Strict Confidence (Rochester Trilogy #2) by Skye Warren

She waves a hand. “We moved them to the Black Point Resort down the coast. A beautiful place, of course. Not quite as nice as mine, but they will be well taken care of—especially with the resort credit Beau gave them. The spa is extremely nice.”

It’s still hard to wrap my head around this amount of money. I knew he was wealthy, of course. I knew he was successful, but it’s another level to see it in action. To see him change around the plans of other couples, other families, simply because he’s… rich.

Another tug on my hand. Paige looks worried now. “This is okay, isn’t it?”

Concern shines in her blue eyes. It’s almost like she thinks I might leave. That if I don’t like the arrangements, I’d leave. And wouldn’t I? I’m not bound to this family by anything more than an employment contract. It works both ways. He can fire me tomorrow, but I can just as easily quit. I drop to one knee so that I’m actually lower than her, looking up into her sweet face. There’s not even a single scratch from the fire. Beau got her out quickly enough. “I’m not going anywhere,” I promise her. “We’re going to be very comfortable here. And very safe.”

Over her shoulder I meet Beau’s dark eyes. There’s a flicker before he turns away. As if he doesn’t think it’s a promise I can keep. My heart thuds against my ribs.

What danger are we in?

The peace doesn’t last long.

Paige tolerates the large bed with its chenille bedspread and creaky antique chairs.

She becomes ominously silent when she sees the tray of food that’s been sent up with sandwiches with cucumber, cream cheese, and dill. There’s also strawberry and basil scones. And a creamy mushroom soup.

She refuses to try it. Any of it. I’m coaxing her to take a bite of the scone when there’s a knock at the door. Mateo stands there, his arms loaded with large white shopping bags with the Nordstrom logo. “Personal delivery,” he says with that billion-dollar grin.

My eyes widen. I’ve never seen so many purchases in one single haul. I don’t really have a history with shopping bags. I’ve usually worn hand-me-downs or state-issued clothes. “All this?” I ask, my voice faint. “Is some of it for Beau?”

“Nah, I’ll bring his up in a second.” He lifts one muscular shoulder. “Sorry if I picked the wrong stuff. I grabbed everything that seemed like it would fit. We’ll have to go back when it gets cold, but this should do you through the summer.”

He leaves in a whirlwind of masculine energy, leaving us alone with the bags.

Paige and I exchange a look fraught with concern.

I put on a fake, cheerful smile and open the first one. There’s a selection of short-sleeve shirts in a rainbow of colors—heather gray and navy blue and pale blush. They’re only T-shirts. I’ve worn a thousand of them before, but they were never like this. Velvety soft. Somehow thicker and more substantial than anything I’ve had before. Still light as a feather. The price tag makes my heart skip a beat. He paid this… per shirt.

He has to return them. There’s no way I could ever pay Beau back for these. I rub the lush fabric between my thumb and forefinger. For a moment I pull it against my chest, imagining wearing it, imagining being the kind of woman who belongs here.

The fantasy shatters when Paige opens a different bag.

She pulls out a pile of dresses that look like they’d fit her perfectly. They’re the right size… but wrong in every other way. These are girlish and playful with winking unicorn emojis and hot pink ruffles. “These aren’t my clothes,” she says, her voice shaky like she’s about to cry.

“I thought you knew,” I say softly. “I thought Uncle Beau explained.”

“He said my clothes were gone. The one with the grape jelly stain and the jeans with a hole that I cut myself. He said I’d get new clothes. I thought they’d be like the old ones.” There’s grief in her voice. Those Monopoly T-shirts she loved. The black tulle skirt.

She loved her clothes, and they’re gone. They’re gone.

My clothes weren’t nearly so cool. I picked them up at Goodwill and Walmart, but they were mine. The only shelter that came with me from foster home to my own apartment to Maine.

Clothes are more than objects. They were part of me. An extension of my body. Part of my identity in a world that so often forgets that I exist. Paige understands, because she’s like me. We have this in common. We’re transients in this world, without a place of our own.