Home > The Devil You Know (Devil #3)

The Devil You Know (Devil #3)
Author: Elizabeth O'Roark


1

 

 

BEN

 

 

When Gemma Charles smiles at you, rest assured you’re fucked. And she’s been smiling since she entered the courtroom.

Her client, Victoria Jones, is about to lose her three children. The prosecutor has provided his evidence, and you can make anything sound believable if you know how to tell a story.

Unfortunately for him, Gemma tells a better one.

She begins by proving the grounds for the welfare check were baseless. She plays bodycam footage showing a gross abuse of power by both the police and the social worker.

She proves the letter notifying Victoria of the visit was mailed after the visit. She’s blown up the social worker’s photos of the dirty kitchen floor—the only specific complaint made about cleanliness—and asks the social worker to demonstrate how, exactly, Victoria was supposed to get the floor clean while confined to a wheelchair.

And Gemma, naturally, has brought a wheelchair and a broom with her for the demonstration.

The court is laughing, the judge is getting irritated, and Gemma is in her element. She has the face of an angel—high cheekbones, wide mouth, almond-shaped eyes—but she’s too goddamn argumentative and short-tempered to do anything but fight for a living. She’s gliding across the floor like a dancer and turning the courtroom into a circus, one in which the arresting officer and social worker are the clowns. She’s clearly proven her case, but she’s still going strong because she’s so fucking mad. She wants every single person in this room to see how ludicrous and unfair the situation is.

“Miss Charles,” grouses the judge as Gemma begins to push the wheelchair out, “put that away. This isn’t drama class.” He turns to the state’s attorney. “Motion is denied. This was a disgusting abuse of power on the part of social services, and I won’t forget the way you just wasted the court’s time.”

Victoria and her family cheer. Gemma hugs them all before rushing toward the exit. I’m hidden at the back of the courtroom, but I catch a glimpse of her eyes just before they disappear behind sunglasses.

She’s crying. And I’m not sure they are happy tears.

 

 

2

 

 

GEMMA

Two Years Later

 

 

The devil on my shoulder is summoned every other Monday.

This morning, as I prepare for the all-staff meeting, he’s dancing like a flame in my chest, and I can’t seem to put him back in his place.

I flat-iron my dark hair until it hangs sleek and shiny, just past my shoulders. I spend extra time on my makeup and put on my good luck heels, which will only bring me to my nemesis’s shoulder, but will at least level the playing field a bit. When we enter today’s meeting it’ll feel less like David versus Goliath, and more like Churchill versus Hitler.

To be clear, I’m Churchill in this scenario.

I rush out the door and into the bright September sun, reaching my building with only moments to spare. Fields, McGovern, and Geiger is on the fifteenth floor of the most sterile, soulless building in LA, and that’s fitting. They’re also LA’s most sterile, soulless law firm. It’s why I chose them.

The conference room is already full when I arrive, and I’m aggrieved to discover he has beaten me in. His head—a foot higher than any other—is positioned directly across from the seat saved for me by my assistant, Terri. Has he done this on purpose? Undoubtedly. Ben Tate lives to irritate me. And he barely needs to try—the sight of his smug face is enough.

Behave yourself, Gemma, I think as I cross the room. For once, don’t stoop to his level.

I’m not normally so restrained, but it’s a big day for me. FMG is excruciatingly stingy with partnerships, and aside from Ben—who came here as a partner two years ago—someone either needs to retire or die before I can step up. Fortunately, two partners plan to retire next spring. Perhaps I can stop hoping tragedy strikes.

Terri slides me a latte as I take the seat beside her. “You’re wearing the good luck shoes,” she says with a nod at my profoundly expensive baby-blue Manolos. I’ve never lost a case wearing them. “You think this is it?”

“It had better be after they amped it up the way they did,” I growl.

Though other associates have been at the firm longer (including Craig, Ben’s bland favorite) none of them bring in anywhere near the amount of work I do, nor have they garnered the kind of publicity I have.

Gemma Charles, Junior Partner. FMG’s only female partner. It has such a nice ring to it, and God I’m going to love watching that smirk on Tate’s mouth fall away when he hears it for the first time.

He’s been my sworn enemy since his first week here, when he somehow managed to steal Brewer Campbell, a prospective client I’d spent six months courting. I’m alone in my hatred, however: the other women on staff don’t care that he’s a smug bastard and stealer of clients. They don’t care that he barely seems to notice they exist. Apparently, all you need to be forgiven around here are broad shoulders and a winning record.

Although his face doesn’t hurt either.

Even I will admit he has a face that’s hard to look away from. His features shouldn’t work together—sharp cheekbones, a nose that appears to have been broken at some point, intense brown eyes. His would be a stern face were it not for that upper lip, which is slightly fuller than you’d expect and turns him into the kind of man you think about a little too long. The kind you see when you close your eyes after swearing repeatedly to yourself that you have no desire to see him at all.

Nicole, the generically pretty blond associate sitting to his left, watches him run a hand through his thick hair, which is somehow always perfect and a little fucked-up at once, as if it was professionally done but then mussed when he banged the hairdresser afterward. Beneath the table, my foot taps with impatience.

“Ben,” Nicole says, after clearing her throat, “I was at Adney’s Tavern this weekend. I thought you might pop in.” The words sound practiced, as if she rehearsed them in the mirror all morning. She’s so fucking infatuated that she probably did.

Behave, Gemma. I pick up my phone and start looking at shoes online.

Ben’s distractedly flipping through a file. “I went home for the weekend.”

“Home?” I murmur, glancing at him. “I didn’t know humans were allowed to jaunt back and forth over the River Styx like that.”

His eyes raise to mine. His mouth twitches. “There’s a small toll. It’s really quite civilized.”

Don’t laugh, Gemma. Do not laugh. I look down at my phone, ignoring the box of donuts someone’s shoved in front of me.

“Live a little, Gemma,” says Caroline Radner, who isn’t well-placed to provide advice, given she passed fifty a while ago and is never going to make partner. I’d planned to get some of the strawberries they always have at these meetings, and now I want to refuse even that on principle.

“Gemma can’t have sugar,” Ben says, his eyes alight. “She likes to keep her teeth sharp.”

“I imagine everyone familiar with dental hygiene hopes to keep their teeth sharp, Ben,” I retort.

“Ah, but you’ve got more than average, right?” he asks.

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