The only case high-powered lawyer Henry Hale has on his docket this Christmas is the bah humbugs he’s trying to fight off. To cope with a houseful of loving but overexuberant family and all the good cheer running amuck in his life, he just might need help from an unlikely source.
His star employee, Lorelei Sullivan, jumps at the unexpected chance to join Henry’s family events, even if she has only been invited as a buffer. What better way to cap off a stellar year than with a chance to prove she’s partner material and move her career to the next level? Baking cookies, card games, shopping for gifts—nothing is an imposition if it leads to making her case.
But when the relationship between Henry and Lorelei begins to spark from legal to loverly, both of their plans start coming unwrapped. They’ll need more than a little holiday spirit to help them get this court in order.
by Dana Volney
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Dana Volney lets her imagination roam free in Wyoming where she writes romances and helps local businesses succeed with her marketing consulting company. Find Dana Volney at www.DanaVolney.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @VolneyVentures.
An excerpt from The December Deception:
Lorelei Sullivan sat statue still, waiting for the verdict. The file folders were neatly stacked on the wooden table in the high-ceilinged courtroom, her navy leather-bound notebook closed. She’d argued Shelia Monroe’s case of wrongful termination well, and she lacked only the words “we side with the plaintiff” from the jury foreperson followed by a hefty dollar figure for the win to be recorded legally.
Not that Hale Law would see a dime. This was the seventh pro bono case Mr. Hale had brought to the firm this quarter. Of course, it was his firm so he could do as he pleased. She was going to give each one her all. She wanted to be partner so badly she could practically feel the fine white cashmere sweater from Nordstrom she’d been lusting over all fall—the purchase would be an official reward for her victory.
The brunette lady in all black who’d worn a gaudy necklace every day of the two-week trial stood in the jury box and read from a sheet—the words danced to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger” in Lorelei’s mind.
Mrs. Monroe teared up as she reached for Lorelei, putting her shaking arms around Lorelei’s favorite black jacket that went perfectly with her fitted black knee-length skirt.
“Thank you,” the middle-aged woman squeaked between silent sobs.
“You’re welcome.” Lorelei tapped her back and pulled away the first chance she got. She never had any idea how to handle clients when they wanted to invade her personal space. She hadn’t grown up with parents who were overly affectionate when it came to professional accomplishments, but she was trying to get better at not acting so awkwardly. It was a work in progress.
“I’ll file the necessary paperwork. It will take a little time with the holidays to get your full payment.” She reached out and rubbed Mrs. Monroe’s shoulder.
Lorelei collected her folders and clicked in her red pumps out of the five-floor building. Across the street, she entered a staunchly square, cream-colored building lined with brown window shutters. Hale Law took up half of the first floor. She swung the glass door adorned with the company name in block font wide open and strode for her office three doors down on the left.
“I know that look.” Diana passed her in the hall, holding her black coffee cup with the scales of justice prominent.
“Nailed it.” Lorelei smiled as she whirled around before continuing to her office.
“Good job, girl,” Diana called over her shoulder as she slipped into the kitchen.
Lorelei’s high would, of course, eventually fade, and she wasn’t going to get another until after the new year. She had one more case before her holiday, a mediation, but the courtroom wins were what really got her blood pumping.
She pressed her finger to the twist in her hair—the tightness was bugging her today. The pins were dug in a little too much.
“How’d the Monroe case end?” Mr. Hale was in her doorway, a pinstriped navy suit tailored to his every edge and plain.
“We won.” She unloaded her MacBook Pro and files from her bag and set them on her oak desktop. “Actual lost wages, lost benefits, plus compensation for potential lost wages.”
“Good work. Danielle can start the paperwork; she just finished up with my Sheryl filings.”
“Perfect. I’ll get her the court paperwork when it arrives.” The clerk for Judge Staubbs was usually fast. Considering everyone was in holiday-readiness mode, Lorelei expected it by tomorrow. Christmas was in just over a week, and no one wanted to work on Christmas. She wanted to tell herself she wouldn’t be working on the holiday, either, but she and her mother always ended up discussing cases, and no doubt this year would not be any different.
“How was the mediation on the O’Hara case?” Mr. Hale asked, still standing with his feet shoulder-width apart in the threshold of her office like a statue. He was always like bronze—didn’t matter if they were at work or not, he rarely let loose. She squelched a smirk; she was one to talk. She had no idea how to talk to him outside of work, and after the first dinner with their best friends, she hadn’t made much of an effort. It was easier to maintain a polite rapport between them.
“That is set for tomorrow. It was postponed.” There’d been a mix-up in the judge’s schedule, and a trial case had taken precedence.
“You feel good about your approach?” The side of his jaw rolled as his lips pressed together.
The man hated to lose. Even the hint of it made him visibly tense.
“Yes.” She wasn’t going to elaborate. She didn’t need his input. “Are you going to take time off for the holidays?” she asked, but she already knew the answer. He hadn’t taken time off for fun or even had the nerve to get sick since she’d met him more than two years ago.
“I have some potential cases to look over.” He slipped his hands in his pants pockets.
She had a couple of files to take home herself.
“I did want to talk to you before you left.” She stood so she wouldn’t be at a height disadvantage, then quickly grabbed her empty turquoise coffee cup so it wouldn’t look like she stood just to challenge him. She wanted him to say yes, after all. “Are you off to an appointment now?”
“No. What’s going on?”
“It’s about the partner track.” She paused for his reaction, but there wasn’t one. “When will you be making a decision?”
She’d had this conversation with him twelve months ago. Only, then, it had been about her starting down the road to partnership. He’d said he’d make a decision in the coming year. That time was now.
“I’ll consider it over the holidays to implement in the new year.” He broke eye contact. Taking a step back from her doorway, he nodded once before continuing down the hall toward his office at the end.