Another FREE read from Shattered Trust…

Posted Jul 24 2014, 12:01 am

Here’s Chapter Two from my upcoming release, Shattered Trust… Hope you enjoy!

 

Chapter Two

Early the next morning, Kate sat in her glorified office nook, drinking strong, black coffee and scrutinizing the accounts of the last month. Jet lag, combined with lack of sleep, stooped her shoulders and distorted the numbers on the page. She rubbed her eyes, downed the last of the coffee in her mug then stood to get another cup.

With Liam gone, she had to close up alone last night. She didn’t mind. She was glad to be rid of that guy. He had trouble written all over him.

It’d been almost one-thirty before she got home with her head hitting the pillow shortly after. But she hadn’t slept well. Worry that Liam had somehow wormed himself into a position where he could take advantage of her daughter or her livelihood plagued Kate. A man like him could manipulate anyone, especially a sweet, trusting person like Sedona, and they’d never be the wiser. She’d finally given up on sleep, showered and was back at the Bluebird before six.

She poured coffee into her mug then added a dollop of cream. Cradling the warm cup, she leaned a hip against the counter and stretched her neck muscles. Her body relaxed.

Thankfully, the books were in fine order. She noticed an uptick in the liquor and beer purchases over the past few weeks, but with Sedona keeping the bar open later, that made sense. And there’d been a subsequent increase in sales. A smile tipped up the corners of her mouth. Her daughter had a good head for business.

She checked her watch. Seven thirty. She could go home and maybe catch an hour or two of sleep before the lunch crowd came in. The thought held appeal. She grabbed her purse, and the back door opened.

Deke halted in his steps. “What are you doing here, boss?”

“I could ask you the same thing. Where’s Marie?”

He shrugged out of his leather jacket. “She had a family reunion up in Odessa this weekend.” He hung his jacket behind the door and slipped on a clean apron. “Since you weren’t supposed to come back until Sunday, you’re not on the schedule. So I’ll ask again, what are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “Wanted to check on a few things.”

“Uh huh.”

Her hackles rose. “What?”

Shaking his head, he turned to the sink to wash his hands. “So what’d you think of the new bartender?”

She blew out a breath. Deke never was one to beat around the bush. “I didn’t like him much so I fired him.”

He whirled around. “You what?”

Deke’s abrasive voice chilled her insides. He’d never used such a stern tone with her.

She recovered and glared at him. “What’s the problem?”

“The problem is Sedona hired him.”

“And I fired him. So what?”

 Deke stared at her. “Sedona was proud—real proud—that she hired Liam, especially given the way Simon quit. She walked around on Cloud Nine, and now you’ve fired him for no good reason.”

“I had a reason.”

“Oh, right. You didn’t like him.” He wagged his head. “How do you think she’s gonna react when she finds out you don’t trust her judgment?”

“I do so trust her judgment,” she retorted.

“No, you don’t,” he shot back. “Not with the Bluebird.”

He crossed his arms, his stance wide. This wasn’t like Deke. He wasn’t one to be aggressive. He was the kindest, sweetest man she’d ever met. Usually.

He continued to shake his head and glower. “Not once have you taken any of Sedona’s ideas or suggestions seriously.”

“Oh, now that is ridiculous.”

“Is it? What about her suggestion to include more upscale items on the menu? Or to serve breakfast on the weekends? Or to open the back room for sit-down dinners?”

Kate flinched with each accusation, but held her ground. “You know as well as I do that each of those ideas would have meant extra shifts and extra costs without any guarantee we’d make a profit.”

“But you didn’t think about any of them longer than this.” He snapped his fingers. “How long do you expect Sedona to stay in this shit-kicking town working part time at her mother’s bar, where her opinion doesn’t matter? Bet she never told you she got a job offer from a PR firm in Dallas, did she?”

Kate ignored his profanity as naked fear seized her throat. “What? When did that happen?”

Deke’s mouth twisted into a grim smile. “She got the letter and had a phone interview while you were gone.”

Air backed up in her lungs. “Did she take the job?”

“I dunno. But I imagine she’ll take their offer a whole lot more seriously when she finds out the bartender she hired—who brought in paying customers—was fired for no more reason than her mother didn’t like him.”

She groped for an answer. “Maybe she won’t find out.”

He barked a humorless laugh. “Not a chance of that happening and you know it.”

“So what do you propose I do? Give him back the job?”

“Yes.”

“No. I fired him to protect Sedona.” And myself.

He narrowed his gaze. “Protect her from what?”

Kate looked away. No one in Trustworthy knew what happened twenty-three years ago. How she got pregnant out of wedlock, or by whom. Or how, as a consequence, her father had summarily kicked her out of his Michigan home. She wasn’t about to permit her carefully crafted life—her perfectly crafted lie—to unravel. She’d spent her life protecting her daughter not just from predators, but from Kate’s sordid past. She didn’t plan on stopping now. “Suffices that I think he’s dangerous.”

“More dangerous than Sedona moving to Dallas?”

Kate slouched her shoulders and crossed her arms, suddenly cold. What was she going to do? She loathed the idea of having Liam back at the Bluebird, but fear absolutely paralyzed her at the thought of her only child leaving Trustworthy. Unshed tears burned her eyes.

“For what it’s worth,” Deke said in a gentler tone. “I don’t think Liam’s a threat to Sedona or anyone else. Says he’s working his way to Houston. He’s staying at the weekly motel down on Fourth Street. Go talk to him. Offer him his job back. If he says no, then you’re covered.”

The silence stretched out.

“What have you got to lose, boss?”

Just my daughter. And maybe even myself.

~*~

Someone knocking on his door jarred Liam from sleep at—the clock numbers came into slow focus—eight-fucking-o’clock in the morning. What the shit? Why did the Universe hate him?

Not only did he lose his job last night, but his truck died completely. The piece of shit wouldn’t even turn over. Now he had a busted truck and no way to fix it.

He stuffed his head under a pillow and willed whoever was outside to go away. They didn’t. In fact, the knocking became an insistent pounding.

Growling in frustration, he flung the pillow across the room. It plopped against the door. The thumping paused for a moment then resumed.

“All right! Goddamn it.” He chucked off the covers and stomped to the door, clad only in his boxers. “Someone had better be fucking dead,” he muttered.

He yanked open the door, and froze. The last person he expected to see was the woman who’d axed his ass less than eight hours earlier.

Kate’s eyes bugged from her scarlet face. Her gaze darted down to his morning wood tenting the cotton material of his drawers then zoomed back up to again meet his. She chirped like a startled chipmunk, whipped around and stared at the sky.

Liam’s sadistic side would enjoy exploiting her discomfort—especially in light of her sacking him—but he wasn’t into torturing vanillas or being an exhibitionist. He reached over, snagged his jeans from off the chair and shoved in his legs. He zipped up, not an easy task given his Johnson had stiffened at the sight of the woman at his door, and obstinately kept the button undone. He faced Kate again. She still stared at the wispy clouds, her back to him.

“It’s safe,” he informed her.

She glanced over her shoulder, her gaze wandering over his bare chest. Her nostrils flared, not much, but he still noticed it.

Interesting.

Kate then stared down at the cracked asphalt. “Don’t you think you should put on a shirt?”

Liam didn’t know whether to laugh or slam the door. She wakes his ass up at this ungodly hour then acts like a prissy bitch? He tamped down his anger and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “Nope. I’m fine.”

Her nose wrinkled like she’d smelled something rotten.

“Is there something you wanted?” he prodded.

She turned fully toward him. “Uh…yes. I wanted to…uh…talk to you.”

Her face had lost the blazing red, but was still a rosy pink. She stared hard into his eyes. He had to wonder if that was to keep from looking…lower. To test the theory, he flexed his pectoral muscles and smirked to himself when the color in her cheeks deepened. “Okay. Talk.”

“It…um…has come to my attention that perhaps I…uh…was hasty in letting you go last night.”

Hmmm. Very interesting.

He contracted his pecs again, saying nothing.

Her lips thinned then she cleared her throat. “Anyway, I’m here to offer your job back. If you want it.”

The way she said that last sentence convinced Liam she didn’t want him to want it back. He leaned his shoulder against the doorjamb and pretended to consider her proposal. The casual pose belied how desperate he was to keep working, even at a rinky-dink place like the Bluebird. He didn’t have the cash to pay for another week in this dump motel let alone repair the Chevy. And his original plan to get to Houston and then New Orleans was so far on the back burner, it couldn’t be classified as being on the stove. But he wasn’t going to let this woman know any of those little details. If she wanted him back, it was going to cost her.

To piss her off more, he crossed his ankles, knowing the action would make the bulge at his groin more prominent. Predictably, her gaze whizzed downward. He covered his laugh with a cough. “Okay.”

She squinted at him. “Okay?”

“Yeah. I’ll come back to work—full time.”

“What? No. I can’t afford to pay you full time.”

He stood straight. “Full time or I don’t come back at all.”

Her eyes tapered into thin slits of steely blue. Liam held his breath. Had he overplayed his hand? He needed the extra money to pay to get his truck repaired. Hoping to disguise any uncertainty, he straightened and stuck out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”

She jerked away like she thought his palm would strike her dead.

He dropped his arm. “Look, I get that, for whatever reason, you don’t like me. But the faster I make money the sooner I’ll put this town in the rearview mirror.”

She chewed her lower lip before standing taller. “Fine, but you won’t just be bartending. You’ll do whatever work needs doing.”

He rolled his shoulder. “Sounds fair.”

“And you’ll give Ford two percent of all your tips, food and liquor.”

His back stiffened. “Why the hell would I do that?”

Her face twisted with a frown. “Kindly refrain from using that language in my presence.”

He bit back a string of profanity that would’ve melted her eardrums. “Why should I give Ford two percent of everything? He’s supposed to get one percent of the food.”

“Ford’s a single dad with two kids in daycare. He needs the money.”

“So, give him a raise.”

“I’ve tried. He thinks it’s charity.”

“And me giving him two percent of my tips isn’t?”

“But if you fold the money into the tips he’d normally get, he won’t know the difference.” She shook her head, and the sunlight darkened the strands of her honey hair. “That boy’s too stubborn by half sometimes.”

Kate’s concern for her young employee touched a long-forgotten chord in Liam. He pushed away the sensation. “What’s to keep me from agreeing and then not paying him? Not like you’re gonna know the difference.”

She cocked her head. “True. Maybe I should estimate the proper amount and deduct it from your hourly wage.”

Touché.

He heaved a sigh. “All right. Anything else?”

“Yes.” She stared him square in the face. “You leave my daughter alone.”

That surprised the hell out of him. “Sedona? Why would you think I’d be interested in her?”

“Because I know your kind.”

Her accusing tone riled his anger, though he kept his expression neutral. “My kind?” As if she knew the first thing about his kind. Might be fun to teach her though…

“Yes. You’re the kind of man who preys on innocent girls. And I won’t have you taking advantage of Sedona.” Kate jabbed her finger in the space between them. “Leave. Her. Alone.”

“No problem.”

Her hostility melted at his quick acquiescence. “Oh. Well. Good, then.”

He lounged again against the jamb and ran his thumbnail along the wood grain. “I’ll admit that Sedona is a sweet, young thing, but she’s not my type.”

“Really?” Kate’s tone could peel paint. “And what is your type?”

In answer, he raked his gaze over the woman in front of him, starting at her worn tennis shoes. He paused to admire the inviting fit of her jeans over her curvy hips then pointedly stared at her breasts. Soon her nipples poked her shirt. She might have a stick up her ass the size of the giant Sequoia, but she was still a woman. And still susceptible to a man taking notice of her. He didn’t bother to hide his grin when he finally looked into her eyes. Her face again blazed a crimson color. His cock twitched with renewed life. “You see.” He used his smoothest voice. “I prefer more…experienced women to warm my bed.”

She gasped. He grinned wider.

She spun on her heel.

“Don’t you want to shake on our deal?” he called after her.

With a huff, she glared at him over her shoulder. “Are you a man who breaks his word?”

“No.”

“That’s good enough for me.”

He watched her stomp to her car, climb in then drive off. Still grinning, he closed his door.

Looked like things were about to get exciting in Trustworthy.

1 Comment

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One response to “Another FREE read from Shattered Trust…”

  1. Jen says:

    Loving it, though waiting for the release date is killing me! Thanks for brightening up my Thursday with another free chapter 🙂

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