Her ass had been hanging out in open court.

Her ass had been hanging out in open court.

Clomping along the sidewalk unevenly in her broken heel, stomping past innocent pedestrians who were having a lovely, normal day, people who presumably had not had their asses hanging out in open court, Payton grumbled out loud to herself about the worst part of it all.

“I just had to wear a thong today, didn’t I?” she hissed angrily. She could’ve smacked herself in the head for that decision.

The Shithead was suddenly at her side. He grinned. “Well, point of fact, I think that women should wear thongs every d . . .” he trailed off, seeing her look. “But I can see you’re not in a place to discuss that right now.”

Payton couldn’t take it a moment longer. She advanced on J.D. “Oh, you think this is funny? Please—allow me to disabuse you of that notion.”

“Payton—”

“Don’t. Don’t ‘Payton’ me, don’t waste your breath with excuses or explanations—I don’t care.”

She stared J.D. right in the eyes. “If this is how you want to play the game, Jameson, that’s fine with me. The gloves are now off. I am about to become the bitch you’ve always thought I was.”

Payton saw that her comment took J.D. aback, that it wiped his grin—which she interpreted as a smirk—right off his face. And she saw something momentarily flash in his eyes, maybe it was anger, maybe it was something else—right now she didn’t care either way. Right now, as she stood on that sidewalk, facing J.D. in her torn skirt and broken heel and her naked butt barely covered by the jacket tied around her waist, all she cared about was at least having the dignity of getting in the last word.

So, seeing that she had momentarily silenced him, Payton took advantage of the opportunity and turned and walked away.

Thirteen

“IT COULDN’T HAVE been that bad.”

Curled up on her couch, Payton gave Chase a look over the carton of pad thai she held. She swallowed, then gestured with her chopsticks for emphasis.

“Oh, no, trust me, it was that bad.”

Chase had called her earlier, while she was still at the office. Although the rest of her day in court had thankfully passed by uneventfully—after the break she had even managed to get back on track with her cross-examination of the plaintiff—Payton still had been so embarrassed that she told Chase only, in what had to be the understatement of the year, that she’d had “kind of a bad day in court.”

An hour later, Chase had surprised her at home with a bag of Asian takeout. To cheer her up, he said. Not sure which one she preferred, he’d brought both tofu pad thai and vegetable fried rice. Touched by the gesture, Payton figured she could at least give him the condensed version of what had happened that morning. She appreciated it when he politely covered his laugh as a cough and blamed the spiciness of the food.

“But you recovered well—that’s what the jury will remember,” Chase told her. Stretched out comfortably on the couch across from her, he set his carton down on the coffee table and leaned in.

“I’m actually kind of sad I wasn’t there—I think I would’ve liked the view,” he said with a boyish grin. Then he leaned over and kissed her.

As Payton had described to Laney the other day, she found being with Chase to be . . . calming. It was a nice change of pace for her—certain situations at work, and certain unnamed someones in particular, had a tendency to get her worked up. But with Chase, there was no fuss. At a time when things in Payton’s life seemed uncertain and more than a bit out of control, being with Chase was easy. He was easy.

Not that way.

She didn’t know that.

Yet.

After they kissed for a moment or two, Chase pulled back and gave Payton a serious look. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. I think maybe it’s time we take our relationship to the next level.”

Payton raised an eyebrow. Oh, really? “The next level being . . . ?”

“A weekend date.”

“Ah, a weekend date.” Payton shook her head teasingly. “I don’t know, that’s a big step. Did you have any particular weekend in mind?”

“Actually, I was thinking about this one,” Chase said.

“Wow. I don’t know. This weekend, let me see . . .” Payton pretended to mull this over. “There’s some laundry I’ve been meaning to get to, but I suppose if I rearrange my schedule . . .”

With a wink, she smiled. “Okay.”

Chase pretended to sigh with relief. “To think I nearly lost out to laundry. My ego never would’ve recovered.”

“Hey, this isn’t everyday laundry we’re talking about,” Payton said. “I was going to do sheets. Maybe even a towel or two. If that’s not your idea of a Friday night party, I don’t know what is.”

Chase laughed. “Well, now that I know that I rank above sheets, I feel so much better.”

Payton smiled, then fell more serious as she studied him. There was something she felt she needed to say.

“You do know that it’s just all this stuff I have going on at work, right? I’m really busy with this trial, and they’re going to name the new partners at the end of the month.” She had told Chase earlier that there was stiff competition in her bid to make partner, although she hadn’t gone into specifics.

Chase nodded and took Payton’s hand, lacing his fingers through hers.


Tags: Julie James Romance
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