Just realized that I screwed up with the chapters again. Ha ha, I totally never sleep.
So, this is the real chapter 60. The previous one was actually 59.
Miranda sat on a stone bench in the foyer, her ankles crossed as she chewed distractedly on the end of a pen, her eyes fixed on the papers that she had spread out next to her. By coincidence she looked up just as Hackett came in through the door, and her heart sank at the wide grin on his face. He was wearing a hand-knit blue and green scarf, with the stitches on one end noticeably neater than the other, and it wasn’t hard for Miranda to guess that the biddy next door had taken Hackett’s new wife under her wing.
The knowledge stung. Hackett had an easygoing way of getting along with most people, but that had never been the case for her. Often, she had been too busy with her education and work to sit and socialize with the neighbors the same way Hackett did, and she had frankly dismissed Gertie’s hobbies as too boring for her to show any interest in. The thought that Alice was fitting into his life in a way that she had failed to made Miranda jealous.
Would Hackett have indulged her by wearing a sloppily knit scarf if she had taken an interest?
His smile vanished the moment he saw her.
Miranda slowly returned all of her paperwork to her bag, then rose to greet him. “Hello Basil,” she said coyly. “You’re looking well.”
“You look like you need more sleep,” he replied tersely.
“You have such an odd sense of humor,” she said with a forced laugh as she unconsciously fiddled with the hem of her blazer. “That scarf looks handmade.”
Hackett made a grunt that sounded like an affirmative.
“It must be fun being married to a young woman who likes to play dress up with you. Though I have to say, it’s not making you look any more youthful.”
“Are you finished?”
Miranda bit her tongue. She felt as if she was currently residing in a glass house, and she knew better than to go kicking stones – especially with Hackett. “You know, you’re right. My behavior has been unprofessional, and I apologize. I believe that everyone involved in this case deserves better than what I’ve been delivering.”
He raised an eyebrow at her and took a step back. “Is that so?”
“Damon is quite serious about being involved in his daughter’s life, and as his legal counsel I need to be fully supportive; it would not give the judge a favorable impression if he heard me speak derogatorily of the child’s mother or stepfather. I heard that your adoption case is dependent on Damon surrendering his paternal rights, correct?”
“I’d wish you the best of luck, but that would run against my client’s desires. I will admit that I was completely wrong, and that you are a good father.”
Miranda’s attempts to make nice were only rousing Hackett’s suspicions. His arms were now crossed over his chest, and he was studying her up and down. For a brief moment she worried that her hair was still mussed up, and she had to clench her hand to resist the urge to reach up and check, reminding herself that she had properly showered after the last time she and Damon had been intimate. The only way that Hackett could know would be if she was stupid enough to tell him.
Secretly, she thought that Hackett had never made love the same way Damon did. She found herself enjoying the way that Damon overpowered and overwhelmed her, reducing her down to a weak kitten with no choice but to receive him, completely liberated from the lawyer persona that she had dedicated her entire adult life to cultivating.
After studying her for a moment, Hackett said, “Alice wrote an affidavit about Damon’s conduct during his last visit. She’s not pressing charges for sexual assault, but we are submitting it to the judge as proof that he is too erratic and dangerous to be granted visitation.”
Miranda frowned. “And to strip him of his rights too, no doubt.”
“Alicia is my daughter.”
“You’re being ridiculous, Basil!” Miranda snapped. “Saying that doesn’t change the facts of biology.”
“Alice gave birth while I held her, but I don’t expect you to understand.” Hackett narrowed his eyes. “It’s nothing personal, but I will do whatever it takes to get Damon out of the picture – for the sake of my family.”
“That sounds like a threat.”
“It means you should do Damon the favor of stepping down and letting him get a lawyer that specializes in family law.”
“You know he can’t afford one. I’m the only thing giving him an honest shot at visiting his own child.”
Hackett was evaluating her again, so Miranda looked away rather than watch the expression on his face. After a long pause, he said slowly, “You know, if we weren’t talking about a murderer, I’d think that you were beginning to grow a heart.”
“Shut it!” Miranda snatched up her bag. “I’ll see you in the courtroom, but I don’t have to take that sort of abuse from you anymore. Now excuse me, but I need to get on with my job.” She tilted her nose up as she swiftly strode away, resisting the urge to look back and check on what sort of an impact she had made.