Meet Cute (Page 48)
“It’ll help advance her career, and of course yours eventually, so it’s a win for everyone, really. If that’s what you decide. No interview would be necessary and your salary would be competitive. Of course, we can talk about this at a later date, once you’re feeling more settled.”
“Right. Of course.” I don’t hear much after that. I’m too busy mentally filtering through all the conversations Kailyn and I have had about switching firms. My throat tightens with the realization that she’s been pushing for this the entire time.
Has she used me as a power play? It seems likely with how driven she is and how much she seems to want partner. Here I thought she was looking out for me and Emme, but really she was looking out for herself.
I pull at my tie. It feels too tight, like it’s choking out the air in the room.
“Daxton? Are you all right?”
“Fine. Thank you. It’s been a difficult day.” All I can focus on is how the one person I thought was truly on my side has been playing me all along.
I step out into the hall and find Emme in the same place I left her. Beside her is Kailyn, dressed in one of her pencil skirts, legs encased in patterned hose, one red heel hanging off the end of her foot. Their heads are bent close, fingers laced together.
“I need to talk to you.”
They both look up, smiles fading.
“Are you okay?” Kailyn asks.
“I’d like a moment with you in your office. I’m sorry, Emme. I promise I won’t keep you waiting much longer.”
“Did something else happen?” Emme asks, nervous again.
“I’ll be back in a minute.” I motion in the direction of Kailyn’s office.
It’s quiet in the building, well after hours now. Kailyn smooths her hands over her hips and follows me down the hall, quickening her pace to keep up with me. She puts a hand on my arm. “Emme told me what happened, we’ll get it figured out.”
I step away from her touch and wait until she’s inside the office before I close the door and spin to face her. “What kind of game are you playing?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You know what, it doesn’t even matter. You used me and my sister to further your career.”
“What are y—”
I take a step forward, hands clenched, anger and devastation colliding. “Don’t lie to me right now, Kailyn. Don’t do it. I trusted you. I let you into my life, into my sister’s life, and for what? What do you get if you bring me over to your firm?”
“What do you get?” I yell.
“Whatever Beverly sa—”
“Save the bullshit,” I snap. “You sure fucked me in lots of ways, didn’t you?”
“It’s not what you think, Dax. I care about you.”
I ignore her imploring tone and push for the facts, because those are what I need right now. “What exactly were you offered to bring me on board here?” It all clicks together. “Partner? Is that it? You get a partnership?”
She sighs and closes her eyes. “Yes, but—”
“Stop. You don’t get to throw a ‘but’ in there. So all the time you’ve been spending with me, with Emme, it’s all been about you making partner.” Jesus. I feel like I’m going to throw up.
“At first I wanted to make sure you weren’t out to get Emme’s money. She was my top priority. I didn’t know you, didn’t know your circumstances or what your motivation was.”
“And after that it stopped being about Emme’s trust being safe and it started being about you making partner. I get it.”
“It’s not that simple, and you know it.”
“Isn’t it? You could’ve told me what was going on. You didn’t need to keep that from me if that’s not what this was about.” I motion between us and then reach for the door. “I hope you’re happy with yourself. You’ve just broken a little girl’s heart and it was already in pieces.”
“Dax, please, you need to hear me out on this.”
“No. I don’t. What I need to do is make sure my bitch aunt doesn’t get custody of my sister. And I need to start by cutting the people out of my life who are going to cause more damage than good.”
Sometimes the biggest mistakes are made with the best of intentions. I want to follow Dax but I don’t want to make an already terrible situation worse, and I also don’t want to needlessly upset Emme more than she is.
So I let him leave. Because I have no other choice.
The irony is, I planned to speak with Beverly tomorrow morning about the partnership and that I’d prefer to make it on my own merit, not on my ability to persuade Daxton to come to Whitman. And now I’m too late.
I feel ill as I drop into my chair and splay my hands out on my desk. The high of winning yet another case where the right people are granted custody of a child for the right reasons this afternoon is crushed by the weight of my actions. Dax deserves to have Emme, and I feel like everything I’ve done recently compromises that. Dax needed someone and I came in to play savior, only I made an even bigger mess to clean up.
I take several deep breaths, hoping to calm the swell of emotions as they slam into me. I don’t want to cry, not with Beverly still here. But judging by the pricking behind my eyes, I don’t think I’m winning the battle.
A soft knock has me clearing my throat. I want it to be Dax returning to hear me out, but that’s highly unlikely. “Come in.”
Beverly peeks her head in and purses her lips. I have no idea what my expression is. I feel like I’ve come down with the flu. I’m pretty sure the last meal I had is going to come up before this night is over.
“You don’t look very happy for someone who just won her second pro bono custody case.”
“I am.” I give her a weak smile. “I just have other things on my mind.”
“Ah, you mean Daxton.” She leans against the doorjamb and crosses her arms over her chest. “You should’ve told me how involved you are.”
“I think that’s past tense now.” I start to laugh, but it dissolves into a terrible, broken sound. I’ve messed up so badly this time. Worse than I ever could’ve imagined, and not just with Dax but with Emme. What will he to say to her? How much is she going to hate me? I’ve put him in a terrible position, and all for what? A career move? One that no longer means what it once did. Not when it’s going to cause so much unnecessary hurt.
“If I’d known, I would’ve approached my conversation with him differently.”
“I was planning to talk to you about it in the morning. I didn’t want to complicate an opportunity for him to work here.” Which is true. More than the partnership, I worried that being involved with him could affect his chance at the firm. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, Beverly.”
She laughs. “No one ever means to fall in love.”
Denying it seems pointless, as if I’m trying to support a position that doesn’t require any defense. “I don’t want my partnership contingent on whether Daxton accepts a job here. I can’t have those two things tied together.”
Beverly is silent for a few moments before she speaks. “I can understand that, considering the circumstances. Regardless of how you get there, Kailyn, you’ve put in the time and dedication for the partnership to be yours. Why don’t we talk about this later, when you’re thinking rationally and not with your heart. You should go home, try to get some rest. I don’t think this aunt of his is going down without a fight based on the shit she’s slinging, so it’s going to be all hands on deck for the next little while.” She moves to leave but pauses. “In case you weren’t aware, in regards to the nonfraternization policy, already established relationships are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Mostly it’s to keep the lawyers from screwing their assistants or bosses. Just something to think about.”
It would be if Dax didn’t hate me.
I make it home before I have a complete breakdown. When I’m semicomposed, I call Holly. It’s after nine on a Monday, we both have to work early, but my craggy voice and sniffles mean she drops everything to come over.
I’m not one for emotional outbursts. I cried when my mom passed and again when my dad went a few years later. I almost cried when I humiliated myself the first time I met Dax, but other than that, tears don’t fall easily for me. I’m pragmatic most of the time. But not when it comes to Dax and Emme.
The possibility of losing them terrifies me.
Half an hour later Holly shows up at my door with an overnight bag. “What happened?”
“I messed up.” My eyes start leaking again.
“Oh, peanut.” She drops her bag and hugs me.
It takes less than fifteen minutes to spill the entire story once I’m composed enough to speak.
“I think the most important question is whether or not you see this thing with Dax as long term.”
Holly tips her head to the side and waits for me to continue.
“We understand each other.”