Home > Under His Obsession

Under His Obsession
Author: Cathryn Fox

CHAPTER ONE


   Khloe


   “THERE’S THE DOOR. Feel free to use it.”

   Stomach in knots, I stare wide-eyed at my boss, hardly able to believe what I’m hearing. Then again, is it really so inconceivable that he’s canning my ass? Disobedience comes with a price, and like all other men in power, Benjamin R. Murray, owner of Starlight Magazine, can do what he wants and say what he likes. Privileged men like him think the world is theirs for the taking and will walk on, or over, anyone who gets in their way.

   “You’re really firing me?” I ask, as Manhattan’s midday sun shines in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, warming the blood zinging through my veins and stirring the nausea in my stomach. My skin begins to moisten, but no way will I let this man see me sweat. I don’t want him to think he holds all the cards. Even though he does. But I’m not a girl to go down without a fight.

   “That depends.” Benjamin drops the chicken leg he’s been gnawing on and wipes greasy, sausage-thick fingers on the stack of paper napkins before him. His chair groans under his impressive weight as he pushes away from his desk and stands to square off against me. The situation is clearly dire if he’s abandoning his beloved bucket of chicken. “Are you going to do the exposé on Will Carson or not?” he asks. His deep voice is hard and unwavering, letting me know my future at the magazine depends on what I say next.

   Though I can’t afford to lose this job, I refuse to dig up dirt on Will Carson, a brilliant software developer—aka, the Millionaire Rocket Scientist of Wall Street. Partly because the exposé done on him a few years back by one of Starlight’s reporters ruined his life and partly because my father used to work for Will’s grandfather, James Carson.

   James isn’t like other powerful men—he treats those who work for him fairly, respectfully. He was always generous and kind to my late father, going above and beyond to make sure a single father and his daughter were looked after. I have no doubt those care boxes containing food and clothes came from him—he knew my love for M&M’s and somehow my size—even though he vehemently denied his involvement.

   The man owns half of Manhattan, and after I graduated with a journalism degree, he offered me a job at the Grub, a magazine that reviews restaurants. I politely declined, since I live off frozen food and know nothing about fine dining. Although it might have been a better jumping-off point than Starlight.

   I want to write meaningful articles, to earn my place in the cutthroat news business and to get there on my own merit. From watching my father, I learned to work hard and to never take handouts—he didn’t like it when those care boxes materialized on our doorstep. And I won’t abandon my principles by twisting information for a headline like I’m some damn bottom-feeder.

   Then why are you working at Starlight?

   Because I can’t get hired at a reputable magazine without experience, and I can’t get experience without getting hired. So, Starlight it is. Or was...

   “Well, are you?” he asks again, pulling my focus back to the matter at hand.

   I cross my arms and plant my feet. “No,” I say through gritted teeth. It’s not a smart answer, considering rent is due next week, and my groceries consist of a single sleeve of stale crackers and a half-eaten box of pizza pockets.

   “It’s my way or the highway, Khloe,” he says, his beady blue eyes arctic cold.

   “Why me, Benjamin?” He doesn’t tolerate anyone saying no to him, but what do I care? He can’t fire me twice. “Why take me off sensationalized crime stories and put me on celebrity gossip, especially when you know I have a connection to the Carson family?”

   His grin is sardonic. “That’s your answer right there. You have an in, and any good journalist would use that connection to get information.”

   “You already ruined Will’s life. Why twist the knife?” I ask, even though I already know the answer. Money. That’s the answer to everything in a rich man’s world.

   “The public is interested in the famous Carson family. It’s time we told them what Will has been up to since his fiancée left him.”

   Starlight’s front-page spread on Will had never sat well with me. I’ve never met him, but from the stories James told, Will didn’t seem like someone who’d get drunk and jump into bed with another woman at his bachelor party.

   The pictures splashed across the front cover, however, painted a different story. Money and power. They mess with people. In the end, Will proved to be no different from any man with millions and authority—and because of the spread, he lost his supermodel fiancée. But I still refused to do the exposé. My father would turn over in his grave if I suddenly sank to slimeball level.

   “I guess this is goodbye, then.” I turn and see a flurry of activity in the hall. Great, my colleagues were eavesdropping. At least they’ll have something to talk about at the watercooler. “I’ll clear my desk.”

   “If you change your mind...”

   “I won’t,” I say. Heads duck and eyes are averted as I walk down the hall. Despite the storm going on in my stomach, I straighten my back and calmly walk to my four-by-four pod.

   I reach my desk and stare at the papers strewn across it. Nothing truly belongs to me, but I spitefully shove the stapler into my purse. I’m about to walk away but can’t. Dammit, I’m not a thief. I put the stapler back and go still when a pair of heels tap rapidly on the floor, growing louder as they approach.

   Breathless, Steph skids to a stop. “I just heard.” My only real friend at the magazine—all the others would slice and dice anyone who got in their way—Steph takes my hand. Thick painted lashes blink rapidly over caramel eyes. “What happened?”

   I lower my voice and explain, even though I’m sure everyone knows—around here, rumors spread faster than a Sean Mendes You Tube video.

   “He’s such a worm,” she says.

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