DUKE - Chapter One
Read the full chapter one from Duke.
Duke’s life is about honour, loyalty and respect for the business.
One look at Carla across a crowded nightclub, and he breaks his own rules.
One night with the seductive woman who calls to him like no other, and he wants to keep her.
His troubled angel is a mafia princess who lives dangerously on the edge.
She plays a desperate prank and sparks a cartel war.
Duke is in a high-stakes battle to keep everything he loves.
And he intends to win, come Hell or high water.
Content Warning: contains depictions of drug use and depictions of torture.
Duke Odili needed a good fuck.
His best friend, Mason or ‘Mace’ as he was known to close friends, had said words to that effect a week ago—the exact statement being, “Seriously, man. You need to get laid.”
Duke hadn’t argued. Not that he encouraged anyone to keep a tab of his sexual activities.
However, facts were facts.
A man ruled by duty and discipline, Duke was not given to excessive indulgences.
He’d had to think hard about the last time he’d savoured the soft curves of a woman. Had only worked it out because he’d kept the shitty breakup message from his ex-girlfriend, and he’d read the timestamp—eight months and twenty-five days.
Nine long months of nothing but porn, lube and his hand to achieve sexual gratification.
He was overdue for a weekend devoted to pleasure with a willing partner.
Standing on the balcony of his hotel suite, briny sea breeze whipped the humid air, cooling his clammy skin.
The crashing of the waves against the sandy shore provided a soundtrack, and the bright moon made it easy to view from the vantage point of ten floors up.
A road separated the beach from the buildings. Bright streetlamps lit the promenade, only a handful of people strolling past.
The hotel stood on one of the most expensive strips of land along the coastline of western Africa.
Idunnu was an exclusive adult-only resort that catered for the rich and famous. The place presented an 18-hole golf course for anyone so inclined and an entertainment schedule that included live performance acts.
Duke flipped the black plexiglass card in his hand and ran his thumb over the embossed stylised silver logo of Club Arufin, a venue reputed for hedonistic parties.
The concierge had delivered the VIP Pass earlier, and it had cost a small fortune. The name fit the club, a venue for outcasts and outlaws where anything was permissible, and taboos were the norm.
Tonight, Duke needed uninhibited anonymous sex.
He could visit similar locations in and around his home city. The Odili-owned Opal Casino and Hotel chain also included trendy nightclubs.
However, as a celebrity in his home region, Duke couldn’t indulge in anonymous encounters. The women he met knew him on sight and always wanted more than he could give. Hence his ex-girlfriend accusing him of being emotionally unavailable in her last message.
A fair indictment.
He wasn’t long-term boyfriend material.
His family and business commitments meant he worked long days and even longer nights. Not that there weren’t opportunities to party. Just that he lacked the inclination.
Duke was damaged goods. He’d long accepted that reality. He wouldn’t waste anyone’s time by promising a future he couldn’t deliver.
The trauma of his parents’ death haunted him.
Remembering his mother, his chest tightened. Mama sitting in a chair by the bed, reading stories from a book, singing songs in a beautifully lyrical voice, or merely whispering comforting words when he lay unwell. Brown hair with tight curls twisted into plaits and hazel brown eyes, she’d also had the loveliest smile ever and had lit up his life daily with its brilliance.
Awash with regret, he scrubbed a hand over his face. He had no mementoes to remember her by, except memories. After twenty-four years, those were fading.
Haunted by the hellish memory, he’d employed a private detective to investigate his parents’ deaths. So many years had passed, and getting information was slow and tedious.
But sources indicated the answers to his inquiry lay in Lori Osa, the bustling megacity an hour’s drive from his current location, partly the reason he’d come here.
He returned indoors and shut the balcony door, making sure to lock it. He flicked the switch. Diffused yellow light filled the living room. He grabbed the cell phone from the table and pressed the shortcut button.
“Boss,” a sleepy male voice replied after a few seconds.
“Jide, we’re going out. Have the car ready in thirty minutes.” He suppressed the twinge of guilt for waking the young man.
As one of his well-trusted personal security, Jide always had to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. An apprentice of sorts, he would work his way from the bottom upwards, earning his stripes through the ranks. Maybe one day, he would attain Duke’s position if he won it by serving his boss well and showing loyalty to the family.
Duke would have preferred a break from an entourage. But like his designer suits, having an escort twenty-four-seven was a part of his life.
“Sure,” Jide replied before cutting off the connection.
A quick shower first, then Duke shaved and dressed. A glance at the full-length mirror showed a tall man in a tailored, two-piece ash silk suit, white shirt, and a pair of dark leather oxford shoes. The colour of the outfit set off his russet skin tone.
Aware of the attraction his looks held for others, he entertained no conceit about it. Apart from the expensive clothes, he hadn’t earned his excellent look. Genetics—something handed down by his parents. If there was any pride to be held, it should be for the people who’d made him.
He opened a drawer to pull out a tie but changed his mind and closed it. Image mattered in business, and he wore one on most days. However, there’d be no working for the next few hours. He could live without the tie…and undid the hidden top two buttons of the shirt. Better.
The door to the adjacent room slammed, and footsteps rushed down the hallway.
He glanced at his gold wristwatch and smiled. He didn’t abide tardiness, and the men understood this. Jide would be downstairs, with the car ready in time. Another reason Duke had selected him for this trip.
He rolled his shoulders as the tightness in his chest loosened.
Time to forget his past, the business and focus on the night ahead.
Time to make like the tourist he was supposed to be and get some action.
Handgun locked in the safe, he left the suite and took the elevator to the ground floor.
“Have a good evening, Mr Odili,” the uniformed doorman greeted as he held the door to the flashy high-end SUV.
“Thank you,” Duke replied, stepping in and relaxing into the soft, tortilla-brown leather.
“Where to, Boss?” Jide asked from the driver’s seat as the engine purred to life. The younger man practically lived in denim and t-shirts, so Duke smiled at seeing him in a slate-blue dress shirt and wine-coloured Chinos.
Jide nodded and eased the car from the spot, heading down the tree-lined avenue out of the walled complex. The extra security ensured the resort remained exclusive, unlike others that had been occasionally overrun by vagrants.
They drove past quiet and gated residential communities characterised by designer malls, coffee shops, and eateries. The middle to upper-class homes lay walled off with private firms providing security, businesses run by the cartels, mostly.
Who better to pay to keep properties safe than the people who would rob them?
Extortion, some said. But even those people didn’t trust the police to keep them safe.
Duke figured it was better to keep those boys gainfully employed than to have them idle and broke.
At this hour, there weren’t many people—cars or pedestrians—on the roads. When he’d been a boy, a curfew had existed, and no one had been allowed on the streets without prior permission from 9pm until 5am. The restrictions had since been lifted, although most decent people stayed at home past ten o’clock at night.
Of course, decent wasn’t a word he’d use to describe himself. The smart, expensive clothes usually fooled people into thinking he was one of the nice ones. All an illusion. He’d learned a long time ago that image was everything.
Thirty minutes later, they arrived in Lori Osa City and drove past the business district with its skyscrapers, into a concrete jungle. Four police officers stood beneath the harsh floodlight at the security checkpoint.
“Stay alert,” Duke instructed, reaching for the secured case under the front seat and unclasping the lock.
Inside it sat an Uzi submachine gun as well as hand grenades. Most of their cars had similar equipment for emergencies. Assassinations had been known to occur at checkpoints. One couldn’t be too careful, although he hoped they wouldn’t need the hidden weapons.
“Yes, Boss,” Jide replied as he stepped off the accelerator.
Two of the officers approached, one on each side of the car. The female on Jide’s side tapped the window. Her dark uniform showed off her full-bodied curves.
He depressed the button, rolling it down halfway. “Good evening, Officer. How can I help you?”
“It’s just a routine stop,” she explained and tipped her head to investigate the back seat.
She had a pretty face and a body to match. On a good day, Duke might have smiled and even offered a tip.
But it was late, and he was away from his turf with only Jide as a backup, a risk. In a bid for incognito, he’d chosen only one travelling companion, and it had worked so far. He couldn’t afford to prolong the interaction. Her pretty face could be used as a weapon of distraction while others get into positions to attack.
Duke met her gaze with a piercing one, which usually unsettled some people.
She swallowed and lowered hers, directing her attention back to Jide. “Can I see your papers, sir?”
“Sure.” Jide reached into the glove compartment and withdrew the documents.
Duke tuned into the surroundings for signs of a threat. The only other sounds were from the police and vehicles on the other side of the highway.
Seconds ticked by and stretched out as the woman perused the car certificates. Finally, she passed the documents back. “Everything is in order. Have a good night.”
Jide nodded and drove under the concrete arch, the window sliding up. He blew out a deep breath.
Duke turned to stare out the back window. Satisfied, the cops had set their attention to another vehicle when he saw them talking to the driver, he tipped his head back against the rest and puffed out air.
DUKE is an exciting romantic suspense and now available in eBook and paperback.