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The first time it happened, it seemed like an impossible miracle. Bills were piling up, adding up to more money than I could ever make. Mom's hospital bills. My baby brother's tuition. My tuition. Rent. Electricity. All of it on my shoulders. And I had just lost my job. There was no hope, no money in my account, no work to be found. And then, just when I thought all hope was lost, I found an envelope in the mail. No return address. My name on the front, my address. Inside was a check, made out to me, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. Enough to pay the bills and leave me some left over to live on until I found a job. Enough to let me focus on classes. There was no name on the check, just "VRI Inc.," and a post office box address for somewhere in the city. No hint of identity or reason for the check or anything. No mention of repayment, interest, nothing...except a single word, on the notes line: "You." Just those three letters. If you receive a mysterious check, for enough money to erase all your worries, would you cash it? I did. The next month, I received another check, again from VRI Incorporated. It too contained a single word: "belong." A third check, the next month. This time, two words. Four letters. "To me." The checks kept coming. The notes stopped. Ten thousand dollars, every month. A girl gets used to that, real quick. It let me pay the bills without going into debt. Let me keep my baby brother in school and Mom's hospice care paid for. How do you turn down what seems like free money, when you're desperate? You don't. I didn't. And then, after a year, there was a knock on my door. A sleek black limousine sat on the curb in front of my house. A driver stood in front of me, and he spoke six words: "It's time to pay your debt." Would you have gotten in? I did. It turns out $120,000 doesn't come free.
count, thinking about how he’d called me “darling.” Eventually I assumed more than a minute had passed, so I went back to my room, clutching the edges of my shirt together. I sat on my bed, the shredded remains of my second-favorite sleep T-shirt on my lap. How easily he’d ripped it. I gripped the edges of the back of the shirt and pulled. I barely got the cloth to stretch. I had to exert all my strength to get the hem to tear; he’d done it as easily as ripping a sheet of paper. Yet for all his
back you asked why you. That’s why.” “I—really?” “Yes, Kyrie. I am not a man prone to exaggeration, or flattery. When I look at you…I become weak. Yet the strength I see in you makes me want to hold you and protect you so you don’t have to be so strong. And…I have this need to possess you. To own you.” He shifted, rolling toward me, leaning over me slightly, weight on one elbow, his hand still holding the side of my face. “Do you have any idea how hard these last few days have been? How badly
needed something. What I got, though, was desperation flooding through me, his finger in my ass bringing me to the verge of a dark and primal climax. And then…he stopped. Pulled his finger out of me, left me bent over in the middle of his bedroom. I straightened and pulled my feet back together, gasping, frantic and angry with need and frustration and shame, aching, and watched him go through a door, where I heard water running as he washed his hands. I shook all over, hair messed up, lip
barely keeping up with my tuition and my brother’s, plus the ever-mounting costs of caring for Mama. I could do what this doucheknob wanted, and keep my job. It wouldn’t take long. A few unpleasant minutes, if that long. He was old, past sixty, I’d guess. Fit enough for his age, but by no means virile. But…no matter how desperate I might be, that would never happen. Not like this. Not with this guy. If he was hot, and I wanted to, maybe. It would be one thing if this were a kick-ass job that
were piling too high, and you couldn’t ever seem to get ahead. And even if you ever did accomplish your career goals, it wouldn’t solve your financial problems. So I kept sending checks. And the more I watched you, the more I flipped through the photos Harris was sending me…the more I felt like I just…had to know you. I had to. I couldn’t pretend like I was just helping out anymore. So I sent Harris to—” “Collect me,” I finished for him. He nodded, fingertips pressed together in front of his