Parental Advisory Rating: V, L & AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Executive Producer: XWPFanatic
Writers: Tonya Muir, TNovan and XWPFanatic
Episode Five: Back Against the Wall
I take a deep breath as I lean against the Mercedes. The fact that I could have been killed finally started setting in while I was driving home. Good God, working with Harper Kingsley is going to be the death of me. The woman is absolutely insane.
I head for the elevator. I sigh as I ring for the car, and before I have time to blink the doors slide open. Erik steps out and engulfs me in a tight hug. As he plants a soft kiss to my temple, he whispers, "Are you all right?" Too tired too answer him, I just nod as I settle into his strong arms. He leads us back to the elevator, never releasing me from his protective embrace. I don't know or care how he knew to be here at just the right moment.
"Straight back to the penthouse, Richard," he tells the evening operator. "Don't stop for anyone."
"Yes, sir." He nods as he presses the button, glancing briefly at us then turning to the front to stare dutifully at the doors.
"You're not hurt, are you?" Erik whispers again. My ears still ring from the gunshots, and I am grateful for his concern.
"No, I'm not hurt. Just taking a minute to allow my mind and body to catch up with each other." His arms tighten around me and I am so grateful they are there for me, but, then again, they always are. If I were straight, I'd marry this man.
"Take your time, sweetheart. Take your time. I have all night." He gives my temple another kiss.
When the doors slide open, we make our way straight to the living room where I'm deposited on the couch. Erik kneels down in front of me and slides my heels off, gently massaging my feet. Oh yeah, I'd marry him. I might regardless of my sexuality if he keeps this up. I reach out, stroking my fingers through his hair. "Why are you so good to the 'Ice Bitch'?"
He smiles at the nickname. He knows I know most of them, but I think he was surprised that I knew that one. "I'm not. The 'Ice Bitch' doesn't exist for me. She never did. You, Kelsey Stanton, are my best friend and I love you." He drops his head then lifts it, grinning at me. "Like a sister of course."
"Of course." I chuckle as I flex my toes in his very attentive hands. "You keep that up and I'm gonna have an "
"Don't go there. I don't need to know what turns you on, thanks."
"Well, that does. So, umm, stop, will you?"
"Un-huh." He slowly takes his hands from my feet, letting them drop gently to the floor. I should have kept my mouth shut and just enjoyed the ride because I feel alone without his hands on me. "Any chance I could sweet talk you into getting me a drink?"
"Name your poison, love." He stands, waiting for my request.
"Oh, I need a scotch."
"Please." I let my head drop back to the couch, closing my eyes allowing my mind to run through the events of the day.
"Kels, what possessed you to follow her in there?"
"I have no goddammed idea. I must be losing my mind, too." I laugh softly as I feel the glass slide into my hand. It's cold in my grasp, already sweating and making it slightly slippery. "Maybe she has some sort of infectious disease that causes the brain cells of those around her to die out, too. It must be airborne. Something she exhales."
Erik tosses his head back and, through his chuckles, sips his own drink. He drops down to the couch next to me, brushing my hair behind my ear. "Let me take you out to dinner tonight."
I glance over to my best friend. "Where? I'm not in the mood for
Gag in the Bag." This is the California nickname for Jack in the Box.
"Oh, I was thinking somewhere expensive. I can afford it. I got the part." His lips break into a little grin. "My agent called today right before you and crazy lady made the news."
"You little shit!" I laugh and sit up, quickly giving his arm a slap. I am thrilled for him and I know my enthusiasm shows even though I'm drained and exhausted. His blue eyes twinkle with his own happiness. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I just did."
"I mean before now! Erik, I swear. You gotta learn what's important in this life."
"I have, Kels. I needed to make sure you were okay first. Now that I know you are, I want to take you out and celebrate. Celebrate both our good fortunes."
"Just take me some place where Harper Kingsley won't be and I'm there." I set my drink on the table in front of me then wrap my arms around his neck. "Congratulations, Erik. It's wonderful. I'm so glad for you." Pulling back from him, I watch the gentle mirth in his eyes. "So when you're getting that first Oscar, you gonna forget old Kels?"
"Are you kidding? You'll be right there with me, babe. You," he places the tip of his finger to my nose, "are my good luck charm."
* * *
Erik manages to get us reservations at one of our favorite restaurants. The Oak Room is absolutely the type of place I need to be tonight and Erik knows it. It is so far removed from the Harper Kingsleys of the world - refined and elegant -it will be perfect. They don't serve anything that remotely resembles a 'dirty water dog.' God, the thought of that makes my stomach churn more than the fear I felt today.
I have time, Erik is quick to point out, to take a long hot bath and try to relax a little before dinner. As I settle back into the tub I chalk up another reason to keep Erik. Resting against the smooth porcelain tub, I close my eyes. Only to see Harper's blue eyes peering back at me, staring deep inside. "Get out!" I protest aloud as I slap the water and blink my eyes open in the subdued bathroom light. "Leave me alone, you demon spawn from hell." I groan as I lean back again, refusing to close my eyes. I can't even enjoy a bath.
* * *
A knock on my bedroom door makes me forget the argument I'm having with the zipper of my dress. I turn to find Erik. He's dressed in a dark suit with a gray silk tie. He looks fabulous and I envy him. He can jump in the shower, primp for two minutes, get dressed and be gorgeous. It takes me an hour just to decide what to wear.
"Need a hand?"
"Yeah, could you, please?" I offer him my back and feel the zipper slide up, along with the warmth of his knuckles. "Thanks."
"No problem it looked like it was winning."
"It was. I'm still a little off kilter, I guess." I slide on my heels as I check my reflection in the mirror one more time. "Do I look all right?"
"You have to ask?"
"No, I just need to hear you say it." I bat my eyes at him playfully.
"You are the most beautiful thing in my life and if Harper Kingsley isn't more careful with you, I'm gonna kick her ass."
"Erik, two things. One, it's my job now. No more safe anchor desk doing real news. I'm out in the field and I have a feeling that trouble gravitates toward that one. And two, please don't say her name again tonight."
"My lips are sealed." He smiles and offers me his arm.
* * *
Erik is arguing with the host while I stand slightly behind him. Apparently there's some mix up about our reservations but I'm really too tired to pay too much attention. Though I do wonder vaguely who you have to be to get a table in this place if Erik's name isn't good enough.
"Why don't you join us?"
The voice about knocks me down. Even after one day, I'd recognize it anywhere and it is the last sound I want to hear right now.
Erik places himself between Harper and me. It's clear he remembers this morning as well as I do.
"My friends canceled on us," she continues, oblivious to Erik's mood. "We have a table for four."
I step around Erik to look at my nemesis and catch my breath. She's absolutely stunning in a tailored black Armani pantsuit. Her hair is free, long and glossy over her shoulders. I notice belatedly the woman on her arm.
It's not Marion.
Her new date is small in stature but big in breast. I'm imagining she's small in the brain area, as well, but I chastise myself for the stereotype even though her blue eyes appear oddly vacant. She's gorgeous, though, with platinum blonde hair and remarkable features. I feel small here but Erik wraps his arm around my shoulders.
"No, thank you-" I say, starting to make up some excuse. Erik is almost making up some reason why we can't join them.
"Aw, c'mon, Kels," she teases, those blue eyes sparkling. "We've had a rough day, you came here to unwind. Take advantage of the opportunity. It's 9:30. You're not going to get into any other decent restaurant at this hour."
I'm watching her, trying to come up with a suitable response, when she tosses the gauntlet.
"Or aren't you woman enough to sit through a meal with me and act like an adult? I mean, as the future network anchor you're going to be in a lot more hostile interview situations in the future."
Bitch, I groan. A challenge issued from Harper that I just can't walk away from.
"Of course I am," I tell her with a forced smile. "I'm not the problem half of this relationship."
Erik's eyes are wide and he knows that a peaceful and celebratory evening has just flown out the window as we follow the camera woman and her date to a booth near the back.
I end up against the wall across from Harper's date and next to Erik. Unable to control myself, I smile neatly and say, "You didn't introduce your girl for the evening, Harper. I remember Marion from this afternoon, of course."
Erik is groaning; Harper is grinning. The blonde remains quiet but looks slightly puzzled like a Cocker Spaniel. Her hair is kind of the right color for a Cocker Spaniel, too, I realize. I immediately try to erase the image from my mind. It doesn't work.
"Oh, I figured you may have known her already. We met at a gay bar, after all. Lots of famous lesbians there figured you'd been."
I think Erik's eyes may land on the table at any moment. Gaydar or not, I'm not sure how she reached this conclusion about me but I refuse to give her any satisfaction or any reason to think she's right.
I idly note that the Cocker Spaniel looks confused too.
"Can't say I have," I reply in as bored a tone as I can manage. "So is your avoidance of the subject an admission to not knowing her name?"
She grins knowingly but allows me the subject change. "Veronica, please meet my partner - in a non-sexual sense - Kelsey, and her friend Erik."
The blonde extends a hand across the table. "Hi," she says meekly. "It's Victoria, nice to meet you."
I glance to Harper, but the woman has no shame and is grinning rakishly. She shrugs one broad shoulder and picks up her menu. She leans into her date and whispers something in her ear. Whatever she says has Veronica er, Victoria blushing.
"So tell us what happened today, Harper." She turns her low wattage baby blues on the high wattage ones belonging to my infuriating partner.
The last thing I want to hear is a recount of the afternoon. Harper must feel the same way because she actually glances to me and then answers shortly. "Another idiot with a gun, kids getting the shit scared out of them, and me, Kels and my camera. You know. It's been on the news, nothing more to tell."
I'm relieved. I think Erik is, too. He doesn't want to know the nitty-gritty, finding the entire thing too emotional.
"So, tell me, Erik," Harper starts slowly and I know I'm in trouble. "What do you think about Kelsey's career change?"
He clears his throat, sips some water. "I think Chambers is selling her short."
"Did she tell you about the sweet deal, Erik? About the anchor in New York?"
"Sure, she did," he smiles, pats my leg. "We don't have secrets."
"Did she tell you that it's all a fantasy and she has no chance in hell of getting it? They're playing her."
Harper is smiling graciously as if she's talking about the weather and not my life. And I find it just a touch annoying that she's speaking about me as if I'm not here. I point that out. "You don't need to talk around me. I'm right here." I'm trying to smile like she is but I know mine looks more forced.
"And you'll be right here for a long time, Kels," she leans forward. "Right here with me. And there's nothing you can do about it."
I shake my head and turn to Erik who is looking only slightly baffled. He is a good actor. "Harper seems to think that Reeves won't retire. But he will, and my contract assures me the position."
"Did your contract assure you your previous anchor job, Kels?"
I glare at her, her point having been made without any comment necessary from me.
"Obviously not," she smiles smugly. "I sure wouldn't hold my breath on the New York job. But I can recommend a good attorney for you. The one who worked on my contract did a fabulous job. Ive never had any troubles."
"Funny, I don't recall asking you for your help."
Harper shrugs, flags the waiter down to order a bottle of wine.
"So, Harper, tell us about your previous work. The whole field of tabloid camera work must be so exhilarating. And such a respectable position, too."
Victoria, poor girl, nods enthusiastically. "Yes, do tell, Harper. I heard you know Jerry Springer. I just love his show. It's so clever," Sparky turns my direction. "Don't you think?"
I grin, enjoying that her own date is doing the work for me. "Very clever. What about True TV? Now there's a place where someone can build a career."
Victoria agrees. Erik thinks the wallpaper is perhaps the most intricate design he's ever seen, and Harper is looking at me through unexpectedly humored eyes.
"Yes, it was an excellent stepping stone. Now I'm on a network news program. Im only twenty-five years old and am shooting and directing in my field of choice. But thats not nearly as exciting as your promotion, Kels," she's smirking. "I hear you jumped at the chance. We would have settled for Waters."
My blood runs cold, praying there is no truth to that statement. Why had Chambers chosen me for this assignment over Jessica? That pro-change bitch would have been perfect. I know Harpers only taunting me and I hate that it's working. I also hate that shes only twenty-five. Bitch.
"I think you just wanted the opportunity to work with me," Harper says, nodding to the waiter when he shows her the wine label.
"Yes, you're right," I allow, pausing just enough for her eyes to glance my way. "Someone of my caliber doesn't normally have the opportunity to work with someone who has such a history of quality television on her resume."
It's quite clear the night is going to be as horrible as our afternoon. The waiter returns for our orders. Harper smiles at me, giving Erik and I the opportunity to go ahead of her and Sparky. Erik orders his typical pasta dish. I grin at him as he quirks a brow at me, he knows I love pasta but never touch it because it only leads to extra time in the gym. I lean over and whisper in his ear as I play with the lapel of his jacket. "You little shit."
I hear Harper clear her throat. As I turn to face her she gives me a grin and a slight shake of her head as she glances to the waiter. "Care to order? Or would you just prefer to have Erik as an entrée?"
I give Erik a slight pat on the inside of his leg. "Actually hes more of a dessert item."
"Uh-huh," she says dryly.
I glance to Erik as he grins at Harper. "Oh yeah, shes got this thing she does with chocolate."
"Hmm too bad Im allergic." Harper smirks at me again. I notice Sparky gives her another confused look.
I draw a deep breath and give the waiter my order. I can see an embarrassed blush creep into his features as he turns to Harper. "Maam?"
"Ill have the New York Strip medium rare. The lady ."
Using the term loosely Harper?
"Will have the Fettucine Alfredo."
"Harper, maybe, just maybe, Victoria," I glance over at Sparky who smiles at me, (Christ, shes hopeless) "might like to order for herself. Im sure shes capable."
"Actually, whatever Harper thinks will be just fine."
Theres just no helping some people. I shake my head as Harper chuckles and slides her arm around the womans shoulders. "See Kels, some people trust my judgment."
"To each their own." I smile as I sip my wine. Im finally starting to relax. I can play these childish games just as well as my new (oh God how I hate to say this) partner. I just sigh as Erik drapes his arm across our seat allowing his fingertips to graze my shoulder. The gesture doesnt go unnoticed by Harper who quirks a brow.
As I look across the room, I see Calvin Alexander. I give Erik a little nudge to direct his attention to his new employer. "You really should go over and say hello." Erik looks to me, his brows shooting up in silent question. "Ill be fine, darling. Go make nice with Calvin."
"Ah Kels, I do love you so," he whispers as he gives me a soft kiss on the cheek. "Ill be back in a flash."
"Oh, Erik," Harper says to him, but looks at me. "Take your time. Im sure Veronica and I can keep Kels entertained for a few minutes."
Erik stands and buttons his jacket before leaning over to Harper. "Its Victoria. You could at least try to get it right."
As he walks away Harper watches him go then turns back to me. "Presumptuous little shit, isnt he?"
"Hes a caring person. He hates to see people treated badly." I look over to Victoria who it staring intently into her water, completely enthralled by whatever she sees there. Now I understand it: Marion must have had too much in the brains department.
Sparky speaks. "Harper, could you excuse me for just a second. I need to "
Flee! Flee! You poor, stupid woman before she uses you and tosses you away, too. Harper slides out of the booth to allow her to exit, patting Sparkys butt the same way she patted mine today outside of the library. All too soon Harper and I are alone.
"So whats the going rate for a lay these days, Harper? A two hundred dollar dinner?" I sip my wine looking at her over the rim of my glass.
"No; actually, I could have had her for another drink at the bar. I was just in the mood for a nice dinner and some pleasant company. She may not suit your intellectual standards, but she is polite and sweet. You could learn a lot from her."
"Hmm, generally pleasant company means they can string more than two words together at the same time."
"And what about you and Mr. Wonderful? Dont you get tired of playing these silly little games with Erik?"
"Games? Im sure I dont know what you mean."
"Yes, you do, Kelsey Stanton." She leans in on both her arms very nearly coming clear across the table. "The Im straight game. Its bullshit and we both know it. You dont have any more of a relationship with Erik than I do with whats-her-name. The only difference is Im gonna get laid tonight and youre not. Youre gonna go back to your fancy penthouse and get into your big old bed and curl up around your pillow. Must be getting awfully lonely there, Kels. I bet its been a long time since youve been held in the warm embrace of a lover. An even longer time since you fell asleep with your head resting on someones shoulder while they held you and caressed you, worshipping your body with their fingertips."
I hope that the lust Im feeling isnt showing on my face as I smile at her. "My life with Erik is none of your goddamned business. We have a perfectly marvelous relationship and I would like to invite you to get the hell out of my bedroom."
Harper leans back giving me her trademark smirk as she lifts her wineglass to her lips. "Yeah, I figured as much. Truth hurts doesnt it, Kels?"
God, I hate this woman.
Harper smiles at my silence and runs a finger along the rim of her glass. "Dont worry, Kels. Your secrets safe with me."
Thankfully, Erik returns. Apparently, he heard the last of her words. "What secret is that?" he asks amicably as he takes his seat beside me. "Alexander says hello."
I look over to where the meaty man is leering at me and give him a meek smile and a slight wave. He grins and winks before turning his attention back to his own group and Im grateful. I only feel able to handle one problem at a time.
"The secret about Kels being gay and your relationship being a sham," Harper says helpfully. Id been hoping his question would be dropped. I should have known better.
Erik hesitates a moment too long as he meets my gaze. I cant blame him, I know that hes trying to see if Ive admitted as much to this woman. When he sees no such indication, he turns back to Harper and is grinning slightly.
"I understand why you would want her to be gay, Ms. Kingsley. Who wouldnt want Kelsey? What I dont understand is how people can jump to conclusions that are so obviously incorrect." He leans forward while wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "I can assure you that Kelsey is absolutely heterosexual," Erik raises an eyebrow suggestively. "I have the scratches on my back to prove it."
Well, okay. That may have been over the top but inside Im grinning. Harper seems temporarily stymied but I can tell shes not completely convinced. She gracefully changes the subject when Veronica ... Sparky ... whoever the hell she is returns from the facilities.
Sliding out to let her date into the booth, she moves a large tanned hand over the other womans body with more than a hint of possessiveness. "So, how are the restrooms in a swank place like this?"
Sparkys eyes seem to shine as she grins. "There was music playing in there! And a woman handing out towels. I used some of the perfume they had by the sink." She offers her wrists to Harper to smell. The tall woman obliges, taking a nip of the skin as well, making her companion blush and her eyes go dark with desire.
Ugh. There goes my libido again.
"Good choice of wines," Erik compliments, trying to get back to mundane chit-chat. Thank God, it works.
Shortly, our meals come and we eat them with minimal conversation. Harper seems to have turned her attention from torturing me to teasing her date. The heat coming from the other side of the table is almost smothering.
Despite my silent pleas and dagger looks, Erik orders dessert, dragging this meal out longer than necessary. I, of course, decline. Im not the bottomless pit he seems to be and everything I eat manages to find its way to my hips in no time flat. Sparky and Harper appear to be closer to Eriks constitution and they each order something sweet to finish the meal. I satisfy myself with a cup of tea.
Finally, we are waiting for the check and I excuse myself to use the restroom. Sparkys friend hands me a towel and I freshen up before stepping out into the short hallway off the front entrance.
Its dark and out of direct view of the main restaurant and this provides some excellent cover. Suddenly, Im pressed up against the wood paneling behind me and my eyes meet the dark lapels of an Armani. Slowly, my eyes scan up a well-muscled column of a tanned neck, past full lips, to sparkling blue jewels.
Harper is pressing me fully into the wall, I can feel her body hot and firm against me. She parts my legs with one of hers and raises it as much as she can given the length of my dress. She makes up for the restriction by tilting her hips and making sound contact with me. Oh, God.
Her breath is laced with wine and I wonder if shes had too much. I also wonder, idly, if Ill actually stop her should she try to pursue anything. (As if this isnt pursuing anything.) The feeling of her against me is exquisite, those hooded luminous eyes captivating. Its times like these that I regret my lifestyle choice.
She moves her leg slowly, rubbing against me, causing tingles to run up and down my spine. I know, in the part of my brain thats still functioning, that I need to make a decision to let her in or push her out. I realize there is no reason, aside from the obvious and raging lust, to let her in on my well-kept secret. This rationalization wins out. Logic always does.
"Get off of me," I grit out between my teeth, raising my hands and pushing at her broad shoulders. "I think youve had too much to drink, Harper."
"Ive had just enough," she disagrees with a smile. But she is moving away from me. Thank God. Another few seconds and my resolve would have crumbled. It has been far too long since I got laid.
My body is cold without her against it and I shiver involuntarily. This only makes her grin broader.
She runs a hand up my body from waist, over my breast, along my jawline, to brush against my cheek. "Some day, Kels. And, I promise you, I wont leave you wanting." Then, with a wink and a leer, Harper disappears into the womens restroom, leaving me panting and helpless with the wall as my only support.
I push away from the paneling and straighten my dress. Its all I can do to collect Erik with a minimum of words and no explanation to Sparky before we are on the sidewalk. We head towards the Mercedes where it waits patiently on the curb half a block away.
"What happened?" Erik asks, his arm around my shoulders, his voice confused.
I shake my head, not wishing to talk about it even to my best friend. Not sure that I can talk about it.
"I didnt even pay, Kels. We ran out and stuck her with the check."
"Good," I say and I mean it. She deserves it. Shes such a confident, pompous bitch. How in the hell did I get into this mess?
Erik opens my door and settles me comfortably in the passenger side before trotting around to slide behind the wheel. "Kelsey, you know I love you," he says as he pulls away, starting our short drive home. Theres a but coming, I know it. "But," he doesnt disappoint me, "you are a different person around her. What is it about her? I know shes a cad and shameless, but youre above that, honey. Why does it eat at you so?"
I shrug my shoulders and settle more deeply into my leather seat.
"You dont want to talk about it?"
I shake my head. He catches the movement out of the corner of his eyes and he nods.
"Okay. But if you do, you know Im here."
I reach over and pat his knee. I do know that.
Its just too hard to admit that I dont know whether to rip her clothes off or kill her.
© 1999 Exposure Productions. All rights reserved. The Content is protected in the U.S. and internationally by a variety of laws, including but not limited to, copyright laws and treaty provisions, and other proprietary rights laws.
You are hereby granted permission to receive a copy of the Content from the mailing list in whole or in part, (and, except where otherwise specified or provided by Exposure Productions, print a single copy of the Content for your own personal use) but only for purposes of viewing and browsing through the Content. You are also hereby granted permission to store the files on your computer for your own personal use. All other use of Content from the mailing list, including, but not limited to modification, publication, transmission, participation in the transfer or sale of, reproduction, creation of derivative works from, distribution, performance, display, incorporation into another web site, reproducing the Content (whether by linking, framing or any other method), or in any other way exploiting any of the Content, in whole or in part, for uses other than those expressly permitted may not be made without Exposure Productions prior express written consent.
Return to The Main Exposure Web Site