- - - - - - - - - -
I slowly open my eyes and look at my alarm clock.
Who the hell is calling me at 4:30 in the morning? I look at my phone and see my best friend’s name on the caller ID. When I’m fully awake I’m going to kill her.
“Nitti?” I ask as I yawn at the same time. “Whas wong?”
“What? Nothing’s wrong?” She says calmly.
“Then why the hell are you calling me at 4:30 in the morning? My alarm clock isn’t even awake yet.” I say to her.
“Do you know how sexy your voice sounds when you first wake up?” She giggles.
“Shut up!” I groan.
“It’s even sexier when you groan like that. I don’t understand how you’re still single.” She laughs.
“Nikki, if you love me and value your life you’ll stop telling me how sexy my voice is and tell me why you’re waking me up this early in the morning.” I tell her.
“Uh…we have to go to work today…duh!” She says sarcastically.
“We don’t need to be at work for another three and half hours!” I say as I sit up in bed and let out another yawn.
“Don’t you remember what’s happening this morning?” She asks. I can practically hear her bouncing up and down on her bed with excitement.
“Nothing that warrants you being this perky at 4:30am and expecting me to be as well.” I say before I yawn for the umpteenth time.
“Mr. Matthews is officially welcoming Connor and Zack to the firm is this morning remember?!” She beams.
“And we need to be there early.”
“So we can talk to them before the piranhas do.” She sighs.
“They’ve been here for two weeks. Haven’t you had a chance to talk to them already? Besides, this is my last day remember? I’ve talked enough with them.” I ask.
“Pleeeeeeease Karina?” She begs. “You may have talked with them but I haven’t. And yes, this may be your last day here but it’s not mine and I want to make an impression on them before anyone else has a chance to.”
She’s right. This is my last day as an intern here then it’s back to school and focusing on finals, graduation, and passing the bar exam for me. She’s still going to be working here and if getting some extra time with Connor and Zack will help her career, then what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t help her?
“Alright! Alright!” I relent. “What time are you coming to pick me up?”
“I’ll be there in two hours.” She says triumphantly.
“With coffee.” I command.
“Of course.” She says. “I love you!”
“I love you too you nut!” I giggle. “I’ll see you soon.” I hang up my phone and slowly drag myself to the bathroom and start my shower. This is going to be a long day.
Nicole and I have been friends since high school. She was my rock when my parents divorced during our Junior year and my mom moved to Chicago. I stayed back in Los Angeles with my not so loving dad to finish out my last two years. But, after we graduated, Nicole and I moved to Chicago to attend college. While she was able to finish right away, I had to take a break after my third year to care for my mother after her car accident, which left her paralyzed from the neck down.
That year was rough for me. I had to work a multiple jobs to help pay for her medical care at the nursing facility where she’s at, as well as support myself. I had fallen into a really bad relationship with someone who liked to talk more with his fists than his mouth. I eventually broke free from him, although I don’t think he got the message.
In addition to school and this paid internship, I also work full-time in the evenings as one of the chefs at DeLeon’s, an Italian restaurant not too far from the law firm. Juggling the internship, school, and a full-time job doesn’t leave a lot of time for dating. But after my last relationship, I’m ok with taking a long break from men.
I finish getting ready for work and wait for Nicole outside of my apartment building. I live above DeLeon’s in a small studio apartment, which is perfect for me since I don’t own a car. The owner of the restaurant also owns my apartment and they were nice enough to give me a good deal on the rent. Thank goodness for small favors. Nicole finally pulls up and she hands me my coffee as soon as I get in her car.
“One hazelnut latte for my very best friend who loves me with all her heart no matter what silly thing I ask her to do for me at 4:30 in the morning.” She says in one breath smiling at me. I roll my eyes at her and giggle.
“You’re so lucky I love you.” I tell her as I take in a sip of heaven. “Ahhhhhh! Caffeine! Just what the doctor ordered.” We both laugh as we head in to work. Nicole parks her car in the parking garage and we head towards the elevator.
“I’m going to miss working with you.” Nicole says pouting. I giggle at her sad face and put my arm around her.
“I’m going to miss working with you too.” I tell her.
“Why are you two going to miss working each other? Are one of you going somewhere?” A voice comes from behind us. We were so engrossed in our conversation we didn’t even hear anyone walk up. We turn around and there stands a smiling Connor and Zack staring at us.
I’ve spoken with Connor maybe three times since he and Zack started at the firm. Well, it was more him flirting and me making small talk. I can see why people refer to him as the Casanova of the Courtroom. He’s tall, quite muscular, and he has a smile that just radiates and brightens a room. That coupled with his smooth voice and captivating eyes would make any woman wet her panties just being near him.
“Today is my last day at your father’s firm.” I tell him casually. His smile fades a little and he looks genuinely…sad?
“It is?” He says. “I didn’t realize this was your last day.” I start to say something but the elevator bell rings and the doors open. I politely smile and then yank Nicole towards the back of the elevator. I had hoped Connor and Zack would stay more in the front of the elevator and not want to continue our conversation but no such luck. Connor steps in and stands next to me leaning sideways against the wall to look at me.
“Did my father not offer you a position at the firm?” He asks.
“He did but with finals and graduation coming up, I really need time to focus on that over the next few weeks.” I tell him flatly. The elevator doors open and the four of us walk out into the lobby of our floor to a sea of inappropriately dressed legal secretaries waiting for Connor and Zack. I shouldn’t be surprised though. They both redefine the term eye candy and are very unattached at the moment, which naturally translates to fresh meat for the single women in the office.
“Looks like you weren’t the only one in a hurry to get here early.” I whisper to Nicole.
“At least I have the decency to not dress like I’m auditioning for a porn movie.” She whispers as takes in their very low-cut blouses and borderline-inappropriate-for-the-office skirts. I giggle as we watch them flock around Connor and Zack as they get off the elevator. “Ugh! They’re not even subtle about wanting to get in their pants!” She scoffs.
“C’mon. Let’s go before we both gag.” As Nicole and I continue to walk towards our desks, I feel someone grab my hand.
“Karina, wait.” Connor says as he pulls me to a stop. He steps in front of me and smiles. “Can we talk later about you not taking the job my dad offered you?” I look past him at Nicole, who is standing behind him wide-eyed. I bite my lip trying to figure out if I should agree or not. I had already made my decision so there really wasn’t anything more to discuss. When I look up at Connor I can see his eyes focused on my mouth. And did I just hear him catch his breath?
“Um…sure.” I tell him. “But there’s not much to talk about.”
“We’ll see.” He smirks. He takes a step closer to me and leans down to whisper in my ear. “I’ll come find you later.” He takes a step back and winks at me before walking away. It was my turn to catch my breath.
“What?” I say as Nicole gives me a mischievous look.
“What was that?” Nicole asks as she looks in Connor’s direction.
“Nothing. He’s a flirt remember? It’s what he does.” I tell her as I start walking towards my desk.
“Mmhmm.” She says. I swat her arm and shake my head at her as we continue towards our desks. As I’m putting my things away, I try my hardest not to think about how his hand sent a jolt through my body and how much I didn’t want him to let go.
Stop that Karina! This is your last day here. The last thing you need is to get wrapped up in Connor’s Hugh Heffner lifestyle. I shake off my thoughts and head towards the conference room for the meeting.
- - - - - - - - - -
I finally get past that sea of sharks/legal secretaries waiting for me and Zack in the lobby and make it to my office. I shut the door and sit down on the couch. Why didn’t she take the job my father offered her? I lean my head back on the couch and stare up at the ceiling thinking back to the day I first met Karina.
It was about two months ago. Zack and I were sitting in the conference room talking to my father about taking over his firm when he retires. I happened to look up through the glass windows of the conference room and saw the most beautiful woman walking past us towards the elevators. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her. I asked my dad about her but all he would tell me is that Karina is smart, has a good heart, and is really focused on finishing school and getting her life together.
A knock on my door brings me out of my thoughts. I look up as Zack lets himself into my office and closes the door behind him. He takes a seat in the chair across from me and gives me a sly grin.
“So.” He says. “I guess this puts a little wrinkle in your plans to get closer to Karina.”
“No shit, Sherlock!” I snap.
“Look Connor the Grouch, if she’s as focused on school and her future as your dad says, she’s definitely not going to waste her time on someone she thinks is only interested in hookups. You’re going to have to convince her to take the job your dad offered her to give her time to warm up to you. Or you know, actually court her outside of the office, if she’ll let you.”
I flip him off as I continue to stare at the ceiling. He’s right though. Fucking tabloids! I’m not the playboy they make me out to be. Yes, I go out with a lot of different women, but nothing happens past a good-night kiss on the cheek. But they won’t mention that part. Being one of the wealthiest, and well-known, men in the city, you learn to be wary of people who want to go out with you. The last thing I need is to get involved with someone who only cares about what I can do for their social status and nothing else. I’ve been there, done that, and I won’t do it again.
I was hoping when I came to work at my dad’s firm I would be able to get to know Karina better and hopefully show her that I’m not this womanizer she thinks I am. I was hoping that she and I could build a friendship that would grow into something more. Except now she’s leaving…at the end of the day…for good! There’s no way I can convince her that I’m not the person she thinks I am and get her open to the idea of being with me in eight hours. Or is there?
Zack and I head to the conference room for the meet and greet with all the employees in my dad’s firm. When we walk into the room, all heads turn in our direction. I look around the room and spot my girl talking with Nicole and Marisa, another attorney that works for my dad. Yes, that’s right. I called her ‘my girl’. I just have to figure out how to make it happen.
As my dad introduces us to everyone and talks about what our plans were for the future of the firm, my eyes stay fixed on Karina. She listens intently to my dad as he speaks, not looking my way even for a second. After my dad’s announcement, everyone gets up to welcome us. Everyone, except Karina. She stands in the back of the room talking with Nicole and Marisa. I make my way over to them and she finally turns and looks at me. Suddenly I feel someone’s arms loop through mine. I turn and see Brooke, one of the legal secretaries, leaning up against me smiling.
“A few of us were thinking we should really celebrate your joining the firm tonight, right girls?” Brooke says as she turns to the group of women standing behind me. They all nod and express their agreement. She then turns to Karina and puts on the most plastic smile. “You could come too, Karina.”
“I could…but I won’t.” She says politely. I can feel Brooke tensing next to me as she glares back at Karina.
“Aw, c’mon Karina. I know it’s your last day but hanging out with us could help with your image, especially since we’ll be out with two of the most popular, and sought after, attorneys in the city.” She says in a condescending tone. I look at Karina and she looks unphased by Brooke’s comments. She then looks at Brooke with a smile.
“If my image was that of a fuckboy’s dick ornament, maybe. But since it’s not, I’ll pass.” She says calmly. Nicole and Marisa both clasp their mouths to hide their “Oh shit!” remark and Zack muffles his “Damn!” I look at her wide-eyed and Brooke is scowling at her with her mouth open. Karina then turns to Marisa. “I’m going to my desk to get my files. I’ll meet you in your office in a few minutes.” She then walks out of the conference room without giving me another glance.
That was surprisingly sexy and upsetting. She definitely thinks I’m a player. Urgh! I going to have my work cut out for me trying to convince her otherwise.