By: Elijana Kindel

“Oh, Luc,” she sighed. Compassion and sorrow filled her eyes and she bit her bottom lip. “I’m so sorry. This wouldn’t have happened if—”

He advanced on her pinning her against the wall without touching her. “If you apologize for one more thing, I’m going to—”

Her chin lifted rebelliously. “What? You’ll do what? Order them to fire me?” Tears welled in her eyes, but she held his gaze. “I’ve had the worst day of my life and it’s only going to get worse. You don’t have to come up with thirty thousand dollars in two weeks.” She sniffled. “And Raven’s going to sell Aphrodite and he’ll never be the same and… oh, would you get out of my way?” She shoved at his chest.

He didn’t move. He’d never seen Elise this upset and he’d seen her in plenty of moods since coming to work with him, but nothing like this. She was… crying? “Well, damn.” Concern overpowered his absorption with his own problems and he caught her chin, tilting her face up. “Why do you need thirty thousand dollars?”

“B-because my m-mother didn’t pay her taxes and she’s gonna go to jail if…,” she trailed off with a choked sob.

“Come here, darlin’,” he whispered, then without thinking gathered her into his arms.

Elise came to him willingly, wrapping an arm around his waist and holding on. She pressed her face against his chest and cried. “And then the computer… and the fire and you were mad and Margot and—”

“Shh,” he whispered against her hair. He held her tight against him. His problems most likely paled in comparison to hers and he felt like a heel keeping her at work this late for a project he could easily finish himself. Granted, it would take three times as long without her help, but he could finish it on his own.

She pulled back after a few minutes and swiped at her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I hate it when I get like this. But I can handle it.” She gave a watery chuckle. “Well, I will be able to once I get something to eat and some much needed sleep.”

He cursed himself. He’d forgotten all about dinner. He may be an inconsiderate bastard, but he’d make it up to her. He whipped a handkerchief out of the breast pocket of his jacket and pressed it into her hand. “Dry your eyes.”

“Thank you,” she murmured.

He draped his arm around her slender shoulders and guided her towards the exit. “Come on. I’m buying dinner.” When she started to protest he squeezed her closer. “You can tell me all about Moonbeam’s latest fiasco and your brother’s sacrifice to Mother Nature.”

She looked up at him. “And you’ll tell me why you let Margot believe we were doing what she thought we were doing?”

He almost said no, but he lost himself in the troubled depths of her red rimmed eyes. Luc sighed. He felt like a complete bastard. She was exhausted and he worked her harder than he did himself. “Yeah, I’ll tell you.”

“So that is why I need thirty thousand dollars,” Elise finished with a depressed sigh.

Luc leaned back in his chair and rotated the longneck bottle between his hands. “That’s some story.” He lifted the bottle, motioned for the waitress to bring another round, then polished off the beer. He was going to need another drink to explain to Elise why he hadn’t chased Margot through the building and proclaimed his nonexistent ‘undying love’.

Elise stirred her whiskey sour with the straw, rattling the ice, and pushed her plate to the side. “Right now, Moonbeam and the head priestess are probably working their super-duper, whammy of a money spell. I hope it works. I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle Raven once Aphrodite is gone.”

Luc nodded. “Aphrodite sounds like a helluva bike.” He looked across the table at her and his chest tightened at the defeated light in her eyes. He knew what he had to do. “If Raven ends up selling her, let me know. I’ll give him the price he wants.”

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