Chapter 16. Fragile
Turning away from her was hard but I could see the pain in her eyes. The pain she was trying so hard to hide, to keep just a piece of that strong facade even as it crumpled around her. I clenched my hands and shoved them in my pockets as the urge to run back to her and hold her close rose within me.
It wouldn’t help right now. I could see she needed space. That I could understand, having needed plenty of that growing up. The smug look on my dads face as he called her a hussy flashed through my mind and I changed course, abruptly heading back into the building housing the offices.
Not wanting to wait for the elevator, and needing to work off some energy, I took the stairs two at a time. When I emerged on her floor it was quiet, everyone seemed to have gone back to their desks to work after the drama. I made a beeline for Olivia’s office, stopping quickly in front of her petite secretary.
She glanced up quickly, eyes wide. “Mr. Alderman, what can I do for you sir?”
Olivia had been right about one thing. I was used to getting what I wanted and this time was no exception. In fact, the stakes seemed higher than ever. “Hi,” I said with the bright smile that had gotten me out of trouble more than once, making sure to flash my dimple. “I just had a couple questions I was hoping you could help me with, Tracy,” I glanced down at the name plate in front of me.
She shifted slightly in her seat, her eyes quickly scanning the office around us. “Depends on the questions Mr. Alderman,” she said quietly.
I leaned closer. “Please, call me Wes. And I’d rather talk in private. Would you have some time to grab a coffee after work?” Tracy’s cheeks flushed as her mouth dropped open.
I chuckled lightly, reaching out to rest my hand on hers. “As you probably heard I’m dating Olivia. She’s having a rough time with this... change, and we are thinking of our next move. Just a few questions Tracy. Liv would be really grateful.” The secretary glanced around the room again before giving a quick nod. I mentally cheered.
“I’ll meet you at the Starbucks around the corner at 6,” she whispered before sitting up straighter. “Have a good day Mr. Alderman.” I flashed her a quick wink before turning and heading back down the stairs. Seemed part 1 of my developing plan was in place. Now, to work on the rest.
That evening I pulled my car through the round circular drive of the mansion I’d grown up in. Not a place I’d ever really called home. Between the boarding schools and the jet setting vacations where I would inevitably be left with a nanny while my dad found a willing mistress and my mom received spa treatment after spa treatment, I’d never really been around much. I jumped out and walked up the stone front steps. Once I reached the top, the large doors swung open to reveal a bald man dressed in a black suit.
“Master Alderman,” he said softly with a bow, “What a pleasure.”
I smiled as I reached out to pat the butler on the shoulder. “Ronson! It’s so good to see you. You look... exactly the same,” I couldn’t help but chuckle. The man had been around my entire life.
“Thank you sir. May I ask what brings you home?”
I tried not to flinch at the word. Nowhere had ever really been home. “I need to speak to my father. Is he around?”
Ronson nodded as he kept up pace with me. “He has retired to the study. Should I bring around some refreshments?” I stopped next to him and turned to look at him. To be honest his eyes seemed duller than I’d remembered, his head still a shiny bald egg. I remembered going to the side yard in the summer where father couldn’t see and Ronson teaching me how to play soccer, or as he called it in his very posh accent, football. The man had been a savior some days, practically a dad to me even though he wasn’t one for affection.
“It’s been too long. I’ll come find you after I talk to him ok?” Ronson gave a short nod before turning on his heels.
I made my way back to the study, hands clenching they closer I got. If this wasn’t so important I wouldn’t have even come. But it wasn’t for me, it was for Liv. I couldn’t help the small smile that spread across my face. I was worried about her too though. She’d driven off in such an agitated state. Obviously, loosing her job and being humiliated in front of all her coworkers had to be hard. I understood that. But I’d never met someone as committed to a job as Liv. She put in more hours than anyone I knew, always striving to perfect things. It was one of the things I loved about her as much as I wished she could leave it all behind sometimes. All the girls I’d dated, and married, hadn’t cared much about anything other than their looks and this seasons fashions.
Frowning slightly I pulled out my phone and found Liv’s name. I wanted to give her space but I needed her to know I wasn’t giving up. One thing I’d learned from our time together, Liv expected everyone to leave like her birth parents. That’s why she tried to be so tough and keep people at an arms length. I wouldn’t let her do that.
Me: I know your hurting babe but I do love you and I’m here for you. Let me know what you need.
Sliding my phone back into my pocket I strode forward, pushing open the solid wooden door and entering my dads domain. The walls were a deep cherry wood, built in bookshelves all the way to the ceiling. My dad sat behind a large desk, his jacket hanging off his chair as he swirled a glass of what I knew to be scotch. He glanced up when I walked in.
“Wesley,” he grumbled, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
I shut the door behind me, leaning back with my arms crossed over my chest. I narrowed my eyes as he went back to looking over his papers. “That was some shit you pulled today and you know it. Low, even for you.”
Dad let out a humorless laugh before swigging the last of his scotch. He stood slowly and made his way to the bar cabinet, picking up a tumbler of the amber liquid and refilling the glass. “I don’t ask for much son. Just for people to do their jobs and stay the hell out of my way.”
“And how exactly did Liv break those rules?”
He dropped two ice cubes in his glass before taking his seat. He looked at me over the rim of his glasses. “Well being bent over a table while a client, specifically my son, fucks her is not my idea of doing her job.” He took a swallow of his drink before setting it down on the desk and holding up the paper he’d been looking at. “You’ve wasted your time Wesley, what’s done is done. Ms. Baser did what most women do and threw away all the potential she had chasing a man who won’t be there this time next year.”
I pushed off the wall and stopped in front of him. I leaned against the back of the chair with my hands. “And what if I will still be with her a year from now?”
Dad scoffed as he reached up to pull of his glasses. “You’ve barely just gotten rid of bloodsucking wife number 1, trust me, you won’t just back into it so soon.”
I gripped the seat harder. “Is that what mom was, sad? Just another money hungry blood sucking wife?”
He tilted his head to the side as he studied me. “Among other things.”
My nostrils flared in anger. I wasn’t here to talk about mom. This was for Liv. I walked around and sat down, folding one leg over the other. “I intend to be with Olivia, dad. I am in love with her and she will day be a member of this family, make no doubt. Why anyone would want to be an Alderman is beyond me however,” I could see him opening his mouth to object, “she will one day be my wife. So here is what we are going to do. You are going to write her a glowing letter of recommendation.”
Here my father really laughed. His belly shook with each guffaw as I sat and watched, an eyebrow raised. “And why would I do that for some two bit hussy who didn’t know how to say no?”
I smiled broadly, showing him each of my teeth. “Because, dad, it would seem there are some things people don’t know about you that could be very hurtful to, not just yourself, but the firm. And I, as your son have full access to proof.” The light faded from his face as he watched me. I didn’t move a muscle. If I’d learned anything from him it was to be ruthless and never show weakness.
Dad stood slowly, his hands resting on his desk. “You don’t have the guts boy,” he growled.
I stood, our noses practically touching, as we stared grey eyes to grey eyes. “Try me.” The room was silent for a moment until the trill of my cell broke it. I planned to ignore it but then remembering the way Liv had left the office I wanted to make sure she didn’t need me. Sure enough the caller ID flashed her name. “We’ll continue this later, you have 48 hours.” With that I turned abruptly and answered my phone. “Hey babe, are you ok?”
Sobs sounded from the other end and I froze just outside the study door. “Wes.... it’s Liv....she’s been....” fresh cries of anguish filled the line as my heart picked up speed, fear and adrenaline coursing through me.
“El,” I called out, recognizing who it was, “El, what’s happened to Liv?”
There was shuffling on the other end before a somber male voice came on. “Wes, Liv has been in a pretty bad car accident. She flew off the highway west of the city. They have her in surgery now. We know she would want you here,” Mr. Baser said sternly.
I instantly set off at a dead run for the door. “Which hospital Mr. Baser?”
“West General. And please son, drive safely. Liv would be devastated if something happened to you.”
“Of course sir.” I hung up quickly as I slid into my car. My body was shaking as I turned the key in the ignition. As the car rumbled to life around me I rested my head on the steering wheel.
I shouldn’t have let her drive off like that. She’d been so upset and I’d done nothing. I’d assumed she would grieve and then I could come along and fix it like it never happened. How could I not have seen what this had done to her? The blank look in her eyes like she was broken. I’d seen that look before. My mother had given me that same look the last time I’d seen her when I was nine. Shortly after, she drank herself to death.
A small sob slipped past my lips as I smacked the steering wheel hard. My palm stung but I did it again and again, hitting it over and over until my hand was red and tingling. This is what I did, ruined the things I loved. I’d came into her life and destroyed everything she’d worked for by being selfish. Wiping away the few tears that had slid down my face I pulled out of the mansions driveway, heading for the hospital.
If Liv survived, I had a chance to make everything right. If she didn’t.... I couldn’t even bring myself to think of what that would mean. Images of her laying on the pillow with her blonde hair fanned around her, her leaning over a file and chewing on the eraser of her pencil, her smile as she kissed me goodnight. My foot pressed down slightly more on the gas. I needed to get to her, see her. I had to know she would be ok. Because if she wasn’t then there was no way I would be.