Title: Sleepless in Manhattan
Synopsis: The year isn't off to a great start for relationship advice columnist Caroline Forbes. She makes the mistake of sleeping with her best friend Stefan, who then proceeds to tell her about the girl he likes. This prompts Caroline to go on a dating detox but just as she starts her man-ban, a rather sexy artist crosses her path.
Pairings: Caroline and Klaus
Heat licked her skin before she cracked an eye open to a view of perfectly shaped globes of tanned ass. Caroline tensed and closed her eyes again, shutting out the image of the gorgeous swell of firm buttocks. She was in Stefan's apartment or rather Stefan's bedroom to be precise. The radiator hissed in the corner of the bedroom while Stefan moved around the space.
She gathered it to be morning by the shimmer of light over her closed eyelids. She held her breath and waited for him to leave the bedroom. She didn't feel like dealing with last night's consequences just yet. When she heard him quietly slip out of the room she opened her eyes and sat up. The sheets were tangled around her legs and she pulled the sheet up to her chest to cover herself.
Last night had been a huge mistake.
She had built a career educating people about love and relationships and yet she'd failed to follow her own rules. As a relationship advice columnist she should have known that her little adventure with Stefan wouldn't end well. Her mind flashed back to the early hours of morning just after she had made love to Stefan. Right in that what the fuck did we just do and afterglow moment of new possibilities he had confessed that he was in love with someone else.
She'd felt so humiliated and somehow felt guilty for feeling humiliated because Stefan was her friend after all. She didn't even really like Stefan like that and the sex had just happened. Perhaps they'd both been lonely or bored but hearing him speak so profoundly about someone else still hurt and made her feel like shit.
A sigh slipped from her throat and she closed her eyes. When she heard the running shower, she quickly rolled off the bed, scrambled to her feet and draped a sheet around her naked body. She looked around the floor for her dress amid the glittery top hats, pink New Year's Eve party sunglasses and feather boas they had adorned last night at the party.
Slipping back into her silver cocktail dress, she put on her stilettos and got back down on all fours to look for her thong. When her search proved fruitless, she panicked because not only did she not want to make the great trek to her apartment commando but she did not want to leave any trace of herself at Stefan's apartment. She didn't want him thinking that she'd purposely left her panties at his apartment in the hopes of coming back for them. When she reached for her pink cashmere coat at the foot of the bed she got the idea to search the bed for her thong and found it tangled in the sheets. After she pulled her panties up over her hips she stood for a moment holding her breath and listened to check if the shower was still running. Concluding that Stefan was still in the shower, she grabbed her clutch bag and tiptoed out of his room and out into the hallway.
Stefan's voice trilled from the hallway just as she closed the door
Reaching the freight elevator, she pushed the button and waited impatiently glancing over her shoulder to see if Stefan was following her. A shiver snaked down her spine when memories from last night began to filter through her mind again; Stefan's face poised over hers, Stefan moaning into their kiss. She shook her head, running her fingers through her rumpled blonde hair and pulled her phone out of her clutch to check her messages. It was dead. She noticed dustings of glitter on the floor, the same glitter color from their top hats the night before.
Caroline stepped into the elevator and exited his apartment building. She wanted to fast forward a few months and forget last night ever happened. They had drunk champagne, braved the crowds, watched the ball drop and sang Auld Lang Syne before heading back to Stefan's place to make out on his fire escape. She still wasn't quite sure when kissing on his fire escape had turned to steaming up the sheets on his bed but it had happened.
The streets were still quiet with snow covered sidewalks and shuttered storefronts. Had she not taken Stefan up on his stupid offer, she'd be at home right now sleeping in. She began to walk down the sidewalk, stumbling through the snow in her stilettos. She cast a gaze at the trees lining the street, their branches covered with glittering snow and her face softened a little. There was nothing more beautiful than New York in winter.
Turning up the collar of her coat, she lifted her head to look up at the gray sky and her hair fell in blonde waves down her back. She inhaled deeply as the cold reddened her cheeks. The city smelled clean, cold but the tang of urine and trash was still there but not quite as pronounced as it was during the summer season.
She let out a sigh. It was a new year filled with new hope and new beginnings. It was a time when people made new year's resolutions like signing up for gym to trim their meaty legs, like drinking less, spending less and bitching less. As she stood there in the freezing cold, she felt like she too needed to make a resolution.
Life was all about choices and she was making one now. No more dating. Prevention was way better than cure for a broken heart. She was going to miss the thrill of making eye contact with hot strangers, hopeful first dates with their sizzling kisses but she had to do this. This had to be done.
Two yellow cabs rushed past her as he raised her arm to hail one of them. She noticed that the numbers on the rooftop sign of the cabs were unlit which meant that the cabs were either occupied or the driver was looking to score a bigger tip by getting a hotel trip to the airport. Dropping her arm again, she wrapped her arms around herself and avoided a closed manhole by walking around it. She had nightmares about open manholes around the city and was pretty sure that one day she would fall into one and that would be the end of her single and fabulous life.
She caught sight of another taxi as it turned the corner onto the street and made its way toward her. She moved closer to the street and hailed the cab. As the taxi pulled up in front of her, she reached for the door handle just as someone ran in front of her, stretching his hand for the same door.
She turned her head toward the stranger and glared at him.
"Mine." She grunted, shoving him out of the way. She was turning into a cavewoman who could barely string a sentence together. Her manners were clean forgotten because she was hungry, hung-over and her feet hurt like a bitch. What she needed was an ocean of brewed coffee from Dean and Deluca and a sausage panini to cure the hang-over.
"Rough morning, love?" he asked, his dimples winking in his cheeks. She cursed under her breath determined not to react to his British accent, let alone his brown curly hair and dark blue eyes but his pretty mouth and that arresting smile was making it darn hard not to react. She felt his gaze slide over her, taking in the details of her untidy outfit and she felt even dirtier like an ex-boyfriend had caught sight of her on her worst day.
"Move." She grunted again and moved toward the open cab door before she felt his hand on her arm.
"Really, are we in the thirteenth century now?" his eyebrow shot up and a smile teased his lips.
"What do you want?" She asked, wriggling free just as he freed her arm.
"Would you like to share the taxi?"
"I don't share." She crossed her arms and looked up at him disapprovingly. She didn't care that she was coming off looking like a disgruntled three-year old in the process.
"Technically it's not your taxi."
"We were both standing at the same spot and at the same time and I also believe we hailed it at the same time."
"What are you a lawyer trying to win a case?" she narrowed her eyes, her gaze roving over him.
"I'm just a bloke trying to get home so that I can wash this painfully awkward walk of shame with a hot shower. I'm sure you understand my dilemma, sweetheart."
"You are not even worth the calories I burn talking to you" Caroline snapped back and hurriedly climbed inside the back of the cab. When he followed behind her she didn't try and stop him. She was exhausted and wanted to get home stat.
"Klaus Mikaelson" he said, sticking out his hand. He didn't bother to hide his smile when she merely glared at his hand.
"Where to?" the driver asked, pulling out as the meter clicked.
"West fifty-ninth and eightieth." Caroline responded, scooting an inch or two away from the cab-crasher.
"You're a long way from home, Dorothy."
"Stop talking, Toto"
"So you think you'll call him gain?"
"Your lucky guy from last night."
She was about to admit that there was nothing lucky about last night. In fact she wanted to forget last night but she didn't divulge her personal life to strangers no matter how handsome they might be.
"What makes you think this is some sort of walk of shame?" she asked, catching the light dusting of hair on his chest peaking through the V of his gray t-shirt as he removed his woollen scarf. Well he certainly had the whole rugged, city confidence thing down pat. She tore her gaze away and stared out of the window.
"Because I recognize a chum when I see one and you are wearing last night's night smoky eye shadow. It looks quite fetching I might add, especially with the glitter" he smiled wickedly, pointing at her face with his finger. She fought the edge to reach out and bite that finger.
"Fetching, "Caroline scoffed instead and leaned her head against the bench of the cab. What man said things like fetching? What man looked deliciously rompy with deliciously tousled hair at eight am on a freezing Sunday morning? She closed her eyes and wished she had a pair of earphones to shut him out. Before he had the chance to annoy her with more banter, the taxi came to a stop outside her apartment building. She smiled, pulled out a few bills from her clutch and tucked them into the pocket of his rugged tweed coat.
"The rest of your ride is on me" she said patting his pocket. She could feel his eyes on her as she climbed out of the cab and she told herself that she shouldn't look back as she made her way into the building.
Klaus's eyes were glued to her deliciously round buttocks as she walked away from him and he appreciated the view. Her face hadn't been too bad either. She was cute in that bubbly-girl-next-door fashion and Klaus was sure that underneath all that morning grumpiness was a sexy, unassuming woman he'd love to take out to dinner.
As soon as the taxi pulled away from cute cavewoman's apartment building the spell was broken. He rested his head against the seat and closed his eyes. He was tired but not from a wild night of sex with some stranger like he had implied to cute blonde. After long months of hard work he had finally finished his paintings for a solo exhibit. Everything was wrapped and his pieces were ready for to be transported to the gallery.
After spending a week at the studio and existing on pizza and wine, he was finally heading back to his own apartment in Tribeca.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and when he retrieved it, he quickly glanced at the screen to see the caller. Swiping his thumb across the screen he picked up the call.
"Where are you?"
"I'm in a taxi. I just left the studio."
"Is everything packed and ready to go?"
"Yeah. Listen, I'm truly knackered but I left the pieces in Lucien's care. They're ready for transportation."
"Great, listen I need to talk to you about your spring showing at the David Galliard gallery-"
"It's pretty simple, I'll supply the art and the gallery will supply the wall space." He rolled his eyes, a hint of a smile touching his lips. Camille said something about the gallery accessing his potential but he was barely listening.
"They don't want to invest in a vanishing artist and need to know that you're in this for the long haul."
Examining his nails nonchalantly, he drawled "Do they want my oath in blood?"
"You're in one of your moods again. We'll chat later." She said and hung up before he could protest, not that he wanted to. He didn't have the energy to do or think about anything else but his bed.
He loathed the business part of exhibits because all he wanted was to show his complete body of work. Yes, he was looking for a gallery that matched his personality, a place that would know his value and appreciate him as an artist but the work always came first. He had exhibited at other established galleries and some pretty good reviews to show for it.
In a few days he would be showing at the Robert Chadwick gallery. The galleries clientele fit him and they had already gone through his portfolio, selecting the items that they wanted to show from the itemized digital images. Everyone was happy with the pieces and the theme.
By the time he opened he opened his eyes, the driver was honking his phone and the meter was still clicking. Klaus pulled out his wallet, paid him then peeled himself off the seat and climbed out of the cab. Slowly he trudged into his brick apartment building. After getting into an elevator, he leaned against the wall and watched the numbers until the doors opened indicating his arrival on his floor. He took a few steps toward his apartment and opened the door to his loft.
He climbed a set of metal stairs leading up to his bedroom; the metal clanking with every step he took. He stopped halfway, listening for the sounds he thought he heard but when he heard nothing he continued to climb, his hand trailing the bannister. He shrugged off his coat as he entered his bedroom and was about to toss the thing on a chair next to his bed when his eyes caught movement on the bed.
Hayley was in bed straddling another man. After a whirr of movements, legs stumbling off the bed, hair whipping cheeks and arms clutching sheets to hide their nakedness, Hayley and her fellow fornicator stood in front of him, mouths agape. Klaus cast a glance at the olive skinned man, clenched his hands into fists but thought better of it.
It wasn't worth it.
She wasn't worth it because she was never really his to begin with. She was just a model he'd picked up after some show. Sure she'd moved in with him and had been sharing his space since July but then he got busier and busier and she had obviously found someone to replace him with.
Before Klaus could say anything, Hayley was hurtling at him with tears in her eyes. This was hardly the welcome he'd expected and her attacking him after she'd been caught cheating was alarming if not laughable. He didn't know how to react and so after her lover tried to control her by holding her back, Klaus simply told her to pack up her things and leave. She didn't move an inch, just stood there staring at him. Klaus looked at the bed again then he turned to look at Hayley expectantly as if to ask what she was waiting for.
After some probing from a now fully dressed-whoever the fuck the bloke was-she slipped back into her jeans and shirt, huffily stuffed what little clothes she had in his closet inside a duffel bag and left. After the commotion, he locked his doors, vowed to change the locks and preceded back to his bedroom to strip the bed off the soiled sheets.
Maybe he was to blame for the collapse of their relationship, maybe he'd let the work consume him but then again perhaps she had fulfilled her role as a muse. His new work was incredible and he had no doubt that the show would be a success.
Three days later Caroline was back at the office and had managed to successfully avoid any calls from Stefan thanks to screening her calls. There was a buzz in the office with well wishes for New Years and hugs being passed around like gift bags after a fashion show. Caroline passed the front office with the receptionist sitting behind a sleek modern desk and nodded her greeting at Angie. The name of the magazine was proudly mounted on the glass wall behind her. This was Caroline's fifth year at Scarlett magazine and she loved it. She'd paid her dues and she now had a small office to show for it.
Inside her office, she settled at her gleaming desk and logged into her computer. Her gaze swept over the small office as she waited for her computer to boot up. It was a stylish space with graphic paintings on the wall and an L-shaped white leather sofa against one wall and the flowers added a nice touch. She took a sip of coffee from her Dean and Deluca cup and drummed her fingers against the mug. She was trying not to think about the incident with Stefan and so in order to keep her mind occupied she dived straight into her work. She screened through the e-mails seeking her advice and opened one.
Dear Sleepless in Manhattan,
I'm not looking for a relationship right now but I still wanna have a bit of fun and hey, a girl has needs right? Can you give me some friends with benefits rules so I can avoid the drama and complication that comes with this sort of arrangement?
Signed, Fun With Boundaries
Caroline sat back in her chair and clasped her hands under her chin. She tapped her stiletto-clad foot, took another sip of coffee and began typing out her response.
Dear Fun With Boundaries,
Successful FWB, NSA or fuck buddy relationships are an urban myth and they never end well. FWB are ongoing sexual relationships and people have been known to develop feelings in this situation. But back to your question, here are the rules to ensure an FWB with relatively low drama.
Set the ground rules and do not get romantically involved
Set a time limit
Tell no one about it
No discussions about the future
No weekend brunches
No Netflix and chill
Texting with him should only consist of sexting
Signed, Sleepless in Manhattan
Pursing her lips, she considered the response she'd finished typing and hit send. Did she even trust her own judgement after the night with Stefan? She sat back in her chair again and stared at her monitor. She'd sift through the rest of the e-mails and choose the ones that her editor could approve to go into the magazine.
Just as she had finished reading another letter, Bonnie the resident sexpert at the magazine peaked into the office. Her perfectly straight hair was draped over her left shoulder and her signature pencil skirts encased her hips to perfection. Bonnie was one of those women who could eat a house and not gain an ounce. Had it not been for the fact that she was one of Caroline's best-friends then she would have hated her solely for this reason.
"Morning." Bonnie greeted taking in the Dean & Deluca cup and waving with her own Starbucks cup.
"Jo is having a staff meeting in ten minutes." She pointed to her computer with her chin, implying that she had to wrap up whatever she was busy with.
"Oh joy." Caroline tipped her head to the side and rolled her eyes.
"We're going out for drinks tonight before heading to the art thing." She informed Caroline with a chuckle.
"What art thing?" Caroline asked, she hated being out of the loop especially when she thought it was her duty to manage all their social calendars.
"Some new artist is having a show. Read your texts, Forbes." Bonnie slapped the door before dashing off in the direction of her own office.
Caroline always met Bonnie and Katherine at Rush for their ceremonial Wednesday night cocktails but she wondered what the gallery show was about since none of them were art enthusiasts. Nonetheless, she needed the break so she didn't mind a busy social calendar.
"This is Lexi Branson from our Chicago office; she'll be taking over the health and fitness column." Jo announced as the ladies pulled out seats along the gleaming conference table in the boardroom. Caroline cast at glance at Lexi and took stock of her tousled long blonde hair, small smiling eyes and glowing pink cheeks.
Everyone exchanged greetings before settling into the all-important morning meeting. The meetings were usually held on Mondays but since they had just came back from the holidays then Wednesday it was.
Jo Parker, looking elegant in a navy-blue dress that did amazing things with her sharp blue eyes, cleared her throat, slipped on a pair of reading glasses and twisted the top off her bottled water.
Taking a sip from the bottle, she said "In the era of hookups and dating apps we've lost the art of romance. Women want to know how to find the one."
"Actually-"Caroline raised her hand. She was about to explain to her boss that women were still eager to know the rules in order to play the hook-up game, courtesy of the letters she received on a daily basis asking about no string attached relationships. She halted however when Jo cleared her throat, a sure sign that she didn't want to be interrupted.
"The trends are slowly moving towards simpler relationships, movies and dinners at home, meeting the friends, the parents. Women are ready to play the relationship game by their own rules. They don't want men to dictate how it works anymore. Women want to know how to meet and keep the one."
"There is no THE ONE. There is no soulmate. The idea that there is a single person out there who is just waiting to complete you is ridiculous." Bonnie huffed, lifting her mug of coffee to her lips. She paused, the mug halfway to her lips as she felt Jo's icy glare on her.
"As I was saying, Caroline our resident rela-"
"I'm undergoing a dating detox." The blonde announced perkily.
Exasperated, Jo leaned back in her chair and tapped her fingers on the table "I beg your pardon?"
"A man-ban. I'm not dating. I'm not kissing, cuddling any member of the opposite sex for the next six months. "
"Care, you don't date. You screen for husbands." Bonnie scoffed, oblivious to Jo's frustration.
"Remember when she bought that book on hunting for a husband?" Katherine laughed turning to Bonnie.
"That book was a bestseller thank you very much." Caroline raised her voice, her eyes darting between Kat and Bonnie, "Well either way, I'm packing it in. No more dating. I'm done with men."
A crash loud enough to make them jump from their seats echoed around the room as Jo purposely dropped a coffee mug on the marble floor. Once all eyes turned back toward her, she rested her elbows on the table and resumed the meeting.
"I'm giving you this assignment Miss Forbes, I don't care how you do it but I need an article on How to meet the one on my desk by the next deadline. "She peered at Caroline over the rim of her Dior reading glasses.
"Yes, Miss Parker." Caroline nodded, reminding herself that she worked well under pressure.
It wouldn't be a complete disaster.