Craving My BossBy: Tasha Fawkes
Karen can talk with my mother for hours long stretches about the latest beauty breakthroughs and cleansing tricks. I almost wish they would find the time to talk about it now. Instead, my mother appears insistent on bringing up Pen and Quill. She never approved of my embarking on my publishing venture, and she still doesn’t approve, even after I agreed to remain CEO of Stone Exports. The look of measured disdain around the edges of her mouth isn’t something even her most highly-paid plastic surgeons can get rid of.
“I’m in and out of a lot of meetings, Mother,” I reply. It isn’t a lie. Crystal’s sweating, sublime body comes to mind as I recall our latest meeting.
“He’s delegating more,” Karen offers.
She leans over in her chair to wrap a hand around my forearm. I tolerate it, but just barely. She knows what she’s going to marry: a classically handsome, physically fit, statuesque poster boy who can’t seem to shake the stuffy smell of old New York money or the bloodhounds that pursue it. She’s going to marry into a multi-million-dollar fortune generations in the making, just the way her daddy always wanted.
And what do I get out of our arrangement of convenience? Political connections. Like I give a damn. Mother couldn’t be happier, of course. She may rail against my involvement with Pen and Quill, but what she really wants is for me to run for office. Even Stone Exports comes secondary to her true ambitions.
But what do I get out of it? I’m Daniel Stone the Third, the third in my family to own the name and the shrewd business savvy that comes with it. It doesn’t even take a Stone to see that I’m getting the short end of the stick. I don’t want to go into politics. I can barely manage to work up the interest to deal with Stone Exports. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll finally get some peace and quiet—and some much-needed privacy to pursue the off-hours recreation that actually satisfies me.
I watch Karen charm my mother. She regales her with an amusing anecdote about how she was forced to fire the latest wedding planner last weekend when she noticed the other woman looking at me in a way she didn’t like. My mother laughs and comes back with a similar story of her own. Karen leans harder into me, and I’m certain we must appear exactly as she hopes: close, cohesive, and head-over-heels in love.
I could muster a smile, but I don’t bother. The two women won’t expect it—they won’t even look for it. I’m a man in control of everything and nothing.
Concessions. Compromise. That’s all life is for me now; the pursuit of meaningless victories and the manufactured enjoyment of their empty rewards. I’ve been splitting my attention and bending over backward to accommodate everyone for so long that I’m not certain that isn’t how things are supposed to shake out in the end.
That doesn’t keep me from wishing I could get out of this goddamn marriage.
“No, I… yes, that will be fine.”
I pinch my nose, needing a light reminder that this is the incompetent reality I inhabit. The woman on the other line—who purports to be Maurelli’s manager—tells me that she’ll make up for the missing vegetarian lasagna with a full refund on half the order, and have an additional dessert sent over from the restaurant.
The mishap doesn’t matter too much in the long run. All around me, the Pen and Quill Christmas party is in full swing: authors, agents, and editors mill about the lavish center table, too busy throwing back wine and talking animatedly with one another to fill their mouths with much else. There’s less than two hundred bodies in attendance, and I haven’t heard anything from a single disgruntled vegetarian yet, so I’m almost ready to call the evening a success.
Then Stewart arrives.
Stewart waves at me from the doorway and manages to slosh the champagne he’s ferrying over onto the floor. He smiles sheepishly at me when he arrives and tries to pass the empty flute to me anyway.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” I hiss, looking around to see if anyone is watching. I’m so embarrassed. I snatch the other full flute from him and chug it down before Elektra looks my way. Thankfully, she appears preoccupied with a client and has completely missed my humiliation. Stewart offers a grin, oblivious to my mortification.
“Nope. I still feel out of place amid all your fancy publishing friends.”
That’s because you are out of place! I want to scream. I didn’t invite you! I didn’t want a plus one!
What I wanted was a moment alone with Daniel Stone, who still hasn’t shown his dead-sexy self as far as I know. What I wanted was to not be called babe in front of all my fancy publishing friends. Stewart’s smile straightens itself out a little when he finally notes what I hope is a dour look of disapproval, but there’s no coming back from how much he’s managed to put down in the first half hour of the party, and from what I suspect he imbibed the hour before.