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Denying Davis: A Billionaires of Palm Beach Story by Sara Celi, S Celi (1)

 

Then

 

Junior was drunk. Again.

She didn’t have to see him to know it. She heard him slink through the front door of the beach house then slam it behind him. The force rattled the walls.

God, I need to get a different job.

She sprayed Windex on a paper towel and tried to focus on the cut-glass crystal displayed in a library cabinet. The case held twenty-five rare pieces from different periods of history, and a handful of them were coveted museum pieces. She knew this because Davis and his father, Davis Sr., often reminded the staff of these facts. Each figurine had to be cleaned twice a week, no matter what, and not moved from their assigned locations in the case. Senior kept track of the movements the way a day trader kept track of the stock market.

Finish this and you’re done for the night, Robin. You can go home.

Once, Robin had been so grateful for this job. Getting hired as a housekeeper at the Armstrong property had been a godsend. The family paid some of the best wages in Palm Beach, and people considered it a privilege to work on their palatial estate. Staffers received three weeks off per year, paid holidays, and full medical benefits. The Armstrongs had even allowed a friendship between Robin’s daughter and Davis III.

But lately, things had been different.

Robin heard a crash downstairs then heavy footsteps on the winding staircase. Oh, God. She hurried through her task, glossing over the first three statuettes as she kept one eye on the library door. When it opened, her breath hitched.

“There you are,” Davis Armstrong, Jr. said as he entered the room. “Saw your car outside.” He closed the door, faced her, and braced his body against the heavy wood. “Late night, huh?”

She didn’t allow herself to meet his gaze. “Yes, Mr. Armstrong.”

He stalked across the room, his stare on her as he moved. Junior was thin, beady-eyed, and sunken, where his father was strong and clear-headed. He’d lost a staggering amount of weight in the last few years and appeared older than forty-five. That evening, Junior had ruddy cheeks and wore a rumpled business suit with a loosened tie.

“I’ve wondered something,” he whispered when he reached the cabinet.

“What’s that?” She looked at him directly for the first time, immediately regretting her decision. Junior had something sinister behind his eyes, but she couldn’t place it exactly.

“You’ve been staying at work late often these last few weeks.” Davis’s glassy eyes roamed her face. “Why?”

“We have a lot of tasks to do before the International Humanitarian Gala. A lot of work ahead if we want to get everything perfect.”

“And that’s what you want too, right? Everything to be perfect?”

“Yes, sir. I do.”

She gulped. It wasn’t a lie—the family had agreed to host the gala on the back lawn of the beach house property, a slip of land that had once been a putting green. Even though most of the evening would take place under a large tent with twinkling Italian lights, the house manager wanted every inch of the main estate spotless. The International Humanitarian Gala was one of the oldest and most prestigious balls in Palm Beach. The Armstrongs had to be exceptional and so did their property.

“Well, I already know the staff has been busy.” Junior burped and she caught a whiff of what smelled like rotting bourbon. She bit back a grimace. “But I also saw how you looked at me the other day, in the kitchen, and—”

“I didn’t look at you in any way.” Robin frowned. “I don’t—”

He placed a hand on her arm. “Why do you keep denying what’s happening between us, what’s there?”

She looked down at his hand as if she was looking at a foreign object. “I’m not.” She jerked her arm out of his grasp. “Now if you would kindly let me continue my work, I would appreciate it.”

She stepped away from him, and he grabbed her arm again. His grip tightened.

“No. I don’t think I want you to continue.” His voice was harder. Thicker. Full of threat. She didn’t know this tone of voice well, but she’d heard the other staff whisper about it.

“What do you mean, sir?” she managed.

“I think you know, Robin,” he replied.

A chill ran through Robin. She’d heard the rumors. She’d tried to keep herself off his radar. But failed. And somehow, she knew—she’d never be the same.