Inessa’s gaze flicked to the opening in the fence. The man waiting there stepped through, approaching with apparent reluctance. When he wavered at the steps, Ann took his arm and helped him onto the porch.
“Inessa Regan, this is Kurtis Lowdon. Kurt, this is Inessa Regan, the lawyer I told you about. She is fabulous! She can draft up what you need in no time at all!”
Inessa studied the man, taking in his thin frame, shadowed brow, and very close-cropped blond hair. Something about him wasn’t right. She set her wine glass aside and waited for one of them to explain.
“Sorry to disturb you,” he said. His apology was followed by a boyish grin, and that’s when the oddity of the picture came together. He moved and stood like an old man, but he had to be less than thirty, perhaps just college age. “Annie insisted.”
“It’s her way.” Inessa managed an answering smile, shreds of courtesy tugging at her conscience. “I usually don’t see clients outside the—” Realizing she was about to say “office,” the irony stopped her. “Well, seeing as I don’t have an office, I’ll have to make different arrangements.”
“No office?” Ann’s brow twitched, but she hesitated only a moment before barreling right on. “You can help him, though, can’t you, Nessa? Kurt’s just finished his second round of chemo. He wants to make sure his life is in order—just in case, you know? I told him not to worry, that everything’s gonna be perfectly fine, but he’s so stubborn, you know, like men are, and thinks it all has to be written down in black-and-white…”
Ann babbled on, but Inessa didn’t really listen. She looked into Kurt’s blue eyes and recognized there knowledge of his imminent mortality. His smile, however, was undimmed in spite of it. She felt like an ass for indulging her self-pity over an employment setback.
“Nice to meet you,” she said at last, leaning forward to shake his offered hand.
“Same here.” The warmth of his regard jolted through to her toes as their hands met. He glanced down at her feet. “Never met a barefoot attorney before. I guess I thought you were all born wearing wingtips.”
Nonplussed, Inessa finally laughed.
“Aha! My new marketing brand. ‘The Barefoot Attorney.’”
“It could work.” A mischievous streak sparkled in his eye. “When can I meet with you? Time is of the essence, as you people say.”
“I don’t know. I’m not even sure where.”
“Nothing wrong with right here, if you ask me. How about tomorrow? I’ll bring breakfast?”
That smile. Hard to resist. He and Ann together were like an oncoming city bus. Best get on, or get run over.
“Umm, well, all right. Sure. Nine a.m.?”
“Perfect. Thanks.” He squeezed her hand again and stepped back.
“Great!” Ann gushed. “I just knew this would work out! And so convenient, too. You’re a saint, Nessa.” She stamped a foot on the porch as the gray cat poked its head up out of the bushes. “Moonbeam! Get your butt back home now!” The animal vanished into the growing darkness. “Come on, Kurt, honey.”
She took his arm, and they walked away, Ann talking a mile a minute. The young man paused to wave before he closed the gate.
After he was gone, his smile lingered with Inessa, stirred something deep within her. She tried to get hold of herself. Inessa Lin Regan, that’s nonsense. You’re old enough to be his mother.
Well. Maybe an older sister.
An unexpected bubble of joy trickled up inside her. As night settled in and the stars flicked into visibility one by one, she finished her glass of wine slowly, looking forward to breakfast for the first time in years.
SECOND CHANCES, by Alana Lorens, from Zumaya Embraces; Trade paperback, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-61271-080-8, 236 pp.; Ebook, $5.00, ISBN 978-1-61271-081-5 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-082-2 (epub)
Available wherever fine books and ebooks are sold.)