Billionaire's Peeping Piper

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XXXIX. Candy Room

When the car stops, the driver opens the door. First, Jackson got out then I carry Dustin out with the blanket wrap around him. Jackson grabbed Crystal and held her head over his shoulder.

The large building stands firmly in front of me—the building I haven’t seen for over eight years. Step after step, the memories of the past only flew past me.

When I was younger, everything amazed me - from the plants in the front yard to the clean, sharp designs in the interior. The large brown doors open and everything was the same as I remember it. Nothing change - from the carpets in the living room to the chandelier above us.

“Come on,” Jackson said. “I’ll show you the room you’ll be staying in.”

Past the living room and up the stairs, I ask: “Where is everyone?” I remember several people were working in his house.

“They’re asleep. I told them not to come to greet me whenever I come back late.” Yes. Jackson Martinez is that wealthy. He has workers living in his house. “Just so you know,” he said. “There are fewer people now.”

“Why? Times been rough?”

He laughs, “Yeah. My net worth dropped a few millions the past few years.” He re-adjusted Crystal. “When Abby moved out, there wasn’t really any need for extra help around the house. It’s just me most of the time.”

There it is - the uncomfortable sensation. This is why I don’t want to come back to New York.

“And I’m not back here that often.”

“You shouldn’t work so much,” I said.

He looks back, “There’s not much to do.”

“Hobby?”

“Once in a while, I go out with the guys, but you know, they’re busy. Our schedule doesn’t exactly line up.” With some of them being out of the country and others raising a family.

My eyes flicker towards Crystal’s earrings. Jackson got them for her when she was younger - a lot younger. I’m not sure she even remembers who gave them to her.

The pink diamond seems to glisten brighter tonight.

Jackson got Crystal one-of-a-kind pink diamond unicorn earrings - actual diamonds.

Why do I assume they’re one of a kind?

I can’t find them anywhere online.

Once we reach a large door, he opens it and walks inside. My eyes flicker to the door beside it.

Jackson’s room is next door.

I remember.

“Come on in,” he said. I walked inside and laid Dustin next to Crystal. Together, we tuck them in bed, and they curl into each other arms.

Nowadays, they fight all the time, but at the end of the day, put them together, and they would always hold one another.

“The bathroom-”

“Is behind me,” I said. I smile, “I remember.”

Jackson ran a hand behind his neck, “Then, I’ll see you in the morning?”

I nod, “Good night.”

Jackson made his way towards the door.

“Jackson?”

Quickly, he turns around, “Yeah?”

“Thank you for letting us stay here.”

He smiles, “Finally feeling bad about making me sleep on your lumpy couch?”

“Helps you feel pain in places you never knew existed, right?”

He chuckles, “Good night Piper.”

When the door closes, I exhale quietly in the dim room. I turn on the small lamp light and carefully got ready for bed.

I expect myself not to fall asleep easily tonight, but I was wrong.

Perhaps, it’s the fact that my children are in my arms that helped me sleep better or maybe, it’s the reassurance I received from the guards outside, but it’s been a long time since I had such a soothing sleep.

Each time I inhale, I could smell my favorite scent.

In the morning, my kids were gone from bed. When the light found its way past the curtains, my eyes steadily open - it’s bright. I sat upward and spread my arms only to hear a crack from my neck, “Geez,” I mumble to myself.

My fingers rush into my tangled hair, and I rest my cheek against my knees. I didn’t get a good look at the room since it was dark last night, but now I could. Everything inside the room was still the same, from the bedsheets to the lamps.

I couldn’t feel it, but I remember it - the excitement from over eight years ago.

With a deep exhalation, I got out of bed. Crystal and Dustin are probably running around the mansion. I should get them before they break something.

I grab a new set of clothes, toothbrushes, and skincare, then made my way into the restroom. Once I finish getting ready, I throw everything back into the suitcase and walk towards the door.

My legs halt.

I turn my head towards the closet.

Steadily, step after step, I walk towards the room. My hand reaches for the knob, and I open the door only to witness an even brighter room.

“What an idiot,” I mumble.

I ran the tip of my fingers across the fine unwrinkled clothes. When I first came to New York, I was desperate to fit in.

What do you expect?

I was a young twenty years old who lives in a mansion with a handsome boss that practically threw his black card at me.

From designer clothes to brand name bags, I had them all.

High heel shoes and diamonds were my best friends.

If I want it, I got it.

Jackson let me have whatever I wanted because his younger sister loves me.

Abby idolized me for some unknown reason.

I stop at the jewelry section of the closet.

But, the only thing I couldn’t have at the time was his heart.

My finger ran down the glass.

Jackson couldn’t open his heart to me - not until it was too late.

I take a step back and look around once more. It’s all so beautiful - so artificial.

What’s the worth of all these things? Thousands? Millions? In the end, it’s all just...stuff.

Money can make your life easier, pave the way to happiness.

But, it can’t make you happy.

I wasn’t happy.

And even when I had Jackson’s heart in the palm of my hand, the happiness wasn’t enough to fight off the sadness.

Love doesn’t conquer all.

His love for me.

My love for him.

It wasn’t enough - not for the people in his world at least.

I turn my back and walk away from everything beautiful.

I didn’t need beauty. I need reality.

And reality isn’t beautiful.

The slippers slap against the hallway, and finally, I reach the stairs. Jackson wasn’t lying when he said he excused most of his staff. Back then, there were workers in every corner. Now, the only person I saw was someone gardening.

Halfway down the stairs, I could hear loud hyena laughter from the kitchen. “This is so awesome!” Crystal shouts.

I stop at the doorway to see Crystal on the high chair. She grabs the counter and spins herself, “Weeeeee!”

“Me! Me!” Dustin tries to climb the chair.

Jackson scoops him up, “No. Not for you,” he said. “Maybe when you’re a bit older.”

“Miss Crystal?” The man behind the counter calls for her.

She puffs her chest and smiles widely, “Yes, I am Miss Crystal.”

“What fruits would you like in your pancakes?”

She rubs her hands together, “Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and everything with wipe cream!” She spins herself again. “Lots of syrup!”

The chef looks at Jackson.

He nods.

“One of every kind it is,” the chef responds.

“I love being rich!” Crystal shouts. She spins herself against then threw her arms in the air. “Rich people have the best spinning chair!”

I cannot believe out of everything in the house. It’s the chair that got her.

“And what about you, Mister Dustin?” The chef asks.

Dustin pouts and turns his head away from the chef.

“Give him small waffles and bacon.” Jackson looks down, “You like bacon, right?”

Dustin grin and nods, “Baaaacon.”

He’s going to fatten up my kids.

“Mommy!” Crystal leaps off the chair. She fell. I rush towards her and pick her up. She laughs, “The house is spinning.”

“Oh gosh,” I said. I settle her on a regular chair.

Crystal close her eyes, shakes her head, and then smacks her cheeks. “Mommy! Can I hang out with my cousins later? Josh told me he would take me to all these awesome places!”

“Sure.” The plan was to have Crystal and Dustin hang out with their cousins for the day while the adults take care of some business.

Crystal claps vigorously.

“Did you have sugar before breakfast?” I ask. I could smell the sweetness from her breath.

She covers her mouth, “No.” Her eyes went to Jackson.

I look at him.

“She found the candy room,” he said.

“Jackson!” Crystal hops off the chair and shakes him by the shirt. However, it’s not really a shake since he barely budges. “I thought we were a team! You’re not supposed to tattle on me!”

“She’ll find out sooner or later.”

Crystal pout, “But...still-” She hugs his leg, “Jackson,” she called his name sweetly.

I roll my eyes.

He pats her head, “There. There. Your pancakes are almost done.”

“Pancakes!” Crystal climb on the chair.

“Crystal,” I said.

She chews on the fork, “I can’t help it! It’s the candy room! Mommy, don’t tell me you won’t sneak a few candies in the candy room!”

Jackson raises a brow at me.

Darn it.

In the past, when I first visited Jackson’s house, I raided his candy room. I ate so much candy that I threw up beside the lollipop section. The candy room was made for Abby, but she rarely goes in there.

“Fine, but no more candy for the rest of the day.”

“Deal!” She grabs the fork and knife, “Let the breakfast pancake feast began!”

The start of breakfast was shaky, but it ends peacefully. I settle on the couch in the living room with my phone. When I heard a scream, I look outside to see Crystal and Dustin playing with bubbles. When the bubble was low, the worker would pour in more.

Crystal had her tablet in the air to show Hailey whatever she is showing her while Dustin flew his airplane.

Dustin fell, and my body automatically jolts up.

Someone came up and picked him up. Dustin steps back, looks away, and rushes towards Crystal. When he slams his body against hers, she looks down.

Most likely, she’s asking: “What is it?”

Then, he would point towards the stranger.

She grabs a lollipop from her pocket and stuff it in his mouth, then pushes him away - not push but tell him to play somewhere else. I did tell her she couldn’t eat any more candy for the rest of the day, but I didn’t tell her she couldn’t hide them in her pockets. I should take them away from her before she leaves the house.

“How’s it going?” Jackson hand me a cup of tea before he sat down.

“Good.” I look back outside.

“Don’t worry. They’re watching them. No one sets foot in my property.”

“I know,” I said. “But, Dustin doesn’t like strangers, and Crystal, you know, I don’t want her to get used to this.”

“They’re on vacation.”

“The girl has been on vacation since she got expelled,” I mumble underneath my breath.

Jackson chuckled, “I found someone for Crystal.”

I laid the warm cup on my lap, “Jackson.”

“Hear me out. She’s really good, and she charges a reasonable price.”

“Does she also clean my house like the previous babysitter?”

“If you want.”

“I appreciate everything you’re doing for us, but I can’t accept this.”

“Why not?”

“You’re doing too much.”

Jackson inches his body closer to me, and steadily, he held my hand. “I feel like I’m not doing enough.”

I withdrew it, “It’s more than enough considering we’re just friends.”

He adjusts his head and rolls his hands around the cup. “Oh...friends.”

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