Authors: Brandy Jellum
“I-I-I really don’t know what to do? My boss, Reid, he isn’t just
some random guy they hired. He is Mr. Harder’s nephew, as in the
owner of my company, and he irritates the hell out of me.”
No way can I tell him about the way Reid drives me crazy and not
just in the literal sense. “He’s arrogant, nosy, and… and, well, he had
the audacity to ask me to grab drinks with him after work,” I say. “To
talk about some work related things,” I add quickly.
I can hear the humor in Eli’s voice. “And that’s reason enough to irritate you?”
“He asked me to go to Gravity,” I say coldly. Just saying the name
out loud threatens
to bring back the memories I stored away years ago.
“I see.” Eli is quiet again. He knows why I can’t go back there, the
real reason. I can’t go back to Gravity. Ever. That life is in the past,
which is where all the memories are. Of everything that has to do with
a person who longer exists. I can’t… I won’t ever go back there.
“You know you can’t avoid all those places forever, Liza. Long Port
is only so big.” Eli’s voice is soft again, but I can hear the seriousness
in his tone. We have had the same talk time and time again. Sometimes
I feel sorry for him. I feel like I hold him back from doing the things
that he wants to do. That any twenty-four-year-old male wants to do,
like have fun and go crazy. Most of the time, we spend our time locked
up in the safety of my small apartment. We never go anywhere, except
for dinner or an occasional movie. Every time we do, however, Eli wears
a disguise, something to keep attention being drawn to us. Being the son of one of the most popular actresses of her time and a big time attorney
he’s sort of a celebrity, and recognized everywhere he goes. I can’t have
that kind of attention, or everything will fall apart. My life as I
know it would cease to exist. “You may not live that life anymore, but
it’s still a part of you. You can’t undo your past.”
barely come out a
“That part may be true, but you can’t escape being Jared Lewis’s daughter forever. No matter how much you want to.”
I sigh. Eli’s right, as he always is. I may be able to change my
appearance, who I associate with, the places I go, the things I wear, the
car I drive, and the house I live in. Hell, I can even change my name.
But I can never change who my father is, or what he has done. Even if
he is twenty minutes away, spending life without parole at Long Port’s
But I can try.
Sometimes I question why I stay so close by, but then I remember
that no one expects to find me here. I’m right under their nose and they
have no idea. They don’t have the slightest clue that I haven’t really gone
anywhere. I’m right here where I’ve always been, a place I have always
known, and that is my greatest advantage I have with the changes I’ve
. I know the places not to go and I am
My risk at running into someone I may know is high, but it’s a bigger risk going out into the unknown. At least here, I’m in
Damn it, talking to Eli was supposed to make me feel better. It
usually does. Somehow he’s managed to turn the conversation around
on me and mention my father. Someone else I do not think about if I have the choice. “Is that all?” Eli’s voice is still the same soft tone.
“No.” I take a deep breath. “After I told him no, he didn’t take it very well, and well…. well, he—”
“Liza.” His voice is filled with concern and seriousness. “What
did he do?”
“Relax; he didn’t do anything you have running through that
overzealous, overprotective mind of yours.” I laugh, knowing all too well what it is he is thinking. “He told me that I had to choose three
potential authors I want to sign with a reason why and be in his office
by three or he’s talking to his uncle”
“I don’t know why you are on the phone with me then. You’ve got work to do!” Eli laughs.
Once again, Eli is right. It’s useless keeping score as to how many
times he has been right; all I know is my count is zero. The enthusiasm
in his voice brings a tiny smile to my face. However, this phone call
hasn’t really done what I was hoping it would do. “I guess,” I say softly.
“I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I’m sure you will.” With that, he hangs up the phone.
I’m alone again in my office. I let out a deep breath and mentally
prep myself for the task at hand. I open the email up again on my
computer. No new messages; only about forty that I have pretended
to read. I scroll down to the bottom of the messages, figuring I should
start with the oldest ones first. One more mental pep talk and I give the computer screen my full attention.
I take a deep breath before knocking on Reid’s office door. I know
he saw me coming, because his office has a wall of windows facing
towards the lobby, just like all the others. I can see through the glass
door that he is on the phone, so I knock softly. Reid motions for me
to come in, so I open the door and close it quietly behind me. I stand near the entrance and wait for him to get off the phone. He motions for me to sit down in the plush leather chair in front of his desk, and I oblige.
“It’ll be my pleasure to represent you and your book, Ms. Collins,”
he says into the phone. I try to ignore his conversation, not wanting to
eavesdrop, but sitting in front of him makes it a little hard. “You, too,
Ms. Collins. I’ll see you next week.” Reid hangs the phone back on the
receiver and shifts his focus to me. “So what do we have?”
I hand him the piece of paper I have spent the better part of my
day working on, struggling to get the right words out. It might be one
of the hardest things I have had to do lately.
“What’s this?” Reid raises an eyebrow and eyes me curiously. He
reaches over the desk and takes the sheet of paper. I watch him as he reads it, and his eyebrows furrow every few seconds. “A resignation
letter?” He narrows his eyes at me, his jaw clenches, and his face turns
red. “Are you serious?”
“As serious as I can be,” I say bluntly. “I can’t do it. I just simply cannot work in the Romance department, representing authors who
write a genre I despise.” This is the last thing I want to do, but I feel like
I have no other option. I would prefer to quit before being fired; that way, during interviews when asked why I no longer work at HLAH, I can honestly say that the job and I didn’t mesh. Which is a lot better than being fired for not succeeding in my line of work.
“I don’t get you, Liza,” he says softly. His face starts to relax, and he looks at me. “I know you must know what you’re doing, and that you’re good at it. My uncle wouldn’t just hire some girl fresh out of
college otherwise.” I wince when he refers to me as just some girl, the
way he says it makes it feel degrading. Often I have wondered why Mr.
Harder hired me. It was probably out of sympathy— because besides
Elias, his parents, and my therapist, he is the only other person who
knows my true identity. He only knows the truth because I arrive late
to the office every Monday morning due to my weekly therapy sessions,
and I felt obligated to tell him since he offered me a job right out the
gate. “My uncle sees something in you. What is the problem? Why can’t
you sign anyone?”
“What’s there to get?” I say, avoiding his gaze. “It’s being here,
on this level, with this genre. Romance and I, we don’t go hand in
hand.” Reid says nothing but continues to stare at me with his dark
eyes. “I can’t force myself to work if I can’t even make it past a single sentence in a query letter.”
Reid’s lips curl up into a smile. “I’ll tell you what… you take this
back.” He slides my resignation letter across the desk. “And I’ll make
a deal with you.”
“I’m listening.” I cross my arms and lean back in the chair.
“Give me a month…” The hesitation in his voice strikes me, and
I feel almost compelled to take it easy on him. Almost. I keep my arms
crossed and stare at him, waiting for him to continue. “Just one month,
with the two of us working side by side, trying to make this work.” He pauses and shakes his head. “I mean make this
work. At the end
the month, if I haven’t helped you sign anyone, I’ll talk my uncle into
letting you transfer to whatever genre you want.”
I answer all too quickly, “Deal.”
He smiles, a smile both beautiful yet menacing all at once. He’s
up to something. “Hold on. One more thing…” I really don’t like where
this is heading. “You have to have drinks with me at Gravity tonight. Nine o’clock.”
I gulp. My throat is dry, and I can’t breathe. What the hell am I supposed to do now? He is offering me the best alternative in the world, one that is a million times better than resigning. I can handle
working side by side with him for a month just so I can transfer out of
here. Well, at least I hope I can manage a month of working with him
without caving in and ripping his clothes off in the process. But drinks
at Gravity? That’s asking too much, even if he doesn’t know why.
“If I say yes...” Reid’s full attention is on me. “It comes with one
tiny exception… we sit at a table of my choosing.” He nods his head in
agreement, and I let out a deep breath.
Okay, this may work.
I know the
perfect table at the club where no one will see us. I take a deep breath
and let it out slowly. “Fine.” The word barely comes out as a whisper.
Reid smiles as I stand up. This time his smile speaks volumes of
triumph, that he has finally won. I turn, walking toward the door, and
make no effort to close the door softly behind me. The sound of it
slamming captures the attention of everyone in the lobby. As I walk
through, I keep my head high and pretend to ignore the fact that they
are all whispering about me. Heidi races over to me and brushes her bright red hair out of her face. “Everything okay, Liza?” She stares at me with her large, soft green eyes.
“Just peachy,” I say harshly. I storm into my office and slam the door behind me.
THE LAST TIME
I had been in this alley, I was running in high heels
and a wearing a tight black dress with tears streaming down my checks.
I shudder at the memory and keep walking in my skinny jeans, flats,
and plain, white baby doll T-shirt, an outfit that totally sticks out like a
sore thumb at this club. I’m starting to second guess my outfit choice
but realize that it’s not a big deal. I have no plans on going far enough
into the club for anyone to really take notice. I plan on snagging one of the tables in the farthest, darkest corner, out of view of everyone.
The alley is poorly lit as I walk down between the two brick buildings.
I cross my arms over my chest and rub my arms in effort to keep them
warm. I finally reach the back door and knock three times. The door is
opened by a big, burly man with short black hair and arms the size of
tanks. The sound of music blaring inside the club comes through the door, and I can see strobe lights flashing in the distance behind him.
“Excuse me, miss, but this is not an entrance.” He steps out of the door frame and takes a possessive stance in front of it. “You’ll have to
go around front if you want to try and get in.”
“Not even for an old friend?” I mentally slap myself.
What am I doing?
I cannot tell Preston who I am, but the sight of him makes me miss him.
The way he stands there reminds me of all the times he stood like that
to protect me from awaiting paparazzi. It also reminds me that he is
a man I can trust, a man I once considered my friend, and I want to tell
him. Preston cocks his head to the side, raises an eyebrow, and eyes me
curiously. “Elizabeth? Elizabeth Lewis?”
“In the flesh.” I smile, and we both begin to laugh. Preston drops his big man façade and wraps me up into one his big ol’ teddy bear
hugs. The man is ridiculously bulky, so much so that it is intimidating,
but really he has the kindest of hearts.
“I didn’t recognize you with the black hair.” He shakes his head and brushes a strand out of my face.
I smile. “That’s kind of the point.”
“I’m afraid your usual table is no longer available,” he says.
“That’s quite alright. I have no intentions of sitting there.” And I
don’t. My old table, the one directly in front of the dance floor, is in
plain view for everyone to see. Literally. It doesn’t matter where you sit
or stand in the club or which direction you are staring from, you have
a direct line of sight to the people sitting in the fancy VIP booth. “Any
of the tables in the back will do. Preferably one in the darkest corner.”