Sustained, p.1
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       Sustained, p.1
 

          part  #2 of  The Legal Briefs Series
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Sustained


  Emma Chase, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who created the “hot, hilarious, and passionate” (Katy Evans) novels in the Tangled series, turns her award-winning talents to the erotic escapades of lawyers in love, lust, and compromising positions . . . the Legal Briefs series!

  Raves for Emma Chase and her sexy bestsellers

  Overruled

  “Chase has proven, once again, that she creates heroes who are grounded, successful and lovable . . . There are funny, appealing characters introduced, and watching their love lives unfold is fun.”

  —RT Book Reviews

  “Overruled is even more proof as to why I have come to look forward to every single book Emma Chase releases.”

  —Harlequin Junkies

  “Overruled was sexy, fun, and a good read.”

  —Fiction Vixen

  “If you haven’t read any of [Emma Chase’s] books, it’s time you gave her a go. She’s an incredibly talented and fun voice in contemporary romance.

  —Smitten With Reading

  Tied

  One of PopSugar’s Best Books for Women 2014

  “Sublimely irreverent, massively sexy, and so frigging perfect, readers will be bursting with giddy smiles. This, praise Emma, is the ending we all wanted.”

  —Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Secret

  Tamed

  One of PopSugar’s Best Books for Women 2014

  “Witty, endearing, laugh-out-loud funny. Emma Chase doesn’t disappoint.”

  —K. Bromberg, bestselling author of Driven

  Twisted

  “A great escape.”

  —Katy Evans, New York Times bestselling author of Real and Ripped

  “A delicious treat . . . funny, witty, and very sexy.”

  —The Book Bellas

  “I laughed. I cried. I yelled. I wanted to stop reading, but I couldn’t. . . . Emma Chase really knows how to evoke emotion from her readers!”

  —Harlequin Junkie

  “Emma Chase grabbed me from page one and put me through the wringer.”

  —Caffeinated Book Reviewer

  “A yummy read . . . interesting, intense, sexy, and challenging.”

  —Literary Cravings

  “Is emotional whiplash considered a sickness? I am more in love with this series than I was before, my heart just took a severe beating along the way.”

  —The Geekery Book Review

  Emma Chase was chosen as the Debut Goodreads Author in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2013 for her sensational novel

  Tangled

  Also a Goodreads Best Book of 2013!

  “Well-written, clever, and charming.”

  —Maryse’s Book Blog

  “Total stop, drop, and roll reading. . . . Oh, and the sex . . . completely and utterly scandalicious.”

  —Scandalicious

  “Addictively entertaining. If you’re looking for a witty, laugh-out-loud insight into the male psyche, look no further: it’s Tangled.”

  —Miss Ivy’s Book Nook

  “If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud, can’t-put-it-down, quick read, you won’t be disappointed.”

  —Hardcover Therapy

  “I give Tangled . . . Five Spectacular, Swoony, Fun, Laugh-Out-Loud Stars!”

  —A Bookish Escape

  “I seriously enjoyed this book; any erotic romance that you can laugh out loud while reading and then be turned on in the next paragraph is an exhilarating book to read.”

  —Schmexy Girl Book Blog

  “A perfect romantic comedy told through the eyes of a very cocky and sexy man.”

  —Literati Book Reviews

  “So, not only is it funny, it’s deliciously hot too! The sex scenes are great. Laced with humor and Drew’s honest, frank way of thinking, they’re just another stroke of genius that make this book such a must-read.”

  —Smitten’s Book Blog

  Thank you for downloading this Gallery Books eBook.

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  For the heroes.

  The champions.

  For those who do what is brave and honorable and right.

  You’re the reason we believe in happy endings.

  Acknowledgments

  I was never a gymnast, but I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport. The way the athletes fly through the air, the gravity-defying control, the way they make it look so easy. All the routines are amazing to see—but every once in a while, there’s one that really stands out.

  It’s solid. Clean. No wobbling, no quick adjustments, no almost-falls. And in these practically-perfect-in-every-way routines, the gymnast always—always—sticks the landing.

  That’s how it felt to complete Sustained. Like two feet planted firmly on the ground. Confident. Sure.

  Landing stuck.

  Finishing a book doesn’t always feel this way. I’ve loved all my books, no question, but there’s frequently the worry that readers won’t love it. Is the plot too much of a stretch? Was it sexy enough, funny enough? Is the voice consistent? Will they be disappointed? Will they want to castrate my leading man (that tends to be a big one for me ;) )?

  After edits and revisions, more edits and more revisions, these worries quiet down—at least until release day. But right from the beginning, Sustained felt different. There’s a depth and poignancy to Jake and Chelsea that pulls so hard on the heartstrings and yet is also so fun. Their passion, their hopes and fears, sadness and joy was an extraordinary thing to experience—I couldn’t remember being more excited to share a story with my readers.

  Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m generally not an overly confident person. In fact, I’m a little concerned right now that my opening thoughts sound kinda braggy (Drew Evans shakes his head at me). And I genuinely don’t mean it that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, to me, Sustained feels special. The kind of story that leaves you with a high, that you’ll think about happily, long after The End.

  And more than anything, I hope it feels special to all of you too.

  Now, writers alone do not make great books, and I couldn’t have gotten this one to the place it is without the most awesome team of people around me.

  To my agent, Amy Tannenbaum of the Jane Rotrosen Agency—thank you for every word of advice, every phone call, and every email (even on the weekends, people). “Awesome” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

  To my editor, Micki Nuding—working with you is everything I’d dreamed of when I imagined being a professional author. I continue to be amazed by how perfectly you understand my characters. There’s a wonderful security in knowing you’ll catch any missteps and shape my stories into the best they can possibly be. Thank you for helping me to reach deeper and stretch those writing wings!

  I’m endlessly grateful for my publicists—Nina Bocci of Bocci PR and Kristin Dwyer (my moon and stars) of Simon & Schuster—for believing in me, for saying just what I need to hear when I need to hear it, and for working tirelessly to bring my stories to the masses. You rock!

  To author Katy Evans—I love you! Our chats mean the world to me, thank you for being there, for sharing your thoughts and for letting me know I’m not the only one :) .

  To Christina Lauren, Alice Clayton, and all my author friends—your support, encouragement and laughter are an amazing gift that I cherish every day.

  All my thanks to my assistant, Juliet Fowler, for reminding me when I forget (frequently) and for flawlessly doing everything that needs doing, so I can actually write! I
d be lost without you!

  Much gratitude to Molly O’Brien, for all that you do to make sure everything doesn’t fall apart while I’m locked in my office with my characters! xoxo

  To the wonderfully talented Simone Renou of In My Dreams Design and Hang Le of By Hang Le Graphic Design, for your beautiful and steamy graphics!

  Thanks to my daughter for helping me decipher and come up with current teen-speak—there’s no way I’m cool enough to have done it alone.

  Thanks to Fener Deonarine, for helping me get those complicated Washington, DC, legal details right.

  I’m so grateful to everyone at Gallery Books, including Marla Daniels, Sarah Leiberman, Liz Psaltis, Paul O’Halloran, the art department for those beautiful covers, and my amazing publishers Jennifer Bergstrom and Louise Burke.

  To the fantastic bloggers who take the time to read and write so many fun and honest reviews—thank you for getting behind this new series and for all you do to let readers know these stories are coming!

  To my readers—gah—there aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for every single one of you. It’s a joy to chat with you on Twitter and FB, to giggle with you at signings, to talk stories and book boyfriends—thank you so much for your enthusiasm and beautiful energy!

  To my parents, brother and sister, and entire family—thank you for your patience and love and constant pride in my work. And to my amazing husband and two beautiful children—you are my inspiration, my everything.

  Prologue

  I don’t use an alarm clock. I’m one of those people with an internal timepiece that wakes me up at the same time every morning, regardless of how tired I am or how late I was up the night before. I was that kid—you mothers know the type I mean. The kind who makes you beg for just a few more minutes of rest before you eventually lay down the law that no one’s allowed out of bed before the sun shows up.

  Which explains why, even though it’s Sunday, my eyelids crack open at five a.m. sharp. I stretch out the sore stiffness in my complaining muscles, caused by lack of sleep . . . and from the strenuous workout after we got home from the bar.

  I kick back the covers and climb out of bed, still naked, and walk past the head of soft blond hair that peeks out from under the blankets, to the bathroom. After a satisfying piss, I brush the foul residue from my teeth and splash cold water on my face, slicking back my unruly black hair. With a groan, I crack my neck and stretch my arms.

  I’m getting too old for this shit.

  But then I remember the finer details of the evening’s second act. The thrill of a new hookup, the verbal gamesmanship—saying just the right thing in just the right way. The sweaty foreplay, the hot, tight fucking, the long legs over my shoulders . . . and I grin.

  There’s no such thing as too old.

  I walk to my closet for a T-shirt and sweatpants, then silently head out to the kitchen. I press the button on the ready coffeemaker—forget dogs; a good coffeemaker is man’s real best friend. While it brews, I switch on the small flat-screen perched on the counter; the early-morning anchors drone on about the latest world horrors, sports stats, and weather.

  Stanton, my roommate from law school, moved out last year to live with Sofia—a fellow attorney at my firm. Stanton’s a hell of a guy, Sofia’s a kick-ass woman, and though they started out as banging buddies only, I could see them going domesticated from a mile away. Having the apartment to myself has been fantastic. Not that Stanton was a slob, but he’s a former frat boy. I’m an organized guy; I like things a certain way—my way. Routine. Discipline. Neat and easy are words to live by. My mother always said I’d make a great military man, if it wasn’t for the authority factor. The only orders I follow are my own.

  Steam wafts from my cup of black coffee as I step out onto the balcony, sipping it slowly, while the silent DC street comes alive around me.

  The anchor’s nasal voice seeps out from the open balcony door. “I-495 was closed yesterday for several hours due to a collision that claimed the life of noted environmental lobbyist Robert McQuaid and his wife. The cause of the deadly crash is still under investigation. In other local news . . .”

  Delicate arms wrap around my waist from behind as small hands fold together over my abs. A soft cheek presses against my back. “Come back to bed,” she whines sweetly. “It’s sooo early.”

  Sorry, Cinderella, but the clock struck twelve. The coach has turned back into a pumpkin and it’s time to collect your glass slipper. I never pretended to be Prince Charming.

  Some women can handle a nameless one-night stand or a casual hookup. But honestly, most can’t. As long as they understand sex is the only thing I have to offer, the only thing I want in return, I’m up for a repeat. The minute their eyes get that soft, sentimental—or worse—wounded look, I’m out. I don’t have time for games, don’t have any interest in talking about “where this could go.”

  I twist out of the blonde’s arms. She follows as I walk back into the kitchen and put my empty cup in the sink. “I’m going for a run. There’s coffee in the pot and cab money on the front table. You don’t need to be here when I get back.”

  Plump lips—that were delightfully stretched around my cock last night—now form an unhappy pout. “You don’t have to be an asshole.”

  I shrug. “I don’t have to be . . . it’s just easier that way.”

  I slip into my running shoes and walk out the front door.

  1

  Four weeks later

  They treated me like a common criminal! It was humiliating.”

  Milton Cooper Carrington Bradley. Heir to a renowned international luxury hotel empire . . . and a perpetual client of mine. Chronological age? Twenty. Mental age? Four.

  “Stupid peasants didn’t know who they were dealing with! I told them I’d have their jobs.”

  Yes—his name is actually Milton Bradley. Obviously his parents are dipshits.

  “Especially the head stewardess—she was a rude bitch. You play racquetball with the president of that airline, don’t you, Dad? I want her gone.”

  And this particular apple sure stuck close to the tree.

  I lean back in my chair as he continues to whine to his father about the unfair rules of the flight crew and all he wants done in retribution. I’m a criminal defense attorney at Adams & Williamson—one of an elite group of rising stars at this firm. But this is the year that counts. It’s time to pull away from the pack—to demonstrate to the partners that I’m one of their own. The stud in the stable. The best.

  Unlike my coworkers, who also happen to be my closest friends, I’m not hindered by time suckers like family, girlfriends, marriage, and kids—the ultimate third rail for any career-driven adult. My lack of outside distractions makes proving my commitment to the firm, displaying my skill, just a little bit easier. I like my job. Wouldn’t say I love it—but I’m really fucking good at it. It’s interesting. Challenging. Keeps me on my toes. Because criminal defense isn’t about defending the weak or protecting the innocent—it’s a game. Taking the hand you’re dealt, the facts of the case, and spinning them to your advantage. Outsmarting, outmaneuvering the prosecution. Winning when all the odds say you can’t.

  The downside?

  I have to spend my time with fucknuts like Milton Bradley.

  He slips a cigarette out from his pocket and lights it with a flick of his Zippo. He jerks his head, flopping his thin blond hair back off his forehead as he releases a cloud of toxic smoke from his nostrils. Like an impotent dragon who doesn’t know how to blow fire.

  “You can’t smoke in here.”

  “Who says?” he replies with a challenge in his eyes.

  Moving smoothly, I’m out of my chair and in front of him, looming like a black cloud ready to thunder. I’m aware of my size—six five, two hundred and twenty-five pounds of rock-solid muscle—and the effect it has on people. I’m pretty goddamn intimidating, even when I’m not trying to be. But at the moment?

  I’m trying.

 
“I say.” My voice is low—menacingly quiet.

  When you mean what you say and say exactly what you mean, there’s rarely a need to raise your voice. Yelling is a sign of desperation, an indication that you’re out of options, with nothing behind your back but volume.

  I hold out a styrofoam cup with a bit of cold coffee left on the bottom. Without a word of complaint, Milton drops his cigarette into the liquid. It goes out with a hiss, leaving an unpleasant odor in its wake.

  Most of my clients are wealthy, some not so much. But they all find their way to my office door because of similar personality traits. They’re cheats, con men, those who think they’re above the rules the rest of us have to follow, general lowlifes, their violent nature concealed by a smiling face. Criminal defense really isn’t so different from proctology. In both fields, it’s one asshole after another. This line of work isn’t for the faint of heart—you have to have a strong stomach. And my stomach is steel.

  “How do we make this go away, Jake?” the elder Bradley asks from his chair beside his son. His eyes, nearly as black as his suit, regard me with an acceptable level of respect. Because he understands what his progeny doesn’t: that while I may work for him, he needs me more than I will ever need him.

  I walk back behind my desk and look over the arrest report in front of me.

  “The witnesses said your behavior was erratic—threatening.”

  “They’re lying. Envious slime,” Milton sneers.

  “The stewardess said she smelled marijuana when you exited the first-class cabin bathroom.”

  His eyes shift nervously to his father for just a moment, then settle back on me. Chin raised—so offended. “I smelled it too. Must have been one of the other passengers.”

  I make a note on the file, just to amuse myself. I’ve passed kidney stones bigger than this kid’s brain.

  Justifications and explanations. Some days I feel like I’ve heard them all. I couldn’t help myself. He made me do it. She asked for it. I was asleep. I was walking the goddamn dog. It’d be nice if they put at least a little effort into their bullshit. Originality used to mean something.

 
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