Wild Dirty Secret:Boxed Set 2

By: Skye Warren & Amber Lin

Chapter One





Some days are thick with anticipation, a portent that things will finally look up. Today was not one of those days. Instead I felt awkward, out of place among the ordinary. Unworthy.

I smoothed the paper one last time, and the dampness of my palms smudged the ink. But even the ruin of my careful work didn’t distract me from the incriminating empty boxes where my work experience should go.

In a city’s worth of Help Wanted, I might actually be qualified for this job. More importantly, the small indie bookstore wouldn’t have a corporate HR department to balk at the gaping hole in my professional history.

They wouldn’t require a background check, uncovering my arrest for solicitation.

I tugged at the sleeve of my shapeless suit, wavered on my half-inch heels. This was as close to normal as I could get. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I approached the counter.

Without looking at me, the young woman with pink hair and pierced eyebrows automatically reached for the books I was purchasing. I hesitated, and she glanced up, her gaze flitting from the piece of paper to me.

“Oh, hi. Are you applying for the cashier position?”

You can do this. I smiled. “That’s right. You haven’t filled it, have you?”

“The position is definitely open. It always is, to be honest. The cashiers come and go like this is a revolving door. I’ve been here for over a year, though.” She grinned. “Sucker for punishment. But don’t let me scare you away.”

“Oh no.” I handed her the paper, then slid my palms over my skirt to dry them. “I’d very much like to apply.” She gave the application a quick read through—nothing in her expression indicated she’d seen a problem.

“Nice to meet you, Shelly Laurent. I’m Dawn. Let me get the manager. He can interview you right now if you have the time.”

She picked up the phone before I could even say yes, please.

“Get your butt up here,” Dawn said, her eyes sparkling. “We’ve got a candidate, and she actually doesn’t suck.”

Biting her lip to hide a smile, Dawn caught a lock of hair between her fingers. No doubt about it—she had a crush on the boss.

“Okay, Jason. I’ll start, but hurry up.”

She hung up. “He’s on his way, so I’ll just ask a few basic questions.” She looked down at the application. “Get the preliminaries out of the way.”

Unfortunately, the preliminaries were huge barriers, at least to my mind. After all, that’s why they asked these questions. Who cared what month Johnny stopped showing up at Quickie Mart, at least for a cashier’s position? No, this application wasn’t about ability or even dependability. It was a test to make sure I was the right kind of person.

Which I wasn’t.

One time I’d mentioned it in passing to my best friend, Allie. She had laughed, not understanding. How could I fake it all those times, but I couldn’t lie for this? No, she didn’t see.

That stuff was easy: I love what you do to me. I’m coming. You’re so big.

This was different. Every attempt at normalcy felt like a tear in my gut.

I’d only be able to try so many times before coming undone.

Dawn leaned on the counter, still looking at the paper. “Have you worked in retail before?”

I had plenty of experience in customer service—but not the way she meant. I cleared my throat. “When I was in high school, I had a part-time job in the library.”

“That’s cool.” Her brow crinkled—there it was. “Oh, I’m sorry. Am I reading these dates right? Because that would make it…”

“Three years ago.”

“You didn’t put down where you worked since then. Don’t worry if it’s not related to books or anything.” She laughed. “We’re not picky. The last guy quit a month ago—we’re desperate.”

Right. This should be easy. They were desperate; so was I.

I didn’t even have to lie, exactly. I had watched Bailey while Allie had been at work. I would leave out that she hadn’t paid me, that I had been the one to spot her a few hundred bucks when rent was due. I wouldn’t mention how I’d earned all that money, at night when Allie and Bailey were tucked in their beds.

“Well, the thing is…I didn’t have a proper job.” An understatement. “I worked for my friend, taking care of her daughter. A nanny, all this time.”

Dawn’s gaze surreptitiously slipped down my body, her doubt couched behind generous politeness. I didn’t look like the nurturing type, unless it was the kind with a fake nurse’s costume. Even the drab gray cloth that clashed with my blonde hair and was one size too large couldn’t hide what I was made for.

“Oh.” Dawn paused, seeming to mull it over. Then she brightened. “So you can provide references, right?”

My heart sank. I hadn’t wanted to ask Allie for help with this. If she knew I was looking at a minimum-wage job, she would know I was running low on money. She’d worry what I’d do when I ran out. Well, I was worried too.

“Absolutely.” My voice was faint. “References.”

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