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The American Dream: 3 jobs, 3 kids, and a Boss That Doesn’t get the Hint

What was she thinking?!


Two weeks ago it had been simple to just circle the ad in the news paper and
make a couple calls, hand out a handful of resumes. But now on her first day she
didn’t think that she could do it!
She had messed up the transcription her boss had wanted her to do an hour
ago and it wasn’t done yet, and she still hadn’t phoned to cancel the 1 o-clock
meeting with Mr. Jefferson and it was... she turned her arm to look at the watch on
her wrist... quarter-two! Panic suddenly washed through her at seeing the time and
then not a second after she nearly had a heart attack as her eyes fell away from her
watch to see that the arm that she had twisted was holding a pot of coffee which
was now spilt all over her boss’s desk, completely missing the coffee cup that she
had in her other hand.
“LAUREN!” She winced as she heard her boss, Mr. Hendrix, screaming her
name at seeing all the papers on his desk soaking up the half a pot of coffee she
had just spilled.
“I know, I’m so sorry. I’ll clean it all right away and type up every thing. I
swear it will all be back on your desk before the day ends.” She said quickly, not
truly knowing if she could deliver that kind of promise.
Mr. Hendrix was a good looking man to be in his fifties but now he looked
like he was about to have a stoke his face was so red.
“I’m so sorry!” She said again and she quickly put down the coffee pot on
the desk as she looked for paper towel or something to mop up the coffee. He held
his head in shock as his eyes took in his swamped desk. Lauren quickly ran out of
the room and grabbed a stack of napkins and quickly ran back into the room. Just
as she opened the door again her boss screamed her name.
“LAUREN!” Lauren looked what he was holding, confused for only a
moment as she saw him holding a smoking coffee pot, but then her eyes quickly
traveled down to her boss’s desk, where she had set it, to see a perfect circular ring
burnt into the wood from the coffee pot.
“Oh my gosh-” Lauren said shocked as she stood motionless. Her boss
looked like he was about to spit bullets. Then, as if following trend, Lauren heard
the soft ding of the elevator doors coming from across the room of cubicles, she
followed her bosses gaze as she saw his face go from a bright cherry red to a
sudden sickly white.
oh no... Mr. Jefferson...
“I-I-” Lauren sputtered as she dropped the pile of napkins on her bosses desk
and quickly bolted out of the room, walking swiftly toward the elevators, trying to
figure out what to say, and what to do.
Maybe I could just walk into the elevator, press the button and get
out before my boss kills me.... Lauren thought, eyeing the elevator doors,
waiting for the them to open up again.
Ding!
It was like a sound from heaven but then Lauren stopped dead in her tracks
as she saw a man look up and step out of the elevator. He looked right at her then
his eyes were quickly distracted by the business man in front of him. But instead of
stepping around him and going on his way he smiled.
“Mr. Jefferson! What a great honor! I assume you are here to meet with my
father?”
“Ah! Yes, yes, business never sleeps.” Mr. Jefferson said back, shaking the
mans hand.
“Brice. Bless that boys uncanny sense of timing.” Lauren heard her boss
whisper behind her as he watched the scene.
“Well let me take you to the conference room, I’m sure my father will be
along quickly.” The man put an arm around Mr. Jefferson’s shoulders and led him
away from the office. Lauren breathed a small sigh of relief before turning around
and seeing her boss, not in any way relieved.
“YOU DIDN’T CALL HIM!?”
“Yes sir, I mean no Mr. Hendrix. I tried... the line was busy.”
“Of course it was busy its a business! Its supposed to be busy!” He screamed
at her.
“I know, I’m sorry, I-”
“Get what I have of the pitch, then clean this up.” He said, trying to calm
himself so he was able to present to Mr. Jefferson. “Get a pot of coffee going so
you have something to offer Mr. Jefferson.”
“Yes, of course.” Lauren quickly took the coffee pot from her boss’s hand.
“Thank you.”
“If you spill a drop on him you will be fired!” Lauren’s head snapped up.
I’m not fired already?
She ran toward the coffee desk and quickly set up another pot to brew then
ran to her desk and pulled the portfolio up out of the file cabinet. She walked
quickly back into Mr. Hendrix’s office and handed him the file.
“There you are sir. I’ll have this cleaned up before you’re finished with the
meeting.” Mr. Hendrix straightened his tie and smoothed his hands over his suit
jacket then stepped out, walking swiftly toward the conference room. Lauren
sighed as she turned back to the swamped out desk. The stack of napkins had
soaked up the coffee around it, making the paper become instantly soggy. Lauren
picked up the napkins and threw them in the trash as she started pulling papers
from the mess, and trying to mop up the coffee.
Ten minuets later Lauren took a deep breath as she rolled in the small coffee
trolly into the conference room.
“Well I just don’t think its worth that much!” Mr. Jefferson said, his face
growing red.
“Not worth that much?! Are you kidding me? Its already shown its worth in
popularity all the other stores are expected to pay more than you already just
because your from a major-!”
“Are you saying you don’t want my business? Because I certainly do not
have to do any of this. Brice here was the one that convinced me you’d give me a
fair price!”
“A fair price?! This is a more then-” Her boss cut off as something else
suddenly sounded.
“Oooo shah shah. IIIII am a everyday people. yeah, yeah, listen. There is a
blue one who can’t accept the green one for the living with the big one trying to be
the skinny one, different strokes for different fokes!” Lauren scrambled as her cell
phone went off, playing the song ‘Everyday People’. She quickly put the coffee
pot back on cart and shoved her hand into her pocket, panicking to shut it off.
“I’m so sorry.” Lauren said as she quickly got her hands on it.
“So on and so on and scoobidoobidoo, yeah. oooo... sha-sha. See we have to
live together! There is-” Lauren finally got her hands on it and quickly turned it
off. Lauren raised her head to see her boss was red in the face looking so angry he
was about to scream, and the client looking at her confused as to who this crazy
woman was and the other man in the room had his hand over his mouth trying not
to laugh out loud. “Sorry. It was my brother.” Lauren said stupidly, blushing from
the tips of her toes all the way up to her ears. She could almost die of the
embarrassment. “So sorry.” Lauren whispered again, looking at her boss once
more, knowing for sure that she wasn’t just fired she was so dead.
“Well!” Both her boss and Mr. Jefferson looked to the other man. “I think
this woman has just proven a very good point!” The man said smiling, still trying
to contain his laughter. “We may not have to live together but we do have to come
to an agreement. Look I was thinking we should put a fountain on the upper floor,
so why don’t we do that, but build it into your store, that way you get more room,
but we’ll still give you the same price.”
“How will I have more room?” Mr. Jefferson asked, all anger from his voice
suddenly gone.
“Well if we do this.” The man grabbed a huge sheet of a blue print and took
his pen and started to draw through the lines that looked like a maze to Lauren.
“And change this here... there! See. You’ll have at least two more walls on each
side! I’d say its well worth the investment.” Mr. Jefferson looked at the blue prints
at first seeming skeptical then he slowly looked up at the man then over to her
boss. “You have your self a deal.” Her boss instantly grinned ear to ear as he stood
and shook Mr. Jefferson’s hand. The other man instantly stood and shook hands
with him as well.
“You’ll have the papers drawn up...” Mr. Jefferson said waiting for a date.
“As soon as thursday, I promise.”
“Alright. I will see you thursday then.”
“Great! I’ll have my secretary call you and schedule an appointment.” Mr.
Jefferson nodded courtly.
“Very good to work with you again Brice.” Mr. Jefferson said as he turned
toward the third man then turn and gave a quick nod to Mr. Hendrix then quickly
walked from the conference room, Mr. Hendrix following him like a puppy. Lauren
instantly closed her eyes, breathing out the breath she had been holding in, sighing
in relief.
“So you must be the new secretary.” Lauren instantly opened her eyes to see
the third man was still in the room, Brice.
“Uh. Yes... I guess I am.” A boyish grin spread across his lips as he looked at
her. “You’re brother huh?” He said and Lauren froze, not understanding. “You’re
cell?”
“Oh! Yes!... it was his first day of school... probably just calling me to tell
me how his day went.” His grin slowly fell as a small frown replaced it.
“Wouldn’t he just call your mother?” Lauren winced inwardly.
“Uh... we’re very close.” Lauren said, skirting around the real, truthful
answer and thankfully before he could question her more on it Mr. Hendrix burst
back into the room.
“Brice! You’re a genius!” He said completely ignoring Lauren.
“I’m just glad he took it.” Brice said a huge boyish grin back on his face.
Lauren slowly inched out of the room, rolling her cart behind her as she went,
letting the two men celebrate without her ruining it... besides she had other things
she needed to get done before 5. She rolled the cart to its place and took the pot of
coffee back into the coffee room then quickly walked to her desk to start rewriting
the coffee stained papers from Mr. Hendrix’s desk. Sighing one last time she
picked up the first one and started typing. It felt like only a few minuets till Mr.
Hendrix and Brice came out of the conference room.
“Well... I don’t know what to say!”
“Say yes! Honestly Brice your the best I’ve got and I should have promoted
you along time ago. Besides, after Johnny up in head office is gone I’ve been told
that I’m the next to go in as part of the board. I want a good man I can depend on
to go into my place.” Mr. Hendrix rattled on as he patted Brice on the back like a
father would his son. “Besides I couldn’t think of anyone more I would trust then
my own son.” Lauren stopped typing as she over heard.
“Thanks dad.” Brice said looking up at her boss.
“Well, you’ve earned it.” He said forcing out his hand for a hand shake.
Brice looked at it for a second and even from where Lauren sat she could see the
disappointment slide through his features, but then he quickly wiped it away and
shook the hand of his father. “Don’t screw it up.” Mr. Hendrix said courtly then
quickly turned and started toward the elevator doors. “Oh by the way, have fun
training the new secretary!” Mr. Hendrix yelled back snickering. Brice looked from
his father over to her desk and Lauren instantly looked back to her computer
screen, knowing that she hadn’t been quick enough, knowing that he knew that she
had been listening to their conversation. Lauren quickly started typing, glancing
from the papers to her screen then back again. Trying to breath as she felt Brice’s
eyes on her. He was going to say something, she knew it. She was just hopping
against hope that it wasn’t that she was fired.
“Brice!” Lauren jumped as a woman dressed in a much to revealing dress for
an office ran toward Brice, or rather shuffled quickly because her dress was so tight
around her thighs and her high heels were so high, Lauren wandered how she even
was able to walk let alone move that quickly. “I can’t believe it! He finally
promoted you!”
“Yes Sophie, he did.” Brice said his voice blunt and empty.
“Yes but this means that- oh. I mean Mr. Hendrix. This means your my
new boss. Is there any thing I can do for you? Any thing at all. Really just say the
word and-” Lauren felt like gaging as she heard their conversation.
“No. Sophie.” Brice cut her off as Sophie kept moving closer toward him.
“And like you just said, I’m your boss now. So get back to work.” He said solidly.
“But Brice, aren’t we going to celebrate?” Lauren couldn’t help but glance
up. She had never seen a man that could glare like that before, he could truly shoot
fire from his eyes. Lauren couldn’t help but shiver as she quickly looked away,
afraid of being caught again.
“No. And it’s Mr. Hendrix, Sophie.”
“But Brice...” She whined, trying to wrap her arms around his neck.
“No!” He said harshly, pushing Sophie off of him.
“But I thought we had something.” She wined, pressing herself against him.
“We? Or you and my brother? Get back to work Sophie, now before I loose
my temper and fire you here on the spot.” A minuet passed by as the woman stood
in front of Mr. Hendrix, wondering if she should try and test his word. In the end
she had slowly turned and walked passed Lauren back to her cubical. Lauren held
her breath as she felt his gaze slide back to her then when it felt like minuets had
passed he finally called to her.
“Hey, you. Secretary.” Lauren winced as she looked up. Great. He couldn’t
even call her by her name.
“Yes?”
“Bring me all of the transcriptions and blue prints your old boss was
working on for the past month. I want to see everything, even if he discarded it.”
Lauren suddenly went panicky as she looked down to her mess of a desk to see
papers every where. Oh no. When Lauren looked back up her new boss to see her
had already gone and sat down at his newly acquired desk, a desk she had already
scarred. Lauren instantly turned to her file cabinets and opened each, quickly
looking at dates, looking for anything to give him. After a few minuets of
searching she found only one folder. Well its better then nothing. Lauren
thought as she took it and pressed it against her body, wrapping her arms around it,
as if it would safe her life, let alone her job. She knocked on the door softly and he
quickly looked up from the laptop on his desk.
“That was quick.” He said as she slowly walked into the room and placed
the folder down on his desk. He instantly frowned as he looked at the folder.
“I said all of the files.” Lauren felt a tremble go through her as she heard the
edge to his voice.
“I-I... uh... well there was a little bit of an accident.” She said quietly, almost
whispering.
“What?”
“... well I’m just a bit unorganized... and then after the accident this after
noon everything just kind of went down hil-”
“What accident?” He asked, looking back at her with those steel grey eyes.
And Lauren only wanted to shrink into the floor.
“Well I sort of... I kind of... I-I-.”
“Spit it out already!” He said loosing his patience. Lauren jumped at his
sharp tone.
“I spilt a little coffee.” She said quietly, hopping against hope he would let it
go.
“A little coffee?” He asked and Lauren bit the inside of her cheek.
“Well maybe a little more then a little.” She said wincing. After a moment of
looking at her he sighed and leaned back in his chair, rocking it back and forth.
“Well then I guess you’ll just have to stay after work and organize... and
clean.” Lauren felt like a rock had landed hard in her stomach. She watched as her
new boss looked back to his laptop as if dismissing the matter.
“I-I uh...” Lauren said, hating what she knew she had to say.
“What is it now?” He asked looking up at her, not turning from the laptop.
“I can’t stay after work today.” She said quickly, hoping against hope that
maybe it would be just like a bandaid, that if she ripped it off quickly it wouldn’t
hurt as bad, hoping that if she said it quickly he would some how, by some miracle,
shrug his shoulders and let her go.
“Why not?” Of course he wouldn’t let it go.
“I have... I have to do something.”
“Then cancel.” He said flippantly.
“I can’t.” Lauren said quickly.
“Why?” He said not even looking back up at her.
“Because I promised I wouldn’t call in sick.”
“Call in sick?” This caught his attention, he looked back up at her frowning.
“I have another job.” She said in explanation. His frown didn’t dissipate. “I
would call in but I’m covering for another girl who’s sick and I promised that I
would be there.” Lauren said quickly.
“And how often do you work at this other job?” He asked as Lauren
inwardly groaned.
“A couple times a week.” She lied. He starred her down, like he knew that
she was lying.
“Alright.” He said finally. “Well then I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow?” Lauren asked frowning, looking down at her watch, expecting
that she still had at least another hour before she had to run home.
“Its quarter to 5. You’re off at 5 are you not?” Her eyes went wide as she
looked at her watch, where had the time gone? It seemed impossible that time had
gone that quickly.
“Yes. Thank you. Tomorrow, yes. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Lauren said
absently as she quickly rushed for her desk to grab her jacket and run to the
elevator doors. When she made it in and saw the metal doors slowly slide closed
Lauren allowed herself to breath a sigh. She had gotten through it.
The first day of her third job.
She could do this.

~ ~ ~

Brice watched as she ran for the elevator doors. That woman was off her
hinges he was sure of it. Her red hair was in such a disarray that he doubted if she
had even looked in the mirror before coming to work, but the pencil skirt and
blouse that she had worn showed that she had at least tried to look presentable. She
was a small woman, maybe coming up to his shoulder, she was wasn’t quite thin,
but simply curvy in all the right ways. She had a small waist that accentuated her
figure in a delicious way. Brice quickly jerked his head as it to snap out of his
thoughts. He looked down to the folder that she had tentatively placed on his desk
he flipped it open to see that it had been dated a month ago. Brice sighed. The
woman may be good looking but her skills were certainly lacking in every other
department .
Brice got up and walked out of his office and over to her desk to see if he
could find anything else but he stopped short as he saw the mounds of paper piled
up on her desk, most of them drenched in coffee, staining the other documents.
“A little coffee, huh?” Brice whispered to himself in disbelief. What had he
gotten himself into?
Ch 2

“Nevaeh! Eddie! Luke! I’m home! I’m sorry I’m late the bus didn’t come in
time. I don’t think I can make dinner before I have to run down to the diner!”
Lauren yelled as she closed the door to her small two bedroom apartment.
“I thought you didn’t have to work today.” Luke said coming around the
corner from the small living room that was adjoined with the kitchen.
“I know. But Haley called in sick, I have to go in. Did you call me from
school before?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t feeling well.” Lauren paused in unbuttoning her jacket.
“Are you alright?” She said instantly pressing a hand against his forehead.
“I’m fine.” Luke said sticking his hands in his sweater pockets. Lauren
sighed as she lifted her hand from his forehead and unbuttoned the rest of the
buttons on her jacket.
“Where’s Nevaeh and Eddie?”
“Sleeping.” Luke said solidly. “When are you going to be home?”
“I have to work till closing tonight... so that means you have to watch Eddie
and Nevaeh, alright?” Lauren said quickly as she pulled off her coat and grabbed
her running shoes, already putting them on seeing the time.
“But I was going to go over to Jack’s-”
“No Luke! Don’t even start with me alright? I told you that this might
happen.”
“Yeah, but I thought that-”
“No. Alright. Now there’s KD in the cupboard and don’t let Eddie watch that
ghost movie again with you, it gives him nightmares. I don’t wan’t to be getting up
in the night to calm him down again, he’s just getting over it.”
“But what else am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know, play cards with them.” Lauren said as she grabbed her apron
from the hook and quickly wrapped it around her waist, bringing the ties full circle
to tie up in the front.
“But Eddie doesn’t like cards and Nevaeh doesn’t know how to play.” Luke
whined.
“I don’t know then, ask if you can borrow a movie from next door.” Lauren
suggested.
“But they don’t have any more VHS, they only have dvd’s.”
“Well maybe when I get my next paycheck we’ll get-”
“You said that last month.”
“Money is thin right now Luke. Look I love you, I have to go. I’ll see you
tonight alright? Maybe I’ll bring something home for you from the Diner.” Luke
looked up at her frowning, his arms crossed over his small chest. Lauren paused
looking at his scowl. She slowly bent down so she was eye level with him. “I know
it sucks. But hopefully with this new job I’ll be able to do something about that...
just hang in there for another couple of weeks okay? Here, take the cell. Call me at
the diner if there’s an emergency alright?” She said gently to her brother as she
pressed the cheep cell phone into his small hand. He looked down at it,
disappointment in his eyes. Lauren just sighed as she pulled him into a hug and
then ruffled his hair. “I’ll see you tonight.” With that she quickly turned from her
brother and headed back out the door. Looking at her watch she ran down the
stairs.
“Ah, I’m going to be late.” She whispered as she ran. The place was only a
block from her place, but even still she only had 5 minuets to get there.
When she finally made it to the diner she was only 5 minuets late.
“Hey Lauren! You’re late!” The cook called from the kitchen.
“I know. I’m sorry the bus was late. The boss in yet?”
“Nope. Don’t think he’s coming in today.”
“How’s Hails?” Lauren asked as she clocked in to her shift, using the
nickname every one used for Haley.
“She’s good, sick as a dog though, thanks again for covering for her.”
“No problem Liam!” Lauren said back. Liam and Haley had been together
for almost a year now, everyday she expected Haley to come in with a ring on her
finger, even if neither Liam or Haley could afford it right now. They were so good
for each other.
Before Lauren could think anymore on the subject Liam dinged the bell.
“Orders up, table eleven, its Davy!” He said quickly Lauren grabbed it and a
pot of coffee as she walked around and set it in front of Davy, a long time
customer. Always sat in the same seat, always ordered the same thing.
“Hey Davy!” Lauren said as she filled his cup of coffee. “How was your
week?”
“Ah! Lauren! Good, good. Where’s Haley?” He asked as he folded back up
the news paper he had been reading.
“Sick today, I’m covering for her.”
“Oh thats too bad.” He said grabbing his silverware. “Anything serious?”
“Oh no, I’m sure she’ll bounce back in no time.” Lauren smiled. “Enjoy! I’ll
be back around with your pie as soon as your done.”
“What a doll you are.” Lauren laughed as she walked away back behind the
counter as the door dinged and a man came in.
“What can I get for you?”
“Uh... the classic beef brisket.” Lauren quickly jotted down the order and
swung around attaching it to the spinning wheel up above the counter separating
the kitchen and the dining area.
“Anything to drink?” She asked as she turned back around.
“Just coffee.” He said as he grabbed a news paper and walked to one of the
booths.
“Where are the kids tonight?”
“At home.” Lauren said quickly as she grabbed the coffee pot and filled the
man a cup of coffee. She walked over to him before Liam could say a word,
knowing what was coming. When she came back around she took out sugar
packets right away and started filling the small porcelain holders, hoping that if
Liam saw she was busy he wouldn’t press the issue.
“Who’s watching them?” Liam asked, stopping in his cooking and Lauren
sighed, no such luck.
“Luke.” Lauren said quietly, knowing that the lecture was coming.
“Lauren! Luke’s only 8!”
“I know, but there is no one else alright? And its not like he hasn’t done it
before.”
“Yes, but-”
“But nothing, Luke is a good kid.”
“I know he is, but he’s too young to take care of his brother and sister he’s
only 8!-.”
“Thats what everyone said to me when my mother died, that I was too
young. I’m fine and so is he, alright?” Lauren snapped, not in the mood to argue.
She heard Liam sigh and then heard the sizzle as he poured sauce over the beef.
“Look I didn’t mean-”
“I know.” Lauren cut him off, the only thing worse then people berating her
was people pitying her.
“Hey... uh- it was your first day on the new job wasn’t it?” Lauren cringed at
his attempt to change the subject. “How’d it go?”
“Uh... fine I guess.”
“Well do you like it? Was it what you expected?”
“Uh. I guess... It was a lot harder then I expected.” She said finishing with
the sugar and started pulling out the salt.
“Harder? This coming from the girl that already works two jobs and wants to
put her self through hell and work another job?”
“Its not that I can’t handle it I just need to get into the swing of it is
all.”Lauren just laughed. Its not like she had a choice anyway. The bills weren’t
being met and even though Eddie was off dippers now she still couldn’t keep air
born with just two jobs. And Nevaeh was going to be starting grade one soon,
which was going to cost almost as much as it was to send Luke to school. Yes she
was on welfare but it just wasn’t making the cut.
“Well is your boss at least decent?” Lauren looked up breaking from her
thoughts.
“I uh... well I’m not sure I haven’t really spent that much time with him...
although he did let me go so I could work here instead of staying late there.” Liam
shrugged as he pulled the plate up onto the counter dividing them.
“Sounds like a decent kinda guy. Orders up.” He said quickly and Lauren
grabbed it and walked to the booth in which the man had sat.
“Is there anything else I could get for you?”
“No, I’m fine thank you.” Lauren smiled then quickly walked back to the
counter.
“Well I just hope he doesn’t fire me after he’s realized how disorganized I
am. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get off of my other job early enough tomorrow
morning that I’ll be able to get some filing done.”
“You’re working at the dry cleaners again tomorrow morning?”
“Yep. 4:30 to 9 every morning Monday to Friday.”
“And when do you start your new job?”
“9:30.” Lauren said simply.
“And this one? When does Joe have you working this week?”
“Well because Hails is sick... I work... 5:30 to 11 tomorrow night and 6 to 11
the next day and friday I work 5:30 till close and then saturday and sunday are my
normal 8 hour shifts.” Lauren said as if it were nothing. Liam whistled low and
Lauren turned to look at him, his eye brows raised in shock. “What?”
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“What?”
“Two part time jobs and a full time one. I don’t know how you don’t burn
out.”
“Well I’m working a couple extra hours because of Hails, but it’s fine.”
Liam just shook his head going back to the grill.
“Its crazy, thats what it is.” Liam said under his breath, he didn’t think that
she had heard but she did.
“Well I’d rather go crazy then end up in the streets.” Lauren whispered back,
sighing to herself as she went around to the other tables and grabbed the salt
shakers that needed to be refilled.
6 hours later
“Good night Lauren, you want a ride?” Liam asked as he turned the key to
the dead bolt on the diner.
“No. Its only a block. I’m fine. Thanks though. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Uh, yeah. Have a good night!” Liam said as he smiled back at Lauren.
“See ya!” She said back as she pulled the collar of her jacket closer to her
neck. She liked walking home at night, it was so quiet and peaceful. Allowed
herself some time to think after a whole day of constantly going.
When she started to walk up the stairs of her apartment building it was close
to midnight. She took her keys out and unlocked the door, opening it to hear the
slight noise from the tv in the living room. Lauren took off her jacket and then as
she kicked off her shoes she locked the door back up, making sure to do the chain
as well as the dead bolt. She walked into the living room to see the wheel of
fortune on, and her three younger siblings all cuddled together on the couch,
Nevaeh in the middle and her two brothers keeping her warm from both sides as
they slumped over each other in sleep. Lauren sighed as she silently walked over
the worn out carpet to the three, slowly pulling Luke off first, taking him up in her
arms and carrying him to his room. She laid him in the unmade bed and gently
urged him over to the far end of the bed, covering him slightly with the blankets.
Next was Eddie. She pulled her brother in to her arms and walked down the short
hall and put him into bed with his brother. After tucking both of them in she paused
as she watched Eddie flip onto his stomach, still fast asleep. She ran her fingers
through his thick red hair. “Good night boys.” She said softly as she turned from
the room and bent down to turn on the night light just out side their door and left
the door open, so if Eddie woke up he would be okay. Lauren walked back to the
living room stifling a yon as she slowly bent down and picked up little Nevaeh.
She wasn’t the youngest but she was still the smallest. Nevaeh snuggled closer to
Lauren as she picked her up, whimpering for a moment then settling down quickly.
Lauren walked down the hall and into their room. She gently tucked Nevaeh in
then slowly made her was toward the closet to get dressed for bed. She walked
passed the wall full of the three’s drawings, horses and unicorns from Nevaeh,
aliens and spaceships from Luke and spiderman and superman from Eddie. Lauren
let her hand trail across the wall as she walked back to the bed in her pj’s. She
slipped into bed beside Nevaeh and drifted off to sleep so quickly she didn’t know
if she was even covered by blankets at all, too tired to care.
Ch 3

Lauren woke to the sound of her alarm going off, she groaned as she pulled
herself up out of bed, hitting the off button so as not to wake Nevaeh. Lauren
walked slowly toward her closet and opened it up to pick something suitable to
wear for work. She decided on a flowy black skirt and a simple red blouse that
looked some what flattering on her. She stuffed them into her bag along with a pare
of panty hose and then grabbed it as she quietly tip toed out of the room and closed
the door behind her. She walked into the bathroom and brushed her teeth and her
hair, putting it up into a bun and grabbing her bobby pins to do up her hair later.
She walked out into the kitchen, taking a quick look into the boys room to see they
were still fast asleep then grabbed a pack of pop tarts, a banana and a frozen food
pack from the freezer for lunch. She slipped on her runners while putting her dress
shoes in her bag for work then grabbing her cell from the couch she did one turn
around making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything then turned and walked out the
door, locking it behind her. She ripped down the steps and out onto the street,
breathing in the cold frisk morning to wake her up fully. She walked briskly to the
dry cleaners on the end of the block. Once getting to the door she rung the buzzer
in the back three times, waiting for someone to come and open the door.
“Lauren!” Steve said as he opened up the door for her. “On time as always.
How ya doing?”
“Good, we got a lot of orders to do?” He shrugged.
“Just about fifty thats all.”
“Fifty...” Lauren sighed as she stepped in side. “Alright, and I bet you
haven’t started yet.”
“Now that wouldn’t be fair, starting before you had a chance to get here.”
Lauren laughed as she dumped her stuff on the table then walked through a door to
the other room where all the chemicals and extra steam heads were stored. She
grabbed her jump suite and then a pair of gloves getting ready to work.
“So how’d it go?” Steve asked right behind her.
“How did what go?”
“Your first day.”
“Oh! Good. I guess...”
“Do you like it?”
“Well... it doesn’t matter if I like it or not the question is if its going to pay
the bills.”
“Right.” Steve said back, picking up a bottle of chemicals.
“What are you going to do if it doesn’t?” Lauren shuttered to even think of
the possibility.
“I’m sure I’ll survive.” She said, not believing her own words.
“Well... we better get started.” He said as they both walked into the back
room, looking at all the orders to be completed before the shop opened.
“How’s the kids doing?” Steve asked as he poured the solvent.
“Oh good, they’re happy as ever. Eddie is off diapers now. Finally. And
Nevaeh is going to be starting grade one soon.”
“Wow, growing up, huh?”
“Yeah. They do that.” Lauren said smiling at her coworker.
“I really wish you would let me-”
“No Steve.” Lauren cut him off before he did his age old lecture trying to
convince her to let him give her money or babysitting time for free.
“-baby sit for you more often.” Steve continued as if he hadn’t heard her.
“Well I would if you would promise not to buy-”
“Hey now, you can’t stop a babysitter from going and buying a couple things
for the kids... Thats a mark of a good babysitter you know.” Steve cut her off
knowing what she was going to say as an excuse.
“Yes, but it borders on charity when you buy more groceries then I can
afford in one month!”
“Hey, its not charity, its call generosity... besides I had some extra money
hanging around.”
“Hanging around? Steve, your mom may be the boss of this place but that
doesn’t mean you’re a millionaire.” Lauren scolded him.
“Well some one has to look out for you and those kids.”
“I’m looking out for me and my brothers and sisters.”
“But thats not right, you need-”
“Steve. We’ve been over this.” Lauren said as she suppressed a sigh.
“Alright, alright.” Steve said waving his hands, letting it go.
“Thank you.”
Steve had asked her out over a year ago and although she had blatantly
refused him he hadn’t given up the fight. The morning went by quickly with three
cups of coffee and a call home to make sure that the morning girl in junior high
had stopped by and gotten the kids up.
“Hi Lauren! All is going good! I just finished their lunches and were just
heading out the door to catch the bus.” The 12 year old said in her typical perky
voice.
“Alright, thank you Cassy! I’ll pay ya the five bucks on friday alright?”
“Thanks Lauren! We gotta run, say bye guys!” She said off phone and not a
second later she heard all three yell out.
“Bye!”
“Bye! I love you I’ll see you later tonight!” Lauren said louder hoping they
would here.”
“Bye, Lauren!” Cassy said quickly then the phone went dead and Lauren
hung up the store phone going back to work.
Soon Lauren was walking to her next job an hour and a half early. She
wanted to get some things done before her boss got into the office. Hoping that
maybe she could at least make a dent into all the papers piled onto of her desk.
When she got down to the high rise fifteen minuets later by bus. She flashed
her pass at the security guard then pressed the button for the elevator and sighed as
she let the quiet soak in as she traveled up, even if it was just for a moment. Then
all too quickly the delightful annoying ding sounded and the doors opened onto a
empty deserted floor of cubicles. She walked across the floor to her desk and
quickly looked at the time, she better get dressed and ready for the day before she
started working out the papers, just incase someone came in early as well and
caught her in what she was wearing now, worn out jeans and a very loose baggy t-
shirt that had a picture of oscar on the front of it from sesame street. The caption
underneath not giving off an impression she wanted to send to her co-workers -
SCRAM! - spelled out in ruff large letters across his garbage can. She loved the
shirt but she didn’t think it was even remotely close to being suitable or appropriate
for working in an office and would be positively mortified if anyone saw her in it.
“Lauren?!” She screamed and nearly jumped out of her own skin as she
whirled around to see her boss half awake in an under shirt and a pair of boxers.
“Mr. Hendrix!” She shrieked then quickly turned her back to him, half
because of her state of dress and half because of his.
“What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” They both said at the same time.
“I came in early to try and get some organizing done.” Lauren said quickly,
turning her head to talk over her shoulder but still avoiding eye contact. “What are
you doing here?”
“This is my office.” He said as if he didn’t need to explain any further, as if
finding him in a state of undress close to an hour and a half before people started
showing up was completely normal.
“I uh...” She heard him walked over to her and went to turn her around and
she quickly took a step away from him. And then he went to walk around her to
face her, she quickly turned her body away from him. “I was just-” She couldn’t
think as she kept moving away from him, completely set off by him. He was hardly
dressed and the two of them were the only people on the floor. It wasn’t a good
situation and she knew it, if anyone walked in she knew what it would look like.
“Would you stop it!” Lauren jerked as she heard the annoyed edge to his
voice.
“Stop what?” She asked trying to pretend that she hadn’t realized what she
was doing.
“Turn around!” Lauren winced at his order. She closed her eyes then slowly
turned toward him and then opened her eyes, making sure to just look at his face.
His eyes, however, were everywhere but her face. “You going to wear that to
work?” He said looking at her.
“Are you going to wear that?” Lauren shot back, not liking his tone of
voice, but as soon as she had said the remark she had regretted it. He was her boss!
She couldn’t say things like that! She breathed it slighting and held it, waiting for
the verbal beating. But it didn’t come, instead a boyish grin suddenly came across
his lips.
“No. Although it would be a nice break from a suit and tie.” He said quickly.
He was joking with her! Lauren quickly breathed out as his words
registered. She managed to smile up at him.
“You think thats bad, try wearing panty hose all day long.” She said back,
her mouth running away from her before she could catch her words and hold them
back.
He laughed out, his laugh coming deep from with in him.
“Well I can’t say that I’ve ever tried it, but I’ll make you a deal. You go with
out panty hoes and I get to go with out a tie, sound good?” He said still chuckling.
“I think I could do that.” Lauren said smiling.
“But, even though I think your shirt is great, you will have to change into
something a little more professional.”
“Oh! Yes! I brought other clothes.” Lauren said quickly, almost forgetting
what she was wearing.
“Good. Well I’m going to go get changed, you should probably do the same
before anyone else gets here.”
“Right.” Lauren said laughing awkwardly as she smiled and quickly grabbed
her pack and walked away from him over to the bathrooms. When she came out he
was just coming out of his office, pulling his jacket on over his new dress shirt.
“Did you sleep here?” Lauren asked as he buttoned up the suit jacket.
“Yeah, I’m in the process of looking for a place. I just came back from being
in Europe doing some business there.” Lauren simply nodded.
“So why did you come back?” Lauren asked as she walked toward her desk
and set down her bag and sat down in her chair looking up at him.
“My father, actually. He convinced me to come back and work for this
company again.”
“Again?”
“I used to work for them before I even graduated high school... It... it wasn’t
right for me.”
“So, again, why did you come back?” Brice smiled as she saw around his
words.
“Well if I’m telling the truth I finished the job in Europe... and I couldn’t
find another contract to keep me down there so I came back and my dad quickly
picked me up to work for him, realizing I actually had talent.” Lauren nodded as he
leaned casually on her desk. “But anyway, it’s history. What really concerns me
now is this.” Brice said picking up a rippled sheet of paper that was now tinted a
horrid brown color from the coffee the day before. Lauren almost groaned as he
held it up in front of her eyes.
“Right.” She said wincing as she looked up at him.
“Are you going to be able to get it done?”
“Yes! Of course. I just need a little time.” Lauren said as she gently took the
paper from his grasp.
“Alright, well... I have some client calls I need to make over the phone so if
I leave you alone you’ll be fine?”
“More than. Thank you.” She smiled as she booted up her computer, hearing
the little fan roaring to life. The majority of the day was spent at her desk, he didn’t
have any clients coming today so she was sure that there wouldn’t be another
instance of coffee spilling. Slowly the papers on her desk diminished as she threw
out the coffee soaked ones and printed new ones, putting them in files and
carefully filing them in the right place. By 4o-clock that evening she walked
toward Mr.Hendrix’s office with a pile of folders of all the projects his father had
worked on. She bumped against the door in an attempt to knock then slowly inched
it open, he was on the phone. He looked up and smiled as he held up a finger in
motion for her to wait a minuet. She came in and silently set the folders on his desk
and started to walk back out of the room when she heard him snap his fingers at
her. She turned around to see him motioning toward her to wait. She stood looking
down at the floor not really knowing where else to look.
“Alright. Yes. Yes. Thank you. I’ll see you then... Great! Alright, yes, I’ll see
you later.” He said then paused before putting the phone back on the hook. He
quickly wrote something down on a pad of paper then looked up to her. “How are
you doing?”
“Good! Uh, the reports are there, thats all of them... at least I think thats all
of them.” Lauren said motioning toward his desk where she had set the folders.
“Oh! Thank you! That was quick.” Lauren smiled a small smile then
shrugged.
“It just took a little time to do.” He nodded as he reached for the pile.
“Was there anything that caught you eye?” Lauren looked back at him
shocked, he was asking her opinion?
“Uh... No... not really.” Lauren said slowly, not knowing if it was a good
answer.
“Hum...” He said as he flipped open the first folder, not looking at her. She
stood there awkwardly not knowing what to do.
“Is there something that I can do for you.” Brice cleared his throat before
flipping a page in the report.
“Yes. You can make a reservation at the Blue Peacock for 6:30.” Lauren
quickly turned toward the door. The Blue Peacock was an extremely fancy
restaurant, she had heard that only models and actors and high end business people
ate there. It was supposedly the best place in the whole country.
“How many will it be for?” She asked as she reached the door.
“Two.” Lauren nodded as she took a step toward her desk. “Oh and Lauren!”
She stopped in her tracks and turned on her heel to look back at him. “I’d like you
to wear a dress. I’ll have my limo driver pick you up.” He didn’t even look up at
her as he said this.
“Excuse me? I-”
“I prefer blue.” He said flipping another page.
“Blue?” Only now he looked up.
“The dress. I like the color blue. 6:30.” He said it like a statement and before
she could say anything else he looked back down.
“Mr. Hendrix.” Lauren said, edge to her voice.
“Yes?”
“Are you asking me out?” He looked up, his eye brows raised.
“Yes... Honestly Lauren I thought-”
“I can’t do that.” Lauren cut him off.
“What?”
“I have to work.” Brice chuckled at her excuse.
“Lauren, I’m the boss. You won’t be working all night!”
“Not, this job, my second job... I have to work.” Lauren felt her heart
quicken in fear as his eyes narrowed on her. Then after several moments he looked
down then said flippantly,
“Alright. Then saturday night.” Lauren breathed in slowly as she looked
back at him, her anger rising.
“I can’t.” She said strictly.
“Why? Do you work on saturday?” He said mockingly still looking down.
“Yes.” She answered quickly.
“Sunday.”
“No.” She snapped back.
“Do you-”
“No, I don’t work, but I will not go out to dinner with you.” Brice looked at
her then slowly leaned back in his chair.
“Why?”
“Because I don’t date.” Lauren said, trying to keep her breathing even as he
stared at her.
“You don’t date your bosses.” He said clarifying her answer.
“No... I don’t date. At all. End of story.” Brice looked at her as he crossed
his arms.
“At all?” He asked as she breathed out a sigh looking at the ceiling in
frustration at this awkward conversation that had caught her so off guard.
“Look I have things that I need to get done alright? So is there anything else
that you need to me to do?” Lauren asked as she tried to not grit her teeth.
“A cup of coffee, two cream, one sugar.” He said then grabbed a file off his
desk and started to flip through it again. Lauren turned and walked to the coffee
room to get him his stupid cup of coffee.
Where did that all come from anyway? He hadn’t even showed any interest
in her before, had he? Every time he had talked to her before it was always
typically business talk, it was all formal. Except for this morning. Had he thought
she was some kind of trailer trash because of her ripped jeans and Oscar t-shirt?
But even if he had thought that, was he really attracted to that kind of girl? Lauren
instantly thought back to Clair, her skin tight dress, and her body pressed against
his.
“Trailer Trash... yep.” Lauren said to her self shaking her head in disgust as
she suddenly realized he had seen something like that in her this morning. But
then her disgust broke into laughter as she thought about it. The son of a CEO, the
boss of major developing company, who spends all day every day in a tie and suite
impressing high end clients, was into trailer trash girls. Wow! Who would have
guessed? Lauren quickly decided that she would set the record straight as she
walked back to his office. When she made it to his doorway she felt anxiety rise up
with in her.
“Mr. Hendrix? I just wanted to clarify that what you saw this morning is not
me, I do not hold my self to such a low standard as you would think that I was a
trailer trash kind of girl, now you may be into those kind of girls but I am certainly
not one of them. Now I may not be rich or have very much but I respect my self a
hell of a lot more then some other people out on the street and if you think that-”
“Lauren! Lauren!” Brice shouted her name to stop her. “I didn’t think, nor
will I ever think of you as anything remotely related to trash.” Brice paused as
Lauren felt the blood rise up in her cheeks, blushing.
“Oh.”
“I’m sorry if I was too forward.” Brice said quickly. “I should have been
more of a gentleman about it, but I thought that you wouldn’t have had any
arguments against it, considering this morning.”
“This morning?” Lauren questioned, not understanding.
“You were flirting with me.”
“Flirting with you!?” Lauren had to use extreme control to not allow her
voice to go squeaky with shock.
“Yes. It was obvious.”
“I was not-” Lauren cleared her throat quickly as she felt her voice crack and
become louder. “I was not flirting with you!” She said more assuredly. Brice
smiled that charming boyish grin.
“I think you have work to do Miss. Lauren.”
“I wasn’t flirting.” Lauren said one last time as she quickly made her escape
from his office.
“The lady doth protest too much.” Brice yelled after her and it took
everything in her not to turn around and yell at him. When she was sitting back in
her desk she couldn’t believe how much he had gotten her boiled. She had never
felt his agitated since... since... well since ever! He was positively arrogant and
rude. Lauren forced open the file folder and started alphabetizing it.
Ch 4

That evening she took the bus home, looking at her watch every ten minuets.
If the bus didn’t take a long stop she would be home with a half hour to spare. She
waited impatiently as the bus took the last stop before hers. She looked out the
window, gripping her bag as she watched the cars passed by in traffic. Soon the bus
was moving again and not five minuets later it was her stop. She hopped up and
walked swiftly toward the door. She slung the bag over her shoulder as she walked
down the street to her apartment building.
“Luke? Eddie? Nevaeh? I’m home!”
“Lauren!” Lauren instantly smiled and felt the weight and tired feeling of the
day pass her by as she watched her younger sister run to her from the living room.
“You’re home!”
“Yes! And how was your day?” Lauren asked as she bent down and picked
up Nevaeh, hugging her close.
“Good! Chrissy made us lunch then Billy at Kinder garden threw up all over
Mrs. Ginkens!” Nevaeh said a huge smile on her face at telling the story.
“Oh my! Did they send him home?”
“Oh yeah, but Mrs. Ginkens told all of us that we had to wash our hands
right away or else we would get sick too and we would have to be sent home. And
I told her, that I would want that because then I could spend more time with you
and then you could help me with drawing because your a good drawer and then-”
“Nevaeh! Nevaeh! Calm down.” Lauren laughed as Nevaeh trailed on.
Lauren let her down. “Seems like you had a pretty crazy day, now go on, wash up
for dinner!” Lauren said quickly as she sent Nevaeh off to the bathroom. Lauren
kicked off her shoes as she walked to the living room to see Eddie playing with his
stuffed spider man that was a handy down from Luke.
“Hi Eddie. Do I get a hug?” Eddie’s head popped up from his make believe
world. He grinned, as he jumped up. “Only if spwide man can have one tew!”
Eddie garbled, still not able to say his ‘r’s. Lauren laughed as he wrapped his little
arms around Lauren’s neck. “How was your day?”
“Good. Spwide man defeated the evwil Dr. Bwoxs today.”
“Dr. what?”
“Dr. Blocks.” Luke interjected coming from the hall. “One of the lego men.”
Lauren smiled as she tussled Eddie’s hair and stood up.
“Well I had no doubt he could.” Lauren said as Eddie quickly went back to
playing. “And how was your day Luke?”
“Good. I sat out of computers class today because I got a head ache.” Luke
said nonchalantly.
“Oh thats too bad. I know you like computers. Did you miss anything
important?”
“No, just learning paint a little more.” Luke shrugged his shoulders as
Lauren looked down at him. “Whats for supper?” Before Lauren could answer her
cell phone suddenly started to ring.
“ooo sha sha....” Lauren raced over and quickly picked it up.
“Lauren speaking.” She answered. It was the diner.
“Hey Lauren! Its Hayley. I’m able to work my shift tonight, I know its a
little last minuet but I thought better late then never huh?”
“Oh! Great! Are you sure your feeling better?”
“Oh yeah, just getting over it. I’m so sick of sitting on the couch anyway.
Have a night off with the kids okay?”
“Okay. Thanks Hails.” Lauren said back before the two hung up the phone.
“Well looks like I’m able to make you a decent meal tonight guys! Haley is
able to take her shift so what do you want?” Lauren yelled as she set down the cell
and plugged it in to charge before she forgot.
“Pizza!” Luke called out.
“Lasagna!” Nevaeh yelled out.
“Tuqukey!” Eddie said yelling out his version of turkey.
Lauren couldn’t suppress her laugh.
“Why don’t you guys get in here and pick something we can make, huh?
Then we can watch a movie together!”
“Why can’t we get take out?”
“Luke. You know why. We don’t have the money for that... besides there is
perfectly good food here...” Lauren let her sentence trail off as she heard a knock
on the door.
She walked to it, looking through the spy hole first of course.
“Steve?” She said as she opened the door. “What are you doing here?” He
smiled as he took in her shock.
“Well I stopped by the dinner and saw that Haley was back on her feet so I
figured you’d be at home with the kids deciding what to eat.... so I brought pizza!”
He laughed as all three kids behind her instantly yelled ‘yay’. Lauren looked at
Steve disapproving but the look quickly faded away as Eddie and Luke shoved
passed her out into the hall and grabbed Steve, bringing him inside. Lauren sighed,
giving up. He was here now, there was nothing she could do about it.

~ ~ ~

Brice closed the last folder on his desk, his mind a whirl wind of all the
things he had to get done in the next week. He would have to get a hold of a
contractor, and then set up another meeting with Mr. Jefferson, and then try and
convince the board to let him start up a completely new project as this one was
going on. He knew that it was a risk, but he also knew that striking a new
construction site would spark the interest of other competing Industries, if they
started building then everything would fall into place. They would have to buy the
land from him, the land he bought that was worth next to nothing because of its
location if that happened then Brice would be able to give up the job and get back
to Europe... That is if his father would let him.
“Man that was a lot of ‘if’s.” Brice said to himself as he leaned back in his
chair and put his hands behind his head, completely stretched out. Brice knew he
was going to need a lot of help and a lot of luck to pull the plan off. He sighed as
he tried to let his mind ease out of work, letting it wander. He found himself
thinking of Lauren, she was different. She said she didn’t date, but she had to be
exaggerating, no woman her age doesn’t date... unless she’s a nun and that wasn’t a
viable possibility. She probably did date but refused him because he was her boss,
which was understandable. She was the kind of woman that wanted to work her
way up, not sleep her way up. He liked that about her, she had integrity and wit. He
had thought the day before when he first met her that she was simply a klutz with
out a brain, but this morning proved against that. She had a vibrance around her in
her casual cloths, she looked like she had been up for a while, but her make up
wasn’t done and she certainly wasn’t ready for work... so what was she up to?
Maybe going to he gym? But she was wearing ripped jeans, she wouldn’t have
worked that morning could she? It was too early for any place to open. Brice
pondered her life, trying to figure out the woman that had caught his sudden
interest. One thing he did know for sure though, was that he wanted to know more
about Lauren, much more. But the working environment hindered him...
Not if I extend her hours... Brice thought to himself. She was
obviously willing to come in before hours and he was sure that he would be able to
persuade her to stay after hours too... she may not agree to going on a date with
him, but Brice was going to make sure that she was going to spend as much time
with him as possible... alone. Brice smiled to himself at his own thoughts. After
having his mind settled Brice got up and walked begrudgingly over to the hard
sitting sofa in his office. He grabbed the small blanket he had folded up that
morning and laid himself down, covering up and tried to get some sleep on the
hard cushions.
Ch 5

Lauren yawned as the movie credits started to roll. Lauren covered her
mouth and looked over to see Luke, Eddie, and Nevaeh were slumped over asleep,
Eddie was in Steve’s lap and both Nevaeh and Luke were slumped over
themselves. She looked over at Steve to see he was staring back at her.
“What?” She said quietly.
“Nothing.” He whispered back. Lauren sighed as she got up from the couch
and picked up Luke first. He wrapped his small arms around her neck as she
moved him down the hall to his bed. Steve followed with Eddie. “What are you
going to do when they get too big to carry?” Steve joked. Lauren just smiled as she
walked back down the hall. She went to go pick up Nevaeh when Steve stopped
her. “I’ll get her.” He whispered as he bent and gently picked her little sister up.
Lauren watched as Steve carried her down the hall and into their bed room, laying
her down on the unmade bed then silently covering her up with the quilt and
tucking her in.
He turned from the bed and quickly walked out toward Lauren, closing the
door gently behind him.
“Thank you.” Lauren said as she walked back to the living room to clean up.
“Do you work tomorrow?”
“Of course... when do I not work?” Steve softly chuckled. Lauren bent and
scooped up the empty pizza box, and put it with the recycling.
“Never. You’re always working.” He said, and Lauren turned back toward
him to see him picking up the plastic cups and discarded napkins. He threw them
in the trash and then walked back into the living room after Lauren. She sat down
on the couch, her legs up, wrapped around her.
“Thank you for the pizza. The kids needed a little spoiling.” Lauren said as
she rubbed her arms up and down, feeling cold.
“Here.” Steve said as he reached behind him on the couch and grabbed the
blanket. He unfurled it and wrapped it around her shoulders. He rubbed her arms,
adding to her heat, he was so close, and before Lauren could lean away or move he
had suddenly moved in, pressing his lips against her’s. Lauren squeaked in surprise
and instantly pulled away, quickly getting up off the couch, leaving the blanket
behind.
“Steve! What do-”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Well find out. And keep it in check.” Lauren said harshly, her whole body
suddenly tense.
“Lauren, I’m sorry I just... I’m so sorry.” Steve reached out to touch her and
Lauren instantly took a step back.
“I think you should leave.”
“Lauren...” Steve reached out to her again and Lauren quickly sidestepped
him and walked to the door, opening it for him.
“Just leave.” Lauren said quickly, avoiding eye contact as he stood dumb in
front of her.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered.
“I’ll see you monday.” She said coldly. Steve hung his head and the grabbed
his jacket and walked out of her home. Lauren closed her eyes as she shut the door,
locking it as soon as it shut. She felt the all too familiar chill run up her spine. She
breathed in a deep breath then slowly let it out, she turned from the door and
walked down the hall to get ready for bed, her own hands rubbing up and down her
arms, trying to rid herself of that sickening feeling that couldn’t be shook.
“Lauren?” Nevaeh whimpered out to Lauren, reaching her small hands out.
“I’m here. Go back to bed.” Lauren said softly as she took her little sisters
hand and then quickly walked over to the side of the bed.
“I’m scared.” Lauren instantly forgot all of her dark thoughts, suddenly
consumed with protectiveness over her sister.
“What is it?”
“There’s something under the bed.” Lauren tried to suppress her grin.
“Really?! Oh my!” Lauren quickly jumped up onto the bed. “Was it scary?”
“Uh huh.” Nevaeh said softly, eyes of worry and trust looking up at her for
protection.
“Well... we’re going to have to do something about that...” Lauren got up on
her feet, standing on the bed. “Come on! I can’t do this alone!” Lauren said
reaching for her sister.
“What are you doing?”
“We’re gotta squish it! Come on, jump!” Both Lauren and Nevaeh started to
jump, at first it was all business then Lauren started to laugh as Nevaeh forced her
feet down, crushing the imaginary monster. Her laugh was suddenly contagious
and it was only a moment till both girls were laughing and giggling as they jumped
on the bed. Lauren was the first one to collapse and moments after Nevaeh fell on
her belly with her.
“Do you think he’s gone?”
“Only one way to know for sure... ready? On the count of three.” Both
Lauren and Nevaeh scooted up to the edge of the bed, both grasping the edge,
readying to force their heads down and look under the covers.
“One...” Lauren said whispering.
“Two...” Nevaeh counted.
“Three!” Both girls dropped their heads down and saw the empty dark space
under the bed.
“Wow! Look at that. Squashed into nothing!” Lauren said as she glanced to
her little sister, wondering if she would buy it. “I guess its safe now.” Nevaeh took
one last look before climbing back up to the pillows and curling up.
“Good night Nevaeh.”
“Good night... thank you for helping me squish him.” Lauren smiled.
“You’re welcome, now get some sleep.” Lauren said softly as she kissed her
little sisters forehead then covered her up with the covers.
“I love you.” Nevaeh whispered out, her eyes heavy with sleep.
“I love you too.” Lauren whispered back then softly got out of the bed and
changed out of her cloths into her pj’s, ready for bed. Lauren watched as her sister
started to settle down, it only her own problems were as easily concurred. She
breathed in a deep breath to calm her self before she let her mind drift off into
sleep.
Ch 6

The weekend seemed to go by in a blur, she worked at the dinner and spent
the nights with her brothers and sister. And for a while she completely forgot about
what would come monday, and why she was dreading it. That feeling of dread had
more than sunk in even before her alarm went off to wake her Monday morning.
Lauren breathed in deeply as she rolled over in bed.
Monday’s. Why were they always the hardest to get through?
She turned her head to look at her alarm clock on the bed side table. It was
5:34. She had to work in a half hour. Lauren pushed back the blanket and pushed
herself out of the bed. She dragged her feet across the room and grabbed her
hoodie and slipped it on over her head. Being as quiet as possible so as not to wake
Nevaeh. Lauren grabbed her pack that she had done up the night before and walked
swiftly out of the room. She made sure to leave a 5$ bill out for Cassey, then with
one last look around to make sure there wasn't anything she had forgotten she
grabbed a banana on her way out. What was she going to say to Steve? Was he
going to be awkward around her now? She hated working in those kind of
situations more then anything.
She walked down the street to till she got to the shop. She hesitated for only
a second before knocking on the back door. It took a moment before it swung
inward and Steve appeared on the other side.
“Hey Lauren.” He said quickly, not looking her in the eye then quickly
turned back into the store.
“Hey...” She said softly back as she walked inside. She set her things down
on the table as Steve prepped for the work they had to do in the next three hours.
“How many orders do we have.
“Ten. I came in on the weekend and got some of them done.”
“Oh... alright...” He turned his back to her and started up the steamer.
“Steve...” Lauren started, she couldn’t stand working like this.
“No, look, I’m sorry I kissed you. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Lauren paused, waiting for him to say something else... he didn’t.
“Steve... can we just...” She sighed. “Can we just be friends?” He turned and
looked up at her, he didn’t say anything for a moment then slowly nodded.
“Yeah... okay... friends.” He said slowly.
“Okay?” Lauren held out her hand. He looked at it then quickly extended his
hand and shook it before turning around again.
“Okay.”
“Okay.” Lauren said awkwardly and got to work, thankful for something to
keep her busy and ignore the awkward tension in the room. After two hours of
silence they had finished the orders and cleaned off the machines for tomorrows
use. Lauren cleaned off her hands in silence as Steve rinsed some of the working
cloths they had used.
“Well uh... I’ll see you tomorrow?” Lauren said softly as she dried off her
hands and grabbed her pack.
“Yeah.”
“Okay... bye...” She slid out of the building quickly, glad to be out. She was
almost looking forward to Brice’s smart remarks, they were certainly better then
the silent treatment.
When she made it to the office, she walked in from the elevator but she
didn’t see Brice. She figured he was probably still sleeping... or changing... either
or she wasn’t going to go check and see. Lauren watched her feet as she walked
toward the bathroom and she nearly jumped out of her own skin when Brice pulled
open the door right as she was about to push it in.
“HOLY!” She screamed as she jumped back.
“Oh, hello Lauren. Did you know that the women’s bathroom is much nicer
then the mens?” He asked, more in explanation of why he was in the women’s bath
room then an actual question.
“You scared me.” Lauren said slightly breathless as she held a hand to her
chest as if to calm her suddenly rapid beating heart. She looked up and instantly
took another step back.
“Oh! I’m sorry.” He said taking that step closer to her. “Are you alright?
Your cheeks look a little flushed. She took a side glance at him.
“I can’t imagine why.” Lauren said sarcastically. Brice wasn’t wearing a
shirt, and a simple towel was wrapped around his waist. “There isn’t a shower in
that bathroom.” Lauren said, speaking her thoughts as to why he was in only a
towel.
“Oh yes, well I accidentally spilled water all over myself as I was trying to
wash my hair.” He said flippantly.
“Oh.” Lauren said simply, distracting herself by analyzing how the blinds
were hanging on the window across the room. “Well... uh... are you done in the
bathroom now?”
“Yes, of course! But you better hurry, you are late.”
“Late?!”
“Yes. You started 20 minuets ago.”
“What?!” Lauren scrambled to look at her watch. “Its only 8:20!”
“Yes. And you start at 8.”
“Since when!?”
“Since now.”
“You have to tell me if your changing my work hours!”
“Yes, I know. Thats why I just told you. Oh, and you work till 8 now.”
“WHAT?!”
“You’ll get paid over time.”
“No, you can’t do that I have my second job!”
“Yes. I understand that may be difficult for you but I need you here, I intend
to open up another project and I’m going to need your help.”
“But-”
“Do you have a problem with that?” Lauren paused as she looked at him.
“Overtime... Thats time and a half?
“Yes.” Lauren did a quick calculation in her head. She was getting paid $12
an hour, 12 plus 6 was 18 bucks an hour. She was only making 7.50 at the diner.
Thats over double.
“Alright.” Lauren said quickly. “Just let me get changed.”
“Of course!”
When she came out of the bathroom Brice was back in his office, and just
buttoning up a new dress shirt. She watched inconspicuously through the glass
door. He arms weren’t huge but they were sculpted and his torso seemed to be
carved out of stone it was so defined. She felt her mouth go dry as he finished
buttoning his shirt and went to tuck it in. She shook her head as she looked away
and walked to her office.
“So what’s this new project?” Lauren called out as she neared her desk.
“Its a new complex. I’m hoping that once other contractors seen another site
open up they’ll have some interest in buying.”
“Buying what?”
“Land.”
“Land? You own that development that the huge mall is going on?”
“Yes. And even though I am getting a chunk of money for the mall, I still
think I could get a ton more if I can set up this new construction site with ease.”
“Huh... so... what do I have to do?”
“You have to help me.” He grinned as he set down a pile of paper work.
“Read through these will you?”
“What are they?”
“Rules, basically... contracts... You’re going to have to know them inside and
out.”
“Great.” Lauren flopped down in her chair and kicked off her high heals as
she grabbed the first booklet. Lauren caught a look from Brice as she raised her
legs up onto the desk and crossed them, leaning back in her chair. “Why do I need
to know all of this?”
“Because you’re going to be explaining it to the clients.”
“WHAT?!” Lauren sat up instantly. “But I’m a secretary!”
“Yes, and that means you assist me in anything I need, and I need you to
learn those contracts because I need someone completely knowledgeable in them.
Can you handle that?” He was daring her to say no, pushing her.
“I can handle it.” Lauren said flippantly. “Contracts are easy. Contractors are
a different story.”
“What? You scared of a bunch of construction workers in suits?” Lauren
rolled her eyes.
“Well if you’re not scared of them why don’t you learn the ins and outs of
the contract.” Lauren said snootily, crossing her arms.
“I already do, but it goes over better when a woman is telling them.” Lauren
frowned.
“Why would that matter?”
“Because they’re more easily distracted with a woman.” Lauren’s eyes grew
wide as she realized what he meant.
“You can’t be serious!” Brice smirked then quickly turned and walked back
into his office. “You want me to let those men ogle at me while I tell them their
contracts, and trick them in to signing when they hadn’t been paying attention in
the first place!”
“Its not your fault if they’re not paying attention. You’re telling them the
facts. Its their responsibility to absorb it.” Brice sat down in his chair and flipped
open his laptop.
“But its like cheating!”
“Cheating... if anything they will be the ones cheating... if they have
significant others...” Lauren huffed at his response, then another thought entered
her mind.
“What makes you think they would be so enthralled with me anyway? It
won’t work.” Brice looked up from his computer screen and simply smirked.
“Oh I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Lauren frowned as she looked back at
him, not understanding. “Now go on, I have other things I need you to do after
your done reading.” Brice looked back to his laptop, dismissing her and Lauren
ground her teeth as she walked back to her desk. She hated it when he dismissed
her like that.
She spent nearly two hours going over and over the contracts. She would
have spent another hour but Brice came out of his office and up to her desk at
lunch time.
“Hungry?” Lauren snapped her head up.
“I’m working.”
“Yes... I can see that, but by law I have to give you a break... come on.”
Brice grabbed his jacket and slung it over his shoulder. When she didn’t move
from her desk Brice walked around and pulled out her office chair, spinning her
around on its wheels. “Come to lunch with me.”
“You’re not going to take no for an answer are you?”
“Nope! Now come on, I know this great place right across the street.”
Lauren sighed, and resigned to her defeat as she grabbed her bag and her coat. As
they walked to the elevator a group of people came out and walked quickly toward
them, Lauren slowed and shifted to avoid the group of people, as she did she felt
Brice’s hand settle on her lower back, guiding her. After the group of people passed
she expected him to step away from her and remove his hand. He didn’t. When
they reached the elevator she side stepped out of his reach, trying to be
inconspicuous about her movement. The two went down the elevator in silence and
then walked across the foyer, she let him lead the way, watching as people bowed
out around him. He held himself with a presence that people recognized, he
demanded respect with each step. She envied that. She felt that while he was
demanding it she was begging for recognition, as if she was trying to prove herself
with each step.
When they reached the doors he opened the door and stepped aside, opening
the door for her. She looked at him with almost shocked eyes. She had never had a
man open a door for her like that, not like it was his duty as a gentle man, but
because he genuinely wanted to open a door for her. Wow that sounds so
corny. Lauren thought, trying to keep the smirk to her self. Why would a
reclaimed business man like Brice want to hold open a door for her? He was just
being polite, being a gentleman.
“Thank you.” She flashing him a small smile before walking through. The
two walked across the street in silence and Brice hopped forward when they
reached the door of the coffee shop to open it up for her.
“You’re welcome... it’s just a small coffee shop but they have really good
sandwiches.” Lauren looked over her shoulder at him as she walked inside.
“Sounds like you’re experienced.”
“I used to come here when my father was head of the office, get away from
it all.” Lauren couldn’t help her gaze as he opened up to her, showing a slight
invulnerability.
“Do you not have a good relationship with you’re dad?” Lauren asked,
taking a risk and prying into his life a little.
“Oh no, I have a great relationship with him... a business relationship.
Beyond that, nothing.” Lauren slowly nodded.
“And your mother?” Lauren asked starring at the person a head of her in
line.
“She and my father divorced when I was 15.”
“That must have been hard.” Lauren and Brice took a step forward in the
line.
“Not really. I was in boarding school till I was 17 and I went from there
straight to work at the company... I never really had a ‘family’ relationship with
either of my parents.” Lauren frowned softly as he told her of his childhood. “What
about you?” Lauren opened her mouth awkwardly, not at all ready to talk about her
painful child hood. Thankfully before she uttered a word a girl called out to them.
“Hi! I can help you down here!” Another till had opened up and Lauren
instantly jumped at the escape route.
“Hi, um, coffee please, double-double... and a...” She took a look at the
small glass window of sandwiches, they looked delicious but one look at the price
she instantly bashed her stomach for considering it.
“Try the ham and tomato, its really good.” Brice whispered in her ear. When
she paused he stepped forward. “A large coffee, black, two ham and tomato and
thats it.” He pulled out his wallet before she could say anything in paid the girl.
“Oh, you didn’t have to pay for me.” He just shrugged.
“It’s fine... I’m sure I make more than you anyway.” He smirked, joking.
Lauren smiled and followed him to sit by the window. “So?” He asked as they
settled down with their lunch.
“So what?”
“So? What about your family?” Lauren instantly bit into her sandwich,
buying herself more time. When she had chewed the bite into mulch and he was
still looking at her waiting for an answer she knew she had to do something. She
couldn’t tell him the truth. Even if his own childhood was a broken one, it was a
dream compared to her’s, she didn’t want him to pity her, but she didn’t want to lie
to him either.
“Well it was a pretty normal child hood... went to public school...” She said
simply.
“And?” Brice said when she didn’t say anything else.
“And I had a mom and a dad... they both worked. Didn’t really see a lot of
them... I basically raised my brothers and my sister.” Lauren bit her lip as she
looked down at her sandwich, she had said too much already.
“Huh... sounds pretty normal.” She glanced up to see him take another bite
of his sandwich.
“Yeah... normal... thats me.” Lauren said softly, forcing a smile, wishing for
a different topic.
“So what do you think of the contracts?” Lauren shrugged.
“Their contracts... not the best read.” Brice laughed.
“I guess not, huh?” He took a sip of coffee as he watched her take a bite of
her sandwich. “So how many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“I have two brothers and a sister...”
“And you all live together with your parents still?” Lauren felt her mouth go
dry.
“Uh... yeah... we all live together.” She said letting him believe the lie.
“You’re parents still together?”
“Uh, no... my dad left.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Lauren took a sip of her coffee, welcoming the pain of the
burn rather than the inner pain.
“It was a long time ago.” Brice nodded simply.
“So where’s your other job?” Lauren looked up at him.
“What’s this sudden interest in me?” She asked, avoiding the question. Brice
leaned back.
“Nothing, I just want to get to know you better, after all we are going to be
working closely with each other.”
“Right...” Lauren said softly but before he could ask anything else the door
to the coffee shop swung open and Lauren lifted her head at her name being called.
“Lauren?!”
“Hails! Hey!” Lauren smiled at her friend. “How are you?” Haley smiled at
Lauren and then quickly looked at Brice then back to her, her eyes going wide.
“Good! Good, the flew is definitely over. How are you?”
“Uh... good.”
“And who’s this?” Haley said turning herself more toward Brice to get a
better look at him. Brice stood and shook her hand.
“Brice Hendrix.”
“My boss.” Lauren jumped in, also standing up. “Haley, Brice. Brice,
Haley.” Lauren said introducing them.
“Nice to meet you.” Haley said, that twinkle of mischief in her eyes.
“You two are friends?”
“Yes! We work together.” Haley said smiling brightly.
“Oh! And where’s that?”
“At the diner, of course... I could never work at that old dingy dry cleaners.”
“Hails! Uh, I... um... we’re kind of-”
“Having lunch.” Brice cut in. “Would you join us?” It only took one glance
at Lauren’s face to see if she stayed she would get it later.
“Uh, no. I need to go meet Liam. My boyfriend.” Hails explained to Brice.
“But it was very nice to meet you. I’ll see you tonight Lauren?”
“OH! Right, could you tell the boss that I can’t make it in till 8 tonight.”
“Okay... uh well have a good lunch... see you!” Hails took a step back out of
Brice’s line a view and instantly turned back to Lauren and put both thumbs up and
mouthed ‘marry him!’ Lauren gave her a look and she instantly ran out of the
coffee shop. Lauren looked back down to Brice to see him studying her.
“What?”
“The diner and a dry cleaners? Just how many jobs are you working at?”
Lauren looked down biting her lip.
“That’s about it. And this job of course.” She glanced up to see him shaking
his head in disbelief.
“How do you do it?” Lauren smiled as she picked up the cup of coffee and
tipped it toward him.
“My only kryptonite and my only energy.” Brice laughed as she took a sip,
she was just thankful that he didn’t know how much that joke held true.
Ch 7

Both Lauren and Brice worked through the day, and to Lauren it felt like an
hour when really four had gone by. She had just finished typing up a template
when she looked at her watch. It was nearly 5:30. Lauren got up from her desk and
walked to Brice’s office.
“Hey. Can I take 15?”
“Yeah! Sure!... I might join you.” Brice said softly, holding his hand over the
receiver of the phone against his ear. Lauren didn’t wait for him, she didn’t want
him listening to her as she talked with her brothers and sister.
Lauren walked quickly back to her desk and dialed her cell number, waiting
for some one to pick up.
“Hello?”
“Luke? Hey! How are you doing? Did the three of you get home alright?
Cassey get her money?”
“Yep! We’re all home. When are you going to be home?”
“I’m not... I work till 8 tonight then I have to go straight to the diner.” There
was a pause on the other end of the phone.
“Oh... okay... So when will you be home?”
“Late. Don’t stay up for me alright? I want all three of you in bed by 8 at
least.” There was another pause. “You understand me?”
“Yes.” Luke whined.
“Alright. Well I’ll see you soon. I love you.”
“Yeah. Bye.”
“Bye.” Lauren said back, and then slowly hung up. She hated working late
with out seeing them.
“Who was that?” Lauren jumped hearing Brice right in front of her.
“Uh, no one. How’s it going? Have many of the contractors contacted you
back?”
“Some.” Brice shrugged. “You want food?” Lauren looked up from her
computer screen.
“Uh... what were you thinking?”
“Pizza?”
“Pizza... you paying for the whole floor?”
“Whole floor? Its just you and me.” Lauren glanced around, suddenly aware
of her surroundings.
“Oh.” She looked back up at him laughing. “I guess I’ve been so wrapped up
in figuring out these contracts and modifying them that I didn’t notice.” Brice just
nodded.
“I noticed. You’ve been working hard.” Lauren looked back to her computer
screen. And she nearly jumped out of her seat when her phone rang loudly.
“Hello, Mr. Hendrix’s office.” Lauren said looking up at Brice as he sat
down on the corner of her desk. “Luke! I told you not to call unless it was an
emergency!” Lauren instantly turned away from her desk, trying to hint that it was
a private call but Brice didn’t move.
“Can Kyle come over?” Luke asked quickly.
“Yes, that’s fine. But Kyle better be gone by 7.”
“Okay.”
“I mean it Luke.”
“I know, he will be and I’ll be in bed before 9.”
“Before 8, Luke.”
“Alright! Alright... bye.”
“Bye.” Lauren said back then turned back around and hung up the phone.
“Who was that?” Lauren looked up to see Brice very interest.
“Uh... my brother.”
“Everything alright?”
“Oh yeah... Everything’s fine.”
“Who’s Kile?”
“Uh he’s a friend of my brothers.”
“He’s crashing at your place, huh? And you want him out by the 7th?”
Lauren frowned up at Brice, not understanding at first but then she slowly caught
on. Brice thought that Luke was older, that he wasn’t a boy and his friends were
staying at her place.
“Uh... something like that.” Lauren shrugged looking down, letting him
believe the lie. Brice took a second to watch her face for emotion then shrugged
and picked up the phone on the desk.
“So what kind of pizza do you like?” He asked while dialing.
“Uh, pepperoni?” Brice smiled at her answer.
“A girl after my own heart.” Lauren rolled her eyes as he ordered the food
but she couldn’t suppress her smile.
“So... what are we going to be doing for the rest of the... shift.” Lauren
leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms.
“Well till the pizza comes out your going to help me with going over blue
prints for the new development.”
“Oh? So soon? You haven’t even presented it to the board yet, have you?”
“Well I need something to present, now don’t I?” Lauren sighed.
“Right. Okay. So what did you want me to do?”
“I need you to put in your creativity.”
“My creativity?” Lauren sat up, her attention suddenly sparked.
“Come with me.” He said getting up off her desk and walking into his office.
“How is my creativity going to help?” Lauren asked as they walked through
and stood as his desk which was covered with large blue prints, the ends of the
sheets hanging off the sides of the desk. Brice grabbed an end and lifted it, looking
through the sheets to find the one he wanted.
“I need some new eyes on the development. I’ve been looking at it for so
long I don’t know what’s going to look good and what won’t.” He said pulling one
buried to the surface.
“But its blue prints. I’ve never looked at a blue print before... I don’t even
know how to read them.” Lauren said, only glancing at the huge sheets of paper.
“Well you’re going to learn. I need your eyes and your intuition for this.”
“My intuition? I don’t know anything about buildings! I’m a secretary! I
answer phones for gods sake!” Brice stood up straight at her comments, degrading
herself.
“Lauren. This is part of your job description now, if you can’t handle it then
this is your last day.” Lauren’s eyes nearly popped out of her head.
“You’re firing me?!”
“No! Of course not. I’m pushing you to help me with this.” Brice said
motioning to his desk. Lauren looked over at the desk with apprehension.
“Lauren.” Brice took her shoulders in his hands as he softly spoke to her. Lauren
felt the heat in his hands travel through her, making her shiver. “You can do this. I
know you can.” Lauren breathed in a deep breath then slowly shook her head.
“Alright. But you’re going to have to explain a lot to me.” Brice only
answered with that knee weakening boyish grin of his.
“Let’s get started.”
A half hour went by before the pizza got to there and Lauren was still trying
to wrap her head around the dimensions of the building. Brice walked out of his
office when security had called him from down stairs saying that the pizza boy was
there.
“Send him up, I’ll meet him at the elevators.” Brice said absently as he
twisted one of the sheets and pointed to a part of the building that didn’t make any
sense to Lauren. Brice hung up the phone after hearing the security say okay.
“Do you see the stairs there.”
“Stairs? What stairs! I only see lines!”
“You have to think three dimensionally, Lauren.” Lauren squinted at the
page trying to make it come alive like one of those patterned pages that if you look
at it long enough and almost go cross eyed you can see an image pop up out of
them. But with this all she saw was more and more lines that didn’t make any
sense.
“Alright, alright, lets take a break. Pizza’s here.” Lauren didn’t look up,
determined to understand. A moment later Brice came back. “Lauren. Pizza. Take a
break.” Brice said solidly as his opened up the pizza box. Lauren looked over and
then slowly retreated from the table. She took a piece of pizza as Brice had already
devoured half of his first piece. “You’ll get it, you know. It just takes a bit of time.”
Brice said through a mouth full. Lauren only nodded as she took a bite.
After eating they started to filter through the pages, him explaining and
Lauren asking questions. Hours went by like minuets and both of them were so
enthralled and focus that neither of them heard the phone ring. The first time... or
the second... or the third... or any after that. It wasn’t till Lauren leaned back in her
chair.
“Alright, so the stairs are here leading up to...” Lauren pulled out another
page and laying it on top. “the third floor. Where Mr. Jefferson’s store could be.”
“Right, but we can’t have a fountain on the third floor, thats just it. It has to
be on the second, there isn’t room for a fountain.” Lauren paused thinking.
“What if we...” Lauren grabbed the first floor sheet and pulled it out. “What
if we have another fountain here?” Lauren asked.
“But that doesn’t solve any of our problems.”
“It does if we lead the fountain out of the store and over the edge, down
through the tunnel then land on the first.”
“But the splash of that-”
“We could put up glass.” Lauren cut him off. Brice paused as he concidered
it.
“Think about it, you wouldn’t have to put in fountains on the second floor
now because there would be a stream of water going down... and you could add
lights and-”
“Okay.”
“What?”
“I like it.”
“You do?” Lauren smiled. “Really?”
“Yep. It might cost more then the other idea but this will look better.” Brice
nodded as he looked up at her. Lauren just smiled. “Now don’t get a big head on
me.” Brice said getting up and walked over to the pizza boxes.
“Is that the phone?” Lauren said hearing it ring through the glass doors to his
office. Lauren looked out to her desk and instantly got up. She calmly walked out
to her desk and picked it up.
“Hello? Mr. Hendrix’s office.”
“Lauren! What the hell?!”
“Hails?” Lauren asked, recognizing the voice but surprised to hear it.
“Boss is a sliver away from firing you! You need to get down here now!”
“What? No, its not even 7 yet.”
“Lauren its nearly 11. You’ve missed your whole shift.”
“WHAT?!” Lauren instantly grabbed at her watch. “No, no, no... Okay. I’ll
be down there right away.” Lauren spoke quickly, panic in her voice.
“You better have a good excuse for him because he’s been bussing tables to
compensate. He’s pissed, Lauren.”
“I know. I’m so sorry. I’ll be there as soon as I can!” Lauren was already
grabbing her jacket and bag as she spoke. She hung up the phone and nearly fell
over Brice in her attempt to bolt to the door.
“Waoh! Hey, what’s wrong?”
“It’s 11!”
“So?”
“So I was supposed to work at 8!” Lauren nearly screamed at him. “I have to
go now before he fires me!”
“No.”
“What?!”
“I don’t want you to work at the diner.”
“Well you don’t have a say in that...” Lauren took a breath and something
instantly hit her. “You knew I was way late, didn’t you? And you didn’t say
anything!”
“I didn’t realize what time it was but I knew that it was later then 8.” Lauren
was instantly livid with him.
“I need this job!” She forced out before dodging him and running to the
elevators before he could say another word.
The next 15 minuets were a whirl wind of running down to the bus station.
When she was on she stood at the front, waiting for her stop. When she made it to
the diner no one was in and Boss was just about to cash out.
“Lauren... wow. I thought you were dead.” Boss said with out any emotion
in his voice.
“Boss, I’m so sorry! I was working my other job and I didn’t realize what
time it was. I’m so sorry!”
“Your other job... huh, must be real important. Must think you a real big
shot huh?”
“Boss. You know I don’t. I just didn’t realize the time.” He shot her a death
glare then looked back to where he was scrubbing down the counter. “I’m so
sorry.”
“Lauren, I know you’ve got 3 little ones you’ve got to take care of so thats
only reason why you aren’t walking out of my diner with out a job tonight...”
Lauren instantly sighed out and Boss stopped scrubbing and leaned against the
counter. “But! If you ever miss another shift again you will be. Am I understood?”
Lauren nodded.
“I understand. Thank you.”
“Three jobs is too much. But if you feel you need to have that much then
you’ve got to pace yourself and make sure you don’t over due it.”
“I know.”
“Do you? Because you messed up big time tonight.” Lauren nodded.
“I know I did. But I won’t again, I promise.” Boss took a long look at her
before nodding.
“Alright, now get home to those kids of yours.” Lauren smiled and quickly
jetted off to the door.
“THANK YOU!” She yelled before running out the door.
Ch 8

Tuesday. It felt like a monday. Awful.


Lauren started her day by rolling out of bed and then rushing to the dry
cleaners. She didn’t want to face Steve again, but today was like yesterday. The
cold shoulder, with a healthy dose of the silent treatment. Fine by her.
When she made it to the office she was irritated and irritable, not in any
mood to deal with Brice.
“Morning!” He said cheerily, which instantly put her into a worse mood. He
was shirtless again this morning, his boxer shorts riding dangerously low.
“You know you almost got me fired yesterday night!?” He only grinned at
her.
“Oh?”
“Yes! You did! And stop ginning! You had no right to trick me like that!!”
“Trick you? I don’t recall tricking you.” He said smugly, folding his arms
across his bare chest.
“And this! THIS has to stop!” Lauren motioned toward his body as she
brushed by him to her desk.
“What?”
“You’re state of dress every morning! Its not appropriate and I won’t stand
for it!” Brice simply shrugged.
“Alright. Here.” He picked up a news paper from the paper desk and tossed
it onto her’s.
“What’s this?”
“Find me a place to live. A flat preferably, after all I am a bachelor, I need a
good place to impress the girls.”
“You want me to find you place to live?!”
“Yes. If you’re so sick of seeing me in... this... then you’ll find me a place.”
Brice said it so simply like he was giving her a transcription to file. Before she
could say another word he turned on his heels and quickly walked into his office,
shutting the glass doors.
“AH!” Lauren screamed as she impulsively grabbed the newspaper and
threw it at the door to his office. She grabbed her bag angrily and walked to the
washroom to get changed.
“Some thing wrong?” Lauren heard him open the door to his office but she
didn’t say anything back, just kept walking toward the bathroom.
The rest of the day she took her time calling renters and retailers. Lunch
came around but Brice didn’t come out of his office, too busy for lunch so she
didn’t stop either, content to keep working.
“Hi! My name is Lauren, I’m calling on behalf of a client looking for a flat
to rent.” Lauren said professionally as she started another call. “Could I book an
appointment to come look at the place some time next-”
“Today would be great!” The voice on the other end suddenly cut her off.
“Uh, one moment, let me see if that will work out.” Lauren quickly got up
from her desk and ran to Brice’s office.
“Would you like to see a place today or are you too busy?” Brice looked up
from his laptop.
“Where is it?”
“North quarter of the city... its about a fifteen minuet drive from here.”
Lauren said quickly, knowing that they were still waiting on the phone.
“Alright, sure. We’ll grab lunch before we go... lets say in a half hour?”
Lauren raised her eye brows.
“You want me to go with you?”
“Of course!” Brice simply looked back to his laptop, dismissing the matter
as done. Lauren shrugged, giving in. She walked back to her desk and picked up
the phone.
“Hello? Hi. We can meet you in a half hour.”
A half hour later both Lauren and Brice were riding an elevator up to the
flat.
“The rent is expensive, but I’m sure its nothing you can’t afford. You’ll have
your own fireplace in the master bedroom as well as an on-suite bathroom. And it
says that there’s a spacious living area, as well as three extra bedrooms... Also, I’ve
booked other appointments with other places for rent if this doesn’t suit you.”
“How much is the rent?”
“Almost 3200 a month... not including utilities.” The bell of the elevator
doors dinged and the doors swung open to reveal a foray. Brice quickly walked
out. Lauren’s eyes bulged as she followed him. Marble floors, pillars, and an echo
of vast beauty reached all of her senses all at once.
“Oh wow...” Lauren whispered, unable to help herself. She had never seen
anything so beautiful.
“Ah! You’re here!” A lady instantly said at Lauren’s gasp of astonishment.
“Well as you can see you have a personalized elevator floor, which can have
locked access. Well let me give you the grand tour!” The lady’s bright, white smile
matched her perfect pencil skirt and matching blazer. She was so well put together
Lauren felt like a mess in her miss matched dress pants and simple grey business
suit jacket. The second thought that ran quickly through Lauren’s head was
‘there’s more?’ She felt like her whole apartment floor could fit into the
entranceway.
Both her and Brice followed the woman into a room that must have been the
living area that was described, but spacious was the complete wrong word to
describe this room, it was huge! More like a ball room than anything else.
Hardwood floors and huge floor to ceiling pillars which matched completely with
the windows which gave a city wide view.
“There is remote control curtains to cover the windows, and they are
reinforced so if someone tripped or anything were to happen the windows wouldn’t
break.” The woman said starting her rehearsed speech. Lauren’s eyes couldn’t take
it all in, it was like a palace! She walked over to the full length windows and
looked down. “Holy.” She whispered. She could see all the way down.
“And as you can see the best feature of this room is most definitely the
view.” The woman said, finishing her speech.
“Ready to see the other rooms?” She asked, her voice slightly echoing in the
massive room. The woman didn’t wait for an answer as she turned and walked to a
hallway. Lauren followed after her and Brice followed the two of them. Everything
she saw was as beautiful as diamonds, everything polished and in its place, it truly
was a palace.
Brice had been watching Lauren since they stepped out of the elevator doors.
She was mesmerized by everything. Her expressions were almost child-like in
wonder and amazement. He loved watching her twist and turn her head, as if trying
to capture it all in her memory, like seeing a sunset for the first time, so beautiful
and wide its too hard to grasp. After seeing the three extra bedrooms the lady led
the two of them into the master bedroom.
“Now I’m sure this is the part you’ve both been waiting for...” The woman
winked at the two of them, but Lauren was in such wonderment she didn’t see or
probably even hear the woman. “There’s enough space here for a king bed if you’d
like and I’m sure you two would like as much room as you can get...” The woman
jabbed again. And this time Lauren heard her, Brice saw her reaction but before she
could say anything about the comment Brice jumped in.
“That’s quite enough. Our personal life is not for you to comment on.” Brice
said sharply and immediately the woman knew she had crossed a line.
“Oh! Of course, I’m sorry I just assumed.” The woman yammered.
“I’ll take it if it comes furnished.”
“Furnished?!”
“Yes, I don’t have anything of my own and I like what’s here.”
“Well I would have to speak with-”
“Take it- or leave it.” Brice interjected. The woman paused looking around.
“Alright.”
“Good.”
“But, it will cost an additional amount.”
“Of course.” Brice replied flippantly. “Inform my secretary of the amount
and when you’ll need first months rent and security deposit.”
“Secretary. Of course!” The woman said her eyes flashing to Lauren. Lauren
quickly stepped forward and gave her a card for Brice’s office.
“Thank you. You may leave now.” Brice sharply said as the woman read the
card.
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Hendrix.” The woman said quickly then swiftly walked
out of the room. After she had left it was suddenly silent in the room.
“Wow.” Lauren whispered starring at Brice. She had never seen anyone
command authority and respect and push some one into a business deal.
“What?”
“You’re amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Brice chuckled
at her steadfast, child-like wonderment.
“Some times you have to be sharp and to the point to get what you want.”
“So you like the place?” Lauren asked softly, knowing as soon as she said it,
it was a stupid question. How could someone not like it, and especially after
renting it out to live in.
“You like it.” Lauren snapped her head back to him at his odd reply.
“What do you mean? This is your home now.” Brice looked down and
shrugged.
“I only got it because you like it.” Lauren turned toward him frowning.
“What do you mean?”
“You like it.” He stated again.
“But so what if I like it, this is you’re place, you need to like it.”
“Well you might end up spending quite sometime here... and I wouldn’t
want you to feel-”
“Excuse me!? I will not be spending any more time in this place beyond
today.” Brice shrugged his shoulders and started to stroll toward the door.
“Brice!” Lauren shouted and he stopped before exiting the room. “I will not.
Ever. Have that kind of relationship with you. Am I understood?” Brice watched
her for a moment, her hands on her hips, accentuating her small waist, and the
curviness of her figure. “Brice? Am I understood?” He looked away smirking then
took a few quick steps toward her till he was only a single step away from her.
“And what kind of relationship are you talking about, Miss. Lauren Kendal.
Lauren paused, slightly thrown off from him using her last name.
“A relationship that is inappropriate between an employee and her
employer.”
“Oh. Alright.” He said nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders and taking a
step back before turning and walking back to the door.
“Alright?” Lauren asked questioningly.
“An inappropriate relationship is not acceptable. Got it.” Lauren squinted
her eyes waiting for the catch, waiting for him to say something else.
“So we’re agreed that a sexual or an emotional relationship between us is out
of the question.”
“No I agreed that an inappropriate relationship is not acceptable... that
isn’t an inappropriate relationship.” Brice said quickly then dashed out of the
room.
“BRICE HENDRIX!” Lauren screamed.
“Yes? You... screamed?” Brice popped his head back into the room, his cool
calm unshaken.
“You enjoy tormenting me don’t you?”
“On the contrary, I just do it till you give in to your temptations.”
“Temptations?!”
“Yes, the temptation to give in to your feelings for me. Its okay, you can
admit it.” It took everything in Lauren’s power not to grind her teeth in
aggravation.
“I’m not tempted.”
“Not at all?” Brice asked, coming fully into the room.
“Not in the least.” Lauren answered. Brice simply started at her.
“Very good! I almost believed you that time... keep trying though! I’m sure
that if you don’t give in you’ll start believing yourself.” Lauren through her head
back and screamed.
“You’re impossible, insufferable, intolerable and-”
“Irresistible?” Brice broke in.”
“AH!” She screamed out at him then quickly walked from the room, her
hands in fists.
Ch 9

Wednesday. Middle of the week. Ugh.


Lauren pushed herself up away from her pillow.
“No... Lauren, don’t go. I don’t want you to go.” Nevaeh whimpered half
asleep.
“You know I have to go.” Lauren said softly as she laid back down to talk
with her. “Go back to bed... I don’t have to work tonight so I’ll be home by 8:30.”
Lauren whispered before she kissed Nevaeh on the forehead. “I love you.” She
stroked back her soft fine hair before she got up and walked over to her closet.
Lauren got up and made sure to leave $5 for Cassey then she quickly walked
down the stairs and out onto the street, dreading working with Steve again today.
Once she was there the couple hours she worked with him went by in a
flash, it turned out the silence let the time go by faster in the morning, she was able
to just focus on her work and not let anything distract her. She could only hope for
as much with her job as a secretary. When she got the office Brice walked out of
his office wearing a suit jacket and tie.
“Good morning.” Lauren watched as he walked toward her.
“Morning.”
“How was the Laundromat?”
“Its a dry cleaners. And it was fine.” Lauren corrected him as she walked
passed him to the washrooms.
“Ah, just wait a second. You won’t need to change into what ever you
brought.”
“What?” Lauren turned back around.
“Come on, drop your bag at your desk, follow me.” He said cheerfully as he
started to walk to the elevators.
“Where are we going? Are you sure I don’t need to change? These are pretty
grungy.” Lauren said looking down at her torn teeshirt and jeans.
“Positive! Now hurry.” Brice held open the elevator doors, waiting for her to
go in first.
“Alright... if you say so.”
“And I do say so.” Brice parroted as he stepped in beside her. “So how is
Luke and Kyle treating you?”
“Huh?” Lauren looked up at him confused. “Oh! That, no, it’s fine... Kyle’s
gone home now.” Lauren said swiftly, hating that she was lying.
“Well that’s good, one bottom feeder is better then two, huh?” Lauren didn’t
comment.
“So where are we going anyway?” Lauren asked, trying to change the
subject.
“The mall.” Brice simply said, looking up at the numbers glowing as they
went down floor by floor.
“The mall? What for?”
“For you.”
“Me?!”
“Yes. If you’re going to be my partner you need a better wardrobe... My
personal shopper is meeting us there.”
“Personal shopper? You have a personal shopper?!”
“Of course, Cindy is very good at what she does.” Brice slid a hand out
when the elevator doors opened, motioning for Lauren to go first.
“But my wallet was in my bag up stairs.”
“I know, thats why I told you to leave it. Today is on me... take it as a
welcome gift to the company.” Lauren raised her eye brows.
“Alright... well I guess a new shirt or skirt would be nice.” Brice laughed out
loud at her comment, his head rolling backward in his laughter.
“What?”
“Nothing. You’ll find out.” Brice barely got out as he kept laughing. They
walked out onto the street and a black Mazda 3 sedan sat there waiting for them, a
driver in the seat waiting. Brice reached in front of her and opened up the door for
her. She slid into the back seat and Brice slid in next to her. “The mall please,
Cole.” Brice said to the driver and they were off. He slid an arm up on to the seat
over Lauren. She ignored his actions as she looked out the window and watched as
the streets passed. The last time she had ridden in a car was... Lauren instantly
shook off the memory as she looked down to her hands. “What’s wrong?” Brice
asked, watching her facial expressions.
“Nothing.” Lauren lied. “Why?” Lauren forced a smile to her lips as she
looked up at him.
“You just looked sad for a moment there.” Brice studied her face.
“Nope, not sad, not me.” Lauren pushed her smile brighter before forcing
herself to look out the window. Brice didn’t say another word till they got inside
the mall.
“Cindy! How are you!” Brice hugged the woman that stood immaculately in
the middle of the hall way. She looked like a woman right off the runway, a
beautiful skin tight dress that clung to every curve like a second skin and stood in
high heels that Lauren thought that she would have to defy gravity to walk in let
alone stand in.
“Darling! Oh! We need to meet like this more often! How have you been?!”
“Good. I’m very well thank you. And how are you?”
“Oh, good, customers aren’t the same though since the economy fell. I hope
my favorite client hasn’t changed his spending habits.”
“Well Cindy, actually I’m not your client today. She is.” Brice said turning
out to let Cindy see Lauren.
“Oh my! I thought she was just one of your fans... well... my goodness girl,
you can’t walk around like that seeming to be associated with a Hendrix!”
“No! I usually dress much better than this I assure you.” Lauren quickly
said, trying to explain and defend her attire. Cindy only looked to Brice.
“Not really much better.” The woman turned back to Lauren, her mouth
quirked and her eyes appraising her.
“Well let me see what I have to work with. Turn my dear.” The woman
motioned for Lauren to turn around. Lauren looked around the busy hallway of
people, some of them looking because of Cindy’s dress. But she sucked it up and
obeyed the woman, turning around slowly.
“Um... good figure, a little short, her hair is in a dire need of a hair cut, and
she needs to be introduced to make up, but a beautiful face non-the-less. Good bust
line, tiny waist, she needs new undergarments, good support will do a world of
difference, and a wax as well, eyebrows need to be plucked. My goodness Brice
where did you find this girl? A back alley!?” Lauren thought she was going to bite
through her tung she was biting down so hard. Brice just chuckled.
“Are you scared of a challenge Cindy?”
“No! Of course! But... she is a lot of work!” Brice just gave her a look. “I
want a bonus.” Cindy compromised.
“Done.” Cindy sighed then looked back to Lauren.
“Alright! Well lets get to the salon, I can’t focus on cloths when her eye
brows are wriggling wormy monsters.” Lauren felt her hand reach up to her face,
afraid to feel the words she had spoken come to life on her face.
“I thought you were just a personal shopper.” Lauren remarked.
“A personal shopper doesn’t just shop for cloths darling.” Cindy said back
warmly as she started to lead Lauren down the hall. Lauren looked back to Brice,
silently begging for help with her eyes. Brice only laughed.

~ ~ ~

Lauren felt like a doll as she sat in the hairdressers chair. She had two
hairdressers working on her and Cindy was hovering around her like a bee to a
flower, coaching the two hairdressers on what to do and what not to do.
“Do you have rollers at your place dear?” Cindy asked as the one hair
dresser had finished cutting her hair and was now styling it with a curling iron.
“Uh, no. I don’t.”
“Well we’re going to have to get you some.”
“Can I see myself now?” Lauren asked, her nerves getting to her. Cindy
hadn’t let her see anything that she was doing, saying it would be a better surprise
if she didn’t see till everything was done.
“Not yet, Charlene is just going to put on your make up and teach you how
to do it then you can see the big picture.” She answered. Lauren sat patiently and
tried to listen to the makeup artist as she started to apply powders and creams to
her her face, mascara seemed to be one of the only things she really recognized.
When the hairdresser was done tugging at her scalp and making her hair
perfect and Charlene was finally done everything Lauren found herself staring at
Cindy and the two hairdressers.
“Wow. Well done ladies!” Cindy said smiling as she put her arms around the
woman standing beside her. “We did it!”
“Can I look now?” Lauren asked apprehensively.
“Now. You can look.” Lauren turned her chair around to look at the large
mirror that had been to her back through out the whole ordeal. When her eyes
caught her own movements and she realized the woman in the mirror was her the
first thought that came was that she didn’t even recognize herself!
“It’s... it’s...”
“Beautiful! Stunning really!” Cindy broke in, grinning ear to ear.
“It’s not me.” Lauren whispered, her eyes wide trying to find some
semblance of her old familiar looks.
“But it is you. Just a better, more beautiful you.” Cindy said softly in her ear.
“Now come on we only have 5 more hours before the mall closes!” Lauren
couldn’t take her eyes off her own reflection, afraid that the woman in the mirror
would either disappear or become some kind of monster, but it was steadfast,
following her every movement. “Come on now, stop gawking! Lets go already!”
Cindy said quickly, almost jerking Lauren out of the hairdressers chair.
Lauren followed the woman, her head still turned back to the mirror before
her reflection couldn’t be seen anymore. They came out around the wall separating
the waiting room from the area where the hairdressers did their haircuts. Brice was
waiting there. Lauren watched him for a moment before he glanced up from the
sports magazine he was reading. It was only a glance and then he instantly jerked
his head back up, his eyes growing wide. He didn’t say anything but he put down
the sports magazine and slowly stood up from his chair. Lauren studied the look on
his face.
“I knew it! I knew it wasn’t good!” Lauren instantly said, fear overtaking her
nerves. She turned on her heels and swiftly started to walk back around the wall
but she didn’t make it three steps, Cindy caught her, bringing her back.
“No! Lauren... you look... amazing!” Brice said quickly as Lauren was
forcefully turned around.
“Really?” Lauren winced, looking back at him.
“Really.” He said taking a step forward and gently took her hand as Cindy
stepped back. Lauren could feel Brice’s thumb graze along the back of her hand.
She looked down her hand clasped in his but she didn’t move her’s away.
“Come now, stop gawking! We have work to do.” Cindy chirped up and
instantly she was off. Lauren rolled her eyes as both her and Brice followed.
Lauren couldn’t help but watch as Cindy walked down the mall. She walked like
she was on a run way, commanding everyone to look and admire.
“Lauren dear lets go in here!” Lauren only took one glance at the store to
instantly shake her head.
“Oh no! I usually buy that kind of stuff at walmart or maybe la senza.”
“And that’s why you look like that. Now come on!” Cindy remarked before
dragging her into a Victoria’s Secret store. Lauren looked back at Brice, but he
seemed more eager than Cindy to get into the store. Men. Lauren rolled her eyes
as Cindy started to pull bra’s and panties off the shelves.
“Hello! How are you doing today?” A sales woman asked.
“Oh we’re very well thank you. I’m her personal shopper for the day. So
we’re going to need a full measurement of all assets and the largest fitting room
you’ve got. She’s going be buying a lot today.” Cindy broke in before Lauren
could say a thing.
“Wonderful! Alright, well if you’d come with me we’ll get you started.” The
woman smiled at Lauren as she started to walk into the back of the store, gabbing a
tape measure and string. Lauren turned her head just in time to see Brice sit down
on one of the wait chairs set aside for men. Lucky bastard.
Lauren went through nearly an hour of trying on different bra’s and panties
and there was more than once that she had to fight with Cindy to keep her from
coming into the dressing room with her. When she was done she had 6 bra’s and 10
pairs of different underwear.
“Alright! All done?” Brice asked as he stood.
“Yes, she did quite well if I’d say so my self.”
“Here’s the tags for the one’s I’m wearing out.” Lauren said shyly as Cindy
beamed. Cindy grabbed Lauren’s hand and led her out of the store as Brice paid the
bill. She didn’t know how much it was but she knew it couldn’t have been cheep.
Lauren was pushed into another store and didn’t even get a chance to look at
some of the things on the racks she was simply pushed into a change room and told
to come out with the things that Cindy had handed her. But Lauren had to admit for
Cindy’s pushiness she really was skilled at finding treasures that looked amazing.
“Well what do you think?” Lauren asked standing in front of Cindy and
Brice.
“Beautiful! Next!” Cindy commented so quickly Brice didn’t get a chance
before she was pushed back into the room. “Honestly Brice with this kind of
project we should have met as soon as the sun rose! And with a weeks notice so I
was prepared!” Lauren heard Cindy natter. Was her state of dress really that bad?
Lauren tried to perk her ears up and listen for Brice’s response but there
wasn’t any. It was a dress that Cindy had tossed over the top of the dressing room
door that Lauren took a quick look at before squirming into it, she couldn’t
remember the last time she had been in a dress. After getting into it she tried to do
up the dress as much as she could but she couldn’t reach the last little bit. She
opened the door to the dressing room holding the front of the dress.
“Uh...” Lauren looked up to see Brice sitting in the waiting chair. “Hi.
Where’s Cindy?”
“She went out to get more cloths for you.” Brice said not looking up from
his magazine.
“Oh, well could you?”
“Huh?” He looked up and his eyes instantly went wide. “OH!”
“I can’t reach the back.”
“Right.” Brice instantly stood and walked over to her. Lauren couldn’t help
the inward shiver as Brice’s hands grazed her back, doing up the dress. It seemed
like minuets that she stood there with him so close. But when she felt him step
back she quickly turned around, forcing herself to bury the feeling, knowing that it
was impossible that he would even be thinking the same thing.
“Well? What do you think?” Lauren turned around, letting the dress swirl
around her legs. Right as Brice opened his mouth to comment Cindy came around
the wall dividing the dressing room area.
“Beautiful.” Cindy said quickly. “A must have for sure!” Lauren ignored
Cindy’s comment and looked at Brice, watching as he just stared at her.
“Brice?” Lauren asked softly. He looked up into her eyes at his name being
called.
“It’s good.” Lauren looked down.
“Good.” She said, unable to keep the disappointment from her voice. Before
she knew it Brice had taken two quick steps toward her and raised her head with
the side of his hand.
“You’re stunning.” His mouth quirked to one side, but his eyes were serious.
Lauren saw out of the corner of her eye that Brice had raised his hand and was
mere inches away from stroking back a strand of her hair.
“Well of course she is, now that you can actually see the body that she has!
Now try this one, oh this will look perfect on you!” Lauren glanced at Cindy, not to
see her or comment on what she had said, but needing some kind of excuse to look
away from him. She wasn’t uncomfortable but it just didn’t feel appropriate.
Lauren slowly stepped back into the change room, making sure to avoid looking at
Brice. After that she didn’t come out as much, and only did come out when Cindy
insisted. It’s not right! She kept saying to herself as she pulled a shirt up and
over her head. Not right at all, completely unprofessional and
inappropriate... It’s not right. Lauren pulled another shirt over her head and
pulled it down over herself. But it feels right... oh God! How it felt right.
Lauren found her fingertips up by her cheek, grazing where his hand hand brushed.
Shivers still ran along her spine, making her heart flutter and her breath falter. A
chain reaction at just thinking about his touch. It was crazy!
“Alright I think I’m done trying on cloths. My arms are starting to feel like
noodles!” Lauren complained coming out of the dressing room holding a pile of
cloths that were all yes’s.
“Oh alright well what about shoes, how is that department?”
“It’s fine, can we just go now?”
“NO! Not until you are perfect for going out into public, let alone meetings.”
Lauren rolled her eyes.
“I never would have thought that you didn’t like shopping.”
“Oh, I like shopping, just not hours on end.” Lauren responded as Cindy was
already dragging her out of the store.
“Stamina Lauren! That’s what you need to work on. With shopping and I’m
assuming in the bed as well, a man likes a woman that can go for the long run,
even if he can’t.”
“CINDY!” Brice instantly scolded.
“Nothing! I didn’t say a thing! Come on Lauren.” Cindy said quickly and
rushed out of the store before Lauren or Brice could say a word. Brice was once
again left standing at the counter to pay for her clothing. He ended up having one
of the people hold the bags till they were finished shopping and then come back
and pick it all up. He paid them a little extra to do it and they were all too happy.
By the end of the day Lauren was sure that she had spent more than her
salary in cloths and at least a months rent on makeup alone, not counting the shoes
and the undergarments. They were heading back to the car each of them carrying
bags and bags of all that they had bought during the day. Cindy hugged Lauren
when they were all set to go, she kissed her on each cheek then stepped her back.
“Take good care of those cloths now, and if you need any tips or tricks give
me a shout, Brice knows my number.” After that Cindy had disappeared back into
the mall. Once they were back in the car Brice asked for Lauren’s address.
“Huh? Why?”
“Well I need to tell the driver where to head.”
“Oh... uh... you can just drop me off at the diner.”
“Diner?! I’m not going to leave you to carry all of these bags up to your
place alone.” Lauren looked down as she mumbled her address. The driver zoomed
through the streets toward her home. When he stopped in front of the very old
apartment building Lauren couldn’t bare to look at Brice’s expression.
“I can take them up.” Lauren said as Brice came out of the car with her. He
didn’t listen of course so she let him help her carry everything up to her door step.
She didn’t open up the door to let him inside, knowing that her siblings were
inside.
“Well? This is it, huh?”
“Yep... My humble home.” Lauren tried to joke about it. “Oh!” Lauren
quickly crouched down to open up one of her bags. “I almost forgot... I got you
something.” Lauren pulled out the small bag. “I saw it and thought you would like
it.” Brice gave her a look as she handed him the small package.
“You shouldn’t have gotten me anything, this day was about you.” Brice
scolded slightly as he opened up the bag and pulled out what was inside.
“It was on sale, if it makes you feel any better.” Lauren commented as he
took a look at it.
“A tie?” His eye brows rose as he looked at the blue stripped tie.
“I know that its not a brand name or even very expensive brand or anything,
but I thought that you would like it, and it just reminded me of you.” Lauren said
off handedly.
There was silence for a moment as he fingered the gift.
“Thank you.”
“Do you like it? Because if you don’t I can exchange it... or return it, either
one, I mean-”
“Lauren, its great.” Brice cut in, a laughing smirk on his lips.
“Oh... okay...” She stood awkwardly at the door, not knowing what to do.
“Well thank you. Again. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Of course.” Brice said simply and Lauren bit her lip as the awkward silence
drew longer.
“Well... I guess you better get going...” Lauren sighed as she gestured
toward the hall and turned toward her door.
“Right, of course... uh, well see you tomorrow...”
“Yep.”
“Have a good night.”
“You too.” Lauren said quickly as he stepped back and started down the hall.
“Bye.” He said turning around, lifting a hand, waving awkwardly.
“Bye.” Lauren waved back forcing her smile to put him and herself at ease.
When he was out of sight and Lauren couldn’t hear his footfalls any longer she
finally opened up the door to her small apartment.
“Hey guys, I’m home!”
“Lauren!” Eddie and Nevaeh shot off the couch toward her at hearing her
voice.
“Whoa! Look at all of it!” Nevaeh stopped in her tracks as she saw all the
bags behind Lauren.
“Wow!” Eddie agreed as they came to the door where Lauren was already
transferring in the bags.
“Is there anything for me?” Nevaeh asked, batting her eye lashes as she
looked curiously in the bags.
“Yes... But not a lot, I didn’t pay for all of this, my boss did, its sort of a
promotion... but I managed to spend some of my own money on you guys...” She
had bought Nevaeh a little doll, Eddie a new spider man, one that shot out plastic
webs, and for Luke she got him a baseball and a glove. It was tricky keeping her
purchase away from Cindy, but she had done it well enough by distracting her with
a sale going on.
“Wow! Twanks!” Eddie smiled up at her, hugging his new toy.
“Luke! I have something for you!” Lauren yelled out into the rest of the
house. Luke came around the corner. “Hey! How was your day?” Luke just
shrugged.
“Okay I guess.”
“Whats wrong?”
“Nothing.” He said moodily.
“Alright...” Lauren paused before she bent down and pulled out his gift from
her back. “Well here.” Lauren handed him the ball and glove. His eye brows went
up as he looked at the new gift.
“Its new!”
“Of course!” He looked up at her light in his eyes. Lauren grinned and she
tussled his hair. Lauren picked up her bags and shuffled them into her room,
leaving them there for her to filter through later.
“What do you guys want for dinner? You hungry? Maybe some chunky
soup... or some mac’n’cheese?”
“Mac’n’cheese! I was that!” Nevaeh instantly piped up.
“That okay with you two?” Eddie didn’t answer as he was already too
consumed with playing with his new toy and Luke had disappeared back around
the corner into his room.
Lauren frowned when she didn’t see Luke so she set a pot on the stove and
walked down the hall to Luke’s and Eddie’s room.
“Luke?” Lauren called out as she turned her head around the corner. “Are
you feeling alright?”
“Just a bit tired is all, I have another headache.” Lauren came into the room
and sat down on his bed beside him. He was fingering the baseball and the mitt,
slamming the ball into the center and picking it up over and over again.
“Another one? When did you get it?”
“In school...”
“Did you want some thing to eat or maybe a Tylenol?” Luke just shook his
head.
“No... I’m not really hungry.”
“Maybe you should lay down for a bit.” Luke slowly nodded before he
curled up on his bed. Lauren pulled up the covers before she stroked his back
affectionately. “Get some rest okay?” Lauren said softly before getting up from the
bed and walking softly to the door.
“Lauren?” She turned back at hearing her name.
“Yes?”
“Thank you.” He said softly, still clutching his new glove and ball to his
chest.
“You’re welcome... I’ll be in later to check on you alright? Get some rest
now.” Luke smiled as he turned the other way, getting comfortable to sleep.
When she got back to the kitchen the water was boiling and she quickly
added the pasta to it. She leaned against the counter, closing her eyes, enjoying the
quiet for a little while.
Ch 10

That night Lauren woke to Nevaeh whimpering and moaning. She was
tossing back and forth, silent tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Nevaeh... Nevaeh, wake up... honey.” Lauren whispered, slightly shaking
her, thinking it was a nightmare.
“Uh... Lauren...” Lauren frowned as she realized Nevaeh was already awake.
“Nevaeh! What’s wrong honey?”
“My ear...” Lauren quickly put her hand to Nevaeh’s forehead.
“Oh no... you’re burning up...” Lauren flung the covers off of her and
wrapped them around Nevaeh. She walked swiftly to the kitchen and wet a cloth
for her head, hoping that she would be able to break the fever without having to go
the hospital.
Nevaeh moaned when Lauren pushed the cold damp cloth to her head.
“Lauren... it hurts...”
“What hurts honey?” Lauren scooped her up into her arms.
“My ear... its hurts...” Lauren looked to the clock, 3 am. The next bus
wouldn’t come till morning now... Lauren had two choices, neither that she was
eager to admit.
Call Brice. Or. Call Steve. Lauren quickly grabbed her cell and dialed the
number.
“Hello?” The voice came up on the other end.
“Hi, I’m sorry, I know it’s the middle of the night... but Nevaeh has an ear
infection, I need to get her to the hospital... and the bus won’t come till morning.”
There was silence on the other end. “Steve?... Please?” A small sigh was heard then
he quickly answered.
“I’ll be there in 15.”
“Thank you.” Lauren said quickly before he hung up the phone.
When Steve knocked on the door Lauren was already ready with Nevaeh on
her hip.
“Hi.” Lauren said as she opened the door. “Thank you so much Steve for
coming.”
“How is she?” He asked at seeing Nevaeh laying her head on Lauren’s
shoulder, sucking her thumb.
“She has a fever and I can’t break it. And she keeps saying her ear hurts, I
think she might have an ear ache.” Steve looked from Lauren to Nevaeh.
“Here, I can take her.” Steve motioned to take Nevaeh from Lauren.
“Nooo.... Lauren...” Nevaeh moaned at being taken from her sister.
“It’s okay, I got her.” Lauren said to Steve as Nevaeh started to whimper and
cry.
“Alright, let’s go then.” Steve said quickly and turned to walk down the hall.
Lauren locked the door before following him.
“It’s okay, honey.” Lauren cooed as she walked after Steve. She sat in
Lauren’s lap as Steve drove to the hospital.
Once there Steve walked in with her into the emergency room.
“Insurance?” The woman at the desk asked coldly.
“We’re on welfare.”
“Number?” Lauren moved to let Nevaeh down but she clung to her, not
moving from her place.
“Here, hand me your purse.” Steve said taking it from her and opening it up.
“Where is it?”
“In my wallet.” Lauren said wrapping her arms more securely around
Nevaeh.
“It’s not here.”
“What?! It has to be!” Lauren took her wallet to see for herself the place she
kept her card was empty, and then it dawned on her. She had checked her wallet
before she came, and had decided to just take the card. She had pulled it out and
put it on the counter then went and got to Nevaeh from their bed. When she head
Steve knock on the door she had just grabbed her purse by habit.
“Oh no... It’s back home. Shit!” Steve instantly reached behind him and
pulled out his wallet.
“Steve no!” Lauren gasped when she saw him pull out his credit card.
“You can pay me back.” He said quickly before handing the card over.
Before too long Nevaeh and Lauren were in front of a doctor. He checked her chest
then her ears and throat.
“Yeah, her ears are looking pretty bad. Its definitely an ear infection and her
throat is looking a little inflamed too. I’m going to give her some penicillin and
that should clear it right up with in a week. If she doesn’t seem to be getting any
better or if her ear is still hurting come back and we’ll figure something out.
“She also had a fever when we came down here, it seems to have gone down
a bit, I put a cold cloth on her forehead.” The doctor nodded as she spoke. He took
out a thermometer and put it under Nevaeh’s toung.
“Yeah, she is still running a little high. Keep that cloth on her and take some
children's cold medicine and she should be okay till morning.”
“Okay.” It couldn’t have been more than fifteen minuets before they were
out with the medication and a perception for the next morning.
“So?” Steve asked standing up from one of the waiting room chairs.
“She’s okay, just an ear infection.” Steve nodded slowly as they turned and
started to walk out of the hospital. “How much was it?”
“600.”
“WHAT?!” Steve nodded.
“Probably would have been better to let her go under my insurance.”
“They wouldn’t have let that go through.” Lauren said holding Nevaeh to
her. Steve just shrugged. “I’ll pay you back.” Lauren said assuredly a they came up
to Steve’s car. He opened up the back seat as Nevaeh was already asleep. She said
her down gently then moved into the front seat. “Steve, thank you. Again.” Lauren
said looking over at him. “I can always count on you to be there.” Steve sighed
heavily on that comment.
“What?”
“You can count on me. You trust me with your kids, I’m the one you call
when you’re in trouble; so what is it?”
“What is what?” Lauren asked, playing dumb.
“What is it that you don’t like? Lauren I like you! I’m obviously there for
you, why can’t what we have be more than friendship?” Lauren lowered her head,
she hated this conversation, she had had it before with a different guy... at least she
had practice now.
“Steve... look, first I just don’t see you that way and second, I can’t have that
kind of relationship around the kids.”
“That kind of relationship? That’s exactly what they need, a father figure to
depend on!”
“And wat happens if something happens and we break up? I won’t push that
kind of confusion on them. They deserve more than that.”
“But so do you, Lauren.” Steve said with sincerity in his voice as he glanced
at her from the road. “Look, if it isn’t me that you want I can handle that, but you
need to find someone Lauren. Some one that makes you happy as much as he
makes the kids happy.” Lauren looked down, not answering. She looked out the
window, watching the street lights pass. “Lauren?” She looked back to Steve.
“Promise me you’ll at least think about what I’ve said?” Lauren slowly nodded.
“I will.” She answered as she turned her head to look back out the window.
When steve dropped her off at her apartment he leaned over the seat after
she had gotten out.
“Hey, take the morning off tomorrow. I can handle the orders.”
“Are you sure?” Lauren asked softly as she shifted Nevaeh on her hip.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Take care of Nevaeh, alright?”
“Thank you Steve... again.” He only nodded, watching as Lauren smiled at
him and walked up the small walkway to the front door of her apartment.

~ ~ ~
The next morning Lauren woke slowly and languidly. She had gotten up six times
through out the night to help Nevaeh get back to bed and sleep. Lauren arched her
back, pushing against the couch, stretching her cramped up muscles. When her
eyes slowly opened to reveal light pouring in from the window panic struck her.
“No-no-no-no!”Lauren gasped as she jumped off the couch and tripped over
the blanket that was wrapped around her. She grabbed her cell and quickly flipped
it open to see the time. 7:00 AM. Lauren immediately sighed out, her panic
dissipating. She had a half hour before she had to get out the door to go to work.
Lauren sleepily opened up the phone book and looked for a nannying
service. She called and a woman picked up after a couple of rings.
“We don’t open till 10!” The woman on the other line said rudely.
“I know, I need a babysitter here by 8.” The woman sighed on the other end.
“Name.” The woman started rattling off questions in a board monotone
voice. Lauren answered all her questions as she walked around the living room,
picking up toys and doing a quick clean up.
“Alright, well she will try to be there by 8.”
“Thank you.” Lauren said back.
“Will you be paying cash or credit?”
“Credit.” Lauren said biting her lip as she thought of how much money she
had to use.
“Alright. She’ll be there soon.”
“Thank you.” Lauren said and the woman just hung up on her, not saying a
word back. Lauren sighed as she set the phone down and walked to her room and
opened up the door. She quietly walked to the bed and gently laid a hand on
Nevaeh’s forehead. She didn’t have a fever, and she didn’t make a sound as Lauren
moved about the room gathering her things for getting dressed. Lauren dressed
quickly and pushed her hair up into a ponytail, not having enough energy to care.
When she was dressed she walked out of her apartment and down to the next door
over. She knocked lightly, knowing that they were still sleeping, but hopping to
God that someone would be up.
“Hello?” Ms. Kissel slowly opened up the door, still in her house coat.
“Hi, I’m sorry. I know that its early. Its just I have to go to work and the
sitter doesn’t come till 8. And I was wondering if I could ask you a huge favor.”
“Of course dear, what is it?”
“Well I just need some one to keep an eye on Nevaeh for a half hour.”
“Oh sure, thats not a problem.”
“Great! Thank you!” Lauren smiled at her neighbor, but then her smile
quickly faded as she realized she still hadn’t filled Nevaeh’s prescription. When
she woke she was going to be very sick and in pain. “Oh crap.” Lauren said to
herself. “What is it?”
“Well... I took Nevaeh to the hospital last night and I’m not going to be able
to fill the prescription till I get back from work.”
“Oh dear! Is Nevaeh alright?”
“Yes, she’s fine. She has an ear infection, but with out the medication she’s
going to be just miserable.”
“Well, just give it to me! I have to go down town anyway today and I can go
after the sitter gets here, then get back with in a half hour.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course! Thats fine.” Lauren wanted to hug the woman.
“Thank you so much!”
“No worries dear. Everything will be just fine.” Lauren nodded as she
smiled. Lauren pulled out the prescription from her pocket.
“Thank you, again. I owe you!” Ms. Kissel laughed as she took the small
slip of paper.
“I’ll see you soon, just let me get dressed.”
“Of course! Thank you again so much!” Lauren said as she started to walk
quickly back to her apartment. She waited till Mrs. Kissel came and knocked on
the door and Lauren let her in.
“Hi. So Nevaeh is still in bed sleeping, and she’ll probably sleep for a while
yet because she didn’t sleep well last night.” Mrs. Kissel nodded her head as she
spoke.
“No problem!”
“Alright, well if anything happens my work phone number is on the fridge
and I’ll have my cell too... oh and Cassey will be by soon to wake up the boys and
take them to school.”
“Yes, yes, go Lauren, or else your going to be late.”
“Right, okay, bye!”
When Lauren got to the office she was fifteen minuets late, and she knew
that as soon as she stepped out of the elevator doors Brice would say something
about it. Her mood darkened just think about it. In the ride up she felt her body
slow down, her head became more heavy and her eyes scratchy. She felt like she
hadn’t slept all night. The ding of the elevator doors signaling their opening was
more annoying then anytime before. Lauren walked in, and dumped her bag down
on her desk.
“Good morning.” Brice said slowly, a concerned hint to his tone of voice.
“Morning... yes, it is, isn’t it?” Lauren slopped down into her chair.
“What happened?”
“I didn’t sleep too well last night...” Lauren paused as she looked at the
coffee and donuts on the coffee table. “And I feel a little sick.” She took another
step toward her desk and felt the room start to spin. “Make that a lot sick...”
“Are you alright? Did you have coffee before bed?” Lauren looked up at him
and wanted to snap on his ignorance. But she pushed down her short temperedness
and looked up at her boss.
“Something like that.” She replied coldly as she booted up her computer.
“Go home.” Brice commanded after a moment of watching her fumble with
opening one of her drawers.
“What?”
“Go, you’re no use to me when your like this, you need rest.”
“No, what I need is to get paid so I can pay my rent!” Lauren snapped back.
Lauren paused as she quickly suppressed her emotions. “I’ll just have a cup of
coffee... I’m sure after that I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, no you don’t.” Brice quickly moved as Lauren got up from her chair.
“You are going home to sleep and get some old fashioned rest.” Brice said
forcefully. “And you will get paid. Now that you’re my partner your allowed 3 sick
days a month. Paid.” Lauren looked up at him as he held her arm to keep her
balanced.
“Really?” She said with almost pleading eyes, hoping that it was true.
“Come on, my driver will take you home.”
“No, it’s okay. I can take the bus.” Lauren mumbled.
“Stop being so difficult and stubborn.” He scolded as he pushed the button
for the elevator door to open. The annoying ding sounded and Brice ushered her in.
She leaned against the wall as the elevator moved down to the main floor. When
they got through the double doors Brice’s cell phone started to ring, he picked it up
while he motioned for his driver to come. He held his hand over the receiver as he
told his driver to drive her home. Lauren got in the car and by the time they had
pulled out of the office building parking lot she was already asleep.
When the driver had pulled up to her apartment she had slowly opened her
eyes to him calling out to her.
“Miss! Miss, we’re here.” Lauren woke fully and quickly moved from the
car.
“Thank you for driving me.” Lauren said quickly before he started off down
the road. She trekked up the stairs to her apartment and when she opened the door
the temporary babysitter she had asked to look after Nevaeh didn’t even look up
from where she was at the kitchen table. Lauren looked over to see she was
smoking and listening to music on her ipod. Lauren slammed the door and the
woman jerked her head up, looking back to Lauren. The girl quickly put out her
cigarette on a plate and stood up.
“The kid’s in bed sleeping.” She said bluntly. “Its thirty bucks.”
“Thirty dollars?! I wasn’t even gone for a hour!”
“Well we get paid per the hour... and I was told that I would get a minimum
of thirty.” Lauren gritted her teeth as she pulled the money from her wallet, and
deducted ten.
“Hey!”
“I told you no smoking in this apartment.” Lauren cut her off as she pushed
the money into her hand then opened up the door before she could argue any
further. The girl grabbed her bag and walked out, stomping as she went.
“Did Mrs. Kissel drop off the medicine? Did you give some to Nevaeh.”
“I don’t know! I got here and the door was open.”
“Did you even check on Nevaeh?”
“The kid?... I looked in the room, she was sleeping.” Lauren rolled her eyes
as she closed the door in the useless girls face. Lauren kicked off her high heels
and looked around the kitchen, looking for the paper bag of medicine. There it was
on the counter, a note under the package.
Lauren- I’m sorry I had to leave for work at 9. The sitter still
wasn’t here so I’m going to call the house in a half hour when I
get to work and if there’s no answer I’ll call your work. Don’t know
if you’ll see this letter or not. But Nevaeh was sleeping when I left
and I figured the sitter would be by any time. Hope its okay. Talk
to you soon. - Mrs. Kissel. Lauren sighed as she looked at the note then
looked at her watch, it was only 9:30. The stupid girl had probably only been there
for less than a half hour! Lauren pinched the bridge of her nose, masking her
frustration then turned from the note and walked down the hall into her room to see
Nevaeh.
She wasn’t sleeping.
“Lauren!” Nevaeh called out seeing her. Nevaeh’s face was red with tears
streaming down her face.
“Nevaeh! Why are you crying?” Lauren instantly got into bed with her and
scooped her up into her arms.
“My ear hurts.” Nevaeh said quietly, holding her ear. Lauren frowned.
“Did the girl give you your medicine?” Nevaeh only shook her head.
Lauren’s mood instantly darkened as she quickly got up and walked to the
bathroom. She pulled out the pills and took on into the kitchen, crushing it before
mixing in the powder with a chocolate pudding cup. Lauren walked back down
into the bedroom and sat down beside Nevaeh. “Here, honey. You’ve gotta eat
this.” Nevaeh sat up slowly and Lauren quickly pulled up her pillow so she could
lean against the wall without being uncomfortable. She ate little spoonfuls of
pudding and after five of six she stopped and Lauren suppressed a sigh as she took
the spoon from Nevaeh’s hands.
“You have to eat all of it, Nevaeh.” Lauren said softly. Nevaeh whimpered as
Lauren took a small spoonful for her to eat.
“I don’t want to.”
“It’ll make you feel better.” Lauren whispered, brushing back Nevaeh’s hair
and she scooped up another spoon full.
“Nooo.”
“Come on, just two more spoonfuls, I promise.” Lauren inched the spoon
closer to Nevaeh’s mouth. Nevaeh opened her mouth a little bit and Lauren pushed
in the spoon. “One more Nevaeh, come on, open up.” Nevaeh started to whine and
cry.
“Nooo... Lauren...”
“Come on, open up. It will make you feel better, I promise.” Nevaeh started
to cry more, tears streaming down her face. “Come on Nevaeh, its just one more
spoonful. Open up.”She took the next spoonful and Lauren let her settle back
down, shifting the pillow till she was comfortable. Once she stopped whimpering
Lauren got up from the bed, grabbed a spare blanket and walked down the hall to
the living room to try and get some rest on the couch. She laid down on the couch
and took a deep breath, half of her brain was listening for any sound Nevaeh would
make. The other half was already lost in sleep, too tired to do or think anything
else.

Lauren had only slept for a few hours before she heard the knock at her door. She
slowly rolled out of bed and walked to the door. She slowly opened the door,
letting the chain on the door catch it, locking it in its slightly open state.
“BRICE!” Lauren said loudly, instantly awake.
“Hi. I brought soup.” He offered. Lauren paused looking quickly at the time
to see that it was 2 in the afternoon.
“Uh...” She closed the door and undid the chain then quickly reopened it.
“What are you doing here?” She asked as she opened up the door again.
“I told you... I brought soup.”
“Yes. But you should be working.”
“I’m the boss, I can stop working when I want.” Brice brushed by her, into
her apartment, setting down the styrofoam bowls on the counter.
“Uh... but...”
“You’re sick, and I can’t have my partner sick for a long period of time. So
here is soup... and crackers. And I’m going to make you some tea and-”
“Brice! Please! You have to stop.” Lauren said as he bumped a pot and it
crashed into the sink, making a loud noise. Lauren glanced back behind her, trying
to remember if she closed her bed room door or not, and hoping that Nevaeh
wouldn’t wake up.
“What?”
“I’m fine. Really.” Brice frowned as he looked at her.
“You don’t look fine.” Lauren’s eyes lost its spark as she glared at him.
“Thanks.” She said sarcastically. Brice chuckled as he gave her that boyish
lopsided grin of his. He took her head in his hands and stroked back her hair.
“I didn’t mean it in that way. Now. The soup is here. Let me make you some
tea and then I promise I’ll leave and let you get some more sleep.” Lauren looked
at him skeptically.
“Promise?”
“Promise.” He confirmed. “You just go sit in the living room and I’ll be
there in a moment.” Lauren sighed as she resigned and walked out into the living
room. She stopped dead in her tracks as she looked around. The place was littered
with kids toys! And it was a complete mess.” Lauren quickly but quietly gathered
up all of the toys and shoved them into a bin and pulled down the lid over it. She
fixed the cushions on the couch and pulled the blanket out so it look decent. She
took one more look around before flopping down on the couch right as Brice came
around the corner.
“Do you like sugar or cream in your tea?”
“No... just some honey.” Lauren answered back.
“How are you feeling by the way?” Brice asked as he moved back into the
kitchen.
“Uh... well...” Lauren took a moment to actually survey her own health
through her momentary panic. “I don’t feel sick anymore, I think all I really needed
was a good rest.” Brice was smiling when he came around the corner again,
carrying a bowl of soup in one hand and tea in the other, he crackers held between
his arm and his body.
“Well thats good.” Brice set down the tea and the soup on the rickety coffee
table. Brice was slightly started as it wavered under the pressure of the soup and
tea. “You need a new coffee table.” Brice said off handedly.
“I need a lot of things, least of all a coffee table.” Lauren said the words
before she could catch her self. Thankfully Brice only looked at her curiously.
“What kind of soup is it?” Lauren asked, hoping that her question would still his.
“Vegetable.” Brice said as he slowly took the bowl from the table and
handed it to her. “Careful, its probably still hot.” Lauren took the bowl from his
hands, her hand brushed his for a moment as he handed it off. His eyes snapped up
to her’s as she took the bowl.
“So do you always take this good of care with your employees?” Lauren
joked.
“Only the ones that are important to me.” Brice said softly back.
“Important? I’d hardly say that a secretary is important to a huge company
like yours.” Lauren skirted around his confession, trying to lighten the mood with a
slight joke.
“True... But thats not what I said.” Brice pointed out. Lauren picked up the
spoon with her shaking hand, trying to occupy her self, trying to focus on
something other than her boss who was sitting a little too close and who’s eyes
were boring into her. She lifted a spoon up to her lips and gently blew on the hot
liquid. After a moment she pressed it to her lips and slowly took in the spoonful.
She focused on the taste, on slowly lowering the spoon back down to its place in
the bowl. Lauren felt Brice’s eyes on her every move, watching as she breathed out
and in, as if with each breath he knew how much he was affecting her and loved
watching as he tormented her.
“You’re right.” Lauren forced herself to brake the silence.
“I am?” Brice questioned.
“It is hot.” Lauren glanced up at him then put the bowl back on the coffee
table. Lauren felt a piece of her hair slip and fall in front of her face. And not a
moment later she felt his gentle touch scoop up the piece and push it back behind
her ear, holding her head as she turned to look back at him. He shifted closer, his
eyes steadfast on hers till they shifted down to her lips. Panic exploded in Lauren’s
chest. She couldn’t breath as he inched closer and closer till his eyes slid closed
and his lips brushed hers. Lauren’s eyes slid closed with out her consent and she
felt herself push back against his gentle, tempting kiss, till she felt his full lips
pressed against hers again. His hand that was cradling her head slid down her neck,
eagerly urging her desire to continue. Time became lost as the touch of his lips set
her senses on overload, but she didn’t dare pull away. This feeling he had suddenly
awakened in her, it ran much deeper than just skin deep. She felt it in the center of
her being.
Safety.
She had forgotten how it felt to be safe. Truly, completely safe. That no
matter what happened next that it was okay because they were there to protect you.
Her hand came up and pressed against his strong jaw, her fingers gripping his neck,
pressing him to her. When her lungs started to scream for breath and air, she did
everything in her will to ignore it, knowing that if she came up for breath, she
wouldn’t just get air, she would get a heavy dose of reality as well. So it wasn’t her
that pulled away first, it was Brice. The hand on her neck that had once urged her
into his kiss was now making her stop. Lauren kept her eyes closed as she breathed
in the needed air and distasteful reality that poured in with it. It was silent as she
sat there listening to him taking in everything beside her. Then with out opening
her eyes she spoke.
“You’re breaking your promise.” She hated herself for saying the words, but
everything was collapsing in on her and she couldn’t have him tempting her
anymore than he already had.
“I guess I am, aren’t I? Well a promise is a promise... now that you have
your tea.” Lauren felt Brice stand up from the couch. It took everything in her will
to keep the tears that had suddenly welled up from spilling out of her closed eyes.
She felt him draw nearer toward her, and she jumped slightly as he gently pressed
the lips she had just kissed against her forehead. “If you need anything just call.”
He whispered before pulling away from her and walking across the room to the
door. She heard him open it, but she held her breath till she heard him close it
behind him. Even when she knew he was gone she couldn’t bring herself to open
her eyes and face the truth. She was starting to lose her footing, the ground was
crumbling under her feet, and she couldn’t do anything to piece it back together...
she was out of control, and the only way to grasp some kind of life line was to
admit that she was sinking, falling and plummeting into a love that she didn’t
understand...
Ch 11

Brice sat in his car shaking. He starred blankly ahead, completely out of his
wits.
“What was that?” He whispered to himself, shaking his head. He had kissed
her. He had also kissed many other woman and never felt this shaken or off balance
before. He’s always been calm, collected, in charge... especially when it came to
women. ... But with Lauren... She was different in all the right ways. When he
kissed her it was like the inside of his body had suddenly lit on fire, like a bolt of
lightning had crashed down on him, and yet all he wanted in the whole world was
to run back up to her apartment and make her feel the heat that he had felt.

At first, he had to admit, he thought that she was just another secretary who
couldn’t do her job properly. But she had drawn him in. She worked hard; harder
than anyone he had every known before, but there was still a mystery to her. Why
would she still be living in a crapy apartment when she works three jobs? Why
wouldn’t she have money to spare to buy a simple coffee table? Was her brother
more of a parasite then he thought? Maybe he was taking all of her money... but
then again Lauren didn’t seem like the type to be taken advantage of. Brice
breathed in slowly, suddenly remembering the way her lips had taken the breath
right out of him. Where did she learn to kiss like that? Brice closed his eyes as he
sighed out his breath. He put his key in the ignition of his car and started to pull off
the side of the street. Instantly he hit the breaks as two little red headed boys and a
girl significantly older than the other two stepped out onto the street. He watched
as both boys and the girl starred wide eyed at the car that had almost hit them.
Brice’s heart was thundering in his chest as he watched them quickly finish
walking the rest of the way across the cross walk. Brice turned his head and
watched as both boys and the girl went into Lauren’s apartment. Brice had an
itching feeling he had seen those two boys some where before. The littlest one
turned back to look at him with wide eyes before he turned inside the building.
Brice was suddenly jolted out of his thoughts as a horn sounded behind him. He
pressed slowly on the gas as he took one last look at the apartment building.

He headed home, not wanting to go back to work for now, knowing that he
wouldn’t get anything done with the thoughts floating through his head. When he
got up to his floor Brice walked in to his newly acquired home. He dumped his
jacket on the sofa and headed to the kitchen, as he leaned against the counter
silence seeped into his ears. And his mind quickly enhanced the only thing his
thoughts were fixated on. Her kiss. Her lips. The feel of her soft hand holding him
to her. Brice fished out his cell from his pocket and flipped it open, looking for the
offices number, when he found it he quickly pressed the call button.
“Hendrix office this is Rebecca, how can I help you?” Rebecca answered,
she was manning the secretary desk while Lauren is sick.
“Rebecca, its Brice I need you to find a number for me.”
“Of course. What number?”
“Lauren’s.”
“The secretary?” Rebecca paused, slightly shocked at the weird request.
“Yes. I need the number she has on file.”
“Uh... alright...” There was shuffling as she searched. “Uh, there’s only a cell
phone number.”
“Alright, what is it?” Brice grabbed a post it and quickly wrote down the
number as Rebecca relayed it to him.
“Is something wrong?” Rebecca asked after she was done.
“Wrong? No, I just want to check up on her.”
“Awfully nice of you?” She said it more of nosy question then a statement.
“Well she didn’t look too good when she came in and I need her for
tomorrow.”
“Right.” Rebecca replied, letting the inquisition go.
“I don’t think I’m going to be coming back to the office today, is there any
messages for me?”
“Nope. Not yet.”
“Alright well if there’s anything urgent you can call me on my cell.”
“Will do. Have a good night Mr. Hendrix.”
“Good night.” After Brice had hung up the phone he felt a tremor go through
him, shaking the little post-it in his hand. He swallowed as he drew his hand
through his hair and dialed the number he had already drawn into memory.
“Hello?” Brice’s felt a jolt go through him at just hearing her voice again.
Giggling was heard in the background. “Nevaeh shhh! I’m on the phone.” Lauren
scolded lightly. “Hello?” She asked again after a moment.
“Hi.” Brice choked out.
“Who is this?” She asked.
“Uh...” Brice swallowed through his cotton mouth. “It’s Brice.” There was a
moment as he heard her move and not a second later a door closed.
“Brice... hi.” She choked back. There was a moment of silence. “Why’d you
call?”
“I uh... well... I...” Brice yammered and then cut himself off, his mind
snapping. “Who’s Nevaeh?” There was a moment of silence. “Lauren?”
“Uh... she’s a little girl that I look after.”
“Extra baby sitting money on the side huh?” Brice smiled slowly shaking his
head. “What? Three jobs doesn’t keep you busy enough?”
“Yeah. Well you know, after a while they’re like little brothers and sisters
and you can’t say no.” Lauren joked back.
“Right.”
“Did you ever babysit?”
“Me? No... well... I tried once.”
“Tried?”
“Well... the kid ended up eating a whole bag of cabbage patch kids and...
well after that the mom didn’t want me looking after her kid anymore... and thus
ended my babysitting career.” Brice could hear Lauren laugh at his story, and he
smiled at the joyous sound. Brice started walking toward the living room.
“Well remind me never to hire you.” Lauren joked but Brice stopped in his
thoughts.
“Hire me?” There was a second of silence before Lauren quickly explained.
“I mean, if I couldn’t... uh...”
“Babysit.” Brice finished.
“Right.” Lauren said quickly.
“Well I’m sure that the parents wouldn’t be able to afford my rate anyway,
so crisis averted.” Lauren laughed and Brice flopped down on the couch.
“So why were you calling? Is everything alright?”
“Uh, no... I mean, yes, every things fine...” Brice paused and when he didn’t
answer Lauren cleared her throat.
“So... why were you calling?”
“I just... wanted to make sure that you were alright.”
“But you were just here.”
“Yeah... well I just... wanted to make sure. You know you being all alone in
that apartment... anything could happen...”
“I may not live in the best part of town but its still safe.”
“Right... well no harm in checking, right?” Brice could hear Lauren sigh on
the other end.
“Brice... look, we-” Brice instantly cut her off hearing that tone of voice that
said that she was going to tell him that the kiss was a mistake.
“Are you going to be in tomorrow?” Brice said quickly.
“Yes, but-” She tried to start again.
“Good because we have a meeting to set up.” Brice forced her to stop again.
“A meeting? For what?” She asked, her attention peeked.
“We have to start petitioning for the developments around the mall... I’ve set
up some of the big business heads but I need your help for the rest of them.”
“Wow, that fast huh?”
“Well the faster we have signed contracts the faster we can start
construction.”
“Right... Well I will be in tomorrow for sure.”
“Good.” There was silence for a moment and Brice held his breath as he
waited for her to say something.
“Brice?”
“Yes?” Brice answered. Lauren paused as Brice waited. If she said
something about the kiss he knew that he would have to back off, even if it killed
him, if she said that she didn’t want him than he would respect that.
“Do you ever want kids?” Brice blinked a couple times, completely blown
over by the question.
“What?”
“I know that you said you’re not good at babysitting... but...”
“Why?”
“Why what?”
“Why do you want to know?” Brice asked and he heard Lauren pause as she
tried to calculate her words. In those moments Brice thought of what it would be
like to have a child, to see the woman he loved to grow with his child inside of her.
He had never thought of it, never really had a woman that made him want to have
kids.
“I was just curious... its nothing.” Lauren dejected, instantly withdrawing
with her words.
“In truth I never really thought about it. But... I suppose if I met the right
woman I would... yes.” Brice said softly. “Do you?” Brice asked after a moment.
There was silence for a long time before Lauren sighed on the other end.
“Good night Brice.” Brice frowned instantly, feeling shut out.
“Good night.” He said slowly and not a moment after he heard the click as
she disconnected from the call. Brice moved the phone from his ear as he hung up
as well. He leaned his head back against the sofa he sat on, letting his head fall
completely back so he was looking at the ceiling. “I don’t think I will ever
understand that woman.” Brice whispered out into the silence. But he knew that no
matter what ever came out of his mouth he knew he would go to the ends of his
sanity to know her in every single way. He slowly closed his eyes, resting. It
wasn’t long before he felt his body give in and fell asleep on the couch,
unmotivated to move to his room.

When morning came Brice automatically woke up at 6 in the morning. He


slowly got up from the couch, a kink in his neck. He slowly moved his head
around, trying to get rid of it. Brice decided that a long hot shower would do him
good but before he let himself fall into the shower he walked into his kitchen,
pulling out breakfast. When the toast popped up he grabbed the two pieces as he
walked down the hall to his home gym. He stretched as he ate his breakfast. He did
50 push ups, 100 crunches, then he started in on the weights. He worked out for an
hour then decided that he was done for the day and needed to get cleaned up before
going to work. Brice stripped off his sweaty cloths and started the shower. As he
stood under the streams of water thoughts traveled back to Lauren. He had
prevented himself from thinking of her as he did his workout, but now he couldn’t
stop himself. Thoughts spun as he washed his body quickly, his hair was next, and
when he was done he quickly jumped out of the shower, eager to get to work. He
glanced at the time to see he still had a half hour, just enough time to get dressed
and get over to the office before Lauren got there. He hit his ipod speakers as he
walked into his room. It instantly boomed to life. Hallow by forty foot echo blasted
through the speakers. Brice opened his closet and picked his suit and tie and
quickly got dressed. He stood in front of his full length mirror, fixing his tie. After
he was done he stopped, took a quick look at himself then turned from the mirror
and walked out of his room.

He drove through the streets quickly till he got to work, walking in the front door
he saw Lauren just walking into the elevator.
“Hey! Wait up!” Brice yelled out before his brain caught up with him. She
turned around in the elevator and held back the door.
“Hi.” She said softly as Brice jogged up to the doors. He instantly slowed,
his legs suddenly becoming weak. He hadn’t expected to have her voice affect him
like last night, before he had chalked it up to the lasting effects of her kiss, but she
hadn’t even touched him and he was acting like she had-
“Hi.” He said back cutting off his own thoughts before they got
uncontrollable. Lauren reached up to press the button on the elevator just as Brice
reached over. They both jerked back at the unexpected touch.
“Oh, uh, sorry.” Lauren instantly apologized.
“No, thats fine. Go a head.” Brice motioned and Lauren quickly pushed the
button then stepped back.
“Thank you by the way.” Brice said, afraid the silence would make the
awkward moment worse.
“What?” Lauren snapped her head over to him, a blush had crept up her
cheeks and she blinked up at him in shock.
“For holding open the door.”
“Oh! Right, of course.” She quickly said as she shifted her feet a little father
away from him. Brice stared a head as the elevator made its way up to their floor.
“How were the kids?” Brice asked, refusing to look at her, trying to make
simple small talk, proving that he could be civil around such a temptation. Lauren
suddenly choked on nothing, coughing a bit before she looked up at him.
“Excuse me?!”
“The kids you were baby sitting last night...” Brice explained frowning,
questioning her strong reaction.
“Oh! They’re fine... I mean they were fine.” She stumbled. After her
response Brice couldn’t find anything else to say that wouldn’t sound forced. When
the ding sounded and the doors swung open Brice waited for her to go first,
holding open the doors for her. She stepped through and it was only then that he
noticed that she was carrying two bags, a red purse that they had bought on their
shopping trip together and her old bag as well.
“Is it not big enough?” Brice asked, speaking his thoughts as he came out of
the elevator after her.
“Huh?” Lauren tilted her head back, frowning, not understand his question.
“You’re purse.” Brice motioned quickly. Lauren took a moment and looked
down at her bags.
“Oh! Uh, no, I just... uh... didn’t have time to transfer all of my stuff over.”
Lauren said quickly as she turned back around and quickly made her way to her
desk.
“So you decided to bring two? Why not just keep all your stuff in the first till
you could change over?” Lauren didn’t stop and listen to him, she just dumped her
bags off, grabbed her cloths and started walking to the woman's bathroom.
“No time!” She yelled back. Brice smirked as he watched her run. As he sat
on the side of her desk waiting for her to come back he looked down at the bags
resting on her desk. He glanced up to the washroom then back to the desk. He
slipped his hand out and pulled the red bag open slightly, curious as to what she
would have in it. At first Brice saw nothing so he pulled a little more but there was
still nothing, it didn’t take long for his curiosity to peak and he grabbed the bag and
opened it up completely. It was empty. Not a thing had been put into it. He frowned
as he looked from her other over flowing bag back to the one in his hands. Why
would she bring two bags if the one was empty? She didn’t strike him like the kind
of girl to just show off something she had bought and not use it. Brice heard the
bathroom door squeak and he quickly put down the bag only to see with one last
look that the purse still had the tags on it. He brushed the purse aside just as he
heard Lauren come out of the bathroom. He was leaning against her desk and
crossed his arms, trying to look inconspicuous, that he was just standing there
waiting for her, doing nothing.
“You know you should really just throw out that old bag... it could break on
you any moment... its a good thing you got a new... one...” Brice looked up as
Lauren walked closer to him. She was wearing a simple black dress that was
accented with a white belt but it fit her perfectly, silhouetting her every curve.
“I hope its not too much for work.” Lauren said softly, seeing his reaction.
Brice forced himself to blink, then forced some kind of sentence to come through
his dry mouth.
“Work is good...” Brice shook his head as he realized what he had just said.
“I mean that its good for work... its good. I meant that it’s good.” Brice quickly
said, stumbling over himself.
“Could I ask you a favor?”
“Yeah!” Brice stood up fully, uncrossing his arms.
“Well... Cindy was there before to help zip up dresses... and I can’t reach the
last bit.” Lauren rattled on as she slowly turned around and scooped up her hair
across her shoulder. The dress dipped in a v from her shoulders to end in the
middle of her back. There was maybe two inches that wasn’t done up, showing a
deeper portion of her perfectly smooth back... it was enough for Brice’s heart to
loose its pace and his hands to shake. “Would you?” Lauren asked softly, tilting her
head back when he didn’t help her right away. Brice forced himself forward and
took hold of the small little zipper. He slowly pulled it up till it was done up with
the tiny clasp at the top. The tips of his fingers brushed her skin and he had a
sudden flash back to the dressing room when he had first done this for her. And all
the same feelings came back full force, the sudden urge to kiss her, to fell her hair
slip between his fingers, the urge to undo her dress rather than leave it done up...
all of it hit him like a wave.
“Uh... I don’t remember seeing this dress... its not the same as the other one
is it?” Brice asked as he laid his hands gently on her shoulders and pressed his
fingers in, gently massaging her shoulders. Brice didn’t hear her answer as he felt
the muscles beneath her skin, she was so tight, hard even. And he couldn’t help his
ears from perking up as she whimpered slightly from his touch and she quickly
moved away from him. “Lauren! Your shoulders!”
“What?”
“Your muscles are completely knotted and tight.” Lauren forced a smile and
then shrugged.
“Occupational hazard I guess.” She laughed it off as she spun her work
office chair around and quickly sat down. She booted up her computer and shoved
her bags underneath her desk. Brice waited calmly behind her as she bustled about
when she finally sat back Brice gently laid his hands down on her shoulders. He
slowly pressed down gently, rubbing her skin with his palms and thumbs.
“Brice.” She hunched up her shoulders at the feel of his touch, but he didn’t
move away, if anything he pressed more into her, gently moving her back down
into a relaxed state. After a moment her shoulders slowly dropped and she let her
head fall forward and to the side, stretching her neck. Her hair all to one side
Brice’s eyes were captivated on her neck, the muscle underneath tempting him to
touch, to kiss. He bent down, blindly following his compulsion. Lauren was
smooth as the sea as he gently laid kisses across her flesh... at least she was for half
a minuet. It was like someone had lit a fire under her. She jumped up and
scrambled away from him, around her desk.
“Brice you have to stop.” Brice shook his head of the sudden fog that had
consumed him.
“I uh... I apologize. I didn’t mean... I’m sorry.” Brice stepped away from her
desk and stood motionless as he looked up at her.
“This can’t happen... you understand me?” She ordered his response.
“Yes. I understand.”
“None of it, alright?”
“Alright.”
“Alright.” She said back, her hands on her hips, watching him closely, as if
he were going to pounce on her again. She walked back toward her desk and Brice
walked passed her to his office. He brushed the side of her arm and it was like
fireworks sparked across his flesh.
“Ah! No! No! Its not alright! I don’t understand, why can’t we do this?”
Brice turned on his heels and took her hand before she could pull away anymore.
“Because we can’t!” Lauren pulled away from him, taking five steps back.
“But we kissed!”
“Yes, and it was a mistake!” Brice felt like it was a slap across his face, but
the only thing that kept him pushing was her eyes, her eyes betrayed everything
about her, she had a uncertainty in her eyes, like she wasn’t sure of what she was
doing, and like she wanted to say something but couldn’t. She didn’t truly think
that it was any more of a mistake then he did.
“No, don’t you dare try and pull that. It wasn’t a mistake and you know
it!” Brice stepped toward her and Lauren instantly stepped back. “It was not a
mistake and there is no good reason that we shouldn’t be together!” Brice watched
as Lauren turned away from him, the last glimpse of her face showed sudden pain.
“Lauren...” Brice said softly, reaching out for her. There was a moment before she
whipped back at him with unhindered anger.
“You have no clue do you!? Jesus! Get a hint! There is nothing between us!
There never will be anything between us!” She bit out at him. But it only took
Brice a moment to see she didn’t believe her own words.
“But there already is!”
“NO! There’s not. We kissed, yes. But it meant nothing. You know how I
know that it meant nothing? Because it will never lead anywhere!” For the first
time Brice saw truth in her eyes, and felt the true sting in her words. “Now you are
my boss. If you can’t handle a working relationship between us then you might as
well fire me right here and now!” Lauren yelled at him, her hands in fists. Brice
stood back, completely knocked out of his perspective. This woman didn’t want
him... Everything that he had thought, everything... it was all wrong? Brice silently
scolded himself as he pulled around his businesslike manner.
“I’m not going to fire you Lauren. But I do owe you an apology. I read into
things wrong, and I jumped to conclusions. We will have a working relationship
from now on. I hope that you can forgive me and we can continue to work
together.” Brice formally said. Lauren sighed then quickly nodded.
“Thank you.” There was a moment of silence as Lauren and Brice simply
looked at each other and it took everything in Brice’s will not to rush over to her
and wrap his arms around her.
“We have work to do.” Brice said instead, forcing down those feelings.
“Right... I’ll start going through the forms and calling clients.” Brice simply
nodded and turned and walked back into his office.
The rest of the morning was dead silent. Come the afternoon though Brice
saw Lauren get up from her desk and walk around the office to the outside edge.
Brice slowly wheeled his chair out so he could see who she was talking to. It was
only then that he realized that she had taken her red purse with her. And even more
weird she was speaking with Sophie. She was a girl that he had a friendship with
but she had quickly gotten the wrong idea between the two of them, and when she
tried for more and Brice full out refused her, she went and slept with his half
brother to try and make him jealous. It didn’t work. He hadn’t gotten mad at her,
simply turned away, since then he hadn’t had an ounce of respect or friendship left
for her. She had tried to hurt him, make him jealous... she was a fool. But Lauren...
why would Lauren be talking with Sophie? He watched carefully as Sophie
grabbed the purse from Lauren then handed her a wad of cash. Lauren quickly
walked back to her desk and leant over, pocketing the cash in her old purse. Brice
felt his frown grow as he watched her go back to work like nothing had happened.
“Lauren!” Brice called out before he was thinking. Lauren instantly got up
from her chair and walked to his office, stopping in the door way. “Come in, and
close the door.” Lauren took onestep inside then quickly closed the door.
“Can I do something for you Mr. Hendrix?” Brice crossed his arms as he
looked over at her, his sir name made him inwardly cringe at hearing it from her.
“Yes. Why did you sell your new purse to Sophie just now?” Brice saw
Lauren mentally take a step back.
“Will I be made to give back all of the generous gifts that the company and
you have purchased for me, such as that purse and this dress?” Brice frowned at
her own quick question.
“No.”
“Then the items are for me to keep?” Brice’s frown extended as he lent
forward in the chair, wondering what she was getting at.
“Yes.”
“Then as they are under my possession I am able to do with them as I see
fit... And such proceedings are not to be inspected or interrogated. I have a right to
my privacy Mr. Hendrix.” Lauren said very quickly, her back rim-rod straight.
Brice breathed in a heavy breath as he slowly leaned back in his chair. Wow
could the woman speak! “Now was there anything that I could do for you?”
Brice looked down at his desk and grabbed a contract that needed to be
photocopied. He didn’t say a word as he held it out for her. She took the few quick
steps to his desk and went to take the contract when he suddenly whipped it away
from her grasp.
“You can stop acting like you have something shoved up butt and you can
photocopy this, I’m going to need twenty.” Brice extended the paper again. Lauren
slowly took, her nerves set on edge at the insult.
“I was just stating my thoughts.”
“Yes, but your talking like a spoiled little rich girl when I know first hand
that you aren’t. So stop trying to be something that your not... ‘Rich’ doesn’t wear
well on you anyway... now get back to work.”
“Well this morning you didn’t seem to mind.”
“The dress is classy... not rich... And my thoughts haven’t changed from this
morning.” Brice starred up at her as she gripped the contract. Brice watched as she
starred at him with sudden vulnerability.
“Twenty... please.” Brice said significantly softer.
“Right away.” She said even softer. Brice waited till she got to the door
before calling her back.
“Lauren.”
“Yes?” She asked turning.
“I wasn’t trying to pry into your life, I was simply concerned... you know
that even with a... business... relationship...” The words felt like grit on his tongue.
“...that you can still come to me if you’re in trouble, or if you need anything.”
Lauren paused looking over at him.
“With all due respect Mr. Hendrix... but if we are going to keep this
relationship formal then I’d rather not.” Brice frowned as she started to turn back
for the door and he instantly stopped her again.
“Why? Just because I’m your boss, doesn’t mean that you can’t trust me.”
She half turned back, looking at him for a moment then looked down and Brice
almost missed her answer she spoke so quietly.
“It’s not that... I don’t trust myself with you.” She shifted her eyes back up
to him then quickly diverted her gaze and opened up the door then looked back at
him. “Anything I can get for you Mr. Hendrix?” Brice paused, his mind and heart
reeling as he looked at her then after a moment he answered softly, dismissing her.
“No. That’s it...” She turned from his office and slowly closed the door and
walked away. “That woman is the most complicated creature I have ever known.”
Brice whispered to himself as he watched her walk away from him.
Ch 12

Lauren rode the bus home, thankful that she was going to be working the
diner tonight, she needed some time to just methodically do her job, with out
having to keep her guard up, or even think of Brice. When Lauren got home she
dumped her cloths off, changed into her outfit and grabbed her apron, and runners.
“Kids! I’m off to work at the diner!” She yelled out as she walked into the
living room. She saw Luke, eddie and Nevaeh on the couch watching TV.
“Alright?” Lauren asked, breaking their trancelike state in watching the TV.
“Okay.” Luke said softly.
“There’s some microwaveable soup in the pantry or theres bread and cheese
if you want a sandwich.” Luke just nodded as he looked back to the TV. Lauren
quickly walked over to Nevaeh and felt her forehead.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better.” She said smiling up at Lauren.
“Good. Now if you need anything you know the number.” Luke again just
nodded.
“Alright, well I love you, and don’t stay up late, I want you in bed by eight,
its a school night.”
“Okay.” Luke said quickly, glancing up at her to show he heard her.
“Alright. Bye! I love you!” Lauren said quickly before rushing out the door
and ran down the stairs to get to the diner on time for her shift.
“Hey!” Haley called out from behind the counter, glancing at her friend as
she poured coffee for a customer. Her glance turned into two and a stare once she
saw Lauren. “Whoa!” She gasped, looking at Lauren.
“Haley! Look out!” Haley looked down to what she was doing and realized
she had over spilt the mans cup of coffee.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! Here, let me get you a fresh cup. I’m so sorry.” Haley
nattered as she quickly poured the man another cup then quickly dumped the over
pouring and sticky cup. As soon as she had done that she chased after Lauren.
“Oh MY GOSH!” She screamed as she ran after Lauren as Lauren dumped
her bag in the back and put on her runners.
“What?” Lauren asked, looking up to see what her friend was freaking out
over.
“You’re HAIR! It’s beautiful! And you’re wearing make up!” Lauren
finished tying up her shoes and stood.
“So?”
“You look beautiful!”
“Well... thank you... but I was working at the office today...” Lauren said
quickly, as if that was explanation enough.
“Well you look great, what ever that boss has you doing don’t stop.” Lauren
looked over at her friend and sighed sarcastically. “What?”
“You have no idea what its been like these past couple days.” Lauren said as
she flipped on her half apron and grabbed a bill book and a cash register tray.
“What do you mean?” Haley asked, following her friend.
“I mean that he’s been absolutely... just... ah! You know!... AH!” She said
motioning with her hands.
“Uh... Well not really. What’s the matter? He seemed like a nice guy when I
met him.”
“Yeah, thats part of the issue. He’s too nice. Too caring, and too ignorant!
He’s driving me crazy!”
“Sounds like you have a bit of a crush.” Lauren stopped dead in her tracks
and turned around to look at Haley, but she didn’t say anything. “Lauren?” Haley
questioned, seeing the look on Lauren’s face. Lauren was simply starring passed
Haley now, sudden thoughts of his heated kiss streaming through her thoughts.
“Lauren??”
“Uh... he... uh...” Lauren paused as she looked up at Haley. “He kissed me.”
“WHAT!”
“Yeah... And I sorta kissed him back.”
“OH MY GOSH!” Haley screamed. “How?! WHEN?!”
“It was the day after Nevaeh got sick and I was at home, he came by,
brought some soup and we just started talking... and then he kissed me.”
“And you kissed him back...” Haley finished and Lauren could only nod.
“So do you like him? Is this the guy that your finally going to put it on the line
for?”
“Haley.” Lauren scolded as she slipped her tray into a cash register and
closed it quickly.
“What?!”
“You know that I don’t date.”
“Yes, I know that you don’t, but I don’t know the logic behind it... That guy,
the boss, of yours... Lauren, he is a catch! Rich, good-looking, caring, kind,
funny... and he’s interested!” Lauren rolled her eyes at her friend.
“Well sure he’s interested now! But what about when he finds out about
Nevaeh and Eddie and Luke? What then? I can’t see a big bachelor, living the high
life suddenly twist around and start to take the leading role of daddy dearest! No!
He would never, and that’s why I laid down the line this morning... If he stays my
boss, and I stay the secretary and my personal life stays behind doors than no one
gets hurt.” Lauren said quickly as she started to pull out the box of napkins and
start refilling the holders. Haley simply looked at her friend a moment then just
shook her head.
“Alright! Its your life.”
“Yes, it is.” Lauren responded back quickly. There was a moment of silence
as the two women filled the napkin holders then Haley slowly cleared her throat.
“So... just out of curiosity... on a scale of 1 to 10-”
“15.” Lauren said smartly, cutting off her friend. “No. 30.” Both Haley and
Lauren broke into small giggles. The diner was completely empty so both girls
talked and gossiped as much as they liked till they heard the front door bell ring.
“Be right there!” Lauren called out. “Rock, paper, scissors?” Lauren asked
quickly in a hushed voice. Haley looked around the bend to see the customer and
instantly froze.
“I think you’re going to want to take this one.” Haley said, her eyes steadfast
on the customer. Lauren frowned as she peaked her head out around the corner to
see Brice sitting at the counter, waiting patiently for her to come out.
“Oh-my-god!” Lauren breathed out and she ducked away, even though she
was pretty sure he had seen her. “He’s here!” Lauren gasped, barely believing her
own confession.
“Uh, yeah! Now get out there!” Haley scolded as she pushed Lauren out of
the back room on to the floor. Lauren, not able to keep her balance from the sudden
shove stumbled out in front of Brice.
“Uh... Mr. Hendrix!” Lauren managed to say, getting her thoughts and
nerves under control.
“Lauren... so this is your other job.” He said, purposefully looking around.
Suddenly Lauren saw every wrong thing in the diner, the chair that was out of
place, the dirty table in the corner, the mess of napkins left up on the counter.
“Uh... yeah! This is it.” Lauren said as she quickly scrapped the napkins into
the box and tucked it under the counter. “What can I get for you?” Lauren asked,
hoping that she would be able to just do her job and be calm and collected.
“You could get and do a lot of things for me if I had every desire fulfilled...
but for now... just a coffee.” Lauren stared breathless at his kidding, boyish grin,
his words making her cheeks flare in a sudden blush.
“Cream? Sugar?” Lauren forced out, her voice cracking slightly as she
grabbed a cup and put it up on the counter for him before turning her back to him
to get the pot of coffee.
“One of each please.” Brice said politely and Lauren pushed up the sugar
and cream toward him on the counter.
“There you go.” Lauren said and quickly walked away from the counter
straight into the back room.
“Lauren! What are you doing?!” Haley said wide eyed seeing her friend
dash back behind enemy lines.
“Hiding.” Lauren said simply, bracing her self against a wall, breathing
heavily.
“Well get back out there.”
“You get out there!” Lauren bit back. Haley looked at her for a split second
then a smile burst onto her face.
“Alright.” Lauren’s eyes grew even wider and she grabbed her friend before
she could take a step.
“On second thought.” Lauren said under her breath, pulling her back away
from the doorway leading out to the counter.
“Well?” Haley looked at her expectantly, motioning toward the front.
“Alright, alright... I’m going.” Lauren breathed in a deep breath then slowly
let it out and quickly walked out.
“Would you like anything with your coffee?” Lauren asked, not looking up
to see Brice, pretending that she was busy. But instead of making her life easy and
answering the question he was silent till she looked up at him.
“Could I ask you a question?”
“You can ask anything you wish, its a different matter of if I will answer.”
Lauren said smartly, smiling out of the corner of her mouth.
“Close your eyes.” Brice said softly.
“That’s not a question.” Lauren said swiftly back.
“I know... but just do it. Close your eyes for me.” Lauren’s breath hitched in
her throat as she felt like she had suddenly been blocked into an invisible trap.
“Why?” Brice didn’t answer her he simply just looked and waited. Lauren
breathed in a deep breath then glanced behind her to make sure that Haley was still
watching through the door, then she slowly turned back to Brice and closed her
eyes.
“Good, now take a deep breath.” She heard him say, her ears sharpening to
his voice as she took her breath. “Now answer my question, with out thinking. Just
answer.” Lauren frowned a bit as she heard his voice from another area of the
diner. Had he moved? “Don’t think of this place that your in, don’t think of
anything that keeps your mind going, let it fade away... and tell me...” His voice
had moved, it was closer, but Lauren didn’t feel surprised, or apprehensive, she
simply listened to his voice. “What do you want?” Lauren furrowed her brow as
she felt Brice’s presents close to her. She felt her mind travel in so many different
directions, before it fell upon one thing. And just as her mind settled, as her
thoughts focused, she felt Brice’s breath across her lips, then a scant moment after
his soft kiss. “And don’t try to tell me its not me.” Brice whispered as he leaned
back from the kiss, but he was still so close to her she could feel his breath on her
cheek as he spoke. “What do you want Lauren?” He asked again and Lauren
breathed in a breath as she slid her eyes open and looked up at him.
“Safety.”

~ ~ ~

Brice starred into her eyes as she answered his question. He thought he had
been ready for any answer she would give, half expecting it to be either him or to
be left alone, but this... Safety? What did that mean?
A frown developed in his eyes as he looked down at her. He slowly lifted his
hand and swept away a piece of hair from the side of her face, letting his fingers
graze her cheek. Brice saw her eyes shift from his eyes down to his lips but before
he could do or think anything he stopped himself. She didn’t want him. What was
he doing?! Pushing the limits like this was unacceptable. She could press charges!
She had asked him to stop this morning and here, not even 24 hours later he was
forcing kisses on her! Brice’s thoughts turned legalistic and he instantly took a step
back, letting his hand fall to his side. Brice let his head fall, let his eyes trail to the
floor before raising himself up again in a businesslike manner. “Thank you for the
coffee... and answering my question. I’m sorry if I’ve disturbed you at your work
place.” He paused as he dared to look her in the eyes again, needing to make sure
that she wasn’t furious with him. Her eyes seemed slightly glazed as she looked at
him, like she was looking through nothing. Had he just crossed a line? Was she so
mad that she was simply ignoring him now? “Will I see you tomorrow?” Brice
asked, unable to stop himself. She simply stared out beyond him, her eyes fixated
on nothing, but he could see her thoughts traveling intricately behind her gaze.
“Lauren?” He asked softly. She blinked slowly then again before she finally looked
up at him.
“Tomorrow. Yes.... I’ll see you tomorrow.” Brice wasn’t just worried now, he
was freaked out.
“Lauren! Are you alright?”
“Yes! I’m fine.” Brice wouldn’t have had bought it except she flashed him a
smile and he had no choice but to accept her words. “Have a good night Brice.”
She said quickly. Brice suppressed his smirk as he heard her slip up, saying his
name.
“Good night.” Brice said, forcing himself to be formal. He swore to himself,
he had never struggled this hard in his life to be in control of his actions. He turned
himself around and started for the door, he almost made it before he heard Lauren
call out after him.
“Oh, hey!” Brice turned at the door.
“Yes?”
“Your bill.” Lauren said quickly. “That’s 1.20” Brice gave her a slight smile
then opened up his wallet and threw down a bill on the table that was closest to
him.
“Keep the change.” He said flippantly. He didn’t give a second thought to
the money as he forced his legs and feet to work just so he could simply get out of
temptations way.
As he walked down the street back to his car he took one more look at her
through the window, only to see she had turned as her friend came out of the back.
Brice breathed in a deep breath before heading home for a restless nights sleep.

~ ~ ~

“HOLY HANNAH!” Haley yelled as she burst out of the back room after ease-
dropping on their whole conversation.
“What?” Lauren asked, trying to brush it off as a simple conversation.
“Don’t give me ‘what’! You know exactly what I mean!” Haley said
exasperated that Lauren would try to shun away from such a electric charged
moment. “Here, here. Wait a second.” Haley said as she rushed to her locker and
pulled out her purse then quickly ran back to Lauren and slammed the little packet
in the palm of her hand. “You need this more than I do.”
Lauren looked down at her hand to see a plastic wrapped condom.
“Haley!” Lauren whispered harshly as she tried to hide the item.
“What?! The way the two of you were acting around each other your going
to need that.” Haley said matter-of-factly. “And it wasn’t just him, Lauren, I mean
what I said. Both of you.” Lauren clamped down her jaw, trying to prevent her
face from going a deep red.
It didn’t work.
Ch 13

That night Lauren laid in her bed beside Nevaeh, restless. She couldn’t
sleep, couldn’t keep her mind from running in so many different directions. Ever
since Brice had come and spoke with her at the dinner and she had answered his
question... she felt like everything had been flipped upside down. Safety... to her it
was everything that Brice brought into her life. Stability, hope. But then everything
else was counted against her, she could never tell him the truth, never truly trust
him. He was at once, everything she wished for and everything she feared in her
life. He could offer her a life that she would never come to have through her own
means. But he could also destroy her and family. Lauren turned her head to look
over at Nevaeh, curled up on the bed beside her. She was so peaceful, so calm and
quiet. Lauren softly brushed her hair back away from her face then got up from the
bed. She wouldn’t let anything compromise her family, she wouldn’t let any one
hurt them... and that included herself. It was too risky to even think about. It was a
forbidden thought to her, yet she found her self relaying it through her thoughts
again and again. Lauren closed her tired eyes as she walked down the hall,
knowing every step, every corner by memory she guided herself to the kitchen
where she took a plastic cup from the cupboard and poured herself a glass of water.
She sipped at it slowly, her eyes still closed. After she was done she set the dish
down on the counter and walked into the living room to sit on the couch. She sat in
the very same place that she had sat the other day with Brice, letting her thoughts
drift into memories as she enveloped her self in one particular moment. But she
didn’t let herself have a minuet before she stopped her thoughts. She couldn’t do
this! Even thinking about it was wrong. She had to make all thoughts of Brice
synonymous with her father. A man that would swear his fidelity then leave at any
moment. If she could do that then all thoughts of love or lust would dissipate and
become non existent... but the thought of placing Brice next to something like that
made her heart sink. She didn’t have anything in her life like Brice... Lauren
paused as she remembered all the nights, all the days of torment in her past... And
I bet thats exactly what my mother thought too... Lauren thought
coldly. No. It was decided, she would have to do what ever was necessary to push
her heart away from Brice Hendrix.
“Lauren?” A soft voice broke into her thoughts making her jump clear off
the couch, her eyes finally flying open.
“Eddie! You scared me!” Lauren said, trying to keep her voice low so as not
to wake the others.
“Sorry...”
“What are you doing up!? It’s nearly 2 in the morning!”
“I had a bad dweeam.” Eddie mumbled as he wiped his nose with his sleeve.
Lauren instantly reached out to him and he came across the living room to her. She
picked him up and set him down on her lap.
“What happened?”
“It was a big snake and he was com’n aft me... and he wants to till me.”
Lauren looked into his big scared eyes before she pulled him into a hug.
“It’s okay... I don’t like snakes either...” She whispered. “But I won’t let him
get you... I won’t let anything hurt you. I promise.” Eddie looked up at her as she
let her grip loosen. “Okay?” Eddie nodded. “Okay... Well come on, lay down here.
I’ll watch over you till you fall asleep.” Eddie laid down on the couch with his
head in her lap. Lauren slowly stroked his hair back from his face, waiting for him
to fall asleep so she could put him back to bed and get some sleep herself.
“Lauren?” Eddie whispered softly up to her.
“Yes?”
“Will you sing?” Lauren instantly smiled. Both Eddie and Luke had loved
her lullabies but as Luke got older he stopped asking for them and Eddie, wanting
to follow his big brother stopped too, thinking they weren’t cool anymore... It
warmed her soul to sing to him again. She half breathed the song, afraid that it
would wake the other two, but she sang it loud enough that Eddie could hear.
“You are my sun shine, my only sun shine... you make me happy... when
skies are grey... you’ll never know dear... how much I love you... please don’t take
my sunshine away...” Lauren sung it twice through till she felt Eddie sink deeper
into sleep then she let the silence weigh in, allowing his mind to fall completely
into his dreams before moving him. But a half hour later there wasn’t just one
sleeping body on the couch, there were two.

~ ~ ~

“Lauren... Lauren...” Lauren shifted as she heard her name being called, and some
one was gently shaking her shoulder.
“Huh?” Lauren woke up slowly, opening her eyes to see Cassey.
“Cassey? What are you doing here so early?”
“Uh... I’m not early...” Lauren glanced to the window to see that it was
already light out.
“Oh no! What time is it?!” Lauren asked as she instantly bolted up out of the
couch, Eddie was already awake, probably in his room.
“It’s nearly 8.” Cassey said getting out of the way as Lauren launched for her
bed room to grab her things and run, not bothering to change from her simple
white t-shirt and sweats.
“Thank you Cassey! I’ll have money for you next week! Bye!” Lauren
vaulted out of her apartment and down to the street, it was pouring rain out and
Lauren instantly down the street, coming around the corner she saw the bus
starting to drive away from the bus stop. “No, no, no!” Lauren stuttered as she ran
even harder after the bus.
“Stop! Please! Stop!” Lauren yelled, as she caught up with the end of the bus
and banged on the hard metal, hoping to get the attention of the driver. “Stop!”
Lauren yelled again and slowly the bus slowed to a stop.
“Oh, thank God.” Lauren whispered to herself as she ran up to the doors as
she opened for her. “Thank you! So much.” Lauren breathed out as she got on. The
bus driver gave her a weird look as she dropped in her change and he started
driving again. Lauren quickly sat down and fished through her bag for a compact
mirror, to try and clean herself up a bit before she got to the office. Instead of a
mirror her hand came into contact with her phone and she quickly reasoned that it
would be better to phone Steve and make sure she still had a job there, considering
she hadn’t shown up for the second morning in a row, one he knew about, one he
didn’t.
“Steve! Hey! I’m so sorry, I slept in. I swear I’ll take a double shift the next
time I can...”
“It’s okay, I figured that Nevaeh is still sick.”
“Thank you... oh! And I have that money for you.” Lauren said, thinking
about the purse she had sold yesterday to pay back Steve for the hospital.
“Already!? How did you pull that off?”
“I just had a few things lying around that I got rid of.” Lauren said, lying.
“Alright... so I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes. Tomorrow. Bye!” Lauren quickly said before flipping her phone shut
and dropping it back into her bag, looking once again for her mirror. Just as she
found it the bus suddenly jerked, forward and sideways, making every one in the
bus jolt with the sudden jerk. The bus had popped a tire. Lauren’s heart sank as she
quickly made her way off the bus with the rest of the people into the soaking rain.
She quickly looked around to see that she was three blocks from her work... and
she didn’t have any money for a cab... so she did the only thing she could do. She
ran. When she got to the office she was heaving and soaking wet.

She ran for the elevators and quickly pushed the button. She ran into the office,
slopping water everywhere in her panic. She hoped the Brice would understand,
she had never been late with him really so she didn’t know what to expect. She just
hoped that he would be gracious even though she had laid down the business line
yesterday. She ran over to her desk and dumped her bags down before grabbing her
cloths.
“Hey! Get caught into the rain?” Lauren jumped, hearing Brice’s voice right
behind her.
“OH! You scared me! I’m sorry I’m late I miss slept then the bus popped a
tire and-” Lauren cut herself off as she watched Brice avert his gaze from her,
turning away. “Brice?” She questioned, seeing his odd behavior. “Is everything
alright?”
“Uh... yes... You should go change. He said abruptly, and with a choked off
voice. Lauren frowned as she slowly turned from him and walked into the
bathroom, not bothering with a stall Lauren walked to the mirror to try and wring
out her hair but she stopped instantly at seeing her self in the mirror. And instant
blush passed over her face as she realized the reason for Brice’s weird behavior.
She was wearing a plain white t-shirt and because of running through the rain to
the office she was soaked through and through. And to say that you could see
everything was not an exaggeration. Lauren’s eyes went wide as she quickly took
off her shirt, as if by taking it off it would erase Brice’s memory. She grabbed a
couple of paper towels and dried out her hair and body as much as she could before
getting dressed in her simple blouse and skirt. After she was dressed she pulled
back her hair into a high pony tail and walked out of the bathroom. She half
expected Brice to be waiting for her but he was no where in sight, and as she
neared her desk she realized he was sitting at his desk, already working. Lauren
quickly sat down and booted up her computer. Not a moment after she pressed the
power button Brice called on her. She quickly walked over to his door and stuck
her head in.
“Yes, Mr. Hendrix?”
“Coffee-”
“One cream, one sugar?” She asked, cutting him off.
“Yes. Please.” He said, giving her a small smile.
“Coming right up.” Lauren said quickly, after coming in late she wasn’t
going to grumble about getting her boss a coffee. She brought the cup and pot over
to his desk, she quickly poured the cup then handed it to him with a napkin.
“Thank you.” Brice said softly as she took the cup from her. “I hope that I
wasn’t over stepping my boundaries with visiting you at your diner.” Lauren
looked up at him surprised at his apology.
“Uh, no... not at all.” Lauren paused as she held the pot of coffee closer to
her, afraid that she would some how trip and she would once again spill the coffee
all over this desk. She bit her lip as she contemplated asking him her question. Her
eyes found the round burnt ring imbedded into Brice’s desk... it seemed so long
ago that she had made that mark from the coffee pot that she now held. “What
were you doing down in that part of the city... its doesn’t have the best reputation...
and most business men found down there are doing secret things that are good for
only black mail.” Lauren bit her tongue, knowing instantly she had spoken too
much of what her mind was thinking. Brice snapped his head up as soon as she had
said black mail.
“Well you are bold, now aren’t you!” Brice smirked up at her, as her wide
eyes came to his. And he held her gaze for a moment before answering her. Lauren
felt a slight tremor go through her body at his gaze... he could look at her like he
knew every thought she had. “Did you know that there are fifteen diners from this
office to where you live?” Brice asked his rhetorical question as his smile slowly
faded. “I’m sorry Lauren... I wasn’t in that part of the city for any other reason than
to find you.” Lauren felt her stomach clench and her heart skip a beat as if he had
just told her that he loved her. Brice got up from his chair slowly, letting his pen
drop on the desk, his work discarded as he walked toward her. Lauren felt her pulse
quicken and she tried to pull forth the feeling of hatred, hoping that if she could do
as she had thought last night that she would be able to resist Brice. She clamored
for the feeling, trying to remember what it was like to feel hatred and rage... but the
only feeling that came forward was heated desire. But just as he reached her his
phone rang out, making both of them jump, like waking suddenly from a dream.
Before Brice even reached to answer the phone Lauren had already turned and
walked out of his office. Lauren walked to the coffee cart and slowly set down the
coffee pot, she did everything slowly, as if by her actions it would slow her beating
heart as well. It couldn’t have been more than five minuets before Brice called out
to her.
“Lauren! Get in here!” Lauren jumped and then quickly went to his office.
“Yes?” Lauren asked to see he was positively beaming. “What is it?”
“We got it! We got it!” Brice yelled a huge smile on his face.
“Got what?!”
“That was the board on the phone! They approved the site for construction,
granted if we get the clients... But they approved! They APPROVED!” He jumped,
waving his hands as he laughed out his excitement and joy. He instantly vaulted at
her and wrapped her in a hug, spinning her around the office. “We got it!” He
yelled and laughed, spinning her about the room. Lauren, caught up in his
infectious laughter and joy laughed along with him as he held her. When he finally
let her down his breath was coming a little faster and she suddenly realized how
dangerously close she was to him. Lauren quickly pulled away out of his arms.
“Well really, who could say no to you?” Lauren said trying to keep the light
atmosphere and joke with him. He gave her one of his boyish grins before it
quickly faded.
“You.” Brice simply stared at her and Lauren blinked, frowning and looking
back at him, not understanding his comment.
“What?” She asked and Brice instantly breathed in a deep breath and let it
out smiling.
“We have a lot of work to do.” He said ignoring her question and walking
swiftly back to his desk.

The next two months went by quickly and uneventfully. Lauren felt finally back in
her own skin around Brice, they were both so busy that it seemed romantic
thoughts of any kind were simply discarded because they didn’t have time to fester
or grow. Brice had kept strictly to work relations, working her to the bone some
days but they got a lot accomplished. As for her other jobs both were very normal,
and she felt her life settle down into normalcy again... or at least as normal as he
life could get having three jobs to juggle and 3 kids to handle... but as for Brice he
seemed to keep to himself, only speaking with her about business matters and
nothing else. In a lot of ways it was refreshing, not to have to question each time
she came into work if she would have to refuse him yet again, but there seemed to
be no interest in their completely focused stated. It was their last night going over
the contracts and setting out the pitch, tomorrow was the big board meeting with
all of the contractors. Brice seemed just as nervous as her, so she had traded shifts
with Haley and hired Cassey to babysit for the night so she could spend as much
time at the office as she would need to get fully ready. It was almost 9 at night and
Brice was listening intently as Lauren relayed the memorized contracts back to
him. She technically hadn’t needed to memorize the contracts, but this being her
first pitch and business council meeting she didn’t want to mess up on anything,
plus with all the work that she did with the contracts it would have been hard not
to memorize it. She knew it backwards and forwards, and now she was relaying the
contract to Brice, saying the exact words written. As she said the words she
watched him nod at certain parts that she said, agreeing with the contract, and other
points he seemed to be as still as glass, listening to her words. When she came to
the end of the contract she finished off with instructing where to sign on the paper.
“Please sign on the appointed line marked with an ‘x’ then please print your
full name on the line below as well.” She said smoothly. Lauren waited a moment,
waiting for a reaction from Brice. And he slowly looked up grinning.
“It’s perfect! Word for word, I’m sure of it!” Lauren grinned along with him.
“And you have the contracts all printed out for tomorrow?” Lauren was alright
nodding as he spoke, he had already asked her two times before during their
working night.
“Yes. And the folders, and the pitch complex, and all the paper work is done
up... It’s all ready.” Brice leaned back smiling at her.
“We did it! We’re ready.”
“Yes, now as long as I don’t spill any coffee I think we’ll have it nailed.”
Lauren said laughing a sigh.
“You’ll be great. Don’t worry... besides, you won’t be pouring coffee. You’re
my partner in this remember? There will be a coffee cart in the room, and we’ll
have someone else come in and divvy out the coffee and tea.” Brice reassured her,
placing his hand over her’s on the desk. It was the first time in two months that he
had touched her in an affectionate way and all too quickly she felt the spring of a
reaction surface. Lauren looked down to her hand, seeing him grasp it gently
squeezing it. Lauren smiled softly as she slowly pulled her hand from under his.
“Its getting late... is there anything else that we need to do?” Brice moved
his hand from the place and got up with her from the desk.
“No... But we should celebrate! We haven’t done anything but work for a
long time now.”
“Brice, its called work for a reason. You come to work... to work.” Lauren
said, voicing the obvious. Brice laughed.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun after a hard day... or
rather month of work.” Brice watched her hesitant reaction. “Come on Lauren...
Celebrate with me, I’m buying! We’ll go out and have pizza or something.” Brice
begged like a kid and she could help but laugh.
“Alright, alright.” She conceded, giving herself the reason that she had a
baby sitter and didn’t have to work, that she was free for a couple hours and that
she had better embrace them while she could. Brice grabbed his jacket and quickly
walked out of his office just as Lauren was taking up her jacket as well. “So where
are we going?” Lauren asked as they both got into the elevator.
“There’s this place down by 42nd street. They have great pizza and they’re
open late.” Lauren laughed as Brice licked his lips extravagantly. “You know I
couldn’t have done any of this with out you. You’ve been invaluable in all of this.”
Brice said looking sidelong at her.
“Thank you... You’ve been helpful too! But just a little...” Lauren joked,
giggling at his shocked face.
“Oh just a little huh?”
“Yeah... you see you have this habit of talking on the phone with people...”
“You mean trying to get contractors to come and hear our pitch?”
“Yes! Those people.” Lauren quickly nodded.
“Ah-huh... and what would we be doing tomorrow if we didn’t have any one
to pitch to?”
“Well... I’m sure you could manage pouring me coffee.” Lauren grinned as
they bantered back and forth while walking out of the building. Brice haled a taxi
and Brice couldn’t help but comment back.
“So now I’m the secretary, huh?”
“Hey! I thought you said we were partners!” Lauren bit back, trying to keep
in her laughter.
“Oh, yes... almost forgot... what with my being useless in the whole
operation.”
“Now I didn’t say that....” Lauren said back grinning. Brice just laughed.
“You know that mouth of yours is going to get you into some trouble one of
these days.”
“Well I’m sure I can handle what ever it brings on me... as long as it doesn’t
act up tomorrow.” Lauren smiled up at him as he leaned back in the seat and
reached over an arm around her shoulders.
“Yes. That would not be a good thing...” Lauren sighed as she just leaned
back in the seat with him, content to have his arm around her, trying to tell herself
that it was innocent enough and that she didn’t feel the butterflies that were already
flapping uncontrollably in her stomach. She watched out the window in silence as
the night lights went by in a never ending stream. They got to the pizza a place and
Brice held out his hand to help her out of the car. The pizza was amazing, as Brice
had said. Greasy, cheesy and completely unhealthy, but oh-so good.
“So how’s your brother?” Brice asked as he took another slice of pizza.
“Uh, good.”
“Found a job yet?” Lauren bit into her slice, trying to bide some time and
she just shook her head no as an answer. Brice looked down to his pizza as he
nodded.
“You know if he needs a job I can look around and see what I can find.”
Brice offered.
“Oh, thanks, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
“Well its no problem at all if he needs anything just let me know.” Brice
grinned up at her as she tried to focus on changing the subject.
“You said before that you had a half brother... whats the story behind that
one?”
“Not really a story... My father had an affair, the woman got pregnant, my
mother found out, they divorced and he went and lived with his new family. End of
story.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”
“Oh.” Lauren quietly said, letting the subject drop, sensing Brice’s iciness to
the subject. “Do you have any other siblings?”
“No.” Lauren looked down to her pizza, letting the conversation drop to
silence.
“I’m full!” Brice announced, trying to bring the mood back up. Lauren gave
him a smile as she ate the last bite of her piece of pizza. As she chewed she
watched Brice look out the window and a smile slowly came across his face.
“What?” She asked, seeing his mischievous look.
“Come on!” He moved swiftly out of the booth, dropping a bill on the table
before running out and across the street, dragging her along with him. As they
crossed Lauren realized where he was taking her.
“A club?!” Lauren yelled at him as the music blared from inside the club.
Brice turned back to her.
“Yeah! We’re gonna do dancing!” Lauren’s eyes instantly shot wide.
Dancing!? Oh no... Lauren instantly stopped where she stood, her body jerking
forward and Brice jerking backward. He looked back at her confused, but seeing
her face he came close to her so he could talk to her with out yelling.
“Are you alright?”
“I don’t know how to dance!” Lauren said back to him, a blush coming over
her cheeks. Growing up she never had time to go to dances, she was either taking
care of the kids or studying. Brice smiled then quickly waved it off like a menial
hindrance.
“No! Brice you don’t understand! I don’t know how to dance!”
Lauren said with more emphasis. “I’ve never danced... Come on, lets just go
back.” Lauren said tugging on his hand.
“Uh-huh, no way! You are not going anywhere!” Brice said smiling as he
suddenly yanked her arm back to him, spinning her as she went. She toppled like a
brick, loosing her balance she fell right into Brice. She squeezed her eyes shut,
afraid she would have knocked him over, but she stayed vertical and she slowly
opened her eyes to see Brice’s eyes laughing down at her.
“I got you! Come on...” He beckoned her backward onto the dance floor. She
looked at her hand wrapped in his as she hesitantly walked toward him. “Trust
me...” He beckoned. “I won’t let you hurt yourself.” Lauren slowly smiled at his
promise.
She reluctantly came to him, allowing him to slip his hands around her
waist.
“Just follow me.” He said, slightly easing her hips this way and that. She felt
like a fool. It wasn’t even a minuet before she drew away from him, retreating.
“No, no, no. Come here!” He pulled her back to him, but this time her back was
too his chest. “Just move with me.” He said into her ear. Lauren felt him moving
behind her and her body quickly fell into his rhythm, moving back and forth,
swaying with the beat. “See? I told you... you’re dancing.” Brice said into her ear
and she could almost hear the smugness in his voice.
“I’d hardly call this dancing.” She said back to him, laughing.
“Oh?” She barely heard him before he grasped her hand and spun her out of
his arms then jerked her back spinning into his arms. She tripped coming back,
once again loosing her balance.
“I’m never going to get that.” Lauren said laughing as her self.
“I think you’re doing rather well for never dancing before.” Brice said back
to her, still swaying back and forth with her. Lauren relished the feeling of moving
with him, his strong chest pressed against her back as they moved together, his
arms wrapped safely around her. She leaned into him, taking the moment for what
it was, letting the music fall over them like a mist into her memory. She didn’t
know how long she spent on the dance floor moving with the beat of the music
with Brice holding her tightly to him. She didn’t know when she grew tired but it
seemed to come over her like a wave and she didn’t have to say a word, as Brice
had already left his place behind her, taking her hand softly and moving her from
the dance floor out of the club to the streets, looking for a cab. Lauren went with
him in a slight daze, she had been so wrapped up in the moment, coming out into
the fresh air had a euphoric effect on her and she giggled as she spun, letting her
head roll back so she could see the street lights.
“Lauren! Careful!” Brice cautioned, gabbing her before she fell off the curb
of the street.
“I’m sorry...” She said sheepishly, but she still couldn’t loose her grin and
she giggled slightly as Brice smiled with her. He shifted his arms more securely
around her, holding her on the street, giving up on the cab for now. “We’re not
dancing anymore.”
“No, we’re not. Thank you captain obvious.” Brice joked and Lauren
swatted him playfully.
“I meant, that we’re not dancing, yet your still holding me.”
“Ah... I see...” Brice paused as he looked down at her. “Well I have a
confession to make.”
“Oh?” Lauren asked, suddenly intrigued at his remark.
“I like having you in my arms.” Instantly her euphoric state fell away from
her like a curtain, warning bells in her head suddenly beaming through her heart as
it beat out of control.
“Brice...” Lauren said softly, her tone suddenly serious and she tried to work
her way out of his grasp.
“Lauren... its been hell this past month working with you and not being able
to touch you... if it weren’t for the amount of work that we had to get done I would
have gone mad.” Brice said frankly. Lauren didn’t know what to say, didn’t know
even what to do. And before her frantic mind could come up with an answer that
would calm the butterflies in her stomach and stop her desire from burning her
from the inside out Brice took the first step. She saw him lean toward her, his eyes
fixed on her mouth like a target. There were no words to portray the sudden panic
she felt. She knew this was it, if she kissed him hear and now she wouldn’t be able
to go back... nor, she was sure, that she would want to. She had to get away from
him, she had to stop this before it was too late! She wriggled her hand up between
them and gently pressed her fingers against his lips.
“Brice... I can’t.” She said as she felt his soft tempting lips against her touch.
It wasn’t a moment before Brice loosened his grip around her, letting his hands fall
to his side.
“Its been a long day... and we have another tomorrow as well. We should call
it a night.” Brice said shoving his hands into his pockets, as if he needed some kind
of restraint to keep him from touching her again.
“I think your right.” Lauren said softly. Brice took a step to the curb and
signaled to a cab. It drove up and stopped before them. Brice opened up the door
for her and she slid in, but to her surprise he closed the door right after her.
“Brice?”
“I’ll catch the next one... I need a little air anyway.” He said giving her a
small smile of reassurance. He handed her two twenties through the rolled down
window. “Here, this should cover it.” She looked down at the money then back to
Brice.
“Brice. I’m sorry.” Lauren choked out as she grabbed the widow ledge,
leaning out to him. “So sorry.” She said again, trying to make him understand her
regret.
“I’ll see you tomorrow. Get some rest.” He said then stepped away from the
cab. Lauren sighed as the cab pulled away from the curb and went down the street,
away from Brice. It took everything in her not to look back through the window at
him, but she knew if she did she would stop the cab and run back to him, so she sat
clenching her own hands, trying to control her tears.

It’s for the best. It’s for the best...


But the more she repeated it the more her heart sank in her chest.
Ch 14

That morning Lauren woke earlier than her alarm, eager and apprehensive of the
day ahead. She sifted through her clothing to find something appropriate to wear.
She settled on blue dress with thick straps and a square cut neck line. It fit her well
and she had simple white high heels to go with it. After she had picked what to
wear she quickly folded up the garments and slipped into her jeans and a t-shirt
ready to go down to the dry cleaners to work before her big day. Steve had been
great the past month, he was understanding and had become her old friend once
again, she liked working with his slight bantering and humor, it allowed her to
relax before she had to get into her office work mode. Today wasn’t any different.
After 73 orders were finished Lauren ran out of the dry cleaners to catch her bus
and make her way down town. She picked up two coffee’s from the coffee shop
next to the office before she made her way up the elevator. She walked straight to
Brice’s office where he sat reading over the presentation once more.
“Morning. I brought you coffee, figured we would need it today.” Lauren
said as she sat the coffee cup down on his desk.
“Thank you!” Brice said smiling up at her. Lauren quickly width drew from
his office before she let her mind meander to memories of last nights -almost- kiss.
Dumping off her stuff at her desk and walking to the washroom Lauren sipped at
her own coffee, sighing slightly at the warm drink. She slipped into her dress with
ease. It had a side zipper so she didn’t need any help and she quickly slipped on her
high heels then checked herself in the mirror, doing her make up quickly, putting a
slight gloss to her lips before she came back out of the washroom. She grabbed the
contracts from her desk before walking into Brice’s. She had come accustomed to
walking into his office with out knocking, it had become a private work room of
theirs. She sat down on the couch and set her coffee on the small coffee table
before flipping open a package of contracts. She read through the names of the
contractors again, she wanted to answer them by name if they had questions, so she
had two weeks ago assembled photos of each business man and slipped his photo
in by his name. She had developed a page for each man, giving a brief description
of them and where they stood within contracting.
“Well? Are you ready?” Brice asked, leaning back in his chair looking over
at her.
“I think so... We’ve worked hard I think today is the day that it all pays off.”
Lauren smiled back at Brice as she flipped the pages closed and set her hands
down on top of them. There was a moment of silence as Brice just looked at her
then he quickly sighed and then leaned forward.
“Look Lauren, before this day goes forward I want you to know that I’m
sorry for the way I acted last night. You have repeatedly asked me to stopped my
actions toward you... and although I can not promise that it will not happen again, I
want to say that I am sorry. I was out of line and I hope that you’ll forgive me.”
“Already forgiven, Mr. Hendrix.” Lauren said right away, smiling over at
him. Brice looked down at his desk then quickly back up to her.
“Thank you.”

That afternoon Lauren felt nervous as she watched the contractors and clients file
into the conference room. She had to be flawless in her presentation of the
contract. Suddenly she was hit with a spike of fear and Lauren instantly turned to
Brice as stood behind the blinds in his office watching as the men went by.
“Brice, what if I can’t answer one on their questions?! What if I don’t know
the answer?!”
“Don’t worry, you know this thing inside and out.”
“But what if I don’t! What if they ask me something and I can’t give them an
answer!”
“Well then you tell them very politely that you will look into it and get back
to them as soon as possible. Simple as that. They will have questions Lauren, but
they are also fair in them as well. They aren’t god’s, Lauren. They’re business
men.”
“What’s the difference again?” Lauren asked out of the corner of her mouth
as she looked back to the conference room. She heard Brice’s chuckle behind her,
but he didn’t answer her.
“Well... we better get started. Oh! And if Claira motions to you for the phone
you may go as long as it isn’t part of your presentation, but I will not be taking any
phone calls, alright?”
“Understood.”
“Good.” Brice turned to walk out of his office but he instantly stopped and
turned back to her. “Oh... and one other thing... As much as I enjoy you calling my
by my first name you will address me as Mr. Hendrix at all times while we are
going through the presentation.”
“Of course, Mr. Hendrix.” Lauren said quickly, agreeing.
“Good...” Brice paused for a moment more before he smiled down at her.
“Good luck.”
“We’re going to need it.” Lauren said back smiling and the two of them
quickly left the office and walked into the conference room.

Everything was going smoothy, Brice was a natural presenting. He spoke with
clarity and passion. But her nerves would not settle as she watched and listened.
When she saw Claira wave her hand at Lauren she almost sighed at the welcomed
escape to breath. She quickly walked out of the conference room and walked over
to Claira.
“Yes? What is it?” Lauren asked quickly as she tried to take a few deep
breaths. She felt like she had been holding her breath since she went into the
conference room.
“It’s a teacher from an elementary school... she says that somethings
happened to a...” Claira looked at her note that she had jotted down. “Luke-”
“I’ll take it.” Lauren said cutting her off. She quickly took the phone and
spoke into it.
“Hello this is Lauren Kendal.” She said quickly, a frown already on her face.
“Hello, Ms. Kendal. I’m the principal from midtown Elementary. I hate that
I’m the one to tell you this but there’s been an unfortunate accident... Luke has
been taken to the hospital.”
“WHAT?!” Instantly panic was set through her. “What happened?” Lauren
asked, trying to reign in her fears.
“Well Mrs. Tentra, his computer teacher realized that he was running a high
fever but before she could even call for the nurse he was having a seizure. We
called 911, and he’s on his way to the hospital now.”
“Is he alright?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know... the medics wouldn’t allow anyone to touch
him once they got here. I think that you should get down there as soon as you can,
Ms. Kendal. I’m so sorry.” Lauren didn’t answer in her shock, she simply hung up
the phone. Claira was already back at her desk, taking another call. Lauren leaned
against the wall, trying to breath. She didn’t know how long she had stood there
leaning against the wall for support before her panic finally took wing. She ran to
the door of the conference room and opened it. She cleared her throat, afraid that
she wouldn’t be able to speak.
“Lauren, I told you no phone calls.” Brice said before she could even say a
word after opening up the conference room.
“I know. I’m sorry, but it’s not a phone call for you. Can I speak with you?”
Brice’s head instantly snapped toward her at the tone of her voice. It
sounded like she was about to cry, something was wrong.
“Excuse me, gentlemen. I’ll just be one moment. If you would look over
page 21 of the agreement I’ll be back before you finish for any questions you may
have.” Brice said formally as he stepped out.
“Lauren? What is it? Are you alright?”
“No.” Her voice quivered as she tried to keep it together.
“Hey, it’s okay, what’s wrong?” Brice asked instantly holding her shoulders
to offer some some kind of comfort and support.
“It’s my brother... He’s in the hospital. An ambulance took him there... I just
got the call.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke, unable to hold them in
anymore. “They said he had a high fever, but before they could do anything about
it he had a seizure!” Lauren said through gasping sobs. I need to go. I’m sorry but I
have to go to the hospital. Lauren whipped at her tears as she reached for her
jacket. “I’m sorry if I’m letting you down but your just going to have to explain the
contracts as best as you can and if they have any questions they’ll have to wait. I
have to go.”
“No, just wait a second.” He said squeezing her shoulder affectionately.
“But-”
“Just wait! I’ll be right back.” He turned on his heel and went back into the
conference room. Lauren watched as he said something to the clients then quickly
came back out and walked swiftly to his office and grabbed something the quickly
came back out holding his jacket.
“Come on, let’s go.” He said putting his hand to the small of her back,
leading her towards the elevators.
“What?” Lauren said as she turned her head to see through her blurry eyes
that the client’s were leaving the conference room.
“Brice! What-! No! You can’t do this! We’ve worked so hard!”
“This is more important. It’s an emergency. I’m not going to let you go
down to the hospital on a bus or a cab; that will take you more time than you can
afford. You should be there now.” He said as he pressed the down button on the
wall for the elevator. It opened and he guided Lauren in, his hand still at her lower
back.
“But Brice, you don’t have to-”
“Yes. I do. Now not another word about it. I’m taking you and that’s final.”
He said looking down at her, a stern yet concerned look in his grey eyes.
Lauren only gave a faint nod in return.
He led her though the parking lot to a black ferrari. He opened the door for
her to reveal leather seats and a perfect interior. If she hadn’t been so shocked by
her brother being in the hospital her jaw would have dropped. This car was worth
more than her whole apartment building!
“Come on.” He urged her into the passenger seat. Lauren felt the leather
cradle her as she settled in. The seat was better than her bed! Brice hopped in
beside her and she bad barely gotten her seat belt on before they were speeding
down the road. When they got to the hospital it felt like a dream as they walked
down the halls, leading to her brother. When they finally found his room she
pushed opened the door, trying to control her emotions, trying to be strong.
Lauren couldn’t breath as she walked into the hospital room, her little brother
swallowed up by the huge bed. “Luke?” Her own voice sounded foreign to her. The
small body moved under the covers, leaning up to see who had called his name.
“Lauren?” Lauren launched from the place she stood, running to her brother.
She wrapped her arms around his small body. She sobbed into his thick red hair,
unable to control herself any longer.
“I’m so sorry!” She whimpered as she held him, she pulled away and kissed
him on the forehead again and again then she finally pulled away to look at him.
“Are you okay? How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay... who is he?” Luke motioned his head toward Brice.
“Oh... uh... well.” Lauren looked back to Brice. She had almost forgotten he
was there. “He’s my...” Lauren turned back to her brother. “He’s my boss.” Luke’s
eyes suddenly went wide.
“Please sir! Don’t fire Lauren! It was my fault sir, please don’t fire her!”
Brice instantly took three steps into the room, coming up behind Lauren.
“Hey, it’s okay! No one’s getting fired, least of all Lauren. I would never let
her go.”
“Promise?” Brice paused at Luke’s innocent questioning of his word. Lauren
looked up to him when Brice didn’t answer right away, and she was taken aback
when she found he was looked at her, not her brother.
“I promise.” Lauren broke eye contact with Brice to look back to her brother.
She stroked back his hair from his face.
“See? Nothing to worry about but getting better.” Lauren said forcing a
smile. Luke leaned back in the hospital bed, relaxing and closing his eyes.
Lauren felt more than heard Brice step back. She thought he had left the
room till he gently gripped her shoulder. Lauren jumped at his touch, she looked
back to see him push a chair up to her. “Thank you.” Lauren said softly. She sat
down as he pushed the chair closer to the hospital bed. He squeezed her shoulder
gently as he leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I’ll be right out side okay?”
Lauren only nodded, not saying a word as she waited for the door to the room to
close. When she heard the soft thud she leaned forward taking Luke’s hand in hers.
“You gotta be strong okay buddy? I can’t loose you too.” Luke slowly
nodded then leaned back in the bed, closing his eyes. Lauren sat beside him for a
half hour till his breathing became deep and rhythmic with sleep. She got up
realizing that Brice could still be waiting out side. So she tucked in Luke and made
sure he was alright before leaving the room to find Brice and thank him for
bringing her to the hospital and sticking around. She walked down the hall a bit till
she came to a sitting area, expecting Brice to be there sitting reading a magazine or
something she took a few quick steps to view the whole area. He was there, but he
wasn’t sitting. He was pacing back and forth, his hands in fists, and his face angry.
“Brice? What’s wrong?” He snapped his head up at hearing her then stopped
pacing.
“Nothing.” He said shortly.
“Well why were you pacing? Why are you upset?” Brice frowned as he took
her by the shoulders.
“Where the hell is your mother?” He said, fighting not to grind his teeth.
“What?” Lauren took a step back away from him, away from the sudden
painful memory.
“This isn’t acceptable! I thought that Luke was at least around your age,
maybe a bit younger, but he’s young! Very young! You shouldn’t be here looking
after him like this. Where is your mom? This is ridiculous! You shouldn’t be
responsible for him like this.”
“Brice-”
“No! You shouldn’t take this! It isn’t your responsibility, he’s your brother,
yes, and its good to take care of him. But this! You’re acting like he’s your son!”
Brice suddenly stopped talking. “Is he your son?” Lauren sighed.
“Brice, he’s not my son. And it is my responsibility.” Lauren said calmly.
“But-”
“My mother died when I was 15.” Lauren said quickly, cutting him off.
“But your father left when you were 15.”
“It was a bad year.” She said simply.
“So you’re an orphan?” Lauren looked down.
“We are orphans.”
“We?”
“Me, Luke, Nevaeh and Eddie.”
“There are four of you!?” Lauren sighed as she looked away from his
shocked face, a pang of guilt striking her hard.
“Yes. I’m sorry I misled you to believe that it was only the two of us and that
Luke was older, it’s just... I don’t want pity.” Lauren glanced back up to Brice.
“How old are the other two?” Lauren looked down again.
“Luke is 8... Nevaeh is 4 and Eddie is 2.” Brice backed away from her,
completely floored.
“Jesus!... And you’re the only one taking care of them?” Lauren slowly
nodded. A new light came on in Brice’s eyes as he looked at her. “That’s why you
work three jobs. Thats why you’re tired somedays, why you sold your purse to
Claire... it was all for them wasn’t it?”
“Everything I do is for them.” Lauren said softly. “And everything I
don’t do.” Lauren bit back tears coming to her eyes, thinking of the kiss that had
almost happened... And the one that did so long ago... Brice, thinking the same
thing slowly sat down in the waiting room chair.
“That’s why you don’t date.” Lauren swallowed as she nodded.
“I know that you’re probably mad because I didn’t tell you-”
“No... I’m not mad.” Brice took a moment before he rose to his feet and
walked to her. “An employee is allowed to have a personal life out side of the
workplace.” Brice said formally.
“An employee?” Brice looked at her, his face had taken on a different turn,
he looked like a boss, she had never seen this face before. Not ever had he
approached her with true businesslike mannerisms... and it crushed her. She needed
him, now more than ever, to look at her with understanding and - if she dare even
think it - love. But his face was stone as he looked at her, his eyes empty. Lauren
blinked back her tears.
“You’re allowed to have a personal life. It’s not an employers place to know
personal things about employees.”
“But we are personal...” Lauren gasped back a sob, forcing it back down
her throat. She couldn’t cry in front of him, she couldn’t show her true feelings, not
now... not when everything was already unraveling... she would not let her
emotions go rampant, not now.
Brice’s eyes softened as he heard her words, watched as she tried desperately
to keep her tears from spilling over to fall elegantly down her cheeks. His heart
broke in that moment, but not for himself, it was for Lauren. She was so strong.
“I’m so sorry I kept this from you.” Lauren said finally, her voice stronger
than he would have expected.
“I keep things from you as well.” Brice whispered as he slowly reached out
to Lauren in a reassuring voice.
“You’re not mad?”
“Mad? No! Shocked, yes. But mad? Lauren you take care of these kids!
You’re more of an adult than I was at 19... hell! You’re more of an adult than I am
now! I was off kissing girls and-” Brice saw Lauren’s face go dark and he instantly
cut off his words. “And... uh... other things that aren’t really relevant right now...”
Brice quickly said. “But my point is if anything... I feel admiration toward you.
Not to mention my highest respect.” Brice gently took Lauren’s shoulders in his
hands as she looked up at him with big eyes. “You are the most complicated,
stunning, caring, stubborn, and strongest woman I have ever known.” He paused as
he watched her eyes stream up with tears again. He pulled her in to his arms
instantly and hugged her. “I swear I will do everything I can to help you.”