Lost and Found
"Melany found out about the lawsuit. Her mother told her, and now she's disappeared!"
"What do you mean?" Gabriel asked, in clear shock. "We're supposed to meet her tomorrow."
"She was upset that I was trying to stop her mother from getting more access. But didn't want to be involved in any of it."
"When did you last see her?" God, he really is sexy.
"We argued over the phone around noon, and when I came home, she wasn't home from school. I knew something was wrong, so I called the college and they said she'd left after lunch because she apparently wasn't feeling well. I thought she might have come here to ask you to stop the case."
"She definitely hasn't been here. Do you have any other ideas?"
"She could have gone to her best friend's house. Or she could be at the library studying. She does have exams after all. Or there is a chance she could have gone to see her mother."
"So, the airport?"
"It's my only other suggestion."
"You've given us 3 options, so we could split up and try each location. Jade, where would you like to try?"
"I can go to the best friend's house."
"She's called Rachel. I'll send you the address."
"I'll take the airport, and Byron, you try the library. We'll regroup afterwards."
Worried but hopeful, I reach my location. Poor Melany, she must've been so upset to find out about the lawsuit. I hope we can find her. I press the doorbell and wait.
"Hi, you must be Rachel."
"And you are..."
"My name is Jade, and I'm working alongside your friend Melany's father."
"Oh, you're one of the lawyers."
"She told you what's been going on?"
"Yeah, she was pretty upset about it this morning."
"So you've actually seen her today? We're looking for her actually."
"I haven't seen her since this morning. Has she gone missing? Is she okay?"
"We can't find her right now, but don't worry, we'll find her. As soon as we do, I'll ask her to contact you."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Just stay here, in case she turns up."
"Thanks for your help, Rachel."
"Good luck." Rachel steps back into the house and closes the door.
Damn, I really thought she'd be here. Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I texted Gabriel. Any luck?
Gabriel: Just found her at the airport.
Jade: On my way.
Thank goodness! The airport is close by, and it isn't long before I find Gabriel and Melany.
"Melany, this is my assistant Jade."
"It's nice to finally meet you!"
Melany just rolls her eyes. "Whatever."
"Great, now we just need to get in touch with your dad."
"I'm not speaking to him."
Gabriel sighed. "He's your dad, Melany. You have to."
"Says me -- your father's lawyer!"
"You're his lawyers?! You just as bad as he is! There's no way in hell I'm going back with either of you. As soon as my mother responds and gives me some money, I'm buying a ticket for the first flight to Barcelona."
"Suit yourself. We'll just tell your dad we found you here and be on our way."
"You suck as much as he does!"
"Mr. Howard, a private word, please?"
"We can't just leave her here. She'll run away again."
"She won't come with us."
"Of course she won't. Not like that. You can't just snap your fingers and expect her to listen. I know that's what you're used to from all the other women in your life."
"I heard that."
"Good, you were supposed to. Let me try to speak to her."
"Fine. Be my guest. But I'll be impressed if you get anywhere with her." He raises one eyebrow at me in pure challenge.
He thinks that if he can't do something, no one can? I can't wait to see his face when I prove him wrong. Gabriel gestures to me to take over and walks away, giving us space.
"Sorry about that, Melany. Mr. Howard can be a little harsh sometimes."
"If harsh means the same thing as a jerk then yes, he can."
I burst into laughter. "I'm glad someone else said it!"
"Won't you get in trouble for saying that?"
"He can't hear me right now."
"Do you always have to put up with him?"
"I just try to remember that his intentions are mostly good. When it comes to important matter, people can lose their awareness of the effects of their actions."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, take your dad, for example. He really loves you and is only seeking legal action to protect you. He's trying to make sure that your mother wants to get to know you for YOU, and no other reason. But he was so caught up in protecting you and your feelings that he didn't tell you what was going on when he should have."
Melany looks down, and I can see I struck a nerve.
"You do believe he only wants what's best for you, right?"
"I guess. He's looked after me on his own for years. It's just, the way my mother explained it to me was different to how you did. She said that dad was trying to stop her from ever seeing me."
"He would never do that. And as his lawyers, I can promise you our plan is 100% not to stop you from having a relationship with her."
"I promise. We're focused mainly on trying to protect your trust fund until we can know for sure that no one will take advantage of it. And then after that, you'll have more control over it. Does that seem reasonable to you?"
"Yes, I suppose it does. Can I tell you something?"
She inches closer to me, as if she's uncomfortable saying the next word out loud. "Deep down, I was worried about the same thing. Mom has never been involved in my life until recently. I knew I'd have access to my trust fund when I turn 18. I don't know how much is in it, but dad says it's a lot. I did wonder if that was one of the reasons my mom wants to see me again."
"Honestly? I have no idea what her intentions are either. But look at it this way. If we win the case and protect the money and you mom still wants to see you, then you'll know she really loves you."
"That's true. And in the case, you need to win!"
"I'm glad you think so too!"
"I still miss her, though."
"I know. My mom doesn't live nearby either. I know what it's like to miss family."
"What do you do when you get lonely?"
"I'm lucky enough to have a sister around to speak to. Do you have any siblings?"
"Well...what do you say I become your non-biological sister for now?"
"That sounds like fun! I'd like that."
"You can even come to my piano recital in a few weeks! My other friends bring a lot of people, ad I only ever have my dad if he's not working. It's kind of embarrassing. If you come, I know my dad would have to go too."
I really shouldn't get be getting this involved with a client's daughter. But she doesn't have any women in her life. "Yes."
"Yes, I'll come! As long as you let Mr. Howard and I take you back home tonight."
Right on cue, Gabriel rejoins us. "Hey guys, have we made the final decision?"
"Melany has just agreed to let us take her home."
"I'm sorry for being rude, Mr. Howard. I know your intentions were for good."
Gabriel leans in and whispers in my ear, "I don't know how you did that, but you're a miracle worker."
"I could kiss you right now."
He leans back, and a brief smile forms across his lips.
We drive Melany back to her house where Byron is already expecting us. I decide to walk her to the door while Gabriel waits in the car. I want to walk her to the door because I want to make sure she gets back safely.
I press the doorbell, waiting...and a thrilled Byron opens the door. "Melany! Thank god you're okay! I can't believe you just disappeared like that!"
"I know. I'm sorry, dad. I shouldn't have run away."
"Come inside and wait for me in your room. We need to have a long conversation about what happened."
"And Jade, thank you so much for bringing her back. You went above and beyond for someone who's just a client."
"You're not just a client" sir."
"Good. Because you're not "just a lawyer" either."
"No. You're a lawyer who also owes me a date."
"Right. Your text from the other day."
"I hope I'm not crossing a line. No, scratch that. I hope I AM crossing a line."
"It might just be your lucky day, because Melany already set us up."
"She asked me to join you at her piano recital."
"Wow. So she already roped you into spending an evening with me. I might just have to be a little more lenient on her in that case."
"I'll message you with the details. And thanks again for finding Melany."
"No problem. I'll see you again soon."
"Yes, you will."
I head back toward Gabriel's car. The evening has darkened, but even in the dim light from the street, I can see him watching me.
Did he see Byron flirting with me? Could he guess? Whatever it is, he's clearly in deep thought about something. I playfully pat his shoulder to snap him out of it.
"We did it!"
"We got Melany home."
He's been quiet all evening... "What's on your mind? You look lost in thought."
"I suppose I am. I was just thinking about today's events." He pauses, avoiding my gaze. "I haven't been treating you fairly. I'm attracted to you, Jade. There's no point denying it. And I shouldn't be punishing you for it. It wasn't fair of me to give you an impossible list of tasks this morning. Or to compromise your position by trying to seduce you afterwards. I was crazy to even consider replacing you. Do you know you're the best assistant I've ever had?"
"Yes. Look at the way you handled Melany tonight. I was impressed. She even apologized to me. I wasn't really expecting that! I've been impressed with you for a while, actually. You're going to make on hell of a lawyer. It was wrong of me to try and jeopardize your future at the firm. I guess what I'm really trying to say is, I'm sorry."
I sure as hell didn't expect him to apologize! And with such sincerity. "Thank you, Gabriel. I appreciate everything you've just said. It would be nice if we could just start over."
"I know we'll have to keep things professional from now on. But I can't help but want to kiss you one last time." His eyes glisten as he looks hard and long into mine.
God damn it. Those eyes. I could melt for those beautiful, deep eyes. The smell of his expensive cologne is enough to turn my brain into jello. I want to kiss him. But do I have the courage. "Do it. Kiss me." My voice is nearly a whisper but he still hears me.
"Thank God." He leans in and pushes the hair off my face. His face lingers inches from mine for what felt like forever. His eyes drift between mine, then to my lips. My body begins to ache for him, wanting and needing his touch.
I reach up to touch his face, wanting to feel the roughness of his stubble against my hand but he grabs my wrist in perfect timing and pulls me toward his body.
"It drives me crazy when you look at me like that. As if you want me more than anything or anyone. As if you're ready to have me right here and now. As if you desire every inch of me."
His lips brush against mine as he speaks. "Damn. How will I stop wanting you?"
Unable to hold out any longer, I press my mouth to his. My lips part to allow his tongue to connect with mine. I free my wrists from his grip and run my hands through his hair. I hear him growl in response, his entire body tensing under my touch.
His hands slide down my waist, down my hips, then settle on my ass. He pulls me close, and I can feel he's getting hard. I gasp, opening my mouth wider, welcoming his tongue deeper. Our kiss is becoming more heated and passionate by the second.
If we don't stop now, I know where this will be heading. "Jade, I want you. Your place or mine?"
"We can't. We'll keep running in circles that way."
When I pull away, his eyes are to the ground, his chest breathing heavily.
"I'll never get enough of your taste. But I know this is how it has to be...for now."
"That doesn't make things easier."
"I know. We work together. And even if we weren't...I don't date. I don't have time for that."
"I fully understand. This is just an outlet for you, isn't it?"
"I suppose...Wait, no! We're talking about you. You're not an "outlet". You're...way too interesting for that. But we should stop this conversation before it goes in a direction we might both regret in the office tomorrow. Let me drive you home."
When I get home, I notice I have one unread text. Huh, Byron... Byron: Thanks again for today.
Jade: You're welcome- again!
Byron: I actually messaged you to find out one thing...Did you smile when you saw my name pop up on your phone?
Jade: Only my biggest, cheesiest grin.
Byron: Good. I'm glad Melany asked you to the recital. I can't wait to see you again. I'll pick you up at 7 pm. She's staying at a friend's house afterwards, so if you want, you're welcome to come back to my place for a drink.
Jade: What if I don't drink?
Byron: I was trying to be subtle. If I typed what I really wanted to do with you...you'd probably get fired. I smiled. Oh!