A MILLION DOLLAR LADY
by B. Soiree
Disclaimers: Descriptions might resemble two tv folks but these uber characters are original fiction. No infringement is intended. This story is alternative fiction. If you are under age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please read no further.
"My dear!" The pudgy bald man in his ultra luxurious suit sported cold eyes and an offensively patronizing smile. He did not look at the small blonde woman beside him and one could almost think that he wouldn't have acknowledged her at all but for the others around them. His meaty hand held a flute of champagne high into the air like a banner flag in war.
Outside the windows of the swank hotel bar located down the street from the courthouse, the snow continued to silently fall, covering everything and heralding a white Christmas to the citizens of the city. The surprise storm had blown down from the north and had just begun its siege, turning the normally wet, gray city into a winter wonderland.
"To the TOTAL TRIUMPH...!" the man called ostentatiously, his thick, fleshy lips curling almost into a snarl. All the glasses of the small crowd at the bar raised victoriously into the air, "Of the firm of Wildens, Wildens, Osprey and Smith!"
The blonde raised her flute in accompaniment adding a certain charming smile. Her expressive green eyes moved around the room, momentarily catching the blue eyed gaze of the tall woman seated at a table, before bringing emerald eyes and crimson lips back to her glass to daintily sip.
Well, well, what do we have here? Green eyes fluttered demurely. She is a tall and alluring woman! Look at those blue eyes! And is that Jacques she's sitting with? Hmm. More and more interesting. The svelte blonde smiled a gracious smile their direction, receiving a sassy, blue-eyed smirk in return. I declare, the blonde mused, I knew there was a reason I wanted to move here! Besides giving Mary Jane a little more room for advancement, that is.
Elizabeth and her assistant Mary Jane had lived together in New Orleans for three years. They knew from the beginning that their alliance probably wouldn't work, but they had given it a try, neither too surprised when at last they decided it just was not going to be. They had separated amicably but Elizabeth wanted to give her assistant every chance possible to progress on her own so she had packed her reputation and headed to the northernmost branch of their large, prestigious lawfirm.
Even after less than a month in town, her new problem was that she couldn't abide the management at this office, she didn't want to work in any other city and she subsequently had quiet feelers out for other places of employment. She was flying home for the holidays, and when she returned a month later, she hoped it would be to an alternate but every bit as worthy a legal firm. She had already been offered a couple of very interesting proposals that today's win could only enhance.
The jingling silver bells on the opening door temporarily pulled the watcher's eyes there as some dour faced gentlemen entered from outside, stomped off the snow and shot angry glances at the celebrants standing at the bar.
"This should be good," Evin's low, melodious voice at the well-placed table in the center of the room flowed quietly to the two men seated around her. Her blue eyes danced with amusement. "The losing litigants, I presume. I'd say they're going to have a very blue Christmas from the looks of it."
The small group of frowning men moved to the back corner where they continued to throw contemptible gazes in the direction of the revelers with all the vigor of those having just attended a friend's hanging. They sat, their anger festering.
"Triumph!" the voices rose again in raucous approval at the bar. Once more the toast was duly sipped by all. The small beady eyes of the bald-headed man had followed the entering contingent with malicious joy.
"We kicked their mangy butts!" he shouted as he raised his glass again in the sullen men's direction. He stepped forward, "Those vile pieces of dog sh..."
"Gordon, please," the blonde put a hand softly on his elbow with a cherubic smile that cushioned her words, "Noblesse oblige, kind sir."
"Do you hear what I hear?" Evin sniggered to her two partners. "Noblesse oblige?" The brunette snorted under her breath. "Good God! What planet is she from? Like that number three toad son of the big toad Wildens was ever noble one blasted day! Or benevolent! Or a kind sir! Ha!" Keen blue eyes swung back to the very well dressed small blonde in the revelers' midst. She was obviously a business professional of some kind. "Who is that, anyway? Gordon's new bimbo secretary?"
"Who is that?" her partner, Jacques' eyebrows shot up in amazement. "Evin, I'm surprised you, of all people, don't know who that is! That is the renowned litigator, Elizabeth Montagieu. She's been in their New Orleans office and has just moved up north, I understand by her own request, but her reputation certainly proceeds her. Here only a few weeks and already she is one of the hottest litigators in town!" Oh oh, glancing and seeing the narrowed eyes of Evin focusing in on the small woman, he corrected, "after you, of course."
"Naturally," Evin agreed in her inimitable style. So, THAT'S Elizabeth Montagieu. She doesn't look like so much!
Of course Evin had heard of this blonde's reputation. But she didn't know what the woman looked like. She expected a worthy challenger, but this? Petite, cute, in a prim and prissy kind of way. But hardly what you'd call a warrior! Noblesse oblige! Ha! This business demands warriors! She's probably just been darned lucky! Evin snorted. Besides, no one is near as skilled as I am! All right, that sounds conceited, but the truth is the truth! When I enter the courtroom, I kick butt and take names all over this city! That little blonde will fade into obscurity faster than slick on an ice cube.
A soft grin broke out on Evin's face. She leaned back and let her long, shapely crossed leg sway a little in delight. She ran a hand contentedly through her shoulder-length black hair. If that's the most competition they can come up with around town, the top of the heap shall remain firmly in the control of little old mois for years to come!
"Another round folks?" the young voluptuous barmaid looked around the group. Her costume was scant and her top was cut low, tight and laced, showing as much cleavage as the law allowed, and she, indeed, had a lot to show for herself. Her eye fell on Evin and a full, sexy smile swept across her face. "How about you, honey?" she asked in a sultry voice.
"Well, how about you, sugar?" Evin mandated back in her most torrid tone. The tall brunette sat upright. Her partners at the table rolled their eyes. Evin was noted for her continual string of sexual conquests. Women tended to fall at her feet and it drove the men in her office crazy. It was a revolving door that spun continually. A new face never lasted more than one or two dates at the most. Still, there was a never ending supply of beautiful women.
Evin raised a brow. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure..."
"Noel," the girl said. "Noel Standingford. I'm new here."
Evin reached out and gently kissed the woman's outstretched hand. Then she smirked and said enticingly, "I'm Evin, Noel. I believe you're the first Noel. Do you mind if I call you that....The First Noel?"
In fact, Evin gave nicknames to all the women she dated.
"Not at all. I have heard it before, though," the girl smiled good naturedly.
"Hmmm," Evin leaned forward and asked, "I'm busy tonight, but what does day after tomorrow look like for you? With the holidays I have a little extra time. Maybe Santa will be extra nice to you this year."
The girl leaned over and whispered in Evin's ear. "Pick me up here at five. I work the early shift all week. And baby, all I want for Christmas is you!"
"Of course you do," Evin smiled and put out a large bill for the drinks. "Keep the change. We have to go soon. No more drinks. Sorry."
"It's a date then?"
"May all your dreams come true, my First Noel. I can hardly wait."
The girl took the payment, winked and walked off. Evin's partners shook their heads.
The jingle bells brought renewed attention to the door where a single entrant, suave and elegant treated the people at the bar to a look of impartial contempt before heading to seat himself at Evin's table.
"It's snowing up a storm out there," he said, removing his hat, scarf and coat and shaking them off before throwing them over an empty chair, pulling up another and sitting down. "I'm glad we're finishing up in court today, because I want to get home for the holidays. And, driving in this snow...."
"Oh, let it snow," Evin said with annoyance. She had been masterful in her handling of this case and that's where she wanted their attention. "They won't know what hit them when I finish up this afternoon! They're going to have all the air let out of their little itty bitty imported tires! When I'm done, they're going to know they've been hit with all guns blazing! Hell, they're going to think their Grandma got run over by a reindeer!"
The men all laughed. Evin was, indeed, the top litigator in town. But no one ever accused her of being modest.
A young man stood forward at the bar and called, "To the woman that made our triumph possible! The one, and only..." All eyes turned to the petite green-eyed blonde who stood cheerfully in the midst of the bar-side crowd. She smiled pleasantly and mouthed "thank you" to those around her.
"Elizabeth!" the voices sang out together, then sips were again taken from their refilled fluted glasses.
"Well, doesn't that just gag a maggot," Evin declared. "Ha! Old Gordon's got his hands full with that little ego maniac, not that I feel the least bit sorry for the vile man. I'm glad it's him and not us. I shall not go on about the despotism of the family Wildens, for I see they have been given a just punishment. We all have our cross to bear. She is theirs. C'mon partners," she looked at the well-dressed man accompanying them, "and client, let's go rattle some cages!"
Jacques and Jerome, the aforementioned partners, looked at each other and grabbed their overcoats slipping them on hurriedly as Evin headed to the door, the client at her heel. She was always ready first and leading the charge. Jacques sidled up to Jerome and whispered, "What do you think?"
"Whatever it takes," Jerome whispered back. "It's two to one."
Jacques moved up by Evin and dropped his head. "Uh, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to see or hear all the afternoon's events, Evin," The tall, dark haired, ruggedly handsome man continued buttoning up his coat. "I have an appointment."
"Another appointment? I saw you slip out earlier. What's going on?"
"Oh, just tying up some loose ends before the holiday. I'll report on everything at our first partner's meeting after Christmas."
"Well, aren't you the sly dog these days, sneaking around like that. If you're cheating on Janet, she'll cuckold you, old man." She smiled widely. "I'm the only one that gets to do that 'fooling around' kind of thing. Don't even try to compete. I'm the best. Have been for years."
"Yes, you are." Jacques felt extremely nervous but held it down as best he could. His wife would, indeed, chew him up and spit him out if he so much as looked at another woman. And never in his wildest dreams could he hope to compete with Evin in such dalliances. Nor did he want to. This was far, far worse. This involved trying to hoodwink Evin.
"I'll try my best to get back for closing arguments, Evin. This is our biggest case of the year. Neither Jerome nor I worry, of course, with you in there."
"Well, of course you don't! For heaven's sakes! When I'm on the case it is a fait accompli! What is wrong with you? You're as antsy as a cat in a dirty litter box. It's a good thing you have a partner such as myself to drive the thrust! With my nerves of steel, it's child's play. Honestly, you men sometimes. I don't understand you! Come along...off to war we go!"
Their small group reached the door, bracing themselves for the cold winter air and falling snowflakes. The small blonde followed them with her eyes. Yes, the blue eyed beauty was quite intriguing, but she had seen the interaction with the bar maid. She knew the type. They were all catchable, of course. But would blue-eyes be worth the effort?
She watched the door shut behind them. Well, once she got her balance again from ending it with Mary Jane, then she could play with the possibilities. Who knew who she might meet. Right now her number one priority was finding the place she wanted to work and the salary worthy of her skills.
Evin's group entered the courthouse, Evin in the lead. Ahead a small but lovely woman in uniform was prepared to check each over carefully with her metal detection wand. Purses and briefcases were put on the sliding belt manned by yet another woman.
"Hey, Evin," the woman at the belt said in introduction, her face almost but not quite emotionless. There still was a touch of longing showing. She had known Evin for quite a while.
"Hey, Nipsy," Evin smiled warmly in remembrance. This woman had been particularly memorable. Maybe she'd date her again....no, it was against her policy. No attachments. Warriors had no time for such nonsense!
"Evin," the more sultry voice of the woman with the wand said. Evin raised a brow at the slowly wandering rod. "You're getting warmer," Evin crooned, standing still but waggling her brow. The uniformed woman's copper-colored hair was wavy and her lips had a coloring to match. She smiled a crooked but decidedly sexy smile as she wielded her wand.
"Hello to you, Little Chestnuts," Evin said sensually. All eyes went to the woman's small bosom and the petite woman began to blush softly, continuing to move the baton seductively around Evin's body. Then she stood upright.
"I look forward to tonight. Are we still on?" Evin asked.
"Oh, of course, darlin," the woman replied, dragging a copper-colored nail slowly down Evin's wrist as she handed back her briefcase. "Wouldn't miss it for the world." Then she whispered, "You don't have to use pet names here, you know." Evin, however, never remembered the names of her conquests. Only their nicknames, so, indeed, she did need to use nicknames. She winked back at the woman as their group moved away.
"Evin, you're a dog," Jerome whispered, half scoldingly and half in awe. "I hope you're, you know, practicing, uh, safe, uh, sex these days."
"Safe?" she smiled, "I'm a Master of safe! And in this case, I'm the fire. Believe me, there'll be chestnuts roasting on an open fire this season." She laughed wickedly and Jerome elbowed her with a shake of his head.
"I did not need that image put into my mind before this battle rages."
"War is hell! Gird your loins! Set your mind and let's go show them the true meaning of grief!" Evin was already blocking everything else out of her mind. This was the final battle in a long, hard-fought war. Evin expected to win! She always did!
In the lounge green eyes flashed to the clock on the bar. She had about an hour till her appointment. She looked back at the group around her. Some of the people were fine, but Gordon and the cronies surrounding him were unbearable. She just could not see herself working with their degree of uncivilized, boorish behavior.
Maybe she should go shopping to kill some time. She had just about had all the drinks and toasts that she could stand. It had been a huge case and she had been the one to drop the whammy on the opposition when she discovered them trying to distract the jury's attention from the main points of the suit with some silly nonsense that did little less than bore the wits out of everyone.
She had convinced Gordon to let her do the closing. The jury did not like him much, he knew it, and it was completely understandable. The man was a cretin. She had taken over and had sweetly brought their attention back to the main facts, ticking them off on her fingers. Such nice people, those jury folks. They followed right along and fully agreed. She knew they did from the way they nodded "yes" with every point she made to them.
Well, a hundred and ten million dollar outcome is nothing to be sneezed at. They'll appeal, of course, for all the good that will do them. And the company will hate paying me that little commission, but heaven's knows I'm worth it. If the company keeps Gordon out of it, they should be fine. The stupid man was trying to start something here in the bar with them, for crying out loud. She sighed. Time to go. Let the jerk do whatever. I want no part of it.
Elizabeth made her apologies, cited the holiday as her excuse and put on her coat to leave. She saw the men at the back table, ill-tempered resignation on their faces. For the most part, they looked menacing. They flashed her looks of temporal tolerance, but she knew Gordon could change that to wild fury in a split second. She'd felt it herself in dealing with him. The jerk of an older brother who headed the New Orleans office was a true gentleman compared to this little monomaniac.
Elizabeth smiled to herself as she stepped out of the bar into the brisk, snowy air. She waved a small goodbye, returned by all but Gordon's posse. "I'm a hot commodity," she grinned to herself. "And this win just put me on top. Just like that I walked in and turned a 50/50 deal into a sure win. And Gordon was too wrapped up in his petty little bruised ego to see the attention this win brought me." She patted the other firms' cards with scribbled offers she'd already been slipped. "He thinks I'll be theirs forever. Not so. The bidding will escalate now, of that I'm sure."
She had not seen the man from the back of the bar follow her out and she was surprised when a firm hand gripped her elbow. "Keep walking!" the man said gruffly. "And look straight ahead."
Oh dear God! It startled her and what's more it frightened her. She knew Gordon had been goading them mercilessly. And she was the one that had struck the winning blow for their side in court. If she distracted him, maybe she could wrench her arm free.
She saw a man ahead wearing a Santa hat and ringing a bell in front of a red pot. A fellow with an antler hat stood beside him chatting. "Look!" Elizabeth said as loudly as she dared. "Rudolph the rednosed reindeer." The brusque man looked querulously at the men by the pot, Elizabeth pulled her elbow but he shifted his gaze to her, increased his grip and abruptly forced her past them.
Oh, heavens! He's going to take me to some dark alley. Should I scream? She looked around. There were still plenty of people about. Maybe she could explain. Her voice was slightly tremulous. "It was a fair win. There is no reason to be..." She turned slightly to see his face.
He shook her elbow demandingly. "Look straight ahead! I don't want anyone to know I'm doing this," the abrupt man said, "so just listen and save your sales pitch." He directed her into a store that was filled with shoppers. That eased Elizabeth's fears some.
Sales pitch? Elizabeth wondered at that.
"We're prepared to offer you a comfortably high six figure salary to come to our side. We heard you're checking around. This is a good offer. You think it over. We could use someone like you on our team." He placed a card in her hand with a definitely nice six figure number on it. "Call me later." With that the man turned and disappeared into the crowd.
"Well, heavenly days!" Elizabeth sighed in relief. She stood and looked at the card. She knew who the enemy had been. And they had just offered her a position with a very respectable salary. She looked again at the amount with the "plus commission" added. Yes, this was a dramatically higher and more respectable offer. It would ultimately be worth millions each year. Now, THIS was more what she was looking for. She put it aside in her pocket.
"Well, Jacques, this just upped the ante," she murmured. She checked her watch. She laughed at the alarm she'd just felt. Never a dull moment in this work, that's for sure. Feeling a little more relaxed, she decided that instead of shopping, she'd like to see that tall, dark-haired beauty in action and headed to the courthouse. She'd heard of Evin, of course. Who hadn't?
Slipping quietly into the back of the courtroom, Elizabeth watched as the lead counsel for the other side, a bespectacled gentleman with a kind of generalized weakness around the mouth, ground his way through his last pieces of information for the jury, who sat in soporific silence. Once finished, there was a titter in the courtroom as the tall and imposing beauty slowly rose to her full six foot height to take the floor. Well, she didn't 'take' the floor so much as 'captured' the floor!
"Balderdash!" the woman yelled, and the nodding heads in the jury box as well as in the gallery came to full alert. Eyes throughout the room snapped open! Elizabeth was then entirely captivated by the force of the woman's riveting oratory. She verbally thrust and she parried. She waxed eloquently and she bore down on the jury with the truth as she saw it. They had no choice but to see it, too. Elizabeth looked more than once to see if the tall woman's opponents' blood was left anywhere on the floor, for surely this was a battle cry of "take no prisoners!".
She glanced to the opponents' table and watched the shadow of an impeding loss begin to fall across their startled and now quite pale faces.
Elizabeth glanced at her watch with surprise to note that she was late for her appointment. Hurrying out of the courthouse, she hastily made her way to the hotel where she carefully searched, taking longer than she expected in order to stay out of public view, but finally found room 213. She knocked softly, wondering if this was really such a good idea. She did not want others to know she was meeting, but a hotel room? Her mother would be taking the vapors if she knew!
Jacques opened the door and quickly escorted her inside. "I saw you in the courtroom and thought you might be a little late." His eyes held nothing but pride for the job his team and namely Evin was doing in court.
He escorted her to the couch in the outer chamber and took a seat in the large stuffed chair. The door to the bedroom was closed. "I'm sorry it has to be in a hotel room," he said. "I hope you will not feel the least uncomfortable. I can leave the door open a bit, if it would ease any worry you might have."
"No, this is quite fine," she smiled weakly.
"She is something, isn't she?" he asked with pride. "We're very proud of our Evin. She's a true warrior in every sense of the word."
"Yes, her delivery is extremely powerful."
"I hope you understand, then, how you would fit in an organization like ours. We're a small organization, but we have considerable resources. We think you would be the perfect counterpart to Evin's approach. I dare say, we would be unbeatable with both you women in one firm."
"It's an intriguing idea," Elizabeth smiled. "I, of course, am very interested in hearing what you have to propose."
Jacques glanced at his watch. "The jury is never out very long after Evin gives a closing. So, tell me, how do you like our city so far? Does it seem like a place you would like to stay for a while? I understand you came up from New Orleans."
Ah, I see. You don't want me hiring on then deciding to move on because I don't like it here. "Yes, I've rented a wonderful condo in the outskirts.... out by the wooded area beyond the river."
Jacques chuckled. "Surely you're not going to tell me that you live over the river and through the woods? I thought Grandma lived there."
Elizabeth smiled primly and folded her hands in her lap. "No, actually I live on this side of the woods, not through them. But, yes, I have pretty much decided that this is where I want to set down some roots. I do have some family here, a cousin or two."
"Good, good," Jacques smiled. "Well, I suppose you would like to know what we would offer." He withdrew a business card on which he had written a sum. It was a large sum. He hoped it would be above any other offer. He nervously handed it to the small blonde.
She impassively looked at it for a few minutes then frowned. She dug out the last card she had been given by the gruff man. "I need to tell you," she said holding the card with only the amount showing and not the name of the firm, "I have received an offer a touch better than yours."
Jacques glanced over and saw the amount. They were definitely in the same ballpark but he had to talk to Jerome before he could make any changes. "May I just offer this thought?" he asked. "Ours is also plus commission and with our office you would have more opportunity to build a better commission. We take high profile cases. We would be prepared to offer you a definite number of cases per year so that your salary could be immeasurably higher than the amount we have offered."
"Yeeesss," the blonde looked at their offer again. "Well, I'll think about it." She stood, he began to say something more and his pager went off.
"Jury's back," he said with a quick smile. "I have to go. But please, do me one other favor. Please...give us another chance to convince you before you make any firm decision. I'm sorry I have to rush. This judgment is very important to our firm."
"Yes, I understand. Well, call me in the morning." She wrote her number on the back of one of her cards. "I'll have a pretty good idea of what I want to do by then."
"I hope you don't find me too rude," he apologized. "I really must run. Please, feel free to see yourself out."
They shook hands and Jacques rushed out. Elizabeth searched for the bathroom, used it then headed to the courthouse herself. It would be fun to see how their judgment turned out.
She slipped into the back of the room just as the outcome was being read. A roar went up around the room. Evin's team had won and won big. Elizabeth was impressed. Her team had won their decision earlier in the day, too, but they had had to wait two days while the jury was out before getting an agreement. Evin's jury was out less than an hour. That in itself was amazing! Elizabeth's green eyes moved to the enigmatic woman in front. Gods! She is gorgeous! But doesn't she just know it!
Then the conquering warrior spotted her in the back of the gallery...the small blonde standing against the back wall in her finely tailored dress suit. Her appearance spoke of style and elegance and she was casting her enticing green eyes Evin's way. Enticing? Evin thought, Did I think that? Well, perhaps.
Flush with victory, Evin flashed the small blonde "The Look"...the dazzling and radiant smile that brought women and men alike instantly under the tall beauty's spell. A collective sigh was heard throughout the courtroom as one person after the other succumbed to the explosive possession of the gorgeous, blue-eyed legal wonder's countenance.
All but one...Elizabeth Montagieu. Elizabeth gave a lady-like snort of derision and walked out. WALKED OUT! Evin noted, ON 'THE LOOK'!! Her blue eyes were now flashing. Who is that woman?
Outside in the courtroom hall, Elizabeth leaned against the wall and caught her breath. Stars! That smile! Those blue eyes! No wonder the woman's used to getting her own way! Her hand went to her chest and she took a moment to gather her wits about her. That is one wicked, captivatingly dangerous smile. I shall have to be exceedingly careful of that!
Taking a deep breath, she calmed her heart beat and headed for the doors. She must get home and give all this some careful consideration.
"Congratulations, Evin! You did a marvelous job! Our company cannot thank you enough!" the distinguished client pumped Evin's hand, a look of rapture on his face. This brought Evin back to the battle at hand as they stood around their counsels' table inside the courtroom.
"All in a days work, Randolph," Evin said brusquely. "All in a day's work."
"You were fabulous as always, Evin!" Jerome grinned, pounding her back. "With you in there, we knew we had a win! A hundred million dollars! Truly fabulous!"
Jacques came up to the bannister that separated the gallery from the floor of the courtroom and reached over to pat Evin's back. "You've done it again, partner! You are the best, Evin! Without a doubt!"
"I know. Thanks, Jacques," Evin began to put papers into her briefcase.
"Yes," Randolph the client beamed, shaking hands all around. And we almost took the top prize for judgments! I'd call that great by any standard! What a fabulous way to start the holiday!"
"Almost?" Evin snorted looking up. "This is the top in any bailiwick!"
"Yes, of course you're right," Randolph said. "Except for that hundred and ten million win by the Wildens group earlier today. You know, that woman won it for them. What was her name...oh, yes, Elizabeth Montagieu. I hear she had the jury eating right out of her hand."
Evin's blue eyes grew dark and her brow began to furrow. Elizabeth Montagieu bested me by ten million? TEN MILLION??? Who is that blasted woman?
Elizabeth took a cab home through the powdery snow. She did not want to risk driving in this kind of weather. She had no experience. Besides, her rental would be fine in the parking garage downtown. She'd be gone for almost a month. She'd call to let them know. She glanced at her watch. Four o'clock and it was already getting dark. She moved quietly into the condo surrounded by single family homes and other apartments.
Up on the housetop across the way, the smoke from the chimney curled in the darkening skies, adding a 'Christmas card' quality to the winter scene. She stood on the balcony, wrapped her arms around herself and pondered. Out here in the suburbs with the woods slowly filling with snow, it was quiet...a silent night. What should she do?
She looked back at the boxes still cluttering her exclusive condo. She had not even had time to unpack yet, much less get a tree or deck the halls. Maybe next year, she sighed to herself. Right now she had heavier things weighing on her mind. She wanted to make her decision before she caught her flight back home tomorrow afternoon.
Elizabeth moved back inside and down to the kitchen. She put on the tea kettle and waited for the water to boil. She got out her cat-shaped teapot. It was her favorite. Tea always settled her down. She munched a piece of cold pizza from the fridge. The pot reminded her of Phiz. She'd bring her cat back with her when she returned. She missed having the old rascal under foot. She nibbled another piece of pizza.
She called and talked to her parents for a while. That was often fruitless but in this case it was a diversion from her other thoughts.
"I just don't know why you've moved all that way from home, Elizabeth Marie Maybelle! Bobby Lee was asking about you just the other day," her mother said. "He's still a handsome boy, owns his own service station and garage. He looks real good for his age, though Lord knows none of us are getting younger. His wife left him, you know. He's quite single."
"I don't care for Bobby Lee or any other fella, Momma. You know that."
"He's willing to wait," she said hopefully.
"He's gonna be waiting a long time. He might just as well find someone else there and settle down. It's not going to be me."
"We'll see. I know you're not living with Mary Jane any more. I knew that would be a temporary amusement for you. You always were flighty. I surely don't understand you modern girls."
"It lasted three years, Momma. That's kind of long for temporary."
Elizabeth could hear her mother sigh. "I know you think this is some high-tone company you work for, but Elizabeth Marie, you know that if they aren't paying you a million, honey, it's not worth a lady's time." This was always her mother's retort. Somewhere along the way her mother had gotten the idea that a million dollars was all that could justify any honest woman putting off getting married and having children.
"Well, the offers are real close to that, Momma," Elizabeth stated. "And with the commissions, they're more than that. I've told you that before."
"'Real close' is not the same as 'are', dear. And if you're flying in tomorrow, why are you calling now? Have you changed your mind about coming back?"
"No, I'm coming in tomorrow. I was wondering what size little Missy was." Elizabeth rolled her eyes. Well, she had idly wondered that so it wasn't a flat out lie. She already had a gift for the child, but hearing her mother's voice helped pass the time. And perhaps it grounded her a little.
"Why she's wearing eighteen month size already. But don't buy her anything in yellow. She looks terrible in yellow. She is just the most darling child. But you're much better looking than your brother. We're all waiting to see your little ones. We surely know they're going to be beautiful children. You just have to marry a halfway decent looking man."
Like Bobby Lee, right? "I'd better go. I'll see you tomorrow night, Momma. I'll get a car at the airport."
"No, Elizabeth Marie! I'm sending Sissy....Sissy and a surprise. They'll pick you up. See you tomorrow, dear."
She hung up the phone and shook her head. "A surprise? Probably old Bobby Lee, if I know you, mother." It was good she was moving away from there. It was time to put some distance between herself and her family. She would get her fill of family over the next month.
Her family was not exactly accepting. They hated her lifestyle but they didn't hate her for it. They just expected her to grow out of it. Almost worse from Elizabeth's standpoint was that they had little respect for her vocational accomplishments, no matter how great they were.
No, they were waiting for her to marry and give them grandchildren. That was their great imagined vista of the road her life should follow.
"Long wait, I'm afraid," she said into her third cup of tea. She didn't feel much calmer yet. "Great, now I'll be up going to the bathroom all night. Oh well, I probably won't sleep much anyway." She grabbed another piece of pizza.
She put on a thick sweater coat and moved back out onto the balcony. "A white Christmas," she muttered. "How long has it been since I've seen one of those?" Then she recalled..Colorado...once with Mary Jane.
She gazed out over the nearby woods and houses. "Santa Claus is coming to town, huh? You gonna fill my sock with glorious surprises this year, Santa?" She chuckled to the outside air. "Maybe tall, blue-eyed surprises? Course, that just has SUPER CHALLENGE stamped all over it in big ole' giant letters!" She thought about her life. She hadn't done too badly. Not at all. However, most of her thirty Christmases had been spent down south sans snow at Christmas time.
She swept the snow off a chair and sat down, her cup adding additional steam to the cold outside air. Her Momma was right in one way. She did tend to get bored easily. That's why she loved this kind of work. She never found it boring. Maybe that was what was wrong with her relationship with Mary Jane. She did find it boring.
She thought about the blue-eyed woman. She had been magnificent to watch in the courtroom! She'd never seen anything like it! "My God, she's a warrior! I could learn much from her," she muttered, then smiled. "And she could learn a thing or two from me, as well." But there was more than that and perhaps that was what was holding her back. She didn't think it was the money. She had a small attraction to the woman. And that would be dangerous. It would be a challenge, not that she didn't love a challenge. Challenges were what kept her juices flowing.
"Sometimes these northern girls just need a southern girl to turn their head. And smack them down fifteen or twenty notches," she added with a smile. "Or more. Much more." For a sweet little thing, she had a wicked smile.
She put her hand out to catch some snowflakes, amazed at the weightlessness of each one. Her mind went to Jacques. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. Even her Momma would think so. He was a very decent person and she knew he would be easy to work with. She had seen the other partner in the bar and he also appeared to be more than respectable. It was Evin that was the wild card. Elizabeth would need some assurances in that regard.
She sighed. Financially their offer was close to the other. Almost close enough not to matter. And all had partnership "possibilities". Yet, what would she be getting herself into? Maybe she'd be too close. Still, their firm had a fabulous reputation. After all, they already had the top litigator ...Evin...practically in the whole of the northern U.S.A. Or so it seemed. But then, hadn't she been about the top litigator in the southern half of the U.S.A.? It seemed that way to her. Imagine what they could become with both of them on board. Jacques saw the potential.
She glanced at her watch and was surprised to see it was almost midnight. Already? How did that happen? She finished her tea, looked at the strangely soothing moonlit winter scene and suddenly it came upon a midnight, clear...quite clear. She hadn't even considered another firm! There was no other choice, really. She would take the job and give old blue eyes a little competition right inside her own firm. They both thrived on it. It would be a hoot! She merely had to be careful not to lose her heart. One thing she knew. She wouldn't be bored.
Having made her decision, she suddenly felt relaxed. She rose and went into the dwelling. Now she could sleep. Jacques was supposed to call in the morning to find out her final decision. She would tell him "yes" and the other firm "no". The rest were not really in the running.
The morning found Elizabeth refreshed and raring to go. She showered and changed into her travel clothes. She checked through her suitcases again to make sure she had all the presents and everything else and moved them into the entry. She fixed and ate a huge breakfast, pleased to have all decision making behind her.
She called the number on the card the gruff-speaking man had given her and turned down their offer. They said they could go higher, but she said she had already decided on a different firm. She shut her eyes when she hung up and prayed she had done the correct thing.
The phone rang and she picked it up. "Hello?" she said pleasantly.
"Good morning, Ms. Montagieu," Jacques' friendly voice said. "I hope you don't mind, but I have my partner, Jerome on the line here, too."
"Hello, Ms. Montagieu," Jerome's deeper voice said. "It's a pleasure to talk to you."
"Please, call me Elizabeth," Elizabeth smiled. She wondered if they'd be surprised that she was going to accept them. They knew she had a higher offer.
Jacques' voice rang out, "We are determined to win you over to our firm."
"Oh you are, are you?" Elizabeth teased back.
Jerome frowned and Jacques took that to mean that she had not yet made up her mind. That was good news.
"Yes. We've talked it over and decided that we would up our bid this morning to one million, plus commissions, of course. We very much want you working for us."
Elizabeth's hand went to her chest and she sat down in the nearest chair. "A million a year?"
"Yes, plus commissions. That's a very fair offer for a starting position, Ms. Montagieu." Jacques replied. "Even for someone of your stature. We hope you'll consider it seriously and we know you're worth every cent of it. Like I said yesterday, we're a smaller firm but we have a good deal of resources. Evin is the best in this area and without sounding too brash, I hope that I can say that Jerome and I hold our own in this partnership as well."
"Uh," Elizabeth said, her eyelashes still fluttering. "About Evin."
"Yes, we know she won't like having an addition made to the office. We won't pull our punches on that. As you can imagine, a woman of her, uh, unusual talent and forcefulness has a good deal of territoriality wrapped up in her personality. Don't worry, she will come around." Both men held up frantically crossed fingers to each other then crossed themselves several times. "Please understand that this is a three-way partnership and Jerome and I will totally support you. It will be two to one. She will have no say." Again they looked at each other and crossed themselves.
"So in hiring and firing.....?" Elizabeth asked.
"We will support YOU one hundred percent. You have our word on it." Jacques and Jerome waited silently on the end of the line while Elizabeth considered that enjoyable prospect. Finally Jacques said, "Ms. Montagieu?"
"Yes, the answer is yes," Elizabeth smiled and she heard the two men both shout in joy on the other end of the line. "I am flying home this afternoon, however..."
"We'll write everything out. On the way to the airport there's a little bar.. The Silver Run. It'll be on your right. Do you think you could leave early and meet us there? No one would expect to see any of us at that kind of, uh, slightly tawdry spot. I'm sure you don't want this spread around until you've talked with Gordon's company. We'll have it all down on paper. Hopefully you'll sign and we'll have a done deal before you leave town."
"Yes! Perfect!" Elizabeth replied. "I can meet you at two. I'll deal with Gordon's company once I get home." For a million, I can do slightly tawdry!
"Wonderful. We'll see you later today and....welcome aboard!"
"Thank you," Elizabeth said softly and hung up the phone. "Well, doesn't that just top everything? I'm going there for a guaranteed million! The other firm probably would have offered that, too, but this is the one I want to work for." She wiggled her behind in joy. "Whoo who, Momma! Try and make nothing of this!"
The bar was a small dark spot with a television at the bar and another out in a far-off corner of the room. The same football game was running on both sets. Almost all the early afternoon patrons seemed to be at the bar and were greatly engrossed in the game. "Run, Rudolph, run," they were chanting when Elizabeth stepped into the room and waited for her eyes to adjust. She had the cab driver move in her four pieces of luggage and stack them inside the door.
Then someone yelled "Touchdown!" and the small crowd at the bar went wild, hooting and hollering and patting each other on the back. Elizabeth saw the two smiling men waving to her in the corner and headed in their direction.
"Jacques," the blonde smiled, putting out her hand.
"And this is Jerome," Jacques grinned. Jerome was lighter in complexion to Jacques' dark hair and olive skin. He also stood and shook Elizabeth's hand. Both professional looking men were in their mid forties. Jerome took her coat and with gentlemanly grace placed it neatly on the hook at the end of their booth. It was dark, but they had opened the shutter and the light off the snow was almost blinding on their table.
Elizabeth put in her briefcase and scooted in on her side with the two men on the other. Jacques pulled out a paper from his briefcase.
"If that's what I think it is, that's about the prettiest paper I think I've ever seen," Elizabeth grinned.
"Yes. Read it and see if you don't think it's a pretty paper, indeed." He leaned forward and said softly, "A million dollar paper." Jerome took it, opened it out and placed it in front of her. Then both men sat back and quietly waited for her to carefully read every bit.
Elizabeth read it thoroughly once, then, as was her style, she read it through again. She did not look up at all as she read. The crowd sent up a large moan at the blocked point-after kick, but Elizabeth did not react in any way. She was carefully checking every word.
Once she was satisfied it was everything they had agreed to, she took the pen handed to her by Jerome and with a slightly trembling hand she signed the sheet.
Large green eyes slowly looked up and huge smiles broke out on the men's faces followed by her own tremendous smile.
Each shook her hand. "Congratulations!" Jacques smiled. "Welcome aboard! And welcome to our million dollar lady!" He handed a copy of the paper to Elizabeth. She placed it carefully into her briefcase.
"I should tell you, the other firm offered to up their amount this morning, but I decided I wanted to work for you."
The two men looked at each other and shook each other's hands. "We do feel like we've made the deal of the century, Elizabeth," Jacques said with excitement. "We are looking forward to having you on our team. Two offers from two different firms of a million dollars just shows how valuable your work as a litigator is!"
"Well, I don't know what amo..."
"What can I getcha?" a female voice interrupted, looking from one smiling face to another. The pretty thirtyish bar maid was in a smudged black skirt and equally smudged light blouse and carried a partially wet tray.
"Champagne?" Jacques' eyes questioned Elizabeth as the rest of his face grinned. "To celebrate! What do you say Ms. Montagieu?"
"Please, call me Elizabeth. All right," Elizabeth smiled. "Just one. I still have to get to the airport."
"Three glasses of champagne, please," Jacques ordered.
"When will you be back?" Jerome asked. "It looks like you'll be gone more than the twelve days of Christmas. Was our date in there correct? Jacques said you'd be gone about a month."
"Yes, a little more than a month. Near the end of January. The twenty third to be exact. It will take that long to make the, uh, other changes."
They sat and chatted for a while until the champagne arrived. Then they all moved outside their booth, stood and drank a toast to "Elizabeth Montagieu, the million dollar lady!"
They downed their drinks, then Jacques used his cell phone to call a cab for Elizabeth. It arrived quickly. Elizabeth shook their hands again and headed for the airport, her luggage in tow. The two men paid the bill then left the establishment themselves.
Now they would need to plan how to let Evin know that they had a new employee. That would be the most formidable task of their lives. They each said a little prayer and crossed themselves for luck. Evin was a good ten years younger, but from the moment they took her on as a partner, she had run the show. And everybody knew it. This would be...a shock. To say the least!
Elizabeth got on the plane and a talkative young woman sat in the seat beside her, but Elizabeth did not seem to mind. She smiled the whole way, nodding occasionally but saying little herself, which WAS unusual.
The girl introduced herself as Rae Ann Drummer. She had been at college and was going to visit her family over the holidays. She whipped out a page-sized family picture. Elizabeth continued to smile. "This is Grandma Beautross, this is my brother Bobby Drummer and his wife Estelle, this is my cousin Jesse Beautross and their little Beautross boy, Jake and this is their little Beautross girl, Ida , and this is the little Drummer boy, Erik."
The same silly smile stayed on Elizabeth's face. I'm a million dollar lady, Momma, she thought the whole time. I can hardly wait to see your face!
"Evin, who is Elizabeth Montagieu?" the pretty barmaid asked, putting her things down before heading to the shower. "I'll just shower and change into something a little more...comfortable," she grinned at the tall woman who wore only a plush blue terrycloth robe and laid on some pillows before the roaring fire, a glass of wine in her hand.
"She's some little blonde bimbo attorney. People make a fuss over her, but she isn't all that much." I'm much better! Unbelievably better! Astoundingly better! Her and her lucky ten million! Evin scowled. "Why in the world would you want to know about her?" Evin had been listening to holiday music and sipping wine as she waited for the woman to get home from work and was thoroughly in the holiday spirit. The question had almost sabotaged her mood.
"I just thought you knew her, maybe. I thought I heard she was an attorney. Aaaaand....wait till you hear this! I heard today that two places offered her a million dollars each to work for them."
Evin sat bolt upright. "Million dollar contracts? Two places? What two places?" Is the world going crazy? The woman has beautiful green eyes but a million dollars worth? Ha! Hardly!
"I don't know. They didn't say. She signed something and they drank champagne to celebrate," the woman called from the bathroom as she got undressed. Then the barmaid stepped out nude and smiled. She turned around and went back into the bathroom again, Evin's eyes following her round swaying buttocks. It had jumbled Evin's train of thought. Finally she got it back together.
"Who was there, Dimplina?" the tall woman called, remembering the woman's behind. Then Evin's eyes narrowed. She grimaced to herself, That little blonde pixie with her coy 'thank you', thank you' and her phony reputation! Gag, gag, gag! Good grief, pity the dumb jerks who would offer her a million dollars to come and work for them! The mind reels!
"I don't know who they were," the woman called back. "Just two men, you know, in suits. They tipped pretty well but they both had wedding rings on. I didn't pay any attention to them. I just checked her out. She was..." she was going to say 'cute, but she came to the door and saw Evin's sour look. "Uh, not wearing a ring."
Evin snorted. "Yes, she's had a little run of good luck. It happens. She's not anywhere near as skilled as I am, of course." She's not all that bad looking, but imagine thinking she could compete with me! Ha! She's just lucky, the little pixie from hell!
"Of course," the woman smiled sincerely out at Evin.
"She was at your bar out by the airport?" Evin sipped her wine, her mind spinning. Pretty cheesy place to sign anything. Says something about them and what they really thought of her!
"Uh huh," the woman called, drying her hair and slipping on a robe.
A secret deal at the airport. Little trollop! Probably the losing litigators. They'd love to get back at Gordon and rub his nose in it. But who else? Who else would throw away a million dollars? Oh, I know! Stupid Jendras. He inherited! That guy has more money than sense. She leaned back with a smile, satisfied with her remarkable powers of deduction. She crossed her ankles. Wait till I tell the guys! Yes, that was probably who it was.. Jendras. Ha! Too bad! Like I have to worry about that little blonde anyway.
The barmaid came out, threw down some pillows and stretched out beside Evin. Her robe slipped a little, allowing a much more enticing view than might be expected. The tall brunette poured her a glass of wine and leaned forward to nibble on the woman's neck.
"May Santa bring you all kinds of surprises this year," the woman purred to Evin, holding up her glass.
Evin's eyes remained on the woman's opening robe. She smiled an erotic smile. "I'll drink to that," she said in a husky voice, totally unaware of just what main surprise the jolly old elf had in store for her back at work.
The two male partners stood wide-eyed beside Evin's desk in her darkening office. Their law office was silent since it was now closed through New Years. A sensitive chat with Evin was not a consideration! Instead, they ceremonially placed the envelope on her desk. Inside was the short note explaining that Elizabeth Montagieu had been hired by their firm and would be beginning work around the first of February.
"We should go," Jacques said in a sepulchral whisper. "In case...."
"Yes," Jerome agreed. "Let's get the hell out of Dodge while we can!"
Both had decided to take their families on last minute out of town vacations. They would not leave word regarding where they were going. Though their wives had initially complained, once they explained the situation, their spouses were in complete agreement. They all knew Evin.
"Let's put it IN her desk," Jacques suggested. "It might buy us time."
"Yes," Jerome agreed, "and she can't say we didn't notify her." They slipped the note into the top drawer of her desk. "I told my wife to have the kids ready to go when I got back. We're heading right to the airport. Christmas in England. Not the worst thing to ever happen."
"Um," Jacques smiled wanly. "We'll be skiing in Oregon. Great snow and she won't think to look there." They high fived their ingenuity then moved quickly to their cars, fervently watching in all directions lest she appear. "Happy Holidays," Jacques said with increasing euphoria. "No matter what, it's still two to one!" He grinned warily, "A memorable day, eh?"
"Oh, yeah! I think it's safe to say that!" Jerome waved, "Evin AND Elizabeth! We'll be unbeatable....if we can just survive this next month!"
Elizabeth looked out to see her sister, Sissy jogging to the brightly lit baggage claim area where she waited with her luggage. Behind her huffed a pudgy Bobby Lee. "I knew it," Elizabeth grinned. She gripped her briefcase with a strong hold. Sissy threw herself into her sister's arms. And they laughed and greeted each other.
Without saying a word Elizabeth opened her briefcase and whipped out her copy of the paper.
"What's this?" Sissy asked, stepping back and taking the paper.
"Something that I hope will throw a giant monkey wrench into Momma's plans," she grinned. "Not that I ever take her plans seriously, you understand. Hi, Bobby Lee."
The man grinned shyly. "Hi, Elizabeth Marie."
Sissy's eyes got huge. "Is this what I think it is, sis?" she asked.
"Yep," Elizabeth helped load up Bobby Lee with her luggage. "You're gonna have to find a wife somewhere else, Bobby Lee," she patted the overloaded man on the back, "because," she put down her briefcase, lifted her arms into the air, firmly holding the paper she'd taken back, and spun around, "ladies and gentlemen, you are now looking at...the one, the only..., " she wiggled her behind, "MILLION DOLLAR LADY!"
"Oh, my God!" Sissy said. "Momma's gonna freak out!"
"I thought I'd just wave this around every time she starts to mention anything about me getting married. This Christmas is gonna be all kinds of fun! Elizabeth slid the paper back into her briefcase and zipped it.
"Poor Momma. So, what about any love concerns? Have you met anybody up north that piques your interest?"
Elizabeth grabbed her briefcase in one hand and Sissy in the other and headed to the car, Bobby Lee trailing behind packing all four suitcases.
"Funny you should ask," Elizabeth said. "I have. But, my, she is going to be one colossal Super Challenge. I shall have my work cut out for me."
"Oh, sis," her sister retorted, "You ALWAYS love challenges!"
Elizabeth smiled. "Yes, I surely, surely do!" She smiled out at the glittering night scene. Merry Christmas, gorgeous blue-eyed warrior woman. Santa and I have a great big ole million dollar surprise a'waitin for you, sugar!
More to come? You bet.
1-All I Want For Christmas Is You
3-Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire
4-Deck the Halls
5-Do You Hear What I Hear?
6-The First Noel
7-Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
8-Home For the Holidays
10-It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
13-Let It Snow
14-Little Drummer Boy
15-Over The River And Through The Woods
17-Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
18-Run Rudolph Run
19-Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
22-The Twelve Days of Christmas
23-Up On the Housetop