"God, do I hate you. You're a fucking whore," Mia shouted to the tall grey horse in the middle of the grassy field. So close she had been to catching her, after two hours of trying, and the horse had fled her yet again. She palmed her face, took a deep breathe, and said more calmly to the mare, who looked all too proud of herself, "You know, it's been ten years since a horse has made me lose my temper." A soft chuckle next to her made Mia jump, and aware of a man's presence. "Would you like some advice?" the man asked with an amused smile. He had heard very creative and colorful words used on horse farms before, but none quite liked that actually directed at a horse. Usually, Mia would bite her tongue and swallowed her pride because there was always something else to learn. Instead, she said, "I couldn't fucking care." Giving him no more attention, she hopped the fence and strode toward the barn. Albright couldn't help his smile. No one had ever quite spoken to him like that, at least not without knowing who he was. He followed her to the barn at a much slower pace, and by the time he was in there, Mia was helping a much younger girl bandage a horse's hoof. "I hear the new owner comes today," the girl chirped. When Mia did not reply, the girl went on, "I hear that he's a jerk, and he's totally kicking Nick out of this barn."
"That's gossip," Mia sighed and gently chided the girl, "And I won't have it from one of my students, Clara. Besides, he's not the new owner, he's owned this place for almost eight years. Nick is friends with the guy, he agreed to watch over this place for the owner while he was overseas to advance his riding further. Nick never wanted to be here, at least not this long. Yes, the owner is arrogant, as most well off and well experienced horse people are, and his personality, despite his last name being Albright, is not all that bright. But we will not notice that. We will act as if we think of him in the highest regards." After a moment of silence, she added, "And if he's really that bad, then we'll complain about it over pizza at my place, but no where else."
"You've met him before right?"
"Once, a long time ago," she brushed of the question, "When I was just starting out in the professional world. I doubt that I would recognize him now."
"What happened to him?" Albright asked, indicating the horse. Mia looked down in slight embarrassment as she recognized the voice as the one she had just told to fuck off, "Um, he just has an abscess on his hoof. He'll be fine. Look, I'm really sorry for what I said out there. It was completely out of line. You were just trying to help, and I was horrible about it. Please accept my apologies, which are numerous. I really can't apologize enough." She glanced at his eyes to see them dance with a strange kind of delighted light that matched the amused smirk on his lips. In a certain kind of way, he looked slightly sadistically entertained. Feeling awkward and taken aback by his demeanor, Mia's shoulders straightened and her heels rocked back slightly. She felt her cheeks begin to flush as they always did when she was nervous. "Really, I am very sorry."
"I can tell," Albright said with a friendly, forgiving tone. "It is very nice of you to apologize, I don't usually get that. Would you like some help with the horse now?" Answering with a great amout of honesty, she said, "God, no. If you go out there and catch that horse in two minutes when I spent two hours chasing her, I will completely loose it all over again. I'll just explode like a supervolcano, no I'm done with her for today. Tomorrow though, I'm going out there with a good book, and a bucket of apples, and I'm going to eat all the apples and give her none. That will teach her." Albright burst out laughing, he could not help it. His laughing annoyed her, his eyes annoyed her- mostly it was his familarity that annoyed her. Like being annoyed with him was a habit for her, and there was only one person that ever made her feel that way. Albright stated, "That's a very mature way of handling it."
Her head jerked up. "But it's the kind thing what you would expect from me, isn't Jason?"
So she finally realized. The sound of his name spoken with her voice revolted him inside. It was not entirely because he detested the sound of his name from her lips. Instead, it felt like guilt and surprise. Even back then she rarely called him anything other than Albright or sir.
"Finally recognized me?" he teased.
There was no joke or glitter in her eyes or voice. If the corners of her mouth were any indication, she was even disappointed. "You look so different. Did your hair get even darker? Did your eyes get lighter? Is that even possible? Did seven years really makes that much of a difference?" Slowly, Clara quietly walked away with the horse when she heard the name, the horse moving backwards the length of the aisle. Albright frowned, "That horse is really good. Horses don't like to walk backwards for that long. She knows that I can see them, right?"
"Yeah, I taught him to do that, And no, Clara watches too much Disney to know that slowly walking backwards does not make you invisible."
"I'm glad you finally recognized me. I'm glad you finally looked at me," he said.
She shrugged, looking away again, "I was embarrassed for telling some random guy I didn't fucking care. If I had recognized you, then I really wouldn't have cared."
"And Thanks for standing up for me, by the way," Albright taunted, "I wouldn't want to be the center of barn gossip, though I guess when the long lost landlord returns, there's no way of avoiding it."
Again, she blushed even deeper and said, "I promise you, I really can act like an adult- well, I can at least not be mean and quick tempered. You know, whatever character flaws I lack, I promise I make up for being really good with horses. With the exception of that blonde bitc- that really sweet, misused horse out there."
"We all have that one horse," Albright answered. "So you're the woman I keep hearing about. Everyone in Mason county, and the five counties surrounding us swear by you. You come with quite an impressive resume, Miss Reagon. After everything I heard about you, I thought that couldn't be my Mia, but here you are. I can't say I'm surprised."
Surprisingly, her cheeks flushed a deep read and she mumbled, "Nothing like yours, sir."
"Nick threatened me you know, he said if I did not come back, he was going to take off and leave everything in your capable hands." Studying her panicked reaction, Albright said, "I know. I thought there's only one person who can't stand staying one place for more than five minutes any more than Nick can't stand it, and that's you. Had I known you were a superstar in the area, I might have let him do it, but I thought that you were still gallavanting around the world with that boy you ran off with. What was his name?"
"Adam," he relished in how her voice hardened on the name. That meant whatever happened, it did not work out the way Mia had wanted.
Pretending to be lost in thought, he looked away and carelessly asked, "Adam. Where is he know? Is he here?"
Ignoring him, she replied, "I'm glad you didn't leave me with this place. I have students and horses to train at five other barns in the area, people want me to compete their horses for them, and I, I really want to go back and gallop across Mongolia again, or race across the andes. Out run a bear in Canada. Life was so much better when I was twenty-three." She looked away whistfully. Albright exclaimed, "That was only three years ago. Just wait until you're thirty-four. Though I must say again, you are impressive."
She blushed under his stare, and laughed, hoping for some sort of outerwordly intervention. Never before had a prayer been so quickly answered when a scream from outside cut through the barn. Faster than Albright had seen anyone move, Mia was out of the barn, and into the expansive outdoor arena. A horse was running wild in the arena, bucking and twisting at every turn. A girl clung to the horse desperately, and a boy ran wildly after them. Jumped into the arena, Mia unflinchingly stood in the horse's path and he stopped on a dime. The girl breathed heavily against his mane. Giving the horse a stern, disapproving look, Mia moved to the girl to help her down, then Mia cradled the girl against her chest since she could feel the panic radiating off of her, saying as soothingly as possibly, "You're okay. You're okay now." A boy ran over to meet them."What was going on here?" Mia asked, her voice hard.
The question was directed to the boy, who rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "She saw him, and really wanted to ride him . . .and," the boy did not have any excuse other than that the girl had been cute and he had not been thinking straight.
"Christ, David, you know better. You're sixteen and you know this horse is dangerous. You know only I ride him for now. That's the rule."
"I wasn't thinking, he'd been so good," he replied, then pointed out, "You let me ride him, and Clara."
"That's different because I've been doing this since you were born. I was here to talk you through it. Even if you didn't know what you were doing, I did," she answered. "Just take her out of the arena. I'll cool this guy down." When she saw Albright standing behind David, she froze before saying, "I'm sorry, this won't happen again."
"I'm sure it won't. Is that Tasmanian Rebel, the horse Nick was saying everyone is too afraid to ride? Everyone but you, apparently," he said, "You're going to get on him, correct? You're not going to let him get away with that?"
Looking across the arena to the girl who was now standing with her parents, Mia replied, "I was actually going to talk to her parents, they look rather upset."
"I'll deal with them," he told them. "If you impress me as you have anyone else, then I will let you stay."
He didn't know if her lips were curled at some joke or in suppression of horror. "Why on earth would I want to stay? I'm here as a favor to Nick, you need not worry. I'll be gone in a matter of days."
"First, Nick has disappeared and I need adequate help. You do not make the best personal decision, but I can't deny your skills in training horses or students. You'll stay until Nick comes back or there's the unlikely event I find someone half as adequate as either of you. Second, you love this horse, don't you?" Albright stroked Tas' mane. "Yet, he belongs to me not you. Nick did buy him on behalf of the estate and I own the estate. Therefore, if you want to train him, you have to stay."
"Nick said that he was mine. He was a five hundred dollar gift," Mia protested. "He's just a slaughter auction rescue. Any pedigree he has is lost, what is he to you?"
"Unfortunately, Nick used the estate's money, my money, to buy him- as if either of you have five hundred dollars to your name- and he is not authorized to just give away my estate as a gift. Besides, pedigree or not, worse case scenario, you sell that horse for fifteen grand. You'll train him real nice, as of now, only you, myself and Nick can. Seeing as you've done well already and that you are clearly personally attached to this horse, I see no reason why you shouldn't continue training my horse. However, because you're likely to make fifteen off of him, give me four and he's yours."
In shock, Mia said, "But we bought him for five hundred, I'll pay you six hundred."
Hollowly, Albright laughed, "Do you even have six hundred dollars to spare."
Mia clenched her teeth. "What if I do?"
He scoffed, "Yeah, right. Ok, where are you going to go? With whose trailer will you move him to what proximity. If you're leaving, I want you out today.I want you out of my guest house, and I want this horse off my property." He watched her mind racing, "Decisions, Mia. Important things to decide and responsibility was never your strong suit." He watched her chest expand and then fall with a heavy breathe as Mia realized he had her cornered. The horse was not hers and she had no place to take him. Perhaps there were places to go, but she could not just gallop up to those places on a horse and say, hey, I'd like to pasture your horse for an indefinite amount of time, until I think of something better and get my life in order, though I've failed to do so in the last twenty-six years. And then there was David. David really liked it here and he hated the nomadic lifestyle. He thought all the things they did were cool, but it was also only. Teenagers needed stability and people who did not have that turned out, well, like Mia. Watching defeat cross her features, Albright said. "I'll deal with her parents. You just impress me."
Just like that, Mia was eighteen all over again.Something in the way he said it made her legs go weak. She didn't like the effect he had in making her feel small. "W-would you mind giving me a leg up?" she asked.
Giving her a wide, boyish smile that left none of his thoughts to the imagination, he answered, "It would be my pleasure." After helping her get on. Part of him wanted to watch her fail and send her packing. Unfortunately, though It was his place, but it was known for her and Nick now. Nick had let her conduct lessons at the barn, let her steal his own riders from him, bring her own horses to train. Even had rented her the small guesthouse for virtually nothing. His place was slowly being stolen by the woman eight years his junior, but he could also not deny with shallow dissatisfaction as he watched her, that she deserved every bit of her reputation. No one could believe that the wild horse a moment ago was this calm horse with his head in perfect frame, his step springy yet controlled. Mia gave the horse an affectionate rub after she dismounted. Everyone was afraid to ride him and Mia made him act like a horse that any beginner could get on. "You ride well," Albright could not hide all the sourness from his voice. Albright already did not like the fact that she could make him laugh, now he had to admit that he was actually impressed. "But I don't let people use my property for their own business like Nick does. My borders take lessons from me, or one of my instructors I will let you work here, and let you and your cousin David still live here under one condition. "
Suspiciously, Mia peered up at him, "This isn't going to involve anything indecent, is it?" The way Albright was looking at her made her feel awkward.
"Only if you want it to," he joked.
Blushing, she replied, "Well, that's awkward." Her innocence made him smile, and she noticed the enjoyment he seemed to have in making her uncomfortable. Speaking more agreeably than before, he stated, "You can keep your lease on the guesthouse too, but you have to quit teaching at all other barns. You can still compete other people's horses, and you can train the horses you compete, but that's it. Everything else, you do here, for me."
She laughed, "I couldn't afford to keep Tas here, and live here under those conditions. I know the salary of an assistant instructor."
"You are a good and wise asset to have. You would be paid fairly," he said more softly. Personal feelings aside, this was all business now, "As an employee, I will give a discount on boarding."
Scoffing, she said with a slight smile, "It better be a fifty percent discount, otherwise I can't afford it."
"So you accept then?" Just like that, so business like.So you accept.The words ran through her mind, mocking her. You'll be trapped, you'll never get away. You'll have to be an adult. You can't stay in one place that long. And worst of all, you know what he'll do to you, followed by the terrible little voice, but you deserve it.
"I-," she stopped and looked down. Her shoulders were rigid, but her head hung loosely so she did not have to look at Albright, "You know I don't do well being in one place too long. I have to untack Tas."
As she began d to walk away, but he put a hand on her arm. "It was a yes, or no question. We'll try it again, but first, I'm giving you some advice. I'm guessing that you think you click so well with Tas because the two of you are so similar, so ready to take on the world, needing nothing from any one. I think you're more like that mare you can't catch. You're so used to running, it's not that you don't want to stop. You don't know how. This is your chance, Mia." You owe me. You owe me this. The words never left Albright's mouth, but Mia could see them in his eyes.
Leaning back from his grip, she responded, "That was oddly insightful. No wonder you creep people out. However, I'm not a runner. In fact, I hate running. I just like not being still." Still, Mia bit her lip, all the words that hadn't been said spinning in her mind. You know what he'll do to you and you deserve it. You owe me this. Her voice betrayed her, "I'll take it."
"That's very convenient for me," despite all the effort he had just put into convincing her, Albright's voice sounded careless, "Now I don't need to interview someone else. Let's have a meeting tonight to discuss this in full detail." Mia watched as he turned on his heel toward the arena gate.
She was sitting on a hay bale, head leaning against the wall. Albright knelt next to her, wondering how asleep she was, and whispered, "Mia, do you want to work here?"
"No," she muttered. "His lips are too kissable." Albright bit down a laugh, "Albright's?" "Yeah, employers shouldn't be sexy. Exes shouldn't be sexy." Wickedly, Albright thought of all the things he might get her to confess, but instead picked up a crop from the wall and brought it down hard against his tall boot. The loud crack startled Mia awake and she stared at him in a daze for a second, eyeing the crop. She seemed to shrink back slightly and said in a small voice, "I said I was sorry."
"What?" Albright frowned in confusion, then followed her eyes to the crop, "This isn't for you."
"Right," she snapped her fingers, "Because it's illegal for potential employers to whip potential employees."
"Unless you wanted . . . I would not like to disappoint," Albright answered with that smile that made her feel small and weak. Again Mia blushed heavily and looked down, "No, that's not what I meant. I- so awkward."
"Why, because employers aren't supposed to be sexy?" Albright returned with a smirk.
Not knowing her prior confession, Mia tried to play it cool, "Psht, I don't think you're sexy."
Albright swung the crop up so that it could lightly fall into his hand. "I don't tolerate lying, Mia." Watching as her shoulders squirmed slightly, he almost laughed, "You're so turned on right now."
"I am not!" Mia insisted.
"Right, so your face is naturally that color?"
Rubbing her arms to soothe and encourage herself, Mia asked quietly, "Are you trying to embarrass me because I was rude earlier, because it's working."
"Good," Albright asserted with another tap of the crop against his palm, "Maybe you'll learn your place."
Scoffing, Mia replied back, "No wonder people don't want to work with you. You're such a-." She stopped herself. "Sorry."
"Well, I'm not hiring you for your people skills," he stated casually.
Standing up, Mia responded with a slight iciness to her voice, "No, you're hiring me because you're afraid if I leave then all your business will too. Everyone knows me and no one has seen you in more than two plus years. What was up with that, Mr. Responsibility? Did you get a taste of running and found out how great it is?" Albright's smile faded at her words because Mia was right. More than Albright hated the truth in the words, he hated that it was Mia who was right as she continued, "And because despite the fact that you loathe me, you must also be turned on by me. Why else would you want to keep me here, under your thumb where you think I belong? And you do need me to deal with people because you sure can't."
"I'm fine with people," Albright replied because it was the only thing Mia said that he could dispute.
"You told the parent's of the girl who was riding Tas to either keep better discipline of their daughter, or leave," Mia pointed out.
Look, we're really sorry about this. I don't know why the kids thought they could ride Tas, it's a pretty well known rule that only I may ride him as he is still in training, Mia had told the relatively upset parents.
You're daughter, Albright said curtly, when the parents had continued to express anger, Has put my business in danger, put the horse in danger, and herself in danger by her actions. Either you explain to her that rules are meant to be followed, or please do not show up here again. Thank you. With that he walked off, leaving Mia gaping after him, and hurriedly speaking to assuage the upset parents.
Defensively, he responded, "They were messing up my business."
"I thought you were doing a good job of that yourself," Mia returned.
Since he was right, Albright argued the only point he could, "An employee should not speak that way to an employer."
"They can if an employer is-," Albright cut her off by swooping down and planting his lips on hers. For a second it was soft and tender, and then deep and hungry. As it deepened, she closed her eyes, and at his tongue's request she opened her mouth. She could taste loathing in him, not all of it directed at her. Some anger, and power. All things she had recognized in Tas, all things that had drew her to him, and drew her to Albright. Pulling back and staring at her, Albright was happy with how her eyes looked misted in some enchantment as she stood quiet, slightly swaying and waiting for him to do or say something first. In satisfaction, he murmured,"That's better."
His words did the trick and broke the spell. Almost angrily, she rigidly turned from him and began to walk away. Albright had been right, leaving was the only solution she ever knew. However, it was not a solution he ever accepted from her. In a matter of strides, he called her name several times and grasping her arm, spun her around to face him. "What's wrong?" he asked, frustrated.
"You can't do that, you're an employer," her voice rose. Mia was almost yelling at him. Albright had to express a mischievous grin as he remembered what he used to do when she raised her voice at him. This was serious though, Mia was completely and seriously upset. His response was not much better than if he had laughed at her,"Can't I? I just did."
More angrily, she insisted, "Employers and employees can't do that."
"Why not?" the louder Mia got, the more calm and placid Albright was and it was driving her crazy. They used to react oppositely than how they were now.
Swallowing hard, Mia made her voice calm because she refused to lose. Unfortunately, Mia's words could flow together very well, "They- it's not a good idea. You have power over me since you control my job."
"I'm glad you know that," he told her.
"You've got to be kidding," Mia exclaimed quietly, "You thought I would steal your business and so this is the revenge you plotted? Or are you mad over what happened last time? You're a head case."
"Any other mean things you'd like to say. And yeah, I'm still mad about last time. If you pout some more, maybe I'll forgive you because you're just too cute. You know, to most employees I would dock pay, but I'll let you choose, between that and," he waved the crop around, "since you're into that kind of thing."
"I am not!" Mia insisted, blushing again.
He put a finger under her chin, "You are as kinky as you are into me, sweetheart."
Mia opened her mouth to gush some excuse, but she couldn't think of anything.I hate you," she said when she couldn't think of anything. Not angry as she had spoken to him when they first met, but in a defeated way, and it made him grin- well, slightly smirk. "And this isn't appropriate."
"And yet you aren't leaving," Albright pointed out, "Yes, you definitely want to screw me."
"I'm not some horse that you can break," she replied. "I'm not something you can ride, break, and sell."
"I don't plan on doing any of that, any more than you plan on leaving here," Albright responded. He put his head down to hers so that his lips was only inches away. "People and horses have one thing in common, they know when they've found something good enough to call home. It's why Tas likes you, it's why you won't leave, and why I want you to work for me."
"You can't know that when you haven't seen a person since that person was twenty," she replied back.
"Yes, you can, and I do. You don't like commitment, that's fine, we'll take it slow, but I do know," he said meeting their lips again. This time he wasn't gentle, and she let him pin her against the wall, let his hands move from her waist, up her back, and buried his fingers in her hair. Her fingers clung to his white shirt, just above his collar bone, using him and the wall to keep herself upright. He felt her go weak beneath him, and he loved the feeling. When he pulled away, he liked seeing her reddened lips, as if he could have pulled blood from them, and her eyes looking up at him for direction, as if he had somehow enchanted her. The only thing he did not like was the wetness that was forming in the corner of her eyes, the slight look that she had just done something horribly wrong. He didn't know how to address it, so he said in her ear, "By the way, no more jeans, t-shirts, and paddock boots. We are a serious barn."
It seemed to do the trick in pulling her out of her daze, "What? No, I like my jeans. These are my lucky riding jeans."
"And they make your ass look hot, but this is a professional barn," he answered.
"But," he slammed his palm into the wall next to her and lowered his head so he could look her in the eye without her having to look up at him."Are you trying to negotiate with me? Britches, tall boots, a button down shirt with a collar."
"Tall boots, professional shirt, jeans," she negotiated.
He slid the crop again her form, letting it run over her ribs, down her waist to rest on the swell of her ass. "Tall boots, professional shirt, jeans in your own time,"Albright looked down at her almost admonishingly, "You are a professional rider in your mid twenties. Dress like it."
"How about just Fridays? Everyone has a casual Friday," she said with so much hope that it made him sigh heavily and relent.
"Fine, you can have your casual Fridays," he clicked his tongue disapprovingly, but he found he liked it a little when she begged and he did not have to participate in this casual Friday. "But I'll give you a good, serious dose of this if you wear jeans at any other time. And before you protest about employee rights, don't act like it's not turning you on right now or you'll have to be given a good whipping for lying. I should punish you just for how you behaved today. I made an exception earlier, because it was funny and I've never heard someone call a horse a whore before, but any more shouting like that across my pastures will lead to good scolding. As will using any profanity, as will speaking badly about me anywhere except at your pony club pizza parties." She tried to take a step back, but she was already pressed flat against the wall. Her hands flew to the mouth and her eyes peered at him with a mix of innocence and horrification that Albright had heard that. "When I said that- what I meant was- Be gentle, dear Master Albright. Remember, I am young. Well, younger than you. I mean-."
He snickered at sound of dear Master Albright. "Stop being so dramatic, and get into my office. You have papers to sign."
"You've already moved into Nick's office? How long was I asleep?"
"An hour," he said, "But no, Nick set things up for me. Really considerate guy."
They moved to his office where he sat in an old chair and watched pensively as she finished signing the contracts. From behind his desk, looking up as he stood, "So, Miss Mia, do you still find me kissable now?"
"See, you're expecting me to be embarrassed right now because I thought I was dreaming that, but now that I know that's your game," she said as if she could possibly have more control than him, "I'm just going to have to beat you at it."
Mia did not get two steps towards the door before Albright spun her around and shoved her into his office chair. Grasping the arms the chair, he leaned down and said, "You think you can be the boss, my young employee?"
The words were just on the tip of his tongue. She could almost hear his voice saying,You owe me. You know what I can do to you.The words were shouting at her now, each trying to be louder than the other, but none were as loud the ones that said,And you deserve this.
She shook her head and he frowned at how her eyes were suddenly watery and red, but he did not want to ask why. This reaction had not been very satisfying, the Mia he knew should have been succeeding in using his own tricks back at him. "Good," he said instead, "Because I can't have that." Straightening up, he grabbed the crop that was resting on the edge of his desk and began tapping it warningly against his palm, saying, "I can and will deal with you like I used to." Still Mute, all Mia did was nod her head she stared off at the dark green wall. She blinked. There it was. They weren't the words in her head, but they were some version ofyou know what I can do to you and you deserve it.
Placing the crop down and leaning forward, Albright tapped Mia's hand lightly, causing her to jump in her seat. Raising his eyebrows at the overreaction, he said, '"Mia, I was kidding. Mostly."
Finally snapping out of whatever daze she was in, Mia glanced up at him with a quick, reassuring smile that Albright knew was fake. "Yeah," she joked, letting her voice become sultry, "But what do I get if I'm good."
That was more like her. Clinging to the old Mia, whether or not she was faking it, Albright played along, promising, "Good girls get rewards. Though I'd find it hard to imagine you could possibly swing that."
Leaning forward, she asked, "Are we talking like, nice bonuses, or extra vacation time. Oh, wait. I hope you mean . . . because that's not really a reward. Not on this end." His jaw almost dropped, but he was mostly relieved to see a convincing version of the twenty year old brat he used to know, pointing to herself to indicate her disdain in his sexual advance.
"Tease," he muttered.
"Bully," she returned with the fiery tone he remembered.
"Are you really looking for a whipping?" he asked.
"Not tonight," she said jumping out to her feet and starting for the door. Her honesty made him smile, but there was one last thing he wanted to tell her. On the threshold, Mia stopped as Albight said over his shoulder, "You know, you lied to your assistant girl."
Half turning back to face him, Mia replied, "Clara? What did I say wrong?"
"You did know me well."
Mia smiled weakly, but she couldn't fake it enough for it to stick. "Jason, I'm not saying anything I did back then was right or wrong, but I will say that despite all the mistakes I may have made, I don't have any regrets, not from that time. I will also not say whether or not you have to right to be mad or angry with me, but you clearly want to be and I will carry the burden of that, within reason. But do not make the mistake of thinking the Mia you knew and the one that I am today are the same or that they even know or care for each other. Don't assume that I'm going to let you do to me today what I let you do when I was nineteen and twenty. My number one priority these days is making sure David doesn't have to turn out like me. I may deserve whatever you want to do to me, but as far as I'm concern the only thing there is between us is business." She started to walk away, but his voice stopped her again.
"It wouldn't be entirely bad if David turned out like you. Your relatives let you bounce between foster homes instead of caring for you. He could have had the same fate. Now he'll be tragically nomadic, but at least he'll know how to love and he'll know how to do the right thing. And I don't hate you. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't angry. I guess we now know where we stand." Mia nodded her head so briskly, the movement was almost missed. She left the threshold leaving it barren and empty with Albright still instead his office. As it always was, as it always would be.