The Lie – Natalie Wrye

“You’re kidding me, right?” The buxom redhead stares up at me, hazel eyes wide, and I remove my leather belt, letting it fall. I shake my head. “I never kid about contracts.” “You want me to sign an NDA—an entire non-disclosure agreement…to give you a blow-job?” I shrug out of my buttoned shirt, letting that fall, too. “Well, technically, the wording in the contract mentions oral sex, but if blow-job is the word you prefer, then yes. That’s exactly what I want you to do.” I let the fabric hit the floor, standing in only my slacks. Crossing the hotel suite that I’ve purchased for the night, I grab for the bottle of vodka at the wet bar, pouring a generous finger or two for my disbelieving guest. As for me, I grab for the candy bar on the far side, unwrapping it. I turn to face her. I point. “If you look through pages six and nine, you’ll see that it’s all very standard.” Redhead blinks. “I’m a waitress.” “A non-disclosure agreement virgin, then?” I sigh, sinking my teeth into the chocolate, realizing that tonight’s going to be harder than I thought.

Damn. I glance at the clock on the wall, noting that it’s too late to pick up another woman. I blow out a breath, turning to her. “Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle, then.” I start walking towards her, vodka in one hand, candy in the other. “I’ll even walk you through it.” “Are you serious?” “As a heart attack.” The woman I picked up at the bar lowers the papers in her hand to her rounded, jeancovered hips. She perches a hand there, too. “And what if I find this all weird?” I keep walking. “You wouldn’t be the first.” I extend the vodka and she takes it, her long, red-painted fingertips brushing mine. She smiles. The same smile that every woman in the past few years has given me when they realize that there’s a procedure for me taking them to bed.

A procedure I don’t like. But a procedure I need. Ever since I was old enough to realize I wanted to take control of my own life. Apart from my family’s. And speaking of lives… I can see that Red’s is flashing in front of her own hazel eyes as her heavy gaze sweeps me from head to toe. It’s not hard to know what she’s thinking. It’s what every woman I’ve taken to bed in the last four years has been thinking. Is this guy nuts? Is he fucking serious about me signing this? Is he worth it? I’d like to save her the time and just say “yes” to all three. But the truth is always darker than that. If there’s one thing I can confirm: It’s that I’m worth it. Outside of the bar room, the bedroom is my most successful workplace… And I take my “work” very seriously. I watch Red as she comes to a decision, her golden-green eyes clouding. “Need a hand?” She shakes her head. “No need for your help. I’ve got it.

” She saunters over to the table in the middle of the room, leaning over it in her low-cut top, shooting a quick look in my direction. Pen in hand, she flicks to the last page, signing it with her eyes on me the entire time. And I watch her. She folds the papers back, straightening. “You know, you look really familiar.” “Do I?” “Yeah.” Her eyes travel the large suite. “Are you an actor?” “At work? Often.” She grins. “A professional athlete, then?” “Compared to some of my friends in our weekly pick-up game.” I finish the candy bar, crumpling the wrapper in my hands and shooting it into the wastebasket. When I make the shot, I raise an eyebrow, and Red drops the pen, strolling my way. She stops a foot before making contact. Ah yes, here it goes. The dance.

The one where the woman I invite back to my suite tries to figure me out. Red’s got this look in her eyes that says that’s exactly what she wants to do, and I can’t blame her. I am a little strange. “Maybe,” she coos as she comes towards me, hands out, “you’re an eccentric billionaire leading a double life. Maybe you’re this heir to this huge fortune. Some strange kind of tycoon. And playing the role of a bartender to pick up women is your way of playing a fun little game to avoid your stuffy billionaire life.” She grins. “Am I close, Mr. NDA?” I don’t answer her. Only a few know the truth and she will not be one of them. Instead, I kiss the top of her forehead, smoothing back the small hairs. She takes it as a sign of what I want… And she’s right. Miss Guesses-A-Little-Too-Correctly begins kneeling, almost making it to her knees before my cell phone starts blaring, the message alert bleating as a slew of them come onto my phone. I slip it out of my slacks, staring at the screen.

Her again. The woman was put on this earth to be a cock-block, I am sure of it. Nancy’s nickname flashes onto the screen, staying there. Hell-beast: I want to talk to you. And before I start, I just want to say that I am sorry. Actually, sorry for calling you a promiscuous oaf tonight. Text bubbles appear. And a childish buffoon. More bubbles appear. And an oversexed infant. I sigh, finally responding, the mood waning as she takes my attention from the woman at my knees. I type back. Me: And I think you’re forgetting the part where you called me a debauched toddler. But trust me. You’re forgiven…for now.

I’m kinda in the middle of something. Hell-beast: I need you to come back to the bar. It’s important. Me: This is not a good time And even though I’m standing in the middle of a grand suite—a suite that my family’s money paid for, I feel like I’m missing out on something—something I can’t really place. My boss at the bar never apologizes to me. I don’t think she’s actually ever apologized to me… Ever. A chill runs down my spine and it has nothing to do with Red, whose nails are currently circling there. I ignore the woman at my feet, focusing on the phone, my fingers moving fast over the screen. Me: What is it, Nancy? Spit it out. You can tell me through text I wait for text bubbles that don’t come. My phone rings instead and a stab of cold sticks into my body, and nothing, not even an NDA matters right now, as I listen to my boss’s voice telling me that my sister came to see me at the bar tonight to let me know my Ma passed away this morning. A CHAPTER 1 NDREW Hell-beast: We need to talk. The only thing worse than hearing those four words from a woman was hearing it from the woman who stamped your timecards. But a timecard right now is the last item on my mind. Because right now, the first is not having a fucking heart attack.

And though I’m a grown-ass man and it’s been seven long ass years since I’ve seen the Fletchers’ attorney in the flesh, it does nothing to ease my pounding adrenaline— nothing to erase the fact that the general counsel for my grandparents’ company, Fletcher Financial Group, had always been one of the scariest motherfuckers on earth. A man willing to sell his kids for a quarter. But desperation makes you do stupid things. It makes you show up to places you’d never go. Agree to meet people you couldn’t stand. And today, I was willing to stand Frank Levins, Esquire, for the next hour or so. Because my Ma (not my mother but still the woman who raised me all the same), the woman who’d been there for me when my own parents couldn’t be—my grandmother— was now dead. Because Frank Levins was paying. And because, to my utter fucking shame, I was nearly broke (in my sense of the word, anyway), the influx of money coming to my bank account all but halted as I drained my account to make funeral arrangements for the one and only Barbara Fletcher—the grandmother who’d once raised me as her own. My bartender job was never supposed to sustain my income. Not when I was born into a billion-dollar empire. But like any halfway decent barkeep in the city, I’d known when I was on the edge of being fired—knew the time clock was ticking down on my time at The Alchemist, my workplace and watering well for picking up women over the past year and a half. Nancy’s text practically tells me. The four words “We need to talk” have never meant anything good for a man. So, as I sit in the middle of an office that could fit a Buick, with a man who could afford to buy fifty of his own, my fists squeeze tight, my skin prickling under a secondhand leather jacket that, in my old life, wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Frank looks over at me. “I’m glad you decided to come.” I blink. “I’m glad you decided to pay, otherwise I wouldn’t have. Thanks for the invitation.” “You’re welcome.” The fleshy lawyer nods as if I actually mean it. “I know I’ve, uh… seduced you here under strange terms, but I figured you could use the money.” “Why don’t we just cut the bull here, Frank? You know I could use the money. You’ve known I could have used the money over the past seven years, so let’s not pretend that’s not the case.” Frank reddens. “Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, Mr. Fletcher… It truly wasn’t my choice to cut you out of the trust.” “No. Of course not.

You were only the litigator who helped my grandfather do it. My mistake.” The overweight lawyer sighs, sitting forward. “I’d hoped we could get over the past, Lincoln. I want you to know that I have.” I dare to meet his eye. The eye of the devil himself. Guess seven years has done something for me because I’m not afraid to call the bastard out on his bullshit. Brushing the use of Lincoln aside, I welcome the change. Welcome the departure from the scared kid I once was—a rich kid not life-experienced enough to wipe his own ass. New York taught me that lesson. And many more. My leather jacket squeaks as I lean forward, and it is all I can do not to knock the smug look off Frank’s face—a face that has never seen a struggle in its life. I take a deep breath, pulling air in slowly. “Look here, Frankie boy…if you want to make amends for your past sins, join a church.

You’d have a better chance of making amends with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But…if you want me to hear you out, then cut to the goddamned point. I’m already late for work. And I’m risking my bartending gig to make space in my schedule for you, so at the very least, you can make my time worth it. Or if not, call your secretary and she can show me the way out. I’d prefer her company.” “I’d bet you would.” He smiles. “Always a poon hound from what I remember. That’s your problem… Makes it hard for you to get paid.” “What the hell does that matter?” “It matters because that’s all your grandparents—your grandmother, particularly—ever wanted… Was to see you married, I’m sure you know that.” I snort. “Yeah, sure. Cutting me off from the family’s finances was sure a helluva way for my grandfather to communicate that. As for my grandmother, she was the only one who gave a shit and that’s why I’m here.

So, if you don’t have anything else to talk about then I have a meeting with Ma’s funeral director. Unless you want me to pass a message to my sister, Hannah—who couldn’t seem to give two shits.” “You’ll be able to give it to herself…if you agree to see her this weekend. Seems you’ve already been beat to the punch. Your sister,” he pauses for effect, “is getting married.” I swallow. “Which one?” “Hannah. She’s the blonde, if I remember. With that wide smile.” He smiles as if he’s imagining her—making me want to punch out his teeth. My sisters have been always really beautiful. Both of them. But where Hannah was fair and serious faced, my younger sister Sabrina was a brunette ball of energy. At least, that’s what they used to be. From what I remember… I’d been cut off from the Fletcher family, and that had its own consequences.

Of course, you lost your access to most of the finances, but you also lost your safety net, your seat at the table… Your connection to your siblings was the last to go—the final thread to cut to make sure that no one dared crossed the line of the family name. That you didn’t dare step out of your space… Or else your spot would be next. I hadn’t drawn my siblings into the drama between my grandfather and me. I couldn’t do that to them. Not to Hannah or Bri. We’d already lost enough. I nod at Frank—nod as if hearing Hannah’s nuptials news is the most natural conclusion on earth, and I slide back in my seat, heart beating, shoulders shrugging as I do my best to pretend I don’t give a shit. Even when the word comes out full of heat—strangled and full of sand. “So?” “So…?” Frank prompts, eyes pinched on my face from not getting the reaction he wanted. He guffaws like a child—a tantrum on the tip of his tongue. “I’m trying to tell you that you’re invited. Well, if you want to be, of course. I can’t very well make you go.” “And I’m sure you’d break something, if you tried.” “But” he interjects, “if you do go, I want you to know that there’s a nice little paycheck in it.

For you and for me. Most importantly, for me.” He smiles at his own joke. “Turns out your grandmother—sly minx that she was—had updated her trust. Seems she was using another attorney outside of the family. And that lawyer had her own copy of your grandmother’s latest trust.” His blue eyes flash. “I, on the other hand, didn’t get this copy.” “Gee, I wonder why. Maybe it had to do with your choice of aftershave. Ma was never too keen on the scent of ‘vulture.’” Frank clears his throat, trying to ignore me. “Be that as it may… I hear this new trust involves you. Thing is: The trust briefing won’t be until after the wedding. Your grandmother’s new attorney,” he almost spits with disgust, “says it’ll be easier this way.

All the family will be together and will be able to read what’s in their estate. And that includes you…but you’d have to return to your grandmother’s property.” “In Connecticut. I have to be in Connecticut? To listen to the details of who gets what from her estate?” The lawyer shrugs. “It’s the way she wanted it. The way she asked. The way she stipulated. Anyone who doesn’t attend at the reading will get cut out. I had explicit instructions to contact you. To inform you of the wedding. To make sure you were prepared.” I frown. “Prepared for what?” But the question hangs in the air. Because my cell phone picks now to start going off. I wonder if it’s an alarm—some timer I forgot I set.

Until I look down and notice Nancy texting me for the second time today—this message even more urgent than the last. I read the screen. Hell-beast: Meet me in the bar in an hour. It’s unlike her to text me twice in one day, though she’s definitely done it before. The double texting has become more frequent in the last seven days, and I don’t pretend not to know why. To know the very reason why she’s been so on edge with me lately. But the Andrew I know today? He’s at his wit’s end. And I type back so fast my fingers hurt, every ounce of my body taut like a string that Frank is taking pleasure in thrumming, my nerves almost standing on edge. I reply fast, a lie forming just a little too damned easy. Me: Too late. I’m there now. I glance back up at Frank, shaking my head.


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Updated: 10 June 2021 — 18:22

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