James stayed right where he was.
“You’re short of money?”
The embarrassment was a slow burn of heat. “I never said I was short of money. I said I needed money. Not the same thing.”
He gave her that slow, steady look that she knew so well. “Where’s Mia?”
“At home with Frankie. They read books together. She’s safe and happy.” But his question had ripped open the seam of guilt she tried to keep firmly closed. Mia adored her friends, but still… “If you’re implying that I’m neglecting my daughter—”
“Of course I'm not. You’re a wonderful mother.” He frowned. “But if you’re here, then when are you studying?”
“When I get home.” And there were days when she woke up to find the light still on and the book open next to her. Days when the words on the page blurred and she had to read everything twice.
“When do you sleep?”
“I’m getting plenty of sleep.”
“That must be why you have dark circles under your eyes.”
“Fairies have big responsibilities, didn’t you know?”
“You’re so damn stubborn.”
“I am. So if you’re about to offer me money, remember that doing so will endanger parts of you that you value above all others.”
“What makes you think I was about to offer you money?”
“I know that look. You wear it every time you want to step in and do your big brother act.”
His gaze met hers and in that brief moment something passed between them.
There had been moments, occasional moments, when she had wondered if his feelings went deeper than friendship but she’d always dismissed it as wishful thinking on her part. And anyway, this wasn’t the right time for her. Maybe one day she might meet a good man even though her track record in that area wasn’t exactly impressive. But her priority right now was her daughter. Giving her a home. A life. The best Christmas ever. She felt a rush of fierce protectiveness. It was an emotion that had been delivered along with her baby.
“If you’re short of money you should talk to Matt.” Matt owned the business they both worked for. He also happened to be Roxy’s landlord.
“Why would I talk to Matt?”
“He could do you a deal on the rent.”
“We both know Matt has already done me a deal on the rent. I can make the rent, James.”
“Then why are you doing this? What do you possibly need that would require you to work two jobs when you’re also studying for exams and being a mother? It exhausts me thinking of it.”
And it was exhausting her doing it. But it was worth it.
“Come with me.” She grabbed his hand. “I’ll show you.”
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