“Smile when you’re scared. Laugh when you’re angry. Never tell what you’re really thinking. Cordelia Simms was always a quick study. Her brilliant mind and dysfunctional family prepared her perfectly for a career in the snakepit of an Old-South, old-money law firm, but she took a few detours along the way. Now the shameful secrets in her past put her future – and her child – at risk.” Previously… Scott advised Cordelia to join the Tax Department before Marj’s team gets dismantled. Cordelia met the heiress Zoe Ackerman, and was put on the spot to make either Richard or Marj look good in front of the client. She decides to make herself look good instead.
There is no good answer here. My throat burns. I just wanted a job, not an internecine war.
Trouble pipes up. Fuck ‘em. Just fuck ‘em all.
“Ms. Ackerman, I don’t work for a department. I work for you.”
She nods and shakes a finger at me. “I like this one.”
Marj smirks as we sit down. Richard squints at me. The back of my neck prickles. I’ve seen that look before.
I breathe slowly. I’m clean. I don’t owe anybody anything. I can handle this. Go ahead, sneers Trouble. Maybe you’ll convince yourself.
With an effort, I tune back into the meeting. Ms. Ackerman likes my proposals, but has some questions. Richard jumps in with questions of his own. Good grief. He’s doing a hard sell – priming her with a string of “yes” answers. Oldest trick in the book.
Marj stands up before he can close. “Fantastic! We’ll draw up the instruments right away, and Tasha will call you to schedule the next meeting.”
Richard looks like he got clotheslined. If he calls Zoe again, it’ll be obvious he’s out of turn.
Marj walks Zoe to the elevator. Scott vanishes. Richard grabs my elbow. Same elbow, too. Ouch.
“You’re ambitious, Cordelia. That’s good.” He leans over me. “There could be a place for you here after Marj is gone, if you’re a team player.” He runs a finger up my arm.
My shoulders go up around my ears. He smirks. “So prim. So top-drawer. Nobody’d believe how you earned your keep. I bet you’d rather they didn’t know.”
My mouth is dry. “What are you asking for?”
“Other services as required, my dear. It’s in your job description.”
The receptionist pokes her head around the corner, and he drops my arm. “Cordelia?” she calls. “Marj said you could sign for her?”
“Sure.” I head to the front desk. My heart is pounding. I can’t think about Richard right now. I just can’t.
As I sign the process-server’s log, I glance over the papers: Norris v. Ackerman, et al.
I flick open the blueback on the way to the elevator. Fraud, duress, undue influence. Conversion. Unjust enrichment. Breach of fiduciary duty. Malpractice. Conspiracy.
Wow. Henry Norris wasn’t kidding.
I keep reading. The elevator dings. I get halfway to my desk and stop short. That can’t be right.
Three giant strides take me to Marj’s door. This time I knock.
She looks up. “Yes?”
I wave the papers at her. “Marj, I’m named in the Norris suit. Why? How?”
She takes it from me. “Psh. He’s throwing crap to see what sticks.” She tosses the papers back. “Get with Tasha on drafting our answer, and tell her to prep for document production.”
I trudge back to my alcove. What if I’m questioned about the Trust? What are the ethics here? I flop into my desk chair. I miss Dad every day, but today he’d really be handy.
My cell phone rings. “Baby girl! Haven’t seen you in weeks.”
“Hi, Angela.” She’s a decent sponsor, I guess, but her smoky rasp shreds my nerves.
Scott taps my door. I do the “one-minute” finger.
Angela wheezes. “There’s a meeting at noon. I’ll pick you up.”
Scott gives me a thumbs-up, then mimes eating and drinking.
“Cordelia?” Angela gets a coughing fit.
Scott raises his eyebrows at me.
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