When I came too, a hand was stroking my forehead and I was leaning against someone’s legs. Disorientated I tried to move and figure out what was going on. “Felicity, you need to stay still.” Mr Coran’s voice said softly. “You might have a concussion.”
“I’m Felicity now?” I mumbled.
“Until I know I haven’t caused you serious bodily harm you are.” He replied. “My doctor is on his way.”
“I’m fine.” I replied attempting to move again. “Besides, I did it, not you.”
“If you move you’re fired.”
“You can’t do that!” I complained, sounding less like the grown woman I was and more like a toddler who was missing out on an ice cream cone.
“No contracts have been signed Felicity.” He smiled. “And I always get my own way, so you should listen to me.”
I sighed and relaxed, well as much as I could while I lay in the middle of the path with my head in his lap. He smiled down at me, his icy eyes sparkled under the path lamps. “Are you always this clumsy?”
“Clumsy?” I choked. “Your stupid steps tripped me up!”
“Don’t worry I’ll be investigating the steps Felicity.”
“I don’t feel so good.” I whispered, suddenly feeling woozy. My eyes closed, they felt too heavy to keep open any longer.
“You need to stay awake please.” His voice was worried, I tried to listen but it was hard, I just wanted to sleep.
“When I was 12 I thought that raisins grew on a raisin tree. I asked my parents to buy me a raisin tree for Christmas.” Mr Coran exclaimed all of a sudden. My eyes flickered opened and my gaze caught his again.
“A raisin tree?” I knew he was trying to distract me, and it was working, I felt myself smile in amusement.
“Yes, my parents thought it was funny too.” He smiled, then his smile dropped.
“What did you get instead?” I whispered, curious.
“A vineyard.” He replied with a faded smile. “They liked to throw their money around.”
“The famous Coran wine collection.” I murmured. “Of course.”
Mr Coran continued to talk to me until the doctor arrived, he almost seemed nice, his walls had fallen, at least while I was incapacitated. After the doctor checked me over he decided that I was indeed concussed.
“Can you walk miss?” the doctor said pulling me to a standing position.
I used all of my energy to stay up right, but it wasn’t enough, dizziness soon overcame me and I feel backwards, right into Mr Coran’s arms. “Come on Felicity, Let’s get you upstairs.” He said as he picked me up. I allowed him too, after all I was in no position to argue, not when I couldn’t even stand.
I rest my head against his chest, he smelt good, like a heady soft musk cologne. It occurred to me as he carried me up the stairs that I had never been held like this by a man before, my romantic encounters had been bland and boring, not that this was any kind of romantic encounter, but just being close to a man was strange for me these days.
“This isn’t my room.” I mumbled, as Mr Coran walked into a dimly lit, exquisitely decorated deep blue room. He set me down on the largest bed I’d ever seen and ignored my observation.
“You’ll need to make sure she stays awake for a few hours. If she becomes disorientated or seems at all unwell call me again and I will meet you at the hospital.” The doctor said to Mr Coran as they walked toward the door.
“I’m really feeling much better, I’m sure I could manage the drive home now.” I mumbled attempting to stand. Mr Coran turned and eyeballed me, he pointed to the bed. “Sit. Now.”
I rolled my eyes and sat back down.
When he returned he looked amused. “I’ve called your mother.”
“You have?” Oh god, what did she say...
“Yes. She wanted to come check on you, but I’ve assured her you’re okay.”
“Whose room is this?” I murmured, not wanting to fall asleep and find someone else trying to climb in to bed with me.
“Mine Felicity. As you remember your own bed is unmade. I have one of the maids sorting it, but for now you can stay in here.”
Seriously? In his room. This man had me at a loss, first he was cold, calculating and uncaring and now suddenly he was doting and dutiful. What the heck was his deal?
“Mr Coran... thank you for taking care of me.” I said softly, unable to put any of my thoughts in to words.
“Dominic.” He replied
“As we’re going to be in each other’s company for a few hours Felicity, I think it’s probably best we put aside the formalities for now.”
I smiled, and nodded, thankful for the loss of the formal title, at least for the mean time. At work was one thing, but inside a home, calling someone by such a formal name seemed so cold.
“Okay then, Dominic.”
He smiled at me, and sat on the edge of the bed, his hand was inches from mine and for a moment I wondered if he was going to touch me, I was surprised to find myself intrigued by the possible connection, but then he quickly moved away ending the thoughts like a slamming door.
“Do you play cards Felicity?” he questioned.
“I was in college studying business, as much as we like to believe sexism is diminishing, it isn’t. I had to prove myself, and I did it largely by joining in poker nights.” Alcohol fuelled, bet driven poker nights, and after the first year I stopped losing so much. It had been a silly immature way to gain respect, but it had worked.
Dominic let out a small laugh. “Texas hold em?”
“Usually, but I’ll settle for basic if you want to play?”
Dominic stood up and walked over to his wardrobe, he returned with a deck of cards. Before he could sit down there was a knock at the door.
“Yes?” Dominic called out placing the deck on the bed.
“Mr Coran, I have some food for Ms Taylor.”
“Very well Mrs Sampson, bring it in.” Dominic said.
The door opened and a short, portly, beautiful and happy woman strolled into the room. She had long hair pulled high up in a bun and green eyes that peered into my soul as she placed the food down on the bedside table on my right. She looked up at Dominic and nodded. “The bed is being made now sir, I found some new linen.”
“Wonderful Mrs Sampson, you can head home once that is done.”
Mrs Sampson nodded and smiled at both of us before she left the room.
“She doesn’t live here?” I whispered looking at the feast on a tray beside me, my stomach rumbled, but not in hunger. It looked amazing, but nerves had made my appetite disappear and I wasn’t at all hungry.
“No, only you and Harvey reside here. Everyone else commutes in the morning. I like the house to be somewhat empty now and again.” He sat down and lifted the tray off the bedside table. “You need to eat, I’m gathering you didn’t before you came for the interview.” He placed it on my lap.
“No.” I replied, I picked up a fork and pushed a tomato around the plate. “I’m not sure I can eat.”
“Are you feeling nauseas, dammit, I knew we should have gone to the hospital.”
Pure panic crossed Dominic’s face and before I could reply he had his phone out of his pocket. Frowning I reached out, my hand brushed his arm, he moved back and dropped the phone.
“I’m just not hungry, that’s all.” I didn’t bother tell him it was his unarming nature that was causing it, Dominic seemed to be the kind of guy that would enjoy knowing he had that effect on a person.
Dominic’s jaw clenched at my touch, I pulled my arm back, but my gaze stayed locked with his. His eyes were a hypnotic blue, almost to cool and light to be real, against the contrast of his lightly tanned skin, he looked almost male model material. He was even blessed with that broody male frown, the one that hides a killer smile. “Fine.” He replied looking away.
He sat forward and took the tray then began to deal the cards. We had played for an hour, before we finally gave up.
“You really did hone your craft.” He murmured sullenly after losing almost every hand.
“I wouldn’t call playing Poker my craft, but thank you none the less.” I replied.
“I get the feeling you ran circles around the boys in college.”
“Academically, socially... in anyway really. They were probably jealous of you.” He murmured.
I shook my head. Academically I ran circles around everyone, but I did it silently. But I hadn’t been a social butterfly... ever. I didn’t take shit, and people in my class seemed to give a lot of it. Besides that didn’t matter. Dominic had been right, the mighty had fallen. I had peaked too early. I had opportunities coming out my ears after college, but the only local one had been at Glow. A small sales company. Mom had never said it, but she wanted me to stay close by so I took the local job.
Then it all ended, I was unemployed.
“None of that matters now.” I replied. “I’m not exactly having what my graduating class would call a dream career.”
Dominic frowned and looked down at his bed. “I learnt a long time ago that doing what other people want and expect me to do is a sure fire way to make avoidable mistakes. Everything is a step closer to the life you want Felicity.”
I smiled, he was right, besides it wasn’t like I cared what anyone from college thought. I’d tolerated most of them at best. Even the poker nights had been snobby affairs with wine cheese and high class chatter. It had been so boring.
I yawned suddenly “I’m so tired.” I whispered as my eyes closed and struggled to reopen
“How about a movie?” Dominic suggested.
“Really?” Watching a movie with my boss seemed kind of strange.
“Sure.” He replied. “I still need to keep you awake.”
Dominic leapt up and grabbed a remote from the drawers. With the press of a button the end of his bed opened and a flat screen moved out of it. I let out an amused laugh and shook my head.
“What?” he asked defensively.
“You have a TV inside of your bed.”
“I’ve never used it before.” He replied, the hint of a laugh was present in his voice “I don’t watch much TV.”
The screen turned on and Dominic put a movie channel on. Reservoir Dogs was just beginning.
“Why do you have a TV in your bed then?”
“In case my staff cause themselves brain injuries by falling down my stairs.” He teased.
“Touché Dominic. Alright, well this movie is okay with me.”
Dominic and I watched the movie and sometime before it finished I guess I fell asleep because when I woke I was still in his bed. The sun was streaming through the windows, straight down on to my face. I looked beside me, and he lay there. Over the covers, but none the less next to me.
The man who had been so cold when we had first met had suddenly become calm and sweet and had slept beside me.
“Morning Felicity. Sorry I must have fallen asleep. How are you feeling?” he said as his eyes flickered open and met mine. How the hell did he still look like he could walk on to a set and still be photo ready first thing in the morning?
I lifted the blanket up over my mouth and nodded. “Well, thanks. Um, I should probably go home... back to my moms and pack my things”
Dominic nodded. “Of course. Have some breakfast first though. You didn’t eat last night.” He reminded me with a brief smile.
“Very perceptive of you. Alright, I’ll eat breakfast before I go.” I almost complained, but my stomach was rumbling, and this time it was in hunger.
Dominic stood up and walked over to the door, and he didn’t say anything else before leaving.
I got out of bed a few minutes later and walked from the room, I was almost a little lost orienteering through the large hallways, but then like a beautiful beacon of light Molly bounded around a corner.
“Flick! Daddy said you hurt your head last night, are you okay?” She sounded worried.
“I’m alright, a little lost though.”
“It’s okay Flick, this place is too big, Daddy said it’s breakfast time, come on.”
Molly took my hand and dragged me through the house, down a flight of stairs and around too many corners to count. We reached the dining room where Dominic sat already waiting. He looked up and shot me a terse smile, far less warm than he last one.
“Ms Taylor, please sit.” He said, his voice wasn’t as soft as it had been either, in fact it was almost as though everything had returned to the cool stand offish atmosphere we had started on.
I sat down and looked across at Molly who smiled and pointed to the lotus flower candle. “I made daddy let me leave it on the table as a centrepiece.”
“Mr Coran, are you ready for breakfast.” Mrs Sampson asked from behind me.
“Yes we are, thank you Mrs Sampson.”
Mrs Sampson returned with bacon and eggs, as well as enough bananas to make an entire jungle of monkeys happy. She filled a glass up with orange juice for me and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Eat up Ms Taylor, Young Molly will have you run off your feet by the end of the day.”
“You’ll start tomorrow Ms Taylor.” Dominic said without looking up. “I’ll take Molly to school today.”
“I’m really okay sir...” I tried to reply, and let my glance move back to Dominic.
“Ms Taylor, you need to stop questioning and fighting me. I told you, you’ll start tomorrow. Okay?” He looked up, his eyes locked with mine, and I knew not to argue with him, I knew it was futile. He hadn’t become the billionaire CEO of a famous company by conceding to people. No, he made the rules, and people stuck by them. I felt Mrs Sampson’s hands lift from my shoulders.
“Sorry, of course.”
“Good. Now, let’s eat.”
We ate in silence, there was no chatting between father and daughter, no happy banter. It reminded me of my own father at the same age. Things had always been so... cold. I looked over at Molly who smiled at me and then sipped on her juice.
“Do you like school Molly?” I asked with a smile.
I felt Dominic glare at me, and I could see in Molly’s eyes that talking at the table wasn’t something they did, but she smiled anyway and nodded. “My teacher is called Mrs Ravid, but I call her Rabbit because she is cute.”
“That’s very sweet!”
“Molly, are you finished?” Dominic asked putting his knife and fork down.
“No daddy.” She replied, her smile fell and she looked at her father.
“Then you need to eat. Ms Taylor, I’ll leave the contract on your bed when you return from collecting your things. Read it please. I have certain rules, and you need to abide by them. Alright?”
“Of course sir.” I replied monotonously, aware I had just been reprimanded, but unsure why.
After breakfast I left the house and drove back to the ranch. Mom was home, which surprised me.
“Oh honey! Are you alright.” She said she ran out the door frisking my head, searching for visible bumps.
“Mom, I tripped and fell, No damage done. I promise.”
“Dominic Coran has a heart huh, who knew.” Mom smiled looping her arm through mine.
“What do you mean Mom?”
“He was very worried when he called me. Asked if you had any allergies to medications, he was thorough.”
“He’s my Boss mom, he’d probably get in trouble if he didn’t make sure I was okay.”
“So you got the job then?” Mom gleaned as she sat me down at the breakfast bar.
“Yes. I start tomorrow, but I need to return tonight.”
“Oh? So I don’t get one last night with you?” She frowned and walked over to the refrigerator. “I was going to make your favourite.”
“I can see if... I’m sure he...” I stopped, fact was I knew he wouldn’t be so accommodating, at least not unless I suddenly had returning symptoms. “I’m sorry Mom, I’m sure I will get a night off each week. We can have dinner then okay?”
“Of course Honey. I’m very appreciative of this, you have no idea.” She smiled as she walked across the polished hard wood floor with an orange juice.
“Mom, after all you’ve done for me, this is the least I can do. Besides, Molly reminds me of myself.”
Mom smiled and tilted her head. “Of course she does.”
“Anyway, I’d better go pack some clothes.” I slid off the stool and walked into the kitchen. I pressed my lips to her head. “I love you Mom.”
“I love you too honey, I’m going to miss you.” Mom’s voice wavered and she wrapped her arms around my waist.
“Me too Mom.”
She let me go, and I walked slowly through the house I’d grown up in, I hadn’t been away from the place for longer than a week, even during college. Leaving seemed almost unnatural. It wasn’t as big and flashy as the mansion, but it felt like home, my home. Pictures of Mom and I filled the place like a storybook of the years we had shared, it was going to be difficult not having that warmth around me for three months. I walked into my room and opened my closet, I pulled my barely used suitcases out and began to pile in clothes. Once I had everything I zipped it up and walked out of the room and back down to the kitchen were Mom was still standing.
“I don’t need to be partner.” She sobbed. “I haven’t been alone in this house ever, and I don’t think I’m going to like it.”
I put the suitcase down and walked over to Mom. “You deserve to be partner Mom, and you won’t really be alone. I’ll visit as often as I can, you’re only down the road after all.”
I wiped the tears from my Mothers eyes. “I’m going to go back now, but I’ll call tonight okay?”
“Alright Honey.” She said holding back her sobs.
I walked back to my suitcase and holding back my own tears I left the house and drove back to the mansion. The gate opened without me needing to talk, Harvey must have seen me coming. I parked my car and hopped out. Errant tears streaked my face, it was going to be hard staying here, I was so used to warmth, and aside from the fleeting moment last night, warmth seemed to be against Dominic’s rules.
Reluctance and fear set in as I pulled my suitcase up the steps and knocked on the door. Harvey answered and ushered me in. I found my way to my bedroom and sat down on the freshly made bed. There was no turning back now, I was here.