Bought: Highest Bidder(8)

By: Lauren Landish

I don’t trust a soul.

I don’t put myself out there to be stabbed in the back and taken for granted.

Besides, the auction is coming up.

“I don’t, Anna.” I click the side button on my phone, knowing it’s about time to leave. And I’m right. “I do need to get back to work though.”

She pouts and says, “But I just got here.”

“You were late, Anna.” I stand and slip my jacket back on, buttoning it while she leans over and kisses my cheek.

“Fine,” she says, smiling. Her voice lowers as she says, “I’m really happy you’re going, Lucian.”

I give her a smile, feeling a slight pain in my chest. I’ll go, but I’m leaving as soon as I fucking can.

“I’ll talk to you soon.”

I’m still tense as I walk away. My family, the memories… the fucking lawsuits. It’s just another reason that I prefer to stick to my routines and stay away from all this shit. I don’t need anyone in my life, and they sure as fuck don’t need me in their lives.

Chapter 4


“Is something bothering you?” Carla asks me intuitively before taking a bite out of her celery stick that’s slathered with a generous smear of peanut butter.

We’re having lunch on the third floor of the building in Explicit Designs’ famed Divanista cafeteria. Although we share the building with other companies, this room is exclusively for our use, and it’s one large open space with glass tables with shiny steel legs set up sporadically around the room. The floor-to-ceiling windows on the back wall provide a breathtaking view of the skyline downtown. Naturally, I’ve opted to sit right next to one of the windows. I love the landscape. It’s one of the reasons I chose to come to the city here for school.

For my meal, I’ve decided on a diet soda and an apple. It’s not much, but considering my mood, I don’t have much of an appetite. The stress of not having enough money is really getting to me. I wish I could look past it, but I can’t. I don’t see a way out of this mess while still keeping this internship. And backing out could ruin my career before it even gets started. It’s a no-win situation, and every day it’s becoming harder and harder to deny that I’m fucked.

I pause in mid-sip of my diet cherry cola, taken aback by the question. While I’m not in the best of moods, I think I’ve been doing a good job at appearing happy. I guess I’ve failed. But I’m trying to stay positive. I think if I hang in there, I’ll figure something out. It’s just easier said than done. “I just woke up feeling a little bit under the weather,” I say. “Other than that, no worries.” I give Carla my most reassuring smile and take another sip.

Carla’s not fooled by my fraud, and she sets down her celery stick and gestures at me. “C’mon Dah, I know you better than that.”

Crap. I want to tell her my problems, but at the same time I’m reluctant. I don’t want her to think I’m hitting her up for money, especially after she gifted me that vintage purse. It would be embarrassing. I like Carla, and don’t want to jeopardize our friendship by appearing desperate. “No,” I say firmly. “Really. I’m fine.”

Carla looks unconvinced. “You sure?”

I nod. “Mmmhmm.”

Carla scowls, and then a second later growls, “Liar.” She holds her glare, but when it appears that I won’t be spilling the beans, she lets out a resigned sigh. “Alright, I’m not going to keep prying… for now. I’ll let you get away with staying mum, but you’re going to have to tell me what's bothering you sooner or later.” Her celery stick whirls in the air before she takes a bite. The snapping sound makes me smile. If Carla’s good for something, it’s making me laugh.

After a moment her expression turns serious and she says, “Dah.” There’s a shift in tone in her voice, and I know this must be something important.

I swallow down my bite and answer guardedly, “Yes?”

Carla’s fingers play with the edges of her celery stick. “I have a question.”

By now she has my undivided attention, and worry laces through my chest. I hope this isn’t bad news. Or some sort of nasty gossip about me. I don’t think I can handle any more stress.

“Yeah?” I dare ask.

Carla hesitates a moment, as if unsure how she wants to proceed, and then she leans forward and says beneath her breath, “Are you into BDSM?”

I sit back in my seat, stunned. Whoa. What the hell? After a moment, I let out a nervous chuckle. “Where’d that come from?” My cheeks are flaming hot with a bright blush although Carla seems unaffected. She cocks a brow with a small smile, but doesn’t answer right away.