Authors: J. M. Dabney
Tags: #Sappho's Kiss
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When All Else Fails
Copyright © 2014 by J.M. Dabney
Cover art by Gilded Heart Designs
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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When All Else Fails
The hardwood floor creaked beneath her feet, and the ticking of a clock came close to driving her mad. Moving from one room to another, Eva Lange tried to quiet her mind. Weird how accustomed she’d become to the chaos—kids running in and out, cats hissing as dogs barked and bounced about. What would she do with an entire summer alone?
Bradley and Jenny had gone on vacation with their father. She’d fought the idea of their leaving, but, as teenagers, they didn’t want to spend the summer at home with their overprotective mother. The house was too quiet.
Her steps echoed on hardwood floor. An idea struck her, and she hurried to the living room to grab her phone. Removing it from the charger, she stroked her thumb over the screen, scrolling through the contacts until she found the one she needed.
Rolling her eyes at her sister’s familiar greeting, Eva smiled. “Artie, that’s not the correct way to answer the phone. What if I’d been someone important?”
“You have your own special ringtone, Sis. I always know it’s you.” Artie chuckled on the other end. “Going insane without my beautiful niece and nephew?”
“It’s terrible. Even Samson and Delilah are quiet, and that’s scary enough. You mentioned you were going out tonight. Would having your big sister tag along cramp your style?”
“Please tell me you’re ready to ditch the granny panties and jump back into single life.”
“Just because they’re white cotton doesn’t reduce them to granny-panty status.” Plain white cotton seemed to fit her, the administrative assistant with reading glasses perched on her nose.
“How about Friday night? Professor Douche,” Artie groaned, “hit us with a major research paper today, and I had to change my plans.”
Eva snorted. “He probably wouldn’t be so hard on you all, if you didn’t refer to him as a douche.”
“It’s more fun to make him huff. The girls and I are going out Friday night to let off steam because it seems all the professors are on the rag this week. Eight o’clock. Be at my place, and make sure you wear something that doesn’t scream soccer mom.”
Eva’s face heated. “Are we going to
club again? I wasn’t fond of it last time.” She had shown up in jeans, a dressy blouse, and stiletto boots to find her sister and friends wearing barely-there leather straps. The night hadn’t been the most comfortable of her life, right up there with the day Mark, her ex-husband, had brought his girlfriend with him to deliver the divorce papers.
“It wasn’t that bad. But, no, we won’t be going back there anytime soon. There was an incident, of which we won’t speak.”
“Oh, I’ll get you to talk.” She couldn’t imagine what Artie had done. “But I’ll let you get to your paper. I’ll call you Friday to see if we’re still on for going out. Is that okay?”
“That’s fine. I love you, big Sis, and try to have fun this summer because you never get much of a break. Enjoy it.”
“Love you, too. I’ll talk to you in a few days.” Ending the call, she plugged her phone back into the charger.
In the five years since her divorce, she’d only had a handful of dates. She padded through the house to the kitchen. It seemed like a wine night. Opening the fridge, she pulled out a bottle of chardonnay then turned to slide a glass from the holder over the island.
Eva strode to the back sliding door, opened it, and headed outside. She plopped onto one of the patio lounge chairs, stretching out her legs, and crossed her ankles. Pouring herself a glass of wine, she then set the bottle aside and took a long sip of the chilled liquid.
“Eva, have the files for the Sanderson case arrived yet?”
She looked up from the computer screen, saving the brief she was typing, and smiled as Andrea Slade perched on the edge of her desk. “They arrived a few hours ago, while you were on your conference call. There are two months before the scheduled court date, and you’re meeting with Mr. Sanderson on Monday. He arrives on a 9:00 a.m. flight from DC that morning.”
Her beautiful boss roughly combed her long, slender fingers through her short, dark-brown, silver-streaked hair. She was jealous of how the older woman seemed so put together in tailored suits that cost more than Eva made in a month. Over the five years she’d known her, Andrea had always been perfect.
“Thank you. Could you please schedule a late lunch at Mario’s on Ninth Street?”
“Of course. Oh, Natalia called. She’s going to have to cancel your date this evening. Work emergency. She said she will call you when she lands in Milan.” Andrea and Natalia were coming up on three months of dating. They complemented each other—tall and gorgeous, professional and successful.
Andrea sighed. “Call and cancel my reservation, please.”
“Is there anything else? Should I order you lunch?”
“My usual from Bernie’s Deli, and get yourself something on me.”
Eva nodded and dialed the number from memory. She ordered an Italian with fries for Andrea and a salad for herself. Andrea raised an eyebrow, causing her face to flame. A day rarely went by where Andrea didn’t compliment her. Her friend knew Eva’s ex-husband had loved to point out the extra ten pounds she despaired of losing, but each extra curve came from carrying her babies. She looked womanly, and she was fine with her curves. Finished with ordering, she hung up the phone.
“How are you doing with the heathens off with their father for three full months?”
Eva grimaced, and her friend chuckled. “They just left yesterday, and I’m already going crazy. The house has never been so quiet. Well, not since Bradley was born.” She sighed. “I miss the chaos.”
“Smarties isn’t trying to get you to Sappho’s Kiss to party? Maybe you’ll find a nice boyfriend or girlfriend while the kids are away.”
“I’m going with her tomorrow night, and it is odd my boss calls my sister Smarties.”
“The first time I met her, the name sort of fit.” The woman chuckled. “Let us not forget her proficiency in the area of smart-assery. Although, I do ignore that deep flaw as I owe her for sending me the best assistant in the city.” Andrea shifted on the edge of Eva’s desk.
She couldn’t keep herself from blushing at the compliment. “I appreciate the opportunity you gave me after the divorce.”
, and Eva smiled.
“No thanks needed. My last assistant was more worried about me trying to take advantage of her than doing her job. It made for a highly uncomfortable working environment.” Andrea picked up the Sanderson file and stood. “I’m going to give this a look over. Bring lunch in when it’s delivered.”
Andrea let out a horrified gasp. “Ma’am? Now, don’t make me feel any older than I already am.”
Andrea winked, and she swore her face would catch fire, but her boss and friend had already turned toward her office.
Banging her head on the desk seemed a viable option. She made a fool of herself every time Andrea came around. Artie swore Eva had a crush on the brunette and, although she wanted to deny it, she couldn’t. They were sociable outside work, but the chance for more than that was hopeless—Andrea had a girlfriend who suited her perfectly. They could never be more than boss and friend. Friends to lovers didn’t always work.
Andrea stowed files and various other work-from-home essentials into her leather satchel then secured the well-worn leather through brass buckles. Weekends didn’t mean much. She spent almost equal time working from home and the office. Her gorgeous red-haired assistant had left a few hours ago, complaining the entire way, but her faithful assistant needed a night out. Tonight, everyone would be at Sappho’s Kiss down on Hyde Avenue.
She checked her watch. A quarter to nine. The party wouldn’t get started for at least another hour. She had enough time to go home and change. A night out would do her good, too. There would be plenty of time for case files over the next two days. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. Wrapping her fingers around the handle of her bag, she turned off the desk lamp on her way to the door. Her phone chirped, she slipped it out and checked the display.
. She shook her head. Pressing the down button beside the elevator doors, she returned the phone to her pocket.
She walked into the crush of bodies crammed inside Sappho’s main room. The body heat built a wall, jarring to the system compared to the mild summer night. Andrea pushed through the crowd and made her way to the bar. Recognizing the harried bartenders, she grinned as she motioned to Amy, the senior booze slinger. The tall, lean-muscled blonde set a brown bottle on the bar then headed her way.
“Hey, Andrea. Your usual?”
“Yeah. You’re busy tonight.”
“It’s crazy, been this way since we opened the doors at eight.” Amy raised her voice over the loud bass of the dance beat. She grabbed a beer from the cooler and Andrea pulled out her wallet, gave her enough to cover her drink and tip.
“Have you seen Smarties and the crew?” When Amy wasn’t working, she was part of their group. They’d been friends for years.
“They’re out there somewhere. Don’t ask me where, though. Eva’s been up a few times for refills. Try along the edge. You know she doesn’t like being smashed in the crowd.”
Nodding to Amy, Andrea backed away from the bar and gazed around the room. At six-foot-two, she could easily see over most of the patrons’ heads. A few women tried to get her to dance, but she politely declined, mouthing the word
. They pouted but moved on to their next target. She smiled when she spotted her friend alone at a booth along the far wall.
Breathing a sigh of relief as the crowd thinned, she approached the table, flopping down beside Eva.
Eva gave a small, shocked gasp. “Andrea, you scared the hell out of me.”
Her grin widened. “Are you being hunted tonight, babe?”
“You have no idea. Do I have an endangered species sign on my forehead or something? I have never been hit on so much in my life. Will you protect me?” Long auburn lashes batted.
“It can’t be that bad. Enjoy the attention and the possibility one of these lovely ladies could wake up beside you in the morning.” She chuckled at the blush spreading across porcelain skin.
“If there is one thing I’m not, it’s the one-night stand type. I wouldn’t even know how to handle the morning after.”
“Not hard, babe. All you do is say good morning and good-bye.”
“Is that copious amounts of personal experience in your answer?” Eva quirked one perfectly arched brow as a small smile tilted the corners of her lush lips.