Pleasured by A Donovan
by AC Arthur
Book 9 in the Donovans Series
A dangerous Donovan.
Benjamin Donovan is one of Las Vegas’ top defense attorneys, his dynamic and debonair personality winning kudos in the courtroom, while breaking hearts in the process. But Ben draws the line at going against his ethics, except when those ethics lead a line of murder directly to his door.
And the woman that steals his heart.
She’d been rejecting him for as long as she’s known him and years later, prosecutor Victoria Lashley is still giving Ben a run for his money. Only this time, Victoria has no choice but to team up with Ben as her job is on the line and the killer she’s prosecuting has set his sights on her.
Will she lose the biggest case of her career, along with her life? Not if a Donovan has anything to do with it.
Pleasured by A Donovan
Book 9 in the Donovans Series
Pleasured by A Donovan
Eleven Years Ago
“He makes me sick,” Victoria snapped, heading into the lecture hall where the legal contracts class was always held.
“Who? Ben? He’s gorgeous and he’s rich as hell. I’d sleep with him in a heartbeat if I had the chance.” This was Grace Monroe, a 23-year-old second year law student with her mind more focused on getting laid and finding the perfect husband to settle down with. (In Grace’s mind, “perfect” meant rich and good looking.) Getting her degree in law was actually just her backup plan. Grace didn’t like hard work, clearly evidenced by her lackluster grades.
Victoria Madeline Lashley was the exact opposite. “Hard work” should have been her middle name and “goal-oriented” her nickname. She knew what she wanted and planned to get it without anyone’s help, especially not from some arrogant, stuck up rich boy who was skating through law school on his good looks and family name.
“You can have him. He’ll never make it as an attorney because he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”
“And parties. Don’t forget Benjamin Donovan is always the life of the party,” Grace said, in her own world as she gazed at the guy they spoke of.
He was about five feet eleven, or maybe he was six feet. Who knew and who cared? His skin was the exact color of a Hershey bar, plain, no almonds. His eyes that same milky brown color. And his smile, well, he always seemed to be smiling. A fact that both perplexed and pissed Victoria off.
Then there were his clothes…no, that was enough. Benjamin Donovan was not all that. And when she walked past him, her chin up, back rigid, she hoped he got her message that she could care less about him or the great car he drove or the way his smile made her insides tremble.
She had a funky attitude, but sexy as hell eyes. And that’s what really counted, because the eyes really said all that he needed to know about a person. They were gray, like gunmetal, or maybe a little lighter. Her skin always looked so smooth and creamy, like freshly churned butter. And her body…damn! That’s the only word Ben could come up with to describe Victoria Lashley. But then again, she had a jacked up attitude that made her one of the most hated girls in school. Still, he couldn’t resist looking at her.
Getting up from the seat on the back row that he loved to occupy, Ben walked down the aisle a bit until he came to the row where she and her only friend, Grace, sat. With a nod to Grace while Victoria was searching for something in that huge bag she always carried, Ben switched seats with her friend.
“Need help finding something?” he asked, his signature smile already in place when Victoria looked up at him.
There they were, those eyes, cool and flinty. He loved when she looked at him, felt like he’d been captured, and waited anxiously for her to reel him in instead. A little line appeared between her eyes as she frowned at him.
“Your seat is in the back, playboy,” she quipped.
Even her voice—just husky enough to be sexy—turned him on. Ben tried not to be offended that she was the first female to cut him down at every turn. Even on days he wasn’t trying to hit on her and was only speaking to be polite, she still shot him a frosty glare or icicle words he swore would cut if he were a lesser man.
“I like this seat right here.”
She rolled her eyes. “Lucky me.”
The class started and Ben only halfheartedly paid attention. Good grades came easy to him, almost too easy some said. But he’d been that way all his life. Much to his older brother Max’s dismay, he rarely ever had to study, but still maintained a perfect GPA. The fact that this female was shooting down all his moves was probably karma for being so blessed in the realm of education. That’s something else Max would say.
Ben on the other hand, was always an optimist.
“Oh, this is my jam!” Ebony Reece yelled as she turned up the car radio and rocked her body to the thumping bass of the song.
It was Thursday evening, one more day until she could start her weekend. Her family was having a huge cookout on Saturday for her twin cousins who had just graduated from Spellman. Whenever her family had a gathering, whether it was a cook-out or dinner or even a brunch, it was like a party. Her Aunt Gemma would cook every piece of meat they were allowed to eat, while Gemma’s younger sister Shan would prepare salads galore. Her Uncle Pete would guard the grill, flipping burgers like Ronald McDonald had taken lessons from him. Tabby would be on the music, speakers blasting old school hits with a few new school songs for the younger folk thrown in. It promised to be a great time and Ebony couldn’t wait.
For the last three weeks, she’d been working late hours, spending most mornings running between the courthouse and the office while Ben worked the Ramone Vega murder case. She’d been working at Donovan Law, LLC for the last four years and absolutely loved her boss Benjamin Donovan because of his laid back attitude and ferocity in the courtroom. Normally, Ebony loved to watch Ben work his defensive magic in the courtroom. He was a dynamic litigator who charmed jurors with his warm smile and charismatic demeanor. He was also fine as hell in a suit and even better looking when he came out of his jacket as he wore down witnesses until they were admitting who they’d slept with back in high school. He was virtually unbeatable in court.
Until the Ramone Vega case.
Ben hadn’t been sure about this one and Ebony felt bad for him. They’d done everything they normally did, bombarding the district attorney’s office with discovery and suppression motions on a daily basis. They’d impeached expert witnesses before the prosecution even had a chance to put them on the stand. But there had been something more, something Ben felt he couldn’t ignore.
“It’s in his eyes,” Ben had confided in her one night when they were at the office late. “He killed those people. I can see it in his eyes.”
Ben had seemed shaken after that, and when she’d left him at the office that night she’d wanted to call his brother or one of his cousins to come over and check on him. But in the morning he was back to normal, ready to fight for a man’s innocence he didn’t even believe in.
But that was all over now.
On Tuesday the jurors came back after three days of deliberations—they were deadlocked. A mistrial was declared and Ramone Vega walked out of the courtroom with a smile on his sadistically handsome face.
Ebony’s voice escalated as she tried to hit the same high note as the singer on the radio. She’d always wanted to be a singer and had believed in her talent until she realized believing wasn’t paying her bills. At the same time, having a day job to make ends meet didn’t have to kill the dream. She sang louder, convinced she could hit Mariah Carey’s highest notes. Her solo was interrupted by the loud blaring of a police siren and the subsequent flashing of red and blue lights.
“Shit!” she cursed and immediately turned her music down, pulling over to the side of the road as signaled by the authorities.
Ben had already cleared about a half dozen speeding tickets for her with his friend down at the police station. He was going to be pretty pissed if she got another one. Ebony took a deep breath and tried to prepare herself to be nice and cordial, something she didn’t do well most of the time.
She sat up a little straighter and pulled her shirt down just a tad, squaring her shoulders so her assets were on full display. When the tap came to her window, she pressed the button to roll it down with one long-nailed finger and was already preparing her smile. The grin slowly disappeared as she looked into the eyes of a killer.
It never failed. The second he got to the door and was about to leave, his cellphone rang. It wasn’t the office because he’d let Ebony go about an hour before he left himself. And if there was one thing he knew for certain about his legal assistant, it was that when he said it was quitting time, she took those words to heart and made a fast escape for the front door. She was planning to party no doubt, because Ebony had a very high-spirited personality and didn’t bother to hide it, not even when she was at work.
Ebony was in her late twenties and had been with his firm for the past four years. Mrs. Jefferson, his first assistant/office manager had been there when he started the firm five years ago only to retire a year later when her daughter gave birth to quintuplets and needed help. Ebony was efficient, intelligent and nosy as hell. She talked a lot and loudly, took long lunches and harassed a good portion of their clients. But she was the best fit for the firm. Clients knew not to play with Ebony. When she called them about their payments, they paid or risked her going off on them. She typed faster than anybody Ben had ever known—even with nails that looked as long and sharp as weapons—and the office was superbly organized, right down to the blue-only pens she purchased from the supply company. There was no argument that she was an invaluable asset to the firm.
But that didn’t stop her from getting on Ben’s nerves at least three days out of the work week.
“Ben Donovan,” he answered, stopping in front of the door.
“This call is strictly a reminder. Dinner at Aunt Bev’s this Sunday at five. That’s two days from today. Don’t even think about using me as an excuse should you not attend.”
Ben only smiled. Max was so damned serious.
“Good to hear you’ve got my back, big brother,” he quipped, clenching the phone between his ear and his shoulder while he opened the door and closed it behind him.
“Well, since they believe I’m my brother’s keeper, I was told to remind you again.”
He had missed the last few get-togethers, Ben admitted to himself. But he’d been in trial—a very high-profile murder trial, at that. He’d barely had time to breathe or hit the gym or anything else he liked to do for fun. Now that the case had been declared a mistrial, he was seriously thinking about a little vacation, maybe a couple days on some lovely beach where he could swim until his muscles ached, then sleep until late morning and eat until he couldn’t move. That was Ben’s idea of the perfect vacation.
“I’ll be there,” he said.
The Donovans were a close-knit family. Even though they were stretched across the United States, they still kept in close contact with each other. That was something bred in them from generation to generation. Ben remembered his father telling him that their great-great-grandfather Elias Donovan said there was nothing more important than family, not business and definitely not money. Only family survived. Ben believed that wholeheartedly and normally never missed a function.
“You okay?” Max asked after Ben had been quiet for a few seconds.
Ben had just climbed into his car and was staring through the front windshield at a piece of paper that wasn’t there twenty minutes ago when he’d parked.
“I’m fine,” he finally replied, still deciding whether or not he was going to reach for the paper. “Just trying to get to the gym before it gets too crowded.”
“You and that gym. It’s like your second home,” Max told him as if he didn’t already know this.
Slipping on his Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses, Ben reached for his seat belt. “It’s good for my health,” he told his brother. He left out that it was an excellent way to work off stress and to keep his mind focused on the important things in life since the field of work he’d chosen wasn’t the most calming.
“If you say so,” Max said. “Stop by and see your niece sometime. She’s growing like a weed. You probably won’t even recognize her.”
That thought made Ben smile. Max and his wife Deena had adopted a beautiful baby girl from a small town in Brazil. Max and Ben’s mother Alma, along with her business partner Noreen Lakefield, ran a nonprofit agency called Karing Kidz which facilitated adoptions for children in North and South America. The girl’s name was Sophia and she was the absolute apple of Max and Deena’s eyes. She’d also wrapped her Uncle Ben around her baby finger so tightly he just about beamed each time he saw her.
“I’ll recognize her and she’ll definitely recognize her favorite uncle. Tell Deena I said hello.”
“Will do. Be safe.”
“Will do,” Ben agreed, disconnecting the phone. When he’d tossed it onto the passenger seat, he gave in to curiosity and reached for the piece of paper on his dashboard.
Route 215, Exit 11
It was typed and cryptic and the headache that had been sluggishly hanging around since about ten o’clock on Wednesday morning began pounding immediately, as if to say, “I’m back!” Ben had no idea what the address was referring to, but he knew the meaning of the two words.
As Ben drove, an earlier conversation from the day played in his head. It was something he’d planned to forget, to ignore and file away with other crazy incidents in his life as a defense attorney.
He’d been walking to his car, going down the steps to the underground garage across the street from his office building. It was well-lit on both floors but like traveling through the gates to the White House to get a car in and out, which was the reason he’d chosen this lot instead of the above ground one a half block down. His shoes clicked rhythmically across the concrete as he pulled his key from his pocket and disengaged the automatic locks. The headlights flashed on and off as the sound of his alarm being disabled echoed throughout the space. He was about a foot away from his car when the man stepped out and stood in front of him with arms folded over his chest.
He wore an expertly tailored single breasted suit in a milk chocolate brown hue. His thick, inky colored hair was combed back and generously sprinkled with a glossy sheen. A burnt orange complexion, dusky brown eyes and lips that spread into an eerie smirk topped off his appearance. He was almost a perfect match for the witness description of the person who’d climbed into a gray Lexus after leaving the house of Congressman McGlinn and his wife the night they were brutally murdered.
“I didn’t get a chance to thank you for a job well done,” Ramone Vega said in his heavily accented voice.
The car was a perfect match for the one made in the witness statement that had been suppressed at trial. Disregarding that thought, Ben decided to take the hand Vega extended to him. They shook as he said, “No problem. It’s my job.”
Vega nodded. “I guess they’ll want a new trial.”
They did. Ben already knew that. He’d known the second Julius Talmadge, the assistant district attorney on the case, had slammed his briefcase closed and stomped out of the courtroom. He also knew because they’d already served him with a motion stating their claim.
Ben only nodded.
“We’ll be ready for them the second time around, huh?” Vega asked with a chuckle.
Ben did not laugh.
“I won’t be representing you at the new trial,” he told him, and kept his eyes trained on the other man’s.
Vega didn’t look shocked, only annoyed. “I pay my bills with you, man. So what’s the problem?”
“I can take or release any client I want. That’s in our retainer agreement. You paid me for this charge and this trial date. I represented you. I am not obligated to retry this case for you.”
“Don’t do this Donovan.” The sentence had been simple enough, its tone meant to be a warming.
Ben shook his head. Something about Vega had always bothered him. No, it wasn’t something, it was guilt. The man was as guilty of murder as Ben was innocent. And knowing that, he couldn’t effectively represent him, he would not represent him.
“It’s already done. You need to find yourself another lawyer and fast. I’m sure the prosecutors are going to push for a speedy trial.”
Ben had started to walk away.
“I want you on this case,” Vega said, his accent almost gone, his voice deeper, deadlier.
Ben didn’t like having his back to the man as he walked the rest of the distance to his car. When he was at the driver’s side door, he opened it and tossed his briefcase into the back seat. He looked up at Vega who had turned and was watching him intently.
“I won’t work on this case. And I’m not going to change my mind.”
He’d climbed into his car and pulled off, headed for the Justice Center where he could file his own motion to strike his appearance. Out of the rear view mirror he’d watched Vega reach into his jacket pocket for his cellphone. When he turned toward the exit, Vega had still been standing there, looking at him drive away.
Ben hadn’t given a second thought to what the man might have been thinking or doing. He’d just been glad to have this case behind him.
Now he wondered if it really was.