Unforgiven, page 1part #5 of Wilde Brothers Series
The Wilde Brothers
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart brings you the final book in THE WILDE BROTHERS series, UNFORGIVEN, a big family romance that will rock your world.
Samuel Wilde is one of the brightest young lawyers in Seattle. He’s handsome, smart, and sexy and has an unbreakable bond with his brothers—that is, until one woman comes between them, threatening to divide the Wilde family forever.
Table of Contents
About the Author
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COPYRIGHT © Lorhainne Ekelund, 2015, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Steven Novak
Contact Information: Lorhainne@LorhainneEckhart.com
His lungs were on fire.
It wasn’t so much that he enjoyed the burn as that he needed it. He pushed himself hard, driving himself to a place that welcomed the burn in his legs, the bite in his chest, the pace he set for himself—brutal, to the point that anyone watching might wonder if he was punishing himself. Samuel Wilde, junior lawyer at Pike and MacGregor, wasn’t about to admit that he had done anything wrong in his current caseload, so he pushed on harder, faster. His feet pounded the pavement, and not even the puddles soaking his track pants could slow him down. He welcomed the rain, though it was cold enough to leave him chilled inside and out. Even that wasn’t enough to stop him.
The truth of the matter was that Samuel was good at being a lawyer. He was sharp, and he picked up on details others missed. In fact, he’d recently been evaluated by the managing partner as being exactly the type of lawyer they wanted for partner, because Samuel could find the weakness in his opposing counsel and use it to his advantage.
He tried to tell himself that this need to punish himself wasn’t because of the growing rift dividing his brothers—or the fact that no one in his family had shown up for his wedding…his wedding to a woman who’d once been with his brother.
But he, not Jake, had had Jill first.
He stared up at the gray concrete and high rises and clouds as he ran. The steel and the endless dismal rain matched his mood. He could see home just ahead, the high rise where his condo was and where Jill would be waiting, but he needed this time to himself. Just him and his thoughts, his dark thoughts.
A horn blared when he stepped off the curb. He jumped back, lifting his arm to shield his face from the splash of the car speeding curbside. “Asshole!” he shouted, but the rain drowned him out along with the sounds of the morning traffic. It had been his fault, anyway, almost running out into traffic without looking. What was wrong with him? His legs were shaking as he stood there and then started jogging in place until the walk light flashed. This time, the traffic had stopped, and he started across the street, making himself look twice, right and then left, at the stopped cars crowding the intersection.
He pulled open the glass front door to his building, his sneakers squeaking on the dark tiled floor. He swiped his hand across his face, wiping away the water, and pressed the button for the elevator. In the shiny steel doors, he glimpsed the reflection of his light beard, his wet gray tracksuit with his hood up, everything drenched. Droplets of water ran down the side of his face, and he was unsure if it was sweat or water from the mess looking back at him. Even Samuel had to admit, looking at himself, that the people he had passed on his run were probably wondering whether he was a thug. At the very least, they would have known he wasn’t someone in the mood to be messed with.
The elevator dinged, and he shivered as he stepped inside, jabbing the button for floor thirty-three. He leaned against the back of the elevator, feeling his legs start to tighten, his heartbeat racing. He should have stretched before stopping, as he’d pushed himself hard this morning, much as he had every day for weeks, but lately he had embraced the burn in his muscles as he pushed himself to the brink of madness, maybe because this was the only thing he could feel that was real. This physical pain made sense, and he understood it, although it did little to help the hurt he felt from his family.
The elevator slowed and opened to his floor. He nodded to his waiting neighbor, a portly man with thin hair in his sixties, who was wearing the same blue trench coat he wore every day. What was his name? It would come to him, he was sure. All Samuel knew was that he was a banker and had visitors every Wednesday night, always a different college girl dressed in some slinky number, most likely from a local escort service.
The only things he knew for sure about the man were his impressions, and that was all he wanted to know.
Samuel slipped his key into the lock and opened the door, then tossed his keys on the counter. He could hear the clock ticking and the low hum of the appliances.
“You’re back? I didn’t know you’d gone out.” Jill was holding a mug of coffee as she walked into the small walkthrough kitchen. She was so quiet. She’d cut her dark hair shorter, framing her round face. She was lovely, and there was something about her dark eyes that haunted him.
“Should you be drinking coffee?” he said.
She put the mug on the counter as he pulled back his wet hood from his head and peeled off his hoody, dumping it over the back of a kitchen chair. The four-piece dinette was crammed against the wall, but then, this one-bedroom apartment was only five hundred square feet. He should really think of getting something bigger. Jill had already asked twice, but he hadn’t answered. He knew she wouldn’t push. She never did, never had.
“It’s only one cup.” She was behind him.
He should turn around and look at her, talk to her. He reached for the mail on the table, flipped through the bills, and then dumped them back down. “I’m going to grab a shower,” he said—a hot one he could lose himself in.
“Do you want company?” she said.
This time, he had to make himself turn around, his hand gripping the door frame as he looked at Jill, at her rounded belly, the baby she carried. “Not this morning. I need to hurry. I have to meet a client.”
She stood across the room. The tension between them was so thick he could feel it like a wall, so heavy that it kept him where he was, away from her. Why didn’t that make him sad?
“What time are you going to be home?” she said. She crossed her arms over her breasts, which were larger now. At one time, he hadn’t been able to get enough of her, touching her, making love to her, being inside her. But something had faded. He didn’t know what exactly, only that it was something between them or in him that had died.
“Mr. Wilde, Mr. MacGregor asked for you to take a look at this case again. The client is coming in at eleven this morning for the deposition.”
He didn’t look up at the secretary he shared with five other lawyers, but he did glance at the thick tattered file on the edge of his desk that he’d spent hundreds of hours making notes on. It was a case that should have sickened him. The facts were murky, but the case was clear: their client was suing her rapist, her husband. But there was a twist. One of them was older and in a position of power, with resources available, whereas the other had none. If he had to have guessed who was who, he’d have been wrong.
Their client was the one with the money.
Samuel pulled the file closer and flipped it open. His job was to win at all costs. The case was clean, easy, with very few loose ends. Everything was tidy, a little too tidy. It was a case to put on record, something the police refused to do.
A knock on his open door pulled him from his thoughts.
“So why do you think our client is pursuing this case so hard?” Erin Kaufman, a junior associate who often worked side by side with him, strode in and dumped a file on his desk along with a can of soda as she plunked herself down in a chair across from him. She had long hair that was so dark it was almost black. It was thick and shone under the office lighting.
She glanced up, obviously waiting for him to say something. Her dark-rimmed glasses slipped down her nose, which was slender and large, pushing the frames up. Her nose was the first thing he noticed about her every time he saw her. It was such a strikingly odd feature that seemed to fit with her oval face and olive coloring. She was Jewish, smart as hell, his only nemesis in the office. She could and would challenge him for his job.
“She’s angry, as she has a right to be,” he said.
“Bullshit. She’s got an agenda,” Erin said. She leaned back, her brown ruffled blouse buttoned up to her neck. She lifted her soda and took a swallow, then twirled a pencil between her fingers.
“Maybe you should lay off that stuff,” Samuel said. “How many have you had this morning, five, six?”
Erin downed soda like others did coffee. He was tempted to shoot her the facts from a failed court case about the real effects of aspartame, which the FDA had and continued to cover up.
“Don’t change the subject. Three, though, which is probably three less than the number of coffees you’ve downed.”
“Yeah, but my coffee isn’t likely to put me in a diabetic coma or leave me with cancer or some other autoimmune condition.”
She rolled her eyes as if he’d pulled that out of his ass, then waved her hand in the air to let him know she wasn’t having this debate again.
Samuel rocked back in his swivel chair. “Look, she’s our client, and it’s not up to us to say she’s got an agenda. She hired us, which pays our salary, and I for one will give her the best legal counsel money can buy.”
“Wow, you’re cold. Besides, if our client is going to perjure herself, we do need to know so we’re not complicit. You know they frown on that kind of thing, and it can lead to a lawyer getting disbarred. I studied my ass off and put in countless hours to pass the bar, and I’m not willing to throw that away for anyone.”
“Now you’re being melodramatic. Neither you nor I know that she lied about anything. As a matter of fact, we don’t need to know. What makes you think she’s lying about being raped?”
Erin, at times, pushed his buttons, playing devil’s advocate even when everything was cut and dried. He wondered if she got off on rattling him, since she was the only person who made him question things—even things he had been clear on moments before.
“I didn’t say she lied about being raped. I’m saying there’s more, some piece of the puzzle that could blow this entire case up.” Erin crossed her ankle over her knee, her dark skirt riding up. It was such a tomboyish move, and he wondered if she had any idea how unladylike it was. Jill would never do something like that. Sometimes, the way Erin clunked around in her boyish flats made him wonder if she was into girls. He’d never picked up anything even remotely feminine about her. As a matter of fact, he didn’t think he’d ever seen her wearing a stitch of makeup, heels, or some nice backless number. Then again, he wondered whether she could even pull something like that off with what appeared to be a sticklike body. She could blend into the background at times and go unnoticed. Whether that was deliberate, he wasn’t sure.
“Okay, look, Erin.” He leaned backed in his chair. “If you’ve got something we need to know about, tell me. Otherwise, drop it. She’s our client, and I really don’t want to waste time shooting this case in the foot. Remember, we’re trying to win here.”
“Yeah, but, Samuel, there’s something about this that doesn’t sit right.”
“What, exactly—the way she was so together, telling us the details of the rape, the way she didn’t shed a tear?” That was the one fact that had bothered him. Even though it had been her husband, the details were…alarming.
“No, not that. If anything, that was the one thing I did believe.” Erin dropped her foot to the floor with a thud and clunked her soda can down on his desk as she leaned forward, fisting her hands as if she had put a lot of thought into what she was about to say. “If she’d sat there sobbing like a baby, that would have raised some red flags, but she’s not someone who falls into hysterics.”
“Well, how would you know that?” Samuel said. “Of course women cry. It’s a fact: you’re the weaker sex.”
For a minute, Samuel wondered what was going through Erin’s head, as she was staring daggers at him. Her dark eyes had a way of flashing “Fuck you” without her uttering a word.
“I guess you’re the type of guy that always falls for the damsel in distress,” Erin said, “a woman who needs a man to take care of everything for her, someone who couldn’t stand on her own two feet if her life depended on it.”
He snapped the pencil between his fingers. How could Erin be such a tough-as-nails bitch? Didn’t she get it? Men liked having a woman to take care of, to make decisions for. He did, and he always had—right?
“Oops, looks like I hit a nerve,” she said. She pulled off her glasses and blinked before blowing on the glass and rubbing them clean with the edge of her blouse. She lifted them up, looked at them, and shoved them back on. “So you’re saying that a woman who knows how to hold herself together, who can stay composed in the toughest of situations, think clearly, and not fall apart, who can easily reason before opening her mouth, that kind of woman is just acting? Because women aren’t able to reason. That’s what you’re saying, right? Let’s not mince words here, Samuel.”
How in the hell could Erin piss him off the way she did? For a moment, he was speechless. Stopping for a minute to consider what to say next, Samuel realized Erin challenged him intellectually in a way no other man or woman ever had. With her being a woman, he had to take another second before speaking so he didn’t sound like a bumbling idiot. “You’re putting words in my mouth, Erin.”
He lifted his hand when Rob MacGregor, the managing partner, stopped in the doorway. “Erin,” he announced, “I’m going to have you sit in as second chair on the deposition with Samantha Stowles. Samuel, you okay to run with it? I have to be in court before Judge Adams at two.”
He didn’t need to look over at Erin to see that she was pleased at the invite. She had, up until now, been relegated to grunt work. Even though having Erin doing his grunt work had been a win-win, the fact that Rob was now giving her that leg up to work alongside Samuel didn’t sit well with him.
“Samuel, everything okay?” Rob asked when he didn’t answer right away. Then he glanced at his watch, which was enough to let Samuel know not to push it.
“Everything’s good. I’ve got it handled,” he said. He was about to say he didn’t need Erin to sit in on the deposit
Then she took a deep breath, opening her mouth to say something cutting, he anticipated, when his phone rang. Normally he’d have let it go to voicemail when he was with a colleague, but he’d had about enough of his sparring match with Erin for today, so he reached for the phone.
“Samuel Wilde,” he barked. He heard Jill before she said a word.
“It’s me. I hope it’s okay that I called?” She sounded so hesitant, and if Erin hadn’t been sitting there watching him, he’d have probably said something like “I’m busy, got to go,” and that would be the end of it. She’d hang up, he’d hang up.
He turned his chair, giving Erin his back. “No, it’s fine. What is it?”
“I have to go into the doctor and thought you’d like to know.”
When had it gotten so frosty between him and Jill? They’d become two polite strangers, tiptoeing around each other.
“Everything all right?” he said. “I didn’t think you had a checkup scheduled this week, or did I get my dates wrong?” He slid around and flipped open his laptop, bringing up the calendar. He tapped his finger on the screen, and, just as he thought, there was nothing scheduled for Jill until next week.
“I don’t—I didn’t. I mean, it’s just…”
He could hear her hesitation. He always knew when she was holding something back. “What is it?” he said. He didn’t miss the way Erin glanced up sharply. He couldn’t help being irritated at Erin listening and Jill pulling the same flaky bullshit she always did. He didn’t have time for it now. Jill always seemed hesitant to say things. She’d hold on to them forever without breathing a word—but she didn’t even have to speak. She always showed the pain of whatever he’d done or said in her eyes. She never fought back, as if she didn’t want to bother him, which also made him feel like a world-class prick. “Jill, look, I’m really busy, and I need you to get to the point.”
LORHAINNE ECKHART SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Don't Catch MeA Reason to BreatheStay Away From My DaughterDon't Leave MeDon't Hide From MeDon't Stop MeDon't Run From MeNot Quite Married
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