Nikki was sitting in the Dumont Insurance office working on the budget for a new marketing plan. Her estranged husband was outside her office, schmoozing some rich client about life insurance. She rolled her eyes, hearing his fake salesman laugh. If people only knew what a jerk Carson Dumont really was, his business would be nonexistent.
She had moved into her low-level apartment weeks ago after he allowed his ex-girlfriend to move in with them. Mercedes was a class-A bitch and still had yet to come to terms that Carson was a married man. Nikki didn’t enjoy having to show up at work every day with him either. Especially since they separated a little over a month ago.
Nikki wanted to work on the marriage, but wasn’t sure if Carson felt that same. While she was in a tiny rat-infested apartment on the west-side, he was living the high life in their swanky East End mansion with his mistress, Mercedes. Carson claimed he and Mercedes were just old high school friends, but the signs were all there that he was covering up his lies. Nikki couldn’t understand who in their right mind would move in the ex-girlfriend to live with their wife? She couldn’t prove it, but she felt like something wasn’t right. She suspected that he had been cheating for months, and not for the first time.
Nikki and Carson had not been happy in their marriage for some time. Although not physically abusive, he was a bully. He made Nikki keep the appearance of a perfect life and the perfect wife. He told her exactly how to walk, talk, and act. Even going as-far-as telling her how to dress. Not long after they married, he convinced her to end her career as a writer and artist. Her once dream job as an author was now just a memory. The hardest part of their marriage was Carson refused to have kids with Nikki since he had children with his first wife. He couldn’t be burdened with raising another child and thought Nikki wasn’t worthy of being a mother. It was as if all her hopes for her future had vanished without her even realizing it.
To the outside world, Carson Dumont was the infamous ex-Golden Gloves boxing champ. Everyone in their inner circle and across the city loved him. Behind closed doors, he was a selfish, demanding dictator. Nikki was a country girl who craved simplicity. She didn’t understand the draw of his boxing career in the city that made him so popular. Mohamed Ali was the boxer that put Louisville, Kentucky on the map. To hear Carson Dumont tell it, he was the boxing hero of the town. Where Nikki was from, it was basketball and football that ruled the popular crowds.
Before moving to the city, she was the nerdy book worm. Although stunningly beautiful, she was never was the socialite Carson groomed her to be. Long dark hair with big doe like brown eyes, topped off with a sweet smile that lit up a room. The perfect, beautiful trophy wife to complete his delusions of grandeur.
Nikki went back to her paperwork balancing the budget, ignoring Carson and his fake sales pitch smile while attended to his client. A few minutes later, she sat tapping her pen on her lips, bored with her daily duties. This was not the life she had planned for herself, but it seemed too late to change things now.
In the middle of a daydream, her eyes focused on a blonde man who rushed in the front door, heading straight to Carson. Ruggedly handsome with beautiful blue eyes, the man looked to be physically fit and about the same height as her estranged husband.
Carson yelled gleefully to the man as if he knew him, drawing Nikki’s curiosity. She could see the man’s face turned to anger in a split second at the sight of her husband. Nikki went to the glass door of her office to see if she could hear their conversation, hoping for a break in her monotonous day. At least if there was something interesting going on, they could entertain her for a few minutes. Unfortunately, they were just talking about the man’s car insurance. Nothing exciting.
Disappointed it was only the typical office chatter, she went to turn to her work, until the man glanced up, giving a weak half-smile. Nikki shyly smiled back, blushing with a slight wave. The man narrowed his eyes with a nod, acknowledging her, but not seeming too interested as she went back to eavesdropping on the conversation.
Carson looked annoyed. “I’ll fix your damn car. Mercedes says it was an accident. I own a damn insurance company for gosh’s sake. We’re covered. Just relax, big boy.”
“I don’t give a fuck what she says. She hit my car and took off. That’s hit and run. That car is a classic! I should go to the police with this, but I’m trying to give you a chance to make this right.”
Carson just laughed. Of course, he did. He thought he was untouchable.
“Pompous ass,” Nikki thought.
Shaking his head in amusement, Carson just blew kit off and turned away, shuffling through papers. “The car is a relic. We’ll fix your precious little junk heap. Don’t worry, pretty boy. Or we can work this out another way.” Carson turned back to him as a devilish smirk crept across his face. Crossing his arms across his chest, he got that all too often cocky expression that Nikki knew too well. “You can get back in the ring with me a few rounds. Pull out those old gloves and fight me like old times.”
“I don’t fight anymore. I’m retired. I train fighters now.” The man narrowed his eyes, glaring at the smug insurance agent.
“I heard. A waste of decent talent, if you ask me. But then again, you were always a coward. Once I beat you in that street fight after our big match, you lost what fight you had left in ya.”
The man just continued to glare at Carson, seemingly unfazed by his taunts. The man was twice the size of Carson muscle wise. Nikki didn’t understand why her husband would entertain the thought of provoking this guy. The man looked as if he could rip Carson into shreds, even though his handsome face seemed innocent enough. The man bulked up and got in Carson’s face, clenching his fist at his sides. He seemed to double in size at that moment.
Carson looked down, seeing his clinched fist, and backed down. “I’m just messing with you. Dude, relax. I’ll fix your car. Send me your insurance info and we will fix it right up.”
“Be sure you do. I don’t want to have to come back here.”
Carson rolled his eyes as he walked away to smooth talk the next client insuring a luxury sedan. He headed to his office with his arm draped over his next client and slammed the door behind him, making Nikki jump.
Carson was so fake it made Nikki sick to her stomach. She didn’t know why her husband always lived in the past and had to prove he was such a tough guy. It always came back to his days as a boxer and the big Golden Gloves win. The night he got in a lucky KO and beat the best fighter in the league, Reece Maddox. His sworn enemy from the best boxing training center in the Midwest.
The man left as Carson came back from his office, grabbing some paperwork. Nikki stopped him asking, “Carson, who was that man?”
“Oh, him? That was the infamous Reece Maddox. Fucking loser. He still has his old shitty 1968 Dodge Charger. We have to fix some damage to it.”
“Wait? Is that what happened to my BMW? Was Mercedes drunk when she was driving my car?”
Carson just ignored her as if he didn’t hear and headed to his office. Nikki let out a frustrated breath as he walked away. The man was infuriating. Going to the front door, she watched as the man walked toward his dented classic car. The man who she had heard horror stories about for years. She looked back over her shoulder to see Carson closing his office door while laughing at his own stupid jokes.
Nikki snarled. “Jackass.” Running in her stilettos to catch up to the man, she was like a baby deer trying to keep balance as she went. “Hey! Wait up!”
Reece kept walking toward his custom muscle car, trying to ignore her.
“You’re Reece, right?”
Reece turned around and didn’t look too pleased as his eyes met hers. “Yeah. What’s it to you?” Once he turned to see the lady from earlier smiling up at him, he quickly softened his demeanor.
“I saw what happened there. Sorry about my husband. He can be a bit of a jerk.”
As she got closer, Reece became a lot more interested in what he was seeing. Checking her out while trying to seem unimpressed, his eyes grazed over every inch. A beautiful brunette with a nice body was his weakness. He ran his hands over his face in frustration. Just his luck. She was his type.
Under his breath, he grumbled, “Figures. Dumont gets the dream life and the sexy wife.”
“He can be a total asshole. I’m sorry for how he acted.”
“Tell me about it.” Reece agreed, giving her an understanding smile.
“Sorry about your car too.”
“As long as your hubby fixes my ride, we’re cool. I guess Carson has told you a lot about me.”
Reece put his hands in his jean pockets, looking annoyed, but did his best to be nice. It wasn’t her fault her husband was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His chest seeming much broader now under his tight jersey hooded t-shirt. Nikki couldn’t help but notice the skin peeking out under his shirttail as he had his hands crammed in his jean pockets. The V that lead over his hips down under his jeans gave her thoughts she was desperately trying to not think about. She was a married woman, after all.
“Yep. He talks about you constantly. His big boxing win. It’s all I ever hear about.” She bit her lip as she rocked back and forth on her heels, trying to hide the fact that she was checking him out a little too. A blush crept across her face as she tried to tear her eyes away from him.
Reece ran his tongue over his lower lip, noticing her blushing. If she was single, he would flirt relentlessly. But he never crossed the adultery line. Never had and wouldn’t start now. It was his number one dating rule. “Yep. He got the win and the girl. I guess you know that my ex-girlfriend left me that night for him.”
“You mean Mercedes? Sheesh. No big win there. Stupid gold-digger if you ask me.” Nikki felt tears welling up, and looked away as she tried to keep her emotions in check.
“Yep. That’s her. Hey, darlin’, you okay?” Reece walked over and put his hand on her shoulder, seeing she was clearly upset.
“Yes, Mercedes isn’t exactly my favorite person. Anyway. I’ll be sure he gives you a good amount to fix your car. It was nice to meet you, Reece Maddox. Sorry again about Carson’s attitude.” She shook his hand, blinking away the tears that were stinging her eyes.
“Thanks. Nice meeting you... umm?”
“Nichole, you can call me Nikki. See you around, Reece.”
He winked at her with a kind smile. “You too, Nichole.” Her name rolled over his tongue like butter. He shook off the feeling of lust and hopped in his car before he let his hormones do something stupid.
Carson was looking out the window, watching the exchange with rage building up inside him. Nikki calmly sauntered back inside, smiling to herself and humming a tune, ready to head back to work. The break in her day was just what she needed. The clients had left, and they were now alone. A hand grabbed her, pushing her inside Carson’s office before she could react.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”
Nikki pulled her away, looking at her husband like he had lost his mind. “Calm down. I was just apologizing for your rude behavior. You can’t talk to clients that way. You know that. Carson, you need to get past this Golden Gloves stuff. It’s been seven years. Grow up.”
Nikki turned to leave, and Carson shoved her against the door, blocking the exit.
“Never talk to that guy again. Understood? He tried to ruin my life,” Carson said with a snarl.
“Don’t tell me who to talk to, Carson. I know the stories. You tell me all the time how big mean the horrible Reece Maddox and the Right Hooks were at the gym. I have heard a hundred times how they bullied you as a rookie. You had to win your precious match to keep your dignity. Right? Since that woman who started this complete mess is living in my house, I’m questioning if the entire story you told me is really true. Maybe there is more to it than you let on.” Nikki teared up looking away. She had fought back those tears for weeks. Saying those words made her realize her husband was not the man she thought she married.
“Nikki, it’s not like that. Everything I said was true. Baby, I love you. I am married to you. Not Mercedes,” Carson said with a patronizing tone, trying to hug her.
Nikki pushed his hands away, shouting, “Don’t touch me! Until that woman is out of our house, we are nothing. Understand?”
Carson slammed his fist over her head on the massive steel door of his office. The loud bang jarred her to the core.
“Why are you such a bitch? Mercedes needed a place to stay since she is moving back to Kentucky. I’m just trying to help a friend.”
“Really? A friend? Then she should be the one to live in the shit hole you rented for me. Not your wife. Get your mistress out of my house!” Nikki shoved him, trying to make him move away from the door.
Carson quickly grabbed her shoving her against the wall almost ready to hit her. Fist doubled, he pulled back ready to strike.
“Hit me! It couldn’t be any different from the way you already treat me. I’m your wife and you have no respect for me. But that woman bats an eyelash, and she’s living in our home. Even though I asked you not to, she is still there,” Nikki cried.
“My home. Not yours. I pay the bills there, sweetheart. I want Mercedes there and she stays. Like it or not. I pay for your fancy clothes and cars. Without me, you’re just another low life bottom feeder.” Carson got in her face, grabbing her chin to force her to look him in the eye while Nikki struggled under his body, pressing her to the door. “I’ll give you two weeks to calm down. Then you better be back in that house and keep your damn mouth shut. I run things around here. Don’t forget that.”
“Let go! You’re hurting me. Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me, Carson?”
She started crying, Nikki struggled to pull away. Grabbing her forearms, Carson forced a kiss until she gave in and kissed him back. Even though the feel of his touch repulsed her over the past few months, she felt no choice but to give in. She wanted to run out of the room but was no match for his strength. He ran his hands down her thigh and up the edge of her pencil skirt.
Carson smirked as he felt her succeed to his will. “Remember that, baby. It’s been months since I’ve had you in my bed. That sweet little ass better be home soon, before I do decide I want someone else. Hand over the keys to the BMW and the Jaguar. If you plan on living away from me, I will not make this some little vacation for you. Punishment for the trick you pulled outside earlier. You can take the bus or walk. I’ll let you see what it was like for me back when I was poor living in that place. Maybe you will appreciate what you have.”
He heard a ding at the front door, which meant someone had entered the reception desk. He walked out and instantly got on his fake sales agent smile for the next client. He went to straightening his suit jacket and shaking hands as if nothing happened.
Nikki rubbed off the degrading feel of the moisture from his lips. She fell into his big office chair crying, pulling her knees to her chest. She wanted to work this out. She loved Carson. But day-by-day, she just wanted out of the nightmare she was living in.
For the last few years, it felt like they had fallen out of love, and deep down she knew it. Nikki was never sure he ever loved her. She was always reminded how much better Mercedes was at everything. How Mercedes was his first true love.
Nikki loved him once with all her being, but it was fading fast. She was quickly coming to terms she was nothing more than a trophy wife. Realized her perfect marriage was slowly fading into a bleak end, somehow she might even be okay with it.