“Good morning, Lowry and Winslow,” Ashley answered the office phone.
Good morning my beautiful angel,” Jean replied.
“Well, good morning,” Ashley responded, looking around to make sure the partners weren’t around, “We’re in a brave mood this morning.”
Jean laughed, “Yes, I am. I just got word that John Garrett is going to get Mark Thompson for a judge. The list of charges includes: false imprisonment, aggravated assault, robbery, and threatening an elected official.”
“Wow,” Ashley said, “That might get him a little time away.”
“Yeah, Mark is going to go for the maximum sentencing. Garrett better get himself a really good lawyer.”
“Well, it won’t be us,” Ashley assured her.
“I didn’t think so. You want to hear my other good news?” Jean asked.
Ashley could hear the smile in her voice, “Absolutely.”
“Do you remember when Governor Michaels was running for office there were rumors about him having an affair with his secretary when he was in the Kentucky House of Representatives?”
“Yeah, the secretary denied the rumors, and it went away,” Ashley recalled.
“Well, the secretary denied it because she was having an affair with another woman, another Kentucky House of Representatives member,” Jean explained.
“You’re kidding,” Ashley replied, astonished.
“Nope. She ended things with Michaels because of the woman. She didn’t want to expose the woman she was having an affair with because the woman was married at the time,” Jean added, “I suspect that Michaels did some heavy threatening to both women.”
“So how is this going to help us?”
“How about you meet me for lunch and talk about it in person?” Jean asked.
Ashley was stunned. Jean wanted to meet her for lunch? “Sure. Where do you want to meet?”
“Alberto’s. I’m craving Italian.”
“Okay. One o’clock?”
“Can you go at noon? I have cases to hear starting at one,” Jean requested.
“Sure, I can go at noon. I guess I’ll see you at Alberto’s then,” Ashley answered.
“I can’t wait,” Jean told her and hung up.
Mary was standing behind Ashley with her eyebrows raised questioningly, “Was that who I think it was?”
“Yes. Can you believe she wants to have lunch with me in broad daylight?” Ashley bubbled as she turned in her chair to look at Mary.
“No. I can’t,” Mary responded.
Ashley twirled her hair. “She said John Garrett got Judge Thompson, and they have at least four charges against him, including threatening an elected official. That should get him at least a few years in jail.”
“Oh yeah,” Mary agreed. “I suspect he’s going to get at least five years for everything he did. And, he had aggravated assault and domestic violence charges previously, so he could be looking at five to ten years. So what else did she say?”
Ashley looked past her at the inner offices, and then motioned for Mary to come closer. “Her father found some stuff on Governor Michaels. Something about the affair he was accused of having. I don’t think she wanted to talk about it over the phone, but I’ll tell you about it when I get back.”
“Can’t wait,” Mary smirked and went back to her desk, “So I guess I need to go to lunch at one, huh?”
Turning to grin at Mary, Ashley added, “Please.”
* * *
Alberto’s was busy, as usual. Jean was waiting by the front door for Ashley. “I’ve already put my name on the list. Hopefully, we’ll get called soon.”
“Good, I’m starved,” Ashley looked around at all the business people waiting to get seated, “Are you sure you’re okay with us meeting here?”
Jean looked at Ashley and smiled affectionately, “Yes, I’m perfectly fine with meeting here.”
The hostess called Jean’s name, and led them to a table for two against the wall. After handing them their menus the hostess said, “Roger will be your waiter. Can I take your drink order?”
“Just sweet tea for me,” Ashley replied.
“I’ll have the same,” Jean answered and opened her menu, “I’m thinking about having the shrimp scampi. Do you have a favorite dish here?”
“The shrimp mezzaluna is my favorite,” Ashley responded, looking over the menu.
Roger, their waiter, appeared with their drinks, “Are you ladies ready to order?”
Jean looked at Ashley, “I am. Are you?”
“Yeah,” Ashley told him, “I’m going to get the shrimp mezzaluna.”
“And I’m going to have the shrimp scampi,” Jean added.
“Very good,” Roger acknowledged, “Your salad and bread sticks will be right out.”
Roger had no more than walked away when another young man appeared with a large bowl of salad and a platter of bread sticks. He used the salad thongs to put a large helping on each of the plates he had placed in front of them. Picking up the pepper grinder he’d brought with him, he asked, “Pepper?”
“Please,” Jean and Ashley answered in unison and then grinned at each other.
When he finished with the pepper, he picked up a cheese grinder, “Parmesan?”
“Yes,” Ashley said.
“I’ll pass,” said Jean.
“Would you like a dressing other than vinegar and oil?” he asked.
“No,” both Jean and Ashley responded.
The young man ground some fresh parmesan for Ashley, drizzled olive oil and vinegar over their salads, gathered his tools, and then left with promise that their food would be out soon.
“I’m glad to see we have Italian food in common,” Jean observed.
“Me, too. And shrimp apparently,” Ashley agreed.
“I love all kinds of seafood,” Jean explained taking a bite of her salad.
Ashley did the same. “Me, too,” Ashley took a bite of her salad, picked up a breadstick and pinched off a piece. “So, can you tell me more about what you have on Governor Michaels?”
Jean set her fork down, placed her chin on her entwined fingers, and smiled at Ashley, “I’m sure you are aware of the news about Representative Connie Sayers coming out a few months back.”
“Of course,” Ashley replied, “It was a huge deal because she has put together a committee to stop Governor Michaels from overturning Governor Beshear’s executive order preventing discrimination against state workers based on their sexual orientation.”
“And guess who her wife is,” Jean’s grin widened.
“Governor Michael’s former secretary?” Ashley put her hands to her mouth to keep from bursting out laughing, “Talk about irony.”
“That’s not all,” Jean continued, “Governor Michaels is not on the Judicial Conduct Committee and actually bullied his way into my hearing. He wanted to force me to retire because he has someone he wants to appoint to my court, but he doesn’t have any voting power on the committee.”
“Oh really,” Ashley said.
“I knew that, but at the time I was too terrified that I was going to be fired to think clearly,” Jean added taking another bite of her salad.
“So, Governor Michaels doesn’t have that kind of authority over you?”
“He can still make my life miserable if he chooses to do so, but I’ve talked to his former secretary. She said she has stuff on him besides their affair that she could use to get him to back off. My father also has one of his best attorney’s working on getting the governor back off.”
“That is awesome,” Ashley beamed, reaching over to squeeze Jean’s hand.
Jean hung on to Ashley’s hand, “What about you? Are you prepared for Mr. Lowry and Mr. Winslow to find about us?”
“Well, I’m not planning on coming out to them anytime soon,” Ashley replied, letting go of Jean’s hand.
Jean leaned toward her and whispered, “Too late, they already saw us.”
“Shit,” Ashley whispered back and looked over her shoulder. Mr. Lowry and Mr. Winslow were being seated at a table across the room. Ashley looked into Jean’s wary eyes. She sighed and squeezed Jean’s hand again, “Oh well, it’s like I told Mary this morning. I’m a good legal aid. I can find another job if I have to.”
Squeezing Ashley’s hand back, Jean let out a relieved sigh. Over the past few days, she had begun to realize just how important Ashley was to her. Despite their eighteen year age difference, Jean truly enjoyed Ashley’s company and needed her presence in her life, “Hopefully it won’t come to that.”
“So,” Ashley answered picking up her fork, “are we going to start dating now?”
Jean laughed, “Start?”
Ashley laughed too, “I guess it is a little late for that. Besides, I think we spent about a year dating.”
“True,” Jean agreed.
Ashley took a few bites of her food and studied Jean for a few minutes, “So tell me something about you that I don’t know.”
Chewing her food thoughtfully, Jean responded, “I like all kinds of music. Country is my favorite, but I like a lot of pop music too. You’re turn.”
“I almost became a vet instead of a legal aid.”
“Wow, that’s a big difference in career choices,” Jean observed.
“Yeah,” Ashley agreed, “I love animals and I wanted to do something with them. I volunteered at an animal shelter during my senior year in high school. There was a vet who came in to check on the animals there. He took me under his wing and showed me a lot of stuff. Once I realized that part of my job as a vet would be to put animals to sleep though, I knew I’d never be able to do it.”
“I couldn’t do that either,” Jean responded, “I love animals too. I just don’t have the time to have one. We always had dogs when I was a kid, and they require a lot of your time if you take care of them properly. I work too much now to have one.”
Ashley nodded, “I’d probably have a dog if we didn’t live in an apartment. I hate the thought of having to put it in a kennel all day. I’d want to have a big fenced in yard and a doggy door so it could be free to run.”
Neither realized they hadn’t finished their salads until Roger appeared with their entrees. They both moved their salad plates to the side to allow room for the plate with their dinner on it. Roger pulled a parmesan grater out of his apron loaded with fresh parmesan, “Would you like some parmesan on top?”
Jean and Ashley answered, “No,” in unison.
“Okay. Can I get you anything else?”
“Not right now,” Jean told him.
“Enjoy your meal. I’ll be back in a little while to see how you are doing,” He turned and quickly walked away.
Jean picked up her fork with a chuckle, “I didn’t realize we’d stopped eating until he showed up.”
“Me, either,” Ashley replied smiling, “It’s a good sign that we can talk so easily.”
“Yes,” Jean agreed, “I enjoy talking to you. I hope that we’ll find lots to talk about.”
“I think we will,” Ashley predicted. She looked at her watch, “But we better stop talking for now or we won’t get any eating done and I’m starved.”
“Agreed,” Jean said.
* * *
Ashley was almost late getting back from lunch. When she walked in the door, Mary was waiting with her purse. She looked at the two take out boxes and gave Ashley a raised eyebrow in question.
“We talked more than we ate. I’m sure I’ll be starving later,” Ashley told her.
Mary grinned, “Sounds like you had a good lunch.”
“It was,” Ashley agreed, but her smile faded and she leaned closely to Mary, “But, Mr. Lowry and Mr. Winslow had lunch there too. They saw us together.”
“Oh my,” Mary gulped.
“Yeah, I’m a little freaked out about it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mary encouraged, squeezing Ashley’s arm, “I doubt they’ll say anything. I have to run though; I’m meeting Jackie at Serrato’s for lunch.”
“Is that the new Italian restaurant out by us?”
“Let me know how it is,” Ashley called moving toward the break room. “Apparently Jean likes Italian food as much as I do.”
Mary smiled at her, “I will, plus you have a story to tell me, too.”
Ashley nodded with a smile that faded as soon as she saw the partners approaching the door. She turned and hurried to the break room to put her food away.
Both partners came into the break room with their leftover food from Alberto’s. Ashley turned from the refrigerator to look at them.
Mr. Lowry smiled, “I guess we better label these.”
Ashley smiled back at him, “Yes, I guess we better. Mine has shrimp in it and I wouldn’t want Mr. Winslow to accidentally get into it and have an allergic reaction.”
“That would be bad,” Mr. Winslow agreed, “In fact, I should put mine on a completely different shelf.”
Nodding, Ashley started toward the door and said, “I’ll go get something to label them with.”
Returning a few seconds later, she labeled each box.
“Thank you,” Mr. Lowry said before turning and walking into his office.
Mr. Winslow fixed himself a cup of hot tea and went into his office. Neither said a word about seeing Ashley at the restaurant with Jean. Ashley let out a sigh and went to her desk to start working.
A little less than an hour later, Mary came bouncing back into the office. Ashley looked up from her work, “Good lunch?”
Mary grinned, “Oh yeah.”
Ashley raised her eye brow and asked, “You two did go eat, right?”
“Sure we did,” Mary blushed.
The image of Mary and Jackie making out in Mary’s car made Ashley blush too, and she looked away. She had to admit that she was a little jealous. She would love for Jean and her to have a little making out time.
Mary came out of the break room and went straight to Ashley’s desk, “Okay, give me the dish on Governor Michaels.”
Ashley looked back toward the partners’ offices, and then leaned to Mary. “Do you remember the big deal about Representative Connie Sayers coming out earlier this year?”
“Oh yeah,” Mary replied with a nod, “She’s the one trying to block Governor Michaels’ push to reverse some of Governor Beshear’s anti-discrimination rules.”
“Well, you are not going to believe who her wife is.” Ashley looked around again, “Her wife used to be Governor Michael’s secretary. The one he was accused of having an affair with.”
“Seriously?” Mary looked back in the direction of the partners’ offices, too.
“Jean’s father said that the former secretary has a bunch of stuff on Michaels and can probably get him to back off.”
“That’s awesome,” Mary said.
“Yeah,” Ashley agreed.
One of the partner’s clients came in, and Mary went back to her desk. They didn’t talk about anything but work the rest of the afternoon. Ashley was still feeling a bit apprehensive about her relationship with Jean. She still wondered if they would be able to have a real relationship without a lot of complications. Only time would tell.