“I don’t like this.” Chris stopped in front of the law building’s door. “I’m not used to being the one going to see a lawyer.”
“Learn to live like the rest of us slobs,” I answered. “When we see lawyers, we have to pay by the hour, not suck up white wine and trade stories.”
“If it’s by the hour, I’ll talk fast then.” He tried to smile, but I’ve seen him do it a lot better.
“When it’s over, you get me.”
“The idea should make me run screaming but”—this time he did smile—“I’m actually looking forward to that. Remember what you said about our wedding night. I’m topping.”
“Are we going to play the groom and the virgin? I already told you I won’t wear white.” I reached over and gripped him by the shoulder. I hoped he knew I’d have hugged him if we weren’t on the street.
Yeah, if we got sufficiently worked up, the two of us might engage in PDA—or maybe even a public act of indecency—but that took a lot of incentive. Heading in for a first meeting with your fiancé’s divorce lawyer didn’t really put me in the mood. A manly shoulder squeeze was the best I could manage.
Of course he knew. Chris was smart that way.
I looked at said fiancé—his lips pursed as if he were figuring out the best way to present his legal defense, golden-streaked red-brown hair falling into his eyes, and his body almost twitching with nervous energy. For a second I was tempted to engage in some PDA right there in the somber lobby. The man was so fucking gorgeous. How the hell had I managed to finally get him? It might have taken most of my life to convince him but still— Worth it. Every goddamned second of the wait.
We walked down the hall and stopped in front of the office door that proclaimed in big letters KRAVITZ AND ASSOCIATES, LLC.
Chris put his hand on the door and looked over at me.
“All right then,” he whispered. “Here we go.”
He looked worried. Well, he knew better than I did how well the legal system could screw him. He was the one with the kids. With the wife. Although even if he never touched me again after he got divorced, I’d die happy that I got him away from that bitch.
I’d make it worth it for him too.
“Right behind you, baby,” I said.
“Don’t call me baby. At least…” Chris swallowed and smiled again. Another real smile. “Only in bed.”
I leaned over and pushed the door for him. “You got it, babe.”
He grabbed my hand as we stepped over the threshold, and he didn’t let go, not even when the receptionist lifted her head to stare at us.
Worth it. Everything we had to do would be worth it.
“Christian.” Jordan stood up, glad she was wearing her high heels and best gray pencil skirt. Not only was Chris Ramsey a fellow professional, one of the few she really respected, but he was hot. Married, and actually remembered he was, but hot nonetheless. “I was surprised when I saw you had made an appointment. You know you’re welcome to drop by whenever. It’s always a pleasure.”
She didn’t remind him while technically she didn’t owe him any favors—after all, they had traded plenty of favors and referrals back and forth over the years—but she still felt as if she did. He was one of the few who had actively encouraged and recommended her back in the dark days when her worthless partner had done his best to bring her practice down. She always remembered people from the past who’d helped her then. She could count them on the fingers of one hand, and had at least one finger—the middle one—to spare. That finger was for the ones who had run.
“This time is different, Jordan.” Chris didn’t sit down even though she gestured to a chair, so Jordan propped herself up on the desk—her shoes weren’t meant for anyone to stand on for long—and waited. He shoved at his tie and then looked over at the man he came in with, the one still standing by the wall near the door as if he weren’t sure whether he’d stay. “This is Bill Dowe.”
Jordan looked over more carefully and forgot her professional greeting.
Talk about the past jumping out to get you!
“Mr. Dowe.” She held out her hand, refusing to miss a beat. Never let them catch you by surprise.
They shook, his eyes looking amused and knowing as he stared at her.
“Bill. Only my students call me anything more formal,” he said.
Oh God. He still taught?
“Bill then. Um, anyone want coffee? Tea?” She tried for even more formality to counteract feeling a little naked under Bill’s gaze. She’d never expected to be found out here in her own office. Well, she’d lost the fear years ago. She’d gradually relaxed and decided no one she knew back in her wilder days knew about her other self, especially since she’d buried that wilder self deep.
But there was Bill, looming right there on her Oriental rug, still massive and undeniably aware of the things she’d done in that different lifetime. It would be hard to bury someone that big and that alert.
On the other hand, since he hadn’t blurted out anything embarrassing, maybe he didn’t want to speak up either. They could trade secret for secret. A little quid pro quo never hurt. She had found sometimes mutual blackmail was the best way to keep everyone’s mouth shut. This might be one of those times.
But still… Shiza.
“No, we don’t need anything to drink, thanks,” Chris said, mercifully unaware of the tension in the room. “I’ll get to business right away, if you don’t mind.”
“I never mind getting to business,” she said.
“I’m getting a divorce.”
“Mazel tov.” Jordan meant it too. She’d heard rumors about his wife leaving him. That might be the best thing the woman had ever done for him.
“Another person who wasn’t a fan of my marriage.” Chris shook his head. “I had no idea.”
“I’m never a fan of a hot guy like you being married and unavailable.” She smiled, making it sound like a joke. It was, sort of. Chris had no idea how many women took an interest in him. It was part of his charm, along with the monogamy. “And well, yeah, I wasn’t one of the Stephanie Fan Club.”
“She was a b—blonde.” She didn’t care if he knew she was substituting a word. “I’m always jealous of blondes.”
Bill spoke up. “How about brunets? Any envy there?”
“Only if they’re prettier than me.”
“Then I guess we’re safe.” Chris grinned over at Bill, looking much younger and happier than she remembered seeing him since…ever. “Bill isn’t nearly as pretty as you.”
Jordan was glad she was sitting on the desk, because for a moment she thought the earth rocked.
“You and Bill
?” She squeaked the last word. “Oh God. Sorry.”
Jordan had thought she and Chris were more than professional associates. She’d believed they were friends. He didn’t spill his guts to her, which was fine since she didn’t do that either. But gay? He’d never hinted, never shown— All right, they didn’t flirt, but she’d always thought there was a man-woman awareness under the surface of their relationship. And Bill
? Wow. Was her gaydar out of whack or what?
“It’s been sort of a surprise for me too,” Chris said.
“He’s not gay,” Bill added, and Jordan heard the amusement bubbling to the surface. “He’s just hot for me.”
Well, she didn’t understand anything about anything, but for some reason she had to laugh. “And who could blame him? I was plenty hot for you once myself.”
Shiza, triple time!
If it didn’t make her too obvious, she would smack her hand to her forehead. So much for not blabbing anything.
“Likewise, Ms. Kravitz.”
Chris raised one eyebrow but thank God didn’t look upset. Maybe gay men didn’t get jealous fits about women saying their men were hot. That was a lucky break for her. Jordan could just imagine what Stephanie would’ve done if she’d told her her man was sexy and she should work harder to appreciate him before someone else took over the job. Of course, if she’d said that to one of Bill’s submissives at the club, the woman would have taken Jordan at her word and bent over backward, literally, to keep him. The differences between a sub and a wife could be considerable.
Then again, considering who Chris and Bill had ended up with, any woman might’ve laughed in her face.
She’d worry about her mental readjustment later. It was time to be professional, and work her billable hours. Jordan could already see some of the reasons Chris had come to her. She was good at working the angles, even when the angles were a little too sharp.
“Does Stephanie have an attorney?”
“God, yes. Timmons.”
Ow. Things just got a little nastier.
“How about the kids? Any agreement, however informal, on custody?”
“Maybe. Right now they’re with me, and there hasn’t been any disagreement about it.”
Interesting. Not completely unusual nowadays, but not what she’d expect from what she knew of Chris and Stephanie. Of course, what Jordan knew about them might not be as much as she thought.
But if she took him on, she’d know a lot more about both of them. Were they all prepared for that? Chris was a private man, even more private than she’d suspected. She would pry. His wife’s attorney would pry even more.
And how would Bill feel about that? She knew Bill had a temper. He could keep it under control but he had one.
Jordan hit the button on the phone and buzzed Leo. Time for reinforcements.
He opened the office door two minutes later. Thank God for Leo. She didn’t have to wait when she needed him. He just knew he had to be there.
“Jordan?” He pushed back those horn-rims that made him look…well, almost old enough to vote…and nodded to their soon-to-be client. “Christian. Nice to see you, sir.”
Something that she didn’t even know was knotted up inside relaxed as she watched Leo’s familiar fidgeting with the glasses. Suddenly the upcoming case seemed more routine than potentially terrifying. Bless Leo. He could make things seem less difficult just by showing up. It was one of the many reasons she was glad he worked for her.
“And over there is Bill Dowe.” Jordan made it sound like a normal introduction. Leo walked over to shake hands, then stepped back. Leo was always correct—deferential without being ass-kissy, smart but letting Jordan be the boss. “This is Leo Rojas, my associate.”
It would almost be a shame to promote him, the way he really deserved. If—when—she did, he wouldn’t be so available. But once he got a few more of his own clients, she probably would have to move him up. Soon. As soon as he was ready… And she was ready to risk a partnership again.
Which was not something she needed to think about right now. She was steady; she could focus again on what was looming in front of her.
“All right then. Let’s start with the big questions. The little ones we can fill in later. What do you want to get out of this divorce?” It was her standard opening question. She was a lawyer, not a doctor, social worker, shrink, or magician, but too many people thought their divorce attorney should be all that and God to boot. She didn’t want to deal with people like that unless she could set them straight on what she would do for them.
Thank God Chris was a lawyer too. He didn’t hesitate.
“I want Bill. I want my girls. They can visit their mother, but they aren’t going to live with her fiancé for any length of time. That’s not negotiable. I don’t trust the bastard. Other than that? I want to have enough of my reputation left to be able to keep working. She can have the sympathy, the house, whatever savings I’ve managed to put away after starting my law practice. I don’t care.”
“Custody could be a problem, but the girls are old enough to be consulted. If they want to stay, their wishes will be considered. I can’t guarantee your reputation or your job, but I can work on damage control if Timmons wants to go that route.” Timmons usually did. “If your wife is smart, she won’t want to destroy your business since she won’t be able to get as much money that way.”
“If she marries Larry Sorenson, she won’t need the money. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t take whatever is in the bank.”
Larry Sorenson? No wonder she was trading Chris in. A status seeker like Stephanie would figure she was making a better deal. But Jordan didn’t envy her.
“Well. It sounds like there are quite a few details that need to be discussed. Stephanie is planning to marry again?” Leo had taken a seat and was already scribbling notes as they spoke.
“She says so. I’m planning to get married too, as soon as I can.” Chris glanced over at Bill, and his face softened.
Ah. That could make things even more interesting.
“Stephanie is aware of that?”
“She knows about Bill and me. Pretty much. But not about the marriage plans. Bill and I are just starting to make them.” Chris rubbed the back of his neck. “Listen, you’ll probably need our tax records and things for the past year or so.”
He was assuming she would be his attorney. Of course she would be. Had she ever hesitated, really? Jordan glanced over at Leo and took another steadying breath.
“Yes. Let’s get a retainer letter signed, and I’ll follow up with more details this week. You know this won’t all happen instantly. That’s not how our state works. But we can get moving on things.”
Jordan decided not to discuss possible reconciliation. That didn’t look like even a remote possibility with these two. To be honest, she didn’t want them to reconcile. She couldn’t imagine two people less suited to be together forever, and that wasn’t just the cynical divorce lawyer Jordan talking.
She glanced over at Bill. She wasn’t sure she could see true love with the two of them either, but she already knew she wasn’t a matchmaker.
Sometimes it was hard enough to do her actual job.
Jordan glanced over at Leo, who was looking suitably professional and remote. She’d love to know his opinion of how this was going to shake out, not that she’d know more until her client was safely beyond range of Leo’s voice. Leo was always detached enough to see through the surface issues and cut to what the real problems would be. Right now she was figuring it could be one of the toughest cases she’d had in the past few years.
She walked them out as Chris said his good-byes, still focused on the details of his divorce and mercifully oblivious to everything Jordan was thinking. Chris was usually sharp and aware of nuances, but she couldn’t blame him for not knowing all the reasons she was uneasy about this case.
When she got back to the office, Leo was still there. Of course. He knew she wanted to talk.
“What do you think?”
“You do the divorce cases, Jordan. You know better than me.”
“Leo. Come on.”
Leo looked up and pushed his glasses higher up his nose. Then he smiled and said in that voice that was much deeper than she expected, “I think those two are going to be trouble.”
“I think you’re right. So should I have taken them on?”
He smiled again, his most boyish, sweet grin. The one he usually reserved for when he was going in for the kill on a case. “I’ll give you my notes on what needs to be done before I leave for lunch. I think you’ll be able to build a compelling case for him to have custody once you fill in some details. It helps that he doesn’t care as much about the money. As long as he can pay his bill at the end.”
Leo wasn’t one for wasting his advice, especially when it wasn’t billable. He knew her too well. If she’d taken someone on, she wasn’t going to second-guess herself.
Besides, she was already thinking this could be fun. She hadn’t had a real hair-puller, nail-biter of a case in a while.