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Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart) Chapter 10

Chapter 10

June 20, 2011

Fortunately for me, I didn’t completely lose consciousness. I think I was only out for a couple of seconds if that. It was an odd sensation. When I hit the ground, it was almost as if someone dimmed the lights and then brightened them again. I thought I was going to throw up and I literally saw stars.

“What the hell is going on?” I heard a voice say. It sounded so loud. My head was pounding, and my hands hurt. So did my ankle. And head. And everything. “Did you do this, Leon?”

“I didn’t do anything! She fell on her own.”

“And why should I believe anything that comes out of your mouth?” I pushed myself up from the ground. Wow, my arms hurt. I saw a little bit of blood on the pine wood on the floor. More than a little bit of blood. A fair amount of blood.

“I did just trip,” I said as I raised a shaky finger up in the air. I tried to push myself up from the ground further, but my head was pounding so hard it was hard to see. Plus my left ankle felt wobbly and hurt so bad. I assumed that I sprained it in the fall or something. Getting up was a challenge. I tried to grab the kitchen island that I hit my head on but the rough surface of the unfished wood was too much on my cut hands, and I couldn’t bring myself to push myself up from the ground quite yet.

I felt a pair of firm hands grasp my waist and elbow and pulled me off the ground in one swift motion.

I wasn’t quite ready to get off the ground, though. The blood drained from my head, and I felt very dizzy. My knees started to buckle from underneath me, but the firm hands grasped me tighter.

My vision started to return, and I saw Leon in front of me. I stretched my neck to see who was holding me up and I saw that it was Maxwell Goodard. He was staring down Leon with such ferocity that made me grateful that I wasn’t Leon.

I straightened up and grasped the counter with all my strength. “Let me go,” I demanded. My wobbly ankles finally supported my weight. Maxwell let go of me, but I still felt his hand hover near my back just in case if I staggered backward.

I said, “Look, Leon, you’ve been busted. The police are probably on their way as we speak. There’s a taped video of the two of us talking about your plans to kill Maxwell and Harriet Goodard and take over a company. At best you’ll get a cozy plea deal.”

“We both know that tape probably won’t be admissible in evidence and that I’ll win whatever case is thrown at me.”

I went to cross my arms, but when I began to lose my balance, I thought the better of it and continued to grasp the table.

“That’s not all we have,” I said.

“You’re bluffing.”

“Am I?” I raised an eyebrow.

Alright, actually I was bluffing.

I heard sirens wailing in the distance. Up until that point, I never knew for sure if Maxwell or Harriet called the police. I felt oddly calm hearing the police sirens. Seeing as I was just a witness here and not central to the case, I doubted that the police would be digging up in my personal life. I had little to fear, I think.

“We’ll see what happens now,” I said. Leon scowled at Maxwell and me.

I locked eyes with Leon and didn’t break my stare until Harriet, and the police walked into the room. I didn’t want to show any sort of weakness.

About three officers arrived. I wish that I could say that they were only there for a short spell, but they were interviewing us for about two hours. Have you ever been interviewed when you have a concussion? Well, it’s not easy. Usually, I have an impeccable memory—save for directions—but I was not firing on all cylinders. I just wanted to go to sleep. Plus the officers were asking me the same questions over and over again. I just wanted to sleep. Or take a shower. Or something. I had to tell them several times that no, I did not need an ambulance and, yes, I was fine. I stood like a sentinel by that wooden counter top. I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness with Leon around.

Fortunately about two hours into the relentless questioning, Maxwell cut it short, and the police officers filed out of the room dragging Leon along in handcuffs. Leon was dead silent the entire time. He sure knew his fifth-amendment rights.

I felt relieved to see Leon walk away in handcuffs. It was finally over. The day from hell Ph.D.

Harriet yawned. “Well, that was eventful. I don’t want to have to answer another police question ever again. So redundant.” She said. Wow, she was in chipper spirits.

“If it goes to trial you’ll probably have to testify. And speak to the prosecutors beforehand too.” I said. “I don’t know, though. Criminal law isn’t my forte, and I can’t think too much right now.” I grabbed my head. It was still pounding. Less than before but it hurt so bad.

“Well, my friend Maddie is coming over to check on me.”

“This late?” Maxwell asked. “It’s midnight.”

“I know, but she was worried about me getting killed and stuff. Come on, Max. Do your sister a solid.”

“Alright, alright. Fine. She can come over.”

“Cool,” Harriet said. She skipped out of the room and not a second later returned with a petite blonde girl with blunt bangs and wavy hair. I took it that was Maddie. She looked over at Maxwell, smiled at him, glared at me (as if I haven’t gone through enough today being concussed and all) took Harriet by the arm and walked over towards the bedroom without saying a word to either one of us. Whatever.

“Goodnight, bro. Goodnight, Mel. Thanks for busting Leon and getting us home and stuff.” Harriet called out over to us as she left the room. “Wow, I never thought that I’d say that.” I heard her laugh from down the hall. “Goodnight,” Harriet called out one last time.

“Wow, that chick was rude.”

“Maddie?”

“Yeah. Did you see the glare she gave me?”

“Oh, I did. she’s not my favorite person in the world either.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I think she likes me.”

“Wow.” I laughed. “Arrogant much?”

“I think she does. Which makes me dislike her because she’s dating my sister.”

“Oh, drama with the Goodards. Well, goodnight, Mr. Goodard. It looks like I should get going.” I took a step and felt a throbbing pain shoot up from my left ankle up to my knee. When I was standing it felt like a dull pain but something about the act of walking was just not happening at that moment. I stumbled forward and face planted into the ground. I felt the world move around in ways it’s not supposed to. My head felt like it was on fire. Well, probably because my brain was moving around in ways it wasn’t supposed to. I went to push myself up from the ground, but that just wasn’t happening.

“Shit!” Maxwell said underneath his breath. He quickly ran over to me and pulled me up off the ground and sat me up on the wooden kitchen island. “Are you Okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. The stars returned. I just gotta go home and sleep it off.” So dizzy. My head was spinning.

“I think you’re concussed. You should see a doctor.”

I was listening to the words that Maxwell was saying, but I just didn’t understand it. Mentally I was checking myself for a concussion. Asking myself who the president was, what my number was, what my social security number was. Anything that I could think of to make sure that I was firing on all cylinders. Lucky for me, I passed my concussion test.

“I’m fine. I just checked myself for a concussion, and I don’t have one.” I announced.

“How can you check yourself for a concussion since you don’t know if your answers are right or not?”

I groaned in response. “Fuck. You’re right. Shit. I shouldn’t swear; you’re my boss. Fuck.”

“Don’t worry about that now. You should see a doctor.”

“I’m good.” I crossed my arms.

“Ms. Jones.”

I held up my hand. “I refuse medical treatment.” That was probably a bad idea, but I was feeling quite angry, stubborn, and concussed.

Maxwell bit his lip and sighed. I could tell from the look on his face that he was considering calling in Harriet for backup or just driving me to the hospital instead.

“Who is the president?” Maxwell pointedly asked.

“Obama,” I responded.

“And the Secretary of State?”

“John Kerry.”

“What’s your phone number?”

“Two.”

“What?” Maxwell hissed.

“That was a joke. Look, I’m fine, Mr. Goodard. I’m going home.”

“Ms. Jones, I think you should stay the night in one of our spare rooms. You can hardly stand; I think you’re concussed, and Lord knows what’s going on with that car of yours.”

“Wasn’t that terrifying when it stalled out? God. I was worried that Leon was going to pop open the trunk and kill you all. Look, Goodard, I’ll be fine.” I pouted.

“I can’t keep you here or force you to go to the doctors, but I don’t think it’s safe for you to drive at this time…” Maxwell said. “Let me at least get your wounds cleaned up. Okay? Then we can revisit this after.”

I paused. Part of me was suspicious as to why Maxwell Goodard was being so nice to me. His voice sounded so gentle, and his face looked like he was concerned. Maybe he was concerned? I nodded my head in agreement.

“Alright.”

“Let me take you to the couch,” Maxwell said. I nodded my head once again. Nodding my head hurt so much. At least I felt the fog of confusion lift from my head. Maxwell extended his arm out, and I took it to help support my weight as we journeyed to the couch across the room. I still felt like every step that I was taking was pure agony on my ankle. Plus I felt weak and woozy since I haven’t eaten in eleven hours and I’ve had a lot of adrenaline pass through my system.

About five steps in, I started to stumble a bit. Maxwell swooped me off my feet. Literally. He wrapped one hand around my back and then scooped me up from the back of my knees. I gasped in surprise and instinctively grabbed onto the lapels of his suit coat. I muttered something under my breath and curled my hands back to my chest.

He carried me over to leather couch area. I was secretly grateful for the lift. Mortified, but glad that I didn’t have to walk almost a hundred feet on a wobbly ankle. I enjoyed being in his arms and feeling the large bump of his bicep pressed against my body, as stupid as it sounds. I wanted to wrap my arms around his neck and rest my head on his pectoral muscles and smell his scent, but I knew those were stupid thoughts. I just bit my lip and stared awkwardly ahead. I didn’t even have the guts to look up at his face. Maxwell gently laid me down on the corner piece of the sectional.

I was glad to finally be sitting down instead of standing upright and being on high alert. The cool leather felt great on my hot skin and I sunk and relaxed into the cushions. I suddenly felt very, very, tired.

Maxwell walked back over to the kitchen. I watched him walk away. He walked like a man with a purpose. Not too fast. Not too slow. He walked evenly. When he got to the kitchen, he opened the cabinets and began making something. I had no idea what he was making. He was so far away, and the lights were dim and soft, and I was so, so, tired. After a couple of minutes, he returned to me with a plate in one hand and a first aid kit in the other. I got a whiff of it, and it was a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich. My old childhood favorite. Every New England kid can attest that Fluffernutters are definitively the best way to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich.

“I noticed that you didn’t have dinner. It’s not much but here.” He gently set the marshmallowy and peanut buttery goodness on my lap. I took a bite of the sandwich. It was delicious. Definitely out of my normal diet which consisted of lean meats and organic vegetables. It was the first hint of carbs and sugar I’ve had in two weeks. Best sandwich ever when you’re concussed.

“Oh God. I’m so happy to eat a meal. This is so much better than the cobb salad I had at lunch.” I ate it quickly. I was like a rabid animal devouring this sandwich. “Usually I’m more polite. I’m just wicked hungry.” I said between bites.

Maxwell cracked a light smile. “It’s perfectly fine.” When I was done with the sandwich, I thanked him for dinner. I licked the marshmallow fluff and peanut butter that remained on my fingers. Weird and rude, I know, but I didn’t give a shit at that point. I was angry, and I was concussed. So beyond giving a shit.

“Thank you for dinner,” I said. I felt my nausea starting to subside, and I felt slightly more awake. Maybe I just needed to have a little bit of food in my stomach. When I was done, Maxwell took the plate and set it on the coffee table. He stood over me and then began staring intently into my eyes. I blushed.

Why is he staring at me so intently?

I looked down at my lap and blushed.

“Ms. Jones?” I looked up briefly. I was still blushing. “Could you look up at me again? I want to make sure your pupils are even.”

“Ok…” I looked back into his eyes. He took his cell phone and waved the light in front of my eyes. God that hurt.

Maxwell took a seat next to me on the sectional. He seemed to be calm.

“What are you a doctor or something?”

“I do have my Ph.D. in chemistry so technically I am a doctor, just not a physician, although I did consider going to med school.”

“Oh, crap. I should call you Doctor Goodard.”

“Don’t. That’s pretentious.”

“So what’s the verdict?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“My eyes.”

“Your pupils are even.”

“What does it matter?”

“If they’re uneven it’s a sign of a severe concussion.” Maxwell plopped his first aid kit between us and opened it. “How does your head feel?”

“It hurts. A lot.”

“More or less than earlier?”

“A less.”

“Ok, good.”

“Do you feel nauseous at all?”

“I did up until that sandwich. Now I don’t feel nauseous anymore.”

“Good.” Maxwell took a cloth and put rubbing alcohol on it. “May I see your hand?” I outstretched my arm and Maxwell gently placed it on a pillow that he placed between us and then he wiped the blood off of my arm. The feeling of the alcohol on open skin stung. I knew it had to be done to avoid infection, but it hurt.

I inhaled sharply through my gritted teeth. I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes, but I looked up at the ceiling lights to avoid crying. I didn’t cry at all that evening, and I wasn’t going to start then.

“I’m sorry,” Maxwell said.

“It’s fine; it needs to be done to avoid infection,” I said. Again, I could feel a lump starting to form in my throat.

“No, it’s not that. I’m sorry for how I treated you the other night. I jumped to conclusions and didn’t listen to what you had to say. If I listened to you then, this all could have been avoided, and you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.” Maxwell said as he tweezed bits of wood from the palm of my hand.

“I guess it’s a life-lesson then. Next time someone has something to say, hear them out before thinking they’re the one who’s going to kill you. Look, even though you’re my boss, I’m going, to be frank with you.”

“You can always be frank with me..”

“To be honest, I spent the entire weekend fretting if I was going to be fired or if you and Harriet were going to be killed,” I admitted as Maxwell wrapped up my hand in a clean bandage. “I can probably count on two hands the amount of sleep I’ve gotten this weekend.”

Maxwell took my other hand and began to treat that hand the same way as he did the other.

“Again, I’m sorry.” He said evenly. He bit his lip. “Why did you help Harriet and me? Especially after the way I treated you.”

“Harriet’s my mentee. She’s a good kid. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. You, on the other hand, are not my favorite person in the world but I wasn’t going to let you get murdered.” I gritted my teeth and looked up at the sky. The rubbing alcohol stung so much.

“I appreciate that. And I’m sorry for the stress that I have caused you.” I blushed and looked at my hand and watched Maxwell pull a long splinter out of my palm. “I wish there was some way to make this up to you. Would you like any money?”

“No. I don’t need your money, Mr. Goodard.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Well, just don’t fire me. I know I’ve said a lot of shit today.”

Maxwell chuckled. “Wasn’t planning on it. I’m in your debt, Ms. Jones. You’ll have a job for life, should you want it.”

Silence filled the air. I watched him pull out splinter after splinter. Wow, what a pain unfinished wood is. Finally, there were no more splinters to pull out of my hands and Maxwell wrapped up my arm in a white cloth. I looked like I was wearing white gloves or something. Both of the bandages went up to my elbows. They were quite breathable.

“May I be frank with you?” I asked.

“I thought you already were being frank with me.” Maxwell chuckled lightly.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked. “You seem like an asshole who doesn’t care about other people. No offense.”

Maxwell scoffed. “I’m well-aware that I give off that impression.” Maxwell turned his attention to my skinned knees. I had a dreadful run in my tights. “I do want to help people, believe it or not.”

“Well, then why the hell did you fire someone on their first day?”

Maxwell looked up at me. He seemed to be rather taken aback by my question. I felt my stomach lurch. Perhaps I was too frank. My resolve weakened. Even though I was angry and concussed, the young professional in me knew that I should never talk to my boss that way. “Never mind. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Maxwell placed a bandage over my knee. “I didn’t think he’d be a good fit for the office.”

“He seemed like a kid just out of college. It must have been traumatic being fired on his first day. He might have been a good fit, but you fired him.”

“It probably was traumatic.” Maxwell’s whole demeanor changed. His icy eyes grew cold, and his mouth pulled into a taught frown. That and his angular face made him seem so severe. “But I have a company to run. I’m trying to give people affordable cures to deadly diseases. Other people’s lives in the future matter much more than someone’s bruised ego, Ms. Jones. I take my work quite seriously.”

“I didn’t know that…” I sincerely said. “Oh man, now I feel bad for calling you an asshole.”

“I don’t give interviews; I like to keep things private so there is no way that you would know that about me.”

“Why the hell are you telling me all this now?” I asked.

“You’re the first person who has asked me.” Maxwell sat up next to me and hovered near my face. Naturally, I blushed. He placed an alcohol-soaked rag to the upper part of my forehead. I could feel that I had a bump present on my forehead. More importantly, that rag burnt like a mother. And I couldn’t look up to stop the tears from pooling in my eyes and streaming down my face.

Once Maxwell saw the tears streaming down my face, he became panicked. “Oh God, shit, I’m sorry.” Maxwell looked around the first aid kit frantically. He pulled out a tissue and dabbed the tears that were streaming down my face. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Are you okay?”

“No, no, no. I’m perfectly fine.” I empathically said. “It’s just the alcohol burns. That’s all. And I might have a concussion.”

Maxwell exhaled loudly. “I was concerned that I was too rough when treating your head wound.”

“No. You’re fine.”

“I still have a few splinters to pull out.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sure.” I pursed my lips together.

Maxwell pulled out his tweezers once more and hovered near my face pulling out splinter next to splinter. Having his face so close to mine made me want to look up and kiss him on the lips. Especially, since he turned out to not be as much of a jerk, as I thought he was originally. I didn’t have the guts to look him in the eye, so I closed my own eyes and felt his hands touch my face.

I started to feel like I was going to fall asleep. I didn’t realize how heavy my eyelids were.

“There’s another question that I wanted to ask you…” Maxwell slowly said. “Forgive me for being intrusive and personal. It’s about Leon…”

I shot my eyes open. Well, that woke me up.

“What about him?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you report him?”

“For what?”

“Sexual harassment.”

I let out a humorless and bitter laugh. I didn’t realize how jaded I was until that moment and I began to speak my thoughts. “I’ve been at this office a week. Who are people going to believe: the new girl in the office or the head of the legal department?”

“Well, I—”

“Mr. Goodard. Even you didn’t believe me when you first met me, and I said there was a threat to your life.”

“Yes and I’m sorry. I just.” He signed. “I don’t want you or anyone else being exploited like that on my watch.”

“I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“After today I wouldn’t doubt that for a second. But—”

“Cool, we’re on the same page.” I smiled at him coyly. I figured I should give him a taste of his own medicine. See how he likes that treatment. Maxwell looked down at me and returned my coy smile.

“I still want you to know that if anything like that happens in the future, you can come to me.”

“Alright. Duly noted.”

He put the final bandage on my head. I couldn’t resist reaching up to touch the bandage and the slight lump that was underneath it. I contemplated getting bangs to cover it up.

“Why did you cover up for Leon?” Maxwell asked.

This question startled me and made me a little mad. After everything, I did he still thought that I was scheming and covering up for that terrible man?

“After everything I’ve done, you still think that I’m conspiring to kill you with Leon?”

“No, no. Not that. I mean why did you lie about him beating you?”

Oh.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I was quite confused. I thought you meant generally. No. He didn’t hit me. He didn’t lay a finger on me. All he did was flip out and throw my phone against the wall.”

“How did you get so injured.”

I curled up against the side of the sectional. I was so embarrassed. “Well…I’m not the most coordinated person in the world. After Leon had thrown my phone I got scared and decided to make a run for it but I tripped and fell into your kitchen island that was under construction, and I think I got concussed or something.”

“Oh.”

“Well trust me, if he did lay a hand on me, I would have told the police.”

“Well good. I just feel so terribly about putting you in this situation. You could have been raped or killed or who-knows-what.”

“It all worked out fine. If that’ll be all then, I’m going to go home to get some rest.” I sat upright in the sectional and rubbed my eyes. My whole head was throbbing.

“You should stay here, Mel. Your car is unreliable, you have a sprained ankle, and you’re mildly concussed. If you do go, please let me take you home at least or call you a cab or hire you a chauffeur for the next couple of days.”

Hmm…driving a stick shift on a sprained ankle won’t be pleasant. Plus it’s very, very late and if Maxwell drops me off, then my car will be here…

“Ok, I’ll stay here for the night.”

“Good. Let me take you to one of the spare rooms.” Maxwell bent over and scooped me up in his arms. This time I did look at him. I noticed that he had a bit of dried blood on his suit.

“Oh my God. Is that blood?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“How’d you get that?” I asked.

Maxwell bit his lip and cringed. “You were bleeding a lot when you fell.”

“Oh, crap. That’s from me? Sorry for getting blood on your fancy suit.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can get it dry cleaned.” He carried me through the living room and over to the hallway door and paused in front of it. I could tell that he was planning on opening the hallway door himself somehow, so I reached over and opened the door instead.

As we passed down the long hallway, I took note of the glass study on the right, and I remembered my awkward encounter with Maxwell where he thought that I was out to kill him and his sister. I cringed in embarrassment and curled my head into Maxwell’s chest. He didn’t seem to mind or react in any way at all. He eventually stopped in front of a room, and I opened the door and flipped on the light switch to once we got inside.

The room had a rustic elegance to it. The bed was made of an ashen wood, much like my desk at work. The bed spread was a salmon color and the pictures on the wall were that of nature scenes in the fall. The floor was also made of wood, but there was a salmon rug in the middle of it.

Maxwell gently laid me down on top of the bed and then took a few steps back towards the door.

“There’s a bathroom connected to this room that you can use.”

“Thank you, Mr. Goodard. I’ll see you at work in the morning.”

“No, you won’t.”

“Excuse me?” I raised an eyebrow.

“You just got a concussion. Take the day off.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

Maxwell burst out laughing at my comment.

“Alright, maybe you are my boss, but you can’t tell me what to do.”

Maxwell smiled wryly. “I don’t think anyone can tell you what to do.”

“Damn straight.” I nodded a little too quickly. It made me feel dizzy. “The department’s going to be a mess tomorrow once the news about Leon breaks. I want to be there to minimize the damage.”

“You should probably rest to heal your concussion, but somehow I don’t think I’m going to get anything out of arguing with you other than a headache and time taken out of my sleeping schedule. Goodnight, Ms. Jones.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Goodard.”

With that, Maxwell flipped off the light switch and exited the room, closing the door behind him. I wanted to go and change out of my clothes and slip under the covers, but that required moving. So I just closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep instead.

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