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Authors: CD Reiss

Tags: #BDSM, #billionaire

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BOOK: Submit (Songs of Submission)
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I nodded. “I have it.”

He kissed me tenderly, stroking my cheek with his thumb. “I’ll be in touch. Pick up the phone, okay?”

I nodded because I didn’t want to whisper again.

CHAPTER 12

Jonathan left gingerly, as if turning his back on me long enough to get to work making arrangements to prepare my house for a wake was going to give me enough time to fall apart again. He walked backward to the Jag, watching me, the red in his hair catching the morning sun. I waved and even managed to smile a little. I was determined to get through this, even if it meant pretending my shit was together long enough to restore his faith in me. When he drove down the hill, I felt as if he pulled part of me with him.

Lil showed up in Jonathan’s Bentley spaceship thirty minutes later.

“Ms. Faulkner,” she said. “How are you holding up?”

“Fine.”

“Something wrong with your voice?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, whether it was my voice or my mind or something else entirely, some trick of the universe. I was getting frustrated. The condition I’d initially attributed to too many tears and hurt was starting to feel like something more intractable.

“I wanted to say,” Lil said, “and I hope I’m not being inappropriate, but my wife’s brother took his own life. So my sympathies. It can be hardest on the family.”

I screwed my face up, trying not to cry again, because she’d called Gabby family. She was exactly that. My sister. And having that recognized was like a bucket of cold water. “Thanks, Lil,” I whispered.

“Where are we going today?”

“Going to bail my brother out of jail.”

CHAPTER 13

Five thousand dollars.

Apparently, Darren had gone after Theo with a broken bottle, which according to the State of California was a deadly weapon.

So, five large. Cash.

I swallowed hard.

The big lady with the skinny glasses behind the bulletproof glass seemed sympathetic. She’d tolerated my whispering and slid a notepad under the glass once she realized I could hear fine but couldn’t speak.

“There’s three bondsmen across the street. You pay five hundred, and they forward us the rest. But you don’t get it back. Kaylee. That’s the one I like. Best with first-timers and ain’t no glass in between you so she’ll hear that little voice you got. All right, young lady?”

I nodded, ripping the page from the notebook. I took the papers and forms she gave me that detailed Darren’s infractions and went outside.

Lil stood by the car, which was perched in a loading zone, pretty as you please. She handed me a paper cup of tea. I didn’t know how she knew I liked tea. I didn’t know if Jonathan had detailed all my foibles and preferences to her or if she just paid incredible attention, but I took it and thanked her.

“I have to go to the bondsman.” I pointed across the street at a yellow and black sign marked Kaylee’s Bailbonds.

Lil opened the car door.

“It’s just across the street.” I had to lean in close to Lil so she’d hear me over the din of rush hour traffic.

“I told Mister Drazen I’d take care of you. So just get in. I have to drive around to the parking lot anyway.”

I got in, feeling silly and childish. I could have run across the street in half the time, quarter-time if I jaywalked. But Lil was doing her job with sincerity and kindness, and I didn’t have the heart to disrupt her. I sipped my tea in the backseat, hoping the hot liquid would reconnect my voice to my lungs, but when I tried to make a sound, there was only breath.

I felt that there was a choice at the deepest parts of my being not to speak, some fear that my voice would break the world or call up beasts that would rend me and everything I loved to tatters. But I couldn’t locate that dark place and explain that it was doing more harm than good, that I needed the fear to go away, that everything in my life would be torn to shreds by simple inaction if I couldn’t function as an artist and member of society.

I breathed. Panic was going to get me nowhere. I had to get through the day and bail Darren out in time for the wake. Sleep. Eat. Go to work tomorrow. Breathe. I would figure it out if I could keep the anxiety at bay.

Lil pulled in behind the bondsman place and let me out as if I were a celebrity arriving at a red carpet event. “Mister Drazen said if you needed anything, I should let you know he’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks.”

“You should let him help you.” She gave me a meaningful look that said she knew I had reservations about taking help from Jonathan.

I nodded to her and walked through the back door.

The space had no aesthetic pretentions whatsoever. The grey industrial carpet was worn in the high-traffic areas. The fluorescent lights buzzed behind the dropped ceiling, yellowing the piles of papers lying on every surface, every metal shelving unit, veneer desk, and unoccupied black chairs. The occupied chairs, three of them, held people of varying ages and ethnicities, all talking on phones or tapping into aged beige computers. Out the front windows, downtown Los Angeles hummed by.

A middle-aged woman in big dark glasses shuffled past in slippers and a multicolored shift. Her coffee cup was one third full of sludge.

“Hi,” I whispered. “I’m looking for Kaylee?”

“Cat got your tongue?”

“Laryngitis.” It was the only answer I could come up with that would make any sense. Telling her a part of me thought using my voice would shatter the world might have seemed a little crazy.

“You putting up a bond?”

“Yes. I don’t know how.”

“You got cash?”

“Some.”

“Go on and sit by the desk at the front.”

I did, slipping into the cushioned office chair placed in front of it. The bronze plaque that was really made of plastic had the name KAYLEE RECONAIRE cut into it. I had about two hundred dollars on me, which was more than usual because I’d never emptied my bag from my last shift at the Stock.

The lady with the sludge coffee placed herself on her chair with a sigh. “Do you have the forms?” She held out her hand.

I handed over the stack. She had exactly enough clear space on her desk to look at them, spreading them into three neat piles. The pink stub, the stapled and clipped form, all had a place.

“Any relation?” she asked.

“No.”

“Boyfriend?”

“No.”

“So?” She leaned her elbows on the desk. “We have to assess if he’s a flight risk. It’s our money you’re talking about, so there will be personal questions. Like, does this gentleman care if you’re responsible for him? This is not just assault.” She indicated the papers. “It’s battery with a deadly weapon, honey.” She raised an eyebrow as if I were some girlfriend battered into bailing out her own personal douchebag.

I leaned in so she could hear me. “We broke up a long time ago. He’s like a brother to me. He’s not some ex I can’t stop fucking because I’m insecure.”

Kaylee looked at me for a second before laughing. “You nuts, girl. You got a job?”

“I’m a waitress at the Stock downtown.” I swung my thumb behind me since it was about five blocks north.

“How much cash you got?”

“I have two hundred on me.”

“You’re short three.”

“I can go to the ATM,” I said.

“You can only get two hundred from the machine.” She blinked. I blinked. Then she said, “I ain’t letting you off the hundred. I’m running a business here.”

“You take collateral?”

She gave a knowing, snorty kind of laugh. “Whatever collateral you got I gotta hold in my hand, and it’s gotta be worth ten times what I need. I don’t see any jewelry on you I’d take.”

I stood and picked up my shirt, showing her the Harry Winston navel ring. I was stepping in a pile of shit, and I knew it. Using my current boyfriend’s gift to bail my past boyfriend out of jail was the stuff Jerry Springer shows were made of.

Kaylee leaned forward, dropping her glasses low on her nose. “That real?”

“Yes.”

She held out her hand, her face a mask of disbelief. I took out the diamond and handed it to her. She snapped open the top drawer of her desk, pulled out a jeweler’s glass, and used it to inspect the diamond, which to me, looked like the hugest, most sparkly thing ever dug from the earth. I sat back down as she made little humming noises, turning the rock around under the glass.

She slid it back to me. “I can get in big trouble, young lady. I don’t think you understand I’m running a business here. I don’t take stolen merchandise.”

I gasped. How could she? Was she insane? I was absolutely stunned wordless by the implication.

A lone, male voice cut through my distress. “Whose Bentley’s in my spot?” A man with a crutch and a leg of his jeans rolled up over a missing calf wobbled in.

I raised my hand, whispering, “Sorry.”

He sat at a desk. “Well, have that driver move it.”

I looked back down at Kaylee. She was already slipping my diamond navel bar into a baggie. “You come back with the rest soon, you hear? Or for the love of three hundred dollars, your new man’s gonna be pissed.”

CHAPTER 14

I hadn’t realized how big the Bentley was until Darren sat on the other side of the backseat as if he wanted nothing to do with me. It had taken me hours to get him out. Money had to be wired, forms shot over the internet, phone calls made, signatures garnered, and he had to be driven from a holding area two blocks away.

When they’d brought him, he looked tired but made a funny face when he saw me waiting, as if to let me know he was okay. When they took the cuffs off and released him into my custody, he hugged me so hard I thought he’d break something.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said into my neck.

“You’re welcome. Now we have to go, or we’re going to be missed.”

He nodded, and I wondered if he’d gotten himself in trouble to avoid the funeral.

“Why are you whispering?”

“Laryngitis.”

“What? You weren’t sick—”

I pulled him into the hallway, wanting to be away from the bulletproof glass and linoleum flooring. Then I stopped and moved my wrist like Debbie so often did to let him know it was time to get moving on the story.

“I went to Adam’s,” he said. “He stayed with me all night, but he had to go to work, and I just walked around Silver Lake. I sat at a table at Bourgeois for half the day. Fabio knew what happened, so he just kept bringing me new cups.”

The elevator doors opened, and a carload of people got out. I pulled Darren to the side.

“He should have called me,” I whispered.

“He did.”

Right. I’d rejected calls and ignored texts while I lay in my undercover cave.

We got into the elevator with twenty other people.

Darren spoke softly into my ear. “I realized while I was in there that I left you alone. I’m sorry about that.”

I shrugged and waved his concern away. I was unhappy about it, but I didn’t have the heart to hold it against him. And it had brought Jonathan to me.

Darren continued, “Theo came in for coffee, like he always does. I knew he went there all the time. I didn’t realize I was waiting for him. But anyway, some girl at the table next to me had one of those pomello sodas. I smacked the bottle against the floor and went for his throat.”

“Holy shit, Darren!” I managed to whisper loudly and with emphasis. I glanced around at the people in the elevator. No one was staring, but they must have been listening.

“He’s fine. I got his cheek. I aim like the fag I am.”

I pinched his side, and he cried, “Ow!” We laughed. The rest of the elevator population seemed relieved to get away from us when the doors slid open on the parking lot level. Lil was parked in an Authorized Vehicle Only spot, reading the LA
Times
.

When Darren saw the Bentley, he stopped in his tracks. “Where’d you get the money to bail me out? Five grand? That’s a lot of cash.”

“I put up a bond.”

“Did one penny of that come from
him
?”

“Stop.”

“I’m not having any part of you being a whore.”

I didn’t know what came over me, maybe the stress of the past few days, maybe the insult, or maybe the fact that I couldn’t speak properly to defend myself. But a ball of kinetic energy ran from my heart and down my right arm, and in order to release it, the only thing I could do was slap Darren across the face.

The
clap
of it echoed through the parking lot. Lil looked up from her paper. Darren crouched from the impact. The feeling of regret dropped into my belly even as my hand wanted to slap him again and again.

I folded it into a fist and stuck out my index finger. “Get in the car. If you are one minute late for your sister, Theo’s face will look handsome in comparison.” My throat was getting sore from all the harsh whispering, but I was sure I could lecture him for another half-hour if I had to.

He looked enraged with the red marks across his cheek, and his mouth was set in stone, the muscles of his face making tense lines in his jaw. I was a little afraid. Just a little, because I could fight, and I could take a hit. I would do both if I had to.

“The car is ready,” Lil said, suddenly standing beside us with her calm, professional demeanor. She held out her hand toward the open back door of the Bentley. “Please.”

I thought for a moment he’d opt for the bus, but I knew he had no money on him, because it had come back to me in an envelope of personal effects, along with a pocket knife he wasn’t allowed to carry and a few credit cards. He also knew that public transportation would take hours on a Saturday. Despite his self-sabotage, he didn’t want to miss Gabby’s wake.

I nodded at Lil and walked toward the car, not looking behind me to see if he followed. My shoes clonked on the concrete, made louder from the enclosed space. I climbed into the back seat of the car and slid over, looking out the window so I wouldn’t see if he was coming or not. If he saw me watching him, he would be more likely to turn around and take the bus out of pride.

I heard him get in, and the door snapped closed. That was when I discovered how wide that car really was.

Lil dropped him in front of his house. He didn’t wait for her to open the door for him. There was a pause. I didn’t look at him, but I held out the yellow receipt from Kaylee as I whispered, “Three hundred. Cash.”

BOOK: Submit (Songs of Submission)
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