As a beautiful supermodel, Sheba had the fame and lifestyle she craved alongside a multi-millionaire hunk of a husband and a lavish mansion on the west coast to call home, nothing could compare.
Everything perfect in Sheba's life disappeared when her husband filed for divorce. Over the course of a month, multiple fashion empires terminated their contracts with the dwindling flame, debts consumed what was left in her bank and she was evicted from the penthouse apartment she was renting.
A year on, she is a wreck and as a result, all of her riled-up emotions and bitter resentment towards her now ex-husband has given her only one option; revenge. What better way for her carry out an immoral plan than inviting herself to a high-profile and confidential business meeting orchestrated by her quondam lover?
• Sheba, the main protagonist and antagonist of the novel. A beautiful supermodel who seeks revenge on her husband and his vaguely-unimpeachable clients.
• Cohen, the ex-husband of Sheba and a multi-millionaire who is hosting a high-profile meeting to discuss possible contractual business ventures.
• Audrey, a very successful fashion designer who owns a high-end company who was once Sheba's best friend.
• Wallace, one of the three potential contractors and owner of a business that tackles international trade.
• Jeremiah, vice president of a relatively unknown law firm that upholds reams of potential in the upcoming months.
In the blinding light of the August afternoon the swimming pool is like a semi-molten mirror. Sheba could feel its coolness even before she flicked it with her hand, sending droplets scattering over the surface like rain. Its depth is deceptive, mostly because it is as clear as a mountain spring. Every rounded tile on the bottom, is rendered in perfect clarity. She doesn't have time to wade in today, yet she's already stripping off her sandals.
Lowering herself onto an inflatable lounger, she lays down on it, soaking up the sun and floating on the surface. The water moves softly around her outstretched fingers, caressing coolly, eddying in its wake. She pulls her hand out and watches the drips, transparent and not at the same time. They fall as if snatched by gravity to the saline below, each one swiftly haloed by ever-growing rings, distorting the expanse of blue.
Diverting her gaze to the flowerbed in the garden a few feet from the pool, she watches the thriving wildlife; time almost seizing to slow motion. The butterfly beats its wings up and down so sharply it looks like it's under remote control, as if a tiny electrical current opens and shuts those vivid yellow blades. With legs that somehow stick, it holds the stem of the flower that is already passed its peak, petals blackened at the edges and curling. Sheba smiles at the sight before staring upwards.
Heat rained down on her like the breath of hell. Her mocha skin shimmered in the intense white rays of the sun. It burnt ever so slightly, but the feeling was exhilarating in her mind. It made her feel relaxed.
Despite the calming effect her surroundings were having on her, Sheba's mind was a whirlwind. The recollection of her argument earlier on in the day put a damper on the false hope she had about the marriage to Cohen being what they both truly wanted.
An hour passes by and boredom becomes difficult for her to suppress. Sheba drifts to the edge of the pool and climbs off of the inflatable before making her way through the sliding doors and into the lavish mansion she calls home.
The house itself was quiet. Even as she made her way through the maze of hallways, her footsteps made no noise on the stone floor. She ended her journey in front of a door, entering without a knock.
The office was painted white, and it had only one floor-to-ceiling window, which faced the driveway. On the grey desk sat a desktop computer, a notebook lying open, and a stack of papers sitting under a turtle-shaped paperweight. In front of the window, the air conditioner was blasting at medium, and there was a swivel chair in the middle of the office. A bookshelf, bursting with books was in a corner where two walls met. A few pens were lying scattered on the papers whilst the rest sat unorganized in a wooden pot.
Cohen was sat in the sole chair behind the desk. He lifted his head at the sound of the door opening and closing, smiling awkwardly at the sight of his barely-clothed wife. She smiled back before seductively sauntering to him.
Seduction was what Sheba did best, moving into Cohen's personal space with just the right look of heat in her eyes. She didn't just look at a man, she looked into him as if she knew his desires. With the kiss came the smooth touch of her body, poised.
Whilst resting her body on his lap, she ground her lower half against him in laboured, teasing movements. "Do you like that baby?" She asks, her voice a higher octave than normal, making her seem more feminine than usual.
Cohen just sat there, unable to move under her ministrations.
Noticing his discomfort, Sheba stopped, "What's the matter, did I do something wrong?" She asks, confused at his inability to comply with her wishes.
Cohen pushes her off of him, ignoring the fact that she fell onto the floor with a loud thud. She looks up at him with a hurt expression, dreading the next words that come out of his mouth, "I'm just going to be blunt... we're getting a divorce." his voice lacking sentiment.
Sheba's mind went blank at that moment, "What do you mean a divorce?" her eyes glistening with moisture from brewed tears.
"Look Sheba... I don't even understand why I even popped the question in the first place. The chemistry between us is as strong as one shared between people having a one night stand. We are two completely different people and our personalities do not mesh at all. You're loud and domineering whereas I'm reserved. You have to understand that this is for the best." Cohen responds, his tone laced with regret.
"I'm sorry for whatever I did wrong, but please, don't do this." She says, reaching out to caress his cheek only to have her hand slapped away and her body shoved from his lap.In her sobbing was the sound of a heart breaking. Hearts don't snap like brittle caramel or burst like an overfilled balloon. A heart breaks in the heaving waves of a new disturbing reality that has arrived uninvited. Sheba didn't want their marriage to come to an end, in her mind the little world they created together was the epitome of perfection.
Everything was a blur. One moment she was inside her husband's, or ex-husband's office and the next she was on her knees outside of the front door. Every part of her body was slumped over and her face was hidden within her hands which muffled her cries. Her weak attempts at composing herself took a few minutes before she was able to clamber to her feet.
She tried knocking on the door, hoping to reconcile her wrongdoings - those of which she was in the dark about - but nobody came to answer.
Sheba let out a jagged breath before making her way down the steps that led onto the gravel of the driveway. With each stride her mind became more clear, more resolute, as if the growing physical distance between them had now become an emotional chasm. As the nascent sunlight caressed her skin, promising a new dawn, a new beginning, she entombed her memories of him in thick walled ice. Then, abruptly pausing to close her eyes and take in a deep breath of the humid summer air, she steeled herself to only think of her future from here on in.
Sheba was seeing red. As a farewell present, she hurriedly grabbed a rock from the driveway and aimed it at the floor-to-ceiling window of Cohen's office. She pulled her arm back before swinging it at her intended target, "Fuck you Cohen." she screamed, releasing the object with such a force that the shards of the window shattered in an explosive arc. The breaking glass could've been heard right down the coast, but Sheba was too emotionally distraught to care.
One: Coastal Nirvana
Sheba positioned herself in front of the metallic gate and took inventory. Her makeup was minimal, reserved to a sweep of mascara. Her rather unkempt afro adding a dash of trashy glamour to her overall look. She wore a sleeveless blouse with an intricate floral design imprinted onto it as well as a black high-waisted pencil skirt and black stiletto heels to complete the look. She readjusts her large necklace before positioning herself upright, pulling down her skirt to avoid any creases.
She was the kind of girl that women loved to hate. She was an adult, but so young that she still had the exuberance of youth. She had that supermodel look, however not overly tall, anorexic and willowy. Her muscle definition was perfect and she walked with the confidence of someone a decade older. She wasn't just flawless in her bone structure, her skin was like silk over glass and she radiated an intelligent beauty.
Her personality was something to be described as a stark contrast. Before the incident took place, Sheba was a stuck-up bitch. She defined social class into three categories; the rich, the bourgeois and the low life. She would only associate herself with people on the same level as her, making sure to take pride out of ridiculing and dehumanizing anyone beneath her. The glass half empty outlook on life got her far in the modelling industry and worked in synchronous harmony with the dog eat dog world.
Nowadays, everything in her life has taken a complete 360. Despite upholding a terrible attitude towards innocent people, that belief has completely diminished. Sheba lost everything and the only thing she feels now is bitter resentment towards the man who did her wrong.
Snapping out of her reverie, Sheba stares through the gaps in between the iron bars, a lavish mansion gracing her line of vision. The night sky stood an inky canopy of darkness freckled only by the fewest of stars and a large orb of white light, where just hours ago it had been a blue summer's day. The moon highlights the mansion's important features.
Turning to the white wall besides the large gate hung both a key pad and biometric scanner. Putting in the correct digits, the bolts unlock and the gate slowly opens before shutting securely when Sheba steps onto the gravel driveway. Besides the driveway sat a manicured lawn with a small section reserved as a flower bed - aligned with a concoction of orchids, daffodils and roses.
The house itself was unapologetically modern. Everything was geometric, the roof was flat for a start and the door as wide as it was tall. The windows took up entire walls with only polished steel beams to break them into yet more rectangles. The look would have been entirely white, had it not been for the cedar beams of the external porch.
The doorbell was shrill and it jangled Sheba's nerves after pressing it, taking a step back in response. The handle was pulled downwards with a slight creak before returning to it's original horizontal position, before the large door swings to reveal a large, black man clad in a navy tuxedo.
He lets go of the door handle, his hands now occupying the one-vacant pockets of his slim-fitted trousers. Sheba glares at him momentarily before replacing it with a faux smile whilst he stands there rather awkwardly, keeping the eye contact.
"Sheba? Wait, what are you doing here?" The man shifts uncomfortably under Sheba's lascivious gaze. She gives the man a once-over, taking in his current demeanour and appearance.
"Cohen, darling, don't be dense. You know why I'm here." Sheba replies with a shrug, bumping shoulders with Cohen as she forces her way into the building.
Upon entering the house, Sheba was greeted with a marble floor which reverberated the clicking sound of her stilettos and caused a sharp echo. The walls were white and were mainly bare with the exception of one wall which had a gold-rimmed mirror hooked on it. A crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling and produces a very faint light, it's main use is only for ornamental purposes.
"You can't just barge in here like you own the place, if I remember correctly we're divorced and other than that, I haven't seen or heard anything from you in over two months. The media went to the extent of publishing hoaxes that you were dead." Cohen whisper-shouts as he shuts the front door and catches up to Sheba who is already making her way down the hall.
"Yeah I read some of them stories, I thought they were hilarious and incredibly inventive. Throwback to asphyxiating myself on my pillow, good times." Sheba giggles, completely disregarding his first statement.
Cohen grabs Sheba's arm and drags her into the room on his left, forcefully closing the door with a loud bang. The sofa was cream and had matching pillows which were inlaid with a fine gold silk; intricate patterns embroidered so delicately. The white curtains were linen, the kind of white that is untouched by hands and devoid of dust. Mounted on the wall was a huge sixty-five inch television.
"What is wrong with you nowadays? You've completely changed." Cohen asks, his entire attitude switching to one of concern.
"For the better I hope, since my previous self was just a façade. Besides, maintaining a bitch persona is tiring and I'm done with that shit." Sheba says as she takes a seat on the couch.
Cohen feigns shock for a moment, his jaw slacked and his words mumbled incoherently, "Gosh, even your language is crude... Let me reiterate my previous question, what happened?"
Her smile drops, "Oh you know, I was just living a life of luxury with a gorgeous husband and a job that I adored. But then he drops a bombshell on me out of the blue that we should get a divorce." Her breathing becomes ragged, "Long story short, after you evicted me from my own home, I also lost all contracts with major modelling agencies alongside all of my belongings... I'm literally living with my parents again, since they're actually capable of keeping their possessions." Sheba explains, her eyes filled to the brim with unshed tears.
"Well I'm sorry-" Cohen begins before being interrupted by Sheba who clears her throat and carefully wipes her tears away with the back of her fore finger without smudging her makeup.
"Don't apologize, we both know it's forced and you really couldn't care less about my current position. But since I'm here now, you can make me dinner." Sheba stands from the couch and re-aligns the pillows so that they are symmetrical and picture perfect before proceeding towards the door.
Cohen grabs her wrist to get her attention which immediately has her whipping round to face him completely, "Actually, I can't. I'm hosting a very important business meeting, I have Audrey Hwang, Jeremiah Schmidt and Wallace Ferreira in the dining room... I can't have you interfering, I need to secure these deals!" He says desperately, watching as her confused expression turns into a lopsided grin.
"So you have the richest man in America, my ex-best friend the fashion mogul and an amateur but promising law executive in the house? I'm staying honey. By the way, I'm famished." She full-on smiles and intertwines their fingers before dragging him to the dining room as he simply rolls his eyes.
Cohen releases his grip from Sheba's hand, "I'm going to head to the kitchen to prepare the dishes, so you just go on ahead." he gestures towards the closed double doors, excusing himself and leaving Sheba on her own. Wasting no time, she opens the door to the room and closes it behind her before turning around to face the main centre piece.
The dining-room was exquisite. The walls were covered with a shimmering gold paper and in the middle of the ceiling above the carved oak table was a candelabra. The polished silver cutlery was heavy to the hand and shone brightly in the early evening light. At each place stood a tall empty wine glass and there were beautifully folded napkins to match the runner.
Three of the six chairs were occupied. The first chair had an attractive middle-aged man with lightly defined wrinkles on his forehead. He was wearing a white button down shirt with suspenders that connected with his grey suit trousers and a pair of real leather brogue shoes. The trimmed crop of jet black hair with touches of grey was slicked back with hair gel. He had on a pair of Ray-Bans horn rimmed glasses that amplified the size of his blue eyes.
The second chair had a very handsome young man with flawlessly clear skin and perfectly styled ginger hair. He was wearing a skinny mustard-coloured blazer fitted with a shawl lapel, a matching waistcoat and skinny trousers. His undershirt was white and his shoes were made from shiny black leather. He was smiling graciously at Sheba, revealing a set of pearly white teeth and well-defined dimples.
The third chair was occupied by a beautiful woman who held a furious glare directed at Sheba. She was wearing a strapless white jumpsuit and Louis Vuitton stiletto heels. Her brunette hair fell gracefully down past her shoulders without a specific style. The woman was of Korean descent and had vibrant brown eyes and a tanned skin tone. She had eyeliner that joined together at the tips to form a pointed flick and a dash of lip gloss to add a subtle shine.
"Who invited that skank? I don't remember her being of any worth in your life nowadays Cohen. Everyone knows the name Sheba Okoye as the iconic ex-wife who had the biggest meltdown ever encountered in the modelling world. Congratulations on that achievement by the way. Also, someone told me that you're now dabbling with drugs." Audrey laughs at Sheba in an attempt to ridicule her.
"Is your ass jealous of the amount of shit that just came out of your mouth? Because if you believe everything you read in the media then you're beyond moronic. Anyway, I'm not the icon doing drugs" she winks suggestively at Wallace who just gapes at her, "Nonetheless, it's lovely to see you once again Audrey! I've missed you so much." Sheba teases in a high-pitched, childish voice.
"I couldn't say the same." Audrey mutters under her breath, folding her arms and removing her glare from Sheba.
"Whatever..." Sheba comments at Audrey's subtle remark before plastering a smile on her face and turning towards Wallace; sat in his seat staring cluelessly at the two bickering women, "Hello there Wallace, you still look like an adorable shriveled prune."
Wallace guffaws, "Thank you, I guess. You haven't aged a day Sheba." He proceeds to stand up from his chair and walk to the empty spot in front of her where he grabs and kisses her hand gently.
"Always paying compliments even when I'm a complete mess, you're such a flirt even if you might keel over at any moment." Sheba jokes, watching in amusement as Wallace guides her to the empty seat besides him, pulling out the chair and allowing her to sit down. She silently thanks him for his courteous gesture with a nod of the head.
Wallace bends down to be level with Sheba's head, "And for your information, I'm only forty-six." which makes the edges of Sheba's lips curve up partially.
Sheba then directs her complete attention to the man opposite her, who is cautiously drinking from the glass of water. He chokes slightly, noticing her gaze before composing himself, "Um, hey, I'm Jeremiah if you didn't know. I'm vice president of new law firm that's just opened." He says with an outstretched hand which Sheba politely accepts.
"And it has reams of potential, this young man is an absolute genius!" Wallace compliments the young man who just blushes in response.
"Yes ma'am, a delicious combination of brains, beauty and brawn, I love it." Sheba light-heartedly pretends to act seductive, reaching over the table to mildly caress the stubble-ridden cheek of Jeremiah.
He simply laughs at her flirtatious attempts, "It's a shame I'm gay then." Which earns a scoff from Audrey, a chuckle from Wallace and a cacophonous intake of breath from Sheba.
"Wow, the moment's been ruined. You can still accept the compliment though, because I would still have a piece of you." She attempts to keep up this act before erupting into a fit of laughter, accompanied by Jeremiah and Wallace. Audrey just sits there, glowering daggers in Sheba's direction.
Cohen joins the four in the dining room, alongside a trolley stacked with a vast array of food - ranging from international delicacies to various meats to simple confectionery for desert. He proceeds to place each dish onto a free space on the table.
"If you're all done getting acquainted, I'd like to get this conference into order." Cohen announces as he takes his seat at the head of the table, watching as the guests pile food on their plates.
Sheba licked her fleshy lips and grabbed a handful of oily h’ors devoures. They were little shrimps, fried to a crisp. She placed a pile of shrimp on her plate and drenched them in creamy, sweet sauce. Her hand clenched the oil soaked shrimp and she stuffed them into her mouth. She licked her fingers, smeared with cream and oil - wiping the excess onto one of the napkins.
The four watch her with mixed emotions, awe and disgust being the dominant ones. She notices their watchful studying of her, "Don't mind me, I'm just hungry. Think of me as a Cohen's auxiliary or just a spectator." Sheba waves her hand dismissively, before feasting on thick slices of home-cured ham.
Cohen pops open a bottle of Chateau Lafite and pours a generous amount in the empty wine glasses placed in front of each guest. He fills his own glass up before placing the bottle of alcohol back onto the trolley. He then takes a couple of sips, carefully setting the glass back onto the table, "Okay, let's begin..."
Two: Queen of Discord
"As you all know, my business is hunting a wide variety of companies which I'd like to invest money in. Financially, the expected future benefit from investment is a return. The return may consist of capital gain and/or investment income, including dividends, interest, rental income etc. So, since I know that you two," Cohen points at Wallace and Audrey, "both have very successful businesses, I'd like to capitalize on that. This would then benefit the both of us because I will be providing money to allow for you to make advantageous changes to your line of work." Cohen pauses, allowing this information to sink in. He looks between Audrey and Wallace watching closely at their calculated expressions.
Audrey sat there with a droll stare, seemingly unimpressed and uncooperative, "How would this be beneficial for my fashion company? We design clothing, have select models to try them out and then we invest in catwalk shows to advertise them. What could you possibly offer that would make that better, when my company is the most popular clothes brand internationally."
"I don't even need to look in your direction to know that you've got a smug expression plastered over your face... Audrey, everyone knows how much you love money. Why are you questioning his million dollar offer? You don't need to emit faux-intelligent vibes like you know what you're talking about." Sheba waggles her plucked eyebrows, "You've never been to a legitimate board meeting so I'm pretty sure your brain is freezing up in an attempt to conjure words that a remotely professional; for example, your use of the large word 'internationally'" Every smile that lit up her features was the wrong sort. It's like she ran on cold malice instead of any form of genuine affection.
Audrey slams her fist onto the table with a clenched jaw, a jutting chin and lowered eyebrows, "Shut the fuck up!" Everything went silent as four pairs of eyes find their way to the only girl stood up, "I swear to God you are the most vexing human being in the world. I can't believe I was ever associated with you, you little rat." She points her finger at Sheba who simply raises her hands in defeat. She then huffs, sitting down in her seat whilst massaging her temples.
"Ouch." In her arrogant triumph, Sheba smirked - just a small pouting of the lips; a narrowing of the eyes and a tilting of the head. It was so subtle, it was even more infuriating for Audrey who caught a glimpse of it after making the foolish outburst.
"Please be quiet Sheba." Cohen growls, menacingly peering at her who drops any inclination of emotion, "Well Audrey, investing more money than the profits you are making will allow your company to venture off into new areas of manufacturing clothes. You could experiment with haute couture or bespoke tailoring. Maybe even create an entire line of clothing items aimed at the male gender, since you've only been producing female-oriented stock." He goes through a pre-prepared list of eligible paths Audrey's company could take.
She looked deep in thought for a moment, resting her head on her right hand and narrowing her eyes at the wine glass in her left, "I guess that could work and besides, my team of researchers have been doing prototype designs for male clothing for years. The investment would surely allow us to make it a reality." Audrey tilted her head back and before straightening her posture.
"From the expression on your face, the likelihood of having a ton of money given to you for no apparent reason made you orgasm." Sheba remarks dryly, taking in her slightly flushed face - probably induced from the alcohol provided with the meal.
Audrey bites her bottom lip in an effort to refrain from commenting, proving futile, "I hate you so much." Audrey grasps the glass of wine, swirling the liquid inside. She knocks back what was left at the bottom, before reaching out for a different bottle on the trolley for a refill. In an attempt to drown out her surroundings to prevent herself from getting flustered and irate towards Sheba, Audrey poked the glass-like ice cubes with her perfectly manicured nail to hear them jingle amidst the booming conversation of the other four. She drank the whiskey without a care; alcohol being the elixir of life.
A muscle twitched involuntarily at the corner of Jeremiah's right eye, his mouth formed a rigid grimace. Acknowledging the exchange between the two women, he rubbed the nape of his neck with his own callous hand with wide eyes - fidgeting before turning towards Sheba, "Do you like, not have a filter?"
Sheba claps her hands together before shaking with a silent laughter, "I regret everything and nothing." She says, catching Jeremiah's cheek between her forefinger and thumb, giving it a light squeeze.
"Great philosophy there idiot, I'm surprised you're not a political leader." Audrey spits out with a curled lip and crinkled brows.
"I know right, I have that lovable personality that would put me in charge of the country. Then as my first declaration, I'd deport you back to Korea and not the good side." Sheba playfully nudges Audrey's arm who slaps her hand away with force.
"Why is this little tiff getting personal?" Cohen asks, standing up and gathering the empty plates left over from the already-eaten main course.
Audrey yawns, giving Cohen a dismissive wave, "Because it is personal, that bitch is stooping lower than trash and she won't be able to climb back onto her pedestal anytime soon, especially when I'm through with her..." she begins her montage of threats before being interrupted by a jovial laugh, "Wallace, why are you laughing?" She responds with a tone of unexpressed anger.
Wallace ends his laughing fit however unable to refrain from releasing the occasional splutter, "It's actually quite entertaining," he then quickly mutters under his breath, "better than business talk that's for sure." a comment which Jeremiah heard and let's out a small laugh, both of them sending toothy grins at each other.
Sheba notices the exchange but doesn't comment on it, instead just chortling into her wine glass. Cohen returns to his seat after piling the empty dishes onto the trolley, setting it aside to be moved elsewhere later on in the evening, "Anyway, what do you think Wallace?"
Wallace strokes his chin, almost pretending as if a beard was resting there. He's quiet for a moment, before making direct eye contact with Cohen, "Despite the fact that I obviously don't need any more money, since I am the richest man in the United States at the moment." the eye contact then falters, Wallace takes out his Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and opening the notes application. He continues to talk, but it seems to be projected to himself, "But since the only aspect of international trade that my company still hasn't been successful in doing is mineral fuels, oils, distillation products et cetera, I'd probably use your funding to find willing international partnerships in dire need of these commodities." he says, juggling various possibilities.
Sheba notices Jeremiah is watching Wallace as he calculates propositions for his business, whilst quickly typing away on his phone. She also takes into account the leer he has on his face, "Dimples, your gay is showing."
Jeremiah tears his gaze away from Wallace to see Sheba smiling widely at him, he blushes immensely and bows his head, "It doesn't matter, everyone at the table knows I am anyway," he whispers back before he clears his throat and then directs his attention to Cohen, "So where do I fit into this scheme of things?"
Cohen leans forward and clasps his hands together, resting them on the edge of the mahogany table, "Well since you're an amateur to this world and you're more than likely confused on how a successful company functions and flourishes, I plan on investing a larger amount to your law firm. Also, with the aspect that I'm supporting your relatively unknown company, you will rapidly get the publicity you need to become prosperous - in turn, you'll hopefully accumulate an influx of potential clients." He watches in mirth at the shift in the spectrum of Jeremiah's emotions.
The young man nods his head enthusiastically with a huge Cheshire grin, "That sounds amazing, Cohen. I'm speechless, I don't know what to say or how I can repay you." He trips over his words, before managing to utter out a logical sentence.
"All I want is a favourable outcome. If you and your team at the law firm can prove to me that you are capable of being a cohesive and hardworking personnel, then I have no problem with providing a sustainable fund. I think you can manage that." Cohen thumps Jeremiah on the shoulder in a friendly manner.
Cohen stands and makes his way over to the trolley, lifting a covered tray in the air before placing it down in the middle of the table, "Time for desert!" He announces whilst removing the cover to reveal three different cakes. The first, a stunning ombré rosette cake with layers of red velvet sponge and then sprinkled with pink sugar dust. This was then succeeded by an absolutely dreamy and sophisticated coconut cake, iced with coconut frosting, generously covered with a handful or two of coconut shavings and finally bedecked with a champagne-coloured satin bow at the base. And last but not ever least, the topmost was a double tier vanilla and almond cake with the bottom tier enclosed in edible silver leaf and adorned with a single sugar magnolia to honour the name of their beloved town.
Sheba both figuratively and literally salivated at the sight of the decadent treats bestowed in front of her. Not even waiting to be allocated a slice, she immediately took it upon herself to cut three reasonably large chunks; one from each cake. She then took her place back in her seat, ignoring the bewildered expressions from the others around her as she stuffs her face.
The group of five sit in a comfortable silence, finishing off their meal with a slice of sugary goodness. The only sound that filled the room was cutlery clanging against plates.
Sheba takes a jab to gain everyone's attention by dropping her fork down onto the fine china underneath it, "Let me just get this theory hanging out in the open for a moment. This is mainly targeted towards you Cohen, so listen carefully." she pauses for an intake of oxygen, "Hypothetically speaking, you're willing to risk millions of dollars to invest in these three businesses but you're not fully aware of what they actually do within them. For all you know, Wallace, Audrey and Jeremiah could have underlining shady dealings within their companies." She scans the room with a wry twinkle in her dark-chocolate eyes.
Cohen derides her with a forced roar of noise, "What are you talking about? Of course I know what and who I'm dealing with here. I did make my assistants do thorough background research just to make sure if anything remotely corrupt was taking place."
Sheba mimics his posture and imitates his attempt at a laugh, "I don't think it was meticulous enough. I'm sure you're not fully conscious of the three people at the dinner tonight."
Audrey clicks her tongue, "Knowing your kind, you've probably resorted to abusing drugs by now since your career has gone down the drain - so what are you smoking?" She teases her, leaving Sheba completely unfazed.
"Who me? I'm clean of any substance, petal. I'm just saying that theoretically, all of you have blood on your hands." She shrugs nonchalantly, whilst playing with a loose strand of her curly hair.
"That's outrageous! How dare you accuse any of us of being amoral and unreliable." Wallace yells, folding his arms across his chest - his biceps bulging through the sleeves of his shirt, threatening to break the seams.
Jeremiah fills the brief silence by adding his opinion, "Yeah, what Wallace said. If anything you're trying to prohibit these contracts being signed."
Suddenly, Sheba was laughing so hard, she couldn’t stop. She waved her hand in the air, almost to signify a flag of apology. She didn’t know why, but the waves of laughter kept coming. She tried to catch her breath and all but snorted, "It's really cute how you're agreeing and siding with Wallace, Jeremiah. I can almost smell the sexual tension between you two. It's a little bit overwhelming." She mock gags.
Every word stung only fueling the fire that burned inside of the room. Every violated phrase was like gasoline to it, fists began to clench and jaws were rooted. Audrey's once-calm demeanour ultimately snapped, "What are you even offering tonight, Sheba? Last time I checked, your bank account was wiped of every single cent, multiple of your modelling contracts were terminated and you're essentially homeless." Sheba was basking in the edgy ambiance she created from one simple trigger.
"The reason why I'm here tonight is confidential in of itself. You don't need to know until I'm ready to tell you. But at the moment, I'm here to provide Cohen with feasible scenarios that could happen if he decided to waste money on unworthy organizations." Sheba crossed one leg over the other and used her hand as leverage to firmly hold the knee.
To prevent any further indirect embarrassment, Cohen tried to ease the situation with a suggestion, "Jeremiah, Wallace, Audrey, before this completely spirals out of control into one massive free-for-all, I'll let you all venture around the house - take your time with making the decision. When I'm finished clearing up, I'll call you all back and we can negotiate... Sheba stay here." The two of them watched as the other three made their way out of the dining room without protest. When the door shut, Cohen approached Sheba, forgetting all about personal space.
His face mottled crimson, his eyes popped, his tree trunk neck strained. His words were spat out with the ferocity and rapidity of machine gun fire, "Have you officially lost it? I don't need your input on any decision I make with the empire that I built from nothing. I never have and I never will listen to any advice you give to me, because from experience it has been nothing of value."
Without wiping the spit from her mocha skin she leant closer, perfectly composed and uttered just six words, "You need to check your privileges." His fuse simmered and fizzed like a firework in a chill autumn breeze, then he exploded with unrestrained fury. She remained as still as a cadaver and just as pallid, unblinking against his onslaught. Then with a barely concealed smirk she turned on her heels and walked out of the dining room.
Three: Erotic Yearning
Cohen wheeled the trolley into the somewhat minimalistic, but professionally designed kitchen. The counters were crafted from granite and the appliances were specifically selected to blend in with the white, black and gold colour scheme. The counters were uncluttered; the utensils hanging on hooks, the block of knives were kept in the corner where two walls met and the coffee machine sat occupying a wide stretch of the work top.
It was silent bar the efficient hum of the refrigerator. Cohen opened the door the dishwasher, placing plates, cutlery and glasses into different sections before closing it up and turning it on - allowing a gentle swish to accompany the efficient hum.
He yawned and rubbed his eyes, grabbing the strewn tea towel and folding it neatly before placing it back down on the counter. Cohen then opened up a cupboard, grabbing a glass and filling it to the brim with an amber liquid. He swirled the whiskey in his glass, listening to the chinking of the ice cubes, breathing in a fragrance that only years in an oak barrel can achieve. Sighing in content, he pulls out a stool from the breakfast nook before taking a seat - resting his chin on the palm of his hand.
After a few minutes he stands, making his way down the hall where he passes both Jeremiah and Wallace. Giving them a friendly salute, he disappears in the direction of his office without a word.
Jeremiah looked sharply up as Wallace took hold of his hand, dragging him up the stairs at a faster pace. The hand felt like sandpaper or perhaps stone, rough and unfinished. It suited him, he thought, looking into his deep eyes, cheeks reddening. His hands were warm in his as he kept a firm grip around his much smaller one, his nerves tingling at the harsh comfort of contact.
Wallace pulled Jeremiah into the closest room, opening the door with so much force that it knocked into the wall with a huge crash. The room had beautiful hand-painted murals on the white walls, there was nothing else except for a queen sized bed in the center of the room. The two fell down on top of the bed. Jeremiah reverently rubbed his fingers along the silken mattress. He pressed his cheek to the cool, velvet pillows. The comforter was thick and irresistibly soft, like a billowing cloud.
Jeremiah felt arms wrap around his waist, pulling him with little effort onto another body. Unexpectedly, Wallace's hand drifted to his hip. It settled there and pulled Jeremiah closer. He inhaled sharply. He was against his warm chest, chiseled to perfection. Wallace held him gently, cupping his face with one hand. Jeremiah leaned down and softly kissed the tender area at the base of Wallace's neck. His body went rigid with surprise as trembles shook his body and the euphoric warmth blossomed within him once more. Wallace was breathless with delight as he showered him with gentle, soft kisses, each with its own flicker of warmth. Wallace gazed up at Jeremiah, thrilled beyond words to be the recipient of his affection. He drew back again and spent a moment studying his face before Wallace flipped the two over so that Jeremiah was encased within the comforter.
Jeremiah felt his blush deepen under his scrutiny. Wallace gazed at him lovingly, his eyes softening with tenderness before sparking with something else. He tilted his head to the side and kissed him, his lips demanding. Jeremiah felt a smoldering heat deep within him as Wallace’s grip tightened, crushing his body to his, gentle yet firm. He slanted his head further, deepening the kiss.
Before anything could escalate into something overtly sexual in another man's home, Jeremiah removes his lips from Wallace. Sitting up but continuing to straddle the man's lap as he too sits up. Jeremiah wrapped him in a warm swaddle of his chest and arms, both of them satisfied.
"Don't you think this is a little inappropriate considering we're in the Cohen Monroe's home." Jeremiah whispers, his breath fanning Wallace's ear as he adds emphasis on 'the'.
Wallace gently pushes Jeremiah back, his arms wrapping around his waist to keep him from falling off his lap and onto the floor, "Of course it is, but my needs are more important and sometimes I just can't help myself." He bites his lip seductively, watching as Jeremiah's eyes glaze over with an undying lust.
Snapping out of his stupor Jeremiah flashes a serious expression, "You need to learn to control yourself when we're together around other people. We can't just be sneaking off for a quick session at public events, what if word got out that you were secretly dating the young man who you mentored when he was fresh of of college. Let alone the fact that the richest man in the country is gay. I don't want to see you face backlash or a financial collapse within the company just because some people are shallow-minded and would refuse to work with you because of one quirk in your personality." He rants, going off on a tangent as he plays with the loose strands of hair on Wallace's head.
Wallace looks at him in awe with a slacked-jaw and fixed gaze, "That's one of the many reasons why I love you so much - except for the fact that you are a major tease." He winks playfully, leaning forward to kiss him on the cheek - simultaneously grinding his lower half into Jeremiah.
Jeremiah smirks, noticing his problematic condition, "Are you feeling that deprived? Do I need to relieve the pressure, baby?" His voice husky and alluring.
"Yes... oh God... please." He almost whimpers under the younger man's charm, his response is a simple laugh at the man twenty-two years his senior. Slowly but surely, he climbs from his lap so that he is kneeling on the floor in between two wide-open legs. Reaching, forward he cups the engorged, twitching bulge trapped underneath the piece of fabric. He takes a hold of the small zip, pulling it down as an act of thwarting foreplay.
The door to the room was open ajar. On the other side stood Sheba, peering in through the small crack as she watches the heated fornication being performed. Figuring the two men needed some privacy, she quietly shut the door just as the shirts were being thrown onto the floor and the two men lying tangled in a naked and groaning heap on the bed.
Sheba glided through the halls of the mansion. Her target destination being the bathroom, but with the use of eidetic memory, she gets there with ease. The bathroom was just as opulent as the rest of the house. Rigged out with gleaming marble counter tops, walnut framed mirrors, a jacuzzi bathtub, a walk in shower room with over-sized shower head, fluffy towels neatly arranged and a tiled ground with under-floor heating - the room itself screamed wealth.
After re-applying an extra coat of mascara and her beloved maroon lipstick, Sheba exits the bathroom; walking up to the sliding doors that go out to the back garden. Noticing Audrey sitting alone besides the swimming pool, she smiles deviously to herself. The dim lights flickered like an old burning candle. The buzz of the neon strips contributed to the soundtrack of the night. The vapour of the intoxicating chlorine hung thick in the air.
Sheba noticed that Audrey was smoking a cigarette. The smoke she exhaled wasn't completely opaque, but its long grey wisps seemed to curl and illuminate in the dark sky. Observing from a distance, Sheba watched as she took a couple more deep drags before extinguishing the bud by tossing it into the clear blue pool of water.
"Well that was very careless of you. But then again, I'd expect no less." Sheba says, eyeing the cigarette bud that floats on the surface of the water. Audrey narrows her eyes at her, growling and muttering something to herself.
"Jesus Christ, can't I have five minutes of solitude without you disrupting my train of thought? Do you ever quit with the bitchiness or constant nagging?" Audrey takes a shaky breath in an attempt to calm herself down, knowing that her anger delights Sheba, "When will you learn that your reputation and name means nothing now. Just back the fuck off and get out of mine and Cohen's life."
"Audrey Hwang." Sheba exhales, "The only thing that comes to mind when I hear that name is the question of 'what purpose do you fulfill?' because frankly, your profession is as useful as a faulty condom." She laughs at her own meagre try at humour.
Audrey flinches and looks at her with disgust, "You are the true definition of fake. Before your whole trainwreck of a divorce, you were such a captivating breath of fresh air and now look at you. Firing insults left, right and center alongside explicit language which is just utterly foul. Under any other circumstances, I'd actually feel pity towards you for getting yourself in such a mess, but once you fired blatant personal attacks at me then that is where ever fuck is lost." Audrey's face contorted with the venomous paroxysm, her skin turning the colour of an over-ripe tomato.
Sheba's emotions got the better of her, "You think you're so righteous; all high and mighty in your untouchable castle. We were best friends before shit hit the fan and now you think it's okay to look down on me like I'm dirt. As soon as I lost my impeccable image with the media, you joined in with the crowd to make me look like a fish out of water. Do you think you're better than me or something?" Her voice laced with malice.
"Bingo! That is exactly what I think Sheba! It's because it's the truth." Audrey says, standing up which Sheba emulates, "Also, don't come to me talking about impeccable image because it's your legacy which is plaguing me and making me look like shit because apparently I 'double-crossed you' by only being your friend because you were famous. I regret the moment when you walked into my office in Milan, the little faltering starlet should've imploded years ago." Audrey's complacent stance and guise hit a nerve ending in Sheba.
Neither girl didn't know who threw the first punch, but suddenly Sheba's fist was slamming into Audrey's face while she sunk her fist into Sheba's stomach. Blood pooled in her mouth as I gagged. They stumbled apart for a brief second to catch their breaths before diving back at each other, eyes narrowed in determination.
They both had strong grips on a clump of each other's hair, whilst their empty hand did all the dirty work. The women were both relentless and impenitent with their violence and assault of derogatory verbal abuse.
The strangled cries of pain alerted the three men, who all came out of the sliding doors in succession; Wallace and Jeremiah's clothing were creased and their once sculpted hair was now chaotic. Cohen lifted Sheba off of Audrey and Wallace hooked his hands underneath Audrey's arms, dragging her from the poolside.
"What the hell is going on?" Cohen cries out, his eyes fixated on the two women who all but refuse to acknowledge each other's existence as well as their previous quarrel. Sheba is the first to stand out of the two, wiping the rapidly drying blood from the side of her mouth and flicking it in Audrey's direction, who reacts with a high-pitched yelp.
Cohen's question wasn't intentionally rhetorical, but when he didn't receive and answer he just moved on from the topic, "All of us are going to head to my office so we can finalize our decisions and then we can call it a night." He says whilst scrunching up his face and rubbing the palms of his hands over it. Signalling them to follow, Cohen makes his way back into the house with his guests in tow.
- The novel is written by GalaxyRemixZ.
- The total word count is 8,017.