Sustained, p.12
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       Sustained, p.12

         Part #2 of The Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase
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  decadent as the taste of her tongue. My hand glides up her bare, smooth thigh to her hip. I grasp her with harsh fingers, holding her steady so I can slide against her again.

  But then she turns her head away, breathing hard. “Jake, the kids . . .”

  Shit. The thought of the half-dozen sleeping demons just yards away should put a damper on my desire. But it doesn’t. The stiff, hot erection straining between us whispers, You can be quiet. They’re asleep. You have hours and hours until morning, he whines. Just think of what we can do with all that time.

  And as if the baby can actually hear him, Ronan’s cry squeaks out from the monitor on the nightstand.

  Double dog shit fuck damn it.

  That wasn’t me. That was the dick talking.

  I roll off Chelsea. My forearm covers my eyes and my breath comes out in forceful puffs, like I’ve run a marathon.

  She says my name again, and I pant out, “It’s okay—you’re right. Just . . . just give me a minute.”

  Or an hour. Possibly a day.

  Chelsea laughs breathlessly, with a hint of frustration. “My nephew has incredible timing. Incredibly bad timing.”

  I lift my arm and glance her way. Her cheeks are satisfyingly flushed, her lips swollen. It’s a damn good look on her.

  She sits up to tend to the hungry baby, and I roll to my side and pull her flush against me. “Let me take you out tomorrow night,” I say.

  Her fingers skim across my brow. “I don’t have anyone to watch the kids. I can’t just grab a sitter out of nowhere. They’re a lot to take on.”

  “I’ve got that covered.” I happen to know the toughest, most capable, patient child raiser ever. She got me to adulthood in one piece—and I was a shitload worse than all the McQuaids put together.

  Chelsea leans back. “Yeah?”

  “Yeah. So say yes.”

  She kisses me—fast and hard, the way I like it. Then she hops off the bed because Ronan is winding up to full volume.

  “Yes.”

  13

  At six p.m. Saturday night, I stand in Chelsea’s foyer, wearing black slacks, a gray button-down shirt, and a black jacket. Chelsea is still upstairs getting dressed. I didn’t go to my prom, but if I had, I imagine it would’ve felt something like this. Eager excitement. Thrilling possibilities. It’s a new, rare feeling and I kind of like it.

  When a knock comes from outside, I open the door—and there, before me, stands the kid whisperer. Luckily, she was good with short notice.

  “Hey, Mom.”

  My mother is a tiny woman—five foot nothing, one hundred pounds, exotic gray-blue eyes that see through all types of bullshit, and a timelessly attractive face. What she lacks in physical stature she more than makes up for in a supersized personality. She flings herself at me, arms around my neck. “Honeybear! I’ve missed you!”

  Out of the corner of my eye I spot Rory and Raymond, two sides of the same snickering coin. Raymond elbows his brother. “Honeybear? ”

  Internally I sigh. This could get ugly.

  Behind my mother, Owen, her long-term boyfriend, walks in, hauling overloaded shopping bags in both hands. Owen’s in his fifties, sports a noticeable beer belly, and has been just a hair or two away from totally bald for years. Together, they’re an odd-looking couple—the kind who would make people say, Is she really going out with him? But Owen is a hell of a guy—patient, kind, hardworking—and he’s worshipped the ground my mother walks on since the day they met.

  He places one bag on the ground and shakes my hand. “Good to see you, Jake.”

  “Oh!” my mother exclaims, the Alabama accent she’s never totally lost shining through, “I have to get the other two bags in the car—can’t forget them.”

  Owen taps the air with his hand. “I got ’em, G. Take it easy.”

  The kids, minus Ronan, are lined up at the entrance to the den. Riley holds Regan on her hip. “That them?” my mother asks me, nodding her chin.

  “That’s them.”

  She approaches them slowly, regarding each one by one. “Hey there, children. I’m Jake’s momma and your babysitter for the night. You can call me Gigi.” She hooks her thumb over her shoulder. “And that’s Owen.”

  “What’s in the bags?” Rosaleen asks.

  “Well, aren’t you just adorable on legs.” My mother crouches down to eye level with her. “In the bags are what we’ll be doin’ tonight. Ingredients for all kinds of cookies. Chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter bliss, and some that haven’t even been invented yet.”

  Two of the five lick their lips.

  My mother stands back up and turns to Riley. “You’re Riley?”

  “Uh-huh.”

  “Any allergies in this bunch that I should be aware of?”

  “No, Gigi, we don’t have any allergies.”

  “Perfect!” She walks down the line and stands before Rory. His mouth is set and his eyes squint appraisingly. “You’re Rory?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I hear you’re the tough one.”

  “You heard right.”

  She folds her arms. “You ever heard of salmonella poisoning, Rory?”

  He thinks for a moment. “You get it from, like, raw eggs, right?”

  “That’s right. You know what’s in raw cookie dough?”

  “Eggs?” Rory asks—still sounding like a smartass with the one short word.

  “Yep. So, maybe since you’re so tough, you can play Russian roulette with salmonella and be our dough taster. What do you think?”

  And he cracks a smile. “Sure.”

  “All right, then! Everyone grab a bag and show me where the kitchen is.”

  They do as they’re told and follow my mother with her cookie bags like she’s the Pied Piper. All except Rosaleen, who stays in the foyer with me. I move to the bottom of the staircase, one arm resting on the oak railing. Waiting.

  Then Chelsea appears on the landing. And it’s—boom—instant slow motion. Like every cheesy fucking teen movie from the eighties that I never watched. Her royal-blue dress swishes as she descends, giving teasing glimpses of creamy thigh. The soft fabric cinches at her waist and the deep V of her neckline exposes a tantalizing hint of perfect, pale cleavage. Her curled, glossy hair bounces with each step . . . and so do her boobs.

  Rosaleen’s little blond head swivels from me to her aunt, then back to me. “Are you gonna kiss her?” she asks curiously.

  My eyes continue their travels. And I breathe out, “Oh, yeah.”

  Rosaleen scrunches her nose like a bunny that ate a bad carrot. “That’s disgusting, Jake.”

  • • •

  After reminding the kids not to be idiots for my mother, I take Chelsea to the Prime Rib—a high-end supper club in the heart of DC. It has an elegant, old-school kind of feel—candlelit tables, dark-paneled walls, excellent red wine, and an adjoining room for dancing to the soft tunes of the piano man singing bluesy versions of classic songs. I step in front of the maître d’ and pull out her chair myself. After rattling off the specials, he goes to retrieve the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon I ordered as we scan our menus. For a second, a horrifying thought occurs to me.

  “You’re not a vegetarian, are you?”

  “No,” Chelsea scoffs, gazing back at the choices with anticipation. “I love a good piece of meat.”

  “Happy to hear it.” She detects the smirk in my voice and meets my eyes over the menu with a playful laugh.

  After placing our orders, we drink our wine . . . and I can’t stop looking at her. She’s just so fucking gorgeous. She takes a sip of wine and a crimson drop glistens on her upper lip. She swipes at it with the tip of her tongue and I ache to lick it off with mine. Suck on those lips. Drink wine from the hollow of her throat.

  I adjust myself below the table and take a swig from my own glass. Christ, this is going to be a long night. Everything she does, everything she says, makes me think of sweaty, slow, hard, deep fucking.

  “Your mom isn’t anythi
ng like I imagined.”

  Except that.

  “What were you imagining?”

  “Well . . . a larger woman, I guess. How did she even survive you—you must’ve been a huge baby. And . . . she looks so young.” Chelsea points a finger. “That means you have good genes; you should thank her.”

  “My father was a big guy; I take after him build-wise. And my mom looks young because she is young. She had me when she was sixteen.”

  “Sixteen?” Chelsea repeats, probably thinking, That’s only two years older than Riley. Pretty fucking young.

  I nod, sipping my wine.

  “So, your parents are divorced?” Her tone is hesitant; she doesn’t want to wander into uncomfortable territory.

  “Yeah.” I shrug. “He left . . . when I was eight.”

  Her face pinches with sympathy. “I’m sorry.”

  “Don’t be.” And I couldn’t be more honest. “It was the nicest thing he ever did for me.”

  Our food arrives. Chelsea stares wide-eyed at her porterhouse, ’cause it’s larger than her head. “Now, that’s a big piece of meat.”

  And she says it so innocently, there’s no way I can let it pass.

  “Mine’s bigger.”

  She tilts her head and there’s exasperation in her giggle.

  “What?” I laugh, gesturing to my plate. “It is bigger. Unless you thought I was referring to something else?”

  Her answer is an adorable pink blush.

  “Dirty, dirty mind.”

  Chelsea picks up her knife and fork and gets to work on her meat. I get a depraved kind of enjoyment watching her fork slide between her lips, how she closes her eyes and moans on every other buttery mouthful. Before she’s a quarter of the way finished, I’m readjusting my cock again—trying to make room in the ever-tightening confines of my pants.

  “Did you grow up in DC?” Chelsea asks between bites.

  I tip the wine bottle, refilling her glass. “We moved around a lot when I was younger. After my father took off, my mom didn’t have a lot of options. She was twenty-four, with a kid, didn’t even have a high school diploma. So she joined the army.”

  “Wow. It’s hard to picture her in the army.”

  I shake my head, cutting my steak. “Believe me, she’s tougher than she looks. She got her GED and became a military mechanic. We lived on a few different bases when I was a kid. She was never deployed, but they shuffled us around wherever they needed an extra hand.”

  “So you were an army brat?”

  “Kind of.” You’d think army kids would be disciplined—well behaved—but that’s not always the case. I was forever the new kid, in places where strength was respected above all else. “Kill or be killed” was a big theme. Where the quickest way to prove your worth was to step on everyone else around you. “After she was discharged, we settled in Baltimore.”

  Chelsea nods, taking another drink. “And that’s where your mom met Owen?”

  “Yeah. He’s a mechanic too—has his own shop. They run it together now.” I smile. “They met when I got into a fight with a couple kids outside his place. He broke it up, called my mother, one thing led to another, they’ve been together ever since. Owen’s good people.”

  Chelsea zeroes in on one detail of my explanation. “You got into a fight with a couple of kids?”

  “I was a big kid. One-on-one wasn’t really a challenge.”

  She grins. “Sounds like you were a troublemaker—like Rory.”

  “Troublemaker is an understatement. Rory is a fucking saint compared to me.”

  “Becker?”

  I turn at the sound of my name and Tom Caldwell approaches our table, smiling. Caldwell’s a bright-eyed, brown-haired, young but hungry prosecutor with the US attorney’s office. A real by-the-book, straitlaced, goody-two-shoes kind of guy. He’s also the prosecutor on my upcoming assault trial against Senator Holten.

  “Caldwell.” I nod, shaking his extended hand.

  “I thought it was you. How’s it going?”

  The interactions between prosecutors and defense attorneys are bizarre. Inside the courtroom, we do our best to eviscerate each other. Outside of it, it’s all friendly handshakes and weekend softball-league games. We’re not supposed to take anything personally—because it’s really not personal. Just business—part of the game.

  “Pretty good,” I reply vaguely. “Yourself?”

  “I’m good—I’m here with my parents. Showing them around DC.” His gaze turns to Chelsea—and lights up with interest. He probably thinks I don’t notice, but I really fucking do.

  Etiquette says I should introduce them. And etiquette can kiss my lily-white ass—pointless set of rules as far as I’m concerned.

  But like I said, Tom’s not the type to let much stand in his way. He holds out his hand to Chelsea. “Hi, I’m Tom Caldwell.”

  She shakes his hand. “Chelsea.”

  “Are you a client of Becker’s?”

  She smiles. “No. He’s represents a few members of my family though.”

  “They’re in good hands. Becker’s a fine attorney.”

  “And your life would be so much easier if I sucked,” I say.

  He snorts. “That’s true.” Tom glances toward the entrance. “Well, I should be going. Enjoy your dinner. It was lovely to meet you, Chelsea.” He taps my shoulder. “Jake, I’ll see you in court.”

  “Have a good night, Tom.”

  As he walks away, Chelsea asks, “Is he a friend of yours?”

  I shake my head. “Not particularly.”

  We finish our dinner and split a slice of cheesecake for dessert, but no coffee—neither one of us wants to diminish the pleasant buzz of good wine. There’s more moaning, more fruitless readjusting as Chelsea slowly swallows a mouthful of the white, creamy concoction. Fuck—and I accused her of having a dirty mind. My dick pushes against the fabric of my pants the way an inmate strains against the bars of his cell, begging to be set free.

  Chelsea’s skin radiates the flushed, cheery glow of alcohol. Her eyes are hooded and happy but shield her thoughts, making her harder to read than usual. She leans back in her chair, regarding me, running her finger around the rim of her glass. “So if you started out as such a troubled youth, how did you become”—she gestures to me—“this? Successful. Honorable. Respectable.”

  I pour the last of the wine into my glass. “ ‘Respectable’ is probably pushing it a little bit . . . but the story goes like this: I was fifteen, running around with some real dipshits. Older guys. One night we thought it’d be brilliant to break into a sporting goods store, because that’s the kind of losers we were, only I didn’t know one of them was carrying. He ended up shooting a guard in the leg.”

  Chelsea gasps just a little.

  And my cock twitches a lot.

  “We ran out the back, right into the arms of a waiting squad car.” I shake my head at the idiot I was. “The prosecutor wanted to charge me as an adult, send me away for serious time—and he could have. I had a hot temper and a record, and aside from my mother, I thought the whole goddamn world was my enemy.”

  Chelsea leans forward, completely enthralled. “So what happened?”

  “The Honorable Atticus Faulkner happened. He was the juvenile judge on my case—a big, mean, scary son of a bitch. And he . . . thought he saw something worthy in me. So he kept me in juvenile court—gave me community service and probation, to be supervised by the hard-ass himself.” I chuckle. “At the time, I thought the judge was doing me a favor—going easy on me.”

  “He wasn’t?”

  “Depends on your definition of ‘easy.’ For the next few years I trimmed grass by hand with fucking garden shears. I carried boulders, scrubbed floors, reshingled the goddamn roof—real Mr. Miyagi, wax-on-wax-off kind of shit. He rode my ass—nothing was ever good enough. It made me want to do everything better, just to fucking spite the bastard. And then . . . he had me start doing research. Studying case law, drafting briefs, analyzing opinions
it was fascinating to me. When my probation was up, the Judge offered me a job. By then I’d gotten my head out of my ass and was actually scoring decent grades in high school. With his recommendation and a shitload of student loans, I got through college, then law school . . . and that’s all she wrote.”

  “I think that’s amazing,” she says softly, watching me.

  “Yeah—the Judge is a pretty amazing guy.”

  Her lips slide into a gentle smile and something like awe shines in her eyes. “I was talking about you.”

  I’m hardly ever taken off guard. Surprised. But this stunning wisp of a woman just did exactly that.

  Chelsea turns her head toward the piano music floating in from the other room. “I love this song.”

  It’s a Van Morrison cover—“Crazy Love.”

  I toss my napkin on the table and move to stand next to her, holding out my hand. “Would you like to dance?” And I can tell I just surprised her too. The simple delight on her face when her hand slides into mine makes me want to do it again.

  We step out onto the edge of the dance floor. I wrap my arm around her lower back, holding her tight and flush against me. One of Chelsea’s hands rest on my shoulder, toying with the hair at the nape of my neck. The other is clasped in mine just over my heart. We sway, just looking at each other for a few moments.

  “I was going to ask you to dance,” she tells me. “But you don’t seem like the type who would’ve said yes.”

  “I’m not,” I answer, staring at her lush mouth. “I was just using it as an excuse to be closer to you.”

  She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love.

  She sighs, practically sinks into my arms. Chelsea’s head fits against my chest like she was made to be there. My chin rests against her hair, and I smell clean and sweet vanilla.

  “Hey, Jake?”

  “Yeah?”

  Chelsea lifts her head from my chest. “You don’t need an excuse.”

  I lower my head at the same moment she reaches up for me. And her lips—fuck—they’re warm, soft, and move with such innocent daring, I’m practically trembling. Was it just last night that I first kissed her? It seems longer ago. I cup her cheek, stroking her skin with my thumb, kissing deeper, tasting wine and the moan I’ve been obsessing over all night.

  And the absolute craziest part of it all? I haven’t gotten laid in three goddamn weeks, but if this is all we do—kissing, with her against me, my arms around her—I’ll be grinning in the morning like a guy who banged a whole sorority house full of cheerleaders.

  I’m hoping for more. I want everything—all the secret, sweetest parts of her—but if this is all I get to have tonight? It’s enough.

  She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love . . .

  14

  With Chelsea inside, I close the passenger door to the Mustang and tip the valet. Then I slide in behind the wheel and pull away from the restaurant.

  Moment of truth.

 
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