Baby Benefits(3)

By: EMILY MCKAY

“Which still leaves your mom to take care of.”



“True, but the house is paid for.” Thanks to those oodles and oodles of money. “And disability covers her living expenses.” Raina smiled brightly. “So now I don’t need the money anymore. I can walk away from this awful job and get a normal job. With normal hours. With a normal boss.”



Trinity waggled her eyebrows. “With a boss who doesn’t drive you crazy.”



Right. Crazy. Or something.



She supposed “crazy” was as good a word as any. Derek frustrated her, angered her, made her want to tear out her hair. And occasionally tear off her clothes.



Truth was, she’d been his assistant for nine years, eight of which she’d been slowly falling in love with him. It was a long time to pine for someone who saw her as “an indispensable cog” in his company, but not as a woman.



Her pitiful emotional state was something she didn’t want to think about, let alone share with coworkers. She was afraid if she lingered much longer, she might give herself away. So she plunked her purse down on the counter and whipped out her tinted lip-gloss.



Beside her, Trinity just shook her head and chuckled. “You’re not going to quit.”



Holding the tube of lip-gloss in one hand, Raina said, “What?”



“You’re putting on lip balm.” Then she looked Raina up and down critically. “No, when you quit a creativity-smothering, life-sucking job like this after nine years, you don’t wear practical shoes and lip balm. It calls for four-inch heels and bright red lipstick. It calls for a little ass-kicking.”



Raina smiled wryly at her friend. “No, when you quit a job it may call for a little ass-kicking. As for me, I’ve never once walked into this building without looking like a professional. Today’s no different. And again, I am definitely quitting.”



“If you were quitting, you’d be willing to admit Derek’s a heartless tyrant.”



Raina forced a chuckle even as she said, “He’s not so bad.”



“Which is exactly what I knew you’d say. Which is why I maintain, you’re not ready to quit.”



“I sent my letter of resignation to the printer on my way here,” Raina protested. “Twenty minutes from now, I will no longer be an employee of Messina Diamonds. Well, twenty minutes and two weeks.”



Trinity shrugged. “If you say so.” And with that, she opened the door and headed out of the bathroom.



“Aren’t you going to wish me luck?”



“I would if I thought you were really going to quit,” Trinity said over her shoulder before disappearing down the hall.



Raina merely glared at her friend’s retreating back.



Trinity was right. Oh, not about Raina’s inability to quit, but about the job being creativity smothering and life sucking. In the nine years she’d been with Messina Diamonds, she’d worked more overtime than most people worked in a lifetime.



Whenever he needed something, Derek called her first. Whether it was two in the morning or a beautiful sunny Saturday. He wasn’t an unreasonable man; he expected no more of her than he did of himself. He just expected a lot of himself.



She’d put up with the relentless hours for two reasons: the money couldn’t be beat and she was infatuated with Derek. But it was time to cut the cord. Now that she didn’t need the money anymore, she could quit, walk away and get on with her life. Stop entertaining these childish fantasies that one day he’d snap out of it, realize she was a woman and whisk her off for a romantic getaway to Aruba.



’Cause let’s face it. If that was going to happen, it would have happened years ago.



Raina swung by the printer on the way to Derek’s office. As she made her way through the halls, she scanned over the letter, reassuring herself that it was as succinct and professional as she remembered. No need to humiliate herself with any unnecessary displays of emotion.



She knocked once on the door to his office before entering. As always, his office smelled faintly of wood oil and the lingering citrus scent of Derek’s cologne. He stood with his back to her, gazing out the bank of windows at the view of downtown Dallas his twentieth-floor window afforded him. The fine wool of his Italian tailored gray suit stretched across his back, accenting the breadth of his shoulders.



“Mr. Messina, may I have a word?”



“Thank God you’re here, Raina.” Derek turned around as he spoke. “We’ve got a lot to do today.”



A pang of loss stabbed her chest at his words. He’d started nearly every day with those same words. Then her eyes dropped from his face to the sleeping baby he held in his arms.