Read Blackout Online

Authors: Rosalie Stanton

Blackout (2 page)

 

 

Three

 

Fired.

Lennon sat with his back against the elevator wall, his gaze flicking every few minutes to his cellphone for any sign of life or connectivity. It was easier than looking at her and contemplating what he’d confessed and what he’d learned in turn.

Fired.

In all fairness, he should have assumed something like that had happened. After all, Kenzie had not once come by his office to thank him for the promotion. He hadn’t seen her in the break room, and his replacement secretary seemed timid and nervous. At first, Lennon had associated the newcomer’s behavior with start-of-job jitters, but it made all kinds of sense that she’d be uncertain how to proceed around him if she thought the job could be stripped with one misplaced step.

All because of his obsession with the damned tape.

Was it possible only three weeks had passed since then? Since the day he’d returned to work after lunch to find a pile of mail waiting on his desk. Kenzie usually made a note to grab everything assigned to his office on her way back from the bistro up the road. She’d sort through the junk and pass along only the things she felt he needed to see, and it—the manila package with no return address—had been buried under a stack of white envelopes. Inside was a VHS tape labeled FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

On the tape was Kenzie. Naked. And touching herself.

The spell had snapped after that, the schoolboy crush he’d nursed for her over the months exploding into the strongest wave of pure, animal lust he’d experienced in his thirty-one-year existence. Perhaps it would have been more bearable if he hadn’t already stroked his cock to release half a dozen times to the fantasy of Kenzie’s tight pussy wrapped around him, but hell, crushes were harmless, and he couldn’t help himself. With her long, raven-colored hair, petite hourglass build, brilliant green eyes, bright smile, and melodic giggle, she was any man’s wet dream. To top it off, she was kind, she made him laugh whenever she told her joke of the day, and she was a
Battlestar Galactica
junkie. A pretty girl who loved science fiction…it just didn’t happen in the real world. Had it not been a horrifically bad idea, he would have set ethics aside and asked her to dinner well before things grew out of hand.

But he hadn’t. While his associates chased skirts, Lennon didn’t have the luxury of a monstrous bank account to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. Plus, Kenzie wasn’t the sort of woman with whom one had a casual fling, and, though he loved watching her, loved their flirtatious banter, loved being on the receiving end of those killer smiles, he couldn’t bring himself to destroy their working relationship.

Then that damn tape had arrived and everything had gone to shit. Suddenly every glance she tossed him seemed a tease. Every time she set coffee on his desk, he pictured her gasping and pinching one of her succulent nipples, her legs spread and her thighs slick with excitement. He’d find his eyes wandering down her body, then glance away guiltily when she so much as turned her head in his direction. All day. All the time. He’d excuse himself from board meetings to steal a few minutes in the bathroom, his hand stroking his cock to the image of Kenzie’s head tossed back, her fingers pumping in and out of her juicy cunt, her smile aimed at the camera.

He could have thrown the tape away. Fuck, he should have thrown the tape away…but he hadn’t. It was a drug—a rush, a high, an addiction of which he couldn’t rid himself. Every time, he promised himself, would be the last. He’d throw it away after one last wank, and god, how he’d tried. Excuses mounted and guilt compounded, but he couldn’t trash the tape. He couldn’t.

Damn, he’d made a mess of things. His first course of action should have been to approach Kenzie with the video. Sure, it would have been an embarrassing discussion, but no less embarrassing than sitting in the elevator with her and confessing he’d been aroused as hell watching her fuck her fingers. That she’d driven him to such distraction he’d been forced to circumvent talking with her at all.

Lennon looked at the file on her lap. Whatever else happened, he needed to recover what she’d taken. Buckingham might be a horrid, twisted monstrosity of the human condition, but the case was too large to forfeit, and a loss might come at the expense of his job. He’d find some way to help Kenzie and her brother. While his extra income wasn’t as lucrative as people seemed to think it was, he did have connections—enough contacts, at least, to get Scott Drake into a good school and keep Kenzie afloat until she found something else.

A replacement job for the one he’d cost her.

Kenzie must have caught him staring at the folder, for she quickly hugged it to her chest. “You’re going to ask for this back, aren’t you?”

Lennon met her gaze but quickly turned away. Looking at her was difficult at the moment. “You know I can’t let you leave with it.”

She snickered. “Doesn’t look like either of us is leaving.”

“Well, hopefully we won’t be stuck in this elevator forever.”

“Just long enough for you to convince me the error of my ways?” she retorted. “Let me know how stupid it’d be to steal from Doran and Gage, and, more importantly, you?”

“Enough for you to realize that actions have consequences.”

“Since when were you an ethics professor?”

He sucked in his cheeks, his jaw tightening. “Kenzie…”

“Have you met this clown?” She dropped the file again to her lap and flipped it open. “Kayla told me—”

“Kayla Bryant. One of his stepdaughters.”

“Yes. The one he didn’t rape.”

Lennon winced. Buckingham’s dance around that particular issue was one of his larger complaints with the defense team. Kayla Bryant was the elder stepdaughter and had issued the allegation that Buckingham had pursued her younger sister, Janelle, since the girl turned eighteen. In contrast, Buckingham asserted that Janelle had shown up once at his office one night wearing nothing but a floor-length coat and seduced him, as a measure of gratitude for getting her out of a jam. Although confirming the office seduction had taken place, Janelle swore it was at Buckingham’s insistence. He had allegedly forced her into a sexual relationship on the promise he’d keep her drunken car wreck a secret from her mother. Apparently Janelle had put the other driver into a three-day coma after her inaugural experience with alcohol. Buckingham successfully kept her wreck just between them, though whether the secret came with a price tag was up for debate.

The affair had lasted nine months and ended when Natalie Buckingham, the wife and mother, walked in on Theodore pounding his younger stepdaughter from behind. Since then, numerous women—from the housemaids employed at his mansion to the interns who spent their summers with the titan media mogul—had come forward with similar allegations. Most, if not all, claimed Buckingham had seduced or blackmailed them into a sexual relationship, leaving them used, abused, and occasionally pregnant.

Buckingham was the worst sort of client, and though this was Lennon’s first large case, cooperating with the slime was nearly enough to persuade a less ambitious man to change careers. His work with Doran and Gage—he had been hired on almost six years ago, immediately after finishing his internship and passing the bar—had all but murdered his conscience. And while his ambitions hadn’t faltered, he’d started thinking this particular law firm wasn’t the one with which he wanted to jumpstart his career. Most of his colleagues made up the fodder for lawyer jokes, and, call him an idealist, but Lennon, with idols like Atticus Finch, had chosen law for the same reasons Mr. Smith had made his trip to Washington.

“I’ve met Buckingham,” Lennon said. “He’s a bastard, that’s right, but it doesn’t make it okay for you to break into his lawyer’s house and take his case file. More to the point, anything he’s told me that you learn from something stolen will be inadmissible in court.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Kenzie replied. “Once the jury’s heard it—”

“You watch too much
Law and Order
. The odds of this case going to a jury are not in your favor.”

“Kayla says it will.”

“Kayla hopes it will.”

Kenzie held her head high. “And why shouldn’t she? Her little sister was raped! Her mother was…was…who knows what, and how many other women were victimized by this piece of shit? You know Buckingham won’t settle. He thinks he’s bulletproof. And at this point, I don’t know if a settlement offer would be accepted, because everyone keeps getting pissed off.”

A rush of anger, fueled and coaxed by fatigue and desire, pushed through his weary system. Lennon swallowed hard and did his best to maintain a level tone.

“Kenzie,” he said softly, evenly, “if you give them that file, I’ll be lucky if all I lose is my job. I could be sued for malpractice or even disbarred. Do you understand that?”

She frowned. “No. How? You can’t possibly be blamed for someone breaking into your home.”

“Our situation is a bit more complicated than a run-of-the-mill burglary, isn’t it? You’re a former employee, and our relationship isn’t exactly…well, standard.”

Kenzie huffed and flipped the file closed, again pulling it to her chest. “I can’t believe you want this guy to get off the hook.”

“I never said that.”

“Well then—”

“There’s a difference between rooting for someone and doing your job,” Lennon said hotly. “Buckingham is a Grade A son of a bitch—a bitter, sex-starved pervert who is used to buying his way around every turn. But regardless, he’s still a United States citizen whose rights include being presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”

“I can’t believe you’re in bed with this guy.”

“I can’t believe you turned out to be an activist.”

She frowned, worrying a lip between her teeth. The gesture softened her, made her seem more approachable, more feminine, more like the Kenzie in his fantasies. The girl he imagined riding his cock so hard he went cross-eyed. God, the space between them was too short to bear. He wanted to touch her, run his hands through her hair, and pull her hoodie off her body so his fingers could explore her hidden curves. What would she smell like? What sounds would she make? Would she sigh his name or scream it in wild abandon?

Lennon’s cock strained against his pants. The emergency lights were dull, but not enough to escape notice. He folded his hands and placed them over his crotch, hoping the move wasn’t too obvious.

“I’m not,” Kenzie said at last, not looking at him.

“Not what?”

“An activist.”

She braved a glance in his direction, her eyes seemingly guided to the part of his anatomy helplessly under her spell. One second was enough to confirm his erection was now common knowledge. She squeaked and quickly looked away, a soft blush tingeing her cheeks.

“I just got desperate,” she said.

Lennon nodded, the wisp of anger he’d entertained dying completely. The power she wielded—the ability to make an otherwise rational man go silly in the head—would have worried him under any other circumstance. And though he had been wrong before, Lennon desperately wanted—needed—to trust her. She’d been his personal ray of sunlight while she’d worked for him. He’d idealized her a bit, and he recognized that now. Her openness, her sense of humor and appreciation for her inner geek had made him want something he didn’t know to want.

“I know.”

“You do?”

“You’re not the sort of person who goes around doing things like this.”

A fine eyebrow raised. “What sort of person am I, then?”

He flushed and looked away, not sure if he should answer or ignore the question entirely. She had always been kind under his employ. Smiling, laughing, attentive to detail and hardworking—if a project’s importance was emphasized, she didn’t rest until her portion was on his desk, and then usually asked for an additional assignment to lighten his workload. Kenzie was a woman with a killer smile who wasn’t cold or hostile, nor did she play sex games with the other men in the firm. She embraced her femininity but refrained from using it to her advantage.

He cleared his throat. “I…”

“The sort who makes sex tapes for her scummy ex-boyfriend?”

Lennon winced, his attention immediately directed to the tape in question. “That’s none of my business.”

“Of course it’s not,” Kenzie replied. “But here we are.”

“Right.”

“So how was it?”

If his eyes grew any larger, they’d pop out of his head. “What?”

Kenzie shrugged as though her question wasn’t at all awkward considering everything else they’d discussed, particularly Lennon’s admission that the tape had been an obsessive and extraordinarily guilty pleasure for weeks. Yet there were certain poker-like tells she couldn’t escape—things Lennon figured any other man would ignore or miss, but he saw clear as day. She wet her lips, which he knew to be a nervous habit, and her cheeks darkened half a shade. Her eyes fought to remain connected with his, though he could tell she wanted to look away.

She was fishing. For compliments? Unlikely. But definitely for something.

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” When in doubt, tell the truth. “What do you mean, how was it?”

Kenzie shrugged again, at last looking down and worrying a lip between her teeth.

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