A/N:- Hey everyone. I know it's been a while, I've been really busy with studying. I still hope to get this story finished so if anyone is still interested in reading I'll be posting more chapters in due course.
Ronnie drummed her fingers absent-mindedly against the desk, staring blankly at the computer screen. She had had the same spreadsheet opened for about twenty minutes but as yet had made only minor changes. No matter how hard she tried she couldn't focus on the figures in front of her, her thoughts invariably wandering back to Danielle.
"Ronnie!" Jack snapped her name suddenly from across the office. She looked up to meet his irritated gaze.
"What?" she demanded indignantly. He had been in a weird mood ever since she had arrived. She was sick of his snapping and irritableness. She didn't want to think about him or the business.
Jack sighed suddenly. "Go home, Ron" he muttered, shuffling a bundle of the many papers which littered his workspace.
Her brow furrowed. "Excuse me?"
"You heard what I said" he didn't look up at her as he continued sifting through the piles of paperwork, the result of a botched delivery. "All you're doing is taking up space"
Ronnie scoffed, narrowing her eyes. "I think you're forgetting the reason why you insisted I come in the first place. You really think you're going to get through all of this on your own?" she gestured to the mess of papers on his table.
"I'll manage" he sniped back.
"Oh, shut up and stop being ridiculous" she snapped, turning her attention back to her computer screen. She began typing half-heartedly, believing the matter to be at an end. She raised an eyebrow when she heard Jack scrape his chair back.
"I mean it, Ronnie, I think you should go home" he repeated, his dark eyes stoic.
Ronnie shook her head in disbelief. "Where is this coming from?" she asked incredulously, astounded by his nerve.
"This is a business, Ronnie. Our business, in case you've forgotten? And, I'm sorry, but we don't have time for your personal stuff to get in the way. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for you. Maybe you should just let me know when your ready to take this seriously again" he finished with a hard edge to his voice.
She looked at him in surprise. Her eyes swivelled quickly back and forth across his stern features, searching for a hint of warmth. Finding none, she narrowed her eyes.
"Fine" she snapped suddenly, her chair almost topping over backward as she stood up and stormed out of the office. She slammed the door with such force that the entire office shook.
Jack flinched, almost as if he was about to call after her. He stared across at her empty chair, feeling his stomach churn with immediate regret.
He was an idiot.
He let out a low groan, covering his face with his hands. Why did he always blow it?
Ronnie nursed her cup of coffee tightly in her hands, huddled in the corner booth of Beale's café. The café was filled with customers, no-one that she knew other than by sight and just enough to ensure that Jane was prevented from coming over to speak to her. She took another sip of her coffee, mulling over Jack's words. He had no right to say that she wasn't focused on the business. After everything she had put up with, he had no right at all. She let out an unconscious sigh, circling the rim of the cup with her thumb.
"Hard day, Veronica?"
She jumped violently, looking up to find Archie's eyes staring directly into her own. For a moment she blinked at him, too shocked to move. Then she released her grip on the cup, balling her palms into fists. "Get lost" she snarled. Archie's eyes flashed dangerously.
She made a sudden movement as if to stand up, but no sooner had she done so than Archie slid quickly into the seat across from her. He reached out and grabbed hold of her wrist, forcing her to stay seated. "Now, V, don't cause a scene" he murmured, his voice inaudible to anyone but her. She struggled against him but he only tightened his grip. She squirmed helplessly in surprise, repressing a shudder at the feel of his skin against her own. Her eyes flickered toward his, icy blue on black.
"Let me go" she demanded through gritted teeth, wrenching herself from his grip. She held her wrist with her free hand, rubbing it furiously. She glared at him, her chest heaving slightly as she tried to retain control of her emotions. "Why are you here?" she demanded.
"I just want a chance to explain myself, Veronica. Don't you at least owe me that?" he raised his eyebrows, staring her out coldly.
Ronnie gave a mirthless laugh. "Please tell me you're joking"
Archie narrowed his eyes. "Well I was hoping we could be grown up about this" he spoke quickly and quietly, his eyes flashing with anger. "You know, V, you have some nerve treating me like this. Everything I have ever done was because I thought it would be in your best interest. But no, you just want to blame me for everything. It shouldn't surprise me - you never could take responsibility for your own actions, that's why you got rid of the bloody kid in the first place." His words cut into her like a knife, just as he knew they would. He knew exactly how to get under her skin.
Ronnie's mouth fell open slightly, the rage which filled her literally leaving her speechless. She shook her head, hating how his words affected her. "You know that is not what happened" she pointed at him through gritted teeth.
Archie struggled to hide a smirk. "You just keep telling yourself that, V. If it makes you feel better to keep blaming me then you go right ahead"
Ronnie struggled to hold back desperate, angry tears, his presence having managed to shatter her cool exterior just as it always did. "I want you to leave me alone. You hear? Leave Walford. I never" she spat "want to see you again. Don't you understand how much I despise you for what you've done?" she leant in close, shaking her head. "If you died, right now…I'd be glad"
Archie struggled to stop rage contorting his features. "Careful, V" he warned in a voice so deadly that a shiver coiled itself at the base of Ronnie's spine. "One day, and soon, that girl is going to find out what you're really like." He leaned in close. "You're damaged goods, sweetheart. Once she's gone, no-one will ever want you. And when you finally realise - " for a moment, he paused, almost as if his voice would have cracked with emotion had he been capable of something which resembled love, " when you realise that I am the only one who will never stop loving you…I'll be waiting, V. Remember that" he finished in a low tone that had an edge of menace.
Ronnie jumped up abruptly, overwhelmed by a wave of nausea. Tears stung in her eyes as she ran hurriedly from the café, trying to escape his words.
She made her way down the steps into the darkened club, soothed by the quiet which washed over her. Her heels clacked against the floor as she made her way to the bar and absent-mindedly filled a shot glass. She drained it in one, wincing slightly as the straight vodka carved a fiery path down her throat. She sat down on one of the stools, using her hands to prop up her head. She dug the heels of her palms into her eyes, exhaling loudly. Her father's face was burned beneath her eyelids, the memory of his voice causing her to shudder.
She jumped at the sound of her business partner's voice. She looked up to meet his imploring gaze from the end of the bar. She cleared her throat. "Please, Jack. Just leave me alone" she muttered wearily, turning away and reaching for another glass.
The glass was halfway to her mouth before she felt Jack behind her, his hand on her wrist. He spun her around, taking the glass from her. "Excuse me, what do you think you're doing?" she demanded, pulling herself from his grasp.
"I think you've had enough Ronnie. It's barely past lunchtime" he muttered, setting the glass down on the bar.
Ronnie glared up at him. "Haven't you got work you need to be getting on with?" she sniped, attempting to reach past him for the glass once more.
He grabbed her wrist, taking a step forward so that their bodies almost touched and forcing her to step backward. "Stop it" he murmured, looking deep into her clear blue eyes.
"What the hell -" she began crossly, attempting to free herself. She struggled against his hold but he held on firmly, careful not to hurt her but still strong enough that she couldn't escape.
"Damn it, Ron!" he tugged on her arm sharply, startling her into silence. She looked up at him with wide, baleful eyes. "Let me in. What's wrong with you?" he asked, his voice dropping a little as he searched her eyes, unable to place the emotions which raged in the icy blue depths. He subconsciously brought his hand to her shoulder, twisting a lock of the blonde hair in his fingers. She stiffened a little, still staring unblinkingly into his eyes. He moved his hand to the side of her face, tracing his thumb over her cheek bone lightly; almost as if he were afraid she would break.
Ronnie's heart fluttered in her chest. "Don't" she muttered.
Jack's hand paused on her face but he didn't remove it. "Why, Ron? Why are you so afraid to let me in? I care about you, Ronnie. I still lo-"
"Don't!" Ronnie closed her eyes.
"Look at me, Ron" Jack whispered. Reluctantly, Ronnie opened her eyes. "Please let me in"
Ronnie drew in a deep breath, feeling all the emotional impact of the past few days suddenly roll over and overwhelm her. She blinked and a single tear rolled down her cheek, the heat of Jack's gaze melting her icy exterior. Jack watched with a pained expression as the strong woman wilted in front of him. "I…" her voice broke and she shook her head, surprised at the severity of her emotions. She moved her head to the side, sniffing and biting her lip as she struggled to control herself.
"Shh" Jack murmured, gently pulling her closer. Her head collided with his chest and he waited for a moment till she eventually relaxed against him before he put his arms around her. He held her tightly, one hand stroking her hair.
Ronnie closed her eyes, burying her forehead into his strong, warm chest. She allowed herself to relax into his arms, enjoying for just one moment the feeling of security that Jack provided. The demons which plagued her, ones which had only recently arisen and ones which had dogged her for her entire adult life, rushed to the surface of her mind. She shuddered a little, and Jack pulled her closer.
"Shh, it'll be alright" he murmured. "I promise"
Ronnie nodded silently against her shoulder. In his arms, for just one moment, she could almost believe that it would be.