Yeah, Legal Eagle, I had a pretty damn good idea how serious the charges were, and I was scared shitless about what would happen to me if I was going to be found guilty of them.
I lifted my chained hands in front of me and let them fall back on the table to make a noisy and unmistakable point. The man didn’t bat a single, ridiculously long eyelash at the motion, but his mouth tightened a fraction. It was a pretty mouth. All of him was pretty, in one way or another, and I wondered if when he walked out of this industrial meeting room he shook himself off like a wet dog to rid himself of the feel and taint of crime, sleaze, and bad decision making. He looked like the type that had never, ever took a wrong step. He oozed confidence, self-assurance, and arrogance like it was an expensive cologne that was crafted and bottled just for him. It should be reassuring, should make me feel like he had this all handled, like I would be home safe and secure in my own bed in no time, but instead it made me bristle and feel even worse than I already did. I was a train wreck and that was bad … but having a witness to the wreckage, a witness as put together and unflappable as this man seemed … Well, that made the fallout from my latest bad move seem a hundred times worse.
This guy wasn’t the type to chase bad choice after bad choice. In fact, he made his living riding to the rescue for us poor slobs that did. A very nice living if the Rolex on his wrist and the Mont Blanc pen he was tapping against the file in front of him was any indication.
“I understand how serious the situation is.” My voice was quiet and tiny in the empty room. I cocked my head to the side as we continued to size one another up. “My dad hire you?”
I wanted to hold my breath while he answered, but I couldn’t get my lungs to work. I couldn’t get anything to work.
I was a screwup. I was a failure, a flunky. I was a loser, a manipulator. I was one hot freaking mess on top of another, and through it all my parents, more often than not my dad, had always been there to pick up the pieces. He forgave me. He excused me. He cleaned me up and gave me helping hand after helping hand. He loved me when I didn’t want to be loved. He was always there, but not this time.
Bad decisions make for good stories, Sprite.
Dad’s words chased themselves around in frantic circles in my head as I felt myself slip a little farther, fall a little deeper and realized this … this point was actually my rock bottom, as the man who claimed to be my defense attorney shook his tawny head in the negative. “No. A former client actually contacted me and asked me to represent you. He paid my retainer in full and told me that any bills that are incurred while handling your case should be handed over to him. I was hired before the police had you booked and taken to lockup.”
My dad wasn’t here to kiss the boo-boo this go-around. He wasn’t waiting in the wings to dust me off and tell me everything would be all right. Not this time. This time I had gone too far and a miserable, uncomfortable night with a drugged-out weirdo and a psycho, suburban mom had nothing on the ice cold fear that climbed up my spine, vertebra by vertebra, at the thought that I had finally done something Brite Walker couldn’t forgive. I knew it was coming. I knew that even my big, badass, former Marine, Harley-riding father had a breaking point. I pushed and pushed to reach that point my entire life. I always figured when the fracture happened it would come with a giant boom. I expected an explosion that would level Denver. The fact that it was barely a whimper, a whisper of sound that indicated a good man’s heart was breaking, made me feel even worse than I already did. I had no idea how it was possible, but I sunk even lower than rock bottom. This was what a torrent of misery and despair felt like and I was submerged neckdeep in it.
I blinked back tears and tilted my chin up at the attorney. “Who’s paying for you to be here?”
My mom loved me. She had a huge heart that was made of marshmallow, but she had reached her point of no return with me much earlier in my life than my father had. My parents divorced when I was in high school, right on the heels of one of the most defining moments of my youth. My dad rallied like he always did and tried to make the separation as easy on me as possible. My mom went from being distant and confusing to actively pushing me away. I was never sure if she forced the distance between us because things were so easy between me and my father or because they were so hard between her and me. Either way, the strain in our relationship did nothing to help the rapid descent that started to engulf me when I realized exactly what kind of person I was.
A harmful one.
A guilty one.
A selfish one.
I could even be considered a dangerous person, if you asked the right people, and they weren’t necessarily wrong. It was amazing how hazardous doing nothing could be. It had even more disastrous results than doing the wrong thing … at least, it had up until now.
The lawyer’s cultured and smooth voice startled me out of my dreary thoughts. “Asa Cross. He was one of the victims of your boyfriend’s armed robbery attempt. The other was an off-duty police officer. So it’s no surprise that they booked you and locked you up with almost zero lag time. The DPD protects its own so no one is looking to do you or your boyfriend any favors.”
I winced when he brought up Jared.
Jared, the boy who had come along and convinced me he loved me. The boy that assured me we were so much alike we couldn’t fail. He was as screwed up and unhappy as I was, so we were bound to be together forever.
Jared, the boy that had hid from me the fact he was not only an addict with a serious problem but also deeply involved in the city’s drug trade until I was so far in, with what I thought was love for him, to pull myself out.
Jared was the perfect punishment for a girl that couldn’t get it together and deserved nothing more than exactly the kind of guy he really was.
Jared was also the boy who had run off with his supplier’s stash and money, leaving me behind to pay the price for his dishonesty and to pass along the message that his connections weren’t happy with him. He was also the boy that managed to convince me the only way to help him to help us, was to steal from the one place that had always been home no matter what. He convinced me that petty theft made no difference, that it was money I was owed anyway since my father had handed over his bar, his livelihood, without a thought as to what that meant to me. Jared was good with words when he wasn’t high, and like always, I couldn’t do the wrong thing fast enough. Only, the handfuls of cash from the register barely put a dent in the amount he owed.