Payton walked over and stepped in between his legs. She put her arms around him. “It doesn’t matter now, J.D. That was a long time ago.” She pushed him back onto the bed, straddled him, and slid her hands up his chest. “You don’t happen to have those glasses with you, by any chance?” With a wink, she reached over and shut off the light.
Through the darkness, J.D. spoke. Still sounding troubled. “It’s just—I thought you were insulting me, Payton.”
“But now you know I wasn’t. So what’s the big deal?”
“Wait a second . . .”
The light came back on.
Payton stared down at him. “Please don’t tell me that’s how this whole fight between us started.”
J.D. sheepishly made an attempt to smile. “Um . . . the next day, I kind of gave you a hard time when you made your presentation at the group meeting about the new amendments to the federal discovery rules.”
“I remember that!” Payton poked him in the chest. “You were a total ass**le to me, asking all these questions about whether I had bothered to read the Advisory Committee notes and other bullshit like that.” She poked him in the chest again, harder this time. “That was why? Because I said you looked like Clark Kent?”
“Um . . . yes?”
Payton climbed off him. “I don’t believe this—that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” She grabbed her dress and shoes off the floor. “Eight years, J.D.! Eight years! At least I assumed we’ve been fighting for some legitimate reason, like politics, or socioeconomic issues, or at the very, very least because you’re rich and my family is from the wrong side of the tracks.”
J.D. laughed out loud at that. “Wrong side of the tracks? What is this, 1985 and we live in a John Hughes movie? I don’t give a shit whether your family has money. That’s almost as stupid as fighting over the Clark Kent comment.”
Payton slipped on her dress. “Almost, J.D., but not quite. Definitely not quite.” She stormed off into the living room.
J.D. followed her. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I need to cool down. I might say something I’ll regret.”
She was sliding one of her heels on when J.D. walked over, grabbed her hand, and pulled her away from the door.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said firmly. He led her out onto the balcony. “If you need to cool off, you can do it out here.”
“It’s eighty-two degrees out here. Jerk. Ninety with the heat index.”
“Well, then, the fresh air will do you some good.” He shut the balcony door behind him and blocked her way.
Payton folded her arms across her chest and waited.
J.D. sighed. “Look—Payton—I understand that you’re angry with me, and for once I understand why. I would, however, like to point out that you aren’t entirely innocent in all this—you’ve lobbed more than your fair share of insults at me over the years, but notwithstanding that fact . . .” He ran his hand through his hair, then held his hands up. “What can I say? I f**ked up. I’m sorry. Really sorry.”
Payton softened a little at his directness. She knew how hard it was for him to apologize, especially to her. And he was right—regardless of how it started, once their fighting had begun she’d hardly been an innocent bystander.
“It’s just that . . .” she bit her lip nervously. “I liked you from the start, J.D. I really wish things had been different, that’s all.”
J.D. stared her straight in the eyes. “You have no idea how much I wish that, too, Payton.”
He looked so serious right then that it was impossible for her to stay mad at him. Plus he was still in his boxers and that was becoming a definite distraction. With a smile of acquiescence, Payton pointed. “Are you planning on blocking that door all night?”
J.D. relinquished his post at the sliding door and joined her at the balcony rail. “Not if you promise that you’re not going to leave.” He slid his arms around her.
“I’m not going to leave,” she said, leaning back against his chest.
They watched the waves crash against the beach, and Payton laced her fingers through J.D.’s. “You know, I think that was the fastest, most rational way we’ve ever resolved a fight. We’re so much better here.”
“It’s because we’re away from the office,” J.D. said. He sounded firmly convinced about that.
Payton closed her eyes. “The office . . . don’t remind me.” She hadn’t thought about the partnership competition between them for the past several hours and wanted to keep it that way.
J.D. spoke softly near her ear. “I’ve been thinking—tomorrow is Saturday. Why don’t we spend an extra night here? Frankly, if one of us doesn’t go into the office tomorrow, then the other one doesn’t have to, either.”
Payton turned around to face him. “Stay here together?”
J.D. shrugged. Nonchalance or feigned nonchalance? It was hard to say.
“I figured you could move your things into my room in the morning,” he said casually.
Payton thought for a moment. Or rather, she pretended to think for a moment. She shrugged as well. “Sure. Why not? I like it here.”
“Fine. That’s settled then,” he nodded.