“We always long for the forbidden things, and desire what is denied us.”Francois Rabelais
San Myshuno Bagley & Buckley Law Firm
The shrill ring of his desk phone pulled Liam from his deep focus on the complaint he was studying. With an annoyed sigh he looked up and saw it was an internal call.
It was Gloria, the firm’s receptionist, alerting him to an unscheduled visitor asking to see him. Some Mrs. Mortenson. A moment later there was a gentle knock, and in came Gloria with said Miss Mortensen, Liam’s eyes came from their sockets as he fought to keep his composure, declined Gloria’s offer for refreshments, and as soon as she left and shut the door, Liam grumbled
“Vivien? What the FUCK is this now? First you just disappear, ghost me, now you show up at my work using a fake name? This isn’t a spy game here!”
“Well, Mrs. Mortensen was my 8th grade Math teacher, a total bitch. Thought that was quite fitting and I didn’t think if I gave my real name you would have seen me.”
“Damn right about that! What are you doing here?!” he roared.
“Trying to have a talk we need to have.”
“I am at WORK!”
“You are ALWAYS at work! And had you answered my calls or texts, I wouldn’t have had to come here.”
“You know where I live. Couldn’t you have come by there like a normal person?! Or better yet, couldn’t you have just answered one of my hundreds of calls instead of sending them straight to voicemail, huh?! Or my many texts? That was a shit move, Viv! I didn’t deserve THAT.”
“I did answer … eventually, but then you were pouting! I am so so so SOOOOO sorry, Liam! That is one reason why I am here. To apologize face to face for that. Can we please talk? It’s important.”
“No! This is my place of work. Besides, Lana’s desk is out there, I am sure she saw you walk by. She knows you are not some Miss Mortensen.”
“Why are you so worried about what she thinks, Liam?” Vivien’s tone got testy.
“Because she is a colleague and this is where I work! I do not need personal drama dragged here.”
“Okay, fair enough, it’s almost lunch time, let’s go and talk elsewhere then.”
“I don’t have time to take a lunch! I really need you to leave.” Liam’s tone remained distant.
“Because you are taking up billable hours. I can’t sit at work and have personal arguments. I’ll take you back to the lobby.”
“Liam! Just a talk! Come on now, we have known each other too long to just end like this. You are not answering my calls and texts now, you have me blocked on Skype or something, so I am here now. Give me a break here. At the very least, hear me out.”
“Okay, fine. We’ll talk. After work. I can meet you at your hotel or a restaurant. Your choice. But you really gotta leave now.”
“Hotel? Okay. I guess I’ll get a room then. So you REALLY are pissed at me.”
“I am well beyond pissed at you, I am ultra-livid! You just fucking left me cold turkey! Do you know how worried I was?! Like a fucking fool I ran around town searching for you. I called all hospitals, checked with EVERYONE we know, even went to Forgotten-Fucking-Hollow. Not a favorite place of mine! But I went there anyway, hoping that was where you were hiding. Guess what though…?”
“Okay, okay. But seriously, calm your tits, Liam! Ever thought I had reason to be pissed at you too? You don’t exactly come out smelling like roses in all this! You weren’t worried when you were fucking Lana on our couch. Ahem .. YOUR couch. You knew my career is unpredictable and I could be home any minute. I almost got raped and you had no blood left in your brain when I needed you the most!”
“What?!” Liam stared at her in disbelief.
“You heard me.”
“Who raped you? What the fuck?!” Liam looked shocked.
“I said almost. Brett Newman, the singer. Don’t worry. As soon as she started getting gropey I scrambled his balls good and gave him a face full of pepper spray. I don’t think he walked right for days. But still.”
Liam just stared wide-eyed, until he digested the news a little.
“So, how was I to know that happened? Why did you not say anything? Why didn’t you call me?”
“How was I to know you screw chicks on the couch? And also: EEEEW! The couch? Really? Your parents and sisters sit on that. I sit on that! Eeew!”
“It’s my home!”
“True, but you had a guest! Me. If you didn’t want company, you should have said so and I would have stayed in a hotel. You don’t do that ‘christening every surface in the house’ stuff when you have people staying with you. Minimum common courtesy!”
“Right … you’re right. That was idiotic of me and very rude. I am sorry Vivien. You didn’t need to see that. And you definitely didn’t need to see so much of Lana or me. Yikes. Sorry about that too. Why did you not tell me about Brett? We could have sued him. Probably still can.”
“Really Liam? Can you please NOT be a lawyer for a moment? I said I handled it.”
“No, I cannot stop being who I am. A lawyer is what I am, and this is my place of work. I get paid and work hard to be a lawyer here.”
“What I needed was my friend. Not a peep show! And I came all this way to make things right with you, not hire a lawyer.”
“Okay. You’re right. We both fucked up. We do have to talk. How about I pick you up for dinner after work. I’ll try to get out of here at a decent hour.”
“Promise. Ah, screw it, hey Viv …. here.” Liam reached into his pocket and gave her his keys.
“Yeah. Car’s in the parking garage, deck 2 spot 33. Assume you have bags. Drive yourself to the penthouse, I can walk, it’s not that far. I’ll be there as soon as I can get out of here.”
“I do have a bag, left it with the security guard downstairs. Thanks Liam. Oh, I’ll cook us dinner!”
“Oh god, please don’t!” Liam smirked.
“Very funny! I actually practiced. I can make a few fairly decent things now. Definitely 100% edible. You’ll see.”
“Here’s to hoping I still have an apartment when I get home, not a pile of smoking rubble surrounded by fire engines.”
“You will be eating crow later! I am not half-bad anymore! I mean it. Even Blake and Chase say so and you know how critical little siblings can be.”
“It will probably taste like crow, too. Since your parents can’t cook either, those boys are probably half-starved and eat anything. Even burned crow and cooked rabid kitties.”
Smiling she flipped him off, he laughed. The ice between them was breaking again.
San Myshuno Senator Suites Apartments
When he got home, Vivien let him in, and he was surprised about the delicious scent of food in the air.
“Hey … that doesn’t smell burned or like boiled cat. Did you really make this? Who are you and what did you do to the real Vivien?” Liam had walked over to the set table and swiped his finger across one of the offerings, tasting them.
“Very funny. I want to say I made this SO badly, just to impress you, but I am here to fix things between us, so no lies. Truth is, after a really strong start, I misread the instruction on the recipe and kinda messed it up beyond recognition, so I ordered dinner. Sorry. But I promise my cooking skill got better! I’ll make you breakfast tomorrow morning, that’s easier than a nice dinner. You will see.”
“Whatever, let’s eat. This smell is making my stomach digest itself, I am starving.”
“What about the talk?”
“You can talk while we eat. I can chew and listen …”
Once settled at the table, Liam instantly started devouring the food, while Vivien tried to coral her thoughts.
“You always are hungry. Always have been. Let’s hope your metabolism stays that strong or you will be 500 pounds at age 30.”
“Says the one who is so skinny that she has to hop around in the shower just to get wet, even though I know you eat like a bear before hibernation.”
“Do you think I am too skinny? But I can’t help it, it’s hereditary. Maybe that’s why I have such troubles attracting a good man … they want Lanas, not Viviens.”
“Viv, come on now …”
“What?! It’s true! Look at Lana … and then me.”
“Lana is a different type. You cannot compare you both.”
“Lana has huge boobs! Like utters! MOOOOOO! Is that what you are into? Giganto-boobage? Do you have to milk her from time to time.” Vivien couldn’t help it.
“I like boobs that match the girl. Lana is voluptuous, so they suit her. Her size boobs on you would look weird.”
“So you like my boobs too?”
“There is NO way I am going to touch that question with a ten foot pole. But to your earlier statement I will say your issues with men have nothing to do with your figure and everything with who you are.”
“So … I am a unlikable bitch then with small tits?”
“Jesus H. Christ, I feel like we are married! No, you are not unlikable, but for starters, you are a high profile celebrity, by birth and by career choice. That’s scary to most men. It’s the ones that are not scared that you have to really worry about. And your tits are fine. There I said it.”
“Are you scared of me?” Vivien was on a roll.
“No.” Liam said between bites.
“So … I should be worried?” she smiled at him.
“Very much so.”
“Yup.” Liam winked at her.
“Liam … what about Lana?”
“What about her?” he was getting annoyed by the interrogation.
“Are you like … dating her?”
“I’ve been seeing her more, if that’s what you mean. But you knew that already.”
“I did know that, which is why I am asking. You never see the same woman more than once, maybe twice. Lana’s different. Is it serious?”
“What do you mean by serious?”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“I do not do relationships. You know that too.”
“Maybe you changed your mind. Maybe you fell for her.”
“I did not fall for her. Nor she for me. We fuck, because it feels good. That is as far as that ‘relationship’ goes.”
“Do you have to be obscene at the dinner table?”
“Sorry, ‘mom‘. Lana and I engage in coitus, because we both enjoy it. The no-strings kind. Casual.”
“Ah. So she is NOT anything serious then?”
“That’s what I said. What’s with the 20 questions?”
“Isn’t it normal for a friend to want to know that about their friends? Wouldn’t you want to know if and whom Leonie and Abby are dating?”
“No, it is not. I never ask any of my bros about their chicks. I figure when they are ready to, they share on their own. Bro-code demands that you don’t screw a chick one of your buddies is currently involved with. Beyond that, not my business what they do with whom and why, unless it’s illegal. As for my sisters, no, I do NOT want details. I remember them as babies and toddlers and do not want to imagine them doing what Lana and I do.”
“Hmm – you sound like your dad. But Liam, what if one of your friends did something that wasn’t necessarily illegal, but still kinda … low brow. Or maybe hasn’t done it yet, but would like to?”
“Depends what it is and if it involves me.”
“What if it did involve you directly.”
“Okay, Viv. Spit it out already. What did you do this time? Or better: what are you about to get yourself into now? We both know that wasn’t a general question. YOU are that friend, so just come out and say it. And where is the talk you wanted to have, or was grilling me about Lana and relationships it?”
“I didn’t do anything and no this was what I wanted to talk to you about, at least not really. It’s more … well … complicated. Honestly, Liam, I am just happy right now that we can talk again. Can I just enjoy us being on better terms again and save the other topic for tomorrow, when I am not jet lagged and kinda frazzled?”
“Sure. If you are wondering if I am still pissed at you, I am, but I realized you have reason to be pissed at me too, so two minuses really do equal a plus here and I am gonna call it even.”
“I am glad to hear that, but it’s not what I want to talk to you about. Actually, it’s more something I have to tell you. But that will take my full brain capacity and courage, my brain is digesting food now and I used up all my courage attempting a really fancy dinner, so I am fresh out of that too. We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”
Nodding, Liam let it go, they cleaned up together, watched a movie together and eventually turned in. Liam had a meeting early the next morning and Vivien was exhausted after the tension and worry about fixing things with Liam were like a weight lifted off her shoulders. But one thing weighing heavily remained. The thing she really had to tell him, just didn’t know how yet.
San Myshuno Bagley & Buckley Law Firm
The next day at work, around early afternoon, Lana slipped into Liam’s office, shutting the door behind herself, then kissed him quickly.
“Hey, the old Bagley wants to see you.” she told him.
“Really? Did he say why?”
“Nope.” she smiled up at him.
“How did he look? Good or bad news?”
“Grumpy as always unless you are a paying client, so no telling. Just don’t make him wait.”
“Right!” Liam blew out air, looking concerned, Lana straightened out his tie with an encouraging wink, he smiled at her, then headed down the hall.
After a brief knock he was called inside.
“Ah, there you are Cameron. Have a seat, please!”
“Everything all right, Sir?” Liam wondered as he sat down across from his boss’ desk.
“I don’t know, you tell me.” the older man tossed a magazine in front of Liam, opened to the title story about Vivien and him supposedly ‘dating’, with several glamorous pictures of Vivien and the picture of both of them at the award show.
“Oh. That. Just rainbow press drama, Sir. It’s nothing.”
“Is that so? Because I was told that this young lady came to see you here at the office yesterday. Yet, there was nobody signed in under the name of Vivien Vatore or ViVa. Just a Miss Mortenson for you, your only visitor for that day.”
“Oh, that. I can explain …”
“Oh, please do? I am eager to hear.”
“Vivien just didn’t want people to know who she is. It’s a celebrity thing, I suppose …”
“So, is she a prospective new client then?”
“Oh, no. She is based in Del Sol Valley and … ahem …” Liam stopped when he realized his answer was shooting himself in the foot.
“Exactly. You KNOW my policy on personal visits and dilly-dallying on the clock! If you are bored enough to have social calls, esp. high profile ones at work, I can have more assigned to you.”
“No, thanks Sir. It was a one time thing and she didn’t know. She came to town surprisingly and wanted to say hi and get the key.”
“The key? What key?” the old man wondered, and Liam felt hot all over. Oops. He shouldn’t have told him.
“Ahem .. to my apartment. She is staying with me while in town.”
“Is she now? Mr. Cameron, I am not in the habit, nor is it my place, to worry about my staff’s personal lives. But that does change when their behavior could reflect negatively on the reputation of my firm. I have heard through the office grapevine that you and Lana Douglas are in cahoots. Do you need a refresher about our strict policy about no relationships in the workplace? You are too sharp for me having to explain that does not end as soon as you walk outside the doors here. If you and Miss Douglas wish to pursue each other, one of you would have to find a new place of employ at your earliest convenience or I will fire you both. Furthermore, I urge you to use extreme caution when proceeding with whatever that is going on between you and Miss Vatore. Again, I am not your father, nor do I want to be, but when you start mingling with high profile and high visibility persons, my ears perk up, especially if the rumor cauldron starts brewing. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of my top attorneys on the cover of a magazine and on the television set and learn she is a distant relative of yours, yet close enough to raise eyebrows! I let it go then, but the moment Miss Vatore shows up in this office, I am on high alert. I do not wish this firm, which my father and his forefathers built up from nothing, to be regarded as the Sodom & Gomorrah of law! I am not known to give excess warnings, nor make idle threats, but the moment things that my staff does off the clock have a potential to affect this law firm and its credibility, someone is out of a job immediately. No leniency, and I do not care about the reasons. You have herewith been put on notice about all that. Are we clear?”
“Yes, Sir. Crystal clear.”