He cleared his throat. “Sorry. If you’re not willing to use these why are you showing them to me?”

“I said I don’t want them made public, not that I wouldn’t use them if forced.”

Through her pain, Jack heard the determination in her voice and respected her for it.

“Make no mistake. I’d take my licking if Paul insisted on using the information on me, and I don’t want to drag my children through the mud twice. They need to believe they’ve got one parent they can look up to. Even if it’s a charade. So you show him these-they’re copies by the way-and tell him all I want is what’s fair. I’ve helped run this resort and raised his kids. I’m middle-aged with no other source of income or abilities. All I’m asking for is a fair and equitable settlement so he can’t squander it on those young women he prefers.”

She choked back a sob and Jack felt the lump rise in his throat. Not only for Alicia but for his own father who was going through the same ordeal.

“I’m hoping the threat of these photos is enough. But if he backs me into a corner, I’ll come out fighting.”

“I understand.” Jack stood with the envelope in his hand, knowing his firm’s largest client had sealed his own fate.

Jack hesitated, then put a hand on Alicia’s shoulder. “I’ll show him and advise him accordingly. In the meantime, you get yourself a lawyer first thing tomorrow.”

She nodded, gratitude flickering in her eyes. “Mallory was right about you. You just need to realize it on your own. Goodbye, Mr. Latham.”

“Good night.”

Alicia slipped out the door, leaving Jack alone with the incriminating photos and Mallory’s note. He walked over to the large mirror in the master bedroom. He braced his hands on the counter and looked into the reflective glass. He barely recognized the man facing him. He’d never considered himself a coward, yet that’s exactly what he was looking at. A man who, like his father, was afraid to take the step that would forever change his life.

Although both he and Mallory had known the rules going into the affair, neither had followed those rules. She’d fallen in love and had the courage to admit the truth. He’d fallen, too, but when faced with her admission he’d hidden behind the excuse of protecting her-instead of facing up to his greatest fear and overcoming it.

The irony was clear. Jack was a man who’d spent his life running from love and commitment until he’d walked right into its trap.

Only loving Mallory didn’t feel like a trap. The rest of his so-called life did.


Mallory dumped the box of her personal things on the floor of the apartment she shared with her cousin. “I quit, Julia. Q-U-I-T. What don’t you understand?”

Actually she’d given two weeks’ notice, but the senior partner wasn’t interested in keeping her on. Not after he’d heard she wasn’t willing to use the information against Alicia Lederman. Jack had been out with the flu since they got back and the Lederman case had fallen into Mallory’s hands. She’d chosen to walk before setting Alicia Lederman up for pain and heartache.

Upon Mallory’s departure from the resort, she’d bid Alicia an emotional goodbye. Because of her professional ethics, which at this point she wanted to choke on, Mallory hadn’t been able to do more than advise the other woman to get an attorney. But she refused to be the one to feed Alicia to her husband, the shark.

“Come sit down.” Julia patted the seat on the couch. “By the time I got home last night you were fast asleep and the first time I see you today, you’ve quit a job you’d dedicated your life to. You were this close to making partner.” She pinched her thumb and forefinger together and her silver bracelets jangled against each other. “So what gives?”

Mallory eyed her cousin warily as she settled in beside her. “You’ve got dark circles under your eyes and you’ve been suspiciously silent and you’re asking me what gives?”

Julia rolled her eyes. “I’m not the one who spent five days at a resort with the firm’s most eligible partner.”

Mallory hugged her shoulders tight. “He’s not eligible.” And as of the end of her first week back, he hadn’t returned to the office, either. So she’d avoided any awkward confrontation and by having her notice declined, she’d probably avoided ever seeing him again. That damned lump in her throat returned.

“Not eligible? You mean he was engaged or married during that one night? What a slime.” Julia made a face accompanied by a snort of disgust.

Despite herself, Mallory chuckled. She had no intention of revealing to Julia it had been much more than one night. “He’s neither engaged nor married but he’s just as unavailable in here.” She tapped her chest, above her heart. “And here.” She gestured towards her head.

And if all their intimate time together hadn’t changed his outlook nothing would.

Julia leaned forward to give Mallory a comforting embrace and she was grateful for her cousin’s silent, solid support.

Julia pulled back. “Did he say for certain he’s not interested or are you guessing? Because even the most determined bachelor can meet his match.” A wicked gleam lit Julia’s gaze.

“Don’t tell me you believe in the right woman changing a stubborn man’s mind.”

“I’m just saying not to give up hope until you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth.” Julia grinned. “So to speak.”

“I don’t think he has anything more to say to me. Once you tell someone you love them, the ball pretty much falls into their court.”

She sighed. “I can’t argue that though I wish I could. So what are you going to do with yourself now that you’re unemployed?” Julia asked, not so subtly changing the subject.

“I’ve got a nice nest egg and I can afford to open my own practice, even if it doesn’t take off for a while. I’m going to look at leasing some office space-maybe within someone’s office to cut costs. It’s time I did something for me.”

“Not your father?”

Mallory leaned her head back against the couch. “You mean you knew all along that the partnership track wasn’t what I wanted?”

Julia’s familiar blue eyes stared back at her. “You were using it as a way to make your father proud when nothing’s going to get him to focus on anyone but himself. Meanwhile you convinced yourself you were happy. Who was I to argue?”

Mallory sighed. “You’ve got a point. But I’m over it now.” And it had only taken her thirty years.

But she’d learned so much about herself that she could begin a brand-new life. Much as she wished Jack would be part of it, Mallory Sinclair was a fighter who thrived on a challenge. She’d survive.

But life would be so much brighter if Jack had learned the same lessons she had.


MALLORY HAD QUIT. Jack entered his private sanctuary slamming the door behind him so he could have a modicum of privacy in this gossip-stricken law office. Straight from the Hamptons, he’d been hit by a nasty summer flu and he’d missed another two days of work, bringing him into the weekend. He wished someone in this damn office had seen fit to tell him about Mallory while he was out sick.

He’d returned today, uncertain of how he’d deal with his office ice queen, knowing only that they weren’t finished-to discover she was gone. The emptiness gnawing inside him was greater than any he’d experienced in the past.

But along with the void came an accompanying sense of pride in Mallory. She’d found herself on their business trip and as a result she finally saw herself as he did-as a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.

The same way she’d gone after him. She wasn’t afraid to walk away when her hopes, dreams, goals or desires weren’t met. From a job or from him.

Jack glanced around his corner office, a status symbol by its very location. He took in the floor-to-ceiling

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