Greed is a strange, strange sin.

All you want to do is acquire. Acquire money, acquire material, acquire time, acquire energy, acquire attention. The running mantra is “I want, I want, I want” but that quickly turns to “I need, I need, I need.”

Suddenly there just isn’t enough time for friends, for family, for anyone. Your goal is to acquire and to make sure what you acquire stays acquired. Your life depends on it. You don’t see truth because the truth is shadowed by enormous homes, incredibly fast cars, in lavish spending. Your life no longer belongs to you, but you are blind to it all because those around you are seeking the same.

So you shuffle along at an impossible rate, and you pass the real world around you.

But what you’ll come to realize, altogether too late, is that it’s never enough.

It’s simply never enough.

Chapter One

“It’s confirmed. Peter Knight of Evergreen won’t approve the acquisition. You know what to do,” my snake of a father told me, not two steps into his front door.

“I just got off a seven-hour flight. You can’t let me settle in? Possibly say hello?”

He stood, watching me, a slight tick in his square jaw. He tucked his hands into his Italian silk pants. His six-foot frame followed the steps up to the foyer and stopped a few inches away from my own. We were face to face. Although I fell an inch shorter, he no longer intimidated me. I knew if I had to, I could kick his ass.

“Hello, Spencer,” he said, a serpent’s smile spread wide across his mouth before falling flat. “Get to work. I don’t pay you to sit around. I don’t care if it is your Christmas break.”

We stayed where we were, each waiting on the other to back down. The tension was palpable. In the end, his face relaxed and he began to chuckle, stepping aside and making way for me. I picked up my bags and headed for my room, giving myself plenty of space to pass him without touching him.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I changed my mind and threw my bags on the second to last step, intending to pick them up later. I stretched my muscles, loving the feel of my back popping, and started for the kitchen.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” he asked, still standing in the foyer, watching my every move.

“If I don’t say hi to Mom and Bridge, they’ll think something’s up,” I told him and continued on.

He didn’t respond, but I felt his stare burning into the back of my head.

I knew my sister and mother were in the kitchen because I could hear their laughter from across the immense modern monstrosity that was my parents’ home. My dad picked it out because he picked out everything, and my mom went along because my mother always goes along with what my dad says.

My mother was a beautiful woman, though she doesn’t realize it. In fact, she was gorgeous, inside as well as outside, but she shared the physical characteristics of a woman in her forties who’d had two kids, and for some reason, she thought that gave my father carte blanche to be a cheating, lying asshole and get away with it.

As soon as I entered the kitchen, my seventeen-year-old sister, Bridget, or Bridge as I call her, squealed, jumping off her stool and threw her arms around my neck. Her eyes burned with moisture when she pulled away to look at me.

“My Bridge,” I told her, squeezing her cheeks together, puckering her lips.

“My Spence,” she garbled through goldfish lips.

I released my grip, kissed her cheek, then hugged her. “I missed you, Bridge.”

“I missed you, too, bub. What are you doing here so early? We weren’t expecting you for another two days.”

“I know. After I finished my exams, I thought I’d surprise you, decided that last dorm blowout wasn’t worth it.”

Bridge’s hands met her hips and one brow arched over a grey eye. “You’re lying, but I don’t care,” she said, smiling.

My mother, Jessica, stood, straightening out her crisp apron and smoothed her hair before making her way over to me.

My mom was a former Tennessee beauty queen, all Southern drawl and breeding. In my younger days, I’d done a lot of “yes, ma’ams” and “how’d ya do’s” to get me labeled the freak in my Cali private school. Needless to say, I’d lost my inherited politeness by age seven.

“Mama,” I said, tugging her small shoulders to my chest.

“Baby boy,” she said, her smile wrinkling the laugh lines around her eyes. She smacked my cheek with a kiss then immediately tried to wipe away her lipstick residue with her red manicured fingers. “Merry Christmas, Spencer honey.”

“Merry Christmas,” I told her.

She pulled away and joined Bridge back at her stool. I leaned over the counter, examining their Christmas cookie progress.

“How were your finals?” my mom asked, steadily rolling the dough with a pin over the cold floured marble. Bridge’s eyes followed the movement as well.

“Fine. I aced them all,” I said, popping a piece of dough in my mouth.

“Cha,” she tsked, but smiled anyway. “So cheeky, boy.”

I was majoring in business. I had a mind for it, yes, I just didn’t enjoy it. My dad picked my major. He paid for my life, so I complied, just as I would comply with the “job” he had for me that evening.

I raised my head from my mom’s task and noticed Bridge looked a little green. “You okay, Bridge?” I asked.

“Wha?” she asked, her hand going to her throat. “Excuse me,” she said, swallowing, “I’m not feeling well. I think I’ll go lay down.”

“Go on, buttercup,” my mom told her, her hands methodically rolling the pin.

I watched Bridge unsteadily get up from her stool and walk to the door, but when she reached the entry, she leaned a little on the jamb, a hand going to her mouth.

“Need help?” I asked her, standing from my leaning position.

She turned and smiled but shook her head. “Nah, think I just ate too much raw dough.”

I nodded and she retreated from view.

“You’re not staying,” my mom stated, her eyes trained on her task.

“Yeah, uh, I gotta meet up with a couple of friends.”

She stopped rolling and looked up at me. “Sure you do, love,” she said, patting my face with a flour-covered hand, her eyes devoid of emotion.

I studied her for a moment, wishing we didn’t have to play these little I-know-what-you-do-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-I-don’t games. I watched her face, wishing I could be honest but instead of coming clean with her, I squeezed her shoulder briefly, noting how bony it was, and smiled before trotting off toward the stairs.

I yanked my bag up and over my shoulder, climbed to the third floor and wound down the window-lined hall, the sun still beaming through, warming the cold stone beneath my sock-clad feet, to where my bedroom was. The door swung open and I took in the room—pristine, dark and my own private sanctuary. I really missed it. It was where I would go when I needed to escape my father. He never bothered me in there. In fact, I don’t think he’d even set foot in mine or Bridge’s wing of the house.

I threw my duffel on the bed and watched how it sank into the billowy down comforter. I stood still for five minutes at least, memorizing the silence, possibly procrastinating my dad’s task a little.

Brown was nice, but I had a roommate named August. Something I’d never experienced before. I mean, he was cool as shit, but I’d never had to share a hall, let alone a room. I tried to convince my dad to pay for an apartment for me, but my mom stepped in and said I needed to “experience college life.” Whatever that meant. If she really wanted me to experience it fully, she would start questioning why her husband called me back home every few weeks for a day or two only to send me back with no explanation whatsoever.

College life isn’t interrupted with twice-monthly flights back home. I love my mama more than you could possibly imagine, but she was one of my dad’s pawns. Then again, who the hell was I to talk? Maybe it’s why I didn’t ever defend her from him like I should, because how could I call her kettle black when I was the biggest fucking pot in our house?

I grabbed my cell and dialed Lola, whose name, by the way, wasn’t really Lola. I pulled my t-shirt over my head, entering my bathroom, which was bigger than my dorm room back in Providence. I started the shower as it rang.

“Hello, Spencer,” Lola purred.

“Drop whatever you’re doing,” I told her, leaning against the sink counter, my back to the mirror. I crossed my free arm against my bare chest, gripping my shoulder. It stung like a mother since the previous Thursday’s impromptu football match.

“I have a very important client expecting me tonight, Spencer. I don’t think I can do it.”

“Cut the bullshit. It’s your regular rate plus a ten-thousand-dollar bonus if you do a good job.”

She was silent, baiting me, waiting for a larger offer. I kept my mouth shut.

“Fine,” she conceded, making me smile.

I slipped the piece of paper my dad had his valet, Frederick, lay on my bed out of my pocket. “Seven p.m.,” I read, “Sofitel Bar.” I closed my eyes, vomit threatening to make an appearance. I hesitated at the next part. “He’s a family man so dress seductively but not obvious.” I swallowed down the bile.

“Got it. See you then.”

I pressed end to the call and stared at the surface of the phone. My reflection, the one I’d hoped to avoid for the evening if I was going to be able to do what I needed to do, stared ominously back at me. I threw the phone through the doorway and onto the bed, sick of looking at myself, and undressed. Standing in the shower, I washed the flight off my body and hair. I let the hot water run over my sore shoulder for half a minute. I made a mental note to have Bridge rub it out for me. Hope she’s feeling okay. Poor kid, I thought.

When I got out, I wrapped a towel around my waist and headed for my closet, sliding the large doors across half the length of the room on each side. Immediately, I grabbed my three-piece tailor-made suit from Gieves & Hawkes in London and a crisp, starched shirt and laid them on the bed. I took a deep breath and entered the bathroom, situating myself at the sink, and looked in the mirror. I averted my eyes quickly and laced my toothbrush with toothpaste. I brushed my teeth without looking at my reflection and applied deodorant, but shaving and waxing my hair was a different story. I didn’t have a choice but to face myself then. I let the Bvlgari after shave sting, a self-imposed penance that didn’t touch the surface of paybacks for the sins I’d committed or was about to.

I dressed, took a quick look in my closet mirror, acknowledged that I was as ready as I would ever be and grabbed my keys, jacket and wallet before tucking in my Kiton pocket square.

I strode down the hallway, the sun hidden now, hidden from exposing me for what I truly was, a walking contradiction. I twirled the keys to my Aston Martin, a habit that feigned how carefree I wanted people to think I was. I’d just made it to the second level stairs when I did an about- face to check on Bridge before I left. Copyright 2016 - 2023