Authors: Kelly Moore
BY KELLY MOORE
Copyright 2016 by Kelly Moore. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Edited by Stephanie Alexander
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locals is entirely coincidental.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The view from my office always impresses me, and I’m not easily impressed. I watch the day end, another in a long line of similar workdays. Traces of orange in the sunset, balanced against the dark, metallic Seattle skyline. It’s always the same, yet always different. Predictable, but just interesting enough. Sometimes it seems like that’s my motto in life.
I’m on the fifteenth floor, so I can see the pedestrians scurrying out of their own offices, rushing to get home. Pike’s market is shutting down for the day, no more guys flinging fish. The Ferris wheel lights up, a giant, rotating streetlamp. It’s comforting to watch the city go through its routine, transitioning from day to night. I don’t get up here much anymore. It’s my company, but I have enough people I trust to keep an eye on things here, so I work remotely unless I have to be here. I love this city, but I don’t love the stress of being around other people. I’ve always kept a small circle. It’s easier that way.
My phone buzzes. It’s my secretary. I want to ignore it, but I know Margaret won’t be deterred. She’ll blast through the door if I don’t answer her. I swipe her name on my phone. “Yes, Margaret?”
“Mr. Rylan, did you complete the paperwork on the—“
“Yes. I just finished looking at the last scholarship recipients. Strong candidates this year.”
“Yes, they are. You know this is one of my favorite projects every year. All those young nurses will do so much for so many people. It’s just so nice to work on something so positive! I really liked the application of this one girl, from Sacramento—“
“Yes, I agree,” I said, cutting her off. I didn’t want to talk about it. While I happily provided scholarships for nursing students every year, I didn’t like to think about the reason I’d started the scholarship in the first place. It was too painful. “I’ll send their files over to you in the morning.”
Margaret was used to my gruffness. It didn’t phase her, and she was all business again. “Yes, sir. Of course.”
“Go home. It’s late.”
“As soon as I double check all your conference calls for next week, I will.” Margaret has been working for the company for twenty-five years. She worked for my father, long before I took over operations. She’s a workaholic, like me.
My phone beeps again.” I told you to go home, Margaret.”
“Your last appointment has arrived, sir.”
I swig down a shot of bourbon and loosen my tie. I fly to this office on Mondays for two reasons. First, the board meetings. I could easily tie in via my computer from my office in Utah, but the board insists that I actually show my face. Most of them are older guys. The same age as my father. Some of them even knew him. Not that anyone talks about him anymore. He’s become the family secret no one wants to talk about— even here, within his professional family. His former colleagues. So I show up, listen to the old guy's blab on and on for a couple hours, and then I do as I please anyway. No one complains. After all, I brought this company back from the brink of ruin. I’m only twenty-eight, but they trust my judgment.
The second reason is purely physical. I don’t have time for relationships. I don’t want the drama. And not just run of the mill drama, either. When you’re one of the youngest billionaires in the United States, your drama has big potential consequences. I can’t afford to have someone find out my secrets, and destroy what I’ve worked so hard to build. So I belong to a private club, one that connects me with women who want the same thing. No ties. Every member signs nondisclosures to protect our privacy. No commitments. Only sex.
I’ve been meeting Lisa every Monday night for the last three months. She’s a smart, beautiful businesswoman who has dealt with her share of men who use her for their personal gain. She’s been burnt one too many times, she doesn’t trust easily. At this point, she and I are friends, but there’s no emotional attachment between us. Sometimes we talk business, and help each other out pitching ideas, but tonight she’s here for one reason, and one reason only.
Her high heels click across the polished tile floor. I mix her a dirty martini. She takes it as she sweeps past me, on her way to the door at the back of my office. It leads to a studio apartment. She unties her trench coat. She’s wearing a black leather corset and nothing else, except for those sky high heels. I like the kink that she brings, but she’s also a great submissive in the bedroom.
Her trench coat drops to the floor as I stride toward her. We come together, and I trace her jawline.
“August Ryland,” she whispers. “It’s been too long.”
“It’s only been a week,” I reply.
She looks up at me. “A week is too long.”
My fingers trail down to the curve of her breast. She inhales deeply as I release the constricting eyelets of her corset. Then I take her hand and lead her into my bedroom.
I stop at the coffee shop on the bottom floor of the building. It’s another rainy Friday morning, and the Seattle traffic will be brutal. I ended up having to spend the entire week in Seattle meeting with some potentially big clients. My limo is waiting for me out front, and the doorman escorts me with his umbrella. Fred, the driver who has carted me around for years and carted my father around before me, has the motor running.
I climb in the backseat. The leather crinkles under me. It’s a comforting smell.” Good morning, Fred. How’s traffic looking this morning? I want to get home.”
“Brutal, as usual, sir,” he says. Accident on the interstate. It’s completely shut down. We’ll have to take a detour, so we’ll be late.”
“Damn,” I say. “I really want to get home.”
“Don’t worry, sir. I’ve already notified the pilot. All is well.” He puts the car in drive and chuckles. “With what you pay him, he’s not going anywhere.”
I smile ruefully and thank him. I close the window between us and fumble for my phone in my pants pocket. He is my number one person on speed dial.
“Hey Sam,” I say, “Tell your mom I’m running late, but I will be there.”
The voice on the other line is wildly enthusiastic. One thing I love about Sam—he’s twenty, but he has the exuberance of a kid sometimes. Given his circumstances, that’s particularly admirable. Not many people could retain such positivity after going through his trials.
“Hey! August! We’re looking forward to it, man.”
“Me too, dude. I’ll order pizza when I get there, and Fred got us that new World at War game.”
“Awesome,” he says. “Since as usual, no hot date on a Friday night for me.”
I cringe. “Sam—you can go on a date with anyone you want. Any girl would be—“
He laughs, and I’m reminded of the fact that even though I’ve taken over the big brother role for him, sometimes he seems more mature than I am. “It’s okay, man. All in good time. Tonight, let’s just play some World at War.”
“You got it,” I say, and hang up.
I push the remote that lowers the dividing window.” You have that game, right, Fred?”
He holds up a plastic case. “Just as you asked, sir. I had to go to several stores before I could find one. These kids are obsessed with video games.”
I smile again. Sam and I aren’t exactly kids. We’re just both a little antisocial. Although most would say he has more reason than I do. There’s really no reason for me to seclude myself from the world.
The thought raises all kinds of uncomfortable feelings and memories that I just don’t want to deal with. I read work emails on my phone instead, while
Fred weaves in and out of traffic, cursing at the drivers around us. Somehow, he always manages to get us safely to the airport.
When I board the plane, the pilot greets me as usual and updates me on the weather conditions. I sigh as I settle into my seat with a glass of bourbon. No one else is on the plane. I feel an unfamiliar stab of loneliness. Sometimes I feel like my life is a spinning record that always plays the same song.
The flight to Utah is smooth. It helps when you have your own plane and pilot on standby. I step off the plane and relax as I inhale the fresh Southern Utah air. The sky is blue as far as the mountains will let me see.
My silver Jaguar is waiting for me when I arrive. It’s next year’s model, the F-Type SVR. I design cars that drive themselves, but I love the feel of my hands on the wheel when I’m driving this beast. The private airport is only thirty miles from Moab, and I step on the gas. I turn on the soundtrack from
Phantom of the Opera
and relax for the first time in days.
Despite the music, my mind wonders. At twenty-eight, I have more money than I will ever be able to spend in ten lifetimes. After my mother died, when I was eight, my dad’s life spun out of control. So my Aunt Lauren took over raising me. She made sure the money from my mom’s life insurance policy was spent on the best education money could buy. I know I disappointed her when I dropped out of college my senior year to take over my dad’s failing business. But family is family, and I felt like it was the least I could do for my mother. She had taken a lot of pride in our family’s success.
In the end, everything I did, I did with my mom in the back of my mind. Even if it was too painful to think about how she died. The night my life changed forever.
Nothing was ever the same once she was gone. Dad lost control of the board of directors and left the company in financial ruin. The bastard hid money in offshore accounts and burdened what remained with outstanding attorney bills. But he didn’t care. He was a hollow angry shell of a man. Just existing to breathe, and drink.
I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with my life. I’m the opposite of my father. Everything is ordered and structured. I cannot tolerate any chaos. It’s the only way I know. It keeps me focused, but it also keeps me from being close to anyone. I don’t really, care, however. I’ve never been close to anyone anyway since Mom died. Except for Sam and his mom, Claire. I like spending time with them. They make me feel somewhat normal. My time with them is the best part of my week.
“Where’s the pizza?” Sam says as soon as I walk in the door.
“It will be here in five minutes.” I walk over and put the new game in the PlayStation. I plop down next to Sam on the couch.” This should keep you busy for a while.” I grab a remote.” Did you finish your last test today?”
“Yep, I aced it.” He says. He doesn’t look away from the seventy-inch television.
“Good, you can start working for me soon.”
“Ha, we’ll see about that.” There is a knock at the door.” Pizza is here.” He says.
“Whatever you do, don’t get up.” I laugh.
“I doubt that will be a problem,” he says and laughs with me. At first, I was afraid to mention Sam’s disability. But he’s so open and honest about it, I learned to treat it as lightly as he does.
He always kicks my ass at War Games. “One of these days I am going to beat you,” I tell him.
“In your dreams. You suck at these games.”
I throw the pizza box down on the coffee table and Sam digs in.
“You eat like an animal. How about a paper plate and napkin?” I retrieve them from the cabinet.
“Oh yeah….” He says through a mouth full of food.” Mom is going to be a little later than usual tonight. She’s on a date.” He smiles.
“She knows I like to run a background check on anyone she dates. Did she leave his information for me?”
“Yea, it’s over by my computer. She said not to worry because she already used the program you showed her.”
I check the print out myself. He’s a banker, about ten years older than her. Everything checks out fine on the surface. I jot down a quick note for her.
Good girl for doing your research, but next time you call me first. I want to know you’re safe.
We finish playing around midnight.” We have to get up early tomorrow,” I say.” Do you have everything ready for our climb?”
“I packed all my gear just like you told me. You know mom isn’t happy about us going rock climbing, but I think she worries too much.”
“She worries every time I take you on an adventure. But she knows you’re in good hands with me.”
He says goodnight, and maneuvers his wheelchair from behind the table. I watch him roll down the hallway. The sight always makes my heart hurt. Even if I didn’t cause his accident, I can’t help but feel responsible.
I head to the spare bedroom. I usually come here on Friday evening, ever since I took over Rylan Designs, and I built this house for Sam and Claire, so I know my way around. Sam has all the best physical therapy equipment money can buy, and he has made a lot of progress. Guilt and shame brought me to them, but they gave me comfort and forgiveness. And some semblance of what it feels like to truly care about other people.
Morning comes quickly. The smell of coffee lures me to the kitchen. Claire is cooking breakfast.
“How was your date?” I say with a grin.
She gives me a hug.” It was really fun. I’m glad you approved of my background check.” She hands me a cup of coffee.