My stomach churned and I had to use the desk to stop myself from falling due to the fact my legs suddenly felt very jellified. I nodded and tried my best to keep my composure.
“Mr Clarke is in a meeting at the moment. He should be done shortly.” I replied. “If you take a seat I’ll see if he can fit you in after.”
She smiled and walked toward the seats lining the wall behind her.
“Can i get you anything? A cup of tea?” I asked.
“Coffee please, decaf if you have it.” she remarked. “Stevia too. Please.”
I smiled and nodded. “Of course. I’ll be right back.”
I walked into the small back room and flicked on the coffee machine. I placed a decaf capsule in the machine and took a couple of stevia sachets from the drawer. I watched the dark liquid begin to fill the cup, hypnotised by its slow and steady drip.
Until suddenly I realized that there really was a pregnant woman in my office, claiming to be carrying Tobias’ child. I finished making the drink and walked with it back into the office. The woman gazed up at me, still smiling like the cat who had got the cream. I handed her the cup and walked back to my desk. Eager to focus on something other than her presence.
I had just opened an email from the media department when the door of Tobias’ office opened.
“Mr Clarke, I look forward to working with your company.” The representative from Echo exclaimed, holding his hand out to Tobias. Tobias shook it, a broad smile on his face. The meeting had gone well, which was something.
“Likewise Mr Hampton.” He replied. “I’ll have Ms Moritz call you to arrange a follow up meeting for next week.”
Mr Hampton looked over at me and smiled. “I look forward to it.” He replied, he nodded before walking out of the office and down the corridor toward the elevator. Tobias smiled at me, still obviously unaware that we weren’t alone. He walked across the floor toward me, ready to take me into his arms and celebrate his apparent victory. I coughed and bit my lip.
“Sir, we have company. A young woman is here to see you.” I murmured, attempting to keep my nervous emotion out of my words, but failing miserably. Tobias stopped cold and turned around, he shoved his hands in his pockets and tilted his head.
“Hello?” He exclaimed.
“Tobias.” The woman drawled. She placed her coffee down on the table beside her and stood up, allowing her stomach to fully display why she was here. She rubbed over the roundness and smiled. “It’s been awhile since we saw each other yes… 8 or so months.”
“Mel.” Tobias replied. My heart stopped. He knew her… he recognised her. “Why are you here?”
“Isn’t is obvious. I’m having your baby.” She smiled as she looked passed him, focusing her eyes on me. She walked toward Tobias and held out her hand. “It’s a boy. A mini you.”
“I’m confused.” He replied. “Why now?”
“Tobias?” Mel exclaimed, clearly shocked by Tobias’ cold reaction.
“You’re 8 months pregnant. Why now? Why not when you first found out?” He exclaimed.
“Because I was scared you’d do this.” She scoffed. “Such a heartless man.”
I shook my head and walked up alongside Tobias. “You’re wrong.”
“Oh shut it.” She glanced in my direction. “She’s hardly your type Tobias.” She mused returning her gaze to Tobias.
“Don’t speak to my girlfriend like that.” Tobias warned. “Now answer me this Mel.”
Mel smiled and folded her arms across her chest. “Yes.”
“How can your baby be mine.”
“You want me to recount our night together? I mean I know you were drunk… but I remember every detail.”
Tobias chuckled and shook his head. “So do I and I know nothing happened.”
“That’s where you’re wrong honey.” Mel’s voice was hot and thick, like she was trying to seduce him with her words, but it wasn’t working.
“No… See you think you took me to bed, insanely drunk. Right.” He murmured. “And I bet you’re going to say that instead of leaving, which by the way is what you did… we had sex But because I was so drunk. I don’t remember.”
Mel’s smile fell. “You see Mel. I wasn’t drunk. I just wanted you to leave.”
“You’re lying.” mel exclaimed. “To save face in front of your plain jane girlfriend.”
Tobias shook his head. “Mel, the only reason you were at my house that night was because you forced your way there. You followed me home after a function, and when you made a move, I flat out told you I wasn’t interested.”
“You think she’s buying any of this. She like the rest of the world knows your reputation hon. Drop the act.”
“The only act is the one I pulled that night. I pretended to be drunk and you helped me to my room. You tried to kiss me, but I pretended to fall asleep. You took off your panties and left them on my bed. And then you left.”
Mel folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “You can’t prove that. I could run straight to the tabloids and they’d believe me. I have proof I was with you that night.”
“No, but you and I both know the truth, and we both know that kid ain’t mine…” he stopped and shook his head. “And we both know you’re better than that… My dad had a lot of respect for you Mel. He’d hate to think that his best friends daughter would stoop so low.”
I wanted to be relieved, but something was holding my relief hostage. Like this whole charade was a part of something deeper. Mel sighed and looked down at the ground.
“Tobias. I’m sorry.” Her voice broke and tears began to stream down her cheeks. “My father disowned me when I told him I was pregnant. He cut me off. Someone called me, told me they’d pay me five thousand dollars if I said my baby was yours. I told them we never… but… I needed the money. And I remembered that night, I remembered what I’d done how I’d acted. I knew that if you really were that drunk maybe I could fool you into believing it too.”
“Someone told you to do this?” He repeated.
Mel nodded and bit her lip. “I don’t know anything about him apart from the fact he knows a lot about you.”
“Okay.” Tobias noted.
“I’m sorry.” Mel exclaimed turning her attention toward me. “I don’t think you’re plain… I’d better go.”
Mel walked back to the chairs and picked up her bag. She turned and started to walk away. “Wait.” I called out. She stopped and turned around.
“What happens when he finds out his ploy failed?”
Mel looked down and shrugged. “He said our deal would become null and void. It’s okay. I never should have gone along with it.”
I frowned and shook my head. “Do you have any money?”
“That’s not your problem.” She smiled.
I frowned. Maybe she was lying, maybe she was telling the truth. Maybe she’d come here on her own with a plan that couldn’t fail, ensuring that she could leave flush with money. I just knew I couldn’t let her leave with nothing. I turned and walked to my desk and picked my purse up, I only had $300 in cash so I scooped it out and walked toward her.
“It’s not $5000… but it’s something.” I smiled, lifting her hand with mine. I placed the cash in her palm. Her eyes narrowed and she shook her head. Clearly confused by the gesture.
“I just came in here and tried to ruin your relationship.” Mel exclaimed. “Why are you helping me?”
“It would take a lot more than a sex scandal to ruin my relationship with Tobias.” I smiled. “And I’m helping you because I’m human…”
Her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head. “You’re a wonderful human.” She smiled. “Thank you.”
Tobias joined me, he placed his hand on the small of my back. “I’ll book you a room at the regent. Just for this week. I’ll talk to your Dad and see what I can do.”
Mel looked up at Tobias, she was completely taken aback. “What happened to you Tobias?” She said, her voice filled with pleased surprisal.
“I fell in love.” He noted.
Once Mel was gone I followed Tobias into his office. He closed the behind us and gestured toward the desk. I looked out the window at the worthington skyline while he made a call to the regent hotel. Once he was finished I let out a sigh and turned my head to face him. He looked conflicted, his skin was pale in contrast to the varying shades of black and grey around him. He placed his palms on his black desk and swallowed.
“I’m sorry that happened.” He mused.
“No, it’s not. Someone has it in for me and I’m scared it’s going to affect you.” He paused and then his head fell back as his face washed over with realization. “In fact. I believe it already has. That article….”
Tobias stood up and walked toward the window. He shook his head and shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. I watched him as he paced across the floor.
“Relax, whoever it is, whatever they want… Is nothing compared to how much I love you.”
Tobias turned and shook his head. “And what if Mel’s baby had been mine. What would that have meant for us?”
“It would have meant you were going to be a father…”
“And us?” he replied, his voice strained. He walked back to the desk and leaned against it.
“Would still have been us.” I stood up and walked around behind his desk, wrapping my arms around his waist I tried to draw the tension from him, but he was deep in his turmoil… and my touch wasn’t enough to draw him from it this time.
“When my life was just me I didn’t have to worry about others. I didn’t have to care… Now I’m filled with all these emotions that I never thought I could have.” he kissed my forehead. “You’re a better person than me…”
I lifted my hand to his cheek and tilted it toward me. “Don’t let this person win. Come back to me Tobias, don’t get lost in your thoughts. Please.”
“Maybe they have a point.” He said slowly. His eyes dull. “Maybe we should take a step back.”
I shook my head, angry that so quickly Tobias had retreated behind the wall he’d broken down only four months before hand. Angry that someone thought they had the right to break him down. I pressed my lips against his, desperate to wake him from his self destruction before it went too far. It took a few seconds before his body kicked in and he reciprocated, his hands grabbed at me, and he pulled me in tight.
“Ruby.” He whispered breathlessly. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m saying I…”
I pressed my lips against his again. “I know.” I whispered as it became ever clearer to me that Tobias was still lost… still broken.
And although I was like a bond, helping to connect the pieces, I wasn’t the super glue to keep them all together and someone else out there, knew it too. Someone who wanted to deconstruct the puzzle that was Tobias piece by piece until there was nothing left of him to break.