By: Leigh James

Bad Judgment #1


He took a long look at me and I saw the shadow, the despair, cross his gorgeous face. And then he just looked down.

“You don’t have to do this,” I said. “You don’t have to go out like this.”

He looked back up. “It’s me they want. What I know. What I have,” he said, and picked up his phone.

“They were after me just now,” I said. “They were trying to blow me up.”

“That’s why you need to go, to get away from me. And I need to turn myself in. Nothing I can do will save either one of us. Except for that,” he said.

Don’t,I thought. Please. Because if this was going to be the end of it all, it was going to be the sorriest day of my life.

And I wasn’t ready to give up. Not yet. Not like this.

I roughly grabbed the phone out of his hand and clicked it off. “We’re doing this my way,” I said. And when he looked back into my eyes, I saw the man only I knew. The secret one. The one he hid from the world. The one who was worth fighting for.

I knew what they’d done. The people that they’d taken could never come back. And they weren’t going to get away with it.

“We’re not making that sort of exit. If this is how it’s going to be, we’re bringing them all down.” I took both of our cell phones and threw them into the trashcan at the end of the aisle. Then I reached across the table, grabbed his hand and squeezed it. The familiar heat shot through me at his touch; I let it course through my body, strengthening my resolve, giving me courage.

“Walker,” I said. My voice did not shake. “We can do this. Trust me.

“Now, let’s find a way to get that bracelet off you.”

Chapter 1


I was sitting on my couch, tuning out the noise of the game Mike had on. I was watching him eat chips. My chips. The expensive, organic, blue corn ones. He only stopped eating to take a sip of his craft, artesian, or whatever the hell it was type of beer he’d brought over. I watched as he wiped chip dust off his face and casually looked around for the napkin he’d never bothered to get.

“Nicole,” he said again, exasperated. I tried to pretend I hadn’t been staring at him for a really long time and nodded at him blankly.

“Earth to Nicole. Your phone’s buzzing,” he said. I jerked my head around and grabbed my phone just as it stopped. David Proctor — Missed call, it read. My heart almost stopped.

“Holy crap!” I screamed and jumped up, clutching the phone.

“What’s wrong?” Mike asked, looking alarmed. “Is your dad okay?”

“That was one of the partners — actually, it was THE partner. He just called me and I missed it,” I said.

“So call him back,” Mike said, dismissing my big-deal phone call. I glared at him while he shoved another chip into his mouth. I checked the time; it was nine-thirty on a Monday night. Probably one of my mergers had blown up, people were screaming about filing suit and breaking contracts, and I’d have to go into the office to clean up the mess. I went into the bathroom, closed the door and took a deep breath. Then I called David Proctor back. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears: I’d only spoken to him once or twice, ever, in the whole history of my employment. And now I’d missed his call.

David Proctor didn’t seem like the kind of guy who liked to be ignored.

“Nicole,” he said after the first ring. It sounded like he had a mouthful of food. He continued without preamble. “I need you to come in. Pack a bag. We’ve got a press conference in the morning.”

“Of course,” I said, my head continuing to pound. I only hung up after I realized David already had. My merger was having a press conference tomorrow? It didn’t make any sense. I’d have to wait to find out what was really going on.

“What’s up?” asked Mike. I raced past him towards my room. “I have to go into the office,” I said, and felt a rush of relief that I wasn’t going to have sit and watch him eat my chips and mess up my couch. I would also get to skip the part where we’d go to bed together, and I’d pretend to have an orgasm in the missionary position. Again. I went to the bedroom and proceeded to throw on a suit and my glasses; I pulled my long brown hair back into a ponytail, put on a little lipstick, and carefully packed some pajamas; I always kept a clean suit at work for when I slept over, so I didn’t worry about clothes for tomorrow.

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