Chapter 1 - Favors
Bailey Underwood was not your average businesswoman. Of course, she was cunning and intelligent but also kind and generous. Two sides of a coin that normally don’t lead to success in the business world. She had spent all her life learning how to get ahead, how to make the best deal, and how to ensure that she always got what she wanted. She wasn’t afraid to use her brains or looks to her advantage, anything to give her leverage over her competitors, anything but using her father’s influence.
Although she was displayed in plain sight for all to see, she was still hidden. A secret guarded close to her family’s hearts and known by few.
Her fiery red, waist-long, curly hair, coupled with her deep blue eyes, and hourglass figure made her desired by many. She dressed in pencil skirts, blouses, and dresses that complimented her figure just right without being too revealing and her simple make-up was the cherry on top. Bailey’s mother, Wendy Albertine, had always reminded her of the power a beautiful woman had in a world of men and was painfully reminded of it every time they met.
In college, she had tried dating but she was always left missing something. Instead, she started finding men who, just like her, only wanted one thing, sex. She never cuddled, never slept next to a man, and never whispered sweet nothings in their ear. Bailey used them for her own pleasure, leaving fond memories and broken hearts behind her.
Bailey’s father, Gregory Albertine, was the leader of the biggest Mafia empire on the west coast. To keep Bailey safe from his competitors, Bailey was given her mother’s maiden name and was kept out of the public eye until she was old enough to live her own life. Few people knew who her father was, something she worked hard to remain a secret.
Her father being a career criminal ensured that her family was constantly threatened both by other criminals and by the law. Keeping her a secret had always seemed to be the only way out for her.
“Ms. Underwood. Your 10 o’clock should be here soon.” Jessica, Bailey’s PA announced after barging into her office.
Bailey pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Why was it so difficult to find a good PA? Two years on this job and she still can’t get the simplest things right. “Jessica, I don’t have a meeting today and I asked you not to disturb me.”
“I was sure that... Oh, that was yesterday.” Jessica squeaked.
“So you mean to tell me that I missed my meeting yesterday because you mixed up the days? I waited for them to arrive for hours. Did they show up?” Bailey inquired.
“Yes, they did but I told them that you didn’t have a meeting scheduled so I sent them away.” Jessica started to fumble with the hem of her shirt. “I’m so sorry.”
“Jessica, I... just go and do something useful.” Bailey waved her away.
As soon as Jessica left the room, Bailey picked up her phone and called Jake. While she waited on him to pick up, she read the words written by her mother that was framed and rested on her desk. -A princess waits for her prince to rescue her. A queen will get off her ass and rescue her damn self.-
Bailey grew up shielded from the world with only one friend her own age, Jake. Jake was the son of Gregory’s right-hand man Robert. Jake and Bailey quickly became glued at the hip which didn’t change when they both attended Princeton for business school. Not only did they attend classes together, but they lived in the same house and attended every social gathering with each other.
After college, Bailey started an investment company and not long after expanded into logistics, marketing, and real estate. Jake merged his own company with Bailey’s as her VP and their efforts had caused their business to expand beyond their own beliefs. They decided to name the company, Blackwood Enterprises.
“You have to fire that assistant of yours.” Jake laughed. “Before you say anything. I fixed it all and we are still on track to buy the Wexlers’ real estate company but he wanted to change some items that may turn this sour for us. The papers should be on your desk by the end of the day but next time I might not be able to work a miracle.”
“I know but I can’t, she needs this job. Besides, Where would I find a competent replacement?” Bailey huffed into the phone receiver.
“I might be able to help you with that. Clear an hour from your schedule tomorrow morning and I will send someone over. I think you’ll like him.” Jake insisted and smirked from winning their disagreement.
“Ms. Underwood, I brought you your lunch.” Jessica strode into Bailey’s office once again without knocking. She placed the salad and bottle of water by Bailey on her desk.
“Thank you, Jessica.” Bailey eyed the salad and then cleared her throat. “Jessica?... There are nuts on this salad.”
“Yes, I thought it was a nice touch.” Jessica was proud of herself for picking out a different lunch for her boss, thinking that she needed a little pick-me-up.
“Jessica, did you not read your welcome letter or listen when I told you that I am severely allergic to nuts?” Bailey gently asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Jessica gasped. “I... I...”
“I am sorry Jessica but this is not working out. I am reassigning you to the front desk on the ground level, report there first thing Monday morning. Tomorrow I expect you to train your replacement.” Bailey hated firing people and tried to find them a different position in the company if she could. Jake didn’t agree with her sentiments but knew better than to argue with her on it.
“Yes, miss. Thank you for not firing me.” Jessica had been fired from her last two jobs and couldn’t face her mother if she was fired from a third one. She had always been a little ditzy and a real clutz but her big heart usually made up for it.
Bailey stood up and hugged Jessica. “Of course. Besides, there are some really cute guys down on the ground level.” Bailey winked.
Now she could only hope that Jake’s replacement was a good fit. She had to remind herself that Jake had never steered her wrong other than that one time in college when Jake dragged her to an underground fight ring thinking it was humans fighting but it turned out to be dogs and he refused to leave until Jake had bought all the animals and found them good homes. After the fact, Bailey contacted the police with pictures, videos, vet bills, and other documents on the dogs proving what the owners had done. The entire event was shut down and all participants were arrested.
Relieved to have settled the latest of many items on her mental list, she got back to reviewing the paperwork and ran the numbers for an upcoming investment. Bailey was the one usually scoping out good investments while Jake was in charge of closing the deal but lately, their roles seemed reversed.
Jake knocked on her door and entered after a brief moment. Jake had beautiful caramel skin, deep brown hair, and matching eyes. His brilliant white smile could melt any woman’s heart and make them drop their panties in a second. Bailey’s and Jake’s fathers had long expected the two of them to get married and take over their legacy but the mere thought made both of them double over in laughter.“You know, entering my office without permission is one of the reasons it didn’t work out with Jessica.” Bailey scolded her best friend.
“We both know you didn’t fire her and I don’t need permission. I own half the company.” Jake quipped with a smirk.
“49%!” Bailey teased. “I’m in the middle of reviewing the numbers for that nightclub, Amor. Honestly, it’s not looking good.”
Jake scrunched his nose but then let it go. “Oh well, but that’s not why I’m here.”
“Then why are you here?” Bailey raised an eyebrow, hoping she didn’t have to listen to another of Jake’s schemes which usually ended up with both of them in a precarious situation.
“Pack your stuff, we’re going on a date.” Jake’s grin made Bailey uneasy. “Not with each other, although we will both be there but so will other people. I met this gorgeous woman and I convinced her to have dinner with me tonight. The only problem is that her brother is in town and I promised to bring him a date.”
“And you thought I was the best choice for this?” Bailey couldn’t believe Jake, or maybe she could. After all, this wasn’t the first time he had promised her time to someone.
“Absolutely, you’re a bombshell and I saw a picture of the brother. He could be an Armani model.” Jake laughed and stood up, ready to head out. “Get your butt going.”
Bailey groaned but followed him out the door despite her internal objections. “You owe me for this.” She spat and Jake grinned.
They were seated at the table, waiting on their dates. “You owe me big time.” Bailey spat again through a fake smile as their dates walked up to their table.
The woman was, like Jake had said, gorgeous but the man was... not Bailey’s type at all, which Jake knew. “Jake, baby. We’re here!” The woman gushed with her bedroom eyes. Her screechy voice made Bailey think of nails dragging along a chalkboard. “This is my brother, Isaac. Who did you bring?”
“This is Bailey, my other half.” Jake joked which earned him scowls from all three of us. “By that, I mean that she is my best friend of course.”
Bailey rolled her eyes but quickly covered it with a sickly sweet smile, hoping the siblings couldn’t see through her act.
The siblings sat down, Isaac by Bailey and Alexa by Jake. Alexa immediately started talking about whatever passed as entertaining in her life. Neither Bailey nor Jake was paying much attention since Jake was busy touching Alexa’s leg under the table and Bailey was avoiding Isaac’s lingering gaze.
The dinner went on and when the waiter arrived with the check, Bailey snatched it up and handed him her black credit card. Relief watched through her when he returned with the receipt and she could finally escape the failed evening. She needed a release but knew she would not find it at this table.
Isaac had turned out to be one of the most boring people Bailey had ever had the displeasure to meet. She counted the minutes on the clock behind Jake’s head, waiting for time to pass before she could excuse herself to go home.
As she started scooting out of the booth, Isaac laid his hand on her leg, dangerously close to her panties. “You want to take this somewhere else, just the two of us?” He whispered in her ear and his foul breath reached her nostrils.
Bailey gently laid her hand on his, wrapped her slender fingers around it, and then twisted his hand up. “I would think twice before laying an unwanted hand on someone.” She twisted a little more and Isaac squeaked.
Bailey let go, stood up, and gathered her belongings. “Jake, I’ll see you at the office and this is the last time I do you a favor.” She walked out of the restaurant, got in the Uber she booked a few minutes ago, and headed home for another night alone.