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

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Chapter 49

I love you.

Those are the three words Sebastian Harrison told me right before he fell asleep on me. “I love you,” he said. That’s it. No explanation, no reasoning, no retraction. Just those three words.

But I never knew three words could eat me up so badly inside.

I helped him to the bed, and he sleepily climbed on top of the covers and passed out. I stared at him before I left him be, and went through every possible meaning behind the three words besides what they actually mean:

“I love you…as a friend.”

“I love you…playfully.”

“I love you…because your body is like a pillow to me right now.”

These suggestions all make sense. But to match up with how he said it? To pair with the reluctance in his voice before he even said the three words?

That, to me, doesn’t make sense.

Cecil insisted we stay the night, given it was late when we had planned to leave, and Sebastian…well, we all knew what Sebastian’s state was. I stayed in Cecil’s room—Cecil staying with Eliza in her room, while Loretta shared a room with Roberta.

I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling in the humid dark with Cecil’s pajamas sticking to the sweat on my skin. The crickets sound off outside; I can’t sleep much, so I reflect on how I’ve been in several different beds these past weeks besides my own back in Los Angeles. I also think about how Sebastian is doing—whether or not he is still sleep or if he is throwing up his guts. What if he’s thinking about me as much as I’m thinking about him? I ponder to myself. Does he remember what he said to me?


The next morning, I wait in the car while Loretta and Sebastian say their goodbyes to everyone. It’s clear that Sebastian is hungover; he doesn’t even hide the fact anymore. The moment his eyes hit the sun, he grimaces like he hates the world.

I decided to stay in the car. I don’t feel it’s in my right to be part of their farewell. They all have history—a connection. I’m just a small piece that brought them together. I thanked Cecil for her hospitality (and for washing and drying my clothes while I was sleep) before getting into the driver’s seat.

After they say goodbye to each other, Loretta and Sebastian start walking to the car. When their inside, I feel myself tense up. I’m still contemplating whether or not I should tell Sebastian what he said.

“I feel like complete shit right now,” Sebastian mumbles when he closes the door, flinching at the sound.

Loretta settles in the backseat. “Did Fiona tell you that Elizabeth just had her baby ’bout an hour ago?” she tells me. “Healthy baby girl.”

“That’s amazing,” I reply, trying my hardest not to look at Sebastian or even think about him, either.

“Fiona asked if we could stop by the hospital.”

“Sarah and Lucas might wonder why we’ve been M.I.A for almost an entire day,” Sebastian says.

“I’ll call them and make up an excuse. As long as you don’t want them to know about any of this, I’ll make sure to comply to that.”

“OK. And by the way, how much did I drink last night?” Sebastian then asks.

Loretta laughs while buckling her seatbelt. “A lot.”

“Yeah, the pain in my head and the rest of my body gave that away. The last thing I remember doing was dancing with Cecil—which, by the way, I wouldn’t have done if I were so—”

“Wait,” I interrupt. “You don’t remember anything after that? Nothing at all?”

The car is suddenly quiet. We haven’t even left our parking spot yet.

“Um…no?” Sebastian is suspicious now. “Why?”

“N-no reason,” I shift gears to drive, giving me an excuse not to look at him. “I’m just surprised that you really don’t remember anything. Those drinks really must have done a number on you.”

“They did.” Sebastian closes his eyes and leans his head back on the headrest. “I just want food and coffee.”

If current circumstances weren’t present, I would say something along the lines of “you can get food at the hospital” or “we can stop for breakfast somewhere on the way there.” But I can’t speak. All I can manage to do is drive and think. Hard.

He really doesn’t remember anything after dancing with Cecil.

On the way to the hospital, I stop for gas and cheap gas station coffee that taste like complete garbage. Sebastian doesn’t mind it much, but I throw out my cup after one sip.

I buy Sebastian a few bottles of water and a box of ibuprofen to soothe his hangover. I also buy him a pair of sunglasses and a banana.

“Why is there a banana and sunglasses in there?” he asks.

“You need to eat something before you can get an actual meal in you,” I tell him when I hand him the bag of items through the car window. “And, I’m sure there will be paparazzi at the hospital entrance. You don’t want them to see you in your hungover state, do you?”

He pops two ibuprofen tablets in his mouth with several gulps of water to chase, then looks at me with sarcasm evident in his eyes.

“Gee, it’s nice to know how much you care about me,” he says, putting on the sunglasses.

The rest of the ride to the hospital, I tell myself that when I get a moment alone with Sebastian, I’m going to tell him how I feel; that if he does love me like he said, that those feelings are reciprocated, besides the fact that the word “love” is still a complete enigma to me. It’s strange, knowing that I can gather the courage to tell him at this moment; he is right next to me, unknowing of anything I’m thinking about him at this current moment.

I just have to wait for the right moment.


The nurse secretary points us in the direction of the room Elizabeth is in. Loretta and I already decided that we would stay out in the waiting area; I’m sure there will be plenty of times where we can see the baby. But now? I’m convinced that this time should be reserved for family only. I wonder if the baby’s father is in the room currently; I don’t know who he is, or if him and Elizabeth are still together. If they did break up, I’m sure Elizabeth’s publicist is keeping up the façade that they haven’t separated to keep the public at bay, especially at the wake of a newborn child.

Sebastian obviously doesn’t want to go into the room. I talk him into it, telling him that being there for Elizabeth is the right thing to do. It seems wrong to encourage him to be there for Elizabeth when she was never there for him, but Sebastian, still quite deep in his hangover, lets it go and continues walking down the empty hospital hall. And right at the door to Elizabeth’s room, we see William and Patrick walking towards us, slowing down a bit at the sight of us.

“Oh.” Patrick’s smile at Sebastian is patronizing, but in an unintentional way. “You finally decided to show up.”

Sebastian doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t have the energy to. Surprised, Patrick blinks a few times at him before his dark blue eyes shift onto me. I would think, after hearing the truth about what Sebastian went through when they were younger, he would be more understanding and kinder not only towards Sebastian, but to the rest of us as well. And this kindness and understanding was evident in the library yesterday, but now, it’s completely gone.

It’s like he remembers me going off on him in the guest house yesterday.

“And you brought your little puppy with you,” he continues. “She seems to follow you everywhere, huh?”

William rebukes Patrick for his tone (which I find surprising, too) but Patrick ignores him. Loretta steps away from us and sits in the waiting area. And I don’t blame her; knowing the shy, avoider-of-confrontation type she is, I expect her to walk the other way.

“Why didn’t you come with us to the hospital yesterday?” Patrick asks—interrogates Sebastian. “I understand you’re upset about how we confronted you in the living room yesterday about what Mom told us, but when your sister is going into labor, I expect you, her little brother, to be there for her.”

Sebastian, still, doesn’t say anything.

“And you look terrible,” he adds. “Did she do this?”

The “she” he’s referring to is me. And when those words come out of Patrick’s mouth, it’s as if the hangover Sebastian is going through is immediately cured and replaced with anger and disbelief. Patrick is a bit intimidated, but tried his best to hide it. I, for one, can’t believe Sebastian’s quick change in mood.

“I didn’t do anything,” I tell Patrick as calmly as I can. “And I have a name, Patrick. I would appreciate it if you used it.”

“You didn’t ask me if I would have appreciated you yelling at me so rudely yesterday, but you did it anyway. You obviously don’t know your place.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong! All I was telling you was the truth, because the things you were saying about Sebastian were disgusting!”

“Oh, please. This isn’t your family, so stop meddling in it!”

“Patrick!” Sebastian snaps.

All of us are tense solid.

Remember that intimidation I said Patrick was trying to hide his reaction to earlier? Well he isn’t trying much anymore. This is the most scared I’ve ever seen him. And although this anger isn’t directed at William, he looks just as scared as Patrick.

“Don’t talk to her like that.” Sebastian’s voice is quiet but menacing. “Don’t you ever talk to her like that. She’s done more for me this month than either of you have done for me the twenty-eight years I’ve been alive. So don’t you dare speak to her like that. Apologize.”

“Sebastian, are you—”

Apologize.” he repeats louder; angrier. Patrick sucks in a sharp breath, looking up at his little brother as Sebastian inches closer towards him, boring his venomous green stare into his. I haven’t seen Patrick and Sebastian this close since that night we got back from the bar; the night the entire Harrison family found it appropriate to attack Sebastian, claiming the reason we got lost in the forest in the first place was because of him. But I was there to defend him. And now, he’s here to defend me. Quite loyally, too.

The silence is prolonged. Patrick clenches his jaw.

“Fine.” He looks at me. “I’m sorry, Leslie. Forgive my crude language.”

Sebastian backs away from him. The air is still tense, and everyone is still defensive.

“Patrick,” William touches his shoulder. “Let’s go get some coffee.”

Patrick doesn’t think twice about it. He pivots and walks ahead of William down the hall, quickly enough for my eyes not to gather one last study of his face. I start to feel guilty; we’re here to see Elizabeth’s newborn baby yet were arguing instead.

Sebastian looks at me, his eyes soft and gentle. “Are you alright?”

“I…I think I need to take a walk,” I answer. He doesn’t say anything; he’s a bit shocked at my response. But I don’t know what else to do. After everything I’ve gone through with not only him but with this family, I feel as if I don’t belong; like I’m intruding on a family that never asked for me to be here. And they didn’t ask, to be quite honest. I came here because Garrett wanted me here, and now even he regrets that decision after everything I have uncovered and all that I know.

I start down the hallway, ignoring Loretta’s curious eyes. The first place I think to go to is the elevator, but after that, where to? It may seem like I can just leave, but I’ve taken up more responsibility than I like to admit.

I press the button for the lobby, and once the doors open, I step to the side to let everyone off. But there’s one person in the back of the elevator that makes my heart drop in my chest; my skin grow cold; my vision start blurring around me.

Garrett stops talking to Lucinda, his assistant, when he sees me. I should be happy that Lucinda is here; I haven’t seen her in a month. But I’m not as happy as I should be.

A sly, twisted smile stretches across Garrett’s face after a moment of staring at each other. I don’t know if I should take the stairs, walk the other way. What should I do?

“Lucinda,” he says to her. “Let Fiona know that I have arrived.”

“Yes, sir.”

Lucinda exits the elevator, smiles at me, then walks down the hall. Seeing his face, everything that Lucinda told me about him; everything that Ingrid told me about him; everything he did to Sebastian and Gloria comes back to me in strong waves inside my mind.

Stand your ground, Leslie. Don’t show him you’re afraid.

Slowly, I walk into the elevator. It’s suddenly harder to breathe when I’m in the apparatus. I stand as far away from him as possible, and wonder when he’s going to get out. But he doesn’t.

“Perhaps it’s best I take the trip down with you,” he proposes, like I can’t say no. “What floor?”

“The lobby. Please.”

He presses the button for the lobby. I pray someone will come into the elevator, but no one does, and the elevator doors close, trapping us inside.

8th floor…7th floor…

“Have you seen my grandchild yet, Leslie?” Garrett asks me, his eyes ahead.

“No, I haven’t.”

“I haven’t even seen a picture,” he says, disappointed. “I’m excited, though. I’ve always been quite fond of babies—so innocent. Impressionable. They revere you to the highest extent, regardless of your…transgressions.”

6th floor…5th floor…

“Well I appreciate you taking the ride down with me, Mr. Harrison, but I feel bad—you could have seen your grandchild sooner instead of waiting in an elevator.”

“I wanted to ask you how L.A. was. I heard you came by Harrison Incorporated. Sadly, I wasn’t present when you were.”

“L.A. was fine,” is all I can manage to say. I don’t want to throw Ingrid under the bus.

“Ingrid said your meeting went very well.”

“It did.”

“Did you learn anything valuable from your talk with her?”

4th floor…3rd floor…

“I did. Enough that has made me decide not to give in to your threats.”

Silence.

Garrett slowly turns towards me, but as soon as he does, the elevator doors open to a group of nurses talking amongst themselves. Garrett and I head to the back of the elevator as everyone crowds in.

“What on earth are you getting at?” Garrett whispers to me.

“I know the kind of man you are now. I know everything you’ve done, and everything you do. You’re a monster, and I refuse to become one of your pawns like Ingrid and Loretta.”

“How dare you!?” He hisses. A few nurses turn around, but before they can question us, the doors open again, and they all leave. We’re alone now.

“You think you can throw some threats my way and think I’ll just let this go? Sebastian is a troubled person, who needs someone to be there for him. And after hearing about the person you hide from the majority of the world, I have even more reason to despise you and everything you stand for.”

“May I remind you why you came here in the first place? Why I so kindly compensated you a very large sum of money?! I own you, Leslie!”

“You don’t own me—”

“I know more about you than you think. I know everything you like to hide away from the world. You know what I’m capable of—”

“If you were going to do something to me, you would have done it already. So why haven’t you!?”

I would be lying if I say that I’m not afraid of Garrett Harrison, even after everything I just said to him. I’m not surprised that he knows things about me. It’s frightening, but not surprising.

We stare at each other, his silence an indication that he has no retaliation to spew upon me. Furiously, I dig into my purse until I grab hold of my wallet. The check for two million dollars still sits inside, but not for long. I take the check out and throw it at him, as if the wealth of it is useless. Because honestly speaking, for everything that I’ve gone through, it truly is.

“Take it. I’m done being your puppet. I quit!”

The elevator doors open like clockwork to the lobby. I march out, lightheaded and dazed. I’m unsure whether or not I’ll regret throwing the check for two million dollars in Garrett’s face. But I’m positive that I don’t regret quitting.

“You can’t just quit!” Garrett yells after me.

“Yes I can. If this month has taught me something, it’s that I would be better off being Sebastian’s publicist than working for him through you. I’m positive he’d hire me if I asked, because technically there’s no one filling the position full time.”

He doesn’t know what to say, but I’d be damned if I let the thought of me winning cross my mind. Garrett is smarter than that, and me quitting and pledging my service to Sebastian is a statement that carries a lot of weight. Of course, I would still abide to the terms of the contract Sebastian signed—get him to be the next President of Harrison Inc. But will I be doing it Garrett’s way? Will I be under his rule? No. But I know quitting means that I have to tell Sebastian about how I accepted the job in the first place, considering I lied about being paid to be here. Would he even hire me after that?

Garrett yells at me, telling me that I’m making a mistake, and that it isn’t over. At first, I’m positive that he’s going to tell Sebastian that I lied. But as I walk away, letting the last two days settle in, I realize that he isn’t going to do that. Why? Because that’s too easy.

It’s impossible to read Garrett’s next move; he’s always two steps ahead, in addition to him being a complete sadistic sociopath. So him exposing me isn’t what kills me inside. What “this isn’t over” actually means?

That’s what kills me inside.

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