Forever Lies (The Five Families Book 1), page 1
Books by Jill Ramsower
The Five Families
The Fae Games Series
Shades of Betrayal
Born of Nothing
Beneath the Crimson Cloak (Short Story)
A Note from Jill
About the Author
Shadow Play Sample Chapter
Forever Lies is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 Jill Ramsower
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Print Edition ISBN: 978-1-7330721-3-7
Cover Designed by Hang Le
Cover Model, Adam Cowie
Edited by Personal Touch Editing
It was fucking Monday all over again. Why did they have to suck so much? Mondays crept into the week far more frequently than any other day—at least twice as often as Friday—and they lasted three times as long as any halfway decent Saturday. Mondays are the first day of a diet and the last day before a paycheck, all rolled into one. They’re starting your period while wearing white pants and getting a flat tire on the tail end of a road trip.
There is not a single redeeming quality about Mondays.
I shouldn’t complain. I was gainfully employed by the largest construction company in New York City. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I was the Associate Director of Marketing with my eyes set on obtaining the coveted director’s position. If only it wasn’t already occupied by the smarmiest, most disgusting man in the city, my boss, Roger Coleman. Even his name was sleazy. He tainted each of my days, marring the work that I loved with his presence like greasy food stains on a pristine wedding invitation.
His lewd comments and presumptuous stares were the lingering aftertaste of rancid food, turning my stomach long after I’d had a taste of his vile brand of seduction. I did my best to keep our interactions professional, public, and as brief as possible, but that was difficult when we worked together regularly on important projects.
His advances had started out small—telling me how lovely I looked or commenting on my hair or eyes. In romance novels, having an older executive pursue the young professional may have sounded sexy and exciting, but when my fifty-five-year-old boss with a fake-and-bake tan and leathery skin started hitting on me, it was repulsive and unsettling. I’d done my best to discretely brush aside his advances and discourage his behavior in the hopes he would take the hint and move on, but after a year of working in the office, he had yet to cease his efforts.
Only once had his pursuit escalated to a physical level. Six months ago, at the company Christmas party, he cornered me in a hallway and pressed me against a wall, his dick thrust against my stomach. He’d been drinking heavily, and I made the mistake of walking to a restroom alone. I’d been so repulsed and terrified, I didn’t even hear the revolting comment he made. I gave some stuttered excuse and tore from his grasp, leaving the party.
The incident only lasted a matter of seconds but had been seared into my brain. He never acknowledged it, and neither did I. That’s not to say I pretended it hadn’t happened. The threat of his unwelcome attention was always in the back of my mind. I’d taken every effort to distance myself from the man, both professionally and physically. I made certain I pulled in coworkers to help on projects, so there was always an extra set of eyes working with us.
Our offices, along with several others in the suite, were constructed with glass walls, which helped give me a certain degree of security—no hiding behind closed doors outside of the conference or break room. Another fortifying fact—Roger’s advances weren’t a daily affair, not even weekly. The problem wasn’t their frequency, it was the uncertainty of not knowing when they might occur that was the most stressful.
Thus, the misery that was Monday.
Yet another week of wondering what lewd propositions I might have to fend off.
Unlike my sisters, I had made the choice early on to go into the family business. Had I known how complicated it would be, I might have pursued a job elsewhere. But now, I had put in a year of my time and was poised to move up the ladder—I wasn’t going to entertain the option of quitting. I wouldn’t let my scumbag boss make me walk away from what I’d dreamed about since I was a child—my family legacy.
Instead, I made sure the neckline of my blouse didn’t hang too low and marched into work swathed in a protective shield of confidence. This week would be one of the better ones. My boss was only in for the day before he would leave on a week-long business trip to L.A.
I could survive one day with the devil.
Most of the morning passed uneventfully. I was left to my own devices, preparing for a full week of project meetings and impending deadlines. It wasn’t until almost eleven when the intercom on my phone blared with Roger’s voice.
“Alessia, can you come in here, please?”
A seemingly harmless request, but it stirred an overwhelming sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.
I didn’t answer—there was no need. He could see me as I stood from my chair and made my way to his office next door. While I didn’t so much as glance his direction, I had no doubt his beady eyes would follow my every step. Our offices lined the outer wall of windows, the glass walls allowing the rest of the employees to enjoy the soaring views from our building. It was a double-edged sword—no privacy was a good thing, but it also meant there was no escaping Roger’s stare.
“Did you need something?” I stopped several feet from his small conference table where he’d laid out his presentation materials.
“You sure you can’t come with me? You know the material as well as I do and would be an enormous help when I make the pitch. It’s not too late to get you a ticket.” He arched a brow, hands propped on his hips where he stood on the opposite side of the table.
“My sisters would kill me if I’m not there to help get ready for Mom’s party this weekend. It’s her fiftieth and—”
“I know, I know,” he cut me off as I began to blather about my mother’s pretend birthday. She’d turned fifty years ago, but the party had been the best excuse I’d come up with on the spot when Roger had initially asked me to accompany him on the trip. There was no way in hell I was traveling with the man. Fortunately, he h
“You told me already. Well, get over here and let’s run through everything one more time before I head to the airport.” He waved me over with a frown, clearly disgruntled I hadn’t caved to his pressure to accompany him.
The project was a relatively minor remodel proposal for a building in Brooklyn owned by a corporation headquartered on the opposite coast. I’d worked on the project along with a couple other people from our team. It was too small-scale for Roger to do the grunt work, but he was presenting our proposal because the contact was a friend of his. We had already given him all the pertinent information on multiple occasions, so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say.
The chairs had been pulled around to clump on my side of the table with the various documents and exhibits spread out for viewing from the other side. His setup left little option except to come around to his side of the table, but I kept as much distance between us as was reasonably possible.
“It looks like everything is here,” I offered as I perused the materials.
“What about the schedule of work?” he asked as he leaned forward to retrieve the document. “I noticed we listed a completion timeframe of six months, but I thought we had discussed moving that out to nine.” His right hand snaked out to curl around my waist and pull me next to him as his other hand held out the document as if showing me its contents was the purpose behind his flagrant violation of my personal space.
Stunned by his action, I took the papers and stared at them dumbly. I didn’t see the words on the page—I was entirely focused inside my head where my thoughts raced at a frenzied pace in an attempt to grasp my situation. My boss’s hand lingered at my lower back before slowly dropping down to caress over the curve of my ass cheek.
I ceased breathing, and my ears began to ring.
His repulsive touch in such a private area made my skin crawl, but I couldn’t seem to move a muscle. I was frozen—horror battling with mortification.
The glass walls gave me a perfect view of the bustling office where a dozen employees scurried about their business. Never in a thousand years had I imagined he would make a move on me in plain sight of our coworkers, but he’d done a masterful job keeping his actions unseen. To all the world, we looked as though we were simply examining a document—his wandering hand only visible to the New York skyline out our tenth-floor windows.
“Um … we decided … to subcontract the welding work,” I sputtered out. “Our guys will be busy on the Merchant project. Outsourcing will enable us to keep the six-month timeline the client requested.” As I said the words, I frantically debated what to do. If I allowed him to continue touching me, it would no doubt encourage the asshole to take more liberties. If I confronted him or in any way made a scene, the entire office would know in seconds. Before I had a chance to decide, the intercom in his office crackled to life.
“Mr. Coleman, your flight leaves in two hours.”
The instant his assistant, Beverly, began to speak, I pulled out of his grasp and fled the office. Bypassing my own office, I hurried to the restrooms and locked myself in a stall. Leaning against the door, head back and eyes closed, I tried to regulate my erratic heartrate.
Did that really just happen?
Could I have imagined the whole thing? Surely, my boss hadn’t assaulted me in front of the entire office. As much as I wished it had been a nightmare, it wasn’t. Each agonizing second had played out in living color, and I had stood immobile like a squirrel starring down an approaching car. What was wrong with me? Why hadn’t I pulled away instantly? Why hadn’t I turned in his balding ass months ago to HR? I’d had my reasons, but they seemed less and less valid with each new day. My conflict and self-doubt brought on a barrage of guilt and blame that bowed my shoulders with their oppressive weight.
I needed to get out of the building.
I exited the stall and went through the motions of washing my hands before walking to my office with my eyes lowered to the geometric patterns of the grey commercial carpeting. Grabbing my phone, I texted my cousin to move up our lunch date, then snagged my purse and scurried out of my office. Normally, I would inform a coworker if I was leaving early, but I couldn’t do it. I felt exposed—like anyone who looked at me would know what I had allowed to happen. I couldn’t force myself to take that chance—to let them see the shame in my eyes. Instead, I kept my head down and hurried out the closest exit.
I couldn’t allow my boss’s behavior to continue.
The realization was daunting.
I had a number of options on how to handle the situation but wasn’t sure which would be best. Fortunately, he would be gone for the rest of the week, so I didn’t have to face the issue immediately. I wasn’t normally the type to procrastinate, but in this case, I would put off dealing with him as long as I could. I shoved the incident into a dark corner of my mind—somewhere next to the misery of my first period and getting lost as a child in the subway.
Aside from my boss, I loved my job. Marketing in and of itself was enjoyable, but marketing on behalf of my father’s company gave the job added meaning. Call me a goody-two-shoes, but I’d always been the parent-pleasing child who desperately wanted to make Mom and Dad proud. More specifically, it was my dad I strived most to impress.
He was a tough nut to crack. If I came home with a ninety-nine on my report card as a child, he would tell me ‘good job’ but always ask why it wasn’t a one-hundred. Vicenzo Genovese expected nothing less than the best, which is why I started at the bottom of the totem pole and had been working my way up. He wasn’t the type to plant his daughter in a vice president’s position straight out of school. He made it clear from day one when I expressed an interest in working for Triton Construction that I would have to earn my job.
You can’t know how to lead if you never learned how to follow.
Those were some of his favorite words.
Words I had taken to heart.
As I stepped into the elevator and turned back to face the lobby, my chest swelled with pride for the organization I would someday help run. Triton was tangible for me—not only could I point to the buildings we created all over the city, but we provided the income that supported our employees and donated millions of our profits to charitable causes. I viewed the company as a living thing and wanted nothing more than to foster its growth.
Whatever trials I had to surmount to call Triton my own were worth the effort. The thought brought a small smile to my face as I exited the elevator onto the second floor. The building was designed with a grand lobby on the first floor, flanked by two elegantly curved escalators on either side. The main elevators traveled to the first floor, but I preferred to exit on the second floor and ride the escalators down to the lobby so I could peruse the bustling activity on my way down.
My eyes danced from one person to the next as I scanned the occupants of the lofty room. A woman sporting sneakers with her high-powered suit stepped onto the opposite escalator going up. I wondered if she was health conscientious or merely late when she powered up the escalator, swiftly climbing each step in quick succession.
A heavyset man paced in the center of the room, phone held to his ear, arm waving animatedly in the air as he broadcasted his conversation for the world to hear. Living in the city, many residents learn to ignore the constant presence of others and carry on as if they were in a room by themselves. My parents ingrained a sense of propriety in us girls that made it impossible for me to forget the myriad of people around me. This man clearly had no such inhibitions.
As my eyes wandered toward the front of the lobby, they were instantly drawn to a man in a deep blue suit, striding purposefully away from the security post. At first, I glanced around half expecting a movie crew to be filming him. He was masculine beauty personified—dark hair, perfectly styled back, closely cropped on the sides, a dusting of dark hair on his angular jaw, and deep-set eyes that didn’t stray from hi
The man’s suit fit his form without any extra length in the legs or sagging in the shoulders—it had to have been tailor-made. The fabric had a hint of a sheen, giving the suit an expensive look even from a good distance away. He didn’t wear a tie, just a white dress shirt with the top button undone. His gait was deliberate but not hurried, easy confidence wafting from him like steam from a rain-soaked summer street.
I had never seen the man before. I’d come to recognize many of the building’s occupants, but there was no chance I would have forgotten this man. My eyes were glued to him as he strode a dozen paces between the escalators and passed the man on the phone. I was so enthralled in his sight, I didn’t notice the end of my ride and stumbled forward as my foot hit the solid floor at the end of the escalator. I would have been mortified if he had noticed, so I didn’t dare look back. Instead, I lifted my chin and continued on, hoping to exude the same sense of poise and control I had just witnessed in him.
Once I was out on the sidewalk, I shook my head, unable to stifle a laugh at my own expense. I might as well have been a child gawking at the toys on display in the window of an FAO Schwarz. I hadn’t been that captivated by a man in … I wasn’t sure I’d ever been so entranced by a man. It was a shame, too. So many eligible options in the city, and so few were of interest.
I walked the block over to where I had plans with my cousin, Giada, for lunch. She’d been my best friend for as long as I could remember. Our mothers were sisters-in-law, and we were born one month apart. Where she was the oldest of three girls, I was the middle, but our personalities had always been perfectly suited.
It was as if we were born to be close friends—soul sisters.
We ate lunch together at least once a week, often at the same deli where I was currently headed. It was close to my office and had the best Kaiser rolls around. I reached the place first after moving up our lunch so unexpectedly. Grabbing one of the four tiny tables inside, I played a game on my phone while I waited.
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