Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 22
“I see,” I say, nodding my head but wondering how I can represent clients that Tim describes as seeming unpredictable if not dangerous.
I’m really not sure this pro bono gig is for me. I guess Charles will be happy to hear that, if he’s listening when I tell him.
“Much of our work involves educating the judge on the effects of war and the symptoms of PTSD,” Tim continues. “It’s our most common defense and applies to most situations.”
“I see,” I say again, distracted as Jensen— all six feet six inches of him, if I had to guess— stands up and nods towards the doorway.
Someone— I’m assuming the lawyer named Dylan— approaches and shakes his hand. Then they head over to a small lawyer/ client meeting room.
Just before heading into the room, Jensen turns around and winks at me. And I feel like a Disney princess starring on Broadway.
What the hell has gotten into you ? I scold myself. You meet a prisoner and you’re suddenly swooning and turning into some air head? Straighten up! Be professional .
“Ms. Morrell?” Tim asks me, his eyebrows furrowed together in concern. “Is your silence an indication that you have to think about it?”
I can only assume he must have asked me if I was ready to sign on as a pro bono lawyer volunteering for the VLA, and I missed the question because I was swooning. I clear my throat and open my mouth, ready to tell him that I’m not sure. It doesn’t really seem like the place for me.
Then I remind myself that I need the relevant military representation experience to satisfy my firm, and so far, no other military organization has even returned my call. And maybe I might get to see Jensen again, even though he already has Dylan as the lawyer assigned to his case. And even though I shouldn’t even be wishing for the opportunity to see him again, since he’s an inmate, and I’m in a relationship.
“Take all the time you need to think about it,” Tim continues, and I’m grateful he’s not rushing me into making a decision right away.
“I understand that right now you just want to volunteer a few hours a week to meet your firm’s pro bono requirements," he says. "But if you find that you enjoy this type of work— which many lawyers who try it out surprisingly do— then there might be room for a new staff attorney, at least part-time, and that’s a position you could be paid for. Granted it’s not nearly as much money as you’re used to but it might be a bit more fulfilling than…”
He trails off, obviously not wanting to offend me, but I know where he was heading. More fulfilling than representing rich old dudes and helping them fight with other rich old dudes about who screwed over whom financially ? I want to say.
Instead, I just smile at him, because he’s a nice guy, although a bit misguided. He looks like a hippie from California or Vermont. He clearly got into the legal field due to a desire to help carry out social justice.
He doesn’t have fire-breathing dragons for parents, always standing over his shoulder harping at him about his career choices and salary and opportunities for professional advancement. And he must not need the money that my cushy law firm job provides.
He can afford to follow his dreams. Heck, he can afford to have dreams.
“I’ll think about it, Mr. McDonald,” I say, standing up to shake his hand. “I do appreciate you meeting with me today.”
“I need to speak with a few of the men here now about their cases,” he says. “But I’ve arranged for a guard to escort you out.”
I start to think about how crazy it is that I’m in a place where I need a guard to escort me out. But as I begin to make my way back towards life as I know it, I can’t help having a little bit of a fantasy of being locked in with Jensen.
Since he’s in this place, he probably has a checkered past and a dark soul. I bet he’d know how to rough me up in ways that Charles has never thought of. And I bet I’d enjoy every second of the new and different experience.
Too bad my current circumstances are so set in stone. Because in a different life, I’d love to take a walk on the wild side with the handsome, troubled inmate named Jensen Bradford.
What am I doing here ?
That was my first question upon my arrival to jail, and it still plays over and over again in my head.
I can’t believe I’m in fucking jail over some stupid fist fight. I’ve had so many in the past, but I’ve never been ratted out by my opponent like the loser who just ratted me out.
Then again, I’ve never fought such a loser. And the fight certainly wasn’t voluntary.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m a Bradford, and we’re known for causing trouble. There were things I did in high school that were less than okay, and even more things I did while in the SEALs that have skirted the line of “appropriate military personnel behavior,” but luckily, I’ve always gotten away with them.
I’ll add this experience to my long list of WTF moments, and I shouldn’t be surprised that my actions have finally caught up with me.
It makes no difference though. I would gladly beat up the bastard all over again if given the chance, no matter the punishment, even though he’s the reason I ended up in jail. I just hope this doesn’t affect my career too negatively.
On that note, I glance around, wondering where Dylan is. He’s my lawyer from the Veterans’ Legal Alliance, and I’m waiting in the holding area for him to finally show up. My arraignment and bond hearing are quickly approaching, and this fucking dude is nowhere to be found.
I sigh, trying to hide my disgust that my lawyer is MIA. But then I see that Tim McDonald, the director of the organization, is here, and I have hope that he’ll know where Dylan is. He seems to be the only guy in this place who has a clue about what’s going on.
And then I notice the chick sitting across from him at the table. When I say notice, I mean that it would be impossible to miss her. She’s all decked out in a fancy suit, her hair meticulously curled into blonde waves that cascade down her shoulders.
Damn . Blondes are my type. And I love long hair. I just want to reach out and grab it, and not in a friendly way either. In a “let me show you who’s boss” type of way.
And that ass. I can see part of it from this angle and it’s full and curvy, just like I like them. My cock needs your curvy ass , I want to tell her.
But that’s ridiculous. I’m in jail, and she’s likely in the legal field, since she’s meeting with Tim and since she’s dressed like she’s auditioning for an episode of Law & Order: SVU .
Besides, even if she weren’t completely fucking out of my league, she’s not my type. I mean, yeah, sure, her looks are my type— I’d hit that in a second, and then throw her out of bed and never talk to her again— but her personality clearly isn’t.
I’m into laid-back girls that I can easily talk to, and do a lot of other things with as well. Such as share a beer with them. Or maybe even some whiskey. Or, hell, have a threesome with them.
And this chick looks like the total opposite of all of that. Stuck-up and snobby, with a stick up her ass and something to prove all the time, to somebody, for some reason. I know the type, and I stay away from them.
But still. Fuck , she’s gorgeous.
Out of nowhere she surveys the room and locks eyes with me. She has beautiful eyes, like she just got off a plane from some Nordic country as ice cold and steely blue as those eyes of hers.
I look back and hold her gaze. Of course, I do. I’m no pussy, and even though I wouldn’t date her, that doesn’t mean I won’t try to fuck her. I don’t “date” anyone, anyway.
She looks like the type with a boring boyfriend or husband at home, but I don’t care. I don’t want a relationship, just some hot sex.
She’s probably never had hot sex but there’s always a first time for everything. Just like me winding up in jail for some stupid fight no different than the ones I’ve gotten into since I was a boy, without such humiliating repercussions.
No one knows what
I want to bend her over and pull her hair while I do it. I bet I could have her moaning and yelling out my name all night long. As soon as I'm sprung from this joint.
I decide to make a move. I’ve never been known for my patience.
I approach the table and make up a dumbass excuse to talk to Tim. Of course, I do have a valid reason— I’m waiting on my perpetually late attorney— but I know Tim can’t make him appear any faster than I can. I just want an excuse to be closer to this mystery woman.
Tim’s in the middle of telling this hottie that even though she doesn’t have criminal law experience, he can quickly train her.
Great , I think. She is a fucking lawyer. And a newbie at that. I hope they’re not wanting to assign her to my case.
I’ll just stick with Dylan— as awful as I’m starting to think he is— or pay some private attorney out of pocket. Money talks, and a new attorney will have to do what I want, not what the VLA has trained them to do.
But damn is she fine , I think, as Tim introduces us and I shake her hand firmly, the same way I’d like to grab her ass if I weren’t impeded by this orange jumpsuit and my temporary lack of freedom.
I return to the table to continue my boring task of waiting for Dylan, all the while thinking, What is she doing here? Instead of only What am I doing here?
I clearly bashed a guy’s skull in to end up here. But she’s like a fish out of water. Why would she want to represent someone like me?
When Dylan finally arrives and I jump to the front of the line to meet him, he takes me back to the attorney/ client conference room and I can’t help but look back at Riley one more time. My curiosity gets the better of me and I wink at her. She looks pleased.
If I weren’t in jail, I’d have her in bed by tonight , I think, as I reluctantly follow Dylan into the conference room and kiss all hopes of fucking Fancy Lawyer Lady goodbye.
That’s just one of many things in my life I’ll be kissing goodbye. And it shouldn’t even be the most important thought in my head right now, but it is.
As soon as I found out I had pending charges and the police were going to arrest me, I’d called my brother Ramsey. He’s the most level-headed person I know and always has good advice.
Of course, he’d advised me to get out of the military ASAP. It was a crushing blow.
“Look, you’re due to extend or end your terms of service and you said you were putting out feelers for the private contracting gig,” he’d said, practical as always. “Don’t they pay well? Isn’t that what you wanted to do?”
“Well, yeah,” I’d said, exasperated that he was making so much sense but still wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. “But that was back when…”
I’d trailed off, not wanting to finish. But Ramsey knew me, and he knew the situation.
“Back when you thought you had a choice,” he finishes me for me.
And back when I was refusing to admit it was real. Sure, the idea of training newbies to do what’s become second nature for me to do in the SEALs— and getting paid a hell of a lot more to teach it than to do it— sounded appealing, in theory. But in reality, I loved being a SEAL alongside my brothers and friends.
I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave. But now it looked as if I didn’t have a choice. I guess it’s just one more thing my mom has robbed me of, along with a childhood and a peaceful existence. And, I’m reminded, as I join my criminal defense lawyer to talk about a plan to get me released from jail— my freedom.
“It’s nice to see you again, Jensen,” says Dylan, as he sits down at the small wooden table in the conference room.
Enough thinking about my mom and all the ways she’s ruined my life. That’s never caused me anything but fucking heartache, and I’m determined not to let it take me off my focus of fighting these charges.
“You too,” I tell him, although I want to add, I was beginning to think you’d never show up .
Instead, I say, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you.”
“I know you’re nervous about your arraignment. Everyone always is,” Dylan says. “But don’t worry. I have full faith that you’ll be out of here as soon as that hearing is over.”
“It’s not that. I’ve been needing to talk to you about my case.”
Again, I let unspoken thoughts remain unspoken. Unspoken thoughts like: You’ve said some things I’m not too fond of, and I want to set you straight.
Even though Dylan has been assigned to represent me for free, I know that doesn’t mean I have to go along with everything he says. I’m free to fire him and have another lawyer assigned, or to hire one with money out of my own pocket.
Which is fine because it’s not like I’m hurting for money. I just want to make sure my lawyer listens to me and defends my case the way I want it to be defended.
“Jensen, we don’t have a lot of time. We need to go out there and tell the judge we’re ready for your arraignment hearing to be called…”
“I understand,” I tell him, and stop there instead of finishing with that you’re in a rush and you’re shuffling through my case as one of many . “But this is important to me. When we first met, you mentioned using a PTSD defense and I said I wasn’t that into the idea.”
“Uh huh,” Dylan says absent-mindedly as he flips through my file, highlighting something.
“But what I should have said is that I really do not want you to use that defense. The more I’ve had time to think about it— and thinking is about the only thing I've been able to do in here— the more certain I am. I don’t have PTSD. I’m not crazy.”
“Jensen,” Dylan says, looking straight into my eyes. “A PTSD diagnosis does not mean ‘crazy.’”
“I know, I’m sorry,” I sigh, frustrated.
Crazy is burning everything my dad ever owned in front of me, simply because I mentioned his name. Simply because I was mad at her for leaving him— for leaving us. My mom is crazy. I’m not crazy. But any kind of official diagnosis is too close for comfort for me. I’m not anything like my mom, and I never will be.
“I don’t mean it in a bad way,” I try to explain to Dylan. “I just mean that everyone thinks that anyone who has been to war has PTSD, and that’s just not always the case—”
“Jensen, you haven’t only been to war. You’ve seen traumatic and life-altering things there. You’ve experienced very bad things.”
“So has everyone who has been to war,” I say, exasperated beyond belief at this point. “But it doesn’t mean I have PTSD.”
“It’s the best defense anyway,” Dylan says, perplexed. “If it helps you, you should use it. Not resist it.”
“Dylan. I’m serious. I want you to just defend the case and please don’t give me some PTSD diagnosis along with a potential criminal record.”
“Fine. Okay Jensen.” But he doesn’t say it very convincingly. “But today’s hearing has nothing to do with any of that. You’re just pleading guilty and bail is being set, or not. In your case, as I’ve said, I highly suspect it won’t be. You’ll walk out free until your next hearing date. And then we’ll have plenty of time to talk defense strategy.”
He signals the guard to let the judge know we’re ready.
“All right.” Just like we had plenty of time to talk today. “I just wanted to make sure I clarified my position with you.”
We enter the small courtroom where the judge holds arraignment and bail hearings in the jail. She reads my charges and Dylan introduces himself, as does an assistant district attorney.
“How does the defendant plead?” asks the judge.
“My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor,” Dylan says.
“And as for bail?”
“Mr. Bradford committed a heinous battery,” says the assistant district attorney. “
“Objection, Your Honor,” Dylan interjects. “Mr. Bradford is not on trial today. And of course, he has defenses to this charge, which was unfairly brought and of which he is innocent. He should be released on his own recognizance. He’s never been convicted of any crime. And he’s an upstanding member of the community.”
That part makes me have to try hard to refrain from snorting out loud. Apparently, someone who kills for a living is considered an upstanding member of the community when it comes time to set bail on their assault and battery charge. But if that’s what being conferred “veterans’ status” brings with it, I guess I’ll take it.
“Excuse me, Your Honor,” interrupts the assistant district attorney, “but Mr. Bradford is not the angel that the defense is painting him as. He’s had criminal arrests stemming from being a runaway teenager with truancy issues and some minor breaking and entering charges, and he’s gotten into some trouble while he was in the military…”
“Objection, Your Honor,” Dylan interrupts right back. “Those are juvenile records that have been sealed. And Mr. Bradford’s military history has nothing to do with civil court. He was honorably discharged after years of faithful service, in hostile war zones. The prosecution is just trying to fling mud and see what sticks, but none of this is relevant here.”
“I agree,” says the judge. “Move along to the bail portion of this hearing, please.”
I breathe a sigh of relief, glad that my past hasn’t truly caught up with me. I’m still getting away with things. I’m still coming out on top, although this is the most “upside down” I’ve ever been.