She gasped out a surprised laugh and it made something low in my gut tighten.
“We’re in this together, Avett. We gamble together, which means we win or we lose together.”
She snorted a little. “Except I’m the only one stuck doing time if we lose.”
“True. But I’ve won cases far more complex, with way better evidence stacked up against my clients. If I lose this one, it makes me look like I’m slipping. I don’t slip.”
“I gathered from the way your secretary was giving me the hairy eyeball that I’m not your typical kind of client.”
“Well, if you called Pam a secretary to her face that might have something to do with it. She prefers to be referred to as my assistant.” I gave her a steady look and made sure she could hear the sincerity in my tone when I told her, “And my typical client is anyone that can afford me. I don’t care if you have pink hair or if you’re the star running back for the Denver Broncos. If you hire me, you will get the best defense I can give, and I will treat your case like it is my top priority.”
She breathed an audible sigh of relief. “I’ll need to thank Asa for hiring you, then.”
I decided not to tell her that her dad was picking up the bill now and instead absently told her, “I like your pink hair, by the way.”
She blinked rapidly at me and then lifted her hands up so that the tips of her fingers were touching the rosy ends of her hair.
“You do?” She sounded incredulous.
I nodded. “I do, but you might want to consider changing it before court. It never hurts to look as respectable and as law abiding as possible.” She frowned at me and I lifted my hands up in front of me like I was warding off her ire. “That’s the kind of advice your dad would tell you to listen to if he was here. I told you, I spend a lot of time in court, and while your hair might seem insignificant to you, it can have a huge impact on the impression you leave on the judge and the jury. If we get that far.” Even though I would be inexplicably sad to see it go. It suited her and I liked the way it and she brightened up my typically drab office.
She fisted a handful of the pink locks and closed her eyes for a split second. When she opened them back up, they glimmered with resignation. Again, her bottom lip jutted out in a pout that not only did I want to bite, but that also made the custom fit of my suit pants much tighter.
“Okay, besides my hair, what else do I need to do before the preliminary hearing? How do I make myself respectable and law abiding?” She sounded so disgusted by the idea, I had to bite down another chuckle.
“The hair, and dress appropriately for court. Something conservative but not too stuffy. You’re young and you look fairly innocent. You’ve got your entire life ahead of you. We want to play that up. Besides that, do what the arraignment judge told you—stay away from the boyfriend and try and keep yourself out of trouble.”
She stiffened across from me and whispered, “Ex-boyfriend, and I told you, I don’t ever want to see him again.”
“And I told you that you aren’t going to have a choice.” I looked at the watch on my wrist and was shocked to see that I had been talking to her for well over the time I had blocked out in my schedule to meet with her. It felt like it had only been a handful of minutes. “I understand where you’re coming from. I wouldn’t want to see the person that got me into this kind of mess either, but you’re the one that walked in here claiming you want to do something right. That you don’t need someone to hold your hand. It’s up to you to put the guy that hurt you, the monster that threatened those people with a gun and tried to rob a place that means so much to your family, away for a very long time. It is a huge step in the right direction, Avett.” I got to my feet and she followed suit. “I have another client waiting on me, so we need to wrap this up. I’ll be in touch. I’m sure the D.A. is going to want to talk to you about their case against the boyfriend. I should have a date for the next hearing soon.”
I reached out to shake her hand and almost jerked my palm away when our skin touched. A jolt shot up my arm. It took all my restraint not to rub it like I had brushed up against a live wire.
She pulled back and curled her fingers into her palm, like she was trying to hold on to the vibrant electricity the contact between us had created. When we touched, my blood felt charged, stimulated in a way I’d never felt before.
“I look forward to hearing from you.” She delicately cleared her throat, making her way to the door of my office. Once she was there, she paused with her hand on the knob and turned back to look at me over her shoulder. “Quaid.”
I looked up from the file I had turned my attention to and lifted my eyebrows at her in question. “Yeah?”
“I’m neither as young nor as innocent as you seem to want to believe I am. If you want to sell that to a judge and jury because you think it will help keep me out of jail, then I’ll play the part. But you need to recognize that’s not the reality of the situation.” She was out the door before I could formulate a response.
I called Pam to let her know I needed a few minutes to prep before my next client meeting, rocking back in my chair as I tried to recover from Hurricane Avett. She was a tiny whirlwind of destruction and I couldn’t seem to keep up with the different directions she was blowing my emotions in. I’d never encountered anyone like her. I couldn’t remember ever dealing with someone as real, as open with their faults and failures, as Avett seemed to be. I’d never met anyone as reckless with their own fate as she was. Something about that was really intriguing. So was the gauntlet she threw down on her way out.
Obviously she was technically young, much younger than me at least. When I was twenty-two I had gotten back from the desert and was starting college for the first time. I wasn’t as untried as a lot of men in their early twenties but that had more to do with the way I was forced to grow up than it did with fighting for my country. Still, the difference between what I knew then and what I know now was huge, so yes, Avett Walker was young, regardless of her assurances that she wasn’t.
As for her being innocent … I had her criminal record in front of me, so I knew she wasn’t an angel. However, there was something in those wild eyes of hers that seemed so gentle and soft. How innocent she may or may not be was still very much up for debate.