She’s still silent for a moment, assessing me and everything she’s dealing with.
I’ll be gentle with her, I’ll give her what she needs. I can be that man for her. And she can be what I need.
“What do you want?” she asks after a moment. “What contract?”
Leaning forward, I rest my elbows on my knees and lace my fingers together. “You have questions, needs, and so do I. You owe me a debt, whether you like it or not, and I can give you something you never knew you wanted.”
Her thighs tighten as she swallows thickly, tensing her neck. She pulls the blanket closer to her and asks, “Did you know my sister?”
“Not personally, but I know things she was doing. She got into some trouble.”
The reaction is immediate, her expression falling and for the first time I came in here, the pain shows, but she’s quick to hide it.
“I’ll answer your questions,” she says softly, gaining control of her composure before looking at me and finishing her negotiation. “And you’ll answer mine?”
A sorrowful smile plays at my lips. “That’s not how this works.” Her bottom lip wavers and her fingers dig into the comforter on her lap. “I want more.”
The tension thickens between us with every passing second of silence.
The paper crinkles in my hand as I unfold it and read it to her.
“For the payment of three hundred thousand dollars, not a penny will be paid in currency. The party agrees that sessions will take place, in which Bethany Fawn allows Jase Cross to question her as he sees fit, questions she will answer honestly to the full extent of her knowledge, and in a manner that will entail no physical harm whatsoever to Miss Fawn. The ability for Bethany to stop all proceedings whenever she wishes, verbally, will halt the session, allowing Miss Fawn to leave as she wishes.”
I watch her expression, noting how she squirms uncomfortably and pushes her hands into her lap and she then reads the last line.
“Every ten minutes is equivalent to one hundred dollars.”
“That’s thirty thousand minutes total, that’s five hundred hours,” Bethany says aloud with no indication in her tone as to what she makes of that sum.
“I couldn’t possibly… that’s a full-time job for a quarter of the year. I won’t let this interfere with my job.”
“It won’t. We can add in a line if you’d like, stating that it will come second to your occupational needs.”
“I would be in debt to you for a year at least.”
“Yes,” I say, and there’s no negotiation in my tone.
“What about my questions?”
“They’re yours to ask, but not a part of this contract.”
I cut her off. “Not necessary to be included in a contract regarding how you’ll be paying me back.” I lean forward, holding her gaze. “I choose to answer your questions as a gesture of goodwill.”
“And you’ll continue to?” she pushes.
“I don’t have a single problem answering every question you have. Tit for tat.” She gives a small nod of acknowledgement, but nothing else.
Time passes and Bethany chooses not to push for that to be in writing.
“How will you be questioning me?” she asks and a warmth flows through me, the tension lighting slowly, crackling between us like a smoldering fire.
“Sign first,” I answer, swallowing thickly as I pass the paper to her, followed by the pen. Her fingers brush against mine, gentle but hot. The sensation travels from my knuckle all the way up my arm, the nerve endings coming alive with heat.
My throat’s dry and my blood hot just thinking about her allowing me to show her.
“You realize I’ll never believe I owe you anything?” she questions me, a simple statement, so matter of fact.
“You owe me your life for that stupid shit you pulled. Whether you want to believe that or not.”
She picks at some indiscernible fuzz on the blanket before whispering, “I’m sorry.”
Remorse and conflict swirl in her gaze, but she’s quick to hide it from me.
“I like that you’re less angry.”
“That happens when I greet the bottom of a green glass bottle with a label that reads Cabernet.” Her tone is muted, but she gives a small huff of a laugh, and lets a smile kiss her lips for only a moment.
“I need to know what you’re going to do to me,” she says before clearing her throat. “I’m not naïve. I know … I know you can do what you want. I know you may lie to me, hurt me, fuck me, whatever it is you intend to do, I’m not stupid.” I can hear her swallow and then she adds, “But what if I did go along with it? Would you really tell me what happened to her?” Her eyes gloss over and her voice softens.
“A question for a question,” I tell her. “An answer for an answer.”