Authors: Kim Linwood
Carl nods again.
“Thanks, Carl.” I stare at him until he catches the hint and leaves the room, closing the door behind him and leaving me alone with Claire.
he doesn’t waste any time. “Is this going to be a problem?”
“Well, I don’t know. Do we have a problem?”
“To think I hooked up with you.” She shudders melodramatically.
“You loved it. Don’t tell me different. I bet you’re still thinking about it.” I know I am. “We fucked the hell out of your bed.”
“Obviously that was one heck of a mistake.” She runs her fingers through her hair, reminding me of how soft it felt twisted around my fist.
“A mistake? You didn’t seem to mind it at the time. In fact, after the first time, I’m pretty sure you’re the one who ordered me to do it again. And again.”
Her blush is fucking adorable. “Fine! A whole bunch of mistakes. You weren’t my boss then, and we weren’t
I put my hands on my desk and lean in conspiratorially. “We’re not stepsiblings yet, so if we hurry...”
“You also didn’t act like an asshole then, but you’re doing a pretty fine job of that now.” She rolls her eyes and sighs. “Whatever. Screw this. I’ll go get my codes and cards and stuff.” She turns and reaches for the door handle. “This is going to be such a waste of my time.”
I get to the door just in time to slam shut the little she has it open. “Don’t take that tone with me. I won’t pretend this isn’t weird, but I’m your real fucking boss and I’ll give you real fucking work. You might need law school to pass your bar, but this is where you learn how the job is done.”
“And your creepy advances are supposed to teach me... what?” Her hand’s still on the door handle, but she’s not pulling.
“They’re just bonus.” I put on my most winning grin. The one that makes girls drop into my bed and spread their legs. At least used to. It’s been a while. Come to think of it, it didn’t work on her, at least at first.
Up close, I become painfully aware of her soft scent. Something flowery, but not overpowering. The same she wore that night. No mistaking it. It makes me want to grab her and find the source.
I resist the urge to nuzzle her neck, and open the door instead. The sooner I get her out of here, the better, before I really fuck this up. “Alright, go get your things. I’ll put together some work for you.”
For a long moment she watches me, evaluating with a frown. Then she nods, but it’s obviously under doubt. She doesn’t know what I’m going to do, and fuck if I know either.
A half an hour later, she’s received her laptop, some stationery and Carl even found an unused filing cabinet for keeping her junk in. While she was gone, I ran off a copy of the briefs and documentation for the case we’ll be working on. It’s an imposing pile of paper.
“Alright, learn all you can from this. There’ll be a quiz tomorrow.” I toss the pile of papers onto her desk with a thump.
“Yes, Mr. Riordan. Would there be anything else, Mr. Riordan? Tea? Coffee? A kick in the balls, Mr. Riordan?” Her tone’s acidic, but I can’t help laughing at the snark. She’s so mild mannered on the surface, but once she gets going, she’s a wildcat. In and out of bed.
“What was that? A lick? Why Ms. Anderson, how inappropriate. But I’ll take you up on the coffee. Black, no sugar. On my desk in two minutes. Carl can show you how to work the machine.”
She cocks her head and gives me the finger. Then she sits down without another word and starts sorting the pages.
“Right. Later then.” I laugh on my way into my office.
As I sit down, I remember the old intercom system. It’s been sitting at the corner of my desk since I moved into this office, but I’ve never had reason to try it. I’ve gotten so used to ignoring it that I stopped noticing it at all.
The other end sits on Claire’s desk.
Wonder if it works.
I push the talk button. “Ms. Anderson, are you going to be long with that coffee?” Based on the angry growl at the other end, I guess it does.
I’ve re-read the name of the client over and over in the hopes that it isn’t who I think it is, but there’s no avoiding the truth. I knew going into law that I’d probably have to deal with work I didn’t personally agree with. Maybe even things I found wrong or distasteful.
But defending the corporation that drove my father to suicide? God, I don’t even want to think about it. It makes my stomach churn.
According to the class action lawsuit against them, they’ve been systematically cutting corners and thumbing their nose at every OSHA regulation they could possibly get away with, and then threatening workers with termination if they make noise about it. I don’t even need to read the documentation to believe it’s true.
It’s what happened to Dad.
He stuck out the shakes and breathing troubles from his welding work for the sake of the men and women who worked for him, faithfully going in day after day until they fired him anyway. If the claims are true, things have only gotten worse since then.
If this had been ten years ago, I’d have been right there on the other side, sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches.
And I’m supposed to help defend them?
My hand crumples the top paper, squeezing it tighter and tighter. I can’t do this. How can I justify defending the exact kind of horror I got into this to fight? Why would a reputable firm like Riordan & Flynn even take on a case like this? There have to be ethical guidelines or... something, anything that this goes against. This isn’t right. Even Declan has to see that.
The intercom buzzes, making me groan in frustration. Speak of the devil.
It’s like the fifth time since I sat down. How does he expect me to study these documents when he keeps interrupting me every few minutes? The intercom box crackles as he calls me again. It looks and sounds like it’s been here since the building was built.
“Ms. Anderson, may I see you in my office for some
Yeah, he can go to hell.
After a couple of minutes, it buzzes again. “No, seriously, come in here.”
I push the talk button and with my sweetest tone, I reply, “Last I looked, Mr. Riordan, you had a pair of perfectly functioning legs. Sitting too long is bad for your health, so it’s better if you get off your ass to exercise them every once in a while, instead of just flexing your vocal cords. Sir.”
He doesn’t push the button, but I hear his laugh faintly through the door. I’m glad
amused by this, at least. Jeez, I can’t believe I’m going to end up related to this guy. And we had sex. Vigorous, mind-blowing sex. Several times. Crap. Even all alone out here, I can’t keep the heat from rushing to my face.
I still don’t regret it, even knowing who he is and what a jerk he can be. That night was exactly what I’d needed to start getting past Michael’s betrayal. So I’m trying to cut myself some slack for getting all hot and bothered about my step-boss even though my illusions about what a great guy he was were crushed pretty hard back in his office. I was in a low spot and he helped me. It’s natural to react to him.
But it can’t happen again, for like eleventy billion reasons.
One of which is crumpled up on my desk.
I glance out the window to the common area. People are moving around, talking and working together. It’s quiet in here, which I guess is good. It helps me concentrate, but I’m isolated. Just me, my documents and a way-too-hot-for-his-own-good jerk with some sort of chip on his shoulder,
who won’t shut up over the intercom. Maybe there’s an off switch somewhere.
I’m still searching for it when he comes out the door.
“Mr. Riordan,” I say sweetly with my biggest, fakest smile.
His cocky smirk widens. “Give it a rest, Claire. Weekly status meeting time. Lesson number one of corporate life: there’s always another meeting. Pull your gorgeous ass out of your chair and come with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you can explain what’s up with this case.” I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him. “We’re protecting a corporation’s systematic mistreatment of its employees. That can’t possibly be right.”
He arches an eyebrow at me in surprise. “What’s up with it? They hired us to defend them. Money goes out of their accounts.” He wiggles his fingers through the air. “And into ours.” Cocking his head, he gives me an amused look. “Look, we’re not Green-fucking-peace. We need to make a living. Are you backing down already, just because your first case isn’t to your taste?”
“But—But what if we win?” Is money really all he cares about?
“We get paid.” He shrugs. “If you’re looking to be a crusader of morality and all that is good, you picked the wrong profession, babe. I told you this wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe you should have listened.”
I glare at him, but his back’s already to me as he leaves the room. I scramble to catch up. There’s no way I’m letting him make me look bad on my first day. Our discussion’s going to have to wait.
Carl gives me a wink and a nod as we pass his desk, then we head down a corridor past the elevators. Declan glances at his watch and picks up the pace.
The meeting room is packed, and every single eye turns to watch us come in. I’ve never done well with crowds, and the way they’re staring, you’d think I’d just walked in naked. I have to catch myself so I don’t check if I actually did.
Though I’m sure Declan would have told me, a time or ten.
At the head of the table sits Garrett Riordan. In the same room together, it’s obvious he and Declan are father and son. Same black hair, dark blue eyes and broad build. Same impatience. There are only two empty chairs around the large oval table, and he gestures to them. “Try to be on time next time, Declan.” The steel in his deep gravelly voice makes it clear it’s not a suggestion.
“Sorry. Guess the old intercoms aren’t as reliable as I thought.” Declan shrugs while I catch myself before I roll my eyes with everyone watching.
“Alright, let’s get started before we waste more time.” Garrett gets straight to business, just as I remember him. “I’m sure you’ve all heard that Ms. Claire Anderson is joining us for the summer.”
I nod at his words, acknowledging them. Others around the table nod as well. We’re like a bunch of bobble heads.
“She recently graduated with a Political Science degree and a 3.9 average. In the fall, she’s starting Law at Stanford. She’s obviously talented and she’s here to get a leg up. I expect she’ll work hard at it.”
With a stern glance in my direction that makes me sink into my chair like I’m already in trouble, he pauses meaningfully. Was that “leg up” comment about me and Declan? He can’t know, right? I half expect him to continue with, “Also, she’s fucked my son.”
Of course, he doesn’t.
Next to me, Declan scribbles something on a notepad that he grabbed off the table. While his dad addresses the rest of the room, he slides it over so I can read.
I’ll totally help you get a leg up. Maybe even both.
I look away, making a point of ignoring him. He’d be insufferable if he knew that had been my first thought too. I focus on Garrett, trying not to imagine my legs anywhere near his son.
“Ms. Anderson will be assisting Declan on the Cooper Holdings case. It’ll be a challenging place for her to begin, and maybe she can help Declan keep his focus.” This time the stern look settles squarely on Declan, who meets it with a set jaw and an obstinate expression.
There’s something going on between them that I don’t know about, that’s obvious, but the moment passes and his gaze comes back to me. For the first time, I see him smile, but it’s thin-lipped and grim. “Welcome to Riordan & Flynn, Ms. Anderson. I trust you won’t squander this opportunity.”
Yike, he’s got the stern stepfather look down, and he’s not even my stepfather yet.
There are scattered welcomes from the others around the table, and then introductions are done. Garrett starts the meeting proper, asking short, probing questions about the status of various cases. The attendees hang on his every word, jumping to attention when his focus lands on them.
Much as I try to keep up, it’s impossible without knowing what their cases are about. It’s not long before the meeting is just a dull buzz while I try to look interested. I don’t think anyone even remembers I’m here.
Well, one person does.
A hand touches my thigh, making me jump. Glancing over at Declan, I furrow my brow and try to get his attention without being obvious. He’s looking straight ahead, pretending to keep up with the discussion, but his hand strokes me softly. I don’t know what to do. There isn’t much I
do without drawing attention to myself.
Sliding down towards my knees, his palm feels impossibly hot, even through my skirt. I try to move my leg, but his strong grip locks around my thigh, keeping me in place.
I sigh and stay put. I’m not going to jeopardize my first day here by disturbing my first meeting, but he’s going to get an earful afterwards.
His hand goes back to stroking, softly and quietly. It feels good, much as I hate to admit it, because I’m so freaking furious with him right now. This internship isn’t a joke.
Garrett and a sandy-haired attorney get into a discussion on a billing situation, but I’m mostly concerned about how Declan lightly tugs at my skirt. Luckily it’s a pencil skirt, so he can’t get up underneath easily, and I’m certainly not doing anything to encourage him. What the hell is he thinking?
My skin tingles. My body doesn’t care, not about the meeting, or about him being a jerk. I’ve spent so many nights since that first one thinking about his touch. It was never supposed to be like this, but that doesn’t keep me from getting wet. I try to shift, but he pinches me. I let out a little gasp and slap at his fingers.
Garrett turns to me with raised eyebrows. “Are you alright, Ms. Anderson?”
“Yes,” I reply way too quickly. He has to know something’s up. “Just a twitch. I’m sorry.” Declan’s hand pats me, as if to say