Authors: Willa Thorne
I don’t remember very much from my visit to the hospital after I fell down the stairs at Jax Rochester’s Masquerade. I was incoherent for most of it, even though I only spent one night at the hospital. The doctors told me that I suffered a concussion, bruised ribs, and a sprained ankle. They told me I was very fortunate. Things were foggy for the first week, and even then, I didn’t want people fussing over me. Still, I was glad when mom spent that next week with me, and even Travis was able to get some time off work to spend in New York. Everything was a haze during that brief point in my life.
I was on painkillers and I felt confused as to whether someone
pushed me down the stairs or if it was a figment of my imagination- a product of the haze I was going through. Had I dreamt it? Did I have too much to drink that night? I couldn’t be certain about it either way. I had sporadic nightmares that I was pushed down a flight of stairs, falling, falling… and then I’d wake up in a cold sweat. The dreams were so occasional, however. I was still bruised and hurting when I went to the doctor for my follow-up visit after the accident. I told him about my dreams.
My doctor spoke to me as though I was five years old. “Sometimes trauma can be relived through abstract dreams. You slipped and fell down the stairs and were injured. It is very natural to experience dreams about falling, or being pushed...” After that visit, my dreams stopped, so I didn’t pay them anymore mind.
One thing that was for certain- the media had a field day with the incident that happened at Jax Rochester’s party. Everyone who was someone was in attendance that night, and several people whipped out their cell phones to snap pictures of me being carted out on a stretcher. I actually made the gossip sections of the papers- me, Jillian Pryor! I spent most of my life being invisible and suddenly I was the hot topic for gossip. It was overwhelming. There was a lot of speculation as to what happened that night, according to the damn gossip blogs. My favorite rumor was:
NYU Gold-Digger Tries to Kill Herself After Being Dumped by Mason Woodward!
I wasn’t used to being the target of that kind of gossip and it hurt. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was also drugged from pain killers and not in a right state of mind to deal with that sort of nonsense. Piper took me under her wing once I was released from the hospital, and then told me that Mason’s lawyer got involved with the papers and threatened a lawsuit for invasion of my privacy. The rumors stopped, and I silently thanked Mason for getting involved, but I had a really difficult time letting go of his previous scheming and manipulation.
My thoughts were interrupted by the beep of the intercom. I exhaled deeply and took a second to compose myself before I picked up the phone to answer the page.
“Yes, Dr. Rochester?” I asked. Even after a month of working as the new part-time receptionist in Piper’s thriving practice, it felt strange calling her Dr. Rochester.
“Jillian, Mr. Collins is on his way to the front desk to book a session for next week. Make sure you leave Fridays open. Thank you.”
“Of course,” I replied and then placed the phone back on the receiver.
“Hello again, Jillian,” Mr. Collins approached the desk with a warm smile. He wore an expensive charcoal suit, and his dark blond hair was slicked back. He was thirty-nine, very successful, very handsome and very troubled. His appointments have already been lined up for the next month, and I knew the real reason why he was stopping by the front desk.
“Good evening, Mr. Collins,” I gave him a very friendly and professional smile. I looked at the computer screen as I double-checked his appointment schedule. “I have you down for Thursday at three o’clock next week.”
“Wonderful, thank you, Jillian.” He gave another smile.
“Are the email reminders working for you? If not, I will call you the day before to remind you. I know your schedule is very demanding.”
“The emails only get lost in the abyss of other emails I have.” He fished into his leather wallet and pulled out a business card and scrawled a number down on the crisp, rectangular cream color. “Call that number to confirm.”
“Alright, thank you.”
number. Feel free to call anytime.” There was something very dark behind those eyes. Why do I seem to attract men who are deeply troubled?
“Um. Okay. I will be sure to call the number and confirm your appointments.” I wasn’t sure how I should respond to this obvious flirting.
I turned toward the computer screen and entered the number he wrote down on his business card. I turned back to him and I could see a flicker of disappointment in his dark blue eyes while I remained as professional as possible.
“You’re all set, Mr. Collins. Thank you for updating your contact number. We’ll see you on Thursday at three o’clock.”
He nodded with a tight smile and then left the office. He was the second client of Piper’s who has tried to blatantly flirt with me, just within a month of my employment there. He’d only just started his therapy sessions about a month ago, and he stopped by the desk every week religiously to say hi, if nothing else. I neither wanted nor needed to get involved with any of Piper’s patients. It was also completely unethical, and I had enough trouble trying to keep Mason out of my mind.
Speaking of the devil…
I turned back to the screen on the desk and maximized the online Financial News column I’d been reading on Mason Woodward before I got caught up in schedule reminders, emails and faxes. The column spoke of his hotel company’s expansion to Las Vegas. Mason is not an A-List celebrity, and it’s only been very recent that he started making headlines in gossip blogs and papers. He is hot as sin and his family’s legacy has maintained its mark in the corporate world internationally. A combination like this will always leave room for gossip in the tabloid sections.
The office was now empty. It was a Friday, nearing five o’clock, we were now closed, and it was also my birthday. I could afford a quick peak of the webpage before Piper spotted me.
Why do I torment myself with this?
Because I loved him, and against my better judgement, my body still craves him. It’s pathetic.
My memories of his touch came crashing down when the headline screamed at me. It had been posted within the last hour. Under the headline was a picture of Mason walking with a tall, beautiful woman. She was looking away from the camera with her chin held high in the air. Even in the photograph, I could see that she possessed an air of grace and etiquette that I will never have. She wore a mint green, quarter sleeve dress and her copper hair was pulled into a twist beneath her large, fancy hat. Mason’s hands were shoved into the pockets of his dark gray business suit. His gaze was fixed directly on the photographer, and was as tempestuous as the Spring storm looming just outside. There was such fury in his eyes, as though he might murder the photographers.
Heir to J.A. Woodward & Company Might Be The Perfect Match for Meadows Heiress.
Despite the fact that both individuals seemed to be completely disconnected and lacked any kind of chemistry, I could not help but feel a sharp pang of jealousy and resentment.
Pain. This is how it felt to be gutted.
If this had been the only gossip spread on the pair, I’d just brush it off as speculation. But now, there were photographs. In the last few weeks, they’d popped up in articles in the financial sections as well as arts and culture sections as they attended fancy horse shows and galas. Shit like that. It really hurt. I shouldn’t be feeling this way, though. I’m the one who told him to leave me alone.
No, I shouldn’t want this. I can’t want him.
I brushed those thoughts from my mind as I followed Piper out of the office. We were going out to celebrate my birthday and support Jackson’s newest club opening, which also happened to fall on my birthday. I had never been to a club before, and I was dragging Elyse with us.
At around seven p.m., Elyse met us at Piper’s apartment, which had been my home for the last six weeks. The tunes of Skylar Grey played in the background, floating from the stereo in the living room of Piper’s apartment. I was sitting at the polished glass dining table with Elyse, who spontaneously decided I needed a makeover for the evening’s festivities.
“Stop laughing!” Elyse scolded me as she tickled my face with the blusher brush.
I tried to calm my giggling and took a deep breath of air. “Sorry.” I scrunched my nose as one last giggle escaped and then cleared my throat.
“All finished. Take a look.” Elyse held up her compact mirror.
I gazed at my reflection and saw a flushed face, glossy red lips and smoky eye shadow.
“Elyse, No. I don’t even recognize myself!”
“Babe, you look hot! Trust me.” Elyse assured me. She left me at the table and walked a few steps into the living room, where she turned up the volume on the speakers and began dancing to the music.
I grinned as I watched Elyse sway to music that played from the surround sound speakers. She wore a form fitting dress in a shade she liked to refer to as
. It was a joke, because Elyse was anything but a slut. She’d already had a couple of glasses of wine and had kicked off her heels. It was awesome to see her so relaxed,
I watched her look at me over her shoulder with a playful grin as she moved her hips, and I gave a laugh.
“Are you trying to seduce me?” I joked.
“Maybe,” she grinned with a tease as she continued to shake her ass in a way that
made me blush.
“Please tell me you’re
going to dance like that tonight. You’ll have the men drooling all over you.” I arched a brow in her direction.
“They can look, but they’ll never touch. I don’t need a man.” She stopped her dancing and strutted across the living room and dug through her denim bag. “Who needs a man when I have a rabbit?”
I laughed. “You and your sex toys…”
“It’s no joke, babe.” She held out an unopened, bright pink vibrator in glossy plastic packaging. “The only time this thing will let you down is if you need another set of double A’s. These babies will never lie to you, reject you, betray you or use you in some
pathetic college bet
.” She gritted her teeth as she added that last part bitterly, and then tossed the package to me.
I caught the package with a giggle.
I could use this tonight if Mason comes to mind- No! No!
I banished any traitorous thoughts coming from that direction.
“Thanks!” I grinned.
We were waiting for Piper to finish getting ready, and then we were going to our favorite Mexican restaurant for tacos and mojitos before heading over to Jackson’s new club in Midtown.
“So…” Elyse got that curious tone in her voice.
Oh no, I can feel it coming.
“Have you heard from Mason lately? Is he planning on showing up at his cousin’s club tonight?”
My heart fluttered sorely in my chest. “No, Piper said he’s still in London.” I was both disappointed and relieved that he would not be showing up tonight.
Elyse looked at me silently. I knew what she was thinking. I never told her what happened between me and Mason. She had no idea that he had planned to use me for revenge, or that he printed surveillance photos of us having sex to mail to my brother. She was confused about the whole situation, and why I couldn’t talk about it. I suppose I never mentioned it because I didn’t want to draw extra attention to that horrible subject…
“Do you have any gum?” Elyse asked, attempting to change the subject and lighten the moment.
“Yeah, it’s in my bag,” I pointed to the faux leather bag I bought on a street corner to replace the designer bag Mason had purchased for me.
“Great, thanks.” Elyse wasted no time opening my bag as she looked for the mint gum I always carried with me. “I don’t see it.”
“It’s in the side pocket,” I said as I crossed the room to locate it for her. My bag was an endless abyss of necessities. She looked through my bag, and then suddenly froze.
“Jill…” Her voice trailed as she pulled out one-half of the ripped check I had hidden in there.
Oh, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
It had been buried in the bottom and I had forgotten about it…
“Jill, what is this?” Elyse asked me. There were deep etches of concern in her blue eyes. Her brow was furrowed.
I went to swipe it out of her hand, but she dodged away from me and looked at the paper. She studied the half of the check that had the amount for two million dollars scribbled, along with the signature from Mason’s father, James Woodward.
She looked at me, her blue eyes searching for answers. “I keep quiet about a lot of things, but this…? What is this?”
I swallowed hard and looked toward Piper’s bedroom door. The door was still closed while she was getting ready.