I stood next to a heap of flowers on an end table, dreading to move my eyes past them. I knew
there was no way to keep avoiding it. I looked at the picture frame next to the flowers that had a black
and white photo from the 1950s of two people clearly in love. It made me smile. I slowly moved my
eyes beyond the beautiful arrangement to only frown again and saw him lying in the coffin, the only
man that I ever had any respect for, my grandfather.
My heart sank.
His cheeks weren’t rosy and his mouth was in a straight line. His thin silver hair was combed to
the side and a single rose was in the breast of his black suit pocket. This wasn’t my grandfather. My
grandfather was full of life, always smiling with a heartfelt gleam in his eye. I didn’t know this man in
I sighed heavily and looked over to my father. He was a man of medium height build with spikey
brown hair. His eyes were bright blue. He stood with his hands crossed, probably thinking about the
company. I loathed the man, but I had many reasons for that, some more than others.
The bastard probably wanted his father to die. He wanted the power of the company, the
freedom to do whatever he wanted with it. He no longer wanted to hold the title of Robert Conklin Jr.,
not that it mattered because everyone called him RJ. I never understood my relationship with my
father. He never wanted to be around us as children, yet he had to dictate our lives when it came to
My mother stood silently next to him, green eyes peering down at the floor. Her blond hair cascading down over her shoulders. She would miss Robert Senior as well, just as she had missed my
gran, Eleanor. They were the best part of the man she married. She gave up a long time ago on my
father. Sometimes it felt like she gave up on all of us. I could see part of her flask hanging out of her
handbag. I shook my head; my mother, Mary Conklin, was a drunk. It was obvious to anyone who
knew her. “The only good thing was that she was a happy drunk. I think she drank so much just to deal
RJ. I couldn’t blame her. Between me and my brothers, we had caught him cheating a number of times.
RJ was a man of power and wouldn’t be caught dead in a divorce. He could easily charm anyone he
wanted to, and women normally caved to his seduction. So she tried to make the best of her life; with
all the money, she was doing pretty well. She knew her place, to look pretty and maintain a social
status. She was his trophy wife, and he treated her exactly the opposite as my grandfather treated my
gran. She was treated like a possession, not a lover.
My older brother, Nathan, was talking to a small group of business associates who came to pay
their respect to the man who built the largest architecture and construction firm in the mid-west.
Nathan was probably informing them how Conklin Architecture, Construction and Design was going to
make a monument in honor of Robert Conklin Sr. in front of the Grand Rapids and Chicago buildings.
Nathan turned his head to look at me with a half-smile and sad blue eyes. I nodded back to him and
then looked back at the lifeless man in the coffin. “Goodbye Papa; we had fun. Say hi to Gran for me.” I slowly turned with a sigh, not wanting to feel any emotion.
Then I saw her. One of the many reasons why I hated my father. She was gorgeous. In her early
40s, she had dark red curly hair and bright green eyes, eyes that narrowed into slits like a snake when
she wanted something. I saw them often, and I knew what she wanted when she looked that way,
especially when she directed that look towards me.
My face frosted over as I glared at her. I didn’t want to deal with her now. Or ever for that
matter. I went into the hallway and leaned back against the wall. I closed my eyes and huffed out a big
breath of air.
“Tyler?” I felt a gentle hand on my elbow and looked down to see Margo’s green eyes staring at
me with sincerity. She followed me out into the hallway. I guess I didn’t escape quickly enough.
“What the hell are you doing here, Margo? Did you fuck my grandfather too?” My tone was
short and painfully quiet.
She ignored my blunt comment. “Don’t take that tone with me Tyler. I am here for you. I
wanted to make sure you were okay. I know you and your grandfather were close,” she said sternly.
She never tolerated my attitude.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I snapped, looking at my feet. She gently put her hand on my chin and pulled my
face to look at her. “Do you want me to make you feel better?” Her green eyes went into those familiar
slits. My breath hitched. What a whore. “Why? Did you pity fuck my dad already? I’m not in the mood
to be your sloppy seconds this time,” I said gritting my teeth.
Her eyes narrowed even more, and she suddenly pushed me up against the wall, slamming her
body into mine. I could feel her chest heaving through my blue dress shirt and silver tie. “No Tyler, I
would only pity fuck you, not your jackass of a father.” I looked on either side of the hallway. No one
was watching. I quickly lifted her and rushed into the coat closet across from us, slamming her into the
wall. My breathing was ragged. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but it was the only situation I could
control at the moment.
Margo looked at me with intense eyes and threw her mouth onto mine. It was so forceful and
ferial, but I didn’t want her lips on me; I only wanted one thing, and I couldn’t give a shit who it was from at that point. I took my hand and pushed her face back against the wall. “We don’t
kiss…remember?” I breathed in her face. She tilted her head and started to undo my belt buckle. She
willingly gave herself to me; this was not something she had ever done before. It was always for her
pleasure first, then mine. But today I was going to use her as she had always used me.
I walked out of the closet straitening my tie. I saw Nathan standing in the main entry about 20
feet away. He was looking down as though heavy in thought. Then he saw me out of the corner of his
eye. His shoulders shrugged, and his head cocked to the side with a slight frown. Margo came out of
the closet behind me, and as if she could read my mind, she didn’t say anything. She just simply walked
past me back into the funeral hall. Nathan noticed and sighed. I shook my head at him as if to say , I
don’t need your opinion, not today, knowing he knew what I had just done with our old nanny.
I turned to walk out the back exit, not bothering to say goodbye to anyone. I had already said
goodbye to the only person who deserved it. Goodbye Papa, we had fun. Say hi to Gran for me.
I sat in the large confines of first-class on an afternoon flight to the Gerald R. Ford International
Airport, taxying around the runway. I was headed home to Grand Rapids, Michigan; where my new
career as a junior architect for Conklin Architecture, Construction, and Design was located. I had
finished my Master’s in Architecture from Florida State about a year ago, but had just recently received
my license and started applying for jobs. I wasn’t exactly ready to grow up after I graduated, and neither was my best friend Jamie. I was smiling down at my phone because Jamie had sent me a text.
Sitting next to any hotties? I can’t wait to join you in a week!-Jamie
Jamie Rae and I met freshman year of college, and we were instantly friends. We were
suitemates in the dorms, and unfortunately her roommate turned out to be a little too studious for
Jamie. Jamie liked to have a good time, being the perky, fun-loving caramel haired, brown eyed beauty
she was. But unlike most people, she could handle school and partying. She rarely had to study and had more trouble making up her mind about what she wanted to do with her life. She constantly changed
majors but finally decided on a traditional marketing degree.
Our sophomore year we decided to get an apartment with my roommate, Ashlynn. Ashlynn and
I went way back. We were childhood friends. Our mothers were best friends, and since neither of them
worked, we were always together, whether it was at the park, beach, getting our nails done, or shopping
for things we didn’t need. Our parents were both prominent leaders in Grand Rapids. My father owned
most of the buildings downtown. Ashlynn’s father was the DA. We both were well off, but Ashlynn
glorified this more than I did. I had a sense of pride and didn’t want people to know who my family was
when they met me. I wanted people to like me for me, judge me for me, and see me for me, not for
whom my family was. Ashlynn was the opposite. She used her name to get whatever she wanted. She
could be extremely fake and dense, but at the same time I would take pity and stick up for her when
people talked about her behind her back. She was my friend, regardless of how shallow she could be. I
only tried to see the good in her. Jamie couldn’t stand her, and I would even try to convince Jamie that
Ashlynn was really a good person… until she stabbed me in the back.
Connor Prince was every parent’s dream for their daughter to marry. He was studious and
quiet; and would give his heart willingly. His hair was very short and blonde and always styled perfectly
with gel. He had bright blue eyes and a smirk plastered on his face. He was tall, medium built, and had
an angelic baby face. He was meticulous about his appearance. “You never know who you are going to
run into,” he would constantly say.
We met in our History of Architecture class in my second year. I was running late and crept in,
not realizing he was sitting in the seat next to me. We always sat in the same area and slowly got to
know one another throughout the class. I never thought he would go for me. I had my own self-esteem
issues and always thought guys saw me as friend material and that I was never pretty or skinny enough
for any of them. But his appearance didn’t intimidate me as much once I got to know him. Eventually he asked me to study one night, and then the rest was history.
We were best friends, and he was my first love. I would have done everything for him. My
parents loved him and would always talk about us getting married and having kids. He would give me
his precious smirk and say, “Only if she says yes.” My parents devoured this. Jamie liked him, although
she thought he was a bit boring sometimes and that I should find someone who could bring more
passion to the game, but she knew I loved him. Everyone was ecstatic and thought we were a good match.
Everyone,- except for Ashlynn. She had a funny way of showing it too. She would make very
subtle comments to me. “You don’t think he is just after you for your Dad’s money do you?” or “Wow, I
guess I never thought you would be the type he would be into, lucky you,” and the most hurtful one
was, “You better hit the gym to hold his interest.”
So I had 30 pounds I could lose, emphases on had. I lost the weight after Ashlynn took him from
right under my nose. At the beginning of our final year in college, the air got weird between Connor and me. We
didn’t talk as much, and we weren’t as intimate as we had used to be. I took it as he was finally starting
to see me for how I saw me-an awkward duck that had stubborn hair and some baby fat. I was no size
two, and Ashlynn constantly reminded me of it. Some nights I would cry about my insecurities. Connor
would always tell me he loved me, but when he stopped focusing so much on my body during sex, it felt
like it was being done just for his release.
Then the week before first semester finals I found out why he had felt so distant. I came home
directly from my morning classes because my afternoon class had been cancelled due to the professor
going out of town, which really sucked because we were going to review our semester’s studies for
finals. I told Ashlynn about this the prior week because I was pissed the prof wouldn’t be providing a
review for one of the most important classes of my degree. I remember her eyes widening and then her
voice purring and saying, “You should just go to the library and study instead of class.” I hemmed and hawed at her thought, but never said I was going to.
You know when you get that feeling that something just isn’t right? Well, that feeling made me
walk right past the library and to our apartment. And there they were, in my bed. I saw Ashlynn’s long
blonde hair against her naked back with her head tipped back straddling someone. I recognized the
tattoo on his ankle. It was Connor. I was speechless and couldn’t move. My feet felt like they were
stuck in concrete. I just stared at my childhood friend riding my boyfriend, the man I was going to marry and have a family with. As Connor slowly sat up and went to kiss her neck, he opened his eyes and
gasped, pushing Ashlynn to the side and stuttered my name, “Bec-Becca…” It almost sounded like a
plea. Suddenly my legs were no longer in concrete but felt like they were in sand. I back peddled to the
front door unable to move fast enough or take my wet eyes off of Connor. Ashlynn’s face slowly turned
and a hint of a smile crept on her lips. Then I saw her fake shocked look that I knew too well. She
wanted this to happen. She knew I would come home and find them. She always wanted Connor
because I had him, and she always had to have what was mine.
I remember sinking to the old woodchips on the side of our apartment complex, not being able
to breathe. Feeling my heart break was the worst pain I had ever felt, and I was sure that nothing would
ever compete with its torture.
Jamie was furious. She wanted to throw Ashlynn’s things on the side of the road and change the
locks. “Who the fuck does that bitch think she is? I told you she was never your friend, Becca! Friends
don’t do that to each other! And in your bed, really? She needs to get the fuck out of our place!” She
didn’t understand my somberness towards the situation. I had cried, been broken, and was finally given
the explanation I had always thought: he was never going to love me because I wasn’t as pretty as
Ashlynn, because I wasn’t as thin or as elegant as her.
He called me over and over, wanting to apologize and talk about it. I knew he felt bad and
guilty, but I could never handle high emotional situations. I couldn’t stand seeing pain in people’s eyes;
nor could I bear to show my own pain to them. When I finally felt strong enough, I answered my phone
and told him to not worry about it; and that I understood we weren’t meant for each other. He was
nervous and anxious and didn’t seem to believe me, but agreed we were done.
Ashlynn knew I wouldn’t be able to completely cut her out. She had taken advantage of my
forgiveness many times. She knew she had power over me ever since we were little kids. I couldn’t
swallow the thought of my best friend taking my boyfriend deliberately.
I somehow convinced Jamie that Ashlynn didn’t need to leave. School would be over soon, and I could cut her off completely then. It wouldn’t have been so awful living with her if Ashlynn and Connor
hadn’t started dating officially. Ashlynn threw it all in my face too. She would always tell me when they
were going out together and how she would be staying at his house. Whenever she came home from a
night with him, she would brag about how wonderful her night was and how her life couldn’t be any
more perfect. It took all of Jamie’s patience to not deck her by the end of the semester. I simply tried to
focus on school work; and tried to avoid Ashlynn as much as possible. The only good part of the horribly
fucked up situation was Connor refused to come over to our place. Probably because Jamie would “rip
his dick off and shove it down his throat.” Her sneer at him made me smile for the first time in weeks.
Once Ashlynn moved out to go start her adult life with Connor, Jamie convinced me to start
having fun with her. The night before our graduation Jamie yanked me off the couch and said, “You’re
not doing this to yourself anymore. We are going to take a break from the real world and party our
asses off. We are going to be the hottest chicks in this town and run this city, and I don’t give a shit if
you think this is possible or not because I am so sick of you being controlled by that monster in your
head that says you aren’t good enough for anyone or anything.” Her endearment broke my streak, and I
decided it was time to stop sulking and finally go into a “not giving a fuck” stage.
My family was not happy with my decision to stay in Florida. I got every speech from, “You’re
not being responsible,” to “It’s time to grow up,” to “I’m sorry Connor hurt you, but this isn’t how to handle it,” and the best one, “Your father can get you any job you want if you come back to Grand
I hated the last one the most. I hated the fact that because of my last name I could snap my
fingers in Grand Rapids and get whatever I wanted. Well I wanted my own life, not one that would be
controlled by my name.
So Jamie and I got an apartment downtown by all the clubs. We both got jobs at the local gym;
and worked our asses off for two hours every day; then went out at night. My body got slimmer, and I turned into someone I didn’t know. I wasn’t afraid to approach a guy at a bar. Granted, I had to have a
few drinks in me at first, but they no longer intimidated me. Soon the guys started to come on to me. It
didn’t take long either. Jamie kept telling me I was a sex goddess who just needed to come out of her
shell and live a little.
Then I did something awful and brought a guy home. I didn’t even know his name. I remember
I woke up and he was putting his clothes back on. He turned to me and said, “Thanks for a great
evening,” and left. I felt so guilty and sheepish. Jamie came in and sat on my bed.
“Well he was a looker. Nice grab last night.”
“Jamie I feel awful; he totally used me.”
“Becca, you used him too.” She said with a major DUH sound.
Then it hit me like a stone from a slingshot. No one would ever use me again because I would
So that was our life for a year: work, work out, go to the club, get drunk, and get laid. A bit
much like a man’s life, but it seemed to numb my pain and cure my insecurities about myself. Those
men saw something in me that was attractive. So attractive that they would hold me and squeeze me
and tell me everything I wanted to hear to get me to say yes to them. So what if it was just for the
night? I didn’t want another Connor, another person to leave me for my best friend or another girl who
was prettier and had more to bring to the table then me.
Our madness stopped when a guy I brought home was a little too persistent. He was very rough
and knew exactly what he wanted. I wasn’t feeling it and tried to subtly stop him, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thank God Jamie had brought home his friend who heard me yelling and came in and
yanked him off of me. He spat, “Not fucking again you dick!” and apologetically looked at Jamie and
dragged him out of our apartment.
After a night of crying in Jamie’s arms, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to stop
numbing my struggles with the lifestyle we created and start my life. Jamie agreed, a bit reluctantly at
first, but she knew I needed it and that, in the long run, it would be best for her as well.
The next two weeks I filled out every application I could find to anywhere. The best opportunity
I had was to my horror, Grand Rapids, Michigan, my lovely hometown where my family would devour
my attention. But I had to take it before I spiraled out of control again. Jamie miraculously found a job
the very same day in Grand Rapids. We decided it was fate and would get an apartment together in the
city. I tried to push out the thought of my father having any part to do with it, but they had no idea I
was applying for jobs, so I figured I had done it on my own.
So here I sit waiting for my flight to take me in hopes to a new beginning instead of reliving a
past. I had changed so much from when I lived at home with my parents to going away to college. I
didn’t want to return to the sad little girl with no self-esteem and no faith in her capabilities. But I didn’t
want to be the girl who succumbed to a boyfriend like I did in college, and I dreaded being the careless “I
just don’t give a fuck” girl I was for my first year out of school. I needed to become part of all three and
not just one.
I waited in the pickup area at the airport. My mother insisted that Roger, her driver/butler,
would come pick me up and take me to my new apartment. I normally would refuse this, but I loved
Roger. He was the only person who kept me sane in my parents’ house. He was like the grandfather I
never had. He was always formal and polite but knew exactly what to say when I had been put down by
I jumped up to hug him as he came out to open the door to the black Lincoln Navigator. His
faced turned red, and he hugged me awkwardly. He was never comfortable when I would hug him. He
never wanted to look like he was crossing a line with his employer. But I didn’t care, I loved him, and he
would always have to put up with it from me.
“How was your flight Miss Stine?” He asked formally, as he started to pull out of the parking
“It was alright; a little bumpy in the middle, but we made good time.” I shrugged.
He smiled at me through the rear view mirror. “Well we will arrive at your new condo in about
20 minutes. The movers should be near finished. Mrs. Stine insisted they unpack all of your belongings apart from your bedroom and bathroom boxes.”
This infuriated me. I didn’t need someone to unload my things. Thank God she told them to
back away from my personal belongings. I would hate the thought of someone pulling out my lacy
“She still doesn’t know when she is being overbearing, does she?” I grumbled. I saw Roger smirk
in the mirror. He knew my mother was crazy over protective and controlling. He had to endure
listening to her comments about my siblings and me. I normally got the negative comments, whether
they would be about my weight or my drive. She never straight out said I was fat, it was always just
little comments like, “You look a little heavier in this picture,” or “Don’t worry honey, most of the girls in
your grade are just really skinny.” What kid wouldn’t think of this as being called fat? The worst was,
“You will slim down once you hit middle school, don’t worry.” I don’t think I had ever expressed to her
that I was worried; she was the one who had to have the perfect child.
All in all, my mother did love me and wanted the best for me. She just had a roundabout way of
We arrived at the River House Condos in the timely matter that Roger predicted. It was at least
30 stories high, and my father had insisted on gifting me my first year’s rent. Little did I know he actually
had purchased a two bedroom, two bathroom lofty condo verses one of the apartments.
I grabbed my bag before Roger could get to it and made my way to the entrance. Roger
followed me to make sure I made it to the 28th floor and wanted to be sure I felt comfortable.
“Can I help you with anything, Becca?” He said with his hands held behind his back.
I searched the large condo and sighed. This was too much. I wanted to do this on my own, but
my parents were already controlling the situation. As soon as I was settled into my job, I would sell the
condo and find something on my own.
“No Roger, I’m fine. You can go ahead and leave. Go do something fun, I will tell my parents
you stuck around and helped me out for a few hours.”
Roger smiled at me and turned to leave. I’m sure he was going to head straight home. He loved
doing whatever my family asked of him. Fortunately my parents were always wonderful to their staff
and did everything they could to make them feel comfortable and a part of the family.
I explored the condo once Roger left. It had 15-foot ceilings throughout the space and was very
modern. Sleek, light gray walls covered the living room with a large white brick electric fireplace. The
floors were a very dark black hardwood with a large area rug in the middle of the white leather
furniture. The kitchen was just past the living room painted with red walls and black cabinets and
stainless steel appliances. There was an island counter that had white and gray speckled granite and
four black barstools.
Just past the kitchen there was a dining area with a large glass table with eight black chairs
surrounding it. In the middle of the table there was a large bouquet of lilies with a note:
We are so happy you are back in Grand Rapids. Congratulations on the job.
We love you.
Mom & Dad
The card made me smile. They really did mean well. They were okay with having things done
for them. My mother was fine with hiring people to move her things and clean up after her and drive
her around; I wasn’t. I wanted to take care of myself. One day I was going to have to figure out how to
tell them this. I put down the note and continued on throughout the large space.
There were hallways going off of the living room and kitchen leading towards each separate
suite. Each bedroom had an attached bathroom and a large walk-in closet. The bathroom had a huge
bath tub and walk-in shower made of clear tile with a foggy glass door. The counter tops were crystal
white and the cabinets were black. Glass tiling made up the wall behind the vessel sinks making a large
border around the mirror. My bedroom had the same sleek gray walls as the living room. My mother
purchased a new bedspread which was a black and white modern deco; with an arrangement of red,
black, and white throw pillows. There was a large picture of a women drinking coffee with an oversized
hat in a black and white color scheme. The dresser was black along with two end tables on either side of
the bed with red lamps on top. There was a sliding door leading to a deck which over looked the city
with a huge hot tub made of concrete that had exotic plants surrounding it. No doubt the plants were
fake; this is Michigan after all. It was very serene on the deck, and I pictured myself spending most of
my free time out there.
Across from each room there was a study. My mother had made sure my drafting table and
supplies were all neatly organized within the room. This was no good to me. Now, I had no idea where
anything was. I knew she was trying to be helpful, but the woman was maddening.
There was a flat screen television hanging in the corner of the study and a large fluffy chair with
a matching ottoman. I sank down into the oversized sofa chair and stared at the ceiling. How did I ever
think I was going to pull this off? Coming to Grand Rapids and not having my parents try to control my
life? I was 24, and they had picked out a condo and bought all new furniture and handed it to me. And I
let them! I needed to find my voice in this city. Maybe I should just take off and leave. No, that
wouldn’t solve anything. And Jamie had already committed to moving her life out here. I couldn’t leave
her. She was the only thing stable in my life that didn’t drive me insane.
I casually got up and went into my bedroom to unload my belongings. Once I felt half way in
order I heard my stomach growl. I forgot about getting food. I called and ordered some take out,
figuring I could save half and bring it to my first day of work tomorrow for lunch.
I had a real problem with food.
Ever since I was little my relationship with food wasn’t normal. With my mother constantly
comparing me with everyone else’s little girls, including the perfect Ashlynn, I was always afraid to eat in
front of people. This would lead to not eating at all; then binge eating later. Unfortunately, this would
be why most of my life I wasn’t the perfect size two, but closer to an eight. I only got a grasp on normal
eating habits when I was off with Jamie on our own. She ate all the time and managed to stay skinny,
where I had to hit the gym twice as hard and really stay away from all the good stuff. Jamie would give
me shit if I didn’t eat and would force me to sit with her and eat a healthy meal. It was good for me; it
made me drop that extra 30 pounds I had always carried with me. I would have been happy to lose
another 10, but for some reason it just wasn’t going to budge. I swear it was all in my ass. Jamie always
gave me crap saying she would give anything for it. I just thought it was huge and added a size to my
Connor never said anything about my weight, which was a good and a bad thing. He never said I
needed to lose it, but then he never said I was perfect to him either. Either he really didn’t think I was
appealing in that way or he just didn’t think to tell me. This caused me to be so self-conscious. I hated
taking my clothes off with him around, and the lights were always off. It didn’t make a difference to him
either way. I guess he didn’t care as long as he was getting some.
I still never felt comfortable in a bikini or clubbing outfits. Jamie would always encourage me,
telling me I was beautiful, and I needed to stop thinking otherwise. Ashlynn was a lot like my mother,
comparing me to other people and telling me it was okay that I didn’t look like them.
My salad arrived, and I immediately took half of it and put it into a container for work. When I
went to open the fridge I gasped. My mother had filled it with food. I was shocked. Does this woman
have no boundaries? At least it wasn’t a bunch of junk food. I wasn’t sure if I was annoyed or grateful
for her attentiveness to what she bought.
Once I was done eating, I picked out my clothes for my first day of work. A cream short sleeve
sweater dress that rose just above my knee with a large brown belt. I figured I would wear my burnt
orange heels and my dark orange pendant necklace with brown alternating jewels. The outfit was
perfect for the season; it was early September and leaves were starting to change color. It was 60
degrees out so I would have to wear a jacket. Florida thinned out my blood. Normally, I would have
been fine in short sleeves in 60 degree weather.
Just as I was going to brush my teeth and put on some sweats my phone rang. It was Jamie.
“Hey Chica! All settled in?” She exclaimed. She was so excited to move, but she had to wait
another week before she could get out here.
“All I need is your crap lying around, and I will feel settled,” I said. She laughed and chatted
about all that she had to pack and get done before she drove up. Her parents gifted Jamie a Jeep
Commander for a “finally getting your life together” present. This was a grand jester from Jamie’s
family. They worked very hard for their money and buying their daughter a new car would take a toll on
their savings. Jamie didn’t want to accept it, but her parents had insisted. They thought I was a good
influence on her and they thought she was settling down because me. Only if they knew it was the
other way around.
“Are you excited for work tomorrow? Sucks your first full day back will include 8 hours of being
a grown up.”
I sighed, “I know, but this is the one thing I am sure of. I am actually excited. I was just going to
do a little bit more research on the company when you called.” Truth was, I had looked at their website
a dozen times. Jamie knew this too.
“Better make sure you memorize their code of conduct,” she joked.
“Ha ha, I just want to be prepared.”
“You have been prepared since before your first interview. You will be fine. Hopefully your desk
will be next to some eye candy,” she said with a flirt.
“Yeah, and he will be married or gay.” I snorted. “Besides, I’m not looking for a man right now.”
“Yeah, but you never know who you are going to meet,” she said. It reminded me of Connor
and made me frown.
“Well I have to get going. Get your shit in order and get up here,” I teased.
“Will do. Have a goodnight.”
I hung up the phone and sighed. What would I do without that girl? I went into my office and
fired up my new computer, another nice furnishing from my lovely parents. I went onto the Conklin
Architecture, Construction, and Design website. I scooted around it, moving from the architecture page
to the history of the company; it was quite fascinating to me. The original founder of the company had
started out in Grand Rapids in his parents’ basement and quickly built his company up and moved to
Chicago because, at the time, there was more opportunity to build there. After 20 years in Chicago, he
expanded with his son back to Grand Rapids. Now they have huge buildings in Chicago, Grand Rapids,
and their newest building in Cleveland, Ohio. The founding father of the company had just passed away
a year ago, and left the company to his son and three grandsons. There was a picture of the five of them
cutting ribbon in Cleveland. They were all very attractive. The caption below the picture revealed the
names of the men in the picture. The grandfather, Robert Conklin Sr., was in the middle holding
scissors, with his son, Robert Jr., on his left and a grandson, Mitchell. On his other side were his other
two grandsons, Tyler and Nathan. The two grandsons on the right seemed very happy and proud, while
his son seemed distracted, and had a hint of a smile on his face. The other brother shyly smiled.
I exited out of the website and headed for bed. As I fumbled in the covers I wondered what
tomorrow would bring. Would this place really be a good fit? I sure hoped so; I didn’t have any other
option for it not to be.
I woke up to my alarm and immediately shot out of bed. I hadn’t slept well, worrying I would
over sleep. I jumped in the shower and started getting ready. I methodically blew my hair dry with my
hair brush and straightened out all of the waves. Once I finished straightening my hair, I started on my
makeup. I would normally only put on some mascara and eyeliner, but for the first day I thought I
should add some eye shadow and bronzer. I put on basic gloss and did a subtle nod in the mirror. This
I had 45 minutes to spare, so I thought I would grab some tea on the way to work. There was a
nice little self-serve café a block from the Conklin building that I could stop at. My apartment building
was within walking distance, so I headed out with my bag and walked quickly. My feet were going to be
killing me after walking in these heels. I was going to need to buy some more respectable flats.
I picked up my tea and a prepackaged bowl of berries and headed to wait in line. There were
two registers open, and I was three back. Through my peripheral vision I noticed two sharply dressed
gentleman standing in the line next to me. One was on his phone, not noticing anything going on
around him. He seemed very focused on who he was talking to and didn’t seem to care if anyone else
heard what he was saying. He had gray suit pants with a dark purple shirt and a matching gray tie. I
tried not to turn to look at him because he was so loud. The other man sparked my attention more. He
was taller than the gentleman on the phone and was very masculine. He had a strong jaw line and
messily styled short brown hair. His eyes were covered with aviators and his expression was un-
readable. After all my observations I brought myself back to the line I was in, which hadn’t moved.
There was a woman at the register who was trying to run a credit card that wouldn’t go through, and
she was searching her purse for money. She had a little boy with her tugging on her skirt repeatedly
saying he was hungry, and his demands were getting loader. The gentleman in front of me was
“If you can’t pay for it, don’t get in line,” he sneered.
I looked at the man in disgust and nudged past him.
“Let me get it,” I said, smiling at the flustered woman. I put my fruit and tea on the counter and
handed the cashier a twenty.
“Oh! You don’t have to do that!” she said turning red, still fumbling in her purse. I smiled back
at her, “Don’t worry about it.”
Her shoulders shrugged, and she smiled warmly. She grabbed the bagel and gave it to her son.
“Thank you,” she said sincerely.
I turned to walk away as the gentleman who was being crabby winced, worried I would lash out
at him. I kept my head down, feeling a little embarrassed that I had given the man such an abrupt
nudge in the first place. Then I felt another pair of eyes on me. I glanced to my left and noticed the two
gentlemen finishing up at the register. The one was still animatedly talking on the phone, oblivious to
what was going on, but the other dressed in all black had his head facing the door, his eyes hidden by his
aviators. I shook the feeling of being watched and marched out the front door to head into work.
The Conklin building was one of the larger buildings in the city. There were at least 30 floors.
Each floor consisted of a different department: marketing, sales, finance, landscaping, interiors,
graphics, etcetera. I hadn’t realized their company did so much on their own work instead of
contracting out the services. I was in the commercial architecture department, floor 12. Normally I
would take the stairs, but in these heels I decided to pass and take the elevator. I showed the security
guard my ID tag and headed to press the button.
Will Summers was the head of the commercial architecture department. I had been working
with him while I was going through the process of interviewing and hiring. He was very young to be the
head of a department; he had to be in his mid-30s and had green eyes with glasses and bright red hair.
It was cut short, but you could tell it would be curly if he were to grow it longer. He wore a brown dress
shirt and khaki Dockers.
“I’m so glad you made it!” He greeted me with an extravagant smile. “Let me show you around
the office and introduce you to everyone,” he said in a bit of a hurry.
Will took me around and introduced me to at least a dozen junior architects and Corey, his
personal assistant. Corey was very sharp with dark brown eyes and sandy hair. He was in his mid-30s as
“Corey handles a good portion of our accounts. If you ever have any questions, he is the man to
go to if I am unavailable,” Will said as I shook his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you Becca,” he said shaking my hand. He turned to Will and said, “Why don’t
we bring her to the meeting today with the Conklin brothers to break her in.” He smirked.
Will nodded his head enthusiastically at me, “That’s a great idea! Let me show you your desk
and you can get comfortable, and in 15 minutes we will come pick you up to head to the 14th floor.”
Crap, I didn’t think I would meet any of the top dogs for a while and only by chance if I did. I was
extremely nervous. What if they could tell I am fresh out of college? What if they ask me a question
and I bomb the answer? Hopefully there will be a lot of people so I could hide in the back, at least for
I sat down at my desk, trying to acclimate to my new space. If everything went according to
plan, I would be at this desk for a while. I thought about bringing in pictures of my family to put up and
maybe a goofy picture of Jamie and me that would help me feel more at home. I turned in the swivel
chair and rubbed my finger on the drafting table. It made me smile. It was top of the line and had
wonderful light and all of the drafting supplies were in a cabinet neatly organized next to the table. This
was heaven to me. I could get lost in drafting plans and coming up with new ideas for buildings. I loved
doing commercial plans, but residential was my favorite. They hadn’t had an opening when I applied,
but I didn’t mind. I would enjoy this job just as much. I turned on the computer and surfed around to
see all of the programs they had for me to use. Everything seemed so top of the line. I was a kid in a
candy store. I couldn’t wait to start working on Conklin’s blueprints.
Fifteen minutes flew by and Will came up to my desk to grab me for the meeting. He handed
me an iPad, “Here, this is for you. You can keep it and take notes on it. I forwarded the PowerPoint to
you so you can follow along.”
I took the iPad and nearly gasped. What ever happened to paper hand-outs? Oh well, I can’t
complain I guess. The IPad would make things a lot easier to follow and take notes.
As I followed Will, Corey joined us along with two other gentlemen. They were both junior
architects as well.
We took the large elevator up to the 13th floor. This floor was filled with conference rooms and
served as the HR department. We all got off the elevator and headed into a very large conference room
that had theater like seating. There was another group of people already sitting down. Will introduced
me politely to my new co-workers. They were the residential architects. I couldn’t help but notice I was
the only female out of all the architects at this meeting. Soon, a small group from the marketing and
graphics department came in, followed by the advertising department. Last but not least, a man
followed by four supermodel-looking women silenced the room as they walked in. The man looked very
kind, but the women all had their noses in the air. The gentleman came up to me and looked over at
Will who was sitting next to me. “And who might this be?” he said to Will with a gleam in his eye.
Will grinned and introduced me, “Clayton, this is Becca. Clayton is head of the commercial
That explains it. I had minored in interior design. I couldn’t stand more than half of the girls in
the classes. They were either obnoxiously gorgeous or insanely dim witted. I couldn’t stand the
combination, and I hated to stereotype, but it was the truth.
Clayton gave me a megawatt smile, “nice to meet you, beautiful. I love your necklace.”
One of the women came up to him and huffed. “Clayton, is there going to be coffee for the
meeting? If not, we are going to need to get some.”
“Of course, I’m sure Nathan will be here soon. He doesn’t like to waste time. Sawla, this is
Becca. She is new to the commercial architect department. It will be nice to finally have someone on
our side. She has to know good design with that gorgeous outfit,” He said, looking over to Will.
Will just smirked at him and shook his head. “We will have to see won’t we?” Will replied.
Sawla gave me a glance over and plastered on a fake smile on. It reminded me of Ashlynn. I
instantly didn’t like her. I put my hand out to shake hers, and she gave me a very gentle grasp. I wanted
to roll my eyes at her, but I put on a smile, hopefully not one as fake as hers. Clayton and Sawla sat in
front of us with the rest of their immediate team. Then the door flung open and a man came flying in.
He threw down a bag of bagels and began talking immediately. “Good morning everyone, help yourself
to bagels and coffee!” He exclaimed. He sped over to the projector closet and pulled out a laptop and
started fussing with it. A woman followed behind him with a box of coffee and coffee cups. She started
organizing everything on the table in front of the conference room. The man looked very familiar;
actually, his voice sounded more familiar than his looks.
My head turned to the door and another man walked in, sliding by the woman who was
frantically organizing the bagels and coffee on the table. He was utterly beautiful. He wore black from
head to toe, black shiny shoes, black dress pants, black belt, black dress shirt, and a black tie. His jaw
was firm and his dark brown hair was messy as though he had ran his hands through it a thousand times
and was very sexy. He was tall and broad and athletic. He looked familiar too; why couldn’t I put my
finger where I had seen these men before? Then it hit me. These were the two happy looking Conklin
brothers in the picture with Robert Conklin, Sr. and Robert Conklin I saw on the website.
I flushed as his eyes met mine. Crap, did he notice I was staring at him? I quickly looked down
at my iPad, hoping he thought I was just merely observing my surroundings. I was trying not to look
flustered, but his eyes felt like they were going to burn a hole right through me.
Will leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s Nathan Conklin. He tends to run the show when
his dad RJ isn’t here for presentations. The woman sitting off to the side of him is Jessica, his assistant. I
will introduce you after the presentation. As you can see, he is very focused.”
“Who is the other gentleman?” I asked, trying not to sound too curious, even though I had an
idea of which Conklin brother it was.
“That’s Tyler Conklin and his assistant, Cooper. Tyler doesn’t say much. I think he is more of a
numbers kind of guy. He leaves the talking to his brother.”
“What about the other brother? Aren’t there three?” I asked inquisitively.
Will rolled his eyes, “Yes, that would be Mitch. He is on the construction side of the company.
He doesn’t do a whole lot on the business side.”
From Will’s reaction, I figured Mitch was a bit of an outsider with this family.
“Ok, let’s get started!” Nathan shouted with a loud clap of his hands. He stood off to the side of
the projector and had the remote in his hand. Tyler took a seat off to the side by the table of goodies
next to his assistant, Cooper. People were scurrying back into their seats from getting coffee and bagels.
Nathan started talking about where the company was at numbers wise and wanted to discuss
going completely green and eco-friendly with our up-and-coming projects.
I tried not to let my vision drift from what Nathan was saying, but I kept feeling like someone
was watching me. It was almost an eerie feeling. I finally turned my head without thinking, and Tyler
was staring at me. I got caught in his stare. I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were from the distance
that was between us. They had to be a lighter color; if they were brown I would be able to tell.
His eyes drifted back to his brother, as though he wasn’t even looking at me.
Stupid. How could I think he was looking at me? He was way out of my league. But for
whatever reason, I felt like I was being watched throughout the whole presentation.
“Okay, does anyone have any questions about the material?” Nathan said with another loud
Sawla, from the interiors department stood up. “I have a few issues,” she said a bit too sassily.
“Some of these ideas are just not going to work with the designs concepts we have been
working on. For instance, the solar panel windows are giant boxes! And the trimming cannot be
replaced in order for them to work. How am I supposed to infuse a concrete block with a hardwood
interior! And our projects are in the mid-west, the sun is only out half the year!”
Nathan rolled his eyes then looked to Clayton. Clayton stood up quickly and said, “I’m sure we
will figure it out. That’s our job Sawla.” Nathan looked pleased with Clayton’s answer. Clayton noticed
and gave him a grin. Nathan uncomfortably looked away.
“The windows are just the beginning though! More heat efficient flooring? I bet they only have
a handful of styles that are safe to use with carpeting and hardwoods! ” Sawla exasperated.
Wow, this lady is ridiculous. I tried to hide my amusement. I had taken a few classes on how to
have more eco-friendly homes. There are plenty of textile companies converting to meet these
Tyler was watching me again, “You. What do you think?” The room stilled as he pointed his
finger at me. Everyone in the conference room turned their heads to look at me, except Nathan. He
looked dumbfounded at his brother. Shit. Tyler must have seen my amusement towards Sawla’s
My tongue was caught in my throat.
“Do you have any ideas regarding this?” He asked curiously, holding his thumb up to his lips.
I looked over to Will and he shrugged his shoulders at me as if to say, go for it. I stood up and
began to speak, hoping I wouldn’t trip over my words. “There is a company down in Florida who had
been trying to figure out how to make flooring more sustainable because of all the hurricanes. They
started to venture out and come up with water repellant flooring, but in their attempts to do that, they
realized they were not only repelling water, but they were repelling heat as though it were a mirror.
The heat would effectively bounce back and linger for longer periods of time. I’m not sure how they
figured this out, something to do with the molecule structure.”
Sawla looked at me as though I had grown two heads. She was pissed. “I bet it’s hideous,” she
sneered at me. I winced at her demeanor.
“Actually they have a large selection. A well-known company in Seattle was interested in the
study and funded them to create more products geared towards a colder environment,” I whispered.
She glared at me. Clayton was trying to stifle a chuckle while looking at the ground, “We will
just have to see about that.” Sawla voice was scarily low.
Nathan was gawking back and forth between Tyler, Sawla, and me. Nathan looked at me and
said, “You’re new right? Are you a part of the Interior department?” He said a bit confused.
“Actually I am with the commercial architects. I did minor in Interior design though. I had quite
a few classes that focused on creating buildings with sustainable energy, ” I said quietly. I felt out of
place, being on my first day and having spat back and forth with Sawla. I slowly sat down.
Nathan had a huge grin on his face, “Double threat, I like that!”
He looked back over to Tyler who was hiding a smirk with his fist. Nathan shook his head at his
brother with a quizzical expression on his face. Nathan dismissed everyone and quickly started to put his
things together. Will gestured for me to follow him as we came down to where Nathan was.
“Nathan, this is Becca Stine. As you already found out, she is our newest junior architect,” he
Nathan quickly looked up from what he was doing and put his hand out to me. “Hello, Miss
Stine. I think you will be a wonderful asset to this company,” he said hurriedly. I gave him a shy look,
“Thank you. I think I am going to like it here.”
He looked over to his brother Tyler, who was still sitting amongst the commotion of the other
department teams making their way back to their floors. “This is Tyler, my brother,” Nathan said.
Tyler casually stood up and gave me a nod. “Well, we have to be off. It was nice meeting you
Becca; see you around Will. I will email you those stats you asked for.” Nathan said, clearly loosing focus
on us and moving onto his next task at hand. Tyler held his gaze at me, then slowly turned around to
follow Nathan, their assistants casually walking behind them.
“Wow, Tyler never talks during meetings.” Corey said looking at me.
Was it that obvious how annoyed I was with Sawla’s reaction? Geez I didn’t mean to have it
written all over my face.
We all headed back to our department. Will started me on a small project that I instantly fell in
love with. It helped block out the weirdness Tyler Conklin showed towards me at the meeting. I got
lost in my project until it was just after 6pm.
“You don’t have to stay any longer; you have put in more than eight hours. Did you even take a
lunch?” He asked.
“I ate at my desk; I guess I’m just really focused on this project,” I said sheepishly.
“Well, my wife will not be happy with me if I’m not home in 10 minutes, and it’s a 20 minute
drive. You are welcome to stay as long as you want, but don’t feel like you have to. The building is open
24/7 as long as you have your ID tag. You are welcome to use your space anytime.”
I smiled then thanked him and started to pack my things as he was walking out the door. Once I
had everything in order, I headed for the elevator. My feet were killing me, so the stairs weren’t an
option today. I might even skip going to the gym because of it. I needed to get more respectable flats.
I wasn’t used to wearing heels for this long. I slouched over waiting for the elevator. My eyes were so
tired. They weren’t used to having this much makeup on, and I had been focusing on the computer
screen for most of the day. I stood there tiredly waiting for the elevator. My mind quickly wandered to
Tyler, thinking how I never got a good glimpse at his eye color. During my thought the elevator doors
opened, and there he was standing in front of me, looking at the ground as though he were in deep
thought. I had the feet in concrete feeling again. All the sudden his eyes pushed up to the ceiling of the
elevator, then at me. Smoothly he said, “Are you going down?” I nodded my head praying that my feet
would listen to my brain. I slowly stepped into the elevator on the side of him. The doors closed, and it
was painfully quiet until the cart started to descend.
“Did you have a good first day?” He chimed in. His throat was scratchy.
“Yes, it was great. I like it so far,” I said. I got the courage to look at him. He slowly grinned at
me with his fist at his chin.
“Sorry to put you on the spot in the meeting. You seemed to have a good idea going through
your head, and I love when Sawla gets frazzled.” He smirked.
I laughed in my head. So I wasn’t the only one who found it amusing.
“It’s fine, great way to break me in,” I grinned back at him. My eyes caught his. I was
hypnotized. His eyes were blue green. I suspected they changed color depending on what he wore.
They looked very soft for a split second. Then the ding of the elevator changed his demeanor, his eyes
got colder as he walked off the elevator.
“Er…have a good rest of your day,” I blurted as he walked off. He turned to me and nodded, his
face serious, and then he was gone.
What an odd man. He started out fine in the elevator, maybe even a bit flustered, than he was
making a joke, then put up a wall. I guess I didn’t need to figure him out. I probably wouldn’t see him
for another month. I know how the upper management of a company with multiple buildings works.
My father was constantly moving around; he was rarely in one place. The only time I saw my dad was
on Sundays. My mother made it very clear to him that Sundays were our family day. We would all go to
church, have a big Sunday dinner, which the help would make of course, and hang out as a family. It
was nice to have my dad around at least one day of the week. But I understood he had worked hard for
his money, and in order to maintain the lifestyle we lived, he would have to sacrifice his time with us.
I walked back to my new condo, and the second I got into the elevator I yanked my heels off.
Thank God no one was in the elevator with me, although I wouldn’t have cared. I had to huge blisters
on my feet from walking the city with them on. I was skipping the gym, which was normally a big no no
for me, but there was no way I was going to make it on a treadmill. Then I remembered the hot tub. Oh
would that feel good! I quickly made my dinner and ate with the mind of soaking in the nice warm
water with jets massaging my back. Once I was done with dinner, I threw on my swim suit and made my
way into the tub. It was relaxing until my mind started to wander. I started to think about Connor, and
how if things had played out how I had planned, we would be engaged and living in this condo, and he
would be sitting next to me blabbing about his first day as an intern at Ashlynn’s fathers office, if he
would have even been home by now. Would I have really wanted that life? A life like my mothers,
trying to find her own place with a husband who was barely around, sitting around waiting for Sunday to
come so I could see him and have my family be whole for a short period of time? I would despise that.
The thought was sobering. It made me hurt less over him. I didn’t think I missed him anymore. I was
more hurt by his and Ashlynn’s betrayal.
Speaking of Ashlynn, she rang my phone while I was at work. I actually missed the call instead of
ignoring her. I deleted the message she left me before even listening to it. She didn’t call me as often as
she used to, thank God. I didn’t feel like listening to her talk about her fashion boutique her parents
were going to start for her in Grand Rapids. Yuck, how did I end up being in the same city as her again?
My mind drifted, this time to beautiful blue green eyes. Closing my eyes I wondered what he
was like. From the little bit I saw, he was completely different from his brother Nathan. Maybe he was
more like his mother? His father had to be like Nathan, charismatic and to the point. Any successful
My fingers were pruned by the time I got out of the hot tub. I felt so relaxed, and my feet didn’t
hurt nearly as bad as they had when I walked in the door. After a steaming hot shower, I curled up in
bed and went to sleep, dreaming of cold blue green eyes.
The next few days were the same. I was establishing a rather dull routine compared to the
normal 24 year old. I would get up, go to work, go to the gym, come home, eat dinner, sit in the hot tub,
shower, and go to bed. I only saw Tyler once and tried not to be distracted by his appearance, whether
it was from seeing him or daydreaming. I’m sure once Jamie got here my life would liven up a bit. She
always seemed to perk up my life. It was Friday, and I was cleaning my dinner mess. Typically I would
be getting ready for a crazy night with Jamie, doing my makeup dark and sexy, wearing tight jeans and a
semi revealing tank. Right now, I was wearing black running shorts and a gray t-shirt. I went into my
office to go through a box of things I still hadn’t unpacked. It was full of my college projects. I really
should throw them away. I won’t ever need them, and they were nothing compared to what I was
working on for Conklin. I ran across a familiar print. It was my final project in my first blue-printing
class. My eyes started to water when I realized what it was. I gently unrolled the prints out onto my
drafting table. It was a house I had dreamed of building. It was going to be Connor’s and mine.
It was a ranch, roughly 3,000 square feet on the main floor. There were three bedrooms and a
master bathroom. A tear slipped down my cheek when I read, “nursery”, “kid bedroom #1”, and “kid
bedroom #2” with reading nooks in each room. I wasn’t ready at the time to have kids, but I still wanted
them. The rest of the plans included an office with a tall ceiling library for Connor, a drafting room in
the basement level for me, a formal dining room and a breakfast nook just around the kitchen, and a
large fish tank separating the kitchen and the living room. I even made an extra space off the living
room for a large Christmas tree. The separate space was surrounded by windows, so the tree would be
dominantly visible from the outside as well as the inside. Connor wanted to have a humidor room in the
basement along with a wine cellar. The basement had a bar and a home theater. Connor also loved
dogs, so we had to have a dog room. I didn’t like them, but it was all he wanted when he would have a
yard for it to play in, so I said okay. This plan was my life and that bitch Ashlynn took it from me. I
started to crinkle up the plans in a fit of sobs. I quickly stopped and took a deep breath. I wasn’t going
to dwell on this anymore. I needed to make a new dream, even if it was only for me.
I rolled up the plans and put them in my travel tube. Quickly throwing on jeans and a sweat
shirt, I headed out the door to go into my office at Conklin. The lighting and supplies were better there,
and Will did say the building was open 24/7. I doubted they would care if I worked on something
personal at 8:00pm on a Friday. Is this what my new life would be? Friday nights at the office? I would
turn into my father, a working machine. No. This doesn’t count. I’m doing something for fun, not work.
If I had a family it would be different. I would be at home with them.
I walked quickly in the crisp fall air. It was starting to get colder. Soon I would have to bust out
my winter jacket and boots. The thought made me wince. I really didn’t like snow, and hopefully they
plowed the sidewalks.
My phone rang during my walk, and I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at the screen. It was
Ashlynn . Click. Not in the mood to hear her rant about her perfect life.
I showed my ID to the security guard who looked less than thrilled to be on duty. He sighed and
handed me my ID back.
“Enjoy your evening,” he said gloomily.
When I got to my department floor, it was dark and silent on either side of the elevator. I
walked past the reception desk and the lights slowly popped on. I brought the plans and set them to the
side. I might as well start a fresh; I wasn’t going to need kids’ rooms, or at least I wasn’t going to title
them as kids’ rooms. I put my ear buds in and plugged them into my phone and buried myself into
making a new dream home while listening to Panic! at the Disco.
Listening to Panic was a stupid idea. One of their songs reminded me of my “first time.” It
wasn’t with Connor, which is I’m sure what everyone assumed. It was my senior year, after prom, and
not with my prom date. We had a mutual understanding the rest of the summer. But he, Gage Stark,
sure knew how to make my blood swell. I had way more sparks with him than with Connor; I’d never
admit it though. He had even called me after he heard I had broken up with Connor, offering his
sympathy. Ok, so I had a fling with him when I came back home a few times within the year I took off.
The thought of calling him crossed my mind, but I swiftly pushed it out. I couldn’t start my new life by
calling a former class mate for casual sex, no matter how good it was with him. I tried to not let the
song take me back to Gage and shook my head as if that would take me out of the sudden urges I was
beginning to feel. Just as I took a deep breath and put my hand on my head, I noticed Tyler Conklin
resting his elbow on the side of my cubicle with an amused look on his face.
I quickly sat up, startled by his presence. I yanked the ear buds from my ears and said, “You
scared me!” My heart was racing. Not only from being startled, but because this man was way too
attractive for anyone’s wellbeing.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. I was coming to grab some plans from the residential department
and noticed the light was on in here. I thought I would check it out. Isn’t it a little late for you to be
“Yeah…I was just…um…” I didn’t know what to say. I was in his building working on personal
things using his supplies. I was suddenly aware that this might look bad. I tried to not look flustered.
His eyes lit up as he peered down at my drawing. “Working on a dream house? I think every
architect has a few of these.” He came over to me and leaned over the desk to get a better look. I was
trying not to seem embarrassed.
“Oh, it’s nothing, just a few ideas…” I blurted, starting to roll up the plans.
“Don’t worry, you are welcome to use your space for stuff like this, even if it is at,” he looked
down at his watch, “11:00 at night.”
Holy crap, was it really that late? I guess I did dive right into what I was doing. I wasn’t even
tired. I hadn’t stayed up this late since I moved back to Michigan.
My shoulders slouched, “Thanks. I just didn’t really have anything else to do, and well, I needed
to make some big changes,” I said, my eyes drifting to the original plans. His eyes followed mine.
“Not in need for kids’ rooms?” He smirked.
I tried to hide my blush. What an inappropriate thing to ask! I barely knew him! He noticed my
uncomforting reaction. “I’m sorry; I probably just offended your boyfriend,” he laughed, trying to
lighten the mood.
“Well, there’s no boyfriend to offend.”
Shoot, maybe I said that too fast.
His eyes suddenly looked intense. They were blue today, probably because he was wearing a
blue dress shirt, no tie, with the top button undone. He had more questions I could tell.
“You sound a bit bitter.”
I furrowed my eye brows at him; did he really just ask me that?
Again he noticed my reaction and tried to recover from his question, “I’m sorry, that was a bit
harsh of me to say, but you clearly had someone?”
Why is he probing?
“Yes. I did, but that was a while ago. I don’t really like to talk about it.” I said, hoping that would
be enough of an answer for him. Not that I needed to even give him an answer. This was all a bit deep
for my liking.
He scratched his chin as if he were contemplating. “I was going to go grab something to eat,
would you like to join me?”
Wow, quick change of subject! I guess that was what I wanted anyway, to talk about anything
other than my awful love life.
“Sure,” I answered without thinking. I stood up to get my things together. Tyler stood patiently
waiting, not taking his eyes off of me. As I felt his eyes boring into me I suddenly remembered what I
looked like. I was wearing jeans and a zip-up hoodie, and I didn’t bother with makeup after my shower.
I probably only had a hint of eyeliner left on my eyes. I became self-conscious; did I even make sure I
didn’t have any eyeliner smudged under my eyes? I quickly wiped under my eyes while looking the
opposite way of him. My hair was thrown up into a pony tail; thank God I blew my hair dry so at least
my bangs looked decent. But it wasn’t like he was asking me out on a date or anything. He probably
felt how I felt; we were put in a weird conversation and he was looking for an out. My brows furrowed
at the thought.
“Everything ok? Do you need a hand with anything?” He said, gaging my reaction to my
“I’m fine, let’s go,” I mumbled, avoiding looking at his beautiful eyes.
We walked to the elevator, which was still on our floor. Turns out we were the only ones who
didn’t have lives outside of work, but then again, it was 11:00pm.
“So where were you thinking of going?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“There’s a coffee shop six blocks down by Rosa Parks Circle that has good sandwiches if you
don’t mind the walk.”
“Sounds great,” I lied, not really hungry. I hadn’t eaten late at night for a long time. Not since
Connor and I broke up. Jamie caught me with a pint of ice cream watching The Notebook one night
shortly after the break up.
So why am I going out for food with him if I’m not hungry? I thought to myself. He is way out of
my league, and I’m 99% positive he was not interested in me in that way. Maybe he was lonely too?
We were the only ones left in the building besides the unfriendly security guard who quickly sat up
straight when he noticed I was with Tyler.
“Have a good evening Mr. Conklin!” He said with an overly friendly smile.
Tyler gave him a stiff nod and opened the door for me. We walked in silence until we were
three blocks away at a stop light.
“So…do you always work so late on a Friday?” I asked, trying to make the air a little more
He smiled and looked at the ground, “Not always. I had some plans that needed to be reviewed
by Monday, and I am taking a flight to Chicago early tomorrow morning and won’t be back until
Wednesday. What about you? There are quite a few clubs around here that seem popular.”
I shrugged. The light turned to walk, and we both started to move, “I’m not into the club scene
anymore. And honestly, I don’t really know too many people yet. My roommate is on her way here
from Florida.” She better be here by at least tomorrow.
“Not anymore?” He questioned. We stopped at the next stop light. I looked up at him, trying to
gage why he was so curious about me. I felt like he knew what my past was, but was trying to hear it
come out of my mouth. Maybe it was just my weird way of always relating everything I used to be, to
everything that was thrown in front of me.
“No,” I simply said. He didn’t need to know anything more. He looked at me as if waiting for me
to keep explaining. “Everyone needs to grow up at some point, right?” I chuckled softly.
His serious gaze turned into a smile. “I suppose you’re right. I never was into the club scene
myself,” he stated as we walked along the sidewalk.
My phone rang again. Ashlynn’s picture popped up on the screen. I really needed to change
that. Tyler saw me look, but didn’t say anything as I put the phone back in my pocket after ignoring her
call a second time.
We made it to the coffee shop that was surprisingly full for a Friday evening. I guess they had
just finished with a poetry reading.
“What would you like?” Tyler asked, putting his hands in his pockets.
“I’m actually just going to have a peach iced tea.” I really wanted a hot chocolate, but I was
afraid of the calories.
“Are you sure? Aren’t you hungry?” He said furrowing his eyebrows at me. It was 11:20pm,
way past dinner time. Why was he so thrown off I wasn’t going to eat anything? Shit, maybe he was
wondering why I even bothered to come with him if I wasn’t going to eat. “Not even a cookie?” I hadn’t
had a cookie in a year, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to have one now.
“No, I’m really not hungry,” hopefully I didn’t sound too embarrassed.
He shook his head and started to order. I dug into my bag to find my wallet, but by the time I
had gotten to it he had already paid and handed me the tea.
“You didn’t have to pay for that,” I said.
He gave me a crazy look. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve already bought tea for someone else
this week, let me do the same for you,” he said as his furrowed brows turned into a grin. I stopped in
my tracks and thought for a moment. What was he talking about?
“Are you going to stand there and look confused or are you going to join me?” He chuckled.
Then it hit me.
“You! You and Nathan were at the coffee shop that morning!” I exclaimed in sudden realization,
sitting in the chair across from him.
“Yes, we were. I kept trying to figure out where I had seen you before when we were at the
meeting. Sorry if I stared at you,” he laughed, then suddenly looked towards his lap as if in deep
A slow smile crept across my face. So he was staring at me. No, he was just trying to figure out
who I was and nothing more. Hopefully he didn’t realize who my father was.
“It was a very nice gesture. Do you always do things like that?” He asked quizzically.
“I don’t know; it just seemed like the right thing to do. The poor lady was flustered and couldn’t
find her money, the guy behind her was being a jerk, and her kid was hungry,” I stated. I really didn’t
think anything of it; the lady needed a break, and I was able to give her one.
“Most people would have just been annoyed. Luckily we were in the other line or Nathan would
have lost his patience.” He chuckled.
“If I remember correctly, Nathan was oblivious, lost in a conversation on his phone.”
He laughed, “Nathan is always oblivious while he is on the phone.” Tyler leaned back in his seat
and stared at me with a grin. I couldn’t help but grin back at him. His smile was infectious.
My phone started to buzz again. Tyler looked down towards my pocket as he took another bite
of his sandwich. I silenced it without looking at it.
“So are you close with your brothers?” I asked, trying to ignore my phone.
“I guess you could say so, more Nathan than Mitch. Mitch and I don’t always see eye to eye. He
is a lot like my father,” he grumbled.
“What is your father like?” Now I was the one asking inappropriate questions.
He looked torn, as if he wasn’t sure he was going to answer me. “My father is very…controlling.
He wants to control our lives without actually being in them.”
“I know what that feels like.” I muttered.
“Oh? I thought Maxwell Stine was a family man?” Shit. He knew the relation. My eyes
widened. I didn’t know how to respond.
“I am assuming you are related. He does have a daughter named Rebecca, or so I’ve read.”
I grimaced. “What exactly have you read?” He tilted his head to the side, as if surprised I didn’t
know what he was talking about.
“There was an article in the paper about the expansion on the arena. The reporter asked your
dad if he had signed with a contractor yet, and he said he was going to ask his daughter who just
received a job at Conklin Architecture. ”
My face paled as my eyes opened even wider. Holy shit, why would my dad say that? My cover
was gone. People would know I was back in Grand Rapids. I knew it would happen eventually, but I
thought I would have at least a month of peace. My reaction must have answered his question.
“Hey, don’t worry about it. The arena would be a great project for us to pick up,” he said trying
to meet my eyes. He had a sincere grin on his face.
My phone buzzed again. I rolled my eyes and threw my head to the side, “I’m sorry…” I
murmured as I reached for my phone. This time it wasn’t a phone call; it was a picture message. I
looked in horror as I saw a delicate hand with a huge diamond on its ring finger. The name above the
picture was Ashlynn. Holy fuck.
I felt like my chest was going to cave in. My eyes were glued to the screen on my phone, as my
eyebrows furrowed in, rage? Shock? Pain? I didn’t know what I was feeling.
“Is everything alright? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Tyler asked with concern.
I couldn’t speak right away. I set my phone on the table and covered my eyes with my hands.
Tyler grabbed my phone and looked at the screen.
“Is there a reason why an engagement ring would upset you so much?” He questioned.
I peeked at him through my hands and sighed, “It’s extremely complicated.”
He cocked his head at me, “I’m sure I can keep up.” Did I really want to let him into my crazy
past? Why was he so interested anyway?
Probably because you just fell apart in front of him because of a text message.
He looked at me and willed me to explain the text. I took a deep breath and started to talk.
“It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I hadn’t dated the man who asked her to marry him.”
Dated wasn’t the right word, madly in love with was. Or at least I thought I was madly in love with him.
His eyes softened a little and urged me to continue talking.
“The girl is a childhood friend. It is a really messed up situation. I dated him, Connor, for three
years. We went to college together and so did Ashlynn… the girl. I guess somehow we drifted apart and
Ashlynn managed to fill the gap.”
“Did he cheat on you?” Tyler’s voice was stern.
“And she is texting you a picture of her engagement ring?” He was baffled.
“She still wants to be best friends,” I whispered.
“How long ago did this happen?”
I kept my eyes on the table. “I walked in on them sleeping together just before my last semester
of my Master’s. It was about a year and a half ago.”
His jaw dropped. “And she is still sending you text messages? Does she try to contact you
“I told you, she wants to be best friends still.”
“How the hell can she still be your best friend? She took your boyfriend of three years! Why
don’t you change your number?” He exclaimed.
The truth? “I guess I don’t want to make her feel bad.”
Tyler looked at me dumbfounded with his beautiful eyes. “Becca, what she did to you is un-
forgivable. It’s time to cut the cord.”
A small smile crept on my lips. He sounded like Jamie. She is going to freak when I show her
this. My small smile slowly turned into a frown. That was supposed to be my diamond. I suddenly felt
the uncontrollable urge to cry.
Fighting tears in my eyes, I said, “It’s getting late, would you be offended if I left?”
“No, not at all. Let me walk you back to your car in the building ramp.” His voice went from
anger to velvet.
“I actually walk to work. I have a condo at River House. You don’t have to walk me; you haven’t
even finished your food.”
Tyler snorted, “It’s after midnight, of course I will walk you. Do you know how many homeless
people and drunks are out there at this hour on a Friday night?”
I stood up and grabbed my bag. “Thank you.” I could barely talk. His eyes softened at me.
Right then and there I wanted him to wrap his arms around me. They looked big and strong, no doubt
he worked out.
We walked silently down the streets, passing random groups of friends laughing and having a
good time. I tried to not look miserable, but I couldn’t help but let my mind go to Connor and Ashlynn.
No doubt she would want a big wedding here. She would probably even want me to be in the wedding.
I couldn’t stomach that. The thought made tears fall from my eyes. I was falling apart in front of this
gorgeous man that I had just met and better yet, he was my boss’s boss. What a way to start a working
We walked through AH-Nab-Awen Park along the Grand River. I needed to get my mind off of
this mess. I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind once I gained my composure. “You said
you were going to Chicago tomorrow. Do you go there often?”
“I get there at least once a week. My father is normally there. Nathan and I tend to monitor
Grand Rapids and Cleveland more often. Nathan and I part ways and take turns going between Chicago
and Cleveland,” he said coolly.
“And your brother Mitchell?” I asked.
“He bounces from city to city. He is an on-site kind of guy. He has no business being in the
buildings. His assistant handles his work. Our construction would fall apart if it weren’t for Tony.”
I could tell by Tyler’s tone he was easily irritated with his little brother. Mitchell was probably
only 23 or 24, around my age. I couldn’t imagine being in charge of an entire department. I had enough
on my plate being a junior architect. Then I thought of Tyler. He was only 28, and he managed one of
the most successful firms in the mid-west.
“It must be a lot of pressure, for all of you.” I said. He stopped walking and leaned on the bar
separating us from the river.
“It’s not that bad, we all manage. It was a lot easier when my grandfather was around. He was
a very good example at how to handle the company. My father… not so much.” He sighed.
He looked so sad all of the sudden. I instantly felt like I was intruding on his feelings by his facial
emotions. I needed to change the subject again.
“The river is very pretty at night. I love how the lights hit the water from the city.”
Tyler looked over to me and smiled. I think he knew I was trying to change the subject. How did
we keep getting into these intimate conversations? We barely knew each other!
“Yes, it is.” His grin was mischievous. It felt like it had inner meaning.
“What?” I had a puzzled look on my face.
“Nothing. Shall we keep walking?” He shook his head with the same grin on his face and
stepped away from the railing.
I started to blush and began walking again.
We finally made it to the entrance of my condo building. “Thank you for walking me,” I said
looking up at him.
“It was my pleasure,” he smiled then turned serious. “Are you going to be okay?”
I studied his face, trying to let what he asked me sink in. “Yeah I will be fine. Nothing a good
soak in the tub and some wine can’t fix. Sorry for kind of losing it back there. What a way to impress
my boss, eh?” I joked.
He was still serious. “Well, if you want to talk, you can call me. I won’t sleep until I get on the
plane at 6:00am.”
Won’t sleep? The plane ride to Chicago was only 45 minutes, how could he only work on 45
minutes of sleep?
Tyler held his hand out to me. I didn’t understand what he wanted. “Let me put my number in
your phone.” His eyes became intense. I was hypnotized by them and reached in my pocket to hand
him my phone. Once he was done he handed it back to me, and I heard his phone ring.
I narrowed my eyes playfully at him, “Just in case you need to talk to me? I must warn you, I will
be sleeping and may not answer.”
He bit his lip, trying to hide his smirk. “I just don’t like unknown numbers. But, I will keep in
mind that you like to sleep.”
“And…you don’t?” I asked.
“I sleep. That’s what Sundays are for.”
We looked down at our feet laughing then looked up at the same time and caught each other’s
eyes. If I were in my old ways, I would ask him to come upstairs. But I was starting anew, and… he was
my boss! I had to remember that. Fraternizing with management was never a good idea. Jamie did it
once, and it ended badly.
“Well, I should let you get to your bath. Please only drown your sorrows and nothing else,” he
“Have a good night.” He lifted his hand as though he was going to touch my elbow, but quickly
brought it back to his side, his eyes never leaving mine. I turned to walk to the front entrance and
pushed in my code to enter the building.
I turned my head to see him standing at the edge of the street. “The guy you dated, he was an
idiot for cheating on you.” His eyes burned into me as he said it, and his lips slipped into a grin as he
turned to walk away.
Omg!!!Can't wait to read all the book!!I hope very soon :D