I heard Jett’s sharp intake of breath before he replied, “I want to hunt your uncle down and make him regret every fucking time he touched you.”
His comment probably should have scared me, but instead, his protectiveness made my heart ache. Nobody had ever stood up for me. Nobody had ever tried to keep me safe. However, the last thing I wanted was for Jett to get himself in trouble. “He’s not worth it,” I said.
Jett released a masculine sigh. “Maybe not. But I think he needs to be investigated so this doesn’t happen to another kid.”
I’d actually never thought about that, and my stomach did a flip at the thought. “Maybe I should have talked. I never even considered that he might do that to another child.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Jett replied in a softer tone. “You weren’t in a position to be strong. He kept you controlled and underneath his thumb.”
“Is there some way we can check him out to make sure he isn’t doing this to anybody else?” I asked.
Jett chuckled. “Cinderella, you have no idea how much I’m capable of doing. I’m an expert hacker, and I have a lot of connections.”
“You’re a hacker?” I said, astonished.
“Not exactly. But cybersecurity is my specialty, so it goes with the job.”
“Will you teach me?” I asked hopefully.
“Only if you promise not to try it on your own,” he said thoughtfully. “It’s pretty damn easy to get yourself in trouble if you don’t know all the subtleties of getting in and out without a footprint.”
“I promise,” I said eagerly.
“What about your dreams of having your own catering company? You can’t give that up to become a hacker. I do it because I’m testing the strength of systems. Otherwise, it’s a crime.”
I sighed. “I only wanted to learn because I pretty much want to know everything. And I’m never going to have a popular catering business. I think that’s pretty much just a fantasy. There are a lot of startup costs, and I’d need to learn how to handle the business part of things. I’d hoped that I could manage to get some kind of business degree before my parents died.”
“Don’t ever let go of your dreams, Ruby,” he warned.
“There are dreams, and then there’s reality. My real life was way too far away from my dreams to even consider starting my own business after my parents died. I just wanted to get a job. Any job. But when you’re dirty, homeless, and have absolutely no skills, nobody is going to take a chance on somebody like that.”
“I’m willing,” he shot back.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Sometimes I have to wonder if your brain is completely functional.”
“I have an IQ of 155, so I’m technically a genius,” he said with mock defensiveness. “And I double majored in business and cybersecurity in college, but I was already a damn good hacker even before I went to school.”
“Okay, so maybe there’s just one tiny portion of your brain that’s dysfunctional,” I answered as I smiled.
I’d already known that Jett was gifted. He carried around a lot more useless facts in his head than I did.
“Not true,” he insisted. “I guess you just need to understand that you deserve every dream you’ve ever imagined.”
His words made me mute. I’d never believed that I was worth much of anything. I’d never felt worthy of being pulled out of homelessness and poverty. Probably because my self-esteem had always been bad.
“Thank you,” I finally said in a quiet but sincere tone.
“For being you,” I replied simply.
What else could I say? There was no way to really explain how special Jett was.
“I’m not all that great,” he muttered humbly.
Fun fact: Jett knew how to encourage and look after other people, but he didn’t think it was a big deal or that he was special in any way.
“You are pretty great,” I answered sleepily. “You just don’t see it.”
I closed my eyes, and fell back to sleep to the sounds of the ocean.
Maybe it was the knowledge that Jett was so close that kept any and all bad dreams away for the rest of the night.