The Mogul and the Muscle - Claire Kingsley



The kid knew he was screwed.

He sat slumped in the chair, his eyes on the floor. Head tilted forward, shoulders drooping. I hadn’t needed to lay a finger on him. Kind of a shame, in a way. Not that I wanted to beat the shit out of a twenty-two-year-old kid, but…

Actually, yes I did.

I stood in his father’s study leaning against the huge mahogany desk. The walls were paneled with dark wood, and bookshelves housed leather-bound legal tomes. A credenza sat behind the desk with a crystal decanter and a set of bar glasses. There was even an oil-painted portrait of some stuffy old guy on the wall. This place couldn’t have been more pretentious if it tried.

Hauling the kid in here hadn’t been difficult. After a week of research and surveillance on behalf of my client, I’d nailed down his routine. Grabbed him outside the luxury Miami Beach condo his parents undoubtedly paid for.

Footsteps approached the half-open door and the kid flinched. Norman Cudello, Florida state senator, walked in dressed in a designer suit. His salt-and-pepper hair was neatly groomed, his jaw smooth. He saw me first and stopped just inside the study. Then his gaze traveled to his son—Owen Cudello—and I caught the flicker of annoyance.

“Who are you?” Senator Cudello asked, his voice betraying nothing but disinterest.

“Jude Ellis.” I kept my posture casual. Relaxed. I could be physically intimidating if it was necessary. At six-foot-five and almost as wide as I was tall, it was harder to appear non-threatening than it was to scare people.

But it was always better when I didn’t have to. If I threatened violence, I had to be willing to back that up. And I was really hoping to get out of here without getting any blood on my shirt. I had a date this afternoon.

“And why are you in my study?”

“We need to have a little chat.”


Your dipshit son, genius. I nodded toward the kid. “Him.”

The senator walked around his desk and flipped over a whiskey glass. “I’m sure we can come to a suitable arrangement.”

I narrowed my eyes but kept my posture relaxed. Of course the first thing he’d do is offer money. I hadn’t expected anything less, but it still irritated me. “I’m not here to make that kind of arrangement.”

“Then what are you here for?” he asked. “You’re obviously not law enforcement.”

“No, I’m not.” I straightened to my full height. “It seems your son has a bit of a problem understanding English. Specifically the word no.”

The kid didn’t look up.

“Oh?” his father asked.

“About six months ago, the young lady he’d been dating, Mira Salinas, informed him that their brief relationship was over. Instead of handling it like a man, he chose to start stalking and harassing her.”

The senator poured a finger of whiskey in the glass but didn’t reply.

“Hundreds of texts, messages on her social media accounts, notes on her car. Hanging out at the restaurant where she works. Circling the block around her apartment building. You get the idea.”

He took a drink of whiskey.

“That failed to charm her, though I can’t imagine why—what girl wouldn’t want to date a guy who stalks her?” I glared at the kid. “So now he’s trying to use dear old dad’s connections to get her kicked out of school. He even got someone in the university’s administration to send her a warning of expulsion if she goes to the media.”

“If this is all true, why hasn’t she gone to the police?” he asked, his voice smooth.

“That’s where it gets complicated, isn’t it? Cops didn’t take her seriously. I can’t imagine it has anything to do with the fact that he’s the son of a prominent senator.”

The senator put his whiskey down. “So you’re here to threaten me so I get my son under control, is that it?”


He met my eyes, his brow lifting.

“A threat’s too much work,” I said. “Maybe I tell you I’ll beat the shit out of you both if your jackass offspring doesn’t leave her alone. And maybe that works for a few days, or a week, or a month. And that whole time, I have to keep an eye on the little shit to see if I need to make good on my threat. Meanwhile, the fear wears off. You increase security so you know I can’t get to either of you. He gets cocky. And then he escalates, and an innocent girl gets assaulted. So no, I’m not here to threaten you. I’m here to tell you what’s going