🌼ALL THE WRONG PLACES🌼
“Finally! The devil has returned,” Jin heard Alexandre
Martin say. Alexandre is t second cousin of his father and he
had been serving as his father’s right hand for many years.
Jin gave him a hard look. Alexandre looked up towards
the second floor for a moment and then he said to him,
“Come to the library with me first. I must brief you before
you face your father.”
“That’s hardly necessary,” Jin said.
“Oh no. This time it is. Trust me.” Alexandre turned
around and walked towards the library, leaving him without
Jin followed Alexandre to the library. Once inside, the
latter poured a glass of whisky for both of them.
“First, your father is going to ask you why you had to
stay in the States for longer than you should have. He’s
going to ask you how White Rock was and how the event for
the Morgan-Murphies went,” Alexandre began briefing him.
Jin opened his mouth to say something but the older
man cut him off. “You don’t have to tell me your answers.
It’s your father you are accountable to.”
Jin nodded, drinking his whiskey.
“And he’s also going to ask you about Patrick
Jin’s brow shot up.
How did his father know about Patrick McAllister?
“You’re wondering how he knew?” Alexandre asked.
Jin didn’t answer. “Because Patrick McAllister is such a baby.
His father had to fix his mess for him.”
“Yes. His father asked Pierre to retract the charges you
filed against Patrick on White Rock,” Alexandre explained.
“He said those charges are going to be bad for their family’s
reputation. Especially since Patrick is eyeing the Senate.”
“Good luck with that,” Jin smirked before bringing his
glass to his mouth.
“He mentioned in passing that his son was severely
beaten up, you’re lucky that they aren’t suing for physical
“Frustrated murder is more like it,” Jin said in a
“Your father is going to ask you why you beat Patrick
McAllister black and blue.”
Jin knew that his father knew him well. It wasn’t like
him to get his hands dirty and engage in a random fist fight.
He knew how to keep his cool and not many things in this
world could make him lose control.
“Then he’s going to demand for answers about the
Bernards. Vanessa had been calling here non-stop. She said
she couldn’t get you on your number. I see that you didn’t
give her your personal number.”
“I’m not stupid,” Jin murmured.
“I know. You have a number for business and a
number that only your family and very important people in
your life know about,” Alexandre said. “Mister Bernard
demands to know why until now you haven’t made your
engagement to Vanessa official. You know, whatever the
Princess wants, the Princess gets. And right now, the toy the
Princess wants the most, is you.”
Jin’s grip on the glass tightened. Vanessa Bernard was
pretty, he’d give her that. They had dated on and off last
year. But he wasn’t serious about women then. He was just
passing his time. He had forgotten that he had a heart. But
he had needs, and feelings didn’t matter anymore. When
Arabella left him, his heart didn’t seem important. He just
couldn’t feel anything for any other woman after her.
Vanessa was the only heiress to the Bernard hotel
empire. Jin was offering to buy their company since she didn’t seem interested or capable of running it after her
father. Jin offered them a huge amount of money. But Arthur
Bernard didn’t want to sell. He wanted Vanessa to still own
it. Instead, he made a proposition to Jin. If he and Vanessa
got married, the whole Bernard empire would be his.
Starck Corp. had been behind the McKenzie Hotel
Group in terms of market share. For years, Jin had been
obsessed with making Starck Corp. the number one hotel
company in the world.
To get over his broken heart, after failing to find
Arabella, he consumed all his attention to their business.
He was so close to the top. If he married Vanessa, and
acquire Bernard Hotel Group, he would be way ahead of
their number one competitor. At the time that Arthur
Bernard made the proposition, nothing else mattered to Jin.
“Before you accepted Arthur’s proposition, your father
told you to think about it one hundred times,” Alexandre
reminded him. “Unfortunately, you didn’t even think thrice.”
Jin stared at his whiskey quietly. He remembered his
father’s exact words to him.
“Think about it. One hundred times, if you need to,”
Pierre said. “We hadn’t had divorces in the family in more
than five generations. My son is not going to be the one to
break that. And you know… I’ve taught you this ever since
you were a child. In the Starck family, our word is gold.
That’s why we never give it thoughtlessly.”
“I didn’t want you to marry Vanessa Bernard,”
Alexandre said. “Same as your father. But you were the one
who insisted on this, remember?”
Jin took a deep breath. “I remember,” he said. “Now, I
can’t remember why I didn’t listen to you.”
“It’s not like you to back out on your word, son,”
Alexandre said. “And your father will not let you do it. Our
word is gold, remember?”
Jin put down his glass on the bar table to a slight slam.
Damn that our-word-is-gold shit!
He felt Alexandre’s hand on his shoulder. “Petty bar
fight,” he said. “I would start with that, while you’re still
figuring things out.”
“What?” He raised his brow at the older man.
Patrick McAllister. If I were you, I’d just say that it was a
petty bar fight. Patrick McAllister was drunk and causing
trouble. You need not say anything more.” Alexandre gave
him a meaningful look.
Jin nodded and poured himself another glass of
whiskey. Then he stared at Alexandre with narrowed eyes.
“You know, don’t you?”
Alexandre sighed. “I always know, son.”
Jin drank his whiskey. He shook his head and heave a
frustrated sigh. “I can’t seem to unbind myself from her. Not
then. It’s damn impossible now!”
“I know,” Alexandre said. He gave Jin a measuring
look before he added, “And I know you will never get the…
er… confirmation done yourself. Because in your heart, you
already know. But since I am the steward of this family, I
had to make sure. I had to protect this family from the
Jin’s eyes widened as he stared back at his Uncle,
instantly getting what the older man was trying to say.
“Uncle… don’t tell me…”
He felt a sudden flush of anger. Good thing, he was
able to quickly control himself before his fist could land on
his uncle’s body.
“Forgive me, Jin,” Alexandre said. “I had to. I need to.
You know what’s at stake here. Being a first-born son of the
Starck family has a certain level of privilege… and
Jin knew exactly what Alexandre was getting at. He
was the only son of the Starck family now. He stood to inherit the entire Starck empire. And his first-born son would
inherit it after him.
“How did you even manage to do that without me
knowing?” he asked Alexandre.
“You’re not the only one with Ninjas on your beck and
call, son.” He winked at him. “In fact, you must have learned
those tactics from me.” Alexandre paused for a moment.
Then he asked, “Do you want to know what I learned?”
Jin drank his whiskey straight and put the glass down
with a slam. He wanted to laugh. Unlike Alexandre, he didn’t
need to use science. When it comes to family matters, he
listens to his heart, he trusts his instincts… he answers to
the call of the blood. In fact, many years ago, that’s how he
found his long-lost sister, Adrienne. He felt their connection.
He followed his intuition.
“No,” he grunted. “You don’t have to tell me. You
know I already know the truth.”
Alexandre nodded. “Well, then, you’re going to need a
lot of luck, son.”
Jin stood up from his seat. It wasn’t like him to rely on
luck. But he had a feeling that his uncle was right. He was
going to need it in the coming days. Nevertheless, lucky or
not, it was time to face his father and clean up his mess.
Damn that word of gold!
Pierre Starck was talking to somebody on the phone
when Jin entered his study. The older man held his hand up,
telling Jin to stay where he was. Jin went to the bar and
poured himself another glass of whiskey, while he waited for
his father to finish his phone call.
“Jin Adrien Starck!” he heard his father’s booming
voice behind him.
Slowly, he turned around to face his old man.
Pierre Starck was looking at him sternly, raising a
questioning brow at him.
“Okay, so where do you want to start?” Jin asked in a
low, controlled voice. “I’m sure you have plenty of questions.”
“Okay, so how about we start with, ‘What the fvck
have you done to my son?’”
Jin didn’t answer back. He drank his whiskey slowly.
He knew better than to cross his father when he was this
“First, you need to explain what happened at that
party. You knew the program! You agreed to Arthur’s
proposition and you were supposed to propose to Vanessa
on that stage! Everybody was expecting it. Vanessa was
expecting it. The whole of Bernard clan was expecting it!”
Pierre said, trying to control his anger. “But you went on
babbling some bullshit on that stage. Then you ran off,
going all over the hotel, looking for God-knows-what! You
told me and your mother you would explain your actions
someday. Well, I’m tired of waiting. I need answers now!”
Jin poured himself another glass of whiskey while his
father waited for him to reply. He wanted to tell him the
truth about everything! From the beginning. But he knew it
wasn’t time yet. He was not the only one who would suffer
the consequences if he didn’t play his cards right. If it was
just him, he could take all the blame, all the pain. But there
was Justin and Adrienne. And most importantly, there was
Julianne and Jared.
Jin shook his head slightly. “I cannot marry Vanessa.”
Pierre’s eyes widened at him. “Jin… I don’t
understand. You gave your word.”
Jin bit his lip for a moment. Then he said, “I’m gonna
have to break it.”
“That’s not how the Starcks do it,” Pierre asserted.
“You know that!”
“I never forgot,” Jin sighed. “But you have to give this
to me, Dad. Just one time. Let me break this Starck code.
Just this once.”
“This one time has a huge implication, Jin,” his father
argued. “On our business! On our family reputation. We don’t want to make enemies of the Bernards.”
“We won’t,” Jin assured him. “I will talk to Arthur
myself. I will take full responsibility. I always do.”
“I know. You are probably the most responsible kid any
parent could ever ask for. That’s why I cannot understand
why you are doing this.”
Jin stared at the polished parquet floor, trying to
compose his thoughts.
“Jin!” Pierre called in a frustrated voice.
Jin took a deep breath and said, “I miscalculated some
things. There are things that are beyond my control…
events I wasn’t expecting. When I agreed to Arthur’s
proposition, I had every intention of marrying Vanessa to
acquire Bernard Hotel Group and effectively increase our
market share. I was using my brains then.”
“So, what happened?”
Jin drew a frustrated breath and added, “I’m listening
to my heart now.”
“Your heart?” his father echoed. “Didn’t you tell me
before that you didn’t have a heart? I warned you about
this. I told you to think about it a hundred times at least. I
told you that you should wait a while, we weren’t in a hurry
to beat the McKenzies. In fact, you were the one that
wanted that. I’m happy right where we are. We run a solid
business that’s still a hundred percent owned by our family.
You were the one who insisted on expanding. Arthur Bernard
got to your head, while his daughter was trying to get to
“I’ve always trusted you. I know that you always know
what you were doing. You told me that Vanessa won’t get to
your heart—you don’t have one! So, I should just sit and
relax because you had everything under control.”
Jin remembered every word he told his father that day.
Pierre wanted him to decline Arthur Bernard’s offer. His
father told him he didn’t want to use his son as a bargaining
chip. But Jin said it didn’t matter. He would not marry for love anyway, he might as well marry for business. At least,
Vanessa was an heiress who wanted him, and not his
money. Back then, he had been so certain. His decision
“Arthur Bernard is on the phone with me almost every
day,” Pierre barked. “He was looking for you, demanding
answers. Vanessa was distraught and embarrassed. But
she’s willing to give you a chance.”
Jin shook his head. “Dad, I can’t!”
“Jin Starck, you will not ruin this family’s reputation!”
Pierre’s bellowing voice echoed through the walls. “You gave
your word… in spite of your better judgement. You didn’t
heed my advice. Now, you’ve lost your chance to back out!
Arthur is still an influential man. We may be bigger than
them, but part of our strength is our spotless reputation and
our business connections.
“We also have a lot of competition, ready to grab the
chance to take us down. If Arthur teams up with these
people, not only will you kiss your dreams of being number
one goodbye, but Starck Corp. will be at the bottom under
your reign. Is that the type of legacy you want to leave
Jin didn’t answer. Pierre drank his whiskey straight up,
then he sighed in frustration.
“Arthur is threatening to get us voted out of Round Ten
if you do not marry Vanessa,” his father informed him. “We
have twenty-five percent stake in our seat at Round Ten. The
McKenzies have thirty. The Bernards have five. But Arthur is
very good friends with the others who make up the
remaining forty. If he convinces them to kick us out of the
Round, we lose our privileges.”
“I can find a way. I’m smart and you’ve trained me
well. I know this business like the back of my hand. Arthur
Bernard can go fvck himself if he wants. I can get us
through this! We don’t need Round Ten to make our business fly. I can still run this business without them,” Jin
Round Ten is the very exclusive organization of ‘The
Leading Hotel Groups in the World.’ It was created decades
ago to establish rules and control in business and to ensure
that each member of the group adheres to standards and
quality set forth by the group. It has its own certifications
and grading, which are considered one of the most trusted
global ratings in the world today.
Being part of that organization had given them certain
privileges and status in the industry. Being kicked out of the
group would surely hurt their company, but it would not take
them out of the business. However, they may lose their
certifications and certain significant ratings.
It would require at least sixty percent vote to kick one
company out. For Arthur Bernard, it means convincing the
McKenzies and only a few others to take Starck Corp. out.
“My great-grandfather is one of the founding
members of Round Ten,” Pierre reminded Jin. “That alone is
enough reason for us to stay in the group. Round Ten was
his legacy. You will not dishonor it by getting us kicked out of
Jin closed his eyes for a moment. Then he sighed and
said, “Arthur will need the McKenzies’ help to get us kicked
out. Otherwise, he has nothing on us.”
“And Richard McKenzie will vote,” Pierre said with
certainty. “We’re so close to overtaking them. That’s all he
needed to take us out and secure that they remain the
market leader for the years to come.”
“Then I’m just gonna have to make sure Arthur
doesn’t get any more votes than that,” Jin said through
gritted teeth. “I will do anything to get us out of this. But I
will not marry a woman I’m not in love with.”
“Oh, I’m sorry! I think that thought could have been
useful two months ago, when Arthur Bernard first approached you with the ridiculous thought of merging our
families!” his father said sarcastically.
“There is always another way, Dad.”
“Okay! You made this mess, you fix this! And you do
not drag my great-grandfather’s name and company to the
mud, do you understand?”
Jin nodded. “Yes, Dad. I give you my word.”
“Don’t! Because right now, I don’t know how much
your word is worth!” Pierre growled. “Now, get out of here.”
Jin walked towards the door. He knew better than
argue with his father at this point. But that didn’t mean he
was admitting defeat.
He had made up his mind about what he was going to
do. When he found Julianne Sanders again, he was full of
anger towards her. A part of him wanted her to suffer for the
lies she had told him and for leaving him shredded into a
million pieces. She made him a heartless monster and he
wanted her to suffer the consequences.
Now, he wasn’t sure anymore. The only thing he was
sure of was that marrying Vanessa Bernard would be the
biggest mistake of his life.
“By the way,” Pierre called out as Jin was about to exit
Jin turned to look at his father.
“What happened between you and McAllister?”
Jin sighed. He was exhausted with the thoughts of how
to get out of his situation. Patrick McAllister was the least of
his worries. So, he took Alexandre’s advice and said, “It was
just a petty fight. He was too drunk.”
“You knew how to handle that. We have even hired
the best security services to prevent brawls and bar fights
inside our hotel premises.” Pierre muttered. “How in hell did
Patrick McAllister get beaten up at White Rock—by you, no
less? You’re a trained fighter, Jin. You could have easily
incapacitated him for life.”
“Patrick McAllister had too much to drink. He was
harassing one of the guests. I couldn’t let that pass.”
“So, you took matters into your own hand?”
Jin let out a frustrated sigh. Because he didn’t want to
argue or say any more, he just nodded.
“The Jin Starck I know would contain the situation, call
the security or the police. He would handle it gracefully,
without bloodshed or damage to our property or reputation.
He knew better than get on the bad side of somebody like
Jin bit his lip to keep from answering back. He would
not defend himself from his father. He cannot… would not
say anything more. He needed to protect Julianne.
“You’ve changed so much in the last two weeks, I
don’t seem to know you anymore.” Disappointment was
evident in his father’s voice, but Jin wouldn’t yield.
Then the next few days will be even worse.
But he knew that his father’s wrath was just the tip of
the iceberg. There’s a bigger fight that he needed to
prepare for. That one would involve Adrienne, Justin and
Justin’s entire clan.
So help me, God!