Wanted by Her Lost Love(9)By: Maya Banks
“Please,” she choked out. “Give me another chance. You’ve never heard a single complaint from me. I’ve never missed work for any reason. I have to have this job.”
He pulled out an envelope from his shirt pocket and thrust it toward her. “Here’s your final check, minus the hours for yesterday’s disappearing act.”
She took it with a shaking hand and he turned and walked out of the kitchen, the door swinging wildly behind him.
Anger and frustration overwhelmed her. Ryan was still ruining her life, months later. She yanked off her apron, tossed it in the direction of the hook and then left through the back entrance, squinting when she was nearly blinded by sunlight.
As she walked back toward her apartment, she stared at the envelope in her hand. Despair weighed her down until each step felt unbearable. Her damn pride. She should have taken the check Ryan had given her. To hell with him and his nasty accusations. That check represented a way for her to finish school and provide for her child.
She had every reason to refuse it. To tear it up into little pieces and shove it under his nose. Maybe that’s why she’d held on to it for so long because a part of her wanted the satisfaction of throwing it back at him.
It had been important to her that he know she wasn’t some whore to be bought, but what had that got her? A dead-end job that sucked the life out of her on a daily basis and a shabby apartment that she never wanted to bring her child home to.
Enough with her pride. Ryan Beardsley could go to hell. She was going to cash that check.
Ryan mounted the steps to Kelly’s apartment, grimacing as he took in the missing handrail and the shaky stairs. It was a wonder she hadn’t already fallen down them. He wasn’t entirely expecting to find her home, but he’d stopped in at the diner in case she’d gone to work, only to be told by a surly man named Ralph that she wasn’t there.
It annoyed him that her door wasn’t locked. He pushed it open to find her on her hands and knees, peering under the rickety recliner. She made a sound of frustration and then pushed herself upward.
“What the hell are you doing?”
She shrieked and whirled around. “Get out!”
He held out a placating hand. “I’m sorry I frightened you. Your door was unlocked.”
“And so you thought you’d just come on in? Did the art of knocking escape you? Get a clue, Ryan. I don’t want you here.” She went into the kitchen, opening and shutting cabinets, obviously looking for something.
He sighed. It wasn’t that he’d expected her to be any more compliant today, but he’d hoped after the initial shock, she’d be a little less…angry.
When she got back down on the floor again, a surge of irritation hit him once more.
He crossed the room and leaned down to help her to her feet. “What are you looking for?”
She shrugged off his hand and wiped her hair from her eyes. “The check. I’m looking for the check!”
“The check you wrote me.”
He frowned and reached into his pocket for the folded, worn piece of paper. “This check?”
She lunged for it but he held it higher out of her reach.
“Yes! I’ve changed my mind. I’m cashing it.”
He put his hand out to ward her off and shook his head in confusion. “Sit down, Kelly, before you fall. And then tell me what on earth is going on here. You wait this long, throw the check in my face and tell me to take my money to hell with me and now you’ve changed your mind? Are you crazy?”
To his utter surprise, she slumped down onto one of the small chairs that accompanied the two person table in the kitchen and buried her face in her hands. To his further dismay, her shoulders shook and quiet sobs erupted from her bowed head.
For a moment he stood there, unsure what to do. He’d never been able to stand it when she cried. An uncomfortable feeling settled in his stomach and he dropped down to one knee to gently pry her hands from her face.
She looked away, seemingly discomfited by the fact he was witnessing her breakdown.
“What’s wrong, Kelly?” he asked gently.
“I lost my job,” she choked out. “Because of you.”