Cross the Line
Naomi Young picked up the incessantly ringing phone; she’d spent all morning...no ALL week fielding off calls, it was typical of Gloria to break her leg now of all times! She knew it couldn’t be helped, but that fact didn’t make her day seem any easier. But her boss was due home from his honeymoon in two days. It would calm down then. It had too!
“Fisher-Edwards. Can I help?” As usual her phone voice was sickly sweet but professional!
“Oh Naomi! Thank God you’re there!” She instantly recognised the anxious voice of Stephanie, the usually relaxed and calm, newlywed wife of her boss and good friend Simon. The last time Naomi had seen her, she’d been the blushing bride at one of the most fantastic weddings Naomi had even been to. She could only imagine how bliss their Caribbean honeymoon had been.
“Hey Steph! How’s Barbados? And why are you calling me on the last but one day of your honeymoon? I’m sure there are greater things to be doing!” Steph whimpered, and Naomi felt her whole body tense in fear, she’d been right to pick up on the anxiety in her voice, “what is it?” She could barely breathe as she waited for the other woman to speak.
“It’s Simon...” her words were punctuated with tears and gasps, “we were on a walk in the hills, and he slipped near a waterfall. It was awful; he fell over the edge...” She could hear the other woman shuddering as she relived the events. “He’s in hospital, he’s broken his pelvis. He’s being flown to the States tonight; a surgeon in Miami is going to operate tomorrow.”
“Oh my God! I can’t believe it, how’s he coping?” He was her oldest friend and the pain she felt in her chest was breathtaking at the thought of anything happening to him. He’d been a real rock to her over the years and she couldn’t contemplate him not being around.
“He’s in a lot of pain, but they are happy that he’s stable. I was hoping that you could find some paper work for me. Insurance stuff. He’s panicking about work....” Stephanie’s voice sounded emotionally drained, Naomi could only begin to guess how horrendous the last few days had been for her.
Naomi nodded “Of course, anything! Just say the word!”
She could hear Stephanie take a deep breath, “Thanks Naomi. I’ve no idea how long he’s going to be out here, and what with you and Gloria being alone, anyway, Simon suggested a replacement, a friend who’s not working at the moment, I’m waiting for him to get back to me, but hopefully there’ll be someone to step into Simon’s shoes...I don’t know when, but I’m hoping he’ll be there... I’ll email you what I need you to find. You’ve got a key to his flat haven’t you? If you collect it, I’ll get access to a fax number, then you can forward it to me. Or maybe email?” She sounded so forlorn, confused. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!
“I have. Anything I can do then let me know. I’m so sorry Steph, give my love to Simon, and make sure you look after yourself, ok?”
Naomi shook her head as she replaced the handset, poor Simon. He was a good friend as well as her employer and this was the first holiday he’d allowed himself in years. She knew that he’d be lying in a hospital bed panicking over what was happening to the business. It was just typical! She only wished she could run it all for him, but she wasn’t qualified for that. She was just the office manager...the gopher, though without her the place would fall apart. Simon was aware of that, and she was paid well for her long hours and stressful job, and it looked like it was about to become a hell of a lot more stressful. Simon was due in court next week; he had three cases at least. She was already fielding call after call about them. She prayed that Steph would find an alternative before it became too unbearable. Saying that, she was more concerned about his injuries than she was a few irate clients. She’d cope with that and be grateful.
Simon was the Fisher in the partnership of the law firm, and she’d loved working with him, but since Martin Edwards the elder partner died less than a year ago, he’d worked flat out trying to keep things running smoothly. His wedding had been booked before this and she had been an integral voice in forcing him to go along with both the ceremony and the honeymoon. He’d felt he couldn’t abandon ship for two weeks, Naomi had insisted she and Gloria could cope, and so she’d become even more engrossed in so many of the cases. And it was a field that she already loved passionately, so it was hardly a hardship.
Simon had been the reason that she’d gone to law school, she’d found his life so exciting, High Court, criminals and prosecutions. But by the time she’d graduated, he’d taken on a more rural partnership, and conveyance or divorce were the more likely activities. But for some reason, part of it being a yearning for her home town saw her turn down a high flying post in London in favour of Fisher-Edwards. She been employed as a junior just before Martin died, but instead of the almost apprenticeship she’d anticipated, she’d become office manager, a huge deviation on her role, and that had only worsened when Gloria the receptionist had broken her ankle three days after Simon left for his honeymoon.
An hour later an email filled with instructions popped open on her screen. She glanced though the expected lists of tasks, filled with the same level of detail Simon would use, she could have sworn that he’d written them himself. Which was typical of him. Since she’d first met him he’d done everything one hundred and ten percent. He was the big brother of her school friend Maisy, and when Maisy tragically died several years ago, they’d become even closer friends, they’d relied on each other to get through the traumatic time.
The list was comprehensive, travel insurance details, contact list for family, work, pressing deals for the next few weeks; court dates that were already set in stone. Then she froze, at the bottom of the email, Steph had confirmed that a friend of Simon’s was stepping in to help out, and she read the name three times before she felt anger. Conor O’Neill. A name that instantly caused her anxiety, pain but most of all anger.
Naomi shivered, trying to laugh at the irony that of all the people Simon could’ve asked for help, that Conor was the name she was reading. It’d been a long time since she’d heard mention of him, and it still cut her to the core, his actions and the impact of those actions so many years ago.
After locking up the building she drove to Simon’s apartment on a new estate just outside town. He and Steph had bought a large house in the country a few miles away, so the flat was being wound down, but according to Steph’s email, he had insisted on keeping all his important paper work there, both women doubted he’d ever really give up the bachelor pad, not because he wasn’t happy with Steph, but because he was such a habitual man!
Naomi shuddered as she entered the hallway; there was something strange about an unexpected visit to an empty, locked up home. She headed into the immaculate study and rifled through the desk. A document wallet labelled “HONEYMOON” seemed ironically a likely candidate, so she made her way into the lounge to search it for the specific documents she needed.
She had just lowered herself onto the sofa in front of the tall French windows that drenched the room in spring sunshine when she heard a noise. Her heart started to race as she heard a repeat of the dull clunk that had alerted her. With a heightened sense of defence for an apartment that wasn’t her own she grabbed a knife from the open plan kitchen and headed towards the bedroom.
It was laughable really, she was only five foot three, and slight in build, so what good she’d be against any intruder she didn’t know, but she clearly wasn’t thinking straight as she headed deeper into the flat.
After a few steps she realised she could hear the shower, just, over the pounding of her heart. A brief thought that burglars didn’t appear to make a habit of showering before leaving with electronic goods, was only that, a brief thought. Instead she charged on, only stopping at the closed door. Naomi brandished the knife in front of her in a less than confident manner.
“Hello?” she offered, unsure where her bravado came from, and her greeting was met with the abrupt cessation of the shower.
Within seconds she’d kicked open the door to reveal a tall man, dark collar length hair dripping water around his neck and down over his wet body in rivulets, draping a white towel around his slim hips, and the damp sheen of water still covering his body, glistened almost magically in the sunlight streaming through the window. It was a sight worthy of a tropical beach, or the cover of a romance novel, but instead it was her boss’ home, and this was no Romeo or Prince Charming, this man was an intruder!
Naomi dropped the knife in embarrassment, struggling to place the handsome intruder, was he some sort of family member? She knew most if not all of them and didn’t recognise him.
“Who are you?” he asked in a firm voice with a slight Irish lilt, after bending to retrieve the knife. He’d had a long day and had no time for stupid intrusions...now that he’d calmed a little. He’d worried that he was about to be attacked, but when the door had sprung open to reveal a petite blonde, he’d taken a huge sigh a relief.
She found herself looking at his muscular, damp chest, and it was a few seconds before she realised he’d spoken. Dragging her eyes up to his, she studied the deep blue pools before he tutted impatiently, “well?”
Seeing red at the patronising tone in his voice, she instantly pulled herself together and snapped, “I could ask you the same thing! Who are you and what the hell are you doing in this flat?”
He smiled, amused at her awkwardness, her inability to answer simple questions, lifting a second towel, he started to rub his hair vigorously. “I am a friend of Simon Fisher and I’m here at his request if not invitation.”
Using a rather petty ‘Oooh look at you’ facial gesture, she shrugged, “Well I work with him and I have some errands to run, he asked me to come here specifically.....”
“Work with him?” He nodded, and the animosity was replaced by a little more friendliness. “So you’ll be working with me then?” he held out a hand, “I’m Conor O’Neill, his saving grace!”
Naomi felt as though someone had slapped her across the face, she was gasping in an ungainly manner as she tried to control her ravaged emotions. She’d spent the last six years dreading and hating that name. She never imagined that her safe world would collide with the man that had caused so much pain and devastation, and no idea that she’d have caught herself perving on his delicious body.
“And you are?” he asked, breaking her succession of angry thoughts.
Focusing on him she realised he was still extending his hand. Ignoring it she murmured, “I’m just the office gopher, of no consequence to you!”
She turned to leave, but a hand on her arm restrained her. She ignored the heat that shot through her arm, and attributed the surge in her heart rate to the red veil that had descended on her otherwise pleasant day, either that or the adrenaline that the fear of finding someone there had caused.
“Au contraire, as I will be working with you for the next few months and you know more of what’s going on than I do, you are very important.” His voice was sickly sweet and his suddenly cold blue eyes bore into hers.
Conor was enjoying this exchange, it was a long time since he could remember being arsed to get involved in small talk, but this tiny blonde bombshell was as feisty as they came, and he loved the way he could light her touch paper and watch her explode. He’d only known her two minutes and already he was looking forward to more of this, he was right to stop running, to finally settle back into some form of steady work, the last four years had been fun, but he was thirty four, it was time to put down some roots.
Naomi was looking up at his chiselled jaw, darkened by stubble, the black unruly hair, and those beautiful deep eyes as she finally responded. “I am Naomi Young. And I’m sure we can finish this discussion when you start at the office.” She waved the papers in front of him, “I just needed these insurance details for Steph. Sorry to burst in on you like this. I’ll see myself out.”
With that she virtually ran through the flat slamming the door behind her.