Playing Pretend - Book cover

Playing Pretend

R S Burton


When I’d finished college and started working as a personal assistant to the boss at Wolf Technologies, I didn’t expect to still be there three years later.

I’d planned to get some experience under my belt and then move on to something that would skyrocket my career trajectory.

Wolf Technologies was originally just a small startup, and in the beginning Brennan Wolf oversaw everything himself.

It was his attention to detail that elevated his business beyond all belief, and he had carried me along for the ride as his PA.

Within eighteen months, we’d needed to lease a high-rise in the middle of the city.

Brennan relied on me for almost everything once things took off. He was unable to keep his eye on everything like he once had, so I became his second set of eyes.

I also became the person who made excuses so he didn’t have to talk to his family, and the person who would shake off his one-night stands.

Brennan was emotionally unavailable it seemed, and though staying with Wolf Technologies had been most beneficial for my career, it had come at a moral cost.

Brennan and I were two very different people. Family and relationships were important to me, and they clearly weren’t to him.

Which was why I was confused as I sat in the plush leather passenger’s seat of Brennan’s car.

Tears rolled down my cheeks thicker and faster than I could stop them, not that I was even trying to.

Ten minutes ago I’d been on the phone with a potential client when a personal call had come in. Now everything was different.

My mom was gone. She’d been fine yesterday when we’d talked, and now she was gone.

I tried to suck in a sob, but it ended up coming out in a most unflattering way, a sort of half snort that at any other time would have had me turn a deep shade of mortified red.

Brennan, who had offered to drive me home, leaned across his car and opened his glove box. He pulled out a packet of travel wipes and placed them in my hand.

“For all the hearts you break,” I said, in a tone that was far more snarky than I’d intended.

“Something like that,” he murmured. “Are you sure you want to go home? You can stay at my apartment tonight and catch a plane out to your dad tomorrow.”

Even in my grief I was shocked Brennan even offered. He was usually a walled-off guy. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he was heartless, but it wasn’t something he tended to show.

I looked at him and I felt myself frown. Brennan couldn’t see me judging him, but I was, and I felt guilty for it.

He was only being kind, maybe because I was sitting in his car, a bawling mess, but the thought was still there, and that meant something to me.

“I’m okay,” I asserted, not meaning it in the slightest—which I’m sure Brennan picked up on, though he didn’t say anything. “I’ve booked a flight tonight.”

Brennan didn’t say anything else until we pulled up outside my building.

“Take all the time off you need. I’ll call a temp agency while you’re gone.”

“Thank you, B,” I murmured, unclipping my seatbelt.

“Take care, G,” he replied. I looked at him. His brown eyes shone with sympathy, which wasn’t something I was used to seeing in the face of my hard-hearted boss.

I’d been working for him since Wolf Technologies was in its infancy. I knew more than enough to know I was the closest thing he had to a friend, and even then…that was a stretch.

I painted a small smile on my face, still wet with tears, and got out of Brennan’s car. I walked to the front door of my building and unlocked the door. When I turned back, Brennan was gone.

As soon as I was inside my apartment, the tears came back in full force.

I slid to the ground against my door and sobbed so hard I was surprised my neighbors didn’t start bashing on the wall like they did when I listened to music.

I felt alone. My heart was constricted and broken, and it felt like it was a million miles from me. If only I could have spoken to her one more time.

In the car with Brennan, I’d been upset but not alone. I’d felt comfortable in his presence without the pretense of work in the way, and the very realization of that was terrifying.

Mom would have made this quasi-friendship into something it wasn’t. She’d long thought Brennan and I were fooling ourselves. It wasn’t her fault she didn’t know him like I did.

They’d never met, and now they never would.

I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged my legs, resting my head on them.

A big part of me wanted to stay inside my apartment forever. If I didn’t leave and catch that plane, I never had to say goodbye. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get myself out of that funk.

I pulled my phone from my pocket. Brennan would only be a couple of blocks away. I knew he’d come back if I called. My thumb hovered over his number, and I almost hit call.

I sighed, turned the phone off, and lifted my head back up.

I had to be strong. My dad was going to need me to be.

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