Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(79) by Susan Mallery
“Come on, Mommy,” Zoe said, tugging on her hand.
Elissa couldn’t think of a way to avoid the encounter, so she sucked in a breath and stepped into the apartment.
Walker stood in the center of the room. A half-finished puzzle sat on the coffee table next to a couple of juice boxes.
He’d been in her house before, but this time was different. She felt exposed and embarrassed.
“I, ah, want to thank you for looking after Zoe,” she said, refusing to raise her gaze above the center of his chest. “I’m sorry Mrs. Ford bothered you. It’s the middle of your workday.”
“Not a problem.”
That couldn’t be true, she thought, wishing she could think of a gracious way to end the conversation.
“I need to get changed,” she said, motioning to her uniform, then practically running toward her bedroom.
She closed the door behind her and did her best to avoid looking at the bed. After changing, she wished she could hide out forever, but that wasn’t an option. She would have to face him sometime. Maybe it was better to get it over with sooner rather than later.
Or maybe he’d just left, she thought hopefully. Maybe he didn’t want to see her any more than she’d wanted to see him. But she had a feeling her luck wasn’t that good.
Sure enough, when she returned to the living room, she found Zoe engrossed in a video and Walker standing in the entrance to the kitchen. While she longed to settle next to her daughter, she knew Walker deserved an explanation, so she entered the kitchen and carefully closed the door behind them.
Once they were alone, she braced herself for the attack, but what he said instead was, “There’s an opening for an assistant manager at Buchanan’s. It’s the lunch shift, but you’d need to work a couple of nights a week. Maybe one weekend night. We have full benefits, including matching on the 401K. Management also has a profit-sharing plan, but that wouldn’t kick in for six months.” He named a salary that made her knees shake. “You interested?”
“Are you offering me a job?” she asked, not able to believe it.
“You don’t know anything about me.”
He folded his arms over his chest. “I know plenty.”
If possible, her blush deepened. “I meant you don’t know anything about my work life. If I show up on time, what kind of work I do. I have no management experience and I’ve never worked in a restaurant other than Eggs ’n’ Stuff. Why would you think I’m qualified?”
“I’ve seen you work until your fingers are swollen. You’re always out of here plenty early, so I know you get to your shift on time. The job is considered entry level management. You’d learn as you go.”
It was a terrific opportunity. So why did she have a knot in her stomach?
“I like the job I have,” she told him.
His gaze narrowed. “This one’s better.”
“I don’t want to work nights. I’m not willing to give up my time with Zoe.”
“We’re talking one or two evenings.”
“I don’t…” She swallowed. “I won’t work for someone I’ve slept with.”
There. She’d said it. Now he was going to pounce all over her and want to know why things had gone the way they had.
“Dammit, Elissa,” Walker said, careful to keep his voice low, which she appreciated. “What the hell kind of game is this? You know it’s a good job. Why won’t you consider it? If your reasons are about me, don’t worry. I’m a temp.”
“You think things are going to be better when your grandmother comes back? You think she won’t fire me that first day?”
“We do a contract. She won’t be able to.”
“Oh, great. So the president of the company will be stuck with me. That should be fun.”
“I’m trying to help.”
“This isn’t helping. Besides, I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine.” He paused and drew in a breath, as if trying to control his temper. “You’re not fine,” he repeated. “Something is wrong. Do you think I’m stupid? Whatever it is had to be pretty damn big for you to go to that kind of extreme just to change the subject. What is it?”
“Nothing I want to talk about with you.”
“Look around. You don’t have anyone else. You need me.”
She didn’t need anyone. Never had, never would. “Talk about an ego,” she told him, stepping forward so she could make her point without raising her voice. “I was doing just fine before you came along.”
He made a sound that was suspiciously like a growl. “I’m not talking about money or the fact that I can unfasten lug nuts. I’m the one person you can talk to. Who else are you going to tell? Mrs. Ford?”
“I don’t make it a habit of talking about my problems.”
His gaze narrowed. “So there is something wrong.”
“No. I meant in a general sense. Look, Walker, if you want to make a complaint, put it in writing. Otherwise—”
He dropped his hands to his sides. “Do not tell me to leave.”
“It’s my house.”
She could feel the frustration building up inside of him. Despite his physical presence and strength, she wasn’t afraid. He would never hurt her.
“Something happened at the craft fair,” he said. “I know and you know. So can we please stop playing this game so you can tell me what the hell it is?”
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