By: J. S. Scott

“I know. I don’t care. I just need work, Mr. Walker. Please.” The pleading in my voice bothered me, but I was beyond pride and in survival mode. My future depended on how this meeting turned out.

“No family?” His eyes watched for any reaction.

“None.” I was being truthful. If I had any family, I wouldn’t be here.

The longer he stayed silent, the more nervous I became. My breathing started to get fast and shallow, and my chest ached from my heart racing so fast I was afraid it was going to stop from the exertion.

Trace leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “I can get you a job. As long as you’re a good employee, you’ll have security at one of my resorts. If you help me, I’ll help you. Half the money up front, and then I place you wherever I have an opening after the assignment is over.”

I’d have security? It was something I’d never experienced. Every job—every single moment really—I was worried. Even when I had a position, I’d been desperately afraid I was going to lose it if anyone found out about my past. Security? I didn’t know the meaning of the word.

I was tempted, so very tempted. I could have money in the bank, not be afraid of overdrawing my checking account. I would be able to eat, to breathe. However, I knew I couldn’t take the deal. “I’m not Chloe’s friend,” I admitted quietly, sadly.

My hopes had risen and then plummeted. I couldn’t lie to him. I did want that elusive protection of having a stable job, but it wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t know the truth.

A small grin split his face. “I know. I’m glad you admitted that yourself. At least I know you’re honest.”

I gaped at him in surprise. “How did you know?”

Trace shrugged. “Chloe did tell me that her friend was an executive assistant who could possibly help me over the holidays. I don’t think she needs a permanent job. She just wanted the extra cash.” He paused before adding, “I have to admit that you have a lot of guts approaching me directly. Had I known you were looking for other employment, you would have been sent to human resources. I was under the impression that you were Chloe’s friend.”

Chloe, whoever she was, probably didn’t hang out with women like me. “I don’t look like somebody who would be her friend, I’m sure.”

“No, you don’t. She’d never see a friend in desperate need and not help her. Chloe is a former Colter.”

I looked at him in surprise. “The Colorado Colter family? Senator Colter’s family?” I wasn’t much into keeping up with current affairs, but there probably wasn’t a single person in Colorado who didn’t know about the wealthy Colter clan. “I definitely wouldn’t be friends with a billionaire,” I muttered quietly. I might live in the same state as the Colter family, but I was an entire world apart from people like them.

“Are you going to take my offer?” Trace’s voice was back to being businesslike.

I paused for a moment. Even though I desperately needed the money, I really should tell him everything, but the thought of that elusive security stopped me. Longing overtook my common sense. What did it matter now? I’d gotten what I’d come for. If the time came when I had to tell him everything, at least I’d done a job that I’d get paid for doing. And I made a silent promise not to let him down. “I’ll do what you want if I have your promise that you’ll send me to a fulltime job afterwards. I might need help with choosing a little better clothing if I’m going to be convincing as your love interest.” I had no idea what rich people were currently wearing.

I desperately wanted to laugh at the thought of meaning anything to this magnetic, impossibly attractive, and incredibly wealthy man.

A mixed race street rat with a history like mine?

Not happening!

“You’re going to need more than just clothes,” he observed critically. “And you’ll take all the money I offered and the job. You’ll need it to get started in a new position.”

His bossy tone sent shivers up my spine. Unfortunately, he was right. I was going to have to find a new place to live and bear the travel costs. “Half up front, and the job.” I’d compromise.

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