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Hard Place (Hard to Love #1)
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Cold. Callous. Cocky.
A total playboy with abs for days, a panty-melting smirk, and a face the gods themselves would be jealous of.
And he’s my new boss.
None of that matters, because as a single mom, men like Alexander Harding are the last thing I need. What I do need is this job, so I’m going to keep my head down, work hard, and avoid that asshole as much as humanly possible.
But then he gives me an offer I can’t refuse, even though everything inside of me is warning me to run away and never look back.
It’s just one weekend.
One weekend to convince a potential client that Alexander has changed from the player who spent more time in the bedroom than the boardroom into a family man they’d be happy to go into business with.
But the more time I spend with him, the more I realize that there might be a beating heart buried under his designer shirts and spectacular pecs after all…which is bad news for me.
Because the only thing worse than hating your boss is falling in love with him.
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Being a mother is a complicated thing.
I remember the day I went from only having to take care of myself to having to care for something completely helpless as if it were yesterday. I’d read all the baby books, downloaded all the apps, and lurked through a few message boards, but nothing prepared me for how completely terrifying it would be. Some days I still can’t believe I was allowed to take those precious baby girls home with me, that medical professionals entrusted me to raise them, care for them, and keep them safe.
I bring the glass of dark red wine to my lips, shuddering at the taste. I don’t like red wine, but this shit has the highest alcohol content compared to others from the same brand, and at three dollars a bottle, it’s not like I expected to feel like the beginning of an orgasm was coming on when the wine spilled past my lips.
All I wanted was a slight reprieve from the slow suffocation my dear friend Mr. Anxiety causes. I take one more sip of wine, looking up from the small kitchen table. The finish is wearing off the surface, and no matter what I use to clean it with, I cannot get the pink paint that’s splattered across half the table off.
I lay my hand on the table, splaying my fingers and letting my eyes fall shut for a moment. Mom’s voice rings loud in my head, telling me everything’s going to be all right. She truly believed things would work out for those who worked hard and had a kind heart.
She believed it up until the day cancer stole her life.
Inhaling, I open my eyes and look around the small apartment. The girls just fell asleep for the night, and I came into the kitchen with the intention of doing the dishes that are overflowing in the sink. Toys are strewn about the living room, and I’m not entirely sure I have clean underwear to put on for work in the morning.
I need to clean but can’t find the energy, though I’d rather clean than open my computer, log into my bank account and see how much money I don’t have. Grabbing the wine, I suck down another mouthful and hope it doesn’t come back up.
“Ugh, that’s disgusting,” I grumble to myself and put the glass back down. Taking a steadying breath, I swallow the lump in my throat and open my computer. Money’s always been tight, but things are tighter than normal right now and looking at my bank account is only going to make it worse. Why remind myself that I don’t have enough to cover the rent that’s due soon? I know my credit card bill is higher this month than last and thinking about all the interest I’m paying makes me sick to my stomach.
I desperately need a break from work and would love to have a day or two to just stay home and finally have time to play with the girls. The guilt from telling them no every time they ask me to play with them weighs on me, but if I want to pay off my debts and have a chance at putting anything into savings, I’m going to have to pick up another shift or two this weekend.
My legs hurt from treading water, and I’m barely keeping myself above the surface. Yet it’s not just me who will drown if I stop, if I give in and let myself rest for even half a second. Because as I’m madly kicking my legs to stay afloat, I’m holding my children up, one in each arm.
If I go down, they’ll go with me, and I will not let my children slip below the surface. Everything I do, I do for them.
Closing my computer, I get up and tiptoe into the girls’ room, grabbing the dirty clothes from their floor. Sneaking out so quietly a ninja would be impressed, I silently click their door shut and take the laundry to the closet at the end of the hall. I should have taken a load downstairs before bedtime and stuck it in the washing machine.
Dropping in the girls’ clothes from today, I stare at the overflowing basket, thinking. It would only take me five minutes or less to grab it, run down two flights of stairs, and start the washing machine. I’d be in the same building, and the girls wouldn’t even know I left.
But what if I got locked out?
What if I fell down the stairs, broke my neck, and no one found me until the morning?
Shaking my head at myself, I use my foot to push a pair of jeans out of the way and close the closet door. I’ll do laundry tomorrow. It’s not like I don’t have enough to clean tonight anyway.