I'll Love You Better Now
'War between the Vanities'
For the first time in all the months Daniel had known Emily, he was up before her. The sun was barely creeping over the horizon, and the ocean was still locked in its nighttime turmoil. As he sat on her beloved white swing, he couldn't help but feel bitter at remembering who had hung it for her—Jack. Wringing his hands together, Daniel tried not to think about it; all that mattered was that Emily loved the swing, and he loved her—that would somehow make it all okay. Breathing in the salty crisp air, he tapped his little notebook on his knee. It had been a long time since he'd taken the time to write a poem—as of late, it seemed more and more difficult to do. But Emily, like a little hopeful glimmer on the water, had sparked all his poetic emotions. Suddenly, the entire world was painted in brighter colors, and even the hardest of trials seemed bearable—this was true love, in all the definitions he'd ever heard. The poets, who once seemed sappy and drowning in honey-blinded infatuation, were now the only voices who made clear and perfect sense to him. His parents had never been a fantastic indicator of love, and his past relationships were no better gauge; Emily had brought it all together in the astounding fiery cascade of her smile. Daniel smirked at the vision of her brilliant grin, and finally flipped the cover of his notebook open. Little bits and pieces of unfinished poems filled the first few pages, and he remembered how difficult it had been for him to write even that tragically little amount. Once turning to a fresh page though, he could already envision the words on the page. Favorite black pen nestled between his left index and middle fingers, the words seemed to come directly from the inspiration of the ink. Valentine's Day only a day away, love-stricken cursive replaced his natural script; it was utterly amazing how easy it came to him—Emily instigated him in such unfathomable ways.
Reality had completely drifted away from him by the time Emily took a gentle seat next to him. Feeling the swing sway slightly, he glanced up quickly at the movement, barely noticing his fiancée next to him.
"I didn't expect to find you out here," Emily said, looking almost longingly to the ocean. "You're up a lot earlier than usual."
Daniel finally put his pen down, smiling at her brightly. If only she could know the overwhelming feeling that sparked within him when he saw her. "Yeah, I couldn't sleep I guess," he replied, trying himself to pinpoint what exactly had awoken him at such an ungodly hour.
"Is something the matter?" She quickly moved her hand to Daniel's forearm. He shook his head with a laugh.
"No, not at all. I'm actually glad I got up; it gave me time to write this." He traced his hand over the notebook paper. Emily cocked her head to get a better view of it.
"What is it?" A little smile escaped onto her lips, and Daniel mirrored her features.
"An early Valentine's Day gift," he told her simply, handing over the notebook to her. As her fingers wrapped around the back and front covers, she couldn't help but freeze momentarily. Poetry had been a hobby of her father's too, and he was the only one, up until now, to write something for her. Emily wasn't used to such love. But not letting her worries get the better of her, she let her eyes fall to the paper in front of her. Daniel's black cursive loops seemed to levitate above the page.
Last night I dreamt of moonbeams
Parading in the sky,
Like so many tiny soldiers
From a castle vaulted high.
And they danced with elfin beauty
As they swept across my eyes.
Then too I dreamt of bluebirds
And flowers in the spring,
Of honey-suckle roses
And all those sorts of things.
And every kind of beauty
That happiness can bring.
And one by one they assembled
These things both fine and rare,
And everything that's gorgeous
From sea or land or air.
They gleamed in dazzling glory
And thrilled beyond compare.
Then in a tone so soothing,
They said, "This much we'll tell,
It isn't our own beauty
That makes us seem so swell;
It's only reflected loveliness
From the girl you love so well."
Emily was breathless. It was very rare that somebody could leave Amanda Clarke at a loss for words or response, but Daniel had accomplished the impossible. Such simplicity and love came from his words, and she truly wondered what she'd done to deserve him. Someone this genuine should not be subjected to a vengeful plan of utter destruction, but Emily couldn't let him go; not now, not ever. She had never truly realized how wonderful he was until she had opened her heart completely to him—and after today, there was no chance in her mind of him betraying her. For so long she'd expected the worst from people, that she forgot to look at the good and sweet parts of them; it compelled her to take for granted the little bits and pieces of love she got. Her fragile nine year old heart fluttered heatedly for Daniel, and she finally saw with clear view how similar he was to her father. It had been a theory lurking in the back of her mind for a while now, but this blush-inducing poem sealed the deal. Blinking back the formation of tears, she looked to Daniel tenderly.
"Daniel, I—I have no idea what to say." She looked back down to the poem again and then back up at him. "It's… perfect." Biting her lip, she watched as Daniel's eyes sparked.
"You really think so? I still don't think I should quit my day job," he told her jokingly. As much as her words meant to him, he had never been one to accept a compliment without feeling slightly uncomfortable. An interesting quirk of his, given whom his parents were, he almost prided himself in it. In a family surrounded by narcissistic endeavors, his shyness was his one weapon against the 'family way'.
"I'm serious, it really is lovely. I'll treasure it forever." Words had never felt this powerful to her since her father said 'You be good; I love you' when he was taken from her for the final time. Leaning her head on Daniel's shoulder, his warm body gave her comfort. No matter who his parents may be, he was a true angel. He kissed her on the head in response, and pulled her in closer to him. The notebook was settled between them, one cover on Emily's thigh, the other on Daniel's.
Just as Daniel was beginning to fall completely into a trance, the mailman walked briskly onto their porch, setting their mail on the little table to the left of the stairs with a smile. He smiled in return, and Emily turned her head slightly.
"I'll go get it," he told her softly, before getting up and walking the short distance to the table. Flipping through the mail, he landed on an invitation with a red bow attached elegantly to the top.
Conrad & Victoria Grayson
request the pleasure of your company at the Don't Give Up on Love Valentine's Day gathering,
February 14th, beginning at 5:00 PM.
"Leave it to my parents to arrange a party right after a string of such bad events," Daniel said glumly as he sat back down next to Emily and handed her the letter.
"They waste no time, do they," Emily said looking over the letter. It didn't fit Victoria's M.O. to send an invitation out only the day before the gathering, so she figured all of this was Conrad's doing.
"No, they don't. But it would be a good place to get back in to Grayson Global," Daniel told her. His face was sadly grim, taking no pleasure from rejoining his father. He was determined though, to change the connotations with the Grayson name.
"And you're sure that's what you want? You've worked so hard at breaking away from your parents…" Emily ran her fingers through her hair. She was silently pleading he'd reconsider. Not because she didn't wish him success with the company, but rather because she feared he might begin to sympathize with his father. That would be the end of everything.
"I know I have, but Grayson Global isn't technically my parents. They've put it in a terrible condition, but once they face the consequences, it'll be free for rebuilding. I want things to be put right; and that means taking my parents down… not the company." He was stern in his stance, and Emily wasn't about to dissuade him. Giving him a supportive smile, she pulled the notebook closer to her.
"I'm right here beside you through it all," Emily said confidently. She only hoped he'd stay beside her as well.
When Ashley had handed her the invitation to tomorrow's gathering, Victoria Grayson was about ready to shriek. With Daniel's trial only beginning to die down, marital troubles still passionate, and both children out of the house, and not to mention the horrific social state this late invitation would put her in, she could not fathom why Conrad would have conjured such an outrageous event. Her rages fueling her energy, she walked with fiery urgency to Conrad's office. Flinging the door open with as much grace as possible, she walked in level-headedly. Running her fingers over the invitation in her hands, she addressed her soon to be ex-husband.
"I hear there is going to be a party tomorrow," Victoria said bitterly, and Conrad looked up from his paperwork with a shadow of a smirk. Putting the pen down, he stared at her flatly. "It's a shame I only found out today." Her passive aggressiveness had always turned Conrad rather sour, but it was also one of the many things which had made him fall in love with her in the first place. She was truly pulling him apart piece by piece.
"Spontaneity seems to be all the rave these days," he told her haughtily, leaning back in his leather chair. It had always been a silent pet-peeve of Victoria's when he let his posture falter in a business-like setting. She straightened her back even more to compensate for it, and looked to him darkly.
"That is absurd, Conrad. You and I both know very well we are in no state to host a party," she told him sternly, walking closer to his desk. Her violet dress hugging her curves, Conrad was momentarily distracted from her words.
"We have to be a united front right now, Victoria," Conrad replied matter-of-factly, matching her icy gaze. His ring seemed to coil around his finger with venomous strength. "For all of this SEC business, Daniel's trial—all of it; to make it go away, we have to give them absolutely no reason to suspect turmoil. If all seems fine, and we can still host a party harmoniously, everything will blow over."
"Have you ever thought that maybe it's time for us to face the consequences of our actions?" Victoria asked harshly. She was so tired of living a life hanging by lies, while in the process, disrespecting the memory of a man she loved dearly and with all of her heart. She hadn't just loved him; she'd adored him.
"That's not possible. Do you really want that legacy for our children? Do you want them, years from now, to be turned away from a bright future because of our mistakes?" He raised a questioning eyebrow at her, his blue eyes shining. He had caught her there; the one thing keeping her from telling the entire truth to all of the world was Daniel and Charlotte. She sighed.
"If you hadn't had put us in this situation to begin with, we'd have nothing to talk about here." Victoria crossed her arms, longing to go back, and fix everything that had been done wrong. It was difficult to do though, when the present held her in her place with such force.
"That demon's already gone and buried. We can't change what we've done. We can only protect our children from its consequences. So, I'll see you at the party tomorrow at five, then." Before she'd even responded, he had resumed his work, never looking up to her.
"Unbelievable," she murmured as she walked with swift grace out of the room, shutting the door behind her firmly.
When Daniel and Emily reached Grayson Manor the following day, Charlotte deciding to stay home to finish homework, the tension in his stomach was unbelievable. For being his childhood summer home, the Manor looked absolutely foreign and almost evil, for that matter. Emily could sense his hesitation, and laced their fingers together.
"You'll be fine," she reassured him, and they walked confidently into the house. People were already mingling around the room, most of the white floor covered by expensive dress shoes. Scanning the room, Daniel quickly met Conrad's eye. He breathed in sharply, and Emily rubbed his hand to calm him.
"Daniel," Conrad greeted, "and Emily, what a surprise. I wasn't sure if you'd be coming." Some of the ice Daniel could recall from their conversation after the interview still lingered, but most of it had melted by now.
"I actually came to apologize," Daniel replied. He had come this far; he had no choice but to dive off the edge. His father's face brightened, and Daniel couldn't help but feel elated that he could conjure such a reaction from Conrad still. "I was wrong to betray my loyalty to you, and for that I'm sorry. I was hoping we could mend our ways; and I'd like to start by working for you and Grayson Global again." For as hard as it was to speak those words, it was oddly liberating. It gave him the chance to be free and make the decision for himself. Because in all honesty, he had no qualm working for the company. He gave his father a smile. Emily's hand got slightly heavy, hearing those words come from Daniel's mouth. He was still hers though; no matter what. He had to be.
"Of course, Daniel," Conrad responded fluidly, "the company will be lucky to have you. And more importantly, I'm glad to have my son back." Not minding any social restrictions, he embraced Daniel. Letting go of Emily's hand, he returned the hug. She felt suddenly cold now, and waited anxiously for them to part.
"I'm glad to be back too," Daniel told him, once his father had let him go.
"You and Emily enjoy the party; we can talk more about this later," Conrad replied in an oddly happy tone Emily had heard maybe once in all the time she'd known him. With that the elder Grayson was gone, leaving Daniel and Emily alone.
"So how do you feel?" She asked him rather timidly, looking up into his deep brown eyes. They seemed calmly content.
"Okay," he replied rather surprised. "A little weird, I guess. I just need to walk it off." Offering his arm to her, Emily gladly took it, and followed his lead as he led her up the stairs.
She hadn't spent much time on the other floors of Grayson Manor, and she was surprised by how many family photos hung around the upper levels of the house. Most consisting of Conrad, Victoria, Daniel and Charlotte, one picture on the wall across from her caught her attention. Guiding Daniel over to it, she unlocked her arm from his and gestured towards the picture. "Who are they?" She asked.
Daniel followed her gaze, and spotted the two people in the family photo unknown to her. A man with pale blue eyes and deep brown hair was next to a woman with thick golden locks and striking hazel eyes. "That's my Uncle Creighton," Daniel told Emily kind of numbly, "and his fiancée Olivia Marques. Well, I guess ex-fiancée now." He shrugged his shoulders.
"What happened?" The name 'Creighton' sparked massive interest within Emily. How was he connected to Laura, and what role did Olivia play? If only Nolan was faster with his research… she had no idea what was taking him so long. She tried to hide her agitation.
"I don't know too much, but after Flight 197, Uncle Creighton was just gone, and took Olivia with him I suppose." Daniel stared at the picture. It had been years since he'd even remotely thought about his uncle—which, when he thought about it, was quite tragic. In the time Daniel had known him, they had been best friends; he'd always clicked more with Creighton than Conrad. The man's blue eyes were completely foreign now, and Daniel couldn't even remember what his voice sounded like.
"What do you mean, you suppose?" Emily couldn't help but ask. She figured Daniel could give her more immediate answers, and it would certainly beat waiting for Nolan to find them out.
"Well we never got an invitation to their wedding, so I don't know what happened to them."
"I just don't understand why your uncle would just take off. Wouldn't that raise some questions, seeing as he probably had major stock in Grayson Global?" It was weird, talking to Daniel about his family's past. It left an odd feeling on the tip of Emily's tongue. But she couldn't stop asking the questions, and he didn't seem to mind them.
"It's weird, I agree. But I don't know the answer to it. I only know what my parents told me when I was a kid." With Emily asking so many questions, it started to get Daniel's mind churning as well; he wanted to know what had become of his beloved uncle, and he wanted the full truth. He did not, by any means, want the bedtime story renditions anymore. Looking over the railing from their place right above the main floor, Daniel saw a figure approaching his father. The man looked familiar, but he was just a tad too far away for him to solidly make out.
"I see you winter in the Hamptons too now," the man's cello-like voice said with a tinge of sarcasm, and Daniel froze.
He watched as his father turned around slowly, and in pure and utter shock, greeted the man: "Creighton?" Daniel felt his knees go weak, and Emily whipped around quickly, at hearing the name. The other Grayson son had finally returned home…
My goodness, 3,000+ words! I never thought I'd see the day! Haha. Hopefully this chapter wasn't too scrambled, but I'm so, so, SO happy to get the plot moving. I also hope that you guys enjoyed the Daniel/Emily moments? I've gotten many reviews asking for more of their romance, and I'm sorry for such a lack of it in chapters past. I sincerely hope you all like the chapter!
Reviews are love!