p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;" align="right"strongspan style="font-size: 12pt;"Laney/span/strong/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"My mother, Maggie, told me that the first time I saw my father I was already a few months old. She had me up on the kitchen counter, dressed to impress I imagine, for father and daughter's first meeting. A clean diaper on my bottom, all traces of drool absent, and a pretty dress to show off the chubbiest legs, ready for their daily pinches. I imagine I smelled of Johnson Johnson's baby powder, and Similac - or maybe the natural milk my mom fed me. My face was all cheeks - cheeks my family gushes about even now. I was red and bright with slanted, small eyes; eyes my sister says, make me look like I was born to a couple of middle easterners. Not two black people living in crime-infested downtown D.C./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I imagine the gibberish I spat that day. The smiles and goofy grins that graced my face - at least until he arrived. I imagine, Reginald Lyons walking through the door, and the sweet smile on baby Laney's face falling as a result. I imagine the spit bubbles I was making gave off exaggerated sound effects - like in the movies when an actor's bubble gum would pop. I imagine the baby language I sang out happily turned into an infant's version of curses, and loud cries. My mama told me that I'd flung my hands back and forth, swatting at him, as if I did not want him near me./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"He even asked, "Why doesn't she like me? What have you been telling her about me?" My mom, completely dumbfounded by his ignorance and stupidity, did something in front her child she hadn't done yet./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"She yelled./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"She cursed./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"She felt pure hatred for the man with whom she conceived her only child./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"em"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Are you kidding me? She doesn't know you, Reggie! The fuck did you expect?" Not hearing a word out of her mouth, Reggie continued to accuse, and point the finger. Robbing the mother of his second child, of the lasting, miniscule love she evidently still had for him./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"em"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Who do you have coming around my daughter, Mags?" Typical Reginald Lyons. Exasperated, my mother told him to get to know his daughter or don't. She had no undeserved explanations for him./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I was only a few months old, I don't remember the exact months she said, but it had been the first time my father had come to see me. I was a baby, but some people say that babies know… they know what adults don't pay attention to or what adults just blatantly ignore. I was a baby, and I didn't want my own father to come any closer… if I take my mother's word for it. If I take my mother's word for it… I was a baby in all of my infant insight, shooing away future pain. My father would be the first man to let me down, and I'd like to think that at a few months old, deep down, it resonated with my baby instincts./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"Maybe I'd seen in his eyes that he really didn't want to be there with me… for me. Maybe I'd felt his energy, his aura… and it made my baby instincts prickle like the shock of static electricity. I imagine knowing, even then, that I would cry over my first man, when I should've been spinning tails about the world's greatest dad./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I don't know when I saw him next. My mom says he stayed around for a while, then he began his disappearing acts. I remember seeing him, and being in contact with him for a few months out the year, then all communication would come to a halt. I'd call him and his number would be disconnected. He'd come back a year or so later, spend a few hours with me that first day back, and give me five dollars to split with my best friend - a $2.50 I spent on the ice cream truck./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I suppose he gave my mother money here and there. My mom says he used to get me birthday presents and Christmas gifts but I remember only one. He gave me an easy bake oven one year. I never got a 100-watt light bulb for it. If I'm remembering correctly, it was a birthday present, and he had promised to get the bulb. I never got it. But the fire I had in my chest that burned of hope lasted well after I had forgotten all about that easy bake oven. Soon became later, and the fire, became just a smell. A sickening smell of burning flesh became cinders. I had finally stopped hoping./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"In and out. In and out of my life. My sister's too. I hadn't met Xala until my high school graduation. She's four years older than me./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"Maybe if he had stayed away altogether, I could have made up stories. Positive stories. 'He just couldn't find me. He searched and searched, but he came up short each and every time. He prayed and he prayed, but it never happened.' He always found me, though. That's the worst part. The part that hurts the most. Knowing that he could find me any time he decided I was ready to see my half-assed father. He was ready to see me. He'd pop up. Spend a few hours. Put the $5 bill in my hand and say, "Share with Bryce"./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"After, he'd kiss me on my cheek - again, I imagine. I don't remember his kisses. I don't remember his affection. But one time I saw him kiss my mom on the lips. I remember, watching his white jeep drive down the street that night, an awful build-up of hope nearly consuming my little body. I remember my age then. I was 7. My natural instincts had become nearly nonexistent. It'd fizzled. It didn't prickle. I didn't pay attention to his eyes, and I didn't shoo him away. I hoped that last time more than all the times combined./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I was nine the last time I was in contact with my dad. Of course, it didn't even occur to me while we were on the phone that it would be the last phone call for a long time. Maybe I had a violent burning in my stomach that told me otherwise, and I mistook it as illness. Maybe the burning wasn't as obvious as my reaction almost a decade prior. Maybe it was more like a tingle, or a belly flop, and I ignored it./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"By then I had, had nine years in the world. Nine years with an alternative mom who taught me things I now have to decide - to do or not to do. I wasn't as untouched or pure as I was my first few months of life. I wasn't exactly taught to alienate my instincts, but exercising restraint where my family was concerned and 'keeping my mouth closed' had an effect, I'm sure. It became habit, to hope and believe in something that wasn't going to happen - I knew wasn't going to happen. I was a child, naive and family-oriented, though soon, many of my hopes and wishes, my naivete, would die. Die with that last phone call, undoubtedly./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I was in a new place, a new city, and a new school by then. We had just moved from Washington, DC to live with my mom's sister, my aunt Lana, in Maryland. I was a nine-year-old kid who had recognized her fault in the situation. I was just a kid, I know, knew even then the blame shouldn't be placed on me. I shouldn't have hoped, though. That was my answer. That was the seed for self-badgering to grow. I told myself, as if it were a mantra, you shouldn't have hoped. It's your fault for hoping./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"Once the burning in my tummy became too much to suppress, my instincts blared like an alarm on a fire truck. Instead of the sirens resounding, my instincts told me that I would be fatherless for quite some time. I cried then. I cried alone feeling ashamed. I hoped as if he didn't have a pattern. I wished if his record was squeaky clean. I cried for my continued foolishness, because even though my instincts were on full alert, I still wanted his love. Still wanted to know why it was easy for him to walk away. I cried, for a long while, cleansing my nine-year-old soul, for I had never allowed my tears to gather where he was concerned. But that day, I had felt his absence, his neglect full force. Even now, I've never felt so unloved and disappointed since./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"em"span style="font-size: 12pt;"The number you are trying to reach is disconnected." Disconnected? But dad - Reginald... I don't understand./span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"I don't know how old I was when I saw him next. He stayed gone -/span/em/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"br /span style="font-size: 12pt;""Laney!"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Two pale hands with their long, bony fingers and perfectly manicured nails, clap once… twice… three times in the space between my focused eyes and laptop. I was so fixated on reading the words I had written in a span of 20 hours, that I didn't hear my best friend come into the bedroom, let alone the apartment. Blinking rapidly to get my bearings, I quickly re-save my work. Rubbing my generous bottom, I apparently need a new writing chair. My ass is on the worst side of numb and sore. Stretching my arms above my head, and legs under my desk, I try to gather my wits about me. Letting out an exaggerated yawn, I purposely take my time to acknowledge my best friend. It's so easy to rouse her up./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Finally, I look up into Bryce's narrowed, grey eyes, shooting invisible darts into mine; or maybe tiny little hammers, trying to pound nails into my sleepy browns. Bryce stands silently over me with her dark brown hair framing her face, as if her 5'5" frame will intimidate me. I am a few inches shorter than her but she forgets that I know her better than anyone. She can't stay mad at me. Though, I have no idea why she's upset right now. Raising my left eyebrow in question, I let out an over-dramatized sigh./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Yes, Bryce Queenie Edwards? How may I help you?" I ask, putting emphasis on Queenie. She hates her middle name. More than she hates… now that I think about it she doesn't hate much. Despite Bryce's negligent parents, her smile was glued to her face. Her disposition? Sunnier than I can stand sometimes. I'm the irritable sort. Bryce's parents, well her mother, had a thing for thee Stephanie "Queenie" St. Clair. Goodness, name your only child a dog's name then abandon her, why don't you./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Rolling her eyes, she ignores the quip and yells, "I've been knocking for almost five minutes, Lanes!" I seriously doubt that. I doubt it was a full minute. Walking over to my unmade bed, she sits down on my bunched-up bedspread before eying me angrily, again./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"You don't want me to use my key, but you don't answer the door when I knock. I talked to you all of 30 minutes ago, Laney!" I narrow my eyes at her, telling her she is full of shit without actually saying it./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"It is 9 a.m. on a Monday morning, and my honorary sister is irritating me before I've had any type of sugar in my system. I've had writer's block for a few months now; last night I was finally inspired to write a few chapters. A few chapters turned into almost twenty. I haven't been to sleep in over a day because my mind wouldn't stop working. She's certainly here for a reason. My fix./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I need a banana nut muffin or a bagel with strawberry cream cheese. Then again, I may go for some stuffed cinnamon bites with the cream cheese flavor of the day. Our favorite cafe, Emily's Wine Cafe, is the shit times two. Of course, as lovely and classy as the place is, it has nothing on our most frequented place, The Toxic Flores. That bar is our second and third. I intend to make The Den surpass our favorite place./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Here I go daydreaming about my vices: sweets and liquor. I don't need coffee like the general masses, it makes me jittery. I want some cream cheese filling exciting my taste buds. Bryce's scowl deepens as I haven't even acknowledged her mini rant, and I almost crack a smile. She's going to have so many frown lines because of me./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Okay, Bryce," I say exasperatedly. "You know how I get when I'm writing. You knew I was writing before you came over here, and you use your key no matter what I say," I reply while bending over in the chair to put on my go-to sneakers./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Little one!"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Whipping my head up so fast, I'm sure I almost just gave myself whiplash. I see the only man who could make me feel unbalanced and unsure of myself even without his famous sneak-ups. What the hell was he doing here? Luca. My Luca. No, not my Luca. Never mine. My best friend's Luca. Bryce's Luca. Just thinking it turns my stomach and hurts my heart. 'Hi, Knife! Yeah. I just want to put your blade in my best friend's back.'/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Bryce is barely on my radar when she squeezes past the looming figure in the doorway. I hear the bathroom door shut soon after her hasty escape. She left me, the coward. She's always leaving me to the wolf himself. I'm sure it's not intentional, but when he pops up unannounced she usually knows. His presence is always, only a surprise to me. I don't know why she doesn't tell me first. It happens just enough times for me to still be surprised, whenever Luca does show up. It's becoming annoying./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I realize that I had been in my own little world, again. However, Luca in front of me now… tearing my gut apart is no fantasy. He smoothly walks across the room before I realize he's moving. Eyes on the prize, the spot where he always touches me tingles with awareness. Finally, his fingertips grazing the pulse on my neck, and I let out a breath as if I'd been holding it since the last time./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I never understood why he could get to me this way. I didn't know him until I was almost 15 years old, and by that time Bryce had made me her best friend without permission or confirmation. They're bossy, the two of them, and the very day I met Bryce, Luca became our dual shadows. I'm 1000% sure his flunkies were clocking our moves, even after he graduated from our high school./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Michael Myers Senior High School - yes, like the creepy, serial killer from the Halloween series. Apparently, this Myers was a great scientist in his time, the 50's I believe. Regardless, I'd met the man I couldn't tear my eyes away from, in our high school's average-sized halls. Why can he do this to me?/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"He- hey Luca," my voice positively cracking. His smirk was all-knowing. While he was pretty much off limits to me no matter how long I'll pine, I'm not stupid. He definitely knows I had a crush on him. Well I'm a 25-year-old woman, and the word crush sounds a little juvenile. It's more than a crush. If he felt anything in return I wasn't sure, but if he felt anything like I felt, he was hiding it extremely well. What am I saying? It's his job to lie. A job I didn't too much care for, but he loved it. Again. Here I go, getting my hopes up because the object of my affection has been trained to school his emotions, among other things./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Little one," he nods before starting his slow perusal of my body. Luca observes everyone, yet my nipples that are now tightening almost painfully, has never gotten the memo. Even as my ass stays seated, he never misses a chance to look at me from head to toe. It seemed I was always squirming around him. His perusal made me anxious... agitated. I always get either irritated or melancholy after, what I have deemed, the Luca Effect./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Please touch me again Luca/spanspan style="font-size: 12pt;". Even as the sadness once again creeps through my heart and bloodstream, I want nothing more than to say those words out loud. But I can't, and I won't./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Mask in place, I clear my throat, as if it would simultaneously make my feelings disappear. I try for nonchalance./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"So, you're joining us?"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Yeah. I hope you don't mind, Brycie said it was okay." I cringe at the uninspired nickname, that reminds me of their closeness, nonetheless. He only says it to annoy Bryce, and me lately, since I told him just how felt about it. He never called her that trite nickname until Bryce's weasel of a boyfriend did 12th grade year. Luca came home from Ole Miss that year for homecoming, and found the new addition to our unofficial clique downright unfit, and out of place. It was more along the lines of Luca hating that Bryce and Beck Miller, the star running back in our small town, were going steady./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Why would I mind? You guys can do what you want." From the look on his face I'd pretty much let out some acid along with my seemingly innocent words. I've tried to stay clear of them together. I studied abroad five of my semesters in college, and made excuse after excuse when it was time for break. It's been a while. I haven't been in the space with them two since Luca's senior year at Myers./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Alone? Yes. Together? Not for more than a few moments. I always felt like I was betraying my best friend. I was jealous of their closeness because I'd never get to be that close to Luca. Yet, I don't want to come between them. Bryce is a bit fragile where this situation is concerned./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"The bitterness only creeps up, when I remember I would love a man who will never know of my love. I will always love a man who knows of my silly teenage musings, but I will never know his love in return. I will deal with my best friend speaking on Luca's escapades with women, because she does not know. She does not know of the love I carry for her first love./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Just as I finish tying my shoe, I hear the doorbell. Walking to the front of the apartment with Luca on my tail I hear loud, impatient knocking. Yeah, and just like that I am annoyed. It's only just after 9 a.m./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Wait a second!"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I always look out the peephole, but vexed with the audacity of this person, I fling the door open without pause./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Are you -" I don't finish my rhetorical question that implies the person's stupidity. The man before me is a stranger. Though he does automatically look familiar, eerily so, I am sure I've only seen him in passing. His facial expression, however, immediately puts me on alert. His body language, which told me he was on guard in seconds, bothers me. He seems almost angry. I feel my left eyebrow rise as a response to his stance./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I don't know you. What do you want?" I'm usually much politer when answering my door of course. However, I don't appreciate anyone banging on my door, especially someone I've never met. The man's mouth thins out in the wake of my rudeness. The nerve of him. If I were childish, I would point out to him, his rudeness prior to mine./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"My name is Kirk Mathews," he says, "You are Laney Lyons, correct?" He asks curtly. I automatically feel a scowl take over my face. /spanspan style="font-size: 12pt;"What the fuck is his problem?/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Perusing the guy for the first time, I come to the conclusion that he is from no one's bank. I don't know much about labels but my younger cousin is a label whore. This man's light gray, tailored suit reminds me of my cousin's many designer suits. Now that I am paying attention, he is a handsome man without a doubt, and so freaking tall. He's at least 6'3". His dark, mocha skin is perfection. His mouth is full, and his hair and beard is cut close and shaped up nicely. He looks manicured and polished. The complete opposite of Luca./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"There is no attraction whatsoever, but I always appreciate a good-looking man, even a man as pretty as Mr. Mathews. I bet he gets pedicures and facials too. I can just picture a tiny Korean woman standing over him, waxing, threading, and plucking his eyebrows. Once I find his eyes again, his dark brown eyes are knowing and growing impatient; the exact opposite of the amusement growing with in mine./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Now that I am somewhat calm, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Surely, he doesn't want to mess up his suit and manicured nails to try to cause me any harm. Also, though he is silent, I can practically feel Luca Edwards breathing down my neck. No doubt ready for answers, and possibly a fight. However, something tells me I won't like what Kirk Mathews has to say. Instincts and all that. Luca at my back eases my spirit, is all./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I am Laney. How can I help you?" He opens his mouth to respond to my question, but before he can, Bryce yells to ask who's at the door. I ignore her. She's going to come trotting out her in a minute anyway, whether I answer her or not./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"My best friend," I say as the simplest explanation. "You were saying?" Raising both eyebrows, he clears his throat and proceeds to anger me, yet I find great humor in his haughtiness. The crap coming out of his mouth is truly comical, but infuriates me just the same. This guy cannot be serious. But he is serious. I see it written all over his face./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Can you run that by me again?" His face shows his surprise, I'm sure at how calm my voice is after the proverbial bomb he just dropped on me. He wants my emotion. Don't they always?/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Laney, I don't mean to upset you -"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I'm not upset Mr. Mathews."/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"He lets out a sigh, or more like a huff, before he continues./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"You can call me Kirk, I'm -"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I prefer Mr. Mathews. Now if you would be so kind, please repeat what you just said so that I can fully comprehend your point, and reason for coming here." I really hope this guy isn't a lawyer because his facial expressions are pretty bad. Still, from the legal terms he was just using I have to guess that he is an attorney - hopefully a new attorney./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I am not here to serve you -"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I would hope not, since I don't have any papers in my hand." I lift up my right hand for emphasis. My left hand tightens around the doorknob in frustration. I'm not a violent person, but I despise people who try to pacify me./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I've never had to deal with a legal matter such as this, but I have seen enough movies to know that even if I was being served, it shouldn't be him doing the serving. He seems personally invested./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I will contest the will of Reginald Lyons, Ms. Lyons." I'm Ms. Lyons to him now. Why so impersonal all of a sudden?/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Lyons was not in his right mind before he passed," he continues. "You wouldn't even talk to him from what I've gathered, and you obviously didn't care about him. I am a lawyer of his estate, and I have the power to question the validity of the will." Straightening his tie, I watch as his confidence returns in full force./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"You, Ms. Lyons, do not deserve the property, and I am going to make sure that it is taken away from you and given to someone much more deserving," he finishes emphatically./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Oh, he's angry now. I half expect him to yell, "Good day," and walk off. I have to stop myself from snickering at that particular image in my head. From the look on his face, he'd really want to get me in court. That thought alone pisses me off beyond belief. He comes to my home unannounced over property I didn't even want in the beginning, thinking he was going to scare me into, what? Signing over the property? He can think again. Good thing my anger is calmer than most people's anger. He won't leave with an ounce of satisfaction of getting me riled up./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Just then I hear footsteps. As overprotective the Edward siblings are, I had to get rid of him fast. I may get relatively calm when angry, but my best friend gets quite violent. I don't even want to see Luca that angry, but I can feel the tension behind me. While the man is extremely patient nowadays, I know he's only silent right now because of the lawsuit mentioned. We don't need an actual lawsuit on our hands, though. Period./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Sir, I have a lawyer for times like these. Now, you can step back, and since you know where I live surely you have a number you can reach me. Next time, can you use the phone first? Since you didn't serve me with anything Mr. Matthews that would have been the appropriate thing to do this time. Bye."/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"His face is the epitome of confusion, and there is another emotion there that I don't have the time to figure out, before I close the door./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Turning around, I find Bryce with her arms folded, in the middle of plopping her behind onto the arm of my dark green sofa. I hate when she sits on the arm of that sofa. The love seat's arm she can sit on, but I love my sofa, and she's always planting her butt on it wrong. Besides her disrespect of my couch, her face shows her confusion and concern. Obviously, she heard the last thing I said to Mr. I'm-Going-To-Contest-The-Will./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"Luca waltzes out of the front room. As soon as he leaves the room I can breathe again, but I know he's only giving me time to fill in Bryce./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"He's serving you? For what?" Bryce inquires. Apparently, I don't give her an answer as fast as she wants it, because her voice reaches a level it hasn't reached in years./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Are you kidding me?!"/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I can't answer her right now. I have to think. My first thought is, I lied. I don't have a lawyer. I'll need one soon, to get this under control. Replaying the encounter in my mind I realize that this stranger really wanted a reaction out of me. Before I closed the door, I couldn't decipher what he was feeling. The entire time we spoke, I thought I knew what he was thinking./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"He was no longer on guard, but confused by my non-action more than anything. His eyes were different. They weren't impatient or knowing. They were… dejected. I recognized quickly that he was personally invested. Now I'm questioning the connection between Mr. Mathews and my father's family./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"Someone wants the property my father left me," I finally say before sitting down on the sofa. I don't go into detail because I don't need to with Bryce. Shocked and rendered speechless, she slowly slides off of the sofa arm onto the cushion beside me. We've been best friends for over 10 years now, she knows about the nonexistent relationship I had with my father. She knows all of the time and money I have invested into my dad's bar in the last year, as well. She's my partner after all./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I know I need to get to the bottom of this situation, but I have no energy because of the all-nighter I pulled./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"I feel wiped out for today./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"What do I need to do for you, /spanemspan style="font-size: 12pt;"mia piccola donna/span/emspan style="font-size: 12pt;"?" I jerk my head up to find Luca Edwards' eyes on me. I didn't hear him come back into the living room./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"He appears to be calming himself down on the outside, but his eyes are putting me on edge./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"span style="font-size: 12pt;"This is the first time his dark grey eyes, looked almost soulless and blacker than midnight./span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;""span style="font-size: 12pt;"I-I don't need anything, Luca. I'll handle it."/span/p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;" /p
p style="margin-bottom: .11in; line-height: 150%;"strong****ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS SAMPLE MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM J. KAY MITCHELL, EXCEPT FOR THE USE OF BRIEF QUOTATIONS. THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. ANY RESEMBLANCE TO ACTUAL PEOPLE OR EVENTS IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL!****/strong/p