Heavy Equipment(2)

By: Skye Warren

“Oh, that’s rich. Perhaps you’d like to tell your lovely, naïve little daughter who’s been paying for those fancy dresses that show off your pretty little—” He eyes my breasts.

My eyes widen, shocked that he’d be so brazen. The Li family would never accept this insult. Papa would throw this man out of the house. Papa would make sure no one would do business with him.

Except Papa doesn’t seem powerful now. He looks weak. The lines in his face are deeper than before. He looks old. “We’ve had some money trouble. After the shopping mall project tanked.” His voice breaks. “I don’t have a choice.”

My heart thuds painfully. I look over at the strange man, at the shadow of a beard over his jaw, at the unkempt hair, and the glint of challenge in his eyes. “Don’t have a choice about what?”

“Is that anticipation in your voice, Ms. Li?”

“No,” I spit out. “The only thing I anticipate is going to the gala.”

“Cancelled,” he says with fake sadness. “Not the entire event, mind. But your appearance is definitely cancelled. I’m afraid you have other engagements tonight.”

The heat in his eyes makes it clear what he’s talking about. As is the wink he gives me.

I whisper to my father, “Tell me he’s not serious.”

After a painful pause, my father speaks in Cantonese. “It was more than just the shopping mall deal. It was this house and the others. My entire empire was crumbling before my eyes. We needed to sell the construction firm, only no one has any money in this economy.”

“I do,” Asher says with deceptive mildness. As if it’s completely normal for someone with scruffy blonde hair to understand my native language. “And so you gave me a call, isn’t that right?”

“It was supposed to be business,” my father cried. “I wanted to make a business arrangement.”

“We did,” Asher says with a cold smile. “Like you said, no one wants to purchase a construction business in this economy—especially one in the red.”

“I’ll pay you back,” my father says, sounding more desperate than ever. “Every cent.”

“You already have. The ink has dried. I’ll be extracting every red cent from your pretty daughter. Tell me, is her pussy well broken in? Or will I be the first?”

My father’s face turns red with pain and rage. “Why, you dirty—”

“Ah ah.” Asher holds up his hand, the skin callused and rough. It’s the hand of a man who does physical labor every day. One strengthened not by the treadmill but by working with stone and metal. It’s enough to stop my father in his tracks. “Now, how did I know you would make things difficult? But Mr. Li, a businessman always pays his debts.”

I’m shaking, still trying to understand what’s happening. Or rather, I understand what’s happening all too well. I just never thought anything like this could happen. I never thought my father would be struggling for money. And I definitely never believed he could use me in this way.

“I’m sorry,” he tells me, his voice haggard.

Shock leaves me cold, and I shiver in the backless gown.

I want to run back up the stairs, to pretend I never heard anything, that I’m still eating my soup. I can’t believe this is happening but the painful clench of my heart is all too real.

Asher holds out his hand with a sarcastic, “My lady.”

I just stare at him, both fear and fury fighting inside me. “How long am I supposed to stay with you?”

One hour? Two? I don’t know how long it even takes for a man to finish with a woman. I’ve never done any of this. Never slept with a man. Barely even kissed one, at the end of dinner, my date drunk enough to dare a press of his lips. And I accepted it because my father arranged it.

I knew that one day I would marry for my family. I would lose the Li surname I’m so proud of, but it would be in service of my family. That’s when I would give up my virginity—not like this.

“I’m not sure how long,” Asher says thoughtfully. “How much is your pussy worth? A hundred bucks a pop? No, a high-class hooker like you would command much more than that. But even if we value it at a grand a fuck, that will still take quite some time to work off.”

I’ve never heard such crude language in my life. “How dare you—?”

I can’t even finish the question before he grabs me. First he takes my wrist, until I’m backed against the wall. Then his other hand goes to my throat. My gaze swings wildly, searching for my father—but all I can see is the dark, looming presence of the man who has me captive.

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