Authors: Evelyn Glass
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, events, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Sins of the Father copyright @ 2015 by Evelyn Glass. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Book 3 of
’t ever really understood the phrase ‘with a heavy heart’ before he walked into the AEGIS offices that morning. For the first time since his father had died, he saw a path to victory, a way to turn his inheritance from a millstone around his neck into a corporation that he would be proud to be a part of. But someone was working against him.
It wasn’t a new sensation, not really. Throughout his life, it had felt like someone was always working against him. It was funny, even to him. He was sensible enough to know that he’d led an incredibly privileged life. He’d never had to worry about food, or clothing, or whether or not he’d have a roof over his head for another night. He’d been spared the worst of the world’s prejudices because he had enough money and status to compensate for the color of his skin. But sometimes he thought he’d merely traded in one set of difficulties for another.
He’d watched Cindy driving away in his car, the driver instructed to take her to her law firm. Her skin tone had gone gray with misery, but she hadn’t shed a single tear. He wouldn’t have wanted to grieve the loss of his sister in front of a stranger, either. For all of their blood connection, they knew nothing about each other, not really. Each of them was taking a risk in trusting the other.
The only thing that gave him any peace at all was that Claire should be safe from whatever purge was occurring around him. He ran the risk of losing strangers, and that was sad and unfortunate, but it wasn’t the possibility of losing someone he’d been taking care of since he was a kid. But still, someone was committing murder, and the only connection between the two people who’d been killed was his father.
As the elevator rose towards his floor, he felt like his heart was struggling to beat, like his chest was just a little bit too tight. He wondered if even he had the power to stop this thing from happening.
He forced himself to push away the worry and the concern. He had an appointment with two of his father’s old business partners from the weapons trade in the Far East. The fact that they’d asked to meet with him together made him concerned. In his experience, that sort of thing wasn’t necessary, unless they were planning to somehow try to use leverage to bully him towards a particular course of action that would benefit both of them.
They were already waiting outside his office as he stepped off the elevator. He took one more moment to make sure that his professional smile was firmly in place, and then stepped forward, his hand extended.
The two men were both smaller than him, clean-shaven, and had a light brown cast to their skin. He didn’t know immediately which of them was which, so instead of guessing and getting it wrong, he merely extended his hand to the man closest to him first. “Gentlemen,” he said. “Thank you for joining me this morning. I’m sorry that I was running a bit late.”
“No, no,” the second man said as he gripped Alex’s hand in turn. His English was unaccented, something Alex wished he could say about his Mandarin. “We arrived early.”
Brianna appeared then, two mugs of coffee in hand. She passed one to the first man, and Alex remembered why he’d hired her. “Mr. Akimoto,” she said, without any kind of signal or glance from Alex that he could use a hint towards who was who in the room. Mr. Akimoto—Shoichiro Akimoto, the Chief Operations Officer for Hasu Corporation, a weapons contractor out of Japan—offered her a slight bow. “And Mr. Shaoqiao,” she said, handing the second cup to the slightly shorter of the two men. “I found some of the almond syrup after all, so I left out the sugar.”
Shaoqiao Zhu, generally going by Nicholas with his American business partners, and CEO of Wuxing Ltd, based in China, grinned, and his whole face lit up. “You are a treasure,” he said. His English had the slightest accent, just a tiny bit of clip around the words. He took a sip of the dark brew, and nodded deeply. “Thank you, very much.”
“It’s my pleasure,” she said. “Mr. Blankenship, the usual?”
It was a question about coffee and about custom. When he nodded his agreement, he was telling her not just that he wanted a cup of coffee black, but with a splash of orange extract—she’d gotten him drinking it last year, and it soothed his nerves now, for all that he’d never tell a soul about it—but also to hold his calls, and to not tell Olivia who he was meeting with. She’d claimed that she’d seen the notation about the meetings on his calendar when she was scheduling another appointment. He hadn’t believed her then, and he believed her even less now. Brianna was now under standing orders to avoid telling Olivia anything about his schedule that she could manage to keep to herself.
He opened the office door, and the two men followed.
His memories of desire flared as he walked to his desk. It had been so incredibly sweet, having Zoey slammed into him there, her nails digging into his shoulders through his dress shirt as he pounded home in her. He wanted her back, wrapped tightly around him again. He wanted to turn her around, pin her hands at the small of her back, and fuck her while her face was smashed into the desktop. Bruise her again, dig his fingers into her shoulders until she cried out, dancing through pain and pleasure that were so tangled that neither one of them could tell the feelings apart. He wanted to devour her, and feel her fight back to devour him in return.
He dragged his mind away from the fascinating ways he could debase both of them before he ended up sporting wood that his trousers wouldn’t disguise. “I’m pleased the two of you could join me this morning,” he said. He sat down in one of the plush chairs in the center of the room. Brianna came in a bare moment later with a cup of coffee for him. He sat back, taking a sip and luxuriating in its delicate mouth feel before he focused his attention on the two men who had taken seats opposite him—though not side by side, which was worth noting. Philip had always begun his meetings with a demand. This was just one of the many ways he was determined to not be like his father.
“Mr. Zhu,” he began, meaning to ask after the man’s family, but the slight man shook his head quickly.
“Nicholas, please,” the Asian man said, gesturing at Alex.
Unless Alex entirely missed his guess, Akimoto bit back a grimace. Even more interesting. “Nicholas,” Alex said. “And Shoichiro.” The other man did not seem pleased at all that Alex was using his familiar name, but he didn’t protest. “Tell me, what has brought you to the States for this visit.”
Akimoto spoke first this time. “Your father was an excellent businessman,” he said in his perfect English. “But we have both heard that you are not your father. It is an indelicate question to ask over Skype, after all. To ask what legacy a son prepares to give his father.”
Nicholas’ brows furrowed ever so slightly, but he didn’t actually look at Akimoto. Was this a different conversation than the one he’d been anticipating? “We certainly know the direction in which we hope to see AEGIS steered. If that direction is not even on the map, we hope to find out now, so that we can begin to plan for other arrangements.”
Alex nodded, the wheels spinning as he tried to determine what they were actually asking. “Debate continues, as I’m sure you know, about exactly what direction AEGIS will take as we make forward. Projections must be created, charts must be reviewed. You’re both business men, you understand how involved these sorts of choices are.” The question he wanted to ask was what, exactly, interests these two companies had in an American weapons manufacturer, and why they were both staring at him as if he held the key to their entire business futures. But that wasn’t how things were done in his world. Asking a direct question only revealed your motives; the person you were talking to would lie until their face turned blue if it suited them.
He found himself missing Zoey, and her straightforward banter. The way she looked him directly in the eyes and didn’t mince words. He recognized that had it bad. Crush, love, whatever, he had it very very bad. He’d never spent this much time thinking about one person before. It seemed indecent, somehow.
The two men glanced at each other, and it was Akimoto who spoke again. “I apologize, Mr. Blankenship—”
“Alex, of course.”
“Alex,” the man said, but his mouth twisted around the word, as if it tasted sour. “Perhaps we must be blunt like Americans. Your father offered us certain—benefits to remaining his customers, and not using one of the many other vendors who serve our portion of the world. Certain kindnesses received in trade for maintaining exclusivity. I’m sure you understand that we need to know whether or not we can expect these considerations to continue.”
It was hard work, keeping the burning rage off his face and confined to his churning gut. He took another long sip of his coffee as he considered his words. “I’ve seen nothing in your accounts other than the standard discounts for bulk purchasing. Am I to understand that these considerations are all off the books?”
Nicholas nodded. Alex wasn’t sure if he was fooling himself or not that the man looked substantially more uncomfortable with this conversation than his companion. Akimoto didn’t shift his gaze off of Alex’s face for a moment.
“I can’t agree to terms of which I am not aware,” he said, carefully. “I am still in the process of going through my father’s paperwork. When I find documentation of the consideration,” he emphasized the word just a little, “that he was giving you, I will be happy to bring it to the board and determine whether or not they would like to move those considerations onto the official books in order to maintain your continued business. I should have something firm to offer you within a few weeks.”
Akimoto did a good job of containing his anger, but not as good as Alex. His knuckles were blanched white on the mug of coffee he held, and his lips were set in a firm little smile that had no affection in it. “Are we to understand then, Alex, that the rumors are correct, and that you are gathering support for a move to discontinue the weapons manufacturing department of AEGIS, and instead, are looking to expand the medical division of the company?”
He laughed, a genuine burst of amusement. Nothing was ever a secret on Wall Street, not once it was put into writing or spoken aloud, anyway. “I think discontinue is a strong word,” he said. “I think de-emphasize is more accurate. We’re entering a new era of history, gentlemen. In a global economy, we need to work to defeat global enemies so that we can move forward as a world. We’re too tightly connected now to do it any other way.”
“That’s a lovely science fiction story,” Akimoto said now, his voice tighter than before, his words more clipped. “But what about the parts of the world where they don’t agree with your Utopian vision? Some would say that this is just another attempt at American imperialism.”
Alex shrugged. “Let them. I don’t plan to tell anyone how to run their lives. I just know what leaves me able to sleep at night.” And then he stood, taking another sip of coffee. “Thank you for joining me, gentlemen, and thank you for being direct with your concerns. I assure you, I’ll have proposals for you to consider within a few weeks.”
Shoichiro Akimoto stood, rebuttoned his coat, and strode out of the room without another word. Alex winced internally. He’d created an enemy with that little speech, and he couldn’t afford enemies right now. For the last 24 hours, he’d been consumed with the murders around him, but there was more than he needed to deal with. In a cold way, the business troubles were vastly more urgent for him to deal with, especially if word had escaped that he was looking at restructuring AEGIS.
Nicholas took a long sip of his coffee mug, emptying it before setting it on the table. He stepped forward and extended his hand. Alex clasped it, pleasantly surprised at the firmness of the other man’s grip. “I am with you,” the Chinese man said, his voice very quiet.
“I thank you for your support,” Alex replied. “May I ask you a question?”
Nicholas inclined his head.
“Why Nicholas? Why not Zhu?”
The man’s mouth spread in a wide grin, his teeth gleaming. “I hate hearing Americans get the tones wrong,” he replied. “Have a good day, Alex.” He mispronounced the name in the stereotypical way, letting the “l” sound blur into an “r.” Alex gave Nicholas the wincing grin he was sure the other man wanted, and watched him leave.