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Common Ground

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“I’m sorry Ms…?” The receptionist trailed off, clearly having forgotten her name despite the fact she’d told him not thirty seconds before.

“Rook, just Rook,” she supplied helpfully.

The receptionist, George his name-tag read, smiled blandly up at her. “My apologies, Ms Rook, but as I said, Mr Seed isn’t accepting any new clients currently.”

She glanced once over her shoulder, noting the other people sitting in the waiting room before leaning across the counter, beckoning for him to lean in as well, like she was about to share a secret. George’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion and more than a hint of suspicion, but he mirrored her nonetheless, creeping in closer.

Rook smiled, oozing the confidence and charisma she’d seen her husband portray enough times to replicate convincingly enough. “George, trust me when I say that Mr Seed is going to want to see me. Give me five minutes with him, and if he doesn’t take my case, I’ll pay for a full 2-hour consultation,” she murmured.

His eyes widened minutely and Rook bit back a smirk. She could practically see the dollar signs popping up in his eyes. “One moment please,” he said, picking up the phone and gesturing for her to take a seat with the others in the waiting room, which she did. Lawyers loved almost nothing more than money they didn’t have to work for, there was no way on Earth John Seed was about to turn her down.

Sure enough, not two minutes later George was back, this time to lead her to Mr Seed’s office. 

Sitting behind a beautiful mahogany desk was the man himself, John Seed, dressed in a crisp blue suit that was definitely Armani and a charming but almost patronising smile on his face to match. He was certainly handsome, no denying that. He stood up the moment she entered and offered her his hand while George shut the door behind him on his way out. 

“John Seed,” he said as she took his hand and shook it politely. He had a firm grip, a strong handshake. “Pleasure to meet you Ms-“ 

“Rook, just Rook,” she interrupted, smoothing out her skirt as she took the offered seat.

He inclined his head, “Rook, then. As I’m sure my assistant has already informed you, as much as I would love to help you, I’m not taking on new clients at the moment.” A full client list was the sign of a successful lawyer, and Rook didn’t doubt it for a minute. Not with the Rolex on his wrist or the handmade Italian leather briefcase she spied on the corner of his desk either. She knew all about his reputation, he was one of the best in the state, if not the country, and he certainly had the cockiness to match. That was fine, for once that was exactly what she wanted. John Seed could be as arrogant as he liked, so long as he took her case. “However, he seemed to be under the impression that you had something for me that would change my mind? I have to admit I’m curious.”

He sat back in his seat and gestured for her to begin. Rook almost snorted, lawyers

She only had five minutes, and if George out front wasn’t actually timing her, she’d eat her metaphorical hat, she might as well get straight to the point. “I’m divorcing my husband, and I want you to represent me and make sure the bastard won’t take me for every dollar I worked for.”

She delighted in the sudden flicker of confusion across John’s face. Then, slowly but surely the patronising smirk returned. With a soft chuckle he held up a hand to stop her, “Forgive my interruption, Rook, but you seem to be confused, I’m a property lawyer,” he said, as if he was speaking to a very dim child. “I don’t look after divorce suits or family law. If you’d like I have some colleagues that I can recommend who could help?”

Rook just shook her head. “There’s no mistake, I know exactly who you are and what you do, Mr Seed. My soon to be bastard ex-husband does the same thing.”

A single eyebrow rose and once again, Rook bit back a smirk. “Oh, is that so? And who might your soon to be bastard ex-husband be exactly?” 

“I believe you’re well acquainted; Stephen Fischer.”

Those pretty blue eyes of his lit up, glinting with sudden interest as the corners of his lips twitched ever so slightly at the mention of his bitter rival. “Ah. I see.” 

It was Rook’s turn to sit back and get comfortable in her seat, laying her cards on the table with one minute to spare. “I can go to any lawyer, I know plenty. Instead I came here, to you. If you don’t think you can do it, if you don’t think you can win, tell me and I’ll go see them instead. But I don’t want any lawyer. I want you, John, because I can’t think of anyone else who’d relish in wiping the courtroom floor with that piece of absolute shit as much as I would.” She checked her watch. “So, my five minutes are just about up. Will you help me?”

He smiled widely, offering Rook his hand once more, “I think this is the start of something beautiful, don’t you, my dear?”

xxx

Two days later Rook found herself back in his office, this time after hours. It had been John’s idea, he wanted to focus on the case with no distractions, no interruptions, just the two of them.

She’d agreed, on the condition that he provided dinner. Somewhat naively, Rook had expected some form of takeout, like Chinese. John had indeed provided ‘take away food’ in the sense that it was food that had been taken away from the restaurant, but it was from the Michelin star restaurant down the road, so it didn’t exactly count.

She couldn’t deny it was amazing though, John Seed certainly had good taste. He hadn’t even asked her what she wanted. He’d taken one good long look at her, left the room, ordered and when he came back told her she was going to like what he’d picked for her.

Well he wasn’t wrong. Rook had to physically fight to hold back a delighted moan as she tasted her first mouthful of food. From the smug smirk on John’s face, she could tell her efforts were wasted.

“So tell me, my dear. What exactly did Fischer do to drive away a pretty thing like you?” John asked once her plate was empty and he was sure she was finished. 

Rook snorted, rolling her eyes at the less than subtle flattery. “He’s a manipulative piece of shit who gets off on making everyone around him bend to his will.”

He studied her face for a moment with an intensity that made Rook feel bare and exposed beneath him. Then he shook his head, “No, that’s not it. It’s undeniably true, I don’t doubt that for a moment, but he did something specifically, didn’t he?” 

She was silent for a moment as John watched her, but she didn’t shrink away from him or the intensity of his attention. It was all going to be drawn out in court, so he might as well know. “I caught him with two prostitutes in our bed.”

His eyes narrowed, “Not for the first time, though? Forgive me, my dear, but your husband has a reputation. There has to be more to it than that.” 

She almost flinched, but she shouldn’t have been surprised. Towards the end of their relationship Stephen had been less discreet about his indiscretions than Rook would have liked, to the point where he pretty much stopped hiding them altogether. No doubt he paraded it around at those networking events she refused to go to. Still, knowing that his infidelity and affinity for whores was public knowledge didn’t exactly fill her with warm fuzzy thoughts. 

Part of her wanted to drop the subject, because it still hurt more than she’d care to admit, but Rook recognised the look in John’s impossibly blue eyes, the determination written clear as day on his face. He wouldn’t let this go until he had the full truth from her. She sighed deeply but relented to him. “It was on the day of my father’s funeral.”

John stilled, as if he hadn’t been expecting the answer. His eyes widened but otherwise his face remained carefully blank. Then, after a beat of silence he raised his glass of scotch to Rook, “He truly is an abhorrent degenerate. Here’s to taking every penny that bastard has.”

She clinked her glass with his and took with a smile, one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “To be honest I don’t even care about the money, I have plenty of my own. He can have his as long as he doesn’t touch mine.” 

“If not the money, what do you want from him?” John pressed, gentler this time.

Rook took another sip. “He wants our house. I’m the one that designed it, built it and paid for it, and he thinks because he was with me at the time that he has any kind of right to it.” She scoffed, “I designed it for my future family, and he wants to turn it into a fucking bachelor pad for him and his whores.” 

When she glanced back at John, she found him staring at her with a strange expression, bit it was gone too quick for her to name it, replaced by his usual smirk. “Property is my specialty, darling. He won’t take your home, I promise.” 

It seemed silly to thank him, but she couldn’t deny the overwhelming sense of gratitude that surged through her at his promise. If he pulled this off, Rook would forever be in his debt, that house meant more to her than she could ever say. Still, John had yet to win anything, so instead of gratitude Rook fell back into comfortable humour. 

“I hope you realise I’m holding you to that John Seed. If I lose my house, I’m taking yours and kicking you out,” she said, mirth dancing in her eyes.

John chuckled in response, a warm and surprisingly pleasant sound. “Oh, don’t fret my dear, I think there’s room for both of us in my humble abode.”

Rook pointedly ignored the slight flutter in her stomach at his words.

xxx

“I hate him, I hate him so fucking much!” Rook growled as she stormed into his office, looking very much like an adorable, angry kitten.

She didn’t have an appointment, and their court date was not for another week, but in the months they’d been working together John had unwittingly become used to Rook treating his office like a revolving door. Late nights working on the suit, lunch time catch ups and more than once she’d actually turned up before him at the office in the morning, coffee and bagels in hand with an apologetic smile on her pretty face. What surprised him was that he found he didn’t mind as much as he probably should. In fact, he’d become oddly accommodating across all sorts of things where Rook was concerned. 

He found he quite looked forward to their little impromptu meetings, even when he knew damned well that he presence was not required quite as much as he may have led her to believe. He liked her, quite a bit. Physically she was beautiful, there was no denying that, but there was something else, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on that drew him to her like a moth to a flame. He wanted her, more than he should, at any rate.

He glanced up from the papers littering his desk as she threw herself into the seat opposite him. There was no need to clarify which him she was referring to. “You and me both, my dear. What has he done now?” he said, gathering up the papers and slipping them back into their file and setting it aside.

Rook rounded on him with a snarl, “He wants Boomer! He doesn’t even like dogs, and he hated Boomer when I brought him home. He tried to convince me to take him back to the rescue shelter! Can you believe that? He’s just doing this to spite me!”

John sighed good naturedly, “Of course he is, he’s a vile excuse for a man, this is nothing new. How a woman like you could ever be with someone like that is a mystery to us all. But what have I told you?” 

Rook cheeks turned a charming shade of pink as she deflated somewhat at John’s unperturbed tone, “That you’ll take care of everything.”

He nodded, “And I will. Have a little faith in me, Rook. I will take care of you, you have nothing to worry about. Now considering you’ve tracked halfway across town to disturb me; would you like a coffee or a drink before you go?”

Rook flashed him a sheepish look, “I’m sorry, I appreciate what you’re doing for me, John. I know I’m not the easiest client you’ve ever dealt with.” 

John waved away her apologies with a hand, “Nonsense, it’s my pleasure. Coffee or tea?” 

“I should go, you’re clearly busy.” She glanced pointedly at the file he’d been working on when she arrived – another case that wasn’t hers. “And I’ve just barged in again, I have to stop doing that.”

John raised a single eyebrow, humouring her. “Cappuccino then?”

Rook grinned at him, her face lighting up so beautifully that his breath caught in his chest. “Yes, but I can go down and get it if you tell me what you’d like?” 

He shook his head with a decidedly soft smile, “No, stay here with me. I’ll have George get them and bring them up.”

“Are you sure, your work-“

“Nothing that can’t wait, my dear,” he reassured her. It was a lie of sorts, his other cases were piling up, but he found he couldn’t bring himself to care when Rook looked at him like that.

xxx

John Seed was an excellent lawyer, even out of his comfort zone. From the moment he took the Courtroom floor he had the Judge and everyone present eating out of his hand. It didn’t hurt that he was handsome, ridiculously so, but it was more than that. He was in his element, confident and quick, charming without coming across false or smarmy. He knew exactly where to needle and where to press to get his point across. It was almost like watching a dance, Rook was enthralled. 

Stephen was good at what he did, but John was without a doubt better. No wonder her ex had spent more time complaining about the other man that he did paying attention to her. John ran circles around him, even in the unfamiliar territory of family court.

As the Judge started to read out his verdict, John’s hand had found hers, squeezing it to reassure her. When she glanced over at him, unable to stop herself he caught her gaze and shot her a wink. Rook’s heart skipped a beat. 

She shouldn’t have worried. John had promised to take care of her, and he delivered. She kept her house, Boomer, her money and John even managed to snag one of the cars and their holiday house for her as well on the condition that Stephen wouldn’t have to pay her any alimony whatsoever. That was more than fine with Rook.

She signed on the dotted line while her now ex-husband glared at her and breathed a sigh of relief. It was over, she was a free woman.

God it felt good.

The moment the Judge was out the door and the courtroom was dismissed Rook was on her feet, throwing her arms around John. “Thank you so, so much!” she laughed giddily as his arms tightened around her in turn.

“You’re very welcome, my dear.” 

Rook beamed at him as they parted. “I know you’re busy, and I’ve taken up enough of your time as it is, but do you have time for a celebratory lunch? My treat? It’s the least I can do considering what you just pulled off.” 

John opened his mouth to respond, but a pointed cough cut him off. Both he and Rook turned to find Stephen standing there, glaring at the pair of them.

Elizabeth, can I have a word?” He knew she hated it when he called her by her first name. His eyes flickered to John distastefully, “In private?”

Rook took a deep, calming breath. There was nothing he could say to her that would change anything. They’d both signed the agreement and the divorce papers, it was done. But Rook also knew that until he’d had the final word, he wouldn’t be happy and he’d pester her until she relented. Better to get it over with so she never had to see or interact with him again.

“One second.” She turned back to John, “Lunch?” she asked again. 

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, my dear,” he replied, stressing the term of endearment. Rook knew it was more for Stephen’s benefit than her own, but that didn’t stop the blush that tinted her cheeks pink. 

“Good. Stay right here, I won’t be long.” And with that she allowed Stephen to pull her out of the courtroom and down into one of the quieter hallways.

Once he was satisfied that they were alone and no one would overhear them, he rounded on her, irritation radiating from every pore in his body. “Are you happy, Rook? Are you pleased with yourself? You hired that fucking A-Grade asshole just to spite me.”

Rook scoffed, stepping closer to jab a finger against his chest. “You fucked not one but two prostitutes in our bed on the day of my father’s funeral after you told me you couldn’t make it because you were sick. So yes, Stephen, I went straight to John Seed specifically because I knew how much it would infuriate you. And it worked, we won, we’re done here.”

She turned to walk away, but his hand shot out to stop her, yanking her back to him. His jaw clenched, the vein is his neck throbbing. “I didn’t want this divorce, Rook, you did. Are you fucking him? Is that what this is? It wasn’t enough for you to make a fool of me by bringing him here, into our business, but you’ve got to rub salt in the wounds by screwing him? You’re just his type too.” He smirked at her like a schoolyard bully, reaching up to brush a curl that had fallen out of place back behind her ear. Rook fought not to flinch away from him. “You know it won’t last. You think I’m bad? John Seed runs through women like tissues. He only wants one thing from you, Rook, and you’re just enough of a whore to give it to him.”

A few months ago it might have worked, but Rook was done being a shrinking violet to appease Stephen’s ego. Still, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. If he thought that John Seed had managed to get her between the sheets, who was she to correct him? 

With a laugh she leaned in close like she was about to share a secret. “Would it bother you to know he fucked me better than you did? He’s good with his hand, but amazing with his tongue. Believe me, Steve, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.”

As she pulled back she saw the absolute fury rippling across his face and couldn’t help but smile, even when his hand tightened painfully around her arm. 

“You little fucking-“

“Rook, darling, are you ready? I’ve made a booking at Fleur de Lys, they were booked out, but I know the head chef and the owner, so naturally they were able to find us a table,” John said, appearing from seemingly nowhere to cut off whatever insult Stephen had been about to hurl her way. He took in the scene, his eyes zeroing in on Rook’s arm where Stephen was still holding her. Those blue eyes of his narrowed, something a lot like anger flashing behind them.

 Wisely and with an unimpressed grunt, Stephen let her go and took a step away from her, rolling his eyes.

“Yes,” Rook said, sparing her ex-husband one last look. “I’m finished here.” She turned her back on him, taking John’s offered arm and walked away without another word. 

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” John asked quietly once they stepped out of the courthouse and into the fresh air. 

“No, I’m fine. But thank you for showing up when you did.” A sudden, uncomfortable thought occurred to her. “John, how long were you standing there, exactly?”

John smirked and Rook’s heart sank. “Long enough to hear something about the incredible work I do with my fingers and my amazing tongue.”

Rook groaned in mortification as her cheeks turned bright red. John laughed, patting the hand that rested on his arm affectionately.

“Please never speak of this again.” 

“I can’t make any promises,” was all he said as he hailed a cab for them.

Rook half expected his brag at getting a table at Fleur de Lys to be another artful invention to taunt her ex, but sure enough not twenty minutes later John was ushering her into her seat at a private booth at the exclusive restaurant where the staff all seemed to know him by name. By this stage Rook shouldn’t have been surprised by anything John Seed did, but she was.

As they settled in, ordered drinks and then food, Rook noticed that John was being uncharacteristically quiet. He looked bothered by something.

For a moment Rook wondered whether it was her. Now that the suit had been wrapped up, was he regretting agreeing to lunch with her? No doubt it was eating into time he could have spent working on other cases, ones that would certainly be more profitable than hers. Unlike what she’d led her ex to believe, and regardless of her own feelings on the matter, at the end of the day that was all he’d signed up for. He was her lawyer, nothing more, and now that the suit was done he wasn’t even that. 

With a sigh, she decided to breach the topic, “John, you know that I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. If you need to go back to the office…” she trailed off, leaving it up to him to take the offer or leave it. 

But John seemed to have hardly noticed she’d spoken, looking deep in thought with an adorable little crinkle appearing between his furrowed brows.

“John,” she prodded gently, reaching across the table to touch his arm, hoping to shake him out of whatever reverie he was stuck in.

He looked up at her, his expression unreadable. “He’s wrong about me.” 

“I’m sorry?” 

“Fischer. He’s wrong about me. I don’t want you just for a quick fuck, Rook.” 

Oh. 

She forced a smile on her face, ignoring the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She should have known. Her ex-husband had demonstrated exactly the type of women lawyers liked to be seen hanging off their arm, and Rook certainly wasn’t one of them. It’s why she rarely went to his work events, especially towards the end of their marriage. 

“I know that. I’m shouldn’t have said what I said, either, I’m sorry. He was just being such an asshole and-“ She fell short with a sigh. “It’s not an excuse. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.” 

John was staring at her as if she’d grown at extra head. He shook his head. “No, no that’s not what I’m trying to say.” 

“Then what are you trying to say, John?” Rook asked with more patience than she felt. If he was about to go into detail about how much he absolutely did not want to have sex with her, she was going to walk out. 

With an exasperated growl John jumped to his feet, leant across the table and brought his lips to hers in a burning kiss.

Rook froze and then melted against him, smiling into the kiss as one of John’s hands came to tangle in her hair while the other cupped her cheek. He was an excellent kisser, and when his tongue traced her bottom lip Rook had no problems whatsoever in letting him in. She could taste the barest hint of wine on his tongue, but Rook was pretty sure her sudden light headedness had nothing to do with alcohol. He hummed appreciatively, deepening the kiss, tasting her, teasing her, delighting her. A warm and familiar tendril of heat curled through her stomach, sending shivers down her spine. If this was how he kissed, Rook very much wanted to see what else he could do.

After a moment that seemed to drag on for an eternity, John let her pull away for air. He kissed her once more, a comparatively chaste peck, before he returned to his seat, gazing at her with such heady desire in those baby blue eyes of his. 

“He’s not wrong to think that I want you, Rook because I do, very much. He’s wrong because I have no intentions of tossing you aside. Not after a night, not after a week, not ever if I can help it.”