Authors: Susan Hatler
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary, #General, #Collections & Anthologies, #Romantic Comedy, #Short Stories (Single Author), #Romance
Driven to Date
Driven to Date
Copyright © 2014 by Susan Hatler
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Cover Design by Elaina Lee, For The Muse Designs
Titles by Susan Hatler
Better Date than Never Series
Driven to Date (Book #7)
“Susan Hatler has a knack for writing books that draw me in from the very first page!”
Books Are Sanity!!! on Love at First Date
“Ms. Hatler has a way of writing witty dialogue that makes you laugh-out-loud throughout her stories.”
— Night Owl Reviews on Truth or Date
Seriously you guys, you have to pick this one up if you are a romantic at heart.
Getting Your Read On Reviews on My Last Blind Date
“An Unexpected Date is a wonderful and perfect release to a stressful or crazy day.”
— Cafè of Dreams Book Reviews
“If you enjoy a YA Romance jam packed with adventure and the unknown. I would recommend this fantastic read.”
— Tifferz Book Reviewz
Driven to Date
The last decade of my life had built up to this moment. As I stood outside the conference room, I had the strong urge to throw my arms in the air, jump as high as I could, and shout, “Go, me!” But, of course, I refrained. The partners were about to promote me to Managing Attorney of the Personal Injury Department, and doing the bunny hop in the hallway might be construed as poor leadership.
Jill Parnell, Managing Attorney. Definitely had a nice ring to it. They may as well put my name on the letterhead now, because this promotion would be a virtual guarantee I’d make partner at Corbett, Gray, & Shaw. Roger Gray had assured me of that when he’d interviewed and hired me five years ago.
Sure, there had been sacrifices to get to this point, and they flashed through my head like a slideshow: Missed parties in college and law school. Saturday nights at the office—too many to count. Aidan’s recent ultimatum that I slow down in my career or else.
I chose “else.”
Aidan and I’d had fun over the last eight months, but he knew when we met that I was driven in my career. For him to want me to change—to give up what had made me the independent, self-sufficient twenty-nine-year-old I was today—seemed wrong. Like I’d drop off the partner track because my boyfriend wanted me to go to the movies more often.
I snorted at the thought. If only my mother would’ve had the good sense to ditch my dad thirty years go, then she wouldn’t have had to work her knuckles to the bone—literally, because she cleaned houses as her second job—funding his big adventures all her life. When I asked her last week, why
never got to go hike in the Andes—Dad was due back from South America today—she merely replied, “Someone has to pay the bills.”
Exactly why I needed to make partner and secure my future. Aidan didn’t seem to get that, but he’d lasted eight months, which was longer than the rest of my boyfriends. None seemed willing to stand by a career woman. I didn’t cry over him dumping me, but I’d certainly been disappointed. Another casualty. Another sacrifice. But it was about to finally pay off.
I knocked on the door, and entered to find all three partners seated at the oblong mahogany table. Stan Corbett had taken the head spot, Roger Gray sat to his right, and Jim Shaw was last.
Stan gestured toward the empty chair next to Jim. “Please have a seat, Jill.”
“Thank you.” I unbuttoned the jacket of my pantsuit, crossed my legs slowly, and willed myself to appear calm as a million volts of adrenaline shot through me.
Stan poured himself a cup of coffee, then gestured for me to help myself. “We’ve asked you here today because, as you know, Charles Mansfield gave notice last week.”
“Yes.” I nodded at Stan, who was actually not my favorite. Unfortunately, he was about to be my direct boss. Stan Corbett was a short, stout, want-to-be ladies man, and the partner who headed up the Personal Injury Department. Not someone I was eager to have lord over me, especially when Charlie had given me free reign (after my first year) to work independently on my cases. I poured myself a cup of coffee—black, no fluffy cream or sugar. “I heard Charlie’s starting his own law firm with Ethan Harrison.”
The same Ethan, who was getting married at the Geoffries hotel here in downtown Sacramento tomorrow night. I made a mental note to pick up my black evening dress from the drycleaners at lunch. Truth be told, I had a jam-packed day scheduled, so I wished the partners would promote me so I could get on with it.
Jim Shaw leaned back in his brown leather chair. “Jill, have I ever mentioned my nephew?”
“Not that I recall.” My brows furrowed as I lifted my mug, took a sip of the hot, bitter liquid, then braced myself for the four crucial words:
Congratulations on Managing Partner
. Maybe I should act surprised. . . .
“My nephew’s been heading up a big law firm in San Diego.” Jim cleared his throat, then leaned forward on his elbows. “Lucky for us, he’s decided to move back to his roots here in Sacramento. We’ve just hired him to take over for Charles Mansfield.”
I choked on my coffee. “W-What did you say?”
Jim handed me a small, white napkin. “My nephew will be the new Managing Attorney at Corbett, Gray, & Shaw.”
My face went numb as I dabbed my mouth with the napkin. Had Jim just said they were giving
position to his nephew? I turned to the other two partners, pleading with my eyes that Jim was just exercising a sick sense of humor.
“Managing Attorney is the number one position in the Personal Injury Department.” Roger Gray gave me a serious look. “But the number two position is vital as well.”
“Excellent point, Roger.” Stan’s forehead wrinkled as he wiggled in his chair. “The Managing Attorney relies heavily on the number two. Teamwork’s everything.”
Who gave a flying fig about the number two position? My shoulders tightened as I inwardly seethed over the five years I’d slaved at Corbett, Gray, & Shaw. Days. Nights. And all those weekends. For what? So they could hand
position to some new guy, just because he came from Jim’s gene pool?
“It’s been a tough decision replacing Charles.” Stan leaned over the desk, his potbelly pressing against the table. “We needed someone who had the proper
. A leader. Someone who could convince these Sacramento juries to loosen their purse strings.”
“I see.” I kept my expression blank as I stared at my backstabbing boss. My trial skills were top notch and I always gave one-hundred and fifty percent. It was my turn to move up and Stan knew it. I felt eyes burning into the side of my head and gave a side-glance at Roger Gray. A look passed between us and I understood he wasn’t the one who’d sold me out.
“Jury verdicts are everything in this business.” Jim smiled in a matter-of-fact way that annoyed me. “That’s what keeps the P.I. Department afloat.”
My eyes narrowed. Like Jim knew squat about our department. He’d graduated from Podunk Law School, umpteen years ago, and had never gone to trial once. His role in this firm was schmoozing, drumming up new clients, and rubbing elbows with Sac County judges.
“Even more important than trial skills is settlement negotiation.” I smoothed a non-existent wrinkle from my jacket sleeve, drawing out my statement until I had their full attention. If this nephew wasn’t a sealed deal, I could still land on top. Uncle Jim had said it himself. The bottom line was money. “The best way to conserve expenses is by resolving
trial. I’m sure you know I recently settled the Maxwell case.”
“The six-figure medical malpractice suit.” Stan nodded. “You and Charles did a fine job on that one.”
My jaw tightened. Charlie hadn’t touched that case. Sure, his name was on the file as Managing Attorney, but I’d handled that case from the in-take interview to depositing the settlement check. Territorial much? Me? Maybe a little. . . .
“Yes, it was a terrific settlement.” Jim’s cell beeped and he checked the screen. “We’d better wrap things up since I need to take this. Thank you, everyone.”
I opened my mouth—
“I’ve got another meeting as well.” Stan stood, then followed Jim out of the conference room, leaving the door open.
My chest went hollow, then my gaze shot to Roger. “That’s it?”
“I’m sorry, Jill.” His expression was grave. “You’re very much appreciated around here and you’ll advance as soon as there’s another opportunity.”
Yeah, unless Jim’s long lost cousin appeared. “When does Jim’s nephew start?”
“Monday.” He let out a breath, then rose from his chair. “He’s a decent fellow. I’m sure you’ll get along famously.”
I didn’t want to “get along” with him at all. I
my promotion. I’d earned it.
Roger gave me a sympathetic smile that churned my stomach, then he left.
Face still numb, I scanned the empty conference room wondering what my next move should be. Going down without a fight was one thing, but going down kicking and screaming would be pathetic. My goals had been road blocked by Jim’s freaking nephew. Possibly forever. Maybe I needed to move on from Corbett, Gray, & Shaw. But would it be wise to start at a new firm after I’d already invested five years?
I needed to call someone for advice on how I should re-plan my life. But, who? Not Aidan, obviously. Not my mom or dad, because they had their own problems. As I racked my brain for a friend to unload on, it became rapidly apparent that I’d let my friendships dissipate over the years. Too busy working. Fat lot of good that had done me.
My heart sank.
Then I snapped my fingers, remembering Ethan’s fiancée, Kristen. She and I had met a handful of times at various lawyer functions and we ran into each other at the gym a couple weeks ago after Totally Fit’s six a.m. Zumba class. Kristen seemed smart, friendly, and had told me to call her anytime. As an added bonus, she was a trained marriage and family therapist, so surely she’d have good advice for me.
I hurried back to my office, darts of pain shooting through me at every “congratulations” offered up by colleagues who assumed (like I had) the promotion would be mine. I pushed my office door shut, rummaged through my handbag, and found Kristen’s business card tucked neatly in a side pocket:
Kristen Moore, Marriage & Family Counselor
Glancing up to make sure I’d shut my office door—my head was spinning right now—I picked up the handset, and punched Kristen’s number into the desk phone. My heart thumped against my ribcage and a knot formed in my stomach as I listened to ring after ring.
“Kristen?” My stomach churned. “This is Jill Parnell.”
Long pause. “Ethan’s friend. The lawyer.”
“Yes.” My eyes burned as I pictured my tunnel vision the last five years and the brick wall I’d slammed into. I dropped my head into my hand. “Can we meet? I-I have an enormous problem and, for the first time in my life, I don’t know what to do.”
Nausea crept up my throat as I waited to hear if Kristen would help me as a friend or if I needed to schedule an actual therapy appointment.
I didn’t have to wait long.
“Absolutely.” Her voice was firm. “I’m at the final fitting for my wedding dress right now. Can you meet me downtown at two o’clock tomorrow? Or, do you need me today?”