Coming Soon: The Love Bribe

Here is the first chapter of my next publication, soon to be released by HCS Publishing. This is my first romantic comedy, and it is a quick read. We do have plans of making this an audio book, but that will be further down the road.

Chapter One: The Bribe

I had just finished patting aftershave on my cheeks when the doorbell rang. “Damn it!” I grabbed my jeans, sat on the side of shower still beading with droplets of water, and shoved both of my legs into them. I should have known he would be early.

He rang the doorbell again as I pounded down the stairs to the front door, making sure my fly was up and my green button up shirt was tucked in all the way. I wrestled my black belt into place, then swung open the door.

The man rocked back slightly, but his face was stone and his tone even worse. “I am Edward Brayford from the IRS, I am here … ” he continued to recite the laws, god, and country who were behind him on this quest to free the world of scumbags like me.

I waved him inside as he spoke. His practiced spiel didn’t end until he sat down at my dining table. I tried my best to keep my eyes from crossing. Mocking him would only make things worse, and immaturity would not win him over.

Even sitting at my table his tall, lean build was evident behind a stiff steel-gray suit. He spoke in a crisp deep voice using the kind of proper grammar that made English teachers clap and normal people’s teeth hurt. I assumed his short, dark hair and features came from an Asian heritage, but as he was here to investigate me. I knew curiosity about his family would be a mistake.

“Can I offer you anything?” I stood as if to go to the kitchen. “Water, beer, … money?”

Edward’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at a paper he produced from his briefcase. “Mr. Trento … ”

I chuckled. “What’s with the formality? Paul’s fine.”

His eyes flicked up at me and would have blazed bullets if it were possible. I slid back into my seat.

“Mr. Trenton,” he emphasized. “Please produce the documents.”

They were on the table right in front of him. I plastered a goofy smile on my face and picked them up and set them down in the same spot. I couldn’t let him get to me.

He grabbed them and began flipping through them. “Your ink is fading.”

“Yeah, ink costs money and I am a little tight right now. I’m sure you know how that is.” I tried jovial but my disgust came out full swing.

His facial features twitched into an odd mixture of rage and disgust as he sized me up. It gave him the look of one of those scary Chinese opera masks. “I do not, Mr. Trenton,” he replied as he finished assessing me. He clenched his jaw and looked down at the papers again.

Clearly, he found me wanting.

I dug my fingers into the arm of my chair. I needed to get out of this mess. “You don’t need some green?” I asked, trying for nonchalance.

His eyes became iron. “Mr. Trenton, are you trying to bribe me?”

I pursed my lips, then shrugged. “Yep.”

“That takes moxie.”

I tried my best brave-knight-in-flawless-armor expression. It always ended with a girl twirling around and galloping off into the sunset — without me.

“You’re what, in your 50’s?” he began.

“Hey, wow now, give a guy some credit! I grayed early.”

“My mother is lonely. She persistently calls me to come down to her salon, or go grocery shopping with her, or look at photos with her. Her persistence is futile and only succeeds in angering me.”

“It’s ‘resistance is futile’,” I blurted.

Confusion flickered in his hardened expression, but he kept going. “I do not wish to hear from my mother for a period of time. I have other engagements to keep me occupied.”

I felt a ping of nausea as I began to see the direction he was headed.

“She needs someone to take her attention.”

I held my hand up. “Now listen, I think you are a little too young and new at this —”

“Mr. Trenton I have more money than I can spend. Bribing me with that will not work. You will take my mom on a date, an expensive date at a fancy restaurant, every day for a week. Do you understand? I do not want that woman calling me for an entire week. Then, we will assess how to move forward.”

I stammered for a moment, trying to fully understand this twist. “As in, after a week you will tell me what else you have thought up?”

He packed up his things, including my papers, and stood.

I stood like a bumbling idiot and hated him even more for manhandling me so easily.

He stuck his hand out. “I will see you in one week.”

I stared at his hand. I could call his agency on him. I hadn’t thought to record the conversation, though. It would be his word against mine. It’s not hard to imagine them believing a respectable man of society over a tax evader. After all, I was trying to bribe him. But he actually took it.

I begrudgingly shook his hand, and he saw himself out without another word.

He had left something in my hand. A card with a phone number scribbled next to the name Mary Brayford.

What are your thoughts?