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

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Chapter 21

A myriad of thoughts rush through my mind at Sebastian’s two simple words.

He looks at me and waits for a definitive answer. What do I say? Or better yet, what will my mouth allow me to say that isn’t remotely idiotic sounding?

I nod slowly, “Oh…s-sure.”

I hesitantly roll up my skirt until the hem of my stocking is completely visible. His hand then slides my stocking down with apprehensiveness in his fingers. His hands are rough when they touch my skin; goosebumps rise on my arms.

He lifts my foot to remove my stocking and looks at the cut on my foot. His right hand is holding my leg up at my calf while his left hand holds my foot gently.

“It’s actually not that bad,” he tells me, focusing on my injury. “I thought it was going to be worse.”

“Yeah, well it feels that bad.”

Setting my leg down on the soil, Sebastian scoots back a bit and cups his hands into the calm river to rinse the blood off my skin. The water is cold, but does little to faze me, thanks to the intense summer heat.

We both watch the blood run pink down my foot and onto the grass. Once the blood is gone the second time Sebastian rinses, I see that he is right. The cut actually is small, measuring to be about the length of my pinky.

He wipes his forehead with his arm, “Where’s your purse?”

“Over there,” I nod behind me. “Where you threw it.”

Sebastian gets up and leaves me by the riverbed. I look at my cut again and allow my mind to wander. It, somehow, hasn’t set in completely that we’re both actually stranded in the middle of the forest. Perhaps it’s the feeble optimism of reaching the road that hasn’t seemed to waver yet in me—the optimism that is only present due to the need to get back and repair the damage Sebastian has done earlier today and throughout this entire week. Being out here makes me feel so detached and disconnected. It’s almost making me crazy, knowing the situation we’re in.

Sebastian comes back with my purse in his hand and drops in next to me, halting my thoughts.

“That pocket knife would actually be very useful right now,” he says while sitting down by my foot again.

I dig through my purse until I find the pink knife and hand it to him. He takes it from me, clicks it open, and uses it to cut the bottom of his button up shirt on both front sides.

“What are you doing?”

He wets the ripped piece of cloth in the river and wrings out the excess water, “You don’t want your cut to get infected, do you? And besides, this shirt is too long for me anyway. Now hold still.”

“You don’t have to do that—”

Sebastian’s already wrapping my foot before I can finish my sentence.

He bandages my cut quickly, leaving no open areas of skin bared.

“Oh, well never mind, then,” I say. “You seem to be a real pro at this.”

He starts tying the bandage, “Yeah, well three years of boy scouts helps a lot.”

He pauses, like he regrets what he said, but resumes tying the bandage around my foot quicker than before.

“You were in boy scouts?”

He shakes his head, “Not relevant—”

“Oh, this is too good. Too good. I can’t believe Sebastian Harrison was in boy scouts!” I laugh. “Did you have a sash with badges on it? Did you wear a hat? How old were you?”

He gets up without answering any of my questions and walks the other direction.

“Let’s get to the road before the sun sets, shall we?”

I push myself and put on my heels quickly, putting on my left heel more careful not to disturb the bandage, and stuff my bloody stocking in my purse before following him.

“C’mon, you already told me!”

“You know, a simple ‘thank you,’ will suffice for making sure your foot doesn’t get amputated from infection in the future.”

“Thank you. Now, will you tell me about boy scouts?”

“No.”

“Why not? I think it’s important we make simple conversation.” I quicken my pace to match his faster one, making sure not to fall into the shallow water.

“You know, you ask too many questions.”

“It’s my job to ask questions, I’m your publicist, I should know these things.”

“Well search my name in google and see what comes up.”

“I already have, but google isn’t always that affective.”

Sebastian stops walking.

He slowly pivots and faces me with a wide grin, “You’ve searched me before?”

“I-I…well…yeah, to acquire information—”

“Mhm, sure.”

“Oh, God you’re so full of it.”

I start walking, leaving him behind as I set my sights on a narrow closing in the riverbed that we can cross over to continue east through the forest.

It doesn’t take long for him to catch up to me. “But seriously. How much do you know about me?”

“Not enough. But I do know about the basic things everyone who’s obsessed with your life knows: moved from L.A. to Tennessee with your mother when your parent’s divorced, went to Yale to study economics and how you even got into Yale baffles me because your grades senior year weren’t Yale acceptance material. Then again your father has a very ‘wide’ influence so it shouldn’t surprise me, actually.”

“Spot on.”

“As always. But you still haven’t told me about boy scouts.”

“And it’s going to stay that way,” he answers. I shake my head at him and turn the other direction.

We cross the river and walk through the other side of the forest in silence. Ten minutes into the walk and upon entering a clearing surrounded by trees, Sebastian starts walking a different way.

“I’ll be back,” he tells me.

“Wh-where are you going?”

“Uh, I need to piss?”

All I do is stare at him. Is he really leaving me here by myself?

“Unless you want to come with me and watch me take my dick out then please, I’m not stopping you.”

I blush, “Shut up.”

His laughter carries into the trees as he disappears. I drop my purse and my butt on the dirt and stare up at the branches high above. I have no idea what time it is, but I’m more than anxious to make it to the road. However, what happens when we actually make it to the road is a complete mystery—a mystery that starts to give me anxiety. How much longer will we have to walk?

Shit. This is all my fault in the first place.

I rest my chin on my knees and stare at my tainted foot after letting out a long sigh. The moistness of the bandage attracted dirt that has stuck itself on the cloth, but thanks to the double layer Sebastian bandaged, I have little worry over infection. Looking at the white piece of fabric longer, my mind remembers the recent event of Sebastian’s insistence to help tend to my cut. The way he pulled down my stocking for me and the way his eyes stuck to my bare thighs with no sort of immediate restraint makes me blush again fiercely—no man’s eyes have ever done that to me, sadly but truthfully speaking.

Then again, this is Sebastian Harrison I’m talking about. So with that thought, my flustered state quickly diminishes.

I take off my heels and start massaging my feet to ease the soreness and throbbing sensation from my soles. I’m not sure how long my feet can hold up, but hopefully it can endure at least a few more hours of “exploring,” a word used in the worst context, given I haven’t explored anything out here because I haven’t enjoyed the wild while being in it.

I can say, in an attempt to lighten up the mood, that this is the most “rural” I’ve ever gone with a client of mine.

As I take off my right stocking after realizing how foolish I look with only one stocking on, a warm breeze runs through the clearing. The leaves dance in the wind and rustle airily against each together, and the air hits my legs and makes the patches of sweat previously trapped behind my stocking quiver coldly before the warm air returns as the breeze ends.

But there is still rustling around me.

“Sebastian?” I yell. Silence. The rustling of leaves continues, and as I wait with bated breath, it grows louder and keener.

I pull out my pocket knife, click it open and hold it out in front of me, but lower it when I see Sebastian entering the clearing with the sound of the rustling leaves following him.

“Why do you do that? Why? Why?” I say sharply while my heart beat normalizes.

“Do what?”

“I called your name and you…you…whatever, you obviously think this is a joke, you jerk.”

I put my pocket knife away and tune out the sound of his cackling.

“It’s just so funny how—”

Sebastian stops talking suddenly as his face changes from amused to blank. His eyes are fixed over my shoulder, and as I ask what he’s looking at, I hear sniffing and feel something cold and wet on my hand—a tongue.

I jump up, grab my purse and shoes and sprint across the clearing while screaming so loudly and raspish it could be added to a horror movie voice track.

Immediately at Sebastian’s side, I grab onto his arm and almost make both of us fall over onto the earth. My panic overtakes me, pushing me to the point of climbing onto Sebastian’s back and wrapping my arms and legs around him like a Koala. I can hear him gasping behind my arms around his neck and staggering side to side from the weight added onto his back.

“Get off of me, Leslie!”

I ignore his request. “What was that!? What was that!? Where’s my pocket knife?!”

“Relax, it was just—”

“We need to get out of here right now!” I slap his shoulder repeatedly in panic. “Run, Sebastian, run!”

“Can you shut up…for five…seconds,” he grunts, “and just…l-look?!”

My breathing is frantic. My heart, beating so fast it feels like it is going to pop right out of my chest. Sebastian and I look at my previous sitting spot and wait for the mysterious hand-licker to reveal itself. Five seconds…ten seconds…fifteen seconds pass without an unveiling.

“I don’t see anything,” I whisper into Sebastian’s ear.

“Just…wait.”

For a few more seconds, it’s only the sound of our breathing that accompanies us. But behind the shrubs and plants, a pair of large, curious, onyx eyes come into view and stare back at us. Then, just like a Disney movie I’ve seen as a child, a small fawn walks out of the shadows into the sunlight and puts one hoof in front of the other timidly while staring wide-eyed at us.

I jump down from Sebastian’s back, “It’s…it’s a baby deer!” I say relieved. “It’s only a baby deer. W-why didn’t you say so, Sebastian?”

He knits his brows at me, “Please tell me you’re kidding.”

The fawn stands still, unsure of whether or not to approach us. All three of us engage in an intense staring contest for well over two minutes until the baby deer walks towards us.

Sebastian kneels down and encourages the deer to come closer, in which it tips his head down and sniffs Sebastian’s hand and arm.

“See? She’s harmless.”

“How do you know it’s a she?” I ask when I pick up my purse and put my shoes on.

“Do you want to look for yourself?”

I pout my lips but ultimately bend down and take a look for myself out of curiosity.

I nod, “Yeah, you’re right.”

Sebastian begins to examine the fawn, checking underneath her tail, putting a finger in his mouth which he says is to indicate if the fawn is a healthy temperature, and feeling her head, for a reason that is unknown to me.

“She’s severely dehydrated,” Sebastian tells me when I ask why he’s touching her head. “The indention in the fat is an indication that she’s dehydrated. Poor thing. The river is too far of a walk back for her.”

“Did you learn that from boy scouts?”

“No, I learned that from my Jedi master,” he answers sarcastically.

“Don’t have to be so rude,” I mumble while using my foot to play with a rock.

After their moment of bonding, she looks at me and walks over to where I stand. Her nose runs along my legs despite my attempts to get away from her.

Sebastian chuckles, “Leslie, why are you running away from her?”

“I am not running away from her. I just do not want my scent all over her when her mother comes back.”

“I don’t think her mother is coming back.”

“Why not?” I ask as she continues to follow me around the clearing. Sebastian walks up to her and runs his thumb on a group of reddish-brown spots on her quivering leg, bringing us both to a non-verbal conclusion.

“Oh,” I say after a long period of awkward silence.

“Mother must have gotten hurt, and she ran once she heard the gun shots.”

“Well the blood looks pretty old. How long do you think she’s been running?”

Sebastian shrugs, “Who knows. Probably days. It could be that she stayed by her mother’s side for a while, or the mother left when she heard the gun. It could be anything. This is probably neither of their blood, for all we know.”

“Well…what do we do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have anything to give her.”

“Me neither. All I have is minty gum,” I dig through my purse, flipping through planners, my wallet, my dead cell phone and other items. My heart sinks in my chest, however, when my finger touches a plastic bag.

I pull out a bag of trail mix, and the shocked, famished look on all three of our faces when I pull out the half empty snack bag is a look of pure desperation.

“I didn’t know I had this in here,” I breathe.

“Yeah, obviously. Here.”

I hold onto the bag, and Sebastian looks at me like I’m a horrible human being. I know there’s a starving baby deer in front of me, but…I can hear my stomach growling. Not only feel it, but hear it. Truly this is a test to determine the amount of my morals as a person. What if this entire situation is all a test?

Surely, I’m failing.

I reluctantly hand him the bag and watch as he pours an array of cashews, peanuts, M&Ms and raisins in his hand.

“Here. Take the chocolates out.”

He doesn’t even need to ask me twice.

I quickly pick the M&M’s out of his hand and stuff them all into my mouth. The sweet, melted, savory milk chocolate of the M&Ms melts in my mouth, and it’s wonderful.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” says Sebastian as I openly enjoy the chocolate like it’s a full-course meal.

He gestures his hand out to the fawn, and immediately she starts eating the trail mix until there’s nothing left in Sebastian’s hand; all licked clean away. We continue our system until the entire bag of trail mix is gone.

He gives me the empty bag that I place in my purse.

“C’mon, let’s keep moving.”

Without saying a word, I follow Sebastian out of the clearing, listening to the soft tap of the fawn trailing behind.

“You knew she would follow us?” I ask him, eating the last M&M on my hand.

“Why wouldn’t she? She’s alone, scared, dehydrated. We fed her so now she sees us as protective figure until she can find her mom; she’s only a baby.”

“We should name her,” I propose. “Actually, I should name her. I think I will name her Leslie junior.”

“Please stop and try again when you’re ready,” Sebastian responds.

“Okay, then. Bambi?”

“Predictable.”

“Rudolph?”

“She’s not a Reindeer.”

“Peanut?”

“God, no.”

“Peanut it is.”

Sebastian opens his mouth to object, but ends up agreeing upon Peanut. With that, Sebastian, Peanut and I tread the rest of the forest.

Looking down at her, it’s hard to see apparent fear on her face, but the way she tries to stay close to Sebastian or close to me if she falls behind a bit is a dead give-away. My heart aches for her, strangely. Although fawns lose their mothers every day, whether it be the result of a hunt or a wrong left turn, I’ve never had the privilege to be close to a lost fawn myself until now.

I wonder what it’s like to lose your mother and actually want to be reunited with her? Like Peanut wants to be reunited with hers?

About ten minutes into our silent walk and my feet are aching so badly I can barely stand up. I take off my shoes which does relieve some of the pain, but even then I yearn to either sit and take a break or reach the road and hopefully find a camping family nearby.

“There’s a stream ahead,” Sebastian says. I can hear the exhaustion and loss of breath in his voice, and it worries me.

The stream is very small, miniscule compared to the river, but crystal clear water runs through the rocks and down through the woods.

Sebastian stops walking and leans a bit like he’s going to faint.

“Are you okay?” I touch his back in case he falls over.

He nods spiritlessly, “I need water.”

He drops to his knees and starts cupping his hands in the stream, splashing himself with the cool water before drinking the water several times.

He breathes a minute until he’s recomposed. Water drips from his chestnut locks and off his sharp nose onto his shirt as he stares ahead and swallows hard, like pressure has been relieved from his muscles. I watch him for a moment; the way the few sun rays that have managed to fight their way through the thick trees reflect on his eyes, his intense eyes behind the thick set of eyelashes he has. The opaque shade of green, with hints of honey around the pupils is hard to read—to know what he’s thinking. Usually I can read him, since he’s always either irate, audacious or impartial. But now he’s…calm, soothed, lost.

He rolls his neck, trying to get a kink out, and massages his shoulder with his hand. A few seconds in, he sees me watching him and looks at me. I look away quickly.

Sebastian takes his hands into the water again and gathers some in his hands for Peanut. She rushes over and drinks rapidly from his hands. Sebastian does the same thing a few times for her.

I sit by the stream in my out of breath state and hesitantly cup a small amount of water in my hands.

“It’s the purest water you’re going to find, Leslie,” he sighs. “Just drink it.”

I grimace, “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I tell myself. I bring my hands to my mouth and drink, and my senses sharpen immediately. The water is cold, crisp, and beyond hydrating. I drink more and more until the dryness in my mouth is gone.

“Leslie,” Sebastian whispers. “Look.”

I lift my head and am brought to Peanut, who is staring off in the distance. Her ears wiggle a bit but the rest of her body doesn’t move. Sebastian and I follow her eyes, wondering what she could possibly be staring at, until we see a shadow of an adult deer in the distance, galloping towards us until their body is no longer a silhouette.

Peanut takes off running into the deer and nudges her lovingly while bleating in the deer’s presence. She stands still as the deer licks Peanut’s coat.

“Is that her mother?” I ask.

“Unreal,” Sebastian shakes his head in awe.

The only logical conclusion would be that Peanut’s mother has been following us once she tracked her child down. That, or there is a large coincidence the area she was in is the area we were in. Either way, there’s no denying the bond between them is definitely between a mother and her child.

Did those ugly-looking creatures hurt you, sweetheart? How long have you been wandering? Who are they? Did you eat? Did you drink any water, honey? How many hooves am I holding up?! I imagine Peanut’s mother saying to her in their designative deer-language.

Peanut’s mother continues to lick her, cleaning her, I presume, and possibly getting rid of our scent. Both of us watch, I holding on to Sebastian’s shoulders to keep my balance.

When she’s done, Peanut follows her mother down across the stream.

I stand and wave, “BYE PEANUT—“

Shh, are you crazy?!”

Sebastian stands up and brushes the dirt off of his pants slowly. Peanut and her mother are watching us still, both wearing the same facial expression of precaution. Then, they start to trot away, disappearing into the forest.

“Did you see that, Sebastian? Peanut’s mother said thank you to us…in her deer language.”

He rolls his eyes, “Whatever. Didn’t anyone ever teach you not to startle a mother and her child in the wild? Once they go into full defense mode, it’s over. We got lucky.”

Because she knew we made sure Peanut didn’t die. She was thankful.”

“We were lucky,” he insists while walking away. “Good thing she didn’t charge after us during your screaming. And besides, you know how overprotective mothers are with their children.”

I laugh depressingly, “Actually, I don’t.”

“What?”

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

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