I didn’t want to go back out to the balcony with Bethy. I saw Grant walking toward us and I just wanted out. This time it hurt. With Jeffery I’d just been disgusted. But with Woods… it was painful. He had been different. Or at least, I’d thought he was different. The way he touched me and wanted me had given me hope. I was silly to think hot sex was the answer to my problems. It had all been selfish. Woods wasn’t giving me pure affection. My heart still hurt. I’d wanted that so much.
I felt the edges of my vision starting to blur and I knew I needed to be alone. This wasn’t something anyone needed to see. I didn’t want these people to think I was a freak too.
“I just want to be alone if you don’t mind,” I told Bethy and forced an apologetic smile her way before heading outside into the cool night air. I didn’t look back and I didn’t try to find my car. I wasn’t in any condition to drive. I needed somewhere dark and quiet. Somewhere safe. I needed somewhere safe. The words “safe” kept up a chant in my head as my vision became more and more blurry. I managed to find a house that looked empty and sat down on the backside of it facing away from the road. I pulled my knees up and tucked my head between them. I could get through this. It was just a symptom of my trauma. Or at least that’s what the doctors kept telling me.
Don’t go outside, Della. It’s dangerous. Your daddy is dead because he went outside. Stay here where it’s safe. With me. We’ll be safe together. Just the two of us.
I felt tears fill my eyes as my mother’s words began tumbling through my head. I tried so hard to repress the memories. But when I was emotionally spent they came back. They didn’t just hide away in my dreams.
Shhh, Della dear. I know you want to ride a bike but so many bad things can get you outside. You’re only safe in here. Remember that. We can’t leave or bad things will happen. Let’s sing a song, okay? One that is happy. One that is safe.
“No, no, no momma. You aren’t going to do this to me. I’m stronger than you. I can beat this,” I said as I pushed the memories back. I wasn’t my mother. I wanted to live life. I wanted to face danger and I wanted to know all the emotions that went along with it.
I sat there a long time and stared up at the moon. It was something I used to long to see. I knew at night that I could get away from the safety of my house and see Braden. I could ride her bike down the dark streets and I could breathe in the fresh air. The night sky had become my friend.
Finally, I wiped my face with the backs of my hands and stood up. I was okay. I’d made it through this alone. Braden hadn’t been here to tell me to breathe and make me laugh while she kept her arm wrapped around my shoulders. This time it had just been me. I was proud of myself.
I had lain awake last night thinking about packing up and leaving but in the end I decided that I was done with running. I couldn’t run every time I came in contact with pain or a problem was placed in my path. It was time I reacted like the rest of the world and faced it head on. However, I might need to find another job. My boss might not want me working for him anymore. I’d just ask him. I would walk right up to him, be very professional, and ask him if I still had a job or if he needed me to look elsewhere for one. That would be easy enough.
If I could keep from remembering how his face looked when he got off. Dangit. That was going to be a problem. Thinking about Woods in a sexual way had to stop. He was my boss. Nothing more.
I walked in the back entrance of the clubhouse and headed for his office. Might as well address this right away. Get it over with so I wouldn’t waste anymore time thinking about it.
I knocked on his door and waited. No answer. Crap. Turning, I headed back down the hall toward the kitchen entrance when Woods walked into the building. His eyes locked on me and I stopped. Just seeing him again was hard. I had let our sex become more than it was. I’d let myself think I needed it. I mentally shook my head to clear it.
“Hello, Mr. Kerrington. I was looking for you. I need to make sure I still have a job or if you’d prefer I resign and go find one elsewhere.” That sounded very cool and no-nonsense. I was impressed.
Something I wasn’t sure I understood flashed in Woods’ eyes. He took a step closer to me and stopped. “You have a job here as long as you want one,” he replied.
“Thank you. I appreciate it.” I didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, I headed for the kitchen entrance and never looked back.
When the swinging doors closed behind me, I let out the breath I’d been holding. I’d done it. We’d had our closure. No more words needed. I could ignore him and he could ignore me.
“Oh good I get to work with you instead of Jimmy today. He drives me nuts in the mornings.” A girl I’d only seen once before, my first day, smiled at me as she walked into the kitchen tying her apron around her waist.
“Della, right?” she asked and pulled her long brown hair up into a ponytail.
“Yes and you’re...” I glanced down at her nametag, “Violet,” I replied.
She laughed, “Caught you cheating. But that’s okay we just met once before. I’ll take the right side tables seven through fourteen. You take left side tables one through six. The right side is a harder morning crowd. A lot of regulars. Don’t want to throw you to the dogs just yet.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
“No problem. I want you to stick around. We can’t keep good help.”
I managed to only forget only one thing and it was the apple butter for table three’s toast. Luckily, they had been good with the slip up and still tipped me twenty percent. Not bad. In Dallas you rarely saw twenty percent tips from men over sixty. I was about to cash out and end my shift when Violet came in smiling.
“You got a hot table. Three of the fab four are sitting at their regular table, number two. Woods isn’t with them so they’ll flirt and Grant’s there today so enjoy. They are so yummy to look at. I gotta run. My tables are clear and Jimmy will be here for the lunch shift.”
She bounded out the door and I was stuck there looking out toward the dining room. I wasn’t ready to face Grant or any of them just yet. Last night was still too fresh.
I wanted to run again. I had to stop this. I grabbed my tray and pitcher of ice water and made my way out to them. Thad, Grant, and Jace were all talking and not paying any attention to me approaching Good.
Grant’s eyes lifted to meet my gaze and he smiled that slow sexy smirk thing he had going on. “I’m real glad to see you here this morning,” he replied.
He knew. Crap. Did they all know?
“It’s my job,” I replied. “What can I get y’all to drink?”“You sure make that uniform look good,” Thad replied leaning forward with his gaze on my chest and not my face.“Shut up,” Grant said and shot him a disgusted look. “I want some coffee, black.”“Coffee for me too but I need two creams and a sugar,” Jace replied.“A tall glass of milk,” Thad said.“Put it in a damn bottle because he’s acting like he needs one,” Jace said, rolling his eyes.“I’ll be a baby if she wants me to, a big ‘ol titty baby,” Thad replied with a wink.“You’re an ass.” Jace shook his head.I didn’t wait for any more comments. I headed back to the kitchen to fix their drinks. I was positive that Thad was not someone I wanted to mess around with. He was cute but I had a feeling he could get annoying.When I got back out to their table Woods had joined them. I kept my smile polite and served the other guys their drinks.“Mr. Kerrington, what can I get for you sir?”I managed to look at him as I asked but I didn’t miss Grant’s eyebrows shooting up.“Coffee black, please.” He barely glanced at me as he said it and went back to talking to Jace.“Are the rest of you ready to order?”Grant leaned forward and I was thankful to have someone to focus my eyes on. I felt silly trying not to look in Woods’ direction.“I don’t know about them but I’m starving,” he replied. “Bring me a burger; medium, loaded, and have Juan put that special sauce on it.”“Same thing for me,” Thad piped up.I forced my attention in the direction of Jace and Woods. Jace looked at me. “Bethy made me a late breakfast so I’m good with the coffee.”The thought of looking at Woods made my stomach hurt. I hated feeling awkward around him now. But he was my boss. So, I held my fake smile and looked his way. “And for you?”Woods finally met my gaze but only briefly. “Nothing thanks, I have a lunch date.”With his fiancée, no doubt. I nodded and headed for the kitchen.“I so want to tap that,” Thad said as I walked away.“Shut up,” Grant snapped.When I brought Woods coffee I managed to get away without any more interaction with him.Jimmy sauntered in and I breathed a sigh of relief.“Jimmy, I will give you half my tips today if you change sections with me right now.”Jimmy cocked one of his perfectly plucked eyebrows and stared at me like I was crazy. “Girl, I’m not taking half your tips. What’s wrong with the section you’re in?”I didn’t want to tell him about Woods. I thought about it a second then said, “Those guys make me nervous and I don’t like waiting on Mr. Kerrington. Please,” I finished with a final plea.He rolled his eyes and tied on his apron. “Fine. We can change sides but I got one through seven. You get eight through fourteen. You’re still new and need to earn more tables.”I nodded. “Of course, thank you.”“I think I’m gonna like you. About time Woods hired another server I like working with.”His praise was nice. I liked feeling as if I fit in.