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Authors: H.M. Ward,Stacey Mosteller

Shadows of the Past (19 page)

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
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"I'm glad I didn't." I spin back around to face him for the last time. "Get off your high horse, Oliver. Yeah, you told me some things. You told me some really painful things, but you kept this from me. What else are you keeping? How many other secrets are going to come out? You played me and I fell for it. I don’t care what your reason is—nothing can undo this."

His voice is soft next time he speaks. "There aren't any more secrets on my end. You're the one keeping secrets now."

“I can't listen to this.”

“Because it’s true—because no matter how far you run, the thing propelling you is always there, day in and day out. You can’t run from yourself, Kayla.”

I stare at him, wide-eyed in horror. His words slice through me, cutting me to the bone. How dare he say that? I’m right, and he’s wrong. This isn’t about me—it’s about him. HE LIED!

Although my mind is racing, I can’t say a thing. Desperate to get away, I turn on my heel and walk as fast as I can. Oliver calls after me, but I don't turn back.

When I make it outside, I take a deep breath, knowing everything is about to change again.

I look sadly back at the hotel, realizing I have to quit. He won't leave me alone if I stay here.

The thing that worries me the most is a single thought—what if he’s right?


Emily is waiting for me when I finally get back to the flat. I stopped to fill out job applications at every business I could think of on the way home, desperate to find a different place of employment. I avoided places Oliver and I went together, staying away from the Gardens and Honky Tonky, concentrating more on the shops, and places I'm unlikely see him. Of course, I had to duck into the first bathroom I could find to wipe the tear stains from my cheeks, not wanting to look like a complete wreck.

The third shop I tried, a high-end clothing shop that employs personal shoppers, was hiring. If I get the job, I'll assist an actual Personal Shopper, running errands for them and helping them with their duties. The pay is a little above what I make at the hotel restaurant and has the added benefit of not seeing Oliver.

As soon as I shut the door, Emily rushes over to wrap her arms around me.

"Are you okay? I can't believe he did this to you. Do you want me to kick his ass? Should I have Reggie kick his ass? I have a couple brothers who could do it, too, if you want." She doesn't even give me time to answer one question before she asks another. I can't keep up with her.

Pulling away from her, I walk over to the couch and curl up, wrapping my arms around my knees and staring blankly at the television. "What's the point? It's done, we're over. I just want to move on."

My voice sounds flat, unemotional and detached. Emily's watching me with eyes full of concern, but I can't bring myself to care. The numbness is familiar and I need time to get through it.

"Kayla?" Emily asks, walking over to me cautiously. "I'm here if you want to talk. Please, don't shut me out. I want to help you."

I squeeze my eyes closed before nodding to let her know I heard her. I'm not ready to talk. I don't know that I ever will be. Every time I start to thaw, something happens that shoves me right back in this box. I feel trapped.

Everyone seems to think I want to be this way on purpose, that I just don't want people to care about me, but that's not it. I'm terrified of letting anyone in, of losing anyone else. I've already lost my babies and the guy I thought was the love of my life. I pushed my mother and sister away because I couldn't bear to lose them, too.

Now I've lost Oliver, although I guess I never really had him to begin with.

The sudden banging on the door startles me out of my reverie.

Emily's head snaps to the side, her startled eyes meeting my own. Who the hell would be making such a racket? She walks over to the door, her hands trembling slightly and she gasps when she looks out the peephole.

Turning back to me, she mouths, "It's Oliver!"

I can feel the color leaving my face. He's here? Why? We said everything that could possibly be said. Why is he doing this to me?

Standing, I gesture to my room to let Emily know I'm going in there. I don't want to see him. I don't want to talk to him. I just want him to leave me alone.

He hasn't stopped banging on the door, and as I reach my room, his voice comes through the door and makes both of us jump.

"Kayla, let me in. Please? Let me explain without a group of people listening to everything we say. You know I'd never hurt you intentionally. Please, just give me a chance."

The pain in his voice is obvious and it takes everything in me to stay in my doorway. Emily continues to watch me, her eyes are bright with unshed tears as she walks over to me.

"Are you sure you don't want to talk to him? Maybe there is an explanation?"

Where's the girl who a few minutes ago was offering to kick his ass? That's the girl I need, not one who's willing to forgive him as soon as he says a few pretty words. I shake my head, backing into my room and shutting the door.

"Shit," she mutters, before walking back over to the front door. I don't hear her take the chain off, but I lock my door anyway just in case.

"Emily, let me in. I need to talk to her." Oliver is pleading with her and it's all I can do to stay in my room and not go out to him.

I can't understand what she says in return, but based on his shouted expletive, it isn't something good. When she stops speaking, the flat is silent for long enough that I think she got him to leave.

I open the door to my room then freeze in my tracks at the sight of him still standing out in the hallway. The only thing keeping him from me is the chain on the door blocking his entrance.

Oliver's eyes devour me like he's afraid he might never see me again and mine do the same to his.

"Kayla," he says, his voice rough from the shouting he's been doing. "Kayla, I need you to let me in. Please, baby, we need to talk. I need to explain it to you."

"No," I say firmly, shaking my head at him and feeling my eyes fill with tears once more. Will they ever stop? Am I destined to cry more tears than to smile? "I can't talk to you right now, Oliver. I don't know that I'll ever be able to talk to you again. Finding out you're keeping secrets from me is too painful. I refuse to be in a relationship built on lies. You once said the same thing, so surely you understand." My voice is quieter when I raise my eyes to meet his, seeing my pain reflected in his icy blue orbs. "I'm sorry."

He must see the resolve on my face because he turns away, nodding once before leaving. Emily closes the door behind him. I'm not sure which hurts more at this point, the fact that he looks as broken as I feel, or that he just gave up, and I’ll never know why he lied.


Three days later I'm starting my new job as a personal shopper's assistant. I walk in and ask for Meghan at the register. A petite, dark-haired girl comes out of the back to greet me. I'm not tall by any means, but this girl makes me feel like a giant. If she's more than five-feet-tall, I'd be surprised.

"You must be Kayla. I'm Meghan, the assistant manager, and I'm going to help you get started today. Andy said you were working in a hotel prior to this, and you don't have any experience being a shop girl. Is that right?" I nod, and she continues, "Okay then. I'm going to set you up with Sophia," she points to a tall, slender blonde who's helping a customer at one of the clothing racks. "We'll wait until she finishes with her current customer to make the introductions. Her assistant just got promoted to being a Personal Shopper herself, so she needs some help."

I'm made to wait a little over thirty minutes for Sophia to finish with her client, but she comes over to introduce herself as soon as the customer leaves. "Hullo. I'm Sophia Clarke, and you are?"

"Kayla." The girl's accent reminds me somewhat of Oliver's, and it throws me for a second. Where Oliver sounds classy but friendly, this girl sounds like an ice queen.

She holds out a hand, and I start to shake it, even though she's holding it more like she was expecting me to kiss the back of her hand. When I only shake, she huffs, dropping my hand like it's dirty, and waving her hand over her shoulder, indicating that I should follow. We head to the changing area.

She walks with purpose over to a computer set up inconspicuously in one corner and starts talking me through the program very quickly. In fact, it's so quick I'm not sure I understand anything she just said. Of course, that might just because her accent is heavy and she’s talking fast.

"Are you paying any attention to me at all?" Sophia scowls down at me, hands on her hips with her high ponytail practically vibrating.

I glare back at her, wanting nothing more than to say a smart-ass comment, but afraid I'll get fired.

"Sorry, you're just moving really fast. It's hard to keep track of everything."

Sophia sighs in exasperation but doesn't bitch me out, so I guess I'm safe. She doesn't apologize or slow down, either, though.

The rest of the morning is spent teaching me how to do everything that needs to be done as the assistant. She also introduces me to her clients as they come. It's a little funny to watch her, because her pissy demeanor completely changes when a customer enters the boutique. Suddenly, she's all sweetness and light, magically transforming into Little Miss Helpful, and doing everything she can to make the customer happy.

When it's time for lunch, Sophia tells me she's meeting her boyfriend, but since it's my first day, I'm welcome to come along with her. I think she just wants to show off the fact that she has an assistant again, but I'm hungry and my feet hurt.

Sophia spends a lot of her day on the move, even more than I did as a waitress, something I didn't think possible. It could just be the pointy-toed shoes though. I have to do a lot more dressing up for this job than I did at my last. At least this one comes with a clothing allowance and a deep discount.

We walk from the store to a small Chinese restaurant down the street where she says her boyfriend James will be waiting. Sure enough, a tall blonde man is waiting for her, and she kisses him scandalously before turning to make introductions.

"James, this is Kayla. She's my new assistant at the shop, and she's American!" His eyes sweep over my body as if appraising me, before meeting my eyes.

"Hello, dove," he says with a smirk.

There's something about the way he's looking at me that makes me uncomfortable, but I quickly say hello back and move to follow Sophia into the restaurant. A hand lands on my ass, making me jump, and when I look back behind me, James is the only one there.

What the hell? I frown up at him, but hoping his hand on my ass was just an accident, I don't say anything. If he does it again, I'll junk-punch him.

Once we've placed our orders, the three of us take seats at a small table just inside the door. Thankfully, Sophia squeezes in next to James, leaving me to have the other side to myself.

While we wait, James asks questions about how long I've been in London and where I worked before I started at the shop. I'm very vague with my answers, telling him only ‘a few months’ and ‘a restaurant.’ He makes me want to squirm, in a bad way.

Throughout our lunch, James watches me more than he does Sophia, his dark eyes following every movement I make.

“Be right back,” Sophia says while getting up from the table. She heads toward the back of the restaurant and disappears into the loo.

Once she walks away, James leans forward so that I can hear his low, husky voice.

"So, dove, do you have a man?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but no. Why?" I'm pretty sure I know, but I want him to say it. I want him to acknowledge the fact that he's a creeper so I can knock him down a peg.

His hand lands on my knee under the table, and I immediately stiffen. He did not just do that! No wonder why Sophia can’t hold an assistant—James is probably groping all of them!

"Just an innocent question," he says in a very smarmy way. He's way too smooth. It's a veneer, one that covers who he really is—a nasty, asshole.

"Well, I gave you an answer, and you're dating my boss. I’m pretty sure that means you aren't supposed to be touching me, or trying to flirt." I move to slide out of the booth, but he traps me with one leg on either side of mine, thinking I won't make a scene.

He's wrong.

I’m from New York. I’m going to lay him out and make sure he doesn’t come after me again.

Leaning forward, I hiss, "What part of I'm not interested do you not understand? If you don’t move your foot, I’ll whack it off and bury it in my backyard.” He blinks as if he didn’t hear me right. “You messed with the wrong girl, asshole. Stay away from me unless you don’t have an attachment to your body parts.”

His foot drops to the floor with a thud and I get up.

“Oh, and if you think I won't tell Sophia about this, you're wrong. I have no problem telling her, and I really don't care if she believes me or not." I'm totally bluffing. I know she probably won't believe me. Hell, she's known me four hours, who knows how long she's known him. That doesn't mean I won't do it though.

Seeing that I'm serious, his eyes widen and his nostrils flare. It's not until I walk past him that he speaks again.

"I'll be seeing you, dove. Make no mistake about that. Feistiness is attractive." A shudder overtakes me, one that's obvious enough that he knows he affected me. His laughter follows me back out onto the street, and that's when I see him.

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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