Midnight Dreams(4)

By: Kayla Perrin



arms, and for a moment, Jade wished they could stay this way

forever, that the rest of the world would simply disappear.

“Don’t let me go,” he whispered into her hair. “If you tell

me you’ll leave Nelson, I won’t go.”

She closed her eyes as the onset of tears threatened to

choke her. “I…I have to marry him.”

He released her just as abruptly. The look of desolation on

his face was one Jade knew she would remember forever.

“I’m sorry,” she said, knowing the apology was not enough.

It would never be enough.

With that, he turned. Jade merely stared at his back as he

retreated, not knowing what to say, what to do. He unlocked

the front door, pushed it open, then paused before stepping

into the night air. He cast one last look at her over his shoulder

and said, “I’m sorry, too.”

Then he disappeared into the night, and Jade knew she

would never see him again.

Chapter 1

Six years later…

IF JADE ALEXANDER HAD ANY guts, she would dump the mug

of steaming hot coffee in the jerk’s lap, then quit before her

boss had a chance to fire her. Nobody—regular customer or

not—put a hand on her butt and got away with it. As a

waitress, she was used to a degree of sexism, to men losing

their manners around an attractive woman. Maybe it was the

fantasy of a smiling woman serving them food and drinks with

no complaints that made them lose all reason, but that still

didn’t make it right. There were limits to the abuse she would

take, and Mr. Madden had just crossed the line.

Glaring at him, she opened her mouth to tell him what he

could do with his hand. But the words didn’t come. The truth

was, Jade couldn’t afford any guts, much less a roof over her

16


head. She desperately needed this lousy job and the tips she

made more than anything else right now. So what if the men

who frequented The Red Piano were inconsiderate morons?

She’d dealt with them for a year. She could deal with them

for another.

No pain, no gain, as the saying went.

And she’d certainly had her share of pain. If you looked

up the word in the dictionary, you’d find a stunned picture of

Jade. This past year had been the worst of her life, such an

emotional and physical struggle, that she’d more than once

contemplated packing it in and moving back to New Orleans

to live with her parents. But while she was lacking in guts,

she certainly wasn’t lacking in pride. There was no way she

would ever admit to being a failure. She wasn’t a victim, she

was a survivor. It was all in how you looked at it.

Even if her jerk of an ex-husband had taken her to the

cleaners.

“Huh, Jade? What do you think?”

Placing the mug of coffee on the table, she stepped away

from him, casting a long look at his offending hand, hoping

he’d gotten the picture. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked,” he began slowly, “if we could get together

sometime. You know, outside of this restaurant. I love seeing

you here, but it’s not enough, know what I mean? Maybe we

can get together for some drinks, a little dancing. Or some-

thing.” He winked.

Jade could only imagine what he meant by or something.

And she certainly wasn’t interested. “Mr. Madden…”

“Please, call me Milton.”

“Milton, I—”

Reaching out, he took her hand. Jade lost her thought.

Kayla Perrin

17

Originally she was going to be nice, let him down gently. Now

she knew he’d get the picture only if she told it to him straight.

Pulling her hand from his, she said, “Mr. Madden, I am as

interested in spending time with you as I am in dating a slug.”

His widened eyes and slackened jaw said he was too stunned

to speak, but Jade didn’t care. She turned quickly, marching to

the kitchen. If her manager got on her case, so be it. Milton

Madden could find another woman to harass. She’d had enough.

Once in the kitchen, Jade leaned against a tiled wall and

closed her eyes. The assorted smells of different foods washed

over her, combining in a not-so-appetizing way that made her

want to gag. God, she hated this job.

“Hey, hon. What’s the matter?”

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