The rumor at their law firm claims that Jane Prentice is the reason for Matthew Gray's divorce. Matt only wishes it were true. Ever since his marriage ended, he's put his social life on hold to become a better father to his kids. Now he's ready for more, but Jane wants nothing to do with him. Yet as they work together on a tough case, it becomes harder and harder for her to keep her distance. When she finds herself falling for him, Jane realizes she has to tell Matt the truth. And their relationship could be over before it truly begins once he learns her secret....
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August 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Matthew's Children by Elias Dafoe
If Jane Prentice had seen Matthew Gray in the elevator, she would have taken the stairs. But as she stepped on board, she was reading case notes and didn't spot him until the doors were gliding shut behind her.
That voice. It still had the power to remind her she was a woman first. Lawyer second. She stuffed her papers into a side compartment of her briefcase, then looked at him. And away.
An awkward pause followed. At least they weren't alone. Two men in business suits flanked her, neither man familiar. When the elevator stopped at the twenty-eighth floor, only she and Matt stepped off.
"Going to the partners meeting?" Matt asked, as they headed in the same direction.
She nodded. Crap. Obviously, so was he. What was going on? Over the past year they'd become adept at avoiding each other. She'd requested an office on the opposite side of the building from his. By tacit agreement they'd begun attending alternate partners meetings. And she and Matt both avoided places they used to go together, like Sully's Tavern and the deli downstairs.
Everyone at Brandstrom and Norton was in on it; even the managing partners no longer assigned them to the same cases.
A year ago the rumor had been everywhere. Matthew's marriage is in trouble. And Jane's the other woman...
"Russell dropped by my office this morning," Matthew explained. "He made it pretty clear my presence was mandatory today."
"I wonder why."
"Some new case he wants me to work on."
Jane sneaked a sideways glance at him. The year had taken its toll, adding some lines and a few gray hairs, but he was still handsome in that intellectual, Robert Downey, Jr, way of his.
"I was sorry to hear about you and Gillian."
She hadn't expected him to challenge her, and wasn't sure how to respond. A part of her was sorry, naturally. Matthew didn't deserve what had happened. He was a good man, honorable in the old-fashioned sense of the word.
Yes, he'd spent too much time at work. Yes, he'd neglected his adolescent son and much younger daughter.
He wasn't perfect.
But who was?
They rounded a corner, and the open door to the conference room was now in sight. Matt's voice became coolly professional. "By the way, congratulations on the Laskin case."
She could feel her cheeks grow hot. They may have avoided each other the past year, but he'd kept tabs on her. "I was lucky with the judge."
"You're too modest. The story in the Hartford Courant was pretty complimentary."
The admiration in his voice was contained, yet unmistakable. She tried to meet his gaze again without losing her composure. But she couldn't.
So she made her way into the room, where she headed for a vacant seat next to another of the junior partners at the firm. "Hi, Susan. How was your weekend?"
While Susan chatted about her three kids and husband, Jane organized her papers and located a pen.
"...and then Jeremy tells me it's his turn to bring the morning snack for circle time! I had to leave Jack to handle breakfast and drive to the market to buy enough fresh fruit for twenty-five children. And when I get in the car, what happens? Jack's run me low on gas again!"
Jane murmured a sympathetic comment, feeling anything but sorry for Susan's predicament. Did her colleague have any idea how lucky she was? She and Jack had been married ten years and had three healthy children.
Finally, Jane found her pen amid the clutter at the bottom of her briefcase. She inhaled deeply and checked around the table. All the familiar faces calmed her. This was her family, and now that her father had moved to Texas, it was the only family in Hartford she had.
She'd been working at Brandstrom and Norton since she'd graduated from law school twelve years ago. Eve Brandstrom had hired her, and had become her mentor and close advisor.
Eve made a powerful ally. Some claimed she was too hard, too driven. But Jane had never found her so. Now she caught Eve's eye and smiled.
I hope I look that good when I'm in my fifties.
Eve returned her smile, but her eyebrows were knit. When her eyes shifted in Matthew's direction, her frown deepened.
Had Eve noticed them walk in together? That she might be keeping an eye on the two of them was more than a little discomfiting.