GRAB YOUR COPY FROM THESE STORES:
It’s a party out here
I need to see you out here
We gonna stay up late
And maybe mate
Welcome to our wild wild night
The music was loud; so loud she could feel its every note straining through her ears and ripping into her skull even through the closed door. The wood vibrated threateningly with every beat, as if it too was tired of the rhythmic riot going on in the room next door.
Their mother was at it again.
It’d started at seven p.m. the previous day and if the bedside clock was correct, it meant that it’d been going on for eight full hours. But it wasn’t the music that forced Chryssa Williams from her sleep. It wasn’t even her mother’s screechy voice accompanying the smoother tones of the mechanical singer that got her eyes to snap open. That was something she was used to.
Everyone was used to it.
Every year around this time, the sickness came for Betty Williams and with it a craving for Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie or whichever celebrity could sing the loudest and bust a few ear-drums. The neighbors didn’t bother pounding on their walls anymore yelling at them to ‘shut up or keep it moving’.
The hand shaking Chryssa’s shoulder yanked her from her slumber as a small voice whispered in her ear, “Chrys. Chrys. Chrys.”
Her eyes snapped open to Mickey’s face looming above hers, illuminated by the shards of light that cut into their room from above and beneath the door.
There was a sleepy curtness to her voice when she finally answered him. “Yeah! I’m awake.”
“I gotta pee.” Even in the shadows, the fear in the seven year old eyes was palpable. Unlike Chryssa, he wasn’t yet used to their mother’s condition. No seven year old should have to deal with nights like these. No one should. It was the only reason Chryssa had even allowed him into her bed.
“Okay.” Chryssa pushed the covers away from both their bodies and slid her feet onto the cold floor.
Not even bothering to search out her slippers, she pattered to the closet where she kept the pee-bucket.
She hated that bucket. The hatred was so passionate that every time she touched it, she feared she would retch. That bucket reminded her of everything that was wrong with their family. It reminded her of the whispers that followed her at school because everybody knew her mother wasn’t ‘right’. It reminded her that she and Mickey were so frightened of Betty they couldn’t even come out of the room to go to the toilet.
As if hearing Chryssa’s thoughts, Betty rushed out of her own room into the living room. Her voice penetrated the wooden door as she yelled to the music, “…we gonna stay up late and maybe mate…”.
If they opened the door, Chryssa knew they would find Betty dancing along to her singing. Maybe she’d even be in the kitchen removing all the utensils from the cupboards just so she could re-arrange them. The doctors said that the loud music and the sporadic movements were her way of keeping herself from sleeping.
Focusing on her reason for being up at this hour, Chryssa removed the pee-bucket from the closet, setting it at the corner of the bed. Mickey was still on his hunches atop the bed just looking at her. She beckoned to him, “What are you waiting for? Come an’ pee.”
“Scared of what?” Chryssa kissed her teeth. She couldn’t help feeling a bit frustrated with him. It was hard enough dealing with their mother’s antics in the middle of the night knowing that tomorrow was both a school day and a work day. She didn’t need Mickey keeping her awake too. Reminding herself that he was just boy, she softened her tone, “I’ve locked the door. I promise she won’t come in.”
“Check,” Mickey’s scared voice insisted.
Chryssa walked to the door, rattled the doorknob and tagged at it to reassure him that it was locked. Sure that he was safe from their mother, Mickey clambered off the bed and walked towards the pee-bucket. “Close your eyes.”
“Boy, please,” Chryssa protested but she put her hands over her ears anyway to cut out the sound of his pee hitting the bucket. Once he was done, she put the lid on the bucket and pushed it back into the closet.
In the morning she would have to empty it right before she went over to Mr. Jackson’s house. The old man was the only one who could convince Betty that it was time to go to hospital. Not that it was going to be an easy fete. Drama was Betty’s trademark.
She would try to kick Chryssa out of the house first claiming that Chryssa was spreading nasty rumors about her. Sometimes it was just words, sometimes it got physical, but it always hurt. Sometimes the pain got so bad, Chryssa was tempted to simply pack hers and Mickey’s bags and run away.
It took everything for her to wipe away the tears each time it happened. She had to remind herself that it was the sickness talking, not Betty. It was her responsibility to make sure that Betty was safe. Maybe it was too much responsibility for a fifteen year old, but who else was supposed to do it? Betty had no one but Mickey and Chryssa.
Once they were back in bed, Mickey huddled closer to Chryssa, his body warming hers. He started when Betty’s footsteps rushed again past their door, but settled down when she didn’t stop or bang in it like she sometimes did. Soon his breathing evened out, his small frame relaxing in sleep, confident that Chryssa would protect him from their sick mother. With sleep refusing her solace, Chryssa stared at the ceiling and waited for morning to come. At least she had Betty’s music to keep her company until then.
15 YEARS LATER
This is not how she pictured her life.
At thirty she was supposed to have retired with boatloads of money from breaking up unhappy marriages. She was supposed to be on a beach somewhere in nothing but a bikini that was just spaghetti-like strings and three patches of fabric. She was supposed to be ogling ripped college boys on Spring Break and receiving awards as America’s Next Cougar. She was certainly not supposed to be participating in the bad parody of Jerry Springer.
The tension thrumming in the boardroom was palpable. They’d been here for almost three hours now trying to split up their property and this horse and pony show was getting nowhere. On one side Chryssa and the firm’s newest client, Annalise Whitmore sat. On the other, Annalise’s soon to be ex-husband Pete and his lawyer, Sandra, sat. Couples like these Whitmore’s were Chryssa’s bread and butter; couples that married too young or too fast. Pete and Sandra were like the golden goose of divorce. Too young and too fast!
“I want the TV,” Pete announced to no one in particular. Even his lawyer, Sandra didn’t look very interested in the announcement. Pete continued, “It was a wedding gift from my Aunt Nancy and you’ve watched it too much anyway.”
“Are you saying that I’m fat?” Annalise screeched.
How Annalise had jumped to that conclusion from Pete’s words was a mystery. However Pete’s smirk as he looked at her, across the large table dividing Chryssa and her client from them, didn’t ease the heavy tension between the two. “If the shoe fits-”
“You-”Annalise started to yell but stopped herself before Chryssa could intervene. “You know what. You can keep the TV.”
“Why?” Pete asked, peering at his wife suspiciously. Obviously what he saw on her face wasn’t satisfactory because he promptly declared, “No I don’t want it. You can keep it.”
Unbelievable! Pete had been fighting for that 19 inch TV for the last thirty minutes. 19 fucking inches! If this was a normal situation Chryssa would’ve reached across the table and slapped the crap out of him. Instead, she took a breath, reminded herself that she was a lady in the boardroom, but a freak on the streets and then asked sweetly, “So you’re saying that Annalise can have the TV?”
“I don’t want it anymore,” Annalise also decided. She sat back in her seat and folded her arms over her chest, saying, “The ass-hole can have it.”
“I’ll take it on one condition,” Pete answered smugly. “That I get Snookie too.”
The thought of losing Snookie, one of her seven cats, was really too much for Annalise. One minute she was seated next to Chryssa, the next moment she’d launched herself across the table towards Pete, “You pig…”
“Hold up.” Chryssa was the first to reach. She yanked Annalise away from Pete by the waist as she yelled, “Time out. Time out.”
Ignoring the fact that Annalise had snatched Pete’s toupee when she’d attacked him, Chryssa managed to drag her out of the boardroom and to her office. A couple of minutes later they went back to the boardroom, but the same thing happened and once again Annalise had to be dragged out. By the time they’d left three hours later, the Great Conflict of the 19 Inch TV hadn’t been resolved yet and Chryssa could feel a massive headache coming on.
“Water?” Someone waved a bottle of mineral water in front of her face. Chryssa lifted her head coming face to face with her smiling assistant, Aaron Montgomery. She hadn’t even noticed him push open the door as she wallowed.
“How do you always know what I need?” Chryssa asked as she took the bottle and drank almost half the contents in one gulp.
“I’m a mind reader,” Aaron answered cheerfully as he placed a file in front of her.
Normally Chryssa would never have hired a cheerleader type like Aaron. He was as slender as a reed, had hair that was so blonde it looked silverish especially when contrasted against his tan skin, and a sense of fashion that only a man confident in his sexuality could pull off. Today he’d accompanied his black loafers and beige chinos with a pink shirt, black bow-tie and oversized glasses with pink rims. At first glance he came off as a fluffy-head with too much time on his hands. Chryssa knew better.
“What’s this?” Chryssa asked as she flipped through the file. Within its folds were several pictures of well-built men with their body stats as well as their high school GPA scores. Each picture had the Adonis Escorts logo plastered on it.
“Replacements for King. He’s been gone almost two weeks now. So I took the liberty of asking his agency to send you a replacement man,” Aaron replied with a completely straight face.
Chryssa almost dropped the water she still held in her hand. It’s not that she was ashamed that she had to buy sex. In fact given her situation it was the sensible thing to do. She didn’t do relationships – but that didn’t mean she wanted every Tom, Dick and Larry having a field day on her lady parts.
With King she could have the benefits of monogamy yet avoid the risks of a real relationship. Unlike other men he came with a guarantee for pleasure (at the ridiculous price they were charging her he should) which meant no faking an orgasm. Unlike a vibrator, he had a good body to accompany the dick.
Unlike many men, she could pre-select his IQ which meant he could hold a decent conversation without it disintegrating to the latest music video by some teenage musician with more fabric on his pants than brains. She had someone to take her to stand-up shows at The Apollo, someone to cuddle with on cold nights and someone to dick her down on horny nights.
And best of all, it was all just business!
There were no emotions getting tangled, men going down on one knee ending in her spread eagle in the labor ward popping children with her genes.
No! Shame was definitely not the problem. Her shock came from the fact that Aaron knew about King. She asked, “How did you know about King?”
“I told you. I’m a mind-reader.” More like an incurably nosy-parker. Aaron’s father was a private investigator – apparently the genes ran in the family. He pointed to a bulky Latino with the name Marcelle splashed across his picture. “I like him. Think he’s gay?”
Chryssa snatched the file away. “Bitch go away.”
Laughing, Aaron picked up a few documents from Chryssa’s outbox then started to walk to the door. Mid-stride, he paused, “Oh! Michael called. He said that you should call him as soon as you are done with your meetings.”
Message delivered, Aaron shut the door behind leaving Chryssa alone in the large office. She knew exactly why Mickey was calling her and she really didn’t want to talk about it. She was tempted to pretend she hadn’t received that message. But Mickey knew how efficient Aaron was at his job.
Sighing deeply, Chryssa pulled her cell-phone from her handbag and dialed his number. He picked on the first ring, “Chrys. Dad says no one went to pick him up. Why didn’t you?”
Chrys started to defend herself, “Mickey-”
“Michael,” he corrected, his deep baritone vibrating over the phone. Ever since he’d grown out of his batman boxers, he’d decided he didn’t like being called Mickey. Add in the flourishing football up in LA as Michael ‘Angel’ Williams and it was an uphill task for Chryssa to keep him stuck in her little brother box.
“Mickey,” She insisted. “I told you I wasn’t going to. You already made me chip in for the rent. What more do you want?”
“It’s not about the money.”
“Uh…yeah it is,” she corrected. “I don’t just dish out my money to anyone.”
She could hear his heavy sigh even across the several states that divided them. He capped it with “Chryssa, He just walked out of twenty years in the pen. The least you could do is show you’re happy about it.”
“I’m not and I don’t see the need to pretend that I am.” As far as Chryssa was concerned Carter Williams could go on getting his GED in prison till Kingdom come or whatever it is they did there. He’d chosen that life.
“You need to let go.”
“You let go,” Chryssa returned petulantly.
“I’ll call you in the evening so we can talk about it,” Mickey said putting on his grown-up voice. Puh-lease. He paused before growling, “You better pick up that damn phone this time.”
“Boy, you ain’t my Daddy.” She snapped before cutting the phone-call. She loved Mickey to death but sometimes he could be so…so…so irritating. He knew perfectly well the reason she wasn’t interested in mending fences with Carter, but as usual he had to go do the whole peace-maker thing. Most times she was susceptible to him and ended up doing what he wanted- of course after a great deal of complaining. This time however it wasn’t going to work.
She was paying Carter’s rent. Period. Any compassion he needed he could go get from somewhere else.
Fours hours later after finishing up on a few case files, she packed up for the day. It was a bit earlier than she’d usually leave, but she’d promised Zain, one of her best friends that she’d see her before the day was over. There was a slight build up of traffic on the freeway, but it didn’t take her long to get to Chesley Memorial Hospital where Zain worked. After parking her silver BMW next to a red mini-coupe she made her way into the hospital.
There was nothing more Chryssa hated than the sounds, smells and sights of the hospital. The sight of patients milling around the long corridor and waiting room was enough to clog her throat as she imagined them never leaving here alive. The blood in her veins slowed to a crawl every time she brushed past one of them She could practically smell the medication seeping out of their pores like sickness and death calling her name. But over the years, she’d learnt to mask her discomfort.
Smiling at the nurse manning the enquiries desk she asked, “Hi, I’d like to see Dr. Zain Ford.”
“She’s in surgery,” the nurse said, “but if you want you can wait for just a few minutes…”
A few minutes? A few minutes in this hell-hole.
She hoped her anxiety didn’t show as she smiled and thanked the nurse. She settled next to a middle-aged man who sat with his head propped against the wall. Chryssa started when he coughed. It took everything in her not to take off screaming. Instead she offered him her handkerchief.
“Thank you,” he said before launching into another fit of coughs.
Oh God! I’m going to die. The panic swirling in her nerves screamed. No, you’re not. Her brain soothed. What she needed was a distraction. Her eyes searched the hallway furtively as she searched for anything to concentrate on that would take her mind off all the sickness around her.
And that’s when she saw him. Exactly what she needed to distract her!
* * * * *
CHRYSSA WILLIAMS. JUST what he needed to ruin a good day!
Eli barely held back his groan of irritation as his eyes met Chryssa’s. For Pete’s sake, he had to see the woman every time he went to the Ford’s house. Did she also have to stalk him in his workplace?
How such a blood-sucking viper could look so good was beyond Eli. But she did. Even seated, Home-Breaker Williams (as he’d dubbed her in his head) was a sight to behold. From the hair pulled into a sexy teacher’s chignon to the pencil skirt that skimmed over her curves erotically.
His body screamed for him to turn tail and run, but his brain reminded him that he still had to find out his clinic hours for the week and that he was no coward. With barely a pause in his step he yanked his gaze away from hers and strode towards the enquiries desk with every intention of ignoring her, getting his information and getting out of there as fast as he could.
Maybe she’ll ignore me too.
Obviously it was too much to hope for because she met him at the counter.
“Hi, Eli.” She was the first to speak. Figures! Chryssa was always the first to speak. She’d spoken him right out of half of his property.
“Hi,” he returned before turning to the nurse. “Angie, do you have my schedule for the clinic?”
“Let me just get it for you.”
He studiously tried to ignore the woman standing next to him as he watched Angie – tried being the operative word. It was hard to ignore Chryssa, not when her sweet scent – something with flowers – teased his senses or when her body lightly brushed up against his. It was hard not to notice that in her heels she was just the right height he liked on his women, tall enough that he wouldn’t have to bend when they kissed.
Kissing Chryssa? When hell froze over.
“What you doing?” she asked in a singsong voice.
“Getting my schedule,” he returned curtly his gaze still straight ahead on Angie. Bring the damn schedule already.
“Schedule for what?”
The woman was just determined to start a conversation with him, wasn’t she? Eli gave a silent ‘hallelujah’ when Angie returned with the information he wanted. The moment she handed it to him, Eli turned on his heels headed for his office.
It didn’t surprise him at all to hear the sound of Chryssa’s heels tapping rapidly behind him. She said, “You didn’t answer my question.”
Ignoring her, Eli lengthened his stride. He should’ve counted on her dogged determination because her speed increased to match his. Her voice was breathless as she repeated, “You didn’t answer my question.”
He pushed open the door, but before he could shut it in her face, she’d already wiggled her way into his office. He could’ve simply dragged her out but Eli wasn’t really the drag-women-around kind of man and Chryssa was definitely not the kind of woman anyone could drag out of anywhere unless they were looking to lose an eye.
With narrowed eyes, Eli watched her walk to his desk and put her handbag on its polished top before she pushed back his leather seat and sat back on it. Comfortable as you please! If the vein on his temple wasn’t already throbbing madly – it would’ve started now. The nerve!
Swinging to and fro on the chair, she asked, “How’s work?”
“It’s Dr. Stone.” He ground the words through his teeth. “And could you leave my office? I’ve got work to do.”
Ignoring his order, she traced one manicured finger over the shiny wood, “Why are you so rude to me?”
“Are you serious?” Eli folded his arms over his chest as he leant back against the door. If she could pretend this was just a casual chat so could he. “After you ruined my marriage you still want me to act like we’re cool?”
Instead of blowing up like he expected her to at the insult, she simply threw her head back and laughed “Eli, your small dick ruined your marriage not me.”
“I don’t have a small dick,” Eli felt compelled to defend it.
“Then why did Renée cheat on you?” She asked. Renée had been Eli’s high school sweetheart. She was the cheerleader, he was the geek. She must’ve seen his potential because even after he’d graduated, earlier than all his classmates; she’d still remained by his side. They were married for fourteen years, happily he’d thought, till he’d discovered her in their bed banging their plumber.
Seemingly unaware that she was treading on thin ground and only making him angrier, Chryssa continued, “Women only cheat for two reasons. Either your dick was too small or you didn’t have the money to make up for it. You’ve obviously got the money so…”
The absurdity of this conversation didn’t escape him. One minute she was stalking him and now they were talking about his…appendage. However he still felt the need to defend himself. “Not everything’s about sex.”
“That’s what all the small-dicked boys in the yard say.” She laughed again before leaning back on his seat. “It’s a pity really. Apart from the ridiculous high yellow color thing you’ve got going, you’re kind of okay looking.”
Chryssa must be getting her quack theories from Wikipedia because no one had ever complained about the size of his dick. Eli repeated, “I don’t have a small dick.”
“Don’t you?” Her eyes took on a measuring look before she stood up from the seat. There was a small smile on her face as she walked– make that prowled towards him. Instinctively Eli moved to the side of the door, but she kept coming.
“Stop following me,” he said as he slid along the length of the wall. She was so close now that her enticing scent assailed his senses.
“I just wanna see if your dick is small.”
Eli was rendered speechless and motionless at that answer. This woman was mad. His temporary paralysis was all she needed to crowd him against the wall and place her small hand on his dick over her scrubs.
“What…what are you doing?” Eli somehow managed to stammer. Obviously Stone Jr. was quicker and he immediately jumped in response to her touch. Eli could’ve moved. He could’ve pushed her away. After all he didn’t even like her, but five months was a long time to go without sex and the impromptu grope felt so good.
“Dr. Stone. Dr. Stone. Dr. Stone.” There was melodic awe in her words as she looked up at him. “You certainly do not have a small dick.”
He didn’t know where to focus her small teeth biting sexily on her lush lower lip or the hand that stroked up and down his dick. She wasn’t looking at him. All her concentration was on the actions of her hand on his rapidly lengthening rod pushing against his scrubs.
He fit just right into her palm and her practiced stroke. This was torture being so vulnerable to this woman, yet there was nothing he wanted more right now than to never have it stop. He wanted it to grow into more. He tipped her chin, tilting her face up. He closed his eyes, lowering his head so their lips could meet. Instead all he met was thin air.
Just suddenly as it had started, it stopped.
Chryssa backed away from him only to sit on the edge of his desk. She looked completely unaffected, as if she hadn’t just been giving him a hand job a second ago. Even her voice was steady when she mused, “So it’s not the money? And it’s not the dick…”
Eli couldn’t believe this. While he still stood with his back against the wall, pulsing and hard like a hormonal teenage boy, she was seated there trying to figure his divorce? Something was wrong with that scenario.
Her eyes widened before her lips widened into a knowing smile, “You’re a prude in bed. That’s it isn’t it?”
Eli could feel the blood drain out of his face. She had just cracked his code. Renée had called him unadventurous more than one time. What did she want? For him to bring fireworks into their bed? Obviously the plumber carried some in his tool-box because last he’d heard they were still together.
Chryssa read the answer in his eyes because she burst into ringing laughter again. It was a laughter designed to not just trample a man’s ego, but to crush it with a hammer till nothing was left of it but ashes. Even the erection she’d just given him wilted under the force of her amusement.
“Eli. Eli. Eli.” She was still laughing when she picked her bag from the desk, slung it on her shoulder and walked to the door. Eli could still hear the echo of her laughter in her office even after she shut the door behind her.
‘…Waves thrashed against the shore, their soft splashes broken only by the sea-gulls’ cries. Rob’s eyes were half open beneath the dark glasses he was wearing to shield his gaze from the sun’s rays as he watched Ryder rise from the ocean.
Like a merman incarnate, his movements upwards were smooth. First was the face, strong, manly and features so handsome – lip-bitingly handsome. Next came the body. The rivulets of water licking their way down each muscle only gave Rob ideas of what he would do once they were in the privacy of their hotel room.
Delicious possibilities soared in Rob’s mind. Ryder’s hands touching him, his lips on his….’
“Shultz is looking at you,” Linden’s hushed whisper along with the sharp jab of his elbow on the side of her body almost made Chryssa drop the book she was reading. Recovering quickly, she shoved it deeper underneath the table and sat up in her chair.
Her gaze swung to George Shultz who stood at the head of the long table that held the junior and senior partners at Harrington Shultz. Normally Chryssa would never bring a novel into a meeting. She didn’t even read romance novels because they were just cruel ways for writers to tease women like her.
But this was Shultz. Anything was better than him.
After informing her that Shultz was running this morning’s staff meeting instead of Tess Harrington, Aaron had helpfully handed Chryssa one of his boy-lit novels and bid her, “so you don’t die of boredom.”
Boring was a mild word to describe the monotony that was George Shultz. The most interesting thing about him had to be his dark hair that had a shocking strip of white right down the middle, almost like a skunk’s body. There was a running bet in the office of whether the strip was manmade or natural, but since he wouldn’t let anyone touch his hair, the issue as yet remained unresolved.
After the hair everything else about him was a yawn; from the tweed suit, to his slightly slouched body; from his slightly hooded eyes to the drone of his voice that never fell and never rose. Apparently there was a sharp legal mind in there somewhere enough for him to run the firm, but it was really hard to imagine it under all that dullness.
Half the table was asleep. The other half, mostly those who were seated closest to Shultz because they were senior partners, were trying to pretend like they were listening to him, but anyone could see it was a failing effort from the number of nodding heads that kept falling to their chests and the constant blinking of eyes.
“…I urge you all to treat your cases like Leonardo Da Vinci’s pieces. Whenever Da Vinci was painting his pieces he always made sure each stroke of his paintbrush was just right. His most important painting up to now…” Instead of looking at his audience as he gave yet another dull anecdote, Shultz was facing the window.
He was definitely not looking at Chryssa.
Furious that Linden had interrupted her steamy reprieve, Chryssa whispered to him, “Have I told you you’re an ass-hole today?”
“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Linden returned, flashing her a brilliant smile. Chryssa felt a pang of pain at the mention of her mother, but hid it by kissing her teeth. He ignored the gesture and instead wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at the romance novel still lying on her lap. “Were you enjoying yourself?”
The only way Chryssa had managed to keep awake was to imagine Eli Stone as the hero in the novel and herself as the hero/heroine. Just remembering his shocked expression and his quick erection when she’d groped him was enough to make her chuckle. Unfortunately the bold gesture had had its own effects on her.
With her current sex-drought, touching his dick had been like splashing petrol onto an already blazing fire. Yesterday night after a restless and sweaty sleep filled with dreams of Eli touching and thrusting into her, Chryssa had had to take out Mr. D., her electronic friend. Despite her preference for man-made orgasms she needed to take the edge off her arousal.
Aware that they were in the boardroom, Chryssa didn’t tell Linden to go fuck himself – she reserved it for later. Instead she changed the topic, “Where’s Tess?”
“She was meeting with a lawyer they’ve been scoping for criminal defense.” Linden answered. He was useless in the courtroom but within the firm, he was a fountain of information about what was going on on the upper floor– mostly because Tess was his mother.
“Don’t know yet.”
Making a mental note to ask Aaron to use his snoopy skills to find out what lawyer they were scoping, Chryssa went back to her novel. Two hours later Shultz finally closed the meeting.
“How’s the Whitmore case coming?” Bradshaw, Chryssa’s immediate boss and Tess’s lover (something else Aaron had managed to ferret), asked as they walked out of the boardroom.
“We’ve finally finished with their real estate,” Chryssa answered. “We’re working on the movables.”
“That’s good.” Bradshaw nodded. “Make fast work with it though. I need you to jump on Linden’s case. The Newman’s have taken out restraining orders on each other and are both going in for full custody.”
Already? Last week the Newman’s had been preaching peace and how they wanted a friendly divorce because of their three children. Though Bradshaw’s face didn’t show it and there was no inflection in his voice, she was sure he was seething inside at Linden’s failure to prevent the case from denigrating to a full out war. This wasn’t the first case he’d mishandled..
Linden is sooooo lucky his mother is our boss.
Chryssa and Bradshaw parted at the door to his office and she took the elevator down to the first floor, also known as ‘The Pit’. While the senior partners had offices on the second floor, all junior partners and associates shared ‘The Pit’.
The elevator hummed as it glided to a stop and its steel doors opened. Chryssa stopped a while to talk to one of the associates before she made her way to her office. Though not as cushy as being a senior partner, being a junior partner had its benefits. Most important of course was more money, but it also came with an office instead of a cubicle and you had someone to do all your ‘assisting’
Aaron was seated at his desk in front of Chryssa’s office furiously clicking on his computer’s keyboard. He looked up when he heard the click of Chryssa’s heels, “Was it as boring as we thought it would be?”
“More,” Chryssa said as she came to a stop in front Aaron’s desk and handed back the novel. “I need you to find out who Tess is scoping for Criminal Defense.”
“Scoping from where?”
“I don’t know.”
“Woman, I’m not a miracle worker,” Aaron said, as he handed Chryssa a plastic cup filled with herbal tea and the day’s mail.
“Maybe I should just ask Maryse. She could find out who it is,” Chryssa goaded knowing how much Aaron hated Shultz secretary. “I bet she knows.”
“You’re a bitch.”
“I love you too.” Chryssa laughed. She turned to get into her office but Aaron stopped her.
“Tasha’s in your office.”
“Tasha?” Chryssa’s voice rose in surprised question. Tasha was the last person she expected in her office. Last night she and Zain had spent the night at Tasha’s house to babysit Tasha’s kids while she and her new fiancée celebrated their engagement in a downtown hotel.
“She’s not alone,” Aaron explained. “I know you don’t like me to keep your friends waiting so I just let them into your office and served them refreshments.”
“Okay, thanks.” Curious to know what her friend was doing instead of getting her Stella on, Chryssa walked into her office.
Tasha was seated on the couch flanked on one side by her fiancée Kian and on the other by a lanky teenager wearing glasses. The boy seemed somewhat familiar but Chryssa couldn’t quite put a finger on it.
“What are you guys doing here?” Chryssa asked as she embraced Tasha, then Kian.
“What? Can’t we just visit you?” Kian laughed as he returned the hug. He slung an arm around the shoulder of the boy, who’d stood up with all the commotion. “Chryssa, this is my son, RJ.”
What? She expressed her shock, “I didn’t even know you had a son.”
“About that,” Kian said. “We need your help.”
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Chryssa settled on the couch opposite the family to hear their story. RJ was Kian and Hanna Clayton’s son.
Within the legal circle Hanna Clayton was respected and feared in equal measure for her ruthlessness in court. It was well known that Hanna went too hard for her clients. Before today Chryssa had been one of her admirers, but that quickly changed as she listened to Kian and RJ.
First the woman had chosen to procreate with a fifteen year old when she was old enough – twenty two to be exact – to know better, ditched him, hidden the child then had the guts to blackmail Kian into signing a document relinquishing his parental rights so that she could give them the information they’d needed to save Tasha’s daughter from her psycho ex. Who the hell did that?
“How did you find out about Kian?” Chryssa kept her expression neutral as she asked RJ the question even though inside she was spitting bullets.
“I saw Tasha slap my mom from my window upstairs.” R.J explained. He wasn’t even looking at them. He pushed his spectacles higher up his nose, concentration on the table as he spoke, “When I saw K…Dad come into the house with my mom. I thought he was going to do something bad to her so I came downstairs. I didn’t mean to hear. I just did… ”
As his words trailed off, Kian rubbed his back reassuring him, “It’s okay.”
“My mom doesn’t like questions so I started looking for myself…” R.J explained. He’d found the documents in her safe and then searched the web for Kian and his address.
“Did you ask her if you could see your Dad?” Chryssa asked.
“Yeah and I told her that I wanted to meet my real dad! But she said it wasn’t my business,” R.J. said his lips trembling with the effort of trying to keep any tears at bay. “Then she told the security guard not to let me out of the house and the chauffeur never to drive me anywhere but to school and to the house. I didn’t even do anything wrong and she’s punishing me.”
Realizing that if he continued speaking RJ would probably start crying, Kian picked up where he’d left off, “Yesterday he snuck away in the middle of the night and came to the house. We didn’t know what to do so we thought you might be able to help.”
Already strategizing, Chryssa rose up from her seat, “First we need to call Hanna-”
“We can’t,” Tasha protested. “She’s just going to try to keep R.J away from Kian.”
“I’m not going to let that happen,” Chryssa reassured. “But because she’s his mother and you’re not his legal father this is a bit complicated. If she figures out that R.J is with you and is feeling spiteful, you’ll be charged with kidnapping.”
“Oh, you can bet she’s feeling spiteful,” Kian pronounced ominously.
Chryssa picked up the receiver and dialed Aaron’s extension. He picked up immediately and she said, “I need you to call Green, Green & Becket. Ask them to patch me to Hanna Clayton’s private number.”
Surprisingly Hanna was at the office. Chryssa wasn’t mother material but she knew that in the same position, she’d be combing the city for her son. The woman snapped into the phone “I’m busy. What’d you want?”
“I have your son here with m-”
“What? You have R.J.?”
“What is he doing there with you?” Hanna interrupted.
“Are you looking for a ransom?
“Put him on the phone.”
Talk about no breathing space. Chryssa gestured to R.J. to come to the phone and speak to his mother. Maybe he could calm her down. The conversation between R.J. and Hanna was a one sided conversation with R.J. only answering in Yes or No. By the time he gave back the phone to Chryssa, only a dial tone met her ear.
“She said that I should wait for her at home, ” R.J. said.
Loathe to leave Kian and Tasha to deal with Hanna on their own, Chryssa followed them to Hanna’s house. Unfortunately they were stopped at the community’s gates. Hanna had given express directions that neither Kian nor Tasha be allowed through. As they waited for her outside the gates, Kian and Chryssa laid out their strategy.
Hanna was lucky that Kian was only asking for a mediated joint custody agreement and a chance to get to know his son. If Chryssa was making the decisions, the woman would’ve been fighting a full custody suit.
By lunchtime, Hanna still hadn’t turned up and Chryssa had to go back to the office to deal with the Whitmore’s divorce. After assuring Kian that she’d deal with Hanna, Chryssa left.
Oh! So Hanna’s playing hardball. Well she obviously hasn’t played in my court.
* * * * *
AARON WAS WAITING with Chryssa’s regular water as she exited the boardroom where she’d left the Whitmore’s kissing and declaring their undying love for each other. If that was love, she was glad she didn’t have it. The moment she got into her office, she laid her head on her desk tiredly. What a day? Two more hours and she could go home and rest.
Her eyes had just drifted shut when the intercom buzzed. Cussing under her breath she pressed the answer button. “Whaaaat?”
“There’s Dr. Eli Stone at the lobby asking to see you,” Aaron announced.
Eli. Instantly Chryssa could feel her heart give a jump and she perked up. What was he doing here? She didn’t even have to think twice about it, “Tell them to send him up.”
She was looking forward to another tussle with Dr. Stone. It was ridiculous for him to blame her for his divorce but it was also a reaction she was used to. People liked to blame the lawyers – that’s just the way things were. She didn’t hold it against him.
What really interested her about Eli was the fact that he was attracted to her. Even two years ago she’d seen it in his eyes behind all the contempt. But it was equally obvious that he was trying his hardest to resist her. It was fun to poke at the attraction and see if he would break out of his stiff disapproving character and do something about it.
Eli just seemed to bring out the tease in her.
She sat up in her seat, smiling as she waited for him to come up.
Barely ten minutes later there was a light rap on her door and it was pushed open. In walked Eli. Immediately Chryssa could feel her whole body perk up in appreciation. Despite the stony expression on his face, she had to admit he was a fine specimen of masculinity. He looked just as good in a grey suit as he did in scrubs.
“Well hello Dr. Stone.” The seductive purr to her voice was instinctive – she couldn’t help it even if she wanted. Instead of answering her, he shut the door behind him. For a moment he just stood by the door staring at her. She taunted, “I know I’m fly but seriously, did you come all this way to stare at me? I’m flattered.”
Her words spurred him into action. In long strides, he crossed the carpeted length of her office to come behind her desk. He abruptly turned her swivel chair away from the desk so that she was facing him. This was a forceful Eli she had yet to see and Chryssa was so stunned she didn’t stand up or protest when he bracketed her in the chair with his hands on its arms, and bent till they were at eye-level.
He was so close she could feel his breath whisper against hers as he growled, “I’m not a prude.”
With those words he dipped his head, letting his lips meet hers.
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