preserving love a contemporary romance series (nick & lexi book 2)

Contents

Title Page

Disclaimer

Special Offer!

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

One More Thing...

A Note From Kay Brody

About The Author

NICK & LEXI:
 
BOOK 2

Preserving Love

By Kay Brody

This is entirely a work of fiction. All people, places and events contained have been completely fabricated by the author. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are completely coincidental.
 

Preserving Love Copyright © 2015 Kay Brody

http://www.KayBrody.com

All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any manner or used in any way without advanced written permission by the author.

A Special Offer!

Once you’ve finished the story, be sure to continue on for a special offer from me, Kay Brody!
 
I promise it will be worth your while (
if you like what I write, of course
)!!
 
And it will only be the beginning of what I’d like to offer you!

Dedication

This is for those guys who make you so mad you just want to kiss them…

Chapter 1

Lexi

“God, this is delicious,” Kendall bit into her brownie, caramel dripping from her lips. “So, what are you gonna do?”
 

The fork in my hand slid a slice of lemon pie around the plate, silence lingering between us. Her question seemed to hang mid-air, neither unexpected nor answerable. It was the first time Kendall and I had spent any time together since I’d learned the news, so she wasn’t even aware of how much sleep I’d lost since then-- let alone my inability to decide how to handle it.
 

“I dunno,” my voice barely above a whisper, I shot back the only response I knew.
 

She continued to eat her desert as I sat unable to even touch mine. It wasn’t fair. We’d planned this outing long before my life collapsed around me. It was our day. We would shop, talk, see a movie and enjoy lunch at one of our favorite little cafes. A day to escape the world. Time for us away from everything that weighed us down.
 

Yet there I sat, across from my best friend at a tiny table for two, absorbed in nothing but the problems weighing me down. It wasn’t fair to her-- but I couldn’t seem to break away from it.
 

It’s not like I’d had all that long to adjust. Maybe a week and a half had passed since the night that turned my life upside down all over again. That was when he’d gotten the message. That was when he’d told me.
 

Shit, it was even my fault. Evan had been planning to turn it down. He wasn’t going to let something like a building come between us. Not after the last time. I’d encouraged him. I’d insisted he accept. Of course, that was before I knew.
 

The condo he had designed-- the one they were going to build-- was the same place I would be fighting to prevent. It was akin to living in a sitcom and the same tired plot was being repeated.
 

“You really gonna go through this again?” Pushing her empty plate to the side, Kendall resumed her game of twenty questions. “Are you up for it?”

It was a fair question. She was there when Evan and I had went through it the first time. The company he worked for was dead set on putting a retail center smack dab in the middle of my little neck of the woods. Our history and preferences would have been defiled.
 

Naturally I’d joined the Society in fighting it every step of the way. That meant fighting Evan with all I had - and I did. I was ready to bury his Yankee ass and not give a damn.
 

Of course I had no clue he was the same person as my anonymous friend Nick from Facebook. The guy I looked forward to hearing from, flirting with and even venting to about my life. Finding that out had been a shock.
 

We’d made it though. Even with the drama and the battles over property. His devastation at the way the community saw him had tugged my heartstrings. So when that battle had been over I’d worked hard to help him blend in.
 

The Society was a harder sell than some of the residents. They were getting to know him. Considering his potential as a member and then this happened.
 

God, I hadn’t even talked to the Society. They were probably livid. I’d brought him in, he’d agreed to help fight the condo development. They’d gotten damn near trusting him. Then it turned out he’d be on the opposite side.
 

“Do I have a choice?” shrugging, I took a sip of my coffee. It was about all I could stomach.
 

“Lex,” elbows on the table, Kendall leaned forward and looked directly into my eyes. “You always have a choice.”

“Sure,” shrugging again I turned from her gaze, afraid she’d see my own fear boiling to the surface. “Lose Evan or lose my passion.”

Mouth scrunched and brow furrowed, Kendall leaned back in her chair to contemplate what I’d said. She knew it was true. I could give him up, give up my work or suck it up and deal. Which so far had been the choice.
 

I was just scared. What if it became too much? It could ruin our relationship and I didn’t want that to happen. He was the first man I’d ever really felt like I belonged with. It just worried me.
 

“Then I suppose you will just have to make do,” obviously she’d decided to support my choice. “Not like anything could take you down.”
 

Kendall was the supportive friend to the max. Sometimes I wished she’d play devil’s advocate. Tell me I was nuts. Say it’d never work. Remind me of the disaster that was waiting for me on the other side of this. Support was nice, but sometimes honesty was better.
 

“What’s he think about it?”

The question I’d dreaded. How did I even give her an answer? Evan was always positive things would be good. I was sure that was how he felt. I just didn’t know for sure. I’d spent a while avoiding him.
 

Not totally. We’d talked on the phone or text - occasionally even back to the old Facebook - but I’d kept the topic away from the condo development. Like a giant neon elephant in the room, it stood to the side reminding us both that we weren’t being totally honest. With each other-- or with ourselves.
 

Going out hadn’t even been an option. The shop was busy and he was hard at work on the design and development. Mostly on doing everything in his power to thwart my attempt to block it.
 

The forgotten pie on my plate caught my attention as I avoided my best friend’s. I knew I’d have an answer soon. We had a date that night - the first since he’d been offered the deal. No way we’d make it the entire evening without it coming up.

“He’s positive,” pushing the pie with the fork I only half lied to her but it was enough to stop me from looking into her eyes. “He always is.” The afterthought conveying more of my emotion than the answer.
 

“Good,” Kendall hadn’t picked up on my hesitation. If she had, she’d ignored it. “If you both believe it’s manageable then it is.”

“Right,” I picked at the pie, still avoiding her gaze. “We’ll be fine.”
 

It was the single biggest lie I’d told in a long time. Not because we wouldn’t specifically. Mainly because I didn’t believe it. I was not convinced that the two of us could withstand another battle over land.
 

We’d barely been on speaking terms the first time and that was just his job against my passion. This time we were facing his lifelong dream. He finally had the chance to see one of his designs built. It was all he’d wanted.
 

No doubt that would push Evan to fight with everything he had. I would do the same. There was no way that a new relationship could survive that.
 

“Are you gonna eat that pie or just fondle it all day?” Kendall’s laugh filled the empty dining room. We’d picked an odd time to enjoy our lunch. “Because I mean….”

Sliding the plate across the table I had to smile. I had no clue how she didn’t weigh damn near a ton with all the junk she stuffed into her body. I had to fight tooth and nail to keep an extra ten pounds off and I didn’t eat half of what she did. Genetics.
 

“We are going out tonight,” I changed the subject again. “There’s a band playing somewhere downtown.”

I heard her mumble something between bites of food. Kendall always said she was a fat kid in training and watching the pie disappear as quickly as it was-- I believed her.
 

“I should probably head back early to get ready.” Just as I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the time I heard the chirp of a text message.
 

“That’s probably Mr Facebook now,” she teased, reminding me of our humble beginning as strangers.
 

“No,” the air left my lungs in a giant heap. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
 

“Lex,” Kendall stopped eating when she saw the look on my face. “Everything okay?”

“No,” sighing I sat the phone down on the table, trying to decide what I was going to do next. “It’s the Society.”

“Okay?”
 

“They called an emergency meeting. It’s mandatory. If I’m not there, I will be kicked off.”

“Oh,” Looking at the table instead of me, Kendall tried to find the right words. “When is it?”

Glancing around the room I tried not to think. It was already happening. This was already interfering in life. In my relationship. In my sanity.
 

“Tonight,” I answered her, heart heavy with sadness over my missed date. “I have to tell Evan that we can’t go out so that I can meet with the Society to discuss how to ruin his hopes and dreams.” The words spilled out before I could filter. “Yea,” I continued. “We will be just fine.”

*****

Chapter 2

“Alexis,” Grant stood and acknowledged me as I walked up to the table, but his face was hard and cold. “Thank you for joining us.”

“I wasn’t given a lot of choice,” I mumbled, taking a seat at the table. “A little notice would have been nice. I had plans this evening.”

“Sorry,” Patty offered, barely looking at me.
 

She had been the one to send the text and that was likely why she was the one apologizing for it. Truth was, Grant would have been the one to call the meeting abruptly. Judging from the look on his face, the subject matter wasn’t pleasant.
 

I watched as everyone looked over the menu, trying to decide what they’d like to eat and drink for the meeting. Personally I just wanted to get it done and over with.
 

Evan hadn’t replied to my text and that worried me. I’d told him I had to postpone the date as I’d been called to an emergency meeting with the society that I wasn’t allowed to miss. I’d asked if we could do it a little bit later. He hadn’t said a word.
 

Not sure whether to eat or save my appetite for a late date, I ordered an appetizer and a drink. I really wished Evan would at least contact me so I knew what to plan on. Besides, the silence made me think that he was angry and I didn’t like that feeling.
 

“Do we want to get down to business, or wait until the food is served?” Grant asked, still cold and silent for the most part.
 

I wanted to ask about Anna. I wanted this to be our typical friendly meeting. The problem was that it wasn’t. I could feel the tension in the room and if I was correct, most of it was directed at me.
 

“I say go for it,” Vincent spoke up, echoing my own thoughts. “I got things to do.”

Everyone at the table agreed and Grant sat down his glass, folding his hands and preparing to begin.
 

“As we discussed at our last meeting there is a proposal for a new condo development downtown. I believe we were all in agreement to fight this proposal much as we did the retail center,” I watched as his stone cold eyes darted in my direction. “Since that meeting we have had some new information come to light.”

Several heads turned to look at me and the rest watched Grant. It seems that everyone already knew. That meant that somehow they were communicating behind my back. I didn’t like the feel of that, but I understood it.
 

“Normally we would have expected Alexis to schedule and run the meeting tonight,” Grant continued. “As head of the society she generally keeps up to date on what’s happening and makes sure to keep us informed. Alexis,” he turned to me, “can you tell us why you haven’t called a new meeting to discuss the information?”

I was on the spot with an unexpected confrontation. I hadn’t expected that. Yes, I’d been positive the meeting was because they learned of Evan’s involvement before I’d had a chance to tell them, but I wasn’t prepared to be put on the spot by a close friend.
 

“I’m sorry?” I questioned, caught off guard and stunned by the entire thing.
 

“Why did you not call a meeting to discuss with us the fact that your boyfriend is the man behind the condo development? I mean, he did agree to help fight it with us at the last meeting, did he not?” Grant asked and I heard an intake of air all around the table. Some of them hadn’t known.
 

“I-- it was--“ I was speechless. I didn’t imagine many of the words I could say would be helpful anyway. It seemed he’d already developed an opinion. “I’ve been busy Grant,” I found my voice. “I have a business to run and other things to tend to.”

“So you don’t find your responsibilities as head of the Society to be just as important?” Vincent asked, garnering visual approval from Grant.
 

“I didn’t say that,” I answered, locating both courage and anger. “It’s been less than two weeks. I was intending to discuss it at our meeting.”

“Considering we were debating putting our trust into Evan Monroe,” Grant began, “Do you not think it would have been a good idea to discuss it sooner?”

I watched as all eyes turned to me. What the hell was I supposed to say? It was a shock to me too. I was worried about my relationship? I was afraid of my own feelings? I was being selfish?
 

To say that I was angry over the confrontation was an understatement. He had brought me here only to have them attack me at once. I didn’t even have a defense. I had nothing I could really say.
 

My text went off and I was sure it was Evan, but I couldn’t even look at my phone. Not while the entire Society sat watching me and waiting for an answer.
 

“What I felt,” I stood up and faced the group, “was that it was not an urgent matter. We have ample time to prepare to fight the condo development. That is what I assume we still plan to do?” I looked at Grant and waited for his nod of approval. “I assumed that regardless of who was against us on this, we would stand and fight just as we always do. I did not believe our plans or strategies would change based on who was working on the development. Was I wrong?” The group shook their heads no. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to freshen up before the food arrives,” I picked up my purse mainly so I could check the text that had come in. “When I return my assumption is that we will discuss the development and our plan of attack instead of what I’ve done in my personal life over the previous two weeks.”

I turned and walked off, hot tears of anger running down my cheeks. How dare they do that to me? Grant had been a friend. What was his goal in embarrassing me like he just had?
 

Heading into the stall, trying to catch my breath and stop myself from crying, I grabbed the phone to check my text.
 

It’s a reservation for a reason. We can’t really just show up when we like.
 

Great. Evan was upset at me. He didn’t say that, but I could tell. He didn’t add any cute comments or a suggestion to do something else.
 

I’m sorry. I wish I could have changed it.
 

I debated adding that we could do something else, but then I realized that if he’d wanted that he would have said it. So I hit send and make my way back out of the restroom.
 

It’s hard not to notice that everyone quiets down as I approach the table, but I’m pretty good at pretending and appearing professional. I take my seat and lift my wine glass to take a sip, acting as though nothing was different.
 

“Alexis,” Grant was the one to break the silence. “We are concerned about the conflicts of this situation.”

It wasn’t unexpected. They would want my reassurance that I would fight for them, for our cause. Not for Evan and his dreams.
 

“I understand,” I replied with a smile. “It’s a tough spot for the average person.”
 

“Exactly,” he agreed. “That’s why…”

“I’m not the average person,” I interrupted him before he could finish. “I’ve been working with the Preservation Society for years. I’ve fought long and hard for our goals. I’ve been up against Evan Monroe once before. The status of my relationship with him has not changed who I am. Therefore it would be unreasonable to think it had changed how effectively I handle this battle.”

“Well, I don’t know…” Vincent snickered at me. He was about to say something when I stopped him.
 

“If you are making a motion to remove me from my position, then please let me know so the appropriate steps can be taken.”

For a moment everyone was silent as they watched Grant to see what he would say.
 

“I don’t see a reason for that right now,” he acknowledged. “But I’d like to make my opinion known so that if there should come some conflicting interests we can take those steps at that time.”

And that was it. They were going to watch for anything deemed conflict and use that to remove me. All because they were mad I hadn’t told them as soon as I’d found out. What none of them knew was that I hadn’t really been talking to Evan either.
 

*****

Chapter 3

“How was your date?” Kendall had a way of getting right to the point and I wasn’t sure I liked it.
 

There were questions I didn’t want to answer, and the one she’d just asked would lead to them. Why didn’t we go out anyway? How was the meeting? Was I sure this was going to work?
 

Truth was, I was scared of those questions because I wasn’t sure I knew the answer anymore. Evan hadn’t replied to my text Saturday. In fact, it’d taken him two days to say anything at all. A fact that left me wondering how we’d make it through the rest of this condo issue.
 

He had rescheduled the reservation and we were supposed to go that very night, but I was still apprehensive. From the moment we’d realized we’d be on opposite sides it had been Evan that was calm and cool about the situation. He’d insisted that we were going to be just fine. But his reaction over something as small as a meeting I couldn’t skip made me question his dedication to that theory.
 

The meeting itself had been more of a headache than a help. Realizing that Grant was using the situation to try and push me out of my spot had hurt. I wanted to believe that he was acting only in the best interests of the Preservation Society, but there was no reason for any of them to believe that I’d let them down. At least not yet.
 

It wasn’t my first time facing adversity, but at this point I’d thought that Grant was a friend and that Evan was as committed to our success as I was. Seeing that perhaps I’d overestimated them was hitting me pretty hard.
 

“It wasn’t,” I shrugged as if it were no big deal, turning to make fresh coffee before my small rush of business came in. “The meeting killed the reservation. So we are going tonight.”

My voice sounded a lot more optimistic than I felt. My only hope was that it’d work. If Kendall sensed that something was wrong she’d push it and I didn’t feel much like discussing any of it at that moment.
 

“Couldn’t you have done something else since you’d waited so long to have a night together?”
 

Either she sensed that something was wrong, or she had the same way of thinking that I’d had. I wasn’t sure which it was and it didn’t matter.

“It’s hard to plan something last minute,” Keeping my back to her, I focused my energy on cleaning counters and stacking plates. I could say whatever I wanted, but if she’d seen my face she’d have known I was lying.
 

“Hell, even a night of movies on the couch would be better than nothing,” I felt my stomach clench at the comment. She was right. That was the thought I’d had after the meeting, as I sat alone and stared at the phone. We could have found something to do.
 

“It was a late meeting,” I lied. None of us had been there past nine.
 

“How’d that go?”
 

I swore under my breath. My attempt to blow off the conversation about my date with Evan so that I didn’t share my fears and disappointment had resulted in another subject I was trying to avoid. The meeting.
 

“Okay I guess,” I tried lying again, but this one she didn’t buy.
 

“So not good?”

“I don’t know,” I caved, tossing the cloth onto the counter and grabbing my coffee. Walking around the display I sat down at the table across from her. “I’m not sure how to take any of it.”

“I’m a pretty good listener and I offer one hell of an opinion, if I do say so myself,” she giggled, taking a bite of her muffin.
 

“What’s up with the muffin?” I asked, questioning her decision to bring food with her. Normally Kendall would make her way into the shop before work and gorge herself on brownies and candy. She wasn’t one to typically carry anything in and especially not what looked to be a plain muffin.
 

“It’s healthier,” she smiled in my direction. “I’m trying to change my eating habits.”

“who is he?” I watched her eyes find mine as she laughed at my question. “Don’t try to pretend. You love junk food. You couldn’t find five pounds on you to lose if you tried. So if you have this new kick to eat healthy, there is a reason and chances are he’s really hot.”

“His name is David,” she confessed, a pink color shading her face. “He’s a health nut.”

“Sounds like a perfect match,” I rolled my eyes.
 

“I actually like it. Our first date was a hike. I was tired, but it was a lot of fun!”

“And now you are eating muffins?” I shook my head, laughing as I did. “At least there will be some stuff left for paying customers,” I added with a smile.
 

“Shut up,” she teased. “I haven’t given up all junk. I’m just trying not to eat it constantly.”

Kendall never ceased to amaze me. She’d developed a multitude of interests and hobbies throughout the years based on guys she was seeing, but I’d never seen her change her food choices. That was her one weakness and she didn’t alter it for anyone.
 

“So tell me about the meeting,” she changed the subject once again, not forgetting what we’d originally been talking about. “What is it that you don’t know?”

Sinking further into my chair, shoulders slumping, I looked at my best friend.
 

“I had no idea what I was walking into,” I confessed. “Grant accused me of not caring about the society or thinking of it as important. Said he was concerned about my involvement with Evan and the effect of it on my job with them. Everyone already knew.”

“Well you had to know they’d find out,” she offered.
 

“Yes,” I answered, “but it was different. Like they’d all already been talking. Only a few people didn’t know what was going on.”

“So you think they are talking behind your back?”

“It feels like it,” I answered, sipping my already cold coffee. “I just don’t know why.”

“Bullshit,” she argued. “Lexi, you already have an opinion or you wouldn’t have that expression. And chances are it’s the same one I have.”

“Which is?”

“That son-of-a-bitch has decided he wants your spot now and he’s going to use this situation to try and get it!”

“Yea,” I nodded. “That’s kind of what I’m thinking. Unless,” I paused, “they really are concerned. I mean, could it be that Grant thinks I’m betraying them?”

“I highly doubt it,” she disagreed with the idea. “When have you ever?”

“Yea, but this situation is…”

“Unique,” she interrupted. “Still doesn’t mean you’d totally change who you are.”

“That’s what I said,” taking a bite, I felt better about my thoughts since Kendall had confirmed them. It may not be a subject I like, but it was definitely one that I needed to talk out.
 

Which is exactly what we did the rest of her visit. I told her more about the meeting and she gave me tips on how to handle things going forward. While it was a difficult conversation, at least it kept me from discussing my own worries about Evan. I didn’t want to tackle that subject even with Kendall.
 

The most frustrating part was that I had really grown attached to having him there to talk to. First I’d had Nick on Facebook. I’d been able to gripe about my day and then he’d changed the subject and we’d chatted. Knowing he was there was a huge help when things seemed overwhelming.
 

When I’d discovered he was Evan Monroe, the person that stood against me at every turn, it’d been difficult. Yet it turned out that the bond I’d had with Nick only got closer with Evan. Before either of them I’d never really put much emphasis on men or relationships. Now that I was attached to him, Evan was dropping the ball and it scared me. Partly because I worried that he was giving up and partly because I was afraid I would.
 

Nothing had ever interfered in my work in the community. This was a new feeling. And as much as I needed Evan in my life, or felt like I did, I knew that I’d never choose him over the Society. This was my home. My life. Everything that had ever happened. If fighting this building cost me the only man I’d really had a connection with, then that would be how it went.
 

Kendall wouldn’t understand that. She wouldn’t be able to support me giving up love for a fight against changing the city. Hell, some days I thought she believed the city should change.
 

Besides, I didn’t even really know that it was love. Especially when it felt so bad. Wasn’t love supposed to good and happy? If so, this couldn’t be love because it was beginning to feel sad and hurtful.
 

*****

Chapter 4

“You’ve barely touched your food,” Evan pointed out as I ordered another glass of wine. “Do you not like it?”

“It’s delicious,” I smiled, taking another bite. It really was good. Probably the best Italian food I’d ever had. Unfortunately, my appetite wasn’t really there and I couldn’t exactly explain why.

“Then what’s wrong, Lexi?” I saw the concern showing on his face and it made me feel a little better about our situation. I didn’t want to lose Evan and I was worried that this was going to tear us apart. When he’d never replied back on Saturday it had only fed those fears. Looking at him and seeing that he still cared helped me to relax. “I can tell something is bothering you.”

“The whole situation,” I finally relented. “The condo, the Society, us…it’s all on my mind. I’m not sure that this is going to work out as well as we’d hoped.”

His face dropped as his eyes focused on the empty plate in front of him. I saw the look of pain that flashed through them before he looked down. He was hurt that I’d doubt what we had, but why? He was the one that had completely bailed on me when I needed to know he hadn’t.
 

“If a relationship can’t stand a little adversity, it’ll never work long term,” it was the only answer he gave and that almost made me angry. How could he compare us fighting for our own dreams on opposite sides as being a little adversity? “Lex,” he looked up at me. “You told me to follow my dreams and I did. I’m not backing out now. I’ve never asked you to back out either. I don’t understand why you think we should let something as simple as this come between the feelings we have for each other. At the end of the day do you not still feel the same?”

“Yes, but..”

“There is no but,” he continued. “If you feel the same about me and I feel the same about you, then why would that change because we have different interests in a building?”

“Different interests? Evan, this is my home. This is my community. This is my life,” I argued my point. “You don’t understand because you’ve never been anywhere that long, but it means something to me. This isn’t an interest,” I sighed, drinking another bit from my wine glass. “This is important.”

“I suppose my dreams, hard work and college degree mean nothing to me because I haven’t lived in the same place my entire life?”

“I didn’t mean that,” Suddenly I realized how what I’d said must have sounded to him. As if I were criticizing his life choices. “I just mean that it’s more than just a passing hobby. I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember. It’s not something I can just let go.”

“I didn’t ask you to Lexi,” he commented. “All I ask is that we don’t let it come between us.”

“I don’t want that either,” it was the truth. “I just don’t know how to do this.”

“We put us above nonsense. Yes it’s important to you that I don’t build the condo. It’s important to me that I do. So in business, we fight. But in personal life, we enjoy our time together. And we leave business as business. It’s that simple.”

“I wish it felt that simple,” I shrugged.
 

“It can tear us apart if we let it,” he agreed. “Or it can make us stronger. It’s up to what we do with it.”

“Like ignoring me for two days because I had a meeting?”

“What? Lexi, you think I ignored you?” He seemed surprised. “You broke off the date, not me.”

“We could have done something else…” I pointed out the obvious.
 

“Yes,” he agreed. “Had you mentioned it. When you said you had the meeting and had to postpone, I assumed you were canceling altogether.”

“You know the meetings don’t last that long,” I reminded him that he’d attended a couple. “Why would I cancel?”

“Why would I ignore you?”

His question made its point. It was just as unlikely he’d ignore me as it was that I’d cancel a date. Neither of us was doing a very good job with this so far.
 

“I didn’t hear from you for two days,” I answered quietly.
 

“I didn’t hear from you either.”

Again, point proven. He wasn’t in this alone.
 

“Evan, I think…”

“Stop,” he looked at me. “Lexi my feelings for you are real. They are strong and they mean something to me. We’ve fucked this up so far. Let’s stop. Can we just leave business aside and enjoy being together? Please? And can we both quit worrying so much about what might happen that we enjoy what is happening?”

Nodding I agreed to table the discussion and just have a normal date. I found that I was able to eat most of the dinner he’d bought me and from there we went to a movie that had just recently released. The entire night Evan held my hand and smiled and did everything just right.
 

The problem was that even as he dropped me off at my place, I felt that something wasn’t just right about any of it. We may have been able to table the discussion for the moment, but what were we going to do when that wasn’t possible? How were we going to handle it when our business put us on opposite sides of the stage, fighting for a crowd that either loved us or hated us? Would our relationship survive that?
 

Just as I set my things down and prepared to run a hot bath, I heard the chirp of my phone. I hadn’t been active on Facebook in weeks so it had surprised me.
 

That lady that used to make me crazy? Yea, she still does. But it only makes me want her more.
 

I smiled to myself at the message from my Nick. The guy that I could talk to about anything. The one I could vent to even when the rest of the world was tired of hearing it.
 

I know what you mean. I’m having the same problem with my guy. He’s going to be the death of me and I’m going to enjoy the journey.
 

He must be one sexy guy.
 

He’s okay.

Nice.

I can’t complain too much. But he does have expensive taste in food. Whatever happened to a burger and fries?
 

Maybe he thinks you are too classy to deserve that?

Then he’s not very bright.

Maybe he likes to show off?

He should stop. Soon he won’t have a job and be able to afford pricy meals.
 

So do you feel a little less lonely?
 

Not at the moment. But overall yes.

Me too.
 

I need to go and take a bath.
 

Why do you insist on doing that to me?
 

Hmm, don’t you have a woman now? Maybe you should try this conversation with her sometime?
 

She’s not nearly as flirty.
 

I am NOT flirting with you.
 

Yes you are. But I like it.
 

I am not. You are just hopeful.
 

Every day of my life.
 

I need to go now. Have a good night.

You too Lexi.
 

Hey….

Yes?
 

Thank you. I needed this.
 

I know. Me too.
 

Will we always have this?
 

I sure as hell hope so.
 

Me too. Good night Nick.
 

Good night Lexi.

I ran the water and lost myself in thought. He had done the one thing I’d needed the most. He’d come to me on the level I was comfortable with. As I sat there in that moment I felt confident that we’d be okay.
 

Sure, Alexis and Evan may have their battles ahead of them-- but Nick and Lexi were going to be just fine. They had something that not even the Society and architects could take away.
 

*****

Chapter 5

“Thanks for meeting me,” Patty smiled over the cup of coffee she held to her lips.
 

“No problem,” I returned the gesture as I pulled the seat out and took my place.
 

I’d be lying if I said the meeting didn’t surprise me. Mainly because it wasn’t a meeting. Just two friends having lunch. At least that was what she’d said when she called. We were just friends having lunch together.
 

What made it odd was that we didn’t do that. Patty and I had never really met except when it involved the Society. Not because we weren’t friendly-- we were-- but
 
because that’s where our common interests ended.
 

We led two vastly different lives and had a lot of opposite viewpoints and opinions. I respected her and enjoyed working with her, but she had never been a person I saw myself enjoying lunch with just for the hell of it.
 

“I just…” she started, but something stopped her for a moment. “I felt bad about the meeting and the way things played out.”

“It’s the nature of business Patty,” I shrugged, already past what had happened nearly a month prior. “We didn’t have to have lunch for you to apologize.”

“I know,” she looked into the distance. “I don’t think we’ve ever really taken the time to be friends.”
 

“No I guess we haven’t,” she knew why so I was confused. Patty was super religious and all of her life choices reflected that. It was commendable really. I wasn’t. Even growing up the Bible Belt, I hadn’t ever taken to that mindset. So we often ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the important things in life. “Probably my fault with the shop and life being so busy.”

“Well I stay pretty occupied as well with church and the kids,” she let her voice trail off and something told me there was still something she wanted to say and wasn’t.
 

“Patty,” I leaned onto my elbows, ignoring the menu that was lying in front of me. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” she shook her head vehemently. “Nothing’s wrong,” she paused once more as if trying to make her thoughts coherent. “There’s a rumor…and that’s all it is at this point…that they are going to motion for a speedier decision.”

I knew immediately what she was referring to even though she didn’t specify who ‘they’ were. She was referring to the condo development and the company behind it, more specifically- Evan.

“Well that’s silly,” I blew it off. “That’ll never fly with the Commission.”

“Word is, it already is flying,” she stared at the hands she was folding in her lap.
 

“I find that hard to believe Patty,” I looked her eye to eye, forcing her to return the gesture. “Why would the Commission be agreeable to an early decision? They have their rules. I’ve never known them to bend on any of them.”

“I don’t know Alexis,” she shook her head. “I just know what I hear. Which is that the Commission is already on board with the idea of pushing this through. I only know this because I get told things by church friends before others find out,” she twisted her mouth up. “I came to you because I was hoping that you would have an idea on what to do or what it is that helped them sell their case to HRC”
 

“Why would I….” the look on her face said it all. She hadn’t come to be a friend.
 

Patty was sitting there at lunch with me, digging for information. The Society thought that because I was dating Evan I had the inside scoop on whatever was going on with the Commission. Grant had probably sent Patty to meet with me in the hopes she’d befriend me and I’d tell her what I knew.