Kimi L Davis
My face went red.
“Excuse me?!” But the image flashed in my mind. I could see myself on my knees before a man like Gideon. So strong, dominant, and powerful…I shook my head.
What the hell was I thinking?
“I want you to beg,” he said, his voice cold. His eyes held no mercy.
“I want you to grovel and kiss my feet. I want you to beg until I see tears in your eyes. Do that, and I’ll save your brother.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was he serious? Gideon Maslow just demanded that I beg for money. My eyes drifted to the others in the room, but before I could see their expressions Gideon snapped.
“Don’t look at them,” he said, his voice like iron. “Look at me.”
I glared at him, anger overcoming the shock.
“You’re disgusting,” I said. “This is a sick joke. Is this how you treat people?”
Gideon didn’t say anything. He watched me with those sea-green eyes. Just watching. Waiting. Well, if he was waiting for me to beg, he could sod right off.
“I don’t need your money,” I said, disgusted. “I’m not a charity case, Mr. Maslow. Especially not like this. I’ll find another way to pay for my brother’s surgery.”
I turned to walk away, but before I could leave, he called me.
“Alice. You won’t get another chance like this. Your brother could have his surgery tomorrow. All you have to do is beg. Are you sure?”
I turned and looked him in the eye. He didn’t look angry. It was hard to read his expression. The other men in the room were equally as silent.
I was tempted. Of course I was.
But men like this…they were cruel. Used to using people like playthings. They’d probably get a good laugh out of me begging and tell me to get out. I’d never see that money.
“I’m sure, Mr. Maslow. Have a good day.” I turned to leave, but hesitated. I probably shouldn’t have said anything else, but I couldn’t resist. “And…I-I feel bad for whoever you choose for a wife. Good day.”
I walked out of the CEO’s office, and unlike the other women that had burst out crying, I held my head high. I only wish I felt as powerful as I tried to feel.
I still had to find a way to pay for my brother’s surgery…what was I going to do?
I knocked on my apartment door and waited for Nico to come and open the door. Anxiety and desperation were eating at my insides. What was I going to do now? Where would I find a lucrative job?
All the companies preferred college graduates, whereas I was only a high school graduate.
If only my father had never gotten sick and my mother had a lucrative job, then today I would be working in some successful company.
But if I started wondering about all the what-ifs, then I would lose everything, and even though I didn’t have much to lose, I had enough.
The door of my apartment opened. Nico stood in front of me, grinning. His green eyes, very much like my own, were sparkling. His blond hair a mess. Just seeing him happy made my lips curve in an involuntary smile.
Even though my little brother didn’t exactly have a normal life, he was always happy, always optimistic. I tried my best not to let anything worry him, but he was happy without me even doing much.
“Hey, Nico, how are you?” I asked with a smile, even though anxiety had my heart pounding. I quickly ran my eyes over him, making sure he was all right.
“I’m great, how are you? Did you get the job you wanted?” he queried, raising his head a little to look me in the eyes.
Even though he was only ten years old, Nico was already as tall as me. However, because of my high heels, I appeared a little taller.
I shook my head in response. “No, they had already hired someone before I had a chance,” I lied, not wanting him to worry.
“Oh, well, it’s okay. I’m sure there are better jobs for you,” he replied with a smile.
“Yeah, I hope so.” I muttered the last part to myself, not wanting Nico to see me upset; his heart would not be able to handle the stress and anxiety.
“Can we go out today? I’m bored,” Nico complained.
My heart clenched in sorrow. Because of his heart condition, I tried my best to make sure Nico didn’t exert himself; five times he had suffered from an attack and I had to rush him to the hospital, praying to God to let him be all right.
Every time the doctors instructed me to make sure Nico didn’t engage in a lot of physical activity and to get his surgery done as soon as possible.
If only the doctors knew just how difficult it was to get the money.
“We can do something at home. You know you’re not supposed to exert yourself,” I said, wishing that somehow, from somewhere, I would get the money for Nico’s surgery so he could go out and run around with kids his own age, instead of staying cooped up in the apartment.
Guilt and desperation stabbed my heart when the smile on Nico’s face fell. The sparkle in his eyes dulled as he sighed audibly.
“It’s been three weeks since I went out. Please, Alice, just for twenty minutes. Take me to the park, anywhere,” Nico pleaded, his eyes begging me to give in.
Sighing in defeat, I looked my brother in the eyes. “Okay, fine, we’ll go to the library, and you can read books,” I conceded. The library was the only place I could think of where Nico would be able to spend time without exerting himself.
Nico smiled, a full megawatt smile that I loved so much. Punching the air, Nico hooted in excitement. “Yes! I’ll go get my jacket,” he stated then jogged to his room.
“Don’t run,” I chided. Shaking my head, I went to my room to get my wallet. Since I was already wearing my trench coat, I just had to get my woolen cap and my gloves out of the closet.
Even though it was afternoon, I made sure to remain protected. London winters could be vicious.
Exchanging my high heels with comfortable trainers, I shut my closet and made my way out of my room to the living room, where Nico was already standing.
“Hurry up, Alice, we don’t want the library to close up,” Nico said in a rush.
“It’s not going to close up this early, and where is your backpack?” I questioned.
“On the chair.” I picked up the black backpack and slung it over my shoulder. I had to take the backpack to the library so Nico wouldn’t have to carry heavy books.
“Let’s go,” I stated. Nico wasted no time in running out of the apartment, giving my heart a sudden jolt. “Stop running!” I scolded, following after him, making sure to lock the front door.
Outside was fairly chilly, but that was to be expected. Nico and I might live in one of the poorer areas of London, but the streets were always crowded. People were milling about, rushing here and there.
It was nearly time for lunch, which explained the crowd. I made sure to hold Nico’s hand tightly, to make sure he wouldn’t get lost.
After about twenty minutes of weaving in and out of the East End London crowd, Nico and I finally arrived at the library. Nico wasted no time in going inside and immediately rushing off to the biology aisle, leaving me alone.
Wanting to make sure that he was okay, I followed Nico to the biology section, only to find him sitting on one of the many beanbags in a corner, reading a big, fat book, while a whole bunch of books sat beside him on the small table.
“You seem to have an obsession with biology,” I commented, looking over to see Nico reading about the heart.
Whenever Nico and I visited the library, he always opted to read science books, mainly biology, which I found strange yet impressive, as a boy his age usually wanted to read about superheroes and stuff.
“I want to be a doctor, Alice. This is why I need to study a lot, so I can help people with heart diseases. Then no one will have to stay home because of a bad heart,” he answered, a determined look in his eyes.
Unwanted tears pricked my eyes at hearing my brother’s answer. His heart condition was affecting him so much, both physically and emotionally, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Blinking my eyes rapidly to stop the tears from falling, I reached for my necklace and began fiddling with it. “You stay here and read. I’m going to go do some research, okay?”
“Okay, but please, can we stay here for a few hours? I want to sit and read here,” Nico requested.
I nodded with a smile. “We’ll leave when you want to,” I replied then turned and walked to the checkout desk.
“Hi, are any of the computers available?” I asked the cute brunette sitting behind the desk, typing away on the keyboard.
“Sure, there are a few computers that are free. You can go and see,” she answered politely.
“Thanks.” I turned and strode to the computer area. The computer area had lots of computers, which were arranged five to a table, each with its own mini cubicle.
Which was amazing, as one would have complete privacy when working.
Finding an empty cubicle, I sat on the swivel chair and turned on the computer. As soon as I opened the internet tab, I hurriedly searched for lucrative online jobs.
I would prefer to get an online job so I could work from home. That way I wouldn’t have to leave Nico alone and would be able to take care of him.
When I turned on the computer, I was full of hope, but now, after searching through nearly fifty links, I was starting to lose it.
No online job was paying more than what I was already earning at the bar and the gas station.
Even if I did opt for an online job, I realized now that I wouldn’t be able to manage working online due to my odd hours at the bar and the gas station. However, I continued searching link after link, praying to God to get me a job.
“Hey, Alice?” Nico’s voice startled me. I looked to my right to see Nico standing with his arms folded across his chest.
“Yeah, what is it? Are you all right?” I asked, concerned.
“Yes, I just wanted to tell you that I think we should go. Your shift is about to start,” he told me.
Looking at my wristwatch, I cursed under my breath. It had been five hours since Nico and I had come here, and he was right; my shift at the gas station was about to start.
Hurriedly turning off the computer, I stood up and grabbed the backpack. “Did you borrow any books?” I asked Nico.
He nodded. “Yeah, they’re at the checkout desk,” he answered.
Taking his hand, I walked to the checkout desk to see the lady checking out the last book and stacking it on top of the already big pile. Without saying anything, I unzipped the bag and put eight of the fat books in it.
Once all the books were in, I zipped the bag shut and slung it over my shoulder, making sure not to let anyone see how uncomfortable I was with the heavy bag. Bidding our farewells to the librarian, Nico and I left the library.
The crowd had thinned considerably in the span of five hours. Not many people were seen wandering around, which made it unnecessary to hold onto Nico’s hand.
Despite that, I made sure to have Nico walk as closely to me as possible. I couldn’t risk him walking at a distance; his heart disease had turned me into an anxious, worrisome mess.
We reached our apartment in less than twenty minutes. Unlocking the front door, I hurried inside and put the backpack in Nico’s bedroom. I didn’t want him to carry it or anything.
If I put the bag in his bedroom, then Nico could simply unzip the bag and read whatever book he wanted. If someday I did become rich, I would buy a bookshelf for Nico where he would be able to put his books and other knickknacks.
Rolling my shoulder to alleviate the pain, I left Nico’s room and went to the kitchen to prepare his dinner. I still had an hour before my shift actually started, which was enough to make some Italian vegetable soup.
I wanted to make Nico something like a grilled burger, which would have been easier, but it wasn’t good for his heart, and I would never put Nico’s health in jeopardy just to make my life easier.
The doorbell rang as I was cutting the vegetables. I frowned, curiosity blooming inside me.
Who would visit us at this hour? It wasn’t time for the milkman or the landlord to arrive, so who was at the door?
I put the knife down and was about to go and see who it was, but Nico beat me to it.
“I got it, Alice. You make dinner,” Nico bellowed. I reluctantly picked up the knife again and went back to cutting; however, my mind was wondering who was at the door as I strained my ears to listen to anything strange.
When all I heard were strange, incomprehensible words, I put the knife down again and went to check who Nico was talking to.
“Nico, who is—” My words died in my throat as I took in the men standing at the threshold of my apartment.
Gideon Maslow—along with his brother and the older man, who I presumed was his father—was standing on the threshold of my apartment, looking as deadly as ever, his eyes unreadable.
“Wow, you’re even shorter than I thought,” Gideon’s brother commented.
Ignoring his comment, I turned my attention to Gideon. “I-is everything all right?”
“Aren’t you going to invite us in, young lady?” Gideon’s father queried.
My cheeks heated in embarrassment. “Of course, my apologies, please come in,” I stated politely.
All three men entered my apartment, and Nico closed the door. “Alice, do you know these people?” Nico inquired.
“Yes, I do, Nico. Why don’t you go in your room while I talk to them,” I told him.
“Are you in danger?” he asked anxiously.
“No, no, not at all, I just need to talk to them about something important, that’s all. I’ll call you out as soon as they leave,” I responded.
“Okay, but you call me if you’re in danger,” he stated.
“I will,” I replied.
“Promise?” He held up his pinkie finger.
Linking my pinkie finger with his, I smiled. “Promise.”
Satisfied, Nico sauntered into his room, closing the door softly behind him, while I went into the living room, where Gideon was sitting with the other two men.
“So, shortcake, what are you? Four-eight, four-ten?” Gideon’s brother inquired.
“I’m five feet,” I stated. “Would you like something to drink?” I asked them, not forgetting my manners.
“No, go and pack your bags,” Gideon ordered, locking his sea-green eyes with mine. My heart flipped as Gideon stared me, his eyes willing me to submit.
“Why?” I questioned, dread creeping up my spine. If he had any intention of separating me from my brother, then he had another thing coming.
“Because I said so,” Gideon stated simply.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Maslow, but I won’t do anything you tell me if I don’t get a proper reasonable answer,” I stated.
Gideon’s eyes hardened, resembling green shards. “Do as I say,” he commanded.
“First give me a valid reason,” I demanded.
“Wow, you’re quite willful,” Gideon’s brother piped in.
“Shut up, Kieran,” Gideon snapped. Oh, so that was his name. I liked Kieran. He was not as intimidating as Gideon. I wondered where the younger one was.
Standing up, Gideon strode over to me until he was standing just a few inches from me. I raised my head to look at him. I wasn’t wearing high heels, and Gideon towered over me, making me feel vulnerable.
“Go and pack your bags, little peach. I won’t tell you again,” he stated in a dark tone, threatening.
“Why?” I questioned, not letting myself back down. I was not his slave. He had to give me a reason before I did anything he requested.
His next words had my eyes widening in shock.
“We are getting married.”
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