Appealed, p.7
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       Appealed, p.7
 

         Part #3 of The Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase

  And that, right there, is progress.

  • • •

  We sit at a round table in the back corner of an empty pub just a few blocks from the courthouse. The lights are dim and the music is low enough to talk with our indoor voices but still fill any silences.

  “Two bacon cheeseburgers, medium rare,” I tell the waitress. “She’ll have onion rings instead of fries and barbecue sauce instead of ketchup. And two draft beers, please.” I glance at Kennedy as I return the menus. “We should pace ourselves—save the hard stuff for later.”

  After the waitress goes on her merry way, the blond viper stares at me, her mouth an adorable—annoyed—bow.

  “What?”

  “Maybe I wanted the veggie burger. I could be vegetarian now.”

  I grimace. “Are you?”

  “No.”

  “Then kindly cease the bitching.” I lean back in my chair, legs open, getting comfortable—debating how to begin.

  Kennedy takes the issue out of my hands. “I can’t believe you told Judge Phillips I broke your heart.” Then she kind of snorts, shaking her head, like the notion itself is ridiculous.

  I look at her straight on. “You did. It’s been fourteen years, but I can still remember how it felt—I was shattered when you went out with William.”

  “You don’t know the meaning of the word shattered.”

  “Yeah—I do. It’s when you give me the greatest orgasm of my seventeen-year-old life, let me hear you moan my name as you come spectacularly around my fingers—and then ten hours later, push me to the fucking curb for William goddamn Penderghast.”

  Did that sound bitter? Good.

  Kennedy leans forward, eyes blazing. “You were already back together with Cashmere before I agreed to go out with William!”

  I blink. “No, I wasn’t.”

  “Yes, you were.”

  And the waitress brings our beers—perfect timing. We both take a healthy chug.

  After my frosty mug is back on the table, I suggest, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

  “Fine,” she agrees. “Parents’ weekend, junior year.”

  You up for a little time travel? ’Cause it’s time to party like it’s 1999 . . .

  7

  Saint Arthur’s boarding school, junior year

  “Kitty!”

  “Mitzy!”

  Our mothers hug like they haven’t seen each other in years. A Welcome Parents sign hangs across the entrance to the main building, the sun is shining, and the air is warm with a hint of early spring crispness. Eagle-Eye Cherry plays from a radio somewhere across the quad, and clusters of families dot the lush green grass.

  “I feel like it’s been ages!” Mitzy says. “We should all have lunch together! There’s that fabulous little place down by the lake . . .”

  As my mother quietly agrees, I take advantage of my dark, Risky Business–era sunglasses to check Kennedy out. She looks especially cute today. Her brown hair’s wrapped around the top of her head in a messy, kind of sexy bun. She’s wearing snug blue jeans and an open, oversized navy checkered flannel shirt, but the white tank top beneath it shows off her flat waist and sweet-looking tits. She got her braces taken off last month too. Bonus.

  And at the moment, she’s doing that thing with her lip—clasping the plump bottom one between her teeth, sucking just a bit. That move gave me my very first boner when I was thirteen years old, and, damn, if it doesn’t hit me the exact same way right now.

  Kennedy and I have always been tight . . . up until this year. When I became captain on the lacrosse team and started seriously dating Cazz. Seriously, as in—fucking her. These days, Kennedy hangs with her roommate, Vicki Russo, and I hang with . . . other people.

  She adjusts her glasses and smiles up at me. “Hey.”

  “Hey.”

  Like a disapproving blond wraith, Kennedy’s sister appears at her side. “Would it have killed you to dress up a little bit? Honestly, Kennedy, Mother and Father drove all this way . . .”

  I slip my hands into my pockets and rock back on my heels. “Hi, Claire. It’s good to see you.”

  “Brent.” She smiles tightly. “You’re looking . . .” She takes note of my jeans, sneakers, and white-collared shirt under a navy blue sweater. “. . . typical.”

  I put my hand up. “Claire, please—I realize I’m an irresistible specimen of male perfection, but your obsession with me is getting embarrassing.”

  Kennedy snorts. The uncontrollable urge to laugh bubbles up from my chest and I don’t even try to resist it—because the sour look on Claire Randolph’s face feels so much more hilarious than it actually is. She turns away and follows our parents up the path, leaving Kennedy and me relatively alone.

  “Are you high?” she asks me in a hushed voice.

  I lean in close to her. “As fuck. It was the only way I could make it through this weekend.”

  I know some guys who are major stoners, and I’m not one of them. But an herbal refreshment before a long, stressful day is totally acceptable.

  She shakes her head and her nose wrinkles with exasperation. This too is also really fucking cute.

  We fall in step beside each other, trailing behind our chattering parents.

  “I see your sister still hasn’t elected to have that surgery yet.”

  She comes right back with, “You mean the one that will remove the stick from up her ass? Nope, not yet.”

  I laugh out loud. “Shit, Kennedy, it feels like we haven’t hung out in forever. Where have you been?”

  I’ve seen her around—campus isn’t that big. But I haven’t seen her, seen her. Can’t remember the last time I really talked to her, and she’s a cool girl to talk to.

  She turns her head, looking at me for a few seconds, and her voice is almost a sigh. “I’ve been right here the whole time.”

  • • •

  “Posture, Kennedy. Slouching is for girls with weak spines.”

  “Why won’t you wear contact lenses, Kennedy? Your eyes are your best feature, yet you insist on hiding them.”

  “Another roll, Kennedy? Tsk-tsk, those carbs are a dancer’s enemy.”

  It’s been like this since we sat down. For the last hour, Mitzy Randolph has criticized Kennedy right down to her goddamn fingernails.

  My buzz is gone and my head feels like it’s going to explode if I have to listen to one more bitchy comment from Mrs. Randolph.

  So, of course she says, “Kennedy could have been a classic prima ballerina—if only she had managed to be taller.”

  And I say, “Well maybe the rack will come back into fashion and we can strap her on for a nice stretch.”

  All four parents stop. And look at me with blank faces.

  Just as I’m about to tell them where to go, Kennedy starts to giggle beside me. It’s that forced kind of giggle—a signal to everyone else that a joke was told and they should laugh to be polite. And as long as you’re not her younger daughter, Mitzy Randolph is the epitome of politeness.

  Same goes for my mother. “Brent, darling, take off those sunglasses. It’s rude to wear them at the table.”

  I take them off and try to hide my eyes by looking down. My mother’s gasp is horrified, so that plan obviously tanked.

  “My goodness, why are your eyes so red? Do you have an infection?”

  Claire Randolph finally cracks a smile. I bet she enjoys watching worms squirm under a magnifying glass on a sunny day too.

  “No, Mom, they’re not infected.”

  “But they look terrible!” Her hand rests on my father’s forearm. “Donald, dear, perhaps we should have the doctor come look at Brent?”

  “Allergies,” Kennedy pipes up—sounding like she just thought of it herself. “His eyes are red from allergies.”

  “Brent doesn’t have any allergies.”

  Kennedy smiles at my mother, and sounds so confident I’d believe her. “We all have allergies here. Something to do with the special species of trees in Connecticut. The p
ollen they . . . ejaculate.”

  Ejaculate?

  Then she sneezes for added effect.

  It’s obvious Claire doesn’t buy it, but the rest of them swallow it like hundred-year-old scotch.

  Then it only takes a few minutes before:

  “Do make a salon appointment, Kennedy. I can see your split ends from here.”

  I stand up so fast the glasses on the table rattle. “We’re going for a walk.”

  My mother’s eyes are wide like an owl’s. “Why?”

  Saying I’m on the verge of stuffing the tablecloth down her best friend’s throat probably won’t go over well. “I just spotted a . . . double-breasted blue robin down by the lake. They’re super rare. Kennedy and I need to study it for horticulture—”

  “Horticulture’s plants,” Kennedy whispers frantically.

  “—and winged wildlife class.”

  I’m a lacrosse goalie—I’m all about the save.

  And they go for it.

  Five minutes later, Kennedy and I are walking on the bank of the lake outside. I pick up a rock and throw it hard into the water. “How do you stand it?”

  “Stand what?”

  “Posture, Kennedy, split ends, Kennedy, fucking carbs, Kennedy . . . I wanted to jam my fork into my ear just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it anymore—and she wasn’t even talking about me!”

  Kennedy smiles. And it’s not sad or fake or bitter at all. It’s just pretty. “She doesn’t mean those things the way they sound.”

  “Then how the hell does she mean them?”

  Kennedy shrugs a shoulder and tosses a rock of her own.

  “She wants me to be happy. What she thinks happiness is. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t say anything at all. She’d just ignore me. And that would be worse.”

  Our eyes hold for a few seconds and I realize how much I’ve missed this girl. It’s not manly to say—but it’s really fucking true. The people I spend my time with, talk to every day—they’re not real. They don’t look at things the way she does.

  They don’t look at me the way she does. Even today, after all this time of not hanging out, we don’t miss a beat. Because she knows me, beginning to end. All the pieces, good and bad, that make me who I am.

  And no one else makes me feel the way I feel, right now, looking back at her. The ache in my chest, the clench of my stomach, the thrumming of my pulse.

  “I’m surprised you’re not having lunch with Cashmere’s family,” Kennedy says.

  That makes my gut clench for a whole different reason.

  Cashmere’s the hottest girl in school, and things started out wild between us. Fun. But in the year we’ve been dating . . . she’s changed. She’s become clingy and bossy at the same time. Miserably jealous and insecure. That’s another reason Kennedy and I haven’t really hung out lately—Cashmere’s not too keen on her.

  “We broke up.”

  Kennedy’s eyebrows rise. “Really? When? Why?”

  And going by the happy spark in her eyes, it looks like the feeling is mutual.

  “Yes. Yesterday. I’m not exactly sure why.”

  “You’re not sure?”

  “There was a lot of screaming; it was hard to make out the actual words. It’s somewhere between I’m suffocating her and I’m not giving her the attention she deserves.” Palms up, I shrug again.

  Kennedy swallows as we walk along the water. “Wow. You, ah . . . you don’t seem too broken up about it.”

  “I’m not.”

  A light breeze blows and she pushes a loose strand of hair from her cheek. “Do you think—”

  “Kennedy!” Mitzy Randolph calls from up the hill to where we stand. “Kennedy!”

  Her voice reminds me of Auntie Em calling for Dorothy as the twister was coming in.

  She gestures for us to come up and reluctantly, we do.

  Mitzy talks with her hands as she explains to us both. “We’ve all had the grandest idea! The Remington Hotel is just a few miles away—they have the most fabulous bar and casino—very exclusive. So we’re all going to spend the night there and we’ll take you back to school tomorrow. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

  I smile at Mitzy and throw an arm around Kennedy’s shoulders. This means solo time with Kennedy. “It sounds like a lot of fun, Mrs. Randolph.”

  • • •

  “Kennedy, are you awake?” I whisper.

  I listen outside the door of the Randolphs’ suite, but I don’t hear any movement on the other side. Disappointment drops in my stomach. Because we spent the entire day with our parents, walking and talking and frigging talking some more. We had a late dinner in the “fabulous” restaurant downstairs, then our parents pretty much sent us to bed. While they hit the casino.

  Ageism is a terrible thing.

  But now it’s just after midnight, and I have an awesome idea.

  Which only works if Kennedy is still awake.

  I knock again, louder this time. “Kennedy?”

  The door opens halfway, and Kennedy peers up at me. Her glasses are off and her eyes—I never noticed before, but they’re spectacular.

  Thick, long lashes frame sparkling, golden-brown orbs. Soft and so . . . warm. The kind of eyes a guy would want to look down into while he’s moving above her—the kind you’d hope she’ll leave open while you kiss, deep and slow.

  The rest of her? Well—I’ve always kind of noticed that.

  Ever since she started wearing a training bra and I discovered the delicious sin of masturbation.

  And I’d have to be blind not to notice her now. A thin-strapped silky pink tank top that’s kind of draped across her chest. It doesn’t show any cleavage, but if she moves just the right way, we’re talking a prime view. The bottom half is matching pink shorts that are swishy around her thighs, showing off killer toned legs.

  And I’m not the only one noticing things.

  Kennedy’s eyes slide across the chest of my sleeveless shirt and down the ridged muscles of my biceps. My skin is surfer-boy tan from outdoor workouts and afternoon practices. Then her eyes cut across to my waist, maybe picturing the six-pack beneath it, and then . . . lower. And I wonder if she notices how hard I’m reacting to watching her watch me.

  The tinge of pink on her cheeks tells me she just might be.

  Her gaze settles on my smiling face. She licks her lips and says, “Hey. What’s up, Brent?”

  I hold up the keys to my father’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Also known as the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off car.

  Less than a hundred were made and, just like in the movie, it’s my father’s pride and joy. And it’s parked downstairs right now.

  I found out today that Kennedy doesn’t have her driver’s license. With her family’s chauffeurs, her mother didn’t see the point.

  And I’m going to rectify that.

  “Ready for your first driving lesson?”

  • • •

  “. . . then you ease your foot back at the same time.”

  We’re in the big empty parking lot of a darkened building a few miles from the hotel. Kennedy listens to my instructions intently, brow furrowed, adjusting her glasses. She seems excited, determined, and totally adorable.

  “Got it?”

  “Got it.” She nods.

  And she goes for it.

  There’s a grinding sound as she moves the stick shift, and I mentally thank the clutch for his brave sacrifice. We start to move forward, bucking, inch by inch and I tell her, “Now gun it. Hit the gas.”

  And then we’re moving.

  Kennedy’s smile is huge and bright, like Christmas morning and the Fourth of July rolled into one.

  The car gives a slight stutter as she shifts into second gear, but smooths back down after her foot is off the clutch. With one hand on the wheel, she grabs my arm with the other.

  “I’m doing it, Brent!”

  It’s awesome, and I chuckle. “Yeah, you are.”

  • • •

  “You need a n
ickname. Kennedy is kind of a mouthful to say.”

  We’re parked at a picnic area high above the lights in the town below. It’s still and quiet. The top of the car is open, but the sky feels like a dark canopy above us, dotted with countless bright stars.

  We didn’t crash into anything and the car is still running, so in my mind, Kennedy’s driving lessons were a roaring success. She said she wasn’t ready for the open road, but I’ll get her there eventually. The look on her face when she really got the hang of shifting—it was pure elation and gratitude. Seeing that expression felt just like when I block an opposing team’s goal—like something I was born to do again and again.

  “My name is too long? Do you often have difficulty with big words?” she asks with a smartass smirk. “Maybe you should see someone about that.” Then she asks, “What’s your nickname?”

  “BC.”

  She frowns, trying to figure it out. “Because your middle name is Charles?”

  I shake my head and tell her with the straightest face, “Big Cock.”

  Kennedy laughs. “Did you think of that all by yourself?”

  “The guys on the team gave it to me. It’s a lot to live up to—don’t want to disappoint the younger classmen. But in the immortal words of Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility.”

  “Uncle Ben, actually.”

  “What?”

  She tilts her head. “Uncle Ben said that, not Spider-Man. Remember?”

  I do. But the fact that she remembers . . . is pure fucking awesome. It does things to me—deep, thoughtful, serious emotion type of things.

  But I’ve never been the serious kind of guy, so I tease, “How about Randy? Randy Randolph. Can I call you that?”

  Kennedy frowns. “Not if you expect me to answer.”

  We talk more, about everything and nothing in particular. And somehow, even though it wasn’t what I planned—or expected—my arm ends up around her shoulders, her head resting against my collarbone.

  Slowly, I slide her glasses off and carefully fold them before placing them
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