Of all the days for there to be bumper to bumper traffic, it would have to happen today, Marissa Cooper thought to herself. Already late because she could not decide which outfit made her look smart yet stylish, sophisticated yet age appropriate for, what could very well be, the most important presentation of her career, she knew that if the traffic didn't improve soon, she would loose her first big-scale client. After deciding upon a classic cut, Chanel suit, which, of course, had altered the style she needed to wear her hair, making her hurry to put it up, Marissa had realized that she had no time to apply her makeup, grabbed her drawings, and, literally, raced out the door to her brand new Mitsubishi Eclipse, the very first car she had bought all on her own. Marissa was proud of it; Julie, her Mother, was horrified, refusing to ride in it….which wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Their relationship during Marissa's high school years had been a whirlwind, ever changing and extreme, but as Marissa's life found a balance in college, so did her relationship with her over-bearing, materialistic Mother. Going to the Design Institute of San Diego, Marissa had majored in Interior Design, surprising no one more than herself. It was so…Julie, but it also was a job that would be dependable, useful, yet interesting at the same time. True, San Diego was not that far from Newport, but the distance it provided was just enough for Marissa and Julie to mend their relationship. Eventually, the started talking on the phone or chatting online late at night when they were both bored and couldn't sleep, Julie up worrying over a business issue at the Newport Group where she had, at first, gotten a job because Kirsten Cohen felt sorry for the wife of her former best friend who skipped town after his investment business failed, but eventually she made it her own, earning the respect of not only her co-workers but others in the interior decorating field, and Marissa stressing over finals or a large design project she had procrastinated on. The phone and internet conversations turned into visits, Marissa going home to Newport to see her Mom on holidays; and by her senior year, one or the other would drive to see the other every weekend, either Marissa at home or Julie at Marissa's small but comfortable apartment. Perhaps the change in their relationship occurred, because both realized the other was the only person they could truly count on besides themselves.
It seemed to Marissa that she had been abandoned by almost every single person in her life. Her cowardly father ran away from his problems and his family, leaving her emotionally scarred for many years and irrationally angry at her Mother because she needed someone present in her life to blame. She had no siblings, no brother or sister to fight with every other day except the one where you needed a shoulder to cry on. Her parent's families were not a part of her life whether voluntarily or not, and by the time she was an adult, Marissa did not have the ambition or the energy to find them. Even her best friend walked out on her, choosing such frivolous things as popularity and social acceptance over friendship and honor. When Marissa's family fell apart, Summer had abandoned her, claiming it was too hard to be her friend when she was financially unstable, going to public school, and an outcast from the exclusive society they resided in, even going so far as sleep with Marissa's still-then boyfriend, Luke. Although shattering that relationship for Marissa ended up being a blessing in disguise, a true friend would never have done that.
Eighteen, on her own, and entering college, a wary Marissa did not trust easily, making it extremely difficult for her to make friends, and, although she formed a couple meaningful friendships during her four years of college, she rebuilt the most important one in her life, that with her Mother. Sure, they still fought as wildly as they used to, but, at the end of the day, their transgressions were always forgiven and the bond kept intact.
For two years after graduation, Marissa had worked under Julie at the Newport Group, learning from her and teaching her new tricks of the trade as well, building a portfolio, a client list, and confidence while acquiring valuable work experience. Living frugally the entire time, she had saved her money, banking it away for her future, even going so far as to live with Julie, separately in her own quarters and paying her rent. Then, surprising everyone, she had resigned from her job, one that provided her with a generous salary and amazing benefits, to start her own business at the tender age of 24. That was why she had saved her money.
It hadn't been easy; difficult would even be a nice way to describe her first three years on her own. People were hesitant to employ someone so young, so inexperienced when the community was filled award winning, highly sought after designers with the credentials to back up their hefty fees. Her office had, at first, been the living room of her apartment. With no secretary, she not only had to handle any of the design issues herself but also every aspect on the business end, even going so far as to having to answer her own phone, something that did not impress prospective clients. After six months of battling the job market with little success, she had taken a risk, invested her money in a small storefront property along the pier, hired a secretary and pleaded for her risk to pay off. It did.
Using the windows to display examples of her work, the fledgling business attracted enough attention and jobs to pay the bills, but the jobs were simple, unsatisfying, boring, especially for someone who, for the first two years of her life, had worked on the mansions of the elite and business offices of the supremely wealthy. Eventually though, those small jobs gave Marissa the reputation of being dependable, smart, edgy, fun, and that led to slightly larger scaled projects for more prominent customers, profits, and satisfaction. Perhaps, what she valued the most, was the respect and admiration she received from those who had known her as a child. When her former neighbors and classmates came to her, she knew she had made it. No one was more proud than Julie.
That was four years ago. Now, 28 and on the verge of her last year before 30, Marissa could finally consider herself a success. She had purchased her very own, brand new car, had an apartment that was not in the numbered streets, and was finally treating herself to her first real vacation, a week in Paris, for her upcoming birthday. Julie thought it was scandalous and frankly weird that she wanted to travel alone; Marissa was ecstatic, especially since she could go anywhere and do anything she wanted with no one to complain or disagree. The only thing that could make her life better was landing her first, big client.
Marissa was one of three interior decorators who had been chosen to present their designs for the remodel of the local Four Seasons hotel. She didn't just want this job; she lusted after it. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase just what she was capable of, not to mention that designing a hotel would be amazingly fun, but here she was, running late, irritated, in a traffic jam that did not look like it was about to improve any time soon, and, though mentally prepared, physically not. At least I can put my makeup on while we move along at the slowest fucking speed imaginable to man, Marissa thought to herself, opening her purse and pulling out her foundation first. Normally she preferred simplistic makeup, fresh faced and natural, but not on days where her appearance could be the deciding factor as to whether or not she got the job of her dreams. Days like this deserved the full treatment.
Ryan Atwood was having a good morning, so good not even a traffic jam could sour his mood. His work load light that week, he had gotten plenty of sleep, a rarity for a rising lawyer in one of the most prestigious law firms in Southern California where he specialized in real-estate law. He was said to have a promising future there; partner opportunities would surely come his way. While getting ready that morning, his court date was rescheduled. Perhaps if the tie had already been around his neck, the noose that kept him in line already in place, he would have continued into work, but in just his dress pants he felt free enough to take advantage of the judge's misfortune and grant himself a long weekend. Whistling, he had left his small house, essentially a bachelor pad but he preferred to look at it as an investment, in ripped jeans and a stained t-shirt and made his way to his favorite coffee shop, where not only had he been waited on right away, but they had even had his favorite cookies available, still hot from the oven.
Coffee and cookies gone, he was on his way home….well to his childhood home, in Chino where his Mom still lived. Even though she lived only 45 minutes away, his work schedule limited their interaction, the majority of the time, to phone calls. She refused to let him buy her a computer, so they couldn't talk online, and webtv was out of the question, she said. Deciding he would surprise her with a visit and also give himself a chance to do a little upkeep around her small house for her while he was there in exchange for a home cooked meal, Ryan was happily riding along in his car, enjoying the sunshine, for he often didn't get out of his office until the sun had long set, and keeping beat on the steering wheel with the Journey song blaring through his custom sound system. Sure, the traffic might hardly be moving, but he was in no hurry, for once in his life.
The prospect of spending the day with his Mom, Dawn, put a smile on Ryan's face. Although she was his best friend now, that hadn't always been so. His life had been a horror story until around his sixteenth birthday. A single parent to two difficult boys after her husband abandoned his family in favor of the single life on the road, Dawn had tried to support her broken family to the best of her ability, but she had one weakness, the constant need to have a companion in her life. Her taste in men was not her best attribute either. Some were abusive, some were addicts, while others were lazy and shiftless, but, no matter what, every relationship she entered into ended badly, and things just continued to get worse for the two Atwood boys.
Trey, Ryan's older brother, couldn't deal with it that well. Instead of turning inside of himself, burying his life in his studies and books like Ryan, he turned to the local thugs for support, landing himself in jail by the time he was nineteen and Ryan was fifteen. Even though they weren't close, the loss of his brother made Ryan bitter, but it also made Dawn realize that she had only one shot left to make anything in her life a success, and she became determined to make Ryan one. She stopped dating, telling her friends that she had already met the love of her life, her son, and worked two jobs so that Ryan would not have to work after school, leaving him free to load up on AP classes and take part in extra-curricular activities, graduating three years later standing fourth in his class.
Because of his excellent academic standing and their economic restraints, Ryan got a full scholarship, electing to stay locally in order to be near his Mom. He went for his bachelor's degree at UC Irvine, commuting back and forth from Chino everyday and playing soccer for the school. Four years later, he had to leave home, the hardest thing he ever had to do, and went to Stanford for his law degree. He surpassed even his own goals in college, immediately getting his choice of jobs after graduation. Although he loved San Francisco, he wanted to be close to home, close to his Mom, so he moved back to Southern California and into a neighbor that he always felt would exclude him, Newport Beach. Ryan had asked Dawn to move in with him, but she had refused, claiming that she couldn't leave her home, her friends, the first good job, as a manager of a cleaning company with her own team of employees, she had ever had. Mother and son, happy yet lonely at times, had both finally found success.
What the hell, Ryan thought to himself, his memories ceasing to float through his mind as he finally noticed the driver behind him. Their tinted windows prevented him from seeing what they looked like, but with every passing moment they crept closer and closer to his car, too close for comfort even for traffic in Southern California. To make matters worse, it looked like they weren't even watching the road, their attention occupied, obviously, by something else for he could see their arms moving around in a rushed manner. Creeping up a little more to make a cushion between his car and the one behind him, he shook his head and dismissed his concerns. Screw them, he thought to himself, I'm not going to let some idiot ruin my day. Pressing along the packed freeway, his thoughts went back to contemplating his life and fantasizing about what his Mom just might make him for dinner.
Cell phone in left hand, right hand applying mascara, knees, through practically immobile due to the tight skirt she was wearing, steering the car, Marissa was attempting to multitask as she made her way to the meeting. "I don't care what you have to do," she yelled into her phone, her nerves and anxiety preventing her from realizing her secretary could hear her just fine, that yelling was not necessary, "stall them!" "I'm on my way, but traffic is a bitch today, and I cannot miss this meeting. This could finally be my big break, and to be able to go on vacation in two weeks with the knowledge that I landed the hotel remodel…..I'd be able to go to Chanel and not worry about forever sending myself into financial ruin," Marissa squealed in excitement. "Shit," she complained, contorting her torso to lean down and pick up her mascara wand, "I just dropped my…..ugh, found it." Sitting up quickly, Marissa's eyes, one with makeup and one without, focused just in time to see her car hit the stopped car in front of hers. "Oh no…..oh my god……holy hell, this cannot be happening!"
"What," the confused secretary asked, "what did you drop? Unless you dropped your coffee on the designs, I don't see what the big deal is."
"Beemer," Marissa answered, her breathing heavy and erratic. "I'm so screwed! How did this happen? This CANNOT be happening today." Almost to the point of hysterics, she continued as she pulled her car off to the side of the road. "And I ruined my brand new mascara. I've got to go. If I get arrested for running, come and bail me out!" And with that, she snapped her cell shut, hid it in her purse, put her makeup away, and opened her door to confront the car's owner in front of her, forgetting that she had never applied any makeup to her left eye.
The other car's door was just opening, but Marissa was already apologizing, her most contrite and innocent expression gracing her perfect face. "I'm so sorry," she began. "I'm just having a terrible morning, because I'm running behind for this really important meeting, and now this traffic….," she trailed off, her voice catching in her throat as her eyes met his. Could this get any worse, she asked herself silently, her mind momentarily free of work concerns. All she could see was the man in front of her. She literally felt her breathe catch. Never had she ever been as attracted to someone as she was at that moment, and she didn't even know why. Sure, he was good looking….hot and sexy to be more exact, but she saw men as good looking everyday. Perhaps it was his slightly scruffy face; it was obvious he hadn't shaved that morning. Maybe it was the way he carried himself, oozing confidence and self-esteem in a body that knew how to move to its best advantages. Yet, it could also be his eyes. If she wasn't careful, she'd loose herself, willingly, in them. Taking in every nuance of this stranger before her, Marissa never noticed him bending down to inspect their two cars, and he had to speak twice to regain her attention.
"What do you do," he asked her, a smirk on his face. "Do you work for a makeup company?" When she didn't reply but merely stared at him, lips parted and wet, he laughed before speaking up again. "That's some interesting makeup you're sporting there," his voice finally breaking through the haze of desire that had been clouding her mind.
"Oh, yeah, that," she blushed, "I was really late, so I never had a chance to put makeup on this morning, but I figured why not take advantage of the traffic jam. It might make me miss my meeting, but at least when I show up, late, to get the news that the company decided to go with someone else, I'd at least look presentable to be turned away."
"So that's what you were doing," Ryan remarked standing up and dusting off his hands. Noticing her quizzical expression, he explained. "I could tell you were doing something strange through your window, but what exactly you were up to, I had no idea. Now I know though, makeup."
"And talking on my cell phone with my secretary, trying to get her to stall the people I was supposed to meet with this morning, but then I dropped my mascara, bent over to pick up, and as soon as I sat back up, I hit you."
Looking around at their surroundings briefly before turning back to her, Ryan spoke up. "Well, there's good news and bad. What do you want first?"
"Bad," she answered.
"There's some damage to your car, not much," he amended when he noticed her saddened expression. "It would take just a few hours to fix. A new headlight, a little buffing of some minor scratches, and maybe some touch up painting is all it would take to make it as good as new again."
"I can live with that," Marissa said calmly, sighing with relief. "What's the good news?"
"There's actually two pieces of good news. One is that my car doesn't seem to have any damage."
"My insurance company and I thank you," Marissa joked, impressing Ryan that she still had her sense of humor despite her stressed state. "What else do you have for me?"
"Traffic's clearing up," he pointed out with a charitable smile on his face. "It looks like you just might make it to your meeting after all."
"Yeah, except we have to wait for the police to arrive and we have to call our insurance companies. It's going to take all morning," she lamented, leaning against the warm hood of her car, totally disregarding her once perfect suit. "I hope I'm not going to make you late for anything."
"Just going to visit my Mom," he dismissed with a wave, causing his cuteness factor to rise even higher for Marissa. Not only was he apparently a nice guy, but he was also good to his Mom, her one track mind told her before his voice startled her out of her revelry.
"But, I'll make you a deal," he suggested, continuing when she nodded to signal her interest. "What if we just pretend this never happened, that way it won't be necessary to call the cops or our insurance companies and you can get to your meeting."
Surprised, Marissa blurted out, "are you sure?"
"Yeah, why not," he shrugged, opening his car door and pulling out his wallet. "Here's my card. Call me if you have any problems."
"Oh, let me get mine, too," Marissa quickly agreed, scrambling into her car to search for a business card. Finally finding one, she handed it to him, their hands meeting as they exchanged cards sending sparks through both of their bodies, their eyes lifting briefly to connect. They merely stared at each other for a minute before Ryan broke into the moment.
"You better get going if you don't want to be late," he prodded.
"You're right," she agreed still not moving. Finally regaining her ability to move, she backed up towards her open car door slowly, her eyes staying locked on his until the point where she had to get in. Waving shyly, she spoke one last time, thanking him for being so understanding, before shutting her door and speeding off, her mind drifting back to the blonde haired, blue eyes man she had just wrecked into. Unable to help it, she looked at his business card. Ryan Atwood, she read to herself over and over again in her mind. It suits him. Accelerating down the freeway towards her possible future, suddenly the idea of going to Paris alone was not as appealing any longer.
"You know," she teased him, swinging her legs back and forth carelessly he noticed as he glanced over his shoulder at the enchanting beauty propped up on the work bench of his Mother's garage, "you didn't have to do this."
Answering her, he said, "I wanted to."
"Yeah but I was the one who hit you," Marissa laughed. She could have no other name, he thought himself. "Normally the innocent party does not fix the one responsible for the accident's car….for free."
"Who said I'm doing this for free," he smirked at her. "And besides, you're going to help me."
"Not dressed like this," she argued with him, motioning to her now wrinkled, expressive, black suit.
"My gym bag is in the back of my car out front," he pointed out. "Go grab it and change into something a little more appropriate."
"Aren't we demanding," she joked, jumping down off the high, wooden structure and sauntering out of the garage in a decidedly captivating sashay. She walks like that to torture me, Ryan thought to himself only to stop dead in his tracks when she reentered, gym bag in hand and started changing right there.
"Wh….what are you doing," he stumbled across his words.
"Changing, like you told me to," she responded, a dangerous twinkle in her eye. "I couldn't very well change outside, and there's no way I was crawling in the back seat of that little sports car you drive to change."
"Ever heard of the house," he played along. "Or do you add exhibitionist to your list of illegal activities? I hope those people you interviewed for today don't know about your little hit and run and penchant for stripping in public."
"Our accident wasn't technically a hit and run," she pouted. "You told me to leave. And as for the public indecency charge, I'm not in public; I'm just in front of you." To add effect, she stuck her tongue out at him before slipping his tank over her head, the shirt so big, generous proportions of her bra peeked through. Sliding his track pants on underneath her skirt, she wiggled out of the previous garment, tossing it inside of her car before going to stand behind him. "So, what are you working on," she asked, curious.
"Do you really want to know," he asked her. She shook her head yes. "Alright then, come here," he motioned to her, sliding back so she could stand in front of him. "I'll show you."
Using her body, her hands to replace his owns, he gently moved her fingers to where they were needed, working to buff out the slight scratches the accident caused, but even after she had the hang of it, he never let go of her. Instead, he moved closer to her, wrapping both of his arms around her hips and taking her hands in his, lacing their fingers together. "Maybe you shouldn't do this," his voice was low, sultry, capable of making her body quiver. "We wouldn't want to get any grease on your soft….delicate hands," he explained running his index finger along the underside of her wrist.
"Why not," she flirted back, "cleaning up is half of the fun." Twisting around to see him, needing to know that she was sending his senses into overdrive just as he was to her, their faces came close together, their lips tantalizingly so, close enough that each would swear they could taste the others breathe, Ryan's a cool mint; Marissa's a steamy cinnamon. Closing her eyes for a moment and then reopening them to only bite her lip, Marissa stared deeply into his gaze, the nerves, anticipation, and want she was experiencing so clear in her eyes it took Ryan's breath away. "What are we doing," she asked him, her voice a mere rasp.
"I'm welcoming you to Chino," Ryan teased, a cheeky smirk on his face. It was Marissa's undoing. Closing the gap between their faces, she slowly traced his mouth with her fingers, eye lashes fluttering slightly out of anticipation. Leaning into him, she slid her fingers down to his jaw, holding onto his face softly as she tenderly kissed him, their lips merely teasing each other, floating across the others and heightening their passion. Time stood still; it did not matter. As their embraces increased in desire, their lips parted to let their tongues blend together seamlessly; the heat of their touches singeing their fingertips with lust.
Pulling away from her, Ryan looked into Marissa's eyes and saw that she had no doubts; that was all that he needed. Words, at that point, were superfluous. Trailing his hands languidly down her torso, caressing the sides of her breasts and her slender stomach through the material of her clothes, he took hold of the edges of his tank top, pulling it gently off of her delicate, delectable frame and tossing it aside. Where it landed, he didn't care. Trailing his fingers over her plump lips as he stood up and moved away from her towards the radio, he motioned to her to be patient. This is insane. We just met each other a few hours ago, he thought to himself as he adjusted the dial to his favorite hard rock station, the volume so intense it rattled the window panes. No one will hear us now, Ryan laughed silently to himself before making his way back to Marissa.
Wordlessly, he picked her up carefully, her hands sliding around his neck comfortably as her long, luscious legs wrapped around his body, and carried her back to the workbench, sitting her down gently before leaning his body into hers and taking her mouth in, yet another, dizzying kiss while his hands found their way to her bra clasp, letting it fall off her body. He could not get enough of her, and he knew, from the gleam in her eye that the feeling was mutual. As the music pulsated on, their bodies, slick and sweaty in the late August heat, came together as one, a repeating chorus of harmonic need, rhythmic satisfaction, and melodic delight.
Sitting up in bed at the sound of his alarm going off at exactly 7:00 AM, Ryan Atwood, for the third morning straight woke up in the middle of the must frustratingly wonderful dream possible. His body glistening and tense, he knew another very cold shower was in need to calm his body down. Unfortunately, a cold shower was not always available as he had learned Friday evening when his Mom had emerged into the living room after checking on dinner only to disturb a pleasant fantasy he was imagining, a throw pillow his only help, or Saturday when he had been at the gym getting dressed, his bag when he was walking out coming in handy then, or, again, Sunday during the preseason football game he was watching with a buddy from work, a quick escape to the bathroom when the friend wasn't looking his only saving grace. He did not even want to think about when she would enter his mind today at work and completely bewitch him. It was like he was under a spell and the only thing he could think about was that woman from the freeway, the one who had hit him, the one he could not close his eyes without imaging her out of her becoming suit.
Standing up from his bed, he turned off his alarm clock, the music disturbing his thoughts, and noticed her business card laying on the nightstand. Picking it up, he twirled it in his fingers, a smirk on his face as he made his way into the bathroom, the cold shower even more necessary than before. If he couldn't get her out of his mind, he better find a way to make her a reality and not just a fantasy.
Completely dressed in a designer suit, Ryan made his way out of his house, briefcase in hand, and settled into his car, pulling out of his driveway before picking up his cell phone. Dialing the number he had memorized while getting ready, he waited for her to pick up, hoping she would answer.
"Marissa Cooper Designs," the chipper voice on the other line greeted him, obviously not the woman the company was named for. "How may I help you?"
"Yes, can I please speak to Miss Cooper," Ryan asked politely, a smile he couldn't control flashing across his face.
"May I ask who's calling," the secretary inquired.
"Just one moment sir," and one moment later it was when Marissa's tense voice filled the lines.
"What's wrong," she asked him without even so much as a greeting. "I knew everything was too easy," she complained. "It kept me up all weekend. Let me guess, I actually totaled your car or you think I've caused permanent back damage. Perhaps you're an undercover cop who tricked me into not following the law….."
"Miss Cooper….Marissa," Ryan interrupted her. "Nothing's wrong." Laughing at her antics, he continued. "And as for not sleeping this past weekend, it seemed to be an epidemic; I suffered from the same problem, but I think the cause was definitely different and more pleasant in my situation."
Holy shit, Marissa thought to herself, he's flirting with me. Wanting to play along though despite her anxious mood, she teased, "then, if you're not going to sue me, I saw you were a lawyer by the way, to what do I owe this pleasure."
"There might not be anything wrong," he explained, "but I think I deserve something for being such a good sport about the whole situation."
Shocked by his forward nature, she exclaimed, "And what's that supposed to mean?"
"That means that I hope you have something nice on today, because I'll be at your office at 5:00, I'm getting out of work early, and I'm taking you out on a date."
"You're kidding, right," Marissa asked, flabbergasted. "I mean….you don't even know me."
"Oh I'm as serious as that glimpse of your cleavage I got when you bent over to retrieve your business card last Friday," he shot back playfully, "and if you don't live up to my expectations, remember that I have the power to get you in quite a bit of trouble with the police." When she didn't say anything, the line filled with silent disbelief on her part and reserved anticipation on his, he continued. "5:00 and not a minute later, and I expect you to look your finest." With that, Ryan flipped his phone shut before tossing it onto the passenger seat. Now all he had to do was figure out how he was going to make this one opportunity count. He had a very spicy recurring dream to actualize that he was finding himself hoping it turned into something more. Strange, Ryan thought to himself, how the most mundane of circumstances, a car accident, could potentially change your life forever.