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

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Chapter 43


“I told Remy Callaghan that you would love to go out for lunch on Monday. That’s a good sign! Getting Remy Callaghan to ask you out for lunch? What you said to that reporter about capitalists must have definitely did it.”

Sarah’s voice is going in one ear and going out the other. Usually I’m open to hear about whatever the hell she has to say; she is my manager after all, and whatever she says must be important. But I can’t help but keep my mind on the same fucking thing—the same fucking person. All morning, all my mind has been chanting:

Leslie, Leslie, Leslie, Leslie!

Can my brain just shut the fuck up for once!?

“Hello, hello? Earth to Sebastian?”

When I snap out of my trance, I look over the breakfast table and see Sarah glaring at me, pen now out of her hand and on the planner in front of her. Our waiter refills Sarah’s orange juice and my coffee, but she still looks angrily ahead at me.

I give her an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I’m just tired.”

“No you’re not.” She pushes her planner to the side. “You’ve been staring at my glass of orange juice with this dumb look on your face for the past three minutes.”

I stay silent.

“Is this about Leslie? How she left this morning?”

“No, it’s not,” I respond a little too defensively. I realize how sharp my response was when a smile stretches on Sarah’s face.


“Ah, I know what’s wrong. You guys had your little moment last night, and suddenly she’s gone, and it’s killing you that you don’t know why.”

“You’re reading into it too much,” I say, even though Sarah’s spot on. Last night at the charity ball, I asked Leslie to dance with me; she had never danced with anyone before. I know—I couldn’t believe it either. So I practically dragged her onto the floor and shared a waltz with her. Innocent enough, right?

Well that’s not what’s killing me.

What’s killing me is what the dance became. I looked down into her eyes and saw a part of her that was so…different. It was fragile, and vulnerable and it made me feel the exact same way. I hate being so soft and open around people. All it does is invite chaos and betrayal. But not with Leslie. I just feel acceptance when I’m with her.

I remember her saying that she used to be in a relationship that ended horribly when she found out her assistant and her ex-boyfriend had been screwing each other behind her back. She said that she supposes she deserved something like that happening to her. She says a lot of things about herself that she doesn’t catch. But I catch them, and I hold onto them in my mind, piecing them together like a puzzle. So hopefully one day I can look down into her big, brown eyes and see the person she’s hiding from me; it makes me angry hearing how lowly she thinks of herself with such nonchalance in her character.

How ironic, though, that I preach about her revealing her true self to me when there’s so much that I haven’t revealed to her about myself?

Anyway, after Sarah walked in on us and scared Leslie off (thanks, Sarah), I hadn’t seen her for the rest of the night. Then come to find out, she checked out of her hotel room this morning. She isn’t answering any of our calls, and I have no idea where she went.

So that’s everything that’s killing me—something happened between us, but she ran away before there was a consensus about it.

“Sebastian, Leslie is a grown woman who can handle herself,” Sarah tells me. “You and I both know that. Maybe something is wrong with her phone and she can’t get back to us. Regardless, try her cell in a few more hours.”

“That’s not the damn point though, Sarah!” I bark. Shocked, Sarah stares at me wide eyed. I rub my eyes and try to apologize, but she cuts me off.

“You know what, Sebastian?” she starts. “I think the reason you’re so worked up about this is because you like her.”

I clench my jaw, then start playing with the fruit on my plate. Chills run up my arms; did Sarah really say that?

“What are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about, Sebastian. You may not have realized, but I’ve been quite observant of how you act around her. I don’t know the extent of all the shit you guys have been through and the shit you guys have between each other, but from what I’ve gathered, you’re attracted to her but you’re in denial about it. You can’t even fathom the idea of you genuinely liking a woman for more than just sex!”

“That is not true,” I say in an attempt to make my case. “I’ve liked plenty of women before for more than just sex and you know it, too. Your accusations are bullshit.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Fine. Name one girl.”

“Ingrid Jefferson. Remember her?”

“You know damn well I remember her. You never liked her, Sebastian. You just like to believe you did so the fucked up shit you did to her is somehow justifiable.”

It’s times like now that I regret hiring Sarah as my manager. Why? Because she sees right through me sometimes. She sees right through my bullshit and calls me out on it; I can never not be honest with her.

“C’mon, Sarah. You aren’t being fair.”

“You slept with her, told her you had feelings for her, then humiliated her by—”

“Alright, alright. I get it. But…that’s different.”

“Explain to me how that’s different.”

“It just is.”

She arches an eyebrow, knowing she’s getting down deep enough to find what she’s looking for. “I’ve been working for you for quite some time. I’ve seen women…many women, come and go without you even warranting them a second glance—supermodels, actresses, heiresses, daughters of politicians. Even princesses, Sebastian!”

I cringe, remembering that one royal brat who threatened to tell her father that I broke her heart if I stepped one foot out of her hotel room.

“What’s your point?” I ask her.

“My point is, whenever I see you and Leslie together for only a few minutes, you look happier than a whole night spent with a Victoria Secret ANGEL. Why can’t you just come to terms with the fact that you like h—”

“You don’t understand, Sarah. I don’t deserve a woman like her. Leslie she’s…she’s smart, and strong and independent. She’s doing fine on her own. Me? I’m just…I’m damaged goods. What good would a man like me be to a woman like her?”

For once, Sarah doesn’t have a response. In actuality, she looks…surprised. Like she didn’t expect me to say something like that. Hell, even I didn’t expect myself to say something like that. And I can’t seem to stop myself.

“She thinks she isn’t deserving of anything good,” I explain. “She told me last night when we were dancing together. Can you believe that?” I titter at the thought. “Leslie truly believes that she doesn’t deserve someone who is going to treat her like…I mean if my life wasn’t such a fucking mess maybe she’d see me more than just...”

I look up at Sarah from under my lashes. There’s no point in being secretive, restraining or in denial while around her, but I can’t help but keep my guard up.

I sigh. “Leslie deserves someone who isn’t me, you know? I wish I could be that but I can’t.”

“Then why don’t you do that, Sebastian? The only person stopping you is yourself.”

“It isn’t that easy.”

“Why not?”

“Because there’s things that I can’t reveal to her about myself.”

Sarah looks down at her planner, stunned at everything I just said. Suddenly, she pulls out her phone and begins dialing a number.

“Yes, hi,” Sarah says into the phone. “My name is Sarah Gonzales; I’ve been working with Leslie for the last several weeks…yes, yes that’s exactly right. I was hoping you would know where she is at the moment? I’m aware she left sometime this morning but she isn’t answering her phone.”

There’s a pause before Sarah nods her head and smiles.

“No, that’s more than enough. Thank you, Darcy.”

“Darcy?” I say when Sarah hangs up. The name rings a bell.

“Yeah. Leslie’s assistant. Of course she out of all people would know where Leslie is. Anyway, apparently she went back to L.A. Darcy didn’t know where she is exactly at the moment, though.”

Relief washes over me—relief I’m too reluctant to admit to myself exists. God, I’m so fucking problematic.

“Well at least we know where she is,” I pour a shit ton of cream and sugar into my coffee, then take a long drink.

“Exactly. And you’re going to go out there.”

I set my coffee down. Sarah doesn’t match my confused expression, “What? Why?”

“To show Leslie that you can be the guy that she deserves.”

“Jesus Christ, Sarah.”

“I’m serious, Sebastian! Go to L.A., find out why she ran that night, and tell her how you feel. Stop being a pu—”

“May I take these?”

Our waiter comes by and gestures to our empty plates. When I say my heart almost jumped out of my goddamn chest when he showed up, I mean it.

After the waiter takes our dishes, he comes back with the check. Sarah and I sit in silence for a moment. She has the widest smile on her face, almost like a maniacal smile.

I’m close to getting up from the table to avoid her stare before she gets up first.

“We’ll leave for L.A. in a couple of hours.”

“Sarah, I swear to God—”

“See?” she opens her wallet to pay for breakfast, but I throw two $100 bills—one for breakfast, the other for the waiter’s tip—on the tab and turn to leave. “You already got me hyped up about this, Sebastian. There’s no backing out of this now.”

“I never drove into anything in the first place.”

“Come on? Don’t you at least want to find out why she left?”

“I don’t care. It’s none of my business.”

You fucking liar, my mind teases.

Before Sarah can continue to press the matter, my phone vibrates in my pocket. Now, I’m not gonna lie—I thought it was Leslie returning my calls. But when I see that it’s actually my mom, my temporary high is short lived.

For Christ’s sake.

I answer, even though I don’t want to, “Hello?”

“Hey, sweetheart.”

Gag me. “What’s up, mom?”

“I just wanted to call and see how everything’s going. I heard you were at the charity ball last night. How’d it go?”


Mom clears her throat awkwardly. “Oh, that’s nice. I saw a few pictures of you and Remy together when I read about it online earlier this morning. He seems like a nice guy.”

“He is.”

“I also read about what you said to that reporter about your father. I would have never guessed you would ever say something so outspoken yet informed.”

“I was just saying what I was told to say.”

“Oh. But still. It’s the thought that counts, right?”

“Mom, is there a specific reason why you’re calling me?”

Sarah has her planner gripped to her chest, pretending she isn’t trying to listen to my mother and I’s conversation.

“Actually, there is. I just wanted to ease into it first.”

“Well, you have. So tell me what’s wrong.”

Silence for a moment. Fuck, this can’t be good.

“Well, I was hoping if you would be willing to come back to the manor for a while. I know you’re probably busy working with Leslie and all.”

I tense up at her name. Sarah notices and tries to listen in more.

“Why do you want me back?”

“Oma, along with my brothers and sisters thought it would be a good idea to fly in and stay at the manor for a week. They arrive tomorrow, and I think having you there would really make Oma happy.”

Oma. My Grandmother. I have extremely vague memories of the woman, except for one time when she decided to take me for a joy ride in her sport’s car. Mom didn’t let her come visit us again for a while after that incident.

I was five when that happened.

I try to hide my irritation. Out of all times for Oma to come and visit—along with my Aunts and Uncles that I don’t remember, considering I haven’t seen them since I was five—they have to come now. I could be my predicable self and flat out say no. But for some reason suddenly, I feel like a shitty person for even thinking of dissing my own Oma.

Leslie really must have done a number on you, my conscience echoes.

Shut up!

“Mom, how long have you known about this?” I ask her.

“A while,” she admits shyly. “But I figured there would be a better chance of you staying to see them if I told you last minute.”

“Mom, I don’t know. I’m actually pretty busy.”

It isn’t a lie. I have a lot of stuff planned out for this week, all while trying to squeeze in a chance to talk to Dr. Bakura again. Even if Leslie decides to bail out on us, I’ll still carry on her wishes to see her. Now, where our sessions may lead? Even I’m not sure.

“Please, Sebastian? You’d be the only one out of your siblings who wouldn’t be here.”

Now I feel like an even shittier person. My head currently feels like it’s going to explode, and I have this ticking urge to smoke a joint or pop something to give me a high strong enough to escape.

Drugs shouldn’t be your last resort to coping, Sebastian. You’ve been doing pretty well this last week. Don’t disrupt your streak.

“Fine. I’ll catch a flight out there this afternoon. But I can’t stay the entire week.”

My mom’s so excited, there’s only muffled sounds on the other end of the phone. Sarah heard the words “flight” and “this afternoon” and is now giving me the “manager glare” she gives me when I make big decisions without telling her first.

My mom hangs up, and I’m now stuck with the wrath of Sarah Gonzales right in front of me.

I shrug, “I couldn’t wiggle my way out of this one.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. That was just your way of trying to get out of going to L.A.”

“I wasn’t going to go to L.A. anyway,” I tell her. Is that an honest answer?

“Bullshit. You were thinking about it. Every second you spend here sulking in your denial, wondering why on earth your precious publicist dipped, is a second she slips farther out of your grasp. She probably feels the same way about you but you’re not willing to find out.”

“When did I say that I felt anything for her?” I demur.

Leslie deserves someone who isn’t me, you know? I wish I could be that but I can’t. You telling me that phrase means nothing?”

I pace ahead of her out of the restaurant. She follows, but has a hard time keeping up with my stride, “I don’t want to talk about it right now. I’ve got a lot of shit on my plate that’s a little more important. Tell Lucas I need my shit packed, and call our pilot and ask when’s the soonest he can leave for Tennessee; I’m not going to L.A.”

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Sarah mumbles. I already know she’s rolling her eyes, even though she’s behind me.

I pull out my phone and google the charity ball, trying to find what website my mom saw the picture of Remy and I on. It’s a little pointless, really; there are over a dozen with pictures of us two talking and laughing already. On, Sylvia Moghadam, the reporter I talked to last night, has already posted an article documenting everything I told her about my father’s capitalistic ideology. And I can predict another headache beginning to form from this.

I scroll down the article as we enter the hotel lobby. The same pictures I saw of Remy and I on other websites are on this website as well—one of us laughing, one of us deep in conversation while drinking champagne, another of me speaking to his wife.

But there’s one picture that doesn’t look too familiar.

I pause in the middle of the hotel lobby and stare blankly at my phone, as my skin goes cold and the room deafens out. I pinch the screen, zooming into a photo of what appears to be my father, in a tuxedo similar to the one I wore last night, talking to a few men I remember seeing at the event briefly.

My father was there? How come no one ever told me? How come I never even fucking saw him?

Then it all adds up. Him at the charity ball from an arrival stemmed from little to no press? Leslie leaving the morning after without a trace right after we danced? He told her something. My father—Garrett Harrison—told Leslie something. Threatened her? Blackmailed her?

This doesn’t make sense. But at the same time, the pieces are adding up. Knowing the type of man my father is, it isn’t hard to believe the unbelievable.

“Sebastian?” I hear Sarah say behind me. “What’s wrong?”

Everything’s wrong. My father, destined to ruin any source of happiness in my life, has interfered with our agenda in some way. Which is why Leslie left; because of him. But for what specifically?

Then I realize the one thing that he could have told Leslie that I haven’t told her about:

Ingrid Jefferson.

“Shit,” I say under my breath.

“What, Sebastian? What’s wrong?”

I turn to face Sarah—she sees the pained and distressed look on my face. The ideas I have to somehow clean this up before it spills out of control are ridiculous, but it’s the only way I can possibly refrain from losing her. The idea of confessing everything that Leslie wants to know and most likely everything that she doesn’t want to know to her sounds crazy. But I’m more than certain that if her and Ingrid talk, and if she finds out everything that happened between Ingrid and I, she won’t be able to look at me the same again. My father is smart; he wants Leslie to know a quarter of the story in the hopes that I wouldn’t be willing to confess to her the rest of it; the rest of the story that would make the last quarter make sense. But as I stand here, unable to move from realizing exactly why Leslie left, I know what I have to do in order to have a better chance of her staying around. Staying with me.

I have to tell her everything. Everything.

“Change of plans,” I tell her as I put my phone back into my pocket. “We’re going to L.A.”

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