High Heels In Borrowed Shoes-Part Seven

High Heels In Borrowed Shoes-Part Seven by Juliana Stone

 

Part Seven

        The door slammed behind Ashton but she paid it no mind, even though the sound echoed painfully into her still aching head.

         It was noon.  She should be at work.  Making money—money she desperately needed to pay her bills—and yet she wasn’t. She was home because as of ten-fifteen this morning she was gainfully unemployed.

         She tossed her jacket and purse onto the sofa and trudged into the small kitchen, or rather, the alcove that passed as a kitchen. It housed an apartment sized fridge, stove, a small sink and counter, and that was about it. The stack of bills on the small countertop lay un-open, taunting her with their silent whispers.

         She ignored them like she did every night.  She knew what was inside.

         She grabbed some more pain meds, downed them quickly and stood for several minutes not really knowing what to do.  The silence in her apartment was heavy, it grated on her ears if that was possible, and she grabbed her cell turning on the Bluetooth so her small speaker could fill in all those cracks.

         Bad move.  Ruckus’s latest hit played, a melodic rocking masterpiece complete with Mace’s signature guitar licks and the kind of harmonies only they could pull off. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she whispered hoarsely.  It was turned off just as quick.

         Mace Evans had blasted back into her life, and in the space of twenty-four hours he’d managed to not only piss her off, insult and humiliate her in front of his manager and band mate, but he’d also cost her, her job. 

         She kicked her shoes off viciously.  That was all on him.

         Carl LaMotte in his never-ending quest to kiss ass had ordered her to return to the suite and do whatever it took to smooth things over. She’d refused. Then she’d been fired.

         Fired. 

         That was not a good thing for someone in her situation.  A twenty-eight-year old woman with no real skills other than the ability to organize parties, arrange appointments, and as of the last six months or so, she could add damn good at cleaning toilets to the list.

         God, what would her mother think?  According to the woman Ashton’s only important skills should concern her looks and ability to not only land a wealthy husband, but satisfy him enough so that he wouldn’t stray.

         Again.  Record fail for Ashton in that category.  The fresh divorce papers said so.  Never mind that Michael Parnell had been an absolute monster…the bruises had long faded as well as the broken bones, but it was the scars underneath, the ones etched across her heart and soul, that still haunted her.  The last time she’d talked to her mother, the woman had berated her for not trying hard enough. Even after she’d told her mother everything.

         Ashton had never felt so alone.

         She followed the trail of her shoes and sank onto the sofa.  When she’d rented the apartment she’d been lucky it had been furnished.  Well, lucky being a relative term.  The pieces were old and pretty much ready for the dump, but hey, it gave her somewhere to plunk her butt down when she got home.

         There was no television—she couldn’t afford cable anyways—so the silence remained.  It was preferable than listening to Mace’s band.  Lord knows they were in heavy rotation on the local stations.

         She rested her head back and tried to organize the chaotic thoughts that crowded the space inside her head, and yet one thing stood out that wouldn’t go away.  The image of Mace, with a towel barely covering his body…the man looked even better than she remembered.

         He’d always been so incredibly male.  All hard lines and strength.

         He’d added a few tattoos and though she hated to admit it, her eyes had looked for a certain tat and when she saw it was gone she couldn’t deny the hurt.  Her hand fell to her hip.  Hers was still there.  Mace’s mark.

         Christ, she was such an idiot.  She should have had it removed years ago.  Michael had wanted it gone but it was one time she stood up for herself and refused.  He’d told her it was white trash but to her, it had been a link to the man who’d rocked her world in more ways than one.  A symbol of what she’d given up.

         Her phone rang shrilly and she jumped.  Ashton’s first instinct was to ignore it and she let it ring a few more times before grabbing it off the side table.  It could be White Hearth Manor.

         She picked up on the fourth ring.

         “Ashton? Okay, you need to spill and you need to do it now.”

         Becky’s voice was so loud that she winced.  “God Becks, my head is still pounding, dial it down a bit.”

         “Sorry, but I’m not hanging up until you spill.”

         Ashton sighed.  “I got fired.”

         “Well I know that, but that’s not what I meant.”

         “Oh, I guess it was silly of me to think you might be a little concerned about the fact that I don’t have a job anymore.” 

         “Ashton, you’ll find another job, don’t sweat it.  Either that, or LaMotte will call you back in next week once he’s cooled down.  You were the best assistant he’s ever had …he just doesn’t know it yet.  Trust me, once things start unravelling he’ll realize you’re not expendable.  No one else takes his shit and grabs every shift tossed their way.  No one’s as—”

         “Desperate?”  Ashton finished.

         There were a few seconds of silence as Ashton swallowed the bitterness she felt.  Becky was right.  She was desperate…and pathetic.

         Without money you are less than ordinary.  A direct quote from her mother and for the first time in her life Ashton was starting to believe it.

         “Ashton, I didn’t mean you were desperate.  Just that, you know, you have no family, no kids, so you’ve got the time for extra shifts.”

         “Thanks, that makes me feel a whole lot better.  You can say it out loud though…I have no life.”

         Her doorbell rang just then and Ashton turned. Her eyes fell to the stack of bills and the one cheque she’d written but not handed in yet.  That would be her rent cheque and she was already over a week late. 

         Crap.  Mr. Mendoza must have seen her come in early and was ready to pounce.  She jumped as pounding now joined the bell.

         “Becky, someone is at the door.  I gotta run.”

         “Seriously?  Well, call me later tonight.  I’m dying to know how everything went down.”

         “I got fired, Becky, there’s not much more to tell,” she answered dryly. 

         “Yeah but what about—”

         Becky’s words were cut off as Ashton tossed her cell.  The parasites were circling and she’d just started to slide. She knew it was a long way down. Ashton’s heart sped up and the pressure in her chest was something else. Sweat broke out on her forehead and she didn’t feel so good.  She had enough money to cover her rent, but without a job how the hell was she going to cover the checks she’d just written to White Hearth?

         Should she ignore her landlord?  Would he go away?

         She exhaled slowly and squared her shoulders.  She’d deal like she’d always done.  There had to be a way.

        Her hair had fallen from its clip and she pushed it out of the way impatiently before grabbing the rent check.

         “I’m coming Mr. Mendoza.”  She opened the door. “Sorry I was late this month but…”

         Her words died a fast death, caught at the back of her throat and nearly strangling her in the process.

         Mace Evans stared down at her and the expression on his face was something she couldn’t read.  Shock?  Wonder?  Amusement?

         “What the hell are you doing here?” she all but spat at him.

         He watched her closely and she felt heat scorch her cheeks as his gaze travelled behind her.

         “You live here?”  He asked, his tone incredulous.

         “No, I’ve been house sitting for the last two years.”  The bitterness and sarcasm was hard to hide and Ashton looked away as she felt the telltale prick of tears in the corner of her eyes. 

         “Hey, Ashton, everything cool?”

         Dave Simpson lived in the unit across from hers.  He was a shift worker and most likely just waking up.  He was thirty-five, divorced with two kids, and had asked her out repeatedly.  She’d given in once, mostly because she was lonely. And though he was sweet, the man definitely was not for her.

        “We’re good.”  Mace glanced behind him and nodded before turning back to Ashton.

         Dave stepped into the hallway and she saw Mace’s fists clench tightly.  She could see the firm set to his mouth and knew from past experience that Mace Evans wouldn’t leave until he was good and ready.  She could protest, Dave would most likely try to intervene and then Mace would kick his ass.

         She sighed and stood back. “It’s all right, Dave.  He’s an old friend.”

        He walked into her place and her world shrunk to the six foot four area that was Mace Evans.  She smiled at Dave and then closed her door. Just when she thought she couldn’t sink lower, her shit day just got worse. For a few seconds she rested her forehead against the cold surface, and then with a soft sigh, turned to face the only person on the planet who still had the power to hurt her.

            She could deal with him the same as she’d dealt with every crap thing that had been thrown at her.

            At least, she hoped so.

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