Off Limits - Lola Darling Page 0,1

floor of our office as I scroll through my Blackberry, typing addendums to my schedule as needed.

9:30 a.m. – meeting with boss.

10:15 a.m. – meeting with my client.

11:20 a.m. – meeting with Cheryl from accounting to talk about invoicing issue.

12:13 p.m. – leave to hit bank in time.

12:30 p.m. – lunch with Martha—mental note: make sure to ask how her son is doing, and also if she’s had a reply about the Daniels’ case?

I’m still adding notes when I nearly stride right into the glass door of the meeting room adjacent to my boss’s office. I smooth my Armani skirt with one hand, hoping nobody in the hallway noticed that slick move, and then I push through the door into the room.

Paul’s not here yet, which is good. Tardiness is one of his personal pet peeves, so I always try to arrive at least a couple minutes ahead of schedule for our catch-ups.

Which is why I’m surprised when, after five minutes of me shuffling the files I’ve brought with me around, there’s still no sign of him emerging from his office. I check the delicate gold watch around my wrist subtly.

Or so I think.

“Hope I’m not detaining you from anything more important,” my boss’s familiar voice interrupts just as I look at the watch. Most people would freak out to hear him say that—Paul Greaves has a way of setting even the partners on edge, and not just because his father founded his law firm fifty-some years ago.

But I’ve worked alongside him long enough by now to know his moods. He’s not annoyed. There’s an almost playful smile hanging on his mouth, which is mostly hidden behind an XL cup of Starbucks.

“Just worried you might have triggered the apocalypse is all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this late,” I reply, a hint of teasing in my voice, considering it’s only two minutes past the hour.

“Yes, I believe the end is nigh. My end, anyway, if this morning’s headache is anything to go by.”

I frown. “Are you feeling okay? We can reschedule if you’d like; I have an opening tomorrow morning, or—”

Paul waves an impatient hand in my direction. “Good lord, you sound like my daughter. I’m fine, it’s just a headache. Nothing a few mugs of this won’t cure.” He hefts his Starbucks with another smile, though this time, now that I’m watching closely, I can see the faint wince behind it.

I chew on the inside of my lip, where he won’t be able to see. To be honest, Paul worries me sometimes. He doesn’t take care of himself, and he’s not exactly a spring chicken anymore. He’s been a close friend and mentor to me ever since I set foot in this company and he took me under his wing—I’d hate to see anything bad happen because he’s too distracted with work to worry about his own health.

But I can tell that pestering him about it right now won’t get us anywhere. So I flip open the file on top of my stack instead. “Right, so, the Daniels’ case,” I say, one hand unconsciously reaching to readjust my glasses as I read. Each of my files for the case are neatly stacked, labeled with color-coded sticky notes, and organized in alphabetical order. “I’ve got a few things I wanted to go over with you, if that’s all right? I had a question about the court report from—”

“Chloe.”

I pause and blink at him. First the being late, then the headaches, now the interrupting me? Normally with Paul, the best approach to take is to get straight down to business. No small-talk, no waiting for him to take the reins. He appreciates an employee who is forthright, and who comes into a meeting with their own agenda.

Something seems off today. More than just his mood.

“Yes, Paul?” I try to keep the note of trepidation from my voice.

My stomach tightens. This is an unfamiliar sensation for me. I’m always on-point—work is the one thing in my life that’s completely, totally, perfectly on track. There’s already been whispers around the office that the reason Paul likes me so much, meets with me so often, even though he has at least 5 other direct reports, is because he’s grooming me to take his place. It’ll be a couple years yet, before he’s ready to retire and a new spot for a partner opens up, but I’m only thirty now. If I could make partner before I even hit my mid-30s . .