“Do you have children?” the woman asked.
She got this one a lot. Almost as much as she heard “Why aren’t you dating someone?” from her family.
“Are you even married?”
“No.” God, this day sucked so far.
“Then what makes you qualified to sit on the other side of that desk and tell me what I need to do?”
Well, that was a new one. “My law degree and Board Specialization in Family Law.”
The woman sat back and stared at her, and Jane fought the urge to squirm. Her client was clearly hurting, but Jane had no clue how to help her, other than legal recourse.
Kim Zimmerman placed her hand over her heart. “Your qualification should come from here. Everything should come from here.” She pointed to her head. “It’s when our decisions only come from here that we are in trouble. It’s why I’m in trouble right now.”
The primary thing in trouble right now was Mrs. Zimmerman’s future bank account balance. “I understand that you’re unhappy, but if you—”
“Unhappy?” She stood up. “That’s not even close. I’m miserable. I can’t do this anymore. Give him the money. Give him the house. None of that matters.” Her voice was shrill and loud.
Whoa. Jane needed to get the conference back under control so she could help this woman. “What matters to you, then?”
“Love matters,” she continued, twisting the Kleenex in her hands. “I love Bernard. I always have. I knew from the first minute I saw him that he was different. That we belonged together. He was the only man I could be myself with. He still is.” She yanked another Kleenex from the box. “And this is all my fault. We blurted out some foolish things in anger. Things neither of us meant, and now we’re too proud to back down and admit to our friends and family that we were wrong.” She stood and put her bag over her shoulder. “He’s agreed to pay the kids’ school tuition, right?”
She signed the bottom of the form Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney had sent. “Then, give him the house and anything else he demanded. None of it matters if I don’t have him.”
“I think this is a huge mistake, Mrs. Zimmerman… Kim. Please rethink this.”
She stopped at the door. “You’ve given me lots of advice over the last month, Ms. Dixon, so let me give you some I have learned from this divorce business: act from your heart. Follow your instincts, and never, ever do something because someone else thinks you should.”
Jane sat back and stared at the closed door after Mrs. Zimmerman left. What the hell was that? She’d seen a lot of things: anger, remorse, capitulation, even bone-deep need for revenge—but she’d never seen someone throw her arms up and quit like this.
With a heavy sigh, she dialed Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer’s office to give him the happy news. When she opened her drawer to pull out a pen to make notes, she saw Eric’s message on her cell. “Can’t make it tonight. Hope it goes well with Aldo.”
It was at that moment Jane Dixon realized just how messed up her life had become.
“Cancelled with Aldo. Need to see you.”
Eric stared at Jane’s text for a full minute before setting his phone on his desk. “Need to see you” was very different than “want to see you.” Hopefully everything was okay. He hadn’t laid eyes on her all day. At noon, he left for a celebratory lunch with Chance and Michael Anderson, and when he returned, she’d left for the day. He’d assumed it was to go meet Aldo.
He’d told himself he was glad she wasn’t there and had even half convinced himself their friendship was a distraction. Now he realized that was all bullshit. He hadn’t gotten a damn thing done all day since he’d decided to back off a bit.
It was only six o’clock. There were three, maybe four good work hours left in the day. His routine before Jane had been to swing by Alastair’s bar on the way home from work on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Since befriending Jane, he’d skipped the bar and worked more on Wednesdays to free up Fridays for movie night. In fact, he’d been working harder than ever to ensure he’d have free time on Fridays. She hadn’t been a distraction at all. She’d been incentive.
He picked up his phone. “Where?”
“My place whenever it’s convenient.”
Well, at least he knew it wasn’t some kind of emergency. He’d clearly read too much into her first message—or maybe he’d applied his own feelings to it.
Earlier today, he’d decided it would be better to ignore his feelings for her. Shut the door like he always did on fun and distraction. Problem was, he didn’t just want Jane Dixon, he needed her. Maybe it was time to fling that door open for once.
The Smith Steel merger could wait, because Eric couldn’t anymore.
Jane opened the door a little too quickly. She should have counted to ten or something. Eric didn’t seem to notice, though. He said his usual “hey” and waited for her to invite him in before heading straight to Gandalf’s tower. The cat had taken a bizarre liking to Eric and would pester them non-stop if he didn’t receive an appropriate greeting.
“So, no date tonight,” Eric said, rubbing the cat’s head.
“Yeah. I just wasn’t feeling it.”
“There’s still some beer left from the six pack you brought last time,” she said, heading to the kitchen. She pulled out two bottles from the fridge and grabbed the bowl of popcorn she’d made earlier.
Their Friday night routine was her favorite thing. He’d greet Gandalf, she’d grab the beer and pick a movie, the cat would snuggle in between them, then she’d spend two hours fighting the urge to keep her hands off of Eric Blackwell.
Tonight felt different. Off. The whole day had been a mess.
“Why did you cancel on me tonight?” She’d planned to work that topic in later, when they had settled in a bit. Her impulse control was at a zero tonight.
“Why did you cancel on Aldo?” His return question was immediate and direct. She’d no doubt he was a fabulous litigator.
Rather than screw everything up before they even began this discussion, she forced what she hoped was a natural smile and headed to the sofa. “You’re still in your suit,” she said, hoping her disappointment wasn’t too obvious. She saw men in suits all day long. Besides, she loved the way he looked in casual clothes. Especially when he wore tight T-shirts that showed off all those CrossFit-honed muscles.