Leaving Jon asleep, Brianna showered, dressed and headed downstairs. The others were already there and all heads turned when she entered the kitchen. In answer to their unspoken question, she shrugged. "I did my best, but I don't know if it worked. We'll have to wait and see."
"Oh honey." John Sr. stood to hug her. "You look worn out."
"It wasn't one of my prouder moments." She sighed. Despite knowing it was for the greater good, especially for the kids, the memory of what she'd done made her feel sick. "I just hope it worked."
"Here Beautiful." David handed her a cup of coffee.
"Thanks." She took a sip and looked at the group. "Anyone ready for breakfast?"
They were almost finished when the sound of footsteps on the stairs reached them. Hopeful glances were exchanged, but no one spoke.
A rumpled and slightly disgruntled looking Jon walked into the kitchen. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the people currently filling the room. Grimacing, he continued to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. As he lifted it to his mouth to take a sip he caught Brianna's gaze and pointed a finger in her direction. "You fight dirty."
"When I have to." She acknowledged. "When it's necessary to get the job done."
"Don't blame her." Carol began.
"I don't." He assured his mother. "I understand why she did it. Nothing else was getting through to me." He looked back at Brianna again. "Thank you." Turning back to the others, he grimaced. "I'm sorry I haven't been.....available.... the last little while."
John Sr. rose and squeezed his son's shoulder. "Sit down son, have some breakfast."
"Where are the kids?"
"Linda took them for the weekend." Carol answered.
"Okay." He was actually relieved. It would give him time to pull himself together before facing them
A couple hours later, after visiting with his family and David, Jon went in search of Brianna. He didn't know exactly what he was going to say to her, but his conscience was bothering him. His memories of the previous night were a little hazy, but he knew he'd lost control and he was afraid he'd hurt her. That was the last thing he wanted to do. She'd been a godsend. He and the kids would never have made it through the last few weeks without her. She deserved his gratitude and appreciation, not his abuse.
He found her in his office, sorting through his mail and e-mail. "There you are."
Her head shot up. "Sorry. Did you need something? Do you need to use your desk?" She stood up.
"No." He waved at her to sit back down and took the chair on the other side of the desk. Not sure how to start, he cast about for inspiration.....and seized upon the letters on the desk as a way to chicken out. "Anything interesting or urgent?"
"Not really. Mostly sympathy cards. A couple invitations that I've already declined. Oh! Craig sent a status report on the teams readiness for next season you might be interested in." She held out a folder.
Taking it, he glanced through it before setting it down. "Thanks." He shifted in his chair. "Bri...." He hesitated, still at a loss for words.
"Is there a problem? Did I do someone wrong?" The knot in her stomach got bigger.
"No, no! You didn't do anything wrong." He assured her. "I did." He sighed. "Did I hurt you last night?"
Amber eyes widened. That wasn't what she was expecting. "No."
"Honest?" He met her gaze. "I know I kind of lost it and wasn't exactly gentle."
"No. You didn't hurt me. It's fine."
He stood and paced to the window, one hand raking through his hair. "No it's not fine. You've been.....incredibly generous to my family. I don't think we would have made it through everything without you. I know we wouldn't have. And that's how I repay you? With temper and violence?" He shook his head in self disgust. "You deserve better than that and I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
The knot in her stomach swirled around in a sea of acid on the verge of erupting. He couldn't have made his feelings any clearer. Of course he regrets what happened! You're just his employee, remember. And now that Dorothea was gone it was time that she remembered her place and respected the boundaries of her position. Straying beyond them only led to heartache.
"It's fine, Jon, really. No harm done." She straightened the desk and stood. "Everything's done here. I'll head back to the city after lunch."
Jon turned and frowned. "Aren't you going to stay to see the kids?"
"No. I've done everything I came here to do. I need to get back."
The muscle in his jaw twitched, but he spoke calmly. "The kids will be disappointed if you don't stay to see them."
She studied his face. "You all need time together....as a family. Without outsiders in the way."
His frown darkened. "You're not an outsider. And you've never been in the way."
But he might as well have saved his breath. She was determined to leave and nothing he said would change her mind.
"Daddy!" Jake exclaimed when he entered the living room and saw his father sitting on the couch.
"Hi buddy." Jon hugged him.
"Feeling better?" Linda asked from the doorway, Stephanie and Jesse beside her, Romeo in her arms.
She studied his face. "Good." Passing Romeo to his father, Linda hugged the others. "I'll see you guys later. Call if you need anything."
"Thanks Linda." Jon eyed his oldest two. "Guys, sit down for a minute. I need to talk to you."
"What's up?" Jesse asked as he dropped into the chair beside the couch.
"I owe you guys an apology. I haven't been there for you the last little while and I should have been. I'm sorry."
"It's okay Daddy." Stephanie, sitting beside him, reached out and squeezed his hand. "We miss her too." At his surprised look, she smiled. "Bri explained what was wrong."
Yet another thing I have to thank her for. "Well...I still shouldn't have locked myself away. Not from you guys. You needed me and I wasn't there."
"We're doing okay Daddy. We help each other. That's what family does...right?"
Jon stared at his daughter and smiled wryly. "Right." Lifting his hand, he smoothed it over her hair. "My wise girl. You remind me so much of your mother sometimes. God I miss her!" His eyes filled.
So did Stephanie's. She threw her arms around her father's neck and hugged him.
Jake hugged him from the other side. "It okay Daddy. We hep you."
"So how are your boss and his family doing?" Lisa asked as she passed the bowl of stuffing. The family was gathered at the Wilson home for Thanksgiving.
"As well can be expected." Brianna answered her sister-in-law. "Jon had a really hard time at first, but he seems to be recovering."
"What about your job?"
Trust her father to focus on work. "Well, things are a little slow, obviously, but there's enough to keep me occupied. It's mostly the charities and the football team for now."
"How much time are you spending at his house?" Sara wanted to know.
Brianna fought not to roll her eyes. "Just a few hours once a week or so."
"Smart girl." Edward nodded approvingly. "Just enough so he doesn't forget you but not enough so he takes you for granted."
Rachel shot Brianna a sympathetic glance. "How are the kids doing?"
"They have their good days and bad days, but they're getting through it." She tried not to think about Jake looking so sad every time she left.
"Have you decided what position you want in their lives? Assistant or wife and mother?" Sara eyed her daughter carefully.
"Sara!" Lisa was shocked. "They're grieving! I don't think they're ready to start looking to replace the poor woman."
Edward grunted. "She needs to decide what she wants before they do. Then she can position herself appropriately. You've got to strike while the iron is hot if you're going to succeed."
Brianna sighed and ground her teeth in frustration. "These are people we're talking about here! With feelings! This is not a business deal!"
"Don't kid yourself." Edward admonished her. "The rules for success apply to everything worth having in life."
Brianna didn't know whether to feel angry or sad about her father's view of life, but she was determined not to share it.