Dirty Money

By: Jessica Clare

He gives me another wink as he turns to go. “Thanks for the tip, Ivy. Good work.”

I watch him leave, my fists clenched. I’m stewing with helpless frustration. Thwarted yet again. Thanks for the tip. Like it was a freaking tip? That was my hours of hard work. That was my opportunity that he snatched away. And if I keep thinking about it, I’m going to puke with anger. So I take a deep breath, smooth a hand down the front of my suit, and calmly walk back to my desk in the back of the office, tucked near the bathrooms. A client is strolling out of the men’s room and I keep a poised smile on my face. I’m composed until I sit down and put my hands on my keyboard. Calm. Rational.

The moment the client disappears? I bury my face in my hands.

“Uh-oh,” Farah says from her desk across the way. “What happened? You were on cloud nine ten minutes ago! Did something happen to LaDonna?”

I take a deep breath and lift my head to look over at my friend. “Jack happened.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Dumb Jack, Jack Jack, or Winky Jack?”

“Winky Jack,” I say miserably. “He stole that open house from me and said he’d handle it. What could I do?”

“Tell him no?” Farah raises one dark brow at me. “Tell him to do his own work instead of stealing yours?”

“He’s the boss,” I tell Farah with a sigh. “I like being employed.”

“I don’t see how,” she says drily, pulling out a stack of folders on her desk and flipping through them. “They don’t leave you enough clients to make a living.”

“Oh, they do,” I say glumly, and cross my arms, staring at my laptop. The screen still has a dozen comp listings pulled up from this morning’s work, all gone to waste. “They leave me all the clients with bad credit and no money. You need to buy a house with nothing down and a spending limit of fifty grand? Go talk to Ivy.”

She snorts.

That’s all she can do, because we both know I’m not wrong. Farah’s been with Three Jacks for ten years—no clue why she stays. Me, I’ve been here for one, and a lot of the time I feel lucky to have that one. They hired me, fresh off the streets after I got my realtor license, and I didn’t have a lick of experience to my name. I was working at an ice cream shop prior to Three Jacks . . . something that the bosses like to remind me about all the time.

Three Jacks is a boys’ club. I knew it was when I got hired. It’s run by Jack Farrington (Dumb Jack), who’s older than the hills and has a silver spoon in his mouth; Jack Jackson, who’s a snake oil salesman if there ever was one; and Jack Richards (Winky Jack) who thinks women aren’t born with two brain cells to rub together and he’ll have to rescue us from ourselves. They’re nice enough, as far as bosses go, I suppose. After all, they did give me a job. I make half of a percent on any house I sell. That means on a regular three percent agency commission, they get the other two point five percent and I get what’s left after expenses. If I sell a house that’s a hundred grand? I get five hundred dollars and the company walks away with the other twenty-five hundred.

Jack (Dumb Jack) told me that I could “promote” my commission amount once I’ve earned two million in sales for the company. Given that the only clients I get handed to me are dirt poor or can’t land a mortgage? It’s been an exercise in frustration, but I’m determined not to give up.

Ivy Smithfield is going to get a better life for herself and her sister, even if she has to climb uphill both ways, I vow. I may not have the experience or the pedigree, but I’ve got determination.

With that mental pep talk, I feel a little better. I’m going to do this. So I’m still seven hundred K away from getting that pay increase? It’s doable. I just need to hustle and hustle hard. I’ve got this. I do.

“I’ll just have to find some new leads,” I announce to Farah. “It’s a minor setback, but it’s not a deal-breaker.”

“Whatever,” Farah says, giving me side-eye. “You know it’s okay to be pissed, right?”

“I’m not pissed,” I reply, pulling up local housing forums to scan them for potential clients, just like I do every day. My mama always said “Fake it until you make it,” and I’m getting to be a real pro at faking it. Sometimes I even almost believe myself. “Minor setback. I’ll just have to work on some other leads.”

“Mmhmm.” She curls her lip. “Least they put you on the flyer. Dumb Jack told me I was too ‘Mexican’ looking.”

I glance over at her. “I thought you were Persian?”

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