“Um? Hello? Because we’re out in the middle of nowhere?”
“Sweets, you’re a great boss, but you have the attitude bad things don’t happen in Wyoming. Bad things do happen here, less frequently than in LA, but we’re still somewhat untamed in the Wild West. In some respects, cowboys are like them gangbangers, never backin’ down from a fight, always lookin’ for a way to avenge themselves when they think someone done them wrong. Especially if they were wronged by the woman in their life. Like Nadia’s husband. Are you denying that is a potentially volatile situation?”
“Don’t deny that if you had this exact same business in LA, you wouldn’t dream of leavin’ the door unlocked or the gate open. Those security type things woulda been the first things in place.”
The truth punched her in the gut like freight train. Holy crap. Annie was exactly right. Kade had been right. How could she have been so oblivious? Because she was seriously overworked?
And whose fault is that?
Annie kept going. “I figured you’d take care of the oversight after you gave birth and Eliza was on the premises, things’d change and you’d see the external safety problems.
But you haven’t.”
Half in a daze, Sky asked, “Then why didn’t you just handle it? Order the security components, hire the installers? You are the office manager.”
“We both know that’s a courtesy title. You’re the owner, you’re in control, and you make no bones about that. I can’t even order the damn lotion bottles without your approval.”
Hadn’t she sworn she’d delegate rather than do everything herself? Especially after Eliza’s birth? And here she was stuck in the same pattern she’d been stuck in her whole life? Would she never learn she wasn’t superwoman?
“Go ahead and snap off a smart question like ‘If you feel so unsafe and unappreciated here, why are you still working for me?’ ”
Skylar absolutely recoiled.
Annie shook her finger. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you defensive? Full of pride.
Glaring at me, unwilling to admit when you’re wrong?”
Hadn’t Kade accused her of the same thing? She swallowed, but her voice still was barely audible. “Because I was wrong, Annie. Fix it, however you see fit, okay?”
“Good.” Annie sidestepped a pile of papers and slammed the door.
Startled by the sound, Eliza started screaming.
Sky wished she could scream right along with her.
She was still sitting on the floor an hour later when Nadia knocked. “Is this a bad time?”
“No. Come on in and pull up a piece of carpet.”
It surprised Sky when Nadia plopped down. But she focused on Eliza. “She’s a beautiful baby. She has your cheekbones.”
Skylar tried to remember in the last month if anyone had mentioned Eliza resembled her in any way. She heard Kade’s rumbling voice, s he has your cute little upturned nose.
I’m hopin’ she gets your freckles too. And your laugh. I love your laugh.
“She has your disposition.”
“Marvelous. I’m the picture of well-adjusted, aren’t I?”
Nadia sent her a panicked look. “No. I meant, she’s very vocal.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“Trust me, that’s a good thing, to not be afraid.” Nadia wrapped her arms around her up-drawn knees. “Look. I want to apologize for putting you in a bad position all these months by asking you to lie to my husband.”
“No. It’s not and I’m sorry I missed work the last two days. But after Rex showed up here…and Eliza’s father…” Sky’s gaze snapped up. “He did the right thing, when it wasn’t the easiest thing. When most people don’t get involved. I hid behind the blinds and watched a man I didn’t know from Adam, stand up to Rex, because he was trying to protect you and everyone in this place, including me—who he didn’t know from Adam—
I realized it was past time I stand up for myself.”
She nodded. “Hiding out, hoping Rex will go away won’t change any of the problems and isn’t the example I wanna set for my boy. The reason I was gone the past two days is because I talked to a lawyer. Then I went to the sheriff and told him what happened out here and about some other stuff Rex threatened to do. I filed a restraining order against him. A piece of paper isn’t armor, but it shows Rex I’m done being afraid of him. And we’re done. For good.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that.” She grabbed Nadia’s hand. “Are you really okay?”
“Yes. I feel more in control of my life than I have been in years.”
“I’m glad, Nadia, I really am.”
“All thanks to you.”
“To me? I appreciate the sentiment, but you were the one who took that first step.
It’s easier not to change.” How well she knew that. She let her head fall back against the wall. “I’ve done some things wrong, things I plan to change as soon as possible. I thought you were coming in here to quit, and I was all ready to whip out my spiel about how I intended to beef up external security and do some things differently around here to get you to stay.”
“Quit? I’m not going anywhere. This is the best job I’ve ever had. We all think that.”
Nadia rolled to her feet. “You give us more than just a good paycheck and a great place to work, Skylar. You show us how to be strong. You give us confidence in ourselves. No matter what mistakes we made in the past, what’s been done to us, you’ve shown us we don’t have to live there, we can overcome it, change, and work toward a better future. We deserve to live our dreams the same as anyone else.”
She slipped out the door leaving Sky staring after her, feeling a little more at peace with her business, and her relationship with her employees, but not having a clue how she could make things right with Kade.
With everything that’d happened, the mindless sorting of paperwork was a welcome reprieve. Except the phrase, we deserve to live our dreams, hung in the air and stuck in Skylar’s brain on a continuous loop. A life with Kade and Eliza was her dream.
When she reached the bottom of the fifth box, the corner of an envelope—stuck in yet another safety supply magazine—poked out. Before her fingers connected with the smooth white paper, she knew. This was the letter Kade had sent.