A Bargain with the Boss - Page 20

She held up her palms and took a couple of backward paces. “Time for me to say good night. Don’t forget the breakfast meeting.” She took her purse from the table. “Don’t be late.”

“I’m never late.”

“True,” she allowed as she retrieved her shoes and strode toward the door. “But I always expect you to be late.”

“Why?”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” And then she was gone.

He wanted to call her back. He wished he could call her back. But he’d made enough mistakes for one night. He realized that if he wanted Amber to let him get anywhere close to her, he had to back off until she was ready.

* * *

Back in Chicago two days later, Amber dreaded meeting up with Jade. She was happy her sister had dumped whatever loser boyfriend she’d hooked up with this time, but she also held out no hope for the next one, or the one after that. Bad boyfriends and heartache had been Jade’s pattern since she’d dropped out of high school.

Amber tried to harden her heart. Jade was an adult and responsible for her own behavior. But Amber couldn’t help remembering her sister as a lost little girl, younger, who had struggled even more than Amber with their mother’s addiction to alcohol.

She made her way from her car up the stone pathway to the lobby of the Riverside Aquamarine. Jade was going to meet her in the coffee shop. But since it was shortly after noon, Amber wasn’t going to be surprised to find her in the lobby lounge. It was sadly ironic that Jade had turned to alcohol to combat a childhood ruined by alcohol.

The hotel lobby was bright and airy, decorated by white armchairs and leafy plants. The lobby lounge was central, but Amber didn’t see Jade at any of the tables. She moved on to the coffee shop that overlooked the pool and quickly spotted Jade at a booth.

As Amber approached, Jade slid from the bench and came to her feet.

Amber’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

Jade was pregnant. She was very, very pregnant.

“What on earth?” Amber paced forward, coming to a stop in front of her sister.

“Seven months,” said Jade, giving a wry smile as she answered the obvious question.

“But...when? How?”

Jade’s expression sobered. “Seven months ago. And the usual way. Can we sit down?”

“Oh, Jade.” Amber couldn’t keep the disappointment and worry from her tone. Jade was in no position to be a good mother.

“Don’t ‘oh, Jade’ me. I’m happy.”

“How can you be happy?”

“I’m going to be a mother.” Jade slid back into the booth.

As she took the seat across from her, Amber noted she was eating a salad and drinking a glass of iced tea. “You’re not drinking, are you?”

“It’s iced tea,” said Jade.

“I don’t mean now. I mean at all. You can’t drink while you’re pregnant, Jade.”

“Do you think I’m stupid?”

Stupid, no. But Jade’s judgment had always been a big question mark.

“That’s not an answer,” Amber pointed out.

“No, I’m not drinking.”

“Good. That’s good. You’ve seen a doctor?”

“Yes, I saw a doctor in LA. And I’ll find a clinic here in Chicago, too.”

A waitress appeared and Amber ordered a soda.

She stared at her sister, noting the worn cotton smock and the wrinkled slacks. Jade’s cheeks looked hollow and her arms looked thin. Amber hated to think her sister might not be getting enough to eat.

All the way here, she’d been hoping Jade’s stay in Chicago would be brief. She’d dreaded the idea of having her move into the town house for days or weeks. Now she realized that was exactly what had to happen. Jade needed stability, a warm bed, good food.

“Have you been taking care of yourself?” Amber asked.

Jade gave a shrug. “It’s been okay. Kirk was getting more and more obnoxious about the baby. He said he didn’t mind, but then he started talking about putting it up for adoption.”

Amber’s opinion of this Kirk person went up a notch. “Have you thought about adoption?”

Jade’s expression twisted in anger. “I am not giving away this baby.”

“To a good home,” said Amber. “There are fantastic prospective parents out there. Loving, well educated, houses in the suburbs—they could give a baby a great life.”

Jade’s lips pressed together and her arms crossed protectively over her stomach. “Forget it.”

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