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

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Chapter 2

The moment my eyes flutter open I realize that I have actually fallen asleep on my kitchen floor.

I separate my eyelids and am welcomed to a blur before I see the world sideways. Pedro’s head, the dishwasher, bottom cabinet, sunlight pouring in from my kitchen window, and the puddle of the little Moscatto left over spilled all over the floor. All sideways.

Pedro is rapidly licking the wine off the floor. In my disoriented, head throbbing, muscle aching state, I don’t have the energy to scold him for doing something as ridiculous as licking wine off of the floor. And during this moment I know I am a horrible and irresponsible canine-adoptive mother.

I groan as I push myself up, hissing shortly after due to the new pain in my neck and lower back. Pedro sees I’m fully awake and scurries away behind the dining room table, swaying side to side by my burgundy suede chair at the head of the table before falling over hilariously underneath it.

“Fine. Run,” I slur, “they all do anyway!”

“Leslie?”

A voice calls out to me. Am I dreaming? I couldn’t have drank that much the previous night, though my reason for doing so if I did is justifiable. Still, I slowly rise upright and straighten my back completely. Ignoring the intense pounding in my head, I sit quietly, sluggishly, and wait for my name again with the silent hope that I am hearing things as opposed to someone being at my door.

“Leslie, I know you’re in there!” Now I can distinguish that the voice is indeed from a man outside my door. The voice has a hint of femininity and gentleness lacing each word.

“J-Jesus? Is-is that you? Jesus!?” I yell loudly in my hungover greatness.

“Oh my God, Beth she’s been doing fucking drugs! Unlock the fucking door!”

Of course. My two best friends, Beth Evans and Paul Steinberg have entered the Soap Opera that is currently my life, seven hours late to be nitpicky. Paul’s tendency to make cursing a vital element in his life and the mentioning of Beth’s name completely gave away the surprise.

“Leslie we’re coming in!” Beth yells while there is the clatter of keys from the other side of the door.

I look around and panic so much I can’t even move. That, or I’m so tired and overwhelmed I can’t move. Pushing myself further up eventually, I can see the carton of ice cream no longer on the couch, with the now melted Vanilla desert scattered on my hard wood floor in my living room, courtesy of Pedro.

To top it off, I still have my clothes on from the fundraiser that Paul, the secretary for the Top Executive Floor of Harrison Inc., has seen me attend, and a bottle of Moscatto on my kitchen floor, with half of what’s left of its contents sitting in a small puddle, while the other half courses itself through my Chihuahua’s system as he slowly rolls around underneath my dining room table.

“Do-don’t come in I’m not decent!” I stand up fast enough to make me almost fall over again. Composing myself as quickly as I can, I rummage through my bottom cabinet for a rag to clean up the mess.

When my hand grazes one, I grab it and throw it on the spilled wine before making wind shield wiper motions, back and forth.

Without warning, Beth and Paul bust into my apartment in a feared haze and gasp at the sight of me on my knees in my kitchen.

Beth stands there, motionless, in her neon green Yoga pants and tight tank top, while Paul wears a similar outfit, except his tights are black. My eyes dart to the Yoga mats in their arms and I groan at the realization.

It’s Sunday. Yoga Sunday. A ritual all three of us, the “Trinity” as Paul likes to call it, have practiced since Beth and I met four years ago and even when we added Paul into our ensemble when I first started working for Harrison Inc.

I fail to remember a time when we have missed Yoga Sunday, unless a holiday, birthday or a work emergency prevented myself or any of us from attending “Sun Salutations” in Beverly Hills. Yoga is my stress reliever, and something I look forward to constantly. Now, because of me, I have worried my two best friends and postponed Yoga Sunday.

“Leslie, oh my God, are you okay?” Beth asks frantically while running over to me.

“And what the hell is wrong with Pedro?” Paul is kneeling down with his hands on his knees, examining my mentally unstable dog.

With Beth at my side, she throws the rag into the sink and grabs my hand. Her light blue eyes are focused on mine, which is when I realize that my makeup is a smeared mess, most definitely. Beth’s eyebrows, thick yet shaped to perfection, press into a deep frown as she waits for an answer. But I don’t know what to say.

“I’m not...doing drugs, which is a fortunate result,” I finally reply.

Paul looks at me and sighs, “Thank God, girl, I thought you were-”

“-Paul,” Beth interrupts. “Leslie, what is wrong? What happened?”

The memory floods back to me in strong waves. Like a hurricane, destroying everything in it’s path. Only in this case it’s destroying any hope of me forgetting the night before.

I get up, for the last time, and walk out of the kitchen to the bar connected to the back counter, where various stools are lined up next to each other. My phone is fully charged, and riddled with notifications that I know I have to check.

“Hudson cheated on me with my assistant, Alejandra at the company fundraiser last night.”

The room is silent.

The absence of the usual talkative and inquisitive nature of my friends makes me uncomfortable. So uncomfortable I’m pushed to check my phone. I unplug it from the charger as Beth and Paul still gape at me, at each other, even at Pedro.

“Twenty three missed calls from Hudson,” I inform with an emotionless expression, “probably to call informing me that the few personal items he has left here should be returned to him as soon as possible.”

“Leslie, I’m so sorry,” Beth starts.

“Oh, and look. Ten missed calls from Darcy. But none from Alejandra. Expected.”

“Leslie,” she approaches me with a concerned look on her face, “maybe we should go and get you like a...break up kit. It’s our obligation as your best friends to do that for you.”

“Beth’s right. We’ll start with cleaning up the ice cream and going to get some Romantic Comedies. Some snacks. Yoga Sunday can wait until next week.”

“Oh, the ice cream. Shit!” I completely ignore Paul’s suggestion, which makes me look completely in denial of everything that is going on. But in a sense, I actually am. I’m just reluctant to admit it.

“Beth and I will clean it you just...go take a shower and-”

My ring tone cuts Paul off. We all freeze and look at my phone. I’m afraid to look at the Caller I.D., for the chance of it being Hudson again is great. However, my heart slows to a steady yet alerted pace when I see it’s only Lucinda Chapman, Garrett Harrison’s personal assistant.

I answer, “This is Leslie King.”

“Hey there, Leslie! How are you this fine Sunday morning?”

Her cheerfulness makes me want to throw up. Typical Lucinda, really, which makes me wonder why I’m now annoyed by her voice.

“Hello, Lucinda,” I try to rub my strengthening head ache away. “I’m doing well. What can I do for you?”

“Oh! Sorry, almost forgot the reason I called,” she laughs before proceeding. “Mr. Harrison would like you to swing by Harrison Inc. for a short while between now and 9:45 am of this day. He says he needs to speak to you about something very urgent. I’m unsure of what it’s about, unfortunately.”

My heart sinks in my chest. Garrett never calls me in on my off days. Ever. Usually I take care of business at home, but enjoy my free time and focus on the pile up of emails during the week. The possibilities of what it could be about haunt me as Lucinda continues to talk.

After her rambling, I bid her farewell and hang up.

“I need to go. Business.”

“Bu-but Leslie!” Beth objects. “You...you-”

“I’m fine. Really,” My small smile comes out mockingly artificial. “Work is just...more important right now. However, when I come back we can hopefully try and make the one o’clock session at ‘Sun Salutations.’ I shouldn’t be long.”

I turn on my heel and walk towards my bedroom to get dressed. Without looking back.


Gray. There seems to be gray everywhere around me. Gray on my skirt, on my blazer. Gray outside due to the odd and slightly annoying overcast that has appeared over night. My eyes even have a hint of gray from the dark circles my makeup refused to cover up. There is no color, and it makes me feel more empty than before. Like a void, now.

“Good morning, Miss,” An unfamiliar parking garage vendor stood in the frame of his small glass box, right at the entrance of the Harrison Inc. parking garage.

I smile faintly, adjusting my sun glasses as I hand him my Harrison Incorporated Company Card. He taps it on a scanner, and with a loud beep, my car is allowed to enter the parking garage.

“Have a nice day, Miss.”

“I’ll try.”

I speed through, allowing my car to echo through the entire complex, and look for my reserved parking space on the first level. Once parked, I decide to keep my sunglasses on; I can’t bear to endure the stares from each floor at my lack of physical showmanship, and possibly for being known as the “Cheated” or “Cheatee” which ever they decide to call me, if they even know, for that matter.

The moment I step foot in the main lobby of the entire building, the receptionists keep staring at me, following me with sympathetic eyes. The entire lobby is made of tinted glass windows that let visitors see outside, but onlookers unable to see inside the wonders of Harrison Inc. The windows make me feel smaller, and my headache surrounds my entire brain.

I push past groups of businessmen and women to get to the elevators. Of course, they’re all full, the one I enter forcing me to the very back. I keep my head down, and watch the doors close as we make our ascend.

I’m growing anxious with every floor we pass. Third floor, fourth, fifth, and it seems the Executive Floor is far from reach. The elevator gets emptier, then full again, then empty. It’s when the Executive Floor becomes closer and closer, that I’m alone again. And for once in a long time it feels nice, being alone.

The last bell and the doors open for the Top Floor. Executive Floor. Home to the CEO, the “Big Man” of the Harrison Inc. headquarters. Though Garrett’s urgent message and Alejandra occupy my mind in the elevator, my mind is overcome with Coffee withdrawal the minute I step out. Then I’m again saddened by the fact that Darcy won’t be handing me my black espresso with two sugars like she does everyday of the week.

At the secretary’s desk, a huge plaque that reads “HARRISON INCORPERATED, EST. 1932” is planted above Ava, the second secretary besides Paul’s head, with lights to illuminate the sign. The entire Top Floor is just radiant within itself; my sunglasses are of actual use when I step off the elevator.

By the waiting area, huge floor-to-ceiling windows showcase a beautiful view of the Los Angeles skyline, mountains and early morning sun in the distance. A few visitors wait in white leather chairs, while others pace the floor impatiently. One man tries to pull out his cell phone, but Ava immediately stops him, pointing to the “NO CELL PHONES” sign without saying a word or even looking at him.

I approach the secretary’s desk, “Ava.”

She looks up and freezes.

“He-hello, Leslie.”

I take off my sunglasses, and I notice Ava tense up, “I was told that Mr. Harrison required me during this time.”

She nods, “Right, right let me just...double check.”

Ava takes a while to go through the records on the computer, checking if he is in the middle of an important meeting that can’t be interrupted. Eventually she smiles widely, revealing the slight crookedness in her smile I never took the time to notice before.

“Ah, yes he did. He’s free, go right ahead.”

“Thank You.”

Two security guards on each side of the wall, both at least two feet taller and 150 pounds heavier than I, see me and raise a curious eyebrow at my tired and run down appearance before giving me an approving nod. My heart tightens in my chest, but I hold my head high and press forward.

The hallway to Garrett’s office is wide and reverberant, with spacious windows on both walls, though the windows only give a view of the lower outside of the corporation, where restaurants, giant water fountains, elevators and help centers are located. I’m not one to be very fond of heights, so every time I make my way to his office I keep my eyes forward.

When I’m in front of the door, I knock the unique pattern only Garrett and I know before letting myself in.

Garrett is standing with his back facing me, staring out of his giant windows over Los Angeles. He always tells me that he requires many windows for a “greener” approach and a fun, welcoming atmosphere, which was his office displays.

His office favors Tuscan design heavily, with dark rustic colors, wood paneled ceilings, and custom made Italian Oak tables, chairs, and coffee tables. Not to mention his custom made desk, which is Italian Oak as well. His floors are hard wood, with the exception of the French style area rug underneath two of his chairs on the other side of the room. The only thing modern about his office is his Mac computers, Printers, Fax Machines, Phones, and 60 inch plasma on the wall, near the end of the room he uses for Executive meetings every month.

His office differs extremely from the technological and modernized theme the rest of Harrison Inc. follows, but he always says he likes to keep it traditional in his own office, which I don’t mind one bit.

“Good Morning, Mr. Harrison,” I greet nervously as I’m still unaware of why he is calling me in.

Garrett turns around and smiles, showing just how drastically he’s aging. His gray hair is, as always, combed to the side, while his face stays completely shaved. At one point, however, I know he had to be very handsome, but now he has withered away a bit.

“Leslie!” He exclaims while buttoning his expensive suit jacket.

Heels click from the small room in the back, where the printer and fax machine are held. Lucinda shuffles towards me happily with a steaming cup of coffee in her hand.

“Black, two sugars. I knew you would want a cup when you arrive and Darcy had her hands full,” She hands me my coffee and for once, I smile genuinely.

When Lucinda leaves, Garrett gestures for me to take a seat on one of the chairs by the coffee table. I do as he instructs, placing my bag by my feet.

“So...I’m a little concerned. The invitation was so...sudden. Is everything alright, Sir? Has anyone been pestering you this weekend?” I take a slight sip of my coffee, sighing silently at the amazing taste.

Garrett sits across from me on the couch and places his left ankle on his right knee, “No, absolutely not you know exactly how to keep them in line with that.”

I smile, “That’s perfect.”

“No, the real reason I’ve called you in here is because-well first and foremost are you alright? You seem kind of...distant.”

I shake my head and hope he avoids further questions, “No, I’m perfectly fine I was just up last night with my Mother.”

Horrible lie, considering anyone who knows me knows my Mother is the last person I want to spend time with. Yet again, Garrett doesn’t know me like Beth or my Father does.

Garrett nods, “Ah, I see. Well, I don’t want to keep you long so I’m going to be very forward. And I hope, this information doesn’t leave this room until Monday afternoon?”

I’m silent, but agree to his secrecy.

“Good. Leslie I have decided, at sixty-two years old and after...what, twenty six years of running this company that I’m...I’m ready to retire.”

My breathing stops immediately at his words. My coffee, reaching my mouth as he spoke before, sits in my hands as the faint steam comes in between our eyes.

“Wh-what?”

“I love Harrison Inc.” he assures me, “It’s been over 70 years, this corporation has grown. And to keep it a strict family owned corporation? Impressive! But, I feel it’s time to, to step down. Just as my father passed on the seat to me when I was 26, it’s time for me to pass it on to...my son.”

Garrett’s face twists into a mixture of regret and disappointment. He cringes once before rubbing his eyes.

I, however, begin to smile, “Oh, so...your eldest, Patrick will be taking the chair.”

“No.”

No? Impossible. Patrick Harrison, 34, Harvard graduate and successful lawyer, was definitely my first candidate, especially since he’s the eldest. I don’t know much about the Harrison’s and their personal lives. All I know is their occupation. That’s it. So, for whatever reason Garrett decided not to appoint Patrick as CEO, I continue to move down the list.

“Then...is it your second eldest, William? I mean from what I’ve heard and researched, the humanitarian work and Peace Core contributions are extremely commendable.”

Garrett slowly shakes his head, “Unfortunately, no. Not William.”

Now I’m completely stumped.

“Then I’m unsure. Is it one of your nephews? Or your daughter, perhaps? Or maybe it’s our COO,” I bring my coffee cup to my lips and begin to drink.

“No, it’s not any of them actually,” Garrett starts, “he actually happens to be my youngest son...Sebastian.”

A spray of coffee escapes my mouth and fans itself over the hardwood floor.

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