Loyal Lawyer - Jeannine Colette

Chapter One

“That rat bastard!”

It was a good day. A great day actually.

It’d started with me waking up to a hot shower without having to wait the required fifteen minutes for it to warm up.

Then, I got back to my room without running into any of the sweaty gym rats.

There was no line at the coffee shop, and the customer in front of me paid for my latte, so I was kind and paid it forward to the person after me.

I found a penny, heads up, on the ground.

A woman offered me her blessings for no reason as I walked through Chinatown.

And the sky was a perfect, cloudless day, unseasonably warm for the first week of March.

Yes, it was a good day in Philadelphia.

Then, I got the phone call.

“Damage? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I yell at my former landlord, Gerry, on the other end of the line.

“Amy, you signed the lease. That makes you liable.”

I growl in frustration. “I haven’t lived there in three months. Hardin and I broke up, so I moved out. You have to call him for the damage.”

“Hardin moved out last weekend and stiffed me on last month’s rent. Your lease still has one month left, which means you’ll owe for that too.”

That good-for-nothing jerk. Hardin, not Gerry.

A year ago, I thought Hardin and I were going to get engaged. We moved into a sweet one-bedroom apartment in the Fairmount area of the city. We bought new pots and a blue duvet for the bed. And then he went and screwed the dog walker on it.

“I’m sorry he did that to you, but you have to get the money from him,” I state firmly.

“Your name is the only one on the lease,” he responds even firmer. “And you moved out without telling me. I’ve been working on getting him to sign a new lease since I found out you left. I couldn’t even evict him, so don’t remind me of the situation you put me in.”

Damn my philandering ex-boyfriend. He couldn’t keep his dick in his pants but knew how to keep his wallet secure. When it came time to sign the lease, he insisted just my name be on it since the leasing agent needed to print our credit reports. I have an 800 credit score—something I’m very proud of—where Hardin’s was so poor that he didn’t even want it to be run. I didn’t mind since, at the time, I was blinded by love and not seeing just how stupid I was being.

“We gave you the last month’s rent when we signed the lease. What about the security deposit for the rest of the money owed?”

“You wanna come down here and see what this place looks like?” he argues over the phone. “The hardwood floor is all scratched up; the sink in the bathroom is completely removed from the wall, like it was sat on or something; there’s a crater-sized hole behind the bed; and I’m gonna have to get the entire place painted. It smells like my grandmother died in there.”

Incense. The dog walker had a love of yoga and incense. You could smell it on her clothes every time you saw her. It’s how I knew something was amiss. My boyfriend had started to stink of woody florals and balsam. Now, he’s living with Miss Spices and Herbs and making holes in walls. Holes I do not want to imagine how they got there.

“You have two weeks to get me the money, or I’m gonna have to take this to court.”

“Court?” I practically jump. Actually, I do. I’m standing on the corner of Third Street, yelling into my phone and swaying my arm so fast that my latte spills on my coat. “Oh, no, no, no, no! You can’t do that. I have a business and am waiting on a loan application approval from the bank. This can’t be on my record, or I’ll lose everything.”

“Forty-five hundred dollars, or I’m at the courthouse.”

“Gerry, I—”

He hangs up.

Of all the terrible, horrible things that could happen, this is the very worst! So much for my perfect day. I should have known Hardin was going to destroy my life yet again. That’s what I get for falling for the fun guy. The one who is always buying the next round, is up for the next adventure, and tells the best damn stories. I used to love listening to him talk about his day. Too bad they were all tall tales. Jerk probably never helped that