“You ready to go home, Sprite?”
I hugged him as hard as I could, making a silent promise to myself that I would never put him in the position of having to rescue me from myself again.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m very ready to go home.” It was, after all, where my heart, as battered and bruised as it may have been, always was.
I was late getting back to my office after court because I’d had a meeting with the district attorney’s office that ran long. It happened all the time, but today I found myself irrationally annoyed at the hitch in my schedule and seriously resentful of the wasted thirty minutes that Avett had to spend sitting outside my office while my assistant gave her the side eye from behind her computer. It had been three days since our last encounter in the courthouse, and even though I would never admit anything out loud, she had been on my mind a lot. Her—not her case. That, coupled with the fact that I immediately noticed jailhouse orange didn’t do her any favors, and that she was even cuter, even more innocent and fresh looking in her normal street wear, made me approach her more abruptly, even harsher, than I tended to be with my clients.
I jerked my head in the direction of my office door without a hello and didn’t look to see if she was following me when I asked, “Where’s your dad? I thought he was sticking by your side through all of this?” I sounded like a dick. I was acting like a dick. I could tell when I rounded my desk and finally turned to look at her that she was very aware of the fact that I was in a mood.
She crossed her arms over her chest, a chest that was ample, round, and far more plush than I would have imagined considering her small stature. And even though I shouldn’t have, I had imagined a whole hell of a lot about her over the last few days. Those curves and valleys she possessed were far too enticing and appealing. I was annoyed that I had noticed and was having a hard time landing my gaze on any part of her I didn’t appreciate in an entirely unprofessional way. She was more than a handful in a lot of ways and a couple of them had my dick twitching inappropriately. The prison jumpsuit had swallowed her up and what it had been hiding was a curvy little figure currently radiating with as much repressed attitude as I was freely throwing at her.
I shouldn’t be noticing her curves, or the way her dark eyebrows snapped into a fierce V over the top of her nose. She was just a kid in the grand scheme of life, but more than that, she was a client. It was my job to help her, to keep her out of jail, not to be enthralled by the irritated pucker of her mouth or entranced by the way her cheeks flushed to the same rosy pink as her hair as she visibly battled for the proper way to respond to my shitty greeting and overall asshole-ish demeanor. I shouldn’t like the way she bristled and stiffened but I did.
“Dad wanted to come, but I’m working towards proving that I am capable of doing something right in this lifetime. He’ll hold my hand forever if I let him, and frankly, I don’t want him to be involved in this mess any more than he already is.” She leaned back in the chair and continued to scowl at me. “You’re going to offer some kind of plea deal that will seem reasonable and make sense because it will make all of this go away. Dad will encourage me to listen to your advice. He will tell me we’re paying for you to look out for my best interest.” She shook her head and wrapped her arms tighter around herself like she was giving herself a hug. “And he might be right, but I didn’t help Jared rob the bar. I wasn’t his accomplice or his accessory. I didn’t aid or abet him in anything, so I’m not going to take a deal. Me not taking a deal would probably make my dad worry about what was going to happen to me. I’ve put him through enough.” She finally broke eye contact and looked down at the lush Berber carpet below her sneakered feet. “It might not be the right thing to do, but I’m used to that.”
I felt some of the tension that was coiled up inside of me unwind as I listened to her. Most of my clients had their own self-interests in mind when they made decisions about what they were going to do when faced with charges, but not this young woman. It was startling, even refreshing, to have someone in this office genuinely concerned about how their actions and consequences affected someone else, someone they loved. Even if she was a little late to the game, I was glad to see Avett had come to play.
“The D.A.’s office sent over a plea deal this morning. They’re willing to drop all the charges except for the accessory charge if you agree to serve ninety days in jail with a two-year probationary period. They also want you to testify against Jared Dalton.” I laced my fingers together in front of me and watched as her breathing quickened. The gold on the outer rim of her eyes seemed to blaze as the brown in the center darkened to pitch-black. It was like watching a kaleidoscope shift and change shape and colors.
“I don’t want to see Jared.” Her voice hitched and her knuckles turned white where she was clutching her upper arms.
“You aren’t going to get a choice in the matter. You’ll have to testify, deal or no deal. You’re a witness and either the state or Jared’s attorney will eventually call you to the stand. Jared is trying to use you and the story that you were pissed your dad sold the bar as his reasonable doubt. You’re an integral part of his trial regardless of what happens with your own.”
I blinked because it should have looked indulgent and petulant. It should have made her come across as spoiled, sulky. It didn’t. It made her look adorable and put out. It wasn’t the kind of pout Lottie would give me when she wanted to spend an ungodly amount of money on a new couch or some purse that she would only use once; no, this was the pout of a woman that legitimately didn’t want to do something and was sullen about it. It was charming in a totally innocent way, and again, I silently berated myself for noticing the tiny gesture at all.
“It’s a good deal, Avett. A really good deal. The minimum time served if you’re convicted on the accessory charge alone is three years.” I lifted my eyebrows at her. “Three years is the minimum, meaning if we do end up at a trial with a jury and they find you guilty, the judge can give you anywhere from three to five years. That’s a big chunk of time to sit behind bars if you take a gamble and lose.”
She let her arms fall and scooted forward on the chair. She leaned forward and looked at me intently. Her eyes were mesmerizing and I found myself distracted by all the different colors trapped there. I had to ask her to repeat herself when I realized she said something and was waiting for a response from me. I needed to get my head in the game where this girl was concerned … this girl … that was the part I seemed to keep forgetting.