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Paying Daddy’s Debt(6)

By:Alexa Riley



I feel his lips on the top of my head after a minute. The softness of the gesture doesn’t match the anger I feel pulsing off him. But I know it’s not me who’s causing that rage. After a moment, I realize I’m being held by a man I don’t know. Alone in my room. I jerk back, and he loosens his hold a little so I can look up at him.

“I won’t hurt you. Never. I promise you that on my life.” His words are soft, but I can still see the anger in his eyes.

“Y-you…” I stutter over the word. “You look mad.”

“I’m mad at whoever made you cry,” he says in the same raspy tone as before.

Releasing me, he takes the glasses from my face and tosses them away.

“Hey!” I protest, but he slides another pair on. The frames are thinner and there are no scratches marking the lens. They’re perfect.

“Better?” he asks, tucking my hair behind my ear. I stand there, shocked, really unsure of what’s happening here.

My mouth parts a little, and he runs his thumb across my bottom lip. His nostrils flare. “You smell like candy apples.” He moves his thumb down and runs it along my neck. My breathing picks up. I have the urge to lean into this man, but I don’t. His deep gray eyes hold me captive. “I’ll have to be careful with you. You’re so soft.”

I don’t think those words were meant for me. It’s as if he’s talking to himself.

“Who are you?” I know he said his name is Ash, but that means nothing to me. Here to save me?

“Tell me who made you cry,” he pushes, ignoring my question.

I drop my head, remembering what I’ve lost.

“I lost the money I was planning to use to move.”

“You want to leave here?” he questions, almost as if he likes that idea, too. He tips my chin up, making me look up at him. His touch is so much softer than I thought it would be. As if he thinks I’m delicate. His eyes search mine, and the way he’s looking at me makes warmth spread across my cheeks. Concern shows in his gaze, even through the trace of anger still lingering.

“More than anything,” I admit. “I can’t leave now. I lost all of it.”

“He took it, didn’t he?” I know he’s talking about my father, but I don’t answer him. I can see he’s pissed at the idea. I might not love my father like a daughter should, but I don’t want him on the receiving end of someone’s anger. I’d never want anyone to be hurt.

“You can come with me,” he says when he sees I’m not going to answer him.

“I don’t know you.” I take a step back, and I watch his jaw tick at the action, but he doesn’t stop me.

“Anything has to be better than this.” He looks around my room, and I want to cringe with embarrassment. I can tell he’s got money. I’m sure his suit cost more than I want to know.

“I don’t understand,” I admit. This is crazy. More than crazy, but for some reason my heart and body are screaming at me to say yes. Go with this man. He is something to you. Feel it.

“I’m going to be straight with you, Jasmine. I want you.” He shakes his head. “No, I mean you’re mine. Want doesn’t begin to cut it.” He says it so simply, as if it’s a fact known to everyone.

“I watch you. Every day you have school, you walk past my building in front of the park. My office is on the bottom floor, and each day I wait for you.” He takes a step closer to me. “All day I feel darkness around me. Almost as if it’s trapping me in, and then you walk by and for a brief moment in my day I feel…” He shakes his head as if he can’t find the word. “Peace,” he finally finishes.

I glance over at the open window and back to him. While I don’t get why he thinks I bring him peace, I get having something that comforts you.

“You work across from the park?” I ask.

“I own the whole building. My home is on the top floor.”

It’s my turn to take a step toward him. I think I know which building he’s talking about. “The building with the giant balcony on the top floor? Overlooking everything?” I’ve always wondered what it looked like up there. Overlooking the park. The rest of the city below you. Far enough away to find comfort.

“Yes.” He smiles.

“And you want me to come home with you?” He takes another step toward me, the space between us fast disappearing. “You want me to bring you peace?”

“I want you to bring me everything.”





6





Ash




“If you agree to come with me, I’ll provide everything for you. A place for you to live, money to do what you want. I can pay your tuition if you want to go to college. I can make every dream you’ve ever had come true.”

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