Authors: Kelly Favor
With His Belief (For His Pleasure, Book 14)
By Kelly Favor
© 2013 All Rights Reserved
Scarlett’s feet hurt.
It was hard getting used to waitressing again -- since running away from Terrence, she hadn’t held regular employment of any kind, and waitressing was physically demanding. Still, having worked in various diners and restaurants and clubs since she was sixteen years old, Scarlett was shocked at how hard this new job was for her.
It was a burger joint in Hell’s Kitchen—a trendy place for the “foodies”—busy as heck from about 11:30 a.m. all the way through 9:00 p.m. or so when things finally slowed down again. The money was decent, but the customers were demanding and sometimes downright snobby.
Scarlett was no stranger to people’s horrible attitudes. It was her feet that didn’t seem capable anymore. She felt like a broken-down car being pushed on one more cross-country trip, and things were beginning to give out.
Checking her watch, she saw that it was only a quarter past one, and she wasn’t off until six.
She closed her eyes, just for a second—and then someone called out to her.
“Miss? Miss?” She opened her eyes and looked at a table that wasn’t even hers.
“Yes?” she asked, struggling to keep the edge out of her voice.
The man held up his empty glass and shook it. “Can I get a refill? Diet Coke?”
Scarlett bit back her annoyance and smiled brightly. “Of course.” She grabbed the empty glass from his hand and went and got a refill, brought it back to him and then went and rang up the check for one of her actual customers.
Her feet screamed in protest.
Can’t we just sit down for five minutes?
There would be no more sitting down, Scarlett thought. Her days and nights were going to be filled with walking, running, and scurrying about like a rat in a maze.
It was hard. She’d enjoyed working with Bryson and in the last week or so since getting fired, she often thought back to it. At the time, she perhaps hadn’t appreciated the opportunity as much as she did now.
She’d forgotten how difficult and dreary real work was. Movie making was different. It was stressful and demanding, but it also felt like there was something exciting going on. She’d felt part of something special.
But that was gone now. She was so angry and sad and disappointed in herself and Bryson, too—but she also couldn’t help wistfully recalling the good moments between them. And then, of course, she hated herself for longing for that, for longing for him.
Forget about it,
she told herself.
Forget about him.
She forced it all out of her mind as she collected the measly five-dollar tip from her latest customers. Instead, she simply looked forward to her next fifteen-minute break so she could go outside and have a smoke.
Counting down the minutes to something tangible was so much easier than daydreaming about the recent past.
And then, just as she was starting to succeed in pushing her swirling thoughts out of her mind, the world coughed up a ghost. At least, it seemed like it must have been a ghost.
Because walking through the door to the restaurant was Lydia. Scarlett blinked twice, and waited see if the apparition faded away. But Lydia wasn’t the type to fade away.
She smiled and opened her arms wide. “Bestie!” she shouted. Her expression was at once sympathetic, pitying, and devious. Only Lydia could manage such a bizarre array of emotions, Scarlett decided, as they hugged one another tightly.
“Wow,” Scarlett said. “What a surprise.”
Lydia broke off the hug and put her hands on Scarlett’s shoulders, looking deep into her eyes. Scarlett shifted uncomfortably under Lydia’s gaze. “I can’t believe what
did to you,” Lydia said, shaking her head.
Scarlett sighed. “It’s okay,” she said, wondering how much Lydia knew about what had led to her being fired.
“No, it’s definitely not okay. We need to talk.”
“Well, I’m kind of in the middle of my shift.”
“It’s okay.” She waved her hand, like someone’s work schedule was completely inconsequential. “I’ll wait until you have a free minute.” Lydia walked over to the counter and sat down, ordered a coffee.
Scarlett wiped the sweaty strands of hair from her forehead. She watched Lydia sitting at the counter.
This was the last thing she needed right now. At the same time, she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Lydia had brought news of Bryson and the film. She didn’t want to care, but that didn’t make the caring stop. She was unable to truly put him out of her mind—he was always there in the background, like a shadow.
Get a hold of yourself, Scarlett thought.
Lydia can’t even be trusted to tell you if the sky is blue, let alone with details
about your personal life or the man who broke your heart.
When it was time for her smoke break, she went and tapped Lydia on the shoulder and asked her to come outside.
Once they got a few feet away from the doors, Scarlett lit up.
Lydia wrinkled her nose at the smoke. “You really should quit, you know.
Smoking is such a disgusting habit. And it causes like, tons of cancers and tumors in your lungs.” She delivered this wisdom as if she were a scientist revealing a discovery to an elementary school student.
“Thanks,” Scarlett said. “I’ll take it under consideration.”
“Anyway, I’m not here to teach a health class.”
“So why are you here?” Scarlett asked gently. “I figured you were still upset with me about the other day at the auditions.”
Lydia nodded, rolling her eyes. “I
upset. I was furious. The way you humiliated me that day—leaving me out there by myself—I went home and started writing a nice long email.” She took in a deep breath, her nostrils flaring at the memory.
“I was going to send it to everyone in Kallie and Sean’s family. I was going to let the cat out of the bag.”
“But you didn’t,” Scarlett said, turning her head and blowing smoke away from the two of them.
“No, I didn’t.” Lydia’s eyes seemed ready to fill with tears. “Because before I could, Sean told me what happened to you. And I was so mad on your behalf, I realized something very important.” She reached out and grabbed Scarlett’s hand, squeezing it tightly. “Scarlett, we’re both victims. And victims need to band together. We need to form a united front and fight back against him together.”
Scarlett was confused. “Fight back against Bryson?”
Lydia’s eyes clouded momentarily. “Bryson? No, no, no.” She shook her head angrily, like she couldn’t believe Scarlett would be so ignorant. “Not Bryson, Scarlett.
“Hunter? Why Hunter?”
“Because! He’s the reason all of this bad stuff is happening to us. To you and to me and to Kallie, even.” She bit her lip and considered this. “Well, Kallie’s a bitch, too.
But she’s a victim of his manipulations.”
“Lydia, you know that Hunter didn’t fire me, right? Bryson fired me.”
“Believe me, if Hunter wanted you to stay, he would have made it happen. And if you’re gone, it’s because Hunter wanted you gone.”
Scarlett wasn’t even sure what to say to that. Lydia seemed to have taken what she’d heard from Sean and twisted it to conform to what she wanted to believe about Hunter and Kallie, obviously in an effort to further justify her hate for them.
“I’m not so sure Hunter is to blame on this one,” Scarlett tried.
“Don’t let him fool you. He doesn’t fool me anymore.” Lydia put a finger to her eyelid. “I can see. I can see what everyone else is missing.”
“Well, I don’t know. I hope you’re not going to send that email out, Lydia.”
“Because we’re going to come out and tell the truth together.” Lydia grinned.
“You and I are the ones who saw that contract and we need to be strong. We need to let the world know the truth about Hunter Reardon. Then maybe Kallie’s family will stop her from making a huge mistake and marrying that monster.”
“Lydia, I don’t know if —”
“You’re either with me or against me,” Lydia interrupted.
“I’m not against you,” Scarlett said. “But I’m not ready to hurt Kallie and Hunter, either. I don’t want to do that to them.”
Lydia’s lips tightened and she shook her head. “God,” she said, “it’s like everyone’s brainwashed but me!”
“Listen,” Scarlett said, putting out her cigarette. “I need to get back to work.”
“Fine. What time do you finish here?”
“Not for a long time. After five o’clock.”
“I can wait.” Lydia smiled and then strutted back inside the restaurant.
Scarlett followed her, watching as Lydia made her way to the counter and resumed her position, ordering another cup of coffee.
She couldn’t believe this. She’d lost everything she cared about, and the only thing she’d gained was a crazy stalker who wanted to hold her hostage to some insane revenge plot.
Just my luck, Scarlett thought, nearly laughing at the absurdity of it all.
She went back to work, trying to ignore the specter of Lydia, who constantly tried to catch her gaze. Scarlett did her best to pretend to be too busy to even look at the woman, hoping that after enough time went by, she’d get bored and leave.
No such luck, however.
Hour after hour went by and Lydia was still sitting there, waiting.
At about four o’clock, Scarlett’s manager came out and asked if anyone wanted to pick up a double.
“Carla’s sick,” he said. “Anyone interested in staying on until close?”
“I will,” Scarlett volunteered immediately.
He cocked his head. “Really? You seemed half-ready to drop not too long ago.
You sure you’re up for another seven hours?”
“I got my second wind,” she lied.
The truth was that she would do anything to avoid having to spend time with Lydia.
“Okay, you got it.” He turned away and wrote on the schedule.
Scarlett breathed a sigh of relief. She was about to go and tell Lydia the “bad”
news, when she was stopped in her tracks by yet another ghost.
This time, she was too stunned to make a quick recovery.
Standing there, just a few feet away from her, was Bryson. She blinked. Her mouth dried up, her palms started to sweat, and her heart raced.
Thoughts crowded into her head. Why was he here? Was it a coincidence?
Would he turn around and leave? Did she want him to?
But Bryson was looking directly at her and he wasn’t making any attempt to leave. He was dressed in crisp blue jeans and a loose fitting t-shirt that couldn’t hide his muscular frame. His shaggy blond hair was a little shaggier than usual, and he was unshaven. On most people, this would have resulted in a very poor appearance, but for some reason, Bryson still looked completely gorgeous.
Everything inside of her was crying out to hold him, to run to him and feel his warmth and tell him how hard the last week had been for her.
She knew how impossible that was. Instead, she just looked at him, waiting for whatever came next.
He stepped forward. “Scarlett.” His eyes were soft and his mouth was softer still.
He licked his lips and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Listen, I’m sorry to bother you at work. But can we talk?”
A flood of anger rushed through her. Who did Bryson think he was, anyway? “I don’t see what we have to talk about,” she told him. There was a feeling of ice in her throat as she spoke. “You fired me, remember?”
“I know. That’s what I need to speak to you about.”
“Yeah, well, I’m working.” She turned around and stumbled away from him.
“Scarlett, please. I’ll make a scene if I have to.”
She turned back to him. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Because we need to talk.”
“I have nothing to say to you, Bryson.”
need to talk.”
She wanted so badly to demand that he leave, but another part was afraid if she pushed him away hard enough, he might actually go. And the truth was that she didn’t want him to go. Her heart ached for him—her entire body yearned to be close to him again, even if just for a few minutes.
“Fine, you’ve got sixty seconds,” she told him.
“Sixty seconds?” he repeated, incredulous.
“It’s like a movie pitch,” she told him. “If you can’t grab my attention and make me want to hear more, then you don’t deserve to get any more of my time.”
Bryson grinned lopsidedly. “Fine,” he said. “Come outside with me.”
She went and told one of the other waitresses to cover for her, and then she headed for the door. Bryson was standing just outside, waiting for her. When she got out, he wanted to begin talking, but Scarlett had noticed Lydia watching them from her seat at the counter.
“Can we just go around the corner? People can see us,” Scarlett said.
“Fine. As long as you haven’t started the clock yet.”
He began walking and she kept pace with him. They turned the corner and went into the alleyway. The dumpsters for the restaurant were back there. Sometimes Scarlett and the cooks or busboys would hang out back there and smoke cigarettes, bitch about different coworkers. Luckily, right now the alley was empty of people.
The sounds of the city drifted back to them, horns honking, heels clacking on the sidewalk, voices barking into cell phones.
“All right,” Scarlett said, looking at her watch. “You’ve got a minute.”
Bryson spent the next few seconds just looking at her. She met his gaze, trying to appear confident and annoyed by his intrusion into her workday. In reality, her heart was beating so fast she could barely control her breathing. She wanted his lips on hers, to feel his tongue searching her mouth, his large hands roughly grabbing her shoulders.
“You’ve got forty-three seconds,” she said, breaking off to glance at her watch.
“I’m so sorry about how I treated you,” he replied.
She sighed. She was shaking ever so slightly.
Please don’t let him notice. Please don’t let him sense how he affects me.