Me and Sonya had been sitting at the hotel bar for a while and the bitch was refusing to let me have a single drink. Sure, it was fine for her to do it when it was her way to cope but apparently when I did it I was ‘being an unprofessional twat.’ Double fucking standards.
Glancing around at the abundance of guys in business suits it was quick to spot the ones with actual money, their expensive watches and fancy shoes there for everyone to see, their lingering glances at my ass even more obvious.
“Have they left another message?” Not that I care if they don’t show up, but I didn’t carry this folder all the way in here for nothing. I want to get paid.
She looks down at her phone. “Shit, they’ve said they’re stuck in traffic getting back from the airport now. Okay, they can’t be too much longer surely. You wait here, I’ll go meet the clients over in the Vallent, if they get here before I get back just waffle a bit until I get here.”
Sure, anything so you’ll fucking leave and I can get a fucking drink.
“Oh, and Brianna?” I look up from pretending to read my folder. “No drinking... I understand the temptation but... I swear to you, it doesn’t help, not really.”
Whatever you say.
I watch her walk out of the bar, berating a poor bellboy on the way past for almost stepping on her faux fur coat, until she’s entirely out of the hotel. Turning immediately to the cute bartender on her exit, I order my favourite.
“Hey sweet cheeks, double gin on the rocks. Do me a favour and charge it to the card you have on file.”
He smiles at me before turning to make the order and giving me a view of the butt I’m thinking about biting a chunk out of in the storage room around back later, if he’s lucky. The moment the cool liquid passes my lips I feel like I can finally breathe again, my head getting the tiny buzz I’ve needed all day.
Browsing through Instagram to kill some time between flirting, I see that Josh has been down to see Helena today and she’s had a bit of the plaster taking off her arm. They’re both smiling merrily at the screen, I’ve lost count of the amount of times he’s asked me when I’m going to go see her again, he hasn’t come by much since the funeral though.
Al mentioned he’s staying with his mum a lot. I’m guessing it’s because he hates Chrissy more than life itself and it must be hard to watch Steve falling in love with her all over again. I bet they have baby names by now.. Colours for the nursery and a fucking pram too..
My second glass of gin arrives and I’m pretty sure these clients aren’t coming, Sonya’s gonna lose her shit.
Sober work-face time. I spin with a smile ready to meet these fancy pants who think turning up on time is beneath them but I’m met by a very different, and very familiar, face.
“Mr Vanderbilt, what are you doing here?”
He smiles at me. “It’s just Tommy, please, I insist. I was supposed to be meeting a client for a late lunch but I believe I’ve been stood up.”
I chuckle. “That makes two of us.”
He’s cute isn’t he? Not in the way Christopher is, he doesn’t have that baby-face thing going on, Tommy is all angles and has the strongest jawline I think I’ve ever seen. He’s a lot like his mum actually, now I look at him properly, especially with those eyes.
“Would it be okay to join you for a drink? Or do you have work to do? I’d hate to impose.”
Maybe it’s the confidence of the drink, or maybe it’s just nice to talk to someone who doesn’t know how fucked up my world is right now, I don’t know, but I find myself inviting him into the seat next to me anyway.
He takes it gladly, asking the bartender to bring him some kind of expensive bourbon I’ve never heard of and another of whatever I’m drinking. Thanks very much posh bollocks, I’m not gonna refuse a free drink, although I wasn’t exactly paying for this one with it being the company account and all.
“I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you after the engagement party, you seemed to disappear when I made my rounds to thank all those in attendance. It was a marvellous event, it was clear to everyone how hard you worked.”
Yeah, I was busy banging your future step-daddy about then, sorry, not sorry.
I think back to our little romp that night and a smirk makes its way to my face.
“Thank you, it’s nice to be appreciated. So you really enjoyed everything that night huh? The music, the decorations... the soup...”
He freezes, I swear I see him open his mouth and start gasping for air on instinct at the memory of my chilli filled swill.
Rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, I burst into laughter before finishing off my original glass of gin in one mouthful.
He notices my giggles and eyes me suspiciously. “What did you do Ms Parker?”
I laugh, the gin going to my head enough to let me speak freely.
“Me? Nothing... absolutely nothing... I just think, sometimes karma’s a bitch... I heard what you said you know.” He looks even more confused than he did earlier, so I turn to face him and keep his eyes locked to my own so I can gage his reaction before continuing. “When I went into the kitchen, I heard you and your friends talking. You telling them how you don’t fuck the help unless you have to, but the things you’d thought about doing to my ass meant I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. Sound familiar?”
I’ve never seen a man turn so red so quickly, the poor fucker wants to die. He stumbles over his words for a moment as he goes from salmon to rouge until finally he just drops his head into his hands completely.
“Oh god, Brianna I’m so sorry. You must think me a pervert or something. Those were my fraternity brothers, they just... they expect a certain kind of behaviour from me around beautiful women. I swear to you, I meant no disrespect. I never ever expected you to hear that.. oh god I’m so sorry I...” He pauses, a light going off above his head. “Wait, you said karma? My god, you did that to my soup!”
I burst out laughing and as the penny drops for him, he does too. We both howl with giggles to the point that half the bar turns to look at us but neither of us seem to care. God, it actually feels good to laugh again.
Rubbing away the tear forming in his eye he takes my hands. “I’m so sorry Brianna, you are a beautiful, intelligent and an extremely talented woman. I should never have spoken about you in that manner, I beg for your forgiveness.”
It’s actually funny, it’s definitely not the worst thing a guy has ever said about me but it definitely is the first time they’ve apologised for it.
“Did it burn?”
He laughs. “Like a bitch, I haven’t eaten soup since.”
I return his laughter. “Then I guess you’ve suffered enough. If it means that much to you, you’re forgiven... Although I am slightly insulted you’ve never actually thought about my ass though.”
He smirks, bringing my knuckles to his lips and kissing them gently before peering up at me through those thick long eyelashes of his. “I never said that.”
Oh fuck... Yeah, as much as I’d really love to shove it to Clarisse by fucking her eldest son, I could never do that to Antonio, no matter how fucked up I am.
We chat for a bit about the basics, moving to the couches and having another drink while he tells me about his latest business ventures. To be honest, it’s boring as shit to listen to, but he keeps buying the drinks so I feign interest.
He does make a point of getting closer to me every time he talks but I keep my binder by my side as a barrier. No can do amigo, not happening... Although, those cheekbones would look good covered in my... Oh god, time to move to water.
Finally, before I sober up, I have to ask the question.
He stops, placing his glass on the table in front of us before leaning back against the couch to look at me.
“He misses Helena.” I freeze, almost choking on my drink so much Tommy has to tap my back to bring me back to reality.
“Fuck, you know?”
He nods. “Of course I know, I’m his brother. I don’t agree with what’s happening between them but it’s not in my control to stop it. She’s a nice girl, she’s probably better away from all of this anyway.”
I chuckle. “She hates you.”
He looks taken aback by my statement. “What? Why?”
I shrug. “Something about you being too hands on with the staff. My first day in your house she told me to stay away from you.”
He attempts a gentle laugh, his whole body relaxed but I see the glass now in his hand is on the verge of shattering, he’s holding it so tight. I’ve always been good at reading people, he’s acting cool and calm but I can tell inside he’s seething right now.
“God, they just won’t let that go will they. Ironic, considering her relationship with my brother.” I take a swig of my drink, I’m glad I decided I needed water before Sonya got back, Tommy went to get me this one but my head is now really pounding so I’m drinking it quickly. It’s got a tang to it though, probably because my body isn’t used to just water anymore, I pull out the lemon to get rid of the bitterness.
“What to you mean?”
He empties the remainder of his glass before sitting forward in his chair, his fingers gently tickling over my knee as he talks, I’m not sure he even realises he’s doing it but something about the way he touches me makes me shiver.
“When I was younger, still a teenager and before I was even married, I had a small dalliance with one of the maids in the house. It was stupid, I know. It could’ve never truly been anything considering my position but you can’t help who you fall for. She loved me, even though she couldn’t show it, I knew she did in my heart. We cared deeply for each other, I would try to spend every moment I could with her until finally we were able to be together, intimately. Then she left, I didn’t understand. It was rough for a while but then I met my wife and things worked out for the best. She’s much more suited to... my needs... I can’t believe the staff still talk about it, it was so long ago.”
Oh shit, okay now I feel bad. Helena made out like it was something I needed to be aware of, not something he did as a teenager.
Fuck, I really should’ve eaten. I swear after so long without it, this water is starting to make me feel worse than the gin was.
“I’m sorry Tommy, I didn’t realise it was like that.”
He nods, taking his empty glass from the table then reaching for mine too. His hand lingers against my own for a moment, there’s so much sweat on his palms as he tries to hold my fingers that I have to pull away, a cold chill running down my spine.
“You kind of remind me of her...” His gaze is intense but I’m having trouble focusing on it. “Water again?”
I nod but I realise almost immediately it was a mistake as my head starts to spin. What the fuck is going on? I’ve drank more than this over the last few days and haven’t felt this rough.
I need to go home... this isn’t right...
Leaning into my bag to get my phone it’s like I have heavy weights on the ends of my arms, I can hardly lift them from my sides.
Pulling out my phone I scroll to the S’s to ring Sonya, my screen is really blurred now and a panic starts to overtake my body as I realise my fingers are so numb I can’t feel them touching the screen. What the fuck?
I smash down the call button on what I think is the right number, it rings and rings until the voicemail picks up. I don’t even hear all the words but the minute the beep sounds I know something is definitely wrong, my head is so heavy it feels like it’s going to fall off my shoulders.
“Sonya, please can you come? I’m still at the Freewater but somethings wrong... I had some water and now I can’t feel my legs... please, can you come get me now... I’m scar-”
I try to keep talking when I realise the phone isn’t in my hand anymore, my hands are completely numb and it’s fallen from them into my lap.
“Brianna? Are you okay?”
Tommy moves in close, resting the back of his hand against my head before noticing the call still open and hanging up the phone for me.
“You’re burning up. Here, drink this.” He places the water to my lips and I do my best to swallow but I can feel it trickling down my chin, this doesn’t stop him though, he keeps pouring it down my throat until the glass is empty. “There’s a good girl. Now, let’s take you for a lay down is it? You don’t look well.”
No, I don’t want to go for a lay down, I just want to go home.
He moves in even closer to my body, wrapping his arm around my waist as he pulls me to my feet. Everything is so heavy, I don’t understand how I’m up. Why isn’t he more freaked out? I can feel how wet the front of my top is where the water ran down it but he doesn’t look concerned as he starts to drag me towards the reception desk.
I don’t want to go with him. Pushing my hands against his body I manage to stumble away but he grips me once more, this time not so gently. I wince as his bony fingers dig into my ribs in his attempts to keep me upright.
“Relax Brianna, don’t make a scene and this will all be easier... Although I do enjoy it when they fight...”
Oh god no.