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Auctioned to the Billionaire
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“I’m in deep shit, Flick.” Dad’s voice stops me in the doorway to his office. He glances up from the paperwork strewn across the desk. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him look so defeated—my father’s always been an optimist and a dreamer—and my fingers freeze around my apron strings.
“What’s going on?” He doesn’t respond, so I forget my apron and my quickly approaching shift and creep toward him. “Dad?”
“I’m going to lose everything.”
Panic swells deep inside me but I keep my tone even, soothing, as I perch myself on the edge of his desk. “It can’t be that bad, right?”
“Trust me, it is.” He gestures to the papers in front of him. I snatch the top sheet, browsing over it as he explains, “Do you remember Alexander Cade?”
Alexander Cade. It’s been a few years since I saw him but the thought of the hulking, bully of a man tenses every muscle in my body. “Yes,” I say, that single syllable drawn out and questioning. “What about him?”
“The loan, Flick.” Dad’s shoulders droop forward, like a deflated balloon. “I’m supposed to pay off the money he loaned me, but I’m behind.”
I was ten when my parents got a loan from Dad’s old “friend” to open our restaurant. For the first several years we were in business, Alexander Cade would stop by frequently and unexpected, boasting an arrogant grin while he ordered half the menu—on the house, of course. It never failed that by the time we brought out his food Cade was no longer hungry, and the only thing he wanted was another payment toward the balance of the loan. The last time he came to York’s, the summer I graduated high school, he’d slipped one of his sweaty, beefy hands beneath my skirt to give my ass an appreciative slap. Without considering the consequences, I’d knocked his soda onto his lap.
Cade responded by calling me an ungrateful little bitch and reminding Dad that he still owned us.
I’m not sure what was said after they stepped outside the restaurant to argue, but Cade never personally collected money from us again. Since I haven’t seen his asshole driver in months either, I figured the loan was fulfilled.
Obviously, I was dead wrong.
Scrubbing the image of sleaze-stuffed-into-a-business-suit from my brain, I suck on the inside of my cheek, count to ten, then ask, “Can you ask for an extension?”
Dad shakes his head. “I got one last year and besides, Alexander’s son is handling business now. Said he’s done doing favors.”
Of course, they’re done doing favors. Returning the first page of the contract to the desk, I pinch the bridge of my nose. “How much?”
“Twenty-hundred?” That’s doable. I can sell my car and take the “L” to work and school once the fall semester starts. My roommate affectionately calls my old Versa “the P.O.S that could,” but it’s easily worth a couple grand, if not a little more. And whatever money I have left over can go toward my books.
Dad lets out a bitter sound. “Twenty thousand, Flick.”
I choke on a gasp. Holy shit. “Dad,” I start in a tone that’s dangerously calm, “how on earth do you still owe that much money?”
Grasping the armrests of his chair, he hangs his head in shame. “The kitchen upgrade.”
The fucking kitchen upgrade. I swallow down my growl. Even though business wasn’t doing so hot, he’d insisted on the new kitchen a few years ago. Said it would make work easier, even though our lunch and dinner rush is still only a steady crawl. Don’t get me wrong, the food at York’s is incredible, and our customers swear we make the best burgers in Chicago, but thousands of dollars of stainless steel appliances didn’t compensate for a building too small to handle the demand in an area teeming with competition.
Plucking at the black hairband around my wrist, a nervous habit, I inhale. “Okay … so what happens if we can’t come up with the money?” Because I can’t imagine handling this in a year, let alone thirty days.
He lifts his green eyes to mine. “They take this place. They take the house.”
Ice trickles down my spine. They take everything. Just like he said earlier. Before I can ask him about different options—bank loans, other “friends” in high places, anything—someone knocks on the office door. Brooke, one of the other waitresses, pokes her head in, worrying her upper lip between her teeth.
“Hey, Flick? I’ve got to pick up Casey from daycare or I’ll be charged a late fee. Can you—”
“Yeah,” I croak and my belly pitches. Brooke was ecstatic when we hired her right before Christmas. York’s was the first place to call her back and she and Casey were close to being homeless. Too many people depend on this place to let the Cade family take it all away. Crossing my arms over my stomach, I offer her a shaky smile. “Give me just a minute.”