Billionaire's Kiss

By: Sloan Storm

MADDIE

A few days later, Katy and I met up at a martini bar near my office after work.

I’d been drinking a bit more than I cared to admit recently. Grey wasn’t around often enough to notice and I saw Katy on such an infrequent basis anymore, she wouldn’t have anything to say about it either. I wouldn’t say it was out-of-control or anything like that, but the last time I drank this much was when Trevor and I broke up.

Oh, well. We all have our vices I suppose.

Sure, I had to find a better way to cope, but for the time being, a handful of blue cheese stuffed olives floating around my dirty martini were far preferable, not to mention cheaper, than spending hours a week blabbing to a therapist.

Not great. I know.

Anyway, after a bit of chit chat, Katy finished a sip of her apple martini and said, “So, how are things between you and Grey?”

I swallowed another sip of my cocktail. The kick of the vodka and the saltiness of the olive juice caused my lips to smack together in unconscious reaction before I replied.

“It’s up and down,” I began with a rasp. “When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, well, you know…”

Katy squeezed my forearm and smiled.

“I’m sure things will smooth out, Maddie. I’m glad you two are making a go of it,” she replied. Without moving her hand from my arm, she raised her free one to her chest and crossed her heart. “I can’t tell you how worried I’ve been.”

“Worried?” I asked, as I wrinkled my brow in confusion. “About what?”

Breaking eye contact with me, Katy picked up her drink again and just before she took another sip, replied, “Hmm? Oh, you know, just that you were going nowhere with acting. Now that this has come along, you’re finally going in the right direction.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Incredulous, I did a half-turn back towards my best friend. “What? What is that supposed to mean?”

Katy scoffed and shrugged at the same time. “Well, I mean, come on, Maddie. Acting? Seriously?”

“Uh! Katy!” I exclaimed. Still in shock over this sudden confession, I continued, “How come you never said anything about this to me before?”

“Well, Maddie honey, I’m your friend. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“What do you think you’re doing right now?”

“What difference does it make, Maddie? You aren’t acting anymore so who cares?”

I’ll tell you. I hadn’t intended to tell her about my call with Harvey or about my argument with Grey on the subject. But after this ridiculous confession, I was close to it.

“I care, Katy,” I said, as I shook my head. “God, I can’t believe it. You know how important acting was to me.”

Katy reached in my direction once again but before she could touch me, I snatched my arm away. She shook her head as I closed myself off from her grasp.

“I don’t know why you’re upset with me, Maddie. You just said yourself acting ‘was’ important to you as in, ‘used to be’.”

“It still is,” I grumbled.

Katy scoffed and took another sip of her drink. After placing it back down on the bar, she glanced at me.

“Now, that is ridiculous, Maddie. Seriously.”

“No, Katy!” I snapped as I turned towards her again. “What’s ridiculous is you pretended to support me, when the whole time you thought I was being a fool.”

“I never said that,” she replied with an exhale. “That’s the booze talking. Calm down. Maddie, I don’t understand why you are even discussing this any longer. You told me you’d made up your mind — no more acting talk, you were focused on the business. Does Grey know you’ve been thinking about this?”

As she spoke, I propped my elbows up on the bar and rested my chin in my palms. My hair hung down over my eyes, nearly touching the rim of the glass. At last, I reached up and sliding my fingers through it, I pulled my hair away from my eyes and looked straight ahead. I sat in silence for several moments without responding, or even blinking.

I felt Katy’s hand move to the center of my back. She began to caress me and as she did, I exhaled.

“I don’t think I’m qualified to run the business the way Grey wants it done. I’ve been trying so hard, but it’s like… it’s never good enough.”

“What do you mean?” Katy asked.

“Ugh, never mind,” I groaned. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Cut the crap, Maddie. I’m probably the only person who does. I deal with him all the time—you know that.”

I took another sip of my drink then replied, “If I turn my back on this to go back to acting, or anything else, I’ll lose…”

Katy raised her eyebrows and motioned for me to continue speaking. “You’ll lose? What, exactly?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Don’t be a fool, Maddie. The chances of making anywhere near what you’d make as an actress compared to what you’re pulling in here after such a short time in business… Well, it’s not even worth talking about.”

I reached down in the glass and popped one of the olives in my mouth. The tanginess of the blue cheese lingered as I shook my head.

“I don’t care about the money, Katy.”

“Well you should! How are you going to support yourself, Maddie?”

I didn’t respond but instead popped another olive in my mouth as she continued.

“Honey, listen. I am not trying to crush your dreams. I’m just saying you gave it a good five years, you know? At some point, you have to know when enough is enough.”

I sighed. “I don’t feel like this business is my thing, Katy. After all, if it weren’t for Grey, there wouldn’t be a business to begin with and that’s the problem. This is his business. Not mine. Don’t you get that?”

“No, Maddie. What I get is you don’t understand how business works. It takes more than one person to do it. Look around. How many people do you have underneath you now? A dozen?”

I shrugged.

“And someone like Grey. The truth is that at some point, almost every business needs investors. It just so happens you were able to get yours from the very beginning. You should never put yourself in a situation where you are completely reliant on a man to provide for you.”

“Uh! Katy! I’m completely reliant on Grey as it is. You just said so yourself.”

Katy nodded. “For now, Maddie. But remember, Grey only loaned you money. He doesn’t own the business. That makes all the difference.”

“I don’t know,” I began, as I finished chewing the last of my olives. “I just don’t know anymore.”

“You need to be patient, Maddie. Look, just promise me you won’t do anything to put the business in jeopardy.”

This conversation was going nowhere. As much as I appreciated what Katy said, I didn’t have the energy for it any longer.

“I won’t,” I replied.

Katy nodded. A soft smile came to her lips as she stood from her barstool and slipped her purse over her shoulder. After tossing a twenty on the bar, she hugged me and prepared to walk away. But just before she did, she stopped.

“Listen, Maddie. Everyone struggles with this stuff. If your mind starts to wander off in search of greener pastures and you find yourself thinking it’s a good idea, ask yourself if would you tell your employees or Grey what you were up to? If so, then what you’re considering is safe. If not, well, I’d say you need to strongly consider whether it’s worth the trouble. You’re twenty-three years old now, Maddie. Like it or not, you asked for the situation you’re in. No one forced it on to you.”

I shouldn’t have expected Katy to understand. Not after what she’d revealed to me about how she felt about my acting career.

And so, we said our goodbyes and a few moments later she walked out of the bar and I paid my tab.

I just needed a break.

In all the years I’d tried, that’s the one thing I’d never gotten. If I could get one, then I could show them all how wrong they are.

Just a break.

One goddamn break.

Was that too much to ask?



MADDIE

I walked into the apartment that night and dropped my purse on the couch. As it bounced, I heard my phone ring from inside it.

“Ugh,” I groaned. “Please don’t let anyone be in jail. Please God.”

Grabbing my bag, I slid my hand down inside it. I flicked my tongue across my lips as I groped for the offensive noisemaker until at last, I grabbed hold of it. I pulled it out and flipped it over.

Trevor. Just great.

I thinned my lips as my mind flashed through all the possible reasons he might call. None of the ones I conjured up were appealing, but with a bit of alcohol on the brain, I decided I could live through whatever it was. After a deep inhale, I swiped my finger across the smooth surface and pressed the phone to my ear.

“What?”

“Well, hello to you, too.”

It looked like I was wrong. Five words in and he’d already pissed me off.

“Trevor,” I said, as I plopped back into the sofa. “I am so fucking tired. I really don’t have the energy to get into a fight with you.”

“Who said I want to fight? That’s the furthest thing from my mind.”

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