The Home Court Advantage Page 1

Author: N.M. Silber

Series: Lawyers in Love #2

Genres: Romance , Humorous

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CHAPTER ONE

JULY

After leaving the police station we headed back to Braden’s place. As he turned the key in the door to his apartment, I heard rapid click click click sounds followed by a whoosh and then a thud and a scrambling scratching, sounding not unlike a small dog trying to peel himself off a wall. Bruno still hadn’t mastered those hardwood floors. When Braden swung the door open, Bruno was waiting there to greet us as if nothing had happened. He gave us a happy yip and wagged his tail so hard that it almost shook his little Chihuahua butt off.

I reached down to pick him up and give him some attention, walking over to the large windows overlooking Rittenhouse Square. I loved the way that those windows made the place feel warm and open during the day and at night provided a breathtaking view of the twinkling city lights. It was a hot, clear sunny day in Philadelphia and the Square was filled with people walking, playing, reading … and what was that guy doing? Okay, I didn’t see that and it was not going to be stuck in my head all night. I moved away from the windows. Braden had tossed his keys on the kitchen counter and gone into the bedroom to change into more comfortable clothes.

“So, Bruno, did you guard the place for Mommy and Daddy?” He looked up at me and panted with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. I took that as a “yes.” Actually, I took it more as a “do you really need to ask?” I knew that while the world may have seen him as an itty bitty ankle biter dog, Bruno saw himself as a ferocious killer.

I wandered around the apartment that would eventually become my place too, stopping to look again at the pictures hanging on Braden’s wall, the Harvard Crew he rowed with, Braden with Adam and Mark at Georgetown Law, Braden with his family in Martha’s Vineyard, and finally, the most recent addition, Braden looking debonair in his tux and me not looking too shabby in my gown at his family’s fundraiser last month. I smiled and felt all warm and fuzzy. I had made “the wall.”

I went over and sat down on the soft leather couch and settled Bruno on my lap, where he promptly flipped over with a not terribly subtle hint that he wanted a belly rub. I obliged. What could I say? The dog had grown on me.

Braden came out of the bedroom looking as good as always. Just to let you know, that was pretty damned good. You know how Phoenix was hot but the tropics were hotter? Well, Braden was like the planet Mercury. Not everybody could rock khaki shorts and an old Phillies T-shirt like he could. He was like a big, blonde, blue-eyed, Norse god. Notice I didn’t say Greek God by the way. Have you ever seen a statue of a Greek God? Well, trust me, there was nothing on Braden that a fig leaf could cover.

He sat down next to Bruno and me and took out his cell. First he called Adam, who as it turned out, was with Mark, who as it turned out, was with Cameron. They were watching baseball and drinking beer together at a local sports bar. I guess they were warming up. We had decided that despite some pretty wacky events the night before, Sunday Game Night was officially on.

We still didn’t know who had sent me a couple of anonymous notes that seemed aimed at getting me to leave Braden, but we had decided that even though we would be cautious, we were going to go on with our lives as usual anyway. Of course that meant I was probably going to have to talk my father out of borrowing some Navy SEALS to guard me and hiring someone from the Louvre to install a burglar alarm in my apartment. Dad could be a little protective. After hanging up with Adam, Braden checked his voicemail and found a message from his own parents.

“My mom said that she and my dad are going to be in D.C. this weekend. They’ll be home Sunday at noon. And Beth is visiting friends until Sunday morning. Drew will be here all weekend though. She suggested that we spend time at their place with him. We can hang out by the pool and there’s a music festival in town on Saturday.”

“That sounds fun. Are we going to tell them about our plans when they get home?”

“Probably not yet,” he said, getting up and heading toward the kitchen.

I started to get a little nervous. I hadn’t even completely gotten used to the idea of dating Braden, let alone marrying him. Not only was he gorgeous, he was so sexy. He had this way of looking at me that always gave me the proverbial butterflies in my tummy. His eyes would get darker and he would get this cocky grin on his face like he knew a hundred and one ways to make me see God. I called it his “hot Braden sex look” and it made my panties melt because I knew what he was thinking about when he looked at me like that. Actually being in bed with him was almost like an out-of-body experience except, believe me, you didn’t want to leave your body if you were in bed with Braden.

Even more important than all that gorgeous sexy, though, he was also strong, well-grounded, confident, compassionate and intelligent. Best of all we were amazingly compatible. From the very beginning we just clicked and it was like we belonged together. We spent our evenings talking about books, history, politics, law, and a million other things. Then we would cuddle up and watch shows on PBS that would make us popular with the geriatric crowd down at the senior center. Even though we argued passionately in court sometimes, we rarely argued privately. We discussed things and we usually saw eye to eye. The only tense point between us was the potential risk that was inherent in our respective jobs. We loved each other so much that the thought of anyone threatening the other was devastating.

As I was saying, though, his answer made me a little nervous because it still kind of blew my mind that this man who I had fantasized about for months, and never expected to even date, actually wanted to marry me. I had pretty good self-esteem and I was decently self-confident, but facts were facts. I could be pretty eccentric and rather awkward at times. I made corny jokes and odd observations. I was the queen of too much information. I was uncoordinated and could manage to trip while standing in place. I had some unconventional ideas and my life often resembled an episode of I Love Lucy. Let’s just say that I was an acquired taste. Luckily, it seemed that Braden had acquired me, so I wasn’t sure why he didn’t want to let his parents know that he had proposed the night before.

“Why don’t you want to tell them?” I asked hesitantly, putting Bruno down and then getting up and following along after him.

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to tell them,” he answered over his shoulder. “But I’d like to ask you properly and give you a ring first. I’m not sure I’ll have time to do that before they get home.” He opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water, offering it to me. I shook my head and he opened it and took a big swig himself.

Bruno came sliding into home, crashed into the breakfast bar and scrambled to his feet. I winced and went to the cupboard to get him a treat. I wished that he would stop doing that, but if he insisted on traveling everywhere at light speed, then I should tie a buffer cloth to his butt. At least I could get the floors cleaned.

“Those things don’t matter so much.”

“They matter to me.” He leaned up against the counter and watched Bruno run off somewhere with his tiny Milk Bone. “I don’t want you to think back to the moment I proposed to you and remember being dressed in leather and latex. Besides, I’m a guy, and I don’t want to introduce you as my fiancée to anyone, even my parents, unless you have a ring on your finger.”

“Okay, but you don’t have to make big plans. You’ve already swept me off my feet. Trust me.”

He turned his full attention to me and my tummy actually fluttered. “I just want to make it special. Then we’ll tell our parents and I’m sure they’ll want to make a formal announcement and throw a big engagement party.”

“Oh, a big party! See this? This is my excited look.”

“What’s wrong with having a big party to celebrate?”

“I just don’t do parties very well, Braden. Gatherings are fine. Get-togethers I can handle. Parties, not so much. My chit chat leaves a lot to be desired. I usually wind up standing in a corner petting a cat or sitting on a flight of stairs talking to somebody’s kid. Once I did someone’s laundry.”

“Don’t worry about anything, baby.” He laughed. I amused Braden a lot. “We’ll have a very nice engagement party with no pressure. Pet as many cats, talk to as many kids and do as much laundry as you want. Just let me keep you company.” He finished the water and tossed the bottle in the recycling, then came over to put his arms around me. I leaned up against him and enjoyed the feeling of his warmth and his hard muscles. Then I breathed in deeply to enjoy his familiar spicy scent.

“I don’t mean to sound so anxious. It’s just hard to wrap my head around the idea of getting married, let alone marrying you. Sometimes I still can’t even believe that I get to see you na**d.”

“You can see me na**d whenever you want,” he said, putting a finger under my chin and tipping my head back so he could look at me. He smiled and leaned down to kiss me lightly on the lips. “In fact, I highly encourage you to ask whenever and wherever possible.”

“There are moments in court …” I smiled back lasciviously. The adrenaline we built up arguing with each other in court seemed to stoke both of our libidos more and more.

“That might have to be the one exception, or we could wind up in jail, at least if you’re talking about open court. Ever since our rendezvous in the interview rooms, I’ve been fantasizing about getting it on with you in all kinds of places around the criminal courts building.”

“We should make a map of doors that lock,” I joked and rubbed his back, enjoying the feeling of his taut muscles under my fingertips.

“Personally, I think that with what we do every day, we deserve to relieve our tension whenever and however we can.” He lowered his hands to my bottom and pulled my h*ps up against him. The bulge pressing against my abdomen told me that this discussion was starting to give him some interesting ideas.

“Relaxing by the pool will be fun,” I said, pressing against him even closer and enjoying all of that warm, hard, Braden-ness.

“I was thinking that we could invite Adam and Mark. Are you okay with that?”

“That’s okay with me. It would be nice if you invited Cameron too though. After last night he’s probably worried.”

“He should be worried, but fine, we’ll invite Cameron. I still want to make sure that we have alone time while we’re there though. Maybe we can skinny dip in the Jacuzzi when everyone’s gone to bed.” He looked down and gave me a sexy smile that made me feel all tingly. I noted that he was starting to look quite aroused.

“Can we invite Jess too?” An idea was forming in my head.

“That could be fun, although it might be better for our relationship if I just watched.” He backed up and retreated beyond my reach just in time. “So violent!” He laughed.

“You had better watch or you’ll be sleeping alone tonight, mister.”

“You would deny me? I’ll bet I could get you to change your mind if I tried hard enough.” He came back over to me and reached under my shirt to stroke my ribs with his thumbs. He knew how much I loved that. In fact, he was an expert when it came to my body. He knew just how and where to touch me to drive me out of my mind. I had to stay focused though, because I needed something to distract me from my nerves. Matchmaking was always a good project, and besides, I was Jewish. It was in my blood – like the instinct to tell corny jokes, go to law school, and migrate to Florida at age sixty.

“Can we invite her or not?” I asked throatily, starting to fidget.

“If you want.” One hand traveled up and started to trace the lower curve of my breast and my heart started hammering to a salsa beat. I’m sure that he knew how aroused I was becoming myself. The fact that I was panting more than an obscene phone caller was probably a dead giveaway. I was becoming lightheaded, but I was on a mission, so I toughed it out and backed out of his reach as I started thinking about how I could manage to get Cam and Jess together.

I knew they were both attracted to each other and both of them were intelligent, successful and good-looking. Even more than that, though, they had fun together. They always seemed to be laughing about something but I knew that Cameron tended to hesitate and that Jess wouldn’t push the issue. I, on the other hand, could be very pushy.

“Good. Then I won’t be the only girl.” I looked up and gave him an innocent-looking smile, or so I thought.

“Why do you have that look on your face?” he asked suspiciously. I obviously would have to work on my innocent smile. This would have to be my own private project as I was smart enough to realize that Braden probably had the typical male aversion to the idea that somebody might be maneuvering a guy into a relationship.

“What look?”

“The ‘I’m planning something’ look.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” I even managed to sound vaguely offended.

“Even though I’m sure I should explore that subject further, I’m feeling pretty amorous at the moment,” he said, pulling me to him again. “Maybe you should…” My cell started to ring then, “…answer your phone,” he finished with a sigh, releasing me.

Speak of the devil, it was Jess herself, wanting to know what had happened at the police station. I filled her in quickly and then let her know I would be over shortly to grab some more clothes. We had been spending more and more time at Braden’s place and slowly but surely my possessions were making their way there. I also wanted to have a chance to talk to Jess alone about Cam, but as soon as I hung up with her, Braden was offering to escort me. He could be pretty protective too. Actually, he and my dad were a lot alike in general.

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