Under His Command (For His Pleasure, Book 17)

Under His Command (For His Pleasure, Book 17)

By Kelly Favor

© 2013 All Rights Reserved

Kennedy Saunders was shaking.

Not just her hands—but her entire body—shaking from within, as she drove her battered old Volvo through the beautiful roads of Connecticut.

She had begun passing the bigger houses and then the big houses had become even bigger mansions. Kennedy knew she was getting close.

What are you doing? What are you going to say to her—or him—when you get
there and they have no clue who you are?

Kennedy didn’t have an answer to that question. She didn’t even have a plan. All she had was the stuff left over from her previous life. That much was obvious, since her car was packed to the brim with all of the things she’d taken from her old apartment near MIT.

Now she was on her way to New York City and a small but much too expensive apartment, based on nothing but the faint hope of a job that she might not even get.

Of course, the job wasn’t the only faint hope she harbored in her shaking heart.

There was a much bigger reason for her sudden departure from the hallowed and protected halls of MIT and the relatively quaint city of Cambridge. A much bigger reason why she was going to Manhattan—to live in one of the biggest cities on the planet, with no friends, no real contacts, and just a few dollars to her name (after first, last and deposit, her meager funds were all but depleted).

But she wasn’t in New York City yet. She’d taken a detour, because she couldn’t resist. Even though Kennedy knew it wasn’t yet time for this step, she had to at least try and see them. She would even settle for staring at their house from a great distance if that was the best she could do.

Rounding the last turn, she came to a series of rolling hills, a beautiful lake, and what could only be the road leading up to the mansion where Nicole and Red Jameson lived.

There was only one problem, which she realized as her car slowed to a stop a few feet from the gate that she hadn’t anticipated.

Security.

Of course they have security, you fool
, she thought, as her sweaty palms squeaked along the steering wheel. She wanted to back up and turn around, but one of the guards had already emerged from the gatehouse and started towards her.

“Shit,” she whispered. She was sweating, unkempt. She glanced at herself in the rearview mirror, trying to gauge just how crazy she looked at the moment.

The news wasn’t good. Her eyeliner was runny from the periodic crying jags that had occurred as she’d traveled the last hundred or so miles. Her skin was pale—she was always pale, but now she’d become positively anemic looking. The slick sheen of sweat on her forehead wasn’t helping matters either.

Kennedy’s hazel eyes were piercing, intelligent, but she knew that her intensity could sometimes cause people to feel uncomfortable around her.

She’d never been a social butterfly, and wasn’t the type of girl who could just effortlessly schmooze her way into a gated, protected mansion with some batting of her eyelashes and flirty conversation.

No, she wanted nothing more than to cut and run at this point. But the security guard was already at her driver’s side window, so she rolled it down and flashed her best and brightest smile.

The guard didn’t look very impressed. He glanced down at a clipboard that he carried with him. “Name, please?”

Kennedy coughed, cleared her throat and tried to steady her nerves. “I—I’m sorry…I just…” she tried to think of something to say.

The guard’s eyes narrowed as he took in the state of her car, which was clearly filled with the contents of an apartment. Boxes, bags of clothes hastily packed over the previous few days, none of it very tidy. “Are the Jameson’s expecting you, ma’am?”

She thought about just saying it.

You have every right to be here,
she thought.
Tell him the truth. You have
nothing to be ashamed of.

But there was no way she could say it. There was no way. Instead, she smiled again. “I’m actually not here to see anyone. I just got lost.”

The guard’s expression lightened a little bit and he almost—almost—smiled.

“Where are you headed?”

“New York City. I took a wrong turn off of 84.”

He grinned. “More than one wrong turn, I think. You don’t have a GPS or anything?”

She shook her head no. It was true, actually. She couldn’t even afford Internet on her cell phone. She’d been using a regular old-fashioned map and she picked it up and showed it to him just to prove her story.

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “No wonder you got turned around. Let me show you where to go to get back on the highway, okay?”

“Thanks,” she mumbled, and as he showed her the way she found herself once again holding back tears.

She was so close, and yet so very far, from the very thing she’d truly come here for.

***

After lugging the very last of her things up the flight of stairs and into her tiny studio apartment, Kennedy collapsed on her mattress and took out her laptop. She was hungry and tired, but she wanted to do a little bit of studying before she went to sleep for the night.

Pulling up the documents she’d compiled about The Red Agency, Kennedy once again quizzed herself on everything from the number of employees working at the agency currently, to the names and backgrounds of everyone on the management team, to recalling every single client that had been publicly mentioned as working with Red Jameson’s new business venture.

Luckily, she had a head for memorizing large quantities of information, organizing it, and being able to recall it almost instantaneously. She felt confident that she could handle any question Red Jameson or anyone else threw her way tomorrow at the interview.

Just picturing herself facing Red in his domain, his home base, made her jittery and quivery all over again. Yes, she could remember all kinds of information and trivia about Red and Nicole’s lives, as well as their business ventures, but it was a different matter when it came to being confident in her own charm and ability to be personable and likeable.

She had studied much of the considerably large amount of written and video interviews with the famous CEO. In all likelihood, she could remember more accurately many of the things he’d said and done over the last five years than he would remember himself.

But knowing information was different than making him laugh or convincing him that he would enjoy working with her. As his executive assistant, she would be with him all day long, potentially on work trips, sharing space and time with the man in a high-stress environment. It wouldn’t be enough to just show him that she was smart. She needed to wow him with her personality too.

And what if he doesn’t think you’re pretty enough?

She put a hand on her stomach, trying to take deep breaths as the stirrings of panic started.

What if he
does
think you’re pretty? What if he acts on it?

That caused her to close the laptop and get up, moving to the kitchen area where she’d stashed a bag of snacks. There wasn’t much left to choose from, but she needed to put something in her empty stomach.

As she stood in her mostly empty kitchen and ate some stale tasting peanut butter crackers, Kennedy thought about the reaction she’d gotten from her mentor, Professor Lang, when she’d told him that she wasn’t going to take the assistant professorship in the mathematics department of MIT after all.

He’d been completely shell shocked, convinced that she’d either received horrible news of a serious illness, or that she’d perhaps gone temporarily insane from academic stress. After all, she’d graduated with honors and just received the prestigious Liftoff Fellowship, which would have allowed her to also pursue her graduate degree without having to worry about burdensome student loans.

She’d eventually been able to convince Professor Lang that she wasn’t terminally ill, but she hadn’t quite been able to get him to believe she wasn’t mentally unstable. He kept asking her to reconsider. “Don’t throw this all away, Kennedy,” he’d said. He’d said it so many times she’d nearly screamed and told him to shut up.

But Kennedy had understood his confusion and concern all too well. She shared it.

Somehow, after everything that had happened to her in the last couple of weeks, she felt like a completely different person. She was no longer the girl who’d been accepted to MIT four years ago and jumped for joy, dancing around her childhood home like a lunatic version of Brittney Spears. She was no longer the girl who’d spent the better part of four years, years that were supposed to be the social highlight of her young life, with her nose stuck in a book.

And it had all been because of one unforeseen twist—a revelation from out of the blue. That one fateful day when her entire life had been turned upside down and now she was simply a different person, and she no longer wanted to spend her days squirreled away in some MIT classroom, working out advanced equations and formulas and theorems. Writing up a research paper and hoping to get it published didn’t particularly interest her anymore either. And she knew that this change of heart wasn’t some temporary thing.

What she’d been through had literally blown her mind, and not the way she’d had it blown when studying quantum physics in her AP class in high school. No, the way Kennedy felt now was that she’d lived a gigantic lie. She’d been playing the part of a person that had nothing to do with who she truly was.

Kennedy didn’t know if living in New York and working as an executive assistant at a competitive advertising agency would reflect who she was now, but it was a start.

I never even had a boyfriend
, she thought to herself, as she managed to shove the very last stale peanut butter cracker in her mouth, chew it, and swallow.

I can’t believe I never had a boyfriend.

It had always bothered her that her parents had been so strict, but she’d also kind of appreciated it in some ways. She knew that they simply wanted her to make the most of herself, her education, to truly have a chance to fulfill her potential.

Now she looked back and viewed their interference with bitterness and deep betrayal.

Betrayal. That’s the word of the month
.

When her cell phone rang from across the room, Kennedy walked over and picked it up, smirking when she saw her parents’ home phone number. What had always made her smile now made her grimace.

Ironic that they were calling when she’d just been mentally griping about them.

I can’t deal with this right now, she thought.

But then she answered just the same—still playing the role of the good kid.

“Hi,” she said, forcing some lightness to her voice.

“Did you do it?” her mother asked.

“Yeah. I’m here in my new apartment. It’s really nice,” she lied, looking around at the tiny, cramped surroundings, the bare floor and white walls, the window looking out on nothing but a fire escape and the back of another old building.

“I’m glad it’s nice,” her mom said.

“Not me,” her dad said.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were on the line too,” Kennedy said.

“Of course I’m on,” he replied. “I’m worried sick about you. So is your mother.”

“Dad, I really can’t have this conversation again. And certainly not tonight. I’m tired, I’ve had a long drive—“

“We just want to understand why. Your whole education, your whole life,” her mother said. “You had everything ready to go, served up on a silver platter, and then you just threw it away.”

Kennedy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could have just told them the truth, told them everything. But then again, there was something poetic about not doing so, something very fitting in her unfair, cruel silence. So she chose not to give them the explanation they desired.

“Look, we don’t want to fight with you,” her dad said, after the silence became unbearable. “We love you, sweet pea.”

“Dad, please don’t call me that. I’m an adult.”

“I guess I can’t do anything right suddenly.”

“Just call me Kennedy. That’s all I ask. And maybe you and Mom could cool it with the drama. I’m really happy here in New York. I have a great new job and this is the right thing for me. If for some reason it doesn’t work out here, I’m sure there’s another university somewhere that would let me go to grad school or teach part time.”

“Maybe even MIT,” her mother jumped in.

“Yeah,” her dad said, suddenly excited. “Professor Lang absolutely adores you.

I’m sure he could find a way to get you back in a teaching position if you asked. Maybe this could just be a little sabbatical. Sure, you need time off from education. We all agree it’s been too intensive for too many years and everybody needs a break—“

“Dad, I never should have even said that was a possibility,” Kennedy interrupted.

“I’m not going back to academia. I’m going to stay in New York for a long time. I’m sorry it upsets you and Mom, but it’s what I had to do. Now, I need to go and finish unpacking.”

“Okay,” he said, defeated.

“We love you,” her mother said.

Kennedy couldn’t bring herself to say it back.

***

The Red Agency had grown so quickly from its originally small start that it was now taking up an entire floor of the Greystone Towers on Fifth Avenue. It was fast becoming one of the premiere ad agencies in all of New York, and Red Jameson was once again the talk of the town.

Kennedy made her way to the tenth floor of the Towers, where she was greeted by a young man at the main desk. He asked for her name and then got on the phone, discreetly, and spoke into it for a moment.

She sat down on one of the plush waiting chairs and shivered as the cool air from the vents overhead chilled her skin. She was wearing clothes that didn’t feel quite right.

A short, revealing (but not too revealing) skirt, a sleeveless white blouse with an elegant but sexy silver necklace. It had taken her so much time to do her hair and makeup, much longer than she’d expected, and she’d needed to watch the YouTube tutorial like half a dozen times to get it all right.

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