Down to Business (Business Series)

Down to Business (Business Series, Book I)

Copyright ©
2013 J.C. Alexander

First Edition

All Rights Reserved.

Cover design by JC ALEXANDER

Cover Image by RomanceNovelCovers.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes only. It cannot otherwise be circulated in any form of binding or cover than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.

My
bladder threatened to explode if we didn’t come to a rest stop soon. I focused on the haze of green trees that whipped past my vision as we sped along New York Interstate 87, but the vibrations from my mother’s worn 1996 Honda Accord were hard to ignore. I squirmed and pressed my knees into the back of the passenger seat in front of me, trying to find a position that made my discomfort bearable. My leg bumped into my brother’s and he looked up at me with an irritated scowl.

“Knock it off!” he yelled, shoving my shoulder.

“It was an accident, you idiot!” I shouted back and slapped his chest with a loud
thwack
.

Mom shot us both a glare from the rearview. “That’s enough you two.”

It felt like an eternity had passed since we left home in Hamilton, New York, and started this four-hour journey to Long Island where I was starting college at Adelphi University. I had been trapped in the car with my mother, brother, and grandmother for almost two hours, which was comparable to purgatory. Between having to pee, my grandmother clicking her dentures, and Mom turning the air conditioner on and off to keep the car from overheating, I was on the brink of killing them all.

I grabbed my mother’s shoulder from over the seat. “Mom, I swear to God, if we don’t find a rest stop soon I’m going to piss myself!”

“Nice girls don’t talk like that, Autumn.” Grandma Ruth reminded me.

I met my mother’s sympathetic stare in the rearview mirror. “Ten more minutes.”

“I can’t wait ten more minutes!” I whimpered and tucked my hands between my legs as my bladder spazzed out and sent pain shooting through my lower orifices. I wondered what would happen if my bladder really did explode. Would I die?

“Stop grabbing your crotch, sicko!” Josh scooted up against the door to get away from me, like I was some kind of pervert.

“Shut up, Josh! I can’t help it.”

“You shut up.”

I pinched my eyes closed and tried to imagine how great my future would be without my annoying family.

Mom turned on the radio in an attempt to control the atmosphere in the car. Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” filled the air and she sang along. I grabbed the door handle and considered throwing myself from the vehicle.

“Mom please don’t sing this song.”

“Why not? I like this song.”

“Why does she say she’s a virgin?” Grandma asked. “She’s probably a tramp.”

“Madonna reminds me of the first time I went on a date with your dad. We were at the roller-skating rink and “Crazy for You” came on. We couple-skated to it.”

“Not another story about Dad,” I begged, pressing my forehead up against the cool window. Their divorce was six years ago, just before my fourteenth birthday. I blamed their separation for most of the bad choices I had made since then.

“Like a Viiirgin…” Mom sang while she drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, “touched for the very first tiiime…”

I glared over at my brother with his iPod pumping music into his ears, oblivious to our mothers singing. I knew I should have brought earplugs.

“Oh! That sign said there’s a rest stop ahead,” Mom announced when we flew past it.

“Thank you God.” I sighed in relief.

Two more hours
.
Just two more hours and I’d be free
.

The car crunched over the gravel driveway and we rolled to a squeaking halt in front of the rest stop. It looked like it could be the set of a horror movie with its rusty roof covered in pine needles and peeling green exterior paint. I had to pee so bad that I didn’t care if Jason was waiting with a chainsaw in the women’s stall. I figured I was going to die either way if my bladder exploded.

I threw open the car door and sprinted toward the bathroom like a marathon runner going for the gold. The dilapidated door was covered with graffiti and the women’s sign hung sideways. I shoved it open to find a tiny room with gray cinder block walls and cement flooring that looked more like a prison cell. One repulsive toilet covered in filth sat at the center of the back wall in a puddle of god-knows-what. I tiptoed over into the puddle, thankful to be wearing my old tennis shoes. I peered into the bowl to find it clogged with used toilet paper and refuse. The stench of stale urine gagged me and burned my eyes. I yanked down my khaki shorts and hovered, hearing angels sing hallelujah as I relieved myself for at least two minutes straight.

Afterwards, I drip dried because there was no toilet paper, gave my hands a quick rinse at the leaky sink, and dried them on my shorts. I could barely make out my reflection in the cracked mirror covered in graffiti. I combed my fingers through my wavy auburn hair and pulled it up in a ponytail with the rubber band I had stashed in my pocket. My tired brown eyes stared back at me, shaded with the reminder of my sleepless night due to the excitement of finally getting to leave for college.

I stifled a scream as a roach crawled out of the drain and I fled the bathroom, only to run into my grandmother on the other side of the door. She bounced into the wall and dropped her cane with a yelp. I caught her by her tiny shoulders before she toppled over.

“Autumn Ruth Malone, for lands sakes! You almost knocked me over!”

“Sorry Grandma,” I said, straightening her up and picking up her cane.

“What were you running from? You look like you saw a ghost.”

Roaches were about as frightening as ghosts to me.

“Be careful, the floor is wet and there’s no toilet paper,” I warned as I held the door open for her.

She hobbled past me on her cane. “Oh well. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to wipe with my hand.”

I frowned and let the door close behind her. My mother’s laughter caught my attention and I spotted her standing near the trunk of the car, talking on her cell phone. By the tone of her voice, I knew she was talking to her boyfriend, Gary. He was the first man to take an interest in her since Dad left, so I accepted him because he made her happy.

I walked back over to the car and dropped into the backseat next to Josh, who still wore the same miserable scowl he had since we left home. I figured Grandma would be a while and it was a good time to call and catch up with my life-long best friend and future roommate, Lindy Brooks.

She picked up on the second ring. “Get here already would you!”

“I know! I’m in the middle of nowhere at this disgusting rest stop. We are still two hours away, and my family is driving me nuts. I swear, attempted suicide has crossed my mind at least four times since we left home.”

She laughed. “Well, it’s only a few more hours and then you’ll be free from them for four years!”

“I can’t wait.”

“I have your room all ready. I’m so excited. I’ve waited for this day forever!”

Lindy, like most of my friends, went to college right out of high school. I, on the other hand, couldn’t because I had to stay home and waitress at our family’s failing bar and grill, Malones. My parents bought it as an investment after they got married, and Mom decided to keep it after the divorce. It was probably the worst mistake she ever made, but she will never admit it. After Dad left, we could barely afford to live, let alone run a restaurant. So, since I turned fifteen, I waited tables and played hostess while my brother helped in the kitchen.

Then a miracle happened. I took a chance and applied for a scholarship at Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, where Lindy attends, and I was actually accepted. My parents had no choice but to let me go. I told them I would major in business management so I could run Malones
when Mom retired.

“We are going to have so much fun, Auti. I can’t wait for you to meet my boyfriend, Tyler,” she gushed. “Maybe we can find you a hot boyfriend too.”

I hated when she assumed that I needed a boyfriend. I never wanted a boyfriend, not even in high school. My only sexual experience was my freshman year while I was struggling with my parents’ divorce. I tried to fit in by getting drunk at a party and ended up losing my virginity to a guy who ruined my reputation for the next four years of high school.

I glanced over just in time to see Grandma stumble out of the bathroom and nearly fall over under the weight of the door.

“Tyler has a lot of friends,” Lindy continued, “I’m sure we could find a nice one.”

“Right, I gotta go. Time to get back on the road.”

“Okay. Drive safe and I’ll see you in a few hours!”

“See you.” I hung up and climbed out of the car to help Grandma.

“There weren’t any paper towels to dry my hands,” she complained. “What kind of rest stop is this?”

“The normal kind,” I answered and held her cane while I opened the door. She dropped into the passenger seat with an
oomph!

After helping her with her seatbelt, I slid back into the backseat just in time to feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I checked it to find there was a text message from Lindy that read:

WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THE BEST MEMORIES OF OUR LIVES!

I had to smile. I hoped she was right. It was going to be memorable for sure, even if we had drastically different ideas of how to make those memories.

Mom got back into the driver’s seat and cranked the engine three times before the car finally started.

“Lori, you should sell that restaurant and buy a new car!” Grandma complained.

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