Chapter 1. A New Case
“We’ve got a big one and we need you to come up right away.”
“I’m on my way,” I said immediately. I hung up the phone and as I stood I straightened my black pencil skirt and slipped my black heels back on. It wasn’t often the partners called me into their office. I’d been with this firm for almost 5 years and loved it. I was good at my job and they never found fault in my work.
Just then my cell phone buzzed across my desk. With I sigh I picked it up, not even glancing at the caller ID. “Olivia Baser.”
“I’m done! I can’t do this anymore! Are you busy? Please say your not busy?” My sister rambled over the phone. I pinched the bridge of my nose, slightly regretting my decision to answer.
“Calm down El. What’s happened?” I walked to my office door and leaned against the frame, raising my sleeve to look at my watch. Hopefully this would only take a minute but knowing El it could be longer.
“I’m leaving him and I need a margarita.”
“El, you are not leaving your husband. I’m sure you are stressed out and just need a night away. How about we meet at that place around the corner from your brownstone at 6:30?”
“All he cares about is his stupid job and his stupid friends. I’m stuck at home all day every day with a toddler and a baby and I just...”
“El, why don’t you call mom? She’d love to come watch Aiden and Maddie. It’s still early and you could go to the spa...”
“Mom shouldn’t have to do everything! My husband, their father should be here to help!”
I sighed and again glanced at my watch. I didn’t want to keep the partners waiting. “You are right. And I’m sure mom will know exactly what to do in this situation. I’ve never been married or had children so I really have no advice sis. Trust me, call mom and I’ll meet you for dinner.”
My sister heaved a sigh and I prayed she would take the hint I was throwing at her. “Ok Ollie, thanks. I really need a girls night. I’ll invite Adrienne?”
I smiled, “Sounds good. She you then.” I hung up and pocketed the cell as I strode briskly to the elevator. My sister was my best friend and I would do anything for her but she was always rather melodramatic. Most of the time I humored her but today I had things to do. Our mom would be more than happy to take her on. I stepped onto the elevator and smiled slightly at the thought of El leaving Zane. She’d fought way too hard to get him, there was no way she was leaving.
As the elevator opened on the 18th floor I straightened my suit jacket. With a smile I headed towards the receptionist. “Olivia dear,” Mary said excitedly, “So wonderful to see you.”
“You too Mary, I’m loving that color on you.” Mary smiled brightly as she patted down her silver hair.
“I decided it was time to stop dying it and go natural. When you get to be my age dear there comes a time when you have to stop fighting nature.” I smiled brightly at the partners receptionist. She’d been here since the start, a fixture at Peterson, Alderman, and Engle. The three gentlemen always attributed all their success to her, the heart of the company she was called.
“They’ve asked to see me?”
She stood and rounded her desk. “Absolutely dear. From what I hear this’ll be a big one and they want the best and brightest.”
I nodded. “So they’ve called in me and Prescott I assume.”
Mary smiled brightly and I noticed the red lipstick staining her teeth. “You’ve got it! I just know that this will do wonders for you!”
I squeezed her arm gently and gave her a small smile. “I hope so.” She turned and opened the large wooden door to the conference room. I subtly adjusted my skirt and jacket one more time before following her inside.
Four men rose from the table. At the head was Mr. Alderman. He’d started this company, calling on his two best friends from college to help him build his practice. The three specialized in different types of law; criminal, family, and corporate. On either side of him were Mr. Peterson and Mr. Engle. All three men had heavy waists and silver hair. Across from me stood Travis Prescott, another associate who would apparently be assisting me in this case. There was little love lost between the two of us.
“Ms. Baser, so glad you could join us. Please, take a seat.” With a nod I sat across from Travis, refusing to meet his eye and more than a little pissed off he’d beaten me to the conference room.
“Of course, sir. You indicated a big case?” I crossed my feet under the table as I reached forward and pulled a file towards me.
At the head of the table, Mr. Alderman cleared his throat. I turned my head to face him, my eyes meeting his stormy grey ones. Many had said that’s how he won his cases. He’d stare down a jury or a witness and win them to his side, no matter the situation. They always struck me as cold.
“This case is... sensitive Ms. Baser. You see...” here he cleared his throat again and looked down at the table, his fist clenched. “My son has gotten himself into a bit of trouble.” I held my calm façade as my mind raced. What could Mr. Alderman’s son have done? I knew very little about him. He was a couple of years older than me. Mr. Alderman had been very upset when he’d turned down law school and instead flown to Paris to pursue the culinary arts. He’d launched restaurants in almost every major city now, each Michelin 3 stars. Apparently the old man was bitter and had never stepped foot in one of his sons establishments. I was shocked to hear he was helping him.
“My son married a young lady about a year ago. He choose to ignore my sound advice of a prenup and he is now seeking a divorce.”
My eyebrows knitted together as I frowned. Family law was not my arena, nor Trevor’s. It didn’t make sense to put us on this case. “Mr. Alderman, pardon my interruption but Trevor and I are corporate lawyers. We deal in business and finances and contracts. It would seem we aren’t the best fit for this case.” I glanced over at Trevor’s smug face. His grin felt practically leery and his eyes bulged slightly from the ponytail he wore to keep back his stringy brown hair. I suppressed a repulsed shudder.
Mr. Engle cleared his throat as he turned to me. As another corporate lawyer he was my direct superior. “Since this case involves the relative of the founder of this practice, you will be privy to some sensitive information. And this case will be quite public. We need our best and brightest attorneys and we believe it is you two. We need professionals and a sharp eye. Can we count on you two to get the job done?”
Before I could process what he’d said Travis spoke up, “Sirs, I am delighted to be of assistance in any way. I’m always searching for a chance to branch out and explore the law. I look forward to the challenges this case will present.” The other men nodded their heads as all eyes turned to me.
I glanced at Trevor. He’d sat back in his seat, his fingers gently tapping against the smooth table top. His smile was wide and unsettling. Since I’d been with this firm we’d battled it out. Always fighting for the best clients, boasting of our wins. We’d never tackled a case together, let alone one of family law. This was uncharted territory but I wanted to impress the partners. This seemed to be my chance. But I didn’t trust Travis, and this case wouldn’t be easy.
“Of course gentlemen,” I said, looking each in the eye in turn. “I would be more than happy to work this case.” A collective sigh filled the room as the frowns creasing the partners faces lifted.
“Fantastic,” Mr. Alderman said as he stood, buttoning his jacket. “That file contains the details. We need a draft drawn up for a petition for divorce. You will meet with my son Wednesday morning at 9. I will be sitting in. And as I’ve said, this case is sensitive. It goes without saying that you will not talk to the other attorneys regarding the specifics. I expect the utmost professionalism from the two of you.”
I nodded and stood, tucking the folder under my arm. “Absolutely sir.” This whole situation felt off and I was ready to escape to my office for a cup of coffee and to pour over my lawbooks and brush up on divorce cases. The partners file out of the office and I turned to follow. A hand grasped my arm and stopped me. I turned around to face Travis who had a smug smirk on his face.
“Listen Baser, I’m on the fast track to make partner. A case like this, doing a favor for the founding partner, could be just the ticket.”
I pulled my arm from his hand, rolling my eyes in the process. “Like they would make a sleazeball like you partner.”
Travis narrowed his eyes and stepped closer. Not wanting to share space with him I instinctually took a step back. “Stay out of my way Baser. Just sit to the side and smile pretty while I do what needs to be done.” This time I over exaggerated my eye roll, sure he would see it.
“I’ve been asked to do a job and I’m going to do it. I don’t give a shit what you do.” I turned and grabbed the door handle, yanking it open and slipping out before he could say another word. Once in the hall I shivered slightly. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. If we failed to get Mr. Alderman’s son a divorce, and get him everything he wanted out of it, then my job was on the line. And there were plenty of divorce lawyers in this office, why did they want us?
“And then I told him he better not even think about touching me or I’d chop his balls off!” I choked slightly on my queso filled chip.
“I’m not sure the threat of bodily harm was helpful to your cause,” I laughed as my sister took a big swig of her strawberry margarita. Adrienne chuckled beside me.
“What did your mom say?”
El rolled her eyes and dug into the chips. “That men and women have different roles and that Zane and I need to sit down and really discuss what roles we would like to have. She also said that I shouldn’t be so hard on him.” She shoved the chip in her mouth whole as salsa ran down the corner of her mouth. I slid a napkin across the table.
“Mom is always right. So tonight we drink and be merry and tomorrow you can talk to your husband.” El mumbled under her breath. Before I could ask her to repeat it the server arrived with the food. I picked up my knife and cut into my enchilada.
“Now, I have some news.”
The table was silent for a moment. “You finally found a man and your getting married tomorrow?” Adrienne asked. El looked between her and I, her eyes rapidly growing.
“You’ve been dating and you haven’t told me?!”
El let out a deep breath. Adrienne shrugged her shoulders. “You’ve just been so out of it since the Jax situation...”
I held up my hand. “I don’t want to talk about it. It was a stupid idea, sharing a man and hurting my friend to try to get him.” I shook my head and took another bite of my food. Even over a year later I hated to think about that complicated triangle. I was even happier to hear that Sofia and Jax were dating again. “No, I was given a pretty big case. It’s a personal favor to one of the partners.”
“That’s my sister! Big shot attorney!”
We laughed together and I felt my unease and tension from earlier dropping away. I filled my sister and best friend in on as much of the details as I could. They both made faces when I told them I was working with Travis. They knew our history, El had even met him. Needless to say our table were not fans.
As we headed out to the parking lot my sister pulled me into a tight hug. “I know you are still angry at yourself for the Jax situation. But I really do wish you’d go out there and date. You have so much to give Ollie. And I see you with Aiden and Maddie...”
I gave her a quick squeeze before pulling away. “I’m not sure the mother gene is in my DNA. My own mother left me, I don’t think I’m made to have kids.”
“That’s ridiculous Olls. You aren’t your mom.” I shrugged and took a few steps backwards.
“I did go on a date Saturday.... or can you call a one night stand a date?” I pretended to tap my chin as I smiled. El laughed as she turned and headed toward her car.
“You? One night stand? Hell would have to freeze over.” I could hear her laughter as she climbed into her car. Still smiling I climbed into my car. I knew she’d never believe it but it was a good way to change the topic. Next time I saw her I’d have to tell her all about it. Every sordid detail.