Authors: Kim Linwood
Even knowing what’s coming, I’m too tired to think straight. Last night was late, filled with documentation, legal briefs, conflicting statements, court orders and on and on and on, until I thought my head would explode. A serious caffeine injection is going to be necessary before I actually start doing anything. “They both suck? Sorry, Carl. No idea.”
He grins. “Good effort, kiddo, but no cigar. The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the
My lips twitch a bit at the corners and Carl laughs, pointing at me with a sort of
gesture. I wonder if he actually dislikes lawyers that much, or if all lawyer jokes are just that awful.
“Hey, you alright? You look pretty beat.” He looks me over with a grimace. “It’s only your second day, Ms. Anderson. It usually takes at least a week before this job sucks the life out of your soul.”
Apparently my concealer isn’t concealing nearly as well as I’d hoped. “Just call me Claire.” Formality never sat very comfortably with me. “I stayed up way too late trying to make sense of the case, that’s all. Gotta make sure I pull my weight, right?”
“Alright, Ms. Ander—Claire.” He grins apologetically, then leaning over the reception desk, he waves me closer. When I step forward, he whispers while looking around as if he’s afraid of getting caught. “No one here works as hard as they pretend to. Don’t let yourself burn out by trying to impress them. They won’t appreciate it anyway.” He winks and grins, then slides back into his chair.
“I think I might be the exception to that, but I’ll keep it in mind.” I yawn. “I’m just going to go... coffee. In the place, with that thing, that makes coffee.”
He nods at me as I walk off, and when I look back over my shoulder, he’s back to looking bored. What an odd character. The fact that Carl still works here and hasn’t been tossed out a window yet gives me a little bit of hope that my mother’s new husband isn’t nearly as dull and humorless as he seems.
Shutting the door to my little office, I’m thankful for the quiet that felt so isolating yesterday. I’m so tired I feel hungover. This had better be some high-octane java. I drop my briefcase on my desk and set my cup down. Spinning my chair around, I flop into my seat.
A loud, penetrating blast like the horn of a cruise ship explodes from under my butt. I jump to my feet in panic. My heart threatens to burst out of my chest, and the noise feels like a pickaxe through my skull, a high pitched whine torturing my eardrums as if I just came out of a nightclub. The sound echoes off the walls out in the common area.
What the hell? I know we’re high up, but is this an air raid drill?
Everyone in the main room turns to look in my direction. Even the office doors pop open and people stick their heads out, wondering what on Earth is going on. I’m absolutely mortified, and I don’t even know why. I shrug my shoulders and they glare at me, like somehow I failed to sit properly and this is all my fault.
Dropping to the carpet to look underneath my seat, the culprit is easy enough to spot. An air horn, duct taped to the column so the trigger was pushed as soon as I sat down. I’m almost,
ready to charge over and let Carl take the blame, but as the ringing in my ears slowly fades, an all too familiar laugh comes faintly through the door to Declan’s office.
His feelings run deep? Not as deep as I’m about to shove this air horn.
I get up, furious. Two purposeful strides and I tear open his door. I have the satisfaction of seeing him jump before a shit-eating grin spreads on his handsome face. “Good morning. Did you just come in? I thought I heard something.”
Slamming my hands down on his desk, I lean over it and snarl. “What the
do you think you’re doing?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He’s laughing while he says it, unable to keep a straight face.
“You gave me a freaking heart attack!” There’s a staple remover on his desk, and I throw it at him, bouncing it off his broad chest. “You’re an asshole.”
“Ouch!” He laughs and rubs where it hit. “What? Can’t hack it in the big leagues? Going home to cry to mommy?”
“Big leagues? You mean little league, right? This is ridiculous. What the hell is your problem?”
“What can I say? I was feeling a little
this morning and thought of you.”
“You... You!” I’m so mad I can barely speak. “You’re a child dressed up like a man and I’m supposed to learn something from
? Our parents are going to be thrilled when they hear about this.”
He stands up, and suddenly he’s the one looking down on me. The amusement slides off his face and I’m faced with the wrath of an angry god. I take a step back, nervous and not happy with how instead of being afraid, I’m hoping he channels that passion into kissing the hell out of me like I know he can.
There is something seriously messed up about my judgment.
“Don’t you fucking dare go running to Mommy about this. She has no place here. This is about you and me. And if you think for an instant that my father would appreciate you running off to tell on me because you can’t take a joke, you have a lot to learn, little girl.”
A joke? I’d throw more crap, but I need this job and there’s nothing in easy reach that would be satisfying anyway. “Fine!”
He slams his hands onto his desk, right next to mine, leaning in so close that our noses almost touch. “Fine!”
I lick my lips, enjoying that even angry, he watches. “But just remember that you started it, because I
get you back. When you least expect it. And it will be glorious.” This close, I can smell his cologne. It reminds me of his body glistening over mine and the scent of him in my sheets. I’m supposed to be furious, but I want to turn my head a fraction of an inch and capture his lips.
Focus! I force myself to frown. “You’ll never know what hit you.”
“You mean like this?”
I don’t have time to react before he does exactly what I was resisting. His mouth covers mine, and I can’t help but lean into his kiss, electricity arcing between us. He pulls away, and I can tell from his smug expression that he knows how much I wanted that. The only thing that keeps me from being humiliated is the hunger in his eyes. Oh, he did it to piss me off, but he wanted it too.
“What are you—what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Adrenaline’s still coursing through my veins, and I hate myself for making it so easy for him.
“Whatever I want.” He flashes a cocky smirk before settling back down into the soft brown leather of his chair. “Cooper’s going to be here in an hour. Make sure you’re ready.”
I stomp out of his office and slam the door behind me. A few heads turn my way as I come out, but I don’t care. Better they think I hate his guts than know we’re one bad decision away from fucking like rabbits over his desk.
He has me all turned around inside. So much that I almost sit right back down into my booby-trapped chair. I close my eyes and force out a long, slow breath. There are only so many heart attacks I can take in one morning.
I’m not sure how I’m going to get him back yet, but it’s going to be good.
ah! Holy shit, that was epic.
I’m still chuckling when it’s time for the meeting to start.
Claire’s so fucking gorgeous when she’s angry. Chest heaving, eyes sparking, she looked ready to fucking kill me, and it got me so damn hard. Something must be seriously wrong with me.
I shouldn’t have kissed her, but it was worth it just to feel her respond and know I’m not the only crazy one. My father would lose his shit if he knew what I wanted to do to that girl.
Banging the interns is highly discouraged, but I wouldn’t be the first. Banging my new stepsister, on the other hand... I can honestly say that’s never come up in any of his talks about office decorum.
Grabbing my laptop, I get up to go. I’m half hoping Claire’s decided I’m not worth it and quit, and half hoping she’s still angry enough to push me into something we’ll both enjoy way too much for our own good.
I guess both is too much to ask for.
Opening the door, I find her there. Her back is to me, and she’s fiddling with something on her desk. She hasn’t heard me yet, and I take a moment to lean on the door frame and watch her move. She’s bent over at the waist, and that view’s fucking gorgeous.
I’d stand here forever if I could, but Cooper will be here any minute. When she straightens up, I clear my throat.
She jumps and spins. “Holy crap, don’t sneak up on me like that.”
There’s a picture frame clutched to her chest, and I realize she’s been busy setting her mark on her little office space. There’s a tiny orchid on her desk, and she’s hung up a few photos. Aside from one with her mother, I don’t recognize the people in them, and for some reason it pisses me off.
Like I don’t want to be reminded she has a life I’m not a part of.
She sets down what she’s holding, giving it a place of honor on her desk next to the plant. Coming closer, I see it’s a picture of a heavy-set man with powerful arms and a big friendly smile. He’s sitting down with a girl in his lap, whose long, slightly curly dark red hair is a pretty obvious giveaway. She’s looking at the camera with a smile just like his while he’s looking down at her.
I cock my head, examining their features. “Your dad?”
Claire chews her lip nervously. “Yeah.”
It never occurred to me to even wonder about what happened to her dad. I’ve been too focused on her mother taking over my father’s life. “What happened to him? Ran out? Cheating? Joined the foreign legion?”
Her face twists angrily. “He jumped off a bridge, actually.” She puts a false brightness into her tone, and I know I’m about to find out just how badly I fucked up by joking about him. “That’s what years of alcoholism and depression will do to you. Well, that and getting screwed by Cooper fucking Holdings who stole twenty years of his life and gave him chronic, degenerative illness as a parting gift. He should’ve taken the watch, I guess.”
I want to say something, but for once I’ve no idea what. Fuck, no wonder she got all pissy about the case. I can resent her all I want, but no one deserves that. I open my mouth a couple of times, but all I produce is, “I’m sorry.” It sounds pitifully inadequate.
“Yeah.” Her eyes are far away. “By the time they let him go, he was slurring his words and his hands shook all the time. And he didn’t get a dime from them.” She plops into her chair, her gaze locking on the picture. “They said there was no concrete evidence that his problems were work related. Like they hadn’t done the same to his buddies two years before. We didn’t have the money to fight it. You know better than anyone how much they are willing to pay to make this go away.”
I lean up against the wall, watching her blink back tears. Her fingers are tearing at a piece of paper off her desk, making tiny strips out of it. I want to comfort her, but this is uncharted territory for us and I’m complete shit at this emotional stuff. “Sounds like a raw deal. No one could help?”
She sniffs. “What do you do when someone doesn’t want to be helped? He ran off when I was twelve, but he was never far away. I’d meet him in the park a lot and we’d sit together. I tried to drag him home over and over but he’d stay for a few days and then take off again as soon as we started talking about getting him help.
“Right before... the call, he’d been home for two weeks and I honestly thought things would be better. I had these dreams about him and Mom getting back together, and it all working out. Then one morning he was gone and a couple days later...” She looks down at her hands, dropping the shreds of paper as if she didn’t know she was even holding them.
“I’m sorry. I really am.” Mom’s face flashes before my eyes. “Losing a parent sucks.”
She looks up, and for the first time since our night together, something real solidifies between us. A tenuous bond between two victims of unfair loss. Then my phone rings. Pulling it out of my pocket, I look at the display. Carl. I hit the button and answer. “Yeah, Declan.”
“Your guest is here.”
Right. “Thanks, Carl. We’re on our way.” I glance at Claire, her face a mask again. The moment’s passed. “We gotta go.”
She nods without much conviction, probably dreading this meeting. “Okay.”
Drawing a deep breath and letting it out, she’s totally unaware of how badly I want to grab her and take her somewhere, anywhere, else. She thinks I’m a greedy dickhead, and maybe she’s right, but while teasing her and making her angry is fun, watching her hurt isn’t.
She picks up a pen and a pad from her desk, then looks up, her face hard in determination. “I’m ready.”
Our walk is long and quiet.
Spotting our client, I wonder if maybe she’s right. Maybe it isn’t worth it, but we have a contract, and in this business, someone always ends up getting hurt. In the end the courts will decide, and what I believe doesn’t really matter.
Time to go make some money.
o basically, we’re fucked. Some asswipe didn’t keep his trap shut and now it’s all over the goddamn news.”
Harry Cooper Jr. isn’t what I’d call a charmer. He’s crude, obnoxious and constantly fiddling with his cigar like he’s about to light that turd shaped stink bomb up in our meeting room. I try not to judge our clients, but I’m finding very little to like about him. His beady little eyes are fixed on me, ignoring Claire completely. He seems like an ass all around, and I’m not finding the accusations of screwing over his employees hard to believe.
He took over from his father about fifteen years ago, and from what I can tell, he’s been slowly running it into the ground ever since. If Claire’s dad worked for this guy, it doesn’t surprise me she resents him. If anything, I’m amazed that the company’s still around. There must be just enough people left who know what they’re doing to somehow protect him from himself.
What was intended to be a status update, has instead turned into a two hour bitch fest with no end in sight. There hasn’t exactly been time to read it over, but I’m pretty sure all the new paperwork he brought in is just more of the same. Instead of worrying about that though, he’s obsessed with all the bad PR he’s been getting lately.