In Love and War
Author's Notes: I know, I know, it's been forever since I updated anything... time has really flown by. School is driving me up the wall, considering it's my junior year and now is the time to start thinking about college and all that. Anyways, here's a new story... I hope you like it and don't forget to review:o)
Chapter 1 - The Monster
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
A sleepy grunt and a soft sigh, but no movement.
Still, the beeping stubbornly continued, gradually growing louder and louder and more urgent with every passing "beep"...
And soon enough, a groggy female voice was heard coming from the mass of tangled sheets and quilts and pillows and naked limbs lying on the queen-sized bed.
"Are you going to turn that off?"
"Mmmmm... yeah. One sec," came an obviously sleepy deep-voiced reply after several long moments.
One groan and a significant number of beeps later, a hand emerged from the knot of blankets and blindly fumbled with the alarm clock before successfully shutting it off. Silence fell over the room once more.
Preston Thomas lay stock still among the soft, warm blankets engulfing his half-naked body, his tired eyes remaining stubbornly glued shut no more matter how hard he willed them to open.
Had his bed always been this cozy, he found himself wondering as he snuggled even deeper into his blue sheets. How could he possibly be expected to get up so early when he was this comfortable? He had never been so reluctant to get up in his entire life. His mind, although still foggy from sleep, began to slowly but surely (and reluctantly) sort out the details of the present...
What day was it, anyway?
Oh, right... it was Monday. And if it was Monday, that meant it was the 5th of October... or was it the 6th? Oh, he didn't know. And he was so amazingly comfortable that he really couldn't have cared less...
He was distracted from his thoughts as a slender arm draped itself across his bare chest, diverting his attention. An entire soft, curvy body followed, and he found himself opening his eyes as he felt something that felt like a woman's chin plant itself squarely in the middle of his stomach.
The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes were the beautiful blue irises of the gorgeous blonde staring directly at him with a certain sleepy fondness in their half-lidded gaze. She flashed him a closed-lipped smile, and upon seeing him finally fully awaken, she scooted up to rest her chin right between his sculpted pectorals. "Good morning, sunshine," she cooed, leaning up and suggestively kissing his neck.
"Morning," he muttered unenthusiastically in return. His mouth fell open and emitted an obnoxiously loud yawn as he reached up and stretched his muscular arms languidly before folding them behind his head of short, light brown hair.
"I had such an awesome time last night," she purred, kissing his chest and running her fingertips over his washboard abs. She glanced down at his tanned, sculpted stomach, a mixture of admiration and lust flickering through her turquoise eyes. "And you have such an awesome body," she gushed, flattering him shamelessly. "You work out a lot? I mean, you must... I couldn't help but notice that your apartment's right next to a gym."
He merely nodded in reply without even looking at her. "Yeah. I go work up a sweat there on occasion."
She giggled playfully, before beginning to blaze a trail of wet, sloppy kisses down his entire torso. "Why don't we work up a sweat right now?"
He didn't even dignify her question with a reply. Ignoring the attentions of the beautiful naked girl on top of him, he allowed a small grin to grace his face as he closed his eyes again, hoping to slip back into dreamland...
He'd been having the most wonderful dream, too... before the alarm had so rudely awoken him. His smirk broadened as he tried to recall it in all its detailed splendor... he'd been standing at the head of the table at the monthly editorial meeting, dressed in a dashing Armani suit, humbly and charmingly accepting the awed praise of his dozens of co-workers, who were all cheering and applauding him enthusiastically for his sensational breakout news article that had taken the nation by storm. "Your story was simply incredible! How did you do it, Preston? You're truly the most gifted journalist I've ever had the pleasure of working with," his boss had congratulated him heartily, shaking his hand with much rigor. "I'm making you my co-editor-in-chief immediately... god knows you deserve it. Congratulations on your new position along with your now six-figure salary! You will always be a star at THIS magazine!"
He unknowingly let out a little chuckle as he let the fantasy play out in his mind, a look of deep contentment tugging on his handsome features. "It could happen," he thought hopefully to himself. "I'm only 23... Lawson thinks I'm a great writer... I have plenty of time. I just have to prove myself once and for all. I just need that one killer story and it's in the bag..."
"God, Preston, you're so hot..." And once again, the blonde cut the daydream short by grabbing his head with her manicured hands and passionately smashing her lips into his, running her fingers through his already mussed hair as she pressed her perfect body against him, exploring the sweet caverns of his mouth with her tongue.
Preston lay there, helpless as she devoured his face, allowing her to kiss him savagely as he once again let his mind go, taking his thoughts back to his delightfully fantastical dream editorial meeting...
It was the 6th, after all. And that meant...
Editorial meeting. At nine 'o clock sharp, like every month.
Still mid lip-lock, his eyes shot open and his gaze immediately found the neon green digital numbers on the bedside clock.
It was 8:51 AM. And that meant that the editorial meeting started in exactly nine minutes... and he wasn't even dressed.
Or out of bed.
In fact, he was still in nothing but his boxers and currently in the middle of a hot and heavy (though decidedly one-sided) make-out session with some random girl who he had met at a bar the night before.
His green eyes widened in horror.
"Fuck!" he exclaimed, breaking the kiss and pushing her off of him before hopping gingerly out of the bed.
The blonde sat up immediately, her left eyebrow raised in obvious confusion. "What's wrong, gorgeous?" she asked slowly.
Preston had already pulled on his khaki slacks and was in the process of buttoning up his blue dress shirt and running a comb through his disheveled hair all at the same time. "I'm late for a really important meeting," he explained, a note of panic audible in his voice. "Sorry, Kelly, but I've gotta go."
Her face contorted in both anger and hurt, but Preston didn't even notice as he rushed to tuck in his shirt and pull on his socks and shoes, before grabbing his messenger bag off the nearby chair. He paid no attention to the intense glare of fury she was shooting him... instead, he disappeared into the kitchen to grab a bagel out of the paper bag on top of the fridge and cram it into his mouth before heading towards his door.
"Bye, Kelly! I'll call you later!" he yelled to her in the other room before dashing out the door of his small apartment.
The blonde sat there in the bed for a minute, teeth clenched in rage, before shrieking after him, "IT'S KATIE, NOT KELLY, YOU FUCKING PRICK!! AND YOU NEVER EVEN GOT MY NUMBER!!"
He was already in the elevator by that time... and consequentially, didn't hear her.
But even if he had...
Not like he would have cared.
In fact, he didn't really care much about anything at all... aside from his work, of course, which essentially lay at the center of his entire universe.
Preston Thomas was oddly detached like that.
He was mad.
Preston could tell the second he set foot in the room and quietly took a seat at the long mahogany conference table.
Not just a little mad, either... but seething. Furious. Utterly enraged to the extent that his face was a rather brilliant shade of apple red and his veins were popping out of his forehead shiny from perspiration.
This was not the first time Preston had seen Bruce D. Lawson, his formidable boss and the all-powerful editor-in-chief of Insider Magazine, completely livid, but still, the sight of the portly man looking ready skewer the next person who dared open their mouth never ceased to scare him. The young journalist gulped as he spun from side to side in his black swivel chair, nervously tapping his pen on his knee, dreading Lawson's inevitable enraged spiel of loud putdowns and screamed criticisms.
And judging from the terrified looks on the faces of all his fellow co-workers, they were feeling the exact same way.
The editor-in-chief simply stood there at his usual position at the head of the table, his large body completely rigid as though he were a marble statue, the only movement being his lip trembling with fury. He appeared too angry to even speak. The meeting had commenced nearly five minutes ago, but the thick, jolting silence still remained. You could have sliced the tension with a knife.
Finally, he came to life. His teeth clenched with rage, he threw a magazine down on the table with all his might. A deafening "thwack" resonated through the conference room, and everyone jumped in their seats. Lawson clapped his hands down on the edge of the table, slowly rotating his head to deliver a beady-eyed death glare to every staff member present.
He spoke then, and his gruff voice was low and threatening and full of malice. "Look at this," he demanded, his voice dangerously calm. "Just look at it. What do you see?"
The entire room remained quiet. Nobody dared answer.
This served only to infuriate him further. "ARE YOU ALL DEAF?! ANSWER ME, GOD DAMNIT!!" he bellowed, his eyes blazing with white-hot anger. "What do you see?!"
Another long pause, before someone finally managed to timidly squeak, "Uh... last week's issue of People?"
"Correct. As in another fellow celebrity gossip magazine and our biggest competitor." He reached down and curled his bulky fingers around the magazine, before holding it up for display so the whole room could see. He gave a biting smile. "And what, may I ask, does the caption in bold in the middle of the cover say?"
The silence was considerably shorter this time before someone piped up, "It says, 'Summer Celebrity Weddings! Take a look inside the glitz and glamour of celeb nuptials with exclusive photos and interviews!'"
"Right." Lawson's eyes narrowed even further until they were nothing but burning, piercing slits of wrath. "And why," he began with a disconcertingly quiet voice, "does that sound so damn familiar?"
He got dead silence for an answer. You could have heard a pin drop from a mile away.
And that's when Bruce Lawson lost it.
"WHY?! I'LL TELL YOU WHY, YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!! BECAUSE IT'S ALMOST THE SAME COVER STORY WE DID FOR OUR LAST ISSUE!!" Papers flew off the desk, a ceramic pencil holder was chucked full-force at the wall and smashed into a million pieces. "The difference?! THEY HAD WAY MORE FUCKING PHOTOS AND A-LISTER INTERVIEWS!! THEY OUT-FUCKING-SCOOPED US ONCE AGAIN... AND THAT EXPLAINS WHY THEIR SALES ARE WAY FUCKING HIGHER THAN OURS!!" A particularly mousy copy editor had to duck to avoid getting hit in the head by a flying stapler that had been hurled in her general direction.
Lawson abruptly cut his tirade short, his chest heaving with exertion as he rested his hands on the table to catch his breath. He spoke again after a moment, this time with a much calmer voice at a drastically quieter volume as his ranting seemed to have subsided for the time being. "All I'm saying is we can't let it happen again. They've been finding ways to outdo us this entire fucking year! They somehow come up with more exclusive photos and interviews and stories and whatever else, and that's what the public wants! We're always just a step behind them." He paused for emphasis, a small grin spreading across his face. "But thankfully, my friends... I have an idea for a story. An exclusive that will turn this magazine around because we are going to get the scoop that nobody, not even fucking People, will have. It'll be ours, and only ours... and everyone will be clambering to buy our magazine because of it."
The room immediately broke out in excited chatter, before Lawson silenced them with one wave of his hand. "Lights, please," he indicated to the person standing closest to the switch. Immediately, the room was engulfed in darkness, and with the press of a button on his little remote control, a projector screen lowered itself down at the front of the room.
And with another swift movement of his thumb, a blown-up Powerpoint slide appeared on the large screen. There, starkly contrasted against the white of the walls, was a photograph of a girl. And not just any girl... but a gorgeous, indescribably bewitching creature that caused the jaw of every man in the room to drop in awe and the eyes of every woman narrow in jealousy. The picture was a close-up of the attractive teenager coming out of the Louis Vuitton store on East 57th Street, carrying two large shopping bags and looking rather stone-faced as she chatted away on her Blackberry.
Preston stared at the photo, appraising her carefully. She was without a doubt a stunningly beautiful girl... long brown hair that was so dark it was almost black, ice blue-green eyes, long tan legs, delicate curves framing a tiny waist. The photo was a typical candid shot, but something about her exotic radiance grabbed his attention and refused to let go.
"This is Madison DeWinter," Lawson revealed. "Daughter of Philippe DeWinter, the billionaire French banking tycoon, and Estela Serrano, former Brazilian supermodel. She's also the heiress to her parents' incredibly vast combined fortune. I'm sure all of you have at least heard her name in passing, considering she's the Upper East Side's latest 'It' girl."
He pushed a button again, and a new picture came up. This time it was of a sunglasses-clad Madison lounging on the beach in the Hamptons. "For obvious reasons, the public can't get enough of her. However... there remains one problem. Madison is famously uncooperative when it comes to doing interviews and being in the spotlight... sure, at most the paparazzi can get a photo or two, but they'll never get anything more out of her. She's successfully scared them into leaving her alone for the most part." Seeing the bewildered looks on the faces of his staff, the editor-in-chief smirked and continued. "A hard thing to accomplish, I know, but somehow she's managed to do it. The fact that she's savagely punched several paparazzo in the face probably helped her out on that one. The press has dubbed her "The Monster", mainly because she's notorious for being one of the nastiest, bitchiest, cattiest socialites to ever hit New York. But that's part of public's fascination with Madison to begin with. People want to read about her... but they rarely get the chance because she's so determined not to give the press anything." His smile broadened into an ear-to-ear grin. "And THAT is how we are going to turn our magazine around. We are going to get an exclusive story on Madison DeWinter, and everyone... and I mean EVERYONE... will want to read it."
"How are we going to do that, chief?" someone in the back piped up.
A sly smile crept across Lawson's face. "My simply genius idea, that's how. Allow me to explain..."
"And Madison, why do you think you two clash so often?"
Madison DeWinter eyed the therapist sitting across from her in disgust, studying him carefully. He was short, bald, and red-faced, with over-sized glasses sitting upon his crooked nose and his large potbelly barely contained by his Versace suit jacket. Madison grimaced... partly out of disdain, and partly because it was nearly impossible to ignore the fact that the man had clearly bathed his entire body in Kenneth Cole cologne.
This was one of New York's best psychologists?
How was she expected to pour out her deepest thoughts and emotions to him when she couldn't even rip her eyes from the bright light doing somersaults off of his shiny bald head?
What a waste of time.
Doctor Baldy blinked. "Madison?" he said, raising his bushy eyebrows at her. "Why do you think you two clash so often? Why do you think you antagonize your mother?"
Madison simply stared at him, her blue-green eyes filled with a mixture of annoyance and impatience. She flashed a purposefully false smile. "Because my mother is a whore."
A gasp was heard to her left, and she swiveled her head just in time to see her dear mother clasp her manicured hands over her freshly collagen-injected pouty lips, completely aghast. "Madison DeWinter! How dare you!" The woman turned back to the psychologist, jabbing an accusing finger at her daughter. "See?! See this, Dr. Smith?! THIS is what I have to deal with! She's so cruel to me... AND everyone else! Her body guard just quit because he couldn't take her abuse anymore!"
God, her mother was so annoying. The girl sighed, flipping her silky hair carelessly over her shoulder as she re-positioned her long, lean body in the leather chair. "Oh, shut up, Estela. Nobody cares."
She grinned as the horrified look on her mother's face grew. Oh, how she enjoyed pissing her off. It was by far one of her more enjoyable pastimes.
"For the last time, Madison, do NOT call me 'Estela'! I'm your MOTHER, for Christ's sake, not just some random adult!" her mother stormed, her hint of a Portuguese accent suddenly growing thicker, black, angry, smudgy lines of non-waterproof mascara streaming down her face at that point.
"Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute," Dr. Smith interjected, holding up his hands to request silence. "I'm sensing a lot of hostility here. Madison, why do you call your mother such names?"
The girl merely shrugged, absentmindedly toying with the pleats of the dark gray skirt of her school uniform. "Because it's true."
Another whimper escaped her mother's glossed lips as she produced a silk handkerchief from her Gucci bag and daintily dabbed around her watering eyes. "Madison, darling, how could you say such things?" she sniffed, throwing her daughter a pleading look before fresh crocodile tears began spewing from her eyes once more. "Oh, Doctor, I'm terribly sorry... this is so embarrassing... it just... hurts so much..."
Good lord, was this woman even serious? Madison watched her mother wail into her handkerchief, her repugnance growing by the minute. Did the doctor actually buy this bullshit? As if her mother had ever given a damn about her...
It was only 3 PM, and she was already wishing she was drunk.
"It's perfectly alright to cry, Estela," Dr. Smith assured her soothingly. "Now tell me... how do you feel when your daughter calls you those names? What else does she do that upsets you?"
Madison raised an eyebrow as the good doctor reached out and placed several sausage-like fingers a little too high on her mother's exposed thigh.
"Oh, god, where do I even begin?" her mother cried, her lip trembling. "She's just so... so CRUEL! She's difficult, she's rebellious, she never listens to me... and now she's calling me horrible names! I don't even feel like I'm in control anymore. She doesn't understand that I'm just trying to protect her because I care... all she does is drink and smoke and do drugs and go around having sex with random boys even though she has a simply divine boyfriend!"
Madison simply rolled her eyes, scoffing at her like she was some kind of pesky child. "Like you're one to talk, Estela." She turned to the doctor, fixing him with a cool stare. "What, do you think I'm stupid? I'd bet all my father's money that 10 minutes before I walked into this office you two were humping like wild animals on your nice mahogany desk right over there."
She heard her mother try to stifle a gasp. Dr. Smith's jaw dropped, his eyes bugging out of his head. "Madison, that is completely untrue and was out of line," he said sternly, doing his best to keep his voice level, although his steadily-reddening face gave him away.
Madison smiled bitterly. "You're a shitty liar. But it's ok, Doctor... I really couldn't care less. But let me give you a word of warning about Estela Serrano." She leaned forward in her chair--completely ignoring the shocked, speechless look on her mother's face--and opened her mouth to speak. "Do you honestly think that you're her only extramarital lover?" She chuckled. "Think again. Daddy's always on business trips and she needs someone for those cold, lonely nights. She's got about three or four of you on regular rotation."
Laughing even more, she looked over at her appalled, open-mouthed mother. "Isn't that right, Estela? Let me think... our 20-something doorman James, your personal trainer at the gym, and Francis Clotilde's husband. Did I get them all?" Satisfied at her mother's stricken face, she turned back to the equally stunned Dr. Smith. "I guess you're Boy Toy Number Four. Congratulations. She DOES enjoy slumming it from time to time, if you haven't noticed."
The girl rose to her feet, brushing off her dark blue blazer and hoisting her Prada school bag over her shoulder. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat some more but I wouldn't dream of intruding on your alone time. Ciao."
With a flip of her dark hair, she turned on her heels and began walking out before pausing to throw them a smug glance over her shoulder. "Oh, and Estela? You might want to button those top buttons on your blouse... your bra has been peeking out the entire time. Way to cover your tracks, you slut."
She turned away from them and headed out of the office, slamming the door behind her.
And as she walked down the hall and stepped into the empty elevator, eyes stinging with sudden angry tears, she hoped to god they'd both burn in hell.
End of Chapter 1
End Notes: Well, what did you think? Believe me, I made Madison a bitch on purpose... she's not supposed to be sweet-as-pie so don't flame me for that. I'd really appreciate some reviews. I love getting feedback from you guys:o) Thanks and see you in chapter 2.