A/N: Thanks for your reviews! I'm so excited about the way you guys are positively receiving it! I recognized a lot of your names too... :-)

babykezyx: Thanks! I wanted Roshelle to be randomly interjected into the story to really illustrate how hard Olivia liked Jamie... but I see your point.

Loveless Breath: Thanks! I was hoping it would hook the readers in...

Jane Woods: Thanks! The prologue tied into the story so quickly because those words changed everything for Olivia... and you'll see everything change as the story progresses.

quotata: Yep, that was alllll part of my plan! Fizz does deserve a b- slap, right?

A.R.R.: Thanks! I feel like my stories get better too... further honing my craft, I suppose ;-)

madkatter: Thanks! Oh Jamie... read on...

AlexisLovesYou: Thanks!

Chapter 3

A long silence fell over us. Then I finally let out the breath I hadn't even known I had been holding and then asked dully, "What is there to talk about?" I yanked my keys out of my bag and reluctantly moved closer to him so that I could unlock the door.

"I don't want to lose you." He grabbed me by my arms and pulled me away from the door. He brought me close to him and began, "Olivia, I—"

"Are you still engaged to Roshelle?" I cut him off but not harshly. Instead my tone was flat, emotionless… mostly because I was almost positive that I already knew the answer to the question. If he wasn't, he would have shown up at my door last night… right? Or called or… or something like that. Exhausted, burning tears were already filling my eyes.

He looked at me for a long moment, appearing pained, and then whispered, "Yes."

"Then let me go." I whispered back. He released me after another long moment and I went back to opening the door, although the tears in my eyes were making it hard to unlock the multiple locks. I sniffed deeply and then opened the door without another look at him. I expected the door to swing shut behind me but I heard him catch it. I turned to see him sliding into my studio, looking determined. Damn. "Jamie—" I began, intending to tell him to leave.

But he crossed the floor and whispered, "Olivia…" He cupped my face and brought me against him. "I know. I know that everything is screwed up… but I'm not married—"

I physically recoiled away from him. "Oh, is that your excuse?" I cut him off sharply as I pushed him, but he didn't let me go, he instead just held me tighter. "You aren't married so that makes it okay to come to me like this and—" He abruptly leaned in and kissed me, hard. I sucked in my breath and tried to shove him away from me but he held me even tighter against him. "Jamie…" I whimpered when he pulled away for a moment but then he kissed me again and I gave up. Raw tears formed in my eyes and ran down my cheeks as he kissed me a third time, softer this time. The third kiss was what I had always wanted from him… a soft, slow kiss that made me feel like we fit together. But now it was too late. He slowly pulled back finally, resting his forehead against mine, still holding my face in his hands although now his grip was gentle and tender. "Jamie…" I tried to say but choked back a sob instead. "Jamie…"

"Olivia." His voice was quiet and calm. "I'm not going to lose you. You're my best friend."

Oh, so now he didn't want to lose me? And because I was his best friend? That was rich. Sensing that he had loosened his grip on me, I yanked away and unloaded on him: "So what are you going to do, Jamie? You propose to Roshelle, but then you tell me that you've always loved me? You don't break up with Roshelle but you show up here and kiss me? I refuse to be someone you see on the side, the other woman." I tried to stomp around my apartment as I raged but it was too small so I mostly paced two steps back and forth.

His expression darkened as he warned me, "Don't force an ultimatum, Olivia."

"Oh please!" I snorted. "Why not? Because you love me but you love Roshelle too and you have to pick one?" Obviously that was spot on because he just stared at me, appearing torn. "You have to choose, Jamie! You can't do this to me!" My voice was shrill and he shied away from me. Not a good sign but… well, so what if he didn't like ultimatums! He had to choose! I wasn't going to wait around for him to figure things out.

He took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Then he said quietly, "I can't choose." I looked away and shook my head incredulously. "I can't just choose, Olivia! It's not that simple!" This time he was more desperate. But it looked pretty simple to me. "I just… I just need to figure things out and then I can…" He trailed off and stared helplessly at me then reached for me again.

Then I knew: he wasn't going to choose me.

I already knew. I wasn't being over-dramatic or ridiculous, I just knew. If he really wanted to be with me, if he loved me, if he had "always" loved me, then he wouldn't be with Roshelle. He wouldn't continue the façade of being with her if he really wanted to be with me. But I didn't feel angry, I didn't feel vindictive, I just felt… sad. "Jamie, I think you should go." I didn't even look at him as I walked over to the door.

He turned, blinking rapidly at me as he tried to keep up with me, and then demanded, "Why do you want me to go? Just because I didn't fall to your ultimatum? Olivia, we've been friends for so long and you—"

I looked away. "Jamie, I really can't do this right now." My voice sounded empty and hollow as I slumped against the door, my hand on the knob to let him out. I'd lost my job and my Jamie, all in less than thirty-six hours, and now I was dying to crawl into bed and wallow pathetically. I don't think a good wallow was unmerited at this moment.

When I finally looked at him, I found him staring sadly back at me… he must have realized, just like I had, that he had just lost me. Finally he whispered, "Can't we still be friends?"

He had to be kidding me. He had admitted that he loved me just as much as I loved him but he picked another woman over me and now he wanted to be friends? "Friends?" I snorted rudely. "Someone who is engaged to one woman doesn't kiss another woman and then ask them to be friends."

He was undeterred. He never is… remember how determined Jamie can be? "Come on, Olivia, we've been friends for years," he begged. Yeah, I know Jamie. That's what makes this so damn hard. "Can't we just… try? I mean… here, how about this? How was your meeting with the label for Fizz's contract?" He looked hopeful, like asking me about my job could be the first step in taking things back to the friend zone.

But obviously I wasn't having it. "I got fired." I replied flatly.

He blinked rapidly and then looked stricken. "What?"

I shrugged blandly. "Fizz wanted ten million and the label offered him only eight. He must have thought that it was an example of my poor negotiating skills, even though he really isn't worth ten million and he's delusional… but he fired me." I had barely processed it… but it was beginning to sink in now.

Jamie still looked horrified… which, I suppose, is probably how I was supposed to feel as well. "But… what are you going to do now?"

I laughed humorlessly. Like I knew! Like I had any money to fall back on… except for the last check from Fizz. But that was pennies by New York standards, barely rent, and as for food… "Well, unless you know of someone looking for a publicist, I'm either moving back to California to live with my parents or… I don't know." I shrugged numbly.

He remained horrified as he took a step toward me but I shied away from him the best I could, given the tiny space we were in. Finally he whispered, "You're leaving New York?"

"I have no source of income." I retorted. "This place cost over two thousand a month to rent—" I opened my arms to display my closet sized studio, "—and I have no money except for the last paycheck Fizz gave me this morning."

He said instantly, "Move in with me." He looked so earnest and hopeful that my anger broke and I smiled a faint, wistful smile. The idea was ludicrous, of course, but it made me miss him… my best friend. He must have seen me break because he crossed the space between us and grabbed me by the shoulders. Then he whispered, "I can't lose you, Olive."

I stared up at him for a long moment. "Jamie," I said softly. "If you can't lose me, if you can't bear to see me leave New York, if you want me to move in with you… then what are we doing?"

The silence that fell over us was like wet, heavy blanket. I stared up at him, my best friend, the man I loved, and felt my heart slowly breaking all over again. Instead of answering, he cupped my face in his hands and kissed me again… this time I let him. I let him lead me, rearranging my lips wherever he wanted as he softly over and over pressed his lips to mine. My tears ran freely down my cheeks and pooled into his hands. I wished he could take this all away… make it simple again.

What were we doing?

He released me and wiped away my tears with his thumbs. "Just… stay with me for a while," he begged softly. "Move out. We'll just put your stuff in storage and… come live with me. We can figure something out. I know people."

I couldn't help but smirk at that. "Very Mafia of you." I remarked dryly as I felt myself being persuaded. I already knew that he knew people… he'd had a hand in getting my job with Fizz.

"I'll make someone an offer they can't refuse." He mimicked the Godfather and that actually brought out a laugh in me. He released my face but put his arm around my shoulders. Then he said softly, "Let's get you out of here."

"Where are we going?" I asked quietly but allowed him to open my door and walk me outside.

He answered calmly, "My apartment. Just like I told you." He took my keys out of my hand and locked the door behind me.

I was too tired to fight him, too easily swayed by his kisses to argue, so I just clung to him as he walked me down the stairs and out onto the street. He was my knight in shining armor, rescuing me from the cupboard I lived in… okay, that was more Harry Potter, not the story of Rapunzel. But he was rescuing me… and, after feeling like I'd lost him and already really losing my job, I was in such a vulnerable state that I let him take me away. I wanted to escape, he was offering me a chance, and I took it.

The black Town Car that Jamie always had was parked at the curb outside my apartment. His driver Thomas was standing next to the car while he drank a cup of coffee. When he saw us, he smiled warmly and said, "James… and Olivia." I said hello with a small smile as I huddled against Jamie.

"Drive us back to my apartment, Thomas." Jamie said. Thomas nodded obediently and opened the door for us to slide into the car.

I'd been in this car many times before… Jamie had always insisted on giving me a ride home from whatever bar we had chosen and I had always been more than happy to take him up on his offer. Getting a ride with Jamie was always much more appealing than taking the subway or paying for a cab by myself. However, we were usually not alone… Roshelle, Holly, or another one of our friends was always with us, also getting a ride home as well. In the present, Jamie put his arm back around me after we had slid inside and I snuggled into him. Losing my job seemed far away now that I was with him…

But then my phone rang… Holly was calling. I'd forgotten to call her after the debacle with the label. "Hey." I said quietly when I answered.

"Hey…" she replied. "You never called me… did everything work out?"

"I signed Fizz for eight million instead of ten and he fired me." I answered blandly.

There was a pause and then she shrieked, "He fired you? He FIRED you? Even though you got him more than half of what he wanted? Are you kidding me?" She was full of the indignation that I should have been feeling… but all I felt was numb.

"No." I replied, still unruffled. "He fired me."

There was a pause and then she demanded, "Why aren't you upset? You sound like you're okay with this."

Jamie toyed with my hair as we pulled away from the curb. "What can I do?" I replied dully. "I tried to talk Fizz out of it but he wasn't having it."

"Where are you?" Holly demanded. "Are you home? I'm coming over."

"I'm with Jamie. We're going to his place." I replied. There was a long, long pause, long enough for me to ask, "Hol? Are you still there?"

When she spoke, she sounded deeply suspicious. "Last night you couldn't get away from him fast enough… and now you're going to his apartment?" I looked up at Jamie and he touched my face with his other hand. Then she yelled, "Olivia! What the hell is going on?" But now Holly sounded far away… and Jamie was here, nice and warm beside me.

"I don't know." I answered honestly. "I'm going to have to call you back."

"No, no, no!" Holly sounded furious and I didn't want to deal with furious right now. "Olivia, you are not calling me back, you need to—" I really wasn't interested in hearing what she thought I needed… maybe tomorrow.

"Bye, Hol." I said before I hung up. I'm pretty sure I heard her shout my name before the call ended. Oh well… I'd make it up to her later. I put my phone back in my purse and turned to Jamie, who began to kiss me again.

We kissed for so long that we lost track of time and Thomas had to knock on the partition to signal that we were at Jamie's apartment. We pulled apart just as the doorman opened the door and offered his hand to me. "Thanks." I said as I took his hand and climbed out of the car. Once Jamie was out as well, he put his arm around me once again… as though he was shielding me from the world. Two doormen held the double doors open for us as we walked inside Jamie's building.

Jamie lived in a beautiful penthouse on the Upper East Side. He'd never told me but I had a good feeling that he paid the astronomical rent with half his salary and half his very, very large trust fund he'd begun to access when he turned twenty-five last year. Whenever I came here, I longed to live in a place that was larger than a shoebox. And now I actually had that chance…

We stepped into the elevator and Jamie pushed the Penthouse button. My phone began ringing as we stepped out of the elevator but I ignored it since it was probably Holly. When it rang again a few minutes later, I turned off my phone all together and completely disconnected myself from the world.

I wanted to escape… I got my escape.

When I awoke the next morning, I was curled up in Jamie's arms. My head was pounding… but that was mostly because of the copious amount of vodka we had drunk the night before. I blinked blearily and looked around at the tastefully decorated apartment… his mother had obviously had a heavy hand in the decoration process. Not like she had anything better to do… except "raise money for charity" (more truthfully known as "drink heavily at functions and donate half a million dollars to compensate for grabbing the ass of the wrong husband," which she had done more than once).

As I lay there in Jamie's arms while he continued to sleep off all the drinking we had done, I realized that we hadn't slept together and briefly admired my restraint even when completely blitzed. I vaguely remembered Jamie had tried everything in his power to get into my pants but I had continuously told him no, every time. I wouldn't sleep with him if he had… a fiancé…

The reality of the situation finally, finally, began to sink in and I felt like slapping myself. Here I was, thinking about moving into a half married man's apartment (one who also wanted to get into my pants as soon as possible); no job… no clothes… I was wearing a pair of Jamie's sweats and an old t-shirt from NYU. I vaguely remembered insisting on wearing a NYU shirt… the random things we do when we're drunk, right?

I needed something to dull my hangover… like food… and aspirin. As soon as possible, preferably. I slowly half rolled over to check on Jamie and then began to slide away from him to go make breakfast. But he half awoke and began to groan in complaint. "I'm just going to make breakfast." I told him softly as I pushed his hair back off his forehead and then kissed his forehead.

"Mmm…" he murmured without opening his eyes and then winced before he groaned, "How much did we drink last night?"

"Enough vodka to make us both feel like shit." I replied with a smirk as I began sliding away from him again.

But he clung to me, his eyes still closed, and murmured, "No… no… don't go. Just stay… here with me."

I sighed and then replied, "I need something to eat to soak up the alcohol. I'll make you something too… and be back before you know it."

He frowned adorably and then sighed, "Okay," as he released me. I half smiled and then slipped out of his bed.

I grabbed his bathrobe off the back of his bathroom door and then walked into the kitchen. My eyes widened after I opened the large subzero fridge and found it packed with food. Someone else undoubtedly did his grocery shopping… there were too many vegetables and not enough beer for it to be Jamie's work. I pulled out a carton of eggs, grabbed a skillet from the hanging rack of stainless pots and pans, and then got to work.

A few minutes later, as I poked at the eggs while they cooked, I casually glanced around the large, immaculate apartment. Then my eyes fell on a framed picture of Jamie and Roshelle sitting on the counter. They were squished together, cheek to cheek, and grinning hugely. They looked so happy… and here I was, sleeping in her fiancé's bed, almost sleeping with him, and making him food. Mistress… thy name is Olivia.

I caught sight of my jacket on the back of the black leather couch and quickly grabbed my phone out of it. I let it power on as I finished cooking the eggs and then slid it into Jamie's bathrobe pocket as I ladled the food onto the bone white china (also obviously Mrs. C's choosing). I shuffled out of the kitchen and back into the bedroom.

Jamie cracked open his eyes finally and then smiled beatifically. "This looks good," he said as I sat down on the bed next to him and passed him his plate. My phone began beeping as I took my first bite. "Is that me or you?" He reached for his Blackberry.

"Me," I replied as I pulled my own Blackberry out of my pocket. I checked the screen and… I had fourteen new messages? I wasn't that popular, was I?

But Jamie grabbed my phone out of my hand and tossed it onto the nightstand next to his phone. "Check it later." He took a large bite of his food and I smiled as he nudged me. Then his phone buzzed. He frowned as he set down his plate in his lap and checked it… and then looked at me. "Later." He shrugged as he tossed his phone down and we went back to eating our breakfast.

He began nuzzling my neck once we were done. "Jamie…" I said softly, pleading, as he nibbled on the thin skin of my neck. My phone beeped again and I turned my head in its direction. But Jamie made a low noise and took hold of me by my hips as he maneuvered me around on his bed. Suddenly he was laying me down and climbing on top of me, clad in just his boxers. I caught sight of his lean six pack before he kissed me hard. I sighed against him as I ran my fingernails down the center of his chest to the top of his boxers. He groaned and slid his hand under my— his shirt. As his hand closed around my breast, my phone rang.

But it wasn't my regular ringtone or Fizz's either (not that I was expecting a call from him). My phone was screaming, "Goal! Goal, goal, goal!" Jordan's favorite, obnoxious ringtone that he'd picked out when we had been home for Christmas last month… I reflexively turned my head toward it but Jamie used that to his advantage and began kissing my neck again. "Jamie…" I whimpered as my eyes slammed shut. He murmured something against my neck, maybe my name, and then kissed me again as my phone went to voicemail. But my phone rang immediately, which meant that Jordan didn't even bother leaving a voicemail. "Jamie," I said more forcefully as I half sat up and pulled away. "He never calls me like this, I have to take this." He instantly protested but I had already answered the phone: "Jordan. Hey."

"Oh now you pick up." Jordan snapped back. "Please tell me you're not lying in a gutter or a hospital."

Oops. "No, no… I'm fine, I'm… I'm at Jamie's." I replied as I scooted away from Jamie and sat on the edge of the bed. Maybe turning off my phone yesterday wasn't the best choice. Oh well. "What's up?"

"Well first of all, you need to call Mom and Holly because they're both freaking out because they couldn't reach you either. You're lucky that you told Holly you were going to Jamie's or else the cops would be looking for your ass." I blanched… my mother was probably having a serious meltdown and about to call the National Guard to find me. "And second of all…" He paused for a minute and took a deep breath before he let it out slowly. I recognized this as his way of trying to calm himself down. "Second," now he sounded calmer. "I have a… business idea."

"A business idea?" I repeated as Jamie put his arms around me from behind.

"Hear me out." Jordan said first. I agreed. "I know you lost your job because Fizz is a huge douche bag—," I winced, "But I need an assistant."

"An assistant?" I repeated him but this time I was growing suspicious.

"Would you stop repeating everything I say and let me finish?" Jordan snapped back. "Anyway, my assistant quit and I know you need a job so I figured you could be my assistant… plus my publicist always needs help so maybe you could be her assistant or my second publicist or something."

I had become a little lost during that last long sentence. "So you want me to be your… assistant slash publicist? But more of your assistant than your publicist?"

"Yeah!" Jordan agreed, sounding happy that I understood. "I mean I know it's not much but I'll make sure you get paid good money and it won't be like I'm personally paying you since I hired this dude to take care of my money since, you know, like I'm really going to be great at managing all that money when I'm only twenty-one, like I might end up spending it all on, like, trips to Vegas—"

"Jordan," I cut him off as Jamie nuzzled the other side of my face. "This is really sweet and I'm glad you thought of a job for me but… this means I'd have to move to North Carolina." Jamie stiffened against me. "That's—"

But Jordan was already off and running. "I know you'd have to move here but… you said you didn't have enough money to live in New York anymore." He was right, I had said that… and I didn't have enough money. "I know that the job market is crap right now so…" He trailed off before he finally finished, "You'd live here, with me, rent free. Why don't you think about it and let me know?"

"Okay." I said half seriously. "Bye little brother." We hung up and I spent a few minutes lost in thought as I digested his proposal.

While I'd been wrapping up my phone call, Jamie had pulled away from me. Now he asked, "What was that about?"

I glanced at him and found his expression grim. I looked away and answered quietly, "Jordan offered me a job. It was really nice of him to do that."

"Yeah… but… you're not going to take it." I didn't answer, which prompted Jamie to press me, "Are you?"

I opened my mouth to say no, to scoff that I wouldn't even consider moving to North Carolina, but found myself saying, "I'm not sure." Desperation from being jobless forced those words out of my mouth.

But that set Jamie off. He climbed out of bed and immediately exclaimed, "You want to take this job? You want to move? You love New York!" He spread his arms out in front of me as though he was expecting me to explain myself.

"Of course I love New York." I answered woodenly. "But I have no job, Jamie. I have to go where there's a job for me. I can't sit around for the next month hoping against hope to become magically employed again and then get kicked out of my apartment."

He buried his hands into his thick hair and then let out a slow breath. I couldn't resist running my eyes slowly down the length of his body… and then I jerked my eyes back to his just as he looked at me. Then he said slowly, "I thought you were going to…" But he trailed off and then shook his head. "I just need a few minutes to think. I'm going to take a shower and then we'll talk about this. I'm going to talk some sense into you," he warned. "And then… we'll figure something out." I looked away as I bit my lip and looked out his floor to ceiling windows at the city. He was right; I loved New York… but… "Hey," he said softly as he dropped one knee on the bed and reached for me. I turned to him and let him take my face in one of his hands. He assured me quietly, "We'll figure something out."

"Sure." I nodded slowly. He kissed me softly and then went into the bathroom.

I flopped back onto the pillows as I listened to the water turn on. I stretched slowly and then heard Jamie's phone beep. I glanced at the closed bathroom door and then picked it up. "Dinner tonight with my parents to celebrate! Love you!" Roshelle. I looked past the phone, caught sight of another framed picture of them on his nightstand, and swallowed hard as tears abruptly filled my eyes. I was a mess, a hot mess… and on the other end of the spectrum was beautiful Roshelle, his fiancé, waiting to have dinner with him tonight. A celebratory dinner … with her parents, to celebrate their engagement. The engagement that he didn't break off, even though he spent all of last night trying to get into my pants.

For the thousandth time, I asked myself: What am I doing? But this time everything seemed sharper, clearer, and my mistakes loomed large in my face. Sickening dread filled me. I'd almost slept with another girl's man… what was I doing? What the hell was I doing?

My phone rang… it was Holly. "Hello." I answered, swallowing hard as the truth slapped me repeatedly in the face.

"Olivia? Are you there?" Holly demanded. She sounded pretty pissed and I again mentally chastised myself for shutting off my phone. After losing my job, my family probably thought I had become suicidal or something. "Jordan texted me and told me you were still alive so I figured I'd try…" She trailed off when I sniffed. "Are you crying?" I denied it thickly as I wiped my wet cheeks quickly with the back of my hand. And even though I knew she was angry with me for hanging up on her yesterday and scaring her, she softened as she asked, "Where are you?"

"Jamie's." I whispered back. I couldn't be here anymore. "But… but I'm leaving."

She immediately replied, "I'll meet you at your apartment in thirty minutes."

A/N: Finished for now!

until next time,

a smile that explodes