Please say hello to Dev Bentham and
Money can’t buy happiness. Jacob Nussbaum knows this better than anyone. He's a corporate lawyer deep inside a huge New York firm, where he works overtime, sacrifices any chance at a personal life, and has been selling his soul for years. With a secretary as his only friend, he trudges on, until his whole world is blown apart by a manila envelope of photos—evidence that one of the firm’s partners is the dirtiest lawyer in one hell of a filthy business.
In search of the truth, Jacob travels to a small northern Wisconsin fishing resort. There he meets Ben Anderson, a brutally lonely man, who knocks him off his feet. Ben prompts Jacob to reevaluate his life. He’s a dozen years older than Jacob, still recovering from the death of his long time love, and doesn’t want to leave anyone a widower. But a jaded New Yorker on a soul-searching mission might be just the man to convince the grieving Ben that it's never too late to begin again.
Jacob was still laughing as the door closed behind her. He picked up the manila envelope. No return address, just his name and the address of the law firm hand printed on the front. The package was thick, heavy. He opened the envelope and let the contents slide onto his desk.
Photographs. It took a moment for him to identify what he was seeing, but the green, brown, black, and white of the images slowly resolved into animal carcasses lying in grass and mud. Cows. Hundreds of them, strewn across a field like so many fallen trees. Jacob stared at the gruesome image on his desk.
He turned the photo over. Lowndes County, Alabama 2010 was penciled on the back. At the words, Jacob’s stomach twisted. He knew exactly what he was seeing—the alleged spill at the chemical plant. He’d been the senior associate on that case. It was the last thing he’d worked on before making partner. The whole thing had left a bad taste in his mouth. Their client, a multinational corporation, had settled with local residents for less than half what the corporation had spent on the publicists who helped them spin and bury the news. Or on the lawyers.
Jacob carefully placed the photo aside. Beneath it were photos of worn-down old farmhouses, shuttered businesses, an area in decline. Jacob knew all about local unemployment and the desolate economy. The chemical company had banked on that with the low-ball offers they’d authorized Jacob to use to start the negotiations. But even they’d been surprised when the farmers agreed to that first bid. That they hadn’t come back with another proposal should have been grounds for a malpractice suit against their lawyer.
The next photo stopped him cold. A child lay in a hospital bed. Her face was obscured by a mass of tubes, but Jacob immediately recognized who she must be—Lillian Warren, twelve years old. The firm had found experts who gave affidavits assuring the court that her liver failure could not be definitively connected with the spill. Lillian Warren—just a name in an affidavit. He’d never seen a picture, hadn’t connected the name with an actual child. Now, looking at her little body swamped by medical equipment, Jacob was surprised by a wave of shame. The settlement probably hadn’t even covered her medical expenses. Where was she now?
Lillian’s image hung in front of his face even after he laid the stack of photos down on his desk and swiveled to stare out the window. Manhattan gleamed in the sunlight, but the million-dollar view only made his stomach churn. He felt nauseous. The beauty of being a negotiator was that he never encountered the victims. He’d always told himself that allowed him to stay objective. Or live in denial.
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About the author:
Dev Bentham writes soulful m/m romance. Her characters are flawed and damaged adult men who may not even know what they are missing, but whose lives are transformed by true love.
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