I swallowed hard. “Yes, I did.”
“Do you have the funds available to repay it?”
I shook my head. “I don’t. Not all of it.”
“Then you will comply. Now. Please, dress. Your finest lingerie, the blue evening dress, jewelry. Style your hair. Apply makeup.”
“I am unable to answer any questions.” He stepped closer to the door. “May I come in, please?”
“I’m—I’m not dressed.”
“I am aware of this. I will pack your belongings while you dress.”
“Pack my belongings? Where am I going?”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Away.”
I swallowed again. “For how long?”
“Indefinitely. Now, no more questions. Will you let me in, please.” It was phrased as a question, but it wasn’t. He could easily break down the door—of that I was certain. And he had a pistol. His eyes pierced mine. “Please, Miss St. Claire. I know this is an unusual situation. But you must understand. I am here not only to collect you, but to protect you. I will not harm you, I swear. I will not attempt to watch you change. I will pack your clothes and other belongings, and I will accompany you on your journey. I cannot answer any more questions.”
“I just—I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Harris blinked at me, and then let out a short breath. “I’m sure you remember the message from the first three checks.”
I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow past the lump of fear in my throat. “‘You belong to me,’” I whispered.
“Yes. That is what’s going on. My employer has sent me to collect what is his.”
“What does he want with me? Who is he?”
Harris’s eyes narrowed in irritation. “I told you, Miss St. Claire, I cannot and will not answer any further questions. Now, let me in. That chain is a nuisance, and my job includes removing nuisances. Do not make this difficult, please.”
I closed my eyes, counted to five, and then realized I had no choice. I knew he was armed, and I knew I had no way out of this. He’d promised he wouldn’t hurt me, but that was little consolation. He was a scary-as-fuck man, and I was a girl alone, in a not-so-great apartment in a pretty shady neighborhood. No one but Layla would even miss me if I disappeared.
“Can I call my friend to tell her I’m—going away?”
“After we’re en route.”
“What will you do if refuse to cooperate?” I asked.
Harris lifted a corner of his mouth in a smirk that chilled my blood. “That would be…unwise.”
I held my ground. “What would you do?”
“I could open the door, overpower you, sedate you, and bring you along regardless.”
“What if I called the police?”
Harris sighed. “Miss St. Claire. That is entirely unnecessary. This is not a bad thing that is happening to you. I am not a Mafia enforcer. I’m not going to break your legs. I’m here to bring you to meet my employer, who has so graciously provided for you this past year. He only wishes to arrange…repayment.”
“I don’t have the money to pay him back. I never will.”
“He isn’t interested in money.”
“He. You said he. So he wants…me?”
Harris licked his lips, as if he’d erred. “You will comply willingly. Nothing will be forced on you.”
“But I don’t want to go with you.”
“No?” He lifted an eyebrow. “Surely you must be curious.”
“Not enough to go with you. You scare me.”
“Good. That’s part of my job. But I promise you, I will not harm you, and I will not allow any harm to come to you. You are safe with me. But time is short. If you’re going to refuse, I’ll be forced to go back to my employer and report your recalcitrance. The next step would likely involve forcible methods of retrieval. Just come with me. It will be easier for us all.”
I sighed. “Fine.” I closed the door, unlatched the chain, and let Harris in.
He eyed my apartment with open amusement. “I must say, I would have expected you to find yourself a nicer place with the money you’ve received.”
“Nothing lasts forever. I had no guarantee the checks would keep coming. I can afford this place on my own. Sort of.”
“Wise of you.”
Trying to delay things, I asked. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
Harris blinked at me. “No. Thank you. We don’t have much time. Get dressed, please.”
I went into my bedroom, rifled through my closet until I found the blue dress I’d worn to a fundraiser gala with my last boyfriend. Harris knew I had a blue dress, and that in itself was terrifying. It wasn’t an expensive dress, but it fit me like a glove, showed off my curves and accentuated my skin and hair. I glanced at Harris, who had my two suitcases—Mom and Dad’s old luggage—on my bed and was packing all of my jeans, yoga pants, skirts, blazers, dresses, and blouses with military efficiency.
I lifted the dress. “Will this do?”
Harris looked up, examined the dress, then nodded once. “Yes.”
I dug the one set of lingerie I owned out of a bottom drawer. It wasn’t expensive, but again, it was perfect for me. Deep crimson lace, the perfect shade to offset my tanned skin and blonde hair. I stepped into the bathroom, locked the door, and dropped the towel. I examined myself in the mirror.
I was medium height, a touch over five-seven, with naturally tanned skin and thick blonde hair. I was curvy enough, on the heavier side of average for my height and build. I saw myself as being pretty on most days, and sexy if I tried hard enough on a good day. Nothing special, but not ugly.
I put on the lingerie, then set about doing my hair. I did it in loose, spiraling curls, pinning my bangs to one side. I slipped my dress on, zipped it up the back, and then applied my makeup. I didn’t wear much, just some foundation, blush, eye shadow, and lip stain. Nothing heavy or overdone. I put on a pair of teardrop diamond earrings and a matching necklace, a high school graduation gift from Daddy. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I was ready. I looked at myself in the mirror again.
Not bad, Kyrie. Not too bad. I nodded at my reflection, summoned my nerves, and stepped out.
Harris had my suitcases packed, and was closing the drawers of my dresser. He looked me over. “You’re very beautiful, Miss St. Claire.”