A big thank you to Arijana Karcic at Cover It! Designs for your amazing talent and friendship. I kind of love you. You’re seriously the best.
To Rose Tawil—Thank you so much for everything. I wouldn’t be able to function without you! You are one of the best souls I’ve ever come across.
My beta readers Stephanie Knowles, Eileen Robinson, Kara Brown and Melanie Williams—thank you all for your help. I appreciate you all.
Hot Tree Editing—Thank you for being so wonderful.
To my bestie Natalie Ram—I love you infinity. You know what this book means to be, and I hope you enjoy it.
To my family—my parents, my sisters and my sons—I love you all.
To my readers—I hope you love this book as much as I did writing it.
The elevator door pings open, and I walk towards my reception desk. The click of my heels is the only sound echoing through the empty offices. I clutch the cup of coffee in my hand almost desperately, relying on it to get me through a long day. I shouldn’t complain, I know. I should be grateful to have a decent paying job, especially in today’s economy. But, it’s Monday, and I’d rather be at home in bed, curled up with a book than be stuck here all day. I’ve been looking for a new job for a month now. Truth be told, I’m too damn stubborn to leave this place. That would mean that he wins, and I can’t have that.
“Good morning, sir,” I greet Jason Cannery, one of the four lawyers who works here at the firm.
“Morning, Jacinta,” he says, smiling warmly as he stops by my desk. “Did you bring me my coffee?”
“Did you bring me my chocolate?” I fire back, a private joke between us. When I first started working as a legal receptionist here, the men would ask me to bring them coffee every morning, which isn’t in my job description. At least, I don’t think it is, nor do I want it to be. I told them if they expect coffee, I better be getting something in return, because we’re all equal in the workplace. Luckily, they found me amusing, and I got to keep my job.
“Tomorrow,” he replies, grinning. “When is my first client due again?”
I look at my watch. “You have thirty minutes.”
He nods and enters his office, closing the door behind him. Two more of the lawyers arrive, and I wish them a good morning, then open my laptop and turn it on. When he arrives, however, I don’t bother to look up. Yes, Cohen Lake is also a lawyer here, and yes, he’s good at what he does. He’s a criminal lawyer and, at thirty years old, he’s done extremely well for himself. But that doesn’t mean I have to like him.
“Jacinta,” he says, and I pretend that the deep baritone of his voice doesn’t have any effect on me. I’m good at that, pretending.
“Mr. Lake,” I say, still not looking up at him. Rude, I know. I do, essentially, work for this man, and he could have me fired, but he hasn’t yet. I don’t know why—guilt, probably. Maybe he just likes to torture me. I’m guessing the latter.
He sighs and puts a folder on my desk. “New client. Can you add her details to the system?”
I nod, reaching out for the file. When I grab it though, he puts his hand on top of mine, stopping my movement. I raise my gaze, our eyes locking. His green ones look back at me, framed in thick lashes, assessing, always assessing. His light brown hair is growing a little too long, and in need of a trim, but he manages to pull it off. He’s wearing a crisp white shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and I know that shirt probably costs more than I make in a week. With his tan, smooth skin, and the dimple on his right cheek, this man is a danger to women. He’s the one who should be locked away.
“Let me go,” I demand, now looking down at our hands, keeping my expression impassive. “I don’t remember giving you permission to touch me.”
He looks almost sad for a moment, before he shields it. He lets go of my hand—reluctantly, it seems. “Are you always going to be like this? It’s been a week. Why don’t you just—”
“Why don’t you just walk into your office and leave me the fuck alone,” I say quietly, so no one else can overhear. I force a fake smile on my face. “Your first client will be here soon. Have a nice day, Mr. Lake. If I’m lucky, today is the day you’ll be run over by a car.”
His jaw goes tight, and he opens his mouth to say something, but then thinks better of it. Instead, he walks into his office, closing the door behind him harder than he needs to.
I pick up my coffee and bring it to my lips, taking a long sip.