His Burden

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

The Rosalie launch party was taking place in a matter of days, meaning just about everyone in the office was stressed to the extreme. As well as that, we encountered a serious problem when a burst pipe at The Adelaide Estate threatened no business for the weekend. Luckily, the plumbers were able to salvage what little was left of the basement and flooding had failed to reach the actual area guests required.

Thank God!

Myself and Simon made a mad dash up to Cumbria by train to meet Cassie–the hotel’s manager– and were currently making sure everything was in place for the weekend rush. The pair of them resembled army sergeants in their strict organisational skills and were mid-way through discussing health and safety regulations when my phone chimed with an incoming call.

“We’ve prevented more damage by turning the water mains off,” stated Cassie, maximising full gesture potential by flinging her hands left, right and centre.

Her red hair was a shade lighter than mine and bounced with a life of its own every time she moved. I had half a mind to ask her what shampoo she used but kept things strictly professional.

“Excuse me a moment. I’ll just quickly take this.”

I left their conversation to answer Spencer’s call, concerned he was ringing regarding something important. Last night, after filling him in on Roger’s findings, he had been rather on edge.

“Hey. Is everything alright?”

“Everything is fine, baby. Don’t sound so worried.”

I sighed in relief.

“Sorry. I always expect the worse whenever you leave a meeting with Malcom. What’s the latest?”

“Nothing much. I’ve been signing papers all morning,” he replied, mundane in his doing so. “We’ve got Leila overnight on Saturday.”

“Of course we do.” I laughed, mindlessly wandering around the huge open space. “That girl couldn’t miss a launch party if she tried.”

“You’re absolutely right,” he replied, suddenly entering a much quieter place.

Clive’s car, no doubt.

“Are you busy tonight? I know work is hectic so I was thinking I could stop at yours?”

Wow.

“Are you sure you want to subject yourself to my tiny flat?”

His home was huge in comparison to mine and I often made comment on it. Not that it really bothered him. Both he and Scott were modest when it came to their huge bank accounts but they were born into money and knew very little about financial struggles. Winding them up every now and then was amusing.

“HAHA!” he mocked, full of sarcasm. “I’m stopping by the office to help Scott later. He’s apparently stressed.”

“We all are. Did he tell you about the burst pipe?”

“Hmm. You’re there now, aren’t you?”

Scott must’ve told him.

“I am. Simon is too. It’s all under control. You wouldn’t be able to tell if you didn’t already know. There’s no water damage.”

“Thank fuck!” he replied, poetically expressing himself.

“I’ll be back later on this afternoon. Maybe I’ll see you?” I asked, dropping hints in the hopes he would pick up on my desperation to see him.

We’d spent an entire week together and still, it wasn’t enough.

“I’ll make sure of it. See you soon, sweetheart. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I hung up and was just about to put my phone away when something outside on the street caught my eye. Stood on the pavement were two people having an intense discussion, private enough to warrant a secret rendezvous. Together, their heads bowed closely and powerful eye contact was kept throughout. I couldn’t get a read on their conversation but that didn’t matter. Alister Branning should not be cosying up to strange women in the middle of the Lake District on a Thursday morning when supposedly in Scotland. Granted, Cumbria was on the boarder but still. A lie was a lie.

“Jessica? Our train is due to leave in half an hour. Should we get going?”

Shit!

“Yeah,” I replied, slyly snapping a picture of Alister and his ‘lady friend’ on my phone. Afterwards, I dropped it in my handbag. “Sorry about that. Boyfriend called.”

“How is Spencer doing?” Smirked Simon, uncharacteristically nice in his approach.

In fact, he’d been nice all morning.

“Fine, thanks.” I laughed. “Shall we?”

His grin said it all, though his need to remain quiet was very much appreciated. Lately, mine and Spencer’s relationship was hot topic. There had been a few rumours circulating the office since that image of us at the Ritz was released last year but now that news was official, people were treating information like gold dust. It was amazing how interested people were in the lives of two complete strangers. Sure, I was their boss and Spencer was their boss’ boss but who really gave a shit whether or not we were shagging?

“The workmen should be done after lunch. They’ve assured us that the rooms are safe to use,” informed Cassie, making notes on her tablet.

“Perfect!” I smiled, glancing over my shoulder to see if the two people I was previously stalking were still there.

They weren’t.

“The only communal room affected is the library. We’ll close it off until further notice. Thankfully, no books were damaged,” she stated, all smiles.

Simon nodded, as did I, prompting the well-organised woman to draw our meeting to a close.

“That’s all, then.”

“I’ll be back next week. I’m conducting hotel visits,” stated Simon, viewing the space with excitement. “Jessica and Scott plan to visit again in the next few months.”

“Yes! I plan on visiting all the sights before the summer. Today was a little unexpected so I’ll be sure to come back. The location up here is beautiful” I assured.

Cassie nodded, shooting me a smile. “I look forward to it.”

The three of us stated our goodbyes, prompting Simon and I to make our way towards the train station, feeling slightly relieved. We expertly flagged an approaching taxi and manged to dodge those hell bent on taking a picture of any stupid shit they could see.

Bloody tourists!

“Are you happy with how everything looks?” asked Simon, smirking through his enquiry.

“Of course,” I replied, keeping my tone light. “I’m not trying to trick your staff, Simon. I’m genuinely interested in visiting as I’m new to the company.”

I kept an eye out for Alister and his companion, desperate for another glance. My mind was highly strung and the outcome of dramatizing a situation was very likely. Just because I wanted to catch him in the act didn’t mean I would. Again, if I accused him of something untrue, I risked looking like the bad guy. I had to consider all options, so whilst encouraging Simon into the black cab, I slyly sent Spencer a text and composed an exact replica to Roger, only his had the image attached.

JESSICA: Just spotted Alister in Cumbria with another woman. AFFAIR???

~~~~

Back at the office, I was graced with a delightful visit from Spencer, all serious and ready for business.

“I got your text.”

He finalised his entrance by walking towards my desk and lightly pecked me on the lips.

“I saw him with my own eyes,” I replied, leaning further into his embrace. “He was with a women. Their conversation seemed intense.”

“Did they look like lovers?” he asked.

“Possibly? They were familiar with each other, that’s for sure.”

He said nothing for a moment, thinking through my revelation. “Part of me feels happy we’re onto something. Does that make me a bastard?”

“Of course it doesn’t,” I ensured, offering his shoulders a firm squeeze. “It’s best we get Isy away from him anyway.”

“I just hate what he’s doing to her. That he’s cheating.”

“I know you do and don’t feel like you ever need to hide that from me, Spencer. You still care about her and I love you for that. You’re a good man.”

“And you’re amazing, do you know that?”

My smirk was unstoppable at this point. “I do try.”

He laughed. Deep and genuine.

“You off now?”

“Hmm. Malcolm has more papers for me to sign. I can spare five minutes if you can?”

This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. “Absolutely.”

Before long, our flirtatious kissing turned into full blown inappropriateness, yet neither of us seemed to care all that much. His dirty tongue explored my mouth and not once did he let me resurface for air.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”

Shit!

“Is that today?” I shrieked, outraged I had somehow forgotten.

Our first Valentine’s Day together and I’d completely screwed up.

“I’m the worst girlfriend ever!”

“No you’re not. You’re just new at this,” he ensured, lightly tipping back my head.

Emerald green and shockingly powerful, his eyes blared accurately into mine, silently conveying their every thought. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to care that I had forgotten the importance of this day. In all honestly, he hardly struck me at the type to celebrate.

“That’s no excuse. Let’s do something,” I suggested, growing excited. “Something fun!”

“Well, it’s funny you mention that,” he began, preparing his departure. “I already have a surprise planned in the form of something fun.”

“You do?” I was surprised in discovering this.

“Hmm. All will be revealed later. How about I meet you back at yours?”

“Okay,” I smiled, fiercely intrigued. “Take my key and let yourself in. I should be done by six.”

“Perfect.”

I handed him my front door key and with it, he left, forcing me to avert my attention back towards my laptop screen. Daily figures stared back at me, yet all I could think about was this surprise of mine. It was nice to think of something other than my hectic life for a change. Since Christmas, everything had been turned upside down and only now did things feel slightly back on track. I still struggled with Mum’s death and felt constantly on edge with regards to Alister but I owed it to myself to enjoy the little things. Tonight was about letting go and having fun for once. It was about enjoying the company of my boyfriend on a holiday that was about celebrating love. I may have forgotten about it but that was understandable, given the circumstances. That didn’t mean I was about to let it go unnoticed. This was our first Valentine’s day together and boy would it be a one to remember.

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