I balked at his bossiness, but I shoved my indignation away as quickly as it appeared. Really, I wanted some kind of normal life so badly I could almost taste it. I longed for a stability I’d never experienced. Someday, I wanted to repay Jett for every cent he’d spent on me. It might take decades to return the money he’d spent to get me off the auction block and to somewhere safe, but I would pay him back.
The FBI had told Jett that he might be able to recover some or all of his money, but it could take years, and there was no guarantee he’d ever see a penny of the funds he paid out. Everything would depend on where the finances of the ringleader ended up after the investigation was over.
Tears sprang to my eyes as I told him, “You’ve already done way too much for somebody you don’t even know. I already owe you so much.”
“You don’t owe me a damn thing,” Jett said in a low, growly tone.
I stared at him, astonished that he’d even say something like that. “You and I both know that isn’t true.”
“You really want to repay me?” he said in a demanding voice.
“You know I do.”
“Then come to Seattle with me. Stay with me and be my assistant. I’ve had to do the majority of my work at my home office because of my accident, and I could use some help. I’m backed up on a lot of things, and having somebody around to help me out would be more than enough payback for me. I’ll give you a salary, plus bonuses.”
I frowned. “I don’t really have any skills.”
“Can you use a computer?” he asked.
“Yes. I used them in libraries, and I got some skills in high school.”
“Can you run errands?”
“Of course.” My foot was pretty much healed, but Jett still needed to continue to baby his knee until his meniscus was completely healed. “My driver’s license is expired, but I can renew it if I’m in one place for a while.”
“You have no job experience?” he questioned, sounding more curious than worried that I’d never worked a real job.
I took a deep breath. It was time for me to share a little bit about my past with him. “My mom was a pastry chef. She and my grandmother had a catering company. I didn’t really pull a paycheck, but Mom gave me some money for every event I helped out with. Gran always handled the food because she was an amazing chef, and Mom handled all the desserts. My dad ran the business part of things, so it was mainly a family business. I helped my mother with events from the time I was in grade school until I left Ohio at the age of seventeen.”
“You’ve been on the streets since you were seventeen?” he asked with a frown.
I nodded, hoping he wouldn’t ask me about anything else.
“Then you worked,” Jett concluded. “Obviously you were a good assistant or your mom and dad wouldn’t have kept taking you to the events.”
I smiled. “I loved it. Eventually, I helped Mom do her baking, and I learned to do decent pastries myself. The only thing I’d ever wanted to do was keep on working in the catering business with my family.”
Jett was silent for a moment before he asked in a husky voice, “What happened, Ruby? You were out on the streets when you should have been getting ready for high school graduation.”
Since I didn’t cry, I refused to acknowledge the tears that were welling in my eyes. I blinked them back before I answered. “We were on our way to a big event when I was sixteen. The roads were icy, and my dad lost control of the van. My father, my mother, and my gran died instantly. I only suffered some cuts, bruises, and a concussion. I don’t remember most of the crash or what happened right after.”
My one and only visit to the hospital had been the worst day of my entire life.
“Jesus, Ruby,” Jett rasped. “I’m so fucking sorry. No wonder you’re so damn afraid of hospitals.”
I tried to swallow the enormous lump in my throat.
I’m not going to cry. Not in the middle of a nice restaurant. And not anywhere else, either.
“You didn’t have any other family to go to?”
I stared at my half-filled wine glass, unable to look at Jett as I told him, “Only…my uncle.”