Authors: Avery James
“Don’t tell Amy and Ethan.”
“If they’re mad at me, I can handle it,” Callie said.
“No, I bet Ethan a hundred bucks that you and Logan would hit it off.”
“You bet him on whether or not we’d date?”
“Don’t be silly. The bet was on whether or not you’d sleep with him.”
“I see,” Vi said. “Never mind what I said. What happened between you two that you don’t want to talk about?”
“Things got serious between us, and he couldn’t handle it. He pushed me away.”
“Do you still have feelings for him?” Vi asked.
Callie paused for a moment. “Of course I have feelings for him. Those feelings happen to be anger and resentment at the moment.”
“Anger is but the reflection of passion,” Vi said. “Do you like him?”
“Yes,” Callie replied.
“So why did you give up so easily?” she asked. “I’m old enough to know that unless a man is running a dog fighting ring or running the Philippines, you owe him and yourself a chance to talk things out.”
“The Philippines?” Callie asked. “Do I even want to know?”
Vi sighed. “He was married, and a dictator. I knew from the start it wouldn’t last.”
Callie shook her head. “I don’t know. I started imagining a future with Logan, and then, as soon as the bill passed, he pushed me away, like he wanted me gone.”
“Do you think he wanted you gone?” Vi asked.
“No I think he was afraid. And now he has every excuse to go back to his old habits.”
“Speaking of being afraid, I should let you know that your sister wasn’t exactly happy with you.”
“Doesn’t she know I’m here?” Callie asked.
“She’s about to,” Vi said. She reached over and pushed the door open. “Before you make nice with your boyfriend, you should probably patch things up with your sister.”
Callie took a deep breath and stood up. “You couldn’t have told me this before?” she asked.
“You’d never have come down,” Vi said as she pushed herself up from her chair. She turned to the open doorway. “Amy, someone’s here to see you.”
Callie followed her aunt through the doorway. Amy sat in her hospital bed, cradling her baby in her arms. Her husband sat by her side, running one hand through her hair and smiling down at their son. Callie looked down at the floor. A shaft of sunlight streamed in through the plate glass window. The TV in the corner of the room was tuned to some morning news show, and Callie could hear the low buzz of the newscasters bantering back and forth. Before she looked down, she had seen the way Amy and Ethan and their child looked like a family, like a complete unit. As she stood there, Callie felt like she was intruding on their happiness, dragging in her cloud of failure and sadness. “Hey sis,” she said.
“Callie,” Amy said softly, “you made it.”
Another wave of emotion washed over Callie, and she struggled to hold back her tears.
She nodded yes and looked up at her sister. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here earlier.”
“You’re here now,” Amy said. She motioned to Callie. “Come meet your nephew.”
Callie walked over to the bedside and looked down at the baby cradled in her sister’s arms, his little nose and his puffy little eyelids as he slept under Amy’s careful watch. She felt an overwhelming mixture of happiness for her sister, and grief that she wouldn’t have anything like this with Logan. “Hi little guy,” Callie whispered. She wiped the warm tears from her cheek and she looked back up to Amy. “I’m so sorry. I was a jerk,” she said.
“You were,” Amy said, “but I just went through twelve hours of labor, and I don’t have the energy or interest to be mad at you.”
“I thought maybe you’d say you were wrong too,” Callie said. She laughed, and Amy chuckled too.
“When have I ever said that?” she said. “I’m sorry I yelled. And I’m sorry for what I said.
“You’re ok,” Amy said. She looked down at her son. “I have a feeling I’m in for more than I can handle.”
“Well, since you fired me, I have all the time in the world to help out.”
“If you think you’re getting off that easy,” Amy said, “you’re in for a rude awakening.” As she finished her sentence, Caleb started to cry. “Ok,” she added, “I think we’re all in for a rude awakening. Rich and the rest of the team will be waiting for you at the office. When things calm down a bit, we’ll find a few new additions to make up for all of the changes. I’ve been thinking about how we can attract the right people to join our team.”
“Good,” Callie said. “There’s just one thing I have to do before I go back to work.” She waited for Amy to reply, but realized that she was looking down at her son. Callie walked over and gave Amy a hug. “I’ll be back in the office tomorrow.”
Amy kept her concentration on her son. “Sounds great to me,” she said. “As your sister and your business partner, it’s good to have you back.”
Callie looked down at Caleb. “You behave yourself until you’re at least 21, ok?” she said.
“If he takes after his father,” Vi said, “it will take a great deal longer than that.”
“What happens if he takes after his great aunt?” Amy asked.
“If that happens,” Vi said, “God help us all.”
“You always get the last word, don’t you?” Callie asked. She couldn’t help but smile.
“Callie,” Vi said, leaning in towards her, “when you get to be my age, any word might be the last.” She winked. “Go make things right,” she whispered.
Callie hugged everyone goodbye, left her sister to her happy scene and headed on her way. Once she was outside the hospital, she called Rich. “I need you to help me with something a little bit outside the scope of what we normally do. I’ll make sure you get your usual compensation.” Callie found it worked best to get his attention with the promise of fried breakfast foods before continuing on to business.
“Hey, boss. What’s the job?” Rich asked.
“I don’t need to know how, but I need you to get me everything you can find on Veronica Jones.”
“Veronica Jones?” Rich asked.
“Yeah, we’re taking her down,” Callie said. She was doing this for Logan, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy herself in the process.
Callie didn’t care if Logan didn’t want her around; she wasn’t about to be the reason he let everything fall apart. A little over a month ago, she had been flying to Newport against her will, hoping to finish things quickly enough that she could fit in a vacation for herself on the side. Now, she sat by herself in an otherwise empty row in business class, headed. She spent the flight picking exactly the words she wanted to say, and then she practiced them. She practiced them as she got off the plane, as she got into the cab and even as she walked up to the door. When she finally knocked, her mind went blank.
“Hello?” Veronica Jones stood in the doorway and looked more than a little confused. “Can I help you?”
Callie shook her head. “You can’t help me, but you can help someone else for me.”
“I heard about your messy breakup with Logan,” Veronica shot back, “Word travels fast, you know.”
“Are you going to let me in?” Callie asked. “I’m not here to yell at you. I’m not here to try to change anything that happened in Newport. I’m just asking you to think about the effect of your actions before you release that tape.”
“Is that really why you’re here?” Veronica said. “After what he did to you? I thought you were here to tell me you had lined up the New York times to drag his name through the mud or something like that. You’re really here to try to help him?”
“He really didn’t put you up to this somehow?” Veronica asked.
“As far as I’m concerned, he and I are done forever. I just want to make things right,” Callie said.
“You’re even crazier than he is, you know that?”
“What are you talking about?” Callie asked. “I just want to give him a chance at a clean start. He deserves it. Yeah, he made mistakes in the past, but he knows it, and he doesn’t need people like you dragging him down for their own gain.”
Veronica shrieked with laughter. She leaned in toward Callie like a cat who had just come across an injured mouse.“I knew this would happen. I warned him, and I tried to do you a favor by scaring you off, and you didn’t listen, and then he broke your heart anyway. If he had just listened to me, and hadn’t tried to be something he wasn’t, you’d be back in some picture perfect office where you belong. I tried to do the right thing, sweetie, but now I get to do what I want. Did you think you could win him back?”
“I don’t know, but I know he needs someone to believe in him for once.”
“Guys like Logan get second chances all the time. Hell, you can hardly call it a second chance when he’s already done this a hundred times.”
Callie glared at Veronica. She knew that she couldn’t make her see the good in him or explain to her how right it felt to be in his arms or how kind he had been to complete strangers. Veronica wasn’t going to listen to any of that. She had known it since before she had left to meet with her. Callie realized that Veronica was the one who was like all of her clients, impulsive, arrogant and respectful only of power. “I want you to know, first and foremost that this isn’t business. This is personal,” Callie said.
“Usually people say that the other way around.”
“I’m not most people,” Callie said. “This means everything to me. Please, do the right thing. If you release that tape, you’ll ruin him. It will devastate me. You have the power to fix all of this in an instant. Logan pushed me away because he thought he’d let me down. He thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the disgrace of what was about to happen, but I’d have gladly gone through all of it if it meant having him by my side, if it meant that I could spend every day of the rest of my life with him. But that’s over and done.”
“Hmm, let me think about it,” Veronica said. “Ok, I’ve made up my mind. No.”
“Fine, if you’re not going to do this for me, and you’re not going to do this for him, do it for yourself.”
“If you think I haven’t been doing everything for myself this whole time, you need your head checked, hun.”
“I’m serious. Have you ever ruined someone’s life before? Do you want to be that person? I get it. You’re trying to change your image. You’re trying to cement your new edgy reputation and sign a new contract, but ask yourself if it’s really worth it.”
Veronica looked at her and leaned back against the arm of her couch. “I never thought of it that way,” she said. “I guess you’re right.”
“Really?” Callie asked. She couldn’t believe this was working. Everything would be so much easier if Veronica just agreed to destroy the tape.
“Haha, no,” Veronica said.
“Did you really think that little bleeding heart routine was going to work on me? Does it work on your politicians and businessmen?”
“It was worth a try,” Callie said.
“Sure,” Veronica said, she mocked a long yawn. “Gee, it’s been fun, Callie, but I think I have a scandal to break. Thanks for reminding me.”
Callie reached into her bag and placed her hand on a file. “Are you sure you don’t want to help?” she asked. She couldn’t wait for Veronica to say no.
Veronica didn’t reply. She just rolled her eyes and walked over to her table to pour herself a drink.
Callie cleared her throat. “Boob job,” she said.
Veronica placed her glass down and turned around. “Did you just call me a boob job?” she asked.
“I said that you had a boob job.”
“Liposuction. Before and after photos. Pretty nasty stuff. There’s more, of course. Should we get into how you got your first contract?” Callie shook her head is disapproval. “No wonder you think it’s such a good idea to use sex for personal gain. Were you even eighteen at that point? You know what, maybe you shouldn’t answer that.” Callie pulled the papers out of her bag and started flipping through them. “I didn’t even know butt implants were a thing. There’s so much more here. I want to be clear. If you release that tape of Logan, I will make it my foremost task in life to make sure you’re miserable. I should add that Allen Griswold, the head of your label, has close ties to several of our clients, and the president of American Radio Media Corp is one of those friends. If you decide to go after anyone I care about, including Logan, I will make sure this ‘big album’ of yours is your last.”
“That’s quite the speech,” Veronica said.
“Trust me when I say I’m just getting started. Every embarrassing or terrible thing you’ve done, I know. And if you leak that tape, I will hound you for the rest of your life. It will be my new hobby. Leave it alone and I’ll forget about all of this. I’ll pretend none of this ever happened. All you have to do is make one little promise not to release the tape.”
Veronica looked at Callie for a moment, like she was deciding whether or not to take a swing at her. “I underestimated you. I really didn’t think you had the balls to play dirty.” she finally said after a long silence. Her eyes widened a bit as she tilted her head and nodded. “We should be friends.”
Was she serious?
There was no scenario in which they could be friends. Callie cleared her throat. “Are you saying you won’t release the tape?”
“I’ll have a hit record without it anyway. Remember that when you hear me on the radio.”
Callie would have been more than happy to never hear Veronica again. “If we’re done, I have to go. Goodbye Veronica.” Callie turned around and marched back to the elevator. She had done it. She had crossed the line to do so, but she had taken care of Veronica’s threat once and for all. So why didn’t she feel good? Callie felt a hollow pit of loneliness inside. She just wanted to call Logan and tell him what she had done. She wanted to see that conspiratorial smile of his as she told him how she never knew she could do something like that. He was free to start his life again. She just wished that he’d do so by her side.