|Maybe in Another World
Author: Nectar-Ambrosia PM
With the Keefe job between them, there was never a way for it to end well. Five times Jackson Rippner dreamed about having Lisa Reisart and one time he didn't have to. Hints at AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Jack R. & Lisa R. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 19,442 - Reviews: 33 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 18 - Updated: 09-16-12 - Published: 07-14-12 - id: 8320470
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Wow, I sniffled at all your kind words and clever advice. So. Much. Help. About the last chapter, maybe I'll try to finish it after all! Eventually, of course. ;)
In the Lavatory
"...stop gambling with his life." He stared, panting hard.
In the cramped bathroom, the air seemed to grow thicker with body heat and fear. Lisa's breathing shook. She squirmed from his face, too invasively close.
"You don't have to do this." Her eyes pleaded with him. "Any of this."
Jackson almost laughed. After all this time, Leese? He exhaled cynically, trying to clear his brain. The space was too small; she was too near.
If he wanted to, Jackson could press his ear to her chest and hear her wild heartbeat. He could kiss her, she was just an inch away-
Feeling disgusted, he scoffed at himself. His grip loosened, and Jackson felt his finger catch in soft fabric. Both he and Lisa looked down at her lowered neckline. There was a pale white mark there, and Jackson pulled the blouse lower-
He stared, and suddenly everything except her and the ugly scar disappeared. There was no job, no phone call, no barriers between them. Here was the truth, laid bare in front of them both.
"Someone do that to you?"
For a terrible moment, Jackson thought she would lie to him. He swallowed bile as she insulted him for the second time that night. He tried again.
It was her forced casualness that drove him over the edge. He felt his jaw clench and his grip around her throw them against the opposite wall. Then, his hand was at her throat and he was saying things he'd never intended to say...
When he pushed his suitcase into the glass-paned elevator, hers rammed into his foot.
Jackson looked back at the auburn-haired culprit, who apologized. He insisted he was fine as they both entered. No big deal.
Then he reached forward to press the forty-fifth floor button. Unfortunately, her hand knocked into his. Jackson rolled his eyes as he laughed it off. After that, they stared at their reflections in the elevator doors.
The young woman was quite pretty, he observed. It was too bad she was getting off at the eighth floor. And that they were standing three feet apart -albeit with the confidence of successful young people- in sheer and unadulterated silence.
So when the elevator dinged for the eighth floor, Jackson gave her a bright goodbye nod. "Have a nice trip." He frowned when she didn't leave.
"That's actually not my floor." The brunette looked embarrassed. "But thank you anyway."
Jackson raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Wait, so-"
"I missed the button for my floor." She ran a flustered hand through her hair. "Gosh, I must be just exuding brain cells right now...
Jackson felt his lips tugging into a curve. "No, no. I won't judge." He hid a smile as the young woman raised her head to look at him.
"Better not," she warned. "Because I am an expert button pusher."
Her finger lit up the thirty-fourth floor button (of all things!), and Jackson couldn't help it; he smirked shamelessly. "Wow, you were so close. Eight, thirty-four... is there even a difference?"
The woman tilted her head with a smile. "Sure. A few more seconds of your company." When he nodded, impressed, she blushed and looked down again.
The elevator doors sulked back into the closed position. They began to rise again, skimming floors that were visible from the glass elevator. The faint tinkling of piano arpeggios floated in, and Jackson scoffed at the elevator music.
"I'm sorry," rushed the brunette.
"For what?" Jackson faced her with bemusement. "You didn't do anything." He jerked his chin in the direction of the elevator ceiling. "I was just admiring our musical treat. So original, isn't it?"
"Oh." His companion's face relaxed with a little laugh. "I suppose. Maybe I should add some new tracks when I get back to work next week."
"Work...that's at a hotel?"
"Yup." The woman gave him a look. "A Lux Atlantic, actually."
"I see." Jackson debated it. "So are you the manager of...everything? Elevators and all?"
He'd intended it as a joke, since she looked late-twenties at most, but the brunette beamed at him.
"Well, I do manage the day-to-day of my hotel," she agreed, nodding. It was the picture of professionalism. "That's overseeing the reservations, housekeeping, special accommodations..." At this, they both rolled their eyes.
Jackson shook his head. "Special accommodations." He savored the words like chocolate. "That's such a nice phrase, I might just borrow it for myself."
As they passed the fifteenth floor, a screaming toddler in dangerously loose diapers ran past their frame of vision. Jackson did a double take, frowning at the behavior. To his left, the young woman was speaking to him again.
"...that's okay, though. I wouldn't threaten the staff, but I'd be pretty mad if my beach vacation was ruined by a misplaced reservation," said the brunette meaningfully.
The word jolted a memory. Beach. "You're not located in Miami, are you?" When she smiled in confirmation, Jackson raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "You're kidding. I've been there at least half a dozen times, and I'm sure I don't remember someone like you."
"Ah..." This seemed to fluster his elevator partner, though she looked charmed. "That's probably a good thing. We don't call out the manager unless you have really special needs."
Was this an invitation? Intrigued, Jackson shook his head in mock surprise. "Wow. But you know what? I think I do have a unique dilemma right now."
"Well, maybe I can help," she said playfully.
Jackson shrugged and replied with a smug smile. "Good, because I still need you. I get off at the forty-fifth floor-" He gestured to the sleek designer suitcase. "-but I'm coming back down for dinner later. I was just wondering-"
As the elevator dinged to announce the arrival of the thirty-fourth floor, Jackson ignored the sound and glanced over at the young woman.
"-when you were free." As the doors slid open, Jackson bore as much intensity as he could into his gaze. "What do you say, can you help me...push a few buttons?"
The brunette manager bit her lip and fumbled with her purse strap. "I...um..." Just when Jackson felt his stomach clench tightly, she suddenly smiled. Looking up, she informed him, "I'd love to."
He felt himself grin like an idiot. "Wow." For once, he was genuinely at a loss for words. "That's great." Jackson congratulated himself for radiating his usual irresistible charm. Not like I ever had a moment of doubt.
Behind the woman's back, the elevator doors decided to slide closed again. They both yelped and leapt into action. However, Jackson got there first and pressed the door-open button for his companion, who nodded at him. "Thanks," she said gratefully.
He cleared his throat. "Well, so what do you think about six or so tonight? Uh..." Jackson frowned, missing a name.
The brunette manager had opened her mouth to reply when suddenly her cell phone rang. Quick as a flash, she switched hands from suitcase to purse, and drew the smartphone up to her ear with a toss of her curls.
"Lisa Reisert." So that was her name. Lisa shot an apologetic look at Jackson, but he shook his head graciously and held the elevator doors open for her. "Cynthia, hold on just a second. Can you do that?"
She covered the mouthpiece. "Sir..."
"Jackson," he commanded.
"Jackson, then." She looked rushed. "I have to run...my coworkers are a mess downstairs. But it was so nice meeting you." Her voice was a bit breathless.
"The pleasure's all mine," he laughed. Lisa gave a huge smile and immediately began to assure her coworker with confident instructions.
Lisa cinched her phone between cheek and shoulder, and briskly strolled out with fingers on the suitcase handle. Her smart, slight figure turned a hallway corner and disappeared down to wherever. Too soon, he released the elevator doors and watched them close.
His reflection in the bronzy mirrored surface caught him off guard. His glacial blue eyes, usually composed, now held annoyance from the anti-climactic meeting with Lisa Reisert. Jackson refocused his gaze in the mirrored doors as the elevator rose to the forty-fifth floor. It was too bad she'd had the call to take, yet it irked him to no end that she'd thrown a wrench into his expectations. Not to mention how easily she'd forgotten his invitation.
It was nice meeting you, Leese, he thought. But now we cut our losses like adults and move on.
Jackson dragged his suitcase to his room, did a quick sweep for bugs and cameras, and yanked back the coverlets before sinking into the bed.
When his phone rang, Jackson sat up, alert.
"Hey. Did you get the room?"
His junior associate, Casper -the ghost, they joked- sounded strained. "Actually, we kind of need you down here. There's another party that swears they booked the room three months in advance."
He'd expected that, of course, but it irritated Jackson that his young colleague couldn't find the expertise to win over a couple of lousy hotel managers. "Okay," he said slowly. "If that happens, what do you tell them?"
There was some stuttering. "Er, w-we tried showing them the registrations Matt forged, but the other group had their papers too."
"Then there was a mistake," said Jackson calmly. "Because we got there first. Did the hotel check their computer system?"
Weak laughter. "Yeah, man. That's the worst part. Even though our guys have us as registered for tonight, the manager of this hotel knows our competition from some annual business summit-"
Jackson felt his jaw tense up. That was the thing about personal connections, though. You could fake the credentials, the numbers, and the signatures, but an old face or a trustworthy voice could override all that in a second. "Stay right there," he ordered. "I'm coming to talk with them."
"Well, hurry up." The whine cut off as the phone was clicked off. Jackson massaged his chin and abruptly stood up. So much for taking advantage of the free wi-fi.
Downstairs, the arguing was a mess. They were right outside the sleek hotel conference room, and five men in sharp suits were waving papers and shouting at a silver-haired man in his early fifties.
"...look, we have the documentation on paper and electronically. I'm sorry, but what more do you want?"
Jackson rolled his eyes.
Really, the job was too low-key for this kind of melodrama. A guy had hired the company to retrieve his rival's blueprints for a new product. It was easier done electronically, and through selected coercion. Unfortunately, Jackson's eccentric, menopausal male boss had decided just that morning to turn the job into a training session for the new recruits.
So now he had to convince this hotel manager that they'd booked his conference room three months in advance. All so he could teach some losers how to plant bugs before Mr. Target came in for his corporate vacation meeting tomorrow morning.
Jackson almost hoped it failed so he could revert back to simplicity and efficiency. But still. The dumbasses were still arguing and he at least had to pretend to try-
"Mr. Remington, is it?" With a dazzling wink, Jackson stepped in and extended his hand. The hotel manager's face turned from surly to grudgingly pleased.
"Are you with these gentlemen?" Remington's expression suggested that he found Jackson's colleagues anything but. Jackson had to agree.
He held up his hands and laughed. "Hey, please. I'm just here to do my job. Our company reserved the perfect conference room, and I'm seeing that order through."
"It's an excellent room," Remington agreed.
"Oh, I agree. Unfortunately, our trainees here ran into a little mistake with our reservation at the front desk." He spoke in a low voice. "I know they can be a bit aggressive...new hires who think the world still revolve around them..."
At this, Remington groaned and palmed his forehead. "I understand your pain," he declared, shaking his head. Hushing, he asked, "Stuck with a bad team?"
Jackson grimaced. "Exactly. And now my boss is going to kill me for them losing us that nice conference room!"
"That's tough." Remington let out a deep sigh. "Look, I don't do this often, but I'm willing to make an exception for you. I know one of the managers from the Miami Lux Atlantic group. I told them I'd vouch for them if she showed up, but..."
You've got to be joking. Jackson stared in genuine disbelief.
"...can try to talk it out with them, work it out between you two parties. They're sitting in the adjacent ballroom near the Cypress 13-U door if you're feeling up to it."
Jackson snapped back to reality. "Wow." He mixed gratitude into his authentic surprise. "Thank you so much, Mr. Remington. I'll do my best."
As they exchanged last pleasantries and parted ways, Jackson faced the incompetent company employees. "Really great job, guys." He clapped sarcastically.
A pompous ass, Oscar, scowled. "Always have to be the hero, Jack?"
"Love you too, babe." Jackson smirked at their expressions and headed for the Cypress ballroom.
There, the Miami Lux Atlantic group was indeed waiting. There were people milling about throughout the huge ballroom, but the competition in question were easily identifiable by their anxious expressions and tapping toes.
A young redhead was chattering into a phone near the door. "...coming, Lisa?"
Jackson blinked in surprise. So it was true.
After a pause, the girl sighed in relief and hung up her cell. "Thank goodness Lisa's coming," she told the blonde man next to her.
He nodded and tried to scoot closer to her. "Then we can all get into that room, right, Cyn?"
Cynthia- that must've been her- made a face though the guy was handsome enough. "Don't call me that."
And so on. Jackson snorted and motioned to his people to spread out. He didn't want Casper the ghost or Oscar the grouch breathing down his back, thank you very much. There was a chair near the wall, and Jackson lounged in it as he waited for Lisa to show up. He couldn't wait to see her face when he stole the conference room from right under her law-abiding, invitation-forgetting nose.
It took five more minutes, but soon the doors of the Cypress ballroom flew open, revealing a breathless young woman with auburn curls and a helpfully smiling face.
It was Lisa, alright. As Jackson leaned forward to better see her legs under the charcoal pencil skirt, the Lux Atlantic group began cheering her name. He frowned and sat back.
"Whoa, I'd talk to her." Rick, an overexcited guy with fidgeting problems, appeared at his elbow. "Want me to try?"
"Absolutely not," said Jackson curtly. This would be his job and his alone. Like Lisa. Oh, the things he could do to mess with her. And her entire hotel would be watching, too.
He rose, buttoning the top button of his suit jacket as he did. "Excuse me," he called.
Cynthia looked around, to his satisfaction. "Me?"
"Are you the manager of the Lux Atlantic, ma'am?"
"Oh my gosh you have the wrong person!" Cynthia's eyes were wide with horror. "Our manager is Lisa Reisert, over there." Jackson politely followed her pointing.
Lisa noticed their attention and began cutting towards them. When the crowd shifted just so, she recognized Jackson and looked thrilled. His resolve almost wavered, but Jackson caught himself. Nope, he had a job to do.
"Oh, hi!" Her eyes were shining. "...again." Lisa's head tilted to one side as she smiled wide.
Jackson plastered a stupid goofy smile over his face. "What are the chances, huh?"
"Yeah," agreed Lisa fervently. "I thought I'd never see you again after I got off the elevator." Her cheeks flushed pale pink.
He caught her gaze winningly. "Well, here I am. In all my hungry, travel-weary glory."
"That's wonderful. I mean, not the part about being hungry-"
"Have you eaten yet?" he interrupted.
"No, no," she said quickly. "Have you?"
Jackson thought in amusement that she looked so very hopeful. "Not me," he chuckled. "I was going to head over to the hotel restaurant a bit later tonight, though."
Lisa gave Cynthia a thumbs-up and led him a few feet away from the crowd. "That was...very sweet of you," she said in relief.
"What?" He smiled enigmatically.
"Well...helping me recover from walking out on planning our meeting earlier."
Jackson laughed. "That's not really what I was doing." A few people shuffled by them, and he moved to regain their privacy.
"Okay." Tentative grin. "So what were you doing?"
"Oh, just leading you away from your colleagues so that we can talk."
Lisa's gaze flickered and she smiled hesitantly. "Um...sure. About what?"
He switched gears. "You're after the Rosemary James conference room too, is that right?"
"I am," she stumbled, after a pause. "The manager is supposed to care about these things."
"Because...?" he prodded.
"Ah..." Furtively glancing around them, Lisa shrugged. "It means a lot to corporate, since we've been here every year and it's kind of a prestige symbol to occupy this conference room right now. But there's this other group-" She rolled her eyes.
"What?" Jackson hoped his smile wasn't too nasty.
She noticed his change in demeanor, but dismissed it with a trusting smile. "They're so desperate," she exclaimed. "Cynthia told me they'd been arguing with Horace Remington -the manager here- for twenty minutes now."
"I see." He regarded her casually. "And so...if dear old Horace gave his blessing for them to work it out with you, would you give up that room?"
Lisa searched his eyes. "Well...even if he did, that other group has to accept that sometimes, people make reservations before they do." She hesitated. "Do you know these people?"
Here it was, his big reveal. Jackson pretended to muse over it. "As a matter of fact, I'm representing them."
He smiled unpleasantly. "It's okay. Just say the word and I'll ask Mr. Remington for our room."
Lisa's eyes were wide. "You're not actually doing this. Are you trying to stir up something?" she demanded.
Jackson gave a half-assed apologetic shrug. "Calm down. We just want the room."
"No." Her eyes, slightly wounded, were firm. "We made the reservations oursel- heck, I made the reservations myself! Three months ago!"
A nearby group of young people looked up from their card game, craning their necks to see the showdown.
"Shh." Jackson held a finger to his lips condescendingly. "Let's keep this between ourselves, Leese. We're both professionals, so no need to get anyone frustrated."
This made Lisa look even more indignant. "You can't just pretend to ask me on a date, get a personality change, and then expect me to submit to your stupid agenda!"
He found this incredibly funny. "Oh, really?"
Jackson nodded in satisfaction as the watchers turned back to their activities. "Okay. So there's nothing I can do to change your mind?" He let his voice drop a few notches. "Nothing...at all?"
Disgusted, Lisa turned away. "Stop that. It's not going to work."
"That...flirting, or whatever you're trying to do. A child could see through that."
"Funny," he mused, realizing how off-topic and unprofessional this conversation was. "Since you were practically throwing yourself into my lap earlier."
"I was not!" Lisa spluttered. She glanced frantically around them and whispered angrily. "You just think that because you have an inflated sense of self worth. I bet you've never failed to persuade a client, have you?"
Jackson spread his hands wide. "What can I say?" he said, pleased. "You'll be next." When she glared, he savored, "And you'll be an easy one too."
"Er, excuse me?" They both glanced over in surprise to see Cynthia and one of Jackson's cronies -Aleks- hovering nervously. "We wanted to check how the negotiations were going," she squeaked.
"Oh, those." Jackson's face relaxed into pure charm. "Those are just peachy. We'll have an answer in say-" He flashed his expensive Swiss watch. "-forty minutes. By six." He winked for good measure.
As Aleks gazed at Cynthia fondly, she clapped her hands. "That's perfect."
Jackson nodded assuringly. "Don't worry about us." He yanked Lisa by the waist so that their sides pressed together. "We're enjoying this."
The young redhead almost swooned. "That's so cute!" she gushed. Cynthia turned to Aleks. "Isn't that just romantic?" When the underground employee nodded enthusiastically, they exchanged an affectionate look. With a little wave, Cynthia turned to go.
Lisa unfroze and jerked away. "Wait, Cynthia-" she called, but it was too late. The chattering crowds had swallowed up the Lux Atlantic associate.
"Save me, Cynthia!" mimicked Jackson in a high voice. "Oh, Cynthia!" At Lisa's glare, he smiled broadly. "Look at yourself. Too busy enjoying my presence?" He moved closer.
She warded him off with both hands. "Stay away from me. I don't even have to talk to you."
"Right. You do have to run more errands like a prized handmaid though you're in charge. And when a guy talks to you, you have to turn red and exude virtue-"
"Shut up." Lisa surprised him with the passion in her voice. She turned away from him and began to walk away.
Jackson easily caught up. "Aw, and I thought you liked me."
She ignored him and weaved through some raucous couples with wineglasses. "I'm telling Horace that we need the room by six."
He carelessly brushed aside a yelping boy. "No, you're not, because we're not done yet."
Lisa's shoulders sagged, and she turned to him with an odd look. "Will you give it up?" she asked. "We made the reservation first, since the room was available when I called. Your record must be a system glitch. Remington can vouch for me."
"That's called corruption, Leese."
"Why do you even care so much?" she demanded.
Jackson contemplated. "You're making this difficult. Just give us the room for tonight, and you're free to go."
Lisa's eyes began darting for escape routes. "Why should I? I think you're very arrogant in your assumptions about people." A couple of screaming kids swerved past them playing tag.
"You're right." Jackson's eyes followed the children and settled back coldly on her. "I don't have leverage, because the stakes are low here. So maybe I'll have to persuade you by myself."
For a moment, Lisa stared at him like he was utterly crazy. "You're crazy," she told him. Before he could respond, she suddenly shoved the startled woman next to her and dodged through a throng of people.
Swearing, Jackson thrust his way after her. Lisa's unmistakable hair flashed from thirty people away, and he pursued by knocking them out of the way. A protesting man crumpled to the floor as Jackson pushed him, and soon he was flying past teenagers, children, elderly folks, and pissed off adults as the exit came into sight.
He caught Lisa's bright curls disappearing through a door and sprinted after her. No doubt he looked insane, but Jackson felt almost invested in making Lisa change her mind. She was just so damn infuriating in a million microscopic ways that he felt compelled to win over her in some way.
There! Jackson felt both irritated and impressed. Tricky Lisa Reisert had fled into the women's restroom, that safe haven of overemotional females. He smirked violently. As if the laws of convention and courtesy could stop him now.
When he pushed open the door, Jackson was extremely pleased to hear a scream.
"Oh my gosh what are you doing here?" she shouted.
They were alone. Jackson sauntered in and spread his arms open. "Surprised to see me, Leese?"
"Yes! Oh my goodness- get out!"
He paused three feet away from her, pouting. "Stop shouting. It hurts my eardrums."
Breathing hard, Lisa stopped. "I'll scream," she warned.
Jackson couldn't help but chuckle. Facts and logic, Leese. "No, you won't," he corrected gently. "Because if anyone comes in here, all they'll see is goody-goody Lisa Reisert, pinned against a wall by some man she was batting her eyelashes at earlier."
She gasped. "You're pathetic."
It grated, but Jackson smiled and stepped closer. "That's actually kind of brilliant, don't you think?"
Lisa took a step back. "N-no."
"Think about it," he coaxed, eyes steadily penetrating hers. "Little Lisa's reputation will be ruined forever."
She backed away more before stumbling into a wall. "Stay away."
Jackson imagined a glimmer of fear in her eyes, but closed the gap anyway. "Anyway, I'll just-" The second Lisa's eyes darted to the right, he saw the maintenance screwdriver. They both lunged for the sink.
The momentum brought a yelling Lisa closer to the weapon, but landed Jackson on top of her. He felt the breath drain from her chest on impact, and focused on the screwdriver. In that brief moment, Lisa's eyes met his and he saw raw fear mixed with determination. Jackson grabbed one of her wrists, but her other hand sprang for the tool.
At that moment, the building whined and the power moaned. The bathroom lights flickered.
Then, it went pitch black.
Power outage, yay for once! I was pondering continuing this, but that would've dragged out pretty long. Anyway, updates are probably going to get more infrequent from now on since I actually do have a whole bunch of things to get ahead on. *sad panda face*