My iPhone was yelling at me the morning after the engagement party, and when I saw blearily that it was Emma and that I had dozens of missed calls from my father and her both, I groaned, let my hand drop, and buried my head into the pillow. I didn’t have hangovers like normal people; my head didn’t ache and I didn’t feel like the walking dead. Instead, I was too tired to do anything and all my body begged of me was to sleep. In some ways, it was worse than headaches.
The iPhone buzzed again, but I didn’t let it deter me from my course of action. I simply turned off the phone, dropped it on the nightstand, and tried to fall asleep again. Yet despite my body’s absolute exhaustion, I wasn’t able to sleep anymore.
With a groan, I rose from my bed and dragged my feet to the shower. I washed my hair and loafed my body and when I got out and looked in the mirror, bloodshot blue eyes stared bleakly back at me. I looked like hell. And I needed to work later. How fun.
Sighing, I put on some comfy shorts and a tank top and went about to make some coffee and then settled in front of the TV. Opening it on some random channel, I leaned back, sipped the coffee like a traveler wandering in the desert, and watched.
Apparently, I was on some entertainment channel, and it was a late morning show about some juicy gossip in the glamour world. The broadcaster talked about Emma and Ford’s engagement and party, thankfully showing no footage or talking about anything unusual that happened there (thank God) but they did show some pictures of Wayne.
“The twenty-eight year old youngest Academy Award winner director was spotted attending the happy couple’s engagement party,” the enthusiastic broadcaster said, smiling brightly. “It is said he seemed to get pretty cosy with Rosalyn Howard, the young Victoria’s Secret model who’s the step-sister of the soon-to-be bride. According to sources, the two seemed to be flirting and even leaving the party together later that night. Is there a new couple heading to the altar?”
I wanted to puke. Were people really into this shit, snooping into some celebrity’s life? It was so boring.
“If you tune in tonight to Michael Marx’s Late Night Show, you might get some answers,” the broadcaster kept on smiling. “Holden Knight will be a special guest, and you will find out all you want to know! Is the popular bachelor no longer available? Will America’s women be disappointed? Find out that and more tonight – “
Disney Channel came on and I watched a rerun of Hannah Montana. I would take Miley Cyrus’s ridiculous children show over that bullshit. Unlike what most people said, I believed, even in her current state of affairs, she was still less crazy than that lot.
* * *
I didn’t answer both my father and Emma for the rest of the day. When I went to work later that day, still feeling tired as fuck, I was expecting them to pop up at the restaurant I worked at and started making a fuss over nothing.
Fortunately, for the four hours I played the piano, no one marched into the place and threatened me with cutting off my allowance or anything. When I finished my shift, I returned back home, took another shower, and put on my jammies. I wondered whether I should return the calls but decided against it. I didn’t owe them anything.
As I dozed off in front of the TV, watching a Friends episode, there was a knock on my door. Groaning, I figured it must’ve been either Dad or Emma. Reluctantly, I went to the door and opened it.
I was wrong. It was Roman.
Unlike Rosalyn who liked to be a bitch for the sake of it, Roman was a natural asshole. I believed he had a fucking degree of Assholeness from the University of Life. Even his “casual” wear emphasized his asshole-y makeup; brand-new designer jeans, leather shoes, and a Tommy Hilfiger shirt. His dirty blonde hair was as floppy as ever, shining with the gel he drowned it in, and he was clean-shaven and too neat for a guy.
He gave me a businesslike smile. It was the only one he had, I believed. “Good evening, Blair,” he said, “may I come in?”
I couldn’t stand his condescending, arrogant voice. Unfortunately, not letting him in would be like shooting myself in the head; loads of fun. Silently, I moved aside and let him in. He strode inside as though he owned the place – FYI, he didn’t, I bought it with my own well-earned money – and then sat himself down on the couch.
Following him, I sat on the a different couch and gave him a “start-speaking” look. He did not disappoint; Roman, much like my father, wasn’t around to beat around the bush. “Raymond and Emma have been trying to get in touch with you the whole day after the stunt you pulled yesterday night,” he said, fixing me with a pointed stare. “Since you refused to answer either, they selected me to be their ambassador, for I’m more articulate and level-headed than the two of them are at the moment.”
I wanted to tape his mouth shut. The world would be a better place without gits like him in it.
“So while you surely did deliver a good show at the party,” he continued, unaware to my animosity, “it did not meat the requirements your sister gave you specifically beforehand. Therefore the current state of affairs.”
“Cut to the chase, Roman,” I gritted out, annoyed, “what do you want from me?”
“Compensation,” he answered immediately, not missing a beat. “You will run errands for Emma, with the organizations for the wedding coming up soon. You will be her chaperon, go with her everywhere she wants you to, and basically act like the maid of honor without being one.”
Kill me, someone. “And what if I refuse?”
Roman gave me another polite smile, this one with more edge. It reminded me of a shark. “If you refuse, your father would not be happy with you.”
That was an understatement, but still. “I don’t care how he feels,” I said, leaning forward with a glare. “Tell me what he will truly do if I refuse. Don’t pretty things up.”
“Your father is a man of many companions and sources. He has access to a lot of things, more than you can imagine.” Roman’s eyes held mine triumphantly. “You know of his friend, Fabian Elsberg?”
My mood darkened.
“I see that you do,” Roman said, his face so self-assured I wanted to punch him. He rose to his feet and adjusted his clothes. “I will expect an answer until tomorrow noon.”
With these words, he left. And I kept sitting there, seething. Fabian Elsberg was the founder of an up and rising banking company. Ever since Emma and I were born, our parents opened a bank account for each of us in Elsberg. I’d never bothered to change it, and because I was not the type of woman who liked to deal with this kind of things, I didn’t want to get tangled in this mess.
My father trapped me. And I knew I could get away with it using his own method against him. If he wanted to blackmail me to by cleaning my bank account, I was going to blackmail him right back.
He had more skeletons in the closet than I had, after all.
* * *
The next day, I woke up very early in the morning. So early, the sun was barely rising in the horizon. I put on a business suit I reserved for several occasions, such as the one I was preparing for; pencil skirt, blouse, and beige heels. I pulled my hair into a tight ponytail, put light makeup, and drove to my father’s office.
Sheridan Corporations’ main office building was smack in the middle of the industrial area. Usually the place was packed, the parking lots empty of available spots, but since it was so early, there weren’t as many people and cars. I did recognize my father’s black sedan, the car he usually drove when he was in a foul mood.
I smiled at the thought as I entered the building. I loved getting on my father’s last nerve. It appealed to a side of me most of my family forgot I had. Everyone confused my personality with the timid, cowardly one of Emma, because I usually didn’t speak up much and didn’t give anything away. But I was a snake in a civilized disguise; I had a lot of poison I was willing to unleash at the right time someone struck against me.
Dad would never admit it, but I took my cunning side from him. I was a manipulative, contemplative bitch, and I learned from the master. That was why I was probably the only person in the world whom Dad could never utterly defeat. He threatened me all the time with “disowning” me and throwing me to the street. But for someone who’d lost something very crucial to her healthy humanity, he could tell me he would put me on a plane to North Korea and I wouldn’t give a flying fuck.
When you didn’t show fear, no one could ever get the upper hand on you.
My father’s secretary gave me a plastic smile as she said, “Good morning, Miss Sheridan.”
“Morning, Sasha,” I said and gave her my smile, the same replica of my father’s when he was out hunting for fresh clients, “Is my father in his usual office?”
Sasha pursed her lips but kept on smiling. I didn’t think it was possible before. “Yes, he is,” she reluctantly said.
My smile widened an inch. “Give him a notice I’m on my way up to meet him.”
Sasha was not smiling anymore. “Mr Sheridan is a very busy man,” she suddenly said in irritation. “You can’t always hog his time when you feel like that.”
At the faint flush on her face I groaned and face-palmed. “Oh God,” I said loud enough for the few people in the lobby to hear, “is there a grown woman on this earth my father hadn’t fucked?”
At once, Sasha paled, not longer flushed, and shrank in her chair, tears filling her eyes. “You’re so cruel,” she whispered as people looked at her with judging eyes. “How can you be so senseless?”
“I’m not the senseless one, sweetheart,” I said and leaned on the counter, fixing her with a glare. “If you knew what my father’s true nature truly was, you would’ve run the other way very fast without feeling the urge to spread your legs. No,” I chuckled darkly, “I’m not the senseless one. You and all of America are.”
With those words, I left the trembling secretary and summoned the elevator. Entering the car, I pushed on the highest level button, and waited. Then I was walking through the corridor and knocking on my father’s door.
For a few moments I thought he wouldn’t answer but then his raspy voice chime, “Come in, Blair.”
I came in, shutting the door behind me. My father wore his glasses as he scanned his computer screen, but then his hawkish eyes turned to me and took my appearance in. Even though I put some effort in trying to look like a businesswoman or something, he saw right through it. It wasn’t that hard, though; I was too much twisted for even this world.
“What are you here for?” he asked as I took the seat before him. He returned to the computer, typing away, but I knew his attention was on me. “I thought Roman explained the situation. You are to connect me through him regarding the compensation.”
“Roman was absolutely delightful in explaining the small details to me,” I said, grinning at him. “But I came here because blackmailing can go both ways.”
He pretended not to care, what with him still “focused” on the computer, but I saw him turn rigid. “I did not blackmail you, Blair,” he said slowly, “I simply stated that, since what you’ve done was despicable, if you disagree with the plans to help Emma with her wedding plans, I will get access to your independent bank account and decide for myself what to do with it.”
And people thought I was clueless. “That’s basically the description of blackmail, Dad,” I said, and he whipped his head toward me. I gave him a saccharine smile. “If you think blackmailing cannot be called as such if it’s between father and daughter, then you’re sorely mistaken. But I’m getting sidetracked,” I gave him a triumphant look. “After I’m finished talking, let’s see if your offer still stands.”
I put the bag I brought with me on my knees and took my small tablet out. I flicked the Notes app open and zoomed in. “Alicia Grimes, Elizabeth York, Amanda Barton,” I said, returning my look to my father. He had a level-headed poker face but his eyes were as hard as granite. “Do you know how all these women are connected?”
He said nothing. My smile grew bigger. “That’s right. You slept with each of them multiple times in the past month, right behind your beloved wife’s back. And that’s only part of the list I gathered.” I leaned closer to him, making him see my eyes and know I was not fucking around. “You’re a man-whore, Dad, but that’s not something I care about. What I do care about is that you think you can still control me like a marionette after what you put me through two years ago.”
This time he did speak. “You’re being melodramatic,” he said, not even bothering to address the cheating subject but this one instead, “it’s already been two years. Can’t you give it a rest?”
“No, and you know why?” I asked, straightening back in my chair. “Because it had been the first time you showed me your true ugly face, and not just you; the entire family showed me its face. When I needed you the most, you turn your backs on me. When I was being hit by that bitch, you didn’t stand up for me, you simply watched with you calculative mind and gathered intel instead of helping your daughter, your blood. And you even accepted my ex boyfriend’s parents’ compensation for what he’d put me through, as if money could erase the humiliation I’d suffered.”
I put my tablet back into my bag and rose to my feet. His eyes followed me, emotionless. “I’m not helping any of you with anything regarding this stupid wedding. Emma has enough bridesmaids to help her out, and her maid of honor is surely much more helpful than I can ever hope to be. Also, what I’ve done at the engagement party was exactly what she wanted; a piece I composed lasting for four minutes.” I gave him another sickeningly sweet smile. “If you wanted to be specific about the piece’s theme, you should’ve said so. Alas, you didn’t, and so it wasn’t actually my fault.
“I am not completely heartless, however,” I continued, “and I would attend whatever stupid shit you need me to, be it a dancing lesson like the one planned for next week or stuff like that. But that’s all about it.”
My father was so tensed, I though I could see a vein popping in his head. “You’re not being fair to your sister,” he gritted out, eyes finally showing some emotion. Anger.
I let my smile disappear. “And none of you have ever been fair to me,” I said dryly. “It’s a never-ending loop, Dad. No matter what you say or what I do, there’s no way out of it.”
At once, he relaxed all of his muscles and fixed me with a hard stare. “Wednesday, five o’clock. Be at the studio for the dancing lesson.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I gave him one more smile before turning my back to him and leaving the place.