The Best Goodbye(10)By: Abbi Glines
Blaire smiled as she stood, and something about that smile made me nervous. Her mind was already spinning. Dammit. “I’ll see you then,” she said. “Don’t overdo it. The place looks great, and I’m sure it’ll be a success. Just take some time for yourself.”
I nodded. In my entire life, only one other person had ever cared enough to give me these pointless little talks. I shoved the memory of her away. I was already dreaming about Addy again; I couldn’t let her into my daily life, too.
“Got it,” I assured her, just so she’d stop with the caring and leave. I didn’t want her to care. Not when I was so raw emotionally.
“Tomorrow night, then,” she repeated, as if I was going to forget. Then she left.
I took a long drink of my coffee and let it burn all the way down. There was paperwork to do and calls to make.
Moments after the door closed behind Blaire, someone knocked. Biting back a curse, I looked up. “Come in,” I said, louder than necessary.
It slowly opened, and Rose’s face peeked inside. “Sorry if I’m interrupting you. I just . . . I wanted to let you know I’m back and to thank you for understanding about Franny being sick. I’ll work extra hours the rest of the week.”
Being a detached hard-assed boss was easier when you didn’t know the details of others’ personal lives. But I knew now that Rose was a single mom, and that fucking changed things. She was so young, yet she had kept her kid and was raising her. I respected that.
Her large eyes blinked behind her glasses, and I wondered what she looked like without them. She was beautiful with them on, but I couldn’t imagine how much more attractive she would be if she wasn’t hiding behind them.
“Is she better now?” I asked, before I could stop myself.
Rose’s tense expression eased, and she smiled, her face lighting up, and my gut clenched like it had when I’d heard her laughter the other day in the kitchen. Something about her smile struck a chord in me.
“Yes, thank you. She’s much better and ready to get out and play again,” Rose said, obvious love and relief in her voice. She loved her kid. There was no question about that.
“Good. I’m glad she’s better. Don’t worry about overtime. You can go back to regular working hours. I don’t think we’re that far behind.”
She nodded. “OK. Do I need to find Elle to get my directions for the day?”
Elle would eat her up, so I shook my head no. Which was ridiculous, since Elle would soon be the head of the serving staff, and Rose would have to answer to her eventually. I couldn’t protect her from Elle forever, and I shouldn’t fucking have to, either. I’d have to fix that. Elle had no clue about Rose’s life. She needed to ease up.
“Go back to the kitchen and help Brad. He’s got another shipment in. At lunch today, the kitchen staff is going to prepare some of our signature dishes, and the serving staff will meet in the dining room for a tasting so you’ll all know how to describe each dish to the customers.”
“Yes, sir.” She replied a little too quickly, as if she couldn’t wait to get away from me, before she stepped back and closed the door, leaving me alone.
He hated my laugh, or maybe it was just the sound of my voice. Did he recognize it? Was that it? Did he hate the girl he thought had run off and left him? Was I a reminder of something he wanted to forget?
Stepping outside, I inhaled the warm breeze and took a moment to allow the pain in my chest to ease. Being near him was making the pain stronger. The things I had been able to push aside and the memories I had found a way to escape were now beating down my door. They’d begun slipping into my dreams; sometimes I couldn’t breathe.