Shattered Dynasty by Ava Harrison
My fingers drum against the surface of the desk. The sound echoes throughout the space, low and steady. A peaceful rhythm at this hour of the day.
It’s quiet this morning. Dark, ominous skies loom outside my large windows overlooking New York City.
I’m the first person here.
Not unusual, though.
I do a lot of my business overseas, so naturally, I am always ready to work when the UK market opens.
Despite the time, the phone on my desk rings. The tone is a blaring contrast to the surrounding silence.
Its shrill sound reminds me of a fire alarm that takes you by surprise.
Without my assistant here, I’ll have to answer. That’s the only way to be sure it’s not a business emergency. Few people know I get here this early.
Only my most important clients.
Still knowing this, I don’t answer.
It stops ringing for a brief second, only to start up again.
Must be important.
Letting out a sigh, I grab my office phone.
“Speak,” I respond.
“Hi, Mr. Aldridge. This is Larry Baker, your father’s attorney.”
I lean forward in my chair, about to hang up when he continues. “If I could have a minute of your—”
“No, you may not.”
Nothing my father could say would warrant having a conversation with him. After what he did to my family, he’s lucky I haven’t put a hit out on his ass. His days are limited, though. My dad isn’t cut out for jail. Orange is not the new black for that man. I have no doubt that he is currently trying to figure a way out.
Either by appeal or a prison escape.
Knowing the type of men he used to be associated with, neither would surprise me.
Because if he doesn’t get out of there, it’s just a matter of time before he gets himself killed.
He has too many enemies.
The Russian mafia wants him dead.
Cyrus Reed wants his head.
And I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than at his funeral.
How the hell has he lasted this long?
“Your father called me yesterday, frantic. He wishes to see you,” the sleazebag drawls out. I have never met the guy, but anyone who would represent my father has to be the scum of the earth.
“I don’t give a crap what he wants,” I hiss.
I hang up the phone . . . okay, more like slam it back down onto the receiver.
No matter how often this guy calls me for my father, I have nothing to say to the ass. Moving forward, I’ll screen my calls better.
My dad lost the privilege to speak to me when he tried to sell my sister off in a game of high-stakes poker.
There’s no coming back from what he did.
No apologies. No actions could ever make it okay.
There will be no redemption for him. No amount of money is worth his unforgivable sin. The bastard should have offered his own life first.
I’ll never understand how he could do it. Not just how he could leverage and lose all our assets. No. That’s just money, and in the grand scheme of life, that doesn’t matter. The part that keeps me up at night is how the hell he could do what he did to my sister. He put Ivy on the chopping block. How was that even an option in his head?
But it doesn’t matter because that man, my father, died that day. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t had a father in the past two years. I haven’t spoken to him since we had him arrested.
The “we” being myself and Cyrus Reed. My brother-in-law. His associates helped, too. Men who’ve become my clients.
We didn’t give the bastard any warning. Stacked evidence of his crimes like they were bricks, and we were looking to build him a new home in hell. We ruined him.
It’ll be a hundred fucking years before he takes a step as a free man unless he pulls strings, which we’ve made nearly impossible. Stripped away any power he possessed—and his willpower in the process.
If by some miracle he manages to get out, we will be here waiting for him. Waiting to strike him down like the scum he is.
The phone rings again.
I ignore it.
A part of me wonders if he is reaching out to me to help him on his quest. He can try all he wants. I wouldn’t help him if the fate of the world laid in his hands. So, regardless of whatever bullshit he intends on spewing, my father is dead to me.
Fine by me.
Swiveling my chair to face the windows, I stare outside.
At five o’clock in the morning, darkness still bathes the city.
The only lights that illuminate the sky comes from the buildings. There are no stars.
Which throws my mind into high gear. Why would my father’s lawyer call me this early? The thought weasels past my barriers before I can stop it.
Don’t read into it.
It’s the same old bullshit, just a different day.
Dad knows this is the best time to reach me, and he told his lawyer that.
He knows no one is here but me. Not much has changed since I used to work for him.
The phone rattles again. There’s something desperate to the sound of a call while the city sleeps. Almost eerie.
This time, I unplug the cord to the landline. The ensuing silence blankets me. I pretend, for a moment, my father never sold his soul. Or try to. The past is so far removed from where we’re at, and I can no longer grasp it.
In his glory days, my father ran one of the most successful hedge funds in the city. Fuck city—he ran one of the largest funds in the world.
He made a lot of men very rich.
Made a lot of people very poor, too, as a direct result.
I’m not sure how it happened. One day, he could hop on a private jet to Saint Tropez for a quick dip in the ocean. The next, he couldn’t even afford an economy-class ticket to Florida. He lost it all.
Not just his money, either. Desperate to refill his coffers, he entered an underground poker game, sold his soul to the devil, and became a monster.
Raising my head, I pull at the roots of my hair and force the thought out of my head. The bitter aftertaste lingers, lacing with the scent of the office. Where traces of his betrayal seep into every inch, every second, every decision.
I still run a hedge. But instead of just getting money from trust-fund babies, I also house money for the scariest motherfuckers out there.
In the end, I ended up being no better than the man I hate.
Unlike him, I can sleep at night with my choices.
Which is ironic, since at the moment, I can’t relax, no matter how hard I try. The phone call from his lawyer stirred the pot I have long tried to forget.
I push up out of my chair and head to my private bathroom to throw on sweats, a T-shirt, and sneakers.
Going for a run will clear my brain.
This always happens whenever my shit of a father reaches out.
And like clockwork, he always does.
I take the private elevator that leads to the ground floor and nod to the doorman on duty on my way out of the building.
My feet hit the pavement, each step leading me farther from my office. Once they cross over Fifth Avenue and into the park, I’m off to a sprint, pushing myself at a speed that can’t be healthy.
The air against my face steadies me.
The adrenaline surprisingly calms my nerves.
I’m not sure how long I run, but my feet finally stop moving. The moment has come that I need to deal with the shitstorm that’s probably waiting for me. I turn to head back. The sun has risen past the horizon.
The only priority should be to make some fucking money and forget how this day started.
I’m only a block away from my building when my cell phone vibrates in my pocket.
Now it’s my mother.
“Mom,” I answer.
I should probably be nicer. It’s not like I’m in the habit of being a dick to my mother, but I have a good feeling I know why she’s calling, and I want nothing to do with it. Nor do I understand why she even bothers trying after everything.
My mom did divorce him, thank fuck.
But for some reason unbeknownst to me (and trust me, I’ve tried to understand for the sake of my sanity), she kept his last name, sends him gift baskets in jail like he’s there for a fucking birthday party, and still goes to bat for him when I refuse to talk to him.
Life is too short to hold on to animosity.
Her words. Not mine. And a big, fat lie. Inevitably followed by the same cheesy we-are-the-world bullshit.
“Give yourself permission to move on. A flower can only bloom if it feels the warmth of the sun.”
I’d take a part-time job as Charon just to ferry my father into the depths of hell. And even that wouldn’t be enough to redeem him. An eternity of punishment is still not adequate for his crimes against my family.
“Hi, sweetie.” Her voice is clear, but it lacks her normal, cheerful tone. It sounds somber.
At one point, I didn’t expect to hear any joy when she spoke. That was when life had beaten her down. Guess that warmth-of-the-sun shit worked because she blossomed, gardening in her spare time and harassing me with the rest of it.
“Are you calling to talk about Dad?”
“Let me stop you and tell you the same thing I told his lawyer. He’s been dead to me since he tried to sell off Ivy. There is legit nothing you can say that will make me speak to him. It’ll never hap—”
“Trent!” she yells. She never yells.
I halt. Maybe even cease breathing altogether. My pulse thrums against my neck, the long run catching up with me in one fell swoop. I wait for her to finish.
“Your father is dead.”