An International Affair (BigLaw #2)

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Chapter One

“Oi. Shane.”

Shane Tracy didn’t even have to look up from his monitor to know who that grating voice belonged to. “Just a sec, Mark.”

Didn’t matter that it was Shane’s first week at the most prestigious international law firm in Sydney, Australia. Or that he was in the middle of reviewing an asset purchase agreement for a partner he wanted to impress. Because it wouldn’t do to keep his paragon of an older brother waiting overlong.

Shane continued scanning the document, but sure enough, his office door still closed with a gentle thunk. No, You look busy, I’ll come back later. No, Sorry for interrupting. Just an expectation that he’d drop everything because whatever Mark had to say was more important.

Suppressing a sigh, Shane glanced over to where his brother’s flabby arse now rested against said door. Mark was a partner in the firm’s real estate department, and Shane, unfortunately, owed his presently elevated circumstances to his brother’s largesse.

The morning sunlight glinted off Mark’s glasses as he stepped farther into the office. “I just wanted to check in, see how you were going.”

Check up on him was more like it. But Shane pasted on a smile—one of those charming ones that usually got him what he wanted—and said, “Can’t complain. I like my colleagues so far, the office has a fantastic view…” He paused then, tilting his head backward toward the panorama of Sydney Harbour and the Botanic Gardens spread out behind him. “And John Gallagher’s got me working on a two hundred million dollar deal of his.” So let’s wrap this up so I can get back to reviewing John’s agreement, shall we?

“John. Huh.” Mark’s eyebrows rose, chasing his receding hairline.

God, Shane hoped he didn’t look like that when he turned thirty-five. At least he still had seven more years before he hit that particular milestone. Luckily, he’d also inherited their mother’s thick, dark hair instead of their father’s thinning strands. Not that Shane had anything against bald dudes—some guys really made the look work for them.

Mark removed his glasses, then brandished them at Shane for emphasis. “I guess I don’t need to tell you how important it is that you stay in John’s good graces if you want to succeed in the corporate department at Carter, Munroe and Hodges.”

Shane wondered if his brother practiced sounding that pretentious. But he knew where this discussion was leading now. Maybe he could still head it off.

“Look. I know I screwed up. I shouldn’t have hooked up with Brooke, but we’re consenting adults, and we were both into it. Carleton’s doesn’t have an anti-fraternization policy, so there was no legitimate reason to make me resign.”

“You still don’t get it.” Mark pulled a cloth out of his pocket and started polishing his lenses. “You weren’t fired because Carleton’s managing partner caught you sticking your tongue down his niece’s throat—in public. You were fired because pashing the managing partner’s niece—who was also a summer law clerk at your firm, I might add—demonstrated poor judgment. Extremely poor.” He pointed his now-clean glasses at Shane again. “If your work at Carleton’s hadn’t been impeccable, I wouldn’t have bothered sticking my neck out to bring you here.”

The unexpected compliment surprised Shane into thinking he’d gotten off easy. But his brother wasn’t done berating him.

“She was barely twenty years old, for Christ’s sake. What were you even doing with a girl that young?” Mark shook his head, then tucked the cloth away and put his glasses back on. “Never mind, I don’t want to know. Just keep it in your trousers here, all right, Shane? I’m not bailing you out a second time.”

“Yes. Of course, Mark.” Like getting canned for something so trivial wasn’t enough of a learning experience. “Trust me, I will never hook up with a girl from work again.”

Shane’s computer chimed and his phone buzzed, signaling that he had a new email message and hopefully a way out of this conversation. He nudged his mouse, waking up the monitor.

The subject, FW: last night was epic!!, sounded like something his best mate, Dave Watson, would send. Especially since last night had been rather epic. But why had it been forwarded…by…

His brain couldn’t process what his eyes were telling him.

The sender’s name was Shane, Tracy. Meaning, there was someone at the firm named Tracy Shane? Who’d received an email that was probably about Shane’s activities last night? No effing way. His luck couldn’t possibly be that bad.

He opened the message, skipping straight over the brief note at the top of the email to check the signature block. Yes, one Tracy M. Shane, Esq. apparently worked as an associate in the firm’s New York City office.

With a growing sense of dread, he read Tracy’s note next. “Hmph.” It wasn’t actually that bad.

Welcome to the firm, she’d written. I’m sure this is just the first of many emails that will go astray. I’ll forward yours if you forward mine?

Tracy seemed like an alright chick. Holding his breath, Shane scanned the forwarded message. Dave asked how Shane had gotten on with that girl…told him he’d hooked up with the girl’s hot friend after Shane and the girl had left the bar together…and suggested he and Shane get together tomorrow afternoon to celebrate—again—Shane’s first week at the firm.

He winced. Dave really, really needed to be more discreet.

And Shane’s brother really, really needed to be nowhere near here, so Shane could sort something out with Tracy and tell Dave to stop being a dickhead—not that accomplishing the latter would ever be possible. “Ah, Mark? I need to deal with this email.”

Mark opened the door but lingered in Shane’s doorway. “You coming over tomorrow? Mum and Dad will be there, and I was going to throw some lamb on the barbie, a few snags for the kids…”

Sounded like hell—incessant badgering about how he wasn’t living up to his potential interspersed with fawning over Mark’s perfect family. “Nah, I’ve got something on. But thanks.”

“Suit yourself,” Mark said. Though it was clear Shane’s dismissive answer hadn’t suited his brother at all.

Another email came through then. “See ya later,” Shane said, then turned back to his monitor. This message was also from Shane, Tracy.

The subject? FW: You were incredible last night.

He swallowed hard, trying to keep his breakfast from making a reappearance. Shane knew who this email had to be from. No matter what it said, with a subject like that, it couldn’t be good.

“Later,” Mark said. Then his footsteps shuffled away down the corridor. Thank Christ.

Shane took a deep breath, then exhaled in a rush, hoping to settle his churning stomach. Time to find out if he was going to get fired from the second job in as many weeks.

He opened the message. But all the mysterious Tracy Shane had to say this time was, You might consider a Gmail account. Just a thought.

A sick sense of relief flooded him, then the heat of embarrassment swept across his face. Accompanied by a chuckle. She had a wry sense of humor, this Tracy Shane did.

The forwarded email was, of course, from the girl he’d left the bar with last night. They’d met at a networking mixer earlier in the evening, then joined a smaller group that had gone for drinks down on Circular Quay after the official event had ended. Hooking up with her afterward had been an unexpected and welcome bonus. Until she’d sent a racy morning-after email to the wrong person.

Was it really so hard to understand that his email address was tracy.shane and not the other way ’round? It must be, since two people had already messed it up. He would definitely use a personal email address for all personal emails from here on out, to avoid the risk of this ever happening again.

He fired off a message to Dave. And he ignored the email from last night’s folly. Plausible deniability, right?

He should get back to reviewing the asset purchase agreement. Unwanted conversations with his brother and reading humiliating misdirected personal emails couldn’t be billed to clients. Nor did they help him wow the partners. But he could spare a few more minutes to indulge his curiosity about Tracy M. Shane, Esq. He owed her a reply, anyway.

Since she was an associate—as opposed to a paralegal or administrative staffer—her headshot and bio were included on the firm’s website. And she was… Even with her arms folded across her chest in one of those ridiculous corporate headshot poses, she was a knockout.

Glossy hair tumbled over her shoulders, a warmer shade of brown than Shane’s own. And her confident smile undoubtedly appealed to her clients as much as it did to Shane. But what he found himself coming back to again and again were her remarkable eyes, as if he had to keep making sure her irises really were that unusual pale golden-green, ringed by dark gray.

Her bio was equally remarkable. She’d graduated from University of Chicago law school five years ago, and with honors from Harvard three years before that, which would make her, what…thirty? She didn’t look thirty, but he supposed her picture could have been taken when she’d joined the firm, fresh out of law school. Or maybe it was just that Americans tended to look a few years younger than their Australian counterparts, who spent more time in the sun. Shane’s years of surfing and playing rugby—not that he’d had much time for either of those activities, lately—had already given him crows’ feet and a tan that faded during the winter, but never completely disappeared.

Like Shane, Tracy was in CMH’s corporate department. Her areas of specialization were exactly the sorts of things he wanted to do—M&A, complex cross-border transactions, other cool-sounding stuff. And not in a relative backwater like Sydney. In New frickin’ York, the financial capital of the world.

The way his luck was going, he’d probably end up working on a deal with her. And after receiving those two stray emails, she’d probably already written him off as a partier and an idiot. At best. Nice going, arsehole.

Or maybe his luck would improve, and they’d never meet in person. He could always hope.

In the meantime, he’d thank her for forwarding his emails, and he’d pretend for as long as he could that he still had a few shreds of dignity left. The truth was, he couldn’t afford another screw-up. Or he’d end up as a small town lawyer out in Cowra, and his dreams of leaving Sydney behind to work on billion dollar deals would be history.

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