The Ghost (Professionals Book 2)(6)

By: Jessica Gadziala


“Thank you,” I remembered to call before she was too far to hear me.

With that, I let myself into the room, finding it bare, but not completely uncomfortable. The bed was a full-size with a sturdy black wood frame, white bedding, and half a dozen pillows. There was a nightstand with a lamp, a stack of magazines, and the remotes for the TV that was above the dresser across from the bed.

I moved across the floor, pulling open the door to the bathroom, doing so with a swirling sensation in my stomach that I had never felt before, it likely being the product of my recent shower incident.

Incident.

That was a good way to think of it.

An ‘incident’ was easy to compartmentalize, tuck away, convince yourself it wasn’t a big deal.

That was what I needed to do. So I could keep it together. So my mind didn’t keep going back to being in the shower, to being naked, vulnerable, then have a man rip open the door, and plunge something sharp into your abdomen, the pain immediate and searing, whiting out your vision, making your insides revolt, the bile rising up even as you tried to scream.

I shook my head, trying to get the thoughts to settle back in their hiding place. To be dealt with when things were more settled.

I moved my gaze away from the compact shower stall, suddenly understanding why Janet Leigh from Psycho could never shower again after she filmed that movie.

Moving over toward the sink, I took a deep breath, and looked myself in the eye.

You couldn’t see it there.

The despair.

The horror.

The desperation.

The rage.

I had schooled my poker face after getting yelled at on my first job at sixteen when I had humiliated myself by crying in front of everyone around me. I had vowed to myself never to let that happen again, never to let someone see what was going on inside.

I’d gotten good at it over the years.

Not even now, when my entire universe was crumbling at my feet, could you tell I was anything other than in-control. Composed. Confident.

It was all a show, of course.

I was all ashes and ruins inside.

In just under forty-eight hours, a dozen men and women would walk up to a storefront dressed up because that was what I had always demanded, standing there checking their cells, brows furrowed. Because I never made them wait for me. I always showed up before everyone, unlocked the door, got to work.

If I knew my crew - and I did - Mateo would be the one who would finally crack and call me. Once. Twice. Ten times. Then he would send everyone home. He didn’t have the power, but if I wasn’t there, he had seniority. He would take charge. Then he would go to my place. He’d find a way in, despite the doorman and apartment he didn’t have a key to. Then he would realize I was gone. Maybe he would realize a lot of my things were missing. Or maybe not. A lot of clothing and bath accessories were still left. He’d report me missing.

Then they would all realize after a few days that their lives had changed as well.

Suddenly.

Startlingly.

No notice.

No severance.

I had screwed them all over.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t intend to.

It didn’t matter that the choice was taken from me.

These were my people.

I had promised them things. I had assured them that there was stability in my company, that they could entrust their future to me.

I didn’t take that responsibility lightly.

It was killing me to do this to them, to throw their lives into turmoil with me.

Could they even collect unemployment?

With a missing CEO?

I doubted that a single one of them would even file. They were the hungry types, eager to prove themselves, refusing to have a gap in their resumes. They’d likely be working somewhere else by the end of the week.

I’d lose them all.

I mean, I would lose them all no matter what.

That was what was happening.

That life was over.

I was over.

“No,” I said to myself, taking a deep breath as I sat off the end of the bed, knowing that when I heard myself say things, they felt more convincing. “That me is over,” I amended.

This was what most people had private, never-spoken-of dreams about. Running away from their old lives. Their spouses, kids, mortgage, car payments, bosses, jobs, families. And start over. Do it right. Be the person you always knew you were deep down inside, but life wouldn’t allow you to become.

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