Pleasing the Boss

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Chapter 36

After the photo shoot, I can’t stop thinking about Ethan and his dead ex. I mean I just figured that Ethan wasn’t the public dating, but to find out that he hasn’t dated since his ex girlfriend overdosed is mind blowing.

I can’t even focus on the way home as Ethan texts me asking about how the shoot went. However, I can’t bring myself to message him back.

Trying to visualize Ethan with his ex and him being happy makes me slightly jealous. He owns a famous magazine and she’s a model. They must’ve been the “It” couple. I picture Ethan possibly marrying her one day. His friends telling him about great they are together. Obviously though, there must’ve been a lot of secret going on. Did she know about the club? Did they go together? Did Ethan know if she was struggling with someone?

All those things are haunting my mind and I want answers, but how? How do I even bring up such a subject to Ethan when I wasn’t even supposed to know about it in the first place? If it were meant for me to know then he wouldn’t told me.

Instead of talking to Ethan, I shut myself in my apartment for the rest of the day. I know he won’t come see me, because his schedule is packed with meeting and an important dinner tonight. I just need time to think about all of this.

On the sofa, I flip open my laptop and start searching online for pictures of Ethan. I scroll through a few pages of articles and by page 9 I’m almost ready to give up until something catches my eye. The headline talking about young mogul finding his girlfriend dead of an overdose. Quickly, I click it and sure enough, it’s what I’m looking for. My eyes scan over the article and it talks about Ethan and his model girlfriend, Gabrielle. It says that Ethan and Gabriella had been dating for almost 3 years when he entered her apartment to find her dead in the bedroom. The official autopsy confirms that it was an Opioid overdose.

Scrolling down, I see pictures of Ethan and a long-legged, blonde who I assume is Gabrielle. There are a bunch of photos of them in clubs together and on red carpets. The article finishes saying that Ethan knew she had a history of depression, but stated that she was getting help.

When I’m done reading, I just stare at the wall for a moment. I feel so terribly bad for Ethan, but the fact that he has covered up this part of himself makes me feel like I don’t know him at all anymore. I thought since we were open and honest about the club that he’d tell me anything, but I guess not. I want to bring it up, but I don’t want to feel like I’m overstepping. As far as Ethan knows, this is still a secret he’s buried. If this were any other moment, I’d be quick to ask Kate for advice, but lately, I’ve just been distant with her.

I don’t know what it is, but after having sex at the club, I just feel weird talking to her or being around her. Yeah, we still text, but nothing major like before. Maybe it’s just jitters about trying to decide to go back to the club or not. Either way, I can’t really talk to her about this. It’s way bigger than her although I’m sure she knows about it considering she’s been friend with Ethan for a long time. Apparently, I’m the only one in the dark about Ethan’s personal life.

With no one to talk to about anything, I just feel really alone and when one is alone, they pig out on unhealthy food.

One large pizza and a pint of ice cream later, I’m stuffed and deep into Netflix’s horror genre. Thankfully, it’s helped keep my mind wandering back to Ethan. However, it doesn’t last long when Ethan starts texting to come by. Off the top of my head and lie and say that I’m exhausted. Surprisingly, he buys it and tells me to get some rest for work tomorrow.

The next morning, I wake more conflicted than ever. From the bed to the shower and to the car, I’m all stuck in my head about this ordeal. When I’m in the car with Ethan, I try to act as normal as possible as I show him the shots from yesterday.

“Wow, these are amazing, Thea.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you liked them. I wasn’t as nervous as I was the first time.”

Ethan nods as he goes through the pictures again.

“Sure you don’t want to make a career out of this? Or at least a side gig?”

I scrunch up my nose and Ethan chuckles, running his fingers over my knee and under the hem of my skirt. I watch as the chill bumps develop over my skin. I painfully imagine Ethan doing the same to Gabrielle.

“I don’t think so. I mean, I like it, but it’s just not me. Just because I’m okay at it doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.”

“I understand. It’s totally up to you. If you choose to do it in the future then it’s your decision. Either way, I will support you, baby.”

I can’t help but smile at Ethan, but this secret is tearing me apart.

“Ethan, can I tell you something?”

“Yeah.”

“The photographer said some things after the shoot. He mentioned you and your girlfriend. He said that she died.”

Instantly, Ethan’s face tightens and he sits the pictures down between us.

“I’m not talking about that.”

“I’m not saying you have to. I just wanted to tell you what was said. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“But…why didn’t you tell me? I mean I would’ve understood.”

Ethan looks at me with a harsh expression.

“I didn’t tell you, because it’s in the past. Plus, it’s none of your business.”

His words sting and my eyes tear up a bit.

“But, Ethan”

“Drop it, Thea!” I flinch when his voice raises and suddenly, I feel like Ethan is a total stranger right now.

“I’m sorry. I won’t talk about it again.”

Ethan doesn’t say anything and the awkwardness between us becomes unsettling. Without thinking, I call for the driver to stop the car. As soon as it stops, I open the door and get out.

“Thea!” I hear Ethan call for me, but I close the door anyway and begin walking in the opposite direction.

When I look back, the car is pulling off and tears are already streaming down my face. I don’t know why I even said anything. I knew it was stupid to begin with. Just like Ethan, I shouldn’t just keep it a secret.

After walking for a few minutes, I catch an Uber to work and arrive 20 minutes late. Before going to my office, I stop and talk to Anna. When I tell her what’s going on, she doesn’t seem shocked.

“I knew Gab. She was a good person with a lot of demons inside of her.”

“Sooo, do you think it was an accident?”

“Honestly…” She looks at me briefly before gently shaking her head. “No, I don’t.”

“So what about Ethan?”

“Ethan didn’t want to face the fact that she did it on purpose. He saw stars when he was with her and thought he could fix her. No one could tell him different. It broke my heart to see him so down after she died. He was in a bad place and suddenly he just blocked it out. He won’t let anyone even bring up her name.”

“Yeah, I realized that first hand. He flipped on me when I asked about it. I thought we were closer than that.”

“It’s not that. It’s just how Ethan is programmed. He really likes you. I can tell, but some things are just locked up inside him. He thinks it’s for the best.”

“So what am I supposed to do?” I shrug.

Before she can answer, a knock on the door startles us. When I look up, Ethan is standing there with two coffees.

“Thea, come, I need you to sit in on a meeting please.”

“Okay.”

When I get up and look at Anna, she gives me a sympathetic look before turning back to her computer. In the hall, I take the coffee from Ethan’s hand ad he gives me a forced smile.

“I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier. I just wasn’t ready for that topic”

“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have pried.”

Ethan doesn’t say anything else and as we head to the conference room, I feel this weird blur around me and white noise in my ears. It’s almost like I’m neither here nor there. I’m so confused, but I know I want to learn more about Ethan, I just don’t know if it’ll trigger something bad in him.

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