Empire of Hate (Empire #3) by Rina Kent

“If you say so.”

“Uh-huh.” He strains to see what’s on the stove. “What are you making for dinner?”

“Fish. Your favorite.”

A slow grin spreads across his beautiful little face and every hardship I’ve ever gone through seems to vanish into thin air.

As long as Jay is happy and safe, I can fight through every battle and win any war.

He hops onto the stool and faces me. “I love the food you make.”

“You mean you love fish.”

“That, too, but anything is great. You’re the best cook I know.”

“I’m the only cook you know.”

He grins again. “You’re still the best.”

I reach over and ruffle his hair to which he whines again. “Where did you get that sugarcoated mouth from?”

“Myself. And stop messing up my hair!”


I put the fish in the middle of a plate and take extra time to display the sauce and the salad in an aesthetic way, then I slide it in front of him. “There you go.”

He digs in, not bothering to hide his glee, and I just stand there, watching him with a satisfied smile.

I search for the asthma control medication on the living area table to see if he really took them. Due to troubled housing as an infant, he developed severe symptoms, and he has to take medication for it.

Sometimes, a quick-relief inhaler is enough, but most of the time, medication is needed to control it. Which is why I need to find work soon if I want to keep him healthy, well fed, and with a roof over his head.

Though this small studio flat is humid as hell. The landlord told me he can do nothing about it and that if I hate this place, I can beat it.

He knows full well that I couldn’t afford a hut on the streets with my finances.

“This is so good,” Jay speaks through a mouthful of fish.

“I’m glad you like it.”

Lolli, our black cat with white paws, who somehow jumped onto our balcony about a year ago, meows. Jay gives her some of his fish that she gets engrossed in.

“By the way,” he says without looking up. “The landlord came by earlier today and was yelling about rent.”

I wince. “Sorry you had to deal with that, sweetie. I’ll talk to him.”

He lifts a shoulder. “I told him he’ll regret treating us like shit when we become rich, because we’ll buy this whole-ass building and kick him out.”

“Jayden! You’re not supposed to talk to the landlord that way.”

“That’s the only way to talk to jerks like him.” He pauses chewing and stares at me. “Where’s your plate?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You’re never hungry, Nikki.” He narrows his eyes. “Are you skipping meals again?”

“Of course not, and how dare you look at me as if you’re the adult?”

“Well, maybe I should be so you won’t skip meals.”

“Just eat your fish, Jay.”

I spent all my food budget so he could eat fish today after months of craving it. So what if I skip a few meals? When you’re poor, you don’t have the luxury of complaining.

“You eat it.” Jay pushes his half-finished plate toward me.

I slide it back. “No, you eat it.”

He starts to glide it across the counter again, but I grab it, too, and we start a war of glares.

He’s a stubborn little shit. I wonder who he takes that after.

My phone rings in my back pocket and I grab it without releasing the plate.

I don’t recognize the number flashing on the screen so I answer cautiously, “Hello?”

“Is this Nicole Adler?” a woman asks.

My heart picks up speed and I unconsciously release the plate and wipe my palm on my apron. “Yes, this is she.”

“This is Diana from the Human Resources department of Weaver & Shaw’s law firm. Congratulations, you got the assistant position.”

“Oh, thank you. Thank you.”

“I wasn’t done, Ms. Adler. You’ll start on Monday and will be assigned to a junior partner and he requires a three-week trial period. If you fail, you’ll be paid for that period and won’t be permanently employed. If you succeed, we’ll sign a long-term contract.”

I gulp. “I understand. I’ll try my best.”

“Perfect. I’ll email you the requirements for your job as well as a virtual tour of the firm. It’s imperative you arrive early on Monday.”

“I will. Thank you.”

The moment I hang up, a tiny squeal bubbles in my throat and Lolli judges me with her little black eyes as if I’ve lost my mind.

“What happened?” Jay stares at me with expectation. “Good news?”

“I got a job at a huge law firm.” I round the counter and squeeze the hell out of him in a hug.

“I knew you could do it, Nikki.” He strains, but he squeezes me back.

I pull back, my smile vanishing. “You might have to spend more time with Mrs. Potter next door when I’m not around.”

She’s a kind elder woman and the only neighbor who welcomed us when we first moved in here. She loves Jayden and even Lolli and often watches them whenever I’m working.

“I don’t mind. She makes delicious pancakes.”