“Frank is so out of there, I think he’s barely even tolerating this farewell party,” Robyn said, lowering her voice and leaning in closer to Chris.
Across the room, Scaife Enterprises’ longtime general counsel was being roasted by Jamal Turner to mark the occasion of his retirement. His face bore a strained smile as he listened and tried to be a good sport about all of the playful mocking. Frank had come to SE from a plush law practice and entered the world of entertainment law probably thinking it would be equally cushy—parties with celebrities, short workdays and comped tickets to sold-out concerts. Instead, Robyn knew, he had been constantly challenged and sometimes even shocked by the breadth of legal matters that arose during his stint at the company.
On an average day at SE, there were paternity suits, tax evasion, restraining orders, and the occasional gun charge to contend with along with the usual, pedestrian contract negotiations. Frank, a Connecticut blue-blood had never had the appetite for some of that work. His strategy as general counsel had been to farm out the messier matters, finding outside counsel to handle anything that smelled like an actual crime.
We’re not the Manhattan public defenders, for chrissakes, he complained.
Despite being offended at the implication about their artists, Robyn had seen his point. A record company ideally should not be in the business of handling civil and criminal matters, just recording contracts. But as his deputy, she had advocated a different approach—keep everything in-house; hire attorneys with specializations in a variety of areas of the law, so that whether an SE artist had unpaid parking tickets, or god forbid assaulted someone at a nightclub, it would all be kept in the family, so to speak.
It builds artist loyalty, Robyn had argued. We look after them in their time of need and when contract renegotiation comes around, they’ll remember it.
Frank had been reticent, but allowed her the latitude to do some of the lower-end work, with the understanding that they would not, as he put it “get sucked in.”
“You’re thinking about taking his place, aren’t you?”
Robyn almost jumped at the sound of Chris’ baritone close to her ear. Not just because it was unexpected that he would say something, but because it was accurate.
“I think I could do a good job,” she said, coyly. She twirled her champagne glass by the stem between her thumb and forefinger.
“And you will. As acting general counsel,” Chris said. “And then you’ll turn over the helm to whoever Jamal finds after the executive search.”
“I think it’s a disgusting waste of money. They’re going to spend twenty-five thousand dollars just to find someone who might be sitting right under their noses.”
“You mean Rebecca?”
Robyn turned and looked at him, sighing. “Christopher …”
“I’m just sayin’ …”
“If Rebecca was that good, Rebecca would have been appointed acting general counsel. And she’s not. I am.”
“I know you are.” Chris brushed his lips across the shell of her ear. “And that was the right decision.”
“Are you humoring me right now?” Robyn asked, turning to look at him full on. “Because it sounds like you’re humoring me.”
Chris held up his hands in surrender. “How ‘bout I just …” He took her champagne flute. “I’m getting a drink, and I’ll bring you back a refill.”
Robyn watched him walk away, and felt her annoyance dissipate as she took in his unhurried, masculine gait that was like a slow-motion sequence in a men’s cologne commercial.
Robyn startled for the second time in as many minutes.
This time the voice at her ear was Tracy’s. Looking stunning as usual, she was wearing a dress that no mother of a small child should have been able to pull off, but of course, Tracy did. It was a beaded mini-dress with shimmery tassels at the hem, reminiscent of a flapper’s dress, though much more understated. And as usual, Tracy had accessorized perfectly, choosing to wear only diamond studs in her ears, and no other embellishment. Her long auburn hair was loose and tucked behind her ears.
“What’re you congratulating me for?” Robyn asked as they exchanged kisses.
“You smell delicious,” Tracy said. “You have to tell me what that scent is. Oh, for your promotion. I mean, I know nothing official’s been announced but with Frank leaving …”
“Well. Not to hear my husband tell it. I can’t tell whether he thinks that I shouldn’t get it, or I just won’t get it.”
“Yes, well. Chris would want you barefoot and pregnant …”
“No, definitely not pregnant,” Robyn laughed. “But maybe barefoot.”
“Just because he’s unemployed …” Tracy joked. “I guess he needs you to be as well.”
“But seriously, I don’t think he’d want me to take it if Jamal made me the offer.”
“Well, you are going to get it, so he’ll have to adjust.”
“Yes. He will,” Robyn said with more confidence than she felt.
She had long accepted that there was a little streak of chauvinism in her man. In his mind, his work was a mission, but hers was little more than a hobby. And that worldview was only amplified by the fact that she didn’t need an income. Men needed to work, in his opinion, and women chose to work.
But it didn’t matter. As far as Robyn was concerned, becoming general counsel was the highest pinnacle anyone in her field could aspire to. And general counsel at one of the most significant players in the recording industry? No. This job was hers, no matter what Chris or anyone else had to say about it.
The ‘Commitment’ series finale.
On Sale October 21
ABOUT NIA FORRESTER
Nia Forrester lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where, by day, she is an attorney working on public policy and by night, she crafts woman-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition.
She welcomes feedback and email from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweets @NiaForrester.