The Big Apple
Walking through the crowds, I gazed out of the vast window at the sparkling lights of New York. “Does he know I’m here?”
Daniel shook his head. “You asked me not to say, so I didn’t. I’m really glad you’re here though. He’s been fucking miserable since we left Long Beach. Besides, with you here, I have someone to talk to and keep me from going crazy. Things are about to get real hectic at the company. You sure you know what you’re in for?”
I gave him a puzzled look and he smiled at me. “Guess not. Well, you’ll learn.”
Daniel wasn’t just Jared’s driver; he was his friend, even if Jared didn’t realize it or choose to admit it. I felt that the two of us had also become friends. After all, he’d had my back so many times I’d lost count. When I’d been arrested, it was Daniel who’d called Jared and, as it turned out, broken several traffic laws to get to him. That awful night at Felix’s apartment would have ended a lot differently had Daniel not called Jared and warned him of our activity. I had a lot to thank him for and keeping him company during our time together, was the least I could do. I figured that it must be lonely work driving Jared around. Sitting there, in the front seat, a screen between them; it all seemed awfully secluded, isolated and impersonal. I was not going to be one of those high society girlfriends that I saw in magazines and newspapers. The ones that look as though they have caramel stuck to the end of their noses and pout a lot when people speak to them. I was definitely not buying into the hype of that lifestyle. Daniel was stuck with me now and I was determined that we were going to have some fun.
“Do we have to go straight to the apartment? Will he get suspicious if you’re gone?”
He eyed me skeptically. “I guess not. I told him I had to run errands and he’s been so distant, he just kinda nodded and dismissed me. I could have been naked and dancing and he wouldn’t have noticed. He’s really not himself right now.”
My heart sank. My intense, hot mess, business man was in pain and I was the cause. Bitch.
I was desperate to see him and put him out of his agonizing misery but I was also determined to get to know Daniel better. I was going to be spending a lot of time with him during the next few months and aside from Jared, he was the only person I knew in New York and I hardly knew him at all.
Reaching the exit, Daniel gestured to the shiny, sleek Mercedes parked curbside. I smiled at the familiarity of it. Opening my door, he ushered me inside before running around to pack my case into the trunk. He got into the driver’s seat and glanced back, smiling at me. I leaned forward and rested my hand on his shoulder. “I’m starving. Dinner?”
He gave me a look that told me he was unsure if it was such a good idea. “I don’t know. I mean, aren’t you anxious to see him?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t anxious to see him, I was freaking out from nerves and the more I worried, the harder my stomach churned. “Nope. I’m hank marvin and I need something to eat before I throw up from nerves.”
He chuckled. “Hank marvin?”
I nodded. “Yeah, you know, starving? I heard it on t.v once.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Since you put it that way, I’d be happy to have dinner with you. There’s a burger joint just around the corner or do you want something a little fancier?”
I shrugged. “I think, a nice juicy burger sounds awesome.”
Sitting in the booth, I scanned my surroundings. New York was a far cry from Pasadena or even Long Beach. It was almost eight in the evening and the streets were still bustling with people.
The burger bar was quiet though. It was one of those nineteen fifties diner types and had a jukebox playing in the corner. The waitress rolled over on her skates and placed the most enormous cheese burger that I had ever seen, in front of me. The smell of greasy food and the delicious vanilla from my creamy and ice cold milkshake was a welcome scent. Every single bite of my meal was like a taste of heaven. I really was hungry. I hadn’t eaten properly in days and I finally had my appetite back. I was definitely looking forward to my first New York bagel too. Bagels. Coffee. Ollie.
My heart plummeted into my stomach again and I suddenly lost my appetite. My chest felt tight and I could feel unshed tears begging to be released.
I could only imagine how broken he was right now. I’d done a horrible thing and I’d done it over a text! It was selfish, cowardly and I deserved whatever hate or anger he was feeling toward me. He hadn’t replied or called since and I knew that we were not only done as lovers but also as friends. He’d never forgive me now and I didn’t deserve him to.
Daniel frowned at me. “You okay? You seem a little distracted. You’re not having second thoughts are you?”
Snapping out of my mood and forcing thoughts of Ollie out of my mind, I shook my head. “No. I’m just a little tired from the flight.”
He smiled and took another big bite of his burger.
Pushing my plate away, I leaned back and cocked my head to the side. “So, I guess you’ll be keeping me company while Jared works huh? I hope you don’t mind. I promise not to be high maintenance and to make it as much fun as I can.” He grinned and pushed his plate away, cleaning his hands on a napkin.
“It’s my job to take you wherever you want to go. Jared doesn’t usually use the Mercedes unless he’s going to a formal dinner or social. He’ll take the Jag so that leaves me at your disposal. Shopping shows and sightseeing; I’m the man to take you there. With Jared’s permission, of course.”
Jared’s permission? I rolled my eyes and shook my head at the statement. The whole time we’d been together he seemed to think he could dictate where I could go, how and with whom. Things were going to change and for the better, I hoped.
“You leave Jared to me. I want to see everything. All the sights this city has to offer and Jared is not going to stop me from having fun. I’m an adult and it’s time he started treating me like one.”
Daniel nodded but I could see he was conflicted. “Well, if anyone can handle him, I’d say you can. Speaking of Jared, we should probably get going. You ready for this?”
I bit my lip and smiled. I was so ready I was practically giddy with anticipation. Rolling his eyes, Daniel paid for our meal, even though I’d begged him to let me and we made our way back to the car.
Sitting in the back, I needed a distraction as my nerves began to swarm in my stomach. “So where’s home for you Daniel?”
He looked at me in the rear-view mirror. “Illinois. I moved to California when my dad got transferred to another division of his company. I was about thirteen. My mom moved back to Illinois after the divorce though. How about you?”
He nodded and smiled. “Small town boy, small town girl and here we are in the big apple. Have you ever been to New York before?”
I shook my head. “Other than San Francisco, I’ve never really traveled beyond Long Beach. You like it here? I mean, you must be here a lot with Jared and his business.”
He glanced in the mirror at me again and I saw his eyebrows furrow. “Can’t say I hate it or love it. It’s where I am. I have an apartment here which Jared pays for and I look at it as just another place I work. It’s not like I vacation here or anything. I’m on duty all week and some Saturdays, so I never really thought about whether I like it. I hardly know it. I’ve never seen the sights or anything else New York has to offer outside of the functions I drive Jared to.”
I felt bad for him and decided then, that I would do everything I could to make his time and mine in New York more fun.
“I guess we’re both gonna have to make New York home for now. Stick with me Dan. I intend to have lots of fun while I’m here.”
He smiled and chuckled a little. “Dan?”
I blushed. “Do you hate it?”
He shook his head. “I like it. Dan. Yep. You can call me Dan Miss Jennings.”
I grinned and leaned forward to his seat. “And you must call me Layla. Deal?”
His smile widened. “Deal. Well, we’re here. I’ll get your bags and give you a minute to breathe. You look a bit flushed.”
I looked at myself in the rear view. I was beet red. Nerves were no longer swarming; they were twirling like a tornado in my stomach.
We’d pulled up in front of an impressive building. With its white brick and elegant golden window frames, it was certainly extravagant and definitely expensive. One look at the name above the golden framed glass door told me I was right. ‘Garrett Towers’. It was one of Jared’s for sure.
My eyes immediately darted to the top floor where he would no doubt have the penthouse. My heart did a little skip and my insides twisted.
Opening my door, Daniel smiled and held my bags in his hand.
“Ready?” Now there was a question I had no answer to.
Ready to go up there? Absolutely. Ready to see Jared? Oh good God yes. Ready to leave my old life behind and start my new one with him? Well, that would come eventually. Wouldn’t it?
The doorman saw me exit the car and nodded at Daniel. “Layton, this is Miss Jennings. She’s here to see Mr. Garrett. Would you please grant her entry while I park the car?” The large and burly gentleman scanned me from head to toe as I stood awkwardly on the sidewalk. I bit my lip anxiously.
Opening the door, he smiled politely. “Of course. Right this way. Let me take your bags for you ma’am.”
Daniel grinned at me and nudged my arm, immediately pulling me from my dazed state. “You gotta go in there some time. He’s going to be thrilled to see you. Go on. Get in there girl.”
I beamed back at him and threw my arms around his neck. “Thank you so much, Dan. Wish me luck.”
He snorted. “You don’t need it. He’s crazy about you. I’ll catch you later. Have a good night.” Giving me a wink, he got in the car and drove away toward a large pair of iron gates, which I assumed, led to the parking lot beneath the building
Layton cleared his throat loudly. Giving him an apologetic look, I followed him inside.
The foyer was a gleaming white and the front desk was a beautiful ivory stone with gold trim. It matched the marble floor perfectly. I stood at the elevator and fidgeted mindlessly. When it finally chimed and the doors opened, I was so caught up in my thoughts, it startled me a little. I could hardly breathe as we entered and as Layton reached for the keypad, I caught his hand in my own. “I just need a minute.” Taking a deep, calming breath, I held my nerve and nodded at him. He pressed the ‘P’ on the panel and I hitched a breath as the doors closed and we headed, rapidly, to the penthouse. Well, here we go.