Entering the main room, I walk straight to a group of nine women standing by the counter, talking happily with the nurses. Their smiles falter as they glance at my guns.
"You must be the tutors," I say holding out my hand.
A tall, older blond-haired woman comes forward. "Yes, ma'am. You must be Agent Williams." We shake hands.
"I am. Let me introduce you to your new boss," I say, turning to invite them to where Blake and the others stand.
"I beg your pardon, but you’re the one paying us, correct? Doesn't that make you our boss?"
"No. Ladies, this is Mr. Blake Mason. He owns the halfway house and he'll technically be your new boss. He and his staff at this facility. Blake, these wonderful women are a group of tutors I've acquired for the girls."
Blake's mouth hangs open. "Wait . . . you paid for this?"
I square my shoulders knowing this might be an argument. "Yes, Mr. Mason, I did. Believe it or not, as much as I dislike rich people, I have a good amount of money I don't want or need. This is a great way to use it."
He grabs my face, and presses his lips to mine. My body stiffens, taken aback by this public display of affection. In the background, many of the girls giggle, cheer, and whistle. Blake pulls back enough to look me in the eyes. I'm stunned to silence.
"You’re the most amazing, remarkable, caring woman I've ever met, and I love you more every day I'm with you."
My heart melts and I caress his face. "I love you, too." I press my lips quickly to his again and he releases my face, allowing me to stand up straight.
"Hello, ladies," he says putting one arm around me and holding the other out.
He shakes hands with each in turn, keeping me firmly at his side. I smile— glad he appreciates what I've done. He might have a cow if he knew how much the salary for these women cost, plus the one tutor he hasn't met yet.
"Lily!" a voice yells from the back of the room.
Sorina's barreling toward me. She reaches us, launching into my arms. I let go of Blake and hug her tight. She's all smiles today, which warms my heart. She deserves some happiness. I hope she accepts what Blake and I came here for.
"How you doing, kiddo," I ask, setting her down.
"Great. I met Ms. Laura. She's great, Lily. Thank you!"
"Who's Ms. Laura?" Blake says, smiling at Sorina.
"My new tutor. Lily hired her for me. She got here this morning and we've been talking about where I need to start to catch up in school. She's really nice," Sorina babbles, bouncing on her toes in excitement.
"A private tutor, huh? That sounds pretty cool. I hope you intend to work hard," Blake says giving her a serious gaze.
Sorina calms and looks Blake square in the eyes. "Yes, sir. Lily is giving me an amazing opportunity and I won't waste it. I promise. Plus, it’s going to be done online! How cool is that!"
"I'm glad to hear that. Lily and I won't tolerate you goofing off where school is concerned. While the bedroom we have for you is nice, I doubt you'd enjoy being grounded to it." He smirks.
Sorina's mouth drops open. "Bedroom? Wait . . . what?"
A smile creeps onto my lips, again.
"Lily and I would like you to come live with us."
"Are you serious? I thought it was dangerous?" she says, excitement filling her voice.
"Well, it is, but as long as you can follow the regulations set by Lily and her team, everything should be fine. So, what do you say?"
"Yes!" She jumps into Blake's arms, hugging him tightly.
He laughs heartily, setting her down and she hugs me, tears running down her face.
"Hey, why are you crying?" I say, resting my hands on her shoulders.