Chapter Two - Daniel
As much as Kyla was lean mean working machine, I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. I could tell it had been days since she’d slept properly, and despite the top notch work she’d presented in the proposal, she was verging on dangerous behaviour. Lack of sleep could make her sick.
I hadn’t planned on making her come to dinner, and I really hadn’t planned on making her sleep at my place. But someone had to make sure she took a break.
She sipped on the glass of wine I had given her and then took a long slow deep breath. I could tell something was troubling her, but I stopped short of asking what it was. We were business partners, hell maybe we were even friends, but we didn’t pry in one another’s lives. If she wanted me to know. She’d tell me.
“Hey guys, dinner’s ready.” Jackson called out.
Kyla and I stood and made our way over to the table. Amber guided Kyla into the seat next to mine. I eyeballed her as I sat down. She looked up at me and shrugged with a smirk before returning to the kitchen.
Ever since I’d gone into business with Kyla, both Jackson and Amber had it in their heads that somewhere deep seated in my heart I had feelings for her. They were wrong of course. Kyla and I had always been polar opposites, she wanted someone for life and while I was nowhere near the player I had been in high school, I enjoyed my freedom.
“So, how’s work?” Jackson asked, breaking me from my thoughts a few minutes later.
“Oh you know, proposals, projects, people.” I replied twirling my fork through the spaghetti.
“Sounds enthralling.” He replied sarcastically.
“It is actually. Kyla wrote an amazing proposal to help globalize the company.” I exclaimed.
“Globalize?” Amber replied.
Kyla placed her fork down and began to speak before I could. “We want to get clients from all over the world. The projects we get given call for such a variety of people, the more we can get going through us the better. All round, the more clients we get, the more projects we get and the more projects we have, the more jobs our clients receive.”
I smiled and nodded. “The extra money is always nice too.”
Kyla let out a soft laugh and picked her fork back up. “It is.” she agreed.
After dinner and dessert we hung around until the two youngest were in bed. It was around 8pm when we finally left. We were walking down the corridor toward the elevator when Kyla sighed.
“I’m just tired.” She whispered.
“Well you can have my bed tonight, I’ll crash on the sofa.”
We stopped at the elevator and I pressed the button. I looked at her, only to find her usually soft face all scrunched up. She shook her head and folded her arms across her chest.
“I’ll pass. I know you had company this morning. I could do without sleeping on the dried crusting bodily fluids.” She shuddered and I laughed.
“You interrupted me before anything could happen remember.” I muttered. Josie, the woman who’d been at the apartment was a girl from in my building. We had a benefits type thing going on, and she had booty called me. She was gorgeous, legs for days and an ass to die for, but I’d almost been glad that Kyla had called me away, despite my protests saying otherwise.
“Right, and you hadn’t met her the night before in some club?” Kyla said like she didn’t believe a word I was saying.
“No, actually she’s someone I see regularly.” until recently. In fact recently I was almost becoming like Kyla. An abstinent workaholic.
The elevator doors opened and I stepped inside, holding the door open for Kyla who just stood there staring at me.
“You have a girlfriend?” she said, sounding more than a little confused.
“If you want to label it, then sure. But we’re not exclusive and it’s nothing serious.” I shrugged. I was overstating it, if we were going to label Josie and I anything then neighbours with benefits really was the most fitting one… but I was enjoying the shock in Kyla’s face a little too much to explain that to her. “Are you going to get in the elevator?” I added.
She nodded, and stepped forward until she stood inside the small square space. The doors closed and we rode down to the basement in silence. When the doors opened again Kyla walked out first. I followed behind her and watched her as she walked. She wasn’t tall like Josie, but she knew how to work what she had. Kyla had always been a gorgeous woman and once when we were still in high school I’d even tried to work my weasley magic on her. But I’d failed, she’d always been far too clever for me and saw right through my player ways.
Kyla was oddly silent as we got into the car and left the basement carpark. Infact, she didn’t speak again until we arrived at my place a few blocks away.
“Thank you for making me go tonight.” She said softly. “I needed it.”
She hopped out of the car as I turned it off, and I turned to watch her with a frown on my face. I got out of the car myself and continued to watch her as she slung her hand bag over her shoulder. Finally she looked up at me and shook her head in confusion. “What?”
“What’s going on?” I asked, aware that I was prying… I didn’t care now, I was worried.
He face softened and she smiled. “I had isolated myself, usually I find your bossy ways annoying, but tonight I was thankful for them.”
I knew her explanation only covered what was bothering her on the surface, but I accepted her answer anyway. Deep and meaningfuls weren’t something we did, and I for one wasn’t going to cross the line and make our work relationship awkward.
We made our way up to my apartment. I unlocked the door and walked inside. Kyla sighed and placed her handbag on the marble topped kitchen island. “You’ve redecorated.” She murmured.
I nodded and walked over to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of wine from the door. I had moved into the apartment three years ago. Kyla had been here twice in that time, usually only for fleeting visits. I had redecorated roughly a year ago however.
“Yes please.” She replied.
I grabbed two glasses from the cupboard and poured us a glass of wine each. I handed one to Kyla and lifted my own up. I had expected having Kyla here to feel odd, but surprisingly it didn’t. We weren’t close, we never had been, but I was worried about her.
“Come, I’ll show you to my room. You should sleep.” I said suddenly, wiping my thoughts of worry as best I could.
Kyla didn’t speak she just nodded and I could hear the soft clip of her heels on the wooden floor, following behind me as I walked toward my room. I opened the door and pointed to my bed. It was made with fresh linen. House keeping had been.
“You should be comfortable in here.” I offered. “I’ll be in the study if you need anything.”
I went to turn but Kyla said my name, so softly that I barely heard it. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, I was surprised by my body’s reaction to her breathless whisper, but I did my best to hide it.
“Do you have something I could…” She stopped and patted down her white button down shirt and dark grey pencil skirt. “Wear.”
I nodded and walked into the room and over to the seat of drawers by my closet. I pulled out an oversized t-shirt and a pair of trackpants and handed them to her.
“Thank you Daniel.” She mumbled. “Night.”
I nodded and left the room, closing it behind me as I did so. She had looked vulnerable in there, something Kyla never looked. She was headstrong and smart. Worry took over again.
I shook my head and walked down to the study. I stared at my computer for almost half an hour making no leeway in the work I had intended on finishing. All I could think about was what the hell was bothering Kyla. Sure, we weren’t close, but when she was like this it affected the business as well. I had a right to know. I stood up and stalked out of the study. Dammit, she was going to tell me what was really going on, maybe I could help.
“Daniel.” Her voice travelled through the hallway, I looked up and we stood only a few feet apart. “I couldn’t sleep.” she replied.
I nodded and shrugged. “We could watch a movie.” I offered.
“I’d like that.”
We sat down in the living room a few minutes later, I put a funny movie on and for a good while we just sat and watched it. But then her head lulled forward, and I knew she was asleep. I tried to move away, but the more I moved, the more she used me as a pillow. Eventually she lay down flat, with her head on my thigh. I smiled, gave up and closed my own eyes. At least she was sleeping.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke to my phone vibrating in my pocket. I pulled it out and looked at the number. It was from overseas. I swiped to answer.
“Daniel Jackson.” I said softly, trying not to wake Kyla.
“Mr Jackson, it’s Warren Star here. I received your proposal this morning. Is now a good time to talk?”
I glanced over at the wall clock and yawned. “It’s 5am sir, but anytime is a good time.”
“Oh, time zones, of course, look I won’t keep you. I loved the proposal, but as you will know…”
Kyla moved in her sleep and sighed deeply.
“Sorry sir, can you please give me a moment, I don’t want to wake Kyla.”
“Of course.” He replied.
I slipped out, replacing my thigh with a cushion then walked into my study. “Sorry as you were.”
“Forgive me Mr Jackson, but may I ask, are you and Kyla married?” Warren drawled.
I went to scoff but stopped myself. I knew Warren had been about to let us down and advise he wouldn’t be able to do business with us. But he had stopped short, and now he was asking if we were married. Maybe we still had a chance.
“Engaged.” I found myself saying. “We’re engaged.”
“Hmmm, well in that case, I’d like to meet with you, to discuss business further, can you get here a week today?”
“Yeah, I’m available anytime Mr Star.”
“And Ms Hallister, she’s available too? I’d like to meet with both of you. Ultimately you know our stance on family run business Mr Jackson, I’d like to make my decisions based off all available knowledge.”
Shit. he wanted us both there… as the engaged couple I had proclaimed us to be. I gulped and walked over to the study door.
“We’ll be there Sir.”
“Wonderful. I’ll have my assistant call yours next week to arrange the details. Thank you.”
“Thank you.” I replied, ending the call and shoving my phone back in my pocket.
As if by fate Kyla sat bolt upright at that moment and sucked in a deep breath. I bit my lip and walked over to the sofa. “Sleep well?”
She nodded and pointed to me. “Did I… did I fall asleep on you?” She sounded mortified, so to save her embarrassment I lied and shook my head as I pointed to the cushion beside her.
“Oh good.” she replied slowly.
“Uh, yeah… Um I just had a call.” Kyla’s sleeping eyes narrowed and she looked at the watch on her wrist. She shook her head.
“It’s like 5am.”
“It was Warren Star.” I murmured, watching her face for a reaction. She sat up straight instantly and waited for more information. I frowned, I wasn’t sure she was going to be pleased with my little white lie. “How badly did you want to do business?”
“Extremely. What did he say.” She replied quickly.
I walked out of the study doorway and into the living area. I walked slowly across the floor and sat down on the arm chair that sat adjacent from the couch. She huffed and I could tell she was growing impatient for my response.
“He called to decline.” I replied.
Her posture changed and she slumped into the couch. “Well I guess we still have other options.”
I nodded, and I should have left it there. I should have called Warren Star back and explained that we couldn’t go through with any of it after all. But I didn’t.
“He called to decline, but he ended up inviting us to meet with him.” I added.
Kyla’s frown became a smile and it surprised me how good that made me feel. She sat forward and placed her hands on her knees. “Start with the good news next time Daniel.” she chided.
I took a deep breath. I was going to have to tell her. None of this could go ahead if she wasn’t on board.
“Except… he may have the idea that you and I are engaged.” I exclaimed.
Kyla frowned and she folded her arms across her chest like she did whenever she was annoyed or confused about something. “And why would he have that idea Daniel.”
“Because I let slip you were here, he asked if we were married and I knew then we had an in. I ran with it. For the good of the business I said we’re engaged, I ran with it.”
“Daniel!” she choked out. She stood up and paced across the floor. “We’re not engaged, we barely tolerate each other for pete’s sake.”
It was my turn to frown, sure we weren’t best friends or anything like it, but I admired her a great deal, I always had. I guess it bruised my ego to think she still barely liked me as a person.
“You said you want this extremely badly Kyla.” I said dryly. “This is our way in.”
“And what about if we succeed Daniel, do we just pretend to be engaged for ever?”
“He only needs to see we won’t fall apart at the drop of a hat. He needs to see we work like a well oiled machine who doesn’t let idle drama wreck what we have.” I shrugged. “Although you barely tolerate me, I’d say we encompass that. Wouldn’t you?”
Kyla walked back to the sofa and sat down. “So we’d tell the truth before any dotted lines and hope for the best.”
“What other options do we have Kyla?”
“The sane one. The one that says we should notch this up to experience and move along. The one where we don’t have to pretend to be engaged.”
“If that’s what you want.” I smiled, knowing full well it wasn’t what she wanted, hell it wasn’t what I wanted either. We needed this break.
“No kissing, no touching and no sharing a hotel room.” She muttered.
“We’d have to at least touch. I mean we’re supposed to showing a united front.”
Kyla glared at me and then rolled her eyes. “Fine, but no kissing and no shared room. Its that or I’m not doing it.”
“You’re acting like a child, but your ground rules are fine by me.”
“Do you have any?” She questioned. “Or are you free for all?”
“I have one.” I smiled. “Don’t fall in love.”
“With you?” She scoffed. “As if, besides, I’m in love with another man… my actual fiance.”
I nodded. “Of course, well just so we’re clear. No real feelings need to develop. We work as a business because there is none of that sexual tension bullshit. We’ll fall apart the minute any crap like that comes between us, and I for one don’t want that. Okay?”
“Fine by me and trust me, It’s not going to be a problem.” Kyla sighed and ran her fingers over her long brown hair. “So we’re actually doing this?”
“I guess we are.” I nodded.
“When do we go?”
“Next Sunday.” I replied. “So we’d better get planning.”