Barefoot Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story

By: Krista Lakes

To Lauren N,

Thank you for always being my friend.

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Chapter 1

Coffee dripped down the walls of the kitchen and spattered across the linoleum floor.

I stared at my brand new coffee pot in horror as it continued to spew boiling hot brown goo everywhere. This was not a good way to start the morning.

I scampered across the small kitchen, hiding behind a dishcloth and praying the coffee rain wouldn't land on me to pull the plug. The machine gurgled and died.

This was not a promising start to my morning.

I quickly cleaned up the walls and floor, hoping my roommate wouldn't attempt to use the cursed machine when she woke up. I made sure to leave Mindy a note, but she had a tendency to forget I existed. Sometimes, I was sure she thought a magic house fairy just came through to clean and add new supplies. Part of me almost hoped she would try the new machine without reading my warning. Either way, I would have to talk to her later about how she threw out the coffee pot box with the receipt in it without checking with me first.

I sighed and headed to the shower. Since I didn't have the box to return the damn thing, I would have to find a way to make it work. Today was a day to make things work. I would figure something out. I always did. Nothing, not even a lack of coffee was going to stop me.

Today was my job review and I was going to rock it. As a paralegal for one of the biggest law firms in Chicago, I spent more time in the office than I did at home. I loved my job and I was damn good at it. I was respected by the lawyers I worked with and I had more lawyers requesting my work than any other paralegal in the firm. My job review was guaranteed to be good.

My sister and I already had reservations at a fancy restaurant to celebrate my raise that evening. I could hardly wait. Just a shower and an easy work day stood between me and my raise. I would be able to afford a new coffee pot if things went the way I was expecting.

The shower water turned on cold and stayed that way. Mindy must have forgotten to pay the gas bill again. I stared at the icy sheets of water and shivered. This wasn't a day I could skip a shower, so I counted to three and dove in.

It was the quickest shower of my life.

On the upside, the fact that it was such a quick shower and didn't make any steam, I was able to curl my hair in a relatively easy manner. I even managed not to burn myself. I put on my best suit, my favorite heels, and checked my makeup one last time before heading to work. See, I said to the girl in the mirror, today is going to be good.

I should have known better.

The train ride to downtown Chicago was relatively uneventful. It was late September and the weather outside promised to be a wonderful fall day. The sun was just beginning to tip up over the metal skyscrapers and warm the sidewalk below when I stepped off the train.

And then it started to rain.

I ran for the lobby of my building, holding my shoulder bag over my head in a futile attempt to shield my hair. Two steps from the main door, the rain stopped. I smiled until I caught my reflection in the window. The thirty seconds of rain had destroyed the curl in my hair and speckled my suit. All my hard work from this morning was ruined.

It's not the end of the world, I told myself, pulling my now flat hair up into a ponytail. I walked across the crowded lobby to get on the elevator. A nice man from two floors down held the door for me to squeeze into the elevator before it left the lobby. Someone tried to take my spot, jostling me to the side, and I stepped on the space for the elevator door and heard a small crack.

I stepped back to try and figure out the noise and the shiny metal doors slid shut without me inside. I would just have to wait for the next one. I took a step back and stumbled like a drunk. The cracking noise I heard had been my heel of my shoe snapping in two. The heel was now completely missing off of one shoe.

Not only were these my favorite pair of dress shoes, they were the only shoes I had brought with me. I stared down at my lopsided feet. This was not how this day was supposed to go. This was supposed to my day to shine and so far, all I had to show for it was no coffee, flat hair, and a broken shoe.

I can still do this, I told myself. Things will get better.

The law firm of McDonald, Smith and Ward spanned two floors of the Chicago Tower. The 16th floor was where the partners and senior associates wooed clients while the 15th floor was fondly referred to as “The Dungeon.” The Dungeon was were the paralegals, secretaries, legal assistants, and new associates all worked with dreams of someday moving upstairs. If today went well, I would be on my way to moving up there.

After finally arriving on the fifteenth floor, I went about my work as usual, trying my best to ignore the fact that my shoe was irreparably damaged and hair wet. I smiled as I handed back files to lawyers and picked up new assignments. I kept on smiling even when two lawyers yelled at me for giving them bad news about their cases. I knew they weren't mad at me, but at the information. I tried not to let it phase me and went back to my desk.

My office was really just a table that I shared with several other paralegals. We all worked out in the open to give the lawyers easy access to us. I didn't really mind the setup, but I did wish I had a way to keep my pens from being stolen all the time.

I set up my laptop and went to work typing up a letter for one of the attorneys. It was tedious work and I nearly had it completed when I went to hit save. Instead of saving, the blue screen of death took over my computer.

It's not the end of the world, I promised myself as I dialed tech support. Tech support promised to send someone up right away as long as I stayed at my desk. I glanced at my watch. It was almost lunch time. My performance review was scheduled for after lunch and then I would be on my way to dinner with my little sister. The day still had so much opportunity.

“All this bad stuff is just so the good stuff will outweigh it later,” I told myself as I sat patiently. I tried to work on other things, but my stomach was starting to growl. Just as I was about to give up on tech support and get my lunch, a very frazzled looking computer-guy arrived.

“Sorry, I'm new and I got lost on my way here,” he apologized. “This place is a maze.”

“It gets everyone turned around the first couple of times.” With the way the cubicles and tables were set up, people were always getting lost. “I'm hoping you can save the file I was working on,” I said handing him the computer. He began hitting buttons and with every passing minute, the frown on his face deepened.

“I'm really sorry, miss,” he said, closing the lid and standing. “But, your laptop is toast.”

I wanted to bang my head against the table. This was not my day.

“So there's no way to retrieve the letter I was working on?” I asked hopefully. The lawyer needed it in an hour. If I had to rewrite it completely, I wouldn't have time for lunch before my review.

“I'm really sorry, but no.” The computer guy shook his head.

“What about the other files on there? I have a lot of work stored on that thing.” Panic made my voice squeak a little. I had months of data and open cases on that computer.

“I'll be able to salvage that with some equipment in my office,” he assured me. “Since this is a firm computer, I'll put it on a new laptop and bring it up for you. I'm afraid you'll have to use a loaner computer until I get that done, though.”