I was getting ready to call Pam and tell her to bring my client in when the phone on my desk rang as I was reaching for it. I knew from the caller ID that the man on the other end was Orsen McNair, the man who had hired me and who was the McNair in McNair and Duvall, the founding partners of the firm. I liked Orsen, appreciated that he gave me a shot right out of law school and the fact that he had stood by me during the divorce when Lottie had done her best to drag not only me but the firm through the mud. I owed the guy a lot considering my pedigree wasn’t as polished and shiny as most of the attorneys hired right out of school. I also recognized I had made it to this point in my career based on my own work ethic and own skills at knowing how to read and work a jury. I wanted my name on the sign along with Orsen’s and I hadn’t been shy about letting him know that.
“What’s up, old man?”
There was a raspy chuckle on the other end of the phone and I could hear his chair creak under his weight. “I hear we’re in the business of representing punk rockers now.”
I frowned, even though he couldn’t see me, and glared at Pam through my closed door. “Where did you hear that?”
“Come on, Quaid. You know the ladies in this office gossip like that’s what they get paid to do. Pam couldn’t wait to tell Martha about the girl with pink hair, saying she was locked up with you in your office for over an hour. Told her that she seemed flushed and agitated when she finally came out. You have something you want to tell me, kid?”
I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples in vicious circles. “Nothing to tell, Orsen. She’s a new client. She was referred by another client. The pink hair is a minor issue, but I already advised her that it needs to go before court. If she seemed upset or worked up in any way when she left my office, it was because I told her she was going to be the State’s star witness against her boyfriend. She’s not happy about it. Pam has a big mouth.”
“Pam is worried about another gold digger getting her claws into you.”
The reminder of what I had been through, what I had put the firm through, hit its mark. “She doesn’t need to worry about that happening ever again. I’ve told you a hundred times I’ve learned my lesson.”
Another rusty-sounding chuckle made its way across the phone line. “You need a willing woman that knows how to give a man what he needs and that looks good while she’s doing it. In fact, you should find yourself one and bring her to the partners’ holiday party that will be here before you know it.”
I grunted and forcibly turned my mind away from the image of walking into Orsen’s opulent Belcaro mansion with a pink-haired hurricane on my arm. The partners would lose their minds and not just because she was a client. McNair and Duvall had an image to upkeep, a reputation to uphold, which meant everyone that represented them was expected to look and act a certain way. On the outside, Lottie was the perfect lawyer’s wife, even though she was corrupted and the worst kind of wife on the inside. It made me cringe that I was even comparing the two women. They weren’t cut from the same cloth at all; in fact, I was pretty sure Avett came from some kind of custom textile that only existed to create her. “I’ll see what I can do. My caseload is a nightmare at the moment, so that hasn’t left a lot of time for much else.”
“There’s always time for the right kind of woman, kid, especially after you wasted so much time on the wrong kind of woman. Pencil me in for a lunch meeting early next week. You can catch me up on what you’re working on, including the punk rocker.”
He barked a good-bye, hanging up before I could tell him pink hair did not automatically equal someone being a punk rocker. Orsen was old school and set in his ways. He wouldn’t recognize the hair as another facet of Avett’s spirited and untamed personality. I wasn’t lying when I told her I liked it. It was different and suited her, but I was practical enough to know that it had to go, even if I disliked the idea almost as much as she did.
The entirely unprofessional thoughts I was having where Avett was concerned also needed to take a hike. If there was a right kind of woman for what I currently needed, it absolutely wasn’t one that was an almost felon and that seemed a hundred times more comfortable in her skin than I had ever been. I needed a woman I could fuck and forget, not one that was already lingering on my mind and poking holes, without even trying, in the iron façade I had spent years hiding behind.
You look pretty, Avett.” My dad’s gruff voice startled me from where I was still trying to pin strands of pink hair into the tightly coiled bun at the back of my head.
I should have changed it. I’d had almost three weeks to buy a box of dye, to make the pink no more, but I couldn’t do it. Every time I thought about it, every time I really contemplated the fact I might have to go to prison for an extended amount of time, the idea of going away as someone that wasn’t me, the thought of facing the judge and everyone else slotted to judge me as an imitation of myself, it made my skin crawl. Plus, every time I had a meeting with Quaid in his stuffy office, with its fancy carpet and boring furniture, the first thing he did was look at my hair, then look at me with a combination of reproach and admiration in his eyes. I liked both of those responses from him. I liked any kind of response from him. Getting him to react to me had become a personal challenge, and I was well aware I was pulling on a big, golden lion’s tail. The man was a predator, a civilized beast in a designer suit. There was more to the handsome lawyer than met the eye. I was dangerously intrigued by what kind of secrets his killer grin and steely blue gaze kept hidden.
He never mentioned me changing my hair again, so I was secretly hoping he realized it came with the territory … one more choice I was making that might bite me in the ass, but like all my other choices, I would face the consequences of my actions. I would own being the type of person that was critically flawed and forever fucking things up. I wasn’t hiding any of that, so that meant the pink hair stayed, but I did my best to make it as subtle as possible, and I did concede to part of Quaid’s advice, deciding not to dress like a college dropout for the big day. That was why my dad was leaning in the door of the open bathroom looking at me like he hadn’t ever seen me dressed up before.
Probably because he hadn’t.
My family was casual to our bones. I owned one skirt that dated back to high school. I’d had to go shopping, with my dad, because I didn’t have a car or any kind of cash to buy something that was suitable for convincing a judge I would never take part in an armed robbery.