Sorry this one took a little longer! I'm back in school. Enjoy!
“Dork” was the perfect word for Laurie Fell. How could she flail her body like that, and not care who saw her? She must be very drunk indeed, he thought.
At least Pierce was having a good time, he noted grudgingly.
“Dr. Valentine?” Veronica said. “Are you listening?”
Seth blinked a few times and brought his attention back to the stunning blonde woman in front of him. “Forgive me, Veronica, but I’m not much in the mood for business talk tonight.”
Her expression changed. “Why—of course. I understand completely, Dr. Valentine.” Her hand reached for his chest. “What type of conversation would you like to have?”
In any other situation, Seth might have allowed her to touch him—but not in this one. Sure, Veronica was beautiful, and they were both drunk. But settling for her would be like picking up an apple from the ground instead of plucking a fresh one from the tree. “Forgive me, Veronica, but I have many guests to entertain. Enjoy the rest of your night.” He finished off his umpteenth glass of whiskey that night and tore off for the bathroom. “Derek,” Laurie gasped, backing away a few steps.
The mysterious man, Derek, took some steps forward in response. He was strikingly handsome, with dark brown hair that matched hers closely, a confident stride, and an alluring, male voice. “Laurie Fell,” he said with an emotional smile. “God, how long has it been? A couple years?”
Laurie swallowed. To be exact, it had been twenty months, two weeks and four days. But of course, she didn’t want him to know she’d been counting. “That sounds about right.”
He shook his head. “You look… unbelievable.”
“I can’t believe it, either,” she replied with a trace of bitterness. “I never thought I would see you again.” And she’d hoped that she would never reappear, but here he was. Her expression had changed drastically from joy to resentment.
“I’m glad that’s not the case,” said Derek.
Laurie raised an eyebrow. She wondered how he could say that, as if they were long lost buddies and no conflict had ever occurred between them. “What are you doing here?” she asked, cutting to the chase.
Derek arched his brow innocently. “I’m here for business and fun, just like you. Word travels fast in our world; I can’t believe you got the job for Valentine! That’s quite an achievement!” He shook his head, his eyes full of admiration.
Laurie swallowed. “Thank you. Look, this is weird. I’m going to grab a drink or something. Have a nice life.” She didn’t know what else to say. She just wanted this conversation to be over as soon as possible.
“Wait, Laurie,” he said, grabbing her arm. She shot him a venomous look, but he held fast. “I’ve missed you.”
Laurie couldn’t speak or breathe. Derek dared to approach her a little more, and reached out to her. “I always knew you would do great things, Laurie. You are obviously extraordinary.”
“Derek,” Laurie breathed, uncomfortable with how close he was standing. She hated the way her skin tingled when he touched her arm, even after all these years. Emotions mixed around in her gut; she could never forget how perfectly happy he used to make her. She also couldn’t forget the agony that had followed.
“We should catch up some time,” he murmured. His smile crumbled at the thought of all he’d missed while Laurie was away, and Laurie could swear she felt a piece of her heart break off.
Seeing Laurie’s discomfort, Pierce stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Is everything alright here?” he asked, eyeing the stranger suspiciously.
Laurie seemed to snap out of a trance. She quickly turned away from Derek. “Yeah, no, nothing. I need the bathroom,” she squeaked, and pushed past Edwin.
Pierce shot Derek one more glare before going after his friend.
“Laurie,” Pierce called, catching up to her as she stumbled off the dance floor. “Laurie, wait. Who was that guy?”
Laurie grimaced. “My ex-fiance.”
She continued her departure, practically running on her high heels. This was so unfair; she had really hoped to escape all the old drama, to start a new life in Bridgeport. That was why she’d moved so far away from her family and old friends. She had come so close to forgetting the past…
She was so lost in her thoughts, she forgot to watch where she was going. She heard a great “OOF” as she plowed right into someone in the hallway. Her forehead hit the poor guy’s chin.
As usual, there was Seth Valentine, always present to watch her screw up. She had to grab his white tuxedo to steady herself on her high heels. Luckily, he was tall and broad enough to catch them both. When she looked up into his judging eyes, her anxiety deepened. “Dr. Valentine, I’m sorry! Are you alright?”
At first, of course, he was outraged, but upon inhaling Laurie’s perfume, he was pacified. “Fell! Yes, I’m fine.” he muttered, rubbing his bruised jaw. God, she looked fantastic. Now that he saw her up close, he could fully appreciate the way her dress wrapped up her torso. He longed to unwrap her.
Laurie was about to quickly excuse herself from the awkward situation, but then Seth asked, “Are you enjoying yourself?”
Laurie’s brow arched high; it was the first conversational, non-patronizing thing he had ever said to her. She wanted to bask in this moment. “Why… sure, I am, thank you for asking. How are you?”
“I am satisfied,” he admitted with a shrug.
Laurie laughed nervously. “If it satisfies you, then this party must be a hit!”
As usual, Seth didn’t respond to her joke. They had another of those awkward silences where Laurie expected to be dismissed or ditched at the end. However, neither happened. The music played, people bustled around the room, and time and sound seemed to stand still for them both. Seth could not seem to release himself from the sight of her lips. They called to him without moving.
Laurie shifted on her feet uncomfortably. “I should… go…” she began, but Seth held one hand up. Now that he finally had her in front of him, he didn’t want her to go anywhere.
“Fell,” he said, swaying a little. “Even though you could have knocked out my teeth just a moment ago, I want you to know that I don’t regret hiring you. You’ve done some nice work here. Good job.”
Laurie smiled at him. “Oh. Thank you, Sir. I’m so glad to hear that.”
He mentally berated himself. Did I just compliment her work? He thought angrily. Come on. Tell her she’s beautiful or something. Get her a drink. He opened his mouth to say something more suave, but stopped himself. The alcohol was hitting him harder every second. What if it came out sounding drunk and stupid? How would he be able to show his face at work? He needed to get this right the first time.
Laurie frowned at the way Seth was leaning against the wall. “Dr. Valentine… how much have you had to drink?”
Seth rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’d say about one handle of whiskey.”
Her jaw dropped. “What? How are you still standing? How are you alive?”
“I don’t get drunk,” he snapped, as if Laurie were accusing him; proof that he was definitely intoxicated.
Laurie sighed. Somehow, she couldn’t allow this great, powerful man to walk around, inebriated at his own party. Besides… she wanted to escape Derek. “Come with me.”
To his surprise, she took his hand and led him away from the crowd, toward the patio. His mind panicked; all he could think of was the touch of her skin and the scent of her hair as it wafted into his face.
They pushed through the heavy doors in the back of the room and made their way into the cool, fresh air. Water cascaded down nearby fountains, crickets chirped from the gardens, and the moon provided a heavenly glow for the beautiful yard.
Laurie turned to her boss. “You shouldn’t drink so much, Dr. Valentine,” she scolded. “It’s bad for you. As the world’s smartest man, you should know that. Sit down, I’m going to grab you some water.”
“I’m fine,” he slurred, not releasing her hand. This was perfect. They were alone, and it was a beautiful night. He could not possibly mess up here.
Laurie stopped and stared at him. After a moment, she finally began to recognize the look he was giving her. Her eyes widened in panic. “…Sir. Please. Let me go get…”
“Laurie,” he said, switching to her first name. He lowered his voice. “Do you realize how every man in that room reacts when he looks at you?”
Laurie turned pink and broke his gaze. “Please stop right there, Sir.”
“It’s Seth,” he muttered.
“Alright, Seth. You’re drunk, and this is very unprofessional. I’m going to do you a favor and pretend like I didn’t hear you say that.” That should sober him up, she thought.
It did, a little. He released her hand, looking surprised; he’d never been rejected so quickly before. “You are calling me unprofessional? So you’re the leading opinion on professionalism, now?” he scoffed, the sweetness vanishing at once.
Laurie glared at him, exasperated. The anxiety from seeing Derek AND conflicting with her boss, on a night that was supposed to be fun, was getting to her. “There you go. Outside of tonight, you have nothing nice to say to me, or anyone. And now, just because you can’t hit on me, you’re back to your old self—rude, rich, self-righteous Dr. Valentine!”
Seth’s mortification deepened. He’d never seen her angry before—she was such a nice, considerate person to everyone, all the time. She had always accepted his quips with grace. He didn’t realize that he could drive her off the edge like this. He locked his jaw and turned away from her.
Seth slowly seated himself on a nearby lawn chair and said no more to Laurie.
Laurie cast her eyes at the ground. “I’m sorry for being disrespectful, Sir.” She didn’t want to lose her job, and she hated to make someone else feel bad. Even so, she couldn’t regret what she had said.
Seth stretched his feet out on the chair and closed his eyes. “Just get out of here.”
Laurie didn’t need to be told twice. She quickly left him alone.
The alcohol was making Seth tired, but at least it clouded his thoughts and emotions. He felt angry, but not angry enough to act. He felt shame, too, but only acknowledged it very briefly. He figured he could just sleep outside in this ridiculous tux. This night was over for him.
As predicted, the next week at work was horribly awkward. Seth and Laurie couldn’t look each other in the eye. Seth was nastier than usual to his workers. Occasionally, he still paused briefly in front of her lab, but he did no more personal inspections. She didn’t say hi or invite him to lunch anymore.
Pierce wasn’t oblivious to Laurie’s discomfort. He asked if she was ok after seeing her ex-fiance, but she simply avoided the subject.
“Yeah, mom. I just had the weirdest week of my life,” Laurie sighed into her cell phone. She stood in her beautiful studio apartment; her view of the city below offered some comfort.
“Well, sweetie, you seemed to be so happy with your new job. Except for that boss of yours,” Mrs. Fell replied.
“Yeah… he’s kind of a jerk,” said Laurie. She ran a hand through her long, freshly-showered hair. “I don’t know what to do. Something happened at work, and now things are kind of strained between us. I don’t think there’s any hope of getting back on his good side. I don’t think I even want to.”
“Oh, Laurie. Just be yourself, and things will work out. I think you’re the most loveable girl in the world, and if he doesn’t agree, it’s his loss,” Mrs. Fell chuckled.
Laurie felt more at ease confiding in her mother. However, she didn’t mention the part where she had insulted her boss to his face. She was a little ashamed at losing her patience with him. “Oh, and mom…” she said, clenching her hand into a fist. “I saw Derek.”
“Oh…” Mrs. Fell’s tone dropped. “Sweetie. Are you alright?”
Although she ranted for awhile, Laurie assured her mother that her feelings for Derek had died long ago. She was just angry that Derek had showed his face because she wanted him out of her life forever—nothing more.
When she hung up the phone, her loneliness resumed. She used to dread the idea of living alone, having no roommates or family or boyfriend to spend her nights with. She knew it was for the best, though—she wanted to remain independent, so that no one would ever be able to abandon or hurt her ever again.
Seth planted his hands on his desk and took a deep breath. He was frustrated with how unproductive his week had been. His workers seemed miserable. He had to take frequent breaks for kickboxing or drinking sessions, just to get his mind off of that unspeakable night.
He stepped out of the little lab; no more work would be done today.
His footsteps echoed in the empty hallway as he headed upstairs.
Why hadn’t he just settled for Veronica? The woman had practically thrown herself at him. Maybe he should give her a call right now. In any case, he needed to erase Laurie from his mind, once and for all. As he reached inside his jacket for a phone, he heard laughter in the next room.
He stopped, catching Mason’s burly figure just around the corner. There was joy and affection in the guard’s hushed voice.
Seth slowly made his way into the room just as Mason swept up the maid, Isabella, for a kiss. The couple stood there for a long time, so absorbed in each other that they were oblivious to Seth’s presence.
Seth’s fists clenched at the sight of them. “So this is what I’m paying you to do in my mansion?”
Mason and Isabella jumped a yard away from each other. Mason sputtered, “Sir. We’re sorry. We were just—“
“Spare me,” Seth snapped, cutting him off. “It is already clear where your priorities lie. Cleaning my rooms is far less important than sleeping around in them, apparently.” He shot Isabella a filthy glare.
Isabella covered her mouth. “I would never!”
Seth pointed down the hall. “Out, both of you. Find somewhere else to do that. And please… don’t come back.”
Mastermind Chapter 6
Jul 4, 2012 by katmusic09
Moderator actions: Unpublish
Report this Story:
If you find a problem with this story or wish to report inappropriate content, click here