Chapter four - Daniel
Kyla’s red dress was still in my mind as I climbed into my car and clipped my seatbelt on. She hadn’t worn anything like that since we had attended a work benefit a year ago. The one where she had met Jeff. She wore perfectly fine clothing, and given that I usually saw her at work only, the pencil skirts and blouses were more than appropriate.
But that dress… it had clung to her curves like a second skin where it matter and flowed out at her hips. I wasn’t a gnome, Kyla was a beautiful woman and in that dress she had caught me off guard. What had caught me even more off guard was the jeans and singlet she had changed into. Even though she barely tolerated me, she at least felt comfortable enough to just be herself around me.
I drove to Jackson and Ambers. I needed to work out what was going on in my head. As much as I assured Kyla this would work, that it would all be ok I was alternating between whether or not we were doing the right thing as well.
I called them on the way using handsfree. Amber answered and I asked if they were going to bed anytime soon. Amber replied with some cheeky remark about not quite being a nana yet and to come over. I smiled and ended the call.
When I arrived Amber ushered me in and Jackson walked out of the bedroom with a bottle of Jack Daniels.
“Are we drinking?” I murmured sitting down at the breakfast bar.
“Well you only ever come over after 9pm if something is bothering you Daniel.” Jackson noted.
I frowned, I hadn’t realised I was that transparent. They were right something was bothering me. Drinking wasn’t going to help it any though.
“I’ve already had a couple of wines tonight.” I murmured. “And I have to drive home.”
“Crash here.” Amber offered sliding the cup Jackson had just poured. “And vent.”
I sighed and picked the glass up, I swirled the liquid inside around a few times before placing it back down without taking a drink.
“You know how we want to go global?” I whispered.
“Yeah.” Jackson and Amber replied in unison.
I frowned, Telling them was opening the situation up for interpretation. They’d assume there was more going on than there was. I didn’t want that, but I also didn’t want to keep it to myself. The pressure was too much.
“We sent the proposal to a big company overseas. But they only work with family run companies.”
“Well you and Kyla have known each other since school. You have a strong business relationship, you are basically a kind of family.” Jackson offered.
“That wasn’t enough. The guy called to decline. Well Kyla stayed mine…” I looked at Amber and caught her before she spoke, her eyes were wide and I knew she was already putting one and one together to get ten. “On my couch because she’d spent the last three days in the office. I had to make sure she stopped working.”
I sipped on the drink and placed it back down. “I mentioned her, that I was moving so I didn’t wake her and he assumed we were married. I went to correct him, but ended up saying we’re engaged. He wants us to fly over this weekend.”
“Whoa.” Jackson said, clearly shocked.
“Wait… You said she slept on the couch.” AMber exclaimed.
“But why would you wake her? If you guys weren’t together. Why would you wake her.”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “You’ll never give up on this will you. Look she was meant to take my room and I was meant to sleep on the couch. But neither of us could sleep. She’s stressed about something, but we’re not close so I didn’t pry. Instead we watched a movie. She fell asleep on me, I didn’t want to move and wake her. It was innocent… Okay sherlock holmes?”
“Aww, It’s started.” She cooed.
“Nothing’s started.” I hissed back. “Except we lied to a prospective business partner, and that is what I’m stressed about.”
“Dude, I mean is it worth it?” Jackson asked. “Is the payoff worth more than the risk?”
I nodded. “The companies worth would increase thricefold at least. With the potential for further increases with the increase of projects that would come our way.”
“But it’s still a lie DJ and you bite my head off whenever I tease you about Kyla. What if it ruins your business relationship?” Amber exclaimed, and I had to admit she had a point. But I couldn’t tell her that.
“It won’t. The beauty is the lack of real emotion involved. Kyla’s engaged to someone else and I’m happy with how everything is too.”
“You’re happy.” Amber replied, her voice dripped with disbelief. “Outside of family you keep people at an arm’s length. The business world made you harder emotionally. You’re surviving, because you run a successful business. But happy?”
Amber always gave it to me straight. Sure she teased me about Kyla. She always had, but she never said anything without a degree of truth to it, at least from her perception. We had all been through too much to lie just to make one another feel better. She was right about me putting up walls and keeping people at an arm’s length. I had been hurt before, I wasn’t interested in being hurt again. But I wasn’t unhappy.
“I enjoy my job, more than just about anything else. Doing this gives me the chance to do my job more.”
“Hey, I’m not saying the idea won’t work. I’m just saying it’s not flawless, and the risk you’re taking it is far higher than you think it is. You stand to lose this job you say you enjoy more than anything else. Because when the lines get blurred, one or both of you are going to get hurt.” Amber replied. “As much as I like to be right, I don’t want it to be at yours or Kyla’s expense. So you have to be really sure there is no emotional connection there. Or this will fail.”
I nodded and finished the glass of Jack Daniels. Amber’s theory was right. If any feelings developed on either side it would be our ruin. But Kyla wasn’t in love with me, and I wasn’t about to fall in love with anyone. Our plan wasn’t flawless, but we’d made it over seven years without falling in love, or into bed together. We could make it another few weeks.
Over the next week at work we had our assistant book the air fares and hotel rooms. We had to let him in on the situations because he’d be taking all calls the week we were away. He had laughed at first, until we told him we were serious at which point he exclaimed that we’d need to get a whole lot nicer to one another for a serious romantic relationship to be believed.
“We’re nice to one another aren’t we.” Kyla said as we walked back into her office.
“A few days ago you suggested we barely tolerate each other.” I murmured, sitting down on one of the leather chairs in front of her desk.
“Well maybe I was overreacting.” She replied. “You had just told me we needed to pretend to be an engaged couple.”
I smiled, surprisingly thankful.
“I think Tom has a point though. We need to be nice to one another. The snarky jibe for jibe thing we have between us. We should probably put it on ice.”
“Ugh, and actually be kind… all the time.” Kyla rolled her eyes in jest. “It’ll be so difficult. Fine Daniel. Whatever you think is necessary.”
“Good. So uh, have you told Jeff?”
Kyla shook her head. “It’s not something you tell a person over the phone, and he’s been so busy. I figure there is no harm in not telling him.”
“I uh, better get back to work.” I replied pushing myself up out of the seat. I walked over to the glass door that connected our offices and opened it. “Talk soon. Wifey.” I grinned
Kyla went to make a face, but she stopped and smiled instead. “I won’t bite. But nice try.”
Over the next few days we worked on our proposal, tweaking it to suit Star Family to the letter. Given that we’d both agreed to cool the insults it went smoothly.
On Saturday, we both met at work to go over the final copy. Kyla closed the book and relaxed in her chair. “We’re ready.” She replied softly.
“Are we.” I murmured. “The hard part is still yet to begin.”
“Hey don’t you fail me now Daniel Jackson. I need your assurances.” She replied softly.
I looked up at her, the light of the sun setting made the room seem tinged with various shades of pink and orange. It bounced off her skin and lit up her eyes, which right now were glistening with worry.
“I’m teasing.” I replied, I figured a little white lie to calm Kyla’s nerves was in order. We’d come too far to run from the start line in fear.
“I don’t know about you. But I need to go home. Jeff has promised me he’s coming over tonight before I leave.” She replied wistfully. “I guess you should probably… you know, let off some steam or something.”
I felt my eyes narrow, and I spoke before I could think. “Let off steam? You mean have sex.”
“No need to be so crude.” She remarked standing up. “But yes. Remember, we need to be fully focused in london. We cannot afford for Daniel’s wandering eye to kick into action.”
I’m not sure why, but the fact she saw me as some kind of sex fiend was offensive. Once upon a time I’d been a scoundrel, once upon a time I’d used women. But these days I only spent time with women who were on the same page. It wasn’t always about sex, sometimes the company was nice too. Or at least it had been.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Better go wet the whistle.” I scowled. “Find a pot to dip my paintbrush in.”
“Daniel.” Kyla replied. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean too..”
I held my hand up and shook my head. “I get it Kyla. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I drove directly to my usual bar. The place where I went to relax, I knew the owner by name and most of the regular punters too. On Saturday nights there was always an influx of women, and apparently I needed to get laid.
“Hey jones, just the usual.” I said slipping on to the bar stool. I’d come here with the intention of hooking up, of proving Kyla right, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Jones slid a whiskey across the bar and it stopped right in front of me. I drained the glass in one gulp and circled around the top
Jones nodded and poured another. “Tough week?”
“It’s more that the next week is going to be tough.” I replied after draining the glass again.
“Well, in that case you can have another on the house.” Jones poured another whiskey, before looking up at someone behind me. “Looks like your weekend is set to get better. Hey Josie. Usual?”
“Yeah Jones. Thanks.”
I turned and looked at Josie. She looked as beautiful as ever, dressed in a figure hugging blue dress. “You…” She drawled taking a seat beside me. “Never called back. Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” I murmured, nursing the whiskey Jones had poured me. “Been busy with work. I’m actually going out of town for a bit tomorrow for work.”
“Well, maybe we should take this back to yours for a bit of a send off?” She teased, pressing her shoulder against mine. I wasn’t even tempted to say yes. What the fuck was coming over me? A week ago I would have been more than tempted, in fact a week ago we had ended up in bed together, even though nothing had eventuated. But something had shifted and the person I had been a week ago was gone. I didn’t want to go to bed with Josie, or anyone right now.
“Josie, I don’t think I can do the casual thing anymore.” I said finishing my whiskey. Looking back down at the bar where my empty cup sat.
“Oh… Dan, I’m not… I don’t want anything…” I turned and shook my head, placing a hand around her waist.
“Relax, I know where we stand Jose, I know what we are… were.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“Is there a woman in particular?” she questioned.
I opened my eyes and shrugged. “I don’t know… No.”
I looked around the bar, and before she could say anything in return I noticed a familiar figure in a booth a few feet away. I stood up and excused myself before walking across the bar floor. He wasn’t meant to be here. He had promised her.
It was Jeff.
And he wasn’t here alone.
I saw red, Kyla was at home, thinking this putz was working nights. Tonight in particular she was waiting for him, waiting to see him, and once again getting stood up. I tapped him on the shoulder and he looked at me, clearly not recognising me as he turned his nose up.
“Do you mind, I’m spending time with a beautiful lady.” he oozed charisma as he spoke, but it only served to make me angrier.
“You don’t recognise me… Do you Jeff?” I said slowly. “Go on, take a good long look.”
Jeff rolled his eyes and looked at me before shrugging. “An old client? Did I not get you off a conviction.. Sorry, it happens sometimes.” he laughed callously.
“My name is Daniel Jackson.” His face went white with shock and he moved away from the woman. I smirked and folded my arms across my chest. “That’s right. I co-own Kystar with Kyla… Your fiance.”
The woman who was with Jeff looked at him with disgust before slapping him hard across the face. “You pig!” She screeched before standing up and leaving the booth. I sat down across from Jeff and eyeballed him.
“You can’t tell her.” he pleaded, his gulped back the glass of whatever alcohol he was drinking and placed the cup down with a thud.
“And why not? She deserves better than a pig like you.”
“You know how it is man, Kyla and me... we’ll be married soon, and I wanted to have a last fling, you know.” His reasoning was despicable, and if his recent stand ups had been anything to go by, this hadn’t been a one off.
“No. I don’t know how it is man.” I frowned. “You made a commitment and if you were any kind of decent human being, you’d understand that it means you don’t screw around.”
“I love her.” He proclaimed. “I really do. She is amazing, I just.” He stopped and scuffed his head. “I got scared.”
I shook my head, I wanted more than anything to drown the fool in his own stupidity, I wanted to call Kyla and make him tell her himself. I wanted her to be free of someone who would so freely betray her. She deserved better than a cheating scumbag.
But I couldn’t do it. As I sat there I tried to decipher why, and I couldn’t figure out if was it because I cared as a friend,and seeing her hurt made me feel upset? Was it because I didn’t want to mess up the plans we had for London? Or was it both.
I stared at Jeff, long and hard. “Were going to London tomorrow for business. You’d better man up and start being the fiance she thinks you are, or when we get back I’ll make sure she knows everything. If you love her as you say you do. Prove it.”
Jeff nodded and held out his hand to me. I resisted the urge to spit at him and stood up. I walked over to the bar where Josie still sat talking to Jones.
“That looked intense.” Josie remarked.
“It’s my colleagues fiance.” I said dryly.
“And I’m guessing the girl he was with wasn’t your colleague?”
“No.” I muttered.
Jones placed a glass down and filled it with whiskey. “I’ll call you a cab after this one okay?” He suggested. I nodded and looked at Josie. “Guess this is it huh.” She grinned. “I hope you find happiness Dan.”
“Me too, and I hope you do too.”
“I am happy.” She smiled. “For now. If you’re still single when I finally decide to settle down, I’ll call you first.”
I smiled and downed the whiskey just as my phone went off. I pulled it from my pocket and looked at the screen. Kyla had sent me a photo message. It was a picture of her suitcases, and she had typed I’ve packed and unpacked three times. I think I’m having cold feet. Oh, and guess who stood me up again.
I told Jones to hold the cab and hit the call number button. After our last meeting had ended with tension I knew I’d left her feeling worried. I had to smooth this over, and now. Fuck Jeff too, He’d made it worse.
“Daniel. I think we should call this off.”
“Ky, we leave tomorrow, in less than 14 hours I might add.” I smiled, even though she couldn’t see it.
“Look I just think it’s a bad idea.”
“Ky, you been drinking?” I replied.
“No. Why, is this not a clear headed thing to say, because I sure think it is.”
“Come pick me up from this bar, bring your suitcases. You can stay at mine.” Having her at mine meant I could keep a drunk, desperate Jeff from showing up on her doorstep to ruin everything.
“Uh, do I get a say in this?” She whined.
“No. Clearly I need to talk you around.”
“And you think we have to be in the same room to do that?”
“Yep.” I replied with a smirk.
“Dan, are you drunk?”
“Ugh, where are you. I’ll be there soon.”
I gave Kyla the address of the bar and ended the call. I looked over at Josie whose eyes had narrowed. She tilted her head, and even in my slightly inebriated state I could tell she was thinking something.
“She’s the one.”
“The girl on the phone, she’s the one you’re giving casual sex up for… right?”
I scoffed and shook my head. “No way. You’re crazy.”
“You like her.” Josie said.
“I don’t like her. Not like that. I respect her.”
“Uh huh.” She nodded and gave me a look of disbelief. Great, now this was like Amber 2.0. I already got this from her. I didn’t need it from Josie as well.
“That guy, the one I just went and spoke to. That’s her fiance.” I muttered. “So you see there is nothing there.”
Josie raised her eyebrows and folded her arms across her chest, much like Kyla did when she was being indignant. She smirked again and shook her head. “You more than like her.” She said finally.
“And how do you come to that conclusion.”
“Let me count the ways Daniel. First, you renege on my booty call the minute she calls.” She smiled and picked up her glass. “You aren’t interested in casual sex anymore.” She took a sip and placed the glass back down. “You gave that guy such a talking to that I think he might actually be crying and finally, the smile you had on your face when you were talking to her just now… pretty tell tale.”
I frowned. “I think I’d know if I had feelings for her, we’ve known one another since high school.” I shot back. “Besides, I’m not trying to offend you, but how exactly do you know when something is love?”
“I read a lot daniel Jackson.” She smiled then leaned across the bar. “And I never said anything about love. You came up with that all on your own.”
“I’m leaving now.” I said. “I’ll see you round when I get back maybe.”
“Just take a leap of faith.” Josie murmured. “I meant it, you deserve to be happy and I bet she deserves more than a two timing slime ball.”
“She does deserve more than a two timing slime ball.” I repeated. “She deserves more than a slime ball in general. So even if you were right josie, She deserves more than me.”
“You’re a good guy Dan.” Josie replied.
I smiled and stood up. Josie was wrong about these supposed feelings, I respected Kyla, a hell of a lot and that was where it ended. “I’d better head out and wait. Seeya Jos, seeya Jones.”
“Catch you on the flip side Daniel.” Jones replied.
I walked from the bar, turning to glance over at Jeff nursing his drink in the corner alone. He was tapping furiously on his cellphone. I frowned and turned away. Kyla deserved more, and just as soon as this was all over and we were back I’d tell her just as much.