Home > Bentley (Vested Interest #1)

Bentley (Vested Interest #1)
Author: Melanie Moreland


Chapter 1

Bentley

I stepped outside, and inhaled a lungful of air. After the past four days of steamy, oppressive heat, the rain that soaked the ground and broke the humidity had been a welcome relief. In the early morning hours, it was cool and fresh.

“Your paper, sir,” Andrew, my houseman, said.

I nodded and took my copy of the Toronto Star, looking down the street, pleased to see my car approaching. As usual, Frank was on time, a fraction early, actually—the same as me.

The car rolled up to the curb, and the rear passenger door opened. Aiden Callaghan, my head of security and right hand, eased his massive form out of the seat, and waved his arm with a flourish.

“Your ride, Eminence.”

Ignoring his tone and usual jibe, I slid into the back seat, snapping on the seat belt. I unfolded the paper, the newsprint still crisp and unblemished. Often, if Aiden grabbed the paper before I did, it was creased and smeared, the edges dark with coffee stains or sticky from whatever donut he was shoving in his mouth at the time. The man was an endless pit, it seemed.

“Mr. Tomlin’s office, sir?”

“Yes, Frank.”

I began to study the financial section, when Aiden’s finger bent over the top of the paper.

“Not even a good morning, asshole? Thanks for being here so early? Nothing?”

I rolled my eyes and snapped the paper back into place. “That’s what I pay you for.”

There was silence.

With a low groan, I folded the paper. “Good morning.”

He leaned back with a grin, resting his arm along the top of the leather seats. “Morning, sunshine.”

“Don’t push it.”

“Can I ask why we’re heading to a meeting at the crack ass of dawn? You own the company you know. You could schedule things for times not typically seen only by night owls and prostitutes.”

I bit back my smile at his dig. “I have a full day.”

“I think you like to piss off Greg and get him into the office extra early.”

I glanced out the window. It was early. There was next to no traffic, which for Toronto, was unusual. I preferred early morning meetings. I rarely slept past five, and I liked to start my day not long after I woke.

I lifted one shoulder in a dismissive action, then grinned. “For your information, Aiden, I’m certain night owls and prostitutes have long since headed to bed. Besides, I did tell you I didn’t need you to be there this morning.”

He shook his head. “Nope. I told you, we aren’t taking any chances.”

With a sigh, I brushed a small piece of lint from my pants. “It was an idle threat. Nothing has come of it. You’re being overly cautious.”

He bent forward, all traces of levity gone. “Whoever it was, threatened your life, Bent. I don’t take that as idle. They mentioned the deal you’re so determined to finish, so they know something about you. Until it’s done, I’m sticking like glue.” He sat back. “Plus, it gives me a chance to piss off the big shot lawyer, too.” His grin returned, wide and wicked.

Aiden and Greg seemed to have a love/hate relationship. Aiden respected Greg, yet there seemed to be a constant pull and push between them.

I had met Aiden when we were at university. When I opened my business, I brought him and another friend of ours, Maddox, on board. They had been with me ever since.

Greg became my lawyer six years ago. He was an odd man, his personality dry and cool, but brilliant. He was what I needed in a lawyer. Emotionless, in control, and always wanting to win.

My phone beeped as we arrived at our destination. I glanced at the screen with a grimace.

“Greg is running late. His car wouldn’t start. He’ll be about forty-five minutes.”

“Great. Breakfast then? The place over on Queen?”

I peered out the window. “I’m not overly hungry. You go. Take Frank and get breakfast. I’ll grab coffee in the shop over there.”

“Bent,” he warned, “not alone.”

“Aiden, no one is around. No one knew my schedule but you, Greg, and me. You can watch me walk in, and be back in forty-five.”

“I don’t like it.”

I held up my hand. “I want a coffee and some time to read the paper. Go.” I grabbed my newspaper and flung open the door. “I have a black belt. If someone comes at me with a coffee cup, I can take them.”

I slammed the door behind me, and strode across the street, not giving him a chance to argue. I was certain he’d go grab something and sit around the corner watching, but that was up to him. I was in a public place, and highly doubted I was in danger. He was being his typical, over-protective self. I wanted to be alone and gather my thoughts.

And coffee was on the agenda.

**

It wasn’t one of the chain shops, but it was packed. I could smell the baked goods and rich scent of coffee in the air. People were everywhere, coming and going. All the tables were full, but I could see a few were getting ready to leave. I stood in line, tapping my foot impatiently, waiting my turn. I got my coffee in a takeaway cup, and added a cranberry-lemon scone to my order that looked tempting. After paying, I turned and scanned the room, scowling at the lack of an empty table. I walked farther into the store and rounded the corner, spying a vacant chair against the wall. At least I could sit and wait for a table.

I strode toward the corner, cursing when my foot caught on something, sending me lurching to the left. Luckily, I kept hold of my coffee cup, but some of the contents spurted through the opening and landed on the table tucked behind the wall. My paper fell out from under my arm, and my cell phone skittered across the worn linoleum tiles.

“Oh, shit,” a horrified voice exclaimed. “I’m so sorry!”

Without looking, I slammed my cup on the table, grabbed my paper and phone off the floor. I booted at the worn rucksack that had tripped me, knocking it out of the way. It was small and old, the edges worn and ragged, the brown color faded in spots.

“Hey, no need to kick my stuff!”

I lifted my head, meeting the angry gaze of the owner of the rucksack. A girl glared back at me, her dark brown eyes challenging.

My gaze swept around the table she was sitting at. All alone at a table for four, she took up the entire area. Books, an old laptop, coffee, an empty plate, a second, larger rucksack, and her jacket were flung around the area.

“You don’t have enough room? You have to use the floor space, too?”

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