Home > Royal Cocktail(8)

Royal Cocktail(8)
Author: J. Kenner

“She fell in love with you.” Hannah’s voice was softer, the words pushed out with emotion. “Being with you … honestly, it was the first time since I’ve known her that she stopped being so aware of how she sounded. To her, it must have been like living in a fairy tale.” She drew a deep breath and shook her head. “You might be a prince, Leo, but you’re no Prince Charming.”

“I never intended to hurt her.”

“Well, gee. You managed without even trying. Guess that makes you special.”

“No,” he said. “It only makes me sad.”



Chapter Seven



“Good morning, Skye.” Emily, Skye’s paralegal of the last year, looked up from her computer and smiled. “Sorry to start your morning with a bang, but Mr. Porter wants to see you.”

Skye’s shoulders slumped and she let her leather tote slide to the floor. “Did he say what it was about?” Maybe Emily had managed to glean a clue. Nothing on her caseload was with her dad, and he was diligent about not mixing personal with business. Which meant he was about to pile another case onto her already loaded docket.

The petite redhead shook her head. “Sorry. I tried. But you know how he is.”

“Did he say when?”

“As soon as you get in,” she said. “So I’d say now?”

Skye sighed and nodded. “I’ll just drop my … things off in my chair and head on over to see him.”

“I’ll buzz Mary and let her know you’re on the way,” Emily said, referring to her father’s assistant.

Skye stepped into her office, dropped her tote on her guest chair, and walked to the windows. She had one of the nicer views, and could see all the way down Congress Avenue to the Capitol beyond. It wasn’t even nine yet, and she hadn’t had nearly enough coffee for a meeting with her father. But she also knew that she couldn’t delay. Tarlton Porter was a man who waited for no one, including his daughter. Now that Mary knew she was in the office, she’d be getting pinged if she wasn’t there in the next two minutes.

Getting pinged by Tarlton Porter was every associate’s worst nightmare. And his daughter was no exception.

Resigned, she drew a deep breath, then headed into the carpeted hallway. Her father’s office was two floors above, so she took the back exit by the ladies’ room, and entered the stairwell. She didn’t get nearly enough exercise as it was, so she tried to take the stairs whenever possible. It also lessened the chances that she would run into someone in the elevator and feel compelled to make small talk. If there was one thing Skye hated, it was small talk. She didn’t want to speak, but assumed people would think she was rude if she didn’t. But what should she say? Especially when she knew that half the people she was supposedly chatting with were only nodding politely and couldn’t understand half of what she was saying.

She exited the stairwell on the twentieth floor, used her key card to get back in through the rear entrance, and followed the lushly carpeted perimeter hallway to her father’s massive corner office. Mary looked up as she approached, her smile bright. “That was quick.”

Skye shrugged. “I was aiming for brownie … points. Do you think I earned any?”

Mary laughed. “With your father? Brownies are hard to come by.”

Wasn’t that the case?

“Do you know what he wants? Is it about the symposium?”

“Honestly, I don’t. I dropped my car at the shop this morning and arrived after your father. All he said was that I should buzz you to come see him. Sorry.”

“No problem.” Skye appreciated the poking around that Mary did for all the associates, trying to give the younger attorneys a heads-up. But she couldn’t expect Mary to be able to do that every time. “So I should go on in?”

Mary glanced down at her phone and nodded. “He’s not on a call. I’ll let him know you’re coming.” She pressed the intercom button. “Skye’s here, sir,” she said, as Skye walked forward and pushed the door open. Her father paced behind his desk, dictating what sounded like a letter about a trademark issue with one of the firm’s international clients.

He saw her, lifted a finger, and didn’t even stumble on his sentence. Skye took a seat in one of the guest chairs, grateful for the extra time to gather herself.

At fifty-eight, her father was still an incredibly attractive man, with salt-and-pepper hair and a confident demeanor that seemed reflected in the hard lines of his face. A brilliant attorney, he took no shit from anyone, but also praised good work and encouraged young attorneys to try new arguments and to never simply go with whatever approach to a case that he suggested. It was only when an associate cut corners or sank under the weight of their workload or the firm’s expectations that his temper showed—and it was a hell of a temper.

Tarlton Porter was one of the best attorneys that Skye had ever had the pleasure of working with, and she appreciated the fact that he didn’t give her special treatment. He pushed her to do better, which she liked. But he also wanted to see her career grow to the same heights as his. And in the appellate world, that meant getting a reputation as the kind of attorney who could eventually argue a case before the United States Supreme Court.

That wasn’t something Skye wanted for herself. But she knew that her father did. And she wondered what path he was going to try to push her toward today.

“That’s all, Mary,” he said into the recording, then turned seamlessly toward Skye. “Hello, sweetheart.”

“What’s up, Daddy?” Unprofessional, maybe, but a habit she hadn’t been able to break unless clients were around.

“How are you coming on planning your talk for the symposium?”

Skye frowned, certain he hadn’t called her in there just for that. The symposium was still two weeks away. Still, since he brought it up...

“I’ve made … some notes,” she said, forcing herself to speak slowly. He might be her father, but he was still intimidating, and that tightness in her gut translated to a tightness in her speech as well. It was damn frustrating, especially since she knew that her speech was what her father so desperately wanted to fix about her. And despite visiting as many speech therapists as she had, he continued to hold onto the hope that she could conquer the dysarthria with nothing more than brutal willpower. Which, of course, was why he was insisting she speak to hundreds of key clients and potentials.

It had to stop. She swallowed, then stood, wanting to be at the same level as her father. “But … honestly, I wanted to … talk to you … about it.”

He father sat behind his desk and leaned back, his hands under his chin, forefingers steepled. “Oh?”

Skye cleared her throat and remained standing, keeping her feet planted and her hands by her sides. Her father was very attuned to any signs of nervousness, and he considered them weaknesses. When he caught associates squirming and shifting, there were always consequences. His theory was if they acted nervous in front of him, how would they act in front of opposing counsel? Give something away through nerves, and you might end up screwing a client.

“Having me … speak is a … mistake. You’re trying to … gain new clients for … our international law practice. But … Daddy, I don’t …practice international law. I do appellate work. So … having me present this paper is … ridiculous.”

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