A Desperate Deal
Chapter 1: The Deal
She was desperate. Her family was desperate. They were all so desperate. They now didn't know where, what or who, to turn to. As a result, her drinking was spiralling out of control as she tried to regain control over something in her life. It was the only thing helping her to keep going. Her Mum's sickness was getting worse; they thought her cancer was getting weaker, virtually gone but in the last few weeks, things had taken a drastic turn and she had stopped responding to her latest round of treatment. There was only one option left the Doctors suggested might work but the problem was that treatment was not available yet in the UK, only in America and they would need to somehow find twenty thousand pounds to afford the treatment and everything else to get them over there and for accommodation for the six weeks it would take. But they couldn't afford it. Despite only being eighteen, she would do anything to help raise the money to get her Mum the treatment she needed rather than lose her Mum. But she just didn't know how. Her parents were in no financial position to be able to afford that nor were any of their family really. They might if they all threw a bit in get somewhere around ten thousand pounds but it just wasn't nearly enough and there was no healthcare or private funding setup that could help either. Besides, her Mum was refusing to let them ask the other residents in the square to help because she saw it as begging and she wasn't going to be a charity case.
Currently standing in R&R on Thursday night with her friends, Lauren Branning wanted to just forget everything; forget her Mum's illness; forget how she couldn't get a job; forget the need of needing money; just forget her whole pathetic life.
"How did things with your brother go yesterday?" She heard her friend Whitney ask her cousin Alice who had moved to the square last year to be with her estranged father who then died of a massive heart attack at Christmas.
"He's just really busy with work but he's good. I'm glad I managed to see him; it's hard not seeing him every day." Lauren's head snapped to Alice remembering something.
"Is he still working in central London, running his own company?" Lauren asked, her mind wondering.
"Yeah. He's working too hard though and I'm worried he's going to end up having a heart attack if he doesn't start slowing down like Dad."
When she got home, her sister Abi was sitting downstairs despite it being nearly three a.m.
"Abs, what's going on?" Lauren asked, sobering up a little seeing her sister's tear stained face. She then noticed her brother asleep up the other end of the couch.
"Mum's been sick. Dad said to bring Oscar down so she didn't disturb him too much."
In that instance, Lauren's determination kicked up a gear; she knew what she had to do.
It had been that decision last night as to how she found herself standing outside the white office building she was. Her cousin, Alice, when she first came to the square, had told her that her brother, Joey Branning, was rolling in the money and owned a successful company. She wasn't exactly sure what he did but all she knew was he was twenty five years old, single and lived in London. She knew this was one of her last resorts. She had a matter of days to find the cash with how quick her Mum's health was deteriorating. Lauren couldn't think about what would happen if her Mum didn't get urgent treatment soon.
Walking through the floor to ceiling glass doors, she saw a receptionist sitting at a desk. "Hi, I need to see Joey Branning please. Is he around?" Lauren asked, feeling intimidated by her surroundings.
"Do you have an appointment scheduled? Mr Branning doesn't see anyone without an appointment and I didn't think he had any appointments in his diary for this afternoon." The slightly grey haired woman told her as she typed on her keyboard. Thankfully she seemed friendly enough, the opposite of what you would think her nature was, which reassured her nerves a little.
"No I don't have an appointment. I'm his cousin, Lauren Branning; his sister Alice sent me." At the mention of Alice's name, the woman backed right down.
"Mr Branning should be in his office; just go up the stairs and it's the last door on the right."
"Thanks." Lauren took off in the direction the receptionist pointed.
Technically, Alice hadn't sent her; she had gone through Alice's bag when she was dancing with their friends, taking Joey's mobile number from her phone and one of his many business cards that Alice had in her bag. But one, or a few, little white lies weren't going to hurt, were they? Not when she was doing it for a good reason. Taking a deep breath, she sighed and knocked the door.
"Come in." A muffled husky voice called as she opened the door.
She wasn't sure whether she should call him Joey or Mr Branning but decided on Joey; he was her cousin after all. "Hi, sorry to interrupt you, Joey."
"Can I help you?" As he looked up, Lauren felt herself nearly gasp; he was drop dead gorgeous. There was something about his brown eyes that drew her in to him. How was it they were related? He was like some sort of God. "Did you hear me?"
"Sorry. Um... yes. I'm Lauren, Lauren Branning, your cousin. Alice told me about you. My Dad and Derek are, were, brothers." She explained feeling as though she was screwing things up already with every word she spoke.
He eyed her before standing up and walked in front of his desk. Well his full body was definitely in good shape and completely wasted being covered up by that grey suit he was wearing, Lauren thought, suddenly feeling very warm.
"Hi, nice to meet you. Joey Branning." His voice was silky smooth as he held out his hand for Lauren to shake. She felt his hand grip hers, sparks shooting up her arm as their skin touched. "Sorry I didn't recognise you. Alice has told me about Derek's side of the family and sent pictures but it's not something I've really been very interested in. But I'm thinking I might just have to become interested." He eyed her up and down, not even being subtle about it; Lauren blushed slightly, fidgeting with the bottom of her leather jacket over her short plum coloured dress. Where had the strong, independent woman inside her gone?
"It's ok. Didn't expect you to know."
"So, how can I help a beautiful girl like yourself? Is Alice ok?" Oh he was a charmer alright; Alice had warned he was known to be a flirt and a player having never once in his life had a girlfriend or any type of relationship with serious commitment; just lots of one night stands or holiday flings. He barely even had any real close friends because he struggled with commitment; he liked his own freedom and lifestyle to the point that the only two people who he had committed relationships to were his Mum and his sister. Alice reckoned it stems from Derek's lack of a relationship with Joey as a youngster before their father finally walked out on them and also what made him so defensive of her.
"Alice is fine. I kind of need a favourite." She looked down at his desk, noting the only picture he hand in the room was one of him and Alice.
"Sure, anything for family, right?" Yes he is family, Lauren, she reminded herself.
"I really didn't want to disrupt you at work but I didn't know how else to do this." She sighed feeling awkward; why did she think this would be a good idea? Remembering her limited time frame, she swallowed and pushed down her nerves.
"I need to borrow twenty thousand pounds."
His eyes widened at what left her mouth. "And why would I just give you twenty thousand pounds when I don't even really know you?"
"Because I'm a desperate idiot. Trust me; I'm just the family screw up trying to help. I can't get a job to raise the money because of my stupid criminal record and now I don't even have shame anymore the fact I'm resorting to practically begging."
"Now come on, I don't believe that for a second. How can you be the family screw up when we have Derek in our family?" Lauren laughed.
"Ok so maybe the second in line family screw up but number one alive screw up." Sighing as she remembered why she was here, she regained her train of thought that had been derailed for a moment. "I would pay you back but I just really need it quick. Like now."
Joey eyed her suspiciously; she had so far avoided telling him what it was for. Truthfully, he wasn't that bothered in knowing; twenty thousand pound was nothing to him anymore, he wouldn't miss it or even notice such a small amount missing if she didn't end up paying him back. But the deal wasn't done yet; he hadn't agreed to her terms and conditions and instead had an alternative deal of his own. He wanted to test just how desperate she was for the money, most likely for some addiction or massive debt with her urgency; although he knew she would never agree to the deal he had in mind. But if she was that desperate for the money he'd know whether he should give it her or not by her reaction.
"How about rather than just a loan, I just give you the twenty grand?" He started, pausing purposely to avoid adding his catch instantly.
"No, I couldn't do that. I would pay you back. I couldn't just take your money and especially if we haven't come to any arrangement. I'd work for you for free doing anything if that's what it would take to pay you back." Lauren knew this wasn't her but things had got desperate she would be willing to do anything to help.
"Well, there is a catch if I just give you the twenty grand." She eyed him unsure. "You sleep with me."
Lauren stepped back in disgust and shock; was he a sick pervert? She was his cousin! Did he think she was that easy? She looked at him with repugnance. However, a second later, her bad girl side kicked in, fighting against the right thing to do. She couldn't deny the instant attraction she felt to him the moment brown eyes met brown eyes. And he was gorgeous, those eyes, those lips, those arms, that ass...
"No way! Are you sick?! I'm your cousin!" She finally answered, mentally slapping herself for even thinking about that.
"That's my offer; take it or leave it."
Groaning, she stepped closer to him again and slapped him on the cheek before turning on her wedged heel and walking out. She wasn't that desperate.
A/N: I finally finished writing this story. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one please. If you like it let me know and I'll post more tomorrow. For now, enjoy! :)