Her anger. More than the smiles, her anger and her tears were real emotions, not easily faked. He wanted the authentic emotions of someone who so freely gave them.
He had no idea why.
Maybe because he hated it in himself.
Was he manipulating her to get them? Yes, it was possible. He really didn’t know any other way.
Truth was, he’d gotten a pitiful amount of work done since she’d started working for him. She was too damn distracting. He imagined her lush little mouth wrapped around his cock every time he watched her purse her lips in concentration. The other night, when she’d drooled on his lap while she slept, the image of her crying and gagging on his dick had almost undone him.
That wasn’t even to say the times he took her on top of his desk. In his head, it was a montage of filthy scenes, her bent over, him spanking her, then sinking in. Or she would ride him in his desk chair, his thumb in her asshole. Or him burying his face in her hot, wet pussy while she propped her
shoes on his shoulders, again, his thumb in her asshole. He had no idea why he was so fascinated with her ass, but he was going to take it in his fantasies, soon.
Amelia looked up at him, stark anger on her face. The fire in her eyes made his dick jump in his pants, and he reached a hand under his desk to rearrange things.
She dropped her eyes back to her computer screen, ignoring him.
He sighed and pushed his hand through his hair, resting it on the back of his neck and squeezing.
He needed to get control of himself.
Amelia had installed some sort of software on his computer so they could communicate without yelling across the office. He pulled it up and tapped out a message to her.
I’m not manipulating you.
He deleted it. No sense in opening that can of worms, and he wasn’t in the habit of explaining himself. Besides what would he say? He liked her?
No. Charlie Delmonico didn’t have feelings like that. Attachments. Sure, he wanted to see her emotions and feelings, but only because he didn’t have any of his own.
At three o’clock he watched as the door to the outside opened, and in walked the three men he’d met at Nonna’s, plus one other.
Mack, Luca, and Dean. He’d always excelled at names and faces, considering it an integral part of his job. The fourth was a stranger to him, but took charge at the desk where Amelia sat, looking from the men to her computer and then back again, utter confusion written all over her face.
The message screen pinged.
Your three o’clock is here. You went around me to make the appointment?
I didn’t make it. I didn’t know who it was, remember? You didn’t get a name.
She looked at him, and he nodded. She sighed and gestured for them to enter the conference room.
As the men filed around his giant table, he realized what had happened. Mack had a self-satisfied grin on his face, and the new guy clapped him on the back. Charlie remembered he was cyber security, which was a fancy word for a fucking hacker.
He’d gotten into their system and given them the appointment himself.
He was grateful for a distraction.
A distraction from the distraction.
Rising, he strode into the conference room and shut the door. Amelia watched them through the glass, and her frustration was evident. For some
reason, he delighted in it. For once, she was as lost as he was.
“She’s a ball buster.” The new guy gestured to Amelia and Charlie’s hackles immediately rose.
“She can be protective of my time.” He was lying. She didn’t give a damn about his time. She’d been pissed, and took it out on this guy. “You
“I like a woman with some sass. I wish I’d been on the call,” Mack piped up, grinning wolfishly.
“Miss Flores is not up for discussion. What are we doing today?” Charlie gritted his teeth through the change of subject before he lost the clients and
contacts. He could use a hacker on his side.
“We are taking down Doyle Baldwin.” Joe, clearly the ringleader, spoke with a certain amount of smugness.
He didn’t have any personal relations with the man, by design. Everyone knew he had his little finger in a lot of pies, some legal, some not so much.
He was entirely too visible for Charlie to have anything to do with him.
“A plan?” Charlie leaned back and steepled his fingers under his chin. This could be interesting. Far more than scaring punks in back alleys and
blackmailing city politicians.
Dean, the guy who said he would do anything, stroked his beard before gesturing his hand at Joe. “That’s where we’re hazy. This guy is his kid,
illegitimate, and we thought it would be good to use that to get back at him. But he deserves more than just blackmail or some shit. We all want him ruined.”
“He’ll be a hard man to ruin. He’s powerful.”
“Are you saying you can’t do it?” Joe sneered at him. This must have been the douchebag who had pissed off Amelia. If he had this attitude making
the appointment, he had no doubt he would have rubbed her the wrong way.
“No. I can do most anything. I’m saying it will take a lot of money for the kind of ruin you’re talking about. The kind that robbing banks won’t
Mack leaned forward. “We have plans to get money, but we need clean money.”
“I can do that.” Charlie motioned to Luca. “He can do that.” He pointed to Mack. “You can probably do that, if you’re worth your salt as a
“How do I do that?”
“Let’s get together and talk outside of the office. Next week. I’m on my way offshore to take care of someone else’s stuff. If you’ve got anything to contribute, give it to me by five o’clock. If not, we’ll meet at Mack’s place next Saturday night. Eight.”