Dear (almost) everyone: Can we be friends again?

Life is about to get complicated for Amelia Montgomery, a prominent litigator in Chicago. She’s been fired for not compromising her principles in a high-profile case and then punching her partner in the nose for the misogynistic comment he made in retort (not her finest moment). Leaving a career that gave her purpose, Amelia can only ask, What next?

Let it be better than her epic failure of a fortieth birthday party: an open bar full of no-shows except for John Ellis, a total stranger and the new associate at her ex-firm. As it turns out, though, he’s very good company—and a wake-up call. With the help of John and a lot of champagne, Amelia considers the people she’s wronged, from old besties to former boyfriends to coworkers. Amelia resolves to make amends—to those who really deserve it.

One apology at a time, Amelia’s looking at the choices she’s made in the past, the new ones she’s making with John, and those she’s making for herself. What next? Maybe a second chance she never expected.

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Excerpt: The Apology Project
By Jeanette Escudero

Excerpt: The Apology Project

Coming August 1st is a new, witty and emotional novel from Jeanette Escudero! THE APOLOGY PROJECT is rife with humor and addictive banter and I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek below!

 

Where is my freaking team? I’m sitting at my desk at six in the morning the next day. I expected them all to be here already. During my first years at the firm, I was always the first in and last out. That’s how you start to make partner. I take a sip of my coffee and sit back on my chair to think about Hugh Phoebe, my defendant, and what defenses we could possibly use. And I’ll confess, thinking of Phoebe isn’t pleasant.

He is a five-foot-ten white male with three very prominent black moles on his face. One has a hair that sticks out of it. He’s balding but refuses to succumb to the loss of hair, so he combs the little he does have over the bald area and uses a lot of product to get it to stay there, which makes his hair (and head) visibly greasy. He is always sweating, and it’s disgusting. He does have a good tailor, though. His oversize belly is always well hidden in very expensive designer suits. He wears a big, gaudy Rolex watch with diamonds and a gold ring squeezed onto his pinky finger. The best way I can describe Hugh Phoebe is a cross between an old-school stereotypical Italian mobster, like Marlon Brando from The Godfather, and Felonius Gru, the bad guy from Despicable Me.

I shudder at the disturbing visual.

Not to mention, what I’ve read in the last twenty-four hours is weighing on me. I’m hoping these junior associates have a good take on a defense because, quite frankly, I don’t like where I see this headed. I think settlement may have to be the way to go on this one.

Wendy walks in first. She’s the brightest of the bunch, sharp but shy, and you can’t be shy if you’re going to litigate. “Good morning, Ms. Mon-Montgomery.” I narrow my eyes and then tilt a brow. She always stutters when she’s around me, yet I’ve overheard her speaking with others and I’ve never once heard her stutter. Also, she never looks me in the eye. I’ve never been unkind to her; I don’t know why she’s so nervous around me. Maybe she just dislikes me. I don’t know, and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to care right now.

“Good morning, Wendy.”

“I took the liberty of having the files moved to the conference room. I thought it—that—you know, that there’s more room there. Is that okay? Did I overstep? I can always have them leave—”

“It’s fine, Wendy. That’s a good idea. We’ll meet over there. Tell everyone to meet at CR1.”

She bows her head low, almost turning the gesture into a curtsy, and then walks out of the room.

Strange girl.

A moment later, Chris, the maintenance man, walks in with a dolly, and I direct him to the boxes that need to be relocated. By a quarter to eight I’m walking into the conference room with my coffee mug in my hand, a gag gift I received from an old friend, Luanne Chase, when I passed the Illinois state bar. It says, Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer.

I hear laughing and chatting. Matt’s drinking something that looks milky. There are some black balls sitting at the bottom of his clear cup. When they see me walk in, all laughter and chatter cease and they jump up to their feet, but Matt momentarily chokes on whatever it is that he’s drinking.

Sylvia pats him on the back as his eyes water.

“Are you okay? What are you drinking? They look like marbles.” I’m sure I look disgusted, and aside from being worried that he may actually choke, I am disgusted.

That makes him cough even harder. “Boba,” Wendy clarifies. “It’s boba tea. Those are tapioca balls.”

Now I’m truly sickened. I hate tapioca. I slide the files away from Matt. The last thing I need is that boba stuff splattered all over the transcripts of the Phoebe trial.

After Matt catches his breath and everyone sits down, I begin the meeting. “Let’s stick to coffee from now on, shall we? That’s revolting.” I eye Matt, who wipes his eyes in embarrassment. “I hope everyone had a restful sleep because we have a lot to do before Friday.”

I make my way to the head of the table, four yellow legal pads in hand.

“Where’s . . . ?” I snap my fingers together. “Tall guy, glasses—”

“Luis,” Sylvia says.

“Yes, Luis.” He’s the newest intern. “Why isn’t he here?”

The five of them, three junior associates and two interns, just shrug.

It amazes me how unprofessional and unmotivated these new interns and JAs can be, but I don’t have the time or the energy to dwell on the eventual failure of someone else. “All right, let’s get started. As you all know, we are representing Hugh Phoebe on the civil matter. There are four victims bringing seven separate assault and harassment charges. The first order of business is to move to consolidate all the cases together.” They nod, taking notes, and I continue. “As you also know from every news outlet across the nation and from your reading last night, Phoebe won the criminal case.”

“We’re essentially retrying the case, but civilly,” Wendy says.

“That is correct, and as such, we’ll see where the defense attorney in the criminal matter prevailed and where he was deficient. Remember that a jury will be more sympathetic about putting a man in prison than they will be about finding him guilty to the tune of $150 million.”

Their eyes widen. That is a sum of money no one at this table will ever see, but Phoebe is a billionaire with a big, fat capital B, and he is willing to spend a fortune to save a fortune.

“Alice, what are the charges?” I ask one of the interns who’s sitting back nervously. I want to see if she’s prepared.

“Sexual assault, sexual harassment, indecent exposure.” As she says this, Luis strolls in with a tall coffee in hand.

“Sorry I’m late. The line at Star—”

I don’t let him finish.

“This is a career-defining case we’re about to embark on, and I need people who are ready to put in the time and work hard, not people who prioritize coffee over their careers.”

“I am willing to work hard, Ms. Montgomery. It wasn’t my fault that the line for—”

“Get out!” I point to the door. I hate excuses.

“But—”

This time I shout. The word out reverberates throughout the big room. The rest of the team jumps in their chairs, and Luis’s eyes widen as his posture slumps and he walks out.

I push my chair back and pace the room. “I hope you all understand what we’re dealing with here. Hugh Phoebe is a public figure. This will be the trial of your career, and I’ve been asked to be lead. I need a dedicated team, not someone who’s going to stroll in with a latte ten minutes late. There will be long days and nights. Sometimes weekends and holidays. Until this trial is over, we will be neck-deep in work. Am I clear?” They all nod. “Okay, so back to the case. Matt, what do you think about Phoebe?”

Matt pulls out his notes, which are on an iPad, and scrolls.

“No. What do you think? Forget your notes. From what you read. The defense, the victims’ testimony, what do you think? What’s your opinion?”

“He’s a very successful hedge fund guy. Self-made. Scholarship to Harvard Business School—”

“Raised by a single mom,” Sylvia adds. “Donates millions to different organizations. Was named businessman of the year some time ago for his commitment to the environment in all his business dealings.”

“Been married for over thirty years and just had an anniversary party in the Hamptons,” Alice says as they continue spewing all Phoebe’s accolades, until finally, I interrupt.

“Great. You guys read.”

They all smile proudly. I pull the chair back and take a seat. “Do you want to know what I think?”

They nod eagerly.

I lean forward, and they lean in as if I’m about to give them the secrets to life itself. “I think that Hugh Phoebe is a despicable human being.” Their mouths open wide as I continue. “He got out of jail because he had the equivalent of the Dream Team representing him, and they won on technicalities. But the civil world is different, folks. A lot of the evidence that was not brought into the criminal case will be brought into the civil case.”

Craig, the other intern, who’s been mostly quiet, says, “Well, um—”

“Speak up, Craig. I can’t hear you,” I say, and sit back and drink some more coffee as I await their inexperienced ideas of the case.

“There’s an angle that I think would work,” he begins, and I impatiently wave him along with my free hand. Spit it out. “In the deposition of one of the victims, I read that she has been in rehab three times and—”

“And what?” I don’t let him finish. “And she deserved to be fired from her job for not sleeping with the old man? Because of her drug problem, Phoebe had a right to grope her? Is that what you’re saying, Craig?”

“Well, no. No!” He becomes flustered. I’m speaking to them just like opposing counsel or a judge would speak to them. There’s no time to dawdle. You have to make decisions and then assertively defend them. No ums, no stuttering, no floundering. If you don’t believe in what you are saying, no one else will. “I’m just saying that if she’s discredited—”

“No!” I put down the mug, stand up, and start to pace again. I’m a pacer. When I think, I walk. When I talk, I walk. I don’t know how to do thinking or talking from a chair. “Listen to me, all of you, and listen carefully. I will not try a case by making victims seem like they asked for it. I don’t care how much money Phoebe has. You hear me?” There is a big difference between knowing how to win and being unscrupulous, and I will not taint my reputation for Phoebe. “You have two days.” I hold up two fingers and repeat. “Two days to think outside the box and figure out another angle. Could the victims have been out of the office? Is it possible he didn’t do it? But discrediting the victims to get him out of the charges is not going to happen. Maybe settlement is the best option? I don’t know yet, but whatever it is, I will not put a victim on the stand only to rip her apart about her past. Understand?”

They all nod, and then I take my legal pads and walk out.

By the look of fear in their eyes, I think I’ve made myself clear.

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One Comment:


  1. Karen said:

    I received this book through Amazon first reads, and II really enjoyed it. Strong female lead. Good ending.

    Reply

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