“What did you say?” My voice dipped lower than it normally was and I shifted in my seat as other parts of me started to notice all the interesting and attractive things about Avett Walker as well.
“I said, I Googled you.” She swept some of her hair back from where it had fallen over her shoulder, and I literally had to force myself to keep my gaze locked on her face as the motion pushed her chest up higher and tighter against the plain black T-shirt she had on.
“Oh, yeah? How did that work out for you?” I knew what she would find: my service record, my wedding announcement, my work history with the firm, various tidbits on my most high profile cases, and several articles chronicling my divorce. Most divorces weren’t newsworthy, but when one of the people involved came from money and the other was as high profile as I was, it made for good filler on a slow newsday. I was curious to see what her interpretation of the snapshot of my life that existed on the Internet was.
She got up from the chair and started to pace back and forth in front of my desk as she talked. “It worked out well enough, I guess. I saw that you were enlisted when you were younger, which explains why my dad immediately liked you.” She looked at me over her shoulder and a tiny grin tugged at her mouth. “He doesn’t usually like anyone instantly. It takes him a while to warm up.”
I listened with half an ear as I watched her brightly colored hair swish around her shoulders. She didn’t come across as the girlie or overly feminine type, so I wondered why she had gone with such a delicate and pretty pink when coloring her hair.
“I learned that you’re a Colorado native, that you grew up in the mountains, that your birthday is right around Christmas, which means you’re almost thirty-two, so you’ve accomplished a lot in your career in a short amount of time. I also learned that you own a lot of suits.”
I snorted out a surprised laugh at that last part, which made her stop pacing. She took a step closer to my desk and put her hands on the opposite edge, leaning forward. The new position made her T-shirt gape at the collar, and even though I refused to look down, I could see the hint of a leopard-print bra peeking out. That hint of something that shoul be forbidden made my mouth go dry and had my pulse kicking. It was a powerful reaction to very little provocation, and I made myself beat it back, forcibly.
“Every single picture you’re in, after you got out of the Army, you’re in a suit. Blue ones, black ones, gray ones, pinstripe ones. That’s a lot of suits.”
I grunted. “I spend a lot of time in court. Suits are necessary for that.” They also set me apart from that kid running through the forest with exactly one pair of new jeans and one pair of boots that didn’t have holes in them. “And I’ve accomplished a lot because I work hard and I’m good at what I do.” I’d been working hard since I was born and I hadn’t ever had the opportunity to stop. When I was in high school, I pushed myself academically so that I could take advantage of every accelerated class my school offered. I knew college wasn’t going to be an option without the military, which meant I was giving four years to my country, so I was going to lose that time when it came to my career. Luckily, by the time I graduated high school, I had enough AP credits under my belt that I practically had an associate’s degree. My undergrad took no time at all, but I’d killed myself academically when I was younger to make that possible.
“Yeah, I got that you are kind of a workaholic from all the stuff printed about your divorce.”
Her dry tone made me stiffen. I dropped my hands and tapped the fingers of one against my bent knee in obvious irritation. “I don’t discuss my private life with clients, Avett.”
A grin pulled at her mouth and her dark eyebrows danced upwards. “Why not? Your clients are probably the only people in a worse position than you were. We’re the last people that can judge what’s going on behind anyone else’s closed door. I’m here because I’m trying to prove I didn’t help my ex-boyfriend rob a bar. What’s a little infidelity compared to that?”
I shot to my feet before I could control my reaction, shoving my hands through my hair. “She was unfaithful, not me. Not that it matters or that it’s a topic open for further discussion.” It was the wound that bled and bled, no matter how much pressure I applied to stop it.
Avett righted herself and put her hands on her hips. She looked at me for a second and tilted her chin down a little bit. “Even when someone doesn’t want our story, we are still compelled to tell it.”
My words to her from the interrogation room at the jail hit me hard when she threw them back at me like a fastball.
She started pacing again and quietly told the room because she was no longer looking at me, “I also learned you are very good at your job. You win more than you lose. You have sent some very guilty people back to the streets, as well as saved some very innocent ones from a life behind bars. If I’m going to gamble on my future, then I couldn’t ask for anyone better to be holding the cards. I choose to believe that, for once, the deck is stacked in my favor.” She stopped once she was across from me again and we spent a moment staring at each other. “Thank you for not letting me fire you, Mr. Jackson.”
Her softly spoken words spurred me on to say something I hadn’t said to a client since I started practicing law professionally. “Call me Quaid.”
Her spectacular eyes widened a hair and she bit down on her lower lip. “All right, Quaid. I’m not going to take the plea deal and that’s my final answer.”
We both sat back down with my big desk between us. There was a pulse in the air, a vibration I couldn’t name, but it felt electric and more alive than anything that had crossed my path in decades. In fact, the last time I had the same shot of adrenaline, the same thrill racing through my blood, making my heart beat erratically, I had been getting on a plane for the first time in my life, headed to basic training and far, far away from an existence that was a constant struggle and hardship. It was like starting over, being given a second chance at something worthwhile. I understood it then … I was baffled by the rush of it overtaking my common sense now.
“The preliminary hearing will be set in a few weeks. The State is going to take that time to dig up every little thing they can on you in order to prove they have enough to make the charges stick if we go to trial. I’m going to remind them that their case against you hinges on a known addict and is nothing more than hearsay. We also have the video from the parking lot that shows the boyfriend manhandling you. Our evidence and witnesses that point the finger at Jared being the sole perpetrator are far more compelling than anything the State might pull out of its hat.” I grinned at her and I thought I heard her suck in a breath. “Honestly, if I was in your shoes, I would tell the prosecution to shove their deal, too.”