Unedited. Subject to change. Copywritten so don’t copy me. No pub date as of yet, but this is what I plan to work on this November.
“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 clear my throat, reaching for the bag that I’d set down near my feet. I set it on my lap and resist the urge to wrap my arms around it to protect myself. “I… I’m not sure that…well, Maxine wanted me to call you. 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.”
Sylvia reaches for the bottle of coconut water, slowly unscrewing the cap and sipping a few swallows. “I see a lot of young ladies sitting in that chair,” she says, her words coming slowly. Diabolically. “Mothers, young pretty ones, tossed aside for a younger, prettier models. They 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.”
She emits a wry chuckle, wags her head back and forth a time or two and shifts in her chair, really getting into her diatribe. “Then it turns out the motherfucker has been hiding money, 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, then? Attitudes change. All of a sudden they want everything due them and more.”
“I… I guess I understand that. And yes, Warren walked out on us and left us with nothing and refuses to take responsibility and maybe… okay, maybe he does deserve to be brought to his knees, or whatever. But…”
I lick my lips, suddenly bone 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 probably 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. When they reopen, her previously friendly gaze is cold as ice. I recognize Sylvia the Shark. “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 help you. Now, 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 back. 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.
“I am so sorry. Let me help you…”
A blur in a tailored 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 a deep brown skin tone and lively 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 full and 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. And affordable.”
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.
“Thank you, 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 have 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.