Luke shook his head as he pulled into the parking garage shutting off his wipers for the first time since leaving Seattle. Why did everyone live where it was so damn rainy? Maybe he should switch tactics again. Maybe California was a better fit for him. It would be a full day’s drive from here to the LA office, but he could do it. One, lonely road trip. Veer off through Nevada maybe and play a few slots, try his luck. Have a little fun.
No, scratch that. Uncle Bill was a jerk. LA wasn’t the answer. Luke wouldn’t last five minutes there under Uncle Bill. This would be better—Portland would be a good fit.
Marcus would be glad to see him. His big brother would have a job for him. The law office was always looking for good lawyers. And Luke was a good lawyer—when he wanted to be. It had been bred into him, just like Marcus. They’d lived and breathed corporate law from the crib. It was second nature and that’s probably why Luke never really tried all that hard. It had lost its glossy shine long before he ever began to practice.
Luke jumped from his car. The high chirp of his remote lock pitched off the cool gray walls of the garage. He went inside the huge high rise he hadn’t been back to in years and jogged up the dark stairwell, his sneakers sanded against the steps as he took them two at a time.
It felt good.
He had jumped in his car this morning at five a.m., right after Zamora the tall, exotic beauty, all legs and breasts had walked in on him with the girl from the cell phone kiosk at the mall—blonde and curvy.
Zamora—the latest centerfold from the modeling agency down the hall from the Seattle law office—had climbed the fire escape in her trench coat and heels. Spiky heels, his favorite kind, that had extended those long leggy lines and he didn’t have to use much of his imagination to picture what was on under that mid-thigh trench. Hot, hot, hot. But, he’d screwed it up, having his arms full of that busty blonde instead. If he hadn’t, he could be at home wrapped in that bronze-skinned goddess instead of running for safety. That glass vase that narrowly missed his rumpled head of hair followed by a string of foreign words that may or may not have consisted of a death threat sent him rushing for the door and circling the city for an hour before making the decision to drive to Portland.
He reached the eighteenth floor, dropping his keys in his pocket and smoothing the wrinkles of his t-shirt and shorts.
Through the door of the law firm he switched on his charms, digging out that get-me-anything smile he’d perfected. The gray-haired receptionist did the Venus-fly trap open and shut thing with her mouth as he breezed through the door. He got that all the time.
“Hello, Beautiful,” he said, not remembering the woman’s name, but that didn’t matter, women preferred to be called beautiful over their names any day. He should know, with all the women he’d been with he couldn’t keep half their names straight and when in doubt he sputtered out Beautiful or Gorgeous and no one was ever the wiser. “Is my brother in?” he asked, pushing right past her desk.
“I’m…Mr. Lewis is…”
Luke held up his hand and kept walking. He didn’t need Marcus to get a heads up. Surprise left things in his favor.
Down the hall, he could hear his brother’s voice, clear and strong—perfect, just like the man he was, always doing everything perfect. Which left Luke the role of family screw up?
The door was open and Luke rapped his knuckles on the frame.
Marcus was behind his desk in a pink shirt. Luke chuckled to himself. Never in a million years did he ever imagine catching his big brother in something other than a traditional blue or white shirt at the office.
His brother’s head shot up from the papers he and another man were looking over. Confusion washed over his face but quickly receded as Luke sauntered into the office uninvited. The other man stood quietly beside his brother.
“Luke, what are you doing here?” Marcus asked.
“Just popped in to say hi.” Luke slumped down in the chair reserved for clients and waited.
“Dennis,” Marcus said, turning to the other man. “This is my brother Luke down from the Seattle office.” He knit his dark eyebrows together.
“Hello,” Dennis said and Luke nodded in reply.
“Uh, Dennis do you think you could give Luke and I a moment for this unexpected family reunion.”
Dennis nodded and gathered his files.
“Just redo what we’ve talked about so far and I’ll check in with you when I’m finished here.”
Dennis quietly slipped from the office, leaving the two brothers alone in the question-filled silence. Neither one daring to go first, but Luke knew if he waited long enough Marcus would take the lead. He always did.
“So,” Marcus said, leaning back in his leather chair. “This is a remarkably early hour to see your mug at the office. What could possibly have you running to me?”
Luke threw his arm over the back of the chair, trying to shrug. “Just paying you a visit.”
“Uh-huh. For how long?”
“Until you get tired of this old mug of mine, I guess.” Luke brought out his killer smile again, the one that helped him get whatever he wanted.
“So, does that mean your time in Seattle has come to an end?”
“I’m thinking so.”
Luke shrugged and let his eyes graze over the shelves behind Marcus’s desk. Perfect. All straight and professional looking. He actually probably even cracked those books, looked up the law from time to time instead of winking at his assistant enough times to get her to do it. And that picture of him and Emma. So happy, so perfect.
“Does he even know you’re down here?”
Luke shook his head and sat up, pressing his elbows to his knees. “Na, figured I’d just submit the paperwork and let him figure it out.” Luke cracked his smile, trying to make it sound like a joke, but if it all went according to plan that was exactly what he would do.
Marcus leaned forward in his chair. “Are you creating a position for yourself here?”
“I’d have to imagine you are always looking for a good attorney with my skills.”
“And what skills would that be?” Marcus’s lips threatened to break into a grin.
“You know what? Forget it. I’ll head to LA. I’m sure Uncle Bill could use me if you can’t.” Luke stood up and turned away from his brother.
“Now, wait a minute.”
Luke turned back.
“Just tell me why you think you want to move to Portland.”
“Why don’t you tell me why you’re wearing a pink shirt? I don’t know if I can work with a man in pastels.” Diversions were Luke’s specialty and it worked.
Marcus hit him with a grin. “Emma bought it for me and says it brings out my eyes.”
Luke laughed. “Oh yeah, if she told you to wear a yellow polka dot bikini, because it made your abs looked ripped would you do it?”
“Yes, I would,” his smitten brother said.
“You two.” Luke shook his head and walked over to the large paned glass windows. “So in love.”
“Yes, we are. You should try it sometime. Who knows you might actually like it.”
Luke threw a glance over his shoulder. “I’m not cut out for that marriage kind of thing and you know it.”
“It’s really not that bad.”
“Yeah, right,” Luke said, turning back to the window. “Just look at Mom and Dad. That’s one horribly controlling situation and you and Vanessa were a horror show. No thanks, brother. I don’t think so.” He turned and saw Marcus’s eyes dim, the mention of Vanessa was not going to help him get a position here. “But you got it right this time. And I’m glad for you.”
“It feels good when you get it right.” Marcus ran his fingers over the silver band on his left hand.
“Yeah, well I’ve never gotten much right in my lifetime, so I think I’ll just stick to what I do best.”
“How hard have you ever tried?” That irritating older brother wisdom hung around his words. There was no hiding from his brother, the one person who knew him probably better than he knew himself.
Luke didn’t answer. He kept his eyes on the clouds rolling over the mountains in the distance. He’d never tried very hard to get it right. It was easier to be the screw-up brother. To be the one cracking the jokes and keeping life from getting too serious. “So,” Luke finally said slowly turning from the window. “You got a job for me here or do I need to keep heading south?”
“Just so happens I have some riveting pro-bono cases that need attention. It would be great to get you started in on them right away.”
“No, not pro-bono cases. C’mon you’ve got to have same major merger or something on your hands.”
“As a matter of fact I do and that’s why I need you to take these pro-bono cases off the hands of my associates. It’s all I’ve got. Take it or leave it.” Marcus turned his hands upward.
“All right, I’ll take it. Now, about a place to live. Do you think you, Emma, and Brayden have room out in that mansion in the country of yours for me? Just until I can find something else.”
“Of course we do. I’ll call Emma and let her know.”
A woman, tall, blonde and as rigid as all hell walked in. “Good morning Marcus. Gretta said you wanted to see me first thing.” Her eyes met Luke’s. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were with someone.” She took in his shorts and shoes with a twitch of her red lips and narrowed her eyes on Marcus.
“Abigail, this is my brother Luke. He’ll be joining the office tomorrow.”
“Oh, well welcome,” she said, nothing inviting about her tone, but he’d warmed colder women than her before and she was nice to look at.
“Thank you so much,” Luke said, digging out his charm just for her. A whole new land of fresh womanly faces were about to enter his world.
“If you’ll excuse us Abigail. We were just about finished. I’ll call you in when we’re done.”
“Of course,” she said mildly perturbed and sharply turned on her heel to exit.
Luke’s eyes followed her, already conjuring up fantasies in his mind.
“Before I call Dad with our little announcement you have to promise me one thing.”
“What’s that?” Uh-oh. Marcus had that dead serious look on his face.
“There will be absolutely no interoffice romances going on, whatsoever. The first indication I get of anything unprofessional going on and you’ll be out on your ass. Got it?”
“You can count on me.” Luke eased onto the ledge of the window, facing his brother for good measure.
“I mean it, Luke. Every woman in this office is off limits.”
It was only for his brother that he would make that kind of promise. He looked over his shoulder at all the people, the size of ants, marching down below. It was a big city. He’d have no problem finding someone else to curl up next to at night.
“I promise,” he said and he meant it.