Home > See Me(13)

See Me(13)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

She momentarily broke off her paddling, allowing the board to glide as she straightened up, stretching her back. Well, actually, they probably had, she thought. But back then, she’d tended to focus first on their appearance, and she could remember saying no to a few guys who hadn’t been quite cute enough. And maybe that had been the problem. Maybe she’d turned down Mr. Right because he hadn’t been tall enough or whatever, and now – because he was Mr. Right – he was already off the market. These days, it seemed like Mr. Rights tended to fly off the shelves, perhaps because they were as rare as California condors.

Most of the time, it didn’t bother her. She was different from her mom, who believed that a woman’s relationship status defined her. She had her own life, she could come and go as she pleased, and while she didn’t have anyone to take care of her, she didn’t have to take care of anyone else, either. Yet in the past couple of years – as she began inching closer to thirty – there had been moments when she thought that it might be nice to have someone to go dancing with, or who would join her while she paddleboarded, or even someone willing to listen to her complain after a bad day at work. Having a wide circle of friends, like Serena did, might have filled that void, but most of Maria’s friends lived in either the Raleigh or Charlotte areas, and getting together with them almost always meant a road trip and sleeping on someone’s couch. Aside from her immediate family, relatives, Jill, and a few other coworkers – and, yes, even Paul, despite the other night – the only people she knew here were those she’d gone to high school with, and because she’d been away for years, they’d drifted apart. She supposed that she could try to reestablish contact, but by the time she finished up at work, all she usually wanted to do was unwind in the bathtub with a glass of wine and a good book. Or, if she felt energetic, maybe hit the water on the paddleboard. Even friendships took energy, and lately she didn’t have enough to go around. While that meant her life wasn’t all that exciting, it was also the kind of low-key predictability she needed. Her last year in Charlotte had been traumatic, and…

She shook her head, forcing away the memory of that final year. Taking a calming breath, she told herself firmly to focus on the positive, as she’d trained herself to do. There were a lot of good things in her life. She had her family, her own place, and a job she enjoyed…

Are you sure about that?, the little voice inside her suddenly asked. Because you know that’s not quite true.

It had started off well enough, but wasn’t that always the case? Martenson, Hertzberg & Holdman was a midsize firm, and she worked principally for the primary litigator, Barney Holdman, doing insurance defense work. Barney was in his early sixties and a rainmaker for the firm, a legal genius who wore seersucker suits and spoke with a slow, heavy drawl straight from the mountains of North Carolina. To both clients and juries, he came across as the friendly grandfather type, but beneath the surface, he was hard-driving, prepared for everything, and demanding of associates. In working for him, she had the privilege of time, expertise, and money to prepare her cases, all of which was a far cry from her work as a prosecutor.

Jill was a bonus. As the only women in the office aside from secretaries and paralegals, who had their own cliques, Jill and Maria had hit it off right away, even though they worked in different departments. They had lunch together three or four times a week, and Jill often dropped by Maria’s office just to visit for a few minutes. She was quick-witted and made Maria laugh, but had an incisive legal mind and was one of the firm’s key assets. Why she hadn’t been made partner yet was a mystery. Maria sometimes wondered whether Jill was long for the firm, though she’d said nothing directly about it.

The real problem was Ken Martenson, the managing partner of the firm, who seemed to hire paralegals based on their attractiveness as opposed to their qualifications and spent too much time hovering around their desks. That part didn’t necessarily bother Maria, nor did it bother her to see Ken fraternizing with one paralegal or another in a manner that sometimes seemed less than entirely professional. Jill had filled her in on Ken’s reputation during Maria’s first week on the job, especially his interest in attractive paralegals, but Maria had shrugged it off. That is, until Ken began to set his sights on her. It wasn’t a good development, and lately the situation was getting even more complicated. It was one thing to try to avoid Ken at the office, where there were always other people around, but the conference in Winston-Salem they’d attended last week had amplified her fears that things might get worse. Though Ken hadn’t gone so far as to walk her to her hotel room door – thank God for small favors – he had pressured her into joining him for dinner both nights. And then? He’d given her the whole my wife just doesn’t appreciate me spiel while continually asking whether she wanted another glass of wine, despite the fact that she’d barely touched the first one. He’d talked about his place at the beach and how quiet and relaxing it was and noted more than once that it was usually empty. If she ever wanted to use it, all she had to do was ask. And had he mentioned how rare it was to work with someone who was both intelligent and beautiful?

Could the man have been more obvious? Nevertheless, when he’d hinted at what he wanted, she’d played dumb and then steered the subject back to the issues discussed at the conference. And it had worked, for the most part, but she hadn’t been lying to Serena when she’d said it was complicated. Sometimes she wished that someone would have told her before she applied to law school that being an attorney wasn’t quite the job guarantee she’d always imagined it would be. In the past few years, firms of all sizes had been cutting back, salaries were dropping, and right now there were too many lawyers chasing too few positions. After she’d left the district attorney’s office, it had taken her nearly five months to land this job, and as far as she knew, none of the other firms in town were hiring. If she even mumbled the words sexual harassment or vaguely hinted about filing a lawsuit, she probably wouldn’t be able to find another job in the entire state. Lawyers hated no one more than other lawyers who might sue them.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology