Foto bij 095. - Lucien

I've never been a fan of January. The month drags on and on, seemingly neverending. Life resumes to normal, with me spending the week mostly at the firm and my weekends - and the occasional weekday - at some event doing influencer things. I mainly use my apartment to sleep and I'm not doing a whole lot of it, but I don't mind it. It's the rhythm that I'm used to, I don't do well doing nothing,
There is one big change in my life though, and that is the fact that Emma and I are officially dating. That is to say a handful of people know and other than that we still keep it a secret, because we have to. If people were to find about our relationship... I don't even want to think about the repercussions.
With life back in full swing we get to see less of each other, though often enough I'll spend the night at her place or she at mine, only to take seperate rides to work so we can go back to pretending we're nothing more than colleagues.
I know why we do it. I know why we have to. But it's starting to wear on me. I want to take her places without worrying about pictures being taken or being recognised. I want to show her off as mine, show the world this amazing woman that somehow decided she wanted to be with me. Every now and then we share secret kisses in copy rooms, or in my office with the blinds drawn. Our emails get more and more risky and if anyone was to leak them, we'd be in big trouble.
Right now, seated in a conference room together while waiting for Olivia, I'm having trouble keeping up the professionalism. She looks impecible, way different from how she woke up in my bed this morning, and the memory is enough for me to want to tear her clothes off. She gives me a knowing look, tapping the case file. "Concentrate, Mr du Castellon." She teases, though there's a sense of urgency to her voice. Is she not struggling with this? That hardly seems fair. A knock on the door and a second later Selene swings it open.
"Miss Olivia Araya for you, Mr du Castellon." She introduces our guest, smiling. Emma and I get up as Olivia walks in, thanking Selene. Then, she turns to me, her shoulders slumping in what seems to be relief. "Lucien!" She breathes. We go in for a quick embrace, because professionalism be damned, before I turn to Emma.
"Olivia, I'd like you to meet Emmeline Middleton. She'll be working the case with me and will be your representative."
Olivia and Emma shake hands, exchange their 'nice to meet you's' before we all sit down. Olivia focuses on me, frowning slightly. "I thought you'd be representing me. That's why I contacted you."
"And as I already told you, due to the nature of my position I cannot actually represent you. But I promise you that Emma is the best candidate for this case. I would trust her with my life."
Olivia's green eyes flick to Emma. "You handled the Wilson-divorce, did you not?"
Emma offers a dazzling smile. "Yes ma'am, I did."
"Okay," Olivia nods. "I trust you. And I trust Lucien's judgement of you." She tucks a strand of chocolate-coloured hair behind her ear. "Where do we start?"
"Why don't you start with telling us about the case?" I lean back in my chair. "We've read the case, but it's always helpful to hear it from the client."
"Okay, well... It all started when I agreed to collaborate with Enigma Beauty. They make skincare products and it was always my dream to have my own line. A collaboration with Enigma would be a good stepping stone. For the most part, everything seemed fine. I had no trouble developing the line with them, they listened to all my wishes and concerns and handled accordingly. The launch went smoothly and the line sold out in just a few hours. Not long after the complaints began rolling in, but because I was at the launch party I didn't see until much later." She falls silent, processing the story. I watch her, not used to seeing this side of her. I only know her online persona, just like she knows mine. She takes a deep breath, wringing her fingers together. "Apparently not long after the line sold out, listings for the products popped up at websites like Amazon, but also other beauty websites. The prices were higher, but they had an disclaimer that it was because they weren't being sold through the official Enigma website. Problem is... The products weren't supposed to be sold anywhere else but the offical website. Not to mention they were sold out. The moment I found out I contacted Enigma and they said they'd look into it, and not long after all those listings disappeared." She lets out a short burst of laughter that holds little humour. "I thought that would be it. I promised my fans that they would get reimbursed and that they'd get a special pre-sale code for the next restock, but it's been weeks and I'm still getting emails daily about people who haven't gotten their money back. At the same time, the listings have come back and people are receiving products, even though my line hasn't been restocked. They're obviously counterfeits and I've received plenty of pictures that those products have harmed and damaged customer's skin."
It's silent for a while, Olivia staring into blindly to the table and her hands. It's clear to see the distress this causes her and I can imagine why.
"How does Enigma Beauty handle this?" Emma asks carefully when the silence takes too long. Olivia snaps back to reality, shaking her head.
"They don't. They're spotty with replies and evade all my questions and complains. Contact runs only through email, because they don't pick up the phone. They just tell me 'they're working on it', but I don't believe that. More so, I have reason to believe they are behind this whole mess."
Next to me, I feel Emma stiffen and I clench my jaw. This is where we tread into dangerous territory. "Tell me why." I say.
"I just think so. I have friends who have had similar problems with collaborations like this, all with different companies. But I did some digging and all those companies seem to be connected somehow. Like they're not actually different companies after all, or maybe they're all run by the same people."
"Olivia, I want you to know that if this gets out and it doesn't turn out to be true, it'll be seen as slander. You'll get dragged into a defamation lawsuit that you won't be able to win." I hold her gaze for a second. "No matter how good the lawyer or the firm that represents you. If this turns out the wrong way, you'll be ruined."
She gives her reply without a second of hesitation. "I'm willing to take that risk. I want to publicly sue them for how they're handling the current situation and then I want a secondary investigation to find out if they're behind it all."

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