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 часть  #3 серии  Stern Family Saga

 

Art of War
 


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Art of War


  Art of War

  A Stern Family Saga Book 3

  Monique Orgeron

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Blurb

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Epilogue - Part 1

  Epilogue - Part 2

  Connect with Monique

  More to come…

  Prologue for Art of Loyalty

  About the Author

  Copyright © 2018

  Monique Orgeron

  All rights reserved.

  In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no scanning, uploading, electronic sharing, copying, or reproduction of any part of this book can be done without written permission of the author.

  This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, and incidents came from the author's imagination.

  References to real people, organizations, establishments, or locations are only to provide a sense of authenticity, they are used fictitiously. And never in a malicious way.

  Formatting and cover art by Erica Alexander @ https://serendipityformats.wixsite.com/formats

  Acknowledgments

  I want to thank my family first and foremost. They might have complained about not having a home cooked meal every night while I was writing, but they made sure to show their support and express their love for me every step of the way.

  My husband is my life and his love is what allowed me to do this. My two daughters have made me feel as though they are as proud of me as I am of them.

  To my sister-in-law, Shawna, thank you for giving me the courage to share my first story with you, then the world.

  Thank you to Dawn Lucous, my comic relief and alpha reader.

  Thank you to my Beta Readers, Suzanne McGovern, Chasidy Renee and Charlotte Coles. You ladies are the best.

  To Laura, who helped me with details I could not decide on.

  To Karen Boston who did my editing. She was extremely patient with me.

  Thanks to Erin Toland who also worked graciously on the editing of my book.

  To Erica Alexander, from Serendipity Formats for all the help.

  Finally, thank you to my readers. It has been a rollercoaster ride, but with all the encouragement, I was able to see my dream fulfilled.

  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I hope you all enjoy my books!

  Blurb

  War is inevitable, but who will win?

  The minute Murphy Larussa stepped foot in New Orleans, her life changed forever.

  Murphy was meant to remain in the shadows, hidden from prying eyes, like any good bastard.

  She finds herself hunted by a dangerous family for a debt she has no knowledge of.

  Everyone wants her gone, but they underestimate her. She refuses to allow them to push her back into obscurity. From now on, everyone will know her name because she is here to stay and claim what is rightfully hers.

  There will be a war, one Murphy is hell bent on winning!

  Sent on a hunt for a person who owes his family, Zander will not stop until he has his man.

  How was he to know who he would find?

  Murphy Larussa is not what any of them saw coming.

  So unexpected, she’s the only woman to ever bring the great Zander Stern to his knees.

  Now he will do anything to protect her, even if that means protecting her from his own family.

  Everyone wants a war.

  He will give them one, but this is a war he plans on winning!

  Prologue

  War.

  It’s what I’ve done my whole life.

  In the beginning, I lost every battle I fought. Until one day I woke up and decided my life had to change, I needed to win.

  From that day forward, I would fight my battles from the front lines.

  I learned to control my position to gain the upper hand. I grew stronger and smarter. I became empowered and never looked back.

  From then on, I pitied the ones who would want to battle against me. I, Catherine Stern, would bend or break for no man or woman ever again.

  Exceptions might have to be made, but on my terms. No one else’s.

  My whole life, I struggled and endured so one day my children would never have to. I became the most feared person in the state of Louisiana.

  My sons will have a road paved for them on my struggles, but on others’ blood.

  People might have forgotten the girl I used to be, but every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of how far I came and where I will never return.

  Catherine Stern

  1

  Murphy

  It’s been a long day. I’m tired and grouchy. My day is finished, though, so I’m ready to leave for home. Working for my mother’s business is something I never wanted, but it was thrust upon me. My mother raised me to be smart, brave, and strong. She also planned on having me take over her business when I graduated from college. If I knew for sure this was where I had no other choice but to be, I wouldn’t have wasted all my time in an Ivy League college. No one ever plans on going to Brown to become the operating manager of a gentlemen’s club. Mind you, it is one of the finest gentlemen’s clubs around, but nonetheless, it’s still a strip club.

  Cherry’s, named after my mother, is a full-scale gentlemen’s club. We supply our customers with the best of the best. We offer the best atmosphere and only top shelf alcohol to our loyal patrons, something that has always helped us acquire the best and richest clientele. Men from all over the country reserve our tables months before showing. We also have the finest – and I mean the finest – women around, some coming from other states just for a chance to work and dance at the famous Cherry’s.

  I will say, though, my job might be underneath where I originally saw myself, but it is definitely challenging. The over-demanding clients and tight scheduling between our events are rigorous. One of my most important jobs is to make sure when we have certain clients entertaining, we don’t have other important clients stepping in on their
territory. It’s all a fine balance. Did I mention the never-ending balancing of the girls’ territories? If I have to hear any more bitching about how one girl is performing for a client another one wants, I will strangle one of them. And lastly, but the most challenging, is the very handsy clients thinking they have a shot with me. Fat chance; my mother didn’t raise an idiot. She raised me in this business, and I have seen way too much to ever fall for the bullshit that runs rapidly out of all our clients’ lying mouths.

  I think I’ve heard it all. I wish I had a dollar for the number of hands I have had on my ass, thinking I’m easy because I run this establishment or simply because I am the daughter of the famous Cherry.

  My mother was one of the best strippers in her day. She was well known all over the country. Men would flock to her, and still do. She might not be the young stripper she used to be, but damn, she still has all her curves, still in all the right places. And those luscious curves were passed down to me. I am a walking younger version of my mother, except for my eyes; my baby blues belong to my sperm donor. He’s a subject I refuse to discuss, and everyone stopped asking about him a long time ago, including me.

  Walking through the club, my mind is on my damn heels, which are killing my feet. I can’t wait to get home to soak my feet in a nice, long, hot bath. I make my final pass through the club and meet Joe, our head of security, at the back door.

  “Bye, Joe. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good night.”

  “Goodnight, Murph. Be careful going home.”

  “Will do. You too.”

  Joe locks the door for me and watches me get in my car to head out. He’s been working here a long time, ever since I was just a teenager. Mom had me helping the girls in the back with costumes and props. I also did stocking and kept inventory. She always had me working for her in one way or another. She taught me everything, including the dancing. Thank God that’s a part of my education I will never have to use, but it has come in handy with keeping my weight down. Just like my mother, I am very curvy, full double D breasts, with wide hips and a large round ass. I’m not tiny by any means, but I’m not overweight either, just full-figured. My mom says we have an hourglass figure. Hourglass? Ha! It’s a nice way of saying we are not a size zero or even a size four. So, what? So my thighs might actually touch, who cares? I am beautiful, and there are plenty of men who appreciate a curvy woman. As far as my size in clothes goes, I don’t even know what size I would be; most of my grown-up life, my clothes have been custom made for me by my best friend. It’s so hard to find clothes off the rack to fit me. Something wide enough to go over my hips and ass but small enough to fit my waist is a curse and a blessing. At least I don’t have to worry about wearing something every other woman can buy. Which is good because my style is more old school, like Mad Men style-type dresses, always tight and fitted to show off my body in a classy way.

  2

  Murphy

  Arriving at home, I go straight to my bedroom and strip out of my clothes and my damn heels. Heels are another blessing and curse; they hurt like hell, but they help with my shorter stature since I’m only about five-foot-three. Plus, they help lift my ass. Let’s face it, every woman could use something to lift their asses.

  Running a hot bath is next on my list. While waiting for the water to finish filling my large tub, I look into the mirror as I put my long red hair in a bun. Then I start removing my makeup from the day, which exposes my freckles that cover my nose. Some people might find them cute, but not me. It’s one of the things that comes along with being a natural redhead. But I try not to complain because I love my dark red hair.

  Turning my attention now to my filled tub I dip a toe into the hot water letting out a moan in satisfaction. Once settled I let out another moan as the day slowly washes away. Soaking my throbbing feet and tired body in the hot water is so relaxing that if I’m not careful, I’ll fall asleep. Just as I’m about to close my eyes, my cell phone rings and I know exactly who it is.

  “Mom, I told you not to stay up anymore. I’m fine.”

  My mother still waits for me to call, or she calls me. She just wants to know that I’m home safe and sound. It could be a southern thing. She’s originally from Louisiana, but before I was born, she moved and opened a business here in New Jersey. She’s always been an overprotective mother. I guess that’s because I’m her only child. I think it also hurts that she’s alone.

  She never wanted to get married. It’s not that she didn’t have the opportunity, but I think it’s because she still loves the man who knocked her up and threw her away. Whatever it might be, I truly do love her. I just wish she could find happiness with someone other than me. There is a lot of pressure that comes with being her everything. But no matter what, I’m her baby and always will be. She’s also my closest friend. We have always been just the two of us, and we’re closer than most mothers and daughters I know.

  Hell, she even knows everything about me. I never did hide anything from her, except for one time and she came to my rescue. She was always open with me, so in return I was just as open. She even knows who I lost my virginity to. She also knows when I’m making mistakes. She has always helped guide me through life. Mom claims, “You should never do anything in life you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and not regret.” She also taught me how to watch and learn from others’ mistakes, including my own. She says, “In life, you will make mistakes, but you have to learn from them so you won’t repeat them.” Did I mention how much I love and admire that woman? To others she might just be an old stripper, but to me she has been my provider, my educator, and my strength.

  “Mom, I’m sorry I forgot to call. I’m so tired. Today was exhausting. I just wanted to come home and relax.”

  “It’s all right, Mon Chéri. You know I just can’t sleep without hearing from you at the end of the night.”

  Mom, being Cajun, always calls me Mon Chéri, or simply Chéri; it means ‘my darling’ or ‘beloved’ in French.

  “I know, I’m sorry. I’m home, so you can go to sleep now.”

  “Murphy, I wanted to talk to you about your father.”

  Startled, I sit up, shout, “My who?”

  Now the conversation takes a quick turn, from loving to scolding.

  “Damn it, Murphy, don’t start with me. His attorney called. He would like to see us both tomorrow. He claims your father is very sick.”

  “Mom, I don’t want to talk about him to you or his attorney. I barely know the man. I saw him, maybe a handful of times in my life? There is no need for me to know anything else.”

  “Tomorrow, Murphy! We will both meet with his attorney. That’s my final say. You will be there!”

  “I can’t tomorrow, I have a huge party going on at the club.”

  “I will expect to see you at the club an hour earlier than you would’ve originally gone. I don’t want to get there and not see you. You understand me, Murphy?”

  Rolling my eyes, I tell her, “Yes, ma’am, fine, I’ll be there.”

  “Good. I love you, Chéri. Everything will be okay, you’ll see.”

  “Love you, too, Mom. See you tomorrow. Goodnight.”

  I hang up, frustrated. She knows I don’t want to know anything about the man I’m named after. He made his choice, and we were not it. Sure, he’s my father, but he was never my dad, and I don’t need anything from him, not anymore.

  When I would see him when I was little, it was few and far between. I remember waiting and waiting for him to come back, crying and begging God for him to come back realizing he needed and loved me enough to want me in his life, but that never happened. Instead, he would come three or four times a year to drop off presents and money to replace the love he couldn’t give. It was a far cry from what I really needed from him. All I wanted was to be his little girl. To be recognized.

  Later, as I started getting older, the visits got less and less, becoming a once or twice a year visit. Then nothing, no visits or calls. Shit, I haven’t seen or hea
rd from him since I was thirteen. I’m twenty-five now, that’s twelve years I haven’t heard from the man. Growing up, I would have given him a thousand chances to come back into my life. And sure, like most, I recognize I had daddy issues. But today I don’t, I’m better and stronger. Hell, if I’m honest, he’s probably the reason I gave my virginity to the first boy who said he loved me. What a crock of shit. I don’t believe in love anymore. If a father can’t love his daughter, how can a man love a woman like she’s supposed to be loved?

  I can gladly give up on the idea of love, but not sex. I kind of learned early on that I liked sex. Now, I’m not a whore. I have had just a few men in my life, and I can tell you that right now I feel like my vagina is growing cobwebs. I haven’t had sex in months, since my last boyfriend. The lying, cheating bastard; I gave him almost a year of my life for nothing. I didn’t ask for marriage because I don’t believe in it, but I did ask for honesty, and that was something he couldn’t provide. So obviously, I’m currently single, but hopefully not for too much longer because I miss having sex. I just want it to be with someone who will be honest with me so I can relax enough to enjoy the connection, that’s all.

 
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