Seduced by Mr. Right(2)

By: Pamela Yaye

Reluctantly, Emilio took the envelope from Antwan’s outstretched hand and opened it. As he scanned the letter, his heart began beating harder, faster. Unable to believe what he was reading, he looked at his manager closely, searched his face for signs of deception. A known prankster, Antwan took great delight in punking his friends, but this time Emilio wasn’t falling for it.

Determined to beat Antwan at his own game, Emilio crumpled the paper, tossed it over his shoulder and hit Play on the remote control. Cheers, laughter and shrieks of joy filled the room. Emilio never got tired of replaying his nephew’s soccer games, and he grinned every time Lucca’s image filled the eighty-inch TV screen. Two years had passed, but Emilio still couldn’t believe that Lucca—his adorable nephew with the curly hair and high-pitched giggle—was gone.

Emilio leaned forward, gazing intently at the TV. The DVD was cutting in and out from being played so much, but his nephew’s celebration dance at the end of the game was his favorite part of the video. He chuckled at Lucca’s antics. Emilio wondered what he’d be like today if he were alive. He would have been in the second grade, and no doubt faster on the soccer field.

“Throwing away the letter isn’t going to make the problem go away...”

Emilio tuned his manager out, pretended he wasn’t there. Pain stabbed his heart like a knife. His throat closed up, becoming dry and sore. Emilio stared at the TV with a heavy feeling in his chest, wondering for the umpteenth time how he could have been so irresponsible that afternoon, so damned reckless. I screwed up, and it cost me everything I hold dear, he thought. I’d do anything to have Lucca here. Anything at all.

Hanging his head, he raked a hand through his short, thick hair. He tried to channel positive thoughts, but nothing came to mind. Every morning, he woke up thinking the accident had been a horrible dream, but the moment he realized his nephew was really gone, he broke down. Why did Lucca have to die? He looked up at the ceiling as if the answers to his questions were written there. I miss him so much it hurts.

“We need to come up with a plan,” Antwan continued. “Before it’s too late.”

Emilio lowered his head and kept his gaze on the marble floor. He didn’t want Antwan to know his emotions had gotten the best of him—again. When he least expected it, grief overwhelmed him, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was a broken man, consumed with regret, and his pain was constant, always there. Pulling himself together, he straightened his shoulders and cleared his throat. “Nice try, but I’m too old to fall for your stupid pranks.”

“This isn’t a prank.” Antwan picked up the wad of paper, dropped down in the chocolate-brown armchair and flattened the letter on the glass coffee table. “This letter from the IRS is real, and so is this 2.5-million-dollar tax bill.”

“That’s impossible,” he said, convinced his manager was trying to pull the wool over his eyes. “Monroe Accounting has been doing my taxes since I moved to Atlanta, and every year they assure me that everything is kosher.”

“Well, it isn’t.” Antwan undid the buttons on his suit jacket and leaned forward anxiously, as if he were waiting for Emilio to bring him up to speed.

“I had an hour-long conversation with the IRS. Monroe Accounting claimed tax shelters that the IRS disallowed, and because of the error you owe the IRS 2.5 million dollars.”

“How can I be punished for their mistake?” Emilio fumed, struggling to control his temper. It wasn’t about the money. He’d trusted his accounting firm, and now they’d screwed him over—big-time.

What else is new? said his inner voice. People have been screwing you over ever since you won your first championship race. You should be used to it by now!

“I didn’t do my taxes,” he pointed out. “Monroe Accounting did.”

“I know, it sucks, and I’m all for suing their asses, but first we have to get the tax man off your back.” Antwan loosened the knot on his royal blue tie. “I’ve had clients in trouble with the IRS before, but nothing like this. This is bad, Emilio, real bad.”

No, it’s not. Bad is giving the eulogy at a five-year-old’s funeral.

“If you disregard the letter, the IRS could seize your bank accounts, freeze your assets and sell them at auction. I’ve seen it happen, and it isn’t pretty...”

Fear pulsed through Emilio’s veins. I can’t lose my estate. It’s filled with great memories of Lucca and I sense his presence here. He thought of all the times they’d played air hockey in the media room, the nights they’d camped out in the backyard, the Spider-Man-themed birthday party years earlier. He had raised the child as his own and cherished the times they’d spent together. Losing his estate was unthinkable.

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