“Mary? Mary, we cannot be late. Don’t do this today. Not today.”
Kiera Davenport pounded on marble-lined double doors. The incessant rap of her fist was loud enough to be heard across the hall, but there was no other way to get into the room unless …
She scurried around the corner and rushed down the winding staircase that was even more elaborate than Mary’s custom French doors. Then she took the closest door on the right, a common fiberglass door the staff used for entering and exiting the home.
Out of breath, Kiera ran the length of the garage, passing a number of practical and not so practical automobiles before pushing through her bedroom door at the far end. She left the door ajar and went straight to the underwear drawer. She flipped through cotton and some lace in each corner of the drawer. There was no rhyme or reason to her stashes, but she surmised it was a coping mechanism that she could do nothing about.
The small leather pouch was weightless as she slid the flaps apart to reveal small tools. She palmed it lightly and looked around. At one time, it had been a full set, used on the various doors around the house. Now, she only had two pieces left. She crushed the metal instruments in her palm and retraced her steps as quickly and quietly as she could.
Kiera dropped to her knees at Mary’s door, taking the two tools out and letting the leather fall to the ground. She quickly slid the torque tool into the lock, holding it with one hand, and lightly grabbed the pick, holding it like chopsticks. From experience, she knew this lock only had five pins, and if she remembered correctly, she wouldn’t have to fight with it very long. One by one, she searched for the binding pin—the one that didn’t want to move easily—and within minutes, she felt the driver pin pop. She let out a relieved breath, only to have a slim, discolored hand reach over her shoulder and turn the knob.
* * *
Thomas Tanaka took the elevator from the fifteenth floor of a tech-friendly hotel in Manhattan. He hadn’t stayed in a hotel labeled business-friendly before, but he liked the concept. Thomas’s visits to the mainland often inspired several viable business ideas or concepts that he could take back to the island. He had a talent for planning and implementing businesses that produced a hefty return on investment, and the people who invested with him trusted his instincts.
On the cab ride from Midtown Manhattan to the Lower Manhattan business district, he found similarities between New York and Honolulu. The traffic. Honolulu was infamous for traffic. There were social problems as well. The homeless, correctional institutions, and misguided youth.
At thirty-three, Thomas considered himself accomplished. He accredited it to being the oldest of three boys. They had been born nearly two years apart and were close, but Thomas had been first, and it meant he shouldered an unspoken responsibility to lead his family. That single belief had driven him and his career choices all his life.
His brothers, John and Reginald, also had an unstoppable drive to be successful, which prompted Thomas to work harder and dig deeper. John was on hiatus from the family. Well, more specifically, he was working through some serious heartbreak that had happened some years back. He didn’t visit home often, but when he did, it was like they were teenagers again. Regg was more of a mystery. He had drive and ambition. He didn’t shy away from hard work, but for years, they hadn’t had a close relationship.
The cab pulled up in front of a worn stone high-rise on the corner of two busy intersections. He gave the driver twenty dollars with a thank you. Thomas respected the grind of the service industry after he watched his father work in his own plumbing business. He had been raised with a hard work ethic by seeing firsthand the struggles and successes of business ownership. Thomas Senior’s offspring had all followed suit, with Thomas in business development and consulting, John in a joint venture with a media company, and Regg now owning Tanaka Plumbing.
Thomas entered the lobby and walked to the receptionist desk. He glanced at her name tag. Jennifer. She had a polite smile and a pleasant demeanor.
“Good Morning. I’m here to meet with Osorio Davenport of Davenport Construction.”
“Your name, sir?”
Jennifer paused with a blank look on her face and started chewing on her lip. “Can I be honest with you, Mr. Tanaka?”
“I like honesty,” he replied. “I actually insist on it.”
She shrugged. “Well, I don’t know what exactly to tell you. I’m not allowed to actually say that I haven’t seen Mr. Davenport today and he hasn’t called in.”
“It isn’t actually a problem. He comes and goes as he pleases. Usually, Ms. Kiera is consistent … but she’s late today too.”
Thomas put his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. He didn’t like having his time wasted. He’d taken time away from other endeavors to have this meeting, flown across fifty states, and he didn’t want to think about the disappointment. This venture with Davenport Construction would have helped a lot of people in Honolulu.
“I’ll wait,” he said. “Call him or send a message and let him know I’m waiting.”
* * *
Osario Davenport loomed over Kiera. He pushed open the door to the bedroom, and she instantly smelled the expensive cologne that was his signature scent. Over the years, she had developed an aversion to the smell. It made her palms moist and her stomach retch, but she fought off the reactions to focus on Mary. Mr. Osario was going to be livid. They had an important meeting today.
He swiftly stepped past her and occupied the doorway. Kiera leaned over slightly, following the morning light that stretched across the bedroom floor. Mary lay sprawled on the floor, positioned in the infamous chalk outline depicted in movies. Kiera wanted to run to a phone and call for help, but Mr. Osario was already there, aware of the situation. He wouldn’t allow the publicity, so she remained completely still, hoping to leave Mr. Osario’s attention on his daughter.
Mary Davenport was a beautiful woman even as she lay on the floor, possibly in shock, possibly dying. Her olive skin tone was always even and flawless. She had deep brown eyes and naturally brown hair that had been perfectly highlighted by the best stylist in New York City. It was a strange thing to be thinking while Mary lay unmoving on the floor, but the scene was not new for any of them. It was no longer a stretch of the imagination to visualize how a person bent on killing herself would look in a coffin.
Kiera had always envied Mary’s beauty, so different from hers, but Mary’s problem wasn’t feeling ugly inside. It was her outside need for acceptance from a father who had nothing but ice in his veins.
Kiera had come up against a brick wall in trying to help Mary with the depression, for Kiera was certain that the depression fueled these suicide attempts more than the actual drugs she used to carry them out.
Mr. Osario stood in the doorway like a silent observer, waiting to see what would happen next—or perhaps, letting nature take its course. In the beginning, these acts of attention had worked. He showed Mary the slightest bit of concern. Likely, it was all the concern he had, because after a very short while, he didn’t even have that to spare.
Kiera had not blinked for what felt like an eternity when Mary suddenly began heaving. She was alive. Thank God.
Relieved, Kiera fell to her knees but with that movement came the attention she had been avoiding. Osario roughly dragged her to her feet by her arm and pushed her against the far wall in the hallway. Kiera came up against the wall and stared at him. The suit he wore was neatly pressed this morning, and his hair was slicked back like an Italian mobster. In one step, he hovered over her with his right hand pressed to her collarbone. He exerted no pressure, because he knew she would give him no resistance.
“I have an important meeting today, and I do not need this complication,” he sneered. “We need this damn contract to go through with no problems.”
Osario Davenport had a heavy Spanish accent. He had originally been from Venezuela before immigrating to the US. He tried very hard to conceal it, but in moments of anger, it would not be suppressed—meaning he didn’t suppress it often.
There was an important client coming today. They were supposed to be at the office early and look the part of a multimillion-dollar global construction company. Mr. Osario had been looking forward to this meeting for months. It was one of his highest priorities.
“Let me go to her,” Kiera pleaded. “She’s not well.”
“I can see that with my own eyes,” he spat. “It would do her right to rid us all of her sins.”
Kiera’s eyes widened. Not in surprise, as this was not the first reference to him wishing his daughter dead, but she had never seen his eyes this close upon the declaration. Cold. Lifeless. He held no regard for his own child.
“Please,” Kiera said, hearing the faint ring of his cellphone.
A gasp came up behind him. Kiera’s eyes tracked the sound and saw Betha. The woman was a friend to her and Mary, but she was seen as only a servant in the Davenport household. Small hands covered Betha’s mouth and nose as she took a step into the bedroom.
“You stay,” Osario shouted over his shoulder.
Kiera began to panic. She clenched her teeth keep from screaming. There was pressure on her collarbone now, and she was not strong enough to push him away. She met his eyes once more as he stared at her while talking into the receiver.
“You take the car,” he said closing the phone, “and make sure Tanaka does not leave the office. Begin the presentation and do it right. We need this contract. Your welfare depends upon it.”
Kiera swallowed the knot in her throat, but it didn’t move. He dropped his hand from her collar and turned to Betha.
“Run cold water in the tub, and I will help you put her in. I will stay to make sure you do not call an ambulance. I will not be embarrassed by this again.”
Kiera flinched at his malice, but Mary had been breathing. That was good.
Osario turned back to her, grabbed her arm, and pushed her to the stairs. “Go on, now. And make sure you don’t mess this up.”
Kiera quickly moved down the steps and out the door. She paused briefly to choke back the tears in her eyes once she was outside and free of the mansion. But then she saw the limousine driver standing there, watching her. If, by chance, he said anything to Mr. Osario about her being upset, it would cause more conflict. Her legs moved forward in desperation to not make a scene. She would regroup during the ride.
* * *
Thomas sat in the waiting area just ten steps away from the receptionist booth. He’d become angry, not only from the time and money lost on this trip, but for the missed opportunity. Davenport Construction had the best track record of all the companies he’d looked at to assist with a housing project in Honolulu. He and several investors had envisioned a privately funded housing program that would assist over one hundred homeless and displaced families on the island. There were easily thousands, but their intent was to divide and conquer. Davenport construction had built the types of homes they were looking to provide and was able do it within the agreed-upon time frame. Now, he was back at square one.
Thomas stood and twisted to align his back, meeting the eyes of the receptionist, Jennifer. Her lips frowned into an apologetic frown as he walked toward the door. He thought about leaving some type of message when he felt a soft bump to his chest.
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
Thomas was aware he took up nearly all of the doorway, but he didn’t move. She hadn’t met his eyes, but he immediately noticed an attractive profile. There was dark brown hair twisted up from the nape of her neck and held by a clip. The rest of her was proportioned flawlessly, with a simple V-neck blouse and pencil skirt. He immediately became intrigued, but what held his interest was her perfume. It wasn’t anything he would recognize off the shelf, and it had a hint of rose, but he just couldn’t move until he saw the rest of her.
She backed away, giving him space to exit, but her eyes widened as she assessed how far she had to move back. It was a common reaction to his being over six feet tall. He watched as she quickly assessed him with candid light brown eyes, wondering if she liked what she saw. He did. She was beautiful.
He was tempted to say something that would strike a conversation, but this was very far from where he usually traveled. There was no point in starting what couldn’t be finished.
Thomas stepped back, using his long arms to hold the door wide to let her past. It was the scent. He wanted it to walk past him just one more time.
She bowed her head slightly and walked past, thanking him in an almost whisper.
The receptionist knocked on the window. “Mr. Tanaka.” She pointed. “Ms. Davenport.”
* * *
Kiera froze. She looked at Jennifer, pointing with wide eyes and a smile that wasn’t for her. God, she had hoped there would be time to prepare before meeting him. But that wasn’t possible, because she was the one who was late, right? She heard the door close and knew that he hadn’t left. Somehow, she knew he was looking straight at her.
She turned around awkwardly, her body moving before her head, only to lose her mind for a moment.
Kiera. Get it together. She extended her hand. “Mr. Tanaka. I’m sorry to be so late. Please don’t leave. Mr. Osario has prepared a fabulous presentation for you.”
He took her hand in his, and it was so warm, she imagined ice cream melting in her palm. “And I would like to see the presentation and talk to Mr. Davenport in person. Is he going to make it?”
The tone was frosty, but she was no longer susceptible to the attitudes of self-important business types.
Kiera took a step back and clasped her hands in front of her with a polite smile. She didn’t want to think about what Osario Davenport was doing to make this appointment. “Yes, he is doing everything possible to get here promptly.”
Mr. Tanaka extended his arm toward the elevator. “Lead the way, Ms. Davenport.”
“You may call me Kiera.” She then led the way to the elevator, pressed the button, and looked for the suite key in her purse longer than necessary. She had never gotten used to the Davenport name. It had never sounded like it belonged. She didn’t belong.
“Thomas,” he said, coming to stand beside her.