"I mean, when Brad came on, for example. He was with us for only six months before Clarke approached him about partner status. I was vehemently against the idea, but Clarke's shares overrode my opinion. Brad is just cut from a different cloth than us. He doesn't understand the hard work behind law." Bitterness laced his voice and my rebellious side spoke up before I had a chance to rein it in.

"Is that why you told me to stay away?"

"What?"

"You've told me twice now, to stay away from the East Wing, and from De Luca specifically. Why?" He shot me a perturbed look, as if irritated that I would question his authority. I held my gaze steady, despite the battle that raged inside of me.

He avoided my gaze, and suddenly seemed very interested in the remaining piece of his meatball sub. Finally he set it down and looked at me. "I don't like De Luca, Julia. Some in this office would say I hate him, but that isn't the case. I dislike Brad for two reasons. One, I don't think he displays the work ethic or ethical standards that I would like upheld by our office. But second, and I apologize for the language, six years ago Brad f**ked my wife."

---

I gasped and stared at him, my half-eaten piece of sandwich hanging limply in my mouth. Somehow, ridiculously, I felt tears welling up somewhere behind my corneas, and I blinked them off. I didn't know what to say and I stumbled over the next sentence.

"I'm so sorry."

He stared off in the distance and pursed his lips, then shook his head. "I shouldn't have told you that. I'm sorry. It's too personal. I just wanted to give you an honest reason. You are a beautiful, innocent, young woman and it was very inappropriate for me to assume anything, but I didn't want you to fall into his trap like other interns have. You seem too intelligent for that, but I wanted to give you a warning anyway."

I blinked at him, not really knowing what to say. Then I nodded, my eyes grim. "Trust me, that's one thing you don't have to worry about."

---

We ate the rest of our meal in silence, me having too many questions that were way too personal to ask, and him seeming to prefer brooding silence over chatter. Once we finished, I cleared our plates and we continued working, the sound of papers shuffling and keys clicking the only sounds in our deserted wing.

---

I drove home with the radio off and the windows down, trying to think. I don't know what I even had to think about. Any confusion I had about Brad should have been answered by this new information. Brad slept with his business partner's wife. Enough said. So what did I have to think about? Nothing. I rolled up my windows and tried to think about anything other than De Luca.

CHAPTER 29

Tuesday at 1pm my office line finally rang with De Luca's extension showing. I ignored it, letting voicemail pick up. He didn't leave a message. He called again at 3pm; again I ignored the phone. With Broward in Dallas, the workday was light, and at 4:45pm I started packing up, preparing to leave. I wandered by Sheila's desk, and spent the last 15 minutes of the day chatting up the older woman. She had warmed to me considerably over the last few weeks, and now bordered on almost friendly. I was intent on cracking her shell before my internship ended.

I pressed the down button on the elevator and waited in the lobby for it to arrive. Todd came through the East Wing doors and gave me a big smile. We waited, the doors opened, and we got on together. When the doors shut, we both started talking at once. I stopped, and Todd hesitated.

"Go ahead," I said with a laugh.

"I was just going to ask if you were free, tonight or tomorrow. To, ah, hang out."

"Tomorrow would be better. Do you have my number?"

"Yeah. It's on the intern roster Dr. Ennis distributed the first day."

"Great." I looked at my feet as the elevator doors opened on the garage floor. He stepped out, and we kind of shuffled around.

"So, tomorrow night?" he asked.

"Yeah, tomorrow night. See you then."

"I'll call you. Maybe around 8?"

"Sounds good Todd. Night."

He gave a quick wave and spun on his heel, sauntering to his truck, a late-model Ford F150. I headed to my car and stopped short. There was a note tucked into the window. I opened it cautiously. It was a hand scribbled note, on thick embossed paper. It had only one word, and initials scribbled underneath.

Dinner?

BDL

I crumpled the note as tight as possible, then had an idea. I uncrumpled the paper, ripped it in half, and then recrumpled the two pieces. I looked around for the car I had passed in Brad's driveway. I saw it, parked right by the elevators in one of the three "Reserved" spots. A brand new BMW 750Li, white, with a personalized tag: B D BEST. Nauseating. I strode over and dropped the crumpled pieces in Brad's open skylight, the pieces falling onto the driver's seat. What was really shocking was that the man was still at work at 5:15pm.

I felt like I had accomplished something by the time I got into my car, and cranked up the radio as I backed up and pulled out of the garage. I had plenty to smile about. I was currently flush with cash, had made a decision with the Brad debacle, and had a date tomorrow night with a smoking hot guy.

---

Todd and I decided to stay in and watch a movie at his place. He let me pick, so I tried to pick something guy-friendly and went with Old School. It was a typically college date - a barely disguised excuse to hook up, a date with minimal expense and effort from the guy - but I didn't really care. I was pissed at the Brad situation and wanted a rebound. Todd was available and hot. I didn't need much more than that right now.

I got home from work around 5:45pm, showered, shaved, and dressed in tight jeans and a spaghetti strap tank that showed a little of my stomach. I wore sexy panties and a shelf bra, in case the evening led to anything other than kissing. Old Julia would never have considered anything more than kissing on a first date, but I was throwing caution to the wind. Brad had been a little too persuasive regarding casual sex, and if I took his teachings outside our non-existent relationship, tough shit. Todd had offered to pick me up, but I wanted to have control over when I left, so I told him I'd meet him at his house. I had written down the address on an office post-it, and yanked out at least eight pieces of crap from my purse before I found the wrinkled square. I plugged the address into my maps app and saw that he was only a half-mile from my house. Translation - Todd lived in college crap too.

Todd's address turned out to be a town home complex, located in an area at least two steps up in price from mine. I parked in a spot reserved for Apartment F and found the town home with little difficulty. About 10 seconds after I knocked, Todd yanked open the door with a huge smile and a giant Great Dane. The dog launched himself at me and I found myself in a sort of dance with the pooch, holding both of his front paws and trying to dodge his huge tongue.

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