Sterling: Breathe, Poppy, and relax. I’m not going to hurt you.
A nervous laugh wants to bubble up at that, but I squeeze my eyes shut instead. What in the hell am I supposed to do now? I can’t just leave my date behind, but I don’t want to stay either. Only someone sick, twisted, and obsessed stalks someone, and this is exactly what he’s doing. It can’t be called anything else.
Maybe I should call the cops, but can they really do anything? Would they think I instigated it by communicating with him? He really hasn’t done anything illegal, has he? I could probably show them the messages on my phone, but would that be enough?
I’m scared to look down at my phone when it vibrates again, but I put on my brave face and do so anyway.
Another text pops up immediately with a link.
I’m not sure why I click on it, but I find myself doing just that. It takes a minute for it to load, and when it does, my world tips upside down.
The Arizona State Corrections Department pops up with a picture of Marc’s face as he poses for his mugshot. Sweat starts to dot on my forehead as my shaky finger scrolls down. Bile rises in my throat at the list of things he was convicted of.
Battery.Kindly share out stories from generalloaded.com using the floating social media icon buttons on the bottom of the screen
Oh my God!
My gaze darts to the hallway Marc disappeared down. I can only see the mouth of it, so I can’t see him. I’ve got to get out of here.
Sterling sends another message, but I ignore it. I grab my purse off the table. With another quick look behind me at the hallway, I dash on wobbly legs toward the entrance. My heart races a mile a minute, and I almost trip twice in my heels in my haste to get out of the restaurant.
What in the hell is wrong with me? Why do I always pick the liars, weirdos, and criminals?
Se.xual assault and battery!
That’s a new low for me.
He knows where I live now!
My sweaty palms grab the door handle, and I rush outside. Shit, I don’t have my car, but I need to get out of here. I could call a cab, but it would take too long.
I look down at my phone when it vibrates again.
Sterling: There’s a car waiting for you. The black one.
I forgot all about Sterling. I lift my head and see a black Sedan at the curb with a middle-aged man holding the door open. He’s looking at me expectantly.
Should I get in his car? Is he in there as well? Can I trust him? He’s been following me for God knows how long, and I still don’t know jack shit about him. Even though the following shit freaks me out, the thought of Marc coming out scares me more.
Sterling sends another message.
Sterling: Get in the car, Poppy. It’s safe. I promise.
I take a tentative step toward the car, still unsure if I should. It’s either trust Sterling or take the chance of Marc finding me, and there’s no telling what he’ll do.
Se.xual assault and battery are two convictions you don’t play around with. I may not know the details, but I’d rather not take the chance. According to the link, he was in prison for five years.
The door opens behind me, and I jump with a squeak, and quickly rush over to the open car door. As soon as I’m inside, the man closes it. A look out the window shows it was just a couple leaving the restaurant. I breathe a sigh of relief and lean against the soft leather seat.
I close my eyes, but immediately open them again to look around the car. I’m alone. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. On one hand, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with Sterling in person. I need time to take in the fact he’s been following me. But on the other hand, I’m still freaked out about Marc being a
convicted felon. I have no way of knowing if he would have hurt me, but just the thought of being alone with him, in my home, after he hurt someone, makes me ill.
I look down at my phone and see another message from Sterling.
Sterling: Lenny will take you home. Lock your doors. Marc won’t bother you.
Damn… what in the world did I get myself into here? I’m grateful to Sterling for showing me what he did about Marc, but I’d be stupid for trusting him. Why not just tell me about all this when we were messaging earlier? Why let me go out with a convicted criminal?
And how does he know Marc won’t bother me?
I don’t reply to Sterling’s message. Instead, I look to the front of the car where Lenny is driving. He has his eyes forward and he appears to be calm. Does he know what’s going on? I decide to fish for answers.
I curl my hands into fists and set them in my lap. I clear my throat before I attempt to talk.
“Lenny, right?” I ask, just to appear polite. I sit up further in my seat.
His eyes flicker to me in the mirror before looking back at the road.
“Where are you taking me?”
Sterling said he was taking me home, but for all I know, he could have been lying.
I want to see if their stories are straight.
“Home,” he replies.
I look around and it appears he’s right, or at least it looks like it. There are a lot of places I could be taken to between here and home.
“How do you know where I live?”
“I was told.”
Wow, this guy is so full of information. I staunch my eye roll.
“And who told you?” I continue to quiz him, hoping he’ll give something up.
“And who is your boss?” I watch him through the rearview mirror. Besides the initial eye flick my way, he never takes his eyes off the road.
“I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am.”
I sit back, cross my arms over my chest, and mutter, “This is ridiculous.”
“What was that, Miss?”
“Nothing.” I look out the window at the passing scenery. “Actually, you know what? Just drop me off here. I can call for a cab.”
I catch him looking at me in the mirror when he says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want a ride from someone I don’t know,” I say snidely.
It’s not Lenny’s fault, but I’m beyond caring at this point.
“Ma’am, I was told to get you home safely, and that’s what I intend to do.”
“And what if I decide to call the cops? What then?”
“If that’s what you need to do, I can’t stop you, but the fact remains, I will be making sure you get home safely.”
I huff out a breath. Stubborn, stupid man. Both him and Sterling. They really are a pair. I may not know Sterling, but I can tell he’s the type of man that gets what he wants. It’s in his words when he messages me. It’s not just a cocky attitude, it’s a fact. I’m sure he never takes no for an answer, and will probably fight whatever that gets in his way when it comes to something he wants. And for some reason, he wants me.
I don’t say anything more to Lenny. It wouldn’t do any good. His lips are sealed regarding his boss. I have to admire the loyalty, even if it is aggravating and keeping me from getting what I want.
Twenty minutes later, we pull up outside my house. I don’t bother thanking Lenny for the ride. It’s not like he did it out of the kindness of his heart. Nope, his boss told him to take me home. I know I’m being bitchy, but damn, I think right now I have every right to be.
Once I’m locked inside my house, I look out the window and see Lenny pull away from the curb. I let the curtain fall back to cover the window.
My house is quiet, and I feel a shiver rush up my spine. I’ve never been afraid of living alone, but now I’m getting the heebie jeebies. The house it too quiet. The sun has almost set, so it’s getting dark inside. I flip the light switch on to my left and my foyer lights up, but it doesn’t help. I walk to every room of the house and flick on every light. Only then do I feel marginally better. I kick my heels off in my closet and move next to take off my jewelry.
I want so badly to call Liv and tell her about tonight and get her advice, but she’s away with Tony on their special getaway. There’s no way I’ll interrupt that. It can wait until she gets back.
Walking back to the living room, I pull my phone from my purse that’s on the back of the couch. I take a seat and pull my legs up beside me.Kindly share out stories from generalloaded.com using the floating social media icon buttons on the bottom of the screen
Me: You obviously researched my date. Why in the hell did you let me go out with him if you knew he was a convicted criminal?
I sit and stew as I wait for his reply. I can’t believe he acted so flippant last night when I told him I was going on a date, when he knew all along that the man was convicted for sexual assault and battery. Does he not realize how bad tonight could have been? Or does he just not care that much?
Sterling: Because I didn’t get the report until right before I messaged you. I had to dig deeper. The fu.cker’s records were locked tight.
That makes me feel a little better, but not much. This night could have ended so much worse than what it did. I am, however, grateful that he did message me as soon as he found out.
Me: What exactly did the guy do anyway? Do you know that too?
I don’t know if he’s privy to that information, but for some reason, I believe he is.
Sterling: He beat and raped his adopted sister multiple times over a week’s time.
The parents were out of town and it was his responsibility to watch over her.
I feel sick to my stomach. I drop the phone in my lap and have to bend over at the waist with my head between my legs. The pounding in my head and the distant buzz in my ears says I’m on the verge of passing out. I can’t catch my breath.
Oh my God! I can’t believe I was having dinner with a guy that beat and raped his sister! Not just once, although once is bad enough, but multiple times! I sat right across from him and had a normal conversation with him. He picked me up from my house. I was alone with him in my home and in his car.
Sterling: You were never truly alone with him, Poppy. I wouldn’t have let him hurt you.
A hysterical laugh escapes my lips before I can stop it, then it turns into a strangled sob. I don’t know that Marc would have hurt me, but the thought of it being a possibility is frightening beyond belief.
Me: Because you were following me?
Me: And how do you know he won’t come after me?
Sterling: There are some things you don’t need to worry about. Just know that he won’t.
My stomach settles a little, so I sit back on the couch, suddenly feeling exhausted. I rest my head against the back of the couch, but bring my phone up when it buzzes again.
Sterling: We can talk more tomorrow. Get some rest.
Although it’s stupid and reckless of me, I have one more request. I’m an idiot for even considering to continue this dangerous game. I have no clue how long he’s been following me or how much he knows about me. I’m exhausted, and I want nothing more than to take a quick shower and crawl into bed. I can’t explain this need to continue this… thing we have going, but the fact remains, I do.
Me: Give me another letter.
Sterling: S. Sleep well, Beautiful.
I close my eyes and drop the phone beside me. AES. There are endless possibilities with those letters. I don’t even know if he’s giving me letters for his first and last name, or just his first. I’m still freaked out about the whole Marc debacle, but I also feel oddly safe. For some reason I believe Sterling when he says Marc won’t bother me. I don’t know what he means by it, and I don’t want to think about it too closely.
I get up from the couch and slowly make my way to the bedroom. Shower and bed is my goal, desperately needing to put the wreck of this day behind me.
“The problem has been taken care of,” the deep voice says on the other end of the line.
The pen I’m holding beats a rhythm against my desk as Dante goes over what he did with the sick fu.ck, Marc. I’m reclined back in my office chair with one leg propped up on the other knee. I’m confident in Dante’s abilities, so when he says we’ll have no trouble from Marc, we won’t have trouble from Marc. I don’t know if he would have come after Poppy, but I damn sure wasn’t taking the chance.
“Send the bill to the office,” I tell Dante once he’s finished.
Poppy would probably kill me if she knew she would be making a payment on my behalf to pay for disposing of Marc, even though he deserved it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s not dead, but I bet he wishes he were right about now. It pays to have connections to people that like to trade money for hard working men. Marc’s likely on a plane right now to Morocco, drugged, waiting to be put to work in the hot
fields. That may seem harsh to some, but they didn’t see the pictures I saw of the girl he raped and beat repeatedly. She survived, but barely, and she probably wishes she hadn’t, seeing how she’s now living out her days in a mental hospital, her face covered in scars. She ended up pregnant, then stuck a clothes hanger inside her to get rid of the baby, right before she attempted to kill herself. Marc got off after only five years because of some fu.cked up technicality his lawyers finally uncovered.Kindly share out stories from generalloaded.com using the floating social media icon buttons on the bottom of the screen
I was already in my hidden spot inside the restaurant when the report came through in my email. I damn near marched over to their table, snatched Poppy up, and pummeled the bastard until his face was unrecognizable. The only thing that held me back was she was in my view the entire time. From the moment Marc showed at her house, to the time she stepped into my car, I always had her in my sights. As soon as the car pulled away, I was on the phone with Dante.
I get up from my desk and walk to the window. Yesterday just about killed me. I decided to keep quiet and not communicate with Poppy. I was trying to give her time to come to grips with what happened Saturday. There were several things dropped on her lap. Not only did she discover she was having dinner with a felon, but she also found out I knew where she lived, and that I’d been following her. She still doesn’t know to what extent, but I’m sure it was still overwhelming. It twisted my gut when I saw the panic on her face when she realized I was in the restaurant watching her. Her eyes darted around several times looking for me. I was hidden in an alcove, so I knew she wouldn’t find me. It hurt to see that look on her face. She looked as though she was worried I would hurt her.
When she texted me yesterday, demanding answers, it took everything in me to not respond. I need her to realize that she needs me. I need to give her the chance to miss me. Going silent for a day is my way of testing what she feels. I’m sure she’s probably pissed at me for ignoring her, but she’ll get over it.
I walk back to my desk and run my finger over the mouse on my laptop to bring it to life. I enter her login information into the dating site she uses. A smile forms on
my face when I see her account is inactive. I was hoping the date on Saturday would make her realize she shouldn’t be dating guys from a place like that. And a small part of me wished she would close it down for the simple fact that I’m now making an appearance in her life.
I pull up another tab and type in the web address I want. I know exactly what I’m looking for, and once I find it, I put in an order for a rush delivery. It’s time to up my game, and show her exactly how serious I am about being a part of her life.
A couple hours later, there is a knock on my door. I bid the person entrance and Poppy sticks her head in. I’ve been busy with meetings and phone conferences all day, so I’ve only been able to see her a couple times. I glance at my watch and get irritated that it’s already ten till five.
“I’m heading out soon. Do you need anything before I leave?” Her voice is so sweet, and hearing it has my body tightening up. I want to know what she sounds like in the midst of being pleasured.
I close my laptop and push it back on my desk.
“No, I don’t need anything. Come in for a minute and take a seat.”
I can see the nervousness she’s trying to hide when she nods and makes her way to the chair across from my desk. I pull my glasses off and drop them on the desk before I get up, walk around, and rest against the hard wood right in front of her. She crosses her legs and grips the armrests tightly as she peers up at me. I love that I make her so nervous, even after almost a year of working for me.
“How was your weekend?” I ask casually, and watch confusion wash over her face.
The expression doesn’t surprise me. I’ve tried to keep all of our dealings strictly business over the last year, not wanting to get too close to her until I was ready. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why I make her so nervous. However, that needs to start changing, because soon it will become very personal between us. I need to ease her into being comfortable around me.
I watch as she takes in my question, processes that I did in fact ask it, before answering.
“It was fine, thank you.”
I nod and tilt my head to the side, assessing her. She keeps her eyes on mine, but I can tell she wants to drop them.
“Is everything okay, Poppy?” I ask, as if I’m a concerned employer. I want to see how much she’ll reveal. She’s been more quiet and reserved than she usually is.Kindly share out stories from generalloaded.com using the floating social media icon buttons on the bottom of the screen
Her brows pull down, like she’s unsure
what I’m asking her for. Her face is so expressive. That’s one of the many things I enjoy about Poppy. Her emotions are always easy to read, because she doesn’t know she’s showing them. I can always tell what she’s feeling.
“Yes, sir, everything is fine. Why do you ask?”
I adjust my stance, and when I do, I purposely brush my knee against hers. It’s small, but I hear her take in a sharp breath. Besides a handshake during her interview, and a casual brush of hair off her cheek while she sleeps, I haven’t touched her. I presume my casual knee brush has her feeling the same electrical charge I felt at the contact.
“You haven’t been yourself today. Are you sure everything’s okay?”
She shifts in her seat, crossing and uncrossing her legs. I can’t help that my
eyes follow the movement. Her adjusting has caused her skirt to rise a bit, showing off more of her thigh. When I look back to her, she catches where my eyes were looking and a cute little blush forms on her cheeks. One corner of my mouth tips up. I’m pleasantly surprised when she doesn’t pull her skirt back down.
“Oh. Well, I just had an incident this weekend, but everything is fine now.”
“Is there anything I can help with?”
Her eyes widen slightly and she chews on her plump bottom lip, tormenting my mind with images of me biting it.
“No, no. Thank you, Mr. Knight, but everything is okay now.”
I watch her for a few more seconds, my eyes drifting back down to her exposed thigh, before I straighten myself and make my way around to my seat. Once seated, I steeple my hands together and smile at her gently.
“That’s all for today, Poppy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She quickly stands up, her skirt unfortunately falling back into place.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Just before she walks out the door, I call to her. Keeping her hand on the door and her body facing it, she turns and looks over her shoulder.
“Have a good night.”
Her lips tip up into a stunning smile before she replies, “You too, Mr. Knight.”
I sit there for several seconds, surprised that she gave me her beautiful smile. It’s not often I get to see it in person. Normally, when I do, it’s not aimed at me, but at someone else in the office. My chest swells, knowing that smile was just for me. I silently vow to myself to make her smile at least once a day from now on. And when this is over, I’ll make her smile a million times a day, for a million different reasons.