The Publicist's Plight (Book I in The Harrison Inc. Series)

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Chapter 17

Fiona is sitting next to me on the couch in the guest house. Loretta is next to me as well, offering me a glass of warm tea that awakes my congested nostrils that occurred due to my crying fest.

I sniffle and take the steaming cup from her hands, “Thank you.”

“No problem, honey.” The unease doesn’t leave her features. “What happened?”

“Yes, what happened?” Fiona asks as she rubs my shoulder. The contact is something I’m not used to, especially from a motherly figure such as Fiona. She sees how tense I am and stops, but I can’t help myself: I broke down, crying in the kitchen in front of Fiona Vaun, which resulted in her having to help me to the guest house as the tears kept flowing like a river. Usually I’m very well-composed in situations that are water-work inducing, but for some reason something snapped in me. I believe I was “triggered” somehow, which isn’t something that has happened to be since about a couple of months ago when I yelled at Hudson fiercely when he suggested I should start eating garden salad.

I shake my head and blink the burning sensation away from my eyes, “Nothing. It’s…stupid and pointless and…God,” I chuckle halfheartedly, “I’m so embarrassed.”

“Don’t be!” Fiona insists, staring at me with no sort of restraint in her eyes. “Is it stress? Did someone say something about you?”

I shake my head at the first guess knowing she doesn’t know which one I deny.

“It’s nothing, I swear it’s…I’m just overwhelmed.”

I’m a fool to believe I could lie to Fiona, especially since she’s a mother of four who has most definitely gone through something like this before with one of her children. The way she looks at me, it’s as if she knows I’m lying, yet is waiting for me to cave in myself.

“Was it Sebastian? Sarah? Lucas?”

I don’t answer.

“All three of them?”

I smile and sigh, “They were just saying…stupid things. Being immature. I shouldn’t have taken it so strongly like that,” I shrug it off like it’s a small comment that started this. “They didn’t mean it.”

I see anger in Fiona’s eyes, “That’s no excuse for them to make you cry, though.”

I don’t know what to say. I look at Loretta, who looks a tad sad, then down at my cup before I take a drink of tea.

“I don’t even want to know what Sebastian said,” Fiona mumbles sadly. “I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. We’ve all just been…really stressed lately and a little disagreement lead to just…chaos. And I let it get to me for a moment,” I laugh. “I’m honestly not a crier. I don’t know what came over me.”

It’s true. It takes a lot for me to cry about something. I guess my life experiences have conditioned me to know how to filter out things and determine whether subjects are worthy enough to dwell and eventually cry on.

I stand up slowly, “I think I should start getting back to work. I have so much to do.”

“What? Oh, absolutely not. You’ve been working too hard, Leslie. I think you should rest.”

“Miss Fiona is right.” Loretta takes the tea cup from my hands and looks at me seriously.

Are they implying that I actually take a nap?

Even though I protest, Loretta is so insistent that I’m already halfway to the staircase. There’s no way I can possibly take a nap now. That’s two to three good hours I can spend contacting Felicity’s reps to the point where they feel obligated to pick up the phone. If I’m asleep during that window of opportunity? Loss of essential time.

“I don’t think I should, I mean I still need to sort out so much.”

Fiona glares at me, then shifts her gaze onto Loretta, “Loretta, make sure that she gets some rest?”

Loretta nods with a smile. I thought she was on my side?

When Fiona leaves us, Loretta ushers me up the staircase. Despite my persistent attempts at convincing her to let me work, she tunes out my voice until we’re in my bed room.

“Get some rest, Leslie,” she tells me. “You need it.”

I look at the soft, folds of the bed and its comforter, then at the door, thinking of the couch I do my computer work on. Eventually, being convinced by my throbbing head ache and heavy eyes, I slip off my heels and place my phone from inside my slack pocket onto the bedside table.

“There we are,” Loretta smiles.

I sit on the edge of the bed and watch as she walks out of the room.

“Loretta,” I suddenly call out.

“Yes?”

I bite my lip, “The things you told me. The things about Sebastian you said earlier this morning…do you think that could be the reason he’s like this?”

Loretta faces me painfully, like she doesn’t want to remember anything I’m bringing up.

“I…I’m not sure of what you’re talking about.”

“You know…what you told me this morning? About…the paintings? And Garrett burning them?”

She shakes her head, almost too confidently, “Oh, no I-I was just fibbing. I didn’t mean what I said.”

I raise an eyebrow, “You lied? Why?”

“Because…because I thought it would make you go easier on him. I don’t know, it was a dumb thing to do. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Why is she lying to me? Can’t she tell I see through her honeyed words?

With an uncomfortable smile, she exits the room while leaving the door open, and I’m left sitting on the edge of the bed with a million thoughts running through my head like a marathon—constant.

I lift my legs and allow my entire body to lay weightless on the mattress, until I manage to drift off into a dreamless slumber.


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

My phone, usually my ally, is currently my worst annoying companion as it vibrates against the wood of the bedside table. The third round of vibration makes my eyes peel themselves away from each other and disinterestedly look at the screen.

The time, however, snaps me completely out of sleep.

“7:30PM?” I groan to myself. I couldn’t have slept for five hours straight. That’s impossible!

I notice the text messages on my screen. The first six are from Sarah:

“Hey, Mike Johnson called me back. He said he would love to have Sebastian at the party,” the first one said.

“Hello? I know you’re mad but this is what you wanted, right?”

“So you’re ignoring me. Alright.”

“Well Lucas and I have devised a brilliant plan regarding Felicity Felix and her baby scandal. Well, I thought of it, but Lucas is willing to tag along with me in order to execute it. We’re going tomorrow to Memphis since it’s her last day there, sources tell me, so you’re going to have to go to North Carolina with Sebastian on your own.”

“There will be someone waiting for you at the airport when you land. One of Oliver’s assistants. The party starts at eight and is a pretty chill function. Whether or not you decide to stay for the later night festivities is up to you.”

“I know this isn’t your type of crowd, but it’s Sebastian’s type. So just stand by and monitor when the press decides to snapshot his moves. You’ll be alright.”

The next text message is from Paul, giving me an update about his time with Pedro, my socially awkward Chihuahua. When I finish reading about how Pedro is doing hiding from Paul underneath my couch back home, I lock my phone and stare at the ceiling. With this intake of information, I would firstly confront Sarah and devise a game plan. But now I wonder: why do I always take the reigns over in everything? Like I told her, this is a team effort, correct? So regardless of what Sarah is planning to infiltrate Felicity’s plan with, I focus my worries on the party in North Carolina tomorrow.

And having to spend an entire day with Sebastian as if what he said never left his mouth.


After replying to some emails the night before, I wake up and get dressed after a long shower. Today, Sebastian and I embark on our journey to North Carolina for Oliver Epps’s “Quaint Birthday Party” as the media liked to call it. The press is already buzzing about Sebastian’s expected arrival and appearance, yet it seems the only person who isn’t excited to see him is me.

Peter drops me off at the main house around 2 in the afternoon after I take the time to heighten up the said buzz revolving around Sebastian with Darcy via email. Sarah hasn’t texted me yet about what her and Lucas plan to do in Memphis, and frankly, I don’t want to know until they get back. That situation, as Sarah stated, is all in her hands.

Until she messes something up. Then, it’s my turn to take over and perfect everything as best as I can.

My phone vibrates in my hand—a text message from Sebastian:

“Where are you? I’m waiting in the car and wondering how I can be earlier than you again.”

I look at the text like it’s an eviction notice:

Evil.

I swipe the text off of my lock screen and open it in my messaging app, so he can see that I’ve seen it, but purposefully decided not to reply. The fact that for once, possibly, someone isn’t dropping everything to reply to Sebastian Harrison’s text is probably killing him inside.

When I walk into the living room, I hear the soft sound of a woman speaking frantically on the couch.

“I just don’t understand why you’re doing this now,” she says, her voice heavy and fragmented by what I assume to be tears.

I pause in my tracks, unsure if I should keep walking or go the other way.

“Yet their actions are my fault? It’s my fault that they left me with the burden? Why is it always my fault, Dad? What have I done to deserve the blame?”

Time to go.

I make a 180 spin and set my sights on the dining room.

“Well you know what, I’m tired of this entire situation being completely about you guys. You haven’t taken one minute to just…sit and evaluate my stance on this. At all.”

Move, Leslie, move, I coach myself as I quietly power-walk the other direction. Hopefully she doesn’t know I’m here yet.

“Leslie?”

Shit.

I damn myself for being too slow before turning around to Elizabeth sitting on the couch, tears covering her beautiful face.

“I’m…I’m sorry I was just walking through here and I heard you talking—well I didn’t hear…everything, I just…I just—”

“It’s fine,” Elizabeth sniffles, pushing herself up on the couch and waddling towards me. I can’t help but notice how big she is; that’s going to be one hefty child. “I was being a little loud.”

I smile, not knowing what else to say.

We stare at each other in silence before Elizabeth sighs.

“I don’t know how you do it,” she finally says.

“I-I’m sorry?”

“Work for him. My father.”

What can I possibly say? Garrett has been nothing but kind to me ever since I was hired. Although being here and seeing his effect on everyone else in the family, especially Sebastian, has given me a slightly different outlook, it’s extremely hard to think of Garrett as anything but generous and kind.

You’re just saying that because he gave you a big, fat, two-million-dollar check, the little voice in my head points out to me.

My laugh comes out almost spiritless, “I’m not sure, either. He is a very…assertive man. But we do get along and we haven’t had any problems.”

I wonder if I should question why she’s crying. Is it my business to? Perhaps the courteous thing would be to ask if she’s okay, but by how she forces an uncomfortable smile and by how she quickly wipes her tears away, she wants the issue to be non-existent. It reminds me of myself yesterday. I burry the memory in the darkest depths of my brain.

“I see. He must really trust you, then.”

“I suppose so.”

Then it is silent again.

I’m hesitant to ask, “Are you…are you okay?”

She nods a bit too surely, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m fine it’s just…hormones raging with this little princess inside of me so the littlest things can make me cry.”

We both laugh, creating a plethora of bitter awkwardness.

“I should…I should go. I’m going to be late for this…thing.”

Her eyes look hopeful for a moment, but it’s as if she remembers something that makes her face fall into a disappointed expression.

“Right, right, I heard you’re going to North Carolina today.”

“Yes, Sebastian has been invited to a birthday party being held for Oliver Epps.”

“Oh. Sounds like fun,” she waves her hands around enthusiastically. “I hope you have a good time.”

“I hope so, too,” I laugh, in which she joins me.

“Well, I should probably go look for my mom. Have a safe flight.”

Elizabeth waves at me before slowly walking away into the dining room. Even though I made it evident I had to go, I still can’t bring myself to unglue my shoes from the floor, figuratively speaking.


“Well, there you are. It’s about time you showed up.”

Sebastian eyes me like a displeased parent as I enter the SUV and sit down. The driver shifts gears and slowly pulls out of the gravel drive way. Sebastian notices my stone-cold expression and questions it.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.” I make sure to leave my sunglasses on. “I’m as peachy as can be.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see him frowning at me.

“Al…right. Did Sarah tell you where her and Lucas were going?”

“Yes.”

“And you aren’t curious at all about what that trip involves.”

“No. Sarah made it clear she knows what she’s doing.”

“Okay, then. So any rules for the party later on tonight?”

“No.”

“No?”

I shake my head, and then it is silent minus the small humming of the car in motion. Sebastian lets out an irritated huff when the silence for him is unbearable.

“Okay, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes you do. You’re mad,” he laughs. “About what? About yesterday? Because if I were you, I wouldn’t know what to be mad about since you put Sarah in her place, right?”

Don’t respond. You’re only encouraging him.

“Okay, then. You can keep this up all you want. But you can’t be mad at me forever.”

I put in my earphones and listen to “Jay Morrison’s Guide to Publication and Societal Behaviors” on my iPhone the rest of the ride.

Unbothered.


Charlotte, North Carolina. 7:45PM.

“I swear; I can’t even hear myself think!”

Although Sebastian is practically screaming, it’s hard to even hear what he’s saying over the loud hip-hop music playing from the huge speakers and the sound of people laughing and dancing on the dance floor. It’s one thing that Sebastian and I are two out of about ten white people at this party, but the entire scene just makes me so reserved. At least Sebastian has been to functions similar or even exactly like this.

I haven’t.

Oliver Epps is at the end of the dance floor in a VIP section with a few of his close friends. He had invited Sebastian to sit with him first before anyone else, and now Sebastian is by my side to get a drink before he heads back. Beforehand, Oliver and Sebastian took many great photos on the red carpet and even had time to have a conversation filled with laughter and mutual interest. If there is one think great about Sebastian, one…small, sliver of greatness in him, is that he is extremely charismatic, and can make friends with about anyone; I recall about four people saying hi and talking to him based on past experiences that I don’t want to know about.

Either way, I sense a friendship with the filthy rich and extremely influential, Oliver Epps, brewing nicely.

“I would think you’d be used to this type of crowd,” I reply, checking my phone only to lock it again.

Sebastian laughs at my snide comment, “Ah, okay. I see how it is.”

I ignore him and wait for him, anxiously, to return back to the VIP section so he can continue befriending Mr. Epps. I see him ahead, sporting an expensive suit and puffing cigar smoke out his mouth that I smell slightly on Sebastian.

“Dance with me,” Sebastian says out of the blue when I don’t acknowledge him any longer.

“Wh-what?” I stutter.

“Dance with me. Out there? On the dance floor?” he points to the crowd of people with ten times more rhythm in their pinky than I do in my entire body.

“Please, stop trying to butter me up. And besides, there’s plenty of beautiful women you can dance with,” I point to a woman in front of us with long black braids and the most perfect ass I’ve ever seen. “You can dance with anyone else.”

His eyes boggle a bit at her for a moment before he focuses on his drink. I have yet to comprehend why he hasn’t tried his charm tactics on any women in here. I can count at least twelve girls who have eyed him with lustful intentions in the past five minutes.

Is he actually behaving and trying to make this friendship with Mr. Epps work? In other words, is he actually listening to me?

Hell must be frozen over.

“But I don’t want to dance with anyone else,” he answers smoothly. “I want to dance with you.”

Thank God he can’t see how hard I’m blushing in this dark room. “Oh, nice. Very nice. How many times have you used that line, hm?”

“Once.”

Don’t fall for it, Leslie, remember what he said yesterday? You’re smarter than this! You know him! The small voice in my head reminds me. I can imagine this voice belonging to a miniature version of me—a miniature version that is currently tapping her foot at me being so easily swooned.

“Yeah, nice try. I’m not dancing with you.”

“Yet,” he adds.

E-ver,” I emphasize.

“Never say never.”

“I said ever, not never.”

“Whatever. Point is, they all say yes eventually.”

I roll my eyes at his disgusting charm. Considering the way he spoke about me like I was a piece of meat to his dog-like tendencies, the last thing I want to do is feed into his attempt to mitigate my anger towards him. Anger in which he doesn’t know the root of.

“Seb-Soooooon!”

Both Sebastian and I turn to the sound of a man screaming in our direction. A wide smile stretches across Sebastian’s face when he finally recognizes who the man is.

“Anthony!” he yells before embracing him in a hug.

“Bro, how long has it been!?” Anthony asks when they step away.

“Damn, like…three years? Holy shit, man, wh-what are you doing here?”

“My home boy’s the DJ tonight. Got me in. You?”

“I was invited,” Sebastian tells him with a sly smirk.

“Shit, I shouldn’t have expected anything else,” he laughs. “You came all the way out to NC?”

“Yeah, I was around the area.”

“I see, I see. Man, we need to hang again soon. Remember the last time we were in Vegas for your birthday? With the strippers at that one club—”

Anthony continues to reminisce on the adventure that involved strippers, too much tequila and an orgy that Sebastian probably doesn’t remember. And through the entire explanation, Sebastian is discretely telling him to stop talking while awkwardly looking at me.

And he doesn’t get the memo until his story is finished.

“Oh, shit I’m sorry, Sebastian. Is…is this your girl?” he says, pointing at me with a considerable amount of surprise in his eyes.

“What?!” I exclaim. “No, no, no! No, I’m not his girlfriend.”

“Yeah, we aren’t together, It’s not like that.”

“Yeah, I mean,” I wave my arms as a warning signal that it will never happen. Anthony doesn’t look convinced.

I reach out my hand for a handshake, “I’m Leslie, his publicist.”

Anthony frowns so hard it frightens even me, “His prostitute?!”

“NO!” Sebastian and I scream at the exact same time.

“PUB-LI-CIST!” I yell over the music four times, mortified at Anthony’s previous conclusion.

Anthony looks relieved, “Oh, I’m sorry. Publicist,” he repeats before shaking my hand. “I can’t hear a damn thing in here.”

“It’s okay.” Kill me now.

“So how are you liking North Carolina so far?”

I shrug with a small smile, “I…it’s nice. Hot. Humid. I guess I can’t say much because I haven’t had the pleasure of doing any sight-seeing.”

“Aw, that sucks; Charlotte is great. What about the party, though?”

“I’m not here for self-indulging purposes.”

I see Sebastian mouth “uptight,” to Anthony. I clench my fists on my lap.

“Ah, I see, I see. Well, it was nice meeting you Leslie.”

“Likewise.”

“Is it alright if I borrow Sebastian for a minute, though?” he asks me, as if I’m his legal guardian.

My eyes are on Oliver Epps now, who is getting up from his seat in his VIP area. But when I look over to Sebastian and Anthony, they’re both gone.

Fuck.

I panic and look around the mobile crowd but fail at finding Sebastian anywhere. And to make matters even better, I see Oliver approaching me at this very moment.

Best two days of my life, so far, I’ll tell you.

Oliver and I are close enough for me to be able to see the hazel tint of his eyes and the goatee that’s shaped to perfection around his mouth.

“I thought I’d find Sebastian here when I looked over a couple of minutes ago, but when I looked again he was gone,” he says with a friendly smile.

“I’m sorry, he literally left in a flash.”

“No worries. He’s young, let him have a good time. You must be…Leslie?”

I nod and shake his hand, “Yes, it’s nice to meet you. And Happy Birthday!”

“Thank you, thank you. Sarah told Mike you’d be taking her place.”

“Yeah, she came upon some…work.” I think briefly about what her and Lucas must be doing right now in Memphis. “She sends her regards.”

“Tell her I look forward to meeting her very soon.”

I don’t know what else to say to this man. My expertise has never relied on speaking with music producers, only people such as CEO’s like Garrett and politicians and all in between. Do I talk about who’s topping the charts? Who isn’t topping the charts? I don’t even listen to the charts!

“So…Rihanna, huh?” I say shyly. To my surprise, it actually succeeds at making him laugh.

“We’re close friends, don’t worry,” he replies at my hesitance of naming the right music artist.

“Oh, thank God,” I hold my hand to my chest. “I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and you get mad and it’s just a whole…you know what, why don’t I go find Sebastian for you? He’s a better conversationalist than I am.”

“I actually like talking to you. You’re funny.”

“Ha! Tell that to everyone else I know. They won’t believe you.”

He laughs again, and I seriously cannot believe I am humoring this man. I’m making Oliver Epps laugh.

Sarah won’t believe this.

I excuse myself to go look for Sebastian, yet I don’t know where to look. Is he on the dance floor? The other bar? DID HE LEAVE?!

I squeeze through the compacted crowd of people, some of them so drunk they don’t even think to move out of my way.

Finally, when I’m at the back door, I press my hands on the cold metal and walk out into the humid heat. But I don’t even need to take two more steps before I see two shadows on my left.

Sebastian and Anthony are standing still as statues next to each other, their right hands behind their backs.

I place a hand on my hip, “What are you doing?”

Sebastian eyes Anthony but doesn’t say anything. However, a small ring of smoke leaves his mouth, followed by an entire cloud despite his attempt to keep his mouth shut. They both begin laughing hysterically while a giant cloud of smoke exits Anthony’s mouth as well.

I’m infuriated.

I march over and hold my breath while I grab Sebastian by his ear and drag him inside.

“Are. You. Crazy!? Oliver was waiting for you!” I scold.

“Anthony said it was really quick and I ’lready feel it,” he murmurs.

“What was really quick? Why did you say yes to smoking weed, especially right now?”

“He said it wasn’t weed so I thought it’d be okay since you said no weed.”

I’m a second away from killing him.

“To be honest, I don’t know what this is,” he says, sincerely concerned.

“You didn’t ask?”

He shakes his head with a sudden smug smile. I grab his arm and guide him through the crowd of dancing people. We’re almost to the bar, when I feel a pair of hands grip my shoulders and swing me the other direction.

“Sebastian, what—”

“This isn’t weed,” Sebastian whispers agonizingly slow. “This isn’t weed.”

“Of course it isn’t. What is it?”

“I. Don’t. Know!” he squeals fearfully.

“It’s obvious whatever you smoked with Anthony was laced, Sebastian!”

A strong wave of bass comes along in the song that’s playing, and Sebastian jumps at the sound and ducks down into a crouched position.

“THERE’S FOUR OF YOU!” He’s screaming loudly at me.

I try to drag him up, but my attempts are in vain every time. His face in the red and blue light is covered in a sheen of sweat that I didn’t see before.

“Sebastian! Get up!” I yell, but all he does is look at me like I’m a creature with twelve heads.

What the hell did Anthony give him?

When I make the mistake of looking up, I see none other than Oliver Epps staring at us with a couple of his friends in the same spot we spoke at. I whine and groan at my horrible luck.

“Sebastian, get up!”

“Not until the three of you leave!” he orders.

“Three of who?”

“You!”

I kneel down and meet his level to hold up four fingers in his face, “Sebastian, how many fingers am I holding up?”

His eyes are almost hypnotic, “There’s…elephants…ELEPHAAAAAANTS!”

Then suddenly the DJ stops the music; complete silence at the abrupt stop of hip-hop.

“ELEPHAAAAAANTS!” Sebastian chants again, only this time an abundant amount of people around him hear it.

“ELEPHAAAAAANTS!” five drunk people chants along with him at different times. I cover my face with my hands.

“My North Carolina people stand up!” The DJ yells charismatically in the mic. Almost everyone cheers and holds up their drinks.

“This one is for the Olive-Man himself. Happy Birthday, bro. You’re a legend.” The DJ points at Oliver, and everyone claps and honors the birthday man.

“GUNSHOTS! TAKE COVER!” Sebastian wails before falling down into a fetal position.

The DJ starts a new song, and immediately the entirety of the club goes crazy when “Raise Up” by rapper, Petey Pablo blasts on the speakers.

Sebastian stops rocking back and forth on the ground and stands up so quickly I’m shocked he doesn’t have whiplash.

“I love this song! I fucking love this song!” he beams.

“Sebastian, you need to sit down. Matter of fact, maybe it’s best we leave.”

It’s no use. Right when the chorus hits, Sebastian runs from my side, crashing into a table and two people in the process, and charges straight for the main dance floor. The main group of people dancing make way for him as he flails his arms around and bobs his head while jumping at least two to three feet in the air.

North Carolina! C’mon and raise up! Take your shirt off! Twist it above your head (spin it like a helicopter)! The speakers blare. And of course, Sebastian rips his shirt open in the front, slips it off his body, and spins it above his head.

Like a helicopter.

When the chorus ends and begins with a new verse, he throws his shirt on the ground with so much force his arm is a mere blur and begins dancing shirtless like a mad-man. And when I look behind me, people are recording it.

All I can do is stand and watch.

“Alright, Sebastian!” I hear Anthony scream right next to me. He, too, is dripping with sweat. He looks at me and his smile is wiped clean off of his face with my scowl.

“I…I’m s’sorry,” he slurs before losing his balance and falling right on top of a drunk woman, creating a domino effect of people falling on top of each other in a curved line before the last person falls at Oliver Epps’s shined, snake-skin shoes.

I look up at him, his furious face, and smile apologetically with everything I have.

“So…Rihanna,” I chuckle.

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