Home > The Contract (The Contract #1)(11)

The Contract (The Contract #1)(11)
Melanie Moreland

I knew he was lying. One thing Miss Elliott was good at was keeping my secrets. I called his bluff. “Why she would say such a thing, I have no idea. I didn’t tell Miss Elliott where I would be. As I said, it was personal.”

He scowled at me, but dropped it. He walked around a bit, patting his comb-over; a gesture of his I knew well. He was going in for the kill. He pivoted to face me. “Why was Brian Maxwell here the other day?”

I shrugged, moving to sit at my desk so he wouldn’t see my smirk. Now, I understood what this was all about.

“Brian and I are friends. We were setting up a round of golf.”

“He couldn’t do that over the phone?”

“He was in the neighborhood. He likes to flirt with Miss Elliott, and he dropped by in person. Is there a problem?”

“What are you up to?”

I lifted my hands in supplication. “I’m up to nothing, David, except a round of golf and a couple hours outside the office. Dock me if you want.” I picked up the stack of documents. “I think if you checked though, you’d see I have a lot of unused vacation time—take the two hours out of there.”

“I’m watching you,” he warned, turning on his heel, and storming out. The door slammed so hard the windows rattled.

I grinned at the door. “Watch away, David. Watch me walk away.”

I stretched over the desk, and punched the intercom button.

Miss Elliott answered, sounding more cautious than usual. “Mr. VanRyan?”

“I need a coffee, Miss Elliott.”

“Anything else, sir?”

“A few moments of your time.”

She drew in a stuttering breath. “Right away.”

I turned my chair back toward the window, and heaved a sigh. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do.

I hoped I wouldn’t fail. God help me—either way.

KATHARINE

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND,” I MURMURED into the phone, trying to remain calm. “I didn’t receive any other notice about this increase.”

“I know, Miss Elliott. We only received the instructions two days ago, which is why I’m calling to inform you of the change.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. Four hundred dollars more a month. I needed to pay four hundred dollars more.

“Did you hear me, Miss Elliott?”

“I’m sorry—could you repeat what you said?”

“I said the new fee structure begins as of the first.”

I glanced at the calendar. That was two weeks away.

“Is this even legal?”

The woman on the phone sighed in understanding. “It’s a privately run home, Miss Elliott. One of the best in the city, but they also make their own rules. There are other places where you could see about moving your aunt—ones that are government run with fees set in place.”

“No,” I insisted. “I don’t want to do that. She’s so well cared-for and settled.”

“The staff is the best. There are other rooms, semi-private ones you could move her into.”

I rubbed my head in frustration. Those rooms didn’t have a garden view—or a space for Penny’s easels and art books. She would be so unhappy and lost. I had to keep her in her private room, no matter what.

Mr. VanRyan walked in the office, staring at me. I hesitated before saying anything else, unsure if he would stop, but he kept walking, entered his office, and shut the door with a quiet click behind him. He didn’t acknowledge me, not that he ever did, unless it was to yell or curse, so I could only assume the strange call he had me make had been acceptable.

“Miss Elliott?”

“I apologize. I’m at work, and my boss came in.”

“Do you have any other questions?”

I wanted to scream at her and say, “Yes! How the hell am I supposed to come up with another four hundred dollars to give you?” but I knew it was useless. She worked in the accounting department; she didn’t make the decisions.

“Not at the moment.”

“You have our number.”

“Yes, thank you.” I hung up. They certainly had my number.

I stared at my desk, my mind going a mile a minute. They paid me well here at Anderson Inc.—I was one of the highest salaried PAs because I worked for Mr. VanRyan. He was horrible to work for—his dislike of me obvious. However, I did it because it made me extra money, which all went to care for Penny Johnson.

I traced my finger along the worn edge of the blotter I kept on my desk. I already lived in the cheapest place I could find. I cut my own hair, bought my clothes at second-hand stores, and my diet consisted of ramen noodles and a lot of cheap peanut butter and jam. I splurged on nothing, using every opportunity to save a little. Coffee was free in the office, and there were always muffins and cookies around. The company paid for my cell phone, and in the warm weather, I walked to and from work, to save the bus fare. Every so often, I used the kitchen at the home to bake cookies with the residents and brought some in to work to share. It was my silent way to make up for the goodies I snagged. If an unexpected expense arose, there were days those cookies and muffins were all I could afford to eat. I checked to see if there were any in the break room before I left at night that I could put in the small freezer in my apartment.

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