This wasn’t going to be a comfortable conversation. Sophia was so nervous she had butterflies in her stomach, which was silly. She was thirty-four years old! But she hadn’t had a real conversation with Ted since he’d confronted her after hearing about her engagement to Skip. He’d been so hurt and angry to learn she was pregnant that he hadn’t allowed her to say much.
She’d tried several times since then to apologize. She felt guilty for hurting him, but back then she could see no other way out of her predicament.
“Eve just called. She said—” she had to clear her throat to continue talking “—she said you have a...a possible job opportunity?”
The silence stretched so long, she began to fear that Eve had set her up. Maybe Ted hadn’t said anything about a job, and she’d called him up out of the blue. That was how little she trusted human kindness these days. But then he spoke, addressing her for the first time in years—other than a few brief comments when she’d gone to coffee with him and his friends. He preferred to ignore her if he could.
“That’s true. I’m looking for a housekeeper slash assistant. I thought you might be capable of filling the position. If you’re interested.”
Her mouth went dry. “I’m definitely interested.”
“Can you cook?”
“What kind of meals would you want me to make?”
“Nothing too complicated—healthy food that tastes good.”
“Those things don’t always go together,” she joked but he didn’t laugh. His determined reticence told her his resentment was alive and well. That hadn’t changed. So why was he bothering to help her?
“Just basic meals,” he said. “Lean meat. Vegetables. An occasional dessert.”
She used the same clipped tone he had—all business. He obviously preferred the distance that allowed them. “I can handle meals.”
“Can you clean?”
“Of course. I—I had a woman who came in once a month to do the deep cleaning—windows and cupboards and closets and such. But I did all the other stuff myself.” She bit her lip as she finished because she was afraid that had sounded as if she had something to be proud of when anyone could clean.
“You may have to do a few windows here. And closets, too—for both the main house and the guesthouse in back. There won’t be someone like Marta coming in.”
“You know Marta?”
“She applied for the position.”
“But not what I’m looking for.”
So what was he looking for?Suddenly the thought that had come to her before, the thought she’d discarded in her hope, popped back into her mind. Was he hiring her out of spite? To lord his success over her? To take some sort of revenge?
But what did it ultimately matter? She had no choice other than to accept his offer. Who else in Whiskey Creek would hire her? Before long she wouldn’t even have a car, so it wasn’t as if she could commute elsewhere. “Of course. I’ll do whatever you ask. I—I appreciate the opportunity.”
“Then we should get along fine. Do you have a laptop you can bring?”
She pressed her fingers to one temple as she remembered last night. Although he’d been at the church, which made her wonder if he’d also invested with Skip—heaven forbid—she hadn’t seen him at the house, so it was highly probable he wouldn’t know what she’d had to let go.
“I did, but...it’s gone,” she said simply. No way did she want to address how or why or even acknowledge that she’d seen him. Having him as a witness to her shame had been so humiliating that she didn’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it.
“That’s okay. I have one here you can use.” He sounded gruffer than a moment before, although she couldn’t identify the reason for it.
She hoped she hadn’t said anything wrong or come across as too needy. This job was the only bright spot in the past several weeks—and not just because of the money. Maybe she’d eventually have the chance to apologize to Ted. And maybe, after a while, he’d be able to forgive her, and the regret she felt would fade.
“So you know how to use one, right?” he clarified.
“I’m probably not your best bet on the clerical side,” she admitted. “I have no experience there. But I can learn. I’m a fast learner.” She wasn’t sure why she added that. Desperation, she supposed.
“Can you write a decent email? That’s not quite as easy to teach.”
“I should be able to. I’m not stupid.” Maybe he thought she was. She didn’t have a college education, like him.
“Then we’ll give it a shot,” he said. “When would you like to start?”
A shot? That didn’t sound too definite. “Eve said something about Monday.”
“Monday is Halloween. But you can take off early if you need to.”
Alexa hadn’t mentioned having Halloween plans, but Sophia figured she should be prepared, just in case. “Thanks. I’ll work until three.”
“Okay. Come here as soon as you get your daughter off to school. What time will that be?”
“We leave the house at seven-thirty.”
“See you Monday.”
She hurried to catch him before he could hang up.
“What is it?”
“A clarification, actually. Eve said Lex can come to your place after school until I get off work. Is that true?”
“It is. You can have dinner here so you only have to make it once.”
“I appreciate that.”
“Not a problem.” Her brain conjured up the memory that came to herwhenever she saw him—at coffee or even in town. It was of Ted during his first trip home from college. They hadn’t seen each other for almost a month and could hardly breathe, they were so eager to touch, to kiss, to get naked. She’d never had a more exciting sexual encounter than when he’d taken her directly to the shack. She could still feel the pressure of him, pinning her to the old mattress they’d brought there months before.
She gripped the phone more tightly. “What?”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, thank you.” She had to forget about that night and all the other times they’d been together, she told herself. She couldn’t blow this opportunity, or Skip and what he’d done would destroy her yet.