“Your ex was such a psycho,” Tess muttered, her expression dark.
Yep, beneath that charming all-American-boy exterior lived a sardonic, selfish narcissist who thought the sun disappeared when he sat.
“Okay, there’s nothing you can do about the house but I don’t understand why you are taking on the burden of Cath’s medical bills,” Tess stated, taking a sip of her coffee. She waved her hand. “I understand why you feel obliged to—when your mom died and your dad remarried Cruella, your aunt was there for you—but Cath is financially stable.”
Kat pushed her hands into her hair. “She’s really not, Tess. She has insurance but it’s limited. Her cancer is rare and complicated and requires treatments her insurance doesn’t cover. She’s also paying for a full-time caregiver, which has wiped out the little disposable income she has.” Kat shrugged. “So, between June’s demands on the repairs to the house and sending cash Cath’s way, I’m flat broke.”
“Is she getting better?”
Kat felt her heart spasm as she shook her head. “I need her to see a specialist, but even if there wasn’t a ridiculously long waiting list, they always seem to want money up front to cover the cost of her tests.”
Kat rubbed the back of her neck and looked around her small but cozy apartment. It was her favorite place in the world, a haven of color, the place where she could relax. After leaving the restaurant last night she’d returned home and spent a few hours crunching numbers on a spreadsheet.
One column held a list of expenses: rent, utility bills and food for herself; the repairs, maintenance and utility bills for the home her stepmom occupied; projected figures for Cath’s medical expenses.
The other column, woefully small, held her income. There was a massive shortfall between the two amounts and she’d had yet to include paying for the damn dress.
God, how she wished she could roll back the years. She wished she hadn’t taken a gap year between school and college to travel Europe. She wished she hadn’t met and—in a haze of lust—married Wes. She’d managed to complete her degree in business administration, but there were lots of people with the same degree. She needed her MBA to earn the big bucks that would keep her head above water.
Over the past four years she’d managed to scrape together enough money to earn some credits toward her postgrad degree, but she still had a few courses to do. And she had to write her Leadership and Corporate Accountability exam in a few months. God knew when she was going to get time to study for that.
Yesterday she’d been treading water financially, but with a designer dress to pay for, she was now sinking below the surface. Tess was right. Something had to change, and fast. But what?
“I’m going to have to move,” Kat reluctantly stated. “I’d save some money if I did. I can move back in with Cath.”
Cath would love to have her and would refuse to charge her rent. If she did move back in, she could keep a better eye on Cath and monitor her health. But...damn, this apartment was her bolt-hole, her escape, the only place that was completely hers.
“This apartment block is owned by Harrison Marshall. Can’t you ask the company to give you a break, to carry you for a month or two?” Tess asked.
Not possible. “They already give me a subsidy on my rent as part of my salary. I can’t ask for more.”
“So, essentially, you have a month to find the money to pay for the dress and to try to keep this apartment.”
A month? God. “When you put it like that I want to bang my head against the wall,” Kat muttered.
“Maybe something will come up. You never know.”
“And I believe in unicorns and fairies...” Kat murmured, feeling utterly defeated. “God, Tess, for the first time ever, I’m totally out of ideas. What the hell am I going to do?”
Tess’s eyes were full of compassion. “You’re going to keep on believing that something amazing will happen. You’re going to use your big brain and find a way because you are the smartest woman I know.” Tess stood, took Kat’s coffee from her hand and placed it on the coffee table. Pulling a throw off the single chair and then patting a pillow she placed against the arm of the sofa, she said, “But right now, you’re going to sleep for a couple of hours.”
“I’ve got stuff to do,” Kat protested, her eyes heavy at just the mention of sleep.
“You need to decompress and you really need sleep,” Tess insisted and watched as Kat curled her legs up onto the sofa and rested her head on the cushion. “You can’t think straight without sleep, my darling. When you wake up, you’ll feel so much better and you’ll think of a solution.”
God, she hoped so, Kat thought, closing her eyes. She was just about to drift off when she heard, once again, Tess’s footsteps on her floor. “What did you lose, Tess?”
“Uh...it’s not what I lost but what I found on your doorstep.”
Hearing a note in Tess’s voice that was a curious combination of both surprise and confusion, Kat forced her eyes open. She saw his feet first, trendy navy sneakers worn without socks. Indigo denim slacks covered muscular, long legs and a leather belt encircled a trim waist and what she suspected might be a washboard stomach. A striped blue-and-white shirt was tucked in and made his chest seem wider, his shoulders broader. The cuffs of his expensive shirt were rolled up to reveal tanned forearms and a Rolex encircling a strong wrist. His cotton shirt pulled tight across his big biceps and the collar of his shirt opened in a V to reveal a hint of his chest covered in a light dusting of hair.
Green, green eyes, messy hair, that sexy stubble on his strong jaw. Man, what had she done to deserve Jonas Halstead standing in her apartment at 8:05 a.m.?
Kat slowly sat upright and frowned when she saw Tess backing away. Huh, so Tess wasn’t sticking around for moral support. She frowned at her friend, who shrugged. “I have to get to work. I’m late as it is. Sorry,” Tess explained, walking backward into the hall.
Sorry? She didn’t look sorry at all. Kat slapped her bare feet onto the floor and stood, wishing she didn’t look like a bag lady on a bad day. She ran her tongue over her teeth and pushed her hand into her hair, sighing when her hand snagged on a knot. Really? This was now her life?
Kat forced herself to meet Jonas Halstead’s amused eyes. “What on earth are you doing here? How did you find me?”
He reached into the back pocket of his pants and tossed a check onto her coffee table. “Fourteen hundred dollars. It’s to pay for the dress I ruined.”
Bloody Sian. Kat had thought she’d keep her mouth shut! Dammit. Kat looked at the check, sighed and decided to lie her ass off. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Jonas jammed his hands into the pockets of his pants and narrowed his eyes at her. “The hell you don’t. You borrowed a designer dress. You were going to return it. I pulled the tag off, which, as Sian told me, was a stupid ass thing to do. You are now on the hook for fourteen hundred dollars. I’m taking you off the hook.”
Kat looked at the check, back up to his determined face and back down to the check again. God, it was so tempting to take his money. It had been his fault. He had pulled the tag off and it wasn’t like he couldn’t afford the donation. He was Jonas Halstead, billionaire.
But it was still a donation and she didn’t accept charity, ever. She especially didn’t take handouts from sexy men who threw cash around like it was confetti. Nothing was simple when it came to money and motives should always be questioned. Nobody, especially hard-assed businessmen, handed out money without wanting something in return.
Between her ex and her father, she was sick of men and the games they played with money. Kat folded her arms across her chest and shook her head. “I’m