Chapter One- Kyla
The sound of a woman’s laughter interrupted the phone call between my business partner and I. I rolled my eyes, Daniel had always like the company of women. We had known one another since high school and his reputation had followed him like a bad smell. Granted the man was a business genius, So I’d learned to ignore his misogynistic ways.
“Really?” I muttered. “We’re talking about business and you have company?”
“Oh relax Kyla, it’s saturday. You know, my day off.” he replied. I heard him move from the laughter anyway, and the click of a door closing followed soon after.
“What’s this ones name? Brittany?” I teased.
“Why? You jealous love?” He teased right back. I smiled, Daniel always gave as good as he got. Even if it weren’t true.
“I’m engaged remember. I’ve actually given my heart away, I imagine you’re still trying to find yours.”
Daniel sighed and clicked his tongue. “Did you have reason for this call Kyla?” He didn’t sound amused anymore which confused me for a moment. I shook my head to compose myself and then picked up the proposal I’d been working on.
“I finished the proposal.” I said with a grin. “I want you to send it to as many reputable agencies around the world.”
“Already? We only discussed the globalization last wednesday.” Daniel sounded surprised, which in turn surprised me. We had known one another almost 15 years, and I was the first to admit that I was head strong. As soon as we had made the decision I was determined to motion it as soon as possible.
“Dan, come on… it’s me you’re talking to. Of course it’s done already. So could you come in? Take a look send it out…” I smiled. Yes it was Daniel’s day off, but he was as business minded as I was. His curiosity would get the better of him. He’d want to see the proposal as soon as possible at the very least.
He sighed again and then muttered. “I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Great. I’ll get Tom to run and get coffee.”
“Fine, make mine extra strong, and get me a bagel too. Abstinence makes me hangry.”
“Too much info.” I replied dryly. “But consider it done.”
Daniel ended the call without saying goodbye. It was normal with us, we always skipped the pleasantries because despite our seemingly love hate friendship, Daniel was one of the only people in the entire world I could be real with.
I placed my phone down on my desk and pressed the intercom button on my desk phone.
“Tom. Could you order Daniel and I two cappuccinos to be ready in an hour. Extra shot of coffee for Daniel.”
“Sure thing Ms Hallister.” I let go of the button and sat back in the chair. Then I remembered the bagel.
“And his usual Bagel.” I added.
“Anything for you Ms Hallister?”
“No Tom. Thank you.”
Tom was Daniel and I’s shared PA. He’d been with us for almost the entire time Kystar had been running. When the business started to do really well we visited the idea of hiring another PA, but neither one of us wanted to give Tom up. It meant that Daniel and I were never more than a glass window apart when at work together, but it worked.
“Look, if your proposal is just a draft, I gotta tell you. I’m probably going to storm out of here muttering about blue balls.” Daniel grunted as he walked through my office door a little over an hour later.
I rolled my eyes and lifted the bound proposal up and wave it around. “Freshly collated, with pretty headings and everything.” I replied. “There is a soft copy saved also for ease of email.”
There was a knock at the door before Daniel could say anything else. I walked across the floor and opened the door. Tom stood there with the two coffees and a small brown paper bag.
“Thank you Tom.”
“My pleasure, do you two need anything else?”
“No, thank you though.”
I closed the door with my leg and walked back to the desk. Daniel was already flipping through the proposal. I placed the coffee with the extra shot and the small paper bag down in front of him.
He picked up the coffee without looking away from the proposal.
“Damn Ky, where do you get the time? This is detailed right down to the perks.” He took a sip of the coffee and then turned a page.
“Jeff has been busy with work, so I’ve been home alone the last few nights.” I replied. Ha… home. “I had plenty of time.”
Daniel scoffed then closed the proposal. “I see.” He replied. He looked at me and then tilted his head.
“I get hangry.” He mused placing the coffee down, swapping it for the bag with the bagel in it. “and you work.”
“Huh?” I mumbled, not quite understanding what he was angling at.
“Sexual frustration.” He laughed. “Lack of intimacy.”
I frowned and placed my coffee down on the desk with a thud. “Not that it’s any of your business…. But I’m not… sexually frustrated.”
Except, Jeff and I hadn’t slept together in almost a month, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was just always so busy. Maybe daniel was right. Ugh. I shook my head and pointed at the proposal.
“Anyway. Changing the subject.” I said dryly. “What do you think of the proposal?”
I looked up at Daniel, eager for his genuine input. He grinned and took a bite of the bagel.
“Ky, if no sex means you produce work to this calibre in such a short space of time… I might arrange a chastity belt for you.”
I wanted to frown, but I knew underneath his smart ass remark he liked my proposal. I smiled and shrugged. “As long as it’s encrusted with diamonds.”
I expected Daniel to leave after he had seen the proposal, but it seemed he was as eager as I was to get it out there. By lunch time he’d sent me an email outlining the companies he thought we should send it to. Most of them were small talent agencies, struggling to break through such a saturated market, they would be easy sells and their business would be beneficial to us as well as them, but we really needed a big break to really make a mark globally. Which was why Star Family Talent Agency in London stood out to me. It was the country’s biggest talent agency, they had almost 55% of the market locked into their books, with Daniel’s grandparents agency Booked Out following closely behind on 45%. We already had Booked Out as a client, as well as all the international HQ’s, but ultimately Booked Out was a US run company. We need to break extend further, and SFTA was the way to do it.
I replied to the email and advised Daniel to send it to them all, but that we should specifically focus on SFTA. He replied shortly later with.
Sir, yes sir.
“You planning on moving in here?” Daniel said poking his head around the door separating us. “It’s 5pm. Knock off time.”
I pointed to the computer. “I’ve got work to do still.” I smiled, and going home to an empty house again didn’t sound appealing right now.
Daniel walked in and sat down. “You never leave.” He groaned. “Look, Jackson and Amber invited me over for dinner. They always make way too much. Come.”
“I’m not gate crashing your family dinner Daniel.”
“It’s not like that.” He sighed. “Besides, you’ve only had coffee today. You’re already fading away to nothing. Please.”
I folded my arms across my chest and went to speak but Daniel shook his head and walked over to my desk. “You’re coming with me.”
“Am I now?”
He picked up my handbag, the one that currently housed my keys, purse and cellphone. “Yep.”
“You’re really going to hold my handbag hostage.”
“If that is what it takes for you to take a break from work… then sure.”
I huffed. “Fine. I’ll come to dinner.” My stomach growled in appreciation of my decision.
“Good. I’ll drive.”
I followed him out of the office and he held my bag the entire way, like he was afraid I’d do a runner. He was right of course, As much as I loved the company, tonight I just felt strange. I wanted to work. I wanted to keep my mind off of everything so I didn’t overthink.
We reached his gun metal grey aston martin a short while later, it was parked right next to my audi. He unlocked it and then pointed to the passenger door. “Get in.”
I rolled my eyes and listened. I didn’t have any other choice. I sat down inside the car that Daniel often referred to as his pride and joy. He had bought it a couple of years back once we began to do really well. He sat down in the driver’s seat and clipped his seatbelt on.
“I’ve been researching SFTA.” He said as he began to back out of the car park.
“Oh?” I replied, I hadn’t thought to do any in depth research yet, mostly because I knew Daniel would. He was meticulous like that.
“They’re a family run business. Like Booked Out, but as far as I can tell the entire upper management are family.”
I nodded. “Well I expected as much with a name like Star family Talent Agency Dan.”
He pulled out of the underground carpark and on to the road. “Well I came across and article, STFA received an offer of $20 million to merge with another talent agency in the UK. Rumor has it they turned it down because the owners of the other talent agency were lawyers turned CEOs looking to make more money.”
“The thing about rumors is that they aren’t always true.” I replied.
“Yes well, I called the talent agency in question. The one that wanted to merge and they confirmed that SFTA won’t even entertain business with other companies that aren’t family owned.”
“Well that’s silly.” I replied. “They must lose out on a lot of business then.”
“Au contraire. Its why they’ve climbed so high so fast. They’re seen as a company not to bend on their beliefs, they want reliability at all costs and follow the old adage that blood is thicker than water.”
I sighed. “So you’re saying we won’t even get a meeting?”
“I’m saying I’ll try my best Ky, but it’ll be a stretch.” he replied.
When we arrived at Jackson and Amber’s apartment my stomach growled again, this time audibly. Daniel looked at me as he pulled the key from the ignition. “I knew you were hungry.” He murmured, his voice was tense, he even sounded a little annoyed “You need to take better care of yourself.”
I frowned, It wasn’t like Daniel to get frustrated over my workaholic tendencies. In fact he usually revelled in them.
“Sorry sir.” I teased, mirroring the sarcasm he’d blessed me with earlier via email. He opened his car door and got out without saying another word.
I climbed out of my own seat, grabbing my handbag on the way and closed the door, Dan hit the button on his keys and then shoved them into his pocket.
“Do they even know I’m coming?”
“Yes. I called before we left.” He replied.
I screwed my face up, He hadn’t made a call at all after he’d taken my bag hostage.
“No you didn’t.” I really didn’t want to show up unannounced.
“I’ll rephrase.” He replied monotonously. “I called before I stole your purse and made you come.”
I smiled, surprised at his sneakiness when I probably should have been annoyed. Daniel hit the elevator button and we waited for it to travel down to the basement.
“Thank you for forcing me out of the office.” I whispered.
“My pleasure. Someone had to do it.” He replied.
I frowned and folded my arms across my chest. I couldn’t help but think that someone should have been Jeff. The elevator doors popped open and Daniel ushered me inside. He pressed the button for Amber and Jackson’s floor and then we stood there in silence as the door closed.
I placed my hand on the rail and closed my eyes, suddenly feeling slightly woozy.
“Are you okay?” Daniel placed a hand on my shoulder and turned me. He placed his other hand on my forehead.
“I’m just dizzy.” I murmured, opening my eyes. He tilted my head up and looked at me with concern. He gave me a thin lipped frown and shook his head.
“When was the last time you ate.” He frowned. “Actually. When was the last time you slept or went home?”
I shrugged and looked back down. Admitting that I hadn’t been back to my own apartment for almost five days, taking short naps on the office futon now and again wasn’t going to benefit anybody.
“You don’t know, or you don’t want to tell me?” he muttered under his breath.
“It doesn’t matter.” I replied. Straightening myself up. “I feel better.”
It was a lie, my head was pounding in time with my heart, my stomach was churning and I felt like despite gravity I might actually float away.
“I’m not an idiot Ky. You’re staying at my place tonight. I’m going to make sure you sleep.”
I yanked my head up to glare at Dan, perhaps a little too fast, nausea rushed through me, but I pushed it away and shook my head. The idea was ludicrous, I wasn’t an invalid I was just stressed and maybe a little overtired.
“That really isn’t necessary Dan.”
“Too right it is. You’ve been neglecting yourself for work. As your business partner it’s in my best interests to keep you at least a little bit alive.”
The door opened and he stepped out on to the corridor carpet. “Come on.” He mumbled impatiently.
I sighed and walked from the elevator. “Maybe you could just take me home, I’ll sleep I promise.”
“You’d wait till I left, and you’d catch a cab back to the office.” He mused. “You can sleep at mine. Where I can keep an eye on you.”
“You’re not going to take no for an answer are you.” I replied, sounding far less annoyed that I felt.
“When it comes to work and the wellbeing of my business partner?” he replied as he stopped in front of the Smith’s door. “Never.”
I rolled my eyes and glared at him as he knocked on the apartment door.
I contemplated feigning a call from Jeff, but before I could the door opened and Amber stood there holding their two year old son Ben.
“DJ, Kyla.” She smiled warmly and opened the door. “Jackson, louise and Alice are in the kitchen making dinner.”
Daniel perked up and smiled. “Ally bear is here too?”
“Yes, her parents are out of town for a couple of weeks. I thought I told you.”
He shrugged and walked into the apartment. “I’ve been really busy with work, it probably went in one ear and out the other.”
Amber smiled softly and nodded. “I understand.” Amber turned her attention toward me. “I’m so glad you came. It’s been so long.”
I nodded, Seeing her son as a toddler and not a newborn marked just how long it had been. I went to speak, but Amber’s 6 year old Louise bounded out of the kitchen and over to Dan.
“Uncle Dj.” she laughed as he picked her up.
“Howsit squirt.” He laughed ruffling her hair. I smiled as I watched him. Alice walked around the corner next, at 11 she was looking more and more like her biological mom Amber. Alice had been adopted out when Amber was just 15, but they’d remained close and now it was like Alice had two moms and two dads. Daniel put Louise down and wrapped Alice in a hug.
“How’s middle school.” DJ laughed.
“The same as it was when you asked last weekend Uncle D.” she replied.
“No boyfriends for me to give a talking to then?”
“Uncle D.” She warned. She looked over at me and smiled. “Kyla right? Are you my uncles date tonight?” She grinned up at Daniel who shook his head.
“Nice try at making me embarrassed doll… You know Kyla and I just work together.”
The turned and walked toward the kitchen, but I stayed glued to the spot, surprised by the weird sadness I felt in the pit of my gut. I watched the family as they mingled together, the shared love clearly evident in their interactions. It was something that was vacant from my own world. My parents had died a few years back and I was an only child. I was jealous.
“You alright Kyla?” Amber soothed as she walked back over to me.
I nodded and looked at Ben and smiled. “He’s grown.”
“Like a weed.” she laughed jokingly. “Daniel said you’re engaged.”
I nodded as I watched Daniel talking to his nieces and Jackson.
“To Jeff Callahan, he’s a lawyer at Callahan and sons.”
We had met at a work function, he had swept me off my feet and our romance had been a whirlwind of passion. We had been together barely two weeks before he told me he loved me. A year and one engagement later our once passionate love affair had begun to mellow, but I’d told myself it was normal. Our honeymoon phase was over.
“I’ve seen his firm featured in the paper a few times. He’s an attractive man.” she replied.
I nodded, he was. He was tall, well built, blond with blue eyes that could render you speechless with a glance. He was good looking and charismatic, and he loved me.
“He is.” I smiled. My eyes were still on Daniel, and Amber leaned in.
“I always teased DJ that you two would end up together.” She laughed. “I guess I was wrong.”
I felt my face screw up at the mere thought. Daniel’s chauvinistic ways had never sat right with me. He hadn’t settled down, and I wasn’t sure he ever would. He was a great business partner, but a life partner was something different. Yes, Daniel was drop dead gorgeous. He always had been and he had always known it. His looks were disarming, able to catch most women, and even some men off guard. With age his style had only been fine tuned. He knew how to dress, at work or at play. His brown hair was short, but perfectly styled, and his eyes, his deep green eyes were hypnotising. Coupled with his killer smile, well even I had to admit that Daniel was gorgeous, but he was also a player.
“We aren’t like that.” I replied finally.
“Well I better go help with dinner, take a load off, you look exhausted.”
I nodded and walked over to the couch. I was exhausted. I sunk into the black suede and sighed. The futon in the office was leather, and hard as bedrock. This was like a cloud in comparison. I could feel myself slipping into an involuntary sleep when my phone began to ring. My eyes fluttered open. I contemplated not answering, right now was the most comfortable I had been in almost a week. I fished inside my bag regardless and pulled out my phone. I looked at the screen and smiled. It was Jeff.
“Hey honey.” I murmured placing the phone against my ear.
“Hey babe. I uh, I won’t be at your place tonight. This case we’re working on, it’s got me grinding the files. I don’t want to bother you, so I’ll just go to my place when I’m done here alright?” Jeff spoke quickly, but his tone was apologetic. I smiled, I knew what it was like to be overrun by work.
“It’s okay, I’m really tired anyway. Maybe we can have dinner together tomorrow?” I suggested.
“Yeah, sounds good. I’ll let you know.”
“You too.” he said before abruptly ending the call.
I looked down at my phone and frowned. I hadn’t expected Jeff to come over tonight, I knew he was working on a big case, but it didn’t help the void I was beginning to feel.
“You look like you could use this.” Daniel’s voice pulled me from my self pity. I looked away from the small rectangular phone and up at his outstretched hand. He held a glass of white wine out to me. I took it and nodded. “Thank you.”
“Make sure you eat though.” He warned. “Otherwise that wine will go straight to your head.”
“Sure thing dad.” I replied sardonically.
Daniel didn’t say anything else, he just sat down next to me, I watched him as he smiled and sipped on his own glass of wine then, for a fleeting moment, the emptiness in my chest faded away and I wasn’t sure why.