His eyebrows lifted a hint as the edge of his mouth dipped because he wasn’t going to let himself smile at me. “None taken and you don’t need a power suit. What you’re working with is fine and more importantly you seem comfortable. That comes across as earnest and honest. We don’t need you in anything that would make you fidgety and uneasy. That behavior comes across as anxious and guilty.”
He turned away from me and moved to the table where his computer and a bunch of paperwork was laid out. “Remember the State gets to play their hand first. They’re going to bring up every single thing on your record. They’re going to bring up the fact you dropped out of school. They’re going to hammer the point that you worked at the bar, that you were fired, that you were upset your dad sold it.”
My dad stiffened behind me but I didn’t turn around. I nodded at Quaid. “I’m ready for it.”
“They are going to try and convince the judge you were there to help Jared, that you are a legitimate threat to society, and that you would be better off behind bars, then they are going to try and sway the judge with generosity by offering up the plea bargain.” He gave me a pointed look. “I don’t get to do my part until all of that is over, so you have to sit there and keep it together while they drag you through the mud. Both of you need to keep it together. Am I making myself clear?”
I peeked over my shoulder and saw that my dad was scowling again and that he seemed almost as anxious as I was feeling on the inside.
“I hear you, son.” My dad’s voice rumbled low and hard through the tiny room.
Quaid nodded. “Good. I’m here for one reason and one reason only, to win this judgment for you. The State has a decent enough case, but mediocre isn’t good enough when I’m the opposing counsel. We’re in this together, got it?”
He’s been telling me that for weeks, saying this was his battle as much as it was mine, but since I was the only one with something to lose, namely my freedom, I’d had a hard time believing him. Here in this tiny room, with my dad practically vibrating with tension at my back and him seeping confidence and talent in front of me, I actually started to believe him.
“Okay. We’re in this together.”
His eyes thawed just a hint and warm shots of pewter blazed from the depths. That look made my heart beat faster and some of the anxiety that was riding me warmed into something that was heavy and more languid. Even though it was the least likely thing in the world to happen, I realized I would totally fuck my attorney. Exactly like those girls had been talking about at the arraignment. He was hot in a way that was totally foreign to anything I had ever considered sexy before, beautiful even, but it was his steadiness, his indomitable attitude, that pulled at me.
Quaid wasn’t reckless or rash. He was a man with a plan, with the kind of fortitude to put that plan into action, and follow it through to the end. He most definitely had his shit together. While that never appealed to me before, it was suddenly the most desirable trait I had ever seen in a man. He was flawless, and to someone that was deeply and tragically flawed, it was impossible not to be fascinated by that kind of perfection.
I pulled a whoosh of air into my lungs and held it as I followed him out of the room and into the courtroom. Since this was the preliminary hearing, the only people in the room were the court recorder, the prosecutor plus his assistant, and our little entourage. It should be less nerve-racking to have all my mistakes laid out in front of a smaller audience, but since this audience mattered more, and my father was a part of it, my stomach churned and burned as we took a seat on our side of the room.
The prosecutor was the same one from the arraignment. He walked over and shook Quaid’s hand before he sat down and let his gaze skim over my attorney’s slick attire.
“Nice suit, Jackson.”
Quaid gave the other man a smile, but it wasn’t a nice one. It was a smile that had too much teeth in it and it didn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy like I usually felt when he grinned.
“Thanks, Townsend. I dressed up for you.”
The other man grunted in response and shifted his gaze to me. I wanted to squirm in my seat but repeated over and over again that I was pretending to have my act together today so I needed to sit still.
“You sure your client doesn’t want to take the plea deal? I thought the bosses were being generous when it came across my desk.”
I opened my mouth to snap that I hadn’t done anything, but then shut it just as quickly. Quaid was getting paid a minifortune to defend me, and I knew I would make a mess if I tried to defend myself, so I kept quiet and forced myself not to react to the other lawyer.
“It is a good deal … if she was guilty of committing a crime. Having bad taste in men and getting caught up with a junkie loser is not a punishable offense.” Quaid’s tone was icy and there was no missing that he wasn’t in the mood to banter with the other man.
“When that junkie loser robs a bar with an unregistered weapon and threatens the life of a cop, it is a punishable offense. She didn’t call the cops, Jackson, she didn’t do anything.”
I cringed and tore my gaze away from their intense standoff. She didn’t do anything … I never did and it forever haunted me. It lingered around me like a black cloud. Nothing was just as bad as participating in a crime; at least, that was the way it felt. Nothing could linger heavy and thick until you couldn’t breathe through it, and I’d been gasping for air for a very long time.
“Again, Townsend, doing nothing is not a crime.” It might not be a crime, but the punishment that came with doing nothing might be worse than the punishment that came along with actually committing a crime.
“We’ll see if the judge agrees with you or not.” The other man skulked his way back to the other side of the room. Shortly after the exchange, the court bailiff told us all to rise and an older man, in billowing robes, entered the room and took his place at the bench. The court recorder read my case number and the charges that I was facing, then we all had to say our names clearly for the record.
The judge said a curt hello to both Quaid and the other attorney, and without any preamble, the other man launched into why the State thought I should be behind bars. Just like Quaid warned, all my dirty laundry was dragged out and laid flat for everyone to see. The DUI charge I’d recently bargained down, the bar fight that had resulted in a trip to the police station all because I was drunk and thought the other girl was trying to hit on Jared. The trespassing from when I jumped the fence at a resort to go skinny-dipping with some boy in a band that I met at a bar. All of it in its twisted, torn, and ragged glory. Every bad choice and mistake I had ever made there to be judged and weighed. Every instance I had taken the opportunity to do the wrong thing because I didn’t deserve to do the right thing. It was rough, but I sat silently, unflinchingly, and refused to look away from the judge, who had his eyes locked firmly on me.