The Client

Chapter 19

Charlie stared at her phone. She had been trying to make a decision for the past ten minutes. Everyone else outside was immersed in conversation. Abby rode Silver past them as she exercised him in the corral, where they all were gathered. Finally Charlie went for it. She hit the contact icon. The phone dialed and waited for someone to pick up.

"Mercy Hospital, Pediatric floor- how can I help you?" the charge nurse answered

Charlie breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily it was one of her friends. "Hey, Angel," Charlie replied.

"Have there been any changes?" Charlie asked.

"You should be enjoying your day off," Angel put a hand to her hip.

"How is Hannah?" Charlie asked. She could hear her friend smirk on the other end.

Angel knew the real reason Charlie was calling. "Awake," she reported, "Do you want me to put her on?"

Charlie gnawed on her bottom lip. She couldn't believe she was acting this unprofessional with a patient, but Hannah needed the support to recover. "Yeah, I would," Charlie answered.

"Give me two minutes and I'll call you back," Angel replied.

"Thanks," Charlie hung up. She tapped her cell on her palm impatiently. It soon vibrated. Charlie answered, "Hey."

"Here she is," Angel said. She held the phone for Hannah.

"Hi, Hannah," Charlie said.

"Go ahead," Angel coaxed.

"Hi," Hannah said.

Charlie smiled at Hannah's sheepish tone, "How are you feeling today?"

"Good, I ate a whole banana for breakfast," Hannah declared.

"Wow, a whole banana?" Charlie praised.

"Yep, and Angel got me a second muffin too," Hannah said.

"Very nice," Charlie said, "What kind were they?"

"Bu-burry," Hannah replied.

"Were they good?" Charlie asked.

"Yummy," Hannah answered.

"Good," Charlie nodded, "I can't talk long- Angel needs to get back to work."

"Ok," Hannah pouted.

"I'll see you tomorrow- ok, Sweetie?" Charlie promised.

"Ok, bye-bye," Hannah said.

"Bye-bye," Charlie repeated then hung up. She pushed away from the corral railing. "I am going to get a drink- can I get one for anyone else?" Charlie asked.

"No, thank you," Dale answered.

"We're good," Lucia spoke for both herself and Johnny. Charlie headed for the house.

Dale frowned after the doctor, slightly confused. He was playing catch up here. Dale turned to Johnny, "Does Charlie have a kid?"

"Nope," Johnny shook his head. He hadn't seen any signs of one in Charlie's apartment. The only ones she talked about were her patients.

"Definitely not- why would you ask?" Lucia questioned. She had been so lost in conversation with Johnny that she hadn't heard one word of Charlie's phone call.

"It sounded like she was on the phone with a kid," Dale replied.

"Did she say the name Hannah?" Johnny inquired.

"I think so," Dale replied.

"She's one of Charlie's patients," Johnny informed him, "You'll be seeing a lot of her, if you go with Charlie."

Abby pulled Silver up to the railing beside the guys and Lucia, "What's up? Am I boring you?"

"Nah, you're fine," Johnny replied.

"You looked great out there," Lucia added.

"He's a beautiful horse," Dale remarked.

"Thank you," Abby replied. She patted Sliver's neck. Johnny's phone beeped. He checked the message. "Is Mike back?" Abby dismounted. She brought Silver out of the corral.

"He just checked in at the gate," Johnny confirmed.

"Hold him, please," Abby gleefully handed Silver's reins over to Lucia. Abby raced through the substantial lawn up toward the mansion. "We'll be back," the attorney tossed a promise back over her shoulder. Dale looked at Johnny with a smirk. He was happy for Mike. Abby was a great catch. Johnny just shrugged.

Abby ran out the front door to greet Mike. She was waiting as his car pulled up. Mike saw her as he pulled in. He parked then got out. Mike slammed the driver's door shut with one hand. He turned and smiled at Abby. Her face was beaming as she ran to him, with open arms. Mike embraced her hold heartedly. He buried his face into Abby's neck and just breathed her in. After talking with Eddie he so needed this.

They pulled back, still holding on to each other. Abby could see something was wrong. Mike was trying to shake it off. "I missed you," she said.

He dipped in and kissed her, "Me too." A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. Just being with Abby began to lift the cloud that was over his head. Mike took Abby's hand, "What have I missed?" He saw she was wearing her riding clothes.

"I exercised Silver in the corral," Abby informed him, "That's about it- we've been lazy."

"Sounds like fun," Mike replied, "We should see what mischief they are getting into."

"Yeah," Abby nodded in agreement.

Hand in hand the rounded the mansion and crossed the lawn to where their friends where waiting. "Hiya, Guys," Mike waved with his free hand.

"Hey," came the greeting.

They got closer and walked up to Abby's horse. "How's it shaking, Silver?" Mike greeted Silver. The horse neighed at him in kind.

Not letting go of Mike, Abby took Silver's reins in her other hand, "Thanks."

"No problem," Lucia replied.

Mike undid the first button of his dress shirt, "It's hot."

"Might be time to cool off for a bit," Johnny suggested.

"We'll take care of Silver- why don't you guys head back in?" Mike offered.

"Alright," the group agreed. Lucia headed off with the guys.

Mike & Abby led Silver into the stable. They tied him up to the station and got his saddle and blanket off. He handed her the curry comb. "Thanks," she replied.

Back inside they found everyone gathered around the coffee table. Charlie was lifting the cardboard lid off of the box of a game. "What do we have here?" Abby asked.

"Cranium," Charlie replied.

"Mike's on my team," Abby said. They took up residence on the love seat.

"You're with me," Lucia slid closer to Johnny. They had brought over a large ottoman for a seat.

Dale looked at Charlie, "I guess that leaves us."

Charlie nodded, "I guess so." He joined her on the couch. Each team choose a token.

"Birthdays," Abby looked at the guys. She knew the ones of the girls.

"March 5," Dale answered.

"August 17," Johnny said.

"And you?" Abby angled to Mike.

"September 21," he answered.

"Then it looks like we go first- my birthday is in two weeks," Lucia took up the die. She rolled it. "Data head," she pumped her fist, "Yes." Since Abby and Mike were the team on the right to them, Abby drew their card.

"Which continent has the most independent countries?" Abby read the question off of the card, "Is it A) Asia, B) Europe, C) South America, or D) Africa?" She turned over the timer.

Lucia smirked. Johnny nodded to her to answer. "Africa," Lucia said.

Abby checked the answer, "Correct."

"Nice," Johnny high-fived his teammate. They rolled again and moved their spaces.

Mike took up the die. He held it out to Abby for her to blow on. She laughed then did so. He tossed it. "Word Worm," Mike said.

Dale picked Mike & Abby's card. "Blackout…" Dale read the rules, "Your hint is Thing." He handed over the card and started the timer. Mike took up the pad of paper and wrote out the letter's they had with spaces. "That looks like it could be an e," Abby said. Mike filled in the space.

"An A?" Mike pointed to another space. Abby nodded. They finished the rest in a silent agreement. They looked like a really good team.

"Chocolate Cake," Abby read the phrase.

Dale checked the answer on the back of the card, "You got it." Mike motioned for Abby to pick up the die. She rolled it and they moved their token.

The die for Charlie and Dale's team landed on the color for Star Performer. Lucia drew the card for Charlie and Dale. Then read out the rules. "Who's the actor?" she asked. Dale raised his hand to volunteer. Lucia gave him the card. The timer was turned over.

Dale read the character named on the card then proceeded to put on his best English accent, "Elementary my dear…"

"Sherlock Holmes," Charlie answered, "Come on, give me something hard."

After the game was over Mike headed into the kitchen for a beer. It was the cook's day off so they had free reign of the room. He opened the refrigerator and surveyed the contents. Mike felt Abby enter the room. He selected a bottle while she crossed to him. "Hey," Abby wrapped her arms around Mike's waist.

"Hey," Mike replied, "Want anything?"

"Lemonade, please," Abby requested. Mike brought out the pitcher with the desired drink. Abby let go of him and went to the cupboard for a glass. "What's going on with you?" she brought down the object.

He closed the refrigerator and turned to Abby, "What do you mean?" Mike carried both drinks to the counter. He opened his beer, while she poured herself a glass of lemonade.

"You just seem off," Abby noted. She took the glass up and drank. "Everything went ok earlier with Lauren and that Eddie guy, right?" Abby inquired.

"It went fine," Mike replied. She sipped on her drink, trying not to take his curt answer personally. Abby could feel Mike shutting her out. She watched him for a minute. "Why are you looking at me like that?" Mike asked.

"You're hot," Abby answered.

"You think so," Mike deflected the compliment.

Abby nodded, "Even like this."

"Like what?" his brow furrowed.

"Sad," she touched his face. Their eyes locked. He felt her reading him like a book.

"I guess talking with Eddie is just bringing up a lot of stuff I'd like to forget," Mike hung his head.

"I'm sorry," Abby smoothed his collar, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I'm sure it'll pass," Mike replied.

"If you ever want to talk about it- I'm available," Abby offered.

Mike sighed. He couldn't quite meet her concerned eyes. "Look, I can't talk about that," Mike said.

"I understand," Abby replied half-heartedly. She looked away. Her name was called out in the living room. "Well, I guess they noticed I left," Abby said, "I should see what they need."

"I'll be out in a minute," Mike replied.

Dale waited until Abby had come out, to go into the kitchen and approach Mike. "Hey, Jakes," Mike greeted.

"I am heading out to meet Cassandra and Danny for dinner," Dale said.

"Tell them I said hi," Mike replied.

"Look, I couldn't help over hearing," Dale said.

"Yeah," Mike looked down into the bottom of his beer.

"A nickel of advice from an old married dude?" Dale offered.

"Shoot," Mike gave the go ahead.

"Whatever happened to you back in that safe house, you need to let it go," Dale counseled.

"I have," Mike professed.

"No, you haven't- not from what I just heard," Dale shook his head, "And if you think you have, you are only fooling yourself."

"It was years ago- it's all water under a distant bridge," Mike brushed it off.

"You're stuck back there," Dale countered.

"I've had my share of-" Mike began.

Dale held up his hand, "I am not the person you need to talk to." Mike knew exactly who Dale meant.

"Get yourself unstuck- don't be that guy," Dale urged. With that, he left and finished his goodbyes in the other room. Mike groaned. Things had started off so well. He could hear in her voice that he had hurt Abby. Something Mike never intended to do. No major damage had been done, but if he kept on this route there might be.

He came out of the kitchen and found Abby staring out the glass French doors out back. "Abby," Mike reached out and touched her arm.

"Yes," Abby turned to face him.

"I'm sorry," Mike began to apologize. Her shoulders relaxed.

Just as he was about to continue, Lauren, Brennan, and Paul entered together. Mike hadn't gotten the message they were coming in, because he left his phone on the coffee table.

"A word Mike," Paul motioned for the younger man to follow.

"We'll talk when I get back," Mike kissed Abby's temple. He walked away resignedly. He followed the three to the office. Mike had a feeling he was not going to enjoy the coming conversation with his boss.

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