“Kids make fun of me.”
“Kids are idiots.”
“I’m a kid.”
“You’re the exception. That’s why they’re making fun of you.”
“They’re jealous that I’m not an idiot?”
“Precisely.” I add a cold pack to his lunch bag.
He rolls his eyes. The kid’s too smart for his own good.
“Your science teacher emailed me. She said you haven’t handed in your research paper.”
Harrison slips on his winter coat and grabs his lunch bag from the counter. “It’s stupid.”
“Why?” I shut my briefcase and check to make sure the lights are turned off before we leave the house and start a new workweek.
“The textbooks are outdated. Everything they’re teaching is outdated. We have a mandatory resource list, and we can’t use information from outside sources. So basically she wants me to write about incorrect science and cite it from ancient research. It’s a waste of my time.”
I shoo him out the door and into the vehicle. “You’re twelve. No job. No major responsibilities. You have all the time in the world. I’ve told you a million times, you need to think of school as your job.”
He fastens his seat belt as I pull out of the garage. “Fine. I have the time. But I’m not going to do it because it’s an insult to my intelligence.”
I have a “mildly” autistic child. Doctors don’t seem to know their head from their ass when it comes to the epidemic that has devoured this generation of children. There’s no clear way to diagnose it. Or a shot to prevent it. Or a pill to mask the symptoms.
Harrison is an information junkie. It’s rare to see him without earbuds shoved in his ears listening to podcasts on everything from modern art to the theory of evolution. He has issues keeping his emotions in check, his social interactions are a little rough, and he has an odd sense of humor, which is interesting because he so rarely gets other people’s humor. Other than that, he’s a fairly “normal” and well-adjusted twelve-year-old.
“Play the game, Harrison.”
“It’s a stupid game.” As if on cue, he slips in his earbuds, ending our conversation.
“She’s going to fail you if you don’t do the work. I think that’s an even bigger insult to your intelligence.” I glance over. He’s zoned out.
I spend my morning in court and grab lunch before heading back to my office.
“Hey, how’d it go?” Amanda asks as I toss my briefcase on my desk and unbutton my jacket.
“Congrats. When’s the last time you lost a case? I can’t remember.” Her lips twist to the side.
She doesn’t have to remember. My memory is just fine. And I remember every case I lose, replaying it over and over in my head, wondering what I could have done differently. And then my mind always goes back to Heidi, my biggest loss and the only one that didn’t come with a chance to appeal.
“What’s that sound?” I ease into my chair and pull a sandwich out of the brown bag, glancing up at the ceiling.
“Ellen. She moved her stuff in over the weekend. Painted too.”
“And?” I squint at the ceiling as the bang bang bang continues.
“And she’s seeing clients today. Drums now. But it was guitar and singing about an hour ago. Wheels on the Bus.”
“Explain.” I unwrap my sandwich, cringing at the racket.
Amanda flips her blond hair over her shoulder. “Well, it’s about a bus and the wheels going round and round, people going up and down, the horn beep—”
I cut her off with a look—maybe the look. This is why I have to fire her every day.
She grins. Her smart-ass attitude keeps growing, just like her confidence. Working for me has allowed her the extra money to get a tummy tuck after three C-sections, a gym membership, and I think something with her varicose veins. I’m certain she’ll leave her husband once she hits her goal weight. I see it all the time. Hell, I make a living off it.
“She’s a music therapist, Flint. Please tell me you assumed music would be involved? Otherwise, I’m embarrassed for you.”
bang bang … bang … bang bang bang
I glance up again, slowly chewing my food. “This isn’t going to work.”
“It’s a year lease.”
“I can get out of it.”
Amanda laughs. “What rule is she breaking? You don’t have noise restrictions in the contract. She gave you full disclosure as to her profession. But seriously … you have to tell me what you thought a music therapist does.”
“Comfy sofas and relaxing music played through noise-cancelling headphones.”
She smirks. “You should have done an internet search. Lots of videos showing exactly what happens at a music therapist’s office. I’m a little surprised this one slid by you.”
“You knew?” I toss the rest of my sandwich in the bag. The unsettling beat above me has ruined my appetite.
“Yep. How do you think I know about the videos?”
“But you didn’t think I needed to know this before you allowed me to offer her the space?”
“I assumed you knew. You’re the smartest guy I know. It’s like my idol has fallen today. I no longer see you as an all-knowing god, but just a mortal of average intelligence like the rest of us.”
Note to self: Never hire a female secretary again.
“I’ll be back.” In less than five strides, my feet eat up the floor between my desk and the front door to my office. My fingers drum the railing in the elevator. When it dings open, a young girl and her mom step on as I step out.
“Flint. Happy Monday.” Ellen smiles, kneeling on the floor while she piles various percussion instruments into a basket.
Who says happy Monday?
She stands and brushes the carpet lint from her cream pants that hug her curves in a way that pisses me off, almost as much as the tight, blue turtleneck sweater hugging her perky breasts. The woman played me, distracted me with her body and happy dance for her new space, then wham! Bongos all day long.
“It was a ‘happy Monday.’ I won a case this morning and grabbed lunch from my favorite sandwich shop. But then I sat at my desk to eat it and heard this awful banging sound coming from above me.”
“Not awful.” She shakes her head. “That particular young girl has made great strides with her rhythm. She couldn’t keep a simple beat when I first met her. Now she can play six different songs with complex rhythms. She’s more focused in school and her speech has improved dramatically.”
There’s something thrilling, even a little forbidden, about a man in a perfectly-tailored suit. Flint Hopkins wears the hell out of a three-piece suit.
Not a single wrinkle.
Not a hair out of place.
Not a scuff mark on his shiny shoes.
His lips move, but all I hear is “I wore this suit for you today” as his hands make their rounds: caressing the buttons on his jacket, twisting his cufflinks, and adjusting his tie. It’s sophisticated fidgeting.
“You said you’re a therapist, not a music teacher.”
Observant men are sexy too.
“I did. And I am. Specifically, I’m a music therapist. Do you want me to explain what a music therapist does?”
“No. I just want you to look for a different space to rent. I’ll give you two weeks.” He turns and makes it out the door in three long strides.
My toes are on his heels in seconds, chasing him down the stairs. “Wait? You’re evicting me?”
“I’m giving you notice.”
“Notice? You’re kicking me out for what? Doing my job?”
“Preventing me from doing mine.” He pushes through the door at the bottom of the stairs and makes a sharp right.
“Hey, Boss, how’d it—” Amanda’s gaze moves from Flint to me as I follow him into his office.
“Hi, Amanda. Would you happen to have the name of a good real estate attorney? I may need to sue my landlord for wrongful eviction.”
Flint turns, halting my forward momentum a second shy of slamming into his chest. “Shut my door, Amanda.” His eyes narrow.
I don’t care how hot this guy looks in a suit. I won’t recoil under his glower. “Please leave it open, Amanda. I may need you to be my witness.”
Arrogance tugs at his mouth. “A witness?”
“For when you threaten me.”
He unbuttons his jacket and takes a step back. A whoosh of oxygen leaves my chest like it’s attached to him. The man has an air of confidence and mystery about him that commands attention.
When he turned around to face me a few seconds ago, I sensed the slightest agitation in his narrowed eyes and flared nostrils, but not anymore. It’s not hard to imagine Flint Hopkins in a courtroom—cool, calculated, ruthless.
“You seem to be an intelligent person, so surely you can see how the noise level of your profession could distract me from doing mine. I think sharing space with other businesses is not a good idea. You need a building of your own or maybe you should work out of your house.”
“I live in an apartment. And I’m sorry, Mr. Money Bags, but I don’t have the cash flow to buy or rent a building all to myself. You’re an attorney. How often are you even in your office? And when you are, what are you doing that requires complete silence? Charming snakes? Narrating audio books?”