When I hear the word “Tennessee” I think his statement is part of some sick, twisted joke. But then I see the look on his face and realize it isn’t.
Sebastian and I don’t say anything for what seems like ages. Then, Sebastian speaks up.
“What!?” He yells. “Why!?”
“I’ve already told you why—”
“Yes, I understand why but...why? Why there, why can’t it be somewhere else!? Come on, Pops I’ll go...anywhere but there, I’m practically begging here!”
Garrett smiles widely at Sebastian’s plea, “Your desperation is all the more reason to make you go. It will be fun, the warm...moist air, the...wild animals, acres and acres of your mother’s farm land—”
“Wait...farm land? We aren’t staying in...in Memphis or some other actual city? In a hotel?” I’m trying not to sound desperate as well but at this point anything is worth not having to go spend time on a farm with Sebastian Harrison. And even so, none of this still makes any sense!
He laughs at both of us, “I knew the sound of ‘farm land’ would throw you off, but it is true. My ex-wife, Fiona, bought about a hundred acres of land after our divorce over a decade ago to try and ‘find herself.’ I guess it’s some type of way to...to connect herself in ways she hadn’t before, I don’t know what’s wrong with that woman. The point is, she is purposefully isolated from the rest of the world in an attempt to stay out of the lime light and live a rural lifestyle. And although her and I have our differences, I find that mentality to be quite commendable. And useful.”
It’s like I can taste the grass and smell the cow shit already. I had known before that Fiona was one to separate herself from everyone, but given instruction not to bother myself with her by Garrett himself, I never looked into her in depth. All I know, from what Garrett has told me, is that she is very “oppositional.” And that scares me a bit.
While Garrett was talking about Fiona, I saw a pang of irritation cross Sebastian’s facial features at the sound of his mother’s name. It is obvious to me now what the relationship he has with his mother is like; not too favorable.
“Your behavior today is the same reason why we are going through this. You’re embarrassing not only yourself, but me, and everyone else affiliated with you. Despite my warning, you still continue to put your wellbeing in jeopardy. The girls, the intoxication, the mere opera fiasco that is plastered everywhere—by the way, Leslie don’t make a statement on that yet, wait until the woman’s representatives call you.”
I manage to nod even though I feel like I’m going to faint.
“It just shows me that a break from all of this,” he gestures to the Los Angeles skyline, “would do you good. A month perhaps.”
“A month!?” Sebastian and I both yell at the same time. From there, we go into a frantic explanation on why this is a horrible idea. You can’t even understand what we’re both saying, it’s just gibberish as we try to speak over each other.
Garrett holds is hand up while closing his eyes for a moment, and we both stop talking.
“One month. I think that’s enough time to get your act together. And plus, you’ll have your brothers and sister there for support.”
“What?” Sebastian is frowning so hard his eyes almost disappear beneath his eyebrows.
“Your mother’s idea. She figured that inviting them over for support-slash-family bonding vacation time would be absolutely wonderful. Besides, your siblings love you very much.” His voice is so patronizing it makes me uncomfortable.
“Patrick hates me, William is a condescending asshole and Elizabeth treats me like I’m still twelve.”
“That isn’t my problem,” I can see Garrett is fed up with our excuses, so I keep quiet, “My problem is making sure that the Board, and everyone else, doesn’t laugh at me when I present you as the future of Harrison Inc. in one month or so. Maybe this whole thing will help you mend ties with your family, maybe get to the root of your unnecessary hostility towards us.”
“This is bullshit! One month with her?”
“Hey, you should be thanking me!” I yell. “I’m going to bring you the utmost respect and success in the next year. Two things you’ve never had. If anything I would think you would be looking forward to making something exemplary out of your life.”
I know I’ve hit a nerve by how crossed he looks.
“Leslie is one hundred percent correct. It’s time to grow up, Sebastian. Maybe one thing to help you grow up is facing your childhood head-on.”
I can tell by how tense Sebastian is that there are many things about his childhood and about him in general he has yet to tell me, or for me to find out in the files Mia and Skippy supplied to me. And the only way this will work is if we cooperate. So if he won’t give it to me willingly, I’ll force it out of him. Because the last thing I need is an hour of complicated answers and disastrous press meet-and-greets.
“Now,” Garrett continues, “Leslie, I expect the same game-plan as before. Only difference is, there is an environment change. I predict this will make things much easier for you and your team.”
He nods, “Oh, yes. I’ve contacted Sebastian’s assistant and manager to assist you. I thought it would be best for Darcy to stay and help me on the home front.”
My heart practically twists in my chest. Sure, it’s nice to have assistance, but Darcy is the only person, besides Alejandra, who knows exactly how I work and how to work with me. And if Sebastian’s manager and assistant can’t even keep track of him and his life, I don’t know how I could rely on their work ethic for a profitable and organized outcome through this operation!
From the corner of my eye I can see Sebastian smiling, most likely from my reaction to the news of Darcy not accompanying me.
“Oh, I...wasn’t aware he had a manager and assistant.”
“Yes, me neither. But he’s quite secretive about them. But since they know him very well I figured they would be a great addition.”
“What are their names?”
Garrett thinks for a while, focusing his eyes on the ceiling, “I believe it’s Lucas Frazier and Sarah Gonzales.”
Sebastian’s smile widens at the sound of her name. Great, probably another groupie.
“Sarah Gonzales?” Although bummed about Darcy, I’m a little happy there will be another woman on the “team.”
“Yes, she’s my manager,” Sebastian turns towards me, “I know she’s just going to love you.”
The devious grin on his face says otherwise.
I force a smile, “Great, great. When...do we leave?”
“T-tomorrow?” We both yell at the same time again.
It’s as if we have telepathic powers and can sense whenever we’re going to say something so we can say it, too.
“Lucinda is taking care of everything else, so if you have any questions about the flight or arrival times, consult her. But right now—”
He checks the clock on his desk and groans.
“I have to meet with Mr. Reynolds for a moment.”
I roll my eyes at the sound of his name.
“Sebastian, I expect you in here when I get back, I need to have a discussion with you. Leslie, I will email you if I have any concerns or other pressing matters to discuss. Which means...I’ll be emailing you. Other than that, this whole operation is in your hands, Ms. King.”
Garrett puts on his suit jacket, and the minute he does, Ava opens the door and scans the office until she finds him.
“Sir, Mr. Reynolds—”
“Yes, I know. Thank you Ava.”
She nods before leaving.
Garrett walks around his desk and stands in between Sebastian and I, a smile plastered on his face.
“This is great, I’m very excited for what the end result will bring!” He beams. “Sebastian, this may sound like a horrible life to live since you’ve never had to have the horrible burden of...responsibility and work,” His tone, again, is condescending towards his son, “but I’m certain that you’ll benefit greatly from this if you cooperate. I as well.”
“If I jump out of this window right now, will I pass out before impact?” Sebastian mumbles while glaring out of the glass.
Garrett ignores him, “Leslie? How do you feel?”
I look up at him, “Great! Amazing! I’m so...excited!”
“Ridiculous! Preposterous! I’m so...pissed!”
I grab a handful of my business clothes out of my closet and throw them into a suit case with such force my bed frame shakes. Paul and Beth are sitting on my bed listening to me vent, with a glass of wine in their hand. Beth was laughing at something on her phone a few minutes ago, and when she showed me the photo of the poor woman’s hair from the Opera, which I now know is named “Bianca Jimenez,” I lost it and began to vent.
“Damn, Les! I mean he doesn’t sound...that bad. I’d give anything to work with him.” Paul takes a sip of wine and travels off into la-la land, thinking of doing more than just “paper work” for Sebastian.
“No! No! He’s horrible! He’s...impulsive! And immature!”
“And hot,” Beth adds.
“And-and he’s also lazy and rude and selfish!”
“Don’t forget sexy-”
“Beth.” I glare at her.
“Sorry,” she laughs, “I just don’t understand. A month long business trip to Tennessee? Why?”
“Beth, I already told you,” I slam my body weight on my suit case and grunt while trying to close it, “top...secret...information. The only reason I told you where I was going is because I knew you’d hold pet-sitting Pedro against me until I did.”
“Hey, I offered to do it!” Paul says.
“Pedro is completely terrified of you. At least with Beth it’s only semi-fearfulness.”
I see a small, light brown figure staring at me from the door. Pedro is in between the small crack the draft has caused, staring at me with his wide, brown eyes. When I catch him, he scurries away into the living room.
I need to get another pet so he can have someone to play with. Poor thing.
I start to pack things into a second duffel bag, like regular clothes and such. During so, Beth questions me further, since she loves hearing about my every day adventures.
“So, what happened with the whole ‘gum’ fiasco?” She asks while trying not to laugh.
I huff, “First of all, Sebastian decided it would be a nice idea to make us late by having an orgy party with drugs, weed and alcohol. Then he goes on to tell the press about Felicity in which I told him not to do!” I start counting off with my fingers, “then he falls asleep during the Opera, laughs during the Opera, and finally thinks it’s respectful to start chewing gum during Andrea Bocelli’s performance which I missed! I mean, sure, I did smack his chest so he would stop popping his gum, but even so, he shouldn’t have been chewing gum! So then it fell in the lady’s hair on accident and from there just...chaos!”
I exhale after my rant and start angrily folding my clothes, mumbling profanities about Sebastian under my breath. Paul laughs so hard at me he almost spills his wine on my sheets. I widen my eyes at him before he sets the glass on my nightstand, making him laugh harder.
“So now I have Felicity’s publicist on my ass about the comment, Bianca’s reps on my ass even though her manager told me Bianca loves her new pixie cut. What do you want me to do? Pay you for her fucking hair! What can I do now!?”
“Damn, on second thought, I don’t think I want to work for Sebastian anymore.”
I smirk at Paul, “Trust me. You don’t. I’m technically not even his freaking publicist yet I’m associated with him since I work for his father, and since his publicist quit, everyone is coming to me for answers!”
I walk out of my room for a split second to go into my bathroom and gather my toiletries. I see myself in the mirror, and I look worse than before. I see faint bags under my eyes and rogue curls springing free from my bun.
“Two million dollars, two million dollars,” I tell my run-down reflection, and immediately she picks herself up.
I gather deodorant, a razor, hair products, makeup, and other things I will need for the entire month and place them in the small pink toiletry bag I keep under my sink for trips.
When I come back into my room, I see Paul and Beth leaning over my phone with huge smiles over their face.
“What is so interesting on my phone that has you two smiling like idiots?”
“Um, Sebastian Harrison is calling you!” Paul exclaims.
My smile fades.
I roll my eyes and walk over to the bed and grab the phone. Sure enough, his name is on the screen as the catchy Xylophone ring-tone blares.
“Speaker phone!” Paul hisses.
I answer without putting it on speaker and enjoy watching my two best friends suffer.
“Leslsaaaay Queeeeeen!” He slurs over loud techno music playing in the background.
Great. He’s drunk.
I sigh, “It’s King. Sebastian, are you drunk? And if you are, which I’m certain you are, why aren’t you at home packing!?”
He huffs like I’m the one being complicated, “I saaaid, this...isn’t...’Bastian Harr’son!”
“...Is this Sebastian?”
“No!” The man cheers, “This is TREVOR!”
He screams the words “no, this is Trevor” exactly how Patrick Star from the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants screamed “no, this is Patrick” during the episode he was a cashier at The Krusty Krab taking phone calls, and it is then that I’m completely done with Sebastian’s bullshit, and his friend’s.
When he starts laughing uncontrollably, I rub my eyes.
“Well, Tre-vor, why are you calling me from Sebastian’s phone?”
I remember reading up on Trevor O’ Dalley, one of the three in Sebastian’s all-star entourage. Of course he would be the last to try and be a good influence on Sebastian.
“You know,” he starts, “’Bastian couldn’t stop talking ’bout you. All day, just...blah, blah, ‘she’s such a bitch’, blah, blah, ′she’s such an uptight hard-ass’, blah blah ′she probably has a wood-chipper for a coo-’”
“Trevor!” I hear Sebastian scream while I try not to lose my cool from his words. There’s obvious signs of a struggle on the other line before the music soon fades out and is replaced with the sound of a door opening. Now, it’s completely silent.
“Sorry, that...that was my friend.” Surprisingly, Sebastian sounds completely sober, but even this doesn’t help to tame my anger.
“Why are you at a club? You should be packing!”
“I am packing. Well...my housekeeper is packing for me. And I’m not at a club. I’m at my house.”
“Why is there loud techno music blasting through your house, then?” I ignore Paul and Beth practically hovering over me.
“My friends wanted to throw some sort of...goodbye party for me.”
“Goodbye party? You weren’t supposed to tell them about-”
“-relax, they think I’m going to some twelve step program thing in Nashville.”
“Like, for drugs?”
“Yeah,” he imitates my voice much too mockingly, “Like, for drugs!”
“You know what, I don’t need the rudeness right now! I’m up to here with it, Mister.”
“Relax, sweetheart. You’re so tense.” It’s like I’m right in front of him, watching the smirk appear on his face. “You need a massage? I’ve got strong hands.”
I scoff, tongue tied and flushed faced for a moment, “I-no, I don’t need a massage.”
Beth and Paul gasp.
“And,” I continue, “I would appreciate it, for the tenth time, if you would stop calling me sweetheart. Please.”
Beth and Paul gasp yet again.
He laughs, “We have to spend the next month together in Tennessee, and God knows how long after that if I decide to keep you once I’m Chief Executive Officer of Harrison Incorporated-”
“If. Not once,” I interrupt.
“What ever. As I was saying, we can at least pretend to like each other.”
“I am, I’m contractually obligated to like you, despite your insensitive comments about me via your friend Trevor.”
“T-Trevor? You can’t believe him, he’s drunk out of his mind right now.”
“Alright, then. Did you say those things about me?”
“Yes. I did. Now you can believe it coming from a source that isn’t drunk. You’re welcome.”
I clench my free fist and speak through gritted teeth, “Tomorrow, be ready by 9:00. The car will be picking you up at 9:05, and dropping you off at the airport so we can board and leave the airport by 9:45. Please. Be. Ready.”
“Aye, Aye, Captain.” And then he hangs up.
Luckily, since Pedro is half asleep, he willingly walks into Beth’s arms the next morning. My bags sit by the door as I go through emails while Beth talks a bit to my dog.
“God, a whole fucking month.” She pouts.
“It will go by quickly. I’ll be so busy, I won’t even have time to even enjoy it.”
“Yeah, but still,” She waits for a moment while biting her lip. “Listen, Les. About Hudson.”
Great. The last thing I need before I take off into my “business” trip to country hell.
“Look, Beth that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. He and Alejandra are practically irrelevant. They’re most likely together and that’s...great. Right now I’m just trying to think of my job because it’s become so stressful-”
“That’s the thing. Your job. I mean, your boyfriend for like, a year, just cheated on you with your assistant and basically ran off with her and you don’t even looked phased by it. Even when I found you on the kitchen floor you still looked...placid. Like, it never happened, a bad dream, even.”
I think hard about what Beth has said, but I don’t let it get to me. Just remembering Alejandra’s things gone out of my office makes my stomach feel unsettled.
“I’m your best friend. I’m supposed to worry about you. I don’t want you going on this trip with this shit clouding up your mind. It’s too much, you know?”
“I just don’t have time to worry about that. My life is constantly moving forward, I don’t have time to look back on what could have changed when I can be...looking forward to what I can make happen.”
Beth sighs, holding Pedro in her arms as he slowly drifts between sleep and alertness. During the silence, I take one of my bags in my arms, while Beth carries my suitcase; the car is most likely downstairs waiting for me.
“Beth, I swear. I’m fine,” I lie, “Honest.”
“Alright,” She’s skeptical, I know it for sure.
We carry all of my things through the door into the hallway. I close the door behind me, and tread down the long walkway to the elevator. As we walk, I’m overcome with a feeling of actually missing my apartment. Although it’s only Pedro and I living in it, I know I’m going to miss being alone for a while.
“Just calling in to wish you a great trip, Ms. King. Can’t believe how sudden this is.”
I look out of my window and take in the Los Angeles scenery for the last time for a while. Being in the car reminds me of being in the car with Sebastian, and I start to become angry and dreadful again.
“Thank you, Darcy,” I reply over the phone, “And I know. I was thinking we were to leave much later but Mr. Harrison was very adamant on leaving as quickly as we could. I hope you remember everything we went over yesterday evening.”
“Yes, I remember perfectly.” I can hear the tapping sound of her computer in the background.
“How’s the Felicity situation going?” I see we’re close to the airport. My stomach flutters.
“Pretty moderate. Wendy Williams is talking about it, so is TMZ and a few others. But I’m writing a statement right now, and her reps haven’t called back yet since yesterday night. How about you and the Opera?”
I sigh, “I don’t even want to think about that. Thankfully the Bianca woman is showing off her new hairstyle with pride, but her team still wants to make a case. I’m thinking of a dinner with her and Sebastian; I’ll let him use his charm for once. Let everyone believe they’re on good terms.”
We turn into a different road, one that wanders off the side of the airport. The abundance of cars becomes just a few SUV’s, and eventually we are at a gate that leads to the roadway reserved for the private jets. The gate monitors talk to the driver for a moment before letting us drive through the gate. After about a minute of driving, we pull into a warehouse, where a small jet is parked, two pilots conversing outside of it and a crew doing maintenance on it.
“I’m here, Darcy. Wish me luck.”
“You have no idea, Ms. King. I’m practically praying. I’ll keep you updated via email and text. Have a safe flight.”
“Thank you, Darcy.”
Right when I hang up, the driver opens the door for me and a wave of hot air enters the cool car. I grimace at the uncomfortable contrasting feeling as I take his hand and step outside.
“No problem, Ma’am.” He smiles, then runs his skinny frame to the trunk to get my things. Two other men run over to help him take it out of the plane and load it into the jet.
I scan the area, and find Sebastian talking to a man, about a few inches taller than him with awkward posture and skinny limbs, and a woman, who is also on the tall side, but much shorter than the two.
“Sarah and Lucas,” I say to myself. Lucas’ hair reminds me of my father’s hair, with it’s bright orange tint, and I find myself smiling.
“So look who finally decided to show...up. And here I thought you would be earlier than me.”
My smile diminishes.
Sebastian approaches me, as do Lucas and Sarah. When Lucas sees me, his icy blue eyes narrow as he smiles warmly. Sarah’s eyes do the same, but not in a friendly manner. I avoid her stare.
“I’m not late. I’m on time. But I’m happy you are early; means we’re making progress.”
I turn to his manager and assistant, who are also in business-attire, same as I, “You both must be Lucas and Sarah. Pleasure to meet you.”
Sarah is the first one to take my hand. Her long, wavy hair falls down past her shoulder, revealing her intense almond-shaped eyes and round, tan face.
Her handshake seems harsh on purpose. It’s like my arm is flying all over the place and my hand is crushing under her grip.
“Sarah. Nice to meet you, too. Boy, when Sebastian told me you’re the definition of Miss Corporate, he wasn’t kiddin’.” Sarah places her hands into the back pockets of her slacks.
I grin awkwardly while tightening my hand around my purse, “Um...thanks.”
“Ignore her,” Lucas takes my hand in a more gentle manner, “She still hasn’t grasped the concept of being an actual business woman.”
“Says the one who’s Sebastian’s errand boy.” She raises her eyebrows at Lucas.
“Completely uncalled for, Sarah.”
“Remind me,” I start, “You’re...his manager?”
She nods, “Uh, yeah. I am. Why?”
“Oh, no reason. It’s just that...I thought managers were supposed to manage their client’s life. If anything, given Sebastian’s unmentionable history, you’ve done anything but. So in actuality your job must be the easiest in the world, all you do is do...nothing. Correct?”
She is speechless. Both Sebastian and Lucas’ jaws drop, only Lucas is the only one making an attempt to cover his mouth. It is then, when I see Sarah’s lip curl up and her eyes burn into me, that I realize my comment is offensive. I didn’t know stating facts was somehow offensive, but by their reactions I guess I went a little too far.
I should apologize.
“My apologies, I didn’t mean it in that...context, I thought you were already aware—oh, sorry. Phone call.”
I look at my phone vibrating in my hand and am thankful Darcy has called to save me. I hold my index finger in Sarah’s direction with a slight smile before walking off to answer it.
“This is Leslie King.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. King. But where is your paper that contains the block list? I can’t seem to—”
“Darcy, you’re a lifesaver,” I sigh with gratitude.
“Oh,” she giggles, “Um, thank you! May I ask why?”
“Sebastian’s manager? I may have said something horrible and now I’m sure she doesn’t like me. Already!”
“What did you say?” She asks. I can hear the sound of her shuffling through sticky notes.
“I didn’t realize it, then. But I basically said that she has a good for nothing career and has failed at doing her job.”
Darcy gasps, “Talk about first impressions, ma’am.”
“I don’t know what to do! It’s two against one, since the only one who doesn’t hate me is Sebastian’s assistant, who looks to be the only professional one.”
“Just be yourself! They’ll love you-”
“I’ve tried that already!” I snap.
I glance over and see Sarah talking madly at Lucas and Sebastian. I can see her mouth “I don’t like her already” before stomping off to the stairs that lead to the inside of the plane.
“Look, I’ll just...try to ease the tension.”
“Hopefully it works. And by the way, I found the list.”
“Alright, that’s good. I’ll call you when I land”
When the call ends, I reluctantly board the plane.
“Nice way to make an impression,” Sebastian says at the edge of the stairs.
“I didn’t mean to offend her.”
“Well you did,” he places his foot on the first step before screaming: “let’s go team!”
He enters the plane, and I realize that not only having Sebastian on my side will have this work, but Sarah and Lucas as well, and it looks like one already wants to kill me.
I already figure it’s too late to opt out.