I forgot where things stood with her mother. Forgot I even fired her.
If that doesn’t prove I’m a heartless bastard unworthy of Maisy, nothing will.
No more lies. Only truths, Jack.
Bracing for the fallout, I take a long sip of my hot coffee and set it down. “She won’t be coming, angel.”
Her startled gaze flies to mine. “Why? Did you…fire her?”
To my surprise, she seems to accept that this was inevitable. “Yes.”
“When?” she breathes, drawing her hands into her lap.
I hesitate to answer, which makes sense, since I don’t want Maisy to be pissed. But it doesn’t make sense, as well. Because I’ve warned her—and proven—repeatedly that I’m an unrepentant asshole. Nothing should be coming as a shock at this point.
“Yesterday,” I say carefully. “She came home when I was packing your things.”
“It happened in person?” She sits forward. “Did you tell her why?”
“Yes.” My throat constricts. God, this explanation is going to require me to hurt Maisy, isn’t it? Yes. It is. Because I promised honesty. I told her no more lies and now I just have to hope that when this conversation is over, she can sort through my steaming rubble and find a man she can tolerate beyond two more days. “Maisy, I went into her room and found a one-way plane ticket to Belize. And money. Taped under her desk. I’m…sorry, angel.”
A beat passes. “Oh,” she whispers, a line forming between her brows. “What happened to all of it? The ticket and the money?”
“It’s in my safe now.”
“You took it?” Her voice raises an octave. “Took it all? And fired her?”
Here it comes.
“She was going to abandon you.” By the time I hear the chill in my tone, it’s too late to do anything about it. “She lied. Neglected you on purpose.”
“That might be true, but you could have asked me. We could have talked about how to handle this.” Her eyes search the surface of the table. “She’s my mother!”
“And that makes her special? Immune to consequences?”
She throws up her hands. “Kind of. Yes. Don’t you have a mother?”
“No. I don’t.”
Maisy flinches. “Oh, Jack…” A moment passes while she seems to gather herself. I find I have to gather myself, too. I’m too exposed. This isn’t the first time I’ve admitted to growing up with certain challenges, but it’s somehow completely different in front of Maisy. The wound is more tender when she’s the one examining it. She sees more of me than anything. All the shortcomings I need to hide if I want her to love me. “I’m sorry,” she says finally. “I didn’t know.”
“Of course you didn’t,” I say briskly, adjusting the newspaper.
She reaches across the table and lays a hand on my wrist. “Will you talk to me about it sometime? When you’re ready?”
Unable to look at her, I incline my head. And promptly divert the focus of the conversation. “Are you telling me you’d have let her keep the money?”
Maisy takes back her hand, thinks for a moment. “Yes. I don’t know why she made those decisions, but…I don’t love her any less because of them. And sometimes when you love something or someone, you have to let them fly away, right? You have to accept that the thing that’s going to fulfill them or make them happy…isn’t you.”
I bark a humorless laugh. “Bullshit. In what world, Maisy, are you not the most fulfilling part of a person’s life?”
This simple question appears to throw her for a loop. “Maybe you see me differently than she does,” she murmurs. “Whatever her reason…I don’t want her stripped of her job and future, Jack. My eyes are open now and that’s more valuable than revenge.”
She’s too good for you.
Her heart is too pure.
I’m nasty soot on the inside and she’s clean light.
Is it too much to hope that I can learn from her? Or is too late for me?
I clear my throat hard. “You can return the money and plane ticket to her. In your own time. If that’s what you want.”
“Yes. Thank you,” she breathes, tension draining from her shoulders.
“But I won’t employ her again. Not after she hurt you.”
Maisy nods. “I understand.” Finally, she takes a sip of her orange juice and I watch, rapt, as she licks the excess moisture from her lips, my dick a stiff pike under the table. “I missed work last night. I’ll need to call my boss and explain I won’t be back for two more days.”
“Tell them you won’t be back at all.”
Her eyes flash with challenge. “I don’t know that for sure. I have to give proper notice.”
I grind my back teeth, barely resisting the urge to throw my steaming mug of coffee against the wall. My Maisy might be pure, but she’s stubborn as hell. And I have no doubt that if she doesn’t find and fall for the real Jack within the next two days, she will absolutely go back to scrubbing floors, even with the first hundred thousand in her bank account.