Welcome to another Sample Sunday at the Sweet Escape!
Let’s get right to it… this snip is rather long but I couldn’t find a good place to cut it, so enjoy! As always, slightly edited, subject to change!
If I’m honest, I’m intimidated. Not only by the stark office and the quiet and the upscale setting and the chair I’m sitting in that’s worth more than my car… but by the woman behind the desk who continues her phone conversation as if I haven’t entered the room.
She’s shorter than I imagined, but every bit as lovely as her billboard photos make her out to be. Deep caramel skin tone, smooth and taut, not wrinkle in sight. Lively eyes, full lips and a wide, stark white smile as she issues commands in a brusque tone, like a woman who never hears the word ‘no’.
“Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Water?”
Her assistant bends forward at the waist and whispers in my vicinity. I shake my head and settle against the back of the upholstered chair. I watch her fiddle with some stacks of strategically placed folders on the desk until Sylvia shoos her away with a flick of her wrist as she sets the phone back into its cradle.
“Go on, Janet. Messing with things. I have everything the way I want it. Bring me a coconut water. You want one, honey?” Sylvia’s espresso brown eyes settle on my face for the first time. I decline with a terse shake of my head and try to smile.
When Janet quietly slips from the room, pulling the door shut behind her, Sylvia folds her arms and rests them on the surface of her desk.
“So you work for Maxine Donovan? One of her agents?” She asks, the tone of her voice hitting more on the husky register, as if she’d been a smoker at some point in her life.
I nod, pressing my lips together. Sylvia chuckles, then taps the surface of her desk. “Relax, darlin’. My reputation is a bit overblown. I’m only a shark to my opponents, not potential clients.”
The door opens again and Janet slips in, setting a bottle of an expensive brand of coconut water onto a coaster. “You sure you don’t want one? They’re refreshing.” She twists the top off and gulps down a few swallows before she sighs in complete contentment and recaps the bottle.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I answer, finally finding my voice. “Yes, I work with Maxine. She mentioned that she sold you your home when she was with her old firm?”
Sylvia nods, dabbing her lips with a handkerchief before settling back in her executive leather chair. “Yes. Yes, she did. Helluva deal, to this day. We still love the place, even though the boys have moved out. I hate moving. I don’t see a need to pack everything up and put it someplace else but…”
She shrugs. “The house is large and it’s just my husband and I— Judge Garrison Kincaid?” She pauses, waiting for me to acknowledge that I know him. When I do, she continues.
“We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll be calling Maxine in a few years. Now…” She reaches for a file on her desk and flips it open. I see my name on the tab. “You’re here for a consolation regarding divorcing your husband of… eight years?”
I nod in agreement and we chat about my relationship with Warren— how it started and how it ended and everything in between. Over the course of our conversation, I begin to relax, crossing one leg over the other, at times leaning forward to rest my elbows on the desk. Sylvia listens, asks questions, makes notes, her eyebrows knit together in concentration.
“So he says now that he’s about to file for bankruptcy?”
“That’s what he says. He probably thinks it can get him out of trouble with the IRS. Surely he’s heard by now that that won’t work. We lost the house in foreclosure but all of the credit cards are maxed out— his and mine. And he hasn’t been paying on them.”
“Does he own the home he’s living in?”
I shake my head, offering Sylvia a wry smile. “No. When he left me and my daughters, he ran to…his… whatever. The house is… hers.”
“Well, good riddance,” Sylvia spits, dropping her notepad to the desktop. “What you’re saying is that this man has no assets or net worth, nothing to go after?”
“Well.. I guess, yes that’s correct. But I wasn’t really thinking in terms of going after anything. I want to be legally separated and divorced from him and I want him to provide for his children. I’m not even seeking alimony—“
“Oh honey, don’t say that. You spent ten years with this man. Look at the mess he left you in. Then he runs to some other woman, living in her house rent free and not even taking care of his children. The law says he has to provide for you and those girls. I don’t want to hear about what you’re not looking for.“
“I understand what the law says, I just don’t think—”
“Do you know what I do here? Do you know what this law firm is about?” Sylvia rolls her chair back from the desk and stands, then walks to the enormous window covered in floor length sheer white drapes. She pokes her finger between two sheers and peers out into the Atlanta skyline.
“At Kincaid Family Law, we bring men like Warren Jackson to their knees. Go after assets. Find hidden money.” She turns from the window and strides back to her desk and resumes her seat.
“We take men who are trying to get around their responsibilities to task. And we make them pay.” The last three words are enunciated clearly, spoken at a decibel above her regular tone and punctuated by the tap of a fiery red fingertip.
“I see.” I clear my throat, reaching for the bag that I’d set down near my feet. “I… I’m not sure that Kincaid is the firm for me. Maxine wanted me to call you… I.. I don’t have much money and I don’t believe Warren does, either. I’m not looking to take him to the cleaners. I don’t want anything from Warren but a divorce decree and child support.”
“You know…” Sylvia reaches for the bottle of coconut water, slowly unscrewing the cap and sipping a few swallows. “I see a lot of young ladies — mothers, such as yourself, come through here with their heart on their sleeves, still halfway in love with the bastard that screwed them over, talking about how they don’t want anything, just a clean break. Then it turns out the motherfucker has been hiding money away, or he’s living in the lap of luxury while they’re living in squalor. Or he had children behind her back or he gave her some kind of disease. And you know what happens? Attitudes change. All of a sudden they want everything due them and more.”
“I… I guess I understand that. And maybe he does deserve to be brought to his knees, or whatever. But…” I lick my lips, suddenly dry. I wish I’d said yes to the bottle of water.
“The simple truth is that a long drawn out divorce where you’re looking for money that isn’t there will cost me a lot of money. I can’t afford to go after Warren for everything. I really… really just want a divorce.”
Sylvia’s full lips purse. Her eyes slowly close, thick lashes brushing against chiseled cheekbones. “Well. Even with the discount that I know Maxine told you I would give you, I don’t think Kincaid could do much for you. I don’t do cheap divorces— just file paperwork and go through the motions. My time is worth more.”
“I understand. But…” I hesitate to even ask, but I’ve already been pretty much fired. What would it hurt? “I hoped that you could possibly refer me to another firm? Another…” I clear my throat and swallow. “A more affordable firm?”
Sylvia’s demeanor has run the gamut from warm and friendly to combative and now she looks like she wants to toss me out of her office on my ass. She pushes herself up from the chair and leans onto the desk. For such a small woman, she actually hulks over me. I shrink back in response.
“I am not in the habit of sending clients to my competitors. I’m sorry we won’t be able to work anything out, but you’ll have to do that bit of work yourself. If there’s nothing else, Ms. Jackson, Janet will show you to the front desk. The receptionists will validate your parking.”
She presses a button on the phone and chirps, “Ms. Jackson is ready to leave. And Tell Gibson to come to my office, please.”
“Of course, ma’am,” is the crystal clear response from the speaker.
I stand and slide the handle of my bag onto my shoulder. I’m even more anxious to get out of this office, out of this suite, out of this building. I told Maxine this would happen.
“I’ll see myself out, actually,” I mumble, almost stopping to offer a handshake to Sylvia, but she’s preoccupied by the stacks on her desk. I’ve been dismissed. I head toward the double doors separating her office from Janet’s alcove just outside. She’s at her desk, just hanging up the phone. Ignoring her, I rush past her desk and down the hall, head down, on a mission. I round a corner and walk right into a wide, solid chest.
“Oh!” I jump back a few steps and try to get my bearings. My bag, which slid from my arm mid-collision, is splayed on the carpet between us, half of it’s contents spread across the hallway.
“Ma’am, I am so sorry. Let me help you…” A blur in a tailored blue suit squats to gather my belongings and hands them to me so that I can stuff them inside my bag. I’m thankful that I wasn’t dragging around any personal items— tampons, lip gloss, mini vibrators. My datebook, pens and business card case are embarrassing enough.
“Did we get everything?” He asks, his eyes sweeping the floor. He lifts his gaze to mine and offers me the most handsome smile I’ve seen since I first met Warren Jackson. Smiles are my kryptonite and his… well. Thick lips, two rows of straight white teeth, dimples that puncture each cheek are but an asset to deep golden skin tone and light brown eyes. My mouth suddenly feels like it’s full of sawdust and my breathing is slightly labored.
“I… I think we got everything. Thank you. And sorry for running you over.”
“No need to apologize. I was looking at my phone, not watching where I was going.” He extends a hand, palm up. Without even thinking, I slide my palm across his. “Gibson Kincaid. Are you a client?”
His question makes me laugh, which isn’t a reaction I expected to have at not being accepted as a client by Sylvia Kincaid. “No. In fact, I just met with your mother and it was decided that Kincaid isn’t the firm I’m looking for.”
“Oh?” His eyebrows rise nearly to his hairline, which I notice is lush with dark-as-night curls. “”Did she give you the old ‘bring them to their knees’ speech?”
His smile… devilish. The twinkle in his eye… way too tempting. The lilting, teasing tone of his voice…my thoughts are meandering in a direction they have no business going in. I’m here trying to divorce my husband, not pick up a new man. But… man.
“Yes,” I answer with a deep nod. “I did get that speech. I just… really think Kincaid isn’t the firm for me. Unfortunately.”
Stop. Flirting. Vanessa.
“Well, that’s too bad, if you really feel that way. But not all of us practice law like my mother does. Some of us are little more… sensible.”
He smiles again, those dimples sending sparks down my spine. I wish he would stop that… I’m finding it hard to think clearly.
“Tell you what,” he says, reaching into an inner pocket to pull out a business card holder. He plucks a card from the silver case and flicks it out at me between two fingers. Two long, thick, manicured fingers. “Give me a call. We’ll talk. I’ll see if I can work something out.”
We both whip around at the sound of Sylvia screeching down the hall, disturbing the quiet. I feel bad that I’ve kept him from his mother’s beck and call, so I take the card and step around him.
“Thanks. Sorry to keep you.”
“My pleasure,” he says, still standing in the middle of the hallway, clearly in no hurry to answer to Sylvia. “I didn’t catch your name, Ms….”
“Vanessa. Vanessa Jackson.”
“Ms. Jackson,” he responds, extending his hand again. Again, I slide my palm across his and revel in the gentle strength as his hand closes around mine. “It was a pleasure running into you. Please do give me a call, before you call another firm. I’d like to discuss your case and see what I can do for you.”
Before I’m ready, he releases my hand and slips his hands in the pockets of his slacks.
“I will definitely give you a call, Gibson.” I begin to back away, feeling like if I don’t start moving, I’m never going to get out of the building. “Have a nice day.”
“You as well,” he answers, just as Sylvia rounds the corner. Her lips are fixed in a fierce scowl and her eyebrows are knit together as she barrels down the hallway.
“Gib! I’ve been calling you. When I summon you, that means now! I don’t have all day.” Her eye catches my form, lingering near the door. “Ms. Jackson, I thought you had left. Is there something else I can do for you?”
“No ma’am.” I push through the door and stumble back out to the visitor area. There’s nothing you can do for me, I think. Gibson, though…If I was a different kind of woman, Gibson Kincaid could do a lot for me.
But I’m not, I realize with a sigh, coming down from my high. I’m a married woman trying to divorce her husband. An attraction to a man that wants to be my divorce lawyer wouldn’t turn out well at all.