Authors: Ann Jacobs
Courthouse Connections Series, Book 1
An original novella to introduce the characters whose stories will follow . . .
A chance sighting, immediate chemistry, but only a few days for lovers to find out if they’ve discovered MORE THAN LUST . . .
Andi Young and Gray Syzmanski have a lot in common. Both are attorneys, even though Gray uses his legal training as a DEA operative. Both grew up in Tampa, and both are champions of justice. The immediate attraction between them is too strong to be denied.
Beyond that, they’re as different as night and day. She’s from a happy but modest home, while he hails from old Florida aristocracy but has a controlling, widowed mother determined to run—and ruin—his life.
Andi doubts their weekend fling can grow into lasting love, while Gray is determined to explore a real relationship—as soon as he returns from an undercover assignment outside the country.
Join them for this carefree, lusty but emotionally charged weekend, a contemporary romance about two young lovers who will capture your hearts.
Word count—approximately 20,800
Books by Ann Jacobs
The Oil Barons Series (contemporary)
San Antonio Connection (contemporary western)
Men of Calder County
(boxed set, 13 authors)
A Very Special Favor
(also available in print)
Steadfast (coming soon)
Courthouse Connections (contemporary)
More Than Lust
(introduction, novella length))
(boxed set, coming soon)
In His Own Defense
(boxed set, coming soon)
Gettin’ It On
Eye of the Storm
(contemporary, paranormal elements)
The Best Gift
(historical short story)
Roped, Hitched & Lassoed
(boxed set, contemporary BDSM, also in print)
(urban fantasy, short story)
Self Editing for Writers
(also available in print)
Note: Buy links are for amazon.com ebooks. All books in The Oil Barons series are also available from most other online etailers. All books are available from every Amazon website, including the US site to which the books are all linked.
More Than Lust
Copyright © May 2015 Ann Jacobs
Edited by Michelle Mottola
Cover design by Syneca Featherstone, Original Syn
Electronic book publication June 2015
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the copyright holder or the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
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As Hillary Clinton titled her book several years ago,
It Takes a Village
. She apparently meant it about raising children successfully, but it’s also true about MORE THAN LUST.
This novella came about thanks to many readers of my old Ellora’s Cave series who let me know it disappointed them not to know something about their favorite characters in the five stories that comprised my Lawyers in Love series, published back in 2003. While I was revising these stories I started wanting to know the answer too!
The fabulous Syneca Featherstone (Original Syn) produced a cover and suggested the title, MORE THAN LUST, when I told her I was thinking of writing what I was going to call “Andi and Gray—the Beginning.” As you can tell, I’m awful with titles, so I adopted Syneca’s suggestion. I also gave readers brief glimpses of the heroes and/or heroines of three of the other four stories in the old (now heavily revised) series. We decided, together, that I’d re-release the five original titles in two boxed sets, for which she also designed the covers.
In addition, I owe thanks to my longtime critique partner, Joey W. Hill, who helped me develop two of the original stories’ emotional depth. Joey always has kept me from writing what she calls “emotional shorthand” while tutoring me about the emotional and sensual aspects of domination and submission, which are addressed in the Courthouse Connections series.
Finally, Michelle Mottola, my incredibly capable personal assistant, agreed to edit MORE THAN LUST once I finally finished it, and to turn it around in less than a day. Her suggestions were invaluable in helping me flesh out the characters and make the novella seem complete.
Thank you all, from the bottom of my overworked heart! MORE THAN LUST is a labor of love, and I hope all of you who enjoyed the original series will check out the derivative stories as well as this introductory novella. They are now, first and foremost, ROMANCES, which I intended them to be before modifying parts of them to meet EC’s requirements for erotic contemporary romance.
Look for THE DEFENDERS and THE PROSECUTORS, and check out the loosely connected short story, “Jake’s Love,” which continues the series now named “COURTHOUSE CONNECTIONS.” Four more novels are in the works, with additional ones possible if readers ask for them. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Every time he stepped through the door of this Tampa high-rise building, Gray Syzmanski shuddered. His dad had died here a little more than fourteen years ago, in the fortieth floor office where he’d spent fifteen hours a day or more trying to live up to Mother’s expectations.
Since that day, Gray had done his best to avoid coming here, but this visit couldn’t be helped. His mother had gone too fucking far this time, inventing a nonexistent illness to get him pulled off an important assignment and sent scurrying home to her for nothing. This, after she’d pulled strings to get him reassigned permanently to the Tampa DEA office so she could keep him under her iron control—or so she’d thought.
Gray had done everything possible to rein Mother in. Now it was time to enlist Uncle Guy’s help, because her younger brother was the only living soul who could exert any effective control over Elizabeth Winston Syzmanski. Guy could do it only because he controlled his sister’s income stream, but that was a pretty heavy stick when he chose to wield it.
Seeing his uncle meant he had to come here, because Guy devoted nearly all his waking hours to Winston-Roe,
, just as Gray’s dad had done—except that Guy set aside one week a month for his family and his sailing pastimes, which he declared to anybody who dared complain was the untouchable prerogative of the firm’s managing partner.
Unfortunately this wasn’t his uncle’s week off, and this conversation wouldn’t wait. Gray had volunteered for another undercover job, this one starting a week from today in Colombia. Reluctantly, he pressed the elevator button and made his way to the forty-second floor.
Uncle Guy walked out to the reception area and greeted him with a handshake and a hug. “When are you going to give up chasing drug dealers and come take your place here with us?”
The question was inevitable but rhetorical, so Gray didn’t bother with replying. Instead, he chatted about his aunt and cousins’ doings as they made their way through the hallway to his uncle’s corner office. “I need your help,” he said once the amenities were dealt with and they sat on loveseats overlooking the river and University of Tampa’s silvery minarets beyond, sipping his uncle’s favorite Glenlivet 25 Scotch—a prized and pricey cask lot that Gray knew the cost of only because he’d sprung for a bottle of it for his uncle’s Christmas present a year or so ago. He had to admit, the liquor went down smoothly indeed.
“Elizabeth rattling your chain?” Guy asked. “I heard she just got you pulled off a plum assignment down in the Dominican Republic.”
“Yeah. It can’t happen again. I’m thirty years old, damn it. If she does it again, I’m going to get fired.”
“You could always come here to work.” Guy raised his hand. “Don’t give me that look, I know you want to stay as far away from my sister as you can. I feel that way myself from time to time. What do you want me to do?”
“Talk to her in the only language she understands. Tell her that if she interferes again, you’ll cut off her income—or cut it down enough to put a sizable dent in her standard of living.” Gray shot a sympathetic glance his uncle’s way. “I hate to lay this on you, because I know she’ll make your life hell on earth.”
Guy chuckled. “Having to deal with Elizabeth is one of the costs of being the only son of a wise man. Your grandpa knew your mother—that’s why he left control of the family trust to me and not her. I’ll have my secretary open up some time for me to go chat with her later this week. Afterward, I doubt she’ll meddle in your career anymore, although I don’t think anything I do will dissuade her from trying to manage your personal life. Your dad left her enough that she wouldn’t starve without the income that she gets from the Winston family trust.”
“I can resist her attempts at matchmaking—or should I say her efforts at finding a woman with suitable bloodlines to bear her grandchildren?”
Guy laughed out loud, although Gray didn’t think what he’d just said was much of a joke. It was too damn true to be funny. Just another reason he didn’t want any more contact than necessary with his mother, even though Tampa was his home and he loved the place as well as his lifelong friends and family members.
“I’ve got an appointment in a little while—a rich widow who won’t deal with any of the other partners, let alone an associate, even if it’s about something a first year law student could handle, which it usually is.” Guy finished off his drink and stood. “She’s a friend of Elizabeth’s and you probably know her, so I won’t mention her name. Suffice it to say I don’t mind billing her a thousand to spend a half-hour reassuring her that everything’s Kosher about a bill she got from the plastic surgeon.”
“Must be nice.” Gray set his glass on the wet bar and moved toward the door. “I’ll be eternally grateful for you interceding with Mother. Thanks again.”
“You can always come work here. I’d consider letting you do criminal defense, even though your grandpa always said that it’s the lowest rung in law practice, prestige-wise—other than ambulance chasing. No disparagement meant toward our torts division, of course, since they hardly chase ambulances.”
“No, they chase airplanes, ships, and large corporations, which tends to be a lot more profitable than suing on behalf of injured individuals.” Gray paused and met his uncle’s gaze. “I’d prefer writing trusts and wills to settling class-action suits if my choices should ever come down to that.”
“I wish you’d change your mind. It would make your grandpa awfully proud if he’s looking down—or up—from the hereafter. Still, I can appreciate you wanting to keep some distance between yourself and your mother.”
“Yeah.” Gray couldn’t imagine what his life would be like if he put himself into Tampa’s social whirl, which he’d have to do if he went to work at Winston-Roe. That would put him on his mother’s 24/7 radar, which he wasn’t going to let happen. “I’m glad you understand. I’ll be in touch when I get back from this next assignment.”
“You take care of yourself, not because you’re the only male in your generation of our family but because we love you.” With a quick hug, Gray bid his uncle goodbye.
● ● ●
On the elevator, Gray ran into Ted Peters, a high school classmate who’d taken an associate position in the firm’s criminal division—a slot Gray himself would have stepped into right out of law school, if not for the expectation that he’d follow his uncle’s and father’s footsteps into Estates and Trusts, or Corporations, which had been Grandpa’s specialty of choice.
“Hey Ted, how’ve you been?”
Ted grinned. “I’m getting along. Tom Ellis lets me try a case every now and then, but not any that are particularly challenging. The interesting cases usually go to Tony Landry. He’s a hotshot just a year out of law school. The really tough ones, Tom does himself, usually with Tony as second chair.”
“Tony sounds like the kind of lawyer I’d want if I were ever accused of a felony, but I’m sure his coworkers don’t appreciate him.”
“Yeah, we do. Sometimes we bitch, but Tony’s incredible at trials, and he’s no slouch at legal knowledge, either. It would be almost impossible to resent him even if that weren’t the case, because he’s an okay dude—single, with more women than he can handle, so Hank and the other unmarried associates score just through association with him.”
Gray wondered if he’d have been as good a trial lawyer as Tony if he’d been able to talk Uncle Guy into letting him practice criminal law. He’d loved the mock trials back in criminal law classes and thought that he’d do a great job, defending accused felons. He’d even scoped out information for legal clinic clients back in Cambridge that ultimately helped them win acquittal. “Tony sounds like a guy I’d like to meet,” he remarked.
“Word has it he’s going to be transferred to the Miami office. They don’t have a partner in the criminal division there, so they need a stronger associate to handle their criminal trials. Until the transfer happens, the rest of us will keep splitting our time between research, arraignments, interviewing potential clients who probably can’t afford our fees, and so on. Want to go have a drink at Bennie’s Place? I might be able to introduce you to one of the chicks who works for the State Attorney”
“Sure. I’m pretty much at loose ends now, until my new assignment starts next Monday.”
“We may as well walk. It’s hard as hell to find a parking place close to Bennie’s—or the courthouse for that matter. I’m glad the firm picks up my parking tickets, otherwise I’d be too broke to go out for drinks.”
The sun beat down on them as they strolled the six blocks. It was only May—but summer was already crowding out the short spring that Gray had always enjoyed. “I hope Bennie’s Place is air conditioned.”
“It is. Don’t tell me you’ve never been there.”
“I’ve never practiced law,” Gray reminded Ted. “From what I hear, the place caters to attorneys who spend much of their time across the street in the courthouse.”
They turned the corner and stepped inside double swinging doors that reminded Gray of an old-fashioned western saloon in a movie he’d seen. The inside was dark and chilly—pleasantly so after he’d just spent ten minutes in the blazing sun. A large, distressed wood bar and red-leather padded stools took up most of one side of the room, while a few dozen tables of various types and styles were located in the center. Booths whose seats matched the red of the padded bar stools ringed the back and one side of the area.
“Want to sit at the bar?” Ted asked.
“Sure.” Gray didn’t see a need to take up table space since they weren’t planning to eat.
They each ordered a draft beer, which they sipped while the place filled up with assorted lawyers, from well-dressed partners and associates in major firms to guys—mostly guys, he amended when he noticed a few middle-aged women whose briefcases seemed to weigh them down—who looked as though their practices had seen better days. Gray could see defeat on those faces—as though success had passed them by.
Ted cleared his throat when a group of young women came in and took the empty booth farthest from the bar. “There are some of the chicks I told you about. They work for the state attorney. The blonde and redhead are both lawyers—I’m not sure what the others do. Could be law clerks, paralegals, or maybe secretaries for all I know.”
Gray glanced at the redhead again. Whoever she was, she appealed to him. Nice smile, great body. Then he recognized the blonde. “The blonde is Marcy Cohen. Kramer now, unless she uses her maiden name professionally. She’s married to Sam. Remember him? Geeky guy, ugly glasses and carrot colored hair. He beat me out for valedictorian of our high school class.”
“Yeah. I thought I knew her from somewhere. She’s damn hot. Sam’s a lucky guy. Real lucky, if I remember him correctly, because I’m thinking he was a nerd with ugly eyeglasses and carrot-colored hair.”
“Yeah, you’ve got Sam tagged, although I’ve seen him recently and must say his looks have improved with age. What are the chances of you introducing me to the redhead?”
“I would, but I haven’t met her myself. I’ll try to wangle an intro from somebody, and if I do I’ll pass her along to you. Oh wait. The woman who just joined them is their boss. It looks like they’re having a business discussion, so I don’t dare disturb them.”
Twelve years out from under his mother’s 24/7 eye, Gray had become less concerned with following to the letter all the etiquette that had been drilled into him—but he supposed that Ted’s early indoctrination had stayed with him. “That’s okay. I’m leaving town next week on an undercover assignment that may take a month or more. I’m sure I’ll run into the redhead again, at some point. Speaking of running, I’m sure your wife will be expecting you soon.”
Ted shrugged. “Pam knows that fifteen-hour days are par for the course for Winston-Roe associates.”
Partners too, Gray thought. “Good for you.” Since Pam’s dad was a doctor, she probably grew up thinking it was normal for her husband to be home only on rare occasions.
“Yeah. You’re right though. Since I’m not stuck working tonight, I probably ought to get home and spend some time with her.”
Gray grinned. “Tell her I suggested it. And give her my best.” He pulled out a credit card and handled the tab.
With that, they got up and repeated the hot trek back to the parking garage in the building they’d walked away from an hour or so earlier.
● ● ●
“Oh no. Has Winston-Roe brought in another new associate to make our jobs even more difficult?” Sandra Giancone gestured toward the tall blond sitting at the bar next to Ted Peters.
Andi Young looked up, then back at her boss. “I haven’t seen him around the courthouse. And I don’t recognize him.”
“I do. He’s Gray Syzmanski, one of the heirs apparent to that law firm empire.” Marcy followed the two men with her gaze as they left Bennie’s. “As far as I know, Gray doesn’t work for Winston-Roe. He took a job with the DEA after finishing law school.”
“I thought he looked familiar.” Sandra looked over toward the bar again. “He favors his father, who killed himself trying to live up to the Winston family expectations. Anton Syzmanski was married to Guy Winston’s older sister.”
Even Andi, who didn’t travel in the rarified circles with Winston-Roe partners, knew that Guy Winston was the firm’s managing partner, and that he headed up its estates and trusts division.