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

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Chapter 25

“C’mon, get it together, Leslie!” I tell myself in the bathroom mirror. I can’t even count how many times I’ve told myself to get it together this past week, but frankly after playing a game of pool with Sebastian Harrison’s dick on my ass and his breath on my neck, it currently feels appropriate.

My face is the color of a tomato, and no amount of cold water can make that go away. Perhaps I’m just a weak human being, unable to handle the touch of a man. If that’s the case, then that explains many things.

Wow, that’s depressing.

After splashing my face a few more times, I dry my skin with a paper towel and exit the bathroom. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually go pee, I have to go back to our little area in the back of the bar and pretend as if nothing is wrong. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do that. God, where is Sarah and Lucas!?

I take out a quarter from my purse and put it into the payphone upon exiting the bathroom. I dial Sarah’s number, and after a few rings, she answers.

“Hello!?” she pants into the phone.

“Where are you guys? I don’t think I can handle this much longer!”

“We are on our way, we just hit a…road block.”

There is loud, high-pitched screaming on the other end, and it isn’t coming from Sarah. Followed by rumbling, shaking, and cussing, I stare at the phone with wide eyes.

“Holy shit, Lucas, dodge and weave, dodge and weave!”

“Open the door!” he screams.

“What the hell is going on?” I finally ask.

“Hey, look I’ve gotta go. But we’re on our way, I promise!”

And then she hangs up.

I place the phone back onto the receiver and walk back into the bar. More people have come in, but the loud, boisterous ones who were drunk out of their minds aren’t here anymore. Perhaps they were kicked out.

When I make it back to the pool table, I’m surprised to find about fifteen men surrounding Sebastian, laughing and engaging in a conversation with him and each other while playing a game of pool. Cindy and Ada are flirting with two other big men with leather vests and mullet hairdos, Ada touching one of the men’s arms seductively with a wide smile and marveling at his muscles. I sit back down and watch the rest of the men’s pool game. Sebastian holds the cue stick in his hand and leans over the table before making his shot at a yellow billiards ball from the cue ball. Three of them scatter on the table and fall into the pockets, and Sebastian smiles boastfully as half of the men groan and the other half cheer, holding up beer bottles in the air.

As a man with a cowboy hat takes his turn, I face the platter of foot and start munching on fries, but then my mother’s Italian voice decides to play in my head.

You eat too many snacks, Leslie. Do you want to get fat? No, wait let me rephrase—do you want to get fatter?

I set the fries down and stare at my fingers on the table.

I lay my head on my arm and slowly I feel myself drift off to sleep as my eyelids close into darkness. For what feels like five minutes I’m caught in a dreamless slumber. But when Sebastian plops down into the booth, I jump up and look around like there’s imminent danger around me.

“Woah, slow down there,” Sebastian chuckles.

I stretch and rub my eyes, “I’m sorry I-I must have dozed off for a little while.”

“Yeah, two hours is definitely a little while.”

Now I’m really awake.

I stare at him in disbelief, “Two hours!?”

He nods, “Yeah. You almost moved your head into the wing sauce. Luckily I was around to see it or your face would be smothered in barbeque right now.”

I cover my reddening face with my hands as he laughs at me.

“How embarrassing. I never fall asleep on the job.”

“You aren’t on the job at the moment, if you haven’t noticed. And besides, any self-respecting person would be tired wandering the forest for God knows how long.”

I shrug, knowing he has a point. I look at the pool table, still populated with the same amount of people without a care of the outside world.

“I talked to Sarah,” I inform him.

He raises his eyebrows, “You did? When?”

“When I went to the restroom. Apparently they have hit a ‘road block,’ and that was two hours ago.”

Sebastian sighs and runs his fingers through his messy hair, “I’ll have to call and check up on them soon.”

“Yeah. Hopefully they come before morning. I have no intentions on staying the night here.”

“I actually wouldn’t mind.”

“Because you’re used to sleeping in odd, unfamiliar places after getting drunk.”

I cover my mouth to stifle my laughter at the shock on his face.

“Oh, that’s a low blow, even for you,” he laughs.

Our laughter carries for a while, but a loud sound, the sound of a group of people cuts us off and the conversation going on by the pool table. Men, eight of them, all wearing leather vests with stitching on the back, labeled “Tennesseans” with a skeleton cowboy wielding a lasso on a horse. All of the men’s eyes are mischievous, but their smiles are playful and uncaring. The bartender’s face immediately turns sour when they walk further into the bar and demand drinks. This must be a routine for them.

“Bikers?” I ask.

Sebastian nods, disinterested, “Yup. Looks like it.”

“We had to park all the way on the other side a the street ‘cause our parkin’ spots was full,” one biker yells at the bartender.

“It ain’t your parkin’, your just here all the time earlier that no one else has the opportunity to get it.”

Offset by the bartender’s response, he looks as if he is going to get rough. But one man, who obviously has the authority in the group, puts a hand on his shoulder and tells him something, most likely to calm down. He does just that, and spits on the ground before taking the beer the bartender set on the bar.

“These damn redneck bicycle ridin’ ass hillbillies ’gain?” Ada says aloud. The men at the pool table laugh loudly, along with a few people sitting in booths by the other wall.

I lean over the table with a smile I can’t hide, “Sebastian, this is so exciting!” I whisper.

“Um…what?”

“The bikers! I’ve never seen bikers up close like this before,” I sit back down and stare at the dangerous men. “This is so amazing! They’re all so tall and dirty!”

“Leslie, are you serious? You shouldn’t be fascinated by a bunch of bikers,” Sebastian says, judging me with his eyes.

“This is just like Sons of Anarchy! I wonder who’s the President?”

“That man,” Ada, suddenly sitting at my side, points to a tall, blonde man leaning against the bar. “Skinner.”

“Why is he called ‘Skinner’?” I ask.

Ada is quiet for a moment, “You don’t wanna know,” she finally answers.

I shiver, “Oh, wow. I don’t think I’d want to tango with him.”

Skinner’s eyes flicker to a woman passing by. He grabs her waist, pulls her into him and smacks her ass as she giggles into his chest.

And of course, I can’t keep my mouth to myself.

“I don’t understand why guys think that’s appropriate. Sebastian, do you do that?”

Sebastian chokes on his beer, and Ada laughs loudly.

“Seriously?” he coughs.

“What? It’s a legitimate question. You know, in my communications class, we went over human behavior and interaction, and I believe that that is a man’s way of claiming his power and authority out of fears and insecurities within himself.”

“Whatever.”

“I take it that you indeed do that, then?”

Sebastian doesn’t reply.

I smile awkwardly, “Alrighty, then.”

Sebastian keeps a wary eye on the biker group for a while until the pool committee invites him for another game. He pushes himself up and leaves me with Ada at the booth.

“So…is that your boo thang or…” is the first thing she asks me when we’re alone.

“Wh-what?”

“Pretty eyes over there,” she points to Sebastian. “Y’all smitten?”

I shake my head so fast I’m sure I gave myself whiplash, “Oh, no, no, no, absolutely not. We just work together.”

She doesn’t believe me.

“I just got out of a rough relationship last week so…yeah.”

Ada props her elbow on the table and rests her head on her hand, “Ah, I see. Sorry to hear that, darlin’”

“Yeah,” I reply. I suppress the thoughts of Hudson and Alejandra out of my head. Surprisingly, I’ve done an exceptional job making sure that “issue” isn’t the biggest occupation on my mind. Then again, having Sebastian the current media field day and being stranded in the forest is a little more important.

“What happened, if you don’t mind me askin’?”

I sigh uncomfortably, “Um…I caught him cheating on me with my assistant. Apparently they had been at it for a good six months.”

“Aw, shit,” she groans, rubbing my hand reassuringly. “That’s a damn shame. He’s a fool doin’ that do a doll like you.”

I laugh, “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.”

“No problem,” she smiles. “But that don’t mean you can’t get back on the horse, right?”

“I mean…I suppose. But work is just my main priority right now.”

And getting home, I thought.

“Ah, I see. You got your mind on the right track. But once in a while, it don’t hurt to have your fun. You’re young, an’ got the rest of your life ahead of you.”

I nod in agreement, though it’s hard to see past the fog to understand Ada’s gospel. Ada, seeing my down mood, proceeds to tell me a story about a lover she had when she was around my age, who stole her car, her money, and her trailer, and the journey she and Cindy went through to retrieve it. I laugh so hard I snort multiple times uncontrollably.

“Here you are.”

The same waitress that has been waiting our booth sets down a small shot glass, filled with what looks to be vodka. Ada and I stop laughing and stare at the glass, confused.

“Oh, um, excuse me. I don’t think we ordered anything else,” I tell the waitress.

“I know,” she replies. “That gentlemen ordered it. For you.”

Ada and I lean over at the exact same time to where the waitress is pointing, only to find none other than Skinner staring at us, staring at me, with an awaited smile on his lips. He holds up his whiskey glass at me with a wink, and I quickly turn back around and fan my face. Did that really just happen?

“Oh, no, I-I don’t want the drink. Tell him I said thank you, though,” I say.

“No, no, no!” Ada yells at the waitress. “Don’t take it back. Just leave it here.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because the last thing you want to do is to reject Skinner.”

“But I don’t want the drink!”

“He don’t know that!” Ada shouts back.

“What’s going on?”

All three of us look up at Sebastian, staring at us all, then look down at the glass. He immediately knows who the drink is from.

“Fuck,” he says.

“I didn’t even know he was looking over here.” I push the drink away. “I guess he just wanted to be nice.”

“His way of being nice and your way of being nice have two different outcomes, Leslie,” he says seriously.

I flinch at his reply. Now the entire pool table’s eyes are on us once they hear Sebastian’s stern voice echoing along with the music. Sebastian looks over at Skinner, and without warning, grabs the glass of vodka, drinks it, and holds it up at Skinner from across the bar before setting it down on the platter and walking back to the billiards table. As if nothing happened.

Fuck.

“Holy shit!” Ada laughs. “Cindy, did you see that!?”

“I sure did!” she yells at Ada before laughing with her. Their southern accents sound even stronger than before; that must mean shit just got real.

Skinner is frowning. Hard. Now the rest of his crew is looking in our direction. Oh God.

“Excuse me!” I yell at Sebastian. He levels his eyes with me as if I’m an annoyance.

“What?”

“Um, that was rude! You didn’t have to do that!”

“But I did,” he replies, smiling before resuming his pool game.

I slump in my seat, staring at the empty glass. Of course I wasn’t going to drink it, but still, it doesn’t pay to be so openly—

“Oh, look who’s comin’,” the waitress says.

Skinner, all in his lonesome, squeezes through the masses of people, heading straight for our direction.

Ada hisses, “Pretty eyes don did it now.”

“Relax,” I assure them. “This was all just a pure misunderstanding. I’ll just pay for the drink.”

Ada and the waitress look at me like I’m crazy. Still, I pull out my wallet and try to be as composed as possible when Skinner finally makes it to our table. At first glance, I didn’t expect him to be so young, especially for a Biker President. His hair is short, dirty blond—the same color as the stubble on his cheeks. His eyes are a dark, cloudy shade of blue that match his plaid shirt and jeans. He’s actually very attractive. Shabby, and obviously not a man of the law, but attractive, to say the least. Just like Sons of Anarchy, he has a patch on his leather vest, “President” stitched onto the right side.

When he’s close enough, he sits on top of the table and gives me a friendly smile. I see his crew on the other side of the bar watching us with stances ready to strike, just in case anything goes wrong.

“Hello, darlin’,” he greets.

I return the grin, “Hello. I’m sorry for my friend over there. He can be a little…expressive sometimes.”

“Not a problem,” he looks up at Sebastian with a smirk and pops a bubble with his gum. Sebastian’s knuckles turn pale around his cue stick.

“But I’ll gladly pay for the drink,” I look at the waitress, “How much was the—”

“That won’t be necessary,” Skinner insists.

“Oh, okay.”

I expect him to jump off and walk back to his crew, but instead he gets even more comfortable in his place.

“You don’t drink, darlin’?” Skinner tilts his head in curiosity. “I saw you shake your head when Leah dropped off the glass.”

I clear my throat and place my wallet back into my purse, “Um…not often. I’m not really a vodka person. S-sorry.”

“Whiskey? Gin? Beer? Rum? I doubt these beer bottles here were all for your ‘friend’ over there.”

I nod, “Y-yeah, I like beer. But again, I don’t drink often. And most of these are from him.”

“Well let me buy you a beer, then.”

“Back off, Skinner, she’s obviously not interested,” Leah tells him with a disapproving look.

Skinner looks at Leah and smiles, “Aw, there’s no need to be selfish,” he runs a finger gently across her cheek. “You already had your turn, sweetheart.”

Turn!? Of course. That’s it. Time to shut this down.

“That’s very considerate of you…Skinner, but I don’t want anything to drink.”

Skinner laughs like I’ve made a mockery of his legacy, “Why not? Pretty city girls don’t drink now?”

I blush, “I guess not. Excuse me, Ada.”

Ada moves out of the booth in order to let me out, but Skinner immediately gets off the table and traps me in between his body and the seat.

“You got real pretty eyes,” he says quietly.

“Thank you,” I grit, trying to get away from the stench of alcohol on his breath.

“Why don’t we get out of here? My bike’s just up the street. I can pour you a drink somewhere more quiet, more comfortable,” he says lowly.

“That’s a very nice offer, but I doubt there’s enough room for both of us on your tricycle,” I retort with the straightest face I can muster.

And now everyone is hollering in laughter, like a pack of rabid Hyena’s. Ada runs over to Cindy and laughs into her shoulder, and Leah covers her mouth with her shirt collar and runs the other direction. Skinner is the only one unamused, and now I am, too, considering the dark, angry stare he’s giving me

He suddenly grips my forearm, “You think this is funny, rejectin’ me?” he whispers menacingly.

Defense mode.

I snatch my arm out of his grasp and point a stern finger at him. Everyone is too preoccupied with their laughter to see how serious it has gotten, which frightens me.

“Hey! I took two weeks of self-defense classes and I will not hesitate to fuck you up, Mister!”

He tries to grab me again, but Sebastian suddenly walks up to him and pushes him away from me, so forcefully he almost flies into a table.

Utter silence.

“Hey!” Sebastian yells. “Fuck off!”

Skinner laughs like a challenge has appeared in front of him. Sebastian looks aggravated, watching Skinner gather his balance like a Cheetah prying on a Gisselle.

He walks up to Sebastian and looks him straight in the eyes; their noses are almost touching.

“What did you just say to me, Pretty Boy?” Skinner asks him, his nose flaring like a bull.

“I said Fuck. Off. She doesn’t want a drink. You don’t know English?”

Ada slowly inches next to me and takes the platter of cold fries from the table as a snack for the spectacle that is about to unfold. Her eyes never leave the two men while she munches on them.

Skinner’s crew, the Tennesseans, start to walk away from the bar once they see the threat lingering around their President. Skinner holds up his hand with his eyes on Sebastian, and every club member stops walking midway, like the work of a sorcerer.

My heart is practically beating out of my chest. We need to leave. Now.

“You the one who drank my Vodka? In that case, you should be payin’ for my drink, then.”

“Sure thing. It’s the man’s job to pay for the drinks, right?”

“Oooh…” the bar-goers coo quietly. Now people from the other side of the bar are watching what’s going on. I tap the leather of my purse nervously and look at Sebastian, paying attention to see what his next move will be.

Skinner brings his hands up to Sebastian’s chest and pushes him back, and Sebastian is more than ready to throw the first punch. Everyone is getting ready.

Except me.

“Hey, hey!” I stand in between them, Sebastian’s fist in mid-air. “It’s not worth it! Let’s just go!”

Skinner wants a fight. And he’s pressed we aren’t giving it to him. But from what we can all see, Sebastian is more than eager to kick Skinner’s ass, and if it wasn’t for me, we would have seven bikers and God knows how many cowboys and drunkards punching each other; the men around the pool table set their cue sticks down and slowly approach the bikers to Sebastian’s defense.

A minute passes, filled with stone cold stares and silence, before Sebastian pulls out his wallet, sets a tip down for Leah on the table, and backs away from Skinner. Everyone begins to ease.

“I’m too tipsy for this,” I mumble to myself as we walk to the exit. I have my mind set on the Diner, the place we should have gone to when Matthew dropped us off hours ago. And now, we aren’t going to be at the place I promised Sarah we’d be at. Great.

“Yeah, that’s right you walk ’way you coward!” Skinner yells after us.

“Oh, God, why this?” I roll my eyes at his voice.

The bikers walk through the bar until they’re at Skinner’s side, but Skinner is following us to the exit. The bartender, along with the chef in the back look ready and defensive from the hard expressions on their faces.

“You too much of a pathetic pussy to fight me!?” he yells again.

“Just ignore him, Sebastian,” I console, but Sebastian is having an extremely hard time refraining.

“Hey! Pretty darlin’,” Skinner calls out to me slyly. I make the mistake of turning around, adding fuel to Skinner’s satisfactory fire. “When you ready for a real man to dick down that sweet tight pussy of yours just give me a ca—”

Skinner doesn’t even finish his sentence before Sebastian flings his fist forward into his nose, hard enough for me to see the blood fly out into the air from the impact. Skinner falls hard onto the ground, crimson spilling out onto his face and dripping out onto the ground. But Sebastian isn’t done. He lunges on top of Skinner, holds his face upright and continuously lands hard blows to his nose and mouth. The bikers see their leader in distress and run to his rescue, but so do the men at the pool table, who run towards the bikers right into the altercation about to commence.

“Oh shit!” Ada screams, before the chaos begins.

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