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Authors: Abigail Barnette

The Girlfriend (The Boss)

BOOK: The Girlfriend (The Boss)
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The Girlfriend

Abigail Barnette

Copyright © 2013 Abigail Barnette

All rights reserved.

This book wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless efforts of Deelylah Mullin, who always brings cake at exactly the right time.

CHAPTER ONE

When you're pregnant by your billionaire ex-boss with whom you've just had an ambiguous break-up, you need your best friend to get through it all.

Unfortunately, mine was headed for Paris, for fittings and run throughs for Elie Saab's runway show. I was so proud of Holli, and so freaked out at the same time. We’d lived together since our first semester of college. The longest we'd been apart had been for a few days, visiting family. Now, I wouldn't see her for four weeks, as she was immersed in a media blitz carefully orchestrated by her brilliant agency.
 

Everything seemed to have exploded for Holli overnight. Not only would she be walking in her first fashion week show, she'd also be featured in the pages of French
Vogue.
The side-trip to London, to be interviewed for a BBC documentary about body image, was going to be the thing that pushed her over the top, I knew, even if she was trying not to pin too many hopes on the next month.

I was bursting with happiness for her, but I have to admit I was slightly bumming myself out by comparing our situations. It was difficult, though; her career was taking off like a rocket, and mine had burnt up on reentry.

“Baby, you are gonna miss your flight,” Deja, Holli's girlfriend, called out with the certainty of a mother telling her kids they were going to miss the school bus. I didn't envy her the task of trying to herd Holli to the airport.

Dressed head to toe in sleek, sexy black, from the very professional cut of her blazer to the very rock star chic matte leather pants she wore, Deja could have been a model, herself. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a sleek, low ponytail, and her brown skin shone beneath what I suspected was Smashbox Soft Lights bronzer.

Former assistant beauty editor skills died hard.

“She’s already packed, unpacked, and repacked six times,” I said, looking up from my bowl of cereal to nod toward Holli's bedroom. I stood beside the refrigerator in the same pajamas I had been wearing for the past four days, trying really hard to not be miserable in front of Deja. She still worked for my possibly-ex-boyfriend-slash-definite-baby-daddy, Neil Elwood, successful publishing magnate and idiot man-child billionaire.

That was just the kind of resentment I couldn't express in front of her. I really didn't want to put her in the middle of anything. I had been the moron who'd dated my boss; why should Deja suffer awkwardness as a consequence?

But, I guess it’s impossible to not look miserable when you haven't showered since before your maybe-ex’s emergency hospitalization. Deja’s big, dark eyes filled with sympathy as she looked at me. “Still haven't heard from him?”

In my anger leaving the hospital the night of our kind-of breakup, I'd asked Neil to give me a few days to cool off. Or think. Or something. I'd been faced with the choice of taking a job with my old boss's new magazine on the condition that I discontinue my involvement with Neil, who was currently running
Porteras—
the magazine I used to work for— into the proverbial ground. Neil had given me an ultimatum. Okay, maybe it had been a reality check. He'd said that if I turned down a job to be with him, I was making a commitment whether I called it that or not, and he was right. But everything had been moving so fast between us, I’d panicked. And now I had no idea what was going on with him, because he was still in the damn hospital and I’d told him not to call me until he got out.

Deja had fed me what information she could, but all anyone at
Porteras
had been told was that Neil had been hospitalized for exhaustion. Which was the stupidest excuse in the book, and totally transparent to anyone who knew Neil. The man didn't get “exhausted.” Once, we'd gone for a seven-mile run together, only to come back and have aggressive sex in the shower. I'd barely been able to stand; he hadn't seemed even slightly winded.

I shrugged, repeating what I’d told Deja and Holli every day since Monday morning, when I’d filled them in on the details. “No, but it's okay. I'm using this time to process. Anyway, I have to go get showered and dressed. I have a doctor appointment today, about the—“ I gestured to my stomach.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Deja offered. “I can swing back over after I drop Holli off at the airport.”

Deja had a car. I didn't know anyone else who was our age who had a car in the city. God, she was so cool.

I waved her off. “No, I'll be fine. It'll all be fine. I'm just going to say goodbye to Holli.”

I knocked on the door to Holli’s room before I pushed it open. She was standing in front of her clothing rack, skimming through the few items she hadn't packed yet.

Holli was tall, blonde, and skinny. Not slender, not thin, but straight up skinny, due to a metabolic disorder. She'd given her genetic problem a big “fuck you” by turning it into a modeling career.
 

I grinned at the way she paused, two boots from two different pairs held up before her as she turned to face me. “Which ones?”

“The left.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “My left, or your left?”

“Whichever one you prefer.” We'd already had about seventeen similar conversations about what should go to Paris and what should stay behind. “I have to start getting ready for my big day. Can I get a goodbye hug, or do I stink too much?”

“You stink too much,” she said, dropping both the mismatched boots into her enormous suitcase. She rounded the end of her bed and lunged at me, arms open.

Holli's room is exactly like Holli: a lot of weird crammed into a tiny space. A tangle of Christmas lights illuminated the mosquito net canopy over her bed, and the walls were covered with pictures of various celebrities she found hot or envied. I didn't know why there were so many photos of George W. Bush, but I rarely questioned these things, considering their origin.

She hugged me with surprising strength and said, “I’m really sorry I can't be here for you. If there was any way—”
 

“Don’t even think like that. I'm going to be fine. I'll still be here when you get back.” This was Holli's big break. Way more important than my stupid relationship drama.

“I love you.” She was wiping away tears when she stepped back. Her eyes were heavily lined, so she had to be really careful as she did so. Tall, wisp-thin, her gorgeous blonde hair pulled into a high ponytail; she was going to look like a movie star walking through JFK. I wished I could have gone to see her off.

It was better that just Deja was going. The two of them had gotten super close, super fast, and now they were going to be separated for a month. That had to be a brutal blow. I had a feeling if Deja was going to drop the L-bomb, it would be at the airport, and I so, so wanted them to admit they were in love.

Someone had to have the fairy tale, right?

“I love you, too. Now get your ass moving, you're really going to miss your plane!” I left her room before she could see the tears in my eyes.

In the shower, I mentally prepped myself for my appointment. I’d done plenty of internet research already. Even though I’d decided not to the keep the baby, I still had tons of choices to make.

After a lot of internal debating, I’d decided I wanted an ultrasound. Not because I was so keen to see the fetus, but because I was having a hard time believing any of this was actually true. I needed tangible evidence. When I’d scheduled my appointment, I had to request the procedure because the receptionist didn’t ask me either way. That was unexpectedly comforting. I was worried that New York might have been one of the states that required a woman to look at an ultrasound image before an abortion. I was relieved to learn that this was not the case, and I could always change my mind about looking at it when I got there. But for right now, I wanted hard proof that this was really happening to me.

I’d also weighed the pros and cons of medical versus surgical abortion. While the medical abortion just required taking a dose of medicine rather than the more invasive surgical option, I didn’t know that I could cope with the waiting period between swallowing the pill and the abortion happening. I wanted to take an aggressive approach and have everything over quickly. I weighed that against the discomfort of a minor outpatient surgery procedure, and decided I was comfortable with the balance.

Mainly, I just wanted everything to be done, so I could move on with my life. Now that I knew it was pregnancy symptoms and not stress-sickness I was suffering from, I felt, well... pregnant. And I hated it. I hated knowing that there was a ticking clock, hated being forced into a quick decision.

And I hated, really, really hated, that I would have to tell Neil and involve him in the process. It was bad enough our relationship was in limbo, but now he had some horrible health scare thing going on. I didn't want to add to that, but there was no way I would be able to live with myself if I didn't tell him. The guilt would destroy me, and whatever chance we might have together.

I hoped we did have a chance. That was the worst part. The pregnancy had come at the worst possible time. My epic fuck up with
Porteras
had knocked us off our balance, and I think he finally realized that even though we'd met six years ago, we’d really only known each other for a short time. Maybe we were more in love with the ideal versions of one another that we’d created in our heads. Now that we'd had the “maybe we should break up” conversation, could we ever repair our relationship again?

I didn’t want to make the wrong decision and keep the baby just to see if I could keep Neil, too. I didn't entirely trust myself on that one, considering the fact I had Googled strollers the night before. But a baby didn't solve anything. It would just create more problems, and until the moment I faced this pregnancy, I had never once imagined I would have kids.

Neil’s last romantic relationship had fallen apart because his ex-wife had wanted children, and he hadn’t. Granted, there had also been the hint of ulterior motive there; she’d only wanted kids after a clause in their prenup had assured her hefty child support payments. With that in mind, I couldn’t imagine he was going to be thrilled with this news. He might think I had done this on purpose; that would make a reconciliation even less likely.

A long, hot shower was exactly what I needed. Getting out and finding an empty apartment was nice, too. I love Holli and, to a lesser extent because I haven't known her as long, Deja, but their care and concern for me had started to feel a little bit like suicide watch. Which was completely unnecessary. I was down, but I wasn't
that
down. And it wasn't their job to cheer me up.

I was carefully towel drying my hair when I heard Feist's “Leisure Suite” playing from the kitchen.
 

That was Neil’s ringtone.

My heart leapt into my throat, and I wondered if I could actually choke on it and die. It might have been preferable to answering the phone.

Still, I went out and got it, and hit the green answer button on the screen. “Hello?”

“Sophie, are you all right?” His voice was so full of concern, and I was so relieved to hear from him, I started crying.
 

So, we were off to a good start.

I forced my sobs to painful silence and, with the skill of Meryl Streep in a movie she actually cared about and wasn't just chewing the scenery in, I faked a chipper, “Yeah. I'm fine. What about you?”

“I’m out of the hospital, I just got home.” He paused, and I could perfectly picture his expression, the vertical wrinkle between his eyebrows as he frowned. “You called me... eleven times the night I went into the hospital.”

“I-I was worried about you.”
I'm pregnant, I'm freaked out, and I want us to be how we were two weeks ago.

“These calls all came before Emma let you know I was in the ER. I looked at the call history, Sophie. Please, will you tell me what's going on?”

I couldn't. I couldn't tell him over the phone. “Look, I have somewhere I'm supposed to be, but I really need to talk to you in person. Can I see you tonight?”

“Of course. Come for dinner. Emma is heading back to England today, and I have something I need to discuss with you, as well.” He paused. “I missed you, Sophie.”

My heart twisted in my chest. I had missed him, too. But I had no idea how our conversation was going to go tonight. We might get back together. We might not. I might change my mind about this whole baby thing. I had no clue, and the uncertainty made my head throb.

“Are you okay?” I asked him, and it was a real struggle not to burst out weeping. “I mean, you’re out of the hospital, so, that's good, right?”

“I’m glad to be home.” It was a non-answer, and I didn't like that at all,but I wasn't going to press him. I wasn’t being entirely forthcoming either. “We’ll talk tonight. Seven o'clock, would that be all right? I'll have Sue make something. Anything you'd like.”

BOOK: The Girlfriend (The Boss)
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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