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In Chicago, the name Jon Elliott garners attention. When the legal mastermind offers to mentor Alexis Winters, Bingham, Elliot, and Bright’s newest associate, she jumps at the opportunity sure she will launch her career. But Jon has a dark side, one that demands unquestioning loyalty and willingness to defy the spirit of the law, if not the letter.
Thrust into Jon’s world and expected to play by his rulebook, Alexis grapples with her conscience. On several occasions, Jon’s orders are at odds with what she learned in law school and she finds herself trapped between her profession’s rules of ethics and her own values. When Jon’s biggest client appears to be engaging in questionable activities and he orders her to ignore the behavior, Alexis investigates on her own. Suddenly, she is not only a witness to a horrible crime but a victim in her own right. Going underground, she turns to the one she can trust, investigative journalist Rhyder Prescott, a childhood friend. Together, Ryder and Alexis work to piece together a puzzle that crosses socioeconomic classes, political parties and international borders.
Embroiled in a global conspiracy that costs her the only family she has left, Alexis must decide how far she will go to defend truth and justice. Is she willing to sacrifice life, liberty and the possibility of love?
“No wonder you look dynamite.”
Alexis was thankful the darkness hid her blush. “Thank you, but I exercise because it relieves stress and helps clear my mind.”
Ryder hummed in agreement while taking her hand as they walked through a small park. “Litigating is a demanding job. Do you like it?”
“Parts of it.” A puff of wind blew hair into her face, and she turned slightly toward Ryder, using his body as a buffer. He tugged her a little closer and tightened his hold on her hand. “I love researching. It makes me feel good when I find the needle in the haystack that helps win a case. Plus I like piecing together new theories and setting new precedents. I don’t like the actual court part, though. I mean, I like creating the arguments but hate making them in front of the judge. It’s nerve-racking.” She frowned, thinking about her stomach’s gymnastics each time she set foot in a courtroom.
“What made you choose defense work?” Ryder brushed a small branch aside so it wouldn’t hit her and led her toward a stone bench set back from the walking path.
“I guess you could say it chose me. I really liked criminal law in school and I was good at it. I won several awards for my studies in that area. But when time came to apply for jobs, I just couldn’t go in that direction. I didn’t want to do criminal defense because I couldn’t handle helping people who I thought were guilty even if they were entitled to representation. Prosecuting appealed to me, but it also scared me. What if I put someone innocent away? It seemed like too much responsibility.” She looked down at her hands, uncomfortable with her own admission. It wasn’t like her to share her innermost thoughts with other people. They were supposed to remain locked deep inside her. So why was she sharing her fears with Ryder of all people? She pushed that thought aside for later analysis as she tuned back into the conversation.
“So, why employment discrimination?” Ryder wrapped an arm around her, and she snuggled closer to him, appreciating his warmth and how good he smelled. It had been quite a while since she had enjoyed a man’s company in this way.
Alexis leaned her head against his shoulder and thought about how to answer. She considered giving him the canned answer she used during interviews, but the quiet intimacy of the moment allowed her to admit the truth. “I guess because it’s similar to criminal work in many ways without the safety risk or responsibility.”
“Why defense instead of plaintiff work?”
She laughed softly. “Because they offered me a job and I get paid well. I’d love to work on the plaintiff side or do pro bono work, but I have bills to pay.”
“Still the idealist, though?” His fingers played in her hair, and she closed her eyes, relishing the sensation. “Even though you’re swimming with sharks?”
She could tell he was teasing by the tone of his voice. “I don’t work with sharks, but I suppose I have changed. How could I not?” They sat in silence for a few minutes while she contemplated how to explain. “I still think the same way, but I’ve learned to temper my thoughts and opinions. I don’t agree with what many people do, but since most people live that way, I guess I’ve learned to live with reality. It doesn’t change how I feel inside, though. I just keep it to myself.”
“It’s hard to keep the values we learned at home alive. Time after time, I’ve tried to do the right thing, to report the truth, to showcase wrongs, but more often than not, I either get slammed for it or find out no one really cares. Sometimes I wonder why I pick myself up and do it all over again.”
“But you do.” Alexis tilted her head up and stared at Ryder, the moonlight highlighting his face and betraying how seriously he took the conversation. “I admire you for it.”
“Thank you,” Ryder breathed as he lowered his mouth to hers. The first kiss was soft and gentle, nothing more than a light touch of lips saying hello. The second had considerably more heat behind it and left her breathless. He lifted her chin and stared into her eyes as if seeking permission. Alexis trembled under his heated gaze. She knew what he was asking and didn’t know if she had the strength to deny him—or the courage to survive the aftermath. Ryder was a love ’em and leave ’em type, and she was a commitment kind of girl. Could she accept the night for what it was and live in the moment?
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