Page 18 of Virgin Next Door

For a couple of minutes, he watched her. Katie began to splash her and he loved seeing the two of them together. He shouldn’t be encouraging their relationship. One day, Ann was going to move on.

“I’m going to use the bathroom,” he said.

Neither girl stopped him.

After going upstairs to the bathroom, he took a quick leak, washed his hands, and splashed his face. As he left, he paused outside of her room. The door was ajar and he saw her bed, unmade. What caught his attention were the books surrounding a laptop.

Stepping inside, he leaned over and knew instantly these were Ann’s finances.

Titling the book toward him, he saw her notes on the figure. This was the money she currently had, alongside were her bills, mortgage, and essentials.

She had even calculated food expenses as well. She’d put the money she made from the law firm and circled around that was another figure with DIY next to it.

Ann wasn’t doing okay. She would need a second job to be able to stay afloat.

Tapping his finger at the side of his leg, he wondered what he could do. He didn’t have to worry about money. The house next door, he’d purchased it outright. He hadn’t used a mortgage in a long time.

This was … why didn’t she come to him for help? He could have given her the money.

Stepping out of the bedroom, he called his friend at the bank. The one whose name he saw on her list. There was something he could do, and he was going to make sure her mortgage was no longer an issue.

In one swift transaction, he paid for her house. Now, she wouldn’t need to go hunting for another job. She would be free to be at his beck and call, whenever he wanted her.

With that plan laid out, he didn’t overthink his reasoning for paying her mortgage. He went back to his girls and watched them in the pool.

This with Ann wasn’t going to go anywhere. They were having a little bit of fun, that was all. It didn’t mean anything.

She was just some fun to pass the time, and while ever he believed that, he was going to stick to it.

Chapter Six

“A hammer.”

Ann pointed out the hammer.

“A wrench.”

She held it up.

“Tape.”

This had been her life for the past couple of hours. She wondered if Mr. Graves even realized they were going over the same old ground. He would ask, and she would point. They were going around in circles.

“I think we’ve got it,” he said.

“We do?”

“Yes. You haven’t lost your temper, which is good. Some customers are so fucking annoying. They want the same thing, three times, then when you bring them to the register, they moan about why they’ve gotten three of the same thing. Undecided and rude is what it is,” Mr. Graves said. “You can start today. Put all of these back on the appropriate shelves.”

She gathered up her little test subjects, finally feeling like luck was on her side. Something had to be.

Going to bed each night with her finances mocking her was more than she could take.

She couldn’t stand it, in all honesty. Living like this, day to day, scared of what other bad news could fall her, she didn’t know how much she was going to be able to take.

One more day. It was what she kept telling herself. All she had to focus on was one more day. If she could get through it, then she would be fine. Each day would get better, easier.

She had to believe it or hope to believe in something.

With all the objects back in their places, she walked around the store, getting accustomed to it.

Yes, she could do this.

It was simple so long as she learned everything.

Returning to the register, she found Mr. Graves waiting. He held an apron out to her, along with a name badge.

“You’re going to need these. I don’t like my customers giving me descriptions of employees who have pissed them off.”

“Oh, okay. I don’t intend to piss anyone off.”

“Good, I’ll let you go if you do. I’ve got way too much going on to even think about dealing with trouble. I don’t like trouble. Way too much trouble in the world.”

She watched as he left the register.

Standing behind the counter, she took a deep breath. At lunchtime, she had an appointment with the bank. She was hoping to drop down her mortgage monthly payments and extend it out.

This was the last thing she wanted to do but she didn’t have much choice. If she didn’t, she was going to fail to make payment. Starving herself wasn’t an option either.

Customers came and went all morning, which surprised her. Most of them didn’t need any help with what they were looking for.

Every now and then, Mr. Graves came out to check, complaining there were bugs in the air, or rats beneath them.

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