The shower does absolutely shit to calm me down, so I quickly turn the water off and just stare at myself in the mirror for what feels like forever. Did we make a mistake? Emma's question haunts my thoughts. While this isn't going to be a cakewalk for me, Emma might lose everything over this. I should have known better. I should have cut it off from the beginning, to protect her. Now she might lose her job and her future because of me.
And if I know one thing for certain tonight, it's that I'm not worth losing a future over.
A knock on the door wakes me from my thoughts. "Lucien?" Emma's voice is exhausted. "I need to go to the bathroom."
I squeeze my eyes shut in an attempt to get myself back together before I open the door, but I doubt it's helping much. We manage a small smile at each other as I get out and she gets in, and I head for the kitchen to find something else to drink. Back in my apartment, there's several bottles of liquor screaming my name that I could really use right now, but aside from the fact that I definitely had too much to drink to drive, Winoc was right in advising me to avoid my apartment for now. Lucky for me I find a bottle of vodka in Emma's cupboards and it's almost entirely full. By another stroke of luck she also has orange juice in her fridge, because I don't like drinking vodka pure. I wait for Emma to start it though, in the meantime leaving Matthew a lengthy voice recording about what's happening. I ignore most of the messages I've gotten, because they're from people I don't care about. I do reply to Liliana and Audrey, though I tell them that I'll call them at a later moment. Another text comes in, from my father's assistant, asking for Emma's address.
I don't text back, but I have an itching feeling that the question was for courtesy more than necessity. Emma returns from the bathroom, drops of water sparkling on her face. She sinks next to me on the couch, crawling into me. I just hold her against me, neither of us saying a word.
"I'm sorry." I say after what feels like an eternity. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this."
Emma lets her head fall back against my arm to look at me with a frown. "You didn't drag me into anything."
"Yes, I did. I should've thought about this better." I rub my temples, feeling a migraine luring at the surface. It's been years since I've had one. "I never should have... Fuck, I'm just sorry, Emma. I'm the cause of all this."
"Shut up," She says sternly, sitting up straight. "Seriously Lucien, shut up. This isn't anyone's fault. I chose to be in this relationship as much as you did, knowing perfectly well the concequences. You are not allowed to blame yourself."
I don't have a reply ready, so she just lets out a sigh and hands me my glass that's maybe a splash of OJ and vodka otherwise, while also taking one for herself. Neither of us sleeps. We're just staring into the darkness, drinking ourselves to silent minds as if that's going to make the situation disappear.

At six thirty, my itching feeling proves itself true. The door rings, I go to open it to protect Emma from any douchebag paparazzi, and suddenly I'm face to face with Jacques du Castellon. I'm so numb and still drunk enough that I don't react, just stare down at him.
"Lucien, I'd like to come in." He says. He moves to do just that, but I block him the entrance. "Hold up." I say. "Are you going to play nice?"
My father doesn't look like he slept much himself, piercing blue eyes staring daggers at me. "I think we're past the point of playing nice, son."
"Goodbye, then."
"Fine." He sighs, exasperated. "I'll 'play nice', if it means that much to you."
Might as well have this conversation while drunk, then. I let him in, park him in the kitchen while I tell Emma what's happening. While she gets dressed, me and my father just stare at each other. Emma looks halfway decent when she emerges, which is more than can be said about me. I don't care.
"Miss Middleton," Jacques say. Emma just nods at him, looking equal parts furious and scared. "Let's sit." He suggests, so we do. All the while, I keep staring him down.
"How long has this been going on?" He asks, clearly directing it at me. Emma is here for show and he's making sure I know it.
"Since the beginning of the year." I reply.
"I need exact dates, Lucien."
"January 1st."
He narrows his eyes, not believing me, but I refuse to tell him about anything before that. He'll have to beat it out of my dead body. "Were you in love with her before that?"
"No, that happened over night." I snap. "Jesus, of course I was."
"How long?"
"Does it matter?" I raise a brow at him, another staring contest between us and I win it.
"It does." He says. "Because I want to know if this... fling influenced your decision to bring Miss Middleton up for her promotion."
"No." I say immediately, shaking my head. "Those are seperate events. Our relationship happened after that."
His eyes glide towards Emma and I refuse the urge to yank them back to me. "Miss Middleton, it must be tiresome to pretend to have... feelings for this long. What do you want out of it?"
"Father!" I exclaim. "If this is how you want to have this conversation, we're not having it at all! I'll call the fucking cops on you."
He looks back at me, with that look in his eyes that I used to be so scared of. That I'm still scared of, but this time there's something on the line that makes me courageous enough to fight it. He narrow his eyes for a second, then leans back in his chair like it's just another meeting. He pulls a notepad and a pen of his pocket. "It doesn't really matter, because this ends now." He scribbles down a number. "Miss Middleton's contract will be terminated immediately, as will this relationship. Not to worry, here's my offer for the redundancy bonus."
"No." I say before he can slide the paper over. "You're not firing Emma and you sure as hell don't have anything to say about this relationship."
"Lucien Remí Alasta-"
"Oh, cut the crap." I spit. "My relationship with Emma never once influenced the decisions I made for her or her career at the firm. You're not firing her."
"I will not let you taint the reputation, Lucien." My father threatens in a dark voice, glaring at me. I glare back.
"I'll quit instead."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"Emma stays. I'll quit." I repeat, knowing that my resignation will taint the reputation even more, whatever the reason.
"We're not having this conversation." He takes his notebook back. "I'll come by again tonight."
"Please don't bother."
I follow him when he gets up to leave, making sure he does that. On the doorstep, he turns to me. "Tu n'as jamais été aussi prometteur que ton frère." He says. The words hit me like a hammer, but I grit my teeth, refusing to show him. But he isn't done. He glances past me, at Emma behind me, and then locks his eyes with mine. "Avec la façon dont vous avez agi ce soir, vous pourriez aussi bien avoir craché sur la tombe de votre mère."
I slam the door in his face, the second sentence burrowing into my skin like acid.

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