Hotshot defense lawyer Amber Dennis has it all. She's a successful attorney and the proud owner of a luxurious new condo, an expensive car, and a fat bank account. Not to mention a blossoming relationship with the gorgeous David Grant.
Amber's perfect life is shattered when she starts receiving threatening emails. At first, she brushes them off. After all, she can't help but make a few enemies in her line of work.
But when the threats become more real, she can no longer ignore them. Someone out there wants to destroy her. Who could it be, and why are they targeting her?
As her world implodes, Amber decides she's not going down without a fight. She's determined to find out who is threatening her and why.
What she doesn’t realise is her stalker is a lot closer than she thinks. And convinced that Amber has wronged them terribly, they'll stop at nothing to make her pay the ultimate price.
The Couple Next Door is a nail-biting psychological thriller that packs a powerful punch.
Release date: May 28, 2023
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Print pages: 356
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Couple Next Door
I couldn’t stop smiling, and more importantly, I didn’t want to. It was my party, after all.
I did it.
Everything was finally going my way, everything was slowly coming together, all my dreams were coming true. Well, not all of them, but I knew that eventually, they would, so of course I was happy.
“It is my honor to present Amber Dennis, the newest junior partner at Grant, Bryant, and Dawson,” my boss said.
One day it will be Grant, Dawson, and Dennis, I thought. I really wanted my name added to the mix.
Mr. Grant had been giving his speech for the last couple of minutes, but I wasn’t really paying close attention. I’d heard it all before. As always, he was doing this more to stroke his own ego than mine.
I didn’t care. He’d helped me a great deal over the years and was the first person to notice what a brilliant asset I would become. For that, I tolerated his quirks. The enjoyment of hearing the sound of his own voice was definitely one of them.
The entire firm had gathered in an exclusive steakhouse conveniently located just a block away from the office. Lawyers were nothing if not practical. I knew at least half of them would return to the office after the party to do some work and clock a few more billing hours before calling it a night.
I had become the youngest junior partner in the firm at just thirty-six, and I deserved it. This wasn’t me bragging. I really had worked my ass off to get here. It had taken a good chunk of money to meet the buy-in for the position too, but I’d done it because I wanted to become a partner in this firm. I wanted that and so much more.
I had been saving since college, putting aside chunks of each and every paycheck I received working as a lawyer, knowing this day would come. I was prepared for it, and still, my heart froze for a couple of seconds when receiving the stipulations of becoming a partner. Damn inflation was ruining everything.
It was time to stop focusing on the negative. I am here now. And the money given was an investment. And a pretty sound investment at that because our firm was one of the best, and I wasn’t stopping at junior partner. In a matter of a few years I planned on becoming a senior partner. For that, I would have to replace one of the existing ones, and only then would I become a named partner.
I already knew whom I was going to replace. Phoebe Bryant. She was a named partner, so I would be killing two birds with one stone, purely metaphorically speaking.
My ticket in, the way to achieve all my plans, was precisely the man who was giving this long speech.
Michael Grant, a sixty-four-year-old senior partner, was the founder of the firm. Of course, back then it was simply called Grant and Associates. He was such a brilliant lawyer and savvy businessman who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty every once in a while. He was also a power-hungry, driven workaholic, who was desperate to leave a significant mark on this city. Over the years he managed to achieve something great, and along the way, the firm grew as more equal-minded people joined in.
Today, Grant, Bryant, and Dawson law firm was one of the most successful companies on the west coast. And although all the senior partners were equal, some were more equal than others, and Grant had the most say.
So when he took me under his wing just over ten years ago, it was a sign to all the rest that I was the new shining star. Naturally, I had to back that up with hard work, an excellent record, and an impressive client list, but for me, that was the easiest part. I loved my job, and I was competitive enough to want to be one of the best.
“I remember the first time Amber came to us, fresh out of Harvard Law School and so green… we corrected that quickly,” he continued, and that last comment raised a few chuckles.
The way he was speaking, it was as though he were singlehandedly responsible for all my successes. I hated when men did that. Especially since I was the only one responsible for my achievements. I stayed and worked overtime to learn as much as possible so I could hone my craft and be one of the best. It irked me this man was trying to take all the credit.
Still, I smiled like a good, obedient employee and pretended I was charmed by his condescending words, sucked it all up because I knew my time to rule, to shine, would come. That was how this game was played, and all the people present knew that.
Perhaps I should take his job and not Bryant’s. I instantly banished that thought. The original plan was much better and easily achievable. I needed Grant. At least for now. Afterward, well, nobody could predict the future, and if he decided to retire at some point and focus on perfecting his golf, I would be absolutely all right with that.
Anyway, I was very much pleased to see that all the partners and associates had shown up to my party. And they had brought their partners, significant others, and even family members, which I was glad for, but everyone had someone, except me. There was nobody by my side, and although I tried not to focus on that, it was an ache in my heart.
Unfortunately, I only had one family member left, my mother. However, she couldn’t be bothered to come to the party tonight. She couldn’t be bothered with being happy with me or for me. She couldn’t even pretend to feel such an emotion, so I was left all alone. Sadly, I’d learned to prefer it that way.
Banishing all thoughts of my selfish mother, I refocused on the here and now. I wasn’t about to let my mother ruin this perfect moment for me. I’d managed this far without her; I didn’t need her. Besides, what could a stay-at-home mom do for me anyway? She didn’t possess any skills I found useful or desirable.
I’d left home right after high school and never looked back. If anything, she needed me more, relied on me because she was unable to move on and be her own person. And now she was punishing me for choosing myself. She was a selfish, spiteful woman.
Stop it, Amber, I warned myself.
I noticed that Grant was holding his champagne glass in his hand, which meant he was finally reaching his point, the end of the speech.
“So join me now and raise your glass to our newest junior partner, our very own rising star, Amber Dennis.”
Everyone raised their glasses and toasted.
I picked up my own glass of champagne and toasted firstly to Grant and then to everybody else. “Thank you, Michael, that was a very touching speech,” I said humbly.
“I meant every word, kiddo,” he said with a wink.
As expected, many joined in to offer their congratulations. A large portion of our job was establishing connections and keeping those relationships cordial. And I was happy to see that my colleagues valued my place in this very well-oiled machinery. Or so it appeared.
“If we’re done, can we eat now? I am starving,” Grant grumbled after a few minutes.
That was so typical of him. He gave the longest speech known to man, and then he complained it was taking too long. It was on the tip of my tongue to point out how that physique of his didn’t really need another steak, but I held my tongue. Even I knew not to share that opinion among such a large group of people. It would come off as disrespectful. If we were alone, I could definitely tease him, so I saved that joke for some other time.
Michael Grant looked pretty typical for a lawyer in his sixties. It was obvious he’d stopped going to the gym a while back. He used to be a very handsome man, and he’d kept some of his ruggedness in his late years. However, he was definitely not in his prime. Another indicator of that was the fact he came to the office only when he absolutely had to. The rest of his time was spent between visiting golf courses and sailing.
Being a senior partner in a prestigious law firm is a taxing business, I joked. Most of the senior partners, except Phoebe, operated in a similar manner. Leaving the real work to the younger people, the junior partners, and the associates.
At the table I was sitting at, only the senior partners were seated with their respective others. The rest were seated around us since Grant had gracefully rented the whole place for the night. That must have cost him a fortune, but I knew he could afford it.
Phoebe Bryant, whose position in the firm I was gunning for, sat right across from me with her husband, Anthony, who was a judge. Peter Dawson was there with his wife, Susan, as well, and Grant came with his son, David, because he was currently between wives.
I’d forgotten how many times Grant had been married. At least three times. They all kind of blurred together because Grant definitely had a type. Young, good-looking, trophy wives whose only purpose was to look pretty on his arm while he attended all the social parties of the season. They meant nothing to him, and for them, he was a stepping stone, a way into the prestigious life they could only dream about before him.
I believe only David’s mother stood out from that cliché, at least in Grant’s life. They had met in college. Eveline was a successful writer, and he had been married to her the longest. The fact he had cheated on her with various assistants, secretaries, and even clients was what eventually broke them apart. That was typical too. No matter how powerful men were, they still needed to stroke their egos with meaningless affairs, as though that would elevate them in the eyes of others.
All the same, once Eveline learned about Grant’s extramarital relationships, she’d left the bastard. She’d had enough sense to leave with a very hefty settlement. In her place, I would do the same thing. An attitude like Grant’s needed to be punished. In a manner that would hurt the most. And that meant taking as much money as was humanly possible. Eveline got herself a good divorce lawyer, a shark who made sure she got everything she deserved and then some.
The conversation around the restaurant stilled while everyone looked at their menus. The only exception to that was David. While I was perusing the menu, as though I hadn’t already decided to order a salad and nothing else, I noticed his fingers were brushing against my thighs very coyly, underneath the table.
That was rather cheeky of him.
At first, the touch was so featherlight I wasn’t even sure it actually happened until I discreetly looked, and sure enough, he was trying to get my attention.
David brushed against my thigh again, with the tips of his fingers, and this time his touch was more confident.
It was really hard not to laugh. Men his age, or should I say boys, since he was only twenty-six, thought very highly of themselves. They thought the world was their playground.
Sure, he had those youthful, good looks going for him. He was tall, fit, with thick black hair and wide, innocent green eyes, but that was it. Beyond that he was empty because he lacked experience; he lacked the wisdom that could only be gained through living life and going through rough patches.
And being the son of a millionaire kept him in a state of perpetual brattiness. Though, that didn’t mean I was about to reject his advances. Quite the contrary. He was perfect for what I had in mind. A night of meaningless sex was what I wanted, needed, and David would be perfect to help me with that.
That was precisely why I took his hand and firmly placed it on my thigh, nudging it upward, silently congratulating myself for wearing a short skirt, since it made everything much easier. All the while I kept my eyes on my menu, but I could still see David’s reaction.
It would be fun to have him in my bed. I figured I deserved a private celebration after this one. And the best way to do that was with a fit twenty-six-year-old.
Contemplating what kind of body he had underneath his casual black suit, I smiled at him, still coaxing his hand to caress me, and he didn’t disappoint. The look of dazed astonishment I received in return was perfect.
Luckily, he recovered quickly, and I approved.
This is going to be so much fun…
I felt exhausted, but in a good way, as I drove home from the restaurant. The party was a huge success, everybody left happy, a little tipsy, especially Grant, and I hoped the way they felt tonight would stay with them when I had to deal with them at work tomorrow.
I was using GPS because I still hadn’t fully gotten used to driving in this part of the city. I’d moved recently to my new condo, and I was still getting used to it all. Not that I was complaining. I was very proud to secure a place like that for myself.
The building I now lived in was called the Golden Sunrise. Despite its cheesy name, it was one of the most luxurious buildings in the city, and finding a vacant apartment was a rarity. Luckily, one had been up for sale six months ago, and I’d managed to snatch it. And now it was all mine. It had an amazing view and came with a private underground parking garage and a doorman.
Since returning to LA after college, I had dreamt of living in one of those buildings. Seeing all those beautiful, happy people coming out of them, pondering about their lives. I’d vowed to be one of them someday. Luckily, I’d managed to achieve that. Although, perhaps luck had nothing to do with it. I worked hard and had reached the levels of success that allowed me to purchase my dream condo.
Ever since I was little, I had a clear vision of what I wanted my life to look like. Actually, to be more precise, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to end up like my mother. So, in high school, my wish crystallized, and I knew I would become a lawyer. And not just any kind, a defense lawyer.
I wanted to be someone, somebody important, successful and rich, which was the opposite of what my mother was. She was a housewife who never strove to be anything else. And that was sad for me, her not having any kind of real goal in life.
Taking care of the house, of a man, all her life was all she lived for. And when my father died, she was left with nothing.
She tried to refocus her energy on me while demanding everything in return, but I was having none of it. By that time, I was my own person, with clear goals in life and her way of living, her attitude toward me, toward life, was in conflict with it. So I knew I had to leave.
My father understood me. And my needs. At least, I had that.
Leaving and going to Harvard was the best decision I had ever made. Nonetheless, staying in Boston wasn’t an option for me. It wasn’t that I was homesick. It was simply that I preferred the sun, preferred the warm weather.
The fact this city had plenty of successful people working in the entertainment industry who constantly needed legal services was a nice bonus as well.
After parking in the underground lot, I entered a private elevator and put in the specific code that would take me to my floor. I liked the level of security this place offered. It made me feel safer knowing not just anybody could waltz inside and raise trouble.
I was a lawyer, after all, and it was to be expected there would be people angry at me. That was part of the job. Still, I didn’t want the job following me home.
Only when I got upstairs I realized I’d forgotten to stop at the lobby and ask Alex, the doorman who worked night shifts, if any packages had arrived for me.
I’ll do that tomorrow.
Inside my apartment, I took my shoes off and sighed with relief. I liked wearing high heels, but like everything else in life, that had a price as well—sore feet.
Walking about in my new condo, I was as happy as I could be. This was a good night. And if I’d read the situation well, which I definitely did, it was about to get even better.
I couldn’t believe the whole firm had decided to participate and come to my party. Then again, they probably thought it was mandatory considering I was Grant’s protégé. It was fun seeing so much envy on some of their faces. I’d stood out among my peers right from the start, and some had a problem with that. Not that I really cared. As long as I had Grant on my side, none of it mattered.
While he was protecting me from all the backstabbing, I was practically untouchable. I still had to tread lightly among the senior partners, but that wasn’t problematic for me.
And if I was extra careful, I could do some backstabbing of my own. I didn’t feel particularly guilty about that. This was a cutthroat kind of world. And I was sure Phoebe Bryant had ended up a named partner through doing the same thing to somebody else along her way to the top. That was just how things functioned, because if you did manage to take someone down, that was a clear indicator they didn’t belong there in the first place.
Finally, becoming a junior partner meant it was obviously time for the next step of my plan. Becoming senior partner. That would definitely take some time, but I was nothing if not patient. And there was nothing I could not achieve if only I put my mind to it. I’d already proved that to myself time and time again, so this didn’t feel any different to me.
I would get Phoebe’s seat at the table. And not just because that was where the real money was. Senior partners had all the power, all the say around the firm, and that was what I wanted.
In truth, I could go after any partner, but there were a limited number of women in the firm, so I wanted it to be Phoebe. And there was a simple explanation for that. She was the only female named partner. And that was what I was aiming for in the end. I figured, with her out of the way, I could reach all my goals with a single stab in the back. Simple.
There was a chance other partners, especially seniors, would try to secure that spot for themselves, but I wasn’t worried, because I had Grant on my side.
He was the one who had convinced Phoebe to vote me in for this promotion, and I was sure he would convince others when the time came for the next one as well. And with Phoebe gone, I would be the queen of the castle.
I could lie and say this was purely business for me. She was in my way, which meant I had to take her down. But it was personal as well. That bitch had had it in for me since I’d started at the firm. She didn’t like me for some reason, and over time the sentiment became mutual.
Truth be told, I never understood her attitude toward me. I was nothing but nice to her, I tried to be helpful, assisted her many times in her cases, and still, she hated me. It was never an open thing; all the same, I knew the truth. That was why she was my biggest opponent when I was a nominee for junior partner.
And now, finally, I understood why she was behaving the way she did. She recognized I was a threat to her. She had been Grant’s star before I arrived. She was the first African American female partner, and then I came along, and Grant started focusing on me, grooming me, and Phoebe realized there would come a day when I would replace her.
So she did everything in her power to make my life more difficult. She wasn’t successful, of course. Her attitude only made me stronger and more determined that one day soon I would take her down.
I was much smarter than her. I was a better lawyer, and one day I would become more successful than her. And then it would be much easier to get her job. In the end, she had every right to fear for her job because I was going to take it from her, no matter what.
I will take everything from you, I thought with a smirk as I slipped out of my clothes. Everything on me reeked of cigars, and that made me feel sick to my stomach.
Unfortunately, Grant insisted on smoking those vile things, and naturally, since he was the alpha dog, all the men followed suit.
What’s with powerful men always smoking those cigars and drinking whiskey? I pondered. I will never understand that, I thought with a shake of my head, looking at the pile of clothes underneath my feet. They’d cost a lot of money, but they reeked so bad I would much rather burn them than wear them ever again. Yet I would never do that. Not only because they were expensive, but it was one of my favorite ensembles.
I liked wearing this combination to court as well because the skirt was long enough not to be scandalous, but short enough to attract the men’s attention, when they should be focused on the case. Judges included.
I would keep the clothes because I really liked them, I decided. Unfortunately, at times, I was sentimental like that.
As I was pondering my next course of action, not just about tonight but about life in general, there was a buzz on the intercom phone. I instantly knew what that meant, so I went to the door, still in my underwear, to answer.
I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist me. “Yes?”
“Good evening, Miss Dennis,” Alex greeted politely. “You have a visitor.”
“Send him up,” I interrupted because I knew who my visitor was and wanted to keep this conversation short.
Perhaps that sounded a bit eager from my side, but I still felt a little uncomfortable with a stranger knowing all my comings and goings, who was visiting me, and when. That was something I needed to overcome and fast because it didn’t really matter if some doorman knew I had a booty call. This was what success looked like.
Besides, Alex and the rest of the staff working in a building like this knew how to be discreet. They had to, considering the kind of people who lived here, businessmen, celebrities.
It wouldn’t be good for them if they had loose tongues. The residents would go berserk if their privacy was in jeopardy, even a little, and the person with a big mouth would not only lose their job, but much more. Their lives would be ruined, and I was sure all the employees knew that, so nobody tried to sell a story for a few bucks.
Of course, I would act in the exact same manner if my privacy was jeopardized. I would do everything in my power to destroy the person who tried to do that.
“All right, Miss Dennis,” Alex replied, snapping me from my thoughts.
“Thanks.” I didn’t even have to think about whether I should cover my body or not. I remained in my black, lacy underwear. I knew why he was coming to see me this late at night.
He clearly knew it too, or at least he hoped so. Because it was always on the woman to say yes or no, and on men to beg for it.
That was why I opened my door when I heard the elevator stopping at my floor.
As expected, David came out, and his eyes practically bulged out of his head as he took in my appearance and gulped, loudly.
I knew I looked good. I took care of myself. Sure, genetics helped a little. I was tall, statuesque, tanned from spending time on the beach whenever I could, and blue-eyed. I was careful with what I ate, I worked out, I made sure my natural blonde hair was healthy, and I shopped for clothes that were complimentary to my physique.
So David’s reaction completely made sense. That didn’t mean it wasn’t the best kind of compliment I received, especially because it was so natural.
I leaned against the door frame, watching him from beneath my eyelashes as he approached. “I hoped you would come,” I said in my most seductive voice. At this point, I knew I didn’t have to bother, he was already mine for the taking, but it was fun. I wanted to play with him a little longer.
He practically ran toward me. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I would have come sooner—”
Apparently, there was more he wanted to say, explain, but I lost patience. I grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him against my body, locking our lips in a passionate kiss.
David responded immediately, letting his hands roam all over my body, grabbing at my ass.
Realizing Alex was probably watching us via the security cameras, I pulled him inside the apartment. David wasn’t fighting me on it.
He might be young, but he wasn’t entirely inexperienced. I approved.
The door was closed somehow, and we continued to kiss.
While he explored my body, I did the same with his and was pleasantly surprised to discover he was in excellent shape. Thank God everyone in LA was obsessed with their looks.
Everything about him was turning me on, which was a surprise. Then again, it had been a while since I’d had sex, and I was really looking forward to it.
But then he hesitated, breaking the kiss.
What the…? I looked at him in surprise. What was happening?
“I shouldn’t be here,” he admitted.
I could see how much it pained him to say that. He was really into me, wanted to be with me.
“My father would be furious if he found out about this.”
I should have known he is afraid of Grant.
And he was probably right. Grant was very protective and serious when it came to his only child, his only son. Which was why I intended for him to never find out about this.
“It would probably cause problems for your work too,” he added.
In that moment he truly showed his age. He was nothing but a boy scared of his father, which was a major turn-off. I had to do something before I lost my will for sex.
I offered my most reassuring smile, wrapping my arms around his neck and moving my body against his in the process. “Let me worry about your father,” I said firmly as his pupils dilated at my proximity. It looked like he was high. And I had to admit I kind of liked the idea of being someone’s drug of choice.
Without further delay, I leaned forward, demanding a kiss, and he responded immediately. All talk about his father or anything else was forgotten instantly, just the way I wanted.
He was a really good boy, really obedient.
I helped him get out of his clothes, and he didn’t disappoint. He had a very nice, tanned body.
“Come with me,” I commanded, reaching for him.
After a moment of hesitation, he took my hand, and together we went to the bedroom.
Being with him felt amazing. I let him fuck me three times that evening.
He might have been scared of his father, but he lusted for me more, and that was a turn-on, such a head rush, it felt as good as the orgasms I had.
Overall, David was very good to me that night. He was a great ego boost, an amazing tension relief and workout. Everything a woman needed.
Got to love twenty-six-year-olds…
The Good Life
It felt good being me. I was finally a junior partner. I had an apartment many would envy. I had a great ride, a Tesla. And since I’d recently acquired a new lover who was great at keeping me occupied and satisfied during the night, my life was complete.
How could I possibly ask for more?
I could, but I was pretty satisfied with what I had.
So I decided to enjoy life and my current accomplishments before preparing for the next battle, because in my life, in my line of work, there was always a battle ahead.
That was guaranteed.
And I loved it.
Also, there was another thing that made me feel good. Or should I dare say, like a freaking rock star?
My new, very prestigious and highly coveted position came with a new office. And as was customary, I received a budget, complimentary from the firm, to decorate it if I saw fit.
I still hadn’t decided about that. I liked my old office although it was on the small side. Also, I had personally acquired each and every piece of furniture that was in there, so there was a question, what to do with it all now?
Although I tended to not get attached and wasn’t too sentimental, there were a few pieces I wanted to keep. All the same, I would shelve that problem for another time. I needed to see the space first before making any decisions.
I waltzed into the firm feeling like a million dollars. I knew I should try to keep it humble, but it couldn’t be helped. I was satisfied with myself and what I had accomplished. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. Humility was for people who never did anything of importance in their lives. I had.
I helped a lot of people, good and bad, with my legal expertise, and I rose through the ranks at this firm. Life was good.
Bonnie, my legal secretary, was already at her new station in front of my new office, and I approved. She should always come in before me, to prepare for my day.
As I walked by her, she greeted me before rushing to prepare my tea. I patted myself on the back. I taught her well. I always drank green tea in the morning. Coffee was reserved for the nights I had to stay late at the office to prepare for a big case.
I stepped into my new office, taking it all in. It was a corner office that used to belong to Edward Cattley. I had no idea where he was now, nor did I care.
I was practically giddy that this was my new working space because the office definitely had the best view of the city. Apart from Grant’s office, of course.
I was pleasantly surprised to see all my things had already been moved here. And since all my books were already on the shelves, I figured Bonnie had taken care of the unpacking. That cheered me up.
I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do with the space, but I liked how it looked. Although I felt like my desk should be moved to the other side of the room. Edward had kept it in that same spot, and I always thought that was a mistake.
Taking my shoes off, because I couldn’t do manual labor in high heels, I slowly, painfully managed to move the desk right where I wanted it.
It looked much better in its new place, and I sat down in the chair, pondering what I should do next. Should I change everything? Should I make my mark?
It was true these things were mine, but were they worthy of my new station? What I meant was that everything in here had been bought while I was still just an associate. I was a partner now, and that should be plain to see all around me, not only in bold letters on my glass door.
I didn’t want my clients to get the wrong idea. I needed all my clients, old and new, to know right from the moment they stepped into my office that I wasn’t only one of the best, but pretty expensive as well. I wanted them to know what they would be getting. And I wasn’t sure the image I had been trying to cultivate was represented in my current surroundings.
None of it screams—the youngest junior partner.
If the firm’s clients demanded the best, I wanted them to be sent my way. And I was one of the best. I couldn’t even pretend to be modest about that. My winning record in court was pretty impressive because when I had a court trial, I aimed to win, no matter what.
I managed to get away with murder, well, my clients had quite a few times, at any rate. And I never felt guilty about that because I was just doing my job to the best of my ability. It wasn’t my fault the other side was never up to the task.
I should definitely remodel. These items had served me well while I was an associate. All the same, it was time for a new chapter in life. And that meant a different office as well.
Someone knocked on my door, snapping me from my thoughts. I turned to see Grant leaning against the door frame, smiling at me.
“I see you are settling in nicely,” he commented, eyeing my high heels, which were still in the middle of the office.
“Yes, I am. Thank you.”
“Here, I got you something for your new office.” He approached to place a potted plant at the edge of my desk. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
I didn’t care for such things per se, knew it would probably die if Bonnie didn’t start taking care of it; however, I understood the importance of such a gesture. A named partner had come personally to welcome me and brought a gift. And that meant something around here. That meant everything. Sure, I would have a target on my back, because a lot of envious people worked here, but I was prepared for it all.
“That’s very thoughtful of you.”
I knew his secretary had picked it out for him. Honestly, Grant couldn’t function without Millie. She had been with him for more than thirty years. In all ways that counted, she was his true wife.
And this wasn’t me mocking. I hoped, one day, I would find the perfect legal secretary who would become such a vital part of my life, too, at least professionally speaking. Bonnie was definitely not that person.
“If you need anything, come straight to me. I am just down the corridor, after all,” he added with a wink.
“Admit you did that on purpose,” I replied with a smile.
“Of course I did,” he said smugly. “I need you close by.”
“Well, I appreciate it.”
He was about to say something in return when his phone started ringing. He looked at the screen and frowned. “Got to go; see you later, kiddo.” And with that, he rushed out of the office, answering his call.
Once he left, I fetched my shoes and asked Bonnie to come inside. I needed to start my day. But firstly, I needed to know whom to call about redecorating my office.
Later, I was caught up to speed on my day. As it turned out, I had meetings and consultations throughout the day. Old clients and new ones wanted to meet and greet as well, and I understood why. They all needed to be reassured everything was staying exactly the same with me in charge. That it would be business as usual. And I planned on honoring that. I wasn’t planning on ruffling any feathers, at least not yet. At least not while I was settling into my new role.
On my way out for lunch, I saw a few of my colleagues and other junior partners exiting together. Although they nodded toward me in greeting, that was it. None of them came to see me or ask if I needed anything. And they certainly hadn’t invited me to lunch with them.
I couldn’t figure out why they’d never asked me to join them for lunch. Or go for drinks after hours. Even when I was an intern, other interns didn’t like me. Of course, they were very professional toward me and worked alongside me just fine, but the social element was always missing. Not that I personally cared if the relationships evolved from being strictly professional. All the same, I found it strange that that kept happening.
Either way, it always worked to my advantage. I preferred to keep to myself, and since people left me alone, I could focus solely on myself and my career.
Attachments caused complications and distractions, and I didn’t want those in my life. I had a plan to follow, and wasting my energy on anything else wasn’t acceptable.
The afternoon hours turned out to be even busier. At some point even Dawson, a senior partner, came to visit me.
“Hello, what can I do for you, Dawson?”
“I need your help with this,” he replied, throwing a stack of papers on my desk.
I picked them up to see what it was about.
“I need it done by tomorrow morning.”
I skimmed through the contents. When I looked up, he was already gone. “Happy to help,” I grumbled.
I received a couple of VIP clients as well. Since I was a junior partner now, Grant made sure I got a few of them as well. And since I was the new face, they all needed some special attention, some reassurance from me that all their needs would be taken care of.
It was tedious work, especially since they all acted like children, but it needed to be done, as it was part of the job.
At some point, Kelly, my best friend, texted to congratulate me on my promotion and to ask if I wanted to meet later for drinks. I said no because I was swamped. There were not enough hours in the day for all that needed to be done. And that had been before Dawson dumped that special assignment on me.
Still, she wouldn’t let me go until I promised to see her soon. Kelly was like that at times, unaccustomed to hearing the word no from other people.
The fact I’d talked to her about my promotion last week meant nothing. Time wasn’t a concept she was familiar with. That was what happened when you had a rich parent, could spend their money, and didn’t have to work. Didn’t have a care in the world.
To some people, that right there sounded like heaven. Truth be told, although she was a dear friend, I pitied her lack of direction in life. Not that I would ever tell her that. She was one of my only friends, and I loved her despite her many flaws.
It was strange how the two of us had become friends, considering how different we were. She was a party girl, and I was a career-oriented woman. Still, special circumstances had brought us closer together, and I really valued her, and I knew she felt the same way.
Give them hell, was her last text full of kiss emojis before finally leaving me alone to do what I loved best, work.
I smiled, thinking of her last message; Kelly really knew me the best. She knew about my plans as well, not specifics but enough to offer her two cents.
I allowed myself one bathroom break before returning to the job. While I was doing my business, I overheard two employees, clearly at the lower station, gossiping.
“I hope Phoebe has eyes in the back of her head because she’s next,” the first one said.
“That’s true. Amber will stoop to anything to get what she wants,” the other agreed.
I suppressed a gasp. They were speaking about me. More accurately, they were gossiping about me in the worst possible way.
To be perfectly honest, they were not entirely wrong. Phoebe was in my way. I was only surprised that it wasn’t as much of a secret as I’d hoped it was. Besides, what they were saying was rude.
They need to respect me more, not spread such vile gossip, I fumed. Does Phoebe know about this too? It really didn’t matter. My plan still stays the same no matter what.
Though, these two needed to be dealt with. On one hand, I really shouldn’t care what a pair of secretaries thought about me; on the other, they needed to be taught a lesson.
Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the stall, they were already gone. Rushing out of the bathroom, I didn’t spot anyone in the corridor.
It could be anyone. How to find them? It was a pity I hadn’t recognized their voices. Realizing I was obsessing over unimportant petty things, I stopped and returned to work.
I was close to finishing when my phone started ringing. That put a smile on my face.
“Hello?” I answered.
“When can I see you again? Tonight?” David said by way of greeting.
So eager. I snickered. He almost sounded like a true junky. It was kind of hot. I had to admit I took great pleasure in having this secret relationship right under Grant’s nose.
“I’ll have to let you know later. I am too busy now.”
“Please, Amber. I miss you.”
“I have to go. Talk to you later.” I hung up then because he was in danger of sounding pathetic, and I didn’t want to hear that. That wasn’t attractive, not one bit. Besides, it was imperative to always keep him wanting more.
I’d discovered a long time ago that that was the key to unlock every man’s heart, or whatever. Never surrender; never give them everything they wanted. Only then would they be running back to you for more.
I decided to check my emails one more time before calling it a night.
And then maybe I will give David a call. I smiled, thinking about all the things we’d done last time.
What the hell? I grumbled, stumbling upon something strange that erased my smile. I’d received an email from an unknown address.
That by itself wasn’t the alarming part. It had no subject or personal information.
That is strange. All the same, I opened it.
It was a short message. Only a few lines, written all in capital letters.
“Your life as you know it is about to end. I will ruin everything you hold dear. I will ruin you.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...