“Why?” I ask, not knowing where to start. “I don’t understand. Did you know I was going to be at the gentleman’s club that night?” That doesn’t even seem possible to me, which makes all this that much harder to understand.
“Cason,” she begins, her voice tired and weary. She shakes her head and her hood falls to her shoulders. Her hair is in a ponytail, her face makeup-free. The innocent look works on her, apparently. “It’s not like that.”
I laugh. “What is it like then, Londyn? What am I supposed to believe?”
Her face falls. “You think I gave my father insider information about your business.” Her shoulders sag.
“He already bought the domain name. Soon he’ll be selling women’s apparel that caters to professional businesswomen who are either too busy to shop, or have limited funds but need to look professional. That sure sounds a lot like what we talked about.”
“Yeah, I know but—”
“What I don’t understand is why you didn’t just go to him with your Soft Wear idea? Why bring it to me first?” I wave toward the laptop on my desk. A thought hits, and an almost manic laugh crawls out of my throat. “Oh, wait, I get it now. Your daddy’s businesses are failing and you asked me so we could discuss designers and distributors.” I look down the hall, and through the glass door, see her father’s car drive by slowly.
“So that’s what you think, Cason?” Her coat sags on her shoulders as she exhales. “That’s what you really think?”
“Yeah,” I say, my heart splintering into a million tiny pieces. “That’s what I think,” I bark back, pain and anger mingling and fogging my ability to think with any sort of clarity. I’m being a total prick here, and I know it, but I’m so goddamn mad, I’m seeing red.
“You want me to leave?” she asks, her voice hitching.
I nod my head. “Unless there is something else you need from me. Any more advice, any other designers I could introduce you to?” She opens
her mouth to speak, but I cut her off. “Although I can’t imagine what else you could possibly take from me.”
Her mouth closes, and tears fill her eyes. Her father’s car drives by again. “You should go. Daddy’s waiting.” I take a step back, putting a measure of distance between us, physical and emotional. “I’ll have your things sent to you.”
She glances over her shoulder. “Cason, I—”
She hugs her jacket to herself, and backs up toward the door, her footsteps wobbly and unsteady. She turns and opens the door. Her body vibrates as she takes a big breath.
“For what it’s worth,” she says quietly, talking to me over her shoulder. “It’s not what you think. None of that matters though, because I made a mistake in the past, one I’m completely sorry for, but I was also going on misinformation, and that destroyed your trust in me. It’s not something I’ll ever get back, that’s perfectly clear to me now.”
“What are you talking about, Londyn?”
“My father told me you thought I was a silly girl, a joke. He actually had a recording of you saying that. I have no idea how he got it. I guess he must have had you followed.” A cry lodges in her throat. “That would be just like him.”
I grab a fistful of my hair. Will that man never stop screwing with me? What the hell did I ever do to him, anyway? “I never said that.”
“I know. He wanted you out of my life because you were from the wrong side of the tracks. He didn’t think you were good enough, didn’t have the right pedigree. He manipulated me, and in the end, it destroyed us both.”
I back up, grip the doorframe to my office, my pulse jumping in my throat, incredulous. “That’s why you kept asking me if I thought you were silly?”
I shake my head, as I wrap my brain around all this. “You were pretty quick to believe the worst of me then.”
“Sadly yes, and that was on me and not you. It came from a place of fear and insecurity.” She swallows. “You said yourself I needed to believe in myself.” She turns, and watery blue eyes meet mine. “But I’ll leave. I’ll let you throw me out of your life.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I shout back.
“You have insecurities that stem from your childhood too, Cason. You’re so afraid of getting hurt, you push others away before they can push you away.” A long pause and then, “That’s why you’re so quick to believe the worst of me. Just for the record, my father is completely wrong about you. You’re a good man.”
I stand there staring, her words banging around inside my rattled brain.
“One more thing Cason. We don’t have a future, I accept that, but you need to take some time, a lot of time, in fact, and work on you. There are people out there that want to love you, and I really hope you can see that, and not let fear drive your actions and push away the next woman who wants to be a part of your life. I want you happy.”
She disappears through the door, closing it quietly behind her. I walk up to it, my heart crashing in my ears as she takes the steps to the walkway. Her father climbs from the car, a shit-eating grin on his face—like he was right about something—and circles it to greet her, but she shakes her head and walks past him, heading toward the downtown core. I have no idea what she’s doing, and I shouldn’t care. I shouldn’t care one damn iota, but how can I not? I’m in love with her yet all this time, she was using me for information.