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Alexander Sullivan is the CEO of a financing company, who despite his better judgment, lends out a considerable sum to a desperate man. Sure enough the man is injured, and with no assets, and no property offers up his only daughter as collateral. Alexander is hesitant to take her, not wanting to be apart of such a shady arrangement. He offers a new contract, giving her time to pay her fathers debts off. However, he finds himself attached to her, and wanting to stake his claim more than he thought he would. The two embark on a love hate relationship.
"There's nothing else I have. Just her."
Alexander leaned back in his chair and offered a small smile to the man in the wheelchair, his hands tapping on the African Blackwood desk, his eyes unfocused as he considered the man's offer. Though Alexander allowed some unsavory proceedings he'd never done anything like this. He steepled his hands, the rings on his fingers catching the light.
"You can't possibly work?" Alexander prompted him.
The man silently motioned down to his wheelchair, prompting Alexander to wince in discomfort.
"Your house then." He tried again, leaning back in his chair, his hair shining under the light.
"I don't have one. Banks took it in '03 I've been renting since then."
"I can't drive," James winced. "I take the bus."
Alexander's thick brows knitted, as he took in a large, shaky breath, his eyes looking over to the shaking young woman who stood behind the old man, holding the handles of his wheelchair for dear life. Her knuckles were white from the amount of strength in her grip, and she often swayed, as if she was about to pass out but caught herself just in time. It felt sick, haggling her life in front of her.
"You don't own any property?" Alexander cleared his throat, directing his attention back to the old man, one destitute James Williams, who owed him a grand, whopping total of 500,000. Which wasn't a lot, in theory. But in principle, Alexander simply couldn't excuse him, even if it would be easier than trying to collect a debt from a man who could no longer work, and no property, no assets. All he had, was debt and a daughter.
"The only property I have is this child," James said softly.
The girl flinched back at his words, her hands shaking. Alexander regarded her with pity before looking away, contemplating his options once more.
"I am not in the business of trafficking nor slavery, Mr. Williams. I cannot accept a person as payment."
James swallowed roughly and looked up at his daughter, who shook before closing her eyes, avoiding his pitiful, begging gaze. It was enough that she was allowing herself to be bartered off like some sort of asset, some janky old car.
"I might suggest debtors jail, but they don't do that anymore. I have no assets to put a lien on, so it would do no good to sue me, all you'd end up with is court costs. It's...letting me go, or taking her."
Alexander's steel eyes focused on the young woman behind him.
"What do you say about this...?" He trailed waiting for her to fill in her name.
"Audrey," she said softly. "I...I'll pay it. I'll pay it and if I can make the payments then...I'll put myself up for collateral."
Alexander scoffed. Once again he was back to humans as collateral. Not even labor. Just a girl, shaking her boots, practically dying in fear.
He nodded. "Alright, I'll have the paperwork drawn up. I'll even give you the luxury of not having any further interest applied to this loan. I'll extend your payment time as well. And...since we both know you're not capable of paying this off in a timely manner, and it's not your debt I'll only make you pay 10 percent."
He sighed. At least he'd get something back. Even at ten years and no interest, she'd owe him 4200 a month. He doubted she could come up with that, especially when it wasn't likely she could even make that in a month.
Audrey sighed in relief. Alexander calculated a few things, scribbling them down before turning the paper to her. His steel eyes bored into her as she read over the paper, his gaze intense as he summarized his terms.
"That's 50 grand. 892 a month. Every month. For 5 years. You pick the due date. You lapse on your payment and I come to collect. Do you understand?"
Audrey swallowed roughly, her eyes running over the terms over and over, trying to work out how she would pay it off, how many hours she'd need to work, how much overtime, and who was hiring.
"Of course, you need to be 18 to agree to these terms. I know James over there wouldn't dare barter a child," Alexander asked pointedly, narrowing his eyes. "Would he?"
James shook his head frantically. "N-no of course not! She's just turned 18!"
Alexander slid his gold-capped fountain pen over to her with a sigh. "You don't have to do this," he murmured.
Audrey looked up at him. "What are you gonna do to him if I don't?"
Alexander was silent, but leaned back, steeping his fingers, tattoos peaking out from under his sleeve as he did, his silence emphatic and telling.
Audrey signed her name hastily and stepped back.
"Oh thank you," James cried in relief, wheeling himself over to her.
She stepped aside, and let her head fall. "I have to get to my shift," she muttered.
Alexander watched her run out, her jeans tattered at the bottom, her bare midriff showing. She slammed the door as she exited, causing Alexander to raise his brows.
He looked back at James who stared at the door.
"You realize you don't have anything now? Your daughter will never forgive you, and even if she did...she belongs to me now."
James cringed into his chair, looking at his hands. "I had one bad day...one bad day and everything disappeared."
Alexander opened his door and nodded. "Maybe you had one bad day. But you also had one daughter. Just one."
James wheeled himself away, his head slumped in shame. Alexander looked down at the signed contract. Audrey Williams. He scoffed, noting that she still signed her i's with a heart over it. Shaking his head, he filed it away in his desk, hoping to never see it again. He hoped the last time he saw Audrey William's name with the hearts on the i's was on a check every month for five years.
At the center of every galaxy was a black hole. The most destructive, dangerous thing known to man existed in the universe—and it was in the middle of almost every galaxy, even hers.
Audrey considered her father the black hole in her Milky Way. If he served a purpose, she couldn't tell what it was, but thus far, his looming pretense just stood to make her uneasy. He was a destructive force, drawing in anything in proximity and destroying it, including and especially her.
Her plans for college went out the window, as she took on two extra jobs, working nights, early mornings, and evenings. She'd hardly had a night off since she'd signed her life away to Alexander Remington that day nearly three years ago. She wiped the sweat from her brow, turning off the grill. Between working at a call center overnight, a restaurant during the day, and a boutique on weekends, she hardly slept.
She walked home after closing, the streetlight flickering ominously, Audr
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