“I’m not going to the stupid party, Mom,” Livia Morgan said. She hurried through the office with her cell phone pressed to her ear, carrying the marketing designs she was going to present in a couple of hours.
Livia heard the tension in her mother’s voice through the phone lines. “Please, Livia. It’s just for a few hours. And your father wants you to meet someone.”
Livia cringed even as she set the design packages on the conference room table and adjusted the phone so she could hear her mother more easily. “All the more reason to avoid the party. There is absolutely no way I want to meet any of Dad’s cronies. They’re loud, obnoxious, and disgusting – not to mention pathetic chauvinists.”
Ruth Morgan didn’t argue the point. There was too much evidence supporting that statement. “I hear this man is quite a catch, dear.”
Livia rolled her eyes, amazed that her mother would think such a thing. Her father was a disgusting crook, not to mention a pathetic bully, and there was no way to sugar coat that fact. All of his business associates were guilty by association in her mind. “If he’s in business with Dad, he’s a bad guy.”
“Oh, but he’s not in business with your father!” her mother explained. “In fact, this man has resisted doing any work with your Dad, which is why your father wants you to be here tonight.”
Livia chuckled. “Dad wants me to be the sacrificial lamb, eh?” she laughed, shaking her head as she gave a file to the copy clerk. “Fifty copies of this, please,” she said with a smile.
“What are you doing, dear?” her mother asked.
Livia smothered a sigh. She loved her mother, but the woman hadn’t worked a day in her life. She’d tried, but…well, things had stopped her from venturing out and getting any sort of employment. “Mother, I’m working.”
Livia could “hear” her mother rubbing her forehead. “You don’t need to work, darling.”
They’d had this conversation many times over the past few years. “I like my job. And there is no way I am going to ask Dad for money. Never.” She paused, wondering if it was time to give her mom an “out”. “You know, if you’d like to come live with me, I have an extra bedroom in my apartment. You could…” could she say it? Did she dare? “You could heal, Mom. You could get out from under Dad’s constant pressure and criticism. Find your own way in the world.”
There was a long silence and Livia wondered if her mother was actually considering it. Ruth Morgan had been married to her father for thirty years and had taken so much abuse during that period. There had been times when her mother hadn’t come out of her bedroom for days. Those were after the nights when Livia had heard her father yelling and had hidden under her bed herself, frightened of his temper, not wanting to hear the sounds.
“Goodness, look at the time!” her mother said. “I really need to hurry, dear. The party is at eight o’clock tonight. If you could be here, just for me, that would be…” she paused. “Well, that would be nice,” her mother finally said.
Livia had almost made it to her cubicle when those words came through her cell phone. She leaned against the wall, closing her eyes as she heard the silent plea from her mother. “Eight o’clock,” she repeated. “I’ll be there, but I’m not staying long.”
Her mother’s shuddering breath came through the line as well. “That would be really…great.”
“But will you consider my offer?” she asked, hoping that her mother might want to get out from Livia’s dictatorial, abusive father. Daniel Morgan had never hit Livia, but that didn’t mean that she spared any love for the man who had donated half of her DNA. Too much that had happened over the years and Livia had finally learned how to get out on her own, stand up for herself. She vowed that she would never live as her mother had lived all her married life.
“I have to run, dear. Thank you for agreeing to come tonight.”
Livia hung up then, holding the cell phone to her chest as if it were her mother. She’d spoken to counselors, but there was nothing that she could do but be there for her mom, ready to act when her mother was ready to get out of the relationship.
And that was why, several hours later, she was dressed in a black, sheath dress, conservative, fake pearls at her throat and her ears as she stepped into her parents’ house.
And that is also why she stopped moving, the breath knocked out of her and her body tingling with a jolt that surprised her the moment she spotted the tall, shockingly attractive man standing next to her father, looking bored and annoyed.
Until he looked across the room and saw Livia. When their eyes met, she felt dumbstruck. Never had any man stunned her like this, she thought. Even as her mother rushed over to greet her, Livia couldn’t pull her eyes away from the man.
“You’re here,” her mother sighed with obvious relief and linked arms with her daughter. “I’m so glad. Your father has been asking about you.”
That was never good. Her father’s main interest in his only child was for personal gain. “Why?” Livia asked, her eyes narrowing but still staring at the man. She was trying to look away, and with monumental effort she succeeded and looked at her mother. All the while, Livia was trying to ignore the heat flushing through her because she knew that the tall man was still watching her.
Her mother’s hands fluttered in the air dismissively. “Oh, remember I mentioned that there was a potentially important client your father wants you to meet?”
Livia’s heart dropped, her eyes glanced towards the tall man and her heart rate picked up another hundred beats per minute when she realized that he was still looking at her. Please don’t let that man, the one with the fascinating eyes, be her father’s friend, she thought. Anyone else in the room – just not him! “Yes, you told me about him.”
Her mother glanced around at the other guests. “Yes, well, he’s been here for only about thirty minutes and already he’s been making sounds about needing to leave. Your father has been trying to stall him, but now that you’re here, everything will be okay.”
Livia heard the panicky note in her mother’s voice and looked down at her. “Is everything okay, Mom?” she asked softly, stopping their forward momentum to lay a gentle hand on her mother’s shoulder. “Has Dad…”