Darrin called his assistant and told her to expect Smitty’s lawyer. He nervously paced his quiet office. It was time he met new people; only he hadn’t been around too many people since Andie died, at least any that didn’t know about him, usually through rumors. He just hadn’t had a desire to be around people, let alone women. Twenty minutes slipped past unnoticed after Smitty’s call, until Louise buzzed him. He quickly checked himself in his mirror. His suit was pressed and his hair was a bit disheveled, but he looked neat. This was it. He instructed his assistant to send her in.
Kristina Rivera walked in the door with a pleasant smile, noticing his masculine office. She immediately observed a picture of a lighthouse above his desk on the wall. She drew the conclusion her new client liked the New England seacoast.
“Mr. Banning, I presume?” She held out her hand for a shake, clutching her briefcase in the other. Immediately, she noticed how he was dressed. He wore a sharp suit and no tie, his button undone on his collar as if he were struggling to find some comfort. His hair was a bit messed up, but it was windy outside, so she chalked it up to that. He was tall, blond, and he had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen on a man. She swallowed after drinking in his physical presence. He was a very handsome man.
Almost immediately, Darrin felt his pulse accelerate. She was different from the usual women in town. He ran his eyes over her gorgeous shoulder length, thick brown hair. She had chiseled cheekbones, distinct Hispanic features, and he thought she had very exotic, beautiful looks. Her eyes were deep, inviting, and warm. She was a very attractive woman, he thought.
Nervously, he clapped his hands together before extending one for a handshake. To his surprise, she gave him a hard, stiff handshake. He was impressed. Then it dawned on him that he thought she was a beautiful woman.
“Ms. Rivera,” he finally said, returning a nervous smile.
There was silence for a moment as they looked at each other, and Kristina didn’t know what to make of the awkward, shy man in front of her. Certainly he was attractive in his own way. He was different from the other men she’d dated. He was tall, white, and athletic, had light, sandy-blond hair, and yet seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.
“I need a lawyer,” he finally said.
“I’m a lawyer,” she confirmed with a playful grin. “What can I do for you?”
He motioned to the loveseat in his office and she sat down. Nervously, he paced in front of her.
“Smitty says you’re a family lawyer?” said Darrin, pausing to sit on the edge of his desk facing her. He wanted to act composed and confident in front of her.
“Yes, I am.”
Darrin had to know something about her before he decided on her. That seemed reasonable enough to him. “Why family law? Why didn’t you go into contracts or criminal law or even property law. There’s more money in that.”
Kristina bit her lip. “Well, it’s personal.”
“Tell me,” said Darrin gently.
Kristina cocked her head. Why? she thought. Then she realized that he was the employer and that she was his client, and this was a job interview. She would have to give something to get something.
“Well, I believe that children should be with their parents,” she said simply.
“What if the parent is a bum? By that I mean…a druggie? An alcoholic? What if it’s in the best interest of the child not to be with that parent?” quizzed Darrin, truly interested in her answer.
Kristina tried hard not to sit on her hands. His question had struck a chord in her—after all, her father had been an alcoholic, and it definitely wasn’t in her best interests, or Luis’s, to be with him.
“Well, if I’m representing the interests of the child, I do my best to prove the child is in a loving home with adults who will genuinely care for that child. If I’m representing the interests of the parent, I do my best to show that the parent loves their child, but if I know the parent is in any way negligent, I push hard for counseling or some other type of help so that the parent can show they are truly interested in bettering themselves for the child.” She tried to say this without emotion, but the question unnerved her.
Darrin was impressed. She was smart! “One more question, Ms. Rivera, if you don’t mind,” said Darrin, placing his hands into his pockets.
“Why should I hire you and not the family law lawyers in the phone book? What makes you special?” he asked.
Kristina flashed him another playful grin. “I’m on your time, Mr. Banning. You have my full, personal, undivided attention. You need me in the middle of the night? Call. I’ll answer. You won’t get an answering machine,” she assured him.
“Really,” she confirmed.
“Don’t you have a job? More clients?” She was so friendly and personable, he thought that she must.
She bit her lip. “Well, no. I’m…I’m walking away from the biggest case in my life and I don’t know if the firm I was working for will have me back. I have to be honest and tell you that.”
Darrin’s eyes grew wide, and Kristina stood up as if to leave. He knew that feeling! He’d been there before, with Andie. He wanted her to know it was okay. He understood.