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Thank you so much for going on this journey with me.
Cyber Monday used to be fun for Lauren. Dylan’s parents, his sister and most of all Dylan would be on her list to buy things and then she would buy gifts for herself. She used to go as far as wrapping her own presents up and putting them under her tree.
A real tree made especially for the Christmas holiday from an out-of-town supplier in the Mountains of Colorado. She would spend close to five hundred dollars to ship the tree in and then spend close to a thousand to decorate the tree.
Last year, she gave Dylan the keys to the house and an expensive crystal bottle. Inside of the bottle was a list of relationship goals, silly to do things she had dreamed of for them to do in the future.
The money she had spent back then now seemed stupid, just like her choosing not to run to her doctor and show proof she was a virgin when she had the chance.
She could have done that, but there was a certain principle about the matter.
If she told Dylan she was a virgin, why couldn’t he just believe her? Why did he choose to believe Tyler over her?
Love should have prevailed. Lauren shouldn’t need any evidence in order to prove she was a virgin.
Yes, she was silly to believe in love, but she had seen the goodness of love in her parents. Why couldn’t she have that? She deserve everything she had worked for and the perfect life was what she wanted above all else – a perfect life with Dylan.
Why couldn’t Dylan stop being an idiot, punch Tyler in the face and call her?
As she lit another tea light to get the chill out of the efficiency room and put it under the flower-pot, Lauren was too cold to remember what was on the list anymore she had given Dylan.
She loved making to-do lists and she hadn’t made any in a long time.
Almost another month was passing and the hope for the life Lauren had dreamed she would be having was slowing fading away.
Doing one day temp office jobs on minimum wage was difficult. Without a car, getting the more lucrative office jobs was out of her reach. She had barely learned the bus system in Detroit and was resorting to using the iron pimps to make sure she could get around.
The efficiency room had been a blessing, even though it was run by a slum landlord. The house she stayed at had been turned from a four bedroom into separate rooms for people to stay in and share the kitchen and bathroom.
Yet, Lauren had not been able to afford even a room upstairs after the five hundred dollars ran out, but the slum landlord had been gracious enough to offer the storage room next to the laundry room in the basement.
It was always cold down there and with the winter months coming in Detroit, Michigan, the basement was the worse place to live, but there was a futon and a lamp and a cheap lock on the door. She had to enter and leave from the back and her mail was usually strewn by her door on the floor.
At this point, this small room was all Lauren could afford and she wasn’t going to complain. She still hoped for brighter times.
In one corner she had her suitcase. Two business suits and some heels were the most expensive things in there. Other than that, there were a couple of t-shirts, two good pairs of jeans, underwear, one pair of flats and one pair of gym shoes. In the bottom storage, she kept all her important documents. Her other bag next to the suitcase was her bathroom and sundries.
To shower in her efficiency, she had to wait until the middle of the night when no one was using the basement. A plastic bin with a tarp hung around it was made and she had to take the hose from the sink by the washer and put it on the top of a hook near the ceiling by the tarp.
These showers were never warm, but she stayed clean.
In return for her staying there, she was also in charge of keeping the laundry room and the small bathroom down there clean. This included sweeping the steps and making sure the garbage was taken out.
Tonight, Lauren was reluctant to take a shower. The basement was cold and dank. She went to the bathroom to wash up and fill up a jug of water to retreat back to her room.
She had an electric kettle which she could always use to make tea, heat some noodles and blend in a pack of tuna. If she got tired of that, peanut butter and jelly was her go to on expired bread.
If the slum landlord knew about the kettle he would blow a socket. He had ordered she wasn’t allowed to plug-in anything other than a cell phone and lamp down there. Her rent barely covered the roof over her head and the water she used, not electricity.
Lauren looked down at the mail she had picked up at her door when she had arrived home. A huge shoe print was in the middle of the one letter that had bothered her the most.
It was from the Law Offices of Black & Knight.
An eloquent name for the Tyler and Dylan’s law practice.
Was this Dylan reaching out to her? Soon after Lauren had moved in the efficiency, she had called Deborah and updated the chipper administrative assistant on her current address, but only specifically for Dylan – NOT TYLER!
Lauren had been putting off opening the letter until she was locked in her room and settled for the night.
Despite her cold fingertips, she tore open the envelope and unfolded the letter inside.
Unfortunately, it was not from Dylan. Tyler’s handwriting was not easy to forget. The man had a way of even writing coldly.
Call me, TB
There was a number listed on the bottom and next to it was written, ‘cell.’
She wasn’t going to use her minute phone to waste on Tyler.
The next morning, she left for her assignment extra early. This was her last day of this assignment. There was a phone in the break room for employees to use and she would utilize this one hoping Tyler answered his phone at seven in the morning.
The deep rumbling of his morning voice answering the phone made her eardrums tingle. Dylan used a CPAP machine in the night and had always answered the phone out of breath in the morning.
“You wanted me to call you,” she said. “I thought I made it clear I never wanted to see or hear from you again.”
“You probably did, but you must remember I could give a fuck, Lauren.”
The deep tenor of his sensuous morning voice caught her off guard or maybe the way he was so familiar with her name and not being around someone familiar with her in a very long time was taking a toll on her spirit.
“What do you want?” she said harshly.
“I wanted you to know I finalized everything for the house and cars. I was able to sell some items that made the money legally yours. I was going to send the check, but didn’t know if that was a safe address to send it to.”
“No, it’s not. It’s better if I pick it up.” She knew her current mail barely got to her and the residences of this place couldn’t be trusted, even if she didn’t want to lay eyes on Tyler.
“I’m free this afternoon to bring this to you.”
“Why you? Can’t Deborah do it?”
“Unless you would like me to take a payment for her to deliver the check, then I suggest you swallow your disgust about me and be fine getting it from me personally. My time is money. More money than you’ll ever see, so you should be grateful I’m not charging you for my services.”
“I don’t know if it’s worth seeing you,” she grumbled.
“It’s too early in the morning to mince words with you, woman. Can you please confirm?”
“Fine, I get off my job at 4,” she answered reluctantly.
“Give me the address and I’ll be there at 4pm.”
She was glad this was her last day at this job. The idea Tyler knew how to physically contact her felt dangerous. All she could think about was when he grabbed her and yanked her against his body. The dark evil in his eyes and the fear which had slunk through her gut was still fresh in her memory.
“Is that all?” she asked as people were coming into the break room giving her the side eye for using the phone because she wasn’t a real employee.
“That will be all until I see you.”
She hung up the line getting just a little satisfaction on disconnecting from Tyler, but also getting out of the break room and getting on her own, out of so much public view.
Everywhere she went, there seemed to be people whispering about her. Someone from somewhere knew either about her personal life or her business life and both were looked upon in disgust or pity.
Neither Lauren cared for and just wanted to be left alone. Her sleazy recruiter usually put her in small businesses that just needed help getting together simple Excel sheets or work on Powerpoint presentation along with some small filing. Nothing challenging and nothing lucrative like she used too. The recruiter barely wanted to work with her, but Lauren had to agree to a bigger cut to the recruiter just to get these crappy jobs.
Most times she was working with people who really hated their job and the only person happy to be there was the owner who was making the most money.
Of course, she thought of ideas to make their lives easier, but she wasn’t paid enough to input or implement those ideas and she kept them to herself in a little journal she constantly wrote her personal and professional thoughts.
On her lunch break, she went to the bathroom to check out her appearance. The stress in her life had broken off her hair and keeping her black locks moisturized was a challenge. She found coconut oil to be useful for cooking and keeping her scalp moist and decided keeping her hair natural was the most affordable way. Unable to buy makeup, she kept her face scrubbed clean with the cheap soap and usually used lip butter she made from the coconut oil and any flavor she could afford at the dollar store. This week’s flavor was almond because it was on sale.
Approximately at 3:59 pm, Lauren clocked out and went over to the office manager’s desk to have her time card signed.
“This says you worked until four pm, but it’s only 3:59, plus it took you five minutes to shut down and pack up so I can’t count that as work. You’ll have to change this before I approve it.”
Lauren bit her tongue at her snap back and took out another card to quickly change the time to 3:50. The woman was going to be a wench over five fricking minutes just because she was miserable at her job.
When Lauren walked out of the place it was going on 4:03 pm and a luxury diamond black Cadillac sedan was parked in front of the door. The rest of her co-workers were coming out too and they looked suspiciously at her as she approached the vehicle.
Of course, Tyler didn’t get out and open the passenger door for her, so she went around to the driver’s side. He rolled the window down and looked up and down at her as the icy wind of November whipped about her.
“You’re late,” he sniped.
“I’ve had a long day, Tyler, and I don’t really want to start mincing words with you.”
He looked a bit uncomfortable at her informality, but since he’d called her Lauren this morning all she could think about was his first name, plus she had used his excuse for not talking to her long this morning.
Maybe he didn’t like his words coming back at him.
“Get in the car,” he ordered.
“Why should I? It’s just a paycheck you need to hand to me,” she argued holding her hand out.
“I don’t discuss business outside.,” he gritted out. “Get in the fucking car now, Lauren.”
She huffed and came around on the passenger side to get in the vehicle. The warm leather seat was to die for enveloping her body like a burrito wrap. Lauren closed her eyes for just a moment to real in the luxury really missing her vehicle she had signed away which if her life had not been turned upside down she should have been driving now.
This brought back why she hated Tyler Black heavily to her soul.
“What’s your address? I’m taking you home,” he said.
“No, I’m fine. The buses run on time. If you hurry up and give me the check I can get to my stop on time.”
“I’m really not in the mood to fight with you today, Lauren. I’ve been in court all morning and won my client over ten million dollars. Fighting with you is not worth my time.”
“Then just give me my check,” she said stubbornly.
Tyler pointed to his GPS system. “Address now.”
Reluctantly she typed her address in his car system and then sat back as he took off.
People from the office was still standing around watching them and in a way, she was glad to be leaving that place and watching their jealous stares and wondering eyes.
“You’re an asshole braggart, Tyler Black,” she said.
“I was sharing my victory,” he said.
“Liar. You’re rubbing my nose into how much money you made in your eight hours when compared to the money I’ll never see in my whole lifetime.”
He shrugged. “I think you’re just a little bit jealous.”
“Can I just have my check and you can put me out on any corner to be done with me?” she begged.
Tyler chuckled. “I also wanted to let you know there were some personal items you left that I put in storage. Open up the glove compartment.”
She did so. There was a key taped to a receipt from a storage place near downtown Detroit. The bill was prepaid for a year and a half.
“Did this come out of my money?” she asked suspiciously.
“Deborah found pictures, memory books, and a large chest and wouldn’t allow me to toss it, so she funded the storage with an office Holiday potluck to help you out,” he explained.
Lauren bit her tongue and reminded herself to send a thank you note to Deborah.
“How many temp jobs have you been working?” he inquired.
Flustered by her own rudeness, she politely answered him. “I’ve been doing one to two days at different companies around Detroit. I’m worried about the holidays. A lot of small companies shut down and I have to wait around to make money. I bought a minute phone and have been trying to find online work, but getting to the library to do it and then late getting home at night has had little payoff.” She bit her lip hating herself for just telling Tyler all her business.
Yet, she had no one else to vent too and he seemed to honestly be listening.
He arrived at her address and looked in disgust at the dilapidated home. “This is where you are living?”
“It’s an efficiency,” she said as if that should explain everything, and then added, “With the worst slumlord in Detroit.”
“I would say so,” he agreed. “Are you working tomorrow?”
“No, like I said, it’s getting slow. I was going to go to the library to stay warm and find some online work.”
He handed her the check she had been demanding. “I have some light end of the year files I need taken to our basement storage if you’re interested.”
Without hesitation, she said, “Yes! What time tomorrow?”
“I’m there at seven in the morning. I’ll only pay for eight hours of work and I don’t pay for lunch.”
“Okay,” she said and jumped out of his car.
She didn’t have a key to the front so she had to run along the side of the house to get to the back. He was still parked there watching her until she disappeared.
What was Tyler up to? She had to wonder what motive he had to come find out where she worked and where she lived?
Was he trying to destroy what little she had?
Why did he have this vendetta against her? Because she had almost stolen his best friend from him? Because she was going to give Dylan the perfect life without Tyler in it?
Whatever it was, Lauren had to watch herself with Tyler because the man was dangerous. She remembered his threat clearly:
“I’m a man that hasn’t finished what he started.”
Was he trying to finish what he started with her?
Could her situation get any worse?
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To read the other Black Family Series, go to the series page. (Each one is a standalone story and it should be a saga and not a series, but I don’t feel like changing the page name).