Nicole frees herself of an abusive relationship and makes a fresh start in Chicago. Her new roommate Monica makes her feel at home right away, and Nicole is excited about starting her career as a paralegal. She meets the handsome defense lawyer Michael Lyons, whom she will be working with. Their attraction is immediate and intense, and she finds herself falling in love with her new boss.
Just as it seems Nicole’s life is finally going right, a series of brutal murders plague the Chicago area. As the number of these murders escalates all the evidence begins to point to Nicole’s new friend Adam Matthews or her lover Michael Lyons. She refuses to believe that either could possibly be capable of committing these brutal murders. Yet, by closing her eyes to this possibility, Nicole could be making a deadly mistake.
Nicole gripped the steering wheel a little tighter when she saw the lights of the illuminated Chicago skyline against the dark sky. A metaphor for her life. It had taken five years to free herself from Nathan. This move was her new beginning, her hope that things were going to get better.
She heard the soft male voice of her GPS guiding her to her new apartment. She rented this apartment sight unseen. Hell, she didn’t even know too much about her roommate. All she really knew was Monica was close to her age and needed someone to split the rent. Yet, the rent was reasonable and she could afford it on her new salary so she jumped at it.
Nicole tightened her grip a little more. Her nerves were kicking in. She accepted the job offer from the Lyons and Smith Criminal Law LLP. This would be her first fulltime job as a paralegal. She chose the criminal field because this area of the law fascinated her, and if she was going to be stuck doing a ton of research for the lawyers of the firm she might as well enjoy it.
As the generic male voice of the GPS counted the yards she had left before she reached her destination her nerves grew worse. What if she made a huge mistake choosing Chicago to start over? What if she picked the wrong Law firm to work? What if her boss was a major asshole? What if her roommate was hard to live with? She shook the doubt out of her mind. This was the right thing to do. She had to put distance between her and Columbus Ohio and Nathan.
She pulled into the parking garage of the apartment building. She found the space Monica had said was for their apartment. She parked next to the bright blue Smart car. She couldn’t help but to smile. This little car had to be Monica’s. The interior had flowered car seat covers and a steering wheel cover that matched. Several little trinkets hung off the rearview mirror. The car was just cheerful, God she hoped that Monica was too.
She grabbed her two suitcases out of the trunk of her car. She hit the button on her key and heard the weak horn of her car letting her know her doors were locked. She looked over at the two large suitcases sitting there next to her grey Honda Civic. This was all she had left in the world, Nathan took everything else. She pulled the handles up of the two suitcases and started wheeling them to the elevator. It was awkward but she managed to get inside the elevator. She hit the button for floor twelve. She took a deep breath and slowly blew out as the doors to the elevator closed.
Thankfully it didn’t take long to get to the twelfth floor. She got off the elevator and headed to her left. She looked at the door numbers as she passed. She stopped in front of the door with the large brass number five hanging in the upper middle of the door. She let the handles of her suitcases go and dug in her purse for the key Monica sent her. She didn’t know if she could have just given a complete stranger her apartment key if the roles were reverse, but she didn’t have time to ponder this right now. Before she could find her keys the door flung open.
“Oh my God, you are so freaking cute.” The petite woman with short auburn hair said as she flung her arms around Nicole and gave her a big hug. “It is so nice to finally meet you, oh I’m Monica by the way. I’m sure you pretty much figured that out. Come on get inside and I will give you the grand tour.”
Nicole smiled as Monica grabbed one of her suitcases and excitedly went inside the apartment. Nicole grabbed the other and followed her. She couldn’t focus on what Monica was saying. She was looking around the small apartment that was going to be home for her now.
“I know it isn’t anything fancy, but I love it. The building is secure. We have a space to park our cars, but to tell you the truth I usually take the bus or the train. It’s just easier than trying to find a parking space. Plus, I tend to let my car insurance lap from time to time. This is your room.” Monica opened the door and walked inside the small bedroom. “If you don’t like the furniture you can always get something different. My last roommate left this stuff here.”
“This is perfect, thank you.” Nicole sat on the bed.
Monica plunk down beside her on the bed. “Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m trying to become the world’s most brilliant pastry chef, but until that happens I’m working at the bakery down the street while I take culinary classes. I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment, not really looking for one. I would love if you and I could become friends, but if you just want to keep it at roomies then I will respect that. Let’s see what else…I have a shoe fetish, which is why my car insurance sometimes lapses. But don’t worry, I always have my share of the rent on time. Tell me about you.”
“Well, there isn’t really much to tell. I just graduated from the University of Ohio. I got an amazing job offer here to be a paralegal to a pretty successful law firm, so here I am.”
“You didn’t want to work for some lawyer in Columbus? Don’t you have family there?”
“My mother lives in Toledo and she is my only family member left. There is nothing in Columbus…”
“Don’t say anymore. I think I get it. You wanted a fresh start. I won’t pry any more. I have always lived here in Chicago. I love this town. So you picked a great city to start over. I will leave you alone to get settled. I would love to take you to my favorite bar tonight if you are up for it. You know, show you around a little.”
“I would like that.”
“Great.” Monica got up and left the room.
Nicole unpacked her clothes, set her laptop, iPod and Kindle up on top of the dresser. She was happy that she had her own bathroom. It was small, but it was all hers. She placed her beauty products in the medicine cabinet and her hairdryer and flatiron in the cabinet below the sink. She looked at her reflection in the mirror.
“You should be lucky I think you are cute, my friends think I could do much better. You should really think about joining a gym. It couldn’t hurt.” Nathan’s hurtful words filled her mind. How did she ever think she was in love with such a horrible man? He made her feel so worthless. Her mother made her feel the same way. Perhaps that was how he found her. She was used to being treated like crap so him showing even an ounce of kindness when they first met was what reeled her in. She quickly looked away from the mirror. Damn that man, even with three hundred and fifty miles between them the mental pain he inflicted was still so keenly felt.
She heard a soft knock on her bedroom door. She walked over and opened it.
“Come on, let’s head out. I’m starving and the Tears and Beers Bar has excellent burgers.”
“Tears and Beers.”
“Cute isn’t it. It’s dark, yet the ambiance is quite charming. Plus the live bands they have there are really good.”
“Do I look okay?”
“You are as cute as a button. You are dressed perfectly.”
Nicole just smiled and let Monica lead the way.
The bar wasn’t that far from their apartment building, so they just walked. Nicole enjoyed the hustle and bustle of everything. They went inside the bar and Monica was right it was quite dark inside. The hum of the voices, clink of the dishes, and the steady sound of laughter filled the air. She looked at the band setting up.
“Oh goody, Life Rusts are playing tonight. They are really good,” Monica said as she led Nicole to a small table off to the side. They both sat down. Nicole let Monica order for her.
“So, you mentioned you are going to work for Lyons and Smith Criminal Law firm, which one are you working for?” Monica asked.
“Have you seen him yet?”
“I was just curious. Adam, the lead singer of Life Rusts…” she gestured to the very attractive man with wavy dark hair, gorgeous body and stunning blue eyes. “…well I was talking to him one day a year or so ago and it seems your new employers are big in supporting the arts. Mr. Lyons in particular. Thanks to him Adam can focus on his music instead of scrambling to come up with rent money every month.”
“He told you this.”
“Adam is an open book and such a sweetheart. Girl, look at him, damn…I would love to fuck that guy. But, he is too cool to talk to and once you start fucking a guy things get weird.”
“They just pay his rent for him?”
“Yep, pretty cool huh.”
“Why just him?”
“He is lucky. You shouldn’t never look a gift horse in the mouth. That is what Adam told me.” Monica smiled and waved at Adam. He smiled and waved back. “Do you want me to introduce you to him?”
“Oh no, I’m not interested in pursuing any kind of relationship with anyone for quite some time,” Nicole said with more passion than she intended.
“Wow, someone burnt you. I won’t pry, but if you want to talk about it I’m a hell of a good listener.”
Nicole had to admit the burgers were pretty tasty. She enjoyed Monica prattling on and soaked everything up. Monica seemed to know everything about this corner of Chicago. Life Rusts began to play. Their music was a cross between rock and blues. Adam’s voice was silky and he had all the females transfixed.
Adam came over to the table when he finished his set.
“How are you doing, Monica?” Adam said as he sat down and gestured for the bartender to bring him a beer. “Who is this cutie?” he smiled a most charming smile.
Nicole smiled shyly back.
“This is my new roomie Nicole. She will be working for Mr. Lyons. I know you know who that is.”
“He is a cool guy. You will love working for him, Nicole. He comes here from time to time to listen to my band. What he has done for me I can’t even begin to repay him. Where you from, Nicole?”
“I played a gig or two there.”
“Why don’t you come back to the apartment with us and you can help fill Nicole in on everything?” Monica asked.
“I would love to, but we are heading out when we finish our last set. I got a gig in Detroit then Cleveland, but I would love to talk with you some more when I get back, Nicole.”
Nicole just smiled.
“Later ladies,” Adam said as he grabbed his beer and headed over to his bandmates.
“See, I told you he was a sweetheart. I bet you are tired. You want to go home now?”
“Yes, I have to get some rest before I go to work tomorrow.”
Monica paid for the burgers and they headed back to the apartment.
“Thank you for being so nice,” Nicole said when they went into the apartment.
“No problem, besides this is our home. We should make it pleasant for each other.”
“I agree. I better try and get some sleep. Good night, Monica.”
“Good night, Nicole.”
Nicole went into her room. She took a shower and got ready for bed. As she set her alarm her nerves started to build. Tomorrow was her first day at work, the first big step in her career. God, she hoped she didn’t fuck it up. Thanks to her mother then Nathan, her confidence was quite low. Her grades in college were very good, she graduated near the top of her class. Yet, that ever presence nagging doubt in herself was always there.