I can’t remember the last time that I was this nervous about anything. I’m sure Naomi’s parents are nice and she said she gave them a warning about the age difference, but none of that makes me feel any less stressed.
“Don’t be so nervous,” Naomi whispers, squeezing my sweaty hand as we stand outside the door of her parents’ home. “They are going to love you. I’m sure of it.”
“Right,” I gulp and Naomi looks up at me with an amused smirk. “What is it?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sweat like this, babe. Not even when you first asked me about being exclusive that weekend in Big Sur.”
Can she blame me?
“I’m fine,” I say, clearing my throat. “I’ll be fine. It’s fine. We’re good. It’ll be good. A great day. Yes, things will go all well.”
Naomi lifts to her tippy toes and kisses my cheek. “It will.” The sentence is short, but the confidence with which she says it gives me some ease. “Are you ready?” she asks, pulling the keys out of her purse.
I take a deep breath and nod.
When Naomi opens the door, she calls out to her parents and brother and we wait for them in the foyer. I’ve seen them in photos, but meeting them in person for the first time, Naomi is a perfect split between her mother and father, while her little brother favors her mother.
“Hey, honey!” her mother, Cassandra, beams and wraps Naomi in a hug. Her father, Isaiah, follows the motion. Her brother, Miles, enters the room several moments after them to greet his sister.
“And you must be Sebastien! Come here!” Cassandra pulls me in for a hug. “It is so nice to finally meet you! Naomi may have kept your name a secret from me for some time, but she has not shut up about you. Feels like you’re already fam—“
“Cassandra,” Isaiah interrupts with a chuckle. “Don’t overwhelm him now… A pleasure to meet you,” he says and reaches out to give me a firm shake.
Naomi finishes greeting her brother and then pushes him toward me.
“Miles, Sebastien went to Berkeley!” she chimes. “Isn’t that your first pick?”
He looks apprehensive as he gets closer, I give him a wide smile in hopes of disarming him and it appears to kind of help. He looks more shy than anything. Miles extends his hand to give me a loose handshake and a dry greeting.
“Hi, Mr. Laurent…”
“A pleasure to meet you, Miles! And please, call me Sebastien. Naomi tells me you’re interested in my alma mater. I’m still pretty involved and could always pull some strings,” I add with a wink.
Naomi gives me a look of disapproval and Miles has a bit of a glare.
“I don’t need your charity, Mr. Laurent… I’ve already gotten into Berkeley on my merit.”
“What?!” Naomi gasps and hits Miles on the arm. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“I was going to tell you today during lunch,” he turns to his sister to reply while rubbing his arm. “I just found out yesterday.”
“Unacceptable!” she chides playfully. “You get accepted into this fancy school and you’re already forgetting about your big sis.”
“I said you I was gonna tell you,” he grumbles. “And then it slipped…”
Cassandra appears to try to defuse this already awkward situation and stands between Naomi and I and Miles. “Okay, well Naomi and Sebastien came just in time because the food will be ready in five and we can spend lunch talking about what you plan to do, Miles, as well as learn more about Sebastien.”
“Awesome.” Naomi takes my hand and pulls me toward the steps. “It gives me the perfect amount of time to give Sebastien a tour.”
Once Naomi and I get upstairs and into her childhood bedroom that her parents seem to have converted into a gym, I exhale and when my shoulders relax, I realize just how tense they were.
She stands in front of me to hold my face while concern decorates hers as she analyzes me.
“Are you okay? You seem really nervous…”
“Because I am nervous, Naomi,” I admit. “And I think I made a bad impression on your brother. It seems like I offended him. What did I do?”
“Well…” She presses her lips together and pauses for a few moments. “I know acts of service is one of your love languages, Sebastien, but your offer could come off as if you had doubts about his ability to make it in on his own.”
“I didn’t mean it like that at all. Of course I believe in him. It was just a way of saying I can be of support if he needs.”
“I know, I know,” she assures. “Don’t let it get you down and I don’t want you to feel like you’re walking on eggshells or anything. Miles has been a bit tense lately with graduation coming up. While I’m sure the Berkeley acceptance was likely a huge relief for him, he still has baseball, finals, AP exams, and class rankings have yet to come out. He’s been neck-and-neck with another student for valedictorian and like you, he’s an Aries and super competitive,” she adds with a smirk.
“God,” I groan. “Does that mean he’s stubborn as me too?”
“Oh, he is definitely more,” she says with an amused brow raised. “And besides, you’re not that stubborn, Mr. Laurent.”
“Hm?” I question before I pull Naomi’s body against mine and wrap my arms around her waist. “Are you sure about that observation?”
“Mhmm,” she hums with a nod, looking up at me mischievously, the challenge clear in her eyes.
“That’s very funny coming from someone who spends quite the time begging me…” I lean in so that my lips brush against her ear and whisper, “We’ll see if you feel the same way when we’re back at my apartment.”
She takes a sharp breath and presses her hands against my chest to push me away. “Control yourself, Mr. Laurent. We have a very important lunch to get to.”
Lunch feels like it’s going well and conversation has been great between Naomi’s parents and I. Her brother still seems a bit guarded, but hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to grow on him.
“Miles,” Naomi nudges. “You haven’t said anything about Berkeley since earlier. With it being your first pick, you’re gonna go, right?”
“Of course I want to,” he replies. “But Berkeley is expensive and I’m not trying to be too deep in debt when I get out. I’ve been applying for scholarships, but I’m still waiting to hear back.”
“We already told your brother that we’ll support him if he wants to go,” Cassandra comments. “He’s just so stubborn.”
“Because I don’t want you guys to go into debt paying for me to go to school, mom. You just finished paying off your loans from law school. And that was from way back then!”
“I’m not that old.”
Under the table, Naomi grabs my hand as if warning me, but I learned my lesson earlier. I’ll refrain from offering to pay for him to go to school, but it doesn’t mean I won’t find a way to support him somehow.
“Miles,” I say. “Naomi tells me you’re interested in environmental science. Is there any particular area in the discipline you’d like to focus on?”
“Yeah, there is, actually… So, tech companies often tout themselves as environmentally friendly, but they often have quite the carbon footprint, right? I mean, not as massive as banks or oil companies, obviously, but it’s there. I want to study ways in which tech companies that aren’t focused on climate change can integrate carbon reduction into their business strategies.”
“That’s so interesting! I do think many tech startups assume they are environmentally friendly by design, so they often don’t consider the ways in which they exacerbate climate change…”
“Exactly, exactly! And I think if proper studies are produced on the topic and it’s brought to the attention of these companies, it could help put it on their radar. But I also know that’s not enough. So, I’m going to explore possible ways in which environmentally smart practices can benefit bottom-lines and make an undeniably strong argument as to why tech companies — and all companies, really — should act more sustainably. Because it’s clear that the obvious point that a destroyed world is bad for business isn’t strong enough.”
“Your work could also be used to sway shareholders as well,” I note. “For the public companies you can really find a way to give them hell every proxy season.”
“That’s a great point! I could figure out a list of target…” Miles’ face brightens and he starts going on and on about about his various theories surrounding business strategy and environmentalism. He is incredibly passionate about this stuff and his energy is contagious — it reminds me of Naomi when she discusses community service and social inequality.
And it’s like with his excitement, the aura between us changes and I’m already feeling much better.
||||Naomi Monroe ||||
I don’t think today could’ve gone any better. My mom loved Sebastien, my dad seemed to like him, and he and Miles were getting along pretty well by the end of lunch. It was a great day with my family and my man and now we’re on our way back to his apartment.
“Naomi...” Sebastien says, keeping his left hand on the steering wheel and using the other to interlock his fingers with mine.
“I want you to think about moving in together… Moving in with me in San Francisco.”
“You don’t need to decide now, dear. I just want you to think about it. You could work from the NotionX office there and we’ll come here to visit your family whenever you want or we can fly them out to California every so often. It’ll be even better with Miles at Berkeley… The distance is getting really difficult for me… And I know it’s the same for you too.”
He’s right that the distance is getting rough for me, but I’m just not sure about making the move to California. I come from a close-knit family and I love my life here in Georgia. As strongly as I feel for Sebastien, I’m not sure I’m willing to give all that up just yet, even if we can visit often.
“It is really hard,” I confess. “I’ll think about it.”
“That’s all I’m asking,” he says before pulling my hand to his lips and pecking it.
When I finally turn my phone back on — I like to keep it off when I’m with my family — I see dozens of notifications and my heart immediately drops. My mentions on Twitter are going berserk, I have missed calls and texts from Gianni as well as messages from Katie, Nicolas, and other coworkers and friends. I feel the pressure behind my face as tears approach my eyes and I’m not even sure where to start.
Gigi: Hey, girl… Are you okay? Call me, please.
Katie (Boss): Naomi, we need to talk first thing tomorrow.
Nicolas 🚮: You’re fucking my uncle?!!?
Twitter Notification: SCOOP: Sebastien Laurent, the would-be billionaire who has redistributed most of his wealth, is dating @NaomiNotionX, the journalist who did his breakout interview. Exclusive photos here: tinyurl,com/sebastien-laurent-likes-bbws
Thanks to being tagged in the tweet, I get notified of any responses and of course the top-engaged replies are exactly what I’d expect.
Twitter Notification: He must be down bad… horrendously.
Twitter Notification: Damn, I can’t even get a text back and she picks up THEE Sebastien Laurent.
Twitter Notification: Probably a PR stunt to get buzz, because there is no way…
Twitter Notification: Imagine not only giving up most your wealth because you don’t want to be a billionaire, BUT ALSO settling for this. She clearly don’t take care of herself. The man is a 🤡
Twitter Notification: He couldn’t at least buy her a new body? Like damn.
I begin sobbing and bury my face in my hands.
“Naomi!” Sebastien calls. “What’s going on? What happened?!”
“L-Later…” is all I can choke out before covering my mouth to keep myself from practically wailing. The exact thing I was afraid of all this time, the thing I’ve been trying to avoid, has happened.
I feel Sebastien’s hand rubbing my back and the car pull off the road. When he comes to a stop, he asks me again what’s wrong and all I can do is take out my phone and show him. Just a few seconds pass before he pulls me against his chest and I sob uncontrollably against it.
“I’m so sorry, Naomi. I’ll fix this…” he says as he rubs my head. “Let me call Alana.”
A/N: Thank you for reading! There are five more chapters left and they are dense as hell, but we are almost to the end!