I offered to keep Leslie company until she fell asleep. No stings, no wandering hands or rotten intentions.
“Please?” she replies after my proposition. Keep in mind she still has her arms wrapped around me; her chin is on my chest as she looks up at me.
I take off my shoes as she breaks apart from me, wiping her eyes. Out of habit, I almost unbutton my pants. Good thing I don’t go there.
“Do you mind?” I tell her when I unbutton my shirt and take off my tie. “I have trouble sleeping with more layers than I need to.”
She shrugs. After tonight, I doubt anything will make her uncomfortable unless I take my pants off.
Don’t worry—I have an undershirt on. I see it in her eyes; for a moment, she thought I was bare chested under this shirt. I would be, but for some reason the buttons on turn-down shirts irritate my skin.
I climb onto the bed and situate myself on top of the covers. It’s a bit smaller than the bed I have at home, but near nothing to complain about; the area around her bed smells like lavender and something else really good that I can’t pin point, whereas other rooms I’ve “found” myself in the past smelled like a mixture of pussy, vodka, failure and cigarettes.
I gesture for her to come to me. “You sleep standing up?”
Her lips curl up into a smile. Slowly, Leslie climbs onto the mattress and lays next to me. I wrap an arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer to me until her head rests on my chest.
I sigh into the dark air. “Well, this is the most G-Rated thing I’ve ever done with a woman in bed.”
I can feel the vibration of her laughter on me. “I can imagine.”
The apartment is eerily quiet, but there’s a sense of company in the silence and companionship of Leslie next to me.
“Do you want me to go turn off the lights?” I ask her, looking at the bright hallway.
“No, it’s okay. The lights turn off by themselves; motion sensors.”
And like clockwork, the apartment is suddenly dark with the exception of natural light from outside her bedroom window.
Leslie shifts, making herself more comfortable on me. I tense up; I can’t remember the last time I’ve cuddled with a woman like this. Shit like that is annoying to me. But it isn’t annoying now—just awkward and anxious. There’s a lot I want to ask her, but I feel that once I start asking the wrong things it will ruin what we have right now.
My phone lights up in my pocket, and I remember all the shit I left behind upon offering to take Leslie home.
“Are you with Leslie? Felicity is going crazy right now,” Sarah texts me. Fuck, I completely forgot about her. I stare at the screen a while longer. Do I even text back?
“I’m pretty sure you’re missed at the party,” Leslie says quietly when I turn off my phone.
I look down to her, and she looks up at me. “I enjoy being here a lot more.” I tell her; it’s the truth.
A small grin appears from what I can see of her. The calmness and serenity of Leslie’s face is enough to make the panic more bearable; Sarah is going to chop my balls off the next time she sees me for leaving the party and ignoring her text, and I’m not too excited about that.
As we lay together, Leslie far from falling asleep, I can’t help the curiosity plaguing my brain about everything she told me and everything that happened to her tonight. It’s like falling face-first into a goldmine.
“Who’s Axel, Leslie?” I suddenly ask. The look on her face makes me regret randomly asking the question, but I remember her bringing him up during her tangent.
Her breathing becomes shaky. I’m so stupid; obviously that name is a trigger for her. But knowing the guy died from a heroin overdose? How am I supposed to let shit like that go?
“He was…someone I met when I was seventeen, after moving in with my dad. I—”
“Don’t say anything more. You don’t have to tell me.”
She looks up again, confused at my interruption. I know more than a thing or two about past crap that you intend to leave in the past. Whoever this Axel guy is—was, should stay buried.
“I hadn’t thought about him until tonight,” Leslie explains.
“Why? Because of your mom?”
She’s hesitant on answering. “No. Someone sent me something relating to Axel.”
“I don’t know. It was an unknown number.”
I can feel her heartbeat grow faster against me.
“Did they say anything else?” I ask her.
“They called, telling me they’d see me at the party, then hung up. I still have no clue who it was.”
Have you ever grown so angry all of the sudden that everything around you becomes blurred? Or your skin starts to grow cold? That’s exactly how I feel. And immediately after Leslie’s explanation, everything that happened tonight makes perfect sense. This was my father—her ex-boyfriend and her former assistant, her mother, the marriage proposal, even my Dad forcing me to take Felicity as a date. And I know that Leslie has figured this out, too, but the stress of tonight has made her snap and detach.
I know this was my father, but I need proof and the certainty that it was.
“Everything is such a mess,” Leslie whispers. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You don’t do anything for now,” I answer. “You just sleep. That’s what you need more than anything.”
She yawns quietly before thanking me again. And after a few silent minutes of staring out of the window and tucking stray hairs back into her bun, her body relaxes against mine; she’s fast asleep.
Sleep is the last thing I can achieve right now. I look down at her, her eyes closed, her face soft and innocent, and wonder why my father would want to target Leslie like this? Tampering with her psyche in such a fucked up way? It isn’t surprising, really—my father is a sociopath. But I still need to understand why? Because she quit? Because of what Loretta told her? Those seem like legitimate reasons. Yet something inside of me keeps telling me that there’s something more.
As of now, I’ve been thinking about this shit for a good thirty minutes. Leslie dog comes into the room, jumps up on the bed and curls up by my feet. I can guarantee Leslie doesn’t let him do this on a regular basis; smart dog.
I stare down at her sleeping again before pulling out my phone to call Claude. The line rings for a bit; I pray Leslie doesn’t wake up.
“Hello?” Claude answers.
“Hey, Claude. It’s Sebastian. You still at the manor?”
“Yeah, but I leave tomorrow. I’ve got to head back to Jersey to handle some business. Why?”
I think it over intensely. Asking Claude to involve himself might get me into some shit that I never should have. But I have to know.
“I…I need you to do me a favor,” I ask him finally.
“Anything for my favorite cousin,” he replies. “What do you need?”
“I need some info on a few people. And I also need you to tap in to some of my father’s ‘personal’ shit to see if these people have been affiliated with him in anyway.”
Claude whistles lowly. “Damn, Sebastian. What’s got you all 007 all of the sudden?”
“You know how my dad is, Claude.”
“Of course I know how your dad is, but why are you curious about it now?”
Leslie stirs a bit before stilling again. I avert my eyes away from her onto the window and sigh.
“It’s about Leslie. She’s gone through some shit tonight, and I have a suspicion that my father might be the reason. I need to know why.”
“Well, alright. I won’t have anything until, maybe tomorrow. Shit like this takes time, especially with how Garrett rolls around.”
“Yeah, I know. Anything would be useful. You’re the only one I can trust to do this.”
“Alright. Just give me the names.”
I give him as much information as I can, letting him know that all of them should have gotten an invitation to the party in the first place, so it shouldn’t be hard to find them in Harrison Inc.’s system. There’s the big chance that these people can come up clean, and that all of them hitting Leslie with mental blows like this is just a fucked up coincidence. But I’m too smart to shrug anything off as a coincidence before figuring it out first.
“I’ll let you know tomorrow,” Claude says.
“Thanks. And Claude? Make sure that…can you please make this…clean?”
He doesn’t answer immediately. After a few seconds, he responds.
“Spick and span, little cousin.”
And then he hangs up.
I put my phone back into my pocket and lean my head against the headboard. Right now, if it weren’t for meeting Leslie a month ago, I would have been enjoying a tall glass of champagne with a tight piece of ass (who’s also the spawn of Satan) on my arm, begging me to let her blow me in the bathroom before we enter the party again, oblivious to the dark bullshit my father is involved in. But now, after being exposed to the truth and forced to come to terms with the shit my father did to me and to many others, I’m here in my publicist’s apartment, holding her as she sleeps in my arms and thinking of ways to weaken my dad’s chokehold on the small good left in my life. Because for the longest I’ve believed that it was my fault that my life turned to shit. But it wasn’t.
And I refuse to let my dad take the only thing left in my life I care about more than myself.
My eyes start to become heavy. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes, then leave to let Leslie sleep. But as her arms tighten around me when I move a bit, as if she knows in her sleep that I might leave, I feel I have even more reason to stay. And plus, I’ve never slept with a woman without having sex with her first, so it’s a new experience for me.
And I’ll admit—it isn’t quite bad.
By the vexatious light burning my eyes and the invasive birds chirping outside of my bedroom window, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s currently morning.
I slowly open my eyes, regretting the decision when the sunlight says an annoying ‘hello’ to my sensitive irises and pupils. It only takes me a moment to realize that I’m on top of a body—a male body, to be exact. And it takes me another moment to realize that this male happens to be Sebastian Harrison, snoring with his head sunk into a pillow.
I should be shocked, guilty, or even flustered that Sebastian and I are in the same bed together. But I’m not; I’m more shocked at the fact that Pedro is sleeping on the foot of my bed when he knows damn well he isn’t allowed.
I stare at Sebastian’s as he sleeps. I never thought it possible for him to become any more handsome than he already is, but him sleeping proves me wrong. I have a sudden urge to touch his face to remind myself that he’s real, or move his hair away from his eyes. But instead, I gently prop myself up on his chest and look at him longer. I remember last night again, even though I don’t want to. But the highlight was Sebastian comforting me when I was alone. I’ve never had anyone do that for me, and I feel I don’t deserve it. I wonder if I said anything stupid last night; I did have a bit of wine in my office before he came in.
I push the thoughts out of my mind and lay my head against his chest again, and sleepily, Sebastian drapes his arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer to him. I close my eyes and drift back to sleep, but not before the sound of my front door opening alerts me wide awake.
“Leslie? Are you here?”
I freeze, sitting up and looking around the room. It all suddenly rings a bell in my head: today is Sunday.
“Shit!” I whisper under my breath. I check the clock on my bedside table—10:32AM. Fuck!
“She’s probably still sleep,” I hear Paul say. “Jetlag?”
“She got back on Friday, and it isn’t like her to sleep in,” Beth says. “And besides, she’s the one who said that she wanted to do Yoga today.”
Sebastian is still sleep when I look at him. Sorry, I think to myself before slapping his shoulder multiple times.
“Sebastian! Wake up!’ I whisper.
He blinks and sits up, startled.
“What the hell?” he rubs his eyes. “Why did you do that?”
Paul and Beth’s voice in my living room is indication enough.
“Oh, shit,” Sebastian groans.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t want them to get the wrong idea. ”
He gets up and picks his shirt from the floor. “Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do something like this!”
“Check her room?” Paul says.
Immediately, I push Sebastian into my closet and close the sliding door; there’s no time to think before Paul and Beth enter my room with their yoga mats underneath their arms.
“Hi, guys!” I beam with a wide smile.
Sebastian Harrison is in my closet. Sebastian Harrison is in my freaking closet.
Seeing my friend’s faces for the first time in a month, I should be excited. But I’m panicking. One thing I do notice, is Beth’s hair is cut short into a bob, while Paul has a much more athletic build to him.
Beth stares at me like I’m not making sense. “Um, we called you like thirty times!”
“I’m sorry. I left my phone in the living room before I fell asleep.”
Paul pushes past Beth dramatically and gives me a tight hug.
“Bitch,” he says to Beth when we part. “Leslie’s back from a month-long trip and that’s the first thing you think to say to her after bursting into her apartment?”
Beth smirks. “I’m sorry,” she hugs me as well. “How was your trip, babe?”
I can tell I’ve peaked their interests. Paul arches an eyebrow at my preferred word choice.
“Eventful? Do tell!”
Beth sits on the foot of my bed. I see her smell around a bit; she must smell Sebastian’s cologne lingering on my sheets. ‘Panicking’ is now an understatement.
“I would tell you everything, but I think I should get dressed so we can get to yoga—”
“Girl, yoga can wait another ten minutes!” Paul exclaims. “You spent a month with Sebastian Harrison, I wanna know the tea!”
“There is no ‘tea,’ he’s just a normal person.”
Beth rolls her eyes. “Right. One of the hottest men to ever walk this earth isn’t just a normal person in my book.”
Sebastian’s ego must be bigger than a hot air balloon right now.
“Is he really as tall as everyone says he is in person?” she asks. “I heard he’s 6’2.”
“6’3,” I correct her, causing her to swoon and plop down back-first on my pillows.
Don’t smell the cologne.
“You know how Beth is when she hears anything about her imaginary husband.”
“Paul.” Beth glares at him. “Stop crushing my dreams. Him and I are getting married one day soon. No question.”
“He’s gorgeous and all, but he’s a womanizer,” Paul says. “Did he try anything on you, Leslie?”
Well we did kiss, but I doubt I should mention that.
“That’s hard to believe,” Beth adds.
“No, seriously. He isn’t like that. He’s different.”
They don’t believe me, and it kind of makes me sad and irritated at the same time since I know the real Sebastian. Not them.
“Well either way, I hope you had a good time.”
Beth gets up and walks over to the mirror to fix her tank top; the mirror that happens to be part of the sliding door of my closet.
“Y-you know what, why don’t we finish this conversation in the living room?” I propose.
Beth narrows her eyes at my odd behavior, but shrugs it off before grabbing her mat off the bed. Before she leaves, she bends down to tie her shoe, and right by her shoe I spot Sebastian’s bow tie.
I run over and kick it under the bed, startling Beth.
“Shit! I-I tripped over my own foot. I’m so clumsy..”
“Okay, what is wrong with you?” Paul asks. “You’ve been acting kind of weird since I came in here.”
“I agree,” Beth laughs, poking me with her yoga mat.
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m just eager to get Yoga started.”
There’s a sound from the closet that all of us hear. I intervene before anyone can investigate.
“Wh-why don’t I make you guys some coffee before I get dressed?”
“Leslie what’s going on?” Beth’s blue eyes are invasive and prying. “It’s almost like you’re hiding something.”
I gulp. “I’m not hiding anything. Why would I be hiding anything?”
“You tell me.”
Beth and I stare at each other. She thinks a staring contest and a mischievous smile will make me crack, but as far as I’m concerned, I have no idea what she’s talking about.
Finally, she scoffs. “I’m just going to rule it out as you being a weirdo.”
“Yup! That’s me. Being weird.”
Thankfully, I’m able to usher them out of the room. But I notice Paul’s eyes lock on something by the corner of the room, near the bedside table.
“Is that…is that a man’s shoe?” Paul asks.
Sure enough, Sebastian’s black dress shoe is where he last left it; a place I didn’t notice either
“What are you talking about?” I pick up the shoe nonchalantly. “This is my shoe.”
The widest smile crosses Beth’s face.
“You got laid last night! That’s why you’re acting so weird!”
Paul and Beth are screaming now.
“I knew it, I knew it! Shit, Leslie, you’re so naughty! You’d never do something like this!”
“Because I didn’t, Paul!”
“Who was he?” Beth asks.
Beth and Paul cross their arms over their chest like Siamese twins. Suddenly, another sound comes from the closet. This time, their attention is fully caught.
“He’s still here, isn’t he? That’s why you want us out so badly, because you’re hiding him!”
“You’re being ridiculous! You know me, Beth. Why would I hide a man in a closet, let alone bring a man I don’t know into my house so I can have sex with him!”
“Fine. I’ll just peek into the closet and—”
The moment I’m dumb enough to let the hopeless scream come out of my mouth, Beth and Paul charge for the closet. But somehow, I’m able to intercept them and get to the closet first. I stand in front of the door and stare intimidatingly at them.
“What are you doing, Leslie?”
“I have private things in here that I don’t want you to see!”
The way Paul and Beth laugh is humiliating.
“Look, you two! Whatever you may be thinking about me right now is completely false. I did not get laid last night, and I am not hiding anyone in this closet!”
The humorous looks on their faces are replaced with shock. It takes me a minute to realize that Sebastian has now opened the closet door, and is standing closely behind me.
“Hello,” he greets to them both.