Practice Makes Perfect

Page 18


Boy, had she ever been wrong about that.
An oval full-length mirror stood in the corner of her bedroom, an antique she had inherited from her grand-mother. Before changing out of her clothes, Payton paused before the mirror. She self-consciously fingered the neckline of her button-down shirt. It wasn’t that low-cut, was it?
She stopped herself right there and stared defiantly in the mirror.
The hell with him.
FOR HIS PART, J.D. was not exactly in a celebratory mood when he got home, either. Over and over, his mind ran through the same debate.
He could call her, to apologize.
She’d hang up on him, no doubt.
And why should he bother, anyway? So she was pissed at him . . . big f**king surprise there. She lived to be pissed at him. In fact, it probably had made her night, what he’d said. With his comment he had single-handedly given her the logs of legitimacy to fuel her fire.
But still.
He had crossed the line. Over the years the two of them had traded innumerable barbs and insults, but he knew he had gone too far that evening.
So J.D. settled it in his mind. He would call her.
He looked up Payton’s phone number in the firm directory. This certainly had been a night of firsts for them, all starting with the complimentary things they had said about each other to Jasper. And now he was going to call her? They’d never even spoken on the phone before, outside of work.
Sighing to himself—not relishing this task he was about to undertake—J.D. reached for the phone. It was then that it occurred to him that he was about to call Payton at home. He tried to picture her in her . . . apartment? Condo? House? He wondered what it looked like, the place she lived.
Then he wondered why he wondered that.
Mere curiosity, J.D. assured himself.
He pictured her place as being a tad . . . plebian. That probably wasn’t the most politically correct way to say it. What word did liberals prefer nowadays? Granola? Organic?
In reality, however, Payton was none of those things. In fact, if she never spoke, one might actually think she was quite normal.
Then a second thought suddenly occurred to J.D.
Maybe she didn’t live alone.
He should know things like this, shouldn’t he? He should at least know the basics, have some inkling of what her life was like when she wasn’t busy being her.
Realizing he was stalling, trying to avoid apologizing to Payton, J.D. grabbed the phone. He was about to dial her number when he noticed that he had a new message. He entered the code to access his voice mail, then heard a familiar deep voice as the message began to play.
“J.D., it’s your father. I thought I’d check in and see if there’s any news on the partnership front. I’m guessing no, otherwise we would’ve heard from you already.” There was a preemptory disappointed sigh. “I suppose if you don’t make it, I can always call my old firm. But maybe you’re going to surprise me for once, son. Although—no offense—I bet your mother a new mink that you’ll be calling me to bail you out by the end of the month, ha-ha. And that woman really does not need another fur coat.”
When J.D. heard the beep, signaling the end of his father’s message, he hung up the phone. He sat there, in the leather armchair in his living room, staring out the windows and their sweeping view of the city at night, but not seeing.
After a long moment, he put the phone receiver back in its cradle.
This thing with Payton was a distraction. And he certainly did not need any distractions right now. It would be best if he put her out of his mind entirely. He simply needed to stay on track for the rest of the month, doing everything exactly as he had done for the past eight years.
If anything, it was a good thing Payton was giving him the silent treatment. Ha—if that’s all it took, he should’ve been a rude bastard years ago. Maybe now he’d finally have some peace at work. No more pissed-off hair flips, no more covert you’re-such-a-wanker-J.D. glares, no more secret arguments in back hallways over feminist and right-wing agendas.
These were things J.D. certainly would not miss.
Not at all.
“I FOUND THE perfect guy for you.”
Payton barely looked up as Laney strolled into her office and plunked down in one of the seats in front of her desk.
“Hmm, that’s nice,” Payton said distractedly. “Can we talk about this in say . . .” She checked her watch. “Three weeks?” Putting aside partnership issues, she had a trial starting in two days.
“I’m excited about this, Payton. Don’t ruin the moment with sarcasm.”
“Oh, well, then.” Payton pushed aside the mound of files on her desk with a grand flourish. “By all means—continue.”
Laney looked at her pointedly. “Career or not, a single woman in her thirties cannot neglect her personal life forever.”
“Sorry, Laney, you’re right. I had forgotten that we’d traveled back in time to 1950.”
Another look from Laney. “May I continue?”
“Does Mr. Perfect have a name?”
“And what makes the Perfect Chase so perfect?” Payton asked.
Laney leaned forward, eager to share the details. “He was in Nate’s fraternity in undergrad,” she began, referring to her husband. “He just moved here a few weeks ago. He’s a lawyer, too—and you’ll love this—he does pro bono work with the Chicago Legal Clinic. He went to Harvard Law School, he was president of both the Harvard Law chapter of the ACLU and the Harvard Law Advocates for Human Rights—”