Her words and her situation caused my head to spin. “Whether you have a place to go to now or not does not make a difference in whether or not you’re my assistant,” I said as I made the exit toward my house. “And yes, you should have told me all of this before I hired you, and most certainly before we left the cabin and headed home.”
“I don’t have a home,” she said softly.
“Exactly my point. Don’t you think this is a detail I should have been made aware of?” I took a deep breath as I tried to process the information that I’d truly had no idea about. Was I completely blind? Clueless? “And this is something you should have told me since you and I are—”
“Are what?” she interrupted. “I’m your fuck buddy? Assistant with benefits? Dirty muse?”
Stopping at a stoplight, I turned so I could look at her head on. “Is that what you really think? You truly believe that’s how I see you?”
She shrugged her shoulders and stared out the window, avoiding my stare completely. “I don’t know what to believe.”
I continued driving as the light turned green, grateful for something to do so I didn’t throttle the woman. How could she think I thought so little of her? After the time we had spent together, I would have thought she realized how much I truly cared.
“Where are we going?” she asked, though it was more of a mumble than anything.
“Home. My home.” I turned down the familiar street leading to my city house. “Our home.”
I looked at Price in disbelief. Had I heard him wrong? “What do you mean by ‘our home’?”
Those were two words I had never truly been able to say in my life. The closest I had ever come was playing house with Price in the mountains. But that was just play.
Playtime with his toy.
“I don’t know why you would keep something like this from me. Where were you living before we left for the cabin?”
“I told you. A weekly,” I answered, feeling more ashamed than I had ever felt in my life. “I didn’t want you to know that. I was essentially one step from being homeless, which wasn’t something new in my life. My mother and I lived like that my entire childhood. It was all I ever knew.” I sighed. “It’s all I ever still know.”
I watched the scenery change from a city feeling to a more residential one. I had only been to Price’s twice, so I wasn’t sure I would have been able to pick out his house in the row of snugly fit houses in the hilly neighborhood.
“No. It isn’t what you still know. That’s going to change.” He paused for what felt like an eternity and the silence in the car made me nervous. “So, you have some choices. You can live with me. I have plenty of room. Or I can help you find a place. I’ve paid you enough for the time working for me that you should be able to afford the down payment, and if not, I will help you with it. And I pay well, so staying in a long-term place shouldn’t be an issue.”
We pulled up to his house, and he opened the single car garage door and waited for it to raise.
“The question is,” he continued as he drove into the garage that sat underneath his house, “what do you want?”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” I began.
“Is that what you think you are to me as well? So in addition to being nothing but my fuck buddy and dirty muse, you’re also a bother?”
He turned off the Jeep and turned so he could look at me. I could see a twinge of pain flash across his eyes. My words weren’t coming out the way I intended. I certainly didn’t want to hurt Price.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and my damn lip that I could never control when I was upset began to quiver. “I don’t know… I mean, I don’t want you to think that…” I paused and looked down at my lap. His stare was too intense, and it was making me lose my words. Finally, I looked him straight in the eyes and pulled every ounce of courage I had to ask the question that I had wanted to know but was too scared to ask. “What are we? Do you see more in me than your assistant?”
“Of course,” he answered back a little too quickly. “I don’t sleep with my assistants. I don’t care for my assistants, and I most certainly don’t love my assistants.”
My heart beat so hard, that it seemed to be stopping itself. “Love? Did you say—”
“Yes, Tessa. I love you. And clearly I haven’t been doing a good job making you feel that, but I thought you knew.”