I started thinking about her uncle again, but I shut the thoughts down so I could put my attention where it needed to be—on her.
Ruby shifted off my lap, but plastered her body against mine and put her head on my shoulder.
“I guess I still don’t understand how nobody noticed the fact that you were being abused. There had to be signs, Ruby.”
“People see what they expect to see. Our home was outside of the city, in a smaller town. My uncle was an expert manipulator. For the most part, everybody liked him.”
She was right. Abuse went undetected a lot. I’d made a point out of studying it since I’d met Ruby. I was pretty sure that Ruby had kept a low profile in school, and the only one who might have been able to save her had been her parents—had they known about it.
Unfortunately, it sounded like her uncle had struck terror in Ruby’s heart about her family being broken up and harm coming to her parents if she told.
I wrapped my arms tightly around Ruby, glad that she had crossed my path, even if it had been traumatic for her. I didn’t want to think about where she might be if she hadn’t.
“You’re safe now,” I told her after I’d swallowed the huge lump in my throat.
She rubbed against me like a kitten. “I know.”
Ruby had answered without hesitation, and it humbled me to know that she felt safe with me. She’d been through so damn much. I wasn’t so sure I could be as trusting as she was if I’d lived her life.
“How much work do you have for me tomorrow?” she asked.
“Honestly?” I asked.
“Not much,” I confessed. “Shirley helps me when I need it. I have a lot to do, but most of it is technical. I only offered you the job to get you here. I wanted to help you get on your feet and decide what you wanted to do with your life, but I knew you’d refuse to let me just help you out.”
She looked up at me with a frown. “You lied to me?”
Dammit! I couldn’t believe I actually felt guilty about bullshitting her so I could help her. “I stretched the truth. And I could actually use the help you’ve been giving me by cooking. I suck at it, and fast food gets old.”
“I know I haven’t exactly been reasonable, Jett. But it’s hard for me to take anything from anybody. I want to make my own way.”
“I get that,” I answered. “But you have to learn that sometimes you have to take the help you need along the way to get where you want to be in life.”
“You’re right,” she capitulated. “But be patient with me. I’m not used to anybody wanting to help me.”
When I looked at Ruby, I saw a gentle soul who had been abused and hurt so badly that she wasn’t quite sure who she was anymore. But in just the short time we’d been together, she’d changed. Ruby was rapidly righting the wrongs in her life. And I didn’t want to fuck that up. “I shouldn’t have lied to you,” I confessed. “But I was pretty desperate.”
“Don’t,” she said, putting her fingers over my lips. “You’re a good man, Jett. I know you don’t just lie for no reason. So you want me to cook. What else?”
I shrugged. “We’ll make the rest up as we go along.”
“I’d really like to get a driver’s license, and I want to schedule my GED.”
I nodded. “Those should both be a priority. What have you always wanted to be, Ruby? If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would it be?”
“I guess I’ve never really thought about it because I’ve always wanted to be a pastry chef.”
“I think we have culinary schools here,” I mused.
Ruby punched me lightly on the arm. “Of course you do. There are some good ones here.”
“And I definitely recommend working for yourself,” I told her with a grin. “Working for other people sucks.”
She rolled her eyes. “Says the tech giant who has more money than he knows what to do with. I might have to start small.”
I didn’t tell her that I was more than willing to be her partner if she wanted her own place. Hell, I’d give her a bakery, but I knew she wouldn’t accept that. “You can figure out your plan while you’re going to school, if you decide that’s what you want to do. You have time.”