“I’m not in the habit of hitting on t-teenaged boys, if that’s what you m-mean,” she said, struggling to control her stutter.
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
Waves of anger and embarrassment washed over her and for a moment she was afraid she’d cry because she knew exactly what he’d meant. She wouldn’t be a problem for his male workers because she was plain and unattractive. Her eyes ached with the effort of holding back tears. Beck had thought she was lovely, and the beauty he saw in her had been his pride and joy. He was forever surprising her with jewelry, bottles of perfume, gift certificates to have her hair done at upscale salons. After Beck’s accident the medical bills had chewed up their savings, and when he died, Emma had sold their house, a handyman special still in progress, for only a few thousand dollars more than was owed on it. Now she had to save what little money was left to pay the rent and keep the lights on in her shabby room on Fuller Street. There was no money for clothes, salons, or even a bottle of nail polish. But she was a hard and willing worker; she’d proved that today, hadn’t she? And he’d not given her so much as a word of thanks or encouragement. All she had left was her battered pride, and she couldn’t, wouldn’t let this brute of a man take it from her.
“Could you could start tomorrow morning?” he asked, oblivious to her anger.
Gathering the shreds of her dignity, she stood. “I d-don’t think I’m interested in the job after all. But thank you for your time.”
He reached out his hand as if he meant to touch her, but seeing her angry expression, let it fall back to his side. “Look, about what I said, it came out wrong. I didn’t mean--”
The bell above the front door chimed and a voice boomed out, “Hello? Is this where we’re supposed to check in?”
He passed a hand over his face and pushed out a breath. “Just wait here, all right?”
While he trudged up front to deal with the customer, Emma quietly slipped out the back door.
A job in the middle of nowhere. A beat-up old rust bucket to get there in, and an arrogant ass for a boss, Emma thought, jamming her key into the ignition. Strike three. You’re out.