He reached inside his jacket pocket, withdrew the contract and handed it to Michelle. “Here you go. Give your best wishes to your boss for me.”
The look on the woman’s face was equal parts avarice, triumph, and gloating, reminding Trevor of her boss, and why they’d wanted to teach Nick Alexander a lesson in the first place.
And now he needed to find Honey.
Trevor glanced at his watch as he headed to the front doors. In his opinion, Honey had had enough time to break the news to her ex-fiancé.
He went outside and looked around the parking lot, but didn’t see her. He rounded the corner to scan the cars on the side of the building, but Honey wasn’t there, either.
Michelle joined him. “It looks like Christian’s car is gone.” She flashed him a smile.
Which meant Honey was gone, too.
His teeth clenched hard, and he gave a short nod and continued to scan.
“Which means I’m without a ride.” The woman looked at him expectantly.
“What does his car look like?” He bit out the words.
“It’s a white Lexus.” She flipped silky brown hair over her shoulder and her smile didn’t waver. “I’d like to come with you if you don’t mind. I need to talk to Honey, too.”
“You’ll have to find another ride.” Trevor headed for his truck, got inside, and quickly backed out. The outraged expression on Michelle’s face would have been funny if he’d been in the mood to laugh.
Trevor tried her hotel first, but didn’t see a Lexus of any color in the parking lot. He shoved the truck into park, ran inside, and called her room from the front desk.
As he ran back to his truck, he dialed her cell number, listened to it ring, and was finally instructed to leave a message.
He snapped his phone shut and drove off looking for the Lexus.
“And how am I supposed to feel about all this?” Honey knew from past experience that Christian’s rant was just getting warmed up. “I drive all this way,
go out of my way,
expecting to celebrate with you, to be supportive of you, and what do I find?” His hand flew out, almost knocking into the rear-view mirror. “I find...”
Honey tuned him out, and simply nodded occasionally. She knew she owed Christian both the opportunity to vent and a sincere apology, but she just wanted to get both over with and get away from him.
Her fears that she’d see him again, change her mind, decide she was insane and that Christian was the right one for her, had been groundless. She wasn’t fickle, she was just coming to her senses.
“I had no idea you were the kind of girl who would humiliate me like this.” The hand continued to wave, and he shot her glanced filled with recriminations. “I couldn’t believe it when I walked up and saw...”
Christian continued to spout, and his hands alternately clamped around the steering wheel, and flew expressively around his head. Anger rolled off him in waves, and she realized that it often did.
She’d seen this side of him too many times to count. Complaints about co-workers, services rendered, and disappointed dreams were common themes. Granted, he actually did have the right to be angry in this instance, but all she felt was relief that she wouldn’t have to live with his moods for the rest of her life.
She felt free, and wondered why she’d ever thought she’d be happy with him? He was selfish, self-centered and being around him made her feel guilty, tense, and anxious.
It was the opposite with Trevor. And the fact that she’d soon be with him, single, and free to see where their relationship might go, had her mood lightening.
But she still had to finish this conversation. She was in the wrong, she hadn’t been honest, and if a groveling apology was needed, then Christian at least deserved that from her. “Christian, can I just say that--”
Her phone rang, and, glad for the reprieve, she dug it out of her purse.
“Are you even listening to me? Is that the other guy?” asked Christian.
Honey glanced at Christian and he must have read the guilt in her face, because he grabbed the phone out of her hand and threw it forcefully out the window.
Honey’s mouth fell open.
She sat back in her seat to stare out the windshield.
They sat in silence for a moment, then Christian shook his head. “You know what? I’m done with this, and I’m done with you. Where are you staying?”
He didn’t want more of an explanation? Relief warred with guilt as Honey directed him, and Christian headed to her hotel. When he pulled to a stop outside the front doors, she turned to him. She at least owed him the apology. “I really am sorry, Christian.”
He reached past her and shoved open the door. “Get out.”
She sat a moment longer. “I want you to know I wish you well.”
He finally looked at her, his expression full of scorn. “Don’t you worry about me, babe. I have the girls lining up, and frankly, you don’t measure up to most of them. I look at you now, and I don’t even know what I was thinking. Even your good friend Michelle was coming on to me the entire trip here, and looks wise, let’s face it, you don’t stack up.”
Honey was grateful he was making this easier for her, whether he realized it or not. “I’ll return your ring when I get back home.”
His eyes narrowed at her lack of response. “You’d better, or I’ll see you in small claims court. And don’t think I’ll be giving you another chance, either, so don’t bother asking. You’re not the only one with better prospects.”
From his words it was apparent it was mostly his ego hurting, and she was glad.
As soon as she got out and shut the door, he peeled out of the parking lot.
Honey watched him go and felt...relieved. Very, very relieved.
She couldn’t wait to talk to Trevor, to see him, without any guilt whatsoever.
She realized that thanks to Christian, she didn’t have a phone, or Trevor’s number, and headed for her car.
She’d go back to the restaurant and maybe they could turn this night into a real celebration.
Honey heard her name being called just as she reached her car, and she turned to see who it was.
The spark of hope she’d felt was extinguished when she spotted Michelle getting out of a car. Trevor was nowhere to be seen. Michelle leaned down, said something to an older couple in the front seat, and handed them her business card. She shut the door and walked on very high heels toward Honey.
When she reached her, Michelle extracted a folded document from her handbag, fanned herself with it, and grinned. “Well, well, well. In fifteen minutes it looks like I was able to get what you couldn’t in three weeks.” She giggled. “Who’s the better realtor now?”
In disbelief, Honey stared from Michelle’s smirking fact to the contract. “Trevor signed the paperwork? And he gave it to you?” Honey tried to hide her confusion.
Why would he do that?
With a shake of her head, she dug in her purse for her keys. “I’ve got to go.”
“Oh, but wait. It gets better,” Michelle gloated. “I think it’s time you knew the whole story. Nick found out the property is going up in value in a few months because a certain buyer is looking at the piece. A huge hardware chain willing to pay big, big bucks. Nick is going to be rich.” She waved the contract again. “And no doubt he’ll be very grateful to me.”
Honey found her keys and slowly straightened. “I don’t understand?” She shrugged her purse up over one shoulder. “Are the Barons aware of this?”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Don’t be naive, Honey. Of course they don’t know, or they wouldn’t have sold, would they?”
Heat rushed into Honey’s face. “But...are you saying...Nick was
me to cheat the Barons?”
“Well I asked him to send me, but he thought your innocent act would work better in getting them to sign.” Michelle waved the papers in the air. “I guess he’ll have to rethink his strategy, won’t he, since I’m the one who was actually able to get the job done.” Michelle’s smile was pure satisfaction.
Honey held out her hand for the contract. “May I?”
Michelle tucked it inside her purse. “I don’t think so.”
If that sale went through, Trevor and his family would think Honey had been in on it from the beginning. Trevor would never forgive her. Her face felt tight, and she felt sick to her stomach. This was the second time in one day she felt like a dishonest liar and she was having a hard time handling that.
“The Barons are going to think I cheated them.”
“Grow up, Honey.” Michelle’s tone was contemptuous.
Honey needed to get to a phone. Turning, she headed for the hotel.
“Where are you going?” asked Michelle.
“I’m going to find Trevor and explain everything so he can stop the sale.” So he wouldn’t hate her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,
” Michelle rushed forward and grabbed Honey’s arm, jerking her to a stop. “Don’t forget you signed a confidentiality agreement with Nick when he hired you. You can’t say a word.”
Honey jerked her arm away, and Michelle must have seen indecision on Honey’s face, because she smirked. “Everyone is well aware that your word is your bond,” Michelle mocked. “Don’t let yourself down, Honey.”
Michelle glanced around. “So can you give me a ride home tonight, or shall I rent my own car?”
Honey shot her a scathing look. “You’re on your own.” She turned and hurried inside the hotel and, as soon as she reached her room, Honey pulled out a phone card and called Nick.
“Nick. This is Honey. I quit.”
“What? Wait, wait a minute. What’s going on?”
Honey’s free hand flew out into the air. “I can’t believe you used me the way you did,” Honey’s voice was raw with emotion and she swallowed, trying to regain control. She would not cry over this. She would fix this.
“Honey. Doll. Used you? What do you mean?” Nicks tone oozed hurt and confusion. “You’re my employee, and practically family, so let’s not have any more talk of using.”
Her hand flew again. “What do you call getting me out here to buy the Baron family land, which you are now going to turn around and sell for a huge profit to a hardware chain?”
“Are you saying they signed?” his excitement was restrained, but Honey heard it.
Her mouth trembled. “Michelle got the contract.”
“That’s great! See, now you don’t even have to worry.” His tone was reasonable. “Michelle did it, not you. So I’m not taking your resignation seriously.”
“You’d better take it seriously.” She wiped at eyes that were suddenly overflowing. “And not only that, I’m going to tell the Barons what’s going on so they’ll have time to cancel the deal.”
Now wait just a minute.
” Nick’s voice was hard, the affable tone of a moment ago completely gone. “You’d better keep your mouth shut or I’ll fire you
sue you. Not only that, I’ll make sure that pristine reputation of yours is ruined.” He paused, and when she didn’t say anything, he sighed.
“Look Honey, all I expect you to do at this point is to keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to do anything else. If you don’t, it might not just be your job and your reputation you’ll lose, but you could also lose that newly acquired certificate you’ve been working so hard for. You don’t want that to happen, and I don’t want that to happen. Don’t force my hand by stabbing me in the back.”
“Goodbye Nick.” Her stomach aching, Honey hung up the phone and started to pace.
Nick had seriously rattled her. She’d always sensed that under his affable veneer he was ruthless, but she wouldn’t have thought him capable of outright stealing and intimidation. But she knew he wouldn’t see his actions in the same light. He’d call it business.
So what did she do? Nothing? She had no doubt Nick would indeed sue her if he thought she’d stabbed him in the back. He’d also go out of his way to destroy her reputation, and she wasn’t sure if he could, but he would go after her brokerage license. Nick could be pitiless when thwarted.
She pressed her hands to her heated face, walked to the bed, to the door, and back again. If Trevor asked later when it all came out, she could honestly say she hadn’t known anything. If she did that, then maybe, just maybe, she could keep Trevor, too.
She sat down on the side of the bed. She
signed that confidentiality agreement with her boss. How did she get around that without being sued?
Tears burned her eyes with moisture. All she had to do was keep her mouth shut and she could have it all.
Miserable, Honey grabbed her purse and decided to go see if Trevor were still at the restaurant waiting for her. Hopefully when she saw him, she’d know what to do.
She hurried down the stairs and took a shortcut to the parking lot, going out a set of glass doors. She rushed around the wrought iron fence encasing the pool area and, as she did, saw two little girls swimming in the shallow end of the pool.
Honey stopped, and pressed a hand to her chest. The girls, tiny, petite little things, about four and five, each had flotation devices on their arms, and they bounced off the bottom on their toes, up and down, laughing and shrieking.
Where were their parents?
Honey headed for the gate, fumbled for her card key, and with shaking hands, finally retrieved it, and swiped open the gate. How could people be so stupid?
Once inside, she hurried toward the girls and her steps slowed as she rounded a planter and a woman, unseen before, came into view. Their mother, pretty, petite, and lying on a lounger, watched the girls and smiled at their antics from the side of the pool.
The girls were fine, laughing, splashing, and calling to their mother, who smiled and murmured encouraging words back to them.