Authors: Leighann Dobbs
This is a work of fiction. None of it is real.
All names, places, and events are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real names, places, or events are purely coincidental, and should not be construed as being real.
Copyright © 2012
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner, except as allowable under “fair use,” without the express written permission of the author.
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Table Of Contents
“I need to find
man.” Holly slapped a picture of Stan down on the desk.
Nick slid the picture around to face him and looked up at Holly from behind the desk, one eyebrow cocked.
“This is your husband?”
Holly nodded. Her husband, Stan, had left almost six months prior without so much as a good-bye.
At first, she had wanted him back desperately – until she’d found out he had left with the receptionist from his work
had taken their entire life savings. Over the months, his betrayal had forced Holly to take a good look at her life and make some major changes. She’d learned to be assertive and independent – traits Stan had tried to squash in her, and at which he’d almost succeeded, early on in their marriage.
She’d emerged from the ordeal a new woman complete with an updated hairstyle, fresh wardrobe, and a new sense of self confidence and independence.
After all the pain Stan had caused her, the
thing she wanted was to get back together with him. She didn’t think she could ever forgive the way he had treated her. Most importantly, she didn’t need him, or anyone, trying to take away her newfound independence, but she needed to see him one last time to assure herself it was really over.
There was also the little matter of the money Stan had taken. With no job or source of income, it was all the money she had, and she needed it to tide her over until she could get a job. She hoped Stan would do the right thing and give her the half she deserved.
Nick motioned for Holly to sit in the chair opposite his desk.
“Do you have any idea where he might be? Has he used any credit cards, his cell phone?”
Holly tilted her head and considered the questions. She remembered looking at the credit card statements shortly after Stan had left and there had been a few charges from a small town in Nevada. After seeing those, Holly had cancelled the cards. Stan had been the sole provider, and Holly had no job or money, so letting Stan pile up credit card charges was not something she was keen on.
She mentioned the charges to Nick who pulled the keyboard in front of him, his fingers tapping deftly on the keys. Holly’s sister, Rose, had recommended Nick. He had worked several times with Rose’s husband, Bill, a long-time police detective.
Holly had hired Nick on the spot. She trusted Bill’s judgment implicitly but, just to be thorough, she had asked around and wasn’t surprised to discover Nick’s previous clients all had good things to say about him.
surprised, however, to realize she found him rather good looking. Not male model material, but handsome in a rugged kind of way. From behind the desk she could see his upper body: broad shoulders, a strong square jaw, steely blue eyes and dark, short-cropped hair.
The warm, tight feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she liked what she saw. She did a mental head shake to derail her train of thought. The last thing she needed was to get involved with another man.
Nick’s voice startled her back to reality. “I think I may have a lead on him. A motel in Bakersville, Nevada.”
Holly felt a slight twinge in her stomach. Was she feeling remorse? Anticipation? Regret?
It’s best to confront Stan as soon as possible so I can put this all behind me
“Great, when do we leave?”
Nick stared wistfully at the wall separating his hotel room from Holly’s. He had been reluctant to bring her along. He didn’t usually bring clients on cases. Situations could be unpredictable, sometimes dangerous.
Holly had insisted on speaking to Stan in person and Nick had given in. He tried to rationalize it by telling himself Stan wasn’t a danger, he was doing a favor for his friend Bill. The truth, however, was he had been captivated by Holly from the start and found it difficult to refuse her.
He rubbed his hands across his face and let out a sigh. He looked around the room. The motel was a dump, it’s condition reflecting the worn down town of Bakersville, Nevada.
Nick wondered how Stan had ended up in this remote part of the state. He’d had similar cases – spouses who had hooked up with someone who had led them astray, depleting their resources and leaving them down and brokenhearted. They all ended up the same way. Stan would probably be no different. He just hoped he hadn’t already spent all of Holly’s money.
A soft tap at the door jarred Nick from his thoughts. He went over to open it, peering through the peephole first. In his business, one never knew who might be on the other side of the door, and he had learned one couldn’t be too careful.
He cracked the door open to let Holly in. She slipped past him and their eyes met. Nick felt a spark charge the air with energy.
Did Holly feel it too?
He felt a moment of awkwardness. Not knowing what to do with his hands, he stuffed them into his pockets to keep them from getting him into trouble.
Nick stared down into Holly’s face. “Are you sure you want to do this?” She stood close to him and he could smell the sweet subtle scent of her perfume. For a moment, the urge rose in him to pull her close and kiss her, and he fought it – partly because it would have been totally inappropriate, but mostly because he could sense that Holly didn’t have the same kind of feelings. He supposed she was too wrapped up in the anticipation of seeing Stan to think of much else.
“Yes, I think so. I need to see Stan face to face, to get closure so I can move on with my life. If I can talk to him in person, I’m sure I can get him to see his way to giving me back my rightful half of the money.”
Nick wondered if bringing Holly had been a mistake. From past experience he knew the likelihood of Stan giving Holly any of the money was slim. He hoped Stan’s circumstances were similar to those of most of his former clients, and not something more dangerous. He wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if he put Holly in danger and she got hurt.
One glance at the determined look on Holly’s face made him realize that any attempt at talking her out of going with him would be a waste of words.
With a resigned sigh, Nick grabbed the keys from the table and led the way out into the parking lot.
“What do you mean, the money’s gone?” Holly felt like a lead balloon had landed in her stomach. With no other means of income, she had been counting on getting the money back to pay her bills. She had survived the past six months by selling some of her valuables, but she was quickly running out of options.
Stan’s face registered a look of surprise. Holly felt a jolt of triumph, realizing the stunned look came as he wasn’t used to her questioning him.
“I had to use it to pay some debts, and Eve ... well, she kind of took off with the rest.”
The whiny tone sneaking in at the end of Stan’s words set Holly’s nerves on edge. Her voice exploded, rising apace with her anger. “You mean to tell me you spent our entire life savings in six months?”
She looked at Stan in disgust. The man standing before her looked nothing like the Stan she had married. His unshaven face looked haggard. His clothes were rumpled and his hair was a mess.
Was this a recent change, or had she turned a blind eye to how unkempt he had become?
His room wasn’t in much better shape. The scorching Nevada heat permeated the non air-conditioned space, giving it an oppressive feel. The tiny efficiency unit had a small kitchen which was littered with dirty dishes spilling out of the sink and what little counter space it had. The bed was unmade, clothes were everywhere. Holly felt her lips curl in a smirk.
Guess it’s not so easy keeping a clean house without me picking up after you
“Holly, I’m so sorry about everything. I was a jerk. Can you ever forgive me?” Stan’s words were apologetic, but something in his demeanor told Holly he wasn’t really sorry, he was just doing what was best for
“I made a huge mistake leaving. I’m ready to come home now.”
Holly snorted out a laugh.
He was ready to come home?
Like she wanted him to. Maybe she should have. Maybe she should be nice and forgive him or at least feel sorry for him. Maybe she
try to reconcile with him instead of throwing away the last fifteen years of her life.
Holly stared at Stan, her heart wavering with conflict. The expectant look in his eye confirmed her suspicions ... he thought she would simply cave in and take him back. That’s what the
Holly would have done.
Looking at him, she realized too much had happened and it was too late to go back. She was a different person now and the new Holly had no intention of letting Stan run her life again.
In a final moment of clarity, she saw Stan for what he really was – a self-centered jerk who had left her without explanation, cleaned out their bank account (her life's savings!) and spent it on another woman. She realized she didn’t feel sorry for him. In fact, she was surprised to discover that she didn’t really have any feelings for him at all.
Ignoring Stan, she turned to Nick who was leaning against the open door frame, watching the whole exchange.
“I think we’re done here. Let’s go home.” She turned on her heel and walked out the door, leaving Stan staring after her with a look of stunned confusion and anger on his face.
“Do you take all your clients out to dinner?” Holly glanced sideways across the table at Nick, a hint of a flirtatious smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.
The fine linen tablecloth felt crisp under her palms, the silverware reflecting sparks of light from chandeliers above. In front of her, a plate with the remains of the most delicious salmon she’d ever tasted had been pushed aside in favor of dessert. In the background, the soft tinkle of silverware against china and the low murmur of dinner conversation set an elegant, but relaxing ambiance.
Nick’s laugh was intoxicating, his smile causing just the right amount of crinkles around his vivid blue eyes. “Only the pretty ones.”
His face became a bit more serious. “I just wanted to see how you were doing. Discovering Stan had spent all your life savings in Nevada last week must have been quite a shock.”
Holly thought about how she had been forced to sell some of the jewelry her mother had left her to make ends meet and felt her smile fade. “Yeah, that’s for sure. But my expenses are really very minimal and I can make do until I get a job.”
Holly swallowed her regret, forcing herself to think about the positive things happening in her life. “It’s really not all bad … and I’m finding Stan’s leaving may have been the best thing to come from our fifteen-year marriage.”
“Oh, really?” Nick’s eyebrows shot up.
“Yes, well, for one I’ve become a lot more independent, more in charge of my own life. And I’m going to be able to do a lot of things Stan never approved of me doing.” Holly’s smile widened at the thought. “Like going to art school.”
“I didn’t know you were an artist.” Nick leaned closer with interest. “I love art. In fact, one of my friends owns the Cooley Art Gallery downtown. Perhaps we could go there together sometime?”
“That would be lovely!” Holly felt a hot flush of excitement at the prospect of seeing Nick again, but at the same time a nibble of doubt nagged at her. She’d just gained her independence from Stan and feared letting another man in would mean giving that up.
Holly glanced at the table, her nerves making her jittery. The last of the chocolate mousse had been scraped from their dessert plates and they were down to their final few drops of coffee. Their date was coming to an end and she wasn’t sure what she expected, or wanted, to happen next.