Lemon Bars and the Lawyer by Layne Daniels

1

JASPER

For a smart guy, I’m guilty of some spectacularly stupid shit. Top of the list? Insulting the woman of my dreams the instant I laid eyes on her, when I should have fallen to my knees in supplication. It’s been months since then. I’d just left the courthouse after a miserable morning in divorce court when I’d seen her truck in the courthouse parking lot. She was all perfect white teeth and pinkened apple cheeks. Even her brown eyes had sparkles visible from across the way. It didn’t make a lick of difference that the sun was missing in action. In that moment, she was the sun.

But I’s shoved my big ass foot down my throat by barking at her about permits and congesting the area. Four months have gone by, and not a single day passes where I don’t regret being an asshole and dimming the smile in her eyes that day.

Don’t get me wrong, Dagny Jones is no wilting flower. No sooner had I vomited out that vitriol than she had a binder filled with page-protected permits and permissions slapped down on the counter of her bakery truck.

The brilliant, bratty goddess went so far as to show up the next day with her city permits laminated and affixed to the side of the truck. I should have tried harder to apologize, but first, my pride was in the way, then later, I enjoyed of our game. Now, every time she sees me walking between the buildings, she makes a shooing motion with one hand while she points to the posted permits with the other.

It doesn’t matter how busy she is or how fast I try to pass her truck, Dagny makes sure I have no illusions about my status in the court of her opinion.

I have to find a way to stop this. It’s bad enough that the only way I can get ahold of the best bakery delights in this town is by bribing one of the firm’s paralegals to sneak me some. It’s more than that, though. Something changed inside me the instant Dagny put me in my place with nothing more than a lifted brow and a binder of paperwork.

That’s a misstatement of fact. Something didn’t change. Everything did.

Today’s the day, though. I’m figuring out a way to get the taste of shoe leather out of my mouth and make Dagny see I’m not a complete piece of shit. I have a plan. Whether it’s a good one or not remains to be seen.

“Ms. Jones, good morning.” Every morning, I try the same thing.

“It will be in about forty-five seconds, Mr. Pascal.” Every morning, she responds the same way. It should surprise no one that it takes me forty-five seconds to walk from her truck to the front doors of the courthouse. Not today, beautiful.

“Clever. I’ve owed you an apology for months now.”

The arch of a delicate eyebrow might look shrewish to someone else. I see the challenge. The game. Dagny Jones is the playmate I’ve searched for my entire adult life, and she knows it.

“The schedule of a busy attorney, am I right? No time for all that.” The twinkle in those deep brown eyes of hers revs my motor and convinces me she’s as into this as I am. My fascination with her has deepened over the months, but last week, she leveled up our byplay when she began sneaking a tart lemon bar into every order my paralegal, Rosa, brings me.

No note, no explanation, just a shortbread base with a layer of lemon curd so tangy my tongue curls in on itself at the first burst of flavor. Thick whipped sugar piping along the raised cookie edge sweetens each bite until the sourness of the lemon is nothing more than a memory. Her message is clear, without a word spoken.

“Not so busy that I missed your message. I might have caught on a bit sooner if it hadn’t been such a delicious secret. Tell me, Ms. Jones, may I make my apology today, so the taste of your cookies is no longer marred by the flavor of my foot in my mouth?”