The Change in Di Navarra's Plan

By: Lynn Raye Harris

Holly’s eyes prickled with tears. Gran would have told her that the past was just that and it did no good to dwell on it, because you couldn’t change it without a time machine. Holly knuckled her tears away with a little laugh—but then her gaze caught on the digital display on the microwave.

“I have to get to work,” she said to Gabi. “Will you be all right until Mrs. Turner comes to collect him?”

Gabi looked up from where she was still cradling Nicky. “It’s a couple of hours before my shift yet. Don’t worry.”

Holly always worried, but she didn’t say that to Gabi. She worried about providing for her baby, worried that he was only three months old and she had to work so much. She worried that she’d been unable to breast-feed him—some women couldn’t, the nurse had told her after the zillionth failed attempt—and he had to drink formula, and she worried that he needed so many things and she could barely provide any of them.

Holly kissed her son’s sweet soft skin before changing into her uniform of white shirt, bow tie and tight black skirt. Then she stuffed her heels into her duffel and slipped on her tennis shoes. She made it to the bus stop in record time. With twenty minutes to spare, she got to the casino, put on her heels and touched up her makeup before stashing her things and heading to the floor for her shift.

In all her wildest imaginings, she’d never pictured herself serving drinks in a casino. But here she was, arranging her tray with cocktail napkins, pen and pad, stirrers, and then gliding through the crowd of people hovering around tables and machines, asking for drink orders—and enduring a few pats to the bottom in the process.

Holly gritted her teeth, hating that part of the job but unwilling to react, because she needed the money too badly. The rent was due next week, and it was always a struggle to make up her portion along with buying diapers and formula and groceries.

Holly pushed a hand through her hair, anchoring it behind her ears, and approached the group of men hovering around one of the baccarat tables. They were rapt on the game, and most especially on a man who sat at one end of the table, a dark-haired beauty hanging over his shoulder and whispering something in his ear. His face was remarkable, beautiful and perfectly formed—and all too familiar.

For a moment, Holly was stunned into immobility. What were the chances Drago di Navarra would walk into this casino and sit at a table in her section? She’d have guessed they were something like a million to one—but here he was in all his arrogant, rotten glory.

Just her miserable luck. She glanced behind her, looking for Phyllis, hoping to ask the other waitress to take this table. Holly’s belly churned and panic rose in her throat at the thought of waiting on Drago and his mistress.

But Phyllis was nowhere to be seen, and Holly had no choice. The moment she accepted that, another feeling began to boil inside her: anger.

She suddenly wanted to march over to Drago’s side and slap his handsome face. She’d endured a twenty-three-hour labor, with Gabi as the only friend by her side. Other women had happy husbands in the delivery room, and masses of family in the waiting room. But not her. She’d been alone, with only Gabi holding her hand and coaching her through.

By the time Nicky had been born and someone handed him to her, she’d felt as if the little crying bundle was an alien life-form. But she’d fallen into deep love in the next moment. She had seen Drago in her son’s face, and she’d felt a keen despair that he’d tossed her out the way he had. That he’d refused to take her calls. He was missing out on something amazing and perfect, and he would never know it.

Now, seeing him in this casino, sitting there so arrogant and sure with a woman hanging on him, all Holly felt was righteous anger. Her heart throbbed in her chest. Her blood beat in her brain. She knew she should turn around and walk away, find Phyllis no matter how long these people had to wait for drinks, but she couldn’t seem to do it. Instead, she moved around the table until she was standing beside the man who sat at a right angle to Drago.

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