Billion Dollar Bad Boy

By: Nora Flite

- Chapter One -


Alexis

The package that tumbled out of my mailbox was not addressed to me.

In fact, it wasn't addressed to anyone.

Brown paper, a simple glint of tape on the seams; it was as ordinary as possible. I mean, as ordinary as mystery boxes go.

Logically, I poked it with my shoe to make sure it wasn't dangerous somehow. You hear about it all the time on the news, packages that just explode or carry poison or something. Arsenic? Wasn't that the big thing recently?

My box didn't explode. It just rolled limply onto one side.

What the hell? I wondered silently, crouching down to get a closer look. Had someone sent me a package but forgotten to label it? That by itself was weird, I never got anything in the mail. Nothing besides bills, anyway.

“Are you alright?” The speaker was a sweet, older woman. She was decked out in the familiar slate-grey of a postal office employee. Though she was smiling at me, her eyes had that distinct 'I think you might be a crazy person, please leave right away' accusation in them.

Clearing my throat, I scooped up the box anxiously. “Uh, I'm fine. Just a little surprised.” That's an understatement. “Sorry if I caused a scene.”

The woman lifted her eyebrows, increasing my discomfort. A quick scan around the room revealed that the everyone was eyeballing me. I was probably the most exciting thing they'd seen all day.

Sweat crept down my neck; I'm not a fan of being the center of attention. Self-consciously, I tucked the box under my arm. It was about the size of a baseball, it fit perfectly against my ribs. “Again, really sorry—I'll uh, I'll just get out of your hair,” I said.

Shutting my mailbox, I locked it quickly. Then, I used every ounce of strength I had to walk slowly through the front doors. The distance felt longer than a mile.

Climbing into my tiny, far-too-beaten-up Volkswagen, I breathed in deeply. The metal bubble was a perfect place to regain my composure.

Pushing the back of my skull into my seat, I closed my eyes.

This was an odd start to my day.

Speaking of odd...

Sitting up, I lifted the small box into view. It weighed as much as a kiwi, and when I turned it, I heard something rustle inside. Digging at the taped sides, I frowned. Just what are you hiding in—

A horn honked loudly; the box fumbled in my lap. Twisting around, I spotted a car behind me in the tiny lot. “Alright, alright! I'm going, chill out.” Reluctantly, I set my package on the passenger seat. Clutching my keys, I started the engine, reversing to give the rude driver my parking space.

He shot me the stink-eye as we passed.

It wasn't a long trip back to my rent-a-home, but the entire time, my mind ran wildly with ideas. The contents of the box could be anything: nail polish, batteries, a dead goldfish.

Money.

Money would be nice, I mused soberly.

It didn't take a detective to realize I was running up against the poverty wall. My car was junk—it broke down constantly—and my home was nothing to brag about.

Pulling up to the yellowed front yard, something scrambled in the dumpster before vanishing into the shadows. It wasn't even noon and animals were in my trash.

The area was empty, just some skinny trees and another house or two, cracked streets and the occasional stray cat. Still, it was better than nothing.

Turning off the Volkswagen, I gathered my things and strode to my front door. The tiny house had been my home for five years. I'd moved in soon after high school.

For a while, I'd dreamed of going off to college in another city, or of traveling the world.

Dreams aren't very reliable.

Shoving the door open, I dropped my purse on the coffee table. Then I did a quick, paranoid check, making sure my home was empty.

You could never be too sure.

Breathing out, I dropped onto my couch, finally alone with the box.

“Reveal your secrets,” I said to myself. I wanted to ease the tension.

It didn't work.

Fidgeting, I peeled the tape away. The box split, and when I tipped it, a small bag fell into my lap. Blinking, I stroked the luxurious material. Intrigued, I loosened the knot, carefully spilling the contents out onto my hand.

In the pale light of my single ceiling bulb, the earrings glinted like freshly poured silver. Were they silver? The emerald centers were bigger than acorns, so rich and deep I could have lost myself if I stared too long.

I didn't handle—or own—much jewelry, but even I could tell that these were expensive.

What... what the hell?

Entirely lost, I hefted the earrings, enjoying their weight. They were meant for a queen, not a girl who had holes in all of her jeans. There was no denying it, this gift was clearly not for me.

Chewing the side of my tongue, I set the earrings on my coffee table. The mystery of this was making me nervous. Wasn't it illegal to open mail not sent to you, a federal crime or something?

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