King'sBy: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
The KING Trilogy Book One
Dedicated to my Street Team: For giving me something to laugh about or drool over every day. You kinky f***ing ladies rock!
Ale, Ally, Amy, Ann, Annette, Ashlee, Ashley H., Ashley L., Bethany, Blythe, Bridget, Cathy S., Cathy S. L., Ces, Christina, Courtney, Dalitza, Dy, Farah, Hannah, Helen, Hida, Ingrid, Ixtzel, Janna, Jean, Jennifer B., Jennifer D, Jessa (our leader!), Jodian (~ ~ ~farmerunicorns), Kassie B., Kim K., Kim M., Kim M. (again), Kirsty, Leah, Lindsay, Mai Ling, Mary, Marybell, Michaela, Nadine, Nikki, Reagan, Shana-kay, Shasta, Sofia, Sonya, Terri, Tina, Vicki (woof!), Vickie, and…deep breath, can’t believe I made it to the end of the list…Wanda!
San Francisco. Present Day. 5:57 P.M.
I squirmed in my tight gray pencil-skirt from behind the antique desk and forced myself to look away.
Three minutes to go.
But I didn’t need a clock to tell me that. I knew it. My stomach knew it. And the sweat trickling down the small of my back beneath my fitted white blouse knew it.
Focus on something else, Mia.
I glanced at the drizzle of rain collecting outside on the office window, but I couldn’t see past the film of dirt. Even if I could, I wouldn’t see clouds or the long-overdue rain. I would only see him. Or, really, the mental ghost of his tailored black suit, jet black hair, and pale gray eyes powering through me from the darkened doorway, cautioning me not to speak. That was how he greeted me each evening before he walked directly to his private office and shut the door, leaving behind a subtle trail of delicious cologne. There would be no other exchange between us. His cologne. My nose. Oh yes, I almost forgot. The phone calls.
At exactly 6:02 p.m., he would call my desk, a mere five feet from his door, and say in that deep, mesmerizing voice that sent prickly chills to my bones, “That will be all, Miss Turner.”
Those five feet felt like a thousand miles of scorching desert. One I dared not cross. Because while some people might be fooled by the exquisite lines of his handsome face or by his European arrogance that reeked of old money, I was not. I saw right through that rapturous smile. He was a cruel, sadistic son of a bitch. That was the only explanation as to why he kept me waiting like this, day after agonizing day, forcing me to swallow back my bile while the clock ticked away, all sense of hope dying with every breath I took.
I glanced at the clock once again.
One minute to go.
I continued reminding myself that I had to be strong this time—no getting tongue-tied or woozy—and demand what was mine. We had a deal. I wanted his help, he wanted…well, me. As his assistant. Only I just sat there like his personal museum piece. 6:00 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. Six days a week. On the sixth floor.
The devil likes sixes, I thought, so why wouldn’t this guy?
What my new employer didn’t like, however, were questions. “Just do, Miss Turner. Just do,” he’d say.
“But do what?” I would ask.
Then he’d laugh, causing deep creases to form on both sides of his wickedly beautiful mouth. “As you are told, Miss Turner. As you are told,” he’d say while his hypnotic, cold gaze said something else: I own you now. Don’t you ever fucking forget it.
Maybe he was right. Maybe he did own me. I didn’t know anymore. I just knew that I’d given up regretting the choice I’d made on that horrible, dark and rainy night when I’d come to him, crawling on hands and knees, praying he’d be the miracle I needed. But from the first moment he saw me, he was like a shark that tasted blood. Only, it was my desperation and weakness that had him salivating. And the things he did to me over this very desk I now sat at…Oh Lord, I can’t bear to think about it. I should have turned around and run when I had the chance. Instead, I told myself that whatever it took, whatever the price, it was worth it. If he were the goddamned devil himself, it didn’t matter. Just as long as he helped me.
But that was three long weeks ago, and my decision to make a deal with this evil man had bought me nothing but more time to think. Mostly about my fears. Fears I now knew inside and out. Fears that pecked away at the flesh of my soul like hell’s vultures while I sat in a giant empty loft that no one ever visited, with a phone that never rang. Except when he called.
The clock on the wall struck six. The witching hour.
My gaze focused on the doorway, and I willed my unsteady nerves not to feel, not to be awestruck by the tall, supremely masculine figure I expected to find.
I glanced down at my wristwatch, then back at the doorway. Where was he? I pulled a sharpened pencil from the holder—the only other thing on my desk aside from the phone and lamp—and began flicking the unused eraser against my palm.
6:01. My pulse accelerated.
He’d never been late. Not once. Had the evil bastard skipped town without holding up his end of the bargain? It’s not like there was anything in this office he couldn’t leave behind: two desks, two chairs, and two brass lamps. No computers. No mail. No clients. It was unsettling.
“Son of a bitch,” I whispered. We had a deal.
I stared at the goddamned door, willing the sharp angles of his cheeks and his square, broad shoulders to darken it.
I glanced one last time at the clock.
The phone on my lonely desk rang, jolting me in my chair.
My hand shook as I reached for it. “He—hello?”
“It is time, Miss Turner.”
“No. It’s your fucking fairy godmother, Miss Turner. And your wish has been granted.”
I was speechless. Not because of what he said, but because his voice had such a crippling effect on me. In a million years, I’d never be able to articulate how he so rigidly divided my mind from my body. Hate and desire. My two halves sickened by each other.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“As usual, Miss Turner, I find myself questioning the value of our arrangement. One would expect his assistant to possess the ability to speak, at the very fucking least.”
I wanted to tell him that he was the devil. The goddamned devil. Instead, I eked out two tiny words. Two words that I instantly despised myself for saying. They were weak. They were submissive. They were the last things on my mind, yet I said them anyway. “Thank you.”
He laughed, sounding all too pleased. “Be at the airport with your passport in two hours. I’ll email you the itinerary.”
I wanted to ask where we were going, but knew better; he didn’t like questions, and he was giving me what I wanted: help. At least, I hoped.
“And Miss Turner?” he added.
“Pack light. None of those fucking useless heels. Where we’re going, you’ll only need your wits. Anything else is just dead weight.”
The phone clicked.
The angry sound of a busy signal poured through the receiver.
Once again, I found myself wondering who I’d gotten myself mixed up with.
He’s the man who can find anything, Mia. Anything. For a price.
If that was the case, would he find the one thing in this world I couldn’t live without that had been taken from me?
I’d never know if I didn’t go.
~ ~ ~
Four Weeks Earlier. San Francisco.
“Honey, you look a little…pale,” said my mother. Her powder-blue eyes, eyes much like my own, narrowed with suspicion from across my breakfast table. “You’re not coming down with that flu, are you? It’s going around.”
“Fall is always the worst time of year,” added my father, a retired school principal who now spent his days playing golf, fishing, and talking about random, meaningless crap he saw on the news. “They have fifteen new strains already. Fifteen. And none of them are covered by the flu shot.”
“Makes me wonder why we get one every year,” my mother commented as she took a bite of her bagel, our usual Sunday brunch. Although they lived only five blocks away on Nob Hill in a renovated Victorian that had been in the family for over a hundred years, we didn’t see each other much. My advertising job as a Global Campaign Manager kept me on the road a lot.
“Yeah. Makes you wonder,” I added absently, sipping my coffee, a cold sweat building on my brow.
My father went on to talk about the fascinating process for deciding which viruses were picked to be the lucky winners each year or something like that. I stopped listening after the first ten words because my mind was preoccupied with something unimaginably horrific that I’d learned only three minutes prior to my parents’ arrival. Something that would devastate them like it had just devastated me.
Kidnapped…How am I going to tell my parents?
You’re not. This can’t be real.
Besides, who would want to take Justin? My baby brother was the nicest guy on the planet. Ever. He was the sort of person who’d pick up worms off the sidewalk after a good rain and put them somewhere safe.
Who would want to harm him? Justin, of all people?
It wasn’t like Justin and his team were digging up gold treasures down in Mexico; they were excavating ancient pots and plates—crap like that. I remember how excited he was when he’d found a pre-Hispanic button. But were those worth his life?
He’s not dead, Mia. Not yet.
“Honey?” my mother asked. “Mia.” She snapped her fingers and then looked at my father. “I think that blonde hair has gotten to her head.”