Truth be told, however, on this particular occasion he had a bit more on his mind than Payton Kendall. As J.D. parked his car in the underground garage of the Gold Coast high-rise condo building where he lived, he felt tired. Really tired. As if all the nineteen-hour days he’d been putting in the last year were suddenly catching up with him.
Heading toward the garage elevators, J.D. pushed the remote on his key a second time to double-check that he had locked the doors. He knew he was overprotective of his car, but come on—who wouldn’t be? As he had once joked to Tyler, driving a Bentley actually made a man wish he had a longer commute to work. While Tyler had laughed at the joke, his father sure hadn’t when J.D. had said the same thing to him. In fact, it was that very car, the silver Bentley Continental GT, that had precipitated The Fight, the infamous argument between him and his father two years ago.
J.D.’s father, the esteemed Honorable Preston D. Jameson, had once again been trying to tell J.D. how to live his life.
“You have to sell the car,” his father had said in no uncertain terms the day after J.D.’s grandfather’s funeral.
J.D. had pointed out that his grandfather, the illustrious entrepreneur Earl Jameson, had specifically left J.D. that car in his will. This reminder had only further annoyed his father, who most definitely was not a “car guy,” and who also had always been resentful of the bond between J.D. and his grandfather.
“But you can’t drive that car to work—the partners don’t want to see an associate driving a one-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar car!” His father had tried appealing to what normally was J.D.’s weakness—his desire to be successful at the firm. But for the first (and to date, only) time, J.D. had other priorities—that car meant more to him than his father understood.
He had smiled thinly at his father, tired. The days surrounding his grandfather’s funeral had been long and difficult. “Actually, Dad, it’s more like a one-hundred-ninety-thousand-dollar car—what with the chromed alloy sports wheels and upgraded interior veneer. And yes, I can drive it to work, quite easily, in fact—see, I just take Lake Shore Drive south and get off at Washington Street . . .”
His father had not been amused.
“Do you know what people will say?” his father had ranted. “It’s not dignified for a judge on the federal appellate bench to have a spoiled playboy son running around in some hotshot sports car!”
J.D. tried to hide his anger and not dignify the comment with a response. Sure, he was single and he dated, but “playboy” was a little extreme. Frankly, he put in too many hours at work to have anything above a moderately healthy social life. Besides, he knew what the real issue was—his father’s reputation, not his. He figured his father could just add this to the list of other ways in which he had been a disappointment as a son: not being the editor of the Harvard Law Review, not being married, and then—worst of all—choosing to work at Ripley & Davis, the other of the top two firms in the city and direct competitor of the law firm his father had worked and been senior partner at before being appointed to the bench.
But what bothered J.D. far more than his father’s disappointment or concern for his professional reputation (in thirty-two years he had grown quite accustomed to living under the shadow of those things) was the fact that his father had the audacity to call him spoiled. Sure, his family had money, a lot of money, but that shouldn’t diminish that he had worked his ass off to get where he was. That was the very reason he had chosen not to work for his father’s old firm: he didn’t want any special treatment because of his last name.
Normally, J.D. would’ve ignored his father’s refusal to acknowledge his achievements, but on that day, in the emotional wake of his grandfather’s funeral, he simply couldn’t. So he said some things, his voice growing louder and louder, and then his father said some things, and in the midst of their argument, J.D. declared that he didn’t want another penny from his trust fund. From that day on, he vowed, he would survive on his own.
And from that day on, he had.
Okay, truthfully, this wasn’t exactly a fiscally impossible task. By that time a sixth-year associate at the firm, J.D. was earning at least $300,000 per year, including his bonus. But that still was a helluva lot less than any Chicago Jameson of recent history had lived on. And for that, he was proud.
And he was also proud of that Bentley. Not only a sentimental link between him and his grandfather, it had become the symbol of J.D.’s Declaration of Independence from following in his father’s footsteps. And beyond that—
He looked really cool driving it.
On the elevator ride up to his condo apartment on the forty-fourth floor (“Not the penthouse?” his mother had asked in abject horror when he’d first given her the tour), J.D. mulled over the comments Tyler had made during their squash game. Not that he’d ever admit it, but he had been growing increasingly anxious every day, waiting for the firm to make its partnership announcements.
Although certainly, J.D. thought as he walked the hallway to his apartment and unlocked the front door, his meeting with Ben that afternoon had stifled pretty much any lingering doubts that had been creeping into his head these past few weeks. He’d caught what Ben had nearly blurted out during their meeting, about J.D. and Payton soon being partners. J.D. had noticed that Payton hadn’t missed Ben’s slipup, either—he’d seen the gleam in those dark blue eyes of hers.