Authors: Erin McCarthy
Tags: #Romance, #dpg pyscho, #New Adult
“I see someone likes those almost as much as me. Though I find it hard to believe someone as tiny as you could pack away three in one day.”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to point out when a woman overeats,” I said, without thinking, mortified to have been busted. Hey, I like fried dough. Who didn’t?
That drew him up short, his hand pausing as he reached out for a doughnut. “Fair enough. My apologies. One of the downsides of being rich is that no one dares to reprimand me.”
Oh, God, he thought I’d reprimanded him? Well, I had, but clearly I’d been too blunt. It was a bad habit. I hastened to correct my mistake. “I wasn’t saying you were wrong. I was just joking. But I have terrible delivery. I don’t sound funny. Do I?”
“No. You don’t.” He lifted the doughnut. “But no worries. I wasn’t upset. In fact, I liked that you were being honest, so don’t pretend you were joking.”
He was right. I hadn’t been joking. I appreciated that he recognized that.
He took a bite of the pastry and chewed, his eyes closing briefly. “Glorious. I’m going to open a bottle of wine. Do you want a glass?”
That had to be a trick question. I shook my head hastily. “No.”
“I can hear you thinking,” he said, shaking the doughnut in my direction. “You’re worried that you’re underage and what does it mean that I just offered you wine, aren’t you?”
“Maybe that I’m trying to bait you into doing something illegal and then call you out for it, or maybe that I’m a pervert and I’m trying to get you drunk.” He gave a little smile. “Trust me, it wasn’t either. Just that it felt rude to not offer you some.”
It seemed to me that maybe he could have offered me a soft drink. But what did I know? It wasn’t that often anyone offered me anything at all, unless it was a criticism. “I’m fine.”
“You’re tense. You’re looking at me like I’m a big bad wolf.” He cocked his head. “I have to say it’s not a reaction I get nearly as often as I should.”
That was puzzling enough that I spoke before I thought about the consequences. “You want people to be afraid of you?”
“No, of course not. I just want people to stop kissing my ass. Stop lying to me.”
I had to guess that suck ups were a huge part of a rich guy’s reality. While it didn’t sound fun, you were still rich. So that right there exempted you from a certain percentage of pity parties. In my opinion. “No one ever lies to me,” I told him. “Sometimes it would be nice if they did.”
I love you
from my gram would have gone a long way.
“So you be honest with me and I’ll lie to you, how does that sound?”
I shook my head. “You don’t know the right things to lie to me about. So because I know you don’t know, I will think everything you’re saying is a lie, or I’ll wonder if it’s a lie, and then I’ll never know what to think.”
He let out a rusty laugh, before walking to the kitchen. His chuckles followed me. “Very good point, Tiffany,” he called over his shoulder. “Let’s try a policy of mutual honesty with each other then. And when you have my measure, you can ask me to start lying. Or maybe clue me in on what you’d like me to lie about and we can start now.”
Turning in my chair, I watched him bend over and open the wine fridge. His jeans pulled across his ass. I had never seen a butt like that off the Internet or apart from underwear ads in the
magazines I read at the public library. This was a man who had hired a personal trainer. If I had the option of choosing what he should lie to me about, I could spin a fantasy pretty damn quick involving him telling me I was beautiful. I had a great imagination. Growing up it was all I’d owned.
He stood up, catching me staring at him. “No?”
I shook my head. “There wouldn’t be any satisfaction in that.”
“And the ultimate goal is always personal satisfaction, isn’t it?”
“That seems to be the general consensus,” I said, without hesitation.
He deftly uncorked the bottle. “You’re an odd little creature. So serious. You’ve lived on Vinalhaven your whole life?”
Feeling insulted, I frowned. “Yes.”
“And your family?”
“What about them?”
“Mom and dad, happily married? Three younger siblings?”
I shook my head. Stick to the facts and hope he didn’t pry. “I never met my father. Mother ran off when I was two. I was mostly in foster care, and sometimes with my grandmother.”
For a second he didn’t say anything, frowning as he filled his glass. Then he came toward me, taking a sip of wine as he strolled. “I’m sorry. Family doesn’t always live up to our expectations.”
Most people didn’t live up to my expectations. At a certain point you stopped having them. “YOLO,” I told him, going for flippant, because I felt the familiar stain of shame that I was the poor social services girl. “Make the best of it, right?”
He sat down on the couch and when I expected him to sink back into it, master of his home, he actually set his glass on the coffee table and leaned forward, forearms on his knees. “Don’t go Valley Girl on me, I’m begging you. If you say you’re going to take a selfie I guarantee I will stab myself in the face. No. Just no. I hate it on anyone, but even more on you because you don’t mean it.”
The conviction with which he spoke had me raising my eyebrows. “I should have read the job description more carefully.” Then because I couldn’t resist, I added, “Note to self: No selfies.”
The corner of his mouth turned up, and he relaxed back against the cushions. “Your delivery definitely isn’t funny, but you are. Welcome to Richfield, Tiffany.” He raised his glass in salute. “Where the truth sets you free.”
Now it was my turn to smile, before I could stop myself. I tried to dial it back, but I was too incredulous to prevent my mouth was splitting, even as I wanted to wipe it away.
“What?” he asked, pausing as he reached for his glass.
“That’s such a lie,” I told him.
Mr. Gold smiled. “Truth.” He popped the second half of his doughnut in his mouth.
Amelia had burrowed her head further between my legs and I stroked behind her ears. “You’re so sweet,” I murmured to her, more comfortable looking down at her than at my employer.
“If she’s bothering you just push her away.”
Hadn’t I just said she was sweet? It didn’t make sense to me that he would suggest I found it annoying. “No, she’s fine.” I wasn’t going to push anyone away who sought affection from me. I’d been on the receiving end of that shove too often. “I’ve never had a dog.” Again and again I stroked my hands down her head, behind the ears, and along her back, her satin fur allowing an easy glide of my touch down her flank. “She’s so calm.”
He didn’t say anything and I looked up at him, realizing that I’d been thinking out loud, wondering if I should just excuse myself and go to my room. He probably wanted to be alone in his own house, not entertaining the housesitter. Why was he there, at the house he didn’t like, anyway? When I caught his eye what I saw made me hitch my breath. He was watching me with an intensity that I didn’t understand, but had my hand stilling on Amelia, my body tingling in places it had no right to tingle. I wanted desperately to ask him why he was at the house and how long he was going to stay, but if there was one thing I knew, it was that my role was never to ask questions.
I recognized that was why I was so nosy online, why I had learned to poke and sift through the Internet and find out anything I was curious about. Because face to face with people, I wasn’t supposed to ask questions. It wasn’t my role, and it was hard to stay so obedient, so detached. I also knew the minute I went into my room, I was going to Google the shit out of Devin Gold and see what I could find beyond the obvious that I already knew, which was that he owned the house and he was hot.
“Would you mind if I left Amelia here with you when I go back?” he asked. “She is so much happier here than in the city, and I think it would make me feel better about you being here by yourself.”
“I can take care of myself,” I said, defensively. It was a knee-jerk reaction, even though I knew I would love to have the dog with me. But I didn’t want it to sound like I needed the dog. I didn’t need anything or anyone, and I wanted him to understand that.
“No doubt,” he said, nodding, his tone clearly indicating he didn’t believe it for one second. “I’m sure if attacked by a desperate meth-head twice your size, you’d be perfectly capable of defending yourself.”
“I thought that’s why there’s a security system. And how many meth-heads are running around the coast?” It was stupid logic. “Hattie didn’t have a dog.”
“Hattie would bake a burglar cookies and they would part ways the best of friends. Are you saying you don’t want the dog?”
Both my hands came out instinctively to cover Amelia’s ears, like she could understand what he was saying. “What, no! That’s not what I’m saying. But I don’t want to steal your dog. You shouldn’t leave her because you’re worried about me. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s not stealing if it’s my idea,” he said wryly. “And it would be better for Amelia, truly.”
How could I resist those eyes? And I didn’t mean the dog’s. He was giving me a very sincere look, his eyes a curious amber color with gold flecks. They were mesmerizing, and the fact that he might actually have any sort of concern for my safety made me feel shy, uncomfortable. “Okay, sir, thank you.”
He shook his head with a sound of exasperation. “What is your last name, Tiffany?”
The random question threw me. I answered obediently. “Ennis.”
“Have a doughnut, Miss Ennis.” He lifted the box and held it in my direction.
So my continued use of “sir” had him using my last name. The only time I was called Miss Ennis was in court by judges deciding my fate. It left a sour taste in my mouth, but it wasn’t his fault, so I said nothing. I just reached out and took one of the doughnuts he was offering and tore into the sugary sweetness with my teeth. “Thank you,” I muttered around the mouthful.
“You’re welcome.” He drained his wine glass. “So what do you think of my house? Do you really think it’s beautiful?”
“Yes. It’s very big,” I said, chewing so I could swallow. I was going to elaborate, but the food stuck in my throat.
“It is that. It’s a lot of things, and truthfully I like Maine more than I like this house. I appreciate the space, the view.” He plucked at a throw pillow. “But I don’t get out here as much as I used to. I really should come more.”
No. No, he shouldn’t. I said nothing. Just chewed.
I had been hoping for peace and quiet. Craving it. If Devin Gold was in residence I wasn’t going to get either.
“I’m planning to stay a week.”
Jesus. That was about six days longer than I wanted. “I guess it was kind of bad timing for me to start this job. Do you want me to go stay somewhere else?” Cat would take me back. There was no ferry to Vinalhaven after five, but I could take one in the morning.
“Is that what you think I would do? Send you away on your first day?”
That definitely was a trick question. “I think it’s normal that you’d want to be alone in your house.”
“Don’t make assumptions about me, Miss Ennis.”
I felt the burn start on my cheeks and spread across my face. Yet my pride couldn’t allow the apology to pass my lips. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t done anything wrong at all.
He was going to fire me. I was going to lose this job on the first day. But I couldn’t say anything. I just sat there, tense, refusing to drop my gaze, refusing to blink.
“I’m going to take a shower,” he announced, standing up. “I guess I wasted a fire.” He pushed the logs over with the poker and tossed ashes from the bottom over it, tamping out the flames. Standing again, he called to the dog, “Come on, Amelia. I’ll let you sleep on my bed tonight.”
His dog turned her head to look at him, but she didn’t move. He made a sound of annoyance in the back of his throat. “Really?”
I nudged her with my knees. “Go on. Go with your dad.” That reminded me of the stupid nickname I’d read online about him. Gold Daddy. It so didn’t suit him. The man I was seeing didn’t seem like a swanky player. But it was probably a public persona, an image thing.
Amelia stayed put. “Sorry,” I said, embarrassed.
But he just shrugged. “She’ll sleep with anyone. Seems to be a common problem with women in my life.”
Was he saying someone had cheated on him? That seemed… insane. Who would screw around if they were sharing a bed with him?
But I’d never shared a bed with anyone romantically so I wasn’t exactly going on any concrete experience. “It’s probably because I’m new. She’s curious.”
“Again, a problem with the women in my life.” He smiled, but it wasn’t pleasant or kind. “Good night, Tiffany. Make yourself at home. I mean that.”
That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Home wasn’t a place I ever wanted to return. “Good night, Mr. Gold. Thank you.” I wanted to say something about how I was grateful, I appreciated the opportunity, but every wording I thought up sounded stupid or pathetic or too ass kissing, so I defaulted to silence. You could never say the wrong thing if you said nothing at all.
“I’m not at work. Call me Devin. Please.”
He looked so earnest, I nodded, even though I knew I’d never say it out loud.
If he was leaving the family room, I felt like I should too, so I stood up, forcing Amelia to lift her head. She looked up at me. “What?” I asked the dog. I wasn’t versed in pet communication.
“She’s just waiting for you.” Devin had kicked off his shoes at some point and was standing by the foyer, clearly intending to head up the grand staircase. I knew the master bedroom was upstairs, but since I’d been in the house less than a day, I had yet to see it. His hair was in his eyes and he didn’t bother to push it away, and his expression was neutral, unreadable.
“Where does she think I’m going?”
“Oh, well, I am.” I took a step, leaning over to flip the lid closed on the doughnut box.
Amelia trotted towards Devin, then stopped and looked back at me.
“My room is this way,” I told her, pointing toward the kitchen. It should have felt stupid having a one-sided conversation with a dog, but it was way easier to talk to her than it was to Devin Gold.