Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #bwwm interracial romance
Tomorrow, she would have to go back to the grind of working two jobs, but for the moment, she was enjoying laying in bed and not having anywhere to be.
It occurred to her that now that she was no longer supporting her mother, there was no real reason why she needed to work two jobs. Whatever happened to her mom was going to happen, and it wasn’t like she had rent or a mortgage to worry about when it came to the place she was currently living…
“Huh,” she murmured under her breath, rolling onto her side and staring at her closet doors. With her expenses drastically reduced now, she could actually work at having savings. Things that she never thought she could have before were suddenly much more feasible, and it was a heady thought.
For the last few years, she’d been doing double duty. Working mornings at a coffee shop in town and evenings as a waitress. The money was alright, but she usually cleaned up in tips. Her earnings had been enough to keep food on the table at home, but now she didn’t really
A knock at her bedroom door broke her out of her thoughts, and she stretched languidly, pulling the covers up more before calling out for whoever it was (and she already knew it was either Ben or one of the maids) to come in.
Ben stuck his head in and she grinned at him. He was used to her early hours and was the only person she knew who kept earlier hours than she did.
“Just thought I’d check on you before I head out,” he said. “I’m going to meet with a couple more people who’re interested in being on Dorian’s security team.”
“How’s that going?” Andrea asked. She hadn’t had a lot of time to catch up with her brother in the few days that they had both been living there.
“Pretty good. Dorian still has to meet everyone and make the final decisions, but I think he’s going to be pleased with the people I picked.”
“Look at you making strides in the world,” Andrea teased him.
“That’s me. You wanna grab dinner later tonight? I feel bad that I’ve been pretty much leaving you on your own these last couple of days.”
Andrea shook her head and sat up a bit. “Don’t worry about it. I know you’re busy. And anyway, Dorian’s been showing me around and stuff. I’ve been eating with him and Anita lately.”
Ben raised his eyebrows at that, but didn’t make it into a big deal. “Okay. Well, that’s good. Dinner, though?”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll be here.”
“Great. I’ll come get you around seven. Have a good day.”
He was gone before she could reply, and Andrea rolled her eyes and flopped back against her pillows. That was her brother. Always on the move.
She laid in bed for a bit more and then decided that she might as well use her time off to make some decisions about the way she wanted her life to go. If she didn’t need both jobs, then quitting one made sense, and it was even possible that she could get a better job down the line.
But first she had some decisions to make.
Andrea eyed the closed door of the absolutely beautiful ensuite bathroom. Maybe first she’d take a nice, long hot bath.
After her bath and a quick breakfast (eaten with Anita because Dorian was nowhere to be found, and she couldn’t think of a casual way to ask where he was), Andrea retreated to her sitting room, plopping down on her couch with her laptop and opening a fresh word document.
Her brother had always been fond of the pro/con list, and he was the one who had instilled the practice in her.
She made two documents, one for the pros and cons of keeping her job as a barista and one for the pros and cons of continuing on as a waitress.
After a moment to get her head focused on the task, it was easy enough to start filling in the lists, typing up everything good and bad that she could think of about each job. There were things like distance and time she’d have to commute (when she’d lived with her mother, the diner had been closer, but now the coffee shop was much more convenient to get to), the pay, the people she worked with and worked for, the time and length of her shifts, and how she felt when she got home from each job.
The coffee shop seemed to be winning out over the diner, and honestly, Andrea wasn’t surprised. Hollybrook Grounds was an independent cafe type place that sold delicious coffee and pastries and catered to college students and people who cared about their coffee being served up by someone other than a money grubbing conglomerate.
It was usually filled with pseudo-hipsters and pretentious people, but the atmosphere was much better than the greasy night time shifts at the diner.
“Hmm,” she said, tapping her fingers against her lips. She usually got more hours from the diner, but she was in the middle of wondering if she could talk to her manager about getting longer shifts at Hollybrook Grounds when there was a knock on her door.
“Come in,” she called, glancing at the time. It seemed like it should have been too early for Ben to be back, so she was anticipating it being one of the maids wanting to know if she wanted her sheets washed or something.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t prepared when Dorian stepped in, looking edible in a dark blazer and pressed pants.
“Am I interrupting something?” he asked, smiling at her as he closed the door behind himself.
Andrea had to swallow hard and force herself to focus. She was keenly aware of the fact that she’d traded the oversized t-shirt and shorts she wore to bed for a slightly better fitting shirt and yoga pants. She hadn’t bothered to put on a bra yet, and her hair was pulled up into a messy bun on the top of her head.
Great. Just wonderful.
“Just me talking to myself,” she said, offering him a smile that felt sheepish. “Where’ve you been? You look all fancy.”
He glanced down at himself and then shrugged. “A meeting with my financial advisor. As I’m still confined to the manor grounds for the moment, he had to come here. And...well. I take special delight in intimidating him when he’s on my property.”
Andrea laughed. “You’re terrible. Was there something you wanted?”
“Just to see how you were doing. I know Ben’s been busy lately, and I suppose I wanted to make sure you weren’t lonely. I know this place can be overwhelming sometimes and for how big it is, it can be profoundly isolating.”
Touched, she smiled at him. “Thanks, Dorian. I appreciate that. I’ve been fine, actually. Just doing a good, old fashioned pros and cons list to keep myself busy.”
“And what, pray tell, are you weighing the pros and cons of?”
It seemed silly to tell him about how she was weighing the options of her jobs when he was dressed like that and had just come from a meeting with his financial advisor who had probably told him that yep, he was still filthy rich, nothing to worry about there. But he was looking at her with open eagerness on his face, and she found herself motioning for him to come sit beside her.
He blended right in with the plush, dark blue fabric of the couch, and she swallowed hard at their sudden proximity.
“So, before now I had to work two jobs, right?” Andrea explained, putting her mind back on what she was meant to be focusing on. “One in the morning and one at night. Not fun. But now that I live here, and I can let one of them go. So I’ve just been trying to decide which one is the expendable one.”
Dorian leaned in, peering at her screen with a frown on his face. “Hollybrook Grounds. Coffee shop?”
Andrea nodded. “And Hartwell Diner speaks for itself, I guess.”
“It certainly does.” Dorian shook his head and looked at her. “I don’t see why you should keep either of those jobs, personally.”
“Well, I do have to work,” Andrea explained. “I mean. It’s hard enough for me to accept that I live here and don’t pay any rent and eat your food. I need. I have to be able to buy things for myself, you know. And I have bills to pay. That kind of thing.”
The conversation had barely started, and already it was abundantly clear that the two of them were from different worlds. It was like a chasm had opened up between them and on one side was Dorian, who had likely never had to do a real day’s work in his life, and then on the other was Andrea, who was used to working her fingers to the bone for no thanks at all.
“Well, yes,” Dorian allowed, voice soft and slow as if he were speaking to a child. “But no one said you have to keep working jobs like this.”
And yep. That was a definite red flag and a sign that she needed to end this conversation. It was clear that Dorian had no idea where she was coming from, and continuing like this was probably only going to make things harder than they had to be.
It was going to end in a fight, more than likely, and that wasn’t what she wanted.
But, of course, her temper had a mind of its own, and so she drew herself up as much as she could and narrowed her eyes at him. “What’s that supposed to mean? What’s wrong with my jobs?”
“They’re menial. Service positions.”
“And you look down on people in service positions?” she fired back. “People like Carlos and Anita? The people who clean your house? My brother?”
“That’s not what I said. And it’s not the same, anyway.”
“How is it not the same?” Andrea demanded. “They
you. They work
“Yes, but only for me. They don’t have to cater to anyone who walks through the door. They have autonomy and get paid a fair bit more than any coffee slinger could ever dream of.”
The words hit her like a slap to the face, and she jerked back, astonish that such words had come out of Dorian’s mouth. “
He had the good grace to wince at her tone. “That’s not. I didn’t mean offense. I just think that you could do better than either of these jobs. That’s all.”
“And how would you know?” Andrea snapped. “You don’t know anything about me. You don’t know if I went to college or if I finished high school. Maybe this is as good as I can do. Maybe I’ve had to sacrifice and scrape by for the last several years of my life, so this is as good as it gets for me. Not everyone can waltz into a room and start writing checks to get what they want. Not everyone has the same opportunities that
Dorian looked a bit shocked, and Andrea was breathing hard after her rant. She didn’t want to have an argument with him about this because she knew that it was going to be one of those things where neither of them could understand where the other was coming from, so they were just destined to be on opposite sides.
It made her sad and pretty much ensured that even if they were to give in to the sparks that had been flying between them, it wouldn’t end well.
“I am well aware of that,” Dorian said, and his accent was sharp enough to cut glass. “But I also know that privilege isn’t the only thing that can get people places. Hard work can do that, as well.”
Her eyes widened, and her face flushed with fury. “Don’t you
talk to me about hard work!” she practically shouted at him. “You don’t know the first thing about hard work. Hard work is taking care of your mother while she drinks herself to death and calls you names. Hard work is working two jobs and keeping the bills paid for someone who never says thank you and continues to spew abuse at you while you make sure they don’t
Hard work is watching everyone you grew up with get good jobs and get married and have kids while you stay in the same house you grew up in because it may as well be a prison! You don’t know
It wasn’t until she heard the echo of her voice dying away in the room that she realized she’d started yelling. That was just a sensitive subject for her, and Dorian had prodded it in a way that she couldn’t ignore. She knew that he probably hadn’t meant to offend her, but her feelings were hurt and old wounds that she’d assumed she was done with were throbbing painfully.
“I don’t think continuing this conversation is a good idea,” Dorian said, and for once, he sounded less sure of himself.
“You’re probably right,” Andrea replied, looking away. “I need to finish this. I don’t have a choice.”
He opened his mouth and then closed it again, obviously thinking better of whatever it was he had been about to say. “Right,” Dorian said instead. He got to his feet, casting one last glance at her and then strode purposefully out of the room. The door didn’t slam behind him, but the click it made when it closed was just as decisive.
Andrea waited until she could hear his footsteps moving away and then groaned out loud, flopping back against the couch and pulling one of the pillows up to press it over her face.
“Great. Perfect. That went really well,” she muttered into the soft material, half wishing she could just smother herself and get it over with.
Half of her was livid with the way Dorian had acted, but the other half insisted that it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t know how things worked. That he didn’t understand what it was like to be born without the silver spoon wedged firmly up one’s butt.
She sighed and glanced back at her computer. Hollybrook Grounds clearly won out, and she made a note to go to the diner and put her notice in. Her boss there probably wouldn’t make her work the last two weeks, considering they were always hiring new wait staff and they were hardly ever short staffed, and Andrea sighed.