Holly, Present day
I had never slept as well as I did with Adrien there. I had also never woken up in the middle of the night sweating profusely under a down feather duvet, a fleece robe, and the very tight embrace of a man that made me feel like I was cuddling with a radiator. Beyond that I was more than happy to be there and have him with me; at a respectable distance, on his side of the bed. And Ian chose the most peaceful and romantic moment of my morning to pound on the adjoining door while calling my name.
“I think he’s looking for me,” I grumbled.
Adrien snickered as he rolled off of me, sprawling out across the bed while I scrambled to pull something on. The frantic knocking increased and I huffed, caving and just wrapping myself back up in my robe. I ran to the door and threw it open, Ian stood on the other side looking startled. He was holding his open laptop, wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, suddenly he pushed past me to into the living area and sat down on the sofa.
“That woman you introduced me to - Blanche? We’ve been chatting, and she just connected me to this designer she good friends with--”
“Ian, please, it is six in the morning, get to the point,” I interrupted, knowing he would go on forever otherwise.
“She’s set up a double interview with Vivienne Westwood and herself, we’re heading out to her apartment in the 7th arrondissement near the uh...” He started clicking frantically on the laptop.
“Eiffel Tower?” It wasn’t Blanche’s apartment, it was Adrien’s.
Ian looked confused but nodded. “Yeah, how did you know?”
Because I have been fucked on every available surface in that apartment. I shrugged. “I’m just familiar with the area.”
Ian stood quickly, excitement spreading across his face. “Perfect, be ready in an hour then and we’ll head out.”
I nodded along and shut the door behind him, then debated banging my head against it.
“You’re spending the morning with my mother?”
I rolled my eyes as I turned to face Adrien, he was slouching against the door jam to the bedroom, wearing only his dress pants loosely on his hips. He still had the just-woke-up look but was clearly amused, and his hair sticking out at odd angles, it was pretty cute. He held his arms out, a very welcome invitation.
“She had to have planned this, there’s no way she just happened to have a major designer over for breakfast,” I grumbled, letting myself nuzzle my head into his shoulder.
He snorted. “Ma chere, she was supposed to be headed back to London yesterday - I know for a fact that she was looking for a reason to stay a while longer.”
Do you now? “Oh, and how would you know that?” I asked, trying not to be irritated with the answer I knew was coming.
He looked sheepish and there was a long pause before he answered, “I may have been talking to her about you being back in Paris, and she expressed interest in seeing you again.”
Ugh. I couldn’t be mad at that, he had always been close to his mother, and it was sweet that he wanted to tell her about me. But Blanche, no matter how much I adored her, tended to say too much, and that was not a trait I wanted someone who knew me well to have in front of my boss. Please don’t let her tell the story about how we met. She had told Charles about walking in on us, and I swear that’s what solidified his deep-seated hatred towards me.
“Of course you did,” I mumbled and reached up for a kiss. I felt him pull up the back of my robe to knead my ass softly. I moaned and pulled away reluctantly. ”Mon cher, we don’t have time for that...”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, we’re just kissing.” His mouth moved lower, trying to distract me.
I felt my robe fall open and his hands moved up to stroke the sides of my breasts. A quick one wouldn’t hurt. I threaded my fingers through his hair and felt him start to harden against my thigh, it sealed my fate as I pushed him back into the bedroom.
Ian was waiting for me in the lobby, wearing a pinstripe blazer, light wash jeans, and a gray dress shirt. I wondered idly if he was trying to dress nicer to impress Blanche, but I could hardly blame him since I did the same thing. The last time she and I had spent any extended amount of time together I had only wore things that were either skintight or cropped, now I wanted her to see I wasn’t the silly twenty year old that giggled every time I heard a French accent. I mean I still giggled at it, but only when Adrien swore and it sounded hot, but I wanted her to see me as the adult woman I liked to pretend to be. In honor of that, I had straightened my hair and pulled it back into a tight and high ponytail, donned my black satin halter neck jumpsuit, with my silver circlet belt, and my strappy silver platforms from the night before. I felt ready to walk the runway with the other models and judging from Ian’s surprised whistle he thought so too.
“The stage is that way, Miss Mitchell.” He said, amused.
I rolled my eyes but smiled at him. “Har har, don’t pretend like you didn’t dress up to see her too.”
A flush crept up Ian’s neck. “I thought a full-blown suit might be a bit much...”
I laughed and we headed out the doors to the taxi, it wasn’t a far walk to the apartment, but I certainly wasn’t walking to anywhere past the curb in these shoes. In the car I ran Ian through his itinerary, we had to be back at the hotel in a few hours for a conference call via Skype with Camille, and we had a show this evening to sit through. The show gave me pause, I knew he wouldn’t need me there for it and I had half a mind to ask him if I could leave early. I wanted to seek out Abigail again, our conversation had been eating at me, and I wanted to hear more about her knowledge of Ian. I chewed on it for a while before I finally asked, “Do you need me there for the Dior show tonight?” I tried to make it nonchalant by checking my emails as I spoke.
He glanced at me. “Not really, is there something you need to do instead?”
I hoped that wasn’t irritation in his voice. “It’s not important, I just wanted to call my mom, but if it’s an interference I can wait.” I really should call my mom too, but I couldn’t tell him that I wanted to gossip about him with Abigail.
He visibly softened, clearly accepting my mistruth. “No, it’s totally fine.”
I thanked him as we pulled up in front of the Figaro apartments, and it took every ounce of control to not immediately head for the elevators to the top floor. Ian checked in with the doorman and he gave instructions on how to get to the Bouchard apartment, Ian seemed awed by everything around him and it made me realize just how nice the decor really was. It was easy to miss when the guy that usually brought you here acted like a horny teenager with a sex doll, but the beautiful arrangements of flowers, the patterned black and white floor, and the glimmering chandelier were opulent and stunning. My heels echoed around the marble hall as we approached the door, Ian animatedly voiced his excitement about meeting both a classic designer and the main supplier for her label. Blanche threw the door open mere seconds after he knocked, and I had to wonder if she had been waiting behind it for a while - it wouldn’t surprise me. She looked fabulous as always, still in her signature fitted pantsuit, today in a stark white with black trim, black Louboutin’s, and her hair blown out into soft blonde beach waves.
"Mon ange!" she cried, reaching out for a hug.
I loved when she called me her angel, it made me feel special like I was at home. “Bonjour, ma mere.”
She beamed at me. “You’ve been practicing your Français; Adrien must be thrilled.”
Oh, I’m sure he would be when I demonstrate it to him later. I cringed inwardly; I didn’t want her to bring up Adrien in front of Ian, I didn’t want to discuss my relationship with him at all.
“Who’s Adrien?” Of course, Ian would ask that.
“My son, he lives here in Paris, and he was with me when we met,” Blanche replied happily.
I nodded along, trying not to draw the conversation out. Ian took the reigns and sat down with the women in the living room, I brought out mimosas for the group as they picked at the fruit plate between questions. It was odd being here without Adrien, and even weirder to be here with his mother and my boss. It was technically Blanche’s apartment, however, since she owned it and was just letting him stay there until he moved somewhere else. Though he had been staying here for over five years now, and I doubted he would be moving out of luxury anytime soon.
The interview went on for a while, stopping for long periods while Vivienne and Blanche reminisced, and Ian didn’t seem to mind one bit. I didn’t either since it gave me time to respond to my email from Mya, she was asking for updates on my run-in with Adrien and wondering if she needed to have tissues on standby. I loved her for it and assured her that there weren’t enough tissues in Manhattan to fix me when I got home. She also had news for me but wanted to wait until I was back in the city to tell me what it was. I didn’t like the feeling that gave me, rarely were things between us so important that we had to tell each other face to face.
I jumped as I felt a hand touch my shoulder.
"Mon ange, you look lovely this morning - are you dressing up for someone?” Blanche asked slyly.
I smiled at her. “Only you, ma mere. What do you think, am I professional enough for fashion?” I asked, giving her a little twirl.
“Stunning, absolutely stunning. What did Adrien think about it this morning?”
Of course, she knew he was at the hotel, Adrien probably told her when Ian and I left. I felt my face burning as I mumbled, “He thought I looked nice.” Nice enough to try and pull me back into bed a second time.
“Oh, is your son staying at the hotel, Blanche?”
I tried to hide my horror at Ian’s question but I couldn’t look him in the eye. “Oui, he told me he was visiting Holly.” Blanche seemed so sincere and happy, but I wanted nothing more than to shake her.
That’s my boss! Stop hinting at my sex life! “I ran into him in the elevator, we didn’t have time to really sit down and chat or anything,” I said quickly. I wanted to end this now before something embarrassing was said. I excused myself to the bathroom, hoping to calm down enough to stop blushing and dry my clammy palms.
I stayed in the washroom long enough to touch up my lipstick and blot my cheeks with a cool compress, desperately trying to will my pink cheeks back to normal. Your boss knowing you’re in a relationship is one thing, but your boss thinking you’re hooking up with random people on a business trip? Definitely not the most professional activity. I checked my phone quickly, an email from my mom and a text from Adrien - he was going to be leaving shortly and wouldn’t be free for a couple days. I felt a pang of sadness but reasoned that we could still see each other at least once more. The email was long, so I skimmed, she wanted to chat soon, and she had some news, I’d try and call her in the next day or so.
When I came back out Ian was packing up his laptop and laughing at something Blanche had said. Vivienne appeared to have left and I felt myself breathing a sigh of relief, we could finally leave. I leaned against the counter nonchalantly, watching as Ian checked something on his phone.
“Ready to head back?” I asked, hopeful.
He nodded. “Yup, got everything and I just got confirmation from Camille about a spread for this. We’ll have to get back there so I can call her shortly.”
Blanche looked disappointed, like a kid who found out they weren’t going to Disney World. “Mon ange, you’ll come to see me again before you leave, yes? Charles and I are having our anniversary dinner at the Marseille estate, we would love to have you there for the party on Saturday.”
Charles wouldn’t. “I’ll let you know Blanche; I promise I’ll be in touch soon.”
I felt guilt bloom in my chest as Ian and I made our way downstairs, I was playing a game that I couldn’t win and in the process, I was hurting more than just myself. I was quiet the way back to the hotel, lost in thought. I chewed my thumb nail for most of the ride until Ian broke the silence.
“This is a huge deal, Mitchell.”
“The spread?” I asked, glancing over at him
“Fuck yes, this is a major stepping stone for me getting back into real journalism.” He sounded weird, he was clearly excited but there was something in his tone that unsettled me.
“I guess it was a pretty great interview then,” I said, relaxing back into the seat and trying to act cavalier.
“You have no idea. That Blanche woman, she’s about to upend the entire fashion industry and she just wouldn’t stop talking about it.” Ian was tapping furiously at his phone as he spoke and had a wide smile on his face.
I bristled but tried to keep my tone even as I replied, “What do you mean, ‘upend the fashion industry’?”
He smirked. “Apparently her son stepped away from the business, and she doesn’t have someone else to take over, so she’s ending her supply line in three months and hasn’t officially announced it to any of the labels she supports.”
My stomach twisted in knots, the idea of watching him publish an article that would hurt Blanche wasn’t something I could just do. Camille approved the article, which means she already knows. My mouth went dry as I realized multiple people at NEXT would already be in the know as well. “Will it be in the same issue?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“Of course, get all the fashion shit out of the way and have this blasted across the front page. Two-page spread, Camille wants a mock-up by the time we’re back.” He put his phone away and turned to me, beaming a full megawatt smile. “I’m calling off the show tonight, it doesn’t matter now, so you can take as long as you want to chat with your mom.”
I nodded robotically, unable to say anything else. Ian was going to ruin Blanche’s reputation, and I was the person that introduced them. How do I tell Adrien? I went back to chewing my thumb nail as the taxi pulled up in front of the hotel, trying to think of a way to talk Ian out of it.
When I got back to my room Adrien had gone and left a note that we would chat later, I blushed as I read the cute send-off and tucked it into my bag. A crumpled purple paper caught my attention and I suddenly remembered the conversation with Abigail. I unfurled it and didn’t hesitate to call her.
“De Santa,” she answered.
I jumped at her cordial and firm voice. “Uh Abigail, it’s Holly Mitchell.”
“Holly! I was wondering when I would hear from you, I take it you’d like to meet for ‘tea’?”
I smiled to myself as I paced the room. “Yeah, that would be great. Do you have somewhere we can meet up?”
She gave me the address of a restaurant close to the hotel so we could have lunch, I was grateful for it considering I had to leave without having breakfast. I grabbed my bag and headed out, careful to not tip Ian off.
The restaurant was stunning; vaulted ceiling, powder blue walls with white wainscoting, and bleached wood floors. I found Abigail seated near a window, her bright purple suit jacket matched her oversized glasses, and her silver bob was glowing like a halo.
“You look lovely as ever my dear. I ordered for us; I hope you don’t mind.” Her voice was upbeat, her smile wide and infectious.
I didn’t mind, I was more than ready to eat whatever was put in front of me. “Not at all, thank you for meeting me by the way, I know it was short notice.”
“Nonsense, I was hoping you’d like to chat. How’s the prick doing?” She placed a napkin on her lap as the waiter brought wine over.
I waved it off in favor of water. “I introduced him to a friend of mine, and now he’s come into some information about them that he plans to broadcast. I’m not sure what I can do, or how I can stop it.”
Abigail chuckled humorlessly. “There’s likely nothing you can do. Can I ask what the article is about?”
I sat silently for a moment, unsure how much I could actually tell her. “My friend is about to close her business and it hasn’t been officially announced. Ian found this out and he’s trying to use it to get back into major journalism.”
The waiter came back with our lunch, duck confit, and Abigail seemed lost in thought. She was silent for a while and I started to wonder if she was waiting for me to say something. “Do you know why he was, unceremoniously, kicked out of his father’s media corporation?” she asked finally.
I was annoyed that she didn’t acknowledge what I had said but answered anyway. “Something to do with leaking information about the company stealing content I think, that’s what I heard anyway.”
She made a clicking noise with her tongue and took a long sip of her wine before she responded. “He was engaged to a woman working under his father, he wrote a tell-all novel about the means the company went through to have content creators sign over their rights. He used his relationship with that woman to get the information for his novel and included many details about her personal and professional life in it.”
Holy shit. I stared at my plate in shock. “He just doesn’t care then, it’s all about getting paid,” I said softly.
She nodded. “I’m glad you see that.”
I poked at my plate for a while, letting everything soak in. “You said he’s had a lot of assistants...”
“I only know what I’ve seen, and I have seen many young, pretty women attached to him. I also know that they all stay at luxury hotels, travel first class, and are generally whisked off their feet.”
“How do you know all that though? Like, how do you know about the hotels and travel, or even being ‘whisked’ off their feet?” I half asked, half demanded.
“Darling, I’m a featured designer, they are more than willing to talk to me. I see these poor ladies standing around, bored out of their skull, and I ask them questions and offer to host an interview. I realized what the prick was doing when I met the second assistant, she was very...attached let’s say, and I made it clear my thoughts on the matter towards him.”
I took a long swig of water; I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I had thought that he had been getting weird before we left, but nothing had really happened since we landed. Maybe I’m not his type. The thought was amusing, maybe the company had paired him with someone he wasn’t into, and his whole shtick was screwed.
“You’re so honest with me Abigail, and I don’t know how to thank you for all the information. Or for being the only other person that noticed me this week.” I offered her a small smile; it was all true and I was more than happy to be having lunch with her. “I’m sorry I dumped all that on you, I didn’t know who else to talk to.”
She reached out to clasp my hand and smiled back at me. “Tell me about yourself, how did you end up working with such a prat?”
I told her everything I thought she would be interested in, she congratulated me for my education, and we chatted for a long while about our respected career paths. She had a long history in media and television before she became a business owner, it made me feel good to know that it had taken her years to get to a place where she was happy with her job. Maybe that meant I could suffer a bit less with the reassurance that it can get better. I stayed as long as I could, even staying with her for late after lunch tea. I checked the time and finally decided it was time to head back to the hotel.
“It’s been so nice to talk with you Abigail, really. I hope I can see you again before I leave.”
She reached out and we shook hands before grabbing our bags. She assessed me for a moment before she spoke, “If you’re ever looking for something more fitted to your skills - don’t hesitate to call.”
Oh. Wow, that was a lot to take in, she just offered me a job. I thanked her profusely as we parted ways, and I walked back to the hotel in a daze. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, she liked me enough to offer me a job. I was still shaking my head as I got back to my room, quickly I pulled out my laptop and called Mya- she was going to be thrilled.