About That Night Page 1

Author: Julie James

Series: FBI/US Attorney #3

Genres: Romance


May 2003

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Pressed against the wood-paneled wall of the bar, her chin resting on her hand, Rylann Pierce listened as her friends chatted on around her, quite content for the first time in a month to think about nothing whatsoever.

Along with five of her law school classmates, she sat at a crowded table on the second floor of the Clybourne, one of the few campus bars frequented by highbrow graduate students who demanded that their watered-down, four-dollar drinks be served in actual glasses instead of plastic. Everyone in the group was in the same section as Rylann, which meant they’d all completed their last final exam, Criminal Procedure, late that afternoon. Spirits were high and boisterous—at least boisterous by law-student standards—punctuated only by occasional lows when someone realized a point they’d missed during the obligatory post-exam recap.

Someone nudged her elbow, interrupting her reverie. “Hello? Anyone there?”

The question came from Rylann’s roommate, Rae Mendoza, who was seated at her right.

“I’m here. Just…picturing myself at the pool.” Rylann tried to hold on to the mirage for a few moments longer. “It’s sunny and seventy-five degrees. I’ve got some kind of tropical drink with one of those little umbrellas in it, and I’m reading a book—one I don’t have to highlight or outline in the margins.”

“They make those kinds of books?”

“If memory serves.” Rylann exchanged a conspiratorial smile with Rae. Like many of their classmates, they’d both spent nearly every waking hour of the last four weeks outlining class notes and textbooks, taking practice exams, staring bleary-eyed at Emanuel Law Outlines into the wee hours of the night, and meeting with study groups—all in preparation for four three-hour tests that would help determine the course of their future legal careers. No pressure there.

The rumor was that the second and third years got progressively easier, which would be nice—there was this interesting activity called sleep Rylann had heard of, and she was thinking about trying it out. Perfect timing, too. She had a week off before her summer job started, during which she planned to do nothing more strenuous than roll herself out of bed every day by noon and mosey over to the university’s outdoor pool, which was open to students.

“I hate to burst the bubble on your daydream, but I’m pretty sure they don’t allow alcoholic drinks at IMPE,” Rae said, referring to the university’s Intramural Physical Education building, which housed said pool.

Rylann waved off such pesky details. “I’ll throw a mai tai in my College of Law thermos and tell people that it’s iced tea. If campus security gives me any trouble, I’ll scare them off with my quasi-legal credentials and remind them of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures.”

“Wow. Do you know how big of a law school geek you just sounded like?”

Unfortunately, she did. “Do you think any of us will ever be normal again?”

Rae considered this. “I’m told that somewhere around third year, we lose the urge to cite the Constitution in everyday conversation.”

“That’s promising,” Rylann said.

“But seeing how you’re more of a law geek than most, it might take you longer.”

“Remember that conversation last night when I said I was going to miss you this summer? I take it back.”

Rae laughed and slung her arm around Rylann’s shoulders. “Aw, you know you’re going to be so bored here without me.”

Rylann was overcome by a sudden pang of sentimentality. Now that finals were over, Rae and nearly all their law school friends were heading back home. Rae would be in Chicago for the next ten weeks, working double shifts at a bartending job that sounded glamorous and fun and that would pay her enough money to cover nearly a year of tuition. Rylann, on the other hand, had scored a summer law internship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois. While the internship was a prestigious and coveted position among law students—particularly among first-years—she would be paid at the not-so-glamorous GS-5 salary, which would earn her little more than what she needed to cover her rent and living expenses for the summer. Perhaps, if she were particularly frugal, she’d have enough left over for next semester’s textbooks. Or at least one of them. Those darn things were expensive.

But despite the meager GS-5 wages, she was thrilled about the internship. As much as she grumbled about her student loans, she wasn’t going to law school for the money. She had a six-year academic and career plan—she was big on having plans—and her summer internship was the next step in it. After graduation, she hoped to land a clerkship with a federal judge, and then she’d apply to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Although many law students had no clue what type of law they wanted to practice after graduation, this was not the case with Rylann. She’d known since she was ten that she wanted to become a criminal prosecutor and had never wavered in that, despite the lure of money offered by big law firms. Sure, that paid the bills—and then some—but civil litigation seemed too dry and impersonal for her tastes. Corporation X suing Company Y for millions of dollars in a lawsuit that could go on for years without anyone giving a damn except for the lawyers who billed three thousand hours a year working on it. No thank you.

Rylann wanted to be in court every day, in the thick of things, trying cases that meant something. And in her mind, not much could be more meaningful than putting criminals behind bars.