Home > Appealed (The Legal Briefs #3)(16)

Appealed (The Legal Briefs #3)(16)
Author: Emma Chase

She takes that in, then her voice goes even softer. “A year and a half after your accident, my parents and I went to your house for dinner. I snuck upstairs because I wanted to see you; I needed to know if you were okay. I made it halfway down the hall to your room—and then I heard you crying. Henderson was with you, but it sounded . . . horrible.”

I duck my head. “It was worse then. And I was young—didn’t know how to deal with it. Now I do.”

I take my time raising my eyes to hers. There’s a difference between pity and compassion, and I’ve had twenty-two years of practice in noting the distinction. Pity is feeling sorry for someone, while being glad you’re not them. Compassion is a shared pain—you hurt with them; their pain becomes your own.

I can accept curiosity, unease about my leg—they come with the territory. But I can’t handle pity.

Not from her.

When I drag my gaze to her face, relief loosens my chest. Because her eyes crinkle with hurt—mine and hers.

“Is there anything I can do?”

I smirk. “Now that you mention it, blow jobs always make me feel better. Don’t suppose you’re interested?”

She actually laughs—it’s low and sweet and beautiful. And it makes the pain just a little bit easier to ignore.

“Sorry, not interested.”

“Damn it.” I snap my fingers. “How about a drink, then? Drinking alone sucks.” I jerk my thumb to my butler. “And Harrison here is straight edge.”

I push my wheelchair forward and gesture to the couch. “Sit down. Harrison, get the good bottle of brandy, please—top shelf in the liquor cabinet, on the left.”

“Your medication . . .” he warns, but I wave him off.

“One drink will be fine.”

Kennedy sits on the brown leather sofa, close enough that our knees almost touch. Harrison hands us each a rounded, bottom-heavy glass half filled with amber liquid, then quietly leaves the room.

I look at her. Where to start? So many questions—and even more land mines.

“Where did you go after boarding school? I went to your house that summer, but—”

“I don’t want to talk about that, Brent.” She stares straight ahead, her voice dead-end final.

I back off. “Okay. Then . . . how did this happen? The hair, the clothes, the contact lenses—your mother and your sister Claire wanted to make you their Barbie doll for years. What finally made you let them?”

A smile curves her lips. “I didn’t let them.” She leans my way, her shoulders relaxing a little. “Eventually the rebellious stage got old; watching my mother shit bricks over the way I dressed was less satisfying. But the summer after my first year in law school, I had an internship with the appellate court—”

“Where did you go to school?” I interrupt, hungry for every morsel.

“Yale.” She takes a sip of her brandy, then goes on. “So . . . I was working under Justice Bradshaw, who was not only a phenomenal judge but a stunning woman. About a month into my internship, she called me into her office and said she was impressed with my work, but if I didn’t do something about my appearance I wouldn’t be interning with her for long.”

“She actually said that to you?” I choke out. “Shit—that would’ve made for an interesting sexual harassment suit.”

Kennedy nods. “I told her I wanted to be judged on my work, not my looks. And she said, ‘That’s fine for La-La Land, honey, but this is the real world.’ ”

Her tone grows more easy as she goes on. The icy mask melts away and her face turns softer, more open. And I can’t take my eyes off her—because this is the girl I grew up with. The girl I know.

“She told me that banker or gangbanger, we’re all judged on how we look. And if I looked sloppy, people would think everything I did was sloppy. But if I looked impeccable, they’d give me the benefit of the doubt that my work could be impeccable too.

“So I started making an effort to look more polished. Within a few weeks, I was dyed, plucked, and tailored within an inch of my life.” Her hand skims down her front. “It was my Devil Wears Prada moment.”

I nod, even though I have no fucking idea what she’s talking about.

And she calls me on it. “You don’t know what that means, do you?”

“Not a clue.”

Kennedy smiles. “It means Justice Bradshaw was my fashion mentor. And that was the summer I turned pretty.”

I stare at her—at the soft curve of the cheekbone, her smooth skin, the thick long lashes and full pink mouth she always had.

“No—it really wasn’t.”

Her eyes flash to mine for a long moment, then she looks away. Swallowing some brandy, she coughs.

“Goes down kind of rough, doesn’t it?” I say.

“Yes. Not to be rude, but if this is your good stuff, I’m afraid to find out what your cheap liquor tastes like.”

I smile. “It’s not the good brandy because of the taste.” I crook my finger, drawing her closer until our arms brush, and I’m able to detect the scent of peaches on her skin. Then I hold up my glass, swirling it gently. “Do you see the light brown color—how soft it looks, like crushed velvet?”

Kennedy peers at the glass and nods.

“But there’s a deeper brown in there too, giving it more complexity. A richness.”

“Uh-huh.”

   
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