Her brothers nodded.
“Before I agree, because I am not saying I will do this, I am considering it. I think I should at least meet him, don’t you?”
“You should. We didn’t want to do this, but this was the option they offered us. We would not have asked if we were not desperate, Jessica.”
“I know, I am just trying to get my head around this, how and why did you borrow from that man.”
“Because no bank would help us, our parents could not help us either, and so our only choice was TJ.”
“Jessica, you can meet him, and you will, because he is here, right now?”
“I’m sorry we should have told you.”
“Yes, if you look to the third table to your left,” Jim said as his sister, turned to find the table, four men stood and walked towards her, one was TJ, she knew which he was, the bald fat guy, wore so much jewellery, more than she owned.
“I'll tell you," TJ said, approaching the table.
Jessica studied the other three men, trying to work out which of the men was his son, they all looked alike; none were unattractive. Maybe his son was not here after all. Or he was hiding behind the three men; maybe he was short and fat like his old men. She shuddered.
“You will make an honest man of my son, and give me a grandson,” his voice was firm, but quiet, so only they could hear him. He pointed to the man to his left. “Curtis, meet your future wife.”
Jessica looked up at the man he pointed to, all six foot of him, sighed with relief that he did not look like his father. He was toned, with dark brown eyes which were staring at her, at her cleavage, she suddenly felt even more under-dressed, and like a hooker, a well-paid hooker. After all wasn’t that in a way what she was going to be? She found her voice, and turned to the man, she was nervous, scared of what the man and his whole family, she knew the reputation they held. She opened her mouth to speak, thought for a second to exactly what she would say.
“I have to ask you something first?”
Her brother placed his hand on hers, pleading with her to be quiet. She shook her head, and ignored his plea.
“I want to know, what if you son does not agree with this, what if he doesn’t like me, or doesn’t he have a say?”
“He has a say,” he barked.
“Of course he has a choice, we have discussed this. He said you will do, he likes you enough. Enough to do what is asked of him, he knows his place. Once the child is born, you will be free to leave.”
“And the child?”
“The child is ours,” he said.
“So let me get this straight, to pay of my brothers debt, I marry your son, give you the child you want, my child.”
“The child is not just yours, he will be ours, you can see him, of course, but he will live with his father.”
“No, I am sorry, but if I agree to this, I won’t give you my child, I won’t do it.”
“You can have another child, but if you have a daughter, you can keep her.”
“That is so kind of you, wow, you only want sons to carry on your business and name.”
“You cannot talk to me in that way, this is the deal, take it or leave it.”
She swallowed again. Taking him at his word. “I will do this on one condition, if I have a son, I want to be able to stay, I won’t leave him.”
Jessica was babbling, thinking ahead of the crazy situation she was in, if she really had to be in this, she could not walk out on her child, she knew she was not thinking about the life she was entering, but she could not do it, she was doing this for her family, if she had this child, this would be her flesh and blood. She wanted no part in it otherwise.
“Dad, she is right, a child needs both parents,” he said. “Mum died when I was eight. I would not want my child to have to miss out on having his mother around.”
“Fine, when he turns sixteen, he is mine, he will work for me, and no longer be your responsibility.”
Jessica nodded. She would agree to anything in that moment, she would do what was best for her child, if she had a son, if the man before her indeed married her.
“Right that’s sorted, we have two weeks to sort the wedding out.”
“Yes, we’ll make the arrangements.”
“Two weeks, that’s far too quick,” she said. “I am so sorry, but my parents just wouldn’t trust some guy to come into my life and whisk me of my feet. And ask me to marry him.”
“She has a point, Dad.”
“Maybe we should get to know each other, go on a few dates.”
“How long would you say then, because I am not waiting a year for you to give us what we want!”
“How about three months, that should be enough time to get to know each other.”
“Fine, but Curtis, if she falls pregnant before the three months, you will get married sooner.”
“Agreed. Jessica, let’s get to know each other, we should start now,” he said.
“Why not!” he said.
“You can have our table,” his father said, leading the other men out.
“We could go elsewhere, away from prying eyes.”
“Okay, that sounds like a good idea, thank you.” She nodded again. She told her brothers she would call them later as she was taken by the hand and led outside. The touch of his hand sent electric impulses up her arms and down her back, she had not felt anything like it before, of course she was attracted to the guy, it was lust, not love.
If she had seen him on her night out, she would have fancied him instantly and been attracted him, maybe flirted with him.
Knowing what he did about his family, she would never have dared date such a man. What his family were known for was not something she would have ever thought she would be involved in, but thanks to her brothers she was in deep, and marrying this guy was what she had to do to keep her family safe, then she would do it.
The cool air hit her as she stepped onto the pavement, wishing she had more clothing on, the wind had increased and made her shiver. He took three large strides to reach the car; a man opened the door and allowed them both to enter. The moment the door closed he dropped her hand.
He turned to face her, “Jessica, this is how it is going to be, we are NOT getting married, you seem a nice enough girl, but this is not what I want, but you have to understand my family.”
“I’ll deal with my father, we will pretend to date for a while, I am sure you can put on a good show, right?”
“We are going to be going on a few fake dates.”
“You want to pretend to date me, but not really go through with this, what about my family, the debt will not be paid.”
“Not my problem.”
“Not your problem!”
“You think that this is the first time my father has put this idea to me, I will not just get married for him to have a grandson.”
The car travelled along the open road, the driver drove the car into a parking lot, got out and opened the door, allowing them both to exit. Curtis took her hand again, and led her into the restaurant. A place she could only dream of eating. A place you needed to book a year in advance, and spend a month’s wages on.
Her mouth was open, her eyes wide, as he led her inside, she could not close her mouth if she tried, it was the place to be, if you could afford to eat here, you had made it. Or so she heard.
The place was incredible, it spoke money. Every table had customers seated at them. The food came out on white china plates, Jessica looked at the portion sizes as waitresses carried them out to tables. A mouthful, that was all that was on the plate, if she ate here, she would want ten portions, or a burger and chips afterwards. There was no way this delicate stunning food, would fill her up. If this was all show, why had he brought her here?
“Table for two,” he said.
“We have no booking under that name sir, are you sure it was for today?”
“I don’t have a booking.”
“Then I am sorry sir, but you will have to book and come back when you do.”
“I don’t need a booking.”
“Sir, we have people who have to wait nearly a year to eat here, maybe you and your…” the man looked at Jessica and paused.
“I am aware of that thank you, but I think you will find that you will get a table for us, and be quick about it.”
Jessica bowed her head, she could literally feel the muscles in his arm tense from the way he held onto her hand. Was this how they got what they wanted? Before another word could be said, a little man with whispy of grey hair that fell across the top of his head literally ran towards them. His name tag read Geoffrey, below that, the word manager.
“This way Mr.Harrison, I apologise, he is new, I cannot apologise enough. Come this way, your table is ready,” he turned to face the man who had the clipboard in his hand. “Go to my office now. Jason take over,” Geoffrey said, as he led them to a table set back from the restaurant in a little nook.
“We will bring a selection of our specials today to your table, and a bottle of our finest wine.”
“Thank you, Geoffrey.”
The man nodded and hurried off.
“Guess you are used to getting what you want. Just snap your fingers and people do what you tell them?”
“Mostly. You are not so different.”
“What does that mean?”
“What that means is, that your brothers called you, and you hurried here, from what I can tell, from a night out,” he said, indicating to what she was wearing.
“I was out with friends, and I didn’t come running because they needed me. I had no idea about this, I was expecting my parents, a family meal.”
“So they lied to you.”
“Yes, but they had good reasons.” She defended them.
“Then you listened to what they wanted from them, and you instantly agreed to it.”
“Yes, because your family will hurt mine. I could not allow that to happen, don’t you think I know what your family are known for?”
“So you think we are thugs, who would hurt people for what actually belongs to us.”
“What belongs to you?”
“Yes, we loan people money, they pay us back, with interest; it’s as simple as that.”
“No, it’s not as simple as that and you know it.”
“Since you know so much, why don’t you tell me what it’s like?”
“What your family do, is allow people to borrow more than they can afford, so when it comes to paying, you do what you are known for.”
“And what’s that?”
“I saw what you did to my brother, which is all the proof I need.”
“You think I could do that?”
“You, those men your father has by his side, yes, of course I do.”
“So why agree to marry me? Are you afraid of me?”
Jessica gulped, of course she was. She was afraid of the man sat before her.
The food arrived, lots of little bite size meals filled the table, the wine sat in ice in a bucket.
“So, Jessica, let’s eat.”
She did as she was told; the food was amazing and rich in taste, and some even melted in her mouth.
“Good, right, the food here is amazing.”
“You’re right, it is. I can’t believe something so tiny, so delicate, could taste like this,”
“You are right, and wait until you taste the deserts. They are out of this world.”
Jessica nodded, as he clicked his fingers, they removed all the plates and replaced them with the tiny desserts. He pushed one towards her, and suggested she try it, a little pastry topped with strawberry and cream. She picked one up of the plate and popped the whole thing in her mouth, which exploded with flavours, the pastry melted in her mouth.
She saw him lean towards her, suddenly she had a feeling he was going to kiss her, and she was okay with it. She should not want him to, but the way his eyes twinkled as he leaned towards her, had her ready for it. She leaned in too, but what he did was not lay a kiss on her, but instead wiped the cream away from the corner of her mouth. That little act made her want him to touch her again. She had to shake the thought out of her head; she was not thinking with her head.