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

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Chapter 63

I’ve never been a victim of “the morning after” until now.

You know—leaving the location that you had sex at with a mixture of guilt and pleasure in your system, wearing the same clothes as the night before, holding your head down, that sort of thing.

After getting dressed in the clothes I wore the day before, Sebastian walks me out of his house to his driveway. Despite holding my head down, the bright sun still burns my eyes.

Even the sun is judging me.

I haven’t turned on my phone since last night. It’s both a blessing and a curse; I hate being so disconnected, yet it is nice to detach once in a while. Plus, Sebastian would roll his eyes if I turned on my phone with the excuse of ‘work’ leaving my tongue. Somehow, I feel like I’ve forgotten something in the absence of my cell phone.

It isn’t something new, I guess.

I notice Sebastian smirking at my car when we’re outside.

“This is your car?” he asks me. “It’s cute.”

My jaw almost hits the floor.

“Cute? This car isn’t ‘cute’. This is a BMW M6 Gran Coupé—A very expensive and highly reliable sports car.”

Sebastian crosses his arms over his chest. I can tell he’s holding in his laughter at my outburst. “I know. Doesn’t mean that it can’t be cute. It fits you.”

“Well, not everyone can drive an Aston Martin. And besides, who knows how many cars you have in your garage?”

Sebastian avoids my eyes, “I’m not going to answer that question.”

With a righteous nod, I unlock my car door and throw my purse inside. Sebastian is standing behind me, and when I turn around, him and I are face to face. He doesn’t say anything; I have a hard time forming words. Every time I look at him, I’m reminded of the events of the night before and get shivers.

“I had a really great time.” ‘Great’ is an understatement. “Um…I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Or next week; it’s crazy how close we are to meeting with the Board—”

Sebastian cuts me off with a kiss that makes me forget everything I was going to say and even parts of what I said. Slow and gentle; the opposite of how he fucked me last night.

When his lips part from mine, he looks beyond amused at my expression.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says.

I nod up at him, “Y-yeah, I-tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Mister Sebastian!”

Our attention is brought to Viv walking up the driveway, her black purse close to her side as she waddles closer towards us. Her eyes lock onto him, then onto me, then onto him again.

“See? I could have made bedroom fancy before I left!” she exclaims.

“Viv!” Sebastian yells. At this point, I’m laughing while entering my vehicle. I leave Sebastian and Viv to argue about how her “unfiltered” nature isn’t much necessary.

The security in the control room give me the snidest smirks when they open the gate for me. I’ll admit, I feel a little embarrassed, but at the same time, I also feel liberated. Even when I turn on the radio, “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston comes on to congratulate me; despite the shitty couple of days I’ve had, yesterday seems to have made up for it—Sebastian confessed that he indeed is attracted to me, we both had the most amazing sex of my life, and I also experienced my very first oral sex experience on top of a kitchen island.

Not to mention the amazing dinner we had before then, of course.

So it’s safe to say that I’m feeling pretty damn amazing driving down the streets of Beverly Hills in my BMW while being serenaded by Whitney Houston. My current dance moves are horrible, and I’m doing Whitney absolutely no justice by singing along, but at this point, I don’t mind—I put on my sunglasses and continue to cruise, carefree.

Until I make it to a stoplight.

I turn on my phone while waiting for the light to turn green, and the text I see while waiting makes my heart stop:

“Hello, Leslie. It’s Ingrid. I’m at the coffee shop, at a table near the back counter. Text me when you arrive.”

“Shit!” I shout, and having no regard for a ticket or anyone’s basic safety, I bust a U-turn and head straight for the coffee shop. It irritates me that I won’t be able to head home and change, but I suppose that’s my fault for putting dick over other priorities.

Hopefully that doesn’t become a routine motto.

“I’m so sorry I’m late!”

I set my purse down next to the empty chair at the table Ingrid sits at. The coffee shop is empty and reclusive; I wonder if she picked this one on purpose.

She smiles up at me, her posture still the same as when I first met her—slouched over, unconfident, timid. Ingrid still looks tired, too, but more anxious than before. I have my guard up even though this is supposed to be rather innocent.

“Don’t worry about it.” Her eyes scan over my clothing, my hair and my makeup. “Would you like anything? It’s on me.”

“Um coffee—black, two sugars. And a slice of banana bread.”

Even though I already had coffee at Sebastian’s house, I don’t want to be rude by turning down her gesture. Ingrid nods at my request before getting up and ordering at the counter. After a few minutes, I receive a text from Sebastian. It reads:

“By the way, thanks for breakfast this morning.”

It takes me a moment to realize that we didn’t have any breakfast this morning. I lock my phone and use all of my will power to hide the smile fighting to break through. Cheeky bastard; he enjoys tormenting me with word play.

Ingrid comes back with two coffees and a slice of banana bread on a small plate. When she sets everything down, I thank her genuinely.

She sits down in her seat. We both sip our coffee quietly, and it reminds me of how our first encounter was like.

“I hate to be so blunt, but I’m quite curious as to why you called for a coffee date so suddenly?”

Her eyes can’t even keep contact with mine; it’s like she’s scared of something.

“Right. Well it’s about the journal.”

I freeze mid-sip.

I should have known that taking the journal from Ingrid would come bite me in the ass. In truth, I’ve thought about burning it for Sebastian’s sake, but frankly I haven’t finished reading the rest of it. There really isn’t much of a reason for me to read it now; I already know so much.

“Sebastian’s journal? What about it?”

At this point, I tell myself that I will stay up to three warning signs. After the third warning sign, I’ll leave.

Ingrid sets her coffee down and finally looks at me. “I think it’s best if…if I take it back.”

Strike one.

She sees the surprised and almost aggravated look on my face. After all this trouble of giving me the journal, she wants me to believe that she spontaneously wants it back?

“I don’t understand why you would want it back, though,” I answer. “You were pretty clear on giving it to me and making sure that you didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“I know. It’s just…I’m concerned. Scared, even.”

“For who?”

“For Sebastian. For you.”

I hate how convincing she is. I have to remember that the only reason I know Ingrid is because of Garrett, and anything having to do with Garrett is something I want to steer clear of.

“Why for me?” I ask.

“You’re on Garrett’s radar. As I’ve said before, he sees you as a threat. Even more so because you and Sebastian are…closer now. Me? He doesn’t see me as a threat anymore. I’m just a pathetic 30-something year old woman who is emotionally unstable—too emotionally unstable to do anything significant to him.”

Ingrid swallows a knot in her throat when she makes the reflective observation. I pity her. A lot. Trusting her? That’s different.

“Although your reasoning is believable, it’s hard for me to get behind the idea that you want to help me. There’s another reason you want the journal, isn’t there?”

Her eyes flicker worryingly around the café. “No, there isn’t.”

“You’re lying, Ingrid—”

“No I’m not!” she screams at me. I’m stunned back into my seat; the entire café is silent, the workers staring over at us. But instead of composing herself, she becomes angrier.

“You think you’re so perfect with your…your fancy car and nice apartment and your nice shoes and your Berkeley degree! That doesn’t mean anything to him the way you think it does. I know you two slept together last night at his house. You think that means he loves you? He doesn’t! Sebastian loves me. He’s always loved me; it’s just he doesn’t know how to come to terms with it. Which is why he sleeps around with other women to soothe his denial; you’re nothing special, no matter how much he made you think you are!”

Strike two.

It looks as if even Ingrid doesn’t believe in her own words. The way her lip quivers, the way her eyes gloss over with tears; the way her pale face reddens. This woman was ruined, and she doesn’t believe that fact, either.

None of us say anything. I don’t want to say anything that will tick her off, because by her rant, she knows about Sebastian and I having sex. What else does she know about? Who’s her source?

“Ingrid,” I say in a calm tone. “Listen. It’s obvious that you aren’t in your right element right now. Whatever Garrett told you or is telling you is messing with your head.”

“This has nothing to do with him,” she replies, tears falling down her cheeks. “This has to do with me and Sebastian. That’s it. You expect me to sit by and watch the man I love pretend to love a woman who was paid to associate herself with him in the first place?”

Strike three.

This is when I know I should get up and leave. But I can’t. I’m frozen in my seat, staring at her so blankly it paves way to fear.

“You told Sebastian that you didn’t start working with him for the money, but because you were genuinely interested in getting to know him; you lied. And still, you won’t tell him the truth. Why? You could have made this easier on yourself if you told him the truth in the first place, but instead you convinced him otherwise so you could succeed. Right?”

“So I took the check,” I snap at her. “So what?”

“So what?” she replies aghast. “You don’t understand how vulnerable he really is, do you?”

“Of course I do! I was there for him when he needed it and—”

“But for the wrong reasons!”

“Is this why you brought me here? To antagonize me? I took the check, I gave it back, it’s over! You just can’t handle the fact that he loves me, not you! He’ll never love you, Ingrid, so get over it!”

I’ve made Ingrid speechless, and I know I should feel bad. But I don’t; this woman is clearly insane.

I grab my purse and thank her for the coffee. She’s still crying, and for a minute I feel even more pity for her.

“You need help, Ingrid,” I say to her before leaving the coffee shop.

Throughout the rest of the day and even to the early next morning, I received countless questions about what the dinner with Sebastian was like from Beth and Paul. I told them that dinner was amazing, but I purposefully left out the fact of Sebastian and I sleeping together. I don’t think I’ll be telling anyone that, especially with what happened with Ingrid.

I get dressed after taking a shower. This morning, we’re meeting with a social media team to talk about making Sebastian’s Instagram and Twitter. They’re specialists—they know exactly how to market Sebastian’s name to appeal to the public. Hopefully that will get him more good publicity; we still have pictures of him with Amelia that we can definitely use.

In the back of my mind, the thought of Ingrid still lingers around. This is something I’m horrible at; I think relentlessly about something bothering me until it consumes any other good thoughts. So, I tell myself to think of the positives.

“I’m seeing Sebastian today,” I tell myself; a smile appears in front of the bathroom mirror. “That’s a definite positive.”

I get to the building where the meeting is to be held at around 11:30AM. The meeting is at 11:40, so I am a little late

After parking in the parking structure and taking the elevator up to the fourth floor, I exit on a department with the same general cubicles and businessmen and women. The design is a lot more distinguished, and the lobby of the floor has nice sleek design to it; I’m sure we’ll be in a conference room anyway.

I get a text from Sarah, telling me that they’re on their way up to the fourth floor. And by their, I’m assuming she means Sebastian, too. I smile to myself, unsure of what I’ll say when I see him but reminding myself that spontaneity has worked well in my favor so far.

Ding. My phone notifies me of another text message. I assume it’s from Sarah, so I unlock my phone only to see its from someone I don’t know.

And just like that, my entire world crashes around me.

“Did a bit of digging. Doesn’t seem like a decade ago, does it?”

Below the text is a photo out of resolution, but I can still understand exactly what it means. It’s a picture of me and Candy from ten years ago, running out of Axel’s house. Immediately, my head floods with the memories I’ve tried to suppress. Bile rises in my throat as my hands begin to shake.

“You could have saved him,” the next text says. “Why didn’t you?”

A picture of eleven-year-old Axel then pops up on my screen—much different than the man he turned out to be. I’m overwhelmed with the guilt that I could have save him. Shit—so this is how Garrett gets me? Constantly digging up my past?

Well he’s won. God, he’s won.

“Why don’t you tell Sebastian all your truths? If you won’t, someone will.”

The third photo is a picture of Sebastian and I outside of his house yesterday morning. Sebastian is kissing me against my car. All I can manage to do is stare at the photo.

This must be Ingrid, I tell myself. Garrett put her up to this. But then again, someone must have told Garrett about Axel in the first place. The name doesn’t cross my mind, but I know it’s somewhere…


Sebastian’s voice nearly scares me to death; I hate how lightheaded and frightened I am.

“Hi,” I say too quickly. “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

I suspected to be happy at the sight of Sebastian, but I’m not—I’m reminded of everything that looms over me that he doesn’t know. And the look on his face tells me that the behavior I’m exuding won’t be easily dismissed. Sebastian knows me too well by now to merely dismiss any odd behavior of mine.

“Are you okay?” he asks me. “You seem…frightened.”

Sarah and Lucas walk past us to the conference room. Their eyes land on me, and they have the same confused expression at my current state. I feel like I’m going to pass out; I need to tell Sebastian everything.

“Sebastian, listen,” I start frantically. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

He’s deadpan now. I feel like I’m going to throw up, but at the same time I’m motionless and unable to do anything.

“Remember when we were in Seattle, and you visited me in my hotel room? We talked about therapy sessions for you and I told you that…I told you that your father didn’t compensate me for taking you as a client?”

“Yes,” he replies hesitantly. The look on his face makes my vision blotchy; his eyebrows gradually furrow down into a frown.

I take a deep breath, preparing myself to tell him what I should have told him long ago.

“Well I—”

“Hey, you guys! The meeting is about to start!”

Sebastian sighs at the sound of Sarah’s voice. I’ve never had my words caught so deep into my throat like the way I do now.

“Can we finish this after the meeting?” he tells me.

“But I—”

“C’mon!” Sarah yells down the hall. “We’re already making a shitty impression by being late!”

With a reassuring hand on my shoulder, Sebastian walks down the hall to the conference room. And just like that, my opportunity is wasted. Even though my legs are shaking, I manage to make it to the conference room with steady steps.

Axel is dead, Leslie! Let that shit go! We had nothing to do with it and there’s nothing we could have done!

Porca vacca! I don’t know how I can even call you my daughter; this will ruin you, Leslie!

I’m planning on getting clean soon, Les. Just let me take this hit. Just one more hit.

“Leslie?” Sarah snaps me out of my thoughts “Are you okay?”

Everyone is in the conference room taking their seats. Me? I’m lingering by the door, staring into oblivion. Deep oblivion.

“I’m fine.” I reply. “I’m fine.”

“People on Instagram love family oriented photos, especially around people of the young and attractive spectrum such as yourself.”

The social media team presents their tactics to the rest of us as we watch; well, as they watch. I can’t even look up on the projector.

“You utilize reverse psychology; make them believe you’ll post what they think you’d post, but surprise them with a different approach.”

Sebastian isn’t even looking at the presenter. He’s looking at me; I can see him out of the corner of my eye. I can’t muster up the courage to look him in the eye.

We have five minutes left until we take a fifteen-minute break. I’ll tell him then; I have to. Maybe then my conscience will be clear of at least one transgression. After that I should tell him about Axel; God, I don’t want to. He didn’t even want me to tell him. But I need to.

I feel my phone buzzing on my lap. I look and almost gasp at the number—Ingrid’s number dotting my screen. I decline the call quickly, but a couple of seconds later she calls again. And again. And again.

“Do you need to get that, Ms. King?”

I look up; everyone is staring at me. My anxiety is out the roof, and I’m sweating despite the cool air in the room. They’re used to seeing me so composed when it comes to work.

“I’m fine,” I tell the presenter.

Reluctantly, she continues. Sebastian’s interest is now completely peaked as his eyes won’t peel away from me. With shaking hands, I tuck my phone away in my pocket. But it buzzes again; this time with a text message:

“Get out of the room,” Ingrid sent to me. “Garrett.”

I fail to understand what the fuck is going on. This is a set up; wait—no, it can’t be. Why would she set me up if she’s warning me? About Garrett? Why is he here?

“Ms. King? Are you alright?”

I’m not alright. I’m far from it. I don’t know if Ingrid’s warning is right, but I know I need to leave before I pass out.

“I need to go,” I answer. “I’m sorr—”

I don’t even get out of my seat before the door opens. Everyone turns to see who is entering the room, and I’m surprised I don’t vomit when I see his face—Garrett’s face, entering the conference room with someone behind him. Sebastian looks profusely angry, but quickly his anger is replaced with a look of realization; staring at my face, then at his father, then my face again.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Garrett announces seriously.

“What the hell is this?” Sebastian says. He’s the only one who isn’t shocked by Garrett Harrison gracing our presence. Although my shock is a little different.

“It will all make sense,” his eyes lock onto mine blankly. “This is long overdue.”

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