It's not easy, Bash realises. Watching his brother and Mary flirt endlessly every day - of course, they would, they are fiancé and fiancée. He only gets two days of relief from the whole parade per week and he mostly spends them drowning his sorrows.
It's a Friday evening and he waits for his drink to be prepared at the usual bar he frequents in downtown Paris. The bartender is a woman today and her blue eyes meet his green eyes as a smile follows after. He returns the smile politely, patiently waiting for his drink. He would, he really would but he's tired of one-night stands if he's entirely honest. He just wants to be alone.
When the bartender comes up to him with his drink, she's about to say something when a familiar voice orders a drink, taking a seat beside Bash with a heavy sigh.
"Long day?" Bash asks Kenna knowingly.
Kenna shrugs wryly. "Wouldn't know," she mutters, digging her purse out of her handbag. "Been drunk for most of it."
Bash shakes his head at the bartender, asking for a glass of water for Kenna instead. He watches the bartender's shoulders sag as she goes to get one water for Kenna, Kenna turning to Bash in displeasure.
"Trust me," he starts. "You'll thank me in the morning."
Kenna sighs, covering her face. "I'm a mess, I know... I should never have-" She's cut off by the bartender almost slamming the glass of water in front of her and Kenna sends her a stern glare, collecting a napkin to neatly clear up the spots around her glass as the bartender shuffles off to serve another customer. "She fancies you."
"Too bad she doesn't excite me," Bash replies dismissively, taking a sip from his gin and tonic.
"Because she's not Mary?"
He turns to her, placing his glass down. "As if I need the reminder." And I'd rather not use sex as an outlet tonight, he thinks, sighing.
Quickly, she swipes his drink and downs some in relief before he grabs it back with a tut. "What?" She asks, running her fingers through her hair.
"Stop drinking," he says.
"You should stop drinking too," she retorts. "I see you every weekend. Same spot, same drink five times over."
Bash sighs heavily, nodding. "Well, that's my new normal."
"Drinking alone?" She asks coyly.
He smirks. "Apparently, you do the same."
"No judgment on my part," she replies easily.
He's curious now, finishing his drink and deciding to stop there as he asks, "What did he do to you?"
Kenna knows exactly who Bash is referring to. Her sort-of boyfriend in his father, Henry. But they are long done, whatever feelings she had for the older man gone and never coming back again.
Against her will, tears slide down her cheeks and she sniffles, looking away from him as she tries to discreetly wipe them. She jumps when she feels a nudge on her shoulder and she accepts the napkin and dabs her eyes and cheeks.
"You'll all be on his side anyway," she says quietly. "I'm not going to go through with the restraining order."
"Why?" Bash asks, bewildered. "If he's done something to hurt you. If he's done that..." He gestures to her covered wrist. "Then you need to protect yourself from him-"
"He owns the damn firm, Sebastian," Kenna snaps. "Even if I go and take my case to another firm, he never loses!"
"Then stay away from him-"
"Easier said than done," she says dismissively. "I've even moved apartments, I'm getting multiple locks but he keeps trying to beg for me back and I'm over it."
Bash shrugs helplessly. "Why don't you leave?"
Kenna swallows hard, shaking her head. "My family hates me. The only friends that I have, work at the firm that Henry owns or elsewhere. I'd be a pariah. And I was warned many times not to get involved with your father but I was too stupid and naive, and I thought he really loved me," she says, her voice breaking. "But he only loves himself."
"Let me take you home," Bash suggests softly, getting off his stool and helping her down hers.
He opens the door for her and she slips through with a quiet "Thanks," and he nods in reply. As they walk towards the parking lot, Kenna bites her lip nervously. She's been a wreck for months, she can't sleep, she can barely eat and whenever she's in the kitchen, she retrieves alcohol as opposed to other things. It's a miracle she's still alive and manages to dodge people seeing how deep of a hole she's dug herself into.
"I don't know what to do," she breathes out fearfully, more tears springing to her eyes.
Bash turns to her. "You'll get through this. The Kenna I know fights for her life and never lets anyone bring her down."
She scoffs wryly. "Yeah, she might be gone."
"I don't think so," Bash muses, unlocking his car and opening the door for her. "You're going to be okay. I promise you."
She gives him a small smile.
"Eduard Narcisse," Lola says, standing back to let the man waltz into the conference room where he shakes hands with Mary and Francis. Lola leaves, warily glancing through the windows of the room before shaking her head with a tut.
"Monsieur Narcisse, how can we help you today?" Francis asks.
Eduard chuckles. "That's my father," he says. "'Eddie' is fine."
Mary's brows raise. "Very well, Eddie," she says. "What can Stuart, Valois & Medici do for you?" She grins inwardly, the pride of uttering her surname alongside the other two names growing inside her. And it seems that the potential client is happy himself.
"A named partner and the son of another? I'm lucky," he says, making them chuckle. "I have a case - I've been accused of raping an eighteen-year-old."
Mary feels sickened, her smile leaving her face. "Right."
"I didn't do it," Eddie quickly says. "I was a nightclub she attended with a few friends of hers and we took things further at my apartment. She woke up the next morning, stressing that her parents would kill her if she didn't get home in time and she left, leaving me with a 'goodbye' kiss. This will understandably ruin my reputation, the lies this putain is spreading."
"It would be great if you didn't refer to the woman as a whore," Francis tells him. "Our sessions are recorded albeit confidential. Also, the prosecution team can use it against you."
Eddie raises his hands defensively. "Excuse my wording then," he says. "Can you take on my case?"
"We need every detail of the night in question," Mary says, scanning the papers in front of her. "Every evidence we can find and video recordings to confirm whether the complainant was of sound mind when she followed you to your property."
Eddie nods, a smile growing on his face. "I know I can count on you both."
"Just leave it with us, Eddie," Francis replies before standing up and seeing the man out. "We will speak more tomorrow before we meet with the opposing side and see if this will be taken to court or settled."
Eddie shakes his hand firmly. "I owe you both a drink when this is all over."
Francis smiles wryly. "Just doing our jobs," he says before Eddie leaves, leaving the blonde to give his fiancée an exasperated look.
They never turn away clients, every client wealthy and prestigious for their firm. It seemed that this case was going to be a long hill battle and Mary chuckles at Francis's antics before shaking her head in amusement and writing up notes.
It's only Monday and they have a long week ahead of them.
Kenna turns and smiles a little when she sees Bash heading her way. "Hey, do you need anything?"
"Are you working a case?" He asks quickly.
"Uh, not right-"
He stuffs a case file into her hands. "Can you take this one off me, please? I'll owe you big time."
She furrows her brows, looking through the file. "What-"
"It's a frequent flyer," he explains, his voice slightly strained. "She's got a liking to me and always requests my services."
Kenna raises her brows. "Oh."
"Madame Roux, a lovely elderly woman but with a lot of innuendos I can't cope with," he says, making her laugh. "Don't laugh! It's bad enough being this handsome but to have cougars everywhere?"
Kenna stifles more giggles, holding the file to her chest. "I'll handle her. Only if..."
"You buy me dinner," she finishes. "The Eiffel Tower. I'm sure you can set things up with the chef."
Bash narrows his eyes. "How do you know I have a good rapport with the chef?"
"I may have heard you book a few dates when you and..." She trails off when his eyes fall. "Anyway, uh, forget about it. I'll do this, you don't have to-"
"I'll take you to Auberge du Vieux Puit," he says quietly. "Friday at 6. I'll pick you up at your place."
And then he leaves, a smile growing on her face before it disappears when she sees Henry looking at her in confusion. She turns around and starts walking off but he stops her, a hand on her waist as her breath hitches in her throat. She mentally begs Bash to turn around and see but he's nothing to her and she's nothing to him. Just two co-workers doing each other favours.
"I've got a client-"
"I miss you," he says, brushing her hair behind her ear which makes her flinch. "Kenna..."
"I've got a client," she repeats, leaving his grip and hurrying away.
She locks herself in her office, feeling a panic attack coming on as she struggles to breathe, dropping the case file onto the floor before sinking onto the floor herself, her head resting against the plush rug. Sobs escape her lips and she wills herself to calm down, taking deep breaths in and out in steady paces.
When she's calm enough, she fixes herself and leaves her office with her file in hand to meet her new, unexpected but flirty client.
"Madamoiselle Castleroy," Mary says the next morning, standing and shaking hands with the woman and her lawyer as Francis does the same after her, their client remaining seated between their chairs.
Yvette takes a seat across from Antoine, her lawyer taking a seat across from Mary as the three lawyers pull out their respective case files. Mary uses the opportunity to get a good look at the ginger-haired eighteen-year-old, she's awfully familiar but she can't quite put her finger on it.
Then it dawns on her. "You're Aloysius Castleroy's daughter, aren't you?" She asks, her heart beating loudly in her chest. "Greer's future stepdaughter?"
Yvette frowns a little before her eyes widen and she smiles politely. "Mary Stuart. Yes, my future stepmother brings you up quite a few times..."
Mary smiles a little, ignoring her flustered client. "I hope she only says nice things."
"Naturally," Yvette replies. "She hasn't got a hateful bone in her body."
Mary replies with a kind smile before looking down at her notes. "It says here that you will reject the court offer should a good settlement arise."
"I would. The last thing my family needs is a lawsuit," Yvette says, keeping her eyes on Mary only.
Mary sees the bloodshot eyes and her heart tugs in empathy. "Our client and we spoke earlier and we decided that one-hundred thousand should be a reasonable settlement offer?"
"I'll speak to my lawyer," Yvette says.
"Is there anything you'd like to add?"
"I just want to get this over and done with," Yvette breathes out, her fingers flexing and unflexing as she pulls them onto her lap. "I also want to make sure that he never rapes another woman again."
Mary eyes Eddie and his eye twitches but he keeps his cool as she says, "Monsieur Narcisse stresses that the night you spent together went differently."
"And the morning after, you awoke and cited something about your parents being unhappy at your lack of presence with them," Francis adds.
Yvette scoffs. "I'd never say my 'parents'. I have one, singular."
That's true, Mary thinks. "Regardless, you agreed to follow our client home."
"That doesn't mean that he should have raped me," Yvette snaps. "He drugged me, took me to his home and raped me. When he was finished with me, he let me sleep until morning when he paid for a cab to take me home. I woke up feeling disgusting, bruised and broken." Her voice breaks and she bows her head. "And you're defending him?"
Mary's eyes soften but she keeps her cool. "We just want this to be settled, benefit both parties."
"So he gets no jail time and I get paid for being raped?"
Francis bites his lip, sharing a glance behind Eddie's back with Mary. "Why don't we come back to this in about five minutes? You and your lawyer talk the settlement offer through and we'll rejoin to discuss the details of what happened in full."
"One-hundred thousand won't do it," Yvette whispers.
Eddie leans into Francis's ear. "Five-hundred, my last offer."
Francis sighs and nods, looking up at Yvette and her lawyer. "Five-hundred thousand."
"I'll think about it," Yvette tells them.
"Her grandson's become power of attorney," Kenna explains to Bash, trying not to let hurt register on her face when she sees him staring at Mary working in the other conference room beside Francis and their client, Eddie Narcisse. "Sebastian?"
Bash's eyes land on Kenna and he sighs, leaning forward to read her notes. "Sorry," he mutters. "Power of attorney?"
Kenna nods. "Yep. Poor thing's worried he'll send her to a care home."
"Shit," he breathes out. "I should take the case back then."
"You don't trust me to win for her?" Kenna asks, letting her hurt now register. "I am a good lawyer."
"I've never lost a case," He informs her. You have, he thinks. "Also, she knows me better, trusts me. It will be easier."
Kenna tuts, pushing herself back with the table before getting up from her seat and grabbing her blazer. "Well, I'll leave it in your hands. You can forget about-"
"Great, you're both here," Henry says, entering the room. He takes a seat at the head of the table and folds his hands together, his elbows on the glass surface of the table. "Miss Beaton, take a seat."
Kenna sinks back into her seat, keeping her gaze on the floor. "What do you need, Monsieur Valois?"
"So formal," Henry says, tutting. "Anyway, I found out that a case was withdrawn against me from someone who works here."
Bash dares not turn back at Kenna. "Who made it?"
"I know it was you, Kenna," Henry says, ignoring Bash completely. "Is this why? You've now set your sights on my son?"
Kenna scoffs but then she swallows her words down and shakes her head, tears threatening to build.
"We're colleagues," Bash says dismissively. "She's helping me with a case. Remember those? Seems like you're anything but a lawyer these days..."
Henry chuckles. "So sassy, my son is," he muses. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be making my own case against you, Miss Beaton. I'll even be my own lawyer."
Kenna's eyes snap to Henry as she gasps. "Wait, what?"
"The money I loaned you, for your apartment," Henry says simply.
"That was a gift!"
"No, it wasn't," Henry says, furrowing his brows. "I clearly remember you promising to pay it back."
Kenna falters. "What? When did I-"
"I'll be meeting with your lawyers," he tells her. "Preferably one away from this firm. Otherwise, there would be a conflict of interest." He stands and leaves.
Kenna sighs, covering her face as Bash places a hand on her shoulder. "What am I going to do?"
"I'll be your lawyer," Bash tells her. "The power of attorney case is an easy fix, Madame Roux wasn't of sound mind when she signed the papers her grandson gave her. The contract is null and void."
"Now, you're going to write down everything that happened between you and my father," Bash tells her, standing up. "I'll meet you in your office in two hours."
"Thank you," Kenna mumbles, knowing how much trouble he'll get in when his father finds out. "I owe you one."
Bash smirks. "A coffee would do. I think we better stay away from alcohol."
She snorts and playfully rolls her eyes before grabbing her things and leaving through the other door.
"I think he raped her," Mary tells Francis after their meeting has finished completely for the day. "How can we defend a rapist?"
"We have to," Francis says, shrugging in futile.
Mary smirks. "We don't have to," she says. "I'd like to set up a private meeting with Yvette's lawyer. Exchange notes and evidence."
"Mary, we can't betray our client!"
"We're not going to. We'll push for a settlement because he will lose," Mary states, leading him away from the conference rooms. "I saw the other lawyer's eyes, she had more than enough to put him away. Yvette's Greer's future stepdaughter, I'm not letting them both down."
Francis tuts. "I don't know how we're going to do this," he replies. "Shall I set up another talk with Eddie?"
"You do that," Mary says, seeing Bash head into Kenna's office without knocking. "Huh."
"What?" He asks, turning back to her from his phone.
Mary shakes her head a little. "Nothing, I just saw Bash heading into Kenna's office."
"You still pay attention to what he does?" Francis asks, trying to be teasing but they both hear the undertone.
Mary smiles now. "No, I don't. But I pay attention to what Kenna does. She's treading on thin ice with whatever happened with your dad. I should actually ask her how she's doing now that they're done..."
"And Henry's with Penelope," Francis finishes for her. "I hope she's okay."
"Me too," Mary mumbles before grabbing his arm just before he walks off. "The flower company cancelled on us. We need to look for a new one to sort them out."
"Mary, it's just over a week until our wedding. How-Why did they cancel?"
"Don't freak out," she says calmly, cupping his cheek with a soft smile. "Your mother has got us a few contacts to go through that do unexpected orders. We'll talk about it before bed, okay?"
Francis nods, pressing a kiss on her lips. "Okay," he breathes out. "That is the only thing that will go wrong, right?"
Mary nods. "Definitely."
"I love you."
"I love you too," she whispers, kissing him once more before letting him go.
"Madame de Medici."
Catherine halts in her steps, turning around to face Christian de Guise, her long-time rival in all things Law and... She raises her brows, planting on a smug smirk on her face.
"Good game," he utters. "Your client got lucky."
"Luck had nothing to do with this, we both know that," she says coyly. She's the best in the game.
"My niece is marrying your son, I'd like some intel about seating arrangements," he tells her but she knows it's anything but. Everyone knows her marriage is only on paper. She and Henry are done, have been for a decade or so. But that doesn't mean they don't enjoy a few love trysts with each other seldomly.
Catherine tuts. "I should debrief with my client-"
"Dinner, then?" Christian asks casually. "To also congratulate you on your win. You were a strong advocate for your client, I had no chances against you."
"Christian, just let me know right now," she says tiredly. "Do you want a place on my bed or not?"
Christian chuckles, stuffing his hands into his pocket. "I think that won't be good for my niece and your son. No, I want something more from you."
"A position at SVM," he tells her. "Seeing as my niece got her rightful place, I only think it's wise to include me in the little treasure chest that is your firm."
Catherine rolls her eyes. "What scandal did you cause at Guise and Narcisse now?"
"I just think that Stephane and I need to part ways," he says. "There's a storm coming that way, I'd like to avoid it."
"Tell me more..." She says, starting to walk towards the entrance of the building Christian matching her steps briskly.
"His eldest, Eduard. He raped a girl. Stephane and everyone else under the sun know he did it, yet he ran to your firm to get your son and my niece to defend him."
Catherine sets her jaw. "Eduard what?" Mary and Francis are defending that little co-
"I can smooth things over. Henry's not going to do shit," Christian informs her. "I'll be a silent partner if you will."
"You'll be nothing," Catherine snaps. "Stay in your lane. Valois and Medici-"
"Stuart, Valois & Medici," he corrects her.
"Whatever," she says dismissively. "Either way, the Stuart and Medici parts will do everything in our power to make sure that men don't ruin everything we've built."
Christian tuts. "Very well."
"You can forget dinner, by the way."
He grins. "You were going to take up my offer?"
Catherine tilts her head, smirking. "I have won three more cases than you. This bet between us is never going to end."
She leaves, unlocking her car before sending him a coy smile and getting into her car, her smile leaving her face. She can't believe her son agreed to take on Eduard Narcisse if his own father refused to defend him.
But blaming Mary for that will help her sleep better this night.
"Stupid..." She mutters before driving off, speeding past an amused Christian de Guise.