Read an Excerpt
Four months earlier
I decided to break off my engagement on a Wednesday night at 2:20 a.m. I was drunk past the point of walking a straight line, but not yet to the point of slurring my speech. Drunk wasn't the best mind-set to be in to make a lifealtering decision, but a thin curtain had finally been ripped away and a truth that I had evaded for the past two years now stood front and center in the middle of my head, waving its arms and screaming.
Luke was not the one for me.
I met Luke as a sophomore in college. At the time I was emotionally vulnerable, recently dumped by the first "love of my life" two weeks after he took my virginity. That asshole ditched poor deflowered me to run off with a seventeen-year-old blonde, pink-toenailed California princess. Luke was different-quiet, brooding, a sensitive soul who seemed absolutely terrified of me. I was bubbly, beautiful and determined to get over my heartbreak the college way-partying myself into oblivion. I hunted Luke down the way a lioness would a defenseless baby antelope, making my sole occupation getting him to fall completely and hopelessly in love with me- which he did, putting me on a pedestal and worshipping daily at my whim.
I demanded a proposal within six months, which he gave me willingly-I think-and we began to plan a life together. This life plan was hampered slightly by the fact that Luke was a dreamer with high goals but little follow-through. He enjoyed spending time with me, and not much else. He worked in construction-not in a management capacity, as I had originally thought, but as a laborer. My bubbly persona started to turn into more of a nagging mother role. It wasn't long before my subconscious started poking me with a sharp, pointy stick. I ignored the annoying pokes for twelve months, then my subconscious had enough of waiting.
It is weird the things that enter your head during a breakup. I sat on my bed with Luke sitting next to me, and I wondered why I had never purchased a chair for my bedroom. I had a desk and the typical bedside table, but no chair. A chair would have made the situation easier. Sitting next to Luke on the bed was too intimate-his pain was too close-and I knew I would have to fight to keep from reaching over to comfort him.
I stood up, wobbled slightly and turned to face him. I took a deep breath and delivered the bad news. I think my dramatic breakup speech was hampered slightly by the fact that we were both drunk, but I tried my best to be compassionate, coherent and firm. I accomplished at least two of those objectives.
Luke turned out to have a streak of stalker in him. Despite all the poking and prodding that he had needed to bathe, balance a checkbook and show up for work, it turned out he needed little or no encouragement to spend every waking moment trying to convince me to come back to him. In retrospect, maybe I should have spent less effort trying to get him to fall in love with me. I might have overshot that objective.
After two weeks of avoiding my home, work and anyplace I had frequented during the past two years, I decided to leave my crappy apartment and even crappier job and start fresh. It was good timing. Intern season was starting.
My internship at Clarke, De Luca & Broward began on a Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. I sat in the Human Resources offices with eight other interns and waited for my attorney assignment. Our internships would last for one semester. During that time we would be assigned to an attorney and, for the most part, would be their personal bitch for the next ten weeks.
I had heard the stories. Liz Renfield, one of the junior partners, once made an intern cover her gynecology appointment. The intern had to sit in the cold stirrups and undergo a full exam just so Renfield could make a deposition and continue her birth control uninterrupted. Hugo Clarke was apparently the dream assignment. He was known to take interns under his wing and pretty much guaranteed them a salaried position after graduation. Brad De Luca was a skirt chaser, Robert Handler a drunk, and Kent Broward drowned interns in work. There were a few new attorneys that hadn't yet built up reputations, but I was sure that they would have them soon enough.
"Miss Campbell," the throaty-voiced receptionist barked, waving her hand, beckoning me. I stood, smoothed my skirt and strode to the front. I was nervous, but tried to appear calm and collected. I came to a stop in front of her and waited. "You will be assisting Attorney Kent Broward," she stated. "After orientation, report to his office, fourth floor." She dismissed me by turning back to her stack of forms and calling the next victim, Jennifer Hutchinson. I turned and walked back to my seat, passing Jennifer on the way. She gave me a tight, nervous smile, which I returned.
I sat down on the plastic-wrapped seat and exhaled, releasing the breath that I had not been aware I was holding. Attorney Kent Broward. I could have gotten worse. Broward worked long hours and expected his interns to do the same, but at least I would get good, solid training. If I impressed Broward, I should have no problem getting a strong recommendation for law school. Word was that Broward was tough, but not unreasonable, and fair. I heard Jennifer's assignment called out in the background. She received Liz Renfield. Tough break.
Orientation passed slowly, a boring drone of questionnaires, forms and informational videos on topics such as equal opportunity and sexual harassment in the workplace. We had a catered lunch in an empty conference room-cold ham-and-turkey sandwiches with chips. I munched on a Frito and listened to the idle chat. The conversation seemed to center around drinks after work and where everyone wanted to go.
"Hops Grill. Julia, that work for you?" Trevor, a lanky redhead, leaned toward me as he asked the question.
I shrugged noncommittally. "Hops works for me, if Broward lets me out in time," I said. I didn't expect to make many happy-hour events, at least not for the next ten weeks. I could probably cross off any social events, period, until my internship was over.
"I'm sure Broward will let you off early today. It is the first day, after all." The optimism came from Todd Appleton, a handsome, athletic type, as he stared into my eyes from across the table.
I smiled at him, trying not to stare at his perfect grin. Hmm that view will help the next few months pass quickly. "Maybe. Who'd you get?"
"De Luca," he responded breezily. "Should be fine. The guy apparently parties more than he works."
I glanced at Jennifer. She was typing furiously into her phone, probably updating her boyfriend on her day. "Jennifer, you going for drinks?" She glanced up, nodded and resumed her texting.
Jane, the Human Resources receptionist, a petite white-haired woman, who would have seemed motherly if not for her piercing stare and gravelly smoker's voice, strode into the room. "Okay, interns, let's move!" she commanded, clapping her hands. "Report to your attorneys and bring all of your things with you!" She clapped her hands again and began herding us out. Todd caught up with me on the way out and held the door for me, pressing his hand gently on my back to guide me through the door. I tried not to smile, but felt a flush hit my face. I headed for the stairs and prepared myself for the fourth floor, and Broward.
Broward was in his forties, tall and bald-shaved bald, in an obvious attempt to hide a receding hairline. He looked like a runner, thin and in shape. He had his jacket on and was seated behind his desk when I came in. He stood as I entered and came around the desk to shake my hand. "Julia." He beamed, pumping my hand. "Nice to meet you." I liked him immediately. He seemed intelligent, approachable and trustworthy. Plus, it appeared he had excellent taste in interns. Looking around, he grabbed a set of keys and a stack of files. "Come with me. I'll show you your office and start you working."
* * *
Four hours later, I paused in my typing and leaned back in my chair. I stretched my arms and legs and rolled my head, trying to get the kinks out of my neck. I looked around my office, taking my first real appraisal of the space. It was a nice office, more than I had expected as an intern. Dark wood-paneled walls, plush cream carpet and expensive, heavy furniture- the room had a definite masculine sense, a cigar bartype feel. I didn't mind. Girlie, flowery and pink don't exactly inspire fear in the courtroom.
My desk was filled with legal briefs, all covered with Bro-ward's handwritten notes. They all needed to be summarized and to have his notes implemented. I sighed. Long nights were going to be the norm, mostly filled with menial work that would do nothing to further my work experience. Welcome to the world of internship. I leaned back over the desk and started in again.
An hour later, there was a soft knock on my door and Todd Appleton stuck his gorgeous blond head in. "We're heading out for drinks," he said. "Still room for you, if you're interested." He looked carefree and relaxed, happily done for the day, his tie already loosened.
"I think I'll be here awhile," I said from behind the stack of briefs. "But thanks for checking."
His gaze traveled from my full desk to the crammed cardboard file box on the side of my desk. His smile faded slightly. "All right I'll take a rain check." He tapped his hand on the door frame twice and then left, closing the door behind him.
I rubbed my eyes and focused again on Britley v. Russell Properties, an exciting legal battle regarding a dispute over water rights on a condominium project. Thrilling. At least Broward was still there also. I could hear him on the phone, his seat creaking occasionally when he stood up, usually to pace. I bet a track had been worn on his plush carpet from the constant pacing. My stomach growled. The next day I would know to pack a dinner. Damn Todd and the other interns, with their light workloads and happy-hour drinks. I grumbled a little longer and then tried to refocus my mind.
At 10:00 p.m. Broward knocked on my office door and entered. Tie undone, shirt rumpled, he looked at my exhausted face with a gentle smile. "Come on, Julia. Let's go. You've put in a good first day."
I smiled at him wearily. I was so hungry I was ready to start chewing on a Post-it note; I was certain my butt had officially fused to the leather seat, and my hands were cramping from the nonstop typing. I wanted to come across as a road-hardened legal warrior, but I was too tired to keep up the facade. Besides, he looked tired also.
"All right, boss," I said, grabbing my jacket and shrugging into it. "I won't argue with you, seeing it's my first day." I picked up my purse and followed him down the hall, waving to the quiet, round, Hispanic housekeeper who waited at the entrance to Broward's office armed with disinfectant and a trash bag. She smiled at me and waited until we passed before scurrying into the office.
"I'll walk you to your car," Broward said-a statement rather than a question. "You don't need to be in the parking garage alone." I nodded my thanks and tried to walk without stumbling.
We got on the elevator. Muted music filled the car. I tried to think of something moderately intelligent to say.
Broward broke the silence. "I buried you in files today. I didn't give you a proper introduction to the office. Tomorrow I will give you a tour and the basic background information on everything that you will need. Week after next I will be in Fort Lauderdale, so I want to get you as acclimated and self-sufficient as possible."
"Sounds great," I said. Thank God, a week of normal hours. I gestured to the ten-year-old gray Toyota Camry, my mom's old car, now one of two cars in the parking lot, the other a shiny black Lexus, which I assumed was his. "This is mine," I said a bit unnecessarily. "Thank you for walking me." I awkwardly stuck out my hand and he shook it.
"See you tomorrow, Ms. Campbell." Broward smiled and released my hand.
"Good night, Mr. Broward." I nodded, and headed for my car.
Six in the morning came way too freaking early. The day before, I had bounded out of bed, excited about my internship, but today it took two snooze cycles before I lifted my head. My alarm still sounding, I fumbled to turn it offjust as pounding started on the wall beside my bed. "It's off!" I shouted. Zack, my stoner of a roommate, stopped beating on the wall, probably already halfway back to sleep. He'd had friends over till past 3:00 a.m., and they had made no effort to be quiet. I had no doubt there would be plenty of fights in the upcoming months over our sleep routines.
After breakfast and a shower, I grabbed a blue sweater-dress out of the closet and pulled it over my head, cinching a brown belt around my waist. Grabbing small faux diamond stud earrings and a purse, I surveyed my shoe options. All sexy and over three inches tall. Seeing long hours ahead, I realized I would need to buy some shoes that emphasized comfort over fashion. For now, I grabbed some gorgeous leather-and-gold stilettos and slid them on.
I arrived at the office at 7:30 a.m. Pulling open the heavy teak doors, I entered the lobby, nodding to Dorothy, the ancient receptionist. "Good morning, Miss Campbell," she said creakily. "Here late last night?" Her bemused expression had no trace of pity.
"Not too late," I replied breezily. She grinned at me, her wrinkles accentuated by the motion.
"Have a good day," I heard her call as I pressed the door to the stairs and headed for the fourth floor.
The fourth floor-or power floor, as the staff referred to it-was divided into three different wings, one for each partner. Each partner had two secretaries, two paralegals and one intern. Brad De Luca was the exception, with four secretaries and three paralegals. I remembered from orientation that his caseload was double that of any other attorney, including the other two partners. Broward's secretaries were Sheila and Beverly, neither of whom, judging by their empty desks, arrived till 8:00 a.m.
Broward was already in his office, phone to his ear, when I passed his closed door. I waved at him through the glass and entered my office. Setting my purse by the door, I switched my cell to Silent and then started in on the pile stacked on my desk. I was halfway through the first brief when Broward appeared in the doorway.
"Good morning," he said distractedly.
"Did you make coffee?" His question caused me to look up from my computer.
"Coffee?" I stalled. Is that part of my duties?
"Yes, the kitchen with the coffeepot is on the third floor. I'm sorry I didn't give you the proper tour, but I thought they might have covered that in orientation." A phone began ringing in his office, and he glanced back at me with agitation.
"Yes, I'll get it now." I stood quickly and smoothed down my dress. He disappeared, and I heard him answer his phone a few seconds later.
Coffee. Okay, I can do this. Are Trevor and Todd brewing freaking coffee?