Hacking Mr. CEO (Billionaire Heists #3) - Anna Hackett Page 0,1
next door to the two-story, brick house and opened the gate. The metal screeched.
The house had a downstairs basement apartment, where Steve lived with his four-year-old daughter, Kaylee. I jogged up the steps to the main house and opened the door.
“We’re back here,” a female voice said.
I found Mama Alma in the kitchen. Of course, where else would she be? Kaylee was on the floor having a tea party with her dolls and bears.
“Remi!” The little blonde princess leaped up and ran at me. I caught her, and she wrapped her arms and legs around me. I breathed in her apple-scented shampoo.
“Hey, KayKay. You being good for Mama?”
Kaylee smiled and nodded. Then she wriggled and I let her down to return to her tea party guests.
Mama smiled, and I walked over to press a kiss to her dark, papery cheek.
She smelled like home. For the first eight years of my life, I hadn’t known what that word meant. Then angels had smiled on me, and sent an angry little girl to this foster home run by Mama.
She’d owned this house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for years. The small warehouse next door had been her husband’s. Unable to have kids of their own, they’d become foster parents. Big Mike died the year before I’d arrived, but Alma hadn’t stopped opening her home.
And some of us hadn’t really left. I’d be twenty-seven on my next birthday, and I hadn’t gone far. Steve had been one of Mama’s first foster kids. Kaylee was Steve’s daughter, but Mama still had three kids with her—two boys, aged nine and ten, and a teenaged girl.
“I’ll pour us some tea,” Mama said.
I dropped into the chair at the rickety table. The kitchen hadn’t changed in decades. “I’d prefer a shot of bourbon to celebrate. I just finished a job.”
Mama made a sound in her throat. “No bourbon in this house.”
I snatched a cookie off the plate on the table. Mmm. Chocolate chip, my favorite.
She set a teacup in front of me. Mama loved collecting flowery, delicate cups from flea markets. None of them matched.
Like my family, Mama always told me.
As I finished my cookie, I studied Mama—she looked tired, and her face was drawn. I frowned. Mama always said that she was a mix of the best—African-American, a dash of Hispanic, and some hardy Irish stock.
I think that’s why I’d liked her on sight—I was a mix, too. Mostly Hispanic, although I had no idea who my parents were. I probably had an African-American ancestor somewhere in the tree as well, and some other things—who knew what—dashed in.
Mama had beautiful, dark-brown skin, and tightly coiled, black hair. She was also two inches taller than me.
I sighed and sipped my tea. I was curvy and petite, aka short, at five feet—okay, almost five feet. And I had hips, a butt, and boobs. My dark-brown hair got a few golden streaks in the summer, more so if I actually made it out in the sun.
“You okay, Mama?”
“Fine, child, fine.” She didn’t meet my gaze.
My heart sank. She was lying. Mama never lied. Sometimes she chose not to answer, but she never lied.
“Mama?” I pressed my hand to hers. When had it gotten so frail?
She looked away, down at Kaylee. That’s when I noticed the paperwork on the table.
I grabbed it.
I scanned it. It was a letter from a doctor. I saw the words and my chest locked.
Looking up at the woman who’d been my mother, father, friend, and savior, I shook my head. “Brain tumor?” My words were a harsh whisper.
Mama pressed her lips together and nodded.
No. No. Mama was the glue in our little world. I looked at Kaylee, swallowed, then met Mama’s dark gaze.
“So, what’s the treatment? Chemo?” My stomach lurched at the thought, but whatever we had to do to get her well, we’d do it.
“It’s…” Mama cleared her throat. “The doctor said chemo won’t help.”
“What?” Panic was slick and ugly in my throat. “So, what, then?”
“Nothing, my child.”
Nothing. I looked at the letter blankly and saw what it said. “Six months?”
Mama shifted in her chair, her eyes covered with a sheen of tears. “No one can say for sure. The Lord always has a plan.”
“Screw that.” I stood up and saw Kaylee jerk in surprise. “Sorry, Kaylee.” I snatched up another sheet of paper, and Mama tried to grab it. I sucked in a breath. “There’s an operation.”
Mama straightened. “It’s experimental, Remi. There’s no guarantee it would work.” A pause. “And it’s very expensive.”