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Dark Ties
Author: Jamie Begley

 

Prologue

 

 

Dark Family Ties

 

 

“Haley, all I’m asking you to do is to take one meeting for me. Is that too much to ask from you?” It was. It truly was. Her poor reclusive friend could barely order a cup of coffee with confidence, much less expect her to do what she was asking of her now. But Nadia had to convince her co-partner to do this somehow. Her charity depended on it, and it was now solely resting on Haley’s shoulders.

Nadia slapped down two manila folders on the desk, each containing her best friend’s worst nightmare.

Watching her put on her glasses, she could see Haley’s confidence sink when the names on the folders came into focus.

After a few moments of silence, Nadia snapped her manicured fingers in front of her ashen face. “Earth calling Haley.”

“I’m sorry …”

“Forget whatever excuse you were about to give me. It’s not going to work this time.” Laying her palms on the desk, Nadia moved closer to face Haley. They had known each other since they were thirteen, and she had given her every weak excuse in the fucking book. Sometimes, Nadia would pity her and accept it, but today was not one of those days. “I can’t be at two meetings in different areas of the city at the same time. We need the funding to find a new building. We have less than two months to find something with the space and the facilities we need …” It was time for her to hit below the belt. “Or the kids are going to be back on the streets. Do you want that?”

“You know I don’t!” Haley started to lose it as she was slowly being cornered with no way out. “I suck at doing this type of stuff. Just reschedule!”

“I’ve tried!” Nadia stated the obvious. Asking the scaredy cat was clearly her last resort. “I’m worried that, if I try again, they’ll change their minds about giving us a chance to solicit their donations. I can’t become a nuisance before they even meet me.”

The two meetings dealt with two different millionaires who, unfortunately, could only meet at the same designated time. Over a hundred thousand dollars were on the line, along with the countless lives of at-risk teens. As much as she loved Haley and tried to keep her in her little bubble as much as possible, Nadia would pop it in a heartbeat for the kids. Haley would live … right?

Seeing the eyes behind her huge glasses move back to the names, Nadia knew she broke her and started to feel a twinge of guilt. This charity was her baby, and her baby for a reason. They both knew Haley had come along for a smooth ride. She had given her the position of accountant so she could handle things behind the scenes where she felt comfortable. Nadia, however, was the face of it now, after she had taken it over from her beloved Anna.

“Desmond Beck …” Haley read one of the names before reading the name on the second folder. “Dante Caruso.” Swallowing hard, she pushed her fallen glasses higher up the bridge of her nose as she looked back up at Nadia. “Why do they sound like they’re both in the mafia?”

Well, this is awkward … “I think one actually is,” she mumbled under her breath, hoping her friend couldn’t hear.

“Nadia!” she exasperated shakily.

She held up a finger. “Remember the children.”

Haley rubbed her temple. “Fine. Just tell me which one that is.”

Nadia moved her finger to the folder that held Dante’s name for a split-second before the other folder was snatched up and claimed by greedy little hands.

“I am so not getting involved in those dark family ties,” Haley said with a shiver, looking at the folder that still lay on the table.

“I don’t blame you,” Nadia told her sympathetically, knowing her friend came from dark family ties of her own. “But, um …” Ugh, this was going to suck to tell her this. “Don’t be angry, but I had to use your family connection to even get an appointment with Desmond Beck.”

If it was possible, Haley’s face dropped even more. “Which family connection?”

Nadia had to avert her eyes. “I couldn’t even reach Mr. Beck’s assistant to ask for an appointment until I mentioned your family name and that you’re related to George and Amelia Clark.”

Haley’s eyes went as big as her glasses. “I haven’t talked to my uncle and cousin in years.”

“He doesn’t know that, does he?” she said slyly, but the guilt panged in her chest again. Picking up the untouched folder, she held it out to her. “We can still switch, if you would like?”

Haley eyed it like it suddenly looked like the better option. “How mafia are we talking? Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?”

“Would it really matter?” she asked her honestly.

“Robert De Niro is actually capable of having a kind face,” Haley stated the difference before the brave face she had put on slowly disappeared. “But what does Desmond Beck do again?”

“He’s just a philanthropist.” Well, I hope. She kept that bit to herself this time.

Haley’s orbs danced between the folder in her hand and the one Nadia still held out, clearly trying to decide the lesser of two evils. “I’ll go with my gut instinct.” She gripped her folder tighter, solidifying her fate with Desmond.

“All right.” Nadia brought the folder closer to her, staring down at the name Dante Caruso. Unlike Haley, her fate had just been decided for her. An ominous shiver went up her back.

Putting on a brave face herself, she held her folder to her own chest. “There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“Clearly, you have put your blinders on. You know I can’t get three words out in a row on a good day, much less when I’m nervous.”

“I’ll write down everything you need to say. Just memorize the script I give you.” Nadia already solved that problem. “You got this.”

A quiet sigh of defeat escaped Haley’s lips.

“You’ll see …” Nadia no longer knew who she was trying to convince anymore.

“Are you sure there isn’t a way that you can at least come with me to start the meeting then leave?” Clearly, this was Haley’s last-ditch effort.

“I won’t be able to start the meeting with you, but …” Nadia gave in to her guilt, “if mine finishes early, then I may be able to take over the meeting from you.”

Haley looked relieved as she bounced her head in a nod. “Then let’s go with that plan.”

“Plan?” Nadia had taken pity on her, and it was already backfiring. “It’s not a plan. It’s a maybe!”

Smiling, Haley pushed her glasses up again. “I’ll hold down the fort until you can get there. This will work much better …” Haley nervously spoke the words that would most certainly jinx them. “What could go wrong?”

The two women stared at each other, unaware that the same thought was now going through both their minds.

A million things.

 

 

One

 

 

All Rich Assholes are the Same

 

 

Nadia hated casinos … No, she loathed casinos. Not only were they greedy businesses that preyed on the weak, but they were loud as hell and reeked of smoke. If Haley was in her hell, currently on the other side of Kansas City, Nadia was definitely in hers.

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