Breaching the Contract
I TRY NOT TO LET my nerves show on the outside, but the truth is, I’m a little intimidated right now.
Okay, more than a little.
A hell of a lot.
But this is what I want to do, and I need to make it happen. Failure is not an option, nor is showing any weakness.
Jaxon Bentley is one of the top criminal lawyers in the country, and luck was on my side when he hired me as an associate at his firm. Others would kill to be in my place now. Getting an associate position at Bentley & Channing—one of the best law firms around—is a highly coveted job among my peers. They’ve actually never hired an associate directly out of law school before, so when this opportunity came up, everyone applied. I’m still not sure how I landed it. I mean, I know I’m smart, and hardworking, but there was some seriously stiff competition for this position. I run my fingers down my beige pencil skirt and shift on my feet. I hope I look the part. My block heels are already hurting my feet, even though I thought they’d be the safest option. I know there are no rules that say women have to wear high heels with their business attire, but the receptionist is in a pair higher than I could ever dream of walking in, so I’m glad I went with mine over the practical flats I was longingly eyeing this morning.
“Katerina Dawson,” Jaxon says as he enters the conference room, offering me his hand. “Nice to see you again. Congratulations on graduation! I remember what it felt like to finally finish law school.”
He’s handsome, with his gray eyes, dark hair, and stubble, not to mention his charming smile, but he’s not really my type. He exudes confidence and power, and one day I’d love to give off the same vibes.
“Nice to see you too, Mr. Bentley,” I say quickly, offering him a warm smile. “Thank you again for choosing me for this position. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working with you.”
Mr. Bentley smiles. “Top of your class and editor of the law review, it would’ve been stupid of me not to choose you. And I’m sure as you’ve heard, Katerina, I don’t make stupid decisions.”
I try to hide my smile at that, and wish I could say the same. “Yes, of course. And please, call me Kat.”
No one calls me Katerina except for my father, and usually only when I’m in trouble.
“Kat,” he says, as if testing the name on his tongue. “Call me Jaxon. I hope you’re ready. This job won’t be easy, and it’ll test all your limits and everything you’ve studied over the last few years, but going by who you are on paper, I think you’ll be able to handle it.” He hands me a file. “This is the Curtis case, one I’ve agreed to take on. I want you to learn everything about it from top to bottom, because this case is going to be your baby, and you’re going to help me win it.”
“No pressure then,” I joke, unable to stop myself. He’s handing over a case to me? I just finished taking the bar exam and now I’m being given a case. Holy crap. It’s surreal and both exciting and scary. This is everything I’ve been preparing for, and my first chance to prove myself outside a student setting. This is not something I’m going to fail at. He couldn’t have said it better—this case is going to be my baby. And I’d never fail one of my babies. If I had any. Okay, going off topic now.
“You’ll learn to use the pressure and thrive off it. No pressure, no diamonds, right?” he says, lips twitching.
His lip twitches as he guides me down the hall and gestures to the door. “This is my office.” He keeps walking, and I follow him to the door next to his, which he opens, displaying an empty office. “And this will be yours. I’m here if you need anything, and my door is always open to you. Or you can always call me by pressing two on the phone. I know we discussed this during the interview process, but as a reminder, we do things a little differently here. You won’t have a secretary, so you’re responsible for drafting your own briefs and correspondence. However, Yvonne, our office secretary, can help you with things that are urgent. We also have an intern, Callum, who can help with any legal research you may need. This may seem like a lot of work, but for now you’ll be working on my cases with me, and at the moment I have only a few clients, since they’re high-profile.”
Excitement fills me at the thought of working on big, high-profile cases. This job is exceeding my expectations already.
“You can take lunch whenever you like, and depending on the workload, and as long as you get your work done, I don’t mind if you head out a little early. We’re pretty flexible here, but we also work our asses off.”
I nod and follow him into the office, having a quick glance around the space. I sit down at my desk and smile up at him, so happy to have my own office. “I won’t let you down. Is there anything else you want me to do today besides study this case?”
“Yes,” he says, stepping to the desk and lifting up another file. “There’s some research here I need you to do. And by some, I mean a lot.”
He hands it to me and grins. “You know where to find me if you need me.”
He walks out, and I get comfortable in my new chair and open the case file with excitement. And then I open the research one.
There’s so much information; this will definitely keep me busy for a while, but I don’t mind. I pull out my notebook and pen. This is what I’ve always wanted, and Jaxon is giving me the chance to work with minimal supervision, and with his trust.
He’s giving me the chance.
I don’t think he’ll ever know how much this means to me. I have everything to gain, and everything to prove. It’s my actions that define me, not where I came from, or who birthed me. My past only fuels my hunger, my desire to succeed. My nerves having completely left me, I smile.
This is where I’m meant to be.
I get to work straightaway.
I’M WALKING BACK FROM grabbing something quick to eat at my desk, hand resting on my bag, when I notice a man in a black suit drop something. He’s on his phone, seemingly having a serious conversation, judging by the scowl on his face, and has no idea that something has just slid out of his pocket. As I walk past him, I stop and pick up what I can now see is his wallet. His back is to me, so I gently tap his shoulder, but he ignores me.
“You’re supposed to give me at least two weeks’ notice,” I hear him growl into the line.
I tap him again, more forcefully this time, and he turns and flashes me a scowl like I’m interrupting him to ask for change or something. He’s handsome. That’s for sure. His eyes are crystal blue—beautiful and mesmerizing, even when filled with annoyance. His brown hair is blowing in the wind, slightly longer on top than the sides, and I can’t help but notice the enticing shape of his full lips. He glances at me, but it’s like he sees through me or something, because he turns back away and says, “Yes, that sounds fair. I’ll be home tonight at seven, so we can discuss everything then. Bye, Amy.”
Did he just get dumped or something? Although that wouldn’t explain the two-weeks’-notice part. Still, he said he will see this Amy person at home tonight, so I wonder what the story is.
“Excuse me, sir,” I say, my tone impatient. Here I am trying to do my good deed for the day, and he’s being rude. I feel like hitting him in the face with his wallet, or simply taking any cash while he’s watching—anything to make him pay attention. He’s clearly so lost in his head, in his problems, or in this Amy chick, that he doesn’t realize I’m about to walk away with his wallet and buy myself that Givenchy handbag I’ve been eyeing.
He turns back to me, and must actually see me this time, because he asks, “Yes?” as he slides his phone into his pocket. It’s not a friendly yes, rather a What do you want? yes.
The man is rude.
I hand him his wallet. “You dropped this.”
He takes it from me, then pats down his pockets as if making sure it’s really his. What, does he think he’s incapable of losing something?
“You’re welcome,” I mutter, then turn to leave.
“Wait,” he says, so I turn around to face him once more. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” I say, my anger lessening. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Or at least not as rude as I thought he was, considering he has some basic manners.
“Today is not my day,” he explains, wincing, then holds out his hand. He shakes his head, as if to clear it, then offers me a small smile. “I’m Tristan.”
“Hello, Tristan,” I reply, warily shaking his big hand. Mine looks so tiny in comparison. I bring my gaze back to his, and the two of us just watch each other for a few short seconds. I don’t know what it is about his face, but I don’t want to look away.
“And what’s the name of the woman who saved me from calling up and canceling all my credit cards?” he asks, arching a brow.
“Kat,” I say, letting go of his hand. “My name is Kat.”
“Well, Kat,” he murmurs, glancing over me quickly. “I’m on a break, so how about I buy you a coffee to say thank you?”
“Oh,” I reply, glancing toward the road that my new office is on. As much as I’m tempted to say yes, I remind myself of the opportunity I’ve been given. “I’m actually just going back to work. But how about a rain check?”
Did I just go from wanting to punch him to saying yes to a date?
That pretty much sums up my dating history. I choose the worst kind of men—the ones who need to be fixed.
The broken ones.
The narcissists, or those who are emotionally unavailable.
The tortured souls.
And no, it never works out for me, and no, I’m never able to save them, so I’ve tried to stay away from men and concentrate on my career.
It’s a much simpler life.
“Sounds good,” he says, as I realize what I’m doing. Wanting to escape before he asks for my number, I take a step back and smile.
“How about tomorrow?” he calls out.
I turn and smile at him as I make my exit, waving slightly but saying nothing in return.
I don’t need to be having coffee with anyone. I don’t have time for it right now. I need to concentrate on work, on impressing Jaxon, and on other things in my life, such as paying my rent every month. I don’t need to go have coffee with an older, good-looking man—one who came across as rude and slightly lost, no less—and who probably has a whole list of other issues that I’ll try to take on as my own the closer I let him get. Because that is what I do.
No, I don’t need anything like that.
All I need is to focus.