Hard Working Hero (Hard Working Hero 1)

Page 27

I never meant to hurt her feelings, it's the last thing I wanted to do. She just ticked me off, and I let my emotions get the best of me, and now I feel like a complete asshole. She's all I've been thinking about. I can't get her out of my head and it's driving me crazy.
I hang up my phone as her voicemail picks up again, not even bothering to leave a message. I already left two. If she's going to call me back, she would have by now.
I'm parked in her parents’ driveway, on my way inside. Mr. Thayer wants an update on how the house is going and to go over the designs I sent him for the upstairs bathroom. I half thought I'd see Narissa's car in the driveway when I got here, but it's not.
Exhaling a heavy breath, a piece of me is relieved while another is sad.
I ring the bell, and her mother answers. “Oliver,” she says, welcoming me in with a big smile. “Ethan is just finishing up a conference call. You want some coffee while you wait?”
“Sure, that'd be great. Thank you.”
I follow Mrs. Thayer down the long hall and into the pristine kitchen. It's as big as the living room and kitchen combined in my house. Stainless steel appliances shine bright as the sun pours in from the giant arched window on the west wall.
The cabinets are dark cherry with silver hardware, and the counter tops are a gorgeous white and purple granite. The stove is in the center island, with a rack hanging above where copper cooking pots dangle.
Narissa's mother Audrey is a perfect mix of elegant and down to earth. She's wearing her money, but her personality reminds me of my grandmother. Her bright red hair is cut short and bound with tight curls. The blouse she has on is buttoned up to her neck, every last button secured exactly as it should be.
Her nails are painted pastel pink, and her makeup is perfect. I can see Narissa in her, from the hair color to her thin nose that turns up slightly at the end. They have the same cheekbones, and the same smile lines at the corner of their lips.
She takes a mug from one of the cabinets and pours me a hot cup of coffee. “Cream and sugar?”
“Black is fine.”
She passes me the cup and pours one for herself. “You know, I never thanked you for letting Narissa work with you. I'm sure she didn't make it easy on you.”
“Actually, she's a natural. She did a great job with everything, it was like she's been doing it all her life.”
Audrey smiles with her lips closed, and takes a sip of her coffee. “She's always been smart and a person who can pick up on things quickly, I can tell you that. So, it was nice to see her getting out of her house to work with you.”
“It was a pleasure to work with your daughter.”
“You know, she's been different lately, a good kind of different. It's been hard for Narissa to keep friends over the years, and because of that she's mostly locked up in her house or here.” She holds her mug in both hands, lowering it slightly as she stares off. “I hate that people she thought were her friends hurt her the way they did. It really affected her self-esteem. I don't know why, but it's like she just hasn't been able to let it all go to trust anyone.” Letting out a slow breath, her eyes meet mine with a look of surprise. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. Oh lord, Narissa is going to kill me, I shouldn't—”
“No, no, it's fine. She's your daughter, and you care about her.”
“Yeah, but I should have just kept my mouth closed. She wouldn't want me telling anyone about that.”
“Don't worry, I won't say anything.” I give her a confident smile and nod.
Ethan comes in the kitchen right then, interrupting the conversation. “Sorry to make you wait, Oliver. Shall we?” he asks, guiding me to follow him in the direction of his office.
“No problem, Sir.” I start to walk behind him, looking back over my shoulder and giving Audrey another smile. “Thanks for the coffee, Mrs. Thayer.”
“Of course,” she says politely.
I had no idea that Narissa was hurt by people she thought were her friends. I knew something was holding her back. But to be hurt by people you thought you could trust is awful for anyone. And for a girl who's already battling the stigma of belonging to a rich and powerful family, I'm sure finding real friends was hard enough already.
Her father owns half the homes in this town, his name is on everything in one way or another. I you say the family name in public, you’ll get smiles or frowns, but there will be a reaction. Everyone has an opinion. As a property owner, her father can't be everyone's friend. That can rub people the wrong way. Evictions, damages, arguments over rental increases or selling prices, buying out other people and taking over, it all comes with a price.