Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(76) by Susan Mallery
Her stomach clenched at the thought. Zoe thought her father was dead and that was better for everyone. But if things got ugly, Elissa could find herself having to tell Zoe about Neil—and she would do nearly anything to avoid that.
The fear grew until it was hard to think about anything else. She briefly considered running—packing up a few suitcases, grabbing Zoe and going. But where? And what would happen when they got there? Unless she figured out how to get a fake name and identification, Neil would eventually find her. How would she explain the situation to Zoe? Plus she hated the idea of running—it was too much like letting him win.
The most logical solution was to go to a lawyer. Something she should have done years ago. Neil was not a good influence for a small child. Surely the courts would see that. If she could work out a deal, pay Neil off and get him to sign a release of some kind, that would be the best solution. Only what would motivate him? She didn’t have enough money to give him a lump sum large enough to satisfy him.
A loan, she thought. Not from a bank, but maybe her parents or Frank. Even with her and her mother at odds, surely her parents would help her keep Zoe. Walker had the cash, but she wasn’t comfortable discussing Neil with him. Besides, she wasn’t sure any of them would approve of her decision to pay a drug addict to stay away from his child. What if they wanted her to be more reasonable, to let Neil have the chance to prove himself as a good father? Neil was a great manipulator. He’d had a lifetime of practice, using people. What if he convinced them he deserved a chance?
She eased the large SUV into the driveway and put it in park. Walker stepped out of her apartment and crossed toward her.
It was almost dark and he appeared to be more shadow than man. Yet she felt drawn to him. She wanted to jump out of the SUV and throw herself into his arms. She wanted to confess everything and have him hold her and tell her it was going to be all right. She’d been on her own for eight years and she was tired of being the only one responsible.
“Good day?” he asked, moving to the rear of the vehicle and opening the hatch. “Make millions?”
She managed a smile. “Close. We were busy right up to the end. I sold nearly everything I had.”
“Good for you. Are you tired?”
She nodded. Bone weary, and for reasons she realized she wasn’t going to explain. She might be able to handle a lot in her life, but she couldn’t face Walker looking at her with pity or scorn. Only an idiot would have gotten involved with Neil in the first place and only a fool would keep on paying him now.
He collected her few remaining boxes of supplies, then closed the back. “I’ll return the tables in the morning.”
“You don’t have to do that. I was going to take them in after work.” Which would have meant borrowing his SUV again.
“It’s on my way to work. Don’t sweat it.”
She’d prepaid for the tables, so that wasn’t a problem. “Okay. Thanks. They have a deposit check they’ll return.”
He followed her into her apartment and set the boxes on her worktable.
“How was Zoe?” she asked.
“Good. She went to bed right on time and was asleep in thirty seconds. We went to the mall, saw a movie, then had dinner at the food court.”
Somehow Walker didn’t strike her as the mall type. “Was it horrible?”
She winced. “Why do I know the movie was pure torture?”
“At least it was short.”
They stood on opposite sides of the sofa. The last time they’d been alone in her apartment, they’d been making love. Everything was different now. Not only weren’t they alone—even though Zoe was in bed asleep—she felt as if their intimate experience had happened to someone else.
Even as her body cried out for him, her brain knew that getting involved—more involved—was dangerous. Not only for her own sense of self-preservation, but because having Neil around changed everything. If Walker knew about him, he would, in typical macho guy fashion, want to fix the problem. That could only lead to trouble.
While she didn’t doubt Walker could take care of himself in a fair fight, Neil was never fair. No, telling Walker about her problems with her ex would definitely mean trouble.
Before she could figure out a polite way to ask him to leave, he gestured for her to take a seat on the sofa. Given all he’d done for her, she owed him at least that. So she would talk for a while, then claim tiredness and get him out of here.
“I’m glad your booth was a success,” he said. “Does that mean you’ll get asked back next year?”
“I hope so. I liked watching people look at my designs. I could ask them questions and figure out what was selling best and why.” She glanced at him. “Your entire family came by. That was really nice of them. They certainly didn’t have to, but I appreciated the support.”
“They like you,” he said, then exhaled slowly. “Dani found out Ryan’s married.”
That got her attention. “What? Are you kidding?”
He shook his head. “His wife came by the restaurant yesterday. He’d never said a word about her. There’s a kid, too.”
Betrayal was never easy, she thought sadly. “How’s Dani holding up?”
“She’s tough. She’ll get through it. But having this happen only a couple of months after Hugh walked out on her and then turned up a cheater isn’t helping.”
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