Chapter Thirteen – Stay
Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay
"We're so glad you could meet with us, Ms. Gilbert, Ms. Forbes, I'm Dyson Thornwood. I spoke to Ms. Gilbert on the phone," Mr. Thornwood said, shaking both of their hands before inviting them to sit down at the large boardroom table.
"Yes, we did, but you were not exactly forthcoming with details if you don't mind me saying," Elena said, smoothing out her skirt as she took a seat at the table. Caroline followed suit, carefully sitting down at the table and scooting her chair in.
"And I'm sorry about that. It was not my intention to be so vague on the phone. I represent an investment firm, we're looking to get into the food industry. We've done a lot of research in the DC area as well as the surrounding areas and the name that came up continuously was yours. Everyone in town seems to be have your business on the tip of their tongue. We've done some digging into your financial figures. You ladies are doing very well for yourselves," he explained, taking a seat behind the desk. "I don't like to beat around the bush so I'll just lay it all down on the table. My firm is interested in investing in your business with franchising in mind. Have you two thought about the possibility of expanding before?"
Caroline and Elena looked at each other, both raising an eyebrow in silent conversation. Elena finally looked back at the man, "We've discussed it, but not in great detail. We have no current plans for expansion, but it's not off the table."
"From our point of view, you are perfect candidate for expansion. Our initial mock up calls for a five store plan. New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and DC would remain your flag ship store. We would start with New York and re-evaluate in a year. If things are still going well in both stores, we would launch the remaining three over the next year," he explained in a matter of fact way.
"Well, that's a lot to digest," Caroline said, her hands folded over her bump as she leaned back into the chair. She knew the seating position made her look uninterested, but it was so difficult to sit straight up without entirely shutting the circulation to her lower half off.
"Well, we are certainly not expecting an answer today," he paused, popping open his suitcase and pulling out two perfectly correlated and bound copies of what appeared to be a business plan. He set one in front of each of them, placing his hands over top of them. "This lays out all of the details of the plan as well as the proposal we are putting on the table. It's preliminary. We know there will be many questions and possible changes. There is always room for negotiations on both sides. Take this home, look it over, digest everything. Speak to your lawyer and we'll reconvene when you feel comfortable and answer any questions you might have about it"
Caroline and Elena both picked up the packets in front of them, flipping through them at their own paces. Elena was already beginning to read each page in detail while Caroline thumbed through it with the intentions of reading it more thoroughly later. Closing it, Caroline tucked it carefully into her bag before looking up at Mr. Thornwood. "We'll be in touch, Mr. Thornwood. It was nice to meet you." She extended her hand to shake his as Elena did the same before stopping to help Caroline up.
The two women walked in silence all the way to the elevator, waiting until the doors closed to look at one another. It was a loaded glance, both trying to gauge the other's reaction before making their own thoughts known.
"So what do you think?" Elena asked, breaking the silence.
"I think we have a lot of reading and consideration. It's a huge decision."
"Especially considering you would have to move to New York," Elena added, not glancing up from the packet in her hand.
"What?" Caroline asked, her head twisting in Elena's direction.
"One of us has to be there for the first year and it doesn't make sense for me to go. You are the one with the recipes. You would have to train someone otherwise. It makes more sense for you to go. I'll have Alaric look over their proposed business plan and see what he says about it," Elena said, her nose still buried in the paperwork.
Caroline forehead pinched. Was leaving DC even an option for her right now? Things were finally good with the business and the baby and Klaus. Her mother was here or at least close. The thirty minute drive to Mystic Falls was a lot shorter than a two hour plane ride back from New York. The prospect was jarring to say the least. She had never been more than an hour from Mystic Falls. It was home. She wasn't sure anywhere else could feel like home. She had spent in entire existence within a twenty square mile box and part of her was terrified of what would happen if she ever set foot outside of it.
"Caroline?" Elena asked, snapping the blonde out of her thoughts.
"Sorry what?" Caroline asked, shaking her head.
"I just asked if you wanted to share a cab with me back to the shop," Elena repeated her question.
"Oh, no. I'm meeting Tyler for dinner at Union Station, but I'll see you tomorrow." She adjusted the bag on her shoulder as the elevator stopped at the ground floor. "I'll see you later, Lena."
Caroline tugged the oversized sweater tighter around her growing body, shielding herself from the spring breeze as she jogged down the steps of the Federal Triangle metro station. She found that she missed the sound of her heels clicking against the subway tiles as she made her way onto the metro car. She had hung up her heels, save for special occasions around her fifth month of pregnancy. Forgoing them for flat boots and ballerina slippers that gave her the sense of balance she needed to stay on her feet. It was one of the biggest sacrifices she had made this far in the pregnancy as far as she was concerned. Right up there with martinis and coffee.
She tugged at the top of her boots, making sure the slouchy boots stayed in place as she took a seat on the train. One of the positive points of being pregnant was the train. Even in rush hour she always had a seat. Who ever said chivalry was dead never rode a train with a pregnant woman in DC. By the time she reached the Union Station, three men had already offered to help her up.
Tyler was waiting inside the restaurant waiting for her when she surfaced from the subway. "Hey, how did your thing go this morning?" he asked, standing from the table and pulling her chair out for her.
"I'm not even sure what to think about it yet," she said, shaking her head. She reached for the water glass sitting on the table and took a sip. She quickly ordered herself the same white pasta that she ordered every time they came here before looking back to Tyler to offer more of an explanation. "They offered us a franchising deal. I haven't gone over the details yet, but it's a lot of money."
"That's great, Care. I mean everyone loves your food and the place is usually busy. It's not that much of a surprise that they want more locations," Tyler pointed out.
"I know and it's amazing. It's a huge business opportunity. They want us to look over their business proposal and get back to them." She unfolded the napkin and placed it on her lap. "The only problem is one of us would have to move to New York to manage the first store and train and hire a staff. It wouldn't have to be permanent but it would be at least a year. It's a huge commitment."
"So which one of you would go?"
"Elena said it would have to be me if we did it, but I don't know about it all. I mean, it's a huge opportunity for us. Probably the biggest offer we're ever going to get, but I'm about to have a baby and my while life is here. Moving across the country right now seems insane. My whole family and all of my friends are here. Not to mention Klaus. I can't even entertain the idea of moving four hours away with his child without even talking to him about it," she rambled, taking another sip of her water.
"I don't exactly like the guy, but you are probably right. You can't just move away with his kid."
"I know we got off to a rocky start, but he isn't really a bad guy. There were just some bad circumstances," she said. "His family on the other hand is a piece of work. Not all of them. I love Rebekah and Elijah has been incredibly nice to me from the beginning of all of this, but his parents hate me."
"How could anyone hate you, Care?"
"I don't know, but they are sure making it look easy," she sighed, shaking her head. She had already come to terms with the fact that Mikael hated her and Esther wasn't that fond of her either, but for some reason it was upsetting her again now that she and Klaus had become involved on a romantic level. Caroline knew that despite her innate need to be well liked by everyone, there were some people that would simply never be on team Caroline and she would just have to accept it. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.
"So you and Klaus…?" Tyler asked, not so subtly.
Caroline chuckled, thankful for the change of subject. "Yes, me and Klaus. It's been a complicated situation from the beginning, but we are trying our best to uncomplicated it as much as we can."
"I just never pictured you with anyone like him," Tyler admitted, shaking his head.
She raised an eyebrow, "And I never pictured you with anyone male. I think we can admit that both of our radars are a little off when it comes to each other," she smirked, teasing him.
"Touche." He picked up his fork as the waiter set their food down in front of them.
"I know he's nothing like anyone would have ever expected me to date, but circumstances change. And it's not like we're getting married. The baby doesn't change anything in our relationship. I've been careful about it. I don't want anything to happen just because of the baby. Both of us deserve better than that." She twisted her fork in her pasta before taking a bite. She swallowed before looking back up to face Tyler's disapproving glances. "We're just taking things slow and slow is good. Slow is what I need. It's just increasingly difficult considering all I want to do is jump him all the time. This is the longest I've ever gone without sex and this baby is making me insane."
"I really don't need to know about your sex life."
"I know. It's just being pregnant is the worst."
"Please stop. I cannot have this conversation with you."
She sighed, "Fine." She took another bite before glancing up at him. "So how are things with Jeremy?" The words still felt strange on her tongue even after all this time. Her feelings for Tyler had faded back to friendship long ago, but no girl expects to ask the man she had planned on spending her life with about his boyfriend. She was friends with them both though and part of being a good friend was taking an interest in the other's live. She wasn't sure this conversation was any less awkward than the one they were having a few moments ago, but she was trying.
"They're going okay. I can't complain. It's been an adjustment with Katherine there too, but we're making it work." He cut into his own food, slicing through the meat.
"I don't know why she hasn't found her own place yet. I know it's not exactly a smooth transition for her, but it's been a few months now."
"I know Jeremy likes having her around. Elena's always been more of a mom than a sister," Tyler explained, taking a bite.
"I love Elena, but she needs to calm the bossiness down a little. She practically told me I was moving to New York after that meeting. I have a lot more to consider than she does. She's the single, unattached one. I literally have a person attached to me, I don't know how much more attached you can get," she laughed.
"I'm sure you two will sort it out."
| Oh What A Night |
"What are you doing here?" Katherine asked, looking up from her spot at the bar when Klaus wandered in. "Caroline isn't back yet."
"I can wait," Klaus spoke, checking his watch, before glancing over at his brother. "Any idea how long she'll be?"
"She's at dinner with Tyler, but she was supposed to meet him an hour ago so probably soon." Katherine set down the rag on the counter and wandered out from behind the bar. She was off in five minutes anyway and Damon was already there.
"Tyler?" Klaus questioned, glancing up at her expectantly.
A small smirk formed on Katherine's lips. She could see the jealousy burning green in his eyes and she just couldn't help herself, "Tyler. Her ex-fiancée. They broke up a few weeks before you two cooked the kid. The two of them are still very close friends," she told them, cocking her head to the side as the door opened and Caroline walked in. "Hi Caroline," she smiled.
"Hi Kat," Caroline beamed before seeing Klaus standing there. Her smile only widened when she moved in to give him a kiss. "What are you doing here?"
"How was dinner with Tyler?" he asked, his jaw ticking slightly when he spoke.
"It was fine," Caroline spoke, her jaw furrowing in confusion before she heard Katherine's snicker behind her. She glanced back at her, glaring, before turning her attention back to Klaus. Her arms threaded around his neck, looking up into his all but green eyes. "Tyler is gay. He's living with Elena's little brother," she explained, "but jealousy suits you." She smirked, detangling herself from him. "So really what are you doing here? I thought you had meetings all night."
"I was, meetings all afternoon and no chance to eat. I came to see if you wanted to get dinner, but seeing as how you just ate…"
"I have some leftover Pad Thai upstairs if you are interested," Caroline offered.
"Very." He nodded, following her as she turned to walk up the stairs behind the counter, leaving him up to her apartment. Unlocking the door, she let him in. "So why is it that I've never heard about Tyler, love?" he asked as she walked into the kitchen and retrieved the food from the fridge.
"Well, we haven't exactly had the 'ex' conversation yet," she commented, putting the left overs in a bowl and heating them up correctly.
"There's no time like the present, love," he commented as she handed him the bowl and sat down next to him on the couch with his help.
"There isn't much to tell. I only have one. Tyler. We started dating when I was in high school and stayed together all through college. Senior year he proposed. Well, not proposed so much as took me to a jewelry store and asked me to pick out a ring. We were planning our wedding. It was really simple. I was asking him questions about flowers and centerpieces and he just blurted it out. He was gay and he had been lying to himself for years. That he had feelings for Jeremy and he had been fighting them for years. He moved out. It was hard at first, but he deserves to be happy too. My past isn't all that scandalous. At least he told me instead of cheating. It could have been worse." She shrugged, unzipping her boots and letting them fall to the ground. She had come to terms with what had happened with her and Tyler a long time ago. It wasn't something she liked to dwell on. "What about you? Any crazy ex stories? Anything I should know about?"
"Oh plenty, most of them not worth mentioning," he said, her legs falling over his lap as she began to lean into the couch, trying to get comfortable. He set his arms down on them, his finger tracing patterns on her skin. "I can honestly say I haven't done much dating in my life. One in particular though. Tatia."
Caroline tried not to cringe when she heard the name, but it was inevitable and Klaus took notice, raising an eyebrow. "Rebekah mentioned her to me before. I'm sure I only got the vague version of the story, but it's safe to say I'm not fond of her."
"And what exactly did Rebekah tell you?" he asked, his hands pausing on her leg.
She bit her lip, worried that he would be mad at Rebekah for revealing this information and that was the last thing she wanted. "Just that you had a girlfriend named Tatia, who you cared about a great deal, and she betrayed you by selling storied to the press."
He sighed, letting his head fall forward. "I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated than that." He pinched the bridge of his nose. He hated talking about Tatia. She wasn't worth it most of the time, but Caroline didn't entirely have all of the facts. "Tatia and I met when I was in college. I knew she was a journalism major, but she always made it clear that she wanted to write for someone reputable, but I suppose the correct amount of money can change anyone. We lost touch when I moved back to the states to be with my family after college, but ran into each other a number of years later and began dating. I thought everything was going well. I was even thinking about asking her to marry me. Closest I've ever come. When the stories began breaking, I figured it was a leak in Mikael's camp. I never even thought about suspecting Tatia.
"My entire family thought better of it. Elijah and Finn were adamant I confront her about it and Rebekah was out for blood when she realized it, but I refused to listen to reason. It was foolish of me now looking back. I finally had no choice, I found proof. She fell asleep on her laptop one night and when I went to close it I saw the emails. I cut ties immediately, got her a hotel room so I could get her out of my apartment that night. It was a nightmare."
"That sounds terrible," she wrinkled her nose as she took a bite of his dinner, "I understand your aversion to extortion now." She brought the bite to her lips.
"It's still no excuse for the way I behaved when you first came to me." He set the food aside, looking down at Caroline.
She shook her head, her hands coming up to cup his face. "We all have bad things in our past. Things we don't like to think about. Things that change the way we behave or react to things. It doesn't have to destroy our future or shape it." She leaned in, pressing her lips against his softly, they let the kiss take over for a moment before letting her hands rest on his shoulder, "For example if you become more interested in Chris Evans than I am, I may become a bit suspicious." She smirked.
He chuckled, "I was always more of an Iron Man fan," he mumbled before pressing his lips to hers once again. His hands slid up her legs slowly, making their way over her sides. He started with her lips, they moved against hers, brushing feather light against them and making no effort to part them. His lips moved smoothly down her jaw, before dropping open mouth kisses on her neck. Her head dipped back against the couch, giving him better access to her neck.
The second his lips touched her skin, Caroline's hormones took over. It had been far too long since her needs were satisfied and the fire ignited from his first touch. Her fingers trailed down his back, slowly gathering the fabric of his shirt in her hands as she inched it up, angling to pull it over his head. Her fingers trailed innocently down his chest as he kissed her, his lips returning to hers. His hands slipped underneath her, lifting her from the couch and walking towards the bedroom.
Once they were in the bedroom, Klaus set her down, rolling the sweater over her shoulders before he laid her back against the bed. Their first time had been so rushed, both in a hurry to get the instant gratification that came with a one night stand, but this was different. This was a time for slow and complete appreciation and adoration. He could tell she felt self-conscious under his stare, but his intent was to push that away. She was beautiful bump included and he was going to make her feel the same way he did about her. He pulled her boots off before his hands slide up her thighs, crawling up her body, careful not to put any weight on her. His hands pushed her dress up slowly, kissing each inch of skin he revealed in his slow path.
Caroline felt her body tense as he ran his hands up her legs, conscious of each and every brush of his lips. She worried about how he would feel when he got her clothes off. It was part of the reason she had put this off for so long, despite her growing need for him. The last time he had seen her, she was tiny. Caroline had never really considered herself beautiful before, but she felt much more comfortable in her skin when she wasn't sharing the space with another human being. His careful attention to each curve of her body made her shiver with anticipation and begin to forget about the concerns that were plaguing her.
As he cleared the crest of her bump, he pushed he pushed the dress over her head, letting it fall to the ground. His hands slid slowly up her sides, "Beautiful," he mumbled as he brushed his lips over her collarbone. His words sent a chill down Caroline's spine, her eyes closing in anticipation of his next move. Slipping his fingers carefully under one of her bra straps, he slipped it down her shoulder. He repeating the action on the other side before reaching behind her and unhooking the offending piece of fabric. Caroline's own fingers crept down his chest finding the button of his pants and beginning to rid him of him. She wanted his skin against hers, desperate for his touch as his thumbs brushed over the overly sensitive, hardened peaks, making her back arch in response.
"Please," she finally managed to work out. The need for him to fill her overpowering any of her senses.
He was never one to refuse such a tempting offer. His hand fell on hers, helping her with his pants and letting them join the rest of their garments on the floor. His hands crawled down her sides and wrapped around her lace panties, pulling them down her hips slowly. He reveled in each shiver and whimper her body gave him as he tugged the lace down her legs. His fingers trailed down her slit, smirking when he realized how ready she was for him. He dropped a kiss to her lips before abruptly changing positions. Her on her side with him right behind her. Her breath caught in her throat as his fingers curled around her blond curls, drawing them off her shoulder so he could kiss her skin.
Caroline was losing herself in the soft touches and light kisses, her eyes closed as her body pressed against his. Completely oblivious to anything but his body and the reactions he was enticing from her. She let out an unexpected whimper when his hand slipped over her hip, carefully guiding himself into her from the angle. Her hand fell on his, their fingers intertwining on her hip as he found a slow rhythm. She matched, her body rocking into his as they moved together in perfect tandem. It wasn't fast, not at all, but instead slow and heady. Enough to make illicit another moan from Caroline. All the while Klaus's lips never left her shoulders and neck, pressing open mouth kisses, biting lightly, and whispering how beautiful she was in her ear.
His grip on her hip tightened, pulling her hips in against his as he felt her breath begin to quicken. He crept along her waist, slipping between her legs and brushing his fingers along the sensitive bundle of nerves. He smirked against her skin as her breath hitched, her fingers curling around his wrist as he teased her, inching her towards the edge until she plummeted over it. Her walls contracted around him, sucking him deeper and making him growl in pleasure. Both of them fell back against the bed, a lazy smile adorning Caroline's lips as Klaus drew the coves up over them both.
"Sleep, love," he mumbled, drawing her close.
A/N: This is when I issue the biggest apology I can possibly issue. I've updated 4 chapters at once to hopefully get back into your good graces before I tell you all that this story is going on hiatus. I'm having serious trouble writing right now. I don't know if it's school or life in general, but I'm trying to finish it at least. I just don't know how long it's going to take.