It was Friday morning and Ryan was sitting at his desk rifling through papers and different documents on his desk and he was really feeling the exhaustion as it settled nicely inside him.
A big, high profile case of his was going to trial in three weeks and the preparation was going to take up most of his time and his assistant’s time. He damn near peed himself when he realized who the lawyer on the other side was. He hoped to crush Chad Sanders in this case, not just for his own personal reasons, but also because that’s what he did. In litigation matters, Ryan was known for his directness and his eagerness and ability to win a case.
“Ryan speaking,” he said after he picked up the ringing telephone.
“Mr. Wilson,” Jan, his assistant said on the other end, “Mr. Sanders is on the phone for you.”
“Put him on,” Ryan replied with an evil twinkle in his eye, “Chad, what can I do for you?”
Ryan was not about to let on that he knew that Chad was Nicole’s husband. This conversation was not about exchanging niceties or becoming pals, he knew exactly why Chad was calling and he refused to give Chad what he wanted.
“Ryan, I’m just calling on the Jansen case,” Chad said on the other end, “My client wants to try arrange a second mediation in hopes of settling this matter without proceeding to trial. Nobody wants this thing to go to trial. It’s a three week trial and everyone is tired of negotiating and dredging up the horrible events of this matter.”
“If you recall, which you don’t because you weren’t the lawyer on this matter a couple years ago,” Ryan replied with a snarl, “The mediation attempt went horribly. It destroyed my clients that your firm attempted to negotiate such a low settlement with respect to this. My clients are entitled to much more than what you were offering and I know that they will get it if they proceed to trial.”
“My clients are willing to go up an additional $20,000.00 for pain and suffering,” Chad replied, “I think that’s a good deal, don’t you Ryan?”
“No deal Chad,” Ryan said as he began to feel angry, “I’ll see you in court.”
He hung up the phone and threw his pen across the room.
This case wasn’t that simple. His clients were a 16 year old girl and her five year old brother and their guardian. Three years previous their family was on a road trip across Canada and their destination was Vancouver. They were in between Hope and Chilliwack when a semi-truck swerved across the grass meridian and hit the mini-van head on. The truck obliterated the van and left the girl and her brother nearly dead on the side of the road. Alcohol was a factor in the accident, but Chad’s firm was trying to keep that under wraps. The mom, dad and two older brothers were killed on impact.
At the last mediation the other side offered $350,000.00 for pain and suffering and other damages and now they were willing to add another $20,000.00. Ryan had done his research and read through case law where similar accidents were involved and in about 90% of them, the Plaintiffs were awarded amounts in the millions. He just didn’t see how the other side thought that less than half a million dollars was a fair deal.
These two children were left as orphans and this accident would affect them for the rest of their lives. Their aunt had graciously taken them in and gave them a home and a loving family, which was exactly what they needed. But Cassie, the 16 year old girl, had multiple injuries that hadn’t healed. She lost her leg and suffered a minor brain injury. Her five year old brother Jack, came out a little less harmed than Cassie. He suffered a broken leg and several broken ribs in which he had healed from with no issue, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t suffering from severe mental trauma of watching his parents and older brothers die right in front of him.
Ryan leaned back in his chair and ran his hand through his hair, frustrated at how he was having difficulty concentrating on the work he had to do to get this file in order. This case broke his heart and he wanted to do the best he could for his clients.
He reached out for his coffee cup and took a long sip of coffee before continuing to go through police documents and medical documents and death certificates. He was sure that Chad was a decent man outside the office, but as a lawyer, the man was a dick, there was no denying it.
As Ryan worked, he tried to think about other things to not let himself get so wrapped up in the evidence and photographs of the accident. He found himself thinking about Nicole and wishing that she was still in his life.
17 Years Ago
Ryan zipped and buttoned his pants and fastened his belt before looking at Nicole. She was sitting on the edge of his desk with her skirt still pulled up slightly and her blouse partially unbuttoned and she was watching his every move. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and he was lucky to have her as his assistant. Just the way she was looking at him at that moment made him want to take her on his desk again.
Nicole slowly got off the desk, pulled her skirt down and buttoned up her shirt. They had been seeing each other for three weeks now and despite the fact that the relationship was wrong, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
“Well, at least we only have to keep this up for another couple weeks,” Nicole said, still a little bit breathless.
“What do you mean?” Ryan asked, giving her a curious look, “I thought you were working part-time through the fall.”
“I got my schedule last week and there is no way I will be able to juggle all my school work and work part time here,” Nicole stated, “I’m sorry, I thought management would have told you by now. I gave my notice a few days ago.”
Ryan sat down on the edge of his desk and ran a hand through his hair. He looked up as Nicole made her way to him and she put her hands on either side of his face. Her hands were warm against his face. He was going to miss those hands, that smile, and those lips, amongst other things.
“Why the long face?” Nicole asked quietly, searching his eyes for an answer, “It will be easier for us to see each other once I no longer work here. No more quickies in your office and no more lunch breaks where we sneak off to your apartment. We can be a little more open about our relationship once I leave.”
Ryan’s heart thudded in his chest. He honestly thought that this was just a fling to both of them. That was until she said, in so many words, that she wanted to keep this going once she left the firm.
“You want more?” he asked her, trying not to sound too excited.
“What did you think Ryan?” Nicole questioned, “That this was just a fling to me?”
“Well, kind of…” Ryan replied reluctantly, “I didn’t know you wanted more out of this…”
She looked at him for a moment and he swore he saw a hurt look flash across her face. She ran a hand through his hair before she leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. She pressed her body against his and he responded, faster than he had expected. He ran his hands down her arms and then around her waist as she slowly slid her tongue into his mouth. She was going to be the end of him if they kept this up.
Nicole pulled away unenthusiastically and looked deep into his eyes.
“I have work to do,” Nicole said with a small smile, “Beth isn’t home tonight if you want to come over for a bit.”
With that she turned on her heels and walked out of her office and left him there to think. She never responded to him about what more she wanted from him, but that kiss made it perfectly clear to him…
Clearly thinking about that moment 17 years ago was not helping him and he wasn’t getting anything accomplished. He ran his hand over his chin and looked out the window for a moment. The only solution that he could come up with at that moment was to get outside. It was beautiful out and he wasn’t about to waste his morning in his office, he was going golfing.
“Jan, cancel my appointment at 11:15 and reschedule for Monday morning,” Ryan called out as he grabbed his coat from the rack, “I need to get out a clear my mind. I will be back around 2:30. If anything urgent comes up just call me on my cell phone.”
“Alright Mr. Wilson,” Jan replied with a smile, “Enjoy your golf game.”
Ryan gave her a sheepish look. It amazed him that Jan could read him so well and only after less than a year of working with him. He smiled at her quickly before disappearing down the hall towards the elevators.
Nicole was sitting at the island in her kitchen waiting patiently for Chad to get there. They had texted each other that morning and decided that he would pick her up for dinner around 7:30. It was 8:15 and she still hadn’t seen or heard from him.
Nicole looked down at her phone and he still hadn’t responded to her text that she sent him half an hour earlier. She was trying not to let herself get worried, but it was difficult. Chad was never late for anything, he was a very prompt person, in fact he often got to where he was going about ten minutes earlier than he was supposed to.
Nicole pressed his number and waited as the phone rang and rang. She listened to his voice message and cleared her throat.
“Hi Chad, it’s me,” Nicole said calmly, “It’s twenty after eight and I haven’t heard from you. I hope everything is ok. Give me a call when you get this.”
Nicole pressed “end” and took a sip of her wine that she had poured a couple minutes before. She had been looking forward to their dinner date for the last three days since he had suggested it and now it looked like it wouldn’t be happening. She hoped that maybe he just got caught up with work and forgot, in which case she would gladly reschedule for tomorrow or Sunday. But now she had no date and Hudson was sleeping over at Auntie Beth and Uncky Alex’s house.
“Now what…” she mumbled to herself.
She took one more big sip from her wine glass and finished it off and then she made her way out of the kitchen and up the stairs. She gave herself a once over in the mirror at the top of the stairs. It was a shame that all her preparation had gone to waste as she felt really pretty tonight. She walked into her bedroom and opened the drawer of her bedside table and pulled out the business card that she tried so hard to forget about.
“What is the harm in just catching up?” she asked herself as she pulled her phone out of her pocket.
Nicole dialed the number without hesitation and then waited as it rang.
Ryan jumped in his seat when his phone started ringing. He looked down at the phone and it was an unfamiliar number and he considered ignoring it, but for some reason he decided against it.
“This is Ryan,” he said professionally.
“Ryan, hi, it’s Nicole,” she said on the other end.
Ryan damn near dropped the phone. He certainly wasn’t expecting to hear from her, but it was a pleasant surprise none the less.
“Nicole, hey, how are you?” Ryan asked as casually as possible, throwing his pen on his desk, “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you.”
“I’m doing ok, a lot better than the last time you saw me,” she replied quietly, “If I caught you at a bad time, I can let you go.”
“Absolutely not,” Ryan responded quickly, “I’ve been working non-stop since 3:45. I need a break. What’s going on?”
“Well, Hudson is staying with Beth and her husband Alex because I was supposed to go out with Chad, but he didn’t show up,” Nicole replied, sounding frustrated and a little disappointed, “I know it sounds bad, but I have the time and would like to go out somewhere. Did you want to meet me for coffee at that café down by the water in about half an hour?”
Ryan looked over at the stack of documents that had arrived by courier from Chad’s office and knew that he had to review them, but he figured it could wait until the morning. He had no ulterior motives when it came to Nicole. She was just a friend that he hadn’t seen in years and wanted to catch up, so he didn’t see a problem with it.
“Sure, I will meet you there,” Ryan replied with a small smile, “I’ll finish up here and I’ll be on my way.”
“Perfect,” she said happily, “I’ll see you soon.”
Ryan shut his phone off and leaned back in his chair. It definitely wasn’t what he had originally planned for his Friday night, but he had no issue with pushing work to the side for a little while. He undid his tie and pulled it off and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.
Twenty minutes later Ryan was walking down the street toward the café when someone snuck up behind him.
“Hey!” Nicole cried out, trying her best to scare him.
“Jesus,” Ryan laughed as he jumped, “I thought I was going to beat you there.”
She caught up to him and matched his stride. She looked beautiful, like she had made an effort to look good for a night out with her husband. What he didn’t understand was why he was Chad’s replacement.
Nicole was wearing a blue skirt that rested right above the knees, a yellow tank top and a pair of yellow flats. Her hair was in a loose ponytail that flowed down her back and her make-up was perfectly done. Understated, almost like she wasn’t wearing any make-up at all. Ryan had loved that about Nicole, even when they were together, she was an absolute natural beauty. She could get away with never wearing make-up.
They walked in silence for a little while and he opened the door to the café and held it open so she could walk in. She went up to the counter and order her usual drink and then looked at him, waiting for him to make his order.
“I’ll just get a coffee,” Ryan said to the barista and then looking over at Nicole.
She handed the barista her debit card and flashed Ryan a little smile.
“Your coffee cost like $1.50, it’s really not a big deal,” Nicole said quietly, her cheeks reddening a little, “You can get the next one.”
Once they got their coffees they found a table at the back of the café where it was quiet and away from everyone else. They sat down and Ryan looked across the table at the beautiful woman sitting in front of him. He desperately wanted to reach across and brush the strand of hair that had fallen in her eyes.
“So, tell me what’s going on,” Ryan said cutting to the chase, “Only if you want to, that is.”
“Beth knew that her sister was having an affair with someone a couple weeks before I found out that Chad wanted a divorce,” Nicole replied with no issue of telling him what was going on in her life, “But she had no idea who Anna was seeing. When I told her that I thought Chad was having an affair, even though he denied it profusely, she put two and two together. Beth went over to Anna’s and saw Chad’s truck parked out front. Let’s just say the confrontation wasn’t pretty. That was three weeks ago.”
“I’m so sorry that happened Nicky,” Ryan stated quietly, “You don’t deserve that. Have you guys tried to work through it?”
“That day I ran into you when I got off the elevator, I was on my way to a counselling appointment with Chad,” Nicole continued, “I made it about 10 minutes in before I lost my cool and then walked out on him, but not before I told him to pack his things and leave. So a few days ago I invited him over to talk. I missed him and when he came over things moved really quickly...”
Nicole looked up at him and it didn’t take him long to know what she meant. Even though it seemed that Nicole and Chad were making progress in their marriage, Ryan couldn’t help but notice fear and doubt in her eyes.
“Something still feels off to you?” Ryan questioned.
“I don’t know,” Nicole replied, “He wanted to take me out for dinner tonight. We texted this morning to make plans. He was going to pick me up at 7:30 and he never showed up. I don’t know what to make of that.”
Ryan assumed that Chad was working hard on the Jansen matter and he figured that he may have pissed Chad off with not wanting to attempt the second mediation. It wasn’t a subject that he wanted to broach with Nicole at that moment. He didn’t think it was important at this point in time for her to know that Ryan and Chad were working opposite sides of a trial.
“Maybe give him the benefit of the doubt,” Ryan suggested, “Maybe he had a rough day, maybe he forgot. Maybe it was just an honest mistake.”
“Maybe,” Nicole mumbled, “But he is already walking a thin line, so you think that he would do whatever he could to make this right…maybe I’m just expecting too much too soon.”
“What can I do to take your mind off him for a little while?” Ryan asked, attempting to change the subject.
She smiled at him before taking a sip of her coffee. It felt good to spend time with Nicole again and he felt like they had never been apart. He was kicking himself for ruining their relationship because he had been scared of commitment.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” she replied quietly, “I’m happy that you made time to hang out and just talk. I talk with Beth all the time, but she always has an opinion or advice to give. Tell me what’s going on in your life. I don’t want to talk about the heavy stuff anymore.”
“Sounds good to me,” he replied with a small smile before taking a drink of his coffee.
Chad rolled over in bed with a groan and looked over at the clock on his bedside table. He saw that is was 7:30 and jumped up with a start. He was late for dinner with his wife. But why did he feel like he had been run over by a Mack Truck?
“Good morning baby,” he heard someone behind him say.
He felt his heart sink in his chest as the events of the night before slowly began to come hurtling back into his memory. He had been stressed to the max since Friday morning when Ryan turned down his proposal for a second mediation attempt. He knew that if the proposed mediation didn’t take place, he had absolutely no chance of winning in court. He shrugged off work after lunch and began drinking around 3:30.
He turned around and there was Anna, naked, in bed beside him. Jesus, he thought to himself as the panic began to rise inside him, what had he done.
“Why are you here?” he asked, unsure of how to deal with the problem at hand.
“You called me around 6:00 and asked me to meet you here,” Anna replied with a hesitant smile, “You don’t remember anything from last night?”
“Not all of it…I vaguely remember calling you, but why the hell would I do that?” Chad asked more to himself than to Anna, “I’m trying to make things right with Nicole, so I don’t know how I got so drunk and ended up in bed with you.”
“When you called me, you were already wasted Chad,” Anna replied, “And last night you made it perfectly clear that you didn’t want to go through all the work of saving your marriage. You said that Nicole was making things really difficult and that it would take a miracle for things to get back to the way things were.”
Chad couldn’t handle this news at that particular moment. He was frustrated with the situation and he was pissed off with himself for falling back into that temptation that brought him to this place so easily. He began to wonder if Anna was taking advantage of the fact that he was drunk and making him believe that he had said those things.
“Get out,” Chad mumbled angrily, “Before Trevor sees you in here. I don’t want to deal with that right now.”
“He already saw me last night,” Anna replied.
“Get out!” Chad yelled, “I have enough on my plate right now without having to deal with you.”
He watched Anna storm out of his room and then threw himself back on the bed. He didn’t know what to do and he struggled to make sense of it all. He loved Nicole so much and he wanted to make things right, but there was something about Anna that drove him absolutely crazy. If he wasn't with Nicole or wasn't submerged in his work, his mind was always thinking back to Anna. He did love her, but if things were to end with Nicole, would they last?
"Hey asshole," Trevor said from the doorway knocking him from his thoughts, "Why was 'the reason you're living in my house' here with you all night long? I thought you were trying to repair your marriage to 'the best thing that ever happened to you'?"
"I don't know Trevor," Chad replied quietly as he looked down at his hands, "I couldn't tell you."
"Well you better figure it out man," Trevor stated, sounding angry, "Because if you are going to continue seeing the home wrecker, I want you out of my house. I won't be an accomplice to this. Nicole is too good for that, in fact, and I know you're my best friend, but Nicole is too good for you."