With the Rosalie Estate opening up in less than three weeks, work was; manic, stressful and the perfect distraction. Scott and I met briefly to discuss the itinerary but other than that, we barely crossed paths. After lunch, I had a phone conversation with Daisy from the spa company we were collaborating with and whilst saying our goodbyes, Scott briskly walked in, clearly in need of something. He wandered over and dropped a fresh coffee on my desk, somehow sensing my need for caffeine.
“You’re life saver!” I smiled, sipping from the strong concoction.
“You won’t be saying that in about five seconds,” he revealed, looking somewhat sour faced. “I come baring bad news.”
He replied with a simple sigh. “The Tuscany site had a break in last night. There’s minimal damage but some expensive equipment was taken. The builders have had to stop construction for the time being.”
“Bollocks!” I cried, taking further refuge from my cup of coffee.
Its bitter taste was wonderful in pairing with my bitter thoughts. A setback like this was bad for business. If we didn’t meet the dates promised, we risked pissing off our investors and receiving bad press.
“We’ll have a full police report by tonight but they suspect work will resume in four days. They need to replace their machines.”
I was mid-way through providing a mental solution when my phone went off from somewhere inside my bag, prompting a mad panic. I couldn’t locate its whereabouts due to having everything in one place. Important papers, lip balm, mints. They all lived within the vicinity of my Michael Kors. Often, I found it useful to have things at my disposal. Then again, it did make pinpointing a specific object that much harder. In the end, I settled for pulling everything out and finally found it at the bottom, blaring its insistent tone.
The line went dead at the other end, rendering my efforts fruitless. “Missed it!” I huffed, figuring if whoever had called deemed their reason important enough, they’d surely call back.
Scott’s concerned tone carried effortlessly across the room, even though what he said was done so on a hushed whisper. It lacked energy and worried me to the point of turning in my stance. Never had I heard him so unsure of himself and dreaded to think what caused such a reaction. Wide-eyed and sporting a face full of disbelief, I found him holding onto Mum’s order of service, triggering my internal scream’s prompt arrival. I searched high and low for an excuse but in the end, nothing presented itself.
“Is this your mum?”
At first, I couldn’t answer. I had nothing with regards to an appropriate explanation and could only offer the truth. Even if the thought of doing so was terrifying.
He looked horrified. “When did this happen?”
He finally tore his gaze away from the booklet and in doing so, I found vibrant greens threatening my resolve. His glare was lethal and reached the very depths of my soul, searching for any reason as to why I would keep this from him. I was aware my logic was off. Not everyone understood my motives and the more I explained them, the more I hated myself.
“She died last week. Her funeral was yesterday.”
“Yeste- Jesus, Jessica! Why didn’t you say anything?” he questioned, edging closer.
Unable to move, I took to remaining inhumanly still and averted my gaze to the floor, too overcome with guilt to meet his eye. My reply was seemingly unsatisfactory and gave him no option but to circle my desk. There, he slowly encouraged me onto my chair and afterwards, lowered himself to my level, gifting me total calmness.
“I assume Spencer doesn’t know?”
I shook my head. “No and you can’t tell him!” I begged, sounding far too frantic in my request. “Please Scott, you can’t.”
“You’re asking me to lie to my brother?”
“I’m asking you to withhold information for his own good. If he knows, he’ll want to contact me and I can’t have him doing that. Not if it jeopardises his chances of getting Leila back.”
He scoffed. “This is fucked up, Jessica.”
He paused to run a hand through his neatly waxed hair; a sure sign of stress.
“Your mum has just passed away,” he expressed, like I needed the reminder. “He has a right to know. He’ll want to support you.”
Everything he was saying was nothing I didn’t already know. I knew keeping this from him was fucked up, wrong, irrational. But none of that changed the reason why. I didn’t have a choice.
“I know he has a right to know and I want more than anything for him to be here with me but it can’t be like that. Alister is threatening to take his child away because of something I did,” I stressed, close to hysteria. “I can’t factor into this mess, Scott. I just can’t.”
He wouldn’t accept this as an excuse.
“Whatever Alister thinks he has on you is irrelevant. Unless you’re an alleged serial killer, I don’t see how your past can affect things.”
“I’d rather not take the risk,” I insisted, closing my eyes on a dramatic need to block everything out.
I felt him move from in front of me and opened my eyes to find him in a clear state of distress. Both hands worked on his temples in massaging motions, yet it did very little in offering relief. He still seemed to be in pain afterwards,
“I’m sorry to put you in this position but I need you to promise me you won’t tell him.”
“Please, Scott. I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate.”
We both took advantage of the moment, submitting to the silence in the hopes that it would offer some sort of insight. He was neither happy, nor impressed but reluctantly gave into my demands by gifting me a quick nod.
“Fine but I want it to go on record that I’m not happy.”
I exhaled a sigh. “I know. I wish things were different but you understand my hands are tied.”
“Yeah, I understand,” he replied, voice soft. “Are you okay? Do you need some time off?”
Time off was the last thing I needed.
“No!” I quickly stated. “I like the distraction.”
“And is someone staying with you?” he asked, every inch the protective sibling. “Your dad? Sam?”
“Hmm. I’ve been staying with Sam.”
Seeming content, he stopped his interrogation and pulled me in for an unexpected hug, completely blindsiding me. I was not prepared.
“You come to me if you need anything. I promised Spencer I’d look after you.”
“Anything at all, Jessica.”
With arms locked firmly in place at either side of my body and a face resembling shock, Scott coyly pulled away, sensing my need for distance. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate his affection. I simply found hugging him reminded me of how much I missed his brother.
“He’s a mess without you,” he admitted, looking so sad. “You’re all he’s got.”
“He’s got Leila,” I added, feeling the need to bring her into this.
“Yes, Leila too.”
“And you. All of you. You’re a great family. Spencer adores you.”
At this, he offered up a small smile.
“I’d do anything for him,” he stressed, finding his strength again. “When Isy did what she did, it changed me. I’ve never felt rage like it.”
His sheer determination mixed with what he was saying impressed me beyond expectation. Scott and Spencer were extremely close and I could tell their bond was something not to be questioned. I respected that and reasoned with it, having a similar relationship with Sam.
“I understand,” I whispered, silently asking him to do the same in return and understand why I was doing this. “Which is why I’m asking you to keep things quiet. I need everything to go well for him. I need him to get Leila back.”
“And he will. We’ll make sure of it,” he smiled, pulling me to my feet.
There, he went against all notions and hugged me again, only this time, I succumbed to the enjoyment of it.
“How about we blow this next hour off and grab a coffee. A proper one.”
I was shocked at his suggestion and made damn sure he knew it. He wasn’t the type to willingly waste an hour of valuable work time and his determination to do so made me awfully wary.
“Don’t we have too much on?”
“Absolutely! But you’re Spencer’s girlfriend which means you’re family,” he insisted, making me smile. “He might not be with you during this difficult time but I am. Now, grab your coat, leave your purse. I’m paying.”
“This is nonnegotiably. It’s either coffee or I send you home!” he threatened, making his way towards the exit.
I did as I was told by flinging on my coat and listened to his instruction of “leave your purse”. We met in the hallway, the pair of us seemingly ready, and set off in our search for proper coffee.
The walk to Starbucks was short and pleasant with just enough chill in the air to justify keeping our coats wrapped tightly around ourselves. We talked about the baby and how excited both he and Rosalie were for their new arrival. He/ she was due early March and the pair could hardly contain their excitement. Lucy and I had a bet on with regards to the sex, though their insistence to keep it secret meant we’d have to waitb to find out who had won.
It better be a boy!
Conversation soon moved on and before long, a discussion surrounding the issue of Spencer became our primary focus.
“I know about him, Jessica.”
His statement was a little vague and had me in serious need of an explanation.
“What do you mean?”
He reclined in his chair opposite, certainly unphased by the amount of people occupying the area.
“He thinks he’s good at keeping secrets but I know him. He forgets I was practically his shadow when growing up.”
“So, you snooped?” I assumed, still unaware of what he thought he knew about my man.
“I like to think of it as accidently stumbling upon my findings.”
“Which are?” I probed, needing clarification.
“That he’s a dominant.”
I spat coffee all over myself and desperately tried to disguise my shock as a cough. The substance burned as it seeped into the material of my skirt and found its way onto my skin. Still, I didn’t move a muscle.
“Which either means you’re his submissive or you have no fucking idea what I’m talking about,” he proceeded, awfully calm for someone discussing his brother’s sex-life. “You reaction tells me it’s the former.”
“Bloody hell, Scott!”
“Am I being too personal?” he asked, genuinely concerned.
“Yeah, a little.” I laughed, blown away by his abruptness.
He offered me a coy smile in response and rested both elbows on the table that separated us. His chest seemed to expand with the action and although calm on the outside, his expressive eyes betrayed him. They shone bright under the artificial lighting, making the anxiety in them more noticeable. He was a confident man who went after what he wanted but even this was a risky conversation for him.
“How long have you known?” I asked, blowing on my drink.
“Pretty much since it started. I had my suspicions and found his membership to that club. What’s it called again?”
“Red,” I clarified, helping him out.
“That’s the one. So are you?” he asked, a little reluctant. “Are you his sub?”
I couldn’t believe I was having this discussion.
“We have a unique relationship, yes.” I smiled, choosing my words wisely. “He’s under the impression no one knows.”
“I’m the only one who does. I’d never share his secret with anyone. Not even him,” he insisted, lowering his tone. “Is that what Alister has on you both? Is that what he’s threatening you with?”
The thought hadn’t occurred to me. Alister could have information about our relationship but I didn’t see how that was possible. The only link Spencer had to the BDSM world was his membership with Red and that was a highly exclusive club. Information about members was unattainable. Even with his connections, I doubted Alister could uncover that.
“No, Alister doesn’t know.”
“Then what?” he asked, fairly impatient. “Because I’ve been going through all the possibilities in my head and it’s driving me crazy.”
“It’s about me. Something I did before I met Spencer. When I was seventeen.”
A young couple joined our table, increasing the atmosphere’s tension. We no longer had the pleasure of speaking at our normal level and were forced to decrease the volume in which we were using.
“I had a child,” I began, hesitantly. “I gave her up for adoption and two weeks later, she passed away.”
The more I relayed the story, the more I realised how wrong I had been to bottle it up for all those years. I was convinced not speaking about Charlotte was for the best, yet so far, talking about her had done nothing but help. Remembering her felt natural. I may have only been her mother by birth but we still shared a connection. Nine months I carried her and that was something you didn’t just forget.
“How did she die?” he asked, clearly in a state of shock.
I was unenthusiastic about sharing this part of myself with Scott. Not because I didn’t trust him but because he was expecting his own child in a matter of weeks and hearing of my actions may have been hard for him to digest. I didn’t expect everyone to understand my motives and certainly didn’t want them to agree with my decision for the sake of keeping the peace. I simply wanted the truth to be out there and figured Scott had a right to know. As Spencer’s brother, he required answers and I respected him enough to provide him with them.
“Cot death,” I replied, desperately trying to strengthen my tone.
“Fuck!” he expressed, appalling the couple residing on our table.
I didn’t say any more as I allowed him the time he required to wrap his head around everything. He was obviously surprised and I didn’t want to rush his thought process.
“Sorry. God, I’m so sorry.”
“For what?” I asked, appreciative of his gentle tone.
“For everything. You’ve clearly been though a lot and now this. You and Spencer shouldn’t have to be apart because of Isabelle and Alister’s fucked up conditions!”
“Scott,” I soothed, in an attempt to calm him down. “It’s fine, we’re strong enough to get through this.”
“It’s not fine though, Jessica. It shouldn’t be happening.”
He had a point.
“No, but I need you to keep calm because the second you make this your problem, it becomes Rosalie’s problem and right now, she doesn’t need the added stress.”
His face quickly dropped. “You’re right. I’m sorry. This coffee was supposed to be an escape from stress. I didn’t mean to make you more upset.”
I sighed. “You haven’t upset me. I’m glad I got the chance to tell you. Besides, stress seems to be my life right now.”
I wasn’t exaggerating. My entire life was out of balance and I had no idea how long it would remain like this. Spencer and I both had five and a half months in mind but what if it took longer than that? What if something else popped up that stopped us being together? I couldn’t handle a permeant separation. Now not. Now ever. Spencer was my world and without him, well…
It didn’t bear thinking about.