We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Landlord Wars: Chapter 30


Several of the City Hall antechambers at the top of the Grand Staircase were closed off by heavy, colorful curtains, and that was where my parents had asked me to meet them. But I was questioning my decision to do so more by the moment. The person from the planning department hadn’t shown, and all I could think about was Sophia. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around waiting for this guy.

Finally, a balding man in a sharp tux, with his glittery wife of a similar age, snuck past the curtains and into the antechamber.

“Max, this is Samuel Thompson and his wife,” my father said.

Though closer to my parents’ age, the man looked slick, and not at all like the workers I was used to dealing with from the planning department.

I’d been trying to reach the person in charge all week to find out how long Cityscape permits would be tied up. Normally, getting in touch wasn’t an issue, given my company’s reputation and past successful projects. But ever since news about my parents’ financial debacle was made public, we’d become family non grata. The only reason society wasn’t outright ignoring us this evening was because my mother had planned the entire event.

And it was for charity. San Francisco society had put their trash-talking on hold until after the charity ball.

I greeted the newcomers. After a few moments of casual chitchat, my mother engaged Samuel’s wife in a conversation about the charity, and I started to mention Cityscape—until my father interjected.

“Max has other projects coming down the pipeline too, including one called Starlight that would turn an entire city block into a work of art. It’ll become a destination for tourists and bring in more money than the city has ever seen.”

That was a vast exaggeration. Not to mention that Starlight wasn’t one of my projects.

I clenched my jaw. Other than tourists looking in from the outside at how the wealthy lived, Starlight would not be a part of the community, nor provide anything useful to them. And I’d made it clear to my father I wouldn’t be working on it.

I shot my father a glare that Samuel didn’t seem to notice.

“Well,” Samuel said, “that certainly sounds interesting. Though Cityscape is more manageable, as it would serve an immediate need. But there’s always room to review other ideas…” He looked at me hesitantly. “My understanding is that there’s a bit of an issue where the funding is concerned for Cityscape.”

“The funding is solid,” I said. “There is a rumor about my parents that doesn’t involve my business or my company’s liquidity.” Normally, I wouldn’t have put it so bluntly, but my father was pissing me off, and I’d lost all patience.

“Max,” my mother said, turning from her conversation with Samuel’s wife. “It’s so bourgeois to talk about money at a ball.” She smiled at Samuel. “Please don’t listen to everything you hear. There will be an announcement tonight that should make things very clear where our family stands in the pecking order.”

I sipped the champagne I’d been handed, forcing myself to not roll my eyes. Whatever my mother had to announce, I wanted no part of it. Sophia should have arrived by now, and I was eager to find her.

It was clear this meeting was never meant for Cityscape, and I was done here. I held out my hand to Samuel. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a guest waiting. My father can fill you in on his Starlight project, and I’ll reach out this week to discuss Cityscape.”

Samuel hemmed and hawed for a moment. “I’m not the one in charge. I can only pass along a word or two. With the right incentive…”

I didn’t allow my face to show emotion, though a sneaking suspicion took root. I glanced at my father, who gave me a short nod.

He’d bought this guy off? For Starlight?

Fuck. I hated this shit. It was why I’d refused to go into politics when my parents and their friends had suggested it. Enough dirty politics took place in business—present company a case in point—and it made me want to shower. Especially when dealing with those who claimed to care, when all they wanted was to line their pockets.

This man wouldn’t receive a dime from me. Either my projects were sound or they didn’t go through.

“Excuse me,” I said and stepped back. “I need to be somewhere.”

“Maxwell,” my mother cried. “Where are you going?” She followed through the curtain toward the exit, stopping me on the landing that looked out over the main floor.

I scanned the room, searching for Sophia. I had no idea what she was wearing, but it didn’t matter. The way I was attuned to her, I’d find her anywhere.

My mother squeezed my arm. “You can’t leave yet. You haven’t heard the announcement.”

I looked at her in confusion. “What is this announcement you keep talking about?”

Her shoulders did the little side-to-side shimmy thing they did when she was pleased with herself. “Using Samuel to get Starlight up and running, as your dad likes to put it, is just the beginning. We have a foolproof plan for solidifying our standing in society.”

I sighed and searched the crowd again. “I don’t have time for this, Mother. My date is waiting.”

Finally, my gaze landed on a woman in dark green with light-brown hair she’d curled in loose waves. Sophia was all the way across the room and standing off to the side. She looked incredibly beautiful in a formfitting gown that showed off how truly stunning her figure was—and her expression was distraught.

Where the hell was Jack? He wasn’t supposed to leave her side, but he was nowhere in sight.

I compressed my lips. This was all my fault. I’d agreed to meet my parents because they’d claimed to have a connection who could help with Cityscape. But I hadn’t agreed to bribe a man. And now Sophia was alone and upset.

“What do you mean, you brought a date?” my mother said, her voice suddenly clipped. “You mean Gwenny?”

Spotlights crisscrossed over the Grand Staircase below us, and Gwen slowly made her way up, grinning at me.

The fuck?

I turned to my mother, but she was walking away.

Gwen reached the top of the stairs and linked her arm with mine. “There you are.”

“What’s going on?” I searched for where I’d last seen Sophia. She was still standing there, only now she was staring at me and Gwen, her expression confused.

I tried to free my arm, but Gwen must have increased her kickboxing classes, because she’d clamped on like a vise.

“It’s almost time,” she said.

A sinking feeling came over me. The spotlights were on me and Gwen, which was probably why Sophia and the rest of the room were staring.

“Thank you all for coming.” My mother’s voice rang out over the sound system. She stood off to the side, holding a microphone, and appeared slightly tense. “It’s been an honor to host the Children’s Gala this evening. I couldn’t have put together this magnificent ball without the support of the Women in Society team. To everyone here, your generous donations will go a long way toward funding programs for the Bay Area Women and Children’s Centers. And now, on a more personal note, I have something special to announce to all you dear friends.” She looked straight at me.

She wouldn’t do this. Not without my permission. I placed my hand over Gwen’s and attempted to pry her fingers off my arm.

“It is my husband’s and my greatest pleasure to announce the betrothal of our son, Maxwell Harrison James Burrows, to Miss Gwendolyn Harper DuPont.”

The crowd hooted and cheered, and I felt the blood drain from my face.

Now that I looked more closely, I noticed that everyone was holding champagne flutes like the one I’d been given.

This had been planned. My parents set me up.

Head pounding, I ground my teeth, feeling my heart beat triple time. What the fuck had my parents been thinking?

I tore Gwen’s hand off my arm and ran down the Grand Staircase, watching helplessly as Sophia spun around and headed for the exit, knocking into a server carrying a tray of glasses.

The tray toppled, the glasses shattered, but she kept moving to the door without looking back.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode