High Class In Borrowed Shoes Part Five
“LaMotte wants you in his office ASAP.” Becky Jones popped her head into the staff lounge. “Damn, you look like shit Breckinridge.”
Ashton winced and downed two more little blue pills. Nothing like starting the day fortified with meds. “Yeah and I feel worse than I look.” She smoothed her hands over her navy-blue suit and tried to calm her nerves. She’d almost called in sick today.
Almost. If not for the five post-dated cheques she’d handed over the night before she would have.
She swallowed and winced. Her throat was on fire and hurt like hell, but that was mild compared to the pounding headache that made it hard to focus. She’d slept like crap if she slept at all, tossing and turning the entire night.
Ashton sighed tiredly and wiped her damp palms down the front of her thighs once more. She was nervous as hell, tired, cranky, and now had to deal with LaMotte.
And then there was Mace, the reason for her lack of sleep and general bitchiness. Here. In Detroit. Staying at The Meridian. Why the hell was he in her hotel? In her city?
“Hey, is there still a guest in the penthouse suite?” Ashton asked. Maybe he’d already checked out.
“As far as I know. Why? Do you know who he is? LaMotte’s being all covert and secretive. So obviously it’s either a hockey player or a movie star.”
“We’ve already started a pool.” Becky grinned. “I’m betting on hockey. You?”
“What? Um, I have no clue.” She pushed past Becky and headed toward Carl LaMotte’s office. Thank god she hadn’t picked up anymore cleaning shifts. She was strictly on concierge today and was off the weekend.
Her chances of running into Mace were pretty small. She had no reason whatsoever to be up on the penthouse floor. No reason at all. So why then, did she feel nervous?
Carl’s office was located on the other side of the lobby and she grabbed a coffee along the way, praying the dark brew would somehow help. It didn’t, but the warm liquid sure felt damn good as it slid down her raw throat.
“Good morning Ashton.”
She smiled at Elisha, Carl’s secretary. The woman was one of those forever young types. She’d been at The Meridian for years, really was the backbone of the place and yet, no one could pin down her age.
“Is he…” She pointed toward his door.
“He’s expecting you.” The small petite woman frowned. “Ashton, you look like—”
“I know. I look like crap.”
Elisha frowned. “I was going to say a little peaked but if crap suits you, then crap it is.”
Ashton sighed. “I’m just…it’s Friday and I’m tired. It’s been a long week.” She smiled again or attempted what was supposed to be one. “Do you know what he wants?”
The phone rang and Elisha grabbed it, motioning her toward Carl’s door. She shook her head and mouthed, ‘sorry’ before dealing with whoever was on the line.
Ashton knocked on Carl’s door, waited for his shout and then slipped inside.
The first person she saw was a blonde woman. She was sitting to the right of Carl’s desk, long legs tucked to the side as she typed furiously on a tablet, while juggling a conversation on her cell. She looked up at Ashton quickly, nodded, and then returned to her conversation.
“I hope to be home soon. Tell Davis not to panic.” The woman sounded worried, upset.
“Ashton, please take a seat.” Carl’s tone was clipped, all business. His thin lips were drawn tight and what was supposed to pass as a smile lifted up the corners. His eyes however, were narrowed and she could tell he was angry.
Warning bell number one went off and she gripped her coffee cup a little tighter.
Carl’s eyes shifted to just behind her. “This is Paul McDougal, but I understand you’re already acquainted?”
Warning bell number two slid through her brain and she nearly spilled her coffee as she slid into the chair and glanced at the man who was staring at her from across the room.
Paul. Mace’s manager.
Ashton bit her lip and took a sip of the warm brew, her thoughts scattered. She could feel Carl’s eyes upon her and nodded. “Yes, I met Paul last night.”
She was done. Her ass was fired.
She felt the panic that lay in wait. It had been there for almost three years, a silent companion that warmed her bed and sat beside her at dinner.
She wouldn’t handle it gracefully. She knew this. But she had to hold on at least a few more minutes. She would not have a meltdown in front of Carl LaMotte.
“Yes, so I hear, in the penthouse suite. The very one that has been booked by Mace Evans.”
Ashton swallowed heavily and felt the coffee in her gut begin to swish around in a nauseating manner.
“Mr. McDougal is concerned about keeping his client’s presence here quiet. You do understand what this means correct?”
Ashton could only nod because, no, she didn’t know what the hell he was getting at.
“I understand the two of you know each other?” Carl asked shrewdly.
Warning bell number three kicked in and she felt her skin flush with a rush of heat. Her suit suddenly felt too tight and she was finding it hard to breathe.
“I know Mace…from a long time ago.” She said softly. The woman jumped up then and smiled at her, though her lips trembled. She could tell the woman was terribly upset.
“Hey, I’m Sara and I so hate to do this to you but I gotta run.” She handed Ashton the tablet she was holding. “Everything you need is on here.”
Ashton looked down at the device and shook her head as she frowned.
Sara continued. “They’re really a good bunch of guys. Jason’s cool, you won’t have a problem with him, he’s a huge gamer and spends the majority of his time attached to his Xbox or banging his sticks on any hard surface he can find.”
Banging his sticks? What the hell?
“Mace is intense but then I guess you already know that.” She flashed a smile, “Nic is the one you need to watch out for. His main preoccupation is seduction. Being a Brit and freaking hot as hell, he’s pretty damn good at it.”
The fourth and final warning bell began clanging loudly. It pounded in time with her fast beating heart.
“I’m not sure…” She looked at Carl. “I don’t understand.”
“I have a family emergency and gotta split. My dad is in the hospital and he’s not doing so well.” Sara’s voice was shaky.
“I’m sorry,” Ashton whispered, “but I still don’t understand why I’m here.”
Sara looked up at Paul, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “The car will be here for me in five minutes.” She glanced back at Ashton. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. He’ll explain everything.”
Ashton watched as Sara hugged Paul and then left without another word. Paul turned to her then and he was all business. His large horn rimmed glasses made him appear somewhat geeky but she sensed the steel façade underneath.
“Okay, so here’s the deal. Sara is my assistant and does a lot of stuff for the guys. They’re going to be staying at the hotel for several days and I need someone to help with all the details.” Paul glanced at Carl and his eyes narrowed as he turned back to her. “No one can know they’re staying here, understood? Seriously, the hotel will be overrun with fans and make it impossible for the boys to relax and practice.”
“Okay,” Ashton said haltingly as she looked from Paul to Carl. Her belly was still a mess of churning nerves. She had a bad feeling about where this was headed.
“Mr. LaMotte here assures me you’re not an idiot and since you and Mace know each other I’m thinking you will be perfect for the job.”
“Job?” That fourth warning bell was still ringing in her head loudly. “I can’t…” She truly didn’t know what to say. Paul, Mace’s manager, wanted her to work for him?
“My other assistant is off on maternity leave and there’s no one else. Unfortunately, I’ve got a shit load of meetings myself or we’d wing it.”
“But I’m scheduled to work the concierge.”
“I’ve given permission for you to leave your post.” LaMotte inserted.
“I’ll need you for the weekend. Sara’s suite will be made available to you.”
Ashton’s panic was now eating its way up from her gut and currently sitting at the back of her throat. She was pretty sure her skin was a sickly green color and hoped the beads of sweat that sat on her top lip weren’t too shiny.
“It’s the weekend…” She began lamely.
“I promise we’ll make it worth your while.” Paul said. At her raised eyebrow he continued, “Monetarily speaking of course.”
“Of course.” She murmured, her mind whirling into a hundred different directions. The extra money she could use, but working with Mace?
“Does Mace know about this?” She asked abruptly as a ray of light shone through the darkness. There was no way in hell he’d want her around.
Paul smiled down at her. “It was his idea.”
“Oh.” Lame answer but it was all she had.
“So, let’s get started, shall we?”
Paul turned toward the door and Ashton shot a look at Carl who was studying her closely. He nodded. She was dismissed.
She rose slowly, wishing the pounding behind her eyes would disappear. The two of them crossed the large lobby in silence, the staccato clicking of her heels following in his wake.
They entered the private lift that led to the penthouse and she exhaled slowly as the doors closed. She still wasn’t sure what the hell was going on.
“You’re sure this was Mace’s idea?” She asked once more.
Paul nodded. “Positive.”
His answer was a little too clipped for her liking.
“What exactly did he say about me?” Ashton asked the question though she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to hear the answer.
Paul shrugged. “He said you were someone he knew a long time ago and that you wouldn’t accept the offer.”
“He said I wouldn’t accept?”
“That’s what he said.”
Ashton felt a slow burn flush beneath her skin and she rolled her neck as her muscles tightened. “So why would he tell you to ask if he was so sure I’d say no?” She was pissed. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
Paul was silent for a few seconds. “No, it doesn’t.”
“So why did you offer?”
The lift came to a halt. “There was no one else on such short notice and I thought, what the hell.” Paul exited the lift and waited for her. “Lucky for me Mace was wrong, which doesn’t happen often.”
Paul’s cell pinged and he handed her a key card. “This is an extra. Go on in, I’ll be there in a few.”
Ashton gripped it tightly between her fingers. It was the penthouse suite. Mace’s suite. She hesitated, her hand gripping the key card tightly and she thought of another time, years ago when she’d been standing in pretty much the same spot, her hand held out and heart beating hard against her chest.
She’d turned and ran that day, leaving behind the man who could have changed her world.
It was the last time she’d seen Mace until the night before.
She slid the key card through reader and winced as the mechanism unlocked. Ashton glanced back at Paul, but the man was deeply engrossed in a conversation about the size of a venue they needed to secure.
Carefully she pushed open the door and slipped inside.
Slowly her gaze travelled the room. She saw several guitar cases lined up near the bar, one was open and a cherry red acoustic lay across the sofa. Papers were scattered about and she glanced toward the bedroom before walking toward them.
She stopped a few feet away. Ashton could see scribbles and notes and recognized Mace’s hand writing immediately.
The door opened behind her and Paul strode into the suite, followed by another man. He was shirtless, with denim jeans that hung way too low on his hips to be decent. His thick dark hair and crystal blue eyes made for an interesting contrast and the charisma that followed behind him was thick, palpable.
Ashton recognized him immediately. He was Nic, the lead singer in Ruckus.
His eyes focused on her and a slow smile fell over his handsome face.
“How come I didn’t get one of those?” He nodded toward her and winked. “In my room?” His accent was thick, his voice raspy. Sara was right. The Brit had boatloads of sex appeal.
“Mace, where you at?” Paul ignored Nic and walked past her. He glanced at the papers strewn across the coffee table.
“Just out of the shower.”
Ashton felt her insides jump as an image of Mace naked and wet swept through her mind. She bit her bottom lip so hard she drew blood.
“Sara get to the airport?” Mace asked.
“Yeah, she’ll be home by noon.” Paul answered.
A shadow passed by the entrance to the bedroom and Ashton’s heart began to pound in hard painful beats. She was fluttery inside and felt heat sweep over her skin once more. God, she must look a blotchy mess. Crimson hair and red skin did not make an attractive combo.
“Did you see Ashton?” Mace asked, from somewhere in his bedroom.
She glanced at Paul as he answered. “Yeah, I did.”
“Unbelievable. I thought for sure last night was a joke.” His voice was muffled but there was no mistaking the surprise in his voice. “Does she own the place?”
Paul’s eyes narrowed and he looked at her thoughtfully. “Ah, not that I’m aware of.”
“She get all insulted when you offered her a job?”
“I should have come down with you. I can guarantee princess hasn’t worked a fucking day in her life. If she doesn’t own the hotel she’s screwing whoever does.”
Ashton’s stomach dropped at the tone of Mace’s words. Her mouth tightened and she felt Nic’s gaze on her as well as Paul’s. This was all wrong. She needed to leave.
She turned and took exactly one step before Mace spoke again.
“That girl was always about the money trail though she liked to slum it occasionally, play dirty with the bad boys.” He laughed, the sound was harsh and cut right through her. “Even let a townie pop her cherry, work her in but good.”
Humiliation scorched her cheeks and she swallowed thickly as her chest tightened painfully.
“Dead lay for me but at least her boyfriend had it easy, she would have been nice and loose later that night.”
His crude, awful words slammed into her, each one twisting like a sharp pain.
Ashton felt sick. Nic frowned and she looked away from his piercing stare. She felt the tears that pricked the back of her eyes and swore none would fall. Not here. Not in front of them.
Her feet began to move and she started for the door. She didn’t care about the money or if she lost her job or the fact that she barely had enough cash to cover the cheques she’d just written for her father’s care. She’d find another way.
She just needed to be away from Mace.
“So, I’m thinking we can wing this until Sara comes back…” Mace’s words trailed into nothing but dead air as he walked out of his room.
The entire suite was filled with it all of a sudden—heavy silence and dead air. Ashton stared at the floor in front of her as she swallowed the hurt that clogged the back of her throat. She was aware that Mace took a few more steps until he was only a few feet from her. Something burned inside…some small bit of pride. Slowly raised her chin and met his gaze.
He stood with his hands clenched at his sides, his body barely covered by a towel, droplets of moisture glistening against his flesh. His dark eyes reflected surprise and shock and something else she couldn’t put a name to.
“Well now,” Nic said quietly. “Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel, mate.”