Home > Sustained (The Legal Briefs #2)(3)

Sustained (The Legal Briefs #2)(3)
Author: Emma Chase

Malcolm grins and places his hand on his son’s shoulder. “We do.” The three of us stand. “As always, thank you, Jake. We’re lucky to have you on our side.”

“I’ll be in touch.” And with a handshake, they’re gone.

• • •

Two hours later I’m sliding into my suit jacket, ready to head out to lunch. I automatically straighten my tie, adjust my collar—to ensure the scattering of tattoos that begins at my collarbone, wraps around my right shoulder, and trails down to the end of my wrist is covered. It’s a bitch in the summer, but the presence of ink tends to make my upper-crust clients uncomfortable, and it’s never well received by judges.

My secretary, Mrs. Higgens, walks into my office. Mrs. Higgens is the classic little old lady, right down to the pearl necklace and spectacles—the kind you’d expect to be sitting in a rocking chair crocheting blankets for dozens of grandkids. She’s terrific at her job. I’ve been accurately called a coldhearted bastard on a number of occasions, but I’m not sure if even I could muster the level of callousness that would be needed to fire her.

“There’s a young lady here to see you, Jake. She doesn’t have an appointment.”

I fucking hate walk-ins. They’re unexpected and unpredictable. They screw up my schedule, and my schedule is sacred.

“I’m on my way out.”

Mrs. Higgens looks at me sideways and drops an unsubtle hint. “She’s very pretty.”

I glance at my watch. “Fine. But tell her she’s got five minutes and five minutes only.”

I sit back down and a few moments later a petite, dark-haired woman enters my office. I’d say she’s in her late twenties, attractive, with a banging little body under those beige slacks and that prim yellow cardigan. But her shifty eyes and jittery movements dampen the appeal.

Looks matter, but confidence is by far the most alluring accessory a woman can wear.

Mrs. Higgens closes the door as she exits, and the brunette walk-in stands in front of my desk.

“Hi,” she says, glancing ever so briefly at my face before staring back at the floor, pushing her hair back behind her ears.

“Hi. Can I help you?”

That gets her looking up. “You don’t remember me, do you?” she asks, hands twisted together.

I study her face, more carefully this time. She’s neither remarkably beautiful nor outstandingly fugly. Just kind of . . . generic. Forgettable.

“Should I?”

Her shoulders hunch as she covers her eyes, muttering, “Jeez, I thought this was going to be hard enough . . .” She sinks down into one of the chairs across from my desk, perched on the edge—ready to run. After a beat, she adds, “We met last month at the Angry Inch Saloon? I was wearing a red dress?”

Nope, doesn’t ring any bells. I’ve met lots of women at that bar and when available, I go for blondes. They’re not more fun . . . just hotter.

She brushes her dark bangs to the side and tries again. “I asked you to buy me a drink, and you did. A cosmopolitan.”

Still nothing.

“We went back to your place after I told you about walking in on my boyfriend having sex with my best friend?”

I’m drawing a blank.

“While he was wearing my favorite pink nightie?”

And we have a winner. Now I remember. Made me think of Marv Albert, the sportscaster with a penchant for women’s lingerie—and assault and battery. And yet, he’s still on TV.

Only in America.

“Yes. I remember now . . .” I squint, working on the name.

“Lainey.”

“Lainey.” My fingers snap. “Right. What can I do for you?” I glance at my watch—two minutes left and I’m out the door.

She’s back to nervous and jerky. “Okay, there’s no easy way to say this . . . so I’m just going to say it.”

Sounds like a solid plan.

She takes a big breath and rushes out, “He didn’t just take my best friend and my best lingerie . . . he left something behind, too.”

How poetic.

“Syphilis.”

• • •

That sound you just heard? That’s me thinking, What the fuck did she just say? I actually stick my finger in my ear, to clear out the water that’s obviously clogged in there from my morning shower, distorting the hell out of my hearing.

But then she speaks again. And it sounds exactly the same.

“Yeah, syphilis.”

My stomach seizes, and there’s a really good chance I’m about to lose my breakfast.

“I got my test results back a few days ago. The people at the clinic said I needed to contact everyone I’ve had sex with since him. And that’s only you. I remembered your name and you said you were a lawyer here in DC.” She flaps her hands. “So . . . here I am.”

She might want to move a little bit to the right. I’m definitely going to blow chunks.

She breathes easier now, looking relieved that she got it all out. How goddamn nice for her.

“Do you have any questions, Jake? Anything you want to say?”

Motherfucking hell, I should’ve just gone to lunch.

 

 

2


I wasn’t always so committed to structure, dedicated to routine. In my younger years, I was the epitome of the bad boy. The badder the better. I’ve got the scars, the tattoos, and the sealed juvenile criminal record to prove it. In those days I had a major temper and an even bigger chip on my shoulder—a dangerous combination. And I let both rule me the way crank controls a meth head. It was only after a major scare—a near fucking miss that almost decimated my life—that I went legit. With the guidance of a crotchety old judge who took me under his wing and kicked my proverbial ass, I was able to lock up the bad boy and throw away the key.

Because he saw something in me that I’d never seen. Potential. Promise. The possibility of greatness. Sure, my mother always predicted it, but as far as my screwed-up brain was concerned, she didn’t count. All moms think their kid is the next Einstein or Gates or Mozart just waiting to happen.

He accepted me for who I was, scabs and all. But he refused to accept that that was all I was. And when someone believes in you, goes out on a limb for you when they have no obligation to do shit—it has an impact. It made me want to look in the mirror and see the man he knew I could be.

And today, that’s the fucker who stares back at me. Controlled. Powerful. Top of his game. Sure, once in a while the temper rattles the cage, but I keep that shit locked down tight. The bad boy gets out to play in a limited capacity—on a short, thick leash. Women love a man with an edge; they get all wet and quivery for a tough guy—so that’s his playground. ’Cause when it comes to fucking . . . like I said . . . the badder the better.

It’s that practiced restraint that allows me to keep my standing lunch appointment, even though eating is the last thing I want to do. But it’s a ritual. Me, Sofia, Brent, and Stanton—the current fab four of criminal law. Sometimes it’s in our offices, most times it’s held at any of the taverns or cafés located within blocks of our firm. We’re sitting at one of those places now—at a round, checkered-clothed curbside table, the March air and afternoon sun just warm enough to eat outside. Stanton’s morning court session ran over so he’s late to the party.

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