“I’m just teasing you. I know how busy you are right now.”

Payton peered into his warm brown eyes. Yes, that’s all it was, she told herself, she was busy with work. Nothing else.

Before any contrary thought could creep into her mind, she reached up and gently pulled Chase in to kiss him.

AN HOUR OR so later, they said good night. After briefly discussing their plans for Friday, Payton shut the door behind him. She leaned against the door, reflecting.

That Chase. Such a good guy. How she so looked forward to their next date.

Payton sighed peacefully.

Then she eagerly sprang away from the door.

Back to the business at hand. She had some serious plotting and scheming to do. At least eight hours had gone by and she hadn’t yet come up with any suitable way to strike back at the evil that was J.D. She needed a plan. Fast.

He had wanted to make her look stupid. Frankly, he had succeeded in that. But the next move was hers.

Now what could she possibly do that would top naked-butt-cheek courtroom pratfalls . . . ?

Payton bustled around her apartment, cleaning up after her dinner with Chase, musing over this. She needed to come up with something final. The kill shot. The check-mate. The move that would lock up the partnership spot once and for all. Then she would be done with J. D. Jameson forever. No more having to prove herself; no more of those pesky jitters she felt whenever she saw him at work—something like butterflies in her stomach, it was actually quite annoying; no more stress; no more fights in the library; and definitely no more sexy I’m-gonna-kiss-you-now-woman blue-eyed heated gazes.

She had no idea why she just thought that.

Sleep deprivation, undoubtedly. Like the high-altitude sickness, it struck suddenly and at the oddest times.

Payton sped through her nighttime routine and crawled into bed. When the lights were off, she did not think about J.D.

Except to plot her schemes of revenge, of course.


I F, AS LEX Kendall liked to say, all women were sisters under the same moon, then Lady Justice was no exception. She was kind to Payton indeed.

It took only two days before she stumbled upon her big chance.

The best part of it was that Payton didn’t even have to do anything. The opportunity just happened upon her. She took it as a sign that the Fates—also women, she noted—were on her side.

She got back to the office early that afternoon. One of the plaintiff’s witnesses had a family emergency and needed to be rescheduled to testify the following day. With no other witnesses present in court or available on such short notice, the judge had recessed the trial until the following morning.

Payton had settled down at her desk and begun reviewing her email, finding over twenty messages marked urgent (some people were far too liberal in their use of that little red exclamation point), when she noticed Irma over at J.D.’s secretary’s desk. The two women had their heads bowed and were whispering intently.

Ignoring them at first, Payton continued on with her email. Of course she found no actual emergencies, just everyday, run-of-the-mill client panic attacks. But a few minutes later, after seeing the secretaries still deep in their huddle, she became intrigued. Especially after Kathy, J.D.’s secretary, hurried off from her desk looking frantic.

Payton called out to Irma as she passed by her office.

“Psst! Psst! Irma!”

When Irma glanced over, Payton gestured for her to step into her office.

“What’s going on?” she asked as soon as Irma shut the door. “I saw you over at Kathy’s desk. She looks like she’s freaking out about something.”

Irma peeked out the glass window of the office, then turned back to Payton. “I’m not supposed to say anything, but J.D.’s in trouble.”

Ooh . . . this was good. Payton resisted the urge to rub her hands together gleefully.

“What kind of trouble? Tell me,” she said, eager for the details.

“Well, apparently,” Irma began, “he got called into court for some sort of emergency motion—what did Kathy say it was—a contempt motion? Contested motion? I can’t remember which—”

Payton waved impatiently, moving Irma along. “Either way. An emergency motion. And?”

“And”—Irma threw Payton a look, she was getting there—“the judge won’t let him leave. He wants to hear oral argument and have a hearing on the motion right now. But the problem is, J.D. has a deposition scheduled for this afternoon that was supposed to start, like, fifteen minutes ago. The other lawyer and his client are upstairs and threatening to leave if the dep doesn’t start immediately. Kathy went to try to stall them.”

Payton and Irma suddenly spotted Kathy hurrying back to her desk. She did not look happy.

“I better go out there and see if there’s anything I can do to help,” Irma said.

She headed back out to Kathy’s desk. Payton watched through the glass as J.D.’s secretary held up her hands, gesturing anxiously, then ran off again.

Payton called out to Irma once more.

“Psst! Irma! Psst!”

Irma walked back into Payton’s office. “What is with you today? You’re awfully pesty.”

Payton ignored this. “What did Kathy say? It didn’t look good. Is it bad? How bad? Tell me.”

“You know, you could just talk to Kathy yourself,” Irma told her.

“I’m trying to be covert. Don’t ask. Just tell me what’s happening with J.D.”

Tags: Julie James Romance
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