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I drive the point home with a final warning. “And before you get any ideas about The Fault in Our Star-Crossed Lovers, remember, Romeo and Juliet isn’t a romance. It’s a tragedy. They die.”
He glances at the door one more time, then gives me a solid nod. “Gotcha, boss.”
“Good.” I pull up my chair. “Now, let’s talk about your case. Where’s your mother?”
Justin raises one slouchy shoulder. “She got a call from her lawyer and had to take off. I’ll catch the bus home.”
Justin’s parents are getting divorced. Like, really divorced. Forget being in the same room—they can’t even be on the same conference call. His mother’s bitter and his father’s a dick. They’re both totally self-absorbed and astoundingly uninterested in anything that has to do with their son.
Which is likely how he ended up hacking into an international banking computer system in the first place, because Smart Kid + Shitty Parents = Trouble.
And even with his trial coming up in just a few days, their heads are still completely up their own asses. It’s sad.
“Your case has been assigned a new prosecutor.” I look at the file on my desk. “K. S. Randolph. I’ve never heard of the guy, but I’ll be scheduling a meeting with him to discuss a plea deal.”
Justin nods, hands folded across his waist. “Probation, right? Because this is my first offense?”
“That’s right. And because you didn’t spend any of the money you took. I don’t want you to worry, Justin. You won’t even see the inside of a courtroom, okay?”
“Thanks, Brent.” He lets out a breath and leans forward. “Really. If I haven’t mentioned it before, you’re like . . . a superhero to me. Thank you.”
My father was the one who bought me my very first comic book. He gave it to me in the hospital—after the accident that took the lower half of my left leg. It was a Superman no. 1—worth almost a cool million at the time. He showed it to me, ripped off the plastic covering that ensured its value and we read it together.
Because, he said, being able to read it with me was worth so much more to him than a million.
I became an avid reader after that—and a collector. In those early months, comics made the time go faster, gave me something to focus on besides the pain and all I’d lost. And—between you and me—the heroes in the comics spoke to me. I got where they were coming from. Because every one of them had had something terrible—awful—happen to them. And they came out the other side, not just okay, but better because of it.
And that’s how I wanted to be too. How I decided to look at the loss of my limb. It’d be the thing that would make me better—more—than I ever would’ve been if it’d never happened.
So, though Justin has no idea how much those particular words mean to me, they mean a hell of a lot.
“It’s what I’m here for, buddy.”
• • •
Even when I was a kid—even after the accident—I had an overabundance of energy. Growing up, the worst punishment my nanny could inflict was making me sit still in the corner. With nothing to look at. Nothing to do. Used to make me feel like a lab monkey in a cage—batshit crazy.
That trait followed me into adulthood. It’s why I run ten miles a day, why the first thing I do every morning is a long set of push-ups and sit-ups. It’s why I have a set of hand grips in my office drawer that I squeeze while I dictate a motion or take a call. It’s left me with a strong, rock-hard body and stamina to spare.
Women really enjoy both, and boy, are they appreciative.
It’s also why, although I have a butler at home who doubles as my driver, I walk to my office every day.
It’s dark by the time I stroll through the door of my townhouse. The house itself is professionally decorated, and though dimension-wise it’s a fraction of just one floor of the beast I grew up in—on a high-end street, filled with young professionals who drive BMWs and hybrid Lexuses—it’s the perfect size for a bachelor.
Well . . . a bachelor and his trusty sidekick.
I’m secure enough in my manhood to call, “Honey, I’m home.”
Just to mess with him.
Because, British or not, Harrison is more serious than any twenty-two-year-old should ever be. He’s the son of my parents’ beloved butler, Henderson. When he decided to go into the family business—and because my mother still breaks out in hives at the thought of my living alone—I was more than happy to take the kid under my wing. And now that I’ve got him, I hope to corrupt the hell out of him.
Harrison takes my briefcase. “Welcome home, sir.”
I raise an eyebrow—feeling like a parent who’s had the exact same conversation with his teenager a hundred times. Because the day I become a “sir,” just fucking shoot me.
His brown eyes pinch closed, then he forces out, “Brent. I meant, welcome home, Brent.”
With fair skin and a hearty dose of freckles, Harrison looks younger than his age—something we have in common. It’s why I decided to grow my beard, a full jaw of neatly groomed dark hair.
Women appreciate that too—these bristles have all kinds of creative uses.
“How was your day?”
I smack him on the back. “It was great. I’m starved—what’s for dinner?”
“Chicken cordon bleu. I’ve set the table up on the back patio—it seemed like a lovely night to dine outside.”