~ Son of a Gun ~
Not me sucker… I'm gonna make you suffer… you stupid m*therf*cker
"Are you sure this is the route you want to take?" Scotty Baldwin asked.
Morgan stared back at his attorney. He nodded once. The lawyer had a reputation for being ruthless. Morgan didn't care what route they took as long as he got his son in the end. He felt Carly stiffen beside him. She wanted to come. What was her problem now?
"Let me get this straight," Baldwin continued. As he stood, he ran a hand through his hair. Blonde spikes stood on end all over his head. Morgan was reminded of a porcupine from a book that JE had shown him. "We're contesting the divorce."
How many ways did he have to say it? Morgan inhaled a short breath. "You said the judge wouldn't grant custody to me because I haven't been around. I've read about custody battles."
Carly asked, "And what? You'll stay married to that shrew on the off chance you'll get custody of JE in the end? Jase—Morgan, come on."
Keeping his gaze on the lawyer, he said, "I will do whatever it takes. He's my son."
Baldwin released a short burst of air. Movement sounded in the hallway. He glanced up. His cheeks reddened and a scowl darkened his brow. He turned his attention back to Morgan. "If the court believes you're contesting the divorce just to piss Keesha off, you'll lose. You have to prove that you really want to give your marriage a chance."
"I won't have to prove I love her."
Carly relaxed beside him. Then, Morgan understood. Carly's jealousy of Keesha had a strong hold over her. His lover wanted to be the only woman in his life. She was, but Keesha was his wife. At least until he had his son.
"No, you won't," Scotty agreed. "Just that you are trying. If I know Keesha, she won't like this turn of events at all."
Morgan shrugged. That wasn't his problem, and it was exactly what he was counting on.
"I can't believe what I just heard!" Laura railed on Scotty as soon as the door closed behind Morgan and Carly.
"I can't believe you stood there and listened!" he yelled back. He started to pace and stopped mid-stride. "Laura, I'm his attorney. Our discussions are privileged. You know better than to listen."
"It wasn't my intention," she snapped. Spinning on her heels, graying golden locks whipped around her. She pushed them back with an angry swipe of her hand. "Keesha is my friend, Scotty! And you're agreeing with that imbecile to hurt her. It's cruel!"
"It's war," Scotty declared, following her as she stalked up the hall to the kitchen.
"Keep your voice down!" Laura said over her shoulder. "Adrik is upstairs."
Scotty stopped in the doorway. He glanced once towards the staircase before taking in the rigid form of his wife's back. "Morgan wants his son back. I know how it feels to have a child and be unable to hold him in my arms. To be forced to walk away and pretend that I'm nothing more than a remnant from his mother's past. I know what it feels like, Laura, and the feeling sucks!"
"Scotty!" She called in a hushed voice. Facing him, she visibly shook. "I am sorry—"
"You're always sorry," he croaked. He rubbed his face. Stubble scratched his palms, prickling his skin the same as how learning the truth about Lorenzo's parentage pierced his heart.
Laura went to him. He stepped back. His emotions were too raw to withstand her touch, her scent, her apologies.
"Is Adrik spending the night?" Scotty asked.
"I'll see if he needs anything."
As Keesha's attorney of record, Justus received Morgan's notice to contest the divorce a few days later. He read over the documentation and became more incensed with each line. The move clearly was a tactic. A ploy to win custody. The selfish bastard no more wanted to remain married to Keesha than she to him. And when she found out… Lord help them all.
Justus looked up. Brad sat on the coffee table adjacent to Justus' recliner. He jumped in surprise. He'd been so engrossed in Baldwin and Morgan's latest scheme that he hadn't heard his son enter. Justus lowered the papers to his lap and smiled. "Hi, Brad. This is a pleasant surprise."
"I know what you're thinking, Dad," Brad began, "and I'm not here for money."
"Oh, no?" Justus' mouth curved into a faint smile. "That's good because your mother and Anya took it all. They're shopping."
"In New York," Brad added. "I know. Anya sent me a long email about how much fun she and Mom will have in the Big Apple and how awful I must feel because I can't go. As if I'd want to go shopping with either of them."
Justus smile transformed into a chuckle. He understood his son's sentiment all too well. Alexis attacked shopping the same as an opponent in a courtroom: aggressively. It seemed that Anya had inherited her mother's skill. Well, in regards to shopping. Her prowess in the classroom could use some work.
"What's that?" Brad asked, pointing to the papers in his father's lap. He reached for them and Justus moved them out of us reach. "Legal stuff?"
Justus nodded. His good mood faded. Lil Bit's future was right there in his hands. He had to find a way to protect it. He moved to his desk where he locked the documents away. Then, he turned to his son. "You have my full attention. What's up?"
"I have a friend who may be in trouble, but I don't know what to do about it."
"What kind of trouble?" Justus' voice hardened. He frowned.
"Not that kind of trouble!" Brad stood up quickly. "It's female trouble and no, no one is pregnant. My friend is interested in an older woman."
"How much older?" Justus asked. His paternal instincts instructed him to listen carefully. Justus wasn't positive, but the vibe coming from his son told him that Brad's concerns were more personal than the young man let on.
"Just a few years older. Nothing significant," Brad said with a shrug.
"So, what's the problem?"
Brad's cheeks became the shade of a dusky rose. Justus guessed the flush was a product of anger and not embarrassment.
"She won't give him an inch! She tells him that he's too young, but he knows she likes him. More than a friend, you know."
"Uh huh." Justus nodded. "So, what has been your advice to your friend?"
"I haven't given him any," Brad answered. "That's why I'm asking you. What should he do, Dad?"
"Bide his time. If they are meant to be, they will be," Justus said. "If he pushes her too much, he could lose her and their friendship. If space is what she wants, it's what he should give her."
"That no good sonuvabi—" Keesha caught herself in time. The kids were asleep upstairs. The late night meeting with Justus was being held in the den. Now, she wished she had listened when Justus asked her to meet him at his office. "He can't get away with this."
"There must be something we can do," AJ said, jumping to Keesha's defense. "She can get a divorce without his permission."
Justus nodded. "Yes, she could."
"Why do I hear a 'but' in there?" she asked. Planting her feet shoulder-width a part, she folded her arms across her chest. "You don't advise my doing that, do you? Why not?"
"Because the judge for the custody hearing is a stickler for families trying to work it out. He wouldn't look favorably on you if you get a divorce without Jason's consent."
"That's bullshit!" AJ pronounced.
"How can this judge even think…" Keesha pinched the bridge of her nose and drew in a deep breath. She had to remain calm, rational and focused. "Morgan is not the man I married! Doesn't the judge realize that?"
"He is aware that the circumstances are extenuating—"
"It's more than that," AJ cut in. "Keesha was married to Jason. Morgan James is clearly not the same man. Besides that, it's been well over ten years!"
"I'm on your side," Justus said calmly, looking at each of his cousins. "I don't agree with the judge's point of view, but my hands are tied."
"Couldn't we get another judge?" Keesha suggested.
"In order to do that, we have to show cause or a reason why the judge we have can't be used. We have none."
"I can ask Tommy to look into his background—"
"No, AJ," Keesha interrupted her fiancé. "Doing that could backfire. It's not the judge we want to bring to his knees…it's Morgan."
The two men looked at her with stunned expressions on their handsome faces. She supposed they didn't know the lengths she'd go to protect her family. They were about to find out. Keesha didn't appreciate being pushed. Morgan James would learn that she didn't topple over so easily.
"He expects me to fight this." Keesha looked at Justus. "Withdraw the divorce papers."
"What?" The color drained from AJ's face. "It's not the way, Keesha."
"Trust me, AJ," she said, moving to him and taking his hand. "I love you. Nothing will change that or stop us from being married. For now, let's play it Morgan's way. Believe me, he'll beg me for a divorce and will drop the custody battle before I'm through with him. He's in over his head, and he'll drown."