Up For It (BigLaw #2)

READ AN EXCERPT FROM UP FOR IT

Chapter One

An unfamiliar alarm shrilled in the darkness a few feet away from Jordie’s head. The accompanying adrenaline rush brought him instantly and fully awake. He hated being woken up that way. “Jesus Christ, seriously?” His voice creaked like an old man’s.

Carefully patting the top of the bedside table, he hoped to encounter either his glasses or the alarm’s snooze button. The change in position caused the vise gripping his skull to tighten. He needed water, and several Advil, ASAP.

Then a feminine whimper cut through the din.

Jordie’s heart stuttered. Oh fuck no. Please please please no.

“Shut it off. Shut it off!” the woman begged.

He twisted to the side so he could search with both hands. “I’m trying,” he said, the note of panic in his words evident even to him.

Because he knew her voice. God, did he know her voice.

Lara. He was in bed with Lara. While still wearing all of his clothes.

This was bad.

His eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough that he could now make out a blurry glow, and he laid the flat of his hand against the smooth glass of the phone’s screen. Not his phone. Her phone? A second try stopped the noise, and he exhaled in relief.

Then he remembered. His friend Cal’s phone. He’d made Cal give it to him last night so he couldn’t drunk dial his ex-girlfriend. Funny at the time. Not so funny at whatever-the-fuck o’clock with a brutal hangover.

And still no glasses. He fumbled for the knob on the bedside lamp. Dimmable, thank God. The weak, orangey light was sufficient to reveal his nearly-invisible frameless lenses, and he stretched to the far side of the nightstand for them. Not that he wanted to see Lara’s expression right now. Or ever again, really. But he’d have to get over that, because they were both partners at the same law firm—Carter, Munroe and Hodges. In the same office. In the same fucking department.

Jordie’s gut began to churn. He shoved himself to a seated position, leaning against the padded headboard, then slipped his glasses on. It was time to man up and get it over with. “Lara.”

The bed shifted as she pushed herself upright too, pulling the covers up to her chest. She blinked at him, or maybe it was at the light.

He cleared his throat, but it didn’t help much. The back of his neck was hot with shame as he forced out the words. “I’m…sorry about my…ah…performance difficulties last night. That’s…never been an issue for me before. I swear it.”

Her lips pressed into a thin line, and she tried to tug the covers even higher. He hoped she wasn’t blaming herself, because it wasn’t her fault. Even wearing an oversized gray T-shirt, Lara was gorgeous—the total package. Blonde, blue-eyed, curvy, petite, always perfectly made up. Well, except for right now. She’d obviously put on pajamas and taken off her make-up last night after she’d given up on him and come to bed.

His heart panged, seeing her like this. Tense and vulnerable, dots of color high on her otherwise-pale cheeks. Their morning after shouldn’t have been like this. It should have been warm and sleepy kisses, sated and pleasantly sore bodies.

It should’ve been the start of something more.

Instead, his fantasies were rapidly crumbling into dust. God dammit. He realized he was throttling the burgundy-and-gold bedspread in his clenched fists and released it.

Lara never flirted with anyone from the office, but last night at their colleague’s wedding reception, she’d set her sights on Cal. He’d looked like a deer in the headlights when Jordie had interceded. And miraculously, she’d shifted her pursuit to him.

They’d had a few more drinks together… And he’d ended up with fucking whiskey dick.

Not how he’d seen the evening going.

His temples throbbed. Time to wrap this up and get back to the hotel room he was supposed to have shared with Cal. “I wish to God I could stay and make it up to you,” he said. “But the alarm was on Cal’s stupid phone, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have set it if he didn’t have a good reason. I need to get it back to him and make sure he wakes up.”

She looked down at the lump her feet made in the bedspread. “Don’t worry about it,” she muttered. “It’s probably for the best.”

“The hell it is,” he said before he could think better of it. She glanced back at him sharply.

He exhaled an audible breath. Fuck it. This was already quite possibly the most humiliating experience of his life; why not go for broke? “You lateraled to CMH what, a little over three years ago?”

“Yes. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“And you had a boyfriend back then, so you were off limits. And then you split up with him, but I made partner. You were a senior associate, and you were still off limits.”

Now she met his eyes, and he couldn’t look away.

“I’ve waited almost three years for this…this chance, to be with you.” His voice nearly cracked, and he shook his head. “And I fucking blew it.”

She stared blankly at him as he continued. “I’d give just about anything for another night with you. I promise, I wouldn’t fuck it up next time. I’d make it so good for you.”

Her eyes widened at the pleading note in his voice. Yeah, he didn’t normally beg. But he also didn’t give up without a fight. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and all that.

She studied his face for a few moments, then shook her head as she glanced away. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t.”

“Right.” Then it was time to go. He threw back the covers before swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I’ll get out of your way,” he said, his tone now as colorless as when he gave bad news to a client. Except this time, the recipient of the bad news was him. “I’ll probably drag Cal down to breakfast in forty-five minutes or so, if you want to join us.”

His head dropped into his hands. He didn’t even know what he was saying. Just words, to fill the awkward silence. Why was he surprised that laying his heart on the line and having it crushed was as much of a gut-punch at age thirty-six as it had been back in high school? Even more so, in some ways, because he was old enough now to be able to imagine a life with someone. Old enough now to start to wonder if that dream might be out of reach.

He bent down farther to shove his feet into his black dress shoes. He had no memory of putting them near the nightstand last night. Maybe Lara had done it. His head throbbed viciously as he laced them up.

“Okay,” she said from behind him.

His heart leapt before he remembered what she was actually agreeing to. Just breakfast.

Standing in one swift motion, he slid Cal’s phone into one pocket and his own phone into the other. He straightened and looked back at her, schooling his features to impassivity. He was a trial lawyer after all, and a damn good one. From here on out, his emotions would be locked down tight. Until he got over her, when it wouldn’t matter anymore.

He nodded at her. “See you down there.” And without another word, he collected his suit jacket from the armchair where he’d dropped it last night, slung it over his shoulder like he hadn’t a care in the world, and strode out the door.

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