After The Dark (Billionaire In Love 3)

By: Ava May

Chapter 1

Life was tough without Jack. It had been a roller coaster of emotion and Scarlett was just about ready to get off. She was sitting on her parent's porch and looking out at the sun. The last time she had seen Jack, it had been raining. She still remembered the taste of the rain as it mingled with her tears when she ran away from him. His last words echoed in her mind, driving her crazy.

Why couldn't she stop thinking about him? What was it about him that had such a powerful, inexorable hold over her? Even now, when she knew that it was in her best interests to forget about him and move on, she still thought of him every day.

Things had seemed so perfect and then they'd all turned perfectly horrible. All she had wanted was to know about his secret past, but now that she knew what it was, she understood why he hadn't told her and she didn't know how she could be with him. Not after finding out that his wife was the other driver in the accident that killed her sister. It was a double-whammy and there were still so many questions, but she had turned and ran away, not wanting to face him. Since then, she'd been morose and hadn't dared try to call him. He didn't show up at work either, and to make matters worse, she had to listen to everyone gossip about the two of them.

At first, it had been just whispers, but it quickly turned to vicious snipes. Every meeting was uncomfortable, and once again her ideas were ignored. She only had one ally in that office—Mandy—and most of the time Scarlett shut herself away in her own office as though she were a besieged queen isolating herself in her castle.

“I brought you some juice,” her mother, Janice, said, taking a seat beside Scarlett on the porch. The two of them stared out at the empty road in front of them. Usually, it was alive with the sounds of children playing, but on this particular weekend, it was oddly quiet. Scarlett took the glass in her hand and sipped the sweet orange juice. She was thirstier than she realized, and soon enough, the glass was half-empty. When she set the glass down on the table, she let out a soft burp, and both of them laughed.

“It'll be okay, you know. We're a strong family. We can get through anything. I know that it seems hard right now, but as long as you keep your head down and do your job to the best of your ability, you will shine through and nobody will be able to say that you aren't there on your own merit.”

Scarlett had only told her parents part of the story. They knew she had become involved with Jack Keyes, the CEO of the company she worked for, and that people at work suspected there was some fooling around going on and were now spreading rumors to that effect, suggesting that she only got the job because she was Jack's playmate. She didn't tell them the other secret though, because they'd been through too much already and Scarlett didn't want to dredge up the past and make them go through any more trauma. Lisa's death had been a horrible tragedy for all of them and it had taken them a long time to get back to anything resembling a normal, functional family, and Scarlett wasn't about to tear that all down.

“I just feel like I made a mistake. I think you and Dad were right.”

“We do know what we're talking about... most of the time,” Janice said with a knowing smile. She placed a comforting hand on Scarlett's shoulder. “But I'm not entirely sure what you mean.”

Scarlett gulped and took a deep breath. “I thought that if I made something of myself in my career, then I'd be set for life. But I spent so much time trying to get this promotion, and now that it's here, I don't know what to do with myself. I have nothing to aim for and work is so hard at the moment. Even if I was doing well, I wouldn't be able to get another promotion for a couple of years. I feel like I've made a big miscalculation...”

“I don't think that's true. You saw what you wanted and you went for it with all your heart. I think that's admirable, and it's one thing I've always liked about you. When you want something, you go for it with everything you have, no matter what, and nothing can stand in your way. It is hard when these people are saying all these awful things about you...”

“Awful, true things.”

“Well, yes, but that's another matter entirely and I will have to have a word with you about that when you're feeling up to it,” her mother said in a tone of voice which Scarlett knew to be leading to a lecture. She was astounded at how even though she was a grown woman her parents could still find ways to make her feel like a child.

“But these things are like a storm. You have to ride them out, even though I know that's easier said than done. Eventually something new will capture their attention. These people are just people with empty lives and they have to fill them up with rumors and gossip about other people. As long as you hold your head up high and show them that it doesn't affect you, then they'll grow tired and move on to something else.”

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