Waking up on my couch and seeing Danny’s favorite black boots in the middle of my floor, I knew I’d royally fucked up. She’d never leave them behind voluntarily, so she must have been running away…from me. I don’t remember what I said or did to her last night, but it must have been bad for her to leave the last gift from her mom in my apartment.
I sat up and looked at my phone. I had 37 missed calls from my assistant, Lucia, which made sense considering I was supposed to be at work 3 hours ago. I was the boss, so it didn’t look good when I didn’t show up without saying anything.
My phone chimed as a voicemail popped up following the phone call that woke me up 5 minutes ago. Lucia was clearly pissed that I hadn’t answered any of her calls because those were the only times she left me messages. She preferred to talk to me rather than the automated voice.
I pressed the playback button and held the phone up to my ear.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re doing or where the hell you are, but you need to get your head out of your ass. If you are not here within the hour, I’m quitting.”
I half smiled at the soft, stern voice on the other end. Lucia may have looked like a sweet, innocent girl on her first day, but she was the only other person besides Danny that didn’t put up with my shit. If I pissed her off, she let me know. I may have been the boss, but she was the one in charge, and everyone in the company knew it.
I groaned as I lifted myself off the couch. I must have downed the whole case of beer because my head was spinning like crazy. I made my way to the bathroom and fished through my medicine cabinet for the aspirin that was hidden behind my wall of anti-anxiety drugs, or my “totally fucked up” pills as I took to calling them. I knew Danny had her own stash, but I hoped none of hers were as strong, or as expensive, as mine.
I’d messed her up. I hurt her bad and I didn’t know how, or if, I could fix her. Obviously, I wanted to try. I was crazy about her, I had been since we were kids, so it broke my heart when I heard the all too familiar sound of her throwing up from her meds early one morning. I held her while she cried herself to sleep on the bathroom floor, and I wondered how many nights she went through that alone.
I was pissed at my dad for never being in my life. I was even more pissed at him for showing up one day, taking me from my mom and Danny, and dragging me off to London to go to boarding school for 15 years. It took him months to realize that I was failing classes because I couldn’t sleep without Danny. That’s when the barrage of doctors started giving my dad the impossible news: he’d screwed up.
I’d literally become unable to live without her in my life, and the only cure was to send me back home. For my dad that wasn’t an option because there was one thing the great Hudson Harper didn’t do, and that was admit he was wrong. He was grooming me to be his replacement at the company, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. He decided that filling me with any and every drug on (or off) the market, as well as setting me up with his business partners’ daughters, was all it would take to make me better. Clearly, that didn’t work out, but I made him think it did so he’d eventually go back to ignoring my existence.
He finally died 2 years ago, but not before forcing me to get engaged to Jenna Veraldo, the worst girl on the planet to be in any sort of relationship with. I swear it was his intention to eternally piss me off, like one final fuck you before he died. When he kicked the bucket, I had to move back home to take over his position as CEO of Center of Attention Industries. I was in his office before he was even in the ground. I’d missed his funeral, which wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t like I actually wanted to go.
Jenna hadn’t wanted to leave London, so she didn’t. I left and she stayed. So, there I was: running a company I didn’t want, living a life that wasn’t my own, with a fiancé I didn’t even like halfway around the world. I was miserable, until one day, almost exactly a year ago, I opened my door and saw Danny moving into the apartment across the hall.
I knew it was her without having to ask. I’d recognize her long burnt-sienna hair anywhere. It also didn’t hurt that she was still wearing the friendship bracelet I’d made her when we were 6. I’d accidentally tied the knot too tight, so she couldn’t get it off unless her mom cut it, but she didn’t want her to. She’d worn it ever since.
It was like fate. The girl of my dreams was living next door, but this was not a fact that my fiancé was glad to find out when she surprised me by walking into my apartment to find me and Danny on my couch sharing dinner one night.
I messed up twice as bad because I hadn’t told Jenna about Danny, and I never told Danny about Jenna. It only helped that Jenna made an enemy out of Danny in less than a minute. Once Danielle Ridley hated you, she hated you for life. I was the only exception to that rule, then again, I was standing there staring at my reflection wondering what the hell I did to scare her off.
I quickly downed the two pills in my hand and a cup of water, then turned on the shower.
One thing I did know was that even though Lucia threatened to quit at least twice a week but never actually did, if I didn’t get to work by her deadline, I’d be dead.
“You’re late,” the petite blonde hissed at me when the elevator doors opened. She must have had security notify her when I checked in because she was standing there waiting for me.
“I know,” I muttered stepping pass her and into the bustling office area. I was more than late. No matter how fast I left, nothing could have gotten me around the car crash that caused me to take an extra half hour detour to get here. I’d missed her window by 42 minutes.
“You missed your 9am meeting,” she continued. Lucia might have been 4’6″, a very noticeable difference from my 6’2″, but she matched my stride perfectly, which made it impossible to avoid her when she was laying into me. “You know how important that meeting was and what I had to do to set it up.”
“I know,” I repeated. I nodded at a few employees as I passed them, but I was heading straight for my office as fast as possible, so Lucia could yell at me in private when I told her why I was late.
“I told them you called in sick, so they luckily rescheduled for next Thursday at 10am, which means you’d better be here no later than 7:30.”
“I know.” I held my office door open as she walked in and made herself comfortable at my desk. I closed it and the shades to the large windows overlooking the rest of the floor.
“Out with it,” she demanded.
I sat in one of the faux leather chairs across from her and sighed, dropping my head into my hands. “I don’t know.”
She knew I was talking about Danny. She was the only person I confided in when I first found out Danny’d moved in and when Jenna broke off our engagement. She knew how I felt about Danny and had encouraged me on several occasions on how to win her over.
“You got drunk, again?” she sighed. It wasn’t a question, but overwhelming disappointment. She knew how bad I was when it came to my drinking habits and she didn’t approve of it when I did.
“I think I fucked up,” I said, rubbing my head.
“You think or you did?” she asked.
“I am 100% sure she was at my place last night. I am 99.99% sure I sent her running for the hills.”
Lucia shook her head. “Oh, you sad, stupid boy.”
“And you have no idea what you did?”
I looked away. It hurt me every time I said this to Lucia’s sweet looking face. “I know we slept together…” All the proof I needed was on my phone. I’d sent Danny a text for her to come over and I knew she could never resist doing so.
“But everything else is a blur,” she said, finishing my thought.
I solemnly nodded. I wanted to know what happened. I found a pile of books and papers that I had sitting on the corner of my dresser all over my bedroom floor, but we wouldn’t have been anywhere near them last night. My bed was on the other side of the room.
“How many times have you called her so far?” Lucia asked. She really did know me well enough to know that I would have tried calling Danny multiple times on my drive to work.
“17 calls. 29 texts,” I cringed. It looked desperate, but I didn’t care. I was desperate. I needed to talk to her, apologize, something, but she never answered.
“Give it,” Lucia said, holding her hand out to me.
I gave her my phone without argument. I knew this would happen, which was another reason I’d been trying to contact Danny all morning.
“You’ll get this back at the end of the day. For now, check your emails. You have a lunch meeting at 2. We’re leaving here at 1.” Lucia stood, straightening her blouse.
“Yes, ma’am.” I watched as she walked to the door. “Lucia?” I called to her.
“2 dozen yellow peonies at her door by 5,” she responded, without pausing her exit.
I half-smiled. There was no way my life could even begin to function without that woman in it.