To those of you who read this fic when it was initially posted and are still following it, you'll know it was entered into a content which it won. I was in the process of finding an agent in an attempt to get it published, which is the reason it was taken down. But then I had a baby boy and he took over my entire life, pushing writing to the back burner.
Since the fic was sitting on my computer and I was no longer doing anything with it, I've decided to re-upload for those of you who would like to re-read and for those of you who want to read it for the first time.
Unfortunately, I accidently saved over the original DE version of this fic when I was converting it to an original. Chapters are different and some changes have been made through the plot (mostly at the end). Nothing too drastic, though. Also, I just did a quick automatic name change. Word might have missed a few as I switched them back or made some errors, so don't be surprised along the way if a random name pops up.
Other than that, I hope you guys still love this adventure of mine!
This is it. The moment I've been waiting for.
Sitting across from the president of Mikaelson Publishing, I'm at ease even though it's my first time in his office. I've busted my ass since day one at this book publishing company, proving my worth and waiting for what I'm sure is about to come from Klaus Mikaelson's mouth.
"Thanks for speaking with me, Elena. We're all extremely impressed with the pieces you've assisted on since joining our company."
Yeah, I'm a wonderful editorial assistant. Let's get to the point.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled by the compliments—have come to expect them—but that's what happens when you live, eat, and breathe work.
I'm ready to become an acquisitions editor. I've fucking earned it.
"It shouldn't come as a shock to hear you've been on our radar for quite some time."
No, it doesn't.
"And I'm happy to tell you that despite budget cuts—"
Here we go.
"We're going to be keeping you on part-time."
Wait. What? Part-time? As in a demotion from my current full-time position?
My fingers fumble with the hem of my slate pencil skirt as I keep my eyes from widening. "Excuse me, sir?"
Klaus fidgets in his leather chair and leans slightly forward. "I know this wasn't what you were expecting, but the economy is not helping our company and sales are down. With the abundance of personal blogs and social media outlets, everyone thinks they're a literary genius. And since the uneducated masses tend to agree, they're not dishing out the money to buy written works when they can read them online for free."
What he's saying makes sense. But still, I've devoted my life to moving up the publishing ladder. I'm no longer stuck on the second step, but being shoved back down to the first. I might as well be a damn intern again.
Where's the justice in that?
I keep my voice level, never revealing how much I'm internally freaking out. I'm the epitome of professional. "How many hours a week will I actually be working?"
As in half of what I'd previously been paid for. After pulling seventy-hour workweeks and only being paid for the standard forty, this is how I'm being rewarded.
"I really am sorry." Klaus's eyes reveal the slightest hint of sincerity and despite my growing urge to punch him in the jugular, I swallow down the reality that his hands are tied. "If it makes you feel any better, we're letting go a third of the office. Be grateful you still have a job."
My best friend has a scowl on her face and a bite in her words that effectively verbalizes all of the rancid thoughts swirling through my head.
"Are you fucking kidding me? That's what that British douche nugget said to justify what he's doing to you?"
We're sitting beside a sheet of glass windows, overlooking the East River at our go-to watering hole The Lakehouse. It's also Caroline's place of employment. She's off tonight and since she gets half priced drinks, it seemed like the right place to drown my sorrows under a sea of alcoholic haze.
I take a sip of Pear Martini. "Yep."
"After a year of not paying you for the embarrassingly excessive amount of unpaid overtime you've put in for his company?" Her voice holds the perfect degree of disdain. I want to hug her.
Caroline scoffs before releasing a sigh and tossing a blonde ringlet of hair over her shoulder. "I repeat, what a douche."
I nod this time. "Yep." Apparently, it's the only word I'm capable of speaking.
As if sensing my downward spiral toward self-pity, Caroline shoots me a small smile. "Alright, well then the next round is on me."
"You don't have to." And I mean it. I'm not one for handouts. It's why I take so much pride in working myself into the ground in order to achieve my goals. At least, I did.
"I want to," she insists, reaching across our high top table and giving my hand a tug. "You're one of the most genuine, committed people I know and you've been shit on. Life is unfair. So right now, I'm going to do something to make you feel a little bit better. It's what friends are for."
Her words flow through me, easing me out of the disappointing hole I'd tossed myself into. I may have been dealt the short end of the stick professionally, but not my best friend.
"See, there's a little smile," she says. "You're too beautiful to be so pouty."
The full smile she's been dragging out comes over my lips at her compliment because despite her good looks, she never fails to assure me of mine. Thankfully, we've never had to compete for guys. I'm not terrible on the eyes either, and I'm not saying that with obnoxious confidence. I understand my assets. But Caroline is the bombshell who attracts the muscle while I'm more of the adorably studious girl-next-door type who spends most of her time with her nose in a book correcting grammatical errors instead of scouting for men.
"You sure know how to flatter a girl," I purr, batting my eyes, teasingly flirty with her.
"Oh please." She smiles, green eyes twinkling with mirth as she teases right back. "I'm just boozing you up so I can get into your pants later."
I wink and blow her a kiss. "You keep that up and I can almost guarantee it."
When the waiter brings us another round of drinks, Caroline looks up. "Thanks, Matt. These go on my tab for the rest of the night."
Matt's gaze travels between the two of us appreciatively, lingering a few seconds longer on my bestie. "They could be on me for the rest of the night if you want to go back to my place afterwards."
Caroline rolls her eyes. "My answer is the same as it was last night and the night before. If I wanted crabs, I'd go down to the docks and pick them from the bins myself. And as for Elena, she's too good for you."
As Matt's shoulders sag, Caroline maneuvers our drinks from his tray and places one in front of me before he scurries off.
"You didn't have to be so mean to him."
"Oh yes I did. The guy can't take a hint. Three nights in a row he's come onto me, and he's already slept with two of the other bartenders," she exclaims. "But come on, you need to drink up. Tonight is about forgetting douchebag British bosses and skeezy co-workers."
She lifts her glass and I do the same. "Thanks for this. Considering I'm about to undergo a pay cut, I'm going to need all of the handouts I can get. I don't even know how I'm going to afford my apartment anymore."
"We could always move in together."
At her words, my eyebrows shoot north and I nearly spit out my fruity beverage.
"You're right." Caroline giggles, setting her glass onto the table so she can lift both her hands in the air. "Terrible idea. Your OCD cleaning tendencies would drive me up a fucking wall."
I nod. "And your late night rendezvous with mysterious men would leave me sleep deprived."
"And your diligent work ethic would make me itchy."
"And your incessant need to walk around the apartment stark naked would have me cleaning the couch cushions on a daily basis. I can't afford that much upholstery cleaner anymore."
We both break out into a fit of laughter at the absurd idea of sharing a space.
"We'd be terrible roommates," Caroline concludes, before taking another sip of her drink.
I'm laughing so hard it's difficult to breathe, but I still manage to gulp back my beverage then agree, "The absolute worst."
"You're still my best friend, though," she declares, titling her head to the side and blasting me with devotion.
I lean across the table. "And you're still the girl that clings to me because I'm the only one with any degree of common sense." It's a joke but the absolute truth. My girl wouldn't know a good decision if it hit her in the head. It's why she chooses one night stands over healthy relationships, spends more on handbags than groceries, and remains in her bartending position instead of investing in an actual career. But that free spirit attitude makes Caroline, well, Caroline. And I wouldn't change anything about the girl I love.
She smiles and shrugs. "You've got me there."
We break into more laughter, catching curious glances from the nearby tables of men, but we both ignore them. However, all too soon, my mood shifts, as I'm unable to ignore the fact my life is about to change and likely become a mess. "What am I going to do? My job, money, apartment, it's all up in the air."
"Tackle the easiest problem first."
I sigh. "I'm going to get a roommate."
Caroline gasps. "Cue the dramatic music now."
"It won't be that bad," I tell myself, though I honestly don't believe it. I left a bad home when I was eighteen and have lived alone ever since, relishing the freedom of independence and the comfort of my own sanctuary. Sharing my space with another person again sends a shiver racing up my spine, but I ignore it.
"You're only saying that because we're three drinks in," Caroline points out.
"Probably," I admit, shrugging at her truth. "But after today, I need to think positively about something."
"No, after today you need a few rounds of shots. Followed by at least another three martinis."
It's exactly what she forces down my throat over the next two hours.
"Text me when you get home," Caroline screams from the taxi as it drives away. She's dangling out of the back window, the every definition of white-girl wasted.
Then again, I don't have much room to talk.
My head feels light and I'm having a hard time balancing on my navy stilettos. I only have a few blocks to walk to get to my apartment and I'm not going to lie, the short walk seems more like a journey at the moment. Fingers crossed I make it there without toppling over.
I focus on my steps, keeping my head down as I run roommate scenarios through my mind. After downing several more drinks at the bar, Caroline and I had set up an account on roommates dot com. Perhaps I should have waited until I was sober before filling out my requirements and contact information, but I'm not focusing on that. Instead, I'm swaying in the bliss of my posting and the ease with which I'll find the perfect roommate. He or she is out there. I'm certain.
My head is still focused on my feet, making sure they remain steady when I feel a tug on my arm. Twirling to my side, knees wobbling, I somehow manage to remain upright. I'm mentally celebrating my upright success until I notice my handbag is no longer around my wrist. Two things happen simultaneously: my mental party stops and my purse appears in the hands of a man. He turns quickly, but not fast enough for me to miss his features, even in the darkness of night. He's a looker and under different circumstances my heart would be summersaulting in my chest, but not when that bastard just swiped my bag.
"Hey!" I shout in a desperately lame attempt to make him stop. Unsurprisingly, he keeps his steady pace and I pick up mine, sprinting after him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I shout again and this time he turns around. Holy shit are his eyes bright. Almost neon blue.
He takes off down the sidewalk and considering he's in boots and I'm in stilettos, he's faster. We're both hoofing it down an otherwise deserted alley and when it becomes obvious I'll never catch him nor my handbag, I remove one of my heels and chuck it at him.
It bounces off his back, but otherwise has no effect. He doesn't even make a sound at the impact.
"Please! I need that bag." With one foot lifted in the air, I teeter, terrified of touching the grimy cement with my bare skin. It reeks of urine, and if I could see through the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, hazing my already blurred vision, I'd likely notice cockroaches and the trash I'll be spending my night with. "My apartment keys are in there!"
They fly through the air at me right before he disappears around a corner.
My hangover the next morning is legendary. Seriously, I think Bryce Harper's in there swinging a baseball bat against my cranium. While I slept in my own bed courtesy of my polite mugger, the remaining items in my purse as well as my dignity are still gone. That hurts worse than the hangover.
I spend the first few hours of my morning nursing my head like it's attached to a newborn baby. Soft pillows and support are key, as well as closed blinds. It's an appropriate setting to stew in the dark realities of yesterday. Not only did I get demoted, I also drank myself into a stupor. And to top it off, I'd been robbed. Yesterday officially earned the 'Worst Day Of My Adult Life' sticker.
Part of me wants to cry. A larger part of me wants to wallow. So after canceling all my credit cards and ordering a new cell, the latter is what I do until about mid-afternoon. Then I drag my sorry, still aching ass into the shower and wash away the events of the previous day.
When I emerge, clean and dressed, I'm already more positive about the state of my life. In the grand scheme of things, I'd only lost a few bills in my wallet, a cheapish purse and cell, and replaceable credit cards. At least I still have a job in our dwindling economy, a best friend that is hopefully alive, and a great apartment that I'll be able to afford once I get a roommate.
Oh shit. My cell phone. How am I supposed to get a roommate without being able to answer calls?
Pacing around my living room, it dawns on me I have a few days left to myself. Sure, money is going to be an issue, but as I take in the immaculate hardwood floors, flawlessly placed pastel furniture, and alphabetized pieces of literature running the shelves along my exposed brick wall, I realize maybe that's okay. I like my stuff where it is. I like it untouched by anyone other than me. And I absolutely like it clean. A roommate is going to obliterate all of that. Is it really a big deal if I delay my awful fate another week? Probably not.
Just as I've settled in the comfort of that fact, there's a knock at my door. Bracing myself for Caroline's fury over not texting her, I run to the door and throw it open.
It's not Caroline.
It's a hairy man, thirty-five, I'd guess, dressed in a skin tight Hello Kitty t-shirt that's cut off just above his belly button.
"Are you Elena Gilbert?"
I nod, unable to form coherent words as my eyes remain focused on this man's exposed mid-section.
"I'm here about your roommate request."
"Oh," is what I finally say before begrudgingly conducting a quick interview in my hallway. It's all I need to decide this guy is one hundred percent not my future resident and dismiss him with a polite, "Thank you for coming."
As I shut the door, I throw my still-sensitive head into my hands and groan. Apparently, in our drunken state, Caroline and I had thought it smart to list my actual address in my post. Morons, the both of us. I thought the robbing was bad. Now, not only do I have to find a roomie, I also have to worry about strangers coming to my house and hacking me into tiny bits.
If only I had my cell phone to call Caroline to ream her out about letting me make stupid mistakes when I've consumed too much alcohol or to ask her for much needed back up. Sadly, I don't, which leaves me alone to deal with potential tenants showing up at my door over the next few hours.
I interview a guy who refuses to turn off the music blaring from his cell phone while I ask him questions, which infuriates me more considering I don't have one at the moment. There's another with gold teeth, a lady who doesn't speak a lick of English, and a girl who only communicates via notepad since she's abstaining from speaking for an entire year. My last interviewee has potential. She's normal, answers my questions using her mouth, and reminds me so much of Caroline I'm seconds away from welcoming her in. Then she asks if I'm alright with her working from home. She's a prostitute.
After my last goodbye, I'm hopeless. All my earlier positivity has faded, leaving me questioning the sanity of New York's residents. Is it possible Caroline and I are the only sane ones left? Or am I too picky? I'm honestly not sure. But I sure as hell refuse to live with someone I don't even feel comfortable inviting into the living room.
One thing is certain. If the remaining people are anything like those I've interviewed so far, I'm going to have to settle. Or fail to make rent and live on the street. Both options seem horrendous.
I head to the kitchen to make dinner and after searching through my cabinets, I pull out a box of Kraft Mac 'N Cheese. Comfort food is the only thing that can save me from the wreckage of my life. But just as I begin filling a pot with water, the doorbell rings again.
Releasing a sigh and kicking myself in the ass for the umpteenth time today, I set the pot on the counter and make my way to the door, opening it to the last person I ever expected on my doorstep.
"You lookin' for a roommate?" He's wearing a shit-eating grin on his kissable lips and the dangerous combination of his dark features, strong angles, and sculpted cheekbones do nothing to sway me from the familiarity of his eyes.
They're not neon in the light of day. They're oceanic blue. Beautiful, crashing waves against a shore at sunset kind of blue. And they're about to be gouged from their sockets.
My face twists into something sinister. "You."
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