Sustained, p.25
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       Sustained, p.25

         Part #2 of The Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase
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  “Presley looks great, doesn’t she?” he asks in a sighing voice while he watches the blond-haired, sunshiny thirteen-year-old hold up the back of Sofia’s dress as she gets out of the limo.

  I’ll be damned.

  “You know she’s older than you?” I ask him.

  “Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m gonna bide my time. Then, when I own my own multibillion-dollar software company, I’ll make my move.”

  I smack him on the back and his glasses go crooked. “Sounds like a plan, Raymond.”

  • • •

  Stanton and Sofia’s wedding goes off without a hitch. Her dress is the perfect blend of sexy and stunning: ivory, beaded, and clinging with a teasing dip of cleavage that made Stanton stare. They both got choked up during the vows, and it was just damn good to see them both so happy.

  The reception is an elegant, white-glove affair at the DC Ritz-Carlton. Stanton practically flew the entire town of Sunshine, Mississippi, in, and in addition to Sofia’s brothers and their families, she has a couple dozen relatives visiting from Brazil. Needless to say, it’s good food, good drinks, and really good people.

  Rosaleen finds me by the bar, her hair curled into Shirley Temple ringlets, her blue eyes wide with excitement. “Jake! You didn’t say anything about my lip gloss! Riley let me use hers—isn’t it pretty?”

  “You’re gorgeous, Gorgeous. As beautiful as your aunt.”

  She grins even wider, and I laugh as she grabs Rory by the arm and pulls him onto the dance floor to dance with her.

  Momma Shaw, Stanton’s mother, regards me with an appraising eye. “You know, Jake, I’ve seen you smile more in the last thirty minutes than you have the entire time I’ve known you.”

  “Well, I have seven pretty amazing reasons to smile now.”

  She pats my arm as I walk over to Chelsea. On the way, I pass Brent talking to Stanton’s sister Mary—channeling Pee-wee Herman.

  “You don’t want to get involved with a guy like me, Mary. I’m a loner, a rebel . . .”

  Chelsea’s arms wrap around my neck and we sway on the dance floor to some slow song.

  “Guess what?” she asks.

  I brush my nose against hers. “What?”

  “I was just talking to your mother. She and Owen offered to take the kids back to the house tonight and stay over. Soooo . . . I booked a room here, for you and me.”

  “Fuck, you’re brilliant,” I murmur. “Have I ever told you how much I love your mind?”

  “I thought you loved my body,” she says teasingly, pressing it against me up-close and personal.

  “Oh, I do, believe me. I’ll give you a thorough demonstration of how much I love it tonight—and tomorrow.”

  “And we’re sleeping in tomorrow—Mr. Five A.M.,” she says insistently.

  I smirk. “Well, we’ll be in bed . . . but there won’t be much sleeping going on.”

  Chelsea rests her head against my chest. “Sounds perfect.”

  It does, doesn’t it?

  I don’t mean to brag, but like everything else in my life these days, it sounds perfect because . . . it really. Fucking. Is.

  Keep reading for a sneak peek at Brent’s story in

  APPEALED

  The third book in New York Times bestselling author Emma Chase’s sexy Legal Briefs series

  Coming Fall 2015 from Gallery Books!

  Prologue

  Once upon a time, in a land not so far away . . .

  “Kennedy?” Brent Mason’s voice whispered. “Are you awake?”

  She wasn’t supposed to be; her mother had tucked her into bed long ago. A wonderful bed, fit for a princess. Hand-carved mahogany columns at each corner, with an arched satin canopy that hovered above her like a puffy cloud, draped with white sheer curtains on the sides. Her head rested on the fluffiest down pillow, and cashmere blankets kept her snug and warm. It was one of the many beds, in one of the many rooms, at Mason Castle. No one else called it a castle, but that’s how she always thought of it, with its winding gardens, grand double staircase, the two-story library, the endless hallways, and especially, the ballroom.

  “Kennedy!” The whisper was louder now, bouncing with impatience.

  “Shhh! Yes, I’m awake!”

  Kennedy slid from the bed and donned her slippers and tied her pink robe, all without turning on the bedside lamp, which might give them away.

  Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to make out his robe-clad form just inside the room, beckoning her with his hand.

  “Did it start yet?” she whispered, reaching him.

  The dark, wavy hair that hung over his forehead swayed as he shook his head. “But before we go, you have to swear on your eyeballs you won’t tell anyone about the new spot. I’m the only one who knows about it—and now you’ll know.”

  “My eyeballs?”

  Brent’s blue eyes were solemn as he explained, “That means if you break your promise, your eyeballs will explode.”

  Kennedy’s hands reflexively rose to her temples. She didn’t want them to explode. She also liked the spot they had used for the last four years: the velvet-cushioned window seat in the red bedroom at the end of the east wing, which allowed them to see everything.

  But Brent had told her yesterday that he’d found a new secret place—the very best. He’d been so excited, and now she was excited, too. “I swear on my eyeballs, I’ll never tell.”

  Brent nodded, then he cracked the door open to look and listen. Everyone—guests and servants alike—was downstairs, making their way from the ballroom to the rear veranda for the big show.

  The Mason’s New Year’s Eve party at their estate on the Potomac River was a legendary affair. It was also tradition—their families, and close friends like Kennedy’s family, were invited to spend the night and the days that followed. Unlike Kennedy’s older sister or Brent’s numerous cousins, the two of them were considered too young to stay up for the midnight festivities.

  But they had a secret tradition of their own.

  With Brent leading the way, they padded quickly to the east wing of the house, through the little door at the end of the hall—the entrance to the third-floor crawl space. On her hands and knees behind him, Kennedy felt just like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and her heart thrummed with anticipation. They arrived in a small, dark, windowless room. They stood up and Brent switched on his flashlight. There was a staircase in front of them, steep and dusty.

  “Be careful,” Brent warned. “Some of the steps are uneven.”

  They climbed the steps single file and Kennedy gasped when they arrived at the top. Alice may have crawled into a beautiful garden—but this was so much better than a garden. It was an attic. There were boxes and trunks, paintings and mirrors, furniture and books, and more dresses sheathed in protective plastic than she could count.

  It was magical.

  Kennedy wanted to touch everything, explore every corner. Maybe there was a treasure map up here. Or, even better, ghosts! Maybe they could have a séance and speak to them.

  Brent watched Kennedy’s mouth go round in wonder. He’d known she’d love it. She wasn’t like any other girl he knew. She didn’t burst into tears if her shoes got muddy, like his cousin Charlotte did. She didn’t scream if she saw a spider, like her sister, Claire, did. She hated her daily violin lessons, and never worried about tearing her dress while climbing a tree. Kennedy was an adventurer. She wanted to run and go, to see and do.

  And like him, she was fearless.

  He glanced at the ladder that led up to the loft. “Come on, it’s going to start soon. We’ll come back here tomorrow.”

  She was still gazing around the massive attic as she nodded. “All right.”

  Kennedy went up the ladder first. She was small for her age and Brent was big, so he could catch her if her foot slipped. In the ceiling of the loft there was an access door, and Brent pushed it open and hoisted himself through, then reached down his hand to Kennedy. Up she went, and the two nine-ye
ar-olds found themselves on the flat peak of the roof of Mason Castle.

  The sky was a black blanket above them, filled with infinite stars, so big and bright, Kennedy felt like she could reach out and pluck one from the night. She turned in a circle, her blond hair fanning out as she gazed toward the heavens. “You were right—this is the best!”

  Brent grinned, then grabbed Kennedy’s hand when she got too close to the edge, where the roof sloped steeply, with nothing to stop her from sliding right off. “Watch out!”

  He led her to the end, near one of the five chimneys, and they sat down close to each other; it was very cold. When Kennedy’s teeth started to chatter, Brent put his arm around her, and she snuggled into his warmth. They could hear the tinkling of champagne flutes, the hum of conversation and laughter from the guests far below them. As they waited, they talked.

  “. . . so they let me quit fencing and start lacrosse instead. It’s awesome.”

  “You’re so lucky!” Kennedy cried. “Mother said I couldn’t stop ballet even if my leg was broken. She said I’m going to marry a prince, and no prince wants a princess who doesn’t know how to dance.”

  Music floated up from the band downstairs, and Kennedy wondered if her sister was dancing. “Claire likes your cousin Louis. She said she’s going to kiss him at midnight.”

  Brent’s nose wrinkled. “Why?”

  That’s what Kennedy had asked, interrupting her sister’s conversation with Brent’s sixteen-year-old cousin, Katherine.

  “She said that’s what you do at midnight. Kiss the boy you like.”

  Claire had also confessed her hope that Louis would be her escort to the debutante ball in Paris in the spring. She’d said a kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve was something special—something a boy wouldn’t forget.

  Then a chorus of voices surged from the veranda below. “10, 9, 8 . . .”

  Kennedy stared up at Brent’s profile. He was as handsome as any hero in a storybook. And he was brave and kind and noble, as any prince should be.

  “. . . 4, 3, 2, 1 . . .”

  The band began “Auld Lang Syne” as the sky exploded in color above their heads. Bursts of reds and blues, slashes of silvery purples, and swaths of sparkling greens lit up the night and reflected on the river’s surface. Kennedy and Brent’s upturned faces glowed with the changing colors in the sky, and then Kennedy turned her head, leaned up, and kissed his cheek.

  He looked at her with surprise.

  “Happy New Year, Brent.”

  He smiled.

  “Happy New Year, Kennedy.”

  • • •

  There was no New Year’s Eve party at Mason Castle the following year, or the year after that. Tragedy came to visit to the nine-year-old-boy that summer. Though their family homes bordered each other’s, Kennedy and Brent didn’t really see each other again for three long years.

  And when they did, everything was different.

  Chapter 1

  23 years later

  You rotten bastard!”

  She sits up and stares at me like she doesn’t recognize me. No—like she’s never met me at all. Which is pretty weird, considering we’re both bare-ass naked in my bed. Every inch of us is intimately acquainted.

  But it’s the tone of her voice that bothers me most—flat with tightly controlled anger and breathy with pain. Like I stole the air from her lungs—like I punched her in the stomach.

  The words don’t worry me. Insults are our flirting. Arguing is our foreplay. One time, she was so worked up, she hauled off and took a swing at me, and my reaction was a boner that wouldn’t be denied.

  It’s not as twisted as it sounds. It works for us.

  At least it did up until ten seconds ago.

  “Wait. What?” I ask, genuinely surprised.

  I thought she’d be grateful. Happy. Maybe offer me a blow job to demonstrate her supreme appreciation.

  Her eyes glitter dangerously, and thoughts of letting her anywhere near my dick flee, like tiny fish in a big aquarium. Because she’s not the type of woman to be taken lightly—not anymore. She’s a force to be reckoned with. A breaker of hearts and a buster of balls.

  “You planned this all along, didn’t you? Screwing me silly, lulling me into a false sense of security so I’ll drop my guard and you can win the case,” she hisses.

  She moves to hop off the bed, but I grab her arm. “You think my cock is powerful enough to turn you stupid? Aw, precious, that’s really flattering, but I don’t need to whore myself out to win my cases. You’re freaking out over nothing.”

  “Fuck off!”

  I used to have a way with women.

  If the word fuck came out to play, it was always followed by me and then words like harder, please, and my friend, more.

  Those were the days . . .

  She jerks out of my grasp and scrambles off the bed, furiously gathering clothes that are strewn across the hardwood floor. And because she’s doing it naked, bending down, jiggling in all the best places, I have to watch. There are teeth marks on her ass—my teeth marks. No broken skin, just dark-pink indentations. It’s possible I got a little carried away last night, but her ass is just so damn sweet and round and biteable.

  I grab the sleeve from the bedside table and slide it onto the stump on my left leg. Yes, part of my leg was amputated when I was a kid. I’ll get into that later, because she isn’t waiting. I actually like that about her—she doesn’t give an inch. Doesn’t even think about making special concessions or treating me any differently than the fully capable man I am.

  Or more accurately . . . like the prick she apparently thinks I am at the moment.

  I snap the pin of the sleeve into my prosthesis and stand up, just as she finds her shoe in the corner, adding it to the pile in her arms.

  “Calm down, kitten,” I try, my voice level.

  “Don’t call me that!” she snaps. “We said we wouldn’t discuss the case—that was our agreement.”

  I move in closer, palms out, the universal sign of I come in peace. “We agreed to a lot of things that no longer apply, sweet cheeks.”

  Her nostrils flare at the trial nickname. Guess I can add “sweet cheeks” to the no column, which is a damn shame. It suits her.

  “I only brought it up because I’m trying to help you.”

  It’s official: I’m a fucking idiot. Of all the wrong things I could’ve said, that’s the wrongest of them all.

  “You think I need your help? Condescending cocksucker!”

  She turns for the door, but I grab her arm again.

  “Let go. I’m leaving.”

  I want to respond with a good old Like hell you are or the more direct You’re not going anywhere. But they both have a psychotic kind of vibe, and that’s not what I’m going for.

  Instead, I snatch the clothes from her arms and head to the window.

  “What are you—? Don’t!”

  Too late.

  Her designer skirt, sleeveless silk blouse, and beige lacy underthings float on the air for a fraction of a second, then fall to the sidewalk and street below us. Her bra gets snagged on the antenna of a passing car and waves majestically down the street, like the flag on a diplomat’s vehicle from some awesome country named Titsland.

  Feels like I should salute it.

  I close the window, cross my arms, and smile. “If you try to leave now, poor Harrison may be scarred for life.” Harrison is my butler.

  “You son of a bitch!”

  And her fists come flying at my face. All those years of ballet classes have made her quick, gracefully agile. But as fast as she is, and as mighty as her disposition is, she’s only five foot one at best. So before she can land a punch, or thinks to knee me in the balls, I toss her on the bed. Then I straddle her waist, leaning over to press her wrists into the mattress above her head. My cock brushes hot and hard against the smooth skin just below her breasts, which gives it some fabulous ideas, but that’s gonna have to wait until later, too.

&n
bsp; Pity.

  I gaze down at her. “Now, peaches, we’ll continue our conversation.”

  That nickname fits her. Her silken skin is all peaches and cream. And the way she smells, Jesus; the way she tastes on my tongue is sweeter and softer than a ripe peach on a summer day.

  Strands of blond hair dance across her collarbone as she bucks beneath me, giving my dick even more fabulous ideas. “Fuck you! I’m done talking.”

  “Good. Then how about you shut that beautiful mouth and listen? Or I could always gag you.”

  I may gag her anyway, just for the fun of it. Probably should’ve held on to her panties.

  “I hate you!”

  I chuckle. “No, you don’t.”

  Her brown eyes burn into me, the same way they branded me decades ago. “I never should have trusted you again.”

  Keeping her wrists pinned above her, I lean back a little to enjoy the view. “Bullshit. Best decision you ever made. Now listen up, buttercup . . .”

  And I start to tell her all the things I should’ve said weeks ago. No, years ago . . .

  • • •

  4 weeks earlier

  I slide my arms into the custom-tailored navy suit jacket Harrison selected for me today. The guy’s got good taste, and he’s an expert at which cut of an Italian three-piece suit is stylish and which is just vulgar. I wasn’t aware that a lapel could be “vulgar,” but apparently it’s possible.

  After adjusting my burgundy silk tie, I step out of the dressing room into the bedroom just as Harrison enters from the hallway carrying a tray with freshly pressed coffee and all the trimmings. He places the tray on the desk, without rattling the delicate china, and pours me a cup.

  “Your coffee,” he whispers so as not to disturb my guests, who are still asleep in my bed.

  “Thank you, Harrison,” I whisper back.

  Tatianna—the one with the long, black hair and even longer legs—is an honest-to-goodness princess. She’s a couple dozen relatives away from the throne, but her blood is as blue as it gets. Which, as I see it, is the best of both worlds—all the perks, only a few of the responsibilities.

  And if there’s one thing royals know how to do, it’s party.

 
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