Balancing the Scales

Balancing the Scales

by Laura Carter


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"Carter's writing style is absolutely brilliant."
-The Romance Reviews

A Hotshot Manhattan Attorney.

Drew Harrington knows exactly who he is-a legal shark with a love 'em and leave 'em attitude that works just fine in his cutthroat world. He's on the cusp of promotion to named partner, but only if he can prove to his colleagues that he has a more human side.

A Sweetheart of a British Patisserie Chef.

Becky Fletcher is running from her past, so the last thing she's looking for is love. What she does want is a friendly face in a cold city. Her sunny outlook is the sweetness Drew never knew was missing from his life.

One fateful meeting at a bagel cart.

They sound like a match made in heaven-or is it a car crash? If they have any chance of finding happiness, Drew and Becky are going to have to rethink their life plans. Until then, is there really any harm in having some fun between the sheets?

All's fair in love and lox!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516106073
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 11/21/2017
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

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I slip out of the bed, naked, and head into my en suite. While the shower heats the wet room, I look out over Manhattan. From this angle, I see the spring sun rising through the multitude of the city's skyscrapers. On the other side of my apartment the view of Central Park this time of year is lush green.

When I step into the shower I'm blasted from all angles by the spray. Closing my eyes, I lean my head back and let the jets clean away the mild fog I feel from last night's scotch. I didn't have much, just enough to take the edge off the stress of today's hearing.

It's time to bring my game face. In a few hours, I'll be in court, defending another millionaire accused of white-collar crime. Today, I'll be convincing Judge McAvoy that my client isn't guilty of insider trading. This, despite the fact he placed trades that made him more money than even the Einstein of Wall Street could have managed.

Hey, he pays me a hell of a lot of money to keep him out of pretty-boy prison, and let's be real here, it's not like he killed anyone.

Knocking off the shower, I shake out my dark blond hair, flick water from my ears, and tie a towel around my waist. After wiping down the steamed mirror, I brush shaving cream on my face and get on with making myself appear court-presentable. By court-presentable, I mean a cut above the average man's best day. I'm a big-hitter on the circuit and I have to look like one. It's all part of the show.

When I'm through with the metrosexual antics, I slip out of the bathroom and pad quietly through the bedroom to my walk-in — not intentionally quiet because I don't want to wake the sleeping brunette in my bed but because my feet are bare on the thick rug.

The hanging racks are full of suits and shirts but there's only one suit for court. The don of all suits. The pinstripe.

I dress in my shirt and pants, wiggling the knot of my tie until it sits just so. My vest is next — judges like a three-piece. I leave my jacket until last, carrying it with me to the kitchen as I go in search of my best friend. I hear her percolating and smell her rich aroma before I see her.

Meet my coffee maker. The most reliable and dependable thing in my life.

Black coffee in hand, I head back to my bedroom to wake last night's conquest. She's wrapped loosely in only my white cotton sheet, her slim, tanned body displayed in all but the most important places. Her hair and makeup aren't as pristine as they had been when I'd picked her up in the bar, but I can still see why I brought her to bed.

"Janey," I say, standing on the threshold of the room, sipping my Italian coffee. "Janey, wake up. I've got to go."

She moans and rolls over in a way I imagine she thinks is erotic. Last night, I probably would have thought so. Now, I have shit to do, places to be. It's not like I'm being disrespectful. We both knew what this was. I'm just the first of the two of us to call the bluff.

"Mmm, coffee," she whispers, bringing herself up on her elbows. "Maybe you'd like some breakfast with that?" She rolls her finger across her lip and bites down on the end. Enticing but, again, not right now. The fun's over.

"This is my breakfast. And you have five minutes to pull on that little black dress and be at my front door ready to leave. Otherwise, you'll have to find your own way home."

She sits up. That pretty face twists into a frown. "You're an asshole."

I take another gulp of coffee as I leave the room. Walking away, I call back, "I told you I was an asshole last night, Janey."

"Janette, dickhead. I'm fucking Janette!"

I hear something crash against my bedroom wall and hope it's a pillow.

Ten minutes later, I'm shutting the door of the Mercedes that belongs to my regular driver. Outside on the sidewalk, Janette flips me the bird through the window. My driver meets my eye through the rearview mirror. He chuckles and maneuvers out into the building city traffic.

We pull up outside a high-rise in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. The modern glass building is home to Statham Turner, one of the top three law firms in New York and one of the best law firms in the world. That isn't just because I happen to be a partner at the firm — that is coincidence, mostly.

I tug the cuffs of my suit jacket to straighten the arms as I step onto the sidewalk. Once I've closed the door, I pat the roof of the car twice. Dipping my head in acknowledgment to a familiar suited colleague, who definitely works at the firm but whose name I can't remember, I stride past the revolving door of Lexington Tower.

At the end of the block, I find my destination. Fabio's bagel truck. There's only one thing for it, pre-court. Jarlsberg. A bagel crammed full of copious amounts of melted Jarlsberg.

Fabio leans out of the truck to hand a customer a foil-wrapped bagel. He clocks me when he lifts his head and flashes me a toothy welcome. "Drew. My main man." His Italian accent always makes that sound peculiar to me.

I'm just yards from my breakfast. I open my mouth to say, "Hey," but some blond woman moves into my path and steals Fabio's attention.

I'm going to line up for a bagel? Seriously?

Fabio shrugs when I shake my head but serves Blondie. I check her out from behind, and I check out her behind.

If she's going to make me wait it's not like I have anything better to do. It's either ogling or foot tapping, and I don't feel like tapping my foot today.

She's petite. Slim shoulders and waist. My guess is she's about five four, maybe five five, in her flat shoes. Small though she is, that ass could wreak havoc on a man. Perfectly sculpted in tight jeans. Her T-shirt sits just below the waistline of her pants and lets me see those two cupable globes.

"Erm, what do you have?" she asks Fabio. Her accent is British. Like the kind of British in movies. The kind of British my wealthy clients from that side of the pond speak.

"Bagels, lady. I got bagels."

"Erm, right. I guess I'll take cheese?"

I can't help but roll my eyes, already knowing what Fabio's next words will be.

"What kind of cheese, lady?"

"I'm not sure. What kind do you have?"

I hang my head back and look to the clouds for the strength I need to get me through this painful experience. This is why only New Yorkers should eat from New York food trucks. The growl of frustration inside my mind must actually come out loud because Blondie turns her head across her shoulder to look at me. There's no mistaking her expression for anything other than a wicked scowl. She tuts and turns back to Fabio. Annoying as she is, she's hot. Fully hot.

As I'm having that thought, she throws me a second glance. It's fleeting but long enough for me to see her big, beautiful, alluring blue eyes. The blue is dark, like the deep sea, but they seem to sparkle like diamonds catching the morning sunlight.

As pretty as she is, this is not a bar at midnight, and I have places to be. I raise my arm, unsubtly, and stare at the minute hand of my Omega. I receive another tut in response. Maybe I do want to tap my foot after all.

"Whatever cheese you have that melts. And tomatoes, please."

Fabio sets about making her food, and I give myself another moment to indulge in that fine body.

"You want coffee?" Fabio asks.

Christ, don't ask her another question.

My thoughts must have left my mouth because Blondie says, "Yes, please," to the coffee, then "Are you always such a dick, arsehole?" to me.

I'm not sure if it's the level of feistiness coming from such a small thing, the hands on her hips, or the insult itself, that makes me smirk. "Which is it, dick or asshole?"

She huffs her next breath as Fabio tells her she owes him four bucks. She takes the small satchel she's carrying from her shoulder and starts rummaging around.

And she rummages.

And rummages.

For the love of God.

I take a ten-dollar bill from my wallet and hand it to Fabio. "Here, it's on me." I step around her and tell Fabio, "I'll take my usual for court day."

"Sure thing, Drew."

He's already made my bagel, knowing from yesterday that I'm in court today, and knowing how I like my Jarlsberg on court days. He pours me a black coffee and tells me the ten will cover both Blondie's breakfast and mine.

I strip back the foil wrapper around my bagel. I'm taking my first, sensational bite as I turn from the cart, only to find my path blocked by Blondie.

"I didn't ask you to do that."

"I know," I manage through my full mouth as I walk past her.

"You're so bloody rude, do you know that? People in this city, damn it."

Riled, I turn back to face her. She hasn't moved. Her lips are pressed tightly together. "People in this city know how to get shit done. You tourists shouldn't come out to play during work hours. I have to be in court in an hour."

That scowl is back. Her brows are furrowed. And damn, the woman looks fine when she pouts. Especially with that chest puffed out and those two, magnetic mounds drawing me in.

"For your information, I'm not a tourist. This is actually my lunch break. While you New Yorkers are sleeping, I'm killing myself in a patisserie kitchen from four a.m. So, shove that in your bagel and eat it."

I never laugh on the morning of a trial. In fact, I don't laugh all that often. But a laugh comes from so low in my gut, it rocks my body. "Shove that in my bagel and eat it?"

Her frown is broken by a smile that I can tell she's trying to fight. Dimples form at the sides of her pink lips. Sweet, charming dimples. She forces them away. "Whatever. Thanks for breakfast."

She turns on her heel, and I could let her go. Instead, I call out, "I thought you said it was lunch."

"Whatever, smart arse. I thought you said you had to be in court, like, yesterday." She shouts her words down the sidewalk as she comes to a stop by a crossing.

"I do have to be in court. I guess you have to go back to making cupcakes, Blondie."

She shouts something that's lost in the sound of cab horns and the subway running beneath my feet. I'm pretty sure she used at least one expletive, and I'm almost certain she doesn't make cupcakes for a living. There's a good chance she also likes birds.

I head to my office but not without casting one last glance at the curvy, stubborn woman with the sweetest damn smile I've ever seen. She has crossed the road but turns to look right back at me. I raise my coffee and shake my head.

Crazy, indecisive Brit. Manhattan is going to eat her alive.

"Holy crap, you're smiling. Is the world about to end? Give it to me straight."

Meet Sarah, my overpaid legal secretary whom I couldn't live without. She falls into step beside me as we head from the elevators to my office — the corner office, on the fifth of five floors the firm owns in the building. Incidentally, the top floor of Lexington Tower, also known as "where the gods sit."

I straighten my lips. "Are my briefs ready?"

"They're already at court with your associate."

"Good. I need you to file the Donatella application for me by eleven, latest, so that I can —"

"Already done."

We step through the glass door into my office. "Good. Is my tie crooked?"

Sarah stands in front of me and tugs on my tie, wiggles the knot, then sets it right. "Better," she says, patting my chest.

"Do I look like I'm going to kick ass?"

She winks. "Damn straight." With the dramatic flair only she possesses, she turns on her stiletto heel and struts out of my office, flicking her long brunette waves across her shoulder as she goes.

Thirty-five minutes later, I'm pulling up outside the courthouse. I fasten one button of my suit jacket as I step onto the sidewalk, almost in sync with Charles Wickman. He's the lead attorney for the US Securities and Exchange Commission, more commonly known as a spineless jackass. Oh, and the guy I'll be facing in court today as he tries, and inevitably will fail, to put my client behind bars.

Wickman finishes the bite of breakfast roll he's chewing. "Ah, if it isn't the infamous Drew Harrington."

The guy has one of those faces. You know, the type you want to smack and watch rebound into your fist over and over again like a speed bag. We studied at Columbia Law School together. He was a nerd back then. Realistically, he still is. But four years ago he made his name taking out a big city gun in front of a grand jury. Since then, he's been slicking his greasy hair to the side and strutting around Manhattan like he runs the place.

"Wickman, I see they let you out of your pen."

"Make all the jokes you want, Harrington. Let's see who's laughing when your guy is sitting behind bars." He finishes his sentence with a sniff, flicking a knuckle under his nostrils. He could be wiping away a crumb. More likely, he's just being a pretentious fucker.

"The only joke is that you think my guy will end up behind bars." I take a step toward him, close enough that I can smell egg on his breath. "I don't lose, Wickman. I'm the best goddamn defense money can buy."

"There's a first time for everything."

I lean closer so that passersby won't hear when I tell him, "There is. And by the way, after the trial, if you still have a problem, we can always step outside to discuss it."

For some insane reason, I want to finish that statement with, Shove that in your bagel and eat it.



"A toast. To the most ruthless son of a bitch in the state."

I raise my glass of scotch level with Marty's. That's Marty Statham, by the way. Of Statham Turner. The named partner who will end up backing me to get my name on the door one day. And one of my closest friends.

We met when I was new to the firm and he was a jumped up associate who thought he could order me around. It was the definition of a love-hate relationship. We both hated each other and ... Nope, it was just a hate relationship and we eventually came to respect each other. The thing is, if you spend enough hours locked in a glass tower together, respect and a good working relationship eventually blur the line between business and friendship. A mutual love of sports and good liquor got Marty and I a long way.

"Ah, Jesus, Drew, Wickman didn't know what hit him. You came at him so hard and fast he didn't even see your turbo ass blazing right by him to the finish line."

"You say that like I was ever behind him in the race." I sip my fine single malt on the rocks.

"Our man was as guilty as sin, and Wickman had one hell of a witness. He definitely started in poll position."

I can't help feeling smug. "Too bad he got caught out doing shady shit to get his witness." I won the case on a technicality that meant Wickman's key witness testimony was inadmissible. That's the only part about the win that sucks. I would have liked to kick his ass in a real dogfight.

As if his thoughts mirror my own, Marty tells me, "A win on technicality is still a win, buddy. What are you eating?"

There's no need for me to open the black leather-bound menu on the table in front of me. We've been celebrating big wins at this same place for years. It's the city's finest French restaurant and there's only one thing for a win like today's ... steak au poivre.

Despite being a big, modern space, the restaurant is packed, and the atmosphere is buzzing. The only nights this place isn't teeming with people are Sundays and Mondays, and that's because it's closed. But the crowds never affect the quality of the food. Edmond Devereux is a five-star head chef, and I know personally that he is all about his standards. He employs only the best.

It's a good thing really, since his poker skills are awful, at best, and he does like a poker night with the boys.

Our order is taken by a waitress. I watch through the window to the open kitchen as she hands the ticket to Edmond. When he reads it, he seeks out Marty and me and holds up a hand in greeting.

"I don't need to tell you, Drew, this case won't hurt your chances of taking a named spot next to me." Marty leans in and lowers his voice. "I didn't tell you, obviously, but Turner is on his way out. He's talking about giving notice of his retirement soon. Very soon."

Outwardly, I remain cool as I sip from my crystal glass. Inside, I'm buzzing. I was the youngest junior partner ever at Statham Turner. I busted a gut to make it to senior partner two years ago, when I was only thirty-two. If I made named partner by thirty-five ... shit.

I'm about to respond to Marty when a loud clatter pulls my attention to the service counter in the kitchen. Three staff bend to the ground to pick up whatever just spilled. One head pops up before the others. Blondie. She's apologizing profusely to Edmond who, oddly for him, seems to be taking it well.


Excerpted from "Balancing The Scales"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Laura Carter.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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