Payton raised a skeptical eyebrow at this. “Harvard Law School?” She already knew one Harvard Law graduate and that was one too many.

Laney held up a hand. “I checked it out. He went there on scholarship and paid the rest with student loans. And he’s good-looking, too. Nate and I met him for dinner last night, and I subtly learned that he’s looking to meet someone.”

“How did you learn that?”

“I asked him if he was looking to meet someone.”

“That is subtle.” Payton shook her head. “You married people are always trying to set us single people up.”

Laney nearly jumped right out of her chair. “That’s exactly what he said! See—you two are perfect for each other.” She paused deliberately. “So? Should I tell him to call you?”

The timing wasn’t exactly the greatest, but Payton found her friend’s enthusiasm hard to resist. And the Perfect Chase did sound somewhat promising. Career-driven. Interested in politics. Passionate about his beliefs. True, these were all things she found attractive in a man. And she certainly wouldn’t hold being good-looking against him.

“Okay,” Payton agreed. “Tell him to call me.”

“Good. Because I already gave him your number.”

Payton mulled things over. “Harvard Law, huh?” She couldn’t help it; she glanced across the hall to J.D.’s office. They hadn’t spoken since the night of the Gibson’s pitch.

Over the last few days, to the extent possible, she had avoided walking by J.D.’s office and had been using the internal stairwells for all trips under five flights (normally two up, three down was her limit in heels) in order to minimize the risk of being stuck in the elevator with him. Because as far as she was concerned, she was done with J.D.

Not to suggest that she had ever begun with J.D., of course.

The way she saw it, she had put herself out there the other night at the restaurant. She had made an attempt to be friendly and—to put it mildly—he had not reciprocated. She had allowed herself to be caught off guard, to be momentarily vulnerable in front of him, and she would not make that mistake again. And now she just wanted to forget the whole thing.

It had been a foolish thought, anyway, her thinking that they could ever get along. At least the Gibson’s pitch was over, putting an end, albeit perhaps temporarily, to their work together. And if the firm did indeed land Gibson’s as a client, she and J.D. would likely both be partner by the time they started working on the case and she would find some way to staff it so that they encountered each other as little as possible.

Of course, there was that small part of her, the teeniest, tiniest part of her, that was disappointed J.D. hadn’t apologized. If anything, he seemed to be avoiding her, too, and that Payton couldn’t understand. She may have had her faults, but at least she owned up to her mistakes. He apparently didn’t feel the same way. Unless he didn’t think he had made a mistake, in which case she had even bigger problems with him.

Not that she had spent any time thinking about these things.

Payton turned her attention back to Laney, who was already thinking ahead to where she and the Perfect Chase should first meet.

“It should be drinks, not coffee,” Laney was saying. “Too much caffeine makes you quippy.”

Payton looked over, offended by this. “Quippy?”

They were interrupted by a knock at her door, and Irma poked her head into the office. “Your mother’s on my line. Should I transfer her over to you?”

“Why is my mother on your line?”

Irma cleared her throat awkwardly. “She said she had been thinking about me and, um, wanted to discuss something before I transferred her over to you.”

“What did she want to talk to you about?” Payton asked.

“She wanted to ask whether I had ever considered trying to unionize the secretarial staff.”

Payton rolled her eyes. Her mother had done the Norma Rae routine on her a million times. Apparently Irma was her newest victim.

Payton waved to Laney, who was already on her way out, and told Irma to put her mother through. She picked up the phone, bracing herself. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hey, Sis,” came her mother’s familiar greeting. In Lex Kendall’s mind (formerly Alexandra, but that name was too bourgeois), all women were sisters under the same moon.

“How’s my girl?” Lex asked.

“Fine, Mom. I hear from Irma that you’re trying to rally the troops against The Man.”

“See, I knew you’d get all uptight if I called her.”

“Yet still, you did it.”

“I just thought that she and the other laborers at your firm might want to know that they have rights. Not everyone there makes a six-figure salary, Payton.”

Payton sighed. Her mother was the only person she knew who was disappointed that her child was financially successful. “Irma could get in a lot of trouble, if the wrong person overheard your conversation and misunderstood. You forget that I’m a labor and employment lawyer.”

“No, I haven’t forgotten,” her mother said, as if recalling some heinous crime her only child had committed years ago. And in Lex Kendall’s mind, Payton’s sin was egregious indeed.

She had become a yuppie.

Payton had been raised to “live and think freely”—a sentiment that sounded great in theory, but, as she discovered by a very young age, actually meant she was supposed to “live and think freely” exactly the way her mother told her to.


Tags: Julie James Romance
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