Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #bwwm interracial romance
To get another bottle, more than likely.
Yeah, she wasn’t sticking around for that.
Snatching her keys off her dresser, she left her room, using a tiny key on the key ring to lock her bedroom door. Her mother had gone in and rifled around looking for money before while Andrea was gone, and she’d installed a doorknob with a lock the very next day to prevent it from happening again.
“Yeah, you get on outta here,” Leandra slurred as Andrea walked past her in the kitchen. “Who needs you anyway?”
“Try not to cut yourself on the glass in the living room,” was all Andrea said as she opened the front door and then let it swing shut behind her. For a second she entertained the idea of going back in and cleaning up the glass herself, knowing Leandra wouldn’t do it, but she decided against it in the end.
Leandra was a grown woman, for all she acted like a child these days, and Andrea was
She’d been cleaning up her mother’s messes for years, and right now she wanted to be far away from them.
She sighed as she got into her car, leaning her head back against the seat and letting out a low breath. Her own anger melted away as she sat there, and she was left feeling sad and worn down.
Before she could slip into that mood fully, she picked up her phone and texted her brother.
Benjamin Samuel had washed his hands of his mother’s foolishness years ago, but he understood Andrea’s need to care for the woman who’d raised them. To a certain extent, anyway.
He thought that it would be better for Andrea to leave their mother to her own devices, but he didn’t nag her about it, and he was always there when Andrea needed him. So when her phone vibrated and the text from Ben was urging her to come over, she smiled and put her car in gear.
Ben was the older of the two of them by five years. He lived in a small apartment not too far from the house they’d grown up in, and he worked in security. Whenever things got too bad with Leandra, Ben was always more than willing to let Andrea crash on his couch, and she appreciated it.
Even though there was a five year age gap between them, losing their father when they were very young and their mother’s subsequent descent into alcoholism had done a lot to bond them together, and even though they were both adults now, they were still very close.
She didn’t even have to explain anymore. All she had to do was text him an angry looking emoji, and he knew what she needed.
With so much of her life being based in chaos, it was nice that she had him to offer some stability.
She parked in front of his building and made her way up the stairs to his floor, bypassing the elevator, which had a tendency to get stuck when it felt like it. Spending a couple of hours trapped inside of it didn’t sound like a good way to make her afternoon any better.
Ben was waiting for her when she made it to his apartment, and he let her in, eyes taking in her expression with one once over.
“That bad, huh?” he asked.
Andrea sighed. “She threw something at me.”
“Something like one of her slippers or something like a weapon?”
“Something like the quarter full bottle of vodka she’d been nursing all morning,” Andrea replied bitterly. “It’s still in a broken heap in the living room.”
Ben’s eyebrows went up. “That’s crossing a serious line, Drea. You know that, right? It’s one thing for her to yell at you and call you names all the time, which I mean, isn’t good, but her throwing stuff is just moving towards hitting you.”
, Ben,” Andrea sighed. She dropped onto his couch and put her head in her hands with a drawn out groan.
Ben," Andrea said firmly. "I already know what you're gonna say and the answer is no. It's been no since forever, and you know it."
They'd had this conversation before. Several times, actually. Their mother's descent into alcoholism had bothered both of them, and they'd banded together, trying to do something to make her feel better, to take care of her, to show her that she didn't need to drown herself in liquor because she had them.
Needless to say, that hadn't worked very well at all. Leandra had lashed out at both of her children, and when they were both old enough that they were living with their mother by choice instead of because they were too young to live anywhere else, Ben had left.
He'd clearly had enough of the way their mother talked to them and how she could turn anything into an argument and lash out at them for no good reason at all. It had been too much, and as soon as he'd had the money to move out of their little house, he had.
Andrea, on the other hand, had stayed.
Ben encouraged her to leave, too. To stop working long shifts to take care of Leandra because she didn't appreciate it.
He'd found her exhausted and stressed out, crying from tiredness and from things their mother had said, more times than either of them probably wanted to count, and yet Andrea couldn't bring herself to leave.
"She needs us, Ben," was what she always said, and then when Ben had left, it turned into "She needs
And that was even more true now than it had been before. Leandra was so deep in her bottles that it was hard to remember who she had been before. It was hard to remember that there had once been good times when they'd been a family. Aside from Ben, Andrea was worried she'd never know what it was like to have a family again.
Now Ben sighed, shaking his head at her. "She doesn't deserve you, Drea," he said. "Not even a little bit. You can't keep... Putting your life on hold because you're taking care of her. She needs help, but you're not in anyway obligated to be the one to help her."
"If I don't, who will?" Andrea asked, looking up at her brother. "She doesn't have anyone else."
"Because she chased everyone else away! She had family and friends, but she chose drinking over them." Ben ran fingers through his close cropped hair. "Andrea, you're my sister, and I love you. I want better things for you than playing babysitter to a woman who doesn't appreciate any of it. She
something at you today. Do you think she cared whether it hit you or not?"
Andrea opened her mouth and then closed it again. Her instinct, even now, was to defend her mother, even though she knew that there wasn't a reason to. She already knew the answer to Ben's question, after all. "No."
"No. Exactly. She could have cracked your head open with that bottle and she would have just kept drinking. Aside from you deserving better than her, it's not safe for you there."
As much as she wanted to argue, it was hard to deny that he had a point.
"So what do you suggest, Ben? You want me to run out on her?"
He shook his head. "No, I don' t... I think. I think you need to give her an ultimatum. She's our mother, yeah, but without you she has nothing, like you said. You leave, and the bills don't get paid and no one goes grocery shopping, and she doesn't eat. You leave, and she'll have to come out of that stupor long enough to realize that she can't live on her own. It's a start."
It was a start, but it seemed cruel to her. They both knew that their mother couldn't stand on her own two feet. She didn't have anything left in her to do that, and with Andrea gone... She tried not to picture her mother starving or begging in the streets.
"What am I supposed to do, exactly?" she asked.
Ben shrugged. "Tell it to her straight. Tell her she's either got to get her act together, or you're gone. You can come stay with me until you find a place of your own, if you want. Show her you mean business." His brown eyes were kind, but firm as he looked at her. "I'm not going to let her hurt you, Drea."
Andrea nodded. It was going to take her some time to be okay with this, that she already knew, but at least she wasn't alone.
Her stomach growled loudly, breaking the tension and making them both laugh.
"Let me guess," Ben said, hand on his hip. "You haven't eaten today."
She shook her head sheepishly. "I'd like to see you manage to cook breakfast while trying to wheedle vodka from a grown woman."
"The difference is that I wouldn't have tried," he pointed out. "Pizza?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"Nope, just making sure you were alright. The day you turn down a ham and pineapple pizza is the day I know something is actually wrong with you."
His words made her grin, and she found herself laughing for the first time that day. That was one really good thing about Ben. As firm as he was about things, he also knew how to make her feel better almost instantly. He knew her better than anyone else (and she never could decide if that was sad or not), and he genuinely cared about whether she was happy or not.
He'd been trying to get her to take his advice for years now, and maybe it was finally time she took it.
By the time the pizza had arrived, she'd made up her mind to do just that, no matter how much she would have to psych herself up to do it.
They ate together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. With how much both of them worked, they didn’t always have time to spend with each other, so it was nice to take it where they could, even if it was because Andrea was hiding out at Ben’s place.
Andrea was debating another slice of pizza when Ben’s phone rang. He groaned and fished it out of his pocket, covering his mouth to muffle a belch before he answered.
“Hello? Yes, this is he…”
He was silent for so long that Andrea was sure something had to be wrong. She sat up, wiping her fingers on the napkin in her lap, eyes intent on her brother. She knew that he had a dangerous job, guarding people’s safety and keeping them out of the line of fire or whatever else, and she worried about him constantly.
He’d been a police officer before he’d started his own security company, and she didn’t know why he was hell bent on doing things that could get him killed.
“Oh, wow. Yeah, I’d. I mean, yes, I’d love to come in for a meeting, absolutely. I can be there tomorrow if that’s not too soon. Excellent. Great. Yes, please just email me the address, and I’ll be there. Yes. Thank you so much. Have a good day.”
When he ended the call, he looked shell shocked, and Andrea tilted her head. “What is it?”
“That was Dorian Kingston. Well. His representative, anyway. Apparently something has made him be in the market for new security. A new head of security, to be exact.”
“Whoa,” Andrea said. “That’s a pretty big deal, right?”
Ben nodded. “Yeah. Especially since Dorian Kingston is arguably the richest person in the state right now.”
“Right?” He got to his feet and started pacing the living room. “If I got it that would mean I’d have to give up my other clients, but I could refer them to other people. Or let some of my staff take them. I mean we still have to meet to make sure it’s a good fit, but god, a job like this would be amazing.”
“I’m happy for you,” Andrea said with a grin. “If he pays you an absurd amount of money, I expect to be spoiled appropriately.”
Ben snorted. “I think you’re confusing brothers and boyfriends. It’s not my job to spoil you.”
“Sure it is. I’m your little sister. That’s how these things work. I don’t make the rules, Ben, I just enforce them.”
He rolled his eyes and tweaked her nose, heading for the kitchen. “Either way, don’t get excited until I actually meet with him. It might not work out.”
“But you hope it will!” Andrea called after him. She hoped it would, too. He deserved good things.
Chapter 3: Hope on the Horizon
The downside to firing his entire security team was that he couldn’t leave the house until he got a new one. Carlos had been right when he’d said that it would be too dangerous, especially with the members of the syndicate knowing that their last plan had failed so spectacularly. Dorian was bored and felt like a caged animal, but he wasn’t stupid, and he definitely wasn’t taking any chances without someone to defend him if things went south.
“You look terribly sad,” Anita said as she came into the kitchen, breaking Dorian out of his daze. He supposed she had a point. Even if he wasn’t sad per se, sitting at the kitchen island and staring forlornly out the window with a cup of tea in his hands wasn’t convincing anyone that he was fine.
“I’m fine,” he said, because he always liked to try anyway.
Anita tutted and shook her head, pausing to rub his back soothingly before she moved over to the stove. “You are a terrible liar.”
Carlos had come with him from England, but Anita had been the first person hired to help run the new house in America. She was Carlos’ older sister, and a formidable woman. She was at least in her fifties, though she didn’t look it, her hair still a lustrous black, though it was shot through with a few silver strands. She had a solid, stocky form and reminded Dorian of someone’s grandmother, even though Carlos had assured him that she didn’t have any grandkids, or even any children.