DON’T TEMPT ME (Chapter 1)
Justine O’Neill would never, never forget the first time she saw him. It was a Thursday afternoon, shortly after two. She had just returned to the office after delivering a luncheon address before members of the Counseling Association of America. The balmy April air had flushed her cheeks in complement to strawberry-blond curls which, buoyed by the weather, framed her face and cascaded in thick waves to her shoulders. In the aftermath of her enthusiastic reception by the several hundred professionals gathered at the New York Hilton for their annual meeting, her eyes sparkled a bright emerald-green.
As the brass-rimmed doors of Ivy, Gates and Logan swung shut behind her, she stepped briskly toward the desk of the receptionist. Her hands laden with purse, briefcase, and a thick legal notebook, she smiled in greeting. “Any messages, Angie?”
The receptionist’s responding “On your desk, Ms. O’Neill” was met with a passing nod as Justine swept onward, through the open archway and into the maze of halls and offices that comprised the inner workings of the renowned law firm. Her slender legs took her down one corridor and up the next, the rapid beat of her high-heeled pumps silenced by the fine cream-hued carpet. At the door of her own office, however, she came to an abrupt halt. Senses suddenly sharpened, she grew alert. Then, drawn by an inexplicable force, she turned her head to the far end of the corridor.
There, at the entrance to the firm’s posh conference room, stood five men. She quickly recognized four of them as her colleagues and dismissed them summarily. It was the fifth man whose silent appeal reached to her, commandeering her attention, capturing her eye and imagination to the momentary exclusion of all else.
He was a striking figure. Taller by inches than the others in the group, an air of distinction set him further apart. He was tanned and vibrant, yet deeply composed and notably relaxed in contrast to the air of keyed-up anticipation exuded by the others. His jaw was firm, his chin smooth, his cheeks leanly planed, his lips set purposefully. The face was that of a man on the near side of forty, a man in his prime enjoying life to the fullest. But, above it all and most enchanting was a crown of the thickest, most vital shock of pure silver hair that Justine had ever seen. Sterling silver. Rich and elegant. Gleaming. And, with a deliberateness that altered the beat of her heart, his dark eyes held hers.
For a brief breath of eternity, time stood still. Engulfed in a wave of sensation wholly new and fathomless, Justine was captivated, hypnotized by the intensity of the man. She felt herself probed to the core, stripped of the protective veneer she had so carefully cultivated over the years. She felt suddenly raw, open, and vulnerable. And, she felt terrified, as though she were a small animal, hunted, cornered, and defenseless.
Following the direction of their guest’s attention, four other pairs of eyes turned toward Justine. In that instant the spell was broken. Mustering her badly shaken poise, she nodded politely and forced her head toward her office, intent on fleeing the presence that had so totally galvanized her.
“Justine!” It was the imposing call of Daniel Logan, senior partner and son of the firm’s founder. “Justine! Perfect timing! Won’t you join us for a moment?”
The question, when issued from the lips of this powerful man, was a politely intoned order. Swallowing the tension that threatened to render her speechless, Justine moved to join the gathering, willing her legs to carry her smoothly,praying that she not trip over her feet before this audience of five. Having so recently been the sole focus of attention of so many more, it was ironic that her pulse should be thudding loudly. But then, that earlier group held no one of the magnetism of this unnamed man. If the verbal order had come from Dan Logan, the visual order was from this tall, silver-haired potentate.
“May I introduce Justine O’Neill.” She heard the senior partner take a step toward answering her own first question. “She is one of our newer partners, without a doubt our most attractive.” The overtone of sexism hardened Justine, giving her merciful strength to hold her attractive head high. “Her specialty is family law. She’s built up quite a practice and a name for herself since she’s been with us. Justine”—he turned his shiny-domed countenance toward her as she held her breath expectantly—“I’d like you to meet our newest client, Sloane Harper.”
Sloane Harper. A large, sun-bronzed hand stretched toward hers, bringing a disconcerted grin to Justine’s already flushed features. For she simply didn’t have a hand free to meet his. Juggling the notebook and briefcase for a minute, she blushed more furiously. Then, with a deftness which brooked no protest Sloane removed the heavy notebook and returned her grin, finally enveloping her liberated hand in the warmth of his own.
“Ms. O’Neill … .” He cocked his silver head with a refined flair.
“Justine, then. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine,” she answered softly, strangely intimidated and, untypically, wondering what to say as she retrieved her tingling hand. Fortunately, Dan came to her rescue.
“Justine has been an associate with the firm for the past five years. She was made a partner in January.” Taking delight in the uncharacteristic, if unintentional, gentlenesson display across the features of his young partner, he directed himself to her. “You’ve just come from a speaking engagement, haven’t you, Justine?”
It took every ounce of Justine’s willpower to drag her eyes from Sloane’s. As though all else had been blocked out by his gaze, she forced herself to face not only Dan but the others in the group. They were all partners in the senior echelon of the firm save one, Richard Logan, the senior partner’s son, a new associate fresh from law school.
“That’s right.” She confirmed Dan’s surmise, admiring anew the man’s ability to be well informed of his partners’ activities in addition to handling his own busy practice. Daniel Logan was on top of everything. Everything. In most cases Justine welcomed his interest and insight. Now, however, as she strove to recover from the effect of Sloane Harper’s dark eyes as they still studied her, she could only hope that Dan’s insight was limited to the legal realm. Her present vulnerability was nonlegal and all woman . . and a puzzlement, even to her.
“Which group was it today?” The query came from another partner, one Charles Stockburne, a natty, middle-aged man, whose efficiency and expertise brought in the cream of the clientele.
“Today”—she allowed herself to be caught by his subtle note of humor, emphasizing the word as though speaking engagements were an everyday occurrence—“it was the Counseling Association of America. Psychologists, sociologists, counselors, social workers—all hoping that they may never have cause to resort to the likes of us,” she quipped quietly, though her cheeks dimpled at the tongue-in-cheek barb. Her light laughter was infectious; only Sloane was restrained. Sensing his skepticism and compelled by that same odd force, she ventured to explain. “There are many aspects of their work—child abuse and neglect, for example—in which the law has always beenviewed as a last resort. It’s my job to show these professionals how the courts can simplify things. For years counselors have seen lawyers as the enemy, taking cases out from under their noses and disposing of them with makeshift solutions. It’s finally coming to be understood that perhaps the law can pave the way for the counseling profession to make real progress.”
In the silence that followed, Justine held her breath. Too easily carried away by subjects near and dear, she wondered for a fleeting moment whether she had lost the five with her ardor. It was, finally, Sloane who encouraged her. “Go on.” His soft, smooth tone was more than polite; it suggested genuine interest. She was gratified. Even though she had worked twice as hard as any man to gain entrance to this prestigious law firm and much as she respected the legal minds herein, she realized that, in the eyes of many of the partners, she was, very simply, a divorce attorney. Not so in her own eyes. Family law involved far more than the classic divorce. Willingly, she elaborated.
“There are custody issues, even property settlements, which can be resolved in a very satisfactory way by a lawyer who thinks with her heart as well as her law books.” The “her” was a slip of the tongue which she made no effort to amend. “The image of the lawyer is, too often, that of a hard-bitten regimentarian. It is our job to try to change that.”
“And can you?” Spoken so low that seemingly only she could hear, it was once again as though they were the only two in the hall.
“I hope so.” The emerald glitter of her eyes met his dark depths, pulled toward some unenvisioned reckoning. Once more the spell was broken.
“So do I,” broke in a harsher voice at her right, that of Joseph Steele—true to his name, hard and dogmatic and a seasoned divorce attorney himself. There had been anundercurrent of resentment toward her from his office since she had arrived at the firm an eager and idealistic law school graduate. At times she had worried that this one voice might stand against her partnership, when it had finally come up for a vote last December. He scoffed at her softness, her sensitivity, her proclivity toward new and untried solutions. He saw her as a rebel. Rebel, in an establishment law firm! she had laughed in denial at the time. But mostly he was threatened by the very definite fact that she was a woman, a woman who, in all probability, was a better lawyer than he!
It was Dan who came to her rescue again. “If Justine has her way, she’ll have the outside world eating from her hand. She’s become the reigning queen of the lecture circuit—organizations, schools, businesses. I’d say she’s a colorful asset to the firm!” The twinkle in his eye showed his pleasure as Justine, despite herself, blushed in blatant demonstration of his claim. Thankfully, he took pity on her. “Sloane is the president of CORE International—Combined Resources International. He has just moved his headquarters to New York and has chosen us to represent him. Charlie will be handling most of the work, but others of us may be chipping in from time to time.” He glanced at his watch. “How about it, Charlie. Should we get to work? Sloane?”
Justine’s gaze followed Dan’s to Sloane’s face, only to be caught and held in its charge for a long, final, breathtaking moment before the tall, sterling-crowned man released her to nod his agreement in the direction of the senior partner. Justine promptly took her cue.
“If you gentlemen will excuse me, then …” The thick fringe of blond-tipped lashes hooded her eyes as she glanced quickly up at Sloane. “Nice to have met you,” she murmured quietly. Then, awaiting no response, she turned and beat a smooth and steady retreat toward her office, congratulating herself on the grace of her exit evenas she lowered her head in self-reproach that there should have been any doubt of it. After all, wasn’t she Justine O’Neill, attorney at law, newly risen star of the firm of Ivy, Gates and Logan, burning brightly in the courtrooms of New York and at podiums from Boston to Washington? Or so she had been told by patronizing colleagues, and so she indulged in the self-mockery.
Frowning at the irrelevancy of it all, she ran headlong into a figure of whom, up to that point, she had been totally unaware.
“Oh!” Her pale copper curls bobbed as her head flew up, eyes widening in surprise to confront the man lounging in her doorway. Instantly she stepped back. “John! I didn’t see you!”
“That much was obvious,” he retorted with amusement, noting the momentary dart of her eye back toward the now deserted corridor. “No, he didn’t see you walk into me, if that’s what’s worrying you. Your exit was perfect—classy and polished. That was what you intended, wasn’t it?”
Sidestepping him to enter her office, Justine ignored his barb. “Were you waiting to see me?” she asked calmly, depositing her purse behind her desk, her briefcase atop it. Suddenly relieved of their burden, her arms and legs felt strangely light and jerky.
John Doucette straightened from his lounging pose against the doorjamb and slowly approached her. “I’m always waiting for you, Justine. Dinner … once … that’s all I ask … .” His note of feigned desperation drew no sympathy.
“Legal, John. Is there a legal matter you want to discuss?”
“It could get down to that, if I’m driven to do something mad for want of you. Come on, Justine. What’s the problem?”
The plump leather chair behind her desk yielded gentlybeneath her weight as Justine sank down into it, kicking her shoes off and tucking her legs comfortably beneath the folds of her skirt. As her eye studied the man before her, she asked herself the same question. John Doucette, her senior by several years, was good-looking in a classical way. His features were all perfect, his dress natty and immaculate. Every strand of his dark hair was combed neatly in place; every button of his dark, three-piece suit was properly buttoned. In his way he was charming and witty—and, in her somewhat jaded eye, totally unexciting. The crux of the matter, however, lay much deeper and entirely within herself. Given her past and her future, she had neither the time nor the desire for any involvement of the type that his often-leering blue eyes suggested. Yes, her reasons were very powerful—and very personal.
With a sigh she repeated her stock excuse. “I like you, John, really I do. But you’re my colleague. We’re both members of this firm and you know—at least, you should know by now that I won’t date someone I have to work with on an everyday basis. Work and play just don’t mix.” She went through the motion of lifting the handful of pink telephone messages from the edge of her phone in hopes that he would take the hint and leave. To her dismay he merely moved closer, perching on the corner of her desk with the utmost of arrogance. Oh, indeed, she thought, he could be charming and witty when it pleased him. He could also be downright annoying, as instinct told her he was now about to be.
“You’d go out with Harper in a minute, wouldn’t you, Justine?”
“Tch, tch. Ever the innocent. Sloane … is that more to the point?”
Her response came too quickly and with slightly too much vigor, belied by the faint crimson tinge which flew to her cheeks. “Whatever are you talking about?”
“I saw how he shook you up. It’s amazing—the unflappable Justine suddenly flapped. Voices carry quite a way in these hallowed, hollow halls,” he teased softly and without anger. “He’s a very good-looking man. Very wealthy. Very successful. Very available. And he was very interested in you … .”
“John, you’re babbling!” she decried firmly, appalled at the extent of her transparency in those few, devastating moments in the corridor. “Haven’t you better things to do with your time?”
John would have no part of her diversionary nonchalance. “He’s called ‘the Silver Fox.’ Did you know that?”
“As a matter of fact,” she scoffed through thinned and suddenly dry lips, “I didn’t.”
He nodded smugly, enjoying her discomfort. “That’s right. ‘The Silver Fox.’ And do you know why they call him that?”
“No, John,” she sighed loudly, exaggerating the echo, “why do they call him that?”
“Because he’s sly. A predator. He stalks little things like you and gobbles them up.”
The image of herself feeling hopelessly trapped by Sloane’s magnetic appeal flitted about her brain. Purposefully she cast it aside. “Aren’t you getting carried away with the dramatic? If he’s called ‘the Silver Fox,’ it may be nothing more than a reference to his hair.”
“Striking, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. In truth it was. It’s good to know that one man, at least, has managed to avoid the Grecian Formula habit!”
John patted his own dark hair gingerly. “Now, now, Justine, that’s hitting below the belt. People in glass houses—”
“John! That’s enough!” She couldn’t begin to count the number of times she’d been accused of coloring her hair. But its strawberry-blond shade was rich and natural, alegacy from the father she hadn’t seen in over twenty years. Thought of him made her momentarily testy. “What is the point of this whole conversation?”
John’s eyes flickered mischievously. “Just trying to tell you about the man you may be involved with.”
“I won’t be involved with Sloane Harper!” she countered, again too vehemently, her temper beginning to fray. “He’s a corporate client of the firm. From what you yourself say, he needs neither a divorce attorney nor a family law specialist. If I hadn’t returned to the office at that particular moment, I wouldn’t even have met him.” The thought brought with it a gamut of emotional twinges, not the least of which was an eerie sense of premonition.
“But aren’t you glad you did?” John drawled slowly, recognizing the very tiny bud deep within that she struggled to ignore. “And, looking as gorgeous as you do …”
“John, I had a speaking engagement today. Of course I’d be more dressed up than usual.” Her tone was one of exasperation, yet as she looked down at her lightweight wool dress, a gentle blue plaid with a mandarin collar and pleats down the front and back tucked in at her slim waist by an apricot tie that blended miraculously with her coloring, she was grateful for the coincidence. John, of course, must never know that! “You’re really off base with this one,” she murmured defensively.
Silence hung strangely heavy in the air as he studied her. “Am I?” he asked slowly, then straightened and stood. Justine had been momentarily shaken by his pensiveness. As he stepped toward the door, she released her breath, only to catch it on the rebound. John’s posture grew simultaneously alert. Halting in his progress, he stood stock-still. There, beyond his dark frame, was Sloane, filling the doorway with his presence.
“Excuse me,” he spoke softly. “Am I interrupting anything?” His dark eyes swung from Justine to John, studyingthe latter for an instant of sizing-up before returning to her. His words suggested a legal conference; the faint twist at the corners of his lips suggested something entirely different.
“No, no, Mr. Harper,” John spoke smoothly, extending his hand in introduction. “I’m John Doucette, also of the firm. Justine and I are finished.”
The finality of his declaration held far deeper meaning for the two lawyers and would, in future days, come to be recalled by each. Sloane took it at face value, his inner thoughts well hidden behind a benevolent smile.
“I suddenly realized,” he began confidently, “that I still had Ms. O’Neill’s notebook.” To her chagrin she saw that it was true. “I was worried that perhaps she might be needing it this afternoon.”
As Sloane advanced into the room, Justine was intensely aware of the smug grin on John’s face. Determined to simply retrieve the notebook and amend her lapse, she stood quickly to circle the desk, totally forgetful of the fact that she’d slipped off her leather pumps. The fact was brought painfully home as she stubbed her toe on the steel leg of the desk.
“Aahhh! My God!” She doubled over and grabbed the corner of the desk. Her jaw clenched, she pushed herself back into her chair.
“I’ll leave you two now” came John’s merry call from the door. He had seen any number of Justine’s minor calamities, and the knowing smile on his face as he saw Sloane circle the desk spoke for itself. Mercifully, he disappeared.
“Are you all right?” Kneeling down beside her chair, Sloane quickly lifted the stockinged foot which her own fingers tried desperately to massage.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she murmured in disgust, too intent on relieving the pain to succumb to the mortification shemight otherwise have felt. “That was a stupid thing for me to do. I’d forgotten about my shoes.”
Her hand was cast aside as long brown fingers probed her silk-sheathed toes gently. “I don’t think you broke anything,” he decided as he lightly rubbed the offended area. “Do you do this type of thing often?”
Only then did his eyes lift. They were dark and contained a blend of concern and query. Justine felt a melting sensation spiraling through her and swallowed sharply. So John’s nonchalance had tipped him off, she rued, then laughed at her characteristic clumsiness.
“I’m the firm’s own calamity department—but then, they didn’t tell you that, did they?” An eyebrow arched before her, its color a more equivocal mix of gray and black. “No, I didn’t think so. Well, you may as well know, since you’ve just found out anyway.” She grinned, poking fun at herself easily. “They call me ‘Calamity J’ for short. I may know my law, but when it comes to things mechanical—even stationary”—she sent an accusatory glance at the desk leg, now barely visible beyond Sloane’s large and hunkered frame—“I’m a complete disaster!”
“Ah, so the lady does have a fault?”
“Just that one.”
His presence filled the room, warming her. “Well, that’s a relief! We wouldn’t want the image to totally crumble!” His teasing was so gentle that she could not imagine offense. “And it is good to know that you have at least one weakness, like the rest of us!”
“And yours, Sloane? What might that be?” It was her hope that some knowledge of this man’s imperfections might ease the flagrant attraction she felt toward him.
His dark eyes studied her, serving, on the contrary, to enhance the lure. He seemed to be debating, in good humor, the wisdom of any such revelation. Shaking his silver head slowly, he stalled. “No, I don’t think I should tell you … .”
“Come on! I told you mine … .”
“Correction … you showed me yours. And, if my suspicion is right, you’d rather not have done so.”
“No one likes to look like a complete ass!” she jibed in self-reproach.
“You don’t look foolish, and you know it. You’re human.”
“And you? What is it, Sloane—this weakness of yours?”
Again he deliberated, drawing out the wait for what she was sure had to be intended effect. Finally he spoke in a velvet hum. “You won’t tell anyone?” She shook her head and furrowed her brow in sign of sincerity. “All right then. And … you won’t laugh?”
“Sloane …” she warned softly.
“I … talk in my sleep … .”
Having expected something cataclysmic, Justine’s shoulders drooped. Lips curling down in dismay, she chided him. “Is that all?”
“All?” He feigned astonishment. “It’s terrible. Entire monologues spilled out in the middle of the night. Trade secrets. Confidential information. Personal brainstorms. Everything! It’s terrible!”
“Only if you aren’t careful about your bedmate!” she quipped, then instantly wished she hadn’t. “I mean,” she went on quickly, “if there’s just anybody around at night …” Realizing that she was making things worse, she stilled.
It was one word, yet the gleam in his eye spoke volumes. Justine bit her lip to stem further blunder. Her toe felt fine now, free of pain yet tingling beneath the hand that continued to hold it. As the seconds passed, the tingling spread upward, through her body, lodging in the knot at her throat. Her eyes linked with his in helpless captivity. Finally, she forced herself to speak.
“My foot is much better. Thank you.” At her hint heput the injured appendage gently to the carpet and straightened. If his height had struck her when he stood with the group of lawyers, now it was positively towering. Defensively, she looked down at her desk. “And thank you for returning the notebook. You were right. I would have needed it at some point, and I might very well not have realized where it was.”
“I doubt that,” he breathed softly. “But I’d better be getting back to the conference room. Wouldn’t want to keep your friends waiting.”
Justine admired the broad sweep of his back as he made for the door with long, leisurely strides. “Thank you again.”
He turned briefly, cocked his head, and smiled. “My pleasure.” Then he was gone, leaving her at last to a solitude which she needed badly.
But her solitude was limited by the presence of the telephone. As if on cue, a soft buzzer rang and the light on the console lit.
Her tapered finger pressed the appropriate button. “Yes, Angie?”
“Mrs. Connely on 78 for you, Ms. O’Neill.”
“Thanks. I’ll take it now.”
With a flick of her finger Sloane Harper was temporarily forgotten. “Mrs. Connely? Justine O’Neill, here. What can I do for you?”
A high-pitched voice crackled over the line. “Oh, thank goodness you’re in, Ms. O’Neil! I don’t know what to do. It all happened so quickly—”
“Slow down, Mrs. Connely. Try to relax. Now, what seems to be the problem?”
“He came in the middle of the night. We must have been sleeping. I didn’t hear a thing. I guess he used his own key—”
“I thought you were going to have the locks changedlast week?” Justine interrupted, hiding the frustration which suddenly surged through her.
“I was … but I didn’t get around to it. I was so busy … with the children and all … that I guess I forgot.”
Setbacks were part of the game, Justine reminded herself quickly. Clients like this distraught woman expected instantaneous results from their lawyers yet were often not willing to make an effort themselves. Stifling her annoyance, Justine probed further.
“Okay now, tell me what happened. Exactly what did he do?”
“He took everything! My silver. My credit cards. Our bankbooks. Even the fur jacket he gave me last year.”
As her client talked, Justine grabbed a pad of paper, cradling the receiver between jaw and shoulder as she quickly jotted down some notes. “Anything else?”
“That’s enough! He wasn’t supposed to touch a thing until after the preliminary hearing!”
“I know, Mrs. Connely. But this happens all too frequently. We are scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday. Until then, there’s not too much we can do about it.”
“But he had no right to steal those things!”
“They do belong to him in part,” Justine reminded her softly. “But you’re right. He shouldn’t have taken anything. Tell me, is anything else missing?”
There was a pause at the other end of the line as the woman tried to think. “I—I think that’s everything.”
“No! Thank heavens those are in the safe deposit box.”
“And who has the key?”
The voice was suddenly meeker in a dismal way. “Oh, Lord, he does!”
It was a common dilemma for many of Justine’s clients, women who, for the bulk of their adult years, had been married and totally dependent on their husbands, even tothe extent of possession of the safe deposit box key. Nothing like that would ever, ever, happen to her, she had long ago vowed. Cases like the present one only reinforced her determination.
“Look, Mrs. Connely”—she attempted to soothe the woman—“don’t let it upset you further. I will make some calls this afternoon and see about a temporary injunction. That will prevent him from removing anything else from the house. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait on reclaiming the other things until the hearing.”
“But my credit cards … the children need things … I have no money …”
“Your sister.” The lawyer thought quickly. “Can your sister help you out at all until next week?”
With a sigh the other woman reluctantly confirmed the suggestion. “I suppose she could … but I hate to ask. It’s such a messy situation.”
“I know that, Mrs. Connely. But you can assure her that the loan is only temporary. After next week, we should have things straightened out. Sound fair?”
Mrs. Connely’s voice reflected her more calmed state. “I guess so.”
“Fine, then. I’ll give you a call back later when I have something to report. Why don’t you call the hardware store right now and see about having those locks changed.”
“I will.” With a defeated “Thank you” and “Good-bye,” Mrs. Connely hung up the phone.
“All alone now?” John Doucette called gallantly from the door as Justine replaced the receiver and continued to make some notes, waving him away with a sweep of her arm. But he was not to be shooed off so quickly. “Did your toe survive that collision?” he asked, reveling in amusement as he sauntered up to her desk.
“I’m busy, John. Go call a client, will you?”
Actually, despite their sparring and John’s frequentbadgering for a date, the two were good friends. John had been an associate when Justine entered the firm, putting them in the same class. The associates as a group were on the fringe of the firm, commiserating often about petty gripes, consoling each other on minor defeats, celebrating together those hard-fought victories. Justine respected his legal ability, and once she recognized him for the ladies’ man he prided himself on being, she found she could enjoy him in reasonable doses. This day’s dose, however, was growing oppressive.
“The fox is omnivorous and an opportunist, you know,” he informed her, as though nothing at all had passed since the demise of their earlier conversation. “He leaps and pinions his victim with his paws. Then his powerful jaw takes over the work.”
In a gesture of exasperation Justine lifted the heavy fall of curls from her forehead and held it momentarily atop her head. Her eyes sent a dagger of disgust his way. “Is this absolutely necessary? You really have gone beyond the line of duty. As I recall, you’ve already warned me on that score.”
His grin reflected his pleasure in needling her—and, for once, her seeming lack of immunity. “Just thought I’d make my point a little stronger. If you’re determined to get involved with the man—”
“I am determined to get involved with no one!” She struck back loudly. “I don’t understand why you keep harping on this—” In her frustration she flung her hand from her head down onto her desk, accidentally toppling a pile of books that had rested precariously on its edge. “Damn!” she swore softly, then looked up accusingly as she knelt to retrieve the volumes. “Look what you’ve made me do!” She turned frustration into humor. “You get me all rattled so that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. You do have a way with women, I can say thatmuch!” Flattery, even of the backhanded sort, always did the male ego wonders, she mused.
“Ah, you finally noticed!” He had come to help her pick up the scattered pile of books, serving himself up meekly for the friendly swat Justine took at his head.
“Hey, you two! What’s going on here? I thought this was supposed to be a dignified law firm!”
Richard Logan joined the group, his boyish smile indicating his delight at the break in tradition. On occasion Justine wondered how his more staid father had managed to entice the younger, more adventurous Logan into the firm. This was one of those occasions.
“This man,” Justine began, nodding toward the now standing John, “is a menace to society. What he’s doing in here is beyond me!”
“And you, Dick,” the object of her mini-tirade interjected, “what brings you into this madhouse?”
The smile that lit the young Logan’s face bore its share of devilry. “An invitation.”
“Great!” John exclaimed humorously. “Where are we going?”
“You’re not going anywhere. It’s Justine. She’s been invited to join us for dinner tonight.”
Justine cocked her blond head toward John, her eyes green in their merriment. “That’s terrific! Where are we going to dine?” Might as well rub it in for effect, she thought with a grin, taking revenge on John’s earlier smugness.
“That hasn’t been decided yet. But the command has been issued. You’re not busy, are you?” Richard added as an afterthought.
“I am now. Dinner will be fine.” Then a strange and unbidden sense of unease crept into the recesses of her mind. “By the way,” she asked with studied nonchalance, “who’s ‘us’?”
Richard looked from Justine to John and back beforeanswering, confirming in Justine’s mind what she had uncannily feared. Feared. Though she didn’t know why. But fear it she did.
“There will be yours truly, my father, Charlie, and … Sloane.”
The last name hung in the air for a long moment, before John broke the silence with his conspiratorial whisper. “The Silver Fox.” As Justine subconsciously caught her breath, both men turned to stare at her.
DON’T TEMPT ME. Copyright © 1983 by Barbara Delinsky.