the block

Brad De Luca sat across from Kent Broward and Hugo Clarke, the large conference room crowded with tension in the well-appointed room. It was how meetings between them always were, and why they restricted this pain to quarterly events.

They had discussed the financial statements, upcoming cases, and a litigation that had been filed against the firm. Now there was only one item left, and he glanced at his watch impatiently. It was already seven o’clock.

“Okay,” Clarke said, sliding a slim stack of folders before him. “Interns. We have twelve coming this semester.”

Both men turned to Brad expectantly, and he groaned, leaning back in his chair with a cocky smile. “I know. No f**king the interns.”

Kent Broward winced, the word unpleasant to his ears. “It’s not a joking matter. You opened our firm to serious liability when you did that—”

Brad interrupted, shooting him a look that silenced his next sentence, “We open ourselves up to liability every time we take on a case. Don’t preach to me about liability.”

The third man leaned forward. “Kent, Brad understands the situation. It’s not going to happen again.”

Brad gave the silver-haired man a steely look, his jaw tight, and reached across the table, flipping the top folder open and looking at the file. It was bullshit that they still went through this, at every quarterly meeting, at every opportunity that an intern was mentioned. It was three years ago, and the girl had all but spread her legs on his desk and forced his c**k inside.

He stared at the first folder.

A slim Asian girl, the type who would shrink every time he raised his voice, stared out at him, paper-clipped to an impressive resume which indicated her complete lack of social life. He tossed it aside.

A black kid with glasses, who had an interest in criminology.

A redheaded girl with sunburnt skin and braces, ‘crocheting’ on her list of activities.

A blond kid, perfect features with a side of preppy, his personality visible through the cocky grin he flashed the photographer.

Another Asian, this one male, whose serious expression alone depressed the hell outta Brad.

He flipped through five more folders, his brain counting as he went. All intelligent. All impressive. All uninteresting. He reached the last one and looked up.

“Where are the rest?”

Clarke cleared his throat. “Kent and I already selected our candidates.”

“That’s bullshit. Let me see their files.” He held out a hand, a pointless exercise since neither man had a green folder in their slim stack.

“We don’t have the files here. We chose them yesterday. It’s done. Choose yours.” Kent shot him a bored look, one that barely masked disgust.

“We’ve never done it that way before,” Brad said evenly, looking at Clarke.

“It’s an intern, Brad. You’ve barely given two thoughts to any you’ve had in the past … with the one notable exception. Pick one and let’s move on. My wife’s got dinner waiting.”

He flipped back through the stack, going for the most interesting out of the bunch—the blond with the cocky smile—tossing the others back into the center of the table. They would be distributed among the junior partners, each bookworm going to a proper attorney who’d work their free bones to the quick.

“Fine. Anything else?” he asked brusquely.

“That’s all I have. Kent?”

The man shook his head in response. In unison, all of their chairs slid back.

the child

Two weeks later, he pushed open the door to his office and came face-to-face with a kid straight off the pages of J. Crew—short blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and a jawbone that would be a breeze to crack. Brad stopped, glancing into the lobby and then back at the kid.

“Who are you, and what are you doing in my office?”

His tone made the kid blink, and he fidgeted, moving a black folder from one hand to the other, before tucking it under his arm. “I’m Todd Appleton, sir. I’m your intern.”

Oh, right. It was already here. Intern season. “And who told you to come in here?”

“I just assumed … sir. No one told me.”

Brad grinned, moving past him and behind the desk. “You got past those three women?” He pointed toward the large lobby desk that housed his secretaries, three women who made a habit of chewing and spitting out little children. “And waltzed in here?”

The kid shifted again, adjusting the collar of his blue shirt that perfectly matched his eyes. “Everyone seemed to be in a meeting when I came in. This office had your name on it, so—”

Brad waved his hand. “Whatever. Don’t come in here again unless I call for you. Rebecca, or one of the other girls, will get you set up in an office. In the meantime, sit down and shut up. You can listen in on my calls.”

There was a sharp rap on the door, and he glanced up to see Marilyn step in, a stack of folders in her hand. She moved forward, sending a quick look toward the kid.

Brad gestured with his hand. “Todd, this is Marilyn—she runs this wing, listen to whatever she tells you. Marilyn, Todd will sit in on my calls, please come and get him when Mrs. Washington arrives.”

The woman nodded quickly and stepped for the door, shooting the boy a smile that contained more vinegar than sugar.

Brad chuckled, glancing at his desk clock and writing down the time as he dialed a number on his phone.

first sight

Two weeks later.

He saw her speaking to Marilyn, a bit of hair falling over her forehead, catching on her glasses. He stood by the glass wall of his office, his eyes studying her, trying to place her face, her body. The name escaped him, but the hair, the glasses … She worked downstairs, handled travel arrangements. He watched the folder exchange hands, watched her smile and begin to turn. And reaching up, before she stepped outside, he rapped on the glass, gesturing for her when the noise caught her eye.

He finished his call, watching her walk to the door, picking up details as she moved closer. Small waist. Small bust. Huge eyes, shielded behind thick glasses. A confidence to her step despite the tremor in her hands. She was nervous.

He ended the call, his mind working, filing the clues and realizing the possibility of error in identification as he spoke. “I need a car.”

She was confused, and the longer she stood there, the more certain he was that she was not the travel girl. She was someone new, someone different. Someone who had somehow escaped his notice. Someone, given her employer, he should avoid.