Venus stormed into the house she shared with Brad. She was livid. How dare the man she spent five years of her life with, leave her a measly thousand dollars. Though she was already wealthy thanks to him, she still wanted more. She was aware Johnny only invited her to humiliate her.
The day she left him, she thought she would have the last laugh. She packed up all of her things, and moved in with Brad long before she went to see Johnny for the last time. The last day she saw Johnny, she hadn’t been long from the bank, cleaning out her bank account. Johnny had access to her account. He set it up so he could deposit, but not withdraw unless he had written permission from Venus herself. This way she couldn’t accuse him of taking away the money he’d gifted her. She opened up an account in her own name at a bank close to her new residence, and that was the end of it.
In the end, Johnny got the last laugh. She remembered the look on his face from the video. She rolled her eyes and went to her bedroom to change her clothes. As she was changing, Brad walked in.
He didn’t take his eyes off of her spectacular curves and asked, “Where have you been all dressed up?”
“That bitch got everything!” Venus exclaimed thrusting her dress to the floor.
Brad tilted his head and squinted. “Bitch? Who are you talking about?”
“Your ex-girlfriend, Sateria. I went to the reading of Johnny’s will today and he left her everything.”
Brad’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Yes, everything.” She sat down on the bed and removed her shoes.
Brad shook his head. “Damn it.”
“What have you been out doing while I was gone?”
“Making a deal with one of my partners.”
“So,” Venus said walking over to Brad, suddenly feeling a bit better. “What do we get if they get away?”
“Nothing big. Around two million in emeralds.”
“Well that’s nice,” Venus said, running her hand through his hair. “Now, why don’t you fuck me and make me forget all of the humiliation I suffered today.”
“You didn’t get anything?”
“A thousand dollars.”
Brad couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s it?”
Venus rolled her eyes and clicked her teeth. “It’s not funny Brad. I gave that man some of the best years of my life.”
Brad continued to chuckle. “So you have told me.”
Venus moved to the bed, laid down, naked. “Come on babe. I thought you said I was the best lover you ever had in your life.”
Brad forgot about the deal, he forgot about everything else. Venus beckoned, and he was more than willing to answer.
The following morning Brad woke first, thinking about his past.
He hadn’t told Venus the whole story about Sateria, but she didn’t let him. He wanted to get it out in the open so the best thing in his life since Sateria, wouldn’t leave him.
Lying awake, he rested one of his arms beneath his head and stared at the ceiling. He thought of Sateria and the good times they had. Then he looked over at the woman sleeping next to him and thought of the day he first met her.
He stood in line at Starbucks waiting to order his coffee when a stray mug rolled around his feet. It was exactly like his.
She smiled a non intrusive smile. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he said returning the same non intrusive smile. Bradley Joseph Morris was not above looking at and admiring gorgeous women, though he was already taken himself. Venus bent over and retrieved her mug. Brad looked at her backside.
Wow! He thought smiling widely.
It was his turn to order. “Venti, triple shot, soy, caramel macchiato please.”
The female barista smiled, obviously flirting with him, and said, “Mmm sounds good.”
Brad returned her smile and nodded. “It is.”
Looking forward to the most expensive cup of coffee he had all week, he waited. As he did, he paid more attention to the woman who had dropped her mug.
She was pretty. No, stunning. Brad shook his head. No. Stop this. Your girl is just as beautiful. He stopped looking at her and continued to wait on his coffee. The barista, who made the tasty drinks, called out his order. By this time, Venus, the gorgeous one, was also waiting.
“Venti, triple shot, soy, caramel macchiato!” The barista said placing a mug on the counter.
Both Brad and Venus went after the same cup. Their hands met and they immediately apologized.
“Sorry,” Brad said.
“No, yours was first.”
They smiled at each other again. Brad picked up his cup.
“Have a nice day.”
Venus nodded. “You too.”
Downtown politeness. Why? Brad never understood it. Why be nice to someone you would never see again? That day he decided he was gonna make a bold move. His current girlfriend, still beautiful, no longer struck his fancy and he thought he would test the unwritten rules of downtown courtesy at the same time. He moved outside the door, and waited for Venus to come out. He was going to talk to her.
He stood close to the door on purpose sipping his tasty coffee, pretending to read the paper. Moments later, the door opened, and he spilled his hot, high dollar drink on himself on purpose, hoping he wouldn’t suffer any serious burns. He dropped the cup, causing Venus to drop hers in a rush to help him.
“Oh! I am so sorry!” she exclaimed, using the napkins from her other hand to wipe his shirt.
Downtown courtesy. Yes!
“Oh, it’s okay. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been so close to the door.”
“I should have seen you. Forgive me.”
Her gracious concern for what she had done, though he orchestrated it, turned him on. In the midst of her frantically wiping off his shirt he grabbed her hand and introduced himself.
Venus looked into Brad’s eyes. His charm and gentle nature oozed from them. She was sucked in like so many women before her.
Smiling seductively, he asked, “Venus, would you like to join me for dinner tonight?”
Sucked in by his good looks and sexy smile, how could she refuse? “Certainly. I have to make a mends for splashing you with hot coffee.”
Brad reached into his breast pocket, and handed her a business card, somewhat moist from the coffee. “Here is my number. Call me, and we’ll go from there.”
Venus examined the card. Paying special attention to his title which said, Collector. Collector of what? She had no idea, but the man who stood in front of her was well worth her attention, no matter what his job was.
“Sure. Somewhere down here okay with you?”
Brad nodded. “Of course. Let me know.”
No one ever believes when they met someone they may be meeting their soul mate. Both of them unavailable, they took a chance that the relationships they were in might not mean as much as they originally thought.
Weeks later, they lay together post coitus, hot and dripping in lustful sweat.
“I can’t leave him yet.” Venus said.
Brad nodded. “Fine. I can get rid of mine.”
They agreed to be together, and it began.
Brad rolled over and stroked her on the cheek. Venus woke up.
“Mmm. Morning babe.”
“Venus, sweetie, we need to talk.”
Venus shook her head. “Mmm no. Give me some more.”
Brad rolled over on his back. “We have to talk about this.”
Not even pretending to be in his head, Venus asked, “Talk about what?”
“There is much more I need to tell you,” Brad continued, not hearing her previous question.
“Bradley Morris, what are you talking about?”
That he heard. “She was the love of my life. We met very young, we began way back then.”
“If we are talking about Sateria, tell me what I don’t know.”
“After I left her, I lost track of her for a while. I had no idea what she was doing, or what she was up to. I had no idea her mother died until I read about it in the paper. I was close to her once, Venus.”
“So what are you saying Brad?”
“I’m not sure, really, but I’m not happy she’s now a billionaire, and I’m not.”
Venus was confused. Brad claimed he didn’t know Johnny. If he didn’t, he shouldn’t have known Johnny’s worth, let alone what he left to Sateria. “Brad, how do you know that? You weren’t at the reading of the will.”
Realizing he said too much, he quickly backed off. “I deal in jewels Venus, you know that. There is not a collector alive that doesn’t know who Johnny G was.”
“So you lied to me. You knew him too?”
Brad shook his head. “No,” he lied. “I never got the pleasure of doing business with him, but I looked forward to it. I knew of him. I never met him personally.”
Apollo went back to his well decorated penthouse and stewed. Damn that woman. Damn Johnny. Why didn’t he tell me about her! Apollo punched a hole in his own wall. Fuck!
Pheonix sat in her sister’s apartment still not totally normal. Troya found Pheonix sitting in the living room with a lighter in her hand. Pheonix loved fire, and fire called to her passionately. She sat with the lighter in one hand, burning the palm of her other.
Troya was mortified. “You can’t bring him back by doing that you know.”
Pheonix looked up. “Doing what?”
“Setting yourself on fire.”
Suddenly realizing what she was doing, Pheonix put the lighter away. “I suppose not. But what are we gonna do sis?”
Troya knew her sister was hurting. Not being as close to Johnny as the others, she had another outlook. “Perhaps it’s time we moved on. Maybe even started our own business.”
“Baby girl, you know I love you. You are my sister, and I did all I had to do to keep you safe. But no. I am compelled to stay here, at least for a while. For some reason, I feel there is one last thing I have to do for him. I don’t know what it is, but it will come to me. Maybe you leave. Go to L.A.”
Troya shook her head. “Nope. You brought me into this, and I’m not leaving until you do. I know you loved Johnny. Way more than I did. However, he was growing on me. But I’m not gonna leave you. We’re family.”
Pheonix nodded. “Okay. Then we wait on Apollo.”
Two months went by. After their meetings with Benton, all were satisfied with what Johnny left them, or so it seemed. Sateria was the last to meet with Johnny’s lawyer. By that time she had her own. Determined to make sure that Johnny’s wishes were carried out to the letter, she arrived at Benton’s office with her lawyer ready to fight anything her beloved did not want. She loved and trusted her Johnny, but for anyone else, trust was hard.
“Miss Murphy, I will be honest with you. You are you here simply as a formality. Mr. Giannopoulos left you with a huge fortune, and without a doubt, I know you will not contest it. I wouldn’t. Many properties here in Chicago, with others in Los Angeles and New York, both commercial, and residential. One of the most prestigious jewelry collections in the world, and well there is the money. You simply have to sign all of the paperwork.”
Sateria was appalled. Sateria already knew of Johnny’s wealth. By his lawyer running it off like a laundry list, she somehow felt cheapened. “Benton. May I call you Benton?”
Out of respect for his former client, how could he say no? “Of course.”
“Benton. I’m not the greedy, gold digging bitch that you may think I am. Johnny loved me. That is why I have the majority of his shit. Just show me where I have to sign, and I will be out of your hair.”
“By all means, Miss Murphy.” Benton presented the paperwork that would allow Sateria to become the owner of millions of dollars in real property, cash, and jewels. Sateria signed her name several times in a matter of ten minutes.
“Is that it?” she asked, looking up at her former man’s lawyer.
Benton nodded. “Yes ma’am.”
“Seriously?” she smirked. “Had I known it would be such a short time, I would not have wasted my time bringing my lawyer here. Thank you very much, Benton.” Sateria stood up to leave.
“Miss Murphy, there is something else.”
Turning around agitated that he stopped her. “What?”
“I was instructed by Mr. Gianopoulos to tell you to go and see Mr. Leonard, after our transactions were completed.”
Sateria racked her brain. “Mr. Leonard?”
“Johnny’s second in command. Forgive me, Miss Murphy. I can’t say anymore. Mr. Leonard will be able to help you beyond this point.”
She tried to remember where she’d heard that name before, and suddenly it came to her. The handsome velvety voiced man at Johnny’s funeral. “Apollo Leonard, right?”
Benton nodded. “Yes.”
“Where can I find him?”
“AJG headquarters. Eight seventy five, North Michigan.”
Sateria shook her head. “No. That is not where Johnny’s office is. I’ve been to his office, and that is not where it is.”
Benton nodded. “Yes, Miss Murphy, it is.”
Unsure why the address was different, she didn’t question. “Thank you, Benton.”
Sateria got up from her seat and left Benton’s office followed by her own lawyer.
Three days later, Apollo was sitting in his office reading over the latest contracts that hit his desk. Perfectly satisfied with the peace and quiet, he read a page and signed his name at the bottom. His peace, disturbed by the sound of his phone ringing. Quite upset, he stopped working. He put his pen down and picked up the receiver. It was the receptionist.
“Yes Donna, what is it? I’m busy.”
“There is a Miss Sateria Murphy here to see you sir.” Apollo sat in silence wondering what she could have wanted with him. Was she there to gloat? Was she there to confess that she killed Johnny? Was she there to confess her secret love for him? He had to know. “Mr. Leonard?”
“Oh, I’m sorry Donna. Are all of my partners here?”
“No sir. Only the Smith sisters. Mr. Johns has not made it in yet.”
“Okay. Send Miss Murphy in, and let me know when Mr. Johns comes in.”
Donna hung up the phone and smiled at Sateria. “You can go in now.”
Before Sateria made it to Apollo’s office, he cleared his desk of all paperwork so he could concentrate on Sateria. Moments later, his office door opened. She stepped through his office door wearing a camel colored, wool crepe, skirt suit that showed off everything it should have, yet she was still professionally dressed. Though she wasn’t very tall, her long, well defined legs got his attention as they had since the moment he first laid eyes on her. Apollo took a deep breath, stood and smiled. He walked from around his desk and extended his hand. “Welcome, Miss Murphy. What brings you here today?” He asked, shaking her hand.
Sateria returned his smile. “I wanted to talk.”
“Certainly, have a seat.” Her perfume was driving him nuts, but he let her womanly wilds distract him. She was at one point, Johnny’s girl. He had to respect that. On the other hand, she could’ve killed him so he had to be cautious as well.
Sateria sat down in a comfortable, firm high backed leather chair in Apollo’s conference area. Apollo allowed her to sit first then he sat in a matching chair across from her. He crossed his legs, interlaced his fingers, and placed his hands across his chest. Sateria, not knowing where to start, looked around Apollo’s well decorated office afraid to meet his gaze.
“You have a nice office.”
Apollo nodded. “Thank you. Johnny’s decorator did all of our offices.”
“I see,” Sateria replied, still visibly uncomfortable.
Apollo waited to see if she was just going to blurt something out, and she didn’t. She just continued to look around the room. She must have been waiting on him to start the conversation. So he did.
“Miss Murphy, what did you come here to see me about? Has something gone wrong with one of the transactions? If so, I will see what I can do to help.”
Sateria looked at Apollo and shook her head. “No. Everything went well. I just…” she hesitated still not knowing where to begin. “I just wanted to ask you something about Johnny. And since you knew him for so long, I’m sure you can tell me.”
Sateria paused for a moment longer. Not knowing how Apollo was going to react to her statement, she tried to pull it out of Apollo so it wouldn’t sound like she was accusing Johnny of anything.
“Mr. Leonard,” she began, “can you tell me what Johnny did for a living?”
Apollo was stunned. Realizing now that Johnny told her that he was a thief, but the question was when? “He was a realtor, and restaurateur, Miss Murphy. Just like me and the others you met. Why?”
“It’s the craziest thing,” she said shaking her head. “He told me he was a thief.”
There is was. Apollo glared at Sateria and suddenly let out a huge booming laugh to hide Johnny’s secret. Sateria stared in confusion.
“I’m sorry, Miss Murphy. No. Johnny was no thief. I mean if he were, I’d certainly know about it.”
“But he told me to come to you.”
Apollo tipped his head. Now to find out exactly when Johnny spilled the beans. “When and why did he tell you that?”
“In the private video he left me. He told me to come to you and you would teach me all I needed to know about his businesses…plural.”
Apollo suddenly felt a little better. Knowing Johnny’s taste in women, at first he was certain that she was a gold digging black widow. But if this were the case, why was his heart beating a mile a minute just because he was close to her?
He couldn’t be too angry with his friend, since Johnny didn’t specify which waitress he was talking about at the time. Johnny was gone now. However, he still couldn’t trust her fully. He still didn’t really know who she was.
No one was sure when Johnny recorded his will or the private message to her. Sateria could easily be lying about the content. After all it was a private message meant only for her.
“He said that, did he?”
“Well, I can certainly help you get your real estate license, and teach you this business. The restaurant business was something Johnny did outside of real estate. I can’t help you with that at all, other than teach you how to buy or sell one.”
“I see. So he lied to me.”
Apollo shrugged, in spite her obvious disappointment. “Perhaps. He was human, and none of us are above telling fabricated stories.”
Sateria stood up. “Thank you, Mr. Leonard. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
“Not at all, Miss Murphy. When you are ready to get that license come see me.” Apollo stood and walked her to the door.
Sateria turned and faced Apollo. “I will. Thank you. Have a nice day.”
Apollo watched her walk down the hall. As she turned the final corner, he noticed that his heart rate wasn’t normal. Apollo closed his door, and immediately went to the phone.
“Donna, has Mr. Johns come in yet?”
“Yes sir, he came in during your meeting.”
“Okay good. Have all the partners meet me in conference room two for a short meeting. Right now.”
Apollo got up from his desk, went to the conference room, and waited for everyone to show up. Moments later, his three partners in crime made their way to the small conference room. Jayden, the last of them to appear, closed the door behind him.
“What’s up?” Jayden asked.
Apollo smirked. “Why were you late this morning?”
“Traffic. Sorry. So, what’s going on?”
Apollo smirked. “It seems that Sateria Murphy has it in her head that Johnny was a thief.”
Three mouths fell open at the same time, astonished. Apollo nodded. “Yup. That’s not even the worst of it. She says Johnny told her I could help her run his businesses.”
“So when did he tell her?” Pheonix asked.
“She told me it was in the private message he left for her.”
“But Johnny recorded those videos long before he died,” Troya said.
Jayden shook his head. “We don’t know that for sure.”
“Well how do we find out?” Troya asked.
“Well, I suppose we could go ask his lawyer. He’s the only one who really knows. But he’s not obligated to tell us anything. And if he does say anything, we really can’t believe any of it,” Apollo replied.
“So what do we do?” Jayden asked.
“What do you all want to do? I mean it doesn’t really matter when she found out, we now have to worry about two people running around with our secrets.”
Troya tipped her head. “Two?”
“Venus is still running around loose. For all we know Venus could have killed him. She had perfect motive. She was with him for a very long time. Perhaps she thought Johnny left her everything, and if he was murdered, well...”
“You have a point,” Jayden said.
“So what do you want to do?” Apollo asked again.
They sat around the table and looked at each other in silence.
Apollo rolled his eyes. “I guess I could call Johnny’s lawyer. We’ll start there. Sound good?” They nodded. “Good. I’ll let you know what he says.”
That afternoon, Apollo was in Benton’s office.
“Good to see you again, Mr. Leonard. What can I do for you today?”
“Mr. Thompson, I won’t beat around the bush. I need to know the exact date Johnny recorded the message to Miss Murphy.”
Benton sat behind his desk hiding behind client privileges. “Sorry Mr. Leonard, I can’t tell you that.”
Apollo nodded. “As I thought.” He reached into his breast pocket, pulled his weapon, and pointed it at Benton. “You don’t seem to understand. The closest person in the world to me was murdered. Did you here me? Murdered. I intend to find out who killed him. So you are gonna tell me what I want to know, and I’ll leave your office.”
Afraid, Benton hid his fear well. “I can’t do that, Mr. Leonard.”
Apollo cocked his weapon. “Why not?”
“I don’t keep dates in my head, and I destroy my calendar after each month. Truth is I don’t remember when Mr. Gianopoulos recorded it.”
Surprised, Apollo asked, “You destroy your calendar?”
Benton nodded. “I work for a lot of folks who well, have a lot to hide. If I destroy my calendar, less evidence. You understand.”
Apollo nodded. “Okay then. Where is the DVD?”
“I don’t have it. I mailed it to Miss Murphy after the reading of the will.”
“You have a copy for sure.”
Benton shook his head. “No. I usually do make copies, but Mr. Gianopoulos paid me a huge amount of money not to copy that one.”
“So what you are saying is that there is only one copy of this DVD in existence.”
Apollo removed the bullet from the chamber. “Very well then. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
Benton nodded. “You’re welcome.”
Apollo went back to his office frustrated. He took the time to take care of normal everyday work, but just before closing, he called the team together so he could tell them what he found out.
“Benton doesn’t have the DVD, Sateria does.”
“And you trust that he told you the truth?” Jayden asked.
“Well shit, what else do we have to go on? Let’s just go see her. If we are nice, certainly she will let us watch. She, after all, came to me with this shit. I’m sure she is confused as to what she should do. She’s not like us at all. Give it some time. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”The team nodded, and went on their separate ways.