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

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Chapter 7

Cows. Cows are all I see, and frankly they aren’t a welcoming sight.

My mouth twists and curls like I’m tasting something sour, when it’s only the smell of cow manure and the sight of actual livestock outside the car window.

“I take it it’s her first time out in the country?” The driver asks Sebastian. All Sebastian does is shake his head.

I think twice about saying something back to the driver, but I’m so focused on the animals outside, actual animals, outside of my window, that it only crosses my mind.

The plane ride to Tennessee was horrible in itself. I tried to make amends with Sarah after my rude comment shook her the wrong way, but she wouldn’t budge. And I didn’t want to try any further because the aurora she was giving off made me believe she would tackle me in the aisle right then and there. So, I sat in my seat, and watched Sebastian converse with Lucas and Sarah. He was happy talking to them, which means he’s comfortable with them. And that also means he isn’t comfortable with me, which is an issue. After the opera fiasco I can’t find it in myself to trust him enough to handle the press on his own, but if I can acquire the trust of Lucas and Sarah, this operation can gladly pass with flying colors.

A little talk with them once we arrive at Fiona’s house will do the trick.

“Well ain’t this the funniest thing,” the driver says, interrupting my thoughts, “you look like you’re in another world or somethin’, ma’am.”

I smile, sneering at the same time, “Yes, well, this is my first time being in an environment so...rustic.”

“Not surprised,” I hear Sarah say from the back of the car. I ignore her.

We sit in silence, the SUV moving smoothly on the now dirt road that is surrounded by grasslands and fences. It seems to go on for miles, with hills in the distance and trees that are part of a forest even farther ahead.

I glance over at Sebastian and watch him intently. He’s looking out of the window, his eyes deep and intense while he stares at the landscape. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Tennessean country and him have some unsettled business, the way the anger appears on his face. Still, I keep my mouth shut—I don’t want to start any unwanted confrontation before we even get out of the car.

After a few minutes of driving, there’s a sign up ahead that reads “Vaun-100 Acres” before more trees appear on either side. I clench my hands together, an act of nervousness that I refuse to admit. I have never met Fiona, only heard fragments about her, so actually meeting Sebastian’s mother will be a very interesting interaction. I just need to remember what I’m here for. Get in, get the press and the public on his side, get out. All while making sure his siblings don’t hate me along the way—that would hinder any growth in the plan tremendously.

Hopefully his siblings aren’t already there.

“You look nervous,” Sebastian says, looking at me.

I don’t meet his eyes. “I’m not nervous.”

“Yes you are. It isn’t anything to be ashamed of. I think you and Patrick will get along perfectly. Everyone else...hm, not so much.”

“I don’t need the jokes at the moment. Sebastian. If anything, you should be the last one joking about anything. You ruined an Opera and Felicity’s reputation.”

He shifts in his seat so his body his halfway facing mine, “I didn’t ruin the Opera. I saved it. Saved everyone from that...mind numbing...screeching.”

“How...rude! You don’t feel any regret or guilt or-or...emotion at all about being responsible for the loss of some woman’s hair or the ‘slip’ of an extremely inappropriate comment about someone to a group of reporters?”

“Do you want me to be honest?”

“No. I don’t,” I cross my arms over my chest and look out of the window again, fighting the urge to check my phone. “If you can just stop being so...so ridiculous, this can possibly work. Instead, you’re making it hard on me!”

Sarah and Lucas both clear their throats. I turn around to find Lucas giving me a slight smile, while Sarah raises her eyebrow.

“Us. Making it hard on us,” I correct.

“Well if you weren’t such a controlling hard-ass-”

“What? What was that? You’re going to have to speak up a little, Sebastian I’m a little deaf in this ear.”

Sebastian, obviously not wanting to continue the argument, quickly dismisses my comment and keeps his attention on the front seat. Just as I’m going to continue my rant about respect, I see it. Fiona’s Manor.

I didn’t imagine it to be as big as it is. I pictured a small, light blue farm house with a barn or something to compliment it. But no, it’s far from that. It’s still a humble design, but the three stories, small tower attached to the top, and spacious drive way all contradict the homely feel I was told she was trying to go for.

The house is huge, with 100 acres to go with it.

We have to go up a small hill until we reach the circular driveway, right in front of the house entrance which is surrounded by trees as well. Looking around, I see a vast variety of different shades of greens and oranges dotting the grass-lands that go on forever.

Immediately when the driver parks, a few people wearing jeans and a button up white shirt exit the house and approach the back of the car to get out the luggage. I see them wiping the sweat off of their forehead and remember that I came prepared.

Heat invites mosquitoes, and mosquitoes and I don’t get along.

I quickly look through my bad and pull out the small can of bug repellant I packed.

“Seriously?” Sebastian glowers at me and my repellant.

“Look, Sebastian,” I say, putting on my sunglasses, “there’s nothing wrong with looking out for my skin’s best interest.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Oh, like I haven’t heard that one before,” I reply.

Sarah and Lucas both get out first. Heat enters the car once they open their doors, and I think about just staying inside the car until nightfall. Not only is it hot, but it’s humid. I’m not even outside yet and I feel like I’m burning alive.

“Is something wrong, Miss?” The driver asks, opening his door.

I shake my head, “No, no nothing is wrong. But thank you...for your concern.”

I need to get out of the car. Staying in here, while everyone else leaves and gets their things would be very pretentious of me.

The moment Sebastian gets out, I take a deep breath and absorb the nice, cool air of the Air Conditioned car before opening my door and stepping outside, and boy do I regret it.

I feel like I have walked inside of a sauna. My sunglasses do little to shield my eyes from the blinding sun. And it doesn’t help that some unnamed bug tries to attack me the first chance it gets.

“Ah! Die!” I yell, spraying the bug once. It flies away, but not before a mosquito approaches me.

“Ah!” I spray again, miss, and stumble in my heels on the gravel. A woman, with a strong muscular build grabs my arms and holds me upright just as I almost fall on my ass.

“You alright?” She asks.

I nod and push myself up, “I’m fine. I’m sorry.”

I can see she is trying not to laugh, and it makes me even more embarrassed.

I inhale once and ignore the onlookers. I’m fine. I can do this. Walking isn’t a hard task, it’s just the gravel. Yes, the gravel is not good beneath these heels of mine. How anyone could have this type of foundation on their driveway is beyond me; concrete would suffice.

No one has come out of the front door yet, and by no one I mean Fiona, Elizabeth, William or Patrick.

I take a steady step forward while gripping the life out of my purse. How am I nervous? I’m never this nervous meeting anyone new. Perhaps it’s the fear that they have the same attitude as Sebastian. I’m sure they don’t, but just in case, I’ve gone over the method I will use to introduce myself. Formal, professional.

Leslie King.

“God why am I here?” Sebastian groans loudly as he rubs his eyes and leans back.

“It’s not that bad. This place is huge, beautiful, a lot of land. I’m sure you can find something to do,” Lucas assures him. “And also, it will be a nice time to reflect, to reevaluate-”

“You know, this reminds me a little of my Uncle Jose’s ranch in Mexico. Except...well it’s not.” Sarah shields her eyes from the sun.

Sebastian and Lucas only look at her.

I take careful steps ahead while swatting away the bugs from my face. I see a man carrying my bag, except my jaw drops when I see he’s carrying it vertically, not horizontally.

“Oh, no, no, no please be careful! You have to carry it horizontally not vertically or the casual blouses will overlap with the business casual blouses. They can’t...they can’t overlap they must stay separate. Must stay separate.”

He’s looking at me like I’m crazy.

“Oh, I’m...sorry, I didn’t know.”

“No, no it’s okay, it’s fine. Honest mistake.”

He makes sure to position it horizontally, giving me an approving smile, then walks into the house.

“Anal,” Sebastian coughs. Lucas and Sarah laugh, along with the women taking in the bags. I clench my jaw uncomfortably.

Suddenly, Sebastian freezes and his face seems to slump down dreadfully. Ahead, I see a woman with a denim button up shirt and Capri’s running through the house. A blonde woman waddles behind her.

Fiona and Elizabeth.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” Fiona yells in Sebastian’s direction. He opens his mouth to say something, but Fiona silences him with numerous kisses on his face and a tight hug that almost makes him fall over.

“Mom,” He isn’t amused. I stare on in wonder at Fiona’s amount of affection towards him. He sees me looking at him and immediately turns red.

Fiona sighs as she pulls away, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just, it feels like forever since I’ve seen you.”

“It’s only been ten years,” Sebastian says. Fiona looks a bit insulted by his response, but shrugs it off.

Fiona introduces herself to Lucas and Sarah. It seems as if she doesn’t know I’m even behind her, but Elizabeth does. She smiles warmly, and when I do the same, my eyes dart to her pregnant stomach—it looks as if she’s going to pop any moment.

“I’m sorry, you must be...”

“Leslie. Leslie King.” I stick out my hand for a handshake, but Elizabeth doesn’t take it. She just allows her grin to grow wider.

“The publicist!” She exclaims.

Everyone looks at me.

She then wraps her arms around me so tight my shoulders start to burn. Her belly serves as a road block from full contact, but it isn’t enough for the hug to catch me off guard.

She pulls away and laughs at my expression, “I’m sorry, I’ve always been a hugger.”

All I can do is smile, even though I’m sure it’s coming out lopsided and insincere.

Elizabeth, Sebastian’s older sister, is much more beautiful in person; pictures seem to do her little justice regardless of how gorgeous she looks in them anyway. After we hug, my eyes are blinded, even with my sunglasses on, by how she seems to glow. Despite her humble outfit of jeans and a red open plaid button-down shirt, she puts my pundit skirt and blouse to shame. And her hair? Absolutely radiant. Her blonde locks hang loose down to her shoulders in slight waves that curl in other places.

She and Sebastian seem to favor each other tremendously. The only difference is of course the sex, and the hair color. Their eyes, however, are both the same; a pale green color, with an intense eye shape that makes it seem like their always thinking hard about something or up

I’m certain I’m staring.

“I’ve heard a lot about you—you look so young to be Dad’s publicist.”

“I’m twenty-seven,” I reply, taking off my sunglasses, “but I suppose that’s considered young in a sense.”

Her eyes widen, “You’re twenty-seven?”

I nod bashfully. Is this something to be self-conscious about?

“God, you look so young. When I was twenty-seven I looked thirty-two,” she laughs. “But anyway, it’s so nice to meet you...”

“Leslie,” I remind her, knowing she has forgotten by how she furrows her eyebrows.

When she hears my name again, it looks like she’s mesmerized or in deep wonder. Her eyes drift off to the sky, then back at me again.

“That is such a beautiful name. Leslie...Leslie...” she repeats over and over again with a smile showing her perfect set of teeth.

“Thank you, I-”

“Gee, I’m glad you two have gotten along quite well.”

Elizabeth and I turn to Sebastian. He, since we’ve gotten here, looks irritated at the entire world, or just at the state of Tennessee.

Instead of giving him a smart remark, Elizabeth laughs.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about my baby brother.”

She approaches him and starts talking to him about something I can’t seem to make out. Sarah and Lucas, not wanting to be apart of their conversation, shift over to where I’m standing. Fiona happens to look at me, and I know then it’s the moment of truth.

Meeting Seb-asshole’s mother.

“Leslie, it’s so nice to meet you.” Her attitude exceeds the welcoming scale, along with the rest of her. Unlike Garrett, Sebastian and Elizabeth, Fiona’s eyes are soft and innocent. When she smiles, you can see the age in her face, yet her profound cheekbones add a youthful look to her. She reminds me of my aunt Briana for some reason, from my father’s side—caring, attentive, experienced. I’m not as nervous about meeting her as I was five minutes ago when I actually see her face-to-face.

I shake her hand gently, “Same to you. Mr. Harrison has told me so much about you.”

She tucks in her lips to hide a grin, “Well then that must mean I’m the Wicked Witch of the West.”

“I-I...no, that’s not...I didn’t-”

Fiona laughs loudly, “I’m just joking, dear. I can’t imagine what it’s like to work for him, oh, the back-breaking labor and the absence of humor? Tragic” she winks. “I’m very excited to have you all here. I hope Sebastian hasn’t proved to be much of a nuisance?”

Should I be honest?

“I’m going inside. It’s too hot out here,” Sebastian says as he wipes the sweat away from his forehead.

Fiona turns to him, “Oh, okay. Well Patrick and William will be here soon so-”

“Oh joy,” he waves his hands as he walks up the steps and through the front door.

“Just...just don’t be too long. And-and Peter will show you your room, Sebastian, okay?”

He doesn’t respond.

Fiona sighs, “Thought absence made the heart grow fonder. But it doesn’t matter. Let’s all go inside.”

Fiona tries hard to hide her sadness, and it makes all of us look around awkwardly. I know Sebastian has bad, horrible history with his father, but I just can’t understand how he could have bad history with Fiona. From what I’ve seen, she’s one of the kindest women I’ve ever met. Then again, my own mother is good at keeping up her veneer around guests, so maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

We all walk inside of the house, and I feel like I’m inside a home of a chef from the Food Network. The floors are polished wood, along with the panels on the ceilings and the walls themselves, which look brighter from the windows surrounding the living room bringing in sunlight from all directions. There is no TV in the living room, but a record player in the corner that looks to be over sixty years old. The couches in the living room are a classic country style fabric, as the chairs and rugs.

“This place is beautiful,” I hear Sarah say behind me.

“Thank you,” Fiona touches her shoulder. “It feels like ages since it’s been this crowded in here.”

My eyes are amazed at the house. Not only did the beauty of it’s exterior catch me instantly, but the inside reminds me of a cross between traditional country and French countryside. The china, window frames and spaciousness overwhelm me.

“When Garrett called I couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth,” Fiona starts as we walk into a huge room with a wood and ebony-metal staircase. “A month, in Tennessee? With me? This would be the last place I’d suspect he’d visit again. But, after hearing about the company and the leadership contract it made sense. Anything to get him to come visit is fine with me.”

We hear a door close upstairs. Definitely Sebastian.

“Anyway, of course I said yes. I think a month here will be very helpful for Sebastian. And plus, from what I’ve heard he hasn’t been on the moralistic side of society lately.”

“You can say that again,” I accidentally blurt out. Sarah glares at me.

Fiona chuckles, “So, make yourselves at home. My house is your house.”

‘My mansion is your mansion’ sounds more accurate, I think.

“Daisy will show you to your rooms, I believe their things are already situated?”

“Yes,” A woman, who I assume to be Daisy, says. “Everything is in it’s right place.”

“Perfect. My sons will be arriving probably in the next hour or so. I can’t wait for you to meet them.”

We all return kind smiles in her direction.

Elizabeth then pecks Fiona’s cheek, “I’m gonna go lay down for a bit. My feet are killing me. Pregnant problems.”

She waves kindly at us, before walking the other direction. She doesn’t go up the stairs, which makes me believe her room is somewhere downstairs. Which is understandable; I can’t imagine walking up a flight of stairs with eight pounds in my uterus and swollen feet beneath me. The thought alone makes me nauseous.

“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Daisy says, a slight grin on her face.

I place my sunglasses in my purse and walk ahead of Lucas and Sarah to follow Daisy up the stairs. At the top of the staircase, I get a good look at the floor below and the windows ahead. I can see from outside that there’s a lake in the distance.

“Fiona has a lake?” I ask Daisy.

She nods, “Yes, it’s only visible on this side of the manor, and it’s rarely used. Only for family functions and tours.”

On the second floor, we walk around the last of the railing and see doors on one side of the hallway, windows and photos on the other side. Some doors are open, some closed. The ones that are open, though, have all white decor inside—even the bed set and carpet is white.

“The open doors are just for guests. Fortunately those won’t be your rooms. They’re a little bland to the eyes,” she smiles.

We stop at about the third door down.

“Lucas. This is your room.”

“Sweet,” he says. “Should we meet at a said time?”

Sarah begins to speak, saying that an hour is fine, but I stop her. An hour is way too long, and it opens the door for lounging and laziness.

“Oh, no that’s too soon. I’m thinking thirty-five minutes,” I check my phone. It’s around one o’clock. Perfect. “It’s one now, so one thirty-five.”

“Yes, I know how to do math.” Sarah rolls her eyes.

I feel like someone has taken my heart and crushed it in their palm.

“Okay,” Lucas says, breaking the tension. “One thirty it is. I’ll see you all then.”

Lucas opens his door, long enough for us to get a glimpse of his room. A quilt lays on his bed, with his luggage on top of it. There’s a television in his room, a flat screen, which is a huge difference from no TV in the actual living room. The whole room is dark yet traditional and bright from the sun and greenery outside of his window.

After Daisy guides Sarah to her room, I’m last. Daisy opens my room door and I feel my mood heighten.

My room is much bigger than Lucas’s room, even Sarah’s. My walls, as opposed to the dark colors of the other rooms, are a light blue, contrasting greatly against the dark brown wood flooring. My room has a balcony that has an amazing view of the farmland; I can even see a barn in the distance.

“This is amazing,” I say, walking inside.

“I’m glad you enjoy it. There’s a bathroom inside to your right, and a phone on the desk whenever you need more towels or anything.”

“Thank you, this is great.”

“No problem,” she says, before closing the door.

I stand in silence, taking in more of the room. My luggage is on my bed, neatly pushed together. I approach the bags and open them, thankful my clothes are all in the right order as I have packed them.

The first thing I do is turn the AC a little higher. The cold air makes the sweat on the back of my neck quiver, and it is then I realize.

I need a shower.

I set my purse on the bed and take off my heels, putting them in the empty closet next to my bed. Thank God the hangers are plastic—the thought of wire on my clothes doesn’t sit well with me.

When I walk into the bathroom, it looks about half the size of the room. The walls are a dark mustard orange, evergreen, and light brown, with marbled floors from corner to corner.

“Well, at least one good thing about this trip is that the stay is so far extremely enjoyable.” I say with a smile.

I start to take off my clothes before anything else, setting them on top of the toilet seat. The only thing I’m in is my underwear, but before taking those off, I look at my body in the mirror. My hands on my hips, I pout my lips at my figure.

“I need to actually put that gym membership to use when I get back,” I tell myself, squeezing my stomach. I don’t happen to be obese, but my thick figure along with my height made for annoying doctor visits as a child. My sister and my mother both have hourglass shapes as do I, but are much more slim in the thighs and stomach. Still, one thing I’m happy about is are my curves—black dresses never do me wrong with them on my side. I hope, if I actually decide to lose weight, that those don’t go away.

As I look at myself in the mirror, I feel an odd draft enter the bathroom from my right, accompanied by... light? How? There aren’t any windows in here. But then it hits me.

Why are there two doors in here!?

The hidden door on the side opens, and I stand frozen, unable to move any part of my body. Although my limbs are immobile, my mind is still completely functional, and during the pre-chaos that is about commence I recognize the figure entering the bathroom. Sebastian.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

A loud scream escapes my throat the minute I see Sebastian standing in front of me, with nothing but a towel hanging loosely on his hips with his hand holding it up in the front.

His eyes look like they’re going to pop out of their sockets when he sees me, and immediately he screams too, covering his eyes with his free hand.

“What the hell are you doing in here!?” I yell at him, covering my body with my shaking hands.

“Why am I covering my eyes!?” He shouts instead of answering me.

“G-get out! Get out!” I’m so embarrassed I can’t think of what to do. Eventually it comes to me: towel. I need a towel. Ignoring the television-static feeling that is surfacing all over my body, I run to the first sight of a towel, which is by the shower. My hand touches the soft fabric, but my feet can’t seem to move efficiently against the flooring, because the minute I grab the towel I slip and collide with the shower curtain, which snaps off of the hooks above and wraps itself around me before I fall into the tub.

I scream louder than before.

“Oh shit, that didn’t sound good,” Sebastian says over the sound of the metal hooks bouncing on the floor. He removes his hand from his face and comes near me, staring at me with doe eyes.

“N-no! Close your eyes!” I protest.

“Here let me help you!”

“No! Don’t look at me, Goddammit!”

I refuse to let Sebastian see me beyond the shower curtain, even though he already has for about half a second. A small part of me wants to grab his hand since we’ve already seen each other half naked, but the bigger, more stubborn part of me, the currently embarrassed part of me, would rather help myself.

I flail my legs in different directions in an attempt to unravel the curtain from around my body. All it’s doing though is tangling it even more.

“Leslie, stop moving!”

“No, just don’t look at me!”

“Leslie stop being so fucking stu-”

Suddenly, my foot breaks free from its confines in the curtain and comes in fast contact with Sebastian’s body.

A place no man would ever like to be kicked.

Right when I actually kick Sebastian in the balls, he lets out a high-pitched squeal, covering his crotch with both hands while his eyes widen again and almost go cross-eyed.

He leans over, but loses his balance and begins to fall. Still in pain, his hands do little to break his fall as he lands in the tub, but not before accidentally hitting one of the shower knobs with his foot and turning it completely to the right, letting ice cold water pour out of the shower head onto both of us.

I scream again as the freezing cold water touches my body, and it is then I wish that I am anywhere but here, half-naked, in a bathtub with a half-naked Sebastian Harrison who I just kicked in the balls, cold water showering us.

This can’t get any worse, I think to myself.

“What happened are you oka-OH MY GOD!!”

Fiona screeches while her hands shake by her face at the sight of Sebastian on top of me in the bath tub. She stands at the doorway of the “hidden door,” eyes wide with horror.

Sebastian scrambles up, “Shit, shit it’s not what it looks like-”

Fiona slams the door before she can even let Sebastian finish.

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