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Billionaire's Kiss Sloan Storm 2022/8/3 13:48:10

“Not on me, no but I could find it at the apartment. I’m almost sure she wrote them down once as an emergency contact. I can dig it up.”

I motioned for the bartender to bring the check.

“Want another?” I said to her just before I did.

About ten minutes later, Katy and I stood in the lobby of the hotel. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and swiped it on.

“All right,” I began. “So are you gonna text me the info for her parents or…”

As I spoke, I glanced down at Katy to see her wiping tears away from her eyes. Noticing I’d noticed, she swallowed hard and waved her hand in front of her face.

“Sorry,” she said with a rasp. “I’m sorry.”

I nodded and smiled. “Everything is going to be all right. I promise. We’ll find her and work it out. Okay?”

She nodded, but even so, the tears continued to flow. As they did, Katy reached in her bag and rummaged through it. After thirty seconds or so, she still hadn’t come up with a tissue.

What the hell was with her and Maddie and these purses?

Just then, a room service cart rolled by. Thinking quickly, I reached down and snatched a clean dinner napkin from it.

[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======

“The gold napkin ring is no charge.” I said, as I handed it to her.

Her shoulders jostled in amusement as she took it from me and dabbed at her eyes.

As she dried her tears, she looked up at me and asked me something I never would have expected from someone as hard-nosed as her.

Stunned, I hesitated for a moment or two before I replied. “Really? No shit huh?”

She nodded and fought back another round of tears.

“Okay, all right.” I replied, as I opened my arms to her. “Come on. Let’s not make a big scene out of it.”

As she wrapped her arms around my midsection, Katy pressed her face hard into my chest and muttered, “I miss her Grey. So much.”

I slid my arm down around her.

“I understand, Katy,” I began. “I really do.”

Gray skies, corn and shame.

Those were three main tourist attractions of the town I grew up in, in Indiana. And a few days after my blowout with Grey and Katy, it was where I found myself once again. Why go back, you ask, to a place where I’d be wet all the time, covered in either a fog-driven fine mist, heavy rain or in the winter, snow that clung to you like Nature’s own blanket of death?

Why, oh why, indeed? Well, the answer was simpler than you’d expect.

Los Angeles was just too complicated and too toxic right now. Katy broke my trust and Grey, well, he shattered pretty much everything else. As far the business went, Grey could have it if he wanted it. I was done. Good luck dragging me back. So on the heels of that mess, what better place to return to than the place that rejected me to begin with all those years ago?

To say my folks were religious would be stating the obvious, like saying the sky in Indiana from October until April is the color of the inside of a dirty ashtray. Of the two of them, my Dad was the worst. A Bible-thumping legend in a land filled with them.

In their defense, they wanted the best for me, like most parents do. When I’d left with Trevor for Hollywood five years before without being married, or even having so much as an engagement ring on my finger, well, let’s just say they weren’t thrilled. And even though my parents never disowned me outright, they might as well have considering all the contact we’d had since, which was none.

Yet, in the wake of everything happening back in LA, I needed to get away and clear my head. Why did I come here instead of jetting off to some tropical locale? Because I’m a complete idiot is why! Not only that, but I was certain my first encounter with them would be filled with ‘I told you so’s and ‘you never listen’s which, uh, I dreaded. Even though I wasn’t religious myself, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pray for a quick and painless reunion ? scolding from them.

So you can imagine my relief when I knocked on the front door and received a welcome that was almost the complete opposite of what I expected. My mom cried right away, which, of course, made me cry. Even Dad, a man who spoke maybe the equivalent of twenty words when I was a child, including grunts, got a little misty-eyed.

My folks, Jim and Nikki Olsen, had aged. Which, I know. Obvious right? But when I first saw them again, it shocked me. For the first time in my life, they seemed, I dunno, old? It’s funny how your mind freezes people with your last image of them, isn’t it? I suppose it’s the brain’s way of keeping things interesting.

Anyway, after the initial shock of that wore off, we spent a fair bit of time catching up. And although they appeared to be interested and attentive in the aftermath of our emotional greeting, I sensed the inevitable finger-wagging wouldn’t be far behind.

At some point, the conversation veered towards the predictable questions about Trevor. Like, for starters, where was he? They’d warned me I’d wind up alone doing things the way I’d done them and now here I sat, prophecy fulfilled.

Parents one, Maddie zero.

Side note, but that was another thing I resented about the way things wound up between me and Trevor. He had fared better than me in all facets of the breakup. He got the cushy job. He got the Hollywood life. He never lost touch with his parents and on and on. In the end, his entire world outside of the two of us remained intact while mine -- imploded.

Sitting on the same chocolate-brown sectional my parents had owned since I was six years old, I twirled my hair around a finger during a pause in the conversation. My mom sat to my left on the couch while my father sat off to my right, in his easy chair.

“Maddie, sweetie.” My mom began as she touched my knee. “Do you want to tell me what’s on your mind? Why are you here?”

I released my hair and placed my hands in my lap. Exhaling, I replied, “I just needed to get away. Aside from the break up with Trevor, things haven’t been going that great for me.”

“I see,” my mom replied. “Well, you’re welcome to sleep in your old room, of course.”

I turned and looked at her. “You kept my room like I left it?”

“Of course, dear. After all, I knew you’d be back sooner or later.”

My mom wasn’t the sort of person who tried to be clever with her words, so I didn’t take the ‘sooner or later’ part of her response as an insult. She meant it in a loving way. Even so, I’m sure she would rather I had come back to it under happier circumstances.

“How long will you be staying?” she asked.

I glanced at her, then at my father, before I replied. Shrugging, I said, “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.”

My mother smiled and patted me on the knee. Without addressing my reply, she said, “I’m going to get your father and me a cup of coffee. Would you like one?”

“No,” I began, as I looked at her. “No, thank you.”

With that, she smiled and walked away, leaving me alone with my father for the first time in over half a decade. I swallowed hard as she disappeared into the kitchen. As she did, I drew my vision towards him, where he sat, arms now crossed at his chest looking down at me over his glasses, which clung at the tip of his nose.

He nodded as he began to speak. “Maddie, if you’re going to stay here, you’re going to have to pay your way. Your mother and I, we’re both retired now and living on fixed incomes. You understand that don’t you?”

Although I didn’t care for the tone, I got the message.

After I finished, he remained cross-armed and closed off from me. He drew his eyebrows together in an expectant look, framing his face in impatience.

“I’m waiting, Madeline.”

Ugh, Madeline. I hadn’t even been here for an hour yet and already he was using that.

“For what, Dad? I heard you.”

He shook his head. “I’m not sure you did.”

Thinning my lips, I gestured towards the kitchen and parroted his comment to me from a moment before. “Uh, you and Mom retired. Fixed income. I heard you. I’m not deaf.”

“Okay, then,” he said. “I suggest you begin looking for work first thing tomorrow. I’ll give you until the end of the week to find something. If you don’t, you can’t stay here. Got me?”

Of course, I didn’t have to work anywhere if I didn’t want to. The business brought in plenty of money. Hell, with that kind of income, I could live like royalty here. But I knew there was right around zero chance my folks would approve of the sort of business we ran. And I couldn’t just sit around the house and pay them because they’d want to know where the money came from, which, of course, would lead me back to the original problem of telling them what I did.

So, instead, I lied. “Yes. I understand. I’ll start looking first thing tomorrow.”

Not wishing to piss my parents off and risk being homeless in the span of a few days, I wasted no time finding some temporary employment. As luck would have it, it didn’t take all that long. See, the best part about coming from a small town is half the population never leaves. And sooner or later, all those family-run businesses change hands as the next generation steps in and assumes control.