Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

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Previously… Cordelia’s guarded answers cost her the job. But when she runs into the cop who busted her, she throws caution aside and introduces herself.

Episode 3

“She’s beautiful.” Detective Joyner passes my phone back across the table and slugs his coffee. He smiles.

My daughter Bella’s face makes everyone smile. I get a stab in my throat. Sweet Jesus, don’t let me screw her up.

“She get those green eyes from her daddy?”

I’ve practiced this one. “I expect so.” Quick, change the subject. “What brings you down here?”

“My mom’s gallbladder. She wanted help with the business while she recuperates.”

This badass has a mother? Today has officially gone from horrible to surreal. “Her business being…?”

He grins. “Pickles.”

I set down my latte. “Miss Jeannie Joyner is your mother?”

He chuckles. “She’s bringing out a salsa verde.” He puts a finger to his lips.

His brown leather blazer picks up the tones in his skin, and he’s got a fresh, sharp part-line buzzed into his hair.

Trouble whispers, He cleans up real nice. I blink it away.

He shifts, ready to leave. I put a hand out. “You know I wasn’t dealing, right? I had no idea how much I was carrying.” My eyes start to prickle. “It’s important.”

He nods. “I was the one who told them to plead you down.” He’s not quite smiling, but his eyes are soft. “I’m glad you’re doing well. I don’t get to see that enough.”

I stare at the crust of froth on my cup. “I don’t know if I can do this.” My voice shakes.

“Hey.” He taps my phone, and Bella’s face blinks on. “You can do anything.”

He’s right.

I can buy coffee for the guy who busted me. I can march through a sea of secretarial cubes, right into Marj Creasy’s office.

When I do, she’s too surprised to get mad.

“Look. We both know this firm doesn’t get candidates like me without some dings on the paint job.”

Deep breath. I’ve said this nearly 500 times. Still hate it. “I’m an addict. I lost four years of my life, and I’m not losing any more. I got clean. I aced the Bar exam. And I’m going to be the best damn lawyer you ever hired, because I can’t afford not to be.”

Marj is looking past me, not at me. I wheel around.

A tall, gray-haired man leans on the back wall, bemused. All the air gushes out of me.

Marj stands. “Richard Demarest? Cordelia Simms.”

He steps forward. “Yes, indeed. We met up North, at an alumni event.”

Oh, God. The lovely house in the suburbs. The parties. Our host, so obliging. A girl could get anything she needed, as long as she was “nice” to his buddies.

When we shake, the memory rolls in on a wave of nausea. Not his face — his hand. This buddy liked it rough.

Smile, dammit. Breathe.

“Cordelia would be a great asset to the firm.” He squeezes my hand a little too hard.

Marj shrugs. “Okay. You want the job? We’ll see if you can keep it.”

I glance back and forth from Marj’s pruned lips to Richard’s leer.

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