Buy Me, Sir(8)

By: Jade West


The smile eases up. “It’s nothing, I’m just…”

“Just what?”

He passes his mug from hand to hand, back and forth. “I just thought the novelty would have worn off by now. Plenty of places closer, Lissa. Plenty of places more flexible. Better pay, too.” His eyebrows pit as he stares at my filthy apron. “Without a crappy uniform.”

“There aren’t…” I begin, but he shakes his head.

“Don’t give me that. How long do you spend on the Tube every morning? Half hour? Three quarters?”

“I don’t notice… it’s not so bad…”

His eyes are so big and so genuine. “What you gonna do, Lissa? Floor sixteen this week, then what? What happens when you do make it to his office?”

When. Not if. I resist the urge to smile.

“Then I sniff his seat.” I try to make light of it, but he doesn’t laugh.

“Don’t pretend this thing is a joke to you.”

A horrible tickle in my belly. More like a scratch. Desperation.

“It is a joke.” I laugh. “Me and Sonnie, we both say…”

“Like she’s serious. Like she’s you.”

I hate the way he says it.

I choke back the fake giggle and ease the door closed until I can only just see Joe through the gap. “I know this is hard on you, I know it asks a lot, you being here, all the time. You shouldn’t have to, I know that… and if it’s too much…”

“If it’s too much then what?” His eyes are right on mine. I don’t have an answer and he knows it. He sighs, and I feel like shit. “This isn’t about Joe. I love having Joe. I love helping out. I can start up college again next year, like we said.”

I clutch at straws. “I could pay you, maybe… if they do give me that extra money… or a babysitter… so you can go back…”

He looks stung. “Like it’s about money.”

“But it could be…”

“Stop.” He holds up a hand. “Just stop doing this.”

“Doing what?” I flick the kettle back on.

“Deflecting.” He has to tip the jar to scoop the last of the coffee granules into our mugs. Dregs. Story of my life – credit card debt from funeral expenses don’t leave much of a budget for anything else. “This thing with Alexander Henley,” he continues. “It’s not… healthy…”

Like anything about my life is healthy. I don’t say it.

“I know what I’m doing,” I tell him. “It’s just fun. Something to dream about. And I’m planning on working my way up, maybe be a team leader one day… maybe even an admin junior… and then who knows…”

“Right?”

“Right,” I lie.

“And you aren’t gonna do anything? Not when you get there? Not when you’re close enough that his seat really is there for the sniffing?”

I take my coffee black, saving the milk for Joe’s cereal in the morning. “Anything like what?”

Dean takes his black too. “Like stalking him. Like following the guy around until he catches on to you, and fires you, or sues you, or worse.”

“Worse?” The thought makes me smile. “What on earth could be worse than being fired or sued?”

“I’m being serious, Lissa!”

His raised voice takes me aback, and I check the door for Joe. He’s still flipping those picture book pages, smiling to himself, lost in his own little world like I used to be.

When I turn back, Dean’s pulled his phone from his pocket and he’s flipping across the screen, flipping through images I recognise from my own Google searches.

He turns the handset in my direction, and my stomach flips but I don’t look away. I don’t need to.

I’ve already seen it.

Already read everything there is to read on Alexander Henley Jnr.

“I did some digging,” he tells me, “while Joe had his nap this afternoon.”

My cheeks burn as I check out the headline on screen.

The legal Puppet Master pulling the strings of the dirty elite. Just who is Alexander James Henley Jnr?

I can’t see the rest of the text, he pulls his phone away too quickly.

Like hell it was just this afternoon. I didn’t find that crap, and I searched hard. Really hard.

Dean’s eyes are fierce. “There’s a woman here, or there was before she retracted her comments. Said he paid her. Said he’s dangerous. That she was afraid for her life.”

I roll my eyes. “Tabloid gossip, I’m sure. Sour grapes, maybe.”

“And if it’s not? There’s plenty of stories, Lissa, if you dig hard enough. All retracted. All hushed up soon after. What if he is dangerous? Who knows what a guy like that’s into? He’s not like us. He’s not from our world.”

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