I was just supposed to be helping my father settle his debt, work out a payment plan, set things right.
Little did I know that cold, calculating, dangerous Byron St. James didn’t want his money back. Oh, no. He wanted me as payment…
* This is a ‘jerk who redeems himself’ story. And make no mistake, our hero IS a jerk to the heroine for a good part of the book. If that isn’t your thing, this might not be the book for you.Books by Author:Jessica Gadziala Books
There was one thing that I knew in life: my father was a screw up.
I knew that when I was seven years old and he missed my talent show at school that was a huge deal because I had been practicing my piano for months and months and had finally managed to make my hands move independently and was so excited to show everyone how well I could play. But most especially, my father. He came late to pick me up and told me he didn’t make it on time because he was at the tracks so he could get a boatload of money and take me out to a special dinner to celebrate my success. When my eyes lit up with excitement, his hand landed on my shoulder and his lips lifted in a humorless smile. I knew it right then.
Though Dad, being Dad, made up for it by convincing the owner of a local piano store to let me use one of the floor models and put on a small show for him and whatever customers happened in.
I also knew it when I was seventeen and I had worked after school every day of the week for months at a coffee shop to save up money to buy myself the prom dress I had seen in a store window. But when I got home the fateful afternoon I finally had enough money to buy it, I opened the book where I stored the money to find all of it gone.
And, well, I damn sure knew it as he sat next to me in the car as we drove up to the tall, iron gates and paused to talk to the guys at the security booth.
Obviously, gambling was my father’s problem. And, unfortunately, he thought borrowing more and more money was the answer to said problem.
Which brought us to the gate as it slowly slid open and my father drove us up the winding red, black, and orange paver driveway surrounded my endless rolling hills of impossibly green grass. I paled to even wonder how much money it took to keep that much grass that green over the summer months. It probably was half of my yearly income.
My stomach felt twisted in endless knots; they were knots that had been tying inside for twenty-seven years. I slanted my eyes to my father, his profile handsome, his mahogany hair graying a bit at the temples, smile lines next to his eyes. He wasn’t showing it, but he was nervous too. It was in the white knuckles on the steering wheel, in his unusual silence. If there was one thing my father was, it was chatty.
If it wasn’t for me, he would have been on a beach in Mexico, hiding out, thinking he could keep running away from his problems. See, because my dad shirked responsibility, I learned early to shoulder the burden for both of us. So I insisted he stay; I forced him to set up a meeting; I demanded he stopped shrugging his shoulders and leaving me to pick up the burden he was too cowardly to carry.
I didn’t phrase it that way, of course. But I got my point across.
The house was not a house; it was a mansion. It was a three story white Spanish-style villa with a red roof and seemingly endless balconies. It was the home of Byron St. James, a man of whom I knew very little other than the fact that my father owed him upward of a quarter of a million dollars. That didn’t exactly seem like the kind of debt the man would let disappear on the beaches of Mexico. So I made my father sit down and make a call, set up a meeting, and I offered to go with him to be a level head, to help come up with a repayment plan.
Dad parked and I purposefully got out of the car, smoothing my hands down my slate gray slacks then adjusting my white button-up shirt, checking my reflection in the window as I waited for my father to climb out. All I could say was- not bad. I wasn’t bad looking. I wasn’t spectacular either. My hair matched my father’s (sans the gray), the long, wavy mahogany strands tamed into a ponytail at the base of my neck. My face, though, was all my mother’s; or, at least, that was what I could glean from the pictures my father had around of her. She skipped when I was five, tired of Dad’s nonsense, and got herself shacked up with someone who never gambled away the money for the light bill. Where my father had very oval features, mine ran toward square. My nose and lips were in fair proportion, nothing to write home about. The only features that really stood out on me were my eyes; they were eyes that belonged to my mother, big and a very light shade of blue that was startlingly highlighted by my dark lashes and brows.