“You lost them? How the hell do you lose a pair of crutches?”
“I don’t know, Mom. I just did.”
The blonde laughs. Gabe slips out from under her arm and walks—well, staggers closer to me. He reeks of liquor and cigarettes.
“Now, be a good little employee, and get my guests some drinks.” He taps me on my nose with his fingertip and moves past me.
Um, what the fuck just happened?
I turn, my eyes following him. “What the hell was that?”
He stops and looks back to me. His eyes are almost black.
His friends have all scattered around the living room, some going out onto the terrace.
“I said, get my guests some drinks. You work here, right?”
“Last I knew, I was here to care for you, not be a waitress for your friends.”
His face darkens. “Fine. I’ll get their fucking drinks.” He hobbles away, in the direction of the kitchen.
I go to my room and put Gucci safely in there, and then I go into the kitchen to find him pouring drinks.
“Where have you been?” My tone is snippy.
“Out,” he answers without looking at me.
“I got that. But all day? I thought you just had a few meetings, and then you’d be home. I was worried. I texted you.”
His eyes lift to mine. “My phone died.”
I try to control my temper and soften my voice, but it doesn’t work. “And you couldn’t borrow a phone to let me know you were okay? You must’ve known I would worry.”
“No. I didn’t know. Because you’re not my fucking wife!” he roars.
The force of his anger takes me back a step.
Tears hit the backs of my eyes, but I refuse to cry. “I know I’m not.”
“So, stop fucking acting like you are!”
“I’m not!” I yell back, my hands curling into fists at my sides. “I’m just trying to be a good friend.”
His hard eyes burn into mine. “But that’s just it. We’re not friends, Ava. You work for me. End of story.”
Well, if that isn’t a slap in the face. My face stings with the pain from his words.
“Okay.” I wrap my arms around my chest. “I understand.”
“You understand what?”
“That you’re a heartless fucking bastard!” I spin on my heel and start to walk away.
He laughs harshly. “I never once claimed to have a heart. And do you talk to all your bosses that way, Speedy? Maybe that’s why you got fired from your last job.”
That has me stopping and turning back to him. Undiluted rage is burning in my veins. “My last boss would never have treated me the way you just did.”
Some unnamed emotion flickers across his face. “I don’t have to put up with this shit,” he bites.
I laugh. There’s no humor in it. “That makes two of us. And you don’t have to worry about putting up with me anymore. Because I quit.” I stare him hard in the eyes. “Clearly, you don’t need me to take care of you anymore. You look like you’re doing just fine. So, I’ll be out of your hair in the morning.” I don’t give him a chance to say anything in response. I storm out of the kitchen and to my room, and I slam the door shut. I fall back against it, breathing hard.
Tears fill my eyes. But I won’t cry. I won’t fucking cry.
I press the palms of my hands to my eyes, stopping the tears from coming, and I take cleansing deep breaths.
I feel Gucci nudge her head against my leg. I move my hands from my eyes, and she’s staring at me.
“I made us homeless again,” I tell her. “I’m sorry, baby girl. But I’ll figure something out. I always do.”
I like to think she’s telling me it’s okay, but then she nudges my leg again and trots to the door, giving it a butt with her head, and I know she needs to go outside.
“Ah, right now, Gucci?” The last thing I want to do at this moment in time is go out there.
“Crap,” I mutter. “Okay.”
I grab a hoodie, the elevator key, and my cell. I slide my feet into my flip-flops. Then, I pick Gucci up and leave my room.
I’m going to have to walk through the living room.
I take a deep breath. Holding my head up high, I quickly start walking through the living room.
The music is playing. A couple of women are dancing together.
I don’t want to seek Gabe out, but my eyes do.
And they immediately lock with his.
He’s sitting on the sofa with that blonde plastered up against his side. She’s leaning in close, speaking in his ear.
Jealousy explodes in my chest, spreading the agony out to fill my whole body. Breathing through the hurt, I force my feet to move faster, so I’m almost breaking into a jog.
When I reach the elevator, I jab the button a few times. “Come on, come on,” I mutter, tapping my foot, desperate for it to hurry up and arrive.
It pings its arrival, and I step inside the safety of the elevator.
My eyes find Gabe hobbling toward the elevator.
I jab the button for the ground floor. I don’t want to talk to him, no matter how childish that might be. I just want to get away from him right now.
“Where are you going?” he says, his voice demanding.
But the doors close on his words, and the lift starts to descend.
I exhale and hug Gucci tight to my chest, burying my face into her soft fur.
When I reach the ground floor, the lobby is empty. The security guard must have just stepped away from his desk.
I walk out of the lobby, heading for the back of the building, and out into the communal garden.
Once outside, I put Gucci down on the grass, and I go take a seat on one of the benches.
I get my phone out and bring up Candy Crush to play while I wait for her to do her business. I’m not exactly in any rush to go back upstairs.
But something makes me change my mind, and I shut Candy Crush down and open up Google.
Then, I type in Gabe’s name in the Search bar and hit Enter.
The screen fills with links and stories. I go to Recent News.
At the top is Radar Online. Always the first with a story.
I click on the link, and the headline says something about Gabe appearing to have a broken leg.
Broken foot, dipshits.
They need to do better with their so-called journalism. And then it goes on to say how he’s been hitting up the bars all day.
So much for his meetings.
There are pictures of him from earlier. In one picture, he’s in a booth with a bunch of people I don’t recognize, and next to him is a pretty brunette, his arm around her.
Someone’s been busy tonight.
Fury rains down on me.
I just can’t believe him! The fucking asshole!
He was out partying with other women while I was feeling crappy all day, sitting and worrying about him when he hadn’t come home, thinking something had happened to him.
Going out and getting drunk isn’t the smartest thing to do when you’ve got a broken foot, but obviously, he doesn’t care.
So, why the hell should I?
Because you have feelings for him.
Ugh! I hate that I like him. The big fucking jerk.
It’s clear that he doesn’t give two shits about me. He’s up there with another woman, doing God knows what with her right now.
The thought of him with her makes me feel physically sick.
At least I know he won’t be having sex with her because of his foot. That’s the reason he wouldn’t sleep with me.
Or maybe he was just saying that. Maybe he just doesn’t want you, my insecurities scream at me.
This morning, he acted like last night never happened, and then he went out partying and brought people back to his apartment. And he’s currently cozied up on the sofa with that blonde.
So, yeah, clearly, it’s me he doesn’t want.
But, when I do go back up there, if he’s in his bedroom with that woman, then I’m going.
I’ll pack my stuff and leave tonight. Because there is no way that I’m sleeping in that apartment while he fucks someone else in his bedroom.