A/N: Ok, I've decided to start this little story on a whim, simply because the idea struck me and I wanted to get it started. Oddly enough, that's exactly what started Love is Blind, so perhaps it will be a good one in the end. :) I know I've already got two unfinished stories, but alas, I think I have ADD. Just kidding ( absolutely no offense to anyone who actually has ADD.) And, on to the story!
"I understand your concerns, Mr. Jones, but nonetheless I think this addresses everyone's best interests in the transaction." I slid the paper towards him once again, urging him to sign it.
"It's $100,000! How is that in my best interest?" The old, grizzly of a man stomped his fist on the table, demonstrating his clear annoyance at the large sum of money that he stood to lose. The paper fluttered a bit in the sudden wind created by his movement, before laying still in front of him.
"It's your tanks that leaked the oil Mr. Jones. If you don't sign this addendum then my client will back out of the deal, and you'll be left with the clean up. As it stands my client has generously offered to pay nearly half of the fees as well-which is far more then he is responsible for. Without him you'll have to pay $200,000, not $100,000. It's your loss if you decide not to sign." I stood up, brushing imaginary lint off of my tailored pant suit, an impatient gesture aimed at getting Mr. Jones to sign the addendum.
He grumbled a bit, but picked up the pen nonetheless. I watched happily as he scrawled out his name at the bottom of the addendum that I had prepared earlier that morning.
"Thank you Mr. Jones. I will be contacting you as soon as my client signs this as well, and we will arrange for the excavation to begin." I escorted him out of my conference room, and watched as he passed by the secretary and out of the door.
"Whew! That was close, I really thought the whole deal was about to crumble." I smiled at Jennifer, my middle aged secretary.
"That'd be a shame, after you've put some much of your time into it." She smiled and handed me my messages, which were surprisingly numerous given the short length of my previous meeting.
"Mrs Lewis called regarding the industrial complex you had promised to look into for her, Mr. Montgomery called about that shopping center down on 5th that just got listed, Mr. Daniels wanted to know the status of the contract for that commercially zoned property, and Mark wants to meet you for lunch." She grinned at the last comment, pleased that she had been able to pass on a good message along with all of the business ones.
"Ok, Thanks Jen, I'll return all of the others after lunch." I walked into my office and grabbed my long black jacket, tying it around my waist as I walked through the front door. "See you in an hour!" I called out just as the door shut behind me, and I headed towards the elevator.
I looked out the window as I anxiously tapped my foot,
impatiently waiting for the elevator.
"Geez, is it coming all the way from the first floor or something?" I muttered to myself, just as the bell chimed and the door opened. I walked into the empty lift and pressed the button, leaning back against the wall.
Nearly forty floors later, I was at the bottom and heading one block down the street to "Versanos" an Italian restaurant that was a favorite among my Fiancé and me.
I made it into the large, majestic front doors and was greeted by the Maitre D.
"Ahh, Miss Cohen. Mark has already arrived. Right this way." He greeted me in his usual manner, and brought me towards the back corner booth which was always available for our frequent lunch dates.
"Halley! I was hoping you'd make it." Mark stood, shaking his long navy blue pant leg straight before walking forward and pulling out my chair. He leaned over and placed a kiss on my cheek before scooting my chair forward.
"How was the meeting this morning? Successful, I assume?" He spread his napkin back out on his lap, where it had been before my arrival.
"Yes, He finally caved and signed that damn Addendum I've been hounding him about for three days." I smiled and reached towards my glistening clear glass, taking a small sip of the ice water. As I slowly swallowed the liquid, I studied Mark's familiar face. He seemed happier than normal, with his wide grin creating small creases around the corners of his eyes. His short, sandy blonde hair was perfect as usual, gelled to just the right angle to give him a serious and business-like look.
"You look quite beautiful today." He nodded towards me as he spoke, indicating his approval of my new outfit.
I looked down, remembering that he had bought me the Deep Green, tailored suit I now wore. It was easy to see that it was one of my more expensive suits. I felt transformed when I wore it-as if the clothing somehow made me more powerful or successful.
"Thank you, you don't look to bad yourself." I smiled enjoying the sparkle in his eye at my compliment.
"So what are you so happy about today?" I questioned, deciding to ask him what had his face filled with such pure, utter glee.
"I have a surprise for you, but It will have to wait for tonight. Can I pick you up at the office at six?" I smiled, nodding my head. Surprises had always been a favorite of mine, especially the really good kind, which Mark always seemed to do.
The two of us order our favorite dishes, mine being the stuffed manicotti, one of the restaurant's specialties. As we dined we talked easily, and I enjoyed my brief, one hour getaway. It was enjoyable having a companion that understood the hectic city life as much as I did.
Mark and I had met just over a year ago, at a Charity Auction in downtown Seattle. It had been purely luck that I had been seated at a small round table directly next to him, our chairs so close that our backs nearly touched. I had known who he was without the introduction that followed. Who didn't know Mark Gunderson?
Mark was the son of Washington State Senator Henry Gunderson, but had absolutely no interest in politics. He instead went to Law School, and at the young age of 28 was already operating his own law Firm in Seattle. He had invested a good portion of his hearty inheritance that had been given to him by his grandfather, but he had already made it back six times over. His name was so recognizable, and his skill so adept, that he had clients practically banging down his door asking for representation.
I hadn't had nearly the luck or wealthy upbringing that he had, but despite this, I had managed to become moderately successful myself. I passed the state exam for my real estate license just weeks after my 18th birthday, and despite all of the advice to start as a residential agent, I went straight to one of the premier commercial Real Estate companies in Seattle. After begging my way in, I worked my way to the top in just a few short years. Not long after I took the State test to become a broker, I opened my own office, enticing several clients to follow. Now at the age of only 24, I had quite an empire of clients set up, and even employed my own secretary at my office on the 38th floor of one of the tallest sky scrapers in Seattle.
The only building that was taller housed Mark's sprawling offices, which encompassed the entire 47th floor of a building I could see from my own office window. Ironic, really, since we hadn't met each other until much later.
All too soon the lunch date was up, and Mark and I were walking out the front door. He walked me to my office building, leaving me with a kiss and a promise to pick me up at 6. I walked to the elevator and waited, this time much more patiently then before. I pulled at my long, wavy brown hair as I waited, knowing that I was probably pulling some of it loose from its trim bun at the back of my head. I stopped the bad habit, and instead twiddled with the small pearl necklace I wore.
Finally, the doors parted and I stepped in, followed by three men and one woman, each pressing different buttons.
A few moments later, I stepped through the door to my small office suite, which included an expansive office for myself, a large conference room, a waiting room, and a large front desk for Jennifer. It was by no means an elaborate set up, but it was finely made and more than sufficient for my work. Maintaining a smaller office meant less overhead-not that it really mattered. My practice had quickly brought in more than enough to warrant a large office suite, but I saw no point in wasting the money. I enjoyed the beautiful views of both the Puget Sound and the other large Downtown buildings.
"I'm back, any messages?" Jennifer nodded her head silently to me, handing me a few pieces of paper while maintaining the conversation she was having, most likely with her own husband. I silently thanked her with a smile and headed to my office.
I worked non-stop all afternoon, and into the early evening, only looking up when Jennifer poked her head in to say goodnight. It was nearly six already, so I stopped momentarily to change into more comfortable, less formal clothes before heading down to the lobby where I knew Mark would already be. He was always punctual. It was as if it was programmed into him.
After climbing into his Escalade, we headed out to the 'undisclosed' location. Mark was excellent at keeping secrets, and never told me what it was, no matter how much I pestered him.
We pulled up alongside a shoreline, and I could see his yacht parked at the pier. I smiled, pleased that he had planned a nighttime sea-adventure.
"Come on." He opened my door for me and held my hand as I stepped out, and then quickly wrapped his arm around my waist. We strolled quietly down the pier, the lone visitors on this chilly, starry night. He helped me climb aboard, and in just moments we were humming along, the dark salty waters lapping at the sides of the boat.
"Where are we going?" I asked, leaning back against the leather chair. I had wrapped a thick quilt around myself, protecting my skin from the bite of the cold sea air.
"It's a secret!" He grinned mischievously, and I laughed back. He enjoyed his secrets almost as much as I did.
But even as I sat there, a heavy feeling began to gnaw at my stomach. His surprises normally consisted of a few dozen roses, or a new pair of earrings. The few times he had really "gone all out" had been before he announced a two week business trip, or some other form of bad news.
As we rounded a small, wooded island, he slowed the boat, eventually stopping at a small dock-one barely big enough to suffice for his large boat. At the end of the dock, on a small, raised, deck, I saw a picnic table and a large basket.
"You brought me to an island for a picnic?" I looked at him in awe, completely delighted with his surprise.
"I brought you to your island for a picnic." He corrected.
My face scrunched up, and I stared. "What?"
"I bought you this." He motioned at the land that lay in front of us.
"You bought me an island?" I stared at him harder, not quite comprehending that he was 100% serious.
"Yes, yes I did." He beamed at me, and then climbed out of the boat, reaching out to grab my hand and help me across as well.
"Why?" I followed him, trying to keep up with his steps.
"Why, you don't like it?" He looked at me, slightly disappointed.
"Of Course I like it, but what in the world will I do with it?" I smiled, feeling bad that I had acted more confused then pleased.
"Whatever you want. We could have picnics or barbeques here in the summer. Heck, maybe next Christmas we can hike up to that peak and cut down our own Christmas tree." He pointed up to a fairly large hill, and I couldn't help but laugh.
"What?" He looked at me, wondering what I found funny.
"Nothing, it's just the thought of you wearing some hiking boots and carrying an ax." I laughed again, finding the picture humorous. Mark was not an outdoorsy type man-on the contrary; he fit the corporate lawyer type look quite well.
"Well it was just a thought. Come on, let's have dinner." He pulled me towards the cute little log picnic table and benches. His casual demeanor would have shocked most people off, but I knew that to him, buying an island really was no big deal. He had so much money, that it probably seemed like petty cash.
I sat beside him and watched as he pulled out container after container, each holding something that looked more delicious then the last. There were croissant sandwiches, barbequed pork with Chinese hot mustard and sesame seeds, Chicken Mandarin Salad, and even some cheesecake for dessert.
He popped open a bottle of wine, and poured it into two beautiful crystal wine glasses. I found myself humorously wondering if some poor worker had brought all the food out there, guarded it, and then had to run into the woods when we arrived. I knew from experience that the wine glasses alone would warrant the pay, not to mention the wine itself.
Halfway through the meal, he cleared his throat, and I knew that the dreaded news was coming.
"I have a bit of rather unfortunate news to share with you." He wiped his mouth, and I stopped eating, waiting for him to continue.
"I know that I promised to go to your father's ranch to spend Christmas with you, and meet your family, but something's come up. I've got a client that is out in DC and has run into a bit of trouble. I'm going to have to go out that way for a few weeks and clear some things up, and then I thought I might as well spend Christmas with my own parents."
Both my heart and face fell as he shared the news. I had wanted to badly to spend the holiday with him, and I knew that my parents would enjoy meeting the man that was betrothed to their daughter.
"Oh." My reply was hollow, devoid of any emotion.
"You are more then welcome to join me in DC, of course. My mother so enjoyed last Christmas." I shook my head even before he finished speaking. Last year had been the first and only year I hadn't spent with my own family, and as much fun as it had been, it wasn't quite the same. I had been looking forward to seeing my family this year.
"I really wanted you to meet my parents." I said, disappointedly.
"I know sweetheart, and I'm sorry. This just came up, and I can't bail out on him. He's one of my best clients." His choice of words stung a little, but I dismissed it, knowing how much his work meant to him. I inwardly wished he had felt the same loyalty to me, but I knew I wasn't being fair. He had built a name for himself as a lawyer, and didn't want to lose it.
"I know, I understand." I replied, feeling a bit resigned.
"Why don't you spend a few weeks with your family, I'll spend a few weeks with mine, and then when we see each other come January, it will seem just like the first time. We can exchange present then, and celebrate Christmas a few days late." He leaned over and squeezed my shoulders, planting a kiss on my forehead.
"Yeah, ok." I nodded my head.
I spent the rest of the evening in a melancholy mood, pushing my food around, and chewing each bite twice as long as necessary. As much as I understood his need to work, I was utterly disappointed by the news.
An hour later I watched my island disappear into the distance as we headed back to the mainland. I smiled a bit, wondering if I should feel like the luckiest girl in the world, or not. My boyfriend wasn't spending Christmas with me-but he had bought me an island to make up for it. That had to count for something, right?