Author’s note: In honor of NaNoWriMo 2015, I’ve decided to post excerpts from my work-in-progress, a romance novel whose working title is “Puerto Rican Nights”. Lisa Patterson finds herself alone following the death of her husband of over twenty years. While helping her teenage children cope with the death of their father in an effort to move forward with their lives, Lisa not only brokers successful business deals with her husband’s large law practice but also uncovers a devastating secret that forces her to reexamine the life she once thought she knew so well. During an excursion to Puerto Rico to procure competent legal council for a few of her late husband’s clients, Lisa rediscovers love, trust, and herself.
Today’s post is from the opening of the novel. I hope you enjoy – and please feel free to leave remarks regarding editing, theme, and story structure in the comments section below.
The sun beat down on her, its intense heat untouched by the frequent random breezes that typically offered relief this time of year. She watched as they slowly lowered the coffin into the ground, her face betraying none of the emotions that fought for control of her mind.
At forty-five years old, Jim left her a widow with a five thousand square foot home in one of Jacksonville’s finest neighborhoods, two teenage children, two Mercedes Benzes, a dog, and a thriving legal practice.
As she stood looking at the dark hole that altered the otherwise pristine cemetery landscape, she felt the air shift behind her as well-wishers walked past, offering condolences, placing hands on her shoulders and arms, muttering empty words she didn’t bother remembering because she knew they would provide little comfort in the wee hours of the morning when she was all alone and the others were tucked safely away inside their homes, sharing their beds with loved ones, holding each other for a few hours in the hopes they could will their own lives to continue without sudden interruptions like heart failure. She both hated them and pitied them but smiled and nodded as they passed.
Her children remained solidly rooted in their spots next to her, their stoic faces staring straight ahead, not seeing anyone as they passed.
“It’s time,” she said to them, and she walked toward the waiting car, the kids following two feet behind her. She never looked back.
“So, what you’re telling me is that I have six million dollars tied up in investments, the cash – which of course I already knew about – and a waiting case load to deal with?” Lisa sat across from her attorney, Jim’s best friend from law school, reading through the two-inch thick document he had placed on the table half an hour earlier.
“That’s right. Your finances look good. Your mortgage on the house is practically paid for, but the two office buildings still have a balance of $1.5 mill. However, they’re eighty percent occupied, so the monthly mortgage payment is mostly covered by rent monies. Of course, there are still the maintenance expenses to deal with, but you have ample funds to handle those. Really, Jim left you in good shape, if you can call it that.” Gary looked her way but avoided her eyes as he spoke.
“Yeah, if you consider sleeping alone for the rest of my life ‘good shape’, then I guess you’re right,” she spat out. “I suppose the first thing I need to deal with is the clients. Where should I send them? And what type of agreement should I negotiate with the new attorney?”
Gary sighed as he leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak under his shifting weight. “I think you can send the majority of them to Frank Stein. He and Jim worked well together and respected each other. I also think you need to sit down with Sally and go over each case before you send it out. Depending on how much work Sally and Jim have done on the individual cases, you can negotiate fee splits with Frank anywhere from 70-30 to 50-50.”
“Damn. I knew I should have spent more time in the office. I have no frigging clue what the hell has been going on here for the past three years. But you’re sure we’re solid?” She stared directly at Gary, telegraphing the message that she needed to hear the news straight, no bullshit.
“You’re good. I mean it. Take those papers home and read through them thoroughly. You are in charge now, Lisa. You call the shots. Like I said, Jim left you in good shape – from a financial perspective, at least – and you have options. But you don’t have to move out of your house or sell any of your belongings. Unless you want to, of course.” Gary stood up, gathered his folders from their various spots on the conference table, and tucked them into his briefcase. Lisa stood up, too, and walked around to the other side of the table in order to give Gary an embrace.
“Thank you, Gary, for doing this. I know losing Jim is hard on you, too. Dinner sometime this week?”
“You bet, Lisa. Leah and I would love it. Just let us know when you’re feeling up to getting out and about.” Lisa walked him to the door and watched as he stepped out into the bright sun.
“Damn, he’s still got it,” she thought as he opened the door to his Lexus sedan, tossed in his briefcase and then climbed into the driver’s seat. The four of them went all the way back to their law school days at the University of Florida, where they spent many weekend nights together, barbecuing on hibachis on their apartment decks, pretending to be grown-ups, drinking cheap wine.
This post is the unedited version of the opening scene of my novel. I welcome your comments and suggestions and, as a gesture of my gratitude for the time you spent reading today, please feel free to leave a link to your latest piece and I will gladly stop by and provide constructive feedback. Thanks for your time and thoughts!