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

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Chapter 22

Three hours. Three hours of walking, falling, tripping, whining, mentally dying and coming back to life again in the woods.

“Sebastian, I don’t think I can go much longer,” I pant, holding onto a tree for support. My legs are sore from the calf all the way up to the thigh, and every step I take creates the most intense feeling of ache I have ever felt.

“We’re almost there,” he says. He does a better job at hiding his tiredness and pain than I do, but it’s still evident all over his body, especially in his worn-out eyes.

I let go of the tree and drag myself to keep up, “Well how do you know that? How do you know how far we have to go? We could...we could be wandering here all night, for days, even. What if we don’t make it? What if we don’t make it to the ro—”

Suddenly, gravity drags me down a soft hill of dirt and plants and pushes me down in an embarrassing tumble paired with a boisterous scream. The world around me is nothing but blurs of brown and scrapes against sticks until I hit the ground. When my hands feel the ground beneath me as actual gravel rather than soft dirt or rough leaves, however, I freeze.

The wide expanse of road that separates forest from forest almost brings a tear to my eye—the yellow and white painted dividers, the evergreen sign a yard away indicating the type of slope of the hill, and the endless meadow at the end of the forest, with wooden fences between the greenery and the road that runs right in between.

“Road!” I cry as I lay on the ground and look up and the darkening sky with a smile. “Road!”

“Leslie, are you alright?”

“Never been better!” I giggle.

“Perfect. Then c’mon.”

Sebastian continues down the road, aiming for the bright green fields that break the woods.

I slowly sit up and stare at his distancing back in disbelief, “Wh...what?”

“I said c’mon, we’ve got to keep moving.”

“Can we just take a break? We’ve been walking for hours, the least we can do is just...just sit and...and rest. Please?”

He turns and faces me, and although he’s farther away, I can still see the apparent annoyance on his face.

“May I remind you of the reason we’re stuck out here?” he says.

I lay back on the ground, “Don’t bring up that card—”

“Well, I’m bringing it up.”

Before I know it, Sebastian is already by my side, kneeling down so his face is inches away from mine. I stare up at his eyes—eyes that are so cold and exhausted. I hold my breath at our close proximity and his hostile demeanor.

“I’m tired, my feet feel like I’m walking on hot coals, my stomach is growling like a wild animal and my mouth is so dry I can’t even feel spit on my tongue. I stink, I’m dirty, and my legs are about to collapse on me. Yet you’re here on the ground complaining as if you’re the only one suffering. This wouldn’t be happening if you would have listened to me in the first place, Leslie. Matter of fact, this wouldn’t be happening if I wouldn’t have listened to you; you’d be stuck out here yourself.”

“Excuse me, but—”

“Look up at the sky,” he points to the shade of lilac and baby blue above us without peeling his eyes off of me. “Do you know what that means? The sun is about to set. Do you want to be out here at night?”

I don’t reply.

“Do you want to be out here at night!?”

“No! I don’t!” I shout at him.

“Then grab your purse and let’s go.”

And with that, Sebastian stands up straight and starts down the road with a quickened pace despite his testament on his weak legs and burning feet. I lay on the ground, completely stunned of the event that has just unfolded. I have never been talked to in that manner by a client. Ever. Regardless of current circumstances plaguing us, his stern and angry tone towards me, blaming me for the entirety of this situation even though it’s partly factual, enrages me. Paired with my soiled clothes, ruined shoes, disheveled hair and sweat-blanketed skin, I’m beyond enraged. My stubborn nature, the stubborn nature that Sebastian pointed out so clearly to me earlier, speaks for my own discernment.

I refuse to let him take control of me.

I snatch my purse up from my side and push myself up. My heels make me lose my balance for a second, but the intense and raw anger running through my veins grabs my senses by their necks and heightens them by ten times what they were before.

I march down the gravel, gripping my bag so tightly my hands sting; my nostrils flare like a bull ready to charge.

“So is that your method?” I yell to him. “Is that your method of motivating me to get up and listen to you?”

He ignores me.

“Oh, this is just great, absolutely great. You know, there’s a difference between motivation and torture, and as far as I’m concerned you’re on the wrong side!”

Still, he ignores me. The only sound that comes from him is the crunch his shoes make against the ground.

“Forget the fact that we’re both too tired to even move, let’s skip resting our bodies and continue walking despite the fact that we’ve been walking for almost five hours! I bet if Peanut was here you would make us rest for her!”

He doesn’t respond, which ultimately fuels my anger. So I continue to shout, to yell, to whine and complain until my throat is raspish and my head is pounding. I can hear my voice silencing itself the more I push its limits, but I care not—screaming and complaining is my way of vocalizing the extent of my irritability, outrage, and believe it or not, sadness.

Why me? Why does this have to happen to me, out of all people? What did I do to deserve being stranded in the middle of the forest in the Tennessean mountains with Sebastian Harrison as my only companion? Hungry, hurting, and currently hated by my only ally?

It doesn’t take us long to reach the bottom of the mountain, where the road flattens and the trees start to minimalize until they end and welcome the meadow of tall grass and delicate weeds and flowers blowing in the warm wind. The even asphalt is less pressure on our soles, but the walk is far from over, as the road extends for miles and miles ahead, disappearing into the horizon that contains little to no hope of rescue or relief.

“What now?” I ask irately.

He doesn’t look at me. “We keep walking.”

I sigh loudly enough for him to hear. He continues to walk, slower this time, and I follow behind. My verbal participation has lessened considerably, but every few minutes, when I look ahead and see nothing in front of me similar to a ranger station or a car, I express the extent of my disappointment.

The meadow changes harmonies of green as the sun lowers. My heart quickens at the reality; it’s almost dark, well almost-almost dark, and we have no definite direction. Looking behind me, I’m surprised to find that the forest is now an array of little green dots of hours past, and all that’s left is the route beneath us. It seems the time passes by so quickly, this being a fact that is absolutely frightening.

I stop to take off my heels. I can’t go on with my shoes on, and have concluded they shall stay in my bag until my ankles have the strength to support them. When I slip off my tattered and worn heels, I stiffen at the sight.

Blisters, cuts and bruises. Everywhere. Even my “bandage” has managed to rip open in some areas.

“Sebastian,” I whine. “We need to stop. Now.”

“No. We keep moving.”

I hold up my foot even though he doesn’t even turn around, “Sebastian, I have blisters all over my feet and I can’t go any further.”

“Well that’s too bad. Tough it out.”

“Tough it out? Are you serious? What the hell is wrong with you!?” I scream against my worn throat. “You don’t even know where we’re going, nor do you even know if we’re going the right way anyway! The least we can do is take a fucking break! ‘We need to head east,’ well east doesn’t look so promising!”

“You know what!?” he yells when our eyes finally meet, so loudly it makes me flinch. “You lead. Here, you tell us where to go. Where to next, Leslie? Where to next?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“You tell us where to go. You take control, then. You get us home since you like to micromanage everything. You do it!”

“That isn’t what I meant!” I repeat louder. The amplification of his voice is booming enough to make the hair on my arms stand up.

“What did you mean? That we rest for a while and watch the sun set together because you’re tired and think that someone’s going to save us out here? Is that what you meant?!”

I lower my head, staring at the dirt under my toenails, “No, I—”

“That’s what it sounds like to me. If I would have left it up to you, we wouldn’t even be on this fucking road! You don’t even know the difference between north, south, east, and west. You don’t even know what a river sounds like, you don’t know how to tie a bandage, you don’t even know how to take care of a fawn. And by the looks of it, you don’t know how to estimate time without a watch, so let me help you.”

He stomps over to me and pushes his watch in my face. The time reads 6:32PM, and I swallow a lump down in my throat.

“6:32. It is 6:32 right now, Leslie. 6:32 in the evening. So now that you’re up to speed, what’s our plan? What do we do next, because now I’m looking to you for answers. Tell me, what’s next?”

“I...I don’t know,” I say quietly, the lump finding its way back into my throat.

“You don’t know,” he laughs, yet it’s anything but comical. “Well congratulations, Leslie King, because we’re fucked! We are fucked, screwed, in deep shit but most importantly we are absolutely fucked because we are stranded in the middle of nowhere, with not a sign of human life anywhere around us! No cars, no people, no houses, nothing!”

Then it is painfully quiet. Minus the wind, minus the birds and minus Sebastian’s heavy breathing, it is painfully quiet. By this point, all I can do is stare at him and allow no words to leave my mouth. I look at his eyes, which are the same hue as the grass that dances in the breeze around us, but they’re nothing like the grass in its essence; they aren’t innocent and naïve. They’re angry, tired, frustrated, and afraid. So I look at his hands that are balled into tight fists at his sides, and then I look at his stiff shoulders, and down to his clothes, marked with dirt, blood and rips from his aid towards me. I look at him continuously, but fail to find anything apologetic, clouded, or regretful about him. He’s angry, and it isn’t a mistake, because I’ve made the mistake—I’m the mistake.

“The sun is setting soon,” he starts again, “and we are stuck out here with no food or water because you think you’re right about everyone and everything. This is all because of you!”

“Alright! I get it! I get it! I get it already, this is my fault, this is all my fault, and I’m the reason we’re stuck out here, I get it!”

Sebastian’s eyebrows soften when I start screaming, yelling for the relief of fault placed upon my shoulders by him. But when I start yelling, I can’t stop.

“I made a mistake, okay? I-I made a mistake and I...I fucked up...badly. I’m the reason we are lost, with blisters on our feet and-and starving and thirsty, I’m the reason this is happening because I made a mistake. I admit it, this is And...and I-I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do so you have every right to yell at me because I put you through a lot of shit and pressure and I get it now. I get it and you have every right to yell at me.”


“But you stand there thinking you’re Mister Perfect yourself! You stand there claiming you know the way to salvation, to safety like you’ve done nothing wrong, like you haven’t made mistakes. But it’s understandable to pin the blame all on me, right? I’m just the publicist. I’m just Garrett’s Harrison Incorporated manufactured mess. I’m just the big bitch who has daddy issues and is a money whore, right? I’m the corporate nightmare who’s the hopeless romantic type with no romantic life? But at least I have nice tits, right? That’s a plus for you?”

It clicks for him, like a light switch turning on in his brain. He closes his eyes, sighs, and hangs his head.

“Shit. The library,” he says calmly, clenching his jaw. “You heard everything we said, didn’t you?”

I keep my mouth shut, and now I’m the one with my fists balled at my sides.

“Leslie, was just...we didn’t...I didn’t mean what I said. Sarah was talking and I—”

“It’s fine. I understand,” I smile crookedly. “Why wouldn’t I? I’m the enemy here. I caused so much shit and it’s easy to understand why all of you hate me so much. First my mother, my sister, then Hudson, now you guys I mean wow I can’t catch a break, can I?”

I laugh, making the mood even more horrid and awkward than it was before.

I pick up my shoes and hold them to my chest, “I’m going to go sit down. Leave me, because I’m not moving. I’m done. I don’t care anymore I’m...done trying to spark up conversation through a rough mood like I tried the last four hours, I’m done walking God knows how many miles, and I’m done trying to cooperate with you. Just leave me here and come back when you find help if you want. Maybe now you can get more done without me in the way.”

I meet his eyes one more time, and this time they match the grass in all the aspects they didn’t before—in innocence and naiveness. But instead of waiting to see if there’s anything else his eyes have left, I pivot and limp past the affliction to get as far as I can from him. When I feel as if my walking has proved to give me a comfortable distance, I throw my purse and shoes onto the grass patch in front of the wooden fence and sit down, making sure not to look back at Sebastian, if he even is still standing where I left him. I can feel the anguish leave my body as I lean against the dry fencing, and I sigh ahead of me. The grass and weeds tickle my legs and almost cover them completely.

I wish they would swallow me whole.

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