Blindfolded Innocence Page 1

Author: Alessandra Torre

Series: Innocence #1

Genres: Romance

CHAPTER 1

I knelt on the floor, a pillow underneath my knees. Blindfolded, I listened hard, waiting for a sign of what was to come. Only the hum of the hotel air conditioner met my ears. Seconds passed, then a minute. Finally I heard the door open and then click shut. Footsteps, muted on the carpet, sounded from behind me, and I felt, rather than heard, a male presence pass by my side and come to stand in front of me. Close, so close I leaned backward slightly. The sound of a zipper being drawn down filled the silent room.

CHAPTER 2

Four months earlier.

I decided to break off my engagement on a Wednesday night at 2:20am. I was drunk, past the point of walking a straight line, but not yet to the point of slurrying my speech. Drunk wasn't the best mindset to be in to make a life altering decision, but a truth that had evaded my self conscious for the last two years had finally ripped back the thin curtain I had always shoved it behind and now stood front and center in the middle of my head, waving its arms and screaming. Luke was not the one for me.

I met Luke as a sophomore in college - emotionally vulnerable after the first "love of my life" unceremoniously dumped me 2 weeks after taking my virginity to run off with a 17-year old blonde, pink toe-nailed, California princess. Luke was quiet, brooding, a sensitive soul who seemed absolutely terrified of me. I was bubbly, beautiful, and determined to get over my heartbreak the college way - partying myself into oblivion. I hunted Luke down, like a lioness would do to a vulnerable baby antelope, making my soul occupation getting Luke to fall completely and hopelessly in love with me. Which he did, putting me on a pedestal and worshipping daily at my whim.

I demanded a proposal within six months, which he did willingly (I think), and we began to plan a life together. This life plan was hampered slightly by the fact that Luke was a dreamer - with high goals but little follow-through. He enjoyed spending time with me, but little else. He worked in construction, and not in a management role, as I had originally thought, but as a laborer. My bubbly persona started to turn into more of a nagging mother role. It wasn't long before my self-conscience starting poking me with a sharp little pointy stick. I had ignored the annoying pokes for the last 12 months. My self-conscience had had enough of waiting.

It is weird the things that enter your head during a break up. I sat on my bed, with Luke sitting next to me, and I wondered why I had never purchased a chair for my bedroom. I had a desk, along with the typical bedside table, and of course, bed - but no chair. A chair would have made this situation easier - sitting next to Luke on the bed would be too intimate, his pain was too close, and I knew I would have to fight to keep from reaching over to comfort him. But enough procrastinating. I stood up, wobbled slightly, and turned to face him. I took a deep breath and delivered the bad news. I think my dramatic breakup speech was hampered slightly by the fact that we were both drunk, but I tried my best to be compassionate, coherent, and firm. I accomplished at least two of those objectives.

Luke turned out to have a streak of stalker in him. As much poking and prodding that he had needed to bathe, balance a checkbook, and show up for work- it turned out he needed little or no encouragement to spend every waking moment trying to convince me to come back to him. In retrospect, maybe I should have spent less effort trying to get him to fall in love with me. I might have overshot that objective.

After two weeks of avoiding my home, work, and any place I had ever frequented during the last two years, I decided to leave my crappy apartment and even crappier job and start fresh. It was good timing. Intern season was starting.

CHAPTER 3

My internship at Clarke, De Luca & Broward began Monday morning at 8am. I sat in the Human Resources offices with eight other interns and waited for my attorney assignment. Our internships would last for one semester; during that time we would be assigned an attorney, and for the most part, would be their personal bitch for the next 10 weeks.

I had heard the stories. Liz Renfield, one of the junior partners, once made one intern cover her gynecology appointment - the intern had to sit in the cold stirrups and undergo a full exam - just so Renfield could make a depo and continue her birth control uninterrupted. Hugo Clarke is apparently the dream assignment - he takes interns under his wing and pretty much guarantees you a salaried position after graduation. Brad De Luca is a skirt chaser, Robert Handler a drunk, and Kent Broward will drown you in work. There were a few new attorneys that hadn't yet built up a reputation, but I was sure that they would have one soon enough.

"Miss Campbell," the receptionist barked and waved her hand, beckoning me. I stood, smoothed my skirt, and strode to the front. I was nervous, but tried to appear calm and collected. I came to a stop in front of her and waited. "You will be assisting Attorney Kent Broward," the throaty voice of the receptionist stated. "After orientation, report to his office, fourth floor." She dismissed me by turning back to her stack and calling the next victim, Jennifer Hutchinson. I turned and walked back to my seat, passing Jennifer on the way. She gave me a tight, nervous smile which I returned.

I sat down on the plastic-wrapped seat and exhaled, releasing the breath that I had not been aware I was holding. Attorney Kent Broward. I could have gotten worse. Broward works long hours, and expects his interns to do the same, but at least I will get good, solid training. If I impress Broward, I should have no problem getting a strong recommendation for law school. Word was that Broward was tough, but not unreasonable, and fair. I heard in the background Jennifer's assignment called out, she had received Liz Renfield. Tough break.

Orientation passed slowly, a boring drone of questionnaires, forms, and informational videos on topics such as equal opportunity and sexual harassment in the workplace. We had a catered lunch in an empty conference room, cold ham and turkey sandwiches with chips. I munched on a Lays chip and listened to the idle chat. The conversation seemed to center around drinks after work today, and where everyone wanted to go.

"Hops Grille. Julia - that work for you?" Trevor, a lanky red-headed leaned forward me as he asked the question.

I shrugged noncommittally. "Hops works for me, if Broward lets me out in time," I said. I didn't expect to make many happy hour events, at least not for the next 10 weeks. I could probably cross off any social events period, until my internship was over.

"I'm sure Broward will let you off early today- it is the first day, after all," Todd Appleton, a handsome, well built, athletic-type said, staring into my eyes from across the table. I smiled at him, and sensed a connection. Hmmm….that might help the next few months pass quickly.

"Maybe. Who'd you get?"

"De Luca" he responded breezily. "Should be fine."

I glanced at Jennifer. She was typing furiously into her phone, probably updating her boyfriend on her day. "Jennifer, you going for drinks?" She glanced up, nodded, and resumed her texting.

Jane, the human resources receptionist, a petite white-haired women who would have seemed motherly if it weren't for her piercing stare and gravely smoker's voice, strode into the room. "Okay interns, let’s move!" she commanded, clapping her hands. "Report to your attorneys and bring all of your things with you!" She clapped her hands again, and began herding us out. Todd caught up with me on the way out, and held the door for me, pressing his hand gently on my back to guide me through the door. I tried not to smile, but felt a flush hit my face. I headed for the stairs, and prepared myself for the fourth floor, and Broward.

Broward was in his 40s, tall and bald. Shaved bald, in an obvious attempt to hide a receding hairline. He looked like a runner, thin and in shape. He had his jacket on, and was seated behind his desk when I came in. He stood at my entrance and came around the desk to shake my hand. "Julia," he beamed, pumping my hand. "Nice to meet you." I liked him immediately. He seemed intelligent, approachable, and trustworthy. Plus, it appeared he had excellent taste in interns. Looking around his office, he grabbed a set of keys and a stack of files. "Come with me, I'll show you your office and start you working."

---

Four hours later, I paused in my typing and leaned back in my chair. I stretched my arms and legs and rolled my head, trying to get the kinks out of my neck. I looked around my office, taking my first real appraisal of the space. It was a nice office, more than I had expected as an intern. Dark wood-paneled walls, plush cream carpet, and expensive, heavy furniture - the room had a definite masculine sense, a cigar-bar type feel. I didn't mind. Girly, flowery, and pink didn't exactly inspire fear in the courtroom.

My desk was filled with legal briefs, all with Broward's hand-written notes all over them. They all needed to be summarized, and have his notes added. I sighed. Long nights were going to be the norm, mostly filled with menial work that would do nothing to further my work experience. Welcome to the world of internship. I leaned back over the desk and started in again.

An hour later, there was a soft knock of my door, and Todd Appleton stuck his gorgeous blond head in. "We're heading out for drinks," he said. "Still room for you, if you're interested." He looked carefree, relaxed, and happily done for the day, his tie already loosened.

"I think I'll be here a while," I said, from behind the stack of briefs. "But thanks for checking." His gaze traveled from my full desk to the crammed cardboard file box on the side of my desk. His smile faded slightly. "Alright... I'll take a rain check." He tapped his hand on the side of the doorframe twice and then left, closing the door behind himself.

I rubbed my eyes and focused again on Britley vs Russell Properties, an exciting legal battle regarding a dispute over water rights on a condominium project. Thrilling. At least Broward is still here also. I can hear him on the phone, his seat creaking occasionally when he stands up, usually to pace. I bet a track has been worn down on his plush carpet from the constant pacing. My stomach growled. Tomorrow I would know to pack a dinner. Damn Todd and the other interns, with their light workloads and happy hour drinks. I grumbled a little longer to myself and then tried to refocus my mind.

At 10pm Broward knocked on my office door and entered. Tie undone, shirt rumpled, he looked at my exhausted face with a gentle smile. "Come on, Julia. Let's go. You've put in a good first day." I smiled at him wearily. I was so hungry I was ready to start chewing on a post-it note. I was certain my butt had officially fused to the leather seat, and my hands were cramping from the nonstop typing. I wanted to come across as a road-hardened legal warrior, but I was too tired to keep up the facade. Besides, he looked tired also.

"Alright Boss," I said, grabbing my jacket and shrugging into it. "I won't argue with you, seeing its my first day." I picked up my purse and followed him down the hall, waving to the quiet, round, Hispanic housekeeper who was waiting at the entrance to Broward's office, armed with disinfectant and a trash bag. She smiled at me and waited until we passed before scurrying in the office.

"I'll walk you to your car," Broward said, a statement rather than a question. "You don't need to be in the parking garage alone." I nodded my thanks and tried to walk without stumbling.

We got on the elevator, and the muted music filled the area. I tried to think of something moderately intelligent to say.

"Today I buried you in files." Broward broke the silence. "I didn't give you a proper introduction to the office. Tomorrow I will give you a tour and the basic background information on everything that you will need. Week after next I will be in Fort Lauderdale, so I want to get you as acclimated and self-sufficient as possible." Thank God - a week of normal hours.

"Sounds great," I said. I gestured to the 10-year old grey Toyota Camry, my mom's old car. Now one of the only cars in the parking lot, the only exception being a shiny black Lexus, which I assumed was his. "This is mine," I said, a bit unnecessarily. "Thank you for walking me." I awkwardly stuck out my hand, and he shook it.

"See you tomorrow, Ms. Campbell." Broward smiled and released my hand.

"Goodnight, Mr. Broward." I nodded at him and headed for my car.

CHAPTER 4

6am came way too freaking early. Yesterday I had bounded out of bed, excited about my internship, but today it took two snooze cycles before I lifted my head. My alarm still sounding, I fumbled to turn it off just as pounding started on the wall beside my bed. "It's off!" I shouted. Zack, my stoner of a roommate, stopped beating on the wall. I'm sure he was already back asleep. He had had friends over till past 3am, and they had made no effort to be quiet. I had no doubt there would be plenty of fights in the upcoming months over our sleep routines. After breakfast and a shower, I grabbed a blue sweater dress out of the closet and pulled it over my head, cinching a brown belt around my waist. Grabbing small faux diamond stud earrings and a purse, I surveyed my shoe options. All sexy and over 3-inches tall. Seeing the long hours ahead, I would need to buy some shoes that emphasized comfort over fashion. For now, I grabbed some gorgeous leather and gold Jimmy Choos and slid them on.

I arrived at the office at 7:30am. Pulling open the heavy teak doors, I entered the lobby, nodding to Dorothy, the ancient receptionist. "Good morning Miss Campbell," she said creakily. "Here late last night?" Her bemused expression had no trace of pity.

"Not too late," I replied breezily. She grinned at me, her wrinkles emphasized by the motion.

"Have a good day," I heard her call, as I pressed the door to the stairs and headed for the fourth floor.

The fourth floor, or power floor (as referred to by the staff) was set up into three different wings, one for each partner. Each partner had two secretaries, two paralegals, and one intern. Brad De Luca was the exception, with four secretaries, and three paralegals. I remembered from Orientation that his caseload doubled that of any other attorney, including the other two partners. Browards' secretaries were Sheila and Beverly - neither of which, judging by their empty desks, arrived till 8am.

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