Empire of Hate (Empire #3) by Rina Kent

And then my little gift in life insists that I share the rest of his meal with him.

To celebrate.

From now on, I won’t have to live on the run from his father.

From now on, I’ll have the means to fight back.

On Monday, I wake up early.

After I prepare a lunch box for Jay, I place it on the counter with a Post-it Note that says “Don’t forget your lunch” and then bang on the bathroom door so he’ll hurry up.

He woke up groggy from sleeping in an uncomfortable position with me. This studio flat is the only thing I could afford with my various low-paying jobs. One sofa bed. A kitchen. And a very small bathroom.

But that’ll change.

I’ll make sure I’m fully employed and we’ll move out of this shithole in this bloody loud neighborhood.

My new boss can’t be as demanding as the many others I’ve worked for. He’s an attorney, after all.

I step out of the flat with a smile on my face. I don’t even pay attention to the screaming neighbors, the stench of alcohol, or the passed-out drunk by the side of the road.

I don’t even mind the crowded streets. Okay, maybe a little. Even though I’ve been living in the States since Jay was born and moved to New York last year, I still can’t get used to how fast-paced everything is here.

It’s like everyone is chasing something and won’t stop unless they reach it or drop dead.

Sometimes, I miss London with its peaceful afternoons and even its strained relationship with the sun.

But London and I are no longer on speaking terms. Not since I ran away from it faster than a speeding train.

By the time I reach Weaver & Shaw, I take a pause.

It’s massive and intimidating as well as elegant. I remember feeling like a mouse when I first came here for the interview. I applied to much smaller companies, too, because I thought it’d be virtually impossible to be accepted at this one.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough experience. But maybe they took the two years I spent at Cambridge into consideration? After all, it’s one of the most prestigious universities in the world and I did study business.

Though not American or anything specific to New York City.

Whatever the reason, I’m the one who was called into this famous law firm that has a few of the best attorneys not only domestically, but also worldwide.

They have branches all over the States and Europe. Even one in London, from what I learned from the other applicants for the assistant job.

Security lets me in once I give him my name.

My head is held high as I walk past the vast creamy white walls. Everyone here looks prim and proper—elegant, too—and I think I did a decent job of dressing the part.

I’m wearing a white button-down that’s tucked into a black pencil skirt. I also wore my only good heels that I save for professional settings, such as this one.

My hair is gathered in a ponytail and I put on natural-looking makeup and peach-colored lipstick.

My phone case is the same color. My key chain, too.

I kind of never got over my obsession with that fruit. Even though it nearly killed me when I was a child.

After a trip to the Human Resources department, I sign the trial contract and get my temporary access card. Diana, a kind middle-aged woman, tells me to head to the seventh floor, then gives me an ‘I hope you make it’ look.

But I don’t understand why she shakes her head as I leave her office.

The occurrence keeps puzzling me as I take the lift to the seventh floor.

I try to breathe deeply since it calms my nerves. Then I touch my pendant that shares the color of my eyes. The one I’ve worn for the past sixteen years.

You can do this, Nicole.

You have to. For your own and Jay’s sakes.

When the lift stops, I get out with a small smile on my face.

There’s an open area for interns where many of them are busy typing at their computers or reading documents.

But that’s not what I’m here for. Diana told me to head to the second office on the left.

All the junior partners and associate attorneys have glass walls, but the one I’m walking to has the blinds drawn.

I straighten my back, walk through what I suppose will be my office until I reach another door, then knock on it.

“Come in.”

The deep voice with a British accent causes a foreign feeling to constrict my chest and I pause.

No. It’s only my stupid imagination that I can never manage to control. There’s no way in hell it’s him.

That would be just tragic.

And cruel.

And every negative word in the dictionary.

Chasing that ominous thought away, I push the door open and freeze.

My heart drops to the base of my stomach and I cease breathing when my gaze meets those blue eyes that stole from the sun, sky, and the stars.

It is him.

The man who ruined my life as much as I ruined his.

Daniel Sterling.



This is a trick of my mind.

A cruel twist of my imagination.

A nightmare.

Yes. That’s all this could be about. A nightmare. If I wake up now, it’ll all be over.

If I wake up now, I’ll be drenched in sweat and have tears in my eyes, but it’ll be an illusion.

I’m not actually facing Daniel after eleven years of running away and trying to erase everything about him from my memory.