On My Kneespart #2 of Stark International Trilogy Series by J. Kenner / Romance & Love
Jackson Steele tossed back the last of his scotch, slammed the glass down on the polished granite bar, and considered ordering another.
He could use it—that was damn sure—but probably better to have a clear head before he went to answer his brother’s summons.
That was something he didn’t say every day. Hell, he’d spent his entire life avoiding saying it. Been told he wasn’t allowed to say it.
“Sometimes families have secrets,” his father had said.
Wasn’t that the fucking truth?
The great and glorious Damien Stark—one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men—had no idea that he and Jackson shared a father.
But in about fifteen minutes he’d know. Because Jackson was going to tell him. Had to tell him.
He held up his hand to get the bartender’s attention because, screw it, right now he really could use another drink.
The bartender nodded, poured two fingers of Glenmorangie, neat, then slid the glass to Jackson. He hesitated, bar rag in hand, until Jackson finally looked up and met his eyes. “Something else?” Jackson asked.
“Sorry. No. ” It was a lie, of course, and as Jackson watched, the bartender’s cheeks turned pink.
The bartender, whose name tag identified him as Phil, was in his early twenties, and with his hair slicked back and his perfectly tailored dark suit, he looked as essential to the Gallery Bar—which epitomized the glamour and excitement of the 1920s—as the polished wood, glittering chandeliers, and ornate carvings that filled and completed this space.
The historic Millennium Biltmore hotel had always been one of Jackson’s favorite places in Los Angeles. As a teenager, when he’d only dreamed of becoming an architect, he would come as often as he could, usually begging a friend with a car to bring him up from San Diego and drop him downtown. He would wander the hotel, soaking up the exquisite Spanish-Italian-Renaissance-style architecture that blended so well with the California location. The architects, Schultze and Weaver, were among Jackson’s idols, and he would spend hours examining the fine detail in all of the elements, from the elegant columns and doorways, to the exposed wood-framed roofs, to the intricate cast-iron railings and elaborate wooden carvings.
As with any exceptional building, each room had its own personality despite being tied together by common elements. The Gallery Bar had long been Jackson’s favorite space, the live music, intimate lighting, excellent wine list, and extensive menu adding value to an already priceless space.
Now, Phil stood behind the long granite bar that served as one of the room’s focal points. Behind him, a menagerie of fine whiskeys danced in the glow of the room’s dim lighting. He was framed on either side by carved wooden angels, and in Jackson’s mind, it seemed as if all three—angels and man—were standing in judgment over him.
Phil cleared his throat, apparently realizing that he hadn’t moved. “Yeah. Sorry. ” He started to exuberantly wipe the bar. “I just thought you looked familiar. ”
“I must have one of those faces,” Jackson said dryly, knowing damn well that Phil knew who he was. Jackson Steele, celebrity architect. Jackson Steele, subject of the documentary, Stone and Steele, which had recently screened at the Chinese theater. Jackson Steele, newest addition to the team for The Resort at Cortez, a Stark Vacation Property.
Jackson Steele, released yesterday on bail after assaulting Robert Cabot Reed, producer, director, and overall vile human being.
The latter, of course, is what would have put Jackson on Phil’s radar. This was Los Angeles, after all, and in Los Angeles, anything entertainment-related passed as hard news. Forget the economy or strife overseas. In the City of Angels, Hollywood trumped everything else. And that meant that Jackson’s picture had been plastered all over the newspapers, local television, and social media.
He didn’t regret it. Not the fight. Not the arrest. He didn’t even regret the press, although he knew that they would dig. And if they dug deep enough, they’d find a whole cornucopia of reasons why Jackson might want to destroy the pathetic Mr. Reed.
Well, let them. He wasn’t the least bit repentant. Hell, if anything he wished he could do it again, because the few punches he’d managed to land on Reed had only been satisfying in the moment. But every time he thought about it—every time he pictured what the son of a bitch had done to Sylvia—he knew he hadn’t gone far enough.
He should have killed the bastard.
For the way he’d hurt the woman Jackson loved, Robert Cabot Reed deserved to die.
She’d been only fourteen at the time. A child. An innocent. And Reed had used her. Raped her. Humiliated her.