Suddenly One Summer

By: Julie James


To Mr. James





Acknowledgments


First and foremost, I owe special thanks to my wonderful friend Kellie Cross for sharing her insight and experience as a family lawyer and for going above and beyond in answering all my pesky questions. Huge thanks, as well, to Pamela Clare, for graciously imparting her knowledge and experience as an investigative journalist, and to Amy Guth for helping me with some questions about the Tribune.

I’m also indebted to John Robertson, private investigator, for teaching me the ins and outs of Internet people searches, and to Kevin Kavanaugh and Brent Dempsey for their additional insight into the investigatory field. Thanks, also, to Beth Kery, for chatting with me about the therapy process and “difficult” clients.

Many thanks to my agent, the fantastic Robin Rue, to the entire team at Berkley, and to my editor, Wendy McCurdy, for all her support and creative insight, and for brainstorming with me when I needed to “talk out” this book. I’m also tremendously grateful to Elyssa Patrick, Kati Brown, Brent Dempsey, and “Mr. James” for beta reading the book—sometimes more than once—under tight deadlines and for their helpful critiques.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to all the readers who take the time to reach out to me and let me know that my words put a smile on your face. The feeling is definitely mutual.







Prologue


ALTHOUGH PEOPLE OFTEN said that divorce was an ugly business, Victoria Slade had a different perspective. Typically, by the time clients arrived on her office doorstep, it was the marriage that had gotten ugly. Divorce was simply the part where the truth came out.

In a cab on the way to her town house on Chicago’s north side, Victoria leaned her head against the seat and thought about the case she’d wrapped up today. Her client, a forty-five-year-old stay-at-home mom, had been blindsided three months ago after being served with a divorce petition by her husband of fourteen years. According to the terms of the couple’s prenuptial agreement, Victoria’s client was not entitled to receive any portion of the sizable business empire her husband had amassed, throughout the course of their marriage, as one of the most successful celebrity chefs in Chicago. The three lucrative restaurants, the bestselling cookbooks, and the income derived from his Food Network cooking show had all been designated “separate assets” per the prenup and thus untouchable by his wife in the event of a divorce.

Unless, of course, Mr. Celebrity Chef violated the no-cheating clause in the couple’s prenup, thereby rendering the entire agreement invalid.

Knowing this, Victoria naturally had done a little digging.

She would say this for Mr. Celebrity Chef: he’d covered his tracks better than most cheating spouses she’d come across—and that was coming from someone who’d made virtually a cottage industry out of the unfaithfully wed. Most got caught after leaving a text message or e-mail trail, others because of suspicious activity on their credit card or bank statements. But this guy had been smart: he’d bought his twenty-six-year-old mistress a one-bedroom condo in the Ritz-Carlton Residences via a limited liability company that he’d created under false pretenses—supposedly a “food supply” company—to which his restaurants had made bimonthly payments in the amount of twenty thousand dollars.

Unfortunately for him, however, the forensic accountant Victoria had hired to comb through Mr. Celebrity Chef’s books was even smarter.

And the rest was history.

Because of the diligent work of Victoria Slade & Associates, their client had walked out of this afternoon’s settlement conference with significantly more money than the maintenance award she would have received had they not busted her husband with his hands in the metaphorical cookie jar. So to celebrate, Victoria had taken all six of her associates—and Will, her assistant and right-hand man—out for a well-earned evening of dinner and drinks.

Lots of drinks, judging from the tab Victoria had signed off on when leaving the restaurant.

She, herself, was basically sober when the cab pulled up in front of her three-story townhome. She enjoyed a good bourbon on the rocks as much as the next girl, but tonight she’d been wearing her Badass Boss hat, and as far as she was concerned, badass bosses didn’t get falling-down drunk in front of their employees.

She tipped the driver an extra twenty when the taxi came to a stop. “Would you mind waiting until I get inside before you drive off?” She was playing it safe, of course, given the recent string of burglaries in the Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhoods. Not to mention the fact that it was one o’clock in the morning.

He nodded. “Sure. No problem.”