When I hung up the phone, I glanced at Tessa. “You sure you got that handled?”
“Sure. I’ll book the hotels and air. No problem. Will you be wanting a car in any of the places?”
“No.” I paused noticing how cold she was in the way she asked the question. “Okay, enough. Tell me what is going on. I can feel it. I can hear it. I don’t want to keep asking.” My tone grew firm, but I felt I had no other choice. We were getting closer to the city, and I didn’t want to end the trip on a sour note. Something was off, and there was something Tessa wasn’t telling me.
She sighed deeply, her shoulders rising and falling in what appeared to be defeat. “I just didn’t want to leave the cabin. To leave… you.”
“Me? You aren’t having to leave me. Last I checked, I didn’t fire you.” I reached for her hand again, but this time, she pulled it away.
“Got it. Loud and clear,” she snapped.
“Got what?” I could feel my jaw tighten, and I took a deep breath of my own to steady my temper. My patience was growing thin, and I didn’t want this to turn into a fight when I seriously had no idea what we would even be fighting over.
“I have my marching orders when we return.” She looked at me and gave a fake smile. “You got it, boss.”
“Tessa…” I warned. “I have no idea what is going on, but I’m not liking this tone.”
Finally she snapped. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she seethed between clenched teeth. “Am I not being a respectful employee? Am I not being a good and dutiful assistant? I guess my title as your fuck buddy ended. I suppose I was fired from being the woman you kissed and loved on only last night.”
“Is this what has you so upset?” I asked, considering pulling over so I could look her directly in the eye, but we were on the freeway in steady flowing traffic and there really wasn’t a good place to pull over.
“I guess I just wasn’t truly aware of my job duties and what they were. Different for the cabin, clearly.”
“No. Nothing is changing,” I began.
“Everything is changing!” she snapped back as she pressed herself against the door like she couldn’t get far enough away from me.
“Yes,” I said calmly. “Some things will change now that we’re back in the city. But that doesn’t mean—”
“That we are anything more than employee and boss. Like I said. Got it. Loud and clear.”
“Tessa, you need to calm down.”
“I’m calm. Perfectly.” A lone tear fell down from her cheek, and her pain nearly broke my heart.
“I don’t know what’s going on, or why you think that you and I—”
“I don’t think anything,” she interrupted again. “I don’t think anything.”
We were getting closer to the city, and I didn’t want to continue this fight in the car. Being in the confined space, not being able to handle things my way, was going to drive me insane. This little raging beauty needed a quick trip over my lap to have her temper spanked right out of her. There was no reasoning with her when she was this way. I could see that.
“We’re almost in the city. Let’s discuss this at your place. What exit do I take to get there?” I realized I had no idea what part of town she lived in, and I could easily be taking the long way there if I didn’t get directions fast.
Her body stiffened. “You can just… we can just go back to your house, and I will catch the bus from there.”
“No. I want to take you home. And I also want to continue this discussion—in a more productive way.”
“Your place is fine,” she tried again.
“Tessa, I said no,” I said, a little more harshly than I intended. “Now give me your address.”
“I don’t have an address!” she shouted as the tears began to fall. “There! Are you happy? I have no place to go. I have no plans on what to do. I took your job so I would finally have a home. I was living in a weekly motel before that. Which is exactly where I will go back, but I don’t need you to be the one to drop me off there in your fancy Jeep.”
Her words were like a punch to the gut. “You didn’t tell me.” I paused to try to make sense of her words. “You don’t have a home? I had assumed you packed up a few bags from an apartment or… I don’t know. I had no idea that—”
“That I was homeless? That you essentially hired a bum to be your assistant? Do you think you would have hired me had you known? So now you can just fire me and be on your way to your fancy author life with your fancy movie. Your homeless assistant clearly does not belong in that life.”