For gorgeous lawyer Nick Gilbert, an after-hours rendezvous with a woman usually means a romantic dinner, not a children's charity picnic. But he's game! Especially as his date is his rather prim but intriguing colleague, Carolyn Duff.... Watching her with the little kids, Nick sees a new side of Carolyn. He starts to understand the glimmer of sadness behind her dazzling green gaze. When the real woman behind the all-business facade is laid bare, Nick has never seen anyone more beautiful....
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Boardroom Bride and Groom by Shirley Jump
Carolyn Duff had made one major mistake in her life--a whopping clich� of a mistake in a Vegas wedding chapel--which hadn't, unlike the commercials said, stayed in Vegas.
It had followed her back here--and was working in an office just a few blocks down the street. All six-foot-two of him.
Most days she forgot about Nicholas Gilbert and concentrated on her job. As an assistant city prosecutor she barely had time to notice when the sun went down, because her days tended to pass in a blur of phone calls, legal precedents, Indiana case law and urgent e-mails. Her calendar might have said Friday, her clock already ticking past five, but still Carolyn stayed behind her desk, finishing up yet another flurry of work, even though tomorrow was the start of the Fourth of July weekend and the courts would be closed until Tuesday.
For Carolyn it didn't matter. An internal time bomb kept ticking away, pushing her to keep going, to pursue one more criminal case, to see the prison bars slam shut once more.
To know she'd done her part again.
And yet it wasn't enough. Not nearly enough.
Carolyn rubbed at her temples, trying to beat back the start of another headache before it got too intense. Then she set to work, working on a negotiation for a plea bargain with a local defense attorney who thought his client--a petty thief-- merited merely a ninety-day jail stint and a small fine. Carolyn, who could see the future handwriting on the wall, one that upped the ante to a felony charge--B&E with a deadly weapon-- wanted years behind bars. The presiding judge, however, wanted a fast resolution that would clear his docket of one more hassle. He'd given the two attorneys the weekend to find a middle ground.
Mary Hudson popped her head in the door. Her chestnut pageboy swung around her chin, framing wide brown eyes and a friendly smile. "Everyone's gone home," said the paralegal. "Tell me you're taking the holiday weekend off, too."
Mary sighed. "Carolyn, it's a holiday. Time to party, not work. Come on, go out for drinks with me. I'm meeting some of the girls from the other attorneys' offices over at T.J.'s Pub."
"Sorry, Mary. Too much work to do."
"You know what you need?" Mary crossed to the coffeepot on the credenza, adding some water from a waiting pitcher, then loading in a couple of scoops of coffee from a decorative canister, intuitively reading Carolyn's late-afternoon need for another caffeine fix. "A killer sundress and a sexy man--one always attracts the other."
When it came to fixing Carolyn up, Mary was like a persistent five-year-old wanting candy before dinner--she'd try every tactic known to man and wasn't above shameless begging. To Mary a woman without a man was akin to a possum without a tail--a creature to be pitied and helped.
"I don't need a man, Mary." Though the last time Carolyn had gone on a date...
Okay, so she couldn't think of the last time she'd gone on a date.
Speaking of dates and men--the image of Nick sprang to mind, and a surge of something thick and hot Carolyn refused to call desire rose in her chest. What was it with that man? He'd been a blip in her life story, and yet he'd always lingered in the back of her mind like he was the one chapter in her life she wished she'd never written but couldn't forget reading. Well, she certainly didn't intend to check that book out of the library again. She already knew the ending.
One crazy weekend. One reckless decision. Four days later it was over.
Mary leaned against the mahogany credenza, arms akimbo, waiting for acquiescence. "Okay, so I can't get you to leave early, but you will be at the fund-raiser for the Care-and-Connect-with-Children program, won't you? These kids are all so needy, Carolyn. I've seen their files. Foster kids, kids living below the poverty level--they run the gamut. And don't worry about having to get too involved or hands-on. We have a lot of activities planned to keep the kids busy all day, partly to give the foster parents a break, too. It's pretty overwhelming, taking in strangers."
And overwhelming for the children, living with strangers, but Carolyn didn't say that. She kept her past to herself. When she'd left Boston three and a half years ago, she'd also left those memories behind. "I promise, I'll be at the picnic on Saturday. But I don't need a new dress. I can wear the one I wore to the office summer party last year. No one remembers what anyone wears at these things, and I can go stag because I am perfectly capable--"
"Of taking care of yourself," Mary finished on a sigh. "Yeah, I know. So are hermit crabs, but you don't see them smiling, now, do you?"
"They're crustaceans, Mary. I don't think they have smiles."
"Exactly." Mary nodded, as if that validated her point.
In the two years Mary had worked in the office, Carolyn had yet to figure out what stratosphere Mary's mind was working on.