- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
On her way to Tampa Commerce Bank this morning, to finalize her investment portfolio and deposit the money into her bank account, she had stopped at a nearby copy center to make a copy of the check for her records, and to prove to anyone who might not believe her story, that she had once possessed such a sum.
Now, the numbers shifted and blurred before her eyes, making her feel slightly dizzy and she wasn't sure if this sudden sense of euphoria was from the two aspirin she had taken earlier or the four cups of coffee she had drunk. Or maybe she was just overly excited that at last, her claim against Dorchester Elevators was settled and she could get on with her life.
It had been nearly a year since the accident, although it seemed like yesterday to Skylar, a paralegal who had been in and out of the Hillsborough County Courthouse thousands of times without ever thinking twice about stepping into its aging, temperamental elevators. For eight years, she had worked with many of the court-appointed lawyers and knew the building and its staff very well. In fact the courthouse had been like a second home to her, where she sometimes spent ten to twelve hours a day.
But her comfort level changed drastically on a cool December morning when she delivered a routine envelope of documents to Judge Flores on the tenth floor. After dropping off the package, she had chatted briefly with the judge's secretaryand then entered the tenth floor elevator, expecting to head back into the courtroom. But she never made it back to work that day. As soon as the double doors slid closed, the car had rattled and jerked a few times and then spiraled downward, crashing to the basement floor, taking Skylar and six other terrified passengers to the bottom of the shaft.
One man had been killed, a teenage girl's legs had been so badly broken that she would never walk again, and the other passengers had suffered serious cuts and bruises, emerging shaken, but alive. Skylar, who had escaped with a shattered elbow and a fractured pelvis, knew she should feel relieved that both of her injuries had healed without complications—unless being unable to carry a child to term could be called a complication.
Now, after eleven months of sheer hell, the accident remained a nagging blur that she struggled to keep out of her mind, one that caused migraine headaches that her doctor insisted were a result of stress, and not from any of her injuries.
"Okay, Mr. Ray, where do I sign?" Skylar asked, coming back to the moment as she accepted a pen from her financial consultant.
"At the top. On the back, Skylar," Mr. Ray replied, watching as she turned the check over and wrote her name in a flowing script across the top part of the check.
Sitting back, Skylar let her body go limp, sighing aloud, as if expelling a tiresome burden from her soul. "So, I'm all set?"
"You sure are," Mr. Ray replied in a satisfied tone.
"Your after-tax settlement of three and a half million dollars is now safely invested in a diversified portfolio that will keep you financially healthy for a long time to come. Your condo is paid for, as is your car. You have no outstanding credit card debt, and you have seventy-five thousand dollars in your personal checking account."
Leaning forward over the table, Skylar pressed out her lower lip, narrowed her smoky black eyes at Mr. Ray and propped a fist under her softly rounded chin. "So, I can hit the mall and shop till I drop when I leave here, huh?" she joked, eager to shake off the unsettling seriousness of the meeting. Ever since the accident it seemed as if she had had nothing but one serious, angst-filled discussion after another with a stream of doctors, therapists, lawyers, insurance representatives and bankers. Finally, the negotiations were over. She could believe that the money was hers. She had actually received a mind-blowing settlement from Dorchester for all of her pain and suffering.
"Well," Mr. Ray stated, studying Skylar over the top of his small rectangular glasses. "Yes you can go shopping, but you do need to be prudent in your long-term spending. You're only thirty-five years old, Skylar, and you're going to be around for a lot of years. A settlement of several million dollars doesn't last as long as most people think. The money will grow if you let it, but not if you spend as if there's no limit or make risky investments. I know you're a practical young lady, but even sensible people can lose sight of what's important when they come into the kind of money you now have."
"I know. I was just joking, really," Skylar tossed back, giving the too-somber banker a hint of a smile as he paper clipped the check to the top of a manila folder and pocketed his Mont Blanc pen.
"I'll be right back with your deposit slip," he said, before stepping out of the room.
Skylar sat back in her chair, thinking about the banker's comment. Risky investments? Nothing to worry about there. That's not my style at all. Unless I count Lewis Monroe.
With a silent groan, she let her thoughts slip to Lewis, the man in whom she had invested three years of her life, an investment that had brought her absolutely no return. In fact, she'd been left with a hole in her heart so large she was certain it would never heal. Just thinking about him brought on a surge of pain. Their final argument still made her wince whenever she let it into her head. How long had he been sleeping with that flashy, weave-wearing model before she found out? The entire time that Skylar had been in the hospital? Even before? He had never had the guts to tell her.
Memories of Lewis's devastating betrayal pushed stinging, hot tears into Skylar's eyes. How could he have treated their relationship in such an off-handed manner after making her believe that they had been in a committed, exclusive relationship? She had known they were headed to the altar and had begun to mentally prepare the wedding. But he had trashed all of that with his cheating, low-life self. And he'd even had the nerve to act insulted when she refused to forgive him and give him fifty-thousand dollars to expand Thredz, his urban menswear shop.
What a jerk, she thought. Lewis Monroe will never get his hands on a dime of my money no matter how many times he apologizes or begs for my forgiveness. He was history, and she was damn glad to be rid of him. From now on she planned to focus on one thing, herself, and not the pain and humiliation of the past.
When Mr. Ray returned and handed Skylar her deposit slip, he extended his hand and wished her luck, clearly ready to move on to his next client.
"Thanks, Mr. Ray," Skylar told him, shouldering her new Coach purse as she prepared to leave. "I'm really glad my mother recommended you. I don't know what I'd have done without your help."
Mr. Ray leveled a fatherly expression on Skylar, causing the age lines in his dark brown face to soften. He raised his bushy eyebrows, which were heavily sprinkled with gray and focused on Skylar for a long moment. "You're level-headed, just like your father was. I'm sure you're going to make the right choices and have a long, happy, love-filled life." He shook her hand and added, before leaving, "Next time you speak to your mother, give her my regards."
"I will," Skylar promised, thinking that her father, who had been cautious about everything he did, and especially how he spent his money, would have been proud of the way she was handling things.
Herbert Webster had worked as an accountant for a chain of convenience stores for twenty years before dropping dead of a heart attack at his desk at the age of forty-two. He'd preached his belief to Skylar and her sister, Deena, many times: avoiding risky situations would keep them grounded, safe and in control of their lives. Taking unnecessary chances was foolish. Stick with what you know—that had been his motto, and Skylar had taken it to heart at a very early age.
After Mr. Ray walked away, Skylar stared down at the packet of papers in her hands, relieved that her money was safe. She hoped Mr. Ray's prediction about her having a long, love-filled life would come true, but somehow doubted it would. Her messy break-up with Lewis had undermined her confidence in the romance department—and the realization unnerved Skylar. She had never before felt so unsure about her future as far as men were concerned.
Knowing she had to get going, Skylar left the conference room, exiting through the glass doors that led to the elevator, and walked right into an open car. Taking a deep breath, she pushed Lobby and told herself that nothing was going to happen. After all, what were the odds of experiencing two elevator crashes in a lifetime? she wondered, glancing at the mirrored wall, pleased with her reflection.
Clear tea-colored skin. Shiny black hair that was twisted into springy locks that cupped her face. Prominent cheek bones and a softly defined jaw. Smoky black eyes that stared back at her, though she felt as if she were looking at a stranger who was fifteen pounds thinner than this time last year. And she was wearing a muted aqua pants suit trimmed in black leather that had cost three hundred-fifty-five dollars more than she had ever spent on a piece of clothing in her life. It felt weird to realize that from now on, she could buy anything she wanted.
A happy love-filled life? So far, things sure don't seem to be going that way. I suffer from migraines. I can't have children. The man I thought I would marry one day cheated on me and then had the nerve to ask me for a loan. And now that I'm rich, Tanya and Loretta, my two best girlfriends no longer call or invite me to hang out with them. What good is cash in the bank when my life feels so empty?
"Deena, it's all so strange. Suddenly being rich," Skylar confessed to her sister over the phone. At one time she and Deena had been content to talk to each other on the phone a few times a year and send e-mails back and forth now and then, but since Skylar's hospitalization last year, the two had grown very close, chatting almost daily.
As soon as Deena learned about her sister's accident she had flown in from Colorado and stayed with Skylar until she had been out of danger and able to manage on her own. Now, she was back in Colorado and back to managing the ski school that she and her husband ran.
"Yesterday, I met with Mr. Ray and settled everything with the bank," Skylar went on. "My money is properly invested and my checking account is flush. And Mr. Ray was so nice. He really helped me figure out what I needed to do."
"And what are you going to do with yourself now that you don't have to worry about holding down a job?" Deena asked.
"I don't know, but I do know it feels damn good not to have to jump out of bed and hit the freeway in the morning."
"Nothing stopping you from going to law school then," Deena prompted. "You put it off after college because you had to get a job and support yourself, but why not do it now? Seems like the perfect time to go for it."
Skylar let the phone remain silent for a long pause. After graduating from the University of Tampa with a degree in business economics, she had wanted to go on to law school, but hadn't had the funds. After she was hired as a paralegal with the county court system, she became comfortable with her position and accustomed to a regular pay check. Even though she had the money and the time to study law full-time now, did she really want to take on such a demanding academic challenge?
Finally, she told Deena, "I do want to study law, but something like that takes time and planning. Maybe down the road, I'll go for it, but not right now. For the first time in my life I have no one to answer to, so I ought to be in heaven, but I'm feeling kind of at loose ends. Too free?" She thought about her remark and then asked, "Does that sound strange?"
"No, I'm not surprised," Deena replied. "Who wouldn't feel lost after all you've been through? Weeks in the hospital. Then months at that rehab place. A crazy legal battle with Dorchester. And then all that mess with Lewis." When Skylar didn't say anything, Deena went on. "Please tell me it's over with him, Skylar. You can't even think about taking him back."
"I know, I know," Skylar murmured into the phone.
"It's over. Don't worry."
"But I do. You hung on to him way too long to begin with. He never was right for you. I'm just sorry that it ended with you getting hurt."
"We had some good times," Skylar defended, while knowing her sister spoke the truth. Now that the relationship was over, Skylar could look back and see that she and Lewis had never been really compatible. In the beginning, he had been attentive, charming, great in bed. But as the months passed, they had settled in to a routine that was satisfying and safe. She had known what to expect from him, and it had been easier to hold on to the man she was with than strike out to find someone new. Stick with what you know, her father had always told her, and now she guessed that was what she had done for most of the important decisions in her life.
"Skylar, you got dumped by a man you loved and trusted. While you were in the hospital, too! No way can he ever justify that."
"You don't have to remind me," Skylar tossed back, imagining that Deena was leaning into the phone, eyes wide with anger as she lectured her baby sister.
Posted July 21, 2008
I've been turned off by most contemporary romances lately. It's getting impossible to simply pick up a book and read it, where the end is The End. They all seem to connect to a gazillion other books, and they usually feature sisters and brothers and cousins, all with their own stories. So many of them seem the same: The obligatory family get-together where everyone is introduced, usually with characters whose names start with the same letter. It's really taken a lot of my enjoyment out of romance. I've always enjoyed Anita Bunkley's work. She brings her usual high standards to category romance. This is actually the first book of a series, but I have no idea of what characters the other books will feature, but it's a bet that it won't be other family members, since the hero is an only child and the heroine's sister is married. Ms. Bunkley might make the connection between the stories the Colorado ski lodge where this story was set, and I think that's just great. I think I might just keep reading when the next in the series is released in September.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2008
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Posted May 25, 2011
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