Submitting to the Billionaire(12)

By: Georgia Le Carre

She is stick-thin with flaming red hair cut into a smooth bob. She is wearing scarlet lipstick and what looks like a lace trimmed camisole over a long-sleeved, fitting, dove-gray T-shirt. Must be the latest fashion, or what everybody will be wearing come autumn. Rosa works for a fashion magazine. She is one of those people who actually sits around a long glass table with a bunch of her colleagues and decides what will be the new look for the next season. A bangle glints on her arm. I walk up to her table.

“I like your top,” I say as I reach her.

“I threw a T-shirt under my nightie so it wouldn’t look like I just rolled out of some random dude’s bed,” she says as she stands and throws her skinny arms around me.

“Did you?” I ask.

“I should be so lucky,” she says close to my ear.

The familiar spicy-rose notes of her Serge Luten’s perfume fills my nostrils, and I don’t want to let go of her thin body. Just being in her warm, scented embrace makes me want to bawl my eyes out. This morning I’ve had all my dreams crushed. I could stay in her arms a lot longer, but she pulls away, and eyes me warily.

“Out with it. What’s eating you?”

With a sigh, I sink into the chair opposite hers. She reclines back, arms folded.

I hesitate.

“Spill the beans, Star,” she prompts with her usual no-nonsense attitude.

“It’s Nigel,” I blurt out.

“He’s cheating on you, isn’t he?” she snaps, leaning forward, her face livid.

“No. No it’s not that.”

She narrows her eyes, and looks ready to do battle on my behalf. “What’s the crooked asshole done then?”

This is going to be harder than I thought. I fidget with the buckle on my bag. “He’s in big trouble, Rosa.”

A waitress comes to take our orders, but Rosa waves her away impatiently. “What kind of big trouble?”

I take a deep breath. “He’s lost a lot of money.”

“How much?” she asks curiously.

I clear my throat. “Four hundred and fifty thousand pounds.”

She frowns. “That’s nothing. Don’t brokers routinely lose millions?”

“It’s not his clients’ money, Rosa. This is personal. He took a loan and he can’t pay it back.”

Her eyes bulge. “Christ,” she swears. “You mean he didn’t lose it at work. He actually owes it to someone?”

I nod miserably.

“Who the fuck would lend almost half-a-million to that useless husband of yours?”

“There’s no need to be rude about him,” I mumble.

She looks at me incredulously. “You’re still defending that piece of shit?”

I know I shouldn’t, but it’s become a habit. Whenever Rosa and my family insult him I instantly rush to his defense. Until this morning, I could do it without sounding like a fool. I look down at the table.

“Who does he owe the money to?” she asks again.

“I didn’t catch his last name. Nikolai something …”

“Nikolai? That’s a Russian name.”

I nod.

“So clueless Nigel owes some Russian guy four-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds. Couldn’t have happened to a more worthless man,” she says heartlessly.

“It’s not funny, Rosa. Nigel is really scared.”

She looks at me without any compassion in her eyes. “Good. He should be. People get killed for much less.”

As soon as Rosa mentions being killed, the seriousness of the situation sets like a lump of concrete in my chest. I’ve been so angry, shocked, and hurt that I didn’t fully comprehend the situation: Nigel could have been killed last night. Goosebumps crawl over my body. I stare at Rosa with wide eyes.

“Why does Nigel owe the Russian?”

I clear my throat. “He lost the money gambling at his club.”

Her eyes widen. “Nigel’s a gambler?”

I nod.

She shakes her head in wonder. “He’s like one of those vicious vegans who will shake their fist at you and call you a murderer for eating an egg, and then get up in the middle of the night to secretly feast on veal chops.”

“He swears he only started gambling recently.”

“Justify his behavior all you want, Star. He’s a fucking fake.”

I press my fingers into my temples. “Stop with all the snarky comments and quips, please. I can’t handle it today, okay?”

She shrugs. “Quite frankly, I don’t know why you’re so cut up over this. Sure, half-a-million is a lot of money, but you guys have got five years worth of equity in your house. And Nigel does earn good money—”

“Nigel has re-mortgaged our house. There’s no equity in it,” I interrupt flatly.

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