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Authors: Holly S. Roberts

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BOOK: Strike (Completion Series)
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Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

I met with the cleaning crew the next morning after getting Bitsy and Jon off to school. It soon became apparent that I was in the way
, so I headed to Reed’s office. The phone rang minutes after I sat down.

“Reed Tyler’s residence
. May I help you?”

“Is this Jaycee Shumway?”
an older man asked.

“Yes
. May I help you?”

“This is Lawrence Morgan, Mr. Tyler’s attorney
. He wanted me to contact you and arrange a time for you to sign a few papers.”

“Umm, I’m not sure I understand.”

“Could I come to the house to meet with you at noon?”

“Well, umm, sure.”

“I’ll see you at noon, Miss Shumway.”

Wow, so formal
, and I had no idea what was going on. I also couldn’t contact Reed to find out. I settled into my chair to add more figures to the spreadsheet. The more I discovered about Reed’s finances, the more uncomfortable I became. Yes, he lived nicely, but he didn’t flaunt it—at least not the kind of money I’d discovered. We were no longer talking millions.

Shit.

I was sitting in the house of a billionaire, going through his financial records and he, for some reason, trusted me. I broke into his house for god’s sake. Reed Tyler drove me crazy and I hadn’t known which way was up since breaking his window. Now his attorney wanted to speak with me. By the time noon drew closer, I was a nervous wreck.

T
wo minutes before noon, the bell chimed announcing my visitor had arrived. The strangeness of answering Reed’s door hadn’t gone away and I just needed to get over it.

An older man in a suit
holding a briefcase stood looking at me.

He didn’t smile. “Miss Shumway.”
His hand came out.

“Mr. Morgan.”
His skin was cool and wrinkly, but his grip strong. I stepped back, opening the door wider so he could enter. He walked to Reed’s office and I followed.

It surprised me when he stopped at the entrance and looked back over his shoulder. “Little elves have been at work in here I see.” He walked in and sat down in a chair beside the desk chair, which I took, turning it to face him.
“Mr. Tyler speaks highly of you and told me you will be taking over some of his finances.”

Shit, I wish
ed Reed had talked to me about this. “Reed and I spoke briefly, but so far I’ve only tried to clean up his mess.”

For the first time
, Mr. Morgan smiled. It softened his features. “I’ve been after Reed to hire someone for years. Do you mind if I ask, no offense meant, but do you have a background in accounting?”

H
e’d called Reed by his first name and I relaxed a little. “I’m in accounting classes and I’ve spent the past few days researching stocks, bonds, dividends, and securities because I had no idea what I was dealing with when I started on his paperwork.”

Mr. Morgan appeared surprised by what I said and my heart dropped a little. Someone like me had no business messing with the intricacies of Reed Tyler’s finances.

He shocked me again when he said, “I could probably be of help or even one of my associates. I also handled Mr. Tyler Senior’s books and legal issues. He was quite a bit different than Reed.”

Now I let my smile show. “Reed said you yell at him.”

His smile remained. “He exaggerates, but he does frustrate me and he knows it.”

I was still nervous about Mr. Morgan’s visit
, so I decided to jump in with both feet. “You said you needed me to sign something?”

He straightened in his chair and reached for his briefcase that he’d sat on the floor. “Reed has given you authority to approve certain expenditures relating to the running of his estate and also approval for charity donations.”

Reed was a dead man. He was putting me in charge of his mother. Boiling oil was sounding good. “I don’t feel comfortable getting between Reed and his mother.”

Now the smile he gave me had a touch of pity. “For that I don’t blame you
, young lady. She can be a handful, but at the same time, with Reed’s traveling, it would be easier. She has a financial charity limit and Reed has insisted there be no limit on what you may approve. He told me you are a brilliant mathematician and could do his books with your eyes closed. I believe those were his exact words.”

If I were drinking anything, I’d have choked. I fought a full out laugh. “Reed was impressed because I finished a Sudoku puzzle from the newspaper faster than he could.”

His eyes lit up. “And your time?”

“About five minutes.”

Now his laugh was full and rich, I just didn’t get it. “I think you’ll do, Miss Shumway. Five minutes you say?”

It clicked. A friend of Reed’s father got him into Sudoku puzzles. I had a feeling I was in the presence of that friend. “I was having an off morning.”

He nodded his head. “After you graduate, I hope you will consider applying for a job at my firm.” He looked down at the papers. “I’m sorry to be on a tight schedule today, but I have a meeting to attend.”

“Could I look over them first
, please?”

Pure approval came through in his voice
. “Yes, indeed. Here’s my card with my direct line. If I’m available, my secretary will get you through to me. If you have questions about Reed’s finances, please call and I will make sure you have answers.” He stood. “It was very nice to meet you, Miss Shumway.”

“And you
, but please call me Jaycee.”

“I am Lawrence.”

We smiled at each other before he walked from the room and I followed him to the door.

“If you have problems with Mrs. Tyler
, call me. I have a feeling you will hold your own, though.”

“Thank you.” What else could I say? I hadn’t signed the papers…yet, and hoped
Reed had a good explanation.

The cleaning crew finished up and left.
I was helping Bitsy with her homework in the afternoon when Tom knocked on the door. I learned to parallel park and a few other things that would be on Friday’s test. He was taking me on a closed course the following day before my big test and teaching me what he called “auto life lessons.”

When Tom dropped me off, Child Protective Services
was waiting out front.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Michelle Browning
followed me inside the apartment. Her assistant, Julie, behind her. Bitsy was excited until she saw who was with me. My heart ached for both Bitsy and Jon. Michelle had never been anything but kind to us; she gave us the trailer. But her predecessor and the months Bitsy and Jon spent in foster care were not good memories.

“How are you
, Bitsy?” she asked kindly.

Bitsy hid behind me holding my leg. I could feel her little body tremble
, and more than anything I wished we never had to go through an interview like this again.

Michelle understood Bitsy’s fear and turned to Jon
, asking the same question.

“I’m
good,” he answered stiffly. His long black hair obscured most of his face and he didn’t move it aside. Jon looked down and my heart clenched even more. I would never be able to erase those months that CPS took them away and the fear that it would happen again.

Michelle turned from Jon and focused on me. “How is school going?”

I took a breath. “With our new living arrangement, I should be able to take three classes next semester.”

“That’s wonderful. What hours are you working for Mr. Tyler?”

My muscles tightened and I hoped she didn’t notice. “I work Monday through Friday for Mr. Tyler, but it’s only during the day. Evenings I’m going to school one night a week and working at Tasty Burger two nights.”

Michelle seemed surprised. “Are you being paid properly for your services to Mr. Tyler?”

I couldn’t stop the heat from going to my cheeks. She could not be asking what my guilt made me think she was. I had to cover my embarrassment, so I went on the attack. “We have been at the edge of poverty for two years. Jon is going to college in two years and I will need to be home with Bitsy after he leaves. As long as they have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads, I don’t feel our finances are CPS’s problem.”

I could immediately see I hurt Michelle’s feelings
, but she kept her voice professional. “You’re right, Jaycee, but I was hoping that with your new job, you could stop burning the candle at both ends. I’ve never had a problem with your decisions when it comes to your brother and sister. I wish all my cases were this successful. Coming here is a required courtesy call and I’m more than satisfied with what I see. You have my phone number and know that I’m always available if you need something.”

I did know that
and I felt ashamed. “I’m sorry, Michelle. We’re doing really well, but I want to be prepared if…” I waved my hands, “this goes away.”

“I understand. Good luck
, Jaycee. I’ll call in a few months and check in with you.”

They left and I
couldn’t help my huge sigh of relief. Jon went to his room and shut the door. Bitsy stayed by my side the remainder of the evening and barely spoke. It didn’t matter what I did or said, she was scared.

“You know I’ll never let you go back to foster care
, Bitsy?”

Her lip trembled. “But what if you get cancer and die
? That’s what would happen.”

Her words brought up all my old
fears. I pulled Bitsy close. “Then I promise not to get cancer.” Even at her young age, she knew I couldn’t keep that promise, but she didn’t argue. I was exhausted by the time I put her to bed, and I fell asleep before Reed called. I saw the missed calls and text messages the following morning.

Jaycee, I’m worried is everything okay?

Ten minutes after that…

Is this about the legal paperwork and my mother?

Thirty minutes…

Call me baby so we can talk.

An hour later…

I miss you.

I missed him too and didn’t mean to sleep through his call. I entered a message that I hoped he got quickly so he wouldn’t worry.

I’m sorry. CPS showed up and it upset Bitsy and Jon. I had a long night and fell asleep before you called. I hope you’ll call me tonight.

Ten seconds later, I got my reply.

Is everything okay with CPS?

Yes, but it’s always hard. I’m really sorry about missing your call.

Don’t worry about it. I promise to call tonight when you get home from class. Have a good day baby.

You too.

How could a few simple messages make me feel warm all over? The driver picked Jon and Bitsy up
for school and I headed to the main house. I needed to plan dinner and also do some more of Reed’s never-ending paperwork. He’d signed the documents I’d found before he left, but I forgot to give them to Lawrence. I had to mail them immediately. Some assistant I was turning out to be.

I looked through the
papers Reed wanted me to sign and without second-guessing myself put my name on the bottom line of all three. If Reed needed help dealing with his mother, he was paying me enough to intercede and make life easier for him.

In the afternoon, I completed the closed course driving and was ready for the next day’s test. My class went quickly and my phone rang as I got into the private car’s side door.

“Hi, baby,” Reed said before I could answer.

“Hi.”

“Are you home yet?”

“No, I’m in the car with the driver heading there.”

“Okay, this will be a good chance for you to listen. No arguing in front of the driver.”

My entire body stiffened because I had a feeling I wouldn’t like what he said. “No promises.”

His laughter floated from the phone. “I’m sure he’s heard it all.” He hesitated for a minute, but I didn’t say anything. “Spring break for Jon and Bitsy is in two weeks. I want to fly all three of you out here. I need you, baby and Jon and Bitsy deserve a nice vacation. I know you want to argue about the money, but you also know I don’t give a damn. Do this for me.”

I couldn’t speak for a moment because my head was spinning. I went with my gut, “Okay.”

“That’s it? Okay?” He was obviously stunned.

“Yes, that’s it. I’ll need to clear it with Dwaine
, but I don’t see a problem.”

“The entire week. You can all come to the games and I’ll have a day to take you to Disney World.”

“You’re pushing your luck now. Bitsy will love you.”

“Fuck
, Jaycee, that’s a start, but it’s not just Bitsy’s love I want.” My instant intake of breath had to be loud because he continued, “That’s not how I meant to bring this up. I’m sorry. Forget I said that and we’ll talk when you’re here.”

“Okay, we’ll talk then.”

“Two weeks. I don’t know if I can wait that long. Tomorrow night we’ll celebrate your driver’s license on the phone with you in my bed. Deal?”

“You’re so sure I’ll get it?”

“I have no doubt. Thank you, baby, for saying yes.”

“You’re welcome
, though I think it’s me that should thank you.”

“Tomorrow night, I’ll call around this time.”

“Good night.”

“Night
, baby.”

I smiled after the phone went silent. I would have a hard time waiting two weeks to see him. I was desperate enough to travel anywhere.

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