Since I’m a woman of my word…here is the first Chapter titled I’ll Try. If you haven’t read the prologue first, you can do it here.
Twelve years later
Nick pulled out his suitcase and started to throw clothes at random into it, ignoring his younger sister sitting on his bed. “You don’t need to do this, Nick.”
“I do. It’s best for everyone if I just leave town for a while.”
“How long is a while?” Rene asked, reaching into his suitcase and folding the clothes he was tossing in.
“I don’t know—does it matter?”
He opened another drawer and grabbed some shorts without looking, then tossed them toward the bed, where they half landed in the suitcase, half on the floor.
Rene pushed her glasses up on her nose, then reached over and picked up his shorts. “I guess not. Where are you going?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“You don’t need to leave, Nick,” she said, trying to convince him not to, but it wasn’t going to work.
His mind was made up and his sister of all people should know when Nick had his mind made up, nothing would ever change it. Stubborn was a word she’d often used when describing him.
“You know better than that. A few weeks, maybe a month and things will settle down. It’s better for me to not be seen.”
“No one hates you.”
“Again, you know better than that,” he said softly.
He walked into his bathroom and started grabbing products haphazardly in there, too. He’d buy the rest of what he needed. It didn’t matter at this point.
“It’s not like you left her at the altar.”
Calling the wedding off a week before was just as bad—he knew that. But he couldn’t go through with it…he couldn’t force himself to marry Kendra. She deserved better than what he could give her.
“Nick,” Rene said, standing up and marching toward him, then stopping. She barely reached his shoulders but still gripped them tight with her small hands. She’d gotten her tiny build from their grandmother. “You can’t run from this.”
“I’m not running. I’m giving Kendra time to adjust without having to see me. It’s the least I can do.”
“So you’re leaving for Kendra’s sake?”
For both of us, but he didn’t say that. Instead he just shrugged and took a step away. “I appreciate the concern, but I need to do this.”
“Are you hoping she’ll leave while you’re gone?”
“Leave town or work?” He hoped both, but knew it wouldn’t happen and it was cowardly to think that.
“She’ll never leave this city and you know that. Work. Are you hoping she’ll quit while you’re gone and you won’t have to face her?”
“Why would Kendra want to continue to work for me? She was already planning on being off this week to get ready for the wedding, and who knows if she’ll come back? I don’t want to be there when she does. If she does. She should be able to make that decision without me being in the building breathing down her neck. I’m trying to make it easier for her right now. Maybe she’ll come to the decision to leave on her own. I was wrong, I know it; everyone knows it. The least I can do is let her try to save face.”
“Nick, not wanting to marry someone doesn’t make you wrong.”
He didn’t want Rene’s sympathy. He didn’t need it.
What he needed was to breathe and he couldn’t do that right now, right here, or even in this city. “I’ll check in with you tomorrow. Don’t worry.”
“Who’s going to run the company while you’re gone? You can’t just walk away from it.”
“I’m not walking away. I’m on the road more often than I’m in the office anyway. This is no different. Dad is going to step in while I’m gone. I just talked to him.”
“Dad? You’re leaving Dad in control. Is that smart?”
“Dad knows what he’s doing. He’s bored with retirement, he’s been a manager for years, and he can handle the day-to-day operation of things. Anything else, I’ll be reachable like I always am. Why, do you want the job?” he asked, smirking at her.
It was no secret his sister couldn’t stand computers or technology and barely touched them unless necessary. Which was funny, considering Nick was one of the top software developers in the US, with employees and branches scattered across multiple states. He could work from anywhere and had. All he needed was his laptop.
Stopping in his tracks, he moved back to his closet and grabbed a few pairs of pants and shirts, then flung them toward Rene too. He doubted he’d need them, but he still didn’t know where he was going.
He’d always been casual in the office, even as the President and CEO of NB Innovations. No time like the present to visit his branches, but casual or not, he drew the line at T-shirts and shorts, so he should have something presentable to wear.
“Are you done questioning me?” Nick asked his sister. “I want to get on the road.”
“Yeah.” He’d just decided it. Why bother flying? He had no clue where to go first and he detested spending time in airports.
Rene inhaled deeply, walked over to him, and gave him a big hug. “I love you, Nick. Don’t beat yourself up too much about this. People make mistakes.”
“It’s not a mistake. I’m not going to change my mind,” he said, his face set.
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I know. Again, I appreciate everything you and Mom and Dad have said and done since I told Kendra yesterday. Dad is letting the venue know, along with all the guests. I’m sorry to dump everything on you, but I can’t leave it for Kendra.”
He knew his eyes were filling, and he didn’t want his sister to think he was weak, but he was emotional. Part of him would always love Kendra, but not the way he should be, not in love. Not as a husband should.
“We’ll take care of it. You go take care of yourself.”
“I’ll try.” Though he didn’t know the first thing he could or should do.
He walked over and shoved the rest of his clothes that Rene hadn’t folded into his suitcase and zipped it up. He threw another bag of miscellaneous items over his shoulder along with his laptop bag and walked toward the door of his bedroom, then turned to look at his sister sitting on the bed once more. “Lock up for me and keep an eye on the house, please.”
“You know I will,” Rene said, knuckling a tear. “Don’t forget to call me tomorrow.”
Nick nodded and walked out the door, down the stairs and to his car. He tossed everything in the trunk, climbed in, started the engine and pulled away as fast as he could, never looking back.
In the last two weeks, Nick had visited two of his branches and gotten a head start on a new software program he’d been envisioning for years. Maybe the break out of the office was what he needed.
He’d been more productive than he could remember lately. Whether it was because he was trying to put the canceled wedding and Kendra behind and just focus on work or it was relief, he didn’t know.
He knew that had been a big issue before…that he’d focused on work more than Kendra. That sometimes when they were in the same room together she’d say, “Nick, you’re not paying attention to me.”
She knew he had a lot on his plate. She was the one who was always saying, “Let me do that for you.” Then she’d give him more work to do in its place. They never spent time together alone. They never relaxed, no matter how many times he wanted to do it. Sometimes she pushed him more than he pushed himself, and he realized now it wasn’t healthy. Not for their relationship and not for him as person.
So he needed to leave Richmond to put it behind him for now. He’d driven to St. Louis and met up with several developers there. They talked about what everyone was working on and he stayed in a hotel for five days, pushing to see if they shared the same vision he had.
His next stop was Salt Lake City, where he did the same thing—rode his staff hard, kept his mind off his personal life, and got down to business.
He talked to his mother, father, and sister just about every day. He knew the business was running as smoothly as normal. Anything his father couldn’t handle, he passed along to Nick or other senior management, but it wasn’t much. He had a good team and they ran everything well without him.
His father, John, had told him Kendra had indeed returned to work this week, but there were rumors she was looking for another job. Nick left instructions with his father to help her in any way he could.
Kendra had been hired years ago as his executive assistant. She was perfect for him. She had the uncanny skill of knowing what he needed and when, without ever having to be told.
Years ago, all those late nights and business trips, being in close proximity of each other, led to something more. Then before he knew it, they were engaged.
He’d like to think he finally realized the error of his ways before making it official, but that didn’t stop the pain and the hurt he’d caused her, and himself.
With visits to St. Louis and Salt Lake City behind him, he was unsure of his next move. He wasn’t ready to go back to Richmond, but didn’t have it in him to stop at his last branch in Atlanta.
With as much work as he’d been doing, he was burned out. He needed to clear his head. There was only one place to do that, and one person who would snap him out of it, so he headed north to Lake Placid. To his grandmother.
Stay tuned for part of chapter two next week! You can pre-order Second Chance now!