Note: there is mature content in this book. I would call it New Adult
Jennifer’s Guest Post:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been” — George Elliot
I often get the question “How do you do it all?” And my response to that is always– ‘You just do it. You do what has to be done, you often have to fight for what little sanity you have and at the end of the day you can reflect and take pride in all of your hard work.’ Regardless of your dream, it’s worth it.
So, ladies, thank all of you for your constant support. You all are incredible. I gave a piece of advice to someone very near and dear to my heart this evening and I feel it’s something I should really share with all of you. Something else I get asked a lot is “what is a piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to break into this business, get acclimated to this industry, revamp their career or just a young person who is trying to follow their dreams.” The best piece of advice I can think of, especially in this industry is ‘call it like you see it. More often then not, your initial reaction to something or someone is going to be the most appropriate.’ This industry is full of people, situations and circumstances that could change a good, warm hearted person to a cold, unforgiving one. Be careful who you trust, but don’t allow your caution to interfere with your passion. Remember that for every one person who doesn’t believe in who you are or what you can accomplish, there are ten people who do. So put on your boxing gloves and fight for your dreams. Don’t sit around waiting for the moment where things could fall apart, kick some ass and take some names because when it’s all over it will be the things you didn’t do, not the ones you did, that you will regret the most.
Chapter 1 Excerpt:
It was a typical star-studded Los Angeles night; the streets were consumed with the bright lights of aspiring talent, major celebrities and an overall abundance of indulgent taste amongst the people walking in and out of some of the most luxurious restaurants and shops in town. It was typical, however, for everyone except Addison Hamilton. Tonight was a celebration and the night she would publicly accept the great honor of being named the first woman Chancellor of the ivy-league educational institution, Brown-Thomas University, a goal she strived to achieve for most of her adult life. At the age of forty-five Addison was not only successful and brilliant; she was stunningly beautiful, a pillar of her community, hardworking, talented and confidant. She was the kind of person every woman would fail to live up to, and every man would fail to conquer. She married her high school sweetheart and the love of her life, Spencer Hamilton, just out of college. Together they shared one flawless son, Parker. As the limousine pulled up to the grand ballroom and the driver opened her door, she gracefully stepped out and paused for a moment before walking in. She couldn’t help but think that every dream she ever had for herself, at this moment, had officially been realized. She entered the ballroom to find herself surrounded by over five hundred people waiting to welcome her into her most recent accomplishment. As she walked in, every guest leapt to their feet and a thunderous applause imploded the four walls of the ballroom. This was it… the perfect night to accompany her picture perfect existence. After a short meet and greet, everyone was asked to take their seats as Dr. Jim Crawford approached the podium. “It’s been a long journey for our University, to find the next person who will honor and cherish the value of our institution, as we all do, and hold its future in the highest regard. But we found her.” The crowd began applauding again with an astounding amount of support. “With that said, I would like to introduce the new Chancellor of Brown-Thomas University, Dr. Addison Hamilton.” Addison emerged from her table of family and friends and approached the stage. “Thank you, Dr. Crawford, and thank each and every one of you for being here with me tonight. It is an overwhelmingly incredible honor to be named the next Chancellor of Brown- Thomas University and one I do not take lightly. From this point forward I will strive to instill in all of our prospective and current students, the true value of an education.” She paused for an instant as she noticed her husband eagerly excusing himself from the table to answer a phone call. She wondered, at that moment, what was more important than she was? With the crowd waiting, she continued, “I will dedicate myself entirely to the continued prosperity of Brown-Thomas University as well as its faculty, staff and students. So I’d like to thank all of you again for the opportunity to serve my community, my students and my Alma Mater, Brown-Thomas University. Thank you.” She eloquently waved to the crowd and excused herself from the stage, focusing solely on returning to her table to address her husband’s brief disappearance. As she sat down to rejoin her group, Spencer kissed her on the cheek. It was obvious to her that something was amiss. After all, they had been married for close to twenty-five years and she thought she knew him better than anyone else. “So? How was I?” She asked with a gleaming sense of attitude, knowing he had missed part of her speech while taking his phone call. “You were amazing honey, we are so proud of you.” He smiled charmingly. “So then what the hell was so important it couldn’t wait Spencer?” She asked with that Addison Hamilton force and attitude that made grown men instantly long for their mothers. “The office called, I have to be in Boston tonight.” He recited with absolutely no remorse for excluding himself from her important evening. “Spencer!” She exclaimed with disgust. “I’m sorry Addison, but this is business. It is not negotiable.” An awkward silence consumed the table as Kate stepped up to break the ice. “Hey, um, Kinsley and I are going to do some serious retail therapy tomorrow. Come with us.” Addison set her napkin on the table as she responded, “Thanks girls, but I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.” She paused momentarily as she glared at Spencer, “If you’ll excuse me, this is a very significant night for me and I have guests to greet.” She angrily excused herself from the table leaving Parker, Kate and their best friends, Jackson, Kinsley and Leighton sitting to witness this monstrosity of what started out to be such a promising evening. Parker sat in shock of hearing his dads’ holier-than-thou attitude, “Dad?” “Parker, do not start with me. I can’t help it. I have business to attend to and I refuse to apologize for doing my job.” Knowing how important this night was to his mother, Parker excused himself from the table to join Addison in conversing with her guests who were congratulating her on such a brilliant accomplishment, as his best friend Jackson quickly followed. At the table, Kate had taken it upon herself to be offended by Spencer’s eagerness to care for his own needs with no consideration for his wife. Kate sat down in the chair next to Spencer and began to let him know exactly how she felt about his selfishness. “With all due respect Mr. Hamilton, tonight was about your wife and she may not know it now, but we all know where you’re really going this evening and I hope all the secrets you’ve been keeping, are worth all the damage you’re creating. Your reasons… your justifications for doing what you’re doing, they don’t matter. This will destroy her. Or do you even care?” She stood up and threw her napkin down on the tabletop, “Have a great time tonight. I hope she’s worth it.” Kate walked away, disappearing into a sea of people, leaving Kinsley, Leighton and Spencer sitting alone at a once full table in a very long pause of awkward glances and blank stares. “Ladies.” Spencer stood up and shamefully walked away from the table, exiting the ballroom. “That might have been the most uncomfortable situation I have ever been in.” Kinsley exclaimed while consuming another glass of champagne. “We should tell Parker what’s going on,” said Leighton. “Why? So he can hate us for telling him? No way.” Kinsley brushed off her friend’s attempt at including anyone else in what would undoubtedly be an earth-shattering topic of conversation for every Hamilton family member. “He’s our best friend Kins, it doesn’t feel right… keeping this from him. I would want to know.” “Kate’s right. This will destroy Addison. His lies are one big ticking bomb… He doesn’t need our help to self-destruct. He’ll do it all on his own and we’ll be there to pick up the pieces.” The girls continued to enjoy glasses of champagne and let go of the possibility of bringing all of this up to Parker earlier than necessary. After all, this would inevitably catapult into a life altering situation soon enough without their help. As the girls were deep in thought, Jackson approached the table. “Hey. I think we’re going to head back to Parker’s tonight just in case Addison wants the company. You coming?” “Yea, of course. Whatever we can do.” Leighton answered as if there was more she wanted to say, but couldn’t. “Are you two okay?” Jackson suspected something was going on, but had no idea what it might be. “We’re fine. It’s just been a long day.” Kinsley answered promptly. “Okay. I’ll let Parker know.” Jackson stated, excusing himself from the table to find Parker and Kate. Kinsley, Parker, Leighton, Shaley and Jackson had not only been the best of friends for most of their lives, they were like family. It wasn’t until later that Kate came on the scene and immediately conformed to the group. They knew everything about one another and trusted each other with all they had. Understanding that not being friends with one of them meant being friends with none of them was an unwritten rule at Brown-Thomas. The group began with Parker and Jackson’s mothers; they had grown up together and were like sisters themselves. This, in turn, led Jackson and Parker to becoming best friends. In the first grade they met and instantly bonded with Kinsley, Leighton and Shaley, and they had been together, relentlessly, ever since. The bonds the five of these kids shared were parallel to none. Their relationship blossomed early and grew stronger with each passing day, almost like they were all psychically connected at birth. Relationships with family paled in comparison to the ones they had with each other, they did everything together and wanted it no other way. Anyone who knew them envied the closeness and friendship they shared and would often fall short of achieving any type of bond near as powerful. After leaving the ball they returned to the Hamilton house, which was something they almost always did. This house was where they gathered for everything… regardless of what was going on in their lives. It was their safe haven… the place where everything always made sense. They flocked to the patio, laughing and contemplating the night’s festivities and only imagining what would be next—considering the mother of the group would now head the University where they all attended. This fact left them sure it would negatively impact them somehow. As they continued to drink and laugh hysterically about things only they understood, Addison emerged from the Hamilton mansion to briefly join in on their conversation. “Hey! Join us.” Kate pressed for Addison to sit down with them and enjoy her moment in the sun even though Spencer had refused to do the same. “Ah, no thank you. I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just go to bed, it has been a long and… eventful evening.” She paused briefly, “But I do want to thank all of you for being there with me tonight to celebrate, it meant more than you will ever know.” “There’s absolutely no way we would have been anywhere else. We are so unbelievably proud of you Addison.” Leighton hugged her to avoid getting teary and sentimental. “Thank you.” Again she paused, “I’m very lucky to have all of you. Goodnight.” She turned around and walked back into the house. Her one of a kind maroon ball gown glistened in the moonlight as she took her last steps inside and the door closed quickly behind her. The group sat in silence for a moment when Kinsley said, “Can you believe your mom is officially the Chancellor of our school?” “Oh my God, don’t make me think about it.” Parker covered his face with his hands and tried to erase the words from his mind. He stood up and began to un-tuck his tuxedo shirt. “Baby, this is great for her.” Kate immediately came to Addison’s defense. “Great for her, bad for us. You watch… her success will bite us in the ass. Just wait…” Jackson laughed “Dude, relax. I think I speak for all of us when I say- we are so glad it’s your mom and not ours. The group laughed as Parker’s face turned red and he argued back, “Screw all of you guys. You’ll see… It’s just a matter of time.” Parker tried to relay the reality of what it really meant for his mom to be in charge of their school, but the group failed to see what he was talking about. They continued to converse amongst each other for a little while longer, laughing and joking and bringing up past events that were still so vivid in their imaginations they seemed as though they had just happened. As the group grew more tiresome they opted for bedtime. Just like so many nights before, they all chose to stay and sleep at the Hamilton house. They always got together for breakfast anyway, so what was the point in going home just to turn around and come back the next morning? Unconventional as it was, the friendships each of them shared were the center of their universe and it didn’t need to make sense to anyone but them. The next morning the group gathered in the kitchen discussing plans for the day ahead, eating breakfast, drinking coffee and laughing as they always did. They all gathered around the island in the kitchen, each doing their own thing. Leighton was eating from a bowl of grapes, while Kinsley was making a cup of coffee, Kate was slicing an apple and Parker was eating cereal right out of the box. Amongst the not so quiet chatter, the subject of their annual school trip emerged with negative news attached to it and Jackson walked downstairs in time to join in. “Morning. What’s going on?” He was greeted by the rest of the group and filled in on the trip details. “We were just talking about our school trip. I got an email this morning saying it was cancelled.” Parker proceeded to break the bad news to his friends. “Supposedly we can’t go unless we have another sponsor.” Leighton said as they all tried to explain the situation to a late arriving Jackson. “What? How many do we possibly need?” He questioned. “Apparently because it’s a school sponsored event we need to have a minimum of four or we can’t count it as educational and the school won’t pay for it.” Kinsley explained. “Which wouldn’t be a big deal for any of us, but it is really expensive and a lot of our friends won’t be able to afford it, especially on such short notice.” Leighton continued. “Okay. So we’ll just ask your mom.” Jackson popped off with an immediate solution to the obvious problem, laughing in anticipation of Parker’s response. “Actually, we were trying to avoid any of us having our parents present on our vacation… Namely – me.” Parker quickly responded. “Dude. Your mom is awesome. If any parent has to go it might as well be Addison, right? She’ll do it.” He took a bite of his apple and Addison entered the kitchen in time to hear the last few words of Jackson’s rational solution to their overlying problem. “Addison will do what?” She asked inquisitively as she made her way to the coffee pot. “You look beautiful this morning.” Leighton said as she put on her ass kissing face and attempted to butter her up. “Really! We couldn’t tell if that was you or Jessica Alba emerging from her morning slumber.” Jackson attempted to follow up Leighton’s valiant effort at sweet talking Addison. She laughed out loud without hesitation and said, “It’s Jessica, with a message from Addison. Whatever you guys want, forget about it.” The group moaned with repugnance as she dismissed their need for her help. “Come on Addy, just hear us out.” Jackson guided her to a nearby barstool in hopes that she would take a second to listen to their request. “Alright, what do you want?” She conceded to hearing what they had to say. “The University needs another parent sponsor to join us on our trip this year…” Parker began the conversation. “And? You thought I might know someone?” Addison immediately responded. “Come on Addy. If we don’t get another sponsor then we can’t go.” Jackson pleaded. “So why don’t you just take a trip together? The six of you are together all the time anyway… Always… Always together.” She paused momentarily, realizing for the first time that Shaley wasn’t present, “Speaking of six of you, where has Shaley been?” “She’s out of town. She’ll be back next week sometime, I think. And believe me, we have thought about taking this trip together. We can afford it. But all the students who were counting on the school to pay for it won’t be able to go and we would really like to take it with all of our friends since the six of us are together all the time.” Leighton tried bringing logic to the table with her side of the argument. “And as Chancellor, isn’t it your duty not to disappoint the students of your university?” Kinsley chimed in right away with the guilt card. Addison sighed and rolled her eyes in light of the last remark. “Really Kin? The Chancellor card? It’s been all of twelve hours and you’re already using it?” “Look. A girl has to do what a girl has to do, and you’re being unreasonable.” Kinsley offered some justification to her statement. “Well, since you brought it up, and I have all of you here. Shouldn’t we implement some boundaries? Guidelines? I’m not just Parker’s mom anymore; I’m also the head of the University where you all attend and I would never want to be accused of preferential treatment…” Addison tried to exude some professionalism and reiterate that she was in a different place now than she was before. Although, it was difficult to make her words possess enough meaning to change anything when she was sitting on a barstool in her kitchen, wearing pajamas. Immediately the group became defensive about the subject and Leighton asked, “So by boundaries you mean…?” “I mean, I would never want someone to think I give you all special treatment over the other students simply because you’re friends of Parker’s.” Addison explained. “Oh wait… Wait.” Parker stood up and bent over in front of everyone. “Baby, is a piece of my ass missing?” Everyone but Addison laughed at his remark. “I told you this would be bad for us. That it would somehow bite us in the ass. And look. It just did.” “I think you’re being a little dramatic Parker.” She paused for a moment, “All I’m saying is maybe you could spend less time here and more time anywhere else.” Addison took a sip of her coffee while awaiting a response. “I see what you’re saying. We should have some set of limitations keeping us from getting so close to one another.” Leighton offered. “Exactly. I just need to maintain a professional distance… At least until you all graduate.” Addison said as she continued drinking her morning coffee. “Well maybe you should have thought about your “boundaries,” Leighton put two fingers from each hand in the air to simulate quotation marks and emphasize the word boundaries, “before Kinsley and I found you in the pool last July 4th…” She said with disdain in her voice. Addison’s face turned red instantaneously as she pleaded to them with her eyes, in hopes they would not bring up the story that was lurking on the ends of their tongues. “Why would finding her in the pool matter?” Parker asked, a little curious and confused. “Oh see. We didn’t just find her swimming in the pool… Did we Addy?” Leighton said with a smirk. “You’re serious? I cannot believe you’re bringing this up,” said Addison, as she tried to hide behind any dignity she would have left after this story was told. “We found her completely trashed. Naked! Swimming all alone.” Leighton concluded with a big smile. “WHAT?” Jackson found himself suddenly very interested in the conversation at hand. “Oh yea. Little miss Chancellor- drinking like a fish… Ass out… All by herself. It was epic. Definitely a moment I’m glad I didn’t miss.” Kinsley laughed aloud as she helped paint a crystal clear picture for everyone. “How did I not know about this?” Jackson questioned. “Everyone stayed out at the lake for fireworks, remember? Leighton and I came back because she had to be somewhere early the next morning.” Kinsley explained. “Oh my God.” Addison paused, “That happened once. And you promised we would never discuss it again… Ever.” “Well. Maybe you should’ve thought about that before you decided to get all Dr. Big Head on us and start throwing around words like boundaries and guidelines. Parker’s right. This is a boundary free zone, it always has been.” Leighton concluded. Parker shook his head ardently as if trying to clear his mind and said, “Anyway. Now that I have that disturbing image seared in my brain for the rest of my life, back to the trip.” The group tried to move past Addison’s “boundary” speech by continuing to discuss the future of their class expedition. After a few more minutes of pretending like she wasn’t eventually going to give in and accept the responsibility of needing to be a sponsor, she reluctantly agreed. Addison Hamilton was not the type of woman to be pressured into doing something she didn’t want to do, but ultimately she had a soft spot in her heart for every last one of Parker’s friends. They had, after all, been in her life for as long as her son had and making them happy was important to her. After verbally agreeing to sponsor the trip she placed her coffee cup in the sink and reminded Parker about a promotional dinner that was on the calendar for a good friend of the family, Dr. Asher Sheridan. “Parker please don’t forget about the party tomorrow night for Asher Sheridan’s promotion to Chief of Surgery.” “Mom?” Parker contested. “I’m sorry honey but you are going.” She was not caving on this one. Parker had known Asher Sheridan his entire life and as a tribute to his success, the family would be attending. Parker immediately turned to Jackson in hopes of salvaging a night which was destined to be an utter failure. “Jack. You’re my best friend, right?” “Depends.” Jackson knew where their conversation was ultimately headed. “Don’t you want to enjoy your Friday night at the only party in the city that will make you wish you were somewhere else…? Really dude. Boredom is totally underrated.” Parker threw his arm around Jackson’s shoulder. “Mom, who’s taking you to the party?” Parker asked Addison. “Well, I had planned on your father being here, but since that obviously is not the case, I will be escorting myself.” She answered uncomfortably. “See Jack, you can be mom’s date.” Parker smiled from ear to ear as he successfully roped his best friend into an evening of inevitable boredom. “Parker, I’m capable of going alone. I’m a big girl. Do not make your friends go if they don’t want to. And do not put Jackson on the spot like that.” “I don’t mind it’s really no problem.” Jackson smiled as he conceded to Parker’s request. “That’s sweet. Thank you. And girls? I take it no one else is dying to attend such a lavish affair?” Kinsley immediately answered, “I already have plans.” “Kate?” Addison questioned. “We have to go to my parents afterward, but I’m okay to go for a while.” She responded. “Leighton?” “Sorry Addison, Trevor and I are celebrating our two year anniversary tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be locked tightly in a Four Season’s suite for the weekend.” Leighton said with a big smile on her face. Addison sighed, “Thank you for that image which I will carry around with me for the rest of my life.” She paused, “Okay then. Glad all of this is settled, I’ll change our reservation to four.” Parker looked at his watch, “Oh hey, I’m late, I gotta get going…” He gave Addison a kiss on the cheek, “And I have to take these dorks back, they rode with me yesterday.” “Whatever jerk,” Kinsley said as she threw a grape at Parker. “Be careful and call me later.” Addison said as the three girls and Parker left Jackson and Addison alone in the kitchen. “Thank you for being such a good friend to my son. He’s so lucky to have you in his life.” She started to make another cup of coffee, “And please don’t feel obligated to be my date tomorrow night, you’re more than welcome to ride with Kate and Parker. I am fine with going alone, Lord knows I’ve done it enough lately.” “Really Addison, I’m happy to do it.” He answered politely and she smiled, remembering what it used to be like to have someone concerned about her feelings and worried about whether or not she was being taken care of. “Well then. I better get going. I need to pick up my dress for the party and get to the office.” “I should get going too. Is 6:30 okay for tomorrow night?” He asked. She smiled sweetly at him, “Perfect.” As they exchanged brief smiles the telephone rang and broke up the moment of solidarity where it seemed like, just for a second, this young man cared more about her happiness than her own husband did. Jackson whispered, “I’ll just see you tomorrow.” Addison waved goodbye as she walked into the living room to answer the phone. “Hello?” “Hey Honey,” Spencer said gleefully. “Spencer. Did you get to Boston okay?” You could hear the repulsion in her voice as their conversation continued. “I did. I was just calling to tell you, I’ll be here for a couple of weeks.” Spencer said, sounding as if that shouldn’t bother her at all. “Big surprise.” Addison said as she sat down on the edge of the couch. “I’m working Addison, you need to realize that and stop being so overly sensitive about everything. It’s getting old. Hey I have to go… I’ll call you later.” He hung up the phone abruptly, giving her absolutely no time to respond. She stared at the phone for a moment, hung up angrily and dialed another number. In the midst of his earlier conversation with Addison, Jackson had walked out of the house accidentally leaving his phone behind on the kitchen counter. As he returned to collect it, he overheard her conversation. Addison waited patiently for Spencer’s office to answer, “Harper and Hamilton Law offices.” The sweet voice on the other end of the line said. “Gloria. Hi. This is Addison Hamilton, Spencer just called me from Boston but we got disconnected before I could get his contact information. Could you be a dear and get it for me?” There was a silence and then a stammering as Gloria tried to gather her thoughts, “Um. Mrs. Hamilton would you mind holding for just a moment?” “Certainly.” Addison answered as she stood up and began to pace back and forth, feeling strangely awkward at the greeting she had just received. A man’s voice came to the phone and acknowledged her, “Addison?” “Charles?” She asked in confusion. “Listen. We don’t have any contact information for Spencer right now. I’m not even sure where he is to be honest.” Charles said in a very matter-of-fact way. “What do you mean? He’s working a case in Boston.” She said as she paused for a moment to catch her breath. “I’m sorry Addy, but he isn’t working on anything right now. He called to say he would be gone for a few weeks. I just assumed it was a long overdue vacation he was taking with you.” Charles declared. “Thank you Charles.” As she stood in her living room, completely dumbfounded by the news she’d just received. She paused briefly, threw the phone across the room and screamed, “Bastard!” Jackson, who had listened to the entire conversation, rushed in to console her, “Hey. Hey,” He wrapped his arms around her as she started sobbing uncontrollably. “What’s going on?” Gathering herself she realized who was holding her and how inappropriate it was for him to be the one comforting her, so she quickly composed herself. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and said, “It’s nothing. It’s nothing. I am so sorry you just saw that. Please, I’m fine. You really shouldn’t be here for this Jack, go ahead and go. Please.” Jackson guided her over to the couch and they sat down next to each other. “I can’t just leave you like this Addison. What’s going on?” She hastily stood up and walked over to the bar to pour herself a glass of wine. As she poured she said, “Please Jack. Just go.” “Addy. Isn’t it a little early?” Addison turned around quickly, “Don’t Jackson… Do not go there.” “Right… I was just going to say it’s a perfect time for a drink. I think I’ll have one too.” Uncomfortable, he stood up. “Vodka and Tonic, please.” She turned back towards the bar and poured him a drink too. As she finished she picked both glasses up and shoved one in his hand as she walked by, making her way back to the couch. Although there was a vast difference in their ages, Jack saw Addison for everything she truly was… a beautiful woman who was in desperate need of someone to talk to. As he sat back down on the couch next to her, he got a slight breath of her scent… He always loved the way she smelled. As he drifted off momentarily to a place where things were easier and only seen in black and white, a place where he could tell Addison that even the way she smelled made his heart flutter, he quickly snapped back to reality and responded to her situation. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” Addison took a deep breath and started rapidly consuming her glass of wine. After she took a breath she began to tell him what had just taken place. “Spencer is cheating on me. My unbelievably selfish husband is having an affair…” She felt the embarrassment creeping over her and she began to cry again. “What?” Jackson’s face sported a shocked look he couldn’t even pretend to hide. “Are you sure?” “He called as you were walking out the door to tell me he’d be in Boston for a few weeks… On business. Then he rushed off the phone. I called his office to get his contact information because his cell is turned off.” She said, sounding skeptical. “Maybe he’s just busy… working?” Jackson searched for realistic reasons of why Spencer would possibly be acting that way. He couldn’t imagine anyone thinking they could do better than Addison. She was perfect. If he was cheating on her… he deserved whatever he got. “When I called his secretary she had no idea what to say to me… She sent the call to one of the other partners in the firm who told me he didn’t know why Spencer was gone but it was not because of work. He said they all assumed he’d taken a long overdue vacation… with me.” “Wow.” Jackson searched for the right words to comfort her, but all he could think about was how selfish Spencer was being. He had the perfect life here with Addison, why would he ever risk losing it? “Ya know… it’s one thing to think your husband might cheat on you… It’s something completely different, knowing that he has.” Addison looked hurt in a way that she’d never been before. Her tear stained face left Jack feeling like he was seeing her for the very first time and he felt empathetic in a way he never had before. “Um. I don’t know what to say to you right now… I’m searching for the words… but.” Jackson stumbled through the verbiage as he tried to come up with something that would make her feel better, so she quickly jumped in, “You don’t have to say anything. I’m just going to drink and sulk. And you… should probably go.” “I don’t think that’s the best idea Addy.” They both sat in silence contemplating everything that had just occurred. After all Jackson had simply left his phone there by mistake earlier, he hadn’t signed up for any of this drama. After he considered, carefully of course, the right things to say he began with, “I know you must be hurting.” A raging Addison immediately cut him off. “I am humiliated Jack. I’ve been here… Taking care of everything and he’s been off… Doing God knows what with God knows whom… How could you do this to someone you claim to love?” She leaned back against the couch for a second to think about what her next realistic step would be but she couldn’t rationally process everything going through her mind. “I don’t know much, but what I do know is this. You just became the first woman Chancellor in the History of our University. You’re brilliant, you’re beautiful… and those things are yours… he can never take them from you. You don’t need him.” Jackson felt confident in the words he was relaying to her because he believed them. He had always felt a special place in his heart for Addison… he knew she was worth everything in the world. Spencer had just lost the best thing in his life and he had no idea. “I have to get out of this house.” Addison stood up from the couch and started pacing back and forth, trying to decide where to go. “Okay. I’ll take you out.” Jackson jumped in to rescue her. “Really?” She was surprised at his response. “Absolutely. As long as you promise to try and have a good time.” He smiled coyly, trying to remind her that as long as he was there he would try and make a conscious effort to put a smile back on her face. “Deal.” Addison agreed, polishing off her second glass of wine. As she walked upstairs to get dressed, Jackson found himself surrounded by feelings he thought were locked tightly away. You see, Jackson had a secret… he had always loved Addison and always secretly hoped they would end up together. But of course everything about their current situation complicated things. The vast difference in age, his relationship with Parker, her relationship with his mother… Nothing about his feelings for her made sense. So he had always hidden them… and tonight wouldn’t be any different. Waiting downstairs for her to return he reminded himself this was no time to act on impulse. She was vulnerable and hurt, and no good would ever come of him being inappropriate at this point. He continued talking to himself when the clinking of her heels on the stairs caught his attention. As he turned around, the sheer image of her in a strapless black dress took his breath away and forced his heart to race uncontrollably. “You look amazing.” He said, trying to focus more on her eyes and less on her body. But her hopelessly troubled state of mind ensured she was not paying close enough attention to notice his inappropriate glances. “I don’t feel amazing.” She said as she finished walking to the bottom of the stairs. “Well you can just take my word for it.” He smiled adoringly as he extended his arm to her, she took it and for the first time, in a long time, she felt taken care of and important. She felt beautiful. As they left the house and reached the car, Jackson stopped and opened the car door for her. It had been so long since someone had taken the time or the interest to care whether or not she opened her own door. She felt appreciated, in that moment, as the door slammed shut and they drove away.