Chapter 1: I'm a glutton for punishment.
I sighed to myself for the millionth time. My loving sister sends me another dirty look. My mother makes a little noise in her throat. I knew that sound well. She was sick of my s**t. I wanted to smirk, but it wouldn't be worth it. I may be an adult now, but that woman's ability to make me feel small and worthless is unchanged.
I was frustrated being stuck here. I don't know why I was expected to be in the wedding party anyway. Until a year ago, my dear sister's fiance was my long-time boyfriend. They fell for each other after he and I fought. We made it seven, almost eight years. He should have been gearing up to propose to me. Instead, he admitted that he always crushed on April. He just chose me because he thought she was out of his league.
You can accuse James of being many things, but a charmer is not one of them. I sighed again inadvertently, but it snapped my mother's thin patience. "Tiera, do you have something important you should be doing? You seem distracted", she asks. Her voice is deceptively soft. I know this tone. If I answer it incorrectly, she will cause an argument and put the whole thing on me. Because, in her eyes, I am the dramatic child who loves causing problems.
"No, mother. Sorry, I am waiting to see if I am needed tonight at my nanny job", I told her, keeping any hints of attitude out of my voice. She makes a dismissive noise I've heard my whole life. She didn't care. She never has or will.
"I thought you were interning for Blaque," April says, never missing a chance to throw salt on wounds. "It wasn't a good fit but enough about my summer plans. The wedding is soon. Let's get back to the planning", I told her, shutting down the conversation.
I wasn't about to be her punching bag today. I am already helping her plan a ceremony with the man I loved. Love? I shake myself mentally, not going there either. I had no clue how I felt about this situation. Avoidance was for the best.
"You're right. It is so close. Oh, that reminds me, we need to speak about your dress. The designer says if you don't lose 30 pounds, he will have to change your dress style. I have a picture of his suggestion", her voice is smug. I look at the picture and balk. Okay, I am not thin by any means. My curvaceous form has always been a point of contention with my family. The original dress was a form-hugging halter style. I looked gorgeous in the dress. It needed to be taken out in places, but I looked amazing. This dress was flowing and long-sleeved. I would look even bigger in this dress. I would also stand out even more.
"I told him you would try to lose weight but to have this one in your size just in case."
"It would probably be smart just to have her switch. I don't think she would look as good as the other girls in original style even if she dropped the weight", my mother adds helpfully. What am I here for? Why do I do this to myself?
I should just stand up and leave. I don't have to take this. Yet, I needed them, right? You only get one family, and maybe that dress wouldn't look as good as I thought it would. "Your right; I should probably go with this dress," I said. My sister beams at me. I want to smile back, but it doesn't reach my face. My phone beeps. It's Ryan, my boss, he will need me to watch Jake. I smile genuinely at that and reply, of course. I loved that little boy like he was my own. I had been spending the last two months with him, and he was a gem. I was sad we only had a month left.
"I apologize, ladies, I do have to go. I'll see you next week,?" I asked, standing and gathering my purse. My mother scoffs, "Who knows, you seem to be so busy lately. We'll let you know. "
I ignore her, kiss both of them on the cheek and leave. Normally, that would hurt, but getting to see Jake made it all better. Pulling up to my boss's residence, I marveled at the beautiful house. Wealth definitely buys amazing things. My family was not bad off, but this home was that of a billionaire. Every piece of it seemed to be handcrafted and more than anything I could afford. I opened the door only to bump into Ryan.
"There you are. Thank you. I know I said I would let you know earlier, but this meeting just came up," he greeted me. I nodded at him, focusing in on the upset four-year-old sitting forlornly on the steps. I made my way to him with a little smile. His lips shook and eyes watered.
"Dad, you promised," he whispered. I watched Ryan's back stiffen. I was supposed to have this weekend off because they were going to spend time together.
"Bud, I told you this was unexpected. I have to handle this, but I will be back late tonight. We have all of tomorrow to play". Jake stomps his foot. I knew a tantrum was coming.
"Hey Jake, want to help me bake cookies?" I asked him, hoping to avoid them arguing. I didn't know the whole situation between the two, but I knew that Ryan wasn't biologically his. Yet, he gained custody of him two years ago. It was hard for a twenty-seven-year-old man to give up so much of his life to take care of a two-year-old.
"I hate you. I wish I had a better dad or at least a mom like Tiera who actually loved me", the boy screamed, his face scrunched up as he tossed his hot wheel at his dad and disappeared up the steps. I gave Ryan a sheepishly embarrassed smile before heading up the steps after the boy.
I hate how attached he became to me. I was only working here for the summer. Ryan is training a new director at his hotel business and will be heading back to his home state of Washington when he is finished. I will be back at USC to finish my last semester and hopefully make it big in the fashion world. Our paths wouldn't be crossing anymore, and I know that would hurt him further. I closed my eyes in frustration when I found the boy locked in his dad's office. After the fun meeting with my family, I really didn't have the energy for an upset child.
Yet, what else can I do? It took ages for me to convince him to come out, and I was more than a little happy when he drifted off to sleep in the entertainment room. I sat playing on my phone for hours as the boy dozed. Until finally, Ryan pokes his head into the room. The man was gorgeous, to put it lightly. Tall, dark, and handsome was the easiest way to describe him.
"I'll put him to bed. Can you stay a little longer? I know it's late, but I need to speak with you"? "Sure," I said to him. He carefully picks the boy up and heads to his room.
I stood stretching my sore limbs before heading to his office. It doesn't take the man long to arrive, and he offers me a drink. I should say no. My alcohol tolerance was negative, it felt like but I still accepted the expensive whiskey he poured.
"Jake is too attached to you" he says after taking a long pull of his drink. I sighed my thoughts on this same issue most of today. "We need to come up with a plan to fix this before your employment terminates".
"I was thinking about this earlier as well. The only thing I can think off is me spending less time with him." I told him, finishing up my drink. Nervous didn't even begin to cover what I was feeling. I didn't spend my time speaking with men this handsome. He pours me more liquor and I drink more happy when I feel myself relaxing.
"I have at least two weeks before I can accomplish that. I don't know if I have ever told you, but Jake isn't my son biologically". He hadn't told me, I was nosey and got that information from some of the staff there.
"His mother was the love of my life, but she hated how busy I am and the publicity that comes with dating me. She fell in love with a wreck of a man and had his child. She ended up dying in a car crash. Jake survived, and I couldn't let him go to foster care. His father didn't want him. " I gasped at Jake's sad story. The boy was so sweet he didn't deserve this in life.
Ryan gave me a smile before sipping from his cup. "Sorry didn't mean to go down memory lane. I don't know how much Jake remembers from that time, seeing he was only two, but I don't want him to feel abandoned by you."
I groaned mentally. I already had an inappropriate crush on this man. Hearing how good of a person he was just made the whole thing worse. I stood stumbling. He quickly gets up to keep me from falling to the floor. I looked up at him. My fogged brain doesn't even know why I stood.
"So handsome," I murmured. He smirked, and my heart exploded. My alcohol-fueled mind convinced me it was a good idea to reach up and kiss him. He didn't stop me. Clutching me closer to him and returning my kiss, I melted into him. Ryan was such a better person than James. Caring, loving, and an amazing kisser. I knew I shouldn't, but he seemed receptive. His lips trailed down my neck, and I resolved that one night wouldn't hurt. He was into it as well. Hell, it might lead to more. It would be fine.