By Friday, I’ve gotten used to the system on how Julian’s business and life worked. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy a quiet lunch meal at a bistro near the office without anyone who might bring me distraught. Then my day ended without Julian pestering me about anything or New York. This morning, after greeting Julian outside his apartment with Jeffrey already waiting outside in the car and coffee in hand, I knew I was getting a hang of it. By lunch, I got the timing right again and was able to get my break without getting drag away from anyone. Though I felt awful for refusing Kyla twice already, I think it’ll take time before I warm up to her and her secretary, Rhea. After their sudden ambush on my first day, they’ve given me a discerning first impression.
However, I didn’t spend another empty lunch by myself. Since I couldn’t have my usual weekend, I called April and offered Amy to go out to lunch with us. Once our food was served, April started bombarding me with questions, which Amy seemed interested to hear.
“Tell me everything. How was it working closely with one of the city’s most eligible bachelor?”
“Is that what people always want to know if they bag someone this big?”
“Of course.” And Amy chorused. “Yes.”
I rolled my eyes and peered briefly around the slightly busy room. We were situated by the corner of the restaurant, far enough that no one could eavesdrop too much on our conversation. So I decided to play along.
“To tell you the truth, it’s not all fairytale those movies and books they depict it to be. He’s a busybody and commanding. I feel like I aged a lot and it’s only been a few days.”
“How are you going to survive a weekend with him in New York?” Amy inquired with worry.
April gasped, hearing the news for the first time. “Oh! Is that why you insisted we have lunch today? You’re going on a trip with your hot boss! This is gold!”
I hushed April, fearing people’s eyes straying in our direction from her loud mouth. “Yes. I was going to tell you.” I deadly said and narrowed my eyes at Amy, who looked at me apologetically. “There’s nothing remotely interesting about it. It’s a business trip.”
“Really?” April challenged. The edges of her lips tugged up into a smirk. “Are you sure?”
“Gah! What’s with you people?! There nothing going on, okay? And I have more news.” I hastily shifted the conversation, feeling more frustrated that people kept on implying there was something between Julian and I. “I got a text from Ben a few nights ago. And then he called last night and confirmed he’ll be in New York this weekend. I didn’t tell him I’m going there for a business trip. I want to surprise him. What do you think?” I summed up my whole plan and averted their attention towards it, and worked.
“What? Why haven’t you called me that he contacted you? Didn’t I tell you to call if he did? Did you forgive the prick?” April glared at me.
“We talked about it, April. And I swear, he was the one who apologized first. Everything is all good now.”
“Yeah, good,” April grumbled and started picking on her dessert, a fruit bowl, shoving a forkful on her mouth.
Amy glanced at us in worry. “So,” she clasped her hand, “have you packed for the trip tomorrow? What time is your flight?” she shifted the conversation again.
That did the trick and got April’s mood swing in my favor again. “Oh! Did you pack that black lace lingerie I bought for you on your last birthday?”
“April!” I cautioned, furious at her unfiltered mouth.
The next morning, I woke up earlier than usual. After a quick shower, I dressed up comfortably and ate breakfast while waiting for my ride. When I got the message from Jeffrey, I was already waiting by the small lobby of my apartment with a weekend luggage. I rolled my trolley towards the waiting car and Jeffrey kindly helped me put it in the trunk. Once we were back on the road, we headed to Julian’s apartment. And just like I was, he was also waiting in the lobby with his things. Jeffrey escorted him to the car and packed his lugged at the back of the car with mine. As Julian jumped in the passenger seat, I greeted him. He greeted back before he got preoccupied with his phone, which throughout the drive where were most his attention was directed.
When we reached O’Hare International Airport, Julian and I were in rush going through the check-in counter and past security point. With the traffic we faced, I should have insisted on leaving early yesterday. But at least, as we reached our gate, we had a few minutes to spare before our flight was called. It wasn’t until then Julian had become chatty.
“So, have you been to New York?”
“Yes. I actually lived there for a few years for a job.”
“Oh? You hadn’t told me that. When was that?” he asked with genuine interest.
“Ah, well. I was a fresh graduate and one of my college friends refer me the job.”
“What did you do?”
“I was an assistant’s assistant at an entertainment industry. It was just a small, growing company. It wasn’t a big name or anything,” I explained, trying not to sugarcoat it. At that time, upon hearing this news, it was a big deal. Now that I’ve said it out loud, after all the crap I’ve been through, it seemed like another job.
“An assistant’s assistant? That’s a mouthful title.” Julian remarked with a grin. “And what does that position do anyway?” He pressed further.
“Are you genuinely interested in this?” I scoffed.
“A bit. I’ve never heard an assistant getting assistants themselves. Isn’t that the point of their job? To assist?”
I stared at him, waiting for some sort of punchline. But there wasn’t. “Yes. You’re absolutely right. At the time, I’m not sure why I was even there. But I did most of the legwork. Plus, the pay was great for a fresh graduate.” I admitted.
“Then why did you shifted careers and end up here?”
That got me a bit guarded. Julian noticed my shift of mood. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want too.”
“No. It’s okay. It’s not much of a sob story really…” I trailed off, thinking how to best tell it. “Well, I quit my first job before my boss was harassing me. And then I landed another job, but I didn’t last long there as well because the old man had a knack for an unfiltered opinion. Then, I landed a job here in Illinois, which was a godsend since it’s a pain having to visit my parents during the holiday with the plane tickets at its peak. But that job didn’t last long either, as you can already see a pattern here.” I paused and chuckled dryly. “I don’t know what’s with me attracting these bad luck.”
“It couldn’t have been just luck.” He pressed.
“No, of course not. My ex-bosses were… for the better word of it, pricks.” I bluntly admitted.
“I’m sorry. I must be a bit of a nightmare when we met.” Julian looked guilty.
“Don’t worry. What you didn’t top whatever my old bosses had done to me in the past…” As I said it, I never realized how much I’ve overlooked what those people did.
“Why hadn’t you say anything?” He inquired firmly.
“Do you believe someone would have done something when I’m accusing a man of power?”
Julian looked pained and remorseful. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that, Zoey. I promise to be less of an ass from now on.” It took me a moment to realize he used my first name. But I decided to ignore his slip.
I smiled at his sincere words. “Good. I’ll hold that against you, Mr. Hawksley.”
Before he could respond, the attendant manning our gate had called our attention to board. We hardly got to talk again after we boarded the place. For one, we weren’t sitting in the same class. Since my ticket was purchased as last minute, we were separated by a small curtain for the business and economy class. When I found my seat, I signed in relief seeing a mother and daughter already settled in my row. At least my flight won’t be too troublesome.
It was nearly noon when we landed in New York. Julian waited patiently for me to get out of the plane. Once we were together, we hurriedly headed to the exit where our ride was waiting for us. From the sea of entourage with signs up, waiting for someone, maybe a family, a friend, or a guest, it took a moment to find the right one. But I found Julian’s name printed clearly with a tall, dark-haired man, who looked to be in his thirties, wearing a black suit without a tie. When he met our gaze, the man waved almost enthusiastically. He finally greeted when we were within hearing range.
“Mr. Hawksley, it’s lovely to see you again in the Big Apple, sir.” His voice was a little hoarse and deep. It took him a moment to notice I was with Julian. “Oh! Hi there, miss? You must be Ms. Curtis?” He sounded unsure.
“Yes. And you are Mr. Adams?”
“Yes, ma’am.” With a grin, he holds out his hand towards me to shake.
I took it and briefly shook his hand. “Thank you for being here on time, Mr. Adams. Would you mind taking us to the car? We had a long morning and we’ve hadn’t eaten any proper lunch since the in-flight meal.” I conversely informed.
“Please call me, Karl, ma’am,” he started and reached out towards our luggage’s. “And the car is parked closely. I’ll leave you and Mr. Hawksley by the entrance and meet you there.”
“Got it. Thank you, Karl.” I nodded and allowed him to lead the way.
Julian remained a bit subdued and quiet as we headed to the entrance. With his phone in hand, he kept on glanced down on it like he was expecting a call or message. Once Karl left us while he got the car, I turned to Julian.
“Is there something wrong, Mr. Hawksley? You look troubled.” I inquired, getting straight to the point.
Julian met my gaze and sighed. “It’s nothing.”
“Are you sure that would be good enough answer? If you don’t want to tell me, you can just say so, Mr. Hawksley. I understand you want privacy on certain things…” I trailed off as Julian interjected.
“Okay. Okay. Jeez… you don’t have to make it sound like I was being a prude.” He sighed again. “I got a text from Grace, you know that woman I was with when you first…”
I held up my had, stopping him from finishing his sentence. “I know her.” I curtly said. “Is she also in town?” I asked but quickly got the hint when I saw Julian’s expression stiffening. “She wants to meet you while you’re in town,” I stated rather than asked, understanding his dilemma.
“Yes. But I…” He started again but trailed off when I interrupted.
“It’s not a problem. You have this evening to see her. Actually, I, myself, have something planned this evening as well. I’m meeting my boyfriend here. He’s attending a gallery event uptown.” I informed.
Julian look stunned. “What?”
“If you have to meet anyone other than business, I suggest you do it tonight. Because tomorrow, you’ll be packed with meetings until ten in the evening.” I added, ignoring his reaction.
“Where?” He asked with more strength as he regained his composure.
“What?” I asked, unsure what he was asking.
“Where are you going tonight and what event are you talking about?” He firmly asked.
It took me a moment to reply, debating whether to go with a lie or the truth. It was New York, there was bound to be another gallery having an event at the same time.
However, I found myself telling him the truth. “Galleria de Belle in Manhattan. It’s for their new exhibits in photography, which one of Ben’s friends is included. He’s also going there for business connections as well… why am I telling you this?” I quickly trailed off, asking out loud about my poor choices in life.
“What time?” Julian inquired as he pulled out his phone.
“Why are you asking me this?” I countered.
“Because I’m going with you. This is a good excuse here. Thank you for sharing your plans tonight.” He cheekily said.
“Excuse me? Who said you’re going with me?” I gapped at him. “I’m not taking you with me. My boyfriend doesn’t even know I’m going there.”
“Oh! So you’re going for a surprise visit. This will be fun.” He grinned.
I groaned. I was about to start sprouting excuses why he shouldn’t go when Karl made a timely appearance. So I kept most of my pent-up annoyance for later only until we reached our hotel. Since it was New York, the drive to our accommodation nearly took two hours rather than less. I wasn’t an alien to the traffic, but it didn’t make me any less forgiving about it. One of the many things I couldn’t say I loved about the city. However, as we passed by Central Park, seeing a glimpse of nature in a fast-paced city made me remembered why it took me nearly two years to be away. Though Chicago wasn’t New York, it has its charms. But Chicago was home.
Once we reached our accommodation, one of the hotels the Hawksley Holding owned, I thought my weekend would’ve gone smoothly – everything nearly planned down to how long Julian takes his shower and sleep, I never expected something bothersome as an error on our room arrangement could put me in turmoil.
“How is that possible? I clearly booked two, ma’am. And this isn’t some guest. I’m booking a room for Mr. Julian Hawksley himself. The man’s family own this hotel.” Though I sounded like I should be screaming with my words, I’ve garnered enough experience to keep my voice calm in times of extreme frustrating situations of my job.
The twenty-something receptionist had sweat forming on her forehead as she tried to fix the problem on her computer behind the marbled counter. Any other day I would have been remorseful and understanding about the mistake, but after hearing Julian ruining my evening’s plan, I wasn’t very forgiving.
“Ms. Curtis. I’m very, very sorry for the fault. It was our mistake. But as of the moment, we don’t have an extra room to spare. The hotel is booked for the weekend for guest that are attending an annual convention, which we are hosting for them this year. However, we did keep Mr. Hawksley’s room ready, since we mostly have the suite free whenever he’s in town, ma’am.” She replied, her composure faltering the longer I pestered her.
“That’s just bull…” I stopped myself before I completely cussed. And then, I took a deep breath. “If so, is it possible you could help me find another accommodation close to this hotel?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have the power to book you at another hotel if it isn’t under our management, Ms. Curtis.”
I was nearly at my boiling point until Julian finally joined me. “Is there something wrong with the rooms, Ms. Curtis?”
The receptionist straightened up at Julian’s presence. “Mr. Hawksley, we apologize for keeping you waiting. There was a mix up with the room Ms. Curtis would be staying. It was booked with another guest.”
“And?” Julian asked like he didn’t understand why this was troublesome.
“Sir, we only have your suite ready.” The receptionist replied.
“Is it the presidential suite?”
“Well, then, what’s the trouble? You could stay in the same room as me, Ms. Curtis.”
And here I had told my mother we weren’t sharing a room.