“Niko. Heads up, guy. We’ve got a problem.”
Attorney Nicodemus “Niko” Drake barely glanced away from the speech he was tweaking as his campaign manager threw down the day’s Cove Chronicle newspaper next to the iPad that had his attention. April had turned to May, but that hadn’t stopped the rain. And that it was Saturday didn’t deter this perpetual go-getter from showing up at the office or his loyal sidekick from following suit. On Monday, Niko was speaking at a dinner for the members of the chamber of commerce. He wanted to make sure that the speech was just right.
“Niko, did you hear me?”
“How could I not hear you, man?” He didn’t look up. “Even this early, seven in the morning, your voice reverberates off the walls.”
Bryce Clinton plopped into the seat behind a desk that was a mere six feet away from where Niko sat. “All right. Don’t pay attention. But later today when you get blindsided, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
At six foot one and a lean one hundred and ninety-five pounds, Niko rarely felt he had to be warned about anything. So Bryce’s comment got his attention. He reached over the iPad and picked up the paper. The headline caught him at once: Newest Mayoral Candidate Promises A New Day.
Hmm, interesting. So far there’d been only two other residents silly enough to not drop out of the race the moment he’d announced his candidacy. So who was this fool?
He unfolded the newspaper to read the article and was hit with his second surprise of the morning. The photo of said “fool.” Someone he not only knew but had actually sparred with…and lost.
“Well, I’ll be damned.”
“He finally gets it,” Bryce announced to an imaginary audience. Bryce was not only Niko’s campaign manager but one of his best friends for the past twenty-plus years. Having grown up together in the tony Golden Gates neighborhood of their town, Paradise Cove, the two had lost contact during their college years. But after running into each other at one of the local restaurants and discovering that they’d both returned to their roots, they’d reconnected around eighteen holes and a couple of beers. Their friendship continued as though no time had been lost.
“So what are you going to try to do with this one?” Bryce asked, eyeing his laptop and flipping through a myriad of emails. “She’s not from around here, so your name is likely not to have the same effect that it did on your previous rivals.”
“I know her.”
Bryce’s head shot up. “Huh?”
“Mo is Monique. I would have never made the connection.”
“‘Mo is Monique’? You’ve lost me.”
“Monique Slater,” Niko continued. “Successful attorney who practices in Los Angeles, or used to. Steel fist in a velvet glove who takes no prisoners, who’s known for chewing up prosecutors for breakfast and spitting out judges for lunch.”
Bryce pushed away from his desk, turned toward Niko and laced his hands behind his head. “How do you know her?”
Niko relaxed his position as well, stretching his long, muscular legs out in front of him, and picked up the newspaper again. “I debated her once in college, the most important tournament of my undergrad career. It was for the national championship. She kicked my then overly cocky behind.” He ignored Bryce’s raised brow that pointedly took issue with how far in the past Niko’s arrogance was. “I guess I can’t say I know her exactly. We never talked outside of that one very significant college encounter. So needless to say, I am going to need a résumé on her ASAP, got it?” He continued reading for a bit, then looked up to make sure he had Bryce’s attention. “Beginning with the answer to the question of how she moved here, gathered signatures and secured the Democratic Party nomination without me or someone in my family knowing about it.”