All of Me

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What's Best

||||Sebastien Laurent||||

Naomi left this morning for work and was insistent about going on her own. I wonder if I should’ve been more assertive about going with her, but she reminded me that the two of us entering the building together could make things even worse.

Instead, I get on a video call with Alana so we can figure out how to make this news disappear as quickly as possible. I had to confiscate Naomi’s phone last night and she was sobbing against my chest until she fell asleep. Yesterday was the first time in my life that I contemplated homicide, especially after realizing the obvious culprit.

“So, Joseph still had access to most of your files, including your iCloud, and that’s how he got the photos and leaked them to the press,” Alana explains. “It’s just a good thing you two didn’t have any nudes, which was really lucky because I was sure you would given that you’re long distance.”

Naomi is strictly against nudes and this is a case where her anxiety turned out to be beneficial. Our more risqué messages, however, were not safe…

“What route should we take here, Alana? I don’t want this story to continue to gain traction.”

“Well, I’ve gotten a ton of interview requests already for you and Naomi. But if you don’t want this story to drag out, our best bet is to reject those requests and pull back on this profile raising we’ve been doing these past several months. It would mean undoing a lot of the work we have put in to increase your popularity.”

“That’s fine with me,” I reply without hesitation. I never enjoyed the spotlight and these recent press engagements started off as an excuse for me to spend time with Naomi and kind of got out of control after that anyway.

“Are you sure, Sebastien? We could also flip this into something and turn you two into a sort of power couple situation…”

“I’m positive. And I know myself and Naomi… We would not want to be some ‘power couple.’ Neither of us like getting too much attention.”

“Okay,” Alana agrees. “I’ll make it happen… And tell Naomi that I’m sorry she has to go through this. She really doesn’t deserve all this hate she’s getting and for no reason, at that.”

“Your work is appreciated. And I don’t care the cost. The faster conversations can end about Naomi and I’s relationship, the better… As for Joseph, he broke the NDA and I’ve already spoken to my lawyers. This normally isn’t my style, but we are going to sue him until his great-great-grandkids are in debt.”

“That may not be the best choice, Sebastien…” Alana cringes.

“Why the hell not?!”

“If you’re in a legal battle with Joseph over this, you’ll continue to be in the news and thus, conversations surrounding your relationship with Naomi will persist… You also punched him in the face and I’m no lawyer, but I imagine that’ll cause problems too.”

“Damnit!” I slam my fist on the desk. If a public court battle won’t work, then I’ll just need to figure out another way to make Joseph’s life hell behind the scenes. “Fine, just do whatever you need to do to end all of this as soon as possible.”

“Right. I’ll keep you updated.”

###

||||Naomi Monroe||||

When I got to the office this morning, I was met with stares and whispers. Unsurprisingly, Katie called me in for a meeting first thing and I already knew what she wanted to discuss.

Sitting in front of her at her desk, I try my best not to look nervous, but I can’t help that I fidget with my fingers as she speaks to me.

“So… Is it true?” she asks and all I can do is nod. Maybe I should’ve just called out sick today, or called out sick forever.

“Naomi…” she sighs, her tone decorated with disapproval. “This is very unprofessional. A relationship with an interview subject? Not only that, he’s the brother of our main investor and it was your interview with him that really propelled NotionX into being one of the top digital publications for tech and startups.”

“I know, but it just kind of happened. And the fact that you didn’t see any bias in his favor in my writing before should be proof enough that our relationship isn’t hurting my ability to do my job.”

“‘It just kind of happened’ isn’t good enough, Naomi. This isn’t just your reputation on the line, it’s the entire magazine’s. Your relationship with Sebastien Laurent is a clear conflict of interest.”

Conflict of interest?! I think to myself. As if they care about that. We’re being bankrolled by the Laurent family and Sebastien only interviewed with us in the first place as a favor to his family. But it’s a problem with me?! I’m the one who has been trying to help NotionX’s expansion so that they could stop depending on the Laurent family. Hell, Nicolas Laurent works for us and whenever he’s writing reviews of Atlanta nightlife and travel, half of his recommendations have some type of Laurent family investment or are outright owned by them.

As much as what she said has pissed me off, I know that I’m not allowed to show that emotion.

“Katie, I understand the concern, but I can assure you that this is not something that will affect my work. If it gives you any peace, I can remove myself from any coverage regarding Sebastien Laurent or his family.”

Katie looks down and twists her mouth. “That’s not going to work, Naomi…”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry, Naomi, but this just isn’t a good look. Even here in the office, people are starting to think the only reason we allowed you to open our San Francisco operations is because you were sleeping with Sebastien Laurent.”

“That is bullshit and you know it,” I say before I can hold myself back. “I earned that opportunity, just like I earned the opportunity to interview Sebastien the first time. I am good at my job and you know it, Katie. That’s why you’ve trusted me with such important undertakings.”

Katie exhales deeply and rubs the back of her neck. She’s quiet for several moments and it feels like an eternity before she parts her lips again.

“I’m sorry, I really am… But my hands are tied. The other investors are calling for your removal and our credibility is being questioned.”

“So, people are skeptical of my credibility, but the Laurent family’s involvement this whole time and Nicolas’ work hasn’t?!”

“I’m sorry,” she repeats. “I understand where you’re coming from, but there’s really nothing I can do, Naomi. And at this point, despite the logic — or lack thereof — many of your colleagues and the other investors have a bad taste in their mouth about you. I know it’s not fair, but what can I do?”

“Are you s-serious?!” I hate the way voice cracks when I say it. “I’m one f the best journalists here and you’re firing me because of whom I am dating? What sense does that make?”

“Even if I could save your job, would you really be comfortable here again? Knowing that our other investors and many of your own colleagues have changed the way they see you so easily?”

I take a deep sigh and look down as I ponder her words. Katie makes a good point. The fact that my colleagues — even if it’s not all of them — would turn so easily on me is upsetting and working with them would never be the same. But I’ve also done so much for NotionX that it hurts to just leave it all behind.

“Look,” Katie continues. “For what it’s worth, we can do it like this: Rather than being fired, we’ll say you resigned and left on your own accord. And if you ever, I mean ever need a recommendation from me, I am more than happy to sing your praises. I also have some contacts I can connect you with for your job hunt.”

“Katie…” I know the plea is clear in my voice, but it’s still not enough to sway her.

“Naomi, please… I’m so sorry…”

I’m not sure how many times she’s apologized since we’ve been in this office, but I know it’s a lot and I can’t tell whether or not its genuine, but I choose to tell myself that it is. In her defense, she doesn’t own NotionX and when the investors decide something, that is it.

I put my head down and take deep breaths. I don’t want to cry here. I shouldn’t cry here. This place doesn’t deserve my tears. And beside, I spent the entire night crying.

I am so damn tired of crying.

Katie allows me to sit in her office for probably close to an hour as I gather myself. I manage to avoid the tears while she spends time explaining how she’s planning to support me in my involuntary job hunt.

When I finally feel comfortable enough to leave her office, I step out and it feels like a walk of shame as I go over to pack my desk and then leave the building. Lucky for me, Nicolas isn’t around to make things worse. All the people who I thought were my colleagues from what should’ve been a so-called ‘progressive’ environment haven’t even come up to me to say anything, let alone bother to speak out on the double standard.

But whatever… I hold my head up high and pretend to at least appear unbothered. I tell myself that this just means that NotionX wasn’t where I was meant to be forever and when I think about the fact that no one had my back in this ridiculous situation and how quickly they were willing to let me go, I decide that I don’t want to go back.

NotionX does not deserve me.

When I get outside, I hop in my Uber and call Sebastien.

“How did it go?!” he asks from the other side of the phone and I choke up as I get it out.

“They fired me…”

“THEY FIRED YOU?!!? WHAT THE HELL?!” he booms and I have to pull the phone away from my ear. “I am going to see my brother Charles right now and tell him to rehire you immediately. That is unacceptable!”

“Sebastien, no… I think I’m going to—“

“No!” he interrupts. “There is absolutely no justification for letting you go. I’m going straight to his place. Un-fucking-reasonable!”

I can hear in his voice that he’s furious. There’s probably no point in trying to argue with him about it, but I try to get my point across anyway.

“Sebastien, please. Just let me explain. I think I want to use this as an opp—“

“Hell no! I am going to speak to Charles myself. This is complete and utter bullshit and I am going to get you your job back, I swear it!” Sebastien snarls before hanging up on me.

Now, I’m even more agitated than before. He didn’t even listen to me. I wanted to tell him that I could maybe find another publication to work with or use this time to focus on my app and maybe pick up investors. But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t have a future at NotionX anymore, even if Sebastien does get me my job back.

###

||||Sebastien Laurent||||

“I can’t believing you’re fucking my coworker!” Nicolas exclaims when I walk into my brother’s home and I can’t exactly get a good read on his emotion behind it. He doesn’t look upset, but he doesn’t look excited. Either way, I could give a damn about his reaction to all of this so long as he doesn’t give Naomi a hard time.

“Naomi and I are in a relationship. We’re not just ‘fucking,’” I reply curtly.

“Ahhhh, so you have a thing for BBWs? She’s cute and I’ve been trying to hook up with her. But she’s not exactly the arm candy our kind would want, ya know?” He nudges me and gives a knowing wink.

“No, I don’t know, nor do a give a fuck. And I don’t have a ‘thing for BBWs.’ It shouldn’t be abnormal for me to be attracted to her despite the fact our relationship is seen as such a—“ I pause because why the hell am I explaining myself to him? “Whatever… Where’s Charles? Where is your father?”

“Oh! He’s upstairs and he just got off a conference call, so I’m sure he’ll have time to meet with you.”

I nod and just as I’m stepping away, I stop in my tracks and without turning around, I give him a warning. “Nicolas… If you disrespect Naomi again, I will make it my duty to ensure that you don’t see a penny of inheritance from my father or yours. Is that understood?” The coldness in my voice should be enough to show him just how serious I am.

“Y-yeah,” he stumbles. “Right. I actually like Naomi, you know… I was just—“

I start walking again before he can finish and once I reach my brother’s office, I don’t bother knocking because I am infuriated.

“What the hell?!” says a startled Charles when I swing the door open.

“Don’t act like you don’t know why the fuck I’m here! Why was Naomi fired?! I pursued her… And if it weren’t for her, your little media venture would’ve gone to shit! It was her interview with me that really pushed NotionX over the edge! She opened an office in San Francisco for you and you fucking fire her like she’s nothing?!”

“Hey, hey…” Charles raises his hands defensively. “Such is the way of corporate media. It’s not a good look that one of our journalists is sleeping with her main interview subject. And besides, why are you so concerned like this is serious or something. You didn’t even tell me about it.”

“It is serious and I didn’t tell you for this exact reason! I didn’t want to put Naomi’s job or credibility in jeopardy.”

Charles approaches me and when he tries to place a comforting hand on my shoulder, I smack it away.

“Look,” he sighs. “It’s for the better that we let her go. Think about it like this: every time she publishes a new article or interview for NotionX, all people will see is the woman who slept with her interview subject. She could maybe go to another, smaller publication and do well without many people connecting the dots. Or if this is serious as you say, she could just retire early and live on your dime,” he adds with a shrug.

“Naomi isn’t like that. She likes working and she was enjoying her job at NotionX. Hire her back!”

“It’s not that simple…”

“Yes it is! You own the fucking magazine. You could make her editor-in-chief if you wanted, so don’t give me that bullshit.”

“Have you asked Naomi if she wants to come back after being fired?” Charles raises a challenging brow. “After all of this, can she really return to the office and face her coworkers? They’ll know that it was likely you who pulled strings to get her rehired.”

“She shouldn’t have been fired in the first-fucking-place!” I snap as I grab Charles by his collar.

He sharpens his gaze and tears my hands off of him. “Again, have you asked what she wants? In fact, have you really sat down to even talk to her? Or are you running around doing damage control without consulting her first?”

“Don’t talk to me like you know her! You have no idea what she would want!”

“I may not know her, but I do know you, brother. And you’re impulsive and once you’ve decided something, you’re full steam ahead. You always think you know what’s best for others, even without asking them.”

“Shut the fuck up and hire her back!”

Charles exhales deeply and looks at me with an intense gaze like he’s finally considering it.

“Fine. If she wants to return, then I’ll rehire her.”

“Great,” I huff. “And be ready to give her a fucking promotion when she comes back.”

###

||||Naomi Monroe ||||

“Sebastien, did you seriously go to your brother about rehiring me?!” It comes out as more of a scolding than I intended, but considering the past 24-plus hours I’ve had, you can’t really blame me for being in a constant state of freaking out.

Sebastien is an incredible man and I appreciate that he wants to be here to support me, I really do, but when I was trying to explain to him this morning after I got fired, he wouldn’t even listen to me. He was on a warpath.

“Of course I did!” he replies like the answer should be obvious. “It was wrong of them to fire you, Naomi! You’ve done so much for NotionX and for them to let you go over something this petty is completely unreasonable.”

“You’re right, but you didn’t even let me finish before hanging up on me and storming your brother’s office! You just assumed that I wanted to go back and when I was trying to explain to you that maybe I should take another path, you ignored me!” We sometimes bicker and it’s usually playfully, but this is our first time in an all-out screaming match.

“I’m just trying to do what’s best for you!”

“You’re always assuming you know exactly what’s best for me and that is not always the case, Sebastien! At least let me explain things first instead of you jumping to conclusions!”

“Are you seriously upset with me for trying to help you?!”

“No! That’s not why I’m upset… I’m upset because you didn’t let me explain anything!”

“That’s because I’m normally right!”

“‘Normally,’ you’re right. Not always and I was trying to tell you what I’ve been thinking about doing next and you literally hung up the phone on me!”

“Because I’m angry, too, Naomi! I’m pissed about how you’re being treated and I want to support you! And now you’re penalizing me for it. I’m not perfect, but I care about you and I want what’s best.”

“Don’t turn this on me, Sebastien! I tried to express myself and you ignored me. Just let me explain to you what I want!”

“Damnit, Naomi! I am fucking trying here!”

“Don’t cuss at me!” I snap. “I know you’re trying, but you haven’t even asked me what I want and when I try to explain, you cut me off every time!”

We stand there in silence, in a staring match for god knows how long. I don’t care how stubborn he can get, this is a case where I’m in the right. I can appreciate his effort, but every time I spoke, he spoke over me and in the middle of my explanation, he hung up the phone as if what I was saying didn’t matter.

Sebastien seems to finally come to his senses and he’s the first to break. He blinks rapidly and his jaw tenses. A deep exhale crosses his nose before he speaks.

“What do you need?” he surrenders.

“Would you be able to buy me a ticket to fly to New York?”

“Done,” he replies with a nod. “How long will we be staying?”

“A few days, I think. Let me call Eva.” I take out my phone to dial her and only two trills go by until she answers.

“Hey, girl! How are you doing? Who do I need to take out a hit on? And no, I am not joking… I’m rich. I got connections. Just say the word and—”

“Are your parents available for a pitch?” I interrupt while I still have the gaul to ask.

“For you? I’ll make sure they are. Let me give them a call and I’ll get back to you with details.”

“Thank you, Eva.”

+++

A/N: Thanks for reading this long chapter!

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