Home > Surprise Delivery(4)

Surprise Delivery(4)
Author: R.R. Banks

He doesn't huddle in corners with the other guys, cracking misogynistic jokes. He doesn't stand around throwing creepy, lecherous glances at me or the other secretaries. And he sure as hell doesn't improperly proposition any of us. He doesn't really fit in with the overgrown frat boys who run the firm, which makes me wonder why he's still in business with them.

I mean, on one level, I get it. They all went to the same law school and graduated together. They were friends, and of course frat brothers. That connection between them will always be there. But, unlike the others, Preston grew up. He got married. He matured. And now, he has virtually nothing in common with any of them.

Preston knows the pickle I'm in. He knows my situation and I know he sympathizes with me. Part of me thinks he'd be willing to give me the tuition money if I asked, just to get me the hell out of here. But that wouldn't exactly be appropriate, nor would his wife be on board with it. So, he does what he can to shield me from the worst of it and protects me the best that he can.

“So, have you reconsidered yet?” Tyler asks. “About having dinner with me?”

“No, I haven't,” I tell him flatly. “But, thank you.”

“Well, how about we skip dinner and I just have you for dessert, then?”

I clench my jaw and have to force myself to keep my head down and keep working on what I'm working on. But oh, the temptation to stand up and jam the pen in my hand into his throat is strong.

“Come on, Lexi,” he continues. “I've been after you for what, two years now? There's a difference between playing hard to get and being a frigid bitch.”

My blood pressure skyrockets and I feel something inside of me snap. I look up at him with murder in my eyes, a steel core building inside of me.

“You do realize you're opening yourself up for one hell of a sexual harassment lawsuit, don't you?” I hiss through clenched teeth.

A grin crosses his face and there is a light of amusement in his eyes. Amusement! I want to slap him hard enough to give him whiplash and knock his perfect white teeth out of his perfect mouth. I've never felt a rage in me quite like this before and I want to commit unspeakable acts of violence upon this piece of shit.

“Now, now, now, Lexi,” he chuckles, his tone thick with condescension. “Let's not start making idle threats.”

“Who said it's an idle threat?” I counter. “I think I've got a pretty strong case.”

“First of all, you need proof to win your case. You need corroboration of sexual harassment,” he says and gestures vaguely to the office behind him. “Do you really think any of the other girls in the office are going to back you up?”

“I can still –”

“Or surely, you have another form of evidence of this alleged harassment?” he goes on like I wasn’t speaking, his eyes boring into me. “Video? Emails? Anything?”

Slowly, that steel core that was building inside of me begins to melt, leaving behind nothing but a puddle of ruin. I don't have anything corroborating my claim, and he's right – none of those other catty bitches are going to back me up if I file a lawsuit. I'm pretty sure most of them actually believe they can turn the partners they're screwing from fuck buddies into husbands.

“Look, you and I both know you need this job a lot more than we need you. In some ways, we're humoring you by letting you stay. If not for Preston, I probably would have canned your ass a long time ago,” Tyler says, his tone arrogant and smug. “I know you're hanging on by a thread, financially speaking –”

“You don't know anything about me.”

He chuckles. “I do background checks on all of our employees. It's part of the normal vetting procedure, Lexi. So yeah, I do know your situation. Which means, we both know that you're not going to do anything to put this job in jeopardy,” he sneers. “And oh yeah, you can't afford to hire the sort of top-flight attorney that could actually give us a little trouble. You know that we'd bury you in court. Or, barring that, we can drag it out for so long, you'll be living on the street begging for change long before you ever see a dime of settlement money. Take my word for it, even if you do file suit against us, it's not like you're going to destroy this firm. Sorry, but that's just the facts, kid.”

The embers of my rage are still burning, but they're fading faster with his each and every word. Everything he's saying is right and it's true. I hate it – and him – but he's unfortunately not wrong. He has me over a barrel and he knows it – a fact that he absolutely loves.

“So, let's just cut to the chase,” he says, his eyes growing as hard as his voice. “It's kind of cute and a little bit of a turn on, honestly. Eventually though, I'm going to get tired of this little hard to get game you've got going on. I'm amusing myself with some of the others at the moment, but I still plan on getting a taste of you.”

“I'm not going to –”

“Eventually, we're going to find ourselves at a point where you're either on your knees like a good girl, doing what I tell you, when I tell you to do it, or you're going to find yourself hitting the bricks looking for another job. And do you really think you're going to find a job that pays what we do with your background and your limited – education?”

The tears well in my eyes and my heart stutters in my chest. I want to punch him in the mouth and storm out the door. But I can't. If I do that, I may as well just start panhandling the moment I do because I’ll be broke. I have no backup plan. No safety net. I have no family or friends I can fall back on for help and I can't be a burden to Sabrina.

If I give in to my desire to exact my revenge on this asshole, I'll pay a heavy price – a price I can't afford to bear.

“Good morning Alexis. Tyler.”

I look up at the sound of Preston's voice as he strides toward us and try to compose myself quickly. I don't want him to know I'm on the verge of tears, nor do I want to cause a scene and put myself in an awkward position with Tyler. That would only lead to a lot of awkward questions and a tense situation for all of us.

All the same, Preston's timing couldn't have possibly been better.

“What's up?” Preston asks.

“Oh, just saying good morning to Alexis here,” Tyler says, his eyes flashing a warning to me.

Preston nods. “Good,” he says. “Looks like you've done that, so you can probably head to your office now.”

The air between the three of us is tense as Preston and Tyler stare each other down for a long moment. Preston isn't stupid – he's probably the smartest of all the partners – and he knows what's going on. He knows exactly why Tyler is looming over my desk and is letting him silently know that he knows. Tyler doesn't look like he cares a whit, not with the cocky smirk tugging one corner of his mouth upward.

Without a word, Tyler turns and heads to his office, closing the door behind himself with a little more force than is necessary, the boom of it slamming, echoing around the office. Tyler's a partner, but because Preston is one of the two founding partners of the firm, he outranks him – a fact that never fails to irritate Tyler.

I have no doubt the others have been searching for ways to oust Preston from his own firm, but as of yet, they haven't made a move. And it probably has something to do with the fact that Preston is the one bringing in the lion's share of the money. Each and every month, he has the most billable hours and he wins far more in settlements and jury awards than the others.

If I were him, I'd consider leaving these fools to rot and hang out my own shingle without them. But then, the fraternal brothers’ bond is a strange and mysterious thing – something I don't and will never understand.

“Are you okay?” Preston asks.

I nod and purse my lips. “I'm fine,” I lie. “Thank you.”

No other words need to be exchanged since we both know the score. He's doing what he can for me, but I have to learn to control my temper if I want to hang onto this job. I'd let Tyler push me into reacting. He'd scored a point and I'd given him a little ammunition to use against me.

I know Preston will do what he can for me, but I also knew he won’t go to the mat for me. Not entirely. He would never rise up against the others just to defend me. His protection most definitely had its limits.

He gives me a slight nod, his lips tight, then turns and heads into his office, gently closing the door behind him. I sink down into my seat, my heart still racing, the adrenaline making me shaky. My stomach lurches and a wave of nausea sweeps over me. I manage to hold it down and not puke in my trash can – but just barely.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I need to get out of here, but I don't have many options – no, I don't have any options. I'm barely scraping by as it is and can't afford a step down in pay. But, without an education, it's not like I can demand more.

The feeling of being stuck and the overwhelming sense of dread I get, whenever I step foot inside this office, has never been thicker. All I want to do is cry my eyes out and then punch something really, really hard.

It's only five after eight and I can already tell it's going to be a pint of ice cream kind of night – maybe two.

Three

Duncan

“I'm so glad you can always find time to fit me into your busy schedule,” she says. “It's nice getting together with you.”

I laugh softly. “I'll always make time for you, Mom.”

“I just know how busy you doctors are,” she replies.

I reach out and take her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Some things are worth carving out the time for.”

We're sitting on the back deck, the sun shining down on us. The day is wonderful – it's warm, but not too warm. It's actually about perfect, truth be told. I make a point of getting together with my mother at least once a week – usually for lunch. She manages to keep herself busy with all the volunteer work she does, and various boards of charitable foundations that she sits on, but I also know that she gets lonely in this big old house by herself. Ever since Dad died, she really hasn't had anybody. And it's not like my brother Henry makes a lot of time for her.

   
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