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Empire of Desire: Chapter 24


“I thought you wouldn’t survive Mrs. Weaver.”

I glare at my nephew as he slides on top of the conference table, facing me. The other partners left, but he stayed behind to play the bastard role.

“You knew she was coming and didn’t tell me?”

He raises his hands in the air. “Hey. I only got the call after she left. A furious one at that in all of Mrs. Weaver’s snobbish glory. She kept asking if I knew and then said of course I did and that I should bear the consequences if this becomes public and all that fun stuff. But most of all, she was royally pissed that “the little girl” kicked her out. Gwen really did that?”

“Gwyneth. The name is Gwyneth.” And she did. She kicked out my mother even though she’s not the type who shows rudeness without a reason. Despite her smart tongue and sass, she’s not an antagonist. But she has a strong sense of justice and that’s what pushed her to talk to Mrs. Weaver that way.

I’ve been in a gloomy mood ever since she left this morning. I’m surprised I was able to handle this meeting with enough reasoning.

It shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t feel empty, harsh, and unyielding, as if something inside me is lifeless. As if her hollowness is now with me and I couldn’t get rid of it even if I tried, because that emptiness is restricting my breathing, no matter how much I loosen my tie.

And because she transferred her hollowness to me, there’s an urge to go find her, to fucking talk some sense into her so she stops having girlhood dreams. Because that’s all they are, girlhood fucking dreams and misconceptions and everything in between.

But even if I do talk to her, she’ll make those dreams shine harder and brighter. Gwyneth is the type of person who thrives on small gestures yet plummets hard because of them as well. And I can’t let her tow that line.

“She’s more like King than I thought.” Sebastian grins with amusement and I want to wipe it off of his face. I don’t want him or any fucking one amused by her. I’m the only one who should be afforded that luxury.

A few months back, he never would have grinned or acted amused. But ever since he got back with his girlfriend, Naomi, I see more of his old charming self shining through and it’s a relief. I hate the grouchy, grumpy person he became after she was gone. But that doesn’t mean I’ll let him have fun at my expense.

“If you’re finished, go back to work.”

“I’m far from finished. You still didn’t tell me what you’ll do.”


“Mrs. Weaver.”

“I don’t care about her or anyone else.”

“But she could be right. The entire situation could backfire.”

“And I’ll take care of it accordingly when it does.”

“That doesn’t sound like you, Nate.”

I stare at him, even though I understand what he’s saying. I’m not the type who moves without counting my steps or the possible effects. Despite the hasty decision of marrying Gwyneth, I studied the outcome. I knew there could be complications, because I don’t trust Susan and her destructive ways. Even though King’s father was smart enough to have Susan sign an NDA that forbids her from slandering his family, King and Gwyneth included, in the press or she’ll lose any right to his money, I know that’s not a guarantee. I even have a press statement ready just in case.

But those precautions suddenly don’t feel like enough. Because at that point, I didn’t count on going this far with Gwyneth.

I didn’t count on tasting her and becoming addicted. I didn’t count on being so fucking entangled with her that I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.

“I’ll handle it when it becomes a problem,” I tell Sebastian, who’s still waiting.

“Do you have something prepared?”

“Of course.”

“How about Gwen?”

“She has nothing to do with this.”

“Hello? She’s your wife. Of course she does.”

I like that. She’s your wife. Everything else he said, however, doesn’t have the same impact. “She’s staying out of this and that’s final, Sebastian. Don’t even think about bringing it up to her if things get ugly. I don’t want her involved. Got it?”

He nods slowly but watches me as if we’re meeting for the first time. “You’re different.”

“Different how?”

“A few weeks ago, I swear you would’ve made her stand in front of the press with a carefully written statement and you would’ve prepared her to recite it with the right emotions and body language that would seem innocent but would actually be calculated. You’d make it into a sob story, because that’s what you do best, isn’t it? You use your clients’ goals as a motivator to turn them into actors and win cases. It’s how you’ve gotten this far.”

It is.

That’s how large and limitless my ambition is. I win cases to use them as stepping stones. I win cases, not because I have a sense of justice, but because I’m plagued with an insatiable need to go somewhere.


Like a train.

“She’s not one of my clients. She’s my best friend’s daughter.”

“Is that all?” He’s smiling again.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t get too defensive, Uncle. I’m just asking an innocent question here. Is she only King’s daughter to you?”

“Fuck off.”

“Annnd I got the answer I need.”

“Why do you sound so happy? I thought you were against this marriage.”

“That was when I thought she was caught in one of your webs and would be another stepping stone, but turns out that’s not the case. Maybe it hasn’t been all along.” He hops off the table and taps my shoulder. “Best of luck, Nate.”

“With what?”

“Being caught in someone’s web for once.”

And with that, he strolls out, humming a happy tune.

His words keep playing at the back of my head all day long, refusing to shut up or disappear.

When it’s time to go home, I’m ready to stop trying to ignore Gwyneth’s presence. She’s spent the whole day with the IT girl, according to Grace, and I know that’s one of her peaceful places, so I didn’t call for her. She gave my assistant all the work I asked of her anyway, so I didn’t have a reason to.

Now, I do.

Now, I need to sit her the fuck down and tell her about all her options. The ones I talk to my clients about so they have no rosy thoughts about what’s waiting for them in the real world.

I never wanted Gwyneth to be on the receiving end of that, but I need her to be prepared. I need her to be able to stand tall, even if she becomes a target.

She’s not in the IT department, though. And her silent friend isn’t there either. My jaw tightens when one of the engineers tells me she left with Jane and Christoph.

Of course, it’s fucking Christoph again.

I retrieve my phone and call her as I head to my car, but she doesn’t pick up.

My fist wraps around the steering wheel so tight, I nearly break it from its hinges.

Then I dial her again as I drive out of W&S. Still no answer.

I loosen my tie as I hit the gas and reach the house in record time. She really needs to learn how to answer her fucking phone.

When I go into the house, however, no loud music fills the air and there’s no sound of her off-tune singing and chaotic dancing.

It’s quiet.



Just like the hole she fucking left me with.

Martha has left for the day and it’s just one giant, silent house. This would’ve been my haven not so long ago. This is what I prefer, after all—silence, order, and complete discipline.

This is what I work for, what I like to come home to. But now, that same silence sounds violent and so fucking wrong.

I call her again and yank my tie when she doesn’t pick up.

My head crowds with images of her with Christoph and I nearly break the phone that continues ringing in my ear.

I’m on the verge of breaking other things, too.

My mind is going to ugly places where he has his hands on her, where his hands are on her fucking body. The same body that belongs to me and shouldn’t be touched by anyone but me.

But what makes me really lose it isn’t only that he’s touching her physically but that he’s also reaching her emotionally. That he’s in places I would never fucking be.

That drives me into an obsessive thought process that I wouldn’t allow myself to spiral into under normal circumstances.

But these are anything but normal.

I decide to focus on work since it usually clears my mind.

Not tonight, though.

Because I keep staring at my watch, at the minutes and hours ticking by.

I keep thinking about her barging in to confiscate my coffee and replace it with vanilla flavored green tea. In her words, tea is better for my health and she can’t have me getting sick.

“I’m, like, the protector of W&S right now. Imagine if the mighty Nate Weaver gets sick? Nuh-uh, that can’t happen,” she said the other night when she put the tea on my desk. She was wearing one of her countless pairs of tiny denim shorts and a tank top that fell off her pale shoulders, and her damp hair covered the small of her back. Due to being too impatient, she never properly dries her hair.

“For the thousandth time, I prefer coffee, Gwyneth.”

“Coffee doesn’t let you sleep at night. Trust me, tea is better.”

“And I should take your word for it?”

“Yup. As your personal caregiver, I know what I’m doing.”

“Personal caregiver, huh?”

She grinned, flipped her hair, then cleared her throat. “Yeah. That’s me.”

“I don’t remember giving you the title.”

“I volunteered. It’s not about you, Nate. It’s about W&S’s and Dad’s legacy.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, so you kind of have to roll with it.”

“Is that so?”


“Tell me something, is my personal caregiver supposed to be wearing that?” I tipped my chin to her top that said “Good Fucking Girl” in capital letters.

Without breaking eye contact, she grabbed it by the hem, pulling it down until it molded against her breasts. She wasn’t wearing a bra, because one of her rosy nipples peaked and showed through. My dick strained against my pants at the tease.

“Aren’t I?”

“Aren’t you what?”

“A good girl.”

“You’re fucking distracting, that’s what you are.” I tapped my desk. “Come here.”

“Why?” She stretched her tank top until I could see the peak of her other nipple. “Are you going to make me a good girl?”

“It’ll be the exact opposite. Come here. Now.”

She did and I showed her just how bad she was while she was only wearing that tank top. And then she fell asleep on the couch in my office, and I was even more distracted all night long.

But that doesn’t compare to how distracted I am right now. It’s late and she hasn’t come home yet, not to mention that she’s still not answering her phone.

Just when I’m thinking about going back to the firm to get Christoph’s number from HR, my phone vibrates in my hand.

My hopes crush when I find Knox’s name flashing on the screen.

I answer with a, “What do you want?”

There’s a low humming of music from his end, like he’s outside somewhere loud. “Hello to you, too, Nate.”

“It’s after-hours, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I have, which is why I’m calling.” Then I hear the rustle of clothes and the shuffling of feet. “Hang on.”

“Mmmm.” It’s a female mumble or a moan beside him, but I can’t tell for sure.

“Don’t tell me you’re screwing someone and calling me in the meantime?”

“I’m more professional than that. I’m just…checking on something…now stay quiet for me, beautiful.”

“I’m still waiting for the reason behind your call, Knox.”

“Oh, right. Aren’t you Gwen’s new guardian or dictator or whatever? I thought you should know she’s drunk enough that she can’t stand up.”

I jerk to my feet so fast that the rolling chair slams against the wall. “She’s with you?”

“Not technically.”

“Knox, tell me that’s not her voice I heard just now or I swear to fuck…”

“It’s not her. Jesus Christ, calm down, Nate. I ran into her when I came into the club.”

That’s where she’s been all along. The fucking club.

I bark at Knox to send me the address, but I can’t keep my cool, because all the anger and tension from today are on the verge of exploding.

And she’ll be the one to bear my wrath.


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