Josh did a double-take when he saw Christian. His light-colored eyes swung in Bianca’s direction. He mumbled, “You aren’t supposed to have overnight guests.”
She silently counted to ten instead of blasting him with the facts. The flat had been hers to begin with, and she’d invited him to move in after he got kicked out of his last place. He was supposed to help with the rent, but most of his gigs paid in beer instead of cash. Josh was a charmer who could talk almost anyone into almost anything. It had taken him less than a week to convince her to put his name on the lease and about a month to talk her out of her bedroom. Once he moved his girlfriend in without asking, there hadn’t been a reasonable argument for him continuing to sleep on the couch. They needed their privacy, after all.
“He’s my boss,” Bianca said. “And he’s here to help me carry my suitcases to the car. I’m leaving.”
Josh’s jaw dropped. “But... you can’t.”
“You told me to leave,” she reminded him.
“We didn’t mean today.” He gestured to the refrigerator. “Did you go shopping yet? You can’t leave us without any food. We’ll starve.”
It was her turn to gape at him. He and Gayle repeatedly took advantage of her, giving her dramatic and tragic stories instead of money when the bills came due. Instead of getting roommates to share expenses, she had wound up playing mother—or perhaps disapproving older sister—to the pair. Now, she was finally free. They would have to find a way to take care of themselves or lose the one-bedroom flat.
“You and Gayle are both adults,” she said. “One of you needs to start buying food.”
Christian’s eyes lit up, and he seemed pleased with the situation. “Bianca is moving to New York,” he announced. “As one of my top executives, she’ll be able to afford somethingmuchnicer than this. I hope you and...Gayle?... will be happy together. Something tells me the two of you deserve each other.”
Bianca glowed inwardly. He reminded her of his father now, sticking up for her when there was nothing in it for him. A wave of sadness washed over her at the depressing thought that John was gone. She’d never see him again, but now she had Christian.
She wasn’t sure yet if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Christian didn’t know what it was about Bianca Dawson that made him feel like a grumpy bear with a thorn in its paw. Her place was a dump and should probably be condemned, but he wouldn’t care if someone else lived there. He wouldn’t think it was any of his business. Something about Bianca brought his protective nature to the surface; he didn’t like it.
She was letting her roommates take advantage of her, and she obviously wasn’t taking good care of herself. The urge to step in and rescue her was too strong to resist. He blamed it on a lack of sleep.
“Does he owe you money?” Christian gestured to Josh.
She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine. They don’t have much, and they’re about to get married and—”
“Doeshe owe you money?”
“I paid the whole month’s rent,” she said with a sigh. “Plus utilities.”
Josh shook his head in protest. “No way! It’s not my fault you paid right before Gayle decided she wanted you out. That money has already been spent. You’re out of luck.”
“I think you’re the one out of luck,” Christian said in a tone that dared the young man to argue. “Pay her what you owe.”
Josh dug deep into his pocket with an unsteady hand. He pulled out a crumpled wad of bills and counted them out loud for their benefit. “I only have thirty-two pounds.”
“How much is he lacking?” Christian asked.
“Ninety-three.” Bianca held her hand out, and Josh placed the money on her palm.
“How much is that guitar worth?” Christian asked.
Josh paled. “No way, man.Noway. I’d rather die.”
“I don’t want to take his guitar from him,” Bianca said, once again showing a heart that was too soft for her own good. “That’s his only way of making money.”
Christian rubbed his jaw, deep in thought. After a moment he nodded slowly. He spoke to Josh as if they were making a deal in the boardroom, and Christian knew he had all the cards. “I’ll tell you what. I will pay the ninety-three pounds you owe if you apologize to Bianca. I have a feeling you owe her more than money. Make it a good one.”
Josh inclined his head. “I am sorry that Gayle and I asked you to move without warning. It was really her, you know. She was jealous. I kept telling her nothing ever happened between us, but she wouldn’t believe me.”
Christian’s eyes narrowed. “I thought—”
“I know what you thought,” she said. “Maybe this will teach you not to jump to conclusions about people. You can’t stick me in a pre-made mold.” She grinned and added, “I am not like anyone you’ve ever met.”