A fiercely competive attorney, Evin seeks revenge on her partners for hiring petite Elizabeth Montagieu, her rival. The two men have fled town for the Christmas holiday, whisking away their families in the hope of avoiding Evin’s wrath. But can they avoid detection? And what about this new hire with the soft Southern drawl and iron will who now has set her sites on the tall beauty? This is a sequel to A Million Dollar Lady.

Disclaimer: This is an original uber story set in today’s world. It’s all made up. Well, London, Mt. Bachelor, Oregon and New Orleans are all real places but everything in this story that takes place there or anywhere else is totally fictional as are the characters.

Violence: Naw. More threat than substance.

Language: Bad? Yes, one drunken woohoo in particular.

Sex: Nothing graphic but there are references to f/f and m/f unions of consenting adults. If you’re underage or this is illegal where you live, read no further.

Special thoughts: For She of the Unforgettable Smile, and to M. for advice.

C sre 2004

Evin’s Revenge!

by B. Soiree


The shrill ring of the telephone drew him from his pleasant dream and he glanced over in disbelief at the clock on the nightstand. Three thirty in the morning! Who in the bloody hell would be waking them up at this gawd-awful time the morning after Christmas? He wrestled with the covers and grabbed the phone.

“Hello,” he grumbled into the mouthpiece, looking around and finally determining that he was in their luxury hotel suite in downtown London.

“You miserable, rotten, low-down skunkbellied flea bite,” the voice growled through the line into the man’s ear.

Jerome ruffled his hand through his light brown hair and looked in confusion at his wife’s dark coiffure spilled over the pillowcase beside him. Her back was to him and her even breathing let him know she was still asleep. “Who is this?” he mumbled softly into the phone.

“Don’t you dare try and sweet talk me, you worthless sack of day old horse puckey!”

He sat up and his eyes snapped open. “Evin, is that you?” His heart skipped an unhappy beat. Dear heavens, she’s found us! he thought with a touch of alarm.

There was no reply. “Evin, listen now, pal, I can explain,” Jerome said quickly. “You’re going to think this was kind of funny, actually....”

“I have five important words for you,” Evin’s menacing voice rang with a steel edge through the phone line. She clearly did not find anything funny at the moment. “Reservations... adjusted!”

Jerome had spent the first two days in London working with the concierge at great financial expense to procure a nanny and last-minute reservations for his wife and himself to enjoy the rare luxury of the opera, the romantic dinner boatride on the Thames, one of the very latest plays, the ballet, the symphony and even a nightclub dinner and dancing engagement for New Year’s Eve. It had not been easy.

Even with nanny arrangements he had not forgotten the family time with their three children. During the daytime he’d managed to obtain reservations for a castle tour, a children’s matinee and entertainment park rides for the whole family. Those were the Nanny’s times off.

He thought about all those for a second. Was it possible? Could she have “adjusted” everything he’d worked so hard to get? This was Evin after all! And, clearly, she WAS pissed! Suddenly he was more awake and knew that she most certainly could and most likely had.

“The kids....” he proclaimed in protest, hoping to guilt her into changing her rash decision.

“Their reservations were enhanced,” Evin seethed. “Your nanny’s gone. Those companies won’t deal with you again. They think you’re an axe murderer.” She chuckled evilly.

“Think about this,” she continued, “London has a toy museum, an Elvis museum, a clink prison, a magic arts center, a doll universe, a cartoon museum and a microworld. Also running is a children’s movie marathon... from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter! Ha!”

There was a pause. “Now think about this: You’re going! To every one of them! And here’s your favorite...there’s horseback riding. A full day’s worth! A car will come by to take you to the stables first thing in the morning. A family outing! Enjoy!”

Jerome hated horses and Evin knew that. His children would be thrilled. This was something they could never get him to do.

He could hear her breathing angrily on the phone as his mind whirled. He blinked. “Wait,” he pounced on her earlier words, “you said five important words but I think you only told me two of them.”

“Merry Christmas!” Evin growled, “PARTNER!!!” she yelled, “That’s five! Count ‘em!” and hung up.

He sat looking at the receiver in his hand then quietly replaced it on its cradle. “Technically that was nine words”, he muttered to himself.

“Who was it, dear?” his wife mumbled from her pillow.

“Evin,” Jerome replied.

“We’re screwed, right?” she continued without raising her head or opening her eyes.

“Yes. Afraid so,” he laid back down. Nothing he could do till the morning.

“Well, we had a great Christmas.” She yawned.

“Yes,” he agreed, shutting his eyes. “I think the kids are going to like the rest of the vacation. Uh, we’re all going horseback riding tomorrow.”

“Mmmm, riding,” his wife groaned as she turned over. “Your favorite thing,” she chuckled softly. Jerome loved the opera, the ballet, cultural events. He hated horses or anything involved with horses. “We’ll get through it, hon,” she encouraged sleepily, “Could be much worse. She could be so mad she left the firm.”

“Uh, yes, that WOULD be bad,” he agreed. He stared at the ceiling for a minute and thought about that. That would be more than horrible...truth be known, it would be a disaster for the firm. Evin WAS the firm!

“Our children are a saving grace, actually,” his wife, Patsy, yawned again, snuggling up beside him. “Aunty Evin would never do anything to harm her small charges. Just imagine, without them, we’d really be toast.”

“Yes,” he sighed. “Toast.” They wouldn’t be with him when he returned to the office. He sighed another heavy sigh. This was going to be a long month.


“Mama,” the small girl called excitedly from the front door of their rental cabin in the snow-covered mountain area of Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, “The pizza man is here and he gots lots and lots of pizzas with him! Look!”

“He ‘has’, honey, not he ‘gots’,” her mother corrected. Everyone moved to the cabin window where they could see the pizza delivery car parked in front, the tires fully chained up for winter travel. A young teenager was bringing out a large stack of pizzas, at least fifteen, from the back of the small car.

“Oh boy! He’s bringing them all here!” the child continued in elation.

“Oh, yea! yea!” her twin brother behind her began to bounce up and down with fervored delight. “We gots pizza! We gots pizza!”

Jacques’ wife looked understandably bewildered at her husband. “There’s another pizza delivery behind him and...” They all looked to see another car sporting a lighted pizza parlor name on the top pulling up behind that, another teenager at the wheel. The traffic was obviously not finished. “Evin’s found us,” his wife whispered, terror in her voice.

“Yes,” Jacques, nodded with a touch of despair. “I was afraid of this!”

“I hope the neighbors like pizza,” Janet said wistfully. “You’ll have to pass them out while they’re hot.”

“Unless she had something else in mind,” Jacques swallowed then quietly put on his ski jacket as the first delivery boy began wrestling the stacked boxes to bring to the door. They watched helplessly as a popcorn wagon approached behind the others, its’ chained tires slapping as it moved through the snow, filled to the brim with large plastic bags of popped popcorn.

“And popcorn,” Jacques murmured, opening the door. “Enough to fill this whole little cabin, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, boy, popcorn, too,” the girl started hopping about and yelling delightedly with her brother. “Yea, yea! Pizza and popcorn! Yea!”

The phone rang and Jacques moved back into the room to pick it up.

“Hello?” he said tenuously.

“You deplorable, dirty, rotten, miserable, rancid clump of skunk cabbage,” the voice growled.

“Evin? Listen, pal, I can explain. Please, Evin, let me exp....”

“Don’t even think about trying to wriggle your wretched, pathetic, villainous butt out of this!”

“Please, Evin. We were only thinking of...”

“You...weren’t...thinking!” Evin shouted. “Or you wouldn’t have done this!” There was a pause and her voice became calm and steely. “Has my surprise arrived yet?” Her voice was quiet. That sent shivers down his back.

“Remember we have kids with us, Evin,” he pled pathetically.

“Oh, I remembered!” She laughed a villainous laugh. “Merry Christmas, PARTNER!!!” She hung up.

Jacques looked at the phone and sighed.

“The kids love it,” his wife said softly beside him. She was watching the scene unfold outside in their yard while their seven-year-old twins continued to bounce, shouting with joy.

Jacques moved to the open door and scanned the road to see if any other fast food deliveries were about to be made. His eyes widened as a line of cars turned at the corner and drove slowly toward their cabin driveway. All seemed to have children packed in them. All but one at the end...a small bright yellow VW bug that was filled with clowns.

A rather harried woman pulled into their drive and stepped out of the first van. The noisy sounds of excited children followed her from the van and she called out, “Is this where the children’s pizza party is? The one with the snowman building contest? We’re from the children’s club.”

“A party?” the twins sang with glee. “Yeeees! Momma! Poppa! We’re having a party! Hurray! Hurray!”

Another vehicle, an old, beat-up van with peeling paint and rust spots turned the corner, backfiring as it did. This one had young people with spiked flourescent green and orange hair, rings in their noses, ears and eyebrows and instruments. A band’s name was stenciled on the side of their beat-up van...Scream N. Kay-Oss.

At the same moment the first teenage pizza boy arrived at the door with his balanced boxes and asked, “Are you Jacques?”

“Yes,” the dark haired man said with a sigh the convicted often seem to exhibit.

“Evin says ‘Merry Christmas, partner.” The boy looked at the dark-haired man in the doorway then back at the other delivery vehicles and vans of children. “You must be gonna have a big party. Oh, I was ‘sposed to emphasize the ‘partner’ part.”

“Yes, I’m sure you were,” Jacques said with a dazed expression, relieving the boy of his stack of pizza boxes.

“My gosh,” Janet said in amazement, staring out the door. “How many clowns did they have in that VW anyway? They all looked out. Clowns of all sizes seemed to be everywhere and more were pouring out of the small car.

“Cool,” the pizza boy laughed.

Jacques said nothing. He never had liked clowns much. He put the boxes on the table and grabbed his cell phone. He’d better get some quick insurance coverage. It looked like they would be hosting a party.


“Yes, Mrs. Whitford Jones, that’s correct. Evin from the law firm. I’m calling on behalf of Jacques. You remember Jacques...head council for your husband in the Constance Shipping vs. Stanishopes Trucking Trial.”

Evin’s eyes were narrowed and she leaned back in her office chair, the phone to her ear with one hand, her other hand languidly running through her long black hair. The office was silent since they were closed for the holiday. She spoke louder so the elderly lady could hear each word. A note from her partners sat opened on the desk in front of her.

“Yeeeesssss,” she crooned to the woman on the phone as she poked at the note with her pencil, “THAT Jacques!”

She had found their note in her desk when she stopped by to check on a case she would be handling after the holidays. Imagine her surprise when she read, “Elizabeth Montagieu has been hired by our firm at a salary of a million dollars “plus” and will begin February 1.”

Since then Evin had put every resource she had into locating her two partners...those wayward swills that had hired the short, blonde, green-eyed litigator, Elizabeth Montagieu, without Evin’s consent or knowledge. At a million dollars a year salary, no less!

Evin snarled to herself. That cunning, wretched, no good, thankless weasel Jacques who DARED pull something off behind my back! Ha! I hope he’s enjoying his noisy little party. She gave the note a fairly good poke. Ha! I billed it to his account!

Her voice sweetened again as she spoke into the phone, “I hear you need a Master of Ceremonies for the annual public broadcasting fundraising event in January. I said, Master of Ceremonies...public broadcasting...fundraising...Yes, I heard he had to pull out. His heart was it? Oh, I see. Such a shame. It’s so hard trying to replace someone with such short notice, but....”

She smirked, Jacques won’t have a heart to worry about! His is about to be ripped out through his nostrils with pliers when I get my hands on him!

A wicked grin pulled at one corner of Evin’s mouth. She shut her eyes for a moment. “It lasts ten evenings in a row?” She snorted, Not nearly long enough, but it will do for a start!

“Oh, indeed...a VERY worthy cause. Our firm supports it completely! Well, I HAVE VERY GOOD NEWS FOR YOU, Mrs. Jones!”

Evin leaned forward and picked up the note, reading it once more, her eyes flashing small sparks of deep blue as the tall brunette listened to the woman talk on the phone. She flicked the note down onto the desk. A gleam settled in her eyes that matched the one-sided curl to her lip.

“JACQUES IS VOLUNTEERING. Yes, that’s correct. ALL TEN DAYS. Nooo, it’s not a problem for him. I’m freeing up his schedule.”

She glanced at her computer screen with the partner’s schedules on it. She typed in some changes. “He’ll be back January second. He’ll contact you then. Oh, you’re very welcome. Happy Holidays yourself. Bye bye.”

“He’ll do it, all right!” Evin muttered to herself as she slammed the receiver into the phone cradle, “Once he knows his very life is on the line! Now for that yellow-bellied weasel, Jerome,” Evin mentally ticked off her partner’s names from her firing line. This would teach them not to gang up against her to hire this blonde, knowing Evin wouldn’t like it one little bit. Now they were about to see the error of their ways.

She rustled about in her top drawer, withdrew a business card then picked up the phone and carefully dialed the number from the card. “Dr. Jammersleeve, please. Tell her Evin is calling. I’m sure she’ll remember me.” Evin tapped the card before her on the desk as she waited.

Dr. Mitzi Jammersleeve was a woman in her fifties, divorced, very straight, and the one in charge of running the hospital’s fund-raising “follies” every year. Business people, mostly men, throughout the city were forcefully recruited to put on a can-can outfit or tutu depending on what dance would be presented that year, to perform for the enjoyment of the masses. In the past their law firm had carefully avoided it like the plague.

Evin sat with a satisfied grin as she remembered the good doctor once remarking to her that she found Jerome to be such a ‘divine man’ and how she would love working with him personally. The feelings were not mutual. “All the better,” Evin mumbled to herself then heard the voice on the end of the line.

“Mitzi, how good to talk to you. Yes, the happiest of holidays to you, too. Listen, I know you’re very busy but I couldn’t hold the good news in one second longer. Yes, I have some wonderful news for you! I’ve convinced Jerome to perform in your follies this year.”

Evin listened to the happy squeals coming from the phone then paid attention to the question she was being asked. “No, only Jerome this time, I’m afraid. I’ll be busy holding down the fort here and Jacques has another public service benefit at that time. Maybe we can get Jacques for the next year,” she added conspiratorially.

That thought pleased her even more and she typed a note into her computer. He was the one that had skipped out to make all the arrangements to hire the blonde bimbo while she was battling away in the courtroom totally unaware. It would do him well to take Jerome’s place next year!

“Go ahead and pencil Jacques in for next year.” I am, she grinned. Another squeal of joy came from the line.

“You’re very welcome. Yes, I understand you’ve already started rehearsals, but Jerome will work exceedingly hard to catch up.” A smile came unbidden to Evin’s lips. “You’re doing Swan Lake this year? Perfect! Yes! Oh, no, no. Not the line of swans in the second act, Mitz. No, I’m sure in his heart he pines to be Odette. Is that possible? May he take over the lead?”

She smiled a wide smile. “You’re sure your current lead won’t mind giving up the part? He’ll be happy to? Fabulous! Yes, in fact if you need Jerome to, I’m sure he’d be happy to do the dual role...both Odette and the Black Swan, Odile. Oh, well, if you have someone else for Odile’s part.”

“Uh huh,” she continued, “Yes, I know Odette’s part alone shall require a great deal of practice in a short period of time. I’m freeing his schedule for this as we speak.”

She glanced again at the schedule on her screen and roamed her eyes over it, deleting his name from a prime case and replacing it with hers, then putting Jacques’ name to take two of her own small, “busywork” cases. “Oh, I’m absolutely, positively sure. Yes! I’m pleased, too. He so looks forward to working with you on this.”

Evin laughed mirthfully. “He shall have to practice his arabesques and pirouettes with you, of that I’m sure.” Her laugh continued. “Well, I for one look forward to seeing him perform those 32 fouettes in a row. I mean, that is the standard, isn’t it? Even as a farce, you still do the fouettes, don’t you? And the star has to count them off? Bad luck if they don’t do them all? Good!”

Let Jerome join the ranks of performers that hate that little Italian ballerina that started the whole 32 fouette business! Evin thought with amusement.

Evin sat upright in her chair. “Well, Mitzi, he has the enthusiasm but not the skill. He will need a good deal of one-on-one with you. What time are you setting aside for practices? He can make it, no problem.”

Ha! she thought as she clattered away on the computer, adjusting the office agenda, the phone wedged on her shoulder, “Well, I’m penciling him in to meet you for lunch on the first day back after the New Year to set up the practice sessions. How does that fit in your schedule? Wonderful. Yes, to you, too. And the best of holidays to you. Well, I’m glad I could make your day. I’m sure he’ll dance divinely for you. Oh, you don’t know how I look forward to it myself. Bye.”

She hung up and immediately ran off two copies of the new schedule. She leaned forward as they were printing and picked up the note again. “Hire that little blonde-headed trollop behind my back, will you?! Ha! You boys don’t have any idea of who you’re dealing with!” She looked at the note again, remembering that the blonde had brought in a judgment for her old firm that was ten million higher than Evin’s highest. “Her and her lucky ten million,” she growled. “That little blonde pixie from hell!”

With her green eyes, her conscience tweaked her. Don’t forget the green eyes.

“Puh!” Evin hollered.

She snatched up the two copies and could feel herself tensing. She glanced at her watch. Her second date with the voluptuous First Noel would help relax her. She gave all her dates nicknames and Noel was her ‘first Noel’. She’d have to hurry. She grabbed the note and tossed it back into her desk and began to tidy up.

Tonight’s date was just what she needed to take her mind off of “things.” She began to hum as she pushed in her chair and flicked out the light. She dropped off the new schedules, one on each partner’s desk before heading to the hotel lounge to meet the charming First Noel.

Evin slipped into the bar and sat down at her favorite table in the middle of the room. It was slow, only a few customers were scattered here and there. She saw the back of the figure downing drinks at the bar and knew instantly that it was Gordon from the blonde’s old firm.

Noel saw her, smiled and poured her a drink. She brought it to her and said softly, “For while I’m checking out. I’ll be right along.”

“Great,” Evin flashed a charming smile and leaned back in her chair, blue eyes glimmering at what the night had to offer. Yes, a second date with the First Noel was a very good idea. It would be a long haul. These young ones had such energy! But she’d certainly be relaxed at the end.

Evin’s blue eyes roamed the barmaid’s body as she walked away. The outfit did much to bring out the generosity of the woman’s curves. The girl glanced back with a smirk. “Ready in just a sec.” She winked and felt a tiny shiver of anticipation at the sight of the tall beauty awaiting her.

Her words seemed to attract Gordon’s attention and he twisted back, sighting Evin. He regarded her with drunken disfavor.

“Well!” the inebriated man growled from where he was perched at the bar, “If it isn’t the friggin’ village plunderer and thief!” He turned completely around to face where Evin was sitting, his small beady eyes peering through his alcohol induced haze.

Evin leaned back in feral contemplation of her quarry. She had never cared for Gordon. Not many folks did. Ah, three days after Christmas and the maddening little blonde has given notice at their firm already I see. Evin snorted, And Gordon is obnoxiously drunk as usual. Ha! This could be fun!

She stretched her long legs in the aisle before her, exuding a dangerous aura in her black boots, black slacks with a black silk tailored shirt tucked in and topped with a camel hued leather blazer.

Her black hair poured loosely over her shoulders and her blue eyes danced with amusement. A corner of her mouth came up showing a line of straight, white teeth that slowly turned into an almost savage smile as she peered into the small half-lidded eyes of the bald man.

“Well, well, if it isn’t little Gordy. Lose something of yours?” She smirked. He wasn’t the only one that knew how to taunt.

Gordon’s dark features turned poisonous and he hostilely kicked a vacant barstool to the side out of his way. Evin’s only reaction was a raised brow. His surliness had kept all patrons away. The stool slammed into an empty stool nearby and everyone in the room looked over in surprise.

Noel snapped her head up from the other end of the bar where she stood by the bartender closing out her till. “Uh oh,” she said wide-eyed. The bartender was also looking Gordon’s way and swore under his breath.

“That obnoxious s.o.b.’s been drinking all day, itching for a fight. I’ll call a cab to send him home.”

“But he’s going after Evin...” Noel was alarmed, eyeing with concern the bulky man, resplendent in his faux sports jacket, the leather patches on the elbows giving it the aire of one about to go bird hunting had he not been so drunk he could barely stand. His twill trousers held lightly to the stool and he wrestled himself off with a yank of grim determination.

“Evin can take care of herself, believe me,” the bartender chuckled. He glanced over at the tall, relaxed beauty. “She could take him with one hand tied behind her back and him stone, cold sober. I’ll place the call, then I’ll get him out before she hurts him.”

Evin’s eyes never left the drunken sot. Gordon snarled. He heard the needling voice of his father echoing in his head, demanding to know how this had all happened. What had Gordon done to drive Elizabeth, their most talented litigator, away from their law firm? She’d just won them a huge judgment then walked out. Why hadn’t Gordon noticed her discontent when he was working with her on the case?

Gordon, of course, did not work “with” anyone else and certainly did not normally pay attention to what feelings or ideas any woman might try and express, particularly that small blonde. He had always considered her to be the typical “dumb blonde”.

Now his father was on his way to New Orleans to try and lure the broad back. With him he was taking the man Gordon considered to be their best legal mind at the northern office. Albert would look for something to hold her. And he’d find it, too! Albert knew all the tricks. It didn’t have to be legal, although they did have her under contract.

But first, his father had shouted angrily, he was going to offer her more money along with Gordon’s position. His father had ranted that Gordon better pray she took it. That had been his father’s parting comment! And Gordon hadn’t dared defy him. Even in his seventies, Gordon’s father left him feeling wraith-like in his presence.

Put that fuckin’ blond in MY position! he snarled to himself. Over my dead body! He’d thought about it all day, his earlier mental torment turning into more of a bitter rage with each drink.

“You got our rubbish,” Gordon snarled malevolently at Evin. He raised his drink in the air then slugged back what was left with one gulp. He turned, slammed the empty glass on the bar, then looped back, leaning against the counter’s edge facing Evin.

“Good God, man!” Evin snorted, “No wonder the blonde didn’t want to be a partner in your firm. Look at you! You can barely stand up!” Evin shot him an icy gaze of contempt, reached for her drink and coolly took a sip. “Shouldn’t drink, if you can’t hold your sauce, pal!”

“Go to friggin hell,” he snarled. He tried to ease himself totally upright without a brace, but stood swaying and reached a hand back for support.

Evin scowled but remained leaned back, watching his efforts. As she did, she pondered why the blonde had not become a partner in Gordon’s firm. Her win record was astounding and her cases had, for the most part, been difficult ones. Any firm would have gone out of their way to have her tied down to a partnership. Why hadn’t they?

“I don’t like you,” he growled, focusing his eyes on Evin again. “I don’t like anything about you!”

“Evin laughed. “Ha! The feeling’s mutual, believe me!”

“You got our trash! E..liz..a..beth,” he mimicked her name. “Poor, dumb, blonde, white trash! She’s white and she’s trash. White trash! Get it?” He doubled over in a laugh at his joke, his face flashing the darkened turbulence of his thoughts when he arose again.

“The trash that won that hundred and ten million judgment for you? Is that what you mean?” Evin’s eyes turned to slits and she casually took another sip of her drink. What a clod this guy is! Drunk or sober! A good well-placed crotch kick, she mused, would be a great attitude adjustor. She had to focus to keep her feet still.

“That whore didn’t win that! I did!” His pupils flashed with barely controlled rage. “And we’re not paying her bonus, either!” The man sounded more like a petulant boy now. He raised his chin and pointed a thumb to his chest. “I did all the work. She barely did anything! I told my Dad that!”

“Really?” Evin flicked him a patronizing glance. “Then we’ll see you in court for the slanderous names you’re calling her and to get her bonus.” She thought about how she’d relish a chance to go against Gordon in court. “I, for one, can hardly wait! Ha!”

“Wait for what?” Gorden asked before he slipped into a kind of haze for a few minutes. When he raised his eyes again, they tumbled with his angry thoughts. “They only THINK they’re puttin that bitch in my place,” Gordon ranted angrily at Evin. He grit his teeth, “I don’t care how much she’s paid! She’s not takin’ MY place!”

That caught Evin by surprise and left her blinking. Was he talking about that little blonde? “Who?” Evin asked. “Who are you talking about? The blonde works for us now.”

Gordon tipped his head to one side. His features lightened as he tried to give substance to her words. Wasn’t his father going to bring her back? Isn’t that where he went? He pondered. Then he smiled arrogantly. “Albert knows all the tricks. He knows about skeletons. She’s gonna find out the hard way!”

“Who? The blonde?” Evin asked.

Gordon turned and pounded on the bar. “Hit me again here!” he demanded of the bartender.

The bartender was on the phone and Noel continued counting out her till. Both workers ignored him.

“I’ll hit you a good one, if you like, “ Evin said just under her breath. “Ha!”

He turned back and focused on Evin again. “I don’t like you,” he scowled.

She began to chortle. “Tough! I don’t like you, either.”

She watched him sway, his brow furrowing with whatever he was thinking as his fleshy lip curled. She twirled her glass on one edge while she waited to see what he would do next, her eyes intently fixed on the whirling vessel, then caught it again before a drop of the spinning liquid could fly out. She definitely had many talents.

“You think you’re so freaking smart! Marching around like you own the damn world. We’ve got lots smarter people working for us! Lots smarter!”

“Really? Who, pray tell?” Evin’s eyebrow rose.

“Ken from there and Albert,” he replied triumphantly, still weaving as he stood in place. He chortled to himself like he’d told a hilarious joke. Maybe they’d be able to sue Evin’s firm for their part in this. Wouldn’t that be sweet? He laughed out loud.

Evin wondered what he found so funny. She knew Albert. He worked here in Gordon’s northern office. He was devious, sly and sneaky but not particularly bright. She’d heard of Ken. He was from the New Orlean’s office. If it was the right one, he was impressive. “Ken who?”

“Ken Templestrom Smith,” he stood upright. “The great!” he shouted with a meaty fist raised partway into the air.

“Your hero, I see,” Evin snorted. One of the partners. That was the one she’d heard of. He was sharp, all right. Evin had respect for that guy.

“That’s right!” Gordon snarled.

The blonde had worked in the New Orlean’s office with this Ken till she transferred to the northern branch a month or so ago. But he became a partner and she didn’t. Again Evin wondered why. Particularly since the blonde’s record had been better. Evin knew about her record. She’d checked. She’d checked everything she could find about that annoying little blonde pixie who would soon be giving her competition right from her very own office! Blast my miserable, low-down partners anyway!

“And my dad!” the drunk called. “He’s lots smarter! He knows how to handle broads like her!” Gordon took one step forward, his arm still stretched back to the bar to steady himself. He led with his head and his bulbous face twisted into a sneer. “You think you’re so smart, but you don’t know shit. We’re gonna drag her mangy butt right back where it belongs.”

That made Evin bristle. She might not like it, but the blonde was working for them now, and he’d better not be talking about their employees that way. “Watch your filthy mouth,” she cautioned.

“Or what?” he snarled defiantly.

She looked at him and wondered if she dared knock the begeebers out of him. It would be so easy. One good, swift blow. Bam! Then she sighed in resignation. No, the clod was too drunk. She trailed her fingertips along the edge of the table as her mind searched for the perfect warning.

“Or we’ll send in our new hire to take you on in court. Just you and the blonde in front of a jury, Gordo! Sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve heard how she gets them to eat right out of her hand. Oh, that’s right. She did that with your case. Won it for you. Ha! Well, kiss your hind end good-bye when she goes against you! Word is she’s mighty good.”

She watched the recognition of what she had said move slowly across the drunk’s surly face and found herself thinking, Gods, did I just tout the talents of that little green-eyed pixie? What was I thinking?

“She’s not gonna be yours!” he shouted angrily. “She’s ours!”

“We’ve got her under contract,” Evin snickered. “A brand, new, binding million dollar contract. But that’s why you’re bringing in your big guns, huh? You want to keep her. Right?” Evin raised a brow.

“Well, some people do,” Gordon grunted. “Not that she’s worth it, dumb shitty blonde. We just don’t want YOU to have her, bitch.”

“You’re calling me a bitch?” Evin sat upright. “I think that’s about enough from you!”

“Go to hell, freak!” he snarled. He was not a pleasant person sober. He was much more unpleasant drunk. “That blonde whore is ours!”

“Oh, well, that does it!” Evin’s jaw tightened. She had heard enough.

The bartender saw Evin beginning to move and hustled towards Gordon.

Evin’s threats rumbled in a low tone. She rose to her full six foot height. “I don’t care how drunk you are, bucko! I’m gonna kick your hiney so hard you’ll be mooning the globe from the space station!”

“You freak Amazon!” Gordon shouted back. He let go of the bar and began to waver instantly. His feet found marginal purchase on the floor but his upper body continued to sway. His bravado, however, was fully intact. “I’ve waited a long time to smash your freakin face!”

“As if!” Evin snickered. Everyone was now watching in anticipation. She had taken one step forward when the bartender arrived.

“Gordon, that’s enough!” the bartender came up behind the man and pulled at his arm. Gordon turned slowly and wrenched his arm away.

“Is he bothering you?” the bartender asked Evin, knowing better than to confront her head on. He grabbed again for the drunk man’s arm.

Evin stopped in place. “Nothing I couldn’t have handled!” She stood for a minute breathing deeply then reluctantly stepped back toward her table. Crud! Her chance was gone!

“I’ve called a cab for you, Gordon. You’re done drinking here and you can’t drive.” The bartender once again took his arm to pull him away.

“I can do whatever in the fuck I wanna do!” Gordon snarled at the bartender, once more pulling his arm free, curling his lip and staggering backwards a few steps.

“And you can be barred from ever entering this place again,” the man threatened, his hands now on his hips.

“Somebody call a cab?” the cabby at the door called.

“Yes, Gordon’s going home,” the bartender grabbed Gordon’s hat and pulled him to the door, jamming the hat on the man’s bald head.

“I just saved your life. I hope you remember it in the morning,” he said softly to the reluctant man.

“Don’t count your chickens, bitch...” Gordon called to Evin from the door. With that he was pulled outside and into the waiting cab.

“Bitch? You’re lucky he got to you before I did, little man,” Evin growled.

“Are you all right, Evin?” Noel asked quietly. “I’m sorry he bothered you.”

Evin snorted. “No harm, no foul.” She needed to piece together what Gordon’s firm was up to. Right at the moment she had Noel to consider, but she couldn’t help wondering if she should warn the blonde. She thought for a minute then decided she’d find out what Gordon had said during the day, particularly before he got so drunk. Obviously his firm was going to fight for the blonde. She’d find out what was going on.

“Are you hungry, baby?” Noel asked. Her tone of voice brought Evin back to the luscious woman standing before her.

“Starving,” Evin waggled her brows.

“I think we should have dinner someplace before we deal with your appetite,” Noel chortled, “I have a hunch we’ll need the strength.”

Evin laughed. This was going to be an active evening. She’d find out what she needed to know at dinner.

Evin awoke with a start. Where was she? She glanced around then recognized that she was in the First Noel’s apartment. They had come here after dinner the night before. She glanced at her watch. Nearly noon. She must have fallen asleep after that last round of...activity. Cripe! She didn’t like to do that! They always expected some kind of commitment when you spent the night.

Her head hurt and she remembered that the two of them had consumed a large amount of wine as well. Ah crud, this was so not good! She slid quietly to the edge of the bed then tiptoed as she gathered her clothes, glancing over to see the woman breathing evenly in her sleep. She’d dress in the other room.

“I must be getting old,” she muttered to herself as she pulled on her clothes. “I never stay to sleep like this.” The thought of growing older was unpleasant and she pushed it aside. But the full truth was that she was finding the chase far less satisfying than she had in her younger days. Beautiful women still fell at her feet, but after she loved them and left them to go home, shower and climb back into bed alone, she awoke more and more often with too much of an empty feeling. Still, she was a first-class courtroom contender. She didn’t have time for mush!

“Kick it in the can,” she reprimanded herself, “and get out of here before she wakes up. I told her no commitments. I meant it! Now my actions have to say that, too.” She double checked around the room to make sure she had everything and slipped out the door. Another notch on my post though, she decided as she headed for her car. Damn, you’re good, woman! she encouraged herself, but there was a hollow feel to it.


Dabbled late morning sunlight moved across Elizabeth Montagieu’s lap as she quietly jotted down notes on a pad she’d removed from her case.

The sitting room of her parents’ home in New Orleans overlooked the porch, front stairs and short walkway to the street. She had grown up here and planned to spend a month before heading back north to her new job. She glanced out occasionally through the sheer white curtains to the relatively quiet neighborhood surroundings.

“Hey, sis, there you are,” her sister exclaimed, handing her a glass of iced tea and flicking a coaster over by her on the coffee table. Elizabeth pushed aside her empty coffee cup. Even at Christmas time the sweet iced tea drink was the favorite beverage of both siblings.

“Thanks, Sissy,” Elizabeth smiled, taking the drink and sipping demurely.

“You must be going out. You have your pearls on,” Sissy grinned.

“Yes,” she looked at her watch. “Pretty soon now.” Elizabeth sighed, moving one hand to the necklace of real pearls her Grandmother had given her when she’d graduated from high school. “I’d hoped they would just let it go. I’m not a partner and I’m not renewing my contract but my old firm won’t give up it appears. They want to counter offer.”

“Counter offer to a million dollars?” Sissy laughed with amazement. “Well, you certainly threw Momma off with that contract of yours! I thought she’d pitch a conniption fit for sure when you showed it to her, but she just shushed you and said talking about money was tacky.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Yes, but she surely saw that magic million dollar number on it. And I hate to agree with her, but it is tacky to talk about money.” Her face became serious, “My job has never been about money to me, really. I could never get her to understand, though.”

Sissy plopped down onto the large, overstuffed cushions of the couch then looked around to see if her mother had seen her drop without showing any degree of grace. At twenty six she was still concerned about what her Momma might think of her actions.

She put one jeans clad leg under her and brought her own iced tea to her lips, pulling a coaster in front of herself. “Momma has definite plans for all of us, that’s for sure. And ours have nothing to do with a career.”

“Yes,” Elizabeth slowly looked over the notes in her hand then glanced at her briefcase on the floor beside her. She grinned, “Still, the moment I saw she was going to mention my not being married, I fluttered my new contract at her. She just pinched her lips and said, “Isn’t that nice.””

They both chuckled, knowing that “isn’t that nice?” meant anything but.

“So tell me about this fella you’ve met at the University,” Elizabeth glanced over then jotted a quick thought on the pad. Her eyes rose to the car passing outside then back to her sister.

Sissy paused. “He’s wonderful, sis. He’s different from all the others. I know I’ve said I’d found “the one” before, but I think Al’s really it.”

“Swept you off your feet, huh?” Elizabeth looked over. “Why didn’t we meet him at Christmas?”

“Well, he’s gone home for the holidays. Up north.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Well, maybe I’ll get to meet him before I go back.” She looked at the look on her sister’s face. “Don’t worry, Sis. Momma wouldn’t pitch a tizzy even if he wasn’t her cuppa tea. The most she’d do is pucker her lips. Believe me, after what she’s gone through with me, your choices will be welcomed. And Daddy just wants us to be happy.”

“Well, I thought I’d wait until I was really sure he was “the one”, then I’d bring him by. But maybe you could come to the campus and meet us for lunch once before you have to head north.”

“I’d like that. Is he planning to be an architect, too?”

“Uh huh,” Sissy sipped her tea. “An ‘artsy’ career, as Momma says.”

Both sisters laughed. “Momma sure has us cowed, doesn’t she?” Sissy asked, eliciting more laughter and nods of agreement.

“She tries!” Suddenly a large fluffy blob of orange and white striped fur moved from behind the couch and rubbed against Elizabeth’s feet.

“Phiz, there you are! Where’ve you been, Sugar?” The blonde moved her pad and pencil to the coffee table, then scooped the cat up to settle in her lap. She began to slowly pet him. His purring went from a low murmur to a loud rumble the more she petted.

“So your old firm doesn’t want to let you go, huh?” Sissy watched her sister giving the cat attention. She paid particular attention to her sister’s reaction when she added, “Mamma never thought the men there in the New Orlean’s office were gentlemen, you know.” She had never divulged that information to her sister before.

“Some of them aren’t.” Preston, for one. But some of them are, and those guys have worked hard to build a good reputation for the firm. I did, too, when I was there. Green eyes looked up. “It’s just so ridiculous. They don’t have a choice. My contract is up. But they’ve flown Gordon and Preston’s Daddy clear down here to talk to me about it. Big Daddy called this morning. I’ve set up an appointment to meet them for lunch.”

“Lunch? At least you’ll get a meal out of it. Are they taking you someplace nice?” Sissy glanced out the window at a car going by and Elizabeth followed her gaze.

“Oh, yes, I picked it. They wanted to meet at the office, but I steadfastly refused to do that. I do NOT want to run into Mary Jane. Instead I chose the place and the time. Always do that in business, Sissy, if you can. Pick the time and place. Put it on your turf. B’s has a semi-private area and fabulous food.”

Sissy knew the place. Their family had called it B’s forever, even though that was not its full name. “How many people are going to be there?”

“Let’s see, there’s Big Daddy Wildens from up north, Ken Templestrom met him once, he’s from this office and very sharp. Now he IS a gentleman. Then there’s a fellow from the northern office named Albert. He’s, uh, not one of my favorite people. Oh, and they’ll probably have Preston Wildens from here, too. He’s no gentleman, I’m afraid.”

“All those fellas against you? Aren’t you worried about that?”

A knowing smile formed on Elizabeth’s lips. “Noooo,” she drawled, “Ah kin sugarcoat with the best of them, dahlin.” Her accent suddenly became as thick as it had been before she moved out of the house years before. “Some are knaves and scoundrels, but ah believe ah kin lull them into a sweet surrendah.”

“And if you can’t?” Sissy’s eyes had widened. “Do you lose your million dollar contract?”

“Have some faith, chile,” Elizabeth grinned. “I’m really quite good at what I do. They don’t have anything to hold me with. But I can’t tell you how helpful my accent has been in working within the law. You’ll find that, too, when you get out into the business world.”

“Why would your accent help you?” Sissy sipped some more tea. “Especially with guys like these. They sound like sharks to me!”

Elizabeth put it on thick, “Well, ahm hopin a slower drawl will let them think ahm a little slow mah own self. Ah just LUV bein’ underestimated! Cause, Sugah, that’s when you have them at your mercy.” She chuckled and Sissy looked over at a very confident woman.

She wished she had half that much confidence. Instead of finishing up at the University this next term, maybe she should go spend some time up north with her sister. She might learn a great deal from Elizabeth if she did. But she wouldn’t see her boyfriend, so she decided against it.

“Oh, my, Phiz! Look at the time!” Elizabeth stood and put the cat on the floor. She brushed her skirt and jacket off with her hand.

“Here, I’ll grab the clothes brush and help you.”

“Thanks. Then I’d better scoot! I don’t want to be late!”

Sissy brushed all the cat hairs she could see off her sister then watched her grab her small zipped folder, put the notepad inside, slide her large briefcase into the closet and head out the door.


Evin awoke to the afternoon sun dancing on her face from the slit in the drapes. She had showered on her return and the sleep seemed to remove her headache. She got up to put the coffee on, her thoughts going to her run-in with Gordon the night before. “What a miserable cur he is,” she grumbled. “I can’t stand that man!”

She thought about what he’d said regarding the small blonde. I really should let her know what he was saying. Heaven forbid that Gordon’s side should get the upper hand on this. That would be unthinkable!

She looked at her watch. A couple of hours until her date. She smiled. Who was it again? She’d have to look at her daily planner and see. First she’d eat and shower once more before she dressed. The blonde came back to mind and Evin made a quick decision. She’d run to the corner pay phone and call her in New Orleans later when she left for her date. She had gotten the numbers. Her eyes narrowed. She had gotten all their numbers, her partners’ and the blonde’s, those miserable, rotten, scum-seeking rats!

She glanced at her own phone. It would be much warmer placing the call from inside but she decided against it. No need to leave any kind of paper trail that could be misinterpreted by anybody.


Sissy glanced nervously over at her sister who had been livid when she had returned from her luncheon and still looked angry as she moved around the kitchen. The older sibling’s arms were folded tightly across her chest and a large scowl covered her face. Occasionally she mumbled.

Sissy cut up some celery and tossed it into the food processor. She spooned in some mustard, some horseradish, ketchup. She got out the eggs and oil and set them aside. Their mother was out shopping and would be coming home with their father. She’d have dinner ready when they got home. She already had the gumbo on. Now for the appetizer. She lined the shrimp on a bed of lettuce. Both sisters enjoyed cooking.

But Elizabeth was pacing. They had offered her a million dollars to stay, a partnership if she wanted it, plus the position of the head of the northern office, she’d told Sissy angrily. Gordon, however, would not be leaving, the eldest sister stated. He would be sharing the position...only he never shared, she’d said. Yet none of that had mattered to the blonde. She had already chosen to move on and told them as much.

But the part that upset her was that they had brought Mary Jane, her ex-partner, ex-assistant, and ex-lover with them to try and convince Elizabeth to stay. And “try” the woman had, with everything she had.

“Academy Award performance,” Elizabeth grumbled as she paced, remembering the events from the luncheon. This prior lover of hers had pulled out all the stops...guilt, claims of renewed love and devotion, pleading...she had even shed a tear or two combined with her pleading. All in front of those good ol’ boys. She’d move to the northern office to be with Elizabeth, she’d cried, if only Elizabeth would stay with the firm.

It had surprised Elizabeth. She had not been prepared for that. In fact, she had hoped to avoid Mary Jane completely on this trip. She saw more emotion from Mary Jane in that luncheon in front of all those sharks than she had seen the whole three years they had been together. Not that it had made one whit of difference, other than that it had been demeaning and thoroughly annoyed Elizabeth that they would try and use a past romantic relationship for something like this.

Riled, she had again turned their offer down flat, she told her sister, but she had controlled her temper as she did so. Then she had gathered her things at the restaurant and said quietly aside to Mary Jane as a parting shot, “You knew it was over. I can’t believe you sunk to that!”

Mary Jane had looked at her with the echo of a self-satisfied smile, turned her back to the others and said softly so they couldn’t hear, “Yeah. We had to try it, though,” as though everything about their past relationship had been nothing more than fodder for a business ploy. Well, it hadn’t been that tight a union, but at least Elizabeth had thought it had been an honest liaison. Until now.

The small blonde drove home with Mary Jane’s words pounding through her head. It had all boiled down to a business ruse and it made her feel dirty. She knew how those good old boys played. But it seemed like a low blow even for them. She guessed she should have been prepared. It annoyed her even more that she hadn’t seen it coming.

Sissy walked into the pantry and brought out a small cardboard box. She removed a little square and dropped it into the processor. She replaced the box in the pantry.

The phone rang but Elizabeth did not hear it. She was pacing. Sissy grabbed the receiver from the wall.

“Montigeau Residence.”

“Elizabeth Montigeau, please,” Evin listened to the soft southern drawl of the young woman on the line.

“Who should I say is calling, please,” Sissy asked.

“Evin....from the law office,” the tall brunette added quickly, wondering again briefly if she was doing the right thing. Indecision was rarely if ever a problem for her so this had her a touch unnerved.

“One moment, please.” Sissy put her hand over the mouthpiece and called to Elizabeth. “Evin from the law office,” she said. “Do you want to talk to her?”

Elizabeth stood staring at her sister for a minute not comprehending. Evin? From the law office? That Evin? Calling me?

Evin stood on one foot then another waiting. She growled. It was cold and she felt untypically unsure of this. Maybe she should just let the little blonde get blindsided by those vipers from her other firm. Why in the heck did she care? “Cause she belongs to us, now!” she said to herself. “And because Gordon ticked me off!”

The blonde’s mind clicked. “Goodness, yes, I’ll talk to her!” She grabbed for the phone. “Elizabeth Montigue, speaking,” she said in her softest, sexiest voice.

It caught Evin unaware. This was the little pixie from hell? The one that walked out on her famous smile, “the look”? Nice voice. Sexy. Hmm. “Uh, this is Evin... from the law firm. Uh, Jacques’ and Jerome’s partner.”

“Evin? How nice to finally speak with you.” Evin’s anger at her partner’s deceitful dealings behind her back flared back up as she heard the small blonde’s words. The southern tones continued, “Thank you for...”

“Yeah, yeah, let’s cut with the pleasantries. I’ve heard some things and I wanted to let you know about them, that’s all.” Evin pulled her arms tight against her body and shivered. It was not snowing but the wind was blowing and there was snow on the ground. A scowl was fixed on her face. She turned up her collar and watched the busy traffic go by.

“You’ve heard things? Bless your heart,” Elizabeth said frigidly. She was not in the mood to be treated with rudeness. Not today. The way she said “bless your heart” was as close to “up yours” as her southern manners would allow her to get, and her sister shot her a look since she recognized the meaning in the tone of the blonde’s voice.

Sissy added the eggs and oil to the processor as she cast sideways glances at her sister.

Evin ignored the iciness of the blonde’s voice. “They’re gunning for you. They’ve sent Albert and they have something up their sleeve,” she stated.

“What?” the blonde asked.

“I don’t know. Something nefarious. They said something about “skeletons.””

“I see.” Elizabeth could hear the cars going by behind Evin. “Where are you?” she asked.

“On a street corner. I don’t want any written record of this to fall into their hands so they can make false claims. Always best to be careful. What in the heck do you care where I am?”

“Bless your heart,” the blonde repeated with the same frosty inflection and scurrilous meaning, “I’m sure I don’t. So, what exactly are the things that you heard?”

Sissy glanced over again. Whoa, her sister was really telling this gal off!

Evin paused. Funny...the way she’d said “bless your heart” almost sounded like she was cursing. Was that small blonde cursing at me? No. Could “bless your heart” be cursing? No. She shook it off.

“Uh, all right,” Evin finally replied. How was it that this small woman could keep her so off balance? “Um, I heard Gordon’s father is flying down to deal with you along with another fellow from here named Albert. Now Albert is sly and underhanded but not all the threat he thinks he is.”

“Yes, I know him.”

“Well, Gordy boy also said that someone named Ken from there would be working to tie you to your original contract. I think that means Ken Templestrom Smith, and if it does, that guy shouldn’t be underestimated. Oh, and he said something about using “skeletons” but he didn’t specify anything.”

“Yes, they’ve already contacted me,” Elizabeth replied stiffly.

“They have?! Damn! I was afraid of that!” The brunette kicked at the snow by her feet, her mind spinning. That miserable Gordon! If his firm got even one advantage, she’d never hear the end of it from him! She should have notified the blonde as soon as she knew. Cripes!

Elizabeth said nothing.

“All right,” Evin encouraged, “keep calm. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done. Ha! Here’s what we’ll do...” She paused then instantly brightened, “They won’t expect this!”

Evin straightened in expectation. There was a charge to be led. A war to be won against Gordon and his cronies! All right, she HADN’T wanted the blonde on staff, but her miserable partners made the deal and now their firm’s honor was at stake. This was the kind of thing she excelled at! Ha! She planned to kick that Gordon’s sneer right down his worthless throat!

“I’m the best and they’ll only be expecting you,” Evin said into the phone. “Tell them nothing but send me any legal papers they’ve filed against you, and I’ll get right to work on it here. Cut off all communication with them. I’ll push their butts right off that fancy cliff they think they’ve won.”

“They’ll only be expecting little ole’ me? Bless...your...heart,” Elizabeth bristled. That time the hidden “up yours” was almost audible. Yes, this frustrating, blue-eyed woman was going to be one colossal challenge! Could the woman’s ego be any bigger? The small blonde kept her temper and said smoothly, “You’re calling from a pay phone so that they won’t know, yet you want to take over the legal end of this? Am I missing something here?”

Evin blinked. “I’m just being cautious, that’s all. If they’re talking breach of contract, there’s only one sure approach...all guns ahead! I’ll love seeing their faces when they see ME walk into that courtroom! Ha!”

“Mm hmm. Actually there’s many approaches and the courtroom would be the last. But what I can’t help wondering is why you care, Evin. I mean, I had the impression that you didn’t care in the least what happened to me.” Elizabeth stood with a raised brow.

Evin scoffed. Time to set this little blond pixie straight. “Because I DON’T care....except in this way: you belong to us now. We don’t lose! Ha! And we don’t let those sniveling baboons get away with anything! So, send me the copies and I’ll take care of everything. And if you have skeletons in your closet, tell me now and we’ll deal with those.”

Elizabeth was far from losing control of this problem with her prior firm, regardless of how angry she had been at lunchtime. “I appreciate the offer, Evin,” she said briskly, “And believe me, those “sniveling baboons” will not get away with anything. Nor should skeletons concern you. I’m on top of this. Don’t worry about it. I just said they’d contacted me, not that I’d lost control of the situation. But thank you anyway.”

There was a pause. “They blindsided you, didn’t they?” Evin accused. “Didn’t they?”

Dang, she is good, the blond thought, running her hand through her hair. Must be something she picked up in my voice. I’ll have to remember that about her. “No,” Elizabeth hedged, trying to keep any signals out of her voice, “They didn’t really.” Not the way you think.

“You can’t fool me, you know,” Evin continued. “Ha! I know how these bozos think! This is war! Send me the information and I’ll squeeze their cajones in a vise till they’re all singing soprano!”

“Oh, my!” Elizabeth returned, startled by the language.

“Well, uh,” Evin realized suddenly that she should check her invectives.

“You get points for vividness, I guess,” Elizabeth chuckled softly. In a strange way she really did appreciate Evin offering her help. Even if she was about the rudest person Elizabeth had ever met. Still, the woman WAS standing out in the freezing cold just in order to warn her. She didn’t HAVE to be doing that. “Uh, Evin? Again, I truly appreciate the offer, Sugar, but I have it firmly in control. When I get back up there, I’ll be completely free of them. Don’t worry your little brain over it.”

“Worry? Ha! I don’t worry...I act!”

“Yes, but this time it’s mine to handle.”

“You could foul it up. This is war, after all! Our firm’s involved in this!”

“I won’t foul it up.”

“But I could turn them into a sopranic singing choir! I could have them wishing they’d never been born! I could have them plastered all over...”

“I know how good you are,” Elizabeth drawled, “And I appreciate the information and I appreciate the offer of help. Tell me, what would convince you that it was taken care of here? I mean, when I’ve won and it’s all over, what would convince you that it WAS over and that I’d won?”

“There’ll be court doc...”

“No, this most likely will NOT be settled in court. There won’t be court documents. So what’d convince you that I’d won, besides the fact that I show up on time at your firm without having been sued?”

“That you’ve won? Ha! That’s easy!” Evin didn’t even have to think on that. “If I ever heard Gordon politely wish you the best of luck in your new job, I’d know that you beat the snot out of them.”

“Uh,” Elizabeth would have preferred not referring to the snot. She didn’t care for that visual. “Yes.”

Evin grinned. Hades would freeze solid before that miserable drunk would say anything even vaguely like that, whether the blonde won or not! She wondered if she should tell Elizabeth the names Gordon had already called her. No. She should let me handle this. I am the best! She’ll never get that jerk to wish her well but I could not only win but pound him into oblivion and laugh while I did it!

“All right. That’s what it will be, then. Gordon will tell you personally.”

“Ha! THAT I’d like to see!”

“So you shall. By the way, I was very impressed with your actions in court the day I saw you.”

“Of course you were,” Evin smiled, her attention drawn to herself. Naturally this woman had heard of her accomplishments. Then the tall brunette remembered the ten million Elizabeth had beaten her by and her smile turned to a frown.

“You were lucky,” she said petulantly.

“Lucky? In what way? I don’t understand.”

“Never mind.”

“All right. So, thank you for the information and the offer of help,” Elizabeth said, taking control of the conversation. She knew for a fact that with women like Evin you had to take control as often as you could. It threw them off and kept them wondering. “Now I’ll give you my thanks and bid you a fond good afternoon. Good bye.” She hung up.

Evin was not used to someone, particularly a woman, dismissing her. It took her a little by surprise. “Yeah, fine,” Evin said, looking at the receiver before she hung up. “What is it about that woman? What is she all about, anyway?” she pondered. “Fond good afternoon,” the brunette scoffed. “Who talks like that?” But the woman had gotten her attention.

She walked briskly back to the parked car, thinking as she went. Suddenly she smiled. “She called me Sugar,” she beamed. “Gawds, woman, you are, as always, the best. They all adore you. She’ll probably dream about you tonight. Ha! They always do! And for good reason, if I do say so myself!”

“So was that her?” Sissy asked placing a finger on “blend”, then stopping to dip the spoon and remove a touch of the concoction. She sipped then blinked her eyes a number of times. Then she coughed and hurried to the sink where she ran a glass of water and swallowed it down. There were tears in her eyes that she wiped away.

“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a soft smile, not really watching her sister. “That was Evin. My, she is going to take a lot of work!”

Sissy cleared her throat. “From the way you were blessing her heart, I thought you hated her,” she chuckled. “Mamma would have been proud of how you swore at her without swearing at her.” She moved back to blend the container some more.

“We have kind of a “thing” going on, I guess,” Elizabeth laughed and turned to face her sister. “The other partners hired me without her knowing. She wasn’t happy. She’s very competitive and she’s absolutely impossible in a strangely enjoyable kind of way. And she is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen in my life with eyes to die for and an ego the size of Jupiter.” She shrugged, “Like I said before, Super Challenge!”

“Oh, oh. She’d better watch it. I’d say you’ve got her firmly in your sites. You like the bad girl types. Mary Jane was a bit of a bad girl, I thought.”

“A bit,” Elizabeth agreed. “Maybe.” But with far less honor than I thought.

“Here, try this,” Sissy held out a small amount of the blend in the spoon.

“What is it?” Elizabeth asked.

“Remoulade,” Sissy answered. “To put over the shrimp.”

Elizabeth took a taste and immediately began to cough. She ran for the sink and drank some water. “Crimony, Sissy, what did you put in there? That is one hot sauce! My nose is still on fire and I can’t feel my throat!”

Sissy walked to the pantry and brought out the box. “Cousin Gerrard made these. It’s his sort of jellied pepper juice, I think. Some kind of really hot pepper he ran across. They dissolve. Momma said to add just one.”

Both sisters looked at the small cubes. “Zowie! They are really hot! Who’d think such heat could come from such a small cube,” Sissy mused.

“Yes,” Elizabeth agreed. “Almost look like boullionne cubes. Or sprinkle sugar on them and they’d look like sugar cubes. He made these himself?”

“Yeah. His own invention.”

“I love Creole cooking, but use these little hummers with care. Here, I’ll help you cut up some more vegetables and let’s put more eggs in there to tone it down some. And add a whole bunch more liquid to this mix.” The sisters both got out items to put into the container.

Later that night as Elizabeth lay in bed, her mind drifted back to the day’s activities. The luncheon and Mary Jane’s performance remained potent in her mind. She clenched her jaw. “If it’s hardball they want, I’ll just see what I can dig up for them! But I have a hunch they’re gonna surely wish they’d left well enough alone!”

Then her thoughts drifted to the seductive azure eyes of the tall beauty up north. She sighed softly. “And you, Sugar, had better watch your step, as well. I’ve already got you underestimating me, and that is frightfully dangerous on your part.” She smiled and snuggled down. “But it surely makes my job easier.”

New Year’s Eve found Elizabeth celebrating with her old friends. She noticed the man tailing her and smiled when he didn’t follow her inside. You’d stick out in any gay bar, she scoffed to herself at the sight of him. But now they’ll likely send Mary Jane to track me instead. These good old boys are certainly going out of their way on my behalf. I’d say they fully understand how much they’re losing by my walking away from their firm.

The blind date her friends had set up for Elizabeth was a very nice woman, but the small blonde felt no particular chemistry with her. Still the evening was pleasant and the date was a good dancer. Elizabeth and her group had a very good time. She made sure they paid particular care to avoid running into Mary Jane as they celebrated, moving from bar to bar. Her friends thought it was because of their break-up. Elizabeth let them think that.

“Let’s go over to Sonny Lee’s place,” Elizabeth suggested. “I hear there’s a big party there tonight.”

“It’s mostly guys, though,” Merribell frowned.

“I know, Sugar, but I haven’t seen them since I was here last. I’d like to at least wish them a Happy New Year.” Elizabeth surveyed their group.

“All right,” Barbara said. “We’ll all go then we’ll head back here afterward. Besides, I think Mary Jane is heading here. That’s what Deke just told me. Maybe she’ll be gone when we get back.”

The small group headed to Sonny’s and Elizabeth got to mingle and greet everyone she hadn’t seen in a while. No one noticed her watching the door for unscheduled company. It was mostly fellas and the girls quickly became bored. Merribell did notice that Sonny disappeared for a while after talking with Elizabeth. When he returned, he had a manila envelope that he handed to her.

“Let’s go back,” Elizabeth smiled to the group. “I’ve talked to everyone here.” The boistrous group agreed and happily laughed their way back.

On their return, a tall, graceful brunette approached the table. Mary Jane casually flicked a strand of dark mahogony hair from her eyes and asked Elizabeth to dance. The manila folder was left on the table, a diet coke glass on top, as they moved to the dance floor.

“I know you’re mad, Elizabeth Marie,” Mary Jane smiled. “But I’m just trying to make a name for myself at the firm; I wasn’t trying to harm you.”

“You did though. And you harmed us. But mostly you harmed yourself.” Elizabeth inclined her head. “Don’t you see how that cheapens what we had? There are some things a lady simply doesn’t do.”

“Contrary to popular belief, I’m no lady, Elizabeth Marie,” she said angrily. “I’ve told you that before, if you’d ever bothered to listen.” She turned to abandon Elizabeth on the dance floor but snapped back around. “I don’t have that fine record you do. I can’t afford not to keep my employer happy. I WANT a partnership with them even if you thought they were below you. Preston gave me an office for what I did at lunch and would have given me the partnership if you’d accepted and stayed. I knew you wouldn’t, you and your high morals and all.” She spun and was gone.

Oh, Mary Jane, Elizabeth thought sadly, you don’t sell your soul to them. You make them play by your rules as much as possible. That’s how you survive with people like that. The things you hold sacred, you never give up to them. That’s why I wouldn’t become a partner. I thought you understood that. But then, maybe you never held us sacred. She sighed heavily, Did I, I wonder? I surely thought I did.

Elizabeth sighed, walked back and sat down. She drank her coke and waited for the others to return to the table. She felt badly for Mary Jane. She had talent but this was not the way to get ahead. She couldn’t help feeling sad that it turned out this way.

She was dancing when midnight struck and chastely kissed her date for the evening. Her mind drifted and she thought, Happy New Year, gorgeous blue-eyed warrior woman. Next year at this time...well, I have plans for you!

“Making resolutions?” her date asked with a soft smile when she saw the small blonde’s far off look.

“Uh,” Elizabeth blushed slightly. “Yes, I guess I was at that.”Evin spent her New Year’s evening dining and dancing with a wild, young new acquaintance she nicknamed “Boobalicious.” They had an uncurbed and outrageous time at the club. At midnight she thought briefly of the guys. She was still mad and a bit hurt. In large part, they were her family. And they had gone behind her back.

Angrily she pushed the thoughts away. She thought of blonde hair, soft southern drawl and green eyes. Momentarily she decided it wasn’t really the pixie’s fault. Perhaps. She wondered what the blonde was doing.

She pushed everything out of her mind when her date French kissed her as they danced. Then they ratchetted it up a lot once they got to the voluptuous woman’s apartment. It was almost noon on New Year’s Day when Evin finally got home to shower and get some sleep.

“What a way to bring in the New Year!” she smiled. “I know I’m relaxed.” She smirked to herself but pushed aside the dissatisfaction she began to recognize creeping into her thoughts again.

The tall brunette showered, fell asleep and dreamt of green eyes, blonde hair and a small shapely figure. She awoke hours later with a smile on her face but no particular recollection of the dream. “I am the champion!” she shouted to the empty room. “When does my next date get here?”Jacques and Jerome and their respective families were all on their way home on New Year’s Day. At one point Jacques placed a call to Jerome’s cell phone and was surprised to hear it being answered.

“Jerome? Where are you guys?” he asked. “Are you home already?”

“No,” Jerome replied. “We were supposed to be, but instead we’re in Iceland. Our flight reservations were changed and we have a five hour lay-over here. Evin found us.”

“Ahh, she found us, too,” Jacques replied. “We’re in Utah. From here we get a connecting flight to Arizona where we change planes to head north again. Sort of a long one day tour of America by air.”


“Yeah. Hey, you ever had tons of pizzas delivered to your cabin then copious amounts of popcorn followed by a screaming, orange-haired, pierced and punctured teen-aged band and a car full of clowns? Kids even came from the local kids clubs for the free pizza.”

“Oh, gods, really? Sounds like a nightmare you might have after eating some horrible concoction!”

“Yes. Did I mention that I’ve never liked clowns?”

“What did you do?”

“What could we do? We had an outdoor pizza party complete with a snowman building contest and a snow fort and snowball fight. The twins loved it. What seven year old wouldn’t? But our skiing was over once Evin found us. Our cabin reservations were canceled and new ones were made at a dude ranch. There were children’s events every day after that and Janet and I had to work all day long. I even had to muck out a stall.”

Jerome laughed. “Did they know what expensive help they had there?”

“Everybody works on a dude ranch, regardless of what salary they make somewhere else,” Jacques rolled his shoulders. His body still hurt a little.

“Well, we went horseback riding one whole day, too. I have blisters on my behind, nearly got thrown by the brute they put me on, but at least I’ll never have to do it again.”

“You hate horseback riding,” Jacques said.

“And your point is?” Jerome replied.

Jacques laughed. “Did you get to the opera? I know how you love it.”

“Yes. That was the only scheduled event we were able to salvage. But we ended up with separate places in the back of the auditorium two aisles apart from each other. Still, it was a good production.”

Despite himself Jacques laughed. “Evin,” he said by way of explanation. “I shouldn’t be laughing. The worst is probably yet to come.”

“I know. Patsy says we’re lucky she didn’t quit. I guess we’d better not complain at all. We knew she’d be mad. We’ll need to let her vent.”

“I agree.”

“Have you talked to Elizabeth to see how everything is going with her?”

“No. I thought I’d call once we see the full extent of Evin’s ire.”

“So, was Janet disappointed not to be able to ski after Evin found you?”

“Surprisingly, she wasn’t. Janet liked brushing down the horses and mucking stalls. She’s talking about us maybe getting a horse.”

Jerome laughed. “Oh, gods! Don’t invite me to ride.”

“Yeah,” Jacques agreed. “You know what I think? I think we’re lucky that it took Evin that long to find us. I feel kind of proud of that in a way. I mean, she’s the best and we held her off that long!”

“I know what you mean. Now if we only knew what else she’s planned.”

“If she weren’t so danged talented in court and if she wasn’t such a good friend when she wants to be, and if she wasn’t so good with the kids...”

“And if she didn’t make our firm so exceedingly successful, and kick so many of our enemies butts, and make us laugh so often...”

“Yeah, I like her, too. And I do feel badly that we did it that way. But we both know she’d have hogtied us and physically prevented us from hiring Elizabeth.” Jacque paused, “It was the right move for the firm. I’m sure of that. And she’ll get over this. Then we can go back to normal.”

“I hope. I’m going in early tomorrow, by the way. About five thirty. I wanna get in before she does.”

“Me, too. See you there, partner. Oops, there’s our plane. See ya.”

Exhausted from their flights, both families piled into bed as soon as they got home. It had been a grueling New Year’s Day.

At 5:30 the next morning they pulled into the parking lot and each looked around. There were no cars but their own. Seeing no one else, the two partners greeted each other and confidently headed toward the office.

“Her car’s not here,” Jerome said, looking around. “We beat her.”

“Yes,” Jacques held out his keys and unlocked the door. “We’re getting good at this.”

“Hello, boys,” Evin stood in the back of the darkened office as the two male partners entered, flicking on lights. She was leaning against the wall and her arms were folded across her chest.

“Evin!” they both said in surprised unison.

“The one and only,” she sneered. “Your PARTNER! Remember? Any more surprises for me?” she asked, raising one brow to her hair line.

“No, now Evin, you need to look at the large picture,” Jacques started.

“Cram the large picture, Jacques! You two went behind my back like I wasn’t even a partner! You hired someone without my having one word of say! That had better not EVER happen again. Do you understand what I’m saying? I can vote “NO” but I sure as hell will not be left without any vote at all...ever again!”

“You’re right, of course, Evin,” Jerome said, his head hanging down. “We were afraid you’d say ‘no’ and instead we didn’t let you vote at all.” They didn’t want to tell her they were afraid she’d physically stop them. No sense letting her know they were THAT afraid of her. “You’re right to be angry. That was the wrong way to do this, even if we thought it was good for the firm.”

“Yes, it was wrong! I’m glad you understand. Now I have taken it upon myself to make some changes in your schedules, since it didn’t seem to have to be a mutual arrangement and everything. I’ve left them on your desk. I’ve changed some of the cases around. Read and enjoy.”

She started for the front door and called over her shoulder, “And Jacques needs to dig out his tux and Jerome, you need to be fitted for your tights and tutu. Chow, guys! I’m going out for breakfast.” She walked out the door without another word. Both men looked wide-eyed at each other.

“A tux?” Jacques asked.

“Tights and a tutu?” Jerome grimaced. “I’ll trade ya.”

“Let’s see what tortures she’s lined up for us,” Jacques said.

“Yes,” Jerome agreed. He was almost afraid to look. “Where do you suppose she parked?” He looked out the window but didn’t see her anywhere. “Hiding her car. She’s talented that way.”

“Oh, gods! She gave me that Thornburg case.” Jacques looked at the page in his hand. “And the Randolph case. Crud! What’s PBTV? I’m there ten nights in a row, for cripes sakes!”

Jerome said nothing. He was staring at his schedule.


Big Daddy Wildens was yelling on the phone. Elizabeth moved it from her ear and saw her mother give her the eye from across the sitting room, where the older woman sat crocheting.

“We’ll keep you in court years over this! Don’t think for one minute that you’re going to just walk away from us. Oh, no! You’ll pay damages for this, and you’ll pay dearly!” the man shouted. “There are things you don’t want the world to know...”

“This can be settled very quickly and painlessly..” Elizabeth drawled lazily.

“Oh, no! You’re the one walking away, and after we were kind enough to let you move to our northern office! That’s the thanks we get!” Big Daddy’s voice echoed through the phone and around the room. Elizabeth’s mother pinched her lips from where she sat in the overstuffed chair. She cast a scornful look at her oldest daughter.

“If we just sit down someplace neutral,” Elizabeth had purposely slipped back into her drawl. Her mother raised a brow. “and go over what we have, ah’m sure this problem will just slip away.”

“I don’t know what you’re smoking over there, little girl, but this isn’t going away without you paying a stiff penalty for our loss. We’ve spent years training you! You’ll think twice when you see what things the world might hear about you. And if you insist on leaving, it will cost you up the kazoo, and don’t think otherwise!”

“Ah will meet with you on...” Elizabeth turned pages in her day calendar.

“No! You will meet with us tomorrow at nine a.m. right here in our office! You be here or else!” He hung up the phone with a bang.

“Well, bless your heart,” Elizabeth muttered glacially.

“Elizabeth Marie, is this how that lawyering thing works? Because I fail to see much to be proud about in it,” her mother said. “You could forget all that nonsense and live a happy and contented life with Bobby L...”

“No, mother. That won’t be happening.”

Elizabeth picked up the phone and placed the call from memory. “Let me speak to Kenny please, Bessie Mae.” There was a pause then the blonde’s voice became cold. “I surely hope for his sake that he really is out. Well, you tell him I’ll wait an hour for him to return my call, then I’m adding one demand for each additional hour that I’m kept waiting.”

“What makes you think you’ll be able to make any demands?” a deep mellow voice said over the line. “You’re the one walking out.”

“Hello, Kenny. Because I believe I know what’s what. Now, what was all that nonsense about being out? This is me you’re talking to here. Don’t try and be too clever with me.”

“No, Elizabeth. I apologize. I, uh, had company in my office when you called. But he, uh, stormed out.” The deep barreled tones of Ken’s soft laugh came on the line.

“Kenny, we worked long and hard, you, Bobbie and I, to turn that company’s reputation into the finest such as it is today. I would hate to see it have a complete reversal of fortune.”

“What do you mean?” Kenny asked.

“Big Daddy doesn’t know it yet,” Elizabeth threatened, “but he could have a ton of misery on his hands if he keeps trying to deal with me like he has been. I may be a lady, but believe me, I WILL take the gloves off!”

The laughter stopped. Kenny knew the legal wallop she was capable of rendering. “Yes. I understand. I’m real sorry about that Mary Jane thing they pulled, Elizabeth. I told them not to, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”

“Well, Kenny, you’d better rein them in. Big Daddy was hinting about “things” I wouldn’t want let out. I don’t take kindly to that kind of talk! I don’t make a secret of my lifestyle, if that’s what he was referencing. I think it’s time we settled this. And believe me, Sugar, he’s not gonna like what I have to present.”

Ken Templestrom Smith paused. Elizabeth could bluff with the best of them, but she never made empty threats.

“I’m thinking you have more than just an old simple contract that you’re talking about here. Am I right?”

“What do you think, Kenny? Big Daddy wants hardball, he is gonna get hardball. It will behoove him to listen, believe me. We need to meet.”

Oh, crud, he thought. She’s ALREADY prepared to hit us with something awful. But what? When did she have time? We’ve gotta know what she’s got. Forewarned is forearmed. Course, if you get from her, you have to be prepared to give as well. Pause. “Okay, Elizabeth. What do you suggest?”

“I will meet with you and the committee in the Magnolia Springs Room day after tomorrow, say at one thirty, at our old favorite hotel downtown. Do NOT bring Mary Jane or I’ll walk out and not return to the table! And believe me, that will be disastrous for the firm. Bring Osprey, too. All the committee members! We’ll discuss this and finish with it once and for all.”

“Confident that we won’t be going to court, eh?”

“Yes. I’m pretty sure we won’t.”

“Okay. I’m inclined to agree we should meet. I’ll talk to Big Daddy, see what he says, and get back to you.”

“Don’t bother, Sugar. Just have the team there. You see, Big Daddy has been extremely rude to me, bless his heart. He’s expecting me at the office tomorrow morning. A command appearance of sorts.”

“But you don’t plan to attend?”

“Cold day in hell, Kenny!” Elizabeth looked up to see the startled look on her mother’s face. She heard the same startled gasp from Kenny.

All the years I’ve worked with her, I’ve never heard Elizabeth swear, Ken thought to himself. Lordy, I think the firm might be in more serious trouble here than I thought. I knew they shouldn’t have involved Mary Jane! We HAVE to know what Elizabeth has. And I’d better see what I can do about running interference!

“All right, we’ll be there, Elizabeth. All the committee.”

“And, Kenny?”


“I expect you to protect Mary Jane as much as possible in the future. She has been listening to those scoundrels and following their advice. Rein them in and keep her away from them as much as you can. She has good potential, Kenny. Explain to her WHO she needs to be listening to in order to prevail. She is misdirected on that point.”

“Yes. I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask.”

Ken Templestrom Smith hung up and Elizabeth smiled. Big Daddy would not be happy with this, bless his heart. She could have met the next day, but she wanted Big Daddy to be aware that he was not calling the shots. Besides, she wanted to once again go over everything she had so far. If they did end up in court, she’d have more. Her leads were promising.

Elizabeth strode toward the Magnolia Springs Room two days later where the group was already assembled and seated around a table. She was dressed conservatively in her dark pin-striped lawyer suit with white camisole top. Her high heels clicked purposely along the floor. “Deal the hands, fellas,”she mused to herself, “We are about to play a little poker.”

“What is she doing here?!” Big Daddy sputtered as the petite blonde entered. At seventy-three, he cut a tall, formidable figure. “We’re going to court! There’s nothing to discuss with this...blonde...woman!” Though he was not happy, he was careful not to be slanderous. He turned to the quiet man sitting next to him. “You forced us here, Kenny. You said a strategy meeting! You didn’t say she’d be here! What’s this about?”

“Why, Sugar, we’re here to calmly discuss this contract business,” the small blonde fixed him with a professional smile although she felt a deep vexation towards him. “And I trust you’ll find there’s plenty to talk over.”

“If you’re saying you’re coming back, then yes, we’ll discuss the terms. Otherwise there’s nothing to discuss!” Big Daddy’s scraggy grey brows flared. “We’ll see you in court!” he barked angrily.

“Take it easy, Big Daddy,” Kenny murmured. “I asked her here to discuss the contract.” Shrewd grey eyes glanced up at the older man.

“No, I shall not be returning to the firm,” Elizabeth put her briefcase on her chair and pulled a manila envelope from it. The envelope had the stains of a glass of liquid on the outside of it. The blonde stood gently squeezing the envelope and looking around at the grim faces before her.

Justin, a new ambitious junior partner, sat silently taking everything in. He was the youngest member of the committee.

Beside him was Bobby. He was an older original partner but a basically honest and decent man in Elizabeth’s view. He had always been a strong, dependable influence yet he was not nearly as astute as Kenny. In his late sixties, there were times when his memory began to fail him. Even so, he was still a balancing influence for the firm.

Next was Kenny. He was older than Elizabeth and had started at the firm earlier. His thick, unruly light brown hair and soft freckles belied his late mid-thirties and gave him a disarmingly boyishly appearance. Kenny was a partner, frighteningly intelligent, sagacious and shrewd. He was the power behind the firm and Elizabeth trusted him. They had worked closely for the years she had been in New Orleans.

Big Daddy, who sat beside Ken, was supposedly retired. He had been a founding partner, a cagey, adroit, overpoweringly ruthless man whose vigor and force had brought the firm to prominence. When an active partner, he had understood the game and played it to the edge. His progeny, however, fell far short of his mark.

Big Daddy’s oldest son, Preston was next. He glared back at Elizabeth. He, technically had been the senior partner in charge of the New Orleans’ office during the time she had worked there. However, it was his rumored transgressions from earlier years that Elizabeth knew Kenny and the other partners were forced to clean up and set right.

Now everything he did had to go through Kenny first. An insult to a man twenty years Kenny’s senior. Yet it was a part of their agreement. He served as more of a figurehead than an active participant. As a member of the firm, Elizabeth had made sure she, personally, had never been required to clean up any of his old messes. Only partners did that. She understood that and adamantly refused that fast track prospect.

Beside him sat Albert. He was not a member of the committee, nor was Big Daddy. Albert was from the northern office. An unpleasant man in many ways, he was more sly than wise, more cagey than astute.

Deal the cards, boys! her mind whispered as she perused their faces.

A polite smile graced her features. She spoke softly. “Going to court only wastes time and money for all of us. It behooves every one of us to take a cool and collected look at the situation.”

“I’m not at all surprised that you’re afraid of going to court!” Big Daddy roared. “Our firm is one of the most prestigious firms in this city. Don’t think for one minute that courts and juries aren’t aware of our standing when something like this is presented to them! The advantage is ours and we’ll show you to be the greedy, thankless employee you’ve shown yourself to be!”

That genuinely ticked Elizabeth off, but she forced herself to not show it. She had spent five years of her life building this firm’s “fine reputation”. She calmly pushed her chair with the briefcase aside to leave herself room to stand by the table. Being short, 5’ 4”, she always liked to capture an edge by standing over her opponents if she possibly could.

“I reckon we could discuss this firm’s status, if you so desire,” she replied. “Considering how hard I worked for five years to help elevate it to where it is, yes, we could discuss that.”

Big Daddy dug through his own briefcase and pulled out a paper. “No little missy, THIS is what we have to discuss!” Big Daddy threw a copy of her original contract on the table. “Breach of contract.”

“Mmm,” Elizabeth replied with a soft laugh, remaining standing as she sorted through the papers inside her manila envelope. “Let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves,” she muttered, still looking for what she wanted.

“What in the hell do you mean by that?” Preston demanded.

“Preston, watch your language, please,” Kenny said firmly, “There’s a lady present.”

“Elizabeth’s no lady,” Preston scowled. “Not since she decided to walk away.” He looked triumphantly at his father, who nodded his agreement.

“No. We’ll all watch our language,” Bobby Osprey boomed, and everyone became quiet. Bobby took out a cigar then remembered Elizabeth didn’t like the smell and slipped it back into his breast pocket. He was a distinguished looking older man in a three piece suit. “We are gentlemen, or we don’t represent this firm!”

Elizabeth tried not to smile at that. She pulled out a paper then a soft grin erupted. She looked it over for a minute. “Yes, this is it.”

He wanted hardball, here’s some, she mused. She scanned the assembled group of men. “You may find the situation is not open to dispute.” Ante up, fellas, she grinned inwardly.

“What?” Preston asked incredulously. “We have a contract. You can’t just walk away. We’re going to keep you in court for years!”

“It’s a five year contract, and it’s up for renewal. I’m choosing not to renew.” She glanced at the paper in question where it lay in the middle of the table. “Granted, among it’s many faults, it is exceedingly general and vague, but the renewal point strikes me as being very clear. So, why the dispute?” Green eyes swept the room’s occupants questioningly.

Albert looked to Kenny, who gave him the go ahead with a nod. “Ah, but your intent,” he said cunningly, his eyes never still. “We claim the contract is still in effect and that you had every intention of renewing.”

“What?” Elizabeth lifted her gaze from the contract with surprise. “No, I did not. Why would you think that?”

“Your own words speak for themselves,” he bestowed a furtive glance her way and flicked a computer written letter onto the table. Elizabeth picked it up and perused it with stunned disbelief. It was a letter addressed to Mary Jane supposedly from her; a typed letter with Elizabeth’s scribbled signature at the bottom. She assumed it said all they would want her to say to bolster their case. She didn’t bother reading it but inspected the signature. It was a skilled hoax.

“This is a forgery.” Both Bobby and Kenny flicked her startled glances at the word “forgery”. Elizabeth had expected sly legal maneuvering but she was jolted by the sheer audacity of this attempt. There was nothing legal about this! But mostly she hoped it was Preston’s and Albert’s foul play at work and didn’t really involve Mary Jane.

Why in the world would Mary Jane allow herself to be involved in something like this? Why? This is seriously unlawful! This isn’t just some humiliating staged act of crying and begging me to stay. Gods, Kenny and Bobby worked so hard to corral Preston and make every business dealing in that office proper! Ken’s got to be as shocked about this as I am.

She dismissed the letter with a toss back onto the table. Green eyes met Kenny’s and she saw the quickest glimmer of distress before his eyes became guarded. You’d best worry, Kenny, she reasoned. This is foul play!

Kenny grabbed the letter and studied the signature. “You didn’t sign this?” Albert and the two Wildens sat back looking very pleased with themselves, although Big Daddy cast some glances his son’s way. His son had sworn it was the real thing.

“It’s hers,” Albert’s crafty hazel eyes twinkled. “It hurts her position and she doesn’t want to admit it. Naturally she’ll say she didn’t write it.” But Kenny wasn’t at all sure that was true and it bothered him tremendously.

“Of course it’s hers!” Big Daddy shouted. “She didn’t expect us to find it!”

He looked at the small blonde and wondered why she did so well in court. He didn’t find her impressive in the least. She was just a petite, soft spoken, good looking, little broad in suitable business clothes. Her figure was trim but her boobs weren’t even big enough to awe him.

Elizabeth replied, “No! And if you’re betting the farm on this, you might want to rethink what cards are in your hand.”

“We’ll have our experts testify to the signature’s validity,” Albert’s restless eyes lit on the blonde and he smiled smugly. “And Mary Jane will testify that she received it from you. We even have the envelope postmarked from your city. We’ve already had it tested for fingerprints, and yours are all over both. And tests have shown it was typed on your own computer and printed off on your printer at the northern office.”

Elizabeth’s fair brow raised in question, “A computer and office supplies from my desk, you mean? One YOU had full access to? Of course my prints would be on them!”

HIS experts? She knew a little about Albert and wasn’t at all impressed although it never occurred to her that he would dare go to these lengths. So they think if this proves intent, it will open the door to damages, aye? Green eyes moved to Kenny. “Mary Jane may have received this,” she said quietly. “It was not from me nor did I sign it.”

Kenny looked at it wordlessly before he handed it to Bobby. Their case really centered around this letter. Preston might fake this, Ken reasoned, but this involves Albert. Would he hazard doing something like this? My God! That seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Kenny ran his fingertips over his lips. “Your fingerprints are on it. And it does tend to support our position.”

“That’s a surprise, huh? Well, no matter,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s bogus.”

Elizabeth glanced over the top of her own paper she had withdrawn from the envelope. Those smug lying demons! she thought. My expert against theirs...a potential stand-off. And they’ve set up deniability. Even if it’s proved to be false, those two would blame Mary Jane. They’d claim they were duped by her and they’d come out looking innocent. Mary Jane would be the one held to blame. How could she have been so stupid?

Kenny looked at the letter. It damn well better be for real! Don’t they realize the very last person they should ever want saying “fraud” and their name in the same sentence is Elizabeth? She’s just too good.

“Let’s forget it for now and discuss the contract, shall we?” Elizabeth suggested, directing her eyes to Kenny. “We all know that fake letter will be a war of the experts in a courtroom. We can come back to it later.” Do you think you even have any case without this letter? she wondered. And if so, how? I think I’ve got all the bases covered. She had had little time to prepare for this, but she was pretty sure she had enough preparation to settle.

“All right,” Kenny agreed. “We’re losing a lot by losing you, Elizabeth. If you won’t stay, we almost HAVE to pursue this in court, and the letter..”

“Is fraudulent. And, no, going to court would be foolish for you, and I’ll tell you why.” Elizabeth smiled. “This.” She handed Kenny her paper.

Kenny took it and glanced quickly at both sides. Then he began to read. “This old Macraw case is old news, Elizabeth,” He looked up at her with a bewildered look. “It’s been through the courts and been settled long since. This was laid to rest years ago.”

“Let me see that!” Big Daddy grabbed the paper from Ken and began to read through it.

“Yes,” Elizabeth replied. “Five years ago exactly, in fact. Look at the names on it. Check dates. If you’ll remember, Preston was suspended for a period of time with Macraw.”

“Correct,” Bobby Osprey’s deep tones piped up. “But it was for a very short time. Then he was reinstated.”

Bobby fingered the cigar in his pocket as he idly remembered how lucky the firm had been in the Macraw case. Even though Preston had been suspended, it turned out to be only a quiet slap on the wrist. Kenny, who had not made partner by then, had been marvelous at keeping the press at bay with little cost to the firm’s reputation. They had dodged the bullet on that one!

“This paper is meaningless!” Big Daddy scurrilously tossed the page aside. “Macraw is old news!” Albert picked it up, his busy eyes flitting to every person before settling on the page.

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth answered. “But if I’m challenged in court, I would file this to support a claim that the contract’s worthless.”

“Worthless? I don’t understand, Elizabeth. Why would it be worthless?” Bobby’s voice flinched, jarred from his pleasant reverie.

“There are questions I ask myself as I work a case, Bobby,” she smiled. “I ask myself, can a suspended partner legally represent the law firm all by himself and hire someone? If he were, ordered ...not to practice law, does hiring law personnel qualify? Have you read Preston’s suspension information from this? I have. And if he signed his name and put “attorney at law” after it, is that legal? If you’re suspended, are you an attorney at law? What would a judicial committee think of everything? Interesting questions, yes?”

Both Kenny’s and Bobby’s eyes ran to the contract to note the dates. Crimony, did Preston hire her when he was suspended? Kenny rubbed his chin. “Well, even if it was the same time, the courts still might not agree the contract’s invalid,” he suggested. But it was another hole to plug.

“Yeeesss,” she smiled. “Possible, surely. Anything is, we all know that. But you would have to agree that it would put that Macraw case right back in the spotlight, wouldn’t it?”

“So?” Preston scoffed, “It’ll still be deemed a valid contract.”

Green eyes twinkled back at Preston. “It’s good to be positive. But then there’s more to Macraw than meets the eye, Preston, isn’t there?”

The hair on the back of Kenny’s neck began to stand up and he leaned forward in intense concentration. He had worked with Elizabeth for nearly five years. He knew that look. What did she know about Macraw that he didn’t? Preston was involved and that always meant trouble.

Preston’s eyes narrowed. “It’s gone through court,” he sneered. “It’s public record. There’s nothing more there.” He cleared his throat nervously.

Elizabeth flashed a disarming smile. “Sure there is. When you boys said we might head to court, I started checking my options. And Macraw popped right up in my face. Now that case was unbelievably locked down in court and I’ll be jigged if I could figure why. Judge’s choice, it appeared. But I had to ask myself, what really happened there?”

Kenny watched her eyes. He didn’t like the sounds of this but as always he portrayed an unconcerned demeanor.

“Who cares?” Big Daddy grumbled. “It’s over long ago.”

“Well,” Elizabeth said in a quiet manner. “let me tell you a little story about Macraw. See, for the longest time I didn’t put any of this together. I was fresh out of college. This firm’s big Remington case was in full swing at the same time and it was all over the papers...a huge, exciting win for Kenny.”

Elizabeth smiled at Kenny. “And I saw that Kenny had handled the press masterfully for both cases. The firm kept everyone’s eyes on Kenny and nobody’s eyes on Preston. But the quiet word around the office was that it was an unbelievably lenient sentence.”

“Lenient? I was suspended!” Preston grumbled. “There’s nothing lenient about that!”

“Pull up the case and read it again. By the time we’re done in court, everybody will have. And I have to say, I did find it suspiciously lenient. But, back to the story. At that time, just starting out and all, I was kept much too busy to give Macraw much notice. I forgot all about it. Then one day several years later someone named Tessa came into the office from out of town to visit. And you behaved boorishly, I’m afraid.” The blonde’s large green eyes focused on Preston.

“Boorishly? You’re crazy. I did nothing improper when Tessa came in! Besides, what does she have to do with anything?” Preston was scowling.

Big Daddy was looking at Elizabeth and thinking what nonsense this “you behaved boorishly” crap was. He could see that she would be easy to beat in court. How did she get away with so many wins? He was about to interrupt when she continued.

“Well, you were very crude, Preston. You told the other fellas in the office how you always enjoyed....I hope y’all will excuse me for saying this. But you said you always enjoyed sleeping with your cousins. You thought it was quite funny.”

Big Daddy rolled his eyes. Godfrey! Just like a woman. What a prude! If this is all we have to fight in court, we’re in fine fettle. How in the hell does she win her cases?

“Big deal! So what!” Preston jeered, “It’s an indiscretion, not a crime!”

“Well, I remembered wondering ‘Is Tessa his cousin?’”

Big Daddy looked over in surprise at that. Both he and Preston tensed. He didn’t like the way this was going. “Stop! This has nothing to do with your contract.” Both Wildens men began to squirm in their chairs.

“Well, Big Daddy, it most surely does. I’m sure the jury will want to hear all about why that contract is invalid.”

Bobby sat in befuddlement. Where WAS this going? All alarms were going off in Kenny’s head. He remembered Macraw. Preston had only been suspended for a short period of time. They had worked hard to keep it quiet but they’d done nothing improper. Cousins? He hoped this wasn’t going where he feared it was!

“Where is this going, Elizabeth?” Kenny asked.

The young junior partner looked from Kenny to Elizabeth trying to make sense of what was happening. “Well, Kenny, it wasn’t until our recent disagreement that I remembered Tessa. So I asked my investigator to do some checking on her. He found some interesting things.” Green eyes danced.

Oh, dear heavens! Kenny thought, holding his breath. And look at Big Daddy and Preston jiggling so nervously. That’s bad! Very bad!

Elizabeth looked over at Big Daddy with the faintest hint of a smile. “It turns out that Tessa was not only Preston’s cousin like he implied, she was also the presiding judge’s daughter.” She saw the confusion on Bobby’s face. “Tessa’s not important, Bobby,” she said softly. “What’s important is that Preston was related to the judge. He was his nephew.”

Elizabeth paused to let that information sink in. That had everybody quietly sitting upright. You could almost hear a pin drop as their minds mulled over that news. She stood angelically with her hands softly clasped around her envelope. That’s right, fellas, chew on that for a bit. Think about what it means and who’s involved.

Kenny was beginning to scowl. They knew this and never said a word? He shot an angry glance at the father and son. Judicial will look into it, of course. Crimony! Now what kind of crap has Preston gotten us into? And Elizabeth has just made the relationship public. I’m going to have to start damage control immediately!

“Do you see where this could begin to cast doubts Preston’s way?” she continued sweetly. Even Albert seemed surprised at the information but the two Wildens sat eerily quiet. Elizabeth continued in her story teller’s voice, “It was a very well kept secret, too. You wouldn’t believe the digging it took. One might ask why about that..why keep it a secret?”

Bobby shook his head. A family connection? He wanted to groan. His first thought was about propriety and judicial committees. Then he wondered how seriously the press would crucify Preston before they came after the firm. He groaned inwardly. Another Preston mess to wade through.

He glanced at the young man he mentored who was sitting beside him. He needed to show him some leadership. “Well, uh, it’s already been through court and been settled.” Worry lines creased his face. “Uh, the relationship was distant and apparently they didn’t meet much. The judge passed away a few years back...this is no big deal. Macraws came out ahead. What would you hope to gain?”

“It supports my claim, Bobby. Surely you can’t expect me to sit back and let you sue me without defense. If you’re going to drag me into court like Big Daddy says, I’m going to mount a worthy defense. There’s no distracting Remington case this time. It’ll be you, me, Macraw and the press. And you boys know, I like to be thorough so who knows what all will come out in court.”

Kenny nodded silently at that. She stood looking like a little saint but she was the most devastating litigator he knew. And much of it was her thoroughness and disarming demeanor. She would pleasantly nail you. Hadn’t she just smilingly dropped a bomb at their feet? And the press was in love with her. If she was in court, they followed her every word as though it was gospel.

This mess coming out in court would not go quietly into the night. Elizabeth was no lightweight. It was becoming obvious to Kenny that they’d be wise to just settle. He looked to Big Daddy.

Big Daddy snorted. “You probably think that old Macraw case will give us trouble, reputation wise, but we can weather that!” His voice was a defiant growl. “It wouldn’t be the first time a judge was distantly related to a defendant. Happens all the time.”

Ah, y’are pissed, aren’t cha? Elizabeth thought, Well, Big Daddy, you’ve let your anger take over your reasoning. It’s Preston we’re talking about here.

She replied, “Happens all the time? As it is there’re going to be questions about the judge’s fairness and impartiality and why he didn’t recuse himself. And there’s surely going to be questions about why it was kept a secret. Macraw is going to be drudged back up, you can count on that.”

Elizabeth paused. She gave a gentle smile. Her voice and manner were almost soothing when she continued, “But let’s ask ‘what if’. What if there’s more than family connections involved? That seems like enough of an impropriety, but see, they made SUCH a supreme effort to keep the relationship quiet. Makes one wonder. So one might ask “what if”....”

She knew every person’s attention was riveted on her, wondering what other card she held. Not that she needed anything else, she decided. She’d win in court, she was sure. But she didn’t want to waste the time. Besides she loved poker. She would play. She’d call Big Daddy’s bluff.

“Considering past, uh, indiscretions,” All eyes momentarily flicked onto Preston. She looked right at Kenny, “Turn over enough rocks, Kenny, ... “

Kenny added in his own mind “and you find what you’re looking for.”

Elizabeth sobered. “So, what if there were..” her voice softened, “monetary dealings between the family members as well.” Pause. “Money changing hands.”

The blonde nearly had to step back as she felt the tension in the room escalate a hundred fold at what every person there knew would be a lethal possibility. She purposely didn’t say ‘payoff’ but the word hung in the air as though she had. And everyone heard it loud and clear.

Kenny’s eyes went to Preston. Oh Gods, please tell me he wasn’t involved in anything like that! He wouldn’t have gone that far, would he? But he knew it was possible. And if it was possible, Elizabeth would find it. Just knowing she was looking was terrifying enough. Everything she found would be turned over. How many of these rocks had she lifted already?

Her green eyes steeled and watched them for a long moment. “So, boys, what big ole’ can of worms would that possibility open? And how many government agencies might that involve? Can’t you just hear these other groups clambering to take a little look?” Yes, fellas, instead of me being held up in court for years, you could be investigated for years. Think on it.

Kenny frantically scoured Elizabeth’s face to get any inkling of what hard evidence she might have already unearthed to support this theory. He scanned her face, but she kept her features emotionless. Her poker face. She’d hit us with it now, if she had it, he guessed, but she must feel she’s close. Gods!

Both partners, Kenny and Bobby, were stricken with the prospect. That could be a blow the firm would never withstand. They could all be ruined. Every last one of them. You can’t be investigated for something like that without everything it touched being tainted in the process. And if they found something...that possibility was horrifying. They looked as though they might collapse from concern. Even Big Daddy sat stiffly to take pause.

“There’s nothing!” Preston protested, looking earnestly at each partner. “She’s got nothing! There’s nothing there to get! There was no money!” But everyone knew they could not take his word for anything.

Elizabeth actually was bluffing. She had no direct knowledge of any financial dealings amongst the principles, at least not yet. She had some leads. But they might turn out to be nothing.

All this fuss, she mused. The contract is clear enough on the face of it. It’s up for renewal. I chose not to renew. Furthermore, Preston’s signature, considering his unusual situation at the time, just adds more uncertainty to their case. And now this. You ready to throw in your hands yet, fellas?

From their faces, she could see the possibilities she’d raised had thrown the fear of God into them all. Big Daddy was staring at her like she’d just detonated the bomb. No one said a word, they merely stared.

There was a long period of silence. Even Big Daddy sat uneasily quiet, looking at her as though he was seeing her for the first time. Elizabeth mused that if she just let “IRS” or even “RICO” slip her lips, half of them would faint dead away on the spot just from those horrifying possibilities.

Well, she did have the highest win record in all their offices. Even higher than Kenny’s. Sometimes you bluffed. She was a heck of a poker player! And the press loved her. She would be a vicious opponent. An iron fist in a velvet glove. And Big Daddy was just this minute recognizing that.

She looked at their faces. She was sure their big hope was that shady letter. Let’s just slam THAT door shut, shall we? she asked herself. Follow along closely, boys.

“Let’s review Macraw,” Elizabeth drawled. “First we have a WELL hidden family connection,” she ticked it off on her fingers. “Then we have a suspiciously light sentence given by the uncle, then we have gag orders and why is that?, then we have maybe money changing hands. I’ve gotta tell ya, none of this sounds too upstanding. And lastly we have Preston, suspended at that time, but still conducting business. Honestly, boys, do you think the firm’s reputation will hold in this? And do you think there might be some aspersions cast on that fraudulent letter you’re now trying to palm off? Who’s expert do you think they’ll be inclined to believe?”

They looked back at her wide-eyed. I call! she thought. Hear that door a’slammin? That’s your bogus letter! Okay, Big Daddy, she mused, a soft smile on her face, The ball’s in your court, Sugar!

Ken rubbed his handkerchief across his brow. He leaned over and spoke behind his hand with Bobby. He looked at the others. “When will your investigator be looking into this financial angle?” he asked, hoping to find out how much she had already found.

“Why, Sugar, you should know me better than that. They are already in the field.”


“Yes. After our earlier lunch fiasco, I decided that if you were going to play that way, I’d better have all the best ole airtight defense possible. I put all three of them out.”

Kenny gave a nervous and brittle cough behind his handkerchief. All three? Her hounds could hunt! He replaced it in his pocket. “Call off your dogs, Elizabeth,” Kenny said, “We’d like to settle.”

The Wildens and Albert said nothing, either to agree or disagree. The young junior partner sat wide-eyed watching everything.

“The letter..,” Elizabeth started.

“As for that letter...” Elizabeth saw Ken reach for the letter from atop his briefcase. “This will never come into play,” he said, ripping it into pieces and dropping them into his briefcase. His scowl fell on Preston and Albert. “We have found it not to be authentic as we originally believed and are withdrawing it from consideration. It will be investigated.”

“I see,” Elizabeth said. “It wasn’t just a blunder, Kenny...”

“I’ll take care of it, Elizabeth. Please trust me on this.”

She did trust him. “All right.”

“We find that your contract is up for renewal and you chose not to renew. There’s nothing further to discuss. I’ll get it all in writing right now.”

“Uh, no.” Green eyes held on Kenny’s startled grey.


“No. All things considered, I believe it is best if you eliminate any restrictions from that old non-compete portion of the agreement.” Elizabeth saw no need to cut them any slack after that letter nonsense.

“What?” Preston objected. “That part still applies if we’re saying the contract is up for renewal and you chose not to renew.”

Elizabeth smiled politely. “Then maybe we should agree to decide that the contract is invalid instead. I believe the evidence upholds that decision as well. I will not, at this point, agree to any non-compete restrictions, vague as they are.” She remained standing, a very hard to read professional gaze on her face.

Kenny looked at her then sighed heavily. “Fine,” he murmured.

She spoke softly, “It limits it to N’Orleans in that contract, anyway, Kenny. The firm didn’t even have the northern office back then. I don’t have any current plans to be practicing in Louisiana.”

“Will you promise not to take any cases in New Orleans during that time? Can I write that in?”

“No, Sugar,” she laughed. “All things considered, I won’t do that. I’ll not take a restriction of any kind. I’m just saying that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be here on a case. You’ll have to be satisfied with that much.”

Kenny nodded. If they hadn’t done all this nonsense to start with, she would have been tied to that old non-compete portion. Well, it might not have held up in court anyway. They’d never know. He shook his head as he wrote. Damn, he was going to miss her! She was so dang sharp!

She looked at both Wildens men, who sat quietly staring back at her.

“I wanted to tell you,” she said to them. “I purposely didn’t try to become a partner. I didn’t want to spend one second trying to clean up old messes for Preston or be told things he might have done that might compromise my beliefs. I decided early on that I simply would not do that. It would be easier to move on. I always feared some old skeleton of his could pop up at any time to harm the firm. But I never expected something like this letter thing! It is criminal and beyond the pale...”

“It was Mary Jane’s fault,” Preston inserted quickly. “She brought it to us. I thought it was real. How was I to know she forged it?”

“No!” Elizabeth looked at him with a glare then shifted her look to Albert. “No! She won’t serve as your fall guy in this. She had no access to the supplies.”

The blonde put both hands on the table and leaned forward toward them, “She needs to be responsible for her small part if any, but if she is made to suffer for what you’ve done, I will personally head back down here to defend her! I’m beginning to suspect that there are all kinds of skeletons buried that you don’t want us digging up. And I would dig like the very devil was on my tail. So, you might think twice before you try that kind of foolishness!”

Preston snorted. “The press might like to know about your little tryst with your old assistant,” he smirked.

“I make no secret of my lifestyle,” she narrowed her eyes at the man.

“But most of them don’t know,” his look bore unconcealed hostility.

“They probably do. But I don’t throw it in anyone’s face, either.”

“That’s enough, Preston,” Kenny warned quickly. Damn! You’re playing with fire with her, you moron! “We’ve talked about that already!” And they had. Another of her opponents had tried that on her and she had ended up figuratively handing his head back to him on a platter. The firm had stood firmly behind her and the press reaction was surprising. The male reporters all seemed to think they could cure such a sweet little thing of such silly notions if they were given half a chance and the female reporters did not want to miss any exclusives she might favor them with.

Kenny looked up from his writing and fixed the older man with an arctic glare. “I need to speak with you before we leave here.” His shrewd gray eyes moved to the blonde. “Don’t worry about it, Elizabeth,” he said. “It’s doubtful how much Mary Jane will turn out to be involved in this.”

Elizabeth nodded, grabbed the Macraw paper and put it back inside the manila envelope, glanced at the small handful of other papers inside then closed the clasp and put it in her briefcase.

“By the way, the press will be waiting when we’ve finished today,” she added. “I’d planned to make a statement no matter what y’all decided.”

“A statement?” Bobby asked, his voice betraying his anxiety.

“Yes. I felt either we would settle and I would announce I was leaving amicably for greener pastures up north, or we were going to fight it out in court. Either way, I thought the public deserved to know.”

It was a surprise, but they were used to courthouse stair posturing. She, however, was a master with the press. She continued, “It appears we’ll be smiling and shaking hands. Now, while Kenny’s writing, there are a few other things we need to discuss.” The others began to shift in their chairs nervously, their heads turned toward her. The young junior partner gazed at her with awe. Kenny caught the look and chuckled to himself. Another one in love with little Elizabeth. Well, join the crowd. She is something!

“First, I’ve noticed that I have been followed since I gave you my resignation. Pull that person or persons off my trail immediately. I do not take kindly to such invasions.” Kenny and Bobby looked over with startled looks and the junior partner’s eyes grew their widest.

“Followed?” Bobby asked, looking at Big Daddy, who gave no reaction. “Consider that done,” he said with finality.

“Good,” she said softly. “Also, I am due a percentage on my last win.”

Kenny spoke up. “Yes, baring any return trips to court on that case, I’ll see to it.”

“Fair enough. Add that to your writing, please.” Green eyes twinkled Kenny’s way and he nodded in return. “Now, one other thing and we can finish this up and go meet the press.” She turned to Big Daddy, “Your son Gordon has made quite a pest of himself over this whole matter with my new firm. There are some things he is going to need to say to Evin..”


Up north the chilly days of January passed busily until at last the night of the big fete arrived. Jerome’s debut as a ballerina was about to occur. Families filed into the auditorium and prepared for this year’s big laugh.

The house was packed but Patsy got the children seated by Jacques’ and Janet’s twins, told them to stay, then hurried off to help Jerome. A thrill of expectation hung in the air. Evin had her camcorder and began filming the surroundings.

Backstage, Patsy found the dressing room of the “star”. She opened the door and her eyes all but bugged out of her head. She felt every hormone in her body sending liquid steeds of fire directly to between her thighs. Whoa! How she loved the sight of her big guy in tights!

“Hey there, big boy,” Jerome’s wife said in a sexy tone as she leaned on the doorframe of his dressing room. “And, oh my, you ARE a big boy, aren’t you? Gods, Jerome, look at your tights! You DO fill them out well!”

Jerome moved one hand surreptitiously to cover his groin. “Oh, hi, hon,” he said nervously, reaching for the tutu with his free hand. “I’m a little nervous, is all.”

“Oh, no, honey,” Patsy growled, moving in and shutting the door. “Free peekies for hot Momma! Move your hand!” Her eyes did not leave his crotch as she approached. She fanned her hand in front of her face, “Momma is hot, big boy! VERY hot!” She went up to where he stood and ran her hand slowly from his stomach southward. His bulge began to grow.

“Let’s play spank the ballerina again, want to?” she whispered in his ear in a torrid tone.

Every time he had had to put on the tights his wife had had the same reaction. He had decided he’d invest in a pair for after the performances were finally finished. Their lovelife hadn’t been this good in a long time!

“Patsy, please, I have to go out on stage in front of all those people in a half hour.”

“That’s enough time, Jerome,” she said, running her hands over his growing manhood and checking the floor to make sure there was enough room. “I’m ready! It will relax you, sweetheart.”

“Do you know how hard these things are to get on?” he whispered in desperation as he snapped the waistband of the tights.

“We won’t take them all the way off you,” she hurried back over and locked the door. Spank the ballerina. He shuddered in anticipation.

They had to rush to actually get him back into his outfit once they were finished. They barely made it in time for the call. The lights flickered and the audience quieted in anticipation.

Patsy came rushing down the aisle to the row where the others were seated, her hair a little mussed and her face flushed. Her children looked up and smiled and she smiled in return. She moved quickly into the empty seat saved for her next to Janet and Jacques and sat quietly as the lovely strains of Tchkowski’s music filled the auditorium.

Slowly the curtain rose and the show began. Dr. Mitzi’s voice floated out, beginning the fateful tale of the melancholy Prince who falls in love with a woman who has been transformed into a bird by an evil sorcerer. Almost from the beginning the audience began their tittering. The “Prince” was a petite businesswoman, a real estate agent with large puffy hair, and she was no more convincing a dancer than the “adoring maidens” who were members of the local firetroop in colorful tutus. The result was a story dance that was bouncy, engaging and completely campy.

Evin sat in the audience with her zoom-lensed camera focused on the star, Jerome, from the moment he stepped on stage. Oh yes, this was going to be blackmail material for years to come. Paybacks are a bitch, Jerome! Evin growled lightly. She zoomed forward. He was a little ruddy and looked about as terrified as she had ever seen him. This was great! Just what she wanted.

She moved the camera over his body. What were those dirty smudges on the knees of his white tights? What did he do, walk around back stage on his knees? She glanced over at Patsy’s flushed face and began to laugh. “Oh, you naughty, naughty boy,” she chuckled. She moved her camera to catch the slightly tousled hair and dusty smudges on what could be seen of the collar and back of Patsy’s dress. She zoomed in on them. “This is great stuff!” she grinned.

Tittering arose from the audience as the burly ballerinas with their tutus and feathered headbands slowly rose and with their arms over their heads forming oval shapes, tried moving on their toes around the aforementioned star as they let one then the other arm flutter in the air. Swan-like it wasn’t.

Dipping to the floor and then back up again they danced about to the music. Occasionally they jumped. Some had very hairy chests, the long bushy hair sticking out of the top of their costumes’ bustlines. Hairy armpits were seen on all the “ballerinas”. Titters turned into guffaws as the men awkwardly moved about, their arms aflutter. Mitzi continued the tale to the sound of the music and the audience’s mirth.

The young woman with Evin, a flawless young beauty Evin called Silky, began to laugh and Evin lowered her camera to look at the beauty. A quizzical smile was on Evin’s face as she watched the woman put a hand before her mouth and laugh. Then she filmed her.

“Oh my gosh!” the smaller woman chirruped and she pointed. Evin’s gaze followed her finger to the dancing man in question. He was a skinny, wiry runt of a fellow with a bushy red moustache in a white tutu obviously too large. Even his tights bagged at the knees. In dipping over, the padding on one side of his bra first loosened then dropped out.

He hastily picked it up, jammed it back in his ballerina top and continued dancing on his toes. He looked much like a small version of Icabod Crane with a bushy red moustache. The audience began to laugh.

The pad, however, didn’t go in the right place. Instead it pushed the other pad over till they were both partway around one side of his body moving under his arm. He tried to adjust them without using his hands by moving his shoulders and arms against his torso in strange, awkward, undulating movements, but the derelict pads were quite happy to move to the side of his loose fitting top. The audience broke into hearty laughter. It wasn’t clear from looking at him which direction he was facing.

Another fellow, a large man, hoping to come to the small man’s rescue, moved beside him, dropped his hands from above his head and jammed his large fists inside the man’s top, rummaging around until the padding was where it was supposed to be. The audience went crazy with that move, as it added an eerily obscene flavor to the dance that tickled everyone’s funny bone.

Suddenly the dancers all struck a prearranged pose and froze. The man with the red mustache was frozen in a down position. Slowly, slowly the errant pad crept its way out again in the loose costume, first peeking over the top of the white outfit and slowly, slowly dropping past the man’s feathered headband to the floor again. The audience laughed delightedly.

The man stayed frozen. When the music determined it was time for them to move again, he left the errant pad, giving it a kick as he danced away.

Jerome, as the star, did all his performance as practiced. When it was time for the spinning fouettes, however, he came dangerously close to the wayward object. The audience began chuckling at his awkward cycles and his moving lips, obviously counting to make sure he got the proper number of turns. They counted aloud with him and became hysterical when his foot hit the dropped pad and he went sliding, first almost doing the splits then saving himself from that with sheer force of will and crashing to the floor with a loud thud instead. The audience assumed it was part of the program. They loved it and broke into raucous laughter and applause.

Evin laughed heartily along with them as she cheerfully filmed the event. When the curtains closed, and the house lights began to come up for the intermission, Dr. Mitzi Jammersleeve rushed to where Patsy was sitting.

“They’ve taken Jerome to Valley Medical,” she said. “He hurt himself on the fouettes.”

“What?” Patsy couldn’t believe it, so Dr. Mitzi repeated it. When the next act began, the old star was now dancing the part and the lawfirm and family members were all on their way to the hospital.

It was a torn Achilles. They put a temporary removable cast on it. Jerome came out on crutches to find all anxiously waiting. His dancing days were over. Pumped full of painkillers, he was privately exceedingly pleased with the outcome. Whatever it takes, he told himself happily. Evin recorded it all with her camera for posterity.

They called and got the neighbor to agree to babysit all the children. Everyone decided to go to the lounge at the hotel downtown to celebrate Jerome’s first and last dancing of the season. Patsy drove their children and Jacques’ twins to their house for a stay-over. The neighbor was there when she arrived. The others headed directly for the lounge. The show was over and a number of members from the production had the same idea.

Evin called Dr. Mitzi to tell her where they were going. She said she would meet them there. The evening’s performance had been a huge success.

At the hotel lounge, they procured Evin’s favorite table and pushed a nearby one together with it. Everybody pulled up chairs, and they all sat around, laughing and talking. Although Mitzi had lost the lead dancer in her ballet, she had a backup that had done quite a bit of rehearsing. He had stepped right in so she was in a joyful mood. The show would go on.

They laughed and partied, many people from the audience stopping by. Patsy arrived and took the chair they’d saved for her beside Jerome, who was advised that he was not to drink. He didn’t seem to care. Evin was glad that it was so late. Noel did not work the late shift. She didn’t usually worry about that kind of thing. She made it clear to all the women that she dated that she would have no commitments but, just in case, there was no sense having a scene when the evening was going so well.

She glanced at the bar and saw a familiar face, complete with drink in hand and a sneer on his face. Gordon. How nice. The jerk. But Evin was in too good a mood to be bothered by the likes of him. They were all joking and kidding with each other. It was like old times.

Other members of the dance troupe came in with their group of party goers and they came over to join them. It was a noisy batch. The room was alive with the festivities. Drinks were ordered and everyone was in a jovial mood. Jerome put his plastic casted leg up on a chair and everyone took their turn signing the cast. It was a dark blue color but no one cared. The black writing still showed up.

“So what will you tell people about how you did that?” one of the other male dancers, a local banker, asked.

“I’ll say I slipped and fell while doing my civic duty,” Jerome smiled.

“You’re not gonna tell them you were hoofing it up in tights and a tutu dancing fouettes?” he laughed.

Jerome looked over quickly at Evin, who was talking to someone else. “Gods, no,” he said. And don’t let Evin hear you. She’ll put that in the paper or on tv or something worse.

The man laughed and Patsy patted his good thigh. “She didn’t hear, hon, don’t worry.”

Jacques drank a bit too much because he was nervous about his opening gambit the next night. Evin made sure that everyone knew about the upcoming event. Everytime she said something in that regard, he had another drink. Janet refrained, knowing she would have to drive him home and pour him into bed.

“Better monitor his medicine,” Evin called across the table to Janet. “He’s going to hate himself tomorrow.”

Janet nodded her head in agreement and began pouring her own soda in his drink. He didn’t seem to notice.

Patsy grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the other side of Evin and threw her arm around the tall woman’s neck. “I just want to say thanks,” she whispered. “Jerome looks so sexy in those tights, I may make him volunteer every year.”

“I know,” Evin grinned. “What a bull, eh?” Her laugh was definitely mischievous. “We’ll have to call him Bulla Ballerina, don’t you think?”

“I think he would be very embarrassed by that. But I did enjoy the sight.”

“Would he? I’ll keep that in mind. And by the way,” Evin leaned toward Patsy, “I’d say you appreciated more than just the sight.” She waggled her brow. “I saw the dust on his knees and the same dust on the back of your dress when you got to your seat before the curtain rose tonight. There’s still some there now, in fact.”

“What?” Patsy frantically reached back to brush off the back of her dress and began to blush. Evin howled with laughter. Patsy swatted at Evin. “Shame on you, spying on us like that.”

“I took movies,” Evin laughed. Patsy’s look was priceless. “No, when you got back, not of the deed itself. But I did zero in on both of you. Dust on his knees, dust on the back of your dress. Let the audience put it together. Heck, I’ll be able to use this stuff for years.”

“And here I was being so nice to you, too,” Patsy said with fake huffiness.

Janet was just thinking of hauling Jacques home when a glowering figure approached the table. Gordon had been drinking, that was obvious. He swayed but he wasn’t outright staggering. The conversations stopped and everyone watched him approach Evin.

“Ya know that little blonde ya hired?” he slurred, scowling at the tall brunette.

“Elizabeth Montigeau,” Jerome said from across the table, his face somber and his voice stern.

Gordon moved his gaze to Jerome then back to the tall woman in front of him.

“What about her?” Evin asked, her own sneer beginning.

“Tell ‘er I wish ‘er the best of luck at her new job,” he swayed a little as he stood.

Evin was struck speechless and just stared at the man.

Gordon snorted then turned around and made his way back to his stool.

“What in blue blazes was that all about?” Jerome asked, watching the man sitting back at the bar. “He’s usually such a jerk.”

“Seemed like a nice thing to say,” Patsy said. “But it’s almost a miracle coming from him. He never says nice things.”

“Yes,” Evin said quietly. “Almost a miracle.” Damn! she thought, she did it! The little blonde did it! That thought stunned her and she sat staring for a minute. Well, all right, she’s good! I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. She heaved a large sigh. But I’m still better! Even she recognized that! She said I had been unbelievably awesome in court when she saw me... something like that!

She looked around the room, still stunned by what all this meant. It just makes her a more worthy opponent, that’s all! she decided. She recalled then that the blonde could sound sexy and warm one minute but seemed quite able to resist Evin’s charms the next. That had NEVER happened before. What is it about her, anyway? It occurred to Evin that this woman was going to be much more competition than she ever expected. “Ha! Well, I’m still the best! She’ll see soon enough!” she muttered to herself.

“Did you say something?” her date asked her.

Evin looked over at Silky with surprise. Everyone else had gone back to their conversations. “Huh? Uh, no. Not really. Just thinking.” Her mind went back to the blonde. So the blonde’s a little talented with more than her share of luck. And she has beautiful green eyes. But what is she all about, anyway? Not just anyone can walk away from me!

Elizabeth made the final preparation to have the rest of her furniture moved north to her new home. She went through some boxes and made sure to only leave in storage what she didn’t think she could use.

She chuckled over the press conference where they all smiled and shook hands. And everyone was surprised when Kenny then announced Preston’s retirement. He was retiring to live in Europe, Ken told them. She had not heard for sure, but it was rumoured that Albert had been released from his contract with the firm without it being contested. Should go to jail, Elizabeth thought angrily.

The small blonde made sure to visit all her friends. She even joined Sissy and her boyfriend on campus for lunch. She would head north soon and put her condo together before beginning her life at the new firm.

The next night Jacques was scheduled to represent their firm as the host of the local public broadcasting fundraising event. Evin and her willowy red-headed date Evin called ‘Red Licorice’, settled back on the couch with a bowl of cheesed popcorn and glasses of white wine before them. With the remote Evin hit record and they spent the first hour and a half watching Jacques nervously talk his way into the evening with just a small smidgen of a film inbetween his talking. The jokes he had practiced were all over in the first five minutes and he was left to improvise.

“Are you going to record the whole thing?” Red asked. She had become quite bored with it.

“Oh, yes. But I can watch it later at my leisure.”

“Why?” Red asked. “It’s going to last hours, isn’t it? It’s just that guy in a tuxedo talking.”

“Yes,” Evin smiled. “I’ll use it for blackmail later. What do you think would spice this up? I mean and still maintain a family rating?”

“Oh,” Red answered with a tilt of her head. She watched the screen for a minute. “How about some clowns or maybe a trained dog act?

Evin’s face lit up. “Ha! I can do clowns,” she smiled. “Hold on.” She picked up the phone and placed a call. They settled back to watch. About a half hour later a group of clowns came running onto the floor of the studio, lifting the tails of Jacques’ tuxedo, knocking off his hat, goosing him when he bent over to pick it up, honking their horn in his face as they did so and generally harassing him.

Jacques felt terrible, still had a horrible hangover and was totally unnerved. He slapped at the clowns who all got out of the way in time. Evin and Red Licorice began to laugh. The bank of telephones on the set began to ring off the hooks as the calls came flooding in. It went like that most of the night. The last shot of the evening showed one clown snatching Jacques’ hat off while another rumpled his hair just before a third dumped a pail of water over his head.

Jacques was not a happy camper, but the studio was thrilled. More donations were rolling in than ever before. When he found out that Evin had sent the clowns, Jacques knew better than to complain. It could be worse. Much worse. She could have sent snake charmers with baskets of snakes. He prayed she wouldn’t think of that.

Evin entered work the next day to see the workmen preparing the office that would belong to the new hire...Elizabeth Montagieu. A room with a view similar to hers. Evin watched for a few minutes in fascination. What would it be like when the little pixie got here? All right, she was good. Evin had to give her credit for that. But could she take the pressure? Ha! Would she hold up under fire? This was a battlefield, after all!

“Ha!” Evin snorted to the workmen and marched back toward her own office.

Her secretary rolled her eyes as she watched. She knew Evin very well. And the whole office was abuzz with the “Million Dollar Lady” that was hired. Oh, yeah, this was going to be fun when the new hire got here.

Jacques’ nights went rapidly after Evin began to send all kinds of wild and wacky acts to accompany him and his new tux. The old tux had been ruined by the bucket of water.

The kazoo band played “moldy oldies” and Jacques learned to play the kazoo on screen. The old folks loved that. The balloon twister who made many shapes from balloons and the collegiate sword fighters who demonstrated thrusts and parries drew in the younger crowd. The modern day vaudevillians captured everyone’s attention. And the cloggers taught him how to clog.

Each night was a new surprise for Jacques. But the most frightening was the knife thrower. When the beautiful assistant shamed Jacques, as the cameras rolled, into taking her place, it was all he could do to keep the trembling down. He had seen the man warming up and it was pitiful! Evin is most angry with me, he thought mournfully. She let Jerome off easy. She is really, really angry at me!

The knife-throwing man and his assistant drew the suspense out for most of the evening, making much ado about each throw but only tossing one knife between each small bit of movie shown and the long Master of Ceremonies discussion when the phones were urged to ring with donations. As they discussed the “accidents” the man had experienced in his career, Jacques discovered that there were quite a number of them. He commented on them with great trepidation. The phones went crazy.

The last knife, the one above Jacques’ head, was by far the worst. “Evin says, this one’s for you,” the man whispered to Jacques before he paced off the distance to his throwing spot.

Oh, yeah, Evin’s definitely most angry with me, the partner mourned with his eyes squeezed shut and his breath held. The camera zeroed in on his face as he heard and even felt the last knife ‘boing’ as it vibrated just above his head, the handle lightly tapping his skull with each down vibration. Opening his eyes he wondered if he’d need another pair of trousers to go with his new tux. Realizing he wouldn’t, he then feared he might collapse from relief because it was over. But he smiled a careless smile instead since he knew he must be brave before the cameras.

The phone banks again went crazy. The phone lights lit up and the ringing filled the room. Jacques felt the thrill of adrenaline that comes after successfully facing a death defying event. He stayed in place, proudly beaming.

“Sorry,” the man said sheepishly to Jacques as he came to get his knives. He picked a small batch of cut hair from the top of Jacques’ head and dropped it into Jacques’ hand. “I guess I’m used to throwing at Mimi. She’s shorter.” Jacques’ knees went weak just as the lights went down and the director yelled, “that’s a wrap everybody.”

The last night a huge man wearing floppy dog ears on a band who jokingly called himself the Great Labrador, appeared with his singing dog quartet, ‘RalphRalph and the Howling Hounds’. He and Jerome sang along with the dogs all evening long accompanied by the ringing of the telephones. People enjoyed the songs. Jacques was more than relieved. He sang with increased joy when he realized that no snakes would be sent before he was done. And he was thrilled it was over.

January was cold and the brisk winds from the north brought another snowfall as the month marched resolutely toward February, when Elizabeth Montagieu would join their firm. Things began to get back to normal but still Evin was surprised one late afternoon to receive a call from Patsy. Of the two partner’s wives, Evin got along best with Patsy. They often laughed and teased each other. Jacque’s wife, Janet, was somewhat afraid of Evin, but Patsy wasn’t.

“Hey, Patsy, they must have switched you to the wrong line. I think Jerome is still here. He was in court earlier today, but I thought I saw him head for his office a bit ago. I’ll have my secretary switch you.”

“No, Evin, it’s you I wanted to talk to.”

“Really? Ha! All right then. What can I do for you?”

“I don’t believe there’s anything that can be done, frankly. I just wanted to let you know that it’s all your fault and I hold you personally responsible!”

“For what, Patsy?” Evin inquired. She tried to think of the things she might be held responsible for. There were a few.


“For what, Patsy?” Evin repeated.

“I’m pregnant, Evin. And it’s all your fault!”

Evin began to laugh. “No, I’m exceedingly good, but I haven’t attained miracle status, my friend. This one you can’t blame on me.”

“Yes, it’s your fault, all right. I am thirty-nine years old, Evin! 39!! Do you realize how old Jerome will be when this child gets to college? He’s older.”

“Blame Bulla Ballerina, not me. Heck, the way I live, pregnancies are not a factor. I’m innocent! Uh, does Jerome know?”

“No. I’m telling him tonight. But I thought I’d go right to the source and file my complaint. Consider it filed.”

“Ha! So noted. Hey, congratulations.”

“We shall love this child with everything we have. Have no fear of that! But that will not for one second prevent me from going right to the library to look up books on hexes and curses. Consider yourself warned.”

“Hey, just be glad you aren’t living in the Middle Ages. I mean, you can’t seem to resist a man in tights.” Evin broke out laughing again. “Ha! You’d probably have thirty-nine kids by now if you lived then.”

“You are mean and awful and horrible. I shall try and transfer my morning sickness to you after I learn the right hexes, of course. I’m hanging up now.”

“Bye, Patsy. Just keep this in mind. Next year it’s Jacques’ turn to be in the follies. Maybe Janet will find him irresistible in tights and get herself knocked up and you can form a club or something. Red Hot Mommas and their Boys in Tights. Ha! Has kind of a ring to it, doesn’t it?

“You know what I hope?” Patsy asked. “I hope Elizabeth Montigeau turns out to be super, super good and gives you a wild run for your money, Evin. I know how you hate to be beaten in anything. I hear she’s very good, so think about that when I find those hex books and stuff. I’m throwing all my help into her corner!”

“The little pixie from hell? Ha! She’ll need it!” Evin couldn’t help but chuckle although the threat was all too real. “All right, she’s a good attorney, Patsy. And she’s been lucky. But I’m better! Much better!”

“Yeah, well, I’m buying a big hatpin and getting those books. If you find you have a real big pain in the behind soon, consider it payment for services rendered.”

“Okay, Pats. I’m sure not gonna argue with a pregnant lady.”

“Goodbye, you rotten thing, you.”

“Bye, Patsy. Tell Jerome I said one surprise deserves another. He surprised me with this new hire. Now he has his own little surprise. Ha!”

Evin hung up the phone laughing. Jerome would be surprised all right. They thought they had stopped with three. “Serves him right,” she chuckled. Jacques, who had just stepped into Evin’s office heard the news and his eyes widened in terror. He left the papers he had brought and hurried out.

No, she’s more angry with Jerome after all, he thought with relief. Pregnant? Janet would kill me if that happened! He and Janet had decided to have no children. And for the first thirteen years of their marriage they didn’t. Then they decided to have only one when she became pregnant in her mid thirties. When that one turned out to be twins and after Janet spent thirty-six hours in labor, she firmly declared there would be no more...on threat of death...Jacques’ death! They had been very careful.

Evin gathered her things and headed out. Most of the office staff was already gone. She saw the freshly panelled office ready for the small blonde. It wouldn’t be long before she was here. Evin felt a tingle of some kind at that thought. Must be the thrill of competition, she decided.

Evin grinned to herself. Okay, little green-eyed, blonde-haired pixie. You think you’re good, but you don’t know what you’re up against! Ha! I’m the conquering warrior on this mountain! On any mountain! Stand with the firm, but don’t stand in my way! We’ll see what you’re made of all right! I can hardly wait!

Across town at her condo, Elizabeth was singing softly to herself as she stacked linens in her linen closet. Her cat was purring contentedly from the windowsill. Her home was nearly prepared and she was settling in. She would start work soon, and she could hardly wait.

More to come? You bet.

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