I never spoke that bluntly or let my real feelings about a case or opposing counsel show. Spending time around Avett, with her total lack of artifice or pretense, was bad for business. I was supposed to be unaffected, unmoved, by everything that happened in court. That was how I defended the kind of monsters and miscreants that made up my client list. I didn’t need the prosecution to see any kind of chink in my flawless armor.
Townsend picked up his briefcase and gave me a smirk. “The hug after the announcement was a nice touch, Jackson. You gonna offer that to all the murderers and rapists you defend, too?”
It was a killer parting shot. All lawyers knew how to give one, which made me even more grateful that this case was won and done. I wouldn’t have to go through another arraignment, another hearing, and possibly weeks of trial ignoring my unexpected and inappropriate reaction to Avett. She wasn’t on my agenda, and she wasn’t someone that I could pretend with. She would see through all the smoke and mirrors that made up my life, and if the charade cracked, if the veil was pulled away, I didn’t know who or what would be standing behind it. I was afraid to find out.
I grabbed my bag and made my way out of the building. I was checking my schedule on my phone when I noticed that Orsen had sent another reminder about the staff holiday party. I groaned. The thing was still months away and he wouldn’t get off my case about it. The more he bugged me, the less I wanted to go, and I hadn’t put any effort into finding a toss-away piece of arm candy to go with me. I’d been distracted by work, particularly work surrounding a tiny, pink-haired troublemaker that I couldn’t drag my mind away from. The same tiny, pink-haired troublemaker that was leaning on the low cement wall outside of the entrance to the courthouse with her arms across her chest and her eyes pinned to the doors, clearly waiting for me. The toe of her pointed boot was even tapping an agitated rhythm against the sidewalk.
I hit the screen to turn my phone off, slipping it into my pocket as she pushed off the wall as I made my way towards her. Her multicolored eyes were riotous with emotion and the heels on her boots clicked against the sidewalk as she kept walking until the tips of our shoes were touching. My hand curled painfully tight around the handle of my bag as she tilted her chin back so that we were looking directly at each other. She barely reached my shoulders but she seemed so much bigger, so much more powerful, than her small frame indicated. The force of her personality and her obvious anger pulsed around us. We stood toe-to-toe, locked in a silent battle that seemed more intense and possibly more important than the one we waged in the courtroom.
“Were you waiting for me for a specific reason, Ms. Walker?” I saw the gold in her hazel eyes blaze when I referred to her formally. I needed the distance mentally because I couldn’t make my body move to put the space physically between us. In fact, I wanted to move closer.
She uncrossed her arms from her chest and put her hands on her hips. I tried really hard to ignore the way the new pose pushed her full breasts against the lacy material of her dress. I failed miserably.
“That’s it?” Her tone was taunting and sharp.
I narrowed my eyes at her, shifted my weight from foot to foot as her proximity and the charge of her pushing and me pulling thickened both my blood and my cock. I was an attorney for a reason. I never met an argument I didn’t like or that I didn’t feel compelled to win. The way Avett always seemed to challenge me was as much of a turn-on as her curvy little body was.
“Where is your father?” I lifted my eyes from her penetrating gaze in search of the big biker. I didn’t need to try and explain a black eye or a broken arm to Orsen on top of why I suddenly had no interest in searching out a pretty piece of ass to spend time with.
“He’s waiting at the truck. I told him I had some questions I needed to ask you about what happens next.”
“Do I what?” She was getting increasingly annoyed and I wanted to groan at the way it made her cheeks flush and her breathing hitch. I bet she looked the same way when she was about to come.
Shit. That was not the direction I needed my thoughts to go, but now that they were there I didn’t have a chance in hell of wrangling them back into the safe zone.
“Do you have questions about what happens next?” My voice didn’t sound like my own and I knew there was no hiding the wayward direction of my thoughts as they played out in my gaze as I watched her carefully.
Slowly, her head shook back and forth, dislodging the bun at the back of her head. Pink strands of hair floated around her face, curling over her shoulders, and my fingertips itched to reach out and push it off her face.
“I know what happens next, Quaid … do you?” Her tone had dropped to a husky whisper that hit me right in the dick. My entire body tensed up and I almost, very nearly, leaned down and met her as she lifted up on her tiptoes towards me. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted her to kiss me. But over the top of her head, as she moved towards me, I caught sight of a familiar face. The heady little bubble of seduction and intoxicating risk that Avett had created around me popped, dropping me hard, back into reality.
I turned my head as her lips grazed my cheek, and even though it was as innocent as any kiss had ever been, it felt more erotic, more forbidden, and more illicit than any of the actual sex I had ever had. This little slip of a woman could demolish me, waste me, annihilate me, and if I allowed her to do it, I knew it would feel better than anything had in a very long time.
“I know that you think you know what happens next, Avett, but you don’t. What happens now is you stop wasting your time on men that are no good for you, men that have nothing to offer you and will end up hurting you in the long run. You need to start making smarter choices for yourself and start living up to your potential.”
She fell back on her heels, rearing away like I had smacked her across her face. Her pretty flush turned to a furious red, and she finally took a step away from me, only to lean forward and drive her finger into the center of my tie. That familiar face was moving closer and closer. I knew whatever was said next was going to be overheard, so I needed to keep myself in check and put the armor back on piece by piece. I hadn’t even noticed that Avett managed to strip it off of me. This was why nothing was happening next. I was walking away from her before I was bared and exposed to more than her perceptive gaze.
“You’re an asshole, Quaid, you know that. A real dick and a super douche lord.” Her eyes flashed at me as her voice continued to rise. “This is me making a smarter choice, at least I thought it was, but I had no idea you were a coward.”