Part Four by Evonne Wareham
Read part one on Reading in the Sunshine, part two on Victoria Loves Books and part three on Chick Lit Reviews and News
"Ten to eleven.
Ethan hurried towards the building, resisting the urge to yank at the tie he’d put on to make the delivery. His sister, Sandra, had laughed when she’d seen him but as she’d agreed to mind the shop while he was gone, she was allowed.
Michelle was waiting in the foyer, apprehension and excitement clear in the tense lines of her body. Ethan wanted to shout: ‘He’s not worth it!’ Instead he let her whisk him through the entrance procedure with what he hoped was a convincing smile.
A security guard hurried to intercept them as Ethan clipped his visitor’s pass to his jacket.
‘Miss James, you need to get up to the conference room on level 3, now. Mr Starkey is meeting your department there.’ The guard grinned, winking at Michelle. ‘Take your young man with you. He can wait with the receptionist. You can thank him properly for the Valentine after.’
Ethan had no time to explain that he was the delivery guy, not the boyfriend. Michelle was towing him towards the lift. The warmth of her hand, closed around his, drove out every other thought.
‘We don’t need to wangle our way into Mr Starkey’s office.’ Her voice trembled with anticipation as they hurtled upwards. ‘It must be fate.’
The lift doors opened. Two men stood in the otherwise deserted reception area. As Michelle and Ethan stepped out of the lift, one of the men stormed towards it, yelling over his shoulder. ‘Tell the staff yourself, Starkey. I’m not doing it!’
Jake Starkey shrugged and shouldered his way into the conference room. Michelle and Ethan exchanged a confused glance and slid in behind him.
The speech was short.
‘This department is terminated, as of today.’ Starkey looked at his watch. ‘Redundancy and notice payments were transferred to your bank accounts five minutes ago.’
The door banged behind him, leaving a stunned silence.
Twenty seconds to fire forty people.
Men in dark suits shepherded them to the main office. Each desk had an empty box and a brown envelope.
Combative, angry words whirled around – tribunal, legal proceedings. Ethan hoped, fiercely, that these people could challenge Jake Starkey for what he’d just done, but right now he was more concerned with the stricken look on Michelle’s face as she slumped in her chair. Jake Starkey was the most arrogant, egotistical … Ethan took a deep breath. Shouting names inside his head wouldn’t help Michelle. He pointed to the box. Michelle bit her lip.
‘Could you …?’
It didn’t take long to identify and pack Michelle’s possessions. Ethan dropped the rose on top.
They joined the queue of staff, tramping down the back stairs to a side door and a line of waiting taxis. Ethan helped Michelle into one, prompted her to give the driver her address and settled the box beside her. Her head jerked when she saw the rose. ‘Take it away, please. I don’t want it.’ He snatched it up as the taxi revved impatiently. Backing away, he slammed the door.
His last sight was her pale face, paler than the rose in his hand, staring back at him through the window, as the cab pulled away.
Ethan looked down at the bouquet he’d just made up – a dozen perfect yellow roses – friendship, concern, care.
‘Sandra – can you drop this one off on your way home?’ He scribbled down the address he’d recited to himself, over and over, all the way back from this morning’s disaster.
‘Of course.’ Sandra took the carefully wrapped package. ‘They’re lovely, more original than the red ones.’
Ethan nodded, unable to say any more as Sandra bustled around, collecting her coat and bag. At last the
shop door clattered closed behind her.
‘And that may have been the stupidest thing you ever did. The last thing she’s going to want is a reminder of today – or you.’
He looked over at the white Michelle rose, standing in a tall vase on the counter. Its head had drooped, so that it was almost touching its stem. He knew exactly how it felt.
But he still couldn’t give up on a tiny glimmer of hope."
Follow the final part of the story on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell on the 14th February (Valentine’s Day!)
To be entered into Choc Lit’s special Valentine’s Day giveaway, collect the questions at the end of each part of the story and send your answers to email@example.com
Question: Ethan makes up a new bouquet towards the end of part four. What colour roses does he choose?
Evonne Wareham was born in South Wales and spent her childhood there. After university she migrated to London, where she worked in local government, scribbled novels in her spare time and went to the theatre a lot. Now she’s back in Wales, living by the sea, writing and studying a PHD in history. She still loves the theatre, likes staying in hotels and enjoys the company of other authors through her membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Evonne’s debut novel, Never Coming Home won the 2012 Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award, the 2013 Colorado Romance Writers’ Award for Romantic Suspense, the Oklahoma National Readers’ Choice Award for Romantic Suspense plus was a nominee for a Reviewers’ Choice Award from RT Book Reviews. Evonne’s novels include: Never Coming Home and Out of Sight Out of Mind.