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

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Chapter 44

“I’m pretty sure you, out of all people, know that Sebastian can become quite…difficult at times.”

Ingrid chuckles—a laugh low enough for me barely to hear. I can sense that she only laughs to try and make the situation more comfortable for herself. But for me? I’m still sitting on the edge of my seat. The fact that anything deep and hidden being revealed about Sebastian is so intriguing to me makes me question a lot of things.

“Yes, I’m aware of that pretty well,” I answer.

“So when I first took him on as a client, it was really hard for him and I to cooperate. He was very headstrong, stubborn, and unwilling to listen to any proposition that involved him changing his lifestyle. I wasn’t trying to change him, per say, but rather tone down his behavior in the public eye.”

A pang of guilt overcomes me. I remember the first time Sebastian and I met; none of the words Ingrid has said about him were part of my vocabulary at the time. I absolutely detested him and his mere existence. Not only that, but Ingrid tried her best not to change him, whereas I tried to do the opposite.

“Weeks went by and nothing had changed. He was still very hard to work with, and I was close to quitting and giving his burden to another publicist who would be willing. Sebastian’s manager, Sarah Gonzales convinced me to stay, and after reevaluating how our relationship was together, I was determined to get down to the root of Sebastian’s strict opposition. So I began to try and get closer to him. Not romantically, but as a friend. At first he was very guarded and suspicious about me suddenly being more open to his words, but eventually I gained his trust. And from there, he trusted me enough to tell me things.”

“What things?” I ask her, a little too eagerly.

Ingrid bites her lip, slouching her shoulders farther down. “He told me about his childhood; about his family. He has a lot of issues that he chooses to internalize—both emotional and mental issues.”

It isn’t news to me, but it still hurts. I’ve seen first-hand what feelings Sebastian hides from the world.

“So when he decided to be open with me, I began to understand what type of person he was. We started to become close, and he became…kind, and caring and just…he listened to me and told me how I was more than what I thought I was.” Ingrid chuckles. “He told me I was beautiful until I believed it myself.”

You’re beautiful, Leslie. And forgive me for repeatedly having this dumb, blank look on my face, but I’m trying as hard as I can to understand how you could believe any of the things you just told me about yourself.

“I’m sure you can guess what happened after that in terms of my own feelings.”

“I think I’m putting the pieces together,” I tell her honestly.

“Anyway, he told me that he had fallen in love with me one night. I was shocked, and for a moment I couldn’t believe him. But then again I figured that he must have been telling the truth considering the person he was at the time. He kissed me, I kissed him back, and then we…you know…”

“Yes, I get the picture.”

Ingrid’s expression becomes soft. Confused, I see my face in the reflection of the shut off computer behind her, and notice that my eyebrows are pressed into a frown. I quickly shake my “anger” away and apologize to her.

The corners of her mouth pull up into a small smile, “It’s okay.”

“So what happened after that?”

“I fell head over heels for him. The next morning, I was smiling ear to ear. I thought that I had finally found a guy that was actually for me. There was this small voice in the back of my mind that told me it was too good to be true, a guy like him falling for a girl like me. But I didn’t listen to it. The next day, after he didn’t return my calls, I made a trip up to his house only to find him in bed with another woman—a beautiful woman, with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I was…”

She suddenly takes a sip of her coffee. The silence is unbearable.

“You don’t have to go on if you don’t want to.”

Ingrid sets her coffee cup down. “No, it’s fine. I’m fine. I ran out of the room, and he ran after me until we made it into his living room. A large group of his friends were there with other women as well. I made the mistake of confronting him about what happened in front of everyone. And he looked at me as if I’d gone crazy. ‘Ingrid, I don’t understand why you’re acting like this. It’s not like you and I were ever a thing.’

“I couldn’t find the words, but he kept talking anyway. ‘I mean, you’re nice and everything, but you’re not necessarily my type’ he said. After that I blurted out the words ‘what about last night?’ in which he replied that he had no idea what I was talking about. He made me look crazy in front of all of those people. He laughed along with them and told me that it wasn’t the first time a girl had lied about sleeping with him. Even when I began to cry they all just…laughed at me.”

She’s lying. She’s lying. She must be lying.

“N-no,” I stutter out. “No, that’s…you’re lying. He wouldn’t do something like that.”

“Leslie—”

“No!” Denial. “He wouldn’t do something like that!” I stand up and grab my purse. “I should have known that Garrett would feed you this bullshit story to give to me!”

“I’m not lying!” She tries to match the volume of my voice, but she doesn’t even come close. “I get where you’re coming from, and I know it’s hard to believe he would do something like this, believe me. But think about the person you’re working with—the person we worked with. Do you think he wouldn’t do anything to get a woman into bed with him?”

“Yes—no, I mean…I…I don’t know. But he isn’t like that. He’s a different person now. I’m sorry he did that to you, but the person you speak about was all a façade. He wore that person as a mask, and he didn’t know how to prioritize living as two different personalities. But now he’s different! Sebastian isn’t like that anymore.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you willing to put all of your faith in that?” She asks me, her voice calm.

For once, I don’t know how to answer her question.

Tears pool in her eyes before falling gently down her blushed cheeks. “It, too, took me a long time to realize that every story he told me about his childhood and his past and his demons and anything in that spectrum was for me to believe he was truly a good person so he could get me to sleep with him. After he invaded the most sacred part of me he disregarded me as if he’d never even met me. But what made me angry was that I couldn’t get over him; my brain still believed that the nice, kind man that I came to know what still in him. So I quit; I couldn’t handle the pain, and the humiliation.”

“So say you are telling the truth. Why tell me this if you claim you’re trying to ‘protect’ Sebastian from something? Why tell me something like this, then?”

Silently, she reaches into her bag that sits by her feet. She pulls out a small black notebook. I stare at it, then scowl ahead at her.

“This. This is what I’m trying to protect him from. After I had quit, Sebastian visited my house and slipped this notebook into my mail box. In here, Sebastian wrote everything he didn’t tell me; everything about his past that he couldn’t confess to me. I’m the only person who has set eyes on this, but if Garrett finds out this journal exists, who knows what he would do to get it back. And who knows what he would do to the sensitive information inside.

“Even with this sentiment as an apology, I couldn’t bring myself to forgive him. But I couldn’t live with myself if this was used against him. I don’t know for sure if what he told me about his childhood is 100 percent true, but I know deep in my heart that what he wrote in here is nothing but the truth. I kept it safe in my house ever since it was brought to me. But now I want you to have it.”

“Why me?”

“Because even though I couldn’t help against the war he wages against his demons, I have a strong feeling that you can. Garrett wouldn’t have called me to talk to you if he didn’t feel like you were a threat. The only reason that he wanted me to speak to you is because he feels you’re doing the same thing I did when Sebastian and I were close. The only difference is, I quit before I found out anything damaging to Garret’s reputation. But you? You still have a chance. I know the real Sebastian is buried deep inside of him, and I wasn’t successful on digging him out. But you can be.”

I still have so many questions. Can I trust Ingrid? What’s inside of this journal? Why does she trust me? But I have the Holy Grail to Sebastian Harrison right in front of me. So with that, I take the journal and put it in my purse.

“I still don’t understand why you decided to tell me that story of what happened between you and him,” I say.

“I told you so you wouldn’t go through what I went through. I made the mistake of falling in love with him while trying to heal him. When his demons snapped back at me, I let my emotions cloud my judgment. But with you? You could help him without becoming too attached; you’ll both become hurt if you do.”

“I don’t know if I can be the one to fix him in that way,” I confess to her. “I thought I could, but after hearing all of this? I don’t think I can handle it.”

“I can’t make the decision for you, Leslie. All I know is that you’re a strong woman; you’re the type of woman I wish I could be. And I know deep in my heart that you’ll use that journal to heal, not to hurt. But if you wish to use the journal for another selfish purpose, that burden will be upon both of us. I have a feeling that you care about him too much to do that.”

My phone rings in my bag. I pull it out and get ready to decline the call, but pause when I realize that it’s Darcy calling.

“Hello?” I answer.

“Hi, Leslie. Sorry to bother you, but I have a woman here who says that she’s waiting to see you. She says it’s urgent.”

“Who is it?”

“Diana Holt? She looks rather impatient.”

I don’t know who that is. But an urgent meeting is enough for me to pay it some mind.

“Alright. I’ll be right over. Can you call a cab to my current location?”

“Sure thing.”

“Thank you, Darcy.”

I hang up and look directly at Ingrid. “I have to go. It’s urgent.”

“Say no more.”

I don’t say more; I don’t have the ability to. I leave the room, walking fast in my strenuous heels and clutching my bad close to my chest. My cab arrives after about ten minutes of waiting, and once inside, I take out the notebook and stare at the leather cover. My fingers fidget at the flap, but I sigh and decide against opening it.

At Harrison Inc., I pay the cab driver and rush into the building. I haven’t stepped foot in here in weeks, and there’s an odd feeling lingering around me when I’m inside. The familiar herd of business men and women rushing to get to their destinations. The loud intercom broadcasting the daily announcements. This will be Sebastian’s company soon; I think to myself.

Top Floor. Paul is nowhere by the secretary’s desk, but Ava is surprised to see me.

“Leslie! You’re back!” She exclaims.

I smile. “Just for a while. Is Darcy around? She called me telling me that a Diana Holt was here to see me.”

Ava then flips through the book in front of her until a frown appears on her face. “Diana Holt? No Diana Holt checked in today.”

“W-What?”

I part from the desk and near my office. Upon opening the door, I’m stunned to see not a woman, but a man sitting in the chair across from my desk. He turns around when he hears the door open, and I am welcomed to a familiar pair of green eyes staring right back at me.

“Leslie,” Sebastian says before standing up. “Hopefully you don’t mind me dropping by.”


I have never felt so conflicted.

I’m excited to see him. Then I’m angry to see him. Then I’m nervous to see him. Then I’m happy to see him. Then I’m…emotionless. My face, obviously shocked, is a surprise to Sebastian as he furrows his eyebrows at me.

“What are you doing here?” I manage to ask. Instinctively, I hold my purse close to me again.

“I was worr—Sarah, Lucas and I were worried about you. You just left and didn’t answer your phone. So Sarah called Darcy and she told us where you were.”

Diana Holt, my ass.

I avoid his eyes as I make my way to my desk. I should be happy I’m in my sanctuary, but my mind is preoccupied.

“How long have you been here?” I ask him as I set my purse on my chair.

“About a couple of minutes. I told Darcy about my little favor on the way here.”

I meet his eyes briefly. I see how tired he is, making me wonder if I look the same.

There’s an awkward silence plaguing the room. There’s so much I want to confront him about, but it’s hard to when you don’t know which “him” to talk to.

“So is there a specific reason as to why you just…left?” He asks me.

“Something urgent came up.”

“Oh, I see. Is everything alright.”

Far from. “Yes.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Silence. “You don’t sound alright.”

“I’m just tired—”

Please, cut the bullshit already, Leslie,” he suddenly snaps. Our eyes meet, and I know we both are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

“Fine. You want me to cut the bullshit? I will. I talked to your former friend Ingrid Jefferson this morning.”

Oddly enough, he begins smiling. His long legs pace the room as he rubs his eyes.

“I knew it.”

“You don’t seem angry about it.”

“Because I’m not,” he replies, even though there must be a layer of anger underneath his nonchalance. “I know my dad was at the charity ball last night. Did you and him talk?”

My heart beats rapidly in my chest. “No, we didn’t.”

His voice raises an octave. “So now you’re lying to me?”

“So what if I am!?” I yell. “That seems to be something you’re quite familiar with!”

“I’m tired of this play on words. If you have something to say, say it!”

Where do I start? Seeing him beginning to fume makes it hard to pin point exactly what I want to say.

“How could you do something like that to Ingrid and not tell me about it? Was it supposed to lay under the rug forever?”

“I didn’t tell you because it wasn’t any of your business.”

I clench my fists. Now I’m away from my chair and even closer towards him, but not enough to where his towering height has an advantage on me.

“It is my business. Shit like that is my business. Humiliating her like that? How do you even live with yourself?”

He laughs mockingly. “What lies did she spoon feed you? Did she make me out to be the big bad wolf?”

“Apparently, because you are.”

“You believe that? I expected you to be smart enough to not believe everything you hear.”

“Right now I don’t know what to believe. I don’t even know whether or not you’re who you make yourself out to be.”

Before he can retort, I stomp over to my purse and pull out the journal. His face is stripped of all defensiveness and left completely pale and deadpan.

“Ingrid gave me this before I left. I haven’t read it, in case you were wondering.”

I hand him the journal, and upon taking it he skims through the pages. Without openly admitting it, I wish I were him so I could see the words stretched out on the paper.

With a clenched jaw and uncomfortable shift of his eyes from one end of the room to the other, he closes the journal and holds it tightly in his hand. He doesn’t say anything.

In an attempt to soothe the room, I lower my voice to a calm transaction. “She told me that there are things inside that journal that your father wouldn’t want out to the world.”

“You shouldn’t believe everything she says.”

I ignore his comment. “I wish you would trust me enough to tell me what’s still eating you up inside. You know that all I want to do is help you.”

“It isn’t that easy.”

“How so? After all we’ve been through?”

Sebastian grows irate. “It isn’t about that.”

“Jesus Christ!” I shout, taking him by surprise. “You don’t realize how hard I’m trying to have faith in the man I believe you are. While everyone else was bashing you to shreds I still held on to the hope that somewhere deep inside of you, the real Sebastian was locked away. Ingrid told me how you laughed at her in front of all your friends after making her seem like she made up the fact that you both slept together. You told her you loved her and then pretended the words never left your mouth. She cried as she told me how being in love with you hurts her still and do you want to know what I did? I still defended you. I told her that there was no way the real you would do something like that? Now, the Sebastian the world knows? That’s a possibility. And maybe the world is right. Maybe all that you’re made of is the expectation the world has of you.”

“I want to talk to you,” he says lowly, almost as if it’s a growl. “I want to be open and honest but you have this idea that a few weeks of trust is enough to expose shit that is the reason I haven’t been able to be happy for years!”

“So you’re saying that you don’t trust me?”

He looks down at the carpet. “That’s not exactly what I meant. I just need time.”

“Well how much time do you need?” I ask rhetorically. “A week? A month? A year? Because I’m trying really hard to continue to trust you and it gets harder and harder every day. So many opinions and experiences people are throwing at me about you and you can’t even tell me why they aren’t true. I mean, so many of the things you went through with Ingrid we both have gone through. And I’m scared I’m going to suffer the same fate as her.”

“All I’m asking is that you be patient with me, but it’s obvious that the option isn’t possible for you!”

“You know what, I don’t need this right now. I can’t mentally take you toying with me this way. All I want to know is why and you can’t give me that. I want everyone to see the person you claim to be but if you can’t even help me with that then I don’t see the point.”

“You don’t have to be so fucking melodramatic!”

“And you don’t have to be such a liar!”

“I’m not a liar!”

“Then prove it!”

“Fuck, you’re so irritating!”

“And you’re so deceptive! I wish I never danced with you!”

“And I wish I never asked you to!”

Before we know it, we’re so close that our noses are almost touching, yet it’s out of anything but affection. Sebastian is so angry his cheeks are a light crimson, and I’m so angry my ears burn and my hands shake at my side. I can’t remember the last time anyone has made me this upset. Of course there’s my mother, but that was out of vengeance for a bitter past. And there’s also Hudson, but even that was a different type of anger. This anger I have towards Sebastian is a mix of so many different things that I can’t accurately describe it.

“They didn’t have hazelnut creamer, so I got you vanilla creamer instead.”

The sound of Darcy’s voice enters the room; before it was as if any other sounds were completely mute. When she sees us, she immediately freezes. I would be more excited to see her, but my frustration is dominating amongst any other emotions inside of me. She stares at us, wide eyed and awkward.

And as we turn around, everyone else on the top floor has the same reaction towards us.

“Oh, I’m sorry if I’m…interrupting anything,” Darcy says in a small voice. “Leslie, I hope you’re not mad about Diana Holt.”

“No, Darcy.” I say to her with a smile. “I’m not mad about that. In fact, I would rather be in Diana Holts company than my current guest’s company at the moment.”

That did it.

Sebastian’s face scrunches up before he pushes past me, takes the coffee out of Darcy’s coffee holder, and slams the door behind him with so much force that my windows rattle extendedly, as do my nerves.

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