Chapter 1. Aiden And Abetting
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Aiden Kinsley was an asshole, and he was well aware that he was an asshole. But at least he could consider himself an asshole with some moral code.
The man had no qualms about being honest and open, and had no time for the faux niceties and etiquette that the entitled and pretentious aspired to. One such individual could live their whole life as a lie, but Aiden would not allow himself to do that.
As for morals…they were there, buried deep beneath a layer of arrogance, austerity, and sex appeal. He had deep-rooted beliefs that he strove daily to adhere to.
Ingrained into him by a father who was authoritarian and moody, and genteelly embedded in him by a mother who spent most nights nursing a bottle of booze in her hand before knocking herself out on a cocktail of prescription drugs. The next day she would take another such brew to get her through the day.
Aiden’s mother had been more of a ghostly apparition when he was still living at home. She floated silently from room to room, mumbling to herself absently before taking her place at one end of the dining room table where she drank her supper.
Uppers for daylight, downers for after-hours. It was a routine that would eventually take her life as completely as it had curdled her liver.
When his father decided on an early retirement after being ousted by more vicious competitors in his field, he put Aiden in charge, hoping to give his company new life. Then it was goodbye KinsleyCorp, and hello KinTech, now a leader in the Silicon Valley region of northern California.
Aiden molded the new business to his liking, hand-picking his own management team from trusted friends and colleagues he could rely on whilst ensconcing himself as CEO of the lucrative tech business.
Harrison—or Harry, to his friends—Charles was the CFO and an Englishman of 45 who was grandfathered into KinTech. Aiden was also friends with the older gentleman, courtesy of his father. He trusted him more than anyone else in the company, and had granted him the title of Chief Financial Officer.
The man was worth his weight in gold and had ridden with KinsleyCorp through its roughest patches, as well as gliding through good times.
To Aiden, he was indispensable.
Carlton Smith—better known as Carl—was COO and another friend of Aiden’s whom he had met briefly on a business trip to New York City.
Having grown wary of the fast-paced life of downtown Manhattan, Smith had befriended Kinsley there, and kept in touch by email and phone. They met again at a convention being held at Salesforce Tower in the SOMA district of San Francisco a couple years after first becoming acquainted.
When Carlton had bitched one too many times about his thankless job in the Big Apple, it had taken little convincing from Aiden to get him to drop his life on the east coast and set up shop as Chief Operating Officer of KinTech.
Ramon Gutierrez was the glue that held their interesting quartet together. He was mild-mannered, yet boorish at times. His job as Chief of Security for KinTech was offered to him after his jobs as a San Jose police officer and then as a private investigator in the Bay Area had become more of a hassle and less of a moneymaker for his expanding family.
He was a marvel with computers as well, and in the security business, nowadays, it was a crucial skill to add to your portfolio.
The four men sat in Aiden’s office that Friday evening in the beginning of what most places would consider Indian Summer.
Living in the Bay Area was always a life of never truly knowing what the next day’s weather would bring. With micro-climates being what they were, you could experience one day that was 110 degrees in the shade, while the next day would bring a high of only 85. It was maddening for those who liked to plan ahead with regards to their attire. Layers were imperative for those people who that let their outfits do the talking for them.
It was 4:30 PM, and most of the office workers had already left to start the weekend early. The quartet of men sat in Aiden’s office, sipping scotch and companionably joking, as was their custom at the end of a busy work week. And for these men, every week was a busy one.
Only a few secretaries and personal assistants were still at their workstations, going over next week’s schedules or wrapping up some last-minute business for the current week. The majority, however, had already scuttled off to whatever weekend dalliances they had been looking forward to since Monday.
Carlton peeked through the blind-covered windows that separated Aiden’s office from the main floor. He watched two women chatting animatedly, while another was immersed in her work.
“Now, that right there…that I wouldn’t mind pouncing on for a night or three,” Carlton said for probably the hundredth time in the past several months. “There is something so fucking sexy about a woman that looks as innocent and strait-laced as your little secretary, Aiden.”
Aiden rolled his eyes at Carl and looked over at his secretary of four months. She had come from a temp agency that he regularly used when in need of fill-ins. His previous secretary had moved to Thailand or some other beastly third world country when she met a man online. Janine had given him exactly a week’s notice and then hightailed it over the Pacific to marry some creep who claimed he was the heir to some family fortune.
Personally, it wouldn’t have surprised Aiden one bit if the man was merely a rice picker or ran one of those odd taxi services that consisted of a tottering rickshaw and a shoeless man wearing a conical bamboo hat.
“Stop eye-fucking my secretary, Carl,” Aiden spat. He had a bit of a soft spot for his little secretary. She was a meek little thing and reminded him a bit of a librarian—albeit a very sexy librarian.
“Well, you certainly aren’t planning on plowing her yourself, so why can’t I have a little taste?” Carl easily replied as he took another sip of scotch. The man became more and more crass in direct proportion to how much he drank. He’d had a few tumblerfuls of the scotch already and had loosened his tie, both literally and figuratively.
“Leave her alone. I don’t approve of you attempting to dip your pen in the company ink,” Aiden accused, desperate for a change of subject. It had not been the first time he’d had to rein Carl in from trying something on with the lady he was openly ogling through the vertical blinds.
“I don’t need my pen dipped. Just my dick.” Aiden gave an irritated exhalation of air through his lips and looked skyward. “Besides, don’t tell me you’ve never dreamt of bending her over your desk, hiking up her skirt, and pummeling her sweet pussy a time or two.” Carl wore a lascivious grin. “I bet under that prim exterior, she’s a tiger in the sack.”
Aiden ran his fingers through his hair until it stood upright. Carlton was always thinking with his little head instead of the big one, and the list of his conquests grew daily as a result.
Harrison chuckled at the easy repartee between the two friends.
“Have some propriety, old boy,” Harry said. His heavy British accent hadn’t faded in the twenty-some years he had lived in the United States.
Sometimes Harry suspected his friends only kept him around so that they sounded more sophisticated. It wouldn’t actually bother him if they did. Lord knew these men needed someone in their group dynamic that made them look less like a bunch of aging frat brothers.
“Leave the poor girl alone. She looks like she’d split in two if you tried to have a go at her,” Harrison continued as he pointed a long finger at Carlton in a playful manner.
“She’s a woman, not a plaything,” Ramon added. Out of all the men, he was probably the most respectful of women. He had a wife and three children, all of whom he adored. Although Harry also had a family, his marriage to his wife, Mathilde, had been more along the lines of a business transaction than a typical romance. Their relationship had grown from a tolerable union of two families, to a respectful alliance between man and wife. If there were any deeper romantic feelings there, they weren’t ones that could be often witnessed by their close circle of friends.
“Aiden, when is the last time you were actually with a woman? A couple of months ago? You keep holding off and your pecker’s going to shrivel up and fall right off. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Carlton poured himself a fourth scotch, and Aiden quickly snatched the bottle from him so he couldn’t help himself to a fifth.
Walking over to the window that overlooked the parking lot below, Aiden stared out at the staff’s and visitor’s cars parked there. He could practically see the pavement shimmer with the late afternoon heat. As he peered down, he thought deeply about Carlton’s words.
It had been quite some time since he had been with a woman, and his secretary was a sweet little thing—though possibly a little too innocent for his tastes. She would probably faint if he ever tried to make a pass at her—not that he ever would.
Aiden knew he was a good-looking man, and the growing number of contacts in his own little black book proved it. He stood six foot two with blonde hair and green eyes that snapped and sparkled no matter his mood, and he was in the prime of his life at the age of 30. All he had to do to warm his bed was tip a wink or a smile, and women would fall in line.
However, Aiden didn’t care to harvest from his crop of female employees in order to gain a quick fuck. Because that’s all it would ever be, a quick fuck or two, and then onto the next. Inter-office dating was not something he generally encouraged.
Many of the women he employed had tried to tempt Aiden. Whether it was with words or suggestive clothing, there was nary a single female who hadn’t tried, at least once, to lure the man.
Well—all except one. His secretary, Constance.
Constance did all of Aiden’s scheduling, filing, and a number of other duties; she did them all promptly and with grace, and always addressed him as Mr. Kinsley or Sir. She was professional with him to a fault, the same as she was with all the other employees in the office, regardless of age or rank.
“So, what do you say, Aiden? Care to place a wager on it?”
Aiden had zoned out on his friends, and when Carlton called him back from his woolgathering with that question, it caused him to snap his head to the other three men in the room.
Carlton was constantly finding new ways to make life more interesting. Most recently, he had taken to wagering bets with Aiden. Much to his dismay, they were usually ludicrous or downright sophomoric.
“What wager?” he asked. Realizing he must have missed something big in the conversation they were having, Aiden observed the looks that Harry and Ramon were giving him. The two men were looked disturbed yet resigned about something, while Carl had a smug smirk plastered all over his damned irritating face. At times, Aiden wished he could smack that look right off the prettyboy’s mug. This was, undoubtedly, going to be one of those times.
“I’ll bet you that you can’t get that luscious little secretary of yours into bed within…well, say by the end of the year.” Carl was leaning forward and grinning at Aiden, who frowned back at him in response.
“No, you fool! I will not wager on something like that,” Aiden declared, scoffing in disgust. He may have been relatively loose in his sexual morals, but he didn’t wish to sink that low.
“Why not? She’s only a temp. It’s not like she is really an employee. Her checks get cut from the temp agency, not you,” Carl argued.
That was true. Aiden paid the agency handsomely for their services, and Constance was ultimately getting paid via a third party.
“I’ll pass,” Aiden quipped, though he felt his resolve starting to crumble at the temptation of sex. He blamed it on the fact that it had indeed been months since he had last gotten laid.
Sometimes he hated his friend’s reasoning. Carl, out of all his friends, had the sole ability of getting under his skin by any means. He simply flipped the perspective to aid his cause. Unfortunately, it worked 99% of the time. It was maddening that his friend could persuade him simply with a few carefully placed words.
“Don’t think you can do it? Think she’s too virginal for a man such as yourself?” needled Carl.
Aiden’s patience with Carlton snapped in that instant.
“I could get her to fuck me within a week if I wanted to,” Aiden growled out and watched as Harry and Ramon exchanged a knowing glance. Carl’s eyes lit up as he smelt his future victory over his friend.
“Then prove it. Prove to me that your little secretary out there can be seduced into your bed,” Carl challenged. “If you lose, I get to bed her instead.” He threw that last bit out as if he was supremely indifferent to the wager.
“And if I win?” asked Aiden, internally cursing his friend.“Name your price. You don’t have to tell me today, so think it over. Not that it matters, ’coz I’ll win anyway,” Carl told him. He knew he had Aiden by the balls.
“Fine,” Aiden said. “I will fuck her before the year is out or you can have a go.” He mentally cringed at his own words, coarse as they were.
He put the bottle of booze away. The bet had sobered him up prematurely.
The look on Harry’s face was disapproving, but Ramon, being the security chief, gave nothing away. If anything, Aiden could read the slight disappointment in his eyes, but that was only because he had known him so well, and for so many years.
“Now get the fuck out of my sight Carl, before I hack off your balls and make this whole ridiculous bet pointless,” Aiden told his friend.
With that, Carl walked out of the office with a smirk. His challenge had been accepted, and although it had irked Aiden, no doubt, he felt that familiar excitement of watching the bet play out. It would no doubt be enough to entertain him for the next few months.
Carl loved to observe the game, particularly when he would be the one waiting in the wings to reap the benefits.