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Authors: Allison Leotta

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Romance

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BOOK: Law of Attraction
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Nick answered cautiously, knowing he was close to a danger zone. “He’s actually doing well. He has a place of his own and perfect attendance at his job training and anger management classes.”

“Has he been able to keep his hands off Laprea?”

“There haven’t been any problems. I really think he’s on the right track.”

“Come on, Nick. You know he’s not going to change. How could you defend him?”

“Everyone deserves a good defense.”

“That’s a nice idea in the abstract. You see what happens in real life.”

“The whole system is stacked against these kids, Anna. I grew up just a few miles from D’marco Davis, but I probably got away with more as a teenager than he did. If a kid in Potomac smokes some weed, no problem, he goes to Princeton. In Southeast, the police are everywhere. The same kid with the same weed gets caught and now he has a criminal record. He can’t get a job, so he turns to drug dealing. And a lot of the cops are brutal and dishonest. The system is just fucked up. Anything I do to help these kids evens things out a little bit. People need some leeway to figure out what’s right and wrong without the coercion of a corrupt police state.”

“Bullshit.” Anna glared up at him, feeling her cheeks flush with anger. “If your father was beating the crap out of your mother, you’d be pretty damned happy if someone—anyone—stopped him. So don’t tell me about ‘coercion’ and ‘corrupt police states.’ Those are naïve, anarchist ideas bandied about by people who have no idea about the reality of domestic violence.”

She knew this was neither the time nor the place to talk about her family, but his smug superiority infuriated her. Nick was looking at her quizzically, obviously wondering what personal experience she claimed made her more qualified on the topic than him. Before Nick could reply, the redheaded lobbyist interrupted with a trill.

“Anna, introduce us to your cute friend!”

Anna tried to calm herself as she reluctantly allowed Nick into the circle and made the introductions. The women all turned to the newcomer eagerly. The lobbyist eyed Nick like he was another tasty little lamb chop. Anna felt a twinge of possessiveness, and was immediately annoyed by it.

The redhead tossed Nick the usual question Washingtonians ask when they first meet each other: “So, where do you work?”

“I’m a public defender.”

That got a little “ooh” from the crowd. Nick grinned; Anna scowled.

“Wow!” The lobbyist widened her eyes. “Can that be dangerous?”

“The only danger is me boring my clients to death. Telling them about classes they can take. Anger management, job training, that sort of thing. A lot of these kids just need a little push in the right direction. No one’s ever cared enough to give them that before.”

Kids! He made them sound like orphans, not felons.

“Do a lot of your clients turn their lives around?” Anna asked sarcastically.

“Actually, you’d be surprised.” He saw her raise her eyebrows. “You don’t see the happy endings, Anna. You only get the cases when something goes wrong. When a guy goes straight, he doesn’t have files at the U.S. Attorney’s Office anymore. You guys just don’t hear about him again.”

Anna felt a bit chastened. She hadn’t thought of that before.

“Even if a client doesn’t reform right away, it’s important for me to be there for him,” Nick continued. “These kids see the whole world stacked against them. It means a lot to know someone’s in their corner.”

“It must be so satisfying, helping poor kids like that!” The redhead looked like she wouldn’t mind satisfying Nick, too.

“Yeah. It’s not always pretty. But I love my job.”

The women kept asking questions about his work, and Nick answered with eloquence and passion. Anna was skeptical of Nick’s
image of himself as a knight in shining armor, heroic defender of liberty. There were terrible, brutal men who didn’t deserve liberty, who would only use their liberty to inflict pain on other people. But at least she was getting a glimmer of understanding about how Nick could do his job.

“So, how do you two know each other?” the redhead asked.

“Anna kicks my butt all around Superior Court.” Nick smiled at Anna. “She’s been schooling us defense attorneys since she got there. Get her autograph now; someday it’ll be valuable.”

The women murmured their approval. Anna smiled into her wineglass. She was still annoyed, but she wasn’t immune to the power of a public compliment.

The group continued to chat, comparing their jobs, arguing politics, and dishing on local scandals. The redhead tried to flirt with Nick, but he was focused on Anna. Whenever a waiter with sushi passed, Nick flagged him down, making sure she had as much as she wanted. Her anger softened. The Curtis family history wasn’t his fault. Neither was Laprea’s decision to lie on the stand. Nick had just been doing his job. Anna accepted another glass of wine, feeling her cheeks grow warm as the alcohol took effect. She started to relax and enjoy herself. Their banter was clever and lighthearted, a break from the bleak facts she dealt with every day.

When a waiter offered Anna a third glass of wine, Nick turned to tease her.

“The secret to a good happy hour is equal parts alcohol and caffeine. You could use a cup of coffee. Maybe three cups. Come on.”

Anna laughed. She could feel the women gazing at her back as she followed Nick to a table set up with a silver coffee urn and a pyramid of gold-rimmed porcelain mugs. Nick poured the coffee and they stood next to each other, cradling their mugs and surveying their opulent surroundings.

Anna turned toward him. “I’m sorry I jumped at you, Nick. I guess I’m still a little sensitive about that case.”

“I’m sorry I gave a lecture on corrupt police states. Luckily, there will be no quiz.”

“Forgive and forget?”

“It’s a deal.” Nick grinned. “Listen, you could use some real food. Are you willing to leave with a naïve, anarchist defense attorney—who
doesn’t have a case against you anymore?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

•  •  •

He took her to Bistrot du Coin, a charming French café in their neighborhood. They both ordered steak and fries and shared a nice bottle of red wine.

“I’m going to need a whole pot of coffee to maintain your alcohol-to-caffeine ratio,” Anna said with a hiccup.

“I just said that to get you out of that crowd,” Nick said, refilling her wineglass. “Now that we’re alone, I think you should stick to wine.”

She laughed. Nick told her the most scandalous courthouse gossip—he’d collected some great stories in his two years in Superior Court—letting her into a world she’d only glimpsed from the sidelines. He said there were rumors that Judge Spiegel and Officer Green were having an affair. They had worked on a case together a few years ago, before Spiegel was elevated to the bench, and were thought to be romantically involved then. Although Green had dated several women after that, he and the judge had remained close friends, maybe more. As Nick mimicked pillow talk between the judge and the cop, Anna couldn’t stop laughing.

When they were done with dinner, Nick offered to walk her home. Her cheeks flushed with wine and laughter, she happily accepted. Anna tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and they laughingly stumbled toward her place. It was a warm summer night, and the streets of Adams-Morgan were even busier than usual. She felt some pride as people watched her walk by on the arm of the ridiculously good-looking attorney.

En route to her house, they approached a fancy new steel and glass condo building in the hottest location in the neighborhood, set a few meters back from the bars and restaurants of 18th Street. The ten-story structure loomed over the older brick town houses. Anna had heard that each unit cost over a million dollars. She wondered aloud who lived there.

“Actually”—Nick looked a little embarrassed—“I do.” He paused, considering whether to ask his next question. Finally, he turned to her and smiled. “Would you like the grand tour?”

Anna understood that this wasn’t an invitation to see how his kitchen was tiled. She gazed at Nick’s face, the absurdly long eyelashes
framing his hazel eyes, the chiseled cheekbones setting off his perfect smile. With his long, loping stride and mischievous grin, he looked like a cross between a young John Cusack and Jimmy Stewart. She loved Jimmy Stewart.

Her mind was fuzzy from the wine. But one thought stood out clearly and cleanly.

She wanted him.

She had for a long time. Although her sober self would have raised rows of mental hurdles—she shouldn’t date a defense attorney, she didn’t know him well enough to be alone with him, she should take this slow—the wine submerged these objections, leaving only her desire to answer the question of whether she wanted the “grand tour.” The answer was simple.

She nodded.

Nick held the lobby door open for her, and Anna tried not to be overwhelmed by the space as she walked in. The lobby conveyed both Zen-like tranquility and pricey industrial chic. The floor and walls were black granite; the ceilings soared. An abstract steel sculpture towered in the middle. A wall of windows at the back framed a Japanese garden, where hidden lights illuminated a waterfall and koi pond. The male receptionist, dressed entirely in black, looked too much like a Calvin Klein model to possibly be straight.

The reception desk, opaque glass balanced on stacked rocks, held a bank of televisions, computers, and switches that suggested the building was equipped to make a landing on Mars. As they passed the desk, Anna caught a glimpse of herself and Nick walking by on one of the TV screens in the desk. His hand rested lightly, possessively on her lower back. They looked like a real couple.

“Heeey, Nick,” the receptionist trilled, the singsong in his tone communicating that he found Nick’s late-night company very interesting.

“Hey, Tyler.” Nick ushered Anna into the brushed-steel elevator. He hit the “PH” button. “He’s a nice guy,” Nick whispered to Anna as the doors shut. “But he’s not on the tour.”

Inside, Nick’s condo was like something from a modern architecture magazine, with gleaming wood floors, a two-story ceiling, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the shining white obelisk of the Washington Monument in the distance. A floating metal staircase led to the second story. A fireplace made of stacked slate separated the living room from the kitchen, its rock walls going all the way up to the high
ceiling. Black leather couches and an impossibly thick white rug were arranged in front of the fireplace.

“Did you kill a polar bear?” Anna asked, pointing at the rug.

“No, just a helpless little alpaca. I got it in Peru.” He took her hand and led her to the hearth, where she bent down to touch the soft fur.

Nick pushed a button hidden in the slate, and flames whooshed up in the fireplace. Anna stood up, laughing. “Do you have a mirror that comes out of the ceiling, too? Maybe a vibrating bed?”

“You think I’m putting the moves on you?”

Anna nodded. “Not that that would be such a bad thing.”

Nick gently turned her to face him. He cupped her cheek with his hand, tracing her chin with his thumb.

“Anna, I’ve wanted to do this since law school.”

He slowly brought his face to hers. His breath was sweet and warm. Anna’s stomach flipped as his lips softly touched hers. All of her muscles tensed, then slowly relaxed. She melted into his body and drew him closer. He stroked her face with the back of his hand, then trailed his fingers down her neck and shoulder blades. She mirrored his touch, her tongue lightly exploring his, her hands wandering over the lithe muscles of his chest and stomach. Between kisses, Nick whispered that she was beautiful, stunning, exquisite, incandescent. She smiled and whispered back that he was a thesaurus.

She knew that his flattery, his wine-plying, his Rico-Suave bachelor pad were all part of a seduction game plan, and she wondered how many times he had used these moves before. Still, she was into it. She felt warm and tingly, relaxed yet excited, and very aroused. Warmth spread through her belly as he massaged the small of her back.

Kissing him, she pulled off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. He deftly peeled off her clothes and then his own, so expertly she hardly noticed it, and lowered her onto the white rug. Anna giggled at the feel of fur on her back. She looked at Nick’s body as he stretched out next to her. He was lean but athletic, with the long, sinewy muscles of a runner. His skin glowed golden in the firelight.

She closed her eyes again as he brought his mouth to hers. He trailed his fingers down her neck, over her clavicle to her breasts, where he traced butterfly-soft circles across her nipples. She moaned as his tongue followed and elaborated the trail his fingers had made. He covered her stomach with gentle caresses and flicks of his tongue, exploring the hollow of her belly, the gentle rise where her hip bones
protruded, the downy-soft ticklish crease where her thighs met her hips. As his head went farther down, she pulled him up by his shoulders.

“No, Nick,” she murmured, concerned not with her reputation or virtue, but when was the last time she’d had a bikini wax.

“Anna, I’ve been fantasizing about this for a long time. You wouldn’t deprive a desperate man of his fantasy, would you?” He kissed her lips as his fingers stroked where his mouth had been headed.

Anna sighed and shook her head as waves of pleasure rippled up her spine. She relaxed and let him do what he wanted, which, it turned out, was exactly what she wanted. He slowly descended again, bringing his mouth between her thighs, using his tongue and fingers to explore her, first gently and then with building pressure and urgency. Anna arched her back and cried out as she climaxed.

Nick paused for a moment, letting her catch her breath.

“Do you have a condom?” she breathed at last.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered.

She looked down, and saw that he was already wearing one, although she hadn’t noticed him taking it out. This man is a virtuoso, she thought, or some kind of evil genius. She pulled him up toward her, desperately wanting to feel him inside her. He smiled, resisted her pull, and lowered his head between her legs again. He made her come that way again, until she was clawing at his shoulders, begging him to come inside her.

BOOK: Law of Attraction
2.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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