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Bastards & Whiskey (Top Shelf Book 1) by Alta Hensley (1)

1

Kenneth

I stood before a table of assholes.

Six filthy rich, smart as fuck, and complete pricks sat around a circular African blackwood table. They each seemed annoyed they were even called to this meeting.

And why African blackwood—one of the most expensive woods in the world—a wood used to make instruments and one that had become nearly extinct because of mankind, you might ask? Why did we need such a luxurious table made of this wood in our office to conduct our meetings at?

Because we could.

Why did each of these assholes place their tumblers of high-end liquor over ice, dripping with condensation and leaving water rings on the delicate table?

Because we could.

We could do whatever the fuck we wanted.

We knew we were able to buy another table with an ease that made us cavalier toward possessions.

We were insanely rich, totally careless bastards. Each one of us.

Somewhere along the line, however, I had decided to become business partners with these ruthless men. On most days I felt as if I had made one hell of a wise financial decision pairing up with this motley bunch, and other days, I wondered how drunk I must have been on Macallan sherry oak whiskey to be fool enough to go in on this business idea. Had I known it was going to be so much work, I would’ve at the very least held out until someone treated me to The Balvenie 50-year-old single malt before agreeing to this bullshit.

And that’s what this business had become.

Total and utter bullshit.

My ass didn’t have time for this.

We owned Spiked Roses—an exclusive, membership only establishment in New Orleans where money or lineage was the only way in. It was for the gentlemen who owned everything and never heard the word no. Sipping on top shelf booze, smoking exotic cigars, and conducting multi-million dollar deals in our own personal playground of indulgence, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t have… and that had now become an issue. A big fucking, colossal problem that could make each one of us lose our asses in litigation and settlements.

“Listen, I don’t want to be here either, fuckers,” I began as I made eye contact with each man in the room. They were the powerful, royalty, the captains of industry, and the wealthiest fucks in the world.

They were also my friends, my business partners, and definitely some brutal and merciless shitheads who wouldn’t be above doing whatever it took to protect what was theirs. Whatever it took.

“We just got hit with another lawsuit,” I continued, looking down at the thick document in front of me, “and this one is a doozy.” I looked back at the men who didn’t seem bothered in the least. “And after we just got done paying out our asses for the last lawsuit…” I cleared my throat. “Make that the last couple of lawsuits. Spiked Roses is going to be in Chapter 11 before we even hit our one year anniversary.”

One of the founding members—Prince Roman Cassian—looked around the table and said, “Last I checked, none of us were hurting for money. Since when are we afraid of some frivolous lawsuits and paying people off?” With his European accent, his charming smile, and his casual demeanor, I could see why women lined up for even a glimpse of the royal blood that surged through his cock. We’d even had to up security at the entrance because women were trying to sneak in with hopes of luring the sexy prince into their beds.

“We have paid people off. A lot! NOLA City Council is practically on our bi-weekly payroll right now. With two Councilmember-at-Large positions, and representatives in districts A through E, our payoffs are steep and plentiful. Plus, the mayor is breathing down our necks. He doesn’t give a fuck what we do behind closed doors, but when it starts showing up in the courtrooms, he is losing his patience fast. So, something has to be done. And I don’t know about any of you, but I didn’t decide to open this club so some greedy bitch or asshole, who sees a payday in their future, can bleed my pocketbook dry,” I said between clenched teeth.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only founding member who would feel that way. But I also knew that since I handled all the legal matters of the business, it was very likely they all didn’t truly grasp the severity and quantity in which the suits were being filed.

“Story of my life,” Alec Sheldon said. Alec had made his fortune in oil and tobacco and was about as far away from a southern gentleman as you could get. He liked his sexual play dark and dirty, and he alone was one of the reasons we had to do something to protect Spiked Roses from future litigation. It was just a matter of time until his bedroom antics would land us in a multimillion-dollar sexual assault case. “Some little darlin’ sues me if I even look at her wrong, let alone touch her.” He took a long drink before adding, “It comes with the territory. We make money, and someone else wants to take it away. A hard lesson my pappy taught me was even if we don’t hire a whore, we’ll still pay for the sex one way or the other.”

Some of the men nodded and snickered in agreement.

The dangerous Harley Crow was the next to chime in. “And that’s what we have you for, Mr. Kenneth Saxon. You’re the vicious lawyer who destroys people in the courtroom. Am I correct? So go ahead and destroy.” His snarky tone was not lost on me, but I wasn’t going to say a thing. This son of a bitch was an assassin. No way to sugarcoat that fact. He killed people and made a shitload of money doing it. He was known as “The Crow”, because if he showed up without warning, you knew bad things were about to happen. I was glad he was a friend and not an enemy, and I planned on keeping it that way. “Unless you want me to handle things my way,” he added with an evil grin.

The other men all laughed and playfully told him to go for it. The Harley Crow way was the only way.

I fucking wished.

I released a sigh, feeling my frustration grow. “You fuckers won’t be able to afford me for long.” I reached down, lifted the thick document, and waved it for effect. “This one is for ten million dollars. And the one we just settled on was for nearly three million. The one before that was for five million. Shall I go on?”

I had finally gotten their attention. I saw grimaces, locked jaws, and stiffened spines.

I gave a smug nod. “That’s right. And the fact of the matter is, that we are losing—or would lose if we didn’t settle—because the women suing are within the law and have the right to have our heads on a stake. Our dirty ass members are doing the deeds these women claim, and all of you damn well know it.”

“There are no rules at Spiked Roses. No one says no to a member,” Victor Drayton pointed out as he sipped from his crystal tumbler. “Isn’t that why we created this place? We were sick of all the stuffy rules and regulations of all those other membership clubs? Are you asking us to become just like them?” He shrugged. “We might as well close our doors then. I have no interest in being part of those blue blood men’s clubs, and certainly don’t want to own one.”

Victor Drayton was the reason for the first lawsuit of 2.5 million dollars. He was a world-renowned gallery owner and art collector, but he also was known in the dark shadows of Spiked Roses for Drayton’s Dolls. He collected “dolls” which involved naked women being painted and then hung on display. Sounded normal and consensual enough, but based on the claim made by one of the “dolls” who sued us, it didn’t stop with just being painted as art for one of his galleries. The kinky descriptions of the art room in the deposition even had my filthy ass doing a double take.

I dipped my index finger between the knot of my silk tie and the cotton of my shirt to loosen the restriction a bit. I prepared myself for what I was about to propose. All eyes were on me; I had gotten their attention when I mentioned the loss of millions, but now they were looking for a solution.

“I’m not asking that we change the expectations of the members. You are right, Victor. We opened Spiked Roses because conventional isn’t a word to describe any of us. I’m not saying we change the men, but we need to change the women and how we go about things.”

I paused so my words could sink in. I took hold of my glass of whiskey and sipped it before continuing, taking the time to inhale the aroma of the aged-to-perfection liquid.

“The first thing we are going to do is clean house. All new staff,” I began. “We aren’t running a whore house, a drug den, or a strip club. And if you look around and really take stock, that’s what’s been happening. We have enough cocaine, heroin, and even meth being passed around in dark corners to have all our asses sent to prison for a very long time.”

“Ah come on, man. Cleaning house? That’s harsh,” Prince Roman interjected. “They aren’t all bad or on drugs.”

“Agreed. They aren’t all bad. But those who aren’t fully fucked up end up getting chosen to become arm candy by one of our members. They become the flavor of the month—or week—which means that our fucking staffing needs are a disaster. Those women don’t show up for work because they are fucking some count on his yacht,” I said as I finally took the seat at the head of the table.

“He’s right,” Matthew Price agreed. “We are rarely fully staffed lately, and the members are starting to complain about the speed of getting their drinks. Hell, we haven’t had a cigar girl working the floor in days. It’s not good business, gentlemen. Fuck all the lawsuits. They don’t matter if we have a shitty place to come to.”

Finally, I had someone else stepping up and speaking the harsh truths, and probably the best person in the room to do so. Matthew Price was a Captain of Industry in every way. He was the CEO and owner of Price Enterprises, and known for conquering his enemies by destroying their business value and then swooping in for the kill and buying up what was left. He was the king of the jungle, and a predator who couldn’t be stopped.

“I agree with Kenneth,” Matthew continued. “It’s time to clean house and start fresh. We also need a housemother of some sort. Someone to guarantee our staff follow the strict guidelines that we need to set. And we need fucking uniforms. I’m sick of seeing an array of fashion out on the floor. Just saying ‘sexy’ isn’t enough. We need to set the parameters of what sexy is.”

“Like a madam?” Alec asked. “I thought we wanted to get away from the image of running a whore house.”

“We can polish the title up however we want to make it not appear as a madam. Maybe hire a man to do the job for all I care.” Matthew paused as if considering his words. “A gay man so we know he won’t fuck them in the back room.”

“A daddy. I like it,” Alec said with a wicked smile. “A strict daddy to keep them all in line.”

“I may have the perfect person for the job,” Lennon Wolf chimed in. Lennon ran with some of the artsy and most eccentric people out of all of us. The type of people who owned monkeys or zebras and kept them in their backyard. It was impossible to show up at a fancy party and not see Lennon Wolf standing with a martini glass in his hands. He was the life of the party, and no party was complete without his presence. Known for gaining his wealth by being an art and jewelry thief, he was also known for never stealing from his friends. So, if you had valuable art and jewels, it was crucial to become friends with the man. Unless you wanted your rare Picasso to turn up missing that is. “His name is Tennessee Charles, and last I heard, his own sugar daddy just cut him off, so he’ll be looking for employment. But I know Tennessee, and he will have the women marching to his orders in a way that only that man can do.”

“Good,” Matthew said with a nod. “Bring him in. We need to start there. But make sure he’s a strict and mean motherfucker, because it’s time that Spiked Roses gets the reputation of not fucking around with the staff. No nonsense. We want people to be afraid if they’ll keep their jobs on a nightly basis. Mandatory drug tests and STD checks as well. I’m sick of coked out women working the floor.”

Since it appeared everyone in the room was now open to some reshaping of our original vision, I decided to broach the biggest change I wanted to see happen. “From now on, I would like to see contracts come into play. If any of our members—and that includes the founding members sitting here—want to fuck any of the staff, then they need to both sign a contract. In a nutshell, the contract states that both parties are openly and freely engaging in a sexual relationship. That for the length of the contract, the male owns the female. He has bought her, and she has allowed it. If you fuck her, you buy her. Simple.”

I could see the looks of shock and confusion on the men’s faces, so I quickly continued before any of them had a chance to say a word.

“Both parties can end the contract at any time. But if the member ends the contract, there is a fee to the female staff for doing so. A severance package of sorts. It protects the female because from now on, if she signs the contract, she will no longer be employed with Spiked Roses. So she will need a hefty compensation for when the contract ends.” I paused just long enough to take a drink and try to organize my thoughts better to fully explain the contract so it wouldn’t be confusing to someone who was not an attorney. “The reality is that we know all the relationships end eventually. The members grow tired of their arm candy and want someone new. The women go into it thinking they found their sugar daddy, and when it comes to a crashing halt, they get pissed and many want to sue. But they sue because they feel cheated somehow. Cheated of their payday. So, we are going to put in the contract that they do indeed get paid when the relationship ends. Now, if the woman ends the contract, that is on her. No payment. The man doesn’t owe her anything. And if we have a position open, she can always reapply, but there are no promises that her job will be held for her. Basically, gentlemen, I’m trying to protect our asses. To fuck one of our girls, you have to buy her first. Arm candy, or a quick fuck, or even a long term relationship is not free anymore. If you meet her at Spiked Roses, and if you want more than just a pretty sight to look at, then you need to sign on the dotted line.”

“How much?” Prince Roman asked. “How much will we be expected to pay if we end things after a little fun?”

“Depends on the negotiations,” I answered. “Standard contract is one year’s salary at Spiked Roses. But every contract can be negotiated.”

“And you think members and the staff will actually sign this?” Harley Crow asked.

“They have to if they want more. No one has to sign a thing, but then they need to not fuck. Black and white. If you want to fuck her, you have to buy her. And if you want to fuck him, you have to be willing to be bought. It protects both parties. The man can’t get sued for sexual harassment or assault, and the female doesn’t get left in the dust when the man gets bored. And like I said, the contract can last as long or as short as both parties want. It can be for just one night, or it can be for months. No more of that boyfriend/girlfriend shit here. It always backfires and then Spiked Roses somehow gets sued.”

“I like it,” Matthew said with a nod. “The contract proves the woman is giving consent.”

“Yes,” I said. “Plus, we can add any line items that may be a bit extraordinary like Victor expects with his dolls.”

Victor smiled and lifted his drink in a mock cheer. “I like your thinking, my friend.”

“And those sex parties that we have all been talking about hosting lately in The Tasting Room,” I said which had all of their eyes light up. “We can move forward with those now. The women will go into each sex party with clear expectations, the members will also know the rules, and official contracts will be written for each party. The difference with the sex parties, however, is that the staff won’t lose their jobs if they engage in a contract in The Tasting Room. That will be considered as part of their job—if they want to attend. No mandate will be set that any female has to attend. The Tasting Room is where the business happens, and once a contract is signed, the members can use one of our hotel rooms, or take the woman home. If it is just one night of sex, the contract will say so. If it’s more, then we will stipulate that as well. We are putting consent on paper, gentlemen. Putting it in writing so we don’t get fucked up the ass in litigation. And just for fun, and to add some ceremonial aspect to it, I was thinking we could have both parties prick their finger and seal it with blood.”

“I like,” Harley Crow said. “Anything with blood is a winner in my book.”

“And you don’t think this is prostitution? You are saying you want our members to buy the women,” Alec said with skepticism. “That’s illegal if you ask me, Mr. Lawyer.”

“No,” I replied quickly. “The members are asked to pay when the sex ends. When they are done and want to end the contract. The sex is free, but ending it is not. The Tasting Room is different, and yes, I guess you could call it prostitution, or you can call it arranged dating. But no one is being forced to enter that room.” I released a large sigh. “I’m not saying this idea of the contract is completely on the up and up. Hell, it won’t even hold up in a court of law. But it’s better than what we have now. It at least makes it very clear what is expected by both parties. If, by some chance, we do land in court again—which is very likely—when we pay off the judges, we can at least put their minds at ease that the entire situation was consensual. Or at least as close as we could get to it.” I looked down at the document before me. “The latest suit is because Jackson Latham brought one of our staff to his little house of horrors, tied her up for three days, and sexually ‘tortured’ her as the claimant states. But we all know that Jackson is known for his kidnapping kink, and we also know Jessica James knew of that kink and she and Jackson had been fucking around for weeks. But this was her payday, and now this poor fucker is going to have to pay out the ass and pray to God he doesn’t have criminal charges placed against him because it’s her word against his. He claims consent; she claims kidnapping. If they both had signed a contract—with a little stamp of blood from both parties for pizazz—where it states what his kink is and his expectations, then he wouldn’t be in this position, and Spiked Roses wouldn’t be a codefendant in this really fucking expensive lawsuit. We have legal issues out our ass, so much so, that I have had to hire a legal team to help me out.”

“Not all women are guilty of looking for that payday you mention,” Prince Roman argued.

“I know that,” I said with a nod. “And it has also become our job to protect the women who work for us. This does that. Often women get fooled or blinded by all the promises of love and care. And when they let their guards down, they ultimately get screwed. I don’t know about you, gentlemen, but I have yet to hear of a love story emerging from Spiked Roses. So, with this contract, it protects their interest. Black and white. And every woman hired will see this contract upon employment. They never have to sign one if they don’t want to. Never. Unless, of course, they want to fuck a member of Spiked Roses or attend one of the tastings. Then, it is mandatory. Mandatory for our members too. If they want to fuck, or have fucked one of our staff and we find out, they must sign a contract or forfeit their membership and all fees associated with it.”

“But do we really need to clean house?” Prince Roman asked. “I guess I’m not a heartless fucker like all of you,” he said with his trademark charming grin.

“It’s setting the stage,” Matthew added. “We have to build an unbending reputation starting now. It’s better to start over and from the beginning than to expect people to change. No one likes change. And right now, the women are talking. They know how much others are getting as a payday in the settlements and want a part of that as well. So, we need to start fresh. Show that we are taking control, and this suing shit is about to come to a screeching halt. Fast.”

Matthew was clearly on my side, but the others didn’t seem as convinced.

I stood up like I had started the meeting and like I always did in court when I really wanted to drive the point home, and said, “Gentlemen, please pull out your wallets and place whatever cash you have in the center of the table.” When no one immediately did as I asked, I added, “Come on, you stingy bastards, humor me and do it.”

Each man begrudgingly did as I asked as they reached into their pockets. Hundreds of dollars were placed by each man, and, in some cases, thousands.

“Matthew, do you mind counting that up for me?” I asked.

Matthew took hold of the cash and quickly counted. “Nine thousand and fifty dollars.”

I nodded and then reached over to the intercom and hit the button, waiting for the secretary to answer.

“Yes, sir?” came a soft voice on the other end.

“Lena, can you come in here please?” I asked.

A few moments later, Lena came in and stood by the door, looking nervous as she scanned the room and saw all the founding members sitting around the table. She wore a tiny black dress that accentuated every delicious curve of her body, black pumps that tightened the firm muscles of her legs, and her long black hair flowed freely down her back. She had the look of a beautiful baroque goddess, and I knew by a quick glance at every man in the room, that she was one of the most fuckable women any of us had seen in a long time. My cock twitched at the thought of having it buried deep inside her while all the men watched on with envy.

“Lena, did you get a response from the new HR manager who we offered the job to yesterday?”

She diverted her eyes from the staring men and looked at me directly. “Yes, sir. He said he will start with the new hiring tomorrow first thing. I also told him you or one of the founding members would be overseeing the interviews.”

I nodded. “Very good, thank you.” I motioned for her to go ahead and leave, which she did quickly without saying another word.

Lennon Wolf whistled and leaned back in his chair. “Woo, she is a looker indeed.”

I smiled. “That she is. I can see you all agree.” It was obvious on each man’s face. “It’s clear you all want to fuck her. I sure as hell do. So, who here is prepared to buy her and sign that contract I mentioned? Right now. Buy her so you can fuck her within the hour. Anyone?”

I paused and looked around, seeing that not one man was jumping up and saying yes.

“No one? No one wants to sign the contract?” When no one answered, I added, “Good. Do you see, gentlemen? This will help keep our members in check. Many will sign the contract because we are all dirty bastards, but it will make the business man come out in all of us and at least make us pause and think about our actions. It will hold us accountable. It will also make the parties in The Tasting Room more profitable, because those contracts are short term and don’t require the same commitment.”

I buzzed Lena back in and waited.

“Yes, sir?” she said with more confidence this time as she entered the room.

“Lena, you are fired. Spiked Roses is terminating all current employees effective immediately.” I pointed to the large pile of cash in the middle of the table. “Take what’s there. It’s yours. Consider it your severance package.”

Tears filled the poor girl’s eyes and her lip began to quiver.

“Nothing against you, Lena. But Spiked Roses is about to be reborn.”