No, Kiona had departed in a huff, postponing our conversation. It was a shame – as necessary as it was now, I didn’t look forward to telling her that I was a dying man. It brought me no joy to think of revealing to her everything I had held back when I thought I had more time, time to make these decisions without her. But I needed to prepare her now for what was coming.

I realized now that I had been shortsighted and foolish. Too concerned with stopping the board from acting independently of me and casting Coppersmith down to the sharks, not realizing that he could lead those sharks to savagely destroy the company’s future.

And in my rash actions, I had crippled the hand that Kiona would have to play if Alphonse Megami fell through in our established arrangements.

I did not enjoy this house of cards.

I did not enjoy this game.

As my lungs gave out and I collapsed to the floor in a savage coughing fit, my last thought as the swimming blackness took me was that I did not particularly enjoy dying.

Chapter 21


Kiona

“So, spill the details!” Swaree smiled as we sipped from our cocktails. “You’ve gotta tell me what happened since your wedding…did you go on a honeymoon?”

I felt bad. I realized with that question that I’d been awful at keeping her in the loop on things…and I vowed that that was going to change, effective immediately.

“Oh yeah, we went on a honeymoon alright,” I told her.

“No way! Where’d you go? Was it Venice? You’ve been talking about Venice as a honeymoon destination for as long as I’ve known you…if you were ever going to get married, that was,” she quickly added.

I winced. “No, not Venice…he wanted to stay in the United States, so I chose New Orleans.”

“Whoa, you went to NOLA? How was that?”

“It was pretty great!” I took another sip from my drink.

“Oh, honey,” Swaree told me with mock concern, her hand sliding onto my wrist, “you have got to tell me a little more than pretty great. Spill the details, sister!”

I smiled at her enthusiasm. “We landed in his private jet, a fancy driver took us to our lavish hotel, and we had this fantastic executive suite all lined up.”

“Oh yeah? Tell me more!” She cooed, lifting her glass to her lips again.

“Well…from the get go, there were lots of fantastic food, great music, and a lot of tourist stuff. Swaree, you have got to try some Creole food. It is out of this freaking world.”

“I’ll add it to the agenda,” she grinned. “So…”

“So what?”

“Did you, you know…consummate the business relationship?”

“Consummate the…oh, no we didn’t. Well…”

“Spill it,” she demanded, setting her drink down and staring me in the eyes with a devilish smirk. “Come on.”

“Nothing happened while we were there.”

Aiswarya burst into giggles. “Oh my god, you two totally fucked! When?”

“Last…last night.”

She gasped. “Oh god. Oh wow. How was he?”

“It was the…most incredible night I’ve ever had.”

“Seriously? Even better than the baseball player?”

“What, you mean in high school? Yeah. Better than that.”

“Wow. I am…I am so happy for you,” Swaree grinned, swallowing another big sip from her drink. “That is just fantastic. He was really that good?”

“Oh yeah,” I reminisced. “It was fantastic…”

“I’m sorry, I just…I can’t get over the fact that you fucked a sexy billionaire. That’s really just awesome! Who the hell gets to say they’ve done that? He didn’t do any weird spanking stuff, right? Did he do the whole breakfast in bed shtick afterwards?”

“You should have seen his sex dungeon.”

I watched as Swaree’s eyes went wide, but I couldn’t hold a straight face. As the laughter began to bubble up, she hit me on the arm and joined in. “I’m sorry,” I gasped between giggles, “I couldn’t resist.”

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