Dana saw that Brett, his crossed legs stretched before him, had just ended a phone call.
“Just one more,” he said, holding up his left index finger. “Five minutes tops.”
Dana walked calmly to the chair, took the beige Princess receiver from his hands, and placed it on the cradle.
Brett was speechless, his mouth hanging open. “What are you doing? I have to call Patrick about a case next week.”
“Exactly. Next week. We have dinner reservations in an hour,” Dana said, “and the traffic isn’t moving.”
Brett wearily got to his feet and picked up his polo coat from the couch, mumbling “Somebody must have had a bad day.”
“What did you say?” Dana asked, her tone challenging. Brett’s behavior was clashing sharply with the kindness of Wills’ rescuer.
“Nothing. You’re acting very strange this evening. Can I pour you a sherry?”
“You said ’somebody must have had a bad day,’ and as a matter of fact, I did. I got shot down after pitching a new cosmetic section to Bea, and then Bob Campbell told me that I have to throw the teen contest. The winner, to be announced at the Sugar Plum Ball, has already been determined. It’s outright fraud.”
Brett sank back onto the chair and burst into laughter. “Is that what’s bothering you?”
“Of course it’s bothering me! There are five girls putting their heart and soul into—”
“Calm down, honey. B. Altman is practically run by the Archdiocese.” He winked mischievously. “You know the rumors—the Catholic Church secretly owns the store, which is why nuns and priests are constantly roaming every single floor. Just look at all the clergy discounts they offer. God will surely look past a little fraud since he’s the real CEO. Your place inside the pearly gates is assured.”
“That’s absurd, Brett, and it’s not just a little fraud, as you put it. We’re talking about people’s lives. This contest means everything to the five finalists. What if someone had pulled your article from the law review in your last year and given the space to someone else?”
Brett’s laughter was louder this time as he rolled his eyes in disbelief. “You’re not seriously comparing the law review to teen models, are you?” He wrinkled his face into a good-natured frown.
Dana paused, put her hands on her hips, and squeezed her eyes shut, not believing what she was hearing. “Yes, I most certainly am comparing this to your law review article. These young girls have hopes and dreams, too. You’re not the only one, Brett.”
“I know that, Dana. It’s just that—”
The phone rang, and Brett picked up the receiver before it could ring twice. He listened for a minute and then spoke briefly before hanging up. “Okay. Fine. See you then.”
He looked up at Dana. “That was Janice Conlon telling me that my meeting tomorrow was pushed back by thirty minutes.”
Dana’s jaw dropped. “We’re cutting down our Christmas tree tomorrow! The party is Thursday. We’ve had these plans for weeks.”
“Duty calls,” Brett said matter-of-factly. “Mr. Heller wants to meet tomorrow, and he’s a big client.”
“When were you planning to tell me!”
“I’ve got a lot on my plate, Dana.” He balled his two fists and extended his thumbs, proudly motioning to himself. “Don’t forget—the next partner at Davis, Konen and Wright is sitting before you.”
“I’m not going to dinner,” said a furious Dana. “I’m not in the mood anymore.”
“We’re going,” Brett said resolutely. “We can’t cancel the reservation at the last minute. I’m going to change now. Are you ready?”
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