Authors: Cindy Stark
A Retribution Novel
By Cindy Stark
Banished © 2014 C. Nielsen
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This ebook is a work of fiction. The names,
characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or
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resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations
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lso by Cindy Stark
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Violet Murphy crept up the back stairwell and
slipped into her father’s empty office in the industrial area located in the
outskirts of Denver. She’d chosen midday to visit because most employees would
be on their lunch break and wouldn’t see her in that area of the building. She
had no idea who was trustworthy or who would tattle on her to her brother.
Her brother, Kenneth, would be at the hospital
with her dad. She should have plenty of time to investigate her father’s claims
and determine if her brother had indeed involved the company in something
illegal after her father had taken ill, or if it was only her father’s meds
With sadness cradling her thoughts, she glanced
around at the familiar objects that had accumulated from a lifetime of her
father spending most of his hours at work. She ran a hand over the smooth
cherrywood desk and sank into his overstuffed leather chair.
After all these years, he’d finally allowed her
entrance into the inner sanctum that was Murphy Shipping. Not that she hadn’t
been in his office a million times since she was a little girl. But this time,
her father had invited her to participate in the running of the company.
Something she’d longed for forever.
When Kenneth found out, he would be livid.
She turned on her dad’s computer and waited for
the desktop to load.
“Violet, dear? What are you doing?”
She startled, her body automatically preparing to
fight. But it was only her father’s assistant.
. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
She put a hand to her chest.
“Same here.” The dyed-blond woman stepped farther
into the office looking as trim and as polished as she had for the past
twenty-five years she’d worked for Murphy Shipping. “I heard voices and
wondered who had snuck in. Kenneth’s at the hospital with your dad, and no one
else is supposed to be in here.”
Emotion crept to the surface, and she cleared her
throat. “Dad told me last night he wants me more involved with the company.
He’s worried about Kenneth and some of his recent choices. Do you know anything
about it?” Ellen would have access to far more information than she did. Her
tiny office in the far corner of the building kept her pretty well out of the
loop, not to mention she was out of the office quite often looking for new
“I’m not even sure what I’m looking for, but Dad
did say he doesn’t want to leave Kenneth solely in charge.”
Ellen stared at her for a moment and then broke
into a grin. “Hallelujah, girl. I’ve been telling him for years you had
untapped potential, but I think he has a hard time seeing a woman as anything
other than a secretary or a wife. Plus, you’re his sweet, little girl, not a cutthroat
businesswoman. It’s too bad he had to wait until he can’t be around to enjoy
Violet nodded, trying to keep emotion from closing
her throat. “I never wanted to be that girl, you know. The symbol of his
success, the one he showered with gifts and money, and talked about to his
friends. I could have learned so much more from him if he would have let me in.”
“I think he was afraid to, Violet, afraid to love
someone that deeply after your mother died.”
She snorted. “That sounds tragic and lovely, but
he didn’t seem to have the same problem with his son.”
“Don’t be so sure.” Ellen moved farther into the
room, closing the door behind her. She drew closer until she stood at the side
of the desk where Violet had seen her standing so many times during the years.
“He might have given Kenneth a bigger role in the company, but he kept his
emotional distance from him as well.”
“You can’t make this better, Ellen. Up until this
latest setback, he golfed with Kenneth every week. They held meetings together
while they relegated me to working on the website and brochures. If I wanted to
do something for the company, they sent me out of the office. Don’t tell me he
treated us the same.”
She put a hand on her shoulder. “I didn’t say he
treated you the same, only that Kenneth’s relationship with him wasn’t as
perfect as you seem to think it was.”
Lifelong frustrations surfaced, and she shook her
head, blinking back the tears. “I wanted him to be proud of me. To see me. To
see what I’m capable of and give me the chance to show him. Now he’s…” She
hated that she craved his approval.
“He’s not gone yet, dear. Just because he might
not make it back in the office, doesn’t mean he won’t hear of your
accomplishments. Trust me on that one. You’ve learned despite the roadblocks,
and I’m damn proud of you. Your father is too even if he doesn’t say it.
Believe me when I say he wouldn’t have given you partial control if he didn’t
think you were capable.”
“Thank you. What would I do without you?” She
stood and hugged her father’s secretary and long-time lover. Ellen was the
closest thing she’d had to a mother since her mom died ten years ago during
Violet’s first year in high school, and Violet owed her immensely for
constantly encouraging her to reach for new heights.
She swiped a tissue from the credenza and handed
it to Violet. “What did Kenneth say about your father’s recent decision?”
That was the kicker. “He’s going to tell him
today. I’m sure it won’t go well.” Violet and her brother had been at odds
since she could remember. She would forever be the tagalong, the person who
held him back.
Ellen blew out a breath. “That’s not a
conversation I’d like to hear.”
“Me, either.” Violet shook her head in agreement.
“I suppose your father will tell me all about it
when I head over there later on.” She straightened some papers on the desk and
gave Violet a sad smile. “I’m sure you have things to do. I’ll let you get to
them. Can I bring you some coffee?”
This had to be so difficult for her as well. “I’m
good Ellen. Thank you. For everything.”
The older woman left, shutting the office door
With a sigh, Violet clicked on a financial
spreadsheet and entered the password.
The words surprised her. She tried the password
again and received the same response. She frowned and glanced at her father’s scratchy
writing on the slip of paper. She’d entered it correctly, unless she was
mistaking her father’s twos for zees.
She tried it that way as well with no success.
Maybe he’d given her an old password.
Or maybe Kenneth had changed it. She wouldn’t put
it past him. He’d been eager to take over the company since her father’s doctor
had first diagnosed him.
She stared at the damn box on the computer screen
demanding a correct password. Fine. The system could win…for now.
She scrolled through the list of files trying to
open several others with no success. Why did her brother feel the need to
change everything so soon? Could her father be right? Had Kenneth become
involved with shifty people?
Her gaze snagged on a file titled Other Accounts.
That was new. The creation date was shortly after her father’s doctor had admitted
him to the hospital this last time, and she knew of no reason they’d need to keep
some accounts in a separate folder.
Of course, it wouldn’t open either.
The resentful part of her wanted to tell her
father to forget it. He wanted a watchdog now that he couldn’t be that person,
so he’d give her a chance, but he should have let her be involved all along. If
she didn’t love their company so much, from the contracts to the big semis that
rolled down the road with their company logo on them, she would have told him
to stick it, but it was as much her lifeblood as her father’s.
If Kenneth intended to follow her father’s dream
and see them expand into overseas shipping, she wanted to be involved in every
step. She’d learned their business the hard way, but she knew it as well as
anyone, and she wouldn’t let her brother drag it into the mud with questionable
Too many people’s jobs, as well as her livelihood,
were on the line. She’d stick her head in every crack and corner, which would
piss off her brother, but she didn’t care. She had as much right to Murphy
Shipping as he did.
Suspicion encouraged her to pull a flash drive
from her father’s desk and copy the Other Accounts file along with several
others including their financial spreadsheets. She’d ask her father first before
she confronted Kenneth, and then she’d shake things until all hell broke loose.
The files on her flash would ensure he couldn’t delete anything.
The phone in her pocket rang, and guilt slapped
her when she saw Kenneth’s name on the screen. He’d be furious if he knew she’d
snooped. Ultimately, she’d have to say something, but she wanted to have her
ducks in a row first.
“Hello?” she said into her phone.
“Yes?” she said when he didn’t continue.
Violet sat next to her father’s casket, enough
tears and emotions spent for the day to fuel one of their big semi trucks. The
quiet, serene atmosphere of the funeral home was a balm to her raw, aching
spirit. She’d expected her father to walk her down the aisle one day, not to bury
him before he’d turned sixty.
Most of the people attending the viewing the night
before his funeral had come and gone, leaving only a few stragglers. In another
ten minutes when the viewing was officially over, she could go home and lose
herself in a hot bath and a glass of wine. Maybe two.
She glanced at her brother across the room. Tall,
with dark hair like hers, he looked like a respectable man. But looks could
“Hey, baby. Sorry about your dad.”
Violet shifted her gaze to find Detective Brian
Haskell standing next to her. His strong aftershave overwhelmed her senses,
making her cough. Her brother had grown up with the local sheriff’s son, and he
continued to foster a relationship with him and his buddies.
Haskell had hit on her since she’d been sixteen,
never coming up with anything new besides his creepy come-ons. The man made her
skin crawl. Always had. Always would.
?” He’d long since worn out
her inclination to be kind.
He rolled his eyes. “Come on, Violet. You know we
Was he seriously coming on to her right now? “That
will never happen.”
“Give me one night with you, and I’ll prove it.”
He lifted his brows in a suggestive gesture.
She stood and took a step back. “God, Haskell. You
make me sick. You do realize my dead father is lying right next to us.”
He glanced at the casket and then back to her, his
eyes hard with rejection. “Doesn’t matter. You’d be a cold-hearted bitch either
way.” He turned and sauntered to where her brother stood.
She sank into her chair, her insides shaking with
fury. She had no idea how her brother could have remained friends with such
Kenneth shook hands with Haskell, nodding to
whatever the asshole said to him.
A moment later, a dark-haired, olive-complexioned
man joined them and they began what looked to be a serious conversation,
punctuated by a few smiles from her brother as he gestured to them about something.
It bothered her that he took her father’s passing so well.
Perhaps he’d shed his tears in private.
Suddenly, the men all glanced in her direction,
leaving her uncertain and awkward. Kenneth lifted his hand in a wave and sent a
smile in her direction. Uncertain how to respond, she repeated his gesture. No
doubt they were talking about her…but why?
The men left a few moments later and her brother
joined her, taking the vacant seat next to hers. The only people left in the
room were two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while who seemed
preoccupied with their own conversation.
“We need to talk,” Kenneth said in hushed tones.
“Who was that man who joined you and Haskell, and
why were you all looking at me?” She knew what her brother wanted to discuss,
but now was not the time.
“Business associate,” he answered.
“I’ve never seen him before. What’s his name?”
Kenneth shifted in his seat, his gaze edgy and
annoyed. “What difference does it make?”
“I won’t know the answer to that until you tell me
who he is. Dad gave me equal control over the company, Kenneth, so I have the
right to know who we’re dealing with.”
to give you equal control.
He died before he could make that
Asshole. He took great satisfaction in putting her
down every chance he had. “
. He told me he spoke with the lawyers last
week. It’s already a done deal.” She couldn’t help but enjoy the oh-shit look
that crossed his face.
“Fuck,” he whispered under his breath, sending her
an angry glare. “I don’t have time for this shit. When Dad told me his
intentions, I didn’t realize he’d already finalized it.”
She compressed her lips, taking a moment to
swallow her initial retort. “I guess you’re stuck with me now. Like always.”
“You’re wasting time, Violet. We both know you’re
not capable of handling the business, that’s why Dad never gave you any real
His barb dug deep into her insecurities, and she
thrust a mental sword to fight it. “Obviously, he realized his mistake.”
“Or he was too high on meds to truly think about
. She glared at him. “It doesn’t
matter. He made his choices, and you’ll have to live with them.”
Kenneth exhaled and softened his features.
“Violet, be reasonable. You don’t have to give up your shares in the business.
Just sign over control to me. You’ll keep your new salary, and this way will
give you more time to shop for shoes.”
She inhaled and let it out slowly, trying to keep
her temper contained.
“What’s the matter, Kenneth? Are you afraid I’ll
delve a little too deeply into the company records and find out what you’re
really up to?” She smiled when an uncertain glint lit in his eyes. “Dad feared
you’d ventured into dangerous territory, and I’m starting to wonder if he was
right. I’m not going to turn over control to you, and I sure as hell am not
going to let you ruin Dad’s company.”
“Damn it, Violet. You have no idea what you’re
talking about.” The muscles in his jaw flexed, and she knew she’d pushed him
toward his limit. But he’d pushed her, too, cornering her while her grief still
had a raging heartbeat.
“Just sign the damn papers and let life continue.”
She stood, her own irritation and anger spurting
through her veins, replacing the sadness. “Dad would roll over in his grave if
he could see you now, except
he’s not even in the ground yet
Kenneth pushed off his chair and straightened,
towering over her by a good six inches. “Haskell’s right. You’re a bitch. A
greedy, conniving, selfish bitch.”
She recoiled, surprised by the depth of his anger.
“Wanting to make sure the company runs the way Dad wanted it does not make me a
bitch. He was worried you’d jump into risky ventures, and you know it. I find
it disgusting that you’re pushing ahead with it before we’ve buried him. He
told me to watch out for you. Even with his compromised health, he knew
something was wrong.”
Give me my goddamn business, Violet
It’s not only yours
,” she shot back. “I
know you’ve put your heart into it, but I have too, whether you’ll acknowledge
that or not. Why do you think he gave me fifty percent of the company? Why not
leave me money equal to shares and give it all to you? I’ll tell you why.
You’ve made some rash decisions in the past. Dad didn’t completely trust you. Talk
to our attorney. Have him read the entire will. I can’t resign my control for
at least a year, and I’ll be honest. I don’t think I’ll ever give it up. You
might think I’m out to get you, but I love Murphy Shipping. It’s my life, too.”
Kenneth blanched as he cursed under his breath. “
? I can’t wait a fucking year.”
“Did you not hear me? Even after a year, I won’t
want to give it up.” A shiver raced over her. Her dad had made her promise to
be strong, and she wouldn’t let him down. “There’s nothing you can do.”
He stared at her for several hard moments, heated
anger blazing in his eyes while his pulse pounded furiously against his neck.
“We’ll see about that.”
He strode from the room, leaving her standing
alone with her dead father and a huge battle looming on her horizon. She
glanced at her dad’s lifeless shell, so fragile, so still without the energetic
and powerful soul thriving inside. He’d placed her in a hell of a predicament.
Her father had known Kenneth would lash out at the
restraints, but maybe he’d underestimated her brother’s level of determination.
Her father had said he’d hoped it would give the company stability as well as
bring her and her brother closer together, which she should have argued. They’d
never been close, and her dad’s last decisions destroyed any chance they would
be in the future.
She was certain Kenneth would go to their attorney
and most likely take her to court to fight for the right to control the
company, but it was pointless. The deed was done, and he couldn’t do anything about
* * *
Violet parked on the quiet street in front of the
townhouse apartment she’d rented on the west side of town. By the time she arrived
home after her father’s viewing, the sun had taken its last breath for the day,
leaving the shadows to play.
She’d replayed her conversation with Kenneth repeatedly
on the drive home. Each time she did, her apprehension grew until it formed a
hard ball of anxiety that occupied her stomach. Maybe the emotional events of
the day had overwhelmed them both. Maybe he’d be more reasonable tomorrow. For
her father’s sake, she’d try talking to him again after the funeral. There had
to be a way they could work together if her brother could lighten up and
relinquish complete control. It wasn’t as if she’d say no to anything reasonable
and legal. As for his questionable activities, he’d better think twice before
putting himself and the company at risk.
Violet stepped from her car into the crisp
September air, loving the way it sharpened the night. The summer heat had been
unusually hot that year, and she welcomed the cooler temps.
Her footsteps echoed on the pavement as she made
her way toward the front door. She lived in an older area of town, and most of
her neighbors had turned in early, which suited her just fine. She enjoyed the
solitude if she stepped out for an evening walk.
She stopped to pull her keys from her purse. Before
she could find them, a gloved hand covered her mouth.