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

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Chapter 55

I would have told you everything that happened at the Harrison Inc. Company party as it happened.

I would have told you about the chaos that ensued; the tears and the screams and the shock and the pain, not to mention the embarrassment. But everything happened so fast, I had no time to think straight. The world was spinning, and then it all went black.

So now, as I sit underneath my desk in my former office, dwelling in the dark with my canister of wine in my hand as the rest of the party goers enjoy themselves in the conference room below, I will tell you everything that happened, and it is then that you will understand why I’m hiding in my old office as blackness and drunkenness consumes me.

Now…where to begin?


After the mysterious caller called me Friday afternoon, I racked my brain trying to figure out anything that could make sense. The paranoia was rising in me at such an alarming rate that I resulted to locking and barricading my door with chairs, pulling the curtains together and sitting in silence and fear.

My phone vibrated again; should I answer it, I thought to myself. Should I even look at the screen?

Slowly, I picked up my phone and saw that it was a text from Beth. Oxygen was reaching my brain better upon seeing her name:

“No problem!” she replied. “We should do dinner tonight with Paul since you’re back!”

I couldn’t do that—not with someone who knows what they know about me lurking about.

I texted back:

“I would love to, but not tonight; I’m super tired. But we can do lunch after Yoga on Sunday?”

“Yeah, definitely! See you then, love,” she responded.

I turned off my phone and stared at the wall; the blackness of my TV and the silver clock ticking by the photos against the wall. The first name that came to mind was Garrett. “This isn’t over” meant something, and the photo and call to my phone was probably what he meant. I was so stupid, underestimating his connections. Who did he pay to dig this up?

My head began to hurt. I haven’t thought of Axel since I was seventeen, forcing myself to rid the memory of him.

“Let that shit go,” Candy told me. “Stop thinking about him and leave it alone”

So I did, and it got to a point where I lived as if that part of my life never happened. Until now, when the demons lingering around the gravesite decided to dig it up and remind me what I ran from.

So for the rest of my night, I didn’t touch my phone out of the fear that I would receive more photos of myself that I thought didn’t exist anymore. I poured myself a glass of wine, made a bowl of cereal (I would have cooked, but my fridge was rendered empty after leaving food in there for a month) and watched TV the rest of the evening. Every time I heard footsteps from my neighbors I froze in fear.

Whatever Garrett had planned, it was working.


The next day—this morning, to be exact, I tried to focus my brain power on the party at Harrison Inc. later on in the evening. I got little to no sleep. Surprisingly, Pedro was comfortable enough to sleep at my side. He’s never done that before.

Sarah and I exchanged text messages throughout the day, and during my free time I answered some calls from a few Press Telegrams. I’m no one special, so when six o’clock came around, I pulled out the same outfit I would have worn to any other event. I got dressed quietly and without any enthusiasm in my attitude, despite the fact that this could be a huge deal for Sebastian’s image. Keep in mind that I was still a bit frightened—the mysterious caller hadn’t contacted me again, but knowing that they were going to be at the party as they said, my nerves were beyond rattled.

7:45PM—the so-called calm before the storm. I got into my car and made my way to Harrison Inc. To my knowledge, Sebastian should already be there with Sarah, but as long as he got there before 9:00PM, I didn’t mind whenever he decided to show up.

When I arrived at Harrison Inc., the congestion in front of the building was ridiculous. Bright, loud and chaotic were the best words I could use to describe the situation I saw in front of me. Once I got a hold of the valet, I entered the building and checked in to receive my “PRESS” badge. Everyone was dressed in semi-formal attire—black ties, tuxedos, gowns and cocktail dresses. One thing I hate about being a publicist is the opportunity I don’t get to wear the general dress code; everyone else gets to dress up while I look like I’m still working.

I entered the conference room where the party was being held. I felt sick to my stomach with being in there; Garrett was most likely lingering around there, and I knew that whoever called me yesterday was going to be in there. I looked around me, seeing if I was being watched. Bile was rising in my throat, and I was becoming lightheaded. But I knew that I had a job to do. So for the moment, I stayed vigilant all while looking out for Sebastian.

The festivities were beautifully held, but I didn’t expect less from Harrison Incorporated. Servers walked swiftly through the crowd of people with platters of hors d’oeuvres and champagne in their hand, their eyes placid and without steady emotion. I held my clutch close to my side and waiting patiently on the sidelines until I saw Sebastian arrive ten minutes later. He was wearing a tux just as all the other men were, but the way it conformed to his frame made the eyes of all the females in the room watch him with lust and sexual frustration in their eyes. You could tell Sebastian was out of his element again; just as he did at the Charity ball in Atlanta; he adjusted his bow-tie and wore an uncomfortable look. I couldn’t help but smile. At least Sebastian served to be a highlight in my paranoid evening; seeing him arrive made me feel like everything was just a little better.

I excused myself through the crowd, through the thick perfume and cologne. I wondered where Sarah was, but for a brief moment it didn’t matter when I saw the smile on Sebastian’s face as he greeted people.

Before I even made it to him close enough to where he could see me, a woman entered the room, wearing a bright red gown that caught the attention of every single person in her area. Her bright red lipstick matched the silk fabric of her dress—sleeveless, dragging behind her in a beautiful train. Her blonde hair was down in vintage waves. Stunning was an understatement.

But that didn’t explain to me why Felicity Felix was Sebastian’s date.

My heart dropped so low in my chest I could have sworn it was going to fall out of my ass. I stared awestruck at the two of them; the woman who lied about being pregnant with Sebastian’s child to the press, and the woman Sebastian hates with a burning passion. It’s one thing to bring her as his date; that’s something that tampers with my personal feelings. But not telling me about it? I’m the fucking publicist!

She hooked her arm through his as they both strolled into the room. I imagined the headlines:
“POWER-COUPLE.” “REUNITED.” As of right now, the thought makes me sick to my stomach. Even though there’s a logical and twisted reason behind it, it still makes me sick.

I turned and walked through the crowd to the back quicker than I walked through the crowd to the front. I thought of any logical explanation for bringing her as his date, but nothing came to mind. I’m usually smarter than that, but my head was everywhere except where it needed to be.

“Leslie,” A familiar voice said to me. Sarah approached me with a hand on my arm. I saw Lucas some ways away, too, wearing a tuxedo. And as for Sarah, she was wearing a black cocktail dress with red-bottomed Louboutin heels. Seeing how they were dressed, then seeing how I was dressed, I realize that I didn’t get the memo. I never knew I could feel even worse about myself in a matter of five seconds.

“Why is Felicity with Sebastian?” Is the first thing I asked Sarah. She sighed irately before grabbing my hand and pulling me to a corner.

“Look,” she started to tell me. “I didn’t want the bitch to come, either. Hell, she was an irrelevant brat in my book until some “representative” of Sebastian’s dad came and told us that Felicity and Sebastian had to go together or else.”

Pause. Pause right there. That is the moment that the pieces started to make sense to me. But I was too naïve to put them together in a super-glue puzzle myself. And if I wasn’t so loyal to the idea that the night would get better with time, I could have avoided this mess in the first place.

Alright. Continue.

“Or else what?” I asked Sarah.

“Some petty threats about his rep and all this other bullshit. I didn’t want to believe the broad but Sebastian insisted on doing it ‘for the sake of someone.’ I don’t know what that means and he wouldn’t explain.”

“Who was the rep?”

“Alejandra Flores? I’ve never heard of her.”

Bingo. I know now exactly what is happening. Garrett is behind this. Garrett is behind all of this. He knew that the only thing that would make me raise my white flag was bringing up past. My guess was that he offered the traitorous bitch of an assistant my old position, even though she doesn’t have the work ethic or the backbone to be like me whatsoever; the only thing she would be good at is screwing men in a relationship for six months, especially a man in a relationship with her boss. Either way, this explains Sebastian bringing Felicity as his date. But the photo and the phone call? Garrett is in no position to get his hands dirty, I know that for sure. Whoever he paid off to find that photo (not to mention the countless others he probably already has) has to know what they’re doing and have the same connections Garrett has.

“I wish you would have told me so I could have prepared for this,” I told Sarah disappointedly.

“I wanted to, but you weren’t answering your phone yesterday. And I was so busy today that—”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” I try hard to hide my raging furiousness at the entire situation. “You prepped Sebastian on everything?”

She nodded. “Yup. And I advised both of them about no PDA; the rumor storm doesn’t need to turn into a category 5 hurricane if they’re caught making out.”

The thought made me want to throw up.

From then on for the next twenty minutes, things were set at mild. I thought I could hold the fort despite the shit thrown at me from Garrett in the shadows. On the topic of Garrett, I hadn’t seen him in that time frame. I knew he was here somewhere, but I just couldn’t see him.

Since I was dressed like the “common-wealth,” I didn’t want to intermingle in the crowd. I watched from a distance, studying Sebastian most of the time. He did extremely well talking with people; he has that trait that I’m not responsible of teaching to him—charisma. He can make you laugh from a joke and gasp from a story. He was doing splendidly. At the twenty-one-minute mark, I decided to enter myself into the crowd to get some champagne.

This is when everything started to crumble around me.

I flagged down a server and picked up a glass of wine from the platter. After a few sips, Sebastian walked up behind me and surprised me with a tap on the shoulder.

“Hey,” he said to me. “I haven’t seen you all night.”

“I’ve been lingering in the shadows. That’s where I belong, if you haven’t noticed.”

I gesture to my clothes and my badge. He doesn’t react the way I expect him to.

“Well you look beautiful in anything you wear, so I guess we’re at a disagreement here,” he said with a smile.

I laughed—a reaction to hearing such a compliment from a guy like him; a man that can swoon any woman in this room if he wanted to just with one look in their direction.

I held my head down to hide my blush. “That’s something I’d expect you to tell your date instead of me.”

The smug smile on his face was dumbed down to an awkward look. “There’s a good reason behind that, Leslie. I swear.”

“I know,” I told him honestly. “Sarah told me about…Alejandra, approaching you. We’re currently in no position to defy your father at the moment. And besides, it’s publicity to have you two together.”

“You know I’d rather have you on my arm instead,” he whispered to me seriously.

You know the feeling I explained earlier? The feeling of my heart dropping so far down my chest it felt like it was going to fall out of my ass? Well that feeling has come back again.

“Don’t say that.” I swallow down a lump in my throat. “It wouldn’t work anyway. You know that.”

“Why not?”

Believe it or not, I was going to answer that question. And I would have if the two people in front of me didn’t render me speechless.

It took me a couple of seconds to realize that Hudson and Alejandra were standing in front of me, staring at me like I wasn’t real.

Again, the “heart-out-of-my-ass” feeling had returned.

“Leslie,” Hudson said to me. God, it’s been a month said I heard his voice. Seeing them and hearing him reminded me of when I found them together in the back of Hudson’s car. Alejandra brought herself closer to Hudson’s side as if I was going to do something to her. I was as angry then as I was when I found them fucking in the parking lot. Not only did Alejandra take my job (from my suspicions) but her and Hudson are a legitimate couple.

And I’m alone still.

“Hudson. Alejandra,” I managed to choke out. “What are you two doing here?”

“We were invited,” Hudson answered. “Garrett Harrison invited us himself.”

The puzzle pieces came together completely then. Garrett plays dirty, and I would be a liar if I said he wasn’t winning by doing everything he just did.

Sebastian looked back and forth between us and realized who they were. I told Sebastian that I had a boyfriend who cheated on me when we danced at the Charity ball, but he never knew who it was.

Now he knows.

“It’s nice to see you, Leslie,” Alejandra said with a slight smile. The fact that all I wanted to do was wring her little neck made me feel horrible.

I tried to keep my cool. “You too, Alejandra. So what are you up to these days? Still unemployed?”

Ouch.

“No, actually.” She answers coolly. “Garrett actually offered me a position as his publicist. Crazy, right? I guess I learned from the best.”

I was fuming. The envy made my head burn.

“I guess so.”

“What about you?” Hudson asked me. “You still living alone or is there someone special occupying some empty space?”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

Alejandra wore a pitiful look. “So that’s a no,” she mumbled to Hudson.

It was then I saw how ugly Hudson was. He isn’t a good looking guy to begin with—bulbous nose, oily skin, crooked smile. But as a person? He’s completely insufferable. I should feel bad for Alejandra, but the fact that she has what I had—my job and my boyfriend—makes me feel like complete shit.

“You still have your dog to keep you company though,” Hudson said. “At least you have that.”

Sebastian’s face was the face of someone who understood what everything meant. He was slowly getting who I was by this small interaction between Hudson, Alejandra and I.

I thought nothing could get any worse. I thought that Garrett really did one in, and I should just throw in the towel. I had never felt so humiliated, especially in front of Sebastian—Alejandra and Hudson successfully exposed me as being the lonely 27-year old woman who couldn’t keep a relationship or a job.

But as I said before about things not getting worse, Murphy’s law successfully came into effect, which ended up being the one thing Garrett was right about.

“So she lives,” my mother said from behind me.


“Mom?” I asked, shocked. “What are you doing here? You were invited?”

“Yes, I was as a matter of fact,” she replied, her accent giving me bad memories. “I have my connections.”

My mother, shining in a bright, beige accented dress next to a bulky, bearded man I’ve never seen, smiles at me out of anything but joy. She takes the champagne glass out of my hand and finishes it off. Mother laughs at the look on my face.

“Oh, what’s the face for? I’m doing you a favor; you and alcohol aren’t compatible anyway.”

Strike one.

“Mom,” I said, in a tone that sounded close to begging. “Please. Please don’t.”

My mother was merciless—still angry at me for existing. Her eyes landed on Hudson, his arm wrapped around Alejandra’s waist. They both looked at my mother and I with sorry eyes that were a bit amused.

“You and Hudson aren’t together anymore?” she asked me as if we weren’t right in front of him. “What did you do this time, Leslie?”

I’m still in shock that she was standing in front of me. Garrett is ruthless, and I wish he wasn’t. I wish I didn’t test him how I did; anything to make them go away.

“It just didn’t work out,” Hudson told her.

Che peccato. I doubt she’ll find anyone who will want her now; she’s known to be quite a homewrecker.”

Strike two.

“Francesca!” the man next to her. “Stop it. You’re drunk.”

He was right about that one.

“Edgar, I’m just teasing.”

“No she isn’t. This is exactly how she is when she’s sober,” I told him, choking back tears.

Her smile was gone then. “Come ti permetti!”

“If you want to do this now, Mom, we can. It’s been years since we’ve seen each other and the first thing you think to do is insult me and humiliate me in front of everyone?” I asked her, purposefully, in Italian. The only one who understood us was Edgar; Sebastian looked beyond confused and taken back that I spoke Italian.

“You’re always playing the victim,” she responded in the same language. “I came here to have a good time and all you manage to do is have the ‘woe-is-me’ attitude. This party isn’t even for people like you; shouldn’t you be doing something for your client, not trying to convince everyone that you’re the perfect girl you make yourself out to be? How would they react if they found out about everything you’ve done? To others and to yourself? I’m sure the razor scars on your thigh are still there.”

Strike three.

“Enough,” Edgar said to her. And she actually stopped talking.

There was a minute of relief from her words. My mother was always a trigger for me, which is why I avoid her as much as I can’t. But knowing now that I can’t, I feel like I’m going to pass out. And to make matters even worse, Felicity decided to stroll by and again, hook her arm through Sebastian’s arm. Her eyes landed on me, and slowly, they looked me up and down before a smile crept up on her lips.

“Your outfit is…cute,” she said with a small laugh that ended when Sebastian growled something into her ear.

I wanted to disappear. I wanted to run out of the conference room, get into my car, and drive off somewhere far away from everyone. But I couldn’t; Garrett has cornered me, with Alejandra, Felicity, Hudson, and my mother being the hungry pack of wolves ready to devour me.


By then, all of the couples had gone to dance in the middle of the floor. Me? I was in the bathroom, locking myself in a stall and yelling at myself to keep the tears from coming out. I hadn’t cried yet; I haven’t cried yet. I don’t know if I should be proud or ashamed.

“Stop it!” I coached myself. “Don’t let them get to you. Just stop it, right now!”

I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself why I was there—I was there for Sebastian and his success, not for my problems. Garrett knew that this was going to get to me, but I couldn’t let him win, no matter how much I wanted him to so it would stop.

“Girl, yes! He’s going to do it in a couple of minutes!”

Two women entered the bathroom as soon as I exited my stall. They were retouching their makeup and talking excitedly by the mirrors.

“And how do you know this?” the brunette asked the chatty red-head. They didn’t care that I was listening as I washed my hands.

“Does it matter? Look, all I know is that Hudson is going to propose to his girlfriend tonight. I saw a picture of the ring—gorgeous!”

Pain. Internal pain.

“Well, hurry up! You know how I am about proposals—”

“Excuse me?” I interrupted politely. The redhead looked down at me, smiling. The brunette, however, wore a wide look that became very deadpan.

“Can I help you?” Redhead responded kindly and very avidly.

“I couldn’t help but listen in on you saying that Hudson Bradford is going to propose tonight?”

She nods so fast her auburn hair wisps around her. “Yes, girl! Isn’t that so romantic? And the ring is insane! Don’t tell anyone, girl, but I heard that he had to pull a few strings to afford it.”

“What kind of strings?”

“He sold his watch, girl—a Cartier Ballon-something—”

“Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch?” I corrected her.

“Yeah! You know those run to be around six thousand dollars? Top of the line!”

“I know. I bought him that watch last year.”

Red-head was so lost it’s almost funny. Her friend tapped her, whispered something along the lines of “ex-girlfriend,” and red-head gasped.

“Oh my God,” she said through her hand on her mouth. “I didn’t know. I-I’m so sorry.”

Apologies. I hate them and want them at the same time. But in this case, I hated hearing the amount of pity in her voice. I rushed out of the bathroom; I’m leaving. I can’t be here anymore. It pains me to know that Garret has won, but if this is what I have to go through to play whatever game he wants, then I might as well stab myself in the back.

Red-head was right about Hudson proposing. It was happening when I was leaving the bathroom. I saw the ring glisten in the chandelier light and was reminded that it was paid for by the watch I spent six grand on when I thought that he was the one for me. I dug my own grave, when I think about it.

I spotted Sebastian and Sarah on the other side of the conference room. They both saw me, and the looks on their faces were worse than anything I have gone through. They saw how weak and vulnerable I really was, and it made me feel so prone and open. I pushed through the crowd of clapping people as Hudson lifted a hysterically crying Alejandra in her arms after she said “yes.”

The minute I walked out of the conference room, a hand grabbed me and spun me around. When I tell you that I could smell the alcohol a couple of feet away from my mother, I’m not exaggerating. She was that drunk.

“That was supposed to be you out there,” she drawled drunkenly. “You stupid idiot! How could you let that happen?”

“Let go of me,” I told her quietly. It was already too late; everyone outside of the conference room was staring at us and whispering to their peers. Sebastian and Sarah came shortly and just stood by and watched.

“Do you realize that no one’s going to ever love you now? You’re going to be alone forever because you’re just…you’re just a stuck up, arrogant bitch who cares more about the money you make than anything else. You ruined your life, and you ruined mine!”

“Stop!”

“Your father left because of you! He left me because of you! And you never apologized!”

Her grip started to hurt me, but she wouldn’t let go; she was angrily crying by then.

“It wasn’t my fault,” I tried to tell her so she would calm down. We’d created a spectacle more intriguing than the marriage proposal in the next room.

“It’s all your fault,” she cried slowly, holding onto my arm with both hands. “It was all your fault but you blamed me for all of it! You blamed me for…for Axel even though I wasn’t there.”

“Mom, please. Stop—”

“It wasn’t my fault you were anorexic,” she cried. “You did that to yourself! They tried to help you but you wouldn’t wake up!”

“Shut up!”

And that’s when I pushed her. At that moment, I didn’t realize that I had pushed her so hard; hard enough for her to hit the ground. Everyone ran to her aid, looking at me as if I was a monster.

“You stupid bitch!” she shouted at me. I looked down at what I have done, and I can’t explain what happened; I hadn’t thought about the time I almost died since it happened. But her bringing it up made me think of me being sixteen, unconscious in the girl’s bathroom. That, along with just seeing my ex-boyfriend propose to my ex-assistant with a ring I technically paid for:

And I just snapped.

Everyone is probably wondering how I could possibly push my own mother like that. I didn’t mean to, but I’m not as sorry as I should be—she never loved me. She treated me like I was scum, and I was left to take care of myself once my parents divorced. The only time she cared about me was when she starved me so I would be as skinny as my sister and her. She locked me in the closet during breakfast, lunch and dinner and said it was my fault for being fat and disgusting.

And she’s the reason I still think I’m those things to this day.

Like a coward, I ran from the scene. I ran to the elevator and pressed for the top floor. I was shaking badly, scared and unable to comprehend everything that had just happened. The top floor was empty when I made it up there, and my office keys still worked. But when I walked inside, I saw that some of my things were already packed up. I checked my desk drawer, and my handy canteen of Moscatto was still in there.

I closed the door and left the lights off. As far as I was concerned, the world didn’t exist anymore.


And that’s how I got here. Right now, I’m drinking the last of the wine in my canteen as I sit underneath my desk. I’m not drunk yet, but a little disoriented. My brain has never been this fried, and all I want to do is go home and lock myself in my room to cry. If Garrett were here right now, I would raise my white flag and beg him to end this.

The elevator doors open outside. I look up and see Sebastian exiting onto the floor, looking around for me, most likely. Quickly, I put the canteen back into my desk drawer and compose myself. Eventually, he knocks on the door. And I open it without trying to show him how much of a mess I am.

But I’m certain he already knows.

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