Block Party, страница 1часть #3 серии A Twin Estates Novel
Published by BattleAxe Productions
Copyright © 2017
Najla Qamber Designs
Copyright © 2017
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Table of Contents
The Kane Trilogy
To everyone who loves Liam – this book exists because of you.
A Twin Estates Novel
You ever have one of those moments where you sit and really look at your life? Not at the standard stuff – most people have a job, a home, a life. Some people are even successful within those realms. But what about the other stuff. Relationships. Interactions with people. Personal responsibility.
Liam Edenhoff was having one of those moments, and it wasn't a good one. He had his hands shoved into his hair, making it all stand on end. His elbows were on his desk and he stared blankly at his calendar, not seeing anything.
“Why am I so stupid?” he whispered. As if to answer him, his office phone started ringing. He jerked upright and glanced at the caller ID.
Stone. Brighton. 555-250-6181.
He swallowed thickly and continued staring at the phone. It went dead, finally, but only for a moment. Then it started ringing again, the same info flashing on the screen.
“You gonna answer that?”
Liam jumped, startled at the sound of Tori's voice. She was standing in his office doorway, her brown eyes wide as she stared at him like he was crazy. He glared at her, then reached out and picked up the receiver briefly before slamming it back down.
“No,” he snapped. She held up her hands.
“Fine, geez, don't get mad at me because you have some crazy stalker,” she snorted at him. He groaned.
“How do I get myself into these situations?” he demanded. She sighed and walked into the room.
“Because you're a whore,” she informed him, coming to his side and patting him on the back.
“Don't slut shame me,” he grumbled, and they both finally laughed.
“Seriously. What is up with you? You hide here all day, you run home like a fugitive, you never come over anymore,” she said. He winced and sat back in his chair, rubbing his hands over his face.
When Katya Tocci had officially dropped him like a bad habit, Liam had spent a lot of time at Tori's. His friend-slash-employee had also been Katya's roommate, right up until Katya had decided to move in with her boyfriend full time
To commiserate their new found loneliness, Tori and Liam would often come home together after work and just hang out. Watch shitty movies, eat tacos, and drink margaritas. She'd usually wander off to bed around four or five in the morning, leaving him to make his own way home. But like an idiot, Liam had rarely ever gone home. No, he'd had to follow his dick to the seventh floor.
The phone started ringing again.
“That's it,” he snapped. “Call the phone company, we're getting a new line, I can't handle this.”
“Can do. Also, that chick is here.”
“Oh, sweet jesus, which one?”
“That sentence right there captures all your problems,” Tori pointed out. He threw a pencil at her.
“Who's here?” he demanded.
“Wulf's assistant,” she replied.
“Today just gets worse and worse,” he groaned, then he stared down at his calendar. “I forgot she was coming. Whatever. I guess send her in.”
“Awesome attitude to have, I'm sure you two will have a great time cooking the books,” Tori teased before scampering away from him.
“I do not cook my books!” he yelled while he circled the day's date in a red pen.
“Of course you don't. To do that, you would need to look at them, first.”
Liam looked up to find Tori was gone. In her place was a very serious looking woman. She wore a perfectly tailored suit – a crisp pencil skirt coming to a sharp end just below her knees. Her thick black hair hung in pin-straight lengths around her shoulders. Her large eyes stared at him, completely emotionless.
Ayumi Nakada. She was a licensed real estate agent and Wulfric Stone's executive assistant. Back when he'd been co-owner of Liam's bar, he'd brought in Ayumi to clean up the atrocious bookkeeping. It had been a couple months since Liam had bought Wulf out, but as part of her job at The Stone Agency, Ayumi had become a CPA, and she charged very reasonable rates, so Liam had convinced her to stay on.
Though sometimes he regretted it. She was a stern task master, forcing him to do math and other kinds of awful things.
“I look at them,” he attempted to defend himself. She sighed and continued walking into the room, setting her case down before taking a seat across from him.
“Only when I force you to,” she pointed out.
“You know, I pay you,” he reminded her. “Doesn't that mean you have to be nice to me?”
“No. What it means is you can feel free to fire me at any point in time and hire someone who will cater to your childish whims,” she replied quickly.
“Why do you even do this?” he asked, leaning back. “I mean, you can't need the money, right? Is Wulf a tight wad?”
“Your devastatingly charming personality keeps me coming back. Shall we get started?” she said drying, causing him to chuckle..
“Whatever you say, mistress,” he sighed.
“I think I like that. Mistress Nakada. Now if you'll give me this month's payroll, I can start ...”
Liam was usually very good at flirting his way out of situations he didn't want to be in, and when that didn't work, he could tune most people out. Ayumi was onto all his tricks, though, and didn't let him get away with any shit. He'd learned early on not to even bother flirting with her. It just earned him awkward stares that made him feel like a thirteen year old.
So for an hour, he was forced to actually go over his business' numbers. Handing over time card information and talking about vacation time and new insurance regulations. It always surprised him how much she knew, seeing as how she spent her days knee deep in the real estate world, but he never asked about it. The only thing more boring than doing math was talking about it.
One good thing came out of their meeting that day, though. The phone rang on and off throughout their hour together, with Liam alternating between ignoring it and hanging it up. But then when Ayumi had collected all her belongings and was on his side of the desk to help him
“Hello,” she said in her crisp business voice. “Mr. Edenhoff's office, may I help you?”
“What are you doing!?” he hissed, tugging at the chord. She slapped his hand away and turned her back to him.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Edenhoff isn't here today. He will be out of the office for the rest of the week ... forgive me, but I am not allowed to speak about Mr. Edenhoff's personal business ... I understand you feel that way, Ms. Stone, but there is nothing I can do. Good day.”
Liam was positive his jaw was brushing the floor as he watched her hang up.
“Why would you do that?” he demanded. Ayumi flicked a heavy curtain of hair behind her shoulder.
“Because it was annoying me, and I have to come back tomorrow to help you finish installing more programs. I didn't want to have to listen to the ringing anymore,” she explained, walking back to her chair.
“That was ... impressive. How do you feel about leaving Wulf and coming to work as my assistant?” he asked. She barked out a laugh.
“You could never afford what he pays me, Liam,” she replied, then she bent over to pick up her case.
“Pity for me,” he sighed. “Same time tomorrow?”
“Yes. And can I ask a question before I go?” she spoke while walking towards the door.
“Shoot,” he replied. She whirled around to face him.
“Why is Brighton Stone stalking you?”
Oh yeah, that. He'd been so shocked to see Ayumi picking up his phone, he hadn't stopped to think about how she would know who was on the other end. He grimaced and quickly tried to think of some excuse, any excuse, to explain why the little shithead had been calling him.
“Oh, you know, uh, the building,” he found himself babbling. “Issues with her apartment, that kind of stuff.”
“Really?” Ayumi asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, yeah, uh, like heating problems, or something, I don't know. You've met Brie. Always bitching about something,” he managed to laugh. Ayumi stared at him for a long second, then walked back into the room and sat down.
“I have met Brighton, and I also know that her heating issue was fixed a week ago – Wulfric sent out the maintenance team, himself.”
“Then you've got me,” he chuckled. “Who knows, maybe her fridge broke down this time. Always something with her.”
“Can I be frank?”
“Only if I can still be Liam.”
That earned him an eye roll.
“How long have you two been sleeping together?” she sighed. He winced and glanced out the open door behind her.
“Not that long,” he said in a low voice. “I mean, not at all, anymore. Not in like the last couple weeks or so. That's why she won't leave me alone.”
Brighton. Fucking. Stone. She was sex in pint-sized form, with an ass that didn't quit and a mouth sculpted by god himself. Too bad she used her perfect mouth to mostly be a bitch to anyone around her. It wasn't till after he'd slept with her that he'd found out she was his arch-rival's little sister. Emphasis on little – she'd been nineteen at the time. Compared to Liam's thirty-two years, it had made him feel like a criminal.
But then she'd turned twenty and had moved into Twin Estate building one, right next door to him. He'd just gotten tossed aside by an amazing girl, all for Brie's rich asshole of a brother. Everything felt shitty. Sex made things feel fun. And it all was fun, for a while. Brie was a sour sort of person, something had happened in her life to make her hate everyone. For a moment, he'd thought he could help her. Like he'd helped Katya – she'd had a flag pole sized stick up her ass before Liam had come along. Maybe he could loosen Brie up.
He'd quickly given up. Brie would always be Brie. Besides, he never wanted Katya or Wulf to find out about their little arrangement – Katya would probably stop speaking to him, and Wulf would kill him. Like literally. Sneaking around got too annoying, he was too old for that shit, and there were too many women out there he didn't have to work so hard for.
And that's when the real problems started. He and Brie had always been casual. He slept with other people, and he was sure she slept with other people. But the moment he decided to stop sleeping with her, she'd lost her fucking mind. Jealousy reared its ugly head. Brighton Stone was not the kind of girl men said “no” to, apparently, and she was going to make him very aware of that fact.
Life had been somewhat of a nightmare ever since. She would show up randomly, be at his apartment, call him at all hours. It was awful. He spent more and more time at work, because at least there, he could have her banned from entering.
He explained all that to Ayumi. Talking to the quiet woman had always been easy, sort of akin to talking to a doctor. Her pragmatic nature and stoic attitude gave him the feeling that she'd seen a lot of bullshit in her time, so his crap would be nothing crazy to her. Plus, she'd been privy to all the bullshit he'd been through with Katya – the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. Moments he still wasn't proud of, yet Ayumi always looked at him exactly the same. No shame, no anger. Just void. It was kinda nice.
“And you've actually spoken to her about this? Told her you don't want to see her anymore?” she asked.
“All the time. Constantly. Every fucking day. She doesn't care. She waits at my apartment, then blackmails me. Threatens to tell Wulf,” he groaned.
“I see. And that answers my next question, does Wulf know,” she sighed.
“No. And he can't know.”
“I don't understand. You're both adults. He sold you his half of this club,” Ayumi pointed out. “He has no ties to you or hold over you, so why do you care if he knows?”
Because I value my dick, and he'll rip it off if he finds out.
“He could still make life difficult. And besides, he's not the only one to worry about,” he said.
Liam had wanted to hate Katya. He'd even tried to hate her. But it was impossible. She was light and love and happiness, and she made the best desserts. So even though she'd chosen Wulf over him, Liam hadn't had the heart to let her go.
Unfortunately, he also didn't have the heart to tell her just how much of a dickbag he really was, either. While he'd been chasing Katya, claiming to only want her, he'd been sleeping with Brie. Katya would be pissed if she ever found out, and then even more pissed that he'd been keeping the whole thing on the down low. No, Wulf and Katya could not find out his dirty little secret.
“I'm sorry,” Ayumi started. “But I can't just not tell Wulf something like this. He talks about her a lot, I think he's already suspicious.”
“No!” Liam burst out. “No, please. C'mon. If it comes down to it and I absolutely can't shake her, I promise, I'll have it out with her. I'll even go to Wulf myself. But if I absolutely don't need to, then please, don't say anything. It'll just upset everyone.”
“He's my boss, Liam. I can't lie to -”
“I'm not asking you to lie. I'm asking you not to divulge something that's technically none of his – or your – business. Please?” he begged, then he made a pouty face that usually won over most women. “C'mon, buddy, pal, darling. Do me this one favor. One thing. Just pretend you never answered the phone. Please?”
She stared at him for a long time. Her features were almost impossible to read and he was nervous. Liam had always had a gift for sort of buttering women up. Manipulating them, to a certain extent. But not Ayumi.
“I won't lie to him,” she repeated herself. “But I guess ... you're right. It's none of our business, so I have no reason to bring it up.”
“Ah! See? You're an angel! I always knew it,” he teased, jumping out of his chair and hurrying towards her. She frowned and quickly climbed to her feet, holding her case between them.
“Not an angel, and thank
He cut her off buy wrapping her in a huge bear hug. He squeezed until she made a groaning noise, then he set her back down on her feet.
“You're a peach, Ayumi,” he told her as she stumbled away from him.
“You say that to all the girls. Literally,” she said, but there was a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips.
Progress with the ice queen!
“Maybe, but with you I really mean it, I swear,” he assured her.
“When the bullshit gets this thick, I know it's time to leave. See you tomorrow, Liam,” she said, waving as she finally walked out the door for real.
“See you tomorrow, Ayumi-yum!” he yelled loudly. She flinched as she walked, but kept going.
Maybe under that icy exterior and all those stiff suits, she could possibly be fun ...
Ayumi took several deep breaths as she stood face to face with a set of double doors.
She'd worked for Wulfric Stone for a long time, over five years. She'd spent more time with him than almost any other human being. She'd interned at his first start up, they'd actually shared apartment for almost a year, as roommates. She was the keeper of his medical files, as well as his financial records. She'd been all over the world with him.
Yet she still got nervous around him sometimes.
“Ayumi!” his voice barked from inside his office. She took one last deep breath before sweeping into the room.
“I'm here,” she said, hurrying to his desk and setting down several file folders.
“I can't find that file for the Orange County property,” Wulf was growling from his office chair. “You know how screenwriters are – this asshole wants an entire history dating back to when the foundation was poured, and he wants it yesterday.”
In Ayumi's opinion, what made an assistant a good one was the ability to anticipate their employer's needs. Especially before the employer was even aware of them. She flipped through the folders, then pulled out the correct one.
“I talked with the architect's office this morning,” she told Wulf. “They faxed over everything just this afternoon. Blue prints, concept design, design notes from the original owner. There's even notes on the lumbar yard they got their supplies from.”