Secrets of the Elite - Pepper Pace


“Open the door, Jordan.”

Jordan’s heart thudded loudly, slamming against her rib cage and echoing throughout her body in alarm. She stopped moving, her mind telling her to be quiet, to hide, to run. But experience had taught her the hard lesson that there was no running, and there was no place to hide.

“Jordan,” he said simply. He had not even knocked because he was so confident that she was not only in the apartment, but also on the other side of the door listening. She knew what that meant; that he’d had eyes on her. He’d had someone watching her every move.

All of her careful planning, squirreling away small amounts of money over periods of months, sending someone else to find her a place to relocate and never, ever, speaking aloud her plans had all been for nothing.

He’d found her in less than a month.

She heard him sigh. “I haven’t been the man that you need me to be. I accept that. But I’ll make that up to you. How about we go on that cruise you were talking about? I’ll show you Europe. It will be like old times, honey. Back when we used to spend hours just talking over dinner.”

That was a long time ago, back when she wanted to spend time with him. She knew he was as close as he could ever get to saying that he was sorry because he hated the idea of a cruise—as much as he hated admitting that he was ever wrong about anything.

He continued speaking, his voice a little less patient. “I understand why you’re upset and why you would run away. But it’s time to come home.”

She shuddered in disgust at those words. I understand why you would run away…

As if she was a slave running from a plantation. But wasn’t that what it all amounted to? It didn’t matter that she was Somali and not African American. She understood the history of being treated as less than human. She was his and he owned her, no less than a slaver owned his bed wench.

Silent tears of anguish and shame streamed from her eyes. Once upon a time, she had been more than this broken creature.

After surviving the hardships of a refugee camp in Kenya, Jordan’s ferocious desire to be better had driven her to excel in all that she touched. When her family had settled in the States, she had utilized the education system to ensure that she would never again have to live off scraps and handouts.

She’d worked hard in college, harder than her schoolmates, and after graduating, she had gotten her first job as a staff accountant in a small but reputable insurance firm. But that did not stop her from sending out her resume, using each well-known company that hired her as a stepping-stone to an even better-known company, until two years ago, she had her foot in the door of her dream placement at Pembroke, Lacey, and Hightower Investments.

They handled the money for the rich and famous. Among their clients were movie stars, sports figures, and of course, lawmakers and politicians. Their clients had to have an ultra-high net worth of at least fifty million just to step through the door.

Jordan always took notice of the way affluent people moved and acted—but of course, only from afar. They moved like royalty among commoners and it made her smile because she had always been the same—even when she didn’t have a dollar in her wallet. She held her head high with the air of a queen because that is what her mother had taught her to be.

She found it curious that these rich people didn’t have more diversity. She didn’t mean racial diversity, as there were always a few sprinkles of color in the accounting pool, but she meant in style. They dressed the way they were taught to dress—the only variety being in the slightly different hues of their blue and black wardrobe.

It was in her new position that she noticed that one of the partners, Jonathan Hightower, was different than the other bigwigs. He could head up a board meeting wearing an ascot and Bermuda shorts as easily as he could stroll into his office dressed in an expensive, seafoam-green suit that hugged his toned and muscular body.

Jonathan Hightower was the flamboyant star of the company. Although in his mid-fifties, his toned, body builder’s physique defied his age. His artful tattoos and tanned skin offset a pair of intense, sky-blue eyes. But it was