Hard Working Hero (Hard Working Hero 1)

Page 28

People love to hate the bad guy. Still, business is just that, it's business. But to his friends, to the people who work for him, he's an upstanding man. He's fair and he follows through on his end of a contract.
I talk with her father for over an hour about his vision for the upstairs bathroom and give him my input. He listens intently, nodding where he agrees, and adjusting my thoughts where he doesn't.
By the time I leave, it's almost lunch, and even though my stomach is growling, I can't get Narissa out of my head. Her walls are up for a very good reason. Now I feel even more like an asshole for challenging her too quickly. I pushed her, and I shouldn't have. I should have just let her to come to me when she was ready.
I leave and start to head to the shop. Narissa's angry scowl and frustrated green eyes are burned in my memory. I just feel awful. All I wanted to do was show her how happy she could be, and instead I hurt her more. I abandoned her.
The light in front of me turns green, but instead of going straight, I make a hard left toward her place. I have to talk to her. I have to tell her I'm sorry for being such an asshole.
She doesn't deserve to be scolded for not wanting to let me into her world. She's been hurt enough, and now I hurt her again by pushing her into something she's not ready for. It's not fair to her.
I park in her lot and jog to her door. Knocking a few times, she doesn't answer. I'm not surprised, it's no different than my calls. She doesn't want to talk to me, but she needs to know just how sorry I am.
“Narissa!” I call out. “Narissa, I'm sorry. I didn't know how badly you were hurt as a kid. I had no idea. I was an asshole the other day, and you didn't deserve to be treated that way. I'm a jerk, I completely understand why you don't want to talk to me. I'm sorry your friends hurt you. I'm sorry you put trust in people who didn't deserve it.”
Laying my forehead against the door, I rest open palms on the surface. “You don't have to forgive me, but I want you to know that not everyone is like those people. I'm not here to use you or hurt you or ever make you question yourself. I would never do that. I—”
“I know that.” Her voice comes in over my shoulder, startling me.
Jumping slightly, I spin around quickly and see Narissa standing with a coffee and a small stack of books.
“How much of that did you hear?” I ask.
“Enough,” she says with a grin. “And I know not everyone is like the kids I grew up with. It's just hard to let my guard down. I'm trying to be less wary of people, but old habits die hard.”
“If I had known—”
“You couldn't have known, because I never told you.” She fumbles with her keys and opens the door. “But I'm guessing someone did. Come in, I'll tell you about it.”
I follow her inside. She sets her books down on the coffee table and puts her coffee beside them. Taking a seat on the couch, she looks up at me and nods her head for me to sit too.
“I was fifteen,” she says. Her eyes move to her hands and I can see her entire body change as she gives life to the old memory. “I had a small group of friends, and there was one boy who I thought liked me. He would tell me how pretty I was. How beautiful my eyes were and how there was no other girl like me. You know, all the things a girl that age likes to hear.”
She's picking at her fingers nervously, so I reach out and take her hand in mine. Narissa sucks in a quick breath, and I can feel her reluctance to speak. “It's okay, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to.”
“No, I want to. I need to. I feel like once I do, it'll help. I've never actually told anyone the entire story before.”
“Then keep going.”
“Well, they all wanted to go up and explore the abandoned house on Belmont. There had always been stories that it was haunted, and we were going to go and try to stay the night inside. I wasn't too sure about going, but they all convinced me it would be fun.”
She shifts on the couch, moving a little closer. “We broke in through the back door, and everything was fine until one of the girls started asking me questions about my family. She wanted to know why my father didn't have a better car and why I always wore shitty clothes. Weren’t we supposed to be rich? The other girls joined in, poking fun at my sneakers and the jeans I was wearing. Even the boy I was with started too, talking about how my hair was greasy and how I had pimples on my face. It was awful. They ganged up on me. I tried to stick up for myself, but it just made this one girl really angry, and she shoved me down. I thought they were my friends. But no one stepped in to help me, instead they ran out of the house and jammed up the door so I couldn't get out.”