"Strippers! Jeff - did you hear that?" Jeff started to smile and I turned with a snap and shot him the stoniest glare I could. His smile faded but stayed in his eyes. They were laughing at me. Dammit. I don't care if he is a partner in the law firm that my future is riding on, I-


"I don't know what you've heard about me, but I take all the new interns out. Ask Todd. We went out as a group last week, but Broward had you stuck in preparation for that boring as hell mediation that he flopped at. I've taken that Asian intern out three times for Christ's sake - what's his name - Anton Woo or Wu? Something like that. So, despite what you think of me, I am just trying to give you the same courtesy I give all of the interns - the pleasure of my company and infinite knowledge." He raised both hands in a "trust me I'm innocent" gesture. His cocky smile infuriated me but my balloon of propriety had deflated.

I stared at him, thinking. My ego, brain, and mouth were all totally confused. My headache screamed at me - making it even harder to reason. My shoulders finally slumped.

"Okay." I said glumly, getting into the car.

Jeff closed the door once my legs were safely inside. He hummed a little tune as he returned to his rightful place in the front seat. I wanted to smack him. I dreaded doing so, but turned and tried, rather unsuccessfully, to smile at De Luca and convince him to forget the little hissy fit that had just occurred. He didn't bite.

He relaxed in the car beside me - such a large man that he took up a seat and a half without really meaning to. He looked at me with interest, studying me. I tried to sit as close to the other door as possible without making it obvious. I could feel myself begin have trouble breathing again. Damn this man. I couldn't think of anything to say, and the silence was starting to get uncomfortable, at least for me. He didn't seem anything other than totally at ease.

"Are we going to Office Max?" I finally said.

"No."

"What about theā€¦ cable port thingy?"

"We are going to Centaur. For lunch."

"Do you just take everything you want?" As soon as the words popped out, I tried to take them back. Firm partner, Julia. Remember that for God's sake!

He seemed amused by the question. "Yes, normally. I've found it is more fun to ask for forgiveness than permission. Plus, I already asked, and you said no."

Oh, okay. So he's daft. I nodded politely and tried to put a respectful look on my face. I don't think I succeeded.

"Do you like Centaur?"

"I've never been. It's a little out of my budget."

"You'll like it. You do eat meat?

My dirty mind chuckled to itself, but I kept my tone mild. "Yes, I eat meat." Keep laughing De Luca. I plan on putting a Porterhouse on this bill.

The town car pulled through big gates and freshly cut lawns up to a huge white southern-style farmhouse with deep porches and thick columns. The entrance steps were flanked on either side by Centaur statues. The well-manicured lawn, impressive structure, and white-gloved valets screamed "expensive." An attendant sprang to action when the car stopped, and pulled open my door. I accepted his outstretched hand, swung a leg out and stood up, squinting in the bright sun. My headache was drumming its fingers on my cerebral cortex.

I walked around the car and met De Luca at the base of the steps. He gestured for me to go ahead, and I stepped forward. As I climbed the stairs, he placed a gentle hand on the base of my back. A delicious shiver ran through me and my subconscious smacked it down like it was a wandering fly.

The maitre'd instantly recognized De Luca and beamed. "Mr. De Luca! Come, come, I will put you at your favorite table!" He grabbed two leather-bound menus and led us through the restaurant. It was packed, and as we traversed through the tables, we were stopped several times by different men standing up to shake De Luca's hand and say a sentence or two in greeting. When we finally arrived at the table - a large four top in the back corner, I sank into the seat in relief. Before I had a chance to open my menu, a tuxedo-clad waiter appeared.

"Mr. De Luca, how are you?"

"Very good, Mimo."

"The usual?"

"Yes please."

Mimo turned and disappeared. I glanced at De Luca over the menu.

"Is he going to ask me what I want to drink?"

"No. Is wine acceptable?"

My headache raised both her hands and waved them around. "I'd prefer just water."

He nodded without responding. He ignored the menu and leaned forward on the table, crossing his arms and gazing at me. His biceps stretched the arms of his dress shirt and I raised the menu a bit higher, hiding behind it.

"How are you enjoying the internship?"

I lowered the menu slightly and spoke over it. "It's been quite informative. I feel like I am learning a lot and getting a great base that I will be able to build a strong legal education around."

He reached over and gently pushed the menu down, so that he could look at me. "Is that what you have prepared as your interview spiel?

I colored slightly. "Maybe."

"Come on. I'm not going to go running to Broward. How is it really going?"

I sighed, not knowing how honest to be. Hell, the man practically kidnapped you; you can probably be frank. His eyes were compassionate and gentle, and I didn't see any blood dripping from his teeth.

"It sucks. Broward works these ridiculous hours and I am nothing more than a glorified secretary. My duties consist of typing and filing, with an occasional coffee run thrown in. Other than the prestige of the firm's name, I am adding nothing to my resume. The other thing I have figured out is that I DON'T want to do corporate law. The other interns all seem to be learning and doing so much more - Todd has been to COURT with you for heaven's sake! I am just trying to get through these next couple of months and then spend the next three weeks sleeping."

"I'm sure you've been doing something other than sleeping in your time off." His brow arched and he gave me a conspiring look.

Where the hell is that coming from? I didn't respond.

He leaned back as our waiter brought two empty glasses, and then filled them from a chilled Voss water bottle. "I know that Kent can be a hard ass, but keep your morale up. You WILL learn something, even if it is how to bill ridiculously long hours. If you want to see how the other half lives, you can always spend a day in either my or Clarke's office - we normally sub the interns around a bit - let them see the other disciplines." The waiter held out a bottle of wine for his inspection, and De Luca looked at it and nodded.

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