The Spark - Book cover

The Spark

Vi Keeland

Chapter 2

Almost 10 months later

“This is ludicrous. They searched my home—turned it upside down and didn’t even clean up before they left. And they took my property with them. What are you doing about it?”

“I warned you I thought this was imminent,” I said. “Did you do what I instructed you to do last week?”


My client’s right eyelid twitched. This fucker would never be able to take the stand. I’d met him three times before today, for the sum total of maybe six hours, and I already knew his right eyelid had a tic when he lied. Not to mention, he was about thirty seconds away from taking a dirty hanky out of his pocket and wiping the sweat beading up on his ruddy forehead.

I sighed and looked over at the woman sitting next to him. She smiled with a twinkle in her eye. What a joke. I bet I could tell Warren Alfred Bentley’s twenty-five-year-old fiancée that I needed to discuss my strategy with her in private and bend her over my desk. Not that I had any interest in that shit. Gold-diggers were definitely not my thing.

“Warren…” I glanced between the spoiled, sixty-year-old money manager and his platinum-haired princess once more and nodded toward the door. “Perhaps you and I should speak privately.”

“Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of Ginger.”

“Actually, that’s not exactly the way it works. Ginger isn’t your wife, and—”

He interrupted me. “She’s my fiancée. What’s the difference?”

Didn’t he at least watch Law & Order, for fuck’s sake? “A fiancée can be compelled to testify; a wife cannot.”

He shook his head. “Ginger would never do that.”

Sure she wouldn’t. It would take the prosecutor ten minutes of threatening to charge her as an accomplice before she rolled on your saggy old ass. But I had to play along with the game—at least in front of this woman.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t. But attorney-client privilege not only protects you, it also protects Ginger. You want to make sure the DA can’t come sniffing around the future Mrs. Bentley, don’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Then why don’t I have my assistant make Ginger a cappuccino from the new machine we just put in the guest lounge. Everyone’s been raving about it.” For the dumb twenty-grand price tag I heard they paid for a machine that makes coffee with some frothed milk, the thing better make a decent cup of Joe.

Warren looked to Ginger, who nodded, and he grumbled, “Fine.”

“I’ll just be a minute.” I stood and walked around my desk, extending my hand for Ginger to go ahead of me. “Right this way.”

My assistant wasn’t at her desk, so I showed the trophy fiancée to the lounge and promised to send Amelia in as soon as she returned. As I turned away, Ginger grabbed my elbow. She wrapped her arms around my neck and moved in for a hug before I could stop her.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Decker. I’m so worried about Warren.”

Her hard tits pressed against my chest. They must’ve been a new purchase and hadn’t had time to soften.

I politely disentangled myself and backed away. “No thank you needed. I’m just doing what I’m paid to do.”

Back in my office, I figured it was time to get real with my client. I took off my suit jacket and tossed it on the guest chair next to Warren before settling back in at my desk and rolling up my shirtsleeves—something I rarely did because it exposed more ink on my forearms than most of my rich, hobnob clients were comfortable with.

“So…Mr. Bentley. We don’t know each other that well yet, but there are two things you should know about me. One, when you ask me for advice, you’re going to get it. Often that means you won’t like what I have to say, but I’m not paid to tell you what you want to hear. I’m not your friend or your lackey. I’m your lawyer—and the best one you’re going to find. Since you’re sitting on the other side of my desk and not somewhere else, I’m going to assume you already know that because you’ve asked around. So don’t ask me a question and expect a tiptoe answer. You pay me by the hour. Therefore, I won’t be wasting any of your time blowing smoke up your ass. You’ll get the answer you need—but like I said, it won’t always be the answer you want.”

I took a breath. I could see he was about to interrupt me, so I put my hand up. “Please excuse me, but I’m going to keep going here, so we can get on the same page. The second thing you need to know about me is that I’m very good at reading people. In fact, that’s the biggest reason I’m able to charge twelve-hundred dollars an hour. Often this skill I have works to your advantage. I know when a prosecutor is bluffing and when a jury is or isn’t working in my favor and it’s time to cut a deal. But often that same skill can be a disadvantage for you—because I also will usually know when you’re lying. And I won’t work with a client who isn’t truthful with me. If I can’t trust you, how do you expect me to get a jury to trust you? So if I catch you lying to me on a frequent basis, I will fire you as a client.”

Warren’s face bloomed crimson. “Now wait a minute. I’ll have you know—”

I cut him off. “I’m aware you’re a member of the same country club as one of the senior partners. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a client who runs in the same social circle as members of this firm. And it also wouldn’t be the first time I’ve fired a client who has those types of connections. Yes, Dale or Rupert will be unhappy with me, but at the end of the day, I make them millions a year, and you don’t. So they’ll get over it. You, on the other hand, will not. Because the government’s case against you is all but airtight. And when you have to go down the street to another firm and another attorney, you’ll be doing twenty-five years, because I’m the only shot you have at beating this, Mr. Bentley. Some may call me arrogant for saying that, but I don’t really give a flying fuck. Because while I may be that…it’s also the God’s honest truth.”

I sat back in my chair and had a little staring contest with Mr. Bentley. He was pissed—I’m sure it had been decades since anyone spoke to him that way. And right this moment, he was currently mulling over firing me. But in the end, the people who find themselves sitting on the other side of my desk, the people who get involved in complicated, crooked schemes that get them in hot water? They aren’t dumb. They’re intelligent. Very much so. And they love their freedom. So most have done their homework before they step one foot through my door, and they know I’m their best shot at keeping said freedom.

From here, now that I’d given my little speech, we’d play a game of chicken. The first man who spoke lost.

Three or four minutes ticked by—which is a long-ass time to sit and stare at a man in silence—but eventually Warren caved.

He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees. “Fine. What’s our next move?”

I spent the next forty-five minutes going over strategy. He wasn’t happy when I told him he likely wouldn’t be able to post bail once the feds froze his assets. But we were still early in the game, so he was at least partially in denial—thinking his friends and business associates would come to the rescue.

Maybe they’d show for fifty-grand bail, but his was going to be seven figures.

When we were done and had a game plan, my client blew out a deep breath.

“How long do I have before they arrest me?”

“A day—two, tops.”

“What do I do until then?”

I held his eyes. “You sure you want my advice on that?”

He frowned, but nodded.

“Go home, Mr. Bentley. Call in a private chef to make your favorite meal and then fuck your hot fiancée. Because your assets will be frozen by morning, and once that happens? She’ll be hocking that rock on her finger to pay for a first-class ticket back to wherever she came from.”


“May I see your ID, please?”

I leaned back in my chair and smirked at my friend across the table.

“Fuck off,” Trent grumbled while pulling his license out of his wallet. He hadn’t even looked up to see my face, yet he knew I was enjoying the moment.

The waitress perused his ID and handed it back to him. This routine was a pretty frequent occurrence. Trent Fuller was thirty but didn’t look a day over eighteen. I’d never seen him with facial hair, and we’d gone to bachelor-party benders that lasted four days in New Orleans.

I smiled at our server. “He’s late hitting puberty. You want to see mine?”

“It’s okay. You look over twenty-one.”

“You sure? Not even to take a peek at my address, in case you’re in the neighborhood?”

The waitress blushed. I was teasing, though she was pretty, albeit a little young for me.

“I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute.”

Trent grabbed a breadstick from the middle of the table and crunched into it.

“Who was the hot blonde I saw you walk out to reception with her father this afternoon?”

“The old dude is her fiancé, not her father. But if you’re interested, I’m pretty sure she’s going to be in the market for another sucker pretty soon. My client is about to lose a bunch of the assets that make him so handsome.”

“Damn. We never get women who look like that in the intellectual property division.”

“You want to run with the big dogs, you gotta learn to pee in the tall grass.”

Trent’s face wrinkled. “What the hell does that even mean?”

I chuckled. “No idea. How’d things go with the woman you managed not to scare off a few weeks ago?”

My buddy and I went out for happy hour or dinner once or twice a month. We both worked eighty hours a week at the firm, so free time wasn’t something we had in droves.

Trent frowned. “I took her out to dinner at a really nice restaurant. Left her a message the next day to say I had a good time, and she’s not returning my calls.”

“Did you entertain her during the meal with your usual riveting conversation about copyrights and patents?”

“Fuck off.”

I laughed. I was kidding, of course. Trent was actually a pretty funny guy. He was witty and smart. It was totally her loss, but I’d never admit that to him.

“How about you?” he said. “How did things go with the brunette you met? She seemed really nice.”

“Gone. Failed test two.”

He shook his head. “You and your ridiculous tests. When was the last time someone made it past two?”

The waitress came and delivered Trent’s wine and my beer before disappearing again. I knew exactly the last time a woman had made it past my so-called ridiculous tests. Though I didn’t need to mention it had been a while, just to help prove my friend’s point.

He prodded. “Seriously, how long?”

“I don’t know…”

“You do too know. You remember shit you heard in the womb, Decker.” He shook his head. “It was the luggage woman, wasn’t it? The redhead you spent the weekend with who pulled the disappearing act on Monday morning. What was her name again? Summer?”

I took a long draw from my beer. “Autumn.”

It had been ten months since I walked into that coffee shop to swap luggage, and three days less than that since I’d last seen her. We’d met to exchange luggage and wound up sitting in Starbucks until it closed. After, we went out to dinner, then back to my place later when we shut down the restaurant. Autumn W. I’d even blown off a day of work after she ditched me, the first time I’d done that since I started at Kravitz, Polk and Hastings seven years ago.

We’d barely slept the entire weekend, even though we hadn’t had actual sex. Another first for me—spending three nights with a woman I wasn’t sleeping with. Yet I’d never been so wired about meeting someone in my life, and I’d thought the feeling was mutual. Which was why I’d been shocked as shit when I got out of the shower Monday morning and found an empty apartment. No note. No number. I’d never even gotten her last name. The only thing I had to go on was a folded-up piece of paper, an odd list I’d forgotten to stick back into her luggage when I’d rummaged through it. I still had it folded in my wallet at this very moment. Yet another thing I wouldn’t be mentioning to Trent.

“You do know why you couldn’t find anything wrong with that one, right?” Trent sipped his wine. “Because she blew you off. If she hadn’t, you would’ve found some test for her to fail. Maybe what you need to do is add not blowing me off to your list of tests. That way you aren’t pining after a woman who ghosted you. What happened with the one you met at McGuire’s last week, anyway?”

“We went out to dinner the next night…no red flags. So I asked her if she liked hockey. She said she was a big fan and came over to watch the game the next day. Played with her phone the entire first period. She didn’t even know how many periods were in the game.”

“You know, you think it’s a problem that she stretched the truth a little. But I think her telling you she liked hockey was a good thing. It shows she’s willing to compromise and sit around while you watch a game just to spend some time with you. Does she have to love sports and watch every minute?”

“No, not at all. But when I asked her if she liked hockey, her response was, ‘I love it. Watch it all the time.’ That’s a consistency problem right there. If what she says and what she does are inconsistent off the bat, that’s a red flag.” I sucked back my beer. “Plus, the next day, she sent me a picture of her tits.”

Trent shook his head. “Only you would count that as a strike against a woman.”

No naked selfies for at least a month. Even if I ask for them. Now, I realize that asking for something and then holding that against a woman who gives it to me might make me an asshole, but it is what it is.

I shook my head. “I like naked selfies as much as the next guy. But if a woman is sending you one when you’ve known her less than a week—that’s a big red flag.”

“Whatever. I’ll take a naked selfie whenever a woman wants to send it.”

I smirked. “The problem with that is the only women you attract are ones who look your age, so it’s considered child pornography.”


As usual, our conversation shifted from our pathetic social life to sports before it eventually landed back on the firm. We could talk shit about that place for days. But lately our focus had been on whether I’d make partner.

“So how’s the vote tally going?” Trent asked.

I was up against some stiff competition. Once every five years, our firm opened the partnership doors to two of its best-performing associates. The average time on the partnership track was ten to twelve years. I’d been with Kravitz, Polk and Hastings for just shy of seven when old man Kravitz told me I was up for consideration a few months ago. If I made the cut this year, I’d be the youngest person to make partner in the firm’s history—something I really wanted. Being the first to break that record meant more to me than the extra money I’d be pulling in. I already didn’t have enough time to spend all the cash I made.

“I think I only need Rotterdam and Dickson to get the two-thirds I need.”

“The Dick should be easy to bag. He’s in your division.”

“I know. But he hasn’t presented his bare ass for me to kiss lately. I also just found out that if he votes for me and I make partner, I’d be breaking his record. He made partner in eight years.”

“Shit. Well, you better hope his ego is smaller than yours, then.”

“Don’t remind me.”

It was almost eleven o’clock by the time we left the restaurant. On our way out, my phone buzzed. I looked at the caller ID and shook my head. “Speak of the devil.”

“Who is it?”

“The Dick.”

“It’s pretty late for him to be calling, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, no shit. Guess puckering up doesn’t have a quitting time.” I swiped to answer. “Donovan Decker.”

“Decker. I need a favor.”

“Of course. What’s up, boss?” I pumped my closed fist up and down in the universal whacking off motion as Trent looked my way.

“I need you to pick up another pro bono case.”

Fuck. I’d already done my annual allotment. What I needed was to bill every last hour I could before the partners’ vote, not spend hours on an unbillable case. Yet...I needed Dickson, so I sucked it up. “No problem. Send me the file, and I’ll look at it first thing in the morning.”

“I need you to jump on it right now.”


“Can you get down to the seventy-fifth precinct?”

That was the last place I wanted to go at any time of the day. I frowned, but answered, “Yeah, sure.”

“The kid’s name is Storm. He’s a minor.”

“First or last name?”

“Pretty sure it’s his last name. He goes by Storm, so I’m not sure what his first name is. His social worker is on her way and will meet you there.”

“Okay. No problem.”

“Thanks, Decker. I owe you one.”

I swiped my phone off. The fucker better remember that in two months.


I hadn’t stepped foot in this place in more than thirteen years, yet the minute I walked in, I recognized the familiar smell. Trying to ignore the memory, I headed right to the desk sergeant.

“How you doing? Do you have a kid named Storm here? I’m not sure if it’s his last name or first.”

“Who’s asking?”

“I’m his legal counsel.”

The old timer looked me up and down. “I’m guessing this is pro bono for some fancy firm.”

“Good guess. I take it he’s here?”

The cop picked up the phone and punched in a few numbers. “I got a pretty boy out here for Storm. Looks more expensive per hour than my ex-wife’s asshole divorce attorney I had to shell out for, rush.”

The police weren’t exactly fans of defense attorneys. I shook my head. “You should try a more original hobby. Being miserable to all lawyers is pretty cliché. But regardless, I shouldn’t have to remind you that all questioning stops now. And I assume you’ve made the requisite good-faith attempt to contact the kid’s parent or guardian before asking him anything.”

“Are you sure you’re not related to the kid? You have the same winning disposition.” He motioned toward the other side of the room and went back to staring at his computer. “Make yourself comfortable on the nice wooden bench. I’ll call you whenever we get around to it.”

I sighed, but I knew arguing at a police station was generally pointless. So I did as I was told and parked myself on the bench. Half an hour later, I was engrossed in answering emails when I heard the station door open and close. I didn't bother to look up until I heard the sergeant say Augustus Storm. He was talking on the phone again, while a woman stood in front of him at the desk.

Augustus, huh? I smirked. No wonder the kid stuck with Storm. It was hard enough to gain respect in this neighborhood without being saddled with a name like ~Augustus~. I straightened my tie and stood, intending to walk over to the woman I assumed was the kid's social worker. But one look at her profile and my step faltered.

I froze.

The side of her face looked awfully familiar…

As I stared, she again spoke to the desk sergeant, so I leaned in and paid close attention.

That voice.

I knew that sweet, feathery sound—the kind that could tell a person to fuck off without them even knowing it.

But it wasn’t until the sergeant pointed in my direction, and the woman turned, that I realized this woman had told me to fuck off—not in so many words but with her actions. Our eyes met and I smiled, though the sentiment wasn’t reciprocated. Instead, the woman’s eyes widened as I approached.

“Hello, Autumn.”

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