with the man.

“My money,” Lederman muttered.

“And children,” Jack added.

“The kids are on their own now.”

“So what are you looking for?” Mallory asked. “A quick out or…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish before he picked up speed. “I don’t care about quick. I just don’t want to be taken for all I’ve got. All I’ve worked for my whole life.”

“Does your wife work?” she asked.

“Hell no. Unless you count spending my money work.”

“What about raising your kids, Paul? When did that stop counting for something?” a female voice asked.

Mallory looked up.

An older but still beautiful brunette stood behind Paul Lederman. “And what about catering your parties? Seeing to your important guests? Your whims? Your needs? Your health?” The woman met Mallory’s gaze in an obvious search for feminine understanding.

In the brown depths, Mallory glimpsed a sadness and weariness that tore at her heart. Without knowing all the facts, Mallory imagined Mrs. Lederman as a woman much like her own mother, who sacrificed everything in order to further her husband’s desires. If her mother had focused even for a moment on anything other than her husband, she might have taken notice of the daughter she’d borne, then ignored when her father had decreed her a disappointment. With a sigh, Mallory shook off the personal memories, but her heart went out to Mrs. Lederman.

But she couldn’t afford to pity her client’s wife. Not if she was going to convince the man she could represent him to the best of her abilities. With difficulty, Mallory tore her gaze away from the woman’s pleading expression and focused on her client instead.

She couldn’t read the man or his feelings for his soon-to-be ex-wife. But she did see an aging man with a slight paunch and receding hairline who was married to an elegant, attractive woman who still desired to be his wife.

“I suggest you two do all communication through your attorneys from now on,” Jack said, in a kind but firm voice.

Mallory glanced up through hooded eyes. The sadness in Mrs. Lederman’s countenance grew.

“I didn’t realize you’d already hired yours,” his wife said.

Paul Lederman coughed once. “I haven’t finalized a decision yet.”

“But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself,” Mallory advised.

He nodded. “The lady’s got a point because I’m hiring the best.”

Mallory recognized Lederman’s subtle implication that he hadn’t yet decided if Waldorf, Haynes deserved the job, but right now her focus was on Mrs. Lederman and her pain.

“You don’t scare me, Paul. I’m looking at a man who doesn’t recognize the best when he’s got it in his life.” To the other woman’s credit, she held her emotions in check as best she could before she walked away, head held high.

“I didn’t realize you were still living together,” Jack said, breaking the awkward silence that followed.

Lederman snorted. “Not together. Opposite sides of the resort. She won’t leave. Says she loves me but what she really means is she won’t be charged with desertion. From her point of view, what’s mine is hers and what’s hers is hers. Damn place is turning into the War of the Roses.”

He shot to his feet quickly, pushing his chair back hard. “And I want someone who can get me the hell out of it without a dent in my wallet.” Muttering to himself, the older man stalked off, leaving Jack and Mallory alone.

“Dammit.” Jack groaned and ran a hand through his hair. “He’s explosive. I don’t want to lose this client.”

Mallory nodded. “Even if we get the case, with his personality if we can’t control him, she’ll come off looking sympathetic.” Which the other woman most definitely was, Mallory thought.

But she schooled her face into the blank mask she’d perfected over the years, careful not to reveal her inner turmoil to Jack. He was a partner and had a vote in whether or not she became one as well. There was no way she could afford to show weakness now, especially gender-oriented weakness.

She tapped her pencil against her pad. “There’s a story behind every sympathetic facade. Maybe Mrs. Lederman has a lover.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. Although Mallory had been called in on this case because of her gender, he’d expected to battle some form of feminine empathy while working along with her. Instead she was wholly focused on their client’s needs. He ought to be impressed, but her coolness bothered him in ways he didn’t understand. After all, didn’t he already know she was ambitious?

“What if it’s Mr. Lederman who’s cheating?” he asked, curious as to how she’d get around the hypothetical dilemma.

Mallory shrugged. “It all comes down to power. Whoever’s got the most power-in this case, money and strength of will-wins. It doesn’t look like we’ll get much of a fight out of Mrs. Lederman.” She paused in thought.

For a brief moment, even behind her glasses, her eyes clouded over and Jack clung to the hope she’d crack. Show some sign of feminine emotion. But just as quickly, the glimmer disappeared and Mallory met his gaze head- on, determination on her face. “We ought to take advantage of the fact that she doesn’t seem to want the divorce,” she said. “Use that to our advantage in convincing Lederman we’ve got the best strategy.”

“She doesn’t want the divorce yet. If she gets hit hard she’ll probably hire an attorney who will come out swinging.”

“Exactly.” Mallory’s voice rose in pitch, excitement infusing her tone as well as her spirit.

He could see now why she was so good at her job. Because she truly loved the nitty-gritty details and the opportunity to work out solutions to a client’s benefit. He understood because he felt the same rush of adrenaline each time a case or an idea came to a successful conclusion. “So what do you propose?”

“We need to strike first and the only way we can do that is by winning control of this case. I’ll call Rogers and see what kind of dirt he can dig up on Mrs. Lederman and her past. In the meantime, you question Mr. Lederman. I mean Paul. He’s more likely to open up to you anyway. Male bonding and all that.”

A grin edged the corners of his mouth. He couldn’t help it. She was a bossy thing when she got revved up and he enjoyed her take-charge attitude. “Any other orders?”

An unexpected flush stained her cheeks. From pale to cherry in a matter of seconds. So warm blood ran through those veins after all. For a brief moment, he wondered just how hot he could get that blood pumping. Until he refocused and realized this was Mallory he was daydreaming about. His staid, uptight, probably repressed colleague.

He definitely needed to hook up with a woman and soon. Sexual drought. There was no other explanation for the bizarre reactions he was having toward his associate.

She shook her head. “Sorry. I’m not sure what I was thinking.”

“Actually I’d say you were on target and thinking clearly. You go ahead and call the private investigator. If Lederman sees we’re investing time and money in him without a guarantee, he’s likely to be impressed. And I’m positive I can sway him before this trip is out.”

“Really? I mean, great! I’ll get on it.” Her surprise was tangible.

Given her probable history with the other partners in the firm, he understood. But he wasn’t one to knock a good idea just because it hadn’t come from him. Her ideas were solid and her train of thought followed his. They’d make a good team.

A good working team, he amended. “You do that.”

She met his gaze and nodded. She held his stare a minute too long.

He was unable to break the connection, but she had no problem. As she’d done many times this morning, her intense gaze darted from his, guiltily, as if she were a kid who’d gotten caught doing something naughty.

What a bundle of contradictions she was. He doubted he’d ever understand her. It was probably best he never did. Because she drove him to distraction, causing him to question himself and his feelings. Why did he care what Mallory thought or felt as long as she did her job and did it well? Why did he have this strong, lingering desire to see if she possessed a feminine side? Why the hell did he need to know she had the emotions and the ability to empathize with a woman Jack would ultimately screw in a divorce settlement?

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