I forced my way through Scott’s office door and was shocked to see none other than James Michaels accompanying him. He was a kind-hearted man with his brilliant posture and striking jaw; both of which he had passed on to his two sons. But now, he looked a little intimidating. Perhaps even scary?
“James! What a sup-rise…” My intentions were lost as the sentence I was planning to deliver faltered in the back of my throat.
A newspaper perched on Scott’s desk caught my attention instead, hindering my ability to breathe. It’s headline read, ‘SPENCER MICHAELS CRACKS THE WHIP NOT ONLY IN THE BOARDROOM, BUT THE BEDROOM TOO?’ Within seconds, my vision tunnelled. I had no other context to go off but knew without further investigation that details about mine and Spencer’s involvement with BDSM was available for everyone to read. In an instant, an untameable amount of rage churned in my stomach, threatening to revolt at any god given moment, though strangely enough, I didn’t care.
“We’ll hit back with a counter statement,” ensured James, flicking his gaze towards the headline that would no doubt haunt my dreams tonight. “I’ve advised Spencer to contact his lawyer.”
“NO!” I snapped, emotionally on the verge of a breakdown.
“No?” questioned Scott, slowly making his way towards me. “Jessica, we need to act fast. We’re in need of some serious damage control here. The longer we leave it-”
“I said no!” I repeated, hating that they were turning to Malcolm of all people for help.
He was the last person I wanted to see.
“Jessica…” began James, attempting calmness. “You need to-”
“What I need is to not have my personal life splashed across every fucking newspaper!” I shouted, kicking at Scott’s filing cabinet.
It felt good to release my anger and as a brought my left foot up to repeat the action, I continued my rant.
“What gives him the right to share details about our life? Why is he getting away with it? Why is nobody punishing him?”
“Alister Branning!” I wept, throwing my fists into the nearest wall I could find.
The pain I felt in return tore through my arm at lightning speed, giving me no option but to cry out. But if felt good. So good in fact, I punched the same spot again and continuously did so until huge hands encased my hips and pulled me back.
“Shhhh, I’ve got you.”
Spencer kissed at my temple and crushed my body to his, knowing just how much I needed him. He soothed my anger and caressed my back, speaking words of encouragement the entire time I sobbed.
“Wh-where’s Leila?” I asked, burying my face further into his chest.
I wasn’t particularly proud of my outburst and feared her listening ears were nearby.
“She’s with Rosalie,” he replied, speaking directly into my ear. “I came as soon as I could.”
“I can’t keep doing this,” I heard myself saying. “I can’t keep letting him win. We need to fight back!”
“And we will,” he ensured, pulling me to my feet. “Do you trust me?”
“With my life,” I replied, clutching at his shirt with desperation.
“Good.” He smiled. “Because you’re not going to like this but I need you to listen…”
The press conference had taken just over an hour to set up and currently waiting for us in the main meeting room were thirty odd established journalists, all greedy for the latest scandal. Our response to the allegations was as rehearsed as ever and with just enough time left to go over the finer details, James took to getting his final point across.
“You frame things in a positive light and under no circumstances do you offer an apology,” he stated, stern and direct.
As it turned out, Spencer had received news of the leaked story this morning and had instantly contacted his father for help. The man had dealt with his fair share of scandals in the past and I just hoped his extent knowledge in working the press came in useful for us now.
“An accusation like this is ridiculous and repulsive,” he spat, losing actual saliva due to the force in which he used to speak.
“You’ll deny any involvement with it of course.”
“Why would we do that?” he asked, remaining frighteningly calm.
I, myself, was just about ready to scream.
“Because these allegations are false! And they have the potential to ruin the family business.” James shouted his disgust and offered Spencer no compromise, extinguishing any chance to fight back. He knew. He knew the accusations were true but was unprepared to hear it. His tone alone was proof of that and given how loud his volume was, I’d say half the building knew it too.
“I am not a liar.”
“Spencer, do not test me!” he warned, facing his eldest Son.
The atmosphere grew thick as both men faced off, the pair of them refusing to back down.
“They’re ready,” interrupted Scott, aware of the heated discussion taking place.
Spencer held his ground and signalled for me to follow him through the doors, no longer prepared to listen to his father’s lecture. I remained silent out of respect and struggled to wrap my head around James’ sudden change in attitude. He was always so supportive and understanding towards us. What changed?
“Just follow my lead,” whispered Spencer, walking us both down the carpeted corridor. “We’ll be fine, bellissima. I promise.”
We entered the main meeting room and ignored the many people armed with their cameras. Tension clawed at my back and reached my neck, giving me an instant headache. I knew without looking that I was being judged and although no stranger to the spotlight, I found myself now resentful of it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming,” began Spencer, offering me a chair before seating himself.
Scott stood off to the side and I noticed James lurking in the back, silently pleading with us one last time. He didn’t want the family business being associated with BDSM and to some extent, I respected that. Although, I didn’t much care for his words. He’d called it ridiculous, repulsive and that hurt. Not because it was directly aimed at us but rather how it made me feel. Ashamed. I’d grown fond of James in the months I’d known him and now, he couldn’t even look at me.
“We’d like to open the floor to any questions.” He stated, smiling sweetly. “We would hate for the press to be misinformed in any way.”
“God forbid!” imputed a small lady up front, smirking in my general direction.
She clutched her notepad close to her chest and looked to be two decades too late with her choice in attire.
“Kate, why don’t you kick things off?” suggested Scott, seeing as she’d already gained our attention.
I maintained strong eye contact with the young woman and offered her a discreet smile, hoping to get her on side.
“Miss. Turner, can you explain the nature of your relationship to Spencer Michaels?”
Well, there goes any hope.
I laughed, even though it went against all my instincts. “My relationship with Spencer is built on trust, support and love.”
“And your sexual encounters?”
Fuck me, she doesn’t hang around.
“Kate, is it?” I asked, knowing full well that was her name. She nodded. “Look me in the eye and tell me you’d answer that question about yourself if you were in my position.”
“But I’m not in your position,” she countered, looking somewhat smug.
To my right, Spencer shuffled unformattable in his chair.
“Treat others how you wish to be treated,” I stated, keeping my composure intact.
Do not back down, Jessica. Do not back down.
“No, I would not answer that question, Miss. Turner,” she finally revealed.
“I would,” interrupted an older gent; full bellied and sweat patches galore.
“And you are?” I asked, shifting my attention.
I kept my fake smile in place.
“Harry Reynolds from the Evening Gazette.”
“Well, Harry Reynolds from the Evening Gazette, my sexual relationship with Spencer Michaels is none of your business.”
He scoffed. “Tell that to the thousands of readers who’ve read this morning’s headline.”
“Thousands?” asked Spencer, perking up. “You hear that, baby? We’re famous!”
His need to turn things into a joke was amusing and as far as I could see, one of our only options. Too bad James didn’t agree. The man looked positively seething.
“Aren’t we lucky?” I added, ignoring his dad’s reaction by grabbing for his hand and offering it a squeeze.
“Is this a joke to you both?” asked another reporter, holding some sort of recording device in her hand.
“Oh, absolutely,” replied Spencer, kissing my knuckles. “How else is one supposed to handle having their personal life in every newspaper?”
“You could have a little more compassion and respect for those you’ve upset? Offer an apology, maybe?” suggested miss I’m-holding-a-recorder-therefore-I’m-important.
“What I get up to in my personal life upsets other, does it?” he responded, smiling thereafter.
“It does, Mr. Michaels. You’ve upset many with your actions.”
Spencer gifted the room his eyes before turning to face me, winking his response. He was up to something. I could feel it. I just didn’t know what.
“I will not apologise for who I am but I will take responsibility for the business. With that said, I’d like to officially resign.”
Murmured whispers instantly broke out, signalling the start of complete chaos. Scott was by our side in a second, quietly talking into his ear. I couldn’t gage what he was saying exactly but was sure I heard the phrase, “Are you fucking insane?”
“I take full responsibility for any trouble this revelation has caused the company and hope you can accept my resignation as me trying to fix it,” he insisted, unaware of my silent screams. “Jessica is an outstanding asset to this place and will not be resigning today or any other day for that matter.”
For the longest time, I couldn’t catch my breath but that soon became the least of my worries when a middle-aged woman dropped a question I was completely unprepared for.
“Miss. Turner, you’re a reasonable woman. Are you really going to let the man you claim to love take the wrap for something you have taken an equal part in?”
Anger blurred my vision but before I could let my mouth run away with itself, I took a deep breath in and offered her my utmost respect.
“Spencer is a grown man able to make his own decisions and I trust that what he’s doing is with everyone’s best interests at heart. I do love him, I love him very much and for that reason I have the strength to sit here today and tell you that I am not ashamed. I’m not ashamed of who we are or what we do. I understand this lifestyle comes with a stigma attached and I hope one day people can see past that. My personal life in no way hinders my working ability. I love my job and will always do what I feel is best for the company.”
Once again, the room erupted into fierce murmurs and one look across to James said we needed to wrap things up.
“Jessica, may I?” questioned a petit woman I had failed to notice up until this point.
I nodded, encouraging the rest of the room to be silent.
“I’m a content writer at Business Right magazine and I’d just like to say that what you’re both doing is incredible. I don’t know everything about your situation but I do know you’re in the midst of a custody battle and a stunt like this could prove catastrophic. I applaud your fight and wish you all the best during the court case.”
“Here, here!” stated another reporter towards the back.
Before long, there was a chorus of cheers and as the support continued to make itself known, I found myself relaxing slightly.
“Thank you, everyone!” acknowledged Spencer, concluding the press conference.
I stood from my chair and allowed him the pleasure of escorting me out, ignoring the many questions flying our way regarding his recent resignation. I still had no idea what prompted him to do such a thing but I certainly wasn’t about to have that discussion with cameras present.
“What the fuck, Spencer?” raged Scott, once out of earshot. The man looked absolutely livid.
“Dad, tell him he’s being a fucking idiot. I don’t care if you two are in disagreements with each other. So what if he’s into kinky shit? It shouldn’t concern you or the business!”
Seeing Scott so defensive made me smile. He didn’t have to stick up for us, yet his need to do so only confirmed one thing. He cared.
“Keep your socks on Scott,” retaliated James, approaching Spencer’s side in an attempt to check on his well-being. “The whole things is a ploy. I’ve known of Spencer’s secret for years.”
“Wait, you knew?” asked Spencer, locating Scott’s whereabouts.
“I may have had my suspicions confirmed by Jessica, yes,” he replied, deepening his brow crease.
Spencer swung his gaze to meet mine, only out by a few inches.
“Spencer, you’re shit at keeping secrets,” informed James, clasping his son’s arm. “Now focus. We have stuff to be getting on with.”
“What stuff?” I asked, confused as to what was going on here. “Aren’t you disgusted with us, James?”
He looked horrified. “Never. I was acting, sweetheart. I wanted the press to think I was angry.”
Spencer sighed. “It was me.”
“What was?” questioned Scott, seemingly in a similar position to me.
“I leaked the story about us.”
“Why would you do that?” I shrieked, completely mortified.
“Because Alister knows and I don’t want that bastard having any more leverage on us.”
“Okay, that makes sense but why resign?” pressed Scott, unclear on its significance.
James shot a look to me before continuing his explanation. “We want a certain someone to think Spencer is close to hitting rock bottom. Once things get sorted next week, he’ll return to work.”
“You told him about Isy?” I assumed, aiming my enquiry towards Spencer.
I knew he had.
He nodded. “Yes.”
“And I’m glad he did. I can help you both, Jessica.”
“How? He’s got both signatures on those adoption papers.”
Scott almost fell to the floor. “What the fuck?”
“Dad thinks if Alister sees how downtrodden I am, he’ll get sloppy.”
“You mean mess up?”
“Exactly,” smiled James, gesturing for Scott to enter his office. “I’ll fill him in. This news stays between us, Spencer. I can’t have your mother knowing about all this. It’ll upset her.”
“Rosalie can’t know too,” insisted Scott, jumping on the back of James’ demand. “Whatever shit is going on, she’s got enough on her plate with Sophia.”
Spencer nodded and so did I, although I still had no idea what was happening.
“We’ll talk later,” soothed James, sensing my confusion. “Go pick Leila up and enjoy your weekend together. We’ll reconvene on Monday and discuss the plan of action.”
“Come on, baby. Let’s get you cleaned up,” goaded Spencer, placing a gentle hand on my cut knuckles. “And don’t think we’re not talking about what happened before. I’m worried about you.”
I had a feeling he wouldn’t let the matter of my earlier outburst drop. He’d never seen me like that before. In all honesty, no one but Sam ever had. My coping mechanisms for fear was acting out and I needed to come clean to Spencer. Especially now. Before, I had been scared. Now, I was terrified. He needed to know how I was really feeling.