“Let’s change the subject before I dwell on the fact I’m a lonely spinster,” she jokes. “So, have you given Lee an answer yet about his business proposition?”
Unable to hold back my grin, I bounce excitedly in my chair. “We talked a few days ago. I’m going to do it.”
“Holy early delivery. Stop jumping up and down,” she says, looking alarmed. “If that sucker flies out of Lucian’s box, I’m running the other way. I love you, girl, but friendship only goes so far.”
I look around me in confusion, thinking Lucian must be somewhere near. “If what comes out of his box?”
Rose pats my hand cooing, “Ohhh, you’re having a blonde moment. That’s so sweet.” Carefully enunciating each word she says slowly, “Well, you see, if your baby…comes out of your vagina, which I’ve nicknamed Lucian’s box since he owns that thing, then I’m going to leave you here alone. But, since you’re my BFF, I’ll call 911 on my way out. Got it?”
“Ah.” I grin. “I’m all clear now. Thanks for the detailed explanation.” Winking at her, I add, “And if you’d experienced the Lucian Quinn treatment, you’d be happy to dedicate your body parts to him.”
“Honey, I’d do it now, although I want it to be known for the record that I stopped masturbating to him the moment you two got serious.”
“Er…thanks.” I blink. “Was that right about the time you developed a thing for Max?”
“Have no idea what you’re talking about,” she singsongs before saying, “Now tell me about the new job thingie. When do you plan to start?”
“Lucian and I have discussed it and if all is well, I’ll start part-time when the baby is a couple of months old. Lee is insistent upon having a full nursery in my office there so the baby can come with me as often as I like.”
Looking genuinely happy, Rose says, “Lia, that’s wonderful. It’s perfect and I’m thrilled for you. You’ve worked your ass off to get to where you are and no one deserves this more.”
Feeling the usual round of tears not far off, I choke out, “Thank you; that means a lot to me. I just…don’t want to feel like I’m taking the easy way out. You know, letting Lee find me a job when I could do it on my own.”
“Now, you just stop right there,” she says sternly. “You’ve never taken the easy way out in your whole life. And I’ve heard enough about Lee Jacks to know that he doesn’t give free rides. He may be sentimental enough to want to do this with you, but if he didn’t think you were capable, he wouldn’t have made this kind of offer. Anyone who talks to you for a few moments can see how intelligent you are and Lee is far from stupid. He knows damn well you won’t rest until you’ve helped him make the company a success.”
“I love you,” I sob. She gives me a smile that looks a bit watery too before stuffing a wad of napkins in my hand.
“Here, clean yourself up. I’ll go get you another cinnamon twist, how does that sound?”
“Can I get extra icing on it?” I ask, knowing that I sound like a child asking for sprinkles. But the baby needs some sugar right now…who am I to deny her?
Rose throws her shoulders back and straightens her cardigan. “Damn straight you can, even if I have to resort to extreme measures to make it happen.”
When she opens her purse, I blurt out in alarm, “Please don’t use your gun!”
Every head in the coffee shop turns in our direction. She rolls her eyes at me before pulling a twenty-dollar bill from her wallet. “I meant a bribe, big mouth, but thanks for the attention. I look good today so I might as well own it.” With a toss of her red hair, she walks toward the counter, looking like equal parts sinner and saint. And she comes back with enough icing to add ten pounds to my butt. Best. Friend. Ever.
“Monique is taking Cassie to Colorado,” Aidan says as we stand on the rooftop of Quinn Software. I’ve no desire to smoke today, but he’s burning through enough for both of us. This is it, I think. What I always knew it would come to. Monique has been far too accommodating since assuming responsibility for Cassie. Aidan has continued to visit as usual with no arguments from the other woman. She’s been like some fucking Girl Scout—which I knew couldn’t possibly last.
“For how long?” I ask as I mull his words.
“She says just for a week to see how she does. You know I told you that she’s been spending the weekends with Monique at her apartment and doing fine. I guess her doctor thinks this would be good for her. You know, be out for a bit longer since she’s adjusted so well. Monique says her father’s health isn’t good and he can’t travel here yet so he wants her to bring Cassie there for a few days. Some kind of big family reunion.”
“If you’re uneasy about it, then why don’t you accompany them?” I ask, thinking it sounds like hell, but Aidan’s opinion differs from mine.
“Monique doesn’t want me to this time. She thinks Cassie will do better if I’m not there. When we both visit her at the same time, Cassie tends to interact only with me. Apparently, when I’m not there, she talks to Monique. I guess she’s afraid of that same thing if I go and she really wants for her father to spend some time with Cassie.”
“Makes sense,” I say. About as much as any of this fucked-up situation, but I keep that to myself. “Is Cassie doing as well as she was? Making progress?”