Home > Meet Cute(14)

Meet Cute(14)
Author: Helena Hunting

He gives her an appraising, visual sweep. “Hi.”

“How are you? God, it’s been forever. It’s Jessie. You remember me, right?” Her nose scrunches. “We met at that party at Justin’s a few months back. Everyone was skinny-dipping.” She does this flaily thing with her hands, and her eyebrows shoot up, like there’s more meaning in that than I’d care to know about.

I crumple up my napkin and toss it on my plate. Gathering the files, I slip them into my briefcase. “I have to head back to the office for afternoon meetings.” I pull a twenty from my purse and let it flutter to the table.

“No, no. This is on me.” He reaches for the money and tries to give it back, but I’m already out of the booth.

I smooth out my skirt, ignoring him. I feel dowdy next to Jessie.

Daxton tries to follow me, but Jessie is already squeezing in beside him. “I need to—” He points in my direction, and Jessie gives him a blank look.

She glances at me and then back at him, tilting her head to the side. “Oh, are you two . . .” She motions between us with an expression somewhere between confusion and disbelief. “Together?”

I laugh. “I’m just a lawyer.”

“Oh, right. That makes sense.” Jessie nods. She puts her hand on Daxton’s arm. “Is everything okay?”

I have to fight an eye roll. Emme and I have that particular trait in common, I suppose. The thought of her being raised by someone who’s clearly into the party lifestyle gets my back up. “I’ll be in touch with Trish this afternoon. Have Emme call me if she needs anything.”


“You may want to consider what constitutes positive rolemodeling as you move forward.” And with that parting comment, I leave him to manage what I assume is one of his many previous conquests.

I’m on my way out the door when Emme walks back into the diner. Her smile falls when she sees me, messenger bag in hand. “You’re going?” Her frown deepens when she sees the woman barricading her brother into the booth. “Who’s that?”

“A friend of your brother’s, I think.” I have to work hard to keep the disdain from creeping into my voice. I rearrange my features into a smile. “I have to get back to the office. But it was lovely to meet you, Emme.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.” She fidgets, fingers tugging on a loose thread. “Um, well, thanks for coming to lunch and explaining all that stuff. I don’t really get it, but I’m glad you’re helping me and Dax.”

Poor baby, she looks so lost. I want to tell her everything is going to be okay, even if it’s a lie. “If you have any questions, I’m happy to try to answer them.”

She wrings her hands. “So I stay with Dax, and you just make sure my trust is safe and stuff?”

I spend a few minutes explaining again exactly how it all works and hope her nods mean she really does get it, but I suggest exchanging contact information so she can call or text if there’s anything else she’s unsure of.

Meanwhile Jessie fawns all over Daxton fifteen feet away.

“Maybe next time we can just talk about normal stuff,” Emme says as she pockets her phone. And then she hugs me. I wonder if hugging is a family thing and maybe they’re all big on affection. It takes me a moment to shake off the awkwardness and react. As soon as I wrap my arms around her tiny frame, she tightens her hold on me. I want to protect her from this pain, even though I know it’s impossible. I pat her back and give her a squeeze, remembering how difficult it was when I lost my mom, whose hugs were really the only ones that ever made me feel better when I was sad, and my heart aches even more for this lost girl.

When I return to the office, I have a list of phone calls a mile long. One stands out among them because it’s not a client. Linda Thrasher left a message requesting a call back regarding Emme Hughes. I’m unsurprised the aunt has tracked me down.

Now I’ll have both sides of the story, so I can form an impartial opinion. Currently I don’t have many warm feelings for Daxton, and I would prefer not to let my own biases influence our future interactions.

So I call her back and agree to review some paperwork she has regarding her niece’s trust, and some concerns she has about Emme’s brother still being the legal guardian. If nothing else, it should help inform the case, one way or the other.

chapter seven



It’s not even noon and already my day has gone to shit. Half an hour ago I received a call from Emme’s school requesting my immediate presence thanks to my new role as conservator.

While I anticipated being involved in any financial decisions on account of the trust, I certainly hadn’t considered that I might be called in to deal with a fight. One that Emme apparently started with a boy in the middle of the cafeteria.

I’m currently speaking with the school principal, attempting to explain my relationship to Emme, when an irritated voice comes from behind me. “What’re you doing here?”

I turn to find Daxton standing in the middle of the office, gaze homed in on me and the principal, Mr. Proctor. Awesome. This situation has gone from bad to worse. I remind myself that dealing with this is going to get me partner, and when I get back to the office, I’m going to make sure Beverly agrees to the pro bono cases, no more “we’ll talk about it” brush-offs. This shit was not in my job description.

“The school is legally obligated to call me,” I reply evenly. He should already know this, so his irritation is unwarranted.

“Why didn’t you call to tell me you’d be here?” he demands, completely ignoring Mr. Proctor. I’m annoyed that his focus is on me, and not the real issue, which is Emme’s potential suspension.

“I did. I left a message at your office, and your assistant informed me you were already on your way.” I grace Mr. Proctor with a polite smile—his name is so unfortunate, much like his suit. “Can you give us a moment, please?” I grab Daxton by the elbow and guide him toward the front entrance, where there will be less ears and eyes should he decide to raise his voice again.

“We don’t need a moment. I need to see Emme. Where is she? I want to know what happened.”

“Your aunt is with Emme. We can go and get her now,” Mr. Proctor says.

“What? Why the hell is Linda with Emme?”

Jesus. He’s coming completely unglued.

Mr. Proctor adjusts his glasses and glances from me to Dax and back again. “She was upset and we felt it better she not be left alone.”

“Where are they? I want to see my sister.”

I dig my nails into his arm in warning, hoping he can feel the bite through the layers of what feels like a very expensive cashmere and silk suit. “I’d like to speak with you. Privately for a moment before that happens.”

“Would you like to use my office?” Mr. Proctor runs his hand over his tie uneasily.

“That would be lovely.”

Daxton’s eyes flash, but he follows me into the office. As soon as the door closes, he’s practically in my face. “What the hell are you doing?”

I put a hand on his chest to prevent him from getting any closer. I’m irritated that I notice how firm his pec is under my palm. “You know, generally when a man is close enough that I feel his breath on my face, he’s looking to rip my clothes off, not my head.” Why did I just say that? I push him back a step and remind myself to remain professional. And maybe it would be better not to antagonize a frustrated man. “And since we’re not at that place in our relationship, I’m going to need to set a few ground rules. First of all, do not get up in my space and use your size to intimidate me. It’s beneath you and absolutely unnecessary. I’m not the enemy here. Secondly, get a handle on your damn self. You have absolutely no reason to be irritated with me, since I’ve done nothing wrong, so why don’t you tell me why your first instinct is to bite my damn head off?”

“I wasn’t trying to . . .” He blinks a few times, smoothing a hand down the front of his suit. It’s such a nervous man-tell. He straightens, maybe realizing his behavior is a problem. “I thought you were dealing with the trust. Emme’s school issues are my problem, not yours.”

He tries to get around me, but I cross my arms over my chest and block his way to the door. “You think I’m happy about this? That I want to be here, apparently acting as your scapegoat because you can’t handle yourself or a thirteen-yearold?” Okay, maybe the last part was pushing it a step too far.

He takes a step closer, getting all up in my face. Again.

“You do not want to manhandle me. I’m wearing stilettos, and they can cause some damage to parts you may be fond of.”

“I need to see my sister and you’re preventing that. Aren’t you supposed to be protecting her? Instead you’re in here lecturing me.”

I exhale a long, slow breath and resist the urge to find out if my heel will break through the leather on his shiny black shoe. “Linda is familiar to Emme and she works here. It’s in her best interest to be with your sister in a crisis situation. You may not like it, but it’s the reality. Acting like a complete asshole isn’t going to help your case. Use your head, Daxton. If you walk in confrontational, you’re making Linda’s case for her. Is that what you want to do?”

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