Frank spoke quickly, more engaged than I ever remembered him being before. “So what are some of your long-term plans? That position has a high burn out rate. I’m surprised you’re still at it, actually. Are you staying with the company or…?”
I hesitated, weighing my answer. I was feeling relaxed enough, accepted enough to think that maybe I could tell him the truth. “I’m going to be looking for a change soon. Very soon, actually.”
His eyes went wide. “Really? Have you considered private equity?”
I smiled. “Other than helping Cameron with his year-end taxes and settling up with his investors, no. I’m not ruling anything out, though.”
Diane interrupted her quiet murmuring with Olivia. “Perhaps Cameron could use you after all. He’s in desperate need of an accountant to help get his finances straight with the gym. He refuses Frank’s help.” Diane waved her hand absently at Cameron.
Frank slapped his leg, the sound making Diane start.
“Maya, you should come work for me. You’re exactly the kind of person we hire, and we need more women in our office.”
“Frank, be serious,” said Diane.
He sat back. “What? I am serious.”
“Well,” she laughed, a half-hearted sound, as if that alone was hardly worth the effort. “You can’t possibly think Cameron wants you to hire his, I don’t know, ex-whatever she is to come work for you.” She brought her martini to her lips.
“Mom,” Olivia admonished quietly.
Diane glanced over at her daughter. “What, darling?”
Olivia shot me a sympathetic look, a rare admission of regret passing behind her eyes.
The moment was uncomfortable, and I wanted to be offended. I wanted to be livid at all of them, but what more could I expect? Everything about Diane’s reaction confirmed the reservations I’d had about sharing the details of my embarrassing family life with Cameron or Olivia. Dressed to the hilt with a job only the best education could afford still wasn’t enough.
I almost laughed at my foolish hope when Cameron’s grip on my hand tightened. He leaned in. “You’re being really rude, you know that?”
Diane frowned. “Nonsense. I’m saying what everyone here is thinking. And don’t talk to me that way. I’m still your mother.”
“No, actually, you should apologize to her, right now.”
“I’ll do no such thing.” Her voice lashed across the table like a whip.
Cameron’s jaw clenched tight, his breath nearly audibly as he seethed. “You’ll apologize to her, or we’re leaving and you’ll be lucky if you’re welcome in my home ever, let alone in another year.”
She held his gaze, unwavering. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not apologizing to this girl. Why she means anything at all to you is beyond me.”
“She’s not some girl.”
Her lazy gaze slid over to me. “No? She looks like some girl to me. You could have half a dozen just like her. I’m not impressed. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now. You aim too low.”
I tugged on his hand. “Cameron, let’s go.” They’d both gone too far, said too much. Much as I wanted to see him berate the b***h that was his mother, nothing good could come of us staying.
He barely acknowledged me except to bring me up with him as he rose. “This isn’t your life. You have no right to pass judgment on her, or on any of us for that matter.”
She straightened, as if the stick up her a*s wasn’t propping her up enough. “You’re my children. It’s my job to want the best for you.”
“You’re doing a great job of driving us all out of your lives, and that’s about all you’re any good at. I don’t expect you to understand, but maybe one day you’ll get the picture when she’s my wife. You’d be lucky to call her your daughter. Until you can come to grips with that, stay out of my life.”
She shook her head, the look of disgust plain. “You’d marry her just to spite us?”
An angry, frustrated growl tore from his throat, and he walked away, pulling me after him.
CAMERON. We walked across the street into the park in silence. We slowed at the bridge. The old stone walls bowed over the stream, every surface bathed in a moonlit glow. Wind whipped through the air enough to chill me, yet neither of us moved. Blond wisps of her hair flew around her beautiful face.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded. Her jaw was strong, but couldn’t hide the defeated look in her eyes. Her gaze lingered everywhere but never found me.
“I’m sorry.” I paused, wishing she could know how sorry I really was. “I shouldn’t have brought you there. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I had no idea my mother was already going to be lit and lash out like that. Olivia has been venting to her. I’m sure that didn’t help matters. Now you know, anyway, what I’m up against with them. They won’t let up—”