Now she folded her arms across her chest. “You’ve got to be kidding.” She had been about to apologize, but now, well . . . screw him. She didn’t feel like it anymore.

“So, what is this, your feeble attempt at sabotage?” J.D. asked scornfully. “Let me guess—you heard I’m in court for a hearing this afternoon, so you thought you’d make me look like a jackass.”

“You don’t need any help from me there.”

J.D.’s eyes narrowed angrily.

“And I hardly need to resort to sabotage to be the one that the firm makes partner,” Payton added.

“Actually, I think you must be really worried, if you’re willing to stoop to this level.” J.D. held up a finger, victorious. “But luckily, I keep a spare suit in my office.”

J.D. shut his door, gesturing to a garment bag that hung on the back of it. He unzipped the bag and proudly pulled out a second suit, one that was just as expensive-looking. He draped the suit over one of the chairs in front of his desk and stared at Payton smugly. Ta-da.

She rolled her eyes at him. “You know, I was going to explain, but now it’s not even worth it.” She brushed by J.D. to leave his office, momentarily forgetting she still held both his jacket and the coffee cup.

“An easy cop-out.”

Payton stopped at his words.

Cop-out?

Cop-out?

Payton Kendall did not cop out.

She turned around to face him.

With a cocky grin, J.D. took a seat at his desk. He leaned back, folding his hands behind his head. “Something you’d like to say before leaving, Payton?”

He was baiting her, she knew it. She considered letting it go. She could turn around and walk out of his office without another word. In two weeks, one way or the other, she would never have to deal with him again.

J.D. mistook Payton’s pause for hesitation.

“In that case,” he said, nodding at the suit jacket she still held, “I’ll expect you to get that dry-cleaned at a decent place. Just make sure you have it back to me before they boot your ass out of here.” Dismissing her, he turned back to his work.

Payton sighed. Oh, well. She had tried.

“No problem, J.D.,” she said good-humoredly. “And while I’m at it, how about your second spare suit? Does that need to be dry-cleaned, too?”

J.D. looked up from his computer, confused. “I don’t have a second spare suit.”

“Oh. That’s a shame.” And with that, Payton tore the lid off the Starbucks cup and promptly dumped the remaining coffee all over the suit he had so neatly laid out over the chair.

J.D.’s mouth dropped open. He slowly peered up at her. “Oh. No. You. Didn’t.”

Payton looked down at the suit. Holy shit, she had, she really had.

She covered her mouth to mask her own look of shock. Whoops. But it was too late to turn back now.

“You can bill me for the dry cleaning, J.D. And, um, for the cup of coffee, too.” With that, she delicately set the now-empty coffee cup on his desk.

Then did a quick about-face à la Road Runner and got the hell outta there.

Payton hurried across the hallway, flying by J.D.’s secretary’s desk, then Irma’s. She had just reached the doorway to her office when she heard J.D. shout her name.

“Payton!”

Stopping in her doorway, she turned around.

J.D. stood in his doorway with what had to be just about the most furious look she had ever seen on any human being’s face.

They faced off across the hall, like two Old West gun-slingers readying for a draw. Payton could practically see the tumbleweeds blowing by.

With a sly look, she glanced over at Irma and Kathy, who sat at their desks curiously watching her and J.D. Then she turned back to him with her eyebrow raised.

“Yes, J.D.?” she drawled coyly. All these years they had fought in secret . . . she knew he wasn’t going to blow their cover now.

J.D. looked around, aware that his shout had garnered much interest from others around the office. He paused, then gave Payton a curt nod.

“I just wanted to wish you good luck in court this afternoon.”

Payton smiled from the sanctity of her office. “Thanks, J.D., that’s so sweet. And good luck to you as well.” With an exaggerated nod of her own, a slight curtsy, she turned and headed into her office.

Payton shut the door behind her. She leaned against it, the smile remaining on her face. In some senses, she thought, it really was a shame J.D. had to go.

She would almost miss this stuff.

WITH EACH STRIDE, every step he took as he walked the three blocks to the courthouse, J.D. grew more and more furious.

He had been cutting it close as it was; he’d run later than he had meant to, going through his oral argument one last time in the conference room, wanting it to be perfect.

And now, perfect was definitely out of the question.

He could throttle her.

Maybe, he told himself, the stain wasn’t as bad as it had been the last time he looked. Maybe some of the coffee had evaporated on the walk to the courthouse. He glanced down hopefully.

Fuck—it looked even worse than he remembered.

Wearing his spare suit had been out of the question, Payton had effectively seen to that by pouring more than half of a venti coffee all over it. Seeing how he didn’t have time to go home and change, or even buy another suit, he was therefore stuck wearing the one she’d “accidentally” first spilled coffee on—a conservative dark gray suit that unfortunately wasn’t nearly dark enough.


Tags: Julie James Romance
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