The hands that grabbed her were greedy. They shoved her,
pushed her, not caring when she cried out. And although she
wanted moreâmore now, more laterâshe felt the need, even in
this faraway moment, to say the truth. âWe shouldnât be
doing this again. At least I shouldnât. This is the last
time, just so you know.â
âShut up,â came the reply.
âIâm not kidding. I want you to know that this is it. Itâs
over after today.â
Those hands moved lower, clawing and probing like theyâd
been waiting for this, laying in wait until she was
vulnerable, when they could strip her bare and plunge her
She threw her head back and clutched at the bed sheets,
holding herself down until the moment when she would step
into the void she craved.
A breeze trickled in the window, enticing after the biting
winds that had battered Chicago for months. Yet nothing
could touch the heat that boiled inside, carried her in
small but growing crests, reaching her in places she always
forgot until moments like this.
The hands stopped suddenly, startling her.
âWhy?â she said, desperate.
A mouth crushed against hers, bit her. âI said shut up.â
And she did.
Later, when she was alone, she slipped into her clothes for
the eveningâwhite, ironically. Tonight, she would smile,
and she would be engaging. After all these years, she knew
how to do thatâhow to shine her eyes at someone, how to
direct her energy so they felt seen and heard and touched.
No one at that event would know what sheâd just done. She
would carry the last two hours in her head, like little
packages whose pretty wrappings hid the shame, and the
pleasure. Those thoughts would please her when she mentally
unwrapped them; they would send pangs of delight throughout
her body. But they would remove her from everyone, too.
Secrets were always like that. They put a film between you
and the rest of the world, so that you could see everyone
else, but no one could see the whole of you.
Searching for her bag, she walked through her place and
found it by the door. She remembered now that sheâd dropped
it there in the heat of that first moment, when she had let
herself be devoured by her wants.
She sighed and picked up the bag. She took it into her
bedroom, where she moved a few essential items into a
smaller bag more appropriate for the evening. She brushed
For a second, she studied herself in the mirror. She didnât
look any different than she had that afternoon. There
wasnât a blush to her cheeks or a shine to her eyes. Sheâd
gotten so good at hiding the evidence.
Her gaze dropped. It was hard to look at herself these
days. She walked to the front door, trying to let her mind
clear of the last few hours, of everything.
She stretched out her arm for the doorknob, but suddenly it
turned on its own, surprising her, making her gasp.
The door opened.
âYou scared the hell out of me,â she said, when she saw who
She stopped short, looking into those eyesâeyes that saw
her, knew what she was really like. She opened her mouth to
say something sexy, but when she looked again, she saw
those eyes shift into an expression of cold anger. She away
for a moment while she collected words in her head and
shaped them so that they would be earnest, pacifying.
But before she could form the sentences, she felt something
strike her on the back of the head. She heard herself cry
outâa cry so different from those she made earlier, a cry
of shock and of pain. Instinctively, she began to raise her
hands to her head, but then she felt another blow. Her mind
splintered into shards of light, the pain searing into pink
streaks. She felt her knees buckle, her body hit the
She felt a tightening around her neck, something squeezing
her larynx with more and more force, stealing the breath
from her. The light in her brain exploded then, filling it
with tiny spots. Strangely, it seemed as if each of those
spots encased the different moments of her life. She could
see all of them at once, feel all of them. It was a
beautiful trick of the mind, a state of enlightenment the
likes of which she hadnât known possible. She felt more
alive than she ever had before.
Three days earlier
The patio of NoMi, on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt
hotel had its doors propped wide, as if boasting about the
suddenly dazzling April weather.
We stepped onto the patioâan urban garden illuminated by
the surrounding city lights.
âSpring is officially here,â I said. âAnd God, am I ready
The thing about spring in Chicago is that itâs fast and
fickle. A balmy, sixty-eight degree Friday like tonight
could easily turn into a brittle, thirty-five-degree
Saturday. Which is why Chicagoans always clutch at those
spring nights. Which is why a night like that can make you
do crazy things.
The maitre dâ, a European type with a slim black suit,
spotted the woman I was with, Jane Augustine, and came
hustling. âMs. Augustine,â he said, âwelcome.â He looked at
me. âAnd MissâŠâ
âMiss Izzy McNeil,â Jane said, beaming her perfect
newscaster smile. âThe best entertainment lawyer in the
The maitre dâ laughed, gave me a quick once over. A little
smile played with the corner of his mouth. âA lawyer. So
youâre smart, too?â
âIf so, Iâm a smart person whoâs out of a job.â Iâd been
looking for six months.
âMaybe not for long,â Jane said.
Jane shrugged coquettishly as the maitre dâ led us over the
slate floor to a table at the edge of the patio.
âOur best spot,â the maitre d said, âfor the best.â He put
two leather-bound menus on the table and left.
We sat. âDo you always get this kind of treatment?â I asked.
Jane swung her shiny, black hair over her shoulder and
looked at me with her famous mauve-blue eyes. âThe
treatment was all about Izzy McNeil. Heâs hot for you.â
I turned and glanced. The maitre dâ was watching us. Okay,
I admit, he did seem to be watching me. âI think Iâm giving
off some scent now that Iâm single again.â
Jane scoffed. âI canât stop giving that scent, and Iâm
I studied Jane as the waiter took our drink orders. With
her long, perfect body tucked into her perfect red suit,
she looked every inch the tough journalist she was, but the
more I got to know her, the more I listened to her, the
more she intrigued me by the many facets of Jane. When I
was lead counsel for Picket Enterprises, the Midwest media
conglomerate that owned the station where Jane worked, Iâd
negotiated her contract. And while she was definitely the
wisecracking, tough-talking, shoot-straight journalist Iâd
heard about, I had also seen some surprising cracks in the
veneer of her confidence. And on top of that was the
sexiness. The more I knew her, the more I noticed she
simply steeped in it.
âSeriously,â Jane said. âI know youâre bummed that you and
Sam had that little problemââ
âYeah, that little problem,â I interrupted her. âWeâre
seeing each other occasionally, but itâs just not the same.â
Six months ago, my fiancĂ©, Sam, disappeared with thirty
million dollars worth of property owned by the my client,
Forester Pickett, the CEO of Pickett Enterprises, and it
happened on precisely the same night Forester suddenly
died. After nearly two agonizing weeks that seemed like two
yearsâweeks in which my world had not only been turned
upside down, but also shaken and twisted and battered and
bruised; weeks during which I learned so many secrets about
the people in my life I thought Iâd been dropped into
someone elseâs lifeâthe matter had been resolved and Sam
was back in town. But Iâd lost all my legal work in the
process and essentially been ushered out the back door of
my law firm. As for Sam and me, the wedding was off, and we
werenât exactly back together.
âWhatever,â Jane said. âYou should enjoy being single.
Youâre dating other people, right?â
âA little.â I rubbed the spot on my left hand where my
engagement ring used to rest. It felt as if the skin were
slightly dented, holding a spot in case I decided to put it
on again âThereâs a guy named Grady, who Iâm friends with
from my old firm and we go out occasionally, but he wants
to get serious, and I really donât. So mostly, Iâve been
licking my wounds.â
âEnough of that! Let someone do the licking for you. With
that red hair and that ass, you could get anyone you want.â
I laughed. âA guy at the coffee shop asked me out the other
âHow old was he?â
âThatâll work. As long as heâs eighteen, heâs doable.â
The waiter stepped up to our table with two glasses of
âWould you go out with her?â Jane asked him.
âUhâŠâ he said, clearly embarrassed.
âJane, stop.â But the truth was I was thrilled with the
randomly warm night, with the hint that the world was
somehow turning faster than usual.
âNo, honestly.â Jane looked him up and down like a breeder
sizing up a horse for stud. âAre you single?â
The waiter was a Hispanic guy with big, black eyes. âYeah.â
âAnd would you go out with her?â Jane pointed at me.
He grinned. âHell, yeah.â
âPerfect!â Jane patted him on the hip. âSheâll get your
number before we leave.â
I dropped my head in my hands as the waiter walked away,
âWhat?â she said. âNow youâve got three dates when you want
themâthe waiter, the coffee shop dude and that Grady guy.
Weâre working on the maitreâd next. I want you to have a
whole stable of men.â
A few women walked by. One of them gasped. âJane
Augustine!â She rushed over. âIâm so sorry to bother you,
but I have to tell you that I love you. We watch you every
night. You were great on the six oâclock tonight.â
âThank you!â Jane extended her hand. âWhatâs your name?â
The woman introduced her friends, and then the compliments
poured from her mouth in an unending stream. âWow, Jane,
youâre attractive on T.V. but youâre even more gorgeous in
personâŠ Youâre beautifulâŠ Youâre so smartâŠ. Youâre amazing.â
âOh, gosh, thank you,â Jane said to each compliment, giving
an earnest bob of the head. âYouâve made my day.â She asked
what the woman did for a living. She graciously accepted
more compliments when the woman turned the conversation
back to Jane.
âHow do you do that?â I asked when they left.
âAct like youâre so flattered? I know youâve heard that
Jane studied me. âHow old are you, Izzy?â
âThirty this summer.â I shook my head. âI canât believe Iâm
going to be thirty.â
âWell, Iâm two years away from forty, and let me tell you
somethingâwhen someone tells you youâre beautiful, you act
like itâs the first time youâve heard that.â She looked at
me pointedly. âBecause you never know when itâll be the
I sipped my wine. It was French, kind of floral and
lemony. âHowâs your new agent?â
âFantastic. He got me a great contract with Trial TV.â
âIâve seen the billboards.â .
Trial TV was a new legal network based in Chicago that was
tapping into the old Court TV audience. The billboards,
with Janeâs smiling face, had been plastered up and down
the Kennedy for months now.
âItâs amazing to be on the ground floor of this,â Jane
said. âTheyâve got a reality show on prosecutors thatâs
wild. Itâs gotten great advance reviews. And weâre juicing
up trial coverage and making it more exciting. You know,
more background on the lawyers and judges, more aggressive
opinion commentary on their moves.â
âAnd youâll be anchoring the flagship broadcast each
morning.â I raised my glass. âItâs perfect for you.â
Jane always had a penchant for the legal stories. When she
was a reporter, she was known for courting judges and
attorneys, so that she was the one they came to whenever
there was news. She got her spot as an anchor after she
broke a big story about a U.S. Senator from Illinois who
was funneling millions of dollars of work to one particular
law firm in Chicago. It was Jane who figured out that the
head partner at the firm was the senatorâs mistress.
Jane clinked my glass. âThanks, Iz.â She looked heavenward
for a second, her eyes big and excited. âItâs like a dream
come true, because if I was going to keep climbing the
nightly news ladder, Iâd have to try and go to New York and
land the national news. But Zac and I want to stay here. I
love this city so much.â
Jane looked around, as if taking in the whole town with her
gaze. This particular part of Chicagoâthe Gold Coast and
the Mag Mileâhad grown like a weed lately as a plethora of
luxury hotel/condo buildings sprang into the skyline.
âPlus, aside from getting up early, itâs great hours,â Jane
continued. âI donât have to work nights anymore, and trials
stop for the weekends. They even stop for holidays.â
âIs C.J. going with you?â Janeâs current producer was a
talented, no-nonsense woman who had worked closely with
Jane for years.
She shook her head. âSheâs staying at the Chicagoland TV.
That station has been so good to me I didnât want to steal
all their top people. Plus, I wanted to step out on my own,
start writing more of my own stuff.â She gave a chagrinned
shake of her head. âYou know how I got all this?â
âYour new agent?â
âNope. He only negotiated the contract. It was Forester.â
Just like that, my heart sagged. I missed him. Forester had
not only been a client, heâd been a mentor, the person
whoâd given me my start in entertainment law, the person
whoâd trusted me to represent his beloved company.
Eventually, Forester became like a father to me, and his
death was still on my mind.
âI miss him, too.â Jane said, seeing the look on my
face. âRemember how generous he was? He actually took me to
dinner with Ari Silver.â
âWow, and so Ari brought you in.â Ari Silver was a media
mogul, like Forester, but instead of owning TV and radio
stations, newspapers and publishing companies all over the
Midwest, as Forester did, Ari Silver was global. His
company was the one behind Trial TV.
âForester knew I loved the law,â she said, âso he brought
me to dinner with the two of them when Ari was in town.â
âEven though he knew it meant he might lose you.â
âExactly.â Jane put her glass down and leaned forward on
her elbows. âAnd now Iâm bringing you to dinner because I
I blinked. âExcuse me?â
âThe launch is Monday. Weâve been in practices for the last
few weeks.â She paused, leaned forward some more. âAnd I
want you to start on Monday, too.â
âWhat do you mean?â
âI want you to be a legal analyst.â
âLike a reporter?â
âAre you kidding? Iâve never worked in the news business.
Just on the periphery.â And yet as logical as my words
sounded, I got a spark of excitement for something new,
something totally different.
Months ago, after Sam disappeared with Foresterâs property,
Iâd been guilty by association and lost all my business.
After everything was settled, Baltimore & Brown, the huge,
glitzy law firm where I had worked, made it clear that it
would be better for everyone if we parted ways. The fact
was, if I had stayed, I would have started at the bottom
again, and I couldnât face the thought of sliding backwards
down the corporate ladder Iâd scaled so fast.
âWe had someone quit today,â Jane said. âA female reporter
who used to be a lawyer.â
âWell, let me backtrack. Trial TV has tried to put together
a staff that has legal backgrounds in some ways, even many
of the reporters and producers. We have reporters in each
major city to keep their eye on the local trial scenes. You
know, interview the lawyers and witnesses, prepare short
stories to run on the broadcasts. But one of our Chicago
reporters hit the road today.â
Jane waved her perfectly manicured hand. âOh, sheâs a prima
donna who wants everything PC. She couldnât handle our
dinosaur deputy news director.â Her eyes zeroed in on
mine. âBut you could. After working with Forester and his
crew, you know how to hang with the old boys network.â
âAre you talking an on-air position?â
âNot right away. Weâll give you a contributorâs contract,
and youâll do a little of everything. Youâll assist in
writing the stories and help with questions when we have
guests. But eventually, yeah, I see you on-air.â
âJane, I donât have any media experience.â
âYou used to give statements on behalf of Pickett
Enterprises, and you were good. Either way, the trend in
the news is real people with real experience in the areas
theyâre reporting on. Think Nancy Graceâshe was a
prosecutor before she started at CNN. Or Greta Van
Susteren. She practiced law, too.â
The spark of excitement Iâd felt earlier now flamed into
something bigger, brighter. If youâd asked me six months
ago what the spring held for me, I would have told you Iâd
be finishing my thank you notes after my holiday wedding,
and Iâd be settling into contented down-time with my
husband, Sam. But now Sam wasnât my husband, and things
with himâhell, things with my futureâwere decidedly
âWhat would it pay?â
She told me.
âA month?â Iâd blurted
Sheâd laughed. âNo, sweetheart, thatâs a year. TV pays
crap. You should know that. Youâve negotiated the
âBut Iâm a lawyer,â I said.
âYouâd be an analyst and a reporter now.â
Just out of principle, I considered saying no. I was a
lawyer; I was worth more than that. But the fact was,
unless I could find entertainment law work, I was worth
almost nothing. I knew nothing else, understood no other
legal specialties. Iâd been job hunting for months, and
trying to make the best of the down timeâvisiting the Art
Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of
Science and Industry and just about every other museum or
landmark Chicago had to offer. But depressingly, there was
no entertainment work up for grabs in the city. Though most
Chicago actors and artists started with local lawyers, when
they hit it big, they often took their legal work to the
coasts. The lawyers whoâd had it for years wisely hoarded
the business that remained. And Foresterâs company had
decided to use attorneys from another firm, saying they
needed a fresh start and a chance to work with someone new.
I couldnât blame them, but it had left me in the cold. My
bank statement had an ever-decreasing balance, teetering
toward nothing. I hadnât minded the lack of funds so badly
when I couldnât buy spring clothes, but soon I wouldnât be
able to pay my mortgage, and that would be something else
For the first time in my adult life I was flying without a
net. Fear nibbled at my insides, crept its way into my
brain. I was buzzing with apprehension. But the job offer
from Jane was a bolt of calm, clean sunshine breaking
through the murky depths of my nerves.
I knew, as the negotiator I used to be, that I should ask
Jane a lot of other questionsâWhat would the hours be? What
was the insurance like? But in addition to needing the
money, I neededâdesperately neededâsomething new in my
So I leaned forward, meeting Janeâs gaze and those mauve-
blue eyes, and said, âIâll do it.â