Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 13
“But, we need Brynn here,” Paul protests. “She’s working on several very important matters.”
I don’t know if Paul is just coming up with a ploy to keep this hair-brained idea from happening or if the firm actually values me as an associate so highly. But either way, I’m grateful.
“We can share her.”
Clay offers up his compromise so quickly it makes my stomach churn. I hate how he says “share” so flippantly and with such innuendo. I can’t help but feel he’s subtly hitting on me with every word that he says.
“She can commute and work part here and part there,” Clay says, as if my schedule and my life are things that can be divided up so neatly and at his every whim.
“I’m listening,” says Paul. “How much business are we talking here? How much work would you have for Brynn to head up?”
It all comes down to money, of course. It always does.
Paul thinks the idea is ridiculous but is willing to listen because money talks. He knows that if he doesn’t let Clay at least think he’s entertaining the idea, Clay will go elsewhere. Or perhaps try to steal me out from under the firm. Which is a very good hunch to have, since Clay had said as much himself.
Now there’s an idea, I start to think. If I’m going to be working in Albuquerque I’d prefer to only work there, especially if Clay could pay me New York City money to live in Albuquerque with its much lower cost of living. I’d have an easier lifestyle and I wouldn’t have to jet set Caleb back and forth over 2,000 miles all the time.
It might help or hurt what’s going on between Steven and me—maybe he would give up trying to see Caleb if we lived in Albuquerque or maybe he would try to say I couldn’t even do it because now he supposedly wants to see Caleb more often.
But if it could work out, I’d be closer to Larson. Of course that’s a main incentive that I don’t want to admit. But it probably won’t even matter since I doubt he’ll ever want to talk to me again after today.
“Oh, I have a lot of business in Albuquerque,” Clay assures Paul. “It’s definitely well past time I had my own office there because I can’t keep up with everything by parsing things out to local attorneys. We can run the numbers soon. Brynn and me and you of course.”
Paul raises his eyebrows. Apparently he’s changing his tune about how necessary I am. I’m certainly not welcome to discuss numbers.
“Yes, Brynn,” Clay says. “I need her involved every step of the way.”
Paul looks at me suspiciously.
“Is there…?” He starts to say, but he shakes his head, apparently thinking better of it.
I know he was going to ask if there is something the firm needed to know about Clay and me. Or maybe if there is something going on between Clay and me, which is essentially the same question.
My cheeks are burning. I’m upset at Clay for making it seem like we’re involved. And upset at Paul for thinking bad of me for it. They probably assume the only reason Clay wants to give me this work is because we’re fucking. Although the only reason he’s probably doing it is because he wants to fuck me.
Now I have no idea what I’m going to do. I want to work in Albuquerque at least part-time— and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have a choice anyway, since I have to do what the partners want, and the partners will want to do what the client wants— but I don’t want to have to capitulate to Clay’s every demand. Especially not if I have any hope of things still working out with Larson.
In one day I’ve found out that I have a chance to work closer to him, but also that I have to work closely with someone he probably will rightfully despise. That I’m beginning to rightfully despise.
I sit through the rest of the meeting in silence, knowing that my fate is out of my hands. Such is life as an associate at a law firm, something I had to learn and get used to a long time ago.
As soon as the meeting is over— with a handshake promise that the firm will seriously look into Clay’s proposal and plans for getting back together tomorrow to go over numbers— I rush over to my assistant’s desk.
“Hey boss,” she says, handing me my phone. First she disconnects it from its charger. How nice of her to make sure it has a full battery. That’s so Mary-like.
"I was checking your battery life and couldn't help but notice that you had a text from a certain gentleman I believe I saw in here on Friday," Mary says.
Damn. She's great, but nosy as hell.
"Your battery life was low, so I decided to charge the phone for you. So you should have no problem contacting him now that that important meeting is over."
She grins at me.
She doesn't know I probably will have a problem contacting him because he probably wants nothing to do with me anymore. And I don't plan to tell her that because I try very hard not to mix my professional and personal life, even with someone as cool as Mary. Although Clay and his idiotic "proposal" are starting to make that goal seem very difficult to continue to achieve.
"Thanks, Mary. I appreciate you manning the fort, and my phone."
She looks eager to chat— most likely about the meeting, Clay, and Larson. And I don't blame her.
"I know it couldn't have been fun to sit out here all day with nothing to do but guard my phone like I'm a disobedient twelve year old," I start to tell her.
"Yeah, what was with that anyway?" she asks.
"But I have to run."
I look towards the conference room where some partners are trying to schmooze with Clay. I need to get out of here right away, before he stops me and tries to keep me captive even longer.
"Okay, no problem," Mary says, although the smirk on her face betrays her words. "I mean, I did get caught up on entering all your time and clearing out all your email out of your inbox. So it's not like I was completely bored."
"Just what you wanted to be doing on a sunny Sunday afternoon, right?" I ask her, as I head towards the door.
"See you tomorrow and I'll catch you up on what's been going on around here," I tell her.
Or at least part of it. Clay has sworn all of us to secrecy about the exact details until everything is ironed out and the firm makes a big announcement.
"You definitely have to tell me about your juicy new love interest," she says in a loud whisper. "He's super hot."
I actually blush.
"Maybe," I reply, like a blubbering school girl.
If I'm not allowed to tell her anything about Clay and the firm's goings-on then maybe I'll throw her a bone and tell her about how great Larson is with Caleb.
That is, if Larson still wants anything to do with me.
After I'm down the elevator and out of the building, I call Caleb.
There's no answer, even though I know his plane hasn't taken off yet. Google Alerts on my phone told me his flight has been slightly delayed.
"Hi Larson, it's Brynn, and I'm really sorry."
I start to explain but then I have a better idea.
"Hold on," I say, hanging up. "I'll talk to you soon."
Chapter 35 – Brynn
I jump into the car and tell my driver to step on it.
"To JFK airport, please," I tell him.
He nods at me and looks at me a little bit funny, since I don't have any bags and hadn’t made any plans to be taken to the airport today, but I don't fill him in. I rub my hands together anxiously, hoping that I make it in time to talk to Larson in person. If I've calculated the timing right, I'll just make it before his boarding time.
I'm hoping he can come to the security gate and talk to me through the rope. It will be like in a romantic movie.
There's a traffic pile-up on Grand Central Parkway that throws a kink into my plans.
"Please hurry," I say, once my driver is able to get out of the bumper to bumper traffic caused by a wreck.
"I am, Ms. Elliot."
Of course he is. I'm just so impatient. Hoping my plan will still somehow work out.
I decide to go all the way with my crazy idea. Hell, I'll buy a plane ticket if I have to, just to get up to the gate and see him if they won't let him run to security and back.
The driver lets me out at the ticketing area and I have to stand in line to get to an available desk.
"I need to buy a ticket to Albuquerque," I tell the lady working the counter, who looks as frazzled as I feel.
"For when?" she asks, keying up the screen in front of her.
"For right now," I tell her. "The last flight of the day."
She looks at me like I have two heads.
"Ma'am, that flight was already delayed and it is now in pre-boarding," she says.
"I know," I tell her. "But I don't have any bags or anything and I just want to run to the gate in time to meet my boyfriend real quick."
Now she looks at me suspiciously, like maybe I'm a terrorist. But I'm still kind of shocked that I just said the word "boyfriend."
"Ma'am, that flight is sold out."
"That's okay," I tell her. "I just need the ticket to get through security. Not to actually get on the plane."
She reaches for a phone underneath the desk. Now she undoubtedly really does think I'm a terrorist.
"Please don't think I'm crazy," I tell her quickly. "He's a passenger on that flight. His name is Larson Campbell. I just need to explain something to him before he gets on the flight, so that he won't hate me and so we still have a chance."
I realize I definitely sound crazy. A desperate woman chasing the lover who doesn't want her. Like that astronaut who drove cross- country in a diaper. But I don't even care. Clearly I let logic fly out the window as soon as I hatched this hair-brained idea.
"Look," I tell her, gesturing down at the ID I had put on the counter in my attempt to buy a ticket. "I'm a lawyer. My firm, Makens & Holstead, actually represents your airline in a number of matters. I don't usually sound so dumb. But this is really important to me and I just have to try, you know? I feel like this could be true love. And when true love is on the horizon, you have to try to do everything you can to reach it."
I realize I sound like I'm straight out of a cheesy romance novel. But I'm trying every trick in the book to get this lady to help me. And I guess it’s working, because she's taking her hand off the phone and looking at me quizzically.
"Please help me," I tell her, remembering what my mentor Jane Holstead once told me.
When you want something, first act as if you own it already. Ownership is 9/10ths of the law. And it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
If that doesn’t work, then ask for permission. The worst thing that can happen is that the other person says no. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
But then I cut myself off from listing the advice of my mentor. It applies more to negotiation than to trying to make up with a lover.
What a stupid idea. To think I could cause some kind of romantic movie scene that would make it possible to sufficiently apologize to Larson.
The fact is, I blew it and this hair-brained idea isn't going to save me.
"Okay," she says, with a sigh.
She pulls up the flight information again on her computer screen.
"What'd you say this Larson guy’s last name is?"
"Campbell," I tell her gratefully. "Thank you so much."
But her face falls.
"I'm sorry honey, but he's already on the plane. And once that happens, they're not letting a passenger get off just to try to patch up a relationship on the rocks, you know?"
Now it's my turn to sigh.
"I know," I tell her.
Makes perfect sense. Or at least, it makes a lot more sense than my last-minute run to the airport does.
"Sorry, hon," she says. "I do like to try to support true love whenever I have the chance."
"I really appreciate it," I tell her, heading back to the exit and texting my driver to pull back around for me.
It was the dumbest idea ever. Now Larson is on the plane thinking I didn’t call at all except to tell him I’d talk to him soon. If I had any hope of salvaging what we had, I can just kiss that goodbye right now.
Chapter 36 – Brynn
I head back home to where Caleb steadfastly awaits. No matter how long I leave him hanging, he has no choice but to be there waiting for me when I get home. Poor little guy.
"Mommy!" he cries, as I walk through the door.
He's already in his pajamas, which makes sense because it's already his bed time.
"Hi Love," I tell him, bending down to wrap my arms around him and smell his hair. A mix of pancakes, maple syrup and dirt greet me in the aroma. He must have refused his bed time bath again.
"Hello, Ms. Brynn," Esmeralda says, handing me a glass of sparkling water. "We have all missed you very much today. Your gentleman friend Larson is very nice."
"Ha ha ha. Gent-le-man friend," Caleb laughs.
I smile at him.
"What's so funny, my little guy?"
Then I smile at Esmeralda.
"How do I always have such great people to help me?" I muse aloud.
I'm thinking of her, and Mary, and even the airline employee who tried to support true love and my efforts to get to Larson.
"Because you are a very nice person and a joy to work for," Esmeralda says, smiling back at me.
I guess I'll have to take her word for it. Because right now I feel like a selfish bitch.
"What did you do today?" I ask Caleb, as he jumps up into my arms.
"Play with Larson," he says proudly.
I see he has moved on to calling him Larson instead of Motorcycle Man. And it makes my heart ache. Because I'm pretty sure I just messed that up.
And I knew I shouldn't have let Caleb get so close so soon. Even though I didn't know I'd be the one messing it up. I was afraid that Larson would when all along I'm the one obviously not ready for a commitment of this magnitude because I can't even keep my commitment to day three of a 3-day date.
"I'll put him to bed," I whisper to Esmeralda.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow morning then," she says. "I'll give him a bath before his play group tomorrow, because he was not wanting to take one tonight."
"No bath!" Caleb cries, shaking his head back and forth vigorously.
"Thanks Esmeralda, and good night."
I nod at her and start walking upstairs.
"You have to be a good boy for Esie," I tell him. "Take a bath when she says to, okay?"
He nods his head but then shakes it.
"I know, you're tired," I tell him. "What did you and Larson do today?"
"Bunny. Hop hop," says Caleb, hopping like a rabbit in my lap.
"Hopped like bunnies?" I ask him.
He nods and smiles.
"You hopped like bunnies at story time with Miss Bonnie?" I guess.
He nods again, proudly.
"Well, that sounds like fun."
He nestles his head under my own as I read him Goodnight Moon. We find the mouse in the picture on every page. At the end, he likes to add his own good nights.
"Good night Mommy," he says. "Goodnight Esie. Good night Miss Bonnie. Good night Larson."
By the time he gets to Larson's name, he's almost asleep, and he yawns half way through it.
I kiss him goodnight and say, "Mommy loves you, Caleb."
I just look at him in my arms, sad that this was the extent of the amount of time I was able to see him today— a Sunday. Tomorrow will be back to the rat race and our weekend plans got cut short.
Even if it wasn't for Larson, I'm getting tired of this life of working all the time. I don't want to miss the few years I have left of Caleb still being a little boy. But I have no idea how to get out of this mess I've created. I now understand the phrase "golden handcuffs." Without the job, I can't afford the life we've b
After a few minutes I lay Caleb in his bed and kiss him again on his forehead. He groans and reaches out to hug his Tow Mater pillow from the Cars movies he loves so much. And then he's back asleep.
I go down to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. Esmeralda was sweet to offer me the sparkling water I usually reach for as soon as I get home, but tonight I need to drown my sorrows a little bit.
Just a little bit, because I have to work tomorrow and I'm sure that will bring its own set of new challenges depending on what the partners and Clay— and I, I guess, since he's so insistent I be involved in everything— come up with in terms of his proposal.
And I also need liquid courage.
I decide to wait until I know that Larson's flight landed to call him. I try to watch mindless reality TV while I wait. And I drink another glass of wine.
When my phone beeps with the alert that Larson’s plane has landed in Albuquerque, I stare at it, afraid to find out what will happen when he answers.
But when I finally dial, he doesn't answer.
"Larson, it's Brynn again, and I'm an idiot," I tell him. "I'd like to explain what happened today. And apologize again profusely. Please call me back."
It’s time to go to sleep but I can’t. I can’t stop thinking that I ruined everything.
I’m always forced to choose between my job and someone I love and this time as usual I chose my job. Over someone I love.
I let the enormousness of the thought that I love Larson— and that I might never see him again— weigh on me as I stare at the ceiling and try to sleep.
Chapter 37 – Larson
I’m waiting at my gate for my flight and staring at my phone like a pathetic fucking puppy dog waiting for its master to return home. But I’m trying to see if Brynn is going to call me again.
I was going through security when she had finally called. Even though I probably could have answered, it would have hugely annoyed everyone else in line had I stopped and had a phone conversation with the woman who’d just stood me up all day to meet with a billionaire.
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