Payton scoffed at this. “It’s not so strange, really. Half the partners here don’t seem to know anything unless it’s spelled out in a memo some poor associate had to sacrifice her entire weekend drafting.”

Now it was Irma’s turn to be surprised. “That sounded awfully disgruntled for you.” She nodded approvingly. “I like it.” With a wink, she turned and left.

Payton sighed. Note to self: bite tongue more frequently.

And find out which junior associates had the audacity to bet on J.D.

If it was Brandon, she’d kill the kid.

THE SECOND PROMISE Payton kept was the one she had made to Chase, that they would sit down and talk as soon as her trial was over. The sit-down took place at Chase’s apartment, but the talking was mostly on Payton’s end.

Chase took the breakup well. He even laughed when Payton said she had his best interests in mind just as much as hers, seeing how she was thoroughly convinced she was far too difficult a person to ever make him anything other than utterly miserable.

In truth, any thoughts she still may have held that things could work with Chase pretty much ended the moment she kissed J.D. She had no idea what was happening between them lately, but clearly (as evidenced by their little tryst on her kitchen counter) she had no business dating anyone else until she figured it out.

The next day at work, she was on her way to see Laney to deliver the bad news that, alas, the Perfect Chase was no more, when she heard J.D.’s voice calling her name. She turned around and saw him halfway down the hallway, approaching her.

“Ben asked to see both of us, right away if possible,” J.D. said. “Apparently there’s been some development in the Gibson’s matter.”

Without further word, he coolly breezed past her and continued along the hallway to Ben’s office.

Payton followed behind him, making no attempt to catch up. If that’s the kind of game he wanted to play, so be it. The two of them walked the entire way in silence.

When they got to Ben’s office, they found him on the phone. He signaled that he was wrapping things up and gestured for them to wait outside. J.D. walked to the window at the end of the hall, turned his back to Payton, and checked out the view outside as he continued his silent treatment.

Payton was tempted at first to simply ignore him, but then she changed her mind. J.D. was beginning to seriously piss her off and she had every intention of letting him know that. She briskly walked up to him.

“Are you really not talking to me?” She kept her voice low, so that they wouldn’t be overheard.

J.D. glanced sideways at her. “I’m just giving you your space, Payton.” He turned back to the window.

“You’re being an ass.”

“And you’re playing games. How’s Chase these days?” he asked sarcastically.

“Fine, I guess. Chase and I aren’t seeing each other anymore.”

J.D. turned around to face her. “You broke up with him?”

“As a matter of fact, I did,” Payton told him. “Contrary to what you apparently think, I don’t like to play games with people. And by the way, you have a lot of nerve accusing me of playing games when you’re the one giving me the silent treatment. Which reminds me, thanks for being the only person in our group not to congratulate me on winning my trial. Your actions lead me to believe that either (a) you felt awkward congratulating me, given that we are in competition with each other—in which case you can’t possibly fault me for similarly struggling with the complications of our situation the other night, or (b) you were simply being a stubborn, spiteful jerk, in which case I’m not sure I’d want to be in your company anyway. Either way, if you’re waiting for some big apology from me for asking you to leave the other night, you’re going to be waiting a very, very long time because, as you see, clearly I was in the right.” Payton put her hand on her hip defiantly. So there.

J.D. stared at her for a moment with that “amused” look on his face. “You really are an amazing lawyer, Payton,” he said.

She poked him in the chest. “Don’t try to flatter me now, Jameson.”

He grinned. “You’re angry with me again.”

“I think this situation is difficult enough without you making it any more difficult.”

This seemed to strike a chord with him. “Fair enough. Maybe I should make it up to you, then. What would you say—hypothetically speaking, of course—if I asked you out to dinner to celebrate your trial win?”

Payton hesitated. Not because she wasn’t tempted by his offer, or quasi-offer. Quite the opposite, actually.

“Hypothetically speaking, I’m not sure I trust myself around you,” she said. She could tell J.D. liked that answer.

He bent his head, lowering his voice further still. “Why? What are you afraid might happen if we’re alone? Hypothetically speaking.”

It was a dangerous game for them to be flirting in the office like this. Strangely, however, Payton wasn’t sure she cared about the office right then. Sure, J.D. pissed her off like no one else could. But when he gave her that look, that look that was bold and intimate, but also slightly cautious—as if he was waiting and gauging her every move—she felt thrills of anticipation at the thought of where their little intrigue might go next.

So she leaned in, her smile blatantly coy. “Hypothetically speaking, I’m afraid I might—”

“There you two are! Sorry about that, I got stuck on a Rule 26(f) conference that ran a little longer than expected.”


Tags: Julie James Romance
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