Nicole was sitting on the couch in her living room with a glass of wine and watching T.V. while Hudson played on the carpet. On the outside she appeared calm and collected and happy with her life, but on the inside, everything was in shambles. Her emotions were on an out of control roller coaster, her heart was in a thousand pieces and resting at the bottom of her stomach somewhere and she was completely lost.
It was Friday evening. Nicole had had a long day at work and she hadn’t heard from Chad since he bailed on their counselling appointment a few days earlier, not even a response to her text about their rescheduled appointment. She definitely suspected that her husband was up to no good, but she was exhausted and she decided that she would wait for him to make the move.
“Momma,” Hudson called from his place on the living room floor, “Juice? Please?”
“Ok, baby,” Nicole replied with a small smile, “Just a little bit. I’ll go get it for you.”
She got up and absentmindedly walked down the hall to the kitchen. She grabbed her phone off the desk before making her way to the fridge and looked at it quickly. There was a text message from Ryan. Her heart did a little skip in her chest as she opened it.
Hey, done prepping for this trial that starts on Monday. Did you want to get together, maybe hang out for a bit?
Nicole smiled and then texted back - I have Hudson tonight so I have to be at home, but you are more than welcome to come hang out here for a bit if you want.
She set the phone down on the counter and went to the fridge to pull out Hudson’s orange juice. She filled his sippy cup with some juice and screwed the lid on tight. Just as she was walking out of the kitchen, her cell phone began to ring.
“Hello,” she answered, not looking at the call display.
“Hey, it’s Ryan,” he said on the other end.
“Oh hey,” Nicole replied with a small smile on her face.
“Are you sure that me coming over to your place is a good idea?” he asked, “What if Chad comes home? Or what if someone sees me...”
“Ryan, Chad hasn’t been home in three weeks,” Nicole responded, appreciating the fact that Ryan was concerned about this, “I don’t know why he would all of a sudden show up now. I haven’t talked to him, texted him or seen him. I have no idea what is going on. He is so disconnected from this family, that even if he did show up for some reason, he really has no right to complain. You and I are friends, that’s all.”
“Sounds good,” Ryan said in response, “I’ll be there in about an hour. Want me to bring over dinner? Pizza?”
“My favorite hasn’t changed,” Nicole replied with a laugh, “and Hudson loves cheese.”
“As you wish. Pepperoni and mushroom and a small cheese pizza coming up,” Ryan exclaimed, “I’ll see you soon.”
Nicole pushed end and put her phone on the counter. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled an honest to goodness smile. She had no idea where she was at with her marriage, but at least she had Ryan back in her life. Despite their relationship in the past, they also managed to have a great friendship and that was exactly what she needed right now.
It had appeared that Chad had made his decision as he laid in Anna’s bed and read his book. It was 8:00 Friday night, he was exhausted and he still hadn’t felt like he had prepared enough for this upcoming trial. He knew he was going to lose, but he had to prepare none the less. He had to keep up appearances for Nicole’s sake because he knew she would go to Trevor’s to seek him out. He spent maybe one or two nights a week at Trevor’s place, but for the rest of the time he was at Anna’s.
He loved Nicole and loved that she was the mother of his child, but he didn’t know if he was in love with her anymore. He was so ashamed of himself for leading her on and thinking that he wanted to fight for their marriage when he really wasn’t sure anymore. He had avoided her and his son for the last three weeks because he didn’t know what to say to them. He knew that he would have to come clean sooner or later, but he dreaded the moment when he finally did sit Nicole down and tell her that their marriage was over.
He smiled when he saw Anna peek her head through the doorway. She smiled at him and wiggled her eyebrows at him and giggled quietly before strutting into the bedroom in a sexy little number. Her blond hair fell loosely down her back and her blue eyes shone with deviance. Chad put his book down and ran his tongue over his lips before smiling at her and patting the bed beside him.
“Get over here baby,” he groaned, “It has been a long day.”
Anna giggled and jumped on the bed landing beside him. She looked up at him sweetly and batted her eyelashes at him. She leaned up and pressed her full lips against his, kissing him softly, deepening the kiss with each passing second. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her on top of him as he slowly moved his tongue inside her mouth. She moaned as his large hands travelled down her body.
Chad was crazy about Anna, but he couldn’t be sure if he was in love with her or if he was just lusting over her. She was incredibly sexy and an amazing seductress and he was putty in her hands. He wondered if it was worth throwing away his marriage for whatever this was with Anna.
“When are you going to leave Nicole?” Anna mumbled against his lips, “You said you would, but why haven’t you done it yet?”
There it was, Chad thought, the moment was ruined. He pushed her off of him and got out of bed, pulling on his sweat pants and storming down the hall to the kitchen. He pulled a glass out of the cabinet and poured himself a glass of whiskey and swallowed it in one go, the hot liquid coating his throat and warming up his insides. Why did she have to push him? Why couldn’t she just let things play out as they should?
“What is your problem?” Anna demanded as she stormed into the kitchen with a robe wrapped around her, “I deserve to know what the hell is going on!”
“Sweetheart, you have no idea what is going on inside me right now,” Chad shot back as he turned around and looked at her with fire in his eyes, “I’m crazy about you, but you don’t understand the gravity of what you are asking me to do. You are asking me to destroy my marriage, to rip apart my family. This is a pretty big decision.”
Anna stopped in her tracks as she let Chad’s words sink in. While he waited for Anna to process and come up with a response he poured himself another glass and downed it just as fast, if not faster, as the first. He wished he could close his eyes and go back to the day before the party that started all of this. He would have done things so much differently. If only that could be done.
“I’m sorry Chad,” Anna whispered as she walked up to him and ran her hands up his chest, “I know I’ve put you in a difficult situation. I won’t push you about it anymore. I just…I love you Chad and I don’t want to wait much longer to start my life with you.”
He stared at her for a moment unable to put words together to give her a response. He was pretty sure he just heard her say that she loved him and he was absolutely sure that he could not say those words back to her just yet. He wanted Anna, but he wanted Nicole and Hudson, his old life, just as much. But as they say, he couldn’t have the best of both worlds and he was sure that his chance with Nicole was slowly running out.
“Love me,” Anna whispered before she pressed her lips against his, “Please Chad.”
An absolute professional in seduction, Chad thought as he closed his eyes and allowed himself to forget for a little while. He ran his hands down her body and lifted her up onto the counter, pushing up her robe.
“Take my mind off things for a little while baby,” Chad murmured against her lips, “I don’t want to think anymore.”
“God,” Nicole said as she threw the pizza crust on the plate and set the plate on the coffee table, “I couldn’t eat another bite if I tried.”
“You’ve become a lightweight over the past 13 years,” Ryan commented with a smile, “The Nicole I knew could put back an entire large pizza on her own and still not gain a pound.”
Nicole burst into laughter when he brought that up. The two of them used to have competitions to see who could eat their pizzas the fastest. They both loved pepperoni and mushroom, but they both ordered larges because they weren’t willing to share one with each other.
“I’m still that way,” Nicole replied, “It doesn’t matter how much I eat, I still don’t gain weight.”
“Such a horrible problem to have,” Ryan teased, “I don’t know how you deal with it!”
Nicole punched him playfully in the shoulder without thinking and before she knew what was happening Ryan had her on her back and was tickling her. She cried out in fits of giggles and tried with all her might to push him off, but her struggle was futile.
“Ryan, please,” Nicole laughed as she continued to try and push him away, “Please stop, I can’t breath…”
“Why should I stop?” Ryan questioned with a smile on his face, “Give me one good reason.”
“I can think of one,” Nicole squealed, “Unless you want to explain this to Hudson when he comes downstairs and sees us in this precarious position, you might want to get off me.”
Nicole grinned as Ryan pulled away from her and sat back up. He straightened out his t-shirt, ran a hand casually through his brown hair and reached for another slice of pizza. Nicole watched his every move, he was no longer beautiful or cute like he had been all those years ago. 40 looked amazing on this man sitting beside her. Now he was handsome and ruggedly sexy and he rocked the hell out of it. She desperately wanted to reach out and touch his face. The stubble on his face brought out the ruggedness. She could feel the hotness in her cheeks as she realized how much she still wanted Ryan.
Sure enough, not five minutes later Hudson stumbled down the stairs with his short little legs and walked into the living room with a little smile on his face. His hair was a mess and his cheeks were red and his eyes were tired. He stood in front of both of them with his little hands on his hips.
“Momma I’s tired,” Hudson said quietly, “It past bedtime.”
“You’re right baby,” Nicole replied as she reached out and tried to smooth out his hair, “Let’s get you into bed. Run upstairs and get your pyjamas on. I will be right up.”
“Ok momma,” Hudson said with a grin, “Thank you Mr. Ryan for the pizza. It was yummy.”
“You’re welcome little guy,” Ryan said with a smile, “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
Hudson waved at Ryan and flashed his beautiful little smile before he turned around and ran up the stairs to get ready for bed.
“I shouldn’t be too long,” Nicole said quietly as she turned and looked at Ryan, “You can wait if you want, if you don’t have anywhere else to be that is.”
“I’ll wait,” Ryan replied quietly, “I have nowhere else to be.”
“Ok, I’ll be right back,” Nicole said happily as she stood up and quickly made her way up the stairs.
Her heart beat in her chest excitedly as she reached the top of the stairs. She knew it was horrible to have the thoughts that she was having, but being with him now brought back every memory that she had had with Ryan. She remembered the way she felt with him and she was experiencing those feelings again now. She closed her eyes and tried to will the memories away, but when she closed them a different memory haunted her thoughts.
9.5 Years Ago
Nicole was in the bathroom of hers and Chad’s little two bedroom apartment getting ready for their dinner out. They were celebrating their 3 year anniversary and she was so happy. She was hoping that maybe tonight was the night that they take their relationship to the next level, to start making plans for their future together.
As she dabbed lip gloss on her lips and swiped the mascara brush over her eyelashes her heart felt full and happy. When Ryan broke up with her unexpectedly, she never thought another person would be able to capture her heart like he had, but in swooped Chad and picked up the pieces of her broken heart. She fell in love with Chad and the rest was history.
“Babe, could you come into the living for a minute,” Chad called out, “I need to ask your opinion on something.”
“Be right out!” Nicole called back, “Just finishing in the bathroom.”
“You’re gorgeous,” Chad called back, “Now get your ass out here!”
Nicole giggled and smiled at herself in the mirror, reaching up and undoing the clip that was holding her hair up. Her long brown hair fell down her back and she gave herself one last look before turning off the light and making her way down the hall towards the living room.
“Baby, what is this about?” Nicole questioned as she turned the corner and entered the living room.
Her jaw dropped and she was left speechless. There were pink gerbera daisies everywhere, spread out over the couch, the arm chair, the carpet and three bouquets of daisies, one of each coffee table. The lights were dimmed and candles had been lit everywhere she looked. She wiped her hands on her little black cocktail dress nervously and her heart was pounding excitedly in her chest.
“Chad…” Nicole whispered, her hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Shhh…baby let me talk for a minute,” Chad said quietly and nervously.
Chad walked up to her and ran a hand through her hair and then ran his hand down the side of her face. Every nerve ending in her body was on fire and the hairs on her arms stood on end. She could not get over the effect he had on her. Every time he touched her was like the very first time and she loved that about him.
“I know it’s taken a while Nic,” Chad said quietly as he looked into her eyes, “But you are my forever. I look at you and I can’t believe that it is actually possible to be in love with someone as much as I am with you. I have become a better person because of you. I wake up with a smile on my face every morning and it’s because I see you sleeping beside me. This is how I want to feel for the rest of my life. I don’t ever want to lose this feeling.”
Nicole took in everything he was telling her and her heart swelled with happiness. This was all she needed to hear from him to know that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with the man standing in front of her. He held her hands in his and she squeezed them to urge him to keep going.
“I didn’t think that I would ever take this step with anyone. I never thought I was that guy, until you came into my life,” Chad continued with a nervous smile on his face, “Nicole, I know that not every part of our journey together has been or will be easy, but I want to continue this journey with no one else but you.”
Chad pulled a small box out of his suit pants pocket and then slowly got down on one knee. Nicole’s heart was beating so hard that she thought it would burst right out of her chest. She was so excited and happy and she could barely contain it.
“Nicole, will you marry me?” Chad asked quietly, the emotions taking over his voice.
“Absolutely,” Nicole replied quietly as she fell on her knees in front of him, “Of course I will marry you.”
Chad reached for her hand and slipped the beautiful solitaire diamond on her finger and his eyes shone with happiness. He cupped her face in his hands and he gently kissed her on the nose before he pressed his lips against hers in a passionate kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back with everything she had. She was going to be Mrs. Sanders and couldn’t think of anything better than that...
Nicole kissed Hudson on the forehead and ruffled his hair before pulling the blankets up to his chin.
“Momma will be downstairs if you need anything baby,” Nicole said quietly, “Sleep well little boy.”
Hudson gave her a little smile and nodded his head in response before rolling over and cocooning himself in his blankets. Nicole smiled gave his shoulder a quick pat and then stood up, turned off the lights and closed the bedroom door, leaving it open just a crack.
Nicole slowly made her way down the stairs as she pondered the memory she just had a flashback of. What had happened in their eight years of marriage that had made Chad’s feelings for her diminish so immensely? She couldn’t wrap her head around it. Yeah, she knew that when people got married things changed. The love changes, the relationship changes, the feelings change, but it is usually for the better, not for the worse, or at least that’s what Nicole thought anyways. Nicole gave her head a quick shake before she returned to the living room.
“I’m getting a wine refill,” she said to Ryan with a smile as she reached for her glass, “Would you like anything?”
“I’ll get another glass of wine as well if that’s alright,” Ryan replied.
“Absolutely,” Nicole replied with smile, “I can grab it for you.”
“I’ll follow you,” Ryan stated as he stood up and reached for his glass.
Nicole made her way down the hall to the kitchen with Ryan following behind. The hair on her arms and neck stood on end and she could tell that he was paying very close attention to her movements. She got the impression that he still very much desired her and it made her feel good.
She placed her glass on the counter and then turned to grab the bottle off the counter across from her, but Ryan stood in front of her. He blocked her way, not purposefully, and she could smell his cologne, he was standing so close. She watched as he lifted his glass, leaned in towards her and placed the glass on the counter behind her. He looked deeply into her eyes as his arm brushed against hers and she was captivated by his stare, his beautiful blue eyed stare.
After a moment she let out a deep sigh and stepped to the side to get out of his way. She couldn’t lose control of the situation at this point. She had no idea where things stood with her and her husband and she couldn’t give up on him, not yet.
“I’m sorry,” Nicole whispered, “I can’t give up on Chad yet. I don’t know where he stands, but I need to at least give him an opportunity to be honest and tell me where he’s at and what he wants.”
Ryan stepped away from her and smiled at her. He ran a hand through his hair before leaning against the counter and staring at her with a look of concern on his face.
“I understand Nicky,” Ryan said quietly, “I don’t want to pry, but can I ask...what’s going on?”
“Of course, you aren’t prying Ryan,” Nicole stated, “I just...we had a moment about a month ago and I thought that was the first step to getting our marriage back on track. But then Chad started standing me up on dates that he had promised to take me on and he bailed on Hudson several times. Trevor, Chad’s best friend, knows something more than he is letting on, but he won’t tell me anything.”
“Do you think he is still seeing Anna?” Ryan asked curiously.
“I know he is, or at least I am almost certain that he is,” Nicole answered sadly, “I just want him to admit it to me. I want him to come clean and I want him to tell me if our marriage means anything to him anymore...”
“I’m so sorry that you have to go through this Nicky,” Ryan said quietly, “You and Hudson don’t deserve this. I have no idea how your marriage is doing or was doing, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t deserve to be cheated on. I wish I could fix this for you.”
Nicole reached for the bottle of wine and poured them each another glass unable to respond to him. She wished that she could rewind and do things differently. The thing was however, that she had no idea what she did wrong to begin with, so she wouldn’t know what needed fixing. It was obvious that her husband got bored and wanted something new.
“I wish you could too Ryan,” Nicole said, her voice cracking slightly, “I guess he just got bored of me. Seems to be the trend...”
As soon as she said it she wished she hadn’t. She put her wine glass on the counter and put her head in her hands, hoping that Ryan wouldn’t see her cry.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” Nicole whispered, “It was a low blow.”
“It’s not a low blow,” Ryan replied as he moved closer to her and put a hand on her back, “But just for the record, I never got bored of you, not once. I thought me ending things with you made sense at the time, but for the life of me, it makes absolutely no sense now.”
Nicole grabbed her glass and walked down the hall to the living room and left him standing in the kitchen. He had gotten so close to her and she had to get away before she did something that she would regret. She sat down in the big arm chair across from the couch and took a sip of her wine as Ryan walked into the living room.
“While we are on the topic of honesty,” Ryan stated as he sat down on the couch, “I should probably tell you something.”
“What is it?” Nicole asked, looking over at him.
“You know the big trial Chad has been preparing for?” he asked her.
“Yeah, apparently the lawyer on the other side is a hard ass,” Nicole stated with a smug smile, “Which is fine by me. I say make Chad work himself to the bone. He is panicking because he knows there is no way he is going to win this one.”
“I’m the hard ass lawyer on the other side,” Ryan replied quietly, looking down at his hands.
Nicole felt like laughing out loud over this, but she refrained and kept her happiness to herself on this one.
“I hope you win,” Nicole stated matter of factly, “I know the basics of the case and what Chad is offering is ridiculous for those poor children. I have a feeling that you will get them what they deserve.”
Ryan gave her a smile before taking a sip of his wine and then putting it down on the table. Neither one of them said anything for a moment, then Ryan cleared his throat.
“I’m glad you aren’t upset about this,” Ryan replied as he stood up, “But I guess I should be going. Maybe we could do this again in a few weeks...maybe once the trial is over?”
“A celebratory dinner perhaps?” Nicole asked shyly, “If you win, I’ll buy.”
Nicole followed him to the front door and he turned to look at her as he put his coat on. He smiled down at her and for a moment time stood still and her heart flipped over in her chest.
“Sounds like a plan,” he murmured, “I’ll give you a call.”
“Ok, I’ll be waiting,” Nicole replied with a small smile.
Without hesitating, Ryan leaned down and wrapped his arms around her and gave her a hug. Nicole wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him back, losing herself in the moment. He was warm and she could have stood like this forever. As she slowly pulled away, Ryan reluctantly let her go, but neither one of them broke eye contact. Nicole felt herself being pulled back into his arms and without overthinking it she flung her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his.
Nicole’s head and heart began screaming at her more loudly than she could handle the moment her lips made contact with Ryan’s. The kiss felt nothing like it used to when she was with him years ago. 13 years ago the kisses were playful and seductive and now the kisses were ignited with a passion that they barely touched on back then. They were more mature now and had more life experience. The desire that coursed through her body as they kissed was unlike anything she had experienced back then.
She struggled with deciphering what her head was saying and what her heart was saying. Her head was screaming that the moment was wrong and that she was still married to Chad, but her heart didn’t want her to let go of Ryan. His lips burnt against hers as she felt the tears slowly trickle down her cheeks, but she still didn’t pull away from him.
Ryan’s hands rested on Nicole’s hips as her hands gripped the collar of his coat as the kiss deepened. She could hear her heart beat in her ears and she felt like she was going to lose control. Before she knew what was happening, Ryan had pulled away from her and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice cracking, “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have pulled you into my arms.”
“It’s ok,” Nicole replied breathlessly as she looked down at the ground, unable to make eye contact with him, “But it’s probably time for you to go. I’ll talk to you when your trial is over.”
He nodded his head in response before he opened the door and let himself out, shutting the door behind him. Nicole locked the door and leaned against it. She slowly slid down to the floor and put her head in her hands, taking deep breaths to try and calm herself down.
She was so confused with what she was feeling. She felt awful for cheating on Chad for that one sweet moment, but what was more confusing was the fact that she hadn’t wanted to moment with Ryan to stop.
What had she done?