The Right Price

Chapter 21

Collins

I refused to cry.

I didn’t have time.

While a lot of people swore that crying was cathartic, it was a wasted emotion that didn’t pay the bills. In fact, I couldn’t think of one single emotion that paid the bills. Sure, love was indirectly paying my bills because everything that I did, I did for Nan’s sake, but that was about it. Sadness, regret, shame, etc. none of those things paid the goddamn bills.

However, it’d been fear and cowardice that Evander had accused me of, and that was bothering me more than it should. I was self-aware enough to realize that it was bothering me because it rang of some truth. Evander seemed too good to be true, and the risk was just too high to jump.

“You’re making a huge mistake,” Nan said from behind me. “You know that, right?”

I turned to see her making her way back into the living room, eyeing me as I leaned against the front door. “Yeah?”

Nan came to stand in front of me. “I understand pride, Collins,” she said. “I understand it well. I also understand the addiction to safety.”

“Nan, don’t do this to me,” I pleaded.

“If not me, then who?” she asked, her sense of humor trying to lighten the heaviness of what just happened.

“I don’t have time to date,” I reiterated. “Even if I did want to give this thing with Evander a chance, when in the hell am I supposed to spend time with him? He has a company to run, and I have three jobs and you to look after. I can’t afford to quit any of my jobs, and I’d rather hang out with you than some guy if you want to know the truth.”

“Going back to that addiction to safety,” she replied. “You’d rather hang out with me because you feel safe with me. You’d rather hang out with me because there’s no doubt in your heart about my love for you. You’d rather hang out with me because there are no surprises. With three jobs to juggle, you can’t afford any surprises, so I get it.” She reached out, then took my hands in hers. “I get it, Collins. I felt that same sense of safety and security when your grandpa was with me.”

“What’s so wrong with wanting to feel safe and secure?”

Her face softened. “Nothing,” she answered. “However, what are you going to do when I’m gone?”

“Don’t talk that way,” I quickly rushed out.

“Oh, Collins,” she chided. “Death is a fact of life, and I’m not scared to meet my maker. I believe that your grandpa is waiting for me, so that’s one point in favor of death, even if it’s the only one.”

“Nan-”

“You’re not living, Collins,” she said, talking over me. “You’re existing, but definitely not living.”

Finally hitting her with the truth, I said, “Evander can do so much better, Nan.”

“Can he?” she challenged. “Because when I look at you, I see someone that works hard and loves even harder. I see a woman that will do anything for the people that she loves. I see someone that can never be accused of being a gold-digger. I see someone solid and extraordinary.”

“I took money to have sex with him, Nan,” I reminded her. “I mean…what does that say about me? What does it say about him?”

“First off, you never took the money, so that says more about you than your original intent,” she said, refusing to judge me. “As for what it says about him, it tells me that he was willing to try anything to get you to meet him that night.”

“Nan-”

“Collins, please know that I would never judge you,” she continued, ignoring my protests. “You are the best person that I know, so I would never judge you.”

“But…?”

“What’s the difference between accepting his money for that dance and accepting money for his offer of sex?” she asked.

“There’s plenty difference,” I argued.

“Actually, there isn’t, honey.” Finally dropping my hands from hers, she said, “He paid an extraordinary amount of money just to see you dance because that’s how much it’d been worth to him. He offered that ten-thousand in the same spirit. So, why are you bothered by one and not the other?”

I shook my head. “It’s not the same, Nan.”

“It is, Collins,” she stubbornly insisted. “He offered money in both instances because he believed that you could use the money, not because he thought you could be bought. You accepted both of his offers because you could use the money. The only difference is that you took the two-thousand and left the ten-thousand, but everything else is the same.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“That I don’t think it’s the money that bothers you as much as you’d like me to believe,” she said honestly. “I think you’re scared because he does seem too good to be true.”

“I’m so confused,” I muttered.

“You sound confused,” she agreed. “You’re all over the place with all the reasons why you shouldn’t give him a chance, and that just adds more truth to the fact that you might just simply be scared to take a chance.”

“Nan-”

“Collins, he didn’t ask you to marry him or have his children,” she sighed. “He just wants to date you. That’s it, that’s all. You’re acting like dating means handing over your entire life, and that’s not true.” She eyed me sternly. “You’re making me talk to you as if you’ve never dated before, and I know that you have.”

She was right, and so was Evander for that matter. I was acting like a coward because it was easier. I’d been on my own for so long that I wasn’t even sure how to date anymore, so rather than try, I was taking myself out of the game before it even began. I had convinced myself that a one-night stand with Evander would be enough, but that was before Evander had laid all his cards out on the table.

“So, what am I supposed to do now?”

Nan wrinkled her nose. “While you might not want to hear it, Evander did his part, Collins. He told you how he felt and what his expectations were, so now it’s your turn.” She wrinkled her nose again. “You’re going to have to grovel a bit, though I’m certain that it won’t be as painful as it sounds.”

I choked out a laugh. “Says the woman who doesn’t have to do the groveling.”

“As trite and ridiculous as love-at-first-sight sounds, I believe in love enough to know that anything’s possible,” she said. “I think Evander really believes that he’s in love with you, so I don’t think you’ll need to grovel much, honey. I think as soon as Evander sees you, all will be forgiven.”

“I’m scared,” I finally admitted.

“I’d be worried about you if you weren’t,” she huffed. “Love’s not for the weak, Collins. The trick is finding someone that’s willing to fight for it just as hard as you are. I think Evander’s that man.”

Knowing that I still had a lot to work out, I tried my best to lighten the mood. “What do I get if you end up being wrong about him?”

“What do I get if I end up being right about him?” she counter negotiated.

“I guess that’s the thing about being poor, we don’t really have any bargaining power,” I muttered.

Nan laughed. “This is true.”

Finally stepping away from the door, I took Nan in my arms. “Thanks, Nan.”

She hugged me back. “Anytime, Collins.” Pulling back, she added, “I just want to see you happy, honey. And as old fashion as this may sound, I’d like to see you happy with a good man to help make life easier for you.”

“You just want some great-grandchildren out of this deal,” I teased.

“There is that,” she replied thoughtfully. “I mean, no offense, but you’re not much fun, honey.”

That got me laughing. “I’m plenty fun.”

Her brows shot up. “Yeah, sure. Okay.”

Rolling my eyes, I said, “I’m going to go start on dinner while I contemplate what all groveling entails.”

Nan let out a holler. “It entails you showing up at his office with a skirt on and no panties,” she unwisely advised. “I mean, men aren’t all that complicated, Collins.”

“Could you act like a grandmother for once?” I deadpanned.

“Not on your life,” she huffed.

Leaving her in the living room, I made my way into the kitchen, having no idea what to do next. Though she was absolutely right, and Evander deserved a bit of groveling, I was still anxious about taking the leap.

I mean, what if he no longer wanted to catch me?

Share your love