Unbreakable(4)By: Emma Scott
I tapped my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, silently commanding the red light to change. My engagement ring captured the afternoon sunlight and sprayed it over the dash. I smiled, feeling some of the tension leave my face, but only for a moment. Don Knight’s words resounded in my head like bats in a cave, and I couldn’t sweep them out.
He had ruined my triumph. I had just nailed the most important case of my career—so far—and was fulfilling the legacy of my father, one of the greatest trial lawyers in Los Angeles, before he retired five years ago. Now I suddenly felt like the Princess and the Pea, lying high on a stack of the richest mattresses and still feeling a tiny little prick of a discomfort.
At twelve-thirty—fifteen minutes behind schedule—I guided my Mini onto Santa Monica Boulevard and screeched into the Belvedere’s parking lot. I briefly checked my reflection in the rearview; a stray strand of red hair had come loose.
Knight was just bitter that he’d lost, I reasoned. If I hadn’t had a strong case in the eyes of the law, we wouldn’t have gone to trial in the first place. Was I supposed to hold back? Would Usain Bolt run a race more slowly simply because his fellow racers weren’t as naturally fast? Of course not. This case was going to make an already wealthy man even richer, catapult L&D into the stratosphere of law firms, and make me a partner. But like I had told the jury, that was all window-dressing. Guilty is guilty, and if Hutchinson had had sturdier shelving for their heavy supplies, they wouldn’t have toppled onto Munro in the first place. The fact that he had been climbing said shelves—and partially drunk at ten in the morning—was beside the point.
I nodded to myself and tucked the stray lock of hair back into my severe twist. I had done nothing outside the bounds of the law. My father would be proud. With that thought bolstering me, I stepped smartly out the convertible, and handed the keys to the valet.
Before I could go in, my phone rang. I recognized my paralegal’s number.
“Abed, what’s up?”
“I tried to get the check for our expert on Folgate v. Robbs, but he only takes cashier’s checks and your name is on the account.”
I nodded. “He’s a paranoid, crazy bastard, but he’s going to destroy Robbs’ case with one expert sentence. I can get to the bank after I have lunch with the Posse.”
“Got it. Can I do anything else for you?”
Abed was my third arm and sometimes my second brain. I didn’t know what I’d do without him and fervently hoped I’d never have to find out.
“You can order lunch from Piknik,” I told him. “Take it out of petty.”
I laughed. “Don’t sound so surprised. You deserve a lot more than a free lunch.”
I could hear Abed’s grin. “Tell that to payroll.”
Inside the restaurant, I shared a nod of recognition with maitre’d, and breezed through the elegant olive and peach-hued dining room where the tinkling sounds of cutlery and glassware set a gentle undertone to quiet conversations. The Belvedere’s refined elegance was soothing after the hustle and bustle of Superior Court.
I reached the outdoor seating area—graceful pillars, green plants, and billowing silk above—and saw the Posse immediately. Four women sat a table for five, two dressed in expensive workout clothing, two in business attire. Designer bags sat beside their Nike Elite or Givenchy-clad feet.
“You’re late,” Antoinette Phillips commented, stirring a packet of sweetener into her iced tea with a silver spoon. The sunlight filtering from between the billows of the silk awning above made her hair shine like spun gold. “This is new.”
“Traffic.” I took the vacant, fifth chair at the round table and set my Fendi down beneath. “I hope you ordered my usual.”
“Of course.” Rashida Roundtree, in a cream-colored suit and red blouse, made a motion to a nearby waiter and indicated my arrival. She turned her sharp, dark eyes on me, smiling thinly. “What kept you? Did you become lost in the throes of passion with your fiancé?”
I took a long sip of ice water before answering. Lilah Tran sat across from me, wearing a pale green suit and plum-colored silky scarf. My best friend gave me a commiserating look.