Chapter Nine: Entrapment
The afternoon passed over quickly, and with many teasing exchanges between Damon and me. I tried to avoid him to prove I was not as captivated by him as everyone else. But the truth was, when he wasn’t looking, I found myself staring at him. And at times when I was speaking with a few of my colleagues, I found him doing the same.
Slowly everyone started to leave, and most of us that were left were drunk. My body was fine but my head felt slightly dizzy. I was enjoying myself. We often had small events like this but never did I have so much fun. It was a welcome diversion from my frantic schedule. My relief to be not working made me question whether I was in fact unhappy in my job. Perhaps I was kidding myself that this position would open doors. I watched over Damon’s hard back as he helped two women who obviously had too much to drink to stand up. I was confused to notice that it was him who challenged me to question the direction my career was taking. When my sister questioned me I was quick to reassure her I was fine and that I loved it here. Was I in denial? Was I so consumed by my work that I had no time to think of anything else?
I swirled the last of my drink in my glass and gulped it before walking over to the sink and beginning to clean the mess. Eventually everyone disappeared but Damon, leaving me to clean, as usual. Cassidy had left thirty minutes ago as she had another dinner to go to with friends for her birthday. When she told me I envied her. Last year I didn’t have the opportunity to share it with many friends or family. In fact, if I recalled correctly, I purchased myself a cupcake and Pudding smashed his dirty face into it just after I blew out the candle. The fat cat swiped it away from me and ran into one of the rooms as if he had just caught a mouse.
I began washing the dishes, thinking over the situation. If only I could conjure the kind of charm Damon had, perhaps then I would have been able to convince Debra to give me a break. Damon began rounding up the glasses and placing them beside me as I cleaned. Although they could have been cleaned later by Lucy, the cleaning lady, I didn’t want to leave her the mess to deal with.
It was now Damon and I alone, and I couldn’t help but feel like a teenager. He scraped food into the bin, his arms bulking every time he scraped down the plate.
“Are you serious about tomorrow?” I asked him, still not understanding why he would want to model for our magazine. It was not like it was a small task. He would be on every cover of the edition across the country. I was intimidated by that thought alone.
“Yes Clover, I was serious,” he politely smiled. “Like I said before, you really aren’t a romantic, are you?”
I held my smile before walking over to him. I leaned past him sassily to grab the tea towel. “I am onto you, and it’s suspicious. You don’t even know me. How do you know I won’t steal your money or something?”
“Well, considering that you already have, twice, the thought no longer scares me,” he playfully teased. Our eyes lingered. “And much to my surprise, you are not fighting me on it. Much.”
“You just seemed convincing at the time,” I said, raising my eyebrows and dropping one of my hips as I placed my hand on it.
“It’s my job.” His brown eyes were as consuming as ever, forcing me back to the moment in the cab when I told him his eyes were too beautiful. I still felt the same.
“Do you persuade all your clients in such a way?” I provoked him, grabbing a glass and wiping over it with the tea towel. He straightened but didn’t say anything. After a moment’s silence I spoke again. “So, where are we going Friday?”
“It’s all in the surprise,” he said with a smile. He reached for one of the glasses beside me to wipe over, his fingers brushing past my arm. The simple touch alone raised the hair on my skin. I retracted my arm as if I’d been burned, knocking a glass onto the floor in the process. I cringed as it shattered in the silence. I took a few steps backward and then crouched to collect the pieces of glass, partly to hide my face.
“Clover, leave it, I will pick up the pieces. For someone with such a name I would expect more luck, less clumsiness,” he mused. “I’ll find a dustpan and brush.” He began looking through the cupboards. I remembered my sister telling me she thought my name was ironic because I was unlucky with love. I was a twenty-eight-year-old woman who had never truly found such a thing. I was embarrassed by my jumpy state around Damon, confused as to why I couldn’t compose myself like I did around everyone else. It may be easy for him to act so polite and smooth, but I was the opposite around him.
With the dustpan and brush, he crouched in front of me as he swept it up. I could feel his dark-brown eyes flickering to mine. “Clover, what is wrong?” he asked smoothly. I studied his lips which were so close to mine. His pull, the natural smell of him mingled with cologne, intoxicated me. His muscular arms looked so masculine. I felt helpless within his grip, like I was his prey, his victim. When he looked at me I felt my heart race, like I wanted to be in this moment forever. It was a hunger I could not contain. I felt hot again and my heart raced.
My attraction to him was alarming. I coughed, trying to dispel my infatuation. “I’m okay,” I smiled, collecting the larger pieces of the mug and taking them to the bin.
After wiping the glass into the bin, we both looked around the room, which was much tidier than the state it had been left in.
“I think that’s all of it,” Damon assessed. “Shall we?”
I looked at him, confused by his assumption that we would leave together.
“Clover, you have my wallet,” he reminded me, snapping me out of my delusion.
“Of course, I know,” I nodded. “Yea, I think that’s it.”
I turned some lights off in the main office. When in the elevator, we didn’t speak. I felt a tension within myself; I was confused how we fit together. After greeting the security guard, I flagged us down a taxi. As we waited for it to reach us, I wrapped my arms around myself against the chill of the night air. I wasn’t prepared for staying at work so late. I looked at my silver watch, which told me it was nearly 9 p.m. already.
“If I had a coat, I would offer it to you,” Damon said.
I smiled awkwardly, flattered. “Well, thank you. It’s the thought that counts.”
The taxi stopped in front of us and Damon opened the door for me. He was a gentleman through and through. The surrealism of it was striking. To think that yesterday I was paying for such services from the very same man. He closed the door after me before walking around to the other side. It made me recall the fairytales I used to tell me sister’s two children. I would describe a prince, a gentleman. I had thought them unrealistic until now. I couldn’t deny that Damon was both kind and thoughtful.
I gave the cab driver my address. Damon and I spoke about the modelling and what would be expected of him. To my surprise he said he had modelled twice before. And yet, after he said it, it didn’t really surprise me. He was an attractive man. As much as I wanted to be annoyed by the situation he had put me in, the mystery of Friday was enticing. I couldn’t even manage to convince Debra to let me have a day off, so to now have that because of Damon, I was in some way grateful.
The realization that this job might not be for me helped me make my decision. I did need some time away from work. I needed time to think of myself, away from the fast pace of work.
About three blocks up from my apartment building, Damon requested that the cab driver stop. “This isn’t my block,” I said to him in confusion. Had he forgotten which building was mine?
“I know, it’s only three blocks away, but I wanted to try a coffee shop near here. Care to join me?” he asked, handing over money to the cab driver.
“Sure,” I said mildly. He was already handing the cash over. I was excited to go. My heart raced at the invite. I opened my own door, but Damon was already there, hand extended, to help me over a gutter.
We walked across the road. The small shop he was talking about was both a café and a bookstore. The outside’s slick white chairs and tables held a charming feel. There were little potted purple plants under the large bay windows. Damon opened the door for me. The mixture of old books and roasted coffee tantalized my senses. It was a familiar and relaxing smell. I loved to read, yet I barely ever had the time now.
Both on my left and right as I walked in were slim white bookshelves with recently released books. On our left was the slick white counter, which was supporting many ornamental plants.
In front of us was a small staircase which lead upstairs where further bookshelves could be reached. On my right were purple leather booths and white marble tables. On each of them was a potted fake plant. Encasing all the walls were books, with their written genres up top on the highest shelf.
I was ashamed that this was so close to my apartment and yet it had never occurred to me to come. I had never even noticed it. Damon walked over to the young barista, who was smiling at us welcomingly.
“May I have two hazelnut lattes, please?” he asked politely, looking at me for reassurance that that was the coffee I would have ordered. I nodded happily. I smiled to myself at the thought that he had remembered my favorite flavored coffee. I walked over to one of the bookshelves in front of the booths, fiddling with one of the fake plants leaves as I scanned over the spines of the books. I narrowed my eyes mostly on the travel books; the one facing toward me was about Japan.
“Any books capture your attention?” Damon called. I turned to see that he clutched a brown paper bag. He must have bought some books whilst I explored.
“You read?” I asked, pointing at the bag, curious as to what kind of book it may be.
“Of course I read,” he smiled. “I am starting to think you’ve judged me harshly.”
“No,” I said with a smile. “I still don’t know what I think of you.” I narrowed my eyes on him in mock suspicion.
“Well then, you may have to get to know me a little more.” He gestured toward one of the booths. “Should we sit?”
We took a booth near the window. There was a couple in the corner giggling to one another, and a student studying with headphones on whilst slurping on his coffee loudly.
“I read some of your pieces,” Damon admitted. “Online...from your previous job.”
“You’ve been checking up on me?” I asked in surprise.
“Out of intrigue, maybe. My favorite piece was probably about the neighborhood cat and dog that regularly got into a fight. I can’t believe you managed to write a whole article on that,” he said with a smile.
I looked at the table with a large smile, playing with my earring as I remembered. I started laughing to myself. “Don’t judge it, if you were there, you would know. It was hilarious, you should have seen their respective owners trying to split them up and chase them home,” my smile brightened and I laughed even harder at the memory. “It was my greatest piece,” I teased.
“So I don’t get it, if you had all that there, why did you come here to be a personal assistant?” he asked.
My smile slowly vanished as I tried to remind myself why I had. It seemed so long ago. “I thought I was following the career I wanted in Ithaca, but in my heart I knew I wasn’t. My father’s memory stayed with me, and I felt sure he would want me to pursue my dream. Travel writing. He was always so proud of my writing.”
My deep words of memory were interrupted by the barista as she placed our coffees down in front of us. We both thanked her before dragging our mugs closer to us. Damon clasped his hands together and rested his chin on them as he looked at me intently. He prompted me to continue. It confused me how open I was with Damon and how easy and natural it felt to talk about one of my darkest memories.
“I had always talked of travelling since I was very young. Running around the world and being a columnist. With so much time on my hands and the never-ending dwelling on it, I decided I should honor that. Not only for myself, but for my father as well. He was so supportive of my writing career. So I packed my things and drove to the Big Apple. And well, here I am now,” I said, opening my hands and looking around.
Damon was quiet for a moment and I felt as if the tension built between us.
“This is me,” I said, unsure of what else to say.
The thought of my father passing still left a tender spot of emotion in me. But when I thought of him I tried to place him in a beautiful light. One where I celebrated his living; he had been a kind, loving, and gentle man. I wanted to think positively instead of mourning his death. I still believed he watched over me.
“I lost my mother,” Damon began after a long moment of hesitation. It seemed as if he almost struggled with the confession. It made me question if he too resisted speaking to people about traumatic memories. “...From cancer. I’m really impressed by your courage. In fact, I kind of went the complete other way. With the family business there was a lot of strain on my sister and I to take over, to relieve my father from the pressure. Things got a little worse; life threw me a few more curveballs, and well, I kind of slumped and left most of it to my sister. Although I help her now, she lets me impose when I want, but we are both comfortable with her running it.” As he spoke to me he looked into his mug. Perhaps if he looked into my eyes he would not be able to continue any further.
“What else happened?” I encouraged him, intrigued by the severely hurt expression he had assumed when speaking about “curveballs.”
He looked up at me awkwardly, smiling to cover the pain in his eyes. For a moment I paused, realizing his pain might be too pronounced to reveal.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“It just kind of sucks,” he said lightheartedly. “Sorry, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“Don’t apologize,” I said, quickly reaching for his hand. He stared at me as he regained his composure. I could see his emotions subsiding. What had happened to him to damage him so much? He looked down at my hand on his, studying it intently. I retracted it instantly, taking a sip from my mug with the same hand.
There were so many more questions I wanted to ask, about his family business, where he had come from, how he had become an escort. But after the heavy conversation we had just had, I thought it was best if I left it for now.
“So you are happy being a personal assistant now?” Damon asked, resting his chin on his hand again.
“You seem to ask me that a lot,” I raised my eyebrow in a taunting manner.
“I know but it just seems so odd to me. You’re an exceptional writer. That shines through the fluff pieces you were forced to write. You’re obviously a very driven woman, and yet you are being bullied by your boss.”
The word “bullied” piqued my interest. Had I really lost all my fighting spirit? I always thought of work as a challenge, and a stepping stone to pursuing my dreams. Didn’t you have to start at the bottom to achieve your dreams? I couldn’t help but now see it from his angle as well.
“Do you know why Debra dislikes you so much?”
I smiled and a loud sigh escaped my mouth. “That, my friend, is the million dollar question. We were fine for the first few months; she was actually a really great person and boss. And then after my first campaign she turned on me, and it just escalated from there.”
“You don’t think it has anything to do with Gary?”
“Gary? I don’t understand what it would have to do with Gary,” I echoed in confusion. I suddenly remembered our weird exchange at the campaign last night, but I was surprised he would mention him.
“You don’t think that Debra might be jealous? You are, after all, a beautiful woman, Clover,” he said.
My heart beat in my chest suddenly at his words. Did Damon think me beautiful? I quickly spoke again before my awkward pause would give away my thoughts. “Jealous of me? No, Debra makes her opinion on my attractiveness very clear. That’s just Debra. It’s funny, you know,” I said with a small smile, thinking of it in more depth. “I honestly have never questioned my career until meeting you.”
Damon said nothing. I looked into my mug, which was now nearly empty. “Well, Mr. Charming, you’re certainly very thought-provoking.”
I found it confusing how easily I could talk to Damon. We had only known each other for two days, and yet I felt like he was as familiar as a best friend.
“Thought-provoking is good. I have been called worse,” he joked. He looked at his watch, assessing the time. I did the same, noticing our conversation went on for far longer than I had thought.
“Should we go get your wallet?” I asked, draining the rest of my coffee before placing it on the saucer. We shuffled out of our booth and made our way out of the exotic café, greeted by the cool breeze of the autumn air. We walked side by side in amicable silence, and when we reached my apartment, we gratefully slipped into the warmth of the building.
A few minutes later I opened the door to my apartment. Pudding bolted out and I tried to wedge him against the doorframe, as usual. But the sullen orange cat slipped straight past me. Before I could call out after him, Damon had dropped his books and caught him. He held the petulant cat out to me. Pudding let out a defeated, malicious noise.
“He’s quick for a chubby cat,” Damon laughed. I nodded my head in agreement before grabbing Pudding and nudging my hip against the door to open it for Damon. He reached over me to hold the top of it, his shoulder close to my face when I turned.
As my heart quickened, I held my breath, trying to focus. “Your wallet’s in here.” My voice was notably shaky. I walked over to my laptop and grabbed his wallet. I recalled my temptation to look through it. This wallet was the last connection I thought I had to seeing him again. Much to my surprise, I did want to see Damon again. And now, with tomorrow’s modelling session firmly in place, and Friday’s date agreed, I was excited to know there was more to come.
Still holding Pudding in one hand close to my chest, I walked over to Damon, who leaned against the door. I handed the wallet to him, our eyes lingering for a moment before he focused on it and took it.
“Thank you,” he said, and his thumb brushed over my fingers, which sent a fire up my arm and into my chest. My mind felt hazy and I couldn’t gather any rational thoughts. His thumb lingered. Looking up at me intently, he had froze.
Damon pulled his wallet slowly from my hands, raising it to signify he had received it. It was such an odd exchange to endure. I didn’t know what he was thinking and I certainly couldn’t gather any of my own thoughts. My body thrived with unfamiliar lust.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Clover,” he said courteously. “Good night, and sleep well.”
“You too,” I said as he left. I shut the door, resting my back to the door until the tension had eased in my body and I was calm once again. I snuggled Pudding into my chest for comfort.