“God, I hope so.” He barely caught her when she whirled for the door. “Elle, wait. I’m serious.”
She searched his gaze. “You expect me to believe your feelings changed just like that?”
“Well not just like that.” He flashed a smile. “You wore me down over time.”
“This isn’t funny, Archer.”
“You’re right, it’s not. You need time and we have that. Take all you need. You free tonight?”
“I’ll pick you up,” he said. “We’ll try the date thing.”
Her phone rang and she looked down at it. It was maintenance, reminding her she had a meeting with them. “I have to take this.”
“It’s okay.” Archer leaned in and kissed her gently. “After work, Elle,” he murmured, and then he walked out of his office, giving her some space.
Elle locked herself in her office, brain going a hundred miles an hour. She paced the small space, unable to decide on a feeling. Shock and panic worked, she decided. She purposely changed gears to problem number two by pulling out her phone and sending a text to Morgan.
Meet me at O’Riley’s in fifteen minutes.
Forget Archer and the fact that he knew her better than anyone else. Forget the amazing orgasms or how he always had her back. She needed to forget all of it for a few minutes and give herself some breathing room.
Instead she’d concentrate on her sister. If anyone was going to help Morgan, dammit, it’d be her. She headed downstairs.
“Hungry?” Finn asked when he saw her.
“What do you want?”
“Everything you’ve got,” she said as she slid onto a stool next to an already seated Morgan.
“Worked up an appetite today, huh?” Finn asked.
If he only knew . . .
Morgan laughed. “Used to be, she was always hungry. It was like she was hollow.”
True story. Living as they had, three squares hadn’t always been part of the program. There’d been long stretches of time when they’d lived off apples, peanut butter, and Top Ramen.
And just like that, she suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore. “Maybe just some tea to start.” She turned to Morgan. “Okay, let’s have it. What is it you really want?”
“I already told you. I wanted to see you.”
“And . . . I was hoping you’d give me references, and maybe help me get on my own feet with a place,” Morgan admitted quietly. “But when you weren’t interested, Archer became my Plan B.”
“Archer isn’t your Plan B,” Elle said. “You need to leave him out of this.”
Morgan reached for the drink in front of her and took a leisurely sip. “You know, it’s amazing how potatoes give us chips, fries, and vodka. It’s like get your shit together, every other vegetable, you know?”
Elle narrowed her eyes, wrapped her hand around Morgan’s wrist, and brought the glass under her nose for a sniff.
“It’s 7UP on the rocks,” Morgan said.
Feeling like a jerk, Elle let go and nodded. “I’m sorry. That was rude.”
“No, that was on point.” Morgan met Elle’s gaze. “You’ve got every reason to err on the side of caution with me. I get it, Elle. I really do. But people change. Look at you, for instance—family used to mean everything to you. There was a time you’d have done whatever you could to keep us together.”
“We weren’t ever a real family.”
“Yeah,” Morgan said as she stood up. “I know. I’m just saying, people change, including you. In fact, you’ve changed a whole hell of a lot.” She tossed some money onto the bar and walked out.
“Morgan,” Elle said. “Wait.”
But she didn’t. Watching her go, Elle drew a deep breath and before she could let it out, Spence slid onto the stool Morgan had just vacated.
“Am I crazy, or did I just see you and your doppelganger sitting together?”
“That was my sister.”
Spence lifted a brow. “The elusive Morgan Wheaton?”
“The one and only. Long story.”
“I love long stories,” he said.
So Elle told him what Morgan wanted, leaving out most of their wretched past. She loved Spence, she loved all her friends as if they were family, but no one knew the whole story.
Well, except Archer.
Spence was quiet a moment. “You don’t think she’s good for it this time? You think nothing’s changed?”
Elle hesitated and then shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Spence nodded slowly. “And I’m guessing you’ve been burned by her in the past.”
Elle lifted a shoulder.
“Yeah, you have, and I’m guessing you’re worried you’re wrong about her this time.”
“Yes,” she said softly.
Spence slung an arm around her and kissed her on the top of her head. “What does your gut say?”
“That I’m a bitch.” Elle resisted the urge to burrow in and pretend her life wasn’t in complete uproar. She wanted her calm quiet back. But she managed a smile. “I like to stick with what I’m good at.”
Spence smiled back but his eyes said he was onto her. “I don’t know, Elle. If you were such a bitch, you wouldn’t be giving this the time of day; instead you’re sitting here hoping she proves herself.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing?”
Yeah, she supposed that’s exactly what she was doing. She wasn’t big on trust and Morgan would be the first to tell her that was wise. Hell, it’d taken her an entire year to trust Archer.
And look how that had turned out . . .
“I know you hired me because Archer asked you to,” she said, and then she grimaced. She’d meant to finesse that statement but it was too late now.
Spence looked confused. “What are you talking about? Archer didn’t ask me to hire you.”
“Then how did you end up with me in the pool for the position?”
“I started out with a headhunter,” he said. “Your resume came to me in a stack of a hundred others. Getting them down to the top ten nearly killed me. Archer helped.” He paused and gave her a quiet look of speculation. “And yeah, he recommended you personally but I made the final decision on my own. The truth is, once I met you, I knew you were the only one for the job.”