“Are you all right, Ms. Ruby?” Pete asked as I fumbled with my seat belt.
I was way too flustered to tell him he didn’t need to be formal with my name. It took all I had just to fasten the buckle of the belt.
“No, I’m not really okay,” I blurted out. “I was homeless, and now I have more money in my bank account than I’d probably see there after a lifetime of working several jobs. Not to mention that my parents set me up to be okay after they died, so I have more money coming in.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Pete asked, sounding confused.
“It’s not my money in the bank right now, Pete. I didn’t earn it. It’s Jett’s.”
He turned his head, not yet moving the vehicle as he looked at me. “If it’s in your account, it’s now yours,” he mused.
“I can never take the money. Jett has already helped me so much. You have no idea,” I said frantically.
“I think I might have a very good idea,” he contradicted. “Mr. Lawson has helped many people, me included,” he confided.
I turned my head sharply to look at him. “What do you mean?”
“You said you were homeless?”
I nodded slowly.
“So was I at one time,” he shared. “Years ago, I lost my wife and my three children in an accident. I went from a man who had everything to a man who had nothing to live for. I didn’t care what happened to me. I drank to kill the pain, and I eventually ended up on the streets.”
“Oh, my God,” I gasped. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you, Ms. Ruby, but I’m better now. I met Mr. Lawson at a bar. I’d gotten some money begging, and I went straight into a pub to get a drink since I was withdrawal. And even though I looked like a derelict, Mr. Lawson still struck up a conversation with me. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why I dumped all of my woes on a man I’d just met, but he listened carefully before he made me a deal.”
“What?” I asked, so fascinated by his story that I couldn’t say anything else.
“If I got myself together and went through rehab successfully, he’d make sure that I had a job, a roof over my head again, and enough money to survive the rest of my life. Only a fool would refuse an offer like that. And even though I’d done some stupid things, I was no fool.”
“And you obviously made it,” I commented.
“That I did, and then some. I think I was ready to deal with my grief, but by that time, there was nobody there except for Mr. Lawson. So I worked hard to get clean, and then I worked hard for him. He helped me sort through all of the legal things that had to be worked out with life insurance and settlements from the trucking company that had killed my family. I was well beyond set for life, but Mr. Lawson refused any kind of repayment for my rehab and all my other expenses that I racked up until all the legal issues were done.”
“Is that why you’re still working?” I asked, knowing how stubborn Jett could be about getting paid back.
Pete shook his head. “Not at all. Do you really think Mr. Lawson would ever let me work without drawing a paycheck?”
“Then why are you still working?”
“Maybe I’m just hoping that someday, in some way, I’ll get the opportunity to help him out like he helped me. Maybe not with money because Lord knows he has more money than almost anybody else in the world. But money isn’t everything. He wants me to retire and enjoy my life. But I’m fine with waiting for a chance to help him, and keeping busy. My lovely wife of one year is still working, so I’d be bored if I retired anyway.”
I smiled at him. “You got married again?”
“I did. And she’s a good woman. Life goes on, even when we don’t necessarily want it to, and sometimes we just have to catch up with it when we’re done grieving.”
I nodded hard. I remembered the day I’d lost my own family, and wondering why everything stayed the same when my world was falling apart. “So I’m not Jett’s only stray that he’s rescued?” I asked.
“No, Ms. Ruby. And he doesn’t see us as anything less than he is. He just considers it his way of giving back because he has so much.”