Beneath These Scars (Page 61)

I held my breath, waiting for her to say something about owning the place soon. But she didn’t. I needed to talk to Harriet. Tomorrow.

She turned to the dress form that had held my Cinderella dress. “Did you sell that blue dress? That’s the one I came back for.”

In that moment, I was glad it was gone. It was childish, but I was glad she wouldn’t have it either. “Sorry, it was sold.”

She spun. “I can’t wait until I own this place. I’ll be able to keep the good stuff and never miss a thing.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t think she understood that if she owned the shop, I would no longer be working here and the inventory would never be the same.

I dug deep and found my don’t be a bitch to the unwanted customer attitude, one I rarely needed. “Is there something else I can interest you in?” I almost choked on the words.

She scanned the store, hands on her hips in contemplation. “I think I’ll wait for you to put more out. It looks like your inventory is getting a little bare.”

My urge intensified to go look through everything in the back and take the rest of the items I’d made mental notes as being maybes to add to my wardrobe.

“Then I guess we’ll be seeing you later.”

She smiled, all saccharine sweet. “Oh, you know you will. I’m hopeful next time I’ll have the keys. See you soon, Yve.” She strolled to the front door and shut it behind her.

Jerome slipped back inside as soon as she was gone. “I got the feeling you wanted privacy with that one. Any particular reason?”

Did I want to explain? Not really. But would I? A little.

I gave him the quick rundown on Harriet selling the store, and Jennifer’s interest and her continued poking around.

“I can see how a woman like that would think she could run this like you do,” he started. “But she’s wrong. Dirty Dog is clearly the domain of Yve Santos, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is an idiot. I think I should talk to this Harriet woman and make sure she understands that.”

His words coaxed a smile to my lips. “I’m going to talk to Harriet tomorrow. I have to. I’ve been putting it off because I want her to know that I’m serious. I wanted to have some idea of how I’m going to pay for it before I stated my intentions. But time seems to be running out, and I’m not going to miss this opportunity because of my own damn pride.”

That was a huge revelation for me. Dirty Dog is mine, and I would beg to keep it. It also raised the question: what else had my pride been holding me back from?

Jerome nodded, crossed his arms, and pressed a finger to his lips. It was officially the new pose of thinking man.

“Have you discussed it with Mr. Titan? He’s very good at this kind of thing.”

“I’m not looking for a handout.”

“And he doesn’t believe in giving them, so I think you’re safe on that count.”

JP returned, sending the chime into another cheery jingle, and two more customers followed her inside. Just the distraction I needed.

But still, tomorrow—plan or no plan—I was talking to Harriet. I’d call her before I left tonight to make sure she was free.

WHEN I FLIPPED THE OPEN sign to Closed and waved JP off, I was glad the day was over. I was tired. I couldn’t imagine how exhausted I would have been if I’d won my way about working yesterday. Apparently letting someone take a little care of me wasn’t the end of the world. Actually, it was kind of nice.

Jerome escorted me out the back to his personal vehicle, a shiny black Audi.

“Like the Transporter.” I eyed his spiffy black suit and bald head. “You could definitely pull off the Jason Statham look.”

The older man chuckled. “Maybe his father—or grandfather. But excellent choice of movie reference regardless, my dear.”

I smiled as he hung the dress bags in the back, and I climbed in.

His words got me thinking. “You’re kind of like a grandfather to Lucas, aren’t you?”

Jerome’s chuckle filled the car. “I like to think of myself more of a . . . favorite uncle. Admitting I’m old enough to be his grandfather is a little depressing.”

Cringing, I apologized. “I didn’t mean it like that. It just seems like you’re close.” Given that the only time I’d ever asked Lucas about his parents, he’d shot me down, I wondered if maybe Jerome could provide some insight. “You’ve been with him a long time, right?”

“Well over a decade.”

“Was he close with his parents? He doesn’t talk about them.”

Jerome’s glance was sharp. “Mr. Titan’s relationship with his parents is something you’ll have to ask him about.”

So apparently I wouldn’t be getting answers this way. But I wasn’t done prying quite yet. “They’ve both passed?”

Jerome nodded. “Yes. His mother when Levi was just a toddler, and his father . . .” He cleared his throat before adding, “It was a couple years after I’d joined the household that we buried the senior Mr. Titan.”

His choice of words stoked my curiosity further, but it seemed Jerome wouldn’t be sharing the details. He was right—I’d have to get them from Lucas himself if I wanted to know more about the man.

A few moments later, we slowed as the gate in front of Lucas’s home rolled open. Pulling in like this—with the car, the driver, the everything—made it seem even more surreal. As if I was playing house or something.

It’s just until I figure out where I’m going to live next, I told myself, even though part of me whispered I was in no hurry to leave.