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Daddy Next Door
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What would you do if you learned your BFF of five years was screwing your man? The one you’re supposed to marry? Yup, that’s what I did. I kicked him to the curb and moved my sorry ass to Raleigh. Time to take a break, pick up the pieces of my heart and move on.
Unfortunately, the new house I just bought happens to be right beside the hottest god damn man I have ever laid eyes on. He has to be at least ten years older than me and has a daughter named Rachel. Tyler Renner seems like the total catch. That is until I learn how bad the two of them have it.
I’m a sucker. I’ll admit it. I allowed myself to get sucked into their world and spit right back out again. I can’t allow my heart to get crushed again, but I also can’t allow Rachel to get hurt either.
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The sunlight from the August afternoon streamed into the conference room, glinting against the expensive watch I’d chosen for just this meeting. I’d thought about it, practiced my handshake and sensed the other partners would look down and understand that once and for all, I was the ‘somebody’ they’d been searching for. On this day, I, Tyler Renner, was becoming a partner of the downtown Raleigh, North Carolina tech firm, Dalton.
It was something my career had been working toward for years.
Samantha, the HR girl from the San Francisco office, leaned heavily across the table as she read me my contract, stating the pay rate, and the hours required out west. As she pushed forward, her breasts craned high on the desk, cresting over the soft white blouse she wore beneath the business jacket. Her bright blonde hair flashed as she re-adjusted in her seat, giving me a smile.
“Does everything sound all right so far, Tyler?” she asked. A bit of gum snuck out from the left side of her teeth.
“So far, so good,” I said.
I sensed I had an effect on her. My sheer dominance in the conference room made her shuffle in her seat, made her more flirtatious and eager to please. Reaching to the left, she poured us each a glass of whiskey from an expensive, barrel-aged bottle and then passed one to me. As we clinked our glasses together, she winked at me and said, “I think we’re going to have a wonderful time working together, Tyler. I’m in many of the meetings out in California. They have me take the minutes of the meetings. So I might not have this tech brain that you have in there, but I certainly know the lingo. And I always pour the drinks.”
I sipped the whiskey slowly, allowing it to pour over my tongue. What was Samantha suggesting? Certainly, it was sexual. Her words all but glittered with her attraction for me. But I pushed back in my chair, drawing my arms over my chest. “And that means how much time in San Francisco a month, then?”
Samantha’s face grew shadowed. “Oh, maybe about ten days a month,” she replied. “Two trips or so. Maybe more or less, depending on the deals we’re currently working on. As the business grows, we might even have to take you out there full-time.”
“That could be difficult,” I replied. “I have a daughter, as I believe I’ve mentioned several times. She takes top priority.”
“As she should,” Samantha agreed.
I thought I caught her rolling her eyes, caught up in self-importance, and her feelings that I should toss away my family, my old life, for such a wonderful opportunity. Sipping the whiskey once more, she passed the paper across the table, handing me a pen with her free manicured fingers. “If we could just have you sign on the dotted line that would be wonderful. Then, we would like to take you out for drinks and a meal. Get to know the man we’re about to center our lives with.”
“Absolutely,” I said, giving her a smile. With a last-minute feeling of doubt passing through my gut—I wondered if Rachel would be all right without me, for at least ten days a month? I scribbled my name across the dotted line and then passed her the contract, telling myself, over and over again, that this was for the good of my career. That it would help Rachel, my ten-year-old daughter, in the long run. That I deserved to be the man I could be, rather than the man I already was.
A seven-figure contract.
Rachel’s college. Expensive trips to the Caribbean, to the west coast, to Europe, even. I could make that happen, from now on. All my worries would cease.
In the chaos that followed, I found myself in the midst of the other partners—three men and a woman, all flown in from San Francisco to meet me. They shook my hand, making penetrating eye contact, and smacked my broad shoulders with tidy, tech hands. They were Roger, Carlos, Hank, Samantha, and Monica, and they were my team, now; my new, west coast family.
“You know of a good bar around here?” Hank asked. He was shorter, wide and robust-looking as if he’d taken a tackle during football season a time or two. “Now that the paperwork is filed, I think we should eliminate work talk for the night. I mean, how many goddamn meetings do we need to have?” He laughed, giving me another sound pat on the back. “Hey, we like you. You like us. As far as I’m concerned, I say we get the game going, roll up our sleeves and pass a few beers around.”
I gave him a wide-stretching smile. It felt false and made my cheeks ache, but it pushed us out the door and toward our cars: their rentals, and the old truck I’d been carting Rachel around in since the dawn of time, it seemed. Well, at least since the divorce, when Marnie had dug her heels in and taken the better of the two vehicles. She always whined that she needed it for the flower deliveries that she was making at the time before ultimately wrecking it and buying a new one with the custody money.