Same as now.
With feigned arrogance, he shrugged. “Sorry about that, but I guess some things never change.” When she looked up from wiping her hands clean with a paper towel, looking confused, he continued. “Your dad’s still making me let you tag along,” he said, knowing that it would hurt her enough to push her away. It was a lie and it killed him to say it. Not once in their childhood had anyone forced him to let her tag along or made him be nice to her. They’d never needed to do that. Even back then she’d been special to him.
He watched with an emotionless expression as his words had the desired effect. Her eyes teared up as she stared back at him. Still, he made no moves to correct the lie or comfort her even though it was tearing him apart inside.
“You’re lying,” she said evenly. “No one ever made you be nice to me.”
He simply shrugged as he adjusted the gun in his side holster.
“You really are an ass**le, aren’t you?”
He met her eyes and answered without any hesitation, “Yes.”
Tristan chanced glances up at Marty every now and then while they worked. As far as he could tell she hadn’t looked up at all. He’d finally managed to push her away for good. No wonder he felt like shit. That and his shoulder was f**king killing him. He had a pretty good idea that he’d torn something this morning, but at the moment he really didn’t care.
A knock sounded at the door. “What?” he snapped.
Rosemary walked into the office, carefully staying away from Tristan’s side of the room. She looked at Marty expectantly as she set a huge bouquet of baby pink roses in front of her.
“What are these?” Marty asked as she reached for the card.
“I don’t know. There wasn’t a name inside the card. It was just addressed to you and said congratulations on your new job.”
Marty’s hand stilled on the card.
“You read her card?” Tristan asked, his tone thoughtful and cool. It was the tone that everyone around here knew meant that he was pissed, really pissed.
Rosemary licked her lips nervously. “I had to find out who they were for,” she explained, trying to act innocent, but he wasn’t buying it.
“Well, I’m guessing that the person delivering them could have told you who they belonged to or the fact that her name’s on the envelope should have been a clue.”
“Oh,” Rosemary said with a nervous chuckle. “I didn’t realize that.”
“Uh huh,” Tristan said, not believing one word of bullshit coming out of her mouth. She was one of the biggest gossips and troublemakers in the office and if she’d had her way, he would have been fired a long time ago.
“It’s okay,” Marty said with a forced smile.
“No, it’s not.”
“It’s fine. Really,” Marty said tightly, shooting him a look that clearly told him to let it go.
Tristan rolled his eyes before looking back at Rosemary. “Anything else?”
“It’s eleven-thirty,” she said, looking at Marty as if that was supposed to mean something.
“And….” Tristan prompted.
She looked imploringly at Marty as she shifted anxiously, obviously expecting Marty to somehow save her.
Marty looked up from her work and sent the woman an apologetic smile. Then she looked back at the clock and sighed. “I guess it’s my turn.”
“Um, yes,” Rosemary said, nervously licking her lips.
“Turn for what?” Tristan demanded.
“Nothing much,” Rosemary answered quickly, too quickly.
Marty began gathering her things. “To cover the phones and finish the paperwork from this weekend.”
Rosemary’s face turned bright red as she tried to back out of the room, but Tristan held up a hand to stop her. “Whoa, what’s this?”
“It’s nothing. It’s just the things that Hank wanted her to do,” Rosemary hastily explained.
Tristan gestured to the computer. “She’s already doing what Hank wanted her to do.”
Rosemary cleared her throat and made one last attempt to save her ass. “He thought that she could help out with daily reports.”
“Bullshit,” Tristan snapped.
Marty’s brows arched up in surprise. “Tristan, what is your problem?”
He ignored her as he continued to glare at Rosemary. “Get the hell out of my office.”
The woman just about tripped over her own two feet trying to flee the room while Marty glared at him. “You didn’t have to be so mean to her. What is your problem?”
“Nothing except for the fact that she was trying to unload her workload on you. Daily reports are her job.”
“What about the phone?” Marty asked, nibbling on her bottom lip.
He shrugged. “It goes to voicemail for a half hour during her lunch break if no one else answers it. It’s not the emergency line, Marty. She just didn’t want to have to deal with returning phone calls when she got back from lunch.”
Marty looked at the door where Rosemary had just exited and frowned. “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh. You have to be careful. While you’re here in this weird little position you’re going to have her and a few others trying to unload their work on you. She tries to do it to all the new secretaries. Just check with me before you agree to do anything and you’ll be fine.”
He pushed away from the desk and stood up. “Don’t thank me. I’m just covering my own ass.”
“Why am I not surprised?” she mumbled to herself.
His jaw clenched as realization hit him. The one person who used to trust and like him now hated him along with everyone else. He was now truly alone in this world. There would never be another person that he could be himself around or feel free with. He had his family. They loved him and he loved them, but they would never, could never, handle the real him. The one person who came close now hated him. Their easy going friendship was good and dead, because he’d killed it.
Even though their friendship had ended years ago, his heart felt like it was being squeezed in his chest. Why the hell did doing the right thing have to hurt so damn much? It was the right thing to do. He was sure of it. He knew his future. For the rest of his life he would be sought out by restless spirits. That wasn’t something that he wanted to have to endure on top of acting oblivious to it in private. He needed his alone time at home to deal with it. No woman, especially Marty, could ever be part of his life.