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"C'mon, Jordan, please? You owe this to me."
Jordan Hall, high-profile defense attorney and much-sought-after man about town, had been en route to the airport to begin what he felt was a greatly deserved Hawaiian surfing vacation when a frantic call from his younger sister had brought him racing back to Portland and the house that she and her husband, his best friend, Eric Logan, shared with Jenny's six-year-old adopted son, Cole.
On the phone, Jenny had made it sound like a matter of life or death.
Now that he had discovered that there was no death, imminent or otherwise, Jordan had pulled himself together, masked his initial concern and looked down at his six-months-pregnant sister, who'd forced herself into a semi-horizontal position on the sofa. Know-ing Jenny, it was a compromise. The doctor had probably had a bed in mind when he'd given her strict orders to rest.
Jordan crossed his arms and did his best to look annoyed, but Jenny was just too damn good to be annoyed at. She had a way of bringing out the best in everyone.
But this time, he was doing his utmost to resist.
"How, pray tell, do I "owe'this to you?" he wanted to know, the "this" in question being temporarily taking her place at Advocate Aid, Inc., and dispensing legal advice with no compensation other than being on the re-ceiving end of a grateful smile. "If we're going to bandy about the subject of "owing,' it's you who actually "owe' me, dear sister." He saw her mouth drop open and felt a surge of triumph. Eric, perched on the arm of the sofa next to her, looked mildly amused by the exchange. "If not for me, you might still be buried hip-deep in charity work, never seeing the light of day or having Eric'sbeatific smile bestowed on you on a daily basis."
"Beatific?" Eric echoed with a wide grin. He fluttered his lashes at him. "Why, Jordan, I never knew you felt that way about me."
Jordan grimaced. "I don't, but for some reason, every card-carrying member of the female sex does. Including my sister," he added needlessly, "your very pregnant wife." Jordan looked pointedly at Jenny, continuing the stroll down memory lane. "If I hadn't "arranged'to have your friends bid on Eric in that ridiculous bachelors' auction"
"As I recall, you were part of the auction, too," Eric reminded him.
Jordan shrugged casually. "What can I say? I'm a pushover for charity."
"And wealthy, good-looking women," Jenny was quick to interject. It was a well-known fact that people in the circles Jordan traveled felt that her brother had put the play in playboy.
Jordan's eyes seemed to twinkle as he obligingly acknowledged, "That, too."
"That foremost," Jenny countered, shifting on the sofa, feeling very much like a prisoner. She was a mover, a shaker. By definition, that sort of personality and calling necessitated mobility. Imitating a still-life painting like this was making her crazy. When she thought about having to do it for the next three months, it was all she could do to keep from screaming. But that would only frighten Cole, so she struggled to contain her edginess.
Jordan looked at her, shaking his head. "Marriage has made you feisty, little sister."
Eric laughed. "Feistier," he corrected his best friend. "Marriage has made her feistier. This woman was never a cupcake."
"Which is why I'm not going to give up." Jenny congratulated herself on bringing the conversation back to its rightful place, centered on what she both wanted and needed her older brother to do. She'd come to her conclusion after a night of soul-searching. Also a night of calling everyone else she could think of to ask. Giving them first crack at filling in the very vital space. She'd gotten several tentative promises of "next month," but no one was available im-mediately.
Jordan was her last hope. "It's only for three weeks," she pleaded earnestly. "That should give me enough time to arrange for someone else to come in and pick up the slack."
"Three weeks," Jordan repeated. The look he gave his sister was fraught with suspicion.
"By some odd coincidence, that's also the exact length of my Hawaiian vacation."
"Exactly." Jenny pounced on the lead-in her brother had handed her. "You were slated to go on vacation anyway. This way, you won't miss any time at Morrison and Treherne."
Jordan sat down on the edge of the coffee table, facing his sister, and took her hand between both of his. "Let me define vaca-tion, in case a workaholic like yourself has forgotten the meaning of the word. Vacation, as in lying on white sandy beaches with crystal-blue water lapping at your toes, a bikinied goddess lying beside you. Vacation, as in taking a long, languid cruise, sitting on the uppermost deck beside a pool, a bikinied goddess in the deck chair beside you. Vacation, as in"
Jenny pulled her hand away, glancing over to the far side of the room where Cole was playing with his action figures, afraid he might have overheard. But the little boy she'd taken into her heart as her own when her best friend had died looked completely preoccupied with the world he was creating. "We get the picture."
"Nowhere in that scenario, you might notice," Jordan went on patiently, "does it call for me to be sitting in a two-by-four termite-riddled box, playing bleeding-heart advocate to thugs and criminals."
Jenny sat up ramrod-straight, taking offense for the people she had come to care about as much as she might have cared for distant relatives who needed her help and her understanding.
"Just because they're poor doesn't mean they're thugs and criminals, Jordy.You know that." She looked at him, wondering if he was being serious or if he was just pulling her leg. She decided it had to be the latter. "I refuse to believe that you're that shallow."
That lopsided smile she knew and loved told her that her heart was right. He was pulling her leg. She'd won. He was just playing it out a little longer.
"I can bring you a note from my doctor," Jordan offered.
Two could play this game, Jenny thought. She threw off the blanket that Eric had tucked around her legs. She glanced toward her husband now. "Okay, he leaves me no choice, I have to go in."
Eric put his hands to her shoulders, holding her in place. "You have to have this baby, nothing else. The doctor said you needed bed rest."
But she shook her head. "Those people are counting on me."
"Your baby's counting on you," Eric coun-tered.
Jordan frowned. Jenny had already told him that Advocate Aid were down one lawyer. And there was what he felt amounted to a tempest in a teapot. Jenny had prevailed upon him to give legal advice to a non-profit fertility organization called the Children's Connection. A birth father, Thad Preston, was trying to get his fifteen minutes of fame by saying that his girlfriend gave up their child for adoption without his consent. He claimed to be suing for custody but what he was suing for was attention. It made for juicy reading when he brought his distorted version of the truth to the Portland Gazette.
Once again, the Children's Connection, just recovering from a series of unfortunate events, was cast in a bad light.
But all that was temporary and would pass in time. He didn't see the need to give up his vacation for either organization. "And if Advocate Aid, Inc., has to close its doors for a couple of weeks or three, would that really be such a big deal? Would it make that much of a difference?"
Jenny stared at him. Was he serious? "You know how important time is in a trial. A person's life can be permanently altered in the space of an hour. In the space of two minutes," she emphasized with feeling, thinking about cases where the death penalty was involved. It was organizations such as her own that saw to it that justice was not only served, but equally distributed, even to those who couldn't afford the price of a lawyer.
"Jenny," Jordan began patiently, "you're talking about penny-ante cases. The ones I take all involve high stakes"
"Name me higher stakes than people's dreams," she challenged. When he didn't answer immediately, she came in for the kill.
"Jordy, you're the smartest man I've ever knownno offense, honey," she added, turning to look at Eric.
Broad shoulders rose and fell noncha-lantly, accompanied by an amused expres-sion. "None taken."
"Speaking of whom," Jordan's eyes narrowed as he looked at Eric and nodded toward his brother-in-law. "Why can't your illustrious husband get one of his lawyer buddies to take your place until you find someone else?"
Eric looked at him pointedly. "I am." "Besides me," Jordan amended. "Everyone else I know with a law degree is wrapped up in some trial or other," Eric told him.
Jordan frowned at him. "How convenient." "You're the only one with time to spare, buddy," Eric concluded.
"Please, Jordan?" Jenny made another sincere entreaty. "Maybe you won't wind up on the six o'clock news, but who's to say these cases aren't just as important to the people who are involved? Sure, there are cases in-volving criminal charges, but there are also cases that involve stopping foreclosures. The cases I see also deal with unfair lawsuits that steal everything from the accused, even when they're innocent. Then there's"
Jordan rolled his eyes and looked at his best friend. He could literally feel his vacation slipping away from him. "She really isn't going to stop until I say yes, is she?"
Eric's amused expression only deepened. "She's your little sister, Jordy. You should know that about her by now."
Yes, he did. He also knew Jenny was a walking heart with legs. He'd never seen anyone who cared so much about her fellow manand womaneven if they didn't deserve it.