For the love of my life
In memory of Easy, November 16, 2007. R.I.P.
Sophie Braun felt like giving up on her dreams for London. Sick of waitressing rather than pursuing her dreams of a career in fashion, and after being kicked out of her apartment by her cheating boyfriend - she had had just about enough of the city and of all men. That is until she is presented with the offer of a lifetime in her dream job as an intern in a very prestigious fashion company. Not to mention the fact that her hunky fellow intern, Laith Khalil, offers to be her roommate in a suave condo downtown. She can finally have a successful relationship with a man because he's gay – or so she assumes. But Sophie quickly finds out that Laith is anything but uninterested in woman when he reveals his passionate feelings for his new roommate. Too bad she only finds out after she's signed a twelve-month lease.
Sophie flung her now ruined red hair over her shoulder and attempted to straighten her soaking wet skirt. It had been one helluva day. She wiped away any runny mascara from under her eyes and closed her umbrella. She shoved her key into the door and stepped inside.
"Bryan?" She called, placing her umbrella in the front hall closet. "Are you home, hunny?" She heard the tell tale sign of their bedroom mattress squeaking wildly and hushed voices whispering frantically. "Bryan?" She stepped down the dingy and dark hallway of the apartment she shared with her new boyfriend. She had to shove her shoulder into the bedroom door to get it open.
She drew in a sharp breath, her mouth dropping open so fast she could have sworn she had detached her jaw. "What the hell is this?" She waved her hand around wildly. Her head whipped around quickly taking in the scene before her. Bryan sat on the edge of the bed, as naked as the day he was born, not even trying to put on any clothing. Another woman struggled with a pair of pants in the corner, her Barbie blonde hair falling into her face.
"I think I better go." She stammered, running her hands across the floor in search of her bra. Sophie grabbed it off the edge of the bed and tossed it to her. She stepped in front of Bryan, her hands on her hips.
"Care to explain?" She hissed, shoving her nose against his.
Bryan leaned back, resting his back against the footboard and crossing his arms over his chest. "I felt like exploring new horizons, love."
Sophie let out a snort of disgust. "You could have broken up with me first."
She heard the woman clear her throat. "Um, excuse me." She nudged Sophie to the side and leaned down, putting her face close to Bryan's. "I'm get going to go, but give me a call and we'll do lunch." Sophie wanted to vomit as she leaned down and gave him a passionate kiss. He reached around her, grabbing her ass and squeezing it in his hands, letting out a loud groan.
"You don't have to go." He growled seductively. "She does."
"Me?" Sophie gasped. "This is my apartment!"
"I had you removed from the lease today."
"What?" She screeched. She wasn't renowned for her patience – and the burning feeling in her gut was a sure sign that her temper was hanging by a very thin and very short string.
"Pack your things, love." Sophie stomped forward, grabbing Bryan by his ear and yanking him to his feet. She stared directly into his eyes, barely able to discern his features in the dimly lit room.
"Let me leave you with a parting gift then." She quickly yanked her knee up feeling the familiar impact with the soft sack between his knees. She shoved him back onto the mattress letting out a cackle at his misery. "You'll have fun with this one." She patted the blonde on the butt and grabbed her suitcase from the closet. She had always been able to fit her entire life into one suitcase, including her very precious designer shoes. She also had a knack for packing up in a hurry. Sophie looked back at Bryan curled up on the bed in the fetal position. She resisted the urge to spit in his shoes on her way out the door.
Sophie stamped through the puddles on the narrow London side streets, cursing down the sidewalk, her suitcase bumping along behind her. She looked down at her Ferragamo black pumps, now soaked and muddy. How the hell was she supposed to find somewhere to crash only a few minutes before midnight? Damn her stupid boss for making her work late waiting extra tables, damn her stupid boyfriend – ex-boyfriend, for kicking her out. How could he just kick her out of her own apartment? She let out a loud scream and stomped her feet as hard as she could on the concrete. To add to the misery, the clouds unleashed another down pour of the largest raindrops she had ever seen. She could barely open her eyes as she stumbled forward down the already darkened streets. She continued to curse herself for forgetting her trusty Burberry umbrella. She was going to have to go back for it tomorrow. She hated men. Guys sucked.
The lights of all the stores she passed had been turned off long ago, and as comfortable as designer heels could be, her feet were really beginning to ache.
"I hate life." She grumbled. "I hate my job." She lurched her suitcase further down the muddy and darkened streets. "I hate my love life." She shivered, the chilly April air whipping more rain into her burning eyes. Waterproof mascara my ass. Maybe she should just go back home. Maybe she could actually live with her Mom – she hadn't actually seen her in a few years. Maybe she was old enough now to handle being back there.
Sophie let out a loud scream when a thick and calloused hand wrapped around her arm. She whipped herself around ready to sucker punch whoever thought they were going to rob her. She was not in the mood to play the docile female.
"Miss." A short old man dressed in a navy blue concierge uniform tipped his hat to her. "Please come in."
"Just step inside and wait until the rain passes, Miss. A young lady shouldn't be walking the streets this time of night alone." He was squinting, trying to discern her features through the rain. Sophie glanced over her shoulder – the golden light lit up the lobby of the condominium. The beige couches looked absolutely luxurious to her tired feet. She felt him tug anxiously at her suitcase.
"I can carry my own." She pulled it away from him, refusing to let someone's grandfather carry her bags for her.
The warmth of the building was overwhelming when she stepped inside. She dragged her bag over to the couch and collapsed onto it. Peeling her heels off her feet and stretching out onto her back, she let out a long sigh of relief and closed her eyes to nap. She felt a terrycloth towel being dropped into her lap.
"I'm Mr. Stephans." Sophie opened her eyes, looking up at the old man standing over her. His accent was obviously upper class.
"Miss Sophie Braun." She stuck up her hand and shook his.
"You're not from London, Miss Braun." Sophie sat up rubbing her hair with the towel.
"Why are you walking with your suitcase at midnight on a Tuesday evening? Although I suppose it is Wednesday now, isn't it?" Sophie let out a loud laugh.
"I was kicked out."
"By your Mother?"
"Hardly. My cheating ex-boyfriend." She made sure to emphasis the "ex" for obvious reasons. Mr. Stephans nodded his head understandingly. He touched the tip of his nose and clicked his tongue.
"We have an apartment here that's available. It's on the fourth floor, not our biggest, but not our smallest. Clean – perfect for a fashionable young woman, such as yourself, and possibly a friend?"
"I could never afford this place. Add a few million cockroaches and mice, get rid of the lights and all reliable electricity, fill the water system with lead and rip holes in most of the walls. Then maybe I could come close to affording this place." Sophie paused when she heard a familiar ringing from inside her Louis Vuitton handbag. Who the hell was calling her at this time on a Tuesday night? "Excuse me." She fished around in her purse for her cell phone – private caller. Bryan probably wanted her to pay next months rent for him. "What the hell do you want?" She snapped. "I told you my tips are for me only, you scum bag."
"Is this Miss Sophie Braun?" The woman's voice was so flat is sent a shiver down her spine.
"Yes, who's this?"
"My name is Mrs. Laurier, from Reis & Martins Fashions." Sophie swallowed hard. She had applied for an internship at that company months ago. They were a cutting edge, up and coming company based out of London. Since Sophie lived and breathed everything fashion, she naturally had tried to find a spot in there. But since no one had gotten in contact with her she had assumed the positions had been filled.
"Are you still currently seeking employment within our company?"
"Yes." Was that the only answer she could think of? This might be the most important phone call in her life. If she ever wanted to make it as a famous designer, she needed to pay her dues first. And this was exactly the company that could start her off of her career path. Then she could kiss waitressing goodbye for good.
"Are you able to start working tomorrow?" Would shouting, "hell yeah" be considered bad etiquette?
"Do you remember where we are located?"
"Good. You will be paid sixty-seven pounds per day, plus overtime." Sophie almost fell off her chair. That was more than double her daily salary right now.
"Then we will see you tomorrow at exactly five minutes to nine tomorrow morning." Sophie slowly placed her cell phone back into her purse, unable to close her mouth.
"I think you better sign me up for that apartment, Mr. Stephans." Although how she would actually eat would be a challenge. She would worry about that later, right now she needed to decide what to wear.
Sophie stood in front of her suitcase wrapped in a pink towel. She had tied her red hair back into a slick chignon, leaving her bangs, falling just below her eyebrows. Her lucky pink Jimmy Choo stilettos had been an easy choice for her feet. Were they looking for more professional or more fashion forward? She nibbled on her bottom lip, a lousy habit she probably acquired from her Mother. She finally decided on a form fitting black skirt power suit. Very Elle Chique. She checked her watch more time before heading to the Tube.
Things were finally starting to look up for her. Things had been so hard the last couple of years. As much as she hated her Mother, she missed having someone there to nurture there. She missed her cousins and aunts and uncles. Mostly she missed her dear brother Matthew. Sophie almost toppled over when the trained lurched to a stop. She stepped off the Tube and walked the few blocks to the Reis & Martins building.
The streets were filled with young business men and women. All dressed in fashionable and luxurious suits, carrying briefcases, talking on cell phones. Sophie wasn't a timid or shy girl by any means, but this position meant a lot to her to say that least. She looked up at the enormous building that looked as if it had been made entirely of glass. She breathed in and out slowly to calm herself before walking up the long, wide concrete steps into the building.
The lobby was breathtaking, the ceiling extending up farther than she could tell. Modern abstract pieces of art sat on the white marble floors, scattered throughout the room. Long and thin drapes of a variety of dark and vivid colours hung down the walls.
Sophie stepped up the receptionist desk. The young blonde sat on her cell phone, obviously on a personal call. Sophie had to clear her throat to draw her attention.
"I have to go." She said into the phone. "Yeah, someone needs me. I love you too." Sophie wanted to puke. Love. She couldn't stop the sarcastic snort that rose from her throat. "Can I help you?" She sneered.
"I'm Miss Braun, the new intern." She rolled her eyes and picked up the black office phone.
"Mr. Khalil. The new intern is here." She looked up at Sophie and scowled. "He says to go to the sixth floor, his office is 6034." Sophie tried not to stick her tongue out at the girl as she followed the crowds to the elevators.
Sophie was literally shoved to the back of the elevator and impacted with a rock hard chest. The man's arms quickly wrapped around her waist and pulled her into him, steadying her on her feet. The masculine scent of soap and aftershave filled her nostrils and she tipped her head back to get a look at his face. His icy blue gaze peered down at her, a small grin on his face.
"Good morning to you too." He chuckled. Sophie could feel all the bodies pressed against her and didn't even bother trying moving herself away from him. Instead she flashed him a coy smile, tickling his chest a bit with her nails.
"Imagine that, I fall into the arms of a hunky man on my first day. Quite convenient, wouldn't you say?"
"For you or for me?" He raised his eyebrows emphasizing his long, thin nose.
"I think it could be mutual." She could feel the heat of his body pulsing through his thin dress shirt. The people around them shifted away from one another as employees began exiting to the lower floors.
"This is my stop." He slid his hands down her back, much lower than was appropriate for the office, and over her hips. "I hope to bump into you again." Sophie stepped to the side to let him exit. She resisted the urge to squeal when she saw his taught, firm tush hugged snuggly in his dress slacks. Imagine that, a straight man in a fashion office. He must be there accountant, or maybe a lawyer.
Sophie stepped out onto her own floor and was almost knocked onto her bum once again as a thin young man sprinted by in front of her, dragging a rack of clothes. She smoothed her hands over her skirt and jacket before heading down the hallway lined with offices. She followed the numbers almost to the end of the hall and stopped before a caramel coloured wood door. The name L. Khalil was written on a plaque. Sophie ran her fingers through her bangs and knocked.
"Come on in." Said a friendly voice. Sophie quietly turned the knob and stepped inside and smiled at the young man perched on the corner of an enormous cherry oak desk. He held a Blackberry in his palm and was staring down at it.
"Good morning," Sophie pulled her shoulders back and straightened her posture. "My name is Miss Sophie Braun."
"I was expecting you." He looked up at her with deep, black eyes. His head was covered with very short, almost buzz cut, ink black hair. He was thin and long, but the power and definition of his muscles in his forearms was obvious as he rolled back his sleeves. "Please sit down." His accent sounded like a mix of British and Arab. Sophie followed his directions. She watched him closely with her eyes as he stepped around the desk to sit at the other side. His jaw line was strong and firm, with thin lips, and a prominent thin nose. His black pin stripe suit was obviously tailored for his body. He was way too good looking and fashionable to ever be straight. "I was just looking over your resume." He sat down in his chair and shifted a few folders on his desk. His voice was dark and deep. "Very impressive indeed." Sophie smiled at him nervously; she couldn't remember how much she had lied on that application.
"Thank you, Mr. Khalil."
"Please call me Laith. I'm in no way you're boss."
"You're not?" She raised her eyebrows, sounding slightly surprised. Why was she sitting in his office then?
He let out a soft laugh. "Hardly." There was an awkward silence.
"So – what exactly are you then?"
He shrugged. "I would call myself the head intern, if I had to, who also does designing for the company on the side." Sophie cursed silently. Definitely gay. Damn. "I'm actually having my first show next month."
"Thank you. So would you like me to show you around? You're office is conveniently right next to mine." Any minuscule suspicions lurking in the back of her mind about his sexual orientation were dashed the moment he placed large aviator glasses on his face. Sophie tried to suppress a giggle. At least now she might actually be able to have a successful relationship with a man.
Laith was glad his desk he was so tall, he could hide himself from Sophie's prying eyes after the thoughts that had leaped into his mind at record speed.
Sophie Braun was anything but what he expected. He was not looking forward to touring the building with another ridiculously beautiful woman, tall, legs for days, and not much in the department of intelligence of wit. Sophie was gorgeous, there was no mistaking that, but the typical lifeless eyes that he was expecting had been gracefully replaced with bright green sparkling almond shape emeralds. She was not abnormally short, but compared to who normally lounged around his office she seemed dwarfed. Her glanced her up and down as they headed out of his office. She was probably around five foot five – but still her legs went on for miles.
"I was so happy to hear that you had actually glanced over my resume rather than chucking it into the shredder." He let out a small chuckle.
"Well you came highly recommended." She whipped around to face him, her eyes searching him anxiously.
Who had she given as a reference? As far as she remembered she had left all of her jobs on slightly less better terms than she had hoped. "Oh really? Who had you called?" She said it calmly, her posture relaxed, but he could see the anxiousness in her eyes.
"Your former employed in fashion industry in Montreal, Canada. A –" he searched his mind for the name. "Rayne something or another."
"Johnson?" She raised her eyebrows.
"Yes, that's it." Sophie pinched her leg to stop herself from smiling. She had hoped Laith hadn't seen it. It was just like her brother to pressure her new sister-in-law into doing something like that.
Laith pushed open her office door and held it as she walked by. "This will be your office."
Sophie greedily stepped forward into the bright room filled with natural sunlight. The wall was lined with windows and a light birch-veneer desk sat in the middle of the room. "It's gorgeous." She smiled at him, brushing her fingers over the corner of the desk.
Laith wanted to crumble. That smile would be the death of him.