The Devil You Know
by Elizabeth O'Roark
Book 3 in The Devil's series
There’s a devil on my shoulder, and every Monday morning she announces herself.
She’s this delicious flame in my chest, a flurry of whispered suggestions in my ear. Suggestions I ignore…because every single one of them is about Ben Tate.
Ben—Stealer of Clients, Evictor of Homeless Women, Nemesis. Sitting across from me every damn Monday with his lovely, smug smile and his too-perfect teeth, the living symbol of everything I hate.
It’s been my policy to avoid him, but when a case comes into the firm—one that could change his career and mine—I make an exception. It means weekends and evenings by his side. It means enduring his smirk and his smart mouth and never taking the bait.
Until the night Ben says, “Beg.”
And that devil on my shoulder decides to make a few demands of her own.
I'm not crazy about romances that involve lawyers.
I'm not sure why.
I have friends who are lawyers. I respect the profession.
If I had to put my finger on a reason, I would guess its because a lot of the time, the story gets too bogged down with their professions, and it's usually very similar across the board. Two people fighting for partner. Two people on opposite sides of the court. Workaholics.
I don't want to read about their jobs.
I want to read about them getting it on.
HA! Sorry. I do want a story. I just don't want it to be too heavy. While The Devil You know wasn't heavy, and wasn't too bogged down with their professions, it also wasn't my favorite parts of the story.
The romance, though? I really enjoyed it. Ben and Gemma have great chemistry and banter, so even before they get together, all of their scenes are hot.
The story overall - it was good. I liked it. It was just too predictable.
I didn't love The Devil You Know as much as the past two books in these series, but so far, I really love the series as a whole, and I believe you will too!
Ben: “I went home for the weekend.”
I murmur, glancing at him.
Gemma: “I didn’t know humans were allowed to jaunt back and forth over the River Styx like that.”
His eyes raise to mine. His mouth twitches.
Ben: “There’s a small toll. It’s really quite civilized.”
When Gemma Charles smiles at you, rest assured you’re fucked. And she’s been smiling since she entered the courtroom. If Ben and I are being called in at the same time, it means one of us is here to get scolded, and this time it’s probably me. I may or may not have recently encouraged people to call Ben “the Undertaker”. If he doesn’t want unbecoming nicknames, maybe he shouldn’t go after a client’s ex-wife for funeral expenses. Ben: “Knock knock,”
I raise a brow.
Gemma: “You realize saying knock knock is redundant when you actually knock.”
He leans against the door frame.
Ben: “I mostly said it to annoy you.”
Gemma: “You shouldn’t have expended the effort.”
I open a new document on my laptop.
Gemma: “You standing there is enough to annoy me.” Ben: “I didn’t realize you were following my social life so carefully. You almost sound…jealous.”
This is one of those moments. The kind where I know what I should do—ignore him—but the devil is leaping in my chest, suggesting all the wrong things. We’re nearly back to the office, thank God. Perhaps that will keep the damage to a minimum.
Gemma: “That must be it,”
Gemma: “If I wanted my vaginal penetration with a side order of disease, you’d definitely be the first person I’d seek out.”
Ben: “Vaginal penetration?”
he repeats. My nipples tighten, as if he just placed his hand inside my bra.
Ben: “I doubt it would work anyway. Lot of cobwebs there. Too many to bust through, I imagine.”
His mouth curves upward, as if he’s still considering the possibility.
Gemma: “Well, your parts certainly wouldn’t be up to the job. Or any job, if we’re being honest.”
Ben: “You bring up my dick an awful lot.”
His eyes fall to my mouth, and that traitorous devil inside me likes it.
Ben: “I wonder if that means something.”
For a moment I’m picturing him and it—together, obviously—and I’m so winded by the idea it takes a solid two seconds for my mean mouth to make a recovery.
Gemma: “I have always had a soft spot for the small and the weak,”
I reply. The car stops at the curb and he climbs out, but before I can exit, he ducks his head back inside, so our faces are level and far too close. Close enough to smell the soap on his skin, the starch in his shirt.
he says, eyes glittering dangerously,
Ben: “I promise there’s nothing small or weak about me.” I want the world to be a different place for the women who come after me. And the only way to make that happen is to ignore the fact that it isn’t different yet. But I’m so goddamned tired of staying silent just to get the things I deserve. Gemma: “I’d better let you go, Keels. The Prince of Darkness here has sensed I might be enjoying myself and is determined to bring it to an end.”
Keely: “Bye, babe. Tell me how the sex was when he leaves your room.”
I hang up, and Ben turns to me.
Ben: “So who’s the lucky sixty-nine-year-old?”
I roll my eyes.
Gemma: “Your dad.”
Ben: “My dad is dead.”
Gemma: “That would explain why he’s been so pleasantly quiet in bed.” Thanks to both books and Hallmark movies, I fully expect the clerk to tell me there’s been a mix-up when I finally reach the front desk. You and Mr. Tate will have to share a room, she’ll say. It has a twin bed, is only lit by romantic candlelight, and there’s nothing else available in the entire state. You’ll be sleeping in his t-shirt, and he will be completely nude. Instead, she simply tells me my room is ready. I will, apparently, not need to share a bed or somehow accidentally brush up against his erection. It feels a little anti-climactic if I’m being honest. When we get out of the building, I’m smiling. I turn to look at him and I’m still smiling, even though I really wish I could stop. He blinks at me for a moment, and then something in his face softens.
Ben: “Liked that, did you?”
Gemma: “Of course not,”
I reply, climbing into the car.
Ben: “Sure you didn’t.”
The corner of his mouth lifts just a bit. Person: “Stacey! Fiona!”
Person: “We’ll make room for you!”
Suddenly they are pushing us backward once more. Maybe the purple hats signify their inability to maintain reasonable personal space.
Ben: “For fuck’s sake,”
groans Ben, as my ass presses into his thighs.
Gemma: “It’s fun for me too,”
Gemma: “We’d be farther apart if we were having sex.”
I meant it as a complaint, but I flush as soon as the words exit my mouth. It sounds like it’s something I’ve pictured repeatedly and am perhaps picturing now: Ben sliding my skirt up in this crowded elevator, pushing my panties aside. Gross. I shudder. Stop. And then…something registers. Pressure against the curve of my back. His—apparently ample—penis is wedged there. And hard.
Gemma: “Oh my God. Is that what I think it is?”
I ask in a not-so-quiet voice, but there is no way the purple hats are going to hear me over their shouts to each other. He gives the slightest sigh, as if disappointed in me for asking when he should actually be disappointed in his penis for acting like it’s thirteen.
Ben: “Don’t get too flattered,”
he says under his breath.
Ben: “There are a lot of women in here. It could be for any of them.”
I feel my mouth curving upward and promptly turn it back down.
Gemma: “Mommy issues. I should have known.”
I hear something that sounds suspiciously like laughter.
Ben: “Don’t judge. My mother is a very attractive woman.”
I choke on a laugh of my own and try to disguise it as a cough, which only presses me closer to him. God. Ben is strangely tense on the way to the airport and agitated as we go through security. I lean over to remove my shoes and he makes an irritated noise, probably because he had pre-check and I did not.
Gemma: “Sorry for the extra two seconds this is taking,”
I say, with my fakest smile, going more slowly than is necessary.
Gemma: “I did tell you to go through the pre-check line, though.”
Ben: “Take all the time you want. There might be one man left here who hasn’t looked down your shirt at this point.”
Gemma: “I just hope the one man was you.”
Ben: “Unfortunately for us both, it was not.”
His voice is an irritated growl, but I spy a hint of a flush along his cheekbones.
Ben: “I could see straight down your shirt half the ride here.” Ben: “Shit,”
says Ben, looking at his watch.
Gemma: “Not going to make it back before your girlfriend’s curfew?” Ben: “If our positions were reversed, I’d be complaining to HR right now,”
he says. Shit.
Gemma: “I have no idea what you’re talking about,”
I reply, quickly looking away. He closes the overhead bin and takes the seat beside me again.
Ben: “I practically watched your thoughts scroll across your face and they were surprisingly filthy. I’m not sure I could even say them aloud.”
I press my thighs together, feeling breathless. It’s probably the heat.
Gemma: “Considering most of the women you date don’t read yet, I figured you’d be better at talking.”
he asks, his mouth twitching. He closes his eyes, pressing his fingers to his temples like he’s a psychic.
Ben: “So, I see you in a room, and…wow, you really want me to put my tongue there? I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never done that before.”
I roll my eyes.
Gemma: “You do seem like the type who wouldn’t have done much with his tongue.”
Ben: “I’ve done plenty, Gemma,” Gemma: “Someone’s in a bad mood. Did your girlfriend not ask you to the winter formal?”
Ben: “I’m sure she will, once she’s in high school.”
My traitorous mouth twitches.
Gemma: “You’re disgusting.” Ben: “Are you really going to pretend you didn’t kiss me back?”
I kissed him back. I ran my hands into his hair, and I’m pretty sure I gasped. Denying it, at this point, is illogical.
Gemma: “You took me by surprise.”
Ben: “I should have fucked you then, too,”
he says, eyes flashing,
Ben: “just to see how else surprise makes you yield.” Ben: “I’ve wanted to watch your face when you come for so fucking long,”
he says, gripping my hair, pulling my head back so all I can see is him. His jaw is locked tight, as if he’s barely restraining himself.
Ben: “Go ahead. I know you want to.”
I’ve never seen what Ben looks like when he wants something desperately, until now. It’s that, as much as anything, forcing me to give in at last. I let go with a small cry, my eyes closing, the world going black and blissful as his fingers maintain their pace.
Ben: “God, I love that,” Gemma: “I think I sold my soul to the devil last night.”
Keely: “You’re a lawyer. You did that a long time ago.” Fields catches me just as I step off the elevator. He tells me the judge on a case I just won said I was singularly vicious. It’s not an insult, at least not in Fields’ eyes. Gemma: "My father treated my mother terribly in their divorce, like tons of men before and after him, and I want to even the playing field. You all call me The Castrator. You know what I bet they call Paul Sheffield for doing the same fucking thing? A really good attorney.” Gemma: “I went to the ER the night you grabbed my wrist,”
I reply. The trick, when lying, is to make yourself really believe it’s true. Right now, I can almost remember the hospital, late at night, fluorescent lights overhead, the smell of bleach.
Gemma: “The bruising is documented. I discussed the incident with several people at the time—the doctor treating my injuries was very adamant about me reporting the attack to the police. Drop the charges against Ben or I file for assault.”
Webber: “You think you can threaten me, you fucking bitch? You’ve got no proof.”
Gemma: “I’m pretty sure I just told you I have proof, and I guarantee there was a camera that caught what you did outside the bar. But if you want to go up against me in court, let’s go. This kind of case is how I make my living. I will clear my goddamn schedule.” Ben: “I want to be someone you trust enough to invite home, Gemma. And I’m willing to wait for it.” Mom: “I want you to go see your father on your way out Monday.”
My face falls.
Gemma: “Are you serious? Why?”
Mom: “Because you might not like what he did, but he’s still your father. He deserves to spend a few hours with his daughter on Christmas.”
Gemma: “Mom, do you have any idea what efforts he’s made so that you wouldn’t see me? He’s spent over a decade trying to cut you out. I don’t understand how you can be so forgiving.”
Mom: “I’m forgiving, honey, because I see so much of him in you.”
I know she isn’t wrong, but it hurts anyway.
Gemma: “That’s pretty much the worst thing you could have said.”
Mom: “I didn’t mean it as an insult. You’re brilliant like he is, but you’re also more stubborn than is good for you, and you’re so busy looking for the worst in people that you don’t always see the best. Instead of thinking he tries to control you because he’s punitive, is it at least possible that he loves you also? Couldn’t it be both?” Ben: “You want to burn the whole world to ash, just to make sure every path she walks is cleared for her. I know the feeling.” Gemma: “You want to leave? And start a new firm with me?”
He gives a quiet laugh.
Ben: “Just imagine how many non-paying clients you could bring in if we set up our own shop. And yes, of course I’d leave. You only stayed because you had something to prove, and I only stayed because I was in love with this woman there who loathed me.”
Gemma: “You love me?”
I ask. His thumb swipes a tear off my cheek.
Ben: “This can’t be a surprise to you. I’ve been in love with you for two years straight. You were the only reason I interviewed there in the first place.”
I think of him then, watching me that first day. Saying, “I know who you are” with that same tender thing in his eyes I’ve seen a thousand times since. I narrated our story in the worst way possible, just like he said. But I’m going to tell it a different way from this moment on.
Gemma: “I love you,”
Gemma: “And I wanted to make partner, but for the past two years, you were the reason I stayed there too.”
He laughs as he presses his lips to mine.
Ben: “I know. But I’m glad you finally figured it out.” Gemma: “It’s exactly like my Pinterest board.”
he says. And he sounds ashamed, which is when I turn to him, confused for a moment, and then incredulous.
Ben: “I didn’t realize what I was doing at first. And by the time I did, I couldn’t take it back, and I didn’t figure it would matter. It seemed like you were never, ever going to give me the time of day.”
I brush at the tears running down my face as I laugh.
Gemma: “That’s so creepy. It’s so much worse than I thought.”
Ben: “I know, right? But…imagine how much more of our money you could blow on shoes if you lived here instead of your apartment.”
Gemma: “Our money?”
He rests his hands on my hips.
Ben: “I have waited for you, Gemma Charles, for two years. Every day of two fucking years. You don’t really think I’m letting you go after all that?”
I smile like a pre-teen who just got asked out for the first time. It’s so goofy I want to hide my face from him, but I don’t. I just go up on my toes and press a single kiss to his mouth.
Gemma: “Fine. But I don’t really believe in marriage.”
Ben: “Sure you don’t.” Ben: “So, life in a small town isn’t everything you thought it would be?”
I say, laughing into his t-shirt.
Gemma: “It’s so boring here. I’d go crazy.”
His lips press to the top of my head.
Ben: “I know. That’s why I picked it.”
His shoulders shake with silent laughter.
Ben: “There’s nothing wrong with my car. It’s parked in back of the barbershop and we can leave right now. I just wanted you to get your whole Hallmark experience.”
Gemma: “But…I can’t believe…I mean, how did you even know what the towns in those movies were like?”
Ben: “It mattered to you, so I watched a few of them the last time you went back to visit your mom.”
I abandoned the Hallmark thing quite a while ago, but tears sting my eyes.
Gemma: “I can’t believe you,”
I say, and it comes out a little broken.
Ben: “Don’t get me wrong…I did a lot of fast-forwarding because they’re ridiculously boring, but yeah.”
He stops suddenly.
Ben: “Are you crying?”
I nod and press my face to his shirt.
Gemma: “This was both the nicest and the cruelest thing anyone’s done to me in a long time.”
Ben: “Amy was in on it, by the way. From the coffee shop? I called her yesterday and asked her to be as nosy as possible.”
Gemma: “And Julie?”
He shakes his head.
Ben: “No. She’s just weird. But this whole trip has inspired me. I think I’ve got a movie we could pitch to Hallmark—”
Gemma: “It can’t be about two lawyers. One of us needs to be a good person.”
Ben: “They can branch out this once. So, these two lawyers are crazy about each other and refuse to admit it until he fingers her in his office. And then he takes her away somewhere like Santa Barbara and proposes because they’re too busy to go to Iceland.”
I fight a smile, my heart beating like a drum.
Gemma: “No one gets fingered in a Hallmark movie.”
Ben: “What about the rest of it?”
he asks, pulling me closer.
I whisper, as hope begins to expand in my chest.
Gemma: “The rest of it sounds pretty good. I’d have hated Iceland.”
Ben: “I know.”