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   Chapter 14 Roses for Juliet

Roses for Juliet By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 14893

Updated: 2018-03-14 10:09

Chapter 14

Steve cracked one eye open and stared at his alarm clock as the morning traffic report rolled him from slumber. After trying all night to climb back into his dreams, he felt sluggish and slow. He stretched beneath the sheets and realized he ached as though his body had been running as fast as his mind. For the first time in longer than he cared to remember, he longed to dwell in his own thoughts and details instead of swimming in someone else's life. He snorted at himself and rolled out of bed.

"How about that, " he muttered. "One beer with Wiz and I start wondering about being me again." The alarm clock continued to spew out tales of morning auto disasters. He let it play, the depressingly routine delays and collisions seeming the perfect backdrop to his morning mood, even if the chirpy announcer clashed like toothpaste and coffee. Steve pulled out a suit from his closet and grabbed a white dress shirt to go with it. As he lay the clothes on the bed he realized he already had a suit laid over the chair for the day. He had placed it there the night before.

"They all look alike anyway, " he thought dismally and he wasn't in the mood to bother with color coordination. He showered, shaved, dressed and soon found himself with his travel mug and sheaf of insurance documents in the car and ensnarled in the morning traffic.

"It's like they all forget how to drive over the weekend, " he said watching the well dressed business woman to his left explode into what he guessed to be non-office approved expletives as she was cut off by a man frantically working his blackberry while he tried to steer. His 'what would Jesus do' bumper sticker made Steve shake his head.

"Thou shalt not drive like an asshole, " he said in sonorous tones. "I wonder if we could lobby for that to be the eleventh commandment?" Steve sipped his coffee. It was black and brewed strong, leaving a bitter taste on his tongue.

Finally, Steve worked his way through the tangled skein of traffic to the parking garage next to his building. He waved his electronic card at the sensor and as the gate lifted he waved to the attendant in his bulletproof glass box. The attendant gave him a solemn nod in return, just as he did every morning. It was nice to see some things had remained the same. He parked in his usual spot and cut the engine as his cell phone began to buzz. His office number flashed on screen.

Steve glanced at the clock and sighed. He wasn't late, he was just on time although he supposed since he was often early, on time might qualify him as late. He found himself grinding his teeth.

"This won't do, " he muttered through his clenched teeth. Steve gripped the steering wheel and closed his eyes and counted to five. There was too much going on already, adding a professional crisis to the list was defiantly not a good thing to do. Steve let out his breath, opened his eyes and answered his cell phone. Pleased to note his voice sounded cool and professional.

"Steve Roberts, " he said sliding out of the car and locking the doors behind him. He headed towards the elevator. His secretary's voice greeted him.

"Morning Mr. Roberts, " Nancy said cheerfully. Steve rolled his eyes, picking up on the code. Nancy only used his last name when a particularly distressed client had decided to drop by first thing in the morning.

"I'm in the garage and on my way up, " he reassured her. "My first scheduled client is at 9:00 so just show whoever it is into my office and tell them I will be right with them."

"Of course, " Nancy said. He caught the edge of relief in her voice. They both hung up and Steve got into the elevator, pressing the button for his floor. He sighed and rubbed his temple. From Nancy's relief he could guess his first client of the day was a weeper.

Those were the ones Nancy had the most problems with. She was forever torn between wanting to offer sympathy and a shoulder to cry on and wanting to scold the weeper for allowing themselves to get tangled up in such a mess in the first place.

"Probably why none of her three kids are going to grow up to be psychotic mass murders, " he mumbled to himself as the elevator doors opened, letting him out into the corridor that connected the garage to his building. His office door opened with a sigh and Nancy smiled at him.

"Morning Steve, " she said brightly.

"Morning, " he replied. "Did you have a nice weekend?"

ly rate sixty minutes with the Devil coming in at sixty five, depending on who had the higher ratings that week. Steve sighed.

The meeting wouldn't be about anything really. They never were. They simply stood as reminders that someone was watching and taking note of your actions. The only good thing was that the precise timing actually helped with your scheduling.

"Did he say when?" Steve asked Nancy as they headed out of Steve's office and into the reception area.

"Preferably this afternoon." Steve nodded.

"I'll be back around 1:30 he told her, " giving himself a few minutes of cushion. She jotted the time down.

"I'll check in with Maria to see if the schedules align, " she told him as he moved towards the door.

"Maria?" Steve asked. "What happened to Emily?" Nancy sighed.

"Her father had a stroke and she moved back east to take a position closer to him. Maria transferred over from the VP in accounting."

"Oh, " Steve said, momentarily nonplussed by the fact that there actually was a VP of accounting. "She helped us out a time or two when things got crazy down here. Do you have her forwarding address?"

"I can get it from personnel."

"Good, Send her some flowers, Gerber daisies, like the ones she always had on her desk. Make sure the card lets her know she will be missed and that we hope for the best in her new job. Make sure it's sent from the office."

"Of course, " Nancy replied, jotting the notation down with a smile.

"Thanks, " he told her. Steve headed down the corridor and pressed the elevator button. The elevator dinged, the doors slid open and he got in. He knew from experience there would be no cell service in the little metal box, but he pulled his cell phone out and began scanning his address book for Nick's number.

Steve wanted to pick up the folder he left in his car before meeting Bryan out front. He hoped the conversation with Nick wouldn't take that long. The elevator opened as he found the number and stepped into the concrete garage. His mind on Juliet's report, Steve pressed the send button. After three rings, voicemail clicked on. An automated voice rather than Nick's own invited him to leave a message.

"Nick, " Steve began after the tone. "My assistant gave me your message and I was just trying to return your call. Please call me either on my cell or at the office, which ever is most convenient. I'm on my way to meet with your decorator." Steve pressed the end button and tucked the phone back into his coat pocket. He tugged out his keys, hoping nothing seriously wrong had happened with Nick.

Steve contemplated calling the resort but decided that level of paranoia could wait until the afternoon if Nick had not called back. He inserted his keys into the lock as he heard the scrape of a shoe on the concrete behind him. He started to turn as something hard slammed into the back of his head. Steve saw the concrete rushing at him as his world went black.

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