Pawn of the Billionaire

By: Kristin Frasier&Abigail Moore

Lawrence’s eyebrows rose. “Even if she was past school age? Here, there’s not much support unless you can afford it, and college was never going to be an option for her.” He reached forward and selected the small binder. “Look, sir. The grandmother tried her best, but couldn’t ever get work that paid enough. But her baby, this Antonia’s mother, she just never tried. There wasn’t ever enough money, or any sort of ambition, was there?”

“No, you’re right.” I leafed through the binder. “But this one’s got it okay. The ambition, I mean. I can see that in her eyes. There’s something there.” I frowned. “Which is why I can’t work out why she’s still working where she is.”

“With all respect, sir, I don’t think you quite understand how hard it is to get yourself out of a situation like that.” Lawrence’s voice was deferential, but he knew I wanted to know how things really were.

“She’ll be working long hours, her room’s almost certainly depressing and dark.” He shook his head. “It drains energy, living like that, stifles dreams and ambition, and is so exhausting it takes a huge effort to pull yourself out of it.”

I rubbed my face in my hands. “Well, there’s one hell of a lot of talent in this country going to waste then.”

“Yes, sir.” Lawrence sat and waited. It was my choice.

I smiled. It was no choice at all. This was the right girl. The other families were out of the picture.

I looked over. “All right, Lawrence. We’ll do this. I’ll go back tomorrow, talk to her.” I thought for a minute. “What I need you to do is to research what support programs we can get for homeless disabled vets. See what we can make available with enough money thrown at it behind the scenes.” I saw his eyebrow quirk. I grinned. I was sure he thought he’d perfected the expressionless look, but that little quirk, tiny enough to be unnoticed by anyone else, told me exactly what he was thinking. “There’s a homeless vet she gives coffee to and lets sit in the diner all day,” I explained. “She’ll never leave there if she thinks the owner will throw him out.”

“Yes, sir.” Lawrence made a note.

“Oh, and what you said.”

He looked up at me. “What I said?”

“Yes. What you said. I don’t like to think of wasted talent. Let’s think about some sort of non profit foundation. There’s too much money goes abroad and doesn’t help young people over here.”

He made another note. “Whatever you say, sir.”

“Yes.” I leaned forward. “But we’ll need to find someone good to set it up. And someone even better to keep tabs on the money, makes sure it goes to where it’s needed.” I had an idea. “Maybe it’s something that the girl would like to get her teeth into. Helping people who are in the same position she’s been in.” I felt good. That might be a way to persuade her. That and a program for the vet.

“Well, maybe, sir. But she’ll be away of course. I’ve got the prospectus here, and I’ve made a provisional reservation.”

It was my turn to look puzzled.

“The finishing school, sir.” Lawrence held out the glossy brochure. “Switzerland.” He smiled. “It’ll be quite a change for her.”

I took the brochure mechanically. That was going to be a problem. I couldn’t just let her go. I’d only just found her. How the hell was I going to explain this?

I nodded at him. “All right, Lawrence. I need to think what I’m going to say to her tomorrow. You get on with that.”

He took the hint and rose from the sofa. “Yes, sir. You have lunch booked for twelve-forty-five, and a meeting with the team over at your office at three-thirty. I’ve booked the car for three.”

I nodded at him. I’d better go to that. My newest app was nearing completion. This one was my baby. My chess app. My hand dropped over the arm of the chair, where the old chess set stood. Heavy, individually-carved pieces, I’d loved it since I was a small boy.

I’d played childish battles with the pieces, the knights fighting, clashing in my pudgy fingers long before I learned to play properly with that very same set.

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