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“Oh,” she said. The word was tinged with disappointment. “So the job wouldn’t be until then?”

“Actually, no,” Brooke said with a smile. “Sorry, I should have led with that. We’re looking for a counselor to start as soon as possible. We want someone to develop programs and assist in designing the facility so we can hit the ground running when construction is complete. We’re really looking for someone to work with us through this whole planning phase.”

Harper sucked in a breath. Now that sounded like a dream come true—developing her own program for women, and presumably children, in need of sanctuary, healing, and helping.

“What do you think?” Brook’s eyes sparkled. The passion for her project shone through clearly.

Harper stared at the construction site, her wheels turning. If she got this job, she could give life to all the ideas she’d harbored since she started working toward her degree. Her dream was to run a program that helped women regain control of their lives after they’d been stolen from them. She wanted nothing more than to help other women realize their full potential and watch them spread their wings and fly.

It didn’t take a licensed professional to understand why this had become her mission. Too many women suffered under a patriarchal system without resources, guidance, or help. Some of the stories she’d heard in prison would forever haunt her nightmares. If she could help even a few find peace and happiness, she’d finally feel like her life was on the right track.

Peace and happiness. Two things she longed for.

“I think it sounds perfect,” she said, trying not to sound breathless with excitement.

“Oh, great.” Brooke clapped her hands three times. “I was worried no one would be interested once they learned we weren’t up and running yet, and that the facility is on club property. By the way, we’re adding an access road so we don’t have to enter and exit through the club’s entrance. I realize having a bunch of big-ass, grumpy bikers around isn’t going to work for many of the women we’ll serve. On a day-to-day basis, there won’t be a reason for them to run across any of the guys.”

“That’s good,” Harper said. “The most important thing will be making these women and children feel safe. Many of them will have deep-seated and very justified fears of men.”

Brooke chewed her lip. “Yeah. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about that. Do you think we’re still too close to the clubhouse? We’ll be putting a privacy fence around the entire back area so our clients can be outside without fear of being seen by anyone in the club.”

Harper glanced over her shoulder. The clubhouse was visible in the distance but far enough away, in her opinion, that the women shouldn’t feel threatened. “I think it’s all right. The fence will be an enormous help. On the flip side, having the security of a bunch of bikers might be beneficial should someone’s shitbag of an ex come slithering around.” She slapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry. That was unprofessional.”

Brooke laughed. “You’ll quickly learn no one stands on ceremony around here, and if you’re not swearing, you’re not talking. Besides, I fully agree with you.”

Phew. Day to day, language wasn’t exactly censored in prison. It’d take her a few weeks to break the colloquial swearing habit.

Like a bucket of icy water being dumped over her head, her past came to the forefront of her mind, making her trip over her feet. Thankfully, she self-corrected, and Brooke didn’t seem to notice.

“Let’s head over to that trailer,” Brooke said, pointing to a white trailer next to the framed-out building. “It’s been serving as our temporary office. It’s air-conditioned, so we’ll be more comfortable for the interview.”

Harper swallowed. She had a huge hurdle to jump if she wanted this or any job, and she refused to sit through an entire uncomfortable interview, waiting to be rejected the moment an employer investigated her background. If Brooke didn’t want her because of her time in prison, Harper needed to know immediately so she could tuck her tail between her legs and slink away now.

“Um… Brooke?”

“Yeah?” The woman faced her with that damn welcoming grin.

“Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the interview, there’s something I have to tell you.”

Brooke frowned. “Oh, okay. What is it?”

“Um…” She’d practiced in front of her mirror for hours yesterday. The words came easier with each trial, but now that the moment had come, she couldn’t push them out. The last thing she wanted was to see Brooke’s expression twist into disgust and distrust. But they couldn’t stand there in awkward silence forever, so she took a breath, shored up her fleeting courage, and spoke while wringing her hands so hard her skin burned.

“Um… I, uh… wanted to let you know I spent the last seven years in prison for armed robbery. I served my full time and was released five days ago. That’s where I got my degree and counseling certificate. In, um… prison, I mean.”

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