Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(27) by Susan Mallery
Elissa felt hollow and more frightened than she’d ever been before. Frank was a big supporter of several local charities. He was on the board of two. He could easily know Gloria.
“If you don’t get out of Walker’s life, I’ll have Frank fire you,” the old woman said calmly. “I’ll enjoy doing it, as well.” She paused and looked at the craft table. “Tell me, Elissa. Does your landlord know you’re running a business out of your apartment? I’m sure you’re aware it’s a violation of your lease.”
This wasn’t happening, Elissa told herself. There was no way this woman was threatening her livelihood and where she lived.
“I don’t believe you,” she said. “Not any of it.”
Gloria’s gaze turned icy. “Do not stand against me. I will crush you like the bug you are. Walker will be moving soon. Until he does, stay away from him. If you don’t, I will destroy you and I will destroy your child. Do I make myself clear?”
WALKER ARRIVED HOME shortly after five. He saw that Elissa’s car wasn’t parked in the driveway, then cursed himself for noticing.
He knew better than to get involved with her. He knew it wasn’t right. He’d picked this place because he didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, but that hadn’t been enough. He’d gone and gotten involved—which still surprised the hell out of him.
As he climbed the stairs, he found himself wishing she were home, that she would stick her head out and think up an excuse to have him in for dinner. He wanted it to be good enough that he couldn’t say no, even though he knew he was playing a dangerous game.
He saw something on his front door. An envelope. He didn’t recognize the writing, but he had a feeling he knew who had left it.
Anticipation in the form of wanting filled him. A need to touch and be touched, to claim, to give and take. He already knew her scent and the way she moved. Now he wanted to know her taste, her sound, her uniqueness.
He stepped into his apartment, then opened the envelope. Three ten-dollar bills fluttered to the floor. He unfolded the note.
Thanks for all your help, Walker. Here’s the rest of what I owe you. You’ve been great and I appreciate that, but we both know this isn’t going anywhere. You’re right to worry about Zoe—she’s very impressionable. So let’s part as friends and get back to our lives. Best, Elissa.
He read the words twice, confident he’d misunderstood. But the message was clear. She wanted him out of her life.
He accepted her decision. It was the right one—he’d known there would never be anything between them. Somehow she’d figured it out, too. It was better this way—better for everyone.
And yet…There was a nagging knot of worry in his gut. Something that told him Elissa wasn’t all right. Something that made him want to find her and talk to her.
Two nights ago, she’d been female temptation incarnate and he’d come damn close to giving in. What had changed?
He looked out his front window at the empty driveway. Elissa and Zoe were usually home in the late afternoon. Why weren’t they today? And if he couldn’t find her, how could he make things right?
“I CAN’T BELIEVE the old bitch threatened you,” Mindy said as she poured them both more wine.
“Me, either.” Elissa curled up in a corner of her friend’s sofa and willed the fear to go away. “I hate how she frightened me. I hate how I believe her.”
Mindy looked worried. “I think you have to. You saw it,” she said, nodding at the computer where Zoe was currently entranced by a children’s interactive Web site.
Elissa had seen it. All of it. A quick Google of Gloria Buchanan had given her more information than she’d ever wanted. The old cow had a reputation for being ruthless and determined. There had been dozens of articles about her and very few of them had been flattering. She was a rich, powerful woman who generally got her way. Just as scary, she really was on some big committee with Frank. There had even been a picture of the two of them together.
“I don’t want to lose my job,” Elissa said, careful to keep her voice low. “I need the money and the benefits. I love the hours.”
“Frank isn’t going to fire you. Even if Gloria asked him to, he’s not that kind of guy.”
Elissa wanted to believe that, but she just wasn’t sure. Her once relatively stable little world had tilted off its axis.
“Thanks for taking us in,” she told her friend. “I need some time to think.”
Mindy smiled. “Stay as long as you like. You know I love you guys.”
“We love you, too.”
Zoe thought this was all a great adventure. Mindy had a second bedroom with a daybed and a trundle. Zoe loved the roll-out bed so close to the ground, and Elissa liked them being in the same room. Right now she wanted to keep her daughter nearby.
“I have to go home eventually,” she murmured.
“You could stay here,” Mindy suggested. “Just for a couple of months. Save your rent money until you have enough to get another place.”
“A generous and tempting offer,” Elissa replied, almost wishing she could take her up on it. “But I have a lease. And who is Gloria Buchanan to scare me out of my home? She doesn’t have the right. I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not like I’ve been trying to trap her precious grandson. I haven’t even…” She glanced at Zoe and lowered her voice. “You know.”
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