Carlos tossed a hand in the air with a flip of his head. “Well, then. Orchids. But not cut. Buy a plant. They last forever. Since you’re buying ‘awesome sex flowers,’ she will see them all the time and ask you around more often.”
Liam liked the idea, snatched his phone off the desk. “It’s a little scary that you know so much about the subject.”
“What my sisters didn’t teach me, my wife has. Besides, if I didn’t move you along with this, I’d be looking at the top of your head for the next two hours, getting nothing done.”
Avery answered the knock on her door without looking through the peephole. Why her condo even had a peephole had always boggled her mind. No one could get through the staff downstairs without their name being on a list or the concierge calling her to see if she was expecting visitors . . . but still. Peephole.
She swung the door wide. “Hey, Lori. Thanks for coming up.”
Lori’s condo was a few floors down from hers. No name needed on a list, and no call from downstairs.
“I brought wine.” She lifted a bottle.
Avery turned her back to her friend and crossed to her kitchen. “How did you know I needed wine?”
Lori paused, her mouth dropped open. “Are those from Liam?”
Avery took in the flower shop that now lived in her home. Six orchid plants were awaiting her when she arrived from work.
Lori absently handed the bottle to Avery and stood in front of the flowers. “Why so many? It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong . . . but six?”
Avery handed Lori the card that came with the field of flowers.
“‘I’m thinking about you and wasn’t sure the meaning behind the colors of orchids. So here are the six the florist had. I’m sure whatever the colors mean, I’m feeling it for you.’” Lori dropped her hand holding the card and stared blankly. “There’s meaning behind the color of orchids?”
Lori pulled out a kitchen stool and had to push one of the plants away to look at her. “I take it you and Liam finally went all the way.”
Avery had to laugh. The night before Trina’s wedding, the topic of discussion was how long it was taking for Liam to go there. Somewhere between eleven and one, the four of them had reverted to high school and used the term all the way.
“Yes, he did, and twice on Sunday.” Avery paused. “Actually it was three times on Friday, twice on Saturday, and once on Sunday before I let him go home.”
“So you spent the whole weekend in bed?”
Avery poured them both generous portions of wine and motioned toward her sofa.
She shrugged. “There was the kitchen counter, the shower . . . and yeah, a bed was involved.”
Lori laughed as she kicked her shoes off and tucked her feet under her butt. “That’s fabulous. Good for you.”
She looked over at the flowers and sighed.
“Is that why you wanted me to come up?”
“Partly. He’s freaking me out, Lori. I’m not sure what to do with him.”
“I think you have that covered.”
“I’m not talking about sex. Yes, I know what to do there. Now that he’s finally putting out, he’s complicating me even more.”
“He’s falling for you.”
Avery shook her head.
“It’s obvious to everyone but you.”
“It’s all moving too fast.”
Lori sipped her wine. “Two weeks ago you were whining because he wasn’t stripping you. Now he’s too fast?”
“He wants me to have dinner with his family. There are flowers with notes that make me giddy.”
They sat in silence, drank their wine.
“Have you ever been in love?” Lori asked.
“No.” Avery’s answer was immediate.
“Not even close?”
Lori looked at the ceiling. “Close would be the man sneaking into your thoughts off and on. Wondering what he was doing at odd hours. Worrying about him when he doesn’t text back . . . and not an Is he into me? worry, but an Is he hurt? Did something happen to him?”
“The only people I worry about something happening to are you and the girls.”
Avery considered the thought. “He hasn’t really left me alone long enough for me to worry. There is a lot of texting. Even if it’s just a wave or a silly emoji. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the past few weeks. He’s my first real relationship.”
Lori grinned. “That’s a big word, coming from you.”
“Yeah, well . . . Shannon wouldn’t shut up about it this morning. So . . .” She released a long-resigned sigh. “I’m in a relationship.”
“It’s not a jail sentence.”
“Why are you so opposed to a relationship?”
“Relationships don’t fit my life,” she said as if on autopilot. “It’s easier to flutter around and come home alone than end up like my parents.” As the words left her lips, she was reminded of her dedication to stay single.
“Not everyone is like your parents,” Lori told her.
“I know that. But my gene pool says I’m destined to be as miserable in their roles as they are.”
“Something tells me Liam is making you consider that might not be the case.”
Avery scoffed and changed the subject. “I didn’t ask you up here to bend your ear all night about Liam.”
Lori glanced over her shoulder. “That’s too bad. I want to know more about the kitchen counter. You washed it, right?”
Avery chuckled. “Yes.” No, actually, Liam had. After pointing out what he said looked like an impression of her bare butt. Which wasn’t there. But telling Lori that would keep the topic going, and Avery really needed a night or two to think about the whole Liam thing.
“So what else is on your mind?”
Avery set her glass on the coffee table as the amusement of all things Liam left her brain. “This falls under Lori Lawyer category. As in no one can hear about this.”
“Not even Shannon and Trina?”
“It probably wouldn’t be an issue with them, but I thought it would be best to run it past you.”
Lori’s smile faded as she sat poised for the conversation.
“It’s about my client, Sheldon Lankford.”
“The Brentwood estate.”
She nodded. “First off, I’m paid to snoop. Right? I’m hired to find the big and little stuff that’s worth money for my clients.”
“Oh, no,” Lori said. “You found something stolen.”
Avery shook her head. “No. Stolen I could deal with. I think.” Could she? What would happen if she did find something like that? “Nothing like that.”
“You’ll have to tell me.”
Lori blinked. “You might need to elaborate.”
Avery flexed her sweaty palms. “I found pictures in Mr. Stewart Lankford’s desk. Hidden. Secret drawer stuff.”
“I hide a gun in my secret drawer.”
Lori nodded. “Reed insisted. Sorry. Go on.”
Avery unfurled herself from the couch and brought her folder over for Lori to see.
Lori set her glass to the side and opened it. “What am I looking at?”
Avery sat close and pointed. “That is Mr. Lankford Senior. Only that isn’t Mrs. Lankford.”
“He had an affair.”
“That’s what it looked like to me.”
Lori skimmed over the pictures. “I can’t imagine it’s uncommon for these things to come to light after someone dies. Does your client know?”
“I haven’t told him yet. The picture that concerns me is this one.” Avery removed the picture of Mr. Lankford, his mistress . . . and a young boy around the age of seven. “That isn’t Sheldon, my client.”
“Oh . . . you think this might be Lankford’s kid.”
“He kinda looks like he could be, don’t you think?”
“Hard to say. But yeah. Could be.”
“Sheldon told me his parents were old when they adopted him and didn’t have the energy to chase him around as a child. He was thrown from nanny to nanny, then boarding school. Hell, that’s the way my parents are, and I’m not adopted, and they weren’t old when they had me.”
Lori closed the file and put it aside. “Let’s for argument’s sake say that Mr. Lankford is this child’s father and Sheldon knows nothing about it. Showing him these pictures does what?”
Avery shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s the sole beneficiary to the estate. Does this kid, probably a man by now, have any right to it?”
“I’d have to see the family trust. Probably not. Not that an illegitimate child can’t claim differently to a court.”
“That would put a halt to everything we’re doing. Am I legally obligated to say anything? To question the estate and who has the right to sell it off? Sheldon hired me, but it isn’t like I have ever needed to see a will to prove my clients own what they say they own. That’s between the bank and them, right?”
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