I can do it. I can get away with murder.
All I had to do was hide the body. There were a million places in my employer's home to stash it long enough to hop a plane to a country with no extradition treaty… if I had the plane fare and was willing to leave my sick mother behind.
One of six useless bedrooms on the mansion's second floor behind me would do for a temporary grave. If dragging the sinfully good-looking, lean jackass with contoured muscles up there proved impossible, there were four dark corners in his ten-car garage a third of a football field's length away.
We were standing by... Scratch that. I was standing by the saltwater infinity pool. My boss, who had not one business qualifying him as an entrepreneur or gainfully employed—unless you counted socializing as work—was lounging on a six-hundred-dollar deckchair.
To murder him and get away with it, my best chance was dropping him into one of the gigantic potted tree pots surrounding the brown concrete deck. Figuring out how to remove him from the premises would be conjured up later. As he opened his kissable, blush-tinted lips to make life much more complicated than it had to be, I imagined carrying out such a plan.
"Kiyana, I know I said a month ago that I wanted Mylan's French Cuisine to cater my event next Friday, but I've changed my mind."
Of course, he had.
"I want Maria to do a seafood buffet. Lobsters from Maine, shrimp from Jamaica, King crab from Alaska. You know how I like it—the works. The best! Make it happen." He didn't snap his fingers, but he may as well with the way he spat out his orders with a "run along" look.
Mr. Sinclair wanted me to break the news to Maria Fontaine, his well-paid head chef, that he was changing the entire menu for his largest event of the year. She was going to stroke out. Meanwhile, I was already stroking out internally.
Not only did the jackass of our lives change his mind again, but he wanted everything imported from other states, and even some from another country, with one week's notice.
Glaring at the back of his head, I wondered if anyone would miss him if I killed him. He'd be missed by those who frequented California's social scenes of elite parties and expensive clubs but not for long. He was a jerk even amongst the rich and famous.
Mr. Sinclair was tolerated because his father was a billionaire technology mogul, known for eliminating his competition by taking over their companies. Larson Sinclair was the king of making money in California. His son reigned as prince over spending it, and Pasadena's trust fund babies were composed of his friends and girlfriends. Ex-girlfriends, too, come to think of it.
The millionaires in his circle kept him around to have access to his father, and he stupidly ate it up. They'd all just as quickly forget him when the next socialite did something impulsive enough to make the gossip columns or when their parents' net worth eclipsed Larson's. Standards for trumping Mr. Sinclair's spot as revered, royally-rich badass weren't the highest and easy to overcome in their world. A world my mounting debts kept me a part of as a worker, unfortunately.
"I can't make it happen, Mr. Sinclair. Unless we fly there on your jet, it takes two weeks or more for food to be delivered from out of the country to here. We learned this from your last event, remember? You're stuck with the menu you chose through Mylan's… or cold cuts."
Cold cuts would enter his home only if he were dead and buried. His corpse above ground would interfere too. I might as well had told him to streak down the street butt naked. No, the average person would be offended by that. He was a daredevil and untouchable enough in this state to actually do it… and get away with it.
His head, with mish-mash lengths of short hair, slicked back and deceitfully jet-black when soaked in pool water, slowly gravitated in my direction until it looked painful to have his neck twisted like that.
"Then, you're fired, Kiyana." Threatening me through gritted pearly whites while throwing daggers from good-sense reducing, steely-grey eyes happened often and were supposed to make losing this low-paying, awful job bad.
He hoped I'd tremble in my flats and become suddenly able to perform miracles workable by only God.
We played this game every day, going in circles until he accepted his demand wasn't possible.
I wasn't doing that today. I'd already had enough to make me heavily consider killing him, and it was time to go find greener pastures before I actually did.
Stepping up to his side at the glass end table burdened with his tumbler of whiskey, its decanter, and a platter of breakfast fruits and cheeses, I laid my issued iPad on the tabletop. I glared down at him, balling my empty hands up at my thighs.
"How about I do us both a favor and quit since you're even more unreasonable today than yesterday?" That shouldn't have been possible when Mr. Sinclair was an expert at expecting miracles and mistreating me when I couldn't make them happen.
Just yesterday, we faced off over his favorite suit not being available from the cleaners an hour after I had just taken it there. After informing him he could only get that kind of service if he owned the cleaners, he let it go and called Larson. How many people could pick up a phone and urge their father to build a dry cleaner and be taken seriously, simply because he doesn't want to wait more than an hour like regular people?
His world revolved around him, so he thought everyone should move when he said so. So did every other trust fund baby in this city. I had the unpleasant experience of dealing with too many of them. My luck had to be really bad to get stuck with the tough job of bringing the snob before me to harsh reality more than I cared to.
Done with that life, I strutted away from the worst boss ever for the last time. "Fuck that beautiful monster and all of his unreasonable demands. I'm out of here."
"Don’t you dare talk to me like that or walk out on me again,” he yelled after me, “or you’re done in this city everywhere this time!”
“You said that the last time and the time before that. This time, write it down that I was done with you first for good, dammit!”
Moving out of the city where I was born and raised wouldn’t be so bad. I might be able to find somewhere cheaper to live and a better boss who pays more. Willing to take my chances, I kept going.
As I walked away, my senses reveled in Pasadena's classic, gloriously sunny day. The weight of the world, my ex-boss’s world, wasn’t pressing down on my shoulders anymore. A better decision couldn’t have been made than to leave him to track down his own damn seafood.
Let’s see how that turns out.
Storming through the iron gates at the back of the house, I followed a stone walkway leading around the garage. We had done the ‘you’re fired if...’ dance quite a few times. I would tell him I couldn’t meet one of his demands, he would fire me on the spot, and the next morning he would have someone knocking on my door prepared to transport me back to work if I didn’t come on my own.
This time, I wouldn’t return at his insistence.
His rocks and whiskey voice trailed me around the corner. “I’ll give you a short time to calm down, then I expect you to get my food order done. Someone in this bloody city will answer the call and hop to it like you should be doing right now instead of pouting.”
Up went both of my bird fingers in response—unseen since I had rounded the corner already—and my verbal comeback of, “And you can quit saying ‘bloody’ as if you were born in Europe! More like Hell! Going to school abroad for six years doesn’t make you a native!”
Although, the slight accent he picked up at boarding school damn sure made him drool-worthy when he spoke. And when he wasn’t speaking. I’d never admit to either out loud, though. Hell, even in my head was too much.
He laughed loud enough to be heard several yards away. Of course he did. The man was a lunatic, always thinking he was in control of me. I allowed him to believe he was by keeping up the illusion just for the slave wages he paid.
And to think, I thought being around the uber-rich would somehow enhance my life. Wrong! This type of treatment was for the birds, and even birds deserved better.
My boss and everyone he knew was self-centered and atrocious individuals who would never lift a finger—bird nor index—to help another, much less me, who they all looked down upon as the help. No longer accepting that role, I made it unscathed into the garage, which was thankfully left unlocked today.
My 2007 Chevy Impala, on its last legs, sat between his 2023 Bugatti and Lamborghini. Both had millions of dollars worth of custom design.
I seethed in the driver’s seat of my car that barely valued four grand while looking at the material things he loved. He would die stiffer than hell if something happened to his beloved cars, but he couldn’t care less that I had a mother who deserved to live. She wouldn’t because his kind owned the pharmacies here and believed human longevity should come at a hefty price. One so steep that I’d never be able to afford even a small medicine bottle that would extend her life. I definitely couldn’t afford it if he blackballed me from working in Pasadena as anyone else’s assistant, which he was not above doing.
“People like him should feel what the little people go through in a world amongst self-proclaimed giants,” I spat, then realized I had a rare moment to make an untouchable like him feel my pain.
He should experience the burn of losing something he treasured.
I put my car in reverse in a split second, cutting the wheel too soon on purpose and backed up in a hurry. Better to do it now than not at all.
My front end plowed into the driver’s side of his Lamborghini. The back end mowed down the passenger side of his Bugatti. My much older and harder car shoved them to the side in a mangled heap of parts, much like how the monsters left the little people in their wake.
Laughing like a maniac, it felt damn good to have ruined something for him like he did to almost all my days and nights in his employ.
The thrill of giving one spoiled bastard a taste of his own medicine lasted until smoke billowed from under my smashed hood as I reversed into the lane, moving as slow as a turtle.
Temporary insanity fled as the urge to escape overtook me. It looked like that was the last thing I’d be doing. Mashing the gas pedal to the floor didn’t bring the desired results. Instead of shooting forward, the engine clunked loudly and then shut off.
Panicking, I tried cranking the car again. It sat quietly.
I banged my fists on the wheel and howled, “No, no!”
I was in trouble way faster than I should’ve been.
Retribution stepped through the open garage and stopped at the hood of my car to block my path. I stared at Mr. Sinclair through the dusty windshield. Money was too tight to have it cleaned regularly and time too low to do it for myself.
“Kiyana,” he drawled with a soft bite to each syllable of my name.
Sticking my head out the rolled-down driver’s side window, I lied through my teeth, “It was an accident.”
“I don’t think so. Most people stop once they realize they’ve hit two bloody damn CARS!” His roar filled the garage with more square footage than my apartment.
There had been no stopping after my collision with his treasures. The cameras mounted in almost every nook and cranny of the estate would prove that.
Still, I got a strange satisfaction from seeing him lose his shit. His unraveling calmed me, which was even more bizarre. Who was really the lunatic here?
Unsure of the answer, I knitted my fingers at my stomach, prepared to stay right where I was as I should. “You should call the cops and make a report. I have insurance.”
He should count his lucky stars that I had auto insurance. It wasn’t like he paid me enough to live in California and afford to operate a car. It took a lot of financial aerobics to stretch my paychecks and my mother’s disability stipend to the max to get the bare necessities.
Perfect clarity of mind resuming, I thanked God for my car breaking down when it did, preventing me from doing something else stupid. Fleeing the scene would’ve racked up a slew of felony charges. Had I gotten away, I would have only avoided prosecution for about five minutes.
I could just see it now. One of my ex-boss’s family lawyers throwing the book at me like a hardened criminal. The legal repercussions wouldn’t have been worth it once I reached the other end of the driveway where I’d meet not a bus or ready-to-hail cab but a long, winding road through hills filled with menacing wildlife that would get me way before the judge’s book did.
Neighboring homes were spaced at least a mile apart and occupied, so they were not the best places to hole up from the law.
Luckily, all I had to face was Mr. Sinclair’s bark and the bite of my insurance premiums rocketing sky-high. I recognized the latter would be my atonement—a severe one possibly lasting until I retired—for the great lapse in judgment.
How will you pay for your mother’s medicines and get her into an assisted living, eating through money like a cookie monster with no job?
To hell if I knew, but seeing his face right now was worth it. His olive, butter-smooth complexion was blood-infused, lips in a thin white line and nostrils flaring. His expression of righteous indignation, which I had caused him for a change, was a heavenly sight to me.
Heaven knew a pleasant anything was scarce in my life.
Mr. Sinclair approached the driver’s side of my car on stealthy bare feet that were masculine yet neatly maintained and had earned long glances from me when I first started working for him. I foolishly thought he was the most gorgeous thing I had seen back then.
He still was, only on the outside, where it didn’t count.
“As if any insurance you have can cover the full repair costs for any car I own. Remember, I pay you,” he remarked.
“Paid as in past tense, and it wasn’t enough for dealing with you,” I rebutted.
He pointed at the red sports car. “And you better take your job back because the back fender alone on the Bugatti is twenty-two thousand. Just ask Tracy Morgan if you don’t believe me. I do believe you met him at one of my parties.”
I had, and my mouth gaped open. “Twenty-two thousand for a fucking FENDER!!!” came out as a screech.
The bastard grinned like he enjoyed seeing me lose my shit, and he knew my policy covered up to and not past twenty-five grand in damages. The cut-rate fee I paid was still huge to my puny budget, and I went and did this. What the hell was I thinking?
I wanted to share my pain. I just didn’t think it all the way through clearly. My great lapse in judgment wasn’t so wonderful or worth it now. The pleasure of the moment sure as hell didn’t last long enough.
While I descended into a pit of despair, his smile grew sinister. He stalked quietly down my side of the car, bending over to fold his arms along the window sill of my door. “Twenty-two thousand for a bloody fender, yes. But that will only begin the needed repairs.”
“Fuuuuck,” released from me on a long exhale as I tipped my head back, closing my eyes and silently praying to all the Gods listening to let him be gaslighting me about the fender’s cost or for rescue from my own stupidity. It didn’t matter which one they answered as long as they came through for me.
“And we will fuck,” rumbled up from his chest. “It’s just a matter of when, where, and how long I deem it if you don’t want to be on the defendant’s side of a courtroom.”
His words sunk in like a load of shipping containers dropped on me. Prayer halted, my eyes popped open, and my stomach tumbled endlessly for several reasons. Most of them, I wouldn’t dare entertain the cause. There was no time when the stark fear of living on the streets with my sickly mother pumped through my veins.
Yanking my whole body in his direction until we were face to face, I yelped, “What does a courtroom and fucking you have to do with the cars? Why would you even slum it to fuck me? I’m not your type, and I just need to give you money out of my pocket for the damages.”
Money I didn’t have. What a fucking joke. I figured I must’ve been trying to imitate comedian Tracey Morgan by even putting my name and money in the same sentence.
Obviously getting the joke, Mr. Sinclair’s grin deepened. His gray peepers inflamed the skin on my face as they roamed over it, coming to a stop on my mouth.
“You don’t have money, but I will sue that perfect ass of yours for everything you’ve got, your family has, along with what either of you don’t have, and what all of you will have in the future. Since it’s obvious your insurance can’t cover the damages to my car, it’s a good thing I’m willing to let you make this right, isn’t it?”
On my back, of course.
That he thought my ass was perfect slid right into a compartment in the back of my mind for examination later. Right now, what little present and future financial stability I had needed to be defended.
Nails digging into the soft gray cloth covering my door, I lowered myself to plead, “But I….” I let that sentence trail off.
He knew I had nothing or no one besides my mother. My plea would fall on deaf ears. There was no point in going there, but one other thing he mentioned most certainly needed to be addressed.
“You can’t proposition me to sleep with you. It’s blackmail and just downright unethical,” I state indignantly.
Did I say unethical?
Who did I think I was talking to?
He was the essence of unethical. Accusing him of it wouldn’t help anything.
I was fucked, literally, and it was my fault for not taking the win when I quit. Nobody would work as hard for him as I had. That, alone, gave me the upper hand. He knew that. God did too. I should’ve remembered.
Due to my impulsiveness, the devil I knew could take advantage of me not being able to produce a single red cent outside the insurance I carefully managed to pay in case of moments like this. Moments that were supposed to happen by accident, not due to bad decisions made in the heat of a disagreement.
I was no better than Mr. Sinclair.
To make matters worse, he employed lawyers just as monstrous as him. They would come after the shirt on my back, which would be easy to do with the footage on his surveillance system painting a pretty picture in high definition of my crazed moment.
I would reap what I had sown one way or the other. It was just a matter of taking the least painful way out, which was to continue to work for him and fuck him on command. I rejected both thoughts. Neither sounded appealing.
Taking a deep breath, I mentally prepared myself to step willingly into his trap, surely lined with spikes, likely no way out or even a light to guide me through the abysmally long, pitch-black tunnel waiting for me.
I mumbled the words that would seal my fate. “What do you want me to do, Mr. Sinclair?”
I didn’t really want to know the answer, but there was my mother to think about. Furthermore, I would get the answer anyway because ruining my days was how Mr. Sinclair thrived.
He leaned in close enough for his whiskey and strawberry-laced exhale to fan my face. “For starters, you can stop calling me Mr. Sinclair. Say my name, Kiyana.”
That may have seemed like a small thing to ask anyone else. But by doing away with the barriers only formalities could erect, he was eliminating the distance I had painstakingly placed between us over the years. Evidently, he knew those barriers were there and planned to tear them down one by one.
I heard the figurative doors of his trap slam behind me, locking me in his proximity and control as his breath mingled with mine. Sucking up his carbon monoxide and staring into his irises brought on a major case of euphoria and exhilaration I hadn’t experienced since my first week of work for him. His nearness drowned me back then until I realized how big an ass he was. My lust for him had become an unwanted, constant companion.
Putting up mental and physical walls like humongous potted plants was a must to block his effect on me. Personal space was my savior in his presence.
Being locked in anything with him, whether professional, personal, or a simple stare-off, was bad for my health. All three combined would certainly bring disaster, even though his closeness was magnetizing.
“Say. My. Name, Kiyana,” he restated, imposing his will over me.
A wave of anger, so intense a category five hurricane seemed mild in comparison, bombarded me. Who wanted to be commanded, used, then discarded?
That might be some people’s thing, but it sure as hell wasn’t mine, especially when it concerned him. I had a deep-seated sense of self-preservation and could only imagine how he would mishandle my body and mangle my heart.
Not built to be his or anyone else’s plaything, I promised myself that whatever he dragged me into wouldn’t last long. I would find a way to escape, even if I had to kill him. A dead Cannon was probably another frivolous idea. Just as frivolous as ramming into his cars. I would have to plan my next move meticulously to make sure I got away with my name clear.
Moistening my lips that had dried under his fixation on my mouth, I gave him what he wanted. I hissed his name. “Cannon.”
“Thank you.” His smile blossomed until it rivaled the brightness of a solar flare.
And, oh, how I hated that his smile charmed and tormented me at once.
I opened her door like the gentleman I’d only ever be for her. “Let’s go in the house, Kiyana. We have a lot of things to work out.”
Mumbling something that sounded a lot like ‘you’ll rue the fucking day you were born after this’ beneath her breath, she stretched out one shapely, mile-long leg coated in caramel-colored flesh. Instead of acknowledging her threat, my palms itched to run up her supple thigh, bared by the rise of a black-knee skirt. Her other leg exited the car. Paired together, the sight of her gorgeous limbs took half the air out of my lungs.
Her feet encased in pleather ballerina shoes—she’d never afford real leather on her salary—set down on the concrete soundlessly. Eyes filled with bitter fury cut through me like a saw through wood. “I’d think you’d been planning this for a while because it took you no time to take advantage of the situation…Cannon.”
Smirking, I shut her door and took the lead, retracing my steps out of the garage. “I never could have imagined you’d wreck my cars, but I’ve been waiting for something to give me this advantage. I have more patience than you can imagine.”
“Why have you been waiting for something like this to happen?” she grunted behind me, no doubt throwing imaginary daggers at my spine and most likely mentally calling me a liar about having patience.
“All will be revealed in time, darling,” I answered vaguely, hoping to heighten the passionate anger already blazing inside her and get her to react to me.
I despised it when she went passive. This time when she exploded, I intended to take her in my arms and staunch the explosion with my own passion. Of course, she robbed me of that by not responding as if she knew that was what I craved. She would detonate for me in due time. After all, we were headed to my bedroom to discuss the details of her future.
Her presence felt like a brewing storm behind me, a flashpoint for everyone in her path but aimed directly at me. Certain that whatever she threw at me—hot words or hot lava—could be tamed, I reflected on the last two years, forty-eight long months and twenty days she worked for me. It was an excruciating wait to snare this woman in a trap that would end with her delectable body in my arms.
I didn’t know it would take the ruin of two of my favorite possessions, but I’d been so desperate to get her where I wanted her. It didn’t matter which one of the traps I’d set had worked. My circle wasn’t known for patience, compassion, or fighting fair, and my control over her income should have given me the edge faster.
Keeping her pay at a few dollars above the cost of living in Pasadena was supposed to have her asking things of me that I could, in turn, demand payment of my choosing. Unlimited access to her time would’ve been my first stipulation until she realized how good we could be together. How I’d do anything for her. How much I loved her. However, my upper hand over her finances never netted any of the desired advantages.
“Nothing to say, Kiyana,” I taunted, following the cool stone of the curving walkway up the side of the garage.
“All will be revealed in due time,” she patronized. “Isn’t that what you just said?”
“Yes, that’s bloody well what I said,” I grumped back at her, adding, “...but you forgot to add ‘darling’ at the end.” She didn’t hear the latter, which was spoken for my ears only.
Turning my words on me was just as frustrating as her passiveness. Both were efficient weapons in an arsenal that kept me at a distance from a formidable opponent in a battle of wills that she didn’t know she was in.
She was underneath my skin, and I wanted to be under hers with a vengeance. Fair play, right?
Well, damn fair play. I wanted to take things a step further and make her lose control while I was in her skin. I wanted to be the only one to take her to places she’d never been before in and out of the bedroom.
As we approached the poolside, I snagged the whiskey decanter and a clean glass from their tray and headed to the back French doors that opened into the kitchen.
The drink wasn’t for me. After I made my demands for her time, her body, her everything, Kiyana would need it. Imagining the ways I’d make her scream my name while she came had me smiling evilly.
She was at my mercy, finally. It cost me damage to two posh cars, but it was worth it.