Furiously caressing her
favourite calming crystal, a smooth, misshapen ball of blue lace agate, Romy was
able to keep her mounting impatience in check.
He’s late, Romy
thought, sending a calm, no-worries, smile to the three others who sat with her
around the modern kidney shaped conference table. Make that very late.
They were all awaiting
the arrival of Sebastian Fox; an ex-golf pro turned professional tomcat, a
serial fiancé who nevertheless had walked the aisle to marriage but once, lasted
six months at that, and, if all went according to Romy’s plan, the soon-to-be
ex-husband of her client.
Rather than do the
impolite thing and release her frustration by screaming obscenities at the top
of her lungs, Romy stood and walked to the doorway.
‘Since we might be here
a while yet,’ Romy said, her voice the model of composure, ‘who wants a cuppa?’
Gloria, Romy’s legal
assistant, dressed in her customary head-to-toe basic black, requested plain
coffee, black also.
Janet, Romy’s client,
was irritable and very good at it. Even the ambient sound of waves lapping at a
far-away beach pulsing from hidden speakers could not surmount the incessant
tattoo of her long painted fingernails rapping on the smooth Formica tabletop.
She ordered a tall espresso, extra-strong, and Romy wondered whether the
tabletop would survive her attentions once that level of caffeine hit her
Sebastian Fox’s lawyer,
Alan Campbell, who sat alone on the concave side of the table, seemed hypnotized
by the drumming of Janet’s fingernails. Apparently caffeine upset his stomach
ulcer so he settled on a glass of water with which to take some Alka-Seltzer.
All three seemed on the
verge of spontaneous combustion such were their palpable jitters. Romy wondered
it she ought to have offered each a nice cold cup of Prozac instead, or decaf in
With her much-rubbed
calming stone in hand, Romy wandered through the ultra-modern open plan suite of
legal offices of the boutique Archer Law Firm in which she had worked the last
five years, feeding off the optimistic energy the place exuded.
She waved hello to
several clients who were not there for legal advice but for the numerous
in-house programs to help them get back on their feet post-divorce, such as
cooking classes, single-parent counseling and even a new divorcee-dating scheme Romy had been instrumental in setting up.
With the usual spring in
her step she made a beeline for the complimentary self-contained coffee hut by
‘Good morning, Hank.’
On tiptoe Romy leaned over the counter to give the lovely elderly guy who ran
the mobile café a kiss on the cheek.
‘Well, it is now Ms
Bridgeport. Gloria did not come around for your usual this morning. I was
worried you had called in sick.’
‘Not at all. Healthy as
could be. Vitamins every day are the trick.’
She put in her order and
was content to keep half an ear on Hank as he happily chatted away about his
favourite Australian Rules football team’s mid-season winning streak.
To combat her left
foot’s growing desire to tap out her frustrations on the blond wood floor, Romy
rolled her stone around in her palm, soaking up every bit of positive energy she
could. The blue lace agate was supposed to bestow clarity and would concentrate
her self-expression, which she would need when the opposing client showed up,
if he ever showed up.
The lift door binged and
Romy nonchalantly turned to see who had arrived. As though rubbing her crystal
had raised a genie, Sebastian Fox had arrived dead on queue. And like any
respectable genie, he had brought forth a man who looked little like the grainy
pictures Romy had in her legal dossier and more like he had stepped straight out
of GQ magazine.
Well, at least he’s
finally here, she rationalised.
Romy’s rational gaze
raked over dark chestnut hair. Smooth clear skin. A square face. Enviable
sooty lashes that framed seductive grey-green eyes. His inviting mouth that
appeared on the verge of a secret smile forced her spare hand to rest on her
stomach to calm the wayward butterflies cavorting within. The reaction he
invoked in her was instant, primal and unstoppable and all her conscientious
crystal rubbing went to waste in a heartbeat.
She had known men like
him before. Men with strong tall frames, with broad shoulders, slim hips and
muscular thighs, encased in cashmere and cargoes that highlighted every
centimetre of glorious man flesh. But she had been there, done that, and burnt
Romy continued to spin
on her high heels as his eyes locked onto the quirky aqua desk at the end of the
room where two cute guys and one cute gal sat below a big plastic
downward-pointing arrow suspended from the ceiling above. As he passed Romy
went to say something, to call out, to introduce herself, to yell at him for his
serious lateness, but for a woman who made her living talking, she simply could
not find the words.
Sure, she had known men
on the high end of the hunk scale, but she had not known a stranger to smell
that good! She caught the drifting scent of soap and cinnamon and felt an
insistent physical tug like a dog on a lead, and was in very real fear that she
was watching after him with her tongue hanging out.
Though it took her a
few diverted moments to recall why she so detested him, she finally managed.
The man who was leaning over the desk, causing both the girl and the guys at
Reception to go goo-goo eyed, was no less than a physical affront to her whole
He was practically a
professional groom-to-be, having been engaged to three women in seven years with
very little time to himself in between. Janet had been the third, and she
wondered momentarily what she had done differently that afforded her a wedding
band to match the killer diamond on her left hand. But whatever it was in the
end it still had not lasted.
And Romy was an anomaly
in the field of divorce law. She was an advocate for marriage. She went to
the nth degree to free her clients from bad marriages for the express purpose of
giving them the opportunity to find true marital happiness elsewhere.
‘Are you alright Ms
Bridgeport?’ Hank asked, luring her attention back to the coffee hut.
‘Sure, fine. And you?’
She deserved the bemused blink Hank shot back.
‘I’m fine,’ he said.
‘Your order is ready. I’ve added a plateful of Melting Moments.’
‘You knock ‘em dead, Ms
‘With pleasure, Hank.’
Romy gathered the tray
and turned around but Sebastian was gone. Into the conference room already, she
As she walked around the
assortment of modern couches and avant-garde coffee tables in the reception
area, then through winding halls to the conference room, she hung on tight to
her aversion to the man, to the tray heavy with scorching hot drinks, and to the
stone which she now feared she would have to swallow to reap any real calming