High Heels In Borrowed Shoes Part Eight
Mace walked into the apartment and turned in a full circle. He didn’t bother to hide his reaction because no way was he that good of an actor. He was stunned. Fucking stunned.
He didn’t know what to think. The neighborhood was rough, he’d been sure the address he’d charmed out of LaMotte’s secretary was wrong. When he’d pulled up he almost turned around and headed back to the hotel. The building was a dump and this apartment? Well, this place was about as far from Ashton Breckinridge’s past as you could get.
What in the actual fuck.
She stood a few feet from him, her expression unreadable, but something about her touched that part of him he thought was long dead. He hated that she could still pull that kind of reaction from him. He went still and quiet, like the waters in the lake just before twilight. Underneath things raged and moved, yet the surface was calm.
They stared at each other until the silence became uncomfortable. He made no effort to hide his shock and saw heat rise up her neck until her cheeks were scarlet. Ashton picked up a pair of shoes from the floor and tossed them into the small closet beside the door. She didn’t say a word and he realized the talking was going to have to be up to him.
“You live here.” This time it wasn’t a question, but a statement.
He wasn’t sure she’d answer, but after a few seconds she met his gaze directly. “I do,” she replied softly, rubbing at her temples and then settling her arms around herself as if looking for some kind of comfort.
Mace’s eyebrow rose. “Not gonna lie. Totally wasn’t expecting this.”
She remained silent for a few moments and then shrugged. “What do you want Mace? I don’t have a lot of time for,” she threw her hands in the air, “whatever this is you want to do.”
“Apparently you just got fired so I would think you have all the time in the world.”
“Well that’s just it, isn’t it?” Her chin thrust forward and some of that fire he remembered lit her eyes up but good. “I have to look for another job because of you.”
He cocked his head and watched her closely. She looked good, no doubt about it. Ashton Breckinridge was the kind of woman who could wear a damn burlap sack and no makeup and she’d still be dialed up to eleven. She’d been precocious and sexy as a teenager, but now? Now she was a woman and time had only managed to enhance everything about her.
She was breathtaking.
Get a grip, he thought, taking a mental step back. He needed to remember that beneath all that beauty was a bitch who’d used him and tossed him away like yesterday’s garbage. He’d been her dirty little secret for nearly an entire year until that last night when it all went to shit and he found out exactly what she thought of him.
“You walked out,” he replied. “Not my fault LaMotte fired your ass.”
“Sure,” she said roughly. “Okay. Whatever you say.” She tugged at the edge of her jacket. “What do you care anyway? Why are you here?”
And here we are, he thought. “I guess I needed to see for myself, why it was that a girl who’s never worked a day in her life, a girl who could buy the goddamn Meridian, would be working concierge.” He glanced around her tiny apartment. “Seems you’ve come down a few pegs, Pea.”
“Don’t call me that,” she shot back, chest rising and falling so rapidly he couldn’t help but look.
Pea. His pet name for the girl who’d stolen his heart all those years ago.
Jesus, why did he care?
“You filming some kind of reality shit-show? Rich girl slumming it?”
“You see cameras anywhere?”
“I don’t get it.” He frowned. What the hell was going on with her?
“I don’t need you to get it and I sure as hell don’t have time for you. So, now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity can you leave?”
But Mace wasn’t going anywhere. He was far from satisfied and though he knew it was probably the right thing to do—leave and forget he’d ever set sights on Ashton again—he couldn’t. The pull was still there.
Mace frowned. “You were the girl who was going to snag the richest guy in the room, some Country Club asshole with a limitless bank account because that’s the kind of woman you are.”
“I was married,” she shot back, voice sharp.
“And my marriage and my life are none of your business.”
What the hell was at play here? Mace glanced around the shithole she apparently lived in. A part of him didn’t believe it though. The girl he knew would turn her nose up at a place like this. But then the girl he knew wouldn’t work at the Meridian. And that was the crux of the matter. It was the reason he’d blown off the guys to find out.
“So how’d you go from Country Club to this dump? Did the guy dumb enough to marry you not have deep enough pockets? Did you make the wrong play and end up with nothing?” That scenario made sense. “Don’t worry about it Pea. I’m sure you’ll land some other dumb fuck and go back to swiping your black Amex.”
She flinched at his words and held his gaze a few moments longer. But then her shoulders hunched forward a bit and he thought that maybe her bottom lip trembled.
“If all you want to do is insult me, then go ahead. I can’t stop you. I get that you still have bad feelings over our breakup—”
“Bad feelings over our breakup?” Unbelievable. Is that what she thought? “Are you shitting me? I was the side piece you played around with on the down low. The townie you slummed with. We were never a thing so there wasn’t a breakup.”
“And I was the prize from across town. The girl whose cherry you popped. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what you told Finn and Matt?”
Confused he had nothing. What the hell was she talking about? Finn and Matt
“Look, I’m tired and I have a headache that won’t quit and like I said earlier, I have to look for a job. If you have more insults to get off your chest do them now and do them quick and then leave.”
He took a step toward her, but she flinched and something in her eyes stopped him cold. This was wrong. All of it. Her living here. Him being here.
Mace glanced to his left and noted a stack of what looked to be bills on the counter and then glanced back toward Ashton. She was pale, the bruises beneath her eyes making the skin nearly translucent.
He should leave without saying another word and yet…
“Be at the Quagmire tonight at eight. The job is still yours if you want it and Paul will fill you in on the details.”
He turned, left her apartment, and shot a dark look at the nosy neighbor whose door was cracked open an inch.
“What the hell are you looking at?” His voice was harsh and he didn’t wait for an answer. He pushed his way out into the fresh air and took a moment to get his shit together.
What the fuck had he just done? Would she even show?
“Hell no,” he muttered heading for his truck.
The pathetic thing was, a part of him wanted her to and if he wasn’t careful, it was that part that would get him into trouble. Mace Evans had enough on his plate without having to deal with the kind of trouble that came along with a woman like Ashton.
He didn’t love her, that shit was long gone, but damned if he didn’t still wonder from time to time. What would have happened if they’d made it out together? If she hadn’t left him that night to go to the fancy party at the Country Club with her stuck up rich friends? To the boyfriend?
He slid into his truck and decided not to think about it. He had other things to worry about. Like this damn benefit he’d agreed to, the one back in his hometown. A hometown that held a lot of bad memories for him—the worst of it being his old man. And Ashton was wrapped up in all of that.
Mace’s truck roared to life and he peeled out of the parking lot without looking back.
Screw the past.
Screw all of it.